First principle: Why was the Ascension necessary?
QUESTION: Almighty God is nearer to one than one’s jugular vein, closer to everything than itself, and absolutely free of corporeality and space. Therefore, while all saints can converse with Him in their hearts, why did the sainthood of Muhammad have to make a long journey (the Ascension) to talk to God?
ANSWER: We will discuss this profound matter via two comparisons from The Twelfth Word, which concern the mystery of the Qur’an’s miraculousness and of the Ascension.
First comparison: A king has two forms of speech and address. He either speaks on his private phone to a common subject regarding a minor matter or private need, or, in his capacity or position as the supreme sovereign, supreme head of the religious office, and supreme ruler, conveys his orders in the form of an exalted decree manifesting his majesty by means of an envoy or high official.
As in the comparison, the Creator of this universe, the Master of 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 is universal and general. The Ascension is the manifestation of Muhammad’s sainthood in a universal and most exalted form and much superior to all other sainthoods. It is the Prophet’s being honored with the conversation and direct address of Almighty God through His Name the Lord of the entire universe and His title the Creator of all existence.
Second comparison: A person holds a mirror up to the sun. According to its capacity, the mirror receives what it can from the sun’s seven-colored light. That person has a relation with the sun through the mirror and according to its ability to reflect the sun. If he or she directs the mirror’s shining side toward his or her dark house or small, private, and roof-covered garden, he or she can benefit only according to the mirror’s capacity, not in proportion to the sun’s value.
Another person puts down the mirror and, facing the sun directly, sees its splendor and comprehends its grandeur. He or she then climbs a very high mountain and faces the sun without veil, witnessing the majesty of its broad dominion. Coming back, this person tries to have a direct connection with the sun’s constant light by making large windows in his or her house or garden’s roof, and obtains other means of benefiting from the sun directly. Facing it, that person may say in indebtedness: “O amiable sun, beauty of the world and darling of the skies, who gilds the earth’s face with light and makes it and all flowers smile in joy and happiness! You have illuminated and heated my house and garden, as you illuminate the world and heat the earth’s face.” The first person cannot say this, for the sun’s reflection in his or her mirror is restricted to the mirror’s capacity.
Likewise, the Single, Eternally Besought One, Who is the Sun without beginning and the Lord of eternity, manifests Himself in the nature of humanity in two forms that comprise innumerable degrees. The first manifestation occurs in the heart’s mirror through one’s relationship with the Lord. Everyone may receive a manifestation of the Eternal Sun’s light and conversation in certain degrees in accordance with their capacity, the character of their spiritual journey toward sainthood, and their ability to receive manifestations of Divine Names and Attributes. As a result, the kind of sainthood which is attained through journeying within the shade of some particular Name(s) or Attribute(s) contains innumerable degrees.
The second is that since we have a comprehensive nature and are the most enlightened fruit of the tree of creation, we can reflect all Divine Names in the mirror of our spirits. Thus Almighty God manifests Himself and all His Beautiful Names most comprehensively in humanity’s best and greatest representative. This form of manifestation occurred during the Ascension of Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, in which his sainthood found its meaning and became the first stage of his Messengership.
Sainthood contains veils between one’s heart and the Divine Names’ manifestations, as in the case of the first person in the second comparison above. Messengership contains no veils, as in the case of the second person in the second comparison, for it is connected directly with the All-Majestic Being’s manifestation with all His Names, in a single being. Since the Prophet’s Ascension was the greatest wonder of his sainthood and marked its final and greatest station, it was transformed into Messengership.
In its inner aspect, the Ascension signifies sainthood and is a journey from the created to the Creator. In its outer aspect, it is Messengership and signifies a return from the Creator to the created (to guide them). Sainthood is the journey through the degrees of nearness to God. As such, it requires the attainment of many ranks and so takes a long time. Messengership, whose light is greatest, proceeds from the realization of Divine nearness—God’s choosing one and making him near to Himself personally—in all its comprehensiveness. This may occur in an instant, which accounts for the Tradition: “The Ascension took place in an instant. The Prophet went and returned in the same instant.”
Here we must say to the unbeliever: Since this universe resembles a most orderly country, magnificent city, or adorned palace, it must have a ruler, owner, and builder. There is such a magnificent, All-Majestic Owner, All-Perfect Ruler, All-Gracious Maker. There is also a man with a universal view, who has a relationship with that entire country, city, or palace and is connected to each by means of his senses, feelings, and faculties. Given this, the All-Magnificent Maker will have a sublime relationship to the fullest degree with that man, who has a universal view and comprehensive consciousness, and will favor him with a sacred address.
Among those honored with this relationship, Prophet Muhammad displayed this relationship to its fullest degree. His achievements speak for themselves: One-half of the world and one-fifth of humanity are under his control and influence, and he enlightened the universe by giving it a new spiritual form and furnishing it with a sublime meaning. The Ascension, the fullest degree of that relationship, is most deserved by and suitable for him.
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi