Sometimes as we grow in our religion, or, to put it more accurately, as we are made to grow in our religion, we either appear to have a better understanding of the Divine Teachings or our understanding of those teachings appear to change. It must be understood that when we talk about understandings especially what has to do with Allah Almighty – His Essence, His Names, His Attributes and His Workings – we might know about them but we have very little understanding of them. It is an illusion to think that one can obtain an understanding of these matters by perusing countless books. I’ve tried it all, and if you should ask me today what I’ve learnt about my Lord from the many books I’ve read, I would say quite honestly: “Very little” or “Nothing”. In fact the opinions of scholars on the matters to do with our Lord may even give us a highly distorted view. Their understandings were distorted or seriously limited, and they have passed these distortions or serious limitations down to us in their books. And the more we read their books, in fact, the less the understanding.
What is the path that one has to travel if one wants one’s Lord to open for one small insights to Him? You see, only He understands Himself, and because of this only He can give one a little bit of understanding of Himself. This understanding is His Domain. Our many attempts to explain His Names and His Attributes, for example, are serious intrusions into the Divine Domain. We do not belong there. Only He knows about Himself and only He will grant some of His servants an infinitesimal amount of that knowledge. What I am trying to say is that the knowledge of Allah Almighty or all the matters related to Him only come to some of us as grants. We have to imprint this in our minds and even those who have written large numbers of books on the subject should also imprint this on their minds.
At the beginning of the previous paragraph I asked the question: How can one reach that station at which Allah Almighty gives one a grant of His Knowledge from His Presence or a grant of the knowledge from the Presence of Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ)? To obtain this, we must forget about our books. This is a highly specialized grant to His special servants. I have come to understand, in my own small way, that such understandings are given to those servants who engage intensely in His remembrance through different forms of religious service, who work intensely in the Cause of Allah Almighty amongst the extremely poor, and for whom the seeking of knowledge of the Divine Law also takes precedence in their lives. Because of the difficulty involved in all of these endeavours, it helps considerably to place one’s hand in the hand of somebody who has engaged in these endeavours and to whom Allah Almighty has given access to some understanding of Him.
There is no other way. I have scanned many parts of the “horizon” for different forms of learning by all kinds of people in the different fields and I have not found, and I may be wrong here, a single individual who has attained a small understanding of Allah Almighty without walking the path I have explained. I have not found any. I’ve met many scholars, read many of their books but I have not found anyone who could talk to me about Allah Almighty and those things which “belong” to Him, without having walked this path. In a certain sense, they repeat what they’ve read in books, and nothing that is in the Presence of their Lord or in the Presence of His Messenger (ﷺ) has reached their hearts. I have sat in the company, very fortunately, of individuals to whom it appears that Allah Almighty has given special grants of knowledge, and I have found them with an understanding of things not found in books.
Sometimes it happens that one is given an understanding, or so one thinks, of something to do with one’s Lord and one considers that understanding to be the end of the matter on the subject. But it is never so. What comes from our Lord is endless, and so we understand, for example, that the verses of the Qur’an have meanings that stretch endlessly, endlessly beyond our comprehension.
On many previous occasions I have spoken to you about the Heavenly doors that are closed to us and which will only be opened by our persistent knocking with pious deeds. This is generally correct and applies especially to the doors associated with Paradise and Hell. On numerous occasions Islam speaks about “doors”, either closed or open, associated with Paradise and Hell. I have come to understand that those doors, whether closed or open, do not apply to the extensive shoreless oceans of many of the Names of our Lord. The doors to His Oceans of Mercy, as I’ve come to comprehend, for example, are never closed. Mercy pours down on His creation as eternal waves without closed doors or interruptions. It is just there all the time for us and so when we seek His Mercy the door doesn’t open, because it has never been closed. The same applies to His Generosity, because our Lord’s Mercy has to do with His Generosity. Perhaps it’s two single streams, of Generosity and Mercy, or perhaps it is a combined stream of Generosity and Mercy. We understand so little of all these things and try to put into words what we have come to think of them. Perhaps we are a little bit right. When I, in my own small way, just try to get some kind of understanding of those Names of my Lord that have come to mean so much to me, such as His Mercy, His Generosity, His Love, His Kindness, His Goodness and all the other similar names; they appear to be eternal outpourings for all of us from sources unknown to us. But they are there. We can access these Divine outpourings through our hearts by pleading to our Lord to fill these receptacles with His outpourings. It is only the hearts that can receive, because they are the special spiritual organs of reception from our Lord, and all that this means. Allah Almighty, again through His Mercy and Generosity, and through His Goodness or whatever else, has provided us with an instrument not of intellectuality but of spirituality in which He places small amounts of understanding of Him. You see, it is not what we can attain; it is what He grants. It is not what we want, it is as His Will operates.
We ask Allah Almighty with all the sincerity in our beings that He grants each one of us of that knowledge that is in His Presence and in the Presence of His Messenger (ﷺ), amin.