بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ
The complexity of the human mind really fascinates me sometimes. It is even more thought-provoking how the Qur’an mentions human behavior and psychology at many instances.
It makes one wonder: do humans always think about this life and its origin, and about “God”, the same way, no matter which era of time they are born in? Do all human beings have the same kind of thought processes? With the only difference being which thoughts they allow themselves to act upon, and which they deflect and discard?
At the end of the day, is it not true that we all are the products of our thoughts?
A Powerful Dua
First, I would like to mention a very great dua (supplication to Allah) that I had the fortune of learning relatively early on in life (well, it was probably not that early, I was 22, but still):
اللَّهُمَّ أرِنِى حَقِيقَةَ الْاَشْيَآءَ كَمَا هِىَ
“O Allah! Show me the reality of all things as it (really) is..”
This is a very profound and powerful dua, attributed to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. In my experience, very few people whom I know seem to know or exhort the practical use of this dua. It seems to me that the reason for that is, that they perhaps do not adequately realize how effective it is, or can be, in turning around one’s mindset and course in life. And Allah knows best.
I was very fortunate that I once heard my teacher and mentor, Dr Farhat Hashmi, mention this dua during one of her Qur’an lessons, and talk about how she uses it often to pray to Allah to show her the reality crystal-clearly apart from all false perceptions, untrue ideas, and deceptive appearances. I remember hastily scribbling it down in my notes.
Henceforth in practical life, Allah guided me to supplicate to Him often with this dua. I would often ask Him to show me the truth & reality about things, about people, about events that normally occur, and about life itself.
I did not want to be deceived and misled from the right path. So I beseeched Him to guide me and open my eyes to reality. So that I could stay away from what really was bad for me, and stick to what really was good for me.
This is because, in the Qur’an, Allah calls the life of this world:
“…an enjoyment of self-delusion.” [3:185]
He also mentions this hardcore truth about the perceptive abilities of human beings:
وَعَسَى أَن تَكْرَهُواْ شَيْئًا وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ وَعَسَى أَن تُحِبُّواْ شَيْئًا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَّكُمْ وَاللّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ
“…it may be that you hate a thing, even though it is good for you, and it may be that you love a thing, but it is bad for you; and God knows, whereas you do not know.” [2:216]
It is 100% true that we often dislike and tend to desist from what is good for us, and covet or want to acquire that which is bad for us.
Not to mention, what is good for us often appears to be bad to us, and vice versa. The same can be said about people: we might like someone whose company is not good for us, and we might consider beneath us those whose company is good for us.
So it is extremely important to ask Allah to guide us and show us the way; to allow us to see things as they are.
But before I discuss some more about what human perception really is in the light of the Qur’an, I would like to first take you through a series of mental visualizations in order to drive my point home.
There are actually quite a few factors that affect how we “see” things, literally speaking. These factors determine how those things, which we are looking at, will appear to us.
So here goes:
Distance: How close or far we are from something, physically, really impacts how we view/perceive it.
One of the best ways to imagine this, is to recall the view when you are looking out from the window of an airplane while it is taking off.
At first, we are ground level, and we can see the roads and buildings the size they actually are. But as the plane quickly ascends into the sky, our perspective of the same view changes fast, within seconds.
The view, literally, “zooms out”, and as the people, cars, buildings, and roads become smaller and smaller, the whole locality, township, and eventually, the city comes into view — albeit much smaller than they actually are.
Increasing distance (and height) totally change our perspective of the same objects, and they appear so minuscule to us as compared to what their size was a mere few seconds ago.
- Angle: It is true that the angle with which we look at something can totally change our perspective of it. Sometimes, the angle can highlight the positive aspects only, hiding the negatives completely from view. At other times, the angle can do the opposite as well.
Take the example of a lens or water that covers a surface. Phenomena that are known in Physics as reflection and refraction come into play where ever there are mirrors, glass, or water between the onlookers’ naked eye and another object. These affect the way they will see the object.
If you have ever looked inside a puddle or pool of water at your own reflection in it, you’ll know that you do not appear to be exactly the same as you really are.
Your reflection is often blurry, skewed, distorted, or even downright bizarre!
Is that the real you? No! Why?
Because of the layer of water or glass affecting the light, which in turn distorts the image reflected by them.
- Lighting: The presence of adequate light, or a lack thereof (darkness), is a crucial factor in the way anything is seen, or if it is seen at all. The human eye needs light to see.If there is no light, there will be no illumination, and consequently, no view.
Even if we are surrounded by spell-binding beauty and innumerable lovely-to-behold blessings, if there is no light (and Karachi dwellers would know too well what that feels like! Heh!), one will not be able to see any of them, much less enjoy or appreciate them.
Obstruction: Sometimes, we cannot see something properly even if we are standing close to it, there is enough light, and the angle of view is also satisfactory.
This happens if and when there is an obstruction blocking the view, partially or totally, such as a wall, building, or any other barrier.
Factors such as sleepiness, physical or mental fatigue, or even a filthy window, can cause what can be termed as a temporary “blindness”, which renders it difficult if not impossible to view something properly, or at all.
How Our Hearts Affect Our Perspectives
The level and purity of faith, or lack thereof, in our hearts has a direct connection to how we view or perceive the reality of the life of this world, as well as the people and events that occur in it.
The above examples should serve to illuminate how we become blind to the realities of the life of this world; how we are unable to see things as they are.
This happens because, as Allah says so emphatically in the Qur’an:
فَإِنَّهَا لَا تَعْمَى الْأَبْصَارُ وَلَكِن تَعْمَى الْقُلُوبُ الَّتِي فِي الصُّدُورِ
“Yet, verily, it is not their eyes that have become blind – but blind have become the hearts that are in their chests!” [22:46]
The heart has the ability to “see”, just like the eyes. However, it “sees” things based on the purity and sincerity of the faith it harbors, combined with the “light” of the knowledge of the Qur’an.
Allah has referred to Himself, as well as to the Qur’an, as “Nur” or “light”.
This light in the heart helps us “see” the truth behind facades of the life of this world that deceive most of mankind.
Those who disbelieve, or do evil deeds (or worse, those who do both), are deprived of this light, as a punishment from Allah.
Furthermore, He describes in the Qur’an how He also prevents them from “seeing” reality, through other ways.
For some insights about how Allah prevents evil-doers from seeing reality as it truly is, please take a minute to ponder upon the verses of the Qur’an, below:
“..whereupon We deprived them of their sight..” [54:37]
Veil, or Barrier غشاوة
وَعَلَى أَبْصَارِهِمْ غِشَاوَةٌ
“..and over their eyes is a veil…” [2:7]
“… and whose eyes He [Allah] blinds!” [47:23]
وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكِّرُوا بِآيَاتِ رَبِّهِمْ لَمْ يَخِرُّوا عَلَيْهَا صُمًّا وَعُمْيَانًا
“…..and (the believers) who, whenever they are reminded of their Sustainer’s messages, do not throw themselves upon them deaf and blind;” [25:73]
وَإِذْ يُرِيكُمُوهُمْ إِذِ الْتَقَيْتُمْ فِي أَعْيُنِكُمْ قَلِيلاً وَيُقَلِّلُكُمْ فِي أَعْيُنِهِمْ
“And so, when you met in battle, He (Allah) made them appear as few in your eyes – just as He made you appear as of little account in their eyes…” [8:44]
أُولَـئِكَ الَّذِينَ طَبَعَ اللّهُ عَلَى قُلُوبِهِمْ وَسَمْعِهِمْ وَأَبْصَارِهِمْ وَأُولَـئِكَ هُمُ الْغَافِلُونَ
“They whose hearts and whose hearing and whose sight God has sealed – it is they, who are heedless!” [16:108]
Does it not become clear that, even if we possess perfect eyesight physically, Allah can affect our ability to “see” things, and to estimate them, by sending upon us a punishment for our sins or disbelief, which renders us akin to someone who is partially or totally blind?
Allah can “wipe out” our eyesight, “seal” it, cast a “veil” over it, make us “blind”, and even make us see things much less in number from a distance. Of course, here, by “eyesight”, the eye of the heart is implied, as I discussed in one of my recent blog posts.
Bring to mind all the examples of effects on sight that I discussed above, of distance, angle, lighting, and obstruction.
Analogize this also with how, when we wake up suddenly from a very deep, deep sleep, or when we stumble into a very dark room quickly from outside where there was bright sunlight, we need quite a few seconds for our eyes to adjust and to be able to let us “see” properly. We blink like blind people, not being able to decipher what is in front of us.
The same happens when a heavy fog or downpour of rain greatly hampers our view, rendering our surroundings totally un-seeable for even a few feet beyond where we are standing.
We need to wake up and realize that Allah is the “Light” of the heavens and the earth [24:35], a light without which we cannot find the right path here, in the life of this world.
We need Him, and His guidance, in order to “find” our way here.
Through reflecting upon, reciting, and understanding His word, the Qur’an, Allah provides us with a light of guidance that gets kindled inside our hearts, getting fueled & sustained by the ‘oil’ of knowledge.
It is this light that illuminates our way as we live our lives, guiding us to do what is right, and to stay away from what is wrong. It shows us the way. It prevents us from groping around in the darkness like blind people.
A heart that is attached to the Qur’an, which gets illuminated through reflection upon its meanings, allows the believer who possesses it to “see the reality of things as they are”.
He or she is able to discern, judge, fathom, and decide matters with a deep insight that others, who are deprived of this light of guidance, are unable to acquire. He or she detects and is able to know certain truths about events and people, which others are totally “blind” to.
Sometimes, this knowledge is painful, e.g. when a believer knows that someone who is otherwise sincere is deliberately deceiving him or her; or when they are able to see the ultimate, destructive destination that a near and dear one is headed gung-ho towards, disregarding any sincerely given warnings and advice with heedless abandon.
Nevertheless, like I exhorted at the start of this post, we all should add this beautiful supplication to the list of dua’s that we regularly engage in:
اللَّهُمَّ أرِنِى حَقِيقَةَ الْاَشْيَآءَ كَمَا هِىَ
“O Allah! Show me the reality of all things as it (really) is..”
And hopefully, Allah will answer it, and grant us a special light and a deep, knowledge-based insight that will allow us to “see” things with a keen eye of discernment and wisdom, to which most of the world is blind.
And hopefully, we will be able to navigate our way to Jannah Al Firdaus with less distractions and obstacles, without being deceived by the temporary glam & glitter of the life of this world, insha’Allah.