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Life as we know it, is comprised of the soul and the body, and their awareness steers one to enlightenment. The body can be thought of as an archetype of a residential building that contains many units for dwelling within it. Each unit is inhabited by a different occupant, and hence they live separately but still in unison overall. With a body, you will not find eyes where a nose should be, or similarly a brain where the heart should be. If one’s hands and legs were to switch their positions, the anatomy of the body would change. Thus, everything built in this ‘house’ is according to a distinction.
Abdal-e-Haq Huzoor Qalandar Baba Auliya (RA) says:
“Graph paper is used to teach students how to draw in schools. The paper consists of small squares that serve as a base for a picture. The teacher guides students on how coordinating a particular number of blocks will draw the shape of a head, nose or mouth of a man. The number of squares assist in determining the proportions of the object, making illustration relatively easy. Hence, the graph is the basis of the drawing. In other words, arranging the order of the graph results in the formation of images. These lines (Nasma) work in as reality in all anatomies. The addition and subtraction of these lines form mavaleed-e-salasa.1
Back to the building example, construction takes place according to a plan. The walls and roof are a veil for a room, and the building structure covers and sustains the many lives that live within it, much like the skin of a physical body. The purpose of this ‘skin’ is to keep the building intact, and the movement of its shell unified. This unison refers to a centralisation of actions. Each organ is an entity or unit of a building and functions as clothing for the mechanism operating beneath. This integration of organs and body parts is deemed the Self. However, when this unity is suspended, the body will disintegrate.
Example: The circulation of blood is impeded through malfunctions of the heart. This impediment is for the heart, but the energy or operating mechanism that feeds the heart and its circulation, in fact prevails. The heart disintegrates into dust but movement remains. Similarly, if there is an obstruction in the system, such as the malfunctioning of a liver, it can lead to death. The liver, heart, and brain are all parts of clothing we call the body. Therefore, death is not the end of life, but the decomposition of the body or clothing. When the body is a combination of various organs, then what is the body itself?
A teacher once asked a new student what his name was.
He replied, “My parents call me Sufi, and others call me Zaid, but there is no difference between them.” The teacher asked, “If Zaid is not a different being, then who is it that acquires piety and attains cognition? Who is it that leads to destruction? What is the reality of rightful and wrongful doing, and of retribution and reward?” The teacher then named different parts of the body and asked, “Can any of these parts be attributed as ‘ Zaid’ ?”
The student said, “No sir…none of them are Zaid. They all combine together to form Zaid.”
The teacher said, “Then I should think that Zaid doesn’t exist at all. It is merely a word with no meaning. Nothing but a deception and an illusion.”
The student didn’t understand so the teacher continued, “How did you get here from your city?” The student replied, “In a vehicle.” The teacher asked, “Can we call wheels, a ‘ vehicle ‘? Can an engine, seat, steering wheel or car roof on their own qualify to be called a car?” The student replied, “No!”
“If all of these things are not a part of the overall car, then can it be deemed a vehicle?” The student responded in negative.
The teacher then questioned, “If those parts are then excluded from the mind, is there anything left that can be described as a vehicle?” The student replied , “I have travelled via a car – its roof, wheels and engine all combine to form it.”
The master replied, “This is exactly the case with man. The senses and body parts join together to make a body, and this is why people call you Zaid. But to the question of who ‘Zaid’ is, we have no idea!”
Generally, objects are identified by their apparent features. However, features are only an outer layer or shell. We only consider the shell of man – the clay from which his body is formed – and don’t see beyond it. Our attention is fixed on the taste and appearance of a fruit, but not on the seed that is its base. Although all things are created from water, this concept does not strike our imaginations. The apparent luster of a diamond does not insinuate the presence of carbon within it. This is because physical senses discern things in segments. Thus, the limited, initial view is regarded as the full picture.
Every part of a body has a distinct duty. The eye works as a camera does. In a camera, a film or sensor chip is used to record an image; in an eye, images are contained on the retina. The iris in eyes, and the aperture in cameras control the amount of light. A camera lens zooms in and out depending on the distance from an object of focus. Likewise, the cornea in an eye adjusts its focal length to view objects. It is to be noted that an image is not formed unless light enters an eye or camera – so then what is light?
Researchers say that the body is controlled by a central nervous system with the brain and spinal cord as its two integral units. The spinal cord is a tail like entity, close to neck and linked to the brain. The brain’s nerves control the workings of the head, face, ears, and neck, while the rest of the body is controlled by the nerves of the spinal cord. Nerves are part of an electrical wiring system that accepts and disseminates messages through impulse. An organ will shrivel if the nerves concerned are disconnected from it, regardless of whether the organ still receives a supply of blood and other necessities for it to function. It determines that the mind does not work unless it receives electrical impulses – so then what is an electrical impulse?
The heart is considered as a pump that expands and contracts until death. Expansion and contraction are phases of life. Blood passes to the heart through veins containing large amounts of carbon dioxide and waste matter. It carries fresh oxygen from the lungs to the tissues, and takes the body waste and carbon dioxide away. After the blood is purified, it travels back to the heart and distributes the oxygenated blood to the rest of the body through the arteries. The body’s system is dependent on a functioning heart, and that heart is controlled by the circulation of blood. So then once again, a question arises – what is this circulation of blood?
A study indicates that the human body consists of 37 trillion cells, out of which five and two billion are reserved for the heart and brain respectively. If the cells scatter, one cannot differentiate between the cells of the brain or the heart.
An adult heart weighs 300 grams, a brain 1400 grams, and an eye is estimated to be around 7.5 grams. The mass of the matter vanishes when an object decomposes. What is ‘mass’ and where does it disappear to? Sperm holds the record of an individual; a granule containing the record of 37 trillion cells. Nothing remains after the dispersion of cells, so then where does the individual disappear to?
A granule is a unit of clothing and the change in its proportions affects its anatomy. A disease does not differentiate; it afflicts king and commoner alike. Both will writhe in pain and experience other emotions in the same way. None are exempt from death. Though their anatomy is similar, one is a king and the other is his subject.
Law: When a shell diffuses, it embraces infinity, where no division lies.
A master asked a student to bring an apple to him and cut it open. The student complied.
He then asked his student, “What do you see in it?”
The student humbly said, “There are some tiny seeds inside.”
The teacher directed him to cut the seeds apart. When the student did so, the teacher told him to further divide them into even smaller bits. Once the student had completed the task, the master asked him, “What do you see now?”
The student replied, “Nothing at all.”
The master said, “Son, you have defied the existence of the seed so casually. This very ‘Nothingness’ you speak of, unfolds everything within the universe. This ‘Nothingness’, is in fact the true universe.”
Light, electrical impulse, and the circulation of blood are motions subservient to Noor (a stage of divine light). So then what is Noor?
Allah, the Almighty says,
“Allah is the light of the heavens and earth. The example of His light is that of niche, in which there is a lamp; the lamp is in a glass – the glass looks like a brilliant star – it is lit by (the oil of) a blessed tree, the olive, which is neither eastern nor western. Its oil is about to emit light even though the fire has not touched it – Light upon light. Allah guides to His light whomsoever He wills; Allah describes examples for the people and Allah knows everything well.” (Quran, 24:35)
The batin (hidden facet) of the earth and the sky rests on Noor and it is dimensionless. Self-insight is vital for the cognition of Noor and other creations. It is not awareness if one simply describes apparent features such as, “that is a pigeon” or, “this is a man.” True awareness is to know what lies beneath the shell. The Creator of the universe says, “Allah is the light of the heavens and earth.” Spirituality or Tasawwuf can be summarised as, Allah is the Creator; and the Zahir (Apparent or Unhidden), Batin (Hidden), Awwal (the First) and Aakhir (the Last), are His attributes.
The beloved of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) says, “The one who knows himself, knows the Lord.”
1 The three kingdoms: Zoological, Botanical, Geological