Experiencing Divine Love through Spiritual Dependence

My reflections on the following two quotes from Nursi’s Noor letters:

“Spiritual dependence (‘ajz) is a path, like love, that takes you closer to God. However, the way of dependence (powerlessness) is shorter and safer than the way of love.”

“Spiritual dependence, is like love, but it is a safer path. It takes you to become the Divine beloved through the way of servanthood (‘ubudiyyah)”

Continue reading “Experiencing Divine Love through Spiritual Dependence”

If you want to feel gratitude, look again at yourself!

It is very interesting to see the following verse 31 times in the compassionate chapter of The Quran:

So which of the favors of your Sustainer do you deny?

And between these verses, pictures are brought to us of creation. “So, look at that picture, look at that creation…”

So which of the favors of your Sustainer do you deny?

Continue reading “If you want to feel gratitude, look again at yourself!”

If you want to thank God, just change the way you see!

What is gratitude?

When we look at the dictionary definition, gratitude…    This is in the dictionary…   “a feeling of being thankful to somebody for doing something”  So, it is a feeling; that feeling is a result. You can not just feel gratitude; what needs to happen is, somebody needs to do something for you and you need to witness and be aware of it. When you are aware of it, then that feeling comes anyways and then you say thank you. When we say thank you to someone, normally, it should be the outcome of our feelings, and these feelings come out of… recognizing that somebody has done something for us.

Continue reading “If you want to thank God, just change the way you see!”

Marriage in Islam

Alhamdulillah, allazhi la ilaha siwah, assalatu wassalam ala sayyidina Muhammadin wa ala alihi wa sahbihi wasallem.

Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar… God is Great… God is Great…

Today we are celebrating the wedding of two wonderful people… But through this event, we are celebrating God’s glory… When you see around you, you will see smiling faces and warm hearts… Who is the source of all this happiness that is reflected upon us? Glory be to Him; the Loving Compassionate that has put this happiness in our hearts in this very special day…

The prophet Muhammad (p) is reported to have said that “Whoever marries has achieved one half of belief.” But, why is marriage so important? And what should we do to cherish this gift?

A good starting point to understand the significance of marriage in our spiritual journey is remembering why we are here on earth. When we look at our surroundings with an open mind, we realize that what is happening cannot be the result of mere chance. The entire universe is full of art and purpose, and everything points to the Artist. Indeed, the perfection in everything testifies that they are created by the All-Knowing, All-Wise, and All-Loving Creator.

We did not choose to be created, but the Divine has chosen this for us, and has created us in the best of forms. He has given us the ability to think, to love, to experience life in its fullest. From this we can be sure that God cares for us and loves us… Everything we have is a gift from Him.

And why did He create us? To know, to love, and to adore/worship Him. Everything around us serves that very purpose.

Now, the One who creates everything out of His love has given us a precious gift: marriage. And he has given the gift of marriage as one of the major ways to realize and to fulfill our purpose of creation.

God says in the Quran:

“And among His wonders is this: He creates for you spouses among yourselves so that you may dwell in tranquility with them (you may become home to each other), and He engenders love and tenderness between you: in this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who think!” (Quran 30:21)

Marriage in Islam
Marriage in Islam

Marriage is about finding our true home. Not the material home; since we are not material beings. We are spiritual beings, and love in marriage is our spiritual home. It is a home where we receive God’s love and tenderness through our spouse.

Our spouse acts as a most tender gift box from our Loving Creator, and each time we receive compassion, we are reminded of the One who has given us this most precious gift. We are reminded of the unending love that is pouring from the One who has created us because of His love.

The Quran uses the word ‘Rahmah’ in the verse I just mentioned, which means much more than mercy and compassion. The word ‘Rahmah’ is derived from the root ‘Rhm’ which means womb. So, spouses can act like wombs to each other, and heal their pains, take care of their deficiencies, and support each other until they are born into the real life, the everlasting life…

Marriage is a gift for us to observe and to feel the reflections of God’s Attributes. We begin to get a glimpse of what God’s love means by feeling love towards each other. Through the feelings He gives us, we experience the meanings of love, mercy, compassion, patience, perseverance… And through these, we come to know God and love Him more!

God also says in the Quran regarding spouses:

“… they are a garment for you and you are a garment to them …” (Quran 2:187)

Spouses are garments to each other. What are garments for? Garments protect us and comfort us. If we are garments to each other, it means we are created to merge, to become one through marriage… Marriage is an opportunity to recognize the beauty of oneness.

But, this means that we have to get rid of our egos, which like to be independent. We need to kick our egos out of our spiritual homes.

Struggles in marriage are opportunities to do house cleaning… Marriage is like a mirror, which reflects everything about us. Guess what, sometime we won’t like what we see. In marriage, we will notice lots of our shortcomings that we haven’t seen before. The spiritual home of marriage is a place where we can be healed of these shortcomings.

Sometimes, we might not be able to feel gratitude to our Lord for the gift of marriage. In fact, we may start to blame our spouse, blame destiny, and blame God… But we need to open our minds and hearts and realize that these internal struggles are for our own benefit. Through this wonderful spiritual school of marriage, God is giving us the opportunity to grow, an opportunity to learn and come closer to Him.

We do so by mirroring the Beautiful Attributes of God in our relationship with our spouses. As prophet Muhammad (p) said: “The best of you are those that treat their spouses best….”

We receive the most effective spiritual and character training through marriage and parenting. Family is a 24/7 school with no spring breaks! We are to melt our egos and submit to God’s will in every aspect of our family lives. Or else, marriage becomes nothing but a pointless war between two egos.

Let’s say we like the idea of becoming more fit and exercising to be healthier. No matter how many books we read about how to exercise, no matter how much we talk about the benefits of exercising, the only way we will benefit from working-out is actually sweating in the gym!

Similarly, no matter how much we talk about the virtues of being a forgiving, loving, and giving person in theory, we cannot become more mature, more understanding, and more giving without going through the actual training.

No matter how much we talk about God’s forgiveness, patience, compassion, and love, we won’t know and appreciate Him experientially unless we practice these virtues in our lives.

For instance, when I show compassion towards my spouse, I can begin to understand how God shows His compassion to all creation.  As a result I would feel and say the following: Thank you God for showing me your Compassion through letting me show compassion towards my family!

Even though every human relation, like friendship for instance, is a school to train us in these virtues, none is as effective as family. Because we only spend a limited amount of time with friends, and can easily walk away at the slightest disagreement. Yet relationships in the family may expose all our faults and shortcomings that we did not even know we had.

God says in the Quran:

“It is He who created you from a single soul, and made its mate of like nature in order that you might dwell with her in love….” (Quran 7:189)

Today is a very big day…

Today, we are witnessing two servants of God, choosing to become one…

You are choosing to forget about “I”, and say “we” instead… Because love means dissolving in the other…

You are choosing to build a paradise like family, where angels will dwell…

You are choosing to be helpers and protectors of one another…

You are choosing to be a refuge and a comfort to one another…

You are choosing to be beautiful garments for one another… To cover the deficiencies of each other, and to cherish your strengths… to forgive one another, and to hold hands when it is needed the most…

You are choosing to receive God’s precious gift, so never forget God, in your ease or difficulties… Never mistreat God’s trust to you.. Never look down to God’s great gift to you… He entrusted each of you to the other, so be truthful to your trust.

You are choosing to hold your hands in the journey or love and melt in your love…

You are choosing to be blind to others and just look at each other…

You are choosing to be together forever, here, and in the hereafter…

Today is a very big day… Today God has invited us to witness His love, so that we can all take our shares from it… Glory be to God! God, let us feel your Love…

بارك الله لكما، وبارك عليكما، وجمع بينكما في خير

“May God bless you and shower His blessings on you and place goodness between both of you”

Amen.

Please feel free to use this talk in wedding ceremonies… Our gift to all couples!

By Dr. Omar and Dr. Eren Tatari

And here is a beautiful song for your marraige from Maher Zain: Barakallah

Do you want to pray? Jawshan

Try: JAWSHAN AL-KABIR • This supplication is considered to have one of the highest degrees of gnosis and description of God. • The one who takes a glance at the meaning of even a section of the Jawshan al-Kabir from among ninety-nine will conclude that there is no form of supplicatory prayer like the Jawshan. • Jawshan al-Kabir means ‘Big Shield’. • Jawshan contains 1001 Names/Attributes of God. When reciting the Names, one can feel/contemplate how these Names are acting in his/her life. • By asking from each and every Name and reflecting on them, one can grow closer to God. • Jawshan is a sincere supplication to God. • You can contemplate on fire by thinking of the fire of separation from God. Click to recite from Jawhan al-Kabeer

Prayer

By Dr. Eren Tatari[1]

“Call upon your Lord (O humankind) with humility and in the secrecy of your hearts…” (Qur’an, 7: 55).

“Remember and mention your Lord within yourself (in the depths of your heart), most humbly and in awe, not loud of voice, at morning and evening. And do not be among the neglectful” (Qur’an, 7: 205).

What is a prayer? It is supplication; dialogue between a person and the Diving Being; demonstration of one’s reliance; communication through which we gain confidence and clarity in our being and our Creator. But first and foremost, it is an act of submission. When we pray, we acknowledge that there is a Divine Being who has power and control and we need Him.

When we say prayer, the first thing that comes to our mind is a person supplicating to God through words. However, when we take a holistic perspective on prayer, we realize that everything in creation is in a state of prayer, in one form or another. For instance, a baby, as he is, is in a state of prayer. His existence is a sort of prayer, admitting that he cannot do anything and is asking others to do things for him. We can generalize this example to all beings. Nothing can sustain its existence on its own. So everything is, subconsciously or consciously, asking the One to sustain their existence. In this sense, the innate disposition of everything is prayer; recognizing and accepting of their reality, and confessing their imperfection and need.

If prayer is not seen in this way, it becomes an expectation for magic. We pray to have a car and wait to see a car fall out of thin air. The conventional understanding of prayer is that when you lose your job, you ask for a job. To the contrary, we are to pray consciously as human beings using our freewill. The real prayer is recognizing who we are, what the universe is, whom we are addressing in our prayers.

Let’s take a closer look at the Lord’s Prayer: Thine is the Kingdom (lehul mulku) and the power (lehul hawlu) and the glory (hamdu) forever (abadan). This statement carries the gist of prayer. It is not asking for anything directly. We are communicating with the Creator, and telling Him “yours is the kingdom and power and glory.” Since He already knows what He is, why do we say these? In order to know whom we are communicating with, we state these qualities for ourselves, not for Him. Therefore, stating who the addressee is and knowing who we are is real supplication. Thus, the aim of prayer is to remind ourselves of our reality – that we are a created being who is infinitely dependent on our Creator who is All-Powerful, All-Knowing, and All-Wise. When a rain drop is falling, it has no choice but to obey the laws of God (i.e. gravity). When we eat or walk, it is as if we are praying to God to be able to eat and walk by obeying His laws (i.e. eating, digestion, having to sleep, having to blink, etc.). Seen this way, we could categorize prayer into three groups:

1. Praying through latent ability; e.g. seeds and grains.

2. Praying through innate need; e.g. causes seeking effects.

3. Prayers of conscious beings:

  1. By action; e.g. sowing a seed.
  2. By word.

First, everything prays to its Creator with its latent ability, e.g. seeds and grains: The gathering together of causes is a prayer for the creation of the effect. The apple seed is in prayer to become an apple tree. Its innate/latent ability shows that it wants to be an apple tree; it is made to be an apple tree. How do we understand that they are praying? Just by looking at the seed we see that they do not have any power, knowledge, or capacity to grow the apple tree. Its prayer is answered when the Creator gives it the apple tree. From one aspect, they demonstrate that they cannot realize their potentials on their own. What we see in the universe is but a prayer to God.

Second, all living creatures pray to God through their innate need to give them the things they need and desire, which are beyond their power and will: Those things that are causes seek the effects from God. Every plant, as it demonstrates its need, is praying to give its final intended fruit. Our ears need to hear, our stomachs need food. This need is a prayer in itself. If we disassociate this need from our relation/communication with our Creator, then this need does not become a form of prayer. If we think we are self-sufficient, we are cutting off our praying relationship with our Creator. But apart from human beings, all creatures by default admit their dependency on God. Through their need they pray: “I cannot provide it; some other source must provide it for me.” When we are supplicating with our tongue, all we are doing is reaffirming/joining the universal supplication of all creatures, as well as body, senses, intellect, etc.

The first two types of prayer, through latent ability and innate need, are always answered. For instance, we are hungry and the food is already created; we need to walk and we are given the ability to walk, etc. However, as conscious beings, we are responsible for using our conscious and freewill to do the third type of prayer.

Third, the prayer of conscious beings arising from need: Prayer is the most sacred action of human beings. What we are actually doing is joining creation and following the example of their prayer. As conscious beings, we pray through action and through words.

The prayer of conscious beings through action: For example, plowing is a prayer by action. It is not seeking the sustenance from the earth. Rather, the earth is a door to a treasury of mercy, and the plow knocks on the earth: the door to Divine Mercy. Whether or not the farmer accepts that it is not earth but God who gives the products, this prayer is still answered. So if he thinks it is coming from nature, this conscious choice is wrong, but the action of plowing is a type of prayer that is rewarded. It is in the laws of creation that if we sow a seed, it sprouts. We do not have to be a believer for the seed to sprout. So this type of prayer is also always accepted.

Human beings also make prayers at times of desperate need, or completely conformable with innate need, or made with the tongue of a sincere heart. This prayer is virtually always acceptable. The greater part of human progress and most scientific discoveries are the result of this sort of prayer.

And finally, the prayer of conscious beings through words: After we sow the seed (prayer by action), we pray to God with words to create tomatoes for us; after we study hard (prayer by action), we ask God to get a good grade; after we go to the doctor and take our medication (prayer by action), we ask God to heal us; after we exert all effort to behave kindly towards our friend (by action), we ask God to amend our relationship, etc.

Prayer is the spirit of worship and the result of sincere belief. Through prayer, the worshipper proclaims his or her own impotence and poverty. Praying is an acknowledgment that there is a Divine Being who rules the whole universe, and that He hears all the voices of all beings, including ours.

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “Had not God wanted to give, He would not have given wanting.” God responds to our prayers according to His wisdom: e.g. the doctor listens to the sick person’s sighs and moans; he hears and responds to them. The sweetest result of prayer is this that the person who offers it knows there is someone who takes pity on him and whose hand of power reaches everything. He is not alone in this great hostel of the world. The benefits of prayer also include eternal life. If the worldly aims are not obtained, it may not be said, “The prayer was not accepted.” It should rather be said, “The time of the prayer has still not ended.” As prayer strengthens the inclination to do good, so repentance and the seeking of forgiveness cut the inclination to do evil, putting an end to its transgressions.

God says in the Qur’an, “… Pray to me and I will answer you…” (Qur’an, 40: 60). Yet sometimes we think our prayers are not answered. Prayers are answered in three forms: a) what we asked for is granted as is, b) something that is better than what we asked for is granted, c) the response is deferred to the afterlife. When we go to the doctor and ask for medicine A, the doctor would give it to us if it is what we need. Or he would give us medicine B saying that either medicine A would actually make our illness worse or simply that medicine B would help us heal better and faster. Alternatively, the doctor may say, the best cure for your case is to wait it out… This analogy helps us to contemplate on our prayers and God’s response to our prayers. Sometimes we ask for things, but we do not possess knowledge of the future. What we are asking for may in fact be terrible for us. So it is wise to always say: “God I am asking for such and such but you know best, please give it to me if it is khayr/good for me…”

 


[1] Dr. Eren Tatari is the author of Surrendering to God: Understanding Islam in the Modern Age  (Tughra Publications, December 2012).  She is an Assistant Professor at Rollins College, FL focusing on Islam and Muslims in the West.