Because of our backgrounds and also the way we have participated in Islam, each one of us, strangely enough, has his or her own path that he or she walks in the religion. There are no two or more individuals with the same attitude, understanding and practice of our religion. We can in fact safely say that for each person there is a unique Islamic or spiritual individuality or identity. That is why when some of the Sufi masters speak of the multifarious paths to Allah (ﷻ), they mean that each one in fact walks his or her own unique path.
Of course, we all have certain basic beliefs and participate in certain basic practices but the extent of these beliefs, and our commitment to them and their influence on our lives, for each person it is different. The same applies to practices. Whatever is involved from one’s heart and mind in these practices, is unique for each person. We must all try to understand the individuality and uniqueness of our belief systems, our practices and everything else that goes with these.
In many cases, especially with young people, there is still a lot of sorting out of these belief systems and practices. In many cases also, these belief systems and practices only reach stability and maturity much later in life. If we think today of how we believed and practiced a few years ago, and how these matters are today, you would understand what I am talking about.
In many of my letters, I always ask: “Why am I telling you all these things”? Why do I want each one of us to understand our own religious individuality and the individuality of what we believe, our attitudes and our practices? My fear with regard to many of these things is not its individuality, because there is nothing we can do about that. Each human being is a single unique person and so that everything to do with him or her is single and unique. What concerns me is the danger posed by the large range of un-Islamic and anti-Islamic variables (factors or forces which change) within which we operate. I think that only people who have reached a certain level of spiritual development and whom our Lord has placed at one of His Heavenly Stations, are able to withstand the impact of these variables on his religious life. What I am saying is that these people, because of their spiritual achievements, have had a very strong spiritual protective cover placed around their hearts. It is this protective cover, keeping the spiritual contents of the heart under its protection that acts as an internal bodyguard against these variables. We must also understand that the nature of the contents of our hearts and the nature of these protective bodyguards are all determined by our Lord. They are of us but we have not placed them there. How many times have I mentioned how our Lord works with our hearts? Of course, also changes brought about in our hearts through what we do. Remember, this is very important. For us in Tasawwuf it is always Allah (ﷻ); whatever the state or the attitude or the security. It is always He.
This concept that it is always He, is perhaps the most fundamental concept of our understanding of ourselves and our relationship with Him. It is clear from what I’ve said, that the purification of the heart from what is other than Allah (ﷻ), and the protection of this by what I call spiritual bodyguards, are an achievement which most times only comes later in life. I say most times, because if we look at the circumstances in which many of us operate, then we can be extremely thankful for the Divine Intervention in our lives.
I have thrown overboard most of previously-held ideas on the impact of the environment on my personality and the relationship between that environment and the personality. As we grow older the awareness of one’s life becomes more real. In a sense, for one, as one proceeds on this path, everything has to do with Allah Almighty, despite what we do as individuals or despite what we think is our personal religious behaviour. You know, sometimes one thinks that during one’s final moments, the word Allah (ﷻ) must be on one’s tongue. In other words, during those final moments it is only Allah (ﷻ) for one; nothing else and nobody else. This is what I am talking about, but not only at the moment of final breaths; well before that too.
In my association with some very pious people, I always become aware of their consciousness of their Lord and of their seeing Him in everything around them, and of their seeing Him in everything they do. Perhaps this gives us some understanding. The comment by a very pious person that whatever he sees, he sees Allah Almighty in that. What a remarkable statement of deep awareness of one’s Lord. Let me repeat. It is this awareness that is there during our final breaths, but it is also this awareness that we should work very hard for to attain long before the final breaths.
At the beginning of this letter I spoke to you about individuality and what is unique. Even these breaths that I am speaking about are unique ones decreed by our Lord. You see, we still function to a large degree at very basic levels but there lies ahead of us a path on which so much can be attained of piety. It is this that should become the primary goal in our lives; to attain qualities that will place us among those people who Allah Almighty has made special by Him, amin.
[Letters to Seekers on the Spiritual Path Vol 2 – Unpublished 2012]