Today (08 March 2012) a teacher in one of the local primary schools told me that it appears that only one or two of the children in her class go to church. Because they’ve been kept away from religion, they will most probably grow up without religion. In the majority of these cases many of these children will not have any standards of behaviour that is informed by religion. And so, not only will they grow up religionless, but their standards of human behaviour, in which they are answerable to God, will be very sparse.
Not being answerable to God deprives people of a standard of behaviour in terms of which they can act. Of course, I know of people who have no religion but they have very high standards of behaviour. I am not talking about them. I am talking about the vast majority of people who feel that because they are answerable to God, they will not perform certain deeds or say certain things.
With regard to us, Muslims in Tariqah (and today we have to make this distinction between those who are and those who are not in Tariqah), we are supposed to feel answerable to our Lord in a very intensive way. Because of our engagement in different forms of remembrance, there should have developed in us a very deep awareness, if nothing else, of our Lord. This awareness, when accompanied by being answerable to Allah Almighty, determines our behaviour to a large degree. Many people refer to this awareness as God-consciousness and they refer to being answerable to Allah Almighty for all the things they do, as taqwa. So we are busy with a combination of God-consciousness and taqwa. The one cannot really exist without the other, and the one draws sustenance from the other or is inspired by the other, whichever way you wish to put it. Because we are in Tariqah and have engaged in considerable ibadat over the last few years, our level of God-consciousness and of taqwa should be high. It is the existence of these two qualities in a human being that, to a large degree, tells us about the level of a human being’s piety. You see, piety has mainly to do with these two qualities, and although they cannot be measured in any way, one can detect their presence in others. This statement that I have just made is extremely important for our understanding of ourselves and of others. It is our Lord who determines the extent of the piety of a person.
Although we are unable to determine how pious a person is, because it cannot be measured in the kinds of terms that we know; there are measuring rods that one can use to give broad general descriptions of a person’s piety. When we say a person is very pious, we are not quantifying it, we are describing a state of that person’s heart, but in very general terms. One of the measuring rods for determining whether a person is truly pious or not or is the extent to which that person is prepared to obey the teachings of Islam that had come to us through the Qur’an and Prophetic Practice. There are no other more reliable measuring rods than this. In fact if one wants to know whether one is truly God-conscious or whether one tries very hard to be answerable to Allah Almighty, then one has to look at the extent of one’s obedience to one’s Lord and the Messenger (ﷺ). In the same way as I have said previously, this is the only measuring rod.
Sometimes in our lives, we are faced with either obeying Allah Almighty or obeying people. It is this that involves us in the decision-making process in which we ignore what Allah (ﷻ) says, because we wish to please others or our egos. Of course, this happens to most of us, and even if we consider ourselves to be religious, we still disobey God. There is a verse in the Qur’an and a similar statement in the Prophetic Traditions that warn us against exchanging what is sacred for payment. Part of our problem is that we cannot understand the nature of the sacred or the nature of what is Divine in origin, and so it appears that to ignore the injunction is easy upon us. Those of us who because of all the things we do as religious beings will find it almost impossible to ignore what Islam says. This is our difficulty. We live in a world in which Allah Almighty’s Heavenly Law and Regulations are generally ignored. And so we take, when we ignore them, as not being a very serious matter. You see, it is this that provides the line between the truly pious and those that are not pious. A truly pious person will have a depth of taqwa and a consciousness of his Lord that will make him very afraid to disobey God. And so, the more afraid one is of one’s Lord, the more one obeys. I should put this the other way around; the less the fear the less the obedience.
When the Qur’an tells us:
إِتَّبِعُوْا مَنْ لاَّ يَسْئَلُكُمْ أَجْرًا وَ هُمْ مُّهْتَدُوْنَ
Follow those who do not ask you for payment for they are the guided
The truly pious person or the one most afraid of his Lord would not even think in terms of the buying and selling of matters religious. His whole being will revolt against this, because of the love of his Lord for him and his love for his Lord. Tariqah takes us to the realm of love with regard to our Lord. And so, this love is expressed through consciousness of Him, being “afraid” of Him, not daring to want to disobey, and feeling deep down inside one the need for obedience. It is this need deep down inside one that causes one to refuse to disobey. The soul of such a person revolts against disobedience as it struggles to be involved with love from his Lord. When one is involved with love with regard to one’s Lord, how can one disobey? Those of us who disobey, involve ourselves with things that our Lord rejects, need to return to the prayer mat in repentance and need to re-organise our hearts for love from their Lord. What more must one say? You see, it is not always the “big things” that tell us about somebody, it is sometimes the very small things. It is sometimes at the level of the small things that we collapse.
And I’ve told you in the past that Tasawwuf is an experience that one’s Lord puts one through. Part of what is in this letter is part of that experience. Sometimes we disobey, because we do not know. But it is infinitely bad when we disobey and we know. What more must I say? I’ve said so many things during the last year and so few are listening. At least one day in the Divine Court I will be able to tell my Lord that I did not withdraw when I had to speak out. How many of us will be able to stand in the Divine Court and say: “O my Lord I listened”?