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THE MEANING 
OF THE 
FOUR BOOKS 


Based on the Teachings 
of Sufi Master Anmet Kayhan 


by 


Henry Bayman 


What is the Meaning of the Four Books? 
The Psalms explain David. 
The Torah explains Israel. 
The Gospel explains Jesus. 
The Koran explains them all. 
The Koran has not denied its predecessors; 
it has confirmed them. 
Never before have you read a book quite like this. 


“Perhaps it will not be apparent to many... that what we have here is the Mother Lode of 
authentic Sufism.” 


- From the Preface 


With simplicity, clarity and wisdom, this anthology covers the major aspects of Sufism. 
At the same time, it comprises a fresh and refreshing vision of the Islamic religion. The 
author opens a window onto the teachings of Master Ahmet Kayhan, who guides us 
through a copious garden in which everyone will find what he needs—or at least, 
something akin to it. On each visit to this market-place, you will discover something new 
and exciting. In addition, it provides a rare glimpse of Islam as it should really be lived. 
For anyone interested in spiritual growth, religion, or mysticism, this book is a must. 


CONTENTS 


COIN TEIN TS saissssaus eet cagccasledatsn tudes poastu sy sand t¥e ponsks ovae'iaaiacea vases sel atge ganda seeagdo tanspwiashunededsditeusiss eS) 
PRE PACE acscsszsost sostaicesuaictssuascnsdaeciasdhenncnissgsctusds sacasstessetoo 3h cagesseasagansaaun deontameaiaierataeae ans 2) 
BORE WOR DD ose gas fu ceasac Giese dessa den gudiva ees baie dase gs Co Gite Sti el bu dededehaafatceaadalguaadiasants 12 
TIN TROD UC TION, dissstivcabids srssneadengesetstoacnis osdatuns saosned guvctes tateaansatoseabedsaacuoasugioats decenuooseds 19 
MEAN, INDY ATE esos coevesieastancinstanu a bepisnseentansuvnryactavnnssieu ahaa cutisvaadnss sx canawunssas Sebyatoewersetes oe) 
TELE, PATE COE MUA sicouesstszcndeteians laptoangeyedenaysb chants deaetens iepuacibevebea iobiecaustebedamuepeicoueetmes 34 
Py COUR WES Vc casa vies stcavapaasturwsadiacs hggaayyascdeubape casuyeaciadilanaa Rane vecie asa seuaneaceaahoeumaneoestens 43 
COUMAINIRIND aa vtsacitats ss tccanaeecticees siaassuncaa tudes saeeasostacadura teed womtaausaeeeeneiseemacgum eaasemaaneuatets 46 
INTRODUCTION TO THE HISTORY OF PROPHETS. ......... cece cece cee eseeeeeeeeeee 48 
MOSES, JESUS AND MOHAMMED sic scccacissscsasiecseiets sapiacaneietoctisisncknsurbecutusasisiooatedaneds 58 
WHAT DOES “ISLAM MEAN? pict. Seif oie al Sa cate eee eae ae erated 88 
AJPAITH POR ALE SEASONS #4 cviss2c tenis oi eee ao a 90 
SOCIAL AND ECOLOGICAL WIS TAS vp cise ceedec sii eter esoeee eibewdieleieledeinas amen 107 
ISLAM AND THE WAY OF THE PROPHET j..cs..icsscssncssessivoescesevessesnesecoaesondessevsveeniers 114 


Masts aa a Sy aaawn gs a eSE aia sees Tue Mca Fas ES 4 RUNS en NR SU PoE ATR anee yaaa HRMS 118 
AIDV ICE TO) KIM 2 caved cis eachatenteseiais sepceansovebinevanceatenasnedols pean were casadecauvantecasaseponionsetin’ 127 
PRA YER:: THE ASCENSION. BOR: ALD iy cssciinsesicessavssssvioscutayevaiseraassnevveadnesevageasvaueosass 163 
THE: MEANING OF REPENTANCE: casctisciacs shesadegsbetictyavesas chdeasdatuuseca guy taravuensaaide steed 167 
OUR: PRA YER S isics sasvave laghecnsiucsd gecebingdeutieacpaies hitaeaa ceed dese bogunond euy addabasemndecns audebodebaasecsnees 170 
THE:SECRET THAT IS LOVE sys cssccss isc iishig scssncssveagaessivgheseivoiieesousetediisbdedrevsguicisedins 173 
PUT YOUR; TRUST UN GOD issn ese tig cisiiod spss snccadeasd dass teig taasedyy els vans easndeetaetaceedapaes 178 


WOMAN TIN ISA Moss cacswisaasaeies sais wopscassavidegasni seca eiduteda dy uepuanigalad aaayrdpheauneeds cae leperaoaued ae 187 
ISEAMEAND DEMOCRACY. saccsaictsecicusscasesbasesacavearnsas videcdeiye wasn evuausanvvsnecidwmareriaveasass 204 


APPENDIX A: UNIVERSAL LAW, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND GOD’S 
COMUIVEA NIMES sssccecssicacssuaseoesesdienstotasucaosiasaed sauaeyanastheaetaneatqaeshavacsantampunsaieansaceates 229 


ADMINISTRATION: THE MATERIAL AND SPIRITUAL ADVANCEMENT OF 


PVE TIN DD) cats ayer deat we pueiee btn Sada sae Gas aca aen ae ea doa heise oa atta aol ite tensa 234 
MVEA SS SPUR ? eos Set essen ansehen quaa taney wiecedamatserasnea ce tgusa Guna, tie vel Seesaa aarseneaauanenreay teas 239 
TPELES NACE WIRE: OE SP RT Uses ca cbegtcnt canna vee tty cna ucadntiva Seay Sine saeaea rea sy Gi0d taedshvg Sts Miceatanatrete 243 
THE SPIRTTOAL JOURNEY: (OB THE SUPT csssvkeccsesqsansgvadetugestquastyevuvevansoasodageeudantte 248 


HERMETICISM: THE PHYSICAL AND THE SPIRITUAL UNIVERSITY OF ITS 


PAE i ces sdesshsniseaneuaucnpaiend iced teen tases bi wens Gas pau Seana WAan dade bogec eased Deane doves madates ea eueh edapauenpies 274 
THE STAGES-OP THE-SELP ‘viccsveisss cvscusiisuig ses sucs esta deysivgu ldshcodieuseies dodhivstidy bensbvesnevsvedes 281 
BEEKCINSIDE YOU es pecistetincieainr iitiislaatevontnideed lestoeeaicled tiviendenie ancevnslates 295 
SETAE; DOIN A WLS OOD ce Bocuse gvag abeo tists aa gui geaennaec tus guen saaesuanseotameia oaaan ame gesasrandearens 294 
TREATISE ON DIVINE AID (THE HOLY BESTOWAL)...... eee eee eeseceeeeeeeeeenees 306 
LE SECRED OF SEGRE TSS cc suigs cbasievanauanceunstens heen saonatonagenatssattuadteevaneraauaoolucnuacctes 312 
‘LHES VEY STERIBS OP UNIFICATION scsccstejcucsiresson city tusk sebnasnses dics inthe tarti eee swandowtde 317 
AP TER WORD csivas ta leases seschatcabotnenanivale yuelgu senenulguananegults wt oaiaataneaan yaaa gates 324 
PRP PEINDUN soos cists Scenes tosealetssrucnesseeiny 3ateacoaduaiateda teetasbescie. date ecoandeaaatedivesdaat sons adeacsss ones 325 
WARNING? A’ CALI: TOOPBACR esc ccc sdadcsish dos cus sducewils tao cqs oda gvuetisades vesesenspeus ase eeu osties 326 


PREFACE 


This book started out as a translation of the Turkish book named Body and Spirit, by the 
renowned Sufi Master Ahmet Kayhan— 


—And right here at the very beginning, we encounter our first difficulty, one of many to 
be addressed in this book. Mr. Ahmet Kayhan defies description or any simple 
categorization. Part of the problem arises from the definition of the words “Sufism” and 
“Islam,” and the conceptions these give rise to in people’s minds. “Sufism” has come to 
be understood in a variety of ways. Properly, it is the esoteric aspect, the highest 
expression, of Islam. Yet it cannot be divorced and considered in isolation from the 
exoteric aspect: the former is the content and the latter is the form which contains it. 


In the case of the term “Islam,” the problem is compounded to such a degree that it 
becomes almost impossible to solve. The word has become associated with so many 
connotations that different people using the same term rarely mean the same thing. One 
thing is clear: what you understand from the word is almost certainly not what “Islam” 
really means. This holds no less true for a majority of Moslems than for non-Moslems. 
Given the sorry state of religious instruction in so-called “Islamic” countries, few 
Moslems really know what our religion is all about. Even fewer are able to practice it 
properly, and the failings of the majority in this respect are responsible for most of the 
misconceptions. If this is the case even with Moslems, think what the situation must be 
for non-Moslems. This book aims to disabuse readers from such misunderstandings, and 
it is hoped that by the time you finish it, you will have gained a more accurate impression 
of what “Sufism” and “Islam” really mean. 


Professor Aydin Ungan spent a year or two on the translation of the book, and I would 
here like to express our gratitude to him for all his efforts. 


The translation finally arrived in my hands in a semi finished state. Nevertheless, I started 
work thinking that only a little polishing would be necessary. 


The more I applied myself to the task, however, the less tenable it became to remain 
content with a rote translation. For one thing, the anthology did not proceed in linear 
sequential order; it presumed a certain amount of knowledge concerning Islam and 
Sufism in the reader, and a relatively simple chapter might, for example, be preceded by a 
difficult one. This knowledge could not be taken for granted in the average Western 
reader. Hence new, introductory chapters had to be written that incorporated material 
dispersed throughout the Master’s books and talks. 


The result is a book that evolved from Body and Spirit, and is not a direct translation. I, 
of course, must bear responsibility for all its failures. Yet it is also to be hoped that the 
reader will find it not entirely lacking in appeal, and in lieu of this I would like to say a 
few words about my main concerns in preparing it. 


1. Universality. 


Islam is a universal religion, a religion for all humanity; it always has been. The original 
book assumed an Islamic cultural background in its readers. From the start, Islam has 
found roots predominantly in the Middle East, and naturally it has been imbued with the 
culture of that region. Islamic peoples have been quite content with this situation; they 
are satisfied with it and have found no reason to contest it. But a Western reader may 
rightly wonder how Islam can be called universal if no way can be found to relate it to his 
own cultural background. 


Western culture is based on the Judaeo-Christian tradition, and Islam has so much in 
common with Judaism and Christianity that there should be no reason why Western 
readers should find themselves unable to relate to it. Hence, I have interspersed the text 
with quotations from Western sources wherever an affinity suggested itself. These are 
mostly absent from the original book, but I hope the general readership will find the book 
more accessible and appealing in its present form. Being a universal religion, Islam has 
expressed universal truths, and some of these truths have been the property of the 
Western religious and intellectual tradition as well. Wherever a Western source is 
referred to, therefore, it should be noted that Islam in most cases already contains that 
truth quite independently, and the reference is given only in order to ease the reader’s 
comprehension. 


A Sufi teaching-story told by Rumi beautifully illustrates this point. A Greek, an Arab, a 
Turk and a Persian once came together, and when they were hungry they pooled their 
money to buy something to eat. At that point a difficulty arose, however, because the 
Greek wanted to buy stafil, the Arab wanted to buy inab, the Persian wanted angur while 
the Turk wanted uzum. They finally began to quarrel, and at that moment a wise sage 
passing by interrupted them. “Tell me what you want,” he said, and taking the money 
from them, soon came back with some grapes. They were amazed to see that they all had 
wanted the same thing. So it is with human beings everywhere: although we all 
fundamentally want the same things, we call them by different names, and in doing so 
imagine they are different. 


Well, then, here are the grapes. 


2. Unification. 


As will be discussed in this book, Islam is the religion of unification. At the most 
immediate level, of course, this refers to the fact that God is One. Yet there are other 
dimensions to it. Ideally, Islam aims to unite science, philosophy, religion and art—no 
field of human knowledge or perception lies outside its ken. The “grand synthesis” which 
some have aimed at but failed to achieve because they weren’t looking in the right place 
can only be achieved within the purvey of Islam. 


Mathematics has been called the queen of sciences, and in a similar vein it may be said 
that Islam is the crown of religions. The true facets of all religions—and they all contain 
truth, even the most unexpected—are proper subsets of Islam. Hence, in order to help the 
reader, I have attempted to show parallels with other religions where these exist. 


And finally, Islam ideally aims to unite all humanity. I find it unnecessary to labor the 
importance of this point in the “global village” we inhabit today. 


A portion of Professor Ungan’s original preface is included here for its flavor and human 
interest: 


My involvement with the translation of this book was not as subtle as Master Ahmet 
Kayhan’s personality, yet the beginning was interesting, and I could not pass without 
sharing it with you first. 


Since my childhood, I have always been fascinated with the Sufis; their literature, 
philosophy, knowledge, comprehension, intuitive power, synthesis, tranquillity, poetry 
and mystical music. Since, in the later years of my life, I started living in the United 
States, I made the reading of Sufi literature in English a habit in my free time. 
However, I had very little personal contact with actual Sufis. 


On one of my visits to my native country, Turkey, I had a chance to visit the Master’s 
house. It was in Ankara, a crowded top-floor flat open to everybody who seeks his 
wisdom and advice, which are freely dispensed. When we knocked on the door, we 
were welcomed and asked to come in without any questions. In the living room, the 
Master was talking to two women, and there were several men sitting on the couches. 
After finishing his words, the Master showed us our seats, talked with my friends for a 
while, and gave some advice. 


At one point he looked at me and said: “Oh, we forgot you... Who are you descended 
from?” I told him my father’s name. The Master turned his head, looked at my friend, 
Sadettin, and asked: “Do we know him?” Sadettin replied: “Not likely,” and added 
that I lived in the States. I affirmed that he would not know of my father since he had 
passed away years ago, and added: “Ten years ago, I came and visited you here.” He 
replied: “Oh... you came back so soon,” with a playful smile on his face. In order to 
change the subject, I quickly thought of saying: “I am reading the works of Ibn Arabi.” 
The Master closed his eyes for a moment, and said: “You should not start building a 
house from the roof. What happens to a building without a foundation? It collapses.” 


He again closed his eyes for a moment, and continued: “God Almighty has given two 
things into the hands of human beings. On the one hand we have fire, and on the other, 
water. You cannot contain fire; cannot put it anywhere, cannot give it to a child... So, 
be careful with it. However, you can put water into any cup. You can give it to a child. 
You can give life, comfort, and peace with it. Therefore, use water.” After finishing 
his words, he waited for a while, and from the next room he called in his son-in-law. 
He asked him to find the original version of this book and to read the first section in 


the preface aloud. While he was reading, the Master was reaffirming the sentences and 
looking at me to make sure that I understood. After it was finished, he asked: “What is 
your name?” I replied: “Aydin,” which means “enlightened” in Turkish. The Master 
said: “That’s a nice name. Very well, then, take this book and translate it into 
English.” After giving me some literature on the Sufism, some in English, some in 
Turkish, he added: “Enlighten all around.” 


I knew right away then that my contribution to the efforts of this enlightenment 
process would be less than minimal, since I was myself in search of enlightenment by 
the Master and other Sufis. Compared with their functions and comprehension of this 
world, I felt very small. 


However, after returning to the States, I felt a strong urge to comply with the Master’s 

request. By translating his book, I wanted to take a part, however negligible, in his 
process of “giving to the world.” Right after the start, I quickly found out how the 
Master was right about his comment on my reading. This book fortified the foundation 
I needed for further attempts in comprehending Sufism. 


The Master’s speech and his writing style in the original text are lucid and 
conversational, but there is a difficulty in translating esoteric ontological concepts into 
English. Therefore, in order to add to the understanding and the translation of the 
concepts discussed here, efforts were concentrated on the following points: 


Translations from the Koran: I have not adhered to any single translation of the Koran, 
although the best-known translations have been consulted. As elsewhere, I have not 
hesitated to sacrifice accuracy for clarity where called for. 


From Turkish, Arabic, Persian To English: The original of this book is in Turkish, with 
frequent use of Arabic and Persian words. However, in order to help the reader, I have— 
except on a few occasions—tried to use Arabic equivalents of the Turkish and Persian 
words scattered throughout the original text. 


Scholarly texts on Sufism are usually peppered with italicized Arabic originals of special 
terms. This is not without reason, since the original words possess more depth than their 
English-language equivalents do. In a book such as this one, however, intended as it is for 
a general readership, it was considered superfluous to include Arabic words when 
perfectly good counterparts for them could be found in English, by choosing the closest 
sense in a given context. Hence, this translation contains a minimum amount of Arabic 
words, and the ones present are generally Sufic technical terms for which the presentation 
of the Arabic originals is a must. Diacritical marks have been omitted. Technical terms 
without their originals are indicated by italicizing them or by capitalizing their first 
letters, especially when they first occur in a text. 

In Arabic names, the suffix ‘-1” indicates “from” or “of,” similar to the von in German. 
For example, Gilani means “of (the town of) Gilan,” Arabi means “of Arabia,” and Misri 
means “from Misir” (or Egypt—hence “Egyptian”). 


Since they occur frequently, those parts of Arabic names denoting family relationships 
are summarized here for convenience: ibn or ben: “son of,” bint: “daughter of,” abu or 
abou: “father of,” umm: “mother of.” 


Translation of the words “Allah”, “dhikr” and “salat’’: In Islam, “Allah” is the proper 
name, the personal name of God. In English we use the capitalized form, “God,” to refer 
to the Deity, who is One. The lower-case form refers to fictitious deities whose existence 
has been assumed in the previous history of humanity. Even when it indicates one of a 
kind, however, “God” is still a generic, not a specific, name. There was once only a 
single specimen of homo sapiens, yet he had a name and it was Adam. 


Absolute Reality, being all-encompassing, has both personal and impersonal aspects, but 
in Islam He is addressed as a person. And “Allah” is the name He has chosen for 
Himself. He desires, even demands, to be called by this name. This is similar to the way 
in which the Hebrews address God by the “tetragrammaton,” the unpronounceable 
YHWH. Although it was forbidden to vocalize this word, we know that they probably 
pronounced it as “Yahweh” or “Jehovah”. 


As an interesting and significant aside, it may be mentioned that this word is also of 
Arabic origin. According to Professor T. James Meek, author of Hebrew Origins, the 
name was foreign to the Hebrews, and in their attempts to explain it they associated it 
with hayah, “to be,” from which they derived the meaning usually ascribed to Yahweh, “I 
am.” Professor Meek himself deems an origin from the Arabic root HWY, “to blow”, 
more probable. Thanks to the Master, however, we are now able to give the correct form 
and meaning: Ya Huwa, which may be translated as “O He,” another name by which God 
likes to be called in Islam. The third person singular form refers to the absolute 
transcendence of God, and is the ethically proper form of address in certain contexts. The 
upshot is that even before Moses, the Arabs already possessed a second name for God of 
great importance which was adopted by the Hebrews. 


But to return to the main line of discussion: Another noteworthy aspect of the name 
“Allah” is that it carries within it the power of the presence of God, so that many Sufis 
have achieved an experience of God by constantly calling upon His name. Indeed, 
“Allah” is the most comprehensive and Supreme Name of God. Hence, God is almost 
always referred to by the name He prefers, Allah, in the original text. In view of the 
unfamiliarity of this name to non-Moslem readers, however, the word “God” has been 
used in its place to express clearly what we mean, in almost all occasions except where it 
is absolutely unavoidable. 


Concerning dhikr, this refers to the continuous repetition of a religious formula, such as 
one of God’s names discussed above. This may be done either vocally (verbally, 
externally) or silently (mentally, internally). This technical term has overtones of 
remembrance, incantation, invocation, and the best way to describe it, perhaps, is as the 
repetition of a keyword, “keyword” in the present case meaning a sacred word or formula 
assigned by a perfect master that unlocks the doors of inner space. In order to be 
consistent, I have tried to use “invocation” for dhikr as far as possible throughout the text. 


Salat, which is namadh in Persian, poses a problem in translation that could not finally be 
resolved here. Although generally translated as “Prayer(s)” into English, it is so different 
from what is ordinarily meant by the term that an alternative is called for; yet in the end, I 
had to opt for retaining this customary form of translation. Salat is different from any 
other kind of worship. One is tempted to call it “Islamic Yoga” in order to convey a sense 
of its nature to the West, but this too falls miserably short of the mark. Ultimately, the 
only solution may be for the West to become familiar with these terms, dhikr and 
salatmamadh, and to use them in the same way—freely and without fear of being grossly 
misunderstood—as Yoga and Mantra are now used. 


Gender problems: Turkish is delightfully free of gender associations in the third person. 
The singular form, “o”, can mean “he,” “she”’—even “it”. Hence, whenever we are 
speaking about people, it is automatically understood that both sexes are included. It was 
impossible to carry this over into English, so it should be realized from the outset that 
wherever we are not talking specifically about women, “he” also means “she”. The form 


“s/he” has been used occasionally, but it is clumsy, as is “his or her”. 


The original of this book is basically an anthology, drawn from various sources which 
remain anonymous except in cases where the author is—most often—a famous Sufi or 
poet. 


Not all selections in the Turkish original lent themselves to translation with equal ease. 
Some of those in the original had, therefore, to be omitted entirely. Others had to be, not 
just translated, but also adapted to the English language and Western culture. In return, 
however, the Master gave permission to use choice texts from his other publications, 
which an English-speaking readership would, it was hoped, find to be of the greatest 
benefit and interest. This applies not merely to entire texts, but to portions of texts that 
have been interspersed into the book where required. Hence, many texts have been 
substantially rewritten, and even new texts have been added where necessary. This is why 
the present book is more a new book than a translation, and also why it is not published 
under the Master’s name. 


Another point is that the original book consisted of a mixed anthology. For instance, you 
would find a relatively accessible text side by side with a highly complex and profound 
one. In view of the difficulty this would inevitably present for readers already unfamiliar 
with the subject-matter, the attempt has been made to order the text linearly, and a step- 
by-step approach has been aimed at—so that if you start at page one and read through the 
entire book, the chain of reasoning and information should not, as far as possible, be 
interrupted. In all this, the main concern has been to remain faithful to the spirit, if not 
necessarily to the letter, of the original. As the chapters are “stand-alone” texts—i.e., 
intended to be read individually rather than at one sitting—a certain amount of repetition 
could not be avoided. A subject dealt with briefly in one place is generally expanded 
upon in other places, but it was thought that cross-references would needlessly 
complicate matters. Editorial and translation comments have been added as footnotes, 
within brackets in the main text, or in italics at the beginning and/or end of a text. 


10 


Perhaps it will not be apparent to many—and so needs to be stated at the outset—that 
what we have here is the Mother Lode, the living core, of authentic Sufism. Some of the 
material here may strike you as familiar, even mundane. Yet tucked away in comers are 
small nuggets that have been handed down through the ages by the famous Oral 
Transmission of the Sufis, and have as far as is known never before seen print. The 
explanation about Ya Huwa above is a case in point. Another is the double Ascension of 
some prophets described in the Introduction, which, to the best of our knowledge, has 
never been committed to writing. 


The book is organized into roughly three parts. The first part consists mainly of 
introductory information. The second part, dealing with women, democracy and 
administration, deals with social subjects and provides sorely-needed answers to some 
questions. (An earlier chapter, “Social and Ecological Vistas,” would also fall within this 
group.) The final part deals mainly with Sufism, and thus with matters of a spiritual and 
mystical nature. A pamphlet by the Master on the subject of world peace is included at 
the end as an appendix. 


Special thanks are due to Tim Thurston and Peter Murphy for their proofreading, 
suggestions, and invaluable help in bringing the book to its present form, as well as to all 
others who contributed to it in any way. I am indebted to Mr. Sadettin Zorlutuna for his 
help in all further details after the completion of the manuscript. 


This book introduces many of the concepts of, and forms the background to, the Master’s 
last major work: The School of Wisdom—soon, it is hoped, to be translated into English. 


I find it not inappropriate here to conclude with Professor Ungan’s words: 

May the favors of the Reality Most High be with you, the reader, at all times; may He 
grant the vision to comprehend things as they really are. May the translator be forgiven, if 
he has made mistakes here, by every party of concern. 


H. Bayman 


January 1, 1997 


11 


FOREWORD 


“A little science leads one away from God, a great deal of science leads one back to 
Him.” According to noted historian Paul Johnson, as much as 80 percent of scientists 
believe in God. Among them have been the greatest scientists the world has ever seen. 
Scientists who believe in God run through the whole spectrum of scientific disciplines, 
from physics, which studies the external world, to psychology, which studies the inner 
world of man. 


Albert Einstein, one of the greatest physicists of the twentieth century and certainly the 
most famous, remarked: “The Lord God is subtle, but malicious he is not.” On another 
occasion, he explained his faith as follows: “The most beautiful thing we can experience 
is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science... 


“To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest 
wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in the 
most primitive forms—this feeling is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and 
in this sense only, I belong to the ranks of the devoutly religious men... 


“Tt is enough for me... to reflect upon the marvelous structure of the universe which we 
can dimly perceive, and to try humbly to comprehend even an infinitesimal part of the 
intelligence manifested in nature.” 


In Einstein’s vision, the Lord God manifests Himself in nature with the highest wisdom, 
the greatest beauty, and with infinite intelligence, subtly but not maliciously. And true 
religiosity is the source of all true art and science. It takes a scientist of Einstein’s stature 
to recognize the deep beauty, profound order, and magnificent intelligence manifested in 
“blind nature.” 


Einstein was firmly of the opinion that “God does not play dice with the universe.” His 
detractors on this point, Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, were the founders of the 
“Copenhagen school” of quantum mechanics, which favored a probabilistic interpretation 
of quantum events. Yet in relation to God, Bohr and Heisenberg, too, found it necessary 
to speak of “the central order of the universe,” for probability, too, has its mathematical 
laws—so much so, in fact, that the illustrious mathematician John von Neumann—who 
also helped invent the modern computer—once remarked: “Probability is black magic.” 
There are laws that govern even chance, and all order, and all laws of mathematics— 
including laws of probability—and of science, are the design of the Divine Lawgiver. 


On the other end of the spectrum, Carl Gustav Jung, the psychologist who delved deepest 
into the human unconscious in the twentieth century, replied to the question: “Do you 
now believe in God?” as follows: “I know. I do not need to believe. I know.” In other 
words, Jung did not simply believe; he knew God exists. In the face of such testimony, 
the efforts of those who strive to deny God are puny and misinformed. Just how puny is 


12 


highlighted by Jung’s following remark: “A man can know less about God than an ant 
can know of the contents of the British Museum.” 


The founders of modern science—Kepler, Descartes, Barrow, Leibniz, Gilbert, Boyle, 
Newton, etc.—were all deeply and genuinely religious thinkers, for whom God was the 
chief mathematician, beyond rigid scholastic frames and more mystical and Pythagorean 
in nature. Both Newton—the father of British empiricism—and Descartes—the originator 
of French rationalism—were profoundly religious thinkers. The same view of God as 
chief mathematician has been shared by eminent scientists in our century. “From the 
intrinsic evidence of His creation,” wrote the renowned physicist James Jeans, “the Great 
Architect begins to appear as a pure mathematician.” Paul Dirac, the Nobel prizewinning 
quantum physicist and discoverer of antimatter, observed: “God is a mathematician of a 
very high order, and He used very advanced mathematics in constructing the universe.” 


The views of all these scientists—and many others—have encouraged us to write this 
book. Alfred North Whitehead, the great mathematician and philosopher, expressed his 
thoughts as follows: “Religion is the vision of something which stands beyond, behind, 
and within, the passing flux of immediate things; something which is real, and yet 
waiting to be realized; something which is a remote possibility, and yet the greatest of 
present facts; something that gives meaning to all that passes, yet eludes apprehension; 
something whose possession is the final good, and yet beyond all reach; something which 
is the ultimate ideal, and the hopeless quest.” 


On this last point, we would beg to differ with Whitehead. The final good is not beyond 
all reach, and the quest is not hopeless. For the mystics, as Josiah Royce said, “are the 
most thorough going empiricists in the history of philosophy”, and Sufism represents the 
summit of mysticism. And just as there is physical science, there also exists such a thing 
as “spiritual science.” There exists a religion, moreover, where religion and science— 
knowledge of the inner world and knowledge of the external world—do not clash, but 
complement each other. 


ok ck ok 


Even though we live at the peak of technological civilization—with air travel, 
skyscrapers and the Internet—the world we live in constitutes a spiritual desert. 


Man’s scientific and technological capabilities have been stretched to the utmost. Yet his 
emotional life has become progressively stultified, his moral life increasingly barren. 


But this is not the true stature of man. A man is a complete organism in which all the 
parts are equally important. And when it is fine-tuned, this totality is the most wonderful 
thing in the universe, with a destiny that beggars the imagination. 


The brain itself is sold short under these circumstances. We treat it as a machine for 


reasoning, and nothing more. Yet if the human totality were to be developed 
harmoniously, that is in a truly holistic manner, then we would discover abilities of the 


13 


brain that, in our present deplorable condition, cannot even be guessed at. This lopsided 
development stands in need of correction. We need to achieve a balance that will fulfill 
more—ideally, all—of our potentials, and if we are able to do so, we will be happy, for 
happiness lies in the realization of the purposes for which we have been designed. 


This does not entail throwing our present achievements to the winds. We need not 
forsake our knowledge, our technology, or our civilization. Nor need we become hermits 
and live in a mountain cave. What needs to be done is to bring our neglected aspects up 
to a par with those which are already highly developed. In terms of the human entity, the 
focus for this is the heart and the spirit. In social and ecological terms, it is morality, or 
ethical conduct. The fact that we have seldom realized, however, is that these two are 
coupled, to an extent that one cannot exist without the other. Moreover, moral conduct is 
the foundation, the infrastructure, for the elevation of the spirit. No spiritual improvement 
is possible without salutary conduct. 


Traditionally, these fields have fallen within the domain of religion. Many of us have 
distanced ourselves from religion, and rightly so. But even if we were justified in doing 
so for a variety of reasons, this still does not justify throwing out the baby with the 
bathwater. Suppose we had thrown out our reason and knowledge in a similar way— 
where would we be now? “Science without religion is lame,” Albert Einstein said; 
“religion without science is blind.” Man needs both. 


The truth is that we have become alienated from our spirits. And this estrangement has 
progressed to such an extent that some of us even deny that we possess spirits at all. But 
the spirit is nothing but that which animates the body. To say that spirit does not exist in a 
living being is like saying that a radio or TV set can work without electricity. Suppose a 
man born blind came to you and said: “Eyesight cannot exist, because I have never 
experienced its existence.” Would you believe him? Philosopher David Hume claimed 
that he had conducted lengthy introspection and could not find any trace of man’s soul. 
But in order to find something, one first has to look in the proper place, and in the right 
way. 


Nasruddin Hodja (also know as Mullah Nasruddin, the humorous sage of the Middle 
East) was once looking for something in the middle of the street. He was down on all 
fours, searching. A man who knew him came by, and asked him what he was looking for. 
“T’ve lost a key,” the Hodja replied. So the man began to help him. After a while, though, 
unable to find anything, the man asked: “Hodja, where did you say you dropped the 
key?” “Down in the basement of my house,” the Hodja said. 


The man laughed. “Why, Hodja,” he exclaimed, “in that case we’re looking in the wrong 
place. Why aren’t we looking in your basement instead?” “Ah,” said the Hodja, “it’s too 
dark in my basement. This is where the light is.” 


But if we deny even the existence of the spirit, then we are certainly bound never to find 


it. Because if we believe a thing does not exist, of course there is no need even to go 
looking for it, so the possibility of discovering—or recovering—it is reduced to zero. 


14 


Those who haven’t the slightest inkling of what the spirit is tell us: “Spirit does not 
exist,” and we believe them. Those who haven’t the slightest notion about God tell us 
God does not exist, and we believe them too. Clearly, if we choose a crow as our guide, 
our noses are sure never to be free of mud. 


Man is an amphibious creature. He lives in the material world with his body and in the 
spiritual world with his soul. A person shorn of one aspect cannot soar, any more than a 
bird with one wing can fly. 


We have starved the heart—not the physical heart, but its emotional and spiritual 
counterpart—of nourishment, until it has entered suspended animation. And we have 
denied sustenance to the spirit, until it has fallen into a coma. At this point, it is easy for a 
doctor to come in and, confusing the lack of signs of life with absence of the source itself, 
to pronounce the patient dead. Yet the heart and the spirit, in spite of their apparent 
lifelessness, are neither dead nor nonexistent; they await our tender loving care in order 
to be revived—they live dormant, waiting for spring. 


We have this civilization that we have built up with our own hands. Its material 
achievements are unmatched in recorded history. And yet it is a civilization where we 
have failed to complement our material progress with moral—and, by implication, 
spiritual—progress. We have conquered outer space whilst forgetting and deserting our 
inner space. And because we have failed to strike this balance, the whole edifice is 
trembling uncontrollably before our very eyes, as evidenced in even the everyday media. 
The building, shaken by an earthquake, threatens disintegration. 


It is no use to lament when a man goes into a school and butchers a bunch of innocent 
children, nor does it make sense to brand the act as evil and let it go at that. What we 
witness today is the plaster falling from the ceiling. In thirty years we have regressed, 
from people being left lying helpless in the streets, to serial killers whose achievements 
are reminiscent more of war than of crime, and the spread of violence from the United 
States to Europe and Japan until there’s no safe place left. What is needed is a solution. 
We need a methodology that can be practiced by everyone, and if everyone sweeps his 
doorstep, the whole city will be spic and span. 


For the first time in history we have a civilization that is truly global. Furthermore, all the 
knowledge and, more importantly, all the wisdom distilled drop by golden drop by all the 
civilizations in history, are at our fingertips, if only we would choose to avail ourselves of 
them. We need a faith that is truly global to complete our global civilization—a faith that 
takes into account and coordinates all the religions of the past. In its absence, our 
metropolises and all our accomplishments will sink into a quicksand of violence, 
ruthlessness, and destruction. 


We think that intelligence, which we value so highly, is centered in the mind. The Sufi 
sages, however, held (and continue to hold) a different view. Like the ancient Chinese 
and Egyptians, they considered true intelligence to be based in the heart; according to 
them all, the seat of the intellect was not the mind, nor indeed the heart alone, but the 


15 


“heartmind.” We have severed the connection between the mind and the heart, and as 
long as it is not reestablished, all our attempts to achieve wisdom will be in vain. 


Many have lamented a world that has not only differentiated but polarized the mind and 
the heart, so that the two are mutually exclusive. This schizoid split between reason and 
emotion has yielded precisely what one would expect: uncontrolled oscillation between 
the poles of heartlessness and mindlessness. Either we have hard-boiled rationalism and 
science, which exclude affection and spirit altogether, or mediums, fortune-tellers, 
spiritualism, and similar fringe beliefs, which require us to throw away our rationality 
and intellect. Whereas all the while, what we need is a harmonious synthesis of the mind 
and heart. 


The emergence of fringe cults calls to mind the end of another great civilization: that of 
Rome. That civilization did not go out with a bang but with a whimper, though we may 
not have even that option left open to us. Historians are still debating the reasons for the 
fall of Roman civilization, for these are by no means as clear-cut as we would like them 
to be. The result was the Dark Ages. But today we cannot afford to give up our present 
civilization, for the cost would be far too great. If this civilization goes, humanity goes 
with it. 


Can we have the best of both worlds? Can we both save this civilization, and carry it to 
loftier heights? The answer to both questions is: yes. 


In the hectic rush of modern life, few of us have the time or the resources to carry out a 
prolonged investigation of religions. For this reason, most of us rely on hearsay or 
superficial impressions in judging a religion. The problem is compounded by two other 
factors. First, the differences between religions are not matters on which the poorly 
informed layman can easily pass judgment. And second, what a religion demands of its 
adherents and what those all-too-human adherents do in real life are two different things. 
The merits of a religion should be judged on the basis of its precepts, not on the failures 
or inabilities of its followers. Yet at the same time, a religion should cause a noticeable 
improvement in the average person who practices it to an average degree. This may be 
difficult, though not impossible, to assess. 


A religion may be broadly termed a system of beliefs. But the acid test of a belief is the 
actions that derive from it. If a person claims to believe one thing and yet acts otherwise, 
it is the action and not the belief that is valid. Actions speak louder than words. If a 
person says one thing and does another, his claims do not count—his true belief is 
whatever leads to that sort of action. “Deeds are a person’s mirror, mere claims do not 
heed; the level of one’s intellect is apparent in one’s work.” If actions and beliefs are in 
synch with each other, then we can truly say that a person lives according to the lights of 
his faith. As Rumi, the mystic, rightly said: “Either appear as you are, or be as you appear 
to be.” 


In what follows we would like to look at a faith that, if implemented correctly, is a 
foolproof algorithm for success and happiness. If a person applies it properly, that person 


16 


will succeed. If a nation applies it correctly, that nation will succeed. Look closely at 
people and nations that have been successful, and you will discover that they have 
applied a small subset of the precepts of this faith. Look at those that have failed, and you 
will find that they have failed to apply those precepts, even, in some cases, in spite of 
their claim to profess that very faith. 


Untruth can only lead to error. Even those tenets which at first glance one would regard 
as metaphysical are true, for metaphysical principles, if pursued long enough, will lead to 
concrete outcomes in even the physical world. We are all metaphysicians, without 
knowing it. The illiterate peasant who takes a simple step is unconsciously assuming the 
continuity of spacetime—a metaphysical principle that happens to be borne out by 
events. 


By now many of us have experimented with a variety of religions and philosophies. 
Some have appealed to us more than others. Yet the big one still eludes us—or rather, we 
elude it. Many accounts of Sufism have been published in the West, but without making 
allowance for cultural differences. When we try to understand something, we should 
avoid the danger of pigeonholeing it—of placing it into our collection of well-known and 
well-understood categories. This is reductionism, and once you reduce something to 
another thing, it ceases to be the original. Once you dissect a cat, it becomes a dead cat. 
The difference between life and death is all the difference in the world. 


For a long time, our attention in the West has been focused on the religions and 
philosophies of the East. This is not an error. Instead, it points to the fact that Western 
minds have correctly diagnosed the problem, and are looking for a solution in the right 
place. Then where have we gone wrong? And why haven’t we been successful in finding 
a solution? 


The answer is that we have tried to temper the extreme rationalism, materialism and 
mechanism of the West by the equally arid spirituality, nontheism, and asceticism of the 
East. Herein lies the crux of the problem. Aware that sitting at one end of the seesaw has 
landed us in a fix, we seek salvation by going overboard and trying to sit on the other end 
(or, if you wish, by jumping from one pan of the scales into the other). But the seesaw 
will then be as unbalanced as it was originally. From the mind we seek to go over to the 
heart, yet the heart by itself is as helpless as the mind in isolation. What is needed is a 
synthesis —in order to balance the seesaw, we need to go over to the middle, not to one 
or the other extreme. We need a system that equally embraces our materiality and our 
spirituality; that synthesizes our hearts and our minds—and even then, without the 
presence of God the two are still empty. What we need is not a compromise, as between 
water and oil which do not mix, but a synthesis, like that of hydrogen and oxygen, which 
combine to yield water—the sparkling water of life, a substance entirely different from 
oxygen or hydrogen taken alone. We need to fuse the good of the West with the good of 
the East. Today we have the opportunity to build on the best of our civilization—to 
become truly “civilized.” And geographically as well, the solution between East and 
West is to be found in the Middle. As the Koran puts it, “a lamp... kindled from a Blessed 
Tree... an olive that is neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil wellnigh would 


17 


shine, even if no fire touched it; Light upon Light” (24:35). And this light, because it 
belongs to neither, can illuminate both East and West. 


We have plodded long and hard on a difficult journey. Our search, we may think, has 
been in vain. Now, for the last time, someone asks us to consider—or reconsider— 
something we may or may not have encountered earlier. But do not despair!—where 
there is life, there is hope, and the most valuable treasures are not discovered without a 
long and daunting hunt. 


18 


INTRODUCTION 


Ascension 


As everyone knows, each and every one of the prophets have ascended to God. We are 
not going to explain these Ascents here in detail, but rather will summarize them briefly. 
There has been no prophet without ritual Prayer, nor without Ascension (miraj). Many of 
them have ascended twice. 


Adam had his first Ascension when his spirit was created by God. His second Ascent 
occurred at the mountain of Arafat together with our mother Eve. 


Idris (Enoch), in accordance with the Koranic verse: “We raised him to a high place,” 
ascended and did not come back. Noah, at the time of the Flood associated with his name, 
ascended while on the ship he made by God’s command. 


Abraham ascended to heaven twice: First, when he was thrown into the fire, and second, 
at the moment when he was about to sacrifice his beloved son Ishmael. These two are 
very important points. 


Jonah, at the time when he was swallowed by the whale, was inspired by God Almighty 
with the verse: “There is no god but You. Glory be to You, I have been of the 
wrongdoers” (21:87). By repeating this verse, he made his Ascension in the belly of the 
whale. 


King Solomon, the son of David, told his father he would accept prophethood on two 
conditions. He said to him: “If God Almighty grants the prophethood on both physical 
and spiritual grounds, I will accept it.” God was pleased with these words of Solomon, 
and his request was granted. This became his Ascension, because he wanted it that way. 


As for Moses, he also performed two Ascensions. In his first ascent, right after his birth 
his mother placed him in a basket of bulrushes and set him adrift on the Nile. His second 
ascent occurred on Mount Sinai. 


Jesus also had two Ascensions. In the first one, the Virgin Mary was asked: “How did 
you get pregnant?” Jesus answered from his mother’s womb: “My mother’s words are the 
truth, heed my mother.” His second ascent happened during the Crucifixion (his 
ascension was spiritual). 


The Ascension of the Prophet Mohammed was superior to those of the other prophets. 
Crossing the Seven Heavens, he performed his Ascension starting from the seventh, 
conversed with God, and returned with the greatest good news to his community and all 
mankind. 


19 


Ksoteric Knowledge 


Esoteric Knowledge (ilm ladunni: literally, “knowledge from Our side’—hidden or inner 
knowledge of things conferred by God), with the permission and order of God Almighty, 
fills the whole earth and the heavens. I, humble person that I am, cannot explain this here. 
However, we may be content to give a few ciphers. 


Do all prophets possess esoteric knowledge, or don’t they? 


According to legend, after gathering his entire army, Alexander the Great, with a sign 
from the Esoteric, started looking for the Elixir of Life in order to achieve immortality. 
After a considerable amount of exploration, two soldiers set out from the camp one day to 
continue the search, with the understanding that they would return and report if they 
happened to find the Elixir. 


Around noon they arrived at a river. In order to have lunch, they took out some dried 
fishes and proceeded to eat. When they threw the remaining skeleton of a fish into the 
river, an amazing thing happened. The skeleton regained life, took on flesh and appeared 
to them in the form of a living fish. 


The one known as Khidr peeled a fish, ate its meat and, holding the skeleton from its tail, 
immersed it in the water. The fish immediately reconstituted, regained life and started 
squirming in his hand. To his friend, Elias, he said: “We have found the Elixir.” They 
drank from the water, and also watered their horses. Their human attributes disappeared, 
and sublime, divine attributes came over them. 


This is the story. Now for the truth: This water was a flowing water, a river. Whoever 
drank from this water should have become like Khidr and Elias. However, since their 
goal was the Elixir, only these two ascended, only they could ascend by this water. 


The story goes on: The two friends returned to the army of Alexander the Great, but they 
did not tell Alexander about their discovery. Instead, they requested permission to leave 
the army and go back. Alexander did not grant their request, since he did not want his 
army to break ranks. In spite of their leader’s ban, however, Khidr and Elias left the army 
and started off. Alexander sent his army after them, and ordered their capture. However, 
during a close pursuit, both of them were suddenly lost from sight. 


Did the earth swallow them up, or were they raised to the sky? 


All the attempts of Alexander’s men to find them met with failure. So they went back, 
and reported to Alexander the Great. 


Alexander then said: “I overexerted myself and my army in order to achieve immortality, 
yet the Elixir fell to their lot. Mine was only a rebellion against the will of God.” 


This brings us to Moses and Khidr (see the Koran, 18:60-65). 


20 


Moses, with the permission of God Almighty, attained a very high level in his knowledge 
of the Outward and Inward sciences. In spite of this, God declared: 


“Moses, you must learn Esoteric Knowledge.” 


Moses asked: “My Lord, is esoteric knowledge beyond the Outward and Inward sciences 
you have given me?” 


God answered: “O Moses, esoteric knowledge is superior to all the other sciences. The 
time has now come for you to discover this. Go to the place where the two seas meet (to a 
designated pier on the banks of Red Sea). There, you will see a man of such-and-such a 
description. Tell him: ‘I have come to learn esoteric knowledge from you.’“ 


The man described by God was none other than Khidr. 


So Moses went and found Khidr, who answered to the description. After greeting him, he 
told him about the above order. Khidr said: “I was waiting for you here on God’s orders.” 


They became companions, and soon boarded a ship. Although he was a great prophet, 
Moses was now taking orders from Khidr. While the ship was sailing on the high seas, 
Khidr at one point said: “Let’s go downstairs together.” 


They went to the lowest deck of the ship. Khidr said to Moses: “Take this hammer and 
make a hole through the ship’s hull with this nail.” 


Moses objected: “There are many people and animals on this ship.” 
Khidr repeated: “Just be patient, make a hole.” 


So Moses obeyed. Water started flowing into the ship. A short while later, they were 
invaded by pirates. But by this time, the water had already flooded the first deck. Upon 
seeing this, the pirates fled, amongst shouts: “The ship is sinking,’ and so saved 
themselves. On the other hand, the people on board had panicked. The captain of the ship 
was shouting orders: ““What are you waiting for? Abandon ship!” Just as they were about 
to do so, Moses and Khidr plugged the hole with a wooden peg. Water stopped flowing 
in, the water in the ship was bailed out, and they all continued their voyage. 


When Moses and Khidr got off the ship, they landed in another town. While they were 
disembarking, youngsters were playing ball just as they do today in a field adjacent to the 
port. 


Khidr came face to face with a young man about eighteen years old. Khidr looked at him 
with a stern face, whereupon the young man attacked him. The friends of the young man 
tried to separate them from each other. Khidr struck the jugular vein on the young man’s 
neck, and he died immediately. Moses and Khidr escaped through the crowd in the 
ensuing commotion. 


21 


During evening hours they called on a town. No matter which door they knocked on, 
nobody would open. 


By then it was midnight. Moses, being human, was hungry and cold. Khidr, since he had 
drunk of the Elixir with the permission of God, was affected neither by hunger nor by 
cold. 


Presently they came across a ruined wall, on the verge of falling down. Khidr said: “Let’s 
repair this wall.” 


Moses: “What are you talking about? I’m cold and hungry. We’ve been driven from 
every door in this town. And now you want to repair this ruined wall!” 


Khidr said: “Don’t argue with me, just help me do our work.” 


Moses had no choice; he began to work. They repaired and restored the wall. But 
inwardly, Moses was getting very angry with Khidr. He made this apparent by saying: 
“What are you trying to accomplish?” 


Khidr sighed, and answered him as follows: “Moses, you have been too impatient. You 
could not stand three events. Now, I am going to explain them to you. 


“We drilled a hole in the hull of the ship. You saw with your own eyes what happened 
next: pirates invaded the ship. They were going to rob the ship and kill us all. The ship 
owner’s money was honestly earned. I felt pity and saved them. 


“The young man I killed was the son of a prominent man. He was rebellious towards his 
parents. He also belittled the people of that town. If one day he were to rule there, he 
would have oppressed the people. We killed one man, and saved a hundred thousand 
from harm. 


“Consider now this wall. The man who built this house was a righteous man. He built this 
house with money earned honestly. He put the remaining money in a jug, and buried it 
near the wall we repaired. (Khidr pointed with his hand:) Right here, beneath this 
foundation. 


“The father and mother passed away, the uncle took custody of the children, and the 
house was ruined. The kids are still young. After they leave their uncle they will build a 
house on this lot, and this money will then be their share.” 


Khidr continued: “I think you now understand the reasons for the things we did. But you 
were too impatient; our companionship is at an end. We must now depart.” 


Khidr gave his hand to Moses, and they shook hands. Moses began to weep and wail: “If 


you leave me here now, where am I going to go? I don’t know my way back. Please don’t 
leave me.” 


22 


Khidr said: “Don’t worry. If you are wise, we will be together all the time. Give your 
hand to me and shut your eyes tight. Open them when I say so.” 


Moses gave him his hand. Khidr said “close your eyes” and “open them,” in immediate 
succession. Moses looked around; he was in front of his house. 


This, with the permission, grant and favor of God, is referred to as “the folding of space” 
(tayy al-makan). 


oh cK ok 


With the permission of God and the approval of His Messenger, a number of saints from 
the School of Mohammed have become friends with Khidr. Moreover, they still continue 
to do so. I would like to give you an example. 


During the Second World War, I used to live in a village known as Mako (its new name 
is Aktarlar). On the 20th of June, I wished to visit my Master, Hadji Ahmet Effendi. The 
distance between us was about five hours. Half the way I needed to walk was uphill; the 
remaining half was downhill. 


By the time I reached the hilltop, I was tired. I wanted to catch my breath, and sank to my 
knees. Looking downward, I saw two persons, a man and a woman, cutting grass for 
animals and petting each other from time to time. I could not take my eyes off them. 
Suddenly, I heard my Master’s voice: “Strangers at play. What is that to you?” 


I got up right away, and continued on my way without a backwards glance. However, 
when I left home my wish had been: “Today, on the hill, let me see Khidr on my way.” 


When I passed the peak and started descending, I came across a familiar couple, a 
husband and wife. We said hello, chatted for a while, and departed. 


I said to myself: “These can’t be Khidr. Khidr travels alone and lives alone.” And I did 
not meet anyone else until I reached the blissful residence of my Master. 


I went directly to the guest room. He was sitting alone. I greeted him and kissed his 
blessed hand. After exchanging a few words, he said: “Hamid Effendi from your town 
has been waiting here for two days. (I knew this man.) He was very insistent, saying: ‘I 
will not go anywhere if you don’t show me Khidr.’ He just would not leave. I told him to 
get out half an hour before you came in, and shut the door on him. And now you’ve 
come. I felt pity for the poor man. He was coming in, going out, and asking for Khidr, all 
the while that he was sitting right next to Khidr.” 


If you were in my place, what would you make of this conversation? 


But I, poor Ahmet Kayhan that I am, understood nothing. It did not even occur to me that 
I should at least have kissed his hand again. 


a, 


You, my brothers and sisters, don’t be heedless and careless like I was. Try to love and 
understand the people you see and admire. 


I hope these words of mine will not sound strange to you: He who is a saint, he who is a 
Friend of God (wali ), is with Khidr every instant. 


Hadji Ahmet Kayhan 


24 


MAN AND FAITH 


Most of us have experienced deep feelings—of awe and wonder as we witness the dawn 
slowly emerging from the night, of thankfulness when a tremendous weight is lifted from 
our shoulders (perhaps at the recovery of a loved one from an illness), or of hope as we 
witness two former arch-enemies shaking hands in reconciliation—in short, anytime we 
feel essentially human: somehow at the limits of what we know, hope or fear. What is it 
that stirs in our hearts then? Many of us, as we sit in peace and reverence, become 
conscious of an inner light that is burning in thankfulness and in humility. Some may 
answer that they sit before nothing—a vast emptiness that reaches from the beginning of 
time and pans out to its end. Yet many have also come to realise that the bewilderment, 
affection and gratitude that we experience as light in our hearts is testimony to our faith 
in God, the creator of the universes. 


Humanity is united in many essential ways—sharing the same earth and resources, the 
same needs and abilities—and ultimately (when superficial differences are cast aside) the 
same faith in our Creator, the Angels, the Books and Messengers, and in the continuation 
after death of the spirit that every single human being has been endowed with. Yet 
whenever a prophet has been sent to man in order to guide and direct a people with the 
will and law of God, man has demanded extraordinary proof —miracles—from God’s 
messengers, instead of looking at the core value of the message and accepting it. This not 
only shows the difficulty of the passages man has to tackle before he can attain faith, it 
also demonstrates the importance of the struggle he has to engage in against his own self 
in order to find the True Path. As the following sacred verse indicates: “Does it not 
suffice them, (O Mohammed), that We have sent you the book which is rehearsed to 
them? Surely there is a mercy and wisdom in it for those who believe” (the Koran, 
29:51). As for the extraordinary events, signs, wonders and miracles given to prophets by 
God as bona fides, these are actually performed by God Himself. One should remember 
this fine point, and should not forget that prophets, too, are servants of God. As the 
Prophet Mohammed has expressed it: “The highest station is the station of being a 
servant of God.” 


As the sacred verse: “The purpose of man’s creation is to know God, and to serve and 
worship Him” (51:56) indicates, it is necessary for us to heed God’s call through His 
messengers and to try to fully comprehend them if we want to lay claim to a flawless 
faith. What exalts man above the rest of creation is his faith in God and his love of God. 
This is our forte. It is the Prophets of God who have taught man his sacred aspect, 
showing us the way out of all dead-ends and fashioning us into the most sublime of all 
creatures. 


The Existence and the Unity of the One Creator 


Thinkers and scientists from all countries and across the centuries have reflected on the 
unity and existence of God, on the limitations of their own existence, and have come to 
realise the Unity of Being and God’s omnipotence, as the following viewpoints testify: 


29 


Kant: Every visible creature is a shadow of the invisible Creator. Human beings must see 
the truth. But we show weakness in our faith in God. Even so does the pigeon, in order to 
fly, push against the air that keeps it aloft. 


Dr. A.H. Cronin: When we think about the universe and its mysteries, its order, its 
subtleties, its vastness and its brilliance, we have of course also to conceive of a creator, 
namely, God. Observe the universe, and investigate. Search for the meaning of life. You 
will come face to face with a shrouded enigma, a deep mystery. This cannot have arisen 
out of nothingness, for only nothing can emerge from nothing. 


Sir James Jeans: It is impossible, he said, for chance to build the order of the stars: 
“From the intrinsic evidence of His creation, the Great Architect begins to appear as a 
pure mathematician.” 


Abraham Lincoln: | am amazed, said he, at anyone who, after having looked at the sky 
and beheld the grandeur of the universe, does not believe in God. 


Laplace: The power that determines the heavenly objects in the solar system, their 
densities, diameters and orbits, and that limits the periods of revolution of planets around 
the sun and of their satellites around the planets, is a power dependent on the will of God: 
a continuous order which it is impossible to explain by coincidence. The existence of 
God is certain and beyond dispute. 


Prof. Finkelstein: Intelligence, he said, cannot comprehend itself. At the limit, there has 
to be an intelligence that comprehends comprehension itself. Only a universal 
intelligence superior to us can solve this mystery, and a power greater than intelligence is 
none other than God. 


Einstein: God cannot be seen or known without knowing an infinity of dimensions. Only 
He exists, and He has created human beings in the universe with a purpose. “The 
presence of a superior reasoning power... revealed in the incomprehensible universe, 
forms my idea of God.” 


Dirac: The universe is guided by a superior mathematical order. This order is formed 
within the supreme intelligence of the Creator. 


Edison: No human invention can surpass the blade of grass that parts the soil and 
emerges from it; for it is God who has created that blade of glass. 


Schwartz: God is the soul of a harmony that is hidden in every atom of the universe, and 
which cannot be ignored. 


Heisenberg: What is unknown to us in the nuclear realm resolves all the problems of 
physics, and this power can only be attributed to God. 


26 


Socrates: When you behold the highest point of the universe, do you not see the wisdom 
inherent in creation? The creator, with His art and order, proclaims Himself in every 
event. If not for Him, your mouth would have been situated next to your anus. I believe in 
the unseen, absolute Creator. 


Professor F. W. Forster: In his book School and Character, declares that the man with a 
perfected faith discovers the depth of himself. And in order to reach God, he must pass 
away from life’s difficulties and not be overcome by these ordeals—the road to God 
consisting of fully submitting yourself to Him. Faith in God is one of the basic principles 
of man’s education. 


There are thousands more such examples of scientists, thinkers, learned scholars, writers 
and statesmen from all traditions, all of whom have faith in God’s Unity and Oneness. 
However, the common perspective is dominated by those who declare the denial of God 
to be superior, and divisively condemn those who worship—in the name of intellect and 
reason, somehow equating ‘belief’ with ‘superstition’. But as we can see, intellect and 
faith are not contraries. They are but counterparts that complement one another. 


Humanity Is One 


The history of mankind starts with Adam, the first prophet, and since all humanity 
descends from this prophet, the whole of humanity is necessarily esteemed and exalted— 
and one family. Differences of color, of language, of physical form or of country in no 
way undermine this value. According to God, humanity must be viewed as one. 


As declared in the Holy Bible: “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was 
the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20). 


“And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:5). 


“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you are called in one body, 
and be thankful” (Colossians 3:15). 


These statements are further supported by the Koran: “We have revealed the Book with 
the Truth. It confirms the Scriptures which came before, and stands as a guardian over 
them. To God you shall all return, and He will resolve your differences for you” (5:48). 


“There was a time when men followed but one religion. Then they disagreed among 
themselves: but for a Word from your Lord, decreed long ago, their differences would 


have been firmly resolved” (10:19). 


“Mankind were once one nation. Then God sent forth prophets to give them good news 
and to warn them, and with these He sent down The Book with the Truth” (6:159). 


oa | 


The Messenger of God declares in one of his sayings: “Humanity are all the individuals 
of one family, and the whole of humanity is God’s household. The most valuable and 
auspicious among them are those who do good for humanity.” 


When we examine the history of the Prophets and religions, we can see that that they 
were all commanded to choose Islam as their religion. 


As the Koran testifies on behalf of Noah: “I was commanded to be of the Moslems” 
(10:73), and for Abraham it is said: “We have chosen him of this world. He is of the 
Righteous in the Afterlife. The Lord told him to submit to Himself, and he replied that he 
had submitted his whole being to his Lord” (2:130-31). 


Joseph says: “You are my helper in this world and in the next. Take my soul while I am 
in submission (“a Moslem’’), and place me amongst the righteous” (12:101). 


Moses addresses his people: “My people, if you have faith in God, then you are Moslems 
who have submitted unto Him. Put your trust in Him” (10:84). 


On behalf of Jesus it is said: “When Jesus found unbelief on their part, he said: ‘Who will 
be my helpers in the work of God?’ The Disciples replied: ‘We are God’s helpers: we 
believe in God, and do thou bear witness that we are Moslems’“ (3:52). 


The Koran informs us that all the revealed religions have been unified in Islam: “Say, ‘O 
People of the Book: come to a common word between you and us—that we worship none 
but God, that we associate no partners with Him, that we do not establish from amongst 
ourselves lords and patrons other than God.’ If they turn back, say: ‘Bear witness that we 
(at least) are Moslems (bowing to God’s will)” (3:64). 


‘Islam’ carries the following meanings: to protect oneself and eschew all badness, hidden 
or overt, thereby keeping distant from all kinds of calamity. It means peace and trust, and 
it means worship and submission to God. Those who are able to solve and understand the 
true message of Islam and the Glorious Koran—People of the Heart—are the real 
possessors of knowledge: they are the truly pious and are united in Islam. These are the 
people who can be said to truly read the Koran. Thus, they are the ones who accept the 
Unity of God, who are obedient and submit to Him, purifying their heart of all that is 
other than Him. Islam has been perfected by God and, by His grace, has been sent to 
humanity. Thus has Almighty God completed His benevolence to man. The Glorious 
Koran gives all the religions that were revealed by the prophets the general name ‘Islam’. 
This is made quite clear: “I have approved Islam as your religion” (5:3). “If anyone 
desires a religion other than Islam, it will not be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter he 
will be in the ranks of those who have lost all spiritual good” (3:85). 


Thus we can see that Almighty God has sent all the messengers to call humanity to unity. 
Misunderstandings, however, have been created by those perverting religion according to 
their worldly desires, thereby damaging both man and faith—whereas these are in 
essence inseparable, like the two sides of a coin. 


28 


“And those to whom knowledge has come see that the Revelation sent down to you from 
your Lord is the Truth, and that it guides to the Path of the Exalted in Might, worthy of 
all praise” (34:6). 


That which is seen by those who work to gain knowledge for themselves testifies to the 
truth and reality of what the Koran reveals; they have chosen the true way of Islam. 


Recognition of Islam in the West 


Alongside people of knowledge in the Islamic world, many scholars from the Christian 
world have researched and examined the wisdom of the Glorious Koran and its miracles. 


One of the greatest thinkers of the 19th century, Edward Gibbon, states in his Decline 
and Fall of the Roman Empire that the new faith brought by Mohammed was purged of 
the skepticism of uncertainty, and that the Koran provides a magnificent witness to the 
unity of God. In such statements he is supporting not only the Prophet but also the Koran, 
God’s miracle. Another great thinker of that century, Thomas Carlyle, in his chapter on 
“The Hero as Prophet” in his book Heroes and Hero Worship, says of the Prophet of God 
that the words of such a person are a voice coming from the heart of nature: human 
beings should heed it above all else. In comparison, all other words are empty. In other 
words, compared to what Mohammed has said, all other utterances are senseless, unreal 
and ridiculous. This great thinker, who revered Mohammed and the Koran, was buried a 
member of the Church of England, due to the pressure and fear that was brought to bear 
against him. 


The great Christian missionary, Rev. Bosworth Smith, states in his book Mohammed and 
Mohammedanism that Mohammed was uneducated, that he didn’t know how to read and 
write properly, and yet he was the bringer of such a book that it is still the common code 
of all laws, and the one book common to all prayers. It is a guide and beacon to 
humanity; all these properties have been encoded into this book. Accepted reverently and 
humbly by a sixth of all human beings living in Bosworth’s day (and a quarter in ours), 
the Koran is a miracle of simplicity in style and method. It is the miracle of Mohammed. 
Bosworth Smith states, in short, that it is a true and great miracle given him by God, thus 
making clear his position as regards Islam. 


In his History of Turkey, the famous French author and historian Lamartine expresses his 
admiration for the Prophet of God in the following way: “Philosopher, orator, apostle, 
legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational dogmas; the founder of twenty 
terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is Mohammed. As regards all 
standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may ask, is there any man 
greater than he?” With these words, Lamartine proclaimed the sublimity of the Prophet to 
all the world. 


The educator and sociologist John Davenport, who emphasized the justice of Islam and 


was a Student of the history of world religions, states in his book Mohammed and the 
Glorious Koran that Islam never interfered with the principles of any other religion, and 


29 


never instituted an Inquisition as in Christianity. It never aimed at converting people from 
other religions by force. Islam has introduced itself to the world, but has never abased 
human beings by forcible religious conversion, court trials or the torture of the 
Inquisition. For this reason no less than for the beginnings of science in the modern 
sense, the West owes much indeed to the Moslems. 


The concept: “Human beings are equal” was first introduced to the Western world 
through the stimulus of Islam. Thanks to the Crusades which served as an eye-opener, the 
West was able to eradicate the feudal lordships and the oppression of aristocrats, and thus 
to build freedom over their remnants. Besides which, says Davenport, no one should 
forget the following point: while ignorance and darkness were reigning in the West, we 
obtained our knowledge in the most important fields of science—in technology, in 
mathematics and medicine, and even in astronomy—from Islamic scientists such as Ibn 
Sina, Averroes, Ibn Baytar, Ali Kushju, Farabi, and many others. These scientists have 
guided and enlightened the West. Davenport ends by stating that the words of 
Mohammed, to the effect that “Glory and honor are to be found, not in wealth, but in 
wisdom’, led Islamic scientists and philosophers in every corner of the world to develop 
science and push forward the frontiers of knowledge in their search for wisdom. 


The famous American psychoanalyst, Jules Masserman, in stating his views on 
leadership (Time magazine, July 15th, 1974), reached the following conclusion: “The 
greatest leader of all time is Mohammed” among historical personages. In spite of being 
Jewish, he assigned Moses to second place, which is quite extraordinary. Again, Michael 
H. Hart, the American astronomer, historian and mathematician, accorded Mohammed 
first place and his own savior, Jesus, third place in his 572-page book, The Greatest 100 
Men in History. 


Sir James Jeans, the famous physicist and author of The Mysterious Universe, whose 
words have already been quoted above, was a devout churchgoer. Yet when told about 
the Koranic verse: “Among His servants, only men of knowledge (scientists) fear God” 
(35:28), he exclaimed: “This is terrific! At the end of fifty years of scientific 
investigations and observations, I was forced to believe in God, to love Him and fear 
Him. An uneducated person living 1400 years ago could not have uttered these words. If 
the truth you mention is in the Koran, it must be the Book of God, and Mohammed must 
be a prophet. This is what I believe, you may write this.” 


Dr. Wayne Mayer, on the occasion of the meeting of the International Union of Biology 
Teachers held on the 25th of March, 1980, said the following: “In order to be fully 
human, we need not only science, but also religion. In order to comprehend the problems 
of the universe, we must first know God and His countless attributes. We need the 
knowledge and learning contained within the Koran, the word of God. Faith, knowledge 
and intelligence will lead humanity to God, the Lord of the Universes.” 


Edouard Montet, professor at the University of Geneva, says in his introduction to his 


work A Translation of the Meanings of the Glorious Koran: “If we were to choose only 
one of the invaluable positive reforms that the Prophet Mohammed introduced to 


30 


humanity—forbidding the practice of burying female children alive—this would be 
enough to place his service to humanity at the forefront of the annals of history.” 


René Bousset, a French professor, says: “The Koran is the eternal model of literary 
beauty. As its commentators have all testified, it is such an example that neither the 
angels nor humanity could achieve the harmony of one single sentence contained in that 
sacred book.” 


In his study, Investigating the Koran, Ernest Renan declares: “In its form, the Koran 
represented an advance from the very first moment—in religious terms no less than 
literary. The world of literature had never encountered such a form. This is because it was 
the word of God.” 


Goethe declared: “If Islam is surrender to God, then we all live and die in Islam. The 
oneness of God, surrender to His will, and the mediation of the Prophets—these are all in 
line with our conceptions. Faith in the One God always uplifts the spirit, since this belief 
shows man the oneness and unity of his inner world.” 


The Duke of Weimar stated: “Nobody can develop further than the principles outlined by 
Mohammed. All of our laws that have been formed are found wanting in the face of 
Islam. Despite all the civilized possibilities we possess as a European nation, what is for 
us a first step was achieved by Mohammed long ago. No one can outstrip him.” 


Pushkin, the great Russian poet and man of letters, who is renowned around the world 
and who had a tremendous influence in his time, wrote the following poem after 
examining the Glorious Koran: 


The Merciful is He, He is the Compassionate 

He revealed the Koran, suffused with light, to Mohammed... 
These veils, these veils, lift up these veils 

Let the barriers to our eyes be lifted, 

With the Koran, let the walls between us 


Collapse, brick by brick.... 


“If a person is faced with a choice between the Orthodox Church and Islam, in place of 
confused and incomprehensible religious concepts (such as the Holy Trinity, the threat of 
excommunication, entreaties to the Mother of Christ, the endless worship of saints and 
their images), he will choose the one God and His Prophet—namely, Islam. The final and 
greatest religion is Islam.” Even today, authorities in Russia forbid the publication of 
Pushkin’s poetry on the Koran and on Islam. 


31 


Roger Garaudy was the child of a French family. He was the head of the Communist 
Party, the director of the Institute for Marxist Research, a writer on Marxist philosophy, a 
member of parliament and a senator, and even a candidate for the French Presidency. 
Sent to prison in Algeria as a political agitator, he had the chance to study Islam at first 
hand, an enterprise which took him some 40 years. In 1981, at the age of 68, he 
announced to the world that he had become a Moslem, saying: “Islam is the choice of the 
times. All the answers sought by man are in Islam. Islam is ahead of our times. Since the 
Koran was revealed, it has always been in command of time. Time itself may age, but the 
Koran will always remain youthful.” 


Medical surgeon Dr. Maurice Bucaille, one-time head of the Surgeons’ Department at the 
Paris Faculty of Medicine, became acquainted with the Koran while treating King Faisal. 
After years of research and study he wrote The Bible, The Koran and Science, declaring 
that he had become a Moslem and observing: “The incomparable miracle that is the 
knowledge within the Koran is beyond doubt and of an astoundingly high sophistication. 
It is the proof of a true miracle.” 


Marcel Boisard, in his book Islam and Humanism (1979), writes on “The Status and 
Equality of Women”: “The Koran addresses both men and women. Islamic law is 
generally oriented towards protection. It fully delineates women’s rights. It attaches the 
greatest importance to the protection of women. According to the Koran and the 
Prophetic Traditions, men must behave towards their spouses with equity, goodness and 
understanding. In spiritual terms, marriage elevates humanity to a higher state. A 
woman’s position is strengthened by the precautions of Law. Women’s rights are sacred 
before the Law; they have equality, as well as the right to their own property and 
inheritance.” 


Recently, Prince Charles of England had words of high praise for Islam: “Mediaeval 
Islam was a religion of remarkable tolerance for its time, allowing Jews and Christians to 
practice their inherited beliefs, and setting an example which was not, unfortunately, 
copied for many centuries in the West. The surprise, ladies and gentlemen, is the extent to 
which Islam has been a part of Europe for so long, first in Spain, then in the Balkans, and 
the extent to which it has contributed so much towards the civilization which we all too 
often think of, wrongly, as entirely Western. Islam is part of our past and present, in all 
fields of human endeavour. It has helped to create modern Europe. It is part of our own 
inheritance, not a thing apart.” 


All of which indicates that the road of reason is one. 

The Glorious Koran is the word of God. It is a miracle revealed to the Prophet 
Mohammed, the final messenger—the Lantern of Faith for People of the Heart. As the 
culmination of all revealed religions, Islam embraces all that humanity is capable of 


knowing and experiencing. 


In accordance with the verse: “Invite everyone to the Way of your Lord, with wisdom 
and good counsel” (16:125), it is with the deepest sense of humility and gratitude before 


32 


our Creator that we invite those who lack faith—or whose faith lacks perfection—to 
investigate Islam, in the light of reason and the Koran. For as God Almighty declares, this 
is the Religion of Truth, even though there may be those who detest it (61:9). 


In examining Islam, do not pass judgment on the basis of its adherents—to err is human, 
and a bad driver is no excuse for blaming a good car. Nor should it be judged solely on 
the basis of its history, for while this is full of shining, outstanding examples, it does not 
explain much about the religion itself. It is on its own merits that a religion should be 
judged—what it can do for you, yourself, here and now and in the future. For this it is 
essential to examine the principles and details of the religion in an unbiased manner: are 
these positive, uplifting, leading to worldly and afterworldly happiness, or not? It is due 
to the scarcity of unbiased source material on the subject in the West that this work has 
been prepared, with a view to compensating at least a small part of this information gap. 
The antics of petty dictators, prejudices, and the fact that Islam has a bad press in the 
West should not deter a serious person from discovering the facts. 


May God’s mercy and bounty be upon us all. Amen. 


33 


THE FAITH OF MAN 


Prologue 


Man and the universe—what exactly are they? The two are like twins: two lovers that 
complete one another. Another way of expressing this is that they are like a tree and its 
flower, its fruit. 


Without Man, what would the universe do? And without the universe, what would Man 
do? The two of them complement one another. 


That Man is the secret of the infinite worlds, Almighty God has declared in all His sacred 
texts. God loved the universe, and he made Man love it too. 


You cannot love God, nor can you find Him, without the attributes of Compassion and 
Mercy. Look and reflect upon this with wisdom. Try to find the secret of Man. Love the 
universe if you want to become fully human. Try to love the universe and find God. 


God has stated: “I am Man’s secret, and Man is My secret.” If you love God and His 
Prophet to the extent they deserve, you will have solved the mystery of the universe, the 
secret of Mohammed and of all His prophets. Be vigilant. Look deeply into Man and the 
universe and find it. 


Is Man a guest to the universe, or is the universe a guest to Man? By relying on 
Revelation, with reflection and with Divine knowledge, you can find the answer to this 
question. Man and the universe are one; both are worthy of exaltation. 


Man and the universe are like two sides of a leaf—they cannot be separated. But if we 
look at their current state, we see that they both have cast aside love and are lost in a 
senseless antipathy—avidly consuming one another. What we have witnessed since the 
first man (The prophet Adam) is that these two good friends have become enemies. The 
gold and silver and precious metals, the water and soil that the world yields, humanity 
tries to consume by eating and drinking and clothing itself. The universe that should be 
his beloved, Man treats as his enemy. As for the world and the earth, they in their turn 
consume Man. Like rivals they consume one another; neither of them are satisfied. And 
no one is even aware of this fact... 


oh ck ok 


Who are you? Why are you here? Where did you come from? Where are you going? 
What is your reason for being, and for being on earth? 


These are perennial questions that human beings have always asked themselves. Science 
has been pretty successful in answering the question: Where are you, what kind of world 


34 


do you live in? Technology has tackled the problem: Since and while you’re here, how do 
you improve your living standards? Yet, the deeper questions remain. 


These questions are not merely matters of abstract importance. The answers we give them 
also influence our immediate, daily lives. Man is born free—free to act as he chooses. 
There are many constraints laid by nature and society on our lives, but in many other 
respects we are free to act as we please. 


All actions, however, cannot be ranked as equal. Some actions lead to happiness, while 
others lead to ruin—ultimately if not immediately. So the further question naturally arises 
of how to conduct our lives: how can we act so as to avoid eventual despair and achieve 
well-being? How can we avoid building a house on quicksand? 


It may come as a surprise that these questions concerning our direct experience and the 
fundamental, abstract questions of our existence should be related at all. Yet they are in 
fact inextricably linked. The answers we give to one set of questions perforce influence 
and even determine the other. 


The existence of God—the one and only Absolute Being not measurable by our 
categories of relative being and nonbeing, the One without a Second, beyond all infinities 
and beyond even the beyond—is the most fundamental truth about the universe, and it is 
this that orders our lives properly. 


Even the atheist derives his principles from faith, and the scientist, when breaking new 
ground, is engaging in an act of faith, as all his theories themselves rest on faith—his 
faith in the scientific enterprise and the values that unify it. 


The reason why God created the universe is that He wished to be known: “I was a hidden 
treasure, and wished to be known, so I created the world through love.” But the universe 
would not by itself be sufficient to fulfill this purpose. What is needed is a sentient being: 
Man. Only man, who possesses the highest consciousness, can realize God’s desire. 
Hence, God created human beings as the noblest, the most honorable, of all creatures, in 
order that they should recognize His existence, worship Him, and through such worship, 
gradually come to know Him. “I created human beings only that they should worship 
Me,” God has stated. Worship in this context is synonymous with knowledge; it is the 
practice of techniques that draw us nearer to God. 


In order to attain knowledge of God, however, one must first be in a state of ignorance. 
And this is precisely our situation on earth. We are initially ignorant not just about God, 
but about the world we live in. It is not easy to overcome this ignorance. Hence, God has 
endowed us with tools by which we may do so. He has gifted us with consciousness, so 
that we are aware of ourselves and the universe. He has granted us intelligence, so that 
we can understand our world, and perceive His signs in the universe. Since God is the 
most sublime truth about the universe, but because of that also the most difficult to 
discover, He has provided us with guidance through members of our own species to 
whom He has revealed some of His secrets—namely, prophets and their successors, the 


35 


saints. He has revealed the principles conducive to our improvement by means of holy 
books relayed to us through the prophets. He has thus provided us with firm guidelines 
that will save us from ruining our destiny. And, finally, He has endowed us with the 
faculty of faith. 


Since God cannot be compared to anything in the universe (or out of it), experiencing His 
presence is not given to everyone. Nevertheless, it is necessary to believe in Him if we 
are to live our lives ethically and serve Him in realizing His purpose. And this is where 
man’s innate capacity for faith comes in. 

This human trait is so powerful that man inevitably has faith in something if not in its 
proper object, i.e. God. Because nature abhors a vacuum, this hollow in human beings 
can be filled by almost anything—and it will inevitably be filled. It has been filled with 


many things in the history of mankind. We are at the beginning of wisdom when we 
realize that it should be devoted to its rightful Owner. 


The Meaning of the Four Books 


God has revealed His prescriptions for humanity in four major holy books. Of these, the 
Torah was revealed to Moses, the Psalms to David, the Gospel to Jesus and the Koran, to 
Mohammed. In addition, Islamic tradition relates that earlier prophets also received 
revelation, not in the form of complete books, but as sheets or pages. Adam received 10 
pages, Seth received 50, Idris (Enoch) received 30 pages and Abraham received 10 pages, 
which add up to a total of 100 Pages. 

Two things are common to these Four Books and 100 Pages. The first of these is the 
emphasis on One God. The second is the Golden Rule: “Do as you would be done by.” 
The connection between the two may perhaps be outlined as follows: 

1. All things have been created by the One God. 

2. All things stand in the same relation to God, their Creator. 

3. All things stand under the same ethical law. 

4. You, too, have been created by God. 

5. What is an ethical law for you is an ethical law for all beings. 


6. The treatment that pleases (or displeases) you will please (or displease) all creatures. 


7. Therefore, do unto other beings as you would like them to do unto you. 


The Existence and Unity of the One Creator 


36 


In the face of nature, it is easy for man to deify what he sees before him, and yet 
primitive peoples in general have had a supreme deity above all their other deities. In 
ancient Egypt, the concept of One God was reached centuries after Akhenaton’s abortive 
attempt at monotheism. In their pantheons of gods, the Greeks and the Romans had a 
supreme God which they called Zeus and Jupiter, respectively. The mistake in these cases 
arose from assigning importance to anything other than One God. 


Among world religions, only in the East is nontheism to be found. Early Hinayana 
Buddhism did not deal with the concept of God at all. But this has to be understood in 
light of the fact that at the time when the Buddha began to preach, there were two million 
Hindu gods in India; just as there are still eight million kami, or gods, in Japan. Against 
this backdrop, it is not at all surprising that the Buddha found it ill-advised to express his 
ideas within a theistic framework. (A short while later, the deity concept was 
reintroduced with the emergence of Mahayana Buddhism.) A hyperinflation of gods, 
then, can lead to the rejection of them all as a backlash. The first (negation) part of the 
formula: “There are no gods, only God exists” is actualized, without realization of the 
latter—the affirmative—part (“only God exists”). 


The history of man is really the history of faith. The founders of thought, of science and 
of society all drew on their faith in God Almighty. Philosophers and scientists of all 
nations and across all the centuries have reflected on the unity and existence of God, on 
the limitations of their own existence, and have come to realize God’s unity and 
omnipotence, as the following testify: 


Socrates: “God alone is wise, and ... he intends to show that the wisdom of men is worth 
little or nothing.” 


Plato: “God desired that all things should be good, and nothing bad, as far as possible.” 


Aristotle: “God is a living being, eternal, most good, so that life and duration continuous 
and eternal belong to God; for this is God.” 


Leibniz: The universe as a whole must have a sufficient reason, which must be outside 
the universe. This sufficient reason is God. “There is, therefore, or there can be 
conceived, a subject of all perfections, or most perfect Being. Whence it follows also that 
He exists...” 


Locke: “The idea of a Supreme Being, infinite in power, goodness and wisdom, whose 
workmanship we are, and on whom we depend; and the idea of ourselves, as 
understanding, rational beings ... would ... place morality among the sciences capable of 
demonstration....” 


Kant: It is unjust that the virtuous should suffer. Since this often happens in this world, 


there must be another world where they are rewarded after death, and there must be a 
God to secure justice in the life hereafter. 


J 


Charles Darwin: In spite of being a self-confessed agnostic in his later years, he stated: 
“Another source of conviction in the existence of God ... follows from the 
impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his 
capacity for looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or 
necessity.” “In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an Atheist in the sense of 
denying the existence of a God.” 


Sir James Jeans: It is impossible, he said, for chance to build the order of the stars: 
“From the intrinsic evidence of His creation, the Great Architect begins to appear as a 
pure mathematician.” 


Newton: “This being governs all things... as Lord over all; and on account of his 
dominion he is wont to be called Lord God Pantocrator, or Universal Ruler.” 


Einstein: “The presence of a superior reasoning power... revealed in the 
incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.” 


Werner Von Braun: The father of space science, he wrote: “...the vast mysteries of the 
universe should only confirm our belief in the certainty of its Creator. I find it as difficult 
to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality 
behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny 
the advances of science.” 


Abraham Lincoln: Lamenting how we have forgotten God, he said: “We have forgotten 
the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and 
strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all 
these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.” 


There are thousands more such examples of scientists and thinkers, of learned scholars, 
of writers and statesmen from all traditions, all of whom, having faith in God’s Unity, 
show how intellect and faith are not contraries—they are but counterparts that 
complement one another. 


The Islamic Faith 


Speaking on the Islamic legacy to Europe, Prince Charles has said: “We have 
underestimated the importance of 800 years of Islamic society: a culture in Spain 
between the 8th and 15th centuries. The contribution of Muslim Spain to the preservation 
of classical learning during the Dark Ages, and to the first flowering of the Renaissance, 
has long been recognized. But Islamic Spain was much more than a mere larder where 
Hellenistic knowledge was kept for later consumption by the emerging modern world. 
Not only did Muslim Spain gather and preserve the intellectual content of ancient Greek 
and Roman civilization, it also interpreted and expanded upon that civilization, and made 
a vital contribution of its own in so many fields of human endeavour—in science, 
astronomy, mathematics, algebra (itself an Arabic word), law, history, medicine, 
pharmacology, optics, agriculture, architecture, theology, music. Averroes and Avenzoor, 


38 


like their counterparts Avicenna and Rhazes in the East, contributed to the study and 
practice of medicine in ways from which Europe benefited for centuries afterwards. 


“Islam nurtured and preserved the quest for learning. In the words of the Prophet’s 
tradition: ‘The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.’ Cordoba in 
the 10th century was by far the most civilized city of Europe. We know of lending 
libraries in Spain at the time [of] King Alfred... It is said that the 400,000 volumes of its 
ruler’s library amounted to more books than all the rest of Europe put together. That was 
made possible because the Muslim world acquired from China the skill of making paper 
more than four hundred years before the rest of non-Muslim Europe. Many of the traits 
on which Europe prides itself came to it from Muslim Spain. Diplomacy, free trade, open 
borders, the techniques of academic research, of anthropology, etiquette, fashion, 
alternative medicine, hospitals, all came from this great city of cities. Mediaeval Islam 
was a religion of remarkable tolerance for its time, allowing Jews and Christians to 
practice their inherited beliefs, and setting an example which was not, unfortunately, 
copied for many centuries in the West. The surprise, ladies and gentlemen, is the extent to 
which Islam has been a part of Europe for so long, first in Spain, then in the Balkans, and 
the extent to which it has contributed so much towards the civilization which we all too 
often think of, wrongly, as entirely Western. Islam is part of our past and present, in all 
fields of human endeavour. It has helped to create modern Europe. It is part of our own 
inheritance, not a thing apart.” (1996) 


The eminent German theologian Hans Kiing has, in recent years, posed the question: 
“was Muhammad really a genuine or a true prophet?” to which he has given the 
following answer: 


Even orthodox Christians (or Jews), provided they confront the facts with an open mind, 
cannot deny certain parallels: 





e/| || |) Like the prophets of Israel, Muhammad based his work not on any office 
given him by the community (or its authorities) but on a special, personal 
relationship with God. 























e Like the prophets of Israel, Muhammad was a strong-willed character, who 
saw himself as wholly penetrated by his divine vocation, totally taken up by God’s 
claim on him, exclusively absorbed by his mission. 








e'| (| | (Like the prophets of Israel, Muhammad spoke out amid a religious and social 
crisis. With his passionate piety and his revolutionary preaching, he stood up 
against the wealthy ruling class and the tradition of which it was the guardian. 














e| || |) (Like the prophets of Israel, Muhammad, who usually calls himself a 
“wamer,” wished to be nothing but God’s mouthpiece and to proclaim God’s word, 
not his own. 


39 





e|| (| | (Like the prophets of Israel, Muhammad tirelessly glorified the one God, who 
tolerates no other gods before him and who is, at the same time, the kindly Creator 
and merciful Judge. 














| {Like the prophets of Israel, Muhammad insisted upon unconditional 
obedience, devotion, and “submission” (the literal meaning of “Islam’”’) to this one 
God. He called for every kind of gratitude toward God and generosity toward 
human beings. 

















e'| |||) (Like the prophets of Israel, Muhammad linked his monotheism to a 
humanism, connecting faith in the one God and his judgment to the demand for 
social justice: judgment and redemption, threats against the unjust, who go to hell, 
and promises to the just, who are gathered into God’s Paradise. 





Anyone who places the Bible, especially the Old Testament, alongside the Qur’an, and 
reads both together, inevitably wonders: Don’t the three Semitic religions of revelation— 
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—have the same basis? And isn’t this particularly true of 
the Old Testament and the Qur’an?... 


..he alone led the Muslims to the worship of the one God, who spoke through him: 
Muhammad, the Prophet. 


The fact is often overlooked that... according to the New Testament there were also 
authentic prophets who came after Jesus... the New Testament doesn’t bid us reject in 
advance Muhammad’s claim to be a true prophet after Jesus and in basic agreement with 
him... 


..1f we acknowledge Muhammad as a post-Christian prophet, then to be consistent we 

shall also have to admit... that Muhammad didn’t simply get his message from 
himself, that his message is not simply Muhammad’s word, but God's word. (Hans 
Kiing et al., Christianity and the World Religions, New York, 1986, pp. 25-31.) 


Many other scholars from the Christian world have researched and examined Islam, 
testifying to the wisdom of the Glorious Koran and the greatness of the Prophet 
Mohammed. 


Fritjof Schuon, the acknowledged expert of Grand Tradition in our time, has written: “if 
the Prophet had so wished—supposing Islam were the product of his mind—he could also 
have declared himself the son of God; he could have declared the Arabs a people elect; he 
could have founded a dispersed and dispersing cult which would have included his own 
person, the Archangels, some pagan divinities and, possibly, one or more of his wives, 
along with God; and he would certainly have done so if he had had the character still all 
too readily attributed to him in the West. That he did not do so proves in any case two 
things, namely a character of absolute integrity, and an authentic message from God; both 
things—the human qualification and the divine intervention—are necessarily combined, 
for the Messenger must be in conformity with the Message, he must in some manner 


40 


anticipate it by his character and by his gifts. ... the absolutely honest, simple, upright, 
disinterested and generous personality of the Prophet—we speak as a historian and not as 
a ‘believer’—reveals proportions that transcend the commonly human.” (Fritjof Schuon, 
Christianity/Islam, 1985, p. 174-5, 177-8.) 


One of the greatest thinkers of the 19th century, Edward Gibbon, stated in his Decline 
and Fall of the Roman Empire that the new faith brought by Mohammed was purged of 
the skepticism of uncertainty, and that the Koran provides a magnificent witness to the 
unity of God. In such statements he is supporting not only the Prophet but also the Koran, 
God’s miracle. “It is not the propagation but the permanency of his religion that deserves 
our wonder; the same pure and perfect impression which he engraved at Mecca and 
Madina is preserved, after the revolutions of twelve centuries by the Indian, the African 
and the Turkish proselytes of the Koran... The Mahometans have uniformly withstood the 
temptation of reducing the object of their faith and devotion to a level with the senses and 
imagination of man. ‘I believe in One God and Mahomet is the Apostle of God’ is the 
simple and invariable profession of Islam. The intellectual image of the Deity has never 
been degraded by any visible idol; the honors of the prophet have never transgressed the 
measure of human virtue; and his living precepts have restrained the gratitude of his 
disciples within the bounds of reason and religion.” (Edward Gibbon and Simon Ocklay, 
History of the Saracen Empire, London, 1870, p. 54.) 


The Christian missionary, Rev. Bosworth Smith, stated: “By a fortune absolutely unique 
in history, Mohammad is a threefold founder—of a nation, of an empire, and of a religion. 
The Quran is a book which is a poem, a code of laws, a book of common prayer, all in 
one, and is reverenced by a large section of the human race as a miracle of purity in style, 
of wisdom, and of truth. It is the one miracle claimed by Mohammad—his ‘Standing 
Miracle,’ he called it; and a miracle indeed it is.” “He was Caesar and Pope in one; but he 
was Pope without Pope’s pretensions, Caesar without the legions of Caesar: without a 
standing army, without a bodyguard, without a palace, without a fixed revenue. If ever 
any man had the right to say that he ruled by the right divine, it was Mohammad, for he 
had all the power without its instruments and without its supports.” (Mohammad and 
Mohammadanism, London, 1874, p. 92.) 


In his History of Turkey, the famous French author and historian Lamartine expresses his 
admiration for the Prophet of God in the following way: “Philosopher, orator, apostle, 
legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational dogmas; the founder of twenty 
terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is Mohammed. As regards all 
standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may ask, is there any man 
greater than he?” (Histoire de la Turquie, Paris, 1854, Vol. 11, p. 277.) 


The Englishman John Davenport, who emphasized the justice of Islam and was a student 
of the history of world religions, stated: “Islam has never interfered with the dogmas of 
any faith—never persecuted, never established an inquisition. It offered its religion, but 
never enforced it.” Islam has introduced itself to the world, but has never abased human 
beings by forcible religious conversion, court trials or the torture of the Inquisition. For 


4] 


this reason no less than for the beginnings of science in the modern sense, says 
Davenport, the West owes much indeed to the Moslems. 


“The acceptance of Islam,” he observes, “conferred equal rights”. Thus the concept: 
“Human beings are equal” was first introduced to the Western world through the stimulus 
of Islam. He continues: 


“Europe is still further indebted to the Musalmans. For, not to mention that to the 
struggles during the Crusades we mainly owe the abolition of the onerous parts of the 
feudal system, and the destruction of those aristocratic despotisms on the ruins of which 
arose the proudest bulwark of our liberties, Europe is to be reminded that she is indebted 
to the followers of Muhammad, as the link which connects ancient and modern literature; 
for the preservation, during a long reign of Western darkness, of the works of many of the 
Greek philosophers; and for the cultivation of some of the most important branches of 
science, mathematics, medicine, etc., which are highly indebted to their labours. Spain, 
Cassino, the Salernum were the nurseries of the literature of the age; and the works of 
Avicenna, Averroes, Beithar, Abzazel and others gave new vigour and direction to the 
studies of [Western scientists]. ... Muhammad himself said that a mind without erudition 
was like a body without a soul, that ‘glory consists not in wealth but in knowledge;’ and 
he charged his followers to seek learning even in the remotest parts of the globe.” (John 
Davenport, Muhammad and Teachings of [the] Quran, 1869, pp. 61-2, 70-71.) 


The famous American psychoanalyst, Jules Masserman, in stating his views on 
leadership (Time magazine, July 15, 1974), reached the following conclusion: “The 
greatest leader of all time is Mohammed” among historical personages. In spite of being 
Jewish, he assigned Moses to second place, which is quite extraordinary. Again, Michael 
H. Hart, the American astronomer, historian and mathematician, accorded Mohammed 
first place in his 572-page book: “Muhammad... was the only man in history who was 
supremely successful on both the religious and secular level.” (The 100: A Ranking of the 
Most Influential Persons in History, New York, 1978, p. 33.) 


Sir James Jeans, the famous physicist and author of The Mysterious Universe, whose 
words have already been quoted above, was a devout churchgoer. Yet when told about 
the Koranic verse: “Among His servants, only men of knowledge (scientists) fear God” 
(35:28), he exclaimed: “This is terrific! At the end of fifty years of scientific 
investigations and observations, I was forced to believe in God, to love Him and fear 
Him. An uneducated person living 1400 years ago could not have uttered these words. If 
the truth you mention is in the Koran, it must be the Book of God, and Mohammed must 
be a prophet. This is what I believe, you may write this.” 


Edouard Montet, professor at the University of Geneva, says in his introduction to his 
work A Translation of the Meanings of the Glorious Koran: “If we were to choose only 
one of the invaluable reforms that the Prophet Mohammed introduced to humanity— 
forbidding the practice of burying female children alive—this would be enough to place 
his service to humanity at the forefront of the annals of history.” 


42 


Roger Garaudy was the child of a French family. He was the head of the Communist 
Party, the director of the Institute for Marxist Research, a writer on Marxist philosophy, a 
member of parliament and a senator, and even a candidate for the French Presidency. 
Sent to prison in Algeria as a political agitator, he had the chance to study Islam at first 
hand, an enterprise which took him some 40 years. In 1981, at the age of 68, he 
announced to the world that he had become a Moslem, saying: “Islam is the choice of the 
times. All the answers sought by man are in Islam.” 


Islam and You 

The Koran clearly declares: “There is no compulsion in religion: Truth now stands clear 
from error. Whoever rejects evil and believes in God has grasped the most trustworthy 
handle that never breaks” (2:256). 

Can you truly say that what you already “know” about Islam is based upon an unbiased 
and informed judgement and not upon misinformation? Is it based on the teachings of the 
Koran, and on the example set by the Prophet Mohammed? 

This is said to you out of genuine love: of Truth and of humanity. 

A tradition of the Messenger of God declares: “Mankind are all the individuals of one 
family. The whole of humanity is God’s household, and the most valuable and auspicious 


of them are those who do good for humanity.” 


May His Mercy and Bounty be upon us all. Amen. 


AH, COURTESY 


(O Mankind: if you wish to love God and journey to God, enter with courtesy and try to 
exit with wisdom in all your dealings, whether physical or spiritual. The following 
sayings regarding courtesy, or splendid moral conduct, have been culled from the 
Traditions of the Prophet and the aphorisms of the great saints.) 

“My Lord made me courteous, and endowed me with the best courtesy.” 

“If a person has no trace of courtesy, he is not human.” 

“The difference that sets man apart from the animals is courtesy.” 

“A mind unadorned with courtesy is a hero without a weapon.” 


“Courtesy is the outer appearance of intelligence.” 


“Courtesy is to be in control of one’s hand, one’s tongue, and one’s [sexuality].” 


43 


“Who visits with courtesy will return laden with gifts.” 
“The beginning of all courtesy is to speak little.” 


“Courtesy is the guide and sign of the Friends of God. It is the cause of communion with 
God.” 


“Without courtesy, nobility is naught.” 

“Courtesy is a weapon that kills the devil.” 

“Courtesy is the greatest art. It is food for the road that leads to God.” 
“Courtesy is the beginning of everything. The whole of Sufism is courtesy.” 
“Courtesy is the first requirement of perfection.” 

“He who abandons courtesy is not a wise man.” 

“Fortify courtesy, renounce all else.” 

“Those who lack courtesy are driven from God’s doorstep.” 

“Who lacks courtesy has no trustworthy knowledge.” 


“Command is above courtesy.” [I.e., when there is a contention between a command and 
the requirements of courtesy, the command takes higher priority. ] 


“Truth is nothing but courtesy.” 

“True courtesy is to renounce the lower self.” 

“Cloak your shame with courtesy.” 

“True beauty is beauty of knowledge, and courtesy.” 
“The adornment of man is his courtesy in its entirety.” 


“An orphan is not one whose father has died, but one who lacks knowledge and 
courtesy.” 


“He who fails to teach courtesy to his children will please his enemies.” 
“Spiritual elevation is only possible with courtesy.” 


“The intelligent person learns courtesy from the discourteous.” 


44 


“With the honor of knowledge and courtesy, Adam was raised above the angels.” 
“Satan was banished from God’s presence because he abandoned courtesy.” 


“Discourteous acts interrupt enlightenment, and drive their owner from the heart of the 
King.” 


“The discussion [of sages] is a body. The spirit of that body is courtesy.” 

“In order to attain to Truth, one needs Knowledge of Certainty; for Knowledge of 
Certainty, one needs sincere deeds; for sincere deeds, one needs to perform the 
Obligations of God; for this, one needs to follow the Way of the Prophet; and in order to 
do this, one needs to observe courtesy.” 

“Courtesy is to possess the knowledge and principles that protect man from all error.” 


“He who has not been trained by the Sufis cannot understand the truth of courtesy.” 


“Everything loses value as it increases. But when courtesy increases, it becomes more 
valuable.” 


“Courtesy is: not to overvalue one’s superiors, and not to belittle one’s inferiors.” 
“He who does not adopt the courtesy of his Master cannot adopt the courtesy of the 
Prophet’s Way and Traditions. And he who does not adopt these cannot adopt the 


courtesy of the Koran and its sacred verses.” 


“Those who enter their Master’s presence with courtesy will earn boundless 
enlightenment from him.” 


“Those who serve their Master courteously earn stations as high as the Throne from 
him.” 


‘As long as one does not adopt the courtesy of Masters, it is not possible to gain anything 
from them.” 


“Beauty of courtesy frees a person from the need for relatives.” 
“Courtesy makes a person sincerely loved.” 

“Courtesy is the power that protects a person from shameful things.” 
“Courtesy is to act in accordance with the Prophet’s Way.” 


“There is no honor higher than courtesy.” 


45 


“The least of the rules of courtesy is for a person to stop when he senses his ignorance 
and to remedy it.” 


“He who would learn wisdom should act courteously.” 
“He who seeks to possess good deeds should seek to learn knowledge courteously.” 


“As long as the People of Love possess goodwill in the matter of love, their courtesy 
begins to increase.” 


“Courtesy is to train the self as necessary and to decorate it with beautiful morals.” 
“Courtesy is the absolute source of virtue for a human being.” 
“The stations of Paradise are earned by good works and courtesy.” 


“The friends of courtesy are: Modesty, Sincerity, Submission, Love, Intention, 
Obedience, Striving, Discussion and Service.” 


I sought admission to the Assembly of Knowledge; 
Knowledge was left behind—courtesy, just courtesy. 

It covers the shames of humanity; 

What beautiful clothing is the garment of courtesy. 

I sought admission to the People of the Heart; 

Every aptitude has value, but first place goes to courtesy. 
Courtesy is a crown made of the light of God; 


Wear that crown, and be safe from all calamity. 


O MANKIND 


In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. 


There is no god but God, 
and Mohammed is His Messenger. 


O sons of Adam, sons of Man, we have to obey the commandments of God, who has 
created us. We must pay very careful attention. Consider the following dialogue: 


46 


“O sons of Adam, human beings, do you fear God, your Creator?” 
“Yes, we have no refuge except Him.” 


“Thank you for recognizing your Lord. God, who has created us, has many 
commandments for us human beings. How do you stand with respect to His orders?” 


“We can’t fulfil them. We’re unable to carry out His orders as we should.” 
“Well then, do you love God, our Creator?” 

“What else is there to love but God?” 

“How are you with His orders?” 

“We can’t perform them like we’re supposed to.” 


“In that case, you’re lying on both counts. He who fears God and loves God should 
prostrate himself to God. The faith and creed of a person who does not prostrate to God is 
weak. Can you comprehend the taste of a fruit without eating it, by imagination alone? 
To know and understand God on an empty heart and dry words is a vain illusion. To 
believe and have faith in God, to perform the Five Pillars of Islam and the Six Pillars of 
Faith, is required of all. May God and God’s Prophet, Mohammed, help you. Amen.” 


From Adam—the first man and Prophet—to Mohammed, the last Prophet, a Prophet has 
been sent to every period and every society of mankind. In order to inform human beings 
He has created of His commandments, God Almighty has addressed them via His 
Prophets. He has made known the essence of these discourses and commands to His 
servants with Four Great Books and 100 Pages. Through the Prophets, it has become 
incumbent on every society to believe in God with a sincere heart and to carry out God’s 
divine orders physically and spiritually. God’s commandments to humanity have been 
proclaimed in the Psalms (revealed to David), the Torah (to Moses), the Gospel (to 
Jesus), and the Glorious Koran (to Mohammed). (Earlier prophets have received various 
divine pages that add up to a hundred.) God Almighty has not concealed His material- 
spiritual Essence and Reality from His servants. It is necessary to live humanly, 
thoughtfully and attentively. 


47 


INTRODUCTION TO THE HISTORY 
OF PROPHETS 


(The following excerpt from a book by a noted Turkish historian takes a sociological 
approach to religion. While its coverage of certain issues may be found controversial by 
some Moslems, the clarity of its treatment is exceptional, and it was decided to leave the 
selection as it appeared in the Turkish original of the present book.) 


Foreword 


All human beings belonging to the major religions believe in the unity of God, His 
messengers, and their holy books. The existence of religion can be observed in every 
society, from primitive tribes through empires down to the democratic nations of our day. 
Religion still lives on as a significant institution in the structure of society. 


There has been no society without religion. Societies that have known how to utilize the 
essence, rules, and requirements of religion have been fortunate and prosperred. On the 
other hand, backward societies, deviating from its essence and turning it into an exploited 
institution, have fallen into misery and darkness. 


Although religions are primarily systems for contemplation, they have also introduced a 
moral philosophy and a social order. In addition, they have influenced the liberal arts via 
religious ferment. 


From the concept of the existence of God, theology, such as Islamic theology, and 
mystical movements such as Sufism were born. In the area of spirituality, religion built 
metaphysical edifices. In the social field, it initiated bloody struggles in order to achieve 
equal civil rights. In the arts, wonders were created as exemplified in religious music, 
religious literature, in religious paintings, statues, and in architecture in the form of 
magnificent temples. Religion also covers mythology. The legends attributed to the 
prophets were known to everyone. 


Using the methods of historical investigation, I desired to study the effects of religious 
institutions on societies since the beginning of mankind. 


When I started preparations for this work, I thought I would be studying the mythological 
legends of prophets, their adventures, and stories related to heaven and hell. And there 
are indeed various romantic episodes, loves, bloody struggles and mystical events in their 
lives. Yet almost from the start, my views changed substantially as certain points forced 
themselves on my attention. 


The first and perhaps the most significant of these points is that humanity’s greatest 


struggle has been for morality. The most exacting struggles of prophets have occurred in 
the moral field. 


48 


The second point is the concept of Right. In every century of history, human beings have 
been exploited by kings, by feudal lords, priests and the rich. In their struggle against 
oppression, people have been led either by prophets or by their successors. Utilizing one 
of the strongest feelings, namely, religion, these have managed to rally thousands of 
people to their cause. New religions were born, new holy books arrived, new religious 
injunctions became canonical law. In this way, Divine Law was established. Struggles 
have accompanied efforts to obtain these rights, and blood has been shed. 


The richest source for prophetic history is the Old Testament. The Torah, which 
constitutes its first five books, is a holy book describing the lives of prophets. Information 
concerning prophets can also be found in the Koran, and is scattered throughout the 
religious literature. My task was to collate these into one book. 


Prophets not mentioned in heavenly books have also come to mankind and established 
religions. Notable among such exceptions are Hermes (Thoth), who founded a religion in 
ancient Egypt; Confucius, who attracted millions in China; Buddha, the founder of 
Buddhism and perhaps the greatest religious luminary of India; and Zoroaster, the 
founder of Mazdeism in Persia. I found it instructive to write about the concepts of these 
great men of religion and their notions concerning God. Perhaps they are not prophets in 
the ordinary sense of the word, but they are, nevertheless, great personalities who have 
managed to attract millions of people to their teachings. 


Men have felt duty-bound to learn about all the prophets mentioned in heavenly books, 
about their lives, ideas, and adventures, and have memorized their experiences. Down to 
this day, men of religion have written the biographies of prophets and have mythologized 
them. Indeed, their lives have come down to us largely in the form of mythology. Hodjas 
have recounted their tales in mosques, priests have expounded them from the pulpit. 
Artists have embodied scenes from their lives in paintings, while novelists have written 
literary works about them. 


The lives of the most famous prophets have become the common heritage of mankind. 
No Moslem or Christian would fail to know of Abraham, Joseph, Noah’s Ark, Lot, or 
Ishmael. 


The history of prophets is at the same time a history of religious and social struggles. 
Through the ages, men have fallen into immorality, robbed and killed each other, and 
worshiped animals and stones. Social orders have been ruined, human beings have 
chosen ill-advised paths ending only in despair. It is the prophets who have guided people 
to the right way in God’s name. These great men have suffered all kinds of cruelty, and 
yet have endured in their struggles with God-given inspiration. After Moses, first Jesus 
and then Mohammed have succeeded in binding people to the greatness of God within a 
meaningful framework. 


I have respected the beliefs of religious people in this work, and have not violated basic 


sensibilities. Being a historian, however, I tried to discover truth by taking an historical 
approach. 


49 


I have written a historical work, not a religious one. This is the right way. For the study 
of the past is such a vast field of knowledge that it encompasses the history of the entire 
universe. Human history is but a small part of the latter. In short, history is a mirror of the 
universe, a mirror for humanity. Man discovers his soul in that mirror, he observes his 
good and evil aspects therein. For this reason, the past is an ocean; the universe and 
mankind find life within it. 


Just as every nation, every science, every art has a history, so too does every religion and 
prophet. And hence I have written the history of prophets in this work. If, reading it, you 
conceive some affection for me in your heart, however small, that then shall be my 
reward. 


Religion 


In creating man, God endowed him with three gifts: Intelligence, Conscience and an 
appreciation for Beauty. These three properties are found neither in inanimate things nor 
in plants. God has withheld them from other creatures and bestowed them on man. 
Hence, human beings have been called “the most honored of all creatures.” The presence 
of these gifts has made human beings creative and constructive. 


Among living beings, animals possess neither intelligence in the human sense, nor 
conscience, nor aesthetic sensibility. They maintain their existence by instinct alone, 
striving to further their lives and propagate their species. They cannot build houses to 
protect them from the elements, nor produce light to escape the darkness of night. They 
possess neither the means to warm themselves nor a conscience towards their own kind. 
The strong prevail over the weak. They have no characteristics such as compassion, 
morality and charity. Further, they do not enjoy the beauties of nature. Animals do not 
distinguish colors, they feel. They cannot discern the hues of sunrise and sunset, nor gaze 
in wonder at them. They cannot appreciate works of art. All these gifts have been given 
to man alone. 


The most important gift in the possession of man is intelligence: the power to reason. The 
mind gives rise to thoughts. From the first day of his creation, man has observed nature 
with admiration. He has watched the sunrise and sunset, the night, moon and stars, with 
keen interest. 


What power creates these phenomena? Who controls and guides them? Man conceives 
that the whole universe is sourced by a divine being; he feels fear and awe towards this 
tremendous being, and begins to respect Him. He feels gratitude to this being because of 
the gifts He has bestowed. And so, in trying to understand the phenomena occuring in the 
universe with his intelligence, the concept of God is born in man. In his soul he bears the 
greatest respect for Him. From this concept of God, in turn, the institution of religion was 
born. This feeling began with the first human being, for God has endowed even the most 
primitive man with intelligence. 


50 


The first man was naked; he was covered with hair, yet he was a human being. He was 
initially created with intelligence, conscience and aesthetic appreciation, but had not yet 
formed societies. He foraged bird eggs, fruit and caterpillars; he hunted animals and 
caught fish. It took man thousands of years to advance from this primitive state. The first 
human societies formed were clans. Together with society, six social institutions 
appeared: language, morals, law, economy, religion and the arts. Among these, religion 
has had the deepest effect on society. 


Man gradually arrived at the notion of one God. At an early stage, human beings living in 
fear ascribed divinity to animals that suddenly loomed before them in adverse moments. 
This period of religion has been called totemism, where the totem is an animal or a tree. 
Animism marked the period of transition to the worship of ancestral spirits. In earth 
naturalism, man worshiped the earth, mountains, springs and rivers considered holy. In 
sky naturalism, the sun, moon and stars were idolized. Shamanism emerged in Central 
Asia and spread westward. It occupied an important place in human history and the 
history of religious thought. 


These early religions were followed by the period of monotheism, or worship of one God. 
The Greeks and Romans fostered polytheism—the worship of many gods, also referred to 
as paganism. Finally, however, religions based on one God triumphed. Unity of divinity 
is the final form of faith. Belief in one God reached a high point with Abraham. 


The intelligence of human beings resulted in the concept of God, which in turn gave birth 
to religion. Philosophers have defined religion in many ways in accordance with the ages 
they lived in, and finally it has been defined as: “Religion is the comprehension of, and 
belief in, a higher power above man of whom he stands in need.” Another definition is: 
“Religion is man’s desire and love for the absolute Essence, which is unknowable.” 
Religion sometimes means obedience and limitation, and sometimes punishment. It 
means that as you punish, so will you be punished. It also means the accounting on 
Judgment Day. 


The following questions have influenced the emergence of religion: “Who am I? Where 
did I come from, and where am I going? What is this world of objects that surrounds me? 
How was it formed?” When he was unable to answer these questions, man comprehended 
a power acting over everything, and thus conceived of God, out of which religion 
emerged. Man has always had religious feelings. What air is for the body, religion is for 
the spirit. Man has felt the Lord and comprehended Him, and experienced this as an inner 
taste of conscience. 


The institution of religion began with the first human being. Hence, religion and man 
have lived as an inseparable pair. Religion is an ingredient present in the constitution of 
man. It has advanced in time to become a great institution and compendium of ideas. It 
has been a perennial law to believe in the principles of religion and to act accordingly. 
Religion has shown mankind the roads to happiness. 


51 


Religion informs us how God is to be worshiped. The purpose of this worship is morality, 
the discrimination between good and ill. It is the path of virtue. Religion has survived 
within the social structure of societies as a most powerful institution. 


Social life has been nurtured by certain values. Ethics deals with goodness, art with 
beauty, science with truth, economy with utility, and religion with the sacred. 


Each religion has a god it worships, a prophet, and a holy book. It also has temples, 
priests, and ceremonies related to worship. These are all considered sacred. They occupy 
an exalted place in society. To repudiate them is sacrilege, and those who do so become 
outcasts from society. 


Religion has social sanction. It lends character to societies no less than to individuals; 
those who gain individual character are also morally superior. As for social character, this 
is the organization formed by prophets, and is called the “community.” Just as Jesus gave 
rise to a Christian community, Mohammed gave rise to an Islamic community. A 
“community” is a religious group of human beings that transcends national barriers. It is 
the society of those who believe in a prophet and a book. 


The organization of the religious community has crystallized differently in different 
religions. In Catholic Christianity, the Christian community has been constituted as a 
government. The emperor of this government is the Pope, its ministers are the cardinals, 
and its governors the bishops. In the case of Moslems, the community has been organized 
not as a government, but as a religious university. This is why the religious organization 
has been called the Church (ecclessia) in Christianity, whereas it has been called “school” 
(madrasah) in Islam. Madrasah is the old name for universities. These do not have a 
priestly leader; there are only professors (mudarrises) who give instruction. 


Islam is a federation of universities. The whole world of Islam is a university. This 
university has branches in every city and town. The mufti in each town may be 
considered as the dean of that branch. The “Sheikh of Islam” is the rector of all 
universities. From this, it can be understood that in Islam, religion is based on an 
academic, not governmental, jurisdiction. 


The professors of Islamdom have culturally elevated the community by giving instruction 
in shools on such subjects as history, medicine, philosophy, logic and geometry. They 
have also taught religious sciences such as the Koran, theology, jurisprudence, 
hermeneutics, and the Prophet’s Traditions (sayings). This is also where the judges or 
gadis were educated. This shows the extent to which Islam assigned importance to 
science, and how Islamic civilization flowered. 


Religions have also fostered advancement of the arts. Religious architecture, in particular, 
has produced many magnificent works. The grand mosques and cathedrals are all 
products of the religious impulse. The religion of Islam has constructed mosques, 
schools, caravansarais, libraries, mausoleums and fountains unmatched for their art. 


52 


Religious hymns have contributed to the field of music. Religions have contributed to 
science by their works. 


For all these reasons, religion is a tremendous institution. It has forged civilizations. 
Scientists need to investigate religion not merely in terms of faith, but as a social 
institution. When this is done, it becomes clear that religion is necessary and of immense 
utility. 


God 


Prophets are the great teachers of religions and the envoys of God; they have founded 
religions. In order to comprehend their emergence, it is first necessary to understand what 
religion is. Most religions have involved belief in the unity of God, His existence and His 
role as Creator. How, then, was the notion of God born in the human spirit? 


Man has been created as a creature living in space and time; the universe encompasses 
him. He lives under the influence of cosmic phenomena. The sun rises and sets, night 
arrives, day follows it, years go by, spring comes, flowers bloom; the blue sky darkens, 
clouds appear bringing rain or snow. This is followed by summer; the weather warms, 
fruit and vegetables ripen. While this background continues perpetually, man dies and 
becomes dust. 


Why has he come into this world, and why does he become nothing? Where does he 
come from, and where is he going? Events taking place in the universe influence him. All 
these occur within space. Man, with his intelligence, considers all this. What is time? 
What is space? These events continue perennially. Time, space, the endless succession of 
becoming, and finally death... These are metaphysical thoughts that stagger human 
intelligence. He thinks of the stupendous power that brings these events into being and 
organizes them, the Great Architect of these worlds, and calls Him “God.” 


We human beings cannot see God; we can only infer His existence using our intelligence. 
But none of our thoughts are sufficient to describe God. It is impossible for us to 
comprehend something that is invisible, intangible and formless. An eternal being cannot 
be measured temporally. Hence, the description of God is impossible. We cannot see His 
shape. We can only discover His existence by reasoning with our minds. God exists, and 
He is One. This has been a common conception of humanity. 


God exists in the heavens and the earth. He creates, destroys, gives life and makes to die. 
Before all beings, He was, and after everything passes, He will be. He is present in 
everything, visible or invisible. He knows what will be born and what will die. He is all- 
seeing. Nothing can be concealed from Him. To Him is due the light of our eyes, the joy 
of our hearts. He is the ruler of heaven and earth. All creation is dependent on Him; He is 
the Lord of the worlds. 


He is the Creator of all that is. Every being is an infinitesimal part of Him. By His leave, 
night darkens and day breaks. From Him comes everything we intuit or know. He is the 


eye, 


bestower of everything. This is why mankind has believed in the existence and unity of 
God. This has been an unchanging belief. 


A person who contemplates God feels a sweet reverberation in his conscience, an 
indescribable pleasure in the depths of his being. Love for his Creator is conceived in his 
spirit. Billions of human beings who fill the earth today believe in the existence of God. 


There are few people who lack faith in God; these are mostly materialists. Most scientists 
have believed in the power of God. Upon discovering the laws of nature, those who deal 
with biology, physics, chemistry, astronomy, etc. have been amazed at the manifestations 
of divine creativity. 


The functioning of the human body, consciousness, the atoms and electrons of matter, the 
countless phenomena in the heavens have delivered even the most confirmed materialists 
to faith. Even if they call that which forms these conscious beings by the name of 
“nature,” in most cases they are convinced that this can be nothing other than divine 
power. They, too, have realized that the mysteries of the universe cannot be unraveled by 
arid materialism. Such researchers have been compelled to believe in a Creator and have 
postulated a being that exists beyond themselves and their surroundings. 


In order to believe in the existence of God, it is enough to contemplate—with attention 
and admiration—the totality of the cosmos, the stars in the sky, and how things on 
earth—beginning with one’s own being—are formed. Once the delicate, perennial order 
governing the whole universe is perceived, the existence of an eternal Creator organizing 
it becomes apparent of itself. These are the reasons why the existence and unity of God 
have been believed in. 


Moslems believe in God in the following way: “God exists, He is One, He has no 
associate or equal, He is independent of space. God is the Creator of all that is in the 
heavens and the earth, who causes us to grow, watches over and protects us, who knows 
our pain and avenges us, who sees our essence, who has formed everything out of 
nothing. He was not born, nor does He bear. He is invested with the Attributes of 
Perfection, and is beyond any Attributes of Imperfection. He is all-powerful and 
omnipresent.” 


The Moslem faith in God is based on His attributes. Moslems recognize two kind of 
attributes in God: Negative Attributes and Positive Attributes. 


The Negative Attributes are attributes predicated of God’s Essence—i.e., Essential 
Attributes. They are also called Dissociative (tanzih) Attributes because they belong to 


God alone. There are six Essential Attributes: 


1. Eternal pre-existence (gidam). Before anything else, God was; nothing antedated 
Him (gidam literally means “predating”). 


54 


2. Eternal post-existence (baga). God will have no end in time. After all else has 
passed away, He alone will be (baqa literally means “survival”). 


3. Existence, or Being (wujud ). God is infinite Being; true being belongs only to Him. 
4. Unity or Oneness (wahdaniyah). God is nondual, nonmultiple, indivisible. This is 
not a mathematical enumerability, such as the number “1” constitutes among an 
endless sequence of numbers, but an all-comprehensive unity beside which nothing 


else exists. God is One without a second. 


5. God is unlike anything else that He has created subsequently (muhalafah lil- 
hawadith). 


6. God stands by His own Self; He is self-sufficient, without need of anything else 
(giyam bi-nafsihi). 


There are eight Positive Attributes, which are also called Analogical (tashbih) Attributes 
because of the analogies drawn with creation: 


1. God is Alive, He is the Living God (hayah). This is the most comprehensive 
Positive Attribute of God. 


2. God is Omniscient, He is the All-knowing and the possessor, as well as originator, 
of all science and knowledge (i/m). This attribute is second only to “the Living.” 


3. God is All-hearing (thami). 

4. God is All-seeing (basar). 

5. God is All-powerful (gudrah). 

6. God Wills, and whatever He wills unfailingly comes to pass (iradah). 
7. Speech: God can address human beings (galaam). 


8. Creation or Genesis: God creates everything where before there was simply nothing; 
He is the Creator of all creation (taqwin). 


Not only does the concept of God live on in minds and thoughts; it survives in the 
structure of societies. 


We learn of the existence of God through the prophets and holy books. God has informed 


humanity of His Unity and His commandments via the prophets, who may be considered 
as His ambassadors. 


The Prophets 


53 


Human beings have believed in the existence and unity of God, but they have not been 
able to see Him. God Almighty, however, has allowed some of His servants He has 
chosen to glimpse His divine power. But such elect persons cannot convey what they 
have seen and experienced to other people. Nevertheless, they are given the task of 
conveying God’s commandments to human beings. These are God’s envoys on earth. 
They are His messengers and prophets. 


After God, people have believed in His prophets. The concept of God is a metaphysical 
notion. But human beings have also felt the need to have a being who will teach and 
explain His existence to them; they have sought His messengers. The most distinguished 
personalities among them have brought news and commandments as prophets from God 
to human beings. Together with God, people have also had faith in His prophets, who are 
loyal, trustworthy, innocent and kind-hearted people. They have also displayed 
superhuman powers. From the very first, the human race has bred great men of religion, 
who have also brought sacred books. 


In ancient history, Hermes (Thoth) appeared in Egypt, Confucius in China, the Buddha in 
India and Zoroaster in Persia, the religious concepts of whom have been very powerful. 
They have shown human beings the ways of moral conduct and happiness, and all have 
established religions. Those who believed in their ideas recognized them as Prophets. 
Besides these great religious figures, God has sent 124 thousand prophets to mankind, 
amongst whom the best known are: Adam, Seth, Idris (Enoch), Noah, Hood, Saleh, 
Abraham, Ishmael, Lot, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Shuayb, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Elias, Elijah, 
David, Solomon, Dhulkifl, Ezra, Loqman, Zulqarnain, Zachariah, John, Jesus, 
Mohammed. 


Religious books speak about these prophets; mankind has believed in them all, some of 
whom have brought holy books. 


Human beings believe in prophets as follows: in order to make His existence known, 
proclaim His greatness, and guide everyone to the right way, God Almighty has bestowed 
prophethood on some of his straightest, smartest, most dependable and truthful servants. 
He has, out of His own power, produced miracles for them that cannot be replicated by 
anyone else. In addition He has sent books to some of them. These prophets have in turn 
informed their communities of God’s commandments. Indeed, all prophets are the most 
honorable_e d_mnteln=selt of men, who have drawn people to themselves by their 
superior morality and wisdom. Many were heads of state, bringing morals and instituting 
legal order. They have performed great services for humanity. 


It is an article of religious faith to believe in God and His prophets. The prophets are 
God’s beloved servants, to whom He has revealed divine books by the intermediary of 
the Archangel Gabriel. He has also given them the capability to display miracles and 
psychic feats. 


Another characteristic of prophets is spiritual Ascension. Mohammed was honored with 
seeing the pure Light of God at the height of his Ascension. 


56 


Prophets have been created differently from ordinary people. They can foresee and 
foretell many things in advance. Their spiritual lives are very powerful. Through this 
strength, they have the capacity to separate their spirits from their physical bodies and 
Ascend in the spiritual world. This capacity manifests itself as veridical dreams and 
Divine Attraction. 


Some Europeans have claimed that prophets are mediums, but they are not. Rather, they 
are personalities possessing Divine Attraction. They are great and superhuman 
individuals. At the same time, they are all saints of great intelligence and high morals. 
The religions they founded still continue, with little of their force spent. Each prophet is a 
moral philosopher. Mankind has believed in them wholeheartedly and respected them. 


The prophets have all lived frugally and renounced worldly pleasures. Their lives have 
passed in the instruction of human beings. They have suffered greatly as a result, but 
these august personages have relentlessly striven to guide people to the straight path, the 
path of God. 


All prophets are men of knowledge and virtue. They have been born and have lived and 
died like the rest of humanity. No prophet is either God or God’s Son; they are only His 


servants. Their difference, however is that they are God’s beloved servants. 


The prophet of Moslems is Mohammed. All Moslems love him sincerely, and have 
boundless respect for him. 


(From E.B. Shapolyo, The History of the Prophets.) 


sy | 


MOSES, JESUS AND MOHAMMED 


Prologue 


“Come on, son,” said the sage, “you don’t expect to get anywhere by yourself, do you? 
The road is fraught with pitfalls, and no one can make it on his own. Where did you get 
this notion: ‘If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him’? You can’t make the trip 
without a guide, and the founder of a religion is the guide of all guides.” 


“Was the Buddha a prophet too, sir?” the disciple asked. He was well-meaning and 
polite, but young and a little foolish. 


“He’s not mentioned in our Book by name,” said the sage, “so we can’t say for sure. 
Legend has it that there have been 124 thousand prophets, only a few of whose names are 
known. The holy texts would have to be some kind of phone book if they were to name 
them all. In any case, the Buddha is widely recognized as nothing less than a founder of a 
religious philosophy, and what applies to him certainly applies to the prophets as well.” 


“T had this notion that I could go it alone,” said the disciple. “I don’t want to get 
entangled in all this religious stuff. Besides, I want to attain enlightenment, not the 


Christian notion of salvation.” 


“That’s absurd,” said the sage. “Besides, liberation, salvation, enlightenment all mean the 
same thing. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” 


“Probably what is meant when they speak about killing the Buddha,” observed the 
disciple, “is that one should stop at nothing when on the road.” 


“Perhaps. But it’s still extremely bad form to speak of him in that way.” 


The Prophets 


“Tell me,” the sage asked, “is there anyone you admire at all?” 
The student thought for a moment, and gave the name of a popular rock star. 


“Not that I have anything against rock stars, or indeed against movie stars or ball players 
or great statesmen,” said the sage, “but you have to set your sights higher. A good deal 
higher.” 


“You have come to me in search of Truth,” the sage continued. “But I must warn you that 
your expectations about Truth will prevent you from perceiving it. For Truth exists 
independently of anyone’s perceptions about it; it is not your truth or my truth, but the 
truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, as they say.” He smiled. 


58 


The student pondered, but only for a few seconds. “Sir,” he said, “having come this far, I 
think it’s my duty to lay aside my preconceptions and hear you out, at least.” 


“Very well,” replied the master. “Truth is One, yet it presents many facets, like a polished 
diamond. One facet is science, another philosophy. Art, music, literature are all aspects of 
Truth, and you can probably think of others. 


“In all ages,” he continued, “there have been superior human beings who have enriched 
the heritage of humanity by their attempts to get closer to the Truth. You’ve heard of 
Newton and Einstein, of Plato and Socrates, of Michelangelo and Mozart and Goethe. 
These and others, too numerous to do justice here, are veritable mountain tops when 
compared to the common run of humanity. 


“Our voyage, or rather yours, must begin with the realization that there have been people 
in history who stand in the same relation to these peaks as they, in turn, stand in relation 
to the rest of humanity. The superior men I’ve named had to strive every inch of the way 
to reach the pinnacle of a certain facet of Truth. Yet there have been others to whom 
Truth has revealed itself, not through one of its facets, but directly. Sometimes they, too, 
have striven greatly to achieve this vision. Sometimes it has come upon them 
unexpectedly, all of a sudden. In all cases, however, the vision they received has served 
the improvement and happiness not merely of themselves, but hundreds of millions of 
human beings. These are the ones I choose to call seed personalities: out of whom great 
good has grown, who have galvanized countless people with their presence.” 


“This is the Age of Technology,” he went on. “Science and technology are both aspects 
of Truth, and who can deny the boons they have granted us? Yet at the same time, 
emphasizing them to the exclusion of everything else has blinded us to many other things 
that our ancestors realized much more clearly than we do today. As a result, everybody is 
lost—lost, because we can’t find the golden thread to lead us out of the labyrinth. You 
yourself, for instance, are tossed like a piece of driftwood on the high seas; you feel like a 
leaf in the wind, being hurled wherever it blows. A person needs to be anchored in 
something solid to survive the vicissitudes of life without being fazed by them.” 


He got up and removed a dusty tome from a shelf. It was Heroes and Hero-Worship, 
dated 1841, by Carlyle. 


“Why don’t you read aloud the passages I indicate to you, and we’ll take it from there,” 
he suggested. “I know the language is a bit dated, but we’ll be well rewarded, you’ll see.” 
So the student read: 


The thing a man does practically lay to heart, and know for certain, concerning his vital 
relations to this mysterious Universe, and his duty and destiny there, that is in all cases 
the primary thing for him, and creatively determines all the rest. That is his religion: or, 
it may be, his mere scepticism and no-religion: the manner it is in which he feels 
himself to be spiritually related to the Unseen World or No-World: and I say if you tell 


ae, 


me what that is, you tell me to a very great extent what the man is, what the kind of 
things he will do is. 


Answering of this question is giving us the soul of the history of the man or nation. 
The thoughts they had were the parents of the actions they did: their feelings were 
parents of their thoughts: it was the unseen and spiritual in them that determined the 
outward and actual:—their religion, as I say, was the great fact about them. 


“Skip a few pages and read on,” said the sage. The student continued: 


In all epochs of the world’s history, we shall find the Great Man to have been the 
indispensable saviour of his epoch;—the lightning, without which the fuel would never 
have burnt. The History of the World, I said already, was the Biography of Great 
Men... 


Innumerable men had passed by, across this Universe, with a dumb vague wonder, 
such as the very animals may feel; or with a painful, fruitlessly inquiring wonder, such 
as men only feel;—till the great Thinker came, the original man, the Seer; whose 
shaped spoken Thought awakes the slumbering capability of all into thought. It is ever 
the way with the Thinker, the spiritual Hero. What he says, all men were not far from 
saying, were longing to say. 


The disciple looked up. “Please don’t think it rude of me,” he said, “but I’m worried 
about all the charlatanism, the broken promises, the shattered dreams.” 


“Ah,” said the sage, “Carlyle has the answer to that, too. Don’t imagine he was uncritical, 
taking everything without a pinch of salt. Give me the book.” He turned back a few pages 
and said, “Read.” 


Quackery and dupery do abound: in religions... but quackery was never the originating 
influence in such things; it was not the health and life of such things, but their disease, 
the sure precursor of their being about to die! 


Quackery gives birth to nothing: gives death to all things. 
“That’ll be enough,” the sage said, and replaced the book to its shelf. 


“Man is always bound by his nature, his society and his culture,” he resumed. “Animals, 
too, are bound by their natural needs—and their social needs, if they happen to be social 
animals. But there is something in man that strives to transcend the merely animal level 
of subsistence—to exist, to be; to be not simply an animal, which is what all animals are 
doing all the time anyway, but to be a man. Today, living as we do in such luxury as even 
the emperors of old never dreamed of, even today the greatest part of our efforts are 
geared to the acquisition of mere creaturely comforts. 


60 


“Now in history, there have been singular moments when an individual has broken 
through to another level of being, or that level has reached out and contacted him. As a 
result he has acquired a new self, has been transformed into a person. He breaks the 
bounds of his specific circumstances, natural and social, and becomes—to a greater or 
lesser extent—a universal man, part of a universal community. 


“Tt is a fact, as astounding as it is singular, that all such persons have testified to a 
separate reality, a different level of being, even in cases where they did not speak about 
God as such. 


“This person then feels it his obligation, indeed duty, to inform his fellow-men of his 
discovery. Many recoil in horror and incomprehension; but on a few open minds he 
makes an impression they will never forget. He is the man they all sat down to supper 
with for many a night, yet he is not the same man, somehow. For he has been transfigured 
by his experience, and they have at last seen an example of something they never 
expected to see: a Man. 


“This person has now become an embodiment of ideas, whether totally new, or venerated 
or long forgotten. And this embodiment is so wonderful, so captivating, so lovable, that 
people who can sense this difference seek to emulate the principles they see ensconced in 
every move, every breath of this person, and by at first pretending, to become, in the end, 
like the person they admire. And so, they are attracted to him like iron filings to a 
magnet. 


“That is the kind of person I call a prophet, or, if he is an accomplished follower of such, 
a Saint. 


“The prophet or saint superimposes on the physical body and the social dimension of man 
an invisible force-field, a subtle envelope, a new, purified self, within which man’s true 
nature might flower. This envelope is the totality of his teachings. Yet those teachings are 
none other than the expression in words of the reality that the prophet embodies in real 
life. The prophet lives the life, in order that his followers may know the doctrine; and in 
order to understand the doctrine, you too have to live the life. For while the do’s and 
don’ts may be easy—and they aren’t always so—not all aspects of the doctrine are 
readily comprehensible. 


“And so, this person acts as a seed for mankind, just as we use cloud-seeding in order to 
precipitate rain, or a ‘seed’ brings on the crystallization of a saturated chemical solution.” 


“But sir,” protested the student, “the people you’re telling me about all lived in ancient 
times. They were all shepherds, and most of them didn’t even know how to read or write. 
How can such persons be taken as examples in our day?” 


“Too much book-learning is what makes you say that,” replied the master drily. “Very 


well then, consider this: In our digital age, we are fast approaching the point where, in the 
future, information may be beamed directly and instantly into one’s brain. Now suppose 


61 


that this were in fact realized, would you consider reading books an inferior or a superior 
form of information input?” 


“Inferior, of course,” came the reply. 


“Exactly. Now what I am talking about is very similar to this.” He pointed to his head. 
“The Guarded Tablet is right here,” he said. “If the Omniscient decided to impart to you a 
portion of His knowledge, do you think He would necessarily need the medium of a 
book? He would merely unlock a door of the Akashic Records, and that would be that. 
The prophets of old may have been unlettered shepherds, but they had one great 
advantage that we don’t—they had God behind them.” 


Moses 


“Moses,” he went on, “was one of the greatest prophets. He lived in the 13th century BC, 
and conversed with God so much that he earned the title: ‘Speaker with God.’ I shall not 
bore you with the details of his life, since I assume you know them already. His birth, 
recovery from a basket in the Nile, and growth under the nose of Pharaoh, his arch-foe; 
God’s appearance to him in the burning bush; his contest with Pharaoh, and the Exodus 
by which he led his people out of slavery; the parting of the Red Sea; God’s delivery of 
Manna from heaven; Moses’ meeting with God on Mount Sinai for forty days and nights; 
the forty years in the desert before they could enter the Promised Land—all these, I’m 
sure, are too well-known to need repetition.” 


“They generally are,” the student confirmed. 


“Moses is an all-too-human figure. He is aware of his shortcomings, especially his 
difficulties of speech, but that’s another story—and a beautiful one, too,” the sage added, 
“remind me to tell you sometime.” 


“Okay.” 


“Moses is also the pivotal figure in Jewish history. He was more than a prophet; he was a 
messenger of God, meaning that he was a lawgiver and not just a renewer of law earlier 
revealed. Moses hated injustice, and may be considered the father of all earthly utopias. 
He was a giant aqueduct through which the law and light of God poured into the minds 
and hearts of his people. His actions were decisive, his resolve unshakable; yet at the 
same time, he had to appear sterner than he was in order to hold his group together. 


“There was nothing Moses loved more than communion with God, for at bottom he was a 
devoutly spiritual man. Great historians have always recognized that mankind sometimes 
progresses by a giant step, thanks to the earth-shaking influence of a seed personality. 
And Moses was such a man. He effected a revolution of the mind and spirit, and brought 
such a perspective on things that old ideas could never be the same again. 


62 


“The duties God charged Moses with were truly gargantuan. He accepted them 
reluctantly, but tried with all his might to fulfill the task set for him. And in his desperate 
struggle he succeeded, though he never saw the Promised Land himself. The Torah is 
quite right to conclude: ‘Never [before or] since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like 
Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. He was unequaled for all the signs and 
wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and his 
servants and his entire land, and [unmatched] for all the mighty deeds and all the 
terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel’ 
(Deuteronomy 34:10-12).” 


“He was an imposing figure, all right,” the disciple agreed. 


“Yet there is another dimension to the Biblical account that has escaped almost 
everyone,” the sage continued. “The whole chain of events has by and large been read as 
history, and nothing more. But when you look at it from an esoteric angle, the Exodus is 
also the sacred history of the individual soul. Pharaoh is the pharaonic, egotistical self 
that holds the spirit in slavery. The journey to the Promised Land is precisely what the 
Sufis call ‘the journey to the homeland.’ And the trials in between, the forty years in the 
desert, are the tribulations that the spirit undergoes along the way.” 


“T hadn’t heard of that before,” said the student. 


“Let me just tell you this much,” said the sage, “even the fact of Moses’ demise just when 
his people were about to enter ‘the land of milk and honey’ has deep esoteric 
significance.” 


The student frowned. “What about Jesus?” he asked. 


Jesus 


The sage smiled. “Jesus certainly needs no introduction from me,” he said. “A noted 
historian has observed,” he continued, “that Moses was beyond the power of the human 
mind to invent, and I think the same thing may be said of Jesus. Of course, his story has 
been embellished, because there is a dark tunnel of about two decades after him that 
historians, in spite of all their efforts, have been powerless to illuminate. Innumerable 
rumors flourished as a result, some true and some spurious. Yet there had to be a Jesus, 
because he complements Moses in so many ways.” 


“How so?” asked the disciple. 


“Well, Moses is by and large an exoteric figure. Overemphasis on the purely legal aspect 
of his teachings had, by Jesus’ time, obscured any spiritual element they might have 
possessed originally. Jesus had to come, in order to restore the spiritual dimension of 
man. Besides, Moses is still a tribal prophet, and the decrees revealed to him are still 
specific to a small segment of humanity. Jesus’ teachings, in contrast, were destined to 
reach a much wider audience. 


63 


“Every action, every word of Jesus radiates authority,” he went on. “So much, in fact, 
that those who have confused him with God may perhaps be excused for doing so. Yet 
Jesus himself never claimed to be God; in fact, he explicitly denied it: ‘Why do you call 
me good? Only God is good’ (Matthew 19:17, Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19), or: ‘My Father 
is greater than (John 14:28), if you remember your Bible. Even Paul, who made so 
much of Jesus’ end—not even Paul claimed that Jesus was God, though he came 
dangerously close. When Jesus says: ‘I and my Father are one’ (Jn. 10:30), therefore, he 
means this in a metaphorical and not a literal sense, otherwise he would be contradicting 
himself.” 


“T’m not a theologian,” the student admitted. 
“Nor do you have to be, it’s all there in the Bible,” came the reply. 


“Moses was the moralist, the judge, the hygienist, whereas Jesus was the psychologist 
and mystic,” the sage continued after a while. “Jesus was love, humility and sacrifice 
personified. These qualities shone through all his actions, for he went about doing good. 
He healed the sick: restored sight to the blind, speech to the dumb, the use of their legs to 
the crippled. He helped the poor, freed the oppressed, fed the hungry. Being a prophet of 
God, he did all these miraculously; but one does not have to be a miracle-worker in order 
to do these things in one’s own small way, with one’s limited human means, or to 
recognize that they are admirable virtues in themselves. 


“When we turn from Jesus’ deeds to his words, the transparent meaning of his actions 
evaporates. That’s why they’ve been debated for centuries. Some of his sayings are clear 
enough, and it would take us a long way if we could practice even them alone faithfully. 
For example: “In all things, do unto others as you would have them do unto you; for this 
is the Law and the Prophets’ (Matthew 7:12). Or: “You shall love the Lord your God with 
all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest 
commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On 
these commandments hang the Law and the Prophets’ (Matthew 22:37-40). Note the 
reference to the Law (Heb. Torah) and the Prophets (Naviim) in both cases, which 
together with the Books (Ketuvim) make up the Old Testament. Jesus is here establishing 
his continuity with the tradition of Moses, and his advice is clear and simple. 


“But other sayings of his are quite complex. We then have to discard any notion that he 
was a simple man preaching a simple doctrine. Part of the problem is that people have 
tried to interpret his sayings by applying the tools of Greek philosophy to them. When 
that was done, the pure, clear life-water of his teachings became frozen into the stark 
stalactites and stalagmites of dogma—whereas the only way to understand them is to take 
the mystical approach. 


“One example should suffice: ‘He who loses his life shall find it? (Matthew 10:39, Luke 


9:23-4, John 12:25). Here, if anywhere, is an esoteric statement belonging to Jesus. Now 
what do you suppose he meant by this paradoxical remark?” 


64 


“What, indeed?” echoed the disciple. 


“Well, let’s apply the tools of Islam to it and see what we come up with. This refers to the 
death-rebirth experience of the soul. A saying attributed to Mohammed puts it more 
clearly: you have to ‘Die before you die,’ for unless one dies and is reborn, one cannot 
enter the Kingdom. This Kingdom of God—or Heaven—is the spiritual counterpart of 
the Promised Land which we were talking about (also the ‘Pure Land’ of Amida 
Buddhism, if memory serves) and, as everyone knows, ‘is within you’ (Luke 17:21). 


“Now how is this to be achieved? The Bible states that Jesus ‘emptied himself? (Gk. 
ekenosen), in order to let God’s light shine through (Philippians 2:7). For the thoughts, 
the desires, the caprices of the ordinary self only obstruct that light. Self-emptying 
(kenosis) leads to Unity or Union (enosis), in other words. Now this is precisely the 
perception of Unity or Union (Ar. wahdah) of the Sufis, which is achieved through 
(spiritual) poverty (fagr). ‘Poverty is my pride,’ said Mohammed, yet at another time he 
remarked: ‘Poverty is blackness of face (i.e., a disgrace).’ It’s clear that he’s speaking 
about two different kinds of poverty: spiritual poverty in the first case and material 
poverty in the second. And what does Jesus say to that? ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for 
theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven’ (Matthew 5:3). The explanation and the explained fit 
each other like hand and glove. 


“This goes to show that only a mystical, Sufic interpretation will explain some of Jesus’ 
sayings. But we can’t all be mystics, so that door will remain closed to a great majority of 


people.” 


“T’ve never heard of this connection between kenosis and enosis made before within 
Christianity,” observed the student. 


“Probably,” the sage smiled, “this is because Christian theology focused on the 
uniqueness of Jesus, rather than the availability of his experience to all adepts.” 


“Does this mean that the Sufis took their doctrine from Christianity, as some have 
claimed?” asked the student. 


“Tt means,” corrected the sage, “that Mohammed took what was Jesus’ and completed it, 


just as Jesus said he would. If we love Jesus enough, we should take heed of his 
directions.” 


A Question 


“Why is it,” said the sage, “that intelligent people lament ‘the spiritual vacuum that exists 
all over what once was Christendom’? And what is the reason for the unsettling, ominous 
silence that echoes down church corridors through the centuries?” 


“Search me,” said the disciple. A shiver ran up his spine. 


65 


“Let me put this another way,” said the sage. “Have you read your Umberto Eco?” 


“No, but I’ve seen the movie,” replied the disciple, remembering The Name of the Rose. 
“That book ends with the sentence: ‘Once there was a rose. Now, there is only its name,“ 
said the sage. “Do you have any idea what this rose is?” 


“No 72 


“Tt is Jesus,” the sage continued. “And every prophet is a rose. Moses, Jesus, Mohammed 
are all roses. The saints in a religion are roses, too, but lesser roses than its prophet. 


“The reason that we cannot smell the fragrance of Jesus is that his term is over. His time 
is up.” 


“How do you mean?” asked the disciple. 


“Well, look at it this way. Suppose you’re an American, or an Englishman, or a 
Frenchman, or a German. We all know that Eisenhower, Churchill, de Gaulle and 
Adenauer were great leaders of these nations. 


“Now suppose you wanted to write a petition to your president or prime minister. And 
suppose you began your letter: ‘Dear Mr. Eisenhower,’ or ‘Dear Mr. Churchill,’ or ‘Dear 
Monsieur de Gaulle,’ or ‘Dear Herr Adenauer,’ and sent it off. What do you think would 
happen?” 


The disciple laughed. “I don’t know,” he said. “It’ld probably end up in the wastebasket.” 


“Exactly,” said the sage. “And why? Because none of these people are in office any 
longer. You would have to address your present prime minister or president in order for 
your petition to be considered valid. 


“Now it’s exactly the same thing with the prophets,” he continued. “If you remember, 
Jesus said: ‘I am the way and the life. No one comes unto the Lord, except by me.’ And 
well he might, for this statement is true of all prophets, so long as they are in office. In 
Abraham’s time, for instance, no one could go to the Lord except by Abraham. In Moses’ 
time, no one could go except by Moses, and so on. In every age it’s the prophet of that 
time that’s going to ferry you to the other shore, and once you get there, the customs 
inspectors say: “‘Who’s your ferryman?’ It’s all right to answer Moses or Abraham if you 
lived in their term, but not if you haven’t. 


“Each prophet is in office until the next one comes along. It doesn’t matter if a prophet is 
alive or not when his successor arrives. However, since no prophet will come after 
Mohammed save the fakes and impostors, he will be in office till the end of time. There 
will be no further Revelation, because God has stated His case to humanity in the final 
form He desired.” 


66 


“Does this mean that only Mohammed’s community is eligible for salvation, that all the 
earlier religious communities were somehow inferior?” 


“Not at all. Each prophet was the spiritual—and sometimes also the worldly—king of his 
age, and as long as his people obeyed him, they were assured of God’s grace. Every 
religion is the Islam of its age. Judaism is the Islam of its time, Christianity is the Islam of 
the Christian Era, and so on. They may differ from the final version—Islam as we know 
it—in detail, but not in the essential points. Mohammed’s distinction resides in the fact 
that his message addresses not this or that tribe or community, but humanity at large. 
Because it was so universal, there is no need for another prophet to come with further 
revelation. Of course, the final revelation abrogates earlier revelations, just as today’s 
newspaper supersedes yesterday’s daily, or the current version of a computer program 
updates its earlier versions. This doesn’t mean the earlier versions are bad or all wrong, 
they’re just out-of-date.” 


“T don’t know, sir,” said the disciple. “It would be better if Jesus had left some indication 
about his successor.” 


“Oh, but he did. He said: ‘As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world’ (John 
9:5). ‘And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete, to be with you 
forever’ (Jn. 14:15). “The Paraclete... will teach you everything, and remind you of all 
that I have said to you’ (Jn. 14:26). ‘When the Paraclete comes, whom I will send to you 
from the Father, the spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my 
behalf? (Jn. 15:26). ‘It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the 
Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you’ (Jn. 16:7). ‘I still have 
many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the spirit of truth comes, 
he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak 
whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify 
me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you’ (Jn. 16:12-14).” 


The sage paused. “Jesus,” he said, “could not have given a clearer indication that he 
would have a successor. I myself couldn’t have said it better if I had wanted to. First of 
all, note that there are two Paracletes, not one: because Jesus says ‘another Paraclete’ like 
himself, he is one and Mohammed is the other. Further, the Bible explicitly calls Jesus ‘a 
Paraclete’ (1 Jn. 2:1), so that there are, presumably, other Paracletes—and ‘Paraclete’ 
now begins to sound an awful lot like ‘prophet’. Let’s not go into the deeper matter of 
what ‘Paraclete’ means; let me just say that I would again be vindicated. 


“Jesus calls the Paraclete the ‘spirit of truth’; indeed, Mohammed was a spirit of truth, 
just like Jesus. Jesus makes it plain beyond words that his teaching is incomplete and will 
be completed by another like him. When he came, Mohammed gave instructions on all 
the things that Jesus, on his own admission, could not elaborate. He dictated the Koran 
just as he heard it, without addition or omission. As the Koran itself points out, he did not 
speak of his own accord (53:3). And because he guided us into all the truth, he will be 
with us forever, for God’s Revelation is now complete. Moreover, Mohammed both 
testified on Jesus’ behalf and glorified him, for he called Jesus ‘my brother’, which also 


67 


dovetails with the notion of two Paracletes. And the Koran glorifies Jesus as the Messiah 
(Christ) son of Mary (5:72,75).” 


The disciple mused. “I don’t know,” he said. “I thought the Paraclete was the Holy Spirit. 
It says so in the Bible.” 


“Don’t forget,” countered the sage, “that the Paraclete is another Paraclete, just like 
Jesus. There are two Paracletes, not one, and one of them is Jesus. Whatever Jesus was, 
the other has to share the same characteristics. If Jesus was a human being, the Paraclete 
has to be a human being, too. If Jesus was a prophet of God, then so is the Paraclete. If 
you can speak about Jesus as a spirit that is holy, which I can readily grant, one can say 
the same thing about Mohammed. The point is that each of them is a holy spirit, not the 
Holy Ghost. 


“There’s another thing,” he continued. “When Jesus appeared to the disciples later on, he 
breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ (Jn. 20:22). This shows that 
the Holy Spirit either is Jesus’ breath, or is contained in his breath. In either case, the 
Holy Spirit is something intangible. Ever hear of a breath that hears and speaks 
physically? Only a human being can do those things. 


“Further, we can see here that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are both present simultaneously. 
But as Jesus himself explains, the Paraclete can only come in his absence. This proves to 
us that the Holy Spirit is not the Paraclete.” 


The disciple sighed. “All this theology is making me dizzy,” he explained. “Can you tell 
me a bit more about Mohammed? I don’t know much about him except for his name, and 
that he founded a religion called Islam.” 


Weakly-Coupled Religions 


“The problem with Moses’ teachings and those of Jesus,” the master continued, “was: 
first, that they still were not universal enough, and second, that they were weakly coupled. 


The disciple frowned. “I don’t get it, sir,” he said. 


“Well, let’s tackle one at a time. Recall that Moses’ precepts addressed a small portion of 
humanity; they were specific to Jews alone. Jesus’ beautiful teachings, on the other hand, 
were only for adepts of mysticism, and these too are always in a minority. Yet there had 
to be a religion for all humankind: one that would embrace everyone, of whatever 
temperament, inclination, or calling in life. This is why the two were not universal 
enough. 


“We now come to the second point. The Church Fathers were well aware of this 


difficulty. They knew that Moses’ exoteric teachings left out spirituality, while the 
esoteric teachings of Jesus omitted the legal aspect which is a must in social life. They 


68 


tried to remedy this situation by combining the two —which is why you have both the 
Old Testament and the New in the Bible. 


“But in the end, it was a makeshift arrangement. Certain interpretations grafted onto 
Jesus’ original doctrine proved as incapable of mixing with Moses’ as water with oil. 
Moreover, even if that had proved possible, the limitations of both which we’ve just 
discussed precluded a truly universal synthesis. 


“There are other contrasts as well. Judaism is a worldly religion, whereas Christianity— 
as it developed later—treviled the body and concentrated exclusively on the spirit. The 
Jewish God is a wrathful God, whereas God is love in the Christian conception, and so 
on. Now each of these conceptions excludes the other; man, for instance, is not just a 
disembodied spirit (in which case he would be a ghost), nor simply a body (in which case 
he would be merely a corpse), but a unique, living combination of the two. Religion 
needs to recognize both sides of the coin, and it ought to address and answer the needs of 
both aspects. Where would night be without day, or vice versa? What was needed was a 
religion that radically combined the two, a synthesis—and not merely a mixture—that 
transcended both. And that is why Mohammed had to come.” 


The disciple was silent for a while. “I can’t be hearing all this,” he said at last. 


“Oh, but you are,” the sage said gently. “You wanted to hear the Truth, didn’t you? I told 
you it wouldn’t be easy. We don’t have to go on if you don’t want to. It’s against our 
rules to force anyone.” 


“Please continue,” said the disciple, after a period of thoughtful digestion. “Do you mean 
that Mohammed concocted a new religion out of Judaism and Christianity?” 


“No,” the master explained patiently. “Religion and philosophy are two different things. 
You and I could perhaps sit down and construct a new philosophy, for instance, because 
philosophy depends on human reason alone. But this is not the case with religion, for it 
depends on a direct revelation from God, and comprises both rational and surrational 
aspects. And a philosophy can generate new ideas, but it cannot generate a Man.” 


“Surrational?” the student interjected. 


“Well, since you ask, it’s time for some definitions. Nonrational is, obviously, that which 
is not rational, and this can be divided into two subsets: irrational and surrational. By 
irrational, I mean something that is illogical, that contains a logical contradiction. For 
example, 1=3 or 3=1 is a mathematical impossibility. Surrational or superrational, on the 
other hand, is a higher degree of rationality. In other words, we would find a surrational 
thing to be supremely rational, if only we were in possession of all the facts. The 
surrational is as far above the rational as the irrational is below it. For example, Moses’ 
adventures with Khidr related in the Koran are of a surrational nature: Moses found that 
there were perfectly logical reasons for Khidr’s actions which he was previously unable 


69 


to make sense of, once the facts were explained to him. The commandments and the ways 
of the Lord may be mysterious, but they are not illogical once you know the inside story. 


“Now I said that revelation contains both rational and surrational elements. Every true 
religion was originally composed of these two, but irrational elements also crept in with 
the passage of time. Only Islam is immune to this process, which is why it has remained 
unpolluted. And the surrational can only be imparted by God, for only He is omniscient. 
It is mentioned in the Koran that it was ‘sent down by the Holy Spirit from the Lord with 
Truth’ (16:102). Besides, the Koran explicitly states that if Mohammed had added or 
modified anything on his own, God would have ripped out his main artery (69:46). True 
religion is not something you can sit down and invent, and if you try to do this, the result 
will be at best a pseudo-religion, not a true one.” 


Mohammed 


“Why don’t we go back to Carlyle,” continued the sage, “and see what he has to say. 
Could you kindly fetch the book from that shelf again?” The disciple did so and, at the 
sage’s direction, began to read: 


..A greater number of God’s creatures believe in Mahomet’s word at this hour than in 
any other word whatever. Are we to suppose that it was a miserable piece of spiritual 
legerdemain, this which so many creatures of the Almighty have lived by and died by? 
I, for my part, cannot form any such supposition. 


But of a Great Man, especially of him, I will venture to assert that it is incredible that 
he should have been any other than true... I should say sincerity, a deep, great, genuine 
sincerity, is the first characteristic of all men in any way heroic. 


Such a man is what we call an original man; he comes to us at first-hand... Really his 
utterances, are they not a kind of ‘revelation’;—what we must call such for want of 
some other name? It is from the heart of the world that he comes, he is a portion of the 
primal reality of things. 


The man’s words were not false, nor his workings here below... To kindle the world; 
the world’s maker had ordered it so... 


A silent, great soul; he was one of those who cannot but be in earnest: whom Nature 
herself has appointed to be sincere. While others walk in formulas and hearsays, 
contented enough to dwell there, this man could not screen himself in formulas; he 
was alone with his own soul and the reality of things. 


A Hero, as I repeat, has this first distinction, which, indeed, we may call first and last, 


the Alpha and Omega of his whole Heroism. That he looks through the shows of 
things into things. 


70 


Communing with his own heart, in the silence of the mountains; himself silent; open 
to the ‘small, still voices’; it was a right natural custom! 


... That we must submit to God. That our whole strength lies in resigned submission to 
Him, whatsoever He do to us... 


Much has been said of Mahomet’s propagating his Religion by the sword... Yet 
withal, if we take this for an argument of the truth or falsehood of a religion, there is a 
radical mistake in it. The sword indeed: but where will you get your sword! Every new 
opinion, at its starting, is precisely in a minority of one. In one man’s head alone, there 
it dwells as yet. One man alone of the whole world believes it: there is one man 
against all men. That he take a sword, and try to propagate with that, will do little for 
him. You must first get your sword! 


The student looked up. “Pardon me, sir,” he said, but why Carlyle? I mean, why are we 
reading Carlyle’s words rather than anyone else’s?” 


“Because,” replied the sage, “Carlyle is one of the first Europeans, perhaps the very first, 
to recognize the Prophet’s true worth.” He made an indication with his hand to read on. 


...[Nature] requires of a thing only that it be genuine of heart: she will protect it if so; 
will not if not so. There is a soul of truth in all the things she ever gave harbor to. 


The body of all Truth dies; and yet in all, I say, there is a soul which never dies; 
which in new and ever-nobler embodiment lives immortal as man himself! It is the 
way with Nature. The genuine essence of Truth never dies. 


If a book comes from the heart, it will contrive to reach other hearts; all art and 
authorcraft is of small account to that. One would say the primary character of the 
Koran is this of its genuineness, of its being a bona fide book... 


To his [Mahomet’s] eyes it is forever clear that this world wholly is miraculous. He 
sees what, as we said once before, all great thinkers, ...1n one way or other, have 
contrived to see: That this so solid-looking material world is, at bottom, in very deed, 
Nothing; is a visual and tactual Manifestation of God’s power and presence,—a 
shadow hung-out by Him on the bosom o’ the void Infinite; nothing more. 


Much has been said and written about the sensuality of Mahomet’s Religion: more 
than was just. The indulgences, criminal to us, which he permitted, were not of his 
appointment; he found them practised, unquestioned from immemorial time in Arabia; 
what he did was to curtail them, restrict them, not on one but on many sides. 


...Enjoying things which are pleasant: that is not the evil: it is the reducing of our 
mortal self to slavery by them that is... 


71 


It is a calumny on men to say that they are roused to heroic action by ease, hope of 
pleasure, recompense,—sugar-plums of any kind, in this world or the next! In the 
meanest mortal there lies something nobler... Difficulty, abnegation, martyrdom, death 
are the allurements that act on the heart of man. Kindle the inner genial life of him, 
you have a flame that burns-up all lower considerations... Not by flattering our 
appetites; no, by awakening the Heroic that slumbers in every heart, can any Religion 
gain followers. 


They called him Prophet, you say? Why, he stood there face to face with them: bare, 
not enshrined in any mystery; visibly clouting his own cloak, cobbling his own shoes; 
fighting, counselling, ordering in the midst of them; they must have seen what kind of 
man he was, let him be called what you like! No emperor with his tiaras was obeyed 
as this man in a cloak of his own clouting. 


...1 said, the Great Man was always as lightning out of Heaven: the rest of men waited 
for him like fuel, and they too would flame. 


The student looked up inquiringly and, at the sage’s nod, restored the book to its place. 
“Tell me more about Mohammed,” he said. 


The sage smiled. 


“You’re asking me to do the impossible,” he said. “No description of Mohammed is 
enough to reveal him to you, and in the end that is what you really need. 


“A search in libraries and bookstores,” he continued, “will yield many histories of Islam 
and biographies of Mohammed. You will learn much concerning the historical facts 
surrounding his life. From these you will come away with a vague sense of 
dissatisfaction, for none of them are sufficient to explain the Prophet, his religion, or the 
phenomenal success of the two. In order really to understand, you should have been 
there; you should have seen the light shining in his eyes, his jet-black wavy hair, his 
arresting appearance, his ineffable, electrifying presence that would have told you 
immediately that here was a person who could not lie, even in jest. He was the 
handsomest human being who ever lived, but more important was his beauty of character 
and supreme moral conduct. One glance would be sufficient to anyone whose heart isn’t 
blind that if ever there was a Prophet of God, this was it. His enemies themselves, in fact, 
never doubted these truths; it was only their innate stubbornness and their vested interests 
which they felt he challenged that prevented them from openly acknowledging the 
obvious. And now, today, the facts of his life have become a kind of Rorschach Test for 
all his biographers—lacking, naturally enough, such a vision, each one tries to account 
for his unique success with an explanation that he or she likes best. They read their pet 
theory, their own favorite brainchild, into his life. 


His Battles 


de 


“Take his battles, for instance. Biographers make much of his campaigns because the 
most facts are recorded about them and because wars are the stuff which history is made 
of. Yet these are of secondary importance, because they were necessary for the survival 
of the newborn religion and for the eradication of evil, but not essential for the original 
Revelation itself. Just think: the Archangel Gabriel had already come to Mohammed, God 
had already revealed His religion, and the Prophet and his small flock of followers had 
endured more than a decade of religious persecution. The Prophet had already 
experienced his Ascension, the highest spiritual elevation known to man. During all this 
time the Prophet tried to spread his religion peacefully. It was only when it became 
obvious that his enemies would not suffer him or Islam to survive that the Prophet 
emigrated to Medina, drew his sword, and did not sheath it again until Mecca was 
conquered. It was both self-defense, and an attempt to make the world safe for Islam; an 
attempt which succeeded against impossible odds, and which was won with a minimum 
of casualties on both sides. The total of dead did not exceed 500 in all his battles put 
together, and in one was as low as ten. 


“One historian has noted that the life of the Prophet is a tale of two cities, and such is 
indeed the case. The period of Revelation belonged to Mecca, the period of consolidation 
to Medina. If the Prophet had not combated evil from his base in Medina, Islam could not 
have survived. But the essence of Revelation had already been communicated to him in 
Mecca. The period in Medina added fresh details, without altering this essence in any 
way. If the idolaters had not been so implacably opposed to Mohammed, so bent on 
destroying him and his religion, the battles might not have taken place at all. He was not 
the warlord that some people make him out to be. He was a businessman, you know, and 
he had the highest praise for knowledge and science—more than any other prophet or 
religion.” 


His Miracles 


“What about miracles?” the student asked. “All prophets have shown miracles. Did he do 
so too?” 


“Well, we should first get one thing straight about miracles,” the sage said. “Miracles are 
primarily the ‘calling cards’ of God, which tell a certain people: “Here is a person to 
whom I have entrusted my instructions. Heed him, and you won’t lose.’ Miracles are 
performed by God for the people, not by a prophet himself. 


“But in the end, we can’t place much store by miracles, for they are specific to prophets 
alone. They can’t be deemed a basis for widespread emulation, and are not what religion 
is all about. Religion is moral behavior towards every being in the universe, closeness to 
God, and attainment of this closeness through worship—or techniques—which God 
specifies. Hence, not only is it impossible for ordinary people like you and me to perform 
miracles or extraordinary psychic feats, but these are actually a hindrance to religion and 
spiritual progress, for they keep the mind focussed on the wrong things. 


73 


“Now many miracles are recounted about the Prophet, which I leave you to discover in 
his biographies. He himself used to say that his only miracle worthy of note was the 
Koran—meaning its beauty, profoundness and inviolability. 


“The Prophet called the Koran his ‘standing miracle’—that he, unschooled to the point of 
barely being able to write his name, should have authored the Koran, the masterpiece of 
all time of Arabic, the most evocative language in the world, is so unthinkable that its 
miraculous nature would be clear to all but the most obstinate. In the Prophet’s case, 
unlettered meant unfettered—an unfettered mind, a heart unhindered by the pride that 
comes from too much book-learning. He was thus a conduit ready to convey undistorted 
the pure, pristine Truth of God.” 


The sage then proceeded to instruct the student about what Mohammed said, what he 
did, and what he was—who he was, based on eyewitness accounts. 


His Asceticism 


“The mountain and the desert,” the sage continued, “are key symbols in the careers of the 
greatest prophets. Just as Moses had his forty days on Mount Sinai with his Lord, and 
Jesus spent forty days in the desert overcoming the temptations of Satan, Mohammed’s 
prophethood was preceded by long sojourns on the Mountain of Light (Mt. Hira) in a 
cave facing a rocky deserted expanse, where Gabriel first announced his mission to him. 
He heard the rocks and trees call to him: ‘Messenger of God,’ which might have been put 
down to a mental state, were it not for the fact that Ali, his cousin, heard them too on 
occasions when he accompanied him. The Prophet was at first deeply frightened by the 
unexpected turn his ascetic practices had taken, but was reassured by a relative of his first 
wife, a Christian deeply versed in the Old and New Testaments, who said: ‘The 
Archangel has come upon him, the greatest nomos (the Law or Torah) has come to him.’ 


His Morality 
“What about his morality?” the student asked. 


“The Prophet of God was the most generous, the most truthful and gentlest of men. He 
was always immersed in thought. His silence was longer than his speech, and he never 
spoke in vain. He would mention God’s name at the beginning and end of his words. In 
talking he chose short words loaded with meaning. His words were true and to the point. 
He never used more words, or less, than was necessary. 


“He never broke anyone’s feelings, nor did he belittle anyone. He did not get angry for 
worldly things. But when someone’s rights were violated, nothing could stop his anger 
before the wrong was righted. He never got angry about or avenged a wrong directed at 
his person or business. When he got angry, he would immediately give up on his anger 
and would conceal it. He would not laugh out loud; the most he did was smile. 


74 


“He always displayed a cheerful countenance and good disposition to those in his 
presence. He was very kind and forgiving. Hardness of heart, bitterness of tongue, and 
repulsiveness of nature did not exist in him. 


“He did not argue with or shout at anyone. He did not use bad language or scold 
anybody. He was not a miser. What he disliked, he pretended not to see. He did not 
disillusion the expectant, and remained silent about what he did not like. He did not 
quarrel with anyone, speak too much, or busy himself with vain things. 


“He left the public alone on three points: he did not criticize or blame anybody, either to 
his face or behind his back; he did not pry after the shames or shortcomings of anyone; 
and he never told anyone anything that was not good or edifying for them. 


“He listened to the last person with the same attention he accorded to the first speaker. If 
those present found something amusing, he would comply with their mirth, and if they 
were amazed at something, he too would join in and express wonder. He tolerated the 
bluntness and depressiveness of words and questions directed by strangers, so that his 
Companions might follow his example. He used to say: “When you see a needy person 
requesting his need, help him to meet that need.’ 


“He did not accept praise that was not truthful. As long as a right was not violated, he 
would not interrupt a conversation. When it was, he would either forbid it or depart from 
that company. 


“He brought brotherhood, compassion, virtue and lovingkindness, and taught men the 
meaning and purpose of being human. He would talk gently with his Companions and 
joke with them. He would love and fondle children and take them in his arms. All human 
beings, whether slaves or free men, rich or poor, were the same to him. He pleased 
everybody. He would visit the sick living on the outskirts of the city. He would greet 
people without waiting for them to greet him first. He said: ‘Exchange greetings, so that 
you may come to love one another.’ He always smiled at and spoke gently with people. A 
pleasant smile always hovered on his lips. If someone came to him while he was at 
Prayer, he would cut it short so as not to keep them waiting and inquire about their 
situation. 


“He was very harmonious in his family life. He would not hurt anyone in his household, 
and would shower them with tenderness. 


“Love and gentleness permeated his whole being. He took pity on those in need. Because 
he always tried to answer their needs, not much could be found in his household at any 
time. He would give to whoever asked something. If he didn’t have anything, he would 
borrow from others and still try to fulfill a need. 


“He was very humble. He ate with his servants and conversed with them. He would serve 
guests himself. He always spoke well of others. 


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“He was very tenderhearted towards the poor. He always considered it a duty to mend 
their broken hearts. He loved children. His grandchildren would clamber all over him 
during Prayer, and he would not say anything. Nor was his love confined to human 
beings; it extended to animals and indeed, to all beings. He also counseled love for 
flowers, plants and trees. He promised recompense for anyone who watered a parched 
tree. As a poet observed: ‘He went to a school where God was the teacher. Accept the 
summary of words: he was human, but higher than the angels.“ 


His Trustworthiness 


“The Prophet was so absolutely dependable in both word and deed,” the sage went on, 
“that he earned the title ‘the Trustworthy’ among his people long before he received his 
commission of prophethood. In fact, in his first public appearance as prophet, he stood on 
a hill and addressed his listeners: ‘If I were to tell you that an army is behind this hill, 
ready to attack you, would you believe me?’ ‘Yes, we would, for we have never seen you 
lie,’ they all replied, and among them were the Father of Ignorance and the Father of 
Flame, who later became archenemies of the Prophet.” 


“Yet they still didn’t believe his message?” 
“Unfortunately, no. Such is the way with all prophets: Pharaoh and his henchmen didn’t 
believe in Moses, few of his contemporaries believed in Jesus, and, naturally, not 
everyone believed in Mohammed. 
“Later on, the Prophet was sending letters to the political leaders of his time, inviting 
them to join the new religion. He sent one such letter to the Eastern Roman emperor 
Heraclius, who summoned one of the greatest enemies of the Prophet to discuss the 
matter. This man confirmed that the Prophet had never been known to lie. Heraclius then 
made a very wise observation: ‘It is unthinkable,’ he remarked, ‘that a man should refrain 
from lying for so long and yet lie against God.’ In addition, it is nothing short of amazing 
that the Prophet was so truthful that even his greatest enemies could not lie against him.” 
“That certainly is interesting,” remarked the student. 
“A saying of the Prophet enjoins truthfulness on his followers: 
‘Promise me regarding six points, and I promise you Paradise: 

1. When you speak, speak the truth. 

2. When you make a promise, fulfill it. 


3. When something is entrusted to you, be trustworthy. 


4. Guard your private parts. 


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5. Shut your eyes to what is Forbidden. 
6. Keep your hands away from what is Forbidden.’ 


“Once, the Prophet saw a woman call her child: ‘See what I’m going to give you,’ said 
she. ‘What are you going to give him?’ he asked. ‘A few dates,’ she replied. ‘If you 
weren’t going to give him anything, you would have been telling a lie,’ he remarked. One 
had to be truthful, even to a child or an animal.” 


The disciple said nothing, but his demeanor showed that he was impressed. 
His Tolerance 
“Was he a tolerant person?” he asked. 


“Well, look at it this way,” said the sage. “Noah placed a curse on his people that resulted 
in the Flood. Moses did not save Pharaoh when the Red Sea closed upon him, even 
though Pharaoh repented, accepted faith in God, and called for help in his last moments. 
Even the gentle Jesus sometimes railed against ‘fools, hypocrites, serpents, generations of 
vipers.’ 


“Contrast this now with the conduct of the Prophet, who went to Taif to seek help, and 
was insulted and driven away with sticks and stones by an angry mob. His adopted son 
tried to shield him, but he was nevertheless bloodied all over by stones that struck home. 
At that moment the Archangel Gabriel appeared to him, and said: ‘If you so desire, I will 
lay waste to this town.’ ‘No,’ came the Prophet’s reply, ‘that’s not what I’ve been sent 
for.’ And he took refuge in God’s mercy with a prayer. 


“A woman on the side of the enemy once tried to poison him, but he forgave her. The 
only thing he found intolerable was high treason in wartime. 


“And at the Battle of Uhud, when the Prophet’s followers suffered a temporary defeat, 
the Prophet’s life was in danger, and he was hit with a rock that pierced his cheek and 
knocked out a tooth. Even then, he prayed to his Lord: ‘Forgive my people, for they do 
not know.’ 


“Why, that’s just like Jesus!” the student exclaimed. 

“Of course,” said the sage, “but there’s more to come. 

“The woman Hind and her prosperous husband were sworn enemies of the Prophet. 
When Hamza, one of the Prophet’s uncles, slew her uncle and delivered the death-blow 


to her father in the first great battle between the Prophet and his opponents, the fiery Hind 
swore revenge, promising to eat Hamza’s liver raw. 


ad 


“Accordingly she enlisted the help of Savage, an Abyssinian slave and expert lancer, 
promising him his freedom and other rewards. At the next battle, Savage stalked Hamza 
and, seeing his opportunity, hurled his lance. Hamza fell, dead. When the battle was over, 
Savage went over to Hamza’s body and, on Hind’s instructions, ripped open his belly, cut 
out his liver and brought it to Hind. She took it, bit away a piece, chewed it, swallowed a 
morsel in fulfillment of her vow and spat out the rest. He then led her to the body, where 
she cut off his nose, ears and other parts of his flesh, telling the women around her to 
mutilate other bodies.” 


The disciple’s revulsion was evident in his face. 


“When the Prophet saw the remains of his uncle, he was angry as he had never been 
before. And if he had wished to avenge himself for any wrong, this barbarous act would 
have been it. Yet when he entered Mecca in triumph, he asked his enemies, among whom 
were Hind and Savage: ‘What do you expect of me?’ They replied that they expected 
mercy of him. He then spoke to them in words of forgiveness, as Joseph had done to his 
brothers long ago in Egypt: ‘Verily I say as my brother Joseph said: “This day you will 
not be upbraided or reproached. God forgives you, and He is the Most Merciful of the 
merciful” (12:92). You may go, you are all free.” When he saw Savage later on, he asked 
him to recount the details, and when he was finished, said: ‘Alas, take your face from me, 
don’t let me look upon you again.’ And with these words he set him free. It was never his 
way to reward evil with evil.” 


“How did he treat people who made gross mistakes?” the student asked. 


“Well,” said the sage, “consider the following episode: The first mosque in Medina had 
no roof. One day there was a great commotion in the mosque. Everybody was in an 
uproar. When the Prophet emerged from his home to investigate, he discovered that an 
ignorant and boorish follower had urinated in the mosque. Everyone was furious, and the 
man was trying to defend himself on the grounds that the hot sun would soon dry away 
the puddle. 


“At this juncture we should remember that excrement of any kind is considered foul in 
Islam, and that even the tiniest drop of urine must be washed away from one’s clothes. A 
saying attributed to the Prophet states: ‘Cleanliness derives from faith.’ Urinating in a 
place reserved for God and worship is thus tantamount to sacrilege. 


“Far from berating the man, however, the Prophet explained to the Companions that he 
didn’t know any better. “He doesn’t know,’ he said, ‘and this indicates his need to learn. 
Teach him, tell him, don’t shout at him. Make things easy, not difficult.’ Then, according 
to one account, the Prophet had some water brought in. He prevented others who wanted 
to clean up the mess. ‘This is my task,’ he said. And with his own hands, he washed the 
mosque clean without a bad word or complaint.” 


“With his own hands,” murmured the disciple. 


78 


“On another occasion this same man said to the Prophet: ‘May God place just you and me 
in His Paradise, and exclude everyone else.’ ‘What a pity,’ the Prophet observed, ‘that 
you’ve confined such limitless mercy to such a small circle.’ 


“How did he tolerate his enemies?” 


“One of the archenemies of the Prophet was a powerful and wealthy man nicknamed ‘the 
Father of Ignorance’, whom everyone feared because of his ruthlessness. He thought the 
Prophet was a dangerous sorcerer. Once, he chanced upon the Prophet when he was alone 
at the Holy Sanctuary in Mecca, and could not resist the chance to make clear that he, at 
least, was not overawed. So he proceeded to insult him with all the abuse he could 
muster, but the Prophet never said a word, and just looked at him. When he had heaped 
on him all the insults he could think of, he went his way, and the Prophet sadly rose to his 
feet and went home.” 


His Compassion 


“Now the story is told,” continued the master, “that the Father of Ignorance, in his 
extreme hatred, once dug a wide manhole in a street where the Prophet often passed, 
filled it with filth, covered it with branches and proceeded to wait. His idea was that the 
Prophet would fall into the hole, emerge covered with piss and dung, and thus be 
humiliated. When he heard shouts that the Prophet was coming, he rushed to witness the 
spectacle; in his excitement tripped, however, and fell into the very hole he had intended 
for the Prophet. When the Prophet came upon him, and saw him standing in the filth in a 
dazed sort of way, he understood immediately what had happened. Without a word he 
reached out his hand, pulled him out of the slime, cleaned him with his own hands as best 
he could, and gave him his cloak to cover himself until he got home, saying merely: 
‘Don’t do it again.’ ‘Falling into a hole (trap) of his own making,’ an expression famous 
in the Middle East, derives from this event. 


“The Prophet and his Companions had returned to Medina after a battle with many 
casualties. The next day, after the morning Prayer and the funeral Prayer for their dead, 
the Prophet asked: ‘Suppose after a battle you are walking through the battlefield, and see 
a wounded Companion and a wounded enemy soldier not far away. Both are in need of 
water, and you have some water with you. Whom would you give it to?’ 


“The Companions all said they would give it to their friend. Omar, however, intervened: 
‘God and His Messenger know best,’ he said. ‘What do you suggest?’ 


““T would give half the water to our man and the other half to the enemy soldier,’ the 
Prophet replied, ‘no matter how much or how little water is available.” The Companions 


were all surprised at this answer. ‘How can this be?’ they asked. 


“The Prophet explained: ‘The situation is different under those circumstances. The other 
person is no longer an enemy soldier, but a wounded, thirsty man, a human being in need. 


79 


It doesn’t matter if he gets up and resumes fighting against us afterwards, it is incumbent 
on us to share the water between the two.’ 


“This illustrates the attribute of Compassion, which rules for all beings simply by virtue 
of the fact that they exist, regardless of anything else. The Prophet used to tell the story of 
a whore who gained Paradise because she saw a dog dying of thirst one day, fashioned a 
rope out of her dress, tied her shoe to it, lowered the shoe into a well, and saved the dog 
with the water she drew out. He also told a complementary story of a woman who went to 
Hell because she was cruel to her cat and starved it to death.” 


The disciple shook his head in amazement. “You’re telling me things I’ve never heard 
before,” he said. “How come I haven’t heard any of this?” 


“Perhaps,” the sage replied gently, “because you haven’t met anyone who could tell you 
about them.” 


His Mercy 


“God addresses his Messenger in the Koran: ‘I did not send you except as a mercy to the 
worlds,’ and indeed the Prophet was the most merciful of men. He himself once 
remarked: ‘I have been sent as a mercy, not as a bringer of curses.’ 


“During one of their encampments, a Companion brought in a fledgling he had caught. 
One of the parent birds came and threw itself into his hands. Men’s faces were full of 
wonder, and the Prophet said: ‘Do you wonder at this bird? You have taken its young, 
and it has thrown itself down in merciful tenderness to its young. Yet I swear by God, 
your Lord is more merciful to you than this bird is to its fledgling.’ And he told the man 
to put back the young bird where he had found it. 


“On another occasion, a snake emerged from the rocks when he was at Mina. The 
Companions all fell upon it, but the snake managed to escape. The Prophet, who was 
watching from a distance, remarked: “You’re now free of its harm, and it is free of 
yours.’ 


“A poet had strenuously rejected the new religion and had written vilifying verses against 
the Prophet. In return, a warrant was out for his head. But his brother persuaded him to go 
to the Prophet and ask forgiveness, for he would not kill anyone who came to him in 
repentance. The poet therefore went to the Prophet and, without revealing who he was, 
asked him whether he would receive the poet if he were to bring the repenting poet to the 
Prophet. When the Prophet said he would, he revealed who he was, and the Prophet 
stopped angry Companions from harming him, saying: ‘He has come in repentance, and 
is no longer what he used to be.’ 


“When the Prophet’s little son was dying, he was by his side. As the child breathed his 


last, the Prophet took him in his arms, and tears flowed from his eyes. Since he had 
forbidden wailing, people thought that all expression of grief was to be denied, and hence 


80 


a Companion addressed him: ‘This is what you have forbidden. When Moslems see you 
weeping, they too will weep.’ The Prophet continued to weep, and when he could find his 
voice he said: ‘This I don’t forbid. These are the promptings of tenderness and mercy, 
and he who shows no mercy will receive no mercy... The eye weeps, the heart grieves, 
nor do we say anything that would offend the Lord.’ 


“A man, seeing the Prophet frolic with his little grandsons on his lap, remarked: ‘I have 
ten children, yet I haven’t ever kissed one of them.’ The Prophet, who was an orphan 
twice over and had lost his closest kin while only a child, retorted: ‘What can I do if God 
has removed mercy from your heart?’“ 


His Intelligence 


“All prophets are gifted with innate genius,” continued the sage, “and the Prophet was the 
most accomplished of them all. When he was young, the tribes of Mecca were repairing 
the Holy Kaaba (“Cube’’), but could not agree among themselves as to which tribe should 
have the honor of lifting the Black Stone—the cornerstone—into place. Things were 
getting out of hand, and they finally decided to appoint the first person entering the Holy 
Sanctuary as arbiter between them. This happened to be Mohammed. When the situation 
was explained to him, he told them to place the Black Stone in the center of a large piece 
of cloth. A representative of each tribe would hold the cloth on one side, and they would 
lift it collectively. When this was done, the future Prophet took the Black Stone and 
placed it in its niché himself.” 


“TIsn’t that clever,” the student thought. Aloud, he said: “was the Prophet a man of 
reason?” 


“Certainly,” said the sage. “Common sense played a great part in the Prophet’s deeds and 
advice. Once, a Companion came in from outdoors, and the Prophet asked him what he 
had done with his camel. ‘I entrusted it to God,’ the man said, implying that he had left 
the camel free to wander. The Prophet disapproved. ‘First tether your camel to a secure 
post, then trust in God,’ he said. Obviously, this is meant not just for camels, but 
indicates the need to take precautions so that the desired results may be obtained in any 
enterprise.” 


“What a vast generalization from the simplest of examples,” the student marveled. “Such 
an economy of words to describe a vast domain of experience.” 


His Love of Work 


“The Prophet was extremely industrious,” resumed the sage, “and when on a task he 
worked harder than anyone else. Such was the case, for example, when a ditch was being 
dug for the defense of Medina. During expeditions the Prophet would gather firewood 
just like anyone else, in spite of the fact that his Companions tried to prevent him from 
menial labor. 


81 


“Once, the Prophet and an entourage of Companions were going somewhere. On their 
way they came upon a man who was sitting on the ground, doing nothing. The Prophet 
passed by him without a greeting. On their way back, they passed by the same man, who 
by this time had picked up a stick and was idly drawing figures on the ground. This time 
the Prophet greeted him. The people who were with him inquired why he had not greeted 
the man the first time around but had done so on the second. ‘The first time he wasn’t 
doing anything,’ the Prophet replied. ‘The second time around, at least he was doing 
something.’ 


His Attitude to the Poor 


“The Prophet always befriended the poor, and tried to help them out as best he could. A 
part of one of the long collonades in the Medina mosque was reserved for the homeless 
and destitute, and because of a bench reserved for them they were called ‘the People of 
the Bench’. The Prophet spent time with the poor whenever he could, listening to their 
troubles and devising solutions. Whenever there was a food shortage, as there often was, 
he used to say: ‘The food of one is enough for two, the food of two is enough for four, 
and the food of four is enough for eight.’“ 


His Resolve 


“At an early stage of his career, the vested interests of Mecca tried to discourage the 
Prophet and buy him off. They summoned his beloved uncle, under whose protection he 
was, and told him: ‘If it is riches your nephew is after, we will make him the richest man 
in Mecca. If it is power he wants, we will give him leadership. If it is women, he can take 
his pick. Anything, so long as he desists from this newfangled religion of his. Otherwise, 
we cannot guarantee his safety.’ 


“When his uncle told him that the rulers of Mecca had sent him a message, the Prophet 
was at first overjoyed, thinking that this signified their acceptance of God’s religion. 
Imagine the letdown he suffered when he learned the truth. The worst came, however, 
when his uncle said: ‘I cannot safeguard you unless you accept their terms.’ 


“The Prophet took a few moments to adjust to the blow. Then he said: ‘Uncle, hear me 
well, and relate to them exactly what I say. If they were to put the sun in my right hand 
and the moon in my left, I still would not turn back from my path.’ Having said this, he 
stepped out into the clean night air, and broke down. ‘If you do not protect your religion, 
my Lord, what can I do?’ he implored. 


“And at that moment, God’s mercy reached out and touched his uncle’s heart. ‘I cannot 
leave my nephew to the mercy of these cynics,’ he thought. He stepped out and assured 
the Prophet that he would stand by him through thick or thin. And the two were reunited 
in tears.” 


82 


His Patience 


“Once his protecting uncle was dead,” the sage continued after a pause, “control passed 
over to another uncle who was inimical and who is referred to by his nickname ‘the 
Father of Flame’. The protection he gave his nephew was a sham, and the Prophet was 
subjected to ridicule and humiliation as never before, which he met with uncommon 
forbearance. On one occasion a passer-by leaned over his gate and tossed a piece of 
putrefying offal in his cooking-pot. On another, a man threw a sheep’s uterus, filthy with 
blood and excrement, over his neck when he was praying in the courtyard of his house. In 
response, the Prophet merely picked up the object on the end of a stick and, standing at 
his gate, loudly inquired what kind of protection this was. 


“At another time, when the Prophet was coming from the Kaaba, a man took a handful of 
filth and threw it in his face and over his head. When he came home, one of his daughters 
washed him clean, crying as she did so. ‘Don’t cry, dear,’ he said; ‘God will protect your 
father.“ 


“What they did was terrible,” said the disciple. 


“Tt certainly was,” the master replied. “The Prophet didn’t fight those battles for nothing. 
Besides, I’m not even telling you about how his followers were persecuted.” 


His Temperance 


“A wife’s uncle once came to the Prophet, and asked permission to make himself a 
eunuch and spend the rest of his life as a wandering beggar. Alhough he was married, he 
had been an ascetic before the revelation of Islam. 


“Don’t you have a fair example in me?’ asked the Prophet. ‘I associate with women, I 
eat meat, I fast and I break my fast. Whoever makes himself or other men eunuchs does 
not belong to my people.’ However, the Prophet had reason to believe that he was not 
fully understood, so on another occasion he asked him the same question, adding: ‘You 
fast every day, and keep vigil every night in prayer. Don’t do so. For your eyes have 
rights over you, and your body has its rights, and your family have their rights. So pray, 
and sleep, and fast, and break your fast.’ 


“At another time, three Companions were vying with each other. One claimed that he 
fasted all the time, the second that he spent the nights without sleep, and the third said 
that he did not approach women. When the Prophet heard this, he said: ‘This is not my 
way. I fast on some days and eat on others, I stay awake sometimes but I sleep, too, and I 
am married.” And he added the rejoinder: ‘Beware of excess in your religion.’ 
Moderation was always his motto.” 


His Generosity 


83 


“One of the Companions had a camel which was old and weak, and he could not afford a 
better one. The Prophet asked him: ‘Will you sell me this camel of yours?’ He answered: 
‘I will give it to you.’ ‘No,’ the Prophet said, ‘sell it to me.’ He understood from the 
Prophet’s tone that he was expected to bargain, so they bargained until the price was 
raised to an ounce of gold. When he brought the camel to the Prophet, he was given a bit 
more than an ounce, and as he turned to go, the Prophet called him back. ‘Take your 
camel,’ he said. ‘It is yours, and keep the price you were paid for it.’ 


“A Bedouin came and asked the Prophet to give him something. The Prophet did so. A 
second request was again met. Since the Prophet had nothing left to give, on the third 
request he promised he would give the first chance he got. Omar was disturbed by this, 
and commented: ‘You shouldn’t trouble yourself so much.’ These words, however, 
displeased the Messenger of God. Sensing this, a Companion rose and said: ‘Give, don’t 
think that God will make you poor and remove His bounty from you.’ ‘This,’ replied the 
Prophet, ‘is what I’ve been ordered to do.’ An unbeliever, overwhelmed by the generosity 
of the Prophet, once similarly remarked: ‘My people, rush to enter Islam. Mohammed 
gives in such a manner that only a person who doesn’t fear poverty and trusts in God 
completely can give in this way.’ 


His Humility 


“The Prophet used to rest on a bare straw mat. Once, a woman brought him a present, a 
kind of cushion that was a bit—if not much—more comfortable. When he saw it, the 
Prophet instructed his wife to give it back. ‘If I had wished,’ he said, ‘God would have 
caused mountains of gold and silver to walk by my side; but I don’t want it.” And he once 
addressed a man trembling in awe of him: ‘My brother, do not fear me. Like you, I am a 
human being, whose mother broke dry bread.’ 


“Sometimes the Prophet would pray until morning, or stand in Prayer until his feet were 
all blisters. Once, he was asked: ‘God has forgiven you everything. Why do you exert 
yourself so much?’ He answered: ‘Then shouldn’t I be a thanksgiving servant?’ 


“On another occasion, he was warning his followers never to be sure of their fate and 
always to strive diligently. ‘How about you?’ they asked. ‘For me it’s the same,’ he 
replied. They were taken aback. ‘How can that be?’ they asked. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I am the 
Messenger of God, and God has vouchsafed everything to me, yet even I can’t be sure 
what my end will be.’“ 


“So humble, too,” the student thought to himself. 
“Tt was not his desire to become a ruler. When circumstances forced him to act as one, he 


was the epitome of Plato’s ‘philosopher king’, or Nietzsche’s ‘Caesar—with the heart of 
Christ’. 


84 


“Humility and simplicity were the essence of his morality. He used to tell his 
Companions: ‘Don’t praise me excessively like Christians have done with Jesus. I am a 
servant of God. Just call me God’s servant and Messenger.’ 


“Once, leaning on his staff, he came upon his Companions. They all stood up 
immediately. He didn’t like this, however, and said: ‘Don’t stand up for me like strangers 
do who wish to show respect for each other.’ 


His Companions 


“One great advantage Mohammed had over Jesus,” the sage went on to explain, “was the 
impeccable nature of his Companions. Jesus’ disciples betrayed him or deserted him at 
the critical moment. Mohammed’s Companions, on the other hand, formed a ‘wall of 
flesh’, as it were, whenever their Beloved Prophet was threatened. This cannot be 
attributed to coincidence, and is indicative of Divine protection—1t points to the intention 
of Providence to make sure that the Prophet and his message would survive. One of his 
enemies once remarked: ‘No father loves his son as much as his Companions love 
Mohammed.’ And one of their ambassadors remarked when he returned to Mecca: ‘I 
have been sent as envoy to kings—to Caesar and Chosroes and the Negus—and I have 
not seen a king whose men honor him as much as the Companions of Mohammed honor 
Mohammed. If he commands anything, they almost outstrip his word in fulfilling it; 
when he performs his ablution, they almost fight to take away its water; when he speaks, 
their voices are hushed in his presence; nor will they look him fully in the face, but lower 
their eyes in reverence for him.’ 


“Tt was his Companions, too, who bore the burden of faithfully recording the Koran and 
the Prophet’s Way and successfully transmitting them to later generations, not only in 
word but in deed. It is for this reason that he remarked: ‘My Companions are like the 
fixed stars in the night sky. Follow any one of them, and you will be rightly guided.’“ 


Epilogue 


The seeker looked despondent. “What you’ve been telling me, sir,” he protested, “is just 
too good to be true. How can anyone ever hope to emulate such an example 
successfully?” 


The sage laughed. “Cheer up, son,” he said. “The burden is light. The Prophet’s religion 
is the easiest to perform. There’s nothing in it that an average adolescent can’t learn or 
practice. And while the Prophet’s example may be unattainable, we’re not all called upon 
to be him. 


“But if you would aspire to approach him, to be like him, then you’re talking about 


sainthood. And this has been eased so much nowadays that only a little sincere effort is 
enough to accomplish a lot. 


85 


“Tbrahim Adham was a sultan, but he had to forsake all he possessed in order to become a 
saint. In a later age, Gilani, the great sage, remarked: ‘Had he lived today, we would have 
made him a saint in any case. He wouldn’t have had to renounce his kingdom.’ 


“The main point in sainthood is self-control. That’s how the Prophet achieved what he 
did. His Companions would ask: ‘Don’t you have a self, an ego?’ And he would answer: 
‘Of course I do. As a matter of fact, mine is greater and worse than any of yours. But ’ve 
made it surrender to God’—succeeded, that is, in making it a Moslem.” 


The student fidgeted in his seat. “I beg your pardon ever so much, sir,” he said, but can’t 
we possibly do without the God concept? Because I think that’s what this is all leading up 
to.” 


“T’m afraid we can’t,” was the master’s reply. “The existence of God is the central fact 
about the universe. That’s why almost all religions have emphasized it so much. 
Ultimate, or Absolute, Reality had a reason for spawning relative, conditioned reality. 
God created the universe and man for a purpose, and unless we act in accordance with 
that purpose, we can never achieve lasting happiness. We will then be tossed to and fro 
like driftwood on the high seas. 


“Furthermore, God is Compassionate and All-forgiving, but there is one thing He won’t 
forgive: associating partners with Him. If He won’t stand for transgressions against His 
Unity, think how much worse it must be to reduce that Unity to zero in one’s mind. 


“Let me just quote you a passage from The Upanishads: ‘If you think you know the truth 
about Brahman, know that you know little.’ 


“Brahman?” 
““Truth is One, yet the sages call it by many names.’“ 


“There’s another thing,” the student said. “TI still can’t swallow this bit about the afterlife 
and Heaven and Hell.” 


“My boy,” said the sage, “it doesn’t matter whether you accept a fact or not. A fact is a 
fact, and will make itself known as such in its own due time. We can only inquire why 
God created Heaven and Hell. In Sufism we have a saying: ‘The disciple should always 
be between hope and fear.’ He will be attracted by hope and repelled by fear, and this 
will aid his spiritual ascent. Just as we can’t have electric current without positive and 
negative poles, and as we can’t have magnetism without the N and S poles, so we can’t 
obtain spiritual evolution without the twin poles of hope and fear. There’s an adage in 
English that summarizes things beautifully: ‘We promise according to our hopes, but 
perform according to our fears.’ In other words: no fear, no performance. On the other 
hand, fear without hope leads to paralysis and despair, so hope is needed, too. 


86 


It’s all right to dwell on the Blissful Aspect (Beauty) of God, on Love and Compassion 
and Mercy, but you’ll watch your step only if you bear in mind that He has a Wrathful 
Aspect (Majesty), too. The combination of the Blissful and the Wrathful makes for 
maturity or Perfection. Fear of God leads us to obey His laws, and obeying His laws 
inspires love for God in our hearts. In other words, if God’s commandments are obeyed, 
they lead to the love of God. The proper destiny of man takes him from earth and leads 
him to Heaven, but if one isn’t careful one can easily find that one has landed in ‘the 
other place’. So care and caution are necessary. 


“An uneducated man came to the Prophet of God one day, and the Prophet assigned him 
a teacher who would teach him the Koran. They studied for a long time, until they came 
to the verses: ‘He who does a particle of good shall see its recompense, and he who does 
a particle of evil shall see its recompense’ (99:7-8). ‘That’s it!’ the man exclaimed. 
“That’s all the information I need.’ His teacher was rather taken aback; they had much 
more studying to do. So they decided to take the matter to the Prophet. The man said: ‘I 
am an illiterate man, and I don’t have much time for studies. Is it okay if I act by these 
verses and skip the rest?’ The Prophet confirmed this, and the man went his way. 


“That, in a nutshell, is the reason for Heaven and Hell. And the man was a wise one 
indeed, for it is the quintessential wisdom of all the prophets and sages: ‘Whatever you 
do, you do to yourself.’ “As you sow, so shall you reap,’ and that is why you must ‘do as 
you would be done by.’ ‘That is all you know on earth, and all you need to know,’ as 
Keats might have put it. But beyond this first and foremost principle, there are also many 
other details to be known, and we could never have discovered or fathomed them if God 


hadn’t revealed them to us through the prophets.” 


The student scratched his head. “I don’t get it, sir,” he said. “What’s your angle? I mean, 
there are so many different versions of Islam today. Which one do you profess to?” 


“My son,” said the sage, “before all the interpretations of Islam; long before the twelve 
major dervish orders, the countless sects, the four schools of law; before Sunnism or 
Shi’ism or Sufism or anything else; before, indeed, the Prophet’s death or even his 
Emigration to Medina, there was the pure, crystal-clear teaching of Mohammed. It is that 
which is important above all else, although you shouldn’t deny yourself the developments 
of later generations. For they are the fruit of the seed that the Prophet planted; they make 
explicit what was latent in his teachings. It is Mohammedanism, leading a Mohammedan 
life, that is all-important. Of course, in saying this I don’t intend or imply a deification of 
Mohammed. What I have in mind is the emulation of Mohammed’s example in one’s 
daily life. Mark my words: Mohammed is not only the Prophet of Moslems, but of all 
humanity; and the Koran is not just the book of Islam, but of all mankind. 


“What you and J are doing is,” he continued, “we’re taking a time tunnel back to the age 


of the Prophet. Or maybe”—and here he smiled enigmatically— the Prophet is taking a 
time tunnel to our age.” 


87 


The student sighed. “What a pity,” he said, “that we can’t witness Mohammed today. 
Those who lived in his time were the really lucky ones.” 


“My son,” the sage replied, “allow me to let you in on a little secret. Mohammed’s 
corporeal life has indeed passed away, and there’s nothing we can do about that. But his 
spirit survives on another plane of existence, where it is still accessible to those who 
ardently desire to meet him. May God grant that you and I be lucky enough to be graced 
with a vision of him on that plane.” 


And with that remark, he ended his words. 


WHAT DOES “ISLAM” MEAN? 


In order to avoid misunderstandings, it is perhaps worthwhile to look at the meaning of 
the word “Islam”. 


“Islam” means “surrendering to and obeying” God. But the full meaning of the word can 
only be brought out by looking at the other words deriving from the same root, SLM. For 
in Arabic, words from the same root possess meanings that complement and complete 
one another. For this reason, they constitute a constellation centered around that root and 
are “nearest neighbors” or “relatives”—the offspring of that root, as it were. Hence, in 
order to fully understand a word, all the words to which it is related via its root should be 
consulted—it is through them that the word gains dimension and depth. This is one of the 
reasons why the Koran can never be translated fully into other languages—that language 
would have to map the constellations of words and concepts exactly, and this is 
impossible for any language other than Arabic itself. 


Moslem or muslim means a person who has surrendered, who obeys God and His 
commandments. Taslim means surrendering, and also “giving the trust to the right place, 
to be safe from disasters and calamities.” Salaama is “safety, security, wholeness, 
perfection, to be free from fears and anxiety, salvation, liberation, and happy outcome.” 


Similarly, salaam is “peace, comfort, auspicious results, freedom from mortality, 
friendship.” To salaam, i.e. salute, a person is to wish him well, to wish peace, comfort 
and completeness (shedding faults and attaining perfection) on him. The Koran speaks of 
Paradise as Dar as-salaam, or “the Abode of Peace.” 


Salim bears the meaning of “firm, complete, fearless, secure, trusted, completed, 
fortified,” as well as “strong, perfect, true.” Agl as-salim is “common sense, wisdom, 
sound judgment, right and balanced thinking.” 


Sullam, again from the same root, is synonymous with miraj (ascension, ladder), and its 
meaning of “staircase” points to the method that purifies and elevates man, that exalts 
him and leads him upwards to Truth. Musallam is “that which has no doubt, whose truth 
and rightness is acknowledged by everyone.” 


88 


Musalama is “to be in peace, peacefulness, tranquillity, to be gentle, well-tempered and 
compassionate.” These attributes summarize the Way of the Prophet, and point to the 
adoption of Mohammedan morals by Moslems. 


Taslim and tawaqqul (trust in God) have been traditionally misunderstood in many cases. 
It has become a habit to use these as excuses for laziness and a blind fatalism. But these 
words were never intended to mean sloth, lethargy, or surrender to the caprices of our ego 
and obedience to the devil. Rather, they signify living in harmony with the laws of the 
universe which are the commandments of God, and acting in accordance with them. They 
mean not to force, not to use force, not to violate the unfolding of the universe by 
opposing its flow. More clearly, they imply that man should not try to force or bend the 
laws of the universe for his own self-interest, and should revise—or transform—his 
relationship with the universe and its Creator from being one of egotistical benefit into a 
relationship of wonder, admiration, and love. 


It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this constellation of words associated 
with Islam. For they provide us with the key to the most realistic assessment of what 
Islam is and is not. We can obtain the shortest and closest approach to the truth and living 
essence of Islam by examining their content. 


To summarize the details given above, to be a Moslem—the one who lives ‘Islam’—is to 
achieve tranquillity, peace, security and happiness; to be well-mannered and to possess 
splendid moral conduct; to attain perfection, liberation and fulfillment by purifying 
oneself and unification. It also expresses the path—the truth and rightness of which is 
beyond doubt—that leads to these goals. 


89 


A FAITH FOR ALL SEASONS 


“There is only one religion on earth,” said George Bernard Shaw, “but there are a 
hundred versions of it.” William Blake was of the same opinion: “All religions are one.” 


Islam claims to be that archetypal religion. Many of the prophets mentioned in the Koran 
are referred to as “Moslems,” which means that the prophets of earlier religions 
submitted to God, the One and the same God, even though the religious precepts revealed 
to them were different—localized rather than universal. Adam, the first man, was also the 
first prophet and the first to embrace Islam (“submission to God”). 


In time, however, the teachings of the earlier prophets became both obsolete, because the 
times and circumstances for which they were valid were superseded; and corrupted, 
because the original teachings were unable to survive untampered. As people mistook the 
manifold attributes of God for God Himself, they began to call these attributes “gods,” 
thus slipping from monotheism into polytheism. Entropy is a cosmic law ordained by 
God, and human affairs are not exempt from it. Thus, a degeneration occurred that 
necessitated the renewal of true religion from time to time. This reiteration was 
performed by the prophets. 


Finally, God sent the perfect religion that is valid for all mankind as long as it exists: they 
are coterminous. He chose Mohammed as the vehicle for conveying this religion. As the 
Prophet remarked: “I was sent to complete admirable conduct.” Islam was not different 
from all the other true religions, as is evidenced by its acceptance of all earlier prophets, 
such as Moses and Jesus; it was merely their most mature, most perfected and 
streamlined form. For example, just as Christianity was a continuation and—in certain 
respects—a consummation of Judaism, Islam is a continuation and consummation of both 
Judaism and Christianity. Similarly, it is an extension of and improvement upon 
Buddhism, and so on. And although the earlier religions were tribal and local, addressing 
a small part of mankind for a restricted period of time, Islam was intended by God to be 
truly universal—as valid for an American, say, of the 20th century, or an astronaut of the 
25th century, as it was for the little Arabic community to which it was revealed 14 
centuries ago. God has made this unmistakably clear by the following verse: “Today I 
have perfected your religion over you” (5:3). 


Although God, having revealed the final and most perfect religion, has abrogated all 
earlier manifestations of religious devotion—and in this sense other religions will not be 
accepted by God—Moslems recognize that it is part of the divine purpose to maintain 
diverse religious communities in coexistence. Because: “We would have created you in 
one faith if We had so desired,” God states in the Koran (5:48, 10:99, 11:118); “We made 
you of diverse faiths so that you might get to know each other” (49:13). Ultimately, the 
decision to enter Islam is a private, individual choice, made on one’s own free will after 
proper investigation. But Islam recognizes in all religions its earlier forms, its 
predecessors, its ancestors. And this is why Islam is the “religion for all seasons:” it 
encompasses and embraces all earlier religions and traditions, because they are its own. 


90 


Nevertheless, Moslems also reserve the right to point out their errors in cases where they 
have strayed from the true path, since it is the most developed version of the best aspects 
of all religions. In our age, when a truly universal community is needed to unite the 
“global village,” A truly Islamic society is characterized by its tolerance for other faiths 
and its acceptance of diversity, testified to by the history of Islam which spans fourteen 
centuries. 


Entry to the religion of Islam is extremely easy. One need only repeat the Word of 
Witnessing (Kalima al-Shahada) or the Word of Unification (or Unity) (Kalima at- 
Tawhid ). 


The Word of Witnessing is: “I bear witness that there is no god but God, and that 
Mohammed is His servant and Messenger.” 


The Word of Unification is: “There is no god but God; Mohammed is His Messenger.” 


Anyone repeating these Words (especially the first) wholeheartedly and with a sincere 
belief will enter Islam. 


Let us pause for a moment to ponder what their recitation entails. 


1 


. The first part of both formulas is the faith of monotheism: there is only One True God, 
the Lord of all Being. 


In ancient times, people used to worship stones, trees and many other deities. They 
idolized these objects; that is, they attributed to them properties superior to what they 
intrinsically possessed. They projected upon them godlike attributes, and from this it 
followed that obeisance was owed these objects. The thesis of monotheism, on the other 
hand, was that only the supreme power, the Creator of the Universe, deserved the 
unconditional allegiance and worship of man. 


We are very far from such a primitive mentality today. Nobody in this age would worship 
the sun or the moon or a piece of stone. Our emancipation and sophistication, however, 
has blinded us to certain facts, and has led us to underestimate the power with which the 
human psyche tends to deify entitites. 


The truth is that even in this day and age, we tend to ascribe overimportance to things, to 
invest them with a significance which they do not possess. This deification is all the more 
insidious because it is largely subconscious and so goes unnoticed. We may not worship 
a piece of wood, but we have our own idols and bogeymen that hold comparable sway 
over our thought processes. 


91 


In order to bring to light what is involved here, it is necessary to make the following 
definition: Anything which a person loves in excess and/or fears in excess is that person’s 
god, or idol. (This also includes attribution of power to that thing.) 


When considered in terms of this definition, it will easily be seen that even the most 
confirmed atheist might well be, in real life, a polytheist or idolater. 


Love and fear are two basic components of the human psyche. But it is also true that we 
love certain things more than others, and fear certain things more than others. 


Even if you believe in One God, if you love or fear something more than Him, that thing 
is your god. That is, you are setting up another god, you are associating a partner, with 
God. If you do not believe in God, your deification is all the more total and indefensible. 


Looked at in this light, it at once becomes apparent that we all pay allegiance to various 
pantheons of idols. 


The movie star, the rock star, the football player or the political figure to whom we are 
overly attached may all be considered our gods, a fact recognized even in common 
speech where such persons are referred to as “idols.” 


A man may be so deeply in love with a woman that he “worships” her. A person who 
washes and polishes his car excessively is, without realizing it, “deifying” his car. At the 
very least, he is making a fetish out of it, which is already in the realm of the sacred. 
Another who has a great fear of his boss, or his debtor, or the local bully, has 
unconsciously taken these as idols. 


In this sense, almost anything can serve as a deity: money, science, a work of art, alcohol, 
political power, sex, oneself, one’s reason, or even one’s TV set, to name but a few. 
These are all false gods, however; they usurp our devotion without being worthy of it. 


All this goes to show that if you do not worship the sun, the moon or the stars, you are 
not automatically disqualified from idolatry or polytheism. In fact, there are indications 
that ancient and primitive peoples understood this broader definition of a god quite well; 
they were just more prosaic in their choice of idols. 


Now the basic tenet of monotheism in the face of all this is that there is only one Being 
worthy of such adoration and fear, who commands man’s absolute allegiance and respect; 
and that is the One and only True God, the Creator of the Universe and everything that is 
in it. 


Another danger is that even though we believe in God, we might show excessive 
reverence to something that we fancy will draw us close to Him. This may be an icon, an 
object, an angel, or a human being. All of these have their proper place; it is only when 
we go too far that we run the risk of associationism. 


92 


We should, in that case, avoid associating anything with God. We should dissociate Him 
from and glorify Him above everything else, for He is so far beyond all finite things, no 
matter how great, that He simply does not bear comparison with any of them. 


This, then, is the meaning of “There is no god but God,” and from what has been said it 
can be seen that it is as valid a claim in our modern age as it was in ancient times, for it is 
timeless. 


2 


. This claim, however, is equally the profession of a Jew or a Christian, who also believe 
“there is no god but God.” The second part of the formulas is exclusive to the Moslem: 
“Mohammed is the Messenger of God.” 


Now what do we mean by this? 


This means that we accept Mohammed as the true guide, exponent and conveyor of 
religious knowledge. It means that we willingly accept—and undertake to carry out—all 
the commandments and prohibitions of God as revealed through His Prophet. 


These two formulas (the two Words), then, constitute a pact, a covenant (the final 
covenant, in fact) between man and God. It means that we accept the Koran, as revealed 
to Mohammed via the angel Gabriel, and the Prophet’s additional explanations, advice, 
and example (his Way, or Sunnah) not contained explicitly in the Koran. 


The latter, though not included in the Koran, have come from the same blessed mouth 
that delivered the Koran. If we accept the veracity of the latter, we are duty-bound to do 
the same for the former, provided it is an established fact that a certain word has issued 
from him. Such sayings (hadith) of the Prophet are called Traditions. 


The Koran itself testifies to the absolute trustworthiness of the Prophet: “He does not 
utter anything of his own accord” (53:4); “Take what the Prophet gives you, and beware 
what he prohibits” (59:7); “If you love God, love and obey [His Prophet], and then God 
will love you” (3:31); “You have a good example in the Messenger of God” (33:21). 


Indeed, Islam rests on two legs that are inseparable: the Koran, and the Way of the 
Prophet. And just as the Koran is the constitution for all humanity, the Messenger of God 
is the prophet of all human beings—though they may not know it. 


It has been remarked that there are two versions of the Koran: the first is “the silent 
Koran,” which is the written Koran we all know. The second, “the Koran that speaks,” is 
the Prophet himself. For try as we might to fathom certain parts of the Koran and behave 
accordingly, we cannot do so without the concrete example of the Prophet, of whom his 
wife Aisha once remarked that “His conduct is the Koran.” 


93 


Furthermore, Islam has to be accepted in its totality: “Do you accept a part of the Koran 
and deny another part?” (2:85) That would be similar to accepting only certain parts of a 
whole, living person. The living example of the Prophet, therefore, has found divine 
sanction in the Koran itself, and it is noteworthy that movements which refuse part or all 
of his Radiant Way have invariably become harsh and intolerant (a prime cause for 
lamentation in the West), for they thereby unwittingly reject his legendary gentleness and 
tolerance. 


A Universal Faith 


Islam is a universal religion: it is not the religion of one nation or race, but the religion 
for all humanity. Of course, it had to be revealed somewhere on earth, and this happened 
to be an Arabic community in the 7th century AD. But God has explicitly indicated that 
henceforth, Islam is to be a religion for all humanity, not for this or that tribe, race or 
nation. This means that anyone can practice it, anywhere and at anytime, no matter what 
nation or culture one belongs to. 


Care should be taken at this point not to confuse Islam per se with the cultural and 
historical milieu in which it has traditionally been embedded. With all respect to its 
birthplace and the noble people who live there, we should be careful to segregate the 
religion and its precepts from elements of local custom. We cannot all become Arabs or 
ride on camels, but then Islam does not require us to. What it does is set down precepts 
that will lead to the present and future happiness of human beings regardless of local 
color. It is natural that every locality and culture will find its own self-expression. But 
beyond a plethora of ramifications, the basic rules are what count. Einstein’s Theory of 
Relativity does not state that everything is relative. It states that there are things and 
relationships which remain invariant under transformations, and seeks to understand 
them. In the same way, Islam is invariant and of perennial use to human beings, and 
should not be confused with the countless individual actualizations which cannot help but 
differ. 


A Churchless Faith 


There is no church in Islam, no monkery, and no monasticism. Between a person and 
God, there stands nothing. Religious scholars may deal with legal or exoteric matters, and 
spiritual teachers may give esoteric instruction; but they are human beings like ourselves, 
and do not mediate between God and man. They do not constitute a clergy. No one has 
the right to come between man and God or to exercise power in God’s name. This is the 
most intensely private of relationships, and since God has, with this religion, made 
known to humanity His requirements concerning the most important things, everyone 
knows what to do without the intermediary of a church. One can be clean and pure and 
practice one’s faith without a church, for one is accountable to God, and to God alone, 
who stands in no need of any other representative. 


94 


Closely related to this is that Islam does not sacrifice matter for spirit, or vice versa. Both 
are of equal importance. Both are part of man’s makeup, and man will be crippled if he 
neglects one side for the sake of the other, just as a bird with only one wing cannot fly. 
Spiritual advancement does not entail renunciation of the world, nor do worldly 
possessions—provided we possess them and they don’t possess us—preclude 
spiritual/afterworldly progress. The two must go together. Extreme asceticism—like all 
extremes—is exceptional, and not advocated by Islam, which points to the “Middle 
Way.” 


A Religion of Hope 


Islam is a religion of hope. Its stance as regards man and universe is basically optimistic. 
Original Sin, an ineradicable residue of sin that is genetically passed on down the 
generations, does not exist in Islam. Furthermore, sin and evil do not have the 
connotations in Islam that they possess in other religions. Sin is not a source of 
irremediable guilt; it is rather in the nature of faults, errors or mistakes which may issue 
from a human being as a matter of course—provided, of course, it is not intentional and 
deliberate. As for evil, this is considered to be badness, rather than a metaphysical entity 
so exaggerated that it has the power to overcome good. As a matter of fact, unmitigated 
“evil” as the term is understood in the West does not exist in Islam—the closest term to it 
would be “ill” (sharr). Badness is entirely manageable in Islam. Even the Devil, who in 
some religions is powerful enough to rule this world, only has the power to whisper and 
suggest treachery to those who heed him; beyond this, Satan cannot actually compel us to 
do anything. 


Two sayings of the Prophet will serve to clarify the optimistic position of Islam. “Every 
child is born a Moslem; it is only afterwards that his parents and environment make him 
the follower of another religion.” This means that every child is born already saved —not 
already damned. It is only actions in later life that may cause the fall of a person, who 
comes into this world pure and untainted. (“Moslem” here means Islamic morality and 
beautiful conduct, rather than any conscious acknowledgment of Islamic precepts on the 
part of the child; i.e., Islam is that pureness.) 


“Suppose you want to plant a tree, and you know for certain that the End of the World is 
near (in other words, that that tree has no chance of growing). Nevertheless, go ahead 
and plant that tree.”’ This is optimistic: no matter how bad a situation may appear to be, 
one is encouraged to act with hope. God has declared: “My mercy is greater than My 
wrath,” and the Prophet has explained: “I was sent as a mercy to the worlds.” No matter 
how sinful a person may be and how destitute he may feel as a consequence, the door of 
sincere repentance and the resolve not to consciously repeat a sin will most certainly lead 
to divine mercy, absolution, and salvation. 


A Natural Religion 


95 


Islam is a religion tailored to mankind’s needs. It fits Arthur Koestler’s description of “a 
religion whose content is perennial but not archaic, which provides ethical guidance, 
teaches the lost art of contemplation, and restores contact with the [divine] without 
requiring reason to abdicate”. It does not go against the grain, and dovetails with the 
natural disposition and requirements of human beings. For this reason, it is referred to as 
“the religion of natural disposition.” (It should not, however, be confused with the 
historical Deism of Voltaire and Locke, which, in Pascal’s famous phrase, brings the 
subject up to “the God of the philosophers,” but cannot take the step to “the God of 
Abraham”. Philosophy might bring us to God’s doorstep by accepting His existence, but 
we need a revealed religion to pass beyond the threshold and learn anything further.) 


A Faith of Compassion 


As human beings, we are the stewards and gardeners of creation. Islam requires us to 
show compassion for the tiniest being, to partake in the attribute of the Merciful (Rahim), 
of which the counterpart in India is “the Lord looking down in pity” (Avalokiteshvara). 
There is in Islam something of the Buddhist ideal of the Boddhisatva, who renounces 
Enlightenment until the liberation of all beings, with the emendation, however, that in 
order to be able to save someone, one has first to attain salvation oneself—’The candle 
cannot burn the moth, unless it is first itself on fire,” to use a Sufic expression. Islam is 
wholeheartedly in agreement with the Buddhistic concept of compassion (karuna). 


Islamic Epistemology 


Distinction should first be made between exoteric and esoteric knowledge. Exoteric 
knowledge deals with the outer aspects of things, and esoteric knowledge with the 
inward. 


In Islam, there are two sources of exoteric knowledge: reason (aq/ ) and transmission 
(nag! ). Hence, we have the rational sciences on the one hand, and the transmitted (or 
revelatory) sciences on the other. The first are the positive (posit-ive) sciences, such as 
mathematics, physics and chemistry, which have little if anything to do with religion 
directly. 


Transmitted—or normative—sciences are those branches of knowledge that do not lend 
themselves to easy discovery by reason and have to be accepted as revealed; these are the 
religious sciences such as Koranic exegesis, Prophetic sayings, and code of law (figh). 
Yet even here, there is room for reason to operate. 


Reason, or intellect, is one of the greatest gifts God has given to man. Relying on input in 
the form of impressions or sense-data from the external world, it allows man to reach 
correct conclusions regarding that world. It enables man to survive therein, to build 
sciences and civilizations. 


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Yet there are things which we inevitably accept on hearsay. Science itself is of this 
nature, for no single human lifetime could suffice to repeat all the experiments of science, 
or rediscover from scratch the sum total of human knowledge accumulated over 
thousands of years. 


Now this is as true for the religious, or spiritual, sciences as it is for physical science. The 
question then arises: to what extent should reason be exercised in religious matters, and at 
what point should one refrain from doing so further? 


This subject was much debated in the early period of Islam. The solution that yields the 
greatest benefit is this: where there is an explicit injunction of the Koran, and/or a reliable 
precedent of the Prophet, it is useless to argue any further; that line of action should be 
followed. For instance, if God has commanded us to perform the five daily Prayers, mere 
reason cannot explain why He has done so, nor why there are five Prayers rather than, 
say, six. We must take these as given, or received, and continue from there. 


Where a parallel can be drawn to a Koranic or Prophetic injunction even if an identical 
case cannot be found, it is fruitful to do so. Finally, if there is a unanimous consensus 
within the Islamic community (meaning, in practice, a consensus of the scholars) 
regarding a certain matter, that should be followed. 


As a matter of fact, what has been outlined here is none other than the four foundations of 
Islamic law (figh, meaning “comprehension”): the Koran, the Way, analogy, and 
consensus. 


This is where the Four Schools of Law come in: Islam has enough flexibility to allow a 
certain latitude in some matters. The four founders of these schools (Shafi’1, Abu 
Khanifa, ibn Hanbal, Maliq) were all respectful towards one another’s derivations. Yet in 
the end the schools differ little, and the variations pertain to matters of secondary detail. 
The Khanifite school is perhaps the most liberal and tolerant of the four. 


One can choose to follow any one of these schools, and its deductions and guidelines can 
be implemented. For anything further, one is free with impunity to employ one’s reason, 
provided one is sufficiently well-versed and competent to do so. 


The important thing is to maintain a fine, healthy balance between reason and 
transmission, thereby having the best of both worlds and avoiding destructive 
interference between the two. 


In societies where Islam predominated, it was quite natural for people to adopt Islamic 
law as the legal code governing them. In individual cases, it is up to the individual to 
adopt a particular school for one’s personal conduct. What should never be forgotten is 
that the Koran and the Prophet laid down general rules only; their implementation in 
specific cases is a matter for individual discretion, with the schools providing religious 
guidance in matters of detail. The Divine Law (sharia) is an individual matter. In 
societies where the population is predominantly Islamic, people may choose to be 


O7 


governed by an application of Holy Law to the social sphere, in which case the right of 
religious minorities to be bound by their own religious laws is respected. 


As for esoteric knowledge, this lies mainly in the domain of Sufism. It, too, can be 
divided into two parts: 


= Direct or non-dual (tawhidi: unitary) knowledge: Immediate or sympathetic 
perception, in which the object-subject distinction is transcended or nullified in some 
respect. One then knows something in the same way as one knows oneself or part of 
oneself. Distinct categories that fall under this heading are the inspirational (i/ham), 
revelatory (wahy), intuitive (kashf ) varieties of knowledge, and knowledge gained 
through veridical dreams. 


=" Information or material related to the attainment, realization and states of the first 
kind of esoteric knowledge. 


The Five Pillars of Islam 


Once one has entered the Islamic religion, there are many religious observances one is 
required to perform. For convenience, however, these have been summarized under five 
headings, called the Five Pillars of Religion. But before anything else one must consider 
morality, which is their foundation. Attempting to practice religious precepts without 
perfecting one’s moral conduct is like building a house on quicksand—the more you 
build, the faster it disappears. Any religious or spiritual advancement can be realized only 
on the basis of exemplary conduct. 


With this reservation in mind, the five pillars of Islam are as follows: 


1. Saying the Word of Witnessing. This provides our entry into Islam, and has already 
been discussed above. 


2. Performing the five daily Prayers. These are the (pre-)Dawn, Noon, Afternoon, 
(post-)Sunset and Evening Prayers. Although we call them “Prayers,” this does not 
mean that we open our hands to God and ask Him for this or that. This is in fact done, 
but only after the main course of the Prayer has been performed. We call this 
“Prayer” in English only for want of a better word. This involves worshipping God by 
reciting certain sections from the Koran while standing, genuflecting, straightening up 
again, prostrating and sitting. This cycle is then repeated, usually in multiples of two. 
These Prayers are the most important of a person’s activities as a Moslem. 


The five daily Prayers comprise a total of forty cycles, but only half this number is 
obligatory. Moreover, although there is a definite time for each Prayer, obligatory 
Prayers can be postponed and performed even when they are Overdue—they can be 
performed together and done in the evenings, for instance. 


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J 


While a single cycle can be extended almost indefinitely if desired, the average time 
it takes is about a minute. If we add five minutes for the Ablution with water (which 
is a prerequisite of Prayer), we end up with less than half an hour daily for taking time 
out from the rat race, to God, being alone with God in worship and devotion, and 
returning to normal life refreshed and replenished. 


Now for the question of language. Ideally, the recitations within Prayer should be in 
Arabic. This is because of the necessity to recite chapters from the Koran, which is 
untranslatable; recitation in any other language would be recitation of a translation, 
not of the Koran itself. And yet... Since we translate the Koran in order to understand 
it, if we insist on understanding what we recite in Prayer, there is no obstacle to doing 
so (though strict literalists would probably disagree). God understands all languages, 
and the first thing He looks at is the honesty of a person’s intention and the 
earmestness in one’s heart. He does not judge people according to their race, or 
language, or nationality. To Him they are all His servants. If you can, recite Prayer in 
Arabic. If you can’t, recite it in whatever language you are able to. This applies even 
to the proper name of God. If you can’t bring yourself to say “Allah,” then say 
“God,” or “Gott,” or “Dieu,” or whatever. 


Fasting during the lunar month of Ramadan. This is to abstain for a period of 28 
days from food, sex, and profane things until sundown in order to nurture and raise 
the spirit. 


The Alms-tax, or Poor’s Due. The poor have a right to a portion (usually one- 
fortieth, or 2.5%) of our assets. This is to give the poor their due. Islam combines the 
spiritual with the material, the individual with the social. Hence, wherever 
performance of the Prayer is mentioned in the Koran, this is almost invariably 
accompanied by payment of the Alms-tax, and the latter is of comparable importance 
with the former. 


Pilgrimage (Hajj). Every prosperous Moslem must go to Mecca and 
circumambulate the Kaaba (lit. “Cube’’) once in his lifetime. 


Needless to say, there are numerous details and spiritual subtleties associated with each 
of these, but none of these are insuperable or too difficult to learn for the mentally 
healthy. In fact, mental health is their prerequisite. The mentally ill and children who 
have not yet reached the age of puberty are under no obligation to perform them. 


The Six Pillars of Faith 


The Five Pillars of Islam pertain to action. But what are the fundamental tenets of belief? 
These, too, have been summarized for convenience, and constitute the Moslem’s Creed: 


“T believe in God; in His Angels, His Books and His Mesengers; in the Day of 
Judgment; that whatever destiny befalls us, good and ill, is from God; and in the 
Resurrection after Death.” 


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Optionally, one can add: “in Heaven and in Hell.” This recitation is capped by repeating 
the Word of Witnessing. 


Let us now look briefly at the meaning of this creed. 


1. Belief in God is self-explanatory: there is a One that has created all being, that is 
beyond all conception and comprehension, even beyond the beyond. 


2. God’s Angels are nonphysical, sexless, conscious entities that carry out his orders, 
maintain the laws of the universe, praise God constantly, and communicate His 
messages and commandments to mankind. 


3. God’s Books have been revealed by His Angels to His Prophets and thence, to 
mankind. They contain knowledge of the divine that is not easily accessible to man’s 
reasoning or experimentation, but which he nevertheless needs to know and act upon. 
These comprise a total of One Hundred Pages, revealed to various prophets at 
different times, and the Four Major Books: the Torah revealed to Moses, the Psalms 
revealed to David, the Gospel revealed to Jesus and the Koran revealed to 
Mohammed. 


The earlier books each contained a part of the Koran and its teachings. However, 
they were not designed to last, and consequently did not survive in their original 
form. The Koran, which encompasses everything in the earlier books and much more 
besides, is designed to survive unchanged till the end of time. 


The Koran has effaced some matters that were more clearly expressed in the earlier 
books, and has made explicit other things which they mentioned only covertly. There are 
several reasons for this. The first is that the Koran, as mentioned above, abrogates certain 
aspects of earlier sacred law—for instance, the Islamic Divine Law is easier and more 
lenient than Jewish Law. Another reason is that some of the statements in earlier books, 
while true, can be easily misunderstood, and wrong action follows upon such 
misunderstanding. A third reason is that the Koran lays emphasis on the improvement of 
right action, and hence gives further details not available in earlier sources. 


4. God’s Messengers are those human beings chosen by God to convey His messages, 
orders and advice to the rest of mankind. Their honesty, veracity and truthfulness is 
beyond doubt; otherwise they would not have been entrusted with such a burden or 
responsibility. The first prophet was also the first man, namely Adam, and the last 
prophet was Mohammed, to whom True Religion was revealed in its final, its most 
mature and complete, form. 


Tradition has it that there have been 124 thousand prophets, of whom 28 have been 
named in the Koran. Since True Religion reached its peak or zenith with Mohammed, 
there will be no further prophets. The difference between a prophet and a messenger in 
the present context is that a messenger comes with new dispensation, a new version of 
Holy Law, whereas a prophet does not; he merely refreshes and reiterates the version of 


100 


Holy Law revealed by the last messenger preceding Him. Every messenger is also a 
prophet, but not every prophet is a messenger according to this definition. Every prophet 
bringing a Book is also a messenger—Moses and Jesus, for example. 


5. The Day of Judgment or the Last Day is the day when all human spirits will be 
resurrected and gathered together after bodily death; will be judged according to their 
good or evil deeds during their life on earth, and will then be dispatched to their 
proper destination: Heaven or Hell. Hence, closely related to this are: 


Resurrection after death, which will occur for the judgment of souls. “This world,” 
said the Prophet, “is a field to be sowed for the next;” and as we sow, so shall we 
reap. No good deed is in vain, and no evil deed is without eventual, inexorable 
punishment. 


Heaven and Hell, which are the final destinations of human beings in the afterlife. 
Righteous and virtuous persons will go to Heaven, a place of blessings, but evil 
persons will be sent to Hell, where they will receive punishment. There are Eight 
Levels of Heaven and Seven Circles of Hell, according to the degree of virtue or sin a 
person has accumulated. 


6. Good and ill destiny from God: Whatever befalls us is either a response from God to 
our actions, or a trial from God. God has preordained a good recompense for good 
deeds and retribution for evil ones. In addition there are certain things which we as 
humans cannot change, try as we might; but even here it is not an iron law that 
operates, for we can pray to God, who in His compassion may grant our prayers. 
Further, a perceived ill may be a blessing in disguise; we only know that God is the 
source of all. 


Fate and predestination are matters that have frequently been misunderstood, and can 
easily bog one down in philosophical conundrums. The best course in this regard was 
pointed out by the Messenger of God to a group of his Companions: don’t waste time 
thinking or arguing too much about it. Man cannot know what is predestined by God— 
only God has that knowledge. But man has his orders from God, and it is his duty to carry 
these out, not to become entangled in paradoxes of the mind. (More about this article of 
faith below.) 


Having summarized the Six Pillars of Faith in this way, it is next necessary to ask: what 
does it mean to know these? Supposing we knew them by heart, would it be of any use if 
we failed in right action, action inspired by these principles? 

“All that we are,” begins the Buddhist Dhammapada, “is the result of what we have 
thought.” Our most deeply held beliefs actively shape our lives and influence our 
destinies. 


Sow a thought, reap an act; 


Sow an act, reap a habit; 


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Sow a habit, reap a character; 
Sow a character, reap a destiny. 


And therefore: 
Sowing a thought reaps a destiny. 


So, placing the Six Pillars at the center of our faith should lead to more than mindless re- 
enactment of the Five Pillars of Religion. Merely “going through the motions” is a bane 
that deadens the soul and stultifies one’s faith. 


The Six Pillars of Faith are a precondition for performing the Five Pillars of Islam. But 
this is not enough. 


Suppose you believe in God, that God exists and is One. So what? Unless you recognize 
that He sees and hears whatever you do—that He can read your innermost thoughts—and 
adjust your conduct accordingly, your faith will be of no avail. 


So what if angels exist? What matter is it to us? It is not enough to just believe in God’s 
angels. We should, like those angels, implement God’s orders perfectly and meticulously. 
Our actions should be in moral conformity with angelic behavior. 


It is not enough to believe in God’s books, to love and caress the Koran. We should study 
it to learn what it contains, and strive to carry out its instructions. Our morality should be, 
like the Prophet’s, an image of the Koran. 


Granted that we have faith in God’s prophets, is this of itself sufficient, or should we not 
rather try to be exemplary human beings and model servants of God as they were? If we 
love and cherish Mohammed, are we able to follow in his footsteps, to conform to his 
Way? 


Supposing we believe in the Judgment Day, do we arrange our actions and lives bearing 
it in mind, preparing for it properly, or do we go on living just the way we used to before 
we Started believing in it? 


What is good for this world is not necessarily good for the afterworld. But what is good 
for the next world is also good for this world. If we arrange our affairs with the other 
world in mind, we shall find salvation in both this life and the afterlife. 


We believe that destiny, whether good or ill, is from God. But do we take the precautions 
necessary to ensure that we shall receive a good recompense? What percentage of the 
deeds required for a happy fate do we perform? 


We believe in resurrection after death. What preparations have we made for that 


terrifying day, when there will be no escape and no place to hide? Have we taken, or are 
we now taking, measures to escape bewilderment and punishment? 


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The Pillars of Faith leave us face to face with an ethical choice. They require us to adopt, 
even transcend, the moral conduct of angels. They invite us to invest ourselves with the 
morality of God’s prophets and chosen ones. 


A child can recite the Pillars of Faith. What is much more important—and difficult—is to 
live them; to complement theory with practice. To be Islamic. 


Grading of Actions 
Actions, or deeds, are graded according to the merit or sin they entail. Here, the intention 
behind a deed is as important as the deed itself. The main division is between Allowed 
(halal) actions, which gain merit (sawab), and illicit or Forbidden (haram) deeds, which 
are sinful (gunah). These are further subdivided within themselves to yield five gradings: 
= Obligatory or mandatory (fardh) 
= Recommended (wajib) 


=" Neutral (mubah) 


= Disgusting (makruh) 


Forbidden (haram) 


Each person will be judged in the afterlife according to the grades s/he has accumulated 
during his lifetime. One good deed and one bad deed of equal value cancel each other. Of 
course, God’s Attribute of Justice (adl ) requires that even the finest distinction not be 
missed in Judgment, so a grading over 100 points would be closer to the truth. These are, 
however, the main divisions. 


This grading system is very similar to that existing in our educational institutions, and 
suggests that the whole world is a school—a scene for our training, testing, and 
maturation. 


On Destiny 


The question of predestination has long occupied the minds of human beings. The 
philosophical dilemmas one can easily land oneself in have caused many to turn to 
atheism. Yet there is no need for this; what is necessary is to maintain a proper 
perspective. 


People find it difficult to reconcile the horrors we see in the world with the concept of a 


loving God. If God is compassionate, the argument continues, how come He foreordains 
some to Heaven and others to Hell? 


103 


Obviously, there cannot be responsibility without freedom of choice. If God had not 
given man this freedom, He in His justice would not hold man accountable. The very fact 
that a system of rewards and punishments exists bespeaks man’s freedom to choose 
between good and evil. 


This freedom is a sine qua non for the fulfillment of the purpose of existence. Yet it is 
also a heavy burden. Most of the evils we observe in the world are a product of man’s 
wrong choice, not God’s. It is easier to blame one’s Creator for one’s own misdeeds than 
to shoulder responsibility and solve them. But this is to add insult to injury, and only 
exacerbates our eventual punishment. To say: “God created me this way. What can I do? 
I would have acted good if He had created me good,” is the worst form of cop-out. God is 
not responsible for stopping the evils of this world—we are. For the worst of them are 
man-made. Furthermore, God has made us the stewards and custodians of this world, and 
it is our duty to take proper care of our planet. 


But if God is omniscient and all-powerful, how can He punish our misdeeds? Aren’t 
these predetermined by God, too? 


The Islamic response is as follows: God has donated a small portion, a fragment, of His 
will to each individual human being, which a person is entitled to exercise freely. This 
partial or fragmentary will of man can choose to comply with or oppose the total or 
universal will of God. If God forced us to make an ethical choice, only in that case would 
He and not us be responsible for it. And in fact, we shall be held accountable only for our 
free moral choices and actions, not for the situations we may find ourselves in through no 
fault of our own. A moral choice made under adverse circumstances, however, is of 
greater merit than the same choice under conditions of ease. 


Note here the existence of a very fine, delicate point: the will exercised by each of us has 
been loaned to us by God; it is a fragment of God’s own will. This is a very great 
responsibility: a human being can, under certain conditions, influence the fate of millions 
of human beings for good or ill. Hence, it is only normal that man should be held 
accountable for its misuse. 


This also means that we cannot always let events follow their course. Under certain 
conditions, moral conduct requires us to intervene. Suppose you see a person who has 
fallen into a river and is on the verge of being drowned. You cannot say: “This is what 
the Universal Will wants,” and allow him to drown. You have to exercise your 
individual, fragmentary will, and try to save him by whatever means you find at your 
disposal. God, who has placed you in the presence of that situation, has delegated to you 
the resonsibility to do something about it. 


Freedom of the fragmentary will of the individual is a right granted by God which He 
does not violate. Rather, He causes the choice to be fulfilled with complete disregard as 
to whether it is good or bad. People can carry out the worst crimes as well as the best 
deeds. Man proposes, God creates and delivers the result. It is only in the afterworld that 
the final reckoning will occur. But occur it will, for man is capable of committing crimes 


104 


so horrible that it would be impossible for God’s justice to let them go without 
punishment. 


Since God is all-knowing, He knows that a person will, at a certain time, do such-and- 
such. But He does not interfere. Omniscience does not imply omni-interference. The 
Universal Will does not infringe the night of the fragmentary will to decide 
independently. 


To be sure, “the ways of the Lord are mysterious.” Not everything in His creation lends 
itself to easy explanation by our reason. We may comprehend only to the extent we are 
able to. Hence, the best thing is to steer clear of unproductive arguments on 
predestination, and concentrate on carrying out the clear orders God has given us. This, 
and nothing else, is to our ultimate benefit. 


The Mark of a True Servant 


One of the pious among the Children of Israel used to spend his time in seclusion and 
worship. One day, the Lord told Moses: “I have decreed that that servant of mine belongs 
to the people who go astray (the Folk of Hell). This is so whether he worships Me or not. 
Go tell him.” 


Moses went to this man, and informed him of the divine decree. The man praised the 
Lord, and said: “My only wish is that my Lord should be pleased with me. If that is what 
He wants, what can I do? I neither know nor understand such matters. Let Him put me in 
Hell, as long as He is pleased with me.” 


Whereupon the Lord transferred the man from the people of error to the people of right 
guidance (the Folk of Heaven). He again sent Moses to the man to inform him of the 
situation. He said in reply: “Well, to tell the truth, I don’t know about this, either. I only 
ask for His pleasure. As long as He is pleased with me, my Lord knows best. He can 
place me in Heaven or Hell, as He likes. That is His affair. I don’t know such things.” 
And he continued his worship, unswervingly and unperturbed. 


Now this is the way a true servant of God should be. We should not concern ourselves 
with matters of rebellion or bliss. A servant need only fulfill the requirements of his 
station, that is, of his servanthood. As long as he does so, anything is possible. We are 
assured of only one thing: “Whoever does a particle’s-weight of good will find its 
recompense (reward), and whoever does a particle’s-weight of evil will find its 
recompense (retribution)” (99:7-8). This can occur both in this world and in the world to 
come. 


Poison Berries 


105 


Suppose we find ourselves on a desert island, and there are various kinds of trees with 
berries and fruit on this island. Some of these are good to eat, while others are poisonous. 
Even if they may taste good initially, they will make us sick and kill us in the end. 


How are we to distinguish between the nourishing berries and the poisonous ones? On a 
desert island, the way to do this is to look for signs of bird peckings on the fruit. Those 
berries that have been eaten by birds are good to eat. Those without peck marks on them, 
we would do better to stay away from. 


Now suppose, as a further step, that all the fruit has been labeled, indicating, as the case 
may be: “this is good, eat it” or “this is poisonous—danger!” Then we are freed even of 
the necessity for inspection. 


Now if, under these conditions, we were still to pick and eat the fruit that is poisonous, 
would this be our fault, or would it be (heaven forbid) God’s? 


Of course the fault would belong to our selves. Now God, in His divine wisdom, has 
created both nourishing and poisonous fruit as a condition of existence. But it is our 
responsibility to choose and eat the nourishing kind. 


Good and bad are exactly like this. God has created the possibility for both good and ill; 
but He wants us to choose the good, out of our own free will. This He desires, not for His 
sake —for He is in need of nothing—but out of His love for us, for our own sake and our 
own good. 


God has clearly labeled everything, indicating whether it is good or bad, via His prophets 
in all ages and finally, with the Prophet of God and the Koran. Now if, after all this, we 
still go and choose ill, who is to be held responsible? 


All that comes to us leads us back to God. What matters is our proximity to our Lord, like 
the perfect servant who is not interested in Heaven or Hell, but in pleasing his Lord, the 
Creator of all. 


God, then, creates both good and bad; but we are responsible for whatever evil befalls us. 
As for the good, this is a gift to us from the Lord in His infinite compassion. So it is 
necessary to act mindfully and live responsibly, to give our life the attention and care it 
deserves. And this can only be done by firmly grasping the “strong cord” or “strong 
handle” of God’s commandments. “Grasp God’s rope firmly,” advises the Koran (3:103). 
And this rope, this cord that saves, is nothing but God’s orders and prohibitions as related 
to us in the Way of the Prophet and the Koran. 


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SOCIAL AND ECOLOGICAL 
VISTAS 


The Saint or the Revolutionary? 


In his famous book, The Yogi and the Commissar, Arthur Koestler once highlighted the 
contrast between these two types. The social spectrum, he said, ranges from the infrared 
to the ultraviolet. At one extreme, the infrared, stands the Commissar, who casts his lot 
with materialism. At the other extreme is the Yogi, drifting into the ultraviolet, for whom 
only spiritual matters count. “The Commissar,” says Koestler, 


believes in Change from Without. He believes that all pests of humanity, including 
constipation and the Oedipus complex, can and will be cured by Revolution, that is, by 
a radical reorganization of the system of production and the distribution of goods; that 
this end justifies the use of all means... 


[The Yogi] believes that the End is unpredictable and that the Means alone count. He 
rejects violence under any circumstances... He believes that nothing can be improved 
by exterior organization and everything by the individual effort from within... 


Between these two extremes are spread out in a continuous sequence the spectral lines 
of the more sedate human attitudes. [But] the real issue remains between the Yogi and 
the Commissar, between the fundamental conceptions of Change from Within and 
Change from Without. 


It is easy to say that all that is wanted is a synthesis—the synthesis between saint and 
revolutionary; but so far this has never been achieved. (...) 


Neither the saint nor the revolutionary can save us; only a synthesis of the two. 


Furthermore, it is not enough to take half of each in an “arithmetic mean” that stands 
halfway between the two; a unique combination is required wherein sometimes the 
characteristics of one and sometimes the other predominate. For instance, all the 
undesirable traits and many of the assumptions of the Commissar are unacceptable, while 
the passivity one might tend to associate with the Saint is likewise a hindrance. What is 
called for is a synthesis in line with the principle of the Golden Mean. 


It is understandable that Koestler thought this synthesis had never been achieved. Had he 
looked more closely into Islam, he might have discovered that its Prophet combined, 
during his lifetime, not merely the vocations of saint and revolutionary, but those also of 
prophet, statesman, ruler, military commander, and chief justice. Unique among human 
beings, the Prophet embodied both spiritual/religious and social/political leadership. As 
Lamartine rightly observed: 


107 


Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational 
dogmas; the founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is 
Muhammad. As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we 
may ask, is there any man greater than he? (History of Turkey .) 


Ever since, the individual and the social, as well as the material and the spiritual, have 
gone hand-in-hand in Islam. The reason why the leading French intellectual and former 
Marxist, Roger Garaudy, embraced Islam is that Christianity emphasizes the person and 
spirit while neglecting society and nature, and Marxism overvalues the social and 
material at the expense of the individual and spiritual, whereas Islam strikes an exquisite 
balance between them all—precisely the kind of synthesis Koestler had been looking for. 


“Attend,” said the Prophet, “to worldly matters as if you were never going to die, and to 
matters of the otherworld as if you were going to die tomorrow.” Indeed, Islam gives 
equal emphasis to the material world as to the spiritual world. And its social aspect is 
highlighted in another Prophetic saying: “Whoever goes to bed sated while his neighbor 
goes hungry is not a believer.” 


In each society, there are laws and institutions that regulate dealings between human 
beings, and indeed Islam has developed its own legal code and institutions. But before 
and behind all laws stands moral conduct, without which no law can exist or survive, and 
society can only sink into chaos. Hence, Islam places the greatest emphasis on moral 
conduct, which prefigures the peace and well-being of the individual and society. 


In mathematics, certain geometrical figures can be used to tile a surface perfectly, 
without any space left between them. For instance, you can tile a surface in this way with 
triangles, squares or hexagons, all of which fit neatly together. In the case of circles, 
however, spaces are left, and since social nature “abhors a vacuum,” some tiles will 
expand at the expense of others, i.e., some individuals will expand their sphere of action 
to the detriment of other individuals. Now Islam seeks to tile the social fabric perfectly, 
with human tiles that are entirely harmonious with each other. The details of moral 
conduct specify the nature of this meshing, and determine whether it will be perfect or 
not. If the moral conduct specified for everyone is lacking in one or more respects, or if it 
fails to be implemented, the social gears and wheels will not mesh perfectly, leading to 
strains and groans—perhaps even to the breakdown of the machine. 


Big trees from little trees do grow: serious social ills are the consequence of the 
accumulation of countless individual misdeeds. Further, as the Prophet said: “What is 
harmful in large quantities is also harmful in small quantities,” and vice versa. From this 
it can be seen that what is harmful on the micro level to the individual is also going to be 
harmful on the macro level to society—hence, the Islamic ban on the consumption of 
alcohol and narcotic drugs, as well as similar injunctions, is aimed simultaneously at the 
improvement of the person and society. 


108 


Indeed, most of Islam’s prescriptions have this dual aspect. For instance, Prayer, which at 
first glance appears to be the most personal and spiritual form of worship, also acts as a 
salve on interpersonal relationships because of its uncanny power to relieve stress. 


Fasting purifies the soul, tempers greed, and rids the body of impediments, all at the same 
time. But further, it activates the sense of compassion for the poor and hungry, and 
awakens feelings of charity towards those in need. 


The Pilgrimage, in addition to its more religious facets, acts as a giant congress for all the 
people of the world, where Moslems discover that their brethren from across the globe 
are not fundamentally different from themselves—and, by implication, neither are human 
beings of whatever religion, nation, race, or walk of life: they are their equals in creation. 


Needless to say, each and every Islamic prescription for conduct has its social aspect. 
Everyone should practice them all, for leaving out ingredients from a delicious recipe can 
only detract from its taste. 


Islam and Synergy 


One is reminded here of anthropologist Ruth Benedict’s distinction between cultures of 
low synergy and high synergy. It was Benedict’s insight that human personality bears the 
stamp of its specific culture, and that there is a correlation between social structure and 
character structure, especially aggressiveness. Aggression, she said, is marked in societies 
where the interests of the individual and the group are at odds with each other. “The 
problem is one of social engineering,” according to Benedict; “Nonaggression occurs not 
because people are unselfish and put social obligations above personal desires but 
because social arrangements make these two identical.” Using synergy in its meaning of 
combined action (where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts), she distinguished 
between cultures of low synergy, in which the social structure provides for acts that are 
counteractive and counterproductive (borrowing a term from physics, we might call this 
“destructive interference”), and cultures of high synergy, in which such acts are mutually 
reinforcing (“constructive interference”). Life in low-synergy societies is a zero-sum 
game; when one person wins, everybody else loses. In high-synergy cultures, on the other 
hand, the name of the game is “nonzero sum;” there is no true loser because everybody 
wins. 


Benedict found that in societies where institutions did not exist to redistribute wealth, 
which has a natural tendency to become concentrated, life was difficult and individuals 
predominantly anxiety-ridden and aggressive, and vice versa. This had nothing to do with 
the level of economic or technological development; people might lead a happy and 
fulfilling life even in the most primitive society, while widespread suffering—with 
consequent fear, aggression and violence—might exist even in the most advanced one. In 
short, high synergy means high peacefulness and low aggression, while low synergy 
means the opposite. 


109 


Now what has all this to do with Islam? Everything. For this religion aims to take society 
at whatever level it finds it and to transform it into a high-synergy society. It provides the 
social institutions for what Benedict called “the syphon system:” an economy where 
wealth is constantly channeled away from points of concentration and spread throughout 
the community. Where everyone is provided for, poverty is not a word to fear, and people 
can be much more secure, easygoing, and hence peaceable. In an age when senseless 
violence and sexual depravity is being pumped into our cultural bloodstream by the 
media (as if there weren’t enough to go around to begin with), we could do worse than 
take the heed of Islam, with its prescription for nonaggression and peace. 


The Ottomans, one of the finest examples of Islamic civilization, provide a case in point. 
For instance, they had “charity stones,” pillars in the middle of the street slightly taller 
than a human being, on top of which a rich person might place a donation for the poor. A 
needy person coming along could then reach up and collect it; in this way, donor and 
receiver remained anonymous to each other, and the dignity of the poor was preserved 
from injury. No one was reduced to begging. Since theft was unheard of, there was no 
danger that the money entrusted to the mute stones would vanish. What they 
accomplished as a matter of course, we cannot even dream of today. The equivalent in 
this day and age would be an open bank account; but can you imagine the deposits not 
being stolen before the poor and needy got to them? 


The essence of Ottoman ethics was this: treat every human being as if he or she were a 
jewel. This means that a person should be delicately handled, not just like glass which 
might break easily, but as a being of infinite worth. You will not find this stated in history 
books, which seldom do justice to this aspect of Ottoman life, but such was in fact the 
ideal, and—more often than not—the practice. And this is the kind of morality we need 
today; in an overcrowded world we stand even more, not less, in need of such conduct. 


Ecology and Islam 


Another salutary innovation of the Ottomans was of a resoundingly ecological nature, 
long before ecology was ever heard of in the West. The quintessence of ecology was, of 
course, first expressed by the Koran: “Eat, drink, but do not waste” (7:31). The earth’s 
resources are enough for everyone, as long as they are not squandered mindlessly. The 
“green” choice is primarily an ethical choice; the science of ecology may tell us that the 
destruction of the environment will lead to the destruction of man, but it does not tell us 
why such self-destruction is wrong or bad. A suicidal or nihilistic mentality that regarded 
life as a disease would be quite justified in trying to eradicate what it regarded as 
undesirable. 


In accordance with the Islamic precept to “show compassion and tolerance towards not 
merely human beings, but all of God’s creatures,” the Ottomans saw to it that hungry 
wolves in the wild were fed carrion. This not only protected villages from being raided, 
but the Ottomans, in full consciousness, prevented this predator from entering the 
“endangered species” list because, according to their conception, “every living being is 
precious.” The means for this was the unique institution called the foundation. Thus, for 


110 


example, the Ottomans had foundations for the preservation of birds, cats, mongrels, 
wildlife, etc—a delicate ecological sensibility informed all their actions. Looking at the 
funds and foundations devoted to the preservation of nature in the West today, one cannot 
help but remember their ancestors in a less ecology-conscious age. 


Indeed, Islam teaches us to save even a fly or a scorpion in distress, so long as it does not 
intimidate us directly. The reason for this is not the ecological precept that diversity of 
species leads to stabler ecosystems. It is that these creatures bear life, which is worthy of 
respect in itself. The purpose of ecology, too, is best served by this approach. 


The Alms-tax 


We cannot go into all socially and ecologically oriented Islamic observances here, but 
shall consider, in conclusion, that most social form of worship, the Alms-tax institution. 


Among the aims of Islam are social justice and the fair distribution of wealth, and the 
alms-tax is the primary—though not the only—means to achieve this goal. Everyone who 
is rich beyond a certain Measure (nisab) is required to give one-fortieth of their 
holdings—not just income—to the poor. This measure is 96 grams of gold, or the 
equivalent amount in cash (about 1200—1996 US—dollars) and/or valuables, and one 
must have been in possession of this amount for at least one year, over and above one’s 
debts and daily requirements. Of course, this does not preclude other forms of charity, 
such as the “end-of-fast” (fitr) alms given at the end of the month of Ramadan, or 
individual handouts or donations. 


Let us now take a closer look at what is involved in the alms-tax, and how it is considered 
in Islam. 


The word for alms-tax, zakah, literally means “cleansing” or “purification.” The 
implication is that money or property, even when honestly earned, is unclean; it contains 
a residue which makes it “filthy lucre.” It is, if you like, contaminated, almost 
radioactive, and unless it is decontaminated it will harm its owner. Now this impurity can 
only be cleaned away by giving it to the poor. This portion of one’s wealth is their 
rightful property. One’s earnings are then cleansed, and the “uncleanness” drops away 
from the money given—but only if the recipients are poor. If, for instance, a well-to-do 
person withholds, accepts or takes the alms-tax, it will jeopardize his entire fortune in the 
sight of God. 


In order to understand more clearly what this means, let us return to Benedict’s syphon 
system, and compare the body social to the human body. This is a valid comparison, 
because human beings living in a society are connected to each other by multifarious ties. 
In our present-day atomistic societies, which sociologist David Riesman once 
characterized as “the lonely crowd,” there is a tendency to compare society with the 
molecules in a gas. But that is not a society; that is ““a bunch of people living at the same 
address.” 


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Just as wealth has a natural tendency to become concentrated in society, blood in the 
body is always being drawn in by the heart. But just think what would happen if the heart 
did not pump this out again. Moreover, this blood that is drawn in is spent blood; it is 
contaminated with waste matter and toxic materials, and has to be circulated through the 
lungs (and also the kidneys) for aereation or ‘purification’. This enriched blood is then 
redistributed to all parts of the body through capillaries. Extremities of the body, such as 
the hands, feet, ears and nose, are the first to get cold in bad weather. 


Now picture what would happen if such extremities were to freeze. The heart, being 
centrally placed, would not be affected directly, yet it, too, would suffer because the 
entire body would suffer. And if fresh blood could not reach cells that are the end users of 
oxygen, anoxia and rapid death would set in. 


In our analogy, then, the alms-tax serves the dual function of the lungs plus kidneys, and 
the capillaries; it both purifies the money circulating in the economy, and siphons it to 
those parts of the social body that receive the least ‘blood’. Thus, not even the lowliest 
person will starve for want. 


(This does not mean that Islam advocates shiftlessness. Islam frowns upon laziness and 
begging, and encourages everyone to work to the best of their abilities. The alms-tax is 
not intended to operate like the welfare system in the USA, where freeloaders bask in the 
sunshine of Social Security. There are many cases, however, where people remain 
destitute in spite of all their struggles.) 


In the Koran, the alms-tax is mentioned in the same breath as Prayer, and is accorded 
equal importance. The following saying of the Prophet serves to highlight its priority: “If 
the alms-tax of the rich were not enough for the poor, God would have given them other 
means of sustenance. If there are any poor who go hungry, this is only because of the 
cruelty of the rich.” 


This means that, if the alms-tax were given with due care, it would put an end to hunger 
and want. Hard as it may be to imagine, the alms-tax points the way to nothing less than a 
peaceful revolution. The concept of a “negative income tax” to be given to the poor, 
entertained some years ago in the United States, shows that modern social thinking on 
poverty is finally catching up with the alms-tax, instituted 14 centuries ago. 


The alms-tax is usually given on a person-to-person basis, although there have been times 
in history when it was collected and dispensed by the state (increasing, if necessary, the 
customary 2.5%). This enhances the probability that the donation will reach the truly 
needy, while the inherent “uncleanness” involved makes corruption unlikely in a country 
keeping the faith. 


A few other sayings of the Prophet will help clarify the status of the alms-tax: 


The alms-tax has been made obligatory in order that property be cleansed and beautified. 
Whoever does not give the alms-tax has defiled his property, and is in Hellfire in the 


112 


afterlife. A society that does not give the alms-tax will be plagued by droughts and crises. 
Property for which it is not paid will be ruined on land or at sea. Whoever pays the alms- 
tax protects himself from the evil of his property. After Prayer, the most virtuous worship 
is the alms-tax. If a person does not pay it, neither will his Prayer be accepted. 


It is not simply the dirt of money that is swept away, however. Hardness of heart, the 
contamination of greed and callousness, is removed from the donor, giving way to 
feelings of charity and compassion. Like Charles Dickens’s Ebenezer Scrooge, one 
undergoes a reform and conversion. It begins to dawn that ever-increasing consumption, 
consumerism and anthropocentrism are not what being human is all about. 


The Day of the Commissar 


It is not too much to say that even today, the effects of world poverty can only be 
eradicated by an imaginative application of the alms-tax within the world community— 
1.e., on a global scale. The social ills of the world, the polarization between the haves and 
the have-nots, can only be curbed by a similar donation on the part of rich nations to poor 
nations. The “peaceable kingdom,” all mankind living together in peace and harmony, 
would then become possible. 


“If a wolf slaughters a lamb in [some far-off land],” said Omar, the second Caliph, “Omar 
is responsible.” It is only by such a sense of responsibility that we can resolve our global 
problems. “Our true nationality,” noted H.G. Wells, “is mankind.” No matter what 
nationality we belong to, we are human beings first and members of that nationality 
afterwards. We need to bear this constantly in mind, and to take the precautions necessary 
for preserving our “global village.” The Prophet’s saying: “If a person dies of hunger in a 
land, the whole country is his murderer,” should now be reconsidered with the whole 
world in mind. To recall Benedict again: “One’s life experience is different if economic 
institutions make it impossible to be hungry as long as anyone in one’s world has food at 
all... God knows we have the wealth, the technology, and the wherewithal to achieve 
this, were we but to set our minds to it and to examine our consciences carefully. 


Unless this is done, and unless per-capita GNPs are drawn toward a median point 
amongst the rich and poor nations, crises will be inevitable not merely domestically, 
within nations, but on an international scale. Beyond a certain threshold, revolutions and 
wars will spread like wildfire. What was not given freely, with compassion and charity, 
people will seek to wrest by force. And that can only pave the way for the Day of the 
Commissar—the day when he, and he alone, will rule. 


It does not take great intelligence to see this. But the solution is primarily a matter of the 
heart, and a heart is what we in the world seem to be most lacking today. 


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ISLAM AND THE WAY OF THE 
PROPHET 


God, who created human beings in the best of statures, did not leave them without 
guidance. In order that they should earn their place in the next world and felicity in this 
by living a good, straight and honest life, He has sent Books via His messengers. He 
desires His Books to be understood and lived, and His orders and sanctions to be heeded. 
To live the straight path explained in the Books in accordance with the limits set by 
Revelation has been called “the Way” of the Prophet (sunnah). Any believer who 
wholeheartedly accepts such an exemplary life takes his place among “the People of the 
Way.” 


Prophethood and the Way are part of each other. He who does not understand the Way 
cannot be expected to understand prophethood. 


The Holy Law (shariah) is based on two great foundations: the Koran, and the Way 
(sunnah) of the Prophet. 


The Koran is the essence of Islam. It is the source of the Straight Path. It is the miracle of 
our Prophet. It is the certification of his prophethood and a sign which is valid until the 
Last Day. The Way, on the other hand, is the explanation of the Koran and its decrees and 
the clarification of its principles; it is the complement of Koranic laws. Once its 
authenticity is known, the Way is a binding law and a source of guidance. 


Part of the Way is clear revelation coming from the Archangel Gabriel, i.e. the Koran. 
Another part is the reflection of inspiration in the Prophet’s heart. A further section is 
based on the independent judgment of the Prophet. His judgment depends on knowledge 
of the Koran, on Islamic law, on revelatory lights that filled his heart, and on Esoteric 
Knowledge (ilm ladunni). God says: “Read, in the name of your Lord who created, 
created man from a blood clot. Read: Your Lord is Most Bountiful, who by the pen 
taught man what he did not know” (96:1-5). The Prophet would state his opinion on 
every occasion. If Revelation met these opinions with silence, this signified God’s 
approval. For God says: “By the star that draws near, your friend [the Prophet] is not in 
error, nor is he deceived. He does not speak out of his own fancy. This is indeed an 
inspired Revelation” (53:1-4). 


The Companions of the Prophet memorized, protected and contemplated the Koran, laid 
the foundations of Islamic law, and passed it on to the next generation (the Followers) in 
its original form. In turn, the Followers passed it on to the Followers of the Followers, 
who came after them. Thus, in every century, a large portion of the Community has 
passed the heritage on to each succeeding generation. The Lord Almighty declares: “It is 
We who revealed the Koran, and We Ourself shall preserve it” (15:9). Due to this fact, 
the Koran has reached us without any change, distortion or addition. Similarly, the 
Companions, by memorizing, understanding and contemplating the words and meaning 


114 


of the Way, delivered it to the Followers. The transmission will continue in this manner 
to the end of time. 


The Way, as the second foundation of Islam, is the explanation of the Koran. “We have 
revealed the Koran so that you may proclaim to men what has been revealed for them, 
and that they may give thought” (16:44). Further: “Thus We have inspired you with a 
spirit of Our will when you knew nothing of faith or scripture, and made it a light 
whereby We guide those of Our servants whom We please. You shall surely guide them 
to the right path: the path of God, to whom belongs all that is in the heavens and the 
earth. All things in the end return to Him” (42:52-53). 


Our Prophet explained the verses of the Koran sometimes verbally, sometimes by his 
acts, and sometimes in both ways. For example, although Prayer was made obligatory 
during our Prophet’s Ascension, the number of cycles (rakah), the way it should be 
performed, the times of Prayer, its optional and mandatory parts, are not mentioned in 
detail in the Koran. These intricacies of Moslem Prayer, which Moslems are ordered to 
perform by the Koran, were explained by the Way of our Prophet. Again, the time when 
the Tithe, or alms-tax, is due is not explained in the Koran. Nor are the proportion, the 
amount, and what should be included in the alms-tax. All of these were specified by the 
Way. 


As one of the Companions said: “Revelation was coming to the Prophet, and the 
Archangel Gabriel was also bringing the Way to explain that Revelation.” As a great 
scholar states: “The Way of the Prophet is the explanation and elucidation of the Koran.” 
All respected scholars have concurred that the Way should be regarded as a guide in 
religion. The Koran and the authenticated Way, that is, everything which is proven 
definitely to come from the Prophet, are our guides. 


The Lord tells Mohammed: “Say: ‘If you love God, follow me. Then, God will love you 
and forgive your sins. God is All-forgiving, All-merciful’“ (3:31). Further, it is stated: “I 
swear by your Lord, they will not be true believers until they seek your arbitration in 
disputes, do not doubt the justice of your verdicts, and submit to you entirely” (4:65). 
These verses cover the judgments of the Prophet based on both the Koran and the Way. 
Again, according to this verse, it is not sufficient to simply accept what is brought by the 
Koran and the Way. It is also necessary to obey, believe and keep the faith 
wholeheartedly. 


The following Tradition, or saying, of the Prophet is of outstanding importance: “Know 
that I was given the Koran, and along with it an equivalent thereof. Be aware that in the 
near future, some fools made arrogant by prosperity and high status will say: “Your duty 
is to stick to the Koran.’ They will cause you to depart from the Way by saying: “Accept 
as lawful whatever the Koran says is lawful, and consider as prohibited whatever it says 
is prohibited.’ 


115 


To stray from the Way of the Prophet is to ruin half of religion. Departure from his Way 
means that many of the Koran’s verses will not be understood. Therefore, this damages 
the first foundation of the religion as well. 


In his Farewell Pilgrimage, the Prophet said: “I have left you two things. As long as you 
abide by them, you will not deviate from the straight path. These are the Koran and the 
Way.” As can be understood from this Tradition, consultation of the Way is as great a 
requirement as that of the Koran in the derivation of guidelines. 


The Companions of the Prophet have unanimously agreed that his Way and Traditions 
(sayings) are guides in religion, and have acted accordingly. On everything left 
unmentioned in the Koran, the judgment derived from the Way forms the basis for action. 
The Lord declares: “Whatever the Prophet gives you, accept it; and whatever he forbids 
you, stay away from it.” This verse makes clear that, on every point which is not 
mentioned in the Koran, it is required to observe the decision of the Way. 


Everything encompassed by the Way rests on Revelation. Therefore, every Moslem is 
bound by all rules based on Revelation. Since our Prophet is bound by the decrees in the 
Koran, those who accept the religion of which he is the prophet are placed under a similar 
responsibility. 


Without a doubt, the Koran is superior to the Way. Since obedience to God and 
obedience to His Prophet are mentioned together in the Koran, the Way of the Prophet 
finds sanction in and takes its strength from the Koran. The Way cannot be understood 
without the Koran, as the Koran cannot be understood without the Way. The two form a 
complete whole. 


The Pilgrimage to Mecca, for example, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. God has stated 
in the Koran that it is incumbent on all Moslems. Yet it is the Way of the Prophet which 
explains that the Kaaba is to be circumambulated seven times, and that the distance 
between the two hills is to be traversed, likewise, seven times. No matter where we look, 
it is clear that Islam cannot be realized unless the Way is observed properly. 


Both the Book and wisdom (higmah) have been given to the Prophet by God (4:113). 
According to the learned scholars of Islam, the “wisdom” stated here is none other than 
the Way of the Prophet. 


It is the Prophet who has perfectly understood, visualized, and recited every subject in the 
Koran. The Prophet, who explained the Koran explicitly, implicitly, by analogy, hints and 
references to its context and details, both for his contemporaries and for future 
generations, is the source and leader in all religious knowledge. He has informed the 
essence of the Way not only in his utterances, but also in his behavior, custom, lifestyle 
and contemplation. 


The verse: “If you love God, follow me. Then God will love you” has important 
implications. It points to the fact that every state, action and saying of the Prophet was 


116 


consistent with the consent of God. The Traditions and the Koran are valid for everybody 
everywhere, in every time and condition. 


The Koran bears a thousand Korans within itself, and offers several things at once in the 
form of a nucleus. From this viewpoint, the Traditions are similar. The culture of the 
Koran and the Way of the Prophet is to transfer, infuse and diffuse Islamic morals and 
conduct into every part of our lives. 


Wherever the Way is absent, neither is Islam present. In the Chapter of Light, it is stated: 
“.. obey the Messenger, so that you may be shown mercy. Do not think that unbelievers 
will be spared the wrath of God... An evil fate awaits them” (24:57). This underscores the 
importance of obeying the Prophet and considering him the exemplar in words, deeds, 
orders and prohibitions. 


Anyone who claims to be a believer should remain within the bounds of the Koran and 
the Way of the Prophet. These should be the mainspring of his life. This can be done by 
observing and carrying out the rules of Islam, and warming the hearts of human beings to 
Islam with his Way. 


May God grant a complete understanding of Islam to us all. We glorify You. We have no 
knowledge except what You have taught us. If we forget and make mistakes, forgive us, 
do not punish us. Treat us with Your compassion. Accept our prayers for the sake of Your 
Prophets. Amen. 


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HEALING THE BROKEN MIRROR: 
THE KORAN AND ITS OPENING 
CHAPTER 


The Fractured Mirror 


In our age, we are faced with an “atomization of consciousness:” the world, or rather our 
mental mirror of it, has exploded into smithereens, and the result is a ruination that belies 
the magnificence, the infinite interrelatedness, of the universe which is its object. In our 
effort to understand the world, we have divided and subdivided it ad infinitum into 
disjoint categories having little or no relationship with each other. As Yeats prophetically 
declared at the beginning of this century, in lines well-worn precisely because they are so 
succinct: 


Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; 
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. 


It is a common human failing to confuse our descriptions with that which is described. As 
Alan Watts used to point out, the map is not the territory; the transparent film of divisions 
and abstract concepts which we overlay on the “seamless web of the universe” and which 
constitutes our mental picture of it is not the universe. This is true of analytical thought, 
and even of language. Our fragmented picture of the world is not the world itself, and if 
this fragmentation has progressed to the point where our appreciation of reality is 
seriously impaired, we need to heal it, to make it whole again. 


Un-fracturing 


This project is called ‘Unification’ (tawhid ) in Islam. At the simplest level, of course, 
Unification means the recognition that “God is One.” But on a deeper, subtler level, it 
means that the rigid compartmentalization we impose on the world is a mental construct 
of our own. The gridwork of latitudes and longitudes, for example, is useful for 
navigating our globe; but they are invisible when we look at the earth from space, for the 
simple reason that they don’t exist in reality. The seamless structure of the planet is 
echoed in the interconnectedness of the universe. Quantum physics has unwittingly taken 
a step toward rediscovering the “great chain of being” positing countless links, which 
used to be appreciated in the West; the discovery of “nonlocality” in recent years has lent 
strength to the view that seemingly unrelated parts of the world are, in fact, connected. 


Before the discovery of nonlocality, gravitation was recognized as such a connecting 


medium in physics, and it still retains the advantage of being effective on the everyday 
and macrocosmic levels, rather than only on the quantum level. In the field of ecology, 


118 


Barry Commoner framed one of the basic principles of ecology as: “Everything is 
connected to everything else.” If a fire breaks out in the Amazon forests, for example, 
everybody everywhere suffers, even though they might not realize it. In recent years the 
science of chaos has not only revealed order masquerading as apparent randomness, it has 
also shown that intuitively negligible quantities or perturbations can have counterintuitive 
consequences out of all proportion to their own scale. Sensitive dependence on initial 
conditions can have unforeseen consequences in seemingly unrelated locations. Thus, our 
sciences have reached a sophistication and sensitivity where previously unnoticed 
correlations, connections and correspondences are now beginning to be recognized. As 
Wordsworth summarized beautifully: 


All things near and far 
Hiddenly 

To each other connected are 
That thou canst not stir a flower, 
Without troubling a star. 


Thus, we find that our science has caught up with our art, in an unexpected vindication of 
Keats: “Truth is beauty, and beauty truth.” This is the deeper meaning of Unification: that 
the three cardinal principles, truth, beauty, and goodness, are ultimately one, that they are 
but aspects of the One Ultimate Reality, the Ground of all being. And this is the vision 
that we have to recapture if we are to escape schizoid grief: that the only atom in the 
universe—a-tom in the sense of “‘indivisible’—is the universe itself, that it is a joyous 
celebration of infinite Unity and existence, rather than a hell of irreconcilable, broken 
fragments. This world which we presently inhabit is the chaos, the world apparently ruled 
by chance in which few things make sense. Our task is to transform it into cosmos (an 
ordered universe) by purifying our consciousness and integrating the world, discovering 
the infinite interrelatedness of phenomena with God at the helm, in the end realizing that 
the world is, and in fact was, a cosmos all along. 


Unification 


Let us recapitulate. The universe is a seamless unity. But we do not ordinarily perceive it 
that way. From childhood onwards, man begins to inhabit a world of multiplicity. On this 
multiplicity, which is already a “given,” we next superimpose the artificial abstractions 
and divisions of analytical thinking. In other words, whereas our objective should be to 
move towards unity, we move a further step towards fragmentation. This is not to deny 
the utility of analytical thought. But it should be counterbalanced by a synthesis. We 
should integrate what we have previously differentiated. 


The following analogy may be helpful: ordinarily, we look at the world through a pair of 
glasses. Even if our vision is 20-20, our spectacles still have smooth glass in place of 


119 


lenses. Now imagine that the glass or lenses has multiple fractures, but is still held in 
place (say by a transparent plastic coating). When we look at the world through these 
glasses, we see borders, separations, reflections, even multiple images of the same object, 
that do not exist in reality. Analytical thought can be compared to this. 


Suppose now that we take off the broken glasses. We will now be able to view the world 
without an obstacle. Yet we still cannot perceive the Truth, the seamless unity. As the 
great mystical poet William Blake said: “If the doors of perception were cleansed, 
everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.” The fact that we do not ordinarily 
perceive the world in this way implies that a sensory/noetic “filtering” is taking place. 
Aldous Huxley took this cue from Blake to suggest in The Doors of Perception that the 
sense organs and the mind act as a “reducing valve”. So how can we regain a full, 
complete view of reality? 


Islamic Sufism suggests that this is possible by Unification. We must bear witness to the 
unity of God, unify the universe, and unify our selves. It further suggests that these three 
are connected. Picture the universe we live in as a horizontal axis. This is the universe as 
man perceives it in his ordinary, everyday self. But there are other levels of selfhood that 
are possible, which can best be pictured as ordered along a vertical axis. 


Now to every state or level of the self there corresponds a different state of 
consciousness, which yields a different state of reality to our perception. Hence, Islamic 
Sufism suggests that the key to “cleansing the doors of perception” actually lies in self- 
purification, by which the “ladder of unification” is climbed until one perceives the clear 
light of Unity, of Truth, at the summit. 


The Source of Bliss 


Ideally, Unitary thought transcends all dualisms and divisions. The dichotomies of matter 
and spirit, mind and heart, object and subject, inner and outer are thus left behind, and 
one passes beyond all artificial distinctions to the seamless Unity of Truth. This is not a 
matter of ‘either/or’, and beyond even ‘both/and’. To borrow a concept from quantum 
physics, it is “tunneling” beyond the crack between opposites that originates them, and 
finding oneself in a pure Unitary state. The Hindus had a name for this state that 
described it beautifully: sat-chit-ananda, Infinite Being, Consciousness, and Bliss. And 
the Buddhist name for it, which is equivalent to the fana of the Sufis, described how it 
can be attained: Nirvana, or “snuffing out” the candle—the extinguishing of all selfish 
desires in oneself. The result is inexpressible, but Blake made an attempt at it, though all 
such attempts are doomed to failure: 


To see the world in a grain of sand, 
And Heaven in a wild flower; 


Hold infinity in the palm of your hand 


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And eternity in an hour. 


Ultimate Reality, which is known to us by the more familiar name of “God” (the 
Divinity), is the source not only of all being, but of all happiness—such that even a small 
step towards God will lead us out of grief into a great enhancement of happiness. If man, 
therefore, turns his back on God and starts walking, he doesn’t stand a chance; there is no 
power in the universe that can deliver him from despair. 


Truth, Beauty, Goodness 


“God is beautiful,” goes a Tradition, “He loves beauty.” Truth (Haqq), Beauty (Jamal ) 
and the Good (Birr) are divine names and attributes of God in Islam. Hence knowledge or 
science, which deals with truth; aesthetics, which concerns itself with beauty; and ethics, 
or moral philosophy, must complement and complete each other, since they reflect 
different facets of the same Unity. 


The ancient Greeks, despite their polytheism, came very close to this insight. In Greek 
thought, goodness and beauty were identical. They expressed this by a hybrid term, 
“good-beautiful” (kalokagathia). And Keats took the above quotation identifying truth 
and beauty from a Grecian urn. Plato spoke of the unity of goodness and beauty. The 
concept has proved remarkably persistent in Western philosophy, right down to 
Wittgenstein, who in his Tractatus speaks of ethics and aesthetics as one. And while Kant 
wishes to distinguish between knowledge, ethics and aesthetics, a close inspection of his 
three Critiques reveals that he considered ethics and aesthetics one in principle, which 
further unite with knowledge at an apex. 


Quantum physicist and Nobel Prizewinner Paul A. M. Dirac combined truth with beauty 
in his epigraph: “A physical law must possess mathematical beauty.” “God is a 
mathematician of a very high order,” he wrote, “and He used very advanced mathematics 
in constructing the universe.” Dirac was able to predict the existence of antimatter by 
relying on considerations of symmetry, which is a prime ingredient of beauty 
(mathematical or otherwise). It was on this basis that he asserted: “A theory with 
mathematical beauty is more likely to be correct than an ugly one that fits some 
experimental data.” Here we stand at the interface between scientific truth and artistic 
sensibility, where the simplicity and elegance of a scientific theory take precedence over 
cumbersome explanatory devices—just as Kepler’s elliptical orbits disposed of the 
inelegant theory of epicycles. It is for this reason that the Koran declares: “You do not 
see any imperfection in the creation of the Compassionate. Return your gaze; do you see 
any fissure? Look again and again; your gaze comes back to you, dazzled and tired” 
(67:3-4). In other words, if at first you don’t succeed in discerning this perfection, look 
again, revise your theories, and finally you will perceive pure magnificence. 


The Music of the Koran 


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Pickthall, one of its interpreters, called the Koran “that inimitable symphony,” and 
Arberry, another interpreter, recognized “the Koran’s undeniable claim to rank amongst 
the greatest literary masterpieces of mankind.” Because it is untranslatable, even the most 
successful interpretations fall miserably short of the breath-taking beauty of the original. 


The Koran is neither prose nor poetry, but a unique combination of both. Further, the 
lilting sing-song in which it is recited, although unfamiliar to ears accustomed to Western 
music, highlights the quasi-musical nature of the Koran. Thus, it combines prose, poetry 
and musicality. 


At this point we may well remember Carlyle: 


All inmost things, we may say, are melodious; naturally utter themselves in Song. The 
meaning of Song goes deep. Who is there that, in logical words, can express the effect 
music has on us? A kind of inarticulate unfathomable speech, which leads us to the 
edge of the Infinite and lets us for moments gaze into that! 


All deep things are Song... See deep enough, and you see musically; the heart of 
Nature being everywhere music, if you can only reach it. 


Seen in this light, the recitation of the Koran is music, “a mystic unfathomable song.” If 
the universe is the “music of the spheres,” then so is the Koran, which deciphers the 
mysterious universe to human comprehension. It is not, however, any song; the 
intonations and cadences of the Koran are all its own. 


While the Koran is cast in the form of beauty, its contents are goodness and truth. As it 
declares itself: “There is no doubt in this book” (2:2). “It is an advice to the whole world, 
to those who wish to go straight” (81:27-28). “This is a book that discriminates between 
truth and falsehood. It is not a joke” (86:13-14). It takes the various strands of wisdom of 
all traditions—whether ancient or modern—and, consummately completing them, weaves 
them together in a rich tapestry that cannot be improved upon. 


When we scrutinize the key concepts of the Koran, we find that it identifies goodness 
with beauty. Words deriving from the root HSN (such as husn, ihsan, hasan) all have this 
dual meaning “good-beautiful.” A good deed inherently appeals to the sense of beauty in 
human beings. Conversely, bad is identified with ugly, and is repulsive. Why should this 
be so? Because human nature is inherently good, although it does have a propensity for 
badness as well. 


Thus, the moral or ethical distinctions of the Koran are simultaneously aesthetic 
distinctions. The beauty intended here, however, is spiritual beauty more than physical 
beauty, and points to the fact that courtesy (adab) and sublime moral conduct, which are 
beauteous in themselves, lead to beauty of spirit in the person who practices them. In 
Koranic terms, again, “good” is that which is balanced, while “bad” or “ill” is indicative 
of imbalance. Justice (adi ) is explained directly in terms of balance. Cruelty or 
oppression (zulm), squandering (israf ), being spoiled by excessive affluence (itraf ), and 


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illicit sex (fahsha) all have the meaning of imbalance and extremism. The Koran, in 
short, invites us to live by the Golden Mean, and in each case it clearly outlines for us 
where this mean lies. 


A second conclusion following from the inspection of its key concepts is the emphasis 
laid on “the straight path,” the path that leads straight to God, Paradise, and happiness. 
This is the path of the righteous, of those who do “good-beautiful” deeds. But there is 
also a second path: the road that leads to Hell. Hence, the Koranic concept of path may be 
compared to a two-way highway: one leading toward God and the other, away from Him. 
There are many words for ‘road’ in Arabic, and the Koran uses almost all of them. 


The Chapter of the Opening 


The Koran begins with the chapter of “the Opening.” The Arabic root of its name is FTH, 
from which also derive the words “key” (miftah) and “victory” (fath). From this 
constellation of words, we may understand that the Prelude of the Koran is a key which 
opens the doors to victory, to spiritual conquest, to victory over evil and despair. It is said 
that this chapter summarizes the Koran in a nutshell, and it is so important that it is 
recited in every Prayer cycle. What could be the reason for this importance? 


T take refuge in God from Satan, the accursed. 

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. 

Praise be to God, the Lord of all being, 

The Compassionate, the Merciful, 

Master of the Judgment Day. 

You alone we worship, and you alone we ask for help. 

Guide us along your Straight Path, 

The path of those whom you have blessed, 

Not of those who incur your wrath, nor of those who go astray. 


Amen. 


Let us examine these sacred verses one by one, in order to appreciate their meaning more 
fully. The main text of the Opening Chapter is preceded by “the Naming,” of which the 
second line is invoked more often: “In the name of God...”. The Naming precedes almost 
all the chapters of the Koran. The main text of the chapter is ended by saying “Amen” 
(“so be it”). 


Let us first look at the Naming: 


I take refuge in God from Satan, the accursed. 


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In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. 


The word interpreted as “accursed” above actually means “stoned” in the Arabic original, 
from which we understand that Satan was driven from the presence of the Lord. What 
God is saying here is this: “When you want to read my Divine Word, my Book, take 
refuge in Me from Satan, who has been banished and driven away from Divine Grace.” 


Taking Refuge in God is to seek asylum with Him from everything that presents a barrier 
to grace, wisdom, and divine light, and thus to seek to witness the Presence of God. This 
becomes possible by the Knowledge of God. For Satan fears only the heart of the saint. 
The sun of Mohammedan Truth which is born in the depths of the saint’s heart burns the 
Devil and drives him away. 


When a servant sincerely seeks refuge in his Lord in this way, the Almighty replies: 
“Fear not. Say: ‘I begin in the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.’“ It is 
suggested to start upon any task by repeating the Naming, for otherwise it may not have 
an end. 


Three divine names are invoked in the Naming: God, Compassionate, and Merciful. 
There is reference here to three classes of God’s servants, as explained elsewhere in the 
Koran (35:32): 


1. Those who leave their selves in darkness, 
2. Those who brake (control) their selves, 
3. Those who do good works. 


God is the Lord of all. Compassion is for those who control their selves, and Mercy, or a 
higher elevation, belongs to those who actively do good works. 


We now arrive at the main text of the Opening Chapter, which is composed of seven 
verses (the Naming is added sometimes, to give a total of eight). The first three verses are 
said to be specific to God alone, the fourth verse of supplication is shared between God 
and man, and the last three verses belong to man—the man of faith. Thus, the Opening 
begins on God’s side and ends on man’s side, which shows that man by himself can do 
nothing—divine aid has to start with God. 


Praise be to God, the Lord of all being. 


All the thanks, or praise, of all beings that may originate in the form of words or deeds 
belong to the Lord of the universe, “the Lord of all the worlds.” From this we understand 
that God has created more than one world, and man is a world unto himself. When a 
human being begins to wonder: “Who am I? Where did I come from, and where am I 
being led? For surely my coming and going occur outside my own volition,” that person 
has attained the base level of being human. He is then faced with the proposition: “Seek 
your origin,” and this search begins by giving thanks. 


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There are three kinds of thanksgiving: giving thanks in the language of human beings, in 
the language of the spirit, and in the language of the Lord. 


Giving thanks in the language of human beings is the thanks of the ordinary man. This is 
to thank God for His blessings. A person is to acknowledge a gift of God, and to use that 
gift in the proper way. 


Giving thanks in the language of the spirit is the thanks of the Elect. It is done with the 
heart. The person’s condition is trained and his conduct is purified. 


Thanksgiving in the language of the Lord is the thanks of the Wise. The Folk of Love 
give thanks, and are enabled to the light of unveiling by it. The Folk of Knowledge give 


thanks, and are enabled to witness God’s visage. 


In short, thanksgiving is to praise the Lord, to exalt Him. This is why both the beginning 
and the end of life is praise. 


No one can know or give the praise that God is worthy of. Hence, all salvation is from 
God. Thanks and praise are due to God alone, who creates and saves His creatures by His 


Essence, Attributes, and Actions. 


He is the Lord of the Worlds; He trains the hearts of the Faithful with patience and 
sincerity, with loyalty and perseverance. 


He is the Lord of the Worlds; He trains bodies by bringing gifts into existence. 
He is the Lord of the Worlds; He trains souls by displaying His generosity. 


The beginning of all creation is the Light of Mohammed, which is the Universal Intellect, 
and the world is its explication and unfolding. 


The Compassionate, the Merciful. 

The Compassionate (Rahman) creates and preserves the world, the Merciful (Rahim) 
saves it. “The Compassionate” is the name of the eternal past; “the Merciful” is the name 
of the eternal future. All things are brought into being and sustained by the 
Compassionate; God grants His special grace on a subset of existence with the Merciful. 
Master of the Judgment Day. 

God is the Master of “the Day of Religion,” the Judgment Day. The Judgment Day is the 
Gathering of souls, the Last Judgment, and their Dispersal to Heaven and Hell. It is the 


day when the purposes and struggles of people is evaluated. 


It is the day when the wise gaze upon the Noble Face of their Lord, when the doers of 
good works find their reward, and when oppressors meet their retribution. 


125 


The small licenses we are allowed in this world are removed on that day. That day only 
the owner of the Station of Praise—the recipient of the decree: “My Lord will give you of 
His bounty, and you will be pleased”—namely, the Prophet Mohammed, will have full 
authority. 


Now follows the verse that proclaims the independence and joy of the spirit, and 
indicates worship and the request for help: 


You alone we worship, and you alone we ask for help. 


“Dear Lord, we beg you for every help, and we worship you with the strength you give 
us. Our worship is not of our own. Power and strength belong to you. You have helped 
us, and we have worshiped you with that help. We look to your grace, and do not trust in 
our own deeds. We neither trust our works nor ask for reward; we only worship you. We 
wish you to grant bountifully. We have stripped ourselves of every purpose, interest and 
relationship. Help us in this condition; we beg for the continuation of this state. We 
worship you by your command and beg for help by your leave. Everything is temporary, 
only you are permanent.” 


There are four ways to worship God: with desire, with fear, with shame, and with love. 
The best kind of worship is that done with love. Unification occurs through the operation 
of this verse, for it unites man to God. Asking for aid can only only occur when one has 
reconciled oneself with the presence of God’s Prophet (i.e. acknowledged him as such), 
for no one goes unto the Lord except by him (or, if one has lived during the reign of 
previous prophets, by their mediation). 


Guide us along your Straight Path. 

“Dear Lord, guide us to the Right Way with your aid. Give us guidance to whatever is 
your plan for us. We beg you to present us with the path that leads to the Summit of your 
Unity.” 


The path of those whom you have blessed. 


“That path is the road of the Prophet, the Martyrs, the Righteous and the Perfect. It is the 
station of knowing you, of beautiful courtesy. You have given these of your Grace.” 


Not of those who incur your wrath, nor of those who go astray. 

“We beg not to be of those who earn your wrath, who persist in error, who remain stuck 
in rote Imitation and cannot attain Realization, who are driven from the gate of 
servanthood, who are misguided, progress without deserving it, or show fake psychic 


feats.” 


Amen. 


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“Please accept our supplication, dear Lord.” 


Epilogue 


What is it then that we are opened to? The rest of the Koran—the miracle of God, the 
Book in which nothing is neglected (6:38) and which is a guidance and a healing (41:44). 
And to a proper conscious understanding of the workings of the cosmos itself: God as the 
Compassionate and the Most Merciful. To a state whereby we are healed and not separate 
from that healing, remembering Him who continually remembers us. 


He is the healer of all wounds, the mender of all schisms of the spirit. In order to achieve 
Unification we must apply to Him alone, using the way He has revealed to us through the 
Prophet. If we do so, there can be no doubt that we will receive salvation, no matter how 
“lost” we may be, for “well able is He to save.” The broken mirror of our minds and our 
psyches can be mended—but only if we remember God again. 


ADVICE TO KIM 


Dear Kim, 


God created the universe for Man, and Man He created for Himself. Whatever exists in 
the universe, He placed under man’s charge. Contemplating the endless mysteries of this 
world, man has always been amazed—completely at a loss to explain them. The ones 
sensing God’s power and Glory became thankful, and fell in love with their Lord. Those 
who took no heed of this remained unbelievers, denying all. 


Well, Kim, your father is one of those who are thankful. With His hand of power, the 
Creator brought you from the world of spirits into this world of forms. You now find 
yourself in this created world, the World of Witnessing—that is to say, the observable 
universe. This universe is full to the brim with wonders, with its stars, its moons, its suns, 
its endless vegetation, animals, and people. 


When you wander abroad on some pitch-black night, you watch the shining moon and the 


countless stars that cover the sky. Then you understand how great the Creator is. And in 
your heart you feel reverence and peace toward your Lord. 


127 


The majestic mountains, the vast oceans, fine clouds, the insect world, the greenery that 
clothes the earth... who knows what feelings of excitement are stirred by these in the 
depths of that beautiful heart of yours. 


Just as I, too, have wandered with wonder and awe among these marvels ever since I 
arrived in this world. This beauty, such subtleties, awaken in my heart boundless 
excitement and a love, affection and longing for our Lord. With these sweet feelings I 
then seek a place of repose. Far from common concerns, absorbed in the celestial, do you 
know what it is that first comes to mind? Let’s look together at these sublime thoughts 
and where they lead to. 


From that beautiful heart of yours, you inquire: “Dear father, what is this universe? This 
sun, this moon, these stars? These oceans, these mountains, flowers, insects, this day and 
this night? What are these endless forms, and what are they for? Who has made them, and 
who has caused them?” 


You and I and this huge universe with all it contains are a limitless boon from Him who 
created us as a graceful act of kindness. Everything stands as a witness to His existence 
and His unity. 


Everything in the universe is a sign that enables us to discover and love this Unity in 
multiplicity, this Oneness in diversity. And Man is the noblest and most perfect of them 
all. 


This universe is a testing ground for Man. To the extent that he draws a lesson from what 
he sees, he learns and becomes a man of knowledge and wisdom. He then discovers the 
heavenly reason for coming into and leaving this world. Otherwise, he is imprisoned by 
this universe, in the end leaving it blind, deaf and ignorant of the Almighty’s purpose. 


This, Kim, is what your Lord sent you into this universe to learn. He endowed your mind 
with high intelligence so that you may learn this during your short life. He fashioned you 
as the noblest and most esteemed of all creation. With His grace He placed the whole 
world under the control of man, and gave him great capacities to know his Creator. 


Again as a boon, He informed man of these truths via the prophets and Books He sent. If 
not for the grace of the Almighty, how would we be able to discover these secrets and 
truths on our own, wandering astray amongst these infinities? 


Even today, you will find many philosophers who abandon the Book and trust in reason 
alone, and who are overwhelmed by this multiplicity, failing to comprehend these 
mysteries and truths, and are left empty-handed as a result. 


Finally, God gave us the Koran, informing us of all truths. He has outlined the mysteries 


and hidden meanings of the processes in these infinite planes, and has made clear to us 
our duties in this realm of multiplicity. And further, out of His grace and generosity, He 


128 


has counted us amongst the community of His most beloved servant and messenger, our 
guide Mohammed. 


You and I, therefore, are on the receiving end of infinite gifts. This, however, is not 
enough. It is necessary to increase our knowledge with science and wisdom as long as we 
live. 


Knowledge is an Elixir of Life that rejuvenates human beings and makes them beloved in 
the eyes of people and God. One must, therefore, drink of it to the full. Otherwise, man 
without knowledge is little removed from the beasts. 


This is why I am giving you this advice—to teach you this knowledge and these truths. 
Each constitutes a lesson informing you about the truth of these comings and goings in 
the universe. By understanding them and acting upon them, you will become truly 
human, thereby gaining the approval and love of your Lord. Without them, you will 
remain a slave to your egocentric passions. 


So I will try to inform your pure heart of these lofty feelings, taking the Glorious Book as 
my base. My intention is that you should become a perfect human being, rather than 
being carried away by the glitter and laughter of this sorrowful world, which is really a 
school—and that you should know the divine purpose behind your creation, thus 
becoming accepted and beloved of your Lord. 


In the letters that follow, I shall try to outline for you the requirements of being a good 
Moslem beyond the essentials of worship. It is my hope that you will thus become not 
merely a pious but also a saintly person. 


1. Unification 
Dear Kim, 


All prophets have invited people to unification. To comprehend what this is, therefore, is 
the first task of humanity. Do you know what unification is? It is to recognize the Unity 
of the Creator of these endless worlds, and to worship Him alone. Although all the 
prophets have called human beings to this path, people have strayed from it and fallen 
into error with the passage of time. These are all deviations that stem from ignorance of 
the science of unification. They are the bitter outcome of the failure to carry out to the 
letter the instructions of their respective prophets. 


This invariably happens when man is left to his own devices. He begins to think in 
accordance with his own personal predilections, delving into the realm of dreams and 
imaginings. And Satan makes this realm pleasing to him. He becomes lost in the depths 
of his error, all the while thinking that he is intelligent and right, unable to discern that he 
has strayed. History bears clear and bitter testimony to this. 


129 


There have been times when men have worshiped as Creator the work of their own 
hands. Sometimes they invented forms in their imagination and did likewise. 


There have been times when men made pictures and statues of their loved ones and 
worshiped these, saying: “they will protect us and intercede for us.” 


And then there have been times when men have worshiped the stars, saying: “God 
created these stars, which rule the universe. As they change, the universe changes. Let us 
worship them, and let them worship God.” 


And many other sects of like nature have flourished. Men have limited themselves to 
their intellects and imagination, slowly sinking into the mud. They have strayed from the 
truth, bowed to these constructs and sacrificed to them. They have sworn by their name. 
And they have convinced themselves of the rectitude of their reasoning as they did so. 


This is why God Almighty has pronounced in the Koran: “Some among men have 
associated others with God by worshiping idols. And they have adored and glorified idols 
in the same way that they have adored and glorified God. But the love of God of those 
who believe in God is greater and more constant than the love of the associators. If the 
associators and those who betray their selves knew that God’s might is invincible on the 
Day of Judgment when they will receive punishment, and that God’s chastisement is 
intense, they certainly would not associate others with God” (2:165). 


And so they earn intense punishment on the Day of Judgment. Among the pages of 
history, you will also come across those who have denied God altogether. Such people 
have opted for eternal misery. 


Therefore, my child, as man has strayed, God—out of His compassion and mercy—has 
appointed prophets from among these communities to guide them to truth. All 
messengers have invited men to unification. They have proclaimed the oneness of the 
Creator and the unity of Him who is to be worshiped. Indeed, God has declared: “Their 
messengers told them: ‘We invite you to Unification. Can there be any doubt as to the 
Unity of God, Creator of the Heavens and the Earth?’ (14:10) 


“Your God who deserves worship is One. There is no other deity worthy of worship than 
Him. He is the Compassionate, the Merciful.” 


Now, Kim, if you know all this, you will have understood the Unification to which all 
prophets have called. By saying: “There is no deity but God,” one casts aside all gods and 
deities unworthy of worship. With this Word of Unification, one affirms the One God 
worthy of worship, without associates and equals, and becomes a sincere Moslem and 
Unifier. Anyone who does not accept the oneness of the object of worship even though 
s/he accepts the unity of God, and thus worships many things, will be an associator, not a 
unifier. Even if he says: “There is no deity but God,” he will only pronounce his 
unification rather than living it, and thereby will be guilty of polytheism. 


130 


Unification is a matter of believing in God and worshiping Him. The matter of faith has 
been treated in Chapter 112 of the Koran, the Chapter of Sincerity. When the polytheists 
came to the Messenger of God and said: “Is your deity made of gold or of silver? What is 
he like, how many is he?’—God sent this Chapter of Sincerity, and declared to His 
Messenger: “[My Beloved Prophet,] say: ‘God is One. Everything is dependent on Him. 
He neither bears, nor is He born. Nothing is like unto Him, not one.’” 


This chapter informs the deluded of their error in the knowledge of God; it is the essence 
of the Koran and the basis of the Islamic religion. Since it is also a comprehensive 
declaration of faith in the unification to which all prophets have invited, it has also been 
called the Chapter of Unification. It repudiates the many deities of the polytheists and 
makes clear that God Almighty cannot be compared to any creature. Thus, the Chapter of 
Sincerity is one that explains the theory of unification. On the other hand, since it speaks 
of worshiping only one God, it also describes the practical aspect of unification. Thus the 
Chapter of Sincerity is a theoretical and practical whole, and itself combines both these 
complementary aspects of unification. 


Unification, therefore, is not just a matter of declaring that the Creator is one, that 
everything depends on Him, that He is neither born nor bears offspring, or that he is 
unequaled and incomparable. We must also consider its practice, and state and know that 
He is the only deity who deserves to be worshiped. Following faith in God, unification is 
the basis of practice. Without worship, in other words, unification is incomplete. 


The word “One” in the Chapter of Sincerity expresses many meanings to us. It is one of 
the attributes specific to God alone. In other words, the Sincerity Chapter gives 
expression to a unity that is unique to God. This unity is not like the oneness of anything 
else. In the present case, when we say: “God is One,” we are saying that He is singular in 
His Essence, His Attributes, and His Actions. 


By “God is One in His Essence,” I mean that God is not part of another thing or many 
things, like creatures are. This oneness is a unity that is specific to itself and not similar to 
that of created things. 


By “God is One in His Attributes,” I mean that He is without equal—indeed, there is 
nothing to which He may even remotely be compared. That is, He is not similar to any of 
His creatures, nor does any creature bear comparison to Him. 


And by “God is One in His Actions,” I mean that He has no partner(s) in what He does. 
For partnership belongs to the weak, whereas God is All-powerful. He stands in no need 
of associates. 


And so, when we say “God is One,” we need to remember His unity in His Essence, His 
Attributes and His Actions, and should know His unity in serving Him. Otherwise, you 
will fall prey to the same pitfalls as men of previous generations, and be flung into eternal 
distraction. This is why the Messenger of God has said: “Say: ‘There is no deity but God’ 
if you want to be saved.” This is why the first requirement of Islam is to witness that: 


131 


“There is no god except God.” And this is also why this sentence has been called the 
Word of Unity or the Word of Sincerity, and why it has constituted my first letter to you. 


You should therefore read the Book of Unification, our guide in religion, and read it well. 
For knowledge will help you traverse the Path. 


2. Moral Conduct 


Dear Kim, 


Morality is a goal of humanity. As to those who do not reach this goal, there is no way 
for them to understand either the nature of being human, or Islam. 


A person can experience Islam and full humanity to the extent that s/he is endowed with 
beautiful manners. 


The first task of a person who believes in God and His messengers is to rectify his 
conduct. 


If a person has bad morals, it is no use even if he has all the knowledge in the world and 
performs countless acts of “worship.” He will always be refused by God and His 
Messenger. From beginning to end, the Koran speaks to us of ethics and morality. The 
Messenger of God himself has remarked: “Islam is beautiful moral conduct.” There can 
be no doubt that a servant of God will attain the greatest stations and highest degrees in 
Heaven as a consequence of his good moral conduct even if his worship is deficient, 
whereas bad conduct will land him in the lowest circles of Hell even if he was previously 
of God’s faithful servants. The Prophet of God states: “Among you, the ones I love most 
and the ones closest to me on the Day of Judgment are those with the best morals. I was 
sent to perfect morality.” 


Quite obviously, then, lofty moral conduct is the foundation of Islam. Just as there can be 
no building without a foundation, there is no Islam without superior morals. 


S/he who performs the Prayer, who fasts, and yet persists in immoral behavior, cannot be 
said to have understood Islam. 


Islam as a religion is based on the following moral principles: 


] 


. You should perform your duties only to please God. This principle is one that will raise 
you ever higher, helping you to achieve perfection. 


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Your aim in life should never be to attain happiness in this world, high stations in the 
next, or the wish to escape Hell. Act only with the desire to please God. If you do this, 
you will have lived by the greatest principle of Islam, and will attain the highest 
perfection. To obtain the pleasure of God is the penultimate stage of man’s development. 
This is a bliss that surpasses all else. 


If you do something for the sake of obtaining its reward, such as Heaven, you are 
engaging in a commercial transaction with God: you give and you take. If you do 
something in order to avoid punishment, such as Hell, you are merely looking out to save 
your own skin. 


Now these are legitimate enough. Indeed, they are what motivates most people to action. 
But from a truly Islamic point of view, they are not the highest expression of morality. 


In Islamic terms, the noblest conduct would be to do something out of pure love for God, 
untainted by motives of self-aggrandizement, self-promotion or self-protection—only to 
please Him alone, because such is His command or prohibition, i.e. the way in which He 
desires us to act or not to act. 


The pleasure of God is greater than anything else. This is precisely the “great salvation” 
or “great liberation” mentioned in the Koran (5:119). 


One has, therefore, to achieve this happiness in this world. For this world is a world of 
training. Those who follow this road will have found the greatest bliss. 


You may say: “How can one obtain the pleasure of God, and does he know if his Lord is 
pleased with him?” A student like you once asked his teacher the same question: 
“Master,” he said, “can a servant know that God is pleased with him?” His teacher told 
him that God’s pleasure is hidden, and that a servant cannot know whether God is pleased 
with him or not. The student, however, claimed that such knowledge is possible. When 
his teacher asked how, he replied: “When the servant is pleased with his Lord, his Lord is 
pleased with him,” and recited the Koranic verse: “Return to your Lord, pleased and well- 
pleasing” (89:28). The teacher confirmed this was indeed the case, and congratulated 
him. 


As you can see, Kim, if the servant is pleased with whatever issues from his Lord, God 
will in turn be pleased with him. 


The Messenger of God has prayed for such people, and said: “God bless those who know 
their selves, protect their tongues, give thanks to God’s bounties and are pleased with 
God’s decrees.” Thus, he who submits wholeheartedly to God’s will is exalted above 
others. That is why when a famous mystic was asked: “Who is pleased with God?” He 
answered: “One who doesn’t swerve left when he discovers that God has placed Hell on 
his right.” Similarly, when another famous mystic was questioned: “When is a servant 
pleased with his Lord?” she replied: “When he is pleased in calamity just as he is pleased 
in bounty, and without his conduct wavering.” 


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In this manner, Kim, if His servant is pleased with God, God will be pleased with him. 


He who aims at God’s pleasure will also do works that are sincere. Those who act in this 
way with no other concern are saints, the friends of God. They have found their Lord’s 
pleasure and attained the “great liberation.” 


2 


. Kim my child, the second principle you need in order to achieve perfection concerns 
your intent. If your intentions are noble, you are an elevated person. A man, then, is what 
he intends. If your intention is God, you belong to the People of God. For this reason, the 
worship of the People of God is valuable in God’s sight, even if it may be lacking, and its 
degree is above all others. That is why the Prophet advised one of his Companions: 
“Make your religion sincere. Even if it is not much, it will be enough for you.” 


Note, Kim, how your heart responds to this advice of the Messenger. Try to increase that 
response. You will see that your deed performed with sincerity is like gold amongst base 
metals: it is worth many works. Your deed, therefore, is nothing but your intent. This is 
why the Prophet has explained: “Whatever your intent is, that is what you will receive. If 
a person’s intent during Pilgrimage is not God and His Prophet but material wealth or 
finding a wife, this is what his Pilgrimage will amount to.” 


So perform your actions sincerely, and don’t forget the Prophetic Tradition: “Human 
beings, do your deeds sincerely, for God’s sake only. For God does not accept any works 
except those done with sincerity for His sake.” If your intention is sincere, but you are 
unable to perform the deed, God will reward you just as if you had been able to. Which is 
why the Messenger of God said: “The intention of the believer is better than his deed.” 


Hence, even if your works are meager, elevate and exalt your intention. This, in turn, will 
elevate you, and God will reward you in accordance with your intent. The following 
anecdote illustrates this well: During one of his battles, some of the Prophet’s 
Companions were not able to accompany him. Of them, the Prophet remarked: “We have 
left behind a number who could not join us. Yet they have shared in our reward.” “How 
so?” his Companions asked. He replied: “Fate imprisoned them, yet they joined us with 
their good intentions.” 


I am sure, Kim, that this strikes a chord in your heart. The mature believer reaches with 
his intentions where he cannot reach with his deeds, and this constitutes the pinnacle of 
morality. These are the fruits of the intentions of the good Moslem who nurtures them in 
his heart. 


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3 


. The third principle of superior moral behavior is what has been perennially known as 
the Golden Rule: Do as you would be done by. In other words, do unto others as you 
would that others do unto you. Desire for others what you desire for yourself, and do not 
desire for others what you don’t desire for yourself. Thought and action commensurate 
with this principle is enough to elevate you to the heights of superior moral conduct. 


4 


. The fourth principle is known as the Happy Medium or the Golden Mean: Avoid excess, 
even in the observance of this principle! “The middle of all things,” Islam tells us, “is the 
best.” Indeed, wise people in all ages and continents have sought the temperate zone of 
morality: enough of everything, neither too much nor too little. The good is midway 
between extremes: ratio, a sense of proportion, due measure. Yet, although balance is 
good in the long run, sometimes it must be weighted down in favor of one side or the 
other. There are emergency situations that demand not the optimum, but the maximum or 
the minimum. There are times when even the Doctrine of the Mean may be pursued 
intemperately, yet with due provision for exceptional circumstances, moderation, my dear 
Kim, is the best of virtues in the long run. 


ok ck ok 


Kim, you’ve heard already about the “seven deadly sins’—pride, covetousness, lust, 
anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. 


Let me now give you an alternative list of seven sins: caprice, anger, lust, covetousness, 
miserliness, disdain, and pride. 


As you can see, this list differs slightly. Not that I approve of gorging, envy and 
indolence—quite the contrary! However, whim, parsimony and scorn are of more 
importance. 


Social life presents us with many trials. We may be invaded by bad thoughts. One’s 
morality is corrupted as each bad thought enters our hearts. Thus we become banished 
from God’s presence, living through Hell. There are seven immoralities that debase 
human beings, and to the extent that they avoid these, they are endowed with high 
morals: 


1. To follow one’s own caprice and mind: To disobey God’s express orders is the first of 
these iniquities. Satan leads man to his own destruction by making his acts appear 
pleasing to him. In order to find happiness both in this world and the world to come, a 
person should leave aside personal whims and caprice, and be guided by an enlightened 
principle in all his acts. 


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2. Anger: Man can never rest, so long as he harbors anger. Sooner or later, it explodes 
like a bomb. This is why it has been said: “He who subdues his anger vanquishes his ego 
(self).” Similarly, the Messenger of God has remarked: “Real wrestling is not to bring 
others to the ground, but to rein in and control one’s self in times of anger.” And some 
saints have observed: “The beginning of anger is insanity, and its end is bitter remorse.” 


Nurse anger with calmness and stay relaxed. As long as one remains in this world, one is 
tested by things that arouse one’s temper. Try to be brave; this is such a test for us all! A 
moment’s anger can destroy everything. If you can preserve your gentleness and good 
nature in that instant, you may consider yourself one of the saved. 


Gentleness is the custom of the Folk of Heaven and leads one to happiness. It is achieved 
by putting the brakes on the self when anger begins to manifest itself. Surely does God 
love such good-natured people! 


Anyone who contains his anger and holds his tongue at such a time will be the greatest of 
men. The friends of God call this “the fast of the tongue”: they have vowed not to say 
anything bad. And our Prophet has said: “To fast is not to abstain from food and drink. It 
can only be accomplished by staying away from bad things and bad words. If someone 
harasses you with a bad word, do not reply in kind. Immediately remind yourself: ‘I’m 
fasting, I’m fasting.’ 


Kim, if you take this advice of your father’s to heart, joy will be yours both here and in 
the Hereafter. You can see how concerned the Prophet was for his Community, and how 
much he wished for us to eschew evil. To learn these precepts, to act by them, to receive 
and give guidance in every way, is the kind of conduct that is pleasing to the Prophet of 
Islam. 


3. Lust: Sex in its rightful place is not banned by Islam, but sexual passion may draw one 
into evil of every kind: as long as sex is not legitimate, happiness will not be ours. 


The pages of history are littered with people who have fallen victim to their passions, 
which in turn was due to illicit sexual relationships. Anyone who wants to lead a clean 
life should learn a lesson from this and stick to the legitimate. Otherwise, it is inevitable 
that eternal misery will overwhelm us. The cure for this is to build a family, and to relate 
to each other with religious ties. 


4. Covetousness: Regarding with envy the property of others, not desiring their 
happiness, is certainly a state we should distance ourselves from. 


As long as avarice survives in man, he is like a predatory animal. In a short time, he loses 
that which makes him human. To cure this should be one of your foremost tasks. 


5. Parsimony. The miser is avid to accumulate property; he does not wish to give to 
anyone. Being a miser is the essence of bad manners. Such a person earns the contempt 


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of God and people alike. Not without reason has the Prophet said: “The stingy and the 
envious cannot enter Heaven.” 


My advice to you, Kim, is that you should always distance yourself from this, and give 
your life for a friend if need be. You should be generous as the ocean. Give to the needy; 
however, do not squander, and help those closest to you first, since we have been 
instructed to do so in the Koran (16:90). 


6. Disdain: Or contempt for others. Closely associated with self-admiration, this is to 
belittle and despise others, thinking them stupid, weak, or lowly, to scorn them for 
possessing all-too-human attributes. 
7. Pride: The greatest of sins. It is to be arrogant because of what one has or is, which are 
really only what God has lent us and can reclaim at any time. You should note, dear Kim, 
that these last two sins are closely related, for feelings of superiority often go hand in 
hand with belief in the inferiority of others. 
Conceit is a sin that alienates us from others. Every vain person is reproved, and belongs 
with the inmates of Hell. This is why the Messenger of God has remarked: “The person 
with the slightest pride in his heart cannot enter Heaven.” 
Now, my dear Kim, if we can erase these vices from ourselves, they will immediately be 
replaced by the virtues that are their opposites, and it’s in this way that we gain maturity 
and perfection. 

Caprice may be replaced by obedience to God, 

anger, by gentleness, 

lust by love and friendship, 

covetousness by admiration, 

parsimony by generosity, 

disdain by self-criticism, 

and pride by humility. 
Thus do we become truly human, and truly begin to understand Islam. A smile that is the 
sign of grace lightens one’s face. This smile, which indicates contentment with whatever 


befalls one, is, after faith, the second divine gift to us. This is precisely what the Prophet 
has said: “A smiling countenance is God’s gift after faith.” 


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Because of love for our Creator, we are filled with love and tolerance for His creatures as 
well. We greet and freely offer to all. In short, we become the source of all approved 
morals, and as beautiful and admirable as a rose. 


Now such beautiful people, such hearts of gold, are very rare indeed. There may be no 
more than a few in a million. My dear Kim, it is my fondest hope that you too should 
become one of them. 


ok ck ok 


The following five virtues, Kim, serve also to complete God’s grace upon you and invest 
you with perfection. 


1. In lovingkindness be like the sun, 
2. In bestowing life, be like water, 

3. In humbleness, be like the earth, 
4. In hiding shame, be like the night. 


It is morality of the highest kind to have compassion like the sun for all creatures because 
of their Creator; to give life like water everywhere one flows, to be humble like earth 
under all conditions, to cover and hide from sight all shames like the night, to remain 
calm like the deceased (and not to react) whenever one is angry. 


To know these principles and to practice them is the highest stage attainable by man. A 
person will understand Islam and what it means to be truly human only to the extent that 
he or she lives up to these principles. 


3. On Knowledge and Science 
Dear Kim, 


We are accustomed to thinking about science and religion as mutually exclusive, as if the 
two could not coexist, let alone supplement each other. Now this may be true for some 
religions, but it certainly is not true for Islam. In no religion is science and knowledge 
more highly valued than in Islam. If you look at the Koran and the Traditions of the 
Prophet, you will find that the Arabic word ilm (meaning knowledge/science), is 
invariably used in the most general sense, without any qualifications. This shows us that 
knowledge of any kind is regarded as valuable. The only distinction is between useful as 
opposed to useless knowledge—as the Prophet prayed, “I take refuge in You from useless 
knowledge.” The Koran states the difference between knowledge and ignorance very 
simply: “He who knows and he who does not know—how can they be the same?” (39:9). 
The ignorant and the knower are as different as night and day. 


138 


If Life is the first and greatest Attribute of God (Hayy: “the Living”) in Islam, 
Knowledge is no less than the second (Alim: “the Omniscient”). To the extent that we 
learn and know, therefore, we are participating in a divine attribute, and all divine 
attributes are wonderful. We should be careful, my dear Kim—if one’s conceit rather 
than humility increases with knowledge, then we are destined for disaster. One’s awe and 
wonder should increase with knowledge, not one’s arrogance. 


Many are the Prophet’s sayings in praise of knowledge/science. Since the term 
“knowledge” is more inclusive and also covers scientific knowledge, I shall drop the 
cumbersome double usage in what follows, provided you never forget that science is also 
automatically implied. Here are some examples: 


“Learn knowledge from the cradle to the grave.” 

“Seek knowledge, even if it be in China.” 

“Men of knowledge are the heirs of the prophets.” 

“The ink of the scholar or scientist is more valuable than the blood of the martyr.” 


The list can be expanded to include dozens of examples, Kim, and I’ve only cited the 
ones that just popped into my mind. Here is another that will lead us on to other things: 
“Who desires this world, let him learn knowledge. Who desires the other world, let him 
learn knowledge. Who wants both this world and the next, let him learn knowledge.” 


Now combine this with two other Traditions: “This world is the field you plant for the 
next. What you sow here, you shall reap there.” And: “Do not neglect this world. You 
will be questioned on the other side as to what you’ve done here.” If you reflect on these, 
you will realize that you cannot afford to ignore either world, and that you must learn 
about both. A person possessing knowledge of only the physical (material) world will be 
blind in one eye, while one who has knowledge of the nonphysical (spiritual) world will 
be blind in the other. Ideally, one should possess knowledge of both worlds; neither 
should be allowed to eclipse the other. 


Knowledge of the physical world is abundantly available in our day. In what follows, 
however, I shall concentrate more on the essentials of useful knowledge not so readily at 
hand. 


Knowledge, my dear Kim, is a guiding light that informs us of the truth and makes 
human beings realize their humanity. Only in this way can man rend the veil of ignorance 
and attain truth. Otherwise, he leaves this world as blind as he was when he came into it. 
Knowledge is a light that dissipates this blindness, that teaches the secrets and facts about 
this entry into and exit from this world. It is due to the paramount importance of this that 
God Almighty—in the first Koranic verse He revealed to our Messenger, His Beloved— 
declared: 


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“Read: read in the name of your Lord” (96:1). 


You can see from this, Kim, that reading and learning is the very first injunction Islam 
enjoins upon us. For this reason, the role of the teacher is also very exalted in Islam. Ali, 
the Prophet’s nephew and the fourth Caliph, stated: “I am a slave to whoever teaches me 
a word.” The following remark also belongs to him: “God did not bestow on His servants 
anything more valuable than Intelligence.” 


Know that Islam does not accept ignorance. We must read and learn from the cradle to 
the grave. Whoever ceases to study falls into error. He is engulfed by all kinds of base 
passions. That is why it is necessary to read, and always to study. 


If the nutrition of the body is food and drink, the nourishment of the mind is knowledge 
and wisdom. Without knowledge, the intellect is worthless. Know that the ignorant mind 
entangles one in evil. It creates people who are dangerous to humanity. 


Knowledge is a light that sharpens the intellect and distinguishes good from ill. Only with 
knowledge is all manner of worldly and otherworldly maturity attained. Knowledge is a 
grace that dwarfs all others. When this boon is removed, everything tends to dissolution. 
That is why the Prophet has remarked: “Learn knowledge. For whoever obtains it can 
discriminate between good and evil, between truth and untruth. Knowledge lights the 
road to Paradise. Knowledge is one’s companion in the deserts, one’s friend in solitude, 
one’s closest friend when one is left all alone.” 


If you ponder these wise words, you will understand the value of knowledge and be 
enthusiastic to gain it. Hence the Prophetic Tradition: “Dear Lord, make me wealthy with 
knowledge and decorate me with gentleness. Exalt me with piety, and invest me with 
health.” 


This is a lesson for us. Loqman, the prophet-physician, told his son: “Listen to those who 
converse with men of knowledge. God animates dead hearts with knowledge, just as He 
vivifies the earth with rain.” And our Messenger adds: “Listening to one word from the 
Knowledge of God is better than a year’s worship. To request knowledge is mandatory 
for every believer. Be either a scientist, a student, or a lover of knowledge. Don’t be a 
fourth thing, for you will be ruined.” 


“God provides the livelihood of those who seek knowledge for His sake from unexpected 
quarters. Almighty God opens the way of Heaven for any believer who takes the path of 
knowledge.” 


You see, Kim, the Messenger of God has always invited his community to knowledge, 
and praised science and scholarship. The rank of knowledge is the highest of ranks. 
Always make this rank your aim, and always invigorate yourself with science. Remember 
the words of our Prophet: “Those who devote their lives to knowledge never die.” 


140 


Read these words many times, think deeply, and never be heedless of science. Take 
knowledge from whatever quarter you may find it, in accordance with the saying of the 
Prophet: “Wisdom is the lost property of the believer: s/he takes it wherever s/he finds 
it.” Take it from non-Moslems, if that is where it is. Endure hardships for the sake of 
learning, and study and work tirelessly. For this exalted station may demand great efforts, 
lack of sleep, even your life. Let nothing stand in your way, so long as you learn a word 
of knowledge. This is what will give you life. This is what will make you a friend of God. 
But don’t learn knowledge to show it off, and don’t sell it for worldly gains. If you do so, 
you will invariably be doomed. Our Messenger informs us: “Who learns knowledge in 
order to be proud, God throws him into Hell.” 


My dear Kim, you should learn with the purpose of pleasing God, and act accordingly. If 
you do so, you will surely belong to God’s elect. Otherwise, your knowledge will 
complain against you on the Day of Reckoning, and you will be of those shamed in 
God’s sight. 


Respect people of knowledge, and be deferential toward them. For they are very 
honorable people in the sight of God. Whoever respects and defers to them is respecting 
and defering to God and His Prophet. Ponder deeply the Prophet’s words: “Whoever 
respects scholars or scientists has shown respect to me.” Do not forget that those who 
instill knowledge in you have more rights over you than your parents. Never give them a 
stern or angry glance. Never talk lightly with them; always be kind and courteous. Praise 
them in their life and death, and do not forget them in your Prayers or supplications. 
View them with gentleness and tenderness, remembering that they are the ones who have 
taught you divine science. Even looking at them kindly is worship in itself. In fact, the 
Prophet has said in a Tradition: “Viewing a man of knowledge who lives by his 
knowledge is the equivalent of prayer.” 


These words are reserved for those whose actions fit their knowledge. These are the true 
heirs of the prophets; they are stars that shine on earth. Following their path will lead you 
to happiness. It is always necessary to exalt them. So says the Prophet of God: “Exalt the 
people of knowledge in my community, and show them respect. For they are like stars in 
this world. The virtue of a scientist whose conduct matches his knowledge is as superior 
to the virtue of a worshiper as my virtue exceeds that of my community.” 


Having learned all these, it should be your duty to take stock of yourself and study hard, 
devoting as much of your free time as possible to the acquisition of knowledge. 


If you ask: “What should I study?” my answer is that before anything else, you should 
avoid Forbidden gain, ensure that every morsel you and your family swallow is 
purchased with Allowed earnings, and be patient; for these precede learning in priority. 


Knowledge is a divine light that does not penetrate breasts imbued with the Forbidden, 
and does not yield to uncouth and discourteous persons. Consequently, if you desire 
knowledge you must work hard, and apply what you already know. If you chance to meet 
a man of knowledge whose mode of life is true to his knowledge, consider him a grace 


141 


from God. If you lose him, you will be lost. If you find a book of his, impress it upon 
your heart. The words of such people are a Godsend. 


There are two kinds of knowledge in general. One kind belongs to the divine, the other to 
the mundane. Sciences of the divine infuse you with life. To learn these is obligatory. As 
the Prophet said: “It is incumbent on every Moslem man and woman to request 
knowledge.” Knowledge of divine matters includes such things as the afterlife, Prayer, 
Fasting, the Alms-tax, the Pilgrimage, and commercial dealings. Those who do not want 
to learn these will regret it, and God will hold them accountable. To learn these and teach 
them to our children is the duty of every Moslem. 


The other kind is our knowledge of the external world. This knowledge is necessary in 
order to survive as an individual and to regulate social life. It is necessary to learn this as 
well. Because this kind of knowledge is in continual progress, one must stay abreast of 
developments. This is why Ali, the fourth Caliph, remarked: “Raise your children not 
according to the requirements of your times, but of the times they will find themselves 
in.” 


In short, Kim, try to learn something as long as you are in this world. If these two kinds 
of knowledge complement each other, you will be a perfect man. You will lead a happy 
life, and won’t be put to shame in this world or the next. Then will this sad face of your 
father be allowed a smile. 


4. On Health and Free Time 


Dear Kim, 


The secret of success in this world and the next is to protect your health, and to devote 
your free time to knowledge and wisdom. He who appreciates the value of his health and 
free time will be awarded accordingly. 


These two gifts are such boons of the Almighty that they posess vital importance in every 
respect, completing all other boons. 


The West has succeeded in every field due to its proper use of health and free time, which 
the Prophet of God pointed out 1400 years ago. He said: “There are two gifts about which 
many people are confused. These are health and free time.” 


Many people are ignorant of God’s gift of free time. They always squander this gift on 
useless things and delude themselves. They waste their valuable life, falling short in both 
this world and the next. 


Therefore, Kim, it is not only necesary but mandatory to recognize the value of these 


gifts, and to use them wisely. That’s why the saints have observed: “He who honors his 
hour wins his day, and he who honors his day wins his life.” All the gains of civilization 


142 


can be traced to the observance of this fact, and all individual and social calamities to the 
failure to do so. 


The first thing to do is to learn the science of health and of the body. This is why the 
great scholar Ghazzali said: “There are two kinds of sciences to be learned: the sciences 
of the body [physical sciences] and the sciences of religion.” 


The first of the corporeal sciences is the science of nutrition. Concerning this, the Prophet 
remarked: “The stomach is the home of illness; diet is the beginning of all cures.” 


To fill the stomach is nothing to be proud of. The thing to do is to eat food that is good 
for health in proportion to one’s appetite. True human beings don’t eat unless overcome 
by hunger, or drink unless thirsty. They rise from the table before they’re full. They 
aren’t fazed by the world’s commotion; they leave things to God and are at peace in their 
hearts. 


My dear Kim, you should be prepared to see much sorrow and pain in this world. This is 
an unavoidable trial for us all. You must, however, trust in God, just as His Prophet did. 
Don’t mind the gossip of the ordinary. Such things will only confuse you. Always cleave 
to hope, and be cheerful. Leave the truth to God, stick with the truth, and thus remain in 
comfort. 


Enjoy strolls in fresh air, and wake up at daybreak. Such action will elevate you both 
physically and spiritually. Enjoying the expanse of blue seas, lofty mountains, and 
meditating in their presence, constitute the most beautiful hours of a lifetime. 


The greatest influence on your corporeal and spiritual life will be your friends. Be very 
careful about them. Always talk with them in cognizance of the fact that today’s friend 
may be tomorrow’s enemy. It will be better for you if you keep your secrets to yourself. 
But you must help all your friends. Steer clear of hypocrites—they always spell danger 
for anyone who comes within their sphere. 


Someone once asked a master: “How should I speak with people?” He replied: “My son, 
have you ever walked barefoot in a field of thorns?” “Yes.” “And how did you walk?” 
“With great care.” “Precisely. So talk with great care when you talk to people.” 


Always bear this tale in mind. Safety resides in holding your tongue. Pay attention to the 
Prophetic dictum: “If you speak, speak well [not ill]. Otherwise, hold your tongue.” 


Be temperate in your conversations with others. Don’t reveal your every secret and 
business. The one you address could conceivably become estranged from you some day, 
and the friend might be replaced by an enemy. Nor should you be inimical towards 
someone estranged from you, for the day may come when he will become a friend, and 
then you will be ashamed every time you look at him. In short, to abide by moderation in 
everything is the essence of safety and happiness. 


143 


Keep these Traditions in mind, so that you won’t stray and surrender yourself to trouble 
or jeopardize your physical and mental health. These are all factors that will lead you to 
happiness. 


My advice is that you should determine the times when you will work, sleep, eat and rest, 
not wasting one moment. The Prophet’s life was always well-ordered; he planned his 
times of worship, work and rest. This is the secret of success, and this is why those in the 
West have made this their principle and organized their time. 


Once you understand these points, what remains is to apply them. They are a key to 
maturity and perfection. Always keep this key in hand, and tread this path. Nothing but 
every happiness and success will be yours if you do so. 


5. Concerning Family Duties 
My Dear Kim, 


The family is the smallest unit of society; therefore, family life should bevalued and 
strengthened. Social life is only as strong as family life is morally clean, informed, and 
wise. The heads of the family are the teachers and judges of this little community. It is 
their responsibility to endow their children with knowledge and to resolve their 
differences. 


Every child is entrusted by God to its parents. And anyone who violates this trust will be 
held responsible by God. 


Therefore, Kim, it is a religious obligation on every parent to give a child a good name, to 
teach it the religion, and to show it the beautiful places of this world. 


The Lord proclaims in the Koran: “Enjoin Prayer on your people, and remain steadfast in 
Prayer” (20:132). 


If we consider this verse in depth, it becomes clear that it is incumbent on every Moslem 
family to enjoin Prayer on its members. That is why, after this verse was revealed, the 
Prophet would visit Ali, his, son-in-law, at daybreak, and call out: “Prayer is better than 
sleep,” inviting him to Morning Prayer. 


Prayer is a form of worship that combines all other forms, and preserves the one who 
performs it from all evils. If a person performs Prayer with a mature peacefulness, he will 
become a saintly person and will exhibit all kinds of superior moral conduct. As for bad- 
tempered persons who derive no benefit from their Prayers, they are like people who 
shuffle along rather than walk, since their Prayer is based on rote imitation without any 
appreciation of its subtler aspects. But if a person starts his Prayer with the love of God in 
his heart and with the desire to please Him, he will leave behind his bad habits with the 
first mention of: “God Most Great,” and his bad habits will be purged from him by the 
end of his Prayer. 


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Such peaceful Prayer greatly elevates a person. It makes him loveable in the sight of God 
and His creatures. This is why Prayer is the pillar of the Islamic religion. Indeed, the 
Prophet has said: “Prayer is the pillar of religion. Whoever performs it has built up his 
religion, and whoever doesn’t has wrecked his religion.” 


Just as everything has a foundation, a main pillar, the basis of this religion is Prayer. The 
building will be as strong as this pillar is. Within the little community of a family, legal 
relationships will take place with justice, and happiness will manifest itself. The heads of 
the family, therefore, are like shepherds responsible for the conduct of their flock. The 
Prophet has explained: “Each one of you is a shepherd with respect to his duties. A ruler 
is a shepherd over those he rules. He is responsible for the dissemination of justice in his 
country. A person is responsible for his people and family, and is a shepherd to them. A 
woman is a shepherd in her home, and is responsible for everything within it. A servant is 
responsible for the property of those s/he serves, and for protecting it. Be aware that you 
are all shepherds, and are responsible for the duties you undertake.” 


If you ponder this saying, everyone is responsible for those entrusted to him. A family 
that accepts the Lord’s commandments is a beautiful family and a felicitous home. This, 
Kim, has always been my aim as well. I am happy when I see you all on this path, and 
my heart is filled with light. 


It is better to seek one’s livelihood without anxiety. The Lord has declared: “Ask for 
sustenance, and We will sustain you. The happy ending is for those who take care” 
(20:132). 


The true Sustainer, Kim, is God. We should continue our Prayers and worship with the 
hope that sustenance will be provided. But the Lord also says: “There is nothing for man 
but the work of his own hands” (53:39). For sustenance, we should “invoke its causes;” 
i.e., we should seek out ways to earn it. For this is the Divine Way. If you don’t sow, 
neither will you reap. 


God has created a cause for everything. And it is the duty of breadwinners to open a door 
of livelihood for their children. In this case, they are the sustainers. 


We ask God to fulfil our desires along with everything else. He who forgets God and asks 
from His creatures will become an associator. God’s servants are simply conduits or 
means. The one who gives sustenance is God. Work, too, is a means. As the Prophet has 
said: “The doors of sustenance are locked. Work and effort are their keys.” 


Just as this family head invites you to the fullest realization of your religion, Kim, so do I 
also invite you to work and effort in worldly matters. You will be given the key of some 
craft to open the doors of sustenance. If I fail in this, I will be held accountable. 


And so, to provide guidance that leads to the good things in this life and the next is one of 


the duties of the heads of the family. Happy results await such people of God who fear 
Him, fulfill their obligations such as Prayer and fasting, and sacrifice neither this world 


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for the next, nor vice versa. Such people are never separated from the invocation of God, 
under any conditions and in any transaction. They are the leaders of those who take care, 
and happiness is their lot. 


Concerning them, the Prophet has prayed: “May God have mercy on the father who gives 
help in a good cause,” and concerning the training of children, has said: “Train your 
children so that they will have three traits: love for the Prophet of God, for the Prophets, 
and for the families of the Prophets.” 


6. On the Rights of Parents 


Dear Kim, 


Every human being has duties towards his Lord and His creatures. The duties owed the 
Lord are called “the rights of God,” and the duties owed to His creatures are called “the 
rights of His servants.” First and foremost among the latter are the rights of parents. 


The rights belonging to God are acknowledgement of His Oneness, i.e. not associating 
anything with Him, and worship and obedience. And the rights belonging to His servants, 
beginning with obedience and service to one’s father and mother, are: remembering one’s 
relatives, visiting and giving to them; treating widows, orphans, the poor, and neighbors 
with good cheer, doing them favors of all kinds, greeting them, visiting them if they are 
ill, being present at their funerals, responding to their invitations, advising them if they 
seek advice, saying “God bless you” if they sneeze, and so on. Such are the rights of one 
servant of God over another. 


For this reason, the Prophet has said: “Whoever believes in God’s Prophet should do 
good to one’s neighbor, whoever believes in God and the Last Day should be bounteous 
to one’s visitors, and should either speak well or hold his silence. Whenever Gabriel 
came to me, he would counsel respect for neighbors’ rights. Gabriel emphasized this so 
much, I thought that presently neighbors would even be heirs to each other.” Such rights 
are obligatory on each and every Moslem. 


There are three verses in the Koran that cover two decrees which are, in each case, 
inseparable. One of these is: “Do the Prayer, pay the Alms-tax” (2:43). It is said that 
whoever performs his Prayer but does not pay the Alms-tax will find that God won’t 
accept his Prayers. 


The second is: “Obey the Prophet of God” (4:59). If a person knows and obeys his Lord 
but does not obey the Prophet, God will not accept his obedience. 


The third is: “Human being, give thanks to Me and to your parents” (31:14). If a person 


gives thanks to God but not to his father and mother, it is as if he hadn’t given thanks to 
God. 


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In this last verse, the Almighty declares: “We have advised man to do good to his parents. 
For his mother carried him in her belly with weakness upon weakness. She suckled him 
for two years, and then ended it. For this reason We have counseled service to his 
parents, and have told him: ‘Human being, give thanks to Me, and to your father and 
mother. In the afterlife, you will only come to My presence. There is nowhere else to go. 
I shall then question you concerning whether you gave thanks to Me and to your 
parents. *“ 


This verse says it all. You should appreciate how great the rights of your parents are. 
Because the rights of the mother are superior to those of the father, God says: “she 
carried him with weakness upon weakness.” When a person was in his mother’s belly, 
she suffered great difficulty and pain. As the child grew in the womb, her “weakness 
upon weakness” increased. This weakness and tribulation increased every day until birth. 
After it was born, the mother continued to nurture and raise her child, frequently 
sacrificing her sleep. She suckled it for up to two years, and afterwards continued to 
“lower her wings of mercy” over it, protecting it against all kinds of evil. She trembled 
every hour for that child up to the time of its adolescence. 


After puberty, a child becomes an accountable human being. It is then that God’s decree 
applies: “We advised you to serve your parents. Human being, give thanks to Me and to 
your parents.” 


Give thanks first to God, who created man and endowed him with all manner of gifts. 
Next, give thanks to the service of your mother and father, who trembled over you day 
and night, fed you and raised you, and withstood all kinds of hardships. If you do not 
recognize this great service, you will be accountable to the Lord when you find yourself 
in the Divine Presence tomorrow. 


Kim, I ask you to ponder this over and over again. Whoever does not recognize his 
parents and rebels against them has not understood the meaning of Islam and of being 
human. 


A Companion once asked the Prophet: “What is the greatest of good works?” He 
answered: “Performing an obligatory Prayer in its due time.” “And after that?” 
“Obedience and doing good to one’s parents.” “And then?” “Struggle in the way of God.” 


This Tradition shows us that obedience to one’s father and mother takes precedence over 
struggle for God’s sake. The Almighty also bound earlier religious communities with a 
covenant to honor one’s father and mother. This covenant testifies to the greatness of this 
issue. The Lord says: “We bound the Children of Israel with a covenant to worship none 
other than God, and to obey and be kind to their parents” (2:83). 


Because the labor and service of the mother are greater than those of the father, the 


mother’s rights are greater than the father’s. Hence, one day a man came to the Prophet of 
God, and said: “Who is most worthy of my respect and protection?” The Prophet replied: 


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“Your mother.” “And after that?” “Again, your mother.” “And next?” “Once again, your 
mother.” “And then?” “Your father.” 


The threefold repetition of the mother in this Tradition indicates the rights of a mother 
over her child, and that protection of and service to her should be correspondingly great. 
But the father’s rights are great, too. And so, in Islam, it is incumbent on us to respect and 
be kind to: first, the mother, next, the father, and then relatives and neighbors. 


If these considerations lead you to the question: “How should I behave towards my 
parents?” God replies: “Never speak sternly with them, never scold them or break their 
hearts with unkind words or exclamations” (17:23). Even the slightest negative 
exclamation is prohibited, let alone shouting at them or turning away from them. 


He who pleases his mother and father pleases God. God, my dear Kim, has said: “If they 
suggest something to you, don’t refuse it because you find it difficult, and speak kindly to 
them, favor them with sweet words. Lower your wings of lovingkindness and compassion 
on them and act accordingly, and say: ‘My Lord, have compassion for them’“ (17:24). 


Since the rights of your parents are so important, Kim, even the slightest expression of 
displeasure in carrying out their chores will make you a rebel against God. It is your duty 
always to smile at them, speak sweetly to them, always to show tenderness and mercy, to 
pray to God for them, always to recall them with a prayer of mercy if they are dead, to 
rise when they come in, and to look after them in their old age or weakness. 


One day a young man came to the Prophet and complained about his father: “My father 
makes use of my property as he wishes. Please tell him not to transgress my property.” So 
the Prophet invited the father to come over. When the man came, he burst into tears: 
“Once, my son was weak and I was strong, he was poor and I was rich. I never begrudged 
him any of my food. Now I am old and he is rich, and my child forbids me his property.” 
And he wept. The Prophet of God and those present wept with him. The Prophet turned 
to the young man and said: “Both you and your property belong to your father.” 


As the Prophet has said: “Paradise lies under the feet of mothers.” In other words, those 
who obey God and His Prophet and please their mothers will go to Heaven. The prayers 
of parents dissipate veils; God accepts those prayers. With the aid of that prayer, God 
makes a servant honored and elevates him. My child, I pray to God that you may be 
sincere. Hearing these words, may you be obedient to God, His Prophet, your mother, 
and me. If you do this, all manner of happiness will be ours. 


These words are but a drop in the ocean, but heed them throughout your life. They are a 
light that will guide you to safety. Those who follow this path achieve happiness. 


7. Three Commandments, Three Prohibitions 


Dear Kim, 


148 


I want to draw your attention to three things that are the source of beauteous conduct, and 
another three that give rise to outrageous behavior. To know them and act by them will 
enrich your life, leading you to maturity and perfection. 


The Almighty declares in the Koran: “God calls you to justice, performing good acts, and 
giving to relatives in need. He forbids fornication, impropriety, and insolence. He advises 
you with commandments and prohibitions, so that you may take heed” (16:90). 


This verse gives valuable advice in a nutshell. For this reason, it is also called “the Pole 
of the Koran.” 


If all the world were to abide by it, all immorality and oppression would cease. This is 
why the Prophet made it a permanent part of the Friday Sermon, so that Moslems may 
contemplate it and be conscious. Unfortunately, however, few people realize its 
importance. 


Let us try to fathom the depths of meaning this verse contains. 


Three things are enjoined in this verse that are the fount of all praiseworthy morals. By 
obeying them, a person unites all salutary conduct in himself. And God forbids three 
other things with this verse that, if societies were to heed them, the door would be opened 
to all kinds of progress. Hence, the verse is of vital importance to humanity. All moral 
behavior is summarized in it. 


First of all, God commands justice. For justice is the basis of everything, and nothing can 
survive without it. 


Justice is a condition of the spirit, and implies giving rights where they are due. This is a 
social matter. If everyone acts with justice, society will gain new life. Swerving from 
justice leads to agony in both the individual and social spheres. 


Justice is to be distant from the extremes of too much or too little, and to live in 
moderation along the right path. According to Ghazzali, justice is served by performing 
what is necessary. 


Good acts are those that are useful to human beings beyond the requirements of 
necessity. With this verse, God enjoins us to do good to everyone. 


Good-doing has a primary place in Islam. God loves those who do good. That is why our 
ancestors built libraries, schools, fountains, bridges, etc. without regard to material 
returns. In Islam, doing good is a quality superior to basic justice. Justice is the first step 
in human morality. Doing good is the virtuous deeds that people perform out of their own 
volition. 


God especially enjoins doing good and giving to relatives who are in need. Of course, 
blood relations take precedence over others. Indeed, the Prophet has said: ““What is given 


149 


to the poor is charity. The charity given to relatives and kin is double charity. Its merit is 
twofold.” 


As you can see, Kim, there is a style to doing good. In enjoining the good, the Koran 
starts with the first level of good, and outlines all the levels. 


On the other hand, God forbids three forms of evil. The first of these is fornication. This 


is to satisfy one’s lust by illicit means. Fornication is a deadly indecency in social life. 
God has prohibited it. 


He has also prohibited impropriety. This results from the power of anger in man. 
Everything that is forbidden by Holy Law falls under impropriety. Due to anger, man 
transgresses all limits set by God and begins to do what has been prohibited to him. 
Lying, gossiping and jealousy are examples of improper things. 


As for insolence, this arises from the power of misconception in man. It drives one to 
vanity, conceit, and oppression. The whole of society is influenced by insolence, and it is 
one of the worst evils. 


Just as in the case of virtues, God outlines all the levels of evil and shows them to us from 
the first to the last. He forbids us to engage with evil at any level: He wants us to practice 
all kinds of good, and to refrain from all kinds of evil. 


8. Control Your Self, Know Yourself 
My Dear Kim, 


Whoever controls his self will know himself, will understand God’s purpose in bringing 
us forth into this world, and will be one of those who attain divine knowledge. 


The most wonderfully perfect human beings are those who are able to control themselves. 
The ego is a faculty in man that commands him to do bad things. It manifests itself in 
different ways in each human being. It does not die, and can only be contained. It lives in 
man and it dies with him. 


Struggling against the ego will make you perfect. The thing to do is to maintain your 
chastity at the point your ego becomes manifest. Losing your purity and good cheer is a 
sure sign that you have been overcome by your ego. 


Always protect your purity and high spirits. This is the door to happiness—do not close 
it. Be patient, and victory will be yours. 


Moses once complained to God: “My Lord, my people are gossiping about me, ascribing 
attributes to me that I don’t possess. Please stop them.” The Lord answered: “Moses, they 
gossip about Me concerning attributes I don’t have even though I am their Creator. But I 
am patient with them. You, too, should be patient.” 


150 


A great Sufi master has said: “We have tried every means, and have not been able to find 
anything better than patience. Patience and precaution are the remedies for everything.” 


Everyone has understood and practiced patience in a different way, but let me explain it 
to you in a couple of words: 


Patience is containment of the ego. That is, it means to lock up egotistic drives in order to 
reach a certain goal, and to withstand all difficulties in this way. 


Barring very few exceptions, we are all prisoners of our egos. The choice is clear: either 
we imprison the ego, or it imprisons us. 


Life is an endless struggle. One must always be cool-headed in this struggle, and must 
imprison the ego and persevere. Such level-headed warriors are always successful. And 
maturity, or perfection, develops in a person in proportion to this struggle. 


Struggle against the bad drives that lead one to evil is struggle of the highest order. 
Indeed, on returning from a battle, the Prophet of God commented: “We are now going 
from the lesser battle to the greatest one.” “And what is that?” he was asked. He replied: 
“The battle against the self.” 


As you can see, Kim, the Prophet considered war against the faithless the lesser and 
struggle against the self the greater, indeed the greatest, battle. He who is victorious in 
this battle will definitely be a great man. Paradise will long for him. God has announced 
in His Book: “Whoever keeps his self from caprice, fearing the station of his Lord, to him 
belongs the place and station of Paradise.” 


This verse tells you everything. If you fear your Lord and do not pursue the desires and 
predilections of your ego, there will be no fear and sorrow for you. If you want to be a 
saint, once you conquer your self, your location will be Paradise. The Prophet has also 
said: “The beginning of all knowledge is knowledge of the self,” and: “He who knows his 
self knows his Lord.” 


Hearing all this, you may well ask: “Just how am I supposed to know my self?” 
All men of knowledge and all saints have struggled to know their selves. Although the 
goal is the same, many are the roads that lead to it. They can, however, be divided into 


paths of the spirit and paths of the flesh. 


The paths of the flesh are fasting often, worshiping day and night, denying the self its 
desires and even its suggestions, and accustoming it to difficulties. 


The ways of the spirit are obedience to God alone, and remaining aloof from His 
creatures. 


151 


As a father who has tried everything in this respect, I suggest that you should find the 
middle way between these two roads. Read the Prophet’s book of high morals and act 
accordingly. The life of the Prophet, which was a guide to the worlds, is enough to 
rejuvenate anyone. Love the great Prophet of God. I, in turn, love you in proportion to 
your love for him. 


Let me tell you a true story that will help you along this road: 


There was once a mystic who was in love with God from his very childhood. Inspired by 
the example of his uncle, who was given to great acts of worship, he too began to stay 
awake at nights and push himself to his limits, and his health was impaired as a result. 
One day his uncle told him: “When you’re sleepy, go to bed. Eat, drink, but always say to 
yourself: “God sees me, He knows my situation, whatever I do, I do in His presence,’ and 
act accordingly.” 


Thanks to this advice, the little child in time became a great man. He is known as Tustari 
among the great saints. 


The Folk of God call this state permanent presence or permanent Prayer, where the heart 
is always with God. This has been referred to in various ways: “their eyes on the steed, 
their hearts with the Beloved,” or “Their ears with the sound, their Hearts with the Lord,” 
or “their body among creatures, their heart with the Creator.” 


Such people are with God at heart, and have escaped from the realm of creatures. They 
have banned the gossip of people from their hearts. 

“Their hands are at work, their hearts at play;” “their feet are on the road, their hearts 
upon invocation;” “their bodies on the mattress, their hearts with the Friend.” 


They have always preserved their purity of heart, and have achieved infinite bliss. 
Because this is the Way of the Prophet, whoever practices it will subdue his self, and 
attain Paradise and the Vision of God. Indeed, the Prophet told one of his beloved 
friends: “If you know that you have only a day and a night left to live, and yet the love of 
offspring and the world is not in your heart, continue in this manner, for this is my Way. 
Whoever abides by my Way abides by me, and is with me in Heaven.” 


Always keep this golden advice in mind. For it is a life-saver. If your heart is free from 
the world and its hatreds and illusions, you will be at peace no matter where you are. 
Otherwise, delusions and vain imaginings will engulf you, and you will be of the hapless. 


There are people—hypochondriacs—who drive themselves sick through baseless 
thoughts and imaginings. This is a deadly disease of the ego, and kills a person both in 
body and in spirit. If you don’t keep yourself distant from such feelings, you will always 
be ill. The cure for this is to trust in God, to learn from past experience, and to try to set 
one’s business in order. This will invigorate you, make you the master of your ego, and 
let you know yourself. 


152 


Therefore, Kim, if you are unloved, try to rectify yourself. The really great task is to 
control one’s self and bear every situation patiently. The true masters are those who 
achieve this. They do not mess with the chaos and strife of this world. This is why one of 
them has said: “Be an ocean, and you won’t be tainted.” Know that your self is a 
boundless ocean. 


The Lord has declared: “Say ‘God’ [let your enthusiasm and happiness be God], then 
leave the faithless in their error” (6:92). You too, my child, should reside with Truth, and 
leave creation to its Creator. Do not be overwhelmed by the stress of hardships that 
people impose on you. If you do so, your self will be your slave, and you will belong to 
those who find happiness in this world and the next. 


9. On Decisiveness, Work, and Perseverance 
Dear Kim, 


Three factors that influence success in this world and the next are decisiveness, industry, 
and perseverance. These three complement and complete each other. 


An indecisive and cowardly person is like a ship without a rudder. He cannot progress in 
any respect. Indecision is born of cowardice, and this is the beginning of failure. Success 
begins with decisiveness. 


The indecisive and cowardly person will fall behind everyone. In your life, before 
anything else, think, decide, and then work for it. This is the principle that is applied in 
the world of science. To fear decision is the worst thing; it can even jeopardize one’s life. 
Thinking for days in order to reach a decision can have the same effect: it can lead to 
indecision. In order to decide, it is better to think well first, say “yea,” and then start work 
immediately. 


In both religious and worldly matters, you can find people who have fallen into 
bewilderment, failure and despair because of indecision. 


Firm decision will save you. If cowardly and brooding friends then try to detain you, 
separate from them. Make friends with boldhearted, decisive people in your life. They are 
the ones who will succeed sooner or later. The Prophet is our best guide in this matter. 
Once he decided on a course, who was there to detain him from it? True human beings 
have always been like this. 


A weak decision is doomed to dissolution. Decision is the fruit of belief. Your decision 
will be strong to the extent that you have faith. 


After a decision is made, enthusiasm for work will lead you to success. Islam does not 
accept sloth. God loves His servants who are active, enterprising and hardworking. A 
person’s earnings are commensurate with his knowledge and his labor. God declares in 
the Koran: “There is nothing for man other than the work of his own hands” (53:39). 


153 


As you sow, so shall you reap; and if you don’t sow, neither shall you reap. Nor can you 
sow barley and reap wheat in its place. Your crop will be in accordance with your 
industry, knowledge, and care. As I have told you before, the Prophet has said: “The 
doors of sustenance are closed. Work and struggle are the keys that will open them.” This 
tells you all. Just as God has appointed a cause for everything, so has He appointed a 
cause for receiving sustenance. Trust comes only after work and toil. A person must sow 
first. Only afterwards can he trust in God for the results. A true Moslem, therefore, will 
struggle both physically and spiritually. God loves those who work hard. The Prophet has 
said: “Those who gain are the friends of God,” and here “those who gain” means people 
who work hard materially and spiritually to gain God’s pleasure. These are very noble 
people. 


Therefore, Kim, it is also my desire to see you hard at work on whatever decision you 
reach. The Prophet himself loved to work, whether at home or outdoors. 


The beginning of everything is study, the middle is work, and the end is virtue. Hence, 
abide by this till your last breath. This is a great lesson for you. 


A person does not live for himself alone. He also lives for other human beings. One must, 
therefore, toil to leave behind a worthy gift to those who survive. Let me tell you a nice 
story in this context. 


The great Caliph Haroon Rasheed one day came upon a man who was planting saplings. 
He said : “You’re very old. You’ll never see this tree you’re planting bear fruit. So don’t 
sweat so much, and save yourself the trouble.” 


In reply, the man said: “Your Majesty, those before us planted trees, and we ate their 
fruit. Now it’s our turn to plant trees, so that those who come after us may eat ours.” 


The Caliph was very pleased with this answer, and gave him a bag of gold. Whereupon 
the man said: “You see, Your Majesty? I’ve reaped the fruits of my efforts already.” 


This is the way real human beings work. In the field of knowledge, we have eaten the 
fruit of those who preceded us. We, in turn, should blaze good trails for our successors. If 
you carry this over to the fields of commerce and industry, all the achievements you see 
about you are the result of this notion. 


Learning is easy. So is work. But the really important thing is to see it through to its end. 
And for this, perseverance is required. 


This is the most difficult thing. If you are surrounded by a sea of hardships, and even if 


your life is in danger, you must persevere in the right path. Perseverance leads to success; 
it is the only way to overcome difficulties. 


154 


He who abides by these principles will succeed only to the extent that he does so. That is 
why great people have said: “Whoever perseveres will achieve victory.” He who 
perseveres will overcome danger and reap his crop. 


Even a seed planted in the soil will not sprout if it isn’t allowed to stay there. If you then 
try to remove it, you will have failed in your task. 


As long as you are decisive, hardworking and perseverant, you will be victorious, with 
God’s help, in anything you set yourself to. This is what all great men have done, and this 
is how they succeeded in their tasks. 


10. Concerning Advice 
My Dear Kim, 


Advice is the balm of the heart. Just as rain rejuvenates parched soil, advice enlivens 
dead hearts. True advice is like the Elixir of Life; he who drinks of it will never die. 


Religion itself is advice. He who listens, believes and acts will be cured. Indeed, the 
Prophet himself said: “Religion is advice, religion is advice, religion is advice.” 


The purpose of advice is to enlighten human beings, and to tell them the ways that are 
good for this world and the next. Advice consists of words that soften the hearts of 
listeners and guide them rightly. As one listens to such valuable advice, one’s ideas are 
changed, and one feels a serenity. To find such a person and to heed his life-giving 
advice—here is your salvation. It is better to find such a person than to find all the 
treasures of the world. In the presence of such people, all your bad habits, worries and 
pains will melt away like snow in the sun. Their words enliven hearts just as rain 
invigorates dry earth. 


It is better to listen to the advice of such people for an hour than to read a thousand books 
and to live a thousand experiences. These people, though, have first of all preached to 
themselves and rejuvenated themselves. Such rejuvenation is possible only by preaching 
to the self. This is why the Prophet said: “First preach to your self, then to other people.” 
In His Book, God has admonished those who don’t practice what they preach with the 
words: “Why don’t you do as you say?” 


As you can see, in order to advise, it is necessary first to know, and then to act in 
accordance with this. That is why he who knows but does not act upon his knowledge has 
no value either with God or with people. Men of knowledge worthy of being heeded are 
only men of action who are the inheritors of the Prophets. These are persons who fear 
God and who base their words on the sayings of the Prophet. God has declared in His 
Book concerning them: “Men of knowledge are only those who fear God” (35:28). Man 
fears God to the extent that he knows his Lord and believes in His Word (the Koran). 
Hence, those who lack action are those who have no fear of God. 


155 


Therefore, Kim, the man of knowledge whose guidance you seek must be Godfearing. 
Otherwise, more harm will come from him than good. The person you heed must be both 
a knower and a doer. He must act in accordance with the command of the Prophet, and 
thus of the Lord. To obey them is the same thing as obeying the descendants of the 
Prophets. God has declared in His Book: “Obey the Prophet, and obey those in authority” 
(4:59). These people have the authority to speak, and it is necessary to listen to the 
knowledge and truth that issues from their mouths. For they are the heirs of the Prophets. 
As the Tradition states: “Men of knowledge are the inheritors of the Prophets.” And the 
happiness of the world is dependent on the existence of such people. As the Prophet has 
stated in another Tradition: “The world stands with the justice of rulers, the knowledge of 
scientists and scholars, the generosity of the rich, and the prayers of the poor.” 


The person who gives advice should be dressed in the morality of the Prophet, and should 
always think of the good of society, apart from all ills and personal considerations. He is 
always careful to speak well. He scrupulously avoids boorish speech that will break 
hearts and induce revulsion. It is necessary always to give advice gently and in a friendly 
way. A caliph once chided a person who was advising him vehemently: “Give advice 
gently and softly. When God sent a person better than you (namely, Moses) to a person 
worse than me (Pharaoh), He told him to address that man with sweetness and 
gentleness.” 


As you can see, Kim, a person who gives advice must do so very gently and softly, using 
kind and appealing words. When criticizing a community for bad conduct, it is better to 
say “we are like this” rather than “you are that way.” 


This kind of speech will not arouse the ire of people who have become slaves to their 
egos. Another point to be borne in mind when giving advice is to understand the troubles 
of people and to administer the proper medicine, to speak according to their 
comprehension. The Prophet has told us to speak with people in accordance with their 
capacity to understand. To tell the truth with spirited words, to enlighten with appealing 
examples, to be humble and cheerful, are qualities required of those who give advice. 


No matter how much you may know, do not shun listening to your loved ones and 
showing an interest in them. To take an interest in the person you are speaking with 
strengthens the ties of affection. Contrariwise, refusing to listen to them or to be 
interested in them is the worst form of conduct. These are things that estrange and deaden 
a man of advice, and are not worthy of him. When the founder of one of the Four Schools 
of Law was asked: “How did you learn such great knowledge?” he replied: “I listened to 
everyone, regardless of whether he was great or small.” This should be the byword of the 
advice-giver. 


Words that are loved and heeded are those that soothe people concerning this world and 


the next. There are times when cheering a broken heart is like bestowing life on it. Even 
this cheer is a cure reaped from advice. 


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And speech is a cure. This cure heals sick souls. There are occasions when you are healed 
if you speak. Taking and giving advice in this way is a remedy for you. This is why the 
Lord has declared advice to be a great blessing in His Book. He who makes use of this 
blessing prospers. 


If you want to heal and be healed, give and take advice from womb to tomb. This will 
make you a servant loved by God, who treads the path of happiness. 


11. On Thrift and Management 


Dear Kim, 


Another aspect to leading a good life is knowing the importance of thrift. Thrift is the 
backbone of economy. It is a principle that plays an important role in both individual and 
social life. Those people and societies that have abided by it have prospered, and those 
violating it have faced ruination. 


If you pay attention to thrift during your life, you will be exalted in the sight of people 
and God. Hence the Lord has commanded: “Eat, drink, but do not waste” (7:31). 


Many calamities befall people because of waste. And much happiness stems from 
moderation. This is why the Prophet tells us to remain moderate in all conditions. “Even 
when you’re beside a great expanse of water,” he says, “use only the amount that is 
necessary.” He who observes temperance in all his affairs—such as eating, drinking, 
sleeping, traveling, working, spending, speaking or remaining silent—is a mature and 
happy person. His leadership is true leadership, and both his family and society benefit 
from him. Such a person achieves all manner of happiness by economizing with not 
merely his property, but also his words and his affections. Knowing the science of thrift 
is a key to happiness in both worlds. 


Managing people intelligently, with propriety and affection, and treating them well, is the 
essence of salutary conduct. This is why it has been said: “The happiness of both worlds 
resides in just two words: To be bounteous to one’s friends, and to treat enemies nicely.” 


Treating enemies nicely is to be courteous to them and to manage them in accordance 
with their state. 


As for managing one’s fortune: this is the backbone of one’s living standards. Whoever 
spends all his earnings is ruined, and whoever saves a part of it prospers. For as long as 
one lives, one is faced with unimaginable needs. Then he finds punishment if he was a 
spendthrift. All of civilization has acted by this principle, and set aside a part of its 
earnings for a rainy day. This is why it is not enough to earn; one’s expenditures must 
also be managed. On this basis, the Prophet has stated: “He who economizes will not fall 
into poverty.” 


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This is an edifying principle that will serve you all your life. Another saying of the 
Prophet goes: “Spending is half of economy.” This sums up everything for you. 


My dear Kim, human beings are responsible for management in all spheres. All human 
beings, from the greatest to the least, are in the process of managing one another. 
Knowing this, one will progress profitably. Those who remain ignorant of this are 
grumpy and ill-mannered. 


If you consider things carefully, management is evident everywhere: everyone—whether 
captain, commander, mayor, manager, or father, mother, or child—has the responsibility 
of management. It is therefore necessary to treat friends generously, enemies courteously, 
and maintain moderation in all circumstances. This will make you perfect, and is the 
bedrock of happiness and a life lived well. 


As far as you can, try to please everyone in life. Speech plays an important role in this. 
Be truthful in word and heart, don’t make promises you can’t keep, interact positively 
with people and treat them deservingly. If you do this, you will be loved and will achieve 
happiness. 


12. On Being Generous to Your Enemy 
My Dear Kim, 


One of the secrets of living an unruffled life is to be generous to enemies, and to stay 
away from politics. To know your enemy is to be wary of him, but also to win him over 
by your generosity. Even his ways may be remedied thus, for the reform of a person 
varies from person to person and from time to time. 


Love your enemy, and he will be reformed. 


This is why sages have responded to those who mistreat them with presents. When one 
great saint heard that a man had slandered and insulted him, he sent him a feast. And he 
told his puzzled friends: “That man, with his ill-placed gossip and slander, has sent me 
virtue. And I have sent him a meal. If he is reformed by this, the affection between us 
will increase. I will both have overcome my ego, and gained a friend.” 


As this anecdote demonstrates, the friends of God do not break the hearts of their 
enemies, but try to reform them. They are perfect and wonderful men. One loves them in 
spite of oneself. They view and love creation because of their love for God. Their only 
thought is to do good and to reform. This is also why the Prophet of God, when he was 
asked to curse his enemies, remarked: “I’ve come to repair, not to harm’”—to make things 
better, not to make them worse. 


This is the way of true human beings, Kim. They always follow this course, forgive 
everyone, and try to reform their worst enemies by bounteous acts. 


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“But,” you may say, “I’ve seen so-and-so among the Faithful, and he always quarrels 
with his family and other people. He doesn’t treat them like human beings, and says there 
aren’t any human beings left.” 


Knowledge, my child, is the staff of life. He who does not look at life through the 
spectacles of knowledge and wisdom begins to see it from the standpoint of his own 
ignorance. He sees the world in deepest darkness, and is oppressed. He picks on everyone 
and disturbs the peace. He wouldn’t recognize the friends of God if he saw them. He 
would break their hearts by criticizing them according to his own conceptions. 


Such people, my child, are those who have been unable to rectify their selves, and are 
proud of their knowledge and worship. They don’t know that in truth they have been 
refused by God. 


It is best to keep one’s distance from their sort, and to compliment and treat them well 
from a distance. For these are proud persons in the way of worship. But God does not 
love pride in human beings. 


A saint busied himself with worship day and night for thirty years. He then received an 
inspiration: “The coffers of the people are full of worship. If your aim is Communion, 
lower yourself, do good deeds.” 


This is why the friends of God humble their selves. They are never proud toward anyone. 
They don’t even offend their enemies. A sage has remarked: “The travellers on God’s 
way haven’t broken the hearts even of their enemies. How can you attain to any station, 
when you quarrel even with your friends?” 


As you can see, the way of the wise is radically different. You must, therefore, think and 
act comprehensively. When you make friends, love those who love God and His Prophet 
in proportion to this love. If you have personal enemies, forgive them and treat them 
generously. 


The time may come, however, when confrontation becomes unavoidable. Sometimes 
sternness yields better results, because occasionally sternness is the very cure required— 
it does things that cannot be achieved by softness and gentleness. The presence of both 
kinds of attitude makes a man mature and perfect. Gentleness (the Blissful approach) 
won’t always work; neither will harshness (the Wrathful approach). Perfection, or 
maturity, consists in exercising the right approach at the right time, and in the right 
proportion. My dear Kim, I pray that God will give you the wisdom to act properly. 


Postscript: Concerning Those “Outside Islam” 


My Dear Kim, 


Your question regarding those who fail to believe in God and His divine Messengers has 
prompted me to add a few more words. I share your sense of pain for them. The Prophet, 


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too, used to worry himself greatly about the refusal of people to believe, until God 
informed him that his duty was only to proclaim the message, that it was not his concern 
who would take it or leave it. As in all matters, here, too, the Prophet must stand as your 
model. Where you’re able to, give advice, help others, show them the Good. Where you 
can’t, pray for them and try to help them. Never argue; only discuss in the most appealing 
way. 


How can you help those who do not share our faith? 


The man who does not use the revealed Scriptures as a guide has an impossible task 
ahead of him. Instead of picking the fruit from the tree that has been presented to him, he 
has chosen to “build the tree” from scratch! Where can he start? The only certainty is that 
he will try to construct his own morality—a system of values to live by. 


Here, Kim, is where you might offer some help. If you know there is no possibility of his 
heart responding to the Divine, you can at least help him in the following two respects. 
For they will go some way in saving him from misery, and will save others from falling 
victim to his ignorance. 


1. Forbidden Gain. Whatever you gain by illegitimate means—and here I mean 
illegitimate in God’s sight—will sooner or later be a curse on you for which you must 
pay through the nose. No good will come of it, no matter how easily or how 
surreptitiously it is obtained. In the final analysis, illicit profit is never in one’s own best 
interest. I’m not just talking about outright stealing or embezzlement here. Islam is so 
strict about this point that it warns you not to drink a cup of tea or coffee if you visit a 
person whose earnings are suspect in your eyes—that cup will be tainted. 


Kim, let me make this crystal clear. Suppose you’re stone-broke, and you decide to go 
over to your uncle or friend to borrow some money from him. Now on your way, you 
find that the streets are strewn with thousands of dollars. It’s there, it’s yours for the 
taking, you didn’t steal it, and it’s all free! 


Under these conditions, you must not take the money. Don’t even touch the bills. Just 
wade through them as if they never existed, and continue on your way to ask your uncle 
or friend for the measly sum you had in mind. 


I know that’s a difficult proposition—it sounds exaggerated and counterintuitive, but 
you'll be better off in the end than if you’d done otherwise. 


Don’t eat an illicit morsel, nor allow your family (or those under your care) to swallow 
one. This does not mean that we’re condemned to poverty, and that legitimate wealth is 
ruled out. You can be as rich as you like, so long as you earn it by honest means. 


2. Forbidden Lust. “Do not approach fornication,” says the Koran. What is meant here is 


not simply that you should not indulge in illicit sex, but that you should refrain from even 
the slightest movement, the slightest thought, in that direction. (Here’s where Jesus’s 


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figurative expression: “If your eye offends you, pluck it out” takes on meaning.) Except 
for your lawfully wedded spouse, regard all other human beings as your brothers or 
sisters, mothers or fathers, or children (it goes without saying that this rules out incest). 


Sex is probably the strongest impulse in man. If handled unwisely, it is powerful enough 
to shatter him. In its proper place, it will lead to worldly and marital happiness. It 
promises the fulfillment and contentment of a warm family life. Experimenting with 
illegitimate relationships, on the other hand, can only bring on disaster. It can cause the 
collapse or destruction of an entire civilization. Fornication, adultery, and all forms of 
sexual perversion and depravity put an end to man’s psychic assets once and for all. It 
doesn’t make any difference if “two consenting adults” are involved—this is just an 
excuse to bypass the hurdle. There is a God-given trust, a lease, in each human being that 
must remain inviolate and which s/he is forbidden to give to another even by his or her 
own consent, unless in proper wedlock with a member of the opposite sex. 


When God created Adam at the dawn of human history, He was engaging in the 
production of His most marvellous, most complex, creature. This is wellnigh a sacred act. 
Thenceforth, He entrusted the creation of further human beings, the propagation of the 
race, to us. In other words, we are participators in God’s creation of each new human 
being. This is a tremendous responsibility. And, like it or not, this is the purpose of sex. 
We may think only about how pleasurable it is, but it is there for procreation. 


Now consider what it takes to obtain a well-formed human being: a minimum of twenty 
years of nurture, of tender loving care by both parents. And this is best achieved within a 
healthy marriage. Sex, therefore, is a social event. A sexual wrong is a social wrong 
affecting everybody, even future generations. 


This is compounded in the case of a married couple. Adultery is the most common cause 
of marital breakdown. The person found to be attractive is nothing but a menace to one’s 
spouse, one’s innocent children and, ultimately, to oneself. But this lesson is most often 
learnt the hard way, because of the refusal to benefit from other people’s experiences. 
The sanctity of marriage, my child, must be preserved. 


Now these last two points—forbidden gains and forbidden lust—are so crucial that they 
can elevate a person to the heights of sainthood, or plunge him into the depths of misery. 
Think about it: all the icy baths of the Brahmins, the sleepless nights of the Buddhist and 
Christian ascetics, the self-inflicted tortures of the Hindu fakirs, the seclusion of Sufi 
dervishes in mountain caves or dungeon-like cellars—these all served only one end: the 
control of the Self. And yet, self-control is actually predicated on these two critical points 
alone: illicit pecuniary interest and passion. This is true not merely for Moslems, but for 
everyone. Control these two, and you have no need of all the other ascetic practices 
mentioned above. Fail to do so, and none of them will save you. For the ultimate aim of 
all asceticism is to tame these two selfish drives, to keep them within permitted, 
legitimate limits. 


161 


Mark my words, dear Kim, the annihilation of mankind will be the direct or indirect 
outcome of failure to hold these two in check. No matter who you are, by reining them in, 
you will not merely save your own neck, but will also contribute to the survival of 
humanity. And thus, dear Kim, it is imperative that those “beyond the fold” of Islam 
should understand this. Where you can, carefully and intelligently make this known to 
them. 


Well, Kim, this marks the end of my letters to you on this subject. Save these letters, and 
read them again from time to time so you won’t forget. God bless you, and may He give 
you the wisdom and strength to carry out these precepts. If you are able to, the day will 
come when you’ll remember these letters with gratitude, and perhaps utter a blessing in 
your prayers for me, who will be long gone by then. 


Bless you, 


Your Loving Father. 


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PRAYER: 
THE ASCENSION FOR ALL 


God Almighty instructed Adam, the first man and first prophet, to perform the Prayer 
(salat). Before Adam, the angels had been performing it. This goes to show how 
important Prayer is. 


Of the Five Pillars of Islam, Prayer is the one that is repeated most often and requires the 
greatest perseverance. The Word of Witnessing, which is the point of entry into Islam, 
need be uttered only once (although it can be, and is, repeated many times later on). The 
Pilgrimage is incumbent once in a lifetime, and only on those with sufficient means to 
fulfill it. The Alms-tax is paid once a year, by the rich and well-to-do to the poor. The 
Fasting is confined to the lunar month of Ramadan. Contrast these now with the Prayer, 
which is performed five times daily and comprises a total of 40 cycles (ragah), and you 
will see what a paramount place it has in the religion of Islam. Indeed, it is the very axis 
around which Islam revolves. 


Why is Prayer so central to Islam? And why does it consist, as it does, of a series of 
repetitious bodily postures and movements in conjunction with recitation of sacred 
formulas, rather than simple supplication to God like ordinary prayer? 


When the Prophet of God was raised to the presence of God in his Ascension (Miraj: 
“ladder’’), he became closer to God than anyone before or since. And God, as a gift to the 
Prophet’s Community of the Faithful, enjoined the five daily Prayers upon them. 


A saying of the Prophet reveals the meaning of Prayer: “Prayer is the Ascension of the 
faithful.” Another saying makes clear that “He who has no Prayer makes no Ascension.” 


This means that a ladder (“Jacob’s Ladder”), an escalator or elevator, has been instituted 
by God for the faithful to approach His presence, and this is none other than Prayer. 


If a believer performs the Prayer properly and with the care and attention it deserves, 
there can be no doubt that s/he will approach God. 


That s/he should fail to be conscious of this is immaterial. Matters of the spirit are by and 
large hidden from man’s consciousness and senses. If the veils were to fall from the 
believer’s eyes, s/he would actually be able to witness his or her Ascension in spiritual 
(as distinct from physical) space. But it is only at very advanced levels of spiritual 
progress that this may become possible. 


Two factors can be singled out in the Prayer process: the first being the bodily postures, 
and the second the recited formulas. 


The reason for the bodily movements is as follows: 


163 


Man as a totality possesses two aspects—body and spirit. (We disregard for the time 
being a third factor, the self). More precisely, he possesses a physical body, which we all 
know, and a non-physical, spiritual body, of which few people are aware. During life on 
earth, the spiritual body is connected, engaged, or “coupled” to the physical body. 


Hence, the bodily motions in Prayer are intended primarily for the spiritual body, not for 
the physical body (although they have an ameliorating influence on that as well). By 
moving the physical body, one actualizes the movement of the spiritual body, which is 
coupled to it. It is this motion of the spiritual body that escalates or elevates the spirit, not 
that of the physical body directly. 


The second component of Prayer as indicated above is the recitation of certain formulas, 
mainly verses from the Koran. If the postures and movements are the form of Prayer, the 
recitations are its content. These both aid in concentration and attach “wings,” as it were, 
to the spirit. Thus, the humble Prayer rug beneath one’s feet becomes the magic carpet or 
“cosmic treadmill” by which the believer rises towards God. 


We shall not go into the details of these formulas here, but confine ourselves to indicating 
the repetition of the names of the Lord. 


Two of the Almighty’s names are repeated six times in each cycle, which makes a total of 
twelve. Since there are forty cycles in a day, this gives 480 repetitions. 


After the bodily movement part is finished, God’s names are recited three lots of 33, or 
99, times in a sitting position during each of the Five Prayers. This means that the names 
of the Lord are invoked nearly a thousand times a day, even counting only the bare bones 
of Prayer and leaving out additional recitations. This is none other than the invocation or 
remembrance (known as dhikr) of God. 


These invocations help to concentrate the attention on God and aid the believer’s 
Ascension in spiritual (not physical!) space. 


All the prophets from Adam to Mohammed, the last prophet, have been bestowed with 
Prayer. Bowing down to the ground (prostration) was common to all, whereas the 
respective Divine Laws and worship were different. But they all came with the command 
to Prayer, and explained its details to their respective communities. 


The Koran mentions that the following prophets and communities were given the 
instruction of prostration: David (38:24), the Children of Israel (7:161), the Virgin Mary 
(18:107), those of previous generations (19:59). 


Explicit mention is made of the following prophets in the Koran as having been ordered 


to perform the Prayer: Moses (10:87, 20:10), Abraham (14:40), Ishmael (19:57), Luqman 
(31:17), Jesus (19:32), Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (21:73). 


164 


Since this is the case—and since all prophets have told their faithful to perform the 
Prayer—how come we don’t come across Prayer or some form of it in the observances of 
other religions? 


The truth is that we do, but we encounter only their remnants. Prayer is the royal road to 
God, but it is also hard work. At one point or other, the religious communities of the past 
fell by the wayside and abandoned the performance of their Prayer. This is one of the 
reasons why Islam had to be revealed, in order to make Prayer “stick” permanently. Yet 
we can still find traces of ancient versions of Prayer in some observances of the Hindus, 
in the Asanas of Yoga, and in the practices of far-eastern religious philosophies such as 
T’ai Chi Ch’uan in China. 


Furthermore, close inspection of the Bible reveals that aspects of Prayer can be found 
there as well, even though it may no longer be practiced regularly. Indications of this are 
present both in the Old Testament and the New. 


Worship, prayer and bowing down to the ground are mentioned in the Torah, revealed to 
Moses (Genesis 24:52; Exodus 33:10, 34:8), in the Psalms of David (5:7, 95:6, 138:2), 
and the Old Testament in general (1 Kings 18:42; Nehemiah 8:6, 9:3; Daniel 6:10, 8:18, 
10:9; Ezra 9:5; 2 Chronicles 7:3). 


Special attention should be drawn here to 1 Kings 18:42. The form of prostration here 
prescribed for the prophet Elijah, so similar to the Islamic prostration, was continued 
within the Judaic tradition by the Merkabah (“Throne” or “Chariot”) mystics between the 
2nd and 10th centuries A.D. That is why they speak of a descent to the Chariot, the latter 
term designating the posture of prostration. 


For the various references to prostration (bowing down to the ground) in the New 
Testament, one may cite Matthew 26:39, Mark 14:35, and Luke 22:41 as examples. 


Moslems perform the Prayer by facing Mecca (more precisely, the Cube or Kaabah) as 
the focal point (giblah). It is interesting to find the same concept in the Old Testament, 
where people worshiped by facing the Old Temple in Jerusalem (the Temple of Solomon) 
(Psalms 5:7, 138:2; 1 Kings 8:30,35; Daniel 6:10). As a matter of fact, Moslems initially 
Prayed facing Jerusalem to underline their fraternity and continuity with the previous two 
great monotheistic faiths (Judaism and Christianity), until commanded by God to Pray 
facing the Kaaba, thus emphasizing their distinction from the other two. 


We ourselves have tried to find a way around Prayer, a place in the Koran which 
explicitly or implicitly bypasses it. In this we have been singularly unsuccessful. 


In the end, we had no choice but to perform the Prayer. And we have done so to this day. 


All the saints, the Friends of God, have found a path to God only in performing the 
Prayer. They have been able to approach the Throne of the Almighty only in this way. 


165 


Hence, no one who fails to do the Prayer should lay claim to sainthood, and such a person 
should deceive and mislead neither himself nor anyone else. 


166 


THE MEANING OF REPENTANCE 


That human beings should repent their sins is a divine commandment. Since the concepts 
of good and evil and of sin are constellated differently in Islam, however, we must first 
take a look at these concepts, even though the Islamic conception of repentance is not 
fundamentally different. What thoughts or actions require repentance; what do we repent 
for? 


In Islam, anything that furthers the material and spiritual well-being of human beings 
and their fellow men is defined as Good or meritorious, and anything that is the opposite 
of this is defined as Bad or sinful. In other words, what is called a sin in the Koran is 
nothing other than what is harmful to man. In some religions, Good and Evil have been 
considered as having almost equal power over man, and Evil has been assigned a place 
that can even overwhelm Good. In such conceptions, Evil has an unremitting and even 
unmitigated status, and Satan, the principal agent of Evil, is the master, “the prince of this 
world.” This leads to the notion that this world, the world we live in, is essentially corrupt 
and evil, and that salvation from evil is to be sought only in the Otherworld or 
Afterworld. 


In Islam, on the other hand, this world in itself is not evil at all. Satan himself does not 
possess any great power; his guile and his hold over human beings are described as 
“feeble” in the Koran (4:76). Human beings need only disregard his suggestions or 
“whisperings,” and they will be safe from doing what is bad. God wishes the best of both 
worlds for human beings, His creatures, and there are no insurmountable obstacles in 
Islam to the realization thereof. 


There is no Original Sin in Islam. Human beings are not genetically tainted with an 
ineradicable sin that infests even newborn babes and pervades you like some terminal 
illness. Human beings come into this world pure; their moral responsibility begins at the 
age of puberty, and, provided they abstain from sins, they can leave this world as pure as 
the day they came into it. 


But to err is human, and the concept of “sin” in Islam is almost synonymous with error or 
mistake. For these errors, in turn, the doors of divine compassion and mercy are wide 
open for those who repent. All but one of the chapters of the Koran begin with “God, the 
Compassionate, the Merciful,” and the Lord’s Mercy is emphasized throughout the 
chapters as well. The sole unforgiveable sin, in God’s view, is that anything should be 
associated with Him; there is nothing worthy of being adored, loved, feared or worshiped 
other than He. “Less than that He forgives to whomever He will” (4:116). And if one 
repents once one sees the error of one’s ways, God will forgive even this sin. 


Traditionally, there have been two conceptions in the world regarding sin. One of these 
results in irresponsibility, and the other is total responsibility. 


167 


The first of these is to load one’s sins on a scapegoat—in some cases, on God Himself. If 
one confesses, one is absolved, and is then scot-free to repeat the same sin until one 
confesses again, and so on ad infinitum. This naturally fails to prevent the same sins from 
being repeated over and over again. It does not discourage people from committing the 
same sins. 


The second approach holds that one is responsible for one’s sins. Even if one confesses, 
one remains under the burden of that sin forever, and only the grace of God can save 
one—f it arrives. This places a burden of guilt on human beings that crushes them, and 
may even lead to despair of the divine mercy itself. Neither of these is the case in Islam. 


In Islam, one is responsible for one’s sins, and for one’s sins alone. “You are charged 
only with yourself,” says the Koran (4:84). “Every soul earns only to its own account; no 
soul bears the load of another” (6:164). This is echoed by St. Paul: “every man shall bear 
his own burden... whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:5,7). This 
precludes the scapegoat approach. Sinners are exhorted not to despair. Fear not, says the 
Koran: “Whoever does evil, or wrongs himself, and then prays God’s forgiveness, he 
shall find God All-forgiving, All-compassionate” (4:110). If one repents with a sincere 
regret, there can be no doubt that one’s wish will be granted. “Whoever of you does evil 
in ignorance, and thereafter repents and makes amends, He is All-forgiving, All- 
compassionate” (6:54). The only requirement is that one should resolve not to repeat that 
particular sin, and have a sincere intention not to sin again: as Jesus said to a sinful 
woman, “Go, and don’t do it again” (John 8:11). To ask forgiveness also implies that one 
should first be able to forgive oneself, as well as others. Consequently, one is not left 
with a burden of guilt, and on the other hand is not left open to a repetition of the same 
sin. To repeat a sin already repented for would be to trifle with God—not at all a good 
idea. 


But why did God create human beings with the capacity to sin in the first place? “If you 
did not sin,” says God, “I would create a people who sinned in your stead.” This indicates 
that sin has a place in God’s plan for humanity, and for the universe as a whole. 
Compassion and Mercy are among God’s foremost Names and Attributes (and there are 
several more of the same kind). People must sin in order to repent, and they must repent 
in order to activate divine mercy. In other words, God’s Mercy would not be realized in 
the world if it were not for the fact that human beings can, and do, sin. Another reason is 
that spotless Perfection belongs to God alone. All of His creatures, including human 
beings, are necessarily lacking in perfection in one way or another, and this includes the 
tendency to err. Thus, repentance is a part of man’s return to his Lord. 


In passing, let us note that one should never underestimate small sins. A small sin is as 
dangerous as a great sin; sometimes more so, because if disregarded it paves the way— 
little by little, step by step—to greater sins. Here, the Prophetic precept: “What is harmful 
in large quantities is also harmful in small quantities” should be applied in order to 
protect oneself. 


The Boomerang Effect 


168 


In Islam, God has made a distinction between wrongs against Himself—disobedience of 
His laws—and wrongs perpetrated against His servants—.e., all His creatures, beginning 
with our fellow men. His forgiveness for sins encompasses wrongs against God. As for 
wrongs against His servants, we must try to correct these while in this world, making 
amends for our errors against God’s creatures, setting a wrong aright and asking 
forgiveness of those we have victimized. A great secret lies buried here—for God has 
embedded a divine spark within the least of His creatures, and as you do unto the least of 
His creatures, you do unto Him—through the portal of that creature. Wherever your 
error impinges on, it must be corrected in the same locus. All creatures, great and small, 
are God’s big family; we should avoid killing even a snake, a pest, or a scorpion ifit isn’t 
doing us any harm. We should “live and let live.” Divine justice does not allow so much 
as a sparrow one has injured during childhood to pass by without retribution, often while 
we are still in this world. This is why the Safeguarders (muttaki: God-fearers, those who 
safeguard themselves by taking the precautions of religion) take care not even to step on 
an ant. This is the true meaning of “Do as you would be done by”: any action carried out 
on the world boomerangs back on you—what astrophysicists Fred Hoyle and J.V. 
Narlikar, in another context, called “the response of the universe.” The way out here is to 
undo a wrong by doing a right of equal importance; this may be called “atonement 
through action.” 


No matter how far we stray from God’s path, repentance will pull us back onto it like an 
elastic cord attached to our waists. Repentance is itself a form of worship, and its root 
meaning in Arabic is “to return”—both in the sense of the believer’s turning back to 
God’s Straight Path, and in the sense of God’s turning back from punishment and 
retribution. A sincere regret and the intention to mend one’s ways will result in the 
activation of God’s Name: the Acceptor of Repentance (Tawwab: “the Oft-Returning in 
Grace and Mercy,” 110:3). This means that God is always ready to forgive, to relent, and 
to shower us with His Grace. 


All prophets have themselves repented and shown the way of repentance to their 
followers, beginning with Adam and Eve (2:37, 7:23), and continuing with such great 
prophets as Noah (11:47), Moses (7:151) and Abraham (14:41). Mohammed, the Seal of 
the Prophets, himself said: “I repent to God seventy times a day from the things that 
invade my heart.” If this should be the case even with God’s Beloved Prophet, think how 
much more necessary repentance must be for us. The Prophet’s following prayer is a 
good one for us as well: “Dear God, I take refuge from your Wrath in your Forgiveness; 
from You, I take refuge again in You.” That is to say, we should seek shelter from one of 
God’s (wrathful) Attributes in another of His (benign) Attributes. We should always seek 
absolution with God, repeating the plea: “Wipe out our sins, and grant us forgiveness; 
have mercy on us” (2:286); we should implore Him to “convert our sins into virtues.” 


Naturally, we have—we earn—the right to be forgiven to the extent that we ourselves are 
compassionate and forgiving. It has been related in a Tradition of the Prophet that in the 
Afterlife, those who have forgiven wrongs done against them will enter Paradise directly, 
without the hurdle of the Last Judgment. To the extent that we are compassionate and 
merciful, we participate in God’s own Attributes of Compassion and Mercy, and thus 


169 


become Godly. If we are unforgiving and hard-hearted, how can we expect to have the 
right—the “face,” or lack of shame—to ask for God’s Mercy when we are on the spot? 


Ideally, every prayer should begin with repentance. It is stated in another Tradition that: 
“Those who wished to repent, but could not, have come to ruin.” Repentance clears the 
self of bad attributes and opens the way to good works. Thus, it is also the key to progress 
from one level of selfhood and from one plane of existence to another. Because one 
cannot reach Realization until the Purified Self has been attained, and one should repent 
for remaining at any lesser level. As one Moslem saint remarked: “Your greatest sin is 
your individuality” —i.e., your existence separate from totality, your failure to realize that 
you are part of the whole. Once the Purified Self is reached, repentance continues in 
order to avoid falling back to lower levels. This is similar to swimming in a body of 
water: one has to kick one’s feet until one reaches the surface from the depths, and once 
there has to keep on kicking in order to remain afloat. (The same holds true for Prayer 
and other observances.) 


Thus repentance, like Prayer, is necessary at every stage of one’s spiritual development. 
There is no sin so terrible that it cannot be forgiven by God. God has said: “My Mercy 
encompasses [1.e., is greater than] my Wrath.” He has also stated that there are times 
when He descends to the sphere of the earth, asking: “Isn’t there anyone who wishes for 
mercy, that I may grant it?” The door of absolution is always held open to those who 
would correct their ways, and this is one of the cardinal assets of the Religion of Mercy. 
But neither should it encourage us to act cavalierly with respect to God’s prohibitions. It 
should not be treated as an excuse to indulge in sin, and we should always be careful 
where we step if we really wish for forgiveness. Safeguarding ourselves is our 
prerogative; mercy is God’s. 


While dealing with repentance, we should not forget thanksgiving, its complement. We 
live in God’s country—the universe. We breathe His air, are dressed in His clothes (our 
physical bodies), we enjoy His gifts. If we can thank even a waiter for services rendered, 
surely we must show gratitude to God for everything He has granted us. Thanksgiving 
can take place every day, every moment of the year. 


God’s mercy is vast. Not for nothing did Rumi, the Sufi mystic, say: “Come. Even if you 
have repented and broken your repentance a hundred times, come again. This is not the 


door of despair.” Which means: come to repentance again. 


Our Lord, You are forgiving, You like to forgive; forgive us, too. Amen. 


OUR PRAYERS 


(These prayers are the common property of all mankind. They can be recited either after 
Formal Prayer, or at any other time. Remember us, too, in your prayers.) 


170 


Dear God, our Creator, thanks and praise be to you. 
May God’s blessings and peace be upon Mohammed and his family. 
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful: 


Dear God, grant that we may sow peace wherever we go. Let us be reconcilers and 
unifiers, not sowers of dissent. Allow us to disseminate love where there is hate, 
forgiveness where there is injury, faith where there is doubt, hope where there is despair, 
light where there is darkness, and joy where there is sorrow. 


Dear Lord, help us to be not of those who see the failings of others, but of those who hide 
them; not of those who seek consolation, but those who console; not of those who wish to 
be understood, but those who understand; not of those who crave to be loved, but those 
who love. 


Grant that we may become like the rain, which bestows life without discrimination 
wherever it flows; like the sun, which enlightens all beings everywhere without 
distinction; like the earth which, though everything steps on it, withholds nothing and 
bestows its fruits on everyone; like the night, which hides all shames from view. 


Grant us the destiny to join the ranks of those who give rather than receive, those who are 
forgiven because they forgive, those who are born in Truth, live in Truth, die in Truth; 
and those who are born again in eternal life. Amen. 


My God, may your peace and blessings on Mohammed, his dynasty and his loved ones 
be numerous as your creatures, in proportion to your pleasure, weighty as the Highest 
Heaven and in the amount of the ink spent on words. 


My Lord, make me one of those whose hearts belong to you and who place their trust in 
you. We are poor servants, enrich us; we are weak, fortify us; we are sinners, forgive us. 
Maintain our constancy on the path of the religion with which you are pleased. 


My God, I wish in this world for the opportunity to worship and the wisdom to avoid 
sins; and in the afterworld for your Paradise, the sight of your countenance and safety 
from your chastisement. 


0 refuge of the derelict, true friend of the forlorn, you are my confidant and beloved in 
both this world and the next. Reclaim my soul as a Moslem at my death, rectify my self. 
You are the final arbiter in all worries and complaints. You are the ultimate purpose of all 
desires. Please have mercy on the tears of this petitioner. To whom shall I turn for help, 
when you are the sole possessor of all? In whom shall I take refuge, when you are the 
sole benefactor, vast in generosity and grace? 


My Lord, give us the ability to perform deeds with which you are pleased. Grant us life 
through our worship of you. 


171 


My God, do not turn down my prayer. Do not leave me to my own devices. Have mercy 
on my impotence, take pity on my weakness and wretchedness. Do not mete out to us the 
treatment we deserve. Protect our hands from reaching out to someone else just as you 
protect us from prostration to others. 

My God, may your blessings and peace be upon Mohammed, his family and _ his 
companions: such blessings as will save us from all kinds of fears, afflictions and similar 
ills; will ensure our security against all troubles, plagues and disasters, worries and 
misfortunes; will cleanse us from all shames and shortcomings, sins and rebellions; and 
will result in a pardon for all our sins and an answer to all our prayers. Amen. 


My Lord, I take refuge from your chastisement in your forgiveness and pleasure; from 
you, I take refuge again in you. I cannot exalt you as you have exalted yourself. 


My God, keep me as far from sins as you have distanced East from West. 


My Lord, give me a faith and certainty that does not end in unbelief; bestow on me a 
mercy that will earn me your honor in this world and the next. 


My God, grant us a fear that will serve as a barrier between us and our sins, an obedience 
that will win for us your Paradise, and a faith that will ease the burden of worldly ills. 


My Lord, make my life an occasion for the increase of all that is good, and my death the 
means for liberation from all that is evil. 


My God, I take refuge in you from the fearless heart, the insatiable ego, the knowledge 
that is useless and the prayer that remains unanswered. 


My Lord, number us among those who are saved and who bring salvation to others. 
We take refuge in you from a wasted life, senility, miserliness and poverty. 

Help us in worshiping, remembering, and giving thanks to you. 

My Lord, you are forgiving, you love to forgive; hence, forgive us too. Amen. 


Most Merciful of mercifuls, protect me from the Fire, save me from severe chastisement. 
Amen. 


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THE SECRET THAT IS LOVE 


The secret of religion is love. 
Religion is a divine law. 


The secret of religion is Law (rights). The secret of Law is conscience. And the secret of 
conscience is love. 


Religion comprises these three in the same way that a fruit is composed of rind, of a 
fleshy part and a core. Although the core is not apparent from the outside, it is the 
innermost, the active part. The heart of all religion is love. Love gives rise to conscience, 
to consideration, to compassion and to tolerance. 


The Law is the external covering of all this. It prevents the flesh and the core from being 
spoiled and destroyed. Although it may not, at first glance, appear to have much in 
common with its contents, in reality it is directly based on them. Just as conscience arises 
from love, Law in turn arises from conscience. It is merely the codification of rights 
already granted implicitly at the level of conscience. 


The Secret that is Law 


Law is a delicate balance between rights and duties, between liberties and limitations. 
The duty of one person is nothing but the right of another, and the limitation of one is the 
freedom of another. Absolute freedom cannot exist, and if it could, then law, and hence 
justice, would not exist. It is as if freedom were in short supply and had to be apportioned 
equally. For the increase of one’s freedom occurs only at the expense of another’s, and if 
justice is not distributed equally, that is injustice. Hence we have equality before the law, 
and equality before man’s law is based on equality before God’s Law, since all men are 
equal before God. 


Because Law is based on conscience and ultimately on love, what is lawful in Islam is 
that which is informed by love. To put this is a little differently, the only action which is 
free of blame is that which is based on love, and the Divine Law is a compendium of 
such action or non-action. 


The all-important conclusion from this is that even if you do not feel love for a creature, 
you will have done it no wrong if you treat it according to the prescription of Divine Law. 
Thus Islam answers the critical question: “How should I behave toward beings?” in the 
following concise way: treat them as if you loved them, in the same way as you would act 
if you loved them. And for our convenience, Islam outlines in its prescriptions of Holy 
Law what such action is. 


In religion, Law means righteousness above all else. For instance, a person must not 
touch or covet what does not belong to him. When we say law or rights, this doesn’t 


173 


mean only those rights pertaining to humanity. Law means to recognise the same right for 
all beings in the universe, whether animate or inanimate, from an atom to the sun. It is the 
requirement of being human and of being a Moslem to treat them in the same way. For all 
beings are the beings of God. If one claims to love God, one absolutely must love His 
beings as well. One who does not love existence cannot be said to love God. In view of 
this, our own personal choices of what is good and bad, beautiful and ugly, useful and 
harmful, attractive and repulsive, have no place in Law. If these become involved, they 
precipitate the wrath of God. Here, to like or dislike is one thing, and Law is another. 


The inability of human beings to truly progress arises from their failure to understand this 
point. He who does not abide by the Law is the greatest of sinners and has no inkling of 
what it means to be human. About this there should be no doubt whatever. 


Man is free to act according to his disposition. He may not take an interest in any being 
he dislikes, which he finds bad, harmful or repulsive. But if for any reason an interest or 
relationship is established, he must recognise their rights. This is because man is 
responsible for rights, and for rights alone. 


Whether one is a Moslem or a Christian is immaterial at this point. For this is where the 
door of happiness opens. All beings are the forms, the manifestations, of God’s names. 
Therefore, the holy books declare God’s order unanimously: “You are to think of the 
other as you think of yourself.” For all beings, whether animate or inanimate, contain His 
spirit. 


It is due to this fact that where Law is concerned, no one can act according to his whim. 
God has forbidden this. For His command is not whim, but the very yardstick by which 
all things are to be measured. The human heart is His holy dwelling-place which He has 
reserved for Himself. He who breaks a heart will suffer, even if the poor fellow doesn’t 
understand why. 


In reality, man is the representative of God and His viceregent over creation. As such, he 
is burdened with the utmost legal responsibility and obligation. He is responsible for all 
things living and nonliving, from the stone he steps on to the bird in the sky. This is why 
the People of God say: “The requirement of honesty is to consider one another,” and they 
do not show negligence in serving this rule. 


God has graced man above all beings and placed them under man’s care. If a mishap 
occurs, however, this is due to us. If man becomes corrupt, everything becomes corrupt. 
If man is polluted, all nature is polluted. Hence the present state of nature can stand as a 
mirror to our internal state. We should know that this is so and touch everything with “In 
the name of God” on our lips, replacing it with these same words. We should never forget 
whilst using something that it possesses spirit. We should treat it in the same way as we 
treat and care for a part of our own body. Then the Koranic statement: “You are pleased 
with God and He is pleased with you” (89:28) becomes reality—that is, you will be 
pleased with Him and He will be pleased with you. This is the answer that heals (makes 
whole). 


174 


The Secret that is Conscience 


Law is derived from conscience. Without conscience, there would be no consideration of 
others and no respect for their rights. In fact, not even the existence of such rights would 
be recognized. Conscience requires the implicit presupposition that “the other” is, at 
some basic level, the same as or at least not different from the self. This leads to an 
unexpected conclusion, that the so-called “positive sciences” are, in fact, covertly 
normative. Behaviorist psychology, for example, by taking the other and his inner world 
as an unknown, by treating the other as a “black box” that can be judged only on the basis 
of exhibited behavior, reduces people to the status of automatons, quietly revoking their 
claim to rights. This, in turn, is nothing but lawlessness where the “other” is concerned. 
All rights then belong to the self, and to the other?-None. This is nothing but injustice. 


This also indicates the need to be very careful with our sciences and philosophies. It is 
never very obvious what metaphysics lurk behind our “objective” hypotheses or 
conclusions—nor where they may lead. If metaphysics is an ineradicable residue 
underlying all science and philosophy, then it is much better that this be of a life- 
enhancing, rather than life-denying, nature. 


Conscience is the prime mover of Law—it creates and resonates in the heart and 
mobilizes man. If a person does everything lawfully, in the way prescribed by Law, 
believing in its utter rightness and content in his heart about its truth—this, then, is 
conscience. This is the foundation of Law; another name for it is “faith.” It is the “still, 
small voice” that comes from the depths of one’s heart. It is the product of an indubitable, 
pure and undefiled feeling. May God grant us all that state, which comes to us on a tide 
of the ocean of compassion (Amen). 


If man has no faith, neither does he possess conscience. Lacking conscience, he also 
lacks humanity. Blessed are those who recognise Law and have a clear conscience, for 
God is with them. 


The Secret That Is Love 


Love is the real source of man’s feelings of compassion and kindness, the sublime 
synthesis of his finest and most delicate feelings of conscience. Since the sway of 
conscience has purified the heart, purging it of all things, good and bad alike, God installs 
His throne of manifestation in that heart. Thus love of God engulfs one’s being, and that 
person becomes pure love. Then everything loves him and he loves everything. 


And so, that person becomes invested with God’s attributes and friendship, harmony and 
welfare, and joins His Chosen People. Henceforth, his place in both worlds is Paradise 


and his station, comfort and friendship. 


This is a three-stage process: (1) Righteousness, diligent observation of the Law enabling 
(2) the conscience to flower—and the full maturity of conscience is (3) love. 


175 


But what happens once one becomes, as it were, an incarnation of love? Does one shed 
the Law and conscience as if they were autumn leaves? 


On the contrary, the Law and conscience find their fullest, most mature, manifestation in 
a person who has become pure love. Rote Imitation becomes Realization. He or she no 
longer acts out of blind obedience to the letter of the Law, but in full knowledge and 
consciousness of why the Law prescribes or prohibits a certain thing. The clumsy, 
mechanical, sometimes jarring and disturbing implementation of the Divine Law gives 
way to a smooth, harmonious flow—the grace of love. Such people are a guiding light to 
all beings lucky enough to come within their sphere. 

Such a person is called a saint, or a “friend of God”, and has become identified with pure 
love. The motto of the friend of God is “I, if I be lifted up, will lift up all mankind with 
me.” The saints are the channels or vehicles by which God’s love, compassion and mercy 
reach the world. Indeed in ages when there are many saints of high realisation, there are 
fewer wars, plagues and calamities—the world is a “closer” place to Paradise. In ages 
when they are few and far between, these channels of access to grace are “clogged,” as it 


were, and the situation is reversed. Look around you and, with this measure in hand, you 
will be able to judge what kind of times we live in. 


Seven Hells, Eight Heavens 
Islam is based on eight principles. These are referred to as the eight gates of Heaven: 
1. Compassion, kindness and affection. 
2. Righteousness. 
3. Loyalty. 
4. Generosity. 
5. Patience. 
6. Discretion. 
7. Knowing one’s poverty and weakness. 
8. Giving thanks to God 
Without these, there is no peace, happiness or Paradise in either world. 
Anyone who is clothed in these praiseworthy traits and has made them part of his 


constitution is a proper Moslem and worthy of the Noble Messenger of God, Mohammed. 
For these praiseworthy manners and characteristics are the beautiful traits and attributes 


176 


of our Prophet. They have radiated from him to his family, children and Companions, 
thence becoming the fundamental constituents of Islam. So testifies the Koran. 


And this is why Islam is not simply the recitation of the Word of Witnessing or the search 
for Heaven in a mosque. The firmness of God’s revelatory secrets depends on these 
qualities; hence, so do the continuance of life, its peace and happiness. Throughout one’s 
life one must always be based in the good, the true and the beautiful. Only with these 
verities are immortality and eternity feasible. 


It is for this reason that the above principles have always been a guiding light and torch in 
the hands of mankind and the travelers to Truth. Just as one cannot see in the dark or find 
one’s way, neither can he reach his Lord. God says: “Be light, come to Me, attain My 
mystery,” and desires us. Our great Prophet exemplified the meaning of this declaration 
in his Ascension (the Miraj). Without these lights of truth, in the darkness of our 
ignorance, how could we find the way to our Lord and be worthy of His Pleasure? 


Therefore, these agreeable traits and characteristics are what is valuable, whether at the 
stage of general Law, or of mystical schools (conscience), or of attaining Reality (love). 


Without them, a person cannot be worthy of his Lord, no matter whether he is a prophet 
or a madman. This is the secret of the Four Books and the Hundred Pages revealed to the 
various Prophets. These eight principles are the sources of life for humanity and human 
conscience that bestow happiness, peace and joy. 
All the virtues and merits in the world are encompassed by these traits. This is why they 
have been called the eight gates of Heaven. Those who possess them live in Paradise 
even while in this world. 
As for the seven circles of Hell, the following are the traits that open their gates: 

1. Pride. 

2. Covetousness. 

3. Envy. 

4. Discord. 

5. Backbiting. 

6. Lust. 

7. Anger. 


All the evil traits and manners in the world are, in turn, contained in these. No matter 
what or who he is or how true he may appear to be, these are the characteristics that lie 


177 


close to a person’s heart if he does not acknowledge goodness, beauty and truth. It makes 
no difference if he never raises his head from prostration. Being human and being a 
Moslem are both possible only by relying on Truth. Islam cannot be attained by 
following the lead of one’s caprice, by being carried away by one’s ego, by exhibitionism 
or by fishing for other people’s praise. One will then have opened the gates of the seven 
Hells, pride, rebellion and downfall. 

Note, however, that there are eight Heavens as opposed to only seven Hells. This is 
because God Almighty has said: “My Mercy encompasses (is greater than) My Wrath.” 
Indeed in Islam, “In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful” precedes 
everything. No matter how great one’s sins, they are swept away in a torrent of Divine 
Compassion and Mercy, provided one resolves to rectify one’s ways in accordance with 
the Law. The opportunity for absolution is always there, and never far away. 


For the secret of religion is love. 


PUT YOUR TRUST IN GOD 


1. 

Bad things to good, God modifies 
Think not He does otherwise 
Always watched on by the wise— 
What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
2 

In God you should put your trust 
Surrender yourself, find rest at last 
With everything He does, be pleased 
What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
a. 


Put in your heart of His strength a dose 


178 


Recognize what He doth dispose 
Abandon what you propose 
What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
4, 

He is the Compassionate Creator 
He is the Benevolent Provider 
He is the Wise and Divine Author 
What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
5. 

The Final Judge in any claim: 
Direct your prayers toward Him 
Let go of your personal whim 
What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
6. 

Don’t crave after a thing or cause 
Don’t be stubborn if one occurs 
It’s from God, do not refuse 
What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 


7, 


179 


Since matters are in God’s hands, vain 
Is any confusion or pain 

He unfolds Wisdom divine 

What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 

8. 

All His deeds are superior 

And in tune with each other 
Everything He does is proper 

What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
9. 

Keep sorrows distant from your heart 
Find comfort instead in your Lord 
Just leave everything to God 

What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
10. 

Don’t deem justice to be malice 
Surrender, don’t burn in the Blaze 
Don’t give up or give in—patience! 
What God will ordain, let us see 


Whatever He does, well does He 


180 


11. 

Do not say: “Why is this so?” 

It is good that it is so 

Look, see how the end will go 
What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
12. 

Look down on no one, nor slight 
Don’t give offense, don’t break a heart 
With your ego never side 

What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
13. 

A believer’s deed is never vice 
A wise man’s way is never strife 
A sage’s speech won’t agonize 
What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
14. 

His patience is a grace on me 

His ruling, my security 

The Lord God is my deputy 


What God will ordain, let us see 


181 


Whatever He does, well does He 
15. 

His name resounds in every call 
His remembrance in every soul 
His rescue is for one and all 
What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
16. 

Just when your hopes are down to nil 
Suddenly He parts a veil 

He grants solace from every ill 
What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
17. 

In each moment to each servant 
Whether wrathful or beneficent 
He’s at a task each instant 

What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
18. 

Now Complier and now Preventer 
Now Harmer and now Benefiter 


Now Debaser and now Upraiser 


182 


What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
19. 
Now He makes His servant a sage 
Now malignant, now virtuous 
Over every heart He rules 
What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
20. 
Sometimes He makes your heart empty 
Or fills your spirit with beauty 
Or makes you His loving devotee 
What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
21; 
Simple one time, complex the next 
Sometimes He makes your heart perplexed 
Happy one moment, sad the next 
What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
22. 
Sparingly eat, sleep, and drink 


Give up carnality, it is junk 


183 


Settle in the rose garden of the heart 
What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
2; 

Yourself with His creatures do not strain 
Nor with your ego remain 

You and your heart, keep close the twain 
What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
24. 

With what is past, fall not behind 
What is yet to come, don’t mind 
Even in the present, don’t reside 
What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
25. 

Unceasingly His name recite 
Cunning and shrewdness, cast aside 
Admire Truth, Truth articulate 
What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
26. 


Isn’t it time you were amazed 


184 


Discover Him, yourself forsake 
Cast away sleep, become awake 
What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
Zs 

Every word contains advice sound 
Every object is much adorned 
Every action is a godsend 

What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
28. 

A symbol and portent are all things 
A sign of good news are all things 
A fountain of grace is everything 
What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
29. 

Lend ear to anyone who speaks 
Understand Him who makes him speak 
And with all your heart accept 
What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 


30. 


185 


The languages of things proclaim 
“Truth, 0 Truth!” they all exclaim 
Creation’s courtesy ascertain 
What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 
313 

Yes, He has done very well 

Of course He has done very well 
Indeed He has done very well 
What God will ordain, let us see 
Whatever He does, well does He 


—Ibrahim Hakki of Erzurum 


186 


WOMAN IN ISLAM 


“Men are one-half of an apple; women are the other half.” 
—Mohammed, the Messenger of God 


The Way of God, the mode in which God has chosen to manifest Himself, is revealed to 
us through the workings of nature. And these workings are often displayed in the form of 
complementary opposites. Day and night, light and dark, high and low, long and short, 
positive and negative are just a few examples. In Chinese philosophy the multitude of 
opposites was summarized in the polarity of yin and yang, the first symbolizing the dark, 
passive, female aspect and the second, the light, active, male aspect of things. It is even 
said that the universe comes into being through opposites, for a thing cannot be 
manifested without its opposite. Light, for example, can only be distinguished against a 
background of darkness, and so on. This reciprocity extends from the macrocosmos down 
to the microcosmos, where quantum physicist Niels Bohr has shown that the wave and 
particle models of nature consummate each other in his famous Principle of 
Complementarity. 


It is noteworthy that polarity in nature does not always imply symmetry in every respect. 
The proton and the electron—the building blocks of the universe—are complementary in 
charge, yet the proton is almost 2000 times as massive as the electron. A similar 
disproportion exists between the female ovum and the male sperm, the latter being 
minute in comparison with the former. Where sexual reproduction is concerned, nature 
abounds in examples of asymmetry, as evidenced in the queen bee versus male bees, or a 
large female black widow spider versus its small male counterpart. 


When we come to human beings, we find that man and woman are almost identical with 
one another except for certain biological differences. It makes no sense to speak about 
sex in the case of the soul itself; the self is unitary and asexual. Yet the biological 
differences are there, and they are too deeply rooted and obvious to be dismissed. A male 
cannot bear a child no matter how hard he tries, and the anatomy of a female constitution 
could not become masculine without a complete and wholesale revision. 


Rather than trying to accomplish the impossible and eradicate biological differences, 
then, what we should do is to take man and woman as they are and give them their rights. 
The needs of a woman are different from those of a man. If these needs are not taken into 
account, we would be violating the rights of one side or the other. 


Islam has laid down the rights of both man and woman without disregarding the 
differences peculiar to each. Care should be taken, however, to avoid entangling what is 
specifically Islamic with other, extraneous influences. If we wish to learn the truth, we 
need to research the matter more thoroughly. 


187 


The history of Islam is, by and large, the history of the failure of so-called “Islamic” 
nations to live up to the high ideals of Islam, as much as it is of their success. Islamic 
societies have, it is true, tried to remain faithful to the injunctions of the Koran and the 
noble example of the Prophet. But it is also obvious that in this they have not been 
entirely successful. This is why calls for a “return to the roots” are sounded so frequently, 
but historical inertias that lie deep seem to preclude any easy change. 


What is necessary, then, is to look at what Islam in fact says. Ideals are always difficult to 
translate into practice, but the shortcoming here lies with all-too-human failings, not with 
the ideals themselves. The Koran and the example of the Prophet should be read properly, 
sensibly; and in order to be read properly at all they should first be read. 


When we look at Islam’s perceived lore concerning women today, what we see is 
actually the result of several intertwined factors, especially: 


1. Authentic Islamic doctrine regarding women, which is itself frequently misread. 
Superimposed on this are: 


2. Various local, social and cultural influences, 
3. Political factors, 


4. Environmental factors. 


The Prophet’s Example 


Once we attempt to unearth the specifically Islamic element from under these—as it 
were—geological strata, we find that the only thing to do is to go back to the original 
example, that of the Prophet himself. We have to supplement the Written Koran with the 
concrete example of the “Speaking Koran,” who constitutes the only true role model for 
Moslems. 


The Prophet was the archetypal family man, doing household chores, even mending his 
clothes and shoes when necessary. That is the model, not only for Moslems but for all 
men, that Islam aspires to. And it is not just a model, but a challenge for us all. 


“The best among you,” remarked the Prophet, “are those who treat women well.” One of 
his wives, in a heated discussion, once struck the Prophet with her hand. Her mother saw 
this and chided her, saying: “Daughter, what are you doing? Do you realize who this is?” 
The Messenger of God, however, intervened and said: “No, no, don’t say anything to her. 
My blessed wives are all like this. Don’t say anything against any of them.” 


On another occasion, he and another wife were having a heated discussion. At one point, 


she began yelling at him. When her father, who had overheard, raised the subject with 
her, she replied simply that all the Prophet’s wives enjoyed similar liberties with him. 


188 


It cannot be emphasized enough that among all his wives, the Prophet never, ever struck 
any of his wives or children, not even once. He never raised his voice against them, nor 
said a bad word, even when they quarrelled with him. 


“T have been made,” said the Prophet, “to love three things in your world: women, 
perfume, and Prayer, the light of my eyes.” This Tradition not only highlights the 
otherworldly nature of the Prophet; it also draws attention to the intrinsic sweetness of the 
three items, and in associating women with Prayer, draws attention to the sacred nature of 
women and of marriage, which is the only approved way for relations between the sexes. 


The Prophet was born of a woman and was married to women. And if there have been 
more great men than great women in history, we too often forget that every great man, 
and every prophet except Adam, was born of a woman, and that—to repeat a well-worn 
cliché—behind every great man there is a woman: whether as mother, wife, or supporter. 


Common Fallacies Regarding the Status of Women 


We have already noted that the Koran has frequently been read improperly, and without 
reference to the Prophet’s example. This is especially true of the verses dealing with the 
status of women. What has happened is that meanings have been read into them which 
actually are not there. An attempt will be made here to demonstrate this by discussing a 
few examples: the most common fallacies. 


Fallacy 1: Men are the masters and women are their slaves 
The Koran reads: “... men are the overseers of women” (4:34). That is, men are the 
supporters and protectors of women and children. Barring outright slander, there is no 
way that one can extrapolate from this to a master/slave relationship. To make things 
clearer, the Prophet said in his Farewell Sermon: “Treat your women well. You have no 
right to oppress them.” And at another time: “The best among you are the best to their 
wives.” And: “The believers of the most perfect faith are those who exhibit the best moral 
conduct and are kindest to their families.” 


Fallacy 2: Men are superior to women 


The verse reads: “... men have a degree over women” (2:228). On the average, men have 
a slight edge over women in terms of physical strength. Needless to say, this excludes a 
broad range of exceptions, and is true only in a statistical sense. The same verse notes 
that “some are better than others,” but does not assign gender to this latter expression. 
Indeed, there are untold numbers of women who are superior to men in knowledge, in 
work, and in physical strength. 


Fallacy 3: Men can beat the daylights out of women 


189 


“Admonish [or: reason with] women whom you fear may be rebellious. [If this is not 
enough] depart from their beds. [If this doesn’t work either] slap them. If they then obey 
you, don’t search for a way against them” (4:34). 


The word translated as “slap” above derives from the Arabic root DRB and is usually 
translated as “beat.” Now it so happens that words derived from the same DRB root occur 
58 times in the Koran, and nowhere else is it used (or translated) in this sense. Of the 
many other meanings assigned to it, a few are: to set out (on the road), to shroud (in 
darkness), to strike (an example), to mint (a coin), to publish (a book), to cover 
(concerning ladies’ dresses), to dispatch, to throw, to raise (something set down), etc. 


It can thus be seen that “beat” is by no means the obvious translation of such a word. 
Assuming, however, that there is a grain of truth in the interpreters’ view, it has been 
rendered here by “slap,” for as we shall see below, the sayings of the Prophet, as well as 
his example which we saw above, strongly militate against the use of violence where 
women are concerned. 


Men are told to strike rebellious women lightly only as a last resort. What could be the 
nature of the rebellion that would justify such a measure? On an occasion in which the 
Prophet spoke of “disciplining without bruises or injuries,” and also in the Farewell 
Sermon, this is linked with adultery. For as the verse says, the measure is used not when a 
woman is actually “rebellious,” but when one merely fears it. And this can be justified 
only on the grounds of infidelity. Otherwise, anything could be made a pretext for 
violence, which is surely not what is intended by the verse. To prevent adultery, if one 
can, before it happens—this seems to be the only justification for the measure. For 
adultery is the one sure way to wreck a marriage, and if the latter can be saved in this 
manner, we have a rationale for the action. 


Indeed, the Tradition itself speaks of overt fornication: 1.e., if a man actually witnesses 
his wife with another man, he is entitled to “discipline” her; yet even here the 
recommendation of Islam is to divorce her peacefully rather than to engage in violence. 
Of course, there can be no question of remaining together after such an event has been 
witnessed. Of all permitted things under heaven, the most detestable in God’s sight is 
divorce, yet there are occasions where it is unavoidable. 


Over and against this we have to set the following sayings of the Prophet: “Those who 
beat their wives are not good men.” “I myself will be the claimant on Judgment Day 
against the man who beats his wife.” “Could any of you beat his wife as he might a slave, 
and then lie with her in the evening?” Reliable collections contain Traditions of the 
Prophet to the effect that he forbade the beating of any woman, saying: “Never beat 
God’s handmaidens.” All this goes to show that the Koranic sanction can be invoked, if 
at all, only under the most exceptional of circumstances. 


Fallacy 4: One man equals two women 


190 


The Koranic verse reads: “... the male receives two shares of the inheritance, the female 
one share” (4:11,176). But this is qualified by the decree: “Men support women from 
their means” (4:34). Thus, the upkeep of the sister(s) are incumbent on the brother(s). 
The reverse is not true, even if a sister earns her living and a brother does not. Further, 
this is only one of the injunctions regulating inheritance, and hence one among a host of 
legal cases. 


Fallacy 5: One male witness equals two female witnesses 


When taken out of context, the Koranic verse indeed reads: “... two male witnesses, or 
one male and two female witnesses, so that one of them can remind the other” (2:282). 
When read in its proper context, however, it becomes clear that this applies only to a 
certain subset of commercial law—namely, in cases of commercial liability with a 
maturity period, and Letters of Credit. 


Social and Cultural Factors 


When a religion emerges into a society, it never finds a blank slate before it. No matter 
what society we are talking about, it has customs, mores and traditions that antedate the 
introduction of that religion, and which color its response to the latter. 


This basic fact of sociology and anthropology is also observed in the case of Islam. Islam 
itself is universal. But the response of every culture to Islam will be conditioned by its 
own peculiar characteristics. 


The people of the Middle East where Islam originated belonged to a male-dominant 
culture. The period before Islam, referred to as “the Age of Ignorance,” was replete with 
the ill treatment of females. A woman was a vehicle for sexual satisfaction and little 
else—lacking, in many cases, even the legal protection of a marital arrangement. Little 
girls were disposed of by burying them alive. Very few women had the means to become 
prominent and powerful members of society. Women could be gambled on and given 
away in bets; they could be inherited like a household object. 


Against this backdrop, Islam introduced almost every right that women enjoy in the 20th 
century. The right of women in France to exercise property rights independently of their 
husbands was granted only at the beginning of the 20th century. In Italy, the right to 
divorce had to wait until the last third of the 20th century. God’s instruction to the 
Prophet to accept the allegiance of women (60:12) has been interpreted by Moslems as 
the right to vote; in the USA, women could not vote until 1920. Today, at the end of the 
20th century, universal suffrage still does not exist in Switzerland. In Germany, a woman 
could not hold a bank account until 1958, in France until 1965. The true emancipation of 
women in Europe is the matter of a scant fifty years. 


Now it may come as something of a surprise that women were granted all these rights, 


explicitly or implicitly, not today, not yesterday, but one thousand four hundred years 
ago with the emergence of Islam. Mohammed, the Messenger of God, effected the 


191 


elevation of womankind, not in an age of emancipation, but at a time when woman did 
not count for anything at all. He put an end to female infanticide. Above all, Islam 
introduced the treatment of woman as a person; much later, in the Middle Ages, 
Europeans would be debating whether a woman has a soul and should be considered 
human or not. The greatness of this achievement has to be measured not against what 
humanity has accomplished today after millenia of struggle, but in its own historical 
context. Moreover, as we shall see below, woman still lacks those very same rights given 
by Mohammed even in this day. 


Certain measures which may at first glance look like restrictions actually worked to the 
woman’s benefit. It may be difficult for us, living as we do at the pinnacle of civilization, 
to assess what a giant leap this was in comparison with what preceded it. For example, in 
transactions dealing with commercial debt having a maturity period, a second female 
witness might be called in, but this relieved the first from the burden of having to face 
singly the responsibility of remembering complicated numerical details. A woman might 
receive less of a share in inheritance, but this was balanced by the fact that the male heir 
was responsible for supporting her. Thus, in many cases, she lost a pittance but gained 
lifelong security in return. Giving her an equal share would result in male protest and the 
removal of this privilege. Moreover, this happens to be only a particular case in Islamic 
law—there are many other cases where she receives a greater or even an equal share. 
Further, a woman didn’t have to take care of anyone else and was totally free to dispense 
with her money as she liked. She didn’t (and doesn’t) have to spend a penny for her 
livelihood even if she were rich; her husband had (and has) to take care of her. She 
doesn’t have to breast-feed the baby or do household chores if she doesn’t want to; the 
husband has to find a foster-mother in one case, and a servant in the other. She cannot be 
married off by her parents to a man she doesn’t want—as long as you abide by Islam, that 
is. 


We can see that regulations which at first appear to be detrimental to women were 
actually meant, and worked, for their benefit (“positive discrimination’). In the early days 
of Islam, furthermore, women were accorded much more freedom than was forthcoming 
later on—they could accompany their menfolk in war, act as nurses, engage in commerce 
and trade, etc. Karen Armstrong, the author of an important biography about Mohammed, 
merely tells the truth when she observes: “Women were not crushed by Islam, as people 
tend to imagine in the West.” 


As time passed, however, old social habits—atavisms from the Age of Ignorance—began 
to reassert themselves. Also, as Islam spread to other lands and other cultures, it was 
forced to assimilate the mores and norms of those regions as well. Some of these, the 
religion could tame; there was too much sociocultural resistance against taming others. 
What justification can be found within Islam, for example, for the clitoridectomies 
performed in North Africa? None whatever. The result was that, over the course of the 
centuries, elements foreign to Islam and its protection of women became blended into the 
mixture. The interaction of Islam with a different culture would of course lead to 
altogether different results. 


192 


The case of the veil is a peculiar one in itself. The veil existed in the Middle East prior to 
Islam—the Virgin Mary is depicted wearing a veil in the early churches. Apparently, it 
first began as a measure to ensure protection from the male tendency to exploit and 
molest women. Therefore, legislation for covering is not against women, but rather 
against the lack of self-control of men with respect to women (sexual harassment, to say 
nothing of rape, is a worldwide problem even in our day). 


Covering themselves in a general sense is enjoined on both the Prophet’s wives and 
women in the Koran (24:30-31) as an aspect of modesty. Originally, only the Prophet’s 
wives were required to veil themselves; this was their exclusive privilege. In time, the 
veil became a status symbol and fashionable among women. As Armstrong remarks, 
“Islamic culture was strongly egalitarian and it seemed incongruous that the Prophet’s 
wives should be distinguished and honoured in this way. Thus many of the Muslim 
women who first took the veil saw it as a symbol of power and influence, not as a badge 
of male oppression.” It was only later on that the veil became a sign of female seclusion 
in a patriarchal society, and was transformed from an emblem of superiority into its exact 
opposite. 


There is also another dimension to this. The headscarf is worn by Catholic nuns, and in 
their case it is revered as a sign of holiness. There is no reason why Islamic usage of the 
headscarf should not be accorded similar respect. 


The sayings or “Traditions” of the Prophet have also undergone a process of 
“socialization” or “acculturation.” It is known that spurious Traditions were invented at 
various times, and in a culture with a certain attitude towards women these inventions 
would tend to be correspondingly biased. However, collectors of Traditions have made 
painstaking efforts to separate spurious Traditions from authentic ones. Since the Prophet 
himself indicated that false Traditions would be invented in his name, one should be very 
careful in handling sayings that go against the general tendency of Islam, which can be 
summarized as respect for women, within an overall spirit of tolerance, compassion, and 
mercy. 


Political Factors 


Without doubt, rulers exert an influence over the societies they rule. This influence 
extends to the laws of a society, and the religious law of Islam—the Holy Law, which is 
comprised of Koranic rulings, the sayings and example of the Prophet, derivations based 
on analogy, and the consensus of scholars—has not been exempt from it. Rulers have 
found it expedient to reinterpret religious law according to their own lights. 


Take the case of Saudi Arabia, where the restrictions on women are more severe than in 
other Islamic countries (they cannot drive a car, for instance). Saudi law requires that 
anyone bringing narcotics into the country be decapitated, and the Saudis claim that this 
practice is firmly based on the Holy Law. Yet there are other Islamic lands where this is 
not the case, for the simple reason that narcotics as such didn’t exist at the time when 
Islam was revealed. How then could the Holy Law have ruled beheading as punishment 


193 


for a narcotic offense? It is not the attempt to draw analogies from precedents that is at 
error here, but rather that rulers have passed laws of their own and called these “the Holy 
Law.” Besides, every severe Koranic ruling is followed by a verse that absolves the 
repentant, emphasizes God’s Compassion and Mercy, and exhorts human beings to 
emulate these qualities. This is a clear case where Islam is used as a front to cover up 
other intentions, which are mainly aimed at keeping a specific society under political 
control. And women, too, have received an unequal share in this process. 


Environmental Factors 


When you throw a stone into a still pond, you are bound to get ripples. At least some of 
the repercussions in the Middle East appear to be caused by comparatively recent 
developments. 


Without engaging in any value judgments, we wish to draw attention to an objective fact 
which has too often been overlooked: namely, that the presence of Israel has modified 
response patterns in the Middle East. This seems to be a part of Middle-Eastern reactions 
to the more general ascendancy of the West. People’s attitudes appear to be modulated by 
“the Western challenge,” and the result has been reinforcement and retrenchment within 
an overall defensive stance. Just as liberties are curtailed under extraordinary 
circumstances, Middle-Eastern nations, intimidated by continual encroachments against 
what they regard as their geographical and cultural territory, have overreacted with 
puritanism, and women have received their share in this. 


About Polygamy 


Polygamy was a mark of distinction in ancient society; according to the Bible, David had 
a harem (2 Samuel 5.13), Abraham, Jacob (Genesis 32.22) and Elkanah (1 Samuel 1.2) 
each had two wives, and Esau had several (Genesis 28.9). Solomon had 700 wives plus 
300 concubines (1 Kings 11.3). A man of high standing was expected to take many wives. 


Another reason for polygamy is that wars deplete the male portion of the population, and 
there are fewer husbands to go all around. This is not merely a problem of the past. In 
early 1996, Buryat women—who live in the vicinity of Lake Baikal—were campaigning 
for polygamy, saying that their people were on the verge of extinction and that it was 
better to be the second or third wife of a good man than the only wife of a drunkard. 


The Old Testament sanctions unlimited polygamy, the only requirement being that: “If [a 
man] takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish the food, clothing or marital 
rights of the first wife [or wives]” (Exodus 21.10). 


The Prophet of God was strictly monogamous with his first wife, Khadija. He was 25 and 
she, 40 when they married; in the prime of his powers, he remained faithful to her for 
more than a quarter-century. As she grew older, Khadija suggested to the Prophet that he 
take a second wife, but he always laughed off such suggestions. After her death, with the 


194 


spread of Islam, he had to take several wives for various political, diplomatic or 
protective reasons, though among them his true love was only one, Aisha, whom he 
married when she was still very young (in Medieval Europe, too, it was customary for 
nine- or ten-year old girls to marry). Professor Laura Veccia Vaglieri remarks: “With the 
sole exception of Aisha, [Mohammed] married women who were neither virgins, nor 
young nor beautiful. Was this sensuality?” 


The important thing is that the Prophet was legally married to all his wives, even to 
slave-girls with whom he was presented. In Islam, not multiple marriages but illicit sex— 
fornication and adultery—is immoral. Islam limited the number of female consorts to 
four (but recommended one), and this with the proviso that all were brought under the 
protective umbrella of legal marriage. On the other hand, the right for a woman to 
divorce a man was granted from the start: when Umaima wished to divorce the Prophet 
she did so, receiving gifts during the split. 


In a society with a tradition of an unlimited number of wives, polygamy could not be 
eradicated immediately. The Koran, however, curtailed this number and said: “You can 
take up to four wives, but only if you can treat them all equally” (4:3), adding the 
rejoinder: “You cannot treat them all equally” (4:129). Thus, the Koran recognizes 
polygamy but paves the way for monogamy. 


As far as sexual satisfaction is concerned, one spouse is enough. Yet there have always 
been sexually overactive men in all societies who could not control their egotistical 
drives and who have had carnal relationships with more than one woman. Rather than 
leave such “Don Juan” types to wallow in the sin of fornication and adultery, and in order 
to secure legal marital rights for their consorts, the Koran did not ban polygamy entirely. 
The verses quoted above, however, indicate where its true preference lies. 


If the Koran allows a man with several wives (polygyny), why not a woman with several 
husbands (polyandry)? This is one of the cases where asymmetry in nature asserts itself. 
If a man has several wives, the parents of any offspring are immediately identified. The 
father is known, the mother is known, and hence it is immediately obvious who is 
responsible for a child. If, however, a woman has sexual relations with more than one 
man, the mother is known but the father is not. Therefore, it is not certain who will take 
responsibility for the child other than its mother—in the end, no one might. But this is 
practically the same situation as that found in prostitution, and social rights cannot be 
properly established for women and children under polyandry. 


Views of Western Orientalists 


The West has had a long-standing interest in the Islamic religion, and has studied it at 
great length. Scholars who specialize in this field are known as orientalists. Of course, 
there have been biased persons among them; but there have been fair ones too, and even 
in the case of the most biased, professional integrity has at times caused them to 
acknowledge the truth. Let us now see what Western orientalists and historians have to 
say concerning the treatment of women in Islam. 


195 


Sir Hamilton A.R. Gibb: “That [Mohammed’s] reforms enhanced the status of women in 
general by contrast with the anarchy of pre-Islamic Arabia is universally admitted. 
...critics have tended to overlook the almost unfailing patience which he displayed 
even under provocation and the gentleness with which he attended to the griefs of all 
sorts of women and comforted them, even at times to the extent of revising his 
legislation.” 


Alfred Guillaume: “...it is laid down that wives are to be treated with kindness and strict 
impartiality; if a man cannot treat all alike he should keep to one. The husband pays 
the woman a dowry at the time of marriage, and the money or property so allotted 
remains her own.” 


Stanley Lane-Poole: No great lawmaker has ever made such significant changes as 
Mohammed did on the subject of women. Rulings concerning women have been 
outlined in the Koran in great detail. This is the point at which Mohammed’s greatest 
reforms have occurred. Although these reforms may appear insignificant to a 
European, they are actually tremendous. The restriction placed on polygamy, the 
recommendation of monogamy, the introduction of degrees of prohibition in place of 
the appalling collectivism and intermixing of Arab marriages, the limitations on 
divorce, the duty of a husband to take care of his ex-wife for a certain period even 
after they are divorced, the severe rulings to ensure her livelihood, the introduction of 
the novelty that women are legal heirs—even if at half the rate of men—so that 
children may be properly looked after, and the ability of a widow to receive her dead 
husband’s inheritance—all these constitute a programme of far-reaching reforms. 


Will Durant: Mohammed put an end to female infanticide. In court cases and financial 
matters, he made woman the equal of man. A woman can enter every legal profession; 
she can keep her earnings for herself; she can inherit money and property, and use her 
fortune as she desires. Mohammed removed the Arab custom by which women passed 
from father to son as part of the inheritance. 


Laura Veccia Vaglieri: Even though woman has risen to a high social status in Europe, 
she has not, at least until recently, attained in many countries the independence and 
liberty enjoyed by a Moslem woman in the face of the law. In reality, the woman in 
Islam possesses the right to share in inheritance, even if to an extent less than her 
brothers; the right to marry according to her own choice and not to tolerate the ill 
treatment of a brutish husband; but further, the rights to receive dowry payment from 
her husband, to have her needs met by her husband even if she is rich, and to be 
absolutely independent in the disposal of her inherited property. 


Gaudefroy-Demombynes: The rulings of the Koran, which are amazingly in favor of 
woman, provide her, even if theoretically, with a status better than present [19th 
century] European laws allow. The Islamic woman has the right to a separate fortune 
in financial matters. She owns her share, her property received through donation or 
inheritance, and her labor’s dues to the end of her life. Although it is difficult for her 


196 


to make practical use of these rights, her sustenance, shelter and other requirements 
are guaranteed in accordance with her standing. 


Clement Huart: It is the duty of the husband to take care of his wife. He does not have the 
right to force her to work in a job that conflicts with her social standing, or to work at 
all in return for pay. 


These testimonies of well-known historians and orientalists demonstrate that the 
discoveries of Western research in this field have not yet become common knowledge. 


Family Life 


“We created you [both man and woman] from a single soul” (4:1), says the Koran. This 
verse points to the basically unitary and nonpolar nature of the soul, or self; it is asexual, 
and man and woman are not merely equal, but identical in this respect. As far as the 
Koran is concerned, the only inequality worthy of note is that based on closeness to God, 
which has nothing to do with maleness or femaleness, wealth or poverty, race, nationality 
or prominence: “Surely the noblest among you in the sight of God is the most Godfearing 
of you” (49:13). Another way to read this verse would be: “The only superiority in God’s 
sight consists in preserving oneself from evil.” 


“There is no monkery in Islam,” said the Prophet. This and the fact that he was married 
indicate that spirituality and raising a family are not mutually contradictory or exclusive. 
Spirituality does not require celibacy. An ordinary householder can enjoy sex and raise 
children without forfeiting true spirituality. In other words, spirituality and family life do 
not violate each other. Men and women, says the Koran, are garments of one another: 
“They are a garment for you and you are a garment to them” (2:187). God “has created 
spouses for you among yourselves so that you may dwell in tranquillity with them, and 
He has planted love and mercy between you. In that are signs for people who reflect” 
(30:21). 


Men and women are often mentioned in the same breath in the Koran, emphasizing their 
equality in all but a very few respects. Here, for instance, is a beautiful verse from the 
Koran (33:35), in Arthur J. Arberry’s superb interpretation: 

Men and women who have surrendered [i.e. are Moslems], 

believing men and women, 

obedient men and women, 

truthful men and women, 


enduring men and women, 


humble men and women, 


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men and women who give in charity, 

men who fast and women who fast, 

men and women who guard their private parts, 
men and women who remember God oft— 

for them God has prepared forgiveness 

and a mighty wage. 


Islam’s egalitarianism is brought out in another saying of the Prophet: “It is mandatory 
for every male and female Moslem to learn knowledge (science) and to research.” The 
Koranic verse: “Men shall receive the fruits of their labor, and women shall receive the 
fruits of their labor” (4:32) not only guarantees the labor rights of women on an equal 
parity with men, but also causes Islamic law to recognize personal responsibility for 
actions, irrespective of sex. 


But when the Koranic teachings are plumbed for their deeper meaning, one finds that the 
Koran is trying to protect a third thing rather than either man or woman alone, and this is 
the family. 


“Paradise,” said the Prophet, “lies under the feet of mothers.” This means not only that 
they are superior even to Paradise, but that one can earn a place in Heaven only by 
pleasing one’s mother. Islam has only the highest praise for mothers; the task of raising a 
family is regarded as almost sacred. Parents and children are signs of God’s mercy and 
magnificence. 


In Islam, not individuals as such but the family is the basic unit of society; if the former 
are atoms, the family is the molecule that provides continuity and stability. Most of all, 
man and woman are co-workers with God in the production of new human beings. The 
creation of a new human is not a task to be taken lightly. It requires a minimum of twenty 
years of careful nurture in a warm, loving family environment; otherwise the task can 
easily end in an abomination which can jeopardize not merely the family, but society 
itself. Therefore, having and raising children is a matter of the utmost gravity. Free sex 
devalues children, and thus humanity. 


When sex, which is nature’s way of reproducing the species, is divorced from its true 
intent and made to serve man’s pleasure exclusively, that is when things begin to go 
wrong. Hence, it is illicit sex—adultery, fornication and the like—that Islam is against. 
Since it has no conception of original sin, sex in itself is not a defiling act, nor is woman 
held responsible for the fall of man, and hence is not viewed as despicable. Women are 
considered holy in Islam. 


198 


In ecology, nature responds to violations of its balance by trying to eliminate the cause. 
In the field of forbidden sexual relationships, venereal disease is nature’s way of kicking 
back. Again, the only way to protect oneself is to engage in a healthy marital 
relationship—which is all that Islam is advocating. 


Islam is not alone in condemning extramarital sex. The sages of every time and clime 
have recognized the necessity of marriage for a balanced, clean, and healthy life. When 
Theano, the wife of Pythagoras and also his spiritual successor, was asked how much 
time is necessary for a woman to become pure after having had relationship with a man, 
she replied: “If it is with her husband, she is pure immediately; if it is with another, she 
never is pure.” Of course, this holds true for the man as well. 


Women in Islam have an important role in the education of society. They are not simply 
the instructors of their children, nor teachers in primary school, but guides that train 
people at every age. The first precedent for this was the Prophet’s wife Aisha, followed 
by his other wives, who gave instruction to everyone in religious matters. 


Love and the Sufis 


According to the findings of modern psychiatry, the story of sexual perversion is 
essentially the story of sex without love. Hence, it goes without saying that love is the 
most important thing in a relationship between man and woman. As Edouard Schuré 
pointed out, “it is love which justifies marriage.” And marriage, in turn, sanctifies love. 


Romantic love entered Europe in the Middle Ages through the troubadours and minstrels, 
who in turn were inspired by the Moslem Moors, Saracens, and the Sufis of Andalusia. 
Idries Shah has convincingly shown in The Sufis (1964) that the latter gave the gift of 
romantic love to the West. As mystics, the Sufis have always been more liberal-minded 
than the literalists, and this holds true also in the case of women. 


The Sufis regard love between the sexes as a mode of something higher, as a station on 
the way to divine love. Love of a male or female may lead on to the more refined love of 
God. For the Sufis, in fact, sexual love is metaphorical; in deeply loving another, we love 
the very essence of that person, which is none other than the Divine Mystery, from which 
derives the Sufic claim that true love is man’s love for God. Thus, in the deepest, most 
fulfilling love, man and woman discover the divine in each other. 


Hence, family life at its best will lead to the blossoming of God’s love in the hearts of 
both man and woman, and their happiness will be incomparably enhanced. Then they will 
give thanks for themselves and for all creation, and because they are the sentient 
spokespersons for that creation, they will truly be “God’s viceregents on earth” of which 
the Koran speaks: they will become vehicles of God’s Compassion and Mercy. 


One of the outstanding Sufis who valued women highly was Ibn Arabi, also known as 


“the Greatest Sheikh.” Ibn Arabi always stuck to the letter of the Koran, so it is 
unthinkable that he should have strayed beyond the bounds of Koranic doctrine. 


199 


Because the creative action (of reproduction) takes place in woman, says Ibn Arabi, she is 
closer to the Creator than man. “In some respects,” he says, “woman is superior to man, 
and is his equal in most other cases” (Futuhat). He subscribes to the association between 
a male heaven and a female earth as a poetic metaphor, which was also prevalent in 
ancient cultures. He indicates that in all matters concerning women, one female witness is 
worth two fair male witnesses. 


Ibn Arabi is of the opinion that the differences between men and women are few and 
negligible. These differences give priority sometimes to one side and sometimes to the 
other, balancing each other out when taken all together. Deficiencies in both men and 
women with respect to each other are compensated by surpluses in other areas. Thus a 
balance is struck between the sexes, and the meaning of the Prophetic Tradition: “Men 
are half of an apple, women the other half’ becomes manifest. Ibn Arabi also notes, again 
correctly in terms of the Arabic, that the Tradition: “You are all shepherds and 
responsible for your flock” applies to men and women alike. 


“In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,” begins the Koran. Both the 
attributes of Compassion and Mercy in Arabic derive, as Ibn Arabi points out, from the 
root RHM. The significance of this derivation is especially brought out in the case of the 
Merciful (Rahim)—t also means the female womb, which encompasses, protects and 
nurtures the baby within. The Merciful is etymologically derived from the Compassionate 
(Rahman), and points to a higher concentration of grace. Indeed, all that exists is brought 
into being and nourished by the attribute of Compassion, whereas the gift of Paradise— 
the attribute of Mercy—is reserved for the faithful as a special dispensation from God. 
Believers thus benefit from both Divine Names, one universally extensive and the other, 
intensive. Woman is the honored, if unwitting, bearer of a Divine Name. And it is a 
cosmic divine mystery that the universe and Paradise are brought into existence and 
sustained by Compassion and Mercy respectively, which are both feminine attributes. 


Ibn Arabi indicates, furthermore, that women are not necessarily ruled out when men are 
mentioned, for women may possess attributes that we customarily associate with men. 
Gender references in a language are not always gender-specific. In English, too, 
bravery—to take an example—is a characteristic normally associated with masculinity. 
But can we thereby claim that there are no women who are brave, that Joan of Arc, for 
instance, was not brave? Again, God is referred to as “He” in English, but this does not 
mean that God is a man—for the Lord transcends both male and female. Such quirks of 
language should not be allowed to fog the issue. Likewise, the female gender in speech 
does not necessarily exclude men, for there are men who share attributes we ordinarily 
link with femininity. 


Contemporary Societies 
Esmé Wynne-Tyson has put our modern predicament in a nutshell: 


It is quite certain that if woman continues to regard unceasing materialistic labour as a 
proof of progress, she will not only be unable to share [increased] leisure but will have 


200 


no time to civilize—even when she is capable of it—either her husband or children. 
Moreover, by such blind acquiescence to the plans of our modern Pharaohs to turn the 
world into a large State-termitary, she is rapidly losing her soul, or divinity... : her 
sense of spirituality, her natural response to beauty, her innate womanliness most 
perfectly expressed in selfless maternal love. 


Women have been downtrodden in almost all societies. In some societies they have been 
regarded as wicked for hundreds of years, and today they are reacting against this. What 
is right in their cause should be acknowledged, without, however, going to the extreme 
of—in Hobbes’ words—’the war of all against all.” For in the end, men and women have 
to live together. Can we separate them, with a nation composed entirely of men on the 
one hand and a nation of women on the other? We cannot. 


In our age, with all its liberties and sexual revolutions, women are still looked upon as 
sex objects. In fact, the rhetoric of sexual liberation has been used to give women a false 
sense of freedom, and they have been conned into thinking that family ties and marriage 
are chains. As a result, men have become free to take their fill of women without any of 
the responsibilities imposed on men by family life. Woman is reduced to an object, to be 
cast off after man has satisfied his sexual pleasures. This is nothing but a re-emergence of 
the Age of Ignorance—to such an extent, in fact, that female infanticide is still practiced 
today in China. Further, as women have gained their economic independence they have 
felt more at liberty to terminate a marital relationship, as if economic support were all 
there is to marriage. The result is the increase of single-parent families. The delicate 
connective tissue—a home, a father and mother—without which a human being cannot 
be nurtured properly is being sundered. Karen Armstrong has drawn attention to the fact 
that our “view of women and the relations between the sexes is confused. We preach 
equality and liberation, but at the same time exploit and degrade women in advertising, 
pornography and much popular entertainment...” 


From the extreme of belittling and vilifying woman for centuries, we have today fallen 
into the opposite extreme of unlimited sexual freedom. Beneath all the rhetoric 
masquerading as rights and liberties, however, there still lurks the same cynical disregard 
for the well-being of women. 


Sweden is a country that has moved earliest and farthest in the direction of sexual 
freedom. Hans Nestius, National Chairman for Swedish Sex Information, summarizes the 
results as follows: 


The laws that existed against pornography in the past represented hypocrisy, narrow- 
mindedness and the oppression of sexual life. We wanted to open the door a bit and let 
some air and light come in. We hoped that sex would cease to be something 
mysterious. We expected that freedom would at first create a wave of pornography, 
but that in time, the initial interest would be lost and everything would return to 
normal. But after a decade had passed, it was clear that events had progressed contrary 
to expectations. Today the pornography market has become much richer than what it 
used to be. Furthermore, rape and prostitution have increased along with deviant 


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relationships. Another development has been the intensive and extensive rise of 
alcoholism. It is known that 80 out of 100 Swedes are clinically alcoholic at the 
present time. 


Today as never before, female nakedness is used for the advertisement of products and 
universally abused by the media. Organized crime has progressively escalated what is 
known as the “white-slave trade.” In our supposedly emancipated civilization, woman 
and the display of her body have become a commercial commodity. This has to be 
recognized for what it is: a crime against humanity. Illicit sex, the prostitution even of 
little girls, has become a large-scale industry. The hypocrisy of this situation is obvious: 
the sexual exploitation of the female is depicted as freedom, leading to her acquiescence 
in a plot that enslaves her to the most degrading existence. 


The point is that the degradation of woman is the degradation of humanity—of man and 
child as well. Woman should be restored to her rightful stature, and supplied with her 
God-given rights—rights recognized by Islam 14 centuries ago. 


Conclusion 


Finally, we have to consider whether, or to what extent, woman’s present status is part of 
a much deeper problem. Is her predicament the disease itself, or only one of its 
symptoms? 


The last few centuries have witnessed the progressive “desacralization” of humanity—the 
withering away of the Sacred, the disenchantment of the world, its “ungottierung” or “un- 
Godification” as expressed in German. 


Yet if the divine exists within human beings, they are, by this very act, turning their 
backs on their center, their source. When the connection between the heart and the mind 
is severed, the heart ceases to inform the actions of the mind. It is replaced by the ego— 
the egotistical self (nafs), as the Sufis call it—which then commandeers the mind to 
fulfill its every whim. 


Hence, what we observe today are the results of the ego unleashed: global exploitation, 
the dehumanization of humanity, viewing each other (and hence, women) as objects 
rather than God’s subjects; the devastation of nature; mass culture and commodity 
markets exploiting the basest in man, the reduction of human beings to their lowest 
common denominator as “consumers” and nothing more. 


It is precisely here that Islam vouchsafes a fuller meaning for humanity. It reiterates the 
truth, first expressed by Jesus, that “man does not live by bread alone’, that he was meant 
for higher things. Having reached the zenith of material affluence, it calls on us to 
complement this with spiritual wealth, in order that the full meaning of “civilization” 
may be realized. 


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The essence of Islamic law is protection. And the Moslem, as defined by the Prophet, is 
“a person whose hands, sexuality and tongue do not harm others.” The aim of this 
protection is for people to become fully human—both by being safe from the injury of 
others, and by not injuring them—and thus to realize God’s purpose in creating human 
beings on earth. 


Our problems can be traced to the lack of the feminine principle of Mercy, the life 
principle, the ability for Compassion, the protector of life unto death. God’s 
manifestation of this principle needs to come into the world now, and to be realized in 
each human heart. 


The ideal relationship between the sexes is one in which one woman and one man are 
committed to each other, and in which that commitment is tested as true by life. Both 
support and protect each other in such a blessed relationship, and are both the teachers 
and students of one another. 


Islam can help us by reminding us that marriage is the proper environment for this 
togetherness. Its instructions to both man and woman are simple: “Don’t oppress your 
spouse, don’t hurt your spouse’s feelings.” Islam’s counsel is always mutual tenderness, 
gentleness and concern. “Live with them in kindness,” enjoins the Koran; “even if you 
dislike them, perhaps you dislike something in which God has placed much good” (4:19). 


The family is the basic unit for social and spiritual development, the theater for clean 
relations and service and spiritual progress. Spirituality is not a separate “discipline” at 
odds with a spouse and children. Marriage is the proper format for the sacred task of 
raising a family: one of the clearest signs of God’s mercy and magnificence is revealed in 
the actual difficulty and selflessness of this act, if endured. 


But further, Islam also invites us to rediscover the wellsprings of sacredness within 
ourselves—to apply brakes on the ego run rampant, to replace the hegemony of egotism 
over the mind with cooperation between mind and heart; to stop harming others by 
treating them as puppets of our egos, and to become full human beings. 


This also points to the inability of most “Islamic” nations to truly live up to the wealth of 
their own tradition. Perhaps we all have something to learn from Islam—some of us by 
examining it anew, some of us by rediscovering its still-untapped resources, and some of 
us by coming to it for the first time. 


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ISLAM AND DEMOCRACY 


Islam is a religion, not a political system or a political ideology. But because it is a 
holistic religion, neither does it exclude politics altogether. Being the religion of all 
humanity for the rest of time, Islam could not be tied down to any specific polity, since 
down through history its adherents would live under a variety of political forms, one of 
which is democracy. Although it does not advocate this or that specific regime, 
investigation of the Islamic religion reveals that it is libertarian, egalitarian and that it 
supports social justice. As such, Islam comes closest to democracy among the political 
systems of our day. 


But is democracy itself a perfect system? Or is it now practiced in the best possible 
way? In-depth consideration will reveal that an Islamic morality is necessary for the 
proper operation of democracy. Western countries famous for their democratic traditions 
are able to realize democracy to the extent that they possess elements of Mohammedan 
ethics, however ignorant they may remain of this fact. And the apparent present dead- 
ends and difficulties of democracy can only be resolved by a higher, Islamic, morality. 
From this point of view, the Koran is democracy personified—as the following intends to 
demonstrate. 


The intention of this article is to investigate the connections and relationships between 
Islam and democracy. Recent times have seen a profusion of views being aired labeling 
Islam as “totalitarian” or “totalistic”. The existence of few democracies among the fifty 
or so Islamic nations in the world is advanced as proof in support of this thesis. It has 
therefore become a necessity to analyze the extent to which Islam is compatible with 
democracy. 


It should first and foremost be indicated that the lack of democracy in many Islamic 
countries is due, not to Islam, but to other factors. First of all, the subject has to do with 
security and anarchy. No government can give in to anarchy or allow it to be victorious. 
Second, the political regimes in Islamic countries have as little to do with Islam as the 
military junta in Burma (Myanmar) has to do with Buddhism, or Hitler’s Germany had to 
do with Christianity. The great majority of Islamic nations today are police states under 
occupation by their own armies. But the reason for this is not religion, and certainly not 
Islam. Rather, it is the result of various internal and (more often) external factors of a 
social, political and economic nature. It would be unjust to put the blame which is their 
due on Islam. Turkey is, so far, fortunate in being independent enough of these factors to 
be able to preserve its democracy whilst being an Islamic country. 


But our purpose here is not to present an analysis of the conditions that render democracy 
unfeasible in Islamic nations. Rather, we intend to investigate how favorable and 
proximate Islam itself is to democracy. And we wish to take this research deeper than has 
been done hitherto. 


204 


Those who claim that Islam lacks a democratic structure might wish to point out that the 
history of Islam is strewn with sultanates, empires and kingdoms, not with democracies. 
But this, too, cannot be considered a valid yardstick. In the contemporary world, 
democracy has a history of only about two hundred years. The democratic nations of 
Europe were, until recently, kingdoms themselves, and some are still ruled by 
constitutional monarchies. As for the dictatorships of the recent past, to which the term 
“totalitarian” is eminently more applicable, some of these converted to democracy in 
1945, while others have done so only recently. In history, on the other hand, democracy 
has been seen in no land and religion with the exception of ancient Greece and, perhaps, 
Switzerland. This may be attributed to the general progress of humanity with time. What 
is important is this: Is the religion of Islam a help or a hindrance to the advance of 
mankind toward democracy? So many vacuous arguments have seen daylight without 
touching upon what is essential in this matter that the present investigation has become a 
pressing need. 


Islam and Theocracy 


The favorite example of those who find Islam and democracy to be mutually exclusive is 
the regime founded by Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran. It must at once be pointed out that a 
very special interpretation of Islam, not approved by nine-tenths of the world’s Moslems, 
dominates Iran. The failure of the Iranian regime’s efforts to spread its brand of 
revolution is clear evidence that the political ideas that lie at its roots have not met with 
general acceptance in the Islamic world. 


Certain Shi’ite writers have explicitly stated that what they want is an “absolute 
theocracy”. But the saying of Mohammed, the Prophet of Islam, to the effect that “There 
is no clergy in religion,” has closed the doors on the hegemony and rule of a priest class 
right from the very start. An organized Church of the form in Christianity or Buddhism 
does not exist in Islam—it is a churchless faith. If it had, it should have emerged during 
the Prophet’s lifetime or the immediately succeeding period of the Four Caliphs at the 
latest, not in Iran in 1979 A.D. 


To read the Koranic verse: “Judgment belongs only to God” (6:57) as: “Sovereignty 
belongs only to God,” and thus extrapolate to politics, would also produce theocratic 
tendencies. For what is intended here is the absolute sovereignty of the Lord over the 
entire universe. We cannot carry this over to the sphere of politics, because in politics the 
sovereign are rulers, who are men. If we attempt to apply this verse to politics, the 
situation will arise where certain people claiming to speak in the name of God (ie. a 
clerical class) lay claim to rulership. But this is precluded by the Prophetic saying above. 


We thus see that neither the history of Islam, nor the present state of Islamic countries, 


nor indeed the example of Iran, can shed light on the relationship between Islam and 
democracy. 


Council 


205 


In the Koran, verses dealing with Shura (council, or counsel) occur in two places. The 
first of these is: “Counsel among yourselves in your tasks” (3:159), and the second is: 
“They carry out their tasks by counseling [or: councils] among themselves” (42:38). It 
should also be pointed out that the second verse is important enough to justify naming the 
chapter it occurs in as “Council”. 


The meaning of shura is “assembly, gathering, consultation.” Mashwarah (consultation, 
council) and mushawir (consultant) are derived from the same Arabic root. Thus, it has 
been emphasized that consultation is a good thing in the most general sense. This is 
illustrated by the Prophet’s life, who always consulted his compatriots before reaching a 
decision. Applying this to the political sphere, the rule of parliament and public vote and, 
more generally, democracy, is implicitly approved by Islam. The greatest council and 
counsel are nationwide elections in which the entire community participates. In the 
history of Islam, of course, “council” has seldom meant polling the people. The first 
Caliphs were, for example, chosen by “consultative committees” composed of a few 
members. In later times, rulers availed themselves of councils formed by specialists. This 
is an approach that survives today in democratic countries in the form of various 
commissions, reducing the possibility of error in the decision of a single man reached on 
the basis of incomplete knowledge. 


Holy Law 


People have laws in order to regulate social affairs: i.e., relationships between 
individuals. If human beings were angels, there would be no need for laws, because 
everybody would act in an ideal fashion anyway. Since this is not the case, however, we 
have, not simply law, but law enforcement. 


There are two considerations in framing laws. The first is punishment, for those who have 
broken a specific law, since a crime cannot be allowed to pass unnoticed, and the victim 
has a right to justice by which the crime, if not undone, can at least be redressed. 


But equally, and perhaps more importantly, laws exist for prevention and deterrence—in 
order to discourage people from an undesired act in the first place. 


Some of the rulings of the Holy Law which have attracted attention in the West need to 
be viewed in this light. Certain Koranic injunctions may appear to be unduly severe when 
judged by modern standards, yet it should be rememebered that they are there for 
deterrence, not merely punishment. Prevention is intended much more than 
implementation, as a proper reading in the due context will reveal. The following well- 
known saying harbors a profound truth that is relevant here: An ounce of prevention is 
worth a pound of cure. 


Many of the accusations that Islam is undemocratic and totalitarian follow from the 
misperception that it introduces strictures leaving very little scope for free activity in 
almost all fields of life. The mistake here stems from a misunderstanding of the basic 
concepts involved. 


206 


It is usually ignored that the word shariah, or “Holy Law”, is used in our day in two 
different senses. The first of these is the religious principles to be observed by a Moslem, 
such as perfoming the Prayer, abstinence from alcohol, etc. All this rests on individual 
decision in any case, so no one else can interfere. The second meaning in which the word 
is used is Islamic jurisprudence, or figh. Within this scope it is expected to regulate social 
relationships. (An interesting sidelight is that those who uphold the Holy Law usually 
mean the first sense, whereas those who deride it usually mean the second, so that 
although both groups use the same word, the senses in which they intend it almost never 
coincide.) 


Holy Law in the sense of religious jurisprudence is, first of all, a legal system. This 
means that it concerns itself with whatever activities or fields of life any system of laws 
would address. In other words, the Holy Law deals with exactly those areas which any 
legal code has to. On this basis, then, the Holy Law is neither more nor less totalitarian 
than any Law in any country. 


What distinguishes Holy Law from other codes is that it is based, as far as is possible, on 
the orders of God (the Koran) and the example of the Prophet (the Way). But these can, 
by themselves, constitute only a foundation for a legal code. It is estimated that the verses 
in the Koran dealing with legal matters number between 200 and 400 (the estimate varies 
according to the specialist and the assumptions and definitions he works from.) Even the 
simplest society cannot be ruled by so few injunctions; in modern, complex societies, 
thousands of regulations are required. For this reason, the rules of the Holy Law have in 
every age been framed by Islamic legislators. The Koran and the Way only describe the 
broad outlines. The details are left to the legists. Not only is there no obstacle to deriving 
specific principles suitable to a certain time and place from general, universal ones, there 
is also a necessity. For a choice that is appropriate in one situation may not be so in 
another. 


It is also true, on the other hand, that not everything can be changed. Regulations may 
change with time, but there are rules that don’t. If we compare religious Law to a tree, the 
verses of the Koran are its roots, authentic Traditions (of the Prophet) are its trunk, the 
Four Schools of Law are its main branches, and sundry regulations are its leaves. This 
tree can always sprout new branches and leaves. But to attack its roots and its trunk are 
tantamount to slaughtering it. Otherwise, permission has already been given in the Koran 
for deriving (istinbat) new rules (4:83). 


We thus see that the Holy Law does not differ from other codes as far as being made by 
human intervention is concerned, and that it covers the same ground as they do. As for its 
unchanging parts: do not all codes possess certain fundamental assumptions, which 
remain inviolate and invariant as a particular legislation unfolds? (On this, see Appendix 
A.) 


According to Malise Ruthven, who has done in-depth research on the subject, only 600 of 


the more than 6000 verses in the Koran have to do with legal responsibilities. Most of 
these, in turn, deal with religious obligations like Ritual Prayer, Fasting and Pilgrimage. 


207 


The number of verses dealing directly with legal matters is only about 80, and most of 
these, again, are concerned with women, marriage and inheritance. 


Professor Ruthven, having subjected Islamic Law to a thorough-going investigation, 
states in his book [slam in the World: 


Whereas Christianity inherited a body of secular law developed under the pagan 
Romans, Islam developed a system of religious law more or less independently of the 
political sphere... Far from being integrated (as many Muslims claim), the political and 
religious institutions remained distinct. 


Ruthven continues: 


Society existed more or less independently of the state, a feature which is still evident 
in the Muslim world of today. 


. the figh is less a system of law, with a developed apparatus of procedure and 
enforcement, than a process of socialization and acculturation... In time... observance 
of the divine law becomes a social factor functioning more or less independently of 
the state... 


...the caliphs took over and adapted much of the criminal, commercial and constitutional 
law of their Byzantine and Sassanid predecessors... 


The gadis (Shari’a judges) had no power to enforce legal decisions on the rulers. The 
rulers, while formally committed to upholding the Shari’a, were rarely prepared to 
submit to the decisions of the gadis.... if such decisions... went against their interests. 


Thus, while in the realm of personal or family matters the Shari’a could be 
implemented on the basis of doctrines elaborated by the fagihs [exponents of figh ], in 
[almost all other matters] power of decision remained with the rulers, who governed 
by decree and settled disputes through their own mazalim (complaints) courts. Thus 
state institutions grew up parallel to Islamic ones, leading to a de facto separation of 
the religious and secular spheres... 


Ruthven also draws attention to the fact that the “divine right” of kings, prevalent in the 
West, has no place in Islam. In the face of this right to rule, which can be traced to the 
Christian Church, it was necessary to develop the concept of the “natural rights” of the 
individual, and Western politics and law reached its present state from such origins. In 
Islam, on the other hand, there never was such a problem to begin with. 


All this proves that The Holy Law has seen a restricted application in Islamic societies 
and was buttressed by many external factors. This is the result of situations met with in 
real life. For this reason, it would be totally incorrect to view the Holy Law as a seamless 
monolith that governs society down to the tiniest detail and oppresses it with an iron fist. 
Far from being the state’s instrument of repression, The Holy Law is an institution that 


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has been adopted and developed by civil society independently of, and sometimes even in 
opposition to, the state. 


As for the enforcement of the Holy Law by some present-day police states in a bitterly 
cruel way, this stems from their desire to gain some popularity, at least, and to render 
themselves partially palatable by appearing “Islamic” in the eyes of their subject peoples. 
Their coercion and cruelty has nothing to do with the Holy Law, which has been applied 
leniently throughout most of Islam’s fourteen centuries, but is due to their individual 
constitutions and legal codes. These are not the Holy Law itself, but barbarian 
interpretations and monstrous caricatures thereof. When one looks at the so-called 
“Islamic” present-day police states, indiscriminately chopping off hands right and left, 
one has to remember that hand severance was unheard of in the Ottoman Empire, 
extending over 20 million square kilometers and millions of people, in all 600 years of its 
rule. Claims to the contrary notwithstanding, it can be flatly stated that no Islamic state 
exists in the world today. Since a clear-headed investigation reveals this to be so, we 
should stop laying the blame at Islam’s doorstep for the antics of every Tom, Dick or 
Saddam who comes along. 


Islam and Terrorism 


Even the thought of terrorism is anathema to Islam, the very name of which is derived 
from the Arabic root for “peace”. “Islamic terrorism” is as plausible—to borrow Leszek 
Kolakowski’s term—as “fried snowballs”. The very name of Islam has stood for justice 
for more than fourteen centuries. And nothing can be more unjust than the premeditated 
slaughter of innocent civilians for grievances caused by other parties, which is what 
terrorism is all about. Even when the cause is just, a fair trial and due procedure of law is 
what Islam requires. 


There is a widespread attempt in the media to create an image where terrorism is 
associated with Islam. Against this, one can only protest that this is not what Islam stands 
for, and that far from condoning terrorist acts, Islam’s most severe punishments are 
reserved for those who foment discord and strife. Anyone in Islamic countries 
unfortunate, angry, or misguided enough to resort to terrorist acts had better be aware of 
this fact. 


Islam and Slavery 


A slave is a person who has no rights. His master can use him as he desires. In world 
history, slavery has emerged from the problem of what to do with prisoners of war. 


Those who consider Islam to be inherently undemocratic could conceivably wish to 
mount an argument on the basis of slavery. 


It is true that Islam made no direct attempt to abolish slavery. But it did take steps to 
improve the lot of slaves, and to abolish slavery in time. Freeing a slave was prescribed 


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as an atonement for many sins. Ill treatment of slaves was prohibited. In the Farewell 
Sermon of the Prophet, delivered during his Farewell Pilgrimage and considered by many 
to be the first “Declaration of Human Rights,” the subject is handled as follows: “As for 
slaves: give them the same food that you eat and clothe them as you yourself dress. If 
they make a mistake you cannot forgive, separate from them. They, too, are God’s 
servants and do not deserve ill treatment.” 


Slaves have become commanders, even rulers, in Islamic countries and have enjoyed 
more authority than free people. The legalizing precedent has again been given in the 
Farewell Sermon: “If a crippled black slave becomes your ruler, obey him and follow 
him so long as he governs you in accordance with the Koran.” 


Slavery is a social disease that has proved astonishingly difficult to eradicate. According 
to Newsweek magazine (May 4, 1992), there are still an estimated 100 million slaves in 
the world. This is the reason why Islam did not attempt to abolish slavery openly from 
the start. Slavery is not an institution that was introduced by Islam. Having found slavery 
already in existence, however, Islam took measures to abolish it within time, since it was 
impossible to do so immediately by sudden decree. 


But if we attempt to oppose Islam or brand it as undemocratic because it failed to abolish 
slavery, we shall find ourselves in a very difficult position. The city-state of Athens in the 
past and the United States of America in our age are the arch-examples, even the 
prototypes, of democracy. Yet, as Tocqueville points out: 


In Athens... there were only twenty thousand citizens in a population of over three 
hundred and fifty thousand. All the rest were slaves... 


Athens, then, with her universal suffrage, was no more than an aristocratic republic in 
which all the nobles had an equal right to government. 


In other words Athens, the “cradle of democracy,” was actually a society based on 
slavery. As for America, it is famous for having enslaved millions of black Africans, and 
has been able to extricate itself from this situation only in the last century by the device 
of a very bloody civil war. It cannot be claimed even today that the problem of racism has 
been adequately resolved in the United States. In our age, when South Africa is only just 
winning its struggle against apartheid (pronounced “apart-hate’’), Islam cannot be called 
to account for not having abolished slavery 1400 years ago. 


In fact, it is only thanks to the development of machines which can perform man’s 
drudgery for him that slavery has been pushed into the background in modern society. 
Slavery, and even manual work, has diminished to the extent that slaves and workers 
have been replaced by machines. It is the machine, rather than significant moral 
advancement, that has freed man from the drudgery of many kinds of work. 


Take away the mechanical infrastructure of industry, and it would not be surprising at all 
to observe, even today, the re-emergence of slavery. Nor is such a prospect as remote as 


210 


it sounds. With the depletion of oil and other fossil fuels, on which our civilization 
depends so much but is in the process of squandering, it is not hard to imagine vast tracts 
of machinery that would become useless and abandoned in the future. We should thank 
the fruits of scientific progress and technological civilization for the present-day absence 
of slavery, and be more concerned about our own future when it may be reinstituted. 
Global precautions should be taken to prevent the future resurgence of slavery. 


Islam and Racism 


Islam is certainly not racist. It has done away with racism 14 centuries ago to an extent 
unmatched even by contemporary Western societies, and thus demolished the notion: “he 
and IJ are different,” which serves as one of the basic tenets of slavery. Here, again, it will 
suffice to quote a sentence from the Farewell Sermon: 


“Just as no Arab has any superiority to any non-Arab and vice versa, blacks have no 
superiority to whites, nor whites to blacks.” 


“God,” says the Koran, “commands you to judge with justice when you judge among 
human beings” (4:58). “Among human beings” here covers both Moslems and non- 
Moslems. Islam, therefore, desires that all human beings be treated equally regardless of 
color, religion, language, race, and social, economic or political status. It advocates the 
equality of all before the law. Violations in practice cannot invalidate this principle. 


Is Islam Totalitarian? 


Another misunderstanding surrounds the use of the word “totalitarian.” A totalitarian 
regime is not merely one of bloodstained oppression. Totalitarian rule gives all the rights 
to the state, and no liberties to the individual: 


1. It attempts to restructure the whole society according to a certain ideology or system 
of beliefs, and aims to control even the thoughts of individuals. 


2. — It liquidates all individuals who do not belong to, are opposed to or are at variance 
with it. 


If we evaluate Islam in the light of these two distinguishing characteristics, we find that it 
is impossible to identify Islam with totalitarianism, with the exception, perhaps, of Iran, 
which is geographically and historically marginal. 


1. One of the major distinctions between Islam and other religions is its principle: “There 
can be no compulsion in religion.” This principle is guaranteed by its place in the Koran 
(2:256) and cannot be violated. Islam can only use the way of gentle persuasion, and 
appeals to the intellect and comprehension of those it addresses. That force cannot yield 
desirable results is a well-known fact in Islam. 


211 


Renunciation of the use of force is not confined only to non-Moslems. It is up to the 
individual Moslem to decide how faithfully he will abide by religious rules. If a Moslem 
insists on not performing the Prayer, for example, he does only himself harm. He may be 
gently reminded, but he cannot be coerced. It is only when the rights of another are 
infringed that the Holy Law—like, indeed, all laws—comes into question. What is said 
here applies, of course, to places and situations where the Holy Law is properly in effect, 
which is to say almost nowhere in the world today. 


2. There have always been people who would not be persuaded by Islam. The true nature 
of a system or regime emerges in how it deals with the dissidents and minorities under its 
rule. Islam has passed this test with flying colors in all ages. Every right has been granted 
and respect shown to people belonging to other religions. A minor proof of this is the 
gratitude celebrations of the Jews, 500 years after they escaped from the tortures of the 
Inquisition into the arms of the Ottoman Empire in 1492. 


Indeed, there have been periods in history when the Ottoman Empire was the sole 
superpower in the world. If the Ottomans had pursued a policy of Islamization or 
extermination in those days, there would have been no religion other than Islam in the 
world today. 


In Islam, everyone is the servant of God. A person who has properly understood Islam 
knows that to dominate and coerce another is to elevate oneself to the status of a god, and 
shuns this like the plague. The rules of law and not the commands of individuals are the 
basis in Islam, and the requirements of Law are carried out. For no society can function 
without the proper application of law. As evidenced by the Ottoman Code of laws, even 
the Sultans were bound by the law and subject to it. 


Wherever there has been arbitrary rule, this has not occurred because of Islam but in spite 
of it. On the other hand, Islamic law permits the coexistence of other legal systems 
alongside it, as is seen, for example, in the last period of the Ottomans. 


All of which leads us to another point: Some people are currently in search of a religion, 
or “meta-religion”, that accepts all religions and tolerates them. But Islam accepts all 
religions “of the Book” that have gone before it, venerates their prophets, and views them 
with tolerance. Hence, the meta-religion eagerly sought by some already exists, and goes 
by the name of “Islam”. 


(The dangers of totalitarianism are further discussed in Appendix B.) 


The Views of a Specialist 


It may be useful, at this point, to refer to the views of an expert. In such a case, it is 
preferable that this specialist be a Western non-Moslem who has not refrained from 
criticizing Islam on other counts. Bernard Lewis is such an orientalist and historian of 
Islam. Professor Lewis has, in his notable study, The Political Language of Islam (1988), 
brought a wide perspective to the subject. 


212 


Professor Lewis makes it unmistakably clear that Islam is neither theocratic nor 
dictatorial: “Islam is clearly not... a theocracy.” “There is even less foundation for the 
portrayal of Islamic government as a system in wich the ruler is an all-powerful despot 
and the subject his helpless slave, entirely at his mercy. This picture is false in both 
theory and practice.” In Islam, the ruler has no power of legislation, but finds it ready for 
him in the form of religious law in those matters which fall within its domain. “The 
ruler’s duty is to defend and uphold, to maintain and enforce, the law, by which he 
himself is bound no less than the humblest of his subjects.” In this sense, Islam upholds 
the rule of law. 


The respected French periodical, Le Nouvel Observateur, conducted an interview with 
Professor Lewis on the occasion of the publication of his book. His words there are even 
more enlightening: 


When we in the West attempt to separate good government from bad government and 
despotism from democracy, we immediately take freedom as a measure. The Moslems, 
however, take justice. When we say ‘freedom’, we think of the subject, and mean and 
indicate his rights before the government. Traditional Islam means the same thing when it 
says ‘justice’. But it places the burden on the ruler’s shoulders. What is for us a right 
belonging to the subjects is, for it, a duty belonging to the sovereign. In general terms, 
Islam emerges as a system of duties rather than of rights. Of course, justice is not the 
same thing as freedom. But it can lead to the same results. 


What I am saying is that Islam does not conflict with democracy; it even shows the way 
leading to the latter. 


In other words, Islam places on the ruler as a legal duty the recognition of rights won by 
people in the West only after long struggle. We know that historical practice has been at 
variance with this, but that is not the fault of Islam. Democracy can survive only when it 
is secured by laws, just as Islam requires. 


Separation of Powers 


In contemporary democracies, the principle of “separation of powers” has been 
introduced as a counterbalance against the possibility that power should become 
concentrated in a few hands, these three estates being the executive, the legislative and 
the judiciary. 


A similar separation is also found in Islam. Long before Montesquieu introduced the 
separation of powers, the caliph Haroun al-Rasheed applied it by separating the judiciary 
and appointing Abu Yousseff as its head. In Islam, executive power is in the hands of the 
caliph or sultan. Legislation belongs to the ulama, or learned doctors—over whom 
presided, in the case of the Ottomans, the “Sheikh of Islam.” As for the judiciary, this is 
in the hands of the gadis, or judges, represented by a chief judge. The principle of 
“separation of powers” is not explicitly stated, but the practice conforms or is close to it. 


213 


For example, a sultan could not easily fire a Sheikh of Islam, yet the latter had the power 
to depose a sultan. 


Women’s Rights 


Before leaving this discussion of Holy Law, it will be well to touch very briefly on the 
subject of women’s rights. This is a subject that has been constantly abused, and most 
often only one view has been aired. Limitations of space preclude the kind of in-depth 
treatment that the subject really deserves. Suffice it to say here that contrary to 
widespread opinion in the West, women have enjoyed more rights in Islamic than in 
some Western countries up to—and sometimes into—the twentieth century. As the 
prestigious British journal, The Economist, notes, “The Koran is better about women than 
is generally realized... the two [man and woman] were born equal, ‘from a single soul’.” 
Any legal differences between male and female stem not from inequality, but from 
biological differences, for the two were created biologically complementary to each 
other. To judge them by the same rules would be to infringe the God-given rights of 
either the one or the other. Again, historical malpractice can be used to condemn those 
who have perpetrated it, but certainly not Islam itself. Let the same source have the final 
word: “...at bottom such things do not happen to Muslim women because of what either 
the Koran or the Prophet said... They happen because of the pre-existing habits of the 
people among whom Islam first took root...” (Blaming matters on the scholars of Islam 
neglects the fact that they too were members of these same societies, thus either sharing 
the same mindset as their fellow countrymen or else being forced to take that mindset 
into consideration, and so this explanation reduces to that given in the quotation.) 


Religion is a Necessity for Democracy 


We now come to the question: is religion, in general, a desirable thing for democracy, or 
is it an undesirable one? 


The two volumes of Democracy in America, written by the famous lawyer and thinker 
Alexis de Tocqueville and published consecutively in 1835 and 1840, constitute a peak 
that has yet to be matched concerning democracy and its practice in America. 


Here is how Tocqueville evaluates the relationship between democracy and religion: “In 
the United States it is not only mores that are controlled by religion [Christianity], but its 
sway extends even over reason.” 


After pointing out that religion introduces certain moral/ethical principles and various 
restrictions, Tocquville continues: “So the human spirit never sees an unlimited field 
before itself; however bold it is, from time to time it feels that it must halt before 
insurmountable barriers... Thus, while the law allows the American people to do 
everything, there are things which religion prevents them from doing and forbids them to 
dare.” 


214 


Tocqueville criticizes those who attack religion in the name of freedom: 


Despotism may be able to do without faith, but freedom cannot. Religion is much more 
needed in the republic they advocate than in the monarchy they attack, and in 
democratic republics most of all. How can society escape destruction if, when political 
ties are relaxed, moral ties are not tightened? 


Saying: “Religion having lost its sway over men’s souls, the clearest line dividing good 
from ill has been obliterated; everything in the moral world seems uncertain’, 
Tocqueville points out that the loss of religion will lead to the loss of freedom. (See 
Appendix B.) 


Atheism Means Cruelty and Tyranny 


But Tocqueville was not the only genius living in the 19th century to perceive certain 
truths. Two other men of genius were able to foresee the social catastrophes of the 20th 
century: the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky and the German philosopher, Friedrich 
Nietzsche. 


But why was Tocqueville right? Because, in the final analysis, God is the source of all 
ethics. It is God who commands human beings: “Do this, this is right,” or: “Don’t do that, 
that is wrong.” But that is not all. God is also the sole enforcer of ethics. For God has also 
said: “If you do this, I will reward you; if you do that, I will punish you.” Where there is 
no belief in God, fear of God also collapses. Thus, both the definition (or delimitation) of 
ethics and its sanction are removed. This means that if belief in God ceases to exist, so 
does the basis of ethics and morality, and humanity is set adrift on a sea of moral 
relativity. And once morality is out of the way, man loses all his human attributes, 
becoming an animal and even a monster. With the removal of ethics from society, not 
only does the crime rate begin to climb, but the nature of crime itself becomes 
increasingly savage. In short, once man has taken leave of God, his humanity takes leave 
of man. 


One of those to perceive this most clearly was Dostoevsky. Better than any sociologist or 
political scientist, Dostoevsky points to a polarization that occurs in society once man is 
shorn of faith, leaving two kinds of creature. One of these is the man-god (or despot), and 
the other is the herd (or slaves). 


In The Devils, Kirilov says: “If there is no God, then I am God.” Man, having lost his 
faith, can find no being superior to him when he surveys the universe. (This is only to be 
expected, since God has created man as the highest of all creatures.) As a result, man’s 
lower, base self—or, in Sufic terminology, his egotistical “Impelling Self’—declares 
itself god. But this is exactly what Nimrod did when he told Abraham: “I give life and 
make to die,” or Pharaoh when he told his people: “I am indeed your truest Lord” 
(79:24). As for the pharaohs of the twentieth century, they have done things from which 
even a Nimrod or Pharaoh might have recoiled in horror. 


215 


Once man has lost his faith in God, the “deified man” or “strong man” takes the place 
that rightfully belongs to God. (This is called Tagut in the Koran, which means deified 
man who lays claim to Lordship.) The base self becomes the usurper of God’s office. 
Might alone any longer makes right. Shorn of all values, having repudiated God and 
religion, morality and compassion, the man-god loves—is even obsessed with—only two 
things: power and sex. It is inevitable that all human qualities must disappear from the 
man-god, who is a creature of his ego and hence, of Satan. Where faith in God does not 
exist, man, too, ceases to do so. 


But Dostoevsky also foresaw Nietzsche, who is the author of such propositions as: “God 
is dead, we have killed Him.” (Since God is immortal, of course, what had actually died 
was people’s faith in Him.) Nietzsche, in turn, foresaw the emergence of the “superman”. 
For the superman, human qualities were things to be ashamed of. Nietzsche said he was 
“cruel” and “beyond good and evil,” which placed him in the territory of absolute evil, 
since he had already transcended morality. (It can be seen that Nietzshe’s superman 
possesses qualities diametrically opposed to those of the Perfect Man in Islamic Sufism. 
On the other hand, Nietzsche was perhaps the first to prophesy—in Thus Spoke 
Zarathustra—the coming dangers of the “monster state.’’) 


Another of Dostoyevsky’s characters expresses this as follows: “If God does not exist, 
everything is permitted.” The tyrannies of our century have amply demonstrated, by their 
blood-curdling cruelties, just what these “permitted” things are. For this reason, it is 
necessary to study the history of the 20th century with the utmost care. 


Dostoyevsky’s greatest discovery, the “Grand Inquisitor,’ is another example of 
Nietzsche’s superman, and highlights another fact: if coercion and torture coexist in a 
place with religion, there the faith of God has departed from hearts, and remains an 
empty claim mindlessly mouthed in words devoid of content. 


The second of Dostoevsky’s social classes is the herd, composed of slaves. If man does 
not have an immortal soul, if there is no reward and punishment, if anyone can get away 
with anything, then it becomes permissible to subject him to every manner of indignity 
and insult. Unfortunately, our century has done nothing but justify Dostoevsky’s and 
Nietzsche’s prototypes of herd and superman. 


If there is no morality, there can be no justice. As long as morality exists, right makes 
might. He who is right is powerful, and justice rules. But once morality is gone, might 
makes right, and justice disappears along with ethics. 


The conclusion, then, is that where there is no faith in God, neither can morality exist. 
Where there is no morality, everything is permitted. Where there is no morality, there is 
no man—there are only the superhuman few and the subhuman, even the subanimal, 
herd. In short, where religion and faith in God do not exist, not only do the most 
horrifying nightmares come true, but they also all befall us, every single one of them. 


The Tyranny of the Majority and Human Rights 


216 


Tocqueville, who inspected democracy under a magnifying glass, claims that it can lead 
to a “tyranny of the majority’. Although he does not himself give any examples, we 
know that the Greek democracies of Antiquity operated in this way. 


A “theory of human rights” emerged in the 17th century in the West, led by Thomas 
Hobbes and, especially, John Locke. This notion found expression in the unwritten 
assumptions of the British Constitution and in the provisions of the American Bill of 
Rights. 


In the conception of democracy which followed, the principle of majority rule is a 
necessary condition for democracy (the “rule of the people”), but not a sufficient one. 
The will of the majority enjoys legitimacy only if it is an expression of “freely given 
consent.” Secondly and more importantly, certain inviolable rights and freedoms are 
defined that are granted to everyone. Majorities can do everything except deprive 
minorities of their rights and freedoms, such as speech, press, assembly, etc. Minorities, 
in turn, must abide by the rules and procedures of democratic organization. (Certain 
institutions are also necessary, such as an impartial and independent judiciary, a free but 
responsible press, and a military under civilian control.) 


Democratic government is one in which the minority, or its representatives, can 
peacefully become the majority or its representatives. Again, democracy is, as Karl 
Popper pointed out, the only practical and peaceful method that has been found by which 
the people can oust an unwanted government from power. 


This does not mean that democracy is paradise. There, too, there are problems and 
headaches. In Winston Churchill’s words, “Democracy is the worst possible form of 
government—except for all those other forms that have been tried.” 


Actually, forms of government can be reduced to three: Tyranny, where society obeys 
one man (monarchies and dictatorships); democracy, where government is in the service 
of the people; and anarchy, which is an absence or void of government and, as Sidney 
Hook rightly observes, “is the rule of a thousand tyrants.” It is because anarchy can be 
even worse than despotism that the Koran remarks: “Obey those in authority among you” 
(4:59). 


What do we find when we look at Islam in terms of minority rights and liberties? When 
the Prophet of God migrated to Medina, he prepared a document with the Medinans that 
is the first written constitution in the world. In this “Constitution of Medina,” the concept 
of religious community is defined as a political union that encompasses the whole people. 
This includes the Jews and even the polytheists and idolaters. Every group, according to 
the Medina Constitution, is autonomous in the fields of religion and law. All parties 
signed this social contract of their own free will. The Medina Constitution, as a legal 
document, leaves all groups free to practice their religion and lead their lives, except for 
the unavoidable regulations needed in mutual life. Those who do not accept Islam are not 
bound by its rules. 


217 


One of the articles of this document explicitly states: “The Jews... shall possess equal 
rights with us.” Thus, “equality” and “rights” found expression in Islam a thousand years 
before they began to be articulated in the modern democracies of the West. The Prophet 
also signed a similar document with the Christians of Najran. 


It can be seen that in spirit, the Medina Constitution is pluralist, libertarian, respectful of 
the law and of minority rights. The definition of community given therein corresponds to 
the concept of “people” in democracies. That Moslems should be in the majority, 
therefore, does not give them the right to force their views upon minorities. This is 
prevented by the precedent and example of the Prophet of Islam himself. And indeed, 
Islamic history corroborates this in terms of respect for minorities. 


It may be appropriate at this point to dwell upon two major deficiencies of democracy: 


1. Democracies have not always been able to judge correctly where to draw the line on 
freedoms. For example, American democracy has caused a great increase in the crime 
rate by allowing its citizens the right to bear arms. And in general, children have 
become rebellious towards their parents, this undesirable situation being confused 
with democracy. 


2. One-party (“monist”) democracy of the kind extant in Japan has been looked down 
upon, and the multi-party (“pluralist”) kind has been preferred. Yet here, too, a 
drawback presents itself, for different parties have not shrunk from pitting brother 
against brother and husband against wife for the ulterior cause of coming to power. 
(Furthermore, the views of different parties have not always been very different.) 
That the struggle for power should create enmities within society is a problem 
associated with multi-party democracy, and it is not yet clear how it is to be 
satisfactorily resolved within the democratic system. 


Organization of the Islamic Community 


In an article published in August 1994 in Britain’s respected daily The Independent, 
Keith Ward, Professor of Theology at Oxford University, stated that Islam was the most 
democratic religion in the world today because it did not possess a priestly hierarchy like 
Christianity, and because its central doctrinal authority was unstructured. 


The organization of the religious community has taken on different shapes in different 
religions. In Catholicism, for instance, the Christian community is organized in the form 
of a government—it is a well-known fact that the leaders of the early Church took the 
Roman Empire’s political institutions as their model. The Emperor of this government is 
the Pope, its senators are the Cardinals, and its governors are the Bishops. 


The formation of the Moslem community, on the other hand, has evolved not in the shape 


of a government, but in the form of a university. This is why the central religious 
organization has been called madrasa (school) in Islam, whereas it is called ecclesia 


218 


(Church) in Christianity. There is no clerical class or spiritual hegemony in Islam; there 
are only mudarris es (teachers or professors). 


Islam is based on the principles of freedom, reason, and the intellect. The teachers do not 
force truth on anyone without convincing them by rational proofs. There is no 
compulsion in Islam. It is essential to believe and have faith rationally. 


The scholars in the schools have solemnly vowed to guide the whole of society to the 
truth, and have dedicated themselves to its salvation. The activities of the schools are 
geared to the entire society. The “spiritual schools” (tarigas), on the other hand, give a 
more specialized training for those with spiritual aspirations. Because such people are the 
exception rather than the rule, however, Sunnite Islam is composed of a union of schools, 
not an association of dervish convents (taqgqas). 


The whole of Islamdom has lived as one great university. With the Ottomans, the Sheikh 
of Islam was the director of this university. As for the leaders of the law schools and the 
sheikhs of the spiritual schools, these are the equivalent of scholars with doctrines. As 
can be seen from all this, the religion of Islam is based on the authority of science or 
knowledge, not on an administrative authority. 


Why are Human Beings Equal? 


Up to this point, we have seen that religion is a necessity, even a sine qua non, for 
democracy, that atheism leads to sociopolitical disaster, and that Islam as a religion 
accomodates democracy. Normally, this would be the point to bid the reader farewell. 
The really significant part, however, still remains to be said. From this point of view, 
what has been said above is merely a prelude to or infrastructure for what follows. 


Democracy is based on the equality of men. Where the equality of human beings and 
their votes do not hold, there democracy cannot be said to exist. 


Many things have been said about equality throughout history. Rather than add to or 
reiterate these arguments, it is better to state the end result and continue from there. Since 
we find human beings to be grossly unequal and different in nature rather than equal, 
right down to their fingerprints, what is meant by “equality” is equality before the law. 
This is the sense in which the term is used in the Declaration of Human Rights of 1789, 
which championed the formula: “Liberty, equality, fraternity.” In earlier times, the 
Greeks expressed equality before the law by a single word, isonomia. 


Now this brings us to the basic question that needs to be asked: why are human beings 
equal at all, whether before the law or not? Why is the basic assertion of oppression, 
racism and slavery, “I am superior to you,” invalid? From what root do all the social and 


political ideas lying at the base of democracy derive their strength? 


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: 


219 


The first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the 
United Nations in 1948 and lies at the basis of such legal documents as the Helsinki Final 
Accords, is as follows: 


a” 


“7. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. 


The Declaration continues with the generalizations “everyone” and “no one,” which go 
on to the end: 


J 


“3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person.’ 


5B) 


“4. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude,” etc. 
In fact, it is erroneous even to call these generalizations, for they are universally 
applicable without exception. 


In the Preamble of the Declaration, mention is made of “the equal and inalienable rights 
of all members of the human family”, and of “faith in fundamental human rights, in the 
dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women”. 


But hold on. What has “faith” got to do with it? This is an unexpected term. What is the 
word “faith” doing in a universal legal declaration? And since faith is obviously involved 
in some way, could this have anything to do with religion, the traditional repository of 
faith? 


Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen: 


The United Nations Universal Declaration is based on the French Declaration of the 
Rights of Man and the Citizen of 1789. Many of its articles have been taken with little or 
no change from that source. Here is the first article of the French Declaration: 


a” 


“1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. 


The preamble of this declaration states: “the natural, inalienable and sacred rights of 


99 


man. 


Everyone knows that people possess certain inalienable, inviolable and untransferable 
rights. But in what context does the word “sacred” occur? 


The Declaration of Independence: 
The French Declaration was inspired by the Virginia Bill of Rights. This in turn finds its 


root in the American Declaration of Independence of 1776. The very first sentence of the 
main text of the Declaration of Independence reads: 


220 


“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are 
endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, 
Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 


Now it is not by any means self-evident that all men are created equal. We have grown 
accustomed to accepting this a priori without questioning it. But if you ask a racist, for 
example, he will think that the notion: “I am superior to him” is equally, if not more, self- 
evident. He may even say: “Are you blind? What can be more obvious than the difference 
in our skin colors?” 


To put it in more general terms, how are we to explain to a discriminator that all men are 
equal, even one, beyond superficial differences such as size, weight, color, etc.? What is 
to be our foundation? 


But mention is also made here of a “‘Creator’’. 


The American Declaration of Independence gives expression not merely to “faith” and 
the “sacred”, but states that there is a Creator, that human beings have been brought into 
existence by Him, and that their rights have been given to them by their Creator. 


It can be seen that as one probes deeper into the past, things become both clearer and 
more interesting. The final recourse of human rights in the Declaration of Independence 
is the Creator. Words have taken a long and winding route, finally ending up in the 
domain of religion. 


Can support be found, then, for equality in terms of basic rights and freedoms in 
religions? 


Robert A. Dahl, one of the leading exponents of democratic theory in our day and 
Professor Emeritus at Yale University, puts it this way: 


Yet democracy might, like Plato’s republic, be little more than a philosophical fantasy 
were it not for the persistent and widespread influence of the belief that human beings 
are intrinsically equal in a fundamental way—or at any rate some substantial group of 
human beings are. Historically, the idea of intrinsic equality gained much of its 
strength, particularly in Europe and the English-speaking countries, from the common 
doctrine of Judaism and Christianity (shared also by Islam) that we are equally God’s 
children [or servants]. Indeed it was exactly on this belief that Locke grounded his 
assertion of the natural equality of all persons in a state of nature. 


Democracy in Polytheistic Societies 


Although they developed the first examples of democracy because of their high regard 
for man, the Greek democracies proved unsuccessful in the end. First of all, these were 
slave societies, i.e. there was a distinction between free citizens and those deprived of 
political rights (slaves). Second, election results were viewed almost as a military victory, 


221 


and the vanquished were reduced to the status of, if not slaves, at least second-class 
citizens. This resulted in a tripartite class structure within society, which led to bloody 
rebellions and frequently the emergence of a tyrant. Because minority rights were 
disregarded, these were not democracies in the modern sense of the word. Such problems 
had a great bearing on Plato’s criticisms of democracy. 


We here bear witness to the coexistence of inequality and polytheism (associationism). It 
was Tocqueville, again, who first drew attention to this fact. Almost a century and a half 
before the Shiite sociologist Ali Shariati spoke of a “sociology of associationism,” 
Tocqueville was saying: “... when men are isolated from one another by great differences, 
they easily discover as many divinities as there are nations, castes, classes, and families, 
and they find a thousand private roads to go to heaven.” On the other hand: “Men who 
are alike and on the same level in this world easily conceive the idea of a single God who 
imposes the same laws on each man and grants him future happiness at the same price. 
The conception of the unity of mankind ever brings them back to the idea of the unity of 
the Creator...” Note that this can also work in the opposite direction: polytheism can lead 
to discrimination and inequality between human beings. The notion: “Your god is 
different from my god” is a basic pretext for thinking that a person is different from us, 
and even for not considering him human at all. (Incomprehensibly, this accusation has 
from time to time been levelled by Christians at Moslems, in spite of the fact that both 
religions believe in one God.) In such a case, human rights cannot be applied to everyone. 
One of the important reasons, then, why modern democracies have succeeded where 
those in Antiquity failed, is that the latter were polytheistic while the former are 
monotheistic. For Europe and America are firmly based in the Judaeo-Christian tradition. 


Man in the Bible 


We can now begin to discuss the implications of Gilbert Keith Chesterton’s 1922 remark: 
“There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of Man.” 


Right at the beginning of the Old Testament, the following statement is repeated three 
times: “God created Man (Adam) in His own image” (Genesis, 1:26-7). 


This is an expression of equality. As historian Paul Johnson has observed, it is not simply 
Adam or the human race that has been created in the image of God; each individual 
human being has been created in His image. (Note that we are not here trying to unravel 
the true meaning of the statement: we are not interested in what “God’s image” means, 
but are investigating the possible outcomes of this statement.) 


In this sense, all men are equal, because they all have been created in the same image, the 
same form. “All Israelites,” says Johnson, “‘are equal before God, and therefore equal 


before his law.” 


We find here the first application of equality, which is the basic principle of democracy: 
“As men are all equally made in God’s image, they have equal rights in any fundamental 


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sense. It is no accident that slavery among the Jews disappeared during the Second 
Commonwealth...” 


Jesus, who came after Moses, tried to have everyone love and respect one another with 
the principle of love that he brought. 


Judaism is the religion of rules. Christianity is the religion of love. Islam, with its unique 
synthesis of rules and love, is the full bloom and culmination of religion. Again, Judaism 
deals more with the material world, Christianity with the spiritual world. Islam, which 
combines materiality with spirituality, stands at the summit of religious thought and 
experience, offering man the best of both worlds. 


On the other hand, Jews believe that they are the “Chosen People of God,” that they are 
“a nation of priests,” and that God intends to guide humanity through them. They see 
themselves—if this is the right expression—as the “clergy” or “Church” of mankind, and 
consider themselves the elite of the human race. 


In Christianity, as everyone knows, the Faithful are divided into the the Church or 
priestly class (clergy) and the ordinary believers (laity). In Christianity the true chosen of 
humanity is the Church, or the community of priests. The Church has the authority to 
speak in the name of God and to excommunicate. It thus possesses absolute authority 
over a person’s afterlife (and, in ages when religious faith was strong, also over his life in 
this world). According to Christian belief, “outside the Church there is no salvation.” 
Because of fundamental differences in viewpoint, various denominations have developed 
in Christianity, each with its own Church. 


There is no clerical class and no Church in Islam: we have already had occasion to 
remark that it is a churchless faith. All human beings are equal before God. As is pointed 
out in the Farewell Sermon, “Superiority lies only in fearing God and in doing good 
deeds.” 


Matter and Spirit 


But this is not all. It is written in the sacred books that man was created from dust, or 
earth, or clay. The fact that they are created from the same matter in addition to the same 
image might be seen as a second reason for equality between human beings. But if man is 
only clay, i.e. matter, he is in effect nothing more than a robot, a machine. And all 
materialist philosophies have, in fact, treated him as mud because they do not allow any 
other dimension to his existence. Even if they do not say so in theory, this has always 
been the case in practice. The century we live in has proved this beyond doubt, if nothing 
else. 


Even if the image of man made of clay is holy, therefore, this is not enough to protect his 
rights. The formula is incomplete; or rather, it is half. What has been said for matter must 
also be said for spirit, thus complementing and completing the formula. And this 
completion has been performed by Islam. 


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Man in Islam 

The principle of the Torah given above recurs in Islam in two Traditions of the Prophet: 
1. “God created man in His own image.” 

2. “God created man in the image of the Compassionate.” 


The Compassionate is one of the attributes of God. Since the Essence of God cannot have 
a form, it is plausible that man should be created in accordance with one of God’s 
attributes. 


Both Judaism and Christianity accept that man has a spirit. Not much information can be 
found, however, in their sacred books regarding this spirit. 


How God gave life to man is described in the Torah as follows: “The Lord God formed 
man (Adam) from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” 
(Genesis, 2:7). 


There is nothing more here than that man was given life. It is stated that man has been 
given life, just like plants and animals. There is nothing that distinguishes man from 
them. Similarly, in another book of the Old Testament (of which the Torah comprises 
only the first five books), it is stated that upon death: “The breath returns to the Lord who 
gave it” (Ecclessiastes, 12:7), which is synonymous with the Koranic verses to the effect: 
“We come from God, and we shall return to Him.” 


These statements save man from the status of a dead lump of clay and raise him to the 
level of animals and plants, but do not take him any further. Man is a living being, and 
God gives him life or takes it back. In Sufic terms, this has brought the discussion to the 
level of the Animal Spirit, but not the Human Spirit. 


Man is Holy in Islam 


We are nearing the end of our road. In his words quoted above, Chesterton indicated that 
the origin of Man was divine, and he could find only this when he sought a basis for 
democracy. For Chesterton, as a Christian, the meaning of this divine origin is that God 
created Adam and that all human beings descended from him. If we do not accept that 
humanity has descended from a common ancestor, we can find no basis for declaring the 
brotherhood of man. Suppose, for example, that humanity had two ancestors, which did 
not in turn have a common progenitor. In such a case, humanity would continue forever 
as two separate races or classes. (This is one of the dangers inherent in Darwinian 
theories of evolution.) This means that the principle of “liberty, equality, fraternity,” 
which is the motto of the French Revolution and all democracies, can be invested with 
meaning and validity only on the condition that we accept descent from an ancestor of 
divine origin, namely Adam. 


224 


But even this is not enough. Let us repeat our question: 


Why are all human beings equal? Why does man, every human being, possess great 
worth? (Because for this, even having descended from Adam is not a sufficient 
condition.) Why do human beings have certain rights? Why is it necessary to respect a 
human being, and not treat him as mud in spite of the fact that that is his material origin? 


The answer given by Islam is as follows. 
1. “We breathed into man (Adam) of Our Spirit.” 


This verse is repeated in three places in the Koran (15:29, 32:9 and 38:72). The spirit that 
vitalizes Man is God’s Own Spirit which He has breathed into man. This is why God has 
ordered the angels to bow to the ground (prostrate themselves) before Adam (2:34). 
There is a spark, a breath of God’s Spirit, in every man. The Human Spirit derives 
directly from the Spirit of God, and this is why all human beings are sacred. And because 
each human being has this spirit, human beings are equal in holiness, not in a nature of 
mud. 


(What is being said here should not be confused. Most emphatically, definitely and 
certainly, Man is not God. Rather, he bears within himself a spark that is sacred, a trust 
that is divine.) 


It can be seen that equality in form has been transcended here, and equality in spirit has 
been reached. Not only image but also essence has found its place. In other words, it is 
not possible to discriminate between people not only in terms of matter and form, but also 
of spirit and content. This is why the Koran states: “Killing another is like killing the 
whole of humanity, and saving a human being is like saving all mankind. We have 
indicated this in their Holy Book to the Children of Israel” (5:32). 


Or, as the Jews might put it, 
He who saves one man 
Saves the world entire. 


This precept, which should occur in the Torah, is found in the Talmud: Sanhedrin, Seder: 
Nezikin (Order: Damages), 4,5. 


The way in which you treat a human being, therefore, is like treating all humankind in 
that way. 


2. “God has created you of a single soul.” 


This verse, in turn, recurs four times in the Koran (4:1, 6:98, 7:189, 39:6). Interpreted 
from the Sufic (esoteric) point of view, this means that all human beings are one. If 
interpreted exoterically, in the sense that all men derive from Adam, it means that all men 


225 


are brethren. And as a matter of fact, the Prophet implicitly alludes to the brotherhood of 
man in his Farewell Sermon: “Human beings, you are all descended from one father. You 
are all the Children of Adam.” It is stated elsewhere in the same sermon that: “A Moslem 
is the brother of another Moslem, and so all Moslems are brethren, one of another.” The 
only difference between the brotherhood of man and the brotherhood of Moslems is that 
the former is articulated covertly and the latter, overtly. And the only reason for this 
covert expression is that a non-Moslem, because he is not aware of this brotherhood, may 
tend to act in ways that do not take it into account. 


We therefore see that human beings are divine, and in spite of all differences in external 
appearance, their essence is the same. That is why they are equals of each other, that is 
why they have equal rights, why liberty is their right and why they are brethren. Here is 
where the foundation of democracy has been laid. Indeed, another of the Prophet’s 
Traditions states: “All men are equal, like the teeth of a comb.” 


The Judaeo-Christian West, where democracy saw the light of day, realized that such was 
the state of affairs. But this truth was not expressed with such blinding clarity in its 
traditions and holy books. The most that could be achieved was to say, with Chesterton, 
that humankind was descended from Adam. On the other hand, the flight from the 
negative aspects of Christianity became an escape from religion in general, and precluded 
in-depth study of the situation. The true source of democracy, equality, freedom and 
fraternity lies in these explicit verses of the Koran. 


Ethics and the Democratic Personality 


Since this is the case, then, how should human beings behave towards each other? 
Precisely in accordance with the morality that God has prescribed for us. This constitutes 
the final gift of religions—and especially, of Islam—to humanity. 


Democracy is not just about the “separation of powers.” It is not simply a multi-party 
regime, or general elections, or equality of vote. At the same time and much more 
importantly, it means respect for the rights of one another. In line with Voltaire’s famous 
dictum, it is to limit one’s own liberties with one’s own will at the point where the rights 
of others begin. It means the free flowering of each individual within restrictions 
common to all, and to become as useful as possible to oneself, to society, and to mankind. 
And this is what religions have all prescribed. This is the ethics of democracy. The 
abovementioned may be the form of democracy; this is its spirit. Where the core does not 
exist, purely formal democracy is reduced to an empty shell, and is bound to perish 
sooner or later. Where this spirit is, on the other hand, life never ceases to be bearable, 
and democracy can easily be built up even if the formal requirements are not met. 
Democracy cannot exist without a morality of democracy. 


After the Second World War, T.W. Adorno et al. of the Frankfurt School published a 
study on “the Authoritarian Personality.” In like manner, one can speak of a “democratic 
personality structure.” And this can be achieved only with the morality of the Koran. 
Because Islamic ethics, which is based on the Koran, is the very essence of democratic 


226 


morality. Respect for the rights of others and remaining within the limits of one’s rights 
(even in the case of a ruler) has never been emphasized in any religion as much as in 
Islam. 


Jewish and Christian ethics, too, have many sublime aspects. For these too are true 
religions revealed through prophets by God. On the other hand, since they are not the 
perfect religion, they also contain gaps. They have been unable to prevent the spread of 
atheism, alcohol, illicit sex, intolerance and the Inquisition within their realms. Even the 
famous historian Arnold Toynbee, himself a devout Christian, claimed that it was 
necessary to turn to Islam in order to resolve the problem of alcoholism. 


Drugs, rape, sexual perversion, drunkenness, murder and robbery now plague America, 
the foremost democracy of the world. If left unchecked, they will inevitably lead to its 
collapse from within. And the only way out—if this can be done—is the adoption of an 
Islamic morality. 


Conclusion 


“Dear God, grant that we may sow peace wherever we go. Let us be reconcilers and 
unifiers, not sowers of dissent. Allow us to disseminate love where there is hate, 
forgiveness where there is injury, faith where there is doubt, hope where there is despair, 
light where there is darkness, and joy where there is sorrow. Grant that we may become 
in mercy like the sun, in generosity like the rain, in humility like the earth, in hiding the 
shames of others like the night; and in bestowing favors on everyone without 
discrimination, like all four.” 


This prayer is none other than the prayer of democratic ethics, of the democratic 
personality. To the extent that these ideals are approximated, both our lives and the lives 
of those around us are enriched, enlightened, and infused with value and meaning. An 
oasis appears in the middle of the desert. If everyone adopts this morality, peace, 
contentment and happiness will belong to everyone. And that is when the true flower of 
democracy will reach full bloom. 


This takes us one step further, for it now becomes possible to view democracy not as an 
end in itself, but as a means to something greater. Contemporary democracy provides the 
institutions, the basis, conducive to the best development of the human personality. It is 
here that Islam can provide a guiding light, for the aim of Islamic Sufism is precisely to 
cultivate development of the Self to stages where higher forms of thinking, ethics, and 
behavior are possible. 


Lewis Mumford, that astute social critic and one of the most incisive minds of the 20th 
century, recognized that the transformation of social institutions without the re-education 
of human beings would not suffice for a happier society. “In rejecting a twofold change, 
inner and outer,” he said, the proponents of lasting, significant social change “overlooked 
the organic connection between personality and community, between the individual and 
the collective form. They sought to transform the institutions of society... and create a 


22} 


high order of social existence without bothering to develop and discipline a higher type of 
self. 74 


Although not well acquainted with certain aspects of Islam, Mumford nevertheless 
clearly understood that social and spiritual improvement complement each other. While 
Islam is quite down-to-earth, nonutopian and immediately practicable, it should be 
recognized that it opens the door to “self-actualization”’—to use psychologist Abraham 
Maslow’s term in a deeper, Sufic, context—and the consequent betterment of society is 
quite feasible. Not only that, but Sufism also describes the various levels of Self with 
great precision, and outlines the process of self-actualization step by step. Thus, Islam 
doesn’t lead us simply to democracy as a political form, but also to its fulfillment. 


But what if democracy does not take its inspiration from Islam—what then? 


1. A multitude of parties will sow enmity between brother and sister, father and son, 
and will prevent the oneness of mankind for the sake of negligible differences. 


2. The triad of government, businessmen and banks will unite for illegitimate profits. 


3. Politicians, the media (press, radio, TV, computer networks) and the merchants of 
passion will fan the fires of illicit sex. 


4. Behavior in accordance with the Four Holy Books (the Torah, the Psalms, the Bible 
and the Koran) will disappear. 


For the concept of liberty in democratic societies is not based on the distinction between 
the “prohibited” and the “permitted” (what is legitimate and illegitimate in terms of 
divine sanction), and some people think that democracy means freedom without limits. 
Unlimited freedom, however, is not democracy but anarchy. And, furthermore, the 
“forbidden/allowed” distinction within religions has been instituted, not because God 
wants to make life difficult for everyone, but because mankind will be sucked into the 
maelstrom of its own destruction if it does not abide by these rules. 


And this is precisely what will happen, unless democracy takes its further inspiration 
from Islam. 


228 


APPENDIX A: 
UNIVERSAL LAW, HUMAN RIGHTS, 
AND GOD’S COMMANDMENTS 


The 1789 Declaration of Human Rights has been taken from the Ten Commandments in 
the Old Testament. 


So claims Jacob Kaplan. And this, in turn, brings to mind the following question: Could it 
possibly be the case that the basis for modern law, human rights, and such concepts as 
freedom and equality, has been derived from religions? 

As everyone knows, the Ten Commandments, revealed by the Lord to Moses and his 
people, occur in the Torah (part of the Old Testament). The “Twelve Commandments” 


revealed to Moslems, on the other hand, are to be found in the Koran. Let us initiate this 
analysis with a comparison between the two. 


The Ten Commandments 


The Ten Commandments, given in more detail in Exodus, 20:2-14, are summarized in 
Deuteronomy, 5:6-21. 


1. Iam the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me. 

2. You shall not make for yourself an idol (graven image). 

3. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God. 
4. Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy. 

5. Honor your father and mother. 

6. You shall not kill. 

7. You shall not commit adultery. 

8. You shall not steal. 

9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 


10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. 


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The Twelve Commandments 


As outlined in the Chapter of the Night Journey (17:23-37) in the Koran, the Twelve 
Commandments of Islam may be summarized as follows: 


1. Do not set up another god with God. 

2. Respect and be good to your father and mother. 
3. Help your relatives, travellers and the poor. 

4. Do not squander, nor be miserly. 

5. Donot kill your children for fear of poverty. 

6. Do not go near fornication or adultery. 

7. Do not kill wrongfully. 

8. Do not approach (pillage) the property of orphans. 
9. Beas good as your word. 

10. Be honest in measures and weights. 

11. Do not pursue what you have no knowledge of. 


12. Do not tread on the earth with vanity and pride. 


Comparison 


For ease of reference, the Ten Commandments will be referred to as “10C” in this 
section, and the Twelve Commandments as “12C”’. 


Upon inspection, it can be seen that they both start with the same injunction. In addition, 
note that 12C-1 covers 10C-2. 10C-5 is repeated in 12C-2. The order not to kill in 10C-6 
occurs a bit differently in 12C-7 because the former makes no allowance for self-defense. 
12C-6 covers both 10C-7 and 10C-10. Similarly, 12C-9 is the more general form of 10C- 
9. 12C-5 is included in 10C-6. 12C-10 is the more finely-tuned version of 10C-8. Indeed, 
while 10C-8 prohibits theft, 12C-10 forbids even the slightest intentional mismeasure. 


As can be seen, eight of the Ten Commandments are covered in some way in the Twelve 


Commandments. There remain only articles 3 and 4, of which the latter is specific to 
Jews and Christians. 


230 


Half of the Twelve Commandments, on the other hand, do not occur in the Ten 
Commandments at all. Articles 12C-3, 4, 5, 8, 11 and 12 are nowhere to be found in 10C, 
except, perhaps, for 12C-8, which with a little effort might be included in 10C-8. The 
other articles are Islam’s free gift and mercy to humanity. 


The 1789 Declaration of Human Rights 


Let us now take a look at the definition of liberty in the French Declaration of the Rights 
of Man of 1789: 


J 


Art. 4. “Liberty consists in the ability to do whatever does not harm another.’ 


As can be seen, a very concise definition of freedom has been given here, but nothing is 
said about the content of “whatever does not harm another.” 


What, then, are the things that harm others? 
The Commandments of God given above describe what these are. 


The French Declaration of the Rights of Man is based on the Judaeo-Christian religious 
and cultural tradition. The terms it defines may be novel, but these have not developed in 
a conceptual vacuum; they have a historical background. They did not simply fall out of 
the sky. It is for this reason that the Ten Commandments constitute an explanation of and 
commentary on the French Declaration of Human Rights. And the Twelve 
Commandments of Islam are a more detailed and comprehensive version of the former. 
Both human rights and the precepts of universal law, therefore, find their origin in the 
Commandments of God. 


It is noteworthy that both sets of Commandments begin with faith in God and not 
associating any other gods with Him. The reason for this is that the remaining 
Commandments are all predicated on this one. A person may embrace the other 
Commandments without believing in God, but he will feel free to interpret them and put 
them into practice as he pleases. Only if he believes in the existence and unity of God, 
and that these Commandments come from Him, will he act with greater trepidation and 
constrain himself to obeying them more carefully. 


The second point that calls for attention is this: the points outlined in these 
Commandments are serious crimes deserving serious sanctions in all sytems of law. 
Indeed, only when a legal code replaces “You shall not kill” with “You shall kill,” “You 
shall not steal” with “You shall steal,’ “You shall not fornicate” with “You shall 
fornicate,” and “You shall not lie” with “You shall lie”; only when it substitutes insult 
and cruelty to parents in exchange for honoring them, will it become independent of— 
and in fact diametrically opposed to— religion, God and the Koran. And then it will no 
longer be Law, but the very essence of injustice and oppression. Otherwise, no law can be 
independent of religion. Because God had already revealed His Commandments to 


231 


human beings before legal codes ever saw the light of day, and these lie at the foundation 
of all legal systems worthy of the name. 


APPENDIX B: 
THE ROOTS OF TOTALITARIANISM 


Far from being totalitarian itself, Islam—properly understood and applied—is the sole 
remaining bulwark against totalitarianism in the modern world. For the currents of 
materialism, mechanism and atheism, so prevalent in our day, are the modern causes of 
despotism. 


“The true destination,” says Lewis Mumford, “of such [despotic] government is 
automatism, and its real province is in the world of machines. Despotism can succeed, in 
other words, only to the extent that it can turn men into automatons... man may be treated 
as... a natural automaton, a self-operating machine. To make men mechanical was merely 
to reverse the process of making machines human.” This is the exact opposite of what 
Islam (and its mystical branch, Sufism) calls for, since it aims to make human beings 
more fully human, to help them realize their potentials. 


The Eastern philosophies of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism, while appealing to 
our contemporary Western mentality, have been unable to sufficiently resist the spread of 
atheistic political ideologies—which are also totalitarian—precisely because they 
themselves are nontheistic. Writing in The Lotus and the Robot (1960), Arthur Koestler 
observed: “The Chinese nation which had held fast for two and a half millenia to the 
teachings of Confucius, Lao-Tse and the Buddha, succumbed to the atheistic doctrine 
formulated by the son of a German lawyer, and has become the most accomplished robot 
state this side of science fiction.” And the reason for this is that none of these Eastern 
philosophies were strongly monotheistic. It is only in a Godless, spiritual vacuum that 
materialistic and atheistic “anti-religions” can flourish, sowing the seeds of 
totalitarianism. Even Christianity has proved itself powerless to withstand the merciless 
onslaught of secularism, materialism, and mechanism, and it is only Islam that has been 
able to resist them and the totalitarian rules to which they lead. 


This is what La Mettrie’s Man a Machine (1747) has finally brought us to—a clear 
example, if ever there was one, of how metaphysical viewpoints can translate into 
concrete results in the physical world. And in spite of the demise of the Soviet Union, the 
world cannot be considered, even now, to be “a safe place for democracy.” For the forces 
which Mumford so ably diagnosed, materialism and automatism, are still at work in the 
world with little of their energy spent. As machines and computers take on increasingly 
human traits, human beings become more dependent on high-tech instruments and 
assume progressively more automatic characteristics. Furthermore, information 
technology, coupled with global satellite communications, will soon make it possible to 
track any person via a transponder, ID card or implantable biochip. As Zbigniew 
Brzezinski—National Security Advisor to five US  Presidents—observed: “The 


232 


technotronic era involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled society... Soon it 
will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain 
up-to-date complete files containing even the most personal information about the 
citizen.” Once you have the basic component of an anthill state—the automated person, 
or “cyborg”—the possibility cannot be ruled out that society will metamorphose with a 
rapidity and ease that would surprise anyone who hasn’t done his homework on George 
Orwell’s 1984, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, or the history of the 20th century. 
For God’s commandments are intended to keep the base self in check; atheism (and its 
consequence, materialism) removes the restrictions on the base self, and the very essence 
of totalitarianism is the base self unleashed. Like bubbles in water, the worst will then 
naturally percolate to the top. 


Za5 


ADMINISTRATION: 
THE MATERIAL AND SPIRITUAL 
ADVANCEMENT OF MANKIND 


(This section contains information on administration materially and spiritually necessary 
for a nation—from the head of state down to the last family member.) 


Administration may be defined as the judicious use of means to accomplish an end; it is 
the pursuit of a course of action in order to achieve a certain task. In the political sphere, 
administration is known as government, and in the world of business as management; 
hence, it is a subject of both social and economic import. 


A direct correlation may be observed between the level of affluence of a society and the 
success of its government. The same holds for a business enterprise. Whereas apparently 
insurmountable difficulties are routinely and successfully resolved in a state governed 
with skill, thereby improving that state and society, the inability to use the resources 
available to statesmanship increases the problems of a society and destabilizes it. The 
states that have been condemned to extinction in history have been led to this fate by the 
failure to govern them. 


Administration is the oldest science. Throughout history, human beings have either ruled 
or been ruled. Before administration became a science, human beings used to carry on by 
the use of their common sense. As civilization progressed, theories and rules entered the 
field of administration as well, thus making it a branch of science related to other, similar 
fields. Originally, clever and talented persons within society were regarded as leaders, 
and they were the ones who led society. At a later stage, this task was undertaken by 
priests. 


Although the science of administration is relatively young, it is deeply rooted in 
experience. Many statesmen have written books on this topic. Rulers and great statesmen 
in particular have left us works describing their advice on how to handle affairs of state. 
Books such as Aristotle’s Politics, Plato’s Republic, Caliph Ali’s Advice to Statesmen 
(his letter to the Governor of Egypt), Nizam-ul Mulk’s Treatise on Politics, Sari Mehmed 
Pasha’s Counsel to Ministers and Rulers, Ibn Khaldun’s famous Mugaddimah, Farabi’s 
City of Virtue, Muhammad Hamidullah’s Government in Islam, and Ghazzali’s Advice to 
Rulers, have all indicated the noteworthy aspects of administration and rulership. 


The History of Administration 


Although Western sources indicate 1887 as the starting point of the science of 
administration, it actually began with the birth of mankind. The first written documents 
on administration date from the Sumers (5000 BC); those on planning, control and 


234 


organization, from the Egyptians (4000 BC); the use of an attorney and filing an 
application, from the year 2000 BC; and the institution of a payment fee, from 1800 BC. 


No matter which field of endeavor we take up, we are faced with the fact that the human 
factor is decisive in achieving an end. The success of administrators, particularly those in 
charge of state government and education, depends on many qualifications. Let us make a 
comparative summary of these traits from various sources: 


Ghazzali: Values expert opinion in government, suggesting that kings and rulers should 
consult scientists and experts. Among Western authors, Taylor advises the same. 


Nizam-ul Mulk: In his Treatise on Politics, advises that the ruler’s door should be kept 
open to the people, that he should draw lessons and make frequent checks on his staff, 
that administrators of whatever level should take care to preserve their prestige, and that 
emphasis should be placed on unhindered flow of information (communications). He also 
outlined the positive and negative actions observed in rulers. 


Farabi: His City of Virtue is directly concerned with administration. In this work, Farabi 
outlines the importance of administration at various levels and the qualifications of 
administrators. 


Ibn Khaldun: In his opus Mugaddimah, defined the nature of state administration, the 
role of the administrator in the strengthening or weakening of a state, the principles of 
administration on every level, the points to which administrators should pay special 
attention, and the hazards of bribery and commercial involvement. He also dwelt on 
matters relating to group-leader interaction. 


Sari Mehmed Pasha: This famed fiscal administrator, who lived in the eighteenth 
century, made observations in a recessive state environment in his work, Counsel to 
Statesmen, comparing successful and unsuccessful administrations. He explained the 
damages of bribery and cruelty, pointing out that a good administrator is obliged to 
provide a good example for his subordinates, and is responsible for their training. Further, 
he considered the points to be borne in mind in the appointment of candidates to 
administrative cadres, also providing specific examples. 


The advice given to rulers and statesmen in these books on government and 
administration can be summarized under six headings: 


1. Act intelligently: King Solomon, Plato, Confucius, Socrates and Taylor have pointed 
out that intelligence and intelligent men are of prime importance in administration . 


2. Act virtuously: Confucius, Lao Tzu, Mayo, Ghazzali, Ibn Khaldun all considered 


that virtue should go hand in hand with intelligence, and found it necessary to base 
administration on a combination of politics and ethics. 


235 


3. Be daring: In the Mahabharata, which reflects the administrative philosophy of 
India, and in Machiavelli’s Prince and Taylor’s Statesmen, boldness is considered to 
be the most important factor in administration. Ibn Khaldun and Ghazzali also 
mention the importance of courage in government. 


4. Compromise: Aristotle and Nizam-ul Mulk have explained how even the most 
powerful rulers and administrators have to act positively and come to terms with 
opposition parties. 


5. Be flexible: Aristotle, Machiavelli, Taylor, de Follet and Ghazzali have suggested 
the use of all means not jeopardizing the end to be reached. 


6. Consult: Farabi, Ghazzali, Nizam-ul Mulk, Machiavelli, Castiglione and Fayole 
have indicated that the consultant is indispensable for administrators and their staff. 
In the opinion of one Indian philosopher, however, the expert is necessary more for 
the implementation of a decision than for reaching the decision itself. According to 
Castiglione, the effectiveness of the consultant depends on his freedom to speak the 
truth without fear of reprisals. 


Do’s for Administrators 


As we have seen above, virtually all the authors give the same formula for the success of 
the administrator. In the Fourth Caliph Ali’s message to the administrators of the world, 
concise expression is given to the concepts and principles of state administration. This 
letter, which qualifies as “Advice to Statesmen,” was regarded as the Constitution of that 
day and age. All the articles of that letter begin with “in state administration” or “the 
statesman.” When we scrutinize this letter, we notice that the counsel given by Western 
authors in books on administration in the twentieth century are in substantial accord with 
the advice given in this epistle. The articles in Ali’s letter can be summarized as follows: 


1. Try to solve everything by gentleness, without yielding to temporary passions. 


2. Show love and kindness to those under your rule. Do not be an inaccessible 
executive. Accept human beings with their faults, and train them accordingly. 


3. Be modest and well-balanced. Do not be sorry for favors and clemency shown. Do 
not be pleased when you have to mete out punishment! Do not shrink from applying 
the law, even when the criminal is your own kith and kin. 


4. Treat those you are responsible for justly and equitably. 


5. Make sure that everybody is happy with the rules and principles to be followed in 
the flow of work. 


6. Execute in conformity with laws pertaining to the situation. 


236 


7. Far from searching for the errors of others, guard these as secrets, correcting those 
faults which are amenable to correction. 


8. Do not be vindictive. Rather than prying into a subject that is intentionally left 
unclear, appear not to have understood. 


9. Do not fall under the influence of gossips and informers: try to see the facts. 


10. Do not endow with authority the unqualified, nor persons of a miserly, cowardly, 
passionate, or jealous nature. 


11. Cooperate with those who oppose wrongdoers and criminals; do not refrain from 
consulting them. 


12. Take care not to distance yourself from brave people who can speak the truth, even 
when it is bitter. 


13. Treat human beings fairly and equitably, but do not weigh those with high morals on 
the same scales as the potentially harmful. 


14. Bea model of goodwill. 

15. Win the trust of those around you. 

16. Do not stray from the mores and customs of society. 

17. Consult those whose knowledge is trustworthy. 

18. Evaluate each service in its proper order of duty and responsibility. 
19. Be honest and patient. 

20. Reserve favors and praise for those who are worthy of them. 

21. Use rewards and punishment in the right time and place. 


22. Do not distinguish between services. Do not change your attitude in the face of the 
meanliness of a job. 


23. Do not delegate power, even temporarily, to those who are after their own self- 
interest. 


24. Do not neglect controls and checks on your subordinates. Keep track of a task you 
have given. 


25. Help those who have problems to surmount them. 


237 


26. 


21: 


28. 


29. 


30. 


31. 


a2. 


33: 


34. 


32: 


Try to discern and eradicate errors as soon as they arise. 


Do not make concessions to exploiters and to those who disobey orders. 
Display emotions such as tolerance, compassion, and love in the proper time and 
place. 


Do not neglect apparently unimportant duties while fulfilling important ones. 
Do not forget that the duty being performed is a service to the state. 


Demonstrate mistakes and impart new information to your subordinates by 


performing tasks yourself. 


Make a habit of finishing duties on schedule. 
Be a model in obeying rules and regulations. 


Keep your word, fulfill your promises. Do not promise anything that cannot be 


realized. 


Be patient, and firm; always be moderate, and seek the Golden Mean. 


Don’t’s for Administrators 


10. 


11. 


Vanity and conceit. 

Desire to be praised to one’s own face. 

Rubbing in a favor done. 

Exaggerating matters out of proportion. 

Turning back on a promise. 

Making unnecessary concessions for one reason or other. 

Devoting unnecessary time to specific persons in crowded groups. 
Failure to display a firm attitude upon the recurrence of a crime or error. 
Failure to implement checks and controls. 

Anger. 


To act emotionally, to show weakness. 


238 


12. To speak recklessly here and there. 


Ali’s Advice 


We conclude with the following excerpt from Ali’s Advice to Statesmen: 


“... Never keep yourself aloof from the people for any length of time, for to do so is to 
keep oneself ignorant of their affairs. It develops a wrong perspective in the ruler and 
renders him unable to distinguish between what is important and what is not, between 
right and wrong, and between truth and falsehood. The ruler is, after all, human; and he 
cannot form a correct view of anything which is out of his sight. There is no distinctive 
sign attached to truth which would enable one to distinguish between different varieties 
of truth and falsehood. The fact is that you must be one of two things: you are either just, 
or unjust. If you are just then you will not keep yourself away from the people, but will 
listen to them and meet their requirements. On the other hand, if you are unjust, the 
people themselves will keep away from you... 


“Bear in mind that you should not throw away the offer of peace which your enemy may 
himself make. Accept it, for this will please God. Peace is a source of comfort to the 
army; it reduces your worries and promotes order in the State. If you have accepted any 
obligations under a peace treaty, discharge those obligations scrupulously. It is a trust and 
must be faithfully upheld; and whenever you make a promise, keep it with all the strength 
at your command: for whatever differences of opinion might exist on other matters, there 
is nothing so noble as the fulfilment of a promise.” 


WHAT IS SPIRIT? 


(The section following this one, by the famous scholar Ghazali, is quite abstruse. The 
present section is much more straightforward, and is intended to ease comprehension of 
the next.) 

Seeker after Truth, let me now explain to you a little about Spirit. 


What is the “spirit” that constitutes a locus for the manifestations of God? 


Can it be measured? Does it have color? Does it occupy space? Is it within the body, or 
without? 


The Lord Almighty instructed His Beloved Prophet to answer those who want to know 
the truth about Spirit—one of the secrets of Unity within the divine dispensation — as 
follows: “The Spirit is of the Command of my Lord” (17:85). 


The reply contained in this brief verse would fill countless volumes. 


239 


Because the truth of the Spirit is a very subtle lesson, it is expressed symbolically in this 
divine utterance. In order to understand it, we must know something about the World of 
Command (alam al-amr) and the World of Origination (alam al-khalq). 


Men of religion cognizant of these worlds, having been educated in the Faculty of 
Mohammed and able to speak God-ish, have given various descriptions of Spirit, some of 
which are reproduced below. To those who ask: “Is Spirit within the body?” they reply: 
“The Spirit is of the World of Command. Any entity belonging to the World of 
Command is free of incarnation and union. It is a subtlety from the Lord that diffuses at 
each instant and manifests itself continuously. It cannot be extinguished, does not die, 
and is indivisible into lesser parts. This subtle body, the seat of many sublime truths, has 
been made the locus of a manifestation that causes it to know everything, including itself. 
We do not have the right to speak about the truth of the Spirit. Only the Prophet—the 
Pearl of the Universe—can do that. What we can do is to speak about the states of the 
Spirit.” 


Having said this much, they next distinguish between four kinds of Spirit: 
1. the Human Spirit, 
2. the Animal Spirit, 
3. the Vegetable Spirit, 
4. the Mineral Spirit. 


The last three, they leave for investigation by scientists who study the relationship 
between phenomena in pursuit of the question: “Why?” Then they continue: “The Human 
Spirit is a Command from the Lord in the sense described above. The renewal, change 
and transformations of the body cannot harm its reality.” 


Fakhruddin Razi, the renowned “Rhazes” of the West, comments on the ‘Spirit’ verse: 
“The Spirit belongs to the World of Command. It came into existence because the Lord 
commanded it to ‘appear’. This fine substance, which is not a body belonging to the 
dense, coarse realm of matter, enlightens corporeal things with its light like the sun, 
although it does not extend its sphere to material bodies.” 


And concerning the Animal Spirit, he remarks: “As for the Animal Spirit, which belongs 
to the World of Origination, this is a subtle vapor under the charge of the Lordly 
Command called the Human Spirit. This is what is destroyed and dissipated at death. 


“The unfortunates who believe that death is the end of everything are those who cannot 
conceive of a Human Spirit as distinct from the Animal Spirit. For there are many 
phenomena which demonstrate that Spirit is not destroyed after separating from the body. 
Inspiration and precognition, for example, are properties of the Spirit.” 


240 


Wasiti, one of those well-versed in the wisdom of Islam, comments regarding the Spirit: 
“The Lord manifested His Beauty and Perfection by spirits—referred to by the 
‘speaking/rational (human) self’—and hid them with His divine name: ‘the Coverer’. He 
bestowed on the Spirit an infinitesimal part of His Attributes of Knowledge, Sight and 
Hearing. He gave life to the universe with it. Just as scientists cannot attain to its truth, 
neither can they have the power to raise the veil of the Spirit. If the beauty of the Spirit 
had not been veiled, some ignorant or heedless people would have been misled into 
thinking it was God, prostrated themselves before it, and thus become sinners.” 


According to Ibn Sina, the personal truth of Man does not reside in this 150-pound bag of 
blood and bones. 


Although Spirit is not distinguished in any way before it enters the body—there is no 
term such as “your spirit,” “my spirit,” “the spirit of ordinary people,” “the spirit of the 
Elect’”—it does take on these terms after becoming associated with bodies. “Elevated 
spirits,” “base spirits” and “subtle spirits” are other names it assumes after entering this 
relationship. 


99 66. 


“Elevated spirits” are the spirits of the Prophets and their inheritors who have attained 
perfection and reached liberation. 


“Base spirits” are the spirits of hypocrites and those who go to the Afterworld as devious 
and cruel people. 


According to Ismail Hakki of Bursa, the spirit in Man consists of the Kingly (Human) 
and Animal Spirits. 


The Kingly Spirit is the overseer and controller of the Animal Spirit in its actions and 
implementation. The Animal Spirit is the organizer and mover of bodies; i.e., it is the 
originator of all movement. 


When the body of a human being dies and is destroyed by the command of God, the 
Kingly Spirit and consciousness of that person is not affected at all. As for the Animal 
Spirit, its center is the heart, and it circulates throghout organs such as the brain, liver, 
lungs and kidneys. It is present in all organs and all parts of an organ, and pervades every 
iota of the body via the blood, the bearer of life. 


Before the Animal Spirit enters a body composed of the elements, it is present in the 
esoteric knowledge of the Kingly Spirit as a force. When the Kingly and Animal Spirits 
enter the “statue” of a body, the action of motion is manifested therein. These motive 
actions are entirely the product of the Animal Spirit, whereas properties such as order, 
knowledge, speech, and intelligence inherent in these actions belong to the Kingly Spirit 
alone. If not for these properties, the manifestations originating from a human being 
could not exist. 


241 


In summary, we may say that the Human Spirit is an eternal mystery. Only men of 
knowledge—sages in possession of the Prophet’s command: “Die before you die”—can 
know its true meaning. 


Indeed, let us consider for a moment the sacred verse: “When I fashioned him, and 
breathed into him of My Spirit...” (15:29). 


God explains in this verse that He placed the “Spirit” in a location that was capable of 
formation (being shaped and moulded). Hence, the “clay” of Adam and Eve became the 


locus of the Spirit, the place that “accepted” the Spirit. 


Further, “I breathed into him” does not mean: “I blew into him.” Rather, it means: “I 
inflamed the light of Spirit that was concealed in his creation.” 


The creation of the first human pair, Adam and Eve, is itself shrouded in mystery. 


Praise be to God, and His blessings be upon His Beloved Prophet Mohammed, his Family 
and his Companions. 


242 


THE NATURE OF SPIRIT 


This section is about what God’s intention is in saying: “When I fashioned him and 
breathed into him of My spirit...” (15:29). 


Breathing the Spirit into Adam 


“Fashioning” consists of an action in the locus associated with the spirit. That locus is 
clay in the case of Adam, and the seed in the case of his children. Mankind was thereby 
subjected to character transformation and total arrangement. The body was brought to the 
purest condition suitable for accepting and receiving the spirit, and thus for the purpose 
of its creation. This is similar to the wick of an oil lamp, which becomes ready for fire 
after being soaked in oil. 


Breathing (nafh) is the process of igniting and inflaming the spirit in its locus 
(receptacle). Hence, the breathing is the cause of ignition. 


It is impossible to comprehend the breathing of God Almighty. The resultant self (nafs) is 
explained by breathing (nafh). It is the ignition and inflaming process in the wick of the 
seed. 


In addition, there is the manner and end result of breathing. 


The manner, for the purpose of ignition or inflaming, is the transmission of love and 
desire into the one who receives the breath by the One who does the breathing. 


The reason for the ignition of the spirit’s light is an attribute which exists both at the 
Agent and at the receiving locus (receptivity) which accepts the spirit. 


The attribute of the Agent is Generosity, which is the source of all existence. He graces 
all beings by infusing them with the reality of being. This attribute is called Power, or 
Might. 


This is similar to the case that, when there is no hindrance, the light of the sun illuminates 
everything that accepts or is capable of receiving illumination. 


Receptivity (capacity) is to take on colors and variety. It is not like colorless air. 


The attribute of the receptacle is ‘moderation’ and ‘homogeneity’ created by the 
preparatory process. Indeed, God Almighty has said: “When I prepared him..” 


The attribute of receptivity is very similar to the attribute of a mirror. For a mirror, unless 


it is cleaned and polished, cannot accept and produce an image even if a form is standing 
in front of it. But when it is polished, the form begins to appear as an image. 


243 


Similarly, when receptive homogeneity is obtained in the seed, the spirit is realized in the 
seed without any change on the side of the Creator. But the spirit is not created at that 
moment. This has occurred earlier, since the locus has in the meantime been altered by 
the process of homogenization. 


The overflow of Generosity means that Divine Generosity causes the light of being to 
shine in every nature capable of accepting that Generosity. This is called the overflow of 
Munificence. 


Of course, this should not be regarded in the same way as the pouring of some water from 
a cup into one’s hand, since this consists of some water reaching the hand after being 
separated from its source. God Almighty is above and beyond such comparisons. 


The Truth of the Spirit is a Secret 


As for the explanation of the nature and truth of the spirit: This is a secret. And the 
Prophet was not given permission to explain this except to those worthy of it. If you are 
worthy, then you are able to listen. 


Know, then, that Spirit is not a thing which enters the body like water entering a cup. Nor 
is it something that enters the heart like the entry of the property of blackness into 
something black, or the entry of knowledge into the knower. On the contrary, those who 
know unanimously agree that it is a substance which does not admit of division. If it were 
divisible, it would know something with one part, and not know with another, so that it 
would then both know and not know, which is impossible. This constitutes, therefore, a 
proof of its indivisibility. 


But why wasn’t the Prophet allowed to reveal the secret and truth of the spirit? Because 
the spirit has certain attributes which cannot be comprehended. In those days, people 
were subdivided as ordinary people and the informed. The ordinary people did not affirm 
even what God allowed the Prophet to speak about. How could they have been expected 
to affirm the properties of the Human Spirit? In fact, some of the ordinary people 
proceeded to deny God by dissociating Him from corporeal existence and manifestations. 
For they thought of God’s existence as an indication of His corporeality. Those able to 
rise above the ordinary man’s way of thinking immediately distanced God from being 
corporeal, but they in turn ascribed a direction to God, because their mental acumen did 
not suffice to separate Him from the properties of corporeality. Only a couple of schools 
were able to dissociate God from both corporeality and direction. 


And why should the secrets of the spirit be hidden from the latter? 


Because they have deemed attributes impossible for anyone other than God. [I.e. they 
have gone too far in the direction of Dissociation or Incomparability (tanzih).] When you 
name an attribute in their presence, they immediately accuse you of blasphemy, saying: 
“This is a comparison against God. You are ascribing an attribute which is God’s to your 
own self. This indicates that you are ignorant of the truth about God’s attributes.” 


244 


But just as we say that a human being is alive, possesses knowledge, has power and will, 
hears, sees, speaks, etc., so too can we claim that God Almighty possesses such attributes. 
Analogy is not intended here, for these are not attributes peculiar to God. Similarly, 
independence of space and direction is not an attribute peculiar to God alone; on the 
contrary, it is one of the least essential. An example of a specific attribute would be that 
God is Self-existent. Others besides God exist, too, but only He exists by and through His 
own Self, without need of another. Further, although things are both doomed to extinction 
and their existence is borrowed, God’s existence is of His essence and is not borrowed 
from elsewhere, whereas the existence of everything other than God is borrowed from 
God and is not of itself. This kind of self-existence can belong only to God. 


What is the meaning of the Spirit’s relationship to God when He declares: “I breathed 
into him of My Spirit”? 


The Spirit is independent of direction and space. It has the ability to know and 
comprehend all sciences. This similarity and relationship are not possible for other, 
corporeal things. Because of this, it has been reserved for the Spirit relative to God. 


The World of Command and the World of Origination 


You are composed of two things: a body and a spirit. Man is an amphibious being—he is 
connected to the World of Origination (khalq) with his body, and to the World of Divine 
Power, or Command (amr), with his spirit. This is made clear by the verse: “Say: ...The 
Spirit is under the Command (amr) of my Lord” (17:85). Everything that is subject to 
measure, proportion and quantity belongs to the Realm of Origination. But the spirit and 
the heart cannot be measured or expressed in quantitative terms. 


As for the Worlds of Command and Origination, their meaning is as follows. It is known 
that everything that happens to the Spirit is a decree, a decision, and this consists of 
becoming associated with a body and its attributes. This is what the World of Origination 
means. 


This origination is by the foreordination of God. It is not His corporealization and 
bringing into being. In the present context, the origination of something means to ordain, 
to establish the state of that thing before it comes into existence in this world. That which 
does not possess quantity and ordination is called a Divine command. And this, as noted 
above, is a state of similarity and relationship to God. Human and angelic spirits, which 
are of this sort, are called the World of Command. 


The World of Command consists of things that possess no quantity, but fall within the 
purview of measure and decree by becoming associated with the World of Origination, 
such as external entities related to the senses, imagination, direction, spatiality, settling 
and entry. 


If this is the condition of the spirit, is it not, in that case, an eternal being rather than a 
creature? 


245 


Such an error can be the due only of the ignorant and the deceived. 


If someone says: “Not being ordained and quantitative means the Spirit is not a creature, 
it is indivisible and has no extension,” that is correct. But if he says: “The Spirit is not a 
creature in the sense that it is eternal and not temporally originated,” this is wrong. Some 
have believed that the Spirit does not have a beginning, that it is eternally pre-existent, 
but this is erroneous. Others have erred in thinking that the Spirit is body, but it is 
indivisible and continuous. 


The appearance of the Spirit in the body depends on the preparedness of the seed to 
receive it, just as the image of a form facing a mirror can be seen only after the mirror is 
polished, even if it was present before the polishing. 


The Prophet said: “God created man in His own image (in the image of the 
Compassionate).” Now what does this mean? 


Image, or form, can pertain to a body. It can be composite, and can consist of an overlay 
of simpler forms. It can also pertain to meanings, which are of an intelligible, not 
sensory, nature. Meanings may also be ordered, composite and harmonious. 


But what about the image mentioned above? This is an intelligible and spiritual form. It 
points to the similarity and affinity with God mentioned earlier. It also goes back to the 
Essence, the Attributes, and the Actions of God, and to the reality of the Spirit’s essence. 


The Spirit is neither attribute, nor body. It neither occupies space like a substance, nor 
does it admit of extension and direction. It is neither connected to the body and the world, 
nor is it separate from them. The body is not the true locus of the Spirit; it is only its 
instrument. The Spirit is not joined to the body, and yet it is also not distant from it. 
Instead, the Spirit uses the body in the service of its own purposes. It is neither within the 
body and the world, nor without. 


Now all these are the Attributes of God’s Essence (or, His Essential Attributes). Primary 
among these Attributes are: Life (the Living), Knowledge (the Knower), Power (the 
Mighty), Will (the Willful), Hearing (the Hearer), Sight (the Seeing), and Speech (the 
Speaker). The spirit also partakes of these attributes, and in this sense has an affinity with 
God. 


The Diffusion of the Spirit in the Body 


As for the Actions of God: from the point of view of will, these are the beginning of 
man’s own actions. Their effect first manifests itself in the heart. It spreads from there via 
the animal (animating) spirit, which is present as a subtle “vapor” in the cavity of the 
heart. It rises thence to the brain. From there it is distributed to all the organs of the body, 
including the fingertips. The fingers move by its influence, which move the pen, which in 
turn moves its tip. 


246 


Hence, what is to be written takes shape in the imagination. For if a person does not 
conceive what he desires to write in his imagination first, it cannot subsequently be set 
down on paper. 


A person who knows how God brings plants and animals into being on earth and how He 
moves the heavens and the stars by His Actions and angels (powers) will understand that 
man’s disposal in his own world is similar to God’s disposal over the entire universe, the 
macrocosmos, and will comprehend the meaning of the saying: “God created man in His 
own image.” 


The Difference Between Creation and Origination 


The Prophet said: “God created spirits [long before] He created bodies.” He also said: “In 
terms of origination, I am the first of the Prophets. In terms of prophethood, I am the last. 
I was a prophet when Adam was as yet between water and clay.” 


Now what do these sayings mean? 
The truth is: there is nothing in all this that proves the Spirit is eternal. In the first saying, 
the spirits meant are the angelic spirits. And the bodies are the body and existence of the 
worlds, such as the heavens, the stars, water, air and earth. 
As for the saying: “I am the first of the Prophets”: Origination here means to be ordained. 
It does not mean creation or bringing into being. For the Prophet of God was not created 
before he was born. But purposes and results are first ordained, and then brought into 
existence subsequently. For God Almighty first forms divine matters and temporally 
engendered things in the Guarded Tablet. 
Now, if you have understood what has been said up to here concerning the two kinds of 
existence, you will also have understood that the being of the Prophet preceded that of 
Adam, i.e. it came before not just the first visible being, but also the first ordained being. 
This is the last word on the subject of Spirit. 
God Almighty knows the truth in this matter. 


(From the writings of Ghazzali.) 


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THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY 
OF THE SUFI 


(Although there are many spiritual schools or mystical orders in Sufism, the main orders, 
founded by the principal saints, are twelve in number, the rest being offshoots from these 
12 Major Orders. And although the various orders exhibit diverse characteristics and 
peculiarities, they all operate within the boundaries of the same spiritual science, under 
the auspices of the Word of Witnessing and the Word of Unification. 


The following outline of the Sufic disciple’s spiritual journey is based mainly on the 
practices of the Naqshibandi Order, which, like all the orders, was named after its 
founding saint, Master Bahauddin Naqshiband. However, anyone who studies this 
journey in detail will understand the meaning and content of all the spiritual schools.) 


Introduction 


The Spiritual Journey is the journey of a disciple or aspirant (murid ) to God, Who is the 
Truth or Absolute Reality. The person who has embarked on this journey (thulug) is 
called the Wayfarer or Seeker (thaliq). 


For the person wishing to make this journey, the first and by far the most important 
prerequisite is a Guide. Hence, the first thing to be done is to find a wise and mature 
Teacher or Master (murshid: Enlightener). To start off on this journey without a guide is 
like climbing a strange mountain at night without a light. One cannot see where s/he is 
going or where to step. There is no telling where a poisonous snake might bite him or 
where s/he will be attacked by a predatory beast. An unbridgeable chasm will yawn under 
him at the least expected moment. Without help, it is almost impossible to survive such a 
journey intact. 


The wise teacher, on the other hand, has already performed the journey and survived. 
Further, he has seen and is thoroughly familiar with all the pitfalls and dangers of the 
route. He guides his disciple along the path with ease, and sees to it that s/he reaches the 
Summit of Unity safe and sound. 


If you ask: “Where, in this day and age, is such a person to be found?” the fact is that 
although rare, such people exist in every age. Needless to say, fake gurus abound. “Don’t 


follow every teacher, he will lead your path astray.” But it cannot be denied that true 
masters also exist. 


The Goal 


It may be appropriate at the outset to give some indication of what the goal of the journey 
is. Put simply, it is nothing less than the total transformation or transfiguration of the 


248 


human personality. To put this simply, there is another, hidden “you” that inheres in you. 
This other “you,” the real “you,” is wonderful, beautiful, and adorable, and the objective 
is to bring it out into the open, to realize it, to transfer it from the potential to the actual. 
Anyone in whom this inner “you” is born (has emerged) is called “twice-born.” The 
metamorphosis of a caterpillar—through a chrysalis—into a butterfly is an apt metaphor 
here. In this process, the master is midwife to the disciple’s rebirth. 


“Know thyself,” said Socrates, and this was the motto written over the Temple at Delphi. 
The Aristotelian injunction, “Realize yourself,’ and the Humanist injunction, “Perfect 
yourself,” were but different expressions of the same thing. 


Suppose we ask: what is the highest achievement man is capable of? Obviously, the 
highest achievement for a scientist is to be like Newton or Einstein—at least, to win the 
Nobel prize. The highest achievement for an artist is to become as famous as, say, a 
Picasso or a Michelangelo. For a writer, it is to be mentioned in the same breath as a 
Goethe or Tolstoy, etc. 


We next ask: what is the greatest achievement that man as a man is capable of? What is 
the full realization, the perfection, of man’s potentials as a human being? 


According to the Sufis, it is to become a Perfect Man, a Friend of God, saint, or sage. In 
English, Universal Man or Unitary Man appear to be equally appropriate terms. 
Furthermore, this is a stage that lies even beyond genius; if the greatest names of science, 
art, literature, philosophy, statesmanship, etc. are mountain peaks in comparison with the 
rest of humanity, the sage is an even higher mountain peak compared to them. (This 
excludes the prophets, since prophethood ended with Mohammed. Sainthood is the only 
option now available to man.) 


The Socratic “Know thyself” finds its culmination in the Prophetic Saying: “He who 
knows himself knows his Lord.” Moreover, in the Koranic statement: “I created human 
beings only so that they should worship Me” (51:56), “worship” has been interpreted by 
the saints as “knowledge” (Gnosis), since the worship of God leads to knowledge of God. 
And there is no greater experience or achievement for a human being than to know—not 
superficially or theoretically, but truly to know—his Lord, to be a “God-realized” person. 
In such a person, a new, altruistic personality has congealed and crystallized, like a lily or 
lotus emerging from a muddy pond, or butter out of milk. 


Indeed, those who have successfully completed the journey are referred to as “the 
Transformed” (abdal, pl. budala). The term is derived from the Arabic badal, which 
affords some further insight into what is involved. The latter, meaning “price,” indicates 
that these persons have cultivated a nonegotistical personality, and have given 
everything, even their lives, for the sake of God and His Prophet: they have “paid the 
price.” What they receive in return for this payment are God and His Prophet themselves, 
meaning that they have become clothed in the divine attributes of God, have become 
invested with a Godly morality, and have achieved a Mohammedan (i.e. perfect) purity, 


249 


morality, spirituality and personality. This is why they are also called “Perfect Man” 
(insan al-kamil ). 


Exoteric, Esoteric 


Every true religion has two components: an outward (exoteric, zahiri) and an inward 
(esoteric, batini) aspect. 


The exoteric aspect is more concerned with external behavior and forms of worship, with 
social and corporeal conduct. The esoteric, on the other hand, deals with the inner world 
of man, with his spiritual and psychological dimension. 


Now it is important to realize that if religion is a coin, then its exoteric and esoteric 
aspects are two sides of the same coin, comparable to the body and spirit of a human 
being. One cannot survive without the other. A religion reduced to exotericism is like a 
corpse—it has become pure, rigid formalism. And a religion that relies on esotericism 
alone is a mere wraith, a ghost that cannot animate its body. If a religion, on the other 
hand, combines both the exoteric and the esoteric, then we can say that we are truly in the 
presence of a living religion, a religion with the power to invigorate, to bestow life and 
felicity. 


In terms of this criterion, one can order religions within a spectrum ranging from exoteric 
to esoteric. Most will be found to lie somewhere between the two extremes. The two 
religious philosophies of China, Confucianism and Taoism, are notable for the fact that 
they lie at the ends of this spectrum: the former is almost entirely formal, while the latter 
is almost wholly inward. (This, of course, does not diminish the many great truths and 
values embodied by either.) The two thus complement each other. 


Ideally, a religion should strike a balance between the inner and the outer. It should be 
able to meet both the external requirements and the internal needs of mankind. Moreover, 
form should match content. The external laws, customs, methods, etc. of a religion should 
be in conformity with its inner practices. For this, there are two requirements: that the 
religion should be a revealed religion, and that it should have weathered time in its 
pristine condition. 


Only God, the Creator of man, knows best what is good for man. No scientist or 
philosopher can know this, for the simple reason that the sum total of the possibilities and 
potentials of man remain obscure to even the best human minds. This is why a religion 
should be revealed by God. Moreover, only God can make the proper coupling between 
internal and external and maintain their perfect balance. 


Further, it is also necessary that such a religion as practised in our day should be a 


faithful copy of its original: its clear stream should not have become polluted, corrupted 
or shifted from its course. 


250 


This brings us back to the requirement that form should be coupled to its proper content. 
When we peel a banana, we do not expect to find a slice of watermelon inside, nor do we 
expect to eat an apple when we bite into a peach. Opening a bottle of a certain brand of 
beverage, we will be surprised and, perhaps, disappointed if it contains water. 


All this indicates that God has created every exoteric formalism in association with its 
proper esoteric essence, and that divorce of the two—for instance, trying to live the inner 
aspect of a religion without regard for its external prerequisites—or substituting one kind 
of interior for another while retaining the same exterior, will not lead to results that are 
desirable. 


Religions are organic, not mechanical things. You cannot break them down and 
recombine them as you like. If you lop off the head of a cat, the wings of a rooster, the 
body of a lion and the tail of a peacock and attempt to put them together, the result will 
be a chimera, and a dead one at that. This is why syncretism in religion often spells 
trouble. 


To sum up, the external, exoteric aspect of Islam is known as the Holy Law, and its 
spiritual, esoteric aspect is called Sufism. 


Spiritual Schools 


For every kind of knowledge there is a school. Anyone wishing to obtain higher 
education after primary and secondary school will go on to college or university; to 
medical school, law school or polytechnic institute in order to become a doctor, lawyer or 
engineer. 


The difficulty, however, is that state-based systems of education everywhere prepare 
people only for the material world, for worldly success. They inculcate the basic 
knowledge necessary for surviving in this world, and endow people with a profession. 
But they do not recognize or answer the inner needs of human beings, nor do they assist 
their psychic/spiritual/psychological development. Even religious instruction is oriented 
more towards external conduct, regulations, and principles—all exoteric matters. The 
inner life of man is neglected. 


But we neglect that inner life only at our peril. If nothing else, the self-destruction of 
Europe in two world wars—and the more recent destruction of its values in Bosnia— 
should make us pause to think and reflect: we should recognize that negative 
subconscious contents and accretions can result in explosive discharges that are as totally 
unexpected as they are universally destructive. The outer world shapes the inner world of 
man; but conversely, the inner world of the individual also has an influence on the outer 
and social world. Without appropriate spiritual training, pacifying the soul and satisfying 
its inner cravings, that influence can only be negative. 


In our day, such moral/spiritual instruction has taken on an added urgency. Mankind’s 
scientific and technological advancement has far outstripped its moral progress. 


251 


Somehow, man’s spiritual maturity must be brought to the same level as his technical 
prowess—if nothing else, in order to control the latter and channel it to constructive 
ends—and the need for this is much more urgent in a scientifically advanced society than 
in ages and civilizations that led a more pastoral existence. This is not only because of 
technological man’s incredibly magnified capacities for destruction, but because, having 
solved its economic problem and rid itself of material want, the way lies wide open for 
humanity’s unfettered spiritual improvement. The Chinese symbol for crisis is composed 
of two parts, one signifying danger and the other, opportunity. The dangers inherent in 
our present civilization are great, yet the opportunities are equally great. 


Since, therefore, human beings do not live in the external world alone—since each one 
possesses an inner world in addition to the outer, which they all share—and since training 
this inner world is not only possible, but absolutely necessary, there have to be certain 
esoteric, or spiritual, schools in order to provide this education. And so there are. If they 
did not exist they would have to be invented, in order to meet this unsatisfied need of 
human beings. 


These are the schools of the “Mohammedan University.” Each one follows a different 
path, but they are all united in the end result. They are, as it were, the educational units of 
an “Invisible College.” Whoever attains moral, spiritual and psychological growth 
advances in these schools. 


There is an important reason why these schools are not formal and official, like other 
schools. In this case, institutionalization yields results at odds with the intended goal. The 
official university is predominantly a matter of rigid form and structure. What is intended 
here, however, is exactly the opposite—the purpose is to pass from form to content, from 
external appearance to inner meaning. Spiritual education and progress is not something 
to be achieved formally, by bureaucracy and red tape. But the human tendency to 
organize and to create institutions is so strong that examples can be found in history 
where even these schools, with their extremely fluid and informal structure, have become 
ossified and consequently less able to fulfill their purpose. 


The Perfect Master 


The master-disciple relationship is a time-honored method of teaching: as Michael 
Polanyi has pointed out, it holds no less true in science than it does in mysticism. Indeed, 
it is the accepted form of instruction in all branches of science and art. 


Although the mature spiritual master has many distinguishing properties that set him 
apart from other people, the main ones are as follows: 


1. He follows God’s Commandments and the Way of the Prophet meticulously. 

2. Your worries and anxieties are dissipated in his presence, giving way to 
contentment and affection. 

3. You do not wish to leave his presence. Your enthusiasm and affection increases 
with every pearl of wisdom he utters. 


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4. All persons young and old, of high or lowly standing—even heads of state—feel 
obliged to offer him their respects and receive his blessings. 


(Note that extrasensory powers or acumen are not counted among the above. Such 
capabilities may or may not be manifest in a master, but these cannot be taken as basis for 
proper instruction. A student who approaches a teacher with the sole purpose of 
mastering such powers will be rejected, and rightly so, for these are merely possible and 
mostly undesirable by-products, not the goal, of the journey.) 


Walt Whitman was speaking for the perfect master when he said: “I and mine do not 
convince by arguments; we convince by our presence.” What the Koran says can be read 
in the master’s movements and face. 


All the actions, behavior and diposition of a person having these characteristics are 
consistent with the model of the Prophet. It is necessary to submit with a sincere 
submission to whomever possesses these traits without hypocrisy or exhibitionism. The 
aspirant should be like a “dead man in the hands of the one washing him” with such a 
master, obeying his every instruction. In fact, even his admonishments and punishments 
should be regarded as a blessing. 


Actually, the perfect master is the most loving and affectionate of human beings. 
Especially those who are ardent for God and His love find him to be kinder and more 
compassionate than their own parents. To the wayfarers who visit him, he first teaches 
the science of religion. He resolves their difficulties in accordance with the Way (sunnah) 
of the Prophet. He clears away their doubts, rectifying and fortifying their faith. Then he 
instructs them in matters of cleanliness and performance of the Prayer (Ar. salat, Pers. 
namadh). As emphasized earlier in this book, nothing is possible without Prayer. He also 
explains submission, contentment, trust in God, and the importance of pleasing God. 


One of the characteristics of a mature master is to cover up shames. He never reveals the 
shames, errors and misdeeds of people, and always conceals them from others. He knows 
how to keep a secret. He is never angry with anyone and never utters a word that will hurt 
somebody. His anger and severity are reserved only for situations which his devotion to 
God require. 


Such a perfect man always chooses the middle course in his eating and drinking, in sleep, 
speech and dealing with people. He applies the principle: “The median of everything is 
the best” in his habits and worship. He avoids the extremes of too much and too little, 
following a path midway between the two. 


This intermediate form of conduct is specific only to saints and perfect men of the highest 
standing. Indeed, our Prophet has remarked: “Moderate conduct is the most beautiful of 
acts and the most admired of charming traits.” There can be no doubt that a mature 
person endowed with this “Golden Mean” in his ways is the worthiest to instruct and 
advise others, and best suited to this task. 


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The Gifted Disciple 


In the spiritual journey, not only the master but the disciple, too, must possess certain 
qualities. Receiving is as important as giving; if a student cannot receive instruction, the 
efforts of even the best teacher will be foiled. In addition, appropriate preparation is as 
necessary here as in the case of an ordinary journey. 


The distinguishing characteristic of a gifted disciple is this: he is constantly at war with 
his self. He torments and tortures this enemy with hunger, thirst, and speechlessness. He 
endures various difficulties and resists the inclinations of his self, grasps it with a 
powerful grip, and succeeds in subduing it. The gifted disciple is a self-surmounter; he is 
always striving to climb beyond his present level of selfhood. 


The sole desire of the talented disciple is to purge his self of all undesirable and 
condemned characteristics. For he knows that his self is his own greatest enemy and that 
it is the source of the most dangerous spiritual illnesses. And for this reason, he strives his 
utmost to free himself from the effects of his ego. 


Why is this characteristic required in a disciple? Because if he is content and satisfied 
with the level of self he happens to be in, there will be no motivation left for further 
progress to higher stages. Self-satisfaction is the nemesis of self-transcendence, and 
freezes progress. 


Bahauddin Naqshiband, the founder of the school known by his name, says: “I have two 
legacies for travellers on this path. The first is: no matter what stage the traveller attains, 
no matter how far he progresses, he cannot achieve salvation and liberation unless he 
regards his self as a hundred times worse than the self of Pharaoh. And the second is: no 
matter what stage he reaches, the traveller cannot be saved and will be ruined unless he 
considers himself a novice, who has as yet taken only the first step on the road.” 


If someone hurts him, the talented disciple does not curse or swear in return. Instead, he 
finds fault with his self, and says: “If my self were not bad, God would not allow these 
servants of His to pester me like this.” If someone complains of him to his master, he tells 
his master that not they, but he, is to blame, and that the fault is his. 


Such a traveller, then, who can conquer his self, can hold it in his palm, and who blames 
only his self for all errors, is gifted and worthy to enter this path. If he exhibits certain 
errors and imperfections from time to time, these may be excused, and do not constitute a 
permanent obstacle to entering the True Path. For when he observes bad behavior in 
himself, he criticizes his self. He does not exchange bad words with anyone, nor does he 
swear at them. He blames his self for every mistake and never sides with it. He does not 
allow himself feelings of superiority . 


But if the traveller is happy with his self; if he fails to struggle against it; if self-love and 


pride overcome him; if he cannot vanquish it by remaining hungry, thirsty and sleepless 
when necessary; if he places the blame on those who beat or swear at him; if he takes 


254 


offense, becomes their enemy, and tries to exact revenge; if he sides with his self, seeking 
its ease and comfort—this disciple does not have the talent to embark on the journey, and 
cannot even sniff the aroma of the path of the saints. 


The basis of the road of those close to God is to be displeased with one’s self and to be its 
enemy—to Struggle (mujahada) against the self and thereby join the ranks of those who 
achieve Observation (mushahada). If the traveller does not build his spiritual career on 
this foundation, he will be building on quicksand, and sooner or later it will fall down like 
a house of cards. Because he who does not know his enemy cannot find his friend. 


We should pause here to clarify the meaning of “Struggle,” “Observation,” and the 
relationship between the two. Struggle is the struggle—the Great Work, effort, and 
labor—against the self and its selfishness. As selfishness is defeated, one rises to 
progressively higher levels of the self. Now the degrees of observation (or perception) 
available to these different levels are not the same. The five outer (physical) senses are 
common to all human beings, correspond to the base self, and determine our perception 
of what is called the “observable universe.” There is, however, an Invisible (ghayb) 
World in addition to the visible world. Now there are things that are invisible or 
unobservable to the unaided senses, such as radio waves, even in the visible world. When 
we say Invisible World, however, we mean primarily the Spiritual World, susceptible to 
perception by the five inner (spiritual) senses, which are the counterparts of the five 
external senses (inner sight, inner hearing, etc.). Naturally, since these inner senses 
ordinarily lie dormant, people are not aware of their existence. As one attains higher 
levels of the self, these senses are awakened, and what is normally invisible becomes 
observable. This is what is meant by Observation, which comprises various categories 
such as Revelation (wahy), Unveiling (kashf ) and Intuition or intuitive perception 
(emergence into consciousness). The highest stage of Observation is the Vision of God. 
But this sight is possible only in the most refined states of self-purification. 


On this journey, three rules of conduct are essential for the traveller: 


1. No matter what level of maturity the disciple attains by the grace of God or the aid 
of his master, he must try to increase his humility, his self-effacement, and his 
nothingness. If he is able to do so, he should consider this, too, to be a grace of God 
and give thanks to Him. He should never fall into self-assertion. The servant should 
remain firmly established in poverty, weakness and nothingness, which characterize 
the station of servanthood. He should not reach out for power, majesty and self- 
sufficiency, which are the attributes of God, until God strips that person of human 
attributes and grants him subsistence through His Essence. Deviation from self-denial 
and self-renunciation on this road is unbecoming in a disciple. Whoever desires to be 
freed of mortality will abide by this. 

2. When a state, behavior, or anything else that displeases the master manifests itself in 
the disciple as an ordinary human failing, he should not lose heart and cease to visit 
or serve his master in the belief that all is lost, and that he is of no use anymore. 
Utmost attention should be paid to this point. 


205 


3. When the master orders something, it should be carried out happily and with 
gladness of heart to the best of one’s abilities. 


These three manners are of the greatest necessity for the disciple. 


General Rules 


On the road to Truth, there are many things to be learned and many methods to be 
applied. We shall only dwell on certain general rules here, and shall select the Way of the 
Nagqshibandi (Naqshi for short) as an example. 


It has been said that “the end of all roads is the beginning of the Naqshibandi road.” It is 
the shortest path of closeness to God. 


One of the finer points inherent in this saying is that with the Naqshis, the master shows 
the disciple the goal of the journey at the very outset, so that the disciple can then 
concentrate his efforts with full consciousness on the achievement of this goal. 


The prophet taught the science of wisdom and presence privately to Abu Bakr (the first 
Caliph), but did not divulge it to the general public, not even to the other caliphs. There 
are three principles on this path: eating sparingly, sleeping sparingly, and talking 
sparingly. 


Eating little leads to short sleep, short sleep leads to talking little, and talking little is a 
great aid in invoking God in one’s heart at every instant. Hence, the main thing is to eat 
sparingly. 


Eating little also has a second benefit. Satiety leads to pride, and pride leads to anger. 
Thus, eating little also holds these two in check. 


Actually, it is enough for those entering this path to observe moderation in food, drink, 
sleep, and speech. There are three conditions for this: 


1. To put away all worldly thoughts, images and memories from the mind. 

2. Never to forget God, always invoking (remembering) Him in one’s heart. 

3. Always to be in Vigil (wakeful watching) of, or Communion with, God (muragaba), 
to bear God in mind. 


The spiritual prerequisite of this path is the love of God and longing for Him. If this 
worry, this concern has entered a heart, this should be regarded as the greatest gift, and 
one should ceaselessly strive to increase it without losing it. 


The Invocation (dhikr: literally, remembrance) of God in one’s heart is the shortest road 
that leads to God, and the key to the inconceivable world of Unity, which also protects 
one against troubles and calamities. The gain of those entering this path is always to be in 
God’s Presence. When that Presence takes root in the heart, it is called Observation 


256 


(mushahada). When Presence becomes Stabilized (tamkin), i.e. when it becomes 
permanent and free from Variation (talwin), the goal is achieved. God is known at every 
moment, one is always with Him, and is never heedless of Him at any instant. 


The Naqshis have three methods to achieve this. 


Method 1 


The invocation (dhikr) of: “No deity but God” (la ilaha illAllah). The invoker repeats this 
“Word of Unity” with a peaceful heart. In the case of the Naqshis, the repetition is 
performed not aloud, but silently, from the heart. (The Prophet taught the silent 
invocation to Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, and the vocal invocation to Ali, the fourth 
Caliph.) In pronouncing the negation: “(There is) no deity”, one considers all things and 
all beings as nothing, and in pronouncing the affirmation: “but God”, one contemplates 
the eternal existence of God. During the repetition of this sacred word, the tongue is 
folded back and its bottom is pressed upon the palate. The wayfarer holds his breath for 
reasonable periods of time, and repeats the invocation with such intensity that its effect is 
spread to all parts of the body. In everything the disciple does, he does not fail to repeat it 
under any circumstances. This repetition is not weakened or relaxed even when speaking, 
eating, or during sleep. When one notices that this state is waning, one summons one’s 
attention and again concentrates, and finally the invocation settles and becomes 
permanent. 


Method 2 


The invocation of “God” (Allah). The invoker turns to God with his heart and invokes 
His majestic name. In repeating, he should consider God as being present at every point 
in the universe. He should repeat the invocation with such vigor that he passes away from 
himself, and arrives at such a rank that this state is ever present in his heart—it becomes a 
property of his heart, his heart is filled with that light, and he experiences great pleasure. 


Whatever the states of the heart may be, these should remain in the heart. The secrets that 
are revealed to it should not be divulged to the public, and one should not step beyond the 
bounds of the Divine Law (the principles of Islam). 


If the invoker does not fail to think of God for even an instant, if he invokes God’s name 
even in his sleep and does not stand aloof from Him, his sleep as well as his wakefulness 
will be the presence of God; he will quickly achieve spiritual poverty and extinction. 
Depending on the aptitude of the aspirant and the grace of God, the period in question 
can be anywhere from an instant to a lifetime. 


Method 3 
The third method, Connection (rabita), is the way of binding the heart. The wonderful 


conversations of a perfect master pave the way to divine communion. By the power and 
virtue (baraka) of those discussions, the light of spirituality and inner meaning flows into 


Zot 


the aspirant’s heart. If this meaning is diminished, the disciple must again avail himself of 
the master’s discussions, until he can hold the master’s image in his imagination even 
when they are separated, and he drives all other thoughts and memories from his heart, 
leaving only the form and memories of his master. 


There is no closer way than this. If the enlightened face of that master—perhaps the 
middle of his eyebrows—does not leave his mind for even a second, if he is not heedless 
of it while sitting, standing, or eating, if he can always bear it in mind—and this is quite 
difficult to achieve for the disciple—the wayfarer reaches such a rank in the end that the 
image of the perfect master takes root in his heart, and he can imagine it at every instant 
without difficulty. 


But if courtesy (good manners) is violated, this path of illumination can be interrupted in 
the disciple. It is then very difficult to re-establish the Tie and communication. To find 
the conversation of such an exalted and valuable master is a great boon in this day and 
age. 


The Eleven Principles 


We cannot, in a treatment such as this, leave the “Eleven Words” of the Naqshibandis 
unmentioned. The first eight of these were established by Master Abdulhaliq Gujduwani, 
and the last three were added by Sheikh Naqshiband. 


1. Invocation (Yad Kard or dhikr). Basically, this is to invoke the Word of Unity while 
holding one’s breath (habs dam) for a suitable period of time. Retaining the breath 
during a certain number of invocations prevents the attention from wavering and the 
mind from wandering. 

2. Knots (Baz Gasht). This refers to short prayers that punctuate Invocation (see 
above). When the number of invocations during breath retention is finished and one 
is exhaling, one repeats such a formula as: “My Lord, You are my goal and my desire 
is to please You.” This prevents thoughts from straying, and the invoker is delivered 
from recollections and baseless thoughts that might flood his heart. 

3. Wakefulness (Nigah Dasht). Cognizance of, and combat against, mental distractions. 
One must fight off various thoughts and images that assail the mind, and the heart 
and attention should remain centered on God. This is very difficult and requires great 
effort. Breath control is the most important aid in achieving it. 

4. Recollection (Yad Dasht). Always to remain attentive of God. Everything except 
God should be removed from the heart and mind, and concentration should be 
centered on Him. 

5. | Watching one’s breath (Hosh Dar Dam). Every breath of the Seeker should be 
inhaled and exhaled with wakefulness and awareness. Breathing should be controlled, 
and one must be fully conscious of one’s inhalations and exhalations. Master 
Shahabuddin Suhrawardi has clarified the reason: “He who does not control his 
breath cannot control his self, and he who cannot control his self belongs to the 
company of the ruined.” 


258 


6. Journey to the homeland (Safar Dar Watan). The spiritual journey back to God, 
from whence the traveller (and indeed, everything else) came. The voyage from bad 
and disgusting behavior to salutary conduct. 

7. Watching one’s step (Nazar Bar Qadam). The Seeker should always keep his eyes 
on his feet. If he looks around indiscriminately, his attention will stray, what he sees 
will be impressed on his heart, and confusion will result. Also, in a metaphorical 
sense, he should always be aware of where he is going, and never lose sight of the 
journey’s goal. 

&. Solitude in company (Halwat Dar Anjuman). To be in the world, but not of the 
world; to be with people (or God’s creation) externally, but to remain with Truth 
(God) internally. To concentrate on preserving one’s spiritual state as if one were 
alone, even in the presence of others. 

9. Pause of time (Wuquf Zamani). The Seeker should pause from time to time for self- 
examination and self-criticism. One should give thanks for one’s good conduct and 
repent for what is bad in oneself. 

10. Pause of numbers (Wuquf Adadi). To take care that the required number of 
invocations have been completed during breath retention. One begins with a single 
invocation (say, of the Word of Unity) and gradually raises this to 21. For example, 
one inhales, repeats the formula three times, then exhales. If a certain result has not 
been obtained even though 21 repetitions have been reached, it may be necessary to 
repeat the cycle. 

11. Pause of the heart (Wuquf galbi). To imagine that the true name of God is inscribed 
in the Seeker’s heart, and to train the mind until this visualization becomes 
permanent. 


It can be seen that these eleven rules are mostly concerned with the concentration of 
attention, and with breath retention and breath control. 


Chart of the Spiritual Journey 


On the road to Truth, to Absolute Reality, the traveller is always in a different state at 
each step of the way. It is useful to tabulate these in order to gain an overall view. The 
contents of this chart, shown in Table 1, will be briefly described. 


The points that we need to bear in mind are: 


1. The chart is not precise, but serves to give a general idea only. 

2. Various sources give this table in different and sometimes conflicting ways. Ibrahim 
Hakki of Erzurum was a great saint. His classification is followed here, but other 
sources have also been consulted. 

3. The journey of each traveller diplays individual peculiarities. Perhaps for this 
reason, masters do not indulge in detailed explanations about the chart of spiritual 
progress. 


It should be remembered that the chart is a convenient device for comprehension, rather 
than a rigorous exposition of details. 


209 


Worlds 


In the Sufic conception, the observable universe, the physical world of coarse matter, is 
only the lowest of existential realms. Beyond it are domains that do not lend themselves 
to physical measurement for the simple reason that they are nonphysical (or prephysical, 
“pre-” being here used in an ontological rather than necessarily temporal sense). The 
number of worlds, including the physical, are basically four. And no one has expressed 
this fourfoldness with greater poetic beauty than William Blake: 


Now I am. May God us keep 


From single vision fourfold vision see, 
And a fourfold vision is given to me; 

‘Tis fourfold in my supreme delight 

And threefold in soft Beulah’s night 
And twofold Always and Newton’s sleep. 


“Single vision” is the vision that sees only the world of gross matter, that denies reality to 
any other level of existence, including God, who is Absolute Reality. Thus, a relative, 
partial vision of reality negates total, Absolute Reality on the basis of nothing except its 
own bias and incompleteness, which is the very epitome of irrationality. 


Yet the founding fathers of modern science never intended it this way. To exclude every 
reality other than what is capable of knocking you on the head is a betrayal and travesty 
of their original conception. To be sure, they confined their investigations to the realm of 
sensory experience; and behind every law of nature they saw the Divine Lawmaker, 
without whom all would be chaos, if indeed it could exist at all (which it could not). 
Newton believed in One God: “This being governs all things... as Lord over all; and on 
account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God Pantocrator, or Universal 
Ruler” (Principia). His researches into alchemy point to an interest of the great scientist 
in the transformation of the soul, for which the transformation of base metal into gold is 
merely a metaphor. 


Kepler combined in himself love of the One God with scientific devotion to the discovery 
of His harmony as evidenced in nature (specifically, the elliptical motions of the 
planets)—he was the most salutary example of the fusion of science and religion in a 
scientist. 


Descartes, too, believed in God; as quantum physicist Werner Heisenberg once noted, he 
trisected totality into God, man, and universe, and the division between man and universe 
he formulated in the dualism between mind or consciousness (res cogitans) without 
extension, and matter or extension (res extensa) without consciousness. Copernicus 
rightly believed that scientific knowledge could only lead to evil in the hands of the 
spiritually impure. 


260 


The metaphysical assumptions of these great men may have finally led to our present 
conception of a soulless, Godless, mathematical and mechanical universe, but this was 
never their initial conscious aim. 


Hence, what we have to do is to “re-vision” the whole scientific enterprise, to go back to 
the founding fathers; not necessarily to revise, but to take a fresh look, to examine our 
knowledge and assumptions in a new light. When we do so, we shall discover that there 
is nothing in our science to rule out or contradict the existence of other existential 
domains, since that knowledge was never intended to describe anything other than the 
physical world in the first place. If I decide to confine my attention to a study of the 
objects in my room, without even bothering to look out the window, this does not mean 
that nothing exists beyond my room. 


The Sufis, then, believe in the existence of the material world, but allow also for the 
existence of other planes of reality (alam, pl. awalim). This is not a question of reducing 
the material world to the spiritual or ideal (note in passing that “spiritual” and “ideal” are 
not identical) world, or vice versa; not a question of “either/or,” but of “both/and.” 


These “other worlds”—or, if you wish, “parallel universes”—have each been referred to 
by more than one name by the Sufis. As in Blake’s Fourfold Vision, there are four realms 
in the simpler, basic classification: Human, Angelic, Majestic, and Divine (respectively 
Nasut, Malakut, Jabarut, and Lahut). These are to be conceived as hierarchical rather 
than equal in rank. 


The Human World is, quite simply, the world of human beings, the world we witness and 
perceive with our five senses—the physical, material or observable universe. For this 
reason, it is also called the World of Witnessing (i.e. the world that we witness), the Base 
(lowly) World, or the World of: Elements (after the classical four elements), Births, 
Creation and Dissipation, the Visible, Fear, Heavens, Spheres, Stars, and Bodies. It is 
often called the Kingdom (mulk). 


The Angelic World is the world of dominion, where God is the recognized absolute ruler. 
For this reason, it is also called the World of Command. It is the Unseen (ghayb) world of 
angels and spirits. 


In our chart, the Angelic World occupies two adjacent cells: the Interworld and the World 
of Spirits. 


a) The Interworld is the “isthmus” or intermediate world, the World of Imagination, 
accessible in twilight states of consciousness (between sleep and wakefulness). Its 
basis is the Imaginal World (alam al-mithal ) or World of Symbols (Archetypes), 
which is superior to it. 

b) The World of Spirits is superior to the Interworld, and is also known as the World of 
Meanings or the Dreamworld. It is the locus of awe. 


261 


The Majestic World is the World of Power. It is also known as the World of Realities. 
This is also the stage where the Mohammedan Reality manifests itself, and the disciple is 
filled with Mohammedan Light. 


The Divine World is the World of Divinity, and is, like the Angelic and Majestic Worlds, 
an Unseen, Unobservable or Invisible world—in fact, it is the Unseen of the Unseen of 
the Unseen, or U*. The divine principles are framed at this level, the World of Loftiness. 
It is the World of the (Infinite) Cloud (ama), to which the Prophet referred when he was 
asked: “Where was God before He created the universe?” He answered: “My Lord was in 
point of a cloud without top or bottom.” (That is, He was present at every point of an 
infinite—homogeneous and isotropic—cloud of white light.) In Sufism, it refers to the 
level of Absolute Unity and Eternity. Although it appears in only one cell, it actually 
encompasses the last three cells of our chart. 


Sometimes, the Self or Identity of God is differentiated from this Divine World and 
assigned a separate status. This is then called Hahut (from huwiya: “He-ness,” Identity, 
or Divine Ipseity) and the five realms that thus result are called the “Five Presences” 
(hazrat hamsah). In this case, when one wishes to refer to the fourfold scheme, Lahut and 
Hahut together are called the World of Glory (zzah). 


The Essence (dhat) of God in relation to Himself is called Absolute Unity (Ahadiyah), 
and corresponds to Hahut. (This is the unknowable Hidden God, the deus absconditus, 
and it is forbidden to speculate about the nature of God’s Self or Essence.) In relation to 
His Creation, it is called Oneness (Wahidiyah), and corresponds to Lahut. The latter is 
associated with the Most Sacred Body (wujud al-aqdas). 


Return to Witnessing. Here, the return begins from the Unseen to the Human (Witnessed) 
World. This, however, is not a return to an earlier state, but a proceeding, a going forth. 


Unity in Diversity, Diversity in Unity. The Divine World is experienced in the states of 
Extinction (fana) and Subsistence (baqa). Unity in Diversity is the final stage. 


Present at the Creation 


Creation begins with God. In the beginning—and this is an ontological, not a temporal, 
beginning, since time does not yet exist and hence it makes no sense to speak in temporal 
terms—God was a hidden Being who had not yet manifested Himself. This is the stage of 
Absolute Invisibility, Absolute or Unconditioned (nondelimited) Unity, the World of the 
Absolute, the Singular Existent, or Mother of the Book (the book of the universe). Since 
space and time do not yet exist, this is totally nonspatial and nontemporal; it is non-space 
and non-time. Rather, it may be called “the spacetime of spacetime,” since the entire 
spacetime continuum takes shape within it. (In terms of unity versus multiplicity, we can 
compare this stage to a priceless, perfect jewel possessing absolute symmetry, and which 
is single, whole, and one in every imaginable way.) 


When God desired to be known, He manifested His being in the remaining three worlds: 


262 


First, in the World of Divine Power—the First Conditioning or Limitation, the First 
Manifestation, Primordial Substance, Mohammedan Light, or Mohammedan Reality. (At 
this stage, the jewel is still whole, but the possibility of differentiation and multiplicity 
has arisen, and micro cracks or fractures in the symmetry have appeared.) 


Next, in the Angelic World—the Second Conditioning or Limitation, the Second 
Manifestation, also known as the Isthmus or “Lote-tree of the Boundary.” (Our jewel is 
still whole, but fissures now crisscross its surface.) 


And finally, in the Kingdom, or world of human beings. This is the Third Conditioning or 
Limitation. (At this stage, the jewel has exploded, bursting and shattering into 
smithereens and giving rise to the infinite multiplicity of the observable universe—yet 
this multiplicity is still One, although this fact is not evident to our senses. For the 
fragmentation of the jewel is illusory. It is only to our fragmented consciousness that it 
appears shattered. In reality, even at this instant, it remains in its pristine unity.) 


We can now see that the journey of the seeker is back to the Source, and that he traverses 
the ontological stages of Creation in the reverse order. He travels from multiplicity to 
unity, and in the end discovers the true meaning of religion, the mystery of God, and the 
secret of man. 


Abdulgader Gilani, the Great Helper and diver into the bottomless Ocean of Unity, 
explains: “All conduct, states and limits between the Human and Angelic Worlds belong 
to the Divine Law (shariah). Those between the Angelic and Majestic Worlds belong to 
the spiritual schools or Orders (tarigah: Paths). And those between the Majestic and 
Divine Worlds belong to Truth or Reality (haqiqah).” 


The final stage, Knowledge of God (marifah: Gnosis), corresponds to the Divine World, 
or Absolute, Undifferentiated Unity, where knowledge of everything else (multiplicity) is 
un-learned (the “Cloud of Unknowing”). 


States 


The seeker’s state at the beginning of the journey is inclination to lust and pleasure. He 
follows the lead of his selfish and lustful desires. The master’s instruction and training, 
however, soon result in the emergence of affection and enthusiasm. This is not sexual 
affection, but the pure and unsullied attraction to Truth. This affection increases and is 
finally transformed into Jove. Nothing is possible without love. Love is what delivers 
results. It gives rise to attainment and, when perfect faith has crystallized in the heart, to 
fulfillment. 


The seeker then loses himself utterly (fana: Extinction or Annihilation). Only God is left, 
which is why this state is also called Extinction in God (fana fi-Allah). After this point is 
reached, certain divine mysteries are revealed to the seeker, who consequently is thrown 
into a state of wonder. Finally comes the state of Survival, Continuation or Subsistence 


263 


(baqa), whereby the traveller is given a renewed existence by and through God (baqa bi- 
Allah). 


Locations 


In order to understand locations, we first have to learn about Subtleties (lataif, sing. 
latifah) or psychic centers. 


We have already seen that man possesses a spirit. This spirit is coupled to the physical 
body in the form of a spiritual body. Now this spiritual body possesses a psychic anatomy 
or structure, just as the material body has a physical anatomy. When Sufis speak of the 
Heart, for example, what they have in mind is not the physical lump of flesh that pumps 
blood throughout the body. They refer, rather, to the heart of the spiritual body, which is 
associated with the spiritual body and animates the physical body as long as a human 
being is alive. 


In the same way, there are other psychic centers within the spiritual body akin to the 
Heart center, and it is to these that the term ‘Subtleties’ applies. 


These psychic centers are variously referred to as the Five Subtleties, the Seven 
Subtleties, or the Ten Subtleties. All ten Subtleties are shown in Figure 1. 


The five basic subtleties are located in the chest (Sadr). These are: the Heart (Qalb), the 
Spirit (Ruh), the Secret (Sirr), the Hidden (Khafi) and the Most Hidden (Akhfa or Ikhfa). 


In order to obtain the seven subtleties, the Self (Nafs) is added to the beginning of this 
list, and the Human Self (Nafs al-natiga, or Speaking/reasoning Self) is added to the end. 
Sometimes the Self (Nafs) is omitted, and the Total (Kull ) is added to give the seven 
subtleties. 


An intermediate stage called the Secret of the Secret (Sirr al-Sirr, or S’), and two further 
centers beyond the Human Self—the Throne (Kursi), and the Highest Heaven or 
Empyrean (Arsh)—complete the list of ten subtleties. Occasionally a further center, the 
Total (Kull ) or the Universal Intellect (Aq/ al-Kull ), is inserted between the Human Self 
and the Throne. (This may be considered a subcenter of the Throne.) 


Further information concerning these subtleties is outlined below. (All measured 
distances are approximate. The colors and locations of the centers are sometimes listed 
differently.) 


The Self: This is the center of the animal (animating) self, and corresponds to the Hara, 


or Life Center, of the Japanese. It is located within the body an inch below the navel or 
belly button. 


264 


The Heart: Also called Fouad, this does not actually coincide with the physical heart 
(which is more centrally placed), but is located an inch below the left nipple. It is 
associated with the color red and the prophet Adam, “whom God purified.” 


The Spirit: Its location is an inch below the right nipple. Color: yellow. Prophet: Noah, 
“whom God saved.” 


The Secret: Location: an inch above the left nipple. Color: white. Prophet: Moses, “who 
talked with God.” 


S’: Location: center of the chest (between Secret and Hidden). Color: black. Prophet: 
Jesus, “the Mystery of God.” 


The Hidden: Location: an inch above the right nipple. Color: green. Prophet: 
Mohammed, “the Beloved of God.” 


The Most Hidden: Location: top of sternum (just below the neckline). Colorless. In some 
charts this is called the Axis of the Secret (Wustawa al-Sirr). 


The Human Self: Location: between the two eyebrows. According to some Sufis, this is 
the station of Qaaba Qawsayn, “the distance—or meeting—of two bows/arcs” 
(eyebrows) (53:9). Color: ochre. 


The Total and/or the Throne: Location: center of the forehead. This is where, at a certain 
stage of development, the famous “third eye” opens. (Please note, however, that the third 
eye has nothing to do with physical anatomy, such as the pineal gland, as Descartes 
claimed.) 


The Highest Heaven (Empyrean): Located at the crown or topmost point of the head. 
Corresponds to the Sahasrara Chakra (the “thousand-petaled lotus”) in Yoga. (These 
correlations with other traditions are mentioned not because the Sufic conception was 
taken from these as sources, but in order to highlight the fact that the corresponding 
realities have also been recognized in other traditions, since truth is one.) This is where 
divine light—called “the most sacred effusion” (fayz al-agdas) by the Sufis—appears, 
initially in the form of a star. This location also corresponds to the juncture of the cranial 
bones, and in some traditions has been considered the entry point of the soul into the 
body (the bones are not joined in the new-born baby, but close in later on). 


Now that we have formed some idea about the subtleties, how does one utilize this “tree 
of life’? Basically, the procedure is to activate the psychic centers in ascending order. 
One starts by concentrating on the chest area (Sadr) as a whole. (Note that its color, blue, 
is also the color of a healthy psychic aura.) One then concentrates on the Heart subtlety, 
and so on in accordance with the direction of arrows in Figure 1. Each center is awakened 
by concentrating the invocation appropriate to that stage in that center. For instance, 
looking at Table 1, Al/ah is the invocation proper to the Heart center. Once an invocation 
becomes fixed or permanent in its center, and light of a color specific to that center (as 


265 


well as certain other signs) becomes manifest, the center is considered to be ‘conquered’ 
or ‘opened’. One then passes on to concentrating invocation in the next higher center. 


Warning: Note once again that one must not try to awaken any center without the 
permission of a qualified master. This is very dangerous. Do not try to “teach yourself,” 
and don’t experiment. Without proper guidance, you’re liable to get lost in God knows 
what sector of inner space. 


God has stated in a Sacred Tradition: “Know that there is a [physical] heart in each body. 
There is a Fouad [spiritual Heart] in each heart. There is a Secret in each spiritual Heart. 
There is a Hidden in each Secret, and there is a Most Hidden in each Hidden. I am in that 
Most Hidden.” 


This “withinness” should not be compared or confused with physical contiguity. It has no 
quality and quantity, and is different from whatever may occur to the mind. 


Supports 


The entire comport of the seeker from the beginning right through to the end should lie 
within the Divine Law, that is, the prescriptions and restrictions of Islam. At no stage 
should adherence to the Sacred Law be abandoned, for it is the basis, the foundation, of 
all. 


Upon his works in accordance with the Holy Law, the aspirant next builds the knowledge 
and practices of the spiritual schools. New restrictions are added upon those of the Divine 
Law. One passes from License, where some things are allowed by Holy Law, to 
Restraint, or further limitation (compression) of the self. This is followed by Knowledge, 
which is the Knowledge of God, i.e. being informed about God. This information and 
these practices lead the seeker to Truth. After this he can attain Sainthood, or the 
Friendship of God. His next support is the Essence of Divine Law. He does not remain 
ignorant of the reasons for the Divine Law, and acts out its requirements in full 
knowledge and consciousness of their reason for being. Finally, his support becomes the 
Universal Essence. 


266 


Figure 1. The Ten Subtleties (ataif). 


Lights 


267 


These are the lights with colors that distinguish one subtlety from another. This color is 
blue in the beginning. The Heart Center glows with a reddish light when it is activated. 
The color of the Spirit center is yellow, and so on. 


Names 


The names define the invocation to be performed by the seeker at a certain stage. A 
specific name of God is invoked at each stage, and the aspirant passes from one to 
another as he progresses. 


Perceptions 


These define the perceptual level of a wayfarer. They are activated only at the last three 
stages of selfhood. We may distinguish here between perceptions of Unification (tawhid) 
and those of Fusion (jam). 


Unification of deeds/verbs—of attributes/adjectives—of Essence 


The universe has often been compared to a great book by the wise. “The book of the 
universe,” said Galileo, “is written in the language of mathematics.” One of God’s 99 
Beautiful Names, the Counter (or Reckoner: Muhsi), bears testimony to the fact that God 
indeed created in numerical measure and proportion. Wherever we look in the observable 
universe, we witness the mathematical beauty that the Great Artist (Sani) has built into it. 


So Galileo was right—but nevertheless, incomplete. Our modern science, which is 
quantitative through and through, gives us only a one-dimensional picture of the universe, 
that projected upon the Real-Number Line. Numbers can tell us a lot, but they can’t tell 
us everything. It is as if scientists had opened the book of the universe, encountered 
letters, words and sentences on each page, then proceeded to measure the dimensions of 
characters, their groupings into words, their frequency and regularity of occurence, etc. 
This is a very telling metaphor, for in physics and chemistry the “alphabet” of the 
universe is composed of the 92 naturally- occuring elements, in biology of 22 amino 
acids, and so forth. 


But because of its exclusive preoccupation with quantity, modern science has neglected 
to actually read the Grand Book of the Universe—to read and to understand it. Our 
measurements performed on it are unsurpassed, yet our understanding of it is still 
insufficient. The secrets it harbors remain as locked as ever, and it is these we need to 
decipher. 


Now the Sufis, too, have viewed the universe as a book to be read. In Arabic, fiil refers 
both to an action and, linguistically, to a verb; sifat refers both to an attribute and to an 
adjective, ism both to a name and a noun. Taking their cue from this, the Sufis have 
represented the book of the universe as being composed of verbs, which are God’s 
actions; adjectives, which are His attributes; and nouns, which are His names. In their 


268 


conception, the Essence of God gives rise to the Divine Names and Attributes, from each 
of which derive myriads of Divine Actions, and the universe is scene to the vast and 
continual interplay between these elements. Hence to return to the Source, one has to 
unify, first, the actions to reach the level of God’s Names and Attributes, and then to 
unify these in turn to reach the unity of the Essence. This, in the Sufic view, is how pure, 
changeless, infinite Being becomes conditioned or transformed into continual yet finite 
Becoming: through the endless interplay of Names, Attributes and Actions. 


We may compare this process to the differentiation of pure white light into a rainbow of 
colors when it passes through a prism, and in this analogy the prism would be comparable 
to the “Immutable Entitites” or “Permanent Archetypes” (ayan al-thabita) as the Sufis 
have termed it. From every Name and Attribute that has thus been differentiated, myriads 
of actions are spawned. Thus, everything in the universe is an intersection or locus of 
specific Divine Names, Attributes and Actions. One must reverse this process in order to 
reach the Source, which is the Essence of God. The unification of Actions leads to their 
origin in a Divine Name or Attribute, and unification of the latter yields the pure white 
light of the Essence, which is then seen to stand behind all the countless manifestations 
occuring in the universe. 


Fusion (F°), the Presence of Fusion (F'), Fusion of Fusion (F’), Unity of Fusion (F’) 


These are states that are achieved only by the rarest of individuals. They are best 
understood in terms of Annihilation and Subsistence. A possible interpretation of the 
relationship between the stages of Unification and those of Fusion is given in Figure 2. 


Unfortunately, these terms have little meaning for those who have not experienced these 
states. As Rumi, the great mystic, said: “Be me, and you will know.” 


The Manifestation of Actions, Names/Atributes, and Essence 


The manifestation of actions: An action amongst the Actions of God is born and 
manifested in the heart of a servant. An aspect of the Divine Power flowing through all 
things becomes manifest in that person. That servant thus perceives that God is the cause 
of all motion and change. Only the possessor of this station knows and understands this. 


The manifestation of names: God causes a name from among His Beautiful Names to be 
born in the heart of a servant. This person is so overwhelmed by the divine effulgence 
that engulfs him through the power and lights of this name that if that Divine Name were 
to be called upon at that instant, he would answer. 


The manifestation of attributes: The Lord manifests one of His Attributes in the heart of 
his servant. All human attributes disappear from him, and God appears in his heart in the 
guise of that Attribute. For instance, if God appears to him in the Attribute of Hearing, 
that person hears and understands the voices and sounds of all beings, whether animate or 
inanimate. 


269 


The manifestation of the Essence: This is to be very close to God. By dint of worship, the 
wayfarer has become adorned with humility, spiritual poverty, and consciousness of his 
own weakness. He knows God through his self and attributes, and knows his self through 
the Attributes of God. Because the self of this Perfect Human has found lowliness and 
nothingness, the mirror of servanthood stands face to face with the Mirror of the Divine, 
and whatever is visible in one is reflected in the other. On this basis the Lord has 
declared: “The heavens and the earth cannot contain me, yet the heart of my faithful 
servant does.” 


All these details and techniques, however, will be of no avail if the aspirant does not pay 
attention to two crucial points: abstention from illicit gain, and from illicit sex. For all the 
icy baths of the Brahmins, the sleepless nights of the Buddhist and Christian ascetics, the 
self-inflicted tortures of the Hindu fakirs, the seclusion of Sufi dervishes in mountain 
caves or dungeon-like cellars—these all served only one end: the control of the Self. And 
yet, self-control is actually predicated on these two critical points alone: Forbidden 
passion and pecuniary interest. Protect yourself from these, and the way to sainthood will 
remain open. Otherwise, not only will all your efforts come to naught, but the gates of 
fire will welcome you. Here, it is necessary to watch one’s eyes, one’s ears, one’s tongue, 
and one’s mind. If at any time you observe a tendency in these to Forbidden earnings or 
passions, then the Work—the Struggle—has not been completed. 


Provided the two points above are fulfilled, meditation (tafakkur) and invocation 
connecting the heart with the mind—more precisely, the Heart Center with the Center of 
the Human Self—will lead to progress on the path, never neglecting the other 
requirements, beginning with Prayer. 


Above and beyond all these details lies the progress of the seeker through the levels of 


selfhood. The treatment of these levels is important enough to merit a chapter in its own 
right. 


270 


271 


Figure 2. State Transition Diagram of the Spiritual Journey. 


STATION 
OF SELF 


IMPELLING | CRITICAL INSPIRED SERENE PLEASED 


(Self- 
Reproaching) 


(Carnal or 
Base Self) 


(mulhimma) (Tranquil) (God- 


(nafs) Satisfied) 


(91:8) (mutmainna) 
(ammara) 


(12:53) 


(lawwama) (radhiya) 


(89:27) 
(75:2) (89:28) 


JOURNEY To God Toward God Upon God With God 


(thuluq) 
WORLD 
(Realm) 


(il-Allah) 
Witnessing 


(li-llah) 
Interworld 
(Isthmus) 
(barzah) 


(al-Allah) 
Spirits 


(ma-Allah) 


POWER DIVINE 


(shahada) (arwah) (JABARUT) (LAHUT) 


(alam) 


HUMAN ANGELIC 


(NASUT) 


(MALAKUT) 


Tendency to | Affection Attainment Extinction 


Lust 


(muhabbah) (wuslah) (fana) 
(shahwah) 
ABODE 


(Subtlety) 


Heart 


(qalb, fouad) 
(latifa) 


ARRIVAL Path (Schools) | Gnosis Truth Sainthood 


(Knowledge) 


Revealed Law 


(Support) (sharia) (tariqa) (haqiqa) (wilaya) 


(marifa) 
(warid) 


Spirit Secret Secret of the 
Secret 

(ruh) (sirr) 
(sirr as-sirr) 


PLEASING PERFECTED, 


(God- PURIFIED 


Satisfying) 


or 


(mardhiya) SANCTIFIED! 


(89:28) (kamila, zakiya 
or safiya) 


From God By God 


(ani-llah) 
Return 


(bi-llah) 
to | Unity in diver- 


Wit- sity, diversity 


nessing 
(shahada) 


in unity 


(LAHUT) 
(LAHUT) 


Wonder Subsistence 


(hayrah) (baqa) 


Hidden Most Hidden 


(khafi) (akhfa) 


of | Universal 
Essence 


Essence 
Revealed 
Law (dhat 


ae (dhat al-kull) 


sharia) 


LIGHT(nur) [Blue | Red Yellow | White | Black | Green| Colorless 


the Living 


NAME No god_ but | God He the Truth 
(Invocation) God 
(Allah) (Hu) (Haqq) (Hayy) 
(ism) (la ilaha 
illAllah) 
Aspirant Seeker Wayfarer Voyager 


(talib) 
Repentance 


(murid) 
Avoiding 
prohi- 


(thaliq) 
Asceticism 


(sair) 


STATION Poverty Patience 


(maqam) (tawba) (zuhd) 


(faqr) (sabr) 


bitions (wara) 
' Sometimes counted separately to give a total of nine. 


Table 1. Chart of the Spiritual Journey. 


the the 
Everlasting Overwhelming 


(Qayyum) (Qahhar) 


Attainer 


(wasil) 


Pleasure Trust in God 


(ridha) (tawaqqul) 





pd 


273 


HERMETICISM: 
THE PHYSICAL AND THE 
SPIRITUAL UNIVERSITY OF ITS AGE 


(Hermeticism is the introduction to Sufism and asceticism. This is where the seven levels 
of the Self were first elaborated, and for this reason it is of great spiritual and historical 
significance. ) 


The religion of Hermeticism has played a very important role in the history of mankind. 
In no other religion have there been such mysterious ceremonies and such painstaking 
scientific investigations. Egypt, the land of the pyramids, was once a center for 
humanity’s contemplative activities, revealing that several religions owe many things to 
Hermeticism. 


The man who was known as “Thoth” (or Tot) in Egyptian and “Hermes” in Greek was 
first recognized as a prophet and later, revered as a god. He has been identified with Idris. 
(He is known as Enoch to the Jews.) If he is Idris, he is a Prophet in accordance with the 
Holy Books. No holy book was revealed to him, but as far as his ideas are concerned, his 
influence has been very far-reaching. 


The ceremonies of Hermeticism are not to be found in any other religion. With Hermes 
(Thoth), the religious beliefs of the Egyptians turned to Unity. In other words, they 
started believing in One God. According to their religious beliefs, before the creation of 
the earth, the spirit of everything was whirling in a sea, a vacuum. The Spirit of God 
acted upon this vacuum and created everything. He created the earth and the heavens, but 
was not Himself created. 


His body was everlasting and all-inclusive of the universe. The universe was but a small 
indication of the greatness of God Almighty, who was ever-present and overseeing. 


According to the beliefs of the Egyptians, God was one, but manifested Himself in 
various personalities. God was called by different names in everything. Their greatest god 
was Osiris, and his wife was Isis. The ancient Egyptians also used to believe in 
resurrection after death. Spirits were judged in the presence of Osiris. The actions of 
human beings on earth would be weighed on the scales of justice, and they would be 
punished in accordance with their sins. The evil would be tormented by scorpions and 
snakes, while good souls would lead a happy life at the table of Osiris. 


This historical information demonstrates that the comparative investigation of religions is 


a very instructive and fruitful endeavor. Idris or Hermes (Thoth) the Egyptian is a 
noteworthy figure in the annals of prophetic history. 


274 


The Initiation Ceremonies of Hermeticism 


Aspirants wishing to join the Hermetic religion would go to the famous temples at 
Thebes or Memphis. The high priest, or hierophant, would meet the aspirant in the huge 
and magnificent temple. The priest would take him to his room and ask who he was, 
where he came from, and where he had studied. He would size up the aspirant’s 
intelligence and aptitude. If he had the capacity to comprehend advanced knowledge, he 
would keep him there. Otherwise, he would be sent away. 


The priest then took the youth and conducted him through the inner courts and a corridor 
carved in stone, open to the sky and bordered with sphinxes. At the end of the passage, 
there was a small temple which served as an entrance to the underground crypts. The 
door was disguised by a life-size statue of Isis. The goddess, sitting in a position of 
meditation and contemplation, held a closed book in her lap. Her face was covered by a 
veil, and beneath the statue was the inscription: “No mortal has lifted my veil.” 


The hierophant said to the youth: “This is the door to the hidden sanctuary. Look at these 
two columns. The red one symbolizes the ascent of the spirit into the light of Osiris. The 
black one signifies the imprisonment of the soul in the body. Whoever approaches our 
science and teaching risks his life. Madness or death await the weak and the wicked. 
Only the strong and the good find life and immortality. Many reckless ones have entered 
this door, and have not come out alive. This is such an abyss that only the fearless can 
emerge from it again. Therefore, consider carefully the dangers you will face. If you do 
not trust yourself, give up the quest, for once this door is closed behind you, it will not be 
opened.” 


The aspirant, after listening to these words in fear, would summon all his courage, and 
once he said: “I accept your terms,” the priest would lead him to the outer court and 
commend him to the temple servants. The aspirant would be kept in the temple for one 
week; he would be requested to perform the lowliest chores, would listen to hymns and 
be forbidden to talk about worldly affairs. He would complete his weekly seclusion here. 


When the evening of ordeals arrived, two assistants led the candidate to the door of the 
secret sanctuary. The aspirant was now at the beginning of an ordeal full of mysteries. 
They entered a dark, dismal corridor without any visible exit, lined on both sides with 
human-bodied and animal-headed statues, and the statues of lions, bulls, hawks and 
snakes seen dimly in the torchlight. The requirement was to go through the passage 
without uttering a single word. At the end of this sinister passage were a mummy and a 
human skeleton. 


The two assistants pointed to a hole in the wall in front of the novice. This was the 
entrance to a corridor so low that it was impossible to pass through without crawling. One 
of the assistants said to the youth: “If you want you may turn back from here, because the 
door is not yet closed. You may return now. But if you continue, you cannot turn back.” 
Once the youth replied: “I will continue,” he was handed a small torch, and the door of 
the sanctuary was quickly shut behind him with a loud bang. 


215 


Trial by Death 


The youth knelt down to crawl into the passage. Hardly had he eased through when he 
heard a voice coming from the end of the tunnel. This voice would say: “Fools who covet 
knowledge and power perish here!” 


Due to a strange acoustical phenomenon, the sentence was echoed seven times. 
Nevertheless, he had to move forward. After a while the corridor widened, but now began 
to incline downward more sharply. Finally, the youth would come across a hole, into 
which an iron ladder disappeared. He climbed down this ladder. At the lowest rung, his 
frightened gaze looked downward into a terrifying abyss. Return was impossible, and 
beneath him a black, bottomless pit yawned. In order to save his life he looked around, 
and finally noticed a small crevice on his right. There was a staircase here by which he 
could escape. Right away, he climbed up the spiralling stairs carved into stone, and 
eventually came across a bronze grating. This led to a hallway supported by huge 
columns in the shape of draped female figures. Two rows of symbolic frescoes could be 
seen on the wall. All these symbols had a hidden meaning. There were 11 frescoes on 
either side of the hallway, and the lights in the hands of the beautiful column-statues 
illuminated these pictures. 


A magus, the guardian of the sacred symbols, opened the bars and welcomed him with a 
smile. He said: “You have passed the first test successfully. Congratulations,” and then, 
taking him across the hall, explained the sacred meanings. Under each of these pictures 
were a letter and a number. There were 22 symbols that represented the first 22 
Mysteries. They constituted the alphabet of secret science. These letters were the keys to 
the secrets of the universe bestowed by God Almighty. Employed by the right will, they 
became the source of all wisdom and power. 


Every letter and number corresponded to a triadic law, having repercussions in the divine 
world, the intellectual world, and the physical world. For example the letter A, which 
corresponded to the number 1, represented, in the divine world: Absolute Being from 
which all beings emanate; in the intellectual world: the unity, origin and synthesis of 
numbers; and in the physical world: Man, the head of all beings, with his capacity to 
attain infinity. The arcanum of “A”, which symbolized attainment of the Godhead, was 
represented by a magus dressed in the attire of Osiris, with a scepter in his hand and 
wearing a white robe and gold crown. The white robe stood for purity, the scepter for 
authority, and the gold crown for enlightenment by the light of Heaven. 


The guardian of the symbols led the novice along, explaining the arcana one by one. 
Concerning the crown, he remarked: “Free will, which is joined to God in order to 
manifest truth and effect justice, participates in divine power even while in this world. 
This is an everlasting reward to spirits.” 


The neophyte listened to these explanations with surprise, and the first glimmers of 
understanding began to take shape in his mind. 


276 


Trial by Fire 


The magus now opened another door, leading to a long, narrow corridor, at the end of 
which a red-hot furnace could be spied. The novice had to pass through it. He trembled 
with fear, whereupon the priest said: “My son, death frightens only weak minds. I myself 
once crossed this fire like a bed of roses.” With that, the gate of the hall of secrets closed 
behind the newcomer. Approaching the fire, he perceived that it was but a visual illusion 
created by artifices, and quickly passed through a narrow path in the middle. 


Trial by Water 


His third test was to go through a pool of stagnant black water, lit by the flames of the 
fire already left behind. The ordeals had by this time left him trembling and exhausted. 


Trial by Passion 


Next, two assistants led him to a dim grotto where a soft couch could be seen in the 
flickering light of a bronze lamp. Here he was stripped and bathed, perfumed with 
exquisite essences, dressed in fine linen and told to rest and wait for the hierophant. 


Weak with fatigue, the novice stretched on the bed and fell asleep. Soon, tones of 
lascivious music reached his ears. The sounds of a harp and a flute enwrapped his soul, 
arousing passionate feelings in him. 


While he was in this semiconscious state, a woman approached. 


This woman of breathtaking beauty, wearing a dress of transparent dark-red gauze and a 
necklace, held a cup crowned with roses in her left hand. The youth trembled at the sight 
of this woman with shining eyes and lips of fire, staring at this splendid example of 
female anatomy. Why was she here? There was no one else in the grotto other than the 
two of them. The woman was reaching out to him, making plain that they should lie on 
the bed together, and murmuring in a husky voice: “Are you afraid of me, noble stranger? 
I come to you with the reward of the victorious as a present. I bring you the cup of 
happiness by which you may forget your troubles. Come, let us make love and spend 
hours of delight together.” So saying, she sat on his bed and did things to arouse his 
passion. 


If the young man fell for this seductress, if he accepted her embraces, she would make 
him drink from the cup. After the wild satisfaction of his desire, his head began to swim 
and his throat to burn. Soon he was in a deep sleep, brought on by the medicated wine he 
had drunk. 


The temptress would vanish. When he awoke, he saw the hierophant standing over him 


with a stern face. The priest said: “You were successful in your first trials. You overcame 
death, fire and water, but could not conquer your self. You, who sought the heights of 


2d} 


mind and knowledge, could not resist the first temptation of the senses and fell into the 
abyss of matter. He who is a slave to his passions lives in darkness. You preferred 
darkness to light, so stay there henceforth. You have saved your life, but lost your 
freedom. From now on, you will be a slave of this temple. If you try to escape, you will 
die.” 


If, on the other hand, the aspirant turned down the temptress, he would have succeeded in 
this last trial as well. Then, twelve priests bearing torches took and escorted him into the 
hall of Isis. Magi standing in a semicircle awaited him. In the splendidly lighted hall, a 
colossal statue of Isis held a gold rose at her breast and wore a crown of seven rays. Her 
son Horus was in her arms. (Horus, symbolized by a hawk, was among the first deities of 
the Egyptians.) 


The hierophant, clothed in velvet, swore the newcomer to silence and submission. Then 
he greeted him as a brother and a future initiate. What the youth had experienced up to 
this point was the entrance examination and ceremony. 


Training 


Now began long years of study and apprenticeship. He was assigned a cell to live in, and 
was instructed by teachers. He could stroll in the halls and courtyards of the temple, as 
large as a city. He studied hieroglyphics inscribed on the columns, as well as the history 
of mankind, minerology, botanics, medicine, architecture and sacred music. 


The temple was, for all practical purposes, a university. Only the most intelligent students 
were accepted, and went through sophisticated training. Many of the positive sciences 
saw daylight here. Physics, chemistry, geometry, and astronomy were quite advanced. 
The laws of natural phenomena were discovered in this enviroment. 


Hermeticism was more a center for meditation than religion. The existence and Unity of 
God was known via this education. 


The young people here were researchers as well as students. They were all meditators and 
thinkers. To them, the advance of science was grounded in the birth of truth in the human 
spirit, and thus the latter had to be creative. But this was possible only after long and 
arduous effort. 


Their teachers did not help them in anything. They were amazed at this, but in time 
discovered the reasons. 


Absolute obedience was required, but nothing was revealed beyond certain limits. Their 
questions were met by the stolid reply, “Work and wait.” Many students fell prey to 
suspicions; they regretted that they had ever come, and regarded their teachers as 
impostors or magicians. But with the passage of time, as their spiritual intuition flowered, 
they began to know the Unseen and the Mysteries. Only then would the disciple begin to 
fathom the meaning of the temple. 


278 


Humanity has achieved its present level of civilization through labors of this sort. These 
sciences are the common heritage of mankind. No nation can lay exclusive claim to them. 
Human intelligence has reflected and discovered in every age. And this has started not 
with the material world, but with religious beliefs, with the search for the mysteries of the 
spiritual world, and with efforts to attain Unity. 


The young disciple tried to decipher the meaning of the hieroglyphs. In time, the invisible 
and impalpable truth slowly began to dawn in his heart. Sometimes he asked one of the 
magi: “Will I be able someday to smell the rose of Isis, to see the light of Osiris?” to 
which the reply was: “That depends not on us, but on you. Truth cannot be given. Either 
one finds it in oneself, or one does not. We cannot force you; you must become an adept 
yourself. Do not rush the blossoming of the divine flower. If it is destined to come, it will 
in its own good time. Your duty is to work and pray.” 


And so the disciple returned to his studies. Many years went by. He meditated and tried 
to discover truth. He surrendered wholly to God and dedicated himself to truth. 


The Conquest, or Opening 


One day, the disciple found the hierophant standing beside him. The master said: “My 
son, the time is coming when truth will be revealed to you. For you have already 
descended to the depths of your heart and there found the life divine. By the purity of 
your heart, by your love of truth and your self-denial, you have earned that right and 
proven your worthiness. But no one can see Osiris’ light without dying and being 
resurrected first. We shall take you to the crypt. Don’t be afraid, for you are one of us 
already.” 


At dusk the priests, bearing torches, took the adept into the underground crypt, and 
stopped in front of an open sarcophagus made of marble. 


“No man escapes death,” said the hierophant, “and every soul, having died, is destined to 
resurrection. Lie down in this coffin, and wait for the light to dawn upon you.” 


The initiate lay down in the sarcophagus, and the priests departed in silence. A funeral 
chant could be heard, coming from afar. The coldness of the tomb, the darkness, the 
silence and the sadness of the chant all acted upon him. He felt he was dying. 


Eventually he saw a far distant, shining point, coming closer and growing larger until it 
became a five-pointed star whose rays included all the colors of the rainbow. The star 
grew into a sun, which disappeared and gave way to a bud that blossomed into a beautiful 
flower. This was the mystical rose of Isis, the rose of wisdom. Soon it, too, vanished into 
a formless white cloud. The cloud, after assuming various forms, condensed in the shape 
of a human being. This was a veiled, smiling woman, a manifestation of Isis holding a 
scroll of papyrus in her hand. She slowly approached the tomb and said: “I am your 
invisible sister, your divine soul. This is the book of your life. Its written pages contain 


279 


your past life. In its blank pages, your future life will be written. Now you know who I 
am. I shall come whenever you call me.” 


Yet this, too, was a veil, an obstacle in the way, to be transcended perhaps now, perhaps 
in the future. Then, the adept would be raised into the light of Osiris, and be merged into 
the ineffable Essence of the universe of which it is impossible to speak. 


The disciple felt the love of wisdom flood his heart. Falling into a deep sleep, he found 
the hierophant and magi leaning over him when he awoke. The high priest gave him a 
glass of sherbet, and said: “You are resurrected. Come celebrate with us, and tell us about 
your journey in the light of Osiris.” 


After dining together, the master took the new initiate to the observatory of the temple, 
and instructed him in the mysteries of Hermes. He related to him the Vision of 
Hermes/Idris, never written on any papyrus but always orally transmitted. He told the 
initiate about the Ascent of Hermes, how he saw the Seven Heavens, and even the 
Almighty Himself... 


All these activities in the name of religion improved human intelligence and provided the 
foundation of modern science. The development of science and technology owes a great 
deal to these ecstatic activities of Antiquity. 


(It can be seen that the material and spiritual sciences were considered as related in 
Ancient Egypt. The Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras, after visiting 
Egypt, brought back this sacred knowledge to Greece and taught it in the school he 
founded. Many other Greeks, from Thales to Herodotus to Iamblichus, trod the same 
path. 


After Pythagoras, the material and spiritual sciences became divorced from each other. 
The correspondences between the two were irretrievably lost, and both were 
impoverished as a result. Mathematics, physics, astronomy and the other sciences were 
increasingly studied in a vacuum as far as the human spirit was concerned. On the other 
hand, Pythagoras’ teaching of wisdom, or philosophy, was inherited by Socrates, who 
passed it on to Plato and thence, to Aristotle. As everyone knows, Plato is considered the 
father of all philosophy. But the heart of philosophy, its spiritual aspect, also became 
obscured down the millenia. Only Islam, which considers Body and Spirit, soma and 
psyche together, is able to redress this imbalance.) 


(Based on Edouard Schuré, The Great Initiates, Paris, 1889.) 


280 


THE STAGES OF THE SELF 


(Note on Terminology. The nature of man has traditionally been held to be tripartite. In 
addition to his outer being, the body (Gk. soma), his inner existence has been conceived 
as having an “TI”, ego, self, or soul (Skt. atman - Gk. psyche - Heb. nefesh - Ar. nafs) and 
a spirit (Lat. spiritus - Gk. pneuma - Heb. ruach - Ar. ruh). The spirit is the difference 
between a living body and a dead one, i.e. that which animates the body, and is 
considered to survive after bodily death; in other words, the phenomenon of death is 
nothing but the decoupling or dégagement of the spirit from the body. The self, I or soul, 
on the other hand, is the seat of (self-)consciousness; in a loose analogy, the spirit is to 
the soul as a fruit is to its core or kernel—the two are inseparably connected. 


Now the soul and the spirit were considered to be different and distinct entities in both 
early Hebraism and early Christianity. Yet with the passage of time, the two became 
confused, so that today the soul, the spirit, and the psyche are considered synonymous, 
and it is not always clear in usage which of the two aspects one is referring to. This 
situation derives from the fact that both the spirit and the soul survive after death, as well 
as from the fact that they both mean “breath” in various languages (see the equivalents 
given above). As we shall see below, however, the distinction between them is a useful 
one to maintain. In what follows, therefore, the “self’ has been consistently used for the 
“soul” to avoid confusion, and this terminology is adhered to at least throughout this 
chapter.) 


In his famous mystical poem, The Conference of the Birds, the Sufi poet Fariduddin Attar 
depicts the search of a company of birds for the legendary arch-bird, the Simurgh. This 
name, meaning “thirty birds,” simultaneously represents the number of birds in the lot, 
which is also thirty. (Actually, the original name of the poem, Mantiq al-Tayr, can also 
be translated as “the reasoning of the birds.” Like the Greek Logos, which stands for both 
“Word” and “Reason,” the Arabic word mantiq signifies both speech and logic.) 


Travelling through seven valleys and after many arduous adventures, the birds finally 
come face to face with the incomparable Simurgh. The climax of the story is also one of 
the most moving pieces to be found in the poetry of mysticism. Here are a few sample 
lines, in the unforgettable translation of Edward Fitzgerald: 

Come, you lost atoms, to your Centre draw 

And be the Eternal Mirror that you saw 

Rays that have wandered into darkness wide 


Return, and back into your Sun subside. 


Now the search of the birds for the Simurgh is none other than man’s search for God, or 
Absolute Reality. And the seven valleys they have to traverse are the seven stages, or 


281 


stations, of the self. Only at the final stage can the veils fall from one’s eyes, revealing a 
vision of the incomparable splendor of divine majesty. This is an experience so amazing, 
so miraculous, so ineffable, that all those who have been graced with it agree that 
compared to it, there is nothing else worth living for. In the words of another Sufi poet 
(Misr1), “If the ruler of the entire world heard of this, he would give his life for just a 
drop of it.” 


Our theme in this section, then, is the stages of the self as described in Islamic and Sufic 
sources. Happy the ones who, travelling from stage to stage, draw ever nearer to the 
source of all being. And pity the ones who, lacking the drive and the diligence to work 
out their own salvation, remain stuck in the basement—the dungeon!—of the base self. 


The Lord Almighty in His wisdom has sent down the secrets of His Essence from the 
invisible Heavens to the Earth, and has hidden those secrets in the essence of man in 
order to reveal His own Names and Attributes. But man, sinking into the darkness of his 
egoistical self, has forgotten the values and perfections he possessed before coming into 
the physical world. When human beings leaned toward the external world and the 
compulsions of the self, they donned the attribute of ignorance and completely forgot 
their truth and homeland. Whereupon God sent them prophets and holy books to wake 
them from this heedless sleep, to guide them to the straight path, to purify and order their 
inside and their outside, so that they might finally sweep away the cobwebs of darkness 
and the veils of lust, discover the World of Light, remember their origin, and return to it. 
Who approaches God an inch with this intent and desire, He will approach by a foot, and 
He comes running to those who merely walk toward Him. 


As with the ancient Egyptians (ba and ka) and Chinese (hun and p’o) before them, 
Islamic scientists divided the spirit of man into two parts. The first of these they called 
the animal spirit, and the second, the human spirit. What they termed animal spirit was a 
subtle spiritual substance that comprised the life, sentience, motive force and will of the 
body, which man possessed in common with all animals. The self associated with this 
spirit is called—naturally enough—the animal self (nafs al-haywani), the carnal, 
egoistical, imperious, or impelling self. 


All the distinguishing higher faculties of man were grouped by the scholars of Islam 
under the heading of human spirit. The self associated with this spirit they called the 
speaking/reasoning self (nafs al-natiqa), and it is this self which is capable of evolving to 
the higher stages of selfhood: accusing, inspired, serene, pleased, pleasing, and perfect. 
But as the animal self is its substratum and the more exclusively human self cannot exist 
without this, the problem becomes one of taming the animal self and curbing its animal 
urges. It is only in this way that the more truly human—and divine—aspects of the self 
can emerge. 


1. Self as Tyrant: The Base Self (Impelling Self) 


In the Arabian Nights, Sindbad the sailor, during one of his many escapades, is 
shipwrecked as usual and barely survives, dragging himself onto a strange island where 


282 


he is washed ashore, and falls asleep in exhaustion. When he wakes up, he finds that an 
ugly pair of legs are entwined around his neck, and that they belong to a drunkard. From 
that day on, Sindbad becomes the slave of that debaucher, who never relaxes his 
stranglehold and beats our poor hero on the head until his every whim is satisfied. 


Sindbad eventually escapes, of course, but the rest of the story is not our immediate 
concern. It has been remarked that the Arabian Nights contains elements of Sufism, and 
there is no better example in support of this than the drunkard’s deadlock described 
above; for it is one of the best descriptions in world literature of the essential nature of 
the base, or evil, self. 


Nor, however, is this all. In mythology and fairy tale, in epic and science fiction, we can 
trace the footprints of the lower self of man: from the seven-headed Hydra (note the 
number seven!) to the dragon of St. George, from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to 
cyborgs, androids and killer robots—always, it is the despicable, impulsive or compulsive 
self who is the villain, the ogre, the monster. And as mythologist Joseph Campbell aptly 
pointed out, he who conquers this Minotaur of a self is the hero, The Hero with a 
Thousand Faces. Always it is the same universal story that is retold, under a myriad of 
appearances and guises. The stories do not usually explain who the villain symbolizes, 
though this does not detract from their interest or enjoyment; but Campbell has given 
away the whole show. The enemy is not outside, but within: as the comics charater Pogo 
once remarked, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” 


But wait! Where there are dragons, there also are beautiful damsels and buried treasure. 
Where there is the “dragon of a thousand coils,” there also is the Golden Fleece. So what 
is to be gained by tackling this adversary? Nothing less than something so valuable, so 
precious, that people of all times and climes have compared it to the hand of a princess or 
to priceless treasure hoards—not indeed because this was literally true, but because their 
imagination fell miserably short in attempting to describe what is really involved and 
could only allude to reality by such metaphors. 


It is not simply in past myth or future sci-fi that we encounter the compulsive self, but 
also in contemporary literature, theater and cinema—the arts, in short. Picasso’s 
Minotauromachy (“Struggle Against the Minotaur’) and Guernica; Herman Hesse’s 
Steppenwolf, part wolf and part man; Oscar Wilde’s Portrait of Dorian Gray, which 
becomes uglier as Dorian’s misdeeds accumulate; Kafka’s portrayal of Joseph K.’s 
Metamorphosis into an insect, gigantic and revolting; Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinoceros, 
which begins with a solitary beast and proliferates like Albert Camus’s Plague until it 
encompasses the whole populace, charging to and fro—all are depictions of the 
domineering self. The writers and artists, the antennae of society, are drawing attention to 
a psychic malaise which is so widespread that it is now also social—for religion has 
never been disclaimed to the extent that it has been in this century. 


Now psychology—psyche-ology, or “knowledge of the self’—should properly be dealing 


with this subject. But a recognition in modern psychology of the pharaonic aspects of the 
self are confined to the subconscious or id, to which all our meaner impulses are 


283 


relegated. This is of course important: that the capricious self should have a subconscious 
component, extending like the roots of a tree under the ground beyond visibility and 
frustrating our attempts at conscious control, is certainly a significant discovery. But 
beyond this, cognizance of the despotic self is scarcely to be found. As for the higher 
levels of the self and the possibility of evolving to such levels, these lie entirely beyond 
the imagination of current psychology. Only very rarely in the West does one come 
across attempts to conceptualize the stages of the self. 


One reason for this is that we in the West have been taught that the enemy, the arch- 
villain, is the flesh, or our instincts, or—in more recent times—the subconscious. These 
mistaken diagnoses have veiled the true source of strife from our eyes. 


The motto of the carnal self is simplicity itself. From Rabelais’s Abbey of Thelema to 
Aleister Crowley’s (of “Golden Dawn” fame), “Do what you will shall be the whole of 
the law.” This, however, overlooks a very simple yet dangerous fact: the more the 
vagabond self is given free rein, the more it tends to grow. The little squirming worm first 
becomes a king cobra, then a colossal, fire-breathing dragon—a Tyrannosaurus Rex. 
Prometheus unbound becomes Frankenstein unshackled. Looking at the male and female 
serial murderers of our day, who abuse, torture and dispose of dozens of people without 
batting an eyelid, one can see the results of the dominating self run rampant, and since 
things are going from bad to worse, one can only shudder for the future. Newspapers 
report that cannibalism has revived—not in the dark jungles of Africa, but in Russia. The 
Terminator and Alien have nothing on them; as in the case of the armed person—to all 
appearances entirely ordinary—who enters a random store or restaurant one day and 
opens indiscriminate fire, the oppressive self dictates, first, the destruction of all others 
within its purview, and finally the destruction of oneself. Robots, mechanical men 
programmed to kill from whom all feelings of compassion and mercy have been 
removed, are the end result of this process. 


These are, of course, extreme examples. So what about the rest of us ordinary human 
beings? Well, in the dark recesses of each person’s psyche there lurks a Minotaur, 
patiently biding its time, waiting to pounce. It may be under wraps, we may be unaware 
of its presence, but it is there nevertheless. The Minotaur (not to mention all the other 
images) is a symbol for a core complex of egotistical drives. And the “damsel in distress” 
that awaits salvation is the spirit. The choice is between our spirits and our egos; both 
cannot be free simultaneously. If the inferior self is given free rein, it chokes the spirit. 
The ego can suppress evidences of the spirit to such an extent that we begin to think we 
are soulless machines. Hence, in order to elevate and liberate our spirits, we must 
constrain and confine our egos. Only then is spiritual progress possible, only then can the 
spirit soar. 


The containment of the egotistical self has taken on an added urgency in our day. Thanks 
to the spin-offs of science and technology, even the humblest person now enjoys 
privileges undreamt of by even the pharaohs and emperors of yesteryear. “Magical 
boxes” bring voices and images from the other side of the globe; “self-propelled 
carriages” transport even the poor at speeds no king ever achieved in a lifetime. An 


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African Bushman can communicate with the four corners of the planet. This progressive 
equalization of previously unheard-of opportunities and goods can only be applauded, 
and one can hardly think of it as bad. 


Yet there is a catch. For the containment of the egotistical self is easy in conditions of 
scarcity, but difficult in an environment of affluence. Because of the tendency of the 
inferior self to mushroom in such circumstances, our very luxury may prove our 
unforeseen undoing. 


An ecological perspective is germane here. Not maximal, but sustainable consumption; 
adherence to the principle of the Golden Mean; taking no more than one’s needs even 
when standing beside a vast ocean—this is how we can keep the commanding self at bay, 
sustain our standards of living, and contribute to the further democratization of available 
resources (sharing with others the common wealth of our world) in the midst of plenty. 


At the first, entry level, the human or speaking/reasoning self has been subdued by the 
carnal self and is stuck at this level. It commands and impells to evil, for which reason it 
is termed the commanding orimpelling self. Its characteristics are bad habits such as 
ignorance, miserliness, greed, conceit, self-adulation, lust, jealousy, bad manners, useless 
activities, making fun of and hurting and scolding others. 


The impelling self is a burden on a human being. It is like an alcoholic son who does 
every iniquity and leaves his father to mop up behind him. 


Now the self, or “I”, is a product of God’s infinite grace. But it has become defiled by 
being attracted to the world and its intense interest in its own desires. It has come under 
the influence of animal urges which are pure lust, has become bound to lust and thus, to 
animality. It has exchanged its own admirable qualities for the lowly traits of animals, 
until its only remaining difference from them is outward form. Even Satan gains strength 
from it. This ugly self is an enemy within us. It is tyrannical and imperious, like a 
dictator. Furthermore, it emerges from under whatever stone it is lurking at the least 
expected moment, when we think we have vanquished it, and forces us to fulfill its 
despicable demands. Only after everything is over do we realize what has happened. 


Ahmed Sirhindi, a saint of great renown, says: “In its state of impulsiveness, the self 
always strives to be superior—to be a leader, an authority, and greater than its peers. It 
desires that all creatures should be dependent on it and that they should obey its 
commands and prohibitions. It refuses to acknowledge its dependence on and debt to 
others. This is nothing but a claim to divinity, and association of itself with God. Indeed, 
the self with this quality of compulsion, miserable and distant from happiness as it is, will 
not settle even for partnership with God, but desires to subjugate even Him, to enslave all 
that exists. It is for this reason that aiding and abetting this self, the enemy of God, so that 
it may attain the leadership and authority it is greedy for, is the greatest of follies and 
disasters.” 


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This gremlin can be tamed only by self-restraint. Give the impulsive self its rights, but 
deny it its pleasures. “The rights of the self,” says Abdulqader Gilani, one of the greatest 
saints, 


are the needful amount of food, drink, clothing, and shelter. Its pleasures are the things 
it likes, and its lusts and caprices. Give it its rights in accordance with the measure of 
the Holy Law. Always feed it with what is Allowed or clean, never that which is 
Forbidden or tainted. Be content with little, as long as it is allowed. Accustom your self 
to this. 


If you desire liberation, oppose your self where obedience to your Lord is concerned. 
If your self tends toward obeying Him, concur with it. If it inclines toward sin, oppose 
and struggle against it. 


Do not remove the stick of struggle from the back of your self. Do not be fooled by its 
tricks. It will appear to sleep; do not be taken in. Neither would you be off your guard 
in the presence of a carnivorous beast that feigns sleep and drowsiness. For it is seeking 
for a chance all the while that it seems lethargic and somnolent. It is in its predatory 
nature to do so. 


Now the self is just like a predator. It acts as if it were sleepy and drowsy, yet the 
moment it finds its opportunity, it strikes. This self makes a show of external 
obedience, docility, and compliance with what is good; yet it is hiding the exact 
opposite within. So be very careful with it in matters where it appears submissive. 


Try to heal your self. Say to it: “Whatever good you do is to your own benefit, and 
what evil you commit is to your suffering. Whatever you do, whether good or ill, will 
return to you.” 


Struggle against your self. For God has said: “Whoever struggles for Our sake, We 
shall surely guide to the straight path” (29:69), and also: “If you aid God in His 
religion, He will aid you” (47:7). 


Never give the self any room, never tolerate it. Do not obey its demands. Only then 
will you find salvation and liberation. Never condescend to smile at it. If it tells you a 
thousand things, answer only one, until you are sure that its behavior is rectified and it 
is quiescent. If it requests anything belonging to its pleasures and capricious desires, 
always postpone it, saying: “Wait until Paradise.” Accustom it to the patience of want. 
Never accept a word of what it says. For its propensity is always towards evil. What it 
wants you to do is evil, without the shadow of a doubt. If you must answer it, let your 
reply always be negative. Opposition to the self is the road to its edification. 


Patience on this path has an end. Patience is temporally finite, yet its fruits are infinite. 


oh ok ok 


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Enter the devil. 


The devil is the principle of evil that exists in the external world. Rather than being an 
abstract principle, however, he is personified, for the Koran and the previous sacred 
books tell us that he is a fallen angel who, out of spite for man, always tries to cheat him 
out of his rightful destiny, which is to attain Paradise and the friendship of God. Unlike 
other religions, though, the devil in Islam does not possess any great supernatural power, 
and his abilities are restricted to deceiving those who heed his misadvice. For this reason, 
he is termed “the Whisperer” in the Koran. 


One of the cleverest ploys of the devil is to convince people that he does not exist. In this 
way, he can work his ways on unsuspecting people, and continue his task undisturbed. 
Further, since everything is known by its opposite, denial of the existence of the devil, 
who is evil, leads to the tacit denial of the existence of goodness, and of God. Once this 
point is reached, one is thrown into a moral turmoil where good cannot be distinguished 
from evil, and hence the tendency to do evil is magnified manifold, since one does not 
guard against it. 


Within man, the devil finds his natural ally in the animal self—the self that “always 
impels to evil.” If one heeds the devil’s whisperings and falls into his trap, the exterior 
principle of evil becomes interiorized. External torment becomes internal torment. 


When the traveller is at the stage of the impelling self, the devil approaches him and 
attempts to thwart him from his path, bombarding him with the following suggestions: 
“What business have you with this path? All those who have entered it are dead. Only 
their words and their books remain. I know you want to enter the Path of Truth. But who 
is there to guide you? Show me, where are the people of lofty attainment, of great 
Struggle and Observation, who are able to work miracles? That was in the past. 
Nowadays, you cannot find even one of their kind. The best thing for you is to remain 
with the Holy Law, be content with it, and seek help from the dead saints.” 


Deception, untruth, is the essence of the devil, and here he is trying to conceal a fact. 
Perfect men, mature masters and teachers, exist in every age. Mohammed combined two 
aspects in his person: Prophethood and Sainthood. Although he is the Seal of the 
Prophets, and hence no further prophet will be forthcoming, his attribute of Sainthood 
(the Friendship of God) will continue until the end of the world. 


Now if the traveller heeds this advice of the devil, he will reduce his efforts and struggle 
in the path of the Spiritual School, his enthusiasm will cool, and a timidity in continuing 
the journey will come over him. In that case, the devil next comes to him and says: “God 
is forgiving. He loves those who act with License toward permitted things. Stop treating 
your self cruelly. Treat it with tenderness, so that it may obey you.” 


License (ruhsah) is the opposite of Restraint (azimah), which is to exercise inhibition in 


performing things that are Allowed (halal ). If the traveller does this, his notion of what is 
permitted and what is Forbidden (haram) begins to get confused, and he begins to 


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approach the border of prohibitions as a result. As his doubts increase, darkness invades 
his heart, and he finally winds up yielding to prohibitions. 


If, however, God comes to the rescue, the traveller will be able to discern that all these 
delusions are from the devil, and say: “To pursue License is for the lazy. To act according 
to it is for weaklings. It is necessary to follow the manners dictated by Divine Law and 
the principles of the School.” If the traveller can do this, his self will rise to the second 
stage, the stage of the Critical Self. From the prison of the carnal self, it takes wing to the 
space of divine spirit. In the end, his pride is transformed into humility, his hatred into 
love, his callousness into tenderness, and his lust into chastity. 


2. The Critical Self 


The second station of the rational self has been called “critical,” “reproachful,” or “soul- 
searching,” because it repents of commanding evil and blames itself. Some traits of the 
compelling self still survive in this stage, but it has the ability to discriminate between 
truth and falsehood, between good and evil. It is disturbed by the bad traits it finds within 
itself, but is incapable of completely ridding itself of these. It loves the Sacred Law and 
the spiritual schools, however, and it has many good deeds to its credit, such as Prayer, 
fasting, and charity. Still, covert hypocrisy remains mixed in with them. 


The possessor of this self wants his good works to be known by the people. He does them 
both for God’s sake, and for show. He is revolted by this habit, however, and cannot find 
solace. But he is also unable to get rid of it. 


Those in this station have, of their own choice, decided to die to their selves and to exist 
with God, and have entered the path of dying by their own volition before physical death 
overtakes them. The Prophet said: “die before you die,” that is, try to kill your selves. 
Moses said the same thing to his people: “Slay your selves” (2:54). What is meant by 
“self” here is the ego—namely egotism, self-aggrandizement, and egocentrism. Suicide is 
definitely not implied. 


It is necessary to continue on one’s way without tarrying in this station. For there is great 
danger and an eroding weariness at Stage 2. Those who remain there cannot find comfort 
or salvation. 


The two dangers of this stage are arrogance and anger. Of these, anger is composed of the 
same fire that Satan was made of. Indeed, when his wife Aisha was angry, the Prophet 


999 


said: “This is the fire which has been called ‘the place of Satan’. 
This state of fury is an extremely dangerous and accursed enemy for its owner. And the 
essence of this bad habit is arrogance. To eradicate this conceit from one’s self is the best 


of all cures. 


Anger and conceit have three antidotes: 


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1. When conceit is gone, it will be found that anger has vanished of itself. As long as 
the cause of conceit remains, it cannot be expelled. The cause of conceit is a full 
stomach. This strengthens conceit, and anger reaches the zone of depravity. Hunger 
and sleeplessness should therefore be cultivated, and conceit should be uprooted with 
hunger. 


2. The best antidote for the stimulus of anger is to think of one’s self as weak, and thus 
to consider oneself unjustified in attacking another. One must threaten one’s self with 
the bitter fruits of anger and the retribution of God. Kindness, affection, and 
gentleness are necessary, but overcoming anger is even more necessary. 


3. Another antidote for anger is this: If you are standing when you get angry, sit down; 
if you are sitting, stand up. If possible, take a Washup (ablution), lie down face 
upwards, and recite the following prayer: “My Lord, enrich me with knowledge, 
decorate me with gentleness, grant me worship and fear of You, bestow well-being 
and health upon me. Amen.” 


All beings envy the wayfarer, and try to prevent him from the presence of God. In return, 
that person should not favor anything or be afraid of anyone. 


The devil makes one’s actions appear lovable to a person in this station, and thus 
introduces feelings of self-love into his heart. Then he appears to side with truth, and 
says: “You have now learned everything. From now on, you have no need either to learn 
further knowledge, or to join the discussion groups of the wise and knowledgeable, or to 
listen to the sermons of preachers. If only that man of knowledge or preacher would 
advise his own self, and perform even a tenth of your deeds!” 


As a result of this deceit, the person becomes so conceited that he does not heed a single 
advice of the sage. He does his worship according to his own mind, and is wasted away 
in the darkness of ignorance. 


As can be seen, the tricks and deceptions of the devil are legion. He will wreck the deeds 
of the traveller if he can; and if he cannot, he will then instill a better deed in the seeker’s 
heart—so superior to his works that he will be incapable of performing it. He praises this 
deed to the disciple and forces him to attempt it, so that in his struggle to achieve this 
higher goal the wayfarer forsakes even his lesser accomplishments. Thus, he loses both. 


For example, the devil may suggest to the disciple that he perform the Pilgrimage, in 
spite of the fact that he lacks the means to do so. The disciple sets out on the road with 
little or no preparation, and becomes destitute. His heart begins to darken, he postpones 
his Prayers, he starts to gossip, swear, and engage in other ill deeds. Whereas he was a 
lighthearted, good-natured fellow at home, who comported himself with gentleness and 
regarded others as superior to himself, he now begins to criticize people and regard them 
as inferior because of his travails. He becomes ill-mannered, his heart becomes troubled, 
his self miserly, covetous and critical of others. The devil thus achieves his goal. 


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If God’s grace and salvation reaches out to this disciple and protects him from such devil- 
inspired delusions, that person can be raised to the third station by diligently practicing 
the etiquette of the Sacred Law and the requirements of the mystical orders. 


3. The Inspired Self 


The self in the third station is called inspired because it receives inspirations from the 
Lord without any intermediary. Although superior to the reproachful self, this too is a 
dangerous station and needs the guidance of an enlightened master to handle it. 
Otherwise, it is to be feared that a relapse to the previous stage will occur. 


The aspirant should confess all his desires and errors to his guide when they are alone, 
and should not hide anything from him. Whenever he feels like denying or opposing his 
teacher, he should tell him this without hesitation or holding anything back, and repent. 
For as long as his faith in his teacher remains firm and strong, his heart will be protected 
against delusions, and his ascent in the divine world will be assured. If he wholeheartedly 
attaches himself to his mature guide, if he tells him all the good and bad thoughts that 
occur to him, if he accepts the remedies this guide offers him and practices them with 
diligence, if he is pleased in his heart with his master—his spiritual elevation is speeded 
and he reaches the fourth station quickly. 


The fact is that this station, while superior to the preceding two, is still not secure against 
the inspirations of the devil and the ego. Because it also receives inspirations from God, it 
confuses the one with the other. 


The efforts of the ego and Satan at this stage are geared toward dissolving the ties 
between the student and his master. In the guise of a divine inspiration, they try to make 
the master appear in a bad light in the seeker’s eyes. But since the master is actually a 
mirror to people, the ugly characteristics that the disciple projects upon him are none 
other than his own. The lifesaver that the student must cling to on these stormy seas is the 
Holy Law. In particular, the Prayer must be performed with great care for its details. If 
this gives rise to arrogance and feelings of superiority in him, he cannot rise to the rank of 
those close to God, and remains only in the rank of the good. But if he intentionally 
discontinues Prayer, he will be reproved, and deprived of the spiritual pleasures of 
Prayer. A condition of love is that the lover should obey every wish of his Beloved. 


In this station, the traveller is prone to experiencing “loss-of-self.” While in this state, the 
disciple forgets everything he knows, sees wrongly, understands wrongly, and is 
mistaken in general. The sense organs convey erroneous impressions and perceptions to 
him. This state has nothing to do, however, with the “extinction in God” (fana fi-Allah) 
experienced at a later stage, and should not be confused with it. 


The devil is still in hot pursuit of the traveller in the third station. Appearing to side with 
truth, he tells him: “You have now seen, heard and understood everything. You have 
become a sage. Why should you need to perform all these arduous deeds any longer? 
From now on, what becomes you is this: Leave all the worship and work that belong to 


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outer appearance to the externalists. Try to invest your time with internal worship, with 
concentration and contemplation (contemplate God and try to see Him), which are more 
important and necessary than external worship.” 


If the disciple is taken in by these suggestions and abandons worship and struggle, his 
heart begins to darken and the devil gains a foothold there. Once he has achieved this, he 
again approaches the disciple and tells him: “You are the truth of your Lord, and He is 
your truth. You have now become a saint. All the observances and limitations incumbent 
upon mortal servants have been lifted from you. Therefore, you can do whatever you 
please or desire. Everything is permitted for you. You will not be held accountable.” 


This is one of the most insidious deceits of the devil. For—to paraphrase Dostoevsky— 
everything can be permitted only if one denies God. 


When this happens, the veils of darkness engulf the physical and spiritual sight of the 
disciple to such a degree that he becomes completely incapable of seeing the truth. He 
does not hesitate to commit any iniquity, such as theft, treason, fornication, or drinking. 
His faith is corrupted entirely. He ceases to fear God. He becomes such a plaything of the 
devil that he leaves God aside and makes the devil his leader. Such is the sorry end of 
anyone who heeds the words of the devil. 


If God’s grace rescues this person, if he remains firm in worship and struggle with love 
and diligence, his self rises to the fourth station. 


4. The Serene Self 


The human or rational (speaking/reasoning) self in the fourth station is content, its heart 
is assured, and its sorrow dispelled by the speech of its Lord. This is why it is called 
contented, tranquil, orserene. 


The disciple does not show the slightest deviation from the Holy Law in this station. He 
takes pleasure in practising the moral conduct of the Prophet, his heart is contented by 
following his example in actions and behavior. Everything he says is in harmony with the 
Koran and the Traditions. Therefore, those who listen to him never tire of listening, for 
the truths and subtleties poured into his heart by the Lord come alive in his words. He 
enlightens those around him, and occupies himself with worship and invocation most of 
the time. He has won most of the approved qualities, and become invested with 
generosity, trust in God, surrender, patience, hope, righteousness, kind-heartedness, 
cheerfulness, thanksgiving, hiding others’ shames, forgiveness, and joy of heart. He does 
not care for the paranormal feats that may manifest from him, and binds himself to God 
who is the true source of such phenomena. He knows that being partial toward these is 
shameful and leads one astray. Perfect men do not know the psychic achievements 
exuding from them, and if they do, they don’t attach importance to them; they try to hide 
them, and don’t tell them to anyone. 


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For the perfect person truly in love with God, all thoughts that do not accord with the 
Sacred Law are in error. For the Folk of the Inner have found internal perceptions that 
violate the external world to be perverse. Every external decree of the Holy Law has a 
secret—an internal—counterpart. But he who does not abide by its clear, outer precepts 
can become neither a saint nor perfect. The hidden treasures of the Divine Law remain 
locked to him. He may even become faithless and perverse. 


But the person who has attained the fourth stage has, after great struggle and hardship, 
finally been able to overcome the devil. He abides by God’s Commandments and the 
Prophet’s Way in every move and deed. These two are the only lifesavers and branches to 
hold on to in tempestuous seas. Hence the traveller reaching this station has definitely 
beaten the devil, and the hazards of the earlier stages no longer exist at this level. From 
now on, it is much easier to progress to subsequent stages. The Koran has underlined this 
ease with the verses: “Contented Self, return to your Lord, you Pleased with Him and 
Pleasing to Him” (89:27-28). 


The devil cannot approach a person of this maturity, and even if he does, he can’t find a 
way into his heart or sway him from his path. Indeed, the devil once approached the great 
sage Gilani and said: “Abdulqader, I am your Lord. I now Permit you what I had 
previously Forbidden. You can do whatever you wish.” But the saint only replied: 
“You're lying. You are the devil. For the Lord never wants His Prohibitions to be done, 
and will never order anyone to do them.” 


5. The Pleased Self 


The human self in the fifth station is called the pleased self because it has achieved 
mature pleasure in all respects: it remains pleased with God no matter what befalls it. The 
characteristics of the self in this stage are: to avoid Prohibitions, to love with a pure heart, 
peacefulness, psychic aptitude, surrender, and to leave and forget everything except God. 
The person accepts every event in the world with calmness and placidity, without 
objections. Because he is in control of his self, he does not approach forbidden or 
objectionable things. God never turns down his prayers and always accepts them. But his 
excess of shame and humility prevents him from praying; he is ashamed to request 
anything of God. He prays only in an emergency, and his prayers are sure to be accepted. 
He is honored in the sight of the Lord. He is seated on such a throne in the inner world 
that the whole outer world awaits his command. 


6. The Pleasing Self 


The rational self in the sixth stage is called the pleasing self because it is pleasing to God. 
The person at this echelon is clothed with the morality of God. He has departed from 
human desires and become fair-mannered. He forgives sins, hides shames, and always 
thinks well. He is kind, generous and altruistic towards everyone. He loves and tends 
toward people, trying to rescue them from the prison of nature—and the darkness of the 


292 


ego—into the light of the spirit. This love is only for the sake of God, which is why it is 
valuable. The pleasing self combines the love of creatures with the love of God. 


The owner of this station is moderate in everything he does. He neither exceeds, nor does 
he fall short. This temperate attitude is apparently easy, but very difficult to achieve in 
reality. Everyone wants to possess this wonderful asset. But few ever do, because it is an 
extremely difficult state to maintain. It is a grace and boon belonging to those in this 
station alone. 


To the mature person in the sixth stage, the first good signs of the great viceregency 
begin to appear. At the end of this process he is dressed in all the regalia of that rank. The 
servant knows all the subtle secrets of things through the knowledge given him by His 
Lord. God has informed His servants of these secrets with the proclamation: “I taught 
Adam the names of all things.” There are secrets associated with this stage that cannot be 
expressed in words. It is impossible for anyone not possessing this state to comprehend 
these, for they do not have correlates in the external world to which they might be 
compared. 


7. The Perfect, Pure, or Complete Self 


The human self that has risen to the seventh station is called the perfect self because it has 
reached the pinnacle of maturity, and the purified or pure self because it has become 
completely purified. The seeker can rise to the sixth stage by struggle, but the seventh can 
only be bestowed on him by the grace of God. 


The seventh station is the highest and most exalted of all the stations. The Inner Kingdom 
(the Kingdom which, as Jesus said, “is within you”) has reached perfection, and the 
struggle is finished. Asceticism and self-compression are no longer necessary. It is 
enough to observe medium conduct in all things. The possessor of this stage has no 
desires left, for they have all been granted. He still continues, however, to wish for the 
pleasure of his Lord. 


The actions of the perfect human being in this stage are all goodness and worship. His 
sweet breath is power and grace. His gentle speech is knowledge and wisdom, sweetness 
and light. His blessed face radiates peace and joy. 


The person at this stage is never without worship, not even for a moment. He worships 
with all his bodily organs, with his tongue, hands and feet or solely with his heart, and is 
never heedless of his Lord. 


Such a person repents frequently. He is extremely humble. The tendency of people to 
God pleases him greatly. He is sad and offended if they neglect God. He loves those who 
desire and love God more than his own child. Both his love and his anger are not for his 
self, but for God alone. Everything he does is right. He acts with justice in everything. 
His every wish is in accord with God’s wishes. 


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Solving the Riddle of the Universe 


Sainthood, elevation to higher levels of self, is hard work. This is both a challenge and a 
promise. It is a challenge, in that only the most diligent can attain it. It is a promise, in 
that nobody is barred from it for whatever reason—being human is enough to qualify for 
application. The only obstacle is the lack of struggle and effort on our part. 


Not all of us, perhaps, can attain the highest levels of sainthood. It would suffice us all, 
however, to struggle as much as we can against our lower selves, for no matter how far 
we progress, it is to our good—and to the greater good of society. 


What we have described above can only be a very abstract and general guide to 
comprehending the Book of the Universe. Actually experiencing the reality of these 
descriptions is something else again. The Lord Almighty has informed human beings in 
the Koran that there are many portents in observable entities. Indeed, every word spoken 
by a person has a meaning that is modified according to the words preceding and 
succeeding it. In a similar way, there is a secret in each entity or event, and this appears 
differently to everyone. Direct, naked perception of it is very rare and difficult. God has 
revealed such secrets only to His wise servants who know their selves, and has hidden 
them from the ignorant. 


This very book you are reading—isn’t it the same? Men of knowledge who read it 
perceive its meaning. But when ignorant people look at it, they can neither read nor 
understand it, nor can they take pleasure from it. They can only see the printed lines of 
the book. 


The world of nature is similar. But to read, to decipher, the Book of Nature is much more 


difficult than reading this book. It is not for everyone to read, or having read to 
comprehend, the vast Book of the Universe. 


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SEEK INSIDE YOU 


(Niyazi Misri was one of the greatest Sufi poets, who expressed sublime concepts with a 
beauty and power that has seldom been equaled. Unfortunately, his style is so elliptical 
that an exoteric leader was once moved to remark that only God and and Niyazi knew 
what he meant. As the footnotes to the following poem illustrate, Niyazi expects his 
readers to be deeply versed in Islamic and Sufic lore. Some attempt has been made to 
reflect the meter and rhyme of the original in English.) 

If you want to discover the Beloved 

Look nowhere else, seek inside you, find in you 

Watch Him in the mirror that is yours 

Look nowhere else, seek inside you, find in you 

What attribute you possess, follow it 

What mystery enlightens that, watch it 

Then as you reach the Essence, long for it 

Look nowhere else, seek inside you, find in you 

The hidden and overt treasure is in you 

As are summer, winter, night and day 

Whatever is in the Two Worlds is in you 

Look nowhere else, seek inside you, find in you 

Attain the secret of “He who knows,” drop heedlessness 

See what this human image signifies 

Gather and disperse Heaven and Hell 

Look nowhere else, seek inside you, find in you 


Deny not the Gathering and Afterlife 


Make not your rose garden a briar patch 


295 


Know the “horizons and selves,” don’t be shy 

Look nowhere else, seek inside you, find in you 
Know that the Essence of Truth is your essence 

And His Attributes are all your attributes 
Self-knowledge is your liberation 

Look nowhere else, seek inside you, find in you 
Leaving aside form, discover meaning 

Leaving attributes, plunge into the sea of the Essence 
O Niyazi, fill both East and West 


Look nowhere else, seek inside you, find in you. 


296 


THE 99 NAMES OF GOD 


Many are the beautiful names of the Almighty—they are not just 99, but hundreds, 
thousands—perhaps even countless. Nevertheless, they can all be subsumed, in one way 
or another, under 99 key names, which are called “the 99 Beautiful Names of God.” We 
have been informed of the 99 through a special Tradition of the Prophet devoted 
exclusively to them. 


“In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. 
“He is God, there is no god but He— 


“The Compassionate, the Merciful, the King, the Holy, the Peace, the Faith-Giver, the 
Preserver, the Mighty, the Compeller, the Haughty, the Creator, the Maker, the Shaper, 
the Pardoner, the Destroyer, the Bestower, the Provider, the Opener, the Omniscient, the 
Constrictor, the Expander, the Abaser, the Exalter, the Honorer, the Degrader, the All- 
Hearing, the All-Seeing, the Judge, The Just, the Sublime, the Aware, the Lenient, the 
Magnificent, the Forgiver, the Appreciative, the High, the Great, the Protector, the 
Sustainer, the Sufficient, the Majestic, the Generous, the Watchful, the Responsive, the 
All-Embracing, the Wise, the Loving, the Most Glorious, the Raiser, the Witness, the 
Truth, the Trustee, the Strong, the Firm, the Friend, the Praiseworthy, the Enumerator, the 
Inventor, the Restorer, the Lifegiver, the Slayer, the Living, the Everlasting, the 
Embodier, the Glorious, the Union, the One, the All-Sufficient, the Powerful, the Able, 
the Hastener, the Delayer, the First, the Last, the Manifest, the Hidden, the Governor, the 
Most Exalted, the Benign, the Acceptor, the Avenger, the Most Forgiving, the Most 
Kind, Possessor of the Kingdom, His Majesty and Grace, the Equitable, the Uniter, the 
Wealthy, the Enricher, the Preventer, the Distresser, the Beneficent, the Light, the Guide, 
the Originator, the Eternal, the Inheritor, the Enlightener, the Patient. 


“Exalted is His Majesty.” 


Let us now look at these names more closely. According to Sufi doctrine, when Absolute 

Reality decided to create the observable universe, it first differentiated itself into 
Attributes that are assigned these Names. This can be compared to the rainbow of colors 
when a beam of white light is passed through a prism. Now when these colors are 
focused and made to intersect with each other, they produce different hues, and this is 
how all creation is formed—every creature or form is the locus of various divine names 
and attributes, from which processes or actions peculiar to that superposition then unfold. 
Physicist David Bohm’s description of existence as “knots being knotted and unknotted 
throughout the universe” may be helpful here. 


Of all creatures, humans are the most inclusive. In other words, man is the all- 
comprehensive creature, for he has the capacity to manifest not just one name or several, 
but all of them. When any person does so, he becomes God’s Viceregent or 
representative on earth, for he then becomes the bearer of all divine names. 


291 


Alternatively, a person can choose to concentrate on a single divine name. When he 
invokes a particular name, the effects of that name will manifest themselves, because that 
name is occuring with greater concentration at a particular point in the universe. 


Hence, a person wishing for God’s mercy will call upon Him by His name “the 
Merciful,” while a person desiring justice will invoke His name “the Just.” The Attributes 
of Mercy, Justice, etc. will then be activated at the locus of their origin. This has nothing 
to do with magic or anything of the sort—it is the process of creation that is involved. For 
God did not simply create the cosmos at some indefinite point in the past, as the 
advocates of the “clockwork universe” model, who view God as the Great Watchmaker, 
would have it. At each instant the universe changes, and its configuration in the preceding 
instant is gone forever. Becoming, or ceaseless change, is an endless sequence of 
delimited being, each moment somewhat different from its predecessor and successor. 
The analogy with a film sequence is germane here: each square in the movie strip is 
slightly different from its neighbors. 


(How changeless, eternal, undifferentiated Being is transformed into the ceaseless change 
of becoming has been a problem in Western philosophy. The Sufis have solved this 
problem by recognizing that there are various levels of existence corresponding to 
various degrees of differentiation—a very small differentiation close to the Source 
becomes greatly enhanced by the time its light arrives in the observable universe, just as a 
small speck of dust on a slide or movie strip becomes magnified on the screen of its 
projection. It should be noted that in our case “light” does not correspond to 
electromagnetic photons, but to noetic light. This is how the Buddhist precept: “Make a 
hair’s-breadth difference, and heaven and earth are at once set apart’’ is realized.) 


Now this means that at every instant, being is manifested and then almost immediately 
becomes nonmanifest—it is instantaneously created and destroyed, emerges from and is 
submerged back into the limitless ocean of Being, like waves on the surface of the sea— 
and this is how becoming comes about. Hence, God did not just create the universe in the 
beginning; He is continually in the business of creation and destruction, which is what the 
great Sufi master Ibn Arabi meant when he was talking about “continual creation.” 


Hence, if a person activates a specific divine name by invoking it, the attribute belonging 
to that name will manifest itself in that locality, and the consequences—the actions—of 
that attribute will follow. 


Some of the names are complementary to each other, such as First and Last, Hidden and 
Manifest, Exalter and Abaser. Others form constellations in that they are associated with 
each other, and may even form a sequence. Take, for example, the string: Creator (No. 
11)—Inventor (58)—Maker (12)—Originator (95)—Shaper (13)}—Embodier (64)— 
Lifegiver(60)—Protector (38)—Sustainer (39)—Provider (17)—Slayer (61)—Destroyer 
(15). The whole process of becoming is embodied in this sequence. 


Everything in the universe can be conceived of as a process of creation, continuation for a 
certain period of time, and then destruction. When God desires to create something, He 


298 


first invents it. Then he plans or makes it, as an inventor might make a blueprint outlining 
the details of his invention. Once these are ready, the turn comes to originating it in the 
observable world, and God actively shapes the product during all stages of its 
manufacture, embodying it in corporeal form. If it is a living being, He gives life to it, and 
then protects His creature, sustains it for the period of its existence, and provides for it if 
it bears life. Since there is an end to everything, God slays living things when their time 
is up, and destroys all things in the end. Other constellations of a similar nature can also 
be found. 


If the names can be ordered within a hiearchical structure, first rank must be accorded to 
the Living, for God’s eternal life precedes all the rest of His Attributes. The Omniscient 
is second only to the Living—God’s knowledge is all-comprehensive in every respect, 
and closely linked with the All-Seeing, the All-Hearing, the Aware, and the Watchful. 
The 99 Beautiful names of God are outlined below in more detail. Ontologically, all the 
names must begin with the name “God,” which is the all-comprehensive name from 
which all other names derive, and which, therefore, raises the total to 100. 

(Note: Since diacritical marks are not used, the originals have been anglicized below to 
aid in pronunciation. Hence, “ee” rhymes with “bee”, “aa” with the “a” in “are”, and “oo” 


rhymes with “do”. The explanations include closest alternative meanings.) 


0. God (Allah): The all-comprehensive Divine Name, the proper name of the Godhead 
from which all other divine names derive. 


1. The Compassionate (ar-Rahmaan): Or Beneficent. He who shows compassion to 
all creatures. 


2. The Merciful (ar-Raheem): He who bestows mercy on the Faithful. 
3. The King (al-Malik): Or Sovereign Lord. The ruler of the universe. 
4. The Holy (al-Quddoos): Or Sacred. 


D: The Peace (as-Salaam): Or Source of Peace. “The peace that passeth 
understanding.” 


6. The Faith-Giver (al-Mumin): Or Guardian of Faith, or Faithful. The name that is 
activated in the Faithful and protects their faith. 


7. The Preserver (al-Muhaimin): Or Protector, especially of faith. 
8. The Mighty (al-Aziz): Or Glorious, or Victorious. 


9. The Compeller (al-Jabbaar): He whose will is invincible and cannot be disobeyed. 


299 


10. 


14. 


18. 


19. 


20. 


PAD 


22: 


23, 


24. 


25. 


26. 


27. 


28. 


The Haughty (al-Mutakabbir): Or Proud, or Majestic. Only God, the Lord of all 
being, has the right to be proud. 


. The Creator (al-Khaaliq): God creates all Creation, and all the creatures in it. 


The Maker (al-Baari): Or Evolver. God plans and leads creatures through the 
stages of their development. 


The Shaper (al-Musawwir): Or Fashioner. God actively moulds and gives form to 
things at all stages of their development. 


The Pardoner (al-Ghaffaar): Or Forgiver. God forgives the sins of sinners by virtue 
of this name. 


The Destroyer (al-Qahhaar): Or Subduer, or Overwhelming. God overpowers and 
puts an end to everything. 


The Bestower (al-Wahhaab): God bestows gifts on those He desires. 

The Provider (al-Razzaaq): God is the sole provider of sustenance. 

The Opener (al-Fattaah): God opens the way to all developments. 

The Omniscient (al-Aleem): Or All-Knowing. Nothing is outside God’s knowledge. 


The Constrictor (al-Qaabiz): He who constricts and contracts, making things 
difficult. 


The Expander (al-Baasit): He who makes things easy, or allows them to expand. 
The Abaser (al-Haafid ): God debases whom He wills. 

The Exalter (ar-Raafi): God exalts anyone He desires. 

The Honorer (al-Mu ’izz): He who bestows honor. 

The Degrader (al-Muzill ): Or Dishonorer. He who gives honor can also remove it. 
The All-Hearing (as-Samee): Nothing escapes God’s hearing— 

The All-Seeing (al-Basee): Nor can anything escape His sight. 


The Judge (al-Haakim): God is the judge of all, and most of all on Judgment Day. 


300 


29. 


30. 


Jk 


32: 


ao) 


34. 


35: 


36. 


ore 


38. 


39: 


40. 


Al. 


42. 


43. 


The Just (al-Adl ): God is just in His judgment, and metes out the recompense of 
everything in due measure and proportion. Not the slightest deviation or imbalance 
can be seen in the universe or His judgment. 


The Sublime (al-Lateef ): Or Subtle One. He who is generous, wonderful, too fine 
to be seen by the eye, and whose actions are not easy to comprehend. (“The Lord 


God is subtle, but malicious He is not”—Albert Einstein.) 


The Aware (al-Habeer): Since He is all-knowing, all-seeing and all-hearing, God is 
necessarily aware of everything. 


The Lenient (al-Haleem): Or Gentle or Forbearing One. God does not punish 
unless provoked in the extreme. 


The Magnificent (al-Azeem): Or Great One. He is the great Lord of being (in terms 
of loftiness or rank). 


The Forgiver (al-Ghafoor): Or All-Forgiving. He forgives all sins if one repents for 
them. 


The Appreciative (ash-Shakoor): God accepts the thanks of the thanksgivers. In a 
sense, He is also the thanksgiver and the act of thanksgiving. 


The High (al-Alee): Or Most High. He is the Lord On High. 

The Great (al-Kabeer): Or Most Great (in terms of size). 

The Protector (al-Hafeez): Or Preserver. He protects all things, especially His 
divine Word (the Koran), for the period they are assigned. For the Koran, this period 


lasts until the end of the world. 


The Sustainer (al-Mugeet): Or Maintainer. Of the three principles: creation, 
continuity and destruction, this supplies the second. 


The Sufficient (al-Haseeb): Or Reckoner (on Judgment Day, that is). The original 
also has the meaning of Calculator, which shows that God creates by very fine 
calculations (of the Enumerator). 


The Majestic (al-Jaleel ): Or Sublime One. Also: the wrathful aspect of divinity. 


The Generous (al-Kareem): Since He has given us everything we have, God’s 
generosity knows no bounds. 


The Watchful (al-Raqeeb): He who monitors, supervises, and controls. (Much of 
modern technology is a manifestation of this name.) 


301 


44. 


45. 


46. 


47. 


48. 


49. 


50. 


OL: 


a2) 


33: 


54. 


D2: 


56. 


Das 


58. 


The Responsive (al-Mujeeb): Or Granter or Answerer—of prayers. 
The All-Embracing (al-Wasee): The great (in terms of width or expansiveness). 
The Wise (al-Hakeem): He is the source, possessor, and dispenser of all wisdom. 


The Loving (al-Wadood ): God is Love, and its bestower—the lover, love, and the 
Beloved. 


The Most Glorious (al-Majeed ): He is the most wonderful and most adorable, and 
hence the worthiest of glorification. 


The Raiser (al-Baa ith): Or Resurrector. God raises the dead on Judgment _Day. 
He also creates life, and gives new life to that which is apparently dead. 


The Witness (al-Shaheed ): God, being all-aware and watchful, is witness to 
everything in the universe, including our tiniest deeds. 


The Truth (al-Haqq): Or Reality. The ultimate ground of all being, totally free from 
falsehood or error. 


The Trustee (al-Wagqeel ): The name by which we put our trust in God and by 
which He will provide, granted that we have helped ourselves (fulfilled our 
obligations and taken our precautions) first. 


The Strong (al-Qawee): Or Most Strong. (Many of these names should be preceded 
by “infinitely”’.) 


The Firm (al-Mateen): He who withstands, is resistant. (A name that manifests 
itself in hard materials, such as diamond.) Also: Brave. 


The Friend (al-Walee): Or Protecting Friend. God is the Friend of the Friends of 
God (saints). 


The Praiseworthy (al-Hameed ): All praise and glory belong to Him. 


The Enumerator (al-Muhsee): Or Counter, or Reckoner. The source of all 
mathematics, and hence of all science (see also: Sufficient). “God made numbers,” 
said the famous mathematician Leopold Kronecker, “all else is the work of man.” 
More correctly, God embodied His lofty mathematics, His divine measure and 
proportion, in the universe—man’s work has been to discover and emulate it. 


The Inventor (al-Mubdee): Or Originator. He invented the entire universe and all 
the worlds. 


302 


29. 


60. 


61. 


62. 


63. 


64. 


65. 


66. 


67. 


68. 


69. 


70. 


ae 


Tz. 


to 


74. 


JD: 


76. 


The Restorer (al-Mu ’eed ): Whatever the Lord takes away, He can also give back or 
return. All our prayers for our beloved deceased will be answered at the Resurrection 
by the power of this name. 


The Lifegiver (al-Muhyee): He gives life to all living things. 


The Slayer (al-Mumit): Or Creator of Death, or Destroyer. Everything that is born 
is destined to die. 


The Living (al-Hayy): Or Alive. Only God possesses eternal life, for He neither is 
born, nor does He die. 


The Everlasting (al-Qayyoom): Or Self-Subsisting. He stands eternally erect, 
wakeful and watchful. 


The Embodier (al-Waajid ): Or Finder. Whatever is to be found in this world, He 
gives corporeal existence to. 


The Glorious (al-Maajid ): Or Noble. The sole Being worthy to glorify. 


The Union (al-Waahid ): Or Unique. All multiplicity finds its combination in Him 
(see also: Uniter). 


The One (al-Ahad ): The One Without a Second, not in terms of a mathematical 
sequence of numbers, but of “That which than there is no other.” 


The All-Sufficient (as-Samad ): Or Eternal. All beings call upon Him in their need, 
and He who has no needs supplies them all. 


The Powerful (al-Qaadir): God is all-powerful. (An infinitesimal portion of this 
name is manifested in the oceans, in knowledge, and in money.) 


The Able (al-Mugtadir): God is able to do all things. 

The Hastener (al-Muqaddim): Or Expediter. God hurries things up if He wills— 
The Delayer (al-Muahhir): Or, alternatively, He can postpone them. 

The First (al-Awwal ): Before everything, God was— 

The Last (al-Aahir): And after everything is over, He will remain. 

The Manifest (al-Zaahir): Or Outer. Everything that is without (exterior). 


The Hidden (al-Baatin): Or Inner. Everything that is within (interior). 


303 


Dds 


78. 


79. 


80. 


81. 


82. 


83. 


84. 


85. 


86. 


87. 


88. 


89. 


90. 


91. 


a2: 


93. 


94. 


The Governor (al-Waali): The director of the universe. 
The Most Exalted (al-Muta’al ): There is none loftier or greater. 


The Benign (al-Barr): Or Source of All Goodness. Whatever is good comes from 
God. 


The Acceptor (at-Tawwab): Of repentance. Then He will forgive. 


The Avenger (al-Muntagim): God does not like evil deeds, and will take vengeance 
against them sooner or later. 


The Most Forgiving (al-Afoov): Or Pardoner—of sins (if one repents). 
The Most Kind (al-Ra ‘oof ): Or Compassionate. Lovingkindness is His trademark. 


The Possessor of the Kingdom (al-Maalik-ul Mulk): Or Eternal Owner of 
Sovereignty. The possessor of the Kingdom of God. 


His Majesty and Grace (Zul Jalaali wal Ikraam): Or Lord of Majesty and Bounty. 
He is great, and graceful and generous. 


The Equitable (al-Muqsit): Economy also derives from this name, whence the 
divine economy, which is equitable and in just measure. 


The Uniter (al-Jaami): Or Gatherer. God unites all things (multiplicity) in Himself. 


The Wealthy (al-Ghanee): Or Self-Sufficient. God is so rich that the entire universe 
is but a pinhead of His wealth— 


The Enricher (al-Mughnee): And He gives of his wealth to whom He will. 


The Preventer (al-Maani): In the last analysis, only God will prevent a thing from 
happening. 


The Distresser (ad-Daarr): Only God is able to give harm or distress. 

The Beneficent (an-Naafi): Or Propitious. Only God is able to help or heal. 

The Light (an-Noor): “God is the Light of the heavens and the earth” (24:35), and 
the first created thing was the light of Mohammed’s spirit, which issued from God’s 
primordial Light. This means that the Prophet is closest to God on an ontological 


(not temporal) level. 


The Guide (al-Haadee): Only God can guide us to the right or straight path. 


304 


95. The Originator (al-Badee): Or Incomparable. He engenders everything. 


96. The Eternal (al-Baagee): Or Survivor, or Everlasting. While everything has an end, 
He exists forever. 


97. The Inheritor (al-Waaris): Or Supreme Inheritor. When everything returns to God, 
He will be there to receive them. 


98. The Enlightener (ar-Rasheed ): Or Guide to the Right Path. The name bestowed 
upon all prophets, saints, sages and true masters. 


99. The Patient (as-Saboor): God is patient, and also the source of all patience. 


Many are the names of God, but He has informed his servants of the above as the names 
that are most useful to them. 


305 


TREATISE ON DIVINE AID 
(THE HOLY BESTOWAL) 


(This and the following two sections, all by the Great Saint Abdulqader Gilani, represent 
the loftiest heights of Sufi mysticism which are, at the same time, expressed entirely in 
accordance with Divine Law.) 


In the name of God, The Compassionate and The Merciful. God has declared to me: O 
Helper, 


I am the space of spaces. There is no space for Me. I am man’s secret, and man is My 
secret. Man is not; only I am, and I am not other than man. 


I have manifested Myself nowhere as I have in Man. Man is as a vehicle for Me, just as 
the rest of creation and universe is a vehicle for Man. 


How wonderful a Suitor am I, and how wonderful a besought is Man. 


Man is My secret, and I am Man’s secret. If only he knew what his situation will be like 
after death, he would not want the life of this world, and would entreat Me at every 
moment, “O Lord, take my life, take my life.” 


The Kingdom belongs to the Lord, the One, who ends all manifestation. If only man 
knew his rank with Me, with every breath he takes he would repeat: “Today, the 
Kingdom belongs only to me.” 


“All creatures act and behave according to their inner nature.” Inner nature is the seed of 
all manifestations. From the time of its creation, this seed is fed, grows and blossoms in 
manifestations peculiar to itself, so that it serves the purpose given to it in its creation. 
“We have indeed created everything with its destiny.” 


Whatever man possesses—body, self, heart, spirit, ear, eye, tongue, feet, hands, etc.—I 
have manifested them for My Self with My Self, with My Essence to My Essence. I am 
inherent in every situation of man, be it eating, drinking, acting, approaching something, 
or moving away from it; I am the One who is pushing him to action or restraining him. 
Whatever manifests in man, it is My Self, it is not separate from Me. And I am not 
separate from him. 


I have created man from the light of My manifestation, and I have created angels from 
the light of man. 


As the one who is distant from Me complains of his distance, so the one who is near Me 


complains of his nearness. I created ordinary men, but they could not stand the light of 
my Beauty (jamal ), so between Myself and them I placed a veil of darkness. I created the 


306 


Elect, but they could not endure My nearness. Hence, between Me and them I placed a 
veil of light. 


The difference between what people consider precious and worthless concerns creatures 
and is relative to them. For the Creator, only His creation exists. Men use expressions 
such as “good” or “beautiful” for things relative to their selves, and things that are 
disagreeable they call “evil” or “ugly”. But for one who knows the Truth, there is no 
distinction whatever; all that is created is precious. 


Good and evil are relative to the created. But for the Creator, all are equal. Man 
progresses insofar as he abandons his personal opinions and thoughts such as “for me”, 
“in my opinion” or “as far as ’'m concerned,” and fuses his orientations and himself with 
his Lord’s opinion. It is for this reason that the one who has matured in his perception of 
reality does not see fault or flaws in creation. 


Everybody acts according to the measure of his understanding, and so comes face to face 
with what he deserves in the end. 


Try to be of those who give, no matter what condition or situation you may find yourself 
in. Blessed are those who have pity and show forgiveness to the created. 


If somebody comes up to you and asks for water on a hot day, and if you withhold it from 
him, you will be considered as the meanest of the mean. If that be the case, how can I 
withhold My mercy from My servants? Since that is so, I bore witness to My Self; I have 
avowed and registered in My Self that I am “the Most Merciful of the merciful.” 


Call Me “Gracious Lord”, or “Merciful Lord”. For I am more generous than the most 
generous, and more merciful than the most merciful. There is no one more generous and 
more merciful than My Self—generosity and mercy belong only to Me. 


The pious remember My blessings, and the sinners remember My mercy. 


The pious are ashamed of My blessings and invoke (dhikr) My name, whereas the sinners 
wish for My compassion and so invoke Me. People destined for Heaven are preoccupied 
with Heaven, while those destined for Hell are preoccupied with Hell and with Me. 
However, once I manifest in Heaven, there is no blessing and friendship for the People of 
Heaven, and once I manifest in Hell, there is no burning, fear or solitude for the People of 
Hell. Wherever I am manifest, neither Heaven, nor Hell, nor any of My Names or 
Attributes remain. 


If you want to behold Me directly, without intermediary, direct your eyes neither toward 
Heaven and what is therein, nor toward Hell and what is therein. Concern yourself only 
with Me. For if anyone concerns himself with anything other than Me, on the Day of 
Judgment, the Fire will be his companion. 


307 


I have heavenly servants, who like the People of Hell seeking refuge in Me from Hell, 
forsake the bliss of Heaven and seek refuge in Me. 


Sinners are veiled by their sin, whilst the pious are veiled by their piety. But above and 
beyond them, I have a community who neither intend sin, nor trust their piety. For I am 
as close to My rebellious servants when they forsake their sins as I am close to My 
faithful servants when they forsake their piety. For no one is far from Me with his sins, 
and no one is near to Me with his promises. 


I have servants other than the Prophets and Messengers whose situation is known neither 
by worldly people, nor by the otherworldly, nor to the People of Heaven or Hell. Not 
even the angels know of their existence. I have not created them for Heaven, Hell, virtue, 
sin, houris, pavilions or male or female servants. Blessed are those who believe in their 
existence, even if they do not know them. 


The hearts I look upon never feel loneliness, nor suffer from the fires of Hell. 


Love Me, love for My sake, because I am that Love. And keep your heart and your every 
state away from everything but Me. 


When you find and know the exterior of Love, you should annihilate yourself from Love, 
for Love is a veil between the lover and the Beloved. The lover meets his Beloved only 
when annihilated from Love. And you should also be annihilated from everything other 
than Love, for things other than Love are also veils between the lover and the Beloved. 


Unity is a state that cannot be described in words. Those who behold Me have no need of 
questions. As for him who does not behold Me, his questions do not help, for he is stuck 
with words—they are his veil. To know Me is to behold Me. He who wants to know Me 
after having beheld Me, has not really seen Me; he is veiled. He who thinks beholding is 
different from knowing, is vain in beholding his Lord. 


In order to achieve this, he who wants to reach Me must strive and struggle in My way. 
“Those who strive for Me in My way, I bring to Reality.” “He who has purified himself 
has surely found what he longs for, and has reached bliss and salvation.” 


Struggle and effort are a sea amongst the seas of Observation and Vision. And its fish are 
the Finders, the Enlightened, those who possess the secrets. He who wishes to plunge into 
the sea of Vision has to strive. For struggle and effort are the seeds of Observation. And 
he who sows and strives will attain Vision and Observation of Me. 


He who strives for Me begets My Observation, whether he wants to or not. And there is 
no way to Vision for those lacking in effort. He who desires Me should strive. 


Blessed is he who has an inclination to strive in his heart, and woe unto him who has an 
inclination toward lust. 


308 


The purpose of the Struggle is (Spiritual) Poverty and nonpossession (fakr). I have made 
Poverty and nonpossession a vehicle for man. Whoever rides on Poverty will reach his 
goal tirelessly, over crooked paths, lonely rivers and empty deserts. 


In My sight, he who is Poor is not the one who has nothing, but the one who has power 
over everything. Whenever he wishes something, it is realized immediately. The Poor in 
Spirit (fakir) is not someone without money or property, but someone whose will is 
realized. 


The Prophet Mohammed (may God bless him and grant him peace) has said: “Poverty is 
my pride. I take pride in it against the other Prophets and Messengers.” 


Those who wish for My Union should request Poverty—that is, emptiness, nothingness 
and nonbeing; they should renounce all their desires. On this path, to desire not to desire 
is itself a desire, and not even this can be desired. Thus they will reach the Poverty of 
Poverty, and after that the Poverty of Poverty of Poverty. Upon the completion of this 
Poverty, they will cease to exist; only I will remain. Then it will be said unto them: “You 
were unaware of this. Now We have removed your veil from you.” For when Poverty 
(nonbeing, non-manifestation) is completed, that is God. What I eat is the food of the 
Poor, and what I drink is the drink of the Poor. 


Whenever you behold someone suffering and burning in extreme Poverty, draw near him 
immediately. For there is no veil between him and Me. Tell those around you that they 
should look upon the prayer of the Poor as a blessing, for they are dear to Me and I am 
dear to them. I am with the Poor, and the Poor are with Me. I am the refuge, the dwelling 
place and the vision of the Poor. And their return is to Me (with Me). Their earthly 
appearance, their bodies are burnt from eating little and drinking little, their selves burnt 
from the barriers of lust, their hearts from suspicions and their spirits, from evil. No 
wishes or desires are left in their hearts, bad thoughts have totally disappeared. They are 
recipients of everlastingness, burnt by the Light of My countenance. 


For Me, the dearest of My creatures are the deaf, dumb and blind, the bewildered and the 
tearful. Whenever you want to behold Me, look for the lamenting heart that keeps itself 
away from everything except Me. 


I have created the path of the Devout in the Self, the path of the Wise in the Heart, and 
the path of the Enlightened (the possessor of the secrets) in the Spirit. And I have created 
the Self as the abode of the Liberated. It is for this reason that they say, “The hearts of the 
Liberated are tombs to secrets.” 


When a person endures whatever befalls him, he attains to the degree of God’s 
servanthood. When he abandons his will, he attains to the World of Command. In the 
World of Command, there is no eating, no drinking, no sleeping—in short, there is 
nothing related to the material world and to desires. Take leave of bodies and Selves, then 
of the Heart and Spirit, and after that of the Command, so that you may reach Me. 


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Every state starting from the ordinary World of Man (nasut) until one reaches the Angelic 
World (malakut) is subject to the rules of the Holy Law (sharia). Every state from the 
Angelic World up to the World of Divine Power (jabarut) is the spiritual path of 
purification (tariga). And every state from the World of Divine Power until one reaches 
the World of Divinity (/ahut) belongs to Reality (haqiqa). 


When you wish to enter into closest communion with Me, pay no heed to the ordinary 
world, nor to the Angelic World, nor to the World of Power. Because the ordinary is a 
satanic veil for the Learned, the Angelic is a satanic veil for the Wise, and Power is a 
satanic veil for the Enlightened (the possessor of secrets). Whoever is content with any of 
these is in My view of the banished. 


My Way for the Learned is in abandoning knowledge. The knowledge of knowledge is 
ignorance of knowledge. Whoever trusts knowledge, failing to abandon it, is of the same 
rank as Satan. 


Dearest to Me among My servants is the one who, though having a mother and father and 
sons and daughters, does not hold them dear to his heart, and is devoted only to Me. If his 
parents die, he does not feel sorrow; if his son or daughter dies, he does not lament. When 
My servant attains to such a rank, I count him amongst the “unborn and unbearing,” 
among those without parents and sons and daughters. Whoever does not experience the 
nonexistence of his parents or his sons and daughters will not be able to taste of Unity 
and Singularity. 


Only with Me should you eat, drink and sleep, with a heart that is attentive and with eyes 
that see. 


If you wish to be with Me, don’t sleep the sleep of the ordinary—then you will see Me 
clearly. Keeping your body away from earthly delights, your Self from lust, your Heart 
from illusions (the contrary ideas and illusions that suddenly seize the heart), your Spirit 
from evils, and with your essence in My Essence; in this manner sleep. 


In My sight, virtuous action is that performed without any desire for anything other than 
Me, such as Heaven and Hell, and which even the doer himself does not enter into. 


For Me, the higher form of blamelessness is that of the penitent. 
To Me, the better smile is the smile of penitents who cry. 


When you wish to repent, you should renounce in your self the will to sin. Otherwise, 
you will belong to those who mock. 


The one who is close to Me is the one who is aware of his sins. And the greatest of sins is 
individuality (separateness). The one who is aware of his sins is powerless and repentant; 
he regrets his actions, and knows he is helpless. Weakness (being aware of one’s 
helplessness) is the source of light. And conceit is the source of darkness, sorrow and 


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sins. Announce to My repentant servants My blessings and generosity, and to the 
conceited, My justice and revenge. 


The fast that attains to Me is that fast which bears in itself nothing but Me, the one who 
fasts having passed away from it and himself. 


The Prayer which attains to Me is that Prayer which bears in itself nothing but Me, the 
one who prays having passed away from it and himself. 


With Me, Prayer without Ascension is not Prayer. And that person has not performed 
Prayer. This is because he who is deprived of Prayer is, in My sight, he who is deprived 
of Ascension. 

Ascension is transcending everything that is other than Me, and its perfection is: “His 
eyes did not diverge” from Me; the secret being concentrating the attention solely upon 


Me. 


(From Abdulqader Gilani, The Holy Bestowal.) 


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THE SECRET OF SECRETS 


The Beginning of Creation 


From the Light of His Beauty (Bliss), God first created the Light of Mohammed. This has 
been indicated in a Holy Tradition as follows: “I created Mohammed (may blessings and 
peace be upon him) from the light of My Countenance.” 


The Prophet declares the same truth in the following way: “God first created my Spirit. 
God first created my Light. God first created the Pen. God first created the Mind 
(Intellect).” 


These all point to one thing: the Truth of Mohammed, the Reality of Mohammed (may 
peace be upon him). This has been called by several names: 


It has been called “Light (Effusion),” for it is pure of the darknesses concealed beneath 
the Attribute of Majesty (Wrath). God has proclaimed: “From God has come to you 
Light, a Book declaring everything clearly” (5:15). 


It has been called “Mind (Intellect), because it comprehended everything. 
It has been called “the Pen,” because knowledge was disseminated by it. 


The Mohammedan Spirit is the essence of Becoming, the predecessor and origin of the 
universe. The Prophet has explained this as follows: 


“T am of God, and the Faithful are of me.” 


The Tree of the Law 


The Prophet of God has said: “The Sacred Law (shariah) is a tree, the Spiritual Schools 
(tariqah) are its branches, Knowledge/Gnosis (marifah) is its leaves, and Truth (haqiqah) 
is its fruit. As for the Koran, it encompasses them all in terms of hermeneutics (esoteric 
interpretation) and exegesis (exoteric interpretation).” 


Exegesis is for the majority of ordinary people, hermeneutics for the Elect. What has 
come down to us takes two major forms: Exoteric (outer) and Esoteric (inner)—that is, 
the Path of the Law and the Path of Knowledge. 


With the Law, God Almighty desires us to order our external world, and with 
Knowledge, He wishes us to arrange our internal world. From the combination of these 
two, Truth is born. A tree and its leaves are a simile for this. Subsequently, the fruit is 
formed. 


o42 


The following divine verse expresses what we are trying to say: “Two seas come together 
and meet, but there is a barrier [the Perfect Man] between them which they cannot cross” 
(55:20). 


Hence, both meanings have to be taken together. Otherwise, Truth cannot be obtained by 
exoteric knowledge alone; the true goal cannot be reached. For worship to be perfect, 
both Law and Knowledge are required. 


The first thing a person needs is the science of the Law. With this knowledge, one learns 
information regarding the Essence of God as it is expressed in the World of Attributes. It 
is only afterwards that the turn comes to esoteric science. With this knowledge, the very 
essence of wisdom regarding God in the World of Gnosis is obtained. 


Knowledge (Gnosis) 


Gnosis is attained by uncovering the dark veil of the Base Self from the mirror of the 
heart, and by purifying the heart. The hidden treasure of God’s Beauty (Bliss) then begins 
to show itself, and is seen in the essence of the Heart’s Secret. 


In a Holy Tradition, God Almighty has declared: “I was a hidden treasure. I desired the 
wisdom of My Essence to be known, and this is why I created Existence.” 


We understand from this that God created Man for Knowledge (in order that He may be 
known). 


Gnosis, or possession of wisdom, is described in two ways: wisdom pertaining to God’s 
Essence, and to His Attributes. 


There is a taste to be obtained by the body through knowing the Attributes of God. But 
alongside this, there is an ecstasy of the Holy Spirit to be obtained in the otherworld 
through the wisdom of His Essence. “We have,” says the Koranic verse, “confirmed him 
with the Holy Spirit” (2:87). Hence, those who bear the wisdom of God’s Essence are 
fortified with the Holy Spirit. 


This Knowledge can only be attained by a dual science: exoteric science and esoteric 
science. It can only be realized dependent on these two sciences. 


In describing these sciences, our Prophet has said: “Science consists of two parts. One is 


on the tongue, which is a guide from God for His servants. The other is the science of the 
heart, and this is what is necessary for the realization of goals.” 


Invocation 


Our Prophet says: “the most valuable invocation (dhikr) is ‘No god but God,’ which I and 
the Prophets before me have chanted.” 


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Invocation begins on the tongue. From here it passes to the Self. Thence it traverses the 
course of the Heart, the Spirit, the Secret, the Hidden, and the Most Hidden. 


An invocation made from the tongue is similar to that from the heart. If the tongue is 
busy invoking, the heart has not forgotten God. 


The invocation from the Self, or internal invocation, is silent; nothing is heard. It occurs 
with an inward movement and feeling. 


The invocation of the Heart is to experience the manifestation of the Attributes of Beauty 
and Majesty in oneself. 


The invocation of the Spirit results in the effulgent manifestation of the Attributes of 
Beauty and Majesty. 


The invocation from the Secret World leads to communion with divine secrets. 


Invocation of the Hidden leads to the observation of lights that shine from the Essence of 
Unity at the level of the Almighty King, in the Palace of Righteousness. 


As for the invocation called Most Hidden, it enables the realization of the station called 
“the Truth of Certainty.” 


Of this state, which is called the Hidden of the Most Hidden, none is cognizant save God 
Almighty. This has been indicated in a sacred verse as follows: “Certainly, He knows the 
Secret and the Most Hidden” (20:7). 


After the invocations described above, towards the end of the journey, a different kind of 
spirit is formed. This spirit is subtler than all other spirits, and is called “the Child of 
Meaning.” The verse declaring that “He places the spirit as His Command in the heart of 
the one among His servants whom He wishes,” is an expression of this truth. 


This spirit remains in the World of Command (Divine Power), operates in the World of 
Observation, and belongs to the World of Reality. 


When properly performed, Invocation establishes its lights in the heart; these lights 
rejuvenate the hearts of invokers. In describing the eternal life they attain, God has 
declared: “After the first death, they never taste death again” (44:56). 


The Vision of God 


The Vision of God (or the Sight of God) is to see the Divine Attributes. It is of two kinds. 
The first is to see the manifestation of the Attribute of Beauty in the otherworld without 
any intermediaries. The other is to achieve the manifestation of Divine Attributes in this 
world via the mirror of the Heart. These attributes are seen by the Eye of the Heart, in 
accordance with the verse: “The Heart (fouad ) did not deny what it saw” (53:11). In this 


314 


context, it is also useful to remember the Tradition: “The faithful is a mirror to the 
Faithful.” Here, the first “faithful” is the heart of the believing servant, whereas the 
second is a Beatiful Name of God. Whoever attains the manifestation of Divine 
Attributes in this world, beholds His formless Essence in the otherworld. 


The description above has been confirmed by the Beloved Servants of God. Our Prophet 
has said: “I comprehended my Lord by my Lord.” Abu Bakr said: “I have seen nothing 
without seeing God in it.” Omar said: “My heart saw my Lord by the light of my Lord.” 
And Ali said: “I wouldn’t worship God if I didn’t see Him.” 


All these sayings describe the Observation of Divine Attributes. For if a person sees the 
sunlight falling on a window and says: “I have seen the sun,” this is not untrue. 


Prayer 


A sacred verse proclaims: “Continue in your Prayers, especially the Middle Prayer” 
(2:238). In the spiritual schools, Prayer means to maintain the heart in Infinite 
Presence/Peace. The “Middle Prayer” mentioned in the verse is exactly what we mean, 
for it is the Prayer of the Heart. The Heart is in the middle of the body. The Prayer of the 
Heart is of the greatest importance. If a person performing his Prayers remains heedless 
of this true Prayer, his other Prayer will also be corrupted. This is what is meant by the 
Tradition: “Prayer is [possible] only with the presence/peace of the heart.” 


The heart is primary and all else follows it, in accordance with the Tradition: “There is a 
lump of flesh in the human body such that when it is edified, the whole body achieves 
liberation; and when it is corrupted, everything loses its virtue. Be aware: that lump of 
flesh is the heart.” 


The Child of Meaning 


The Sufis have called divine spiritual states “the child.” Because of this, it is also known 
as “the child of meaning,” “the spiritual child,” (tifl al-maani or -maana) or “the child of 
the heart (walad al-qalb).” 


There are several reasons for the name “child”: 
1. This state is born in the heart, grows therein, and is trained therein in the same way 
that a mother gives birth to a child, nurtures it, raises it and brings it to the age of 


puberty. 


2. Science is usually learned at an early age. In a similar way, the science of Gnosis is 
taught to the child of the heart. 


3. Acchild is pure of sins. The child of the heart, too, is pure of the errors of association 
(polytheism), heedlessness and materiality. 


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4. This pure state is most often seen in children. Because of this, spiritual purity 
appears in a cherubic form. 


The recompense for every good deed is a child of meaning. The auspicious results of 
that fine deed are rewarded and appear in the spiritual world (the world of meaning) 
as a child. God gives good tidings that He will award those who do good works and 
enter Paradise with children: “Children) that are ready and waiting for them are like 
pearls hidden always surround them” (56:17). 


“The youths (gilman in treasures” (52:24). 
5. Another reason for calling it a child is its fineness (subtility) and purity. 


6. This name is given to it metaphorically, because it is concerned with the body and 
has assumed human form. It is the truth of humanity. Since it has nothing to do with 
matter, its existence does not constitute a veil to the Essence of God. A Tradition 
expresses this as follows: “I have a time with God such that no angel close to God 
and no Prophet can come between us.” The “Prophet” in this saying includes the 
human aspect of the Prophet of God. 


7. In another Tradition, our Prophet has stated: “I saw my Lord in the form of a 
beautiful youth (shaab al-amrad ).” 


This is the child of the heart. It is God’s manifestation in that form. 


What the possessor of knowledge needs to understand is this truth of humanity called the 
child of meaning. He needs to pass beyond the corporeal world to the spiritual world— 
the Secret World. Nothing exists there except the Essence of God. This is an infinite 
expanse where the child of meaning takes flight. There it sees strange and wonderful 
things, but it is impossible to convey information about them to others. This is the station 
of the People of Unity, who have found extinction (fana) from their own existence. 


Jesus has said: “Unless a man is born again, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” 


Birds, too, are twice-born. In its first birth, the bird consists of an egg. If it is not reborn, 
leaving its shell behind, it can never fly. 


What is meant by this is birth in the world of meaning, the spiritual world. This is a latent 
capacity in man, and the secret of humanity. It is realized by the combination of the 
sciences of Law and Knowledge, just as a child is formed by the union of “two waters.” 
The verse: “We have formed man of mixed water, and We test him,” is an indication of 
this. 


(From Abdulqader Gilani, The Secret of Secrets.) 


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THE MYSTERIES OF UNIFICATION 


The great saint, Abdulqader Gilani (may God bless his secret), has stated: 


“God Almighty manifested Himself in the mirror of His Perfect Beauty, and the face of 
His Beloved appeared from every reflection therein.” 


We are informed that God first manifested in the mirror of His Beauty. But in every 
reflection that is a field of existence for the worlds, the face of God’s Beloved Prophet, 
our Master Mohammed, is seen. 


This shows us that [the Spiritual Reality of] Mohammed, upon whom be peace, is the 
universe. 


Indeed, the Lord’s Beloved has said: “First God created my light, and He created 
everything else from that light.” 


“When the Beauty of Glory manifested in each mirror, God’s Names appeared in this 
descent of Reality. That is, when His Beauty began to dance (manifest) in every 
reflection, this was termed His Names, and these are all loci of manifestation or 
emergence.” 


Those attempting to interpret this verse have given a wonderful example, and explained 
the vision of Unity in Multiplicity: “There is only one sun, but it exists at every point on 
an infinite horizon of manifestations. Since each of these points is a locus of emergence 
in terms of the knowledge of differentiation, it is as if the lights of Beauty are 
diversified.” 


The great sage continues: “In these endless loci of emergence, He has brought forth His 
Attributes. Here are the works (of art). Who is the Great Artist that has created them?” 


The Lord’s works have appeared to us via His Names. But what are these Attributes, 
these Names? 


They are the Reality, which exists by His Being, is encircled by His Attributes, is known 
by His Names, and is apparent through His Actions: “These Attributes and Names—these 
works—are the world, the universe. Now this universe is the same as Essence. For God is 
the Uniter of all.” 


Seeker after Truth, stand for a moment facing this stupendous claim of Sheikh Gilani, the 
Great Diver (into the ocean of divine consciousness), and tremble. 


The meaning of Total Union to which this testifies is a station incomprehensible to the 


mind and ordinary logic. This peak of Unity can only be climbed by love and 
comprehended by bliss. Abdulkarim Jili, of the Folk of Inner Meaning, explains the 


S17 


subtlety described by the Supreme Diver (or Helper) as follows: “After saying that the 
Names and works are the Universe and the Universe is the same as Essence, the Supreme 
Diver proves the truth of this by observing: ‘God is the Uniter (jami) of all.’ He 
establishes Unity in Multiplicity by proving that God Almighty has manifested Himself 
With His Essence of Majesty (alal ) in the mirror of Beauty (jamal ). Thus he describes 
the Creator and His creation, the Creator and the universe.” 


And we add: The True Being that exists through His own Essence is God. The reason that 
the universe—this endless sequence of phenomena—exists, despite the fact that it has no 
being of its own, is due to the fact that it returns to the Reality of the Essence. It is 
impossible for any of these forms of existence not to wane and be submerged back into 
total Being. Hence, the Supreme Diver explains why the universe is the same as the 
Essence with the sentence: “God is the Uniter.” 

The most important point is this: Words like “same”, “identical”, “equal”, etc. possess a 
different meaning in the language of Gnosis, in the tongue of truth, from ordinary 
language. Know that two things are not equated—either qualitatively or quantitatively— 
by saying that one thing “is the same as” the other. 


If, for instance, I take a drop of water from the ocean and say: “This drop is the same as 
the ocean,” do I thereby claim that the drop is equal, equivalent, or similar to the ocean in 
every respect? Certainly not. 


The ocean is still the ocean, and a drop is still a drop. By my assertion I prove, however, 
that the drop has no existence other than the ocean. And this is nothing but the truth. 


Hence, when it is said that “The Universe is the same as the Essence,” it is neither 
claimed—Heaven forbid—that God consists of the universe, nor that the universe is God. 
God is still God, and the universe is still the universe. It is only that the universe has no 
being independent of God’s Essence. 


“There is nothing but Reality in the field of existence. Everything is annihilated in the 
Essence of Unity. Other than Him there is no hearer, nor anything that is heard.” 


Next, the Supreme Helper explains the mysteries of the sacred verse: ““Withersoever you 
turn, there is the Face of God” (2:115): 


“The sum total of light, darkness, the elements water, air and fire, and nature itself—is 
He. 


“The rule of causality, the command to Be, the exalted, the ruler and the debased—is 
He”. 


“Word and meaning, everything that is manifested from the mind—is He.” 


J 


“He is the inventor of objects. He is also the same as objects.’ 


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6“ 


ust as He is the Essence of everything, it is also He who keeps each in a State distinct 
from all others.” 


“The light of the sun (that He is) shows itself from stars that are His Creation. But 
whereas this sun is always present and never sets, the rule of the stars is impermanent.” 


The following words of the Helper cover all the mysteries of Unification and Sufism: 


“Tt is as if the universe emerged when your self separated slightly from its Essence. This, 
however, is neither completely separate from you, nor is it entirely attached or connected 
to you.” 


As can be seen, this exalted statement is not accessible to the devices of mind and mere 
logic. It contains the mystery of the Unity of Opposites: to see, in other words, separation 
and union as present simultaneously, while still not losing sight of the distinction between 
the two. This level of Observation (or Perception) and Compassion is the goal of all 
spiritual perfection. 


“Creation is like snow. And you are the water that produces and becomes manifest in 
that snow. But when snow melts, its rule is over, and the rule of water manifests itself. 
Now this is an unexpected situation. 


“Creation is like the snow. In other words, all creatures are representatives in the bodies 
in which they appear. But they are like snow; they have no independent existence of their 
own. For the existence of snow is the existence of water. And you are the water that gives 
rise to the snow, that is embodied in the snow.” 


These similes of the Supreme Diver, which simultaneously unify and differentiate Reality 
and Creation, are so clear that it is impossible for the wise not to stand in wonder of them. 


Now, it must be noted that the snow that appears in the realm of forms is not water. That 
is, in terms of external evaluation, snow and water are different from each other. For one 
can use water for cleansing, but not snow. But in reality, snow is not different from 
water—they are the same thing. 


In short: just as snow is the form and locus in which water is manifested, Creation is the 
locus where Reality is manifested, its “dance” (manifestation). Since it is manifested in a 
variety of forms, this “dance” is called “Creation”. It can no longer be called Reality. For 
being cannot be ascribed to nothingness. True being belongs only to Reality. 


“But when snow melts, its rule is over... Cleansing, which is the rule and fame of water, 
is realized. For the rule of water has manifested itself.” 


In the same way, God Almighty advises those who walk the path of wisdom, who make 


unification their aim, as follows: “I have created human beings only that they should 
worship Me” (51:56). 


319 


The Unification of Actions, the Unification of Attributes, the Unification of Essence— 
these are to unify Reality. When the Essence of Reality is perceived, Reality appears 
from everything. Without the proper training and achievement of Unification, calling 
creation Reality is blasphemy. For only the body of creation is observed as yet. To call 
creation Reality while still seeing only the body of creation is abstract blasphemy. This is 
no different from Pharaoh’s claim: “I am your most perfect Lord” (79:24). 


Now there is also a station, called the Presence of Spirit, or Proximity through 
[performing] Obligations, where it is admissible to observe: “I am the Truth.” But it is 
not permissible to divulge this secret. 


Mansour al-Hallaj lost his patience and divulged this secret, declaring: “I am the Truth.” 
Thereafter, he prayed that he would be killed. 


That is why the friends of God seek refuge in God from this. For the punishment of the 
person who reveals this is corporeal annihilation, and he is banished from the Presence. 


All opposites—that is, all the countless actions, attributes and properties, each of which 
are centers of manifestation—were gathered in the One, and emerged and spread from 
Him. He, the One, displayed His face of alteration (manifestation) from them. 


This station is called the Fusion of the Fusion. In this station it is perceived that all 
attributes stand with the Essence of Truth. That is, all opposites, the sum of all qualities 
and motions that are unlike each other, exist by virtue of the One Essence, and 
oppositeness appears on their respective sides. 


For example, the First (awwal ), the Last (akhir), the Outward (zahir), the Inward (batin), 
the Complier (muti), the Preventer (mani), the Forgiver (ghafur), the Avenger 
(muntakim), and all the other Names and Attributes are properties that belong to the 
Almighty Reality, the One Essence. All apparent actions take their origin from the 
Essence of Reality. On the other hand, they display oppositeness. 


Similarly, water, fire, animal, vegetable, mineral, and all the rest emerge by the Essence 
of Reality in terms of both form and meaning (content), and have no independent 
existence. All return to the Essence of Reality, they are finite and they become 
internalized (inward). Both externally and internally, there is nothing except the Essence 
of Reality. 


Let us give an example: When we look into a mirror, the surface disappears and the 
reflection of the onlooker becomes visible. What has happened to the mirror’s surface? It 


has appeared as you and with you. 


Language does not permit us to say anything more. There are no letters, no words— 
nothing can be said. Hence, do not look upon existence with contempt. 


320 


The Helper continues: Do not see ugliness in the world. For what you see is not ugly, but 
a beauty that intends to communicate the incomparable Beauty and Beatitude. 


“Do not be veiled from it because of form or some other reason. That is, nothing should 
veil you from Reality. For behind every veil of sight, the light [of Reality] shines.” 


Next, the Supreme Diver explains the truth of the Perfect Human: “The declaration that 
God created Adam (Man) in His own image is enough for you. It suffices you to know 
that in this form, he has been enabled to become the highest locus of manifestation. 


If Adam’s face had not mirrored the lights of the Essence, would the angels ever have 
humbly prostrated themselves before him?” 


With these good words, the Helper proclaims that the prostration of the angels before 
Adam actually went back to Reality. People who are veiled (i.e. those who can only see 
the form) attempt to explain this prostration by reducing it to the command of the Lord. 
Gilani the Helper, however, reveals the truth by saying that this prostration is a 
distinction conferred on Adam, who is one and the same as Reality. “If Satan had been 
able to see the true face of Adam, namely the mysteries and beauties dancing on his face, 
he would not have rebelled, but would have remained obedient.” 


These words of wisdom have been interpreted as follows: 
The Fallen Angel’s name before he became Satan was Azazel. Azazel never denied God 
in His Absolute Unknowability, that is, His unconditioned or unqualified state. On the 
contrary, he always affirmed and worshiped the One Essence. But in spite of all his 
worship, he had remained guilty of covert association in terms of wisdom. Because of 
this, he was unable to see the manifestation in Adam that derived from Reality. Not being 
able to perceive the manifestation of Unity, he thought that God was commanding 
prostration to another than His Essence. It was this ignorance that led to the rebellion of 
Azazel, and to the revolt of egotistical pride in him. He looked upon Adam as a rival. He 
didn’t know that what he saw as a rival was not Adam, but Reality itself. And because of 
this ignorance, he was banished forever from the bliss of Unification. 


A wise sage has said in explanation of these beautiful words: 


“T had become friends with a Perfect Man. I used to attend his discussions and benefit 
from them. One day, this topic was being discussed. Because my heart desired a Man (in 
his true stature) whenever Adam (man) was mentioned, he remarked: ‘One day, Moses 
was wondering whether there was any Speaker with God other than himself. Suddenly, 
the veils were lifted from his sight, and he beheld countless Moseses on innumerable 
Mount Sinais praying: “My Lord, let me see You” (7:143). With these words, that mature 
person revealed to me that the worlds and the manifestations in man are infinite. 


“At another time when I was thinking on this subject, I asked myself how, exactly, God 


Almighty had spoken to the angels. This speech could not be external—such a notion 
would be evidence of spiritual ignorance. Furthermore, neither could it be an inspiration 


eval 


or intuition on the part of the listeners. Because in that case, not only would Satan’s 
denial have been impossible, but a capacity would have to be ascribed to angels in excess 
of their inner nature. 


“T came to the conclusion that the speech had occurred from Adam’s lips. But Satan was 
unaware of the above fact, and the result was his denial.” 


This is why one must avoid falling into the same situation as Satan by denying the great 
manifestations bestowed on Adam—namely, maturity such as the prophets and saints 
possess—and the spiritual gifts bestowed on man. One must dispense with the limitations 
of a mind in confusion, which led Satan astray. Such a mind does not lead to the Heaven 
of salvation, but to the Hell of heedlessness. 


“Now if you possess humility, drive the bonds of alienation out of your heart with a just 
Dissociation, and dive into the ocean of Unification. 


“Avoid absolute Dissociation. For absolute dissociation will bind you, and prevent you 
from reaching the truth. 


“Likewise, avoid absolute Analogy. For absolute analogy will likewise delude you and 
lead you away from truth. 


“When glorifying His Beauty, use dissociation. But when using analogy, dissociate Him 
from those things that prevent your perception of His truth.” 


Dissociation (tanzih) is to affirm the incomparability of God, the via negativa, wherein 
one asserts that God is not like anything else. It is always framed in negative terms: God 


is infinite, i/limitable, immortal, etc. 


Analogy (tashbih) is the attempt to understand God by His similarity to some of the 
qualities He has created: God sees, hears, knows, wills, etc. 


But to go too far in either dissociation or analogy leads one astray. 


Between these two extremes, one must steer a middle course. Islam is the median of right 
proportion between Dissociation and Analogy, and this is Unification (tawhid). 


The principle of Unification is summarized in the following sacred verse, which exhibits 
Dissociation in its former part and Analogy in its latter: “Nothing is like or equal to Him. 
He is the Hearer, the Knower” (42:11). 


In terms of Unity and Divinity, it has been claimed that this is the faith of Islam in a 
nutshell. And the words of the Helper given above are a wise explanation of this verse. 


322 


“In seeing the beauty of Reality, do not be veiled from or heedless of the Essence. For the 
Essence, namely its mirror, is you. Because you are the place of emergence for all the 
manifestations of Glory. You unite attributes and actions in your essence.” 


A sage relating this great saying of the Helper has said that the meaning it contains 
cannot be grasped by the intellect or imagination by everyone. He continues: “This is 
such a stage and bliss of Unification that nothing can be explained by imitating these 
words. This is a state that depends on Vision (Observation), and is the goal of all truth.” 


It is in this respect that the Supreme Diver concludes: 


“In this state and kind of Unification, do not ask for proofs. For these phenomena being 
described are beyond the book of reason.” 


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AFTERWORD 


A religion is to a human being what an operating system, roughly speaking, is to a 
computer. An operating system organizes a computer’s resources and determines the 
response to be given by the computer for a certain input, or when it is faced with a certain 
situation. So, too, with man and his religions. This applies to philosophies as well, for if a 
person plays out or acts out his life in accordance with a certain philosophy, that 
philosophy has become his religion. 


Consider now the following different cases: an operating system does not fully utilize the 
potentials of a computer, leaving some of its prospects unrealized; or, two or more 
operating systems compete with each other for control over the computer, so that 
sometimes one and sometimes the other gains ascendancy; or, ideally, the operating 
system and the computer are a perfect match, so that the full resources of the computer 
are brought into play and its full potential is utilized. 


Of these three possibilities, Islam represents the last. It is a religion that is internally 
consistent. It is inherently rationalistic, yet at the same time gives full weight to matters 
of the heart, since, as Pascal observed: “The heart has its reasons that reason knows 
nothing of.” In short, what we have here is an “integrated package.” Islam is the proper 
“operating system” for homo sapiens. Its purpose is unification—the integration of mind 
and heart, science and religion, intellect and instinct, reason and emotion; of man and 
nature, man and universe; of man and his fellow-men, the individual and society; 
ultimately, the communion of man with God. In this system, everything is well- 
proportioned, and each component is harmonious with the rest. 


Science may be able to do without religion, and religion may be able to do without 
science. But man needs both. And Islam is the only religion that allows an integration of 
the two. 


This book, dear reader, is a message in a bottle. It has come to you from seemingly very 


far away, with the hope that you will put it to good use. And yet it is closer to you than 
you may have thought. May you use it wisely, and may it serve you well. 


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APPENDIX 


Among his multifaceted activities in the service of humanity, Master Ahmet Kayhan has 
also been active in the field of peace. Up to now, he and his friends have drafted three 
invitations to world peace in opposition to weapons of mass destruction, of which the last 
is reprinted below. The second, titled “Invitation to Peace” (1987), was sent to major 
heads of state and influential people and was accompanied by wide acclaim. Respondents 
in favor of the message included Pope John Paul II, the President of France, and the 
President and Prime Minister of Israel. 


It is the Master’s firm conviction that if mankind is to have a future, nuclear, biological 
and chemical weapons must be abolished. Their existence poses an ongoing threat, and 
unless this is done, Doomsday will sooner or later be brought about through mankind's 
own hands. 


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WARNING: A CALL TO PEACE 


(This message has been drafted in collaboration with a select group of retired professors 
who share the concern expressed hereunder and who, taking pity on the human race, 
have seen it fit to issue this declaration. We of the Republic of Turkey, out of compassion 
for all humanity, and all creatures vegetable and animal—having seen clearly that this 
material and spiritual hellfire, the atom, will incinerate the whole world and reduce it to 
ashes—have issued this plea for peace as against nuclear warfare, to be delivered to the 
United Nations and all governments aspiring to human rights. This is not to say that we 
ignore, or condone, the use of other toxic weapons, the perils of the peaceful atom (such 
as the radioactive emissions from Chernobyl), or indeed any toxic releases into the 
environment of whatever amount or kind. The atom has already killed people without any 
bomb being thrown: did human beings come into this world to destroy each other? 


This message is an admonition to and an onus on all human beings. We leave the final 
decision to the United Nations, beginning with the United States of America. 


Fittingly, the message was prepared between July 16 and August 6, 1995.) 


August 6, 1995. 


That date is the fiftieth anniversary of Hiroshima. It is the semicentennial of the first use 
against human beings of the weapons that are going to destroy mankind. It is the 
anniversary of the first rehearsal of doomsday. 


With the delivery of that bomb, a new age opened in human history. In this age, human 
beings constantly live under the shadow of a disaster that will strike suddenly and without 
warning. In spite of important steps taken in recent years in the direction of peace, we are 
not yet free from the shadow of that threat. 


Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet empire, we have entered a relatively 
more peaceful and relaxed environment. It is also true that some significant advances 
have been made in the direction of nuclear disarmament. But in spite of this, we are still 
very far from where we ought to be. 


Forgetfulness is an affliction of human memory. How soon have we forgotten that we 
had been living on the brink of “Mutual Assured Destruction” (aptly shortened to MAD) 
until just yesterday? Have nuclear weapons, perchance, all gone off to another planet? Or 
have we shown the effort necessary for their eradication, and been successful therein? 


The truth is that none of these have happened. What has happened is that we have all 
become immersed in a deep complacency and heedlessness. Some among us have even 
prophesied “the End of History”. We all seem to think that the danger of a Third World 
War is gone forever. 


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But we are deeply mistaken. Even in these carefree days, aren’t wars being fought and 
genocide practiced in Bosnia, in Rwanda? Do we seriously think that mankind, which has 
failed to make war in only 300 of the last 5600 years, has given up its penchant for war 
forever? On the contrary, it is much more probable that we will continue to spend 95% of 
the following years in warfare. 


Global annual arms expenditures have passed the $ | trillion mark and are continuing to 
increase, in spite of the fact that the cold war is over. How many children could not be 
fed with those $ 1 trillion, how many sick people could not be cured, how many countries 
not developed? 


No one can guarantee that two small countries will not confront each other tomorrow. 
Nor can anyone guarantee that larger ones will not be sucked into the conflict. When that 
day comes, the weapons of mass destruction, now sleeping silently by the thousands in 
their silos and by the tens of thousands in submarines, on airplanes, military vehicles or 
in their protective igloos, will be waiting for us—or our children—yust around the corner. 
By then, it will be too late for remorse over the fact that we failed to get rid of them while 
we still had the chance. 


Do not imagine that the horrifying nature of these weapons will prevent them from being 
used forever. When he invented dynamite, Alfred Nobel was elated because he thought 
that he had found a weapon terrible enough to dissuade people from waging war. But 
people went right on fighting, this time using dynamite. You probably know that the 
Nobel prizes stem from the disillusionment and guilt of the man who instituted them. As 
for the First World War, in which dynamite was used more than ever before, its 
perpetrators called it “the war to end all wars”. The exact opposite happened. 


Yet, now is just the right time. A golden opportunity is at hand. While a more or less 
peaceful atmosphere prevails, while time is plenty and circumstances favorable, we must 
act quickly to do away with weapons of mass destruction before they do away with us. 
Individuals, organizations and societies should do everything within their power to 
achieve this end. (If you can’t do anything else, tell a friend who’s uninformed.) If we 
miss this golden opportunity, we may not get a second chance. 


But you may be saying: “What’s all the fuss about?” In these days when we are living 
through a springtime of peace, perhaps the winter of war, even a “nuclear winter”, seems 
very remote to you. But if we do not make preparations during the spring and summer, 
our chances of surviving that winter are nil. And the first and most important thing to be 
done is to destroy—without exception—all weapons of mass destruction. 


What will happen otherwise? Then you haven’t heard, or perhaps you have forgotten. In 
that case, if you wish, let’s crack open the gates of Hell and take a look inside. 


The Beginning 


S25 


Although Hiroshima was the first example of the use of atomic weapons against human 
beings, it wasn’t the first atomic bomb to be exploded. The world’s first atomic bomb, 
with a destructive force of 20 kilotons (equivalent to 20 thousand tons of TNT) and code 
named “Trinity”, was detonated three weeks before, on July 16, 1945, at Alamogordo in 
the United States of America. “Trinity” here does not refer to the Christian Trinity, but 
rather to the triad of bombs comprised by this bomb in addition to those dropped on 
Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There is deep symbolic significance in the fact that this first 
bomb was exploded near the village of Oscuro (“dark’’) at the vicinity called Jornada del 
Muerto (“death journey’). 


A distinguished group of visitors were present that day to witness the explosion from a 
distance of 16 kilometers. Their first impressions are important to any understanding of 
the dimensions of the phenomenon. 


Among the visitors were military and government officials, as well as scientists who had 
worked on the manufacture of the bomb. These were not religious people. In fact, most 
were devoid of any religious inclination whatsoever. And yet, it is striking that all, in 
relating their impressions later on, felt the need to use expressions taken from the domain 
of religion. One of the generals present, for example, said: “The whole country was 
lighted by a searing light with an intensity many times that of the midday sun... Thirty 
seconds after the explosion came, first, the air blast pressing hard against the people and 
things, to be followed almost immediately by the strong, sustained, awesome roar which 
warned of doomsday and made us feel that we puny things were blasphemous to dare 
tamper with the forces hitherto reserved to the Almighty. Words are inadequate tools for 
the job of acquainting those not present with the physical, mental and psychological 
effects. It had to be witnessed to be realized.” 


Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, known as “the Father of the Atomic Bomb’, was 
reminded of verses from the Bhagavad Gita, the sacred book of the Hindus: “I am 
become Death, shatterer of the worlds.” 

These are the words of eyewitnesses watching the event from a distance of 16 km. Let us 
now take a look at those who experienced the Bomb at closer range— the survivors of 
Hiroshima. 

“The details and the scenes were just like hell.” 


“And when we looked back it was a sea of bright red flame.” 


“T saw fire reservoirs filled to the brim with dead people who looked as though they had 
been boiled alive.” 


“They looked like boiled octopuses.” 


As the internal organs of those at a distance of 1 kilometer boiled away, they were seared 
to smoking black char in the fraction of a second. The skins of those further away were 


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blistered by the thermal pulse, the shock wave tore their skins off their bodies; with their 
skins hanging off them like threads they threw themselves into the rivers, hoping to cool 
off. Little did they know that the rivers themselves had been heated to the boiling point. 
As people evaporated, the blinding light bleached everywhere on the walls behind them 
except where their shadows had been. Go see for yourself, those shadows are on those 
walls to this very day. Birds ignited in mid-air. “Doctor,” a patient was saying a few days 
later, “a human being who has been roasted becomes quite small, doesn’t he?” 


70 thousand men, women and children, the great majority of whom were civilians, died 
in the very first instant of the explosion. 130 thousand more died of radiation poisoning 
and burns within the next few months. Another 220 thousand had died within five years. 
More than half the population of Hiroshima perished, and two-thirds of the city was razed 
to the ground. Almost nothing above knee-level was left. 


Now consider the fact that the bombs thrown on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were mere 
firecrackers compared to those of our day. The hydrogen bomb, discovered in the 
succeeding years, is a hundred to a thousand times more powerful than an atomic bomb. 
During the arms race they entered in the years of the cold war, America and Russia 
produced tens of thousands of these weapons. They now sleep silently in their silos, 
several mounted on each missile, waiting for the day when they will strike you, your 
children or your grandchildren. That day those missiles will fulfill the purpose for which 
they were designed, hurtle thousands of miles in 15-20 minutes, and rain universal death 
everywhere. 


The Effects of a Nuclear Bomb 


There is no end to the list of the destructive effects of nuclear (and thermonuclear) 
weapons, which have no purpose of existence other than to wipe out humanity and 
human civilization. Yet at first count, these can be summarized under four major 
headings. They are: 1. the initial nuclear radiation, 2. the heat pulse, 3. the blast wave, 
and 4. radioactive fallout. Other more insidious effects, such as the electromagnetic pulse, 
the destruction of the protective ozone layer of the earth, and the “nuclear winter” effect, 
were only discovered decades afterwards. 


Sober scientists have investigated these effects in great detail and have amassed data that 
fill many volumes. Space does not permit us to summarize all of these here. Still, we 
intend to describe the effects of a nuclear explosion, if only in outline. A 1-megaton 
device, equivalent to the destructive force of 1 million tons of TNT, is a medium-size 
weapon in today’s nuclear arsenals. We shall take this value—equal to 80 Hiroshima 
bombs—as a yardstick. 


At the instant of detonation, an incredibly hot, bright fireball is formed. The temperature 
of this fireball is millions of degrees centigrade, and its pressure is millions of times 
greater than ordinary atmospheric pressure. All unprotected humans are killed and 
everything is destroyed within a circle of 15 square kilometers, with “Ground Zero”, the 
point directly below the explosion, as its center. This is the initial nuclear radiation. 


329 


The second effect is the heat pulse. This is a wave of searing light and intense heat. If the 
fireball is close to the ground, and touches it, it instantly vaporizes or incinerates 
everything within it. The heat pulse lasts ten seconds and inflicts second-degree burns on 
persons at a distance of 15 km. Its sphere of influence is greater than 700 square 
kilometers. 


As the fireball expands, it creates a blast wave expanding in all directions. This is the 
third effect of a nuclear bomb. This shock front is a wall of compressed air which moves 
away from the center at supersonic speeds, dragging winds that move at 300 km per hour 
behind it. It flattens almost all buildings within a radius of 7 km and an area of 100 
square km, and severely damages all buildings in an area of 320 square km and a radius 
of 13 km. The blast wave lasts for a few seconds and destroys buildings by surrounding 
them in all directions. 3 km from Ground Zero, wind speeds reach 650 km per hour and 
at 6 km from Ground Zero, they reach 300 km per hour. At a distance of 16 km, they hurl 
broken glass and sharp objects at lethal velocities. 


As the fireball burns, it rockets skyward and reaches a height of 10 km. For ten seconds it 
cooks the city beneath it. People at a distance of 15 km now receive third-degree burns 
and most probably die on the spot. Those closer catch fire and perish instantly. In a circle 
of 15 km radius and 700 square km area, flammable materials such as paper and dry 
leaves are ignited, giving rise to mass fires. 


As the fireball rises, a mushroom cloud is produced due to the condensation of water 
vapor in the air. If the explosion has occurred near the ground, a great crater is formed 
and the bomb throws tons of debris and earth into the air. This mixture later rains down in 
the form of a fine ash. This phenomenon, called radioactive fallout, is the fourth effect of 
a nuclear bomb, and comprises about 300 different kinds of radioactive isotopes. This 
fallout lethally contaminates an area of 2500 square km, “lethal contamination” being 
pedantically defined, in the present context, as the amount necessary to kill off half the 
able-bodied young adult population. 


Let us now suppose that a 1-megaton bomb is detonated 2.5 km above the city you live in 
or a city close by, and that you are standing at a point about 3 km distant from Ground 
Zero. Your physical body could not survive, of course, so we assume you are present “in 
spirit”. What would you see? 


First, the blinding white light of the fireball lasts about 30 seconds. Simultaneously, 
searing heat melts windows, automobiles, lampposts and everything made of glass and 
metal as though they were made of butter. People in the street are instantly ignited and, 
within a very short time, transformed into puddles of tar. Five seconds after the light, the 
blast wave hits. Some skyscrapers are crushed as if squeezed by a behind this exploration 
was (and still is) to ensure that the one or two persons who would propagate the human 
race after the world had been annihilated would be “one of our boys”. This is the truth 
that lies behind all the space stations and the attempts to colonize Mars. And thus we are 
faced with a phenomenon, the like of which has been encountered giant fist, while others 
are torn off their foundations and hurled through the air like matchsticks. Meanwhile, the 


330 


fireball has been burning in the sky for ten seconds. A little later, everything is engulfed 
in thick clouds of smoke and dust. The mushroom cloud, which happens to have a 
diameter of 20 km, cuts off the sunlight, and day turns into night. Within a few minutes, 
the heat pulse ignites broken gas mains, as well as gas and oil tanks. Fires begin 
spreading in the dark. A radioactive rain may fall in the meantime, as a result of the 
extraordinary weather conditions produced. Before long, all the individual fires combine 
to produce one gigantic fire. In such a mass fire the temperature reaches one thousand 
degrees centigrade, melting glass and metal and burning ordinarily fireproof materials. 
Depending on the condition of the winds, either a conflagration or a “firestorm” occurs. 
In the first case, the whole city is simply burned to the ground. Otherwise, winds being 
sucked into the center create a huge firestorm, forming a single fire of great heat. Because 
both kinds of fire consume the oxygen in the air and produce noxious fumes, people in 
the shelters are choked to death at the same time that the heat pulse is turning the shelters 
into pressure cookers. In this vast theater of events, all the agony and death scenes of 
Hiroshima are relived, with the difference that the death count now reaches millions 
instead of merely hundreds of thousands. 


The Present Situation 


During the long winter years of the cold war, America and Russia held the world on the 
brink of a precipice. There were only two good things about this “Balance of Terror”: 
One, by the undeserved grace of God we were spared a nuclear war, and two, the parties 
kept their nuclear weapons and materials under stringent control. 


In time, England, France and China also became members of the “Nuclear Club”, but 
they too were able to keep their materials under control. 


But things didn’t end there. Israel developed nuclear weapons, too. So did India. And 
because of India, so did Pakistan. Iraq, which tried to develop the Bomb because Israel 
had it, was stopped for the time being. Other, lesser nations began to stand in line. 


It is obvious that there is no end to this process of proliferation. Anyone who does not 
possess nuclear weapons feels insecure toward those who do, and attempts to arm himself 
in the same way. The greatest obstacle in the way of success lies not in the difficulty of 
building a nuclear weapon, but in the difficulty of procuring uranium and plutonium, the 
materials necessary to make a bomb. But in time, as nuclear reactors are used, not with 
peaceful purposes for generating electricity, but for plutonium production, this obstacle 
too will be bypassed. 


With the demise of the Soviet Union, serious gaps appeared in Russia’s control over its 
nuclear weapons. Even if it has not happened yet, the possibility of nuclear material and 
bombs being smuggled in order to be sold to countries that crave them is a subject for 
serious concern. Another possibility is that these should fall into the hands of terrorist 
organizations. As evidenced in the recent example of Japan, a sufficiently fanatical 
terrorist group will not shrink from using weapons of mass destruction against innocent 


331 


human beings. Considering how widespread terrorism is in today’s world, it is not 
difficult to realize what this means. 


(When speaking of weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical weapons are 
also included in addition to nuclear arms. Space does not permit detailed analysis of these 
weapons, in spite of their equally disastrous effects, but the present treatment is intended 
to cover them as well.) 


As if the two generations of nuclear weapons—atomic bombs and hydrogen bombs— 
were not enough, the superpowers were trying to spawn third and later generations of 
these weapons toward the end of the cold war. Here, the purpose is to selectively enhance 
one or more of the destructive effects of the atom. Indeed, the nuclear tests conducted by 
the great powers have only one purpose: to build a more advanced, i.e. worse, nuclear 
weapon. 


In fact, the progress in high-energy physics will only be put to the misuse of building 
even more terrible weapons in the end, difficult as this may be to conceive. With atomic 
fission and fusion, physicists had unleashed the energy that powers the sun. Not content 
with this, they now aim to achieve the energy levels present at the creation of the 
universe. When that happens, it will be possible to disintegrate not merely the atom, but 
the fundamental particles of existence, and the way will be open to the manufacture of 
weapons powerful enough to melt down the entire land mass of the planet. 


The superpowers recognized long ago that the destructive force accumulated in their 
hands would be sufficient to destroy the world many times over. It was then that they 
initiated the exploration of space. The actual, though unstated, purpose only twice before 
in the entire history of mankind: The Third Adam. 


The Third Adam 


Adam was the ancestor, the progenitor of the human race. When humankind was wiped 
out in a Deluge of water, Noah became the second Adam. And now, unless we take the 
necessary measures, humanity will be destroyed this time by a deluge of fire, and the 
human race will start anew with a third Adam. 


During the days he gave the order to bomb Hiroshima, President Truman wrote in his 
diary: ““We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. It may be 
the fire destruction prophesied... after Noah and his famous Ark.” This Biblical prophecy 
is referred to as “Judgment Day” and “Doomsday” in the Koran. Unless we beware, we 
shall have fulfilled the forewarnings of the sacred books of the world by our very failure 
to take precautions. For it has been stated in a Holy Tradition: “We will not destroy men; 
rather, they will destroy themselves by their very own hands.” 


You who are reading or hearing this, do you find any solace in the knowledge that your 


race will continue from a third Adam? Does the notion of a third Adam comfort you in 
the face of the fact that you, your children, or your grandchildren will be vaporized in 


332 


unspeakable agony, the entire biosphere of the earth will be annihilated, the oceans will 
evaporate and the very crust of the earth will be melted? 


What Should Be Done? 


Today, a Godsent opportunity is at hand. In today’s atmosphere of relative peace, while 
the Soviet Union is safely out of the way, let us dismantle the Doomsday Machine, let us 
abolish all weapons of mass destruction. Let us block all the means that would lead to 
their manufacture. Perhaps we cannot put an end to war. But we can prevent the 
destruction of humanity as a result of war. Tomorrow, when hostilities resume between 
nations, it will be too late and cooperation, impossible. 


The only solution is that no weapons of mass destruction—including, preferably, missiles 
and delivery systems—should be left in the hands of any nation whatsoever. Because if 
even only one country has them, the rest will want to possess them as well. 


The START agreement on arms reduction is a step in the right direction, but only a very 
small one. Because it still leaves enough weapons to annihilate each other ten times over 
in the hands of both sides. This is all or nothing. And it is now or never. 


The permanent members of the United Nations must first bring all weapons of mass 
destruction under strict international control. The continuing experience of the United 
States, and of the USSR before its demise, proves that such controls and verification can 
be effective. Later, the present process of disabling and “scuttling” mass destruction 
weapons should be continued universally. 


An Appeal to Everyone 


If you are religious, we say to you: the heart of all religions is love. Hatred does not cease 
by hatred, hatred ceases by love. If you are not, we leave the word to Albert Einstein and 
Bertrand Russell, two of the most eminent scientists and philosophers of our time: 
“Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.” What true religion ever ordered the 
murder of innocent human beings? And what loyalty, ideology or hate is great enough to 
justify the annihilation of all men, women and children, of all the winged and four-footed 
animals of the earth, of all its plants, its fishes, its unicellular organisms? Have you no 
pity for even your own children, your own grandchildren? 


The time to act is here and now. If we do not do now what we have to do, Behold: the 
final curtain of human history. See if you care to shoulder the responsibility. 


Inferno 


The time is an unspecified date in the future. The place is a planet called Earth. All 
except the smallest countries of the world possess nuclear and other mass destruction 
weapons. Men have turned their backs on the call of true religions and become 


305 


progressively more ruthless. God has removed from them the capacity for compassion. 
They are therefore able to do even less than we are in a position to today. 


The end will begin near sunset. First, one nation will deliver a bomb on another. Suppose, 
for example, that America bombs England. England will retaliate. Then America will 
bomb China. China will bomb France. After these first four bombs, the whole 
international community will go berserk, everybody bombing everybody else in a 
thermonuclear free-for-all. 


We said earlier that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were firecrackers compared to 
the bombs of our day. In comparison with an all-out attack of tens of thousands of bombs, 
the detonation of one nuclear device will, in turn, seem like a firefly. Tens of thousands 
of suns, each many times brighter than the sun itself, will light all the continents of the 
earth. In the areas first targeted, the great majority of people will be radiated, crushed or 
burnt to death. Hundreds of millions will simply be vaporized. Tens of thousands of blast 
waves will sweep away the physical existence of the countries of the world like dust in 
the wind. Buildings, habitations, factories, installations already on fire will be shattered, 
blasted or pulverized out of existence. Then, as the mushroom clouds bloom, day will 
turn to night. All the forests of the world will be set on fire. Because the whole world is 
burning, there will be nowhere to escape. As bombs that have not yet been invented but 
soon will be enter the scene, mountains will melt and be tossed like cotton. Both living 
and unliving things will be burnt to ashes. The oceans, while evaporating on one hand, 
will attack the melting land mass of the earth on the other. Everything will be reduced to 
a uniform sludge. This sludge will redistribute under the influence of the centrifugal 
forces of the planet, and, when it cools, will solidify like lava into a surface almost, 
though not quite, as smooth as glass. And then... And then, America, Russia and Europe 
will all be as flat as a table. Only the natural curvature of the earth will prevent an egg 
stood on one end from being seen from afar (if an egg and a human being to see it could 
have survived). 


While all this is happening, anyone with access to a spaceship will head for outer space. 
Some of their rockets will burst on the ground before they can escape. Others able to 
make it will, deprived of the natural life support systems and supplies of the earth, be able 
to survive in space for at most only five more years. 


By the grace of God, only a single man will survive. He is the one who will be called “the 
third Adam”. 


All this will happen, have no doubt. Unless we take preventive steps now. Do not 
imagine that you, your children or your grandchildren will be exempt from this fate. 


And that is why... 


As we sow, So shall we reap. Come, let us sow peace, not war. Let us douse fire with 
water. We are the stewards, the custodians of this planet. God has entrusted the Earth to 
us. Come, let us purge the world of this danger of betrayal, and hand it over to the 


334 


generations who will succeed us. What needs to be done must be done now. Our children 
and grandchildren have the right to live at least as much as we do. 


(This draws a pretty bleak picture, but here, too, the Master has offered a solution. “Of 
the nearly 200 nations now extant,” he said, “one person who is wisest, most cultured, 
and who loves his country and nation should be chosen from each. Those chosen should 
love humanity and other nations as much as their own. From among these, the most 
intelligent 7 should again be selected by examination, plus 20 or 30 members. These 
should compose the United Nations. Next, all weapons and all kinds of war should be 
prohibited. When war erupts anywhere, the representatives of the parties concerned 
should first try to resolve differences between themselves. If they prove unsuccessful, the 
rest should intervene to stop it. 


“Next, hunger. After war, hunger too should be abolished. Whatever it takes should be 
done to achieve this. Without weapons and hunger, humanity will be able to maintain 
peace for a while. In time, smaller countries would join bigger nations [in regional 
alliances, somewhat in the manner of the European Community]. Small states would give 
way to large states, and in the absence of weapons the latter would live in peace. This 
means not just toxic weapons (nuclear etc.), but all weapons. This is the only solution. 
There is no other way.” 


This plan may be difficult to achieve. Yet it is elating to know that a way out is 
possible—if it can only be realized.) 


Louis Pasteur (attributed), following Benjamin Constant and Francis Bacon. 


“Every scientist must invoke assumptions and rules of procedure, which are not dictated 
by sensory experience. To deny the presence, indeed the necessary presence, of 
metaphysical elements in any science is to be blind to the obvious.” Professor Henry 
Margenau, The Nature of Physical Reality (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1959), p. 12f 
(italics in the original). 


This is a very difficult term to translate and has been rendered here as “esoteric”, but 
should not be confused with the general use of the term “esoteric” (batini ). Ladun points 
to a higher and more specialized form of batin. 


The pronunciation is very close to “Hizzer.” Khidr means “the Green One,” and he is said 
to travel throughout the world, helping those in distress. 


Hadji: A title of respect used for persons who have performed the Pilgrimage (hajj ) to 
Mecca. 


What are known as “Moslem conquests” in history are actually Arab conquests; they 
were political in nature and did not aim at forced conversion. The peoples under Arab 
occupation adopted Islam out of their own free will, when they beheld the beauty and 
sublimity of the religion. This point needs special emphasis since there is widespread 


335 


misunderstanding in the West with regard to “conquest by the sword:” it was not even 
“conquest by the word,” since there are no missionaries and no church—i.e., no 
ecclesiastical institution aiming at self-perpetuation and expansion—in Islam. 


Both French rationalism and British empiricism have their roots in the investigations of 
Moslem scientists, who were encouraged to study the universe and its phenomena by the 
Koran. 


The famous Turkish Sufi poet Yunus Emre (whose name may be translated as “Jonah 
Lover’) mentions “the meaning of the Four Books” in two of his quatrains, and these are 
the two points he singles out for consideration. 


What are known as “Moslem conquests” in history are actually Arab conquests; they 
were political in nature and did not aim at forced conversion. The peoples under Arab 
occupation adopted Islam out of their own free will, when they beheld the beauty and 
sublimity of the religion, or out of the more mundane motive to avoid taxation. This point 
needs special emphasis since there is widespread misunderstanding in the West with 
regard to “conquest by the sword:” it was not even “conquest by the word,” since there 
are no missionaries and no church—i.e., no ecclesiastical institution aiming at self- 
perpetuation and expansion—in Islam. 


Both French rationalism and British empiricism have their roots in the investigations of 
Moslem scientists, who were encouraged to study the universe and its phenomena by the 
Koran. 


Despite the fact that the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics is 
probabilistic, its fathers, physicists Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr, found it necessary 
to speak of “the central order of the universe” (See Heisenberg’s Physics and Beyond ).— 
Translator’s Note. 


Negative in the sense that we assert them for God and negate them for everything else, 
since only God possesses them.—T.N. 


Positive in the sense that we posit them for other beings as well as God. He shares these 
attributes with other beings, but possesses them to an infinitely greater degree.—T.N. 


The Kaaba was considered a holy sanctuary from time immemorial. First built by 
Abraham and his son Ishmael, in Mohammed’s time it was filled with the idols of the 


polytheists before the Prophet cleared them out. 


For comparison, in Catholicism the ultimate authority is the Church; in Protestantism it is 
the Bible. In Islam, it is the Koran plus the example (the Way) of the Prophet. 


336 


Neither did it in Christianity, originally. Nothing in Jesus’ teachings contains anything 
about Original Sin; this concept was added by St. Augustine in the 5th century. 


In this book, wherever the word “evil” is used, it should be understood in this sense, not 
in the Christian sense of the term. 


Arthur Koestler, The Yogi and the Commissar, New York: Macmillan, 1946, pp. 3-4, 
247. 


The concept of ‘saint’, therefore, is necessarily different in Islam. The Moslem saint 
cannot be equated with the reclusive Yogi, who has more affinity with sainthood as it is 


conceived in Christianity. Islamic saints are “in the world, but not of it.” 


“Synergy: Some Notes of Ruth Benedict,” American Anthropologist, 72 (1970) 320-333. 
Quotation from p. 325. 


Ibid. 329. 


Since Dirac, symmetry has continued to play an important role in modern physics (such 
as supersymmetry, symmetry breaking, ‘duality’, etc.). 


Scientific American, May 1993, p. 62, quoted from ibid., May 1963. 


The name in the original,’Umit,” is a name that can be given to both boys and girls. In 
translation, it was decided to use a similarly unisex name in English.—T.N. 


Attributed. 

The self also has its rights. Self-love and self-pity are bad, but we should not hate 
ourselves to the extent of denying the rights of the self or the body over us. A robust, 
healthy approach is required where we neither pamper the self, nor literally starve it to 


death. 


Karen Armstrong, Muhammad: A Western Attempt to Understand Islam (London: Victor 
Gollancz, 1991), p. 240. 


Ibid. p. 198. 


Maitreya 4 (1973), p. 12-13, quoted from Wynne-Tyson, The Philosophy of Compassion 
(London: Centaur Press, 1970), p. 271. 


Armstrong, p. 239. 
Quoted in Zaman, 1.12.1994, p. 15. 


Malise Ruthven, [slam in the World, Middlesex: Penguin, 1984, 1991, p. 157-8. 


Sial| 


Ibid. p. 158. 
Ibid. p. 160-1. 
Ibid. p. 179. 


Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, George Lawrence (tr.), New York: 
Harper and Row, 1966 (single-volume edition), p. 444. 


There are signs of a change for the better in Iran, as noted by The Economist: “And 
surprised respect is due to the revolutionaries of Iran for holding freeish elections that 


have produced a parliament happy to argue with the government.” (See footnote 9.) 


Bernard Lewis, The Political Language of Islam, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 
1988, p. 30. 


Ibid. p. 31. 

The Economist, “Survey: Islam and the West,” August 6, 1994, p. 10. 
Tocqueville, p. 268. 

Ibid. p.269. 

Ibid. p. 271. 

Ibid. p. 287. 

Ibid. p. 409. 

After “the self always impels to evil” (12:53). 


In one Tradition, “those in authority” is related to “scholars of figh,” which would again 
underscore the law-abiding nature of Islam. 


Note that this is exactly the claim, full of pride and contempt, that led to the downfall and 
expulsion of Satan: “I am better than he” (7:12), which all human beings must do their 


utmost to avoid, not just in racial terms but in every respect. 


Robert A. Dahl, Democracy and Its Critics, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989, p. 
85-6. 


Tocqueville, p. 411. 


Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews, London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1987. 


338 


Ibid. p. 40. 
Ibid. p. 156. 


Lewis Mumford, The Condition of Man, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1944, 
1973, p. 322-3 (italics added). 


In Revue des Sciences Morales et Politiques, No. 1 (1989). 
Mumford, p. 176. 


Quoted in Koestler, Bricks to Babel (London: Pan Books/Picador, 1980), p. 636. This 
situation may have changed now, but it is part of history. 


Reflected in the sociopolitical sphere in the form of various totalitarian movements. See 
Encounter, Nov. 1983, p. 12. 


Noted for his books on the philosophy of science such as Personal Knowledge, Polanyi is 
a chemist by profession. 


As in the Jewish and Christian traditions, Pharaoh is an archetype of evil power in Islam. 


Blake’s Fourfold Vision does not refer to the four ontological worlds of the Sufis, but it is 
a valid poetic description thereof. 


This point was reached only gradually in ancient Egypt. Until the “grand synthesis,” 
practically every god was worshiped as the supreme creator at one time or another—a 
process called henotheism. 


The mirror of your heart. 

“T was a hidden treasure, and wished to be known; hence, I created the universe with love 
so that I might be known”—Holy Tradition. (Note: The utterances of the Prophet fall 
under three headings: 1. The Koran, or Word of God, revealed via the Archangel Gabriel. 
2. Holy Traditions, which are again the words of God but which He nevertheless found fit 
not to include in the Koran. 3. Traditions, or the Prophet’s own sayings. Moslems accept 
them all, for they all issued from the same blessed mouth.) 

The physical and the spiritual worlds. 

“He who knows his self knows his Lord”—Tradition. 


God created man in his own image. Both a Prophetic Tradition and the Old Testament 
bear witness to this. 


Bib, 


The word translated as “Afterlife” here is “Sur” in the original. This is the horn that will 
be blown by the Archangel Israfel (or Seraphiel) on Judgment Day, whereupon all the 
dead will be resurrected. 


“We shall show them Our signs on the horizons and in their selves” (41:53), meaning that 
God will reveal His signs both in the objective and the subjective worlds. 


It was customary for classical Turkish poets to mention their names in the last quatrain or 
stanza of their poems, thus identifying the author. 


Ghawth: “Helper, one who administers aid, saint”; ghaws: “deep-sea diver.” 
I.e., Iam the space within which space itself finds existence. 


“He is everywhere, yet [can be perceived] nowhere. Somewhere, [there is a place/state 
where He can be perceived as being] everywhere.” His space is non-space. 


“God chooses to Himself whom He will” (Counsel, 42:13). 
“Die before you die.” — Prophetic Tradition. 
Mulk: The world of the five senses, the observable universe. 
The Night Journey, 17:84. 

The Moon, 54:49. 

“The envious and the miserly cannot enter Paradise.” — Prophetic Tradition. 
Arham ar-rahimin. 

“Eveything perishes save His face” (The Story, 28:88). 
What they call Paradise 

Is just a few kiosks and houris 

Give them to those who want them 

My sole desire is You. 

—Yunus Emre (13th-century Turkish Sufi poet) 


“T was a hidden treasure, and wished to be known. From Myself to Myself, I created the 
universe through Love.”—Holy Tradition. 


340 


The Spider, 28:69. 
The Sun, 91:9. 
Qaf, 50:22. 


“When I love a servant of Mine, I become his eyes, ears, tongue, hands and feet.”—Holy 
Tradition. 


For Self, Heart and Spirit, see “The Spiritual Journey of the Sufi.” 


“He who knows does not talk, he who talks does not know.” “Those who have attained 
reality are as silent as the sea. As for those who know nothing, they roar like the waves.” 


See “The Spiritual Journey of the Sufi.” 

“Forget all that you know, transform your knowledge into ignorance.” 
“To know is not to know, not to know is to know.”—Kena Upanishad. 
“The further one travels along the Way, the less one knows.”—Lao Tzu. 
“Who knows this knowledge-without-knowledge?”—Chuang Tzu. 

“O God, the pinnacle of knowing Whom is unknowing.”—Abu Bakr. 
“...who has no birth, neither giving birth” (Sincerity, 112:3). 

Salat: The Formal Prayer of Islam. 

Ascension (miraj ): Stairs, elevation. 


“Prayer is the Ascension of the believers.” “When one begins Prayer, the veil between 
God and him disappears.” “One is closest to God during Prayer.” —Prophetic Traditions. 


The Prophet’s eyes. 
The Star, 53:17. 
Tradition: The sayings of the Prophet. 


Holy Tradition: A saying directly from God uttered through the mouth of the Prophet but 
not included in the Koran. 


The Universal Mind or Universal Intellect. 


341 


L.e., the Faithful partake of the primordial Mohammedan Light. 


“Gnosis” here is used to translate “Knowledge of God” (marifah Allah) in a sense 
opposite to agnosticism, and has nothing to do with the Gnostics, a sect contemporary 
with early Christianity. 


This saying of the Prophet is not included in the standard collections and is probably a 
direct inspiration to the great saint Gilani. As the Prophet explains in another Tradition, 
no one and nothing can impersonate him in a dream or vision, so that if he appears, it is 
truly him. The Prophet must have told this to the Great Saint in one of their meetings on 
another plane of existence. 


See the chapter: “The Spiritual Journey of the Sufi.” 


Knowledge of Certainty (i/m al-yagin): Incontrovertible theoretical knowledge of divine 
matters. This may be compared to hearing about the existence of fire. 


Eye of Certainty (ayn al-yagin): Naked perception of certain divine truths. Similar to 
seeing fire from afar. 


Truth of Certainty (haqq al-yaqin): Full revelation without the shadow of a doubt of 
uttermost divine mysteries. Similar to being consumed in fire. 


al-Mumeen. See the chapter: ““The 99 Names of God.” 
The first Caliph. 

The second Caliph. 

The fourth Caliph. 


The “spiritual child” of Islamic Sufism has its parallels and counterparts in other 
traditions, such as the “golden child,” “golden germ” or “golden egg” in Hinduism 
(hiranya-garbha: Svetasvatara Upanishad, 4.12); the “immortal foetus,” “embryo of the 
Tao” or “seed pearl” in Chinese Taoism; the “spirit-child” or “sun-child” Horus in 
ancient Egypt; the Puer Aeternus or “eternal child” in Roman antiquity, etc. 


Jn. 3:3. “Born again” also means “born from above” in the original Greek. The Grand 
Sage uses “the Angelic World” (malakut ) in place of “Kingdom of God.” 


Ie., the seeds of the male and the female. The Grand Sage Gilani is here actually 
providing an explanation of the most secret teachings of Jesus. The Koran harbors the 
keys to these secrets. “Unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the 
kingdom of God. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (Jn. 3:5-6). 
Here, “water” and “flesh” point to the first, the ordinary, birth, while “spirit” points to the 
second birth. “No one has ascended to heaven except the one who has descended from 


342 


99 66 


heaven—the Son of Man” (Jn. 3:11). “From above,” “heaven,” “spirit” and “Son of Man” 
all refer to the spiritual child. In Buddhism, “the Son of Man” is called “the Son of 
Buddha.” These are all expressions for the Child of the Spirit, which is actually the 
process by which the Perfect Man of Sufism is formed. The term “only begotten” in the 
New Testament refers to the uniqueness of this process. Otherwise, it would be 
impossible to speak of “the children of God,” and Jesus could not say: “You [plural] must 
be born again” (Jn. 3:7). 


This common error is frequently repeated in translations of the New Testament. The 
Gospel of John begins with: kai theos en ho logos. As Archbishop John Robinson pointed 
out, this means: “What God was, the Word was.” Yet it is frequently translated: “The 
Word was God,” just like that. Unless the utmost care is taken, feet are doomed to slide 
on this slipppery path. Similarly, Emperor Constantine’s imposition on the Council of 
Nicaea: homoousios, meaning that Jesus is “of the same substance (or essence)” as God, 
has traditionally been read as “Jesus is God”, as if the drop could be the ocean just 
because both are composed of H2O. 


Pantheism. 


The reason is that language, indeed all communication, presupposes shared experience. If 
a person tries to communicate an experience shared by no one else around him, he is 
bound to fail and be misunderstood, and only ill can result for the listeners from such 
misunderstanding. Thus, he will be misleading and harming them. 


Note the similarity with the countless Buddhas in a grain of sand. 

This used to be called “apophasy” in Christian theology. 

Dissociation beyond a certain limit may lead to the total denial that God exists at all (i.e. 
atheism), whereas analogy, if overdone, can lead to the danger of anthropomorphism and 
Incarnation (as happened with Jesus in Christianity). Thus God is both transcendent and 


immanent, but overemphasis on only one of these aspects, disregarding the balance 
between the two, will lead us into error. 


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