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The title of the blog, “In the Shadow of Pure Light” reflects the position of the human being – as Being perpetually in the shade of God, a shade that can be both cool and protecting; or dark and isolating – depending on the state of ones soul.

Pure Light is a reference to God, whom the believer is constantly in search of – and who can only be perceived by the realization that being in God’s shade also means becoming the Divine Shadow; and that the human is intrinsically linked to Allah – his/her entire Being is dependent on as-Samad (the independent one), just as a shadow can never be severed from the object of its projection and has no will of its own, but to follow its Reality. It can also metaphorically be seen as a representation of God’s presence around an object, as well speaking to the transient nature of the world – reflecting the waning of Time, as Shadows do.

The themes of Light and Purity also celebrate a state of spiritual felicity, a state where the soul has perceived the brilliance and untaintedness of Divine Love, basking forever after in the sheltering and sweet Shadows of its Shade.

The defining statement of Islam “La illaha ill Allah” (there is no deity worthy of worship but Allah),captures the inherent civilization of oneness and unicity upon which Islam is built. This unicity is accompanied with a sense of the sacred ontology of spirituality; that is, the very nature of our reality and our being – when viewed through the lens of tawhid – is that our essence is sacred. It mirrors tawhid. One of our shortcomings is that we have externalized spirituality and abandoned its internalization. There is therefore a dire need to re-inject Islam with this awareness of inner spirituality – a need that demands the re-exploration of the very notion of tawhid.

 

Allah says:

 

The one who has indeed succeeded is the one who purifies himself, remembers his Lord and prays.

But you prefer the worldly life,

While the Hereafter is better and more enduring.

Indeed, this is in the former scriptures,

The scriptures of Abraham and Moses. (A’la, 87:14-19).

 

 The Qur’an promotes purification and tazkiya (cleansing) of the self through dhikr (spiritual remembrance) and du’a (invocation), and states categorically that the Akhira (the afterlife) is better for us than the Dunya (material existence). Yet we as human beings have come to prefer and prioritize the Dunya – some to the point of abandoning the Akhira altogether. The Qur’an then reinforces the universality of this message by stating that it is one that has been confirmed in the earlier scriptures.

 

However, the “self-image” of the Qur’an is highly pragmatic in that it deals with realities, emotions, people and communities. It recognizes the palpable context of the Dunya – whilst the message is clear that the Akhira is better, it does not condemn the Dunya. On the contrary, it views our earthly existence as a “Dar al-Balah” – as an abode of trials in which we will be tested.

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She comes first

She comes second

She comes third,

Said the Prophet – upon whom be Peace.

“Father, you are fourth.”

 

Revere the wombs that sheltered you.

Revere the station of Paradise

That lies beneath the feet of the Mother…

Beneath her feet, she is your Eden.

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One of the endearing motifs of higher spiritual consciousness in Islam is al-Sidrat al-Muntaha, the Lote Tree of the Furthest Boundary – which represents both the peak and the limitations of human intellect, the point where mind must surrender to heart and soul, in submission to the Unseen.

 

The Lote Tree with its extensive shade, its delicious fruit and exquisite fragrance, traditionally symbolizes Iman (secure faith). The shade of “action” represents rahmah (mercy); the fruit represents “intentions” and any  productive consequence that may result from that intention; while the “fragrance” of the tree  represents speech and communication infused with wisdom and knowledge – a wisdom and a  knowledge that refuse to engage other than the very best and most endearing ways and means of debate and argumentation.

 

Celebrating in the Shadows of World Politics

The Vatican said the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, a man who sowed division and hatred and who caused “innumerable” deaths, should prompt serious reflection about one’s responsibility before God, not rejoicing.

‘Osama bin Laden, as we all know, bore the most serious responsibility for spreading divisions and hatred among populations, causing the deaths of innumerable people, and manipulating religions to this end” Father Lombardi said. “In the face of a man’s death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred.’ (Catholic News Service)

The Vatican is holding firmly on to its commitment to realizing the ideals of common respect and tolerance between Islam and the Church as articulated in the historic document “A Common Word Between You and Us.”

From our side, let us remind ourselves as Muslims that our celebrations, festivities and commemorations need to be configured within the orbit of Islamic Spirituality. This was the want of some of our greatest leaders in the past such as Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi (Saladin d. 1193), Omar Mukhtar of Libya (d. 1931) and al-Amir al-Shaykh Abd al-Qadir al-Jaza’iri (d. 1883). The latter is known to have freed his French prisoners purely on the grounds that he did not have enough food for them to eat! In July of 1860 – whilst in exile in Syria – he saved thousands of Christians from slaughter by the Druze. For this the French honoured him with special favours. Moreover, acts of humanitarianism during times of war by the former two are far too many to be mentioned in a short piece of this nature. Suffice it to say that they all gained the greatest respect both within the Muslim World and beyond. While some of them lost the battle and others won gloriously, the modus vivendi of all these great saints and warriors stand us both proud and as vitalizing nodes of inspiration for whoever wishes to fight and struggle in the name of Islam.

There is a well-known saying amongst Muslims that declares: ’ala al–mar’i an yasa’ wa laysa ‘alayhi idrak al-najah (It is compulsory for one to try one’s best; but it is not compulsory to succeed).

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God is Great

Around the distant edges of my dim awareness

I feel the incessant tug and tear

Of shadows dark and stark,

Menacing the light of nightfall,

Tormenting the dawn of a warm becoming;

Misanthropic cravings we dare to call Religion

We dare to call Belief

We dare to spew on a path of Light.

There is a silent cacophony that endures,

That endures to prolong this nightmare.

Who were those who burnt our women?

Who were those who called them witches?

Who were those in the unblessed hallows

Of their mis-becoming who burnt the books of Ghazali?

Do we sight the moon, or do we slight it?

Do we take refuge in the comfort of its shadow?

Or do we strike a path of light from the sun’s reflection?

Such infancy!

Such frenetic lunacy!

Do we laugh and scorn to death such pious pretensions?

Do we become one with this cycle of death?

Or do we fight for life, and light, and a new becoming?

It is the rage of pious pomposity that seeks to burn the Light;

Those who seek to erect themselves upon pyres of flaming ferocity…

Seething, skeletal columns scattered upon plains of desolate waste

From which to shout and rave and give voice to the dead-spawn of their god-selves.

Dense with hate; dense with revenge; dense with the demands of spiritual dementia.

Is it Heinrich Kramer’s Luciferian release we seek?

Is it Joseph Sprenger’s collaboration we crave?

Is it the Malleus Maleficarum in which we wish to soak

And stain our souls?

To be one with a sequence of history inscribed

In misogyny, murder and madness?

That Hexenhammer, that Hammer of Witches,

That Heaven’s outrage alone could quell?

Or do we care to yearn for the Morning Star of Rumi’s Mathnawi?

Do we dare? Do we dare to tread that path of love and lived felicity?

But God is Great we say; God is Great we claim;

God is all Merciful; God is all Compassionate;

God is Forgiving; God is Love.

Faceless and forsaken

We beggar ourselves in the name of His Face.

“Set a beggar on horseback” proclaims the proverb,

“and he’ll ride straight to the devil.”

But I cannot speak for another; I cannot speak for the other;

Indeed I cannot speak for myself.

I speak only for a dream – a disembodied image

That tears and tugs at the distant edges

Of my dim awareness.

When we look at the surface of the current state of the ummah then we see a landscape foreboding and dense with shadows. These are not the happiest and most celebratory of moments in our history.

But should we despair? Should we turn our backs on the state of Muslims and Islam?

I have a distaste for pessimism. And so I find myself instinctively opposed to these attitudes. But my distaste is not my own. It has been cultivated by my readings of the Quran, the Ahadith (sayings) of the Prophet (saw) and by that radiant trajectory of wisdom that stretches and arcs across a millennium of Muslim civilisation – the wisdom of our saints and sages.

So when we look at the current landscape, what do we do? We could turn to the cliché of the bottle and the water. Is it half empty or half full? To the pessimist the answer is obvious. There is only one answer. To the optimist the question only starts at its being half full. Many other possibilities present themselves and spring to life. They may be the acknowledgment of the miracle of water itself. There may be the marvel of human invention in the design of the bottle. Apart from the act of drinking, there are the numerous possibilities to which the water may be put to use in unique and creative ways.

In this regard I am reminded of a most inspiring quote by Marcel Proust: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” It is not what we look at, but how and why we look at things that are the more important. We cannot always dismiss the “what”, but we ignore the “how” and “why” at our peril.

Today there are many Hujjaj (pilgrims) and potential Hujjaj who are seeking restitution, and, like all people subjected to exploitation, humiliation and degradation, restitution they must receive. But beyond the walls of restitution and requital there is yet a universe of beauty and liberating spirituality. All we need do as Muslims is never to allow ourselves to fall into that state of forgetfulness where we fail to renew and refresh our vision of things. The Quran promises us that “We shall reveal to you our signs on the horizons and within yourselves until it becomes manifest to you that He is the Truth.” And the Truth has declared itself as that which is Beautiful and that which loves beauty. “Hatta yatabayyan” (until it becomes manifest) is an emphatic imploration that we need to strive towards a continued renewal of envisioning and re-envisioning. In other words, to relentlessly strive towards seeing with “new eyes”.  The multiplicity of signs that infuse the “horizons” remains the same; likewise the innate goodness (or Fitrah) that resides in every human being as the makhluq (unique creation) of Allah (swt), and which bestows upon him or her, his or her dignity and honour, remains the same. “Kullu mawludin yawlad ‘ala l-fitrah… (Every human being is born in a natural state of goodness…).

When we turn and look at the Hajj we observe five features that enable us to re-open our eyes and to reawaken our hearts to the wonders of this event.

These are the ideas of Tadhiya or Udhiya (sacrifice) – upon which the ‘Ayd al-Adha (The Feast of Immolation) is premised – Maghfirah (forgiveness), Tawbah (repentance), Rahmah (mercy) and Ma’rifah (knowledge of the Divine). These may be conceived as five constellations in the universe of Islamic Spirituality or Tasawwuf – which constitutes the essence, not only of Islam, but of every authentically revealed religion across the ages.

In the majestic spiritual and spiritualised event of the Hajj, in all the grandeur of its dignified humility, all five of these aspects emerge in one of the most fascinating interplay of juxtaposed alterities and opposites. We shall look at these sequentially.

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O Allah, I ask You to place Light in our minds and in our thinking;

To place Light upon our tongues and in our speaking;

To place Light in our hearts and in our understanding;

And to guide us with the Light of wisdom to our final parting.

May all of us embrace, and be embraced, by the Light.

Allahu Nur as-Samawat wa l-‘Ard…

Nur ‘ala Nur yahdi Allahu li nurihi man yasha’

“Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth…

Light upon Light, Allah guides to His Light whomsoever He wills.” (24:35)

 

 

 

Eid Mubarak to everyone.

 

Sh Seraj Hendricks

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