Chapter 2 – Levels of God-Awareness & its Psychological Effects
Awareness is one of the most sophisticated, elevated, and complex concepts within the human lexicon. According to Shaheed Mutahhari (q) and Ayatullah Misbah Yazdi (h), knowledge and awareness together make up the core essence of a human being. Human perfection is dependent upon this constant awareness. Thus, the 1st step towards true humanity, ascendency, and psycho-spiritual development and well-being is awareness, mindfulness, and awakening (yaqẓah). Conversely, negligence, unawareness, and inattentiveness will lead to a person’s fall and descent from the level of humanity and will cause them to plummet to the lowest level of animalism. This is because absentmindedness and inattention blocks a human being’s epistemic routes and renders their tools of perception, cognition, and intuition ineffective.
Imam Sajjad (a) in as-Saheefat as-Sajjaadiyyah
An excerpt from dua 17: His Supplication when he mentioned Satan and sought refuge from him and his plans
وایقاظنا عن سنة الغفلة بالرکون الیه
“[Oh Allah], wake us up from the heedless sleep of relying on [Satan]”
وَلَقَدْ ذَرَأْنَا لِجَهَنَّمَ كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الْجِنِّ وَالْإِنسِ ۖ لَهُمْ قُلُوبٌ لَّا يَفْقَهُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ أَعْيُنٌ لَّا يُبْصِرُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ آذَانٌ لَّا يَسْمَعُونَ بِهَا ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ كَالْأَنْعَامِ بَلْ هُمْ أَضَلُّ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْغَافِلُونَ
7:179 – Certainly We have created many of the jinn and humans for hell: they have hearts with which they do not understand, they have eyes with which they do not see, they have ears with which they do not hear. They are like cattle; rather they are more astray. It is they who are heedless.
أُولٰئِكَ الَّذينَ طَبَعَ اللَّهُ عَلىٰ قُلوبِهِم وَسَمعِهِم وَأَبصارِهِم ۖ وَأُولٰئِكَ هُمُ الغافِلونَ
16:108 – They are the ones on whose hearts Allah has set a seal, and on their hearing and their sight [as well], and it is they who are heedless.
A negligent, distracted individual who disregards their most crucial instrument of consciousness, forgets the presence and station of God within their life and the realm of being. Due to this, they cannot properly orient themselves and behave accordingly. It is even possible that this type of person apparently knows God, in terms of learned and acquired theology; however, he is not aware of God, and thus cannot act in a God-centric manner. This is because the fundamental condition for God-Awareness, experiencing true faith, and religious devotion is firmly bound by one’s inward orientation. Therefore, an inattentive individual will lose out on many of the benefits of piety in their personal and social lives.
In order to better understand God-Awareness, we will briefly examine it as a new emergent term within Islamic Psychology. Then, after analyzing the theoretical foundations and background of God-Awareness within the field of psychology, we will discuss the structure, levels, and its psychological effects.
The Concept of God-Awareness (Khudā Āgāhī)
Understanding the concept of God-Awareness has its roots in the conceptual analysis of remembrance or dhikr. Dhikr is an individual’s state of attention, presence, awareness, consciousness, and cognizance. This state has an intimate relationship with knowledge and knowing; however, it is not exactly the same. It happens often that there are certain things that we know, but we have not focused our attention on. Contrary to popular belief, dhikr and remembering is not necessarily something that occurs after negligence and forgetfulness. Rather, it is any type of mindfulness, attentiveness, and continued state of presence. Remembrance of God then, is a psychic awareness and inner attention towards the Creator, as well as feeling that the entirety of the cosmos belongs to Him and that He is always present within us. This notion of the dhikr of God requires that 2 conditions be realized: a true and real recognition of God and focusing one’s attention towards Him.
Based on this, dhikr, remembrance, and recalling applies when there is a prior recognition and presence which is not being focused on due to negligence or forgetfulness by a seemingly aware and alert individual. However, the opposite also holds true. For someone who is currently unaware, dhikr and recalling will help eliminate heedlessness and forgetfulness. The state of attentiveness, presence, awareness, and alertness will emerge or may even continue and increase and from a former weaker condition, if previously present.
Therefore, the concept of God-Awareness is perfected through:
1) Cognizance and communication between the self and God which is eternal, deep, and continuous
وَإِذ أَخَذَ رَبُّكَ مِن بَني آدَمَ مِن ظُهورِهِم ذُرِّيَّتَهُم وَأَشهَدَهُم عَلىٰ أَنفُسِهِم أَلَستُ بِرَبِّكُم ۖ قالوا بَلىٰ ۛ شَهِدنا ۛ أَن تَقولوا يَومَ القِيامَةِ إِنّا كُنّا عَن هٰذا غافِلينَ
7:172 – When your Lord took from the Children of Adam, from their loins, their descendants and made them bear witness over themselves, [He said to them,] ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They said, ‘Yes indeed! We bear witness.’ [This,] lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection, ‘Indeed we were unaware of this,’
الَّذينَ إِذا أَصابَتهُم مُصيبَةٌ قالوا إِنّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنّا إِلَيهِ راجِعونَ
2:156 – …those who, when an affliction visits them, say, ‘Indeed we belong to Allah, and to Him do we indeed return.’
يا أَيُّهَا الَّذينَ آمَنوا عَلَيكُم أَنفُسَكُم ۖ لا يَضُرُّكُم مَن ضَلَّ إِذَا اهتَدَيتُم ۚ إِلَى اللَّهِ مَرجِعُكُم جَميعًا فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِما كُنتُم تَعمَلونَ
5:105 – O you who have faith! Take care of your own souls. He who strays cannot hurt you if you are guided. To Allah will be the return of you all, whereat He will inform you concerning what you used to do.
2) Attention to one’s true identity and root, which is the divine spirit
فَإِذا سَوَّيتُهُ وَنَفَختُ فيهِ مِن روحي فَقَعوا لَهُ ساجِدينَ
15:29 – So when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My spirit, then fall down in prostration before him.’
محمد بن يحيى، عن أحمد بن محمد، عن محمد بن خالد، عن القاسم بن عروة، عن عبد الحميد الطائي، عن محمد بن مسلم قال: سألت أبا عبد الله عليه السلام عن قول الله عز وجل: ” ونفخت فيه من روحي”، كيف هذا النفخ؟ فقال: إن الروح متحرك كالريح وإنما سمي روحا لأنه اشتق اسمه من الريح وإنما أخرجه عن لفظة الريح، لان الأرواح مجانسة الريح وإنما أضافه إلى نفسه لأنه اصطفاه على سائر الأرواح، كما قال لبيت من البيوت: بيتي، ولرسول من الرسل: خليلي، وأشباه ذلك وكل ذلك مخلوق مصنوع محدث مربوب مدبر.
In al-Kafi, Muhammad ibn Muslim has said the following:
“I asked Abu Abdillah (a) about the words of Allah, the Most Holy, the Most High, ‘I…breathed into him of My spirit.’ What is this breathing?
The Imam (a) replied, “The spirit has motion like the winds. It is called a spirit (rūḥ) because the word is a derivative of rīḥ (wind). This derivative is selected because the spirits are similar or are of the same genus of the rīḥ (wind). He has attributed it to himself [by using the 1st person possessive case] because He selected it from among the other spirits, just as He has said about a [certain] house from among [other] houses: ‘My house’; and to a [certain] messenger from among [other] messengers: ‘My friend’; and so on. All of those are created, invented, originated in time, bound, and maintained [by the Lord].”
3) Focusing on the intense proximity to Him and remembering His perpetual presence and everlasting connection and attachment to us.
قُل مَن رَبُّ السَّماواتِ وَالأَرضِ قُلِ اللَّهُ ۚ قُل أَفَاتَّخَذتُم مِن دونِهِ أَولِياءَ لا يَملِكونَ لِأَنفُسِهِم نَفعًا وَلا ضَرًّا ۚ قُل هَل يَستَوِي الأَعمىٰ وَالبَصيرُ أَم هَل تَستَوِي الظُّلُماتُ وَالنّورُ ۗ أَم جَعَلوا لِلَّهِ شُرَكاءَ خَلَقوا كَخَلقِهِ فَتَشابَهَ الخَلقُ عَلَيهِم ۚ قُلِ اللَّهُ خالِقُ كُلِّ شَيءٍ وَهُوَ الواحِدُ القَهّارُ
13:16 – Say, ‘Who is the Lord of the heavens and the earth?’ Say, ‘Allah!’ Say, ‘Have you then taken others besides Him for guardians, who have no control over their own benefit or harm?’ Say, ‘Are the blind one and the seer equal? Or are the darkness and the light equal?’ Have they set up for Allah partners who have created like His creation, so that the creations seemed confusable to them? Say, ‘Allah is the creator of all things, and He is the One, the All-paramount.’
هُوَ الَّذي خَلَقَ السَّماواتِ وَالأَرضَ في سِتَّةِ أَيّامٍ ثُمَّ استَوىٰ عَلَى العَرشِ ۚ يَعلَمُ ما يَلِجُ فِي الأَرضِ وَما يَخرُجُ مِنها وَما يَنزِلُ مِنَ السَّماءِ وَما يَعرُجُ فيها ۖ وَهُوَ مَعَكُم أَينَ ما كُنتُم ۚ وَاللَّهُ بِما تَعمَلونَ بَصيرٌ
57:4 – It is He who created the heavens and the earth in six days; then settled on the Throne. He knows whatever enters the earth and whatever emerges from it and whatever descends from the sky and whatever ascends to it, and He is with you wherever you may be, and Allah sees best what you do.
وَلِلَّهِ المَشرِقُ وَالمَغرِبُ ۚ فَأَينَما تُوَلّوا فَثَمَّ وَجهُ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ واسِعٌ عَليمٌ
2:115 – To Allah belong the east and the west: so whichever way you turn, there is the face of Allah! Allah is indeed all-bounteous, all-knowing.
وَلَقَد خَلَقنَا الإِنسانَ وَنَعلَمُ ما تُوَسوِسُ بِهِ نَفسُهُ ۖ وَنَحنُ أَقرَبُ إِلَيهِ مِن حَبلِ الوَريدِ
50:16 – Certainly We have created man and We know to what his soul tempts him, and We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.
يا أَيُّهَا الَّذينَ آمَنُوا استَجيبوا لِلَّهِ وَلِلرَّسولِ إِذا دَعاكُم لِما يُحييكُم ۖ وَاعلَموا أَنَّ اللَّهَ يَحولُ بَينَ المَرءِ وَقَلبِهِ وَأَنَّهُ إِلَيهِ تُحشَرونَ
8:24 – O you who have faith! Answer Allah and the Apostle when he summons you to that which will give you life. Know that Allah intervenes between a man and his heart and that toward Him you will be mustered.
The Difference Between God-Awareness (Khudā Āgāhī) & God-Comprehension (Khudā Shināsī)
God-Comprehension is a phenomenon which occurs when information, knowledge, and recognition of Him is realized through either rationally acquired means or spiritually witnessing Him with the heart. Acquired knowledge, (aka knowledge by acquisition), is obtained through rational concepts and thus, does not directly connect and relate to the divine essence. When God is understood in this way, it is referred to as a philosophical or logical knowledge of God. On the other hand, intuitive knowledge, (which is also referred to as knowledge by presence, presential, or presentational knowledge), is an inner cognizance and recognition achieved by means of a type of spiritual witnessing. There is no medium or intermediary rational concept which aids in this type of knowledge. One example of this is your known intimate, personal knowledge of your own existence as the perceiver, which you understand without the need of some additional mental construct. This is also sometimes referred to as the natural or intuitive way of knowing God, Khudā Shināsī Fitrī, relating to our divine, original, theomorphic nature. It is our God-given universal system of recognition. Our hearts know God and in the depths of our souls already lies what is needed in order to be consciously aware of Him. This ability is dynamic in that it possesses the ability to grow and flourish.
God-Awareness is the stage after God-Compression. Whereas comprehending and knowing God is predicated upon knowledge and recognition, whether by the intellect or heart, awareness and consciousness of God is an attentive state and focus towards being cognizant of Him. It is to perceive God’s presence and to protect the unending connection and link to Him. This means then that it is possible to know God, while also neglecting Him, disregarding His existence, and being oblivious to our relationship with Him. From this, we understand that God-Awareness is a structure beyond knowing God, though inclusive of it. The knowledge and comprehension of God is the lowest stage among the various levels of God-Awareness. In reality, until God is not understood properly, (at least intuitively if not rationally), awareness of God will not be realized.
The distinction between these 2 concepts is similar to the difference between God concept and God image which was mentioned in a previous post. The God concept is an individual’s cognitive conceptualization of God, which makes it similar to God-Comprehension or simply knowing God. The God image is an individual’s model of God obtained through their experience and perception of Him, which more often is reflective of their close personal relationship and acts as an inner representation of what someone feels. This is a hidden psychological structure which is formed through religious and existential experiences and spiritual feelings about God. It is an intricate concept which has both emotional and empirical dimensions which depend upon a person’s spiritual experiences and daily life occurrences with God.
A Summary of the Conceptual Discussion of God-Awareness
Being aware of God is a concept that goes beyond simply knowing of His existence. It includes emotional and behavioral aspects as well. It is the stage after comprehending Him, meaning being conscious and aware and safeguarding the link and connection with God. In other words, a person should be at a level whereby they always remember the enduring presence of God, focus on their own divinely existential identity, and maintain an unbreakable attachment with Him. The extent of this state includes all psycho-spiritual dimensions and shows itself in all daily cognitions, emotions, and behaviors. This aware individual believes that God is always with them. They can feel their spirituality increasing. Their actions and processes are perfumed and colored by the divine.
صِبغَةَ اللَّهِ ۖ وَمَن أَحسَنُ مِنَ اللَّهِ صِبغَةً ۖ وَنَحنُ لَهُ عابِدونَ
2:138 – The color of Allah, and who colors better than Allah? And Him do we worship.’
في بُيوتٍ أَذِنَ اللَّهُ أَن تُرفَعَ وَيُذكَرَ فيهَا اسمُهُ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ فيها بِالغُدُوِّ وَالآصالِ – رِجالٌ لا تُلهيهِم تِجارَةٌ وَلا بَيعٌ عَن ذِكرِ اللَّهِ وَإِقامِ الصَّلاةِ وَإيتاءِ الزَّكاةِ ۙ يَخافونَ يَومًا تَتَقَلَّبُ فيهِ القُلوبُ وَالأَبصارُ
24:36-37 – In houses, Allah has allowed to be raised and wherein His Name is celebrated, He is glorified therein, morning and evening, by men whom neither trading nor bargaining distracts from the remembrance of Allah, and the maintenance of prayer and the giving of zakāt. They are fearful of a day wherein the heart and the sight will be transformed.
Ultimately, we will define God-Awareness as such: the recognition, attention, and feeling of His presence, the connection and relationship to Him, and the perseverance and continuation of an unwavering bond with Him.
In the next post, we will more closely examine the various levels of God-Awareness.
B.A.: Political Science; Imam Ali Seminary 2010-2012; Qum 2014-2020; Subjects: Islamic Philosophy, Spirituality, Psychology, Education, Parenting, Occidentology