By Kathy Keary
Part 12. The full series is here: The Contemplative Spirit of Islam.
Our focus now turns to Muhammad’s second mystical experience, the Night Journey. The Qur’an recounts how the Servant of God, Muhammad, traveled in a single night from Mecca to Jerusalem where he ascending into heaven.
After ascending through seven levels of heaven, Muhammad experienced an immense yearning to soar higher to come closer to God. He complied with the still, small voice urging him to abandon his ego and become love. On the wings of love, he was able to complete his ascension. — Jamal Rahman calls attention to two key characteristics of this experience that inform the spiritual journey.
In this article, we will look at the first characteristic, the value of the experience of love. We are only able to reach our highest state through love. The world was created out of the unbounded love of our God. The Qur’ān states, “Allāh has made in service to you all that is in the heavens and on earth and made His Bounties flow to you in abundant measure, seen and unseen (Sūrah Luqmān 31:20). Rahman concludes: “Love is the cause and essence of everything” (Rahman, 111).
The 13th-century Sufi mystic, Rumi, asserted that we know little of what love really is. Be moved by his words describing the reality of love:
it arrives complete
like the moon in the window. …
love is the sea of not-being
and there intellect drowns. …
this is the shoreless sea;
here swimming ends
always in drowning.
The garden of love is green without limit
and yields many fruits other than sorrow or joy.
Love is beyond either condition:
without spring, without autumn, it is always fresh (Rahman, 112).
Rumi spoke of our intense longing to kiss and be kissed by our Creator. Rahman explains: “All desires are really for that Absolute Mystery, obscure and veiled.” God is the source of this compelling desire. Rumi’s profound insight (Rahman, 113) finds a dwelling place in his eloquence:
It is He who suffers His absence in me,
Who through me cries out to Himself.
Love’s most strange, holy mystery —
We are intimate beyond belief.
We refer you to our article written from a Christian perspective, It’s All About the Kiss. As you will see, the themes that appear in a study of the contemplative aspects of Islam find a home in Christianity as well.
Just expressing one’s love for God will always fall short of true fulfillment. Rahman instructs that we need to expand the spaciousness within us to hold this limitless love. He suggests a two-prong approach: “loving oneself continuously and loving the creation of the Beloved – one’s fellow beings, the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms, all that is of God.” In his profound wisdom, Rahman elaborates:
By loving yourself, you expand the capacity within to hold love for others. You become aware that all outer relationships are a reflection of the inner relationship you have with yourself. How you bond with yourself is how you will bond with others; how you love yourself is how you will love others (Rahman 113).
We honor our Maker by honoring his creation through our acts of love and service. Just like the sentiment expressed in Matthew 25, when we act with kindness toward the vulnerable, we are extending compassion to the Creator. We refer you to our article written from a Christian perspective, Out of Contemplation Grows Action. As you compare these two articles, the similarity between Christianity and Islam in this regard is clear.
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The Qur’ān promises that at the end of time, if we lead a righteous, loving life, we will be reunited with the Ultimate Love. Our hearts desire will be fulfilled as we find peace in the presence of the Love that truly satisfies our deepest longing.
Next week we will continue our reflection on the First Pillar of Islam by exploring how the Night Journey speaks to the importance of working equally in the visible and invisible worlds.
Rahman, Jamal. The Fragrance of Faith: The Enlightened Heart of Islam. Bath, England: The Book Foundation, 2004.
[Kathy Keary, a Precious Blood Companion and spiritual director, holds a master’s degree in theological studies and is a graduate of the Atchison Benedictine’s Sophia Center’s Souljourners Program, an intense study of spirituality and spiritual direction. Kathy believes that the divine is present and active in all of life and encourages others to be awakened to the God in all including the divine within. She enjoys accompanying others on their journey to wholeness discovering the person they were created to be.]
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