‘There is no Transformation or Power Except in God’: A Recent Sohbet

Peace, one and all…

Here is the text of a recent Mevlevi sohbet, marking the occasion of the Night of Ascension (lailat al-miraj). During this gathering, we explored the meaning of the important phrase la hawla wa la quwwata illa billah (‘there is no transformation or power except in God’).

May the hearts of the lovers be opened.

From the Night of Ascension

Glory to Him who made His servant travel by night from the sacred place of worship to the furthest place of worship, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him some of Our signs: He alone is the All Hearing, the All Seeing. (Quran 17:1)

Abu Ayyub al-Ansari relates the following incident:

‘… on the night of Ascension, Muhammad passed by Abraham. Abraham asked, “O Gabriel, who is with you?” Gabriel said, “Muhammad.” Abraham said to him, “Command your nation to plant saplings of Paradise plentifully, as the soil of Paradise is fertile and it’s plain is spacious.” It was asked, “What are the saplings of Paradise?” He replied, ‘There is no transformation or power except in God (La hawla wa la quwwata illa billah)’ (Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal)

A Treasure from the Garden of Paradise

Abu Musa reported:

The Messenger of God said to me, “Shall I guide you to a treasure from the treasures of Paradise?” I said: “Yes, O Messenger of God!” Thereupon he (as) said, “(Recite) ‘La hawla wa la quwwata illa billah‘”
(Al-Bukhari, Muslim and Ibn Majah)

Understanding Hawla and Quwwata

Ha wa la

‘year, to complete a year; to change, to alter, to shift, to deviate; to prevent, to screen off, to interpose, to bar; to try; to refer; around, about, circa; power; to plan, to contrive, to beguile; method, circumstance, conditions’ (Dictionary of Quranic Usage, p. 244-245)

Qa wa ya

‘strength, to be, or become, strong; seriousness; barren land, to be without food or provision, to be forsaken, to be desolate’ (Dictionary of Quranic Usage, p. 787-788)

‘O my God! I have reached the morning in a state in which I cannot remove from myself the things that I dislike and I cannot achieve that to which I aspire. These matters are not in my hands but in Yours. I have become bound by my deeds’ (A prayer of Jesus, from the Mevlevi Wird)

‘The Real Most High has a paradise and a hell in this world. Paradise is sound health, and hell is hardship. Sound health is referring your own works back to the mighty and glorious Lord, and hell is performing the Lord’s works for your self’ (Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq as, in Attar’s Memorials of God’s Friends)

The Wisdom of Mevlana

He wishes me to get out of myself.
He wishes me to sit in freedom.
I was constantly involved with ambition,
and now He tells me to break all the chains.
Quatrain 1129

We are puppets in the hands of God.
The power is His; we are all beggars.
Why are we always trying to outdo each other
when we have all come from the same home?
Quatrain 1616

Resolution

‘Entrust yourselves to no one but Me’ (Quran 17:2)

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