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Faith

Creation’s Reality: A Personal Journey Through The Quran

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The Holy Quran, when taken as a holistic teaching, weaves the threads little by little, for any reader of keen attention. This verse, aya 44 from surah Isra’, The Night Journey, had sealed the deal for me and consolidated my Islam.

تُسَبّـِحُ لَهُ السَّمَاوَاتُ السَّبْعُ وَالاَرْضُ وَمَن فِيهِنَّ وَإِن مِن شَيْءٍ إِلاَّ يُسَبّـِحُ بِحَمْدِهِ وَلَكِن لاَّ تَفْقَهُونَ تَسْبِيحَهُمْ إِنَّهُ كَانَ حَلِيماً غَفُوراً

The seven heavens and the earth and whatever is in them exalt Him. And there is not a thing except that it exalts [Allah] by His praise, but you do not understand their [way of] exalting. Indeed, He is ever Forbearing and Forgiving. (Quran 17:44 – Sahih International translation)

This verse sealed the deal for me and consolidated my faith as a Muslim. The Holy Quran had a remarkable effect on me from the start; it was like I was being given exactly what I needed, little by little, drop by drop, question by question, answer by answer. It was as if it were synchronized to my intimate thoughts and my heart’s yearnings.  

I am writing this to take the reader through my experience with verse 44 of surah al Isra’ (The Night Journey). I usually would rather cocoon my personal experiences within the pages of my journal as I document my journey in this life. However, sharing this with the world feels like something I simply must do.   

I remember sitting with the Quran in my hand with my back against a window, filtering through the light of dawn before the rising sun. I had been dedicating this hour at dawn as a home away from home before the beginning of each day, as my personal time for quiet meditation, contemplation, prayer, and reading. And then… verse 44…

What follows is my experience with this verse, my thought process, before, during, and after. I claim no special knowledge nor am I entitled to preach to anyone; this is simply a short and personal exposition that may be of benefit to others, God willing.

 All praise to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, for this blessing, and may He guard and bless us all in our good endeavors.

Before the verse

It is not so clear to me how and when I had turned into someone who questioned her faith. In a nutshell, I had lost who I was and at a certain point in my life, realized that the only way to recover was if I were to begin the journey inward; the journey to knowing myself.  

Years passed as I explored the practices of other religions and beliefs, searching for what would ground me spiritually, and answer the questions I had. I had come to appreciate all faiths and at some point, was determined that truth was to be found everywhere, in all worshippers within any creed, in all signs of nature, in every atom of every leaf; it was clear that the world was an open book and signs of intelligent design were all around. 

I was beginning to realize a common thread inherent within all world religions no matter how different they seemed on the outside. It was clear that it was one message calling individuals to do good in this world, to ennoble their character, to not attach too much to worldly desires, to contemplate death, and to realize that there is more than just this material world.

All this time, I believe, I was being prepped and guided by Him, subhanahu wa ta’ala, for my re-entry through the gate of Islam. As my mindset was set as thus during that time, verse 44 of chapter 17, al Isra’ proved to be a major turning point in my life.

Reading the Verse…

It hit me like a ton of bricks at first. As if all my questions were answered and my thoughts validated in that single instant by the time I read through to its end.It was a realization that turned the spark within my heart to a consuming fire that burned all the false and filled me instead with the Light of Truth. 

That profound realization left me in awe for a moment; I was not thinking per se, but it was more like a presence I just had to be with. After the moment had passed, I was sure I was a Muslim, all praise to Allah.

The seven heavens and the earth and whatever is in them exalt Him…

No matter what the theological interpretations are of what the ‘seven heavens’ are, or what is exactly meant by ‘what is between them’, the point is clear cut: everything in creation exalts Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala. What does that mean? So many questions flooded my brain. Yet, amidst all the questions was an answer to what mostly I was seeking: my true self.

There it was, right before my eyes; I am a being, a something that exalts the Creator and Sustainer of all. At my core, I could feel it so profoundly: I am connected to the whole of the cosmos.

And there is not a thing except that it exalts [Allah] by His praise, but you do not understand their [way of] exalting.

At this point, the verse felt like a flower bud blooming right before my eyes. The way the verse is constructed so beautifully goes along with the reader’s instant thoughts and questions, like much of the holy Quran really. First, the reality of what you are is revealed to you, then a magnificent and specific emphasis: there is not a thing except that exalts Allah by His praise.

In Arabic, one immediately senses the strong and intentional emphasis on the idea of ‘every single thing’ exalting God, and eloquently seals it with ‘By His Praise’. That there was a mind opener for me as to the purpose of our existence and the means through which we exist: By His Grace, we are in a state of always exalting Him, and by His Grace, this state is a state of surrender.

I was taken back to the thought of every atom, every single cell in our body, regenerating, dying off; If they too exalt God, then, all of what constitutes my being is exalting God at every instant, and therefore, it necessarily follows that in my totality, I am always exalting God, whether aware or unaware, by His Grace and permission, and that is how I and all of creation are sustained. 

After this profound emphasis, the verse continues to flow with your thoughts concerning that ‘how’ nagging at the back of your brain. I remember thinking whether non-living things, according to the scientific definition of ‘living’, have some level of consciousness that we do not know of.  

And then, with masterful punctuality: “But you do not understand their exalting…”. This part felt like the sealing of a door, behind which is the profane world, and into a new vastness of continuous learning. For even though you are struck with a realization of what you are, you find yourself in ignorance of the details, and of the vastness of the ocean still waiting to be explored. Now, I felt as if it were an invitation to enter a sacred space and particularly, to enter without fear.

For Indeed, He is ever Forbearing and Forgiving.

The intensity after the initial transmission began to wind down at this point and was replaced by a feeling of safe and comforting peace. He, the Forbearing and Forgiving One, has given, out of His Mercy, a glimpse into who I am, reminded me of my ignorance, and then gave me solace by His Names to continue exploring this reality with the comfort of being looked over, understood, and forgiven for the mistakes, misunderstandings, faltering, and mishaps that I was bound to encounter on this road to Him, exalted be He above creation!

By the end of the verse, I simply felt safe to dive into His ocean of knowledge. 

After the Verse

One of the first post realizations after my initial encounter with verse 17:44 was that I am not entitled to anything of this world. Every single thing is in constant praising and exalting because only to Him does everything belong. In that sense, I knew deep down, that I could not possibly be worthy of knowledge if I were not to act on what I was learning. I was set on doing it right and devoting myself the best I could to Islamic practice.

As time went by, major and gradual transformations began to take shape: my anxiety became like a discarded peel of onion, my fears turned into fear and awe of Him by learning Taqwa, my sense of entitlement to anything crashed, and most importantly, my arrogance became the target of my inner jihad; my inner struggle was to remember that everything I had done was by His Grace alone, and every mistake was my responsibility. 

I learned that I am connected to the whole of the cosmos in that my true self, just like every other thing in existence, is in a state of constant surrender and worship. By keeping up our religious obligations, we bring our true selves to the forefront, from the depths of our unconscious do we soar into a state of conscious worship and surrender. That is where the power of dhikr (remembrance) comes.

I learned the importance of being mindful of my reactions and how to respond with a sure reliance on God. My heart expanded its circle of love and respect for all creatures of the world. Learning His names and taking on the attributes that relate us to Him in His immanence became an adventure of learning and change. I learned that being grateful is a core principle to every devout Muslim, and so is sincerity and maintaining vigilance over the heart.

Final thoughts

The Quran describes itself as a warning, a guidance, and a reminder to the world. By following our prescribed spiritual practices and abstaining from vice and what is forbidden to us, He, subhanahu wa ta’ala, purifies us, guides us, and prepares us for our return to Him. By upholding our obligations, we bring the state of our unconscious worship to the forefront and worship consciously.

Islam is a religion of peace, based on knowledge, and love. Any act of undue aggression in the name of Islam and any immoral act that goes against any person’s innate moral compass, are only committed by those who obviously do not understand their religion. 

The Holy Quran, when taken as a holistic teaching, weaves the threads little by little, for any reader of keen attention. This verse, aya 44 from surah Isra’, The Night Journey, had sealed the deal for me and consolidated my Islam.

As I continue to work on myself by His Grace and walk through this world as a passing visitor, I am in awe of His Majesty and continue to develop a profound respect to all things existent, for we are different by the shells of our outward beings, yet, tied together in singing of Praise to the One and Only Allah. 

And Allah Knows Best.

Blessings and peace.

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