Friday, July 09, 2010

Perfecting the preparation for our own ascension to the Lord of Majesty and Glory

. Ha .

Pahunche Miraj me, Arsh Tak Mustafa
Jab Na Mabud O Bande me Parda Raha.

In the Night Ascension Mustafa arrives
at the Intimate Divine Presence,
when there was no veil between the Master and servant.

Tab Malaik Ne, Hazrat Se Chup Kar Kaha
Sari Makhluq me, Haq Numa Tu hi Tu.
Allah Hu, Allah Hu, Allah Hu!

Then holy angels whispered secretly to the noble master,
Cosmic totality beholds this truth alone:
Only You, Only You, Only You!
Allah Hu, Allah Hu, Allah Hu!

- From a famous Sufi Qawwali "Allah Hu"

. Meem .

The present lunar month, Rajab marks a supra-ordinary incident in the life of the Seal, Muhammad Mustafa which is known as the M’iraj or Ascension. On this particular night an extra-ordinary mystical journey occurred where the beloved Ahmad was taken in the most intimate presence of his Lord, the possessor of the Name, Ahad. (Ahmad is another name of Muhammad, Ahad is a Name of God, which means One). Such intimacy was never granted to anyone else in the entire creation, neither to any angels nor to any messenger before him. The mystical letter meem that separates Ahmad from Ahad became effaced to the point that the two were “two bow or nearer”.

The revelation describes the event as: “Then he drew near, and came closer till he was at a distance of but two bow-lengths or (even) nearer; And God revealed unto His slave that which He revealed.”

And two bows when brought nearer and nearer becomes a full circle, symbolizing totality. This was an incident of Lover and beloved coming together and language fall short in describing its majestic reality.

Many ‘Signs’ of his Lord was unveiled on this night as the Seal journeyed on the celestial carrier, Buraq. Accompanied by blessed archangel Gabriel, Muhammad Mustafa met different messengers in different heaven: in the first heaven he met Adam, in the second heaven he was greeted by John the Baptist and Jesus, in the third heaven he met Joseph, in the fourth heaven Enoch, in the fifth heaven Aaron, in the sixth heaven Moses and finally in the seventh heaven Abraham. Each messenger of God and their place in heaven represents a level of realization which must be attained in the ascent to God.

Then he was taken to what is called Sidratul Muntaha: the Mystical Tree of the Farthest Limit where Angel Gabriel had to depart and Muhammad ascended to further nearness and ultimately in the presence of the Greatest Presence. About this meeting of the beloved and the Sole Lover, the Prophet later described:

"My Glorious Lord said to me, 'I gave My friendship to Abraham, and spoke to Moses, and O Muhammad! I blessed you with My Intimate Meeting"

"Verily, Almighty Allah blessed Noble Moses with the privilege of Dialogue and cherished me with his Divine Vision and exalted me with the Crown of Intercession and the Fountain of Kauthar."

And in the ascension: "I saw my Sublime Creator". (Musnaf Ahmad Ibn Hanbal)

The incident is so enshroud by unspeakable mysteries that Ibn Arabi wrote: "Me'raaj is a secret in a secret. One has to have sound knowledge of the Qudrat of Allah and the Station and Status of His August Divine Messenger before commenting on any matter pertaining to them."

The sublime event was essentially an answer to the call of Prophet’s love for his Lord in which the Prophet was granted the most intimate experience, the experience of looking at his Lord and conversing with Him without any veil in between them.

You may read the past years post on Miraj and its esoteric symbology in the following links:

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

. Esoteric Spiritual Symbolism of Miraj | the mystic ascent of holy Prophet

. Secret of the Spiritual Ascension (Miraj) of Prophet


. Aain .

Assalatu M’iraj al-Mu’min, Salaat is the Mu'min's Mi'raj
- The Last Messenger

Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, had soared to the zenith of divine heights.  It was in this night of supreme spiritual and bodily elevation, that he received from Allah Almighty, the second noble pillar of Islam, the five daily prayers and that which was given to no Prophets ever before: the whole world was made for prostration and prayer for muslims. This was al-Isra wal Miraj, the Night Journey and Ascension.  - (Cat Stevens) Yusuf Islam, Life of Last Prophet

Apart from being the direct and intimate Presence of his Lord, seeing the greatest Signs of God, being shown the heaven and hell - on his return the Prophet brought back with him the prescribed prayer of Islam called Salaat. Its known that the movement of the Salaat incorporates different ways of other messengers, how they prayed to the Lord. Some of these illuminated beings used to pray standing, some bowing, some on their face on the ground (prostration) and some in combination. The Salaat is a culmination of all. Also the prescribed time of the prayer which syncs with the rhythm of the day and night is also a practice of awareness from one moment to another. For the muslims the benefit and secrets contained in the Salaat is innumerable. It has the ability, among others, to raise awareness, sharpen the witnessing part of the self, produces single pointedness of the heart, bridge between conscious and subconscious part of our being more active through supplication and purification of the mind through holy remembrance.

This Salaat 
is not ordained 
for the purpose of making you 
stand, bow and throw yourselves 
down all day long; 
rather the purpose is that 
the spiritual state made visible 
in the prayer should be with you always..
- Rumi

“The nearest a servant of Allah comes to his Lord is when he is prostrating”, that is, during the sujood, "so make supplications in that state."
- The Holy Messenger

In the beautiful book, The Illuminated Prayer: The Five-Times Prayer of the Sufis Coleman Barks, Michael Green writes, "No single word in English does justice to the Arabic word Salaat - it is "a devotional heart-surrender" that incorporates prayer, supplication, grace, and blessing. "

Barks, the poet, writes: "Like a waterwheel that ceaselessly catches water out of a stream and spills it into a garden, The Prayer lifts us up again and again out of our preoccupations and sets us into a sacred time." Five times a day, Sufis bow before the boundlessly merciful and boundlessly compassionate God.

The Call to Prayer, the Ablutions, The Prayer itself, and the Peaceful Embrace afterward - they help us appreciate the devotional life of Sufis whose spiritual practice of reverence is awesome. Only in embracing all can we become the arms of God. Surely that is the essence of all worship and the lure of all serious prayer. And all of the components of the Salaat the Prophet brought back from the experience of Ascension.

According to tradition and testimony of Sufi mystics, The Prayer - or Salaat - was first taught by the angels, who themselves practiced it in celestial adoration. The Salaat is God's gift to all humankind, an archetypal practice that unfolds like a fragrant, many-petaled flower, joining words and movements into a single luminous event that engages our entire being.

Like the ground turning green
in a spring wind. Like a birdsong
beginning inside the egg.
Like this universe coming
into existence, the lover wakes
and whirls in a dancing joy
then kneels down in praise.
- Rumi

. Siin .

When the Messenger of Allah ascended into the Divine Presence he said, Attahiyyatu lilLahi, was salawatu wat tayyibat, “Greetings to Allah, and prayers and all good things.” To this the Divine Voice replied, Assalamu alayka ayyuhal Nabi, wa rahmatulLahi wa barakatuhu, “Peace be upon you, O Prophet, and the mercy and blessings of Allah”; so the Prophet said, Assalamu alayna wa ‘ala ibaad Allah as-saliheen, “Peace be upon us, and upon Allah’s righteous servants.”

Muslims recognize these words, for they speak them during the time they sit up after every two rak’as (cycle) of prayer inside the Salaat. It is said that the rest was also spoken during the Ascension: that the Messenger of Allah said, “I bear witness that there is no divine reality but Allah” and that Allah Most High replied, “And I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” Thus in the salaat, the dialogue between Allah and His Messenger during the mi’raj coincide.

The Prophet thus famously said that the salaat is the ascension for the believer who perfected their faith (mu'min). In this ascension of ours, the devotee do not merely repeat the dialogue of the Messenger’s mi’raj, but have his / her own dialogue. The Prophet’s dervish companion Abu Hurayra repeated three times that our Salaat is deficient if we do not personally say the Fatiha (the Opening) during it, even if the Imam says it, because the Messenger of Allah said:

Allah, Almighty and Sublime be He, has said: I have divided prayer between Myself and My servant into two halves, and My servant shall have what he asked for. 

When the servant says: Bism Allah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim, Allah says: dhakarani abdi (My servant has mentioned me). And when he says Al-hamdu lillahi rabb al-’alamin, Allah says: My servant has praised Me. And when he says: Ar-Rahman ar-Rahim, Allah says: My servant has extolled Me, and when he says: Maliki yawmi d-din, Allah says: My servant has glorified Me. And when he says: Iyyaka na’budu wa iyyaka nasta’in, He says: This is between Me and My servant, and My servant shall have what he asked for. And when he says: Ihdina as-sirat al-mustaqim, sirat al-ladhina an’amta alayhim ghayr al-maghdubi alayhim wa la ad-dallin, He says: This is for My servant, and My servant shall have what he has asked for.

Thus we have our own dialogue with Allah most High during our mi’raj, our Salaat. Now the Qur’an commands us to recite the Qur’an in the form of tarteel, or to pause between the verses, and the great scholar Ahmad ibn Idris emphasizes the importance of doing this during the Fatiha in the Salaat, saying “Stopping at the ends of the verses is for the sake of his Lord’s reply, and that is because for the servant to start saying the next part before his Master’s reply to his first speech is ill-mannered (lack of adab).” So when reciting the Fatiha in the Salaat one must be conscious of Allah’s response to what one is saying, and that one is in holy communion with the Divine.

Our ascension, our journey to Allah, begins with the first takbir, when we raise our hands above our shoulders in a movement that many scholars have likened to that of the throwing off of a garb. As if you are saying, Allahu Akbar, God is Greater than this world, which I throw behind me; God is greater than all worries and distractions, which I throw behind me; God is greater than the ego that does not like to obey commands or to prostrate itself, and so I throw it behind me; God is greater than myself, so I leave it behind me. And thus begins your journey, your mi’raj, in which you get as near as possible to Allah, and act out parts of the Messenger’s own mi’raj. Then, you return to the world, and you say to those around you, whether human or angel, what every traveler says upon his arrival, you greet them with Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu, the Islamic greeting formula: Peace be upon you, and Allah’s mercy and blessings.

In the Iqd al-Nafees, Ahmad ibn Idris writes:

The Takbirat al-Ihram for the Salaat (The commencement of Salaat by saying Allahu Akbar): It is that he who is praying forgets everything except Allah and swims in the Kibriya’ (Majestic Exaltedness) and Greatness (of Allah). Then every time he reaches an end of Kibriya, Allah is even greater in exaltedness above that, and so he renews the takbir in the Ruku’ (bowing) and says: God is Greater, meaning Greater than the end I have reached while swimming in his Kibriya; and it is like that until the middle of prayer. At that point, your inability to swim in a creak from the oceans of his Kibriya is verified, so you return (to the beginning). Then at the end of the prayer you return to Creation and so you say: “Peace be upon you and Allah’s mercy”, for the greeting is not said except by someone returning from a journey. As for someone who has been present, for him to turn to his right and say “Peace be upon you” and then turn to his left and say “Peace be upon you”, that would be considered insanity, because that is not required of him by the law.

And so the Salaat is a journey of Witnessing, a journey of Nearness, a journey of Divine Address- a journey to Allah and then back again to the world of Creation.


. Qaaf .

Salaat being the pathway to our individual ascension, its appropriate sharing an excellent article: A Time for Prayer written by Raven Rowanchilde and published by Salaam Canada site:

Prayer is one of the five pillars of Islam. In Sufi traditions, prayer also includes du'a (prayer of petition), dhikr or zhikr (invocational remembrances; chanted prayer) and sema (danced prayer; mindlful movement). Prayer may also include the solitary retreat, halvet and other forms not specifically articulated. The purpose of prayer is to connect the one who is praying to the One prayed to, and to serve as a “.. threshold at the entrance to God’s reality” al-haqiqat.. Allah “lifts the veils [of forgetfulness] and opens the gates of the invisible, kashf, to His servant.” Prayer serves to [re]connect us to Source and establish personal relationship with the Divine. The Qur’an emphasizes the importance of all prayer, explicitly and allegorically:

“.. take refuge in that cave: God will spread Divine grace over you, and will endow you – whatever your outward condition – with all that your souls may need!” (18:16)

“Convey unto others what is sent of the Book by inspiration to thee, and establish regular Prayer [salat]; for Prayer restrains from unjust deeds; and remembrance of God [dhikr] is the greatest thing in life without doubt. And God knows the deeds that you do.” (29:45)

“Remember God with unceasing remembrance.” (33:41)

“Remember Me, and I remember you.” (2:152)

The Seen and the Unseen

Having acknowledged the importance of all forms of prayer, let us turn our attention, specifically, to the ritual prayer. Like all prayer forms, salaat is multi- dimensional, encompassing both the unseen (internal) and the seen (external) realms. For example, on a physical level, ritual prayer functions as a kind of physical yoga:

“The movements are even, flowing and easy: muscles, joints and spine are exercised five times a day; inner organs are stimulated; the brain is richly supplied with blood through the repeated bowings; and much more. Practicing Muslims usually remain limber and connected with the earth on into a mature old age. This succession of bodily states forms the outer framework in which the inner dimensions can unfold.”

Ritual prayer begins with a ritual cleansing, wudu. On the external level, wudu cleans the body, emphasizes the importance of hygiene and physically prepares one for prayer. If water is not available however, wudu can be performed using sand or touching a clean surface of a wall. The point here is that, internally, wudu is about holding a conscious intention to be pure (i.e. clean, clear) of negativity in mind, heart and body before formally coming into relationship with God. This intention is amplified by the conscious turning toward Mecca and the declaration of one’s intention, niyah or purpose for praying, without which the prayer would be rendered meaningless.

Such self-directed actions align mind, heart and body, and affirm our interconnectedness with Spirit and Earth. This alignment serves as a spiritual fulcrum around which our life experiences orient, and a ground in which to come into relationship with the Earth. A fulcrum is a still point that organizes motion; it is a state of balance from which we can come into relationship with Divine Forces. Fulcra are found in all forms of Creation; from the primordial midline to which embryological life forms orient, from quantum fields organized around a neutral zero point to planetary nebulae organized around fulcra of light. We are all derived from fulcra.

Structure and Form

The structure of the ritual prayer follows with this wonderful translation by Shaykh Nur al-Jerrahi in Atom from the Sun of Knowledge:

Audhu bi-llahi mina-sh-shaytan-r-rajim / Bismillahi-r-Rahmani-r-Rahim

Al-hamdu-li-llahi-r-Rabbi-l-alamin / Ar-Rahmani-r-Rahim / Maliki yaumi-d-din /

Iyyaka na’budu wa iyyaka nasta’in / Ihdina-s-sirata-l-mustaqim / As-sirata-l-ladhina an ‘amta alayhim /

Ghayri-l-maghdubi alayhim wa la-d-daalin

"I take refuge with Allah the All-Merciful from the rebellion and negativity of the evil one. In the name of Allah Most High - Who is Tenderly Compassionate, Infinitely Merciful - Perfect praise flows to Allah alone, Lover and Sustainer of all Worlds, Most intimately called the Tenderly Compassionate the Infinitely Merciful, Presiding magnificently over the Day of Divine Awakening. O Lord, we worship only You and rely upon You alone. Reveal Your Direct Path, the mystic way of those who, through Your Mercy, have received and truly assimilated Your sublime Guidance, Those who never wander from the spiritual path and therefore never experience Your awesome Correction."

Al-Fatiha

Bismi-Llahi-r-Rahmani-r-Rahim [In the Name of Allah, the Tenderly Compassionate, the Infinitely Merciful]

Al-hamdu-li-Lalhi Rabbi-l-‘alamin [Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Lover of the Worlds]

Ar-Rahmani-r-Rahim [Most Compassionate, Most Merciful]

Maliki yawmi-d-din [Magnificently presiding over the Day of Return into the Radiance of Allah]

Iyyaka na‘budu wa Iyakka nasta’in [O Lord, we worship only You and rely upon You alone.]

Ihdina-s-sirata-l-mustaqim [Reveal Your Direct Path]

Sirat alladhina an ‘amta ‘alayhim [The mystic way of those who have received and truly assimilated Your sublime Guidance]

Ghayri-l-maghdubi ‘alayhim wa la-d-daallin [Those who never wander from the spiritual path and therefore never experience Your awesome Correction]

Be Still and Know Me

Prayer and meditation may orient our minds to Source, but remembrance takes place in the heart. The fulcrum of the heart dynamically balances the energies of mind and body and opens us to the deeper truth of our interconnectedness with Cosmic forces. The heart is a resting place that opens to an inner dimension  - “the secret place” of the Sufis: a Dynamic Stillness wherein God resides.

Sufis understand with the heart what cannot be understood with the head.

The Bible says, “Be Still and know Me, for I am thy God.” Centered in Stillness, the heart becomes a viewing place to behold the Beloved. And, Love is the active spirit in all things that compels us to reach out to the world:

“How silent it has become in the house of the heart!
The heart as hearth and home
Has encompassed the world.” 
- Rumi

The body positions of ritual prayer symbolically recapitulate themes of unity, interconnectedness, stillness and the primacy of the heart over the intellect. Michaela Ozelsel in Forty Days: The Diary of a Traditional Solitary Sufi Retreat explains the symbolic meaning of the ritual prayer:

“The prostration (sajde), with the forehead touching the ground, emphasizes the head or cognition and thus symbolizes the domain of human existence. In this position the heart is positioned higher than the brain. Blood flows ‘from heart to head’: and thus recalls the basic premise of Sufism, the harmonizing of heart and intellect. This position is assigned the Arabic letter ‘mim’:

The bow at the waist symbolizes animal life and is expressed with the letter ‘dal’:

The upright standing position (qiyam), the position of being ‘rooted in the earth,’ symbolizes vegetative life in close connection with the mineral kingdom. This is expressed by the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, ‘alif’:”

According to Ozelsel, alif, dal and mim are the three letters that make up the word “Adam” -- the Qur’anic name for the first human being and the first representative of God. It is worthy to note that “Adam” does not refer to a gendered position of the first man. Rather, Adam denotes the Divine Blueprint or “Original Intention” for the incarnation of a human being. (credit and reference)

Turn toward that which transcends direction.
- Rumi

Vision of Miraaj, Collage by Sadiq Alam, 2010

Tonight (8th July, 2010, based on sightability its on 9th July) sundown is the Night of Glorious Miraj. the Night of  Holy Ascension. It falls on 27th Rajab of the lunar calendar. Most importantly this is a powerful time, a time with special energy that flows in the cosmos to attract remembrance and to renew the aspiration (himmah) for our self's ascension to the Divine Presence. May our Salaat, be made beautiful and complete - may it be perfected as our own ascension to the Lord of Majesty and Glory. May every salaat we stand be made more intimate and sweeter than the previous one, as we never know when the call from our Lord will be and which prayer be our last prayer on this earth standing before Him for the last time before the awesome awakening on the Day of Resurrection.

Inna nillahi wa inna ilahi Rajiun
Indeed we belong to Allah and indeed to Allah we return.

La maqsood illAllah
None is our goal except Allah.


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