Monday, January 28, 2013

Conception of humanity

The story of creation, as it is told in the Qurán, is remarkable. It all began, one may say, with a testimony and a covenant. Indeed, revelation tells us that in the first stage of creation the Only One brought together the whole of mankind and made them bear witness:

Änd when your Sustainer took the offspring of Adam from his loins to bear witness about themselves.
'Am I not your Lord?'they replied,  'Ássuredly yes. We bear witness to it.'
This is a reminder lest on the day of judgment you say, 'We did not know!'
(Qurán [7]: 172)

This original testimony is of fundamental importance for the formation of the Islamic conception of humanity. It teaches us that in the heart and consciousness of each individual there exists and essential and profound intuitive awareness and recognition of the presence of the Transcendent. Just as the sun, the clouds, the winds, the birds, and all the animals express their natural submission, as we have seen.

The human being has within it an almost instinctive longing for a dimension that is "beyond". This is the idea of the fitra, which has given rise to numerous exegetical, mystical and philosophical commentaries, so central is it to the Islamic conception of the human being, faith and the sacred. We find it mentioned in the following verse:

"Surrender your whole being as a true believer and in accordance with the nature which God gave to human beings when He created them. There is no change in God's creation. This is the unchangeable religion (ad diin), but most people do not know."(Qurán [30]: 30)

and confirmed by a Prophetic tradition:
"Every newborn child is born in fitra, it is his parents who make of him a Jew, a Christian, or a Zoroastrian."

(Tariq RamadanWestern Muslims and the Future of Islam.Preface. Oxford University Press, 2004. p.16)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Dealing with Islamophobia

It is by acquiring the conviction that they can be faithful to their principles while being totally involved in the life of their society that Muslims will find the means to social discriminations and phobias and act to resolve them.

It is an established and unacceptable fact that the governments of the United States (particularly after the outrages of 11 September 2001) and Europe maintain relations that are sometimes disrespectful of and even clearly discriminatory against citizens and residents of their countries who are of the Muslim faith. It is no less true that they apply a security policy including constant surveillance: distrust is maintained and the image of the "Muslim"often remains suspect. The general picture conceived by the Western population in general is so negative that one would call it Islamophobia, and this is a fact that many Muslims have lived with on a daily basis. One could extend the list of difficulties, complaints and criticisms at will.

My response to all these phenomena is to insist to Muslims that they stay in higher reaches, in awareness of their principles, values and responsibilities. By developing a global vision of their points of reference and their objectives, by studying their situation and being reconciled with themselves, they have the responsibility to become engaged in all areas.

Muslims will get what they deserve: if, as watchful and participating citizens, they study the machinery of their society, demands their rights to equality with others, struggle against all kinds of discrimination and injustice, establish real partnerships beyond their own community and what concerns themselves alone, it will be an achievement that will make political security measures, discrimination, Islamophobic behavior and so on drift away downstream. In the end, the ball is in their court...unless they are determined to remain forever on the margins.

(Tariq Ramadan. Western Muslims and the Future of Islam.Preface. Oxford University Press, 2004. p.6-7)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Exile toward the Beginning

Someday we are bound to come back to the beginning. Even the most distant pathways always lead us inward, completely inward, into intimacy - in the place where there is no longer anyone but God and our self.

Paulo Coelho, in his novel The Alchemist, has brought in one of the most traditional and deep teachings of Sufism (Islamic mysticism). Go, travel the world, watch, look for the truth and the secret of life - every road will lead you to this sense of initiation: the light, the secret, are hidden in the place from which you set out. You are on your way not toward the end of the road but towards its beginning, to go is to return, to find is to rediscover. Go!...You will return. The apparent paradox of spiritual experience is the lesson that the constant effort, the jihad, that we make in order to purify, control and liberate our heart is, in the end, a reconciliation with the deepest level of our being (al fitra) - there where the spark gleams that God originally breathed into our heart, there where our conscience weds our being and gives in to peace (salam). The peace of recognition, the peace of submission (salam al islam) is, deep down, a liberation.

God is "the One who created death and life to test you and to find out which of you would behave best." Death, life, experiences, ordeals, pain, solitude, as well as joy and happiness, are so many lessons along the road to reconciliation. Wounds, separations, tears, as well as smiles, "say" something; if you live in unawareness, they touch you; with God, they guide and lead you. Where to? Toward Him, toward you, close to Him in you. Such is the most beautiful and the most difficult lesson of Islam: you find God only by rediscovering your own nature, and the essence of your nature is the only thing that can free you from its appearance..."I" must set out to discover another "I": such is the meaning of life. Ordeals drive you not to your limits but to your origin, where "the need for Him: has its root. Ordeals will lead you back, whether you like it or not, to what you are, to the essence from which He has formed you. Exile will take you home.

A man once exclaimed to the mystic Rabia al-Adawiyya, "I have discovered a thousand proofs of the existence of God!" She closed the conversation by saying that she had only one proof and that was enough for her. "Which?" he asked. "If you are alone in the desert and you fall down a well, to whom will you turn?" "To God," he said. "That proof is enough for me!" A strange reply, seemingly simple, even simplistic, that a rationalist or atheist would without hesitation take as confirmation of what he had always believed: "God is the refuge of the destitute, the hope of the hopeless, a consolation, a reassuring invention!"

On the surface, on the surface only... suffering and the unknown seem to press the mind to look for a refuge, a consolation. This is the logic our reason proposes when it looks on the human being on the outside of its nature. The Islamic tradition says exactly the opposite: the ordeals of life, sadness, the death of those we love, for example, take the human being back to its most natural state, to its most essential longing. Consciousness of limitation brings it back to the need for the Transcendent, to the need for meaning. To call on God is not to console oneself - it is to rediscover the condition God originally wanted for us - the spark of humility, the awareness of fragility.

Before your eyes is a, dependence, fragility and innocence. To be with God is to know how to keep this state: a humble acceptance of your fragility, a comprehension of your dependence - going back to the beginning. In fact, the temptation to pride consists in thinking that man can cut himself off from his nature and attain total intellectual autonomy to the point where he can take on his own suffering, deliberately and alone. Pride is to affirm outward independence by maintaining the illusion of liberty at the heart of one's being. Humility is to rediscover the breath of the primordial need of Him at the heart of our being, in order to live in total outward independence.

Go!...You will return.

(Tariq Ramadan. Western Muslims and the Future of Islam. Preface. Oxford University Press, 2004)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Initiation : Hazrat Inayat Khan's Personal Experience

Initiation is not only a formal ceremony. It is an outside form of something which is meant to take place. As all things in life are appointed and fixed on a certain time, so initiation is fixed on a certain time. And when that time comes, you are brought to your teacher, who gives you initation. Many in the mystical path have this experience, if not all, that after the yearning of many, many years to come to some person who will give them his guidance on the spiritual path, that they were brought to him after many years' time. Some had visions and warnings in the form of dreams, or in the form of inspiration.

If i were to tell you my own experience, that i was meditative from childhood and that tendency grew by my growing. And there was a certain time in my life when i felt more urge from within to be contemplative. Since i had no teacher whom i could call my spiritual guide, still i had learned as every child in the East, who knows more or less the path of discipleship. But there came a certain time when the inner urge began to be more concrete, more clear, even to such an extent that it became audible, louder than a spoken word, it became visible in the form of vision. And when i was looking for some soul in the eagerness of being guided on the spiritual path, i happened to come in the presence of a soul that at my first sight i recognised that this was the person whom i had seen in my meditations. I knew this was my teacher.

You need not be surprised about it. In the spiritual path it is natural  to have this phenomena. But even in everyday life we have that phenomena. If we are serious, earnest that, in business, in our profession, in our work of wordly life, when we meet someone who is really meant that we must meet, is always a feeling we have always known this person. And if there is not that feeling, then people may come and be together for hundred of years and they will remain strangers. And another time, once a person may meet someone and he feels, "I have known that person for thousand years."

(New York, January 15th 1926)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A wife complaining about her husband

There is an amusing tale in India. It is told that a housewife went to a magnetiser and asked him if he had anything to say or to help her trouble at home. The magnetiser asked what was the trouble. The housewife said, "Everyday when my husband comes home, he is in a bad mood, and there is everyday a quarrel."
The magnetiser said, "It is very easy. I will give you some magnetic sweets. What you must do is to keep one in the mouth,  especially at the time when he comes home."

She was very happy  to think that these magnetic sweets may help her in life. And so it happened. The man who used to become nervous and excitable when he came home, and found no answer to  his irritation, he, after being a little uncomfortable, became quiet, for there was no stimulus to his agitation. When two or three day passed, he began to value his wife so much, he thought, "What a great improvement!" He began to see his own faults and began to blame himself, how foolish he was himself and how good was this housewife.

After a few days the wife had finished the sweets, she went to the magnetiser to thank him and said, "I would give anything if you would give me a lot of that sweets, it is such a wonderful sweet. It has brought harmony in our home, he is so kind and good to me now, all things are changed because of the sweets.

The wise man said, "My good lady, it is not the sweets, it is the lesson which was behind it. The secret was in keeping the lips closed."

(Hazrat Inayat Khan, January 1923)

The Power of Silence

Silence in the work of a mystic is not necessarily stillness. Silence to a mystic is self control.
In the conception of a mystic silence does not mean only the closing of the lips or the closing of the eyes; silence for a mystic is suspension of every activity, which he gains by different degrees, by controlling the movement, by controlling the words, by controlling the breath and by controlling the thoughts. The mystic attains mastery over himself, which he considers the only mastery worth having, by the practice of silence.

Silence does not mean a few hours meditation, sitting quiet, talking to no one, but it means the work of control continued throughout one's daily life from morning till evening. If not, a few moments silence everyday do not suffice the purpose.

If one was to count how many useless words one speaks throughout the day, words which are unnecessary, and thus spends energy and vigour, the center of which the breath, in this way wasting his breath by speaking the words that are of no use either to himself or to the other. Many times a man talks because he thinks it is good to be pleasant, and being pleasant means speaking uselessly. If there is nothing to speak about, then he wishes to grumble against the weather.
Many disagreements are caused by excessive talking and many misunderstandings can be avoided if only a person had the control over his words.

(Hazrat Inayat Khan, at the Netherlands, January 1923)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Man, the master of his destiny

Man is an engineer and at the same time man is a machine. There is a part of his being which works automatically, subject to climatic and personal influences and to favourable and unfavourable conditions. And there is another part in him which is the engineer part, and that which manifests from that part man calls free will. It is this outlook of life out of which comes the saying, "Man proposes, God disposes."It may be very well said that in the case of one it is more so than in the case of another. In one case, man continually proposes and God continually disposes; in the other case, it is quite on the contrary, man proposes and God grants. This gives one a key to understand the mystery of life, that the more the engineer part of his being is developed, the more man controls his life and affairs. But the more the machine part of his being is nurtured, the more helpless he becomes in spite of all the success in the world he may have. There comes a moment in man's life when man's efforts fall flat and he finds himself to be helpless before conditions.

Motive is a power for action and yet it limits power. The secret of the mystic is to be able to rise above the motive power in order to draw power from The All-Powerful. Once man realizes that he is an engineer and a mechanism at the same time, he studies that mechanism with which he must work, and he avoids being caught in this mechanism as the spider in the web. He keeps watch over it as an engineer to control and utilize this mechanism to the best purpose, in which the secret of mastery is to be found.

(Hazrat Inayat Khan, December 1925)

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Freedom of the Soul

Freedom is the object of every soul; each soul strives after it in its own way. Often not knowing the real way to freedom, man, instead of attaining freedom, falls into a captivity. Many wish to begin life with what they call freedom and arrive at the end to a captivity. It is the path of discipline which leads to freedom in the end, which very few know.

When one sees that for the freedom of one, the freedom of another is robbed, so it is with individuals, races, or nations. Man, striving after freedom, disregards the freedom of another, and so people are busy in the world trying to get freedom, who use it on the contrary.

Life in the world is a gambling of freedom. Few get it and many lose it, and those who get it must lose it someday or the other. There is only one freedom worthwhile, and that is the freedom of the soul. The soul, which is captiva not only in conditions and situations of life, but also in the mind and body, never has a chance to free itself, being caught in the web of life. The way to the soul's freedom is for the soul to realize itself first; the soul realizes itself when it has detached itself not only from conditions and situations, but also from mind and body. To bring about such detachment, meditation is practised by Sufi, who interpret the idea of dying before death as the upliftment of the soul. Resurrection follows crucifixion.

(Hazrat Inayat Khan, December, 1925)