Three weeks ago when I was en route to Bangkok for business, I was sitting at the airport about to board, in the departure lounge, and I was taking one last look at my emails and there was a very strange mail – a one-liner – from somebody I had not met and hadn’t heard of before, saying, please, that they wanted my number. So I responded to the mail, and within 5 minutes, my telephone rang. When I looked at the number, it was a Pakistani number. When I answered the phone, there was this lady, who I’ve never met before – well at least not to my knowledge – and she said that she had a message for me, from Shaykh Shadhili.
The message was, in response to a dua I’ve been making. On a side note, I have been struggling with a number of things and I’ve been making very earnest dua that Allah should grant me opening with this thing that I was struggling. So she said, Shaykh Shadhili gave her this message to give to me. And the message, in response to my dua, was that I should increase my own salah, and tell the people of our circle to do the same. To increase the amount of salah that you do, and to also increase the amount of salawat that you do.
And I was taken aback at this woman’s brazenness. I thought, this is amazing, I mean I don’t know you at all. And so when I got to Bangkok – I mean, I didn’t thank her, because I recognise that this was an extraordinary event and an unusual experience – I mailed her, to the address that she mailed me from originally thanking her again, indicating that I thought it was a very brave thing for her to do. I could have reacted in any number of ways. She responded and she said that she was assured by Shaykh Shadhili that I, and all of us are on the path, and the message would not go amiss.
I didn’t speak about this last week when I got back from Bangkok, partly because I was still digesting this myself. I mean I had no doubt about the woman’s sincerity, but it was just too strange that this would happen, under these circumstances, in the context of what I’ve been working and struggling with. Then I thought about it this week and I think it is appropriate that I tell everybody. This is something that we should bear in mind and take into account.
Now it opens obviously a set of issues, which I have been always very careful to avoid, and that is our engagement with the unseen and our engagement with the departed – the dead. Shaykh Shadhili died a millennium ago. A thousand years. Very long ago. How is it that this voice can transcend this gap of a thousand years to speak directly to me? And probably the only more authoritative voice could have been the Rasul (peace be upon him), from my own point of view.
How do these things happen? It indicates that our current mode of experiencing things — where we experience ourselves as discreet objects and we experience ourselves as defined very much in a place and very much in a time — both of those variables are fundamentally illusional. Time, as we know it is a human construct, and so is place. And the fundamental truth is that Allah is One. And that means that that Oneness is expressed in a single moment that encapsulates all moments. And that Oneness is expressed in a single place which encapsulates all places. Which basically means Shaykh Shadhili is our neighbour. And the realm of the unseen, they’re our constant companions.
Within us, we have access to all of these realms. It doesn’t matter if you don’t pursue this skill of working with the unseen. A lot of people think that that’s what Tasawwuf is about. That we need to be able to work with all of this jiggery pokery. Conjure up jinn and all of this funny stuff. Collect tar leaves for all sorts of things. Spit three times over our shoulders. Outrageous stuff.
Our path is not about the pursuit of the unseen. Make no mistake, the unseen will appropriately intervene when it is necessary. Which is exactly what has happened here. We don’t have to pursue these things, these things come to us at the appropriate time, with the appropriate calling to make the specific intervention in our lives. It’s not something we should even seek, because it will come to us when we need it. We don’t need to ask for it. And we shouldn’t pursue it.
Allah subhana wa taala has put us in this illusory reality of both space and time for a purpose. Not to negate it. But in this realm of separation, to affirm that He is One. And He will bring us whatever help we need from the unseen to assist us in this journey of increasingly refining our insight that He is One, and our bearing witness that He is One.
So, I consider that this message is now delivered. I’ve taken the Shaykh Shadhili’s bidding to heart. I have increased both the amount of salawat and salah that I do, and I can just tell you that it has had the most dramatic effect on quite a number of things that I’ve been battling with. So I recommend that you do the same, and that as far as you can, do tahajjud, and increase a little bit the sunnah that you do. Salah is always close at hand. The experience of the salah is always close at hand.
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 the 2nd of March, 2013.