The age-old dream of the human caravan is not to send astronauts in their orbit in outer space.. it is to send its individuals - every single individual in his orbit of self-realization. It is high time that this dream be thus reinterpreted. It is also the sacred duty of every man and woman to help intelligently reorientate human endeavour towards the culmination of this pilgrimage.

Mahmoud Muhammad Taha - Answers to the questions of Mr. John Voll - 17.7.1963

Simplifying the New Islamic Call - Episode IV

Part 1

In the name of God, the Beneficent the Merciful:

“Indeed We have the Revelation on the Night of Glory. What will convey to you what the Night of Glory is! The Night of Glory is the grace of a thousand months. On that Night the angels and the Spirit descend by permission of their Lord in every affair. Peace it is, till the break of dawn” [Quran, Chapter 97]. God Almighty is truthful.

Thereupon, we continue our talks. This is our fourth episode. We ended our third episode talking about the sealing of the prophethood. We said that the prophethood has been sealed with an explicit text as reported in the text: “Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the Messenger of God and the Seal of the Prophets” (33:40). And we have said that the sealing of the prophethood is for the purpose of directing the people on earth towards a good purpose, which is the honorable emergence of the human mind. The human mind is honored in all denominations and all philosophies, but Islam’s honoring of the human mind is unparalleled in any denomination or in any religion.

We have also said, with respect to the verse, “We have honored the Children of Adam and carried them on the land and the sea, and have made provisions of good things for them, and have preferred them over much of what We have created, with a marked preferment” (17:70), that it is the mind that has brought the Children of Adam this preference. Yet in this verse there is an indication that the Children of Adam are not preferred over every creation—the exalted angels are excluded. That is to say, the Children of Adam are not preferred over the exalted angels. However, we have also indicated a secret that there is a difference between the Children of Adam and humans.

The reference to man has been reported in the verse: “Has there come upon man a period of time when he was a thing not worth mentioning? We created man from a thickened fluid, tried him, and so We made him hearer and sighted. We have guided him upon the way, whether he is grateful or ungrateful” (76:1-3). Man is superior to the child of Adam—man is preferred over all of the creations, the celestials and the terrestrials. Yes, man is preferred over all of God’s creations. All of God’s creations are indeed created for man.

The importance of man has been alluded to in the Divine saying: “I created the universe for man, and man I created for myself.” There is yet another allusion to this in another Divine saying: “The heavens and the Earth do not contain me, yet the heart of my believing servant does.” So the universes are the vehicle of man, whereas man is God’s vehicle.

The superiority of man to the Children of Adam is a giant leap, just as the superiority of Children of Adam to animals. When God says: “We have honored the Children of Adam” (17:70), we earlier said that the Children of Adam don’t have any honor that does not involve the mind. When God says: “Has there come upon man a period of time when he was a thing not worth mentioning” (76:1), He asserts that man has gone through a long immemorial period of time when he was insignificant—he was negligible in the kingdom of God because he had no mind and was not obligated to observe the precepts of religion. Man was one of the low forms of living beings, which are found in swarms in the universes. We have also said that man evolved from the lowest of the low, progressing towards the highest elevations. God says: “We have created man of the best stature. Then We reduced him to the lowest of the low” (95:4-5). That is to say, man evolves from the lowest of the low towards God. “O man, you are toiling on towards your Lord with great exertion, and then you will be meeting Him” (84:6).

Meeting God does not happen in place, or in time. Rather, the meeting comes as we bring our human character closer to God’s attributes. That is accomplished by pursuing the path of ascension—the ascensions of proximity to God as pursued by intellects. There is no way to know God, to meet God, or to approach God; we only do this through the mind. In this context comes the verse: “We have revealed to you the Remembrance to clarify to mankind what has been released for them so that they may recall” (16:44). Here, the interpretation of the verse goes like this: “And We have revealed to you (O Muhammad) the Remembrance (the entire Quran) to clarify to mankind what has been released for them” (that you may make clear to mankind what has been released of the entire Quran to their level—that is by explanation, interpretation and codification). The reason behind all this is “that they may recall.” As if the Lord did not send the Messengers, and did not send down the Quran or the exoteric code, except for the sake of coaching the human intellect. The reason behind all this is the furthering of the intellect, hence: “and they may recall.” The Quran, of course, is full of propagation for this pursuit. Yet, intellectualization is neither a haphazard act, a futile act, nor it is an act of selfish interests, grudges, or hatred—intellectualization is an unadulterated, coached, and refined act.

We say that intellectualization is the swinging of the mind from side to side. The mind is our perceptual power. We perceive through the mind at the level of duality not singularity. And once again we come to the honor of the mind in a sense that God did not create the universe, did not manifest His Self to us, and has not taught us, except to strengthen our minds so that we can approach Him. This also takes us back to a verse referred to in our third episode: “All things We have created in pairs, that you may recall” (51:49).

We have said that swinging of the mind from side to side is intellectualization—it is the process of perception. But even more than that, it is the process of obtaining results, which is alluded to in the Mother of Scriptures—the opening chapter of the Quran: “Guide us to the straight path. The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor.” As stated: “not of those who are object of anger or of those who are astray” (1:6-7). Here comes the two sides, and the swinging between the two is intellectualization. The equilibrium at the borderline between the two, “Guide us to the straight path. The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor,” refers to the Moslems. In the view of some or perhaps all the interpreters: those who are object of anger are “the Jews” and those who are astray “the Christians.” The interpretation can be as follows: the two sides are materiality and spirituality. The Jews are at the side of materiality since they have neglected spirituality, and at the other side of spirituality are the Christians, since they have gone too far in spirituality. The Moslems are between the two, at the borderline: “Thus We have made you an intermediate nation to be witnesses over mankind, and the Messenger to be a witness over you” (2:143). Here the straight path, in the phrase “Guide us to the straight path”, is the desired intellectualization.

Not every form of intellectualization is honored by God. But, intrinsically, every instance of intellectualization is the ore, which if refined, reaches the purity with which we know God at the grades of His names, attributes, and actions. Then, thanks to God, we can transcend the mind, stopping the swinging of the intellect—we can lift the veil of the mind. Thus singular witnessing takes place with the heart as its means. That is to say, the heart witnesses God, while the mind knows God.

Also in the verse we recited in the third episode, “When that which shrouds did enshroud the Sidr, the eyesight did not turn back, nor did it transgress,” there was a reference to the intellect’s swinging in, “the eyesight did not turn back, nor did it transgress.” When that which shrouds did enshroud the Sidr, when the Divine Self manifestation did enshroud Muhammad, he was completely engrossed. He was not preoccupied with the past nor was he preoccupied with the future—he was not preoccupied with what was happening in Mecca, nor was he afraid of the future he faced in that eerie unknown place. Rather, because of the total engrossment in the Divine Self manifestation, he was living in the moment; he was in temporal, spatial, and personal unity. Therefore, he witnessed God, Who is uncontainable by time or place. Whenever a person is bound by time and place, this person is at stages below the manifestation of God Self. A person, when liberated from this noose, from the control of time and place, will be in a state of absolute freedom, and can see the absolutely free One; this person will be unified, and can see the One.

In fact, living in the present moment is a state we experience in our daily living. This can be clearly explained by an illustration. Imagine, for example, you are a football fan and went to a stadium to watch a football game between two top teams and their players are all very skilled. While you are sitting there, the time passes without you feeling it, because you have been captivated by the interesting game before you and by the outstanding techniques of the skilled players. Another example of living in the moment can be found among movie lovers. When you are watching a very good movie on the screen, you are not preoccupied with the past or with the future. Because of the attractiveness of the scene before you, an hour or two may pass without you feeling them. You will be engrossed in the masterly performances of the actors—you will be engrossed in the present moment.

At the moment of Divine Self manifestation, the Prophet transcended time and place, so he was living in the present moment. This moment is infinitesimal; it seems to be a fraction of a billionth of a second. It seems to transcend time. The Quran refers to this moment explicitly: “the eyesight did not turn back, nor did it transgress.” That is to say, the intellect did not fluctuate between the past and the future.

In fact, religion drives us to live in the present moment. Religion emphasizes this significance. Lest we remain torn between the past and the future, we must live in the present moment. Our state of living is like a state of fear—we are afraid of what the future holds. The Quran reassures us about this fear, saying: “No disaster befalls on the Earth or in yourselves but is predestined before We bring it into being; that is easy for God. So do not grieve on what you missed, or become exultant at what has been given. God does not like any vainglorious boaster” (57:22-23). The fact that this is a foregone conclusion indicates that it is wrong to preoccupy ourselves with the past and the future, because even the very near past, cannot be returned. The poet Abulalaa says: “Yesterday, which just went on, the people of this earth are unable to bring back.” That is to say, it is not within your power to bring back the past and you will not be able to change anything in the future when it comes. Thus, to preoccupy oneself with the past and the future would be wrong.

We can understand from all this that the Quran is emphasizing this moral value so that we can live in the present moment. In fact, this is the function of the connecting prayer. The connecting point in prayer is the state of presence with God. It is, of course, known that a prayer when you are not in the presence of God is null and void. Yet, to be in the presence with God is to live in the present moment. The prayer itself is a method to help us enhance our ability to live in the present moment.

With extensive devotion, spiritual discipline, contrivances, and ascetic effort against our desires and the life of opulence, our ambitions will become limited, and our intellection will fluctuate in a narrow range. Thus, when we say, “God is the Greatest” in the Opening Proclamation, we leave behind all universes, and concern ourselves only with the Greatest One. In this way, everyone is about to live in the present moment.

The connecting prayer, the substance of prayer in your ascent, is the state of presence with God. With extensive devotion and contrivances, fasting, and all of the pious acts and acts of worship, we can then enhance living in the present moment. In that moment we are in the state of being present with God; when we are not torn between the past and the future. It is in this moment that the fluctuating pendulum of our intellect is at standstill on the line of equilibrium, “Guide us to the straight path.” All of the contrivances in worship are for this purpose, this intellectualization. The real intellectualization is the steadiness of the mind, free of desire or fear. The intellect, which is free of desire, is the real intellectualization and all else are just obsessions, hallucinations, and desultory thoughts. All servants are trying to get rid of these desultory thoughts to be able to stand still on the straight path. It is on the straight path that desultory thoughts are refined until they completely cease.

What is clear is that Islam’s honoring of the intellect is unparalleled. Because of this, because the era of intellect has come, and because the era of the maturation, strength, and straightness of the human mind has come, because of all this, the prophethood has been sealed so that we receive the inner knowledge directly from God, without any intermediary. This God’s inner knowledge requires extensive devotion. It is one of the fruits of servitude. So, in reference to al Khidr in the story of the journey of Moses and his servant who were looking for al Khidr, the Quran says: “Then they found one from among Our servants to whom We had granted Our mercy, and whom We had taught from Our inner knowledge” (18:65). So, servitude is the station which is not surmounted by any other station. All other stations are only steps in the servant’s way towards servitude.

Servitude has a beginning, but no end. Servitude is as eternal as lordship; the two go together into infinity—lordship is infinite, as well as servitude, which runs parallel to lordship. Servitude is the process of correcting your condition in terms of your contentment with the Lord.