A View Counter to the Sufi Philosophy of Cosmic Absorption (Fana Fillah) in Dr Allama Iqbal’s poem ‘Secrets of the Self’ (Asrar-e-Khudi)
by Navid Zaidi
Napoleon said, ‘ I am a thing, not a person. ‘
So, what am I? A thing, or a person?
What do I find when I fix my gaze on my own conscious experience?
I pass from state to state. I am happy, sad, angry, loving and hating. I have wills, desires, emotions, aims and resolutions. I am judging, willing, and perceiving. Sensations, feelings and ideas, such is my existence.
You cannot perceive me as a thing in space. In reality, I am a self-contained exclusive center of experience. I know my reality in my acts of perceiving, judging, and willing. You must interpret, understand and appreciate me in my judgments, in my will-attitudes, aims and aspirations.
I am a Person. My personality is individual, unique and private. My pleasures, pains and desires are exclusively mine. My feelings, hates and loves, judgments and resolutions are mine alone.
Life is the fundamental fact of universe. It is a forward assimilative movement. The essence of Life is continual creation of desires and ideals. In man, the center of Life becomes a Person. For the purpose of preservation and expansion, Life has invented or developed out of itself certain instruments such as senses and intellect, which help it to assimilate.
All Life is individual and God Himself is an individual. He is the most unique individual. The universe is an association of individuals. However, this association is not complete in itself. It is the result of a conscious effort. We are gradually moving from chaos to cosmos and are helpers in this achievement. Thus the universe is not a finished act; it is still in the course of formation. There can be no complete truth about the universe, for the universe has not yet become ‘whole’. The process of creation is still going on and man too takes his share in it. He helps bring order into at least a portion of the chaos.
Obviously, this view of man and the universe is opposed to that of Sufism and Buddhism which regard absorption (fana fillah ) in a universal life or soul as the final aim and salvation of man.
The ideal of man is not self-negation but self-affirmation and he attains to this ideal by becoming more and more individual, more and more unique. Thus man becomes unique by becoming more and more like the most unique individual.
Physically as well as spiritually man is a self-contained center but he is not yet a complete individual. The greater his distance from God, the less his individuality. He who comes nearest to God is the completest person. Not that he/she is finally absorbed in God. On the contrary, he/she absorbs God into him/herself.
The personality attains to freedom by the removal of all obstructions in its way by mastering Nature. In other words, personality is an endeavor for freedom.
CONTINUATION OF PERSONALITY
Personality is a state of tension and can continue only if that state of tension is maintained. If the state of tension is not maintained, relaxation will ensue. Since personality, or the state of tension, is the most valuable achievement of man, he should see that he does not revert to a state of relaxation. How do we do that? By cultivating Love.
EDUCATION OF PERSONALITY
Personality is fortified by Love (Ishq). Although the word ‘Love’ is used in a very wide sense, it means the desire to assimilate, to absorb. The highest form of Love is the creation of values and ideals and the effort to achieve them.
As Love fortifies the personality, ‘Asking’ (Sawaal) weakens it. All that is achieved without personal effort comes under ‘Asking’. The son of a rich man who inherits his father’s wealth is an ‘asker’ (beggar); so is every one who thinks the thought of others.
Thus, in order to fortify our personality we should cultivate Love i.e. the power of assimilative action, and avoid all forms of ‘asking’ i.e inaction.