The Souls of the Senses
SHAYKH AL-ISLAM IBN TAYMIYYAH, Allah have mercy on him-rendering apt judgment between opposing views on the issue-said that what the sense of hearing apprehends is more general and comprehensive, while what the sense of sight discerns is sounder and more perfect. Thus, the sense of hearing possesses generality and comprehensiveness, covering what is present and what is absent, and what is perceived and what is conceptualized, whereas the sense of sight [furnishes knowledge that] is perfect and sound.
It follows, then, that each of the five senses has a spirit and a soul, which is essentially its share of the heart. There are those whose hearts have no share of [these senses] any more than the wild beasts do. Hence,. in this respect, such people and beasts are comparable. That is why Allah, the All-Powerful, compared these people to cattle-rather them worse. He said: (Or do you really think that most of them even listen or understand? In fact, they are like nothing but cattle. Rather, they are even further astray from Allah’s way!) Surat Al-Furqan, 25:44.
For this reason, Allah has attributed to the disbelievers in His Revelation a deficiency in hearing, sight, and intellect, either because they fail to take advantage of these senses-this being as good as lacking in them-or because the divine attribution of these senses pertains to the hearing, sight, and comprehension of the hearts-which will become evident to them when realities are unveiled [in the Hereafter], as [evidenced by] the statement that the dwellers of Hellfire shall make therein, as recorded in the Quran: (Moreover, they shall say: If only we had listened [to the Quran] or had used our reason [to discern its truth], we would not be among the Companions of the Flaming Fire.) Surat Al-Mulk, 67:10.
In addition, one of the interpretations of the statement of the All-High in the Quran: (Thus you [O Prophet] see them looking [blankly] at you, for they do not see.) Surat Al-A raf, 7:198 is as follows: That is, the disbelievers would look at the physical stature of the Prophet through their outwardly senses, but fail to see his prophetic stature and its significance through the inwardly senses, which is to say, through the eye of the heart.
Another interpretation is that the pronoun [‘they] is referring in this verse to idols, which leaves us to understand it in one of two ways: (1) They are looking metaphorically, for they have no eyes to see; or (2) “looking” (yanzuru) means ‘facing/ as the Arabs say; “Your abode looks at mine,” that is, ‘faces’ it [which would render the meaning of the verse: Thus you [O Prophet] see [the idols] ‘facing you/ but they cannot see.]
The same is true of the sense of hearing, which the disbelievers in the Quran and the Prophet certainly possess-and through which the [divine] proof is established against them. Yet they are said to be lacking it in the sense of the hearing of the heart. For they would hear the Quran with their outwardly hearing, in the sense of cattle that hear nothing of the calling of the shepherd (but mere calls and cries. Deaf, dumb, and blind [in heart]-never shall they understand.) Surat Al-Baqarah, 2:171.
Had they sincerely listened to the Quran with the true soul- that is, the soul of the sense of hearing that resides in the heart-they would surely have had a blessed life that comes from the hearing that is attached to the heart. The deafness and muteness that ails them would have been cured, and they would have saved themselves from the Flaming Fire of Hell, separating from those lacking in hearing and reason.
The Hearing of the Heart
The occurrence of true hearing is the beginning of a blessed life, a life that is the most perfect kind of life in this world. By [this spiritual hearing] the heart obtains its nourishment and its balance, gaining strength and life, and attaining its blessing and its blossom. When it lacks sound nourishment, it turns to fulfilling its need with unwholesome and corrupt nourishment. Thus it fails to attain all its blessings, like the physical body that weakens when fed unwholesome food.
The heart being closer and better linked to physical hearing than to sight, the effect of what is heard transmits quicker to the heart than does what is seen, and the hearing of a beautiful, melodious, and apposite sound may lead one to swoon, which is not likely to occur upon seeing beautiful sights. A sound might have a great effect on the heart even without one’s noticing it-on account of heedlessness. But when one is alone or meditating, its effect is felt. The more a soul, or heart is isolated and cut off from the physical body, the more it is affected by what it has previously heard.
If what is heard has a noble meaning and a melodious sound he heart receives a greater share of its meaning, and delights in it to the fullest, and the soul enjoys its share of the beauty and the melody of the voice and delights in it. Thereby, the enjoyment is doubled and the delight perfected, and a state of profound bliss is attained, transcending to the physical body and perhaps even to others nearby. This does not occur in this world save upon attaining perfection; nor does it occur save upon hearing the Divine Word.
Rapture at the Quran
This transport happens only when the soul is isolated from distractions and is prepared, and the heart encounters the soul of the meaning [of the Divine Speech] and embraces with its full being what is heard, exemplifying therein what the Quran says: (Indeed, in this [Quran] there is most surely a reminder for whomever has a [living] heart or lends [an attentive] ear, with [full] presence [of mind].) Surat Qaf, 50:37. The beauty of the voice of the reciter helps in this encounter so that it is as if one’s heart departs from this world altogether and enters another, and finds delight and a state that is found in nothing else. This state is akin to the state of the people of Paradise. What wonderful nourishment! How wholesome and nurturing!
This [state of bliss] in hearing the Quran is forbidden to hearts nourished on Satanic melody. Indeed, even if such a one finds the Qur’an delightful, it is because its melody may be similar [to the music that one is used to], not because of its special meanings. There is no blessing for the people of Paradise higher than their seeing of their beloved Lord, Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, with their own eyes and hearing His speech. ‘Abdul-lah the son of Imam Ahmad mentions in the book Al-Sunnah a report- concerning which I do not now recall whether it attributes to the Prophet or not-which has it that “When people will hear the Quran on the Day of Resurrection from the All-Merciful, the Mighty and Glorious, it would be as if they had never heard it before.”
When the heart is filled with something, the distinction between the outward and the inward is mitigated so that the ear transmits to the heart what it finds fitting, even if the conveyed sound or the speaker does not intend such a meaning from it. Al-Qushayri said that he heard Abu ‘Abdullah Al-Sulami say: “I visited Abu Uthman Al-Maghribi. A man nearby was drawing water from a well using a pulley. — He said to me: ‘Do you know O Abu Abd Al-Rahman what this pulley says?’ — I said: ‘No.’ — He said: ‘It says: “Allah. Allah.””
The examples of this are many. Once Abu Sulayman Al-Dimashqi passed by a peddler who was saying ‘Ya za’tar barri‘ (wild thyme), but he heard instead ‘isatara birri‘ (Be generous. You shall see My bounty). This spiritual hearing follows the reality of the heart, union with which makes one imagine that he perceived [the very] meaning [by which his heart overwhelmed] regardless of the external sound.
The most perfect hearing, then, is that of one who hears from Allah His Speech-and it is the melody of the lovers and the Beloved. As mentioned in the hadith in Sahih Al-Bukhari that the Messenger of Allah & said, reporting from His Lord, the Blessed and the Exalted:
My servant draws near to me by nothing as much as [what] he does by fulfilling what I have required of him. And my servant continues to draw near to me by doing more than what I have required until I love him. When I love him, I become his hearing by which he hears, his sight by which he sees, his hand by which he strikes, and his leg by which he walks. By Me he. By Me he sees. By Me he strikes forth. And by Me he walks. (Bukhari)
Article provided by Al Jumuah Magazine, a monthly Muslim lifestyle publication, which addresses the religious concerns of Muslim families across the world.
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