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A PRESCRIPTION FOR THE DISEASES OF THE CARNAL SELF

This consists of Five Paragraphs which contain prescriptions for truth to which the rebellious, and arrogant carnal self has to yield. 

First paragraph
Since things exist and have been made with skill, then a Supreme Maker must exist. If the existence of everything is ascribed to One Being only, then the creation of everything is as easy as the creation of one thing alone, which would not be the case if we imagine other creators. When we confess the creation of the earth and the heavens to be the work of a sole Creator, we cannot help concluding that a Wise and Skilful Creator would not allow disorder to arise by allowing others to administer living beings. He would not reduce to absurdity His Divine purpose in causing the existence of all creation by allowing that power to any other than Himself, and He would not allow creation to worship and be thankful to someone else.

Second paragraph
O my haughty carnal soul! You are like a grape vine. Someone else, not yourself, has made you wear bunches of grapes like a garment, do not be boastful.

Third paragraph
O arrogant carnal soul! Do not be proud of your services to God’s religion. As has been stated in a Prophetic tradition, Surely God may also strengthen this religion by means of a dissolute man. You are not pure, so you should regard yourself as that dissolute man. Purge yourself of self-admiration and pride by considering your service and worship as thanksgiving for God’s past favors to you, and a duty required by your humanity, and a consequence of your being God’s work of art.

Fourth paragraph
If you desire to acquire knowledge of the truth and true wisdom, try to attain the knowledge of God and know that the realities of creation consist in the rays of the Divine Name of Truth and the manifestations of His Names and Attributes. The reality of each human being, and of every existence, whether material or spiritual, substantial or accidental, originates in the light of one of His Names. 

Fifth paragraph
O my carnal soul, if you are attached to this temporary worldly life, and you want to flee from death, know that life is the moment of ‘now’, while you are living. All preceding time, together with the things which existed therein, have all passed away, and future time together with what is to come is non-existent. This means that your material life upon which you rely is of momentary duration, moreover, some scholars who know the truth say it has the term of an instant only. Some saints have concluded in consequence that the world does not exist by itself at all. Now, this is the reality, so abandon the materialistic life and try to live on a spiritual level, and discover how complete life can be.

Although the past and the future are dead for you, they are living for the people of sainthood who lead their life in the realm of the spirit. Now that this is the true reality, shed tears with all your heart, O my carnal soul, and cry out in pain:

I am mortal but I do not want the mortal.
I am impotent so I do not desire the impotent.
I surrendered my spirit to the All-Merciful One, so I desire no one else.
I want someone who will remain my friend forever.
I am but an insignificant particle, but I desire an Everlasting Sun.
I am nothing in essence but I wish for the whole of creation.

AN INSTRUCTION TO PUT THE CARNAL SELF IN ITS PLACE 

In the Name of God the Merciful the Compassionate.
Do not reckon those who rejoice in what they have brought and love to be praised for what they have not done—do not reckon them secure from chastisement; rather, there is a painful chastisement for them. (3:188)

O foolish soul delighted with self-pride, enamored of fame, fond of being praised, and peerless in egotism! 

If it is a just claim that its tiny seed is the agent of a fig tree with all its fruits, and that it is the dry branch of the vine which produces tens of bunches of grapes hanging from it, and that those who benefit from them should respect and praise the branch and the seed, then you might have the right to be proud and conceited about the gifts—abilities, the physical features, etc.—which were given to you. Whereas in fact you deserve to be constantly chided because you are not like the seed and the branch: Since you have the faculty of will, you reduce the value of those gifts through your pride; through your conceit, you damage them; through your ingratitude, you nullify them; and in appropriating them to yourself, you usurp them.

Your duty is not to be self-proud, but to be thankful to God. What is fit for you is not to seek fame but humility, and to feel shame (for your deficiencies). Your right is not praise but repentance, and to seek forgiveness (for your faults). Your perfection lies not in self-centeredness, but in attributing every good to God.

You soul in my body, you resemble ‘nature’ in the outer world. Both of you were created to receive good and be the thing to which evil is referred. That is, you are not the agent and the origin, rather, you are the recipient, the means, and the ground or the scene. You can, O my soul, be effective only in that you cause an evil because you do not accept the good coming from the Absolute Good. You and the ‘natural causes’ were created as veils, so that things that are apparently ugly, the beauty of which is not visible, should be attributed to you, and you should be the means of the Most Holy Divine Essence being acknowledged free of defect. You, my carnal soul, have taken an attitude completely contrary to your duty of creation. Although, out of your incompetence you have changed good into evil, you act as though you were a partner to your Creator. That means one who adores himself and one who adores nature is extremely foolish and a great wrongdoer. 

Do not say: ‘I am an object of Divine manifestations. One who receives and reflects Divine beauty becomes beautiful.’ For, since that beauty has not taken on a perpetual form in you, you may be an object reflecting it only for a short time.

Also, do not say: ‘Among people I was chosen. All these results, all the works I have produced are shown through me. I have some merit that God chose me to manifest some of His Names through.’ No! God forbid! God has caused you to produce those works because you are more bankrupt and more needy of them than everyone else and more afflicted with intellectual and spiritual shortcomings.

A WEEPING HEART AT DAYBREAK

The breeze of Divine manifestations blows at daybreak;
Wake up, O my eyes, at daybreeak!
Seek help from the Court of God..
Dawn is the time when the sinful seek forgiveness.
Awake, O my heart, at daybreak,
Repent and seek forgiveness from the Court of God!

***

Daybreak is a kind of resurrection when every being is awake and busy with the glorification of God. When will you, O my foolish soul, awake from the sleep of heedlessness? Life is a limited period and every living being is on a journey to the grave. Perform the prescribed prayer and supplicate to Him like a plaintive flute, and say:

O Lord! I am repentant and ashamed of my innumerable sins. I am wretched and abased and tearful and restless with life. I am exiled and lonely, weak and impotent, old and ill, and I have no choices at all. I beg for Your Mercy and forgiveness, and I cry for help from Your Court, O God!

BEING WATCHFUL OVER ONE’S OWN DEFECTS

When God wills a people well, He makes them watchful of their defects.[1]

Also, the Wise Qur’an narrates the Prophet Joseph to have said:

I claim not that my soul is always innocent; surely the soul of man incites to evil. (12:53)

One who is self-conceited and self-confident is unfortunate, while the one who sees his defects is fortunate. That being so, you are among the fortunate. But it sometimes happens that, though the evil-commanding soul is refined and transformed into the ‘self-accusing soul’ or even ‘the soul at rest’, it moves its line of attack to the nerves so that man cannot be free of anger and irritation until his death. There have lived many pure and saintly people who, though their souls were at rest, complained of the temptations of their selfhood and wailed over spiritual ailments, although their hearts were quite illuminated and pure. What they actually complained of is not having an evil-commanding self, but the transference of those evil commands to the nerves: the spiritual ailments which they bewailed were only imaginary.

I hope, my dear brother, that it is not your evil-commanding self or spiritual diseases which afflict you, but that you are suffering, rather, from nerves, so that you may go on struggling in order to go on making spiritual progress.

1. Ajluni, Kashf al-Khafa’, 1:81.

THE FINAL STATION IN THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEYING

In His Name, glory be to Him.
There is nothing that does not glorify Him with praise.

Imam Rabbani, inspired leader and great murshid of the Nakshbandi way, says in his Letters: “I would prefer to make a single matter of faith known in plain terms than attain thousands of spiritual pleasures and ecstasies, and work miracles.” 
He also says: “The final station in all kinds of the spiritual journeying is to attain the full perception of the truths of faith.”

Three kinds of sainthood

Again, he says: “There are three kinds of sainthood. The first is the kind known to everybody, which is the minor one. The second is of medium degree. The third and greatest one is the major sainthood, which can be attained through direct succession to the Prophetic message, paving the way to the truth without entering the ‘intermediate realm’ of spiritual orders.”

He also says: “A person can progress in the Nakshbandi way by having a firm belief in the pillars of faith and performing the religious duties. Neglect of or deficiency in either makes this way impossible to follow.”

This means that the Nakshbandi way encompasses three kinds of mission. 

  • The first and greatest consists in directly serving the truths of belief without any mediating influences. Imam Rabbani entered into such service especially in the closing years of his life.
  • The second is to try one’s hardest to perform and promote the obligatory religious duties and the Sunna of the Prophet, upon him be peace and the blessings of God, by following a spiritual order. 
  • The third kind of the Nakshbandi mission is that one follows the way in order to be purified of the spiritual diseases.

The first of these missions is obligatory, the second necessary, and the third is supererogatory.

That being so, if men of such rank as ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, Shah Nakshband and Imam Rabbani, may God be pleased with them all, were living in this age when the fundamentals of belief have been shaken in minds and hearts and people go astray under the influence of materialistic and positivistic trends, they would certainly be exerting themselves in preaching and defending the truths of belief and the fundamentals of the Islamic creed, since one cannot otherwise attain eternal happiness. Any neglect in them will result in eternal torment. It is impossible for one to go to Paradise without belief but there are many who deserve Paradise without following an order. Following an order has the same use and importance for man as any fruits do whereas the truths of faith are the food essential to one’s spiritual life. One cannot live without ‘bread’ while it is possible to subsist without fruit.

I just remembered the dictum about the principles of the Nakshbandi way:
In the way of the Nakshbandi, it is necessary to renounce four things:

  • the world,
  • the Hereafter,
  • ‘becoming,’ or claiming that one has “become” a saintly one,
  • and the idea of ‘renunciation,’ that is, recalling that one has renounced what he has renounced..

Remembering that brought another dictum to mind: In the pure Qur’anic way of serving belief and the Qur’an, depending on one's perception of his nothingness, four things are necessary:

  • perception and admission of one’s absolute poverty vis-à-vis the Divine riches,
  • of absolute helplessness vis-à-vis the Divine power,
  • and absolute gratitude to God,
  • and absolute enthusiasm in His way.

HOW CAN ONE THANK GOD FOR HIS BEING THE LORD?

He asked: ‘Am I not (your Lord)?’ and you responded: ‘Yes!’
How can one thank Him for that ‘yes’? By suffering misfortunes! 
What is the mystery of that 'yes'? It is that you say:
‘I am a slave in chains in the abode of poverty and perishing.’

What has he found who has lost God? 
And what has he lost who has found God?

Good tidings await those who are seen (by others) as strange and outlandish (because of their Islamic beliefs)!

Do you know what ‘sama’ (whirling in ecstasy) is?
It is to enjoy permanence in absolute annihilation of the self.

IS “THE BEST OF THE YOUNG AMONG YOU ARE THOSE LIKE THE OLD AMONG YOU, AND THE WORST OF THE OLD AMONG YOU ARE THOSE LIKE THE YOUNG AMONG YOU,” A PROPHETIC SAYING? IF SO, WHAT IS MEANT BY IT?

I have also heard it referred to as a prophetic saying. What is meant by it is this: The best of the young is he who, like an old man, thinks of death and, without being captivated by fancies of youth, strives for his next life. As for the worst of the old, he is that old man who, trying to imitate the young in worldly aspirations in heedlessness of Divine commandments, obeys, like a youth, the temptations of his carnal self.

The correct form of the second part of your framed inscription is as follows – I hung it on the wall as a warning-notice and I look at it every morning and evening to take a lesson:

  • If you want a friend, God is sufficient. Indeed, if He is a friend to you, so is everything.
  • If you want companions, the Qur’an is sufficient. You may imagine yourself to be in the company of the Prophets and angels mentioned in the Qur’an, study their experiences and are intimate with them.
  • If you want wealth, contentment is sufficient. Indeed, the one with contentment becomes thrifty, and the one who is thrifty gets blessed abundance in his wealth.
  • If you want to feel enmity, your evil-commanding self is sufficient as an enemy. One who is self-conceited obtains grieves but one who is not haughty obtains care and peace.
  • If you want counsel, death is sufficient. The one who thinks of death, gets rid of love of the world and strives for his next life.

I am adding to your seven, an eighth, which is as follows:

A few days ago, a memorizer of the Qur’an recited a certain portion of the Sura Yusuf, down to the verse, Make me die a Muslim (submissive unto You), and join me with the righteous. (12:101)

Suddenly a subtle point occurred to me: Everything related to the Qur’an and faith is, no matter how insignificant it may seem, in fact, of great significance. Anything that contributes to eternal happiness is not insignificant, so, we should not regard it as unworthy of explanation.

This is the finest, most subtle point of the finest Qur’anic story: The verse, Make me die a Muslim (submissive unto You), and join me with the righteous, which marks the end of the story of Yusuf, upon him be peace, – the finest story in the Qur’an – is expressive of a glad tiding in a vivid and miraculous fashion. It is as follows:

The pleasure received from a joyful happy story results in a deep sorrow because of the final news of separation or death. This is really so, or arouses more sorrow, when we get the news of separation or death at a time when the character of the story has just found ease and happiness. However, the verse quoted above, even if it contemplates the death of the Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) at the happiest point of his life when he became the Aziz (grand-vizier or chancellor) of Egypt and re-united with his parents and brothers, it gives it in a different way and declares: In order to be the object of a far greater happiness, the Prophet Yusuf prayed God for his death and, through death, he received that happiness. This means that a more attractive and pleasure-giving bliss than the greatest happiness of the world is awaiting us at the other side of the grave. It is because of this that a truth-seeing person like the Prophet Yusuf, in order to find that bliss, asked for death, which is apparently very painful, when he was enjoying the greatest happiness of the world.

Look, then, at the eloquent way the Wise Qur’an reports to us the end of the story of the Prophet Yusuf, and see how it adds, instead of giving pain and regret, to the joy and happiness of the listener. Further, it guides us to the fact that we should strive for the other side of the grave, where are found real happiness and pleasure. It also demonstrates the exalted truthfulness of the Prophet Yusuf and announces that even the most joyful and brightest condition of the worldly life cannot captivate him, rather it leads him to ask for death and the other life.

 

Last Updated on April 6, 2002

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