Monday, May 25, 2015

Theophany of Perfection - Ibn Arabi





Hear, O My beloved!

You are the reason for the being of the world
You are the center-point of the sphere and its encompassing

You are its complexity and simplicity

You are the order brought down between heaven and earth

I did not create for you realizations
except that you realize Me in them

And when you realize Me, you realize yourself

Do not strive to realize Me in the realization of yourself

By My Eye you will see Me and yourself

You will not see Me by the eye of yourself


Beloved,
How often have I called you
and you do not hear

How often have I stood before you
and you do not witness Me

How often have I embodied Myself in sense
and you do not inhale
and in the flavors and you do not savor the taste
for My sake

What is the matter with you
that you do not feel Me when you touch?

Why do you not recognize Me in the fragrances of musk?

Why do you not see Me? Why do you not hear Me?

What is the matter with you!

What is the matter with you!


I Am your most heady rupture
beyond any delight

My craving for you is more intense
than any born for an object of desire

I Am better for you
than any good thing

I Am the Beautiful
I Am the Elegant

Love Me, Love Me
Love Me alone

Desire Me ardently

Be consumed in Me,
not engrossed in other than Me

Take Me in,
Receive Me

You will not find an intimate like Me

Everything wants you for itself
but I want you for your sake

But you, you avoid Me


Beloved,
You can not meet Me half-way
in your drawing close to Me
My drawing close to you outweighs a hundredfold
of means by which you approach Me

I Am closer to you than your self
And your self, which performs these acts, 
is other than Me, created.

Beloved,
I am jealous of you, from you
I can not bear to see you
with otherness or with yourself
Be with Me in Me
With yourself just as you are with Me

Then My Beloved
you will not even feel the Union.
The Union!

Had we found a path towards separation
We would let the separation savor separation

Beloved,
Come, hand in hand,
enter reality that it may decide
between us with a judgment of eternity

Beloved antagonist,
pleasure can not be found
in dispute between lovers
pleasure is in the converse

As the poet said;
I wished her dead because of loving her
So that she'd be my adversary on the Last Day.
(Say; Do you have an understanding of the High Assembly when they are disputing?
Had the outcome of this severance been only appearance before the Judge, then what about the joy of and gazing upon the face of a beloved?)


O heart, 
O heart




~ Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi ~
(Translated by Abraham Abadi and Aaron Cass)

Transcribed from youtube / Original and slightly different text can be found on Beshara


Known as the greatest mystical genius of the Arabs, Ibn ‘Arabi (1165-1240) was born in Murcia in south-eastern Spain. He is one of the greatest mystic and sufi saint the earth has ever witnessed. May his soul be perfumed with divine grace. 




In this poem God, the Most Perfect and Most Glorious Beloved, 
is speaking to humanity, 
to you, 
to me,
to each individual.

Please listen with your heart of heart.



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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Some Soul Searching Questions on God



Some one asked some soul searching questions on God and awareness. I am quoting the question here:

So how much of me is God and how much of God is me? When all the universe is God (creation I would say is nearly the same) am I not part of this universe? when I think about it all I can really put the finger on (as to who or what I am) is awareness, this makes me think well what is this awareness? Science now explains that physical reality is in some way subservient to what we think is occurring (does anything actually occur?) then reality is connected to consciousness which is connected to awareness which is what? Physically this awareness is a combination of sense input, should I say a formation of sensory input and beliefs etc. (in the way we put them together as information we can use). But this sense is very limited and very reliant upon the restrictions (wavelength etc) so it could be almost described as being tuned to certain things - would these things be the direction to God as the path of least resistance?

For some reason I see no distinction between things and God, my logic is where ever you look there is God. (I may well be wrong I am trying to understand this ) So if I was to look at you there is God. Following this what is it I am doing when I look, (what is this thing looking sensing) I am using a particular set of senses which are very limited in their scope, so limited as to be almost seen as design.

If I am to contemplate what this existence is and break it down into its smallest constituent components it is a bunch of senses creating an awareness (just words to describe). I wonder what this awareness is another word is consciousness (a perception of what where we are). What is this awareness this paradigm of designed senses, what is its purpose?

And more importantly what is this awareness's relationship to God?

~

What I will try to share here will be limited. I say limited because our Masters advised us to speak to people according to their level of understanding and awareness. Now I do not know the questioner and hence I have no clue about his understanding apart from the words of the question. Also for another obvious reason it will be limited because these are some of the most fundamental questions which humanity will probably be seeking an answer until the end of human history. I am no expert to have an answer to conclusively cover it all. But here is what I think, feel and experience.


So how much of me is God and how much of God is me?


What a question! And it has thousand of answers depending on who is asking.

The most sensible answer, sensible to the instrument of intelligence, which is mind - is that man is man and God is God. This is an answer also given by people of realization in early generations, people who have attained, who are drawn near, al-muqarribun.

Yes there is a level of awareness where one may come to realize that God is Present in everything. One may come to gaze at the eyes of a cat and beyond the form of cat, if the moment is right, and grace is there, one may see the soul of all Souls, the reflection of the Being, and one may have the feeling in the heart that he or she is gazing right into the eyes of another Greater Being or God. Now this is a domain of the heart, since this is something to be experienced, not something to be intellectualized or conceptualize. On the level of intellect or concept, the cat is cat and God is God. As long as that person is immersed in that unitary consciousness, it may be valid to experience the cat as God or God's reflection, but generally such unitary consciousness in most cases lasts for certain period. When he is out of that experience, its best to call a cat a cat because that's how we identify it in our ordinary consciousness.

If that unitary experience or the experience of oneness or tawhid be elevated from temporary state (in sufi terminology, haal) to a more permanent station (maqam), still then the cat remains a cat.

In zen tradition it said,

Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water,
After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.

What it means that in our human role, we are to carry on and see things as they are, even after the greatest of shift in our inner being. In Islam, the prophet had to carry his human responsibilities even after his journey to seven heavens and God and back. The prophet used to pray, O Allah show me things as they are. This prayer has tremendous wisdom for gnosis. To be able to witness things as they are made to, as their reality.

Back to the experience of the cat, after opening to unity consciousness, the cat remains a cat, but how that person will deal with that cat or any sentient being in that matter will radically shift. He will behold tremendous mercy and compassion towards any sentient being because he will come to realize the unity between himself and other sentient beings. Thats why for any enlightened beings any suffering of any other become a matter of urgent concern.

This is expressed while the Scripture describe the characteristic of the Complete Human being,

There has certainly come to you a Messenger from among yourselves. Greatly grievous to him is your suffering; [he is] concerned over you and to the faithful he is tenderly kind and merciful. (9:128)


~

Another point to be shared here. Since we are not just our mind or intellect but we have heart (referring to spiritual heart) as well as soul, hence there are different levels where we may intuit or come to recognize things. We may understand through mind, and yet we may feel more deeply with our heart and even beyond that we have experience on the level of soul.

What is experienced, is almost impossible to be translated to the mind alone. In fact any attempt of such actually colors or negatively bias the experience or ruin it. For example if someone has not tasted a particular food, no matter how many times he reads the recipe, or the description of it, it wont be equal to tasting the food itself. Lets say we are talking about a very exotic dish only found in a very remote island in Japan made only with local ingredients. Now if someone who tasted it, comes back and talk about it, its also possible that the same food may taste very different to another person. One may like it overboard and another may consider it so so, but not super delicious. Even participatory experiences of two different individual can be different.

It is said about God that God never reveal Himself in the same fashion/ manner/ manifestation twice. What does that mean. That means God being an Infinite Being, always manifest in a new fashion. God has infinite manifestations, none matching a previous one.

kulla yawmin Huwa fee sha'n (55:29)

Every day, every moment in (new) splendor does He (shine)!


So if that is the Divine Way, a Way of Infinite Manifestation, if we theorize it, if we fix it, if we give it a definite form and limit it with limited boundary and mode, then it is the greatest injustice. That is why in the Scripture it says, to associated, compare, give form to God is the greatest injustice to truth. Surely associating / comparing  is great injustice (zulmun azim) - Qur'an 31:13

This precisely when we say for example that 'Krishna is god' or 'Jesus is god', what it essentially does is that we limit God to a historical person, a particular shape and form, within a certain culture and time. But God is beyond any limitation, any limited form, is not bound by any time or culture. For this same reason its greater wisdom not to attribute God to one's self. Wiser to say that we have a divine spark within us which is our soul.


In one level 'wheresoever we turn there is the Face of God' (WajhAllah), thats true. But what level that is we need to appreciate that. It is the level of the soul where any otherness, any other than God (ghayrullah) has become from opaque to transparent and has vanished (whats on earth must vanish and only will remain the Godhead or Face of Allah)- at that level of consciousness, 'wheresoever we turn there is God' is true.

Kullu man AAalayha fan
Wa yabqa wajhu rabbika dhul jalali wal-ikram (
55:26,27)

Every one, every single thing will perish
But will remain only the Face of Your Lord.

~ The Qur'an


But as long as our consciousness is inundated with ghayrullah (things, matter, objects, beings other than God), then our pretending to have tapped into the truth that 'wheresoever we turn is God' will be just a statement of the mind, will be just an assumption, a conjecture. And a conjecture or opinion is never equal to an experienced which is lived.


So how much of me is God? 


To answer that question, it depends on how less have you become. If all that we see is me, all that we can think of is my need, my idea, my having and not having, my future, my past, then you are full of yourself and not of God. Your becoming rabbani or infused with the divine is exactly proportional to your being less of yourself, provided that in your heart of heart you have the longing to know God.

How much of God is me? 


Since you are you because of Divine Will, since you are fashioned by Him, your movements are facilitated by him, you are who you are only through Him, your existence from naught is by God and ultimately your return is to Him, then depending on your capacity to accept - its quite reasonable to say that you have Signature of God all over you and your existence, you are a Sign of God (ayatullah), you are the proof of God (hujjatullah), without you, even God is not because from your perspective if you didn't exist, the existence of God will lose its meaning. So you are such a magnificent creation that give glory to God (bahaullah). You carry God's breath (ruhullah) within you, God's spirit within you. Now you have to come to decide how much of God is you. It is again proportional to the realization that your existence and completeness is only through Him, it is proportion to your ability to see Him as Your Sustainer, Your Maker, Your Fashioner from nothing, the One Who make you exist.

Mevlana Rumi said it beautifully:

"Do you know what you are?
You are a manuscript of a divine letter.
You are a mirror reflecting a noble face.

This universe is not outside of you.
Look inside yourself;
everything that you want, you are already that."


~



Now on the question of awareness and consciousness, lets begin with some background. Everything we see in the universe has a borrowed existence. This borrowed existence means they are fashioned by God with Divine Attributes. We see because we are shared the Divine Attribute of Seeing, Al-Baseer. We long to live longer because within us is a trace of the Divide Attribute of Ever Living, Al-Hayy. We fall in love and long that we be loved is also because of the Divine Attribute, Al-Wadud, the Beloved. (The 99 Names of God in Islamic tradition is an excellent guide to Divine Gnosis and hold answers to many questions). This is the reason why its said that we are made in God's image or we are vicegerent of God on earth.

Its almost beyond our mind's scope to understand this but in the beginning of all beginning, in the pre-eternity, just before creation when God wanted to bring forth the creation, the Divine Consciousness arose. The Divine Consciousness became aware of Itself, the Actual "I" and it wanted to be known, hence creation was brought forth. This is a very crude description of a reality beyond our mind or concepts but still it provides a frame of reference and create an image.

Now the Awareness of the God which wanted to be known is a Divine Attribute and we also have a trace of that within us. The "I Am-ness" of God is also within us. Our consciousness is a borrowed one from that of God, which can find its fulfillment through knowing ourself and thus knowing God. Hence all spiritual path calls for self-inquiry, call to ask who we are. We also have longing to express ourselves, hence an artist create art, a song writer writes lyrics, an architect build grand buildings etc. this a reflection of Divine Creativity within.

and you will not find any change in the Way of Allah (SunnataLlah). (33:62)

So the relationship of our awareness and God is that it is from God, and it follow the patterns of Divine Attributes and Ways (sunnatallah). The more pure our awareness become the more closer proximity can we be towards our real self and more free we will be from our temporal conditioning and biography and manufactured personality.

Even great scientists like Max Planck transmitted that matter originates from consciousness.

I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. 
All matter originates and exists only by virtues of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together.

We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter. ~ Max Planck, physicist and the originator of modern quantum theories


~


What is this awareness, this paradigm of designed senses, what is its purpose?


To my understanding from the spiritual traditions, the purpose of awareness is God's longing to know Himself through multiplicity. So the Divine Awareness or Consciousness is diffused or distributed among creation. One of the characteristics of this reality is such that the smaller part within it contains the greater, which sometime is described or compared with hologram and the reality is explained as holographic. In hologram, the entire whole is contained within a part. Our awareness thus possibly has the potential to tap into the Divine awareness which often the spiritual traditions do validate.

So this awareness, this paradigm of desired senses to my understanding, has one and only purpose, which is to know It-Self. That is Gnosis or Marefat.



// Sadiq M. Alam, Dhaka, Bangladesh
   sadiq@techofheart.co





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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Great Fortune to Perceive Eternity in the Now


"Great fortune to perceive eternity in the now.

Only Grace can reveal the seamlessness of perpetual Presence disguised as moving time.

Much effort and toiling is needed only to reduce illusions of separation.

Sacred connectedness encompasses the self's darkness and the soul's light. Patience, self sacrifice and all other good deeds necessary yet insufficient.

Allah's ways are His ways and He removes the veil as and when readiness is there, not thru asking or prayers. The ultimate gift carries itself.  Allah's Nur penetrates as perfect destiny is.

Salaams"

~ Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri


A Brief Commentary with Five Signposts


Allah transmits through the most transparent of His creations, transparent (ummi) to the divine flow, the blessed master of masters, Hazrati Muhammad Mustafa that - 'Man is Allah's Secret and Allah is Man's Secret.' And among the secrets of secret is another elegant mystery - which is the mystery of time. Every now, or moment - if we can penetrate, we come to know that the real nature of the moment is timelessness and pure consciousness.

In hadith Qudsi, the sacred tradition of Islam we come to a statement about time in which Allah declares that He Himself is Time. A mind blowing revelation indeed.

Allah said: Sons of Adam inveigh against [the vicissitudes of] Time, and I am Time, in My hand is the night and the day. It was related by al-Bukhari (also by Muslim).


So time holds some of the most elegant secrets of this reality. With so much knowledge of quantum physics, particle physics, unveiling of so many complex theories about the physical universe, even the modern physicists are still incapable to penetrate the reality of time.

Shaykh Fadhlalla, may Allah bless him and him works, in the statement mentioned in the beginning of this post points to the elegant secret of time. Like many other aspects of the reality, time is also where we come to meet paradoxes of apparently opposite nature. It is time where eternity meets in the now - but it takes great fortune, great wisdom to perceive that.

... and they encompass not a thing, nothing of His knowledge except for what Huwa wills and allows. ~ Qur'an, 2:255

Since time belongs to the domain of Divine Reality, hence the unveiling of the realities of time can only happen through Divine Grace. Man can encompass nothing of Divine knowledge on his own except what Allah opens to him. This is the why Shaykh Fadhlalla says, "Only Grace can reveal the seamlessness of perpetual Presence disguised as moving time. " Allah is al-Maujud, the Ever Present, the Presence Itself. The Sufi mystics use the sacred formula, La maujuda illaAllah. It means No presence but that of Allah. Nothing is present except Allah.

This is the first Signpost.




Knowledge about Divine Reality is shrouded in veils, often those veils are veils of apparent illusion, of opposite and paradoxical attributes. al-Awwal wa al-Akhir, al-Zahir wa al-Batin. God is the First and Last, the Hidden and Manifest at the same time. Similarly the Ever Present is disguised through the veil of illusional separation. God is near, entangled, intimately near; and more than that, He Himself is the Nearness but Man thinks and says I am far far remove from God.

Even in the realm of time, the seamless perpetual presence is veiled by the illusion of separation. "Much effort and toiling is needed", reminds the Shaykh here. The illusion of separation is such that it won't disappear suddenly, one can only gradually reduce them with continuous and sustained effort.

This is the second Signpost.


The self's darkness and the soul's light are like twins, one help the other to exist. It is the sacred connectedness that encompass both. Movement becomes apparently real when we consciously move from self's darkness to soul's lightness.

Movement of celestial bodies are among the Signs in the horizon

Some seekers in the spiritual path may focus too much on 'their' efforts. But this is like giving too much importance on what is unreal, the self or the shadows of ego. That is why the Shaykh reminds that certain things such as patience, self sacrifice or other good deeds may be necessary but they are not sufficient. May Allah grant us the capacity to understand the difference.

We are reminded here about the wisdom of Bayazid Bistami, a great sufi master:

"The thing we tell of can never be found by seeking, yet only seekers find it."

"I stood with the pious and I didn’t find any progress with them. I stood with the warriors in the cause and I didn’t find a single step of progress with them. Then I said, ‘O Allah, what is the way to You?’ and Allah said, ‘Leave yourself and come.’

What is necessary has to be done, and yet one must rely upon the One Who alone is worthy of reliance. Not the vanishing and phantom ego but God Himself, the real and only Doer. This is the third Signpost.


Finally the keyword towards which we need to pay attention is 'readiness.' One of the most interesting thing about life is the relation with unasked for gifts and our readiness. Just as Allah never burdens a soul beyond its capacity, there is another side to this reality - which is Allah only gives when one is ready to receive.

Asking in prayers, much effort in the name of sacred activities, doing this or  doing that - they all are fine, but unless there is a readiness, ripeness, all gifts from the unseen is withheld. And this withholding is also due to Divine wisdom and mercy.

Here is a parable to understand the 'readiness.' Lets imagine a very successful businessman who is the Director of a group of companies, all of the companies therein are quite large, doing business in international capacity etc. Now the son of the Director has finished his education but has never dealt with the business at any level. The son has no experience what so ever, lack proper ideas about how this business operates.

But one day suddenly the son start to demand that he be made director of one of the companies. First he asks politely, but is refused by father. Then he start to pretend that he is very willing to get engaged and must be give a top position. Finally he start to plead to his father, and yet the experienced and wise father deny his son simply because he has not got the right experience, is too immature and its not the proper time for the company. So in summary, the son is not ready.

Similar is our situation. As long as we are not ready, we are not given; be it certain gifts in life, material gains, spiritual understanding or spiritual experience - you name it. This is the meaning of the Shaykh's saying, "Allah's ways are His ways and He removes the veil as and when readiness is there, not thru asking or prayers." This is the fourth Signpost.


Finally, it is Allah's Nur, the Divine Effulgence is the ultimate gift and it carries itself. The penetration of this Nur is with perfection. Out beyond the apparent right and wrong, relative justice and relative injustice there is a place of perfection where everything is perfect. Even in the realm of physical universe often scientists discover this perfect balance embed within nature, within physical laws which are so precisely fine tuned that it is beyond explanation. That perfection is like a reflection of the Most Perfect.


The final and fifth Signpost is that Allah's Nur penetrate as perfect destiny. This Nur has already penetrated every possible nook and corner of the universe, including our, your heart. Are we, are you ready to receive?

Allahu Nur as-samawati wal-ard - God is the Light of all that is. ~ Qur'an 24:35

Subhana Allahi AAammayasifoon

The perfection of the Ever Perfect is beyond anything we can ever articulate.
~ Qur'an 37:159


O Allah please bless Your habib, the master of masters, Hazrati Muhammad Mustafa and his holy family and the noble companions. Upon them all be Your peace.



Sadiq M. Alam / Dhaka, Bangladesh

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

What Happened on the Night Journey? The Prophet's Experience of Fana




1.
"Then," Muhammad is quoted as saying: "a ladder was brought to me finer than any I have ever seen. It was that to which the dying man looks when death approaches." .. As in Jacob's dream in the book of Genesis, a ladder led up to heaven..

Muhammad say it was "that to which a dying man looks," and climbed it.

Did he feel as though he was dying, as he had during the first Quranic revelation on Mount Hira? Was this the death of the self that has been the goal of mystics of all faiths, the better to unite with the divine?

- The First Muslim, Lesley Hazleton
 


2.
This is Karen Armstrong in her book, Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet:

The Sufis were particularly interested in the experience and believed that Muhammad's supreme vision had been described in the Qur'an in Sura 53

Indeed he saw him another time
by the Lote-Tree of the Farthest Boundary
near which is the Garden of the Refuge,
where there covered the Lote Tree that which covered,
his eye swerved not, nor swept astray.
Indeed, he saw one of the greatest signs of his Lord.

As in the Hindu tradition, the Lote Tree marks the limit of human knowledge. The Qur'an makes it clear that Muhammad saw only one of the Signs of God, not God Himself, and later mystics emphasized the paradox of this vision, in which Muhammad both saw and did not see the Divine Essence.

..In the thirteenth-century Persian account by the great poet Farid ud-Din Attar, we are very close in spirit to John of the Cross, who also stressed the importance of leaving all our human concepts and experiences behind, going beyond what the Qur'an called the Lote Tree, the boundary of normal mundane knowledge. Attar shows that Muhammad ultimately had to leave everybody behind; even Gabriel could not accompany the Prophet on the last stage of his journey. Having gone beyond normal sense perception and beyond logic and reason in his flight, Muhammad entered a new realm of experience, but he still had to be prepared to leave himself behind.

He heard a call, a message from the Friend.
A call came from the Essence of the All:
'Leave soul and body, transitory one!
You, O My goal and purpose, enter now
And see My Essence face to face, My friend!'
In awe, he lost his speech and lost himself -
Muhammad did not know Muhammad here,
Saw not himself - He was the Soul of Souls,
The Face of Him who made the universe.

It is an experience common to all the major mystical traditions, an expression of the belief that no man can see God and live. But having died to himself and faced the experience of extinction, Muhammad was restored to an enhanced being. Later he brought this experience back and expanded the human capacity for the divine. The miraj became a paradigm of the mystical strain of Islam: Sufis always spoken of an annihilation (fana) in God which was followed by its revival (baqa) and an enhanced self-realization.

Some Muslims have always insisted that Muhammad made the journey to God's Throne in body, but Ibn Ishaq quotes a tradition from Aisha which makes it clear that the Night Journey and Ascension were purely spiritual experiences. However we choose to interpret it, mystical experience is a fact of human life and seems to be markedly similar in most traditions. The Buddhists would claim that such intimations of the ultimate and expansion of consciousness are purely natural states rather than an encounter with the Other.

It seems that, pushed to a state of extremity, the human consciousness produces a particular scenario or mystical landscape to describe this encounter - rather as, in an entirely different context, people who are at a physical extremity and are near to death, all seem to picture the experience in a certain way: going down a long passage, being met at a gate by somebody who tells them to return and so forth. In all religions some men and women have a particular talent for this type of activity and have cultivated these experiences by means of certain disciplines and techniques that, again are remarkably similar.

The miraj of Muhammad, as described by Muslim writers, is very close to the experience of Throne Mysticism in the Jewish tradition, which flourished from the second to the tenth century CE. The adepts would prepare themselves for their mystical flight and journey to God's Throne by special disciplines. They would fast, read special hymns that induced a certain receptivity, and use special physical techniques. Often it seems that they would put their heads between their knees as some of the Muslim traditions say Muhammad did; in other traditions, breathing exercises have been most important. Then they would experience a perilous ascent to God's Throne and, like the Muslims, they described the supreme vision in paradoxical ways that emphasize its essential ineffability. Mystics in this tradition also regarded its founders as heroes who had discovered a new path to God and risked personal danger while doing so.

Some aspects of the 'isra and the miraj are very close to mystical initiations when people are making a painful passage from one mode of life to another.

The miraj itself also resembles the initiatory experience of a shaman, which, according to the late American scholar Joseph Campbell, still 'occurs all the way from Siberia right through the Americas down to Tierra del Fuego'. He explains that in this early youth the shaman has 'an overwhelming psychological experience that turns him totally inward... The whole unconscious opens up, and the shaman falls into it. The Bushmen, for example, induce this experience in a great marathon dance: one shaman described what happened when he fell into a trance and collapsed:

When I emerge, I am already climbing, I'm climbing threads, the threads that lie over there in the south. I climb one and leave it, then I climb another one. Then I leave it and climb another... And when you arrive at God's place. You do what you have to do there. Then you return to where everyone is... and finally you enter the body again.

He has passed through a form a personal extinction and penetrated regions where others cannot go, bringing news from the realm of mythological imagery, from the seat of power.


- Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet, Karen Armstrong




3.
And he revealed to His Servant what he revealed.
The heart did not lie [about] what it saw.

When there covered the Lote Tree that which covered [it].
The vision did not swerve, nor did it transgress [its limit].
He certainly saw of the greatest signs of his Lord.

~ The Quran 53


# Further Exploring on the Theme of FANA (Spiritual Annihilation)

* Fana and Baqa Infinities of Islam

* Fana and Baqa (Baka) | spiritual death and resurrection

* What is Fana? What is Baqa? | Sufi Wisdom

* Quranic Meditation on Fana and Baqa Signs

* Samadhi and Fana | Ramakrishna's experience with Islamic Sadhana

* Journey Leading to the Unveiling of Divine Realities | From Spiritual Experience of Shaykh Ahmad Faruqi as-Sirhindi

* Meditative Quranic verse | the Greater Death, MahaSamadhi

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

What Happened on Mi'raj? The Concretization of What Can Not be Made Concrete



Agey chino Muhammadi Nur
o mon, agey chino Muhammadi Nur
dhuriley bondhurey paiba
asoin bondhu sereepur



Behold the Light Muhammadan!
O heart of mine, recognize first - the Light Muhammadan
If you seek, you shall find the friend
abides he at the beauteous land

~ Kalam of Shitalang Shah



I have been reading with great pleasure a new book out (Feb 2014) by Lesley Hazleton titled "The First Muslim." This is a greatly researched book and she did look at the life of the most important figure in human history from a very fresh out of the box perspective. I say out of the box because she wasn't biased through the lens of religious affiliation, biasedness or over piety that we often see in other biographical account. And because she had a fresh eyes and mind, she could also give her very important commentary on various incidents of the Prophet which both Non-Muslim and Muslims particular will appreciate. I have not read the life of the Prophet with so much freshness than any other book before. Yes other biography may have things more detailed, taking into account both reliable and not so reliable sources, but this work of author Lesley Hazleton stands out more uniquely because she not only relied on authentic sources but also pointed out gaps in other traditional stories that generally get circulated about the life o the Prophet among the pious Muslims.

The description of the experience of the Night Journey is 'a concretization of what cannot be made concrete - a translation of the metapysical into the physical,' argues the author and I think thats her genius to come to appreciate that.

On the blessed occasion of Mi'raj, let me share the part from Lesley Hazleton's book and I hope you will come to enjoy them.


THE ACCOUNT

... Yet it was at his point of utter insecurity, when it seemed he was forced to focus on the most down-to-earth matter of survival, that he would soar instead. The isra, the Night Journey, would become one of the most symbolically weighted events of his life.

In its simplest form, the Night Journey is a miracle story. Muhammad woke in the middle of the night and went to the Kaaba to pray in solitude. There he fell asleep, only to be woken by the angel Gabriel, who picked him up and lifted him onto a winged white horse. The horse took off and flew north through the night, in the same direction in which Muhammad and his followers turned when they prayed. Jerusalem was where the ancient Jewish template had been build...

Hordes of angels greeted him on his arrival, and as he dismounted, he was offered a choice of three goblets from which to drink. One contained wine, the second milk, and the third water. He chose the milk as the middle way between asceticism and indulgence, and Gabriel was delighted: "You have been rightly guided, Muhammad, and so will your people be."

"Then, Muhammad is quoted as saying, "a ladder was brought to me finer than any I have ever seen. It was that to which the dying man looks when death approaches." Led by Gabriel, he climbed the ladder and ascended through seven circles of heaven presided over by, respectively, Adam, Jesus and John, Joseph, Enoch, Aaron, Moses and finally in the seventh and higher circle - at the threshold of the Divine sphere - Abraham.

This is the essence of the Night Journey as given by ibn-Ishaq, who is quite clear that while he has been told one form or another of it by many people, he is unsure as to how reliable any of them are. Carefully choosing his words, he introduces the episode this way, "This account is pieced together, each piece contributing something of what that person was told about what happened." And to indicate that the story may be more a matter of faith than of fact, he makes ample use of such phrases as "I was told that in his story al-Hassan said..." or "One of abu-Bakr's family told me that Aisha used to say..." or "A traditionalist who had heart it from one who had heard it from Muhammad said that Muhammad said..."

The story is not told in the Quran, though the verse that begins Sura 17 is understood as a clear reference to it, "Glory be to God, who made his servant go by night from the sacred house to the far house, that we might show him some of our signs." From the sacred house of the Kaaba sanctuary, that is, to the far house of the Jerusalem one. In the light of this Quranic verse, ibn-Ishaq sums up his reportorial dilemma this way: "The matter of the place of the journey and what is said about it is a searching test and a matter of God's power and authority, wherein is a lesson for the intelligent, with guidance, mercy and strengthening for those who believe."

It's a wisely phrased abstention from certainty. Whether the Night Journey was a dream, a vision, or lived experience, ibn-Ishaq's view is that what matters is not how it happened, but its significance. He steps carefully between his duty as a believer and his obligation as a biographer - a delicate balancing act that he carries out with considerable aplomb, finally threading the needle with this conclusion: "I have heard it is said that the messenger used to say, "My eyes sleep while my heart is awake." Only God knows how revelation came and what he saw. But whether he was asleep or awake, it was all true."

Not every early Islamic historian would agree. Al-Tabari, writing a century later in the new Muslim capital city of Baghdad, was wary as always of miracle tales and far more focused on politics. Despite his  repeatedly acknowledged debt to ibn-Ishaq, he would omit the episode altogether in his multi-volume history, and ignore the much-quoted dictum attributed to Aisha, speaking many years after Muhammad's death: "The messenger's body remained where it was, but God removed his spirit by night."


THERE is NO SUCH THING AS SIMPLY A DREAM

Was the Night Journey simply a dream, then? But there was no such thing as "simply a dream" at the time. Freud was far from the first to recognize the symbolic weight of dreams, nor did he invent dream interpretation; he invoked the new science of psychology to resuscitate an ancient practice in which sleep was understood not as a passive state, but with the right preparation as an active experience of soul.

The ritual known as dream incubation was highly regarded in both Greek and Roman times, when people would purify themselves by fasting and meditation before sleeping in a template precinct in order to receive divine guidance in dream. And throughout the Bible, dreams are a manifestation of the divine. "If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known to him in a vision, and will speak to him in dream," Yahweh says to Aaron and Miriam.

Joseph's skill at dream interpretation made him a senior counselor to Pharaoh, while Abraham, Jacob, Solomon, Saint Joseph, and Saint Paul were all visited by God as they slept.

The tradition continues in the Talmud, where dreams channel divine wisdom. According to one Midrash, "During sleep the soul departs and draws spiritual refreshment from on high" - a statement very close to the one attributed to Aisha. Later rabbanical tradition would prize the she'elat halom, literally the "Dream question" or rather, a dream answer to a waking question. The mystical aspect of dreams would be incorporated into the thirteenth century Zohar, the foundation book of Kabbala, which would identify the angel Gabriel as "the mater of dreams" and the link between God and human, as he was for Muhammad. One story about the Kabbalist master Isaac Luria even has Gabriel appearing to him in a dream wielding the stylus of scribe.

Muslim philosophers and mystics played an equally important part in the tradition. Two of the greatest, ibn-Arabi in the twelfth century and ibn-Khaldun in the fourteenth, wrote extensively about alam al-mothal, 'the realm of images' in which dreams were the highest form of vision of divine truth. Ibn-Khaldun wrote that God created sleep as an opportunity to "lift the veil of the senses" and thus gain access to higher forms of knowledge. Several hadiths - traditional reports of Muhammad's sayings and practice - show him counseling his followers on the preparatory ritual of purification and prayer known as istikhara, which was to be used either when awake, in which case divine response would come in the form of "an inclination of the heart," or just before sleep, when it would come in a dream.

The journey is still the subject of disagreement between those Muslims who see it as a mystical experience and those who take it more literally. Brightly colored posters of Buraq , the winged white mare whose name means "lightning", hang in many Muslim homes throughout Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East, the details of her saddle and trappings varying according to local folk-art traditions.


an imaginary depiction of buraq, the craft of night journey


THE MEANING

But for the most part, this image of Buraq is not taken literally. It's a concretization of what cannot be made concrete - a translation of the metaphysical into the physical. And the same might be said for the account of the journey itself. The question has to be not whether Muhammad "really" flew overnight to Jerusalem and back, but what his experience of it meant.

As in Jacob's dream in the book of Genesis, a ladder led up to heaven. But where Jacob remained sleeping at the foot of the ladder, Muhammad saw it as "that to which a dying man looks," and climbed  it. Did he feel as though he was dying, as he had during the first Quranic revelation on Mount Hira? Was this the death of the self that has been the goal of mystics of all faiths, the better to unite with the divine? Or did it seem as though he had taken leave of his body and hovered above it, looking down at his earthly self as some who survived near-death experience report having done?

.. Certainly the Night Journey is deeply symbolic in psychological terms, coming as it did when Muhammad was at his most vulnerable, sure of his mission but deeply unsure as to where it would lead him or how. The images of flight and ascension are expression of freedom and transcendence, of escaping the particulars of daily life to soar beyond them. In fact the journey could be seen as a kind of over compensation for the double loss of Khadija and abu-Talib. Even as he was mired with terrible loneliness of grief and made to feel more isolated in Mecca than ever, the episode acted as confirmation that Muhammad was not alone; he was welcomed within the community of angels, and greeted by the great prophets of the past as one of them.

But just as a miraculous understanding of the journey ends up reducing it to a simple matter of yes or no, belief or disbelief, so this kind of psychological interpretation undermines its real significance. Because here is where it can be said that Muhammad fully assumes what the Hebrew bible calls "the mantle of prophecy." The man old earlier to say he was "just one of you" and "just an ordinary man" is now specially graced. "Just one of you" does not fly hundreds of miles through the night to consult with angels and prophets and ascend into the divine presence. Muhammad is no longer the passive recipient of revelation but an active participant; he flies, ascends, prays with the angels and speaks with the prophets.

Whether physical or visionary, walking reality or dream reality, the Night Journey marks a radical change, This is where Muhammad first understands himself not merely as a messenger but as a leader. It is here, when his future in Mecca is most in doubt, that he sees himself projected into the future. "Thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south," Yahweh told Jacob in his dream, and in a similar way, the Night Journey was the promise of the future of Muhammad. It represents a leap forward to a new level of determination and action, one that would give him the resolve to uproot himself from the bonds of clan and tribe, and fully commit himself to the radical implications of his message.



I strongly recommend this book: The First Muslim by Lesley Hazleton for anyone who is interested to know the life of the Prophet and his enigma. For example G. Willow Wilson said in his review, "The most readable, engaging study of Muhammad I have ever come across." I couldn't agree more. Reza Aslan said, "Hezleton sets her keen eye and her sculpted prose on one of the most fascinating and misunderstood figures in history... This is a wonderful book."

Click on the cover below to order the book (available in Kindle, Paperback or Hard Cover) via Amazon.






#Further Read:

* What the best English Biography of Prophet Muhammad

* Sufic Commentary on the Night Journey and Ascension | From Tafsir al-Tustari

* Laylatu-l-Mir'aj | Commemorating the Night of Ascension 

* Miraj | the mystical night journey | holy ascension to the Ultimate Divine Presence

* al-Isra wa Miraj - The Climax of all Spirituality - Bayan of Shaykh Nooruddeen Durkee

* The Night Journey and Ascension : Khutbah by Shaykh Nooruddeen Durkee and Past Posts

* Ascent of spiritual state | miraajul maqam

* Who was Ibn Ishaq?


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Friday, May 08, 2015

Qalbi Zikr - Remembrance of the Heart

What is it?


The definition of Qalbi Zikr is within the words itself. The word ‘Qalb’ is an Arabic word which can be translated into English as ‘Heart’ whereas the word Zikr is defined as ‘Reminding oneself’ or ‘Mention’. The context to which we apply this is: to remind oneself of & mention Allah SWT, Remind oneself of the hereafter, remind oneself of the Perfection and to fall in Love of Muhammad SAW.

“And remember you Lord within yourself, humbly and with fear, without loudness, in words in the morning, and in the afternoons and be not of those who are neglectful” (Qur’an 7:2015)

Qalbi Zikr is a special & rare type of remembrance bestowed by Allah (swt) upon his servants. Its a type of zikr which allows harmony to descend on one's lifestyle, heart and therefore freeing the soul from worldly matters. It’s a gateway to peace, one of the hidden essences of Islam which is the key to a Islamic lifestyle, where ever one goes, Blessings & Mercy of Allah (swt) also follow.

Many mureeds or individuals have died before learning, implementing or gaining from this beautiful gift. As times have changed, with the fitna increased and the coming of the ‘One Eyed Liar’ is drawing near, it’s almost essential for one to gain this for our own benefit, and the benefit our offspring and their offspring’s

A day will come when the writing of the Holy Qur’an will disappear, not many people will remember the Kalima Tayba (La ilaha ilalah, Muhammad-u-Rasool-Allah: There is no God but Allah and Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the Messenger of Allah). On that day we will be in need of good companionship, and Allah SWT is always nearer to us than our Jugular vein. Imagine the benefits of Qalbi Zikr in that day and age? Then why not teach it to our children in this day and age? Prepare the generation for the trials ahead? As we teach them to ride a bike? As we teach them Maths, English & Science and plan for their future? Then why not teach them something beneficial that will not only keep them from harm, but their offspring’s and the generations of Muslims to come InshAllah. But to teach, we first must know ourselves. We gain nothing from this, except it being a charity, we ask no monetary value just to keep us in your Dua’s. Alhamdulillah.

These are desperate times, only Friends of Allah (swt), their companions, and all those who seek their guidance are the ones who InshAllah will be saved from losing their faith in Allah (swt), but we pray all the Ummah gains salvation and doesn’t fall victim to the traps of Shaitaan and the One eyed Liar.

It is in this time of great difficulty, which is preparing the coming of The one eyed Liar, that the Friends of Allah (swt) have made the wealth of Qalbi Zikr available to all those who wish to acquire it. We want for others what we want for ourselves, we all can dislike one another, look for the faults within others, ourselves, so on and so forth, but the reality of life is to acquire Jannah, to be steadfast on the path of righteousness, to be Brothers, help one another when we see the our own down, and also to present this family life to the non-Muslims to show them that the generations of Ahmad, Muhammad, Best of Creation SAW, is the best of Generations throughout history.

InshAllah, through Qalbi-Zikr, you will receive countless merits, rewards and blessings in your life. Worldly matters will be limited concern as will be your wealth or health because your eyes will be in mesmerized by the Wonders of the Beloved SAW, intoxicated in the Love of Allah SWT which would repel major trials and tribulations from your life. InshAllah.

‘Qalbi-Zikr’ is the root of ‘Ihsan. In terms of if ones want to achieve ‘Ihsan’ one first has to be in remembrance from the heart, with sincerity, and of course have good intentions. ‘Ihsan’ is the highest stage of ‘Zikr’ which is to ‘Serve Allah SWT as though we can see Him, If not then serve Him knowing He sees us’ as remembrance of Allah SWT within our heart would lead to our belief being manifested in our characteristics and actions both in prayer and every day actions. We would always be aware of the state of ‘Ihsan’ thus improving our manners. The Hadith which is supports this when Jibrael A.S came to Beloved SAW and asked about many pillars of Islam including ‘Ihsan’:

Then he (the man – Jibrael A.S) said, "Inform me about Ihsan." He (the Messenger of Allah SAW) answered, "It is that you should serve Allah as though you could see Him, for though you cannot see Him yet He sees you." [Shahih Bukhari]

When one is in a state of Ihsan, our manner will become perfected. But the perfect example of ‘Ihsan’ and perfect manners in every aspect is the Beloved SAW. We must therefore derive our characteristics from he SAW – The best of Creation. One of the missions of the Beloved SAW was & is indeed to perfect our manners. The following Hadith proves that very statement, The Beloved Prophet SAW has reported to have said:

“Allah has sent me to perfect good manners and to do good deeds.” (Bukhari & Ahmed)

Furthermore, another statement from A’ishah R.A shows the perfection of the Beloved SAW. A’ishah R.A was asked about the characteristics of the Beloved SAW, to which she replied:

“His SAW manners were the Qur’an”

The following Hadiths shows the importance to have a sound heart, which we have already stated that in order to do this one must be able to be remember Allah SWT in the heart in order to clean it, which would in turn cleanse our intentions, and external / internal defaults in terms of manners. This would lead to the ability of ‘Ishan’ – Insh’Allah.

The Beloved SAW has stated:

Beware, in the body there is a flesh; if it is sound, the whole body is sound, and if it is corrupt, the whole body is corrupt, and behold, it is the heart."[Al-Bukhari & Muslim]

The Prophet SAW said: "If your hearts were always in the state that they are in during dhikr, the angels would come to see you to the point that they would greet you in the middle of the road." Shaih Muslim

Imam Nawawi has commented on the above hadith in his book Sharh sahih muslim, saying: "This kind of sight is shown to someone who persists in meditation (muraqaba), reflection (fikr), and anticipation (iqbal) of the next world."


Why do it?


Essentially what in intended by Qalbi Zikr is to be able to activate the hearts Remembrance of Allah SWT & Muhammad SAW every moment of our through the implementation of The Holy Qur’an and Sunnah, allowing each breath to recite Allah (inhaling and exhaling zikr) which would then to lead to each beat of of Qalb (heart) reciting ‘Allah’. Some individuals are blessed enough to have the heart recite the Holy Qur’an, once again depending on one’s level of faith and internal capacity.

The following verse and Hadith show the impact of our daily lives and the affect to which it will have on our hearts if left overlooked:

‘Nay! But on their hearts is the covering of sins (raan) which they used to earn.’” Sooraah al-Mutaffifeen (83):14

Narrated by Abu Hurairah R.A Prophet Muhammad S.A.W said:

“When the servant performs a sin a black spot appears on his heart, and if he seeks forgiveness this black spot is removed, and if he returns to sin the black spot grows until his heart becomes black, and this is the ‘Raan’ about which Allaah spoke,”

[Reported by an-Nasaa’ee and at-Tirmidhee who said it was hasan saheeh]

The Reward:


Remembrance of Allah SWT silently & sincerely is an important factor in our lives and the amount of blessings gained from this type of zikr is tremendous as we can derive from the following Ayyah and Hadiths:

“Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest / peace.” (13:28)

The Prophet SAW has said:

“Shall I tell you about the best of All deeds, the best act of piety in the eyes of you Lord, which will elevate your status int he hereafter, and carries more virtue than the spending of gold and silver in th service of Allah or taking part in jihan and slaying or being slain in the path of Allah? The dhikr of Allah” (In Musnad Ahmad, classed as Sahih)

The Prophet SAW has said:

"If your hearts were always in the state that they are in during dhikr, the angels would come to see you to the point that they would greet you in the middle of the road." Shaih Muslim

Imam Nawawi commented on the above hadith in his book Sharh sahih muslim, saying: "This kind of sight is shown to someone who persists in meditation (Muraqaba), reflection (fikr), and anticipation (iqbal) of the next world."

On the authority of `A'isha R.A: "Allah favours dhikr above dhikr seventyfold (meaning, silent dhikr over loud dhikr). On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will bring back human beings to His account, and the Recording Angels will bring what they have recorded and written, and Allah Almighty will say: See if something that belongs to my servant was left out? The angels will say: We left nothing out concerning what we have learnt and recorded, except that we have assessed it and written it. Allah will say: O my servant, I have something good of yours for which I alone will reward you, it is your hidden remembrance of Me." Imam Bayhaqi R.A narrated it.

Also on the authority of Bayhaqi R.A, it is reported that `A'isha R.A: "The dhikr not heard by the Recording Angels equals seventy times the one they hear."

The Importance of cleaning ones heart & having a good heart is shown in the following Ahadith:

On the authority of Abu 'Abdullah al-Nu'man bin Bashir, radiyallahu 'anhu, who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam, say:

"Truly, what is lawful is evident, and what is unlawful is evident, and in between the two are matters which are doubtful which many people do not know. He who guards against doubtful things keeps his religion and honour blameless, and he who indulges in doubtful things indulges in fact in unlawful things, just as a shepherd who pastures his flock round a preserve will soon pasture them in it. Beware, every king has a preserve, and the things Allah has declared unlawful are His preserves. Beware, in the body there is a flesh; if it is sound, the whole body is sound, and if it is corrupt, the whole body is corrupt, and behold, it is the heart."

[Al-Bukhari & Muslim]

Imam al-Bukhari R.A presented the above Hadith as an opening statement in the beginning of the ‘Book of Trading’ (Kitab al-Buyu'). That in itself shows the status of the message. What we are trying to prove with the above Hadith is derived from the last sentence:

"Beware, in the body there is a flesh; if it is sound, the whole body is sound, and if it is corrupt, the whole body is corrupt, and behold, it is the heart."

One cannot express the importance of a sound heart, and the way to obtain a sound heart one needs to rid it of impurities and purify our intentions. The means of doing just that is by Zikr-Ullah – The remembrance of Allah SWT.

Another Hadith which puts it into more of a context is from a narration by 'Umar b. al-Khattab R.A who has narrated that the Prophet (SAW) said:

"Deeds are [a result] only of the intentions [of the actor], and an individual is [rewarded] only according to that which he intends." Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim.

Imam Nawawi (Rahimullah) has further added:

Intention is the measure for rendering actions true, so that,
where intention is sound, action is sound,
and where it is corrupt, then action is corrupt

All the narrations thus far indicate that behaviour is dependent on the state of the heart of an individual. Therefore, as stated by the Beloved SAW, when the heart is sound, the body will do good deeds. What we can further conclude is that when the heart is corrupted and ruled by (Nafs) desires then our intentions are corrupted, the body will therefore act accordingly.

However Ishan in terms of Obligatory prayer can be seen in the following Hadith:The below shows that when performing Salah attentively with Ishan one sin is cleaned.

Abu Zar RadiyAllahu `anhu narrates that once the Prophet Sallallahu `alaihi wasallam came out of his house. It was autumn and the leaves were falling off the trees. He caught a branch of a tree and its leaves began to drop in large number. At this he remarked, 'O, Abu Zar! when a Muslim offers his salaat to please Allah, his sins are shed away from him just as these leaves are falling off this tree. (Ahmad)

Examples of potential progression once Qalbi – Zikr is implemented


What we gain from Qalbi-Zikr is the ability to always remember Allah SWT & Prophet Muhammad SAW within our hearts to be able to have sound heart, intentions, thoughts and to be able to improve our characteristics. The heart is what is keeping the blood flowing in our bodies therefore if we have a sound heart, our body becomes sound, as does our thoughts and characteristics.

Qalbi Zikr leads to Ihsan. Ihsan then leads to our sin being forgiven and erased as Ishan itself is a higher stage of Zikr-Ullah.

Qalbi-Zikr leads to Muraqaba:

Abu Sa’eed R.A reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“The hearts are four kinds: a polished heart as shiny as a radiant lamp, a sealed heart with a knot tied around it, a heart that is turned upside down, and a heart that is wrapped. As for the polished heart, it is the heart of the believer and its lamp is the light of faith. The sealed heart is the heart of the unbeliever. The heart that is turned upside down is the heart of a pure hypocrite, for he had knowledge but he denied it. As for the heart that is wrapped, it is the heart that contains both faith and hypocrisy. The parable of faith in this heart is the parable of the herb that is sustained by pure water, and the parable of the hypocrisy in it is the parable of an ulcer that thrives upon puss and blood; whichever of the two is greater will dominate.”[Musnad Ahmad, Number 10745, Sahih]

Ibn Al-Qayyim said, “The heart on its journey towards Allah the Exalted is like that of a bird. Love is its head, and fear and hope are its two wings. When the head is healthy, then the two wings will fly well. When the head is cut off, the bird will die. When either of two wings is damaged, the bird becomes vulnerable to every hunter and predator.”

Source: Madarij As-Salikeen

Qalbi-Zikr allows Ihsan (acting as if we are Seeing Allah SWT, if not then acknowledging that He sees us) throughout our daily actions which in then would lead one being able to adopt the Beloved Sunnah of The best of Creation SAW in our lives. Such actions include Loving for the Sake of Allah SWT and the Beloved SAW, Seeking the pleasure of Allah SWT in all circumstances & Abiding by the Shariah.

Abu Hurairah, radiyallahu 'anhu, reported that the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam, said:

"Allah the Almighty has said: 'Whosoever acts with enmity towards a closer servant of Mine (wali), I will indeed declare war against him. Nothing endears My servant to Me than doing of what I have made obligatory upon him to do. And My servant continues to draw nearer to Me with supererogatory (nawafil) prayers so that I shall love him. When I love him, I shall be his hearing with which he shall hear, his sight with which he shall see, his hands with which he shall hold, and his feet with which he shall walk. And if he asks (something) of Me, I shall surely give it to him, and if he takes refuge in Me, I shall certainly grant him it.'"[Al-Bukhari]

The importance of being in Remembrance of Allah SWT & The Beloved SAW is stressed in the following verses:

“Those who remember (and recite and call) Allah standing up, sitting, and lying on their sides, and think deeply about creation of the heavens and the earth, (Saying): “Our Lord! You have not created (all) this without a purpose, glory to You! Give us salvation from the torment of the Fire.” (Qur’an 3:191)

A'isha R.A said, as narrated by Muslim, that the Prophet SAW mentioned/remembered Allah at all times of the day and night.

Al-Bukhari has recorded following in relation to the above verse, `Imran bin Husayn said that, the Messenger of Allah SAW said:

“Pray while standing, and if you can't, pray while sitting, and if you cannot do even that, then pray lying on your side.”

Ibn Kathir further commentates to the above Ayyah saying: ‘These people remember Allah in all situations, in their heart and speech, (and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the Earth), contemplating about signs in the sky and earth that testify to the might, ability, knowledge, wisdom, will and mercy of the Creator.’

What we learn is that the heart is weak in terms of Imaan and emotion, the heart controls our bodily organs and emotions therefore if one wanted to control the body and its urges one must first control our heart. How to do this? We will take you through every step of the way InshAllah.

Qalbi Zikr is done to rid ones sins, clean intentions and strengthen our hearts with (Imaan) faith. This in turn would allow ‘Ihsan’ to be adopted in our every actions and therefore will increase our internal and external faith – thus ridding oneself of bad habits and characteristics.

Remember Allah, secretly from creation, wordlessly and speechlessly. That type of Zikr is best as we are fighting worldly acknowledgement from individuals, rather we are suppressing our ego whilst keeping our devoted worship sincere and (hidden) only known to Allah SWT.

The more we perform Ihsan the more in would show in our characteristics both inward and external. A Perfect example of this is The Beloved SAW, who was the Best of Creation, sent to perfect our manners (both internal and external).

One has to take importance of internal Imaan, as this differentiates one from hypocrisy.

Although many of us are unaware of the fact that we perform Qalbi-Zikr when performing our daily Salaah, especially at Zuhr & Asr Salaah where within these two Salaah, there is no aloud recitation of the Holy Qur’an - prayer is silent. The reason to which The Holy Qur’an is not read aloud is because one may not listen attentively therefore it shows that the basic level of concentration for a believer is within ones heart which is also important when we witness something against the teaching of Islam. As narrated in a Hadith where it is reported that the Prophet SAW said:

"If one of you sees something wrong, let him change it with his hand; if he cannot, then with his tongue; if he cannot, then with his heart and this is the weakest faith." Some versions add: "there is no part of faith behind that, not even so much as a mustard seed."

This defines what the characteristics of our hearts should be. InshAllah, if our Intention is right we can get there together.


From the website of Silsila Owaisi


+ Home Page of Silsila Owaisi 
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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Stations of the Heart by al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi


1.
Someone went up to a madman who was weeping in the bitterest possible way.

He said: "Why do you cry?"

The madman answered: "I am crying to attract the pity of His heart."

The other told him: "Your words are nonsense, for He has no physical heart."

The madman answered: "It is you who are wrong, for He is the owner of all the hearts which exist. Through the heart you can make your connection with God."


~ A Sufi Tale



2.

A Sufi Work on the Stations of the Heart


Translated by Nicholas Heer

Preface


The excerpt translated below is from the beginning of a Sufi work on the stations of the heart. In the original Arabic manuscript the work is attributed to al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi, a ninth century Sufi mystic and author. Some scholars, however, have questioned this attribution. Although the identity of its author may not be certain, the work is nevertheless of considerable interest because of its precise and detailed description of the heart and the elements which compose it.

These elements, or stations in the terminology of the author, are the breast (sadr), the heart proper (qalb), the inner heart (fu’ad) and the subtle or higher intellect (lubb). They are arranged in concentric spheres, the breast being the outermost sphere followed on the inside by the heart, the inner heart and the higher intellect. Within the subtle or higher intellect are yet other stations which, however, are too subtle to be described in words.

Each of these stations of the heart has its own characteristics and functions. Thus the breast (sadr) is the abode or seat of the light of Islam (nu ̄r al-Isl ̄am). It is also the repository for that kind of knowledge (‘ilm) required for the practice of Islam, such as knowledge of the Qur’ ̄an, the Prophetic traditions and the religious law (shar ̄ı‘ah).

The heart proper (qalb), which is within the breast, is the abode of the light of faith (nu ̄r al-im ̄an). Faith is the acceptance by the heart of the truth of God’s revelation. The heart is also the repository of what the author calls valuable or useful knowledge (al-‘ilm al- n ̄afi‘). This is an interior knowledge of reality (al-haqiqah) that can only be granted to one by God. It cannot be learned from books or from a teacher as can the type of knowledge associated with the breast.

The inner heart (fu’ ̄ad) is the abode of the light of gnosis (nu ̄r al-ma‘rifah). It is associated with the vision (ru’yah) of reality. Whereas the heart has mere knowledge of reality, the inner heart actually sees reality.

The intellect (lubb), the innermost sphere of the heart, is the abode of the light of unification (nu ̄r al-tawh ̄ıd). It is the basis of the three outer spheres and is the recipient of God’s grace and bounty.

Each of these four stations of the heart is associated with one of the four spiritual stages of the Sufi path. Thus the breast and the light of Islam within it correspond to the first stage, that of the Muslim. The heart proper and light of faith correspond to the believer (mu’min), the inner heart and the light of gnosis to the gnostic (‘ ̄arif ), and the higher intellect and light of unification to the highest stage, that of the unifier (muwahhid).

The self (nafs), on the other hand, is not a part of the heart but a separate entity in the stomach. It is like a hot smoke and is the source of evil desires and passions. When these passions are not kept in check through spiritual disciplines, they escape from the self and enter into the breast filling it with smoke. The light of faith in the heart is obscured by this smoke and can no longer illuminate the breast. The breast, in turn, being deprived of this illumination, is no longer able to perform its proper functions and becomes subject to the authority of the self. The self, however, is powerless to affect the heart, and the light of faith within it remains firm and constant even when obscured by the dark passions which have entered into the breast.

Through discipline (riy ̄ad. ah), however, the self may be brought under control and made to pass through four stages corresponding to the four stages of the spiritual development of the Sufi. Thus the self which exhorts to evil (al-nafs al-amm ̄arah bi-al-su ̄’) is the yet undisciplined self and is related to the stage of the Muslim. The inspired self (al-nafs al- mulhamah) is somewhat less evil and corresponds to the stage of the believer (mu’min). The blaming self (al-nafs al-laww ̄amah) is the self of the gnostic (‘ ̄arif ), and the peaceful self (al-nafs al-mutma’innah) is that of the unifier (muwahhid).

The main elements of the system can be summarized in the following diagram-table:

 

 

Translation



Know, may God increase your understanding in religion, that the word “heart” (qalb) is a comprehensive word and necessarily includes [in its meaning] all the interior stations (maq ̄am ̄at al-b ̄atin), for in the interior [of man] there are places that are outside the heart and others that are within it. The word “heart” is similar to the word “eye” (‘ayn), since “eye” includes [in its meaning] that which lies between the two eyelashes, such as the white and black [parts] of the eye, the pupil, and the light (nu ̄r) within the pupil. Each of these parts has a separate nature (hukm) and a meaning (ma‘n ̄a) different from that of the others. Nevertheless, some of them assist some of the others, and the benefits of some are connected with some of the others. Moreover, each one on the outside is the basis of that which follows it on the inside. Thus the subsistence of the light [of the pupil] depends on the subsistence of the other [parts of the eye].

Similarly the word “homestead” (d ̄ar) is a comprehensive word for what is contained within its walls, such as the gate, the corridor, the courtyard in the midst of its buildings, as well as what is within these buildings such as the closet and storeroom. Every place and position in it has its own nature different from that of its neighbor.

Likewise, the word “sanctuary” (haram) is a word which includes the sanctuary sur-rounding Mecca, as well as the city, the mosque, and the Ka‘bah (al-bayt al-‘at ̄ıq); and in each of these places there are stations (man ̄asik) [of the pilgrimage] different from those in the others.

Again, the word “lamp” (qind ̄ıl) is a word which includes the lamp-glass [and the other parts of the lamp]. In the lamp the position of the water is different from that of the wick, and the position of the wick is different from that of the water, since the position of the wick is within the position of the water. Moreover, it is the wick which contains the light, and in the position of the wick there is oil, which has no water in it. Thus the soundness of the lamp depends on the soundness of all of these things, and if one of them is missing, the others become unsound.

Similarly the word “almond” (lawz) is a word which includes the outer shell, which is above the hard shell, and this second shell itself, which is like bone, as well as the nut or kernel (lubb) within this shell, and the oil which is within the kernel.

Know, may God increase your understanding in religion, that this religion possesses guideposts and way stations, that its people are in [various] ranks, and that the people of learning in it are in [various] grades. God said: And we have raised some of them above others in grades. (Quran) He also said: And over every lord of knowledge there is one more knowing. (Quran)

Thus, as a science is more elevated, its position in the heart is more secret, more special, more guarded, more concealed, and more veiled. Nevertheless, among the common people, mention of the word “heart” takes the place of the mention of all of its other stations (maq ̄am ̄at).

The breast, within the heart, is that station (maq ̄am) of the heart that is analogous to the white of the eye in the eye, to the courtyard in the homestead, to [the sanctuary] that surrounds Mecca, to the position of the water in the lamp, and to the upper shell of the almond out of which the almond itself emerges if it dries on the tree.

The breast is the place of entry for evil whispering (wasw ̄as) and afflictions, just as the white of the eye is subject to the affliction of pustules, inflammation of the vein, and all the other illnesses of ophthalmia. In like manner, firewood and refuse are put in the courtyard of the homestead, and all sorts of strangers enter it from time to time. Likewise predatory animals and beasts enter into the open space of the sanctuary (haram), and moths and other [insects] fall into the water of the lamp, for although there is oil above the water, the lowest position [in the lamp] is that of the water. Similarly insects, gnats, and flies crawl into the outer covering of the almond if it splits open until even small vermin enter into it.

That which enters into the breast is seldom felt at the time. The breast is the place of entry of rancor (ghill), passions (shahaw ̄at), desires and wants. At times the breast contracts and at other times it expands. It is also the place in which the self which exhorts to evil (al-nafs al-amm ̄arah bi- al-su ̄’) exerts its authority, for the self has an entry into the breast where it takes charge of things, becomes proud and manifests power on its own. The breast is also the seat of the light of Islam (nu ̄r al-isl ̄am), as well as the place for the retention of knowledge that is heard (al-‘ilm al-masmu ̄‘) and must be learned, such as the legal prescriptions (ahk ̄am) and [Prophetic] traditions (akhb ̄ar) and all that which can be expressed with the tongue, for the first cause of attaining to it is study and listening [to a teacher].

The breast (sadr) was so named because it is the first part (sadr) of the heart and its first station (maq ̄am), just as the sadr of the day is its beginning, or as the courtyard of the homestead is the first place in it. From it emerge tempting desires (was ̄awis al-h.aw ̄a’ij), and distracting thoughts (fikar al-ashgh ̄al) emerge from it into the heart also if they become established over a long period.

The heart proper (qalb) is the second station (maq ̄am). It is within the breast (sadr) and is like the black of the eye within the eye, whereas the breast is like the white. The heart is also like the city of Mecca inside the sanctuary (haram) [which surrounds it], like the place of the wick in the lamp, or the house within the homestead, or the almond inside the outer covering.

The heart is the abode of the light of faith (nu ̄r al- ̄ım ̄an) and the lights of submissiveness (khushu ̄‘), piety (taqw ̄a), love (mah.abbah), contentment (rid. ̄a), certainty (yaq ̄ın), fear (khawf), hope (raj ̄a’), patience (sabr), and satisfaction (qan ̄a‘ah). It is the abode of the principles of knowledge (usu ̄l al-‘ilm), for it is like a spring of water, and the breast is like its pool, and just as the water flows out of the spring into the pool, so also knowledge (‘ilm) emerges from the heart into the breast. Knowledge, however, also enters the breast through [the sense of] hearing. From the heart arise certainty (yaq ̄ın), knowledge (‘ilm), and intention (n ̄ıyah), which then enter into the breast, for the heart is the root and the breast is the branch. And the branch becomes firm only through the root.

The Messenger of God said:  “Deeds are only according to intentions,” and explained that the value of a deed performed by the self increases according to the intention of the heart. Thus a good deed is compounded in value commensurate with the intention. Action pertains to the self; and the authority of the self extends only as far as the breast (sadr) in accord with the intention of the heart and its authority. The heart, however, owing to God’s mercy, is not in the hand of the self, for the heart is the king and the self is [his] kingdom. The Messenger of God said: “The hand is a wing [of an army], the two feet are a postal service, the two eyes are welfare, the two ears are repression, the liver is mercy, the spleen is humor, the two kidneys are cunning and the lung is latitude. Thus if the king is virtuous, his troops are also virtuous, and if the king is corrupt, so also are his troops corrupt.” The Messenger of God thus explained that the heart is a king, and that the breast is to the heart as the field is to the horseman.

He also pointed out that the soundness of the organs [of the body] depends on the soundness of the heart and that their corruption results from the corruption of the heart. The heart is like a wick, and the soundness of the wick [depends on] its light, which, in the case of the heart, is the light of piety and certainty, for if the heart lacked this light it would be as a lamp the light of whose wick has gone out. No act which originates in the self, without [the participation] of the heart, is taken into account in the judgment of the Hereafter (hukm al- ̄akhirah), nor is the doer of such act taken to task should it be an act of disobedience, or rewarded should it be an act of obedience. God said: But He will take you to task for that which your hearts have garnered.

The likeness of the inner heart (fu’ ̄ad), which is the third station within the heart, is as the likeness of the pupil in the black part of the eye, of the Sacred Mosque (al-masjid al-har ̄am) in Mecca, of the closet or storeroom in the house, of the wick in its position in the middle of the lamp, and of the kernel within the almond. This inner heart is the seat of gnosis (ma‘rifah), passing thoughts (khaw ̄atir), and vision (ru’yah). Whenever a man profits, his inner heart (fu’ ̄ad) profits first, then his heart (qalb). The inner heart is in the middle of the heart proper, which, in turn, is in the middle of the breast (sadr), just as the pearl is within the oyster shell.

The subtler intellect (lubb), which is within the inner heart (fu’ ̄ad), is analogous to the light of seeing in the eye, to the light of the lamp in the light’s wick, and to the fat hidden within the kernel of the almond. Each one of these outer entities is a shield and covering for that which follows it on the inside. Each is similar to the others, for they are similar forms working together and close in meaning one to the other, in agreement rather than in conflict; for they are the lights of religion (anw ̄ar al-d ̄ın), and religion is one, even though the ranks (mar ̄atib) of its people are different and varied. The intellect (lubb) is the seat of the light of unification (nu ̄r al-tawh ̄ıd) as well as the light of uniqueness (nu ̄r al-tafr ̄ıd), and this is the most perfect light and the greatest power.



Beyond this there are other subtle stations (maq ̄am ̄at la.t ̄ıfah), noble places, and elegant subtleties. The root of them all, however, is the light of unification (nu ̄r al-tawh ̄ıd), for unification is a mystery (sirr) and gnosis is a bounty (birr). Faith ( ̄ım ̄an) is the preservation of the mystery and the vision of the bounty. Islam is thanksgiving for the bounty and surrendering the heart to the mystery, for unification is a mystery [to which] God guides and directs His servant, for he could not comprehend it with his reason (‘aql) were it not for God’s support and guidance of him.

Gnosis (ma‘rifah) is a bounty which God gives to His servant when He opens for him the door of blessings ( ̄al ̄a’) and favor (na‘m ̄a), beginning without the servant’s being worthy of that and then granting him guidance (hud ̄a) until he believes that this is all from God, granted to him as a grace (minnah) and a favor (ni‘mah) from Him Whom he is unable to thank except by means of His assistance. And this, again, is yet another favor to him from God.

Thus he beholds the bounty (birr) of God and guards His mystery (sirr), for He is the bestower of success. The servant does not comprehend the modality of His lordship (rubu ̄b ̄ıyah). However, he knows that He is one and avoids making Him similar to anything else, or denying His attribute, or attributing to Him a modality, or making Him unjust. This, then, is faith, which beholds God’s bounty and guards His mystery.

Islam, however, is the employment of the self in devotion to God through obedience to Him together with thanksgiving and uprightness and the surrender (tasl ̄ım) of lordship (rubu ̄b ̄ıyah) to Him. It is turning away from the comprehension of the mystery, turning toward servanthood (‘ubu ̄d ̄ıyah) and persevering in that which brings one closer to Him. This is because Islam is practised only through the self, and the self is blind to the perception of the truth (haqq) and the vision (mush ̄ahadah) of it.

Moreover, the self is not obligated to perceive realities (haq ̄a’iq). Do you not observe that the servant of God was commanded to have faith in the heart but was not obligated to comprehend what he believes in with respect to modality (kayf ̄ıyah) His duty is only to follow and to flee from innovation (ibtid ̄a‘). Surrender (tasl ̄ım) alone is sufficient for the self. The ineffable stations (al-maq ̄am ̄at al-masku ̄t ‘anh ̄a), which lie beyond those stations of which [we] have mentioned some, are perceived only by the servant of God who has succeeded, with God’s help, in understanding those stations [which we have] described with these well-known analogies, for God helps His servant and assists him in understanding them. These stations, which are beyond those already mentioned, are like the increased purity of water should it remain [for a period] in jars. By such analogies is the way of the ineffable mystery comprehended.


Source:  The Stations of the Heart. An extract from the translation of Bayān al-Farq bayn al-Ṣadr wa-al-Qalb wa-al-Fu'ād wa-al-Lubb, a Sufi work attributed to al-Ḥakīm al-Tirmidhī. In PDF format. The full translation was published in Three Early Sufi Texts by Nicholas Heer and Kenneth Honerkamp, Louisville: Fons Vitae, 2003. A digital copy, in PDF format, of my 1958 edition of the Arabic text of Bayān al-Farq (بيان الفرق بين الصدر والقلب والفؤاد واللب) can be downloaded here. The 2009 Arabic edition of Yusuf Walid Mar`i can be downloaded from The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman, Jordan.



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