Thursday, October 11, 2007

Prophet Muhammad's Meditation

1.
It is known from historical accounts that before his prophetic illumination, the last Divine Messenger, Prophet Muhammad used to go to spiritual seclusions and extended retreats of meditation into Mouth Hira near Mecca. It is during one of such meditation retreats (in the holy month of Ramadan) in a defining moment of extra-cosmic enlightenment, Divine revelations started to reveal to him. The well-preserved collection of such Divine revelations later came to be known as Quran which literally means recitation because the Prophet following the inspirations, used to recite it to others including his companions.

Now, interestingly nobody surely knows about the exact method of meditation that Prophet Muhammad used in his very personal experience in Mount Hira. The aspect of meditation and its teaching was most probably passed down to very inner circle of elect companions such as Ali, Abu Bakr, Fatima etc. who are known for their more evolved and higher spiritual station. The validation of the previous statement can be derived from the historical fact that holy companions like Ali, Abu Bakr were able to reach elevated levels of intense concentration and super-conscious stages during their formal prayers, which signifies that they were taught the science of concentration (which basically meditation is).

Now Sufis or Muslim mystics preserved the tradition of meditation unlike the orthodox schools of Islam. Different Sufi groups have their different method of meditations transmitted from Prophet to his different elect companions. Prophet's meditation was and still is one of my most fascinating area of interest. Once in a conference I had the courage to ask Shaykh Hisham Muhammad Kabbani, the current spiritual master of distinguished Naqshbandi Order, whether the methods of Prophet's meditative experiences, specially in Hira mountain cave are recorded. The Shaykh replied, "nobody knows except Allah".

2.
Now as a learner if one approach (in a very human, rational way) about the urge to know the methods of Prophet Muhammad's meditation, it is very much plausible to think that since he was practicing this prior to his divine inspiration - he might have been introduced to the idea of meditation at some point of time earlier. It is known from the life of the holy Prophet that he used to travel to Syria in his young age. At that time Syria and that part of the world was the center of devout monks, mystics, kabbalists, sabians, gnostics - vibrating with fusion of different traditions. Now if one has to trace back the history of meditational techniques among different world faiths and analyze the time line (because the more ancient it is, the more sophisticated it might become over the time with accumulation of wisdom) - one is sure to go back to ancient land of Indus valley (hence the name Hindus) we now call India.

Many scholars do acknowledge that fact that ancient Indian spiritual wisdom did spread beyond its boundaries. It was instrumental in influencing other religious and spiritual practices. Thus cross-cultural and cross-spiritual exchange was a very much possible reality prior and during the time of the Prophet. Hindu civilization having very rich tradition of meditation techniques was borrowed by others and assimilated into their own. Its not impossible that gnostics and ancient spiritual groups, particularly the Christian monks did know about such techniques from exchange of pilgrims among various lands.

What my hypothesis is: it is very much possible that the meditation technique Prophet Muhammad used to practice might have been learned or influenced from gnostics during his trips to Syria and adjacent lands which again might have been inherited it from ancient Indian wisdom of meditation. The reason of saying that among many other reasons is because Indian meditation technique is one of the most sophisticated science of meditation known to mankind that still thrives today. If one look at the eastern meditation techniques, specially that of ancient science of Yoga from India, one will easily agree with that.

Just as Islam is a transmission and continuation of Divine Inspiration from Judeo-Christian tradition, so is possible the cross-spiritual transmission of eastern ideas and techniques. Specially when it comes to higher level of consciousness and the art of self realization through meditation, it does hints to collective human experience across race and space. The idea of Prophet Muhammad's meditation always fascinates me and tracing its root in the broader context of collective human experience, (to my personal observation) one has to go back to Indian or Yogic wisdom of meditation because it is one of the most original, most ancient (we are talking about thousands of years before the birth of Christ even) and most importantly one of the most refined techniques of meditation that is known to humanity.


[> NEXT POST ] i was reading about Raja Yoga (the Royal Path of Union, a specialized science of meditation from ancient India) and God willing in the next post i would like to post specifically on it (Raja Yoga) to demonstrate the proximity at the level of Haqiqa or Inner Reality between Islamic Philosophy and what Raja Yoga is about.

. As-Salatu was Salamu alayka ya Sayyidi ya Rasul Allah. May God's infinite blessings be with the master and teacher of humanity, Prophet Muhammad upon whom the pinnacle of Divine Revelation was graced.


(c) Sadiq M. Alam / UCLA
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