A Demon With Fiery Eyes

Peace, one and all…


Recently, I have been struggling with a number of issues, all of which revolve around questions of oneness.  In other words, how can I ensure that I live in oneness?  Or, how can I stop dividing my life into so many small pieces, offering one to God and striving to keep one for myself (as though I were a thief)?  I have been blessed with good advice from a number of people, which has helped me immensely – praise be to God for the blessing of friends!

On the train to work today, I was looking through a recent purchase – Leonard Lewisohn’s The Wisdom of Sufism.  It’s a small book containing the pearls of wisdom of a great number of Sufi masters.  As I was flicking through the book, I came across part of the following description of a true master:

‘The first [stage] is servanthood.  As long as the wayfarer has not shrugged off the yoke of all else but God, he will not be distinguished by servanthood … for he is never considered to be ‘liberated’ as long as he is bound by selfhood or attached to his own joy or woe’ (Najm al-Din Razi, Mirsad al-`Ibad)

As I read the words ‘has not shrugged off the yoke of all else but God’ I was suddenly reminded of a dream I had several months ago.  In this dream, I was in the interview room of an American police station (imagine something out of Law & Order or The Matrix).  In the middle of the room was a simple, small table.  Seated at the table was a fearsome and smokelike demon, with eyes the colour of red flame.  It told me to sit, and so I did – though I was in great fear.  I then somehow realised that this demon wanted me to ask it its name.  Upon asking, it said its name was ‘other than God’.  Then I woke up.  For some reason, which I could not fully understand at the time, I awoke in a state of great agitation and fear, despite knowing that it had been an important dream.

As I read the quotation above, in the context of my recent struggles, I suddenly understood the dream’s meaning.  I had (and probably still have) been giving my fear to ‘other than God’, to a demon with fiery eyes, when in reality such things belong only to God.  My hopes, my fears, my joys and my sorrows should all be directed to God – Who in truth is the Source of All Things.  To be a true servant is to orient one’s self towards the object of service completely and utterly.  So, to become a servant of God (an `Abd of al-Rahman), I must strive to direct the whole of myself and my life to God.  It is to realise that, if God is the context of everything, then there is no context-free space within or beyond myself – either in inner or outer space!

That these thoughts should also emerge at this particular time also strike me as important.  Yesterday was the 10th of Muharram, Yaum al-Ashura.  This day is commemorated in both the Sunni and Shi`a communities.  Firstly, the day marks God’s salvation of the children of Israel from Pharaoh’s harsh slavery.  Secondly, this day also marks the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, also in defence of freedom from oppression.  In my own particular context, this means that I too must struggle to free myself from every vestige of mental, emotional and spiritual slavery. 

And from God comes every assistance!

‘For God’s pleasure you should do your service.
Why care whether you bear people’s praise or blame?’
(Masnavi 6.845)

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Ma’as salama,
Abdur Rahman


4 thoughts on “A Demon With Fiery Eyes

  1. What a very dramatic dream, and I’m glad that your reading brought you this flash of understanding.
    I read somewhere in the last few days (I cannot recall where) something about giving one’s anger to God, who is strong enough to take it, which I think is saying the same thing.
    I think this question of oneness -v- fragmentations can also be understood in various metaphors for example diamonds – having many facets but still being one object.

  2. Thank you for these words, brother, I find them very helpful. I pray every day now to be a servant of God, and fail in so many ways. It is a long journey and I find it interesting that Ibn ‘Arabi says servanthood is the greatest of the stations and to be a full servant of God is also the highest of stations. So it seems the aim is to arrive where we begin but in greater fullness for the journey is in returning to God, and then journeying in God, and then journeying with God. Even here I find I have to allow the boundaries of the paradigms in which I think to be pushed and broken for there is nothing other than God.

  3. Peace Tess,

    Yes, even my anger should be given over to God (though I hadn’t thought of it in that way). The Islamic tradition expresses this idea as having love and hate for the sake of God (and only for the sake of God).

    At any rate, for myself, it is certainly something I struggle with. I find myself dividing up my life and self in so many ways – as if I were a money changer in the temple, so to speak!

    But then, I’m sure that the misunderstanding is mine – and I do but struggle onwards towards aa new understanding, by the grace and mercy of God.

    Abdur Rahman

  4. Salams Yafiah,

    True servanthood, free from all those hidden ego desires, is very hard which is why it is such an exalted state. Indeed, this is why Jesus (alaihi al-salam) was able to say: inni Abdullah.

    As for pushing conceptual boundaries, how right you are! Ya Allah! Push my every boundary!

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