To put it another way, in reality there is no difference between the traditional and the mystical way of Islam. Where does one end and the other begin? How can you differentiate between the outer and the inner? The outer has an inner reality, and the inner will manifest in the outer realm. An intention will eventually manifest itself in an action. Where is the boundary that prevents that continuum? Where does the atom end and the physical reality of matter begin?
There are interspaces between these systems. As you know, scientists can describe various systems according to different scientific theories. We can describe a gravitational system in detail in the science of physics, but when you come to thermodynamics or the subatomic world, there is another system we can still describe. We know the interrelationships between these systems and yet we cannot define them precisely. So we must refute this separation of the outer and the inner.
God says in the Qur`an:
He is the First and He is the Last. He is the Evident and He is the Hidden. (57:3)
Where is it that He is not? So if we are talking about a unified state, the foundation of all inner sciences, then wherever we begin, we are bound to end up at its opposite. If one begins with outer concern such as the ritual of purification, one will eventually end up with inner concern. If one begins by cleaning the house from the outside, a time will come when the inside will be cared for. And the Qur`an makes this point in one ayah, if not in many. The Qur`an says:
And purify your clothes. (74:4)
We must understand that the purification of outer garments is superfluous unless one is concerned about the purification of one’s body, mind and heart, for they all interconnect. A man is known by how he lives, what he eats, and his immediate environment. The prophetic tradition tells us that one who keeps the company of a people for forty days becomes like them. Inadvertently their characteristics are imbibed.
If one has an inner eye, reflecting upon the outer meanings of the verses of the Qur`an will lead one to their inner meanings. Existence is entirely balanced on opposites — life and death, man and woman, good and bad, sleep and wakefulness, health and disease — and we want at all times to be in the middle. Imbalance results from not being in the middle. Let us examine the virtue known as courage. On one side of courage is cowardice, and on the other is recklessness. Courage is that very fine point right in the middle. Every other virtue is the same — balanced between two extremes. Regarding this, the Qur`an Says:
And we have created you a middle nation. (2:143)
This nation is the people of unification, people who want to know the truth, and whose Qur`an is every breath of life.
Let us share one short surah (chapter) of the Qur`an, Surat al-Shams (The Sun), so that we may see how the inner and the outer are totally connected.
I swear by the sun and its brilliance, And the moon when it follows the sun (91:1-2)
God — Glory, Majesty, and Might are His alone — is reminding us by the effulgence of the sun in the form of an oath, swearing by it. By the radiant sun which gives us warmth and heat. God has started by giving us a physical proof of one of the major causes of life on this earth – – the sun. By the fact that there is this self-fusing, self-perpetuating light which is the sun. And by the moon which reflects the sun’s light.
And the day when it exposes it, And the night when it draws a veil over it. (91:3-4)
Here God reminds us of the other two opposites — day and night. The description is very beautiful even from a poetic point of view, that this incredible effulgent day suddenly has something thrown over it to hide and cover it. Allah now reveals another pair of opposites to strengthen the oath even further.
And by the heaven and Him who made it, and by the earth and Him who extended it. (91:5-6)
And then Allah comes to us:
And by the self and Him who made it perfect (91:7)
A related derivation of the word for self is nafas which means ‘breath’. We are hanging on air, inhaling and exhaling — again two opposite states, yet we become arrogant and forget this fact. Do we really identify ourselves with these physical forms, walking about!