Jul 17, 2004

Man between the Unseen and the Manifest (1)

  • Friday’s Speech of September 25th, 1998, Gamad Akhar, 1419HC.
  • Translated by: Aisha Rafea 
Master Ali Rafea teaches that within man, two realms of existence, the unseen and the manifest, meet. Innately, he is meant to live in harmony on the two levels, but in life, confusion between the two realms often occurs, causing man to reach incorrect and often illogical conclusions, which can lead him astray. For example, man’s belief that the Unseen’s will is all encompassing, may lead him to intentionally refrain from pursuing his own will within the manifest, thus preventing him from active doing. In this speech, master Ali Rafea resolves the misconception of the existence of a contradiction between the two realms, and explains how striking a balance between the two can actually lead man to attain a more balanced existence and life. Read more ...
Servants of God
He whom Allah guides is rightly guided; but he whom Allah leaves to stray; for him wilt thou find no protector to lead him to the Right Way.(HQ: 18: 17)
It is true thou wilt not be able to guide every one whom thou lovest; but Allah guides those whom He will (HQ: 28: 56)
Those holy verses might give the impression that man’s acts; his struggle and endeavors are of no significance. We may wonder about what such holy verses really imply when we read some other ones guiding humans to work and to exert themselves:
And say: "Work (righteousness): soon will Allah observe your work, and His Messenger, and the Believers (HQ: 9: 105)
Then shall anyone who has done an atom's weight of good, see it! And anyone who has done an atom's weight of evil, shall see it (HQ: 99: 7, 8)
That man can have nothing but what he strives for;(HQ: 53: 39)
How can man receive such guidance (to work), with the implied assertion that he has a free will, and, in the meantime, be told in some other verses about the divine law that: he whom Allah guides is rightly guided; but he whom Allah leaves to stray; for him wilt thou find no protector to lead him to the Right Way?
If we gain insight into all of such verses, we will find out that they are in full harmony with each other, and they carry no contradiction whatsoever. Holy verses, as a whole, tell about the working Divine Law on its two levels: the one that is “manifest” to man, and the other that is “unseen” to him. It is what we always term as the “transcendental or abstractional” dimension, and the “restricted or particular” one. On the transcendent level, Allah is behind everything and every action. Nothing in life that we term as “good” or “evil”, according to our criteria of judgment, occurs except by Allah’s all-embracing will. That same truth applies to man. Namely, if a certain person is righteous, then Allah is behind his righteousness and that person has become a manifestation of  “righteousness”. Allah is also is there behind another who is a manifestation of “iniquity”. This is one of the divine laws that teach us, on the conceptual level, that “Allah will surely accomplish His purpose”(HQ: 65: 3) and that there is One All-inclusive Divine Will in the universe.
However, when we consider the realm of our “limited” existence, where that  “transcendent” dimension is “unseen” to us, we find that we do not know whether Allah wills to make of a certain person a manifestation of righteousness, or a manifestation of wickedness. What is apparent for us is only the law of action, strife and exertion. That is to say, what is clear for us is that when man performs an act of goodness, he actually makes himself accessible to Allah’s graces and mercifulness. Also, when man performs an act of evil, he makes himself available to darkness and its advocates. Hence, on the transcendental level, you believe that Allah is the One who guides to righteousness. Also you accept as true that when a person goes astray, he could not have done it except because it was Allah’s Will. Simultaneously, on the “limited” or “tangible” level, you believe that you have to perform a work of righteousness because that is what you can actually see as leading to virtue and uprightness.
Your faith in the transcendent level (of the Truth) makes you fear Allah.
Those truly fear Allah, among His Servants, who have knowledge (HQ: 35: 28)
I am the most pious amongst you, and I am the one who fears Allah most (PH)[1]
Verily, it is not one’s (good) act per se that makes him destined to Heaven. (The Companions asked,)”even you Messenger of God? (He answered,)“even me unless God overwhelms me with His Mercy.(PH)[2]
I swear by God! I am a Messenger of God but, still, do not know what I am destined to (PH)[3]
It is righteousness in its perfection, and AWE  in its splendor, when man is in the depth of virtue, and still fears4] Allah.  Man’s fear from Allah, in that sense, is an outcome of his discernment of the Law of Life; he is aware that he adheres to righteousness today, but he is never sure of what will happen to him on the following day. We can see several events in Islamic history that clearly demonstrate that to us. For example, several companions of the Prophet who had done great good and performed noble deeds at a certain time, have not performed equally in some other situations when their understanding and performance were not up to their prior level of giving, understanding, and awareness. We see this life as having deluded them. What has taken place throughout our history is a lesson to man; what happened was destined to happen sooner or later because that is how life on earth is. It contains devilish, dim, and unjust people who appear in every age, distort the truth, represent it in a way that serves their own delusions, and present falsity as if it were the ultimate reality, using their own justifications and interpretations. Actually, all lessons of history target man and its events are nothing but messages from Allah to man.  If a person learns from these lessons and finds his way to righteousness, then this will be a great success to this Earth.
If you were a means of Allah to guide even a single person to righteousness, this will be better for you than all the allurements of this life (PH)[5]
This is how the events of history may be explained to people when they wonder how certain events could have taken place. For instance, some may ask: “How could have the grandchildren of the Prophet been murdered?” “How can falsehood conquer truthfulness?” “How could have the advocates of deceit gained such power that they became rulers of a state carrying the label of religion?” “How could Allah allow such a thing?” God forbid! Allah will surely accomplish His purpose, in all cases, and what happened was destined to happen by His Will. However, we have to learn from it and not confuse the issues, and come to the wrong conclusion that since what happened was Allah’s Will, then it was what is right. Such conclusion is void from proper understanding. How many crimes are committed daily that we disapprove of even though we are certain that, transcendently speaking, if Allah willed otherwise, they would not have taken place! Also if we think that they happen in absence of Allah’s will, we will fall victim to having taken partners with Allah (because it is as if there is a will other than God’s).
Our conviction, on the transcendental level, that Allah will surely accomplish His purpose, does not mean that we should approve of whatever happens in actual life. This is because in our earthly life, we are subject to the Law that governs the “finite” realm where we naturally accept things and reject others. We accept what we view as “good”, and we refuse what we judge as “evil” while we are fully aware that Allah will surely accomplish His purpose. As such, there is no contradiction between our certainty, on the “transcendent” level, that if thy Lord had so planned, they would not have done it (HQ: 6: 112) and our disapproval, on the “restricted” level, of what we see as evil.
But people, alas, have not been able to discern that simple truth and to realize its depth so that they may not mix issues.  For instance, a group of people defending what happened in Islamic history by stating that what happened was the rightful thing and that otherwise it couldn’t have possibly happened, adopt a weak and an unacceptable logic. If we were to accept such logic, we would see all those on Earth who have power of any kind as representatives of rightfulness simply because they have dominance, which is not logical.
If man discerned this matter properly (the two levels of divine laws related to the infinite and the finite realms), he would resolve many of the confusions that he faces when considering the history of humanity, as well as its present and its future. He who reads history insightfully and the present truthfully, can not be deluded by the thought of a different future. Earth had been, is and will always be what God has meant it to be. Namely, the Law that governs it, and that God has taught us the day He commanded Adam and Satan to come down to earth, uncovers that there will always be an Adam[6], and there will always be a Satan. This is how life on Earth will be as long as it subsists as such and until the time comes when God will “inherit the earth, and all beings thereon” (HQ: 19: 40), and “the Earth will be changed to a different Earth (HQ: 14: 48) according to a Divine Law that is beyond our perception today. That is what is denoted by “the Day of Judgment” in the holy verses; the day when Earth will not be what it used to be; it would then enter into a new phase of its existence according to a sublime Law. When that Law will come into effect, is something that we cannot know.
They ask thee about the Hour, 'When will be its appointed time? Wherein art thou (concerned) with the declaration thereof? With thy Lord is the Limit fixed therefore. (HQ: 79: 42- 44)
Nor can we absorb “how” that Law will be effective, for it is only God Who knows His Law that He has made unseen.
He (alone) knows the Unseen, nor does He make anyone acquainted with His Mysteries, Except a Messenger whom He has chosen (HQ: 72: 26, 27)
His Mysteries are infinite and even when He uncovers to us part of them, what is Unseen remains even greater for this is the Law of life.
Nor shall they compass aught of His knowledge except as He willeth. His Throne doth extend over the heavens and the earth, and He feeleth no fatigue in guarding and preserving them for He is the Most High, the Supreme (in glory) (HQ: 2: 255)
That is what we learn in our Religion: we know very little but we should make full use of what we know. We should not neglect that “little”, for to do our best in the light of the little knowledge we have is better than ignoring that knowledge because it is little.
There are some people who think that they are advocates of “faith in the Unseen” by belittling any knowledge man has attained leading him to despair of what he has learned believing that because what he has attained of knowledge is very little, it is totally insignificant. How can a drop of water or a small grain of sand be of benefit to him?  A small grain of sand in a vast and widespread desert!  Such logic lacks righteousness. Certainly a grain of sand compared to what Allah has, is nil; but, for man, the parable of that grain is as a wide sea from which he can benefit, and through which he can develop as long as he constantly practices what he has learnt. That’s why we can say that advocates of physical knowledge who see in it everything, are right in giving due attention to the significance of what man knows, and can know. However, they are wrong in thinking that by the little knowledge they have in hand, they can do without faith in the Unseen. So, the first party is mistaken when they imagine that physical knowledge is of no value as long as they have faith in the Unseen and when they assume that this is “having faith”.   If we take a middle path discerning the best of what each party has, we would know what Islam is.  Islam is the middle path that integrates the “manifest” and the “unseen”; and the “limited” and the “limitless”. Islam guides man to strike a balance between “taking action” when he can, and “surrendering” to the Unseen when things are beyond his capability of action.  He thus leads a balanced existence Amr Wasat between the two realms of the “unseen” and the “manifest”.
If we really discern these issues, our attitudes, our understanding of our Religion, our lives, our conduct, would all be set straight.  We pray to God to make us among
“Those who listen to the Word, and follow the best (meaning) in it:” (HQ: 39: 18);
and those who pray day and night:
"Our Lord! not for naught hast thou created (all) this! Glory to Thee! Give us salvation from the Penalty of the Fire.(HQ: 3: 191)
To sum up, the relationship between the “Unseen” and the “Manifest” or the “transcendental” and the “tangible” has preoccupied man since ancient times. Proper conception of these two levels of existence leads man to the Straight Path; and to attain a balanced existence as he is guided in Religion. If he does, then he has “the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks” (HQ: 2: 256) and will not lose his balance in favor of one of the two dimensions.
And the Firmament has He raised high, and He has set up the Balance (of Justice), In order that ye may not transgress (due) balance. So establish weight with justice and fall not short in the balance(HQ: 55: 7-9)
Woe to those that deal in fraud, Those who, when they have to receive by measure, from men, exact full measure, But when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due(HQ: 83: 1-3)
The Balance points to man’s steadiness in his understanding of the relation between the Unseen and the Manifest. It points to his consistency when he regards his relationship with people as a manifestation of his relationship with God “around” and “within”. He seeks balance in dealing with Allah’s manifestation through what He has bestowed upon him, and also through what Allah has gifted others[7].
The Balance signifies man’s justice towards himself when he does not exhaust his existence and his life in vain. On the transcendental level, he believes in the “all-encompassing” divine will, and on the finite level, he believes in his own “partial” will. The “surrounding will” is Allah’s will for man, ‘Allah will accomplish His purpose,” and the “partial will” is that of man’s in his finite realm as he decides what he aspires for, what he perceives, and what he estimates as good and truthful.
His faith, on the transcendental level makes him certain that he whom Allah guides is rightly guided; but he whom Allah leaves to stray; for him wilt thou find no protector to lead him to the Right Way.(HQ: 18: 17). And, on the finite level, his conviction would make him in accordance with "Work (righteousness): soon will Allah observe your work, and His Messenger, and the Believers (HQ: 9: 105).
His acts would never gain him arrogance nor would they make him certain that he has guaranteed salvation; he is conscious that he does not know what he is destined to the following day.
Man is resurrected in the same spiritual stature he has attained before his physical death (PH)[8].
Also in case that he were in the depth of darkness, he would not be hopeless of Allah’s Mercy, “and who can forgive sins except Allah?” (HQ: 3: 135).
Say: "O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.(HQ: 39: 53)
Man’s straightness in his relation with both the Unseen and the Manifest would lead him to fear Allah when he is most righteous, and when he is performing the best kind of action as he perceives.  Likewise, it will lead him never to lose confidence in Allah’s Mercy even when he is in the heart of heedlessness. So he will not indulge more in his darkness because he knows that his hope in Allah is that he will relinquish his current state, because Allah’s forgiveness of him is to lead him back to the right path.  His prayers for forgiveness must actually be associated with an honest intention for seeking God’s support to put an end to all his acts of oppression and transgression. If people realize those simple truths, they would be greatly transformed into better beings and most righteous ones.
Servant of God! Read your Religion with pure hearts and enlightened minds so that those meanings might touch your souls and minds. Once you’ve experienced them, you will be transformed into better and more evolved beings.
  1. Narrated by Moslem in his Sahih. Also Ahmad and Malek narrated it in slightly different wording.
  2. Narrated by Ahmad, Al Bukhari and Moslem in slightly different wordings.
  3. Narrated by Ahmad Ibn Hanbal in his Musnad
  4. Fearing Allah should not be confused with the emotion of fear that we humans, experience in realm of physical life towards each other. Master Ali Rafea clarifies that the relationship between a human and the Divine is totally different. Fearing God is not a source of humiliation of a person nor is it a  cause for misery; rather it is associated with love, awe, and appreciation of the Divine Mercy. The fear of Allah is the result of man’s knowledge of his shortcomings and limitations that might take him away, at any stage of spiritual growth, in the wrong direction. Nevertheless, fear of God is not contradictory with trust in His Mercy, and hopefulness in His Forgiveness. It is a kind of awareness that the Law, in all its aspects, is comprehensive and accurate. Hence, a righteous person is keen to be in accordance with the Law. (Aisha Rafea).
  5. Narrated by Al Bukhari and Moslem
  6. “Adam” is used by Master Ali Rafea to mean “man” with all his attributes. Namely, he is the human whom Allah entrusted with His Secret, Spirit, and Covenant. He, thus,  is qualified for knowing God and living in harmony with His Law. Simultaneously, he has the devil running in his blood and can be tempted to be lower than the low. When he is attached to His Lord he is spiritually fulfilled and liberated, when he responds to the devilish nature within and around he is an advocate of Satan. Man, just like our Father Adam has a working will that qualifies him for repenting to Allah, and discerning truth from falsehood. He also is potentialized with having a working will that make him capable of evolving so high, if he chose to. When he makes that choice of respecting the divinity within, and makes himself accessible to Allah’s Grace, Allah takes his hand along the Way, and he is saved.
  7. Master Ali Rafea teaches that man has to discern that all what God bestows upon him is a responsibility, and hence he has to make optimum use of this endowment as a tool of God for giving support to others. So, a realized person would  “give” without feeling that he gives. He would feel that he is only a manifestation of Allah who is the only Giver. He should not refrain from accepting services from others because, likewise, they are tools in the Hands of Allah who gives him through them. Namely, in all cases of dealing with what one has, and what others have, a person would see Allah beyond, and would realize that he and others are manifestations of His graces.(Aisha Rafea).
  8. Narrated by Moslem in his Sahih and Ahmad in his Musnad