Enjoyment and the notion of “blessing”

The truth of the matter is, either I eat and breathe as an adorer of the One who is giving me life and sustenance or I am reduced to animalistic enjoyment of the food and my life itself, a decision that is absurd and hurtful to the heart and mind in light of the limited and passing nature of my relation with food and life and friends and enjoyment of all kind. Whether it is friends I enjoy or food, if I don’t see that I am loving the Wonderful and Delighting One when I am delighted through the company of a friend and I am loving the compassion and provision of the Provider and Compassionate one when any need of mine is met or that I am leaning on the Compassionate One to feel disappointed and sad about some inadequate care and enjoyment, my friendships, eating, drinking and my enjoyments all become worthless and painful – they are no blessings at all but what Nursi calls, “poisoned honey.”

And this is how I give a lie to the signs of God i.e. this is how I render the compassion of the Compassionate One as no compassion at all: By not seeing the aspect or face of the matter that looks to the source, the compassionate sustainer, I condemn something beautiful (like compassion and enjoyment) to an accidental thing, passing into non-existence. Without seeing the ever-lasting and undying beautiful face of this compassion, I experience the passing and limited instances of compassion as no real compassion at all but rather a terrible cruelty. The compassion I claim for myself, for instance, becomes a source of misery for me as I am helpless to accomplish all that compassion demands. As if I am shown something beautiful and meaningful, often in limited form, made to desire more of it and then deprived of it. In this framework, I experience provision as no provision at all – as a human being, I taste provision, then find myself in need of it again and the cycle continues till I perish and all this purposeful activity of finding myself with needs that are then fulfilled, becomes absurd. I can only then enjoy such a passing and purposeless face of compassion and provision (physical and emotional) as a thinking human being. I can’t just tag on humanity to such a an animalistic (I need X, I sometimes find X) perspective on reality. I have to change my perspective. And it starts with me saying “NO” to a false compassion, to false provision, to false enjoyment, to false hope. An enjoyment and a friendship and a satisfaction is NO “blessing” for being agreeable to me and satisfying some need of mine (or some need of others) temporarily and without a meaningful purpose. As a human being, I find such “blessings” intolerable and cruel on account of their meaningfulness, limitedness (so much lack of justice and peace etc is for all to see in the world) and transience (a passing into annihilation). This is what it means to be honest and human: to say NO! to this faux “blessing”. How can one, as a human being, find it a blessing to have food, home, comfort, friends, pleasures in a world where so many have neither enough food, nor comfort, nor health, nor enjoyment, nor friends nor pleasure nor justice and so on and so on! Only a humanity made numb and blind can imagine they are “blessed” if they think God blessed them with these things (i.e. think that these are blessings) and did not “bless” those who don’t have them. Either no one is really blessed (my having abundant food is no real blessing for my humanity (perhaps it is for my animality) in a world where children starve) or I need to re-think what I mean by “blessing” and what it means to be “blessed”.

Now it is also human to want meaningfulness in something so beautiful as compassion and companionship and provision etc. Such beauty would be no beauty if it’s end was non-existence. The heart says that it must be saved from being a contradiction (an ugliness), from being a loss and from being lost. This is what the heart needs. This is what my humanity needs and yearns for. It is this humanity, facing the intolerable possibility that everything beautiful is, possibly, entirely absurd and purposeless that my humanity seeks help and guidance from its maker and the creator of this kind of apparently contradictory and absurd universe.

Revelation then claims that what is beautiful or excellent (hasan) is hasan if it has an eternal future, an undying face. And that I can only find something a blessing if I find this face. The truth then that when I see (as revelation asks me to see ‘bismillah’) that the company of the friend, the “company” (a word I made up) that I took to be the source of comfort and pleasure, is not the source but only a means, a servant and soldier and employee of the One who loves and comforts me through that relation, I find the face of compassion that comforts and loves all things in all relations of friendship at all times and places. I find this eternally compassionate One as my friend and comforter in my relation here and now. If I do not turn away from “company” or “friendship” itself as a “blessing” (blessing because I like it), I experience this friendship without revelation’s guidance and it is, in reality, no blessing at all but only the beginning of a deathly disappointment and tragedy. There is no face of the real lover and friend to be found in such a “blessing”. I would only find friends and friendships that I would take to be sources of the comfort I experience with them. Stuck in this lower, dying, limited form of comfort (dunya) and not witnessing THE SAME THINGS as signs of the comfort and care of the One of absolute compassion and love, I condemn myself and all beings to loss, absurdity and non-existence. All friends are, as if, my enemies and I am enemy to them. I condemn them to non-existence and they come close to me only to wound me with separation. A murderer takes away one life of say 80 years and we find him vile. How much ought I find myself vile if I murder all beings and take away not 80 years but eternal existence from them? This is what I do when I cover up and give a lie to things as signs of the One and see them instead as the sources of the beautiful names they carry to me.

Thus, what makes something a “blessing” is not that it is agreeable to me or fills an animal need (a job, a friend, a house, a car, a healthy heart etc). What makes a thing a blessing is that it answers my human need and connects me, by acting as a sign IF and WHEN I choose to read it as such, to the face of compassion, mercy, love, friendship and life that is perfect and undying. By being limited and by dying, it reveals that it is not the source and thus reveals to me the face of the undying, real beloved and compassionate Lord. I could not find this face of compassion if i did not love compassion and did not love friendships and enjoyment etc. But I also could not find it if I pretended to be satisfied with the love and friendship of a limited, transient and tragic kind. In God’s name then is love of compassion, friends, people, enjoyment etc. affirmed. Without it, it is negated and can only be enjoyed at the expense of humanity and honesty. This I learn from the Quran and with this I agree wholeheartedly. You can yourself find verses in the Quran about God’s undying face and about the falsity and tragedy of trying to enjoy the lower existence (dunya) with friends and family without concern for truth and meaning.

If I think I can “count my blessings”, what I count is things I like to have, not blessings. They may or may not be blessings. Whether they will be or not be (and whether death, illness etc will or will not be blessings for me) depends on my choice as to which face of these things I see and whether I find security in what the “things-as-signs” point to (and the Quran describes what they point to and asks me to witness and confirm) or whether I give a lie to signs and do not “follow” God and His messenger’s description of reality. Blessing is everything and universal – death, illness, poverty, hunger as much as life, health, food etc. These are all blessings not because I like them or ask for them through word or deed. They are “blessings” and “blessed messengers” when I choose to see them as signs that glorify the One who sends them to me to call me to Him. When I respond to His call, the messengers are blessed. If I kill the messengers, I may enjoy some lower pleasure but for me, there is no blessing in anything anymore. In the end then, blessedness is a perspective. Either I have a blessed/prophetic perspective on reality and from this perspective, i see the blessed face of all things. Or my perspective is not prophetic and hence misguided/satanic and deceives me into thinking a thing is blessing and valuable without the face that looks to my Sustainer. If I take that perspective, I would be one trying to gain “blessing” from the tree, like Adam and Eve, instead of receiving it from my creator and it be be a deception – I constantly lose such a “blessing”.

Published by Faraz Sheikh

Faraz Sheikh

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