You are the Veil

July 30, 2006

O, friend! Nobody veils you, but yourself.
In your path there is no thorn or weed, but yourself.
You said: Shall I reach the Beloved or not?
Between you and the Beloved there is nobody, but yourself.

-  Awhadoddin Kermani

How long will you keep pounding on an open door
Begging for someone to open it?

- Rabi’a  al-‘Adawiyya


Of Mothers, Daughters, Sisters, Wives

July 29, 2006

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

I have been thinking lately of the love and kindness of the women in my family, my long-deceased mother, and my daughter and wife and sister also. And so here is a fitting selection from the Miraaj: The Night Journey of the Prophet’s (pbuh) Ascension to Heaven.

THE FIFTH PARADISE: THE GARDEN OF BEAUTY AND FELICITY

Muhammad (pbuh) traveled for five hundred thousand light-years, after which he arrived at the fifth paradise which is called Jannat al Naeem: “the Garden of Beauty and Felicity.” Its door is made of mixed gold and silver from heaven. Jibraeel knocked at the door and a voice said: “Who is it?” “Jibraeel, bringing Muhammad (pbuh).” “Has he been sent for?” “Yes.” “Welcome, Beloved one, to the fifth paradise!” The door opened and Muhammad (pbuh) saw five beautiful ladies whose radiant light among their servants made them appear like diamonds surrounded by pearls. His heart was moved towards them. He asked Jibraeel: “Who are these ladies?” He answered: “This is Hawwa (Eve), the mother of human beings, this is the Virgin Maryam (Mary), the mother of Isa (Jesus), this is Musa’s (Moses’) mother Yukabid, and this is Assia, the wife of Pharaoh.” The fifth lady looked like a sun among stars. Her light shone over the rest of the inhabitants of that paradise like a gentle breeze passing through the tree-leaves. Jibraeel said: “This is an angel representing your daughter Fatima”

Muhammad (pbuh) asked: “Jibraeel, what is the secret of this paradise?” Jibraeel said: “Allah created this paradise to reflect the beauty and perfection of women. The light of this paradise is the source of the angelic lights of all women on earth. Women have been created to carry the secret of creation in themselves. Allah has honoured them greatly by making their wombs the repository of His word which represents the Spirit. He looks at the most sacred place and there descends His mercy and blessings. He perfected that place and covered it with three protective layers to shelter it from any damage. The first is a layer of light, the second a layer of love, and the third a layer of beauty. There he fashions and creates human beings after His likeness, as Muhammad (pbuh) said: ‘Allah created Adam after His likeness.’ He orders the angels of the womb to perfect His creation by giving the baby life, beauty, health, intelligence, and all kinds of perfect attributes that will make each one distinguished among human beings.”

“Women are not created weaker but more generous than men. They are created more beautiful and less fierce, as beauty hates to hurt and harm others. That is why they seem weak to people, but in reality they are not. Angels are the strongest of created beings, and women are closer to the angelic nature than men, as they are readier than men to carry angelic light. It is the good manners and ethics of spirituality which they carry which makes them less forceful than men. Even physically, however, they are extremely strong. They undergo great upheavals in their body without flinching for the sake of childbirth, and face the direst physical conditions more successfully than men because Allah has enabled them to insure the survival of generations.”

“Allah gave women five angelic qualities which men rarely have. They are the source of peace, as Allah said that He created them “so that you might find rest in them” (30:21). This is the attribute of the first paradise which is named “the Abode of Peace.” They are oasis of constancy in the midst of chaos and change. That is why they give birth as the mother nurtures and shelters the baby more reliably than the father. This is the attribute of the second paradise, which is named ‘the Abode of Constancy.’ They perpetuate generations. Through their offspring Allah creates angelic prophets and saints who establish His perpetual remembrance on earth as the angels establish it in heaven. This is the attribute of the third paradise which is named ‘the Abode of Eternity.’ They are generous and bountiful. They are described as ‘a fertile land’ in all Scriptures because they give without counting, including life. They sacrifice themselves for the sake of another creation, and this is the attribute of the fourth paradise which is named ‘the Sheltering Garden.’ Finally, they are the source of Beauty. Through their softness and subtlety, Allah has crowned the earth with the diadem of angelic grace. This is the attribute of the fifth paradise which is named “the Garden of Beauty.”

—————————————————————————

Blessings and Peace on Muhammad, his Family, and his Companions.

Excerpt from the Waqf Ikhlas, by way of the


Light Within

July 28, 2006

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Our brother SAJ Shirazi in Pakistan needs our help. He writes that there is a ban on blogspot in India and Pakistan and his site suffers for it, though I am not sure if it is a partial ban, or a temporary one. He is a very good writer on technology and the natural beauty of Pakistan, and well worth reading. His blog is


Master of the Jinn Book Review

July 28, 2006

Vonaurum has written a review of Master of the Jinn: A Sufi Novel on his excellent blog


The Greatest Love Story

July 27, 2006

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

It is related that Shaykh Ibrahim Khawwas went to a certain village to visit a devout and reverend man who lived there. “When I entered his house, I saw that it was clean, like a saint’s place of worship. In its two corners, two niches had been made; the old man was seated in one of them, and in the other niche an old woman was sitting, clean and bright; both had become weak through much devotion. They showed great joy at my coming, and I stayed with them for three days. When I was about to depart, I asked the old man, ‘What relation is this old woman to you?’

“He answered, ‘She is my wife.’ I said, ‘During these three days, your interactions with one another has been very much like strangers.’ ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘It has been so for five and sixty years.’ I asked him the cause of this. He replied, ‘When we were young, we fell in love. On the wedding night, she said to me, “You know what happiness God has bestowed upon us in bringing us together and taking all fear away from our hearts. Let us therefore tonight refrain from sensual passion and trample on our desires and worship God in thanksgiving for this happiness.” I said, “It is well.” The next night she bade me do the same. On the third night I said, “Now we have given thanks for two night for your sake; tonight let us worship God for my sake.” Five and sixty years have passed since then, and we have never touched one another, but spend all our lives in giving thanks for our happiness.'”

Excerpt adapted from the Kashf al-Mahjub, the Unveiling of the Veiled (also called the Revelation of the Mystery), the oldest Persian treatise on Sufism, by Shaykh Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali ibn Uthman al-Jullabi al-Hujwiri.


God’s Mercy and the Sufi Path of Love

July 25, 2006

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

To follow the path of Love is indeed to be a servant, unto God and to your fellow creatures, so that they may also find their way. Thus came the word of God’s Mercy into the heart of Dhu’l-Nun the Egyptian, as was related long ago…

“And God said unto His servant: ‘If there comes to you one sick through separation from Me, heal him, or a fugitive from Me, seek him out, or afraid of Me, then reassure him, or wishing union with Me, then show him favor, or seeking to approach Me, encourage him, or despairing of My grace, help him, or hoping for My loving-kindness, give him good news, or with right thoughts of Me, then welcome him, or seeking to know My attributes, guide him.

And if one who is injured asks help of you, give it to him, but if he is doing evil in despite of loving-kindness, then remonstrate him, or if he is forgetful of it, then remind him, and if he goes astray, search for him. For you have I predestined for My work, and you have I appointed for My service.”

Excerpt adapted from


Sitting on a Man’s Back

July 24, 2006

“I sit on a man’s back, choking him, and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by any means possible, except getting off his back.”

- Leo Tolstoy

What better metaphor on Occupation and Tyranny?

From the excellent


The Sufi Master and the Harlot

July 22, 2006

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

When the Sufi Master Mushtaq Ali  Shah was once traveling through Kerman,  Iran, the darvishes there greeted him with great honor and housed him in a room at the local inn. The clerics of the town were jealous of his popularity and his influence, so they sent a prostitute to tempt him, and make him lose favor in the eyes of the people.

She came to his room as he was meditating and danced enticingly in front of him. But he did not look up, and no matter how she flirted, he paid no attention to her. Finally, he did look at her, and said, “Get out, you whore!”

She was suddenly stricken with shame and ran from his presence to her home. The Sufi Master’s words put her into a state of severe agitation. She could not sleep, she could not eat. She kept pacing back and forth as the words rang in her head. She did not know that Mushtaq Ali Shah had spoken them with the full spiritual attention of a Sufi Master, one who had completed the path of Love, and so the words had a profound heart effect on her.

For three days her mind was in this state, filled with the words “Get out, you whore!” “Get out, you whore!” until at last they entered her heart and became her zekr

And the whore within her got out.

By the mercy and compassion of Allah, she abandoned her profession and repented of her past. Eventually, she even became a wali, a friend of God.

Ya Haqq!


Voices for Peace in the Holy Land

July 22, 2006

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Below is a letter from the Holy Land, about some rare good news and positive steps toward peace. Inshallah, it will grow from a trickle to a mighty stream. We are all cousins of the same family, and the only true winner in war is Iblis (Satan). May Allah guide us on the right path.

Hello Friends,

It has been a difficult time in the Holy Land, with immense suffering for the people of Gaza, Israel and Lebanon. We ask you keep sending prayers for peace and healing for the peoples of the Middle East.

In the midst of all the awful news coming from our part of the world, I also want to report to you some of the positive news.

1) The Second World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace
2) The Abrahamic Reunion meets in Tel Sheva, June 20
3) Religious peacemakers and grassroots peace groups respond to the war

SECOND WORLD CONGRESS OF IMAMS AND RABBIS FOR PEACE

Seville, Spain March 19-22
Over 100 Jewish and Muslim religious leaders, and 100 experts in Jewish-Muslim dialogue work came together for 3 days of dialogue, prayer, and practical project building. Joining us were eight Muslim sheikhs and Imams from the Gaza Strip.

The mayor of Seville welcomed all of us, recalling that during the Golden Age, Seville was a place where Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived in and peaceful co-existence together.

At the plenary the Palestinian Imams from Gaza emphasized the difficulty of everyday life for the citizens of Gaza. There was some tension, as some of the rabbis felt that the discussion had turned from religious to political. One rabbi later said, it’s important for us to listen to our brothers from Gaza even if we don’t agree with everthing.

Andre Azoulay, the Jewish advisor to the King of Morocco, asked me to organize an evening of sacred singing with the Muslims present at the Congress. The Imam of the Dome of the Rock, Abdel Karim al-Zorba led the beautiful chanting, reciting Quranic verses and Islamic poetry.

The Chief Rabbi of Rishon L’Zion, Yosef Azran, sat next to the Imam and started to sing the most beautiful Piyutim (sacred songs) in Arabic, then in Hebrew. Before we knew it, the Rabbis and Imams were sitting in the circle together chanting sacred songs back and forth in Hebrew and Arabic for 3 hours! Observers commented, “Now THIS is the heart of the Congress!”.

By the second day, we had broken up into smaller working groups. We helped facilitate a dialogue about the situation in Gaza between one of the Imams from Gaza and Rabbi Zion Cohen, the Chief Rabbi of the Negev Communities who lives in Sderot, a town near Gaza that has been shelled by Qassam rockets.

Even though a close family friend of the rabbi was killed in a Qassam rocket attack, he didn’t mention it. His first response was: how can I help organize humanitarian support for the Palestinians of Gaza from the Jewish towns around Gaza.

By the last day of the Congress, over 20 working groups had been formed, working on issues like racism, Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism, sharing Jerusalem, rereading the holy texts, misconceptions about Islam.

Most of us present at the Congress left with a renewed sense of hope that if the most religious of the Jews and Muslims could learn to cooperate, then perhaps we were taking a step closer to achieving the seemingly impossible dream for peace in the Holy Land and the wider world.

See pictures from this historic event, visit this website and click ‘participants’.

http://interfaith.israel.net/imansandrabbisforpeace/

ABRAHAMIC REUNION IN TEL SHEVA, JUNE 20

Abrahamic Reunion group member Khalil Albaz, the Imam of Tel Sheva, welcomed us to Bedouin town of Tel Sheva, in the Negev, southern Israel. The head of the Tel Sheva council and the people of Tel Sheva welcomed us.
Rabbi Zion Cohen, whom I had met in Seville, came from his town of Sderot on the border of Gaza. “We as religious leaders need to call out against the violence… our response to the situation should be more meetings like this, to plant the seeds of peace!”

Joining us in dialogue and prayer was an ultra-Orthodox Hasid, religious Muslim Bedouin women, the chief of the police in Tel Sheva and others. Abrahamic Reunion group members Sheikh Bukhari and Ibrahim Abuelhawa called for the Children of Abraham to unite. Ibtisam Mahamid and Elana Rozenman spoke about the important role of women in peacemaking.

At a closing prayer circle, Imam Khalil Albaz led a blessing to support and empower some of the young Bedouin women present, who have a project to produce and market traditional herbal remedies and medicines. Devorah Brous of Bustan spoke of her partnership with these women.

Reverend Charles Gibbs, the Executive Director of URI, offered a prayer and then blessed the work of the Abrahamic Reunion. That we could bring people of such diverse backgrounds together in such a difficult time gave all of us hope for a better future.

In all the midst of all the bad news about the violence in Gaza, the main TV news channel in Israel broadcasted 3 minutes on prime time of our gathering.

Please visit this link to see some amazing pictures from our recent gathering in Tel Sheva. http://interfaith.israel.net/telsheva_June2006/

RELIGIOUS PEACEMAKERS AND GRASSROOTS PEACE GROUPS RESPOND

On Wednesday July 19, over fifty Jews and Arabs gathered at the Latrun monastery to plan the next ‘On the Way to Sulha’ gathering, scheduled for August 22-24. See http://www.sulha.com

The theme of this years gathering is: Therefore Choose Life! Ihab Balha, Muslim co-director of the Sulha Peace Project said: now is the time to live our values, not just when its easy… to have compassion for ourselves and the others who are suffering in this war, esp. people from Gaza, Haifa, Tsfat, Nahariya, Beirut.

It was announced that next Thursday, July 27 the Sulha Peace Project, Bereaved Families Forum, Middle Way and others are planning a major prayer vigil in a central public space in Jerusalem, inviting religious leaders and common people to pray together. They will bear witness to the pain of Israelis who have fled the north and read letters from friends in Gaza and Beirut about their situation.

Behind the scenes, Rabbi Menachem Froman has been a bridge for dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, seeking to bring about a cease-fire based on principles found in Islam and Judaism.

Shalom, Salaam,

Eliyahu McLean
Jerusalem Peacemakers, director
Abrahamic Reunion, coordinator

Interested people can follow the Abrahamic Reunion activities and reports on Yahoo. The list is called IEAreports@yahoo.com. Email them to be put on the list.


Wearing Hijab – A Spiritual Concept

July 21, 2006

Salaam And Greetings of Peace:

In reading various Muslimah blogs, the pros and cons of wearing Hijab often comes up. Our sister Amal has written an excellent article on the subject. It is offered below, with her permission.

Greetings, my name is Amal. I am a Muslim convert from the United States – I have been a Muslim for about five years – and a student of the Spirit and of all religions for all of my life. I wish all here peace. Here is an article I wrote a while ago on Dressing as a spiritual exercise. I hope to some it will be valuable — it is the thoughts of my heart and spirit on this subject.

Dressing as a Spiritual Exercise – The Spiritual Value of the
Traditional Concept of Modest Dress

There are many contemporary arguments against the value of traditional modest covering in dress, and many of these arguments have some value in terms of their emphasis on individual choice and liberation from formal ritualistic constraints that may seem to have lost their reason and value in the contemporary world.

This said, however, there is a belief that traditional dress, as described in the Quran and the Bible, has many spiritual uplifting values that are lost in the din of arguments for the liberation of women and instituting more contemporary dress for the sake of living more comfortably in the modern western world. This discussion will try to illustrate the spiritual value of dressing according to the constraints described in the these books, with an emphasis on the underlying benefits to the evolution of the soul when the realities of these spiritual values are utilized in a sacrificial discipline aimed at bringing the spirit closer to Union with the creative light of being that was instilled within us from our very inception.

First and foremost, it must be understood that there are positive and negative reasons for both dressing in the traditional covered fashion and not participating in this practice. It is unfortunate that, too often, any discussion on this subject quickly deteriorates into an argument between fundamentalists whose focus quickly becomes
stridently judgmental of anyone who does not follow strictly every prescribed doctrine found or hinted at in the Holy Books, and progressively spirited people who feel that traditional dress is a constriction that serves as the outward symbol of the enslavement of the female members of Islamic society.

Both of these poles of opinion, in their strident desire to prove the righteousness of their positions, fails to address the positive spiritual value of traditional dress as a discipline that can help the soul to focus more clearly on its journey to union with its Creator.

What are the positive and negative reasons then for following or not following this described practice that is found not only in the Quran but other books of spiritual wisdom as well? First and foremost, in instituting any spiritual practice, it is important to ensure that this practice is rooted in humility and not in arrogance or self oriented pride. Pride and spiritual arrogance are two pitfalls that will surely enlarge the self -orientation of the person and this, by its very nature, will pull the soul further from
its journey toward Union with the Creator. Any practice of ritual or spiritual discipline that increases spiritual arrogance, (the feeling that the self is somehow better than or more holy than others in its sphere) should be closely examined until it can be undertaken with the proper humility of spirit that focuses the soul closer to the purification that leads to union with its spiritual Wellspring. Is it better to dress in a way that hides the self in the company of humanity if a specific form of dress is going to lead the spirit to judgement of others, or a feeling of being better than others in some spiritual way?

How often we see Muslims in western society who dress in the formulated manner judge other Muslims as being below them in spirit because they do not do so. It is very clear when this attitude surfaces, that spiritual arrogance and
pride is more the focus of the sacrifice evident in their dress than is a true spiritual focus of sacrifice for the good of Allah and His Kingdom. The first mark of a spirit on the Path of Truth is the purely humble way they move through the world filling each space and moment in time with small acts of loving sacrifice for the sake of easing the life of humanity around them. Such a soul is appalled when confronted with judgmental attitudes, and any spiritually
arrogant attitude that turns people away from reunion with their spiritual natures.

This said, still it is possible to adopt the Islamic dress ideal of hiijab with this spirit of humility intact. It is also true that one must not fail to dress according to ones belief in Allah’s will for them because they are afraid of appearing to be different or that they will attract negative attention to themselves. In this age of fear this is very important. It is difficult to stand out in the world as a Muslim and it is especially difficult for western people to move toward exposing themselves to possible discrimination and criticism by wearing Islamic attire. One of the most positive aspects, in fact, of adopting strict adherence to theIslamic dress code is overcoming this fear of ridicule. If the spirit is
properly focused on spiritual gain and spiritual growth, then the spirit will humbly discipline the eyes of the body to look downward, while the eyes of the spirit constantly focuses on the Heavens. If every breath and moment is spent in this prayerful discipline, then one will not see the ridicule or the stares of others, and in fact will most often generate goodness and love around them that is a reflection of what radiates from within their focused hearts.

One of the most beautiful aspects of dressing according to the modest described prescription found in the Quran is that so often when we expect ugliness, flowers of kindness and love appear instead. The very act of moving through the world dressed for prayer brings a prayerful focus not only to our own spirits but also to others who we see and move within our human environment. By making Allah visible through our dress, we remind continually not only our own souls of our evolutionary spiritual purpose, but also we radiate a small energy of that spirit to others that serves as a signpost to remind others in our sphere of influence of Allah’s continual presence in the world.

It is essential that we not center ourselves in judgement of others around us who are not dressed according to this standard, but instead welcome others to the warmth of our prayerful spirit in all aspects of what we do. The prayerful dress of the body should be a cloth that radiates and springs from the soul– and if this is so it will provide the spirit with a vessel that is continually prayerfully reaching out to perfection of its Union with the Creator from whence it sprang. If our focus is to always become an empty vessel ready to be filled with the light of hope and love and if our prayerful dress increases the focus that will aid us in this goal, then the purpose for this mode of attire is fulfilled.

The very act of dressing continually for prayer leads the spirit to constant prayerful reminder of its sole purpose for being- to evolve with every breath, every action, every step, every thought, every word and deed into a more perfectly clear reflection of the life source within that sprang from the very heart of the Creator. When one clothes the body with a prayerful focus, one is continually
reminded and drawn inward to this purpose and the outward demeanor becomes an inward reflection of this purpose more clearly in every moment of every day. To clothe the body for the health of the spirit – to clothe the body in a way that increases the awareness of the spirit that its focus must always be constant prayerful reflection – this is a hidden and beautiful purpose of dressing in the Islamic fashion.

It is important to understand that when this focus is there and is coupled with the proper dress, then not only does this prayerful spirit of reflection impact on our interior state but it acts as a beacon of hope and love to all others around us who are receptive to it and longing for it. The beauty of dressing for Allah lies in the spiritual lessons that are gleaned by the soul in this constant call to reflection upon Him, and also in the hope that this reflection
generates to others so deeply lost and in need of the reminding vision.

It is also true that this form of dress can decrease the tendency of the self to focus on vanity and the physical beauty of the body. If one uses this mode of dress to simplify ones desires for beautiful clothing and other physical artifacts, then one moves along on the road of detachment to the attributes of the physical to the value of contentment with simple utilitarian clothing. Detachment from desire and humility are very important spiritual goals, and when possible it is important for those who wish to deeply follow the path of the spirit to do all they can to provide discipline and avenues for fulfillment of these two attributes.

The purpose then of modest and simple dress becomes so much more than an attempt to somehow control the immodest responses of men to our sexual natures, or some ritual done solely because it is implied in a Holy Book. The true purpose goes deeper to the very purpose for our existence, which is to make every act that we do in life an
act of prayerful worship to Him who loved us into life and draws us to His heart for eternity.

Posted with permission of Amal.


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