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…
‘God’s work is nothing other than His revelation in the soul when He shows Himself to the soul. Then God is both the one who does the work and the work itself. And He is what He works, and what He works is He. Therefore God draws the soul away from all things so that it can become receptive to His work. And God’s work makes the soul one spirit with God, which is what God desires most from men and women, that they should allow Him always to work within them without any obstruction, so that they may become one spirit with Him’
(The Book of Spiritual Poverty, p.56)
Peace, one and all…
‘It is pain that guides a man in every enterprise. Until there is an ache within him, a passion and a yearning for that thing arising within him, he will never strive to attain it. Without pain that thing remains for him unprocurable, whether it be success in this world or salvation in the next, whether he aims at being a merchant or a king, a scientist or an astronomer. it was not until the pains of parturition manifested in her that Mary made for the tree:
‘And the birthpangs surprised her by the trunk of the palm-tree’ (Quran 19:23)
Those pangs brought her to the tree, and the tree which was withered became fruitful.
The body is like Mary. Every one of us has a Jesus within him, but until the pangs manifest in us our Jesus is not born. If the pangs never come, then Jesus rejoins his origin by the same secret path by which he came, leaving us bereft and without portion of him.
‘The soul within you is needy, the flesh without is well fed:
The devil gorges to spewing, Jamshid lacks even for bread.
See now to the cure of your soul while Jesus is yet on earth;
When Jesus returns to heaven all hope of your cure will have fled’
(A Quatrain by Rumi himself)
Taken from Fihi Ma Fihi, translated as Discourses by A J Arberry
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 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.