Heightened Senses

Hello. I'm Imraan. This is the only thing I own outright; I write from time to time, in the hopes that free-association might save a trip to a sanatorium.

Tag: Love

The Sun of God’s Meaning: Love, Decree and Destiny

Hello to my regular three readers!
Below, you’ll find a passage from a book that I find rather magnificent on the question of reconciling the nature of ‘Decree and Destiny’ from a mystical perspective.
It is worth noting that the ‘Tree of Knowledge’ is here understood as the ‘Tree of Love’, and that seems to be the starting point from which her discourse is rooted (pun intended)
Ref: Beauty and Light: Mystical Discourses by a Contemporary Female Sufi Master – the Shaykha Cemelnur Sargut – who I believe heads one of the branches of the Rifa’i order in Turkey. (Ed. Tehseen Thaver; Trans. Cangüzel Zülfikar) (Fons Vitae; Louisville, KY: 2017), pp 84-93.
Hopefully my transcription of this pages is faithful to the original – there will likely be several typographical errors, but I can’t find them now (so, good luck to you)
The latter half of the passage in particular is quite something, and gave me a lot of pause. I pray it affects you in profound ways, too. And also, if you can get a hold of the book for yourself, I guarantee (by the Grace of God, of course) that you will find it of profound spiritual value.
She is rather unique in terms of her public persona in terms of being a Sufi master, she has a science background, and has a following made-up predominantly of seekers who happen to be women (to the chagrin of her male followers, of course, who have to try and get more time with her when they feel somewhat sidelined – I paraphrase but it’s in the introduction).
The passages in the first couple of chapters on the stations of the garden of the heart are particularly striking, though since I’ve been in thought about the nature of the world, theodicy, decree and so forth, this passage really spoke to me. I wish you well in your explorations of this rather resplendent saint.
Much love, and God bless to you all.

____ ____ ____

“Q: Was Adam punished because after being made the site of manifestation for God’s essence, he approached the tree of love and became attached to the attributes?

“A: Very true. From the essence, he became attached to the attributes. And perhaps it is on account of his going back from the essence to the attributes that Iqbal says, “The pleasure of paradise was inscribed in his heart, when he himself was the essence and paradise. This is why he was cast out.” But in my opinion, Adam did not commit a sin. He did what he had to do, and this is how he came to acknowledge and his own non-existence and nothingness. To reach the point of realising our non-existence and say, “We don’t exist,” we must first commit mistakes and errors [emphasis mine]. I was recently speaking to a friend who said, “I used to love drinking…but I gave it up; was my act of giving up the habit more worthy to God than the restraint of a person who never drank?” Of course not. You will make mistakes – accept that you have made mistakes, and then refrain from them for God. In the eyes of God, restraint and renouncement for His sake is admirable, because it requires struggle and effort. and God loves the struggle and effort of human beings when it is for His sake. Consider two individuals that profess their love for each other, but are unable to make any sacrifices for the other. Can this be called love? No, it cannot. Similarly, simply saying, “O God, I love You!” is not enough. The real question is how much are you able and prepared to sacrifice for your beloved. Do you fear that you might lose your beloved? Our relationship with and love for God should produce these concerns [emphasis mine]. Going back to Adam and Eve, it is as if God spoke those words to Adam. It is also as if God made human beings capable of and passionately inclined towards love, and pushed them towards it. Let us connect that point with the poem of Kenan Rifa’i. Wasn’t a similar thing said to Husayn, the Adam of his time? Most certainly, he was told, “Dear son, don’t proceed, else you will suffer immediately.” But just like Adam, Husayn too chose non-existence and nothingnesses. He chose to die for his beloved, and by doing so he chose to set an example for all believers. We are so fortunate to have such lovers of God, who make it possible for us to reach this understanding.

“The divine judgments inscribed in heavenly spheres and the stars are also inscribed in the Preserved Tablet and in God’s Book. All of pre-eternity and eternity can be found in the Preserved Tablet and in God’s Book, and the ink of the pen has run dry. Sura An’am (Livestock) says, “…nor is there a single grain in the darkness of the earth, or anything fresh or withered, that is not written in a clear Record.” So if everything is in God’s book, then the conflicting states of hardship and comfort, happiness and oppression, goodness and evil, are all inevitable. We must experience these through the course of our lives. Why? We cannot say, “Why does evil exist?” It exists so that goodness can manifest. Similarly, for God to manifest himself, non-existence is necessary. All things are known through their opposite.

“Some questions might be raised: “What is the purpose of prophetic teachings?” “What are the benefits of prescriptions by doctors or the wisdom of sages?” “If everything is written in God’s book and is inevitable, why do we find the unjust shedding blood due to ignorance and disorder?” I have tried to answer these questions, but let me elaborate further with the help of some examples. The divine judgments that are inscribed in the heavens and the stars are not particular…Rather, those laws are universal… Similarly, in this world, the manifestations of the movements of heavenly spheres and stars are not circumscribed, but universal. Moreover, neither are the effects of the events caused by the movements of heavenly spheres and stars localised. To the contrary, again, those effects are universal.

“Thus when it comes to specific human actions, humans have the prerogative to choose. We decide what to strive towards and what to refrain from. As we said earlier, if we struggle in the way of God, He is content with us and through this we are able to realise our own meaning. Think of it this way: when these comes up, it radiates its light on everything equally. It cannot shine its light on some and not on others. At the same time, though, the sun does enable the maturation and ripening of some things, and the burning of others. Apply this analogy to our discussion: when the sun of God’s meaning rises, it can either cause us to mature and ripen, or to burn. The outcome depends on our abilities and inclinations. As Yunus Emre (d.720/1320) once said, “it is love that makes people crazy; it is love that brings disgrace on people.” What was he trying to say? That love is at once love and fire. [emphasis, mine] While it can strike one person and raise their station, on striking another person, it can make them lustful and lead to their downfall. So under God’s meaning, the orientation of each person corresponds to his or her abilities. People are affected by the same events in different ways, in accordance with their different abilities.

“Q: What are the factors that affect a person’s ‘ability’?

A: A good person is good from the time they are in their mother’s womb. The same is true for a bad person. The world is made up of these two groups. A good person refers to the lover of God. It refers to the person who struggles to reach God’s beauty. God manifests Himself through this type of person. A bad person means “sealed.” About this type, God says, “I manifest in these individuals as a drop, not as a whole.” Bad people exist in this world so that the good can be distinguished. They (the bad) carry no additional burdens for their sins. They will be given no other punishment. Their punishment is already with them. Consider the following story: when the donkey was taken to paradise, it said, ‘Hee haw hee haw!’ When it was taken to hell it said the same thing. On hearing this the people protested, “This donkey doesn’t understand a thing!” God replied, ‘When the donkey is already carrying its punishment on itself, why are you trying to recompense it further?’ The point of the story is this: say a man has a problem with another man and is constantly causing him trouble, to the point where all day he burns in the fire of his own jealousy. He is, at the very least, absolutely miserable. His entire day is spent in pain, as he conspires new ways to cause harm to others. Why would I need to curse such a person when he cannot be any worse off than he already is? He lacks the happiness and peace that I possess; he is in so much pain and discomfort.

The person who submits to God is happy and at peace; he remains unfazed by whatever may happen in this world. In contrast, those who do not submit are constantly burdened by worldly trials and tribulations. They are always in pain, as they themselves become a source of many other problems. I still remember once a woman said to me, ‘I have a weakness for jewelry; I envy even the tiniest piece of artificial jewelry you wear!’ This person carries the weight of her troubles with her, and constantly eats away at her peace. Perfected Humans show the true path to (less perfect) people like us who vacillate between peace and unrest. They serve as a reminder of the right path for us. Did the blessed Prophet ever give up on Abu Jahl? Never. Didn’t he know that Abu Jahl would never believe? He did. But it was as if he had resolved the following: “It is my responsibility to perform my (prophetic) duty as well is possible. The rest is in the hands of God.” So Perfected Humans convey and enjoin the good and what is true, as to him/her according to his/her own disposition.

With some people, the offering of sound advice produces the opposite effect; it increases the disbelief and makes them protest and say things like, “who do you think you are to teach me?” Whereas others would say, “everything I learn is beneficial for me; God has graced me with yet another meaning.” The objector or the one who says, “who do you think you are to teach me” is already in hell, while the other who embraces learning is in heaven. There is a lot of talk about terrorists these days. People endlessly ask and wonder, “Will they go to heaven or hell?” “Are they really killing people in the path of God?” It is so tragic that today, when the word Muslim is mentioned, terrorist is what comes to people’s minds. This is so painful. The West supports this, and that is how they want a Muslim to be portrayed. If a terrorist hadn’t already created hell for himself in this world, would they ever be able to detonate all those bombs? If a person has entered hell whilst still in this world, is it possible for them to go to paradise in the next world? If we are in peace, and if we are in the presence of God, it means that we are in paradise. If we are not in the presence of God, and are unhappy, we are in hell. If we are in hell, there is a Qur’an verse urging us to return to the presence of God. It says “…give alms…” that is join spiritual discourses, be a service to humanity again, and save yourself from the hellfire. For us to leave this world it is like the setting of the sun in this world, only to rise again in the afterlife. This means that the state in which you leave this world is the same state in which you will be resurrected. Thus, it can be said that people have Theo option of being good or bad. All prophets struggle to remind humanity of the right path and lead them to God’s presence. Everything inscribed in the Preserved Tablet will become manifest. In this regard, people do not make choices; they are not free. Whatever is written in the heavenly spheres and starts is God’s decree. The effects the are manifested through the heavenly spheres and stars are God’s destiny.

If a person wants to instruct a mill, they first decide where to put it up and think of the materials needed, like a stone, a wheel, and water. After this they obtain the materials, prepare what is needed for rotation, and then grind the flower. Note that there are three steps. First one must think of what materials to use; this is the decree, after which the person struggles to build. But first, it has to be imagined and planned. This act of imagining or picturing is the decree. Doing what is necessary for the decree to be carried out is destiny. The flour that is obtained at the end is also destiny. In the same way, God’s knowledge about the heavenly spheres, stars, elements and nature is His decree. The manifestation of the heavens and the stars in this world as they start turn is God’s destiny. Stars have a certain effect on this world, both inwardly and outwardly. In reality, all the planets and starts that appear to be outside exist in us. Horoscropes and stars affect us. That should not be interpreted -as is often done today- as the telling of fortunes. A Perfected Human comes, takes you from one sphere to another and directs you to the right path. This means that God has programmed you in a certain way in your creation. IF your decree is to become wheat, He causes you to be born in a season that will help you manifest your wheat-ness. The season is your horoscope. The wind and the rain of that season help you acquire the level of maturity as well as ‘wheat’.

The spiritual disposition with which you are born, will enable you, through your efforts, to attain that maturity. Even before you have a need for water, a spiritual teacher guides you to the water. This is what is most crucial. God grants His creatures what what is required and desired by their abilities. He assigns to them the appropriate name as their destiny; human form, spirit, abilities and attitude are written in the sperm of humans. People are bound to exist in their own form and spirit. They will necessarily have the abilities that they have, but they are free in their actions. So, while decree is predetermined, our destiny is determined by our actions. People say, ‘Your destiny is in your hands” without reflecting on what this means. Destiny is the fulfilment of decree. And the our destiny is lived out in our hands. (Emphasis mine)

Q: Could you please explain this with an example for us to understand it better?

A: Let’s say it is in a person’s destiny to become a beautiful person. But trial and difficulty is also written for that person for the sake of their perfection. If they endure the trials and show contentment, that destiny will make them beautiful. If on the other hand they get stuck in a state where with each difficulty and affliction they question, “Why has this happened to me?” then trial and difficulty will not work to perfect them. Instead, they will remain “unripe.” This is why we must learn to be content with everything that happens to us. The things that happen to us change our inner structure. They transform us into diamonds when we are just carbon and coal. If instead of transforming into diamonds we insist on staying as coal and say, “No, I will not suffer any pain in this world!” then we will remain at the level of coal. But if we are content with suffering, and if we treat pain not as pain but as a sign that the Beloved is with us, and if when difficulties arise we say, “Praise be to God, this is from my beloved; He has considered me worthy of this, and He has loved me,” then difficulties will become delights that transform us into diamonds. [Emphasis mine]… To be clear, I am not suggesting that we ask for hardship. I am talking about hardship that is already present and destined to occur.

Q: To be content with our destiny is the goal we should strive for, but how do we get to that station? How can an ordinary person get there?

A: Everything comes down to “love.” Spiritual discourses (sohbet) held by Sufis are there to increase our love; we need these discourses in order to realise our love. Spiritual discourse is needed to nourish a person’s love. What feeds love are the feelings a person has during a spiritual discourse. All our talk and discussion about love thus far has the same objective: to understand the meaning of God, to find that Beloved in ourselves, to unite with that Beloved, to meet with that Beloved, and to take each breath with the Beloved. The highest form of love is needed to achieve this, that is, to be content with everything, and to view every event as beautiful. Even when it is human love directed towards a man or a woman, if the beloved scolds the lover, the lover derives pleasure from this. Why? “Because they have spoken to me!” is the answer. It seems “they were upset by something I did.” When someone is reproached by their intimate friend, they experience much pleasure, and think, “if this person hadn’t loved me, they would not have reproached me!” Only and immature soul resents being reproached. But can the reproach of a true friend upset us? The reproach of a friend makes us happy. “If they hadn’t had love for me, they would not have called me,” they think. This is how our relationship with God should be. I, too, reflect on this from time to time. When something really difficult happens to me, I tend to say, “My beloved must have seen me as distinct from others and so He granted this difficult situation to me. He must love me so He has given me a more difficult test than He has to others.” This is the crux of it: to be able to establish a relationship with the beloved and to welcome whatever He sends us according to the best of our ability. And we should remember that with contentment there is reciprocity, such that after our contentment is the station where God is content with us.

Q: Is it a universal rule that everyone should be content with his or her destiny? Do people really have to be content with everything that happens?”

A: It is not easy for everyone to be content. Of course, being content with our destiny is tied to our abilities. It is related to the pre-eternal decree that is in the self. In fact, the best way for us to establish a relationship with God is to never judge the way others are content with their own destinies. Everybody is pleased to the extent that accords with his or her capacity. it is possible that no one will be content in the way I am, and I will not be content in the way that others are. I have said this many times already. dA very close friend of mine in Konya buried his ten children in a collapsed building last Eid. Can I ask, “Why can’t I be like him?” He has met the destiny that was decided for him in pre-eternity by God and God has made it easy on him. We might all see his situation the same way, and after acquiring a lot of information we might learn how to behave in such a situation. But when we actually confront that trial, how do we respond? That’s the question. How we respond is related to the favours that God has bestowed on us. So while the extent of our contentment corresponds to our capacity, the ability to respond well and to be content is only possible through God’s help and blessing. We respectfully bow before those who have such contentment.

Human beings act on their own spiritual predispositions. Did I say human beings? Sorry, every created being in the world acts on its destiny and fate. Let me illustrate this with a story. A mosquito approached the Prophet Solomon to register a complaint. “I’m so upset by this wind! Its continuous blowing is nearly killing me as it forces me along! Could you have a word with it so that it starts to show me some respect?” Solomon speaks to the wind, warning it that it might kill the mosquito and suggests that it be calmer. The wind replies, “O master! Movement is part of my constitution; it is how I was created. The same God that created me also commanded me to move. I simply obey the command; I don’t know what is or is not driven along by my movement. And there is nothing wrong in this because ultimately God has mandated that I, the wind, be blowing.” From this story we see that everything has a duty in this world. For some, the duty entails movement, which can be destructive, but it is their duty.

Such people destroy everything in their path without pausing to think about the consequences. Others courteously welcome all things and treat duty. It is to our place to ask, “Why is such and such person doing this or that?” Our ability to be content with the destiny that God has written for this world rests on our ability to be content with how others will behave accordingly to their own disposition. People are predestined to do what they do; it is their duty. You might do something good for someone, and they might be hostile in response. It is not my place to question this. The goal is to respect what others do. Now, you might ask, “Why do evil-doers get punished if everyone is responsible for doing their duty?” My teacher says, “This brings up a very subtle point.” God has opposite names: names that involve the granting of greatness and dignity, and names that cause abasement and despiability [sic]. With some of His names He guides and with other of His names He leads astray. He forgives, but He also takes revenge and punishes. All His names come into this world after their pleading with him, saying, “O God, please grant us a body.” When there is suffering and oppression, God sends a person who will carry the name of vengeance.To eliminate the qualities that lead one to oppress others, it is necessary for the person with those qualities to encounter vengeance. When they meet, the two names will control and discipline each other. That’s it.

Q: Thank you so much.

The Theophany of Perfection

Oh, my beloved! How many times I have called you without your hearing Me!

How many times have I shown myself without your looking at Me!

How many times have I become perfume without your inhaling Me!

How many times I have become food without your tasting Me!

How is it that you do not smell Me in what you breathe?

How do you not see Me, nor hear Me?

I am more delicious than anything delicious,

More desirable than anything desirable,

More perfect than anything perfect.

I am Beauty and Grace!

Love Me and love nothing else

Desire Me

Let Me be your sole concern to the exclusion of all concerns.

Ibn ‘Arabi



Every branch reverts to its root, no more in any way than when it sprang forth.

My Arabic is sadly not where I’d like it to be, so I have to rely upon a translation (by Ralph Austin, see here for original link and commentary by Austin).

That said, I hope you enjoy this poem as much as I did. I don’t tend to read much of poetry – the sheer exertion to decipher them can send me spiralling into overthought!

However, in this case, I had to make an exception. This is from the writings of the great Andalusian Sufi master, Abū ‘Abd Allāh, Muḥammad ibn ‘Alī ibn Muḥammad ibn ‘Arabī al Ḥātimī aṭ-Ṭā’ī, better known to most as Muḥyiddīn ibn ‘Arabī (d. 1165) who is said to be among the most sophisticated and original thinkers the Islamic tradition has ever produced, and whose insights into the Divine, received to regular ‘unveilings’ through which he composed some of his most important works.

The following poem was constructed at some point after he buried his seven-year-old daughter, with his own hands, and his reflections on the matter. Often I’ve heard critics level profound judgements on those mystics, perhaps because they have no sense of perspective nor have not suffered, which is why they felt they could always see the Divine, His Beauty, His Love, etc.; ibn ‘Arabī himself writes what is a moving and (for me) devastating piece of poetry regarding his relationship to his Creator on such a tragic occasion . He seems to foray into his perception of the Divine Reality in the middle somewhere (and for someone like me, uninitiated, I cannot dare to comment on the specifics), but I’ve highlighted to you verses that spoke to me, giving this poetry significant poignancy given the occasion upon its composition.

The themes of the world of multiplicity, the ‘other-ness’ in relation to God, how His Names manifest in a world so relative, and so on are beyond my scope.

If you are unable to read the whole of the commentary, might I suggest you look at just those below verses 19-20, and 21, the latter of which seems to suggest that these profound mystical insights came to him, were triggered by, the demise of his daughter,  which are both gripping and shocking in content. I’ve pasted these below in block quotes. All credit goes to Ralph Austin.

Is it really possible to see His Agency in everything then, when even such a sad happening brings out such depths?I pray this is as edifying for you as (I hope it will be) for me.

With love, and wishes for a thoroughly blessed year ahead, meanwhile. I shall try not to leave it a year before I write again.

1. With my very own hands I laid my little daughter to rest becauseshe is of my very flesh, 

2. Thus am I constrained to submit to the rule of parting, so that myhand is now empty and contains nothing. 

3. Bound to this moment we are in, caught between the yesterday thathas gone and the tomorrow that is yet to come. 

4. This flesh of mine is as pure silver, while my inner reality is as pure gold.

5. Like a bow have I grown, and my true posture is as my rib. 

6. My Lord it is who says that He has created me in a state of suffering and loss. 

7. How then can I possibly hope for any rest, dwelling as I do in sucha place and state? 

8. Were it not for that state I would be neither child nor parent. 

9. Nor indeed would there be any to compare with me as is the casewith my Creator. 

10. It is surely a case of the qualification being one with respect to an essence which is full of implicit multiplicity. 

11. Because I am for my Creator, in our creation like one of a multitude. 

12. Then my God alighted between us, in the very fabric of existence – not merely a figment of belief.

13. All with a firm, well established emergence, to which I may trace my antecedents with confidence.

14. Thus, on the one hand, I can say that I am a mortal like yourselves, while You do vouch for me.

15. Always, however, on the understanding that I am not ultimately a ‘like’, thus to maintain my integrity.

16. For You have banished all ‘being like’ from me in the pre-eternal state; and that is my conviction.

17. See how sublime and lofty is my garden of paradise, secure in the company of matchless beautiful maidens.

18. He speaks of this as we have also in our book the Maqsid ai-Asmā’.

19. Is not created nature His family and people, as also the very
essence of the Unique One? 

20. Consider how He is a consort for her and how they came together
upon my being, so that it split asunder. 

21. These words of mine are not written after long deliberation, but have been a part of me eternally.

22. It was none but the apostle of the Eternal One who activated them within me.

23. He it was who dictated it, leaving me to write it with my hand.

24. Thus is the matter, and none truly knows it,

25. Save a leader of the spirit surpassing in goodness or one of the
golden mean.

26. Indeed, one who is ‘other’ cannot know it now or ever.

27. Every branch reverts to its root, no more in any way than whenit sprang forth.

Commentary to verse 19-20:

Verses 19 and 20 are really quite shocking in the context of Islamic religion. They are extremely paradoxical and are perhaps the most powerful two verses of the poem.

19. Is not created nature His family and people, as also the very
essence of the Unique One?

Nature, as representative of creation, is in this line a feminine word. As Ibn ‘Arabi points out in the last chapter of the Fusūs, the male God or the male element is surrounded by two female elements-created nature and the very essence itself of God which contains all the essences that we are. It is also a feminine word – dhdt. Nature, the creation itself and the sophic basis of that creation – the deep inner wisdom which provides all the material for that creation are as a family, like a wife and family for God, the Reality. He speaks then of His family. His ahl – His household. The creation is compared to a household – a family or a wife to God but, also the very innermost essence. Here we have the union of the two things that were contrasted in the earlier part of the poem – the worldly state and the pre-eternal state are brought together. They are both a ‘consort’ for the Divine One and therefore, very much a part of the Divine. This is a very difficult idea to articulate without causing certain misunderstandings which is rather compounded in the next verse.

20. Consider how He is a consort for her and how they came together upon my being, so that it split asunder.

‘Her’ is Nature on the one hand and the Essence on the other. In this verse, the Arabic word ba’al is used meaning a husband or a consort. (The Arabic word ba’al is the same word as ‘Baal’ used in this way in the Old Testament.) God is seen here as the consort of the double but single feminine. Therefore, the rest of the line is concerned with how ‘they’ consummated their union ‘… upon my being’. Here ‘my being’ (wujudi) is the material which provides the wherewithal for a birth to result from this union of God the Divine al-Haqq and His inner/outer consort. The Hindu concept shakti gives a similar taste of what is indicated by this idea for without the shakti nothing would happen and thus, God would be alone and undivided. It is only the shakti –  the female energy (expressed here by Ibn ‘Arabi in terms of the inner essence and the outer world) which can bring about the whole drama of creation. In this respect then, ‘my being’ is ‘my inner essence – my divine pre-existent being’. The words ‘… so that it split asunder’ refer to the fact that because of the coming together of these two elements, the difference between them became apparent. In many ways, this situation is similar to the vivification of the egg in the womb – splitting, dividing into the eternal and non-eternal.

Verses 19 and 20 are very powerful and central forming the actual conclusion of the poem. In the beginning we had the difference between the two things, then the linking of the two things by the worshipped God and finally the identity of the two things in a union which itself again produces the difference once more so that it is really a cycle that is being discussed here. These two verses are concerned with what is known in religion as hieros gamos – the sacred marriage.

Commentary to verse 21:

21. These words of mine are not written after long deliberation, but
have been a part of me eternally.

This verse harks back to the constant theme of eternal subsistence in this poem. He is saying, in effect: “I have not sat down and thought: ‘What sort of poem can I write? What has my daughter’s funeral conveyed to me?.'” Ibn ‘Arabi is declaring that this rich and difficult poem that he has written has always been there in his heart of hearts, in his deepest depths – from all eternity. His daughter’s death and funeral simply served to trigger the release and articulation of these thoughts, images and ideas into writing.

On Tennyson, and on M.E.

“‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

Tennyson wrote that. (I think!) It made me reflect on what resolve my family and other loved ones wish that I had. But what could they see of it when Will alone is not reversing the treachery that is M.E?

I am not terribly eloquent, so you’ll have to excuse my musings tonight.

I’m sorry that it seems to you that I’ve given up. I know no other way to keep the symptoms at bay – I am literally trapped in my own body that betrays me at every hurdle.

Sometimes, I see no way out from myself.

Despite my best efforts.

The physical pain is unbearable and I have borne it. The exhaustion is inexhaustible and I’m exhausted by that fact.

Being ceases to ‘be’ in any meaningful sense sometimes, yet I have no choice but to exist, awaiting its passage from me. At least in this world.

Often this seems the most pragmatic. But it lets me reflect on the blessing that it is to ‘be’ at all.

You claim my bed sucks me into an abyss, sometimes you see in me no more than my physically debilitated self. You identify me with this bed.

The bed that I despise. Or, as I once heard said, I try to unshackle myself from her bondage, yet the symptoms Amplify and I’m filled with anxiety.

Your Will clouds your Vision. I wouldn’t have it any other way, though; what right have I to ask you of anything else – you persist in feeding and sheltering me despite your Will for me? How dare I?

Life speeds on ahead at thundering pace, and is leaving me behind, and holding you back as you care for me whilst I lay, almost always limp, yet tense, in my bed.

I fear sometimes that your comments hold a great deal of Truth. Yet the relentless illness, that strikes with such caprice in her manifested symptoms, are the only kernel to which I cling that convince me of what is Real. Or at the very least, what seems Real to me.

Though the fear of the Next Life haunts me – did I really fail to do my best to rid myself of this state?

Often I wonder what His Will holds for me; and what vision I can manufacture of it. It’s hard to know the Mind of God.

Tell me what choices I have, and I will tell you that you have freed me.

What Mastery of the Mystical Sciences…

Stillness and motion do not apply to Him. How can a thing occur in Him which He has Himself made to occur, and how can a thing revert to Him which He first created, and how can a thing appear in Him which He first brought to appearance? If it had not been so, His Self will have become subject to diversity, His Being will have become divisible (into parts) and His reality will have been prevented from being deemed eternal. If there was a front to Him then there will have been a rear also for Him. He will need completing only if shortage befell Him. IN such case, signs of the created will appear in Him and He will become a sign (leading to other objects) instead of signs leading to Him. Through the might of His abstention (from affectedness) He is far above being affected by things which effect others.

Below, I have typed up Sermon 28 from  the Peak of Eloquence, the vast repository or  collection of Sermons, sayings, letters Imam Ali  (a.s), compiled by Sharif al-Radi.

This version is published by Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, New York.

I’ve included sections from others that are utterly awe-inspiring (emphasis mine, mostly!)

Sermon 28 – About the Transient Nature of this World and the Importance of the Next World

What a truly edifying, (perhaps terrifying) words of perennial wisdom and admonition; how easy it is to forget the life that is to come; too easily do we live as if we will never die, that we’ll repent tomorrow – yet in whose mortal hand does the power exist to guarantee his tomorrow? Sharif al-Radi, the compiler of this great work,

“So now, surely this world has turned its back and announced its departure while the next world has appeared forward and proclaimed its approach. Today is the day of preparation while tomorrow is the day of race. The place to proceed is Paradise while the place of doom is Hell. Is there no one to offer repentance over his faults before his death? Or is there no one to perform virtuous acts before the day of trial?

“Beware, surely you are in the days of hopes behind which stands death. Whoever acts during the days of his hope before the approach of his death, his action would benefit him and his death would not harm him. But he who fails to act during the period of hope before the approach of death, his action is a loss and his death will harm him. Beware and act during a period of attraction just as you act during a period of dread. Beware, surely I have not seen one who covets Paradise asleep nor dreads Hell to be asleep. Beware, he whom right does not benefit must suffer the harm of the wrong and he whom guidance does not keep firm will be led away by misguidance toward destruction.

“Beware, you have been ordered insistently to march and have been guided as to how to provide for the journey. Surely the most frightening thing which I am afraid of about you is to follow desires and to widen the hopes. Provide for yourself from this world what would save you tomorrow (on the Day of Judgement).”
The Last Portion  of Sermon 83 – The Lesson to Be Learned from Those Who Have Passed Away:

“O servants of Allah!! Where are those who were allowed (long) ages to live and they enjoyed bounty? They were taught and they learned. they were given time and they passed it in vain. They were kept healthy and they forgot (their duty). They were allowed a long period (of life), were handsomely provided, were warned of grievous punishment and were promised big rewards. You should avoid sins that lead to distraction and vices that attract the wrath (of Allh).

“O people who possess eyes and ears, health and wealth! Is there any place of protection, any shelter of safety, or asylum or haven, or occasion to run away or to come back (to this world)? If not, how are you, then turned away (Holy Quran, 6:95;   10:34;   35:3;   40:62) and whither are you averting? By what things have you been deceived? Certainly, the share of everyone of you from the earth is just a piece of land equal to his owns stature and size where he would lie on his cheeks covered with dust. The present is an opportune moment for acting.

“O servants of Allah! Since the neck is free from the loop and spirit is also unfettered, now you have time for seeking guidance. You are in ease of body; you can assemble in crowds, the rest of life is before you; you have opportunity of acting by will; there is opportunity for repentance and peaceful circumstances. (But you should act) before you are overtaken by narrow circumstances and distress, or fear and weakness, before the approach of the awaited death and before seizure by the Almighty, the Powerful.”

*”Sayyid ar-Radi says the following: ‘It is related that when Imam Ali ibn Abu [sic] Talib delivered this sermon people began to tremble, tears flowed from their eyes and their hearts were frightened. Some people call this sermon Brilliant Sermon (al-Khutbatul-Gharra’).

A Portion of Sermon 184 – on the Creation of the Universe

“In His creation, the big, the delicate, the heavy, the light, the strong, the week are all equal. ** So is the sky, the air, the winds and the water. Therefore, look at the sun, moon, vegetation, plants, water, stone, the difference of this night and day, the springing of the streams, the large number of the mountains, the height of their peeks, the diversity of languages and the variety of tongues. Then woe unto him who disbelieves in the One who ordains, who denies the Ruler! These believe that they are like grass for which there is no cultivator nor any maker for their own sundry shapes. They have not relied on any argument for what they assert, nor on any research for what they have heard. Can there be any construction without a constructor, or any offense without an offender?

The Wonderful Creation of the Locust

“If you wish, you can tell about the locust (as well). Allah gave it two red eyes, lighted for them two moons like pupils, made for it small ears, opened for it a suitable mouth and gave it a keen sense, gave it two teeth to cut with and two sickle-like feet to grip with. The farmers are afraid of it in the matter of crops. Farmers cannot drive the locust away even though they may join together in their effort. The locust attics the fields and satisfies its hunger although its body is not equal to a thin finger.”

The Glory of Allah

“Glorified is Allah before Whom everything in the skies or on earth bows down in prostration willingly and unwillingly, submits to Him by placing his cheeks and face (on the dust), kneels before Him (in obedience) peacefully and humbly and hands over to Him full control in fear and apprehension.

“The birds are bound by His commands. He knows the number of their feathers and their breaths. He has made their feet stand on water and on dry land. He has ordained their livelihoods. He knows their species. This is the crow, this is the eagle, this is the pigeon, and this is the ostrich. He called out every bird by its name (while creating it) and provided it with its livelihood. He created heavy clouds and produced from them heavy rain, spreading it on various lands. He drenched the earth after its dryness and grew vegetation from it after its barrenness.”


Faith and ‘Reason’

If we are to defend Reason, we must be inspired by more than Reason to do so.

Terry Eagleton

Here’s a fascinating talk in which the dear Dr Eagleton, esteemed literary theorist, furious Marxist and ‘Believer’ (as well as pop-culture savant!) sets about to try to deconstruct grand-narratives that exist outside of the meta-narratives of religion/’Faith’. That said, his analysis in particular about seeing the world as more than its agonising, groaning, self, despite it being empirically so, is an excellent analogy about what a religious worldview might appear to do. Please look out for it!

And then, if you have the time, watch his Gifford Lecture – particularly 43:00-48:00 where he speaks about a religious believer as being in love – is love reducible to ‘reasons’. Reason doesn’t “go all the way down,” he might put it.

A Humbling Prayer

Friends; apologies for my absence. I’ve been battling something of a relapse of late (tremendous fun, don’t you think?), but have been managing to read a little for the last three…so I thought I’d share:
Here’s a short part of a prayer, as narrated by a Saint from the Islamic tradition, Ali ibn Husayn (the great-grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, may God’s Peace descend upon him always), and one of the Imams of the Shi’a tradition; it describes to me something very profound – the concept of Mercy. I prefer this to ‘Grace’, because the former suggests a much greater need for Him in the relationship between man and his Lord.

The fact is, truly, that millennia of human civilisation have shown that we are incredibly fickle, and lack spiritual strength, often lost in a world of choice because our ethics change according to the era we find ourselves in. Time and again we have created and done things that have been to our immense detriment; though some of these have enriched the human experience and affected our collective memory, it is so tragic that, for example, the last century has wrought such incomprehensible chaos and human calamity that we ought to have avoided. My theory has been this  – that if only we had humbled ourselves… David Berlinski once remarked, and I happen to agree, is that the catastrophe inflicted upon our brothers – Jews as well as others –  in what became (and I use the lower-case on purpose as it is more-encompassing of all) known as the holocaust, could take place because they saw that there was no Power greater than their own.

I think it applies to all cases of man’s inhumanity. We fail to realise that our Higher attributes cannot come from other than him; namely, they do not originate in us…because we originate in Him.

O Lord, do not allow our souls to choose as they like, for, verily, they will choose what is evil, unless you show pity. They will choose what is bad unless you show Mercy.

(From His Supplication in Yearning to Ask Forgiveness from God, as found in: Wilayat in Qur’an, Sayyid Athar Husain Rizvi (trans.), Ayatullah Jawadi Amuli)

With love,


Dr. Rowan Williams on Islam and the ‘Islamification’ of Britain

Here’s a fairly recent (not fairly new…however you’d like to word it) comment the good Archbishop made on Islam. Though I sometimes think that the Anglican Communion in general has lost its way at times, I have tremendous respect for those clerics such as Dr. Williams and the jointly intellectual and spiritual worldview that he has.

Though he ends with the comment that we, as Muslims, are probably more like Christians than many Christians might acknowledge or consider (to paraphrase), I think that the communal values that we have, especially in regard to marriage, equal rights, recognition of a sort of transcendental ‘dignity’ we share with our fellow creatures makes us far more like Christians than we, as Muslims, would often like to acknowledge. I’d venture so far as to say that we have a lot more in common with Christians than we do with those aggressive secularists – Dr Williams is a testament to what a clergyman should look like – erudite, sophisticated, firm in belief, and grounded spiritually. Whatever you think of him, and his attempts to reconcile religious belief in the modern world, I sometimes wish that we had more clerics like him living in the West, who had such a public platform. I’d even settle for more clerics like him in the Christian world.

Though we as Muslims find ourselves increasingly alienated in this ‘Christian’ country/world, I think that efforts on the part of people like Dr Williams as well as systematic work done by more Muslims, is the only way that we will survive spiritually in the torment of ‘modernity’, and be able to work toward the Divine human ‘project’.

Here’s the latter part of one of my favourite verses from the Qur’an, which is quite pertinent here (the whole verse is of course beautiful in its own right, too, but would need the sort of elaboration that I’m to unable to give. Nonetheless…):

“To each of you God has prescribed a Law and a Way. If God would have willed, He would have made you a single people. But God’s purpose is to test you in what he has given each of you, so strive in the pursuit of virtue, and know that you will all return to God [in the Hereafter], and He will resolve all the matters in which you disagree.” (Ma’ida:58)

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