37:1 By the row-keepers in rows!
The lords of realization have said various things about which rows of angels these are. One group has said that what is meant is all the rows of the angels adorning the celestial world, through which the seven heavens have become luminous. In each heaven, there is one sort and in each class one description. Some are in the station of service with the watchword of veneration, some in the station of awe with the blanket of watchfulness, some in the state of striving while sniffing the scents of contemplation, some in delight at being attracted by a passion for the Friend, some in the yearning while whispering secretly with the Friend, some in the dice of love while melting in separation. The chanting of their glorification has deafened the ears of the spheres, their glorifying and hallowing have perfumed the world of holiness, and their flashing words have illumined the courtyard of the Throne. All are sitting in the celestial sky in the gardens of approval, all have bound their belts for the Exalted Threshold within the veils of awe. There is no shortcoming in their worship, no fatigue in their obedience, no slackening in their service. They do not disobey God in what He commands them and they do as they are commanded [66:6].
Another group has said that what is meant by these rows is the angels of the Inhabited House specifically, who are in the fourth heaven. They are like the Adamites in this dusty center, who visit the house of the Kaaba every year for one day. The master of the empire, the lord of the Shariah, the foremost of the prophets, said, “On the night of proximity and honor, the night of nearness and familiarity, the night of the miʿrāj, when we were strolling in that towering garden, we reached the fourth heaven and we went to visit the Inhabited House. We saw several thousand of those given proximity next to the Inhabited House.
They were coming from the right and passing to the left, circumambulating and saying ‘Here I am,’ constantly passing to the left. You would say that their number was more than the stars and greater than the number of leaves on the trees. I could not imagine their number, nor could my understanding perceive how to count them. I said, ‘O Gabriel who are they, and whence do they come?’
“Gabriel said, ‘O Master, “None knows the hosts of thy Lord but He” [74:31]. It has been fifty thousand years that I have seen it just like this. They do not rest for an hour. Thousands come from that direction and pass by. I have not seen before those who come, and I never again see those who pass by. I do not know whence they come or where they go. I do not know the beginning of their state, nor do I recognize the end of their work.”
Yes, friend, this is a marvelous business and a wondrous state! The heaven-dwellers set their faces toward a stone, and the earth-dwellers set their faces toward a stone. What do the helpless passionate ones have in their hands other than rushing and running? May the chevaliers who will settle for nothing but the face of the object of passion and play dice in nothing but love for the Friend subsist in a thousand states of happiness!
37:5 The Lord of the heavens and the earth and what is between the two, and the Lord of the easts.
It is God who is the creator and keeper of the seven heavens and the seven earths. He is the form giver to every form and the embellisher of every picture. He is without associate, without likeness, without equal, and without a helper. He is loyal to the friends and lover of the faithful: God is the friend of those who has faith [2:257]. He is generous to the recognizers and gentle and beautiful doing toward the servants: God is gentle to His servants [42:19].
In terms of allusion, He is saying, “The creator without cause am I, the enactor without tool am I, the all-subjugating without artifice am I, the all-forgiving without delay am I, the all-curtaining of every slip, am I. I created so that you would see power, I show you hell so that you will see the punishment, I keep you on the path so that you will see solicitude, I forgive your sins so that you will see bounty and mercy, I convey you to the Garden so that you will see generosity, I place you on the throne so that you will see exaltedness, I give you wine so that you will see pleasure, I greet you with ‘Peace’ so that you will see felicitations, I lift up the veil of majesty so that you will see encounter and vision.”
37:24 And halt them. Surely they will be questioned.
One group will be questioned by way of rebuke, and another group will be questioned because of chastisement. Those who are the folk of chastisement will be kept on the bridge of the Narrow Path and will be questioned before witnesses, while God is angry toward them. It will be said to them, “Today I have thrown your judgment back to you: Thy soul suffices thee today as a reckoner against thee [17:14].” Their black register and bad deeds will be held before their faces. It will be said, “When these are someone’s works, what is his recompense?” Unwillingly they will say, “His recompense is the Fire.” Then the call will come, “Enter it by your own judgment!”
It has been reported that when Pharaoh claimed Godhood and said, “I am your Lord the highest” [79:24], Gabriel came into his road in the form of a mortal man and asked him, “What do you say about a chieftain who pulls up his slave, gives him possessions, position, and blessings, and then makes him the headman and paragon for others, but the slave wants to be the paragon over his own chieftain. What is his recompense?” Pharaoh said, “His recompense is that he be drowned in water so that others may take heed of him.”
From the Exalted Presence, the command came, “O Gabriel, remember this fatwa on the day when I pull him into the sea and drown him by his own fatwa.”
As for the group who are questioned by way of rebuke and not because of chastisement, they are those who are faithful in belief, tawḥīd-voicers through the affection in their hearts and the truthfulness of their love, but they are sinners and have fallen short in their deeds. The Real will question them, but He will conceal their defects from the people. He will remind them of their sins, but He will not hold back His pardon and forgiveness from them, and He will question them in seclusion. A sound report says, “God will bring the person of faith close, then place His wing over him and curtain him. He will say, ‘Do you recognize this sin? Do you recognize that sin?’ “He will say, ‘Yes, my Lord,’ until he confirms his sins and sees in himself that he will perish. “He will say, ‘I curtained them for you in the world, and I forgive you for them today.’”
Once Abū ʿUthmān Ḥīrī was talking about love. A youth stood up and said, “What is the path to His love?” What shall I do to reach His friendship? Abū ʿUthmān said, “Let go of your opposition!” The youth said, “How can I claim to love Him if I have not let go of my opposition?” Then he stood up, shouted out, and wept. Abū ʿUthmān said, “Truthful in love for Him, falling short in His rightfully due!”
Outwardly he is among those who fall short, inwardly among the ranks of the friends. O chevalier! If you are such that you fall short in your effort and deeds, strive not to fall short in the truthfulness of love and the pain of yearning, for truthfulness in love, makes up for the shortcoming in deeds, but fully performing deeds does not make up for the shortcoming in love. When the angels counted out the defects of the Adamites, He said to them, “Surely I know what you do not know [2:30]. O angels, why do you look at the disloyalty in their deeds? Look at the limpidness of Our knowledge. O Iblis, why do you look at the fetid mud [15:26]? Look at the robe of Our attributes. Even if Our friends should slip and the hard cash of their practice should be adulterated by disobedience, I hold out the crucible of repentance: the repenters, the worshipers [9:112]. The wisdom in the slip is that when the servant looks at himself from the slip, he brings forth poverty. When he looks at Us from obedience, he brings forth boasting. The servant must always be traveling between poverty and boasting, he must be passing back and forth between fear and hope. In fear, he weeps in expiation of sins, and in hope, he is joyful at finding everlasting bliss.”
This is why the Pir of the Tariqah said, “With reports, I went forth seeking certainty, fear my resource, hope my companion. The goal was hidden from me and I was striving in the religion. All at once, the lightning of self-disclosure flashed from ambush. With thought, they see days like that, with the Friend like this.” When someone has this state and his traveling has this attribute, the final outcome of his work and the fruit of his passing days will be what the Exalted Lord says:
37:41-42 They will have a known provision; fruits—and they will be honored. In the Garden, they will have a known provision for their outer skins at designated moments, morning and evening, and they will have a known provision for their secret cores at every moment.
Yaḥyā Muʿādh was asked, “Does the Beloved ever turn His face toward the lover?”He said, “When does the Beloved ever turn His face away from the lover?”
May a thousand spirits be sacrificed to the chevalier who knows the intimations of passion! God nurtures those who have the collar of love around their necks in the lap of bounty, the cradle of the Covenant, and the dome of proximity. He unveils to them His Essence and addresses them through His attributes. The Throne has the attribute of elevation, and elevation is enough for it. The Footstool has the attribute of tremendousness, and tremendousness is enough for it. Heaven has adornment and ornamentation, and adornment and ornamentation are enough for it. The soul has the claim to egoism, and the claim to egoism is enough for it. As for the heart, it does not have the elevation of the Throne, nor does it have the tremendousness of the Footstool, nor does it have the ornamentation of the heaven, nor does it have the expanse of the earth, nor does it have the claim to being and egoism—all it has is brokenness and poverty. “My bounty and mercy are enough for it. Say: ‘In the bounty of God and His mercy—in that let them rejoice’ [10:58].”