Reflection No. 6:17 on Q 6:36 – Those who answer the call

إِنَّمَا يَسْتَجِيبُ الَّذِينَ يَسْمَعُونَ
Innamā yastajībul-ladhīna yasma‘ūn
Only those who hear can answer.
(Sūratul An‘ām, No.6, Āyat 36)

When the Holy Prophet (s) was distressed that people would not accept his call inviting them to worship One God, Almighty Allah reassures him that many people do not actually hear him. They may hear with the physical ears. But human beings have inner ears also. These respond to the truth. These ears incline towards what is naturally right and absorb wisdom and virtue. Some people lose this inner hearing and are not aware of their deafness. In fact, the losing of inner senses applies to all other senses as well. The Quran says about such people; Deaf, dumb, blind – and they cannot turn back (Q 2:18).

Just as the human being has a physical body with which to interact with matter in the world it has an immaterial body through which it interacts with other means of existence. This immaterial body also has eyes and ears. Shaykh Muhammad Saeed Bahmanpour in his book Towards Eternal Life says; ‘Most people cannot use their immaterial senses in this world and only become aware of them at death. However, many people do use these powers, although without realizing it. There are some who see God’s signs in everything around them, others who bring faith on hearing the verses of God’s revelation, and others who learn lasting lessons from the experiences of former generations; all this occurs because a part of their immaterial (malakūtī) intellect is active.’ (pp. 22-23)

To be able to hear with the ears of the soul allows a person to:
– To answer the caller when he calls towards God
– connect with what appeals to the natural instinct of the human being
– hear that which is most important for its continuous tranquil existence
– live a life of depth and meaningfulness
– be alert for sounds that help it grow towards perfection

The ability to hear with the inner ears is natural. But it can be weakened and even sealed. On the other hand it can be enhanced such that the person is constantly hearing that which others may be deaf to. These are not imaginary sounds but sounds that are beyond the material. Imam Ali (a), the most truly alive person in all his outer and inner senses, talks about the experience of giving ghusl to the body of the Holy Prophet (s); I undertook his washing (may God bless him and his household) while the angels were my helpers. The house and its threshold wailed. While one group [of the angels] descended, another group ascended, their moans ringing incessantly in my ears. They blessed him till we buried him in his grave. (Nahjul Balāgha; Sermon 197)

Weakening or enhancing the inner ears depends entirely on the human being himself. Constant stubbornness and acts of disobedience cast a covering over these ears. Rejecting words of wisdom that originate in reason and sincere virtue dull the senses of the soul. It is thus that a seal is cast, not stemming from the command of Allah but actually initiated by their own actions.

Recite this verse to inspire yourself to really listen, to listen with the ears of the heart. You will find your heart inclining towards the words of truth, yearning for them. It can become a habit, one that will not only strengthen your inner ears but also illuminate your life in many ways. It is the only way to answer His call.

Sources:
Imam Ali bin Abu Talib, Nahjul Balāgha;
Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūne;
Muhammad Saeed Bahmanpour, Towards Eternal Life.