Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
When you hear the account of somebody’s death, you say, “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un (إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ). As we know this means “We’ve come from Allah and we’ll return to Allah,” and there’s a multiplicity of implications to that statement.
I’d like to apply it specifically to our endeavor on the path. Our curiosity and the thing that we’re busy with here; what we’re trying to have access to and what we’re trying to achieve is the Divine Encounter. We don’t want reports of the Divine Encounter. We want direct experience of the Divine Encounter. We want that thing that Allah subhana wa ta’ala promises when he says, “When my slave draws near to me with supererogatory acts, he becomes the eye whereby I see and the hand whereby I act.” That identity, that deliberate conscious identity, that’s the thing that we want. That’s what we’re after on this path.
You have direct access to the Divine Encounter. Now.
If we say that Divine Encounter is what we’ve come from, and where we’re going to, and that we have access to it in our lives, this cannot be held from you by any authority. And it is also not any authority’s role to broker you into that encounter. There’s nothing that anybody else can do for you to broker that encounter.
We have a great need as human beings to comply. We have this desire to be one of the crowd, to be connected with, to be associated with. And that’s particularly true in terms of spiritual endeavor. We have this horror that we think we put our eternal souls, our immortal souls on the line, by just experimenting with a vaguely other way of looking at things. Not realizing that the thing that we think the authority can broker for us, gets withheld from us based on the degree to which we think the authority can broker it for us.
Why is there no priesthood in Islam? What is the purpose of that? Surely the purpose of that is to say: “You have direct access to the Divine Encounter. Now.”
You have to understand no path in the world exists independently of a language or of a phrasing. No matter how profound a shaykh is, he can’t give you the Divine Encounter like he can give you a date from his mouth. He can’t give you what you already have. The issue is that we are not conscious of it. The degree to which you think he can give it to you, is the degree to which you are actually removed from your own nature and you have enslaved yourself to him. Every path, no matter what the person says, has to be said, has to be spoken, it exists in language. Language, by definition is sign. The sign is not the phenomenon. If we’re traveling to Cape Town, and there’s a sign that says, “Cape Town” and we stop under the sign, we are not on Table Mountain. We’re under the sign that says, “Cape Town.” The map is not the territory. Every path is a map. Every path is a map. All of us had a curiosity about going to Karachi now and we’ve got a big map of Pakistan on the floor. All of us stood on the spot where it said Karachi, we’re not in Karachi.
So this is the naiveté that we suffer from when we think it’s up to map-makers to give us the Divine Encounter. Understand that the only thing that helps the Divine Encounter is your own effort, and at that – very little, anyhow. It’s guaranteed you’re going to die. You’ll get back to Him. What’s the fuss?
The issue is: die before you die. And that’s what this path is about. Fana means to die before you die. The assumption being that it is possible to live in the Presence of the Divine, now. To have the reality which has to be true. What does it mean to say, “Allah hu Ahad”? It means He is One. He’s indivisible. Which means you can’t be anything other than in His Presence. So how come you are not aware of His Presence? How come He is not palpable to you? How come? That has to mean you are withholding the experience from yourself. Nobody else can. And so it is by your commitment to and intention to go Home that anything can be achieved. It certainly can’t be given to you by a tradition.
all human authority, no matter how august, is basically the equivalent of a child parading around in a general’s uniform
We have to understand that all human authority, no matter how august, is basically the equivalent of a child parading around in a general’s uniform. There is something laughable about human authority. So you think you’re significant? You think you’re important? Puny little man, standing on the mountain, fist raised against the rest of the universe, saying, “I’m the authority!” Wow! A microbe can take you out. In fact, a microbe probably will take you out. I mean, you’re going to die of something.
So, all human authority has in it an element of being laughable; of being, somewhat silly. So why do we insist on treating the three year old parading around in an officer’s uniform as the fuhrer? It’s crazy! And that doesn’t mean to say that we now have license to be disrespectful. You have to understand that this person is still human. They’re as human as you are. They have the same struggles as you have. And the only way that they can be helpful to you is to help you decode the thing that you’re busy struggling with. They’re not there to do the struggle for you. They’re certainly not there to protect you or to provide any kind of succor. It’s not the role. Now, that’s the caution.
At the same time, one does stand the danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. And then say that it’s all nonsense. Because understand it is not all nonsense. Understand it is worthwhile to listen to people and to have contact with people who have something to say about the Divine Encounter. That’s enabling for your path. They can’t walk your path for you. And in that sense, you owe them no loyalty. You don’t become a member of a party. The party you’re a member of is a party of one, is the party of yourself.
In the surah that Sidi Kamardine recited, “Izza ja’a nasrullahe wa fath,” Allah subhana wa ta’ala basically tells us when the openings come – and He was speaking to the Rasool sallallahu alaihe wassalam – and He was saying, basically, when people come into the deen – in other words, become allied to you and they come in droves – He gives a caution: continue being grateful to your Lord. And continue praising Him. Because it’s very possible you can at that point think, “I’m clever, I’ve done this.” – that you claim success by your own ingenuity. Allah subhana wa ta’ala is saying to His Rasool sallallahu alaihe wassalam – He’s saying, “Don’t let your authority go to your head! Don’t think you’re doing these things.”
So how should that be different for us on the path?
May Allah grant us success on this path.
And grant us nearness to Him.
And grant us annihilation in Him.
May Allah bless this home and may He grant the family the best of both worlds.
May Allah bless and keep Esma and Abdi and little Saadia and grant them much happiness.
This discourse was given by Shaykh Ebrahim after a dhikr session on the 6th of August, 2011.