by Tavis Adibudeen
As we continue our quests in this life, ultimately we are faced with a powerful question that must be answered. What is it that we pursue? What is the goal of our quest? What is the purpose of our adventure called life?
In the numerous pursuits that we enjoy, such as the quest for knowledge, wealth, family, entertainment, etc. are we seeking Allah’s pleasure or simply seeking those worldly objects and accomplishments. Even if we study Islam, many of us seek only to have knowledge of Islam, when the true quest should be for knowledge of Allah.
“To Allah belong the East and the West: Whithersoever you turn, there is the presence of Allah. For Allah is all-Pervading, all-Knowing.”(2:115)
No matter where we find ourselves and no matter what situation we might be in, Allah is All-Knowing. Allah is with us even though we have no realization of it.
“It was We Who created man, and We know what dark suggestions his soul makes to him: for We are nearer to him than (his) jugular vein.” (50:16)
I can, therefore, confidently say that to know Allah is better than knowing anything else. Knowing the One behind the power of the Sun, is superior to knowing and understanding the power of the Sun itself. If in fact Allah pervades all of existence, or rather He is Existence (Al-Hayy) and we are illusory, then to know the reality (Al-Haqq) is more important that to know the illusory (Al-Batil).
When a person becomes a knower (‘arif), he then has a deep yearning desire to seek what he knows. And why should he not seek that which calls him? Why should he not journey to the ultimate Destination (which is the source)? We have this deep seated desire for reunion with our Beloved. Why then should we not seek it?
The pursuits for Islamic knowledge, for worldly achievement, for family life, for political stability and even power are then only tools in our quest for ultimate return (raja’) It is the return that drives us and motivates us.
There was once a man who had a shortage of food in his village. He was a farmer, but no amount of tilling, seeding, and harvesting was sufficient to feed his family and his villagers. The soil was simply not fertile. Finally, the man charged his son with responsibility over the field and set off in search of guidance, for someone, anyone who
could help him to help his people.
The man was older, but I cannot say how old exactly as they did not keep records of such things back then. He was mostly of gray hair, however, and his son was of a mature age, while his other children were not yet mature.
On the night of the full moon, when he would have the most light and not suffer from the piercing rays of the daytime sun, he set off on his quest. His son, wife, and children had expected his return in only a few weeks, but weeks turned into months, and months turned into years.
The man passed rivulets and lakes, pyramids and castles, towns and cities in his quest for answers. Wise old men with large beards and even businessmen were unable to offer solutions to the man. One day, the man came to a village that was particularly drab. The houses were made of mud, the kind of mud that one might find in a dry place. Perhaps they would one day soon give way to the wind if the wind were particularly fierce.
The sand seemed hotter under the feet at this place than in others, and they had no shade from any trees over their town. The man approached a child because he was, at this point, desperate for answers. He asked the child, “Who can tell me how to provide for my village? Your village seems to have nothing and yet somehow you survive!”
The boy pointed to a distant palm tree outside of the town and said, “The man under that tree can tell you, and Allah is enough for us.”
The man traveled to the other side of the town and found a disheveled looking old shaykh under the tree eating dates (though the tree was not a date-palm). The man’s first reaction was to ask the shaykh how he had dates when his town seemed to have none, but instead he did not stray from his purpose.
“How can I provide for my village? We have poor soil, little rain, and no animals. How do you do it?”
The shaykh had to raise his thick eyebrows that seemed to form an awning over his eyes in order to see the man who had disturbed his date-eating. He spoke only these words:
“Return home, my friend, for the sake of Allah.”
The man could not encourage the shaykh to say more, and he now felt bad for disturbing him in the first place.
He left, now more confused than ever. “I might as well return home,” he thought, “for I have failed.”
The man decided to return home, not with hopes of finding food for his village but only to please Allah by reuniting with his family.
When he arrived home, he immediately knew that something was different. There was vegetation wherever he went. It was as if fertility herself had in someway found the town and decided to take up residency. The man ran to his house and found his family sitting outside eating various fruits, vegetables, even meat.
“How is this possible?”
“Allah is enough for us” replied his son. “I asked Allah to help us, but I felt bad to ask Allah without doing something myself. So, I asked mother if she would allow me to go to the university in Damascus. Although I know that you put me in charge of the family, I figured that I could do more for us there than here. For two years I studied agricultural sciences and came to know that by planting different crops during different seasons, the soil would replenish itself, and we would eventually have more to eat. Over time, we came to have so much food that we had to sell some of it so that it would not go to waste. We
then bought sheep and cows for meat and milk. Finally, I thanked Allah for giving me what I had requested and then asked Him for one more thing.”
“What did you ask him?” inquired the man.
“I asked that He give you guidance and return you to us.”
Whatever we pursue elsewhere will not satisfy our true yearnings. Ultimately, it is only our return home (to Allah) that will provide us with what we seek.