Time-Machines of the Soul

Peace, one and all…


Books are merely the words of people, stylised in form and frozen in time upon a sheet of paper.  It is the spirit within that lends the words their essential force.  It is the quality of soul and mind contained within the writing that draws others towards them.  This is why books can be useful; they can become time-machines of the soul, reaching out across the centuries towards thirsty hearts.

But, because books are frozen in time they speak in certain ways, in particular contexts with particular voices.  Or, rather, they are merely one half of an ongoing conversation.  In order to journey towards truth, we have to bring our own souls into dialogue with the things we read.  That is, we must converse with the written word, and use that conversation to shape our own understandings of the world.  In othet words, we must enter into sohbet (or suhbah in Arabic) with the things we read.

It is perhaps easier to converse with a living human being than with a book made from paper and ink.  Moreover, books acquire an aura and an authority of their own: and the older the book, the more authority it seems to acquire.  This is probably the reason why book learning (as mere intellection) can only take us so far.  At its most unhelpful, such a surface approach encourages an unhealthy literalism, the idea that meanings are exhausted by their outward form.  It can encourage us to end our search at the outer shell, and to see this as being sufficient in itself.  But, words on a page are no more sufficient in the search for truth than the mere description of a meal is sufficient to cure hunger.  To receive true nourishment we must eat.  Furthermore, to receive a blessing from our ‘food’ we must eat with respect, gratitude and fair conduct.  That is, sohbet is a banquet for the spirit, and the spirit, being of another world entirely, can partake of this feast in any form, in any place and at any time.

Wa akhiru da’wana an il hamdu lillahi rabbil alameen.

Ma’as salama,
Abdur Rahman


6 thoughts on “Time-Machines of the Soul

  1. God is so great! This is so lovely.

    I was just reading in the Maarif of Bahauddin something I think you will find a deep resonance in:

    “Bread and Praise:
    I was thinking about the piece of bread I have just eaten and the drink of water I have taken. This revelation came: Each bit of bread and taste of fruit has a tongue and a language of praise that gets released when it enters a human body…
    Because my intellect and my memory are flowers in the hand of the mystery that supports and inspires existence and gives the scriptures, I pray to be given wisdom in the form of books to transmit the taste of love and the pleasures of expansion. Do not ignore these writings. [Satan] saw the appearance of Adam only. He did not see the essence. Inside these rough words are secrets. Don’t miss them.


    These Attractions

    I was saying Glory to God and the inner meaning of that came to me. If you desire elegance, the perfection of it is in the presence of God. The same with wealth, authority, dignity, sama, and sohbet. All of these reach perfection inside the mystery. Whatever we love in this visible world, we are sure to discover its flaws.
    We grow more alive, more perfect, when we take these attractions into the presence. Let them live inside our being drawn there. Every pleasure of light, color, taste, touch, fragrance and sound becomes filled with out remembering. We go light-hearted, high spirited (37:99). Even when I fear going there, I am held, kissed, and bathed in the luster.
    Now I begin repeating Allahu Akbar, God is great, and I see the beauty of the visible forms of that greatness, physical strength, banners, a mountain cliff. Likewise, when I [do dthikr,] that conversation becomes a spring wind turning dead ground into roses, water running by, word of a friend’s arrival. Saying praise together out loud brings into being a key that opens the heart.”

    I pray He continues to grant you tafaquh in your writings and your speech. May He preserve you and your writings for those of us who come to find revival in them.


  2. Salams Mona Haydar,

    Welcome to my online home. Allah bless all that you are and do. I am glad you found what I wrote useful, though in truth all that is good comes from God. Only the mistakes are mine. Thank you for the quotes from the Maarif. They are beautiful and profound.

    Abdur Rahman

  3. Shalom Seshat,

    I’m glad you enjoyed reading it. I suppose it’s a kind of justification for my own rabid bibliophilia!!! 😉

    Blessed be…

    Abdur Rahman

  4. Ameen dearest Abdur! People are all living story books…but the sages of old are eternal! Allah will live forever mirroring through his creation! Good books are good books in any epoch…may good books of all kinds always find their way to your life

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