The first question we may think of when we ask the question “where?” is, “Where is Allah?” But following that question are questions like, “Where am I?”
In his fourth talk of the TASAWWUF NOW! FIVE SUNDAYS SERIES (2011-2012), Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid approaches the question“WHERE?” from different angles. Following are passages from the talk, which give you a taste of the depth and direction that he takes in addressing this vital question for all sincere seekers. We invite you to listen to the full dars via audio or video (below) or download “WHERE?” transcript (pdf).
We have all asked this Question of ‘Where’ at one time or another in some way.
Qur’an gives us very clear answers to this question:
HUWA MAcAKUM AYNA MĀ KUÑTUM. He (Allah) is with you wherever you are. (57:4)
WA LAQAD KHALAQNĀ-L-’IÑSĀNA WA NAcLAMU MĀ TUWASWISU BIHII NAFSUHU WA NAHNU AQRABU ILAYHI MIN HABLI-L-WARĪD. We created man and We know what his own self whispers to him. We are nearer to Him than his jugular vein. (50:16)
If Allah is so clearly near to us, then perhaps the better question is, “Where are we?” Why do we not remember how near Allah is? This path of life is really a process of remembrance, awakening and realization. Remembering implies that we knew something once and forgot it. Realization means there is something more to understand. What is it we have forgotten? What is it that we don’t understand? As you know, Allah gathered all our souls together in pre-eternity and asked us: Am I not your Lord?
And we said: BALĀ ShAHIDNĀ…Yes, surely we bear witness to that… (7:172)
With knowledge, the Shaykh tells us, one sees that all creation is knitted together to create a pattern of dine purpose, which is very complex and yet unified.
The nature of this tawheed / unity is such that whatever we do in one aspect has an effect on the whole. We recognize this inter-connected unity ecologically and environmentally, but most people don’t recognize it when it comes to their thoughts and actions. We tend to think we are the exception; our actions are somehow segregated from the rest of humanity, but it is not true. Even that complexity within our own self points to Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa).
It is significant to know where we are.
In seeking to understand our own place in this world, to recognize where we are and where Allah is, it is important to look again at our role as the cross-roads between dhaahir and baatin, which is the place that the heart resides. Have you ever stood in a physical place and felt it move your heart? One cannot be in a place like that and not feel your heart, not feel nearer to the presence of Allah, even if it is only for a moment. Does a specific place hold a special meaning for you because it holds a memory of a loved one? In that experience we are at the intersection of the dhaahir and baatin, surrounded by the Divine Presences and a sign of the perfection of the Divine Creation our self. There is a strong correlation between where we are in the dhaahir and where we are in the baatin.
The heart is the place to seek Allah
The heart has knowledge of reality, but the inner heart actually sees the reality. I can know about something. I know there is a city named Baghdad; but I have never seen it with my own eyes. When I see it with my own eyes, then that is a different kind of seeing. That is seeing reality through the inner sight. This is a little about the heart, but the heart is just one of the five lataa’if (subtle centers of perception) that Allah has placed in us. Each has a physical location in our body and each is a doorway to stations on the journey.
For the one who commits to traversing the path, there are signs of entering or approaching these doorways, identifying them and becoming attuned to their effect on us inwardly and outwardly. These signs are signs of progress.
As Allah says in the Hadith Qudsi:
…My servants continue to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love them. When I love them, I am the ears with which they hear, the eyes with which they see, the hands with which they strike, and the feet with which they walk.
That is how one comes to know that you are succeeding in your striving to be in the presence of Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa). It is an almost indescribable sense of knowing. One hears His words, sees in new ways, is drawn more and more to good works and toward pious and good people. Literally, one is called to Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa). When Allah calls you muraad, He has called you to awaken to His Presence.
The importance of ‘Where’ in my life (Finding Community)
Seeking the right place (and the right people) has been part of the journey of my own life. In my own search for truth I travelled to India every year at least once a year, for an extended time, for over 12 years and after that my Shaykh traveled to our Khanaqah in Bedford, every year for 20 years. Since we are speaking of ‘where’ today, I want to take a few minutes today to speak to you more about my search for the right place and the finding of our Khanaqah in Bedford.
Many years ago I had a dream, a waking dream that never was far from my consciousness, a vision of the future. I dreamt that one-day people could live together in peace and security and happiness. Many people in my generation had the same dream, that there would be equality and equity, and that with service and understanding, and community, there could be peace. I dreamt of a community of people who shared these ideals. What I thought I conjured up in my own mind I realized later was a plan based on my Destiny created by Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa). Allah provided people, and place (and beauty, and nature), homes and gardens, with ample food on everyone’s table. Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa) provided us with the will to develop a new model, to gain skills we did not posses, to build relationships of trust, to learn the essence of forgiveness, love. Every person in our community has a story; every building, every tree has its history.
‘Where’ should be a Quest of Subhat
Where to be is to be in the company of the Shuyukh; to be in the company of the brothers and sisters in Tareeqah; to be in the company of good people. This is the where the outer ‘where’ meets the inner ‘where’; where only what and why matter; where who we are and who we can become becomes revealed and refined. The door of the heart is always open, the door of the Khanaqah is open for those who qualify and have courage and whose word is their bond, their oath of fealty.
Fulfilling our Destiny in the Right Place
As I come toward my conclusion, I will say this: We can have anxiety about ‘where’: where is the right place, and where is not the right place? But the lesson I have learned is: where we are is in Allah’s hands, but we (I) must have the right intention. I must have an open heart and mind. I must learn to trust, to listen, to act. That is the ‘where’ that matters. If we do not accept this first, then our choices may often contradict that intention and our course through life will be ‘recalculated’ (like the GPS) and before we know it, we will have missed many opportunities for ‘reasons’ that are spiritually unreasonable, albeit rational.
Hence the subject of surrender looms high above the worldly dances and dramas. Suffice it to say, that without yearning and deep desire to fulfill our destiny, there would be no significant transformation of the self. Our yearning comes from something deep inside of us, which comes from our qadr (destiny). There is something that says, “I want to fulfill my destiny in the best way, in the right place.”