I have always wondered what the true meaning of Islam is. I’ve read so many definitions, but I’ve never been satisfied. Today, after long years in Tariqah, I have come to understand that Islam are those Divine Teachings that Allah Almighty sent to this planet, for us, to open our hearts for His Presence. Today I come to see it like that.
When Allah Almighty says in a Holy Tradition that what is between the heavens and the earth cannot contain Him, but the heart of His believing servant can; this shows us that the teachings that came through the Messengers (a.s.), came to open and to prepare our hearts for His Presence. What else? What else?
I think that perhaps the highest spiritual honour that persons can have, is the Presence of their Lord in their hearts after all other presences have been removed, and the hearts purified by the beliefs and practices of Islam. This must be the highest honour, the highest grade of a believer. Many authors speak of the Perfect Man but let me also include the Perfect Woman, and refer rather to the Perfect Human Being. And here I am not only talking about the perfection attained by the Prophets (a.s.). I am talking about those people who are not in the category of Prophets (a.s.) but who have been able, through the guidance of their Lord, attain the highest possible spiritual category outside that of the category of Prophets (a.s.). The only people who are considered sinless are the Messengers (a.s.), but here and there on the surface of the earth, we have found individuals so pious that they only commit very minor, very insignificant sins. All day long the purification of the hearts goes on and all day long during these purifications the Presence of their Lord enters their hearts. Their hearts are not like those of the Prophets (a.s.), but very near. And their station that they reach is never that of the Prophets (a.s.), but very near; although on one occasion Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ) described some of his Companions (r.a.) as being similar to the Prophets (a.s.) of Israel at the time. I have no doubt that today there are people on this planet who would easily have fitted in as Companions (r.a.). I have no doubt about this. Their intense piety and their karamat tell the whole story. But they are still not Companions (r.a.). It is well known in literature on the subject that the greatest generation of Muslims are the Companions (r.a.). We accept this as said but this does not mean that we cannot see in the intensely pious, characteristics of the Companions (r.a.). We have had over the centuries people, who although not Companions (r.a.), whose hearts were almost totally free of other than Allah (ﷻ), who could be described as having reached the state of spiritual perfection. They could not reach stages of spiritual perfection of the Prophets (a.s.). So what they have is also a stage of perfection but of a lower quality. You see, let me explain this further. Each human being that is characterized as “perfect” has his or her own form of perfection and own grade of perfection. Thus, for example, those who are characterised as having reached the grade of perfection in the post-Prophetic period, do not have the same grade of perfections as that of the Messengers (a.s.). And the Messengers (a.s.) themselves, although graded perfect and although being very special by their Lord; each one has a grade of perfection, different from each other, despite their individual perfections. Our Prophet (ﷺ), for example, very special by his Lord and so is the most perfect of all human beings in all respects. There is nobody and nothing that can be compared to his grade of perfection. So, although we use the same word, the word “perfect”, this word has so many gradations and so many individual expressions. We might say that a Wali of Allah Almighty has reached perfection by his Lord but his perfection is infinitesimal in relation to the grade of perfection of a Messenger (a.s.). We must understand the language we use. Language is not always the best vehicle to use to describe states and stations of spirituality. Allah Almighty has opened so many doors for us and we turn away from those doors.
Today when we view the histories of the intensely pious that have come down to us, we experience an embarrassment for our weaknesses. Others like us, with the same resources at their disposal or even less better resources at their disposal were prepared to give over their lives to their Lord, and look at what they have become. Sometimes in the past when I used to sit in the presence of Mawlana Shaykh Nazim, the Sultan of the Awliya’, I wanted to kick myself for time wasted. Allah Almighty grants each one of us so much; abilities, skills, highly productive brains, and many other things and we are unable to do or to attain what the small number of the intensely pious has done or attained.
At the beginning of this letter, I mention that Allah Almighty said in a Holy Tradition that what is between the Heavens and the Earth cannot contain Him but the heart of a believer can. This is very difficult to explain, because we do not understand what Almighty Allah means by His being “contained”, but He was telling something to us about our hearts. Generally, in Islam, when we talk of the heart, we are referring to the spiritual heart that occupies the same space as the physical one. I have taken the simple route out by referring to “containing” as “presence”. This, of course, would mean that there are special servants of our Lord whose spiritual hearts have such dimensions that it is able to contain perhaps, of the Presence of our Lord. Is it like this? I hope so. Can you imagine the spiritual dimensions of a heart that can contain of the Presence of our Lord? Then can you further imagine the extent of the Presence of our Lord in the heart on the behaviour and personality of the individual? Perhaps this is the reason that Allah (ﷻ) referred to the behaviour of Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ) as mighty, and then later Sayyidatuna A’ishah (r.a.) refers to his personality as reflecting the Qur’an. We have so little understanding of this.
Finally, whatever the relationship is between Allah Almighty and human beings, Allah Almighty is always the Eternal Essence with Eternal Attributes, Eternal Names and whatever else there is that He knows about Himself, and we are we. He creates us, sustains us and grants us a variety of blessings. There is no comparison or similarity in any way between the Divine and His creation. There are those, such as Ibn ‘Arabi, who use philosophical arguments to justify what is called the “Unity of Being” or “Wahdatul Wujud”. Perhaps they are justified in their argumentation. I do not know this at this stage in Tariqah. We only see Allah (ﷻ) as the worshipped and us as the worshippers, as the Creator and Prime Mover of all things and circumstances, and we are His servants falling under His Decree and subject to His Will. We are such small particles in this vast cosmos with so much pretention about our existence. We should keep our understanding of our relationship with our Lord as simple as possible, and if there is any special understanding that we should have, He will grant it to us. We ask repentance if we have overstepped the bounds in the very small understanding we have of Him. Alhamdu lillah.
[Letters to Seekers on the Spiritual Path Vol 2 – Unpublished 2012]