On the many occasions that I have listened to very pious people, the one matter that stands out for me is the extent to which the word “Allah (ﷻ)” is on their tongues. If one operates in a mainly secular environment, as is the case with many of us, then the word Allah (ﷻ) only comes on our tongues occasionally. Many of us have come to learn in Tasawwuf that we must break free of secular discourses and keep our tongues moist with the word “Allah (ﷻ)” and with other remembrances. In the case of many of us, secularism runs deep in our veins especially because of our education and the work we are involved in. Many people find it almost impossible to come away from a discourse in which Allah (ﷻ) is never or seldom mentioned. It is Allah’s (ﷻ) decision as to who He chooses to do this with, and the fact that He has chosen many of us, gives rise to intense and deep gratitude to our Lord for saving us from a discourse that is satanic.
Let me change the subject a little bit. On many occasions I have heard Mawlana Shaykh Nazim quoting the verse of the Qur’an:
Be Rabbaniyyeen (iii: 79).
I have wrestled with this and have only found very superficial meanings to it. I have listened very carefully to Mawlana Shaykh Nazim for he was talking from another world. What does this word mean in the dimension that he was coming from? In all humility, I see the Rabbaniyyun as being those intensely pious people, perhaps different grades of Awliya’, who have dressed themselves with the garments of the Names of our Lord. Our Lord is Most Merciful and so they work hard to be people of mercy, to show tenderness towards others, and to take out of their personalities all signs of hardness. Our Lord is Most Forgiving, and they try very hard to become people who forgive easily. And so one can go on and on, with all the different Names and see how these people have clothed themselves with those Names. And so they stand out amongst all others as those who, to very very small degrees, personify some of the Names of our Lord. There is no comparison, of course, between Allah (ﷻ) and His creation. This does not mean that those that He created as His representatives on earth cannot dress themselves with those Names with which Allah (ﷻ) has described himself. Our Lord has provided so much for us in different ways; so much we can attain through our intense obedience to Him and His Messenger (ﷺ) and so many stations of glory that can be ours if we can just put effort into our obedience and our worship.
It is very interesting that there are many supplications or recitations which we do, and which announce to us different darajat (stations) of spiritual attainment. Many of us are blind to this, because these supplications or recitations are done without thought. One such recitation or supplication is the Du’a ul-Istiftah which is usually recited at the beginning of the first cycle of the obligatory prayers although it may also be recited in the Nafl or Sunnah prayers, if I am correct. When Nabi Ebrahim (a.s.) was searching for his Creator, he looked up at the heavens and he declared certain heavenly bodies to be the creator and each time the heavenly body declined or disappeared, he searched for another one. When he realized that these bodies could not be the Creator, he called out in prayer, and I am sure, through the inspiration of his Lord:
إِنِّى وَجَّهْتُ وَجْهِىَ لِلَّذِى فَطَرَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَ الأَرْضَ حَنِيْفًا وَ مَا أَنَا مِنَ المُشْرِكِيْنَ
For me, I have set my face, firmly and truly, towards Who created the heavens and earth, and never shall I give partners to Allah (vi: 79).
These are of the most dramatic words of rejection of what is not God, for God. Today we say this at the beginning of our prayers to also reject what is not God, for Allah (ﷻ). And, in a sense, it is not we who turn our faces, although we consider it like that. It is Allah (ﷻ) who turns our faces away from the idols of the world, to Him. It is He that is at work. It is He that changes the contents of the hearts, empties it of idolatry and replaces it with the recognition and the worship of only one God. Although we think that we have changed our direction, it is not so. It is Allah (ﷻ) who inspires the heart to be for Him. Those of us who recite those words must stand in deep gratitude for what He has done for us. But there is even more to this than what has been mentioned. We say that we have turned to Him, as a Hanif Muslim. What do we mean by this? What do we mean by Hanif Muslim? I heard Mawlana Shaykh Nazim saying that a Hanif Muslim is one who subordinates his will to the Divine Will. What we are saying in this supplication is: “It is not I, it is Allah (ﷻ). It is not my will, it is Allah’s (ﷻ) Will. It is not my decision, it is the decision of my Lord.” When one says these words, i.e. all the words that I have mentioned in the supplication, then one is in fact in spiritual prostration to one’s Lord. It cannot be otherwise. One cannot utter these words in any spiritual state except that of spiritual prostration to one’s Lord. And one says these words, also knowing that one is not like that but underlying these words is the hidden message: “O my Lord make me of those whom Thou has turned in Thy direction, and make me of those in whom only the Divine Will operates, not my will.” These words have to do with a very special darajat, a very special station; a station at which one is largely turned in the direction of one’s Lord, intensely obedient and intensely subservient. Allah (ﷻ) announces to us at the beginning of this supplication what stations He (ﷻ) has available for us.
The almost unbelievable status of this station is expressed more fully by the following words of this supplication:
إِنَّ صّلاَتِى وَ نُسُكِى وَ مَحْيَاىَ وَ مَمَاتِى لِلّٰهِ رَبِّ العَالَمِيْنَ لاَ شَرِيْكَ لَهُ وَ بِذَالِكَ أُمِرْتُ وَ أَنَا مِنَ المُسْلِمِيْنَ
Truly my prayers, my covenant, my life and my death are for Allah, the Lord of the Worlds; He has no partner, and with that I have been ordered and I of those who submit.
What we are saying is: “O my Lord, Thou hast turned me in Thy direction. I have accepted that. Thou hast put me on a path at which I can achieve subservience to Thee. And Thou hast made all my worldly activities to be only for Thee. Even the way I die has to be for Thy sake.” The words of this supplication tell us what we as Muslims should be striving for. We know very well that we have not achieved these kinds of darajat. We know this very well, but Allah (ﷻ) has provided us with a description of how we can be if we strive for spiritual purification and if we strive for a goal, under His guidance, at which we are truly Muslim.
Many times, especially while this letter was being dictated, I have come to realize how, in different parts of the Qur’an and in the Prophetic Traditions, Allah (ﷻ) shows us what we are capable of attaining. He shows us how exceptional we can be as His servants and how exceptional servitude is. The whole supplication that is supposed to pour out from our hearts the moment we are in a state of holiness in prayer is a Divine statement of our servitude and the unity of God. It is this that Nabi Ebrahim (a.s.) attained and it is this, albeit at much lower levels, that we can attain. Allah (ﷻ) has opened massive doors to spiritual attainment for us. It is there for us, but we must be prepared to walk through the doors, or rather, we must accept from our Lord His leading us through those doors. We ask Allah (ﷻ) for that, amin.