Peace, one and all…
With what work at you occupied,
and for what purpose are you purchased?
What sort of bird are you,
and with what digestive are you eaten?
Pass up this shop of hagglers
and seek the shop of Abundance where God is the purchaser [Quran 9:111].
There Compassion has bought
the shabby goods no one else would look at.
With that Purchaser no base coin is rejected,
for making a profit is not the point.
Masnavi 6.1264 – 1267
Peace, one and all…
As regular visitors might know, I’ve posted this beautiful qawwal by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan here a number of times. Sadiq, of the ever-beautiful Technology of the Heart, has posted a translation of the words, by Hz. Mevlana.
Enjoy and may all you do this day be blessed…
Tu Kareemi Man Kamina Barda Um
Laikin Az Lutf E Shuma Parwarda Um
Zindagi Aamad Bara’ay Bandagi
Zindagi Be Bandagi Sharmindagi
Yaad E Oo Sarmaya E Eeman Bo’ad
Har Gada Az Yaad E Oo Sultan Bo’ad
Sayyad O Sarwar Mohammad Noor E Jaan
Mehtar O Behtar Shafi E Mujrimaan
Choon Muhammad Pak E Shud Az Nar O Dood
Her Kaja Roo Karad Wajhullah Bood
Shahbaaz Lamakani Jaan E Oo
Rehmatal Lil Aalameen Dar Shaan E Oo
Mehtareen O Behtareen E Ambiyaah
Juz Muhammad Naist Dar Arz O Samaa
Aan Mohammad Hamid O Mahmoud Shud
Shakal E Abid, Sorat E Ma’bood Shud
Auliyah Allah O Allah Auliyah
Yani Deed E Peer Deed E Kibriyah
Her Ka Peer O Zaat Haqra Aik Na Deed
Nai Mureed O Nai Mureed O Nai Mureed
Maulvi Hargiz Na Shud Maula E Rum
Ta Ghulaam E Shams Tabraizi Na Shud
You are the Gracious One and I am the ignoble,
Now waiting at Your door Oh my Cherisher
With devotion life becomes beauteous,
And without, what is life but disgrace
Remembrance of Him is the foundation of faith,
Beggars transform into kings due to His Remembrance.
Liege lord, Oh Muhammad you are the light of our lives,
The mighty and the best intercessor of the wrong-doers
Since Muhammad was purified of worldly things,
Whatever direction He turned is found the Face of Allah
The noble soul of his is like a falcon of the highest heavens
Being ‘the mercy of the worlds’ is his eminence
The mightiest and the best of all Prophets is he,
Except Muhammad in land or sky there is none worthy
He is the praise of God, divinely praised in abundant
He is the reflection of God in the shape of a worshiping servant
The friends of God are like God because God is their friend
And in this way he who has seen his Master, has seen God’s Glory
If one doesn’t see his spiritual Master as reflection of God
He is not a disciple, not a disciple, not a disciple!
Mevlana could never be Mevlana Rumi
If he had not devoted himself to Shams e Tabrizi.
Peace, one and all…
A beautiful exploration of movement and worship, as transmitted through sacred Mevlevi tradition. This wonderful talk also explores some of the symbolism of the whirling ceremony (sema). May it be of benefit.
Source: SFH Mureed
Peace, one and all…
A beautiful reflection on some important verses from the Masnavi serif, by Kabir Dede.
When Jafar advanced against a certain fortress,
to his thirsty throat the fortress became a single gulp.
Riding alone, he charged up to the fortress,
so that they locked the fortress-gate in dread.
No one dared to meet him in battle:
Any more than a sailboat’s crew would attack a leviathan.
The king turned to his vizier, saying,
“What is to be done in this crisis, Counselor?”
He replied, “You should say goodbye to your pride and cunning,
and present to him your sword and shroud.”
“Why,” said the king, “isn’t he just a single man alone?”
He replied, “Don’t underestimate this man’s singleness.
Open your eye: look well at the fortress:
it is already trembling before him like quicksilver.
He sits in the saddle, his nerve unshaken,
as if all the East and West were at his side.
Several men rushed forward, like Fida’is,
and flung themselves into combat with him.
He struck each of them with just a blow of his mace
and they fell headlong at the feet of his steed.
God’s action had bestowed on him such collectedness
that he was confronting a whole people single-handedly.
When my eye beheld the face of that emperor,
quantity became nothing in my sight.”
The stars are many; though the sun is one,
When it appears, their foundation is demolished.
If a thousand mice put forth their heads,
the cat feels no fear or apprehension of danger.
How should a throng of mice advance
if they have no collectedness in their souls?
The collectedness in outward forms is a vain thing:
listen, beg from the Creator collectedness of spirit.
Collectedness is not the result of material quantity:
know that body, like reputation, is built on air.
If there were any collectedness in the heart of the mouse,
a number of mice would arise in indignation,
And, rushing up like assassins,
would without hesitation throw themselves upon the cat!
One would tear out her eyes,
while another would rip her ears with its teeth,
And another tear at her side:
there would be no escape from their unified alliance.
But the soul of the mouse has no collectedness:
at the cry of a cat its wits fly out of its soul.
The mice are paralyzed by the wily cat,
even if the mice are a hundred thousand.
Does the butcher care how big the flock is?
Can your daytime thoughts hold off slumber forever?
He is the Lord of the kingdom: He gives collectedness to the lion,
so that he springs on the herd of wild asses.
A hundred thousand savage and courageous wild asses
are as naught before the onset of the lion.
He is the Lord of the kingdom:
He gives to a Joseph the kingdom of Beauty,
so that he is like rainfall from white cumulus clouds.
He bestows upon one face the radiance of a star,
so that a king becomes the slave of a girl.
He bestows upon another face His own Light,
so that even in the darkest night
it can discern the good from the bad in everything.
Joseph and Moses brought the light of God
into their cheeks and countenances, and into their inmost centers.
A flashing beam shot forth from the face of Moses:
and he wore a veil to cover his face.
The radiance of his face would have overwhelmed all eyes
just as the emerald dazzles the eyes of the deaf python.
He asked God to make that veil
a covering for that powerful Light.
And God said, “Listen, make a veil of your felt cloak,
for the garment of gnosis can be trusted,
because that cloak has absorbed the Light:
the Light of the Spirit shines through its warp and woof.
Nothing will be a repository except a mantle like this:
nothing else can endure Our Light.
If Mt Qáf should arise as a barrier,
the Light would shatter it like Mt Sinai.”
Divine omnipotence has given the bodies of men
the ability to support the unconditioned Light.
His power makes a glass vessel the dwelling-place of that Light
of which Sinai cannot bear in the least.
A lamp-niche and a lamp-glass have become
the dwelling-place of the Light
by which Mt Qáf and Mt Sinai are blown to pieces.
Know that their bodies are the lamp-niche and their hearts the glass:
this lamp illumines the empyrean and the heavens.
Their light is dazzled by this Light
and vanishes like the stars in this radiance of morning.
Hence the Seal of the Prophets has related
the saying of the everlasting and eternal Lord—
“I am not contained in the heavens or in the void
or in the exalted intelligences and souls;
I am contained, as a guest, in a faithful heart,
without qualification or definition or description,
so that through the medium of that heart everything,
above and below, may win from Me sovereignties and fortune.
Without such a mirror neither Earth nor Time
could bear the vision of My beauty.
I caused the steed of mercy
to gallop over the two worlds:
I fashioned an expansive mirror.
In which fifty wedding-feasts appear in a flash:
face the mirror; don’t ask me to describe it.”
The gist is this: Moses made a veil of his cloak,
he knew the penetrating nature of that Moon.
Had the veil been of anything except his raiment,
it would have been torn to shreds,
even if it had been a solid mountain.
That Moon would penetrate iron:
how could the veil withstand the Light of God?
That veil was, itself, aglow:
it had covered a mystic in moments of bliss.
The fire is latent in the fuel
because the fuel was meant to burn.
Peace, one and all…
In recent posts, our readings have begun to focus on the question of will (Kabir Dede on the Will; Meister Eckhart: Counsels on Discernment 3). This question is also brought to the fore in our current portion of the Evrad-i Serif.
Our readings are all drawn from the Quran, and although these verses explore the question of will in interesting and forceful ways, it is their particular arrangement that is especially noteworthy.
Our present portion opens thus:
‘Had We sent down this Quran on a mountain, truly, you would have seen it humble itself and break apart out of awe of God. Such are the parables We offer to human beings, so that they might reflect.
God is He other than whom there is no god; the One who knows what is hidden and what is manifest, as well as all that can be witnessed by a creature’s senses or mind: Hu, the Infinitely Compassionate, the Infinitely Merciful.
God is He other than whom there is no deity: the Supreme Sovereign, the Holy One, the Source of Peace, the Inspirer of Faith, the Preserver of Security, the Exalted in Might, the One who subdues wrong and restores right, the One to whom all greatness belongs! Utterly remote is God, in limitless glory, from anything to which people may ascribe a share in His divinity!
Hu is God, the Creator, the Evolver, the Bestower of form! To Hu belong the Most Beautiful Names. All that is in the heavens and on earth declares His praises and glory: for He is the Exalted in Might, the All-Wise!
(Surah al-Hashr 59:21-24. You can listen to a beautiful recitation of these verses below)
These verses declare the infinite and incomparable majesty of God, in forceful and evocative terms. All power, authority, knowledge and beauty belong solely to Him: anything we possess is given to us by Him, and is effectively on loan to us. Even though we may possess beauty or knowledge or power, it is always and in each instance His. Thus, our will to power, to learn and to perceive beauty are really His. In a strange, paradoxical way the more we understand our abilities as belonging to Him, the more fully ‘ours’ they become. Or, perhaps, the more clearly we understand His absolute ownership, the more authentically we can enter into our own partial occupancy, our own derivative ownership. The more we fully we realise our own weakness, the more fully we can enter into His strength. The more we are able to take back our own projections, and the more fully we are able to let Him be God, the more human we are able to be.
Ibn Arabi makes this clear throughout his writings. This example is particularly instructive:
‘Your attributes are His. Without doubt, your appearance is His appearance. What is in you is in Him. Your before is His Before; your after is His After; your essence is His essence – without Him entering into you or you entering in Him, for ’Everything is perishing but His Face’ (Surah al-Qasas 28:88)’ (Ibn Arabi, Kitab al-Ahadiyyah)
The Evrad then explores this strange paradox by offering these subsequent verses:
‘And to everyone who is conscious of God, God always prepares a way of emergence,
and provides for him/her in ways he/she could never imagine; and for everyone who places trust in God, God is sufficient. For God will surely accomplish His purpose: truly, for all things God has appointed an appropriate measure’
(Surah al-Talaq 65:2-3)
‘And so, be patient, even though they who are bent on denying the Truth would all but kill you with their eyes whenever they hear this reminder, and though they say, ‘See, most surely he is a madman!’
For this is nothing less than a reminder to all the worlds.’
(Surah al-Qalam 68:51-52)
‘…to everyone who will to walk a straight way.
But you cannot will it unless God, the Sustainer of all the Worlds, wills it’
(Surah al-Takwir 81:28-29)
To be truly conscious of God is to realise that all things are His; at best, we are merely guests, even in the depths of ‘our’ own being. Understanding that our will is already encompassed in His will is both deeply humbling and deeply liberating, freeing us from the urge to control life. This awareness is a deeper ‘way of emergence’, a deeper liberation from the limitations of our workaday egos.
Striving to live this way is also important because it demonstrates that we live in a magical universe, in a realm of unlimited possibilities and of infinite potentiality. We are provided for in ways we could never imagine, both within and beyond ourselves. Living in a world of infinite potentiality requires that we strive to trust in God, and realise that the Divine is absolute beneficence, and absolute sufficiency.
‘…for all things has God appointed an appropriate measure’ is an interesting phrase. It reminds me that that ‘my’ will has a limit, beyond which lies His will. It also reminds me that the trials and tribulations of my own life are measured out for me: I am challenged, but never overwhelmed, stretched but never obliterated. Moreover, this ‘I’ within me that demands and urges is itself limited. There are deeper levels of being within me, beyond this passing ego; there are hidden depths below the shallow waters of conventional reality.
‘And so, be patient…’. Wait in patient readiness for all that Hu might work within and beyond us. Wait in calm alertness for His unfolding will. ’For this is nothing less than a reminder to all the worlds’. It is a reminder to the universe around me. It is a reminder to the universe within.
‘And to everyone one of you who wills to walk a straight way. But you cannot will it unless God, the Sustainer of all the worlds, wills it’. It is His will that is primary. Our will only becomes a reality when it harmonises with His. This underlines the need for harmonisation, with God, with myself and everything around me. And, as Meister Eckhart makes clear in his counsels, this involves an inner emptying, a giving-over of ourselves to Him, in Him. In Counsel 20, Meister Eckhart says this:
‘And therefore, if you wish to receive your God worthily, be sure that your superior powers are directed toward your God and that your will is seeking His will, that you are intending Him, and that your trust is based on Him’ (Counsels on Discernment, 20)
Merciful One! Join our wills to Yours. Help us to will for ourselves what You will for us. Help us to accept life in all its diversity. Help us to see that all things come from You, for our betterment.
Peace, one and all…
In a recent post, we saw Meister Eckhart speak forcefully of the will. Mevlevi tradition has a similar focus on the will (irada). As a starting point for further discussion, let’s explore Kabir Dede’s definition:
‘The ability to act consciously; the faculty of conscious choice; a power of the soul by which we can direct our thoughts, actions, and, eventually, even our feelings. Will is directly connected with Spirit. It is a unique attribute of the human being, because no other creature, as far as we know, has this degree of conscious choice. Will enables us to rise above personal desire and egoistic satisfactions.
Human will is derived from the divine will as the image in a mirror is a reflection of the source of that image. Human will is a dim reflection of the divine will. The human being, then, is the mirror of God’s will. As we develop spiritually we begin to see how our own will is related to the Will of the Divine …
Will develops as we make conscious choices and bring those conscious choices and decisions to completion. In other words, our fulfilling of our responsibilities develops our will; whereas every uncompleted decision drains us of will. Will is a capacity that we must continually preserve and maintain, if we are to be fully human’. The Book of Language, pp. 145-146
Peace, one and all…
In our first readings the interconnected themes of devotion and obedience emerged very strongly. I’d like to offer a few thoughts on how these two themes might be connected, and to do that I’d like to start with a verse of the Quran. In Surah al-Baqara we find the following passage:
‘The Messenger has believed in what was revealed to him from his Lord, and [so have] the believers. All of them have believed in Allah and His angels and His books and His messengers, [saying], “We make no distinction between any of His messengers.” And they say, “We hear and we obey. [We seek] Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the [final] destination’ (2:285)
In the opening sentence of this passage, we encounter the Prophet of God (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) and his complete openness before the Divine. His devotion and obedience to God had rendered his heart capable to accepting all that the Beloved chose to reveal therein. It also rendered him fully open to all the wisdom of the prophets of old (alaihim al-salam). The following saying of the Prophet (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) is important in this light:
‘Seek knowledge, for it is the intimate friend (khalil) of the believer. Moreover, forbearance is the minister of knowledge, intellect its guide, action its pivot, benevolent character its father, gentleness its brother, and patience is the general of its armies’ (Related by al-Hakim)
Elsewhere, the following saying is recorded:
‘Pursue knowledge even to China, for its pursuance is the sacred duty of every Muslim’ (Related by Ibn Abd al-Barr)
Although the outward details of their respective revelations differed, the same inner reality permeated all of them – a complete stillness in God’s presence. By referring to ‘the believers’ this verse also shows that this openness in God is not just the preserve of the prophets: we are all potentially capable of such a relationship, and devotion and obedience are the means of achieving it. Indeed, if the prophets represent the true spiritual potential of humanity, such openness is our human birthright.
Our verse then proceeds… ‘We make no distinction between any of His messengers’. To truly live in oneness, we must be open to whatever wisdom comes our way. We must be ready to make use of, to integrate, the collective spiritual wisdom of humankind. Moreover, though we can all be rightly proud of our respective traditions, insofar as they lead us out into His infinity, there is a sense here that the path to God requires us to be fully open. Furthermore, not only do we have to be open, we also have to rid ourselves of our common tendency to exclusivity, of saying ‘my way is better than his way’. Of course, to follow a tradition we need to believe in it as our way to God, but we also have to understand that God’s way is broader than our human minds can imagine. In other words, we have to be devoted to, and obedient to, God Himself.
The last section of this verse is particularly significant:
And they say, “We hear and we obey. [We seek] Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the [final] destination’
This sentence categorises the true believers as those who say: ‘we hear and we obey’, or sami`na wa a`tana in Arabic. To truly hear the voice of God within the depths of our soul, we have to be present, we have to be fully there in each new moment. In other words, hearing implies a devoted listening, a patient waiting on God, for all that He might choose to reveal within our souls. Devoted listening is a form of obedience, and the more we obey, the more we engage in conscious relationship with the Divine. This verse concludes with a prayer for forgiveness. Devoted listening and active, human obedience to the Truth are means of asking for forgiveness. The more fully we enter into a relationship with God, the deeper we come to understand our human shortcomings. A Dervish is someone who waits at His door, in each new moment and circumstance. It is no accident, therefore, that today’s Evrad-i Serif passage contains this prayer:
9. I ask God’s forgiveness for my mistakes (literally, ‘shortcomings’).
More deeply, from the perspective of oneness, our prayers for forgiveness are given to us by the Divine. In other words, devoted listening and obedience are a kind of ‘virtuous circle’ in which an ever-increasing spiritual charge can be built up. And it is this charge that Meister Eckhart goes on to examine with such subtlety. True obedience is an emptying of our will in His, a forgoing of our sense of control in the Hand of His greater working:
‘In true obedience there should be no trace of ‘I want it so, or so,’ or ‘I want this or that,’ but there should be a pure going out from what is yours’
Although we should take all of our worries and anxieties to God, just as we should take all of our hopes and joys to Him, true and complete obedience is an emptying in Him, a complete giving-over of ourselves to Him. Those who are able to give themselves so completely to God are thus enabled to stand with the Prophet (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) and to say they have ‘believed in what was revealed to him from his Lord’
May the Beloved give us all the ability to turn to Him truly, in work and in rest, in need and in safety. Ya Rahman!
Peace, one and all…
Our first Ramadan post starts with the opening of the Mevlevi wird (litany), known as the Evrad-i Serif. It contains a number of beautiful prayers and affirmations and is an appropriate place to begin, with its focus on the peace and love of God.
In the Name of God, the Infinitely Compassionate, the Most Merciful…
1. Our Sustainer, You are Peace and from You comes all Peace and our ultimate return is to You, to Peace.
2. O our Sustainer, continually, You enliven us with Peace.
3. Allow us to enter Your Garden, the Abode of Peace.
4. O our Sustainer, bless us with Peace.
5. With Your Peace You have exalted everything, O Lord of Majesty and Infinite Generosity. All praise and glory belongs to You.
6. Limitless are You in Your glory. We could not worship You as You truly ought to be worshipped, O You who are worshipped.
7. Subtle are You beyond all knowing. We could not know You as You truly ought to be known, O You who are the object of knowledge.
8. All praise is due to God who guides one to well-being.
9. I ask God’s forgiveness for my mistakes.
10. I bear witness that there is no god but God and that He is One and has no partner.
11. I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger.
12. There is no god but God. The dominion belongs to Him. All praise is His. He gives life. He takes life. He is Ever-living and never dies. All goodness is in His hand. He has power over all things.
13. There is no god but God. All benefits are His. All blessings are His. To Him belongs the most exceptional beauty.
14. There is no god but God, the Possessor of the Most Ancient Oneness, that has no beginning and no end.
15. There is no god but God. We worship none but God with sincere devotion to Him alone despite those who deny the Truth.
16. O my Allah! No one can keep me from receiving what You bestow. No one can bestow that which You do not wish someone to receive. No one can act contrary to Your will. No one can guide to the true Way the one whom You cause to stray. No one can lead astray the one whom You have guided to the true Way. No one can change anything about which You have made Your will clear. Wealth cannot help the wealthy if Your help is not with them.
17. In the Name of God: when with whose Name one begins anything then nothing on earth or in the heavens may harm it. And He is All-Hearing and All-Knowing.
18. (I begin) in the Name of God with my self and my Way.
19. (I begin) in the Name of God with my family and all that I own.
20. (I begin) in the Name of God with whatever my Sustainer has granted to me. God is my Sustainer and never do I attribute any partner to Him.
21. God is dearer and greater than the things that I fear and are of concern to me.
22. How precious is Your protection and how great is Your uniqueness. Exalted is Your praise. How holy are Your Names. And there is no god but You.
23. O God! Surely, I seek refuge with You from the evil within myself, from the evil within others, from all tyrants, and from all obstinate oppressors,
24. and from the evil of every recalcitrant satan.
25. ’Truly, my protector is God, who sent down the Book: for it is He who takes into His protection the righteous ones’ (Quran 7:196)
26. ‘But if they turn away, say: ‘God is sufficient for me! There is no deity except Him. In Him have I placed my trust, for He is the Sustainer, in awe inspiring majesty enthroned’ (Quran 9:129)
I won’t be posting the entire Evrad-i Serif, but I will be posting passages that seem relevant, and that speak to our unfolding spiritual dialogue with Meister Eckhart.
- Mevlana and Me: Poetry, the Moment and Suhbah
- ‘And Spread the Greeting Among Yourselves’: Exploring the Salam
Peace, one and all…
In one the verses dealing with Ramadan, the Quran makes explicit the purpose behind fasting:
‘O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become God-conscious’ (2:183)
This is a very revealing verse, for a number of reasons. Firstly, it connects the ritual fast of Ramadan with the rest of human sacred history. Although the details differ, the religious institution of fasting is probably as old as humankind itself. Fasting is thus part of our wider human heritage, and in that sense, Islamic teaching builds on the innate religiosity of the human being (expressed as ‘the primordial faith’, or din al-fitra, in other texts). Islam is thus part of a much longer sacred history.
Secondly, fasting is said to activate the quality of God-consciousness. Why? To answer this question, it is helpful to understand the word behind ‘God-conscious’, or taqwa. Taqwa is an essential Islamic concept, and derives from a root meaning ‘to guard against, preserve, shield and prevent’. It is often translated as ‘fear’, and refers to a cautious awareness of the presence of God, an awareness that shields one from actions that God would disapprove of. In other words, taqwa is a state of being, a state of vigilant awareness.
But why should fasting develop this quality so particularly? From the perspective of oneness, fasting reminds us in a direct, immediate manner that we are more than intellectual beings. We exist on many different levels – intellectual, physical, spiritual and emotional – and God-consciousness must be activated at each level to be made whole, to be made one. Fasting is thus a time for all-round awareness of ourselves in the presence of God, of all of those automatic behaviours that the normal course of life often serves to obscure.
Ramadan is thus a time of spiritual reflection. As such, during this Ramadan, I will be undertaking a comparative reading of two key spiritual texts, the Counsels on Discernment by Meister Eckhart and the Mevlevi Wird, arranged by Mevlana. As we shall hopefully see, these two works complement each other in very interesting ways, offering some important insights into spiritual growth in God. My basic plan is to post a passage from Meister Eckhart and then follow it with a passage from the Mevlevi Evrad-i Serif, before offering any insights that might emerge, insha Allah.
Peace, one and all…
Sit with your friends; don’t go back to sleep.
Don’t sink like a fish to the bottom of the sea.
Surge like an ocean,
don’t scatter yourself like a storm.
Life’s waters flow from darkness.
Search the darkness, don’t run from it.
Night travellers are full of light,
and you are too; don’t leave this companionship.
Be a wakeful candle in a golden dish,
don’t slip into the dirt like quicksilver.
The moon appears for night travellers,
be watchful when the moon is full.