Islamic devotional 01
(Translated from an obscure Sufi text)
Everything in the universe and on the surface of the earth praises God, and testifies to his existence — all of it is the work of the creator, the eternal and self-sustaining, the completely transcendent. Have you seen the sky? He raised it. And the stars in orbit? He fixed them. And your own creation? He made you from a blood-clot, fashioned and proportioned you, instilled in you a sense of right and wrong, and gave you the capacity for speech. All of these are signs for people who give thought.
Dumb, deaf, and blind — those are the ones unacquainted with God, and having forgotten God, they forgot themselves. Look how much they strive for this world, accumulating wealth and building up good impressions, but they neglect their own souls and do nothing to cultivate their selfhood. So they become strangers to themselves, and eternity will not lay a single claim on them. And if they did no harm — then they perish. But if they leave behind an atom’s weight of it — for them is a humiliating punishment.
The faithful is the one who says, “God, protect me from the evil of my account”. And he fears a day when the records will be opened — a day when people will be enemies to one another, sickened by the worst parts of themselves. And as for those who anticipated that day, they will turn themselves out willingly, and for them will be noble forgiveness. And as for those who are struck by it, they will be encompassed by what they did, and nothing beyond what they cultivated in themselves will help them at all.
Is it the pleasures of this life you seek? Those are a taste of what’s to come — with God is eternal bliss, better and more lasting. Do you tremble from the evils of this world? Those are just a warning — God could make them even worse, if only you knew.
Life is all at once a miracle and a trial. We find ourselves given time and freedom, and from the beating of our heart to the heaving of our chests we strive towards the future — but the prospect of death destroys all our projects. And what survives us — what we leave behind — is enumerated on a clear register. But only those who fear God will be reminded.
The doubters say: “Where is God? I haven’t seen him”. Fine then, you haven’t seen him. But do you think that you aren’t seen? Does the expanse of the universe mean nothing to you? Was it all created in vain?
They say: “You fear your account because you feel unshakably guilty. Your faith is nothing but sickness”. Fine then, I feel guilty. But is it delusional to fear those parts of myself that I suppose aren’t worth being claimed by the eternal? Is it delusional to devote my life to upbuilding and self-purification in order to join what might exist of the timeless, to be accepted by God?
Are they so secure with what they’ll leave behind? Let them sit with themselves for ten minutes — or five. It would be too difficult for most of them. From where does their inner disquietude come, and from what do they flee? Do they reject prayer because it’s useless, or because it’s impossible for them?
We have been commanded to cultivate the best in ourselves, repenting for our evil and compulsively self-reflecting, guided by the sight of the infinitely just. And when we sit with ourselves, we consider the day of our accounts and the possibility of resurrection, having been sufficiently amazed by our first creation to prepare for a second one. And even if we’re wrong, we would have preferred to live like this anyway. That is faith — subjective certainty — and those who call it a leap haven’t understood religion.
They say: “Would we experience anything when our bodies are disintegrated? How could we come alive again?” That is crude thinking, and they neglect the miracle of their own existence. How did they come alive the first time? Was it by their own choosing? Is their well-being not determined by what was left behind before them? Then why wouldn’t they fear what they might leave in front of them?
Exalted is God, above what’s been presumed about him. He’s mine and yours, ours and theirs, altogether, there is no one like him, and he’ll bring us together on a day about which there’s no doubt. But God knows best.