In Christian theology vision of God is a reward, a consummation, reserved for the next life. In this life ‘no man has seen God at any time’. The Ṣūfis, on the contrary, reject this fardāyi zāhiḍ (devotee’s tomorrow), to use the expression of Ḥāfiẓ. They are intent on the here and now. The word mushāhada itself contains the notion of direct vision, shuhūd. The soul, by the fact of its spiritual and intellectual nature, is invited by God to behold Him and He will grant this favour to all who serve Him sincerely and whole-heartedly. The necessary condition for the divine revelation is not so much physical death as a mystical death, death to self. Self is a veil, a hindrance to sight of Him. It must disappear if God is to appear. God is, indeed, all that really exists. The rest is only appearance. Appearance glows and fades on the unchanging background of Being. Still, in the nature of things, God is free to reveal Himself or to conceal Himself. If He reveals Himself to His servant, that will be a free gift of His grace. It follows, then, that the preliminary disposition of fanā (disappearance of self) is also an effect of grace, it cannot be achieved by a man’s own efforts. Still, it could never be achieved at all did not man’s spiritual nature, witnessed to by the Qorānic nafakhnā fihi min rūhinā (we breathed into him of our Spirit), possess already the root of the matter, setting no limit to the scope of his knowledge and spiritual experience. It is true that a great mystic like ‘Aṭṭar can say:

‘The mind does not reach to the frontier of Thy perfection.

‘The soul does not reach of itself the Palace of Union (viṣāl).

‘Were all the atoms of the world to become eyes,

84‘They could never comprehend Thy infinite Beauty.


‘This reason of mine, which for long I made my guide,

‘I have consumed in the effort to know God.

‘My whole life has been spent and with this weak reason I have learnt

This much alone: that I still know Him not.’