Bismillaah ir Rahmaan ir Rahiim
In the name of Allah, The Merciful, The Compassionate
What Makes You Who You Are
By Fleur Nassery Bonnin
If one is asked ‘Who are you?’, one is likely to say that I am such and such a person with all the usual references, societal, familial and so forth, mostly related to our physical life in this world, but in reality there are other levels to a person.
Human beings are made of form and attributes that can be seen and witnessed as well as attributes that cannot be seen and witnessed. In fact, the whole of creation is made of these
two aspects, 'gheib & shohood' , which means hidden and apparent. However most of us only take into account the perceivable aspects, and as the saying goes: 'seeing is believing'.
Why is that? Moulana Rumi reveals such a mystery in one verse, and says:
This world stands upon ignorance of the reality
Knowledge of reality is like a plague to the nature of this world
In simple language Rumi is saying: The existence of this world requires ignorance about realities, since knowing these realities is detrimental to the nature of this world.
In this short article I would like to draw your attention to three important fundamental and constituting aspects of human beings with which one usually has very little connection. They are: Spirit, Heart and Nafs.
These three are very important parts of us which - resulting from the journey of coming to the world - most of us have managed to remain largely unaware of. Worse still, what understandings we do gain are often distorted in order to fit with the life of this world, as Rumi points out above.
First, the Spirit
How is it that in everyday life, while we think and plan and talk and carry out all our activities, we have very little, or no awareness of the spirit, which is our life force, without which we would not be alive to do all this living? Please ponder upon that.
Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus, outlined the backbone of the philosophy of creation, and have drawn the plan of how from THE ONE manifested the Intelligence and from that Intelligence the Spirit came to be. While we cannot go into that in this brief introduction, and even if we are not interested in the philosophical aspect or theosophy, we can and should remind ourselves that from a religious point of view, God has said in the story of the creation of Adam, "I blew My Spirit into Adam". Essentially the same deep meaning comes to us from theosophy and revelations, yet despite all that, we manage to be heedless of that most important aspect of our make up. Even people in everyday life, including the ones who go to churches and mosques to get close to God, do not realise that there is the spirit of God in every created being, particularly human beings to a greater degree, since He has created human being in His own image.
In spite of all that, about which I could write pages and pages, for now it is just enough to add that one needs to ponder on and come to realise why that is the case. Consider for instance, how it is that even when the issue of life and death is presented in front of our eyes, we still don't want to see and relate to it? We go to the funeral of our parents and friends whom we liked and see that the body without the spirit is just a lifeless body and yet the lightbulb of the Spirit still has not lit up in our hearts and minds, and instead, we prefer to stay with the drama of human life with all the emotions of each situation.
What is this conspiracy that prevents us from having a connection to and realisations about the most important part of us? That is what the spiritual journey can reveal, however, that is not within the scope of this brief article.
Secondly, the Heart
The Heart, according to spiritual realisation, is something very different than what is commonly known as the place of emotions and senses. We have cleverly managed to create a different identity and purpose for the Heart so that we can keep our distance from the Spirit and be busy with our senses and emotions in response to the events and relationships of daily life. The importance of the heart in the journey of life requires more explanation and realisation, which is why there will be more on the subject of the heart coming to you soon in the next article.
Thirdly, the Nafs
Nafs, which can be translated as ego/personality, is the biggest hindrance in finding out the reality and the truth. These two words, when they are written with capital first letters, for instance; Reality and Truth, refer to God the Creator. Also the word Haqq when it is written with a capital means God, The Right One, and also the True Reality. Without going further, by just looking at the names and what they stand for, it is possible that someone with an astute and open mind might see both the relation and the obstacles right there by paying attention to the opposite of those names.
When the human soul comes to the life of this world, it needs to develop a personality. Depending on the time and place of his or her life, the personality increases in strength and complexity, and transforms into an ego-oriented personality due to the requirements of worldly life. Whereas in past centuries, that may not have been a normal transformation to this extent since knowing God and the Reality had more of a presence in life. The Creator, knowing the before and after, has given us time and stages to recover from the influence of daily life as a deterrent to reality.
In the holy books in general and in the Qur'an in particular God makes it clear in various verses, as well as through the teachings of the prophets, that you descend to start your life with the 'demanding nafs/ego'. As you do your spiritual work, that nafs transmutes to the next level, called the 'reproachful or blaming nafs'. As you continue doing both remembrance of God above the wants and desires of this world, and choosing God over other attractions which call you to themselves, then you reach the third stage of the asending of the nafs which is called the 'nafs of certainty'. About this stage Allah says: That is the one that comes to My Paradise. There is a lot in between these explanations that I cannot go into in this short article but which has been explained in various articles on our site.
O you soul at peace
Return to your Lord, well pleased yourself and well pleasing your Lord
Be included among My sincere servants
And enter My Paradise.
What I would like to add here is what enlightened Sufis and theosophers have pointed out, which is that by disconnecting from the awareness of both the Spirit and Heart and without knowing the deeper and higher aspects of ourselves, we are not a complete human being, but are instead half of what we were created for; to become a human who is the representative of God on earth which requires connecting to our higher aspects rather than being totally immersed in the life of this world.
The famous hadith of the prophet of Islam sums up the journey by saying "he who knows his self knows his Lord". This knowing oneself is not psychological or physical, it requires knowledge of the reality of oneself.
As mentioned earlier, the heart is one of the most important inner aspects of one's ascending journey and its role on the spiritual journey has been covered over and misrepresented in the life of this world. Therefore, in order to inspire and assist you on your spiritual journey, in an upcoming article which will soon be posted online, I will be including a translation of the section about the heart from an insightful book by Dr. Nasrollah Hekmat on the work of Ibn Arabi, titled “Metaphysic and Art in the Mystical Knowledge of Ibn Arabi”.