all that glitters…is God

Consider the following verses. As I understand them, they describe my reality and the choice that is good for me to make. The choice here is a fundamental one, a choice about which attitude or perspective I will have as I approach anything that I am inclined to approach or that appears attractive for any kind of benefit? What shall I “hear” the beings saying to me? How shall I interpret reality? These are the questions the following verses help me ask and answer:

27:8-9

فَلَمَّا جَاءهَا نُودِيَ أَن بُورِكَ مَن فِي النَّارِ وَمَنْ حَوْلَهَا وَسُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

But when he [Moses] came close to it [a burning bush?], a call was sounded: “Blessed is the One within this fire, and, thus, whoever is around/near it. And free of deficiency/lack is the One who is God, the Sustainer of all realms [i.e. what is other than God in and around the fire is NOT free from lack/deficiency and can hurt Moses/me]

يَا مُوسَى إِنَّهُ أَنَا اللَّهُ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

“O Moses! Verily I am God, the Almighty, the Wise!”

7:12 presents the maker asking his own creation, “Satan”, a question and “Satan” is presented here as answering, noting the fire it is made up of.

lقَالَ مَا مَنَعَكَ أَلاَّ تَسْجُدَ إِذْ أَمَرْتُكَ قَالَ أَنَاْ خَيْرٌ مِّنْهُ خَلَقْتَنِي مِن نَّارٍ وَخَلَقْتَهُ مِن طِينٍ

God said: “What has kept thee from prostrating thyself when I commanded thee?” Answered Iblis: “I am better than he: Thou hast created me out of fire, whereas him Thou hast created out of clay.”

38:76 presents Satan saying it is better because of being made of fire.

قَالَ أَنَا خَيْرٌ مِّنْهُ خَلَقْتَنِي مِن نَّارٍ وَخَلَقْتَهُ مِن طِينٍ

Answered [Iblis]: “I am better than he: Thou hast created me out of fire,  whereas him Thou hast created out of clay.” 

20:117, my maker says about the one who claims to be made of fire and claims it “better”:

فَقُلْنَا يَا آدَمُ إِنَّ هَذَا عَدُوٌّ لَّكَ وَلِزَوْجِكَ فَلَا يُخْرِجَنَّكُمَا مِنَ الْجَنَّةِ فَتَشْقَى

and thereupon We said: “O Adam! Verily, this is an enemy unto you and your kind/companion: so let him not drive the two of you out of the garden and put you in undue trouble/difficulty/hardship.

7:26-27, the maker addresses all bani Adam (children of Adam – me, you, everyone) and speaks of garments and nakedness

يَا بَنِي آدَمَ قَدْ أَنزَلْنَا عَلَيْكُمْ لِبَاسًا يُوَارِي سَوْءَاتِكُمْ وَرِيشًا وَلِبَاسُ التَّقْوَىَ ذَلِكَ خَيْرٌ ذَلِكَ مِنْ آيَاتِ اللّهِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَذَّكَّرُونَ

O CHILDREN of Adam! Indeed, We have bestowed upon you from on high garments to cover your nakedness, and as a thing of beauty and the garment of God-consciousness [and you think Quran doesn’t use metaphor?] is the best of all. This is among the signs of God, perhaps they [the children of Adam] might bear this in mind.

يَا بَنِي آدَمَ لاَ يَفْتِنَنَّكُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ كَمَا أَخْرَجَ أَبَوَيْكُم مِّنَ الْجَنَّةِ يَنزِعُ عَنْهُمَا لِبَاسَهُمَا لِيُرِيَهُمَا سَوْءَاتِهِمَا إِنَّهُ يَرَاكُمْ هُوَ وَقَبِيلُهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لاَ تَرَوْنَهُمْ إِنَّا جَعَلْنَا الشَّيَاطِينَ أَوْلِيَاء لِلَّذِينَ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ

O children of Adam! Do not allow Satan to seduce you in the same way as he caused your ancestors to be driven out of the garden: he deprived them of their garment [of God-consciousness] in order to make them aware of their nakedness. Verily, he and his tribe are lying in wait for you where you cannot perceive them!  Verily, We have placed “satans” [everything is satan when I choose the fire of the thing and not its light] near unto those who do not find security with God 

What I understand:

How do I know this is the truth from my maker and a guidance from Him? What is the truth here and what is the guidance?

The word for fire and light come from the same root in Arabic. Fire is NAR and light is NUR. And fire is bright and attracts attention. It has uses and benefits indicated by the verses: heat and light. I understand the Quran teaching me that what I approach expecting/anticipating benefit is either light, the light of God because it makes known God to me just as turning on a light in room makes known the things in a room. Or it is satanic fire that, when I touch, reveals my impotence and contingent nature and, without connecting to my Lord with this weakness, this vulnerability and nakedness harms me and leaves me despaired and depraved: I feel I can never attain what my heart/soul truly want!

What is beneficial to me in what attracts me – beauty benefit, sustenance, care etc, – if I hear it a Moses heard it i.e. as telling me “I am your God”, it makes my eternal and merciful sustainer known to me as I see Him all around me bestowing beauty and sustenance and mercy on all beings that are now, in my eyes, His servants and carrying out His commands and making known Him to me. With such a One, if I witness the truth of His mercy and Ever-lasting wisomd and power and Life, I find eternal security and eternal existence for all beings including myself. OR it is fire for me that burns because instead of being guided by the light, I approach the fire itself and touch it, take of it (like eating the fruit from the tree INSTEAD of taking it TRHOUGH the TREE but FROM the Provider and Sustainer) and this fire consumes me into non-existence. This eating reveals that I need life and beauty eternally and neither I nor the tree can guarantee this. Like Moses then, I should hear from all the fire-bearing or fruit-bearing (benefit bearing) burning bushes around me “I am your Lord”. When I find my Lord there, I find the blessed as I see He lacks nothing for He provides with a flawless beauty, mercy and power and wisdom, I find myself blessed on account of my awareness of the Blessed, undying One. Some beautiful things pass and yet beauty remains and appears in new forms and relations in an endless fashion. The Quran asks me to see/choose that what attracts me in a thing is not the beauty of the thing, not the benefit and joy that that thing itself can give me but my Lord’s beauty and mercy. It is his “sustenance” (rizk) that I taste. It is His favor/grace/fadl that I, if I follow Moses (i.e. Mosaic perspective as presented in the Quran – so that I hear what Moses heard from all the burning bushes that attract me as potentially useful and beneficial). My awareness of an unending source of life and beauty is a comforting garment for me. I witness to the truth of this!

When I take the fire to be better than clay, I am hearing Satan’s interpretation of creation and not that of prophets/Moses. I am following Satan’s claim and saying yes to it. I am saying as if, “yes! what is made of fire is better than what is made of clay (which is me, Adam, someone in eternal need of sustenance by an eternal One). If I said I am sufficient unto myself and not in need of eternal beauty and eternal life, if I said that I need fire and nothing more, I would be cut off from my relation to the eternal realm of eternal and perfect fulfillment of all my needs and desires (jannah). If I did not hear the fire say that all that is worthy in it [and all that is worthy about its relation to me] is my maker, God, I would have listened to Satan’s view of the fire [that it is better and so does not need to make known God (i.e. does not need to prostrate to me) for it to be valuable for me. I am loving God when I love the light and heat and benefits of the proverbial fire of the burning bushes all around me, which glitter with the light of God and make His sustenance and beauty and compassion known to me so that I may find peace and safety in terms of securing all the needs that He has put in me. Otherwise, I eat the fruit, like Adam did and I listen to the enemy, the accursed one (by choosing this perspective) and I, as if, agree with the idea that fire is better than the one made of clay (with no light or heat of its own). When I take this satanic perspective on reality, i find myself expelled from the presence of the provider and the Beneficent.

In different metaphors and signs, my maker teaches me how I can find, starting here and now, the One I need to secure all my needs eternally and what kinds of choices take me away from Him. Like Moses, I should hear “I am God” in all that glitters and is “fire” (the Quran uses the world of my experience as examples/mithal to convey meaning to me in a way that I can confirm its truth within my experience and capacity) and take the light and heat and benefit as signs of my Sustainer’s mercy so that I put my trust in Him and have certainty of the existence of an eternal realm of undying fulfillment (jannah). My maker says that if I see the things as signs of His mercy, I will be grateful for all things as they are for I will see the light that makes Him known. Even when I am sick or getting old, for instance, my dislike for sickness and my love for healthfulness and youthfulness will become signs of Him being the owner of Health, Him being the One who desires health and youthfulness for me and I will be grateful for who I know Him to be. My maker says that if I do not irrationally and foolishly deny His signs and His ultimate judgment, He will certainly cause me to enter His presence and His pleasure. He says clearly (and logically) that He has nothing to gain from punishing me or making me suffer in any way. He says, for instance,

مَّا يَفْعَلُ اللّهُ بِعَذَابِكُمْ إِن شَكَرْتُمْ وَآمَنتُمْ وَكَانَ اللّهُ شَاكِرًا عَلِيمًا

What does God stand to gain from your punishment if you are grateful and attain to security with Him? – seeing that God is the Grateful and all-knowing.

Published by Faraz Sheikh

Faraz Sheikh

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