What is Unity Among the Ummah (+ beyond)?

Unity is to recognize the need for diversity and multiplicity and to foster a free environment where talents and differences of opinion are able to flourish. Unity is NOT conformity. Greater, true unity implies diversity… Real unity, tawhid, is recognizing that the Source is ONE, and THAT One Source has purposefully, knowingly creates this amazing tapestry of different colors, tribes and understandings… The reason we have so many different meeting places is that we all tailor to different needs. This is to be celebrated. For example, there are about 50,000 Muslims in the Orlando area. We have 20+ mosques and centers. Think about it. At most, all in all, about 5,000 people come through the doors of these places in a year. What about the remaining 45,000? Why can’t we reach them? That means we need EVEN MORE places that meets THEIR different NEEDS and WANTS…

One of the most amazing examples of wisdom in Islamic history is how the great imams have recognized and accepted the four schools of thought (mazahib) as all legitimate. They did not get stuck on the technical differences but celebrated the unity of the core beliefs. Can you imagine the rifts that would have resulted if they acted with their egos and rejected ‘the other’ and insisted on THEIR own version ONLY? What unnecessary feelings of division and enmity would have emerged…

Unity is NOT conformity. We are all entitled to our opinions and understandings. Alhamdulillah, we are given this freedom by our Creator, and so no one, with any title or degree, can take that away from us and DICTATE his version of beliefs on us.

When someone comes to me and complains about what such and such organization is doing “wrong”, I stop them and tell them this: THEY are free to do as they please. And YOU are free to do as you please. Isn’t God’s earth vast? Find a place where you and your soul’s needs are met. It is between you and GOD alone. You cannot and should not dictate on them how they do things. And vice versa.

We are here, serving, to the best of our abilities, to God’s people. I love you all, for the sake of God, and I AM SO THANKFUL Alhamdulillah that you are doing what you are doing. Whoever seeks our services, we are insha’Allah filling some part of their needs. We are complementing each other. Not depleting each other.

I seek refuge from my own ego and the satan from ever seeing any other person or organization trying to serve people for the sake of God as competition. May God forgive us if somewhere deep in our hearts we do see each other as competition, and may He forgive us if we bad-mouth each other or gossip about any other person or organization. May God purify our intentions in working for His sake and His sake alone.

Dr. Eren Tatari

Sickness is Not Punishment From God

Only a single connotation of the certain Quranic terms is used in the daily language and these terms are only known with this aspect. Foremost among them, used in the Turkish language, is the term ceza. In fact, the meaning of ceza is both an award and a punishment that is to say, reciprocity.

The words fitne (sedition), bela (trouble), beliyye (calamity), musibet (tribulation) are always used with negative connotations in Turkish. However, for example, musibet actually means hitting the mark perfectly. In addition, the terms fitne and bela mean to be tested/trialed. Consider a teacher who “tests” their students. Once the test is completed and the scores are posted, there will be both high-scoring and low-scoring students. The test is an opportunity for the students to have them recognize their level of learning. They acknowledge the points they were not aware of previously. How beautiful! A prevalent example is the hurdle race. Every obstacle is a bela (trouble). However, these obstacles are not to harm or trap the horse but to develop its agility.

All of them are means for training or education. They are opportunities extended to human beings for their learning. Each and every one of them provides opportunity for the human being to enhance their potentialities. They are all beautiful, beneficial, and opportunity for us to get to know the reality of our creation. It is imperative to make use of them all.

Only bad teachers test the students in order to punish them or since they do not know the level of learning at which the students are, they would test the students to find out. Good teachers give tests to their students which comprise puzzled sections of the topic in order to teach them the points to witch they are supposed to pay attention. At the end of this test, students recognize the points which they do not fully comprehend. Speculating that the Creator of the human being and the whole universe wants to learn about the level of understanding of the human being or thinking that the Creator takes revenge from the human beings by torturing them contradicts the witnessing of the universe and the feelings entrusted to the human being.

To my understanding, if we interpret the Quranic verse that translates as “My Mercy is extended to all things.” in a way that includes the terms like fitne, bela, musibet etc., we will understand that there is mercy associated with these instances of creation. Just as there is Mercy in the creation of the Hell as well. I would not choose to go to the Hell; however, there is Mercy in the creation of it. I do not wish to find myself in agony and unpleasant circumstances but there is Mercy for me in the very creation of these situations.

I do not prefer to find out that the fruit I bought turns out to be rotten; however, there is Mercy in the creation of the fruit’s ability to decay. I should not object to this capability.

As someone who experiences how unbearable it is not to trust Him and how excruciating it is to disbelieve in God, I do not choose the disbelief but how beautiful it is the creation of the painful disbelief as an option. This is the very reason why I flee from it and do not desire it.

In conclusion, agonies and tribulations in no way can be understood as “punishment”. The creation of the illnesses is very beautiful. And it is absolutely the right choice not to desire to become sick.

Sickness is not desired but the creation of sickness is a mercy for me which originates from the Absolute Merciful.

Dr. Ali Mermer

Why these motions in Salat?

As Rumi said, we can’t simply do *nothing* – we have to do *something*. And if we didn’t do one thing like this, we’d do it like that. So when people ask, “What is the wisdom of the positions of the body in prayer? Why do we stand and bow and sit like so, and why do we put our hands here and not there…” the answer is simple: if we did not do it like this, we would do it in another way, and the question, ‘Why like this?’ would be the same. We have to do *something*. And we have to do it in *some way*. But there is an even better, more convincing answer. For whatever we see in this created realm, it has its equivalent, its parallel, in the world of the unseen. So when we raise our hands in prayer, or place them on our chest, or on the floor in prostration, don’t think that they are just meaningless movements, because they are not! It may seem to you that the hands are just moving this way and that, but if you could see into the hidden, invisible world, you would see that that those hands of yours which move this way and that in this world are actually engaged in building the palaces of your hereafter and digging the gardens of your paradise! So do not belittle the apparently trivial acts and rituals, because, if carried out with the right intention, their meaning is immense and their legacy is everlasting…

Dr. Colin Turner

Author of “Islam: the basics”

The Forgotten Mosque (A vision Muslims are missing…)

The Call To Prayer wakes me up from my trance-like slumber. I enter the Masjid, and it seems that I’ve entered another world; a refuge, a safe and comforting place. I was a fish out of water, now I’m back in the ocean.

 
There are no more distractions and excuses, I leave my phone at home. For the phone call I’m about to make here is on another level.

 

I hear no talk of politics or of general gossip from the animalistic world of human nature. Instead, I hear the gentle whisperings of prayer and supplication – from people standing, sitting, and lying down. I begin a short prayer, to mark my entering and send salutations to the angels residing within.

 

Strands of light beam through the windows and gloriously shimmer on the carpets and walls; yet the place is spared from the oppressive saturation of artificial light or complete exposure to the sun. There is a graceful interplay of light-ray and shadow; as if I was couched in a sunlit wooded glade. The arch-ways still; remind me of those bowing and prostrating trees.

 

There are many people in here, but it appears so silent and so calming. This is not something I experienced before. The Imam enters, dressed in a dazzling white robe. An elderly but strongly dignified man with presence; his beard is short and white and his face and body language full of grace. He begins to lead the congregation, and we line-up and pray.

 

After the prayer the Imam makes vocal supplications in front of the congregation and we also each pray individually in our own chosen part of the mosque. Most of the people then depart – the women gathered at the back leave out of one door, and the men another. Yet, a few remain and sit in silent meditation with their rosary beads or with a book in their hands reading. As I sit here among the die-hards, I feel like I don’t want to leave. Yet, so many of us rush away so quickly after the obligatory prayers…….The Imam then opens a book and begins to read for the few who remain.

 

He reads the following passage from the Risale-i Nur:-

 

“One grain of truth wipes out a million lies. One grain of reality razes a castle of dreams. Honesty is a grand principle, a lustrous jewel.

If for the truth to be uttered it is damaging, it resigns its place to silence; lies have no place, even if they have some use.

Everything you say should be true, all your pronouncements right, but you have no right to say all that is true.

One should be well aware of this, and take as one’s principle: ‘Take what is clear and untroubled, leave what is turbid and distressing.’

See the good side of things; you will have good thoughts. Know things to be good and think of them as good; you will find the pleasure in life.

In life, hope and thinking favourably of things are life itself. While to think the worst is despair, the destroyer of happiness and slayer of life.”

– The Gleams.

 

 

 

 

This mosque, this masjid of my dream – it is not a place where voices are raised and passioned flared. The world is left at its door. This is a place of sobrierty, and sober reflection. Sober does not mean solemn, but it means that the state of joy in the heart is private and quiescent. It is not the place of singing and dancing, for that would disturb the silent orchestra that already reverberates around these walls and echoes in the stilled heart.

 

I feel….safe here. Is this just a building, does the beauty of its internal decorations solely give it such a power? Indeed, not. They are a beautiful part of the experience but what gives this masjid it’s power is the constant worship that is done inside it each day. Angels join each act of praise and their presence accumulates. The heart can feel their presence if it listens carefully enough.

 

In my dream, I attended Friday Prayers here – and each time the only concern of the Imam was whether we were maintaining our love for what is Higher or if we had slipped into loving a rival. In addition, every evening the Imam guided the community to enter the mosque and bring things that they wished to give away for free. Everybody was encouraged to bring something; some brought things that they made and others; things that they bought but no longer wished to own. At this time, the refuge of the mosque became even stronger. From the competitive slave-market of the world there was now a physical gift-economy in this place as well as an already existing spiritual gift-economy.

 

 

What civilization can truly survive, if it does not make beauty, unity, and community its goal? To worship is constant striving against the “self” which desires the material world and its constant jostling. This material world and its ideology either brings great suffering or great gluttony and laziness. If enough time was spent in the mosque; then inevitably mankind would be forced down the path of frugality. Complacency and laziness would be impossible because a constant balance would be sought between doing enough work to physically survive and doing enough prayer and supplication to spiritually survive. For the latter of course, there is never really enough. The more, the better – and the ego constantly fights it. We want to compete and to feel power; but yet we too often forget the One who enables us to achieve a single minor act.

 

This masjid may have been a dream, but like all myths it has a reality and a truth and somewhere it may even perhaps exist. Or perhaps not….

 

By Hossein Turner

Tawhid Reveals Divine Beauty & Perfection

Belief in one God, tawhid, is like a focal point that combines various reflections of beautiful names of God [asma al usna] that shine on the ‘faces’ of particular creatures…Through the light of tawhid the limitless beauty and perfection of God, the endless splendor of the Sustainer, the incredible gifts of the Merciful, and the infinite beauty of the Unique One [kamal al-jamal al-samadaniyya] on whom everyone depends, becomes visible.
For instance, let us look at the particular event of creation of milk. A helpless and unaware infant receives what he needs in the form of pure and wholesome milk. And this milk is sent from an unexpected place*, amidst blood and excrement.** When you look at this particular event from the perspective of tawhid, it will suddenly connect with a comprehensive and universal reality: the utterly wonderful and compassionate feeding of all infants and all the mothers being made to care about and serve these infants. Perceiving this universal context enables you to perceive the eternal beauty of the mercy of the Compassionate One [Rahman] with all its brightness.
If you were to look at the same event without the perspective of tawhid, that incredible beauty would become hidden. And, that particular event would be explained away by invoking natural causes and chance. [In other words, they will be attributed to unconscious things, such as hormones and the brain cells. And since they are incapable of having mercy and purpose, one will disregard the incredible mercy and purposefulness manifested in each case.] The event will thus completely lose its value. In fact, its reality will be completely distorted…~

* Referring to the Quranic phrase that announces that God shall “provide from an unexpected source,”   (Quran, 65:3).
**In other words, the milk is produced in the body such a way that nutrients are distilled from blood and also disassociated from excrement material to be discarded. The text is again indirectly referring to a Quranic verse: And, behold, in the cattle [too] there is indeed a lesson for you: We give you to drink of that [fluid] which is [secreted from] within their bellies between that which is to be eliminated [from the animal’s body] and [its] life-blood: milk pure and pleasant to those who drink it. (Q. 16:66)

~ Excerpted & adapted from Said Nursi, Rays.

Islamic marriage (nikah) is not an engagement!

God’s guidance is meant to be like this life ring for us… saving us from servitude to our own egos and those of others… saving us from the chaos of this world… saving us from being lost… but even that divine guidance can be altered and manipulated to do just the opposite… may God guide us to understand and apply His guidance in the best way possible insha’allah…

This past year, I had two wonderful friends who were devastated by a highly questionable tradition… The katb al-kitab or the Islamic nikah. Now, you might ask what can possibly be questionable with the Islamic marriage contract? Well, nothing is wrong with the actual nikah. However, when some people twist the nikah to fit their cultural norms, it causes significant heartache and headache for many… And all this ache I must add is what God’s guidance seeks to prevent by following the right way of doing nikah.

How do we mess up the Islamic marriage contract then?

Many Muslim families have their children sign an Islamic marriage contract (nikah) when the couple (and the families) DECIDE to get married. Notice that in the minds of these families, these two people are not actually, actually getting marrying. They only sign a contract to make their ‘hanging-out’ halal in the eyes of God but the actual, actual wedding and starting to live as a married couple in their own house happens months (sometimes years) later! So basically the nikah is done in lieu of an engagement.

What is wrong with this picture? Afterall, aren’t these parents just looking out for the chastity and “halalness” of their beloved children?

Well, yes and no. If they are really, truly, and purely concerned with the “halalness” of their children (above and beyond the “what would people say” concerns of their cultures), they should follow the letter of God’s law. Islamic marriage is Islamic MARRIAGE. It is not an engagement.

Once the nikah is performed, these people become husband and wife. With the full rights and responsibilities of a married couple in the eyes of God. All that is khayr (good, blessed) should be hurried and not delayed because Satan and our lowly-nafs seeks to destroy good done in the name of God… In essence, the nikah is a contract done with God… We get married for the sake of God to fulfill our deen.

But in the eyes of these families, the nikah is nothing but an engagement. An engagement that is hanging on with a tread. An engagement that is easily broken at the sight of the first difficulty or gossip or misunderstanding… But in this scenario, it is not really an engagement that is tossed out the window, it is an actual marriage contract signed in front of God.

Why are these nikahs wrongly treated as engagements, so harmful?

They make a mockery of the sanctity of the Islamic marriage. To begin with, there is no wedding. There is no wide-spread announcement of the union. There is no new house for the couple to start living together… Yesterday is no different than tomorrow. They continue living their lives as before, just that they are wed in the eyes of God!!!

Why do families insist on this? To protect them from sinning during this engagement! Oh, engagement by the way is just a time for them to plan the wedding: it is not a time for them to get to know each other since they are already wed!

50% of marriages end in divorce. Take a wild guess how many engagements just dissolve into thin air? And what happens to these young people? Their trust of the marriage union? Their trust in the opposite gender? Their trust in God?

I have been coaching a young, intelligent, educated, beautiful friend through her marriage quest. She considers herself a divorcee because her family and her social milieu consider her such. And of course for her social milieu being a divorcee is a taboo. Regardless of the fact that she has never spent time alone with this so-called ex-husband of hers.

She had nothing more than a broken engagement. But thanks to this bizarre practice of doing Islamic marriage contract as a form of engagement, she has been ‘labeled’ so much so that it is affecting her future prospects.

When I witnessed her referring to herself as a divorcee and heard that she went to a divorcee meeting, I had right about enough of this nonsense. I assume there are many more victims of this wrong practice, which triggered me to write this post and get this word out there to help others.

Why are the proponents of these wanna-be nikahs hypocrites?

Hypocrisy #1: Their reasoning for wanting the nikah is wrong.

Islamic marriage is marriage, period. So families should not use it as an engagement act so their children won’t sin. When they do the nikah, they don’t treat it as a nikah: they still expect the couple not to consumate the marriage or fulfill all the rights and responsibilities that come with marriage. Fully being aware that engagement is not marriage, these pseudo-unions fall apart more frequently than an actual marriage.

Hypocrisy #2: Nikah is not a big deal, but only until the engagement is off!

At the beginning families treat it as ‘not a big deal’ meaning they see it just as an engagement (no wedding, no home…etc.). But when the engagement is off, then they treat the nikah as an actual nikah, which ended in divorce.

Hypocrisy #3: After nikah, husband and wife’s rights and responsibilities to each other begin.

Which means, mom and dad, you are no longer the first and foremost ‘authority’ in their lives. You cannot disregard that now they have rights and responsibilities to each other for which they will be held accountable to God. When you most often interfere with these spousal rights and responsibilities between the young couple, you are interfering with their contract with God.

Hypocrisy #4: Divorce is not a taboo!

Oh, how far off we are still from the practice of the Prophet. He married Zainab (r.a.) who was a divorcee. All of his acts are to teach us something. But unfortunately we pick and choose which sunnah we think is more important and which to completely ignore (or to do just the opposite).

Why is this practice wrong Islamically?

Islamic marriage should be done at the time of the actual wedding when the couple will actually start living together as a married couple and the entire community is made aware of the wedding.

This way they will start to carry the full weight of the marriage, treat it as an important contract done with God, start to fulfill the rights and responsibilities of husband and wife, being fully aware that they will be held accountable for these. If and when they treat a nikah as a nikah, it is much harder for this real nikah to fall apart.

So essentially the issue is that they are treating the nikah lightly, which leads to lots of unnecessary divorces.

On a related topic, these same people who insist on a nikah (primarily because their pre-Islamic patriarchal cultures are obsessed with chastity of women in ways that are not Islamic), completely skew the emphasis Islam puts on the Islamic written marriage contract.

The goal of the contract is to avoid future qualms by specifying and detailing the rights and responsibilities of the couple (beyond the basics outlined by Islam). However, most often, when a woman wishes to have a detailed marriage contract, she is put down as being too improper by her family. So the one chance (God-given chance) to protect her rights and wishes down the line is lost…

Here is a testimonial of how this practice has affected someone:

Being a very self-aware and introspective individual, I am used to knowing my “place” in the world, the weight I hold, and what about myself I should focus on for improvement, and when. I’ve always been able to balance that with the understanding of how I make people feel through my interactions. Quite frankly, I have a very open heart and I wear it on my sleeve, and it’s really strange for me to inflect and change my presentation and actions based on what I am expecting the other to say – which is what I do now, to protect my heart.

I’ve gone through the experience of having a nikkah – with the essence of an engagement, since we were not living or spending any time together – but being considered “married” once things didn’t work out. The nikkah wasn’t treated as such during its span, as we weren’t given a peek at our rights and responsibilities; yet when things didn’t work out as envisioned, society granted me the label of ‘divorcee’. This often leaves me upset in so many ways; my feelings usually revolve around wondering why a nikkah of such a nature was ever encouraged as the ideal option at the time, and also about how and why society can sometimes be so insensitive and cruel towards someone because of something that took place in their past.

I don’t like to identify myself as a “victim” of it, but it has become a vicious, self-perpetuating social and emotional cycle that I’m sometimes unable to catch myself in. Why? I’m so focused on societal constructs and skewed expectations, that I begin believing that I need to fit into them in order to function.

The quest for marriage again after my experience was something I willingly embarked on when I felt ready. Since then, however, most of my experiences have left me in awe at the nature of our society. Islam aside – let’s forget for a minute that our beloved Prophet, peace be upon him, lived, breathed, and preached kindness through every moment and action of his life – how can human beings be so unaffected by how their words and actions affect the heart of another? Despite having full knowledge of what my nikkah entailed, I’ve been subjected to an insurmountable amount of uncomfortable and off-the-wall questions from others:

“If you weren’t really “married”, then why did your “engagement” last so long?”

“Your “engagement” lasted 2 years… I find it hard to believe that you didn’t spend any time together during that period.”

“If you just wanted to act engaged, why did you get your nikkah?”

“You had your nikkah… so technically, you could have spent “alone time” together… hmm…”

“You’re a great person. And I have no problem with your past. But you know how society treats divorcees… and technically, you are one, and I don’t want to be a part of that battle.”
I know I have no need to justify this, but truthfully, we didn’t even live in the same country! And these people are aware. The people who have asked me such questions are typically suitors and their families. They are so wrapped up in warped cultural shadows that they have lost all sense of how much they can hurt someone with their curiosity and have no understanding of the weight of their words. Hoping for them to step out of their cultural bubbles is just that – a hope.

After endlessly running into this grief, now when I meet or am introduced to a prospect for marriage, the first thing that comes to mind is how I will present my previous nikkah/engagement to them. I feel the need to defend myself to avoid getting hurt with possible questioning and doubt again, before even thinking about what the person has to offer ME, and what I’M looking for in them.

This all leads me back to wondering why I allowed this nikkah/engagement phenomenon become a part of my personal life. It truly is a cycle. It becomes so hard to break out of when the societal norm dictates how people can treat one another – heartlessly. I know that the “what if’s” change nothing, and ruminating over and questioning the past won’t change anything, but it has definitely molded my stance on the matter. I understand that individuals commit to engagement-style nikkah for various reasons, but I wholeheartedly wish that people would move away from this practice. Of course, things will always work out the way Allah wills, but it is also important to safeguard our hearts from a cycle of potential disdain.

Islamic Marriage and Parenting as Ubudiyah

What is the purpose of our creation?

  • God says in the Quran: “I have not created jinn and humankind but to worship/ubudiyah me.”
  • What is this Ibadah then that is the reason for our creation?
  • Ibadah=>
    1. We are abd ul-Allah= in essence, it means we are 100% dependent on Him alone.
    2. ubudiyah= realizing and living our abd-ness = know, love, worship/adore God
    3. It requires lifelong iman training = 23 years of Quran revelation and training by the Prophet
    4. How do we “know” God?
    5. Everything in creation is created for this purpose = they are ayah/signs = they reflect God’s Divine Attributes (Asma ul-Husna)
    6. g. Apple (or marriage) à reflects God’s Asma à Know à Love à Worship/adore its Creator= Subhanallah, Alhamdulillah, Allahuakbar

 

  • There is NO dichotomy between deen & dunya: we only have to train our hearts to see dunya from a Godly perspective = to reflect on the Asma on dunya

 

  • Hence, ONLY purpose of marriage & kids is to know, love, worship God
    1. There is no separation between religion and marriage, marital problems
    2. Marriage is created so we learn and reflect patience, love, taking care of, mercy, justice, friendship….. ALL are God’s Asma

 

  • Alternative perspective on marriage?
    1. Marriage is there to make me happy= ego= Hollywood reinforced perspective (romantic comedies!)
    2. Egoistic perspective -> war between 2 egos à fight or divorce

 

  • There are countless hadith & ayah on being kind, just, merciful to OTHERS. Start with your SPOUSE & CHILDREN
    1. 24/7 opportunity to get closer to God if you practice your Islam with your family (I mean be kind and just to them) OR you could just feed your ego/be servant to your ego
    2. Marriage does not become Islamic by only Islamic niqah & saying we will solve problems Islamically— NOT ENOUGH
    3. We have to live our Islam and reflect God’s Asma in our relationship with our families

 

  • We need to learn, read, contemplate & PRACTICE, seeing marriage from a QURANIC perspective
    1. Long term
    2. But AMAZING reward = peace, heaven HERE & NOW
    3. Constantly work on your iman AS A COUPLE
    4. ‘Date night’ alone won’t fix your marriage !!!

 

  • Example:
    1. If they ask for peace, make peace = forgive (ayah on war can apply to warring spouses too)
    2. You expect and demand them to love you & show their love
      1. Ask ourself = is it my ego wanting to be worshipped? Center of attention, be #1
      2. Embarrassing

 

  • Ask ourself= can he EVER fulfill my heart’s desire to be loved and taken care of?
    1. Or am I trying to fill a void?
    2. ONLY GOD’s infinite love can satisfy my heart’s longing for infinity
    3. This is why I am given this yearning= to find God

 

  • Parenting:
    1. AMAZING spiritual training ground to get to know GOD = boot camp or PHD
    2. Patience, creatorship, Razzaq…etc.
    3. Their vulnerability & 100% dependence as a baby = we are ALWAYS like that with God
    4. When their ego kicks in = they say “I can do it; I don’t need you” = we do this to God

 

Our ANCHOR in life is God and developing a Godly perspective on all things in dunya…

Serve others. You need it.

It is a true blessing to be surrounded with people of all faiths who come together to share their love of God embodied in helping others.

We help others not because of our egos, or to feel good about ourselves. But, we serve others to glorify God who allows us to love our neighbors, as we love ourselves. All of humanity are neighbors, and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that the person who fills his stomach while his neighbor is hungry has not tasted the reality of faith in God.

God makes his infinite love known to us by using us as instruments of His love, of His compassion…

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) also mentioned that finding God in this world is not necessarily in the mosque or the church, but he says that:

“God says: I asked you for food and you did not feed Me.

He (His servant) will say: Lord, how could I feed You when You did not ask me for food and You are the Lord of the universe?

God will say: Do you not know that My servant so-and-so asked you for food and you did not feed him?

Do you not know that if you had fed him, you would have found Me there?”

So, if we want to come to know God experientially and love Him and get close to Him, what we need to do is to serve humanity… Then, we can find God in our hearts.

God, we ask you to make us an instrument of your love, to recognize that it is when we give, that we receive…

 

 

 

The Sufi Path. What is the reality of this?

Discussion on Nursi, The 29th Letter, Ninth Section, 2nd Allusion

Question: What makes this method of the journey of the heart and spiritual progress (i.e. remembrance of God and reflective thought) uniquely Sufi?

Sufism is a trend. Historically, a form of Sufism developed in many different religious traditions. It is the heart of the Hindu, Buddhist, Kabala (Jewish), Monastic, Hermetic tradition. When Islam was spreading it got a taste of these different cultures and saw this need of having a human intimate relationship with God. Some of the people accepted some physical form of it from the other cultures and “islamicized” this tradition. The Sufi trend was thus adopted and implemented into the social life.

Nursi is not denying or endorsing the Sufi tradition but reinterpreting (not redefining) it on how to actually make this journey of the heart and spiritual progress. The author identifies the human need and attempts to respond to it. Humans have a genuine need for spiritual progress, inner peace, and satisfaction of the heart which can be attained by remembrance of God and reflective thought. Besides addressing the human need, it is also very prophetic because it teaches us how to apply the message of God in our practical lives.

It is important to distinguish this from an imitative belief. People like to make the spiritual progress practical and they turn it into institutions where it is performed imitatively. However, this spiritual progress and journey of the heart has to be done by practicing remembrance of God with reflective thought. This is the missing aspect of the Sufi tradition that the author addresses.

Addressing the problem of solitude:

With the rapid increase in urbanization, more and more people are moving into concentrated hubs where they are really in close proximity to one another. It might seem that with so many people around they are much more connected than those in small towns and are free from solitude. However the reverse process is really happening where people have started to become lonelier in the crowd. Millions of people are in the cities and no one really knows each other, they might feel lonelier than a villager. The increase in urbanization is directly proportional to the increase in people being lonely. The urbanization is not solving the human problem of wanting to communicate and share their life with others.

For example in a bar, people seem to be socializing but deep down inside if you really find out what they feel, they are lonely. Even though they may be talking to each other, they are alien to each other because they never share their reality, their problems, and their human concerns but pretend to be sharing them. They are suffering from loneliness and want to forget it.

Finding a solution to this human problem is essential for human nature which the author (Nursi) is attempting to address. We need to find a solution to this physical and spiritual loneliness. For example a person traveling in the NYC subway is alone despite being with thousands of commuters. This person does not trust the other commuters around him and would not be willing to share any personal concerns with them. Neither would any of those strangers be willing to listen to this person’s agony. Similarly, trust has been lost in many families. There are exceptions but generally there is no intimate relationship, i.e. sharing of personal problems and feelings, between family members. Usually when they get together, they gossip about all sorts of things and pass time. It has become hard to find a friend/member in this day and age, someone who would understand and with whom you can really share your intimate concerns.

To overcome your loneliness you have to make this “journey of the heart” (Sufi terminology). It is in my human nature that I want to have a secure/friendly relationship with others. I want to share my feelings, contentment and worries with friends and family members. However, despite having a network of friends and family members, I am unable to share my real intimate internal expectations, worries and concerns based on a trust with them. What should I do?

The author says benefit from this Sufi tradition by taking the essence of it and making it practical in one’s life. Journey of the heart is to make an internal introspective journey. One can do this by remembrance of God and through reflective thought.

Remembrance of God does not mean repetition of words. It is to remember God in every facet/instance of your life when you are interacting with other objects and beings. Upon seeing those objects/beings, you reflect on God’s qualities in them. If we turn this remembrance into a repetition of certain words by the tongue and through which they claim it reaches the heart: since you are repeating those words, your heart will accompany in repeating them too. Thus, you start feeling great according to your understanding. However if we don’t remember God by seeing His qualities manifested in this universe, our hearts are not really satisfied. We have to refer the qualities we see in the objects to an Eternal Source.

If I realize that my existence belongs to an Absolute Eternal Source, my existence is secure. When we remember where we belong, our heart gets satisfaction. Whatever happens to me in this world belongs to Him. The heart only gets satisfaction when it is taught on reflecting the qualities we see manifested in the universe and referring them to an Eternal Source. If we don’t carry this consciousness and awareness then the heart doesn’t really remember anything by itself. The heart looks for serenity, security, comfort and eternity. It is only through the reflective thought that one may remember God. Without remembering God, one cannot have a satisfied heart. This prevents the spirit from making any progress and it suffers because the spirit also wants eternity. Our spirit is in this world, which may seem large but it is limited. Our being is also limited but the spirit seeks eternity.

We need to benefit from this Sufi tradition and turn it into a real human condition instead of an imaginary one. By repeating a few words, my notion that I am making a spiritual progress is not enough. It is not real and is analogous to people repeating song lyrics but make no spiritual progress. Repetition does not make you remember the Absolute qualities of your Creator but reflective thought does.

à Attach your being to this Absolute Source by seeing and reflecting on His manifested qualities.

The problem of solitude is solved by realizing that you are not alone. Everything around you becomes your intimate friend if they remind you of the infinite Source. You can have everything be a message bearer for you, reminding you that you are not alone in this universe. You are the creation of the Absolute Creator. Everything should remind you of this Absolute source and become your friend. Reflect on their existence and see why those things are there. They console you and unlike some friends, they do not quarrel or gossip. Realize that you are not alone. You are always with your Owner. You are given the ability to realize that.

Everything which brings me news from my Creator becomes my friend. It can be either a human being or not. You are with Him only through the objects you interact with and they remind you of God. For example, one can communicate with the trees, stars and clouds. They become friends and are serving your humanity. They help your human needs to be satisfied.

Concern: Communicating with the universe is not the same as communicating with a human. Does this communication replace human relationships? Do we need a specific human relationship to communicate with?

As human beings, we also need a human to human relationship. This need extends to becoming a companion of the prophet regardless of the time and space relationship. The message of God sent to us through the Quran is presented to us through a human being. We cannot interact with the message if there is no human representation of it. Realize that the message was given to a human being which means Quran is a speech to human beings. Human aspect of communication with God is important for me.

The necessity of the physical being of the Prophet (pbuh) is commonly understood by people as belief in messengership. Being next to his physical body or seeing his body does not make one a companion. Even if Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is standing next to you, you can only communicate with him based on your perception of him. It is what you make out of him, not his physical being. Your perception of him has nothing to do with his biological being. It is what the Prophet (pbuh) represents for you, i.e. how you perceive his message. Regardless of time and space, you are always with him. Messengership is within you and your perception. Without the belief in messengership, you cannot have belief in the Quran. One has to say: Asslaam u alaika ya ayyuhan nabi (Peace be to you oh Prophet). This can only be said if one realizes the representation of the messenger in their lives.

I have to get a message as a human being through a human being. This communication is not the same as getting it from a non-being in the universe such as the sky or a tree. Although one may speak to a tree, but the tree speaks to you as a tree and not as a human being. Only through a human, I get the message in my human language according to my human qualities. If I want to establish a relationship with someone then that person should remind me of God which is the best satisfaction for me. That is why we need prophets and messengers to give us news/reminding us about the Creator. I like to hear the news of God from a human being and see it being practiced in the life of a human being. This is the essence of belief in messengership, seeing the message being practiced in one’s life. I want to see the message of my Creator being practiced by a living person and I want to learn and share it.

However, if this relationship with human beings has not been established on remembrance of God, communicating, and conversing with God then my heart gets no satisfaction. The feeling of loneliness and emptiness will remain.

I have to make my belief in God real through the message. It can be practiced and be experiential for me. There is an innate human need to share my human experience with a person. Experience this message together. Friendship must be established on this shared experience. Those looking to get married should get married on this base where you share your understanding of God. I need a representation of the messenger in my life. Getting married for sexual satisfaction is not human but animalistic. Similarly, getting married because you are bored, lonely and need someone to pass time with is not the right reason. We need to be appreciative of the human needs. I cannot share everything going on in my world with a tree. Neither can I share those feelings with a pet such as a dog, a current civilization trend. I need to share my life with a human being, one who will be a reminder of God. This is why the messengership becomes important in my life. The human being must be a representative of the prophet.

You have to be the representative of the prophet for that person as well. The person must bring the message to you. Bringing food, ironing clothes, etc. is not human relationship. Spirit needs satisfaction which is different from physical needs such as that of the stomach. When we are bored, we may get together with someone and gossip. We don’t realize that this need we have is for the messenger. Look for a messenger, one who brings the message of your Creator to you as much as one can. This is someone who shares the message as opposed to the sharing of food, housing, and entertainment. Experience your remembrance of God and reflect together because that person is a messenger to you.

How do I recognize this life partner? I have to prepare and educate myself to be a representative of the messenger of God. If I am not developing myself to be a representative of the messenger, I will not be able to attract the person who is a representative of the messenger.

The fornicator does not marry except a [female] fornicator or polytheist, and none marries her except a fornicator or a polytheist, and that has been made unlawful to the believers. (24:3)

The above verse means that you can marry a person within your scope of interest because that is the one you will notice. If your scope of interest is to be a representative of the messenger of God, then you could marry one who is also striving to be such a representative, one who brings the message from my Creator. I thus need to work on becoming a representative of the messenger of God so that I can recognize this person.

Loneliness has no meaning: In reality, there is no loneliness in creation. If you realize your Lord’s presence everywhere, you are not alone. If I cut off my relationship with my Creator, I feel lonely. Everyone brings his own fire/fuel to hell, i.e. God doesn’t add any fuel to anyone’s hell.

People usually understand loneliness as not being able to speak to people, not having gossiped for a few days. For example, people like gossiping about the weather. It becomes a means of killing time, running away from reality, for the sake of not being alone. People should get together on a foundation of the prophetic teachings, which is what socialization should be based on. One should seriously think about their reality and avoid meaningless conversations. They can get rid of this loneliness by listening to the messengers with the best one being the human messenger.

Imagination versus Reality:
àImagination is something that does not have real existence. It is making a false conclusion and having false belief.
àReal awareness is your reality, i.e. your communication with the Creator. For example reading a book or looking at a bird, whatever message you get is real. Whatever you interact with in this universe has a meaning if you are aware of it, and that meaning is real. It does not have to be something physical or tangible.

Real knowledge is your awareness and this awareness is your reality. This reality affects your physical being as well. For example, if you lie, you blush (exception: professional liars), stress causes physical spots, nervous breakdowns and loss of temper. The awareness is so real that it affects your biological structure. Negative thoughts that one may experience do not exist in reality but these imaginary thoughts also have a physical biological effect on the one who has them. Belief has an effect of paradise for you whereas denial has an effect of hell. Both have a physical effect on your being.

All Prayers are Answered

Belief (iman) certainly requires prayer. Human nature strongly yearns for prayer. And, God Almighty declares in the Quran,

 

Say [unto those who believe]: “No weight or value would my Sustainer attach to you were it not for your prayer!” (Quran, 25:77)

 

God also commands us,

Call unto Me, [and] I shall respond to you! (Quran, 40:60) 

Now, one may ask: “We frequently offer prayers, but they are not accepted. While the verse is general, it states that every prayer is answered?”

 

The answer is that responding and accepting are two different things. Each prayer is responded to, but it being accepted and you getting exactly what you asked for depends on God’s wisdom. As an illustration of this, think of a child calling onto her physician. The physician responds by saying, “Sure, here am I. What would you like?” The child, who was prescribed a sweet and colorful pill previously, asks to get it again: “Please give me that medicine!” The doctor will either give her exactly what she asks for or something better and more beneficial for her. Or knowing that it is harmful for her illness, he may give her nothing. Therefore, even when he decides not to prescribe anything, the physician is responding to her.

 

Similarly, since Almighty God is the Absolute Sovereign, [al-ḥakim al-muṭlaq], All-Present and All-Seeing, He always responds to the prayers of His worshipers. Through His presence and response, He transforms their desolation of loneliness and solitude into familiarity. And, as He responds to all prayers, He does so not in accordance with our capricious demands and wishful thinking, but in accordance with His Divine wisdom. He gives either what is asked for, or what is better than it, or He gives nothing at all.

………

 

The most important aspect, the most beautiful purpose and the sweetest result of this prayer is the following: the person who is praying realizes that there is someone who hears his deepest wishes in his heart, who is able to do anything, who is able to fulfill all his wishes. A prayerful human being feels that there is someone who has compassion for his weakness and aids his neediness.

 

Now, o weak and poor human being! Never give up prayer; it is the key to the treasure of mercy and means to endless power. Hold onto it, raise up to the peaks of humanity, to the highest of the high! Like a king, include the prayers of the entire universe in your prayer. As a comprehensive worshiper and as a representative of the universe say: “You alone we worship,” (Quran, 1:5) and become a paragon of the universe…

We are always surrounded with nur, 
May we always be open to receiving it
http://www.alwaysreceivingnur.com/index.html