When we want to speak about reflection and how it serves man in his intellectual Islamic life on his journey to seek a close proximity to Allah s.w.t, we find that it is heavily emphasized within the Holy Qur’an’s teachings.
Let us ponder over this verse one moment:
الَّذِينَ يَذْكُرُونَ اللّهَ قِيَامًا وَقُعُودًا وَعَلَىَ جُنُوبِهِمْ وَيَتَفَكَّرُونَ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ رَبَّنَا مَا خَلَقْتَ هَذا بَاطِلاً سُبْحَانَكَ فَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ
“Those whom are [in a state of] remembering Allah s.w [while] standing up, sitting down or on their sides, reflecting over the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying] Oh our Lord, you did not create all this in vain, Glory be to you! Grant us salvation from the Fire.” Al-Imran [3:191]
Reflection can be defined as a calm state of careful and intended consideration of something where one is not unconscious towards the respective subject of reflection, but conscious of its presence and pondering over its very essence to discover more about it.
Spirituality in the parameters of Islamic teachings is not a state of unconsciousness similar to that of toxicity of sleep based on imagination and fantasy, on the contrary a Muslim is one whose vision is sharp and looks to pierce the reality of things even further.
It is the mind that Allah s.w.t has given us as a means and a tool to drawing closer to Him, as it is the mind of man that has made him distinguished from the rest of Allah s.w.t creation with its ability to pierce the internals of things and understand their inner workings, and not only the apparent surface of things. It is through man’s mind he can unveil the hidden secrets of existence without being restricted by time and space, breaking all material boundaries. It is also through man’s mind Allah s.w.t is known and worshipped.
So thinking is the key to this…
الإمامُ عليٌّ (عَلَيهِ الّسَلامُ): مَن أكثَرَ الفِكرَ فيما تَعَلَّمَ أتقَنَ عِلمَهُ، وفَهِمَ ما لم يَكُن يَفهَمُ.
Imam Ali (AS) said, ‘Whoever increases his thinking in whatever he learns, his knowledge will become proficient, and he will come to understand whatever he did not understand before.’ [Ghurar al-Hikam, no. 8917]
The Holy Qur’an has been revealed to man to define the methods for a believers thinking and reflection so that faith may not be blind.
It nurtures the human mind to be bestowed a faith, based on the grounds of reflection and convictive conclusions that are based on open mindedness and sound thought, nurturing it to be the most robust it can be.
In Islam, man does not need to look into the books of philosophy, but rather look into the book of the universe (The Holy Qur’an) and reflect over it in our existence to witness that there is an all-encompassing intelligence that is governing the whole universe and that He is grand in his countenance and presence.
The Holy Qur’an was also revealed for the purpose of nurturing man’s thought to rise to the level of opening up to Allah s.w.t and to be able to gain what it may understand of Him. Man is not able to understand the essence of Allah s.w.t as His essence is not in the realms of sensory experience or experimentation, but man can understand Him regarding what he has revealed about Himself and by reflecting over his actions in creation.
سَنُرِيهِمْ آيَاتِنَا فِي الْآفَاقِ وَفِي أَنفُسِهِمْ حَتَّى يَتَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ أَوَلَمْ يَكْفِ بِرَبِّكَ أَنَّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ
“We shall certainly show them our signs in the [vast] horizons and in their souls until it becomes unveiled that He is the [ultimate] Truth, is it not enough that your Lord is a [all encompassing] witness over all things?”[Fussilat [41:53]]
The method of Islam, gave man the freedom of thought which was not granted to the rest of man’s limbs, for they were instructed to move within their prescribed limits, such as what man sees, what he hears or the way he uses his hands and feet or any of the bodies instruments is limited, except the mind, that was given utter freedom in what it may think and reflect over.
The mind of man was not created with tight restrictions like the external faculties which are restricted physically where they may go, for when we read the Holy Qur’an the mind travels the whole universe without any restriction what so ever…
Allah s.w.t told the mind to be free in what it thinks, think of Allah s.w.t, think of what the others may say and what they don’t say, but you are accountable to what you may think in the sense that what you think about must be on the path of that what is going to give you conclusive outcomes that make you reach the Truth, for in the hereafter man’s mind will be put to account before his limbs.
وَلاَ تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولـئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْؤُولاً
“And never concern thyself with anything of which you have no knowledge of: verily, [thy] hearing and sight and heart – all of them – will be called to account for it [on Judgment Day]!” [al-Isra’17:36]
الإمام الحسن المجتبى(عليه السلام): عجبت لمن يتفكر في مأكوله، كيف لا يتفكر في معقوله، فيجنب بطنه ما يؤذيه، ويودع صدره ما يرديه
Imam Hassan (a) said:”I wonder those who think about their body’s food, but do not think about their soul’s food. They keep away disturbing food from their belly, but fill up their heart with destructive subjects.” [Safeenatul Bihar Ch.2 page 84]
Passiveness has no place in Islam, as Islam is rigid in its composition and infinite in the vastness of its discoveries. One must be attentive as indicated by this hadith :
إمام علي ع قال: ألا لا خير في علم ليس فيه تفهّم .. ألا لا خير في قراءة ليس فيها تدبّر .. ألا لا خير في عبادة ليس فيها تفقّه.
Imam Ali (a) says: “Surely there is no goodness in learning if there is no understanding, surely there is no good in reading without there being any reflection, surely there is no good in worship if there is no depth of its laws”[Jawahir al Bihar Ch. 49]
Also Allah s.w.t mentions in the Holy Quran:
يا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ أَطِيعُواْ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَلاَ تَوَلَّوْاْ عَنْهُ وَأَنتُمْ تَسْمَعُونَ* وَلاَ تَكُونُواْ كَالَّذِينَ قَالُواْ سَمِعْنَا وَهُمْ لاَ يَسْمَعُونَ* إِنَّ شَرَّ الدَّوَابِّ عِندَ اللَّهِ الصُّمُّ الْبُكْمُ الَّذِينَ لاَ يَعْقِلُونَ* وَلَوْ عَلِمَ اللَّهُ فِيهِمْ خَيْرًا لأَسْمَعَهُمْ وَلَوْ أَسْمَعَهُمْ لَتَوَلَّواْ وَّهُم مُّعْرِضُونَ
“O you who have attained to faith, pay heed unto God and His Apostle, and do not turn away from Him now that you hear [His message]; * and be not like those who say, “We have heard”, the while they do not hear. * Verily, the vilest of all creatures in the sight of God are those deaf, those dumb ones who do not use their reason. * For, if God had seen any good in them, He would certainly have made them hear: but [as it is,] even if He had made them hear, they would surely have turned away in their stubbornness. “ [Al-Anfal 23-20]
We will certainly be punished for not reflected and using our abilities to discover the truth:
وَلَقَدْ ذَرَأْنَا لِجَهَنَّمَ كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الْجِنِّ وَالإِنسِ لَهُمْ قُلُوبٌ لاَّ يَفْقَهُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ أَعْيُنٌ لاَّ يُبْصِرُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ آذَانٌ لاَّ يَسْمَعُونَ بِهَا أُوْلَـئِكَ كَالأَنْعَامِ بَلْ هُمْ أَضَلُّ أُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الْغَافِلُونَ
“And most certainly have We destined for hell many of the invisible beings and men who have hearts with which they fail to grasp the truth, and eyes with which they fail to see, and ears with which they fail to hear. They are like cattle -nay, they are even less conscious of the right way: it is they, they who are the [truly] heedless!”[al-A’raf 7:179]
The higher levels:
It is only through reflecting over knowledge of Allah s.w.t, that is manifested in everything, that we can reach the higher worlds that are invisible to the human eye, but are visible to the eye of the heart and mind.
The invisible is what manifests itself into the visible, for example, our souls are manifested into our bodies and the souls of other creatures into the material body.
Knowledge itself is invisible but is manifest and acting all around us.
This draws the conclusion that the invisible is more profound than the visible (even secular models teach this) and material, for it is the invisible that animates the material.
This can also be applied to the relationship between the creation and Allah s.w.t, which is the hidden secret to all that is manifest, but has made Himself known to us through it.
If one ponders deep into his soul and discover it, then after look into its kernel, then into the kernel of the kernel, will witness the countenance of His grand Lord at work…
The mind and heart of man are tools for traversing the vast horizons of Allah s.w.t through reflection and thought.
Is it a wonder that it has been made an obligation upon us to gain it?
رسولُ اللهِ (صَلَّيَ اللهُ عَلَيهِ وَ آلِهِ): طَلَبُ العِلمِ فَريضَةٌ عَلى كُلِّ مُسلِمٍ
The Prophet (SAWA) said, ‘The quest for knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim [Amali al-Tusi, p. 488, no. 1069]
And there is no strength except In Allah and peace be upon those whom follow the guidance…
ولا قوّة إلا بالله والسلام على من اتبع الهدى