All over the world Sufis are remembering God, some formally, some informally, some soberly, some exuberantly, some publicly and some in private.
All over the world Sufis are remembering God, some formally, some informally, some soberly, some exuberantly, some publicly and some in private.
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, humanitarian, reformist and exemplar of spirituality and agape…
Reality is not what you choose it to be, but rather it is what God Has Created. People of a superficial outlook typically become dominated by their biological and psychological urges to obtain luxury, ease and power. In their quest for these things such people often lose touch with any higher reality, be it morality, humanity or spirituality and thus to them all the world seems a meaningless ferment and fellow Children of Adam (and animals) are thus harmfully seen as being either potential threats to be fought or appeased or prey to be exploited in some way. What a lowly state Satan has brought many of us into.
Happily it is that many people are not like this at all. These are the people who recognize the Signs of God and who live in worship to their Creator and love and mercy to their fellow beings. These wise men and women with a depth of spiritual perception have, from time immemorial, been explaining to people not to be overly dominated by this worldly life, because it is just a temporal and limited place and a testing ground for the human soul.
‘The world is an illusion, yet also a reality.’….
‘The world is without a (true) substance.
It is only a collection of happenings,
Which subside by God.’…
(Ahmad of Sirhind (ra)
The worldly existence, in reality, may be seen as a mere secondary existence that God Almighty has created as a place where Children of Adam may choose either to serve Him and follow the path of goodness or to prove themselves worthy only of punishment. Although it may seem real, concrete and eternal this Universe is in fact impermanent and God Almighty has not even created it to run on its own. Rather He is the constant Cherisher and Sustainer of the cosmos and the foundation of every ‘law’ of physics is His command of ‘Be!’…
’The present world is just a dream,
but the dreamer imagines it to be real.’
When we die only then do we awake to the true existence. After we Children of Adam pass away the veil of worldly existence that once surrounded us is lifted and we then see the spiritual realities that we have made for ourselves. These true realities are very beautiful for the best of people, very horrible for the worst of people and somewhere in between for the rest of the people, those who have mixed good and harmful deeds. Divine scriptures inform us that in the grave and in the hereafter there will be no opportunities to increase for us to increase our score of good deeds and therefore e this is why sensible people dedicate their lives in a quest to live a good and charitable life, whilst avoiding doing harm or breaking the Commandments that God as laid down for us. Ali ibn Talib (raa) advised the people to
‘Work for this life as if you will never die.
Work for the hereafter as if you know that you will die tomorrow.’
When we wisely follow the guidance the Divine Scriptures and the teachings of the Prophets, limit our desires to the realistic, avoiding sins and things leading to sins and doing our best to avoid harmfulness and seeking to be benevolent and we trust in God, the Creator, trusting that He wishes well for us and remembering that one who loves the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) and God will one day be with those whom they love then God-willing we will have pleasant personal realities through our lives, through the rough and smooth of it, the hard and the gentle of it.
At the start of the day; the ignorant man thinks about what he will do that day’ ….
‘At the start of the day; the wise man thinks about what God will do with him’
(Sheik ibn Ata’ullah (ra).
If you’re swimming in the sea of choices and experiences that is the worldly life, having fun or just swimming along and then you find that its full of sharks and crocodiles who want to drag you down to a terrible place where you will be devoured, head for this Island of Blessings, Safety and Rewards, the route there is a straight one, but there are many distractions, ignore them, focus on that island and hold on to the only handhold that doesn’t break and God willing you’ll get there soon enough, do you want to be the fool who says ‘I’m having fun, the island is far away, I like it here’ and swims round and round in circles until the predators get him and drag him down.
Rumi (ra) once compared the world to the witch of Kabul who held men prisoner with her decorations and perfume. He informed the people that we may free ourselves from the witchcraft of the world by repeating;
‘I take refuge in the Lord of daybreak’
He reminded us to beware of the world and that to escape from her snares we need to follow a guide whose; breath is cool, who can loosen our shackles and who understand the mystery of ALLAH does whatever He chooses. The world is a trap and its bait is lust. We can escape from this trap by turning our faces to God. Rumi reminds us that when we go along the right way we have blessings, but when we wander on the wrong path we do not do too well.
Throughout the Mathnavi Rumi (ra) calls us to abandon desire for the unnecessary worldly things so that we can receive the mercies of the Creator and then we can find that without moving we can travel from His prison into His beautiful rose-garden.
Hold on to God’s Mercy
that Doesn’t Break
Race each other to forgiveness
from your Lord
and a Garden as wide as the
Heavens and the Earth,
prepared for the dutiful
(Surah Imran 133)
..Their Lord gives them good tidings of mercy from Him, and acceptance,
and Gardens where enduring pleasure will be theirs;
There they will abide for ever.
Lo! with God there is immense reward.
(Surah Taubah 21-2)
And whoso does good works,
whether of male or female,
and he (or she) is a believer,
such will enter paradise
and they will not be wronged
the dint in a date- stone.
(Surah an Nisa 124)
It was the job of the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) to make things smooth for people, not difficult. Even when people were rude to him he still behaved graciously and with manners.
God is gentle and He loves gentleness in all things (Bukhari & Muslim) and Islam teaches the absence of gentleness in a thing renders it defective (Muslim).
The Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) taught that no one can be classed as a believer unless they wish good things for their fellow human beings – like they wish them for themselves (Bukhari).
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and give him peace) started merciful social revolution in which his Companions (raa) spread a philosophy of merciful respect for human and animal life, emancipated tens of thousands of slaves, promoted the God given rights of women, over came age old prejudices and sectarian divisions, promoted functioning multiculturalism, effected practical communitarian policies and spread the love of charity and agape benevolence, all within a few decades of the beginning of the Last Revelation.
The Muslims only did these things when they lived according to the holistic merciful way of life that is the Deen of Islam and history shows that when the Muslims existed in that state of true Islam they were a beacon of blessed light and Baraka in the world.
Each Muslim now makes the choice between a life of selfish play or a life dedicated to the the well being of the sentient creatures of the planet and to the worship of our Creator.
One day a rough and rude Bedouin came to the Prophet and asked him for a gift, which he was given, instead of being thankful the rude man asked for more in an impolite and aggressive way. Rather than taking offense, and quieting the Companions (raa), he gave the man what he requested and whose demeanor instantly changed.
When the Companions questioned the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) later he explained what he had done with the metaphor of a run away camel;
Once a man had a troublesome camel which had run away. Different people kept trying to bring it back through beating and dragging but failed.
The keeper of the camel asked them not to interfere and he himself gently brought it back under control by feeding it leaves little by little, until its temper had waned.
The Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) informed them that if they had responded to the man in kind, with roughness, that it would have failed to guide him, but having left contented he was more likely to improve his ways by coming to faith.
Those who spend (of that which God has given them)
in ease and austerity, those who control their wrath,
And are forgiving to human kind; God loves the good.’
(Holy Qur’an, Surah al Imraan, 134)
‘..A kind word and forgiveness
is better than charity followed by injury.’
(Holy Qur’an, Surah al-Baqarah, 263)
None of you has faith until he loves for his brother or his neighbor what he loves for himself.
(Sahih Muslim 1:72)
(Imam Nawawi (ra) explains that this refers to all people)
Benevolence towards Human Beings. This is the valuing of human beings, their needs for actualization, well being and existence within an Islamic context . Islam says love your neighbour and indeed there are many Islamic sayings that promote agape, general mercy and the golden rule. The golden rule is a universal moral rule of moral conduct that has existed through the ages. It is a key to human moral and social well being that has come from the mouths of sages from every land, every civilization and every continent from the earliest times of written history onwards.
Most importantly for Muslims it was a principle mentioned several times by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saws) and is recorded in dozens of hadeeth, most notably it was even included in the Prophet’s farewell sermon in which he re-emphasized the most important things of the Revelations and guidance that God (the Merciful and Compassionate One) had sent through him (saws).
All wise and spiritually developed people live by this rule and never forget that a person should treat others considerately and according to how they would like to be treated by other. It is a wisdom that may often be heard coming from the mouths of children, yet which can be lost in a busy world and a hectic distracted life, but we must remember it as it is an essential basis for the well being of society. If we live by this rule will not only will the creatures (of different sorts) that we come into contact with benefit, but we ourselves will find immense rewards for it both of an emotional and interpersonal and a spiritual nature.
Mercy is a way of being that was taught beautifully by the Prophets and sages of Divine Religion it is a key value that every wise person should adopt and make a rule in their life. Mercy is the opposite of cruelty of any form and the opposite of violent extremism. A narration passes on the messages that the absence of mercy in a thing renders it defective, we must be very careful that we never render ourselves similarly defective.
Benevolence in Families. The family is the basis of safety and security and support of the individual in society. It is the cocoon in which future generations should be nurtured with mercy and warmth, the sub-unit of society that should be the first line of defense for the weak, the needy and the sick. Families consist not just of the nuclear family (wife-husband + children) but just as crucially the broader extended family structure in which elders are looked after and grown siblings and cousins and other relatives help each other. This should not be an issue of a family taking a predatory view of those not of the family, but rather a benevolent one, but one that does not deny the importance of family.
Benevolence Towards Elders. The Prophet (saws) and the sages of the religion treated old people with the utmost respect and consideration. Older people have the right to be treated well, with dignity, care and respect by younger generations and we forget this at our peril, not only will God judge us based upon how we treat elders but we too will probably one day become elders ourselves and we risk bring such low treatment against ourselves. Respect for the Elders is an important part of Islam. Wise people seek to be polite and considerate to elders in all reasonable ways.
One time Rumi was lecturing when he saw a young man seat himself in a way that was disrespectful an older man already present. Rumi responded by telling how in the past young men who had disrespected old ones had been punished by God and gave the allegory of how one time Angel Gabriel (as) delayed the Holy Prophet (saws) from the prayer so that Ali ibn Abu Talib (ra) could get to the Mosque on time. Ali (raa) had been late as he refused to overtake an old Jewish man on the footpath – due to his respect for elders.
Respect for the Elders is an important part of Islam. True believers strive to be polite and considerate to their elders in every reasonable way. An allegory is recounted in the Acts of the Adepts that one time Rumi was lecturing when he saw a distinguished young man seat himself in a way that disrespected an older man who was already there.
Rumi responded by telling how in the past young men who had disrespected old ones had been punished by God and an allegory of how one time the Angel Gabriel had delayed the Holy Prophet (saws) from the prayer so that Ali ibn Abu Talib (ra) could get to the Mosque on time, despite refusing to overtake an old Jewish man on the footpath out of his respect for elders – even though it nearly meant that he himself became late for the prayer as a result.
Lo! men who surrender to God, and women who surrender
And men who believe and women who believe
And men who obey and women who obey
And men who speak the truth and women who speak the truth
And men who persevere and women who persevere
And men who are humble and women who are humble
And men who give alms and women who give alms
And men who fast and women who fast
And men who guard their modesty and women who guard (their modesty)
And men who remember God much and women who remember God much
God has prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward.
(Surah Al-Azhab 35)
…Fear God in your treatment of women,
as you have taken them (as wives)
(only) through the trust of God…..
It is not proper for a believer to dislike his wife,
If he dislikes her behaviour in one respect
he should be happy with her on some other account.
The most perfect in faith of the believers
is he most cordial in his disposition
and the best ones amongst you
are they who treat their wives most properly.
‘Who amongst the people is most deserving of good treatment from me? He said; ‘Your mother’.
He asked; ‘Then who?’
The Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) said; ‘Your mother’.
He asked ‘Then who?’
The Holy Prophet) said; ‘Your mother’.
He again said; ‘Then who?’
Thereupon the Holy Prophet
(may God bless him and give him peace)
said; ‘Your father.
Benevolence Between Men & Women. The Prophet (saws) treated women well and with great consideration and respect. God has given the women an honoured place in creation, just as He has given them men one. Women must be treated well, with respect and given the chance to live good lives. Husbands must work to give their wives good lives and avoid domineering them – rather they should discuss things between them and come to decisions together.
Husbands should allow their wives to be the Amir of the household and respect them in this. People should always remember that Paradise lies at the foot of the mother not at foot of the father and so how ever much respect that is enjoined upon the children for their father, more so for their mother. Men too have rights to be respected and treated decently by others. They must must not be abused just as other people must not be abused. Wives should allow their husband to be the Amir of the family and respect them in this. Men should not be belittled or mistreated, nor should they have their rights taken from them by family, tribe or society.
The creatures are the family of God –
Thus He is most dear to God of all people
who treats them kindly.
(Bayhaqi in al-Sha’b Narrated by Abu Hurayrah)
Fear God in your treatment of the animals
Ride them properly and feed them properly
(Abu Da’ud, Sunan)
Those who are kind and affectionate to God’s creatures,
He bestows His kindness and affection upon them.
Therefore show kindness to the dwellers of the earth
so that God may show mercy and kindness to you.
Benevolence Towards Animals. The Prophet treated animals well and they came to him with love and obedience. Animals share much with human beings. Animals have feelings and within reason we must work to save all animals from pain and suffering, they must seek to allow them to live happy lives and do nothing to harm them. Muslims are allowed to farm and to eat humanely produced halal meat, but they must not interfere with or harm other creatures and they must take utmost care of the well being of those creatures in their lives.
‘If a Muslim plants a tree or grow grains
and a bird, a person or an animal eats from
it will be counted as a charitable deed for him (each time).’
(Bukhari & Muslim)
Benevolence and the Environment . God placed the human beings as vice-regents upon the Earth. We are here not only for our personal exam to see whether we shall deserve reward or punishment in the next life, but also to look after our home planet for future generations. Helping look after our world and our local environments is a pressing duty upon all of us. The Prophet even established an area near Madinah where the cutting of trees and the killing of animals was forbidden, Muslims could do well to follow his example.
Hold fast to the Rope of Allah, all together, and be not divided.
(Holy Qur’an, 3:103)
The diseases of the former peoples are creeping towards you,
(these are) envy and hatred and hatred is the razor
I do not say that it shaves hair, but rather it shaves the religion
and none of you has faith until he loves others;
shall I tell you what will establish that for you?
Spread peace between yourselves.
(Tirmidhi, Resurrection, 2510)
You will not enter the Paradise until you believe and you won’t believe until you love each other.
Shall I show you something that, if you did, you would love each other?
Spread peace between yourselves.
(Sahih Muslim, 1:96)
Benevolence Between Muslims. This is crucial for the well being of the Muslim world. It is enjoined by God in many places. Non Sectarianism. This is the important wisdom of being a Sunni Muslim, not a this or a that, not a person wrapped up in any particular faction or leaning within Ahlus Sunnah to the exclusion of other parts of Ahlus Sunnah, but rather just to be a Muslim and tolerant of established and reasonable differences amongst the Sunni Muslims. This is the way of the wisest Muslims, whilst the way of the people of the argumentative, sectarian, partisan groups is the way of the Muslims of limited perception. The best Muslim help and support other people (and wish them well) be they Muslims or non-Muslims.
Benevolence in Politics. Politics is a game played by the people of the world. Some are involved in politics for their own base reasons, others are in politics because they have real ideals and want to make things better – most in politics have a mixture of these two motivations. Non-Muslims can rule their countries as they wish, it is between them and God, but wise Muslims accept that the Sovereignty belongs to God and they live and rule according to how He has instructed them, where there is not instruction from Him they must rule according to the general spirit and values of the true religion. People get hung up on systems and waste a lot of time trying to change them – in the end they find nothing has changed because they only changed the system – not the way people think and behave. The best system in the world will produce only horror if it is being run by people who are evil due to their ignorance and amoral or immoral attitudes and behaviours, whilst the silliest system may produce a pleasant life, peace, security and positive spiritual influence if it is influenced by good wise people.