Detachment
By
Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri

From: Nuradeen Magazine

From the Nuradeen Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3 -- May/June 1981

The following article is an extract from a discourse on suratu'l Baqarah given by Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri in early April, 1981. This discourse was actually a summary of a three-month series of tafsir on suratu'I Baqarah held throughout the winter. During this period Shaykh Fadhlalla traveled hundreds of miles each week to the three weekly sessions held at New Light Village, Bait ud-Deen and Dar al-Hikma, Muslim centers all located in south-central Texas.

Qalb is that entity whose nature is to turn. The heart is not supposed to be set. If it is set it can only be broken, no matter what it is set on, no matter how good the cause is that it is set on. Those of you who are working to raise the name of Islam or serve, or whatever, will also know this. Even if you are one hundred per cent pure in your attempt, you will also be disappointed. Once your heart has a little bit of setting or expectation it will only be disappointed -- once it is set it is not qalb. The test of your heart being healthy is that it has not stopped, that it is a scanner of infinite speed. If its speed is reduced then there is suffering according to that reduction. The extent of its reduction in speed is the extent of your attachment -- your unwillingness to let go. Your willingness to let go, your willingness to die -- this is the meaning of jihad. In this surah it cannot be more clear.

The first part sets up this scene of khilafa and the meaning of shaytan, and then it gives us the story of Creation -- how it started. The whole thing is not comprehendible by our brains -- it is not understandable in a physical sense. We are living at a level of consciousness which is wakefulness; it has its boundaries. The boundary on one side is sleep. The boundary on the other side is death. We are between these two, mini-sleep and maxi-sleep. It therefore has its limitations -- this level of consciousness cannot transcend beyond these brackets. Therefore by 'aql, by analysis, we cannot fully take the meaning and understanding of the beginning of creation because we are created. We have come about after creation so how can we analytically, logically, transcend this system? It is not possible, and yet everybody is seeking knowledge of the beginning. You want to know the beginning, you want to know how you have come about, you want to know why you are chained into this situation of being born and having to die. If you know the beginning you know the end.

The mercy of the Qur`an comes out visibly and dynamically in explaining to us -- in a manner that we can understand, that we can relate to, the creation -- how creation came about. It explains to us how the heavens were created from a command, and how it has been held in balance, and how the earth came about, and how the mountains were floating and then were cooled down and stopped. Then we are told about Adam -- Adeem. Adeem is the dust on the earth. Adam was made from these elements, he was put together from these elements, so he is familiar to all these minerals. It is part of that oneness of it all. It is all in line, it is a chain reaction. A chain reaction has a beginning and it has an end.

It also describes how man fell -- man is distinguished from all creation, because when he was created Allah and the Angels prayed over him. Look what an exalted being he is. All the Angels prostrated to him except one -- shaytan. So as soon as man came into existence as part of this stream of expansion, suddenly, this other element raised itself from within that creational stream, saying, 'I am better'. Arrogance, assertion, independence. The implication here is that the 'I' is shaytan -- the 'I-ness' is the devil. As long as you say, 'I' and that 'I' is not subdued in your heart by your recognition that you have only come to die, and that you are only an instrument, and that instrument functions well if it is not attached, then you are asking for trouble. 'I like this color,' 'I like to do it this way' -- the moment you say 'I', shaytan! That is why one of the usual practices is for a person to begin with saying 'Bismillah,' in the Name of Allah, and then say, 'I would like now to do this,' until such time as it becomes your second nature, until such time as your are totally, absolutely in awareness.

You have to be present all the time, visibly, physically, mentally. If you are not, rectify it. You must catch yourself instantly. Do not delay. If you delay you will become fossilized and it will be more difficult. It is all about being available to any situation as a full-grown human being, with faith and good opinion and optimism, with the inner realization that you have come from that total ocean of infinity and to that ocean of infinity you are going, and that in between is a tiny little flicker.

From the beginning shaytan was here -- shaytan is ever present, ever close, because he tells Allah, 'I will do my best to fool them all!' But he makes an exception -- 'except for those who are salih,' except for those who are constantly at it and these he cannot beat, because they are too clever for him; he tries to get them this way, he tries to get them that way, but they are always awake, all the time, 'Allah, Allah, Allah,' or at least five times a day when the prayers are called they suddenly remember and he is chucked out.

We have an explanation of those who become the friends of the shaytan, who fall into that trap. We have the existential parallel in the creation of Adam because nothing has changed, nothing will change, everything is part and parcel of One Lord that governs the cosmic reality. Adam was given everything. He had no desire. He had every whim satisfied. He was in that secret garden, in that garden which is beyond our realm of comprehension. It is in the realm of arwah, in the realm of pure spirit, in the realm of pure energies, the non-physical, where there is not all this decay and creational growth and destruction. It was permanency, they were permanently in that garden, but there was one thing they were not supposed to go to, so that stuck in their minds. So the shaytan in Adam said, 'What about this? This may be better!' The heart was set -- attachment took place, that infinite speed suddenly stopped for a split second, and a different reality took place, or had to take place, which is our realm now. Which is that which is pure but tarnished, with the possibility of attachment. It is all about that, it is very clear.

Read suratu'l Baqarah alone, quietly, and you will see it. Dive into the words, you will see that it is all about the heart, it is all about whether the heart is completely pure or whether it is set. Adam's heart was set on that thing, on that apple tree or whatever it was, and that was it. As a result of that this setting took place. It is not as a result of punishment, it is an explanation of how this thing came about, this reality as we observe it now. We are the inheritors of a pure father who became attached. We have, therefore, to suffer like he did, until we learn to live in detachment -- and that is the meaning of Islam.

[Added March 21, 2004]