Monday, June 1, 2009


From Layman's Desk -1: THE SPIRITUAL EYE.

“Say this is my way. I am inviting you towards God by the way of
internal sight.” (12:108)

We must get to know some idea as to what we mean by the term “Spiritual Eye,” also known as the “Inward Eye,” “Eye of the Heart,” (‘Chashme Qalb’) all of which are opposed to the “Carnal Eye,” and “Material Eye”. The eyes that are visible to us are the “Material Eye,” but the sight which is the prerogative of the select few is calld the “Spiritual Eye,” as it is not commonly visible. When the Holy Qur’an says, “You perceive (it) not” (2:154) while stating that the Martyrs are alive, it is actually referring to our material eye and its inability to perceive the hidden realities which can only be seen by the spiritual eye.

In his celebrated masterpiece, IHYA ULUM ID DIN, Imam Ghazaali (Reh.) speaks of this distinction:

“When a man dies, he is removed from this material world to a world which is unknown and spiritual and it cannot be seen with this material eye.

“An eye is created within the mind of every man but it is covered by him with passions and earthly desires and nothing of the spiritual world can be seen with the eye of heart unless the screen over it is removed. As this screen is removed from the eyes of the Prophets, they can see things of the spiritual world.”

An authentic prophetic tradition in Nasaai, which is also confirmed by Haakim as genuine, states:

“Do you feel surprised at the friendship of Ibrahim with Allah, His talking with Moosa, and His being seen by Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhe wassallam).”

Therefore, as the screen of earthly desires and passions was removed from the eyes of the Prophets, Ibrahim (a.s.) became ‘Khaleel Allah’ (bosom friend of Allah). Moosa (a.s.) was ‘Kalimullah’ (who spoke to Allah), and Muhammed (sallallaahu alayhe wassallam) is the Messenger of Allah who has seen Allah.

The distinction between the Material Eye and the Spiritual Eye has also been alluded to by Ali bin Usman al-Hajwiri (Daata Ganje Baksh rahamatullah) in his celebrated KASHF AL MAHJUB. According to him, the the Holy Prophet (sallallaahu alayhe wassallam) told Aisha (Radi Allah Anha) that he did not see Allah on the Night of Ascension whereas Ibn Abbas (Radi Allah Anhu) relates that the the Holy Prophet (sallallaahu alayhe wassallam) told him that he saw Allah on that occasion. This seeming contradiction has been explained by the Awliya-Allah in terms of the “Material Eye” and the “Spiritual Eye”. He explains that in saying that he did not see Allah, the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhe wassallam) was referring to his Material Eye. By saying that he did see Allah on that occasion, the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhe wassallam) was referring to his Spiritual Eye. Since Aisha (R) was a Formalist (ahl-e-rusoom) and Ibn Abbas (R) was a Spiritualist (ahl-i-ma’ani) it was necessary for the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhe wassallam) to speak to each of them according to their insight.

This insight is also commonly known as the “Kashf” which is the station of revelation or the “unveiledness”. In order that the screen or veil be removed from the person, that person should continually be seeking the Truth and fleeing from the Falsehood. But for a person who essentially sees no difference between the Truth and the Falsehood, will never have his screen removed because he falls into the category of those whose hearts have been “sealed” by Allah.

We will now see how when the screen is not removed, it leads to blindness of the heart which is the Spiritual Eye. Such a person remains blind even in the hereafter in contrast to the people of faith who will be provided with a light there. This light, again, varies with the degree of the faith and the degree of the veil removed.

In Surah Noor of the Holy Qur’an we read:

“Say to the believing men to lower their gaze....” (24:30)

“Say to the believing women to lower their gaze..(24:31)

So, we are told to close our eyes to the physical lusts. What needs to be really opened wide is our Inner Eye or the Eye of the Intelligence and to have no thought except the vision of God. Our hearts being synonymous with the rest of Intellect, and Intellect in turn being synonymous with the Light, it is really the blindness of this eye, i.e. the heart, which the Qur’an speaks of:

“Truly, it is not the eyes that are blind, but the Hearts which are in their breasts.” (22:46).

The heedless and the ignorant who follow their lusts are blind. That this blindness means that the children of darkness will not receive the Light of Allah’s countenance is clear:

“But those who were blind in the world, will be blind in the Hereafter. And most stray from the path. (17:72)

In the Darkness of the Day of Judgment, those who believe in Allah and the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhe wassallam) will “have their reward and their Light” (57:19).

Again, in the same Surah al-Hadid of the Holy Qur’an it is stated:

“O ye that believe! Fear Allah, and believe in His Messenger, and He will bestow on you a double portion of his Mercy: He will provide for you a Light by which ye shall walk (straight in your path) and He will forgive you (your past); for Allah is oft-Forgiving and Merciful.” (57:28)

It is further stated in the same Surah:

“The Day shalt thou see the believing men and the believing women – How their Light runs forward before them and by their right hands; (Their greetings will be) ‘Good news for you this Day! Gardens below which flow rivers! To dwell therein forever!’ This is indeed the highest triumph.” (57:12)

This verse shows that the light of faith by which the believers were guided in this life, but which was visible only by spiritual eye, would be clearly seen going before the believers on the Resurrection Day.

“Allah is the Light of the Heavens and the earth...(24:35) and in the same verse of Surah Noor it is also said: “Allah guides to his light whom he pleases”. But this Light is not distributed uniformly. The Holy Qur’an also states: “To all are degrees (or ranks) according to their deeds.” (6:132). It also points out that the believers have “grades of dignity” (8:4). In the Holy Qur’an these ranks have been mentioned variously as Prophets, the affirmers of truth (Siddiqeen), the martyrs, and the righteous (Saaleheen)...(4:69), on all of whom is the Grace of Allah.

Again, in Surah Waqiah, we have three classes: The Companions of the Right Hand (Ashaab ul-Maimana), Companions of the Left Hand (Ashaab al-Mash-ama), and the Foremost (Saabeqoon) who will be the nearest to Allah (al-Muqurreboon): the first group being the righteous people; the second, of those who will be in the “midst of a fierce blast of fire and in boiling water and in the shade of black smoke” for persisting in “wickedness supreme”; and the third group of those who attained the highest degree in spiritual understanding.

In verse 35 of Surah Ahzaab of the Holy Qur’an, the believing men and women have been categorised variously as those who submit, who believe, who are devout, who speak the truth, who are patient, who are humble, who give alms, who fast, who guard (their chastity) and who remember (Allah much) - all for whom Allah has prepared forgiveness and a vast reward.

In Surah Mujaadila, it is stated: “Allah will exalt those who believe among you, and those who have knowledge, to high ranks.” (58:11)

True, faith equalises all before Allah, but there is leadership, and rank and degree, depending on the knowledge and insight. For example, regarding the Awliya-Allah, the Holy Qur’an states:

“Behold! Verily on the Awliya-Allah there is no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (10:62)

According to a prophetic tradition, the Holy Prophet (sallallaahu alayhe wassallam) stated:

“Allah created his creation in darkness, then He sprayed it with His Light. Those whom the light reached became rightly guided, while those it did not, went astray.”

The Holy Qur’an states:

“Some faces on that day shall be bright. Looking to their Lord.” (75:22, 23)

According to the authentic traditions, some will be shining as the bright full moon on the night, some like the bright shining stars, and so on. This light is in direct proportion to the degree of faith and attainment of the gnosis of Allah.

Imam Ghazaali (Reh.) points out in his IHYA, the light of the faith of the prophets and the apostles is as the rays of the sun; the light of the Siddiqoon (the Truthful) is like that of the moon; the light of the Awliya-Allah is like that of the stars; and the light of the ordinary believers is like that of a lamp. According to him, the light gets stronger with the involvement of sure faith: if it is just blind faith as in the case of ordinary believer, it is dim; the faith of the followers of jurisprudence or Fiqh involves some proof and is not based on hearsay, so the light is stronger than that of the ordinary believers. Coming to the light of Awliya-Allah, he says that it involves certain faith. This is real knowledge gained by the direct sight of the Inner Eye. So the intensity of this light is much more than that of the above categories.

In the words of Shaikh Nuh Ha Mim Keller in his article on Haqiqat al-Muhammadiyya:
“The light of each human being depends upon his faith, knowledge and virtue. The most powerful lights are those of Divine Messengers, then those of Prophets, Saints, virtuous believers, and finally those of sinful believers.”

For the lover of Allah, the light in his heart keeps him busy with the next world When his Spiritual Eye is opened, his bodily eye is shut and he sees nothing but Allah. When ‘Abd Allah Ibn ‘Umar (R) was circumambulating the Ka’ba, someone wished him the Salaam; but he did not hear since he had shut himself off from the external world. Later on, when that person asked him the reason for not replying to his Salaam, he stated: “We were seeing God”. Similarly, when Hazarat ‘Ali (R) was asked if he saw God, he replied: “How should we worship the One we don’t see?” Indeed, this is the foremost component of ‘Ihsan’ the second one being to worship Allah as if He is seeing you - the first being to worship Allah as if you see Him.

Therefore, it behoves a believer to seek ways and means to get acquainted with the ‘Chashme Qalb’ or “Ruy’at al-Qalb” or the Vision of the Heart, or the Inner Heart or Spiritual Eye rather than the outward or the Carnal Eye, so that while living in this world he or she don’t go about being blind to the spiritual truths lest the Heart gets Sealed by Allah and they becomes blind in the hereafter where such people would have to go without any light and thus stray from the right path. That’s the importance of the Spiritual Eye in short.

Allah and his Rasool (s) know best.


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