an issue of note 14:4-5

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِن رَّسُولٍ إِلاَّ بِلِسَانِ قَوْمِهِ لِيُبَيِّنَ لَهُمْ فَيُضِلُّ اللّهُ مَن يَشَاء وَيَهْدِي مَن يَشَاء وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

AND we did not send one of the messengers otherwise than in the language of his people, so that he might make clear unto them;  but God misguides whom He wills and [then] guides him that wills to be guided -for He alone is almighty, truly wise

وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا مُوسَى بِآيَاتِنَا أَنْ أَخْرِجْ قَوْمَكَ مِنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ وَذَكِّرْهُمْ بِأَيَّامِ اللّهِ إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لآيَاتٍ لِّكُلِّ صَبَّارٍ شَكُورٍ

And we sent Musa with our signs so that he brings out people like you from darknesses into light and reminds them of the days of God [i.e. that everything belongs to God]. In this [our message to people] are signs [i.e. our message turns all things into signs unto God] for all who restrain themselves from continue to love things in other-than-God’s name and for all those who want to feel content and grateful for all things as they are.

I don’t want to talk about “high” ideals that I don’t actually live by. I feel like a hypocrite if I do that. I get put off by people who don’t walk the walk and, worst, live lives that are a far cry from (sometimes entirely opposed to) the ideals they uphold in words (and perhaps even in thought). This is one side of the story. On its own, this is not an issue. I can either stop saying big things or start living by those big ideas. It is not to simple though. There is a problem. And it is this:

I have ideals that I value and want to genuinely live by but I can’t seem to always (or even mostly) simply will myself to live up to them. I don’t want to give up on the ideals on account of my repeated (even perpetual) failure to live by them. I don’t want to abandon (at least not me) the ideals on account of my repeated failure. So i find myself in a bind. I often find myself on a path on which I can’t guarantee success but which I cannot abandon because I find myself averse to a total despair and defeat. What is the meaning of all this? How shall I understand it? I need to interpret this state of affairs.

I am not convinced by the idea that my predicament is a sign of some sort of “sin” that I am marked by existentially and that the way out is to “accept” some sort of “savior” who died for my sins. It’s not convincing to me that the solution is to call myself a “sinner” who is “saved” by some “savior” who, as some say, “died for my sins.” If such an explanation helps someone, good for them.

What I find convincing is that both my sense of failure and my sense/desire for the ideal are given to me by the same source, my maker. Failure is the door through which I enter the realization of the ideal. The “ideal” that allows me to call anything a “failure” becomes my ideal. Once I see both these states of mine come from the same source and that the failure is itself a sign to my spirit’s prior affirmation of the ideal, I understand that they are related. In my “failure” is made possible the realization of the One who is the owner of all that I value, need and desire. For instance, my sense of “failure” in being loving enough or wise enough indicate that I must already know and love a higher, perfect loving and a higher, perfect wisdom. Only because I am existentially drawn to and adore perfect wisdom and perfect love could I experience what I retrospectively call a “failure”. Second, my failure makes clear that I am not the source of what initially felt like my own – love, wisdom etc. Would I have been the source, I would not have lacked it and there would be no possibility of a “failure” or falling short of the ideal. My initial feeling was justified because I did after all experience the love as mine, the wisdom as mine. I found them in me and not as subjectless predicates. But my fair-seeming assumption is revealed as a mistaken one when I experience lack/failure. I am made this way – in a dialectic of selfclaim->failure->realization-of-the-true-source. And if I am willing to read this mistake in light of the idea that there is only One source of all that I am made to experience (some success and ultimate failure), I would have read myself in Go’d name.

Now consider what happens when I imagine that I have “understood” the ideal and I can no longer “fail”. This claim of having strong faith or true understanding is self-idolization. There is no longer any “return”, no longer any “la-ilaha” because I have not left for anywhere that I will return. I have no “ilah” that I could negate to get to the real source. I imagine having “belief” and being a believer when I no longer see myself subject to the creational command of my source. I am created to love beauty, to love beautiful things. I only imagine that I can not love them and instead love God. I can lie. But if I am honest, I always love beautiful things because it is how I have access to beauty. The goal is to notice, each time, how my love of a thing fails and to then realize that my love of that thing was not in the name of the One who is source of what i love in that thing. My turning away from the thing is a turning away from it as source/ilah, not a turning away from beautiful things to “God” (as if my love of Him was the alternative to my love of what i find beautiful as a human being).

I can embrace my failure as the key that opens the door to loving the same beauty, which I initially loved in my own name or as the quality of the thing I loved, in the name of the One to whom belongs whatever it is that beloved to me in that thing.

The one who asks that he should love God without having loved anything else as their Lord is someone who wants to enjoy eating without being hungry. It is not the reality I exist in.

In this reality, created by my maker, I am willed by Him to experience darkness (zulumat). This is His creation. It is how I find myself as a result of His creation. I cannot but make the choice to love what I find beautiful. This love of beauty lands me in darkness. This is how I am willed to be created. This creates the need for guidance and a message and a messenger in the language i understand – that addresses my needs, that speaks to my darkness. What I understand, what I am open to, the opening and receptivity I have to guidance – this is my ‘lisan’. He creates me misguided, in need of guidance and then to that misguidance sends a guidance and leaves me free to choose it and be brought out, by that message, out of my darkness or remain in that darkness.

Published by Faraz Sheikh

Faraz Sheikh

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