In Search of a True Ecstasy

Almighty Allah as the Creator of man reveals in His Qur’an that upon creating and proportioning man He breathed into him of His spirit (the soul) (al-Hijr, 29).

This is likewise referred to as bringing man forth as another creation (al-Mu’minun, 14) – in addition to matter.

The Qur’an also mentions the covenant between Allah and the sons of Adam (entire mankind) prior to their physical creation and their arrival in this world (al-A’raf, 172).

Such was the purpose of the covenant that it cannot be erased from the human memory. No person forgets it regardless of life’s circumstances and people’s conscious choices.

The majority of scholars interpret the covenant as the fitrah, or the sound human nature, which has been implanted inside all human beings. It drives them to search for the Creator and to believe in Him.

It furthermore causes them to long for and love Him, and finally to submit to His will and to serve Him.

The fitrah is accepted as the human natural inclination, inborn innocence, purity and goodness, hereditary weaknesses, dependency and religiosity, and the restless perennial quest for a higher order of meaning and experience.

These feelings are universal, expressing themselves differently and with different degrees of intensity, subject to people’s overall aptitudes, gifts and, most importantly, religious affiliations.

People’s lives are dictated by the terms of their humanness – consciously or otherwise. Yet, people are slaves of their nature and its instinctive proclivities.

Neither can they ignore them, nor transcend their bounds. Whatever they do is either a response to, or a step to satiating, their urges.

Epiphanies and ecstasies

Epiphanies are celebrated as unrivalled moments of truth and enlightenment, and as sudden revelations that grace an individual, a community and even the whole world.

However, as splendid and exuberant as they may be, such moments and experiences are but flashes of the otherworldliness of human nature.

They erupt when both known and unknown conditions are right, when people tirelessly work, expect and hope for them, and whenever they simply want to erupt, often when least expected.

Ecstasies or raptures, on the other hand, are moments of intensified mental and spiritual awareness.

They are normally seen as altered and advanced states of consciousness, which make a person oblivious to the fetters of this material and fleeting world.

However, they are rare and temporary instants, sometimes as rapid as a twinkling. They signify a condition whereby a person’s incorporeal and spiritual dimensions take over his being.

They can be in relation to love, beauty, benevolence, sagacity, fulfilment, virtue and the truth. They can be in connection with people, things, ideas and values.

In other words, only in such provinces as serve as gateways to Heaven can true ecstasies be generated.

They produce exceptional experiences of elation and happiness. They are personal and innermost, instead of being collective and exceptionally outward.

They cannot be expressed by words, or any other physical media, because a metaphysical component cannot be articulated by a physical one. Only approximate metaphors can be used.

They are inwardly experienced and cherished however a person so desires and is able to.

As heavenly gifts, ecstasies are common in all human beings. They cannot be bought, simulated, or manipulated. They are not solely religious, nor “professionalized”, occasions.

Needless to say, nonetheless, that the closer a person is to the spiritual spheres – and to himself -, the more often and the more intensely he possesses such feelings.

That is what is generally understood as ultimate human joy, happiness and pleasure. All other forms of joy, happiness and pleasure are subjected to the former.

People live for such moments and experiences. That is also what keeps them going. The universes of dreams (hopes) and memories are built but on the premises of those moments and experiences.

Indeed, life is a succession of extraordinary memories held together by as many extraordinary emotions. The remainder is quickly cast aside and easily forgotten.

For example, a lifespan of seventy years, in essence, is just a small memoir of authentic recollections imbued with enduring and as authentic feelings.

They are consigned to the deepest recesses of the soul, which a person keeps frequenting. His visits keep increasing as the recollections grow and the prospect of making new ones diminishes.

Torn between ecstasies, matter and transience

In this there is an element of tragedy as well. Not even most intensely spiritual persons can capture and fully experience ecstasies in this world, let alone such as have turned their backs on spirituality and Heaven.

Spiritual persons who embrace and live the truth know that the most genuine, most complete, everlasting and heavenly ecstasy (bliss) can take place only in the Hereafter, in Jannah (Paradise).

This world’s flashes of although-worldly-yet-otherworldly-quality-wise ecstasy are no more than reminders of and a stepping stone to the former. They in addition function as its irrefutable evidence and sign. They attract each other.

On the other hand, non-spiritual persons, who are trapped in matter, persist in trying the impossible: to satiate their inner cravings for the ontological ecstasy, albeit within the wrong framework and by wrong means.

It goes without saying that the results of such an approach are at best partial, erratic and unreliable. Instead of driving a person forward, their one-dimensionality holds him back. The results are often fake and deceptive.

People as a consequence appear torn between the pressure of the innate demands for actual ecstasy, and the painful reality of transient matter inside which they have imprisoned themselves.

It is a war of attrition involving demands for the real and absolute, and supplies of the superficial and relative substance.

Either way, life is a chase. It is a mission fraught with a mixture of hopes, expectations, victories, celebrations, failures and disappointments.

Capturing the moment (catching the wave)

Life is like a river. It constantly flows. As if there is no present. There is only the uncertain future and the beckoning past.

The present is that fine, yet virtual, frontier that stands between the two realms. It denotes their confluence. No sooner does a person start thinking about the present, than it becomes part of the past with the rays of the future starting to show up.

Such is the dynamics of life. Its subtleties are overwhelming and beyond anything man can offer. If people could only capture that fine frontier and flow with it, especially insofar as creating and experiencing ecstasies are concerned.

That is impossible though. People can only dream and look forward to such thing in the Hereafter. Some tend to resort to theorizing about and inventing utopias as an alternative.

That condition is mankind’s weakest spot. Hence, Satan was able to deceive Adam and his wife in the Garden of Eden while promising them eternity, perfection and infinite authority.

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About Dr. Spahic Omer
Dr. Spahic Omer, an award-winning author, is an Associate Professor at the Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). He studied in Bosnia, Egypt and Malaysia. In the year 2000, he obtained his PhD from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur in the field of Islamic history and civilization. His research interests cover Islamic history, culture and civilization, as well as the history and theory of Islamic built environment. He can be reached at: [email protected].