The “Hard but barren” Rock vs. the “ Receptive & Firmly Responsive and fruitful Garden”
I read 2:264-265 and here is what was given to me:
My maker uses a pair of easily understandable yet profound metaphors to help me understand that the glorious, divine qualities that rain down on me and strike me all the time, here as a heavy rain, there as drizzle but always alighting upon me one way or another, can produce two different results for me depending on my attitude or perspective about reality.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ لاَ تُبْطِلُواْ صَدَقَاتِكُم بِالْمَنِّ وَالأذَى كَالَّذِي يُنفِقُ مَالَهُ رِئَاء النَّاسِ وَلاَ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ فَمَثَلُهُ كَمَثَلِ صَفْوَانٍ عَلَيْهِ تُرَابٌ فَأَصَابَهُ وَابِلٌ فَتَرَكَهُ صَلْدًا لاَّ يَقْدِرُونَ عَلَى شَيْءٍ مِّمَّا كَسَبُواْ وَاللّهُ لاَ يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْكَافِرِينَ
O you who have attained to faith! Do not deprive your truth-revealing actions of all worth by stressing your own benevolence and hurting [the feelings of those who receive it through you], as does he who spends his wealth only to be seen and praised by others, and is [thus] not secure in God [the One who is Benevolent in truth] and the life in the presence of eternal benevolence: for his parable is that of a smooth rock with earth upon it – and then a rainstorm smites it and leaves it hard and bare. Such as these have no gain from that they acquire, God does not guide people who cover up.
In the one case (this verse), I can be the person who covers up the truths (sadaqaat) of these qualities, which is that they are not mine but are being sent to me by their possessor and owner and one who bestows these on me. They strike me like rain or drizzle would fall upon surfaces. In response to this rain, I can choose to be a hard and barren rock. For instance, kindness comes to me (little or in abundance, it doesn’t matter). I act with it and claim it to be my kindness. I was kind when I did X to A. With this claim, I made A feel belittled (in need of MY kindness) and deprived (so that he was in need of MY kindness). I become the means for hurt for others and whatever kindness I displayed vanished without a trace with the passing of that action. What is left of me is a hard barren rock that, paradoxically, the rain of kindness laid bare. As I claimed kindness for myself and sought recognition for it and, crucially, obscured its real, true source, this kindness left no fruit in its wake for me or anyone else. It only left rock-hard “me”, without any security about finding kindness, finding others affirming me as kind, without any security that I am being treated by someone with kindness or that someone is making Himself known to me as the Kind One so that I could be at ease and feel loved. So that I could get news of a realm of eternal existence with eternal benevolence and mercy.
وَمَثَلُ الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمُ ابْتِغَاء مَرْضَاتِ اللّهِ وَتَثْبِيتًا مِّنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ كَمَثَلِ جَنَّةٍ بِرَبْوَةٍ أَصَابَهَا وَابِلٌ فَآتَتْ أُكُلَهَا ضِعْفَيْنِ فَإِن لَّمْ يُصِبْهَا وَابِلٌ فَطَلٌّ وَاللّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ
And the parable of those who spend their properties [material or otherwise] seeking God’s pleasure and with firm/lasting approval [of this spending] from their own selves, is that of a garden on high, fertile ground: a rainstorm smites it, and thereupon it brings forth its fruit manifold [again and again]; and if no rainstorm smites it, soft rain. And God sees all that you do.
The other response (this verse) I can have is to be like a fruit-producing garden. When the rain of kindness (to take one example) falls, in large quantities or in little (whether you just smiled at someone or donated your kidney to them), it produces kind actions, again and again, each time bearing fruits of God-consciousness. I see myself “spending” the property/mal given to me by the Kind One and I find it firmly affirmed in myself that He IS the Kind one. That whoever sends kindness to me to spend it, is Kind and loves to be kind. As I act with kindness, my own self witnesses and approves that the One who sends this kindness to me is truly and surely Kind without end. The rains of kindness produce fruits manifold: each time I act with kindness, I find my maker and sustainer to be Kind, a new yield, a new harvest like the one before. This is a fruit, a doubling, a finding of the like of something – with each rain, I find the kindness of the same Kind One [unlike the other case where A is kind and B is kind and C is somewhat kind etc]. To seek the pleasure of God is to spend kindness in a way that affirms it as a real and true (permanent and without lack) Kindness of the eternally Kind One. True Kindness and the truly Kind One cannot be pleased, from my human perspective, when I use the Kindness of a Perfectly Kind One in a way that makes it appear (to me and others) that it is mine i.e. that it, as if, belongs to a perishable and limited source (me) and thus not something that can be perfect and lasting. Such a limited kindness I cannot trust to exist beyond this world from any “owner” of Kindness. If I am the source of the kindness, the kindness is only as abundant as I can be kind and it only lasts, at best, till I die
When I spend kindness in God’s name i.e. as God’s kindness bestowed on me, it bears fruits like a garden bears harvest. I find myself affirming and firmly trusting His kindness (a fruit/harvest). In my being pleased with His kindness, I find Him, the Kind One, pleased with me. My joyful affirmation of an Eternal and Perfect Kindness is, for me, a sign of the Kind one being pleased with me. The pleasure of my God and the firm affirmations of my own nafs are intimately related – recognizing God, the Eternal and Ever-living One as the source of all the good that I experience/manifest is in line with what I find my own self firmly affirming. For a thing to be truly good, my own nafs witnesses, it must have no lack, no end and it must not change into its opposite. Only by seeing my good actions as products of the goodness being deliberately sent (hence the variation in amounts – from heavy rains to drizzle), like rain, from the unseen, from an unending source of perfect goodness, can I preserve the goodness of the actions and think of the goodness as truly goodness and not just an apparent/passing goodness disappearing into nothingness. In the self’s joy of realizing the existence and bestowal of eternal goodness, I can witness, firmly, the signs of the pleasure of the Eternally generous and Beauteous One.
Think of Life as a good. It is a good. What makes it a real good for me? And what makes it a false good?
How do I act so that Life is pleased. How? If I live so that I die? Life and thus the owner of Life, the Living One, is not pleased if lived as if life changes to death permanently. The pain and sadness I feel in myself witnesses to this displeasure of the Living One. When I live by the life of the Living One, the One not subject to death, I find in myself the joy of everlasting life. This joy, given to me, is the sign that the One who is Ever-living is pleased with my living this way i.e. living by His Life. I can know that the Living One, the One who never dies, is pleased when I “spend” the property (life) he gives just as the garden produces fruits upon receiving rain. The rain should not be fruitless for me. It will be if I claimed the goodness for myself. My “spending” [in God’s name or spending what He gave me as opposed to spending what I have (as if naturally)] produces fruits of God-consciousness. My actions should not lead to a loss of the valuable quality that I experienced but to the affirmation of the existence of the eternal source of those qualities and thus to witnessing the signs of His pleasure with me [and also signs of what He intends to bestow upon me after He takes me away from this realm].
The high garden is high because it is seen – being ‘seen’ is now not a problem. Public good actions are possible when they make known their source and the goodness is not claimed for oneself. From a high place things trickle downward – and so now one can be a vessel (without pride and without harm and injury to others’ dignity) for God’s bestowals to others who benefit from the fruits. Only by giving everything to that One can humans share fruits with each other without humiliation, pride etc.
This is what was given to me. May the One who is the source of all good guide us to and make all our actions the actions of receptive and responsive, fruit-bearing gardens and not hard and barren rocks.