In the ayat from Qur’an which Sidi Kamardine recited Allah Subhana wa Ta’ala reminds us not only that He owns the Most Beautiful Names but the Names that he recites are principally ones which affirm His Glory and His Majesty, His Unequalled Vastness and His Greatness. So He is indeed the One who is Significant. He indeed is the One who stands out beyond comparison. He owns all significance. And amazingly, He who is the Owner of all of that, the One who is beyond comparison, the One who is vast beyond our ability to imagine – He tells us that the whole universe does not contain Him but the heart of the mu’min contains Him – which means to say, and this is not a metaphor, this is not an idiosyncratic expression, that on your inside you have access to a vastness and an emptiness and a bigness which is beyond description.
..outwardly we are the expression of insignificance. No way can a human being regard himself as significant outwardly.
Your inner reality is one that is unspeakably majestic, that which is beyond comparison. The paradox is that when you look at the human being from the outside you are just what – a non-hairy ape, you are not very big, you are not very powerful. We walk on two feet. We are mammals who gestate. We eat. We look unremarkable. The number of solar systems in our galaxy is reported to be in the factor of hundreds of millions. The number of galaxies in the universe is reported to be in the order of hundreds of millions, which makes you realise how unspeakably small you are. You are a miniscule dot upon a dot upon a dot. So, outwardly we are the expression of insignificance. No way can a human being regard himself as significant outwardly. And yet, on the inside, exactly the opposite is true. Allah Subhana wa Ta’ala tells us that He assures us that that which is vast beyond comparison is contained within the human being who is small beyond comparison. If you look at the scale of things as they are we think we are big if we stand beside an ant, we think – what a small creature! You next to the ant in comparison to you next to the universe is the scale that boggles the mind.
So we have our first experience, our first assumption is that if you look at how things are apparently you are very small and you are faced by that which is terrifyingly absolutely vast. The truth of the matter is exactly the opposite. The truth of the matter is that you are vast, so vast that you contain all that. You contain that which all of that cannot contain. SubhanAllah! The other implication of this is that we view ourselves as peripheral. We are the beings on the side. If you again get this thing of scale then we aren’t even in the centre of our galaxy. We are not even in the centre of our solar system. Our solar system is not even in the centre of the galaxy. We are this tiny speck lost in space, on the periphery, forgotten. When you look at us from the outside, as objects, when you look at yourself or the outside as an object, you are a very small man next to that. When you look at yourself from the outside you are a very peripheral being. You are on the side. You are dismissed. You are of no account. You are not in the centre. Yet where is the rest of the universe in regard to you? It goes in every direction away from you in such a way that you are in the middle. You are not on the side.
So again, apparently you think you are peripheral but in fact you are in the middle of existence. You are epicentral to it. We also have this view that we are the product of our past. I am a little man. I grew up in this country. I had such and such parents. I speak this language. I’ve had this really awful childhood. All of us like to moan about our childhoods. And I’ve had all these awful things happen to me which all conspired to produce me as I am now, helpless. My past has done this to me, not realising that your past doesn’t define who you are. You define it. So apparently you are small, apparently you are the product of your history. But you can literally justify any storyline for your past. You can say I need to construct a story of this saintly man and I’ll find at least fifty events in my life that convince you I’m a saint. I could then decide – no-no-no! That’s a boring story. I want another story. I’m going to the Mafiosi and I’ll find fifty events in my life that confirm I’m a gangster. And I’ll find fifty events that I’m a successful businessman. Fifty events to say I’m a criminal. In fact, you give me the storyline and I’ll give you the events.
You are not the product of your history.
My biography doesn’t tell who I am. I tell it what it is. I’m not the product of the story. I produce the story as I’m sitting here. So I’m not this weak thing. Apparently I’m the product of my history not realising I’m manufacturing my history as I sit. And just as I’m manufacturing my history I’m manufacturing my future. So from every point of view we buy this apparition and the apparent reality is I’m peripheral, I am weak, I am defined, I am the product, I am incredibly small confronted by that which is vast and at every turn exactly the opposite is the truth. You are not small. You are the vessel that contains existence. You are not the product of your history. You produce your history on an ongoing basis. You are not peripheral. You are central. You are not on the side. You are in the middle.
So how is it that we buy into this storyline that produces an experience of ourselves which is a being that is peripheral, a being that is a victim, a being that is weak in the face of existence? How did this get created? How did this violent untruth get created? The key issue of this untruth is that it allows us to get away with our shocking selfishness. You see if I buy into this story that the world has been mean to me it means that I won’t and I don’t, and I can do as I like because the universe is bad which means it becomes an excuse to abrogate your fundamental sense of responsibility and accountability. The lives that we live are a product of our intent and that is how it is! Allah Subhana wa Ta’ala has created the whole world you serve you. You are the khalif. You are the one that commands this thing. But, do you serve Him?
Serving Him means that in any situation when you look at the situation you don’t act upon the basis of what you want. You forego what you want, you accept that Allah is the Best of Providers and you act on the basis of what He requires of you. And the more you do that the more you discover that this nightmare you have been suffering under; that you exist as this thing, being alienated and cut off and peripheral, is absolutely untrue. It is not how it is! Exactly the opposite is what is true – that you are the beloved of existence. Allah Subhana wa Ta’ala has taken all events since the beginning of time and woven them together to produce your body. It has taken everything. You are the product of all that has gone before you. If Allah Subhana wa Ta’ala did not consider you the prince and princess of existence that would not have happened. The fact of the matter is that the moment we construct our engagement with life on the basis of what Allah wants of us we cease to be concerned about our provision. We cease to have to be concerned about our safety because we discover that truly Allah is the Best of Providers and that He is the Protector.
Understand that all overwhelming comes from the same source.
So a technique that Shaykh Fadhlalla once told me about and which is useful to have in mind when you are about to feel overwhelmed, when you are in a situation when you are feeling overwhelmed and start to buy into your own ‘sorry me’ story, understanding that all overwhelming comes from the same source, that is that you are that which is very small apparently being confronted by that which is unstoppably vast, it is overwhelmingly vast. It is terrifyingly vast. So that can deal with that you stand at a doorway or at a window, and metaphorically that means you are standing in a house, that this is the construct of men which is designed to protect you from the universe, from the other, from the open. You stand at its entrance, the place where it is exposed or open to the world and you look out at the world, and you either hit the window frame or you hit the doorframe ten times and each time you say – “HasbiAllah!” “HasbiAllah!” “HasbiAllah!” – Allah is Enough, Allah is my Protector and you announce it to that out there! And when you do that ten times then suddenly you start to feel not quite so overwhelmed. You start to see things as they are – if that which is apparently so overwhelming do you feel, do you honestly think you would be here?
So really that which cannot contain Him is His instrument which is designed to be subordinated to your service. But, the crux is that you subordinate yourself to His service. And that you don’t construct your life on the basis of what you think you want. You construct your life on the basis of what He wants.
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 6th of October, 2012.