May God Have Mercy on Those Who Lead the Way

May 15, 2011

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

May God have mercy on those who lead the way
and those who come behind,
and those who fulfill their vows,
and those who seek to fulfill them,
with His Grace and bounty,
…His great benefits and favors!
For He is the best object of petition
and the noblest object of hope;
and God is the best protector and the most merciful
of those who show mercy.

Amin!

- Rumi

Ya Haqq!


Words of Wisdom!

May 11, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

“Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

Ya Haqq!

Note: Rabbi Gershon Steinberg Caudill says: “The ancient rabbis say that these three things encompass all 613 commandments of the Torah


Meditation on Death

April 9, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Because I could not stop for Death he kindly stopped for me. The carriage held but just Ourselves and Immortality.Emily Dickinson

In December of 1986, I was operated on to remove my pituitary gland and the small benign tumor within it that had resulted in Cushing’s Disease, and had caused a lengthy hospital stay in the beginning of that year. It was during that earlier hospital stay that I had the out-of-body experience I have written about in a previous post (which you can read here).

I remember the anesthesia being administered and being told to count backwards from one hundred. At about 96, I blinked my eyes, and when I opened them again an instant later, I was being wheeled back to my room. I asked the nurse, “When does it start?”  She answered, “It’s all over.”

Eight hours had passed in the blink of an eye. It could have been eight years, or eight million. The anesthesia blanked me out of existence so completely, that I wondered if death was like that:

An instant that lasts for eternity!

In the years since those two events, and as I approach my sixty-fifth birthday, death itself holds no fear for me, because just as in the Angel of Death excerpt from Master of the Jinn, I really do consider it a mercy from God.  But I cannot but wonder if one of those experiences holds the answer to the great mystery of what comes afterward.  Both possessed the immediacy of experiential truth, but can both be real? Is the instant of nothingness a precursor to awaking on a different plane of existence? Can it be that our spirit, or soul, or ka, or whatever your faith calls it, leaves the physical body at death and after an instant of blankness, joins, or rejoins, the Eternal Godhead?

Socrates asked the same question, concluding: “Death is one of two things…Either it is annihilation, and the dead have no consciousness of anything; or, as we are told, it is really a change: a migration of the soul from one place to another.”

My late father-in-law believed the former. Once I asked him if he thought that we live on after death. He said, “Yes, in blood and memory.”  In other words, we live on in the bloodline passed to our children and grandchildren and down the generations. And in the memory they carry of us, until that is lost in time, when those that still remember us have also died.  He considered himself a realist.

And yet, the first law of thermodynamics, an expression of the principle of the conservation of energy, states that energy can be transformed (changed from one form to another), but cannot be created or destroyed.

Is that also true of the energy of consciousness, which is, after all, the only part of us that really would go on after the body dies? Or is it just our greater Self that goes on, our soul, which is that ineffable part of us that is always in touch with, and originally a part of, the Oneness of Divine Love? Inshallah, it is so.  I do not mind at all leaving the lesser self behind; the individual ego with its fears and jealousy and enmity and regrets. Let it die as the electro-chemical brain and body functions come to a stop.

I know that love goes on.  And after years on the Sufi path,  I have seen what can only be described as a glimpse of… something other.

There is some comfort in the belief that the body is nothing but a shell for the evolution of consciousness, “to evolve toward the Godhead,” as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the French philosopher and Jesuit priest wrote in The Phenomenon of Man.

And, so as not to waste what God has given, I am also an organ donor; I prefer to leave all organs that are still of any use to help others, and the rest to be cremated.  I like the efficiency of the fire, taking up as little room at the end as I did at the beginning. And I like the idea of my ashes scattered to the winds of the world.

But does individual consciousness completely die? Or does the soul or greater Self have its own higher level of consciousness? My late Master, Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, was asked this very question, and he said, “In the end, the drop becomes one with the Ocean, but it does not lose its wetness.”

There is hope in that statement. I have studied many religions and their beliefs of the afterlife, and in all honesty they sound mainly the same, a heavenly paradise where the individual self consciousness, and often the resurrected body, is kept intact and rewarded or punished for its life on earth in just measure to its deeds. But if the individual self stops at the end of life, the afterlife must be something else entirely. What that something else, that wetness is, is one of the eternal questions of living beings.  The ultimate mystery!

And that’s what I’m counting on :) All questions are inevitably useless. The answer will come soon enough!

No mythology and metaphor for me. I want the great mystery, all of it, no matter what it is—a billion years in the blink of an eye, or an infinite panorama as vast as the universe; and an endless sea of stars on which to sail.

Death is an angel with two faces; to us he turns a face of terror, blighting all things fair; the other burns with glory of the stars, and love is there.
- T. C. Williams

Alhamdulillah!

Ya Haqq!


Noble Character of the Prophet (pbuh)

March 15, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

The noble character of the Prophet (pbuh) has been best explained by his cousin, Jaffar Ibn Abu Talib, when he was asked by the King of Abbysinia to explain his religion. Jaffar replied:

“ We were a people lost in ignorance. We worshipped idols, we back-stabbed one another in gossip, we committed sins without shame, we severed the bonds of mercy among us, and we were unkind neighbors. The strong among us devoured the weak. Thus we were until Allah sent to us a messenger from among ourselves, well-known to us in his nobility, honesty, trustworthiness, and tenderness. He called us to unity and to devoting our worship to Allah alone and to removing the idols from our hearts. He commanded us to be truthful when we spoke, and to fulfill our trust, and to preserve the bonds of mercy among us, and to be kind neighbors, and to desist from violating what is sacred. He called us to turn back from our sins, and from falsehood, and from devouring the wealth of orphans, and from defaming honorable women. So we believed in him and in his message and we followed what he received from his Lord. ”

- from Love in Islam, a khutbah, or sermon, by Mahmoud Mostafa.

Ya Haqq!


Milad Un-Nabi – Birthday of the Prophet (pbuh)

February 27, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

“You have indeed in the Messenger of God a beautiful pattern of conduct for anyone whose hope is God and the Final Day.” (Al-Ahzab 33:21).

Alhamdulillah! The moon is full, a reminder that this is Rabi a-Awwal, by the Lunar calendar the month of the blessed birthday (Milad Un-Nabi) of the Prophet Muhammad (the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him and his family).

According to Sunni scholars, the Prophet’s birthday is observed on 12th Rabi al-Awwal, which falls on February 26, 2010, and 17th Rabi al-Awwal (March 3rd this year) according to Shia scholars.

There is a difference of opinion about whether the Milad Un-Nabi should be a time of celebration. There is evidence that the Prophet (pbuh), his Companions, and the early followers after them did not celebrate or otherwise observe his birthday. On the contrary, he was careful to warn his people not to imitate other faiths, whose followers elevated their prophets and added to the religion what was not in the original teachings.

Those who disagree see it as a time to read the Qur’an, fast, pray, and remember the life, teachings, and example of the Prophet (pbuh).

When praising the Prophet (pbuh), we are also warned not to exaggerate in his praise. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Do not overpraise me as Christians overpraised Jesus, son of Mary. Say [when referring to me], ‘Servant of Allah and His messenger.’”

Servant of Allah and His messenger!

Surely that is a title that needs no embellishment. And so, what will you do to celebrate the Prophet’s (pbuh) birthday? Will you be fasting and praying? Having a celebration and giving gifts to family and friends? Giving to charity, visiting the sick, going to the mosque, helping a neighbor?

“Remember Me and I will remember you!” (Qur’an, 2:152)

May Allah bless you all, gentle readers, and guide you on the straight path of love, compassion, mercy, generosity and kindness.  Ameen.

Ya Haqq!


Answers to Prayers – St. Isaac of Syria

December 8, 2009

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

If God is slow to grant your request and you do not receive what you ask for promptly, do not be grieved, for you are not wiser than God.

It this happens to you, it is because either your way of life does not accord with your request, or because the pathways of your heart are at odds with the intention of your prayer.

Or it may be because your inner state is too childish by comparison with the magnitude of the thing you have asked for.

It is not appropriate that great things should fall easily into our hands, otherwise God’s gift will be held in dishonor, because of the ease with which we obtain it.

For anything that is readily obtained is also easily lost, whereas everything which is found with toil is preserved with care.

- from Daily Readings with St. Isaac of Syria (also called St. Isaac of Nineveh), edited by A.M. Allchin.

Ya Haqq!

Note: Alhamdulillah! that such men have through the ages sent forth their spiritual wisdom, for they too are a particle of the mercy of Allah.

St. Isaac also said:

‘Like a handful of dust thrown into the sea are the sins of all mankind compared with the mercy and providence of God’.”


A Month of Blessing

August 30, 2009

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

“When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every supplicant when he calleth on Me: let them also, with a will, listen to My call, and believe in Me: that they may walk in the right way.” (Qur’an 2:188)

And the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Ramadan has come to you. (It is) a month of blessing, in which Allah covers you with blessing, for He sends down Mercy, decreases sins and answers prayers. In it, Allah looks at your competition (in good deeds), and boasts about you to His angels. So show Allah goodness from yourselves, for the unfortunate one is he who is deprived in (this month) of the mercy of Allah, the Mighty, the Exalted.” [Narrated by Tabarani]

Ya Haqq!


Healing through Compassion

February 4, 2009

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

My wife grew up on a farm, and has an unerring affinity with nature in its most organic forms, with plants and animals and humans. Last summer, for instance, when she noticed that the bittersweet vines were extending its tendrils and choking off the rose bushes, she devoted many hours to cutting them away. The next day she looked at the roses for a moment and smiled, “They’re happier now,” she said.

She had seen the roses become happier. Even knowing this about her, it took me a long time to realize that the woman I live with is a healer. I had known her only as a mother and recently a grandmother, whose fierce love for her children caused them always to seek out her presence and her comfort and her counsel. I have seen that same love for her granddaughter; her endless patience in playing a game or reading to her, giving her leeway to set her own course, but always with a keen and watchful eye. They delight in each other beyond the need for words.

This true core of love, which is the deep well of her being, is the essence of healing, I think. At a wedding recently, while helping the bride to get dressed, she healed both the bride of badly bruised ribs and the bride’s sister of chronic neck pain, by laying her hand precisely on the injured spots for many minutes. They could not stop talking about it afterwards. When I asked her how she did it, she paused, as if trying to find the right words. Finally, she said, “The pain called to my compassion.”

“The pain called to my compassion.”

This is the deep well of love which marks a natural healer. Jesus healed the sick through this all-embracing love; the pain of the world calling to his compassion.

Many Sufi Masters of the past, who had completed the path of Love, were said to possess healing powers. And in the presence of my own Master, I have often felt a powerful spiritual energy and uplifting of the heart, an immense wellbeing of life. Perhaps healing itself is a spiritual uplifting on a physical level; the energy of the compassion of love healing physical pain.

It is no accident that passion is the root of compassion, whose original meaning was to suffer together. This com-passion, this deep, empathic, encompassing love is both the goal and the result of walking the Sufi path; at each step another drop is poured into the heart, and as love enters, one begins to see God in all of His creation. Perhaps healing is simply God’s Love expressed in the form of this compassionate energy, moved from one human being to another.

Compassion is love moved forward.

And healing is the divine spiritual energy of that love responding to emotional or physical pain. Healing through compassion is an ancient concept, though I had no frame of reference for it until I met my wife. There really is no mystery to it. I would not even call it a miracle, except insofar as all human life and its capacity to love is miraculous; a Divine gift unlike any other, and from which all mercy flows.

Ya Haqq!


Like a Mighty Stream

December 2, 2008

 

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

I weep for Mumbai in the wake of the horror, and for Baghdad and Kabul, for Gaza and Jerusalem, for Karachi and Kashmir and Kosovo. Tears fall like rain for Darfur, Burma, North Korea, Tibet, Nigeria, Somalia, Congo, Zimbabwe. Where there is terror, imprisonment, torture, war, murder, genocide, rape, disease, poverty, and famine, how can anyone be at peace in the world?

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.
- The Talmud

Perhaps to be just, loving, merciful, generous, kind, and to walk with humility in spirit, is the beginning of the solution, one person at a time, for as long as we are able. Little by little, the enormity of the world’s grief will diminish, and slowly, slowly the spirit of loving-kindness, the spirit of God, will spread and rise in the heart of His creation. This ordinary work may not be completed in our lifetime, or in our children’s or grand-children’s lifetimes, but if we continue to teach the next generation, and they the one after them, to paraphrase Dr. King, justice will indeed flow like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Ya Haqq!


The Prophet’s Ramadan Sermon (pbuh)

September 1, 2008

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

A Sermon on the Last Friday of Sha’ban on the Reception of the Month of Ramadan (reposted from last year).

“O People! Indeed ahead of you is the blessed month of Allah. A month of blessing, mercy and forgiveness. A month which with Allah is the best of months. Its days, the best of days, its nights, the best of nights, and its hours, the best of hours. It is the month which invites you to be the guests of Allah and invites you to be one of those near to Him. Each breath you take glorifies him; your sleep is worship, your deeds are accepted and your supplications are answered. So, ask Allah, your Lord; to give you a sound body and an enlightened heart so you may be able to fast and recite his book, for only he is unhappy who is devoid of Allah’s forgiveness during this great month. Remember the hunger and thirst of the day of Qiyamah (Judgement) with your hunger and thirst; give alms to the needy and poor, honour your old, show kindness to the young ones, maintain relations with your blood relations; guard your tongues, close your eyes to that which is not permissible for your sight, close your ears to that which is forbidden to hear, show compassion to the orphans of people, so compassion may be shown to your orphans. Repent to Allah for your sins and raise your hands in dua during these times, for they are the best of times and Allah looks towards his creatures with kindness, replying to them during the hours and granting their needs if he is asked …

“O People! Indeed your souls are dependant on your deeds, free it with Istighfar (repentance) lighten its loads by long prostrations; and know that Allah swears by his might: That there is no punishment for the one who prays and prostrates and he shall have no fear of the fire on the day when man stands before the Lord of the worlds.

“O People! One who gives Iftaar to a fasting person during this month will be like one who has freed someone and his past sins will be forgiven. Some of the people who were there then asked the Prophet (s): “Not all of us are able to invite those who are fasting?”

The Prophet replied: “Allah gives this reward even if the Iftaar (meal) is a drink of water.” “One who has good morals (Akhlaq) during this month will be able to pass the ‘Siraat’ … on the day that feet will slip … “One who covers the faults of others will benefit in that Allah will curb His anger on the day of Judgement … “As for one who honour an orphan; Allah will honour him on the day of judgement, “And for the one who spreads his kindness, Allah will spread His mercy over him on the day of Judgement. “As for the one who cuts the ties of relation; Allah will cut His mercy from him … “Who so ever performs a recommended prayer in this month Allah will keep the fire of Hell away from him … “Whoever performs an obligatory prayer Allah will reward him with seventy prayers [worth] in this month. “And who so ever prays a lot during this month will have his load lightened on the day of measure. “He who recites one verse of the Holy Quran will be given the rewards of reciting the whole Quran during other months.

“O People! Indeed during this month the doors of heaven are open, therefore ask Allah not to close them for you; The doors of hell are closed, so ask Allah to keep them closed for you. During this month Shaytan (Satan) is imprisoned so ask your Lord not to let him have power over you.”

Ya Haqq!


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