Quranic Reflection No 674. Āyat 37:99 – The Journey towards God


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When Prophet Ibrāhīm ‘alayhis-salām decides to migrate from Babel to Syria to continue his mission to preach the Oneness of God, he declares that he is traveling towards his Lord. He was leaving a land polluted with disbelief and polytheism for a land that was purer. It was also a journey undertaken to fulfill the duty of prophethood to a people who would be more receptive. Thus, the journey was towards God – towards a life that would be in the way of God. 

A journey taken towards Allah ‘azza wajall is with the intention of worshipping Him better and to achieve more Godly qualities. Every believer is on a journey towards God, the destination being the return to Him. But it is the spiritual journey that is important – a journey of the soul to become closer to God. This journey needs planning and hard work. It is a journey beset with many perils and only help from Allah can allow the human being to advance in this journey.

Allamah Tabatabai says about this journey:

This [spiritual] journey is called by the gnostic as sayr wa sulūkSulūk means to traverse the path and sayr means to view the characteristics and prominent features of the stages and stations on the way. The provisions (zād) required for this spiritual journey consist of spiritual and ascetic practices (riyādhāt) to discipline the soul. Since relinquishing material attachments is very difficult, the traveler begins to cut the binding chains of attachments to the realm of multiplicity little by little. (Stages of Spiritual Journey, ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī)

The starting point of this journey is the state of wakefulness, known as ‘yaqzah’. It is a state where the human being wakes up from negligence and heedlessness. The state of yaqzah includes a refocus on the aim of life, awareness of the obstacles in fulfilling that aim, and a desire and plan to overcome the obstacles. Two other states form an important part of this journey: self-monitoring (murāqabah) and self-examination (muhāsiba). These must be practised on a regular basis for the soul to progress in this journey. Careful but kind attention must be paid to the soul as it travels. 

The journey also requires practical steps to discipline the soul. This includes – among other things – eating and sleeping less, fasting for three days of the month, getting up for the night prayer, performing long sajdahs, and spending time in contemplation. The thread running through all these steps is the constant remembrance of Allah and the keen realization of the sorrow of separation. Small and simple steps in this journey help the soul begin the journey towards God and then keep advancing.

Human life is at a loss if there is no attempt made to travel spiritually towards God. The inner journey must accompany outer actions and knowledge. Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tehrani says in his introduction to the book Kernel of the Kernel, ‘To deprive the heart and the inward of spiritual nourishment emanating from the Invisible World, and of Divine rays of Heavenly Beauty and Majesty, and to content oneself to cruise through books, libraries, schools, and courses of study or teaching even at the highest level, amounts to satisfying the needs of only one faculty and leaving higher faculties unnurtured. (Editor’s Introduction, Kernel of the Kernel).

May the Almighty grant us the tawfīq to advance in the spiritual journey towards Him, especially in this blessed month of Ramadan, when we are beginning to observe the holiest Nights of Qadr. Please continue to pray for the relief of Palestinian brethren from the brutal occupation and persecution.Sources: Shahid Murtadha Mutahharī, Light within me; Sayyidah Iram-Zahra Zaidi, Spiritual Journeying in the words of Shia mystics; Mohammad Ali Shomali, Practical Instructions for Spiritual Journey.