Allah says “We will show them our signs in the horizons, and within themselves, until they realize that this is the truth. Is your Lord not sufficient as a witness of all things?” (41:53)
To seek to understand God one must first seek to understand ones self.
This is an oft repeated quote that is often heard, but what is the deeper meaning of the saying “seek to understand oneself.” What is the Self, is the same as saying what am I and then who am I? Once the correct objective premise is gauged then this will open the door to multiple other questions that will accordingly be answered correctly. But if a directionless subjective (stab in the dark) view is formed then everything else that follows will lead in the same erroneous direction. Setting aside the Aristotelian and Freudian models of the self we will concentrate on the Islamic model. Islam tells us that man has a soul, spirit and a body. Imam Ghazali tells us in his opus magmas Ihya-uloom-ad-din that the above mentioned terms have two meanings, a higher and a lower meaning. In its lower meaning the heart is an organ that pumps blood around the body. In its higher meaning it is the spiritual centre of man. The spirit in its lower meaning (al-ruh al-hayawan) or vital spirit is the energy that circulates within man and in its higher meaning it is a reality without material existence. The soul (al-nafs) also termed ego in its lower meaning is the desire fulfilling, pleasure seeking and pain avoidance base soul that incites to evil as a result of the above factors. It is called Al-nafs-al ammara bi’l-su in its higher meaning the soul is called the serene soul or al-nafs al-mutma’inna. In between these stages there is a middle stage called the reproachful soul or –al nafs al-lawwama, where the soul is in the process of self change from the lower to the higher aspects. The intellect al-aql in its lower meaning is called the information processing centre reacting to internal and external stimuli logically processing and selection relevant information. In its higher meaning the intellect is the means of receiving higher knowledge without sensory input. At the higher level the intellect coincides with the heart, spirit and soul. To understand a little of this symbiotic relationship it is necessary to understand a little about our universe and our place in it. The Cosmos and everything in it is the only reality that our minds are capable of comprehending. Our material senses are only capable of ‘sensing’ the material world and due to the physical laws of the universe we are limited to spatial understandings of our surroundings. Sciences such as quantum mechanics have shown us our limitations were the extent of our understanding starts to blur with the surreal quantum world, possibly being the border line between the terrestrial world and what is beyond.’ the unseen’. This is called al-sam’a al-dunya. Beyond that there is what is known as alam al-qhayb in alam al-malakut. The invisible domain. Composed of seven heavens themselves contained within the footstool of Allah “His Footstool contains the heavens and the earth”. (Quran 2;225) Man occupies the lowest world that is the most dense and opaque. This being the material plane. Directly above this start the unseen planes that are out of our experience but within the knowledge and experience of the prophets. Man in his spiritual ascent also has access to these worlds due to the downward pull of mans lower nafs this world is for the most part cut off from us. Each plane rising upwards is more subtle and less opaque than the one below. Superimposing mans spiritual and material profile on the fabric of creation it becomes easy to understand the nature of man and his relationship with creation and subsequent ascent or descent. The Quran says” A day in which neither wealth nor children shall be of any benefit(to anyone), except one who comes to God with a sound heart(26:88,89) A sound heart is a heart that is pure and clean like a polished mirror that is clear of any blemish or stain. As has already been mentioned that just as the physical heart is at the centre of the body the spiritual heart is at the centre of the spiritual body. The purpose of mans creation is to worship God thus rising through the various domains drawing closer and closer to Allah. The only way for man to do that is to travel through the material world starting in the material plane and ascending through the different domains until his meeting with Allah face to face. His material body can be seen as the means of transport in this life. Man has been put onto the most dense domain that is the material plane resulting in him being isolated from the unseen domains directly above him. Only through spiritual struggle and tempering of the lower nafs will he be able to polish his character and heart that will enable him to rise up and look into other domains. If man gives in to the downward pull of the nafs then he will become no different than an animal whose sole purpose is to eat, sleep, defecate and reproduce. These traits being instilled into them by Allah. Man on the other hand can instantly see the difference between himself and animals by virtue of his spiritual and cognitive intellect. However this distinction is indicative of the path man will take in life. In sharp contrast are the Freudian and Jung models that inform us that man is nothing more than a social animal dominated by his animalistic instincts. This coupled with Darwin’s theory of evolution have had the effect of instantly cutting man off from his spiritual higher self. Jung explains away the upward pull of the spiritual higher self as some collective unconscious psychic malady. Mans intellect both cognitive and spiritual cannot comprehend this archetype of man being an animal and that this universe spontaneously came into existence of its own accord spawning life and order out of chaos. But seeing as man does not have an answer to his own spiritual claims due partly to the immediate and enduring success of the so called proof of modern scientific and materialistic culture his higher spiritual side is quietened and eventually deadened as a result. The resultant freefall drama is evident enough as man having forgot what he was created for has decided to live for the hear and now only. So he goes about pleasing his pleasure seeking pain avoidance lower nafs creating a world of anarchy in the process. Due to mans dyadic makeup he still feels a huge spiritual void inside him that disturbs him greatly, but because these questions and yearnings cannot be fulfilled by prevalent scientific thought this only further causes him to jump headlong into the abyss of pleasure in an attempt to drown out the thoughts. Today’s world is a manifest example of mans gratifying his nafs at almost any cost. Sometimes due to a flash of inspiration or some foresight man is able to wriggle out of his decadent condition and attempts to reconcile himself with some higher purpose however here he is presented with some pseudo philosophy or some new age spirituality that falls way short of the mark and at best gives him a directionless moral high ground. This fantasy also collapses in the long term and again he is plunged back into the lower nafs abyss again. The Islamic model seeks to take man out of this malady and align him with the truth and through correct principles guide him through the various stages to the source of all Allah (swa) A Muslim knows that he has been put on this earth to worship Allah alone and that this world is like a tool that can help him or destroy him along his journey. Man being a part of the collective whole that is the universe naturally shares the same properties with it; here by aligning his paradigms accordingly he is able to gain valuable lessons in the various similitudes found therein. Allah says
“And We have explained to man, in this Quran, every kind of similitude: yet the greater part of man refuses (to receive it) except with ingratitude! (17:89) He also says, “We will show them our signs in the horizons, and within themselves, until they realize that this is the truth. Is your Lord not sufficient as a witness of all things?” (41:53)
The Archetype of the pairs
Allah says in the Quran “And of everything We have created pairs: That ye may receive instruction” (51:49) Everything in existence is in a dyadic relationship. Each pole of a dyad having an opposite pole in an intrinsic relationship. Only Allah is One and “Samad”. Allah mention’s his own transcendence before mentioning the pairs in the Quran “Transcendent is the Creator of all the pairs, of what the earth produces, of themselves, and of what they do not know. (36:36) The Grandest examples of the pair relationship is the Pen and the Guarded Tablet-one being active the other passive, followed by the unseen/seen world followed the sky/earth and then everything else. Even on the microcosmic level the pair relations can be seen. Atoms have protons and electrons. Even emotions have there opposites and concepts such as positive/negative, active/passive, dynamic/static, male/female are plain to see. Moreover these relations are not absolute in themselves but are part of a larger whole that renders one relationship active in relation to another but passive in relation to a third. These form complete relationships in all directions forming a synergistic whole. Each system is also in a constant state of flux, these results in an offset in an adjacent system and the process continues on an infinite scale. The relationships whether on a personal or cosmic level have their opposite relationship moving up the creational model right up to the footstool and Arsh. Systems also exist within systems on an infinite scale. Each system balancing out the other in a synergistic web. Ultimately each system is finely tuned to balance each other creating harmony. Periodically disequilibrium will manifest but these will be corrected by the larger relations and equilibrium will prevail. “Out of chaos came order” Each pole in a dyadic system carries within it some of the qualities of the other as can be seen in its being active in one dyad and passive in another. Each Dyad can therefore bee seen as a whole. The Chinese ying yang system is a beautiful example of the dyadic system. “Surely in the creation of the heaves and the earth and in the alternation of night and day are signs for those posseses of cores (central minds) who remember God sitting, and on their sides, and reflect upon the creation of the heavens and earth: Our Lord you have not created this in vain, Transcendent are you, so preserve us from the torment of the fire. (3:190-191) Man can also be seen as a whole system with the spirit acting on the passive body but the body can also affect the spirit as the body is the medium through which the soul gratifies itself for better or worse, pulling the soul downwards or upwards.
The four elements and the undifferentiated primordial hyle
Mans constitution is based on his innate genetic, psychological, sociological, environmental factors. The elements of earth water fire and air is corresponds to mans physiological make up with heavens and earth. Allah says, “Everyone acts according to his own disposition: But your Lord knows best who it is that is best guided on the way.” (17:84)
Approaching this knowledge holistically man can use the archetype of the elements in his quest for perfection and ascent upwards.
Man being a product of this universe at least outwardly will behave in similar ways to the universe. This universe has a beginning and an end and is heading in a unified direction. Man is also heading in the same direction and will behave in a similar fashion to the laws that govern the universe Man has many similitudes with the four elements and how they interplay with each other, within him. As a result of the active forces playing on the passive forces as discussed above change is the result on the undifferentiated primordial hyle or matter. Each pole of the dyadic system of earth/water are/fire react and play on each other to make for myriad forms in the hyle Each form is then a combination of the four elements some leaning one way, others the other but each with the seed of the other present within itself. It must be mentioned here that the ultimate cause of change is Allah itself.
Each dyadic pole complements each other. Fire reacts with air, air condenses into water, and water into earth. The catalyst is compression which produces heat which is called fire and so the whole system starts again.
Water is the contempory of earth as air is of fire that uses it to rise. Earth is a combination of the four elements and contains many elements in the periodic table these elements in various molecular structures make different forms of matter that we know of. In its usual form of rock, clay or mud it is stable. Water, air and fire can be seen as catalysts that cause change to happen within the structure of earth. The lighter elements form the more subtle forms and the heaver ones the more dense and opaque. The chemical composition of water is two hydrogen atom linked by a single chemical bond to one oxygen atom. Notice that both these elements in there natural state are gases. If compressed and cooled enough both will turn into water. Likewise opaque dense elements like carbon in there natural state stay solid. Allah states in the Quran “Verily We created man of potter’s clay of black mud altered. And the jinn did We create afortime of essential fire.”(15:26:27)
Man being composed of the more dense elements is heavy and opaque, were as jinn who are made from fire are more subtle and lighter. Man is made from mud that is cool, stable, static and mixes well with water that is also cool, adaptable static yet dynamic when needed to be. These two elements work together in man to make him humble. Cool things descend so man by his make up is humble. Humbleness and groundedness therefore come easy to man. Air is light, airy mostly volatile. It is rarely static as it is very easy to excite. It will react with any substance it comes into contact with. Fire works well with air. Jinn are made of fire and are thus subtle beings. Very volatile fiery, temperamental and easy to change. Fire and air together rise making the jinn very proud, arrogant and fierce by nature. That is why the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him has instructed us to sit down when angry, failing that to lie down, failing that to do wudu as the cold water will cool the anger. Elsewhere in the Quran Allah says, “And the jinn did He create of a smokeless fire.” (55:15) It is possible that their elemental make up includes hydrogen gas as hydrogen burns with an almost invisible flame that leaves no smoke. By not being grounded like man they are at a disadvantage to man as groundedness gives man firm direction whereas being light-headedness and volatile make jinn spent the most part being pushed around without direction by other hot winds and fires. Just as the universe is a synergistic whole each dyad of a system needing something from the other man also has seeds of the other two air and fire within him. This Universe is in a state of constant flux with nothing being static or passive (only in relation to another). Man being a reflection of the universe is the same. The four elements within are in a state of constant flux due to a multiplicity of factors. Sometimes one is dominant at other times the other. The key is to conquer, control and then learn from them in order to aid man in his goal. The idea is to ground oneself with firm foundations of iman and taqwa and from that seed will grow humility and this humility will keep man further grounded and enabling him to keep to his direction with out the sway of the winds above that only attack man when he either looses his groundedness due to his letting go of the tight reign on his nafs or either succumbing to anger or passion. Anger and passion have the effect to causing hot vapours to rise up within man that go to his head and blind him of his true nature which is one of submission to Allah only and not to be a slave to his anger/nafs. In turn mans senses become clouded and he rises up in passion thus loosing his ground with God and himself. This opens up the doors to shaytan and he carries man wherever he wants from here just like a hot wind throws around leaves. Earth and water can be seen as having positive properties in relation to the negative properties of air and fire but only in relation to one system only. Just as each created thing has two poles these elementals each have two sides each as well. The negative forces of air and fire can be tempered to be used synergistically together with the other mud and water to aid man in his ascent.
Mans base being Earth is his grounding nature but that is a static nature buy itself. To cause change we need a dynamic force to act on the earth and fire is that force. Man has to initiate change from within him to see results along his journey. Air and fire on there own will create passion and then the air will stoke that passion until it is red hot, heat is a catalyst that will then go on to effect the clay of man spoiling it and eventually burning it out. Burnt soil will not cultivate anything. That is why it is said that a person is burning with rage and anger. Man needs to first realise his purpose in this world and then ground himself in correct principles that will keep him from straying from that one path that will attain him salvation. If he fails to see this then the lower pull of his nafs will take over and fill his life with vain empty pursuits that are a result of passion ultimately burning him out quickly. A burnt object is not worth anything. The pull of the nafs is always there but it is up to man to fight that pull. This is were he uses the dynamic forces of air and fire. Air and fire are aggressive forces that are used to initiate change. Man can use this aggression and anger to fight his nafs and use the dynamic force to keep it stifled and to severely check and weaken its domineering role. An example of this is when one is in jihad. Jihad is done solely for the sake of God. Any other reason then it is not jihad anymore. During Jihad ones air and fire elements are raised and used effectively to dispatch enemies. Man uses the force that anger and hot passions generates to rise above the enemy overbearing and dominating him. But once the job is done one humbles himself falls prostrate and thanks God for victory. Once Hazrat Ali may Allah be pleased with him was in battle and smote someone to the ground. As he was going to strike him the death blow the combatant spat on Hazrat Ali’s face. Hazrat Ali immediately stopped the attack and withdrew and spared him. When asked by the stunned enemy as to why he had done that, the reply was that, “First I was going to kill you for Allah’s sake, but now that you spat at me, I was going to kill you for myself. Henceforth I have spared you. This is a perfect example of the elements being using in the right way. First Ali was going to use his anger and might to kill for Allah’s sake. The only way to be in that state was for him to humble himself before God with perfect grounding and know that it was a duty upon him to fulfil with out his own nafs getting involved. In the second instance Ali clearly understood that now it was not duty but anger that was fuelling him to kill that man so he backed away.
Vice, sins and loose morals can also be seen as fire and air.
The human composition is otherwise in a balanced submissive state but when reactive fire stoked from the hot airs of a person that is burning his mud due to negative reasons come into contact with another human then the heat and fire will impact something of its vice or sin onto the mud of the other. This can either be washed away buy the pure cooling waters of the grounded individual or by using tempered fires and winds. If the individual in question has dry mud himself due to his own moral weaknesses creating fire and air within himself then the heat will slowly start to heat what little water is left which will then go on to slowly to rise in a gas state resulting in that person rising in passion and going the same way as the one dominated by his passion. The result is burnt mud that is not good for anything. In this state if a third man with abundant cooling holy waters or tempered fires comes along then he will first make the burning man distance himself from the source of the fire i.e. sinful companion and then he will start to heal his mud and water by giving him some of his own. This is the sheikh student relationship. The sheikh will have tempered his own fires to be used through his groundedness in a positive way. The sheikh will have employed an aggressive policy to make his nafs submit thereby having complete command over his elements. He is them able to use them as he wills with out any negativity attached to them. There is a saying “fight fire with fire” that has much hiqma in it as well. If passion or a bad thought was to ignite a bad fire within a person then that person by virtue of his own tempered fires can drive away the winds of sin and evil thoughts. If that person was to be passive thinking all would go away by itself and it would be ok then he would be consumed because to make change he needs to act. Change is only caused by one thing acting upon another. Acting is aggressive compared to passive submission. Active cognitive thinking stirs emotions and passion within ones constitution that will result in an aggressive will to make change. This cause if noble will ignite the right fire to make that change. A burning object left to burn will slowly burn its fuel out. The first thing to die is the flame, only the embers will remain giving off heat. The once beautiful object now a twisted, gnarled ugly object. It is impossible to restore it back to its former glory as irreparable damage has taken place in the primordial hyle. A person consumed by his sin will slowly burn himself out to the point of no return as well as killing his spiritual side he will also play havoc with his psychological, emotional and mental side as well. Once enough damage has been done he will be on a downward spiral to destruction as each part of his constitution follows the same way reinforcing the trend of no return. If the fires and airs of active change are tempered in youth by being grounded along with the mud and water then they will aid man throughout his life in keeping pure. A pure constitution will aid every part of a man in an upward struggle each reinforcing itself until all that will remain within man is the Noor of Allah. When he dies he will make a beautiful corpse emanating noor as there will have been nothing burnt. Only the coolness natural elements of water and mud.
As we age our bodies, and minds automatically submit to God. Gone are the hot winds and fires of passion having been burnt out in youth. Only an empty burnt out husk remains. Weather we submit willingly or unwillingly it is all the same as time has ravaged our bodies aided by the burning fires of our sins. A lifetime lost will never be returned we leave one burnt out body only to enter another world (alim e barzakh) were the burning starts all over again but this time more enduring and with vigour. To submit oneself when the body is rebellious and the nafs is conspiring against oneself and the hot winds from the fires are playing havoc with ones system is to become the ultimate human being. Once we are aware of our purpose then we need to align our selves with that correct principle shifting our paradigms accordingly. To rise to the challenge using the elements balancing them out accordingly by correct grounding, then tempering the unruly winds and fires resulting in a severely corrected and checked nafs which will result in a clear and strong heart that will incline towards good as it is free from the downward pull of the nafs. This in turn will allow the spirit to grow and create a strong mind. The mind will then further strengthen the mind. Each will reinforce one anther until the mind, body, soul and heart are so pure working as one that the heart will only reflect the noor of God. With each new station (makaam) attained one will humble himself before God starting from the start again as if he has arrived there for the first time. Higher and higher until Fana is attained.
Acute awareness is only possible when the nafs is stifled by distancing oneself from what occupies it in an endless cycle of negative thought/action. Once that has happened one have to then stop thinking those things that lead us to the action. Each time we think of a sin we create a room with a door of that sin inside our head. Shaytaan who has been waiting for this moment uses the key he has for that sin/door to enter the room which results in him now having direct influence over the individual. The hot winds that are stirred up move black clouds over our hearts and minds and darken them the extent that the sin is no more a sin but having internalised it to such an extent that it becomes a part of who one is. One is incapable of seeing the truth anymore. He loose sight of the light his only anchor that shows him what is dark/wrong and light/right.. He starts to field subjective views that are a combination of his lower nafs and the whispering of shaytaan that he portrays as truths in shades of grey. Grey only comes about as a result of the light being polluted with darkness. The more darkness there is the more lies there are in the truth. Two shades of grey vie with each other as truth but truth is one not many, two different shades of grey can never be one bright luminous light. Neither one is right over the other as both can never be right as both have part of the other in each. Soon the truth is totally lost sight of and only darkness prevails. The soul is totally lost. This is the condition of the world today where vice is the accepted norm. Age old cultural values have been deconstructed and replaced by there opposites just as the saying, “It’s cool to be bad” Bad is not bad no more but seen as something that is cool, to be envied and copied. In the middle Ages one of the most despised characters in society was the actor, today the actor is one of the most sought after and respected. Acts that were considered lewd or bad are now sanctioned by our courts. This is another example of the dyadic moral structure being reversed due to hot winds and fires being allowed free reign to take over the heart. Those winds and fires being allowed to solidify into burned black ugly carbon. Its seen as cool to have many sexual partners and the person professing virtuas morals is laughed upon as being uncool. Instead of rising upwards with the soul it has sunk to the lowest depraved pits by allowing his nafs to rise to dominate him. “Deaf dumb and blind, they will not return (to the path) (Quran 2:18)” Once shaytaan is locked out man receives light from God and the truth is seen from the angle God wants. Once the truth is revelled to a grounded humble earth heavy man this makes him strive even harder to maintain that station using his grounded winds to dispel all negative thought, stilling his mind. Only a still mind will be able to contemplate God and his own purpose properly without any interference from within (nafs) or outside (shaytaan). Holding on firmly to the rope of God with hope on his right and fear on his left with iman and taqwa in the middle (heart) he will be on a direct course to God.
The Archetype of the inner garden
This universe is an interconnected whole, man being a part of that whole needs to work synergistically with his outside surroundings as well to not only cleanse himself internally but to cleanse his surrounding as after all he will be sitting in his surroundings for a lifetime. It is inevitable that dirty winds will blow over him from unclean surroundings.
The archetype of the garden is here used to explain the role of the garden within man to initiate effective change outside of the boundary walls that are his body. A walled garden will be protected from the outside weeds and animals by virtue of a strong boundary wall. Active change is constantly taking place within the garden as each insect, bird, and animal knows its place and acts accordingly with out destroying the harmony created as a result. In the garden water and mud are the medium of life. Life thrives in these environments and will literally grow and grow. Its effects can be felt all around the sights and smells of the garden. The garden in its natural earthy state will be cool compared to the outside plains. If left to grow in this state soon its effects will permeate the air outside the garden and have an effect upon the plains also. The walled garden can be seen as the garden that is man. The garden as a whole the soul/spirit of man. The garden is secluded to the outside world just as the soul of man is secluded to the outside world. The wall can be seen as the skin secluding the internal organs from the harsh world outside. The hive of beautiful activity in the garden are all the workings inside man. The sweet smelling scents and smells are all his various attributes and the breezes his emotional states. The flowing waters can be seen as the pure spirit purifying the nafs. All this unites to form a beautiful garden or a beautiful working human being composed of mind/body/spirit. If the soul unites with the spirit then the body functions will respond accordingly and all will be sound this will manifest in the various sweet smells or beautiful character traits, attributes, habits and emotions of man. The hot winds that flow over the garden from outside will be cooled and dragged downwards by the coolness of the garden. This will have the effect of grounding the breezes and imparting something of its qualities in the air and then sending them upwards only to move on and give there benefits outside the garden in the form of seeds. The scents, sounds and sights of the garden will attract other birds and animals in to the garden who will no doubt take away benefits by right of association away with them. The winds will carry the harmonious breezes into the plains and other gardens resulting in change. In time the other gardens will also flourish and form a mirror image of the former. The sum is greater than the parts. In time the garden walls will crumble but the garden will not be in any danger as the garden without will be a replica of the garden within. Scents and smells from different gardens blurring into one whole ultimately destroying a sense of selfishness. Each sharing Gods bounty and blessings with each other selflessly. If left in this state the whole world will merge into one whole garden without a sense if individualism moving together as one unit or ummah For all this to happen in the first place the ground needs to be levelled raked of any weeds and impurities, then seeds need to be sown into the ground watered and sheltered from the elements. The similitude in man is the same. His heart needs to be purified of sins and evil thoughts then the seed of iman that has always been in him since the time of his creation will start to grow watered by the waters of certitude. If allowed to be covered by debris then it will be forgotten under the huge mound of rubbish that sits on top. The idea is simple enough yet powerfully effective. Within the Islamic framework man does not move alone but moves as one group or ummah. This is why the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The believers, in their love, their, mercy, and their feelings for one another are like a single body. If one limb feels pain, the whole body is beset by restlessness and fever.”[Bukhari] If we follow the concept of the garden that gives freely to other gardens then this will have the result of creating a sound society in which every member is looked after by everybody else. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “He does not believe in me, who eats his fill while his neighbour besides him is hungry and he knows about it” [Al-Tabarani] Today we have the reversal of this role where everyone is taught to put oneself first before others. The result is a selfish society that is only concerned with the gratification of the nafs before all else. This is one of the leading reasons coupled with the reversal of morals leading to the breakdown of modern societies. One side effect of giving to others over yourself is that this has the effect of tempering the nafs by force as one sometimes gives not because of himself but because of the religious injection to do so. This is directly going against the natural inclination of the soul which seeks to please oneself at all cost. Its hard to part with something that one loves be it time, wealth or physical toil for another. Internally man fights the hot winds of the nafs by grounding himself in the principle that he is to humble himself and obey Allah. Man then makes an aggressive move using tempered winds to force his nafs to accept what the heart is telling it.
The archetype of the universe
Islam is not a monastic religion. Islam fosters internal as well as outside external growth at the same time. “The sufi lives in this world but is not of it” Humans cohabit and live in communities. Our worship includes community service in its myriad forms. Muslims all have the same direction hence they all move forward together each strengthening each other. The Prophet (saw) said, “The Faithful are to one another like [parts of] a building-each part strengthening the other”.[bukhari] A fragmented community is like air and fire that are spread out and not unified easily being dispersed. By other winds. A unified community is a solid whole each reinforcing each other in an interconnected web. They move forward together and are not vulnerable to attack. The community is as strong as its weakest member. So it is in the interest of the community at large to keep the ummah strong. One way of doing this is having a strong earth based leader or sheikh. The Sheikh is on a direct path to God. His core will be dense earth denoting how well grounded and firm he is in his convictions. The denser the core the more the gravity that it will have pulling in everything in its wake. The similitude is of a planet that has moons rotation round it. Before each moon was sucked in it was alone being moved around by interstellar hot winds in due course a planet moves along its path and captures it in an orbit moving it along with it in whatever direction it is travelling in. A sheikh through his powerful spiritual influence will have the effect of captivating a soul into his orbit and then to start him along the path to Allah in his supervision. This is what is meant by “faiz entering the disciple from the sheikh” The Sheikh is on a path to Allah so it will be enough for the disciple to follow that path step by step to also get to Allah. The Sheikh will also have a guide that can be seen as the sun in our model who is the Sheikh’s Sheikh. The sheikh will orbit him. The grand sheikh is responsible for the spiritual well being of the sheikh just as the sun is the life giving agent to the planets. He will cast his glance over all the disciples as well. The sun itself is orbiting around a galaxy as part of millions of other stars. The galaxy is itself making a journey pre ordained by God. The galaxy has a core and that core can be seen as Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. All the sheikhs rotate around the Prophet who is responsible for getting them to God. As long as he treads the path that the Prophet has done then they will attain there destination. If a planet was to break free of the hold of the sun due to the influence of a passing “rogue” star or large planet then it would either be pulled into the orbit of the other rouge star or be become a loose cannon that will go on to collide with other planets to create destruction on a cosmic scale. The similitude with man is of passing rouge who due to his influence breaks the bond of the sheikh and takes him under his wing. This results in that person giving up his spiritual struggle and rebounding back to his old ways succumbing to the lower nafs. He now takes on a new master in the one that stole him from his old one. As the new one is on a course of self destruction also the disciple will end up destroying himself in the process.
“An animal turning a millstone may walk a hundred miles, but when it has finished it will find itself in the same place in which it had started from. All its efforts have produced no results” A man revolving around his sins and frivolous behaviour will find that his whole life will pass by doing the same thing over and over and over again only to realize on his deathbed that he has moved nowhere. All his efforts have amounted to nothing, because he his bound by the same conditions as the beast bound to the millstone. He will not even know how to break free or how to read the signs to direct him out of the predicament and on to his real journey. Only an enlightened sheikh can break him free of his sin. The similitude is of a revolving object breaking free from a centrifuge. Once the tie is broken it will rocket off in a straight line. We find that the best muslims are normally comprised of those that before accepting Islam were the worst of society. They have suddenly seen progress being made in there journey and want more and more of it. The archetype in the solar system is similar. The path to God is straight. A straight path has a beginning and an end. A circle on the other hand once entered it is impossible to tell the beginning from the end. It has no beginning and no end. The law of the universe dictates that objects that are rotating around a central object have to continuously rotate at an even speed or they will plunge into the object. The sinner is constantly running around and around his sin. If he gives in to the sin completely then the sin will consume and destroy him i.e. drugs overdose, sexual disease, violent deaths. He cannot run away by himself either as the pull is too strong or he can’t read the directions anymore. Just as a greater planet can wrench moons of smaller planets or planets themselves so a greater human personality namely a pious human or sheikh can by his overwhelming influence wrench away the wretched soul and save him.
Madame De Stael wrote, “The voice of conscience is so delicate that it is easy to stifle it: but it is also so clear that it is impossible to mistake it.” If man really ponders on this truth he will come to the truth himself but unfortunately today we have stifled that voice within us by immersing ourselves wholesomely into the material realm thereby cutting our links with the natural world around us. This world is literally full of millions of examples for those that have open hearts, tranquil minds and who genienlly want to make a change in there lives. Our minds are filled with so much rubbish in the form of TV, radio, music, adverts, gossip, entertainment, and outrageous sexual thoughts that we have stifled that little voice. Even when it sometimes shouts at us through the din we ignore it by pushing ourselves further in the material world. It’s not in the human nature to be on the go at all times. Or to fill our heads with noise. It’s going against nature. We should all take time out at least once a day to sit in a quite corner somewhere without the hustle and bustle to disturb us to think and contemplate on this entire melee, on ourselves and on God. In the beginning it may be hard but soon it will actually become enjoyable. God will open up doors to you that you never knew existed. You will start to see the same melee in a different light for what it really is. This hopefully will be the spark that starts the change within yourself.
Anwar Sadat once said. He who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to change reality, and will never, therefore, make any progress.
We have to understand that even our thoughts have an impact on our psyche. We have to banish everything except Allah from ourselves. We have to then internalise this thought by doing dhikr with concentration over and over again until we live by this knowledge only, but that is still not enough. The moment can still pass. Deeper still within man right to the core of our very beginning right at the centre of the heart where one has never been before. Our very hyle, our very spirit. Here we have to embed the truth of Allah, carving it so hard that with each beat the heart is forced to say Allah, Allah, Allah spontaneously and involuntarily, consciously and unconsciously. If the heart misses the dhikr even for a split second we have not arrived. We must not be able to see a gap between the qalb and the writing. It must be written on our very soul. Then and only then can truth be ours beyond the possibility of loss. Shaytaan whispers into the heart of man but if we surround ourselves by this truth fully immersed in it. Thinking, breathing sleeping and living it, then our body and mind will conspire with the heart against our lower nafs to keep any thought of anything else out of ourselves. We will seal our hearts and minds away from Shaytaan making it almost impossible to penetrate. Remember a door bolted is a passage closed. A door opened is a passage travelled. Our sole purpose for existence will become Allah, Allah, Allah. Only then will doors open that will never make you look back even for the blink of an eye “behold in the Remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction” (Quran 13:28)
Deafened by the voice of desire
You are unaware the Beloved lives
in the core of your heart.
Stop the noise and
you will hear His voice
in the silence
Raja Ahmir Nawaz As-Shadhili