Discourse 26: The Reasons Why We Are Prevented From A Deep Cognizance (Of The Things Around Us)
عَنْ أَنْسِ قَالَ: خَطَبَنَا رَسُولُ اللٌّهِ عَلى نَاقَتِهِ الْعَضْبَاءُ، فَقَالَ: أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ، كَأَنَّ الْمَوْتَ فِيهَا عَلى غَيْرِنَا كُتِبَ، وَ كَأَنَّ الْحَقَّ عَلى غَيرِنَا وَجَبَ، وَ كَأَنَّ مَا نَسْمَعُ مِنَ الأَمْوَاتِ سَفْرٌ عَمَّا قَلِيلٌ إِلَيْنَا رَاجِعُونَ، نُبَوِّؤُهُمْ أَجْدَاثَهُمْ، وَ نَأْكُلُ تُرَاثَهُمْ، كَأَنَّا مُخَلَّدُونَ بَعْدَهُمْ…
Anas has narrated that, “The Prophet (S) spoke to us while he was (sitting) upon his camel named Al-'Adba’ and said, “O' Mankind! It is as if death has been prescribed for other than us (and that we will never die); and it is as if the truth (the rules and regulations of Allah) are only obligatory upon other than us; and it is as if those who are dead are on a journey and that soon they shall return back to us and that we have only covered them over with dirt while we are busy devouring their inheritance. It is as if after them, we shall remain alive forever…”1
In this tradition from the Noble Prophet of Islam (S), he has touched upon some of the reasons why we are prevented from having a deep cognizance (of the realities around us). In order for us to have a better understanding of the issue at hand, we begin by engaging in the following introduction:2
In the course of our lives, there are issues which are referred to as “issues that prevent us from having a deep cognizance of the things around us”. Within the Noble Qur’an, there are many verses in these regards, however with complete regret, since we do not have a strong love for the Qur’an, we are negligent of these verses.
Some of these issues which prevent us from obtaining a deeper understanding - which the scholars have mentioned - include the love of self.
You all have definitely heard the saying:
حُبُّ الشَّيْءِ يُعْمى وَ يُصِمُّ.
“Love for (a particular) thing makes one blind and deaf.”3
This uncontrolled love would result in a person not being able to see the reality of things around him and in the words of the Noble Qur'an:
…لَهُمْ أَعْيُنٌ لاَ يُبْصِرُونَ بِهَا وَ لَهُمْ آذَانٌ لاَ يَسْمَعُونَ بِهَا…
“…They have eyes with which they do not see and they have ears with which they do not hear…” (7:179).
Thus, we see that a person wants to have everything good for himself while he desires everything that is bad should fall upon others.
For example, when a person hears that in a flood or earthquake had taken place in a particular part of town or that there was a car accident, he would not think that it is possible that this same event could one day happen to him and thus, he thinks that all events that happen are independent of one another. Because of this, when he sees such events taking place, they would not have any effect on him and they would not cause any sort of change within him.
It is for this same reason that the Prophet (S) has said, “O' Mankind! What has happened to you?? Why are you in such a sleep of negligence? Do you think that death has only been prescribed for your neighbors and that this will never come to your house? Maybe you have made a covenant with yourselves that you have been given a respite and that you will remain alive for some time to come still!?”
كَأَنَّ الْمَوْتَ فِيهَا عَلى غَيْرِنَا كُتِبَ.
In addition, some people feel that it is only others who must follow the Truth and obey the rulings of Allah (SwT) and that these laws were only put in place for others and that they are exempt from such rulings:
وَ كَأَنَّ الْحَقَّ عَلى غَيْرِنَا وَجَبَ.
A similar important speech can also be seen in the enlightening words of the Commander of the Faithful, ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib (as). One day, this noble personality was taking part in the burial of a fellow Muslim when he saw and heard a person who had a boisterous laugh. The Imam said to him, “Why are you laughing? Do you think that only this person will be brought to the graveyard and that you will never have to see the same day?”4
Some of the difficulties that humans face are the (spiritual) veils that cover our understanding and comprehension and thus, the Prophet (S) has said that “The veils of arrogance, unfounded prejudice, pride, following our lower desires, love and hate of other than Allah (SwT) and other things must all be removed. This must be done so that the person is able to make use of the internal Hujjat - meaning his intelligence - to discern between good and bad and so that he would be able to comprehend and find the correct path to tread upon.”
We must accept that it is very much possible that all of the things which are happening to other people can also one day happen to us and just as the 'Arab poet has once said:
بَيْنَا يُرَى الإِنْسَانُ فِيهَا مُخْبِراً حَتّى يُرى خَبَراً مِنَ الأََخْــبَارِ.
“At that time when a person is informed of the death of another person, it is then that his own death is also written and recorded (that it will take place).”
Death does not know the difference between young and old - it has no relationships or ties with anyone - and thus, it can and does come after a person unexpectedly.
Pay careful attention to the wording of the tradition and see how carefully the words have been chosen. It is stated, “It is as if death has been prescribed for other than us (and that we will never die).” Who has been promised that they will remain alive for another instant? If there is no possibility of a promise coming to play in this issue of death, then why do we constantly delay and postpone the doing of good deeds?
We leave off repentance and asking forgiveness for our sins until tomorrow or the day after. We are so relaxed and laid-back that before we realize it, time will have passed us by and at that time when we are about to die, any amount of grief or anguish will be of no use.
Our mistake is right here that we all think that those who have died and left us are simply on a trip and that tomorrow, they will be coming back to us. It is us ourselves who have placed then in the ground under the dirt and are now busy in eating up the inheritance that they have left behind for us yet still we act in such a way that we think we are going to live forever!
Just look at the way that some people act in this world and sometimes with great regret, we see that it is this same inheritance that they leave behind that make the people after them act in the most disgusting and dangerous ways!
One time when we were in Tehran, we were informed that there were two brothers - who were around the ages of 10 - 15 years old. They got upset with one another due to the way that the inheritance was split up between the two of them to the point where they would not even go to each other's house.
We must say to such people that: “Are you certain that you are going to be able to make use of all of this inheritance that has been left for you?” Without doubt, if we think over this just a little bit then the answer will definitely come, “No - since in life there are events which can take place that we as humans are completely unaware of such as that time span between life and death which is a very short time period.” Mankind is still amazed at how short this time span truly is!
Sometimes, some people can be seen as saying: “Allah has surely been merciful to me as I was close to falling off of the edge” - or other such things. All of these things that happen to us are actually trials for us to learn lessons from which we must learn from and then put into action since there is nothing closer to mankind than death however he is ever forgetful of this most important advice.
The greatest advisor or warner for the purification and refinement of the soul is death and thus, we have been advised and recommended to continuously visit the graveyard (to remember our own death).
Going to visit the deceased is not only done simply as a show of respect to those who have gone before us. When we see that we are recommended that we should interact with a believer - whether he is alive of whether he is dead - in a particular way. In addition, we should give him something good and full of blessings so that he can benefit from it. We must also recite Surah al-Fatihah for him and this recitation of Surah al-Fatihah and all of the other things actually have more of an impact and effect on the person before he dies than after he is dead.
When we place our hands upon the grave, we realize that between him and ourselves, there is nothing more than a one meter gap. It is possible that tomorrow, we too will be in that same place that he is in right now. When a person thinks upon this issue, when he thinks about death, then he will definitely try and control his soul:
…وَ لِلٌّهِ بِذِكْرِ الْمَوْتِ…
“…Control it (the soul) through the remembrance of death…”
At this time will the veils of negligence, pride, etc… be lifted from our eyes, ears and heart, and this is the most important thing that we can do for ourselves - have these veils and curtains lifted from in front of us.
A tradition from the Prophet (S) states:
لَوْ لاَ أَنَّ الشَّيَاطِينَ يَحُومُونَ عَلى قُلُوبِ بَنِي آدَمَ، لَنَظَرُوا إِلـى مَلَكُوتِ السَّمٌوَاتِ.
“Surely had the Devils not whispered into the hearts of the children of Adam, they would have been able to (just as Prophet Ibrahim) see into the depths of the heavens.”5
Thus, we too could see into the heavens as Allah (SwT) permitted Prophet Ibrahim (as) to do for in the Qur’an, it says:
وَ كَذٌلِكَ نُرِيَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ مَلَكُوتَ السَّـمٌوَاتِ وَ الأَرْضِ وَ لِيَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُوقِـنِينَ
“And thus did We permit Ibrahim to glance into the depths of the heavens and the Earth so that he would of those who had certainty.” (7:75).
- 1. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 74, pg. 175.
- 2. No matter how clear and plain the face of reality is for a person, until he is able to see it with his own eyes, one cannot fully grasp or understand that thing. In other words, in order for us to have a deep understanding of the realities (of this material world), the follow two things are necessary:
1. The true face of reality must be plain and clear for us and;
2. We must have the tools and apparatus available to see and understand these things.
Is it possible for a blind person to look at the sun? Can a deaf person ever hear the pleasing sounds of the world around him? In the same way, a person who does not have the (spiritual) eyes to see the Truth around him will definitely be prevented from seeing the true face of reality, and those who do not have (spiritual) ears will never be able to hear the verses of the Truth.
It is because of this fact that the first condition that a person who would like to traverse upon the path of the Truth must possess is the purification of the soul and attaining Taqwa (Consciousness of Allah (SwT)) and without these two things, a person will remain in the spiritual darkness and gloom.
In addition, one will be plagued with difficulties and will tread around in a dazed state of mind with no clear path to walk upon. In the Noble Qur’an, it tells us that the way to traverse on this path is through Taqwa:
“(These signs of Allah) is the path of those who are conscious of Allah.”
And this verse points to this reality that we must aim for. (Tafsir-e- Namunah, vol. 11, pg. 143)
- 3. If a person loves another human being or some inanimate object to an extreme, then we see that this love will usually prevent onefrom seeing or hearing about the deficiencies, lapses and bad acts (that the person has). Thus, one will not be able to see anything except for good. We narrate a story in relation to this which is proof of the claim that we have just made.
It has been narrated that once there was a man who had fallen in love with a young girl. The father and mother of this daughter were opposed to these two people getting married to one another, however the young man was adamant on marrying this girl. Thus, he ended up spending an exorbitant amount of money and went through great difficulties (to marry her). He continued in this way until he was able to reach his goal and able to marry her. Finally, the lover was able to unite with the one that he loved so much!
This husband and wife were living together and their family unit was one full of warmth and compassion for one another. Gradually though, the love and passion finally went away and the fire of passion that the man had for his wife alo subsided.
One day, the husband was looking at the face of his wife and saw a white spot near her right eye. He became surprised at this “defect” and said to her, “When did that white spot appear on your face, next to your eye?”
The wife replied that, “It just recently re-appeared.”
The husband replied, “What are you saying??”
The woman smiled and said to her husband, “When I was two years old, I had small-pox and it was near my eyes and from that time, this white spot has been there.”
The husband said, “This is amazing! Why did I not see that mark on you face up until now?”
The woman replied, “The reason is clear! You were deeply in love with me and thus, the lover sees nothing of the one he loves except for good and beauty:
حُبُّ الشَّيْءٍ يُعْمى وَ يُصِمّ.
“The love of a thing makes a person blind and deaf.”
However, now that the fire of passion and love for me has been cooled within your heart, you no longer look at me (in the way you used to) and thus, we are now a “regular” couple. You are now able to see my defects and in reality, you are able to discern between good and bad.” (Guftar Wi’adh, vol. 3, pg. 9).
- 4. Nahj al-Balagha, Short Saying 122.
- 5. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 56, pg. 163.