As human beings we inhabit structures. We inhabit walls. We put ourselves inside confinements and boxes. These confinements and boxes are in two senses. First of all they are inside our consciousness, inside our minds, and in the second sense they are outside us insofar as we live in the buildings and structures, within the walls built by men. So we confine ourselves to the walls and the walls of men both inside ourselves and outside ourselves. The walls inside ourselves are carried by our internal dialogue, the self-talk that goes on, on an ongoing basis that leeches attention out of the moment that confronts you. The external walls are those walls that are built to protect us from things as they are. The world as it is.
The walls limit our experience.
So what hadra achieves, if it’s done properly, is this is a blowing away of the inner walls because when you’ve done this properly then you’re not thinking and the effect on the being and the effect on the heart are very similar to what escaping the outer walls has on the heart. You see, the key thing about living inside walls is that they produce the conditions where we don’t need to see things as they are. The walls limit our experience. We are hidden from the street outside and the heavens above, and the atmosphere and the stars. So if we did the equivalent with the outer walls as we’ve just done with our inner walls, blew them away, with an outer explosive event like the hadra is an inner explosive event, then you imagine yourself suddenly in a place where you can get a sense of how things are, and experience how things are. You’d have to imagine yourself standing high on a promontory, on a very high mountain with a vast night sky in front of you: endless, countless stars, a stunning moon and just unfathomable distance in every direction. That’s how things actually are.
We’re on a speck of dust floating in this vast empty abyss of space with these twinkling stars floating with us in this unfathomable, incalculable vastness! Now the effect on the heart that apprehends things as they are is to be thunderstruck and awe struck. If you strip away all of the walls of men so that you have a naked confrontation with existence, as it is the necessary and logical outcome of that experience is awe. This means that our internal dialogue and our external structures are a way in which we can busy ourselves with stuff, with miniscule things so that we don’t have to look at that which is truly enawing – which is the presence of our Rabb, the presence of the Infinite.
Allah Subhana wa Ta’ala doesn’t give us a role that we aren’t capable of fulfilling.
The tragedy is that our beings have been made of a character to be able to bear all. We volunteered for the job at the beginning of time. The mountains were offered this role and they said “No”. And we said, “We’ll do it!” Now Allah Subhana wa Ta’ala doesn’t give us a role that we aren’t capable of fulfilling. He’s given us the role of being the ones that are enawed. So this is our higher possibility and we hide from that responsibility by reducing our attention literally to the level of the miniscule. All human drama in the final analysis, in the fullest sense of the word, is fundamentally futile. I mean, here we’re arguing about what patch of this ball of earth belongs to us. And what do the Aborigines say – that all territorial disputes are like two fleas arguing who the dog belongs to. And what’s even sadder is that this is an old moribund dog that’s about to get shot by a meteor and put out of its misery.
All human drama .. is fundamentally futile.
So in the face of these galactic events all of our dramas are really less than a storm in a teacup. But what’s extraordinary about us is that we are still able to put ourselves metaphorically in a high place outside of the walls of men and take a good look up at the totality of what is there and be thunderstruck and in awe. We are unique like that. We have the ability to bear that which is truly superhuman. Allah created the whole of creation so that He could be known and Allah Akbar, He is that which is truly enawing, which is truly majestic, and the one creature that actually has the capacity to bear witness to that Majesty is the human being. We are quite unique like that, puny as we are, miniscule as we are, inconsequential as we are, we can put ourselves in this extraordinary place where we escape the minutiae and the pettiness and mediocrity of our species and allow our beings to be the vessel that carries infinity.
Bearing witness doesn’t mean making a noise.
I’d suggest that we are at a time where we have a deep responsibility to live up to our fundamental charge as human beings. This is true in the first instance because, if Allah Subhana wa Ta’ala has created the whole of existence so that He can be known and the one creature that can truly bear witness to the Essence of what He is, which is the Majestic, the Greatest, if we’re no longer doing that, why is there anything else there? So Shaykh Abdal Qadir used to say, “Don’t be surprised if the scroll of creation has been rolled back because the witness is not doing his job.” And if the witness is not doing his job what’s the purpose for the creation? The only reason the creation is there is so the Majesty of the Creator can be witnessed, and can be borne witness to. But we’re not witnessing! Bearing witness doesn’t mean making a noise – Laa ilaha illa’Llah. That’s ridiculous! Bearing witness means I’m witnessing. I witness things as they are and then I cannot but speak about it. That’s bearing witness.
..if you’ve not had a moment of awe you’ve been the waste of a human skin.
So this is about the survival of our species and this is about the survival of our planet. We have to start witnessing, truly witnessing, and then bear witness. Because if we truly witness and then bear witness we will be the few anchors of gravity that will help the rest of our brothers and sisters to stop fighting about what is truly inconsequential. The second reason why, and for me this is the more profound one, why we should at this time gather in these meadows, in these circles, expose ourselves to experience where we can be the one who’s alone – wahidi bi dhikri Rabbi – witnessing and remembering his Lord, is that you crack the code for a moment and then your life has been vindicated and you can die. This is the most profound achievement. All other achievements, next to the achievement of being the one who witnesses and bears witness, are inconsequential. They are of no account.
You can work for the rest of your life, be fantastically wealthy, have all the power in the world – if you’ve not had a moment of awe you’ve been the waste of a human skin. You may just as well not have lived your life. They should have drowned you at birth. You could have come from the most underprivileged oppressed context, if you’ve had one moment of being alone with your Lord, then your heart carries that thunderstruck sense of awe of being in the presence of that which is indescribably vast and infinite, your life has been worth it. And insofar as we may very well in the next couple of decades be looking down the barrel of mass extinction maybe just in terms of having made your own life worthwhile, take this on as a project. Alhamdulillah.
May Allah Grant us success on this Path.
May Allah Grant us nearness to Him.
May Allah Grant us annihilation in Him.
May Allah Grant us death before we die.
This discourse was given by Shaykh Ebrahim after a dhikr session on 29 May, 2010.