The journey of realization of God begins with ‘la ilaha’ (there is no god) and then it finishes with ‘illallah’ (but God). The individual must first of all become a seeker and later become a finder. It is this order of the journey of ma‘arifah (God Realization) which applies to common man as well as to a prophet.
There is a saying in the Arabic language: La adri, nisfulilm (Saying ‘I don’t know’ is half of knowledge). First of all an individual has to discover his own ignorance, and then a spirit of enquiry is born within him. The greater his acknowledgement of his own ignorance, the greater is his spiritual and intellectual learning. It is a natural reality to which there is no exception.
Ma‘arifah (God Realization) or the discovery of God is not something to be inherited that a father may give to a son and the grandson may receive from his forebears. Ma‘arifah (God Realization) is ultimately something of a personal nature. Whenever anyone attains to God’s realization, it will happen only as a result of personal effort. Without personal effort, no one can ever achieve ma‘arifah (God Realization). Whatever a person receives without personal struggle will be just a kind of traditional belief rather than a living ma‘arifah (God Realization).
Ma‘arifah (God Realization) relates to the entire personality of the human being. Ma‘arifah (God realization) initially is achieved at an intellectual level. Subsequently through a natural process, it pervades his whole personality. The attainment of ma‘arifah (God Realization) for anyone colors his whole personality in its hue. No aspect of his life will remain unaffected by its influence.
The journey of ma‘arifah (God Realization) is indeed one of discovery. This discovery continues during the whole of one’s life. One who thinks that he has achieved perfect ma‘arifah would in effect never have discovered ma‘arifah at all.
Source: Discovering God