ACCORDING TO THE Voice of the Quran, in spite of the gaping gulf between the essence of man and that of man’s Creator, His Presence is closer to our personal being than we could have invented on our own.
For very truly, We [Allah] created man [out of earth]. Thus We know [with certainty] all that whispers within his [very] soul. For We are nearer to [each] one than [even] the jugular vein. [Sûrat Qâf, 50:16]
This Divine Being claims our personal attention throughout the Quran, giving us the rules and regulation for implantation in our lives, and He mandates that We depend upon Him, that we ask Him, Him exclusively, to supply our needs, in trust that He will provide. Since we cannot “see” or “hear” Him in the usual human manner, His outreach to us is one-sided from the start. Our mandate is to listen to what He is telling us. Accordingly, throughout mankind’s experience, Deity has “spoken” through persons chosen to “hear” and to transmit His message. Such spiritual channeling has been bestowed by Allah upon the prophets. Prophet after prophet has followed one another in this venture.
Indeed, God has chosen Adam and Noah, and the Family of Abraham, and the Family of ʿImrân, above [the people of] all the world. They are descendants, one of another….
And behold! God made [a sacred covenant] with all the prophets, [saying: Convey to your people} whatever I give you of the Scripture and [of revealed] wisdom. … [God] said: Do you pledge your consent and accept My solemn compact [to fulfill this trust]? They said: We do consent. He said: Then bear you witness [to it]! For, indeed, I am with you among those who so bear witness. … [Sûrat Âl ʿImrân, 3:33-34, 81]
Only a few of the many prophets have their stories told in the Islamic sources.
…These [aforementioned] are [some of] the [great] ones upon whom God bestowed grace–from among the prophets of the seed of Adam, and from those whom We carried [in the Ark] with Noah, and from the seed of Abraham and when the verses of the All-Merciful were recited to them, they fell to the ground [in worship of Him alone], bowing [their faces] down and weeping. [Sûrat Maryam, 19:58]
For how many a prophet did We send among the peoples of old! [Sûrat Al-Zukhruf, 43:6]
Throughout this prophetic venture, an angelic intermediary has always conveyed, and a prophet has always delivered, the Creator’s messages –now recorded in sacred books. The Final Book has been preserved in the hearts and minds of Muslims to a degree that no other revealed Text has been remembered, recited and acted upon by its adherents. The Quran unreservedly claims to be the “speech” of God, in the form of human language and addressing the “who-am-I” and “why-am-I-here” concerns for the questing souls of all mankind.
According to the Quran, the inspiration of human prophets, and their strategic placement throughout time and space has been the pattern followed by man’s Originator from the very beginning of humankind. Man does himself the ultimate disservice by arrogating to himself the pronouncement that no type of Deity does or can exist based upon man’s inability to resolve issue X, Y or Z. We would do well, rather, to ask ourselves and each other what kind of foundational Truth, what kind of ‘God,’ can, does or must exist.
Returning to the conundrum regarding what constitutes “sound” in the mind of philosophers of Science (See Part 1): Suppose one person (A) claims to “hear” the sound of a tree falling in the forest, but his companion (B) –whose hearing faculties are just as intact– cannot confirm that same sound perception as having been registered in his aural equipment. Perhaps his eardrum mechanism was working perfectly well, but his registering it in a meaningful manner was lacking.
Now, alternatively suppose that the mental awareness of the second person (B) did not respond to the crash event when it took place but that his companion (A) immediately remarked about it to him, whereupon the second person then came to realize that his unconscious perceptual equipment did receive that sound and that it was retained in his unconscious mind just long enough for him to call it back and to interpret it because his attention has now been directed to that data before it deleted. Had a few more seconds passed –without his consideration having been re-directed– then his conscious mind would have dropped that sensation as not meaningful. This is to point out that a huge amount of sensory data is available to us, though we habitually filter out what we do not consider useful to us. The ever-presence of Deity may be one of these kinds of data which typically goes unnoticed.
A sense perception event may be retained within one’s brain long enough for him/her to recover it a few seconds later. We all fail, much of the time, to respond to a physical perception –sound, sight, smell, taste, touch –or to a composite perception like a sense of direction or a feel of balance based on gravity (from the earth, sun or other cosmic forces) or based on the magnetic fields of the earth, even though these are instinctively employed as a regular routine by various animal species. Does un-interpreted data go to the computer files of our brain without ever being “opened”? Scientific “observation” is linked to events of human cognition.
So what about the possibility of “sensing” the silent, unseen, imperceptible Source of our being? Islamic sources make it clear that Allah “sees” and “hears” us, even when we do not perceive Him:
Iḥsân [perfection/excellence of faith] is to worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you do not achieve this state of devotion, then [take it for granted that] Allah sees you.” -Prophet Muhammad (Saḥîḥ Al-Bukhari 47,1)
Why do some persons feel that they have tapped into divine Being and Revelation, if only imperfectly and fleetingly, while others feel that no kind of ‘God’ does, can or even in fact has ever existed? Is it that we have become deaf, dumb and blind to foundational Truth by filtering out the ‘Signs’ of God that are available for all to see everywhere and always surrounding us? Has negligence brought on the veils over our ears and eyes, except when we are shaken out of complacency –perhaps by some drastic emergency or tragic event such as death, accident or natural disaster? Is it only then that we are thus jolted in a quantum leap beyond our normal mental and spiritual orbit, causing us to ponder and meditate on ultimate realities?
It is up to us to make sure that we are awake to our own reality, that we hear, that we listen, and that we consciously assess our ongoing situation. At one time or another, for some more than for others, all of us wander from our consciousness of belonging to our Creator and Sustainer, of our belonging in His creation. Truly we can perceive Him, not directly through the human senses of physical and material observation, but through the “Signs” that inhere (1) in our physical environment, (2) in our physical bodies and, as the Quran claims, (3) in the Signs [verses] encompassing His prophetically delivered Speech.
How are these Signs to be accessed and interpreted? The simple and straightforward answer: Through our pondering over what our physical senses deliver to us.
Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of the night and the daylight are signs [of God’s creative power] for those endowed with [discretion and] understanding [and so heed admonition] [Sûrah Âl ʿImrân, 3:190]
Nevertheless, We shall show them Our signs in the horizons and in themselves–until it become [utterly] clear to them that this [Quran] is, indeed, the [divine] truth. [Sûrat Fuṣṣilat, 41:53]
Now, all through the earth there are [wondrous] signs [of God], for those who are firm in faith. And they are within yourselves, as well. Can you not, then, see? [Sûrat Âl-Dhâriyât, 51:20]
In the Quranic mindset, God is “within earshot” and “within sight” of every falling tree –even of every falling leaf or raindrop! — and He always “hears” its “sound” or sees its “sight,” even though He does not “live” or “be” within the time- and space-bound, material world to which we human beings are tied. As long as man insists on trying to control the narrative into which he has been placed by One other than himself, and if he thinks himself independent of rules and regulations not ratified by himself, then he is liable to miss out on the Signs of his Originator and Guide. He is liable to miss recognizing that the foundational Truth of his own being and of his universe is never absent from him. According to the Voice of the Quran, God is “with” each of us in His Presence, personally and globally, in unbroken continuity.
As Muslims we greet and take leave of one another with an exchange of a set phrase which serves to reinforce among us a mutual brotherly relationship based upon God’s blessing of peace / security / safety / preservation / well-being:
al-salâmu ʿalaykum (“Peace be upon you!”)
This blessing of comprehensive security comes through acknowledging our dependence upon –that is, our lack of independence from– our Creator. It comes as a natural result of submitting ourselves to His Rules and to the overall order which He has installed in His universe.
In the English-speaking world, our traditional leave-taking expression has been “Good-bye.” This idiom is etymologically a shortened form of the phrase, “God be with you!” Indeed, by the very nature of things, God does go with us wherever we go and He does ‘be’ with us wherever we “be.” Never does He ‘be’ absent. This means that His Presence is eternally “with” all in His creation. Even the angels of Allah encourage us and urge us on to seeking His Guidance, to doing good, while He Himself puts limits on the pushback and evil effects of our malicious or mistaken choices –both individual and collective.
Of course, one’s personal awareness of his Maker’s Presence may waver or be lacking, so perhaps the full intent of the idiom “God be with you!” is: “Don’t forget that God IS present with you as you take your leave.” For the believer in God the implications of this phrase include: (1) Be assured of His protection and provision (Arabic: tawakkkul), and (2) Conduct yourself as in His Presence (Arabic: taqwa). Both implications match with core sentiments and concepts at the heart of Islam.
Above all, the speech of Deity, the Quran, reminds us repeatedly that the Presence of Allah –God– can, does and totally always will, stay ‘with’ us: hearing, seeing, and thus intimately knowing all, including each of His creatures, while it calls us to respond to His overtures.
If none of us are in the forest to hear the crashing of the fallen tree, or to see the un-seeable, even so God does hear, see, and fully know:
Moreover, with Him are the keys of the [realms of the] unseen. No one knows [of] them but Him. And He knows, [as well,] all that is in the land and the sea. Not even a leaf falls but He knows it. … [Sûrat Al-Anʿâm, 6:59]
Moreover, to Him [alone] belongs all that dwells [in stillness] in the night and the daylight. And He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing. [Sûrat Al-Anʿâm, 6:13]
It is closer to the truth to take leave of your companion —not with the wish of “God be with you” (“Good-bye”) for in fact God’s Presence never does leave us– but rather one could express better advice and counsel with a re-phrasing: “Go with God!”
Is this not hair-splitting? No. Why then the distinction? Because to “go with God” implies that a person will maintain a certain level of awareness and commitment, casting aside the earplugs, the blinders. In Islamic terms we are talking about an individual’s taqwa: his God-consciousness and the strength of his determination to please God. In the mental state of taqwa, he recognizes God’s eternal Presence with him, and, in so doing, he submits himself to the ways of God with full intention. Such a person knows who he is and what is his purpose here in this enigmatic world.
As muslims (those who submit to the will of God”), we are instructed to stay in communication with God, thankful for His Presence and blessings, instructed to boldly approach God with supplication for our needs and wishes. Indeed, we are reminded throughout the Quran to “go with God,” on whom we depend for provision and guidance, the One who hears, sees and knows all.
All praise is for God [alone], Lord of All the Worlds … [Sûrat Al- Fatihah, 1:1]