These comments were sent from one brother to another in response to his reaction to the events of September 11, 2001, shortly thereafter.
It is often the case that for an individual, a single event or act can define the whole epoch for that person. It is Allah’s way that the inner/outer has to be in balance and when a massive imbalance occurs, we are jolted by an event that offers us the opportunity to redress the balance. Sometimes the event is an inner crisis where the external world has no reality. Sometimes, as now, the outer world is shocked or violated in a way that is so profound that it can overwhelm the inner state. Man has always responded to Allah’s signs by ignoring them and even increasing his willful forgetfulness. The tragedies of the 20th century, from mass murder, genocide, nuclear holocaust, racism, inequality, oppression have not resulted in their opposite- a more determined and heightened sense of inner awareness of Allah’s decrees which collectively can put an end to these ills. Instead, we seek our salvation in accumulation, regulations, laws, the military, security-obsessiveness, closing of doors, locking ourselves apart from the poor and dispossessed in our own societies and elsewhere. But Allah’s Mercy never ends and we are always given the opportunity to rectify our condition until the last breath. At the level of the All-Encompassing Reality, shocks are events in time that ought to jolt people out of their complacency so that they recognize non-time/ non-place and set their priorities right. Instead we limit the benefit that can be derived from them at the societal and personal level by narrowing our response to revenge, retribution and even greater exclusion and isolation; or we find scapegoats amongst communities that are deprived and weak. The WTC disaster is of such epoch-making consequence.
Allah, Most Exalted and Glorified, says in the Noble Book in Surat Rum (30:41)
“Corruption has appeared on land and in the sea as an outcome of what men’s hands have wrought: and so He will let them taste the evil of some of their doings so that they might return”
This ayah applies to all mankind. There are constant signals about the inter-relatedness of events. As societies become more complex, the inter-connectedness gets lost and we tend to find solutions to independent incidents by a piece-meal approach that is frequently driven by the dynamics of that event itself. In wars and outrages such as the WTC attack, the net is spread a bit wider but very soon it falls under the sway of those who see only the external manifestations of it. The drive for revenge and retribution is quickly fed into a system that relates it to the imperative of maintaining and enhancing power and control. Reflection on the event itself is stifled by the braying cries for blood. At this stage, the agenda is seized by those who are established in their ignorance of, and distance from, Allah’s decrees.
The external scale or mizan for judging the consequences of the WTC disaster are clear-cut. Lives were taken without authority. Property was destroyed without justification. The culprits must be apprehended, tried and sentenced. This MUST take precedence. But it is a necessary but not sufficient condition.
Because of the shocking scale of the disaster, the outer scale must be balanced by an even more intense focus on the inter-connectedness of the event with the corruption that has been unleashed on this earth by the alliance between high technology, unbridled greed, rampant corporate and institutional authoritarianism, the arrogance of power and huge wealth, and the increasing pornographication of society. We have now a form of techno-porn capitalism being imposed on the world. The wretched of the earth cannot and do not respond. They are mired in ignorance and destitution. Those who claim to speak for them have their own agenda, often no different from the power-crazed hypocrites who lord it over our societies and institutions.
The inner aspects of this event are even more profound. The gross outer manifestations that have characterized this event, of violence; revenge; fear; turbulence; destruction; constriction have to be compensated by their opposites at the inner, personal level. Peace; mercy; hope; tranquility; creation; expansiveness. The hierarchy of ethical qualities in an individual must be strengthened whenever the outer state threatens to overwhelm a person. If this were to happen on any significant level, then the balance will be redressed and the consequences will have to be good. If not, the cycle of violence and mayhem will continue until the inner potential of mankind is so diluted and shriveled, that man will be in the final act of forgetfulness and denial.
We pray that Allah give us the inner strength and resolve to see His Mercy in all things and to improve our state by the light of His remembrance. May Allah give us the opportunity to share with others the great gifts of our path and make us the guiding lights for all to navigate their way through these troubled times. I pray for the souls of all the innocent that have lost their lives and those yet to come by acts of violence and oppression wherever they occur. May we remember them long after the recent events have become dull in the memory.