Prophet’s Contemplation


How was the contemplation of the prophet? What is the contemplation in islam?

”There are many exemplary lessons in every single page of this universe.

Dear Lord! How wonderful to see the universe as a school and to take lessons from it is.”

-Ziyâ Paşa-

Contemplation is an act of deep thinking, straining the mind, and perceiving the essence of the matter in question. In other words, it can be considered as the efforts of the heart to reach the truth; and thus it is a characteristic peculiar to human beings. With this special quality, humans are distinguished from and become superior to other creations. In other words, a person spiritually ascends or descends depending on his/her ability to use contemplation wisely. A human who contemplates about the flawless order of the universe, wisdom behind the creation, all kinds of blessings and beauties, transience of the world, and the sequence of the day and the night will spiritually improve, get closer to perfection, and thus he/she will understand the majesty of Allah.

Contemplation is the most effective way to achieve pious submission to Allah the Almighty; to turn towards Him; to get rid of the degrading animal desires; to protect the inner self from the harmful effects of this world and to prevent the self from getting attached to it. Those who contemplate the majesty of Allah will be saved from heedlessness and his/her faith will be strengthened. The true faith can be achieved only by contemplation. This is why contemplation is ordered in several verses of the Qur’an.

Contemplation can be done about the things which can be imagined. This is why contemplation is only possible about the creation of Allah the Almighty, but not about the essence of Allah the Almighty; because Allah cannot be pictured in any kind of image or shape. Human imagination works within the limits of certain dimensions such as quantity, quality, and causality. Whereas, Allah the Almighty is free from such dimensions. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) expresses this reality as follows:

“Contemplate over the creation of Allah, but do not contemplate over the essence of Allah; for you cannot afford to comprehend Him as He is supposed to be comprehended.” (Daylami, II, 56) However, we should not give up contemplating other attributes of Allah, His acts, and His creation, for contemplation is the seed of knowledge. It will not be long before these seeds which are sown into the hearts of human beings give their fruits. Thus, the more we sow the more produce we get.

Contemplating the blessings of Allah the Almighty is one of the most rewarding acts of worship. The Prophet’s first act of worship was contemplation. When contemplating the greatness of Allah and the beauty of His blessings in the Cave of Hira, the Prophet (pbuh) would dive into spiritual realms His heart would be filled with reverence and piety. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that:

“My Lord advised me:

– To fear from Him in the open or secret under any circumstances:

– To decide with justice in both anger and contentment;,

– To act economically during poverty and richness;

– To visit those who do not visit me;

– To give to those who do not give me;

– To forgive those who oppress me;

– To make my silence contemplation;

– To turn my speak into remembrance;

– To make my glance exemplary;

– And to command what is right.” (İbrahim Canan, Hadis Ansiklopedisi, XVI, 252)

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh), who followed these orders all his life, paid the utmost attention to turn his silence into a state of contemplation. Hind b. Abu Halah (r.a.) describes the Prophet (pbuh) as follows:

“Allah’s Apostle was always in a state of sadness and contemplation. He never found comfort. He would never speak in vain. His silence was longer than his speeches. He would always utter the name of Allah when he began to speak and when he finished his words…” (Ibn Sa’d, I, 422-23)

Yusuf Hamadani (q.s.) expresses that a believer should act thoughtfully as follows: “When contemplation resulting from one’s faith emanates in a person’s heart, Islamic deeds follow right after it. These two, namely faith and practice, should be combined with each other however it is possible.” (Rutbat al-Hayat, p. 60)

We are ordered in the Qur’an to contemplate about how Allah the Almighty dignified some nations and degraded some others. (Ibrahim 14; 5) To ponder about the reasons for the destruction of previous nations ensures the human self to be alienated from this world, to be careful about his/her actions and to stay away from committing sins. Allah the Almighty says in the Qur’an:

“Do they not reflect within themselves: Allah did not create the heavens and the earth and what is between them but with truth, and (for) an appointed term? And most surely most of the people are deniers of the meeting of their Lord. Have they not travelled in the earth and seen how the end of those before them was? They were stronger than these in prowess, and dug up the earth, and built on it in greater abundance than these have built on it, and there came to them their messengers with clear arguments; so it was not beseeming for Allah that He should deal with them unjustly, but they dealt unjustly with their own souls.” (al-Rum 30; 8-9)

The Prophet (pbuh) also commanded to ponder about death; because people will stay away from sins and try to do good deeds when they think about the fact that they will leave this world, will be questioned for their good and bad deeds and will be rewarded or punished in return for their actions. In other words, contemplating death means beautifying the Hereafter and adding meaning to life in this world.

Dawn time, which is the most important and valuable time of the day, is the most fruitful time of the day for contemplation. Believers should think about their mistakes and sins at dawn and then repent for them, ponder about the Divine punishment and death and plan how they need to spend the rest of their lives. This is something that Allah the Almighty wants and likes His servants to do. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) benefited especially from the times of dawn to contemplate. He would stay standing, bending in ruku’, prostrating and crying so long that his feet would swell.

Ata’ (may Allah have mercy on his soul) narrates:

“I asked Aisha (r.a.):

“What was the most amazing state of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh)?”

She said:

“Which one of his states was not amazing?” and she continued:

“One night he came to bed and lied down. Then he told me:

“If you do not mind, I would like to get up and worship my Lord.” And I said:

“By Allah, I love to be next to you but I love more the things that make you happy.” Upon this he got up, performed ablution, prayed, and cried. He cried so much that his tears flew over his chest. Then he bent down and cried; He prostrated and cried; he raised his head and cried again. This state continued until Bilal recited the call for dawn prayer. When Bilal (r.a.) saw that Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) was crying, he asked:

“O Messenger of Allah! What is making you cry so much even though all of your sins have been forgiven?” Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) replied:

“Should not I be a thanking servant to Allah? By Allah tonight a verse was revealed to me that shame on those who do not contemplate about it.” And then he recited the following verse:

“Behold in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding, men who celebrate the praises of Allah, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth, (with the thought): our Lord! You did not create (all) this in vain. Glory be to You give us salvation from the penalty of the fire.” (Al-i Imrān 3; 190-191) (Ibn Ḥibbān, II, 386)

Allah the Almighty states that unbelievers pass by the evidences of creation on earth without seeing them; whereas sincere believers, who are defined, described, and loved by Allah the Almighty, remember Him all the time; they contemplate on the creation of the heavens, the earth, and other beings; and they ponder about how all these have been created for their service. They see the Divine art, power, and signs in every detail around them. They realize that all these have not been created in vain and remember their Mighty Creator. Consequently, they ask forgiveness of their mistakes and protection from the Hell fire from Allah the Almighty.

This is expressed by the famous poet Fuzuli as follows:

Olsa istidâd-ı ârif kâbil-i idrâk-i vahy,

Emr-i Hakk irsâline her zerredir bir Cebraîl!

“If the gnostic opens his heart to comprehend the revelation, every particle in the universe will become a Gabriel to him bringing down the orders of Allah.”

Allah the Almighty encourages believers to contemplate through statements, such as “don’t you think …”, “there are many signs of …” in several verses of the Qur’an. In fact, Allah the Almighty created endless things to think about. Since everything that we see and notice around us is a sign of the existence of Allah, they are very good means to contemplate about. It is stated in a verse that:

“Therewith He causes crops to grow for you, and the olive and the date-palm and grapes and all kinds of fruit. Lo! Herein is indeed a sign for people who reflect.” (al-Nahl 16; 11)

Ritual prayer, which is a believers’ ascension to the presence of Allah the Almighty, is in itself a way of contemplating the majesty of Allah. In this regard, Abu Dhar (r.a.) explains the state of Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) as follows:

“One night the Prophet (pbuh) repeated the following verse till morning:

“If You punish them, lo! They are Your slaves, and if You forgive them (lo! they are Your slaves). Lo! You, only You, are the Mighty, the Wise.” (al-Maidah 5; 118)” (Nasai, Iftitah, 79; Ibn Ḥanbal, V, 156)

What we get from these narrations is that all of our actions, speech, and acts of worship should be with contemplation. We especially need to recite the Qur’an slowly and in contemplation of every piece we read. Ali (r.a.) expresses the need for contemplation in reading the Qur’an as follows:

“There is no benefit in recitation without contemplation and in worship without delicate perception. The true scholar is the one who does not cut people’s hopes from Allah’s mercy, who does not make people unsure about being saved from Allah’s punishment, and who makes people be inclined to nothing but the Qur’an.” (İbrâhîm Canan, XV, 24)

Allah the Almighty invites not only the believers but also the unbelievers to contemplate in the following verse:

“Say: “I do admonish you on one point: that you do stand up before Allah- (it may be) in pairs, or (it may be) singly- and reflect (within yourselves) …” (Saba’ 34; 46)

In this verse, the Prophet (pbuh) tells his polytheist opponents to worship Allah in congregation or singly and to acknowledge that he is a true Prophet of Allah. He reminds them that just by following this single advice, they can comprehend the reality and know how to act. In other words, everything centers on a good servitude and deep contemplation.[1]

Luqman (pbuh) loved to sit in solitary and contemplate. He did this very often. When he was asked:

“Why are you sitting? Would not it be better if you sit with people and talk with them?” He said:

“Staying alone for an extended amount of time is more appropriate for contemplation. And an extended time of contemplation will take human beings to the path to Paradise.[2]

Every minute and particle of the universe is an endless sea filled with deep meanings, which can take a person to Allah the Almighty. They are inexhaustible treasures for the people of contemplation. How elegantly the poet expresses this:

“Universe is a great book of Allah from one end to the other. Whichever letter of this great book you read, you will see that it always means Allah. Upon whichever particle of the universe you contemplate, it will take you to Allah.”

Those who can reach the Creator of the universe by contemplating about the creation will not only live peacefully in this world but also enjoy Paradise and the face of Allah in the Hereafter.

[1] This Divine advice also implies another reality. Social intellect imprints the seal of commonness upon individual’s intellects and people think differently when they are in a community than when they are alone. This Qur’anic principle commands to the individuals of a community to stay in solitary and away from the effects and pressure of the society from time to time and contemplate about the reality. Even though this verse acknowledges the dominance of social intellect and its effects upon individual intellect, it also states that principles of social intellect do not always lead a person to the truth. Therefore, individuals should express their own free opinion, sincerely criticize these general principles, and develop an independent thinking. Thus, both individuals and the society can be prevented from going astray and goodness may prevail. (Muhammad Diraz, p. 203)

[2] The place where Luqman (pbuh) secluded himself in and contemplated is located in a mosque in Tarsus, Turkey, which attracts many visitors.

Source: An Excellent Exemplar, Osman Nuri Topbaş,  Erkam Publications

The Human Reality