By Naila Amat-un-Nur
I am delighted to be here this evening, to share with you all some moments of insight and reflection that would hopefully bring us a little closer to the beating of the One, Universal Heart of Love, Harmony and Beauty.
The “War Against Terror” is a phrase that has gained remarkable currency in the last few years and what it is broadly understood to imply is a militant struggle against terrorists.
Here we are dealing with three key words which are: Terror, Terrorists and War. Politically speaking, terrorism is the use of violence or intimidation esp for political reasons, and so a terrorist would be defined as one who exercises the use of violence to intimidate. A common use dictionary defines war as an armed strife or a major struggle.
My talk tonight is not a political speech and nor is it an incendiary diatribe meant to stir up social activism, as the three afore-mentioned terms may have purported up till now. If I introduce here the fourth central term to our discussion , i.e mystic, then I would be inviting you to enter a rather unique and unconventional scope of understanding “war against terror”.
Let me quote here Jimi Hendrix who said, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”
Some of you may wonder what a word like terror has to do with a mystic. Mystics are generally known to be people who undertake self-surrender as a path to directly experiencing God and ultimately finding divine union. They are imagined to be sages with long white beards, staff in hand, in flowing robes, standing atop a mountain peak, presenting the very picture of enigma against the backdrop of a remote and rarefied atmosphere. If we choose to put aside this cinematic imagery that tries to fit a mystic into a description much like that of a biblical prophet, we can hope to find him/her right here in our midst, even inside this physical frame that holds our own being.
“Terror” for a spiritual person takes on a totally different meaning to the one normally associated with it. A fine example is encountered in the famous supplication known as the Dua-e-Kumayl taught by Hazrat Ali to his companion by whose name it became famous. The words of the prayer that tell us of the greatest form of terror that can besiege a believer say, “My Lord, if thou wilt submit me to the penalties of hell together with thy enemies and cast me with those who deserved those punishments, and if thou wilt separate me from thy friends and from those who love thee, I realize that thou hast the right to do so, but my God, though I may patiently bear thy punishments, how can I bear the separation from thee?” The worst fear of the mystic is his separation from His Divine Beloved.
“There is a wine the mystic drinks and that wine is ecstasy. This ecstasy is born of divine union, of being in the company of the Beloved. The intoxication this wine brings is the love which manifests in the human heart. And when the mystic is intoxicated so he is said to have found the kingdom of God here on earth.” H.I.K
Murshid Inayat Khan said, “Often people have imagined that a mystic means an ascetic, and that a mystic is someone who dreams, dwells in the air, does not live here on earth, is not practical, and that a person who is an ascetic must be a hermit. A real mystic must show equilibrium and balance. Real mystics will have their head in the heavens and their feet on the earth.”
And he further explains, “A mystic strikes the balance between two things, power and beauty. A mystic does not sacrifice power for beauty, nor beauty for power. A mystic possesses power and enjoys beauty.”
Murshid also said, “The religion of the mystic is every religion and all religions, yet the mystic is above what people call their religion. In point of fact the mystic is religion, for it is not any religion, it is all religions. The moral of all religion is reciprocity: to reciprocate all the kindness we receive from others, to do an act of kindness to others without intending to have appreciation or a return for it, and to make every sacrifice, however great, for love, harmony and beauty.”
Jihad is an Arabic word that may be translated into English as struggle or exertion towards a particular end. In Islam we come across the concept of Jihad in two contexts revealed through a hadith of the Holy Prophet s.w. The Prophetic saying says, 1. “Some troops came back from an expedition and went to see the Messenger of Allah” peace be upon him. He said: “You have come for the best, from the smaller jihad (al-jihad al-asghar) to the greater jihad (al-jihad al-akbar).” Someone said, “What is the greater jihad?” He said: “The servant’s struggle against his lust” (mujahadat al-`abdi hawah). In this hadith reference was made to a Jihad al Akbar or the Greater Struggle, and a Jihad al Asghar or the Lesser Struggle. The greater struggle is defined as the one which is undertaken against the self or the personal-ego and the lesser struggle is said to be that which is exercised on battle fields or as military combat. Through this explanation, the noble Prophet tried to put things in the correct perspective for the human being.
“To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life; and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.”
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “The best (Jihad) is (to speak) a word of justice to an oppressive ruler.” And for the spiritual seeker the worst oppressive ruler is none other than one’s ego: speaking a word of justice to it would mean chastising it with the whip of discipline and purification, in order to make it fit enough to be seated at the King’s table.
The wise ones have tried to tell us in different words the same thing: The world is but a dream. A bird on a tree and that is absolute truth.
The Holy Prophet s.w said, “This life is a dream and when you die you shall awaken.” He also said, “Mutu qabla anta mutu”, “die before you die”. Murshid says, “The real mystic is as wide-awake in this world as in the other. A mystic is wide-awake, yet capable of dreaming when others are not and capable of keeping awake when the rest cannot keep awake.”
What does awakening entail? Awakening, according to the saying of the Holy Prophet s.w, follows death. But the death that he refers to is not necessarily the physical death, as the physical body has little to do with life, it is in fact the death of the false self or the extinction of our illusory perceptions. This body is living because it is in contact with the life-force which we refer to as spirit. Once the spirit departs, this body falls lifeless. The world that we perceive through our physical senses appears so until we have the power to observe it, that power which comes from the very Source of Life Itself. The Sufis know this power to be al-Hayy, the Ever-Living.
When the spirit is freed from the cage of the physical body, it returns to the True Ground of Being and individual consciousness takes the precious diamond of its experiential knowledge back to the mine of All-Consciousness, which resplends with ever-greater luminosity and brilliance as all its fragments return to it, cut and polished to precision by the craftsmanship of the living experience. As Murshid Inayat Khan says, “In all the mystic thinks or does is a perfume of God which becomes a healing and a blessing. How does a mystic who becomes kind and helpful get on amidst the crowd in everyday life? The rough edges of everyday life rubbing against the mystic must necessarily make him or her heart-sore. Certainly they do. The heart of the mystic is more sore than that of anyone else. Where there is only kindness and patience, then it takes all the thorns. Like the diamond being cut, so the heart being cut becomes brilliant. The heart, being sufficiently cut, becomes a flame which illuminates the life of the mystic and also that of others.”
A quote from Tolstoy’s War and Peace reiterates this idea, “Love is God, and to die means that I, a particle of love, shall return to the general and eternal source.”
It is said that the spiritual life is the life of a hero. One has to step onto the Path with courage and move forward with fearless determination. It is like entering into the inner battlefield. On one side you shall find the divine forces lined up and opposite them you shall see the undivine decked out in battle armour. Here begins the mystic’s war against terror. The heroes of the inner world are simplicity, sincerity, purity, aspiration, dedication and surrender. The hostile forces can spread terror only if the surrender in us is not complete, and the consecration of the self to the Divine Ideal is not whole. The divine army helps the mystic overcome the bondage and ignorance that has allowed terror to reign supreme. Faith as the commander guides the aspirant towards the conquest that must be achieved. Tolstoy says in his “War and Peace”, “There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth.”
As we examine the various components of the divine army, we also capture a sense of the hostile forces pitted against it. Simplicity though a simple word is yet tremendously powerful. Murshid says, “The whole striving of the mystic is to raise his consciousness as high as possible. The best means of raising the consciousness is by the God-ideal.” “And when man in his spiritual evolution” reaches the stage where the angelic quality manifests, then he begins to show innocence, simplicity, love for all, sympathy, and God-consciousness. The angelic quality manifests in the spiritual man when he has withdrawn himself from the world, when he has centered his mind on the cosmos, and when his consciousness is no longer an individual consciousness. By that time he has become God-conscious.” The terrorist that the aspirant faces at this stage of his journey is wicked cleverness. Murshid says that cleverness will make man strive and strive but it will not allow him to reach. “ It is the stream of love, which leads towards God.” The great Sufi poet Saadi said, “My cleverness, very often thou provest to be my worst enemy.” This is so because worldly cleverness tends to undermine faith and trust, the two vital supporters of the divine army. Cleverness is the mark of selfishness whereas innocence is the ornament of spirituality. Each time simplicity wins a goal, our desire-body is cut down and peace is established in place of discord. It is said, Sages never contrive greatness, that is why they can become so great.
Lao Tzu said, “If you try to be very clever, if you try to be very useful, you will be used. If you try to be very practical, somewhere or the other you will be harnessed, because the world cannot leave the practical man alone. Drop all these ideas. If you want to be a poem, an ecstasy then forget about utility. Just remain true to yourself.”
Our next spiritual hero is sincerity which is an unmatched accomplishment. Sincerity gives us an edge over the hostile forces by lending us the boon of accelerated progress. The terrorist attack feared by this brave soldier is that of insincerity and falsehood. Falsehood attacks by placing the burden of lies on the back of the aspirant making him lag and preventing his advancement.
Purity is our force of receptivity and expansion. When the heart is pure it expands to an infinite breadth allowing the nectars of peace, bliss and light to be poured into its vessel. The heart then becomes the ocean that allows our humanity to sail to the shores of divinity. Sailing in this ocean we face the terror of the pirates of impurity characterized by bitterness, ill-will, wrath, anger and jealousy. If we keep expanding by the strength of our receptivity and openness, the sheer magnitude of the ocean of generosity would drown the pirates of impurity, rendering us safe from their vile attacks. One must remember that however one accepts the world that is how it becomes. We create the world through our acceptance and so it is nothing but an extension of our vision.
Aspiration is what gives us the impetus to reach farther and farther and rise higher and higher. It releases us from the fetters of ignorance, which is the chief terrorist against this spiritual guerilla. Aspiration informs us of the presence of a higher reality within ourselves which we can ultimately claim as our own. Ignorance wants to keep us terrorized by the idea of perpetual inadequacy, limitation and mortality.
Dedication helps us expand our own reality-existence. Murshid says, “The Sufi considers devotion of the heart the best thing to cultivate for spiritual realization. Jesus Christ did not say, ‘God is the intellect’. He said, ‘God is love’. If, therefore, there is a piece of God that can be found anywhere, it is not in any church on the earth, nor in Heaven above; it is in the heart of each person.” “The mystic’s conception of the deity is not only of a king or a judge or a creator. The mystical conception of God is the Beloved, the only Beloved there is. This devotion wakens the mystic to the Beloved, the only Beloved there is and to whom all love is due.” The terrorists that lie in wait to destroy dedication are the passions of the lower self that delude the human being into falling in love with false idols. Dedication is the hero that strikes the heads of all these idols and consecrates the human self to its only true ideal, the Divine-Ideal.
Finally surrender is what seals the victory of the divine army after routing the enemy of stubborn defiance. This surrender is the conscious awareness of our highest reality, the surrender of the finite in us to the infinite in us. It must not be considered as a surrender of a slave to a master. The dark, impure and obscure personal existence surrenders to the illumined, pure and perfect existence. When this happens that is when the mystic’s war against terror is complete and the divine army hoists the flag of spiritual victory on the terra firma of our physical existence.
We all speak of nuclear disarmament but what if I tell you that there is a bomb stronger than the nuclear one and it is ticking away menacingly every second, and that is the bomb of human depravity. When a human being stoops to the lowest rung of his nature, he becomes more dangerous than the most dangerous animal and when his being gets infected by the virus of selfish contumacy then he is a greater detonating device than any other known. The Mystic Path invites you to talk about disarming humanity of this human bomb for it is only through tackling it that we can defuse all other terrorist devices.
O Thou, Who art the Perfection of Love, Harmony, and Beauty,
The Lord of heaven and earth,
Open our hearts, that we may hear Thy Voice,
which constantly cometh from within. Disclose to us Thy Divine Light, which is hidden in our souls,
that we may know and understand life better. Most Merciful and Compassionate God, give us Thy great Goodness;
Teach us Thy loving Forgiveness;
Raise us above the distinctions and differences which divide men;
Send us the Peace of Thy Divine Spirit, And unite us all in Thy Perfect Being.