Light upon Light
Man has created wonderful machines to explore the World’s vast wonders and beautiful treasures. However, if not properly guided by the explorer, these machines may drift into the World’s darkest edges, the monstrous airspaces and deep seas, wiping away the explorer completely out of existence.
Thus, man was clever enough to invent tools that would “ground” these machines to areas of “human control”. In the above images for example, anchors have been invented to ground boats to their reefs, protecting them from vanishing into the sea. In the same way, sand bags have been created to control the incline and decline of hot air balloons, protecting their passengers from vanishing into the merciless and lung-crushing heights of the atmosphere.
So if the World’s environment has expressed the need for gigantic machines to be grounded, then what about us human beings, the weakest and most fragile machines of all? Shouldn’t we have the ultimate need to be “grounded”? What will keep us from drifting away into the jurassic and most dangerous spaces of our mind? What will keep us from indulging into irrational reason and crime? Like the machines that need to be grounded into physical safe havens, humans need to be grounded into spiritual safe havens.
The solution lies in our most delicate yet most crucial muscle, the heart.
Man consists of 3 entities: mind, body, and soul. At the center of these 3 entities is the hub of emotion and desire, the heart. If your heart is clean and intact, the rest will follow.
Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan explains this beautifully in his audio lecture Psychology in the Quran. Your heart consists of two elements: light (fitrah) and desire (nafs). Light is pre-installed into us all, it’s the tendency for your heart to follow and do that which is good. Desire consists of temptations such as greed, jealousy, ego, and anger. When the heart was born it was clear glass, but with increasing temptation it started getting dirtier and dirtier. The heart, originally a clean lamp, will begin accumulating dust and residue caused by temptation, slowly blocking any light from coming out, or worse … from coming in.
Your soul is made of pure light, light that was brought in from out of this world, from the Unseen. Modern science can’t prove the existence of it, but you know it’s there. When light overcomes desire inside the battlefield of the heart, your soul is at ease. But if the desire wins the battle over light, your soul feels violated and you start feeling a deep guilt from within.
Thus, to make sure light always wins the battle, you need to GROUND your heart to light.
Grounding your heart means keeping the connection between your MIND and HEART alive. Only through the light of revelation (the Qur’an) can the light in your heart be revived. When the heart is pure, the mind can then think rationally and ask logical questions that the heart has answers for. When the heart is dead (ie. when people forget God) the mind breaks loose into irrational reasoning, causing an endless chase and lust for desire combined with a deep sense of emptiness from within. Things will become nasty down this road and sometimes … suicidal.
“And be not like those who forgot Allah, so He made them forget themselves” [59:19]
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf explains beautifully in Purification of the Heart, that when a person acknowledges and realizes that God is all aware of what he does, says, and thinks, shame is elevated to a higher plane, to the unseen world from which there is no cover. At this level, one feels a sense of shame even before the angels, which in return “grounds” him- or herself back to the beautiful gardens of faith.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky expresses brilliantly in Crime and Punishment that the crime “itself” is the punishment. When someone commits a crime, he does so first against his own heart, because again, humans have pure hearts in their true nature. Human beings ultimately have to live with the painful consequences of their own bad deeds.
Your heart is thus the leader of your body. It directs your thoughts, intentions, and emotions into action. If you’re going to rebel, don’t rebel against God, rebel against sin. Each of the little tiny victories you win against sin cleans out the dark spots that have been impinged onto your heart.
I really love this ending verse from Shaykh Mawlud Al-Muratani’s poetry:
“There is no salvation like the heart’s salvation, since all the limbs [and organs] respond to its desires”
In conclusion, all humans, good or bad, have pure hearts in their true nature. It is only through the accumulation of sin that this clean glass is smudged with dirt. Through vision and hearing you are able to deliver God’s revelation to your BODY, which in return broadens your MIND and cleanses your HEART into purity. Alas, your SOUL will finally be at ease once it has reunited with its purpose. The cycle is now complete.