Introductory Talk By Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri
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
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
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
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
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.
'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
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
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
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]