The Ecology of Unity
"Living Islam – East & West"
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.
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.
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.
The Qur`an describes the
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),
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
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
al-haqq), which is to be truly in the footsteps of the Prophet.
"There is no god but Allah"
is easy, especially in the West where they love Allah. But the
"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,
and His Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life.
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
Nay! Man is
evidence against himself, Though he puts forth his excuses.
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
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?
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?
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
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
"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.