There are so many things! In Suratul Fatihah Allah Almighty invites us to a major spiritual feast, a major spiritual banquet. But He says we must ask Him for that. We cannot just assume that it would be given. It says in the Qur’an: “Ask Me,” and in Suratul Fatihah Allah Almighty tells us to ask Him the greatest possible grant that He can give to any human being. This is part of the importance of this surah because in this surah Allah Almighty tells us: “I have set for you as my servant, as of the Nation of Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ), the highest possible goal for spiritual achievement. This is not a low goal, not an ordinary goal. This is the highest possible aspiration because I have placed you in this ummah and I have granted to you Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ), My most beloved and My most honoured Prophet, to take you to the final stages of this world. I have granted you the Qu’ran and looked after it for you. This is for you and I invite you through Suratul Fatihah to the highest possible spiritual achievement.”
Those words that I’ve spoken to you about so many times before are:
إِهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيْمَ
Guide us along the straight path (i: 6).
In these words lie so much meaning, so much striving, so much achievement for us, in these simple words. Allah tells us: “Ask Me to guide you along the siratal mustaqim, the straight path.” Allah defines this path as the path on which He has placed His blessings. On this very special path are those whom He has blessed. All of them have been granted Divine Friendship, Divine Love and Divine Honour and Respect. Those who are on this path are the
النَّبِيِّيْنَ وَ الصِّدِّيْقِيْنَ وَ الشُّهَدَاءِ وَ الصَّالِحِيْنَ
(Annabiyyin was siddiqin wash shuhada was salihin: the Prophets, truthful people, martyrs and the pious persons). They enjoy a very special spiritual feast that Allah Almighty has granted them, a very special spiritual banquet. This is the best for them, the best banquet, the best spiritual feast, and they are the best company. “Come,” Allah says to us, “don’t waste your time, don’t mess around.” We are part of this ummah. We can achieve this greatness. He has prepared this for us, and He invites us to come to that feast.
However, this is not for everybody. Allah says that only certain people can be in this group. He doesn’t say that everybody can be in this group. He doesn’t say the whole Nation of Islam is in this group. He says from the Nation of Islam, not the whole nation, from the nation. He mentions all His Prophets of all times and some of all nations. Those people who stand steadfastly by the truth of the revelations that He has sent over the centuries are there. Those people who have died in His cause with all the sincerity in their hearts are there. All His pious servants are there. Allah Almighty does not say that all the Muslims, male and female and all the believers, male and female, are there. No, He does not say that. Only very special people are in this company.
So this path is very special. It is not beyond the reach of anyone of us. Allah Almighty has placed in each one of us the potential for that achievement. Otherwise He would not have indicated this to us. He would not have placed it in the Qur’an. Otherwise it would have been there for sports. Our Lord does not make sports. He has placed that verse very deliberately in the Qur’an to tell us what each one of us can achieve. In each one of us there is the potential for major spiritual achievement. We must not underestimate ourselves. If we underestimate ourselves we are putting a limit to what Allah Almighty can grant. I’m going to repeat this to you. If you think you are not capable of receiving a grant like that from Allah it means that you are putting a limit to what He can grant.
That is not allowed in Islam. Allah grants without limit. He grants. But we have to work hard for that grant. When we say we have achieved, we do not mean that. Allah grants. Then we can say we have achieved. But that is just the language that we use. We can achieve nothing. Allah grants. I want us please to understand that. Although we say that we are going to work hard to achieve, it is Allah who grants.
Now I want to change a little bit because there is something I want to talk to you about. All of us when we perform any ibadat whether it is fasting, giving zakah, praying, performing Ḥajj or Umrah, or any other ibadat, we always say:
lillahi ta’ala. “O my Lord, this is for Thy sake, for Thee.” We always say that. At the end of our niyyah to fast, for example, we say:
(lillahi ta’ala: O my Lord for Thee). That is why Allah says in the Qur’an, in a simple sentence that is loaded with spirituality:
(Qul lillah: Say it is for Allah). And so at the end of every niyyah we say: “O my Lord I am doing this for Thy sake, not for my sake or for people’s sake.”
But even that, even that is not a simple matter of just speech or words. The person who can eventually do an ibadah almost totally for his Lord’s sake must have reached a very high level of spiritual development. Just as it is difficult for us to achieve many things so it is difficult to do ibadat only for Allah’s sake. Part of our spiritual growth, part of our spiritual achievement is that grant, Allah grants that to us: “O my servant, I’m granting you this special favour that whenever you sujud for Me you do it for My sake, whenever you ruku’ for Me, you do it for My sake, when you fast, you do it for My sake, when you pray, you do it for My sake and when you perform Ḥajj or Umrah, it is only for My sake.” Allah grants this ability to one.
Please, please we must get away from the idea that we can achieve certain things on our own as if Allah Almighty has nothing to do with the achievement. In tariqah it is not like that. That’s the way other people may think but not in tariqah. In tariqah we always say: “O my Lord my achievement is a grant that comes from Thee to me.” He decides how to give the grant, when to give and what to give. So even though we say lillahi ta’ala, although we say that, to be able to do that requires a major re-orientation in our thinking. Allah Almighty grants that to us. He is the one who is
مُقَلِّبُ الْقُلُوْبِ وَ الأَبْصَارِ
(Muqallibul qulub wal absar). He is the one that changes hearts and the direction of one’s sight.
So when eventually there comes in our hearts the declaration, and it comes slowly, little bit, little bit, little bit: O my Lord, for Thee. Ya Allah, for Thee. Little bit, little bit, little bit, it comes until eventually in our religious direction our faces have been turned fully to Him. The day we say, with intense sincerity, with a heart that is totally open:
وَجَّهْتُ وَجْهِىَ لِلَّذِى فَطَرَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَ الأَرْضَ
(Wajjahtu wajhiyya lilladhi fataras samawati wal ard: I have turned my face to the One who has created the heavens and the earth), it means that Allah has turned our faces in His direction. He has turned our hearts to Him. Please when we say that it means Allah has turned our faces in His direction. We express it by the words
وَجَّهْتُ وَجْهِىَ لِلَّذِى فَطَرَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَ الأَرْضَ
(Wajjahtu wajhiyya lilladhi fataras samawati wal ard). We are told to express it like that.
Allah is the mover. He moves everything in this creation. His decree is on everything. People in tariqah believe it like that. He is solely in charge and when we start redirecting our spiritual understanding and our spiritual direction Allah is busy working with us. He has given us direction and we say:
سَمِعْنَا وَ أَطَعْنَا
(Sami’na wa ata’na: we hear and we obey). As we work, as we work, Allah is busy with us and bringing about in us a major spiritual transformation. We must understand that as human beings, as people beginning on this road, there are serious limitations in the extent to which we do things for Allah’s sake. When, for example, we lead a prayer and start reciting and just a very slight idea comes into our minds that we are reciting very nicely, finished is the idea that we are reciting for His sake. Shaytan had sent a very slight whisper into our hearts, a very slight whisper without any effort on his part, and then finished is our sincerity. We make sujud and the idea comes into our minds that people can see how long our sujud is, finished is our
We must start understanding, including me, our limitations. When we understand our limitations, this is the time when we raise our hands in du’a and speak passionately from our hearts in full realization that Allah decides the direction that we are going to go. We must ask Allah to be for Him. We must ask Allah to help us, to place around our hearts a wall of protection against the whispers of Shaytan, and that He guides us to a stage in our spiritual development that when we say
(lillahi ta’ala), it is exactly like that. We ask Him for a grant that when we say
(lillahi ta’ala), it is totality like that, and no whispers of Shaytan can enter our hearts to change that. This means that we must strive under His Guidance to become very pious. We must do that. Then we can go to that banquet, that major spiritual banquet that Allah has prepared for His choicest servants, His choicest very special servants. There is not a single individual that can have a status better than them. There is nobody that can say his spiritual position is better than those people. Nobody can say that.
The highest category of spiritual development is that of the Prophets (a.s.). Nobody can reach that. That door is closed. The other doors are still open for us. We must work for that.
So Mawlana Shaykh Nazim’s message to us is to use the month of Ramadan for major spiritual achievement. Make du’a for him, he makes du’a for us. The basic sense of this message is that we must not waste our time. Every time we have a few minutes to spare we should make du’a, recite Qur’an, make dhikr or whatever we want to make. We ask Allah to strengthen us in this, to help us in this, to guide us to piety. And He must grant me that I do not misinterpret my understanding of Islam when I give it to you. You must ask Allah, all of you must make du’a for me that I never misinterpret His religion when I explain things to you. We ask Allah for this for me and for all of you with the blessings of Suratul Fatihah …
And Allah knows best, and I ask forgiveness for any mistakes or distortions in what I have said, Amin.
Selected Talks by Yusuf da Costa [Published 2008]