Shaykh Yusuf da Costa: Hearts of embers or of light

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In my study of many senior Awliya’ in the different Muslim communities throughout the world, and especially of Mawlana Shaykh Nazim in Cyprus, I have been amazed by the extent to which these people have continued to make major contributions to Islam in their senior years. Their ages, and in many cases, their disabilities, have in no way retarded these contributions. In fact, one gets the impression that there was an urgency in the latter parts of their lives to perform certain tasks as “helpers” in the Cause of Allah Almighty. Even in the case of Mawlana Shaykh Nazim when he was ill and hardly able to move, he was still teaching as much as he could. Today, I stand in awe at how people like him have used their lives for the benefit of Islam.

It is strange that many of us, still engrossed in the affairs of this world, visit him; perhaps to obtain blessings, perhaps to learn from him and perhaps to model our lives on his life. I cannot understand why some of us, so engrossed in this world, still want to visit him? No, I can understand. Our physical needs and aspirations drive us into the arms of this planet, and our spiritual needs drive us to Lefke. For many of us there is this battle between our physical and our spiritual aspirations. Then the one set of aspirations dominates, then the other.

One of the reasons for all the different forms of spiritual activities which we are all supposed to be involved in, is to help our spiritual aspirations to dominate, and to come to the fore. We know the importance of this. I do not think that any murid does not know that every religious service that he or she performs, satisfies his or her spiritual aspirations. I do not think so. The problem is that the satisfaction of our physical needs is highly pleasurable, and so we choose what gives pleasure above what involves struggle and striving. All those murids who have fallen by the wayside, and there are so many, have deserted the spiritual path of struggling and striving for the pleasures that our physical needs bring. It is sad, but it is so. We know that pleasure is very temporary, and it comes and it goes. We also know that the satisfaction of our spiritual needs and aspirations are eventually going to be of an eternal nature. We know all of these, but like most human beings, we make the wrong choices.

I have had the honour to have met many Awliya’ in my time. I met them when they were either near or at the peak of spiritual development. They had given up the pleasures of this world years ago, were prepared to suffer major inconveniences in their lives and today, they are people who are special by their Lord. In one sense, we envy them, because of what they have been able to achieve. In another sense, we suffer deep regret, because of what we have been unable to achieve. You see, when one comes to one’s senior years and one is able to enjoy the benefits of the inconveniences that one had gone through during one’s youth and during one’s middle age, then one can only say: “It has been all worth the while”. I am sure that that is what these people say, that their struggles, their strivings, their lack of sleep and whatever else, were all worth the while as the rewards of their Lord are poured over them. And the others? And the others?

I have also had what I might call the pleasure to associate with senior people who, at one time in their lives, wasted their time with the pleasures of this world. And today … they have nothing, just dim memories of different kinds of time-wasting activities, activities which had no value and have also left no value. The other day I mentioned to a young man who likes to play a certain game: “Do you think that your Lord had created you for this”? Perhaps he understood or perhaps he did not.

I want to pose to all of the murids who had forgotten their pledges, dropped their different forms of religious services, stopped attending congregational dhikrs, and have put in their place a number of time wasting activities: “Did your Lord create you for those things?” Perhaps each one of us should ask ourselves why we were created and what our specific functions should be as Muslim human beings on this planet, and what we should do to prepare ourselves to one day stand in the Divine Court.

You see, I have also been where many of you want to go. I’ve been there already. Allah Almighty made me taste many of the things which some of you strive after, especially the pleasures of this world. What has happened to those pleasures? Are there any traces left of them? Are there any permanent recordings of those pleasures in our personal lives? Have those pleasures given us multiple graces in the Hereafter? You know the answer is nothing or no. I was fortunate. My Lord brought me away from those things. He just made me taste and then He brought me away. I am in eternal gratitude for that. It could so easily have been otherwise. Some of us are allowed to taste, but also to be consumed, and sometime in the distant future, we are going to call out when we are in situations of spiritual desperation: “O my Lord. What did I get up to?” I have seen all of this. What else are some of us going to say, for there is no return, and almost no time to compensate.

What is it that all of us desired when we pledged to Allah Almighty, because the pledge was to Him? We had pledged that we would be for Him and not for this world. We had asked Him to turn our hearts towards Him, and become part of the totality of hearts of human beings, which are for their Lord. Only a few hearts are categorized like this. They are in different bodies, but they have one fundamental characteristic and that is that they are always in prostration to their Lord. And now, some of us have grown tired of this. Their hearts cannot stand the pace. The attraction of this world is too great, and so many of these hearts, at one time for their Lord, but now these hearts have joined the large number of other hearts that prostrate on the planet to the planet. At one time these hearts prostrated on the planet to their Lord. All this has now changed; not for the better, but for the worse.

There are many scholars who, in trying to analyse the situation, the function and the contents of those human hearts, which belong to their Lord, have stated that these hearts operate in the Heavens. It does not necessarily mean that those hearts occupy positions in the Heavens as such, but that how they function and their contents, are almost as if they are part of the Heavens and not of this planet. This is a strange way of describing this, but one can understand. This is similar to the concept of people, so busy and so engrossed with their Lord, that it is as if they are already in the Akhirah. Their bodies are on this planet, but their spiritual selves are not here. This is the same with our hearts. The bodies in which those hearts are, are on the planet, but the hearts themselves, fully turned to their Lord, have heavenly contents or contents of the heavens; and so, we can say that those hearts are heavenly hearts. I think we understand this.

Is there an opposite to all of this? Can we say that some of our hearts have become so corrupted by the affairs of this world that the contents are of Jahannam; and so they are not heavenly hearts or hearts of Paradise, but hearts of Jahannam? These hearts, with their bodies, prostrate to the pleasures of this world. There is no possibility that hearts that are turned away from their Lord are turned in the direction of the major enemy of humankind, the Shaytan. And so, they are satanic hearts, already filled with the embers of Jahannam. Is there any other way that it can be put? Perhaps there are gradations of those hearts that are for their Lord and those hearts that are not for Him. But the gradations do not change their nature.

We have to face the reality of all of this. I do not want any one of you to one day plead that your situation could have been different, that is why I am writing to you. Those who are going to listen, their situation is going to be different. The others … well! We ask our Lord that our hearts must function for Him, that their contents should be of the Heavens and that their prostrations should be for Him, amin.

[Letters to Seekers on the Spiritual Path Vol 2 – Unpublished 2012]


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