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Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim:
Peace is not full of something.
The reason we do dhikr is that it enables us to worship Allah with our mouths, our tongues, limbs, and hearts and with our chests. This worshipping with our whole beings allows us to open a door. The opening of the door is the dhikr itself. The entrance into the court of the King is in the silence that follows the dhikr and in the pauses between the various dhikrs. If, in those few moments of quiet, you sit deliberately still and watch, like a cat before a mouse hole, you are ushered into the presence of the Lord for a personal audience, and it is you who are doing the listening and the hearing.
Our freedom lies in our capability to be still. It is only when we are still that we are in a position to correctly appraise that which Allah is putting in front of us. If you are on the path you must have the capacity to suspend your own agenda and to stop talking to yourself; to silence your inner dialogue. The dhikr delivers us to a place where, for a few moments, this aperture of silence appears. We have a taste of peace.
Peace is not full of something. The more full you are of things, the more disturbed your being is. The noisier your inner dialogue is, the more you ramble on inside your mind about your concerns, your fears, and your hopes, the less peace you have. It is precisely the fact that we are always talking to ourselves about what we would like to have and what we wish to avoid, that we are in a state of agitation, in a place where we have no peace or fulfilment.
As soon as you conceive a desire, the desire itself tells you that you are not fulfilled. If I say; ‘Oh, you know, I must have this new car, or I must have that pair of shoes’ what I am saying to myself is that I suffer from a state of incompleteness, and thus I experience disturbance, until I achieve that state of having shoes, or that state of having a car. So the person who is most free and expansive is not the one who is imprinting on his being all of these noises about his own inadequacies and desires. He is the one who has learned the very useful skill of not talking to himself and of suspending his inner dialogue.
The capacity to suspend our inner dialogue is the first aspect of our path, because being able to still your own desire creates the conditions where your attention can be appropriately orientated towards the other, toward the person who is in front of you or the situation that confronts you. If you appraise the situation that is in front of you on the basis of what you want from it, on the basis of your own agenda, you create the conditions where the situation has power over you.
If you want something from somebody else, that person’s ability to withhold what you want makes you manipulable. They are strong and you are weak. When you appraise the person or situation in front of you with your own agenda, with what you want to get and with your desires, you create the condition where the situation that is in front of you determines you. It has power over you.
Then of course there is another possibility: You do not deal with the situation in front of you on the basis of what you want to get from it, but you deal with it on the basis of what you should be contributing to it. What you should be giving. When you respond on that basis, you are immediately responding on the basis of something which is bigger than yourself. The person who defines the outcome of events is the person who deals with the situation from the basis of what he should be putting in, on the basis of what he is willing to lose. In other words, what he is willing to give away. The more unconditional you are about that, the more you change the outcome of events. In its extremity, you will see this in the case of the person who is utterly unconditional, and is willing to lose everything.
The man who is willing to die right now for what he believes is right, cannot be manipulated by anyone. You cannot manipulate a kamikaze pilot. In other words, the more unconditional you are about what you need to contribute, put in, or give to any situation, the more you grow out of that situation. You transcend the situation. It no longer defines you, you define it. You become bigger than it, you change. Whereas if you confront the situation on the basis of what you want to get from it, it defines you and you get stuck.
When you pay what Allah asks of you in the moment, then by His Rahmat, He will give you many multiples more than you could ever have imagined.
Another way of looking at this is that every moment that Allah presents to you has something due to it from you. Acting consistently with what is due we call courtesy. If you do not respond with the appropriate courtesy then the moment denies to you the message it has for you, the learning it has for you. You first have to hand over the toll to the Gatekeeper before you can continue on the journey. The toll which is asked of you in the moment is always a pittance. When you pay what Allah asks of you in the moment, then by His Rahmat, He will give you many multiples more than you could ever have imagined. This is the extraordinary nature of His design. He gives incalculably more than you can give. How many times did the Rasul (s.a.w.s.) refer to the blessing of Allah for good actions to be in seemingly unreasonable multiples; tens, hundreds, thousands and so on. This is what this means.
Any good deed is rewarded beyond measure. In other words, when you deal with the situation in front of you on the basis of what Allah wants from you, what you should be contributing, you are increased and you grow. You change beyond measure. Whereas, if you confront the situation on the basis of your desires, what you want to get out of the situation, then you are frozen there. You are delayed at the gate.
When you act on your own agenda you are attempting to manage your affair, and we know that when we wish to manage our own affair Allah lets us get on with it. He leaves us to manage our own affair. The person who wants to manage his own affair is left to manage his own affair. This managing of your own affair is closing off the portals to the multiple effects of Allah’s Baraka. So at best you can only have what you thought you would have. What an anti climax. What surprise is there in getting what you knew was your due?
At best the outcome of managing your affair is mediocrity and boredom. At worst, it is a catastrophic mess because it is not possible for you to manage your own affair. Your affair, by definition, is infinitely more complex than your capacity to be in charge of it. Whether you recognise it or not, life only continues, moment by moment, because of a superordinate genius which you cannot remotely begin to fathom, let alone manage.
Here is another theme we have spoken about many times. You cannot even account for the metabolic processes that make your finger work. Now you want to account for your life. What presumption! Which means to say that the more you try to be in charge and work out what it is that you want and make the universe fit your desires, the more you go astray and lose control.
The attempt to control the fundamentally uncontrollable is what one could call lack of control. It is losing it utterly, to the point of collapse. All control is fundamentally concerned with making sure things go our way. It is about defining the future. However, we are all going to die. Our future is not definite, it is indefinite. It is fundamentally uncontrollable. It does not matter how you build the wall, how secure you build the structure of your security, death will find you there. It will seek you out.
Which is to say, the whole process of our growth as human beings is based on a very simple dynamic, and that simple dynamic is that we give every situation that confronts us its due. Giving every moment its due is only possible when we see it for what it is, when we give it the attention due to it. In other words, that when Allah confronts us with something, we do not immediately try to work out what we can get out of the situation, rather, we give the situation it’s due attention. We suspend our agenda to see what really is required by the other. We silence our own inner chatter so that we can properly appraise the situation and are in a position to see what we are being called on to give.
You cannot even account for the metabolic processes that make your finger work. Now you want to account for your life. What presumption!
If you ever had a conversation with someone, and in the course of the conversation you were trying to say something to the other person but that person answered you back before you finished speaking, you would not have felt heard. This means to say that for this person to give attention, they have to shut-up. They have to stop giving attention to their own agenda because only then can they give attention to yours. They have got to stop talking to themselves. This means that you cannot give any situation that you are in the attention that it requires unless you stop talking to yourself about the situation. Unless you have this capacity to shut-up.
We are taught that this path is about being still. This is the necessary precursor to seeing things as they are and giving everything its due. Seeing things as they are is based on the ability to suspend one’s own agenda in any given situation. Giving the other it’s due is based on enacting the rule of courtesy that is operative in that situation. The situation has a requirement, which is the courtesy appropriate to it. If you act consistently with that courtesy, you change. If you act against that courtesy, then you do not go out of the situation, the situation diminishes you.
The five dhikrs of our wird are specifically designed to cultivate in us this skill of silencing our inner dialogue so that we can see everything for what it is and therefore be in the position to give everything its due. These are the five dhikrs; ‘Astaghfirrullah’, ‘Masha’Allah’, ‘Subhaanallah’, ‘Hasbunallah wa ni’mal Wakil’ and ‘Allah’. Now why is that the case?
Our inner dialogue is sustained by hopes and fears, and because this is the case it is biographically based. Let’s say I had an obsessive desire for a red Porsche. The first question to ask here is why a red Porsche and not a brown mule? Why is a red Porsche such a desirable thing for me? This has to be that I have learned in the past that to have a red Porsche is a desirable thing. If I had no idea what a car was, let alone what a red Porsche was I would probably be terrified the first time I saw one.
This means I can only want what I know of, and what I know of has to have been presented to me at least once before because otherwise I would not recognize it. This means to say that all my desires are historically and biographically based. They are based on what I have learned in the past. Each desire is a definition of a lack. The lack of the thing makes having the thing desirable. My lack is about my inadequacy, my neediness and my brokenness.
Shutting up your agenda means that you have the capacity to silence your past. You can shut down your biography. Astaghfirrullah is about shutting down one’s biography. It is a very poor and shallow understanding of Istighfaar to say it is about forgiveness, because it is deeper than forgiveness. The word means literally ‘to cover’. So what do you say to Allah when you say ‘please cover me’?
You say, not forgive me, you say, cover where I have been so that I can go elsewhere. Cover the known. Cover my presumption. Cover my assumptions of what I think, my assumption of what I want to pursue, so that I can be available to what You want for me. I know that what You want for me is infinitely better than what I can ever want for myself.
‘Julle maak planne, maar Allah maak planne vir julle’, (We plan, but Allah is the Best of Planners). There is always something foreboding in that statement, but you must understand that the plans He is making for you are better for you than your plan. Every single parameter will be better. The best thing you can wish for yourself, Allah has a hundred times better than that for you. However, you must do what is required of you. Do not make your agenda the getting part of your life. Make your agenda the contributing part of your life, what you should be giving. This is what istighfaar is about. Istighfaar is about the capacity to shut down your agenda by covering yourself.
Forget this knot of historically based presumption that you think you are. Make it irrelevant, just forget it. Don’t wash it away, don’t forgive it, just forget it, just cover it. This delivers you to a remarkable state, the capacity to do true tauba, true repentance.
Repentance does not confirm your brokenness, it makes it irrelevant. Your brokenness and your neediness are the same thing. When you cover who you assume you are, you are delivered to a place where you are looking at the moment that confronts you without wanting anything from it, because you have stopped wanting. You have shut up the inner recording of lack. You have forgotten about red Porsches and green Porsches. They are irrelevant. You are looking at it with an innocent eye, and when you look at the situation with an innocent eye, you cannot but recognize that the moment that confronts you has come directly from Allah. It is by His decree, Masha’Allah. (As Allah wills)
We know that Shaykh Muhammad Ibn al Habib, says; ‘All created things are meanings set up as images’.
The first command to the Rasul (s.a.w.s.) was ‘Iqraa’, which means ‘read’, and it suggests to not just read the book, it also suggests that the whole of existence is a text. We know that Shaykh Muhammad Ibn al Habib, says; ‘All created things are meanings set up as images’. You are walking through a text. It is a book. It is all meanings, every moment that confronts you is the next page of that book and this is a remarkable book. One that you want to read because this book is not a general book. This book is a letter that is being addressed by the Creator of all, to you personally.
The moment that stands in front of you is the next paragraph of that text. What is required of us is to read the paragraph and to read it well, because the letter also functions as a kind of treasure map. It is both a very personal, intimate love letter and a treasure map. If you read a treasure map properly, then it indicates what the next steps are, and if you follow those steps you are closer yet again to the treasure. This treasure is the treasure of all treasures. It is the essence of all delight, all joy. What else is there to say to this but ‘Subhaanallah?’ (Glory be to Allah)
So the letter that Allah writes to you is a letter concerning a treasure map, concerning a journey, and you have got to read the instructions very carefully. The instructions are in the moment that sits in front of you. The moment is a paragraph in the letter that contains the next instruction, and what does that instruction tell you?
Act consistently with the courtesy of the situation. Smile at the child, move the stone out of the road, lift something up to the traveller on his horse, make tea for the guests, whatever. You do that.
As a host you do not look at the guest from the point of view of what you can get out of him. As a guest you do not look at the host from the point of view of how you can make him convenient to you. Even as a guest there is a certain courtesy that you afford the host. That is what the situation requires. So if you are in a situation and the next paragraph says that you should behave as the proper guest, without the intention of getting something out of your host, and you do that, then the next thing happens, then there is change that follows, and that change always delivers you to a better place than what you could have imagined.
This does not mean to suggest that you will always recognize that where you have been brought to is a superior place to where you were. Very often we do not like where we are at in the immediacy of it. However, with a little hindsight and the intent to see the blessing in the situation, the benefit of where Allah has placed us soon becomes apparent.
When you understand that the moment in front of you is decreed by Allah: Masha’Allah. You then act accordingly and you take these next ten steps and you are transported to a place where: Subhaanallah, is that not amazing! Look, He has brought me to the place which is already a treasure! When you act with innocence on the basis of what Allah wants from you in any given situation, He will immediately place you in a better situation.
This state is not a state for once in a while or once in a lifetime, or once a week, it is every moment’s state.
You then realize that indeed He has better in store for you than yourself. You recognize that Allah is enough for you and that you need no other protector: Hasbunallah wa ni’mal wakil. This is His promise to us. So you arrive at the next place or in a next moment, only being able to praise and glorify Allah. This is what it means to act fisabilallah. If you do that, unconditionally in the moment you are in, then in the next moment you have the garden.
As you arrive at a point, the only thing that remains is to be perpetually surprised, where you cannot even say; Astaghfirrullah, Masha’Allah, Subahana Allah, Hasbunallah wa ni’mal wakil because the whole process, the journey is going so fast. It is like a skyrocket taking off: Allah, Allah, Allah! Look! Moment after moment, amazing grandeur, majesty, mercy, you see more and more of His attributes in front of you, demonstrated in front of you, in ways that keep on surprising you, you eventually have nowhere to turn. You are like a madman, everywhere you turn is His Significance. There is none but Him. La illaha il Allah.
Our normal lives are so mediocre and humdrum, that maybe we will be surprised once a week. Amazing! This is so because we are walking through life with blinkers on our eyes, because we are not looking out, we are looking in. We are not listening at all. It is like this man who is about to be knocked down by a car, but he is so furious with his wife that he does not notice the car. What is going on in his mind is this argument with this phantom woman in his head. His attention is certainly not on the road he is about to cross. Meanwhile, she is in the house, doing the same thing. She is about to chop her finger off with a knife because she is having the last word to him in her mind.
We are not present because of our own inner dialogue. That inner dialogue creates the conditions that cause us to miss the surprise that is in the moment; like the car that is about to take that fellow out.
So the further you progress on the journey, the more you are able to suspend your inner dialogue, your own agenda, the more surprised you will become. Surprise, wonder and amazement. Being ravished, bereft, breath taken and amazed. This state is not a state for once in a while or once in a lifetime, or once a week, it is every moment’s state. It is the pinnacle of human experience. It is the ecstasy we have been made for. If you do not experience this state in every moment you have anaesthetized yourself.
May Allah grant us success on the path
May He grant us nearness to Him
May He grant us annihilation in Him
Allah, grant peace and blessings on our Nabi (s.a.w.s.)
This discourse was given by Shaykh Ebrahim after a dhikr session on the 29th of September, 2000.