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WHY WAS THE ASCENSION NECESSARY?

It is asked: Almighty God is nearer to one than one’s jugular vein. He is closer to everything than itself; He is absolutely free of corporeality and space. Therefore, while all the saints are able to converse with Him in their hearts, why was it necessary for the sainthood of Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, to make a long journey like the Ascension in order to succeed in holding a conversation with God that any saint is able to do in his heart?

Answer

We shall make this profound mystery easier to understand by means of two comparisons. Consider the following two comparisons from The Twelfth Word which concern the mystery of the Quran’s miraculousness and the mystery of the Ascension.

First comparison: A king holds two kinds of conversation and interview and has two modes of address and favor. One is that he converses with an ordinary subject or citizen about a particular matter or a special need by means of a private telephone. The other is that under the title of supreme sovereignty, and in the name of supreme kingship and on account of being the ruler of the whole country, and with the aim of publishing and promulgating his commands, he converses with an envoy of His connected to those affairs or with a high official of His related to those commands, or speaks to him by means of a magnificent royal decree manifesting his majesty.

God has two kinds of conversing and speaking

As in the comparison (and God’s is the highest comparison) the Creator of this universe, the Master of the whole existence in its external and inner dimensions, and the Lord of eternity, has two kinds of conversing and speaking, and two manners of favoring. One is particular and private, the other, universal and general. The Ascension is the manifestation of the sainthood of Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, in a form more universal than, and much superior to, all other sainthood. It is the Prophet’s being honoured with the conversation and direct address of Almighty God through His Name of the Lord of the whole universe and His title of the Creator of all existence.

Second comparison: A man holds up to the sun a mirror he has in his hand. According to its capacity, the mirror receives from the sun light which contains seven colors. The man has a relation with the sun by means of the mirror and in accordance with its capacity of reflecting the sun. If he directs the shining side of the mirror towards his dark house or his small, private garden which is covered by a roof, he can benefit from the sun not in proportion to the sun’s value but in accordance with the capacity of the mirror.

Another man, however, puts down the mirror, and facing the sun directly, sees its splendour and comprehends its grandeur. Afterwards, he climbs a very high mountain and stands in the sun without veil, witnessing the majesty of its broad dominion. Then he comes back and in order to have a direct connection with the constant light of the sun, he makes large windows in his house or in the roof of his garden, and obtains other means of benefiting from the sun directly. Facing it, he may speak to the sun in indebtedness, and say: ‘O amiable sun, the beauty of the world and darling of the skies, who gilds the face of the earth with light and makes it and all the flowers smile in joy and happiness! You have illuminated and heated my house and garden as you illuminate the whole world and heat the face of the earth.’ However, the former one with the mirror cannot say the same, since the reflection of the sun through the mirror is restricted and in accordance with the mirror’s capacity.

How God manifests Himself in human nature

Likewise, the manifestation in human nature of the Single, Eternally Besought-of-All, Who is the Sun without beginning and the Lord of eternity, is in two forms, which comprise innumerable degrees.

The first is a manifestation occurring in the mirror of the heart by means of one’s relationship with the Lord. Whether particular or universal, everyone may receive a manifestation of the light and conversation of the Eternal Sun in accordance with his capacity and the character of his spiritual journeying in traversing the degrees toward sainthood, and his ability to receive the manifestations of Divine Names and Attributes. That is why there are innumerable degrees in sainthood which is attained through journeying within the shade of some particular Name or Attribute.

The second is that since by virtue of having a comprehensive nature and being the most enlightened fruit of the tree of creation, man is able to reflect all together, in the mirror of his spirit, the Divine Names manifested in the universe, Almighty God manifests Himself and all His Beautiful Names in the greatest of mankind at the greatest level and most comprehensively. It was thus this form of manifestation that occurred in Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, in His Ascension, in which his sainthood found its meaning and became the first stage of his Messengership.

The difference between the relation of a Prophet with God and that of a saint or is it believable that the Ascension took place almost in an instant?

In sainthood there are veils or screens between a man’s heart and the manifestations of Divine Names; it is as in the case of the first man in the second comparison above. While in Prophethood there are neither veils nor screens; as in the case of the second man in the second comparison, it is connected directly with the manifestation of the Majestic Being with all His Names in a single being. Since the Prophet Muhammad’s Ascension was the greatest wonder of his sainthood and marked its final, greatest station, it was transformed into the rank of Messengership. The Ascension, in its inner aspect, signifies sainthood and was a journey from the created to the Creator. As regards its apparent aspect, it is Messengership and signifies a return from the Creator to the created. Sainthood consists in journeying through the degrees of nearness to God; it requires attainment of many ranks and therefore needs some length of time. As for Messengership, whose light is greatest, it proceeds from the realization of Divine nearness in all its comprehensiveness, which occurs in an instant. It is for this reason that a tradition says: ‘The Ascension took place in an instant. The Prophet went and returned in the same instant.’

Now we say to the atheist who is the third party in our discussion and therefore in the position of listener: Since this universe is like a most orderly country, magnificent city, or adorned palace, it surely must have a ruler, owner, and builder. Since there is such a magnificent, Majestic Owner, All-Perfect Ruler, All-Gracious Maker; and since there is a man with a universal view who has relationship with that entire country, city or palace, and is connected to all of them through his senses, feelings and faculties, certainly, the Magnificent Maker will have sublime relationship to the fullest degree with that man, whose view is universal and consciousness comprehensive, and will favor him with a sacred address.

Since among those who have been honored with this relationship from the time of Adam, upon him be peace, up to now, according to the testimony of his achievements (he has taken half of the world and a fifth of mankind under his control and influence and enlightened the universe, giving it a new spiritual form and furnishing it with a sublime meaning) the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, displayed this relationship at the fullest degree. Most certainly, the Ascension, which consists in the fullest degree of that relationship is most deserved by, and suitable for, him.


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