Tooba Khokhar, Cambridge
Lovers share a sacred decree – to seek the Beloved
Rumi, ‘One Whisper of the Beloved’
Each man has his own Paradise, woven from dreams and fantasies personal to him. Each mind paints a different picture of the abode of bliss. Within the Islamic tradition however, the true ‘lover’ accepts no Paradise short of union with his ‘Beloved’ (God). Indeed, the very essence of the religion of Islam is to forego lesser loves and embark on the path of ‘Ishq or passionate, mystical love of a Divine Beloved. To be a Muslim is to be in submission to Him, seeking Him as our end and our true Paradise.
The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmed (on whom be peace) beautifully articulated this sentiment in his book Kashti-e-Nuh (Noah’s Ark)
Our paradise is in our God. Our highest delight is in our God for we have seen Him and found every beauty in Him. This wealth is worth procuring even though one may have to lay down one’s life to procure it. This ruby is worth purchasing though one may have to lose oneself to acquire it. O ye, who are bereft, run to this fountain and it will save you.
In our Beloved, we find the elixir of life and from Him is derived all the sweetness of this world and the next. Persian poet ‘Attar, himself a mystic devoted to pursuit of the Beloved, wrote of how
… He is always near to us, though we
Live far from His transcendent majesty.
A hundred thousand veils of dark and light
Withdraw His presence from our mortal sight
We learn from the Qur’an that our God is near. However, Attar alludes to a Prophetic tradition which states that 70,000 ‘veils’ withdraw man from Allah. These metaphorical veils hide His Being from us who, like the prisoners in Plato’s Cave, might not be able to behold with our limited gaze and weak, mortal eyes the full light of His Glory and Majesty.
But the world that is to come is a different case altogether. There we have been promised delights which “…no eye has seen, no ear has heard and no heart conceived”. And it is of this unknown world that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him), related the following episode:
When the dwellers of Paradise will have entered Paradise, Allah, the Blessed and the Exalted, will ask them, ‘Do you desire anything more that I should give you?’
They will answer, ‘Have you not made our countenances bright? Have you not admitted us to Paradise and delivered us from the Fire?’
Thereupon, Allah will lift the veil from His countenance and the dwellers of Paradise will not have known anything dearer to them than looking at their Lord. (Muslim)
So from within one Paradise, we will gain another. In exchange for devotion in this life, the lover will receive a treasure unrivalled in the whole of the universe: the lifting of the veil and a glimpse of the Beloved.
 Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Roohani Khazain Vol. 19: Kashti Nuh, pp. 21-22