Friday, May 29, 2009

Death | Counsels of a Sufi Master

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate!

Men are of three kinds: the first are covetous and greedy, second have begun to turn to God; and the third have attained the heights of mystical knowledge. Pleasure-prone people simply do not think about death, and even if they do, it is in order to pine for this world and to become further engrossed in it .. The remembrance of death makes such person move further away from God. A person who has begun to turn toward God thinks about death as a means of producing awe and dread in his heart, and thus be enabled to turn completely toward Him..

The advanced Sufi is forever recalling death, for it is the time appointed for seeking the countenance of the Friend, and no lover can ever forget the time fixed for meeting his beloved. He would love to be swallowed up by death so that, being freed from this dwelling place of mindless beings, he might rise to the abode near his Friend, just as Huzaifa relates: "O God, You know that I prefer poverty to riches, sickness to health, and death to life. Make death easy for me, that I might arrive at my reward- You!"

The novice is excused from the aversion or shunning of death, while on the other hand, the advanced Sufi is also excused - for loving death and yearning after it! It is said, however, that there is an even higher stage than both of these, when a person makes use of nothing at all, but does his work purely for the sake of God. For himself, he chooses neither death nor life. This is the stage of resignation and acceptance and it is the final point of those who have reached the summit..

Think more of the destroyer of delights (i.e. death), that your inclinations toward them (delights) might be severed. Thus will you be enabled to turn toward God Almighty. Its related: "If animals knew as much about death as you do, then you would not be able to eat the meat of any fattened animal."

Aisha said, "O Apostle of God, who will appear together with the martyrs on the Day of Resurrection?" He replied, "Anyone who contemplate about death twenty times each day and night."

Apostle of God said, "Death is a present for the faithful, because the world is their prison, and they are always grief-stricken in it. Death is the release from all that, and release from prison is certainly a much-prized gift!" Again he said, "Death is an atonement for every Muslim." Anyone who is a real Muslim, unlike you and me, is in quest of it. Death makes them pure.

A wise man wrote "Be afraid of death in this abode before you go to the other dwelling place, for you will long for death therein, but will not find it." When Ibn Siri was reminded of death, all his limbs became transfixed.. It is related that whenever Jesus was reminded of death, blood used to ooze out of this body.

It behooves you not to lag behind those who day and night use to recall death at least twenty times. As far as possible, remain steadfast in this practice and be ready for death to come, whenever that may be. One beloved of God wrote, "This world is a dream. After it comes the awakening. Midway between them lies death. We are all perplexed with dreams."

O brother, even if there were no sorrow, grief, fear or torment, still death and its pangs would be quite sufficient, for the whole of life is made miserable because of that moment. All pleasure is spoilt therein, while every blunder and foolish action will be changed completely at the awaking. Meanwhile, it is said that death is more painful than the blow of a sword or a cut from a saw, or removing the whole nails from one's fingers. Hence it is said that the Apostle prayed, "O God make the pangs of death bearable for Muhammad!" In a similar way Jesus said to his followers, "O my apostles, beseech God Almighty to make death easy for me, for I am so much afraid of it that my fear itself is plunging me to my death!"

When the soul of Moses reached the Divine Presence, God asked "Moses, how did you find death?" He asked this question even though He is fully aware of what it is like. Moses replied, "I found my soul was like a sparrow, and in such a state as though it had been fried in a pan but did not receive the relief of death, nor was it released so that it might fly away." Now understand that at the time of death the lover appears to pass away, that is, he is completely peaceful and at reast. Some appropriate words of witness will assuredly be found on his lips at that moment.

There is a tradition that the Prophet said, "A dying man's attention should be fixed on three things. He should be blushing with shame; tears should be flowing from his eyes; and his lips should be parched. This would all be due to God's mercy, which had been showered upon him. And when he makes a noise, it would be a choking sound; his colour would turn red, and his lips became the color of dust. All this constitutes torments sent by God, which have now overwhelmed him. It would, however, be a good sign, if his tongue still moved in witness to God." The Prophet said, "Everyone who is dying, and knows that there is no other divine reality but God Alone is, will go to heaven."

Death! the end of one and all is by this way alone, whether you are a beggar or a king, for here it is all the same with respect to possessions of kings and poverty of beggars, as has been said:

If your possessions were to stretch from earth to the moon,
Finally, they would all lead to this door!
When your jaw suddenly turns rigid,
Then all the World's wealth is no more than a chin!
If you are a Faridun or an Afrasiyab,
In this Ocean you are but a drop!
All the creatures of this world are submerged in an ocean of blood:
Who knows what their condition is like beneath the dust?

A venerable Sufi has said, "There are three types of sorrow: that of worship - has it been accepted or not? that of sin - has it been forgiven or not? and that of the vision of God - will it be denied or not?" The elect ones have said, "There is really only one sorrow - that of being denied the vision of God! Every other sorrow, apart from that, is easy to bear, because it is not destined to last." Hence it is that the prayer of all the wise in this, "O Lord, do whatever You wish, but don't cut us off from this!"

The secret has been mentioned in the verse:

The hearts are all stirred in expectation of seeing Your face!
Our bodies, out of fear of separation, cry out in the midst of pleasure and comfort!
Without Your Beauty, flowers of desire turn to thrones in my hope-enkindled eyes!

Peace!

- Selection from the letter titled Death from The Hundred Letters by Sufi Master Sarafuddin Maneri, May God sanctify his Soul. Known as 'The Spiritual Teacher of the Realm', Maneri is venerated as one of the most famous Islamic saints. This sufi master was born in Bengal in Northeast India where he lived, taught and founded the Firdausiya order of Bihar.


Everyone is so afraid of death,
but the real sufis just laugh:
nothing tyrannizes their hearts.

What strikes the oyster shell
does not damage the pearl.

- Rumi
Rumi Daylight: A Daybook of Spiritual Guidance by Camille & Kabir Helminski


bhala hua meri matki phooti re,

main to pania bharan se chooti re.

Ah sweet delight! now my clay jar has shattered,
finally I'm free from this water filling business!

- Kabir
Abida Parveen sings this beautiful sufi kalam with such sweetness,
God bless her voice



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