Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim.
It occurs to me this evening to explore, some issues relating to the events from `Ashiqeen, the last week – Masjid Ashiqeen – where Imam Nusra was thrown out and Imam Shafi`I – who’s the imam of the masjid – had also been thrown out because they do Qadiri dhikr in the masjid.
One way of responding to this – is obviously a sense of moral outrage – of injustice being done, and that even in this late – sort of mature stage of our development as an ummah in this country, that still, tasawwuf is still on a backfoot. And it strikes us as unjust that this should be done. But maybe this is a blessing because maybe, what tasawwuf is supposed to offer muslims and people – really can’t do it if it becomes in any way “official”, if it becomes part of a formal structure – of masjids and `ulama associated with us. And the question is – why is that?
And that is because our endeavor on this path is intensely personal. It is not so much about becoming members of – if you like – a law-abiding community. And don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with becoming compliant, law-abiding members of the community. This is a very important thing, without citizens becoming law-abiding and compliant, the city is in chaos.
..that process is about compliance, it’s not about the individual experience of the Divine encounter.
So the rigidity with which these formal circle of `ulama in this country seem to reflect – there’s a place for that. They kind of, they make sure the beards are fist long, everybody stands in a straight line; and there’s a place for that. But that process is about compliance, it’s not about the individual experience of the Divine encounter. By definition, the individual experience of the Divine encounter has to be beyond compliance, because it’s intensely personal.
So it is always understood that the people on this path, are called the fuqara. Why are we called the fuqara? Because we are of the poor, we are of the underprivileged, we’re supposed to be – you might not be financially or materially poor – but you supposed to be not of the ruling elite. You are supposed to be of those who are without authority.
..the individual experience of the Divine encounter.. it’s intensely personal.
We are the ones who gather in the zawiya. The zawiya is not in the centre, it is in the corner, with the ones who’re on the side, hidden away. Because we’re doing something slightly different – in fact, significantly different – we’re trying to understand how this extraordinary thing happened, that brought us onto this planet in the first place.
If you take all information that’s been put into you from outside of you, that tries to ask you – to kind of – believe this and believe that; and say well – for a moment, let me be a bit agnostic about what I’ve been asked to believe in, and go down to my own intense personal experience.
It’s almost as if we’ve been parachuted in, like aliens, from a place we don’t know, where from? Because, almost as if, we have an experience of being in our bodies. Our body is like a vehicle, it’s a very, very sophisticated vehicle. But we get the sense that “me and my body aren’t entirely the same thing”. “I’m sitting inside my body” – we all have that sense. How is it that I came to be in this extraordinary vehicle? Why am I in this extraordinary vehicle? How did this happen?
If we go back to our earliest memories – most of us – if we become aware of ourselves, our earliest memories are of being in a place where we are small in something which is big. That’s our first apprehension and experience of the world. We’re in this vehicle, it’s like we’ve parachuted in, from a place that we don’t know – like from another planet. We’ve arrived here in this body; and we’re small beings in this very dangerous and alienating place.
Most of us, our first experience, is kind of, of the world out there and getting a sense of proportion of me and the world. And that’s when we become self-conscious – is normally when we have our first memory. Sometimes you get memory prior to that – you have some people who are special. They claim to remember from before most of us. Most of us remember – maybe if we’re lucky – 2 and a half, 3 years. Many of us, our earliest memories are at 6.
“How is it that I came to be here, and why am I here?”
Sometimes people claim, and maybe you have a sense yourself, that behind this there’s like a slippery, kind of viscous, amniotic thing. It’s almost like a smell equivalent to an image. It sort of comes and goes and you can’t even capture it. It’s sort of where I came from.
But when I first became aware that I was, the moment I became aware that I was, I was also aware that I’m in this big thing out there. And I’m driving this vehicle and at first I’m very clumsy with it. As a young child, I don’t quite know how to work this thing. It takes a long time to learn how to work this thing properly.
And so sitting underneath all of us is this question mark – “How is it that I came to be here, and why am I here?”
Initially it appears to us that there doesn’t seem to be much of an explanation for us; some people try and tell us things out of scripture and so, but it’s still quite scary – the world out there is scary, it’s big and alienating.
..this process of cooperating with other people we have quite an extraordinary experience..
And so as we get older we start to cooperate with other people to try and control the world, because it’s big and scary, because it’s a dangerous place. You have to work together, you don’t work together then you can’t get food, and we can’t get shelter – so you have to cooperate.
And in this process of cooperating with other people we have quite an extraordinary experience, because what is amazing is I can’t take this ‘mini-me’ that sits inside this vehicle of my body and go and visit you inside your body – I mean I wish I could, it would be fascinating.
Take me out and insert it into your head. Then you and I could have a conversation.
It’s amazing, you are permanently locked into this vehicle, separately. On occasion, when I look into your eyes and I talk to you, I get a sense there’s a mini-me over there, inside there, looking at me like I’m looking at it. But mostly, I’m kind of, I’m pretty much alone.
And the only time I get, initially as a human being, the only time I get a sense of connectedness is when I look in somebody’s eyes and I get a sense that he’s – he’s suffering the same problem I’ve got, he’s also been parachuted in here from somewhere and he doesn’t quite understand what the hell he’s doing here either.
So initially, this “not understanding what we’re doing here” – actually that’s a very philosophical problem. Right now the problem Is, we’ve got to fight that very big thing – ‘cause it’s dangerous – and we’ve got to stay alive; so we co-operate.
But then, what becomes apparent, is that as we explore this planet that we are now operating this vehicle on – we start coming across, initially, it’s like footprints. It’s traces of meaning.
..this Intelligence that we’re tracing through the world is supremely intelligent..
It’s like walking into a cave – and seeing a drawing on the wall that could have only been done by a human being or an intelligent being. We start seeing signs of intelligence around us. But this thing can’t just be all a mistake. It’s not a big accident. ‘Cause there’s clearly design to this thing. And initially it kind of seems – well there is a design to this thing, and the best way to do this is I’ve got to learn how this design works so that I can explore it.
But then you start realizing, this thing that we’re trying to exploit. The design is so clever – it actually is reading us, like we’re reading it. That this Intelligence that we’re tracing through the world is supremely intelligent and it’s almost as if every situation that we’re in, has been set up.
So it’s like – there’s a Real Intelligence that I’m dealing with in the world around me. And that intelligence has had something to do with why I’m here. And so my experience starts to change completely of the world – no longer is the world a big and threatening place. Now the world is a mysterious place, it’s a fascinating place. It’s a place where – every moment revealing a little more of itself, and revealing that it knows me, has a benign interest in me.
Then as I go further in this journey, trying to find more and more about these footsteps, these traces of this Intelligence and understanding what is it. I have one take of this extraordinary experience – the Intelligence that has put that pattern out there for me to read, has actually been a passenger in my vehicle all the time. It’s not there, it’s here! Now – how can this have anything to do with being a solid citizen in the commune?
It’s not about being a solid citizen in the commune. This is such a deeply personal thing. I mean, I can’t even know, really know, that you aren’t all marionettes. The only real self that I know – is me. I don’t your “mini-me”, I don’t even know that you’ve got one. For all I know you’re all like puppets.
Ah I’m not suggesting you are – relax.
So this intense exploration of why I’m here? What is this Genius that’s put me here, and where is it to be found? – is something which beyond religiosity. Now I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with religiosity at all. It’s a very useful flying carpet – it’s a tool, it’s not the end. The end is this very intense experience of – who I am, why I’m here, what’s this whole journey about?
How did this come to be, how did I get parachuted onto this alien planet – inside this machine that initially I don’t even know how to drive?
Al hamdu lillah.
What is this Genius that’s put me here, and where is it to be found?
So we musn’t get too angry, when they throw us out of the mosque. Because obviously this thing is not about being compliant – and I’m not saying this gives you an excuse to be non-compliant. It’s just that, if we try and make this – in any sense – the purpose of this, some sort of social compliance, then we’re stopping this. Because you can’t have this experience, you can’t pursue this matter, if the matter is that – you and I have to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder.If that’s the problem. ‘Cause it’s not about me and you standing shoulder-to-shoulder.
It’s about – what’s going, what, where, really… How did this happen? Who am I? It’s intense inward exploration. And this intense investigation into the world that I’m in.
May Allah grant us nearness to Him.
May He grant us annihilation in Him.
May He grant us death before we die.
This discourse was given by Shaykh Ebrahim after a dhikr session on the 8th of February, 2014.