of earthquakes and revelation

It is feb 9th 2023 today. An earthquake hit southeast Turkey and northern Syria and other places on Feb 6th. Thousands died and many more are injured and even more are affected by widespread death and destruction and suffering. I am affected. Sadenned. I wish it didn’t happen. I hope it doesn’t happen to me or others. But it has happened and it will happen again somewhere. I want to reconcile with what i see as senseless pain and death. But i dont also want to justify it as good because then I don’t feel i am being honest. If i could be honest, honest to my pain and the suffering of others and still reconcile with it, i could accep that. but how? is it even possible? isn’t it going to be a justifcation afterall? yes and no.

i am always free to say: no reconciliation is possible! no explanation or meaning can change the evil of the death of innocent children/people and so much pain and suffering. Even when I may find some way of reconciling, i can reject it as inadequate or unfair. So there is no argument in the world, no evidence, no thought that can undo human freedom to choose, to say yes or no. If someone looks for an argument that cannot be rejected or ignored, they are looking for tyrrany and not a persuasive argument. And there is no tyrrany in the universe except as a potential of the human soul – only the soul can adopt a tyrranical view and with it it can color everything around it with tyrrany. And it can also alter its tyranical point of view (a view that harms the person herself more than anyone else) and then one would not see tyranny where one previously saw. The tyranny of death and life and pain etc. is also rooted in my perspective. I can be tyrannical about my tyranny and say that ‘ I shall never change my point of view’ or I can say ‘I shall not change my view unless I am convinced/comfortable about it more than I am convinced about my present view’. It is better to say the second because it is not tyrannical and there is still freedom for me to change my view (and whatever new view I have will also be changeable for it to not be tyrannical).

The other thing is, some arguments are just not compelling and so I can say no, not because I am never going to say yes but because this or that particular explanation doesn’t feel right, doesn;t make sense etc. And in that case I should say no to what doesn’t make sense and yes to only that which makes sense.

What i will say below can be rejected for both of the above reasons – it may make sense to you and you can still ignore it or it may not be a good explanation and therefore you ignore it. Whatever the case, i see this entry as a note to myself. I have the need to persuade myself too, to see if what I claim makes sense, makes sense to me at least. It is how I think for now and it helps me reconcile (for now). If you think something is amiss and you are moved to correct and help me, please do so. if you feel something here is of profit or benefit, well congratulations to you.

it has already taken so many words to say something very preliminary and basic. i dont have time here to explain why i think i need a message or revelation from my maker, in what form and so on. Some earliest blog entries talk about those things. Here I jump straight into the issues of life and death, ease and pain, happiness and suffering.

Why did innocent people suffer pain and death? How can I feel the world is a great place, some wonderful creation of a wise and compassionate God when I see people’s hearts are broken, their children buried and smahed under concrete, their loved ones gone and suffering? If my heart aches and breaks, is it okay? How can it be otherwise without me losing my humanity? How is it okay for me to be sad and heartbroken? How will I feel ‘this is horrible’ AND also feel ‘God, who did this, is great and wonderful! and worthy of my praise and adoration and that he is flawless’? How will those two things ever make sense together?

If I am to be honest to myself and have integrity as a human being and not compromise this integrity for the sake of “faith” or “piety”, I need to say ‘this innocent child dying is horrible!..it should never have happened!. I dont accept it even if someone told me that child went to some heaven. How do I know he is better off dead? And if thats really the case, why don’t i feel comfortable with every child dying, or killed, so that they can all be in a better place immediately?’ There are just too many problems here that need to be addressed.

People throw around quranic verses and draw on other religious materials to make sense of pain and tragedy. This is understandable. human reason alone finds itself in a bind and doesn’t see a way out. It either has to say that all this (this world full of pain and death) is very cruel and bad and whoever did it (god or whoever) is terrible for having done so….or it has to say ‘it is cruel and bad, yes, but i dont accept that view as the only option…i find in myself a soul that rejects the tyranny of the evil, is not happy with it, and i want to see if there is another option for undersanding the cruelty and the evil i experience. this other option is some form of religious wisdom that, in different ways, tries to convince human beings that it all makes sense. But too often, the religious alternative is assumed to make sense, ‘expected’ to make sense even as it doesn’t sometimes make sense. And so it becomes important to think carefully so that one does not accept something senseless and sensible in one’s zeal for the sensible..my intensity of feeling for religious explanations, my desperation for them (because the alternative is so bleak) is not an evidence for the truth of those religious claims. my heart may be broken, i may be desperate, but i need to keep my sanity and reason alive…reason is showing me a terrible picture (existence is cruel and evil) but reason is not terrible for showing me this…reason functions based on what meanings i give to it..if i give it A, B C meanings, it adopts or finds a perspective X…now X may be bleak and terrible, but its not reason’s fault..its not reason i should ignore or reject..its the meanings i give to it, that I present to it for contemplation, that i need to pay attention to.

So, is it possible for me to be authentic and honest to myself when my heart breaks and when i see suffering (and thus suffer myself) and also see that everything is beautiful and great? Here is how I think it might be possible…

The quran as revelation claims that there are at least two meanings, two “faces” to all things (‘wherever you look is the face of God’ says a verse). One face of a thing is its meaning (the dunya) and the other face is the higher/other meaning (the one that looks to eternity and to the divine). Now here is the really important part so pay attention: revelation speaks about both faces. It speaks about the lower face so that i can relate to it and have confidence that the one speaking knows how I feel, knows what He has made..so that I can be persuaded that the one speaking is indeed the one who made me and made this world as i experience it and knows my exprience of it…BUT..and this is a most important BUT…it wants me to REJECT my PRE-revelation perspective (and the meanings that perspective stands on) and ACCEPT new meanings (and thus a new perspective) that it claims is better for my soul (it asks me to consult my soul to check if it is not indeed better) and then asks me to LIVE and ACT HERE and NOW with the new perspective (guidance, the prophetic perspective etc..remember the claim..’wherever you turn there is the face of God’ and ‘there is nothing in the heavens AND in/on the earth except that it glorifies God).

People look at verses in the Quran about ‘dunya’ and how its all passing etc and they say yes, its all passing..its not worth it. it gives me pain…so i should just focus on God and the hereafter (which they think are somewhere else). and they end up living in this world with a perspective that is PRE-revelational (its mentioned in the revelation yes, but revelation is there precisely to help me change that perspective here and now). Revelation says that what I previously saw as a lower meaning (life, for example..yes..life is a meaningful thing for me), i should see in the Name of the Living One (bismillah). The life i lived as my life or just life (as a passing thing), i should live that life as the Life of the Living One (i should live in the name of the Living One)…and i live in the name of the living one now..here and now..so there are no two lives (of this world and the one in the hereafter)…there is life that is either lived as a lower life (somethng passing and ending and with no owner or sustainer)..or the SAME LIFE is lived as a higher life, in the name of the Living One, a life that is never-ending and that is broken up into life before death, then the creation of death and then the creation anew of life. the difference is what meaning life has for me. Is it something i have and things have that makes them breathe and move and experience and then we all lose it with death? (so that we speak of “loss of life” in earthquakes) or does life mean to me that there is an ever-Living One who sustains all life with His life, that all are alive with His life and are glorifying the Livine One by being alive, that they die glorifying the giver of death – as witnesses – and they are alive with Him after their leaving this world).

Since the soul knows (but mind may not be aware) that life is the same life (the eternal life of the Living One), it wants to protect life and it loves life and it mourns death…the taste of death and the pain associated with it, is the souls way of indicating to the mind/reason that you are not made to like/accept death..that death is disliked by you (reason) because i (the soul, which is from the breath of the maker and His command) am made for unending eternal life. One an eternal life is acceptable to me. And so I cry for the dead and I run to save lives because in so doing, I witness that the soul belongs to the Living One, the one whose Life we are all alive with and we all love and never want to lose….to love life without loving it in His name would be to wound my soul because that lower life is ending from the soul’s perspective…but the alternative is not to not love life of this world…it is to change my view of the life of this world (and all worlds) to the sacred, eternal Life of the Living One.

To the extent that I am alive (or willing to repent/return to being alive) in the name of the Living One, to that extent I will feel the pain of death in His Name, as a witness to being the creature of a sustainer who is Ever-living and the giver of death and the promiser of resurrection…if there was no promise if resurrection in the soul, no anticipation or expection for more life, one would not mourn death…it is because the soul already has in it the expectation/knowledge (“..and we have taught adam all the names”) of continued life that death is painful (even as a creation)….this pain is a vivid reminder of the promise inscribed on man’s soul by its maker that He wants for it eternal life..

and so i cry at death..a rush to safe lives because in so doing i witness that i love/praise the Living One and i see all life as a glorification of the Living One…i love life and love life for others in His Name…the creation of death is the occassion for me to recognize this and witness this by demonstrating love for life…by feeling the pain of death..by crying..by helping continue life and not saying ‘o well..its ok if some people die..it doesn’t matter..its just the life of this world..’…this dualism (life of this world doesn’t matter and eternal life matters so i shouldnt cry about the dead and feel no pain and shouldn’t say something terrible has happened..) comes from not living here with revelation’s guidance while repeating revelation’s claims about the afterlife being higher and better without witnessing how such a claim is true…

To witness revelation’s claim, i should say ‘death is terrible indeed my Lord when i see it as the end of life…..you show me that you have not given us from your Life to then make us perish with death..you are indeed Ever living..and you want for us eternal life..a life that does not end….you gave me love of life and you are right to say that i can only be safe if i loved this life in your name…if i do, i mourn death in your Name..as a servant of the eternally Living One….my mourning is a worship that glorifies you as the Living One..a worship that recognizes that you want for us life and not death… you made it clear to us (by creating death) that you want life for us. death brought pain, pain conveyed a sacred message to me about eternal life waiting for those who depart here and so while i honor life as the Life of the Living One and thus mourn its apparent loss and try to save/prolong it, i can (with revelation’s guidance) see you as the Living One, the glorious one, the one glorified as the Living One and Merciful One (who wants for us life without death) with revelation’s guidance…

as i live life, i should experience life as it comes..i should not burden myself with belief/safety that i do not have…i see a death..i feel pain..i cry..i want to save life..i say o my god..its terrible that they died..they lost their life…this is normal human reason..a reason that needs guidance and reminder…and then comes the reminder…Bismillah…in the name of God…and so in the name of the Living One…and as i reflect on life as the life of the Living One, in all living beings and I see the soul as His command and i see the soul as speaking about who its maker is (and not who I am) – all these are actions of conemplation that i need to do so that i may value life of this world (and all worlds) as His Life…

revelation does not ask me to devalue life of this world…it asks me to avoid the lower life of this world..the higher life is also here…the face of God is also here…revelation presents both alternatives to me and asks me to live by one and reject the other…this acceptance and rejection is an on-going struggle between different meanings and perspectives..i forget the divine meaning of tnings..i start to act and feel with different meanings..until i return to those divine meanings…no day is different..no death is different..its just that earthquakes and the death of many people simultaneously makes it harder to ignore questions about the meaning of life and death.

I had intended to be more concise and systematic..but i realize i couldn’t manage to keep ideas neat and crisp…perhaps you will see some meaning in one or two sentences and then make them better and more clear for yourselves and others…

i notice, and i hope you notice, that there is a problem (both rationally and in terms of what the Quran says) with saying this world is just a distraction and crap (essentially and not perspectivally) and all the good stuff (incuding God) is going to come later in the hereafter..this view is not helpful..its not helpful for the soul to feel it has to suffer through this world until it gets to the promised land…the promise is all around unless i choose to ignore revelation’s teaching and only focus on that part of it which just describes how the world/life/death will look from an unguided/misguided perspective…

Published by Faraz Sheikh

Faraz Sheikh

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