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November 8, 2018

Finding Your True Voice

Shaykh Ebrahim discourse delivered 16/6/18
Audio available at the bottom of the page

There are so many ways that one can describe this journey of becoming ourselves; of becoming fully human.

One way that occurs to me that it is useful to explore is that becoming ourselves is from one point of view, finding our own voice. Finding our own voice is almost by definition concerned with the core of authenticity or genuineness that lies at the core of our being, which somehow gets twisted, perverted and remoulded by the world that we’re in. So that by the time we are young adults and going into our adulthood, we are much more concerned with how we appear to be than with how we are. It is this concern of how we appear to be rather than how we are, which lies at the root of the twist, the root of the inversion, the root of the damage. Because Allah has only created us for one reason and that is to be the ones who witness, not the ones who are witnessed.

He’s created our lives in such a way that even the most noble of us, from one point of view, have an ignoble end because it doesn’t matter how tall you stand and how proudly you stand, death puts us all horizontal and makes us all the same. It makes us all equally insignificant. The dead have no significance. So this trying to be seen, this endeavour that we build our lives around by standing out and being significant and trying to be seen, has within it an enormous poison. Because in this breathless endeavour of trying to be seen, of trying to become significant to others, we forget who we are and we lose our own selves. And so we become strangers to ourselves.

When you look into a mirror one morning and the being looking back at you is a creature that you have no sense of identity with. It’s a creature, which is a product of how others wish you to appear and not who you are. And so when you hear your own voice, your own voice sounds a little bit flimsy, when you hear your own laughter it sounds a little bit too loud. When you hear your own voice on a recording it grates your ear because there’s an element in this entire experience which is artificial. You feel artificial. Unremediated, this ailment of having become a being other than who you are is deeply distressing and is fundamentally fatal. It will get you.

How is it that we’ve been made as the custodians of this world? Each human being is the custodian of the world that he occupies. Yet, we don’t behave like custodians. We don’t behave like the masterly ones who are the caretakers. We act like the ones who are in the care of others because we keep on perverting our sense of authenticity to appear acceptable to others. Bizarrely, this desire to be seen by others is the first disservice we do to others because we don’t do with our attention (with other human beings) what our attention is there for – for them. We are not here to appear to others and to be significant to others. Because when we do that, we contend for space. We are here to stand in, to stand back, to create the arena for others to appear.

So, on our path, the very first description of who we are is that we are fuqara. The word faqir means poor, an impoverished person. And even if the faqir is a person with lots of money in the bank, he still takes on the demeanour of one who has no significance because he’s no longer contending for space. He’s like the beggar stuck in the corner of the door of the masjid, who is of no account to anybody – on the underside of that apparent horror is the greatest freedom a man can have.

Because our path is the path of the fuqara, our path is then one which makes us pay the price for our need for significance with interest. The things that are true for normal human beings are doubly true, quadruply true, for a person on this path. Because the moment you’ve made this path the object of your life, your second-hand, your regurgitated, your plastic, your inauthentic will not be accepted.

Sidi Abu Madyan used to say, “Bring me fresh meat.” He would say this to anybody who quoted anything to him. If somebody quoted him the Quran, somebody would quote him hadith, somebody would quote another Shaykh, he’d say, “No, no, no, don’t quote, what do you have to say? Don’t come and try and appear erudite, intelligent, because you know all of these texts. What is your voice? What do you have to say?”

Very often, in the process of finding our voice we have to go through a process of unlearning. That being who came into the world, that scintillating light, is so hidden and mired in years and years of accumulated compliance, artificialness, that very often we don’t even know our own intuition anymore. We don’t know our own voice.

There are a few pointers that one can use, like a divining rod. When a water diviner searches for water, when he hits real water his rods converge. There are some divining rods you can use to reestablish your voice.

Know that whenever there’s any bitterness, any resentment, any regurgitating of a political or a historical story going on, this is not your voice. That’s not authenticity speaking. That is a programme that somebody else has put into your ear.

You know that wherever your voice is occupied with fear of the future and distrust of what may happen to you, that is not your voice. That is a perversion. That is something that has been put into your ear to make you compliant to others’ requirements and to pursue that is again the pursuit of a concern of how you appear to others.

On the positive end, you know you’ve got your own voice when there’s a thrill of adventure, there’s a sense of throwing caution to the wind. It’s a little voice, very often it suggests things that are a bit scary at the time. That’s who you are. Allah wants to create your life a manifestation of the wonder of transformation, the miracle of transformation. Wherever you see something that quickens your heart, something that excites you, something you could do, that’s your voice.

Wherever your voice announces anything that has to do with gratitude, that is your true voice.

Wonder. So your false, learned voice, whispers stories of resentment and distrust, your authenticity whispers trust and gratitude.

If you listen for it, you’ll start to find it. If you start articulating it, it becomes stronger. Eventually, you don’t have to listen very carefully at all because it becomes your voice. You regain your voice. You regain the being you’ve been designed to be and not the being you’ve been turned into by your desire to be seen to be compliant to the requirements of others.

Make your life a beautiful thing. If you have an artist that just plays an instrument like he’s been taught to play, there’s a sense of woodenness about it. But when the artist brings himself to the instrument, with the same technical expertise, but he brings his feeling to the instrument, you then have magic. Turn your life into magic.

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