“And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein” (50:16) Surat Qāf (The Letter “Qaf”) – سورة ق
So, last time I talked about finding myself but this time I want to link it Allah.
Most of us have heard the common sayings like: Know thyself and He who knows himself knows God.
Imam Al Ghazzali says in his book ‘Alchemy of Happiness’, there are four things that constituent happiness:
1) Knowledge of Self
2) Knowledge of God
3) Knowledge of this world as it really is
4) Knowledge of the next world as it really is
The one I want to focus on is the first, knowing your self.
(NB I soon will be doing a summary of the aforementioned book but this post is essentially coming from my own thoughts)
So, knowing oneself. Does it mean knowing what you look like, likes and dislikes? No, it doesn’t just mean that. It entails a bit more than that, requiring a bit of digging deeper into the soul. We think of ourselves as entities which encompass both a physical and spiritual component. Our physical body refers to our body, our physical needs and the sensual self which responds to external factors, whereas our spirit or soul is really referring to the part of us that is detach from the former and is the part that lingers after Allah swt reclaims His amanah (trust), i.e. when we die.
In much of the literature, the term “An-nafs” is often used interchangeably with the ‘physical part’ of our bodies and used to distinguish from our soul. A future post will expand on this concept of the ‘nafs’ inshaAllah.
Our current state harmonises all the physical and non-physical i.e. spiritual attributes in your one being. The goal is often to try and balance these two and not let one, namely the physical part, overcome our spiritual side. The way to control either, the key is knowing and being aware of the attributes of each part. That way you are able to isolate and identify which you would like to be the reigning characteristics of your self.
The self as a philosophical and psychiatric phenomenon has been discussed by many such as Freud, Lao Tzu, Avicenna etc. Avicenna, in his Book of Healing ,makes a distinguish that the soul and the body are distinguishable by their form. The body being the physical and the soul being the intangible, to some extent anyway. And if you think about it, it’s true. Localise a part of your body, and you are able to. Localise your soul, and there we have a problem. Similarly, when we talk about the heart, the reference isn’t usually towards the lump of flesh embedded within our rib cage but it is the metaphorical positioning of your soul. But the key is, knowing your self means getting in touch with your soul, the real substance of your being. This is often the grey area because in this time where everything needs proof and evidence, it is harder to prove the existence of a soul to someone who does not believe in the existence of an intangible phenomenon.
It is essential to recognise that we cannot entirely neglect and dissociate the physical body from the soul, because in essence we have been created, as humans, to operate with both parts and it is what distinguishes from animals and angels. Animals have been created with their sensual self as the predominant driving force of their being and have not been granted free will as humans have. And on the other extreme, the angels have been created from pure ‘noor’ with no expression of human needs.
From all of this, the important lesson is to understand that by isolating the soul and understanding what makes the soul tick, is an astronomical finding. This invisible thing that we cannot see, cannot feel, cannot hear is as every bit important, if not more important than the body that you and I inhabit.
Due to its incorporeal nature, it seems that only certain factors can provide sustenance for the soul such as dhikr. Dhikr is the invocation of Allah and the remembrance of all things great associated with His existence. It is the recognition of your own humility and weakness. It is the recognition that we are ‘Al fuqara” (the impoverished) and He is “Al Ghani” (The One who possesses all Richness).
الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكْرِ اللّهِ أَلاَ بِذِكْرِ اللّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ
Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah: for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction. Sura 13 (Ar-Ra’d), ayah 28
Our bodies are merely a resting place for the soul.
وسلام عليه يوم ولد ويوم يموت ويوم يبعث حيا
And peace be upon him the day he was born and the day he dies and the day he is raised alive (19:15)
But obviously Allah swt is All knowing, and I have merely brushed over a huge topic on which many Islamic and non-Islamic scholars and thinkers have written about.
And they ask you concerning the soul. Say: “The soul is one of the things, of which the knowledge is only with my Lord. And of knowledge, you (mankind) have been given only a little.” (Al-Israa’ 17:85)
Thank you for taking time to read this post and please do leave comments.