Bismillahi ar-rahman ar-rahim
I came across quranangel, a blogger who writes about her insight into spiritual matters, Quranic verses, and worldly matters as well, and I quite like the insight she brings to these topics. One article though really caught my eye which was her insight into what God actually is. One point that I thought was really insightful and is something I want to further contemplate is what if God doesn’t literally speak to his Messengers but inspires them from within their own consciousness? That is something I will touch up on because it’s important. But the main point of quranangel’s article that I really wanted to discuss is her insight that God is the universal consciousness or Higher Consciousness, and all the individuals who are conscious in creation (such as mankind) is part of a single consciousness. (If I misunderstood your point quranangel, then please correct me). I want to discuss this point from a Sufi perspective and of course will show some verses in the Quran that illuminate us on this topic.
It is clear that God is an entity who is conscious and who has the power to create life and matter. If you read sufi manuscripts you find this description of God as the Reality and Truth both in capitals. You find this idea that God is the true Reality and that creation can literally not exist without his constant Will. If you read into any texts on mysticism whether that be from a Sufi perspective, or Tai Chi or Buddhism you find this concept of destroying your sense of Self or ego, realising that your spark of life doesn’t come from yourself but rather came from God originally. In Sufi mysticism they talk about destruction of the self within God, and that your existential reality merges with the Source, which is God. Essentially God is Light and all other lights come from God’s Light. Darkness is absence of light and non-existence. As God is the only Light that exists without any cause, He is the only Reality. Our existence is only due to God’s Will, hence why He is viewed as the One true Being and Reality.
There is a nice metaphorical way of explaining this concept which I find quite illuminating. Say there is a fire in a forest somewhere. You see it and then you go to some people who haven’t seen the fire and told them about the fire. The people now have knowledge of the fire but this is based on hearsay, and of course the existence of the fire has to be taken on faith. The person who’s seen the fire with his own eyes has visual evidence of the fire’s existence. But if he were to be in the middle of the fire getting burned he would know with every fibre of his being that the fire is real and exists. It is this state that various spiritual masters talk about when they have extinguished their sense of “I” and merged it with the True Consciousness that is God.
There is a nice verse in the Quran which actually explains how close God’s Consciousness is in our consciousness (Yusuf Ali translation):
It was We who have created man, and We know what dark suggestions his soul makes to him: for We are closer to him than his jugular vein.
So, there is here a verse showing us that God essentially understands and knows us in the most intimate way.
Christians believe that humans are made in God’s image. Now this isn’t really true in the physical sense like God is anthropomorphic and so we have legs, arms and eyes and a brain because God has all those limbs, since God isn’t like his creation at all:
(He is) the Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs form among yourselves, and pairs among cattle: By this means does He multiply you: there is nothing whatever like unto Him, and He is One that hears and sees (all things).
It is interesting that at the end of this verse Allah mentions that He sees and hears directly after saying that nothing is like him. This tells us that His seeing and Hearing is not like that of His creation, as His essence is not like that of His creation.
But God did give us a measure of his attributes. In Islam muslims know of the 99 names of Allah, and each name is essentially an attribute of God. So if we want to understand who and what Allah is, then we need to understand his Names. God graced us with his attributes, this is why we have compassion, love, anger, destructive abilities, and creative abilities and also a consciousness. Our literal being conscious is a reflection of God and can help us contemplate about God. Furthermore the actions that occur in this world are themselves a manifestation of God. Our anger is a manifestation of his Wrath and the love of parents to their children is a manifestation of His Love and Compassion.
Just a few verses after 50:16 I found quite interesting (Yusuf Ali translation):
And the stupor of death will bring truth (before his eyes): “This was the thing which thou wast trying to escape!”
We know that when we die we will find out for ourselves what comes after. What the dervishes and mystics want to do is achieve an awakening from this stupor in this life, and this is why this awakening is described as a death of the self. Now, of course as Muslims we are aware of the truth of Allah’s existence and of our purpose to acknowledge His existence with gratitude and worship. The mystics want a higher and closer relationship with Allah and they strive to do this with constant Remembrance of God (otherwise known as Dhikr). People who have this close relationship with God such as the Prophets are so connected with God that in actual fact they are one with God, and hence they have all this knowledge about this world and the afterlife and basically anything because they are connected to the Source of all the knowledge. This is where the Prophets get their Inspiration from, however I do believe certain Prophets have the privilege of speaking with God directly without the need for an Angel messenger (like Moses). In the spiritual realm I don’t doubt that all the Prophets have a more direct relationship with God than they did when they were alive in this world.
I want to finish off with another verse known as the Verse of Light and it is quite powerful (Yusuf Ali translation):
God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His Light is as if there were a Niche and within it a Lamp: the Lamp enclosed in Glass: the glass as it were a brilliant star: Lit from a blessed Tree, an Olive, neither of the East nor of the West, whose Oil is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it: Light upon Light! God doth guide whom He will to His Light: God doth set forth Parables for men: and God doth know all things.
I found this to be an extremely powerful metaphor and verse and of course it’s hard to understand. Yusuf Ali in his translation of the Quran writes appendices and has a specific appendix on the Verse of Light. I don’t feel qualified to even attempt to explain all the points made in the verse but what I want to do is type up the appendix from Yusuf Ali himself, to make that accessible. The full appendix is here.
As a final point I want to say that though we can attempt to understand God’s attributes and perhaps make some sense of Him and His actions and Plan, ultimately God can’t be captured by our limited understanding and imagination because that would go against His limitlessness so to speak, and His limitlessness means we can never totally capture everything about God. Abu Bakr As-Siddeeq put it eloquently and simply: “Anything you can imagine, God is not that.”
Comment below your thoughts on this topic as I’m interested to read them and leave a like if you resonated with this post.