By Dr. Mohammad Akram Nadwī and translated by Dr. Abu Zayd
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They asked: What is the meaning of God’s statement: “And to Moses God spoke directly;” His statement: “O Moses! I have indeed preferred you to all others by virtue of the Message I have entrusted to you and by virtue of My speaking to you;” the statement of Adam, peace be upon him: “You are Moses whom God chose with His speech;” and what has come in the ḥadīth of the Greater Intercession: “They will come to Moses and say to him, O Moses, you are the Messenger of God whom He chose above other people with His Revelation and His speech.”?
I replied: He is who He is, and these texts are about the virtue of Moses, upon him be peace, over the rest of creation.
They asked: So what is this calumny we hear about you claiming to speak to God?
I replied: I neither deny nor reject it completely.
They said: We have heard you criticize the ecstatic utterances and empty claims of some Sufis, and the spiritual states and ranks they invented, which God revealed no authority for. You harshly criticize those who claim to be the awaited Mahdī and now have adopted a stance that is even more repugnant than theirs. What a loathsome statement that is! Your land produced the likes of Muḥammad Mahdī Jawnpūrī in the preceding era, and perhaps you borrowed your assertions from your fellow countrymen, as like minds often borrow from one another?
I replied: I did not borrow this from anyone, for I reject the blind following of any other person, nor do I relate from the foolish and malicious that which I haven’t heard or seen myself.
They replied: So what made you adopt this claim which we find atrocious, as we know you as one who is farthest from false claims, the most hateful towards innovations, the most encouraging of the following of guided practices and ever-warning of the danger of innovation? Alas, had you never put forth such a fruitless statement resembling falsehood and forgery! You have opened a door to base ignorance which will open you to rejection, defamation, and calumny, and we hold you as valuable and dear.
I replied: Be careful of paying heed to the statements of people or raising your ears to them, for you will never be safe from their tongues nor protected from their spears and arrows! Who are you in relation to the Prophets and Messengers of God, His peace and blessings be upon them, and the rest of the chosen and pious ones, whom the masses refused to find excuses for and accused them of transgression and misguidance? If they found one inclined to spend their nights in worship, they accused that one of ostentation and showing off. They tarnished the one who is fair in giving with greed and miserliness, and the generous, open-handed one with wastefulness and extravagance. They accused the noble and honorable of being boastful and arrogant, and the calm and humble as being weak and feeble. They accused the ones who are social and affable as seeking leadership and position, and the secluded and obscure as being cowardly and weak.
I said: Let your concern be only the pleasure of your Lord, without seeking any substitute for that. He is the One that accepts little and increases it, the One who sees a mistake and hides it. How marvelous is softly conversing with our Lord! And how lofty His company!
They said: We are aware of what you say, and we shall strive to worship God solely for seeking His pleasure, without associating any partners with Him.
They also said: But let us return to our question. Explain to us what you meant by your statement that you speak to God.
I replied: Does not God say: “Never is there any whispering among three but He is their fourth; nor among five but He is their sixth; nor fewer nor more but He is with them wherever they may be.”? Do you not know that when a servant says, “All praise belongs to God,” God the Exalted responds, “My servant has praised Me!”? And when he says, “the Merciful, the Compassionate,” God responds, “My servant has commended Me.” And when he says, “Master of the Day of Judgment,” He responds, “My servant has glorified Me.” And when he says, “You alone do we worship, and You alone do we turn for help,” He responds, “This is between My servant and My Self, and for My servant is what He asks.” Is it far-fetched for you that when a servant recites the Book of God, he speaks to God?
And I said: There is nothing strange in what I have said, for all of creation speaks with its Lord and converses with Him: the heavens and earth, the sun and moon, the stars and planets, the trees and stones, all of them in conversation with their Lord—but you just don’t understand their speech.
They said: What drove you to acquire this understanding and repeat what is already overtly known?
I replied: There are three matters:
- Being acutely aware of Him: I see Him while He sees me, and I worship Him with excellence. I obey Him in faithful submission, fear Him and shy from Him, without disobeying Him in the least.
- To prepare myself for coming closer to Him, and be certain of His response when I call upon Him: He is the one who said, “When My servant calls upon Me I am ever close, and I respond to the supplication of the one who calls upon Me;” and “Who is it Who heeds the prayers of the distressed when he calls out to Him and Who removes his affliction?”
- To hear Him: For I am perpetually in conversation with Him, trying to understand Him with deliberation, and enjoying that, even in my sleep. How noble are the servants who speak to their Lord, and how lofty and exalted their state!
They said: We comprehended what you have said without misconstruing your intent, except for the third and last, which we find doubtful and problematic.
I replied: When I let my eyes roam my Lord says to me: Look upon creation and see:
• All the roaming animals, how they were created and subjected to the children of Adam
• The high heavens, how they were raised and adorned with the sun, moon, stars and planet
• The mountains, how they were fixed, their every peak and summit. I am inspired by their silence, while He made them speak elouently
• The magnificent and generous earth, how it was spread out, becoming a bed and cradle for creation
• The roses and flowers, how they open and emit sweet aromas and exhibit dazzling colors
• Its gardens with their breeze and fragrance
• The oceans and rivers, with their hymns and melodies
• The clouds driving forth, rejuvenating the deserts and wastelands and watering the gardens, parks, pastures and fields, and nourishing creation with fresh water
How sweet it all is! Return your gaze to find any faults, and do it yet again, not ignoring a single thing! Can the onlookers ignore those blessings, or deny this light?
When I return to myself, He further says to me:
• Look at your intellect, how I created it
• Look at your thought, how I refined and elevated it
• See your heart and its capacity for love and desires, hatred and enmity; and its close association with tears and blood
• Contemplate your mind and how it lays down new ideas
• Look at your tongue and how it articulates unique speech
• Reflect over the pen in your hand and how I move it to sculpt and produce expression
• Look at your efforts for good and bad, all under His will and decree
• Look at the fact that your days are not all the same
• Look at the thunderous resolutions within you and your views
• Look at your good actions and effects, and your noble hands that stretch out among people
• Look to the nations and see how their fortunes shift in the mortal world, with fading shadows and shade
• Look at the fateful, unlucky days among time, days of distress and misfortune
• Look at the days of bliss and comfort
• Look at the graves of the affluent, living in decline therein, whereas previously they lived in glory
Realize that you have been created for one of two possible ends, so always hover between fear and hope.
When the time for prayer draws near, my Lord calls upon me to come to success and forbids me from approaching it in the manner of whistling and clapping. When the month of Ramadan arrives, He encourages me to partake in its blessings by saying: “Whosoever is deprived of it is deprived of all good.” And all blessings from Him necessitate being grateful to Him, and when I am grateful, He says: “I am pleased with you and will give you even more.” When an affliction befalls me and I am patient for His sake, He says: “Do not worry for I am surely with you.” When it is the middle of the night, He says: “Is there anyone asking me for something that I may grant him, or calling upon Me that I may answer him?” When I become arrogant and my insolence or anger destroys me and turns me from the truth, He says: “Curtail [your anger] and repent.” When I commit a sin or error, He says: “Seek My forgiveness that I may forgive you, and repent to Me that I may accept it.” When I humble myself, He says: “Come closer to me that I may have mercy upon you.” When I implore Him, He responds: “I answer your supplications.” He initiates His blessings upon me, and He is Ever-Generous, for His generosity precedes even my asking.
They asked: What is the difference between the speech of God to us and His speech to Moses, peace be upon him; and between our hearing His speech and Moses hearing Him?
I replied: The difference is tremendous, for there is some speech that lies above other speech and some hearing that is different than other hearing. God’s speech to Moses is higher than His speech to us, just as His speech to the closest angels is even higher than His speech to Moses. Our hearing of God’s speech is not like that of Moses, just as Moses’ hearing is not like that of the closest angels.
They said: You have lifted a barrier from our Lord, Blessed and Exalted is He, and brought Him closer to us. Your words surely surpass published volumes in theology and philosophy.
I replied: Beware of these artificial and contrived books that corrupt the thought and mind, and stir confusion and blunders among their writers and their readers. They erect dense barriers and thick curtains between you and your Lord, and increase your distance from Him. You should rely instead on the Book of your Lord, for no one can acquaint you with your Lord save He.
Disclaimer: Translations have not been checked by the author and represent the work of the translator