The Dajjal, as everyone knows, has only one eye. Those ulema who are concerned to understand and apply their intuition rather than simply to act as historical relay stations have sometimes interpreted this attribute as a reference to the characteristic sickness of decadent religious communities; a sickness that will necessarily be at its most prevalent as the end of time approaches. The human creature has been given two eyes for reasons of obvious biological utility: the capacity for focussing so splendidly produced by the ciliary muscles in the eyeball (a superb technology most of us never pause to give thanks for) is nonetheless not a perfect instrument for the gauging of distance. Human beings need perspective: for hunting and for fighting; and for the efficient monitoring of children. And hence we have two eyes, as the Qur’an notes, asking for our faith and our thankfulness: ‘Have We not given him two eyes’?
The Dajjal, however, has one eye only; for he is sick. He represents, in human form, a cosmic possibility which occurs throughout history, gathering momentum as Prophetic restorations are forgotten, until, for a time during the last days, he is the one-eyed man who is king. There are several esoteric interpretations of this, but one in particular is perhaps the most satisfying and profound. It points out that the latter days are the time of a loss of perspective. Distances and priorities are miscalculated, or even reversed. The name of Adam’s ancient enemy, Iblis, signals his ability to invert and overturn: yulabbis, he confuses and muddles mankind. And the Dajjal is in this sense a physical materialisation of Iblis: he is the Great Deceiver insofar as he dresses virtue up as vice, and vice-versa. Examples spring all too readily to mind. For instance: once the old were respected and admired more than the young; today, it is the other way around. Once unnatural vice was despised, now it is the only practice that cannot be criticised in the films or in polite society. Once humility was praised, and pride was a sin; today there has been a complete inversion. No longer are we asked to control ourselves, instead we are urged to ‘discover’ ourselves. The nafs is king of the millennium. Those of you who saw the Queen forced to watch the orgy at the Greenwich Dome, a celebration of mindless erotic and athletic display that had nothing to do with the man whom the Millennium supposedly marked, will know this well enough.
It is the principle of the Dajjal that brings about this kind of evil. It is an evil that is worse than the traditional sort, which was simply the failure to practice commonly-respected virtues; because the new evil yulabbis: it inverts: it turns virtue into vice. It is, in this sense, one-eyed and without perspective. The sight by which we observe the outward world is composed of information from two separate instruments. When we speak of religious understanding, we speak of basira, perception guided by wisdom. And it is characteristic of Islam that wisdom consists in recognising and establishing the correct balance between the two great principles of existence: the outward, that is, the form, and the inward, that is, the content: Zahir and batin, to use the Qur’anic terms.
The Dajjal sees with one eye. In this understanding, we would say that he is therefore a man of zahir, or of batin, but never of both. He is a literalist, or he is free in the spirit. The most glorious achievement of Islam, which is to reveal a pattern of human life which explores and celebrates the physical possibilities of man in a way that does not obstruct but rather enhances and deepens his metaphysical capacities, is hence negated. The miscreant at the end of time is, therefore, the exact inversion of the Islamic ideal.
At the beginning of our story, the balance between the zahir and the batin was perfect. The Messenger, upon whom be the best of blessings and peace, was the man of the Mi‘raj, and also the hero of Badr. He loved women, and perfume, and the delight of his eye was in prayer. The transition between moments of intense colloquy with the supreme archangel, and of political or military or family duty, was often little more than momentary; but his balance was impeccable, for he showed that body, mind and spirit are not rivals, but allies in the project of holiness, which means nothing other than wholeness.
The Companions manifested many aspects of this extraordinary wholeness, the traditional Islamic term for which is afiya, and the proof of whose accomplishment is the presence of adab. The luminosity of the Prophetic presence reshaped them, so that where once there had been the crude, materialistic egotism of the pagan nomad, there was now, barely twenty years later, a unified nation led by saints. It seemed that the crudest people in history had suddenly, as though by a miracle, been transmuted into the most refined and balanced. The pagan Arabs seem almost to have served as a preview of the temper of our age, and the man who came among them, unique among prophets in the unique difficulty of his mission, is the alpha amid the omega, the proof that an Adamic restoration is possible even under the worst of conditions, even in times such as ours.
The superb human quality of the Companions is one of the most moving and astounding of the Blessed Prophet’s miracles. Receiving alone the burden of revelation, and bearing virtually alone the responsibilities of family and state, he maintained such sanctity, humour, and moral seriousness that his world was transformed around him. Had you spent all that is upon the earth, you would not have reconciled their hearts, the Revelation tells him; but Allah has brought reconciliation between them. The political unification of Arabia, itself an unprecedented achievement, was only made possible by the existence of a spiritual principle at its centre, which melted hearts, and made a new world possible.
The Companions, as the most perfect exemplars of the Islamic principle of seeing with both eyes, were, as the saying goes, fursanun bi’l-nahar, ruhbanun bi’l-layl: cavalrymen by day, and monks by night. They united zahir and batin, body and spirit, in a way that was to their pagan and Christian contemporaries extraordinary, and which, in our day, when balance of any sort is rare, is hard even to imagine. Their faces radiated with the inner calm that comes of inner peace: ala bi-dhikriíLlahi tatma’innu’l-qulub: ‘it is by the remembrance of Allah that hearts find peace.(Abdal-Hakim Murad )