Knowing God, Finding God
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
Shaykh Bayazid Thayfur ibn ‘Isa al-Bisthami (q.s.) asked, “My Rabb, how do I know you?”
And he was Told, “Leave yourself and come.”
In the same vein, we are also told, that Sayyidina ‘Ali ibn Abu Thalib (k.w.) said, “He who knows himself, knows his Rabb.”
It is also written, in the Tao Te Ching, “No one can see their reflection in running water; it is only in still water that we can see.”
These two positions are not contradictory, but two parts of a process. In the first part, it is to recognise the self, and the nafs, the Divine spark that Allah (s.w.t.) Blew into Adam (a.s.), and by extension, all humanity; the part of us that is Called Home and wants to Return. And that is why a child cries when it is born. It recognises where it is from before he forgets, and that is why Man is an-naas, “he who forgets.” However, deep down, we all know, and we all yearn. So, we seek that yearning in this world in its myriad forms, every thing a pale reflection of the Real, because Creation is only a Reflection of Divine Attributes, not the Real. For the one has taqwa’, recognition of the Divine, he could see a single leaf fall, and in that, recognise al-Lathif, the Subtle One. Or, one could be so enamoured with the attributes within the self that he would proclaim himself a god, refusing to believe even when the oceans are parted, as Pharaoh did.
In a hadits qudsi, Allah (s.w.t.) States that Creation cannot hold Him, except the heart of the believer, the purified soul, whose heart is a polished mirror of Truth. He Says, He is as we say He is, because we all recognise the Absolute according to the prism of our heart. Once we recognise ourselves, and find the signs of the Divine in the mirror of the polished heart, we also recognise that we are not existent in and of our selves, but are reflections of the Divine Attribute of Swamad, Existing. Then, and only then, can we leave our selves and see God, for God is not seen by our sight, but by His. We have to understand that “Laa ilaha illa Allah” means exactly that. There can be no ilah except Allah (s.w.t.). There cannot be two gods, and the self is also an idol. As long as that idol of the self is present, the Divine seems absent. But when the self is absent, the Divine is Present.
This is the doctrine. How is it made practical? The Path of realisation is a difficult one. For those on it, the universe is Opened and wonders are seen. But they are distractions, and many become lost in them, forgetting the intent of the Path. For the beginner, the foundation is always fasting. Fasting diminishes the nafs, and creates a barrier between the soul and the appetites of the world. But the one who fasts is then tested by the people, who admire him for his piety. This aggrandises the self, and taints the intent such that one might find himself fasting for the approval of the people. Thus, such a fast should be hidden, secret. When there is no food, or when one is alone, fast. And when food is offered, break it, and recognise that the provider is always ar-Razzaq, the One Who Gives Sustenance, and be grateful.
Additionally, one should serve the people. There are many paths of servanthood, from feeding stray dogs to charity, to service. Service diminishes self-importance and pride. The ones who serve are Served. The best form of service is the hidden one, so that one is not moved by the praise of the people. True faith and certainty is when one is neither moved by the vilification of the people, nor their praise.