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The Path to Fahm (Understanding)

One of the greatest gifts one needs to supplicate and beg Allah to bestow on him/her, is “Fahm” (comprehension, understanding). The Fahm extends the horizons of understanding, adjusts one’s perception, and allows for the discernment of subtleties in realization. The Fahm allows for the development of a clear insight, an illumination of the path, and helps one travel steadily and firmly to Allah (swt). The Fahm leads, indeed, to a “beautiful” way of submission to Allah, the Al-Mighty, the Most Merciful.

The one gifted with Fahm is elevated to the rank of the Ulil-Albab (the ones endowed with understanding), whom Allah praised in the Quran. “And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: ‘We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord.’ And no one will be reminded except Ulul-Albab (people of understanding)” (3: 7).

Every sincere believer eagerly longing to attain Fahm would wonder, “What should be the first step to start with, in order to be on a correct path leading to the gift of Fahm?”

Digging in the Quran to learn the definition of Ulil-Albab, there is this following Ayah, which should enlighten the path concerning the first step toward Fahm: “Those who have avoided Taghut (false deities), lest they worship it, and turned back to Allah - for them are good tidings. So give good tidings to My servants. (Those) who listen to speech and follow the best of it. Those are the ones Allah has guided, and those are Ulul-Albab (people of understanding)” (39:17-18).

Reflecting deeply upon this Ayah, one can come to the conclusion that the key action that should unlock the path to Fahm is “Listening.” Indeed, without attentive listening, there will not be understanding. In the absence of understanding, one loses the track of the right path. When Allah (swt), The Most Merciful, bestowed the gift of the book on Musa (pbuh), He raised the mountain of Sina above the heads of the people of Musa to help them focus and elevate their attentiveness to its peak, so the covenant would be conceived and be pledged to. “And [mention] when We raised the mountain above them, as if it was a dark cloud, and they were certain that it would fall upon them, [and Allah said], ‘Take what We have given you with determination and remember what is in it that you might fear Allah’” (7:171).

Allah’s favor upon the companions to forgive them and grant them a lofty abode in the Hereafter was granted when, after they were tried, they sincerely said: “we hear and we obey.” “And they say, ‘We hear and we obey. [We seek] Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the [final] destination’” (2:285).

Afterward, Allah addressed the believers to remind them of the pledge they took upon themselves, and to teach the later generations of believers that the path to the pleasure of Allah is bound to this covenant, saying, “And remember the favor of Allah upon you and His covenant with which He bound you when you said, ‘We hear and we obey.’ And fear Allah. Indeed, Allah is Knowing of that within the chests” (5:7). The emphasis one can notice here is on the action and virtue of listening. The same is noticed, when Allah (swt) admonished the believers to observe Taqwa. He ordained them to listen: “So fear Allah as much as you are able and listen, and obey and spend [in the way of Allah ]; it is better for your selves. And whoever is protected from the stinginess of his soul - it is those who will be the successful” (64:16).

But, the ability to listen to the truth, conceive it, and follow it requires a healthy inner receiver. Allah (swt), when talking about the disbelievers, said: “And among them are those who listen to you. But, can you cause the deaf to hear, although they will not use reason?” (10:42). Subhan Allah, one with deafness who can hear, but not comprehend or conceive the truth? The underlying cause of such is a blind heart that makes one to be “deaf.”

The inner healthy receiver allowing one to listen and be bound to the covenant of hearing and obeying is, then, a sound heart. The sound heart listens to and captures the words of truth, then spreads them throughout the soul to be shone on every cell, illuminating, then, the mind and the soul. It is then when the sweet taste of Eman (faith) is felt!

What makes, then, a heart to be sound, to be capable of listening, conceiving, understanding, and helping one be raised to the rank of Ulil-Albab? The answer is in the following Hadith: “There are three qualities – whoever has them will taste the sweetness of Eman: to love Allah (swt) and His Messenger (pbuh), more than anyone else; to love a servant (of Allah) only for (the sake of) Allah; and to hate returning to disbelief after Allah has saved him/her from it as he/she would hate to be thrown into the fire (of Hell)” (Bukhari and Muslim).

“And We send down of the Quran that which is healing and mercy for the believers.”

Al Qur'an 17:82