Bismillah Ar Rahman, Ar Raheem
In surah Al Rahman, Allah SWT reminds us of all the boons, He enumerates ayat after ayat all the boons. And He keeps on repeating, “Which of these favours of your Lord do you deny?”
One can’t have a sense but end up recognizing that you are pickled, quite literally pickled, in blessing. That blessing and boon — good fortune, safety, security, contentment, harmony – are the groundwork of your being. It’s what you’re made out of; it’s what you sit in.
The interesting thing, of course, is that most of us don’t experience it like that. Most of us don’t experience a sense of security, a sense of fulfilment as our basic condition. We have the opposite experience. We experience a sense of discontentment with our lot. We have a sense of insecurity, we have a sense of weakness, a sense of conflict with the world around us.
We talk ourselves into our misery
If the ground state, as Allah indicates, is blessing, then our experience of insecurity and discontentment and conflict has to be based on an illusion. It cannot be otherwise. It has to be based on a misapprehension of reality.
We, in a sense, talk ourselves into our misery. We were perfectly happy, until we started talking to ourselves. And then we became miserable. And this state of misery is now so deeply ingrained in us that most of us experience this as the ground state of our being. This is how life is. Not recognizing that we manufacture our misery. We manufacture it quite deliberately.
I’ve just recently again been through a phase of experiences where this has really been true for me in my own life.
You have the right to be miserable, but understand you choose it. And don’t blame somebody else.
And the relationships that you struggle the most with this are the relationships that are closest to us. Particularly your spouse.
You have the right to be miserable, but understand you choose it.
My favourite story about this is:
A murid of Shaykh Ibn Al Habib came to him and complained to him about his wife, saying, “You know Shaykh my wife is such an awful person. She’s like this and she’s like that. You know what she did to me yesterday…” And the man carried on and finally the Shaykh got angry and he said, “Shut up!” The murid said, “Why?” The Shaykh said, “You clearly don’t understand the purpose of a spouse.” He said, “The purpose of a spouse is like water in a vessel. It’s the character, it’s the nature of water, to find where the cracks in the vessel are. It is poor adab of the vessel to complain when the water finds the cracks.”
Your cracks are places where you suffer. The places where you experience insecurity, discontentment, conflict and weakness. So, if the challenge is how do I escape from under this cloud of misery that I don’t even recognize that I am manufacturing? Then there is, in the first instance, you got to stop treating your feelings as if they are facts, like cattle… They don’t have the same character; they are such fickle things. And we ascribe to them the veracity of tactile experience.
“I feel guilty” is the same thing as saying “I see a tree.”
Your emotions are your body’s reactions to a piece of internal dialogue
You have to understand that your feeling of guilt is completely manufactured. You manufacture it. How often have you said to your wife, “You know you make me feel so guilty.”
Nobody can make you feel guilty. That’s ridiculous. You make yourself feel guilty. You choose to wear the jacket. Somebody comes to you with a jacket and it’s full of grime and somebody’s poured beer on it and it’s got blood on it and says, “Wear this thing.” Surely you’ve got a choice to say, “I’m not going to wear this thing. It’s dirty.”
You have to understand that your emotions, your feelings, are your body’s reactions to a piece of internal dialogue.
You keep on telling your body that this is such a miserable life that I have.
Your body cannot differentiate between an illusion and a fact. If you see a tiger in the bush or you play a movie of seeing a tiger in your bush in your head, your body does not make that distinction. It sees that there’s a tiger in the bush. And it gets frightened. So if you keep running some piece of subtext in your head that resonates with insecurity; you’re talking to yourself all the time, your body gets frightened. Of course, it’s going to get frightened. You’re telling it there is a tiger here. There’s no tiger. You’re manufacturing it. And then you say I feel insecure. You know, where do you think that feeling comes from? You keep frightening your body, that’s why it produces the blood chemistry of insecurity, of fear.
You keep on telling your body that this is such a miserable life that I have. Then it starts producing the chemistry of misery. And then you treat this chemistry of misery as if it’s now the vindication of your view, “You see how miserable it is. I was right. She is awful.”
Own your emotional life
The first step on being on this path is to own your emotional life and to stop blaming somebody else for what happens in your chest. Because you manufacture it. Nobody can make you feel anything. You make yourself feel things. Insofar as you’re capable of feeling any unpleasant experience, like insecurity or discontent, understand you are repeating to yourself a lie. Because the nature of the world is that it’s deeply secure.
I was having a conversation with somebody this afternoon, they were saying – they were on the phone, and they were saying – that they’re really worried about their future and whether they should leave the country.
And it occurred to me that how many things could happen to you right now that could kill you right now? Anything from a microbe to a meteor. And anything in between. Just statistically, the odds of annihilation beat the odds of going on. Moment by moment by moment.
So, why are you here?
Surely your Rabb withholds the catastrophe from you. And if that catastrophe isn’t withheld from you, you can’t take another breath. You can’t make another blink. You’ll be vaporized.
So, the reality is that you are secure and insofar as you are not secure, there’s nothing in the world that can make you secure. Your Rabb wants to kill you, you’re going to die. You can’t argue with that.
Surely your Rabb withholds the catastrophe from you.
The first step of owning, of getting out of the cloud of our misery, is just to recognize that we’re manufacturing it – just as a fact, as a truth. The next is to notice that it’s happening. But to notice it not as if you’re being defined by it, but in sort of a detached way. Like for instance if you’re walking down the road and you suddenly see a cigarette advert on the billboard and you say, “Oh look, Oh look, there’s a cigarette ad.” The same attitude.
You’re walking through your day and suddenly there’s an unwanted nasty emotion in your chest: “Oh look…ah, interesting… where has this come from? Why have I produced this? Why am I producing this? What’s going on inside me that I’ve allowed this toxic little beast into my being?”
Being on this path is about making this toxicity your project. It is to understand that you can do nothing in the world that can make you secure and happy. Because security and happiness happen on the inside, they don’t happen on the outside. If that wasn’t true, then you couldn’t explain why there are so many miserably discontented and insecure people who are very wealthy. And why, on the other hand, you get people who’re quite poor, who’re quite happy and quite secure.
The formula for escaping our misery
..understand that you can do nothing in the world that can make you secure and happy.
So, Sidi Kamardine finished up with surah Al Asr, which gives us the formula for escaping our misery, our sense of futility, our sense of insecurity. Allah says, in the fullness of time, you are insecure. Every human endeavour, “Wal asr, innal insaana lafi khusr” every human endeavour is futile. Except for those who believe. Except for those who realize, in other words, that there is a Designer to this thing. That the nature of existence is secure and contented. And that you don’t have to be anything to get it because it’s already there for you. It’s part of the nature of the Design of things: Your Rabb just gives it to you. “Innalazina amanu” — That’s what it means, to believe, to assert, to yourself that it doesn’t appear like it, but in truth, I am deeply secure. It doesn’t appear like it, but in truth, I am deeply fulfilled. Because my Rabb exists. He is. And He is the Rabb. He is Ar-Rahman, Ar-Raheem. He is the Merciful. He is the all-encompassing custodian who nurtures me, moment by moment.
However, Allah doesn’t stop there, He says, “Wa amalus salihaat” — It’s not just good enough for you to assert that you are secure, you have to act consistently with the assertion, otherwise it’s a lie. And what is the act that is consistent with the assertion of security, of fulfilment, of power and harmony? It is the act which is done in the best interest of the other. That’s “amal-us-salihaat.”
In other words, it is the act which defines what Allah wants from you in a situation; what the other wants from you in a situation, rather than what you want out of a situation.
But Allah doesn’t stop there. It’s not just good enough for you to act – “Wata wasu bil haqq, wata wasu bil sabr” – In other words, not just those who believe and serve, do the righteous act, but also those who encourage each other to truth.
What is the truth? That your misery is an illusion. That this universe does have a Designer to it. There is a Rabb in charge. And it is a benign Rabb. We don’t have to be insecure. Fulfilment is the nature of things.
That your misery is an illusion.
We are made to remind each other of that. The human condition is made in collective. We are not made to work this thing out individually. Literally, with us, the one hand washes the other. You don’t galvanize the change in yourself until you’ve given it to somebody else.
“Watawasu bil sabr” – the one who is patient. The person who is patient is a person who can forgo what he wants in a situation to do what Allah wants in a situation. That’s what patience means, you forgo the outcome that you want. So you don’t act for your own outcome, you don’t act for what you want, you act for what Allah wants from you.
In other words, not only do you believe and act on the basis of what Allah wants from you, but you encourage others to believe and act on the basis of what their Rabb wants from them.
That is the formula of escaping the tyranny of our day to day existence. Our self-produced, illusory nightmarish existence of insecurity, discontentment, conflict and weakness. Because in truth, our birth right is security, fulfilment, power and harmony.
..in truth, our birth right is security, fulfilment, power and harmony.
May Allah grant us nearness to Him.
May He grant us annihilation in Him.
May He grant us death before we die.
This discourse was given by Shaykh Ebrahim after a dhikr session on the 28th of August, 2011.