Fourth Baytud-Deen Gathering
Introductory Talk By
Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri

From: Nuradeen Magazine

From the Nuradeen Magazine Vol. 4, No. 1 -- Winter 1984

Everything in the creation is a sign found in the book of physical existence leading to the book of meaning. Everywhere can be seen the sign that there is a cause, an effect and a Creator. But the witnesser in his claim of physical reality is placed in separation. His ability to comprehend himself, his awareness that he can see, act and be acted upon, are all interconnected within one creational reality. Everywhere he looks there is a sign turning him back to one source, Allah. Everywhere he looks, everything he comprehends, leads him to wonder at its cause. Eventually he is taken to the point of certainty (yaqeen) that there is a Creator from which everything has come, is sustained and to which everything ultimately will return. Those who understand the oneness of the Creator and take refuge in that knowledge, have been on the path of huda (guidance). They recognize the Rahma as the result of their acting in ihsan (excellence), of their acting fi sabilillah. This comes with the establishment of regularity and continuity in one's prayers.

If you are in 'ibada (worship), and submission inwardly, it will eventually express itself outwardly. Those who purify themselves give what they want to keep, cultivate the certainty that this life will come to an end, leading to a resurrection and an experience of that which is beyond time. They will be successful. The criteria of success is belief based on practice, is philosophy backed by rituals. The suppliant cannot say: "Oh Allah, I love You," without expressing that love physically in action. It would be hypocrisy. The faithful purification of your clothes will lead to the purification of your heart.

Hypocrisy is when people say what they do not mean. The heart and the head are not connected. We may find ourselves falling into this, dissipating a great deal of energy. When the signs of Reality come to the hypocrite it is Allah's love manifesting itself. The liar is caught in order that he unify what he means with what he says. If he does not take the opportunity to unify himself he has lost out. Nature provides him with many opportunities of leaving the path of disillusionment and dispersion. His shattered condition, though he does not recognize it, is causing him unhappiness which in turn is causing him to be unsuccessful. If it were not for his confusion success would be written. Nature does not waste anything.

A man will not succeed if he does not keep to the laws that govern existence. The law that death is inevitable for man will not change. He cannot interfere with it. The sun, the earth and the moon are moving in their fixed cosmic journey which will not change until they reach the end of their path, which is at the end of time. The law of gravity does not change from day to day. But within the continuity and fixedness of the physical world man does have a freedom. He may choose which set of givens he will work within.

We may choose to work towards improving our social condition or we may choose to remain in a community that is decadent, degenerate and not making any attempt at self purification; and we are affected by it. If it does not affect us directly it will affect our children. It is unavoidable. It is hypocrisy or ignorance or both to think that the neighborhood is not going to influence us. If it does not do it today then it will do it tomorrow.

Man is unified with the ecology whose laws are absolutely fixed. But his attitude and application is not fixed. If he keeps within the Shari'ah with wisdom, then will act correctly and be safe. If he does not, Allah's natural laws will attempt to show him that he has acted wrongly in order that he may improve. All of existence is within the process of tarbiyah (upbringing). It is one attribute of Allah, subhana 'azza wa jalla -- the One Who brings to full potential.

The afflictions and troubles we experience compel us to recognize our errors so that we may be wiser in the future. It is the true mu`min who will never repeat the same mistake twice. Because our iman is weak and we are not in dhikr we find ourselves ending up in the same old patterns, the same mistakes. If we are in taqwa, which is fearful awareness, we will come to know the bounds and recognize that by transgressing we will harm ourselves. We are all the same, in that we are shown the bounds as we progress along a lifetime. But the man of taqwa, the true mu`min is the one who heeds them and moves on and on in the sea of wisdom until he reaches the end of that ocean and sees the one and only hand behind everything. His acting and his being acted upon, are for him almost the same. He sees nothing other than the signs of Allah, everywhere, and he does not mistake the affliction that comes from ignorant people to him; he does not mix that up with the affliction of the natural laws of Allah. He recognizes that this is the injustice of human begins that is coming to him. Allah is not unjust. There is no possibility of this from the All-Merciful, All-Loving Creator. Whatever signs come to him whether they be conducive or otherwise, he immediately recognizes their cause and why they have come to him.

Success in this life ultimately is upholding the word of Allah and upholding the path of Islam; seeing people more and more joyfully living the path of submission, following in the footsteps of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him and his family, and his wise sahaba (Companions). Recognizing that this is the safe conduct. Knowing that there is no other way to pass through the sea of up and down in this world, the good and bad, the wealth and poverty of it. No other possible sane, healthy way except moving along the prescribed currents. This is what marks the man of taqwa. He will succeed because he will constantly be looking forward toward a situation in which he unifies his will with the Will of Allah. The Will of Allah will always prevail and our will is questionable.

As prisoners of our habits we are bound to fail. And that failure is in fact the beginning of success. It is the natural way of teaching us that we have not judged the situation in its fullness, that we have not taken factors into consideration that were important. The man of iman wishes nothing other than success.

Once you recognize what your desires and your wants are, then you begin to be alert and alive spontaneously. The man of iman recognizes that in this world he can only attempt to be in that state of tranquility and peace, which in the next life occurs after having shed his body which was borrowed from the earth. He lives off the capital that he has earned in this life which is as good as his actions. And his actions are as good as his intentions. If his intentions have been pure and simple, fi sabilillah, because he recognizes his faqr (poverty), he recognizes that he had nothing, then he recognizes that whatever has come to him is from the Source of Mercy.

Behind the kathif (gross) is the latif (subtle). You see within this physical creation all aspects of duality. From the One Being come multitudinal opposites. From the One Cause has come the balance of the opposite attributes and actions. We can act fi sabilillah, in freedom or we can act selfishly. The arrogant selfish person is repeatedly being shown the foolishness of his arrogance.

We have been born in order to die. The one thing we have in common at all times, under every circumstance, is that we are a moment closer to the experience of death. If a person remembers this then he is likely to negate aspects of his character which lead him to shirk (associating with Allah). He begins to reflect more and more upon the one and only source from which everything else emanates. The greatest injustice we can inflict upon ourselves is the imagination that there is other than the One and Only Reality that encompasses all. It is the sickness with which we are born. We have come to this life in order to be cured of that sickness, in order to recognize the handiwork of Allah behind everything. Our likes and dislikes are from our nafs, our past habits, genetically or culturally inherited, imposed upon us by our ignorance. They are not from Allah. Allah's creation is based on the laws. Whoever transgresses them will find trouble and whoever recognizes and moves within their bounds finds the Garden.

The Garden is the state of the heart of the man in taqwa. He who is willing to abandon everything at a moment's notice. He is not concerned with what he possesses nor with his reputation. He is concerned with the purification of his heart and giving it to the Creator. This makes the transition from one mood to another, from one day to another, from life to death smooth. The nature of the heart is to be free of attachment. If destiny decrees for him to be in a certain location, doing work that he finds he is qualified for, and it is the most efficient thing he can do at that point in his life in order to reduce his selfish actions, he will immediately embark upon it. He will find everything around blossoming as a result of this submission.

Because we are human, we need some recognition or acknowledgement. We do not want to be in a completely incongruous environment. We want to see some success. We are not at the state of prophets who lived seeing very little success in their work. Many of them left the world with only a handful of followers. It is not easy for us nowadays to have the opportunities to brush our hearts in a manner that will render them pure, scintillating, and vibrating.

Those who have inherited their Islam, find that the state of Islam is in decadence. Apart from the situation in Iran, one hardly finds any movement indicative of a return, or a revitalization of the heritage of this most glorious path of submission conducive for human beings. One finds the majority of the so-called Muslim states to be the same as the so-called non-Muslim states; they are secular states, governed by those who have fought the hardest to get to the top.

Amir ul-Mu`minin 'Ali alayhi salam, appointed a young man as his general, as his wali. At that time there was a sahabi (companion of the Prophet) who had been around him much longer with far greater experience. He came to 'Ali and asked him to be appointed instead because he was more qualified. Amir ul-Mu`minin told him, "You are, in every way more qualified, except that you want to govern and that man does not." That in itself is one of the qualifications of leadership. Show me one of the leaders of the so-called Muslim countries whose main concern is not his position.

We are living in a very dark time and therefore a little work in the way of Allah will show large results. Allah's mercy is like that. When the night is the darkest we are closest to the dawn. Every situation that moves beyond its boundary will turn towards its opposite. The hypocrisy in the so-called Muslim world is so rampant that it can only turn to the opposite. Those of you who are in the forefront of the struggle to share Islam with the people who are newly embracing it will find the early signs of people throughout the world beginning to look for an alternative.

My business while I am alive is to utilize my life fully in order to be willing to learn, change and let go of the last breath whenever that occurs, always doing my best in the sense of unifying what we share amongst ourselves.

I came to America a few years ago, trying to find an arena in which to serve. It was clear to me that this country began with the best of intentions. People gathered from different parts of the world, wanting to make a success of a new land. Some of those who came suffered oppressions, either economic or religious. Others came motivated by greed. America was a melting pot of fresh attitudes and dynamic actions. This is a land in which opportunities could be sown and grown.

Man, being what he is, if he does not lift up his objectives will sink. The lower tendency of the nafs is to be animalistic if not lower. If one does not remind one's self regularly one will sink. Man begins under the banner of democracy or material progress, and slowly losses direction and purpose. This is what has happened in this country and in the so-called Muslim countries it is the same. The decay of the Middle East which we observe today did not occur overnight. It is the result of eighty years of slow erosion. Because it was materially poor yet spiritually quite wealthy, its people did not guard themselves and thereby fell under the spell of striving for materialism. There is nothing wrong with materialism as such. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him and his family, said that faqr (poverty) is almost like kufr (covering up). Having fallen under its spell the people of the Middle East thought that access to wealth and progress was through education which meant learning to be more clever and competitive.

People of the Middle East who forty or fifty years ago had a bit of honor, a bit of dignity, a bit of generosity have all of a sudden lost these precious qualities because they have gotten quick money. Now the so-called Muslims pretend to be under the banner of Islam. The Middle East is dominated by hypocrisy, decadence and cruelty. Those who have because of events left it, are very lucky, because they now have the opportunity to renounce it.

A Muslim who is not concerned over the affairs of other Muslims is not one of them. We are stuck with the Sunnah. We are stuck with the path of Allah. All of you who are here are concerned about the state of Islam, the path of spirituality which leads ultimately to the knowledge of Allah.

We have come here wanting to see how best to serve Americans. To do that there needed to be a physical location. There needed to be both hardware and software. There needed to be a place in which to harbor sincere seekers who really wanted the opportunity to sit for days, weeks or months reading, studying and reflecting.

You find many people in this country are men of tawhid (unity). They say la ilaha illa Allah but because of the nafs, it is not easy for them to say Muhammadun Rasulullah. Bayt ud-Din was obtained in order to provide that opportunity. It is a caravanserai. It is not a village. It will be like the ship of Nuh in the middle of a vast land called America, which has its dynamic up and down good and bad movements. For those who want to enter there are no conditions, except that they do not bring in outside pollution. The attempt here is simply to provide a haven. The hardware has been provided. The software, which is in the form of teaching manuals and textbooks we are working on. We have not been able to find men of knowledge who can come here and beam their knowledge. There are people who have book knowledge but it is not enough. Americans and people in the West are intelligent. They will not follow people who say one thing and do something else. Until now we have not found these men of knowledge because they hardly exist; because there has been a separation in the Middle East between men of 'ilm and men generally. This is not the Ahl ul-Bayti way. There is no such thing as specialization. Who were the specialists at the time of Amir ul-Mu'minin, 'alayhi salam?

In original Islam, which is the true Ja'fari way everybody has to take on the responsibility of knowledge of the deen. This does not mean that there were not men of great knowledge or of greater knowledge than others, there certainly were. Amir ul-Mu'minin, 'alayhi salam, is the example. Ultimately, when the sahaba failed to find the solution to any problem, they would go to him. But now the situation is so decadent that we have specialists, a few people who can go back to Qur`an and hadith, and the Sunnah and akhlaq, while the rest of us neglect it. This has resulted in the situation we have in the Middle East today. It is understandable.

If Islam is to be revived, everybody must be a leader and must be willing to be led. Everyone must be a leader in whatever he is responsible for. Ultimately everyone is led by the knowledge that he has only come to die and the only way that he can live is by obeying Allah. He can do that only if he purifies his heart because Allah dwells in his heart.

So, you are here as our guests for two days during which time I hope we can share some experiences. Hopefully, at the end of it, we can come up with some suggestions whereby we can increase rapport -- not only between us here but also between those others whom you know, who are not here, but who may benefit.

We are beginning to learn our way. We are establishing new grounds. We are trying to emulate and imitate our masters and our Imams. And no doubt we have a great opportunity to establish a correct and dynamic precedent.

[Added November 2, 2003]