Day-to-day struggle for survival has made all of us neglect this important spiritual part of man’s life. As we walk on earth, go for a sail, travel by air, we see wondrous signs to which we turn blind eyes, for all what we cater for is to earn daily bread.
However, it is the characteristic of the true believers of Allah to remember Allah and reflect on His creation at every moment and position. Almighty Allah describes them saying: “Such as remember Allah, standing, sitting, and reclining, and consider the creation of the heavens and the earth, (and say): Our Lord! Thou createdst not this in vain. Glory be to Thee! Preserve us from the doom of Fire.” (Al `Imran: 191)
The word Tafakkur literally means to think on a subject deeply, systematically, and in great detail. In this context, it signifies reflection, which is the heart’s lamp, the spirit’s food, the spirit of knowledge, and the essence and light of the Islamic way of life.
Reflection is the light in the heart that allows the believer to discern what is good and evil, beneficial and harmful, beautiful and ugly.
Again, it is through reflection that the universe becomes a book to study, and the verses of the Qur’an disclose their deeper meanings and secrets more clearly. Without reflection, the heart is darkened, the spirit is exasperated, and Islam is lived at such a superficial level that it is devoid of meaning and profundity.
Reflection is a vital step in becoming aware of what is going on around us and of drawing conclusions from it. It is a golden key to open the door of experience, a seedbed where the trees of truth are planted, and the opening of pupil of the heart’s eye.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said: “No act of worship is as meritorious as reflection (tafakkur). So reflect on Allah’s bounties and the works of His Power, but do not try to reflect on His Essence and Being, for you will never be able to comprehend it.”
By these words, in addition to pointing out the merit of reflection, the glory of mankind, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) determines the limits of reflection and reminds us of our limits.
In order to draw attention to the same point, the writer of Al-Minhaj (The Way Traced) writes:
“Reflection on bounties is a condition of following this way, while reflection on the Divine Essence is a manifest sin. It is both false and useless to doubt and think about Him, and also means seeking to obtain something already obtained.
Let’s reflect on this verse: “Lo! In the creation of the heavens and the earth and (in) the difference of night and day are tokens (of His sovereignty) for men of understanding.” (Al `Imran: 190) No doubt, the verse presents the book of the universe with its way of creation, the peculiarities of its letters and words, the harmony and coherence of its sentences, and its firmness as a whole.
By drawing our attention to the universe and calling us to reflect upon it, the Qur’an shows us one of the most beneficial methods of reflection: to reflect on and study the Qur’an, and to follow it in all our thoughts and actions; to discover the Divine mysteries in the book of the universe and, through every new discovery that deepens and unfolds the true believer, to live a life full of spiritual pleasure along a way of light extending from belief to knowledge of Allah and therefrom to love of Allah; and then to progress to the Hereafter and Allah’s pleasure and approval; this is the way to become a perfect, universal human being.
In addition, one can use reflection in every scientific field. However, the rational and experimental sciences are only a first step or a means to reach the final target of reflection, which is knowledge of Allah, provided that one’s mind has not been filled with wrong conceptions and premises. Studying existence as if it were a book to be reflected upon can engender the desired results and provide ceaseless information and inspiration, but only if one admits that all things and their attributes are created by Allah. This is what is sought and should be done by those who attribute all things to Allah, and who have attained spiritual contentment through the knowledge, love, and remembrance of Allah.
Reflection must be based on and start with belief in Allah as the Originator of creation. If not, one might reach Allah at some stage of the journey, but will not progress beyond the conviction of Allah’s Existence and Unity. Reflection based on and starting with belief in Allah as the Creator and unique Administrator of all creation enables continuous progression and increased depths, for new discoveries develop into further dimensions.
In other words, reflection starting with awareness of Allah having the Names of “the First”, “the Last” and “the Immanent” will enable one to progress uninterruptedly and without end. Encouraging people to engage in reflection focused upon a determined aim entails urging them to learn and use the methods of sciences that study how existence is manifested.
Since everything in the heavens and Earth are the property and kingdom of Allah, studying every incident, item, and quality also means studying how the Exalted Creator deals with existence. The believer who studies and accurately comprehends this book of existence, and then designs his or her life accordingly, will follow the way of guidance and righteousness all the way to the final station of Paradise, where he or she will drink of kawthar—the blessed water of Paradise.
The people of loss and perdition wander in the pits of heedlessness and ingratitude to Allah, the true Owner of the infinite variety of beauty and bounty in the world; those following the way to Paradise, and equipped with reflection, recognize the True Giver of all bounty and obey Him, fully conscious of what believing in Him means. They travel from gratitude to being provided with all bounties, and from bounty to gratitude, in the footsteps of the angels, Prophets, and truthful and loyal believers, and seek Allah’s pleasure in order to thank Him for His blessings. Using the vehicle of reflection and with the help of remembering Allah, they surmount all obstacles and, progressing from taking necessary measures (to attain their goal), to submission, and from submission to committing their affairs to the Power of Allah, they fly through the heavens to their final destinations.
In the light of the above, it’s clear that reflection and meditation serve as the key for man to understanding necessary facts that will draw him near to conviction, not only about his Creator, but about himself and others. His eyes will be open to see the light revealing the secrets of the universe, which, with all what exists therein, is fully under the control of the Mighty Lord.