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(Sura 6: verse 74 to 79) - On seeing beyond forms

 Added March 23, 2004

Sura 6, verses 74 to 79 read as follows:

6:74  Lo! Abraham said to his father Azar: "Takest thou idols for gods? For I see thee and thy people in manifest error."

6:75  So also did We show Abraham the power and the laws of the heavens and the earth, that he might (with understanding) have certitude.

6:76  When the night covered him over, He saw a star: He said: "This is my Lord." But when it set, He said: "I love not those that set."

6:77  When he saw the moon rising in splendour, he said: "This is my Lord." But when the moon set, He said: "unless my Lord guide me, I shall surely be among those who go astray."   

6:78  When he saw the sun rising in splendour, he said: "This is my Lord; this is the greatest (of all)." But when the sun set, he said: "O my people! I am indeed free from your (guilt) of giving partners to God.

6:79  "For me, I have set my face, firmly and truly, towards Him Who created the heavens and the earth, and never shall I give partners to God."

Abraham's father was named 'Tarakh'. He is said to have passed away before Abraham's birth. Azar is believed to be the patriarchal or tribal father under whose guardianship Abraham was raised.

These verses describe the spiritual vision and state of certainty granted to Abraham as a gift from Allah. In a series of revelatory or intellectual unveilings, the Reality behind existence - it's true nature - was manifested and he arrived at a state of understanding and certainty that most humans will not reach except after the blowing of the trumpet of light (that will illuminate and reveal the true nature of reality).

This spiritual journey is described in the form of a series of events in which Abraham(a.s.) penetrates through the frozen forms and laws of the world to perceive the source of existence. He first turns away from the materialistic, frozen spirituality of his people who have tried to give material form (idols) to that which is beyond all form and who have thus transformed spirituality into idolatry.

Then begins a series of perceptions which take Abraham beyond all forms. He perceives three heavenly lights each more intense than the previous one but each one is subject to laws and to time since each one sets (each is demarcated and limited and subject to natural laws). So then he turns to face what is beyond each appearance. True knowledge has a vastness that is beyond any narrowness - in other words true knowledge transforms the one who seeks it, and with each transformation the seeker is prepared for even deeper and more vast knowledge. Just as when Allah grants a revelation to a Prophet or an inspiration to a servant, it prepares the servant for further inspiration, and this goes on endlessly. The gaining of this type of knowledge is like the removal of veils. With each removal you think that now you are truly seeing the essence but the next removal makes you aware that this is not the case.

Abraham in this series of perceptions and unveilings of lights is granted a revelation, an experience that it is only "Allah that is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth". So this series of perceptions is a revelation to Abraham and at the same time it is an instruction to his people who are caught up in worshipping forms - who are trapped in a materialistic outlook where knowledge begins and ends at this lowest level of existence. This is phrased as an instruction, almost as a series of three questions to them (corresponding to the star, moon, and sun) - 'Is this what you worship' - 'is this what you worship' - 'is this what you worship' - can you not penetrate with your mind beyond this level? Are you trapped and confined by the narrowness of your minds and do you in this manner self-limit your knowledge? Are you not aware that the splendor of even the heavenly lights is subsumed by the Source of all light.

So it is at once a revelation to Abraham of the unity of Allah and the veiled and limited nature of this world, and an instruction to Abraham's tribe of their error.

-Irshaad Hussain

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