what is all this?

يُسَبِّحُ لِلَّهِ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ الْمَلِكِ الْقُدُّوسِ الْعَزِيزِ الْحَكِيمِ

هُوَ الَّذِي بَعَثَ فِي الْأُمِّيِّينَ رَسُولًا مِّنْهُمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَإِن كَانُوا مِن قَبْلُ لَفِي ضَلَالٍ مُّبِينٍ


Nothing around me gives me the comforting impression that they are in control of their existence so that I could count on it/them to provide for me what I need and want. Nothing seems to be perfect – everything good has a nagging limit. Life itself seems to have a timestamp. What I can get seems to have a limit. And this feeling that all is getting lost, even if gradually, makes all things tragic, and particularly those things that are good and desirable. It is truly tragic to lose what is truly good. Nothing seems to have the might and dignity to sustain its goodness, its life, itself, its existence let alone that of any other being. I am surrounded by helpless orphans and I am one of them. In a world full of loss (of what is valuable for there is no loss when there is nothing to lose), there is no wisdom to be found. There is no wisdom and purpose in the existence and then the death of things and beings. The question for me is then: what is all this? What is this? And this question I ask things but they do not answer. When I ask myself: why do you exist? what are you? What are you going to do? What shall you think and feel? How shall you exist? What meaning will your existence and the existence of countless things and relations around me have for you? What can you trust? What can you hope for? Why shall you not grieve and cry? What shall cure your wounds? Who put you in this terrible situation? I don’t get an answer. The answer for me is: i dont know. And it is this “not knowing” is not enough that i seek revelation of answers to these questions. And whoever may have made all this should answer.

This verse claims to be an answer. Its telling me what things are doing. Its claiming to tell me what all this is. It claims that the things that exist and are sustained (for a while) but then can’t sustain their exisence are telling me that there is one (referred to here as Allah) who gives existence to things (they cannot give it to themselves) and sustains them (they can’t clearly sustain themselves) so this is the One who is praised and glorified and so things are not without an owner. If I look at things, I will find that they are not owners of themselves or other beings but that they are telling me that they have an owner who is in full control of their existence (al-Malik). They are telling me, the verse claims, that such a one who has power over all things every moment of their existence is the One whose power and existence has no limit or flaw. Such a one is holy for it lacks nothing. It is absolute in its ability to give life, to sustain life, to provide beings with what they need, to give them life and death. Their death is His doing and not the end of life itself. The beings are telling me that they are not mighty but that they have a mighty owner and maker. In their brief and limited existence, they are nevertheless telling me about the unlimited existence of a mighty sustainer. And they are telling me that the wisdom in their being and my being is only possible if there is such an absolute, undying, perfect one that beings are glorifying. Without a Wise one, to whom the wisdom in the existence of all beings belongs, the wisdom in beings passes into non-existence as those things die/pass and becomes unwisdom. For instance, the wisdom that I see in my mother’s compassionate actions and existence in my life becomes painfully unwise if the wisdom was hers and if it spoke of nothing other than itself. Only if I saw the wisdom in her existence and in her relation with me and my siblings as glorifying and speaking highly about the wisdom of the One who made and put her in relation with me, then i can witness that there is One of absolute wisdom whose wisdom is manifest in beings. The beings are telling about His wisdom. As things pass, the wisdom in their being is not contradicted if the wisdom was not theirs or some “natural” fact about the world. The wisdom was the wisdom of the wise One, who is now known to me in and through the limtied and perishing forms of wisdom I see in beings.

The verses claim that it is only when otherwise mute/unlettered beings become (rather, they are made by my maker to be) message-bearing speech and signs for me that i move from being in a state of clear misguidance and misery to unerstanding the meaning of things and the wisdom in the existence of things as they are. Without listening to what or who they glorify (which the Quran claims is not themselves but rather their maker and sustainer, God), I would not see wisdom in their being. I would only see helpless, miserable, orphaned beings living an unholy, undignified, transient existence only to be lost permanently into non-existence. Anyone who thinks about this and not simply say this with their mouths knows that this is unbearable. Perhaps the unbearable nature of the actual or impending death of a beloved one can help deepen one’s grasp of this truth. The world and everything in it is, and should be, unbearable and unbearably miserable “because” of how wonderful the things generally are in so many ways. All this amazing life and beings – only to decay and perish permanently? What wisdom or goodness could one find in it? The Quran offers a way of reading the otherwise incomprehensibly confusing and patently unwise world to find (for the sake of the soul’s safety and ease) the One who is Wise, in control, trustworthy, not lacking in goodness, existence, compassion and glorified by all beings as the one who owns all perfections and hence alone deserves all my adoration and praise. If i do not hear the messenger and do not read the world and all beings in them as signs that glorify their maker and sustaier, then the Quran claims that I would find this whole thing quite tragic and absurd. The choice is mine to make.

Published by Faraz Sheikh

Faraz Sheikh

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