By Prof. Henry Francis B. Espiritu, New Age Islam
28 October 2017
A great Sufi saint of Sunni Islam, Hazrat Imam Al-Sana’i once said: “God loves and values you more than you can ever love and value yourself” (See “Spiritual Sayings of Imam Sana'i”, p.31). I find this short sentence pregnant with profound truths on the immeasurable value of our own human existence—of the existence of each human person. We need to be reminded time and again that it is God, the Necessary Existence Himself that willed us to existence. God finds immense worth in our existence, even though our earthly existence is ephemeral and impermanent. We are never trivial; we are never accidental nor incidental beings in God's divine estimation. We are part-and-parcel of His own All-Inclusive Creativity, and the wholeness of such Creativity of God would never be complete without us in it.
This Being of Necessary Existence, God Himself, has gifted us with this amazing gift of human existence—and our existence as an individual person is so unique that there is none other creature that is like us in our individuated selves! We all exist as individual persons—there could be no other being like you, never was, never is, and never will be another being like you!
Yes, we are unique, each one of us! You are unique, unrepeatable, irreducible, un-circumscribable, irreplaceable individual! Infinite Existence has never made a person like an object or a thing! This Infinite Existence, whom we call "God”, has never made human persons like a car assembly line. Existence has never created the exact person like you in the past, and in the future, Existence will never create another human being exactly like you. In the words of that great Indian existentialist and universal mystic Shree Rajneesh Osho: “God is not like a divine assembly line that identical cars go on coming out from that assembly line... the same Ford cars again and again for example—millions of Ford cars, all alike. God is a genius Creator, not a lousy assembly line.
Each individual has been made not according to a mould, not according to a certain fixed pattern; each individual person has been paid individual attention by God. He has painted you individually, He has cut you in a certain way, given you a certain shape, a certain being, a certain worth. You are unique, you are original, you are not a copy. And that’s a very obvious fact in both material and spiritual worlds!” (See Shree Rajneesh Osho’s book, “Unio Mystica [Mystical Union]”, p.78.).
But very sadly, oftentimes, we do not value nor love ourselves. We are most of the time too hard on ourselves. So many times we have low self-esteem; we condemn ourselves as sinners and as having inherited the original sin—naturally depraved, sinful, evil, lowly and filthy. We have become enemy to our own selves. And in so doing, we have also accused the very Existence or God of creating us imperfectly and defectively, Na’auzubillah (God forbid)! This is why, beginning today, this short but very meaningful saying of Hazrat Imam Al-Sana’i is very relevant in reminding us that we are unconditionally loved by God or Infinite Existence Himself. Imam Al-Sana’i reminded us: “God loves and values you more than you can ever love and value yourself”. Likewise, the Jewish Scriptures always remind us of God’s unconditional love and value to us human beings when one of its passage says: “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.” (Jeremiah 31:3; Authorized King James Version).
It is high time now that we start to love ourselves, value ourselves, be kind and gentle to our own selves, not being overbearing nor hard on ourselves; and in so doing, we will be able to acknowledge Divine Existence with gratefulness in giving us our own contingent, temporary, yet very precious existence. The illustrious Sufi-Sunni saint and Muslim theologian of medieval Baghdad, Hazrat Imam Al-Ghazali said: "To admire the painting is to admire the painter, and to love the poetry is to love the poet… You are the poetry and you are the painting of the Beloved. You are His words and His calligraphy—you are His unique composition. You are the proofs ("Hujjat") and sign ("Ayat") of Almighty Allah’s Existence. The creature is the manifest proof that the Creator exists…” (See “Shaar-ul-Ihya-al-Ulum-Ud-Din [A Commentary on the Revival of the Principle of Faith]”, p.136).
Therefore, what will be our response to God’s gift of our own unique existence? It is this: we ought to love ourselves and others. We ought to gratefully celebrate our own unique existence and that of others’ unique "being-ness" and we have to celebrate with gratitude Divine Existence's generosity to us for gracing us with this irreplaceable existence, no matter how frail we are and never mind how temporary our earthly sojourn may be. The Prophet of both Christians and Muslims, Jesus the Messiah commanded us: “Love thy neighbour as thyself.” (St. Matthew 22:39). This passage tells us that the measure by which we love our own self is also the very measure by which we love the “other selves”. Therefore when we hate and condemn ourselves, we likewise cannot love and value others. And when we hate ourselves, then Na'auzubillah (God forbid), we likewise hate and condemn Divine Infinite Existence Itself Who willed us into existence in this temporal and physical plane.
I feel that the first step towards living a genuine spiritual life is by being grateful to this immeasurable gift of human existence that God gave to us with no conditionalities at all: by being respectful of our own selves and that of others, and by remembering with thankfulness that I am precious to God inasmuch as you are precious to Him too, that I am Existence’s reflection on this cosmos as you are His mirror too… by being reminded—in the words of that blessed Sufi saint of Turkey, Hazrat Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi—that we are not just drops in the Ocean, but we are the Ocean Itself manifested in drops... So how about reflecting this beautiful thought for today and for the rest of our lives? This is indeed something worth pondering with gratefulness and with love to the Supreme Beloved, the Necessary Divine Existence, of which we contingently exist by His gratuitous grace, abounding mercies and steadfast love. Ameen, a thousand times Ameen!
Prof. Henry Francis B. Espiritu is Associate Professor-VI of Philosophy and Asian Studies at the University of the Philippines (UP), Cebu City. He was former Academic Coordinator of the Political Science Program at UP Cebu from 2011-2014. He was also the former Coordinator of Gender and Development (GAD) Office at UP Cebu from 2015-2016. His research interests include Islamic Studies particularly Sunni jurisprudence, Islamic feminist discourses, Islam in interfaith dialogue initiatives, Islamic environmentalism, Classical Sunni Islamic pedagogy, the writings of Imam Al-Ghazali on pluralism and tolerance, Turkish Sufism, Muslim-Christian dialogue, Middle Eastern affairs, Peace Studies and Public Theology.
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