Prayer of Forgiveness by Hasan al-Basri

April 22, 2009

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

O Allah, I seek your forgiveness for every sin for which I presented my repentance before You; and regarding which I stood before You swearing an oath in Your name and called Your friends from among Your servants to be my witnesses – that I would never return to disobeying You.

But when Satan with his cunning tempted me to return to it; and Your forsaking me [due to Your anger over my impiety] caused me to [despairingly] waver toward it; and my lower self invited me to disobey You once more; I hid myself in shame from Your servants, but openly and daringly committed sins before You, though I knew full well that no covering nor any closed door could conceal me from You and no veil could hide me from Your sight.

I still defied You by disobediently doing what You had prohibited to me; but [despite my iniquity], You did not remove Your covering from me, but rather treated me equal to Your pious servants, as though I had always been an obedient servant and swift to fulfill Your every command and fearful of Your warnings.

I remained obscure in front of Your servants, and none besides You knew my secret. You did not single me out from Your servants with a mark of disgrace, but instead showered upon me blessings like theirs; and with this You distinguished me over them as though I were, in Your sight, of a status like theirs. All this was owing only of Your forbearance and abundant blessings – generous grace from You to me. For You then, O my Lord, belongs all praise.

I ask from You, O Allah, just as You have covered my evil deeds in this world, that You do not humiliate me with them on the Day of Judgment. Forgive my sins, O Most Merciful of the merciful!”

- One of the most eloquent of the seventy prayers in the book Prayers for Forgiveness by Hasan al-Basri

Ya Haqq!


What Love Demands

December 6, 2008

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Eid Mubarak!

May Allah bless you all this Eid, dear Brothers and Sisters, with generosity of hand, sincerity of speech, kindness in action, and love and joy in remembrance of Him, who is the Source of all Generosity, Sincerity, Kindness, Joy, and Love.  Ameen!

“O Lord! Let not our hearts deviate now after You have guided us, but grant us mercy from Your own Presence; for You are the Grantor of bounties without measure.” (Quran: 3:9)

This is the time of Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, which celebrates the faith of Abraham, who was willing to sacrifice even his son Isaac as God had commanded. Now what are we willing to sacrifice in order that our prayers may be accepted?

That is the question I ask myself every year. Jesus (pbuh) kissed the leper, the whore, and the thief, out of love and forgiveness and healing. Because of the great expansiveness of his heart, miracles were possible. What have we done, what can we still do, to be worthy of the love and forgiveness and healing we ask of God? The answer that comes to my heart is always the same:

Do what love demands.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. -1 Corinthians 13:4-8

According to a hadith, the Prophet (pbuh) once said, “A true believer is one with whom others feel secure. One who returns love for hatred.”

Alhamdulillah! Indeed, Love is the greatest miracle of God. There have been Spiritual Masters of the past who would not let an aspirant be initiated until they had gone to everyone whom they had wronged in their life, and begged forgiveness, making amends in any way that was required. And until they had gone to everyone that had wronged them in their lives, and granted them forgiveness without asking, and with a whole heart. Only then could such a one be initiated on the mystic path.

And so we come to the great task of our lives, brought into focus on this day of Eid al-Adha: To sacrifice our fear and hatred, our envy and greed and all the other works of the fearful and self-absorbed nafs, in the certain knowledge that anyone who forgives a debt will be repaid tenfold by God, and anyone who forgives a wrong will be forgiven by God a hundredfold, and anyone who returns love for hatred will make of this life a paradise. That is what love demands.

Your task is not to seek for love,
but merely to seek and find
all the barriers within yourself
that you have built against it.
- Rumi

Ya Haqq!

PS:  Click HERE for another wonderful post on forgiveness.


Thanks Giving and Forgiveness

November 25, 2008

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

“Be reconciled with the one who has broken with you, pardon the one who has been unjust to you, and forgive the one who denies you.”

- A saying of the Prophet (pbuh)

How many of us live up to this blessed tradition, instead of carrying around past resentments, slights, hurts, angers, injustices, and injuries, like chains weighing down our lives, and veils over our heart. I know I have been guilty of this, may Allah forgive me. And we still find it hard to let go and forgive, even though we pray and hope and beg and plead for Allah forgiveness for ourselves.

Alhamdulillah! How great is God’s bounty that we will soon celebrate Thanksgiving in the US, and give thanks for all that He has bestowed upon us. But what thanks are accepted by Him when we are thankless to those that grieved us by not also forgiving them?

In the words of Sa’di from the Gulistan (The Rose Garden):

When you are mistreated, put up with it;
Forgiving purifies you from sin.
As you will turn to dust in the end,
Become dust before you reach that end.

Ya Haqq!

Note: This post is edited and updated from a previous one written two years ago.


It is Between You and God

September 11, 2008

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

“People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; succeed anyway. If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; be honest and frank anyway. What you spend years building, someone can destroy overnight; build anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, there may be jealousy; be happy anyway. The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; give the world the best you’ve got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway.”

- Kent Keith

These ten timeless principles were first articulated by the author when he was a student at Harvard in the nineteen sixties. Since then, they’ve traveled around the world and back again — usually with no attribution at all. They’ve been cited as an anonymous poem on more than eighty websites; appropriated as song lyrics; quoted in books and by business leaders; circulated by organizations from the Boy Scouts to the Special Olympics; and tacked to the wall of Mother Teresa’s children’s home in Calcutta. It is often attributed to her.

It was upon learning about this last appearance that Kent Keith was moved to put his commandments, the philosophy behind them, and the stories that bring them to life into this modern credo for living well, being happy, and doing good anyway.

Ya Haqq!


God’s Forgiveness

April 20, 2008

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind.  O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you.  O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it.

- Hadith Qudsi, reported in the collections of Tirmidhi and Ahmad.

Ya Haqq!


Supplication of the Prophet (pbuh)

April 15, 2008

”O Lord I supplicate Thee for

firmness in faith, and inclination

towards the straight path, and for

Your aid in being grateful to You

and in adoring You in every good

way; and I supplicate you for an

innocent heart which shall not

incline to wickedness and for a true

tongue. I supplicate You to guide

me to all You know to be

virtuous and to preserve me from

all which You know to be vicious,

I supplicate You to forgive me my

faults for You know them all”

Ameen.

A supplication attributed to Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), taken from the excellent Siraat-e-Mustaqeem blog.

Ya Haqq!


Invoking God in Word and Deed

December 2, 2007

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

The Path to Happiness:

There is neither strength nor power save in God Almighty. It is God we implore – and whose answer we await – to watch over you in this world and the next, to shower you with His graces, outwardly and inwardly, and to make you among those who, when blessed, give thanks; when tried, persevere; and when sinful, seek forgiveness. For these three conditions are tokens of the servant’s happiness [sa'adat al-abd], and the signs of his success in this world and the next. No servant is without them, but is always shifting from one to the other.

The first condition is the blessings which come to the servant from God (Most High), one after another. What secures them is gratitude [shukr], based on three supports: inward recognition of the blessing; outward mention and thanks for it; and its use in a way that pleases the One to whom it truly belongs and who truly bestows it. Acting thus, the servant shows his gratitude for the blessing-however brief.

The second is the trials from God (Most High) which test the Servant, whose duty therein is patience [sabr] and forbearance: to restrain himself from anger with what is decreed; to restrain his tongue from complaint; to restrain his limbs from offenses, such as striking one’s face in grief, rending one’s clothes, tearing one’s hair and like acts. Patience, then, rests on these three supports, and if the servant maintains them as he should, affliction will become benefaction, trial will change to bounty and what he disliked will become what he loves. For God (Exalted and Sublime) does not try the servant in order to destroy him. Rather, He tries him to put his patience and devotion (al-ubudiyay) to the test. For the servant owes devotion to God in affliction as in ease. He must have as much devotion in what he hates as in what he loves. And while most people offer devotion in what they love, it is important to do so in the things they hate. It is by this that servants’ ranks are distinguished and their stations determined.

Ablution with cold water in searing heat is devotion. Sexual relations with one’s beautiful and beloved spouse is devotion. Spending money for her, for one’s children and for oneself is devotion. It is devotion no less than ablution with cold water in the bitter cold; giving up vice to which one’s soul is driven without fear of people; and giving charity in hardship. But there is a great difference between the [two kinds] of devotion.

He who is God’s servant in both states, maintaining his duty in both comfort and adversity, is the one to whom His words refer, ‘Is not God sufficient for His servant?’ With complete devotion comes complete sufficiency, and with less comes what is less. Let him who discerns some good give praise to God, but let whoever finds something other than this blame no one but himself.

- Excerpt from Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya ‘s The Invocation of God.

- Originally posted in a longer version on (and with thanks to) the Mad Sufi blog.

Ya Haqq!


Out of Body Experience – Part II

November 9, 2007

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Once more, dear readers, thank you for your comments on the previous post about my out of body experience. They have enriched the post immeasurably.

And there is no doubt that some of you have experienced something similar. Here is one true story I was told.

I began dating a very gifted and spiritual woman about a year and a half after my hospital stay, who also happened to be a psychologist. No, I wasn’t seeing her professionally lol. But after some months, I did tell her about my illness, the hospital, and my out of body episode. I thought at the time that it was my own fear of death that caused me to have a dream of confession and redemption.

I said, “What do you make of that?”

She said, “What makes you think it didn’t really happen?”

She then told me that she had also had an out of body experience. At the instant of giving birth to her first child, as the baby was actually leaving her body, she described having a feeling like a tremendous orgasm, and that immediately her consciousness flew out of her body and was enveloped in what she described as a “pure golden light of endless love.” It was so transcendent and beautiful that she never wanted to leave. She thought she might have died, but didn’t care. That light of pure love was all-embracing. Then she heard the far off cries of her newborn daughter, and that forcibly pulled her consciousness back into her body. She had tears in her eyes at leaving that “place.”

I have often wondered if that “place” was the source of a mother’s love, the bond between mother and child. Or perhaps the source of all Love, the sea of light from which our lone drops are formed in this life.

She later did a small, all-woman study about such experiences, and received some surprising results from the study group. Apparently 5% of the women who responded have had similar experiences, sometimes during childbirth and sometimes even during orgasm. But women don’t speak of it, attributing it to the stress of labor, to pain medication, or the rush of hormones during sex. (No wonder the French call orgasm the “little death.”)

We are spiritual beings having a human experience, and only for a short time. We come from that Light, and return to it after our time is over. And since I have come to think that our time in this life is allotted, as the luminous being implied when he said, “It is not your time yet,” I have for many years thanked God each morning for the wondrous gift of my life, for the love He has given me and the mercy He has shown me all the days of my life.

Each day, each moment is a blessing.

As it says in the Koran: “Verily, in the heavens and the earth are signs to those who believe.” (45:2)

Ya Haqq!


My Out of Body Experience – A True Story

October 21, 2007

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

This is a true story.

A few months after my 40th birthday, on January 14th 1986, I was rushed to the Emergency Room due to the devastating effects of a misdiagnosed illness. Had my sister not been visiting to see my condition and insist I go to the hospital immediately, the doctors said I would not have lived through the night.

In the emergency room my heart stopped, and the doctors had to revive it with those electric paddles you see in the movies. I remember it only vaguely, though I did have slight burn marks for a few days. Eventually they discovered that I had Cushing’s Disease, a benign tumor on the pituitary gland (which is in the middle of the forehead) that caused the hormones levels in my body to run wild. The natural steroid hormone ACTH, for instance, has a normal level of 200. Mine was 6000.

And since the pituitary gland controls other glands and body functions, I had also gotten high blood pressure and diabetes. It was the undiagnosed diabetes that was killing me. Eventually I learned that the diabetes had been untreated for so long and gotten so bad so quickly because of the tumor that I was fortunate to be alive. By that time my eyesight was blurry, my muscles so atrophied by dehydration that I could barely walk, and I found it difficult to think clearly. There were numerous other symptoms, but those were the major ones.

Alas, we are captives to this fragile shell of flesh. Fortunately, they had an experimental drug, aminoglutethymide,  that very slowly brought the hormone levels under control. Blood was drawn every hour to check the hormone levels, so both arms soon became black and blue from shoulder to wrist. Of course, being in a hospital has its own dangers, and I soon got a staph infection, endocarditis, which attacks the heart valves, and spent six weeks on Oxycilin therapy; another tube in my arm. I have a heart murmur to this day because of it.

I had so many tubes in my black and blue arms that it was almost comical. What wasn’t funny was the hormone-level induced paranoia. Like anyone on steroids, they affect both the body and the mind at those levels. I won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say I was my poor nurses worst patient.

The hormones would spike at night, and in the first days I would often go into a kind of catatonic state, sometimes for days. I would come out of it and the nurses would be standing around me saying, “Are you awake? Are you ok?” I once asked how long I was out, and they said, “Three days.” I didn’t know where I had been or what I had been dreaming, if anything.

About two weeks after I was admitted, when the doctors were still not sure if I would live from one day to the next, I remember lying in bed, on my back because both arms had tubes in them, and feeling very weak and strange. I had learned to recognize the physical symptoms of the onset of one of the catatonic states, but this was different. I felt certain that I was going to die.

And I did.

Like a flash, my consciousness, or soul, or spirit, or ka, left my body. I was flying upward around the balloon-like curved right hand rim of the universe at an impossible speed, faster than thought. I still had a body, but it was ethereal, light as a feather. I could see the small oval shapes of thousands of galaxies on my left as I sped past. A heartbeat later I was there.

In front of me was a long luminous table, like a raised dais, and seated there were beings bathed in light, but human in form. They had heads and bodies, and were robed in white, but I could not make out their faces. Were they angels? Judges? I don’t know. I think there were ten of them. At least that is the number that is in my head. Then I began to spin like a top attached to a string, though my consciousness looked straight at them. I am spinning and looking straight ahead. How is that possible? And I began to weep. I must be dead, I thought, and began, without any prompting or question being asked, to recount the sins of my life, and they were many.

Lying, cheating, stealing, gluttony, sex, drugs; all the small and great sins of boy and man. How small or large they were makes no difference. They were as big as my life then, and, besides my children, all I thought I had to show for it. Through my tears, I begged for forgiveness.

The being in the middle spoke easily in a calm, male sounding voice that I heard in my mind. “You are forgiven. It is not your time yet.”

Instantly I was flying back around the rim of the universe. The galaxies were on my right as I flew past, with an uncanny sense of going downward. In a heartbeat I was back in my hospital room in my body sitting bolt upright in bed. I was never more awake in my life.

When I finally went to sleep that night, I had a dream that I wrote a book that changed the world and brought peace to mankind. Now that is a sinner really trying to make amends, lol!!!

I began to recover then. Perhaps the medication was finally taking effect. Some years later I had occasion to see my medical records. On top of one page was written: Recovery is astounding. And so it was.

I left the hospital on March 7th, 1986, walking with a cane because of my atrophied leg muscles. For nearly a year I had to climb the stairs of my house by literally crawling up them on my hands and knees because my legs would not hold me. Slowly the muscles got stronger with use. By the time I had the operation to remove my pituitary gland on December 23rd 1986, I was fully recovered. After it was removed, the diabetes went away. The blood pressure returned to normal.

In those nine months between my release from the hospital and the surgery I began to write poetry. The words just streamed out of me in gulps, like great gusts of breath. I was so happy to be alive that love poured out of me in poems and in tears.

My state in that in-between time was one of infinite gratitude for the gift of my life, and for God’s infinite love and mercy and forgiveness. Like the stories I have read about people who have had near death experiences, everything afterwards seemed illuminated with love and the peace of mind of a new understanding of life. I wept a great deal at the most mundane show of tenderness and emotion, and still do. My kids make fun of me for it, but I don’t care. I know how precious a gift is this short life we are given, and the chance in it to give love and experience love, and through love, God’s love for us.

This ‘change of heart’ gradually diminished, and the ego-centered nafs roared back as strong as ever, but something was activated that did not go away and sought an outlet to nourish it. It led me eventually to the Sufi path and to the door of the Beloved.

Five years after being hospitalized and my out of body experience, I stepped on the path of the heart and was initiated as a darvish in the Nimatullahi Sufi Order. Six months after initiation, an idea for a book came to me during zekr, and twelve years after that I finally published the Sufi novel, Master of the Jinn. I doubt if it will change the world, but if it gladdens one heart for one day, that is enough for me.

Every word of this post is true. What details I have left out are not important to the reason for telling it. You may think it was a dream, a vision, or a hormone induced hallucination, and for a long time afterward, so did I.

I had been a cynic and agnostic for as long as I can remember. I have never believed in hell, but always desired to know what, if anything, lies beyond this life, to know what is meant by God. Perhaps this is always at the edge of consciousness in everyone. Now, after fifteen years on the Sufi path, I am sharing this story so you will know that beyond everything you experience and believe, there is a truth that is unimaginable, and that one day you too will experience it. It is written about in Holy Books, and phrased in lovely language and parables and aphorisms, poetry and stories, and lived through the lives of Prophets and Saints.

It is love and mercy and compassion and forgiveness and love again, so complete and encompassing that we are born out of it, and return to it in the end. It is the bond of this Love that each of us shares, felt most strongly in the bond between mother and child, but felt nonetheless by each of us to the degree that we let it in. The Sufi path is nothing more than this, life is all of this, and that is all I know.

Ya Haqq!

Note:  To read excerpts from Master of the Jinn, click here. God willing, it will also gladden your heart :)


The Prophet (pbuh) and the Sinner

September 25, 2007

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Once a man came into the Mosque of the Prophet, lamenting over his sins. The man was so overcome and saddened by his state that the Prophet [pbuh] said to him, “Say this:”

“Oh Allah, Your forgiveness is greater than my sins, and my hope in Your mercy is greater to me than my actions”

The man said this and the Prophet [pbuh] said to him, “Say it again.” The man repeated it, then the Prophet (pbuh) said to him, “Say it again.” The man did so a third time, and the Prophet [pbuh] said to him, “Arise, for indeed Allah has forgiven you.”

- This hadith was related by al-Hakim with a sound chain that he considered a match for the standards of Imam Muslim. Taken from a longer post on the Suhaib Webb blog (where the Arabic is included), and with thanks to Ali Eteraz for pointing the way.

Ya Haqq!


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