How often do you think or have thought that whatever you know, whatever you’ve learnt, is merely a perception? The knowledge you’ve been getting is just someone’s point of view? What then, is knowledge?
“Everything we know is the perception of a human mind and all knowledge is relative to the human condition,” is what the ancient Greek philosopher, Protagoras, said.
We being finite and limited cannot exist in different spaces at the same time. But have you ever tried to ponder on the fact that objects continue to exist when left unseen or unobserved? Every now and then we come to know of new things/ places/ species and what not, having been discovered. Does that mean they didn’t exist until we learnt about them?
Now, assuming that man is the only conscious being, and everything we know about the space we live in has either been measured, observed or experienced, is only knowing or physically exploring it necessary for the existence of this space? If the only evidence of the existence of objects are the qualities perceived by man, can there be another space/dimension in the universe existing, independent of the knowledge (that the ancient Greek philosopher explained) of man?
“And indeed We have created man, and We know whatever thoughts his inner self develops, and We are closer to him than (his) jugular vein.” (Quran 50:16).
This is what the Creator, The Almighty, tells us about Him being so close to us. But have we ever encountered even the Devine presence? Why? Because we never understood the Verse, or we never tried to?
Where philosophy flounders, where knowledge is dumbstruck, and experience is hard to explain, comes the Wali-Ullah (a friend of God) who has the sense to offer silent surrender to the mystery. The Wali goes beyond limits of knowledge and welcomes the Unknown (Gayab), mystery, perplexity, and God. The Wali can be a simple and poor person (faqir/darvesh) but deep down he knows the Divine.
In a poem, Hazrat Amir Khusrau lays bare the most strange, heartfelt and heart-wrenching thoughts of a worshipper grappling with the puzzling nature of existence of the other realm. The poem starts with “Nami Danam” (I don’t know/ I know nothing) and has been immortalised by many Qawwals and singers. It’s said that Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, master of Amir Khusrau, directed Khusrau to keep visiting the gatherings of another Sufi master, Hazrat Shah Qalandar. One fine day, Hazrat Qalandar questioned Khusrau: How is it that I have never seen your master Hazrat Nizamuddin at the heavenly gathering conducted by Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) in heaven? Khusrau, heart-broken, had no reason to doubt this assertion.
When Nizamuddin Aulia met his disciple, he perceived something astray, and, upon questioning, got to know what had happened. He laughed and said, ‘When the Qalandar asks you this very question again, tell him that he should take you to the gathering in heaven, and that you will yourself seek out your Master, me, there.’
So, one day, the Qalandar asked the same question, to which Khusrau asked to be taken to the heavenly gathering where he will himself seek his master Nizamuddin. Agreeing, Qalandar put his hand on Khusrau’s heart and lo! Khusrau was transported to an unimaginable place where only shining figures were in attendance. But Nizamuddin Aulia was not there.
Upon not seeing his master, Khusrau asked the Master of Ceremonies, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) if his master was present there. The Prophet pointed upwards and said, ‘You won’t find him here, try searching higher’. Progressing to the second stage, Khusrau saw a similar gathering. Again, the Prophet (SAW) was conducting the holy gathering. The kamaal (calibre) of these saints was higher than those of the first gathering. Yet again Khusrau couldn’t find Nizamuddin there. He continued to inquire till they went up seven levels and at the seventh level they he still was unable to see Nizamuddin Aulia. At this gathering, the highest of all, he saw beneath the feet of Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) two mysterious personalities. Upon approaching them, Khusrau saw his master as one among them. The two were the masters of the masters he had encountered during his journey. Khusrau tried to fall at the feet of his master and as he fell, the Qalandar withdrew his hand from Khusrau’s heart, the brilliant lights vanished, and they were back home.
When he next visited Nizamuddin Aulia, Khusrau took along his musical instruments and presented his poem:
‘Nami danam che manzil bood shab jaaheki man boodam
Bahar su raqs-e-bismil bood shab jaaheki man boodam’
(I wonder what was the place where I was last night,
All around me were half-slaughtered victims of love,
tossing about in agony)
‘Pari paikar nigaar-e-sarva-qadd-e laalarukh saare
Sarapa aafat-e-dil bood shab jaaheki man boodam’
(There was a nymph-like beloved with cypress-like form and tulip-like face,
Ruthlessly playing havoc with the hearts of the lovers)
‘Khuda khud meer-e-majlis bood andar laa-makaan Khusrau
Muhammad shamm-e-mehfil bood shab jaaheki man boodam’
(God himself was the master of ceremonies in that heavenly court,
Oh Khusrau, where (the face of) the Prophet too was shedding light like a candle)
The poem progressively realises that all attempts to think of, or talk about the other realm, are ultimately doomed unless experienced by oneself. But the realm exists, whether discovered or not, and that you need to be a seeker starting from ‘I know nothing’ to know it.