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Society is filled with imagery of that which is not real – whether artificial personalities in media, the latest celebrity gossip, fake images in advertisements, or fictional stories in film and on television. Is life just about filling one’s mind with these illusions? Or can we awaken from all this and direct our consciousness towards the ultimate reality? 

Every human being is in search of peace and tranquility. But where is one to find it? It seems every day in our lives we are confronted with more problems and more worries. Studies have shown almost half of all people find their job extremely stressful, many hate their boss or can’t stand their coworkers, and others call in sick to avoid work.1National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, 1999. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/99-101/. And after working long hours, many people find only more life stressors awaiting them at home with increased rates of dysfunctional marriages, abusive relationships, and overwhelming financial obligations. Many turn to alcohol to ‘drown out their sorrows’. People desperately begin to pursue frequent vacations to escape life’s stresses and find a serene place of comfort, but they find themselves returning to their usual life even more disgruntled and irritable than when they left.

The medical literature indicates that as such stress accumulates it may be associated with a wide variety of negative health outcomes including hypertension, diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke, and even cancer.2See for instance Byles J et al. Psychological distress and comorbid physical conditions: disease or disability? Depression and Anxiety (2014) 31:524-532. This begins a vicious cycle, as chronic illnesses themselves are one of the leading causes of stress, pushing an individual into psychological dysfunction, clinical depression, anxiety disorder, and so on. One looks out at news in the world to find only more disheartening events including murders, rape, warfare, ongoing poverty and afflictions. How can one possibly find contentment in all this?

Of course, the reality is inescapable: stress, hardship and even calamity cannot be eliminated from life. The Qur’an characterizes it as a necessary feature of our existence, “Verily We have created the human being in a state of constant toil and struggle” (Qur’an 90:4) and indicates that suffering is not without purpose. We can’t get rid of stress, but here’s the good news – we don’t need to. Our contentment and happiness does not depend on occurrences in the world around us, but rather contentment is something we carry inside. The Qur’an says, “Those who have faith, their hearts find comfort in the remembrance of God. Verily, in the remembrance of God (Dhikr), do hearts find rest” (Qur’an 13:28). The Qur’an here refers to the Islamic concept of Dhikr – the remembrance of God, thinking of the Divine, reflecting on our Creator. The real source of our misery and discomfort is not the daily occurrences that irritate us, but the failure to actualize a life we were meant to live. The Qur’an states, “Whoever turns away from my remembrance (Dhikr) suffers a miserable constrained life” (Qur’an 20:124). In his famous work on Dhikr entitled Wabil al-Sayyib, the renowned Muslim theologian Ibn al-Qayyim (d.751H) describes this beautifully as follows:

“In the heart, there is an emptiness and a need which nothing can satisfy except the remembrance of God. When remembrance becomes the watchword of the heart, then the servant continuously remembers God. Wherever he is, the tongue will follow. This is the remembrance that fills that emptiness and satisfies that need. He who practices it is rich without possessions, honoured without followers, and revered without rank.  One who neglects it is, by contrast, poor with all his wealth, abased with all his rank and power, worthless with all his followers.” 3Ibn al-Qayyim, The Invocation of God (English translation of Wabil al-Sayyib) by Fitzgerald and Slitine. The Islamic Texts Society. p81

Ibn al-Qayyim also points out that Dhikr is the purpose of every single act of worship. The Qur’an states, “Establish prayer for my remembrance (Dhikr)” (Qur’an 20:14). In fact, Dhikr is the key ingredient without which an act of worship becomes hollow and meaningless, as the hypocrites are those who pray but hardly make dhikr (4:142) as their thoughts rarely turn to God.4This is the litmus test that one uses to scrutinize the sincerity of one’s own faith. Am I a person who truly engages in the remembrance of God in my life and my acts of worship? Or do I go through the motions of prayer forgetting to reflect on the One to whom I am praying? Indeed, it is only logical that remembrance is the natural expression of sincere love – a person who is separated from a beloved family member, will think of them continuously, and will notice things that remind them of their beloved. Surely, a heart that loves God would be filled with thoughts of God at every moment.

 We are sentient conscious beings, and our consciousness is a vast arena that we can fill with what we choose. Our emotional wellbeing and contentment depends on how we preoccupy our consciousness. In every moment of our lives, we can choose to see things as a trivial mundane occurrence bereft of any significance, or we can see it as an important step in our journey towards God.

We can choose to be spiritually alive, or spiritually dead. The Prophet Muhammad said, “The contrast between the one who engages in the remembrance of God versus the one who does not, is like the difference between the living and the dead” (Sahih Bukhari). Indeed, the Qur’an refers to the spiritual life when it tells us to “respond to the call of God and His Messenger when they call you to that which will grant you life” (Qur’an 8:24). Without meaningfulness, without spirituality, without our lives being about something greater, what does it even mean to be alive? Is being alive nothing more than a blob of protoplasm executing biological functions of consumption and excretion – is that all it means to be alive? Or is it about the life of our souls?

The Qur’an instructs us to orient our consciousness towards the Divine. When mind and soul are focused on God, all matters become conducive to one’s spiritual and moral growth. The Prophet Muhammad said, “The situation of the believer is amazing, because no matter what happens the outcome is always beneficial for him. And that is only the case with the true believer. If something good transpires, he turns to God in gratitude, so he benefits. And if something bad befalls him, he endures and turns to God in patience, and so he benefits as well” (Sahih Muslim).

It is rather remarkable to think of a person who can actualize this statement and render every life occurrence into a spiritual. This is certainly the optimal state of comfort one can find themselves in. As Ibn al-Qayyim writes, “To love God, to know Him intimately, to remember Him constantly, to find peace and rest in Him, to make Him alone the [ultimate] object of love, fear, hope and trust; to base one’s act on His control of servants’ cares, aspirations and will- such is this world’s Heaven, and such is a blessing with which no other blessing can compare.”5Ibn al-Qayyim, The Invocation of God. p59

The reign of Ghaflah

 When human beings recognize the temporary nature of this worldly life, they focus their mind on their moral duty towards others and their spiritual journey towards God. Other human beings become lost in a tsunami of distractions, play, entertainment, too busy with pleasure to contemplate purpose. This mentality is heedlessness, or Ghaflah in arabic. Living in a state of heedlessness, and chasing after the pleasures and treasures of this worldly life is devoid of value, as the Qur’an instructs us: Know that the life of this world is only play and amusement, vanity, boasting with one another, and rivalry in wealth and progeny (Qur’an 57:20).

The average American now watches approximately 5 hours of television a day 6The Cross-Platform Report. Nielsen. March 2014. http://penngood.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/nielsen-cross-platform-report-march-2014.pdf , which would amount to around 16 years of one’s entire life (probably 4 years of which would just be commercials). A person lives only to anticipate the next blockbuster film or catch-up on missed television episodes. Days pass by in a person’s life as a blur of moments spent engrossed in the fictitious story of someone else’s life – tales crafted by a massive multi-billion dollar entertainment industry.

The lives of entertainers themselves becomes the obsession for many, seen as superhuman beings who have achieved true success and happiness through money and fame.7The benchmark for success is also defined entirely in terms of hedonistic desires. Chris Hedges writes, “The highest achievements in a celebrity culture are wealth, sexual conquest, and fame. It does not matter how these are obtained. These values, as Sigmund Feud understood, are illusory. They are hollow. They leave us chasing vapors. They urge us towards a life of narcissistic self-absorption. They tell us that existence is to be centered on the practices and desires of the self rather than common good.” (Hedges, Chris. Empire of Illusion, pp32-33) People are compelled to follow every single detail of celebrity gossip. Artificial personalities, fabricated dramas, fictitious stories all come to dominate our lives and push us from reality into a world of illusions. The Pullitzer Prize-winning journalist, Chris Hedges, describes this moral descent of society in his work, Empire of Illusion, elaborating on the growth of celebrity culture. Chris Hedges writes:

“We all have gods, Martin Luther said, it is just a question of which ones. And in American society our gods are celebrities. Religious belief and practice are commonly transferred to the adoration of celebrities. Our culture builds temples to celebrities the way the Romans did for divine emperors, ancestors, and household gods. We are a de facto polytheistic society. We engage in the same kind of primitive beliefs as older polytheistic cultures. In celebrity culture, the object is to get as close as possible to the celebrity. Relics of celebrities are coveted as magical talismans. Those who can touch the celebrity or own a relic of the celebrity hope for a transference of celebrity power. They hope for magic.” 8Hedges, Chris. Empire of Illusion. p17

Celebrity worship has reached an astounding level – people will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to endure dozens of plastic surgeries to look exactly like the celebrity they worship.9”The annual survey by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) shows that 13 percent of facial plastic surgeons surveyed saw an increase in requests for celebrity procedures in 2014, up from 3 percent in 2013 and 7 percent in 2012.” [Source]  They will travel from across the world to attend events in which they may get a glimpse of a celebrity. One can hardly find a more apt response to this situation than the statement of Ibn al-Qayyim, “Such is the ego that if you do not occupy it with what is true, it will occupy you with what is false. And such is the heart that if the love of God does not reside in it, the love of creatures will, without fail.” 10Ibn al-Qayyim. The Invocation of God p107. One cannot help but notice the striking concordance between Ibn al-Qayyim’s description of the ramifications of heedlessness and Chris Hedges’ description of contemporary society. Juxtaposed with one another, it almost seems as though the two authors are in direct dialogue despite being seven centuries apart.  Indeed, the exaltation of creatures has replaced God in the religion of large segments of society, as human beings desperately chase after something to make life seem slightly less pointless.11To quotes Hedges again, “Today we are ruled by icons of gross riches and physical beauty that blare and flash from television, cinema, and computer screens. People knelt before God and the church in the Middle Ages. We flock hungrily to the glamorous crumbs that fall to us from glossy magazines, talk and entertainment shows, and reality television.” (Hedges, Chris. Empire of Illusion. p.26).

The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said, “Verily, it is a sign that God has turned away from a servant, when He preoccupies him with that which is of no benefit” (Hilya Abu Nu’aym). In our newspapers, celebrity gossip occupies the front page headlines while initiatives to help impoverished and destitute people are typically relegated to the backpages. The obsession with entertainment comes at the expense of attention given to solving real world problems. Forgetting our relationship with God, we have forgotten our sacred duty to help one another. “Be not like those who forgot Allah, so He made them forget themselves,” the Qur’an says. 12Qur’an 59:19 It is a “cult of distraction” which Chris Hedges notes “deflects the moral questions arising from mounting social injustice, growing inequalities, costly imperial walls, economic collapse, and political corruption.” 13Hedges, Chris. Empire of Illusion. p.38.

This is precisely the result of heedlessness. The more we become preoccupied with illusion, the less we can see reality. We can no longer distinguish between fact and fiction, truth and falsehood. We can no longer notice the suffering of others with our face buried deep in a magazine story about a celebrity break-up or scandal. We are, in a sense, nothing more than the thoughts with which we choose to preoccupy ourselves. And a colossal amount of money is invested into preoccupying our minds with that which “conceals the meaninglessness and emptiness of our own lives.” 14Hedges, Chris. Empire of Illusion. p38 Maybe if we could awaken ourselves from the slumber of heedlessness, we would actually have a chance to ask where we are headed in life? What will become of me when I die?

Seeing things as they are

The Qur’an indicates that living a life of heedlessness clouds a person’s moral and spiritual faculties. The Qur’an states, “Do they not travel through the earth, learn with their hearts, and listen with their ears? For verily, it is not the eyes which grow blind, but rather it is the heart of one’s soul which grows blind” (Qur’an 22:46). Ibn al-Qayyim describes the situation as follows:
“If heedlessness dominates most of someone’s time, the tarnish on his heart grows in proportion. And if the heart is tarnished, it ceases to reflect things as they are. Therefore, it sees the false as true and the true as false. As the tarnish grows thicker, the heart grows dimmer, until it no longer reflects reality at all. And if this tarnish builds up, blackens and envelops the heart completely, the heart’s reflective quality and perception will be totally lost, so that it will neither accept what is true nor reject what is false. Such a fate is the worst that can befall it.” 15Ibn al-Qayyim, The Invocation of God. p47

It is worth pausing for a moment on these words and asking, what does it mean for perception to be diminished as the spiritual heart is tarnished? Is Islam suggesting that our spirituality changes the way we look at the world around us? Can remembrance of God alter our sensorial perception of reality?

Perhaps the most explicit proof in this regard comes from the following tradition of the Prophet Muhammad where he quotes God Almighty as saying, “My servant continues to draw closer to Me with voluntary acts of worship until he becomes beloved to Me. And when I love him, I become the hearing with which he hears, and the seeing with which he sees” (Sahih Bukhari). On the basis of other scriptural evidences, Imam al-Shawkani (d.1250H) concludes that this hadith means, “God supports a servant’s faculties with His Divine Light such that the paths of guidance become intuitively obvious and the allure of worldly seductions vanishes.”16al-Shawkani. Qatr al-Wali ‘ala hadith al-Wali, Beirut: Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi, pp.433-435. He writes: الذي يظهر لي في معنى هذا الحديث القدسي، أنه إمداد الرب سبحانه لهذه الأعضاء بنوره الذي تلوح به طرائق الهداية وتنقشع عنه سحب الغواية. وقد نطق القرآن العظيم بأن الله هو نور السموات والأرض. Similarly, the Prophet Muhammad stated, “Beware the spiritual insight (firasah) of the believer, for he observes by the Light of God” (Sunan al-Tirmidhi).17Hadith declared authentic due to extrinsic factors (hasan li-ghayrihi) by Ibn al-Qayyim (d.751H), Nur al-Din al-Haythami (d.807H), Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (d.911H), al-Shawkani (d.1250H), Ahmad Shakir (d.1377H).

Ibn al-Qayyim explains that light is of two kinds – physical light and spiritual light. Moreover, just as physical light is needed to adequately visualize our surroundings in this world, the Qur’an repeatedly describes spirituality and faith in God as a light that enables one to journey through this world with a proper recognition of reality. “Is there any comparison between the one who was dead and We gave him life and a light to walk amongst people versus the one trapped in darkness never to escape therefrom? As such, the behaviour of the faithless seems alluring to them” (6:122).

The Qur’an also explains that revelation brings people “from darkness into light” (14:1), that rejecting faith plunges a person into darkness so heavy that “one can scarcely see their hand in front of their face” (24:40), and that in the afterlife the believers’ spiritual light will become physical light (66:8,57:12) while spiritual blindness will become physical blindness (20:1246-6). 18The Qur’an says: And whoever turns away from My remembrance – indeed, he will have a depressed life, and We will resurrect him on the Day of Judgement blind. He will say, “My Lord, why have you raised me blind while I used to possess sight? God will say, “Thus did Our signs come to you, and you neglected them; and thus will you this Day be neglected.” (20:124-6).

Abundant as the scriptural citations are, one may naturally wonder, how can this be the so? How can one who knows differently, see differently? Does how we think and what we understand really affect how we see? Can two people witness the same thing and yet, somehow perceive it very differently? Are our sights dependent on our thoughts?

Do your eyes always perceive reality?

What do you ‘see’? Is the image moving? Do your eyes always perceive reality?

Upon closer reflection, this certainly seems to be the case. Sometimes we don’t notice something in our visual field because we are not paying attention to what is important. This phenomenon is called inattentional blindness and is best demonstrated in the now famous invisible gorilla experiment. Sometimes we see something, but we misconstrue what we are seeing because of what we want to see, as in the case of many optical illusions. The mental representation does not conform to reality.

Subtle pneumothorax. Wayne State University - Chest Teaching File.

What do you ‘see’? Subtle pneumothorax. Wayne State University – Chest Teaching File.

Sometimes we don’t know how to interpret or evaluate what we are seeing, because we can’t recognize what is meaningful. An experienced radiologist may instantaneously identify a patient’s punctured lung with one glance at the chest X-ray, whereas a person who has read several dozen textbooks on the subject may still not notice the same abnormality despite studying the image for hours.19For an interesting study of this phenomenon refer to Bertram R, et al. The Effect of Expertise on Eye Movement Behaviour in Medical Image Perception. PLOS ONE, 2013. Note that even amongst radiologists, it is well known that those who trained in the earlier era of greater reliance on plain film radiography have a much greater sensitivity to subtle radiographic abnormalities than their younger colleagues who trained in the era of abundant computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. It isn’t a matter of different knowledge, but the way in which one’s mind has learned to perceive what is meaningful. The visual data that confronts both individuals is exactly the same. But data alone isn’t knowledge without understanding what is meaningful, and recognizing the signs.20Similarly, show an electrocardiogram tracing to the average person and they will notice nothing more than a squiggly line on a paper, but show the same tracing to a cardiologist and they may be alarmed to see a patient suffering from a fatal elevation of potassium in their blood Human beings seek understanding and meaning, searching for signs in their daily encounters. Our spiritual disorder can blind us from seeing the signs. As the Qur’an states, “How countless are the signs in the Heavens and the Earth which they simply pass by, turning away.” (Qur’an 12:105).21Ibn Taymiyyah writes on the concept of spiritual perception: فمن علم ان الروح تحس بما لا يحس به البدن ، و ان من الناس من يحس بروحه و بدنه ما لا يحسه غيره من الناس – توسع له طرق الحس… “So whoever knows that the soul perceives that which the body does not and that there are people who perceive with their souls and bodies that which others cannot – then such a person experiences an expansion in their avenues of perception” (Dar Ta’arrud, vol3, p 254)

From Ghaflah to Dhikr

Recognition is an interesting concept. An old acquaintance whom you haven’t seen for years may walk right up to you at a gathering, and because you don’t recognize them you would say you didn’t see them.22Incidentally, there is a condition called prosopagnosia wherein one can see faces but not recognize them due to damage to the fusiform face area in the temporal lobe of the brain. If we can’t recognize what we see, it’s like we didn’t see it at all. The contrast between dhikr and ghaflah is somewhat analogous. The spiritually observant human can see past the distractions of this worldly life and recognize that this short existence represents a very precious opportunity to come closer to God by caring for others.

When one looks at a plate of food one is reminded of the immense blessings of God, the value of gratitude to Him, and the need to donate the less fortunate who never see such a meal. When one sees the beauty of the natural world, one beholds the magnificence of God’s Creation. “Those who always remember God, whether standing, sitting, or lying down on their sides, and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth, saying: “Our Lord! You have not created all this without purpose – glory to You! Grant us salvation from the penalty of the Fire” (Qur’an 3:191). When one sees pain on the face of another human being, one sees an opportunity to serve as a vehicle of God’s Divine Mercy by granting relief. Caring for one’s parents and family is recognized as a means to God’s paradise. When one sees an orphan, one recognizes an opportunity to be in the company of the Messenger of God in paradise.23The Prophet Muhammad said, “I and the one who looks after an orphan are like this (together) in Paradise”, and he joined his forefinger and middle finger together. (Sahih Bukhari)

Everything one sees reminds one of God, until a person witnesses God in every moment, entering a perpetual state of worship. This is referred to by the Prophet Muhammad as ihsan (excellence), which he explained means, “to worship God as though you see Him” (Sahih Muslim). When one sees a path that lead to sin and indulging one’s lower carnal desires, one immediately recognizes the warning signs and redirects the focus of their consciousness towards God. The more spiritually adept, the more readily one sees the signs, just as it is with any expertise. A trained martial artist sees the warning signs that an opponent is about to throw a punch, a chess master notices impending defeat with one glance at the chessboard, a life-guard notices the warning signs that someone is in distress, and the experienced sailor immediately recognizes an imminent storm.

But not everyone sees the warning signs – and that’s true with life as well. God says, “I will divert from my signs those who magnify their egos baselessly. And if they were to see every single sign in existence, they still would not believe in them…” (Qur’an 7:146). You won’t see something if you don’t know how to look for it, or if you are unwilling to learn. Attention, representation, interpretation, and evaluation are all involved in the perceptual process but heedlessness obscures all of this so that questions of importance do not even surface in one’s mind. Without insight, a person may be blind to their own personality flaws, poor moral choices, and miserable spiritual state.  Too heedless to search for meaning in life, the seductive pleasures of the materialistic world may seem to hold the mirage of happiness. On the other hand, the person who directs their consciousness towards the Divine, contemplates the transcendent realm, and reflects on their personal journey to grow – such a person awakens from heedlessness and attains spiritual perception.

The Prophet Muhammad said, “When light enters one’s heart, there is an expansion and an awakening.” The companions asked, “What are its signs?” The Prophet replied, “Turning towards the eternal abode, turning away from the abode of illusions, and preparing for death before it arrives” (Ibn al-Mubarak).24The Arabic reads (ذا دخل النور القلب انفسح وانشرح قالوا فهل لذلك علم يعرف به قال نعم الإنابة إلى دار الخلود والتجافي عن دار الغرور والاستعداد للموت قبل نزول الموت).Reported by Ibn al-Mubarak, al-Zuhd. vol. 1, p. 106, and Al-Bayhaqi, al-Asma’i wa’l-Sifat, vol. 1, p. 258. Ibn al-Qayyim cites it as evidence in Wabil al-Sayyib.

References   [ + ]

1. National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, 1999. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/99-101/.
2. See for instance Byles J et al. Psychological distress and comorbid physical conditions: disease or disability? Depression and Anxiety (2014) 31:524-532.
3. Ibn al-Qayyim, The Invocation of God (English translation of Wabil al-Sayyib) by Fitzgerald and Slitine. The Islamic Texts Society. p81
4. This is the litmus test that one uses to scrutinize the sincerity of one’s own faith. Am I a person who truly engages in the remembrance of God in my life and my acts of worship? Or do I go through the motions of prayer forgetting to reflect on the One to whom I am praying?
5. Ibn al-Qayyim, The Invocation of God. p59
6. The Cross-Platform Report. Nielsen. March 2014. http://penngood.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/nielsen-cross-platform-report-march-2014.pdf 
7. The benchmark for success is also defined entirely in terms of hedonistic desires. Chris Hedges writes, “The highest achievements in a celebrity culture are wealth, sexual conquest, and fame. It does not matter how these are obtained. These values, as Sigmund Feud understood, are illusory. They are hollow. They leave us chasing vapors. They urge us towards a life of narcissistic self-absorption. They tell us that existence is to be centered on the practices and desires of the self rather than common good.” (Hedges, Chris. Empire of Illusion, pp32-33)
8. Hedges, Chris. Empire of Illusion. p17
9. ”The annual survey by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) shows that 13 percent of facial plastic surgeons surveyed saw an increase in requests for celebrity procedures in 2014, up from 3 percent in 2013 and 7 percent in 2012.” [Source]
10. Ibn al-Qayyim. The Invocation of God p107. One cannot help but notice the striking concordance between Ibn al-Qayyim’s description of the ramifications of heedlessness and Chris Hedges’ description of contemporary society. Juxtaposed with one another, it almost seems as though the two authors are in direct dialogue despite being seven centuries apart. 
11. To quotes Hedges again, “Today we are ruled by icons of gross riches and physical beauty that blare and flash from television, cinema, and computer screens. People knelt before God and the church in the Middle Ages. We flock hungrily to the glamorous crumbs that fall to us from glossy magazines, talk and entertainment shows, and reality television.” (Hedges, Chris. Empire of Illusion. p.26).
12. Qur’an 59:19
13. Hedges, Chris. Empire of Illusion. p.38.
14. Hedges, Chris. Empire of Illusion. p38
15. Ibn al-Qayyim, The Invocation of God. p47
16. al-Shawkani. Qatr al-Wali ‘ala hadith al-Wali, Beirut: Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi, pp.433-435. He writes: الذي يظهر لي في معنى هذا الحديث القدسي، أنه إمداد الرب سبحانه لهذه الأعضاء بنوره الذي تلوح به طرائق الهداية وتنقشع عنه سحب الغواية. وقد نطق القرآن العظيم بأن الله هو نور السموات والأرض.
17. Hadith declared authentic due to extrinsic factors (hasan li-ghayrihi) by Ibn al-Qayyim (d.751H), Nur al-Din al-Haythami (d.807H), Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (d.911H), al-Shawkani (d.1250H), Ahmad Shakir (d.1377H).
18. The Qur’an says: And whoever turns away from My remembrance – indeed, he will have a depressed life, and We will resurrect him on the Day of Judgement blind. He will say, “My Lord, why have you raised me blind while I used to possess sight? God will say, “Thus did Our signs come to you, and you neglected them; and thus will you this Day be neglected.” (20:124-6).
19. For an interesting study of this phenomenon refer to Bertram R, et al. The Effect of Expertise on Eye Movement Behaviour in Medical Image Perception. PLOS ONE, 2013. Note that even amongst radiologists, it is well known that those who trained in the earlier era of greater reliance on plain film radiography have a much greater sensitivity to subtle radiographic abnormalities than their younger colleagues who trained in the era of abundant computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. It isn’t a matter of different knowledge, but the way in which one’s mind has learned to perceive what is meaningful.
20. Similarly, show an electrocardiogram tracing to the average person and they will notice nothing more than a squiggly line on a paper, but show the same tracing to a cardiologist and they may be alarmed to see a patient suffering from a fatal elevation of potassium in their blood
21. Ibn Taymiyyah writes on the concept of spiritual perception: فمن علم ان الروح تحس بما لا يحس به البدن ، و ان من الناس من يحس بروحه و بدنه ما لا يحسه غيره من الناس – توسع له طرق الحس… “So whoever knows that the soul perceives that which the body does not and that there are people who perceive with their souls and bodies that which others cannot – then such a person experiences an expansion in their avenues of perception” (Dar Ta’arrud, vol3, p 254)
22. Incidentally, there is a condition called prosopagnosia wherein one can see faces but not recognize them due to damage to the fusiform face area in the temporal lobe of the brain.
23. The Prophet Muhammad said, “I and the one who looks after an orphan are like this (together) in Paradise”, and he joined his forefinger and middle finger together. (Sahih Bukhari)
24. The Arabic reads (ذا دخل النور القلب انفسح وانشرح قالوا فهل لذلك علم يعرف به قال نعم الإنابة إلى دار الخلود والتجافي عن دار الغرور والاستعداد للموت قبل نزول الموت).Reported by Ibn al-Mubarak, al-Zuhd. vol. 1, p. 106, and Al-Bayhaqi, al-Asma’i wa’l-Sifat, vol. 1, p. 258. Ibn al-Qayyim cites it as evidence in Wabil al-Sayyib.
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