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Remembrance of the Prophet

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"Living Islam East & West"
(Excerpts Only)

By: Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri

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 can experience.

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 Qur`an,

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 submission.

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 500600 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 hypocrisy.

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 unchangeable truth.

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 exhales impurity.

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 time.

Returning to our intention to share a few prophetic traditions, the Prophet said: "Allah 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 unusual aspects?" 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 of knowledge?" 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 physical realities. "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. (75:1415)

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.

Back Up Next

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 ]