Wednesday, November 21, 2018

'Strive to Excel in the Path of God'

Prepare for the 'Journey'

“At this time, the purpose of my address is that since there can be no guarantee of one’s life, I feel that the number of people who are gathered around me now may perhaps not be with us in the following year. Moreover, during these days, I saw in a vision that in the coming year certain friends would no longer be with us, but I cannot say who of them was referred to in this vision. I am certain that this is because everyone individually ought to prepare himself for their journey to the afterlife. As I have just mentioned, no names were disclosed to me, but I know for certain by knowledge given to me from Allah the Exalted that divine destiny and decree has its time. All must leave this transient world at some point or other.

And so, it is absolutely imperative to state that every individual and friend who is present now must not hear my words as though they were a storyteller’s tale. Rather, I counsel you from Allah and have been commissioned by Him. I address you with immense sympathy, true goodwill and with a burning heart. Hence, I call on my friends to heed my counsel. I reiterate that you ought to listen attentively and take my words to heart.

Belief in God

Allah is the most Supreme Being and He is the Light, for He has established His existence and Oneness in the Holy Quran with powerful and simple arguments. Those people who express doubts and harbour suspicion regarding His existence, despite witnessing the powers and miraculous wonders of this Magnificent Being, are truly the most unfortunate. In proof of His Magnificent and Powerful Being, Allah the Exalted has stated:

Are you in doubt concerning Allah, Maker of the heavens and the earth?’ (Surah Ibrahim; Ch. 14, v. 11)

meaning, can there be doubt in the existence of Allah the Exalted, who is the Creator of the heaven and earth? Now reflect, is it not perfectly clear and obvious that a created thing leads one to accept the existence of a creator? When a person sees a well-crafted shoe or chest, they are left with no choice but to immediately accept the existence of its craftsman. In the same way it is inexplicably astonishing that there should be any room for denial in the existence of Allah Almighty. How can one reject the existence of a Maker who has created thousands of wonders with which the heaven and earth are replete?

Hence, know for certain that a foolish person who doubts the Being and existence of God, even after observing these works and wonders of nature, which are beyond the power, mind or intellect of man to create, is an unfortunate person caught in the grip of Satan. Such a one ought to seek forgiveness from God. To reject the existence of God has no basis in argument or observation. In fact, to reject the existence of Allah, the Glorious, despite witnessing His powers, and the wonders of His creatures and creation at large, which fill the heaven and earth, is the height of blindness.

There are two forms of blindness: the blindness of one’s eyes and the blindness of one’s heart. A person’s physical blindness does not affect his faith. But a blinded heart does affect a person’s faith. Hence, it is necessary and absolutely imperative that every single individual constantly beseeches Allah Almighty with humility and submission so that He may grant him true divine understanding, insight and vision, and so that He may protect him/her from the evil whisperings of Satan.

Belief in the Hereafter

The evil whisperings of Satan are abundant, but the most dangerous doubt and suspicion that develops in the heart of man and causes him to lose in this world, as well as in the afterlife, relates to the Hereafter.

For belief in the hereafter— among other ways and means—is a strong catalyst which moves an individual to perform good and virtuous acts. An individual who considers the Hereafter to be nothing more than a fable or tale, becomes one who is rejected, and loses in this world and the next. This is because awe of the Hereafter also arouses fear in a person, drawing them in towards the true fountain of divine understanding. And divine insight cannot be attained without the awe and fear of God. Hence, remember that when a person begins to doubt the Hereafter, this puts a person’s faith in danger and taints the prospects of a good end.

The Lives of the Pious

The pious, holy and righteous personages who have passed throughout history, spent their nights standing and in prostration until the sun would rise upon them. Do you believe that they possessed extraordinary physical strength? Were they well-built, strong, muscular wrestlers? Not at all. Know well that physical power and strength can never accomplish that which spiritual power and strength can.

You must have observed many people who eat three or four times a day and consume many fine and nutritious foods like pilau rice, but what is the outcome? They remain asleep and go on snoring until the sun rises. They become so completely overtaken by sleep and sloth that even to offer the Isha prayer becomes an arduous and incredibly difficult task, let alone Tahajjud.

Do reflect, did the revered companions of the Holy Prophet, may Allah be pleased with all of them, prevail over the disbelievers because they were taken by a life of luxury, and exquisite food and drink? Of course not. It was foretold in earlier scriptures as well that they would stand in Prayer during the nights and fast often during the day. They would spend their nights in the remembrance of God and in contemplation. How else did they spend their lives? The following verses of the Holy Quran are a vivid illustration of the manner in which the companions spent their lives:

And make ready for them whatever you can of armed force and of mounted pickets at the frontier, whereby you may frighten the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them whom you know not, but Allah knows them’.(Surah Al-Anfal, 8:61)

O ye who believe! be steadfast and strive to excel in steadfastness and be on your guard and fear Allah that you may prosper’. (Surah Aal-e-Imran, 3:201)
Meaning, tie your horses on the frontier so that the enemy of Allah and your enemy remain in fear of your preparation and readiness. O believers, be steadfast and strive to excel in steadfastness and be on your guard.

The Meaning of ‘Ribat’

The word ‘ribat’ refers to those horses that are tied at the enemy frontier. Allah the Exalted instructs the companions to remain prepared to fight the enemy. The word ‘ribat’ draws their attention towards the fact that they should remain fully prepared in all respects. The companions were given two responsibilities. Firstly, to fight their apparent enemies and secondly, a spiritual war.

The lexicon states that ‘ribat’ also refers to a person’s soul and heart. A subtle point to note is that only those horses can be brought into service that are schooled and trained. In these days, horses are trained and instructed, and schooled and taught just as children are educated in schools with great care and attention. If they are not trained and taught, they would turn out to be completely useless and instead of being beneficial, would prove to be dangerous and harmful. This is an indication of the fact that the souls, i.e. ‘ribat’ of human beings ought to be trained as well. Their faculties and strengths ought to function within the limits set by Allah Almighty. Otherwise, they shall not be able to serve in the inner war and battle that wages on at every second and every moment between man and his arch-enemy, Satan.

In war and on the field of battle, in addition to one’s physical strength, skill is also necessary. Similarly, human souls must be trained and appropriately taught for this inner war and struggle. Otherwise, as a result, Satan shall gain victory over man. Such a person shall in turn be disgraced and dishonored.

For example, if an individual possesses an arsenal of artillery such as canons and other guns, etc., but is completely ignorant on the use of these weapons, such a one can never succeed in fighting the enemy. Similarly, if a person is equipped with weapons of war and guns, etc., and knows how to use them, yet they have no strength in their arms, such a one will also be unsuccessful. This demonstrates that merely learning the method and technique required to wield a weapon is also insufficient until a person exercises and trains in order to develop power and strength in their arms. Now if there were a person who is knowledgeable in the art of swordsmanship, but they have not trained and exercised, upon entering the field of battle, after three or four maneuvers and a few strikes, their arms will fall lifeless and they shall render themselves useless by exhaustion. Ultimately, such a one will fall prey to the enemy out of their own weakness.

Spiritual Struggle and Exercise

So, understand full well that mere knowledge of tactic and theoretical training are of no avail, until they are coupled with action, effort and practice. Oneought to observe that it is precisely for this reason that governments do not allow their armies to sit idle. Even in a time of peace and comfort, they create war scenarios to keep their armies engaged, and target practice and parades, etc., are a daily routine.

As I have just mentioned, just as knowledge and skill in the use of weaponry and the like is required on the one hand, in order to gain victory in the field of battle, on the other hand, exercise and knowledge of best practice is also imperative. Similarly, in war and battle, trained horses are required—horses that do not fear the sound of guns and canons, and do not scatter and retreat at the sight of chaos; rather, advance, come what may. Similarly, the souls of mankind cannot triumph in the field of battle against the enemies of Allah without tireless exercise, rigorous practice and the best of training.”

----Extracts from the second speech of the Promised Messiah (as) on the occasion of Jalsa Salana in Qadian, 28 December 1897; taken from the first volume of the 'Malfuzaat' (in English; pp. 52-56).