Monday, August 16, 2010

Haqiqat of Siyam | Reality of Fasting


1.
Therefore, be perfect (insan al-kamal), 
as your Heavenly Father is Perfect (Al-Kamal).
- Christ, upon him be peace, Matthew 5:48

To attain kamaliyat, "perfection" - is a sure destination set out for every sincere seeker, as Murshid al-Qulub, Sayyidina Isa (Jesus, the Mystic Guide of the Heart) has reminded in his sohbet.

What is the pathway, walking upon which one reaches that destination of perfection?

One of the gnostic have said, "If you desire to reach perfection, say: Allah! And leave this ephemeral existence and what it contains."

Siyam or Sawm, the original Arabic word (Hebrew Tsom) is used to mean fasting, but it also means to abstain, to negate, leaving, sacrifice for something greater. One who practice Siyam is called Sayem.

Outwardly the seeker is given the first layer of outward action - which is to abstain from food, drink, vain talk, sexual union during the day light hours, so that they may also embody the inward action - to detach from earthly attachments, materialism.

The true battlefield is where no warriors or arrows are needed.
It is inside each one of us where each man must fight alone.
- Mahabharata

Thus when Ramadan comes, for practicing believer, who strive to walk upon the path of haqiqat, the road of reality - in this month declaring 'the declaration of spiritual independence' from the earthly attachment. During Ramadan the sayem practices two essential traits of Godly perfection: to abstain from material food during day and to stay up at night in worship. God in His perfection is free from taking food and free from sleep (Laa ta'-khuzuhuu sinatunw-wa laa nawm. 2:255). And practicing so, the sayem partake in the image of his Lord in which he or she is created in reflection.

In the very Sohbet of Beatitudes of Jesus where he finishes by inviting his companions to become perfect, among the Pathways to reach that perfection which he hints among his teaching were: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst (fast) for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." (Matthew 5) This is different from fast of ordinary people who go by the motion of the society, but fasting with a heart oriented by perfect intention of attaining righteousness, attaining perfection. Thus the sayem prays over his fasting, "O Allah I fasted for Your sake and I break my fast for Your sake, please accept this offering for YouSelf."

Goal and result of fasting is becoming Saf (pure) by refraining from everything other than God. 'Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God' said blessed Master Christ. As Sufi Inayat Khan explains, "This purity of heart is not only in thought, feeling, and action; it is the purity, which in the East is called Saf, from which the word Sufi is said to have come. This Saf makes the heart pure from all that is not God, in other words, the heart must see and realize all as God and God as all."

In pursuit to attain kamaliyat, the seeker attain the power or mastery of breaking bonds from tagut, from the maya of creation. Siyam is that where the seeker in this life time consciously break the bond of materialism, the bond of flesh. Dr. Hisham Hasballah writes, "Physical nourishment is not sufficient for a healthy life; man also has spiritual needs.  Fasting is way more than just going without food and drink (that's called a crash diet). At its best, it is a spiritual and physical cleansing and a declaration of independence from the shackles of earthly life. If you want to embark on a spiritual fast, you need mental readiness to forgo the normal things that define your life."

The breaking of fast, which is called Iftar has very significant meaning to the people of Haqiqat. The word iftar comes from "fatara" which means "to break into pieces". This is the breaking of every bonds that hinder perfection, that stand between this self veiled from God and God: the Lord of Perfection and Reality. This breaking also includes the bond of dependence on food and drink. Freedom from materialism is the precondition for nirvana, freedom from entering into the samsara again and again and hence freedom from suffering.

For the people of haqiqat, breaking of fast or iftar is the symbol of "knowing God" by breaking the idol of everything other than God. Thus when the Prophet said, "Man shall not have his blessing cut as long as they hasten to break their fast", this breaking of fast outwardly means not to delay when the sun is down, to resume food into the body with the proper rhythm of the nature - and inwardly this means to rise above the ego's impulses for material attachment and to come to know that this human existence  is not flesh, bones, blood  and veins alone, but spirit from God's breath. From real iftar, self-realization comes and also comes every kind of inner illumination. In another place the Mystic Master Muhammad transmitted, Allah says, "Among My servants they are My most favorite who does Iftar without delay."

Some reach Self-Realization at a later stage of their life, those who are fortunate and blessed attain it earlier stage of their journey. Those who strive, enter into sadhana (and Ramadan is one of such hallmarked month to enter into such state of practice), by grace, accelerate their progress towards Self-Realization. One who attain the love of God and through that love, gnosis of God earlier on, while in their body, they are more dear to God because then they could enjoy this existence, spending more breath with the consciousness and pure awareness of Taqwa (Godly Consciousness) than wasting precious breaths in unaware state. Thus the Sayem (one who fast) strive for real Iftar without delay.

2.
If you do not fast from the world, you will not find the (eternal) Kingdom. - Saying of Christ, The Gospel of Thomas

But the days will come when the beloved of the heart (the bridegroom) is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.
- Mark 2:20

It is related that Jesus remained for sixty days in secret communion with his Lord without eating. Then the thought of bread occurred to him, and the communion ceased, and behold a loaf was placed before him. Then he sat down weeping over the loss of the communion. Then behold an ancient man approached him, and Jesus  said to him, "God bless you, O friend of God! Pray for me to God, Exalted is He!, for I was in an ecstasy and the thought of bread occurred to me, and the ecstasy ceased." - Ascetic sayings of Jesus

As long as the Nafs is busy with material world and engagement with the external faculty which has to do with food, drink, fulfillment of bodily urge through sexuality - the eye of the Batin remains dormant and closed. The reality of the practice of fasting is readiness towards Batin, towards that which is unseen and perceived by the inner faculty with the outer faculty actions being suspended.

3.
This passing world of appearance (dunya) is a prison for the believer
and paradise for the non-believer.  
- Hadith

For the soul, body is like a cage.
For the the lovers who long to meet the True Beloved, without any veil in between - in the Final World - this lower world is like a prison house.

"Whoever has come to understand the world (dunya and its reality) has found only a corpse, and whoever has found a corpse is superior to the world (has risen above the world). Whoever finds the world and becomes rich, let him renounce the world. Become passers-by."  
- Jesus Christ

The reality of fasting is that renouncing the worldly attachment and becoming passer by (into the AfterWorld, that which is Eternal Life, as compared to life in this lower world which vanishes in a blink of an eye).

... and Jesus answered: "It is written, Man Shall Not Live by Bread Alone. But on every Word that emanates from God's Breath." (Luke and Matthew 4.4)

Jesus was referring to Old Testament when he talked about it is written for he knew well Deuteronomy 8: 2-3: "Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD."

In Siyam, in the practice of Fasting, a sincere seeker enter into the Haqiqat that "Man shall not live by bread alone." Here "bread" symbolizes the material dependence, attachments. Inside Fasting, on the first level of abstinence from food and drink, one enters into the first level (literally) of "not living by bread alone". But pure inspiration follows as a result of true fast, where the inner heart blossoms: which is the implication of the second part of Christ's mystical saying "But on every Word that emanates from God" - it is the Divine inspiration that descends upon the inner heart of the seeker that nourishes the soul more than any worldly food or drink.

Sufi Master Bawa Muhaiyaddeen hints this pure inspiration in his inspired words (July 30 1980, Lailatul Qadr, Chapter 3, "The Ramadan Book"):

"O Muhammad (Praiseworthy Creation),
if man climbs
the black rocky mountain of his heart
and goes beyond
if he opens the bismin - kai,
The minute morsel of flesh
goes within, climbs beyond,
and worships Me with a melting heart,
I will send down the divine knowledge
known as Lailatul-Qadr.

I will send this into his heart.
O Muhammad,
I will send down the same divine knowledge
the same Lailatul Qadr,
to anyone who opens his inner heart
and offers worship.
This Qadr, this Ray, will resplend.
It will resonate in the inner heart."


In his book, Siyam Darshan (Meeting with Fasting) Sadr Uddin Ahmad Chishti writes (as translated in concise form here), During the real fasting, when the mind is guarded - no unripe thoughts, no negativity find any entrance to the mind. Thus door to the garden is opened. Thus inspirations begin to pour in upon the inner plane of Mujahid (one who strives, warrior of light) and in such inspiration - subtle aspect of truth and falsehood become manifest and clear. This in one hand, guides the Mujahid into the path of truth and attracts towards truth; and in other hand, shows what is false and drive him away from every falsehood. Thus every subtle thoughts, delusion with the material lower world slowly gets detached from the mind. Thus no where in his inner world can there be any place for the fire (nar). From first night (of Ramadan) to last, this is how it is.

That is the meaning of the saying of the Prophet on the authority of  Dervish companion Abu Huraira: "When Ramadan comes, the unholy beings get chained and the doors of fire get shut and the doors to Garden is opened and none of it is closed. And an announcer announces: "O who seek success, come forward! O who seek failure, leave this door. And every night is like this."

4.
Fasting is to refrain from seeing otherness. My breaking the fast is to return to You. Fasting in common language is to refrain. In the language of the People of Haqiqat, it is to refrain from everything except their Beloved.

When the gnostics refrain from other-than-Allah, it is in a special presence, and it is the Presence of the Essence. This is also expressed as the Presence of the Kingdom of Power. There is no witnessing of the essence in the presence of acts, or names, or attributes. That is why refraining is permissible in this situation. The man of this station is not in a state of gatheredness in most cases, because of disturbances from the waves of names and attributes. These disturbances interfere with the attempt to refrain from other-than-Allah. On the contrary, the Presence of Oneness is exalted above the interference of other matters. Even if the one of this station intends to see otherness, he cannot, because the reality of that Presence does not permit it.

- 'Knowledge of God' by Shaykh Ahmad Ibn Mustafa ibn al-‘Alawi


5.

Fast from phenomenal being and do not break your fast!
The God of creation will bring you close, taking charge of you by that.
Inasmuch as it is a fast, intend that. By nature it is your nourishment.
If you reflect on it, there is a meaning in the fast
whenever a creature alights at your abode.

"There is nothing like the fast."
The Lawgiver said that to me, so reflect on that!

This is because it is non-action. Where is that
which you have done and where is your claim?

The matter has returned to its root.
My Lord has seized control of you by that.

If you reflect on the principle of the fast
and the basis of its meaning by your meaning,

Someone with news came from Him
about your prescribed fast which will divest you.

The fast belongs to Allah, so do not be ignorant.
You are merely the place of its manifestation.

The fast belongs to Allah,
and yet you are the one dying of hunger, so know that!

The Merciful made you feminine (receptive soul) because of what appears from you when He fashioned you (the self).

Glory be to the One who fashioned you! Welcome to Him!
He only gave that to you!

You, like the earth, are a bed for it
and your source-spring (eye) is described as weeping.

You see the source of the handiwork of Allah
between the two of you, so where is your manifestation?

When you called on Allah out of abasement to Him, the Great,
He said, "At your service" to you.

The highest pen in His Tablet
wrote your pure description from Him.

You are the source of all, not His source.
He brought you near from one aspect and put your far from another.

Beware of being content with what pleases you
for the sake of what He makes pleasing to you.

Remain with your root in all He desires.
Do not forget so as to be forgotten.

This is the knowledge
which came to me from one Who does not lie.

He brought it down at the command of the One who has the most
knowledge of what is between the ascetics and devout.

Praise be to Allah who bestowed on me knowledge of lights and darkness. He gave me a form whose perfection is only by Your shelter.

Fasting is abstention and elevation

May Allah support you! Know that fasting (sawm) is both abstention and elevation. One says "the day has reached its full height (sama)" when it has reached its highest point. (The poet) Imru'l-Qays said:

When the day reached its height and its heat was intense, i.e. the day reached its fullest extent. It is because the fast has a higher degree than all other acts of worship that it is called "fast". Allah elevated it by denying that it is like any other act of worship as we will discuss. He denied its ownership to His servants although they worship Him by it and ascribed the fast to Himself. Part of its affirmation is that He rewards the one who is described by it by His hand even though He connected it to Himself when He stated that it is not like anything else.

Fasting in reality is non-action, not action

In reality, fasting is non-action, not action. The negation of likeness is a negative attribute. Therefore the relationship between it and Allah is strengthened. Allah Almighty says about Himself, "There is nothing like Him." (42:11) He denied that there is anything like Him and so there is nothing like Him by logical proofs and by the Shari'a. An-Nasa'i related that Abu Umama said, "I came to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and said, 'Give me something that I can take from you.' He said, 'You must fast. There is nothing like it.'" He denied that it was like any of the acts of worship which are prescribed for the servants of Allah.

Anyone who recognises that it is a negative attribute – since it consists of abandoning things which break it – knows absolutely that there is nothing like it since it has no source which is described by understood existence. This is why Allah said, "The fast is Mine." In reality, it is neither worship or action. It is permissible to apply the name 'action' to it, as the application of the expression 'existent' can be applied to Allah. We understand that it is allowed although the ascription of existence to He whose existence is the same as His Essence is not like the ascription of existence to us. "There is nothing like Him." (42:11)

Every action of the son of Adam is his except fasting. It belongs to Allah. 

The Gate of Quenching by which fasters enter the Garden

By way of the meaning, the Shari'a has described fasting with the perfection above which there is no perfection. This is because Allah gave it a special Door with a special name which demands perfection. It is called the Door of 'Rayyaan': the Quenched. The fasters enter it. Quenching is a degree of perfection in drinking. After being quenched, the drinker does not accept any more to drink to all. Whenever he accepts, then he was not quenched, whether it is a land or not a land among the lands of the animals.

Muslim related from the hadith of Sahl ibn Sa'd that the Messenger of Allah said, "There is a door in the Garden called the Quenching. The fasters will enter it on the Day of Rising. None except them will enter it. It will be said, 'Where are the fasters?' and they will enter it. When the last of them has gone in it, it will be locked and no one else will enter it." That is not said about any of the commanded or forbidden acts of worship except for the fast. By "the Quenching," He made it clear that they obtain the attribute of perfection in action since they are described by that which has no like as we already said. In reality, the one who has no like is the perfect. The fasters among the gnostics enter it here, and there they will enter it with the knowledge of the entire creative manifestation.

- Selections from al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya  by Shaykh Muhyiddin Ibn al-'Arabi 


Blessed are those who hunger and thirst (fast) for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied. - Beatitudes of Jesus

May we not swim out of this holy month of Ramadan without receiving that blessedness and grace and may the fulfillment of the promise of the Most Faithful Beloved be fulfilled, that we be quenched and be satisfied, in this passing-world and in the after-world to arrive. Ameen ya Rabbal alaamin. So Be it, O Lord of the two worlds!

# Resources:
. Kitab al-Siyam (Book of Fasting), Sunan Abu Dawud
. The Sufi Guide to the Holy Month of Ramadhan- 2010
. The Book of Fasting by Muhammad b. Ibraheem at-Tuwaijry
. Ramadan Inspirations
. Reality of Fasting: audio lecture by Saeid Tabar Pin It Now!

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