Peace, one and all…
Sometimes we are given exactly what we ask for, as soon as we have asked for it. In such moments, the real question becomes: are we able to see our prayer arrive? Are we able to see it manifest before us? Are our eyes open fully enough to perceive such gifts aright?
God is subtle beyond all understanding, and sometimes that subtlety is hidden in plain sight. So it is that as I travelled to work this morning, I found myself asking God to show me a little of His Divine Oneness, some small token that would reveal His presence in each new thing. A little further down the carriage of my train, a small group of teenagers were noisily engaged in all the loud business of their tender years – laughing, joing and playing around. I found myself distracted by them, finding a flash of annoyance within at their disturbance of the morning quiet. And yet, praise be to God, this faded into the background, as I peered out of the window, writing a short poem and prayer.
As we neared our destination, I finished my writing and headed towards the train door. As I stood there, the three teenagers stood in front of me. As I looked at them, I saw that the tallest (and truth be told, the noisiest) had a large crucifix tattooed upon his forearm. Looking more closely, I could make out the words ‘Only God’ inscribed beautifully upon his youthful flesh. Seeing these words, my eyes widened and I was momentarily lifted from my workaday self: there, before my very eyes, literally written upon his flesh, was the living truth, a sign of the unity that lies behind all our strange diversity. Behind all our differences, there is ‘only God’. After the sword of la, there is only illa Allah!
Let me close by sharing some words of Mevlana:
‘Love is that flame which, when it blazes up,
burns away everything except the Subsistent Beloved.
It drives home the sword of la* in order to slay other than God.
Look closely – after la what remains?
What remains is ‘but God’, the rest has gone.
Bravo, O great, idol-burning Love;
(Masnavi 5.588-90, trans. W. Chittick)
* – This poem is a play on the central Islamic refrain of la ilaha illa Allah (‘there is no god but God’)
May this needy one’s eyes open to ‘only God’ in each new moment. May all that you do this day be blessed.
Wa akhiru da`wana an il hamdu lillahi rabbil alameen.