Prayer, Patience and Inward Growth: A Recent Sohbet

Peace, one and all…

Here is the text of a recent sohbet. May it be beneficial.

May the hearts of the lovers be opened.

‘Seek help with steadfastness and prayer – though this is hard indeed for anyone but the humble, who know that they will meet their Lord and that it is to Him they will return’ (Quran 2:45-46)

‘You who believe, seek help through steadfastness and prayer, for God is with the steadfast’ (Quran 2:153)

‘While patience weans the lower self from familiar things, prayer turns one’s attention to the pursuit of intimate communications. Patience indicates fleeing from anything other [than God] and prayer indicates perpetual standing in the presence of the unseen. Seeking help by these means takes a great deal of rigor unless the Real discloses Himself to one’s heart, for in the transmitted tradition [it says], “Truly when God most high discloses Himself to something, it becomes humble to Him.” When the Real discloses Himself He lightens and makes easy what creatures must take on. This is [true] because assuming responsibility for acts of obedience is a religious obligation that is a burden, whereas the disclosure [of God begins] by witnessing and [continues] through realization, and ends in communion and perpetual nearness (sic)’.
(Qushayri, Lata’if al-Isharat 2:45)

‘Someone asked, ‘Is there a way to approach God other than prayer?’
The answer is more prayer. However, prayer does not exist only in outward form: that is just the ‘shell’ of prayer because it has a beginning and an end. Anything that has a beginning and an end is a ‘shell’. The proclamation of God’s greatness is the beginning of the prayer and the greeting of peace is its end. Likewise, there is more to the pronouncement of faith than what is said with the tongue because it too has a beginning and end. Anything that can be vocalized and has a beginning and end is a ‘form’, a ‘shell’; its ‘soul’, however, is unquantifiable and infinite, without beginning and without end. Anyway, prayer as we know it was formulated by the prophets. Now the Prophet, who formalized prayer, says, ‘I have a ‘time’ with God during which there is room for neither message-bearing prophet nor angel near in station to God to share with me. We know then that the ‘soul’ of prayer is not only in its external form but also a state of total absorption and unconsciousness during which all these external forms, for which
there is no room, remain outside. In that state there is not room even for Gabriel, who is purely conceptual…

At all times and in all conditions you are subject to God’s will. You are not two halves such that at times you are in control and at other times not. Keep His strength in view and always realise that you yourself are helpless, not in control, impotent, wretched… His light is not like the light of the sun and moon, in spite of whose existence things remain as they are. No, when His light shines without being screened, neither the heavens nor the earth, neither the sun nor the moon – save that King, no one remains’.
(Mevlana, Fihi ma Fihi, Discourse 3)

‘Someone asked what is more excellent than prayer. The answer is, as we have already said, that the soul of prayer is better than prayer, as has been explained. Another answer is that faith is better than prayer, for prayer is obligatory at five specific times a day whereas faith is uninterrupted. One can be excused from a prayer for a valid reason, and it is allowable to postpone prayer. Faith without prayer merits reward, whereas prayer without faith, such as the prayer of the hypocrites, does not. Prayer differs according to religion, but faith does not change by religion. Its states, its focus and so forth, are immutable’.
(Mevlana, Fihi ma Fihi, Discourse 8)

‘Thus it is incumbent upon every person to perform the prayer as we have indicated above, that is in such a way as to preserve the spirit of the prayer. In other words, sincerity and awareness of the heart should be maintained throughout the prayer and the heart itself should take on the very qualities mentioned in the Qur’anic recitation. Thus no prostration or bow is made without the heart of the person praying being humble and submissive, in harmony with his outer reality. What is desired is submission of the heart rather than of that which contains the heart. The person praying should not say Allahu Akbar while there still remains something greater than Allah in his heart; he should not say `I have directed my face… unless his heart is fully facing Allah and turned away from that which is other-than-Him; he should not say `Praise belongs to Allah’ unless his heart is overflowing with gratitude for His blessings on him and full of happiness on account of these blessings; he should not say ‘Thee alone I worship and Thee alone do I ask for help’ unless he feels his own weakness and incapacity and that neither he himself nor anyone else is of consequence. This is referred to by Allah when He says to His Prophet: `You have no concern in the affair.’ One should thus be in a similar state for all the words of remembrance and the
movement of the prayer.’
(Sayyid Haydar Amuli, Inner Secrets of the Path)

The ascetic from fear says what should I do? In such overpowering trials as these what should I do? The Gnostic out of intense love says what would Allah do? What wonder! How forthcoming is the Truth for my sake. That one looks at his self, saying to himself I will do good but regard him with evil. This one looks at the Truth Always looking at the face of Allah. The ascetic’s vision is from deeds The Gnostic’s vision is from nothingness. The awakening of the ascetic is from deeds The drunkenness of the Gnostic is from majesty. Righteous deeds are the support of the ascetic; The aspiration of the Gnostic is for the One.
(Excerpted from Mevlana, Selections from the Third Gathering)

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