By Sadia Dehlvi
Jun 12, 2012
Who we are? Where do we come from? What are we doing on this planet? Where do we go once we die? All these are questions that remain part of the eternal human quest.
In traditional societies, the answers to these questions are provided by religion. In the Islamic tradition, Sufism offers a detailed understanding of these queries by unveiling the mysteries of the Divine Nature and leading us back to God. The Quran says, “Verily we come from God and to Him we return.”(2:156)
The decay in the human condition has made us forgetful beings, not knowing who we are and what our purpose in life is. Prophet Mohammad said, “Whoever knows himself, knows His Lord.” Based on this Hadith, Sufism teaches that self-knowledge leads to the knowledge of the Divine. The Sufi path provides the light necessary to illuminate the dark corners of our souls and facilitates the journey within. This self-knowledge pierces through the outer coverings that limit our ordinary consciousness and makes one aware of his/her ultimate identity beyond the confines of time and space.
Interestingly, similar to the philosophy of Plato, who asserts that true knowledge is recollection, in Sufism the stages of knowledge are identified as stages of the remembrance of God. The Sufi path leads one out of forgetfulness, selfishness and falsehood to the Garden of Truth.
Our true identity resides in the heart, which is not just at the centre of human microcosm but the repository of intuitive knowledge also.
In a famous Hadith Qudsi, which is a saying of God uttered by Prophet Mohammad, Allah says, “The Heavens and the Earth cannot contain me, but the heart of the faithful servant does contain Me.” The Prophet also said that wrongdoing irritates the heart, because it perceives wrong action. Heedlessness starves the heart of spiritual nourishment, robbing it of its awareness of God.
Although the heart is vulnerable to anxiety, it is essentially an organ designed to be in a state of calm which is achieved through remembrance of God.
The heart is where the Divine Reality resides in both men and women. The heart, when softened through spiritual practices, begins to beam a light.
When this light shines on the intellect, one is able to discern truth from falsehood, the Absolute and the relative. To know the truth with one’s whole being is ultimately to “become the Truth”. At the highest level, the knower, knowledge and the known are one.