Upraised Hands/Seeing is Believing
I guess I owe it to my
younger son Idris for starting the whole sequence of events that led
to inquiry into the nature and reality of Barakat.
When my children were
small and still inclined to gather near me after the Salat my
youngest son Idris in particular, would watch my every gesture. --He
seemed to be fascinated with my hands and what I would be doing with
them --particularly with the tools of the trade: The Tasbih (prayer
beads) and the books of Duah.
One day that will live
in my memory forever is the day a tiny inquisitive voice asked:
“Abu, I have been watching you for a long time (he was about five
years old at the time) and I never see anything”. I asked him to
explain --“In your hands”, he replied -- “I never see anything coming
into your hands”. “You hold your hands like you are asking for
something, and I never see anything coming into them.”
I began to explain to
him from my limited knowledge at the time that Barakat could be
thought of as a blessing, and blessings come in many forms and in
many ways, and that the up-raised hands gesture was after all a
Gesture -- it implied an asking -- that it was an appeal for aid.
The next question came
as innocently as the first, and set the tone for twenty years of
serendipitous research --much like my search for “The Perfect Cup of
Coffee”, the search that takes you all over the world. And during
your travels you are searching for that definitive moment the moment
of truth, in my case being a great lover of the Coffee Bean it was
The search for the Perfect cup of Coffee, now to become the Search
for a reasonable definition of Barakat. The search takes you around
the world and back again -- amazingly -- you find the answer in your own
kitchen while you are preparing a cup of coffee. So to speak.
“Abu, but what are
blessings? And how can blessings be Barakat”? He asked, and again I
was confronted with his wide-eyed innocence.
I tried as best I could
to explain to my young son just what a blessing was --but to no
avail. He was looking for a tangible, hands-on --seeing is believing
explanation that could not be explained but seen, touched and
concretized as a thing, held in my hands, a visual reality like an
ice cream cone or a bright colored ball that one could throw into
the air, and have fun with.
After many years of
asking questions of many divergent types of Alim’s, sheikh’s,
Mullah’s and maulana’s, students of religion and spiritual pundits
from many different schools of thought and religious orientation
which include: Yogis, Monks of both Tibetan Buddhism and various
Hindu sects, a plethora of Christian illuminati from Evangelicals to
Jesuit scholars. All of these distinguished and not so distinguished
men and women from the vast spectrum of academic and grass roots
religiosity offered what amounts to several notebooks full of
answers to the question of Barakat and Blessings.
Some of the many
explanations have proved useful depending on the circumstances and
the situations at that particular time. But one simple explanation
seems to capture (grab) the absolute enormity of the situation by
the horns, and in its simplicity offer a universal introduction to
Barakat -- in light of the fact that this is an intellectual
enterprise and requires the use of our rational faculties.
The story goes something
like this: One day a man came to the Prophet Muhammad and asked him
why he raised his hands in supplication whenever he asked for
Allah’s help and assistance in certain matters. The Prophet
answered: “I am asking Allah for His Barakat!” “And what is Barakat”?
Asked the inquisitive man. The Prophet answered: "Clarity
Please do not ask for
the source of this story -- the piece of paper it was written on has
long since disappeared, as so many quickly scribbled bits of
information happen to get lost. However, it behooves all of us to
think deeply about this answer and meditate on its message. Perhaps
roll it around in your mind in as many ways possible. As you will
soon discover, it is an answer that can provoke and stimulate your
imagination in a very positive way.
Before I part I would
like to share another tidbit that comes from the same simple wisdom
--source as the first -- and this brief tale involves the supreme
power of love.
One day the famous
Horticulturist and scientist Dr. Luther Burbank paid a visit to
Tuskegee Institute, a little known Black College in Alabama that was
originally built to educate former slaves. He had traveled a long
way to pay homage to the resident horticulturist and scientist Dr.
George Washington Carver --a black man who was the son of former
slaves, who was now quite old and spent most of his time with his
beloved peanut plants.
Luther Burbank asked Dr.
Carver how he was able to make such vast inroads in the development
of thousands of uses for the lowly peanut Dr. Carver replied simply:
“If you love a thing, it will reveal its secrets to you”.
Again, I asked you
gentle reader to dwell on these answers --and take them with you
into your moments of meditation. These are fine examples of what
might be considered “Old School”, the topic of my next installment.
Until the next time, may: “Peace/Love and Light be your constant
The Meaning of Man,
Sidi ‘Ali al-Jamal of Fez, Diwan Press -- England/1977
Glossary of terms: pg.
447. Baraka -- A subtle energy, which flows through
everything. It is experienced in certain places more strongly than
in others, and in some places and objects overpoweringly so. Its
highest realm of activity is the human being. Purity permits its
flow. For it is purity itself, which is light. Density of perception
blocks it. It is transformative, healing, and immeasurable. To deny
it is to limit Allah and deny Tawhid. For further and deeper
explanations see the Qur`an. As a subject it is endless.
The Autobiography Of a Yogi, Swami Yogananda, Self