[“One of the signs of relying on deeds is loss of hope when a misstep occurs.”]

How to recognise whether a man acts without self-reliance and with perfect trust in God:

“It often happens that self-reliant men think that they have no self-reliance whatever, but put all their trust in God and rest confidently in Him alone. But in practice it is not so. They can ascertain it for themselves, if they judge by what is in them and what happens to them if they fall down. If, when they grieve at their downfall, reproaching and abusing themselves for it, they think: ‘I shall do this and that, the consequences of my downfall will be effaced and all will be well once more,’ this is a sure sign that before the downfall they trusted themselves, instead of trusting God. And the more gloomy and disconsolate their grief, the more it shows that they relied too much on themselves and too little on God; and therefore the grief caused by their downfall is not tempered by any comfort. If a man does not rely on himself but puts his trust in God, when he falls he is not greatly surprised and is not overcome with excessive grief, for he knows that it is the result of his own impotence, and, above all, of the weakness of his trust in God. So his downfall increases his distrust of himself and makes him try all the harder to increase and deepen his humble trust in God. And further, hating the vile passions which caused his downfall, he thereupon endures peacefully and calmly the labours of penitence for having offended God; and armed with still more trust in God, he thereupon pursues his enemies with the greatest courage and resoluteness, even unto death.”

On the wrong opinion of those who deem excessive grief a virtue

“It is wrong to regard as a virtue the excessive grief, which men feel after committing a sin, not realising that it is caused by pride and a high opinion of themselves, based on the fact that they rely too much on themselves and their own powers. For by thinking that they are something important they undertake too much, hoping to deal with it by themselves. When the experience of their downfall shows them how weak they are, they are astounded, like people, who meet with something unexpected, and they are cast into turmoil and grow faint-hearted. For they see, fallen and prone on the ground, that graven image which is themselves, upon which they put all their hopes and expectations. This does not happen to a humble man who trusts in God alone, expecting nothing good from himself. Therefore, when he falls into some transgression, he also feels the weight of it and grieves, but is not cast into turmoil and is not perplexed, for he knows that it happened through his own impotence, to experience which in downfall is nothing unexpected or new to him.”

Source: St. Theophan the Recluse, Unseen Warfare, Chapter 4 & 5, pp. 9-10; Title taken from the first aphorism of Ibn ‘Ata’illah’s Book of Wisdoms

[Maktub/مكتوب]

Maktub (lit. “written”, “ordained”). In the sense of “it is written”, it is an expression pronounced frequently in resignation to God’s Providence. It refers to the Divine decrees written on al-lawh al-mahfuz (the “guarded tablet”), and to such Koranic statements as: “There befalls not any happening in the earth or in your souls except it is in a book [Kitab] before We [God] manifest it…” (57:22). Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah says in the Hikam:

Antecedent intentions [sawabiq al-himam] cannot pierce the walls of predestined Decrees [aswar al-aqdir].

While Islam views man’s life as predestined in the sense that nothing can finally oppose the Will of God, man nonetheless has the gift of free will in that he does make choices and decisions. Resignation to the Will of God is a concomitant to striving in the Path of God. Above all, man is completely free in what is essential, that is, he can accept the Absolute and surrender himself to It, or reject God and pay the price. In this he has absolute free-will. The Talmud also says: “Everything is in the Hands of God, except the Fear of God.”

Source: Cyril Glassé, The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, Third Edition, p. 319

[Falling Man]

“Taoism regards the actual dichotomy between man and his primordial nature in terms of a disequilibrium. Vedanta starts from the perspective of illusion, while Buddhism speaks of the same thing in terms of ignorance. Judeo-Christianity teaches that man is in a state of fall, whereas Islam describes it from the point of view of rebellion.

‘If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us’ (I. John, I. 10). ‘Manifestation by definition implies imperfection, as the Infinite by definition implies manifestation; this ternary ‘Infinite, manifestation, imperfection’, constitutes the explanatory formula for all that can seem ‘problematic’ to the human mind in the vicissitudes of existence’ (Schuon; De l’Unité transcendante, p. 66). ‘Deem not strange the occurrence of afflictions as long as thou art in this perishable abode, for verily it has begotten nothing except what merits its appellation—and inevitable is this designation’ (Ibn ‘Ata’illah: Hikam, no. 34). Likewise Boethius: ‘Thou hast yielded thyself to fortune’s sway; thou must be content with the conditions of thy mistress’ (Consolat. Philosoph., II. i). No individual as such in time and space is free from the conditions thereof. ‘The man who has found reality, as well as the man who is still in the coils of the phenomenal, is like one travelling over a flooded road’ (Hônen, p. 610); bearing in mind, however, ‘that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose’ (Romans, VIII. 28). ‘Therefore if thou suffer persecution, wretchedness, and other dis-eases, thou hast that which accords to the place in which thou dwellest’ (Richard Rolle: The Fire of Love, I. viii). ‘It is not the world then that deceives men,’ says Hermes (‘De Castigatione Animae’; Hermetica, IV, p. 289); ‘but men deceive themselves, and so bring themselves to ruin. They think their happiness consists in the goods which this world gives, and think that these goods will last for ever, forgetting that life in this world is an alternation of good and bad.’

Source: Whitall N. Perry, The Spiritual Ascent: A Compendium of the World’s Wisdom, Book One, Part I, “Separation — Sin”, pp. 53-4

The Qur’an reminds us of the primeval event of awareness for every human soul in the Chapter The Heights. God asked each soul about its self: “When your Lord made them testify concerning themselves: ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They said: ‘Yea! We do testify!'” (7:172).

Each soul bore witness to their Lord and declared their devotion and servitude. The human soul which, according to the Qur’an, had existed prior to its emergence into this world, was untainted, pure potential before its separation from God.

“So by deceit he brought about their fall: when they tasted of the tree, their shame became manifest to them, and they began to sew together the leaves of the garden over their bodies. And their Lord called unto them: ‘Did I not forbid you that tree, and tell you that Satan was an avowed enemy unto you?'” (7:22)…Then, God told them: “We said: ‘Get ye down all from here (the Garden); and if, as is sure, there comes to you Guidance from me, whosoever follows My guidance, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.'” (2:38)

Perhaps one way to look at the fall of Adam and Eve, and by extension all of Mankind, is to consider the fact that man’s potential, or his self, can only develop and be known through experience. That is, man discovers himself as a consequence of his alienation and separation from God. It is a seeming separation, however, for in reality, separation brought about by rebellion and consequently, the fall,  is but illusion, disequilibrium, and ignorance.