Friday, September 28, 2012

Quranic Meditation on Fana and Baqa Signs | Friday Qur'an Reading

Signs of The Qur'an - Surah ar-Rahman 55:26-30

~
Kullu man 'alayha fan
Wa yabqa Wajhu Rabbika Zul Jalali wal Ikram
Fabi ayyi 'alaai Rabbikuma tukazziban
Yas'aluhu man fis samawati wal ard; 
kulla yawmin huwa fi sha'an
Fabi ayyi 'alaai Rabbikuma tukazziban

~

All things subsisting as creation must perish

and yet shall subsist the absolute majestic and glorious Countenance of your Lord,

 Will you deny the mystical station of no-station of your Lord?

All in the heavens and earth beseech Him; 

every moment He reveals unique Splendor!

 Will you deny the mystical station of no-station of your Lord?

 
~ a non-linear rendition based on the translations of Shaykh Nooruddeen Durkee's 'The Tajwidi Qur'an', Yusuf Ali's translation of the Quran and Sadar Uddin Ahmed Chishti's 'Koran Darshan' ~


The above lines are one of the most powerful and striking collection of verses of not only the Chapter Surah ar-Rahman where it is found, but of the entire Qur'an. A powerful seed for repeated contemplation, recitation in salah and meditation. These verses include two very exalted and important terms for the Mystics and Lovers of God: namely, 'Fana' and 'Baqa', pointing respectively to self-effacement or annihilation of the separate self and subsisting or permanency in God.


Note on Translation: Generally the verse, Fabi ayyi 'alaai Rabbikuma tukazziban is translated as "Which favors / bounty of your Lord will you deny?" This certainly is one of the translation on the literal level, but people of gnosis / ma'rifa have also rendered this verse differently. In Sadar Uddin Ahmed Chishti's (1914-2006) Sufi Exegesis 'Koran Darshan' (in Bengali), he points out that 'al' (alif lam-alif) is not (only) favor / bounty or niyamat but the station of egolessness, the station of total disappearing of the self. It is the totality, ever expansive and ever subsisting station of negation of the self.

In the context of these verses, this particular rendition of the translation becomes more relevant and appropriate because the verses are speaking about both fana (annihilation or destruction of the self) as well as baqa (subsisting, regeneration, rebirth). And both fana and baqa, in their highest meaning has to do with the station of negation. For those who are not familiar with the two terms, Dargah Hazrat Nizamuddin has an excellent explanation of Fana and Baqa which can be read here.

Tomar Shesh Nahi Tai
Shunno sheyje
Shesh kore dao Apnake je.


O You Who has no end,
You Yourself Veil Your Self
Disguised in Your own Fana,
You become the No-Self.

- Song of Tagore, a Sufic translation


Calligraphy of the full Surah: ar Rahman (the Merciful) by Everitte

Fana and Baqa are
Abandoning sleep
When the quarterback
Says, Make your leap
For the sake of love
Dive in real deep.

Fana and Baqa are
Oceans without shore
Waters that allow
Soul-full rapport
Yet, with each stroke
Self turns to door

Fana and Baqa are
A time for recall
The moment, Alastu
Universe yet to install
Each life promises
I’ll give my all.

~ from Shamas Nanji's poem 'Fana and Baqa'

In Kashf al-Mahjub (Revelation of Mystery), the oldest known Persian Treatise On Sufism by Ali B. Uthman Al- Jullabi Al- Hujwiri, the author gives a very good explanation of the two terms Baqa / Subsistence and Fana / Annihilation with classifications. You may read the chapter on Baqa and Fana here.

Ego and Love cannot coexist. That is the essential teaching of Fana and Baqa. The lover's self-annihilation (fana) and complete submission to the beloved's will is the inevitable precondition for the lover to experience eternal (baqa) love. (credit)


the Universality

Now question arises, "is this a spiritual teaching invented by the Muslims or Sufis, or has it been part of the universal spiritual currents of humanity?"

Look at the saying of blessed Master of Humanity, Jesus Christ, peace to his noble soul when he says, recorded in three of the Gospels simultaneously, "He who loses his life shall find it." (Matthew 10:39, Luke 9:23-4, John 12:25). The equivalent of Fana in the New Testament is called kenosis (Philippians 2:7), "self-emptying." At the end of this process is fana-fi-Allah, effacement in God. The Bible states that Jesus emptied himself (Greek. ekenosen), in order to let God's light shine through. For the thoughts, the desires, the caprices of the ordinary self only obstruct that light. Self-emptying (kenosis) leads to Unity or Union (enosis), in other words.

Henry Bayman mentions in his book The Station of No Station, "Now the Sufi concept of fana (extinction, annihilation) has its direct correlate in Buddhism: Nirvana, which means extinguishing (literally, the snuffing out of a candle).

We thus see that this process of faqr leading to fana fi-Allah in Sufism brings together four great religions: Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism. For Islam is already implicit in Sufism. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3) and “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8) is the way Jesus sermonized it on the Mount. And the formula fana fi-Allah means “Nirvana in Brahman” in terms of Buddhism and Hinduism, thus unexpectedly uniting, at a single stroke, these two great yet apparently disparate traditions."
Invocation of the Divine Name: Ya Baqi - The Enduring

not My will, but Yours be done

For common people who has no exposure to Sufi ideas, not received nisbat from any Sufi Master, all or any explanations of Fana and Baqa of the highest order may sound like reading out an abstract of a Ph.D thesis done in five years to a student who studies in school at grade five. Such subject matter may turn out to be pleasant reading but one must start from where one himself or herself is. One must take up according to one's ability.

So from that perspective, Fana is dying before the death and for common people or seeker of beginner's rank, it is to forsake one's own whims and desire for the sake of the Lord's. It is the practice of Taqwa, which is to obey the Commands of Allah and to refrain from the Prohibitions. The Sufis say, "I will and God will and I leave my desire for what God desires." To submit one's desire, that is to harmonize one's will with God's will is the entry point of Fana. And this presupposes that one learn the Commands and Prohibition from the revealed and preserved Final Scripture. Thus knowledge is prerequisite for gnosis of God. This is the knowledge about God, His Commands and His limits which are manifestation of His Will in terms of knowledge and which when embodied in life produce harmony of human will with Divine will.

"Not as I will, but as Thou Will, Father," as cried out Jesus in one of the last recorded supplication of his. So this forsaking one's own will for Divine Will is the beginning of entrance into the gate of Fana. To obey the command of God is practical spirituality that marks the slow death of the ego, which has the inbuilt inclination towards going against the will of God - and hence the Prophetic wisdom goes, "Die before you die."

Abu Yaqub Nahrajuri says: “A man’s true servantship lies in annihilation and subsistence,” because no one is capable of serving Allah with sincerity until renounces all self-interest. Therefore, to renounce humanity is annihilation, and to be sincere in servantship is subsistence. In this connection, Ibrahim b. Shaiban says: “The knowledge of annihilation and subsistence depends on sincerity, unity and true servantship; all else is error and heresy.”

Whoever is annihilated from his own will subsist in the will of Allah, because your will is perishable and the will of Allah is everlasting. When man stands by his own will his object of desire will be annihilated and he will stand by annihilation, but when he is controlled by the will of Allah his desire of object will subsist and he will stand by subsistence. Thus the Divine Law (Shariah), the Commands and Prohibition of God gives the basic matrix upon which one can exercise both annihilation and subsisting of action and attributes.

Henry Bayman again from his book The Station of No Station:

The journey to God cannot be accomplished in one step. This is why it is a long, drawn-out process composed of intermediate steps. The Sufis have many ways of talking about these steps, and one of them is that extinction in God is preceded by, first, extinction in one’s master (fana fish-sheikh), and then extinction in the Prophet (fana fir-rasul ). Extinction in God is capped by a further step, subsistence in God (baqa bi-Allah).It is in the first of these that the seeker implores, “Lift away my self from me, Master” (Shamsi). All the while, one prays - with Yunus - to God, who is the true goal of the journey:

Remove me-ness from me, with you-ness fill me
Take my life while in this life
Let me not die over there.

In Yunus’ way of thinking, the goal is to bring out the wonderful inner self within man, the divine self of the Perfect Human:

Do not say I am in me, because I am not
There is an I inside me, inner than myself.

Calligraphy by Bin Qullander

Quranic Verses 55:26 to 30 as Meditation

Returning back to the verses mentioned at the beginning of this post:

Kullu man 'alayha fan
Wa yabqa Wajhu Rabbika Zul Jalali wal Ikram
Fabi ayyi 'alaai Rabbikuma tukazziban
Yas'aluhu man fis samawati wal ard; 

kulla yawmin huwa fi sha'an
Fabi ayyi 'alaai Rabbikuma tukazziban



All else other than God is perishing
and eternally permanent is the majestic and bounteous Countenance of your Lord,
Will you deny the mystical station of no-station of your Lord?
All in the heavens and earth beseech Him;
every moment He reveals unique Splendor!
Which bounty of Your Lord can you deny?


You may download an audio recording of the above verses from here (mp3), recited by Saad al-Ghamadi.



Mawlana Asraf Ali Thanvi, may Allah be pleased with him, mentioned that it was the practice of the blessed companions of the Holy Prophet that they used you read few verses of the Quran over and over again until the verses would get impressed upon their hearts. In a sense this was their method of Remembrance (Dhikr / Zikr) through which they not only memorized the verses, in the process, the truth within the revelation would be manifest within their hearts through repetation. Through repeated chanting of the verses they would also understand fully the commands or prohibition of God and would embody the actions accordingly.

Following the same method, the above verses can be used as a seed for chanting, meditation and reciting at salaat or prayer. While repeating and concentrating upon their first layer of meanings, since Quranic revelation is holographic in nature, it has the ability to unveil other layers of meanings and epiphanies.

To better understand the literal and individual words you may consult the Quranic Arabic Corpus here. It is recommended to commit the verses (in Arabic) in memory and to recite it repeatedly in salaat with concentration and also outside the salaat at Zikr or Remembrance seed. May Allah expand our heart to Truth. Ameen.


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