My gaze settles upon something written by Ayn al-Quzat Hamadani centuries ago.
He once proclaimed, “The sons of Adam are divided into three factions: some, like beasts, seek only to eat, drink, sleep, and find comfort, ‘they are like cattle, nay, they are even worse.’; Some, akin to angels, seek to glorify, praise, pray, and fast, embodying angelic virtues; And some, like prophets and messengers, are driven by love, affection, passion, contentment, and surrender.”
Ayn al-Qudat’s prior understanding of religion (not exclusive to Islam, mirrored in the mystical teachings of the great Christian scholar Meister Eckhart) echoes an age-old tale. The tale of distinguishing between the higher and lower natures of the human soul, and the existence of those wholly possessed by one or the other.
Those who are stark in their contrast, good or evil, standing with Umar ibn al-Sa’ad or Husayn ibn Ali (thinking about Shia Islam narrative). These (good ones) are the individuals whose hearts and intentions are severed from earthly needs, and are saints by day, ascetics by night, and prophets in their entirety.
When I delve into the writings of Ayn al-Qudat and Attar, I discern that Ayn al-Qudat had scant knowledge of the messengers. Except for Mohammad, the tales of the other messengers have been anything but a vague tale for him and the Islamic nation till today. Mythical tales of superhuman beings who once graced the earth and total disconnect from the reality of Judeo-Christian history.
From our current understanding of the Bible’s creation and the historical journey of the Jewish people during the Second Temple period, the truth cannot align with this perspective on prophecy.
This is not a critique of prophecy or the Islamic interpretation of it. Rather, it is a discussion on mysticism, religion, and the this views’ incapacity to comprehend humanity.
Recognizing that humans are profoundly shackled by their hormones, their neural architecture, and their physical form that defines their humanity.
The fact that humans: thieves, murderers, torturers, martyrs, and heroes, all remarkably similar in their basic needs, and the many differences emerge primarily from genetic, racial, and hereditary variations.
Accepting and loving this creature with all its quirks is where true piety, wisdom, and sanctity lie.
Loving mankind as we love our pets: when they want to sleep with a toy horse or soil the carpet for no reason.
When they are at their most natural, normal, and deserving of love.
The greatness of men, if it exists, lies in small choices, in fleeting moments, which often go unrecorded in human history or legend.
This image, now widely known thanks to the Internet, is the closest representation of those we call prophets and saints.
A man who did not rise at night to pray, who did not deny himself delectable food and drink, and who joined the nascent Nazi Party seeking employment.
Until the day he realized he could not associate with a party that advocated the superiority of his German race and the inferiority of the Jewish blood of his wife and lover.
Until the day he stood alone, hands down, at a party rally in Hamburg, the lone voice of dissent, and this dissent led August Landmesser to his end.
His daughters were orphaned and he paid the full price for his choice.
The notion of saints so distinct that they walk on water and adorn themselves like angels only instills guilt in man and condemns him to mediocrity and lowliness.
In the same ancient texts, a millennium before, Abu Sa’id penned: They said to the Sheikh: “So-and-so walks on water.” He responded: “That is simple, a frog do the same.” They said: “So-and-so flies in the air.” He replied: “A fly and a mosquito also fly… these feats are not of great value. The true man was he who sat and stood among the people, slept and ate, traded and interacted in the marketplace, mingled with the people and never forgot God in his heart.”