Always, Beginning in the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful
This post is dedicated to my dear husband, Hassan, who missed virtually every class of the retreat in order to give others the gift of knowledge, including myself and other volunteers. Without his vision for the retreat and undying khidma, there would be no retreat, nor notes here for you to share in our experience. What follows, dear reader, are my notes and reflections from the last classes which I believe summarize what this retreat was all about.
Shaykh Yahya said in his class, “The Secrets of Purification” that there’s a relationship between the spirit and body, and the prophetic teachings speak to the deepest sense of ourselves–the spirit. That’s why the purification fo the inner most self is true purification.
Shaykh Muhammad Mendes, whose class entitled “Principles of Reviving Remembrance” fully encompassed the theme of the retreat, shared some secrets of meditation, reflection, and remembrance with us. It was a particular favorite among the attendees–no one wanted to miss his class!
He taught us several stages of meditative practices:
1) Meditate on your breath, and be grateful for your breath. It is something we do without even thinking about it, and yet, we could not live without it.
2) Meditate on the meanings of Surah al Fatihah, the First Chapter of the Qur’an. In it are openings, true to the name of the chapter. It is the Mother of the Qur’an and fully encompasses it. In it is everything you need to know.
3) Meditate on the creations of Allah–the greatest meditation that Imam Al Haddad said to do often, at least daily for an hour (30 minutes in the morning and the night). In this meditation, you don’t close your eyes –you’re receiving direct knowledge from nature and creation by keeping your eyes open. If you can’t do this everyday, then get away at least weekly into nature, preferably alone and reflect. Every aspect of creation is teaching you something and pointing you towards some aspect of The Divine.
4) Meditative Muraqaba–to observe and be vigilant. Meditate on knowing that Allah sees you and being aware that Allah is aware of you. His Will and Power Totally encompass you. In this meditation, it is helpful to meditate on the name “Allah” written in Arabic, in light, with your eyes closed.
5) Meditative Mushahada–worshiping Allah as if you see him…the Beautific Vision…where everything, even the most mundane acts and observances, becomes a meditation. One witnesses Allah in everything. Note: We didn’t reach this stage at the retreat :).
The best form of remembrance is the Qur’an–the Sacred Speech of Allah–and the best type of remembrance is when the heart and tongue are engaged and combined together in the dhikr, rather than one limb engaged on its own.
He also said, “There are two types of people who do dhikr. The first type of person does dhikr for a certain effect like a successful job, marriage, or something from the dunya. This is a low himma. The elite, al Khas, do not have the goal of material things or status. They just want qurba–nearness to Allah and presence of Allah–and this is the intended purpose of man. Our charge is to be aware of God’s presence in everything.”
So in order to purify our inner most selves, we have to clean our souls by one of two methods. The first method I alluded to in my previous post that mentioned Shaykh Muhammad Mendes class. In this first method, a teacher takes the student to a pile of dirt, and instructs them to dig. Dig, and dig, and dig until they reach water. In this, the student is ridding the self-soul-ego of its bad traits, until the student reaches the water–purity–and nothing of the self is left. Then, they are free. The second method is to build the soul to the height of the spirit–taking on what one can little by little–replacing the bad with the good. On this path, the shaykh takes your hand and takes you to the ocean: “Everyone has different sized hands. We are containers. Depending on the size of your container, you take what you can from the ocean, and you keep going back to the ocean to take what you can carry until you are swimming in the ocean of timelessness.” I don’t know about you, but I’m much more of a swimmer and carrier, rather than a digger. But however Allah decides, inshAllah, I hope I reach that water, that pure drink, before the end of my time.
And in conclusion, Shaykh Muhammad gave us a warning and advice: “We need to teach our hearts to shake when Allah’s name is mentioned. That’s why dhikr is so important–it keeps you from hypocrisy. Hypocrites remember Allah, but only a little. Dhikr til people think you’re crazy. And if you’re not like them (the awliya), then resemble them. Resembling a real honorable person is enough–you don’t have to actually be them. Reflect on Allah’s favors and awareness of us, not His Essence for you will never be able to encompass him.”
And I’ll add from a previous lecture of Shaykh Muhammad’s that we most certainly are the company we keep. And if we keep Allah present in our lives, constantly reflecting and meditating on Him, what better company can there be?!
Be present with Him and actively engaged in remembering Him, and He will present Himself to you and remember you.
Tasawuuf is purifying your soul until it becomes like the spirit. Our home is the spirit. Return home. Revive Remembrance!
And Allah most certainly is the best to accompany you on your journey home to Him.
~A very special thank you to all of my teachers during this retreat–scholars, volunteers, and attendees, alike. You were beautiful company to keep in our collective journey Home–I pray we will meet again one day, inshAllah, stronger and more revived from this beautiful experience we were blessed to share. Amin! Stay safe and strong in your travels to Him.~