ERRONEOUS BELIEF IN THE TOWER
The "little man in the tower" is no invention of ours, but the logical outcome of the train of thought maintained by materialism. Any materialist who insists on the physical existence of matter, maintaining that we enjoy direct knowledge of material entities, is in that exact position. He is claiming that outside the body he sees and feels, there is yet another body carrying around that first body and its surrounding area.
Detailed consideration reveals how nonsensical is the picture drawn by this materialist claim.
In fact, materialists are describing a monstrosity that would frighten even themselves. Let us describe this frightening picture more closely: The materialist is describing a giant carrying the whole universe in a tiny region in his head, looking at it from close up. Since the Sun, Moon, stars and all other sources of light are in his head, our giant must inevitably be in darkness. In comparison with our own scale, this giant's arms and legs are hundreds of feet long. In other words, the materialist arrives at the conclusion that there must be a giant human being, who carries the entire universe in his head, and goes nobody knows where, all in pitch darkness.
On closer inspection however, belief in the "giant human being" theory is only
a requirement of materialist philosophy. That's because there is no other
need to believe in the existence of a physical body-of which we can never
have direct knowledge-outside the body which we see and touch. Why should
we believe in such a body? Why accept the existence of such a giant in
the absence of any evidence, when nobody has ever found any trace of such
Considering materialist claims, one is forced
to make the clearly nonsensical claim that there is a giant person
who carries the entire universe in his brain and who has no idea where
he is going
Apart from a blind acceptance of materialist philosophy, there's no reason to believe in the existence of such an imaginary material person.
Why Accept the Existence of a World We Can Never See?
Believing in the existence of "material"
things is like thinking that the virtual characters in an animated
cartoon or computer game are actually alive in some physical world.
There is no evidence for believing in the theoretical existence of the
"material world," much less of the imaginary human being we've just been
describing. We have direct contact only with the perceptions in our minds.
We have never seen, heard, tasted, smelled, or touched the existence of
anything, apart from these perceptions. The world we live in is a world
of perceptions. Beyond these perceptions, why should we believe in the
existence, of any material thing that would constitute a physical counterpart
of these perceptions?
Believing in the existence of "matter" is the same as believing that the virtual
characters in an animated cartoon or computer game live in an actual physical
world. In other words, the idea is nonsensical. When we watch a Pink Panther
cartoon, we do not think that there is a real, material pink panther.
In the same way, there's no need to think that the electrical signals
in our brains' visual centers actually correspond to any material counterparts.
Similarly, we have no reason to believe that the people and objects seen in our dreams have material counterparts. It is irrational to claim that they do.
Everything that we see, hear, feel, smell or taste is a perception, and nothing exists except at that level.
Matter Created in the Sphere of Perceptions and Imagination
We're now led to a most important truth: Since the only world we can deal with is one of perceptions, all these perceptions must be created and displayed to us by a Creator possessed of infinite knowledge, wisdom and power. That Creator is Almighty God-the Lord of all the Worlds, in the words of the Qur'an.
A clearer expression of this important truth is this: God has created from
nothing all that exists. Yet as Islamic scholars have written, all entities
are created in the sphere of "perceptions and imagination." Since God
has breathed into man His Spirit, man perceives part of these perceptions
and gives them such names as "the world," "the universe," "matter" and
"objects." In any case, it is God Who taught man these names. All of these
perceptions, created by God, submit to Him unconditionally and act in
accordance with His will. No entity is created independent of God. Only
God is real. Everything else is an illusion at the level of perceptions.
Imam Rabbani, regarded as one of the greatest scholars in the history of Islam, explains this in his Letters:
Only God existed, and there was none but Him.
When He willed that His hidden perfection should appear, He made each of His names a sign so that His perfection would be manifested in that appearance.
Nothing but non-being is suitable to be the place of appearance for being and its subjects. Because the sign and mirror of everything is its opposite and contrary. And the opposite and contrary of being is non-being alone.
Accordingly, the Glorious God with His perfect might determined
in the realm of non-being a sign for each of His names. And He created
that sign in the sphere of perceptions and imagination at the time He
willed and in the way He willed … The permanence of the world is not at
the exterior level, but at the level of perception and imagination … Even
at the exterior level, nothing has absolute existence apart from the being
and attributes of Almighty God...2
In another letter, Imam Rabbani again emphasizes that the entire material world was created only in the sphere of perceptions and imagination:
Above, I used the sentence, "God's creation is in the
sphere of perceptions and imagination." This means that God's creation
is in a sphere where objects have no permanence or existence apart from
perceptions and imagination.3
On close inspection, Imam Rabbani is stressing that the world we see, and all beings "in the sphere of imagination," were created at the level of perceptions. Outside that, all there is, is the Being of God. In fact, this concept of "outside" is only a hypothetical one, because imagination has no body and occupies no space. Imam Rabbani explains that things, all matter, have no external existence:
On the outside, nothing exists but God. All of Almighty
God's creation finds permanence in the sphere of perception… In the same
way that matter has no existence in the out side world, it also has a
colorless appearance … If it does have a fixed appearance, that is again
only on the perceptual level. 4
As we have seen, the technical facts we've arrived at by means of modern physics and physiology were noted hundreds of years ago by Islamic scholars. They confirm one truth: that matter is an illusion. What truly exists is God, Who created matter from nothing.
Materialism: A Hypothetical View That Regards the Life of This World as Real
Once it is understood, the truth explained here will entirely change people's views of the world.
The great majority lives unaware of this great secret. They imagine that everything they see with their eyes, hold in their hands and refer to as "matter" has an absolute, objective existence. People falling into this error hold one of two viewpoints:
1) Materialism: Some who hold that matter exists absolutely maintain that apart from matter, nothing exists. The name of this philosophical belief is materialism. Its adherents deny the existence of God, as well as the existence of the soul and life after death.
2) Semi-materialism: Others who believe in the absolute existence of matter believe in a dimension of existence beyond matter, although they still think that matter has an "absolute" existence and that the other dimension of being is only relative. This error lies beneath such widespread concepts as "metaphysics" and "the supernatural." People who maintain such beliefs think that matter exists absolutely and that God is somewhat like radio waves (though God is surely beyond what they ascribe to Him). Superstitious beliefs such as God being "in the sky" or somewhere else in the universe are outgrowths of the identical error.
Both these utterly mistaken viewpoints stem from a failure to comprehend the true nature of the world. As God reveals in the Qur'an:
… He [God] grants victory to whoever He wills. He is the Almighty, the Most Merciful. That is God's promise. God does not break His promise. But most people do not know it. They know an outward aspect of the life of this world, but are heedless of the Hereafter. (Qur'an, 30:5-7)
In these verses, the word "outward" is a translation of the Arabic zahir. The concept of zahir refers to external appearance. In contrast, there is also the concept of batin, meaning the essence of things which is not externally visible, or their internal aspect.
Unbelievers know only the external appearance of the world, which is why they cannot grasp the existence of God and His dominion over all that exists. Some who deny God are materialists, others-semi-materialists-believe in His existence, but are unable to comprehend His might. The Qur'an refers in detail to those who believe in God's existence, but cannot comprehend His infinite might and dominion over all, for which reason they ascribe various partners to Him.
On the other hand, anyone who understands that matter is a perception is saved from all these errors and understands the batin aspect of the life of this world.
One important aspect of this is the disappearance of the concept of place.
Eliminating the Concept of Location
Everything we think of as material-our own bodies, the objects around us, the ground we walk on, the Sun, stars, and planets-is actually a perception, just like our dreams. Therefore, they have no volume and occupy no space. Since no body occupies any space, there can be no such concept as "space."
Anyone who comprehends this truth is saved from the mistakes that most people fall into. Heading the list of these errors is the question, "Where is God?" which stems from a belief in the concept of space. Since most people assume that each of the objects they perceive occupies a specific location, they imagine that God is in outer space, up in the sky, or resides in some other part of the universe (God is surely beyond that).
This ignorant belief is described in the Qur'an, in the story of Pharaoh, who claimed that he himself was the Lord of Egypt, and maintained that God was in the sky. As the verses reveal,
Pharaoh said, "Haman, build me a tower so that perhaps I may gain means of access, access to the heavens, so that I can look on Moses' God…" (Qur'an, 40:36-37)
However, since there is no other entity than God, He is everywhere and encompasses all places. This truth is also explained in the Qur'an:
Both East and West belong to God, so wherever you turn, the Face of God is there. God is All-Encompassing, All-Knowing. (Qur'an, 2:115)
Since God is everywhere, He is closer to us than anything else. This fact eliminates the perception of "distance," by which most people are again deceived. Generally, people refer to entities they see close to themselves as being "nearby." Asked, "What's the nearest object you see?" they reply, "My clothes," "My watch," "My glasses," or else, "My own body." The fact is, God is closer than any of these things. This is revealed thus in one verse of the Qur'an:
We created man and We know what his own self whispers to him.
We are nearer to him than his jugular vein. (Qur'an, 50:16)
|… The life
of this world is just the enjoyment of delusion.
Anyone who comprehends this truth understands that God is his only friend, protector, and helper. In this way, the secret of the prayer in Surat al-Fatiha, the first Surah, is revealed "You alone we worship. You alone we ask for help." In the same way, the believer understands that everything in the world happens by the will of God, functioning according to the destiny He has set out for it, and can never step outside His will. This is the understanding of the secret revealed in the verse below:
Everyone in the heavens and earth belongs to Him. All are submissive to Him. (Qur'an, 30:26)
Realizing that space is only a perception removes all misunderstandings and doubts as to how life in the Hereafter will be lived. Most who do not believe in the Hereafter or who doubt its existence cannot understand how the universe, which they imagine to be fixed and unalterable, will come to an end, to be replaced by a brand new world containing Heaven and Hell. The fact is, the very universe that they imagine to be fixed and unalterable consists of the totality of perceptions revealed by God to their souls. For God, it is a simple matter to remove one of a person's perceptions and give another in its stead. In the same way that you can have a dream, but find yourself in an entirely different world on awakening (the world you imagine to be "real"), so in the same way you will make the transition from the life of this world to the Hereafter. The universe you imagine to be fixed and unalterable, but which really exists only through God's creation at every moment, will disappear in a great tumult, following which Heaven and Hell will be created.
Everyone who understands that matter is an illusion, that there is no such thing as space, and that he lives in a world created by God in the sphere of imagination and perceptions, will be vouchsafed many more secrets. Unlike most other people, he will be saved from the confusion of struggling to understand "causes" (the events and entities created by God). He will resort only to active prayer, which is the only true cause. He will know that in truth, both good and evil come from God, and will pray to-and seek help from-Him in all matters. He will not be consumed by desire for goods and property. Since he knows that the material possessions that people so magnify in their own eyes-for instance, grand houses, luxury cars, expensive clothes and social and political prestige-are all illusions. He will attach no value to them, knowing that God has created these splendid-looking adornments as tests. He gives them and takes them away, from whomsoever He wishes.
Anyone who understands that matter and space are illusions is freed from fearing any entity other than God. Everything he sees is a perception created by God, and no one can do anything to him without God's willing it. God is the only being worthy of fear. Anyone who understands that will have attained the superior moral values of the prophets, as described in the following verse:
[God praises] those who convey God's Message and fear Him, fearing no one except God… (Qur'an, 33:39)
Relations of Cause and Effect Determined by God
One who understands that matter and space are illusions grasps yet another important secret unknown to most people: The cause-and-effect relationships that apply in this world are not the result of the physical properties of matter or interactions between people. Since matter is only a perception, it can have no physical effects. Every physical effect is created separately as a perception. A stone, for instance, does not break a window; the images of the throwing of the stone and the breaking of the window are created separately. The lifting force of water that keeps a ship afloat or the aerodynamic lift that keeps a plane aloft are created as illusions. All such "forces" actually belong to God. The Qur'an draws our attention to this truth in the following terms:
Have they not looked at the birds above them, with wings outspread and folded back? Nothing holds them up but the All-Merciful. He sees all things. (Qur'an, 67:19)
Do you not see that God has made everything on the earth subservient
to you and the ships running upon the sea by His command? He holds back
the heaven, preventing it from falling to the earth-except by His permission.
God is All-Compassionate to mankind, Most Merciful. (Qur'an, 22:65)
Also, a believer who grasps this secret will develop meaningful relationships with others unlike the superficial cause-and-effect type of relationships that most people accept. Because God has created all people and their destinies, the various cause-and-effect relationships among people take the form determined by Him. In one verse, for instance, God reveals this secret:
You who believe! You are only responsible for yourselves. The misguided cannot harm you as long as you are guided. All of you will return to God, and He will inform you about what you were doing. (Qur'an, 5:105)
If Muslims attain the true path, then those who deviate from it can never harm them. This is God's law, although it applies only to believers who comprehend His might and believe in Him, as is due. In another verse, God reveals another law:
Anyone who acts rightly, male or female, being a believer, We will give them a good life and We will recompense them according to the best of what they did. (Qur'an, 16:97)
For believers, many secrets like this make the world a very different place.
For unbelievers, life in this world is a place of suffering, full of troubles,
fears, doubts and tension. But for believers, it becomes a foretaste of