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Centery MethodistFor the past 10 years followers of many religions have gathered on Thanksgiving Morning for an interfaith sermon to give thanks and share moments of congeniality. This year, Shaykh Ahmed abdur Rashid presided at the Thanksgiving Interfaith Service  at the Centenary Methodist Church, Lynchburg, VA.

“No one can remember something they never truly experienced. We can remember what we were told or a picture we were shown, but we affirm that remembering the Divine is only possible because we have experienced the Divine. And remembering the Divine as Present each and every moment is enabled by gratitude.  Gratitude is the path to humility, which is the doorway to Peace and security, the abode of a clean and pure heart.” – Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid

Read More…download transcript (pdf)

To those who faithfully believe, Allah gives some special knowledge of the Unseen.  These people exist throughout history as messengers, as guides, seen and unseen by us, past and present, and among us.   These unseen friends and helpers of Allah are recognized in Qur’an and Hadith, and we are guided to call out to them for help.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SPEECH ON Nasir Khosrow  (as) by Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid. (Links to full speech below.)

INTRODUCTION

In this series of duruus, we have “traveled” with Al-Khidr as he guided Musa through the rigors of trust, we met Salman Farsi who was exceptionally devoted, loyal, and trustworthy –  a believer, a seeker, a finder. Now we meet another traveler on the path of truth: Nasir Khosrow, and spend a day with him and his journey, his poetry and teachings. He affirms the value of seeking until one finds, of being a true and determined believer.

There are the hidden mysteries we will discuss today in this dars. Every aspect of creation has a hidden mystery to it. Every sense has a mystery to it. Every organ has a mystery to it. Every function has a mystery to it. And the knowledge of that, of those hidden mysteries – the hidden, intelligible knowledge – are all attained through the engaging of both the sensory and mental capacities of the human being, and the essential, subtle, or esoteric capacities.

SEEKING THE VANTAGE POINTNasir-Khusro

Seeing and understanding this “vantage point” is the goal and result of many of the writings and teachings of Nasir Khosrow—to achieve a place of inner clarity, a place from which you can look down upon something from its highest to its lowest point; a place from which you can approach Allah, and look down upon the events of your life, look down upon the events of the Last Day.  Is that not the kind of clarity that we all seek?

TRAVELING WITH NASIR KHOSROW

Nasir Khosrow was receptive. He hungered for, he was starving for, thirsting for knowledge. He was willing to leave everything he had, in order to seek it and find it. Some of you should be able to relate to that. He had to learn a new way of seeing and thinking, a new vocabulary or definitions of concepts and principles that he knew from before but now saw in a different light or through a different lens.  After he found his calling, he was sent by his teacher on various journeys, and finally back to his native country where he was appointed to the propagation of dacwah in Khorasan, and given the title of “Hujjut-i-Khorasan,” becoming one of the 12 “hujjuts” in the court of the Imam in 444 AH. All this took only seven years.

RETURN TO THE HOMELAND

To most Muslims, dacwah is promoting Islam, branding Islam, calling people to Islam.  But what I have said for many years is that dacwah is responding to a call, answering a question, being tuned to the need. It is responding to Allah’s call to you.  What is the difference?  One difference is that in one mode you are trying to promote something, while in the other you create such beauty that people’s natural inclination is to come to that beauty, to that truth, seeing that everything has a voice that speaks of the Divine Presence and calls us to that Source. This subtlety of dacwah can be seen in the life of Nasir Khosrow. When he returned to his homeland, he returned as one who had answered Allah’s call to him, and one ready and willing to help to answer the call of others.

DISCERNING INNER AND OUTERkhusraw

At some point in each of our lives we are going to have to be able to distinguish between the dhaahir and the baatin, to distinguish the outwardly beautiful from the inwardly meaningful. We each have the choice to direct our lives towards the Haqq of Allah, or to fill our time with the meaningless chatter of the peacock. Ask yourself, “What is burning in my heart and soul?” Even if they are just embers, blow on them!  Nasir Khosrow’s poetry is filled with the fire of devotional love, but his poetry is also built on a very subtle understanding of the human intellect—not just intellect as mentality, but the force of consciousness that distinguishes us from the animal, and distinguishes one human being from another human being in the spiritual realm.  Nasir Khosrow was one of those who asks questions, who questions everything in his search for the truth.  And he asks and contemplates, again and again:

Why were we given an intellect if, even with this intellect,

We sometimes sin and sometimes worship God?

Why did God command us to do good and avoid evil,

If we are not alive and free to choose?

Why is the vicious wolf not condemned before God

For his acts, while we are held responsible for ours?

Why, with its meaningless crowing and cawing

Is the crane not held in contempt, but we are?

Why are you and I weighed down with prayer and fasting,

While deer and other creatures we hunt are not?

 

BETWEEN INTELLECT AND FAITH

What Nasir Khosrow feared and saw happening in his homeland, in Balkh, was that philosophers and teachers were running away with their intellect. They were running wild. They had no real understanding of Allah; they had no real guidance, indulging in self-gratification at the expense of the essence of Islam, the true revelatory nature of the Qur’an and Hadith, the humbling experience of Divine Presence. When in the company of a person of true sight, there can be no mistake of authenticity.

In his day, and to our detriment today all over the world, there are those apparent fakirs, (knowingly or unknowingly). Fakers have all the forms down pat. They are weeping and crying; they have all the costumes, and use philosophy in compelling style and language.  But it was (and is), in his opinion, totally wrong, because they do not using their intellects properly. They don’t use the intellect to see through the form and understand the essence.

THE DHAHIR AND BATIN OF SALAT

I want to give you this in-depth example of the teachings that Nasir Khosrow was given…try to follow the thinking as well as the content. Try to understand how this approach appealed not only to him, but also to those who sought a means to awaken within themselves capacities of insight, inspiration, and purification.  While seemingly simplistic, prayer is a wonderful example of a space in our life to which the proper application and training of intellect can open whole inner dimensions and ways to grasp the value of the dhaahir, as it represents a deeper meaning of the baatin.

Sayed Nasir Khosrow says in a writing, “the ta’weel of salaat is the dacwah.”  In that context, we can look at the ta’weel or the baatini of salaat. The baatini of salaat was explained by Sayed Kadir al Numan who said,

The outward, dhaahir, blessing of salaat is performing it outwardly, including all of its genuflections and prostrations, compulsory and permissible.  Correspondingly, the baatin, the hidden blessing lies in establishing the summons of truth—dacwah al-haqq in every generation, day and night, as is done in performing the visible salaat.

CONCLUSION: RESPONDING TO THE CALL

As Nasir Khosrow points out the human soul is not receptive to all forms of knowledge, because the human soul is only potentially perfect, but practically imperfect. He calls the rational soul, the soul we live with every day, basically imperfect. There is a space: an esoteric space, between potential and reality.  We can try to seek out our potentiality and increase it, but there has to be something more that bridges that space.

There has to be a divine assistance. There has to be something that the Prophet, the imams, the awliyaa’u-Llāh, the ambiyaa’ provide: a catalyst for the conduit for the Rahmat/ the Mercy of Allah. We need the Mercy of Allah to complete this journey. No amount of studying, no amount of knowledge can take you all the way; the soul resists it. It demands something more. It demands the Mercy of Allah; it demands the direct input.

Discover more from Shaykh Rashid’s talk on the Nasir Khosrow (alayhi-s-salaam) in the following venues:

  1. Download full transcript : ( pdf)
  2. Listen to and/or download the audio file: (mp3)
  3. View the video:

To those who faithfully believe, Allah gives some special knowledge of the Unseen.  These people exist throughout history as messengers, as guides, seen and unseen by us, past and present, and among us.   These unseen friends and helpers of Allah are recognized in Qur’an and Hadith, and we are guided to call out to them for help.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SPEECH ON Salman Farsi  (as) by Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid. Links to full speech below.

Talk on Salman FarsiINTRODUCTION

We are speaking today about what brought Salman Al Farsi (as) from a village near Isfahan, deep in the Persian Empire, to the top of the date palm in Medina to hear the news of Rasuulu-Llaah (sal) and from there to become one of Rasuulu-Llaah’s (sal) most trusted companions and advisors, and from there a teacher of the tabaceen.  As you listen to this dars today, I ask you to contemplate and reflect on your own spiritual history. Through this contemplation, one can begin to get a sense of what the inner journey really is. Through this reflection, we begin to understand how and where Allah’s Will and our will may meet. There, in that meeting, you can begin to understand why you were brought into this universe and what your purpose here is, how to travel through the different maqaams (stations) of yaqeen (certainty) that are necessary to achieve nearness to Allah (Swt), which in translation means awareness of His Presence.

PEOPLE OF MYSTERIES

IO Islamic 3442Salman Al Farsi (as) is known to be one of the people of mysteries, people of Truth, those who know Reality, who know that what is hidden can be found. He was a man of profound curiosity, simplicity, sincerity, humility, loyalty, passion, sensitivity, patience, and trustworthiness. But how did he become such a man? There are many different stories about his life—some commonly told stories (which I will return to), and other, less common stories. Some say his name was Dastur Dinyar, a Zoroastrian priest, and one of the long-lived wise men of the world, that he was one of the three Magians who traveled to the birth of Jesus some 600 years before the Prophet Muhammad (sal), and that he was only later known as Salman Al Farsi (as).

THE STORY OF THE SEEKER

We see from this first part of the story that Salman (as) was drawn to spiritual matters even at a young age.  For many of us who have chosen this journey, this is a story that we can identify with. Some know, even at an early age, that they have a mysterious yearning, asking questions others did not ask and that no one could answer – this was certainly my experience from the age of 10, 12 years of age – having attraction to places far away, and desires to express thoughts others did not have. We found ourselves, at times, strangers in a strange land, seeing beauty in ways other than just material, seeing that a special attraction and light shone from life itself.

My own story was of a mystical night at the age of 10, lying under the stars and being overwhelmed by their magnitude, distance, nearness, beauty—something near and far, something I could see and feel but not touch, a knowingness without really knowing or understanding, a hint of something real just out of reach. The journey, a life journey to separate the real from the unreal, the wheat from the chaff, the emotional from the jadhb, the essence from the nessence began for me in that moment.  I remember that I couldn’t stay there very long; it was overpowering.  It was too much. I couldn’t stand it – it was too painful.  I couldn’t understand it – it was too much to grasp.   So I got up and went back to the house.  Now, it is 61 years later, and I still remember the story and the feeling quite vividly.

UNDERSTANDING THE DEEPER MEANINGS

Throughout this story we hear the theme of hubb (love) and jadhb (attraction).  This is the foundation of our journey.  This is the foundation of the journey of the Sufi, of the Family of the Prophet (sal), and of the land of Sidna Ali (as). Salman Al-Farsi (as) was attracted to the Prophet (sal) across thousands of miles and across the barriers of country, culture, religion, and languages.  The Truth called him, and he answered the call. We may ask, and not really understand, why he (or others) would suffer so much for love, suffer so much in the search for Truth. How can we relate to that in our own lives?  Every one of us here today is so privileged. What hardship have we borne in our journey for the truth?  What have we given up along the way?  Many poets and Sufi masters have written on the hardships of the journey of love….

There are obviously linkages between personal effort and knowledge, between love and sacrifice, between patience and reward. Even when we don’t have the will, even when we don’t have the discipline, we can still yearn for that knowledge. That which comes through a heart is very pure.  There are great mysteries imparted into the hearts of those who are seeking. The key to the door of those mysteries is patience and perseverance through every test, as exemplified in the story of Salman Al Farsi (as).

 HIS ROLE IN THE LIFE OF THE PROPHET

Mosque Salman al-Farsi, Battle of Trench, Medina

Mosque Salman al-Farsi, Battle of Trench, Medina

Salman Al Farsi (as) was not just a follower of the Prophet; he was also an advisor. He embraced Islam and embraced the shar’īah, and was quickly brought within the fold of the Prophet Muhammad (sal). He becomes a close friend of the Prophet (sal) and his son-in-law, Sidna Ali (as). The Prophet (sal) said, “It was said in the revelation received by me that Paradise more impatiently desires the presence of Salman, than Salman wishes to go there. He is my intimate friend and advisor, as well as to all Muslims. Salman is one of my family.”  As we can see from this hadith, Salman (as) is someone who was deeply valued by Rasuulu-Llaah (sal).  He was an advisor, a guide, a logician, a tactician. He had seen the efficacy of different paths. He had lived as a Magian (Zoroastrian), as a Christian, and with the Jews. He had traveled and had many experiences and teachers.  He is favored with this knowledge, but it’s a special favor of Allah he has chosen. It is the mercy and the blessing, the nicmah, of Allah (Swt).

FINAL LESSONS OF THE HEART

The final lesson we can learn from Salman Al Farsi (as)—today at least—is the lesson of how he continued on after the life of the Prophet (sal).  Salman (as), after being a student of Prophet (sal), becomes a student of Abu Bakr (as), his last teacher.  Then after Abu Bakr (as) he migrates away and becomes a leader and teacher of the tabaceen.  Salman  (as) became known as “Salman the Good.” He was a scholar who lived a rough and ascetic life. He had one cloak that he wore and one that he slept on. He would not seek the shelter of a roof but stayed under a tree or against a wall.

CONCLUSION

Remember to do everything and anything to take advantage of every moment.  Remember that every single moment of every single day and night of our life, Allah (Swt) is filling our life with Rahmat/Mercy, and Fadl is showered upon our hearts. Make the prayer of the night.  Make the du’aa.  Make the prayer of the day.  Make that du’aa.  The night has come upon us. Allah (Swt) is enjoining us to announce our presence, to say we are ready, to say, “Labaik, labaik, allahumma labaik.”  Don’t just say it in Mecca. Allah’s attributes are endless, and sustained. He is present in the ocean of hidayah. He is always al-Haadi the Guiding force, He is always ar-Raheem. Whatever your state, He is still with you as the Divine Presence and the Divine Attributes and more. When we go against His command, no matter how bad and crude a sin we commit, He comes to you as at-Tawab, the Grantor and Acceptor of Repentance.

Discover more from Shaykh Rashid’s talk on the Salman Farsi  (alayhi-s-salaam) in the following venues:

  1. Download full transcript : (pdf)
  2. Listen to and/or download the audio file: (mp3)
  3. View the video:

Understanding the stories of Al-Khidr (as)To those who faithfully believe, Allah gives some special knowledge of the Unseen.  These people exist throughout history as messengers, as guides, seen and unseen by us, past and present, and among us.   These unseen friends and helpers of Allah are recognized in Qur’an and Hadith, and we are guided to call out to them for help.  We are gathered here today to speak about one of the greatest of these great servants of Allah, someone known by many names, a hand of guidance that can be found in the pages of many spiritual traditions:  Al-Khidr, the Green One.   

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SPEECH ON Al-Khidr (as) by Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid. Links to full speech below.

INTRODUCTION

We say that the knowledge of all things, the known and the unknown, belongs to Allah. At the same time, He has established that there are those to whom special knowledge is given: faithful believers, messengers, saints, shuyukh. We have to choose to be of those guided to that knowledge. We have to remember that this is a choice to be made every moment of the day – eventually; continuously and constantly – to remember to remember. So many of the subjects you will hear today you have heard before, many of the admonitions, but framed in the story of whatever we know, or don’t know, or cannot know about Al-Khidr.

WHO IS THE GREEN ONE?

Literally, Al-Khidr means, “green one,” which represents what is fresh and new and eternal, the source of life. There are many stories about how he acquired that appellation…  In Sufic tradition, Khidr has come to be known as one of the afrād, those “who receive illumination direct from God without human mediation.” He is the hidden initiator of those who walk the mystical path, like some of those from the Uwaisi Tareeqa. Uwaisis are those who “enter the mystical path without being initiated by a living master.” Instead, they begin their mystical journey either by following the guiding light of the teachings of the earlier masters, or by being “initiated by the mysterious prophet-saint, Khidr.” 

IN SEARCH OF THE TEACHER

www.khidr.org/

www.khidr.org/

The story of Musa and Al-Khidr begins with Musa traveling in search of Khidr.  But what inspired that search for knowledge? The Prophet Musa was already the leader of his people; yet he becomes a student, a seeker of greater knowledge on a journey that humbles and challenges him…  Musa is willing to travel as long and as far as it takes to find the one whose wisdom is greater than his. Some say the phrase “go on for ages” meant “a year” in the dialect of the place.  Abdullah ibn Amr said it meant 80 years, and Mujahid said 70 years.  Ibn Abbas said it meant lifetimes.  “I am seeking the meeting place of the two seas,” is symbolic of the place where perfect knowledge exists, the place where esoteric knowledge and exoteric knowledge meet. Musa  represents the exoteric knowledge, and Khidr the esoteric knowledge. So the meeting of the two oceans was both literal and symbolic.

THE GIVING OF BAYcAT

When Musa a finally finds Khidr, he asks to follow him and become his student.  We don’t know if he was there when Musa was there the first time, and Musa a just didn’t see him, or if he showed up conveniently when they returned.  Obviously, he had knowledge that they were not going to be there at the first time they stopped, or they wouldn’t see him.  For people of tareeqah, this is often seen as the first example of the giving of baycat, and one of several places in Qur’an that exemplifies and supports this practice. We can see the importance of this practice from the very existence of Al-Khidr, from his role in the story, and from that fact that even the prophets of Allah sought out a teacher (in the form of Al-Khidr) to facilitate understanding of the Unseen and refinement of his character.

 THE TEACHINGS OF AL-KHIDR

Despite the fact that Musa was a prophet, and he carried the Divine law from Allah to humanity, it still did not give him the subtle knowledge known to one who has become the direct recipient and instrument of Allah. Musa is shown all these events, shown how Allah responds to circumstances in order to benefit His creation, redirecting circumstances, using His servant as an instrument to accomplish his intended purpose. Through Khidr, Musa is given a lesson of the vast knowledge of Allah: how subtle it is, how momentary it can be, how specific and also how universal; how you can see it in one moment and forget it in the next.  As a prophet, Musa is already wise, but the story of Musa and Al-Khidr tells us that even with wisdom,  we don’t understand every inner meaning.

LEARNING TO ACCEPT THE INNER MEANINGS

There are many things we can learn today from this story: some of them are about paradoxes, confusion, and chaos.  What appears to be loss might be gain. What appears to be gain might be loss. What appears to be wealth might be eventually poverty. What appears to be poverty might be safety. What appears to be illness might lead to health. The momentary appearance of cruelty might be a mercy for a larger number of people.  In other words, Allaahu caalim (Allah knows best).  Allah’s wisdom transcends all human capability for understanding.

TRAVELING IN THE HOMELAND

The Sufi draws many practical lessons from the stories of Al-Khidr.  Among these is the second principle of the Naqshbandiyya Order: safar dar watani / journeying in one’s homeland. As I have said, Al-Khidr is known as the Wanderer, the ever-traveling Dervish.  When Musa wished to study with him, he had to travel to the place where he would meet him.  And, rather than stay in one place as a student, he became Al-Khidr’s traveling companion, traveling across the land and sea to the various circumstances that they encounter. There’s an implication in the idea of travel that is a divergence from the common idea of living an ascetic life and being a spiritual individual. The outward journey through the world serves as a mirror for the traveler. There are a myriad of analogies and statements about the dimension of meditation, and the levels one goes through in each latifa, and in each transmission, and how everything in the outer reflects the inner, and everything in the inner reflects the outer.  This is a core of our teaching.

CHOOSING THE SPIRITUAL WAY

The first step on this inner journey to knowledge and understanding of the secrets of the unseen world is turning one’s attention away from the pursuits of the outer and diving into the inner journey.  In many stories and traditions, it is the voice of Al-Khidr, the hatif (or invisible caller) that directs those with potential to remember the inner journey. During a trip to Damascus with Ibrahim Ibn Adham, along with Yusef Ghusuli and Abdullah Sinjari, he asked Ibn Adham, “O Abu Ishaq!  Tell me about your beginning in this matter (meaning Sufism), and how did it come to be?” (Story related in full in transcript and talk).

We hear in this story the theme I began with of calling on help from the Unseen.  We hear also of the difficulty of the journey.  The speaker, who had clearly already achieved great wisdom, called out to Allah out of a feeling of being forsaken in solitude; yet, it was in his solitude that he found reliance on Allah.  As Ishaq al Balki reports, “My father related to me that he once asked Ibrahim Ibn Adham, ‘Advise me.’ He said, ‘Take Allah as your companion, and leave people aside.’” We see from the story that it is not always easy to turn away from this world and toward the inner.  The man in the story was a prince, surrounded by all the wealth and pleasures of this world, intent on riding and hunting. At first he fled from the voice of Al-Khidr, from the voice saying “‘By Allah, you were not created for this, nor was this what you were commanded to do.”

LESSONS FOR THE MUREED (Rules of Discipleship)

How do we begin to cross these obstacles (as Ibrahim Ibn Adham put it) on the journey? We need to strive to be in the presences of those who are wise and know more than us: the shuyukh. For Sufis and seekers on the Path, the story of Musa and Khidr has a very special importance.  It is the model of one who seeks and follows a teacher.  It holds many specific lessons on conduct for the mureed, or would-be mureed.  The conditions of conduct that are required, necessary even, for all of us mureeds have been stated in many different ways over the centuries.  These conditions are numerous, but some of the most important ones are as follows. (The Shaykh then relates expounds upon 6 Duties).

CONCLUSION: CALLING THROUGH THE UNSEEN

I began today by reminding you that Al-Khidr is the first among the unseen beings and guides who are among us, guides and helpers who we are encouraged to call up on for help.  I will end by returning to this instruction, as a practical and daily way we can open our self to the constant flow of knowledge and assistance of Allah that is available, flowing to us.  We may think that having a relationship to the unseen world is just for saints and mystics.  But the truth is we all have a relationship with the unseen world, every day.

 Discover more from Shaykh Rashid’s talk on the Al Khidr  (alayhi-s-salaam) in the following venues:
  1. Download full transcript : (pdf)
  2. Listen to and/or download the audio file: (mp3)
  3. View the video:

The Prophet Muhammad (sal) and the other prophets we are discussing in this series were all sent to re-balance their communities, and hence our world. They are not just bringing a message; they are contravening this misbalance, ignorance, and savagery that exist in the world to this day, as we know.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SPEECH ON THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD (sal) by Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid. Links to full speech (pdf) below.

Hilya describing the Prophet Mohammad (as) - Hafiz OsmanINTRODUCTION

Understanding the significance of the Nur-i-Muhammad is critical to understanding our life, our purpose, and our responsibilities. Indeed, it is critical to understanding Islam and the role of the Prophet Muhammad (sal) in both our individual lives and in the collective history of humanity.  While many think they can understand or explain the Nur-i-Muhammad, there is a kind of mystical veil over this unique reality.  When we begin to understand the meaning of this light, we can begin to understand why the Prophet Muhammad (sal)  is the seal of the prophets, the first and the last, the bridge between all the previous traditions and all the future teachings.

TRADITION OF THE NUR-I-MUHAMMAD

I would like to take some more time to tell you about the significance and traditions around the Nur-i-Muhammad. Unlike the life and physical presence of the Prophet (sal), which is no longer accessible to us, the Nur-i-Muhammad continues to emanate through our lives and our universes, and thus is accessible and relevant to us, here today, and every day, every moment.

For Islamic scholars, this light is of more than a mere symbol. According to some accounts, when Allah created Adam, He placed on Adam’s forehead a pearl-like light, which shone like a sun in daytime and like a moon in nighttime. This light was passed on to his pregnant wife Hawa and then on to Seth. The father and the mother of Prophet Muhammad were the final link of the light, which had passed from a hundred people, fifty of whom were male, and the other fifty female.

NUR-I-MUHAMMAD:  A MERCY TO MANKIND

What is the nature of Allah’s Mercy?  It has the same qualities of Nur-i-Muhammad.  It is a light you can access, or not access, but is always there.  It is the eternal light from which you can light endless candles. It never gets smaller or diminishes. The essence of Allah, just like the rays of the sun, borrows from the essence, or they borrow from the reality of the existence of the sun. You can follow the rays back to the source of light in the sky.   In that same way, all mysticism, i.e. Tasawwuf, is a return to the treasure of the name ar-Rahmaan ar-Raheem, which is the beginning of light and which is the first name, the manifest name of the Prophet Muhammad’s light.

FLASHES OF LIGHT: MOMENTS AND EXAMPLES

pearl-of-light

The Prophet (sal) manifested the essential character (fitrah) of the human being.  It is “the natural disposition or inborn, intuitive ability to discern between right and wrong, true and false, not to be influenced by circumstance, and [thus] to sense God’s existence and oneness.” (Asad 621)  In so doing, he drew forth the essential character of the individuals who came into contact with him. Like a magnet, the fitrah in the light of the Prophet Muhammad is drawn out of us.  Through his hubb, he evoked and continues to evoke the habbaa—the seeds of Allah —planted in us.

FINDING THE LIGHT

Light is the essential reality of substance that we can identify with Allah.  Outside of the attributes that we are familiar with in the calam al khalq is the light from the calam al amr. We would be very unaware of light, if it were light all the time. We need darkness to wake up to the light.  This light is what distinguishes the true from the untrue, the real from the false, the good from the bad, the arrogant from the truly powerful.  It is the substance of Divine truth.  When we see it expressed, it is the creative power of that truth.  We see expressed in the physical forms, and even in our human life.

ILLUMINATION OF THE HEART

The suurah of light gives us one of the beautiful metaphors in Qur’an on the essence of the Nur-i-Muhammad. When this light starts shining upon the regions of the heart, the lamp of the heart gets lit. The light has a special effect. When it is lit, there are certain parts of the heart that provide spiritual desire to return to Allah, sayr ilaa-Llaah.  Lighting these little fires or lights in the heart is like lighting the lamp in a niche.  One touch of the awliyaa’ Allah, or wali, or shaykh can awaken the Nur-i-Muhammad in us.

SEEING WITH AND THROUGH LIGHT

Basir an-nur means seeing with the inner light. In that light, one sees and understands and comprehends the spiritual essence, the spiritual meaning of things.  One no longer understands just the outer meaning, but one also understands the inner meaning of things.  What is and what has yet to become, becomes consciously distinguished.  One becomes aware that they have attained a glimpse, a moment. We call it an An:  a period of time with the Truth, al-Haqq.  All of these names and attributes are moments. Light or illumination is both the means by which Allah communicates this knowledge, and is also the gift of His own essence. The bearer of news brings news, and IS the news.  The messengers came, and they bore a message, but the Prophet Muhammad (sal), as the Nur-i-Muhammad, IS the message.  The message and the messenger are one.

LIGHT IN OUR HEARTS

We can love many things, but if we understand our self, we can understand the meaning of the light of Rasuulu-Llaah in our life.  And we can understand the reality of that light, and begin to see that light everywhere.   Then we begin to understand. That light will take the form of many things. But we will know that when it took the form of Rasuulu-Llaah, it became possible for the human being to take a journey outward and inward toward the Divine Light.  From Him we came, and to Him we return, and in Him we live and die.

Discover more from Shaykh Rashid’s talk on the Prophet Muhammad  (alayhi-s-salaam) in the following venues:

  1. Download full transcript : (pdf)
  2. Listen to and/or download the audio file: (mp3)
  3. View the video:

Previous Talks in this series:

May 19, 2013The Prophet Isa (as)

Mar 17, 2013: The Prophet Musa (as)

Feb 3, 2013: The Prophet Ibrahiim (as)

Dec 2012: The Prophet Nuh (as)

Nov 2012: Adam and Hawa (as)

“As we speak today about the Prophet Isa (as), we acknowledge that there are many ways of looking at him and that he represents many things to many people.  At the same time, as is the case with each prophet, there is a great deal of misunderstanding and misrepresentation of this prophet, cultural ‘baggage’ that has been accepted as true and undeniable. I will not attempt to outline those today; rather, I will stay to my purpose in these duruus, to point out the relevance of his (Isa’s as) life to all human beings: past, present and future, insh’Allah.”- Shaykh A.A. Rashid

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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SPEECH ON THE PROPHET ISA (as) by Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid. Links to full speech (pdf) below. 

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Time, place, person, and circumstance reveal a great deal to the seeker as each of us tries or should try to place our self in those contextual forms.  The lives of these Ambiyaa’ are best understood if and when we progress enough in our own spiritual journey to fulfill our inner and outer duties, in respect to this world we inhabit and interact within.  In other words, it’s hard to understand until you can understand.  Isa’s (as) teaching is fresh and different; he exemplifies not only faith but love, not only submission but also courage, not only compassion but forgiveness.  These become the cornerstone to the teachings and life of the Prophet Muhammad, his mission of akhlaaq, and comprehensive inclusive teaching, not for just family or community, or tribe, but for all humanity while still respecting the faith and practices of others. This is a quantum leap in prophecy.

MIRACULOUS BIRTH

Much attention and debate is put in today’s world on this event of the miraculous conception as some kind of watershed between the rational and scientific and those of faith and belief, and those who scorn faith and belief.  But as Muslims and Sufis, we understand that we can be both rational and faith-full.  Maryam (as) herself was incredulous when she received this message from Jibreel (as), but her piety prepared her, in more ways than one, to be the “bearer” of the Messenger.

ADAB, THE FRUIT OF LOVE

maryam-mother of isa

One of the common factors among the ambiyaa’ is a perfected adab.  This can be seen clearly in Prophet Isa (as), who is also known as the Prophet of Love. To understand adab, we have to understand love. This is a little convoluted, but I want you to try to grasp it. If we are to understand adab, we have to understand love. The sustaining of adab, over time, through all challenges, is the fruit of mahabbat/Divine love.  It’s not just to have love for one moment, or adab in one circumstance.  It’s the sustaining of it that is the fruit of mahabbat. The fruit of mahabbat sustains adab, and the seeds of mahabbat preserve adab. If a person is to have true adab, they have to have Divine love.  If they are to promote or uplift the character of human beings, then they have to have mahabbat. It is such love that we see as all-inclusive in the life of the Prophet Muhammad (sal). We see that kind of deep love for the Divine in both the Prophet Isa (as)  and his mother—a love that manifests as service and grace and nobility, self-sacrifice, loneliness, personal fulfillment, personal loss, a love that gives healing and breeds self-less sacrifice.

LEADING BY EXAMPLE

The Prophet Muhammad (sal) accepted many distinct roles of religious, social, political, and even military leadership.  When we look at the Prophet Isa (as), we can see that in a traditional model of the teacher he led primarily by example. The Prophet Isa (as) was an exemplar in adab, in remembrance of Allah, and in service to his community.  Although his birth was a message from Allah, it wasn’t until he was around thirty years old that Allah : activated the Revelation of Prophethood to Isa (as) and he began to teach.

The prophet IsaTHE TEACHINGS OF THE PROPHET ISA (AS)

In our heart we can seek the spiritual wealth, not the wealth of this world. This is the spiritual poverty of the faqeer. To be of the fuqahaa’ is to find the spiritual wealth before material wealth. Prophet ‘Isa (as) also said that there is another kind of spiritual poverty—one that we should seek. He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,  for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) What did He mean? We must be humble in our spirit. In other words, when we come to Allah, we must realize our spiritual emptiness and not be self-satisfied, thinking we don’t really need Allah .

THE ADAB OF LISTENING

One of the greatest adabs is the adab of listening.  This is the first adab of every prophet.  Every prophet must be quiet enough—inside and out—to hear, to hear the revelation, to hear the message of Allah, to hear the response to his call.  This is the adab that the Prophet Isa (as) displayed and fostered in others—from his birth, when he first spoke and created a context for listening; and in the years of his prophethood, when he traveled and spoke and listened to the poor, and sick, and downtrodden.

INNER REFLECTIONS OF THE AMBIYAA

If we want to understand something more inward about Prophet Isa (as), something more than his life and the differences between himself and between Christianity and Islam, a good place to look is Ibn Araby (raa). His perspective is fairly basic:  that each of the saints /walis of Allah, all of the shuyukh (all of the awliyaa’u-Llaah), take their maqaam at some point from one of the prophets.  We look at it vis-a-vis the lataa’if.  Each lateefah has a prophet, and a color, etc. Prophet Adam, Prophet Enoch, Prophet Ibrahim, Prophet Daoud, Prophet Musa, the Prophet Isa, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon all of them) all have their identities with one of the previous prophets.

DEATH, ASCENSION and RETURN

Just as with his miraculous birth, the end of his life is also known only by Allah and must be accepted on faith.  Rather than conjecture and doubt about what is possible, what is logical, or “what really happened,” we are shown by Allah a way of Truth that is part of a great and miraculous universe, greater than our comprehension.  If we leave this story with nothing but the understanding that we cannot fully understand, we’ve understood something very important. When we look with eyes that see at the universe around us, we see miracles all around us. We begin to understand that the birth of every healthy child is a miracle, the last breath of every person a gift, food on our table each day a blessing and sign from Allah.  Do the explanations of science or logic or history make those miracles any less miraculous?

THE TEMPLATE FOR TRUST

These prophets represent a dynamic, living process. There is no quid pro quo in the dunya. There is no redemptive suffering.  One changes because of their own will, their own submission to Allah, their own good actions, their own faith, their own trust.  There is no savior.  We have to understand that when we are looking at the Prophet ‘Isa (as) and the Prophet Muhammad (sal), we are looking at people, but we are also looking at what they believe. Until you know why you believe what you believe, until you understand why these prophets are linked together and why the Prophet (sal) is the final prophet, [you will not understand] that the onus of all spirituality lays on us.  It is not that Allah is absent, but Allah becomes present through our shuyukh and through other awliyaa’u-Llaah. 

Discover more from Shaykh Rashid’s talk on the Prophet Isa (calayhi-s-salaam)  in the following venues:

  1. Download full transcript :  (pdf)
  2. Listen to and/or download the audio file: (mp3)
  3. View the video:


Previous Talks in this series:

Mar 17, 2013: The Prophet Musa (as)

Feb 3, 2013: The Prophet Ibrahiim (as)

Dec 2012: The Prophet Nuh (as)

Nov 2012: Adam and Hawa (as)

Al Mahdi (alayhi-s-salaam) and the other prophets we are discussing in this series were all sent to re-balance their communities, and hence our world. They are not just bringing a message; they are contravening this misbalance, ignorance, and savagery that exist in the world to this day, as we know.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SPEECH ON AL MAHDI (as). LINKS TO THE FULL SPEECH BELOW.

mahdi.bgRasuulu-Llaah (sal) gave clear signs that will herald the arrival of al-Mahdi (as). The hadith on this issue leave no room for rejecting or even doubting his coming.  Some culamaa’ have claimed that the signs can be seen and that the time is near; some even speculate that he is already born.  However, most Muslims tend to assume that these events will take place sometime beyond our lifetime—just like the stories of the Prophets we have studied in this series

The Story

Unlike every other story of human history that recounts the events and people of the past, the story of al-Mahdi (as) is a story of the future.  This story has been complied, often in great detail, mainly from the hadith of Rasuulu-Llaah (sal) and teachings of the Sahabah.

The Truth in Stories

Stories are told for a reason: to draw examples, moral, ethical, visual metaphors, associations, to offer historical relevance, to remember, to inspire, to warn and to admonish. A story may be true or fictional, but even a fictional story draws heavily from truth; and even fantasy draws from real hopes and possibilities, possibilities of courage, super heroic characters and super evil ones. In that sense every story has elements of “non-fiction,” and every “non-fiction” story has some elements of fiction in it.   How much of a ‘real life’ is really ever known? After all, who can enter the mind and heart of another?  We assume based on our own minds, values, perceptions, hearts loves, fears, clarity or confusion.

Sign of the Times

As we hear and reflect on these signs and hadith, we must not forget the greater picture and paradigm, which encompasses the issue of time once again, our perceptions of time, of immanence and of anticipation.  We must try to grasp this slippery topic of time. What is meant by Rasuulu-Llaah’s teaching that the final days are ‘soon,’ ‘near,’ ‘immanent’? I have spoken for many years on this subject of time—zaman, or linear time; and waqt, the vertical time of seizing the moment (an), a doorway to a timeless time, wherein there is simultaneity. Perhaps the Mahdi has come in one universe and not in another. Perhaps the last moments of linear time can be stretched out for centuries.  Time belongs to Allah; we cannot understand all its mysteries.

The Journey from Knowledge to Remembrance

mahdi-doorway

Why did our Prophet (sal) take the time to share in such great detail the signs of the end and events of the future?  No other Prophet before him gave such detail about what was to come after his passing. Certainly, the coming of Mahdi (as) and Dajjal was mentioned by many prophets since the time of Adam (as), but only Rasuulu-Llaah (sal) left us with this detailed story filled with signs and instructions.

Seeking the Mahdi or Shifting the Paradigm

In a cosmic or quantum sense, the coming of the Mahdi (as) represents a paradigm shift, a shift from a paradigm of war and oppression, poverty, greed, and inequality to a paradigm of peace, prosperity, unity, and security.  I have spoken before about the quantum paradigm shift—we all must put our drop in the ocean, however small, and at some time one of those drops will fill the ocean, break the dykes, and flood the world with the shift toward peace and equality.  Only Allah can see the whole ocean, so only Allah knows when “full” is “full,” when the time is right for a shift in paradigm.

 Affirming our Inner Commitment

Tariqa is that path, the steps upon which one begins to understand the nuances of life, outer and inner, and is the means to make us to cAbda-Llaah. Once one becomes cAbda-Llaah, we are no longer anxious as to whether Mahdi is going to come one year from now, in our lifetime, or tomorrow, because we are already an cAbda-Llaah. These stories, warnings, admonitions are all a potential means of introduction to Allah every day, with every breath, you know that Allah might take your life, and that knowledge is more immanent than when Mahdi (as) is going to come, when Dajjal is going to appear, or if Judgment Day is next week.

Signs of the Dajjal

Hadith attributed to the Prophet (sal) give many signs of the appearance of the Dajjal, and exhorted his followers to recite the first and last ten verses of Surah al-Kahf, as protection from the trials and mischief of the Dajjal. Among those signs of the Dajjal are:  “People will stop offering the prayers, dishonesty will be the way of life, falsehood will become a virtue, people will mortgage their faith for worldly gain, usury and bribery will become legitimate, blood of innocents would be shed, the rulers will be corrupt, the scholars will be hypocrites…” and the list continues.

Can we see the signs around us? From the time of the Prophet (sal), all the minor dajjals of the age have appeared to create the confusion, to effect destruction and chaos that some would say lays the ground work for the final dajjal to come.

Conclusion: Preparing for Safety and Security

From the time of Hazrat Adam (as) until the time of the Mahdi (as), all human beings have the opportunity to choose good over evil (macruf and munkar) under the protection of the Rahmat of Allah. The Message of the Compassionate and Merciful dominates and there is choice.  But at the time of the Mahdi (as), warnings become reality; humanity becomes accountable for our action and choices, not only personally but collectively.

Discover more from Shaykh Rashid’s talk on Al Mahdi (alayhi-s-salaam) in the following venues:

  1. Download full transcript : (pdf)
  2. Listen to and/or download the audio file: (mp3)
  3. View the video:

Sidna Musa (alayhi-s-salaam) and the other prophets we are discussing in this series were all sent to re-balance their communities, and hence our world.  They are not just bringing a message; they are contravening this misbalance, ignorance, and savagery that exist in the world to this day, as we know.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SPEECH ON THE PROPHET MUSA (calayhi-s-salaam).  Link to full speech (pdf) below.

INTRODUCTION

Getty Images

The modern day story of Egypt is, in some ways, a reminder of the story of ancient Egypt and the struggles of Musa (calayhi-s-salaam) to overcome evil.  When people stand in the streets in defiance of the tyrants, or on their knees praying—not extremists but moderate Muslims—they are calling out to Allah to assist them, to open a way where there was no way before.  This revolution brought new life into an old land.  But instead of leaving it with hope, it has given in to entropy, corruption, and further economic and social hardship for many, many people. While the modern “Pharaoh” now continues to live where the ancient Pharaohs are buried, the contrasts are stunning: poverty in Imbaba contrasted with incredible wealth in “Sixth of October City”, and a disappearing middle class. Certainly, it is a preamble to what is happening in other parts of the world including the United States.  And yet a few good people continue to struggle to carry on the message of justice and freedom. 

LESSONS OF THE PAST

We will see today, as we discuss the Prophet Musa (calayhi-s-salaam) that the true Prophets succeed in understanding humility, in deference, and in walking gingerly and attentively through their life, with piety and repentance. Who rules, what are the rules of a civil Civil Society is a series of talks I am giving now in other venues, but it is clear that Qur’an provides such guidance on who rules, how they should be chosen, why we should obey the ruler, and when they should not be obeyed. Political leadership is not something that is inherited or automatically conferred on the basis of class or wealth. We see from the Qur’an that the Prophets waged struggles against three types of people.  Personified in the story of Musa and Pharaoh, the three are “…the symbols for the ruling elite, the corrupt administrators, and the phenomenally rich who work together to accumulate power, thwart distribution of wealth, and subjugate and marginalize most of society.”  So what these Prophets achieved or strove to achieve millenniums ago we have yet to do in our own time.

THE BEGINNINGS OF FAITH

Discovery of Moses- Paul Delaroche (c.1857)

Discovery of Moses- Paul Delaroche (c.1857)

Nowhere in this story of Musa’s mother, Youkabed, as recounted by Qur’an, does it say that it was easy for her, or that she didn’t have doubts.  In fact, we are specifically told of the aching void of her heart, and that she had so much doubt and anxiety that she almost betrayed her son and Allah. What can we learn from this example? We are cared for; but we have to move toward Allah before He comes running toward us.  Taking that first step is the most important. For Youkabed, that first step was a big one.  Taking that first step, spiritually, under any circumstance, is always the most difficult one.  When you do take it, Allah takes care of the rest.

Many of us should contemplate whether we have ever really taken the first step in trusting Allah. There are many “first steps” in our lives: the first step toward seeking out the truth; the first step toward getting healthy, or losing weight in the proper way; the first step toward getting a job; the first step toward healing a wound; the first step toward asking for forgiveness, or toward forgiving.  It’s always the first step that is most difficult. When you trust in Allah, He will give you the strength and the perseverance to remain patient.

JOURNEYS WITHIN JOURNEYS

This early life experience of Musa (calayhi-s-salaam) and the choices his mother made introduce a theme that we see repeated over and over in the life of the Prophet Musa (calayhi-s-salaam), for virtually all the Prophets, a theme of trial, test, trust, and ultimate submission. Sidna Musa (calayhi-s-salaam) must trust Allah, not knowing how things will turn out.  He is instructed to follow Allah, without knowing what the consequences will be; he must quiet his questioning mind, and trust that what doesn’t make sense to him, what looks wrong or illogical is right, because it is by Allah’s will.  This is the lesson that the Guide Khidr is sent to teach him.  This is the attitude he must adopt when he sees a bush burning in the desert.  This is the trust he must achieve when he goes to Pharaoh, the god-like ruler of Egypt to tell him he is a tyrant (and remember he is not going to a stranger). And this is the complete submission and humility he must have felt as he is leading his people, pursued by an entire army.  They reach the sea, with nowhere to run or hide as far as the eye can see—[and there is] trust in and submission to Allah’s plan.

FACING OUR INNER PHARAOH

220px-Musa_with_a_cane_in_his_handAgain and again, Musa (calayhi-s-salaam) must face his fears, his fear of death (like his fear of Pharaoh), and his need for proof in conflict with his trust and duty.  When he is ordered by Allah to face Pharaoh, first he says he is afraid.  He can’t go back to Egypt, because he killed someone and, “I fear they will kill me.”  When Allah addresses that fear, he expresses another fear, that he will be inarticulate and the people will deny him and ridicule him:

In some sense, what the Prophets do is to show us how to face our fears and overcome them.  Certainly, the Prophet Ibrahim (calayhi-s-salaam) had to face his fears and overcome them.   The Prophet Nuh (calayhi-s-salaam) had to face the flood and the fear of the loss of his community and family.  Hazrat Adam (calayhi-s-salaam) had to face the human fear of mortality, and Prophet Muhammed came down from the mountain shaking and fearful.  But from this experience, he gives strength to others, because he found his strength within his soul, his faith, his heart, based on trust.

 

WHAT ARE WE STRIVING FOR? INNER AND OUTER FREEDOM

As we listen to these stories today, we should ask, “What is it I am supposed to learn, and how can I change myself?” We are conditioned to believe that the enemy is outside of us, when the enemy is inside of us, really. It’s our own fears and our own desires. We felt the enemy had power over us, but that is just an illusion.  That is the lesson that Sidna Musa had to learn.  He thought the enemy as Pharaoh, but it was really his fear of Pharaoh that was the enemy.  The real battle was to overcome his own fears and weaknesses, alone on the mountain.  The enemy is inside of us, and all the external enemies are only a manifestation of our own internal enemies. They are projections. If we want to conquer the enemies of disease, poverty, fear, and doubt, then we have to conquer what’s inside of us, the breeding ground for those feelings. We have to find the will to breed the good feelings and the truth, not the dis-ease and the viruses.

CONCLUSION:

The goal and message today is to trust in Allah and not be so attached to the world and worldly things, and the worldly worries, and the worldly desires, and the desires—the desires that are apparently justifiable, rational, reasonable, and just happen to be in coherence and resonance with what I want.  Of course, therefore, they make perfect sense.   Know that the spiritual life always suffers unless you put it first.  And when it suffers you forget about its value. When you forget about its value, you are no better than the Pharaoh: living to die, accumulating wealth and power, having no values or concern for others, for this creation, and for the covenant with Allah.

 Discover more from Shaykh Rashid’s talk on the Prophet Musa (calayhi-s-salaam)  in the following venues:

  1. Download full transcript : “The Prophet Musa (calayhi-s-salaam): Journey from the Mountain” (pdf)
  2. Listen to and/or download the audio file: “The Prophet Musa (as): Journey from the Mountain” (mp3)
  3. Watch the video“The Prophet Musa (as): Journey from the Mountain” (mpeg4 below)


Sidna Ibrahim (‘alayhi-s-salaam) and the other prophets we are discussing in this series were all sent to re-balance their communities, and hence our world.  They are not just bringing a message; they are contravening this misbalance, ignorance, and savagery that exist in the world to this day, as we know. HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SPEECH by Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid ON THE PROPHET IBRAHIM (as).  (Links to full speech below)

Intro to Prophet Ibrahim

ismailibrahimThe Prophet Ibrahim’s life exemplifies one who lives in complete submission and trust in Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa), one who chooses Allah over himself, over family, and even over his own life.   Who among us can say we would do that? We can see affirmation of his submission to Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa) at very key stages in his life, which also tells us something.  Throughout our lives are key crossroads, axial points.  As a young man, as a son, as a husband, and as a father, at each stage, the Prophet Ibrahim faces mortality, making choices of life and death. While it might seem to the ignorant observer that in these situations he chooses “death,” the reality is that he chooses Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa)—he chooses to obey and submit to Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa), not knowing the consequences, and accepting that it may even be death.  There is a profound subtlety of the submitted soul that can be found in his example, a theme and an attitude that I hope to explore today, both in an historical context, and as it applies to us in a practical way.

Submission and Aqeedah

This teaching of the efficacy of developing a character of faith, sacrifice, and submission is little understood in its applicability to our lives today. Few have even the ability to grasp the subtleties of establishing this as one’s disposition. Yet it is my firm belief that in our tradition, the tradition of Tasawwuf, we can both find and live the meaning and eternal metaphor for life, conscious decisions, and the interface between the inner world and outer world through the progressive establishment of such character.  I hope that we can understand from the stories and example of the Prophet Ibrahim (‘alayi-s-salām), more of what is required for us to develop the trust and trustworthiness, love and self-sacrifice needed to be the friend of the friends of Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa) and to follow, in our meager ways, in the footsteps of a True Friend of Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa).  I hope our hearts are awake enough to really appreciate the essential uniqueness of the Prophets and the sacrifices they made.

Transformative Tests

sunrise-setThe transformation from confusion to certainty, using thinking, but also using something deep and questioning inside the soul is the point…. Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa)   says that He showed the Prophet Ibrahim His dominion over Heaven and Earth so that he might be certain.  Through the Prophet Ibrahim’s own experiences—seeing the stars, the moon, the sun rise and then set—the Prophet Ibrahim graduates to a place of certainty, certainty in his belief, in his faith, and in his submission to Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa).  In this example we can take the celestial bodies (star, sun, moon) both as reality and metaphor for the transformation of his faith.  What happens in a metaphor is exactly that. Something, through some process that doesn’t look or sound exactly like it, appears to be something else.  You get an understanding of the first thing through something that doesn’t appear at all to be like it.

The Liberating Power of Sacrifice

Like Sidna Ibrahim (‘alayi-s-salām) and Sidna Ismail (‘alayi-s-salām), we too are afforded the opportunity to have faith.  We too are tested, and we too can try to rise above selfish desires to the level of love that transcends what is common and acceptable.  I hope that as we recount these stories and lessons today, you do not hear it any way other than as deeply personal.  I pray to Allah we can all apply these lessons to our life today and to our decisions tomorrow.  At some point, we are all asked to give something up, to choose what we value over what we want, to choose between our self and Allah, between this life and the next.  And like the Prophet Ibrahim (‘alayi-s-salām), sometimes the more we choose Allah, the more opportunities we are given to re-choose, to re-focus—to re-affirm our certainty.

Finding the Inner Prophet Ibrahim

many facetsThe stories of the sacrifices of Sidna Ibrahim have many facets. Remember that this is not theoretical today. We must learn to participate in the greater struggle; we must find the inner Ismail and the inner Ibrahim. We must truly understand how to see the life we have been given, and moreover to see the place we have been placed, and the service we have been receiving and giving as the greatest means to personal and spiritual, collective and individual fulfillment, maturity, and awakening.  These opportunities that we are afforded by Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa) should not be turned away from.  Don’t avert your eyes from those opportunities.  Even the smallest and seemingly most individual ways – ways that asks of us limited sacrifice, limited discomfort –  may very well be the ultimate keys to our happiness and overcoming of our most basic weaknesses.

Giving and Receiving

Striving dominates this process of perseverance, as we realize it is an impossible task in material and even metaphysical terms to actually ‘see’ Allah. We can learn to ‘see’ by the light of Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa), the Divine Presence, the light in all creation and within our self. As I have pointed out many times, this process is an inner process that results from our intention, our attitude, our practices (salah, etc.), and then manifests outwardly quite naturally as our character, caqeedah, and akhlaaq. To be an enlightened being according to the Qur’an is to be a muhsin (a doer of good).  Enlightenment? If you talk about enlightenment to a Buddhist, they say it is through suffering.  A Hindu says that it is through tapas / austerities.  But to a Muslim, it is muhsin, being a doer of good. It is recorded in this ‘aayah:

وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ دِينًا مِمَّنْ أَسْلَمَ وَجْهَهُ لِلَّهِ وَهُوَ مُحْسِنٌ وَاتَّبَعَ مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ حَنِيفًا وَاتَّخَذَ اللَّهُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ خَلِيلًا

WA MAN AHSANU DĪNAM-MIMMAN ASLAMA WA JåHAHU LI-LLĀHI WA HUWA MUHSINUÑW-WA-TTABAcA MILLATA IBåRĀHĪMA HANĪFAÑW-WA-TTAKhADhA-LLĀHU IBåRĀHĪMA KhALĪLĀ.

And who can be better in religion than one who submits his essential being to Allah; and he is a muhsin and follows the religion of Abraham—hanifa. And Allah did take Abraham as an intimate friend. (4:125)

Seizing the Small Opportunity for Sacrifice

What is sacrifice?  It wards off evil. Your willingness wards off evil.   This is the message of Sidna Ibrahim: to make a small or large sacrifice, to affirm our trust and trustworthiness, to remove a weight or a worry, to uplift a friend or a loved one, to serve our community, brothers, sisters, shuyukh. I used to rack my brain and tear my heart apart to find ways to serve my Hazrat, materially and spiritually. The material part was easier. The greatest joy I had was to relieve a burden from his heart and mind.  So please don’t discount any small sacrifice you may make.  Don’t compare it with someone else’s.  May Allah enable us all to sacrifice in His Way to the best of our ability, and to remember the depths of the story of the Prophet Ibrahim and Ismail (peace and blessings be upon them both)! Inshaa’a-Llaah, we can reach to that point each day where we wake up and realize that life is not about accumulating; it is about sacrificing, and we can re-define sacrifice without that aura of pain and loss that comes always with it.

  Discover more from Shaykh Rashid’s talk on the Prophet Ibrahim (as)  in the following venues:

  1. Download full transcript : “FAITH-FULL: The Prophet Ibrahim” (pdf)
  2. Listen to and/or download the audio file“FAITH-FULL: The Prophet Ibrahim” (mp3)
  3. Watch the video“FAITH-FULL: The Prophet Ibrahim (as)” (mpeg4 below)

Sidna Nuh (calayhi-s-salaam) and the other prophets we are discussing in this series were all sent to re-balance their communities, and hence our world.  They are not just bringing a message; they are contravening this misbalance, ignorance, and savagery that exist in the world to this day, as we know.
 
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SPEECH ON THE PROPHET NUH.  (LINKS TO THE FULL SPEECH BELOW.)
INTRODUCTION

nuh-arkWhen we affirm the transcendental reality of Allah in every circumstance, we are affirming not only His presence and His immanence, but we are also acknowledging that in this dynamic there is no limit. Whatever we understand, Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa) is more.  As far as our imagination, understanding, or acceptance can reach, Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa) is more. At the foundation of this unity, and separation from unity, lies the reason why the ambiyaa’ and the messengers were sent to this world. Each of the ambiyaa’ transcended the limitations that were surrounding them:  Sidna Musa (calayhi-s-salaam) overcomes the Pharaoh, and the worshippers of the form of the golden ram.  Daoud (calayhi-s-salaam) overcomes Goliath (Galut).  Sulayman must convince with the Queen of Sheba (Bilqis) to be a believer; Prophet Isa (calayhi-s-salaam) [must deal with] the moneylenders; and, of course, Rasuulu-Llaah brings it full circle with the destruction of the idols in the Kaaba. The final transition will be with the Mahdi, who will bring a time of peace and the end of the world.

NUH AND THE IDOL WORSHIPPERS

To understand this story is to acknowledge the perfection of Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa), [al-Alali,] the Immanent.  But it is also to experience the patience, the knowledge, and the hikmah (wisdom) of the Messenger in his interface between what is immanent and what is apparent; between the potential of the individual or community, and the reality of what they are capable of.  This is the story of the contrast between humility and arrogance, a message resounding over the millenniums. As nations rise and fall, the deaf and blind followers of idols of stone, money, power, and fame lead others over the cliff to their demise—to a flood where few survive, and even the nearest and the dearest perish. But let us begin at the beginning.

The mindset of idol worship is one in which everybody is a victim of circumstance. Its correlative today is in animism.  Good people in the jungles of South America are animists.  Their whole lives are wrapped round the signs of what is happening.  If someone gets sick, some god needs to be propitiated.  If some stranger comes, it’s a threat and they have to expiate the sin that comes along with that person, as well as the flu and all the other diseases they bring.  There’s no goal in life that the people can themselves achieve, instead the worshipper is always looking for a sign, or a promise, or some kind of response…

PROPHET NUH AND HIS MESSAGE

arkSidna Nuh (calayhi-s-salaam) was the first major messenger after the Prophet Adam (calayhi-s-salaam), and the first prophet to encounter idol worship. He was a man, a warner, and a messenger who all the three major monotheistic religions of today remember and believe in as a prophet.  He told them that idol worship created differentiation and injustice, and weakness of the mind, and warned them not to worship anyone other than Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa). The people heard him, but did not listen.

Each of the prophets and messengers have carried this same message, bringing a remembrance of the incomparability of Allah, of our Creator, while seeking to unify our awareness of our own self with something that is so much greater that it transcends our capacities to understand, leaving only a taste/dhawq of the transcendent mystery.

THE RESPONSE OF THE DISBELIEVERS

The Prophet Nuh (calayhi-s-salaam) brought this message and warning, but the people of his community responded with ignorance and pride.  Certainly, the hearts of these people were sealed; they did everything they could to demean Nuh (calayhi-s-salaam) and lower him in the eyes of the other people. “There is no compulsion in Islam. I can’t make you choose the right way; make your decision. I have placed my trust in Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa).”

The depth and breadth of this story is endless as it applies to today.  The task, the courage, the faith to trust in Allah’s will and measure ones effort (i.e. reward) in those terms alone is overwhelming, and beyond the ken of most human beings today.  By the guidance of Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa), Nuh faithfully continued his appeal for 950 years.  He continued with patience, responding to the sarcasm, and ignorance, and anger, hour after hour, day after day, month after month, year after year, century after century.  He admonishes these people and calls them to Allah secretly and openly, in groups and in private conversation. He gives them examples and explains the signs…

THE FLOOD

floodSidna Nuh (calayhi-s-salaam) saw that not only was the number of believers not increasing, but it was decreasing. Then there came a day when Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa) revealed to Nuh (calayhi-s-salaam) that no others would believe; there were no more people left to convince. No one else was going to be born, no soul was coming to the world in this period of time, that was going to believe—because Allah knows every soul.  At his point, Nuh prayed…

…Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa) accepted Nuh’s prayer. He passed judgment on the disbelievers and ordered the Flood.  In some sense, it is hard for us to understand how or why Allah—the Universally Merciful and Singularly Compassionate—would wipe out an entire community.  But we must remember that at this point, Sidna Nuh has spent almost a millennium doing absolutely everything he can for the people, and now Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa) is telling him that the only thing possible is to save those from the community who are good.

The constant warning to the warners is that there are things one cannot understand and one should not try to grasp in any way, but through the love of Allah.  Knowledge of the reasons of Allah’s decrees and actions, and of the destiny of any human being in the Hereafter is in the realm of things beyond the reach of human perception; [this knowledge is] of the ghayb (unseen world).

BUYING FLOOD INSURANCE

Throughout history we have the messengers trying to share a message, but the only people who receive that message are the ones who really want knowledge. Today, we see that most people don’t want knowledge.  The message and the struggle to understand and accept it are still here today.  Here we are again, repeating the message, and the next flood could be coming.  Maybe the flood is out there already, and people are drowning in their own ignorance and arrogance…

…When we choose compassion and mercy, or patience and tolerance over arrogance and blame, excuse-making and anger, then we are choosing to be in the Divine Presence. Then we are buying our ‘flood insurance’ that will affirm the intention of Allah for our soul, written in the Book of Destiny (Lawhi Mahfouz).

What are the inner and the outer meanings of the flood? The tendency of many westerners when they embrace the spiritual path is to make analogies, to give meaning other than just the textual, theological meaning.  We want to interpret the story of the flood; maybe we don’t want to particularly believe there really was a flood.

Try, today, to understand these things as both dhaahir and baatin.  Take them as a metaphor, but understand they were real; they actually happened. Just as the tsunami in Japan was real, or Hurricane Sandy was real. Take these things as real, and let them challenge your intellectual superiority and your academic arrogance, but also understand that it is a metaphor too for what is happening in the world today.

THE SCIENCE OF MEMORY

We often ask: how are you supposed to learn from some other person’s experience?  How can we help our children to learn from our experiences—without them having to make the same mistakes that we have made?  Similarly, Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa) has provided for us the tools to learn—in an organic way—from the trials and struggles of our forefathers, through the words and memories of the Qur’an.  This is not just metaphorical, but also a scientific, reality.  There are brain scans / MRIs that show that when a person listens to music, certain parts of their brain were stimulated in the MRI.   A similar part in their brain was stimulated when they played the piano themselves, but the piano was rigged and made no sound.  They had a memory of being present in a past event. We all have a memory of all of these events –  the 950 years of perseverance of Sidna Nuh, the flood, the Ark.   When you are in remembrance, you are actually there, chemically, in your mind…

Discover more from Shaykh Rashid’s talk on the Prophet Nuh (as)  in the following venues:

  1. Download full transcript : “The Continuing Voyage of Nuh (as)” (pdf)
  2. Listen to and/or download the audio file“The Continuing Voyage of Nuh (as)” (mp3)
  3. Watch the video“The Continuing Voyage of Nuh (as)” (mpeg4 below)