Parable of the Old Man and the Sock

August 2, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

A wise and saintly rich man, sensing his approaching death, called his son to his side and gave him these instructions:

‘My son, I shall be leaving you very shortly. On the day when I die, and they have washed my body and come to wrap it in the shroud, I want you to put one of my socks on my foot. This is my final request of you.’

Soon after this, the old man did indeed die, leaving behind his goods and property, his children and his dependents. Family, friends, acquaintances and neighbors attended his funeral. The body had been washed and was almost completely wrapped in the shroud, when the son remembered his father’s wish. Finding one of his old socks, he handed it to the washer of the dead, saying, ‘In accordance with my father’s last request, please put this sock on his foot.’

‘That is quite impossible:’ Said the man. ‘Such a thing is utterly impermissible in Islam. I cannot act against the Shariah.’ Despite this valid objection, the son insisted, ‘That was my father’s final request; it must certainly be carried out.’

The washer of the dead was unmoved. ‘If you won’t take my word for it,’ he said, ‘go and ask the Mufti. He will confirm what I tell you, that it is not permissible. ‘Holding up the funeral, they consulted the Mufti, and also preachers and scholars, all of whom declared that this was not permissible in Islam. Just then, an aged friend of the deceased interrupted the debate with these words to the son: ‘My boy, your late father entrusted me with a letter which I was to hand over to you after his departure. Here, this letter belongs to you.’ So saying, he gave him an envelope. Taken by surprise, the boy opened the envelope and read out the contents of his father’s letter.

‘My son, consider all this wealth and property I have left to you. Now you see, at the last moment they won’t even let you give me an old sock to wear. When you yourself come one day to be in my condition they will also refuse to let you keep anything but your shroud. Eight yards of shroud are all you will be able to carry over from this fleeting world into the Hereafter. So pull yourself together and be prepared. Spend the fortune I have left you not for the satisfaction of vain desires, but in ways pleasing to Allah, that you may achieve honor in both worlds.’

The parable of those who spend their property in the way of Allah is as the parable of a grain growing seven ears (with) a hundred grains in every ear; and Allah multiplies for whom He pleases; and Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing. – (Surah Baqarah: 261)

O Allah! Grant us the love of giving. O Allah we are misers, so help us to be generous. O Allah, You are to be called upon, and we are calling upon You. O Allah, answer our call!

Ameen!

Ya Haqq!


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!


You Are Christ’s Hands

December 18, 2009

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

In the joyous and loving spirit of Christmas, and to celebrate the birth of Jesus, or as he is know in Islam, Isa ibn Mariyam (pbuh), a poem by one of His sainted devotees.

You Are Christ’s Hands

Christ has no body now on Earth but yours,

No hands but yours,

No feet but yours,

Yours are the eyes

Through which look out

Christ’s compassion to the world;

Yours are the feet with which he is to go about

Doing Good.

Yours are the hands with which he is to bless

Humanity now.

- Saint Teresa of Avila

Ya Haqq!


The Sufi Master and the Madman!

October 12, 2009

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

It is related that the Sufi Master, Shaykh Junayd Abul Qasim Baghdadi, once went for a walk outside of Baghdad, his disciples following him. The Shaykh then asked them how Bahlul was. They answered, “He is a crazy person, what do you need from him?”

“Bring me to him because I have a need for him,” he said.

The students searched for Bahlul, whose reputation was that of a mad mystic, and found him in the desert. They took Shaykh Junayd to him. When Shaykh Junayd went near Bahlul, he saw Bahlul lying in a state of agitation, with a brick under his head for a pillow.

The Shaykh greeted him with the salutation of peace.

Bahlul answered with peace, and asked, “Who are you?”

“I am Junayd Baghdadi.”

Bahlul asked, “Are you Abul Qasim?”

“Yes!” replied the Shaykh.

“Are you the same Shaykh Baghdadi who gives people spiritual instructions?”

“Yes!”

Then Bahlul asked, “Do you even know how to eat?”

“Yes!” answered Junayd. “I say Bismillah (In the Name of Allah). I eat what is in front of me, I take small bites, put them in the right side of my mouth, and slowly chew. I don’t stare at others’ bites. I remember Allah while eating. For whatever morsel I eat, I say Alhamdulillah (Praise be to Allah). I wash my hands before and after eating.”

Bahul stood up and shook the dirt of his garment on the Shaykh, and said, “You want to be the spiritual teacher of the world but you don’t even know how to eat.” Saying this, he walked away.

The Shaykh’s students said, “O Shaykh! He is a crazy person. Let him be”

Junayd replied, “He is a madman who is spiritually intelligent in his words. Listen to the correct statements from him.”

Saying this he went after Bahlul, saying, “I have a need for Bahlul.”

When Bahlul reached a deserted building he sat down. Junayd came near him.

Bahlul asked, “Who are you?”

“Shaykh Baghdadi who doesn’t even know how to eat.”

“You don’t know how to eat, but do you know how to talk?”

“Yes.”

“How do you talk?”

“I talk in moderation and to the point. I don’t speak without purpose or too much. I speak so the listeners can understand. I call the world’s people towards Allah and the Prophet. I don’t talk so much that the people would get bored. I care about the deepness of inner and outer knowledge.”

Then he described whatever was connected with manners and etiquette.

Bahlul said, “Forget about eating, you don’t know how to talk either.”

He stood up, shook his garment on the Shaykh and walked away.

The students said, “O Shaykh! You saw, he is a crazy person. What do you expect from a lunatic!”

Shaykh said, “I have a need for him. You do not know.”

Again he went after Bahlul until he reached him.

Bahlul asked, “What do you want from me? You who don’t know the manners of eating and speaking; do you know how to sleep?”

“Yes, I know.”

“How do you sleep?” Bahlul asked.

“When I am finished with Solat-e-Isha’ and reciting supplications, I don my sleepwear.” Then he described the manners of sleeping which were transmitted to him by the learned people of religion.

Bahlul then said: “I understand that you do not know how to sleep either.”

He wanted to get up, but Junayd caught hold of his garment and said, “O Bahlul! I don’t know; so for the sake of Allah, teach me.”

Bahlul said “You claimed knowledge and said you knew so I was avoiding you. Now that you confessed your lack of knowledge, I will teach you.”

“Know that whatever you described is secondary,” said Bahlul.“The truth behind eating meals is that you eat lawful morsels. If you eat forbidden food even with one hundred kinds of good manners, it won’t benefit you, but will be the reason for blackening the heart.”

“May Allah grant you great reward.” remarked the Shaykh.

Bahlul continued, “The heart must be pure, and have good intentions before you begin to talk. And your conversation must be to please Allah. If it is for any worldly or useless work, then however you express yourself, it will become a calamity for you. That is why silence and quietude would be best.”

“Whatever you said about sleeping is also of secondary importance. The truth of it is that your heart should be free of enmity, jealousy, and hate. Your heart should not be greedy for this world or its wealth, and remember Allah when going to sleep.”

Sheikh Junayd then kissed Bahlul’s hand and prayed for him. The students who saw this incident and had thought that Bahlul was crazy and nothing more, realized the error of judging by appearances and their spiritual states increased.

- This tale is posted on many websites, but all of them without naming a source. It most likely came from Attar’s Memorial of the Saints.

Ya Haqq!


In Memory of Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh

October 9, 2009

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

October 10th is the one year anniversary of the death of Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, for over 50 years the Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order, and for 17 years, my Master (may God bless his soul and raise him to the highest rank of His beloveds).

To commemorate the occasion, his own poem is a fitting tribute to his life and station:

My heart holds Your home,

my head desiring You;

Night and day have all passed,

while I am pledged to You.

I have suffered at the hand

of the people of the time;

In the world I’ve only seen

fidelity from You.

I’ve been drunk with Your wine

Since pre-eternity;

I’m surrendered to Your will

till post-eternity.

I’ve no hope for heaven

or for the Resurrection;

I have never wanted

anyone but You.

Once I realized that in reality

the Path cannot be traveled

Except on Your feet,

I lost both my head and feet.

With every breath I take

I am conscious of You;

I gave up heart and soul

for contentment from You.

If, like Nurbakhsh, you have pledged

yourself wholeheartedly to God;

The creation then will be ready

to pledge itself to you.

- from the Divan of Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh

Ya Haqq!


First Ming Emperor of China’s poem praising the Prophet of Islam

September 27, 2009

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Here is a remarkable poem written by the first Ming Emperor of China, Zhu Yuanzhang (born 1328), celebrating the life and mission of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him).

Since Creation of Universe
Heaven has already appointed,
Faith Preaching Giant Saint,
From West He’s Born,
To receive Holy Scripture,
With thirty part Book,
To guide all creations,
King of all Kings,
Leader of Holy Ones,
With Support from Divine,
To Protect His Nation,
With five daily prayers,
Silently hope for peace,
With heart toward Allah,
Empower the poor ones,
Save them from calamity,
See through the Unseen,
Pulling souls and spirits,
Away from all wrongdoings,
Mercy to the World,
Walking ancient Crowned Path,
Evil vanquished to One,
Religion Pure and True,
Muhammad,
The Noble High One.

- forwarded from Brother Jeremy P. Cheng, via the PH Pro Indonesian Yahoo group.

Ya Haqq!


Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak and the Old Lady Whose Tongue was the Quran

June 14, 2009

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

This incident of the old lady is narrated by Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA).

An elderly Arab lady was sitting with her back against the trunk of a tree on road, which was the way to Hajj.  Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA) happened to pass that way. He was also heading for Baitullah, for Hajj, and to the Sacred tomb of the Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu layhi Wasallam). Seeing this lady very disturbed and in a state of despair, he spoke to her.

Their discussion is recorded as follows:

Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA): Assalamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullah

The lady: “The word from a merciful Lord is Peace” (Surah 36 Aayat 58).

She meant that the reply of salaam is from Allah, Most High, Himself. She said further: “Those whom Allah sendeth astray, there is no guide for them.” (Surah 7 Aayat 186).

She meant that she had lost her way.

Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA): Where are you coming from?

The lady: “Glorified be He who carried His servant by night from the Musjid-e-Aqsa (inviolable place of worship) to the Musjid-e-Haraam” (Far distant place of worship) (Surah17 Aayat1).

She meant that she had come from Musjid-e-Aqsa.

Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA): How long are you in this place?

The lady: “For three nights” (Surah 19 Aayat10).

Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA): What arrangements are made for your food?

The lady: “And who (Allah) feedeth me and watereth me” (Surah 26 Aayat 79).

She meant that somehow or the other, her food is provided to her by Allah.

Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA): Is there any water for Wudhu (ablutions)?

The lady: “And ye find not water, then go to high clean soil and (make tayammum) rub your faces and hands.” (therewith) (Surah 4 Aayat 43).

She meant that she makes tayammum, uses clean sand or soil, due to not finding water.

Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA): Here is some food. Partake of it.

The lady: “Strictly observe the fast till nightfall” (Surah 2 Aayat 187). She indicated that she is fasting.

Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA): This is not the month of Ramadaan.

The lady: “And he who does good of his own accord (for him) lo! Allah is responsive, aware”. (Surah 2 Aayat158), meaning that I have observed an optional (nafl) fast.

Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA): It is permitted to break the fast when in a journey.

The lady: “And that ye fast is better for you, if you did but know.” (Surah 2 Aayat 184)

Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA): Speak like how I speak.

The lady: “He (man) uttereth no word but there is with him an observer ready” (Surah 50 Aayat 18). She meant that since every word of a person is observed and recorded, she is taking precaution by speaking only in the words of the Holy Quran.

Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA): Which clan do you belong to?

The lady: “Follow not that whereof thou hast no knowledge, lo! The hearing and the sight and heart of each of these it will be asked” (Surah 17 Aayat36).

She meant those things that you have no knowledge of, nor do they concern you, you are wasting your strength (senses) by enquiring about them.

Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA): Forgive me. I have certainly made a mistake.

The lady: “Have no fear this day. May Allah forgive you” (Surah 12 Aayat 92)

Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA): Would you like to travel on my camel and meet your caravan?

The lady: “And whatsoever good ye do Allah knoweth it” (Surah 2 Aayat 197).

Meaning that if you will do this good deeds towards me, Allah will recompense you for it.

Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA):  Well, then you may mount it. Saying this he made the camel to sit down.

The lady: “Tell the believing men (when confronted by women) to lower their gaze”. (Surah 24 Aayat 30). Hadhrat Abdullah understood and (turned) looked away. While she was mounting, the camel jerked and her clothes got entangled in the saddle and she proclaimed: “whatever of misfortune striketh you, it is what your hands have earned.” (Surah 42 Aayat 30).

In other words she was drawing Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak’s (RA) attention towards this mishap.

Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA) understood and he tied the legs of the camel and he straightened the straps of the saddle (or dorser). She applauded him for his proficiency and capability by saying “And we made Sulaiman to understand” (Surah 21 Aayat 79). When the journey was about to begin, the lady recited the Aayats which are read when undertaking a journey

“Glorified be he who hath subdued these unto us, and we were not capable (of subduing them). And lo, unto our Lord we are returning.” (Surah 43 Aayat 13).

Hadhrat Abdullh bin Mubarak (RA) held the bridle (or nose string) of the camel. He began to hum the Huddi, a famous Arabic song for traveling, and started walking very fast.

The lady: “Be modest in thy bearing and subdue thy voice” (Surah 31 Aayat 19).

Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA) understood. He began walking slower and he lowered his voice. The lady: “Recite of the Quran that which is easy for you.” She meant that instead of humming the Huddi, he should rather recite the Holy Quran.

Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA) began reciting the Holy Quran.

The lady became very pleased and said “but none remember (accept advice) except men of understanding” (Surah 2 Aayat 269).

After reciting the Holy Quran for a while, Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA) asked, “O Aunt, have you a husband? (meaning is he living)

The lady: “O you who believe, ask not of things which if they were made known unto you, would trouble you” (Surah 5 Aayat 101). She meant that no questions should be asked regarding this matter, which indicated that her husband has most probably passed away. Finally they caught up with the caravan.

Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA): Do you have any son or relatives in this caravan who has connection (contact) with you?

The lady: “Wealth and children are an ornament of life of the world” (Surah 18 Aayat 46). She meant that her sons were with this caravan and had provisions with them.

Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA): What work are your sons doing for the caravan? (Hadhrat Abdullah’s object for asking was to make it easy for him to recognize her son).

The lady: “And landmarks, and by the star they find a way” (Surah 16 Aayat 16).  She meant that he is a guide for the caravan.

Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA): Can you tell me their name?

The lady: “Allah chose Ibrahim as (for) a friend” (Surah 4 Aayat 125). And Allah spoke directly unto Musa” (Surah 19 Aayat 12). By reciting these Aayats the lady informed him that her sons names were Yahya, Ibrahim and Musa.

Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA) called out these names in the caravan and immediately three young men came forward.

The lady: (addressing her children) “Now send one of you with this your silver coin unto the city. And let him see what food is purest there and bring you a supply thereof” (Sura 18 Aayat 19) In other words, she instructed them to feed Hadhrat Abdullah (RA).

When the food was brought, she told Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA): “Eat and drink at ease for that which ye sent on before you in the past days.” (Surah 69 Aayat 24),

and with this Aayat she recited another Aayat, the object of which was to convey her gratitude to him for his good conduct and courtesy.

The Aayat was: “Is the reward of goodness aught save goodness?” (Surah 55 Aayat 60).

Their conversation terminated on this Aayat.

The lady’s son informed Hadhrat Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA) that his mother has been speaking in this manner, i.e. using only the Aayats of the Holy Quran in her speech, for the last forty years.

Alhamdulillah!

Ya Haqq!


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