Allāh سبحانه و تعالى has 2 methods of creation. One method is that things are created over time i.e. fī sittati ayyāmin.
إنَّ رَبَّكُمُ اللَّـهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ ثُمَّ اسْتَوَىٰ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ يُغْشِي اللَّيْلَ النَّهَارَ يَطْلُبُهُ حَثِيثًا وَالشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ وَالنُّجُومَ مُسَخَّرَاتٍ بِأَمْرِهِ أَلَا لَهُ الْخَلْقُ وَالْأَمْرُ تَبَارَكَ اللَّـهُ رَبُّ الْعَالَمِينَ
Indeed, your Lord is Allah, who created the heavens and earth in six days and then established Himself above the Throne. He covers the night with the day, [another night] chasing it rapidly; and [He created] the sun, the moon, and the stars, subjected by His command. Unquestionably, His is the creation and the command; blessed is Allah, Lord of the worlds. (7:54)
The second method is that things are created instantaneously with the command “kun”, and the result is “fa ya kun“.
إِنَّمَا أَمْرُهُ إِذَا أَرَادَ شَيْئًا أَن يَقُولَ لَهُ كُن فَيَكُونُ
His command is only when He intends a thing that He says to it, “Be,” and it is. (36: 82).
So these are 2 different spheres of the creation of Allāh سبحانه و تعالى. The sphere in which Allāh سبحانه و تعالى says ‘kun fa ya kun‘; this is called `alam al‑’amr. The second sphere which Allāh سبحانه و تعالى creates over time in stages, and that is called `alam al‑khalq; the created world.
Human beings are very unique type of beings in that they actually composite of both of these worlds. So when we consider ourselves, we actually have to consider two aspects of ourselves. The first is that we have a rūḥ, i.e. a soul, and that soul comes from the commanded world i.e. `alam al‑’amr. At the same time, we have a jism i.e. a body. This jism actually comes from the create world i.e. alam al‑khalq. So we are a composite of both of these worlds.
From this we derive several principles. The first and most foundational is that that which comes from `alam al‑’amr needs to be sustained by amri things. So for example we say that the soul or rūḥ comes from `alam al‑’amr and that its sustenance will also come from amri things, spiritual things, so that the sustenance of the soul is actually derived from things that are spiritual.
At the same time, the body comes from`alam al‑khalq, from the created world. Therefore the things which sustain the body will be khalqi i.e. will come from the created world. The simple example will be that of bodies are made from mud and everything that we use to sustain our bodies happen to also come from mud. For example, the food we eat grows from mud, the clothes we wear grow from mud, cotton for example. At the same time one can say that we get our food and clothing from animals e.g. if we wear wool. However both of those also come from mud because they are also created in a sense from mud; dirt. They also eat crops which come from dirt.
So essentially what we are trying to highlight is that the body requires its sustenance from bodily things i.e. from tangible and physical things; and that the soul requires its sustenance from spiritual things. This is a very simple principle which is not too hard to understand. However it forms the key foundational idea for the vast majority of human failure in this day and age. Why? Because when you look at mankind as a whole, most people in this day and age have made the erroneous assumption that peace will be attained by gaining physical things. So whether you look at a Muslim or a non-Muslim in this day and age, we have begun to think that somehow our happiness is tied to physical things. For example, if we have a big house, we will somehow be happy; if we have nice clothing, we will somehow be happy; if we have a nice car, we will be happy; if we eat good food, we will be happy. However what you have to recognize is that happiness is not a characteristic of the body. It is a characteristic of the soul.
However what you have to recognize is that happiness is not a characteristic of the body. It is a characteristic of the soul.
So here we are trying to feed the soul with houses, clothing, ice cream and chocolate, nice cars, and what ends up happening is that we are feeding the body instead of the soul. The body turns into a monster. It crushes and leaves no space for growth of the soul, and it produces depression within a human being. It’s so amazing obvious that in this day and age, the wealthiest people tend to be the most depressed. You look at the wealthiest societies and within them you find the greatest degree of depression. You can travel to some very poor places in the world and you’ll see happy people. It’s funny because you’ll read these articles not from Muslims, but from non-Muslims who actually say “I travelled to Tibet or some village in China or Afghanistan.” And they’ll say that “When I went there, I was shocked to see that people were happy. They were smiling, laughing and enjoying life.” That’s because this simple principle has not destroyed them. You can say that this mistaken principle has not destroyed them.
We all desire to be happy in the life and in the hereafter. What contents the human being is the soul we are providing for. Why? Because our souls are from jannah. That is who we are. The body is not who we are. The body will be put in the grave and will return back to the dirt and disintegrate. It’s the soul that will be raised up and will be judged on the Day of Judgment.
The soul actually grew up in jannah. We were in jannah. We were in the presence of Allah سبحانه و تعالى. Then we got banished down to the earth for a period of time and we happened to be wrapped up in this thing called the body while we are here. The body is what deceives us because all the tests in this world are bodily for example, lowering the gaze, eating halāl, earning halāl income. These are all bodily tests.
The body is sort of the vehicle that tests the soul. If the soul is fed with the things that it was used to having e.g. the presence of Allah سبحانه و تعالى and qurb (nearness) to Allah سبحانه و تعالى, the soul becomes very content and happy; and the human being becomes happy irrespective of what their body has.
A great example is that of one who has spent any time studying the dīn and in any type of Islamic environment will tell you that when students study at madāris of our dīn, they are so content despite the fact that it is one of the hardest things to do. You can ask them what their toughest struggle was. They’ll say, “Well, when I studied in madrassa that was really tough.” And if you ask them “When were you happiest in your life?” They’ll say, “When I studied in madrassa, there is no greater happiness that I can recall.” This is the common theme. You can ask anyone and I don’t have a doubt that they will share the exact same with you if they truly benefitted from their teachers and they were doing what they were supposed to do.
Just as the body requires a balanced slack of nutrients that people need to consume in order to grow the body properly, in the same way there is balance of nutrients that is required for the growth of the soul. So you need to give it some Qur’ān, some salawāt on Rasulullāh ﷺ, ṣuhbaḥ of good company, and putting it in the masjid as much as possible. So these are the multiple nutrients that are required in order to grow the soul.
The first basic thing about the rūḥ is that it needs to be given space to grow. The body (jism) and the soul rūḥ exist in one closed contained space. If the body is big, the soul has no space to grow. If the emphasis of the human being is on the body all the time then what ends up happening is the body grows into an animal, into a monster, and it provides very little room for the soul to grow. So the first thing that has to happen before the soul can grow is that you have to contain the growth of the body.
Nafs is the name of the inner portion of the body. It’s the key command center of the jism. So if the nafs is out of control, it takes up the vast majority of space and the soul becomes very crushed and depressed. One thing that has to happen is the nafs has to be curtailed. The simple curtailing of the nafs will cause the soul to expand.
The simple curtailing of the nafs will cause the soul to expand.
How comes that you find people who practice yoga or people who live in a Buddhist monastery become very spiritual? How comes they themselves say they experience something and that they feel spiritual and good about themselves? This is a very simple principle. The body and the soul exist in a contained space. The vast majority of human beings have grown their body and their nafs so much their soul is automatically constricted and depressed. So if any human being using any mechanism begins to cut off the bodily desires and the body begins to shrink down to its normal size, the soul will expand and they will feel spiritual. So it’s not that only the Muslim can feel spiritual. There is some degree of spirituality that will arise just from maintaining a normal balance of being human. So we shouldn’t be confused that how come they can be spiritual? Is that some form of ‘ayb on Islam? Is that some source of defect in Islam? No! This is just part of being a natural human being.
Now the ‘ajīb (strange) thing however is those things will never make the soul to grow. See there are 2 separate issues. One is to just come and maintain the balance of the body and the soul which if any human being does they will be at some degree of peace. But actually beyond that is to cause the soul to grow and elevate. That requires Islām; that requires the dīn. When a person does that, they go far beyond this basic spirituality that you see arise in various settings. They go far beyond that and attain a degree of spirituality, righteousness, and closeness to Allāh سبحانه و تعالى that can never be described in words. Our challenge is not only to contain the body. We want to contain the body and knock it back in to its cage. So you put it back in to the cage to create space for the soul. Once you create space, the soul automatically expands and you’ll feel good about yourself. Then the next thing is to grow the soul.
So we know we have to grow the soul and we know that as we grow and feed the soul, we will become people who are close to Allāh سبحانه و تعالى. When we say grow the soul, what we actually mean is bringing it closer to Allāh سبحانه و تعالى. We should ask ourselves, what is the best mechanism by which we can do that? The best mechanism is the dīn of Allāh سبحانه و تعالى. In this day and age, that dīn will be the dīn of Islām. In this day and age the mechanism of that will be the sunnah of Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ. If you want to summarize it in one word, it’s the sunnah. The sunnah is the mechanism to get closeness to Allāh سبحانه و تعالى.
The sunnah is the mechanism to get closeness to Allāh سبحانه و تعالى.
Now it is unfortunate that in this day and age this has become the most confusing principle. It is confusing to people that the sunnah is the actual mechanism by which we attain wilāyah. Even this concept has been lost. This is how deluded we have become. We have to be very clear about this one principle because it’s the failure of the vast majority of people who want to pursue this path.
The premise of all of this lies in an āyah of The Holy Qur’an in which Allāh سبحانه و تعالى says;
قُلْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ اللَّهَ فَاتَّبِعُونِي يُحْبِبْكُمْ اللَّهُ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ
Say, [O Muḥammad], “If you should love Allāh, then follow me, [so] Allāh will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allāh is Forgiving and Merciful.” (3:31)
This is our equation. Now what does the equation say?
The messenger of Allāh سبحانه و تعالى is being commanded by His Lord to say:
إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ اللَّه
Say to who? Say to your companions and all of the generations of Muslims to witness this discussion as well until the Day of Judgment. Say to your companions:
إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ اللَّه
If you love Allāh سبحانه و تعالى
Allāh سبحانه و تعالى will love you.
So here is a very simple equation. If you love Allāh سبحانه و تعالى and you desire to attract the attention of Allāh سبحانه و تعالى then you have to recognize the only mechanism by which you can do that is to follow the sunnah of Rasulullah ﷺ.
Now actually as a corollary to this, we have to realize that the food of the soul comes from Allāh’s attention. The more the soul is focused on Allah سبحانه و تعالى and the more the barakāt, fuyūdhāt, and tawajjuḥāt come from Allāh سبحانه و تعالى, the more the soul becomes elevated and eventually develops into a worthy human being who will eventually enter in to jannah; someone who will attain contentment in this life and who will attain falāḥ in the hereafter.
What does falāḥ mean? According to scholars, falāḥ is that success after which there can never be failure. Now why is that condition required? Because in this world every success is followed by failure or at least the potential for it. For example, what are billionaires doing all the time? They are always worried about their money. It is funny a guy makes a billion dollars yet he is always worried about his money. He is worried about his asset preservation. Even the wealthy man worries about preservation of capital. Why? Because every wealthy man know it is easy to become poor again, quote and quote, relatively poor again. You can become the most successful person in the community but you’ll always know there is a potential for failure. You’ll always be up at night thinking what the next step forward is because if you do not take a step forward then you are taking a step back.
Even if you were to have a perfect life, no one can deny that you will die which is the ultimate failure if you were living a perfect life. So in this life there is no permanent success. There is limited success. But the word falāḥ means a permanent lasting success after which there will never be failure. So what is meant by that? It means that once you go into jannah, you never have to worry again about being sick, about losing your wealth, about losing your house, and the best is you never ever have to worry about jahannam. Because for the mu’min that is the failure we always worry about. Even if we are practicing properly, we worry about the potential for jahannam which is always on our neck. The possibility always exists.
Now this falāḥ is so established that what will happen after people are put into jannah? When all the people have been put in either jannah or jahannam and everybody’s balance has been taken into account, an animal will be brought in front the people and it will be sacrificed. The people will be asked on if they know what the animal is. The people will say they do not know. They will be told that this is death itself. Death itself has been sacrificed. When people of jahannam will realize that the door is closed on them, they thought they could die because they were going through hell. So even death will have been removed as an escape. As for the people in jannah, they will now know that there is no more worry because they got permanent success and the possibility of death has been removed. So this is what basically defines falāḥ.
(The above is a partial summary of a talk given by Shaykh Husain Abdul Sattar (Fundamentals of Tasawwuf part 2). The audio of the talk can be downloaded from HERE. To listen to more talks of Shaykh Husain Abdul Sattar, please visit sacredlearning.org)