Different stages

Know that man’s essence, in his original condition, is created in blank simplicity without any information about the world’s of God. Man gets his information about the world’s by means of perception. Man is created with the sense of touch, of sight, of sense, of hearing, of taste, and of intellect.

Beyond the state of intellect there is another stage. In this stage another eye is opened, by which man sees the hidden, and what will take place in the future, and other things, from which the intellect is as far removed as the power of discernment is from the perception of intelligibles and the power of sensation is from things perceived by discernment.

The very essence of ignorance is for a man to have no supporting reason except that it is a stage he himself has not attained and for him it does not exist; so he supposed that it does not exist in itself.

Now if a man born blind did not know about colors and shapes from constant report and hearsay, and were to be told about them abruptly, he would either understand them nor acknowledge their existence. But God has brought the matter within the purview of His creatures by giving them a sample of the special character of the prophetic power: sleeping. For the sleeper perceives the unknown that will take place, either plainly, or in the guise of an image the meaning if which is disclosed by interpretation.

If a man had no personal experience of dreaming and someone were to tell him: “There are some men who fall down unconscious as though they were dead, and their perception, hearing, and sight leave them, and they then perceive what is “hidden,” he would deny it and give apodeictic proof of its impossibility by saying: “The sensory powers are the causes of perception. Therefore one who does not perceive such things when his powers are present and functioning a fortiori will not perceive them when his powers are suspended.”

Just as the intellect is one of man’s stages in which he receives an “eye” by which he “sees” various species of intelligibles from which the senses are far removed, the prophetic power is an expression signifying a stage in which man receives an “eye” possessed of a light, and in its light the unknown and other phenomena not normally perceived by the intellect became visible.

– al Ghazali
In “Al Ghazali’s path to Sufism”

Advertisements

All in one moment, I pierced through to the presence of God, and lo and behold, I was no longer as I had been until then, for God put His power in the place of m powerlessness, His strength in the place of my weakness, His wealth in the place of my poverty, His knowledge in the place of my ignorance, His glory in the place of my loneliness.

He covered my quality with His in such a way that I was He and no longer myself. In the words of of the Prophet: “My servant never ceases to come closer to me through voluntary devotions until I love him; and as soon as I love him, I am He.”

Amongst other things that were given to me, my knowledge deepened so greatly that if a thousand times a thousand questions were put to me, I would know how to answer them rightly, for I have become like a candle giving out a light that would not diminish if all existing candles were to be lighted from it.

– al Darqawi
Letters of a Sufi Master

To abstain from things is to over-estimate their power and this is due to the veil that hides God from you; for if you contemplated Him in things (as they arise), or before or after, they would not hide Him from you.

It is because you are preoccupied with things that God is hidden from you by them; if you saw their existence as flowing from Him, their existence would not hide you from Him.

The only thing that comes between you and Him whom you worship is joy in what you have and regret for what you do not have; the only thing that separates you from bliss is this faulty quality.

– al Darqawi
Letters of a Sufi Master

Raising kids

A question that has always interested me is how much I would expose my kids to Islam/religion in general (assuming I have kids). ¬†Growing up with a Muslim dad and an agnostic (born Catholic) mum gave very interesting experiences with religion. I wasn’t brought up to be either Muslim, Christian or agnostic. ¬†I do remember learning how to pray Islamically at some point, although I was never told to pray; and we always celebrated Christmas, Eid, and all the other holidays (although they were more about presents than spirituality, haha).

I think that being brought up that way has been one of the best things that could have happened to me. It gave me much-needed clarity with regards to religion, and it also gave me the space to define religion/God/life the way I wanted to. Many of my friends were told to pray, fast, etc and thus it became a habit for them. Later it was difficult for them to stop because they felt guilty. For me that was never the case: when I began thinking about God and religion, I really felt like I was making a conscious choice (although of course we don’t make choices that are ever 100% “free”). ¬†Because I felt like it was a choice, I never feel like I’m being constrained/controlled or that I’m giving up something.

I definitely think I would bring up my kids the same way. Of course it is impossible to not discuss religion at all, but I also don’t think I would tell them they should pray, or fast, or anything else. I really think rituals can only be meaningful when they’re coming from a place of freedom and choice.

Man

I’m currently reading Tarif Khalidi’s new book, Images of Muhammad.

I found the following excerpt interesting:

The portrait of man in the Qur’an may be summarized as follows: man is forgetful, inconstant, impatient, fickle, frivolous (Q. 4:137). Without belief, man is jahili, a creature of whim, running after shadows and illusions. Man is quick to call on God in misery and quick to abandon Him when he is at ease (Q 41:51). Man is by nature argumentative (Q 18:54), boisterous, torn in different directions, divided in desires.

In a striking image, the human soul is compared by the Qur’an to a personality (in whom¬†quarreling¬†partners share) (Q 39:29). Man is habitually prone to factionalism, and is often hypocritical. The beliver’s soul, by contrast, is steadfast, patient, remembering.

This portrait of man highlights not sinning man but frivolous man. It does not pass a blanket psychological judgement on man as does, say, the doctrine of original sin. Rather, it views man as a fragmented and deeply divided personality in need of discipline, the discipline of patience, communal prayer in ranks, of obedience to God, of steadfastness, of reflection.

I find this portrait fascinating.  On the one hand, it fits with what I perceive human nature to be Рneither good nor bad but easily influenced by context, i.e. society. On the other hand, does this mean that humans cannot be good without the discipline provided by worship or belief in God? Or is this referring a different type of goodness?

I have long been against arguments that suggest that morality can only stem from religion/belief and worship in a God/Gods. I believe that an¬†atheist¬†can be just as good of a person as a believer, and in fact it is often the case that believers take religion to an extreme whereby they become bad people. ¬†It is very unfortunate that today many Muslims go on & on about how non-believers are evil and “bad” when in fact we see just as many Muslims being unfriendly, stealing, raping, etc. I don’t think morality is tied directly to a religion. That said, I do see the benefits in being disciplines, which is one major reason why I love prayer, especially communal prayer. It is humbling and brings the community together in a way nothing else can. ¬†However, I do not believe that discipline through religious worship is the only way to inner peace/reflection/goodness.

What do you guys think?

_______________________________________________

Michael Moore, I love you

I am opposed to the building of the mosque two blocks from Ground Zero. I want it built on Ground Zero. Islam was stolen from the real Muslims at the Twin Towers, and it should be given back on the same spot. There is a McDonald’s two blocks from Ground Zero. Trust me, McDonald’s has killed far more people than the terrorists.

– Michael Moore

More here.