Allah has given human beings the capability of thinking and reasoning. It is this ability which makes humans different from animals and enables them with free will, compared to all other creatures. With this blessing that Allah has bestowed upon us we are able to survive and flourish in this world- without it, we are not able to progress in this world, nor are we able to attain salvation in the hereafter.
So we see that thinking, reasoning and reflecting is the essential key that leads us to Allah- and He repeatedly instructs us in the Qur’an to reflect upon and ponder the universe. In surah Aal-Imran it says:
إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلاَفِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ لآيَاتٍ لِّأُوْلِي الألْبَابِ الَّذِينَ يَذْكُرُونَ اللّهَ قِيَامًا وَقُعُودًا وَعَلَىَ جُنُوبِهِمْ وَيَتَفَكَّرُونَ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ رَبَّنَا مَا خَلَقْتَ هَذا بَاطِلاً سُبْحَانَكَ فَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ (
Surely in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of the night and day are signs for people of understanding, those who remember Allah while standing, sitting or reclining, and reflect in the creation of the heavens and the earth, (saying): “Our Lord! You have not created this in vain. Glory to you! Save us, then, from the chastisement of the Fire!”
(Aal-Imran 3: 190-191)
From this verse we can see that for people of understanding, reflection upon the universe will specifically lead to discovering the reality of Allah’s existence. When they see the perfect order and balance in the creation, it leads to the conclusion that there must be a creator- who must have created all things, and hence, there must be an accounting.
When these verses were revealed, the Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: “Doom to the person who reads them and does not reflect on them”- meaning, these verses must be read and thoroughly understood. It is on this basis that Hasan al-Basri stated that one hour’s reflection is better than observing qiyam ul-layl through the whole night.
**So what can we reflect on?**
1. We can reflect on Allah’s names which are found at the end of many verses of the Qur’an. They lead us to a proper understanding of our relationship with our creator, and also serve as a focus for modelling our own behaviour.
2. We can reflect on Allah’s creation. Different verses remind us again and again to use our eyes, ears and hearts to ponder the entire universe that surrounds us, to understand the purpose of our creation and to recognise our creator. In surah al-Furqan it describes Allah’s servants as being those who
وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكِّرُوا بِآيَاتِ رَبِّهِمْ لَمْ يَخِرُّوا عَلَيْهَا صُمًّا وَعُمْيَانًا )
When they are reminded of the signs of their Lord, do not turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to them
In surah Ta-Ha we are told of a man who will be raised blind on the Day of Judgement, even though he was not blind during his life. He will be raised in this way as Allah’s signs came to him but he ignored them and was blind to them. So he will have no sight in the hereafter.
3. We can reflect on human history; how mighty empires ruled for centuries – but then collapsed and left behind them nothing but ruin. Their Kings and Queens would declare themselves as gods – but that did not help them and they perished.
أَفَلَمْ يَسِيرُواْ فِي الأَرْضِ فَيَنظُرُواْ كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ وَلَدَارُ الآخِرَةِ خَيْرٌ لِّلَّذِينَ اتَّقَواْ أَفَلاَ تَعْقِلُونَ
Have they not travelled in the land that they may observe the end of those who were before them? Certainly the abode of the Herafter is much better for the God-fearing. Do you not then reflect? (Surah 12: 109)
4. We can reflect upon our selves and our society. In surah Rum, the disbelievers are questioned “Do they not reflect upon themselves?” There are many lessons we can draw from the history, cultures, and politics of society – which tell us about the direction of people’s morals and who they set up as modern day gods. There are many lessons we can learn from the way we treat one another, and what motivates people today.
5. And finally we should regularly remember death. This is not to be morbid and sad, but to enable us to prepare for our eternal life to come. The Prophet (saw) said that the one who is the most intelligent is the one who remembers death often. (Ibn Majah).
May Allah help us to be among those who use our intellect to reflect on His signs, and remember Allah. Ameen.
JazakiAllah khair to our guest-writer, one of our long-time circle sisters, for this article 🙂