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 VII

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.

Herein, this is our seventh episode. We ended our sixth episode concluding the talk about the veil of language, how the Arabic language averts from the meanings of the Quran, whereas the true meanings of the Quran are only received from God through monotheism—that is by mastering monotheism. That is to say, Arabic words are just allusions. They are implements to attain meanings that are available through the practice of monotheism and the ethos of time. The Quranic maxim is: “We shall show them Our signs on the horizons (of the physical world) and within themselves until it becomes manifest to them that He is the Truth. Is your Lord not sufficient witness over all things?” (41:53) Monotheism and the ethos of time are the only means to realize the true meanings of the language of the Quran. Language cooperates with monotheism, for it also manifests within the ethos of time. This discussion took us to the end of our sixth episode. We promised that we might rediscuss the veil of language if necessary.

The issue of the veil of language is, in fact, self evident. People, however, are accustomed to devote themselves to language even to the extent of neglecting observance. So, this issue may need more emphasis and urgency from our side. If that is the case, especially if it appears so to our friends who listen to these recordings, we should once again rediscuss the veil of language.

The subject of our seventh episode will be two important aspects in the advocacy for the revival of Islam: namely, the Quran, and the life of the Prophet. The Quran is the entire eternal Truth, both the relative and the absolute truth—it is creation and the Truth which Created. The Quran includes all of the creation and the Creator, and has left nothing out. The life of the Prophet is the access to the Quran. This is because the Prophet was the embodiment of the Quran. With conscious imitation of him, by following his example, the true meanings of the Quran become clear.

We talked about monotheism whereby knowledge is taken directly from God. Implicitly, monotheism means that one starts by following the Prophet’s example, because the Prophet is the gate. This is the secret behind the designation of his name in the twofold attestation: there is no deity but God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God. The phrase “Muhammad is the Messenger of God” is not a monotheistic attestation, but rather a dualistic attestation. The twofold attestation concedes to the oneness of God and the messengership of Muhammad. It is a once in a lifetime ordinance that entails adherence. When you say “Muhammad is the Messenger of God,” you then have to follow Muhammad with confidence, trust, and love. On the other hand, the phrase “there is no deity but God,” is the monotheistic attestation: “So know that there is no deity but God, and ask forgiveness for your sin” (47:19).

Duality is the key to everything that concerns the Quran. To understand the Quran, it is very important that we ascertain and comprehend duality. Duality is also the key to everything that concerns the life of the Prophet. The life of the Prophet has been obscured by duality—its immediate meaning has blinded us to its distant meaning. Likewise, the immediate meanings of the Quran have blinded us to its distant meanings. In fact this has been partly mentioned in the course of our discussion of the veil of language with respect to the Quran, when we said that the Quran follows sensory and mental illusions. The Quran bases its exoteric code on this phenomenon. That is because, initially, the means to knowledge are the senses. The senses give information to us, and receive it from the world through duality.

The senses are dual—two eyes, two ears, two arms, two legs—as if duality is standard in our senses and limbs. The whole human is twofold—duality is in the inside and the outside of the human, as it is manifested in his or her right and left. Yet, the strength of the right side is unlike the strength of the left side. In the same manner, within the human are the spirit and the mind. These two are combined within the body, but they exist in a dual manner. The personality of an individual is the triad created by combining this duality, as if internally the human being consists of a man and a woman. The personality that distinguishes an individual is a combination of man and woman. It is the result of the meeting between the man and woman inside each of us. It is also manifest when an offspring is produced through the external copulation between a male and a female—between a husband and wife.

Duality is a key matter in our understanding. Our minds perceive through duality. For that reason, the Lord created our existence, descending from singularity into duality. This is what is asserted in the verse: “O mankind, be pious to your Lord, who created you from a single soul and then created from it its opposite, and originated from both of them many men and women” (4:1). So, the stage of duality is the origin, second only to singularity, just as the sources of our perception are also dual. We perceive through two sources: our minds and our hearts. The doorways of our mind to the perceptible external world are the senses. The senses are dual. Thus, they render duality—they render dual meanings to everything we see, hear, smell, or taste. Duality is present in our senses, for it gives our minds dual information, which our minds must sift through. At its best, while engaged in such sifting, our mind actually perceives through duality.

The mind itself is binary. The brain is divided into left section and right section in the head, in the skull. So, the brain is also divided along the lines of duality, although it contains the centers that receive from all the senses. A refined mind must endeavor to sift. That is to screen out sensory illusions to the best of its ability, as the mind always falls victim to sensory illusions. Thus, the mind is also dual and it perceives meanings as dual, while the heart is singular and it perceives meanings as singular. To Sufis, mind-perception is called dual perception, while heart perception is singular perception.

Heart perception is not learning, but rather it is the fruit of learning—it is eternal life. Singular perception is eternal life, while dual perception is learning. Learning is a means to life. That is to say, learning liberates us from fear. We don’t need to fear unless we are ignorant—we have no fear of that which we have knowledge of. This is what is asserted in the verse: “Had I known the unseen, I would have had much grace and no harm would have touched me” (7:188). In short, had I known the unseen, I would have been liberated from fear—“had I known the unseen, I would have had much grace and no harm would have touched me.” Through our minds we achieve dual perception, which is the level of trueness. Trueness is dualistic in that falseness is its opposite. In fact, at this level, if not for the opposites, there would be no understanding—the mind would have not perceived anything. If not for sweet, we would not know bitter. If not for cold, we would not know hot. If not for dark, we would not know light. The Quran emphatically declares: “All things We have created in pairs, that you may recall” (51:49). That is to say that in order for you to understand—in order for you to perceive—We have created things in pairs.

Things were created in pairs so that the mind can perceive them. The use of the phrase “you may recall” was known to sages, who recognized that we learn nothing, rather we recall something. We are holding the whole of existence, the finite and the transcendent, within ourselves. This is because within us is the Eternal Truth—within us is God in His Infinity. Our capacity to understand God has been alluded to in the Divine saying: “Neither My Earth nor My heaven is vast enough to hold Me, but the heart of My faithful servant is vast enough to hold Me.” This is what we have forgotten. We have forgotten the ultimate realities which are within us. Therefore, the Quran, worship, and the exoteric code have been put in place to ensure that we recall. This is what is asserted in the verse: “We have made the Quran available for recalling, so is there any who recalls?” (54:17) Hence, God said: “All things We have created in pairs, that you may recall” (51:49).

About the fact that the Truth is embedded in us, God says: “When your Lord said unto the angels: I am about to place a viceroy on the Earth, they said: ‘Will You place therein one who will do harm therein and will shed blood, while we hymn Your praise and sanctify You?’ He said: ‘I know what you do not know.’ He then taught Adam all the names, and then showed them to the angels, saying: ‘Tell Me the names of these, if ye are right.’ They said: ‘Be glorified! We have no knowledge but that which You have taught us. It is You who is the Knower, the Wise.’ He said: ‘O Adam, tell them their names.’ Then when he had told them their names, He said: ‘Did I not tell you that I know the secret of the heavens and the Earth, and I know what you reveal and what you have been concealing?’” (2:30-33) The names referred to in the phrase “He then taught Adam all the names,” are the names of God. Learning at the level of names is in the immediate vicinity of the Divine Self. In fact, it is the upshot of learning since the Divine Self cannot be known, rather witnessed. At the level of the Divine Self there is no learning, rather there is witnessing, as witnessing is greater than learning. For that reason, the angels have no part in this knowledge. The knowledge of names, which goes as far as the threshold of the Divine Self, is higher than the angels’ knowledge. Since the angels have no selves, they have absolutely no knowledge of the Divine Self. Therefore, once God said “When your Lord said unto the angels: I am about to place a viceroy on the Earth,” the viceroy appeared to be superior to all created beings since all the created beings are subservient to him. In the preceding verse God said: “It is He who created for you all that is in the Earth, then turned to the heaven and fashioned it as seven heavens. He is knower of all things” (2:29). He “created for you all that is in the Earth,” with no exception. All that is in the Earth exists in all the universes. As if the whole of existence, and every part of it—all the universes—are created for man, and man is created for God, as we have said.

In a Divine saying, God said: “I made the universes a vehicle for man, and man I made a vehicle for Myself.” In other words, man is the only one who knows Me as I should be known. For this reason, God designated man as viceroy, “I am about to place a viceroy on the Earth,” and prepared him for viceregency with knowledge, “He then taught Adam all the names.” The names are not as is commonly thought of and found in some interpretations: that He taught him the names of all the different things, even to the extent of a large plate and small saucer, down to the last item about which they can think. In fact, God taught Adam His Divine Names, which are the noblest names. This knowledge is the noblest knowledge. The highest learning is the knowledge of names, the awareness of God at the name level. Awareness of God, knowing God, falls into three levels of learning. First is the level of awareness of the wisdom behind the action of God; then, His attributes; and then, His names. There is no room for learning beyond the knowledge of names. Thereafter, it is the total engrossment in the manifestation of the Divine Self. This is experience—it is life itself, not learning.

Learning is the means to this perfectly full, thoroughly rich, and comprehensive level of life. Angels have absolutely no share in such a life. This is an indication that the Truth is embedded within us (human beings). The start of our forgetfulness of the Truth has been alluded to in the Quran: “When your Lord brought forth from the Children of Adam, from their loins, their offspring, He made them testify of their own souls: ‘Am I not your Lord?’ He asked, and they said: ‘Certainly! We testify.’ ‘Lest you say at the Day of Resurrection: We have been forgetful of this! Or lest you say: It was only that our fathers were polytheists before, and we were the offspring after them. Would You leave us to perish for what the falsifiers have done?’” (7:172-173) That is the start of the forgetfulness. It was before the covering of our body fell over us, and we answered, “Certainly”: “‘Am I not your Lord?’ He asked, and they said: ‘Certainly! We testify.’” We were beholding the whole Truth, before it was obscured by our physical body—before it was obscured by the demands of the body, and by the ongoing competition and struggle for our own livelihood. This is what is asserted in the verse: “No, but that which they have earned is overlaid on their hearts” (83:14). This evolution of forgetfulness has been explicitly indicated in the verse: “Sublime be God, the Sovereign, the Truth. Do not hasten with the Quran before its revelation is completed to you, and say: ‘My Lord, increase me in knowledge.’ We have had Adam in a position of trust before, but he forgot; and We found no constancy in him” (20:114-115). This is the whole evolution of our forgetfulness. We do not learn something new, rather we remember what we have forgotten along the way of our journey through time and space—in that abysmally long journey from the station of the best stature to the station of the lowest of the low. This is what is asserted in the Quran: “We have created man of the best stature. Then We reduced him to the lowest of the low” (95:4-5). In this long journey, we forgot. We can now follow our tracks back to where we were by lifting the veil—by remembering what we have forgotten. The Quran is here to help us: “We have made the Quran available for recalling, so is there any who recalls?” (54:17) We are now at an unprecedented level of understanding the Quran.