by Sheik Muzaffer Ozak Al-Jerrahi
To advance along the ascending way, one enters solitude and seclusion – not necessarily in a literal sense, but even while remaining within the context of family and social responsibility. These communal responsibilities are the sacred temple of human existence. However, solitude alone will not be sufficiënt.
One must remain oriented toward the mystic east, the direction of prayer. One must learn to gaze at the perpetual dawn of Divine Wisdom. This implies full participation in the science of prayer, as expressed within an authentic sacred tradition.
After entering that “solitary room facing east”, which is inwardness and simplicity of mind and heart, one can contemplate Divine Beauty manifest through the transparent creation – the universe in its pristine nature, untouched by conventional conceptuality but illumined instead by prophetic revelation.
Gradually, one’s being becomes more peaceful, harmonious, integrated. Divine Light begins to manifest directly.
Within this ineffable brightness, the conventional structures of society and our own habitual forms of perception are no longer visible. Within this dimension of sheer radiance, both waking visions and mystical dreams occur.
These subtle experiences are indications of progress along the evolutionary way, the steep path spoken of by Allah Most High in His Holy Quran. They can be accurately interpreted by a sheikh, or spiritual guide, who has received empowerment from a previous guide in the unbroken lineage of the Prophet Muhammad to carry on this sacred task of dream interpretation. The combined inspiration and intention of disciple and guide, murid and murshid, sparks the alchemical process which is called inward birthgiving.
The heart becomes unaccountably pregnant and a totally unexpected spiritual state is delivered, or brought into being, like a child of light.
The angelic emissary in this Quranic passage represents the sheikh, who is essentially none other than Divine Light, manifesting through a human form which is perfected and made subtly beautiful by spiritual awakening or enlightenment. The dervish, represented in this passage by the blessed Virgin, is not attracted to the sheikh as a separate personality, but always turns directly towards Allah, the sole Source of Light and Beauty.
In Islamic spirituality, one longs not for union with a human form but with the formless Divine Reality. The sheikh is simply servant, instrument and vessel of this Reality. The virginity of the dervish is his or her turning constantly and exclusively to the Suprème and Only Reality for teaching and protection. This condition of spiritual virginity makes possible the direct impregnation of the heart by Divine Light, shining through the figure of the sheikh.
After this immaculate conception, this pregnancy of the heart to which ancient Syrian Christian Saints also refer, the dervish withdraws to the secret oasis of inwardness. There, he or she performs the contemplative exercises suggested by the sheikh to accelerate the growth of the holy child within the heart’s womb. The period of gestation is not regular, as in biological childbirth.
The new spiritual state comes forth from the heart in a period of days, hours or even minutes, as in this Quranic passage. Or the process may take many years.
The trunk of the palm tree represents the constant affirmation of Divine Unity, la ilaha ilallah, which is both place and mode of delivery. The astonishment and even bewilderment generated by this birthgiving are so intense, its implications for one’s life so radical, that the habitual self cries out in despair.
This cry is natural and human. No person can receive the prophetic word casually or complacently. But the newborn spiritual understanding speaks miraculously and calms the mind and heart of the awakened dervish.
The spring of fresh water and the dates represent the Divine Gifts of clarity and tenderness which are now abundantly and readily available to the dervish, who is consciously sustained and refreshed solely by Allah Most High.
The vow of silence is enjoined because no stranger, or non-initiate, can understand this miraculous birth and might disturb the serenity of heart necessary during the initial period of adjustment.
At the next stage, the dervish becomes strong enough spiritually to return with this new evolutionary state, this child of light, into the conventional human family.
The reaction of the mundane world to the unveiling of profound spirituality is always abrasive, even when it wishes to be sympathetic and receptive.
This spontaneous childbirth, or enlightenment, is too much of a challenge to its accepted norms. The mystic way is an ineffable love affair which insults the egocentric world by transcending it.
The deep serenity of realization, or mystic union, has now dawned in the dervish heart, so the return to the world of separation and fragmentation can proceed safely. This confrontation with obtuseness and refusal to understand is inevitable and necessary. Why?
Because the prophetic word always enters into the mainstream of culture, never remaining in elite or
ascetic isolation but always engaging in acts of spiritual responsibility for all the people.
The ego no longer speaks to the world but asks the newborn child to speak. This reliance on the miraculous voice of the newly unveiled spiritual state further intensifies the world’s negative reaction. The conventional parental voice of society cries out: “Be serious. Be rational. Be practical.”
But the sweetness and clarity of the new spiritual state silences and astonishes those persons who can actually hear the words of this luminous infant, inspiring them and elevating their understanding.
Note: Rumi and the Communion of the Saints
A lecture by Reza Shah-Kazemi If we take seriously what Rumi says about the Mathnawi in his own introduction to this epic poem, we will see that Rumi is claiming to be akin to the empty flute which he describes so evocatively in the opening lines of the poem. Rumi can be seen as a hollow instrument through which the spirit of divine inspiration produced the celestial melody which the Mathnawi is. It is this emptiness of egotism, or this complete self-effacement, which, among other things, characterises the saints, the ‘friends’ of God. In this lecture, an attempt will be made to understand Rumi’s claim that ‘the oneness of the saints is indeed delightful’. His description of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin will be the point of departure for this exploration of the notion of the essential unity of the saints in the mystical context of Sufi Islam.
The new spiritual state, or child of light, now manifests a further degree of maturity, declaring itself humbly yet confidently as the prophetic word.
This word is the very life of any civilization. This word, or light of guidance, is a blessed current that flows unpolluted beneath the chaotic surface of history, a current that eventually overcomes every obstacle to its manifestation. This is the flow of perpetual prayer, unceasing awareness of the Ultimate and Ever Present Source of every universe.
The nature of the mature state of constant Divine Remembrance is not to seek solitude but to serve, bringing the entire spectrum of tender assistance to human beings, from physical comforts to spiritual illumination. The awakened dervish becomes “a channel of Divine Love for all future generations.”
The essential characteristic of this child of light, which has now fully evolved, is peace – the peace which fully embodies Divine Unity. The prophetic word now speaks forcefully through the dervish who has become a sheikh, a guide for persons who are sincerely seeking the Way of Unity. Allah has once more manifested clearly to humanity by “channeling His Word of Love through a living person.”
The blessed Virgin Mary and the fruit of her womb are the icon of true humanity. The Holy Quran calls our fully awakened humanity the Crown of Creation. To be an eternal human soul in conscious union with its Lord is a higher calling than to be an angel circling the Divine Throne.
O dervish, welcome to the Garden of Essence.
Feast of Annunciation, 1991