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: Qur’an

Fear, Pain, Death

(Edit – I was on a heck of a lot of medication when I wrote this, so I apologise for all manner of errors found in this piece, but I hope the sentiments come across as I had intended them.)

I don’t know how they do it. Honestly. Hospital workers, nursing-staff in particular as opposed to doctors who are, by design it would seem, colder and more clinical. Anyhow, this is the second time in four days I’ve been ambulanced (sic) off to the Emergency Room to deal with pain issues that I thought were akin to Satan straddling upon my chest. Satan, and an elegant the size of Satan, too.

Of course, when you have Severe ME, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Neuro-Lyme Disease, and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, no doctor really know what to do with you.

This post isn’t so much about what happened -and not much – the fact that I was writhing around in so much pain despite the fact that I was on enough painkillers to stun one of The Rolling Stones at least twice over was suggestive that there is something going on beneath the surface. But they couldn’t find it, and so here I am, back at home, somewhat tranquilliser and utterly exhausted.

An increasing sensation upon entering a hospital these days, however is one that really does grip me to the core. The impending sense of my mortality, and by extension, Doom. Sure, the Almighty proclaims His Mercy supersedes His Justice, according to Scripture, but yet there is so much for which I need to atone, still. My body is increasingly breaking, the doctors know-not what to do, and the ever increasing chances of a life lived with any sense of normality without battling symptom after symptom after symptom – well the negative possibilities multiply as we speak, to borrow from our friend Griffin, the Fifth-Dimesnional being.

What I cannot get to the root of, however, is my utter sadness every time the ambulance staff decide to take me into hospital. Pure and utter grief. On laughing gas today to help with the pain (the second canister I used-up this week), I was on the verge of tears. Both in resignation that I could not get a transfer to the right hospital nor have anyone manage my pain levels for me, alas, is that the world seems to cave in around me just a bit every time I’m admitted, or offered a new diagnosis. This is what is so utterly heartbreaking. My fear of the Afterlife is rather profound, I admit, but what about the fear I suffer of a life not-yet lived. Ten years have gone by, and we’re closer to no-answers, but umpteen diagnosis. What happens at the next crisis of pain, or the one after that? What happens as I watch the cycle of life and death all around me in a sterile, artificial environment where most professionals have to be detached from the patient in order to survive? Aside from my own sins, why do I fear death so much, when  I have so many friends who have systematically tried to end their own lives?

Why he utter dread upon entering the hospital, a place where I expect to be helped, where most people expect help, too? Is it because I’ve been let-down too many times and am seeing the fires of Doom ahead? Or because dismissive doctors insist that there is no other pain-type medication available to me to take, whilst I writhe around in unholy discomfort begging for them to make it stop?

Anyway, there is something about pain that is so humanising. It’s almost primal. It forces you to interact with a form of yourself so both physical and psychic that has no necessary root cause, nor one that can be treated with any simple solution. But the humanising aspect of it is that you find yourself begging for death during such an episode, or praying, or doing both…desperate for some release, sick to your stomach that you’ve wasted an evening of a relative accompanying you to the hospital to almost no avail, and finally praying that there was ‘something’ that could be done. I ramble here, but I’m trying to get to the root of why this pain has the habit of making me face-down mortality in ways not imaginable.

In years past, when I was healthier, I could easily visit the sick an the frail in hospitals, show something akin to love and make the m comfortable in my own capacity. Now, in severe discomfort and paramedics not knowing what to do with me other than “well we can’t keep giving you gas and air every time”, suddenly my comfort has taken precedent, and my own self has become the locus of my own being – that selfish part of me that only sees me and my immediate pain.

I long to see transcendence and patience, the state of riḍā, yet on the other hand how do you got about it when your immediate physical experience is only competing you to sink into the swamp of despair. Sure, you truly feel helpless, and God Almighty before you with prayers, but otherwise, where is the real semblance, even, of gnosis? Why are there days in such situation when you beg for death so you might not burden those around you, or feel guilty for having called a paramedic to you when there are genuine people dying? Sure, no one knows this for a fact, but equally pain and humility don’t seem to go hand-in-hand for me these days, for all I see is death every time I try to get some help.

Allah is Greater, and I guess I have to make peace with his will. But my life seems so lost to me, direction and purposeless, only battling symptoms and not realising how insular the conditions have made me. Maybe it is a part of a Plan, though to be let in on it might be a pleasure, too…

Unquestionably,…

Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured.

Qur’an 13:28 (Sahih International)

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,

Imraan

“But he cried through the depths of darkness…” (21:87-8)

Yesterday I found myself reading these verses by Rumi, the masterful Persian mystic (from the Islamic tradition), and felt that I had to share them.

Just in case you didn’t know, ‘Allah’, is the Arabic term for God (the same God of the Judeo-Christian tradition, the Bible, regardless of what some people will try to tell you). Then there is

is the mention of ‘Khazir’ (Khidr more commonly), ‘The Green One’ – a revered figure in the Islamic tradition often charged with carrying out spiritual tasks by God, who was said to possess some mystical insight, and a righteous dispossession.

One night a man cried, “Allah, Allah!”
until his lips became sweet with the sound.
The Evil One approached him as he stood chanting,
and asked “How now, chatterbox?
Where is the answer to your insistence?
Who replies to you ‘Here am I?’
No answer comes from the Throne:
how long then will you mindlessly go on crying ‘Allah?'”

Broken-hearted, the man ceased his chant and lay down to sleep.
In that sleep he dreamed a dream, and in that dream the
holy mystic Khazir appeared before him in a green garden. The saint spoke:
“Why have you desisted from the mention of God?
How is that you now despair of calling on Him?”

The dreamer replied,
“I ceased because no ‘Here am I’ was coming to me.
I fear therefore I may be turned from His door.”

Khazir answered, “God says: ‘Your cry of “Allah” is itseslf My “Here am I,”
just as your pleading and agony and fervor are My messenger.
All your twistings and turnings to come to Me were
My drawing you that set you free.
Your fear and love are the snares to catch My grace.
Under each “Allah” of your whispers many a “Here am I” ‘”

At least to my mind, these verses say something profound in opposition to the dominant, materialist worldview that our friends in the ‘Academy’, especially in the Natural Sciences (how’s that for ironic?) seem to uphold. Causation in the linear sense appears here to be profoundly insufficient in understanding Reality. Whether or not Rumi is suggesting (and I know very little about him, alas) that the very act of chanting His name is a manifestation of the Divine Mercy – that our connection with God is so pervasive and sewn-into the fibre of our existence that we fail to realise how connected we are actually in fact…or if it means that we ought not to see our pleas for ‘help’, or our yearning for Him as a spiritual endeavour that originates in our own agency rather than His…I cannot be entirely sure. Maybe he meant something else altogether.

But we have the problem today of seeing ourselves as ‘apart’ from the Reality of things (and I find this a grave difficulty with the various apologists from the great Monotheistic traditions, Islam included), through which we insist on placing barriers between God’s ‘Will’ and that which is manifested through it – i.e. creation. No, I’m not saying in the more pseudo-spiritual fashions, or even in the demonic traditions (see what I did there :p) , that we are all deities therefore and that we possess Divine Agency thus, and can manifest our wants independently and so for – far from it!

Yet what we see is a hermeneutic sense of ‘separateness’ through which we try and ‘rationalise’ without recourse to the Revealed or inspired traditions our place in the cosmos (which might be in part where the analytic tradition, so impacted by the dualistic tendencies, has gone astray).   Thus we place tremendous intellectual barriers between us, and Him, and our approach in trying to reconcile ourselves with our existence; I can’t provide an alternative framework for viewing the world (though I’m currently reading Dr Nasr’s Islamic Philosophy from its Origin to the Present: Philosophy in the Land of Prophecy which seems to be making a good go of it!) but increasingly the ‘rationalistic’ lens appears gravely inadequate when trying to reconcile our metaphysical beliefs/structures we perceive with the epistemological observances we make of the world, which are often wholly reliant on those metaphysical presuppositions (remember my previous post on David Berlinski?). Thus, is God merely a metaphysical construct or is He part of the lived epistemology of our world? Or both?

This translation is from The Inner Journey: Views from the Islamic Tradition (Ed. William C. Chittick); ‘PARABOLA Anthology Series’; (Standpoint; ID: Morning Light Press), 2007; 205.

The book was kindly gifted to me by someone I hold very dear, and I highly recommend its various essays (which are rather short and eminently readable), with the various masters of Islamic philosophic/mystical traditions, not least of all Dr Seyyed Hossein Nasr (one of my heroes).

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