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: Religion

How does God Relate to Time?

I’ve seldom come across a philosopher more accessible and clear in speech than Dr Stump. This is well worth the watch and a think about.

Can anyone recommend any of her texts (so I can add it/them to my ever increasing-in-length reading list!)

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.”

**

It is no surpr…

It is no surprise that modernity arose in a religious civilisation whose central tenet was the absolutising of the relative.

Tim Winter (Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad), Contentions 

On the Soul

Dear friends, 

I have, for the last few days, been dipping into a wonderful collection of essays by Marilynne Robinson, called When I Was a Child I Read Books. I’ve managed to steal a computer for a short time from relatives – who have grown perhaps as dependent upon them as have I! So here is what I could produce in a short amount of time:

If indeed you’re looking for a read that will draw your attention merely to the state of ‘marvel,’ or ‘wonder’ at the glory of the very fact that you ‘are,’ then there are very few books I might recommend more highly than this one, for it is exquisite. Robinson has a way of lovingly crafting her sentences, and drawing the reader’s internal eye to a state of reflection that I feel few modern writers can do comparably well. 

Here is a stunningly beautiful passage from her first essay, Freedom of Thought, on modern discourse and the soul: (I hope I have not breached any copyrights – though dear readers feel free to inform me and I will edit the passage as necessary; my hope is just that you get a decent and tantalising spoonful of her work that would draw you in to purchase her books):

“Modern discourse is not really comfortable with the word “soul,” and in my opinion the loss of the word has been disabling, not only to religion but to literature and political thought and to every humane pursuit. In contemporary religious circles, souls, if they are mentioned at all, tend to be spoken of as saved or lost, having answered som set of divine expectations or failed to answer them, having arrived at some crucial realization or failed to arrive at it. So the soul, the masterpiece of creation, is more or less reduced to a token signifying cosmic acceptance or rejection, having little or nothing to do with that miraculous thing, the felt experience of life, except insofar as life offers distractions or temptations. 

Having read recently that there are more neurons in the human brain that there are stars in the Milky Way, and having read any number of times that the human brain is the most complex object known to exist in the universe, and that the mind is not identical with the brain but is more mysterious still, it seems to me this astonishing nexus of the self, so uniquely elegant and capable, merits a name that would indicate a difference in kind from the ontological run of things, and for my purposes “soul” would do nicely. Perhaps I should pause here to clarify my meaning, since there are those who feel that the spiritual is diminished or denied when it is associated with the physical. I am not among them. In his Letter to the Romans, Paul says, “Ever since the creation of the world [God’s] invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.” If we are to consider the heavens, how much more are we to consider the magnificent energies of consciousness that make whomever we pass on the street a far grander marvel than our galaxy? At this point of dynamic convergence, call it self or call it soul, questions of right and wrong are weighed, love is felt, guilt and loss are suffered. And, over time, formation occurs, for weal or woe, governed in large part by that unaccountable capacity for self-awareness. 

The locus of the human mystery is perception of this world. From it proceeds every thought, every art. I like Calvin’s metaphor – nature is a shining garment in which God is revealed and concealed. As we perceive we interpret, and we make hypotheses. Something is happening, it has a certain character or meaning which we usually feel we understand tentatively, though experience is almost always available to reinterpretation based on subsequent experience or reflection. Here occurs the weighing of moral and ethical choice. Behavior proceeds from all this, and is interesting, to my mind, in the degree that it can be understood to proceed from it. 

We are very much afflicted now by tedious, fruitless controversy. Very often, perhaps typically, the most important aspect of a controversy is not the area of disagreement but the hardening of agreement, the tacit granting on all sides of assumptions that ought not to be granted on any side. The treatment of the physical as a distinct category antithetical to the spiritual is one example. There is a deeply rooted notion that the material exists in opposition to the spiritual, precludes or repels or trumps the sacred as an idea.This dichotomy goes back at least to the dualism of the Manichees, who believed the physical world was the creation of an evil god in perpetual conflict with a good god, and to related teachings within Christianity that encouraged mortification of the flesh, renunciation of the world, and so on.

For almost as long as there has been science in the West there has been a significant strain in scientific thought which assumed that the physical and material preclude the spiritual. The assumption persists among us still, vociforous as ever, that if a thing can be “explained,” associated with a physical process, it has been excluded from the category of the spiritual. But the “physical” in this sense is only a disappearingly thin slice of being, selected, for our purposes, out of the totality of being by the fact that we perceive it as solid, substantial.We all know that if we were the size of atoms, chairs and tables would appear to us as loose clouds of energy. It seems to me very amazing that the arbitrarily selected “physical” world we inhabit is coherent and lawful. An older vocabulary would offer the word “miraculous.” Knowing what we know now, and earlier generation might see divine providence in the fact of a world coherent enough to be experienced by us as complete in itself, and as a basis upon which all claims to reality can be tested. A truly theological age would see this divine Providence intent on making a human habitation within the wild roar of the cosmos.”

 

Atheist Delusions

Certainly won’t apply to all atheists, though I think much of what is said is a function of secular capitalist humanism – an ontology, a metaphysics of the self seems to pervade all of our moral behaviour. Remember, if you just get on with feeding the capitalist machine, why wouldn’t you be allowed to be your own moral adjudicator for the most part. Why wouldn’t capitalism seek in and of itself to become as secular as possible?

What do you think? A fair statement?

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.

“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).

Timothy Winter on Salafism

Again, here’s a principled, intellectual, moralistic critique – by an intellectual giant in the West; a principled, ‘mainstream’ Islamic scholar, Timothy Winter – of the contemporary Salafi ideology that’s sweeping the Islamic world

(I’d argue that it’s an anti-intellectualist, anti-philosophical, ‘protestant’ form of interpretation of scripture and canon – sometimes with an overemphasis on literal meaning) with disastrous results on the intellectual health of the Islamic community – critical faculties seem to be cast away, despite the fact that this Salafi worldview is an hermeneutical construct.)

That said, there are plenty of people who belong to this school that one can have a meaningful conversation, I met many at university, for example – however my concern, as Seyyed Hossein Nasr points out – that the dominant theology behind Salafis and other groups have not been able to produce heavyweights in the senses of al-Ghazzali, Ibn Sina, Mulla Sadra and so forth. Certainly, these latter figures have contributed to the Islamic mystical climate for the most part – however the worldviews that they espoused had a much broader application – there are ontological, epistemological, ethical criteria outlined by these great visionaries that could prove utterly beneficial when Muslims face the challenges of a modern, secular, imperialist hegemon, as well as when it comes to dealing with internal affairs, the relationships to their own dictatorial governments, etc.- these are things that don’t seem to occur any more because of perhaps an over-reliance on ‘authority’ in a hermeneutic sense. That said, I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.

Whatever path takes you there, I guess. But I wonder if we might be able to expedite our own progress if we just permitted ourselves to reflect more, just a little…? Not to be afraid of our thinking if we remained steadfast to our fundamental Islamic beliefs – Tawhid (divine ‘Unity’, I guess), Revelation, and importantly, the place of the intellect in relation to this.

Below, I’ve pasted a brilliant talk by Seyyed Hossein Nasr on the need for philosophy in the Islamic world that you will get immense benefit out of. He is a true moral heavyweight, and a very brilliant man at that. Not to mention a polymath. Please watch, if you’re interested.

On Prayer (Salah)

Here’s a truly beautiful exposition of what it means to pray, both in a symbolic sense, as well as looking more deeply into the point of the spiritual practice in itself. Whether you’re a Muslim or not, whether you’re more ‘spiritual’ than religious, there is something profound to be said about a ritual that you dedicate a portion of your life to in perfecting. So watch this, please.

The connection with God is a longstanding commitment – it doesn’t, as far as I’m concerned, generally happen overnight  – in the sense that if we wish to reap the benefit of a relationship with the the Essence, there is work to be done on our part.

I often find that life can be overwhelming – this isn’t a phenomenon located in me only. Think about it – living as we do, we are constantly seeking ‘something’, something that is in fact external to us. Whether it is that we seek to clear up our time, and hastily complete our chores…or seek wealth, and rush to work in pursuit of the sustenance that we feel we ‘ought’ to have…or in pursuit of another – whatever it is we seek…have you noticed yet how empty your life feels sometimes? When you are left alone in that silence – when you suddenly, quite rarely perhaps, find yourself awake in the dead of night unable to sleep yet are unable to do much else? Or when you find yourself all alone at home with your chores completed for the day, and there’s nothing good on TV? What is it about our condition that necessitates us being so ‘busy’ all the time?

Shaikh Hamza Yusuf here speaks about the cornerstone, the ‘marrow’, the essence of Islam – the Prayer . But he expresses not in ritualistic terms:  it as a profoundly spiritual practice if its disciplines are observed. When the emptiness of life is swept aside in the face of the fullness of the Divine presence. Perhaps the most beautiful point of this talk is when (around minute 18) Shaikh Hamza speaks about prayer as the ‘falah’ – the ‘harvest’. This is a term that is called during the ritual call to prayer  – it is often translated as ‘success’ – but it actually means the ‘harvest’ – if you miss this blessed event is to miss the fulfilment of your life. I think that that is beyond profound, and worth thinking about regardless of what faith you belong to.

“I have said th…

“I have said that ignorance is bad; but there is one thing worse than ignorance, that’s applied ignorance!”

Seyyed Hossein Nasr

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