Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri
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The Ecology of Unity

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The Ecology of Unity
"Living Islam East & West"
(Excerpts Only)

By: Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri

In the beginning, we do things for ourselves, then for our families, then for our society, for Islam, and ultimately for Allah. In the Qur`an it is the righteous who say:

We desire from you neither reward nor thanks. (76:9)

If one's intentions and the actions which emanate from these intentions have no expectations, and no reward is expected, the result is joy, for the action is done purely for its own sake and the reward is in the action itself regardless of the result. This pattern of living begets the most amazing bliss, and becomes more and more habitual. In fact, one becomes greedy for spiritual bliss, and that is a wonderful greed. One becomes envious of those who have more of this bliss and that is a wonderful envy. One seeks the company of the lovers of Allah. The Prophet said, "Whoever keeps the company of a people for forty days, becomes one of them." This is because a person must connect ecologically. Everything is based on unity. Nothing can remain in isolation.

The state of the believer is that he has no yesterday. Yesterday is buried. He is present to the here and now. He is aware, aware of whence he has come and whither he is going. All the time, with every breath, with every heartbeat. Thus, yesterday is not relevant. We have all made mistakes yesterday -- finished, let's get on with it.

Look at the mercy of the divine law. A man's hand may be cut off because of a theft he committed, but one cannot call him a thief, because the punishment has already been done. He has paid his due. One must deal with him, look at him and yet not be shocked, because that was yesterday. He cannot be treated as a second-class citizen. Look at the greatness of this path, the outer and the inner connect, there is no separation. If the outer does not help the inner, if the prayer, the fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca do not help one to be free of heart, then something is wrong. The path to Allah is unity.

We will explore a few verses of the Qur`an in order to more fully recognize how important it is to have knowledge, for true knowledge is obtained by going back to the real source. We must live in the garden of the Prophet, and doing so we will be with the people of his house, the selected companions; thus we will be under the shade of the Qur`an.

Surely conjecture does not avail against the truth at all. Therefore turn aside from him who turns his back upon Our reminder and does not desire anything but this world's life. That is their goal of knowledge. (53: 28-30)

Imagination or one's opinion does not replace absolute truth. How do we remember Allah? By remembering His attributes, the First, the Last, the Inward, the Outward, the Living, the Self-Sustaining, and so on; and by leaving those who do not remember -- "turn aside from him who turns his back upon Our reminder."

Part of Allah's affliction upon us is to test and strengthen our faith through people and situations that do not enhance His remembrance. Moses left his people for a short time, forty days, and when he came down from the mountains, the Israelites were already in a state of chaos. They were worshipping an idol, an object of gold. He became angry, but immediately recognized,

It is naught but thy trial. (7:155)

Thus, he remembered that it was Allah's plot and knew that he must accept it as a true slave. So leave it, leave it all; all life is a trial. Be careful, be awake, and for those who

do not desire anything but this world's life, that is the goal of knowledge. (53:29-30)

The Qur`an describes the Prophet,

And We have not sent you but as a mercy to the worlds. (21:107)

When the Quraysh chased him from Taif (a town near Mecca) with stones, he prayed like the Prophet 'Isa (Jesus), "Allah forgive them, they do not know what they are doing." They were behaving like children. See how children fight and squabble over a tiny little plastic toy, because they do not know any better. That is why grown ups will blast each other's countries to bits for no sensible reason, for the sake of a few buildings: with neutron bombs, all the people are killed but the buildings remain. If this is not idol worship, then what is? Idol worship is not only worshipping stone. Do not think that idolatry is a thing of the past. If this were so, then we could dispense with most of the Qur`an. The Qur`an is forever, for every time, and every occasion. There is idol worship even in our sophisticated age. For instance, there is a street called Rodeo Drive in California where buses take tourists. The street contains something like sixty to eighty enormous mansions, beautiful buildings. Outside lighting illuminates them beautifully at night, but nobody is inside.

All of these actors and wealthy people are either suffering from alcoholism and recuperating at a clinic somewhere, or they have run away with their mistresses to a secluded island. The buildings are empty, and automatic devices come on -- the sprinklers, the lights, and so forth. Isn't this idol worship? Observe how people are when they take others to their houses to show oft? This is more true for people who have not had anything in the past, especially people from the East. When they have made acquisitions, they all take you to look at their houses. A man becomes secure when he is near his house or office -- that is his security because he does not know anything else. Idol worship prevails everywhere.

The Qur`an is a manual for existence, for survival from minute to minute. If it were not relevant now, it would not be worth preserving. One will find, however, upon proper examination, that every part of it is relevant to a special situation. The deeper one dives into the Qur`an, the more clearly this is seen. And the more one sees in it, the further one advances, until in the end nothing may be said except, "Allah, Allah." If one fails to perceive this, the point has been missed.

Another verse is:

O you who believe! Answer (the call of) Allah and His Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life. (8:24)

The beginning of the verse addresses those who believe, those who know or who have trust that they will come to know. There are levels of knowledge. In regard to this, the esoteric writings of Islam speak of the knowledge of certainty ('ilm ,al-yaqin), the source of certainty ('ayn al-yaqin), and the truth of certainty (haqq al-yaqin). The knowledge of certainty is obtained by deduction. If someone comes and says that there is a fire in the forest, one then has knowledge of the situation if he believes the person who has seen it. From his own knowledge of fire and forest, he combines the two and suddenly sees the trees burning. An example of the source of certainty is when the man actually takes another person and shows him the fire in the forest -- so that he actually sees it with his eyes. This knowledge is more certain. The truth of certainty is when one actually burns in the fire. Our masters also say that there is a fourth stage, called "the truth of truth" (haqq al-haqq), which is to be truly in the footsteps of the Prophet. To say, "There is no god but Allah" is easy, especially in the West where they love Allah. But the difficulty is "Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah". People do not want to accept that because they think they are free and imagine this will constrict them or will change what they are used to. They do not realize that ultimate freedom comes from ultimate constriction. Knowledge brings constriction: the more one knows the more one is constricted. The less one knows, the more one thinks that one is free.

The verse continues,

Answer Allah, and His Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life. (8:24)

This implies that we are dead now, and that this is preliminary to real life; real life being the awakening into divine knowledge. "That which gives you life" is Islam, it is true submission and abandonment, from which you cannot but act without expectations, free and yet a slave. Having obtained a general picture of the whole thing, one can dive deeper into every aspect, finding incredible gardens therein. Every door opens another thousand doors. One becomes more and more addicted to this experience, and one finds that one develops a degree of efficiency in worldly activities that was not previously there. Because one becomes so clear and precise, five minutes of active life or planning will result in far more than hours of hard work before. That change of attitude towards the Hereafter will bring about this element. It is the fulfillment of Allah's promise -- a tradition from Allah (hadith qudsi) says. "If you take one step towards Me, I will take ten steps towards you."

No one will be deprived of anything that they have. We had nothing to begin with anyway. We were never asked whether or not we wanted to come to this life. The whole affair is not ours, but we imagine that it is. We are like a child who has something in his hand. Try and open it, and there is resistance. However, once the child has learned how to relax his hand, and accepts that the thing will be taken away, his hand opens wide. But we must test this for ourselves. Do not blame others, for the buck stops with us.

Everyone is responsible for himself,

Nay! Man is evidence against himself, Though he puts forth his excuses. (75:14-15)

We bear witness against ourselves though we may have a million excuses: 'Not now, not until I have my situation sorted out, until I have my family situation secure, and then I will ... .' How does one even know that he will live until tomorrow? How can one say, 'I'm going to sort out my affairs, I just want to make my family secure first.' As though the path of Islam is going to rob you of this experience in the life of this world. So many people, especially from the East, say, 'But this is very difficult, I must become secure first.' What is the use of wealth unless it increases one's faith? And how can one be increased in faith unless one is increased in abandonment to Allah? Ultimately wealth belongs to no one anyway. The Muslims use the tradition, "The stronger believer is better than the weaker one" as a rationalization to acquire wealth. Many so-called Muslims use what sounds correct, but in the wrong context. Like Mu'awiyyah, for example, at the Battle of Siffin: when he was about to be defeated by Imam 'Ali, he lifted up the Qur`an and said, "Let the Qur`an be the arbitrator between us." Many of those fighting with Imam 'Ali had memorized the Qur`an, and when Mu'awiyyah's men raised up their Qur`ans, Imam 'Ali's men confused their reverence for the Qur`an with the physical book and would not continue fighting. They did not realize that Imam 'Ali was the Qur`an on two legs, the living Qur`an. Mu'awiyyah was a trickster. People asked Imam la'far as-Sadiq if Mu'awiyyah had intellect. He replied, "No, he had shaytan." It was not intellect ('aql) , for intellect causes one to worship Allah and causes one to avoid the Fire.

The Qur`an says,

The evil of their deeds is made fair-seeming to them. (9:37)

They think they are right. Also, the situation is cybernetic. Any correct movement will feed itself, and what is incorrect will also feed itself. Each situation, right or wrong, will have its justifications. This is the law of Allah. One who has no claim upon life is fully alive, because he is then acting and not reacting. Most of us react. Something comes from the outside, it is processed, and we react to it, wanting to preserve the good and avoid what we consider to be bad. After giving up all claim the individual ceases to react. If he is not certain, he may take counsel or wait patiently, acting in his own time. The person who acts is not constantly trying to catch up. These are all the ultimate fruits, the ultimate outcome, of true faith.

The Qur`an says,

Is he who was dead then We raised him to life, and We made for him a light by means of which he walks among people, is he like him whose likeness is that of one in utter darkness whence he cannot come forth? (6:122)

Light means the light of knowledge, the knowledge that he lives and works in a manner that is not going to cause problems. That is effective and free action. Such a being believes that this experience here is only an experiment to reveal his own state. It is a wonderful test. You love your beautiful child, and yet you must not fall into the trap of believing it is yours. We are only the guardians. Allah has given us all these props so that we may remember, otherwise, we may fall into the trap, and become emotional, and a most wonderful gift, this free gift of a child, will become a burden, bringing fear and anxiety, instead of leading to the worship of Allah.

And whoever is blind in this (world), he shall also be blind in the hereafter; and more erring from the way. (17:72)

There is no blind faith. Allah works through His creation so there is cause and effect. We want knowledge, in fact we are programmed to seek knowledge. As the child develops, he wants to understand things. That is why he puts everything in his mouth. He is actually announcing unity. At such an early developmental stage his experience is mainly oral as this is what drives him to seek nourishment. Later on as he grows up, he seeks to make sense of the world in every way.

Say: Are those who know and those who do not know alike? Only the men of understanding are mindful. (39:9)

Only people of inner core, not those whose hearts are engulfed, closed, or hard, remember what is this thing called heart? The word for heart in Arabic is qalb. The root of it is qalaba which means to turn, never attached, never stuck, revolving, free. Once the heart is attached, it becomes sick.

Has there come upon man any period of time in which he was a thing unremembered? (76:1)

There was never a time in which we could not be remembered. We were in the memory, or in the knowledge of Allah. We were not in the knowledge of our parents. We were previously in the non-time zone, and that is why the tradition says that people who love each other in this life are people whose souls were close to each other in the past. Those who do not love each other keep away from each other. These things are real, polarity is real. This is the puzzle that we are here to resolve but this can only happen if we dissolve in submission. A point will come when the faculty of reasoning is no longer helpful. We can only go so far with our intellect and discipline. From then on, they must be abandoned.

The way of all the prophets and the way of all the men of Allah has been abandonment. Physically also they isolate themselves, abandon the world, so to speak. According to our traditions, the last ten days of Ramadan is one good time when we may isolate ourselves in particular mosques, such as those in Mecca and Medina. One remains in such a place of worship for a minimum of three days, coming out only for absolute necessities. Besides, other retreats were and still are practiced. The Prophet, as did others who followed him, retreated to a cave. The purpose of such a practice is to get close to the knowledge of the One and Only Reality. One must, however, be prepared for such a withdrawal. There must be the right measure of outer and inner health to be able to do it, otherwise, the practice is one of no use.

We have tried to pluck a few tiny flowers from the vast garden of Islam, using the Book of Reality. Imam 'Ali describes the Qur`an's levels in numerous ways. He says there is something for the common people, something for the elite, and something for the elect of the elite. The Qur`an may be read repeatedly and something fresh will be discovered every time. This knowledge can only be shared in small circles if people are tuned together. Otherwise, it sounds odd.


There is a hadith which says, "If Allah wanted goodness for a nation, he would make their awakening to be at the hand of their enemies." There is injustice on this earth because of man's ignorance. Do not consider the injustice of some people against others as being Allah's doing. This is not what Allah wants for us. It is on account of our ignorance that we have been subjected to those tyrants or those regimes or those terrible situations. Allah has given us an intellect to recognize our plight and resolve it. The root is from Allah, but in between there is someone who is interpreting it wrongly. Our duty is, therefore, to seek knowledge ourselves and to act upon that knowledge without any desire for reward or thanks.

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The Recovery of Spiritual Values ] Remembrance of Allah ] Living Real Islam ] Remembrance of the Prophet ] Freedom from the Chain of Desires ] Good News ] Accountability ] Inner Meaning of The Qur`an ] Keys to the Kingdom ] Praising the Lord of Creation ] The Witnesser and the Witnessed ] The Spiritual Nature of Man ] The Path of Unity ] [ The Ecology of Unity ] In Pursuit of True Knowledge ] A Living Model ] The Meaning of Life and Death ]