Bismillah Arrahman Arraheem
I’ve had a recurring thought since subh this morning. It’s been almost like a morbid fascination. It occurred to me that anything that dies is untrustworthy. If you look at human disappointment: the woman discovers her husband’s been cheating on her – fickle bastard. The employee gets retrenched by his untrustworthy employer. The very close business associate for years, defrauds the partner. And we have this tendency to look at this as aberrant, when it gets done to us. We have this sense of outrage, “How could they? Untrustworthy!” Not realizing that that fickleness that gets demonstrated by doing that is, in fact, the deepest truth of being human, whether you like it or not. Who can trust a corpse? And that’s every person’s destiny.
So, every person is deeply untrustworthy. Not because you’re deliberately untrustworthy, I’m not suggesting that. I’m not even blessing that, I’m not saying that you should be untrustworthy. I’m saying you should try the best you can, but understand you will fail. If you say to anybody, “Rely on me.” You’re a liar. Because then you are saying, I’m immortal. You say, “Trust me.” That’s quite a claim. Because then you’re saying that you’re firm. You are unshakeable.
I’m saying you should try the best you can, but understand you will fail.
And then people say, “Well you know, this is true. People are fickle. You can’t rely on them and you can’t invest your security in people. I’m rather going to take out a pension. ” And so, Old Mutual demutualizes – this is what happened ten years ago, the pension company — and gets taken over by a group of sharks, of shareholders, who within a decade reduce your nest egg to scrambled egg.
The very wealthy man — all this money in the bank. And just a few small accidents: there’s a poor speculative transaction that happens in the bank, he loses some of his wealth there, he himself tries a little bit of a business venture, loses some of his wealth there, knocks a few holes in the vessel of his wealth and five years later, the man’s in penury. He’s poor.
How many people do you know, who at some point in their life, gave off this feeling of self-sufficiency: “I’m ok, I’ve got the money, I can look after myself.” And then you watch the guy, and then five years later, there’s some catastrophe’s hit him and he’s basically on Skid Row.
I do work for a company in Bangkok, and one of the women of my client organization comes from a very wealthy Chinese family in Thailand. They’ve basically lost everything in the flood. Everything. Wealthy people. Now they’re not. So if you think you can trust your goods, that’s even less sensible than trusting people. If you think you’re going to find your security in goods, that’s even a more crazy view, because at least people can try to look after you. Your goods don’t attempt to look after you at all. In fact, your goods require you to look after them.
We’ve argued this before. If somebody hits you on the head and you’ve got a terrible welt across your face, and you arrive home this afternoon, your house doesn’t sort of say, “What happened Sidi? Who hit you? Awful! Who are they?” Your house couldn’t give a damn about your head, and the welt on your head. But if you came to your house and the local hooligans sprayed a big “X” in red paint on your front door, you would give a damn. So, who’s there to look after who?
Your house doesn’t provide you any security, it doesn’t look after you, it doesn’t protect you. You protect it. You’re its servant, it’s not your servant.
The trust that you put in these things will be demonstrated to be misplaced.
So, if we look at the things around us, first of all in the world of things and then in the world of people, we have the right to be very afraid. And if you’re going to place your security, you’re going to place your sense of trust and of fulfillment in these things – in either people or relationships or things – it’s a question of time, you will fail. You’ll end up being cheated. You’ll end up short-changed. The trust that you put in these things will be demonstrated to be misplaced.
So, this sounds very negative, this is sort of, “Let’s collectively slit our wrists.”
But then, we say that hold on, maybe all of this has a purpose. Maybe the purpose of all of this misguidance is so that we can find guidance, because it’s clearly misguided to put your trust in these things. So, what is the guidance?
From before you were born, there was a Creative Genius, who assembled the bits of you in the loins of Adam. Who has protected you, who has cossetted you, who has created all the fine necessary conditions over millions of years, literally millions of years, so that you can sit here now.
If that One, if your Rabb, the One that did all of that for you, is not going to look after you in the next hour, none of these other things will prevail. None of them will do you any good. So we get our fingers burnt by investing our trust in that which is fickle, so that we can finally grab the rope which is firm. And that’s Allah SWT.
It is immensely important that we maintain good opinion even of the catastrophic, that we understand that living in the world of the unpredictable, the dangerous, the blessing in that is that it gives you no other recourse. What other recourse do you have, other than relying on Allah?
We have a tendency as people to lose perspective. And losing perspective is clearly – it’s a visual metaphor, it means something about seeing things wrong. Not seeing them right: you’re losing perspective. So there’s this incredible painting, it’s called “Night Watch” in Amsterdam. It’s in the Rijkes Museum. It’s a huge painting, it’s twice the size of that wall. It’s massive.
Imagine if you had somebody who was trying to appreciate the painting, and he got his nose stuck in the left hand corner of this painting. How could he have any appreciation of the painting? All that he will see is this tiny piece of the painting. He will not have perspective. He’ll be too close. His nose is here.
..you lose perspective when you get too close to things.
He will only gain perspective, if he starts stepping back. And, in fact, that painting is best seen from the very other side of the room, it’s like a wall on it’s own. Because the thing is so big, then you can see all the figures. So, in other words, you lose perspective when you get too close to things. You lose perspective when you invest too much significance to a particular thing…So we make this person so important, “You are my protector, you are my security, you are my love. You’re my all this…” Even worse, “This job that I have or this money that I’ve got…” And the purpose of having these things pulled out of our hands is so that we can step back from them and start seeing a somewhat bigger picture. Because when you see a bigger picture, you start seeing the Genius, the Intelligence – Allah SWT – this incredible Mind that has produced the money or the person. And that your real relationship is with the whole picture, not the small corner of it.
So, it’s very important that we have a good opinion of the whole thing. That we don’t ignore the big picture and get ourselves stuck in something small.
There’s always something that you can complain about. And the problem is that when we go into this cycle of repeating to ourselves how fickle it is – because that’s what we’re saying – “You see that bastard, how untrustworthy. You see what they’re doing, these politicians…” Talking about it, talking about it. Your attention gets pulled right up to that tiny corner of the picture. You don’t see the bigger picture. If you aren’t saying alhamdolillah, you are not seeing the bigger picture, by definition.
If you don’t experience such blessing right now that it’s so overwhelming that you’re almost on the verge of tears, that you’re saying alahmdolillah, alhamdolillah all the time, you are not seeing things as they are.
So, every time you get yourself stuck in a corner of complaining about this, and denouncing that because it’s so fickle and so untrustworthy, and so infirm, ask yourself what’s happening to my perspective here. How am I seeing this thing? Because I’m not seeing the whole picture, I’m getting myself caught in a subset of the problem. I’m investing too much importance and significance, to that which can’t actually carry my himmat.
Your heart is so vast, it can contain the Rabb.
We forget that the human heart is a vast thing. The human heart is that which can contain the Rabb. He said so, He said the whole universe does not contain me, but the heart of the momin contains me. This thing…human himmat – human love and desire – is of immense weight, no human being can carry that weight. You put all of that on something, you’ll kill it. You put all of that desire on the business, it’s a curse on the business. Whatever you put that sense of trust and enchantment and longing on to, you kill it. Because it’s not made to carry the weight of your heart. Your heart is so vast, it can contain the Rabb. So, don’t crush the world by putting this himmat on to it, and this need, this desire that kills, that destroys.
Because Allah SWT is jealous. He’s jealous in the sense that He has spent from before endless time, created this immense theater, so that He can be adored. And then we go and adore other things. The very fact that we are…that we get disappointed by other things means that we adore them. If these things weren’t important to you, they couldn’t disappoint you.
Allah SWT never disappoints. Allah SWT gives you blessing even in that which is bitter. He gives you the fickle husband so that you can start having a relationship with Him, you start doing your salat. And start having a few quiet moments in salat. If this apparent relationship with the husband is wrecking… it, you wouldn’t be on the mussalla, you’d be pursuing something else. The man who has his business destroyed under his nose, that’s the guy you see in the masjid. Alhamdolillah. So, even the curse is our blessing.
So, I encourage myself, I encourage you to always bear in mind that anything that you rely on is fickle, other than Allah. And that when you are disappointed by anything in the world, it’s because you’ve relied on something other than Allah. And that the purpose of that disappointment is that so you can come back to Allah. And you can make Him the object of your fascination. And of your desire. Make His presence your yearning. Make the Divine Encounter your desire.
This discourse was given by Shaykh Ebrahim after a dhikr session on 22nd October 2011.