Monday, November 27, 2006

God's Living Word

I havent read The Qur'an's Self-Image by Daniel A. Madigan, but I someone gave a brief presentation on it and some quotes, which I want to record for myself and add some notes to.

When the Qur'an refers to itself as a kitaab, the word here does not mean "book" as the word means today. Instead, a more accurate meaning of the word based on the time it was revealed and upon a semantic study of the word is: "writing process." Thus, it is very close, if not synonymous with the word kalaam, or "God's speech", which is a more dynamic and responsive term.

So what process of writing? "This is the most common and most fundamental kind of writing spoken of by the Qur'an and its primary sense: God's authoritative prescription for his creation" (pg 75).

"To have been given the kitaab is to have been given some access to that divine realm where everything is 'written', that is, known and determined/" (pg. 77). [Compare to the law7 al ma7foodh, the Preserved Tablet]

"Writing in this sense of kitaab is indeed this kind of living logos, not mere lines on a page. The kitaab of God remains immediate, intelligent, and active." (pg 124)

[Compare with: "John's use of logos, translated into English as 'word' in the prologue to his Gospel ("And the Word as been made flesh"), uses logos as a force which was both 'with God in the beginning' and actively involved in the creation...Where John innovates is to see the logos becoming flesh in Jesus."
- Charles Freeman. The Closing of the Westerm Mind, pg 74.]

"[Kitaab] is the symbol of a process of continuing divine engagement with human beings- an engagement that is rich and varied, yet so direct and specific in its address that it could never be comprehended in a fixed canon nor confined between two covers." (Pg 165)

"Taken all together, what the Qur'an says of the kitaab points not to a circumscribed corpus of liturgy, dogma, and law that can be duplicated and parceled out for each group, but to an open-ended process of divine engagement with humanity in its concrete history." (pg 178)

"Since the source of the kitaab is the writing activity of God, kitaab retains an active sense. It is not the kind of writing scorned by Socrates which looked intelligent but when questioned could do nothing more than repeat the same words again. It is writing as process, rather than a writing that is the finished product of that process." (Pg 182)

"For some believers, the implicit claim to totality and completeness contained in the word 'book' becomes the basis for a fundamentalism that cuts itself adrift from the evolving wisdom of the tradition." (pg 191)

Compare the above with the following:

The descent of the Qur'an into the heart of the servant... is precisely what happened to [Ibn Arabi] on several occasions. In a Seville cemetery to which he was accustomed to withdraw he 'received' a number of Qur'anic verses. Clearly this is a reference to the descent of the Qur'an 'in a shower of stars' (nujuman), which it is possible for saints to experience in the same way that the prophet Muhammd had before them. According to Ibn Arabi, Muhammad received revelation in three different modes. Firstly he received the Book in its aspect of furqan during the Night of Destiny (laylat al-Qadr); secondly he received it as qur'an througout the month of Ramadan; and finally he received it progressively over a period of twenty-four years in a shower of stars. It is this 'starry' descent of the Qur'an- a direct perception of the original Revelation, not to be confused with its methodical memorisation- which was experienced by the saints. So, for example, it is said that Abu Yazid Bistami 'did not die before he had "retained" the entire Qur'an'- a statement which is not to be interpreted literally, because knowing the Qur'an by heart is something much too commonplace to deserve being mentioned in the case of such an important person. In a section of the Kitab al-isfar devoted to the 'Journey of the Qur'an', Ibn Arabi declares that he had experienced this 'starry' descent in his early stages. He further adds that in fact 'the Qur'an never stops travelling towards the heart of those who preserve it.'

- Addas, Claude. Quest for the Red Sulphur pg 91-21. As quoted by Peter Lamborn Wilson in Shower of Stars, pg 53.

The Importance of Words

One Professor I know remarked that the pan-Arabism defeated itself when it named itself "The Arab Dream". And so it remained nothing but a dream.

Useful stuff if you want to start a revolution or something...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Winds, Stars, Angels

وَٱلْمُرْسَلاَتِ عُرْفاً }* { فَٱلْعَاصِفَاتِ عَصْفاً }* { وٱلنَّاشِرَاتِ نَشْراً }* { فَٱلْفَارِقَاتِ فَرْقاً }* { فَٱلْمُلْقِيَاتِ ذِكْراً }* { عُذْراً أَوْ نُذْراً}

(Quran 77:1-6)

Commentators have long debated about what is being described here in these Divine oaths. Are they angels or are they winds? Or is one part about angels and the other about winds?

While most commentators seem to pick one of the two, I used to prefer the idea that two seperate things are being explained. This is because there is a wa followed by one fa, and then another wa followed by two fa's. So each wa oath is about one entity, and the words precedeed by fa are descriptions of that entity.

But then again, this analysis based on the division of the wa's and fa's is weak, and thematically the idea that angels are described makes a lot of sense.

Well, in Discovering the Qur'an, Neal Robinson suggests (pg 102) that it might be both at the same time, because Psalm 104:4 describes the winds as God's messengers:

"you make the winds your messengers,
fire and flame your ministers".

Robinson also mentions the fact that Judges 5.20 speaks of stars as God's warriors:

"The stars fought from heaven,
from their courses they fought against Sisera."

This reminds me of Qur'an 72:8-9, in which Jinns say that if they try to overhear the Divine commands, they get attacked by comets. I'm certain these verses should be understood as referring to spiritual states in people. The tafsir of al-Qashani says,

في الوجود نفوساً أرضية قوية لا في غلظ النفوس السبعية والبهيمية وكثافتها وقلة إدراكها ولا على هيئات النفوس الإنسانية واستعداداتها ليلزم تعلقها بالأجرام الكثيفة الغالب عليها الأرضية ولا في صفاء النفوس المجرّدة ولطافتها لتتصل بالعالم العلوي وتتجرّد أو تتعلق ببعض الأجرام السماوية متعلقة بأجرام عنصرية لطيفة غلبت عليها الهوائية أو النارية أو الدخانية على اختلاف أحوالها. سماها بعض الحكماء: الصور المعلقة، ولها علوم وإدراكات من جنس علومنا وإدراكاتنا. ولما كانت قريبة بالطبع إلى الملكوت السماوية أمكنها أن تتلقى من عالمها بعض الغيب فلا تستبعد أن ترتقي إلى أفق السماء فتسترق السمع من كلام الملائكة أي: النفوس المجرّدة، ولما كانت أرضية ضعيفة بالنسبة إلى القوى السماوية تأثرت بتأثير تلك القوى فرجمت بتأثيرها عن بلوغ شأوها وإدراك مداها من العلوم، ولا تنكر أن تشتعل أجرامها الدخانية بأشعة الكواكب فتحترق وتهلك أو تنزجر من الارتقاء إلى الأفق السماوي فتتسفل، فإنها أمور ليست بخارجة عن الإمكان، وقد أخبر عنها أهل الكشف والعيان الصادقون من الأنبياء والأولياء خصوصاً أكملهم نبينا محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم.

وإن شئت التطبيق، فاعلم: أن القلب إذا استعدّ لتلقي الوحي وكلام الغيب استمع إليه القوى النفسانية من المتخيلة والوهم والفكر والعاقلة النظرية والعملية وجميع المدركات الباطنة التي هي جنّ الوجود الإنساني، ولما لم يكن الكلام الإلهي الوارد على القلب بواسطة روح القدس من جنس الكلام المصنوع المتلقف بالفكر والتخيل أو المستنتج من القياسات العقلية والمقدّمات الوهمية والتخيلية، قالوا: { إنّا سمعنا قرآناً عجباً * يهدي إلى الرشد} أي: الصواب وذلك هو تأثرها بنور الروح وانتعاشها بمعاني الوحي وتنوّرها بنوره وتأثيرها في سائر القوى من الغضبية والشهوية وجميع القوى البدنية {فآمنا به} تنوّرنا بنوره واهتدينا إلى جناب القدس {ولن نُشْرك بربّنا أحداً} أي: لن تمثله بمثال من جنس مدركاتنا فنشبه به غيره، بل نشايع السرّ في التوجه إلى جناب الوحدة، ولن ننزوي إلى عالم الكثرة لنعبد الشهوات بهوى النفس وتحصيل مطالبها من عالم الرجس فنعبد غيره.


{وأنّا لمسنا} أي: طلبنا سماء العقل لنستفيد من مدركاته ما نتوصل به إلى لذاتنا ونسترق من مدركاته ما يعين في تحصيل مآربنا كما كان قبل التأدّب بالشرائع {فوجدناها ملئت حرساً شديداً} معاني حاجزة عن بلوغنا مقاصدنا وحكماً مانعة لنا عن مشتهياتنا قوية {وشُهباً} وأنواراً قدسية وإشراقات نورية تمنعنا من إدراك المعاني التي صفت عن شوب الوهم والوصول إلى طور العقل المنوّر بنور القدس، فإن العقل قبل الهداية كان مشوباً بالوهم، قريباً من أفق الخيال والفكر، مقصوراً على تحصيل المعاش مناسباً للنفس وقواها

However the normal literal interpretation is also possible. The tafsir of Ibn Ajiba says:

وذكر أبو جعفر العقيلي، بإسناد له إلى لهب بن مالك، قال: حضرت مع رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فذكرت عنده الكهانة، فقلت: بأبي أنت وأمي؛ نحن أول مَن عرف حراسة السماء، ورصد الشياطين، ومنعهم من استراق السمع عند قذف النجوم، وذلك أنا جئنا إلى كاهن لنا، يُقال له "خطل" ، وكان شيخاً كبيراً، قد أتت عليه مائتا سنة وثمانون سنة، فقلنا: يا خطل؛ هل عندك علم بهذا النجوم التي يُرمى بها، فإنّا قد فزعنا منها، وخفنا سوءَ عاقبتها، فقال: ائتوني بسَحَر أُخبركم الخبر، ألِخَيْر أم ضرر، أم لأمن أو حذر، فأتيناه غداً عند السحَر، فإذا هو قائم على قدميه، شَاخص إلى السماء بعينيه، فناديناه: يا خطل، فأومأ إلينا: أن أمسكوا، فأنقضّ نجم عظيم من السماء، وصرخ الكاهن رافعاً صوته: أصابه إصابة، خامره عقابه، عاجله عذابه، أحرقه شهابه، ثم قال: يا معشر قحطان، أخبركم بالحق والبيان، أُقسم بالكعبة والأركان، لمُنع السمع عُتَاةٌ الجان، لِمولود عظيم الشأن، يُبعث بالتنزيل والقرآن، وبالهدى وفاصل الفرقان، يَمنع من عبادة الأوثان

فقلنا: ما ترى لقومك؟ فقال: أرى لقومي ما أرى لنفسي، أن يتبعوا خير نبي الإنس، برهانه مثل شعاع الشمس، يُبعث من مكة دارَ الحُمْس، يحكم بالتنزيل غير اللبس، فقلنا: وممَّن هو؟ فقال: والحياة والعيش، إنه لمن قريش، ما في حلمه طيش، ولا في خَلقه هيش، يكون في جيش، وأيّ جيش!! فقلنا: بَيِّن لنا مِن أي قريش هو؟ فقال: والبيت ذي الدعائم، والديار والحمائم، إنه لمن نجل هاشم، من معشرٍ أكارم، يُبعث بالملاحم، وقتلِ كل ظالم، هذا البيان، أخبرني به رئيس الجان، ثم قال: الله أكبر، جاء الحق وظهر، وانقطع عن الجن الخبر

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Ibn Idris on Kalam

The people of this persuasion [the philosophers] believe in God according to what they understand, while the people of God are people who believe in God inasmuch as He makes Himself known to them. And what a great difference between the two persuasions, because he who believes inasmuch as God makes Himself known to him places his intellect behind his belief, so that he believes whether his intellect accepts it or not. And he who has this kind of belief, God informs him of what he did not know before by means of revelation, not through the intellect. He who only believes in what he understands, he goes no further than "The letters." This is the reason why they have contrived the science of kalaam for which there is no guidance from the Book of God and the Sunna and no companion who has ever followed it.

Thus, they have written works enumerating the attributes (of God). God is greatly exalted above this. Indeed, this is a matter from which God Most High Himself refrained, as in His statement, "Glory be to thy Lord, the Lord of Glory, above what they describe (37:180)". Indeed, they describe God in a way such as God had not described Himself. This is of the utmost danger and ruination. They think they are good craftsmen and think that what they are doing is a science and consider that the practicioners of this "science" are those described by the Tradition, "The ulama are the heirs of the prophets". But they are in greater danger than those who sin and know and confess their sin. One of the pious people saw the Messenger of God, may God bless and grant him peace, and asked him about Ibn Sina and al Fakhr al-Razi. The Prophet said to him, "As for Ibn Sina, he wanted to approach us through a door other than ours, but we rejected him; as for al-Fakhr al-Razi, he was reproached for it." Although al-Fakhr al-Razi later left this path and repented of it, saying,

The result of using the intellect is a hobbling rope;
The result of the endeavors of the ulama is error;
The fruit of all the learning of our life is "He said" and "He replied".

- Ahmad ibn Idris, al-iqd al-nafis, 172-3.

from Enigmatic Saint, pg 74-75.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Like the pupil of thine eye

Great shame it is to deem of high degree Thyself, or over others recon thee: Strive to be like the pupil of thine eye— To see all else, but not thyself to see.

- Shaykh al-Islam Abdullah Ansari of Herat

Source: Edward Browne. (1964) A Literary History of Persia. Vol. 2. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 270.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

External & Internal Purification

After a disciple has attained the reality of faith and the soundness of repentance, he should be perpetually occupied with ablutions. Really and truly there should be no time when he is not occupied with ablutions, even though it be dark and cold, and the water itself is cold. After his ablutions let him perform two inclinations as a prayer of salutation. He should never seek to escape from any prayer. Let him perform the five prayers along with the congregation. When one prayer is over let him prepare for the next since "anyone who is waiting to pray is really already engaged in prayer." [1]

When anyone wants to attain ... purity he should attend first to his clothes. Merely reading and learning about these visible things does not cause them to be realized: It is necessary to bestir oneself as much as possible and show oneself assiduous in renewing ablutions. ... At the end of the night, toward dawn, let him take a bath. Let him consider this a good work. Almighty God will adorn him with a special kind of purity and will remove all external and internal pollution. [2]

It is related that Khwaja Bayazid said: "Whenever any thought of the world enters my heart, I cleanse myself, and whenever any thought about the world to come enters my heart, I take a bath." The reason is that the world is polluted and any thought about it is polluting. Hence cleansing or purification becomes necessary. In the life to come there is carnal desire, and one must obtain relief from that ceremonial pollution. While it is necessary to be cleansed from what pollutes, a bath is needed once ceremonial pollution has occurred.

The sheikhs have insisted on the necessity of both external and internal purification and have laid great stress on it. The starting point for those desiring to follow the Way is that their hearts become mirrorlike, so clean and shining that one can see reflected in them an image of the world of creatures and of the divine order. Thus they progress from the ranks of commoners to the rank of the elect. [3]

[The traveller on the way] should purify himself, as if he were performing the ablutions from major ritual impurity (al-janaaba), for man, so long as he remains pre-occupied with the world and those matters which distract from God Most High, will be ruled over by impurities (al-junub). But if he desires to stand before God Most High, he must of neccessity cleanse himself of ritual impurity with water as does the one about to pray. He should recite before beginning the ritual ablution,

O God, Cleanse me of every impurity, every error (hadath), every malady ('illa), every sickness (marad), every sin (dhanb), every act of disobedience (ma'siya), every negligence (ghafla), every transgression (zulma), every veil (hijaab), every estrangement (qati'a); indeed everything of which Thou cleansed Thy Prophet, Muhammad, May God bless and grant peace to his family, outwardly and inwardly, O Lord of the Worlds.



1. Maneri, Sharafuddin. The Hundred Letters. Pg 111
2. Pg 115-116
3. Pg 118

4. Enigmatic Saint: Ahmad ibn Idris and the Idrisi Tradition. Pg 204-205.

Those Who Could, But Do Not

One day while browsing among the bookshops opposite the great mosque and university, I discovered a copy of the seven-volume work, Futuhat al-Mekkiyah, the greatest and most elaborate of the writings of Sheikh al-akbar. While paging through, my eyes fell on a list of titles promising a description of all the spiritual stages leading to the highest union. I bought the work and, carrying my heavy load, found my way back through the narrow streets of the ancient city. On the way I chanced to meet my friend Mohammed ben Makhluf, a dervish with the profile of a hawk and a searching glance. He immediately guessed what I was carrying.

"What are you going to do with that?" he asked me. "It is much too advanced for you. What you need is a primer [of the spiritual life]."

"In that case, the book shall remain on my shelf until I am wise enough to study it."

"When you are wise, you will no longer need the book."

"Whom was it written for then?"

"For men who can see through walls but do not do so, nor even wish to."

- Titus Burckhardt, Preface to The Bezels of Wisdom

Chao Hsiang-tzu went hunting in the Central Mountains with a party of a hundred thousand. He set fire to the forests by lighting the tall grass, and fanned the flames for a hundred miles. A man came out from within a stone cliff, rising and falling with the smoke and ashes; the crowd thought he was a demon. When the fire passed, he came out walking casually, as though the fire he had passed through did not exist. Chao Hsian-tzu marvelled and detained the man. He scrutinised him at leisure; in his shape, his colour, and the seven holes in his head, he was human; in his breathing, in his voice, he was human. He asked the man by what Way he lived in stone and went through fire.
"What are these things you call stone and fire?" said the man.
"The thing you have just come out from was stone. The thing you have just been walking through is fire."
"I didn't know."

Marquis Wen of Wei heard of it, and questioned Tzu-hsia, the disciple of Confucius.
"What sort of man was that?"
"According to what I have heard the Master say, the man who is in harmony is absolutely the same as other things, and no thing succeeds in wounding or obstructing him. To pass through metal and stone and tread through water and fire are all possible."
"Why don't you do it yourself?"
"I am not yet capable of cutting open my heart and throwing away the knowledge in it. However, I can tell you all you want to know about it."
"Why doesn't your Master do it?"
"My Master is one who, though able to do it, is able not to do it."
Marquis Wen was delighted with the answer.

- The book of Lieh-tzu, pg 46-47.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Gods and Earths?

Your father is an image of the Lord of Creation, your mother an image of the Earth. For him who fails to honour them, every work of piety is in vain. This is the first duty.

- Hindu saying.

(taken from The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis, pg 104)

I'm wondering whether or not the Nation of Gods and Earths (aka 5%ers) got some ideas from Hinduism. According to them, the black man is called God, and the black woman is called an Earth.

According to Five Percent beliefs, only a man can achieve the level of perfection symbolized by a 7, whereas a woman can only reach a 6. Gods refer to Women members as Earths, or Queens.

Peace to all the Queens
Submitting to the sevens

-- Poor Righteous Teachers, "Can I Start This" (Holy Intellect).

Just as Earth revolves around the sun, woman is subordinate to man. A Queen or "Earth," must cover 3/4 of her body, just as 3/4 of the earth is covered by water, and so 5% women wear head coverings and long loose-fitting garments. A female Five Percenter is known as a "muslim," unlike the male God, because she witnesses to the fact that her man is Allah...

- Islam in the Mix: Lessons of the Five Percent

Note: the 5%ers have almost nothing to do with Islam.

The Islamic "sect"/group to which Brand Nubian belong, known by outsiders as the Five Percent Nation of Islam, by insiders as the Nation of Gods and Earths, hold beliefs so far removed from mainstream Islamic teachings as to be virtually unrecognizable as Islamic to a majority of Muslims. For example, the chant "allahu akbar" ("God is Greatest") in the context of this Brand Nubian song means something very different than in mainstream Islamic beliefs. God/Allah, for Five Percenters, is not the Divinity as conventionally defined by the monotheistic faiths. God is the black man. For orthodox Muslims, this is shirk, un-Islamic polytheism.

- Islam in the Mix: Lessons of the Five Percent

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Socrates on Virtuous Men

In Plato's Meno, Socrates and Meno are attempting to define 'virtue'.
In his first attempt to define virtue, Meno lists a number of virtues that each of men, women, or other people should have, such as benefiting others, ruling over people, etc.

Socrates says: You are mentioning virtues.. But what I want is virtue itself. If all these things you mentioned are virtues, then there is one thing they must have in common that makes them virtuous. If we find this one thing that is in common, that makes all these things virtuous, we find virtue.

They come to the conclusion that actions must be accompanied by wisdom or knowledge in order to be virtuous. If all virtuous actions are accompanied by wisdom or knowledge, then virtue must be either partly or wholly knowledge.

Now knowledge and wisdom are not inborn qualities. The fact that men have them would then mean they must be taught.

Yet virtue itself cannot be taught. There are no students or teachers of virtue. Many virtuous people have sons who are not virtuous, despite any attempts to teach them virtue. It simply cannot be taught.

So if the knowledge that leads to virtue is not inborn, and is not taught, does that mean virtue does not exist? But virtue does exist, and it exists in many people who were neither born virtuous (as it is not inborn) nor taught the knowledge that makes actions virtuous.

Since knowledge must be taught, and we here see that these people can be virtuous without being taught it, then virtue cannot be knowledge. So the only other possibility is that virtue is right opinion. Right opinion is like knowledge, but is not taught. You can have right opinion about something, and that opinion need not be based on experience or knowledge, it is just opinion that happens to be right.

Therefore the actions of virtuous people are guided by right opinion, which is similar to knowledge but need not be taught. So what is the reason certain people have right opinions about things (without being taught them), and are thus virtuous? They must be inspired these opinions by God (or the gods). God inspires some people with the right opinions to direct their actions, making their actions virtuous. They do not necessarily have an understanding of what it is that makes their opinions right.

Virtuous people are then divinely guided, in that their opinions about things are divinely inspired. This is what makes them virtuous.

It is possible then to call such people divine. NOT because they themselves are divine, but because their opinions are divinely inspired. They are virtuous because God (or the gods) inspire(s) their opinions about things, and these opinions guide their actions. They are illumined and inspired by God, even possessed of God. Thus it is possible to call them divine (even though they themselves are not divine).

So argues Socrates, in Plato's Meno.

Friday, June 09, 2006

To Walk on Water

"The disciples failed to find their prophet, so they went out to seek him and found him walking upon water. One of them said to him, "Prophet of God, shall we walk toward you?" "Yes," he replied. As the disciple put one foot forward and then the next, he sank. Jesus said, "Stretch forth your hand, you man of little faith. If the son of Adam had a grain or atom's weight of faith, he would walk upon the water."

- Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Kitab az-Zuhd

(from The Muslim Jesus, pg 70-71)

Maqaaleed as-Samaawaati wal-Ard

"His are the Keys of the Treasures of the Heavens and the Earth. And those who reject the Signs of Allah,- it is they who will be in loss. " (39:63)

"His are the Keys of the Treasures of the Heavens and the Earth: He enlarges and restricts the sustenance to whom He will: for He knows full well all things." (42:12)

It is reported that Uthman ibn Affan, may Allah be pleased with him, requested further information about Allah's injunction of the Keys of the Treasures of the Heavens and the Earth (mentioned several times in the Qur'an). The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said to him: "You have inquired of me something which nobody has ever asked me before. They Keys of the Treasures of the Heavens and the Earth are as follows":

[see below]

The Prophet (s.a.w.s) continued: "O Uthman! Whoever recites it one hundred times every day will be rewarded ten graces. First, all his sins will be forgiven. Second, his suffering from hellfire will be written off. Third, two angels are appointed to guard him day and night from sufferings and diseases. Fourth, he is granted a treasure of blessings. Fifth, he will reap as much blessing as someone who would have set free one hundred slaves from the offspring of prophet Ishmael (a.s.). Sixth, he would be rewarded of blessings as if he had read the entire Qur'an, the Psalms, the Torah, and the Injeel. Seventh, a house will be constructed for him in the Heaven. Eight, he will be married to a pious Heavenly maiden. Ninth, he will be honored with a crown of honor. Tenth, his recommendation (for forgiveness) of seventy of his relatives will be accepted.

"O Uthman! If you were strong enough you would not miss this remembrance on any day. You will be one of the successful ones and you will surpass everybody before you and after you." [1]

One of the great contemporary Sufis, Hazrat Abu Anees Barkat Ali of Dar-ul-Ehsan, Pakistan, has achieved a unique position among the men of piety by reciting this sacred formula. He has erected a large signpost at the entranceway of his spiritual sanctuary, upon which the words of this invaluable formula are inscribed. His own life bears ample testament to the efficacy of these words, as he has personally adopted more than ten thousand Hindus of the lowest caste and provided them with a complete training and education in life. Moreover, he maintains a clinic that provides medical care and that has restored the sight of more than three thousand persons so far, without charge of any kind. He has written more than three hundred books on Islam and Sufism, all of which have been distributed free of charge (the jacket of one reads: "These books are written for ourselves and you to read, but not for sale. They have already been sold to Him for Whom they were meant"). A countless stream of devotees arrive at the well-known Dar-ul-Ehsan sanctuary and receive, by His grace, spiritual instructions from among the fourteen Sufi orders of which Barkat Ali is a teaching master, or shaykh. Maa shaa' Allaah! The qualities and attributes of Sufi Barkat Ali could be enumerated further, but anyone who views his life with an open mind must conclude that he h as exceeded the usual range of human accomplishments. He is now in his seventy-sixth year. [2]

[This formula is also very important for healing- conveying protection against any illness for the day it is recited.]

The Formula

Begin always with:

Laa ilaaha illa-Llaah, Muhammadun Rasoolu-Llaah
A'oodhu bi-Llaahi min ash-shaytaan ir-rajeem.

[The formula for the Keys of the Treasures of the Heavens and the Earth may be recited 21 times after each daily prayer and requires not more than three or four minutes to do so.]

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Laa ilaaha illa-Llaah wa-Llaahu Akbar
wa Subhaana-Llah wal Hamduli-Llaah w-Astaghfiru-Llaah
Alladhi laa illaaha illaa Hu
al-Awwalu wal-Aakhiru waz-Zaahiru wal-Baatinu
yuhyi wa yumeetu wa huwa Hayyun laa yamootu
wa huwa 'alaa kulli shay'in Qadeer

1. The Hadith master Imam as-Suyuti said that this hadith is fabricated, but its results may speak otherwise. Many Sufis consider it as one of the most powerful and effective prayers in Islam. Allahu A'lam. (My footnote)

2. Source: The Book of Sufi Healing, pg 155-157

Note: Hadrat Barkat Ali has since passed away (in 1997).

Meditate on the Qur'an

“How much of the Koran do you recite daily?” Ibn Ataa' was asked. “Formerly,” he replied, “I used to complete the whole Koran twice every twenty-four hours. Now I have been reciting the Koran for fourteen years, and today I have just reached the Sura of the Spoils (The 8th Sura)”

- Attar, Remembrance of the Saints, pg 319-320

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


When asked to detail all the links in his initiatic chain (silsila), Khwaja Baha' al-Din Naqshband (founder of the Naqshbandi Sufi Order, d. 1389) replied,

"Nobody ever went anywhere by means of a chain."

- Jami: Baharistan, 26.
from The Wisdom of Sufism, Pg 83.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Another Disciple of Shams

"[Alaa' ad-Dawla as-Simnaani] also corresponded with Salah ad-din Hasan al-Bulghari, born in Nakhjiwan in 603/1206-7, who was captured in a raid at the age of seven and taken to Bulghar. After approximately thirty years he returned to Iran and settled in Kirman, and over time came to be known as a mystical shaykh who had received his khirqa from Shams ad-din at-Tabrizi (d. 645/1247). He apparently maintained contacts with the Ilkhanid court and journeyed to Tabriz in Jumada I 698/February 1299, immediately preceding a raid on Kirman by a group of bandits. He died in Tabriz later that year [44]. Simnani appears to have considered Bulghari a teacher and referred to him in their correspondences as "my father" (pidaram); Bulghari in turn called Simnani his son (farzand). [45]

44. Khwafi, Fasih Ahmad b. Jalal ad-din Muhammad. Mujmal-i fasihi. 4 vols. Edited by Muhammad Farrukh. Mashhad: Kitabfurushi-yi bastan, 1960. 2:282, 287, 343, 379-80.

55. Ibn al-Karbala'i-yi Tabrizi, Husayn. Rawdaat al-janaan wa jannaat al-janaan. Edited by Ja'far Sultan al-Qurra'i. Majmu'a-yi matun-i farsi, no. 20. Edited by E. Yarshater. Tehran: Bungah-i tarjuma wa nashr-i kitab, 1965. 1:151, 146.

[Source: Elias, Jamal J. The Throne Carrier of God: The Life and Thought of Ala' ad-dawla as-Simnani. Pg 45]

It's amazing how great the students of Shams are. We know about the greatness of Rumi, but al-Bulghari was also a teacher of the great Alauddawla as-Simnani!

Shams seems to have come only for perfecting those who are already great Sufi masters, not the normal travellers on the path:

"I haven't come to do with the common people in this world - I haven't come for them. I've put my finger on the pulse of those who guide the world to the Real." (Me & Rumi)

Friday, May 05, 2006


Why do so many Sufis keep saying that Iblis was once an angel, Azazil.. and not just any angel, the most honored of all angels, who loved God more than any other angel, and worshipped Him more than any other... And this is not only limited to the Sufis who defend Iblis, like Hallaj.. even those who think of Iblis completely negatively still repeat this story.

And when We said unto the angels: Fall prostrate before Adam, and they fell prostrate, all save Iblis. He was of the jinn, and he rebelled against his Lord's command... (Qur'an 18:50) **

So some say that he was at first an angel and then became one of the jinn but that is impossible for Iblis said that he was created from fire, which means that he was always jinn.

He said: "What prevented thee from prostrating when I commanded thee?" He said: "I am better than he: Thou didst create me from fire, and him from clay." (Qur'an 7:12)

As for angels, they are made of light:

"Allah created the angels from light, created the jinn from the pure flame of fire, and Adam from that which was described to you." (Sahih Muslim).


** The verse says that the command was made to the angels, but Iblis is mentioned as having rejected God's command. This is a feature in Arabic grammar called "Taghleeb", where a minority is not mentioned because it is included with the majority, even if they are different. So because Angels were the majority and Iblis (and maybe other jinn) were the minority, they need not be included directly in the verse when it refers to them. It is for the sake of brevity.

Another thing: Angels cannot disobey God's commands whereas Jinns can, and therefore Iblis must have been a jinn.

Waking Vision of the Prophet

The Meccan scholar, Abu 'l-Baqa' al-'Ajimi said: "This tariqa (tariqa Muhammadiyya) is founded on an inner submergence accompanied by a visible manifestation when you see the Prophet, may God bless and grant him peace, himself. This is the outcome when you try to follow him in your words and deeds, when you busy your tongue with saying the tasliya ["May God bless and grant him peace"] and repeating it at every moment in public and private until the glorification of the Prophet, namely the tasliya, overwhelms your heart and permeates your deepest self, so that you quiver when you hear him mentioned and the vision of him takes hold of your heart and you see his form before your inner eye. Then God will bestow upon you His clemency, outwardly and inwardly. Thereafter, you will see a vision of the Prophet in many of your dreams while asleep as a first step; secondly you will see him unexpectedly while dozing off. Finally, you will see him awake."

- Muhammad bin Ali al-Sanusi[1]

Among the graces with which God honoured [Shaykh Ahmad Tijani] was the waking vision of the Prophet, continuously and ever, so that it was never absent from him for the twinkling of an eye. And (another grace was) his questioning of the Prophet on everything and asking his counsel in small things and great, and undergoing training at his hands. [2]

He [the devotee] confines himself to this dhikr [i.e the tasliya] and is patient until [the Prophet] appears to him. I never met anyone at this rank except an old blacksmith in Ishbiliyya who was known as "God, bless Muhammad" (Allaahumma, salli 'alaa Muhammad). He was not known by any other name...He doesn't talk to anyone except out of necessity. If anyone comes asking him to make something for him from iron, he asks as pay only that the customer bless Muhammad. No man, boy, or woman came to him without blessing Muhammad until he left....Whatever is revealed to the one who does this dhikr is true and immune from error, for nothing comes to him except through the Messenger..

- Ibn Arabi[3]

By God, my brothers, I did not believe that a learned man could deny the vision of the Prophet (God bless him and give him peace) in the waking state, until the day I met some learned men in the Qarawiyyin Mosque and had a conversation with them on this matter. They said to me: "How ever is it possible to see the Prophet when one is awake, since he has been dead for over 1,200 years? It is only possible to see him in a dream, since he himself said: 'He who sees me, that is to say in a dream, sees me in reality, for the Devil cannot imitate me,'" I answered: "Of necessity, he can be seen in waking state only by one whose mind- or let us say, whose thoughts- have transported him from this corporeal world into the world of Spirits; there will he see the Prophet without the slightest doubt; there he will see all his friends." They were silent and said not a word when I added: "Indeed he can be seen in the world of Spirits," But after a while they said to me, "Explain how this is so." I answered: "Tell me yourselves where the world of Spirits is in relation to the world of bodies." They did not know what to reply. And then I said: "There where the world of bodies is, there also is the world of Spirits; there where the world of corruption is, there also is the world of purity; there where is the world of the kingdom (mulk), there also is the world of kingship (malakut); in the very place where the lower worlds are, there are to be found the higher worlds and the totality of worlds. It has been said that there exist ten thousand worlds, each one like this world, (as recounted in the Hilyatul Awliya (Adornment of the Saints)) and all these are contained in man, without his being conscious of it. Only he whom God sanctifies by absorbing his qualities into His own, his attributes into His own, is conscious of this. Now, God sanctifies many of his servants and does not cease from sanctifying them until their end."
- Shaykh ad-Darqawi[4]

Whoever sees the Lord of being [i.e the Prophet] in a dream can do so in two ways. In the first way the dream is in no need of interpretation because the person sees the Prophet in the same state he appeared in the world and as the Prophet’s Companions beheld him. Should this vision occur to someone who is illuminated …then what he sees is the pure and noble dhat of the Prophet. [Dhat is here used to mean a human being as he can be perceived by the senses, man as a unit compounded of body, soul and spirit.] If the person is not illuminated, he can experience this as well but that is a rare situation. Usually what is seen is the image of his dhat (surat dhatihi), not his dhat itself ('ayn dhatihi), since the dhat of the Prophet can take on various forms and then be seen in numerous places, whether in a dream or in a waking state. This is because the dhat of the Prophet possesses light which emanates from it and fills the entire world. There is no place where the noble light of the Prophet does not exist. The dhat of the Prophet appears in this light the way the form of the face appears in a mirror. Thus, the light of the Prophet is similar to a mirror which fills the entire world, and what is represented in it is the dhat. That is why one person can see the Prophet in the east and another person see him in the west, one sees him in the south and another in the north. And innumerable people see him in other places— all at the same time. Each person really sees the Prophet before him because the light of the Prophet, in which his dhat is represented, is with each person. If an illuminated person (al-maftuh 'alayhi) beholds the image (sura) of the Prophet before him, he then follows it with his spiritual deeper sight (baseera) and penetrates through the light of the image to the dhat of the Prophet himself.

-Shaykh Abd al-Aziz al-Dabbagh [5]

Shaykh Ahmad al-Zawaawi (d.1517) once said to me: "We recite the tasliya on behalf of the Prophet so often that he then sits with us while we are in a waking state (hattaa yaseera yujaalisunaa yaqzatan) and we keep company with him like the sahaaba did (nashabuhu). Then we question him about matters of our religion and about hadiths which are held to be weak in the opinion of our religious scholars. Subsequently we base our behaviour on his words."

- Abd al-Wahhab al-Sha'rani [6]

In terms of meeting with and learning from the Prophet after his death, each of the three shaykhs [Ahmad ibn Idris, Abd al-Wahhab al-Tazi, and Abd al-Aziz al-Dabbagh] had this occur to them, both while asleep and while awake. Even more, in the later part of their lives, each of the shaykhs relied only on him and had recourse to none except him, [salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam]. [7]

وقد نازل هذه الأسرار وجرى على طريقتها وسلكها ولاحت له شوارق هذه الأنوار وأخذ بأزمة الخلافة المحمدية وملكها جماعة من أساطين العلماء وجهابذة من سلاطين صلحاء الحكماء منهم الشيخ نور الدين الشوني والشيخ أحمد الزواوي والشيخ علي الخواص والشيخ محمد المنزلاوي وغيرهم فكانوا يشتغلون بالصلاة على النبي (ص) حتى صاروا يأخذون عنه ويسترشدون منه ويستضيئون بأنوار مشكاته في متابعته وسكونه وحركاته وتشرفوا برؤيته يقظة وصار يربيهم بلا واسطة (ص) قال أبو البقاء المكي بعد نقل ما مر وممن أدركته بحمد الله من أهل هذا المشهد شيخنا الإمام الأوحد سيدنا أحمد الدجاني فإنه أخبرني أنه قرأ القرآن على النبي (ص) مناماً ويقظة وكان مزيد متابعته للسنة في جميع حركاته فيما نعلم يدل على صدق لهجته وخوارق بواهر كراماته تشهد بوضوح محجته وقد شرفني برواية القرآن عنه بهذا السند بعد أن قرأت عليه من أوله وسمعت منه من سورة الرحمن وأجازني بسائره وبغيره إجازة عامة رضي الله عنه.


See also: The Fath of Abd al-Aziz ad-Dabbagh (a translation from the Ibriz)
1. The Enigmatic Saint, Ahmad Ibn Idris and the Idrisi Tradition – R.S. O'Fahey via Red Sulphur
2. And Muhammad is His Messenger, pg 226.
3. al-Futuhaat al-Makkiyya, 4:184. Taken from Valeria J. Hoffman, "Annihilation in the Messenger of God: The Development of a Sufi Practice".
4. Letters of a Sufi Master: The Shaykh ad-Darqawi, pg 40-41.
5. al-Ibrız min kalam sayyidı al-ghawth Abd al-Azız. Taken from Ibriziana (pdf document), pg 10-11.
6. Lawaqih al-anwar al-qudsiyya fi bayan al-'uhud al-muhammadiyya, Cairo 1321, 116. Taken from The Exoteric Ahmad ibn Idris, pg 17.
7. Voll, John. "Two biographies of Ahmad ibn Idris al-Fasi (1760-1837)". International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 6, No. 4 (1973), 642.
8.محمد بن علي السنوسي.السلسبيل المعين في الطرائق الأربعين.
وأبو البقاء المكي هو: العلامة المحدث العارف بالله أبي البقاء حسن بن علي العجيمي الحنفي المكي المتوفي سنة 1113هـ

Monday, April 24, 2006

The End of Reason

Description of Shawni's "The End of Reason".

Download it here

Shawni's Letter to His Critics:

After businessmen stole a portion of my work The End of Reason and published it against my wishes, I was castigated for putting words into the devil’s mouth and accused of acting as the devil’s advocate and partisan. My critics denounced me and abused my name and accused me of terrible faults. For a time I bore this patiently, and remembered that “However often others have called harsh words down upon me, I give thanks to God that they do not know the worst of it.” An ignorant few continued their campaign of vilification and at last I drained the cup of patience and rose to defend the work against which a few fanatics had tipped their swords. Against the advice of those older and more wise, I disseminated the following statement:

“I have offered you wine and you have become drunk. I have given you the sword of faith, and you have cut yourself upon it. I have offered you water for your baptism, and you are in danger of drowning. Yet you accuse me.

"The Philistines tore out Samson’s eyes because they were blind themselves. Did this cure their blindness? Pharaoh could not free himself, though the Hebrews were his slaves. How could enslaving them set Pharaoh free? While Joseph waited in the well, his brothers were bondsman to their crime. From whom could they purchase freedom?

"The meaning of these words is this. If I have made the devil seem eloquent, that does not make me the devil or his apostle or his friend. If you have believed his lies, that does not make me a liar. If you have been driven from the field of faithfulness then you have never fought under God’s banner. Yet some accuse me of wrongdoing nevertheless. If the devil’s racket has shaken you, why denounce me? What do you know of my faith when your own is so frail that a few pretty words make you an infidel? O accusers, accuse yourselves! I am neither saint nor devil. I am a man like you.

"I have written that book as a mirror. If you are offended, see what has offended you. Do not denounce me for your ugliness, your faithlessness, your harlotry.

"I have given you a gift that you may peer into your own heart. See what you enshrine there. If you fault me, be ashamed and repent for your own sake. Your curses rebound upon you and your slander does you no credit.

"If the music I have played pleases you, then pray for this impoverished one. Yet if in your hand you hold a dirham for my cup, expend it instead in the way of charity for another. Our Friend has paid me already and my coffers burst with the coin of His mercy. Such praise that you bestow upon me feeds only my pride; such payment to me that you make I will waste; such faith in me that you keep I will betray. When the Kaaba is in sight, leave the donkey behind. I am neither saint nor devil. I am a man like you.”

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Dhikr formulas

"And repeat frequently that dhikr with which God has favoured us among His friends and which is taken from the divine presence[1], that is, "la ilaaha illa Allah Muhammad rasool Allah, fee kulli lam7a wa nafas 3adada ma wasi3ahu 3ilm Allah". And dictate this dhikr to the brethren, for its results are great; but how many times it should be repeated depends on one's ability."


" 'There is no god but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God' in every glance and every breath, to the number that only God's knowledge can comprehend. "

- Ahmad Ibn Idris in his letter to Muhammad Uthman al-Mirghani.
The Letters of Ahmad ibn Idris pg 71.

[1] In Kunuz al-jawahir Ibn Idris explains that he learned this formula from al-Khidr in the presence of the Prophet (pbuh)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Philosophy and Religion

A little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion. -- Francis Bacon

Monday, April 03, 2006


"The one who said, 'Glory be to me! How magnificent is my status!' went astray. Does this mean that the Real was speaking? How could the real wonder at His own kingdom? How could wonder be permissible? The speaker was himself. But, he will not be taken to account for it, because he had become selfless. When he came to himself, he asked forgiveness."

- Shams Tabrizi [1]

"You must have an invocation that does not keep you back from the invoked. That is the invocation of the heart. The invocation of the tongue is not enough. Abu Yazid wanted to bring the invocation he had in his heart to his tongue. Since he was drunk*, he said, Glory be to me! If someone is drunk, he cannot follow Muhammad, who is on the other side of drunkenness. One cannot follow the sober in drunkenness. Glory be to me is predestination. They all sank down in predestination."

- Shams Tabrizi [2]

"They report that Abu Yazid didn't eat Persian melon. He said, 'I have not come to know how the Prophet ate Persian melon.' I mean, following has a form and a meaning. He preserved the form of the following. So why did he ruin the reality of following and the meaning of following? For Muhammad said, 'Glory be to You! We have not worshipped You as You should be worshipped!' Abu Yazid said, 'Glory be to me! How magnificent is my status!' If anyone supposes that his state was stronger than that of Muhammad, he is very stupid and ignorant."

- Shams Tabrizi [3]

* I.e spiritual intoxication.
1.Me & Rumi. Pg 82-83
2. Ibid, pg 84.
3. Ibid, pg 82

"Ana Ahmad"

Many sufis sadly quote this supposed hadith:

“I am Ahmad without the mim [that is, ahad meaning Unity]; I am Arab (arabiyy) without the `ain [that is rabb meaning Lord]. Who hath seen me hath seen the Truth.”

the first problem is that many dont realize its supposed to be a hadith QUDSI. Meaning that God said it, not the Prophet (i.e the Prophet said that God said...") Therefore God is saying "I am Ahad, I am Rabbi, he who has seen Me has seen the truth." However even when God is saying it, its still implying that only the 'm' seperates the Prophet from God. But at least its not the Prophet who is saying "I am Ahad, I am Rabbi.. etc" That makes it a little less heretical. Most people think that it's supposed to be a hadith sharif (meaning the Prophet said it). But it's not. It's supposed to be a hadith Qudsi. Look it up.

The second problem is that when you take the "ain" letter out of the arabic "arabiyy", you are left with "rabbi", which means "my Lord", not "Lord". It doesnt make sense for God to call Himself "my Lord". As for "he who has seen Me has seen the truth", it also makes no sense because God cannot be seen in this world.

Of course none of this discussion matters anyway because this is a fabricated hadith that was never mentioned in any book or any writing or by any person before the 12th century.*

*Schimmel, Annemarie. And Muhammad is His Messenger. Pg 117:
" is not attested in the early collections of traditions and appears only in the twelfth century".

Sunday, March 12, 2006


It is He who sent down the Sakina into the hearts of the believers, that they might add faith to their faith...and that He may admit the believers, men and women alike, into gardens underneath which rivers flow, therein to dwell forever, and acquit them of their evil deeds; that is in God's sight a mighty triumph. [48:4-5]

Sakina means tranquility, and so it is translated by Yusuf Ali and Shakir, and is translated as "peace of reassurance" by Pikhtall. It also means Divine Peace. Thus Allah sent down tranquility and (divine) peace into the hearts of the believers.

But Caroline Williams says that the Arabic Sakina is probably cognate (i.e. related by origin) to the Hebrew term sechina, which means "holiness of God." [1] It also means the Divine Glory. [2]

Mu'mineen, usually translated as "believers", is a stage higher than that of muslimeen and so it does not apply to all who submit to God, but to those who have iman in their hearts and do good deeds, because iman is also something that increases by one's deeds and worship. Thus, iman does not simply mean "faith" as it is usually translated. One's iman is divided into many branches including his actions and thoughts and his righteousness, and it is something that increases and decreases. It leaves one while someone is committing zina or something else that is forbidden and returns to him after he's done.

Thus another deeper meaning of the verse might be, "It is He who sent down the holiness of God into the hearts of the mu'mineen, that they might add iman to their iman...", and God knows best. See this hadith.

According to Najm al-din Kubra, the Sakina is "a group of Angels who descend into the heart". [3]

1. Williams, Caroline. 1983. "The Cult of 'Alid Saints in the Fatimid Monuments of Cairo. Part I: The Mosque of al-Aqmar". In Muqarnas I: An Annual on Islamic Art and Architecture. Oleg Grabar (ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press, 37-52. [footnote # 20]
2. The Sufi Paradigm of Peace-Making
3. Henry Corbin, The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism, p. 79.

Teachers, Disciples

Put every great teacher together in a room, and they'd agree about everything; put their disciples in there and they'd argue about everything. -- Bruce Lee

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Perfection comes from Balance

"They insist on saying that so-and-so is all gentleness. He is sheer gentleness. They fancy that perfection is in that. It isn't. He who is all gentleness is defective. It would never be allowable for this attribute to belong to God- that all of Him should be gentleness. You would be negating the attribute of severity. Rather, there must be both getleness and severity, but each in its own place. The ignorant man has both severity and gentleness, but not in their place, because of caprice and ignorance."

- Shams Tabrizi, (pg 279)

"After all, the Prophet said, "Assume the character traits of God!" In God's character there are both severity and gentleness. There's no flavor if everything is gentleness. Hard toward the unbelievers, merciful among themselves [Qur'an 48:20]

- pg 275

"God's gentleness is equal to His severity. However, His Essence is all gentleness, so gentleness predominates." - pg 119

Monday, February 27, 2006

Harshness with friends

Shams Tabrizi insists on the importance of showing severity to the student, in order to drive away hypocrisy and to show them the truth of their state. Everyone wants to be praised. As long as you praise them, they like you, and when you criticize them they hate you. You should find a teacher who will criticize you, so that you know the truth and correct yourself. By acting cruelly to someone, you help him become more perfect. By praising them you only lead them further into error. However, this severity is only the outer appearace. Shams Tabrizi says that your essence has to be Gentleness, like God whose essence is Gentleness. In fact it is this Gentleness that causes the outward severity. Severity is gentleness because it is for your sake. It perfects you and pushes you forward. It also tests you and tests your sincerity on the path. If you do not accept severity then you're only a pretender, you're not sincere in your quest, and you're not willing to go through any trouble for it. After all, a child will love you if you are gentle with him. Be cruel to him and he will run away from you. But a real man will stay with the shaikh even if he treated him severely, because he knows that he is bringing him benefit and sees that he is instilling the secret in him. Shams compares it to the siraat al-mustaqeem: a sharp sword surrounded by hell. Once you cross it, you're in Heaven for ever.

"I've said it a thousand times: Whenever I love someone, I act cruelly toward him. For a tiny slip, I gave him a hundred thousand retributions. As for the others, I don't call them to account for a mountain of sins... Don't you see that all the tribulations of the prophets and the saints were because they were His elect? " - pg 289

"Whenever I love someone, I bring forth cruelty. If he accepts that, I belong to him like a morsel. I mean, if you act with kindliness toward a five-year old child, he believes in you and loves you. It's cruelty that does the work." - pg 281

"I had a group of students. Out of kindness and good advice, I spoke cruelly to them. They used to say, 'When we were children with him, he never called us by these bad names. Maybe he's become melancholic.' I used to smash all that kindness." - pg 7

these are just quick quotes. He focuses on this a lot, and it's a theme continually repeated in his maqalaat (sayings). You'd have to read the whole thing to get a better idea of the whole philosophy and truth of it. I'm just quoting the outer "result", the action.

of course there must be gentleness too. It's just that people only want gentleness and flee from severity. There must be each in its proper place. Shams compares it to grapes that are not yet ripe. They must be alternated between the clouds and direct sunlight. The sun is needed so the grapes dont whither, and the clouds so that the grapes dont burn. Before they become sweet, the grapes would be ruined by cold weather. But after they are perfected and ripe and sweet, it doesnt matter even if they're covered in snow. (pg 118)

Monday, February 20, 2006

How to think of those who fight against Muslims

He said, "If they were thorns, it would have been necessary to set them on fire."

I said, "That would be following Noah, not following Muhammad. Noah said '[My Lord,] leave not on the earth even one of the unbelievers!' (Q 71:26). Muhammad said, 'O God, guide my people, for they do not know.' "

- Shams Tabrizi. Me & Rumi , Pg 255

The Prophet said that on the day he was attacked by the people of Taif and they threw stones at him until his shoes were full of blood. Note how the Prophet considered those who were non-believers and who attacked him violently as "his people", for he was sent for all mankind.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Omar Khayyam: Fact and Fiction

It is widely recognised that the 'translation' that FitzGerald made had about it a good deal of FitzGerald himself. The first verse is entirely his own invention, and as to the rest:

"It must be admitted that FitzGerald took great liberties with the original in his version of Omar Khayyam."

So wrote W Aldis Wright, who edited a version of the Rubaiyat for Macmillan in 1962.

"None but the fool the wine of Earth doth quaff,
none but the wise the wine of Life do draw...

The means that do the ends of life defeat,
are: drink, fornication and other unlawful acts
committed by the flesh, gambling and untruth.

No threats of Hell, no hope of Heaven, can lift
the cloud that doth enshroud a defiled earthly temple.
Such flowers as these forever die,
uselessness has no place in creation's fertile fields.

Oft has the Way on earth been blazed, that all the
Path might see and rightly follow.

Sages the Pateran* have placed at every crossroad.
And though so many have pushed those darkened doors aside,
none have returned of that Way here to tell!
Which to discover, all for themselves must tread.

Yet some may question the Wisdom of the Law,
that free salvation grants to all on earth who fall.

Yet falling they must rise again; oh slayer of our foes,
renunciation is thy name!

With thee we fight the hordes of pain, and passion slay,
and thus destroy the cause of all our ills.

Each his own salvation wins! Each all earthly sin must here renounce!
Thus have the wise all taught.

Let us call Him the All-Merciful, for He the Path doth light,
so man from mortal darkness may be led into the Light.

Hear ye then this simple, yet most ancient of the truths,
how man can gain the knowledge of life beyond the tomb.

"Control thyself, and with thy senses send thy soul unto its elements,
there to wring out the secret of its birth and end."

- Omar Khayyam [1]

* Pateran: a leaf that travelers place at the cross roads to show the way to their followers.
1. Hazeldine, Norton F.W., The Sufism of the Rubaiyat, Pg 37-40

Sunday, February 12, 2006

When poverty is complete...

Shams Tabrizi:

"Now concerning the meaning of idha iktamala l-faqr, huwAllah[1], people have spoken a thousand inanities. It means that when poverty is complete, God is seen plainly. You find and you see- not that you become God. When poverty is complete, you find God. Otherwise, it's unbelief.

Someone said, "Maybe it doesn't mean that."

Shams said, "Then, what is the difference between you and the Christian? After all, Jesus was subtler than Hallaj, Abu Yazid, or the others.[2] So why do you blame the Christian for saying that Jesus is God? You say the same thing. No, the meaning is When poverty is complete, you find God."

In other words: When someone's soul dies, and when his satan dies, when he is purified of blameworthy character traits, he arrives at God. God forbid! Rather, he arrives at the path of God. Otherwise, he has strayed from the path of God and the soul is still alive, the satan is still alive. If he does not distinguish between the light of God's path and the light of God, he is in darkness and blindness. "Surely God has seven hundred veils of light," or "seven hundred thousand veils of light. Were one of the veils removed, this world and everything in it would be incinerated." Little by little, you pass beyond these veils until you arrive at the light of the Essence, at a light that grows up from the Essence."

- Shams Tabrizi. Me & Rumi Pg 129-130 [3]

1. This is understood by most ppl as "When poverty is complete, he is God", meaning when someone becomes a complete faqir empty of all attributes, he arrives at God. Shams Tabrizi is correcting the belief, saying it should be understood as (and therefore translated as), "When poverty is complete, 'It is God!' ", meaning when someone becomes a complete faqir, he finds God so that he says, "huwAllah!. And if anyone thinks otherwise then he has been tricked by his ego and his satan, who are not really destroyed.

2. i.e. the sayings of Jesus according to the Christians, where he might attribute a share of divinity to himself. He doesn't mean the actual Jesus as Muslims know he was.

3. Not an exact copy from the book, I changed a few things to make it clearer.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Reading Vs Realization

"The treatise of Muhammad the Messenger of God would not profit me. I must have my own treatise. If I were to read a thousand treatises, I'd become darker.

They don't know the secrets of God's saints and they study their treatises. Everyone stirs up his own imagination, then makes accusations against the speaker of the words. They never accuse themselves. They don't say, 'There's no mistake in those words- it's in our ignorance and imaginings!' "

- Shams Tabrizi. Me & Rumi, Pg 119

This is of course talking about treatises on esoteric matters. The reader can never understand what the author is really saying because the author has seen and realized things that the reader has not, and is (usually) at a far higher station than the reader. So the reader is only imagining what he thinks the author is talking about, according to his own limited understanding. Everyone must do the works necessary to progress on the path and write his own treatise. Commenting on this, Chittick clarifies,

"Shams is saying, 'What good are such treatises? If Muhammad himself had a treatise, it would be useless.' The issue is of course verification and realization, which are utterly different from rote learning." (Ibid, pg 326)

"Know that studying is also a great veil. Man goes into it, as if he has gone into a well or a moat. Then at the end he regrets it, because he comes to know that he was kept busy with licking the pot so that he would be held back from the subsistent, endless food. After all, words and sounds are the pot."

- Ibid, pg 45

BUT, when it comes to more outward matters in regards to the path (and these are the things that are most important since the inward matters are left for us to experience on our own), some instructions are more useful than others:

"I would not trade the least report from Muhammad (pbuh) for a hundred thousand treatises by Qushayri, Qurayshi, and the others. They have no flavor, no taste."

- Ibid, pg 71

The road to perfection is not straight

"In my view, no one can become a Muslim just once. He becomes a Muslim, then he becomes an unbeliever, then again he becomes a Muslim, and each time something comes out of him. So it goes until he becomes perfect."

- Shams Tabrizi. Me & Rumi. Pg 237

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Sufism is a light in the heart and mind

“Abu Bakr does not precede you for praying much or fasting much, but because of a secret that has taken root in his heart.”
- The Prophet (pbuh) [1]

“Tasawwuf is not the profusion of prayer and fasting, but wholeness of the breast and selflessness.” - Junayd [2]

"O ye who believe! Be mindful of your duty to Allah and put faith in His messenger. He will give you twofold of His mercy and will make for you a light with which you will walk, and will forgive you. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful" (Qur'an 57:28)

[must get hadiths quoted in Ibn Jawzi's kitab al-adhkiya in which the Prophet says that one's Islam could be measured by his intelligence, or something to that effect.]

1. Related by Ahmad with a sound chain in Kitab fada'il al-Sahaba, ed. Wasi Allah ibn Muhammad Abbas (Makkah: Muassasat al-risala, 1983) 1:141 (#118).
2. al-Qushayri, Risalat kitab al-sama in al-Rasail al-qushayriyya (Sidon and Beirut: al-maktaba al-asriyya, 1970) p. 60.

Wealth and the Heart

"Someone remarked to Ahmad Ghazali, 'You spend the whole day blaming this world and encouraging people to cut off their attachments, but you have several tethers of horses, mules, and donkeys. How do you explain that?' He replied, 'I have driven the tethers' pegs into the ground, not into my heart' "

- Tabsirat al-Mubtadi. A Sufi text written in Konya in 1260. Me & Rumi note 2.212, pg 331.

"Money—there should be a lot in your pocket, but none in your heart."

- Shaykh Muzaffar Ozak al-Jerrahi, quoted by Shaykh Tosun Bayrak in The World is Beautiful

There is "subtlety" outside of predestination

"These great ones, they all fell into predestination - these gnostics. But the Path is something other than that. There is subtlety outside of predestination. God calls you "freely-choosing." Why do you call yourself predestined? He calls you "powerful" and He calls you "freely-choosing" because commandments and prohibitions, promises and threats, and sending messengers all demand free choice. There are a few verses on predestination, but not many."

- Shams Tabrizi, Me & Rumi pg 86. See also second quote in this post for continuation of this talk and its importance for the path.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The state of the Muslim world

"O Abu Dharr! The world is the prison of the believer, the grave his place of safety, and the Garden his end. O Abu Dharr! The world is the Garden of the disbeliever, the grave is his torment, and the Fire his end." - The Prophet (pbuh)

"The world is the prison of the believer, and the heaven of the unbeliever." - The Prophet (pbuh)
[Muslim, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Ahmad]

"...while those who reject Allah will enjoy this world and eat as cattle eat; and the Fire will be their abode." (Qur'an 47:12)

Commenting on the verse, "He is the one who creates and renews his creation. "(85:13), Ja'far Sadiq (r.a.) said,

"That is, he clothes the enemies in the garb of friends so they might be led along little by little. He clothes his friends in the garb of enemies that they might not admire themselves*. Then, at the moment of death, he renews his creation."

* Michael Sells comments: "An early example of the attitude known as malaamatiyya, the regarding of blame in the eyes of the wider society as a protection against self-admiration, and conversely, the regarding of praise as dangerous. The point draws on a number of Qur'anic passages explaining to the Prophet Muhammad and to the general hearer of the message why the wicked are sometimes allowed to prosper and be praised."

(Sells, Michael A. Early Islamic Mysticism)

I heard Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami say that Abu Amr al-Anmati said,

"The vizier, Ali bin Isa, rode in a great procession. It made strangers ask, 'Who is that? Who is that?' A woman standing by the roadside said, 'How long are you going to ask, "Who is that, who is that?" That is the servant who has fallen from God's favor so God is trying him with what you see!' Ali bin Isa heard this. He returned to his house, freed himself of the vizierate, and went to Mecca and remained there."

- Qushayri, On Repentance


Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Truth about the Khalwa

"Withdrawal from the world does not mean going away from inhabited places. The essence of seclusion is to isolate blameworthy traits in order to substitute the divine names for them. Thus it was asked, "Who is the gnostic (arif)?" and they replied, "A creature distinguished," that is, someone who appears to be together with people, but is inwardly separated from them." - Qushayri [1]

"[Seclusion] is to go among the crowd, while your secret prevents them from crowding you and to withdraw your ego from sins while your inner awareness is bound by the Real." -al-Jurayri [1]

It has been said, "Whoever prefers seclusion has attained seclusion." - Qushayri [1]

"Someone who is concealed from the people by retreat is not like someone who is concealed from them by God." - Dhul-Nun [1]

"There was an ascetic in the mountains. He was of the mountain- he was not of Adam. If he had been of Adam, he would have been among the people. Such people have understanding, they have imagination, they have the capacity to know God. What was he doing in the mountain? He was mud, so he inclined toward stones. What does man have to do with stones?

Be among the people, but be alone. Don't go into seclusion, but be solitary.

Muhammad (pbuh) said, "There is no monasticism in Islam." According to one interpretation, this is prohibition of cutting oneself off, of coming out from among the people, and of making oneself notable among the creatures because of knowledge. Another meaning is that it is prohibition of refusing to take a wife. Take a wife, but be disengaged. In other words, be separate from all and be rid of all in your heart." - Shams Tabrizi [2]

"When you serve the shaykh and are in the presence of the most outstanding of the shaykhs, you will have a permanent seclusion without sitting in seclusion. A state will come over you such that you will always be in seclusion. God has servants such that, when someone joins their service, he has a constant and continuous seclusion." - Shams Tabrizi [7]

"[The forty-day seclusion] is an innovation in the religion of Muhammad (pbuh). Muhammad never sat in a forty-day seclusion. That's in the story of Moses. Read, "And when We appointed with Moses forty nights" (Qu'ran 2:5).

Don't these blind people see that Moses, with all that grandeur, used to say, "My Lord, make me one of the community of Muhammad!"? In other words, "Make me one of the folk of vision!" This is the secret of those words. Otherwise, why would Moses want to be with me and you with our stinking armpits? " - Shams Tabrizi [3]

"These people who do the forty-day seclusion are followers of Moses- they have not tasted the following of Muhammad. Far from it! Rather, they do not have the following of Muhammad according to its stipulations. They have a bit of the flavor of following Moses, and they've taken that." - Shams Tabrizi [8]

"In short, in those outward seclusions, the more they go forward, the more imagination increases and stands in front of them. But in the path of following [Muhammad], the more they go forward- reality upon reality, and self-disclosure upon self-disclosure!" - Shams Tabrizi [4]

"So if I had the power, when he began telling the story of Abu Yazid and the seclusions yesterday, I would have said, 'This is innovation in Muhammad's religion. Don't talk about innovators.'...I would have said: 'Get up, go, and don't do anything like this again- listening to other people's words, and quoting the sayings of faulty transmitters about God's servants" -Shams Tabrizi [5]

"God's speaking-companion (Moses) said Show me (Qur'an 7:143). Since he knew that this belongs to the Muhammadans, he asked, "O God, make me one of the community of Muhammad!" This is what he meant by Show me: Make me one of the community of Muhammad. When he saw that the radiance of manliness fell on that mountain, and the mountain was smashed, he said, "That's not my work, but Make me one of the community of Muhammad."

It was said, "Now go for a few days in the service of Khizr." Khizr also says "Make me of the community of Muhammad." There is another light that plunders Moses and Khizr. If you look at Jesus, you'll see him perplexed in that light. If you look at Moses, you'll see him transfixed by that light. Muhammad has a light that overcomes all lights.

After all, those forty-day seclusions and those invocations- are they really the following of Muhammad? Yes, Moses received the instruction forty nights (Qur'an 2:51). What then is the following of Muhammad that Moses did not dare to ask for it? Rather, he said, "Make me one of his fellow riders." - Shams Tabrizi [6]

1. Qushayri's Risala. On Solitude and Seclusion
2. Me & Rumi pg 203-204
3. Ibid, pg 147
4. Ibid, pg 88
5. Ibid, pg 190
6. Ibid, pg 113
7. Ibid, pg 210
8. Ibid, pg 255

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Focusing on God, not the Ego

The Sufi masters of Gnosis believe that if a man were to focus too much on destroying their ego, always thinking about it, then it will only get bigger and bigger, while they suspect not. That is why they recommend instead that one acquire proper knowledge and focus on God instead. I also dont believe the ego could be killed, but that it could be subdued and momentarily extinguished. And that he who believes his ego has been killed for good has been tricked by it, but who am I to say, and God knows best.

AbulMalih reported on the authority of a man: I was riding on a mount behind the Prophet (peace be upon him). It stumbled. Thereupon I said: "May the devil perish!" He said: "Do not say: May the devil perish! for if you say that , he will swell so much so that he will be like a house and say, 'By my power'; But say: 'In the name of Allah' for when you say that, he will diminish so much that he will be like a fly".

- Sunan Abu Dawud, Kitab al-Adab, Number 4946

"[Hakim al-Tirmidhi's] letter to Abû 'Uthmân al-Hîrî, as well as the other two letters mentioned above revolve around the important issue of how best to deal with the ego (nafs) which undermines all spiritual attainments. Touching on this question, Hakîm al-Tirmidhî writes to Abû 'Uthmân:

I have received your letter, my brother, one letter after another. You confirm repeatedly [how] the blemishes of the lower self (nafs) [are an obstacle] in the [attainment] of [spiritual] knowledge. My brother, if you can refrain from being occupied by this obstacle, since this is other than Allâh, do so. For Allâh has servants who indeed have knowledge of Him, and they ignore all things but Him. They are wary of being occupied with the lower self and instead they fear Him. Whenever anyone of them is afflicted by its memory, his stomach turns as if he were about to vomit. How can one who strolls through gardens of roses, jasmine and wild lilies graze in valleys of thorns? How can one who is nourished by the remembrance of the Majestic be aware of anything but Him? (72)

Tirmidhî's objections to an exaggerated preoccupation with the nafs in the mystical quest is expressed here as well as in other letters and in many passages throughout his writings. In his letter to Abû 'Uthmân he presents the nucleus of his own understanding and approach in which the nafs is conceived as the centre of negative qualities: lust, desire, fear, anger, doubt, idolatry and forgetfulness. A transformation (tabdîl) of these negative qualities into positive ones is possible. This transformation is possible, however, only by means of the heart, that is, by the capacity of the heart to "see things in their essence" (haqâ'iq al-umûr). The heart's vision is obscured by the negative qualities of the lower self which cause a veil (ghitâ') to fall between it and the Truth. This vicious circle can be broken by faith (îmân) which resides in the heart. Faith is reinforced by the grace of God, and its light intensifies gradually. As the light of faith intensifies in the heart, the impact of the 'veil' becomes weaker. As it weakens, 'the essence of things' becomes clearer and more visible to the heart. When the heart 'sees' the 'essence of things', its faith is transformed and becomes 'certitude' (yaqin). At this stage, when the heart has attained 'certitude', the full transformation occurs: the desire of the nafs becomes desire for God, fear becomes fear of God, anger becomes anger for the sake of God, lust becomes longing for God, doubt becomes certitude, idolatry becomes pure unity and forgetfulness becomes determination.

Evidently Hakîm aI-Tirmidhî's teaching, although revolving around the same psychological issues and obstacles which occupied the Malâmatiyya, advocates an utterly different approach. Excessive concern with the nafs regardless of its prominence in counteracting the sincere spiritual and devotional quest, will lead nowhere as long as the seeker's attention remains focused on it alone. Tirmidhî's method, as he reiterates in his letter, is based on "the science of God" (al-'ilm bi'llâh), whereas the method of Abû 'Uthmân and the Nîshâpûrî school - who are not mentioned by name but are undoubtedly implied - is based on "the science of the self" (al-'ilm bi'l-nafs). If one focuses one's attention on the science of the self - says al-Tirmidhî - one will never be released from the self. "If one occupies oneself with the knowledge of the self's blemishes, one will spend all one's life in the attempt to be released from it (fa-'in ishtaghala al-'abd bi ma 'rfat al- 'uyûb baqiya 'umrahu fîhâ wa fi 'l-takhallus minhâ)," he comments. On the other hand, if one focuses one's attention on the science of God, the heart becomes stronger and its vision of Divine revelations clearer. These revelations revive the heart, and its antithesis, the self, withers away. "When the self gives up because of the impact of the Divine revelations, the heart is revived by the Lord; what blemish remains then?" (73) "

"In loving God, I have no time left in which to hate the Devil" - Rabi'a al-Adawiyya

"The Venerable Master, the Saint Ibn Ata-Illah says in his Hikam: "Since you know that the Devil will never forget you, it is your business not to forget [God]." And our Master used to say: "The true way to hurt the enemy is to be occupied with the love of the Friend; on the other hand, if you engage in war with the enemy, he will have obtained what he wanted from you and at the same time you will have lost the opportunity of loving the Friend." " - Shaykh ad-Darqawi[1]

"Nothing can burn this Satan- only the fire of the love of the man of God. All the other ascetic disciplines that people perform do not hold him back. Rather, he gets stronger. He was created from the fire of the appetites, and light alone puts out fire.

Your light extinguishes my fire." - Shams Tabrizi[2]

72: B. Radtke, op. cit., p. 191 (Arabic section).
73: Ibid., pp.191-2 (Arabic)
(72+73 Taken from "Hakim Tirmidhi and the Malamati Movement in Early Sufism" by Sara Sviri.

1. Letters of a Sufi Master, Pg 29

2. Me & Rumi, pg 226.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Treasures of Prayer

"The third spiritual hell is that of disappointment and failure to reach the real object of existence. Man was intended to mirror forth the light of the knowledge of God, but if he arrives in the next world with his soul thickly coated with the rust of sensual indulgence he will entirely fail of the of object for which he was made. His disappointment may be figured in the following way:

Suppose a man is passing with some companions through a dark wood. Here and there, glimmering on the ground, lie variously colored stones. His companions collect and carry these and advise him to do the same. "For," say they, "we have heard that these stones will fetch a high price in the place whither we are going." He, on the other hand, laughs at them and calls them fools for leading themselves in the vain hope of gain while he walks free and unencumbered. Presently they emerge into the full daylight and find that these colored stones are rubies, emeralds, and other jewels of priceless value. The man's disappointment and chagrin at not having gathered some when so easily within his reach may be more easily imagined than described.

Such will be the remorse of those hereafter, who, while passing through this world, have been at no pains to acquire the jewels of virtue and the treasures of religion."

- Abu Hamid Ghazzali, The Alchemy of Happiness. Knowledge of the Next World, pg 40.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Dominion over one's self

The Caliph Harun al Rashid went to Mecca for the pilgrimage and then asked his vizier Fadl b. Rabii' to take him to visit a man of God. Everytime they visited a famous man of God, Harun al-Rashid would ask to meet someone even greater, until they reached Fudayl bin Iyad.

When they touched hands, Fudayl exclaimed, "Alas! never have I felt a softer hand: 'twill be very wonderful if it escape from the Divine torment." Harun began to weep, and wept so violently that he swooned. When he came to himself, he said, "O Fudayl, give me a word of counsel." Fudayl said: "O commander of the Faithful, thy ancestor (Abbas) was the uncle of al-Mustafa. He asked the Prophet to give him dominion over men. The Prophet answered, 'O my uncle, I will give thee dominion for one moment over thyself,' i.e. one moment of thy obedience to God [by having complete dominion over one's self and one's ego] is better than a thousand years of men's obedience to thee, since al-imaarat yawm al-qiyaamat nadaamat (dominion over men brings regret on the Day of Resurrection)."

- Kashful Mahjub, pg 99


"What is the meaning of walayat [sovereignty, sanctity]? Is it that someone should have armies and cities and fortresses? No! Rather, walayat is that someone should have walayat over his own soul, his own states, his own attributes, his own speech, and his own silence. Severity should be in the place of severity, and gentleness in the place of gentleness. He must not start being a predestinarian like the gnostics: "I am helpless, and He is powerful." No, you must have power over all your own attributes, over silence in the place of silence, over response in the place of response, over severity in the place of severity, and over gentleness in the place of gentleness. Otherwise, a person's attributes will be his affliction and chastisement, because he does not rule over them. Rather, they rule over him."

- Shams Tabrizi. Me & Rumi pg 86.

Is it not time to submit to God's commands?

Has not the Time arrived for the Believers that their hearts in all humility should engage in the remembrance of Allah and of the Truth which has been revealed (to them), and that they should not become like those to whom was given Revelation aforetime, but long ages passed over them and their hearts grew hard? For many among them are rebellious transgressors. (Qur'an 57:16)

[Abu Ali al-Fudayl b. Iyaad] is one of the paupers (sa3aleek) of the Sufis, and one of their most eminent and celebrated men. At first he was used to practice brigandage between Merv and Baward, but he was always inclined to piety, and invariably showed a generous and magnanimous disposition, so that he would not attack a caravan in which there was a woman, or take the property of anyone whose stock was small; and he let the travellers keep a portion of their property, according to the means of each. One day a merchant set out from Merv. His friends advised him to take an escort, but he said to them: "I have heard that Fudayl is a God-fearing man;" and instead of doing as they wished he hired a Koran-reader and mounted him on a camel in order that he might read the Koran aloud day and night during the journey. When they reached the place where Fudayl was lying in ambush, the reader happened to be reciting: "Is it not time that the hearts of those who believe should be humbled to the remembrance of God?" (Qur'an 57:16). Fudayl's heart was softened. He repented of the business in which he was engaged, and having written a list of those whom he had robbed, he satisfied all their claims upon him. Then he went to Mecca and resided there for some time and became acquainted with certain saints of God. Afterwards he returned to Kufa, where he associated with Abu Hanifa. He has handed down relations (hadiths) which are held in high esteem by Traditionists, and he is the author of lofty sayings concerning the verities of Sufism and Divine Knowledge.

- Kashful Mahjub, pg 97-98

see also Remembrance of the Saints, pg 52

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Brain as reducing valve. How to make Reality slip through.

"Reflecting on my [mescalin] experience, I find myself agreeing with the eminent Cambridge philosopher, Dr. C. D. Broad, "that we should do well to consider much more seriously than we have hitherto been inclined to do the type of theory which Bergson put forward in connection with memory and sense perception. The suggestion is that the function of the brain and nervous system and sense organs is in the main eliminative and not productive. Each person is at each moment capable of remembering all that has ever happened to him and of perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe. The function of the brain and nervous system is to protect us from being overwhelmed and confused by this mass of largely useless and irrelevant knowledge, by shutting out most of what we should otherwise perceive or remember at any moment, and leaving only that very small and special selection which is likely to be practically useful." According to such a theory, each one of us is potentially Mind at Large. But in so far as we are animals, our business is at all costs to survive. To make biological survival possible, Mind at Large has to be funneled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system. What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive on the surface of this particular planet."

- Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception. Pg 23.

"Mescalin inhibits the production of [the enzymes that regulate the supply of glucose to the brain] and thus lowers the amount of glucose available to an organ that is in constant need of sugar. " (Pg 24)

"These effects of mescalin are the sort of effects you could expect the administration of a drug having the power to impair the efficiency of the cerebral reducing valve. When the brain runs out of sugar, the undernourished ego grows weak, can't be bothered to undertake the necessary chores, and loses all interest in those spatial and temporal relationships which mean so much to an organism bent on getting on in the world. As Mind at Large seeps past the no longer watertight valve, all kinds of biologically useless things start to happen. In some cases there may be extra-sensory perceptions. Other persons discover a world of visionary beauty. To others again is revealed the glory, the infinite value and meaningfulness of naked existence, of the given, unconceptualized event. In the final stage of egolessness there is an "obscure knowledge" that All is in all- that All is actually each." (Pg 26)

Huxley also describes "two other, less effective aids to visionary experience": carbon dioxide and the stroboscopic lamp (ex. The Dream Machine). As for carbon dioxide, Huxley describes how a mixture of seven parts oxygen and three parts carbon dioxide produces in those who inhale it physical and psychological changes, including brief visionary experience.

He continues,

"In light of these facts it becomes easy to understand the rationale of yogic breathing exercises. Practiced systematically, these exercises result, after a time, in prolonged suspensions of breath. Long suspensions of breath lead to a high concentration of carbon dioxide in the lungs and blood, and this increase in the concentration of CO2 lowers the efficacy of the brain as a reducing valve and permits the entry into consciousness of experiences, visionary or mystical, from 'out there.'

Prolonged and continuous shouting or singing may produce similar, but less strongly marked, results. Unless they are highly trained, singers tend to breathe out more than they breathe in. Consequently, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the alveolar air and the blood is increased and, the efficiency of the cerebral reducing valve being lowered, visionary experience becomes possible. Hence the interminable 'vain repetitions' of magic and religion. The chanting of the curandero, the medicine man, the shaman; the endless psalm singing and sutra intoning of Christian and Buddhist monks; the shouting and howling, hour after hour, of revivalists- under all the diversities of theological belief and aesthetic convention, the psychochemico-physiological intention remains constant. To increase the concentration of CO2 in the lungs and blood so to lower the efficiency of the cerebral reducing valve, until it will admit biologically useless material from Mind-at-Large - this, though the shouters, singers and mutterers did not know it, has been at all times the real purpose and point of magic spells, of mantrams, litanies, psalms and sutras."

- Aldous Huxley. Heaven and Hell. Appendix I, Pg 143-145

The Sufis have created what is by far the most efficient and powerful way of all the religious traditions. Instead of relying on continual singing or shouting or mantras in which more breaths are exhaled than inhaled, they simply stand up and continually repeat "Hu! Hu! Hu! Hu!" "Hu" being both a forceful expelling of air and one of the ultimate names of God. This is the fastest and most efficient way to build up more carbon dioxide in the lungs and blood, making the brain (which functions as a reducing valve) less efficient at filtering out all the other material from Mind-at-Large, of "everything that is happening everywhere in the universe", and so Ultimate Reality slips through and visionary experience is attained.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

al-Fitra and Divine Knowledge

Before the Prophet Muhammad's ascension to the Heavens, he had to drink the cup of 'Fitra'.

I mounted [al-Buraq] and came to Bait al-Maqdis. I then tethered it to the ring used by the prophets*. I entered the area of the Mosque and prayed two rak'at in it. I then came out and Gabriel brought me a vessel of wine and a vessel of milk. I chose the milk, and Gabriel said, 'You have chosen al-fitra'.

He then ascended with me into the lower heavens ....

[reported by Muslim]

Abu Hurayrah said,

Allah's Apostle was presented with two cups one containing wine and the other milk on the night of his night journey at Jerusalem. He looked at it and took the milk. Gabriel said, "Thanks to Allah Who guided you to the Fitra; if you had taken the wine, your followers would have gone astray.

[Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 232:]

The Fitra is the "primordial" state/nature in which all humans are born, for Allah's Messenger (pbuh) said,

"No child is born except on Al-Fitra"

[Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 298:]

Thus those who wish to attain Divine Knowledge must "drink the cup of Fitra", as the Prophet (pbuh) did in order to ascend to the Heavens, and God knows best. And how do we return to the fitra? By subduing, or "killing" the ego. We must return to the state of newborns who have no egos. Newborn, until sometime near their first year, do not know that they exist as an independent entity.. they do not know what "I" means. And for a much later time, they still do not have egos like we do. So in order to return to that state, we must go through ego "extinction" and lose our "I-ness", and that is done by spiritual discipline. When one reaches the goal, and becomes a true sufi, he attains Divine Knowledge, or Wisdom. In fact, the numerical value of the arabic word sufi is equal to the numerical value of al-Hikmatul ilahiya (Divine Wisdom)**.

As for the Prophet himself, he was already on the fitra, for he had already subdued his ego, or evil-commanding nafs. When he told the people that they all have their own satan (ego), one person asked, and do you have a satan, O Messenger of Allah? He said , "Yes, but my satan has submitted (aslama, become Muslim)."

The Prophet was known to do and say things in front of the people that did not apply to him, but he said them to teach his followers to follow in his example. For example, he would always repeat in front of people the du'a, "O Turner of hearts, fix my heart on Your religion". This dua was intended for us to hear and emulate, and was not something that the Prophet needed to say himself.

Therefore by "drinking" the cup of fitra, the Prophet (pbuh) was showing the Muslims what they should do in order to obtain divine knowledge: to return to the state of purity, fitra. That is why Gabriel said to him, "if you had taken the wine, your followers would have gone astray". Because we are meant to follow in the Prophet's example. Afterall, the Mu'min (true believer) can have a Mi'raj too, for the Prophet (pbuh) said, "The salaat (prayer) is the Miraj of the believer".

The same truth expressed in other religions:

"To the one who dwells in the non-manifested, all beings manifest themselves... United to the Principle, it is in harmony, through it, with all beings. United to the Principle, it knows all through superior general reasons, and consequently no longer uses its various senses to know in particular and in detail. The true reason of things is invisible, imperceptible, indefinable, indeterminable. Alone, the spirit re-established in its state of perfect simplicity can attain in it deep contemplation."[1]

'Simplicity', an expression of the unification of all the powers of the being, characterizes the return to the 'primordial state' and we see here the whole difference separating the transcendent knowledge of the sage from ordinary and 'profane' knowledge. This 'simplicity' is also designated elsewhere as the state of 'childhood' (in Sanskrit, baalya), naturally understood in the spiritual sense, and is considered in Hindu doctrine as a precondition for the acquisition of knowledge par excellence. This brings to mind similar words found in the Gospels: 'Whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it"[2], and "Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes."[3]

'Simplicity' and 'littleness' are here basically equivalents of the 'poverty' that is so often mentioned in the Gospels, and that is generally very much misunderstood: 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'[4] According to Islamic esoterism, this 'poverty' (in Arabic, al-faqru), leads to al-fanaa', that is, to the 'extinction' of the 'ego' [moi][5]; and by this 'extinction' one attains the 'divine station' (al-maqaamul-ilahi), which is the central point where all distinctions inherent in outward points of view are surpassed, where all oppositions have disappeared and are resolved in perfect equilibrium.
] [6]

* This implies that other prophets too have come to the Bait al-Maqdis for their own Mi'raj, and God knows best.
** Guenon, Rene. Insights into Islamic Esoterism & Taoism. Pg 3. Every letter in Arabic (and in Hebrew) has a numerical value. The numerical value of each word is thus the sum of the values of its letters.
1. Lieh Tzu, chap. 4.
2. Luke 18:17
3. Matt. 11:25; Luke 10:21
4. Matt. 5:3
5. This 'extinction' is not without analogy, even as to the literal meaning of the term designating it, with the Nirvana of the Hindu doctrine; beyond al-fanaa' there is fanaa' al-fanaa'i, the 'extinction of the extinction', which corresponds similarly to Parinirvana. [footnote by Guenon]
6. Guenon, Rene. Insights into Islamic Esoterism & Taoism. Ch4 Al-Faqr. Pg. 19-20.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Abu Bakr and Divine Contemplation

al-Hujwiri on Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (r.a.):

He is placed by the Sufi Shaykhs at the head of those who have adopted the contemplative life (mushaahadat), on account of the fewness of the stories and traditions which he related; while Umar is placed at the head of those who have adopted the purgative life (mujaahadat), because of his rigour and assiduity in devotion. It is written among the genuine Traditions, and is well known to scholars, that when Abu Bakr prayed at night he used to recite in a low voice, whereas Umar used to recite in a loud voice. The Apostle asked Abu Bakr why he did this. Abu Bakr replied: "He with whom I converse will hear." Umar, in his turn, replied: "I wake the drowsy and drive away the Devil." The one gave a token of contemplation, the other of purgation. Now purgation, compared with contemplation, is like a drop of water in a sea, and for this reason the Apostle said that Umar, the glory of Islam, was only (equivalent to) a single one of the good deeds of Abu Bakr (hal anta illaa hasanatun min hasanaati Abi Bakr).

It is recorded that Abu Bakr said: "Our abode is transitory, our life therein is but a loan, our breaths are numbered, and our indolence is manifest." By this he signified that the world is too worthless to engage our thoughts; for whenever you occupy yourself with what is perishable, you are made blind to that which is eternal: the friends of God turn their backs on the world and the flesh which veil them from Him, and they decline to act as if they were owners of a thing that is really the property of another."

- Kashf al-Mahjub, pg 70

"He is the Imam of the Muslims in general, and of the Sufis in particular"

- pg 72