Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri
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Inner Meaning of The Qur`an

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"Living Islam East & West"
(Excerpts Only)

By: Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri

Nothing in existence takes place unless there is a reason behind it. Our scientific endeavors and technical achievements have all progressed because of the search for cause and effect, building up the information base for what is now our contemporary, modern society, with its far-reaching programs probing further into outer rather than inner space. Whatever we pursue in our intellectual life, using our brain capacity, is based on a sharable pattern that we can understand within the context of a language or culture. Whenever we are shocked, disappointed, afraid, or uncertain, it is because a discontinuity has taken place in our thought pattern. If someone suddenly begins speaking in a language one cannot understand, there will be an immediate freeze in the communication. So discontinuity is what we do not accept or like, by our innate nature.

The fundamentals in the source-book (the Qur`an) came down in one instant upon the Prophet of Islam and unfolded outwardly over twenty three years. These two apparently opposing statements are not incompatible because the Book has always existed. The Book of Creation existed before the creation was made manifest. An analogy is to reflect upon any outer program. Before we embark on the construction of a house, the design already exists somewhere, maybe in the mind of the potential owner or the architect, and it unfolds in a pattern that is outwardly visible. And so with Qur`an: it is a pattern, a map, like a transparency which one can take and superimpose on any aspect of existence to see it's meaning. It is as if one needs a gradational or topographical presentation which collates the map of life in a fashion that is understandable to us. If the knowledge of the map is alive and available, one will see Reality wherever one looks, and it will never change. God says in the Qur`an in Surat al-Mulk:

He who created the seven heavens in one above another; you see no incongruity in the creation of the Beneficent God; then look again, can you see any fault? Then turn back the eye again and again; your look shall come back to you confused and fatigued.

There is no fault in the original design. This does not mean that there is no fault in the situation created by the human element. In other words, the designer's intention is the perfect connectedness of it all, but we are given limited freedom to act. Within that limitation we will bring about injustice. So injustice in this world is our doing, inadvertently. This will continue until we realize that we have no option but to be in submission, to be in Islam, to give in to the decree of the Creator. Once that process has begun, then we have started an the path that was intended for us, by choice.

The Prophet Adam, peace be upon him, had no choice -- he was in the Garden. There was nothing other than uniformity so he could only be obedient -- he had no other choice. He learned the meaning of disobedience by obediently listening to that vibration called Shaytan. Now here we are in this Reality which is based on duality. We find ourselves born wanting to live forever seeking friendship, and abhorring enmity, seeking security and fearing insecurity, having varying degrees and different contexts of love and hate. We are all the same. The Qur`an says:

We created you from one self. (4:1)

The manifestation of hatred, insecurity, fear or love differs from one person to another, indeed from time to time for the same person. Before breakfast the manifestation of the desire for the person who has awakened hungry is to eat a good breakfast. After breakfast, if he is sensible, the last thing he wants is a second course. We find ourselves in a situation that hinges on duality, and yet there is a thread in it for all of us which we may refer to as humankind or humanity. We are one lot, we are one people, homosapiens –- there is a common denominator.

Let us now look at the inner meaning of the Qur`an. There cannot be an inner unless there is an outer and the outer is a true reflection of the inner. Therefore, from the Qur`anic point of view, all things in this existence, whether they are material, intellectual or even subtler elements, are interconnected. From this point of view everything is divine, having emanated from the same Divine Source. So truly speaking, there is no such thing as a visible element of our way of life separated from the invisible element.

To put it another way, in reality there is no difference between the traditional and the mystical way of Islam. Where does one end and the other begin? How can you differentiate between the outer and the inner? The outer has an inner reality, and the inner will manifest in the outer realm. An intention will eventually manifest itself in an action. Where is the boundary that prevents that continuum? Where does the atom end and the physical reality of matter begin?

There are interspaces between these systems. As you know, scientists can describe various systems according to different scientific theories. We can describe a gravitational system in detail in the science of physics, but when you come to thermodynamics or the subatomic world, there is another system we can still describe. We know the interrelationships between these systems and yet we cannot define them precisely. So we must refute this separation of the outer and the inner.

God says in the Qur`an:

He is the First and He is the Last. He is the Evident and He is the Hidden.

Where is it that He is not? So if we are talking about a unified state, the foundation of all inner sciences, then wherever we begin, we are bound to end up at its opposite. If one begins with outer concern such as the ritual of purification, one will eventually end up with inner concern. If one begins by cleaning the house from the outside, a time will come when the inside will be cared for. And the Qur`an makes this point in one ayah, if not in many. The Qur`an says:

And purify your clothes. (74:4)

We must understand that the purification of outer garments is superfluous unless one is concerned about the purification of one's body, mind and heart, for they all interconnect. A man is known by how he lives, what he eats, and his immediate environment. The prophetic tradition tells us that one who keeps the company of a people for forty days becomes like them. Inadvertently their characteristics are imbibed.

If one has an inner eye, reflecting upon the outer meanings of the verses of the Qur`an will lead one to their inner meanings. Existence is entirely balanced on opposites -- life and death, man and woman, good and bad, sleep and wakefulness, health and disease -- and we want at all times to be in the middle. Imbalance results from not being in the middle. Let us examine the virtue known as courage. On one side of courage is cowardice, and on the other is recklessness. Courage is that very fine point right in the middle. Every other virtue is the same -- balanced between two extremes. Regarding this, the Qur`an Says:

And we have created you a middle nation. (2:143)

This nation is the people of unification, people who want to know the truth, and whose Qur`an is every breath of life.

Let us share one short surah (chapter) of the Qur`an, Surat al-Shams (The Sun), so that we may see how the inner and the outer are totally connected.

I swear by the sun and its brilliance,
And the moon when it follows the sun

God -- Glory, Majesty, and Might are His alone -- is reminding us by the effulgence of the sun in the form of an oath, swearing by it. By the radiant sun which gives us warmth and heat. God has started by giving us a physical proof of one of the major causes of life on this earth - - the sun. By the fact that there is this self-fusing, self-perpetuating light which is the sun. And by the moon which reflects the sun's light.

And the day when it exposes it,
And the night when it draws a veil over it.

Here God reminds us of the other two opposites -- day and night.
The description is very beautiful even from a poetic point of view, that this incredible effulgent day suddenly has something thrown over it to hide and cover it. Allah now reveals another pair of opposites to strengthen the oath even further.

And by the heaven and Him who made it, and by the earth and Him who extended it.

And then Allah comes to us:

And by the self and Him who made it perfect (91:7)

A related derivation of the word for self is nafas which means 'breath'. We are hanging on air, inhaling and exhaling -- again two opposite states, yet we become arrogant and forget this fact. Do we really identify ourselves with these physical forms, walking about!

God immediately brings us from the cosmic story to the microcosmic story. We are the reflectors of the macrocosm. The subtle implication, the inner meaning of the verse, is that this self must contain all the double elements that were mentioned in the preceding verses. Its arrangement is fithrah, innate, preprogrammed subgenctically form within. That preprogramming develops through stages and time in a contiguous fashion. The root meaning for innate (fitrah) is 'to crack'. The child breaks into this world with a cry of despair at being dislodged from the aqueous, contented, mild situation of the preceding nine months, where it knew only the mind of the mother's heart. Suddenly the child is ejected into a gaseous environment and disconnected from that umbilical situation. Immediately the programmed unfoldment of the self begins. The child is born wanting to connect. The first connection is physical. The first worship is to maintain the body -- that is the temple that the child knows innately, and the mother's breast is the object which fulfils that need. In time, if one grows in consciousness, one recognizes that the breast is the earth from which we take our physical sustenance.

And by the self and Him who made it perfect. (91:7)

implies that the self has within itself perfection and completeness
of the inner and outer, a combination of visible and invisible realities.

Then God says:

Then He inspired it to understand immorality and piety. (91:8)

He who is pious is aware at times that he is hanging between these two opposites and that at any moment he may slip. Thus he wants to be in such a wakeful state that his inner and outer are completely connected, otherwise he knows he will slip into the abyss, the abyss of suspicion, doubt, inner hatred, or any of the other abysses that we can inwardly suffer from. It could even be the abyss of outer misbehavior, such as falling asleep behind the wheel of a car for ten seconds in traffic! Piety (taqwa) is that perpetual, spontaneous, continuous and natural awareness. The word does not have a dualistic sense. Immorality or decadence, the opposite of piety, takes one far away from reality. Yet how can we know nearness unless we know what is far? There must be recognition of what is far so that we may then, by our own will, seek nearness. Man can sink to a level of decadence and degeneration lower than any other created thing. And yet the Qur`an tells us that the Angels prostrated themselves to the Adamic consciousness.

These Angelic powers or energies are fully programmed in their own channels but we are unable to penetrate them. It is another world to that which we cannot gain full access for our own sake. Think of our own physical world. If we had eyesight good enough to observe all the creational activity going on around us, we would not be able to place things in the middle perspective. Likewise, if we could receive all the other invisible signals that are going on, angelic or otherwise, call them Angels, radar or infra-red or whatever, untestable, unmeasurable, unseeable, untouchable energy waves so to speak -- if we were sensitive to all those energy bundles or waves -- we would be so encumbered that, in all probability, we would lose our sanity. Right now, around us, there are millions of waves going back and forth. Fortunately, we have been endowed with selective perception and our horizon is limited. Within this limited horizon we can subjectively test and realize the unlimited horizon that contains it.

So, on the one hand, we have immorality and decadence and on the other, piety and complete awareness. The choice is ours. We make that choice according to the degree of our desire for knowledge. The successful one is he who purifies himself.

He will indeed be successful who makes it grow in purity. (91:9)

The verbal root of the word for 'succeed' is 'to plough, till, or cultivate'. Success then implies turning over the soil of the self so that it is aerated and soft and then becomes conducive for the growth of success.

The same is true of the heart. The root of 'heart' in Arabic is qalb. The verb qalaba means 'to turn'. If the heart is attached to a specific thing then that is the limit of cognizance. If the heart turns, however, then it can select what is most appropriate.

Another meaning for the Arabic word which means 'to purify' is 'to increase'. If the impurities of a substance are removed, substance actually increases, not in quantity but in quality. Also, a derived noun, zakah, means charity. Purification of the self is a consequence of giving away and leads to increase. Allah prescribes for us precisely through the example of His Prophet that of the great beings who followed him, so that we may know even in the most vulgar circumstances, how to give justly. Within this system nobody is overlooked.

Those who completely and utterly know in themselves that they have no right to own anything in this world, and are at best the guardians of a few things for a short while, are accommodated. Those who think they will take their few possessions to the grave must also be accommodated. All are God's creation.


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The Recovery of Spiritual Values ] Remembrance of Allah ] Living Real Islam ] Remembrance of the Prophet ] Freedom from the Chain of Desires ] Good News ] Accountability ] [ Inner Meaning of The Qur`an ] Keys to the Kingdom ] Praising the Lord of Creation ] The Witnesser and the Witnessed ] The Spiritual Nature of Man ] The Path of Unity ] The Ecology of Unity ] In Pursuit of True Knowledge ] A Living Model ] The Meaning of Life and Death ]