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…
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…
In a recent post, we explored Rahma and its place within the conceptual universe of Islam. We saw that rahma can be thought of as embodied love, as love made manifest. The sayings of the Prophet (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) contain instructions on how to invoke God’s mercy, how to make Divine love tangible. Ibn Umar relates the following saying:
‘The All-Merciful (al-Rahman) – exalted be He – shall bestow His mercy (rahma) upon those who show mercy. Be merciful to those on earth and He who is in Heaven shall bestow His mercy upon you’ (al-Hakim)
Show loving-kindness to those on earth, and God will pour out His love upon you. Show love to those on earth, and they too shall reflect God’s own love back to us. A second hadith relates the following words (related by Abu Usama):
‘Indeed, God possesses an angel dedicated to those who supplicate by saying ‘O Most Merciful of the merciful (Arham al-Rahimin).’ To whomever repeats this three times in his supplication the angel says, ‘Indeed, the Most Merciful of the merciful is before you, therefore ask!’ (al-Hakim)
This phrase invokes God’s mercy in an intensive, superlative form. It is a reminder that God alone is the Source of all mercy, of all love. As this awareness begins to penetrate our inner beings, our hearts begin to reflect this quality of compassionate love. A’isha relates the following words of the Prophet (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam):
‘Indeed, God the Exalted loves kindness in everything’ (al-Bukhari)
Hz. Ali relates a very similar statement:
‘Indeed, God is kind (rifqa) and He loves kindness: He accords to it that which can never be attained through the use of force’ (Ahmad ibn Hanbal)
Elsewhere, the Prophet (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) said:
‘The best deed after belief in God is benevolent love (tawaddud) towards people’ (al-Tabarani)
The word tawaddud is derived from the same root as the Divine Name al-Wadud (the Ever-Loving). The more compassionate we are, the more love we generate, to the point where we can reflect God’s pure light. In a commentary on the first hadith cited above, we read these words:
‘Divine mercy (rahma) must radiate within man and be offered to others in the form of generosity, forbearance, and forgiveness’ (Spiritual Teachings of the Prophet, page 9)
Our hearts are transformed by His love into a pure mirror, as these words related by Anas ibn Malik make clear:
‘The Faithful (al-Mu’min) is the mirror of the faithful (al-Mu’min)’ (al-Tirmidhi)
May the Beloved Friend of All sweep the dust from the mirror of our hearts. May His cleansing love, His tender mercy, transform us.
Peace, one and all…
In a beautiful and oft-quoted verse, the Quran states:
‘Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians, – any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve’ (2:62; see also 5:69).
I have always seen a remarkable openness in this verse, a reaching out beyond narrow human boundaries. Indeed, it has always been one of the most impressive verses in the entire Quran, especially in the way it extends the promise of redemption and salvation to all who believe. I also find the same spirit of openness in the following passage:
‘Invite (all) to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching’ (16:125, trans. Ali, with slight adaptation)
In this beautiful passage, Muslims are encouraged to share their faith in a gentle, and open-handed way. And, even though Muslims have sometimes strayed from such spiritual generosity, the ideal remains and continues to inspire real, human dialogue.
As I grow older, I begin to see ever more clearly that true dialogue can only occur through the development of human relationships. Indeed, when such relationships exist, communication moves beyond mere surface ‘dialogue’, to a place where our differences cease to be something that divides us; they become the ‘spice’ that makes conversation enriching. In other words, true dialogue is a means of soul-sharing.
The Sufi tradition places great emphasis on such relationships – describing them by the prophetic term suhbah (or sohbet in Turkish, and related languages). Sohbet is a means of both spiritual companionship and spiritual conversation – a way of being with our companions that moves beyond these surface differences. It is in this spirit that I wish to offer a personal exploration of some key aspects of the worldview of Islam – as a means of sharing, beyond sectarian and religious labels, from one human being to all those who happen to read these words.
In talking to others, I have occasionally encountered those who feel that the Islamic tradition has little to say of love. According to this view, although the Quran and prophetic traditions spend a great deal of time extolling the power, might and majesty of God, they say almost nothing of Divine love. Although the Quran contains numerous references to God’s kindness and compassion, as well as to His maintenance of the Universe, it presents these as attributes of a distant, cosmic ruler – Who is so exalted as to make any real relationship impossible. On reflection, I think this idea comes from a misunderstanding of the conceptual universe of Islam. In particular, it arises from a misunderstanding of how Islam conceptualises compassion, mercy and love.
A brief example might help to illustrate my point more clearly. In Surah al-Dhariyat, we find the following verse:
‘And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me’ (51:56)
Without understanding the full range of meanings behind the key term ‘worship’ (`ibadah), it is easy to misunderstand this verse. Indeed, it has often been seen as a command for mere robotic service, as though God requires human automata. When the semantic range of ibadah is explored, it then becomes possible to have a much fuller understanding of the Quran’s vision of life’s pupose (this is something I hope to do soon, insha Allah). Furthermore, even those verses that refer to Divine Immanence, are sometimes believed to paint a picture of God as an angry watcher.
Personally, this has not been how I have experienced God, as a Muslim. Indeed, this picture is not one most Muslims would recognise I suspect. So, where, then, does this idea come from? Whilst, in part, this may derive from older visions of Islam as a dry, law-bound faith, I also think this misunderstanding comes from a lack of familiarity with the conceptual universe of Islam, as broadly conceived. So, with these things in mind, I’d like to explore a key aspect of Islam’s picture of the Divine – namely, Rahma.
Arabic words are based on trilateral roots, which give the basic meaning of the term. The root of rahma, ra ha ma, has the following basic meanings:
‘the womb, blood relatives; mercy, kindness, compassion, pity, sympathy, to show mercy, to show compassion, to let off, to be kind, forgiveness, bounty, good fortune, blessing’ (Badawi and Haleem, Arabic-English Dictionary of Quranic Usage, p.354)
Forms derived from this root occur some 342 times throughout the Quran. As we can see, therefore, it is an important concept. Indeed, every chapter but one opens with the phrase Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim (In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful). As we can see, there are two basic senses: family ties and relationships (expressed in Quranic parlance as the ‘ties of the womb’) and compassion.
This connection between mercy and the ties of kinship is made explicit in an interesting tradition, related on the authority of Abdullah ibn Abu Awfa:
‘The Prophet (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) said, ‘Mercy is not conferred on people when there is someone among them who severs ties of kinship’ (Adab al-Mufrad no. 63)
Those who deliberately weaken the bonds of family love are thus deprived of mercy in their own lives, leading to a further hardening of the heart. Conversely, as this statement attributed to Ibn Umar makes clear, maintaining the ‘ties of the womb’ encourage the outpouring of divine grace and mercy:
‘Ibn Umar said: ‘If someone fears his Lord and maintains his ties of kinship, his term of life will be prolonged, he will have abundant wealth and his people will love him’ (Adab al-Mufrad no. 58)
Here, rahma is decisively linked with love. Indeed, this mercy is the intimate, personalised and life-enhancing outpouring of God’s love. Strengthening the bonds of family strengthens love, and loving-kindness allows the development of deep, spiritual bonds. It is only through rahma that one can acquire love; it is only through love (or perhaps we might say manifested mercy) that true spiritual companionship (suhbah) can emerge. Perhaps this is why religious communities are often depicted as being spiritual families, as the context in which rahma and love can grow beyond their primary genetic roots.
Islamic ideas of mercy contain love – indeed, we might say that they point to the embodiment of love in all its fullness. Compassion is presented as the embodiment of love…testifying to a greater love beyond. In a number of significant hadith, the relationship between rahma and parental love is given further nuance. In one such tradition, Anas ibn Malik relates the following story:
‘A woman came to Aisha (God be pleased with her) and Aisha gave her three dates. She gave each of her children a date and kept one date for herself. The children ate the two dates and then looked at their mother. She took the date and split it and gave each child half a date. The Prophet (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) came and Aisha told him about it. He said, ‘Are you amazed at that? Allah has granted her mercy because of her mercy towards her children’ (Adab al-Mufrad no. 89)
This mother’s tender concern for her children’s well-being is here underlined as the very embodiment of rahma. In the English-speaking world, we would use the word ‘love’ to refer to the quality that drives a mother’s compassion. Abu Hurayra relates another interesting hadith:
‘I heard Allah’s Apostle saying, Allah divided mercy into one-hundred parts and He kept ninety-nine parts with Him and sent down one part upon the earth, and because of that, this one single part, His creaures are merciful to each other, so that even the mare lifts up its hoofs away from its baby animal, lest it should trample on it. (Bukhari, Book 73, 29).
This hadith adds to our understanding of rahma, which is again connected to parental love. In this case, the way a mare cares for its foal is also described as mercy. That is, compassion is an innate quality given to all living creatures – in a sense, mercy is the default setting of creation. We are then told that this universal mercy is merely one small aspect of God’s compassion for creation. Again, what the Islamic tradition describes as rahma, the English-speaking world would understand as love.
It is this compassion, this loving-kindness, that should form the basis of every action. Qurra ibn Iyas relates the following hadith:
‘A man said, ‘Messenger of Allah, whenever I slaughter a sheep, I show mercy to it (by using a sharp knife to ensure the least suffering)’ – or the man said, ‘I show mercy to the sheep when I slaughter it.’ He said twice, ‘If you showed mercy towards the sheep, Allah will show mercy to you’ (Adab al-Mufrad no. 373)
Performing each action from a state of loving-kindness brings a greater, deeper love from God. A number of ahadith underline this reciprocity:
Abu Hurayra said: ‘The Messenger of God (as) kissed al-Hasan ibn Ali while al-Aqra’ ibn Habis al-Tamimi was sitting with him. Al-Aqra’ said, ‘I have ten children and I have never kissed any of them.’ The Messenger of Allah (as) looked at him and said, ‘Whoever does not show mercy will not be shown mercy’ (Adab al-Mufrad no. 91).
Abu Hurayra said: ‘The Prophet (as) said, ‘Anyone who does not show mercy to our children nor acknowledge the right of our old people is not one of us’ (Adab al-Mufrad no. 353)
A’isha, may Allah be pleased with her, said: ‘A bedouin came to the Prophet (as) and said, ‘Do you kiss you children? We do not kiss them.’ The Prophet (as) said, ‘Can I put mercy in your hearts after Allah has removed it?’ (Adab al-Mufrad no. 90)
The connection between rahma and love is again given in this early commentary on a Quranic verse:
Urwa commented on the verse, ‘Lower the wing of humility to them out of mercy’ (17:24) (It means): ‘Do not refuse them anything they love’ (Adab al-Mufrad no. 9, Ath 5)
Drawing these things together, we can see that rahma denotes loving-kindness, a mercy that flows directly from love. Perhaps we might go so far as to describe rahma as embodied love, as love made manifest, the word made flesh. Understanding the earthly operation of rahma also provides us a semantic context within which to approach more metaphysical expressions. One report has this to say:
‘Abu al-Harith al-Kirmani said: ‘A man said to Abu Raja, ‘I greet you and I ask Allah to join us both of us together in the abiding Abode of His mercy (rahma)’. Abu Raja said, ‘Is anyone capable of that? What is the abiding abode of His mercy?’ The man said, ‘The Garden’. He said, ‘That is not correct’. The man said, ‘Then what is the abiding abode of His mercy?’ He said, ‘The Lord of the Worlds’.
In other words, the true abode of divine mercy is God Himself. The true Source of Rahma is al-Rahman. This makes for a very interesting reading ofSurah al-Rahman, the 55th chapter of the Quran:
‘The Most Merciful (al-Rahman), taught the Quran, created Man, [And] taught him eloquence’ (55:1-4).
Ahmad ibn Ajiba (d. 1809), in his spiritual commentary on these verses, has this to say:
‘The mercy thus comprised by the Name of al-Rahman has two aspects. One is Essential, inseparable from the Divine Essence, and the other Attributive, by which the sustenance of creation comes about and God shows mercy to those He will … Since the Quran is among God’s greatest gifts, He relates the act of its teaching to His very Essence. Indeed, the Quran is itself a theophany of of the Attributes of the Divine Essence, of Its mysteries and Its acts, and it unveils these spiritual realities to anyone whose inner vision God Most High has opened’ (The Immense Ocean, trans. M A Aresmouk & M A Fitzgerald, 2009, page 11).
Elsewhere in the Quran we read the following verse:
‘Say, ‘Call upon Allah or call upon the Most Merciful (al-Rahman). Whichever [nam] you call to Him belong the Names Most Beautiful’ (17:110)
In this verse, al-Rahman is set beside the Name Allah, the All-comprehensive Name (Ism al-Jami`). In other words, compassion, mercy and love flow from the very Essence of God – suggesting that Creation itself represents the manifestation of loving-kindness, of embodied love. In this regard, it is worth closing with the following profound hadith qudsi (or sacred tradition):
‘Indeed My mercy and compassion (rahma) prevail over My anger’ (Ibn Arabi, Mishkat al-Anwar, 47)
Beloved, gather us all within the folds of Your mercy. Enliven every heart with Your overflowing love!
Peace, one and all…
In a beautiful passage, the Quran speaks of the collection and distribution of the compulsory alms-tax (the zakat):
‘Alms are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect and for bringing hearts together and for freeing captives and for those in debt and for the cause of God and for the traveler – an obligation [imposed] by God. And God is Knowing and Wise’ (9:60)
This verse has long been understood as being the basis of an organised collection system, by which that alms-tax is collected. Whilst this is certainly true, a closer examination draws out a number of deeper connections.
Although this compulsory alms tax is most often described as zakat (from a root meaning ‘purification’), in this verse a different term is used. If we look a little closer at this verse, we can draw this out more clearly. The word used here is sadaqat, literally meaning ‘charity’. Significantly, this word derives from a root denoting truth and truthfulness. Thus, we can say that charity is a practical means of engaging with truth, of manifesting truth in everyday life. To engage in regular charity is thus a means of visualising and actualising truth. Moreover, given that this verse refers to the compulsory zakat, it forcefully underlines two further points: all that we own comes to us from God, of ourselves we own nothing. Secondly, a just and equitable, organised tax system is a collective means of manifesting this truth. Religion is not merely a matter of private observance, it is also concerned with social justice.
‘Sadaqa is only for … bringing hearts together and for freeing captives and for those in debt and for the cause of God and for the wayfarer…’
Charity is thus a means of bringing peoples together, and for the cause of God, which is here tied to freeing humanity from captivity and debt.
Sadaqa is thus connected with love, with truth, in a spiritual, personal and collective sense. It is therefore an aspect of justice, particularly in the social realm. To give charity to others, in an arranged, socially accepted manner, is to do justice – and to do justice is to manifest the equilibrium of love. Indeed, the more we realise this, the more deeply we are able to access truth, to plumb the depths of sadaqa. Charity is thus a means of approaching Truth.
Charity is a function of our humanity, and is a means of enhancing relationships with others. This is why the Prophet (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) speaks of sadaqa in terms of its social utility, as in the following examples:
‘Charity given to one’s relatives twice multiplies its reward’ (al-Tabarani)
‘A kind word is charity’ (al-Bukhari and Muslim)
‘God has never dignified anyone due to his ignorance, nor humiliated anyone due to his knowledge. And wealth is never diminished as a result of charity’ (al-Daylami)
‘Two qualities are never coupled in a believer: miserlinenss and immorality’ (al-Bukhari)
This verse also points towards a deeper, existential truth: we are utterly dependent upon God in every aspect of our lives, in each new moment and place. This becomes clear when we look again at this verse:
‘Sadaqat is only for al-fuqara’ and al-masakin…’
Fuqara’ means those who are absolutely poor, without any other means, whilst masakin means those who are destitute, and therefore weak. Elsewhere, the Quran describes this poverty and weakness in interesting terms:
‘O mankind! You are those in need of God (literally, ‘you are the fuqara’), and God is the Free of Need (al-Ghani), the Praiseworthy (al-Hamid)’ 35:15
In other words, poverty and utter dependence are the hallmarks of the human relationship with God. Not only does God give us all that we need, we are also dependent upon God in each new moment. That the verse before us should come in Surah Tawba, or the Chapter of Repentance, is also significant – especially when it is remembered that classical Sufism understood tawba as the first stage of the spiritual journey.
Our poverty and God’s overflowing grace forms a relationship, and our breath is a living moment by moment transcription of this reality. That is, we can experience this now, in our very breath. Mevlevi tradition uses breathing techniques in its formal zikr, especially connected to the testimony of faith (the shahadah) – la ilaha illa Allah. With each exhalaltion, the practice is to breathe la ilaha (‘there is no god…’) as a means of letting go of every limitation, of realising our utter contingency. Each inhalation is accompanied by illa Allah (‘except God’) – in which our chest fills with God-given breath, with an organic awareness of Divine presence. This verse alludes to this process: we acknowledge our dependence on God, we literally breathe it by emptying and we receive a new in-breath, from the Infinite Tresuries of God, al-Ghani al-Hamid.
May God help us become open handed! May God help us realise the truth of our dependence upon Him, in each new new moment and circumstance.
Wa akhiru da`wana an il hamdu lillahi rabbil alameen.
Peace, one and all…
In this beautiful and profound tradition, the Messenger of God (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) relates the following words of God:
‘O My servants, I have forbidden oppression for Myself and have made it forbidden amongst you, so do not oppress one another. O My servants, all of you are astray except for those I have guided, so seek guidance of Me and I shall guide you. O My servants, all of you are hungry except for those I have fed, so seek food of Me and I shall feed you. O My servants, all of you are naked except for those I hav eclothed, so seek clothing of Me and I shall clothe you. O My servants, you sin by night and by day, and I forgive all sins, so seek forgiveness of Me and I shall forgive you.
O My servants, you will not attain harming Me so as to harm Me, and you will not attain benefiting Me so as to benefit Me. O my servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to become as pious as the most pious heart of any one man of you, that would not increase My kingdom in anything.
O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to be as wicked as the most wicked heart of any one man of you, that would not decrease My kingdom in anything. O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to rise up in one place and make a request of Me, and were I to give everyone what he requested, that would not decrease what I have, any more than a needle decreases the sea if put into it. O My servants, it is but your deeds that I reckon up for you and then recompense you for, so let him who finds good praise Allah, and let him who finds other than that blame no one but himself’.
Reported in Muslim, on the authority of Hz Abu Dharr.
Peace, one and all…
‘The Prophet (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) said: ‘Seek knowledge even as far as China’. There is more than one kind of knowledge, however. The highest knowledge is the knowledge that helps us to realise what it means to be a human being: the purpose of being human, and our relationship with Absolute Truth, Allah’
(Shaykh Kabir Helminski, The Book of Language, p. 86)
Peace, one and all…
All that God does is just, and that justice is based on His overflowing love. If justice is about putting all things in their rightful place, in due order and proportion, then love is the root cause of that drive towards equilibrium. Justice, then, is God’s love in transformative motion. It is the still middle point, the balance, set up that we might achieve wholeness. Love is the pivot, on which this balance rests and moves, that we might learn of life’s ebb and flow:
‘The Most Merciful
Taught the Qur’an,
[And] taught him eloquence.
The sun and the moon [move] by precise calculation,
And the stars and trees prostrate.
And the heaven He raised and imposed the balance
That you not transgress within the balance.
And establish weight in justice and do not make deficient the balance’
(Surah al-Rahman 55:1-9)
Understanding that love is the foundation of justice can teach us many things. In my own life, seeing justice as love’s own movement has helped me come to terms with all sorts of things. It also reminds me of the need for mercy, in my dealings with others, in my dealings with myself, as the Prophet himself said (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam):
‘Whoever does not show mercy will not be shown mercy’ (Adab al-Mufrad no. 91)
Reflecting further, I begin to realise that justice is not the same thing as anger. The operation of justice does not, by itself, require me to become angry and bitter. Rather, it requires me to see that justice is itself a mercy, and that both of these things arise first in God, arise first in love. The Prophet (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) relates the beautiful words of God, in which Hu says:
‘My mercy overcomes my wrath’ (source)
As above, so below. May my mercy always overcome my own wrath. May I always hold fast to justice, to truth and to love.
Wa akhiru da`wana an il hamdu lillahi rabbil alameen.
Peace, one and all…
Here are some verses from the Quran and sayings of the Prophet (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) on the various aspects of love. I have found myself coming back to them repeatedly in recent days, and as such I wanted to share them here. Ya Wadud!
‘O you who have believed, whoever of you should revert from his religion – Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him [who are] humble toward the believers, powerful against the disbelievers; they strive in the cause of Allah and do not fear the blame of a critic. That is the favor of Allah ; He bestows it upon whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing’ (Quran 5:54)
‘Say, [O Muhammad], “If you should love Allah , then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful’ (Quran 3:31)
The Prophet (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) said:
‘You will not enter the Garden until you believe and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I show you something that make you love one another?’ They said, ‘Yes, Messenger of Allah’. The Prophet said, ‘Spread the greeting among yourselves’
‘By Him in who holds my soul in His hand, you will not enter the Garden until you submit. And you will not submit until you love one another. Spread the greeting and you will love one another. Beware of hatred for it is the razor. I do not say to you that it shaves the hair. Rather, it shaves the din‘
Peace, one and all…
With the approach of Ramadan, I wanted to share some texts on remembrance, as an aid to contemplation. They are drawn from the Quran, the Hadith and sacred poetry. During this Ramadan, I hope to share and explore texts from Hz. Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani’s Secret of Secrets, insha Allah.
‘So remember Me, I shall remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me’ (2:152)
‘Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest!’ (13:28)
The Prophet (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) relates:
‘God, ever mighty and majestic is He, says: “I am present in My servant’s thought of Me, and I am with him when he remembers Me. If he remembers Me in his self, I remember him in My Self, and if he mentions M in an assembly, I mention him in a better assembly than that. If he approaches Me by a hand’s breadth, I draw near to him by an arm’s length; and if he draws near to Me by an arm’s length, I draw near to him by a fathom. If he comes to Me walking, I come to him running’
The Prophet (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) said:
‘He who remembers His Lord and he who does not are like the living and the dead’ (Bukhari)
And elsewhere, he (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) said:
‘The house in which Allah is remembered and the one in which Allah is not remembered are like the living and the dead’ (Muslim)
The Prophet (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) said:
‘Whenever people assemble together to remember Allah, just seeking His pleasure, a caller calls from heaven, ‘Stand up! You have been forgiven. Your sins have been changed into pious acts’. (Ahmad ibn Hanbal)
Sayings of the Awliya
Awn ibn Abdullah said:
‘Remembrance (dhikr) gatherings are a cure for hearts’
Selections from the writings of Hz. Mevlana:
’A lover never seeks without being sought by his
When the lightning bolt of love has pierced this heart,
be assured that there is love in that heart.
When the love of God grows in your heart, beyond any
doubt God loves you’
‘Never be without the remembrance of God, for His remembrance provides the bird of the spirit with strength, feathers and wings’ (Fihi ma Fihi 175)
‘Separation from God is like a well;
Remembrance of Him is the rope’
(Divan-i Shams-i Tabriz 19325)
May our hearts all find rest in remembrance of God, the Source and Sustainer of All Being.
Peace, one and all…
The Messenger of God, may God give him blessings and peace, said:
God, ever blessed and exalted is He, says: “Whoever treats a friend of Mine as an enemy, on him I declare war. My servant draws near to Me by nothing dearer to Me than that which I have established as a duty for him. And My servant does not cease to approach Me through supererogatory acts until I love him. And when I love him, I become his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his hand with which he grasps, and his foot with which he walks. And if he asks Me [for something], I give it to him. If he seeks refuge with Me, I place him under My protection. In nothing do I hesitate so much as I hesitate [to take] the soul of a believer. He has a horror of death, and I have a horror of hurting him”
Reported by al-Bukhari, according to Abu Hurayra.
Here is a beautiful ney solo to accompany these words. May we all know the beauty of such love.
Peace, one and all…
We have entered the last 10 days of Ramadan. If the month of Ramadan is a special time in the Islamic calendar, the last 10 days are a particularly special time within Ramadan. Tradition connects the last 10 days with prayers for salvation from Hell. In other words, these final days of Ramadan are especially connected with seeking forgiveness. Here are a number of beautiful prayers, drawn from a wide range of sources, all of which offer a focus for asking for forgiveness.
I hope all who pass by find these beautiful prayers beneficial. May God forgive us all for our sins and shortcomings. May we all be purified by the forgiveness, compassion and tender mercy of the Divine.
‘The Chief of Forgiveness-Prayers’ (Du`a Sayyid al-Istighfar)
This prayer is attributed to the Prophet himself (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) and is described in the tradition as the best prayer for forgiveness.
‘O God! You are my Lord. There is no god but You. You created me. I am Your servant. I shall try to fulfill my pledge with You as well as my power permits. I seek refuge with You from the evil of my deeds. Due to Your favours to me I turn to You and thank You and also confess my mistakes. Forgive me, for there is none to forgive sins bu You. O Most Merciful of those who show mercy!’
The Supplication for Forgiveness of Abu Madyan (Part 2)
I seek forgiveness of God for my words and deeds,
for my vain strivings, and the exhaustion of my abilities.
I seek the forgiveness of God for my ignorance and transgressions,
for the greatest of my conscious sins, and the minor ones I have committed.
I seek the forgiveness of God for what my hand has wrought,
for my errors and [the sins] toward which I was inclined.
I seek the forgiveness of God for that which my hand did not earn,
and for that which I earned upon attaining adulthood.
I seek the forgiveness of God for saying ‘I’ and ‘with me’,
[for saying] ‘belonging to me’ and ‘mine’, and for my suspicions and my [limited] understanding.
I seek the forgiveness of God for that which I did not know,
for that which I knew and for which I wrote by pen.
I seek the forgiveness of God for my sleep, my lethargy,
and my wakefulness, and for that which has maintained me [in life].
I seek the forgiveness of God during the day, its night,
and its morrow, before it is created from nothingness.
I seek the forgiveness of God for that which occurred during my youth,
and for my disagreements with the aged and mature.
I seek the forgiveness of God, as often as I have feared what He has bestowed,
and [as often as] the clouds have rained on the plains and hills.
I seek the forgiveness of God, as often as the number of pilgrims, going
toward lands characterised by purity and sanctity.
I seek the forgiveness of God, as often as the breaking of dawn, and as often
as the doves coo their songs in the branches.
(I will share the remaining part of this long and beautiful du`a in a subsequent post, insha Allah)
The Prayer of Repentance (Du`a Tawbah)
This beautiful prayer is attributed to the 4th Imam of the Shi`a tradition, Ali ibn al-Hussain (more widely known as Imam Zayn al-Abidin, may God sanctify his noble soul). It is beautifully recited below. You can also find the text itself online.
The Prayer of Glory (Du`a al-Baha’)
This prayer is attributed to the 5th Imam of the Shi`a tradition, Muhammad al-Baqir (God sanctify his noble soul). I posted this beautiful prayer a few years ago.
In closing, let me offer this beautiful prayer of the Mevlevi Order, entitled The Rose Prayer (Gulbenk):
‘May this moment be blessed. May goodness be opened and may evil be dispelled. May our humble plea be accepted in the Court of Honour; May the Most Glorious God purify and fill our hearts with the Light of His Greatest Name. May the hearts of the lovers be opened. By the breath of our master Mevlana, by the secret of Shams and Weled, by the holy light of Muhammad, by the generosity of Imam Ali, and the intercession of Muhammad, the unlettered prophet, mercy to all the worlds. May we say Hu, Huuu…’
And my last prayer is praise of God, the Sustainer of All Being.
Peace, one and all…
Mu’adh ibn Jabal (may God be pleased with him) reported: ‘I heard the Messenger of Allah (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) say, ‘Allah Almighty said, ‘My love is mandatory for those who love each other for My sake and those who sit with each other for My sake, and those who visit each other for My sake and those who give to each other for My sake’
(recorded in Imam Malik’s al-Muwatta)