Tickling Mischief?

Almost everyone asks himself about God: “Where did He come from? What is the nature of His existence? Does He exist at all?” And so on. But most minds that ask these questions soon abandon the inquiry. Why? Because of several reasons. One of them is that the questions sound absurd to the inquirers themselves. For, having questioned God’s existence, the mind itself asks back, “Then who created the world? – And me?” With no immediate answer coming forth, the mind dismisses the question of God’s existence as mere passing, mischievous idea.

Yet again, although the mind does ask such questions, it abandons them soon enough because the inner self feels that the mind crosses its bounds in raising such doubts. They feel that God is above such questioning. Any inquiry of this nature is profane. He is too sublime for it. He must be accepted as an established and necessary fact; and that’s the end to it.

A second reason is that having several times asked the questions earlier, and sought the answers from various sources, the minds come to realize that there are no satisfactory answers. They are easier to ask than to answer. For example, does God exist, or does He not? There isn’t any answer that will put the mind to rest. Atheists (especially the Darwinists and Cosmologists) claim to have plenty of proofs of His non-existence. But, on close examination one discovers that their answers are refutations of the proofs of existence of God as offered by the believers in Him. The atheists have nothing substantial of their own to offer. It is true that if the issue is well considered, the proofs offered by the believers in God, may not be conclusive. But, at least, their arguments carry some weight, and are somewhat, though not wholly, appealing to reason. In contrast, the atheists merely refute the evidences. They offer no evidences whatsoever of God’s non-existence. Further, the refutations themselves are not as strong as the proofs. Contemplate the two, and the proofs and evidences sound weightier than the refutations.

Thus, of knowledge that there is no definite proof of God’s non-existence, and that the denial is weaker than the proofs, the people feel it reasonable to dismiss the questions concerning God’s existence as mere abstract sauntering of the mind.

Another reason is that if God’s existence is denied, then, the question shifts from Him to the created world. How did this universe come into being? How did life originate? How did the laws come into being? How did consciousness arrive? Once again, there are no satisfactory answers. The claim by the scientists that the world, life, the laws governing theme, and consciousness arrived all by themselves mysteriously, are unpalatable propositions. Indeed, these kind of dull-witted answers create more mystery than the mystery surrounding God’s existence.

The people have enough common sense to figure out that if the physical universe, life, the governing laws, and consciousness can come into existence by themselves, and present such a fine, disciplined, and beautiful scenario, then why not allow God to come into existence by Himself? Further, we experience various attributes of the existing cosmos, such as, it is beautiful, well-organized, self-disciplined, is intricately designed, and its behavior strongly suggests underlying wisdom. Now, if the existing world has bestowed upon itself these qualities, then what logical principle is defied in allowing God to possess these Qualities?

Although it is absurd to say that God came into being by Himself – since His Being is beyond comprehension – the above is another reason why the questions arising about God are soon dismissed by the minds.

Without denying the validity of the above, it may be pointed out that the answer provided by God Himself, to every individual, Muslim or not, is the best answer. It is best because it is the most powerful and almost irrefutable. It is an answer that is missing from Judeo-Christian tradition. (This is one reason why we fall in love with the Qur’an. You may take any spiritual issue, and you will discover that frustrated souls find solace in it. It provides answers that touch the soul). With reference to the present context, God said in the Qur’an (2: 187),

If My slaves ask you about Me, (let them know) that I am near.”

We say the answer is powerful because it strikes at the heart and soul of the inquirer: Whom are you asking about? About God? Are you looking for Him in the skies? Or, are you searching for Him in the places of worship? Or, do you hope to discover Him in the Scriptures? Or, are you looking for intellectual reasons in philosophical works to believe in Him? No. God does not reside in those places; nor has He spread such definite and conclusive proofs of His existence in those places as which your minds cannot refute. Has He placed the proofs abundantly around you? Such proofs as will give solace to your souls? Once again, no. But rather, He has removed the proofs, and placed Himself by your side.

Proofs can be denied and refuted, and evidences can be discredited. But God’s presence cannot be effaced, removed, or dimmed. No power can remove Him by your side. You can banish reason and logic. But you cannot banish Him. He remains near you all the time: even when you are not looking for Him.

It was to clarify this point that Prophet Muhammad said the famous words reported in a hadith. During a journey, his Companions would not descend into a valley, or climb up a hill, but chant Allah’s greatness in a loud voice. He told them, “People! Show mercy to yourselves. The One you are calling is closer to you than the necks of the beasts that you ride.” Yet again, a beautiful lead. With that kind of statement, he was explaining those verses of the Qur’an that have been revealed in this context. One of them says (57: 4), “And He is with you, wherever you be.”

This is yet another reason why a man – Muslim or not – quickly abandons the line of thought that questions the existence of God, or a few other questions surrounding Him. He feels His presence by his side.

What if someone is told of God’s closeness but cannot detect Him? The second part of the first verse quoted above provides the answer (2: 187): “If My salves ask you about Me, (let them know) that I am near. I answer the call of the caller when He calls Me.”

So, if someone does not find Him, does not feel Him, cannot reassure himself that He is there, then, all that he has to do is to call Him. And Lo! He is there, by the side, near: as near as the devotee wishes Him to be. A Prophetic tradition (preserved by Bukhari) tells us how close a slave can get by responding to Him. Allah said: “Whoever antagonized one of My Friends, I declare war on him. And, My slave does not come closer to Me with anything that I approve of, but by what I have declared obligatory on him. Further, My slave keeps coming closer to Me with the non-obligatory acts until I love him. So that, if I love him, I become the hearing by which he hears, the sight by which he sees, the hand by which he holds and the foot by which he walks. If he asks me, I grant him, and if he seeks My refuge, I grant him My refuge. And, I do not hesitate about anything that I decide to do, the way I hesitate with reference to the life of the believer: he dislikes death, and I dislike causing him pain.”

Now, one question. Supposing someone calls Him but is still unsure about His presence by His side? What shall he do? The rest of the verse of above quote gives the answer: Respond to Him. It will lead to faith. In other words, follow His bidding, and be granted belief in Him. Let us look at the whole verse now (2: 187):

If My salves ask you about Me, (let them know) that I am near. I answer the call of the caller when He calls Me. Therefore, let them respond to Me, and (thus) believe in Me so that they may be rightly guided.”

That is, when they call God, then He responds by reminding that He is close. But, in return, His slaves must respond to Him by doing His bidding. If they follow His bidding, He comes nearer to them: to the extent that “(He) becomes the hearing by which he hears, the sight by which he sights ..” to the end of the report above.

Removal of a few doubts concerning Him could be assumed as a one-time affair. But the fact is, the doubts come back, and one has to once again argue against and remove them. Thus the whole exercise is repetitive and futile. Instead, why not be with Him, all the time? How could they do that? A hadith provides the answer. Said the Prophet, in a report preserved by Muslim,

Allah will say on the Day of Judgment, ‘O son of Adam. I was sick but you did not visit Me!’ He will reply, ‘My Lord! How could I visit You, while You are Lord of the worlds?’ He will say, ‘Did you not know that such and such of My slave was sick? But you did not visit him. Have you not known that had you visited him you would have found Me with him? O son of Adam I was hungry but you did not feed Me!’ He will say, ‘My Lord. How could I feed You, while You are the Lord of the worlds?’ He will say, ‘Did you not know that such and such of My slaves sought food from you but you did not feed him? Had you not known that had you fed him you would have found it here with me? O son of Adam I sought water from you but you did not give Me water!’ He will reply, ‘My Lord! How could I give you a drink, while you are the Lord of the worlds?’ He will say, ‘Such and such of My slave sought water from you but you did not give him water. Had you given him water you would have found it here with me.’”

Thus, if somebody does not know, feel, or find God, he has a way to find Him, feel Him, and know Him: serve His creations.

Let us go back to the Qur’anic verse quoted severally above. It says, “If My salves ask you about Me, (let them know) that I am near.” Notice that it does not say, “If My slaves ask you about Me, tell them ..” The words “tell them” have been omitted. The scholars of Islam have pointed out that the Prophet as a medium has been deliberately omitted. When it comes to the Lord and His slave, no intermediary is required. Away with priests, philosophers, holy men, and those who can prove that God is really there. The slave looks for His God, and He is there by his very side.

But, is the slave’s mind merely tickling mischief, or is he truly looking for God?

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