REMEMBRANCE OF THE PROPHET
"Living Islam – East & West"
Any occasion to remember
that which is worth remembering is worthwhile. And it is especially
appropriate that we should remember the emissary or representative
of Allah, the Prophet of the One and Only Reality. Muslims nowadays
seem to have agreed to disagree, wherever they are. Let us hope that
at least they will agree upon maintaining the memory and remembrance
of the Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him and his family. As you all know, there are two types of
conditions we undergo in this life. One is transitory, made up of
specific experiences and events that change. The other type is
composed of situations that never change: they are the barometer
upon which change is measured. This is the knowledge that we are
born to acquire. This is the state of the Garden.
The meaning of the
Garden is to be in a state of true submission, devotion and worship.
This state cannot occur unless there is true abandonment, an
experiential state of unity (tawhid). The knowledge of how to
acquire this experience is to be derived from the prophets, whom we
seek to imitate and emulate.
With regard to the
nature of prophethood, there is the possibility of confusion. Some
people see a prophet as a divine transmitter of a divine message and
others look upon him as a human being; and of course there are many
variations in between these two extremes. On the one hand, he is
accessible, he is human, he humors people, he sits with them, he
shares with them and is one of them. On the other hand, he is a
universal being who is totally committed and connected to Allah and
inspired by Him. People would often take liberties because of this
intimacy. Within the prophetic situation there are these two
aspects. The Prophet had that unchangeable connection with Allah
which enabled him to reveal laws that have never changed and will
never change, but he was also subject to change. Every day was a
different day for him, every moment a fresh moment. For this reason
some of us try to preserve that heritage, knowledge, personality, or
state of being. We are afraid of changes, and attempt to fossilize
the dynamism of life for fear of bringing in some aberration or
innovation. And yet every moment of his life the blessed Prophet
Muhammad was fresh and totally dynamic; biologically also, moving in
time from childhood to old age to the experience of death and back
to freedom from the material world. Yet constantly, at all times, he
was aware of the non-time. Allah encompasses time, is beyond time
and His own manifestations, and His signs are everything which we
At the height of the
biological condition is the human being and at the lowest end is the
stone, which also has its life, its dynamism. We should remember the
reality of this every moment of our lives.
Gatherings are only to
accentuate, to punctuate, so to speak, the continuous remembrance
which true, living and fully awakened human beings can never forget.
How can we forget the fact that we are breathing? How can we forget
the fact that we are getting closer to the experience of death? How
can we forget that we have come as a clot, and will end up under six
feet of dust? How can any individual in his right mind forget this
incredible event? There is within him an ego that can destroy him,
but there is also within him the possibility of maintaining an open
heart that can liberate him. How can anybody forget these
possibilities? We are caught in a body that must be nourished,
sustained, maintained, and yet, at the same time, we long to be
eternal. We therefore wish that whatever is worthwhile, any
relationship or state of well-being, would last forever.
We are trapped in this
world in order to be prepared for the final awakening, in order to
be tuned and made fully available for a state of pure life – a state
of existence that is pure in its totality and its eternity.
Remembrance of the
Prophet is remembrance of the interspace between an eternal Reality
that is not subject to time, and a mortal, human, material situation
which has its ups and downs, friendships and enmities, loves and
hates, and so forth. All of this exists so that we may see the
Oneness that encompasses duality.
Remembrance of the
Prophet is to remember the truth that he revealed. There is a
beautiful line of poetry: 'The Prophet himself lies behind the
curtain of Karbala.' He said, 'Husayn is from me and I am
from Husayn.' If it were not for Husayn the knowledge of the
Prophet would have been lost. The question of who was going to lead
the Muslim community after the Prophet's death was not a question of
hereditary rights, rather it was a question of who was the best man
to emerge spiritually, naturally, so that the weaker human beings
could learn from him, if they wished, because, as He says in His
Allah does not
change a people unless they change their own condition. (13:11)
The Creator's ultimate
love for His creatures is His gift of the choice of submission or
rebellion. Man is given the chance to reach a point of non-choice,
which in reality is the only choice, namely total and utter
This way is for the
open-hearted, for those who are by nature un-complex, who are
fortunate to be in a state of devotion. For others who need to
nurture the intellect and combine emotions with reasoning, the
opportunity is also open if action is taken after discrimination.
The people of intellect must serve, otherwise, the result is
confusion and hypocrisy, for instead of following the best amongst
people in a spiritual sense, they will follow those who are best in
worldly or material terms. Thus, the spiritual aspect is separated
from the material aspect, which fosters hypocrisy.
If we are not living as
if the Prophet is with us, next door to us, then no matter how much
we air our emotions and our love for him, our real situation will
not change. No matter how much we recite the Qur`an and appear to be
in obedience, if our devotion is not translated into a living
reality from which we derive continuing benefit and nourishment, we
will remain Muslims in name only. This is the situation of mankind
and it has been so since time immemorial.
Man is given the choice
of being tuned with love, reverence, understanding, and reason to
the Prophet. By this means he may ignite the light of Muhammad in
his own heart to guide his actions towards a glorious destiny, from
the glorious beginning of the "Be and it is" to the liberation of
physical death, which is the beginning of a new life. If we do not
choose to implement the prophetic pattern, then we may choose to be
simply superficial Muslims, congratulating ourselves every time
someone embraces Islam.
Remembrance of the
Prophet can be used to ignite either the faculty of reasoning or the
heart in order to obtain knowledge, the foundation of light, from
that Perfect Being who was a reflector of the Divine Reality amongst
evolving creatures. That knowledge must be taken, digested, utilized
and unified with. But this is what is so often missing. Many of us
have love, kindness and remembrance, but this is not enough if it is
not backed by knowledge, the knowledge of the proper boundaries and
courtesies by which one should live both inwardly and outwardly, the
knowledge that will permit us to practice being in the garden in
this life before entering the Garden in the next. Even if no garden
were to exist afterwards, at least one would have done something
here; lived a full, joyous life, an uncompromising life as far as
the truth is concerned, a life of freedom and abandonment.
We who profess to love
the blessed Prophet are bound by the need to acquire the knowledge
which we have just mentioned, unifying with it, being it. Without
it, there will continue to be gatherings without action, as has been
the case for the last 500–600 years: there will be more and more
remembrance of Imam Husayn, yet we will become further and further
removed from the real battlefield of Karbala, inwardly and
outwardly. The inward and the outward must be united. What is the
use of censuring our neighbor if our own home is not in order? It is
Our first concern is our
immediate environment, then our relatives, our families, our
neighbors, our cities, our societies, and finally the whole of
mankind. There is a hierarchical order which establishes a code of
conduct for everything. It would be out of order to preach to
outsiders without having first put our own house in order. And we
cannot begin to do this without adhering to the Muhammadi way of
creation, the pattern of complete human development based upon the
The Muhammadi pattern
was fully elaborated by the twelve Imams of the Prophet's house who
followed him as visible guides for the span of three hundred years
after his death. They had the same light of the Muhammadi truth, the
same inner reality. Their outwardness was different, each according
to the necessities of his time. Imam Hasan abandoned his army while
Imam Husayn fought to the death. Imam Hasan did not capitulate,
rather, through a precise knowledge of the weakness of the people he
recognized the futility of making a stand at that point in time.
Imam Husayn, on the other hand, though he had only a few followers,
knew that a stand had to be made so that the Muhammadi light would
not be extinguished. In their inner reality or inner awakening
Imam Hasan and Imam Husayn were the same, even though their actions
seem to us completely different. The truth never changes, but the
way it manifests makes it appear to change. This is the way of Allah
for His creation. The theatre looks different every moment, every
breath is fresh, yet a breath is a breath; it inhales purity and
If our remembrance of
the Prophet Muhammad does not lead us to the awakening of his light,
which is based on knowledge, then we have missed the point, we have
missed the opportunity, a moment in which our heart could have
awakened, leading us to freedom here and now, not hereafter. If this
awakening does not occur here, how can it occur there? Now it is in
our hands, we seem to have been given that choice, although limited,
within Allah's decree. We have a certain measure of choice within
what He has decreed. That decree is contained in His knowledge and
His knowledge is His business only. The knowledge that we are given
is our business. We must strive to acquire it, learn, apply and
unify with it. We are then accountable for it.
Let us share a few of
our prophetic traditions, for unless these traditions become real we
will have inherited a set of values that are twisted to suit social
and national circumstances. An indication of our condition today may
be reflected in the reply of Imam 'Ali to the question of why he did
not claim his right as the leader of the Muslims after the Prophet's
death. He said: "Give me forty men... ." This means that even at
that time there were not forty real beings. So think of us in this
time. On the other hand, Allah says in the Qur`an:
I do not take
from you a sign unless I replace it with something better. (8:70)
So although our time is
terrible outwardly, the world is more closely knit in many ways.
Materialism in its positive aspect is providing the means for wider
dispersal of knowledge. People suddenly find themselves gathered
together from different parts of the world, with different
backgrounds, sharing the same thing. This phenomenon is happening
more and more all over the world.
We are in this world
now, so we must revive that which stands the test of time and apply
it to the present rather than be superstitious and romantic about
previous ways of living. Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq said:
"Do not expect
your children to be like you, because they were born in a different
time." What he
meant was that their situations would be different, not their inner
core. Times and conditions will change but the truth will not
change, nor will the love for those who expound the truth. There
will always be those who love the Prophet and the people of Allah,
and there will always be those who hate them. The polarization of
truth and falsehood will not change. One cannot prohibit wrong
without commanding what is correct. This is a fact that cannot be
altered. But the way to call to what is correct may be different now
than it was thirty or forty years ago. We are dealing with different
circumstances which require a different language acceptable to this
Returning to our
intention to share a few prophetic traditions, the Prophet said:
loves excessive remembrance. Whoever remembers Allah much will be
free from the Fire and free from hypocrisy."
The way to begin remembering Reality is to negate non-reality. The
statement of unification
"There is no god
but Allah" begins
with negation of everything other than Reality. We begin by saying,
"This way is not acceptable; arrogance, idolatry, and avarice are
not acceptable." In order to love Allah one must begin without even
formally acknowledging His name.
The meaning of this
tradition is that he who remembers Allah is good in every state, no
matter where he is, how he is, because he is remembering that
Reality which is beyond time. We, as in-time beings, are subject to
the laws of time, and we constantly resent it because we want
permanency, we want to be liberated from limitations. But Allah is
the Limitless, and He contains all that is limited.
The Prophet equates the
fire with hypocrisy because both are utterly destructive forces,
whereas the way of Islam is unification, of the seen and the unseen,
of this life and the next. We recognize goodness even if what comes
to us is normally experientially recognized as bad. Unification is
based on seeing the One hand behind what appears to be diversity.
This point is beautifully expressed in the following hadith.
A Bedouin came to the Prophet and said:
"Teach me some of
the strange or higher forms of knowledge."
The Prophet replied:
"What have you
done concerning the head of knowledge, that you have come to its
The Prophet's reply meant, "Are you asking about the unusual because
you have already grasped the usual?" The man then asked:
"What is the head
The Prophet said:
"To know Allah
truthfully as He deserves to be known."
This tradition has come from many sources, one of which is Ibn 'Abbas.
The man again asked:
"What is it to
know Allah truthfully as He deserves to be known?"
The Prophet answered:
"That you know Him
without likening or comparing Him, for there is nothing like Him."
There is nothing like Him because He is the One, the Only, and the
Eternal. He is not something to exemplify something else. He is a
Reality that is the cause of all other realities. Every other
reality is its proof. He is His own proof. Imam 'Ali said:
"If there was any
other than Him, we would have had his messengers."
We have had thousands of messengers, all from the same source,
singing the same song, repeating the same thing. Linguistically and
culturally different, from different places and times, yet alluding
to the same Reality which they discovered within themselves. The
Prophet continued teaching this ignorant Bedouin:
"Surely He is One,
One without number, the Outward, the Inward."
He is evident yet He is hidden. He is the first without first-ness
and He is the last without last-ness. Allah is beyond time. Time has
emanated from Him – how, we don't know. Even if we discover the
biological 'hows' of the way we were created, it wouldn't give us
the whole story. It is only an excuse that we say a father and a
mother, an embryo. How? Actually, we don't know. It is the "Be" of
the "Be and it is." We can only allude to it for we are caught in
it. We want freedom, trust, love, sincerity, loyalty, we want all
these things which are already ingrained in us at a sub genetic
level. The Prophet continued,
"...the First, and
the Last. There is none equal to Him, and that is as He deserves to
be known." There
is none equal to Him because there is one Reality, and that Reality
is unique. We are not unique, we are repetitive. There is nothing
different about any one of us as human beings. We are the same
consciousness, from one self, appearing in pairs as man and woman.
To know Allah in this way is to do justice to Reality.
Remembrance of the
blessed Prophet is remembrance of Allah. The way to Allah is the way
of the light of Muhammad, which is alluded to as having been created
before the rest of creation.
Light is a subtle
reality that unveils other realities. By it one sees the contours of
"Allah is the
light of the heavens and the earth."
Allah Himself is not light, light emanates from Him. What we see in
the heavens and the earth is His light which allows us to witness
reality outside and inside us. Thus we become our own witnessers.
Nay! Man is
evidence against himself,
Though he puts forth his excuses. (75:14–15)
We know our own state.
We know how real we are. Much of our preaching is not heeded because
it is useless and usually very boring. Watch some of these pompous
'mullahs' and other people who appear now and then – they bore
people to death. We have separated our Islam, we have made it a
profession. Islam must be everybody's profession, to profess the
truth that we have come to die, to know and to learn how to abandon
ourselves, to recognize that abandonment does not occur with the
head only, it must also be with the heart.
Each of us who loves the
Prophet will be in a different state at each moment. That condition
is creativity without deviating from the truth. Every circumstance
requires its own approach. The time we live in is different from
times before. The knowledge we need must be relevant for our age.
There is a book of traditions called Al-Kafi, which means
'that which is sufficient', so named because at that time it was
sufficient. How many of us have read Al-Kafi from cover to
cover? Look at us now, we are so distracted that such an endeavor is
for most of us impossible. We need to be given our knowledge, our
Muhammadi Light, packaged in a way that is useable and assimilatable.
Look at the centers from
where Islam spread in India, from the Ahl al-Bayt, from
Shaykh Mu'inadden Chishti, from Nizamaddin Awliya, and from others.
There is nothing but darkness in these places now. Not only is there
a lack of inner light but even the outer electric lights are
frequently going off. What is left? In Ajmeer Sharif, four hundred
beggars are fed every night and almost everyone is a beggar. We
spent two days there and did not see a single person reading the
Qur`an. No teaching, no knowledge, because the knowledge is not
packaged for our time. There is not a one single book that gives us
our history in the true light so that we do not become proud of
certain events that we should be ashamed of. This is the age of food
processors and refrigerators. We have achieved all this for our
bellies, but we have not done it for our hearts and our souls. We
have prepared ourselves in material, but not in spiritual, terms.
Therefore, outwardly we are heavy and inwardly we are as light as a
feather. Every little event knocks us off balance. Remembrance of
the Prophet's steadfastness in the face of difficulty will lead us
to yearn for the same knowledge, presented in a way that we can
immediately utilize. We cannot sit for twenty years in a theological
school (madrasah). Very few people are fortunate enough to do
that. The need of our age is so urgent that the truth will be
unveiled quicker and quicker. Our own children can easily outstrip
us if we at least show them what to avoid. In a way, we have been
brainwashed by the conditions of our time. We may blame it on
colonialism or whatever, but in fact colonialism is from within us.
If we were strong enough we would have worked to spread our
knowledge, love and generosity to all mankind. But because we were
so small and feeble, we allowed others who were more single-minded,
who knew what they wanted, to come and rob us. And we deserved it.
Thus we have nobody to
blame but ourselves. Allah willing, this will give us the desire to
live as though the Prophet is consoling us, communicating with us,
guiding us, and giving us occasional reassurances. May Allah forgive
us all because He is the All-Forgiver, and He stands by His word
because He says:
I have written
upon Myself (decreed) Mercy. (6:12)
He has signed His part
of the contract, now it is up to us to sign our part. May the peace
and blessings of Allah be upon Muhammad and his family.