Tuesday, December 29, 2009

advice of the prophet for sincere seekers

"The widest door to the Intimate Divine Presence, Paradise - is humility. But this is also the lowest door - so those who enter must enter with their head bowed down, with their self lowered in utter humility." - Islamic Sacred Tradition

In the Name of Allah,
the Creator, the Fashioner
and the Opener of Hearts

May Allah open our hearts to be kind and compassionate to all without reserve, all whom we meet in the path, reflecting the quality of Allah, The Compassionate and The Merciful, may Allah bless us with the capacity to love His Messenger, a love worthy of his highest mystic station, and to be counted among true ashik e Rasool (lover of the Messenger) in this world and the next and may our following of timeless guidance be our proof and protection for this priceless love.

Allah's Messenger, upon him be peace, has said, “Allah has revealed to me that you should be courteous to one another. One should neither hold himself above another nor transgress against another.” (Muslim)

"Let your own faults prevent you from criticizing others and do not try to find fault with others, because you commit those faults yourself. It is enough to prove you guilty that you should find in others such faults as you yourself posses, though you may not be aware of them, and that you should find in others such misdeeds as you yourself commit".

"O you who declare your submission to Divine Will (Islam) with your tongues but whose hearts have not been reached by faith, do not annoy the Muslims nor seek out their faults, for he who seeks out the faults of his brother have his faults sought out by Allah, and when Allah seeks out someone's faults, He exposes them, even though he should be in the interior of his house." (Bukhari, Muslim )

“A man does not call another as fasiq (corrupt) or kafir (disbeliever), except that he will be a disbeliever if the other is actually not.” (Bukhari)

“A person continues to display haughtiness and arrogance till he is recorded among the arrogant and will be therefore afflicted with what afflicts them.” (Tirmidhi)

"There is no wisdom better than prudence, nor any piety better than refraining from the unlawful, nor any nobility better than polite manners"

“The dearest and nearest among you to me on the Day of Resurrection will be one who is the best of you in conduct; and the most abhorrent among you to me and the farthest of you from will be the pompous boastful braggarts, and Al-Mutafaihiqun.” The Companions asked him: “O Allah’s Messenger! We know about the pompous boastful braggarts, but we do not know who Al-Mutafaihiqun are.” He replied: “The arrogant people.” (Tirmidhi)

“It is from the excellence of Islam that the believer should abandon that which is of no benefit to him or her (in this world and the Hereafter).” (Tirmidhi)

Madad Ya Allah, Ya Muqallibal Quloob!

Help us O God, O Turner of Hearts!

Turn our Hearts away from arrogance to humility,
away from being boastful to be polite,
and count us among your sincere servants. Ya Allah, Ya Mawla!

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Monday, December 28, 2009

going beyond the intellect | a jewish story from the Great Maggid

It is said that the Great Maggid would convene his inner circle every night to teach (the disciples) the sacred texts. All of his greatest students would gather. When the Maggid would begin to speak, "And God said..", Reb Zushya would leap up, overwhelmed with ecstasy. He would yell out, "And God said! God said!"

He would spin around and around like a leaf in the wind, and then faint, unconscious for the rest of the teaching. Every night it was the same thing.

The other disciples would tease him, saying, "Zushya, you're missing all the holy teachings!" The teasing went on for days and days until finally the master said, "Leave him alone; he's the only one who gets it."

- Story from The Great Maggid, may God be well pleased with him, the successor to the founder of Hasidism -the mystical branch of Judaism

# Related: Divine Madness
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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Jesus, the Symbol and Sign | from Ibn Arabi

Christ on WaterFrom the water of Mary
or from the breath of Gabriel,
In the form of a mortal fashioned of clay, The Spirit came to be in an essence purified of nature, which you call Sijjin...

A Spirit from God, not from anything else. Thus he raised up the dead and made birds from clay... God purified him in body and exalted him in spirit, and made of him a symbol of engendering.

- Ibn 'Arabi, Fusus

In my heart dwells Jesus the Nazarene,
the Poet who makes poets of us all, the spirit who knocks at our door
so that we may wake and rise and let our illusions come in,
to meet truth naked and unencumbered.

- Khalil Gibran, Jesus: Son of Man

Great Sufi Master and Mystic Ibn 'Arabi, who was given direct experience of meeting Christ in the inner realm, in many veridical vision and dreams refers to Jesus as 'mathalan bi-takwin', or "symbol of engendering". In the metaphysical perspective of Ibn 'Arabi's school, one of the most important principles of which the "Qur'anic" Jesus stands forth as a "symbol", sign, and concrete embodiment, is the following: mercy and compassion are the fruits of the realization of the true Self - or self of the Real, the Nafs al-Haqq, as Ibn 'Arabi calls it. Compassion, in turn, should be understood not only morally but also, and a priori, metaphysically, in terms of the bestowal of life: God gives life to the cosmos out of compassion for His own hidden qualities that long to be known; and man participates in this process both positively - through being compassionate towards his own self, as well as towards others - and inversely, by enlivening his own soul and that of others through the knowledge of God.

The Qur'anic narratives concerning Jesus, together with the esoteric interpretations thereof from the Akbari perspective, illuminate these intertwined realities of selfhood and compassion in a particularly fruitful manner. Jesus is described in the Qur'an "as a sign for mankind and a mercy from Us". Ibn 'Arabi draws out, in a most instructive way, how these two aspects of Jesus can be spiritually understood: what Jesus is a sign of, and how this relates to mercy or compassion.

God has spoken to mankind in several different ways. He has spoken to people through revelation or from behind a veil, and His speech has sometimes carried orders and prohibitions and sometimes not. Likewise, God's messages have been brought down to people either in the form of a Word, like the Qur'an and the Bible (Old and New Testament), or in the form of an "event" like the birth of Jesus, portrayed as a sign (âya) from God in the Qur'an.

This "symbol of engendering" of Jesus can be considered in four ways.

Jesus Christ Picture ImageFirst, the creation of Jesus himself - by means of a breath, a word, a spirit, cast into Mary - is a miraculous sign of God's creativity in general, of the way in which the spirit enlivens matter.

Secondly, the creation of Jesus is a recapitulation of the specific miracle of the creation of Adam.

Thirdly, at the level of cosmogenesis, the birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary expresses the principle by which the cosmos itself is brought into being. According to Ibn 'Arabi, the universe originates in the epiphany of the "Muhammadan Reality" (al-haqiqa al-muhammadiyya), this reality being the most receptive of all realities - contained within the primal "Cloud" - to the creative Light of God. It is by virtue of the Prophet's total receptivity to this Light that his passivity (infi'aliyya) is transformed into activity (fa-iliyya):

Muhammad was created as a slave, in principle; he never raised his head seeking leadership, nay, he ceaselessly prostrated in humility, standing [before his Lord] in his condition of passivity, until God engendered (kawwana) from him all that He engendered, bestowing upon him a rank of activity (fa'iliyya) in the world of Breaths...

One is reminded here of the words addressed to Mary in the Qur'an by the angels:

O Mary, Truly God has chosen you and purified you, and preferred you above all women of creation. O Mary, be obedient to your Lord, prostrate to Him and bow with those who bow (III:42-3).

It is not Jesus alone who was made a "sign" but he and his mother together:

And We made the son of Mary and his mother a sign (XXIII:50).

Thus Jesus can be seen as a symbol of the cosmos itself, the "fruit" of the activity that is rooted in total, virgin receptivity to the Word from above, Mary's role here mirroring that of the Muhammadan Reality.

Finally, continuing this process of fa'iliyya, Jesus' own activity positively reflects this divine creativity: his healing of the blind, the leper, his creating a bird from clay, and most importantly, his raising up of the dead. As the Qur'an tells us, Jesus says:

Truly I come unto you with a sign from your Lord. Truly, I create for you out of clay the shape of a bird, and I breathe into it, and it becomes a bird, by God's permission. I heal him who was born blind and the leper, and I give life to the dead, by God's permission (III:49).

It is very instructive to see how Kashani draws out the esoteric meaning of these miraculous acts. In his Tafsir he gives the following commentary:

"Truly I create for you, through spiritual discipline and purification and realized wisdom, from the clay of souls still deficient but nonetheless receptive, the shape of a bird, one that flies to the realm of holiness through the intensity of its longing.Then I breathe into it the breath of divine knowledge and true life, through the influence of my presence and my teaching. And it becomes a bird that is, a living soul, flying with the wings of longing and aspiration towards the Real.I heal the blind, the one who is veiled from the light of the Real, one whose eye of insight had always been closed, and had never seen the sun of the face of the Real, nor its light... and the leper, the one whose soul is disfigured by the disease of vices and corrupt beliefs, blemished by the love of this world and besmirched by the stain of concupiscence. And I give life to the death of ignorance with the life of knowledge."

In the spirit of this kind of commentary, one might venture to add that the words of the Qur'an, by God's permission, which qualify the miraculous acts of Jesus, can be understood, esoterically, as meaning that these acts were performed by Jesus in perfect conformity with his knowledge of who the agent really is; who the true Self is, within him, that is performing these acts. In other words, Jesus was not veiled from the Divine reality by his own performance of these acts: he knew that God was acting through him.

The fact that God is the sole agent emerges in the Akbari perspective as an inescapable subjective corollary of the objective oneness of being, or, to use Ibn 'Arabi's own words, of the reality "that there is nothing in Being but He."Ibn 'Arabi comments in many places on the ontological implications of the verse in the Qur'an, which states "You did not throw when you threw, but God threw"(VIII:17).

The following few instances will suffice for our purposes:

You did not throw, so He negated, when you threw, so He affirmed, but God threw, so He negated the engendered existence (kawn) of Muhammad, and affirmed Himself as identical ('ayn) with Muhammad...

Such ambivalent negations and affirmations give rise to bewilderment: You are not you when you are you but God is you.

But they reveal the truth that it is God alone who is the agent of all acts, the agent who acts through all the faculties of man.

It is He who is revealed in every face, sought in every sign, gazed upon by every eye, worshipped in every object of worship, and pursued in the unseen and the visible. Not a single one of His creatures can fail to find Him in its primordial and original nature.

- Ibn 'Arabi, Futûhât al-Makkiyya

[>] For a detailed exposition of the theme and read the articles in full, follow the Links:
. Jesus in the Quran: an Akbari Perspective (part1)
. part2

Also: The spirit and the son of the spirit
via The Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi Society

# Related Post:
. Esoteric Meaning of Virgin Mary
. The Threshold Pin It Now!

Friday, December 25, 2009

the day sanctified when Christ was born

Wa as-salamu AAalayya yawma wulidtu,
wa yawma amootu,
wa yawma obAAathu hayyan.

"So peace is on me the day I was born,
the day that I die,
and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)"!

- from the blessed sayings of Isa ibn Maryam (Jesus, son of Mary)

from The Holy Quran,
Chapter of Mary, 19:33

Despite the fact that no one really know the exact calendar date of Christ's coming to the world, the day is sanctified by the very coming of Christ, the Word and Spirit of God (Ruhu'Llah). From the holy lips of Christ, Quran - the Last Testament testifies that the particular day of his birth, on his day of departure and his resurrection on the Day of Final Judgment in all occasions, special peace descends upon him. The nature of this pure peace Christ himself calls, as we find in New Testament, 'peace not as the world gives but as Beloved Himself gives to the world' and he leaves that peace for his lovers.

Christmas marks the remembrance of the birth of Christ as well an occasion to remember mother Mary, who was among those 'who are drawn near' and special friend of God. Blessings of the day be with you. Wish you a Merry and Blessed Christmas.

"As the Heavenly Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that yours joy may be complete.

May command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant knows not his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you .. This is my command: Love each other."

- Teaching of Christ to his intimate disciples, from John 15

Ten Gnostic Commands of the Way of Christ

Be calm,
be loving unto others,
be gentle,
be peaceful,
be merciful,
give tithes (zakat),
help the poor and sick and distressed,
be devoted to God,
be righteous,
be good -

- that ye may receive the Mysteries of the Light
and go on high into the Land of Light.

- Pistis Sophia, 102

La ilaha illa'Llah,
Isa Ayatu'Llah

There is but One God,
Jesus is Sign of God.

La ilaha illa'Llah,
Isa Ruhu'Llah

There is but One God,
Jesus is Spirit of God.

Allahumma salli wa sallim wa barik ala Sayyidina Isa ibn Maryam.

O Allah! May Your grace, peace and blessings rest on our Master Jesus, son of Mary.

Allahumma salli wa sallim wa baarik ala ruhi sayyidina Isa fi arwaahi, wa salli wa sallim ala qalbi sayyidinia Isa fi qulbi, wa salli wa sallim ala jasadi Isa fil ajsaadi.

O Allah! Shower Your grace and blessings on the soul of Jesus, our master, among all souls, on the heart of Jesus, among all hearts, and on the body of Jesus, among all bodies.


# Related:
. Jesus the Sufi Master
. Jesus in the Eyes of the Sufis
. What word Jesus used to call God
. Jesus in Islam
. Jesus Christ in the Tradition of Islam Pin It Now!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

born in bethlehem | children of la creche

And this shall be a Sign to you:
in a manger you will find an infant
wrapped in swaddling clothes.

- Luke 2: 12

While my way back to work this evening, tuning into BBC World Service on the car radio, I stumbled at BBC World Service weekly program Heart and Soul, that explores religion & spirituality around the world. The Program, Refuge in Bethlehem is the Christmas edition of Heart and Soul on La Creche, or 'the manger', a children's home in Bethlehem run by the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul. It's one of the very few places in the West Bank where unwanted Palestinian children find a loving home. At La Creche, desperate young women come for refuge to give birth in safety.

Tears filled my eyes, heart grew heavy as I was listening to stories of Children like Fares, who was found abandoned in a box near a checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem; or Ehab, the son of a deaf 16-year-old who was abused by several cousins and neighbours; or Baha, an infectiously cheerful little boy with Down's syndrome.

Most of these children were conceived out of wedlock. Every one of these children being innocent suffer the most horrible circumstances given the deeply rooted cultural and tribal bias. Deeply sad is the fact that often time many of these non-sense violence of justice for these innocent new born children goes under the pretext of religious (read cultural) petty mentality and sick emotion.

O humanity! ... revere the sacredness of the womb that bore you.
- The Quran, An-Nisa (The Woman) 4:1

When you think of the story of Mary conceiving Christ, her giving birth and being mocked by her community and rejected by the society and think of today how we celebrate the very birth and when you think of how little we have progressed in our mentality, in our embodiment of compassion.

When you think Mother Mary conceived Christ outside of wedlock (yes religious group will say it was Holy Ghost, but lets take the zahir (outward reality) only and that reality was that she wasn't in marital relationship) and this is almost the time of celebration of the birth of Christ, and at the same time we are giving such cruel treatment to many mothers and their child who are born of similar circumstances (at least outwardly). The timely program of BBC from the very land, very town where Christ was born is such a huge irony to understand.

We can't help but see that its often the cultural aspect that still dominate our psychological makeup more than our humane qualities, compassion and even religious / spiritual teachings of love, compassion and justice.

Where is justice for these innocent children you may wonder if you listen to this program (download mp3 audio of the programme), where is compassion for them and for the young mother who are even raped by their own relatives and forced to give birth pre-maturely? All that is dominating and responsible is what is called 'family honor' which is an utterly tribalist mentality that supersede everything else including basic human rights and minimum compassion worthy from a human being of conscience.

[>] Listen to: Heart And Soul (23/12/2009) Refuge Bethlehem

Also, . BBC Program | Heart and Soul Podcast

May God bless the missionary sisters, nuns and everyone who are behind the work of The Creche and who see the face of Christ upon the face of every children born there and tirelessly serve. May God help us, human race to have more compassion and more love for our fellow beings, including those who are born innocent and those who end up being the so called sinners.

About the Crèche: It is an orphanage managed by the Daughters of the Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. The orphanage, which has a long history in Bethlehem, has welcome the orphans since its foundation in the late 19th century. Since the middle '80s, it has expanded its mission to include social problems in the Palestinian Authority Area.

About Heart and Soul: is a weekly half-hour programme that has the scope and understanding to explore different experiences of spirituality from around the world. Whether examining religious faith or any other belief-system, the programme talks to believers and non-believers, and tries to get beyond superficial notions of spirituality and religion.

# Reference:
. Born in Bethlehem
. The Tradition of the Christmas Crib
. La Crèche ("The cradle")
. La Creche: Support group in France
. Bethlehem
. Christmas in Gaza

. Society of St. Vincent de Paul Pin It Now!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

progression of surrender | wisdom from upanishad

When all the senses are stilled,
when the mind is at rest,
when the intellect wavers not,
then is reached the highest state.

This calm of the senses and the mind has been defined as yoga (union). One who attains it - is freed from delusion.

- Katha Upanishad 2.6.10-11

The wise person should surrender his words to his mind;
and this he should surrender to the knowing self;
and the knowing self he should surrender to the (even) great(er) self;
and that he should surrender to the peaceful self.

- Katha Upanishad 3.13

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Monday, December 21, 2009

absorbing what we already know

Hazrat Inayat Khan tells the story of the Sufi master Bullah Shah. As a child, his teacher taught him the first letter of the Arabic alphabet: alif. While the other children in the class progressed to master the entire alphabet set, Shah remained on this one letter. Weeks passed and the teacher, frustrated with the boy, sent him home to his parents. His parents hired private tutors, but months later, they gave up in disappointment. Shah would not progress past alif.

Not wanting to be a burden on anyone, Shah ran away to the forest where, as Khan tells it, he saw the “manifestation of alif.. as the grass, the leaf, the tree, branch, fruit, and flower.” The same alif, Khan writes, became the mountain and hill, the stones and rocks, every animal, in himself and in others.

Finally, after he has mastered this lesson, he returned to his teacher, who had long ago forgotten him. But Bulleh Shah had not forgotten the teacher who had taught him his most important lesson – one that he had spent his entire life absorbing. Bowing before his old teacher, Bullah said, “I have prepared the lesson you so kindly taught me; will you teach me anything more?”

What if we took a single lesson and thoroughly absorbed it? Rather than being gluttons for more knowledge, what levels of spirituality might we reach if we remained with only one holy sentence – a single, spiritually potent concept?

The Hebrew writers asked us to love God with our entire being and to love others as we love ourselves, and Jesus said that such love summed up the entire law and prophets. Perhaps we should spend an entire lifetime mastering this single command, that of ashk, or divine love.

Traveling the mystical path isn’t about learning more or doing more. It’s about absorbing what we already know – a vastly more difficult task. This Sufis tell us that a Divine Name uttered one time with the utmost sincerity, from the deepest reaches of our heart, can plunge us into realms that some, seeking half-heartedly for a lifetime, never reach. When everything disappears except for a pure longing for God – even for a moment – we’re on the mystical path.

- from
Sitting with Sufis by Mary Blye Howe

and recite the Qur'an in slow, measured rhythmic tones. - The Quran 73:4

Its recorded in the sacred tradition of Islam about how Prophet, upon him be peace, would recite the Quran. The way he used to recite the divinely revealed words of Quran was that he would sometime say a single verse or two and then would repeat it again and again slowly and even the whole night would pass by and he would be in deep contemplation reciting the same verse. One of such verse of contemplation that he would repeat is a supplication of Christ to God in the post-eternity which reads, In tuAAaththibhum fa-innahum AAibaduka wa-in taghfir lahum fa-innaka Anta al Aazeezul Hakeem. "If You should chastise them, then surely they are Your servants; and if You should forgive them, then surely You are the Mighty, the Wise" - The Chapter of Table Spread, 5:118

The holy Prophet would not hasten in recitation, but would distinctively and slowly read every word so that it could enter into his blessed heart deeply, throughly and throughly.

There are methods (and ways) for everything and this is one of the method of absorption into mystery. To absorb that which (we think, or we convince ourselves that) we know, requires that we become innocent of what we already know (emptying the cup) and that we be open to an holy yearning for more, so that a deeper knowing, an even more encompassing gnosis may be given to us.

# Related Post:
. Aik Alif | Bulleh Shah
. Stay close to any sounds Pin It Now!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

blameworthy traits of the self

fume from mouthInvoking Refuge in Lord, from the outcast, the deceiver

Every age has a subtle (as well as gross) quality that gradually manifest in the overall fabric of mass consciousness, in how the majority think, behave, embrace their life-style and think of what is proper. In our age this gradual shift have made the dominating tendency of our time to produce radical individualism, selfish, materialistic and that of consumer mentality. So much that now a days to be a consumer is fashionable and what our leaders(!) urges us to do ('shop till you drop' is the new motto, Christmas is around the corner, watchout), to disregard completely about other less fortunate ones is the trend, to think only 'me' 'me' 'me' is normal. This phenomena has become so over-spread that it has even penetrated in the spiritual discourse of our time.

Self-help books are best-sellers. 'Do it yourself spirituality' has become the only religion appealing to the people out there. 'I know better', 'I am better than all' is no longer ignorant arrogance (jahel) but seems to be an addiction that everyone enjoy. This is not surprising because it only complements our age's trend of pre-occupation with the individual self. It has become such trend that we even invented old-homes to discard our vulnerable parents at their mature age because they interfere with our personal life, career focused selfish pursuits, and feel completely ok about it (all the while forgetting that when we were child and vulnerable it was them who cared for us). What a system of expressing gratitude! The self-obsession for money and wealth has reached to such level that we virtually spend our whole life running after making money only to become consumers of higher degree, but sadly to discover that silently our life passed away without even reaching any degree of realization, without serving others, without even yearning for anything what is real.

The so called popular trend of self-centeredness have already influenced our mind in such way that it perceives certain things in spiritual discourse old-fashioned. By becoming superficially modern we've already lost the receptivity of certain knowledge that is dangerous to our whole system and making our collective condition far more complex. Instead of being people of ease (considering all modern gadgets which suppose to make life easy) we're becoming beings infested with worries, manic depression and perpetual anxiety.

One of the required knowledge for self-realization (and he who knows himself know his Lord) is the knowledge of inherent evil which is to be found no where but within our own selves. In our soul are both animal instincts and angelic qualities. Yet only recently we often seem to fail to acknowledge the first. Because of our self-imposed narcissist behavior, we camouflage our inherent evil with all sort of ignorance and niceties. But an authentic spiritual path of our time (or any other time) is tested for its authenticity by its vigilance against such evil, and by its ability to transform from a lowly state to a higher one.

Even Buddha's teaching didn't ignore the evil which is found within, "By oneself, indeed, is evil done; by oneself is one defiled. By oneself is evil left undone; by oneself, indeed, is one purified. Purity and impurity depend on oneself. No one purifies another." - Dhammapada

.. And I do not make myself free of blame, for the human soul is inclined to ignorance, except what my Lord has mercy on. Surely my Lord is Forgiving, Merciful - The Quran, 12:53

The universal spiritual path of surrender to divine will (islam) has never been naive about the inclination of human self to its descent into ignorance, into its straying from the straight path. Because to deny this would be to deny a reality which simply is. The dualistic nature of our self's inclination to stray is just part of how things are and necessarily so.

There has to be evil so that good can prove its purity above it.
- Buddha

Thats why all effective spiritual training and struggle always begin by acknowledging our own blameworthy attributes, which if the self is not made aware, mindful and those attributes if not purified, can cause the whole landscape of our inner purity to descend into catastrophic pollution. And in doing so we lose touch with our original nature.

Blessed are the pure in heart
for they shall see God.
- Sermon on the Mount

.. when none shall be saved except him who will come before God with a pure heart (qalbin saleem) - The Quran 26:89

Indeed whosoever purifies himself [man tazakka] shall achieve success. - The Quran 87:14

An important question to ask, following the timeless beatitude of Christ on his sermon on the Mount or from Quranic verses on the emphasis on 'purity' is this: "How to purify the heart (or the self)?" and I warn you, the answer (or the process) may sound not so fashionable (spiritually), may sound out-dated and may not comply with narcissist 'do it yourself spirituality' where everything is about feeling nice. And who will deny the fact that purification always requires washing (cleaning away), more washing and more washing of all that is impure? And it involves abrasion, involves facing something which yourself dont want to face, 'your own shadow,' or an archetype of all shadow (the Satan as traditional religious language use the term).

Yes 'speaking God in the language of love' may give us auditory bliss, yes 'calling God as Beloved' may sound fantastic to our starving soul surrounded by other selfish human forms who only know how to love themselves but not other - yet if we are not aware of our own shadow and darkness - all these calling are mere callings without our progressing towards Real. And the proof of that is our entanglement with activities which continue to keep us in separation with others, with our deepest part of self, let alone with God and thus suffering in the present life continues.

The self has its own wonderful mechanisms for deception which is a reality about which God speaks in Quran, "God knows the deceit of the eyes (both external and eyes of the heart, which is the faculty of perception) and all that which the hearts conceal." This deception of the self can be very dangerous particularly to people of spiritual seeking because their spiritual pride and arrogance is the worst of its kind.

O you who believe! enter into submission one and all
and do not follow the footsteps of Satan;
surely he is your open enemy.
- The Quran 2:208

The people of reality (the Sufis) have long established method of spiritual training taking guidance from the divinely revealed words, Quran and the way of the Last Messenger - which encompasses certain knowledge about the manifest enemy of humanity, the Satan (Shaytaan or Shaitan in Arabic).

Now how do you interpret the archetype of Satan or Devil or Source of Evil is upto you, but the reality is it exist. Its not a question of this belief system or that, its a question of whether you are in denial with its reality or not. You may call it darkness, shadow, the absence of light - it doesn't matter. What matters is that it exists and the blameworthy traits that issue from the Satan is a real threat to human beings that bring them down from their lofty station of divine proximity to the lowest of low.

Say: I invoke refuge in the Lord of Dawn,
From the evil of that which is created;
From the evil of dark night as it arrive.
- The Quran, 113, 1-3

The book Tahdheeb'l Insaan Min'l Khisaal as-Shaytaan (The Training of Humanity Against the Traits of Satan) is an excellent manual that touches on this subject. But before I quote selectively from this booklet which might be useful, let me have few words of caution. The following text will be useful if seen and used simply as a map. Just as a map of the world is NOT the world itself, but still has its use - so it is with the following text that explores the dark recess and shadows of our self and its traits. Just as a map on paper represents three dimensions by lines and dots, so you will find in this map languages used which such as animals, predators, etc. which are used as a pointer to reality, as fingers pointing to the moon.

Realize that the nobility of humanity over the remainders of animals is their propensity for direct experiential knowledge of Allah and obedience to Him. This direct experiential knowledge does not occur except in the heart.

The human soul gathers within itself four qualities: [1] those of predatory animals (as-sab'iya); [2] those of livestock (al-baheema); [3] those of devils (as-shaytaniya); and [4] those of highly lordly beings (ar-rabbaniya). The blameworthy trait that underlines the predatory nature is unjust anger (ghadab), that of livestock nature is corrupt passions, that of devilish nature is a combination of anger and passions.

The blameworthy traits which underline the higly lordly beings are a combination of eight: [1] love for exaltedness; [2] love for position; [3] love for designation; [4] autocracy in all affairs; [5] being singled out for leadership; [6] withdrawing from the bondage of servitude; [7] love for information of all the realities of things; [8] the desire to subdue the whole of creation. All of these eight traits are characteristics that are in reality the qualities of Divine Lordship.

The heart is predisposed to direct experiential knowledge (al-ma'arifa) of all divine, celestial and terrestrial realities. However, the heart becomes veiled from these realities by means of five things, [1] disobedience (al-ma'asiya). [2] corrupt passion (as-shahwaat), [3] ignorance (al-jahl), [4] blind following (at-taqleed), and [5] satanic whispering.

The means by which Satan enters into the human heart is through the blameworthy qualities (sifaat al-madhmuuma), which are numerous. However, twelve of these are fundamental traits.

[1] Unjust Anger (al-ghaddab) - whoever becomes angry and acts upon his anger, Satan enters his heart and plays.

[2] Corrupt Passions (as-shahwa) - whoever follows after his corrupt passions, Satan then enters upon his or her heart and make these passions seem fair seeming until it overcome and destroy.

[3] Satiation (as-shabi'u) - consuming food to the point of satiation (excessive consumption of food), which fortifies and strengthen the corrupt passions, the sole weapon of Satan.

[4] The Love of Adornment (hubb at-tazyeen) - includes attraction and attachment to beautiful clothing, gorgeous homes and luxury. As the love of adornment enters the heart, Satan utilizes this until the person is preoccupied with self-beautification and love for external adornment for the entire period of his or her life.

[5] Covetousness (at-tam'u) - the one who is overcome by covetousness, Satan persist in causing the person to smooth thing out for the one whom he covets and to embellish himself by him by means of showing-off and fraudulent behavior until the thing which he covets become like something which is worshiped.

[6] Haste (al-ujla) - Satan enters the human heart through haste and rushing into every affair, which occur to the mind without giving insight into anything.

[7] Excessive Wealth (al-maal alladhi zaada ala ad-daruura) - Satan enters into the human heart through wealth, which is in excess of what is necessary. Satan enters the heart of a person and whispers to him about his needs until he becomes forever preoccupied with gathering needless wealth (stuff) until he or she dies.

[8] Stinginess (al-bukhl) - the heart is occupied with fear of poverty and made to hold fast to withholding expending money on others and giving charity. It leads to hoarding wealth and finally begin to have evil opinion of his Lord (doubting provision).

[9] Fanaticism (at-ta'assub) - when Satan sees that fanaticism is dynamic in the heart, he moves in him the desire to be victorious over his adversaries without resulting to the truth. Satan then beautifies this fanaticism in the heart until it leads him towards hatred and envy.

[10] Having Evil opinion to divinely surrendered beings (su'u ad-dhan bi'l muslimeen) - due to this Satan enters the heart and cause the person to fall headlong into five subsequent traits: making slander, being deficient with regard others rights, procrastinating in showing respect towards other, looking on them with pure disdain and seeing himself better than other.

[11] Love of Rank (hubb 'l-jaah) - When Satan see this destructive trait in the heart, he cultivates in it in-numerous detestable personality traits and guide him to self-deception until he is eventually destroyed. The person erroneously thinks that he is among the redeemed and there is none like him. Satan then cultivates in his heart the need to be preoccupied with giving lectures to people. Then by means of this self-deception, Satan causes him to be ostentatious by eloquently beautifying his words for the people, by falsely manifesting his desire for good. Satan says to him, "If you do not perfect your expressions for them then your words will plunge in the hearts of the people and they will not be guided to the truth' Satan thus, urges him to showing-off and love for people's acceptance based upon what he ways. He thus take pride in his numerous followers and other destructive traits.

[12] Arrogance (al-kibr) - is among the most immense of the destructive blameworthy traits. The abhorrence of arrogance is not hidden from anyone. May Allah protect us from it.

The outcome is that every blameworthy trait is an entrance-way for Satan (mudakhal as-shaytaan) into the heart of humanity. For this reason humanity should be on guard against all blameworthy traits and may Allah give us success and arriving at what is correct.

If the gates of the city are open and the enemies are present and skillful, there is no way the city can be defended except through three means, [1] watchful attentiveness (al-muraaqaba), [2] spiritual struggle (al-iijtihaad); and [3] seeking assistance with Allah (isti 'aanatu billahi). There is no power and might except with Allah.

[>] You may access this valuable Book here.

When the hypocrites come to you, they say: We bear witness that you are most surely Allah's Messenger; and Allah knows that you are most surely His Messenger, and Allah bears witness that the hypocrites are surely liars.

They make their faith a pretext, and thus turn away from Allah's way. Surely evil is that which they do. That is because they believe, then disbelieve, so a seal is set upon their hearts so that they do not understand.

When you look at them, their exteriors please you; and when they speak, you listen to their words. They are as (worthless as hollow) pieces of timber propped up, (unable to stand on their own). They think that every cry is against them. They are the enemies; so beware of them. The curse of Allah be on them! How are they deluded (away from the Truth)! - The Quran, Hypocrites, 63:1-4

And say to My servants (that) they speak that which is best; surely the Satan sows dissensions among them; surely the Satan is an open enemy to mankind. - The Quran 17:53

.. the one who repents, becomes a true believer, and starts doing good deeds, for then Allah will change his evil deeds into good, and Allah is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful. He that repents and does good deeds, has truly turned to Allah with a good turning. - The Quran 25:70-71

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

you do not find fault with others, you find fault with your self

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
- from Shakespeare's, Julius Caesar

In concealing others’ fault be like night.
- Mevlana Rumi

You do not find fault with others, you find fault with your self. You must look at your self and say, “What is wrong with it?’ Harith al-Muhasibi, may his soul be at rest, went over his day, then went over his hours and then went over his minutes, then went over his breaths until he had verified that it was pleasing to Allah and that it was acceptable to Allah, the Majestic, the Magnificent.

Two great 'ulama (religious scholar) met in Baghdad and they argued and fought with each other. At the end one of them said, “Let us meet tomorrow and discuss this matter further.” and the other one said, “No, let us meet tomorrow and make peace and forget all about it.”

This is the way of the Sufis - to begin again.

As-Salmi, may Allah bless him, said, “The behaviour of the self (nafs, ego) is pride, vanity, boasting, emptiness, hatred, treachery, rancour, greed, false hope, holding a grudge, jealousy, irritation, worry, restlessness, expectation, accumulation, withholding, cowardice, ignorance, laziness, aversions, antipathy, following desires, mockery, demanding, conceit, impetuosity, love of comfort, heedlessness, quarrelsomeness, domination, tyranny, enmity, discord, opposition, contradiction, fighting, rivalry, slander, false accusations, lies, backbiting, foolishness, calling obscenities, bad opinion, blame, insolence, betrayal, swindling, maliciousness, and debauchery.”

It is obligatory on the murıd (seeker) to know these things so that he or she can avoid them and struggle to eliminate them and to exchange them for what is best. The one who does not know them will stray. The murıd must exchange pride for humility and harshness for affection and lies for sincerity, and success is with Allah.

Shaykh Ahmad az-Zarruq said, blessed be his soul,

The roots of blameworthy behavior are three:
one. To be pleased with the self (one's own nafs, ego).
two. To fear creation.
three. To be concerned about provision.

From the first comes desire, forgetfulness and disobedience.
From the second comes anger, rancour and jealousy.
From the third comes greed and expectation and avarice.'

He also said, “To hold onto one thing will eliminate all of these, and that is not to be pleased with the self in any state, and to beware of it at all times.”

We find in the Hikam, “The root of every disobedience and desire and forgetfulness is contentment with the self (ego), and the root of every obedience and wakefulness and abstention is your not being content with your self (ego).”

You must speak well of people and have a good opinion of people. You must be people of chivalry (futuwwa), you must become these people who are spoken of because of the high aspiration, the high himma you have which is on a universal scale..

Beware of the people of dunya (world of appearances / forms / bodies, those who are engrossed with the worldly matters only). Beware of the people of dunya until you are safe, and when you are safe it does not matter where you go. If you are not safe then you must be careful. You must have taqwa (divine consciousness) and you must have wara' (piety, state of scrupulousness). You must take care, take care, watch, until you are on Siratu-l-Mustaqim because when things go wrong you have to remember that all you have got is then to turn to Allah, the Most Bountious.

Whoever sits with the perfumer becomes fragrant with his perfume.

- Selection from the talk given by Shaykh Nooruddeen Durkee ash-Shadhili, May Allah be pleased with him, on the theme of Oral Tradition on December 6th, 2009 at Green Mountain School, Charlottesville, Virginia as part of the series of 5 Sundays on Tasawwuf

[Download] Click here to download first part and 2nd part of the talk of tasawwuf (sufism) and may it be beneficial to your heart and soul (you may need winamp / itunes to play).

[>] This talk and others can be downloaded from Green Mountain School website

# Related
. The Divine Names : al-Ghafir, al-Ghafur and al-Ghaffar Pin It Now!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sitting with Sufis: A Christian Experience of Learning Sufism | Review

Sitting with sufis Mary Blye Howe, Book"At a time when Sufism is coming to the West, Mary Blye Howe's book fills a need for first hand accounts from Westerners who have experienced its fragrance, its taste, and its beauty. In the Sufi way of life, in its knowledge and love, are many gifts for our culture." - Kabir Helminski, Sufi teacher and author

"This brief but poignant account of Howe's spiritual journey with Sufis is an interfaith gem that ought to embolden others to act upon their deepest yearnings to draw closer to God." - Spirituality & Health, March/​April 2005

".. those seeking to affirm the universalism of core teachings of different religions, and those drawn to the mystical religious path, will welcome this...memoir." - Publishers Weekly, Jan 17, 2005

Sitting with the Sufis: A Christian Experience of Learning Sufism (Paraclete Press, 2005) by Mary Blye Howe is a spiritual memoir, and indeed a beautiful one. In it Mary takes the reader along on her spiritual journey as she discovers the depths of the Sufi tradition. The Reader experiences with Mary the joyous spirituality of the Turkish Sufis as she travels to this country with 50 dervishes, staying in homes of locals dervishes. She explores the mysteries of the sema - the dance made famous by Rumi - as she whirls at midnight under a starlit sky on a ranch in the Texas Hill country. But most importantly, she welcomes those who pick up the book to accept the invitation to enter the world of the mystics - a realm that is open to all sincere spiritual seekers - who make it their goal to live a life full of the Divine Beloved.

In the opening chapter this is how Mary Blye begins:
My mom delights in telling the story of the morning she stood on the porch of our white-shingled house in a coal-mining town in southern Illinois watching me ride my tricycle. As a three-year-old, I was vigorously pedaling from one end of our front sidewalk to the other. When I’d come to the street at one end, I’d pause, gaze into the sky, and wave. Then reversing my direction, my tiny legs turning the pedals as rapidly as possible, I’d reach the street at the other end of the sidewalk. Once again, I’d pause, look upward, and wave.

Mom watched me for a long time. Back and forth I went, pedaling with all my might, then stopping and waving towards the sky.

Finally Mom called to me, “Mary Blye. What are you doing honey?”

“Waving to God” I called back.

This story symbolizes my spiritual and religious journey. For as long as I can remember, a deep awareness of and a longing for God has existed within my heart.

When I first came across this book in a bookstore on the Mall at Boulder, Colorado I was so delighted to find it there and her book that particular day, the page I opened - had a very clear message of a question I was looking for at the moment. My heart knew then, this book comes for a special person and this account is a telling of truth. So I noted down her name, came back home and found her website online, wrote her back. Out of generosity she promised me to send the book and indeed she went the trouble of shipping it to the other end of the world in my home in Bangladesh. It was and still is a delight to open and read. God bless her for her generosity and shower her path with baraqa.

The introduction to the book writes, “Through informative detail and enlightening descriptions of spiritual practices, Howe introduces us to some of the West’s most important Sufi teachers as they tell stories, share laughter, and travel across the world to Sufi holy sites. In her personal style, Howe also explores the mysteries of the sema – the meditation movement that made Rumi famous – and invites us to experience what it is like to whirl at midnight under a starlit sky on a ranch in the Texas Hill country. With warmth and grace, Mary Blye Howe reveals how was can experience the beauty of another religious tradition, even if from the outside.”

Reading her book it occurs to me that Mary Blye wasn’t experiencing from the outside. She experienced the mystery of the Sufism from an intimate inside which even many so called “muslim’ fail to experience. And for that reason Mary qualifies more as a muslim (one who have surrendered to the divine) than those who claim it to be.

Mary is mindful and humble to say, “This book is intended to be a spiritual memoir, not a treatise on Sufism. My spiritual practices are my own and don’t necessarily reflect Sufism as a whole, or even the practices of the order with which I am affiliated.”

"Howe’s personal account offers an inspiring and practical antidote to religious divisiveness and exclusivity." - Murray Bodo, Franciscan priest

Importantly as Mary tells her own experiences, personal stories, she weaves it by introducing some fundamental priciples of the Sufi path in a very simple way, easy to understand for someone who might have read about Sufi path for the first time through her writing. She explains the basic concept such as the guidance of a personal teacher, intimacy of the path, sohbet etc.

In the Book the author shares some of her significant dreams upon which Sufis place great importance.

In the chapter, “Finding the Teacher” she shares a dream:

In one of the most significant dreams I’ve ever had, I dreams I was looking for a jewelery strore and asked several people for directions. One tried to give me directions but because they did’nt know where I was coming from, they failed to get me even to the first street.

Another began to give me directions in a confident manner, then began faltering and ended up telling me they didn’t know how to get me to the jewelery store. A third person shrugged.

Then I found myself next to a Sufi friend who led to a vantage point in which I could look out on an endless expanse of mountains. Everywhere I looked I saw the most magnificent beauty. Then my friend simply pointed in a general direction towards one of the peaks.

In my dream, I felt confused. What kind of directions are these, I wondered? How am I to find the jewelery store – this place of tremendous value and beauty – by having someone point a finger in a vague direction?

When I woke the message was immediate and clear. The way to the Kingdom of God – a state of intimacy and the closest communion – isn’t set out step by step. I’ll have valleys to walk through, which St. John of the Cross called the “dark nigh of the soul”. I’ll have some steep climbs ahead of me and will sometimes feel lost and tired and hopeless as I walk towards paradise.

Yet I’ll always be surrounded by unimaginable beauty.

I loved the style of sharing of her personal stories. Here is a lovely example:

I have several meditations that I focus on throughout the day. One of my favorites is what a Turkish translator calls in a quaint English rendition, which I love: “Seven Advice of Mevlana [Rumi]”. I have several reminders hanging in different rooms of my home, all of which I bought at Rumi’s tomb in Konya, Turkey. In my office hangs a fringed prayer mat that I’ve framed; the so-named “Advice” sits below a famous depiction of the saint, seated and bowed in prayer. .. Another framed version hangs in another room so that each morning before I begin my day, I’m reminded to choose one of Rumi’s seven pieces of advice – one for each day of the week – to meditate upon throughout that day.

Rumi’s Advice reflect the high level of inner purity that Sufis strive for. Here is the translation that hangs ..

In generosity and healing others, be like a river
In compassion and grace, be like sun.
In concealing others’ fault be like night
In anger and fury be like dead.
In modesty and humility be like earth.
In tolerance be like a sea.
Either exist as you are or be as you look.

Some days, I’ll couple my particular “Rumi” meditation for that day with a zikr connected to the corresponding divine Name of God (this is a personal practice and not characteristic of Sufi practice in general). On the day I meditate on Rumi’s advice “to be like night in concealing others’ faults,” for instance, I might chant the Name al-Ghafur (Concealer of Faults), along with the closely related Name al-Ghaffar (The Forgiver).

.. My meditation, of course, also show me just how far I have to go – a realization that, in Sufism, is the first step towards purity. The Sufis teach that we have to be couragenous enough to face our shortcomings – to see ourselves as we really are – before we can become the person God wants us to be. If we’re serious about pursuing purity, this task is agonizing and ego-shattering.

Open Secret and Hints for Seekers

Mary is a delightful writer (and an award-winning author as well) and she knows how to give interesting hints along her writing which a careful reader can pickup along the way. Describing her experience of sitting with two sufi master at a spiritual retreat she cleverly leave for reader an important hint. She says, while I leave the name of the sufi master here, “… An expression of holy delight fills his face – an expression that I have found only on the faces of authentic spiritual leaders.”

Indeed a seeker must look out for that holy delight upon the face of a true master (one who has attained mastery on his or her self first), an authentic spiritual teacher. This delight doesnt mean physical beauty, but it is a charm far beyond that.

In the book, significantly Mary describe what attracts her in the Sufi path:

As a child, I remember most vividly my fascination with the Hebrew Prophets. The described a God who would stop at nothing to win the heart of the beloved. Nothing could deter this God, nothing hamper such passionate, Divine love. The prophets often spoke of the relationship of God with humankind as a kind as that of Lover and beloved. Such romance drew me, even at a young age.

When I encountered Sufisn, I knew I’d found the path that would lead me, step by step, with the practice of Sufi rituals, disciplines, and meditations, into this Divine Romance. Rumi beckoned me to “Come, come!” Come and drink the wine of the Beloved, become inebriated with God.

“I follow the religion of Love” wrote Rumi, “and go whichever way this camel leads me.” Because love is the heart of all the great religions, I knew this was the path that could lead me to the essence of faith, and allow me to discover the bonds that unite us as human beings.

While the practices of Sufism have provided me with a unique spiritual path, these practices have also offered me a deeper mystical entryway, as well as a more vibrant sense of divine love, within the religions I most love. Sufism hasn’t replaced religion, it deepened it. Sufism is helping me learn again to wave at God.

When I was struggling with the decision of whether to receive initiation onto the path of Sufism, a friend told me to stop worrying about it. I could, so to speak, drink and eat at their table, nourishing myself as a guest for as long as I wanted.

This is what I offer to you. Sup at the table of the dervishes. Be a guest, have a few hors d’oeuvers, and nibble from the feast that has been prepared. Your life will be changed, your experience of God expanded, and your heart opened. And one day you may find yourselves so full that you can no longer leave the table.

In the chapter, Choosing my Mystical Path, Mary describe what draws her to Sufism. She writes,

Undoubtedly for me, the most powerful draw of Sufism is its emphasis on love as the path to God. Like most people in the West, the little I knew about Sufism some years ago was through reading Rumi, but his poetry so attracted me that I had to know more.

For Rumi, God was the Beloved, and a passionate longing and love for God filled every fiber and cell of his being. Once you sip the wine of God, say the Sufis, you’ll drink until nothing else matters.

This is the ecstasy that Rumi continuously lived in. In his consuming love for God, Rumi wrote of: Riding the Moon and becoming the “endless Sea”.

In the lover’s heart is a lute
Which plays the melody of longing.
You say he looks crazy –
That’s only because your ears are not tuned
To the music by which he dances.

He also wrote:

For me, the anguish inspired by your charms is
Inexhaustibly charming.
As the sun you blind me with the radiance of your beauty;
If I lower my gaze, who shall I look at?

Rumi epitomizes what it means to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind.

For the Sufis, love is not only the divine force that draws the worshiper towards God, it is the full realization, goal, and culmination of the spiritual path. In other words, love begets more love until, as the apostle John says, “love is perfected in us.”

“Sufism”, writes Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, “is suited to those who need to realize their relationship with God as a love affair, who need to be drawn by the thread of love and longing back to their Beloved.” This particularly appeals to me because of the legalism that had marked most of my life.

This morning, I sat at the altar in my home and realized how full of worship I felt. Al-Azim, I said, fingering my first prayer bead, al-Jalil. The Magnificent, The Majestic, The Magnificent, The Majestic. Filled with love, I was reminded, once again, why I’m drawn to the mystical path of Sufism.

Another reason Sufism attracts me is, of course, its absorption in mystery. I’m deeply drawn to the mysterious, to aspects of God that rise above my intellectual grasp, and to realms of experience that bring God into my life in an out-of-the-ordinary way.

What is the value of such spiritual memoir?

One particular reader's comment in Amazon caught my eyes which reads:

"I am by no means an expert on Sufism, but I found this "journal" of one woman's quest to know and love God on another level well written, easy to read and enchanting. This encouraged me on my own journey to know and understand other faiths and paths to our amazing God."

I believe the ability of such sharing to inspire other speaks for the inherent value of such sharing with the world, even when it come from an utterly personal space of encountering divine presence, The Mystery and That Presence.

There is no difference in the destination,
the only difference is in the journey.
- Inayat Khan

Sufi, rest not at the Names;
Come learn Whose Names they are.
To know the Named One, that's the aim,
The only aim in studying the Names.
- Abdu'l-Ahad al-Nuri

# Website of Mary Blye Howe
. Sitting with the Sufis @ Amazon
. Rumi, Shams and Whirling
. Spiral Dance and Hymn of Christ
. Sema, Human being in Universal Movement Pin It Now!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

thou preparest a table before us

the table is set for the feast
the earth, a cup
the universe, a bowl
the cosmos, an urn
the wind, the breath
the rain, the water of life
the sun, the light
the music, the exaltation
the silence, the prayer
the source, the creator
the unknown, the uncreated void
the spirit, the eternal presence of love
the bread, the expanding body
the wine, the blood of the heart
the masculine and feminine
human and divine,
anointed soul
awakening to the beauty,
each star, a radiant energy
the moon, the mirror
reflecting the glow of communion
of the oneness of all
coming to the table
of existence
in the garden of life
to dwell
with the beloved

~ Naomi ~

. . .
Qala Isa ibnu Maryama: Allahumma Rabbana anzil AAalayna ma-idatan mina alssama-i takoonu lana AAeedan li-awwalina wa akhirina, wa ayatan minka waorzuqna, wa anta khayru ar raziqeena.

Said Jesus, son of Mary: "O Allah our Lord! Send down to us a table spread with nourishment from heaven which should be to us an ever-recurring happiness, for the first of us and for the last of us, a sign from Thee; and give us sustenance, for Thou art the Best Sustainer."

The Quran, Chapter: The Table Spread, 5:114

As mentioned in the Final Testament, the Quran, this is the dua (sacred supplication) of Christ, upon him be peace, at the Last Supper with his sahabas (holy companions) where he invoked ever lasting spiritual nourishment for all of humanity (for the first of us, and for the last of us) as a grace (ayah, divine Sign) and he invoked sustainance from The Sole Sustainer by invoking the Holy Name, Ar-Razzaq. This particular verse of the Quran that carries the holy words of Jesus is recommended to be invoked as a cure for those who are afflicted by the worries of earthly sustainance and for those who long for the sustainance of the after-world.
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Friday, December 11, 2009

Guided are the Hearts | meditative quranic verses

Maa-asaba mim museebatin illa bi-izni'Llah;

Wa man yu'min bi'Llahi yahdi qalbah;
Wa Allahu bikulli shay-in AAaleem.

- The Quran, 64:11
Chapter of Mutual Disillusion

No affliction befalls except by the Permission of God;
And guided are the hearts (qalb) that have true conviction (iman) to Divine, And God is Cognizant of all things.

Talismanic Quality of the Verse (64:11):

When afflicted by trouble of the inner heart (and mind, body) and of the dunya (world of appearances) (which is a reflection of what is within), its recommended to recite the above verse (in originally revealed language of arabic to maximize the energy of invocation) with understanding of its meaning and to recite it 19 times in every sitting to seek deliverance from the affliction that one is in, and to invoke tranquility of heart. Its recommended to memorize the original verses in arabic so that the Words are impressed upon the heart and infuse us with its inherent Nur (light).

By the Permission of God the Most High, Who is above every association, the one who invokes with this verse, his or her trouble Will Be removed by God and peace Be restored. Amen.

Content of the Invocation:

The verse has three part of it that contain the gnosis and deeper wisdom of reality. First to understand that nothing comes without the Permission of The One Who is behind all reality, the Reality Itself as Sufis call the Divine, el-Haqq (The Absolute Reality, Truth). Everything comes from the Single Reality, whether it is our birthing into human existence in the wondrous womb of our mother, where spirit mingles with flesh or whether our trifling human condition of sorrow, toil, pain, joy and bliss. As Rumi puts it so eloquently when he compares this human existence as guest house where every human conditions are sent from beyond by the One.

The sacred recognition that no affliction befalls us (or joy that touches us, overwhelms us) except by the Permission of Allah is the first step towards a clear mind, a pure white mind to transcend suffering. Afflictions are afflictions only because of our lack of trust in this knowledge and our utter ignorance about the certainty that nothing happens except by the permission of One (the word permission also can be understood as the construction or matrix of reality). Even the pain caused by the beloved may taste sweet if the lover knows from who it comes. It Is about that love.

In bangla we have a popular song that goes,

bedona modhur hoye jae
tumi jodi dao.
mukher kotha hoe je gaan
tumi jodi gao.

bitter pain turns to sweet
if only its you who give,
words turn to songs
if only its you who speak.

Second part is an affirmation that the real guidance comes from divine source through the portal of our inner heart. The Quran calls to humanity to affirm this truth that O human being, you are not left alone, The One who sent you into this world of appearances (that often confuse you and delude you) also guides the inner heart that reach conviction, that which have faith and trust as an infant child trusts her mother. At this point it may remind us of Rumi's statement, Whoever brought me here, will have to take me Home - that is voice of conviction to true reality.

The third part of this verse from Holy Quran seals it by offering us the truth that the Real One knows our human condition far better than what we believe we know. As sacred tradition goes, God knows your need better than 'you think' you know. So the seal of the verse, Wa Allahu bikulli shay-in AAaleem, that carries the Holy Name of God, al-Aleem (also written as al-Alim, The Absolute Knower, its numerical placement is 19) is the essence that carry the secret of absolute conviction and surrender to the One. And surrender is followed by trust on the All Knowing One Who's Knowledge Encompasses everything. That is the point of omega, the final point of surrender of all our troubles, whatever human condition we are in, be it hope, fear, worries, joy and bliss, we surrender to the All Knower (The Ultimate Bodhi, All Conscious One) so we may rise from our present state to an even higher one transcending our bond with (human) condition and be embraced in iman (true conviction) upon the Real, from the Real, by the Real, with the Real.

And God knows the Best.

# Further:
. What is Iman?
. Concept of Iman
. Three Levels of Faith: Islam, Iman, and Ihsan
. The Divine Attribute: al-Aleem - The Knower
. al-Alim
. Poetry by RUMI -Who Says Words with My Mouth Pin It Now!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Sattyer Gahiney | A Glimpse into the Mystic, Folk Islam of Bangladesh

Counterfeit gold exists
because there is such a thing
as real gold.
- Rumi

Contrary to popular misconception, Islam is not monolithic. In the traditional sense, Islam is not even a religion. Then what it is, you would ask? But wait a second before one even attempt to answer you because the conditioning of your mind and what you see and what distortions have been carried over from centuries after centuries, what was the essence of Islamic teachings and embodiment are rare to be visible in obvious visible spectrum.

But this shouldn't dishearten anyone, even though this phenomena of 'seeing only the false and taking it for real' deceive us many. Rumi says, "Counterfeit gold exists because there is such a thing as real gold." Remember that, because its important that you remember this. Not only for this posts context, but for many things and many situations in life.

So first of all if we are interested to understand what Islam is for real, we have to de-condition and neutralize (empty) our mind from all the poisons of misconception, false propaganda and media biases which again and again feed on falsehood. And to remain open is the first pre-condition to begin with. Spiritually explaining, Muslim means one who surrenders to the Divine. The word Islam meaning to surrender to the Divine, is a state which unfolds moment by moment.

Islamic state is not a geographical location or political identity (as it might sound because of our conditioned mind) but it is a state which is better understood through a form when a person place his or her head on the floor, on the prayer carpet - in surrender to Divine. When one is in that state physically, it requires that the heart be above the head, which ever symbolizes that the real heart be above the mind because God can only be known through the real heart, not the mind; and surrender is a quality of the real heart, not a function of mind.

If one understand what an Islamic state is, one can get some hint what Islam embodies. To mention very briefly, Islam embodies every intention, thought and action to be for the Divine in humble submission to that Majestic Presence. When intentions and actions (both inside and outside) issues forth from surrender to the Divine, one enter into the sacred space of what it means to be a Muslim and from that emerges peace of the heart. When our whole humanness is soaked with ceaseless remembrance of the Divine, a silent revolution happens at the core of our being and this revolution brings us to our original nature of soul - which is to be at peaceful rest. 'Only in the remembrance of God the real heart finds rest' - affirms the sacred tradition.

Islam is not a new religion but a continuation of divine revelation of earlier age through great beings such as Abraham, Moses, David and Christ, upon them all be holy benediction. And Islam's universal spirit doesnt make any distinction between any of the Prophets because of all them were sent as divine guide to mankind. Yes Prophet Muhammad is the Seal of Prophet, but he is also the culmination of divine revelations and one of his major task was to revive the primordial way of divine submission. Hence Islam is not like Christianity, centered around devotion of Christ only or Buddhism, centered around a central figure of Buddha. Infact Quranic text re-introduce all major Biblical Prophets and their way of divine messengership. Islam is the same embodiment of great illuminated beings and their state of divine surrender coming in fruition through the Seal of Prophethood and Quran being the Seal of Scripture. After which no new way will be unfolded, no new messenger will be sent because the basic teachings are already been unfolded through Abraham, Moses, Christ and Muhammad already.

Going back to where the introduction of the post began, Islam is not monolithic - and for very good reason because the embodiment of divine submission has the capacity to be accommodated into an infinite spectrum of human diversity. A famous sufi saint said, "Islam is like clear water poured into different vessels. It takes the color and shape of each vessel."

And history testifies this very well because as Islam spread in East, West, North and South, those who came under the folds of Islam, that is, those who accepted a way of life where divine submission - is center of human universe - every culture brought its uniqueness into the same vessel of Islam and enriched it in many dimensions including development of school of thoughts (madhab), art, music etc.. That is why the mood of Islam in Turkey is uniquely Turkish, in Malay Peninsula (Malaysia, Indonesia) it is uniquely Malay, in the shores of Spain it is uniquely Spanish and so on and so forth. And this is very natural because embodiment of divine submission doesnt mean one has to discard their mother tongue, nor does it require one to develop a different kind of food habit or do away with the culture.

This last thing, the local culture of particular land, with time, greatly infused into the lifestyle of muslims and with time Islam of that land took a distinct shape. This shaping has given birth to followers of Islam of many diversity. And this is perfectly fine because the creation is inherently diverse and God created humanity with many diversity such as race, color and language. The vision of the Prophet was appreciative of this diversity because he spoke of his community saying, "the difference in my community is a blessing."

Also Quran celebrate the diversity and affirm that this differences must never be a point of dispute or argument but should be seen as divinely fashioned.

To every community have We appointed [different] ways of devotion, which they ought to observe. Hence, do not let those draw you into disputes on this score, but summon unto your Sustainer: for, behold, you are indeed on the right way. - The Quran 22:67

To every one of you have We appointed a [different] law and way of life. And if God had so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community: but [He willed it otherwise] in order to test you by means of what He has vouchsafed unto you ... - 5:48

For, every community, faces a direction of its own, of which God is the focal point. - 2:148

This all points to the reality of pluralism, diversity and acceptance of wide range of variation among human community. None is superior to other, but all belong to the family of children of Adam - belong to 'God's funny family' as one great sufi saint used to say.

Sometime when we are too confined to our own limited world-view and make our own world too narrow without leaving any room for others, then as we encounter the others we seem to label and reject them or that as strange.

Interestingly this word, "strange" is not foreign to the mystics, specially for the Sufis for whom the esoteric dimensions make them friend with strange-ness and they themselves are often perceived as strangers. Infact all major mystical tradition and mystics are seen by the common people as 'strange' (one of the basic reason why there ar often misunderstood and even persecuted by the mass). Every Biblical Prophet appeared to his people as 'strange' and was rejected for that reason. Christ appeared to be strange and hence had to be crucified. Muhammad was openly called mad.

While the word strange carries negative tag for common people, but for the Sufis (and other mystics) strange is celebrated by terms such as madjhub (divine mad, synonym as holy man) and reserved for specially attained and absorbed ones who almost always appear to be strange to common people.

In this connection of "strange-ness" worth mentioning a much loved Prophetic tradition:
"Islam began as something strange,
and it shall return to being something strange,
so give glad tidings to the strangers."

The reason for this preface is to introduce you to a documentary film that features the strange Islam, the Folk Islam that took root in Bengal, the land where I come from. Bengal or Bangla covers what is now independent nation of Bangladesh and also part of India (called West Bengal).

The title of this film is called "Sattyer Gahiney" or "Truth and Beyond". It is a documentary on Mysticism infused Islam of Bangladesh by Ahmed Muztaba Zamal. The land of Bengal is the land of one of the most tolerant streams of Islam. Its appropriate to call the expressions of indigenous Islamic religion 'streams' because Islam have taken many colors, trodden many paths and partook in many fragrance while mingling into this fertile delta.

Sattyer Gahiney (Truth and Beyond) / 2006 / 49 MIN / BENGALI

Narration: Ahmed Muztaba Zamal
Cinematography: T. W. Sainik
Editing: Fawzia Khan
Script: Saymon Zakaria
Producer: Faridur Reza Sagor
Directed by: Ahmed Muztaba Zamal

The mystics who came out of a background in textual Islam (literal Islam) made a communion between the orthodox Islam and less ritualistic bindings. This significant simplification won the hearts of the common people of Bangladesh, who might not have otherwise been influenced by a formal religion shackled in edicts. In the process, a new Islam, or a “popular Islam” was born. It comprises people who are dedicated Muslims, but don’t accept religion as dogmatic or fundamental. Rather, they use religion as a bridge of love between man and his Creator.

"The documentary features the essence of any religion. In fact, religions are meant for the welfare of man. In the documentary, I've focused on the diverse mystic sects in Bangladesh and their way of worshipping. Moreover, comments from the mystic gurus and experts on mysticism have been included in the documentary," said the film director Zamal.

Zamal further said, "The aim of the documentary is to present a realistic image of religions in Bangladesh, though there is a propaganda that Bangladesh is full of fundamentalists at present. However, the fact is that Islam was preached by the mystic Sufis in this part of the world, and not through any jihad. The simple ways of the Sufis won the hearts of the common people who later converted to Islam."

Besides the touching, subtle and humane nature of conventional Islam (Islam of Shari'at) or classical Islam, the practice of other sects of Islam through songs and other non-fundamental popular way have also been addressed in the documentary, informed Zamal. The documentary was filmed at districts where the mystic sects live such as Kushtia, Chittagong, Sylhet, Manikganj and Tangail.

[>] Click here to Watch the Movie

The documentary film opens up the viewer to a portal of strangeness which find its place within the folds of Islam and offers an insight of folk islam that combines the indigenous culture with Islamic embodiment. This particular brand of Islam is heavily influenced by the indigenous way of living and also that of universalism of mystics of different faith traditions that this land continued to host for thousands of years. One can not ignore the fact that the fertile land of Bengal was the seat of rich Buddhist tradition, its mystical tradition such as Tantra; it was the land of deep devotional Hindu movement, the Vaishnava and many other spiritual path.

The document was for myself an intimate opening to the sentiment of ecstatic devotion which I was also unaware. During the viewing I noticed that the sub-titles text in English are not necessarily very well done, but apart from that the documentary offers much food for thoughts. The folk songs captured in the film are excellent and ecstatic.

# Further:
. Sattyer Gahine Participates at Brazilian Film Festival from Daily Star
. 6th Kara Film Festival
. Interview with Film maker and Director of Sattyer Gahine
. Qadiriyya,Chishtiya,Soharwardiya & Naqshbandiya in Bangladesh
. Sufism in Bangladesh
. Islam in Bangladesh
. Sufi Saint of Bangladesh via Facebook Group
. FoKiir Lalon Shah and His Prophecy, another movie via youtube that introduces mystic influence and the Bauls of Bangladesh, on the life of famous Baul Lalon Shah and his legacy Pin It Now!