Prayer for the XXI century – Download here
The Prayer is an excellent act, but its spirit and meaning are more excellent than its form, even as the human spirit is more excellent and more enduring than the form. For the human form does not abide forever, but the spirit does. In the same way, the form of The Prayer does not remain,but its meaning and spirit do.
- THE QUTB
Qutb, means ‘axis’, ‘pivot’ or ‘pole, Qutb can refer to celestial movements and used as an astronomical term or a spiritual symbol. In Sufism, a Qutb is the perfect human being, al-Insān al-Kāmil (The Universal Man), who leads the saintly hierarchy. The Qutb is the Sufi spiritual leader that has a divine connection with God and passes knowledge on which makes him central to, or the axis of, Sufism, but he is unknown to the world. There are five Qutbs per era and they are infallible and trusted spiritual leaders. They are only revealed to a select group of mystics because there is a “human need for direct knowledge of God”.
According to the Institute of Ismaili Studies, “In mystical literature, such as the writings of al–Tirmidhi, Abd al–Razzaq and Ibn Arabi (d. 1240), [Qutb] refers to the most perfect human being who is thought to be the universal leader of all saints, to mediate between the divine and the human and whose presence is deemed necessary for the existence of the world.”
There are two different conceptions of the Qutb in Sufism: temporal Qutb and cosmic Qutb. The temporal and cosmic qutb are connected which guarantees that God is present in the world at all times. The temporal qutb is known as “the helper” or al-ghawth and is located in a person on Earth. The cosmic qutb is manifested in the temporal qutb as a virtue which can be traced back to al-Hallaj. The temporal qutb is the spiritual leader for the earth-bound saints. It is said that all beings – secret, animate, and inanimate – must give the qutb their pledge which gives him great authority. The only beings exempt from this are al-afrād, which belong to the angels; the djinn, who are under the jurisdiction of Khidr; and those who belong to the tenth stratum of ridjālal-ghayb.
Due to the nature of the Qutb, the location where he resides, whether temporal or cosmic, is questionable. It is thought by most that the Qutb is corporeally or spiritually present in Mecca at the Ka’ba, which is referred to as his maqām
The cosmic Qutb is the Axis of the Universe in a higher dimension from which originates the power (ultimately from Allah) of the temporal Qutb
The cosmic hierarchy of the Qutb
The cosmic hierarchy is the way that the spiritual power is ensured to exist through the cosmos. Two descriptions of the hierarchy come from notable Sufis. The first is Ali Hujwiri’s divine court. There are three hundred akhyār (“excellent ones”), forty abdāl (“substitutes”), seven abrār (“piously devoted ones”), four awtād (“pillars”) three nuqabā (“leaders”) and one qutb.
The second version is Ibn Arabī’s which has a different, more exclusive structure. There are eight nujabā (“nobles”), twelve nuqabā, seven abdāl, four awtād, two a’immah (“guides”), and the qutb.
Sufis define Qutb as a conjoining of the magnetic axis of the cosmos and the spiritual axis of human consciousness. When a renewer of the Way is needed, the Qutb wisdom-field can appear as a person. Working deeply in the river of human events, the Qutb is sometimes hidden, sometimes not, but always known to the community of saints. As a his-torical figure, the Qutb may parallel the Avatars of Vedic tradition.
Both taught with an oceanic tide of words: Rumi produced a vast body of poetry; Bawa was a living Thousand and One Nights. There were talks and stories, and stories within stories, songs, accounts of mystic joumeys, and an endless supply of droll folktales. Lots of ego-disabling laughter kept things loose. But this was abundance with an edge: when the sluice gates were open and pouring, the sudden realization would come that you were trying to catch a torrent from the Other Side in a mental thimble! Rumi said it: The way of love is not a subtle argument. The door there is devastation.
Who is Sultan ul Awliya?
Muhammadan Reality and Naqshbandi Secrets
Qutbanniyya – Who are Qutubs?
By Mawlana Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani
How to Become a Qutub
To accomplish these three standards of conduct is to reach the level of Qutbanniyya, to become a Qutub.
The scholars are the inheritors of the prophets.
عُلَمَاءِ وَرِثَةُ الْأَنْبِيَاء
“Al ‘Ulama e warithatul anbiya.”
“The scholars are the inheritors of the prophets.”
This does not refer to those scholars who gained their knowledge from books, but rather those Aqtab to whom Allah opened these six powers in their hearts, and the knowledge of their seven personal names. Read more Muhammadan Reality and Naqshbandi Secrets
The Inspirator for this website is Sheikh Nazim Al-Haqqani:
With this grant of the Attribute of Al Haqq or the ‘Truth’, Moulana Sheikh Nazim was also entrusted with the task to complete the Haqq or the ‘Truth’ in the hearts of those to whom the Light of Muhammad ur Rasoolullah has still not reached.
The Qutb’s work is to expose a patch of yielding soil where a well might be dug. Ours is to become a kind of’ Iife that sips only from its wisdom-water.
You are water we are plants.
You are fullness, we ‘re empty.
You speak. We are the sound of your different voices.
You ‘re the search,
Why aren’t we found?
When we resisted, preferring the solid predictability of our old inertial intelligence, his teaching could turn as paradoxical as a Zen koan. The sudden clap of thunder and the room was full of heads flying off shoulders. We needed new heads, ones that could hold both a night sky and brilliant daylight in their sight at once. The Qutb confuses the mind to strengthen the soul.
The metaphysical environment into which The Prayer was introduced was outside the tangled accretions of history. It was a place where Islam didn’t mean a religion or culture or even a belief system, but a bright burning state with a quicksilver universality too elusive and grand for anyone’s ownership.
“Everything is Islam. Islam is the spotless purity of the heart, it is a vast ocean. If God’s teaching is there, it is Islam. To act out the qualities of truth and embrace with true love, that is Islam. The tired hearts, the hurt ones, to embrace them with love, and give them the milk of love, embrace them face-to-face, heart-to-heart, in unity, that is Islam.
Only much later did we learn that Bawa was only repeating how the words Islam and Muslim first fell from the lips of the holy Prophet. Fresh from mystical dimensions, they meant “man’s self-surrender to God” and “one who surrendered himself to God,” apparently without limiting their compass to any specific community.
In the third sura, or passage, of the Quran, for instance, Abraham is spoken of as having “surrendered himself unto God” (kana muslim), and later the disciples of Jesus say, “Bear thou witness that we have surrendered ourselves unto God” (bi-anna muslim).
Bawa Muhaiyaddeen would not claim spotless purity for himself, only that God alone knows our hearts. And Bawa did not like the way labels create divisions today. To indicate “what” he was, he would relate the many years he had traveled the world mastering the other religions, explaining that he had now become a student of Islam because he understood that it was the final revelation of a great cycle of revelations.
When a child asked him one day what to say when asked what religion she was, Bawa gave another hint of how his community might understand itself:
You are a Christian because you believe in Jesus, and you are a Jew because you believe in all the prophets including Moses. You are a Muslim because you believe in Muhammad as a prophet, and you are a Sufi because you believe in the universal teaching of God’s r love. You are really none of those, but you are all of those because you believe in God. And once you believe in God, there is no religion. Once you divide yourself off with religions, you are separated from your fellowman.
From a twelfth-century illumination showing Muslims, Christians, and Jews sitting in the lap of Abraham.
- Prayer for our times
The Prayer is an excellent act, but its spirit and meaning are more excellent than its form, even as the human spirit is more excellent and more enduring than the form. For the human form does not abide forever, but the spirit does. In the same way, the form of The Prayer does not remain,but its meaning and spirit do.
From the book Illuminated Prayer Coleman Barks/Michael Green
You are a Christian because you believe in Jesus, and you are a Jew because you believe in all the prophets including Moses. You are a Muslim because you believe in Muhammad as a prophet, and you are a Sufi because you believe in the universal teaching of God’s love. You are really none of those, but you are all of those because you believe in God. And once you believe in God, there is no religion. Once you divide yourself off with religions, you are separated from your fellowman.
What is it that we really love? What is the stronger pull? Behavioral scientists believe that immediately after birth, we enjoy a happy blurring of the distinction between “self” and “non-self,” but that before too long in our life-trajectory, we pull our-selves free of such oceanic unity and we individuate.
It’s a fascinating new experience: Me! Years go by, life experience accumulates. We slowly discover that our self-entity exists within an atmosphere of aloneness and separation. Our first instinct is to break out of the isolation with a lot of grasping and pos-sessing—friends, lovers, food, cars, money, land, whatever. We try to dull the ache with entertainment, understand it with philosophy, or accept it in therapy. No matter. Nothing quite delivers the abiding wholeness we sense is really the way we ought to be.
The human shape is a ghost made of distraction and pain. Sometimes pure light, sometimes cruel, trying wildly to open,this image tightly held within itself.
“The mystics are gathering in the street. Come out!”
“Leave me alone. I’m sick.”
“I don’t care if you’re dead! Jesus is here, and he wants to resurrect somebody!”
An intuition is awakened within us of the original human experience, of a deep, effortless unity, not with things, but with the ocean of pure love-being within which they exist. A longing and a thirst…
The thirst in our souls is the attraction put out by water itself:
We belong to it, and it to us.
…and a new attraction is felt, a tidal pull toward something deep and unknown. Something shifts inside. Rumi says:
be like a fish on a beach moving toward wave-sound.
The Prayer and the teachings here are tools to nourish and strengthen this pull, this longing to return to the source…
We can’t help being thirsty moving toward the voice of water.
Milk-drinkers draw close to the mother, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, shamans, everyone hears the intelligent sound and moves, with thirst, to meet it.
These teachings are part of an ancient Way of returning. They go far back before recorded history. The Way is not “religion,” it is the root from which all religions grow.
Signs of this Way can be found everywhere, among all peoples. The Way exists to serve, and chameleon-like, it takes much of its external coloration from whatever culture or religion it finds itself in.
In the world of mystic Islam, the ones who embrace and transmit this way of returning, of knowing themselves, are often called Sufis.
Their “I” is not what most think of as “I.”
I am cloud and rain being released, and then the meadow as it soaks it in.
I wash the grains of mortality from the cloth around a dervish.
I am the rose of eternity, not made of water or fire or the wandering wind, or even earth. I play with those.
a light within his light. If you see me, be careful.
Tell no one what you’ve seen.
The “I” that so many have defended to their dying breath might be likened to a slightly unstable computer operating system. It’s got wonderful features, but it still crashes and needs regular upgrades. Ultimately it is nothing more than a swarm of charged particles, or rather, it’s only the pattern of charges, completely ephemeral, subject at any moment to error messages, erasure, viruses, random power surges . . . even unfixable crashes. The Sufi’s response to such a marginal exitence is simple: abandon the assumption that this program is who we really are. Marvelous things can now happen. We might identify with wider horizons—like the hard drive, or the processor. Or the network, the World Wide Web, the wide world, or finally, the great sea of being supporting everything.
This opening up of identity is the great work, and no effort in it is ever wasted. Those who find their way to the shore of this sea are ennobled and transformed. Those diving in discover they are no different from the sea. They were God’s secret. Now God is their secret
Dissolver of sugar, dissolve me, if this is the time.
Do it gently with a touch of hand, or a look. Every morning I wait at dawn. That’s when it happened before.
Or do it suddenly like an execution. How else can I get ready for death?
You breathe without a body like a spark. You grieve, and I begin to feel lighter. You keep me away with your arm, but the keeping away is pulling me in.
Where do we begin? The arts of starting out, of soul-turning, of returning to the vast bright waters of universal consciousness are all found in the realm of prayer.
A wicker basket sank in the Ocean, saw itself full of seawater,
decided it could live independently. Left the ocean, not a drop stayed in it.
But the ocean took it back
For God’s sake, stay near the sea! Walk the beach.
Your face is pale.
I am sinking in the ocean of this subject.
A man in prison receives a prayer rug from a friend. What he had wanted, of course, was a file or a crow-bar or a key! But he began using the rug, doing the Five-Times Prayer before dawn, at noon, midafternoon, after sun-set, and before sleep. Bowing, sitting up, bowing again, he notices an odd pattern in the weave of the rug at the point where his head touches. He studies and meditates on that pattern, gradually discovering that it is a diagram of the lock that confines him to his cell and how it works. He’s able to escape.
Anything you do every day
into the deepest spiritual place,
which is freedom.
What nine months does for the embryo
Forty early mornings will do for your growing awareness.
There is no single word in English that conveys the scope of the Arabic word Salat. “Prayer,” “blessings,” “supplication,” and “grace” are implied, but all fail to convey the Salat’s marvelous integration of devotional heart-surrender ‘with physical motion.
In Salat, our entire being is engaged in a single luminous event.
The Salat that we practice begins with the Miraj, the mystic Night Journey of . the noble prophet Muhammad. Called. from his meditation into superconsciousness, he ascends through the heavens and beyond to mingle and merge with the Lord and Creator, light upon Light.
Returning, he brings back the earthly forms of these celestials adorations.
The prayer is gifted not to one tribe or to one race or one religion but to all humanity, and we present it here as such, a treasure for everyone.
Moving with the Prayer as response to inner need draws one into the precious community of mystic lovers everywhere.
At the Call says the Book of Revelation,
leave your trading and hasten unto remembrance.
The Prayer lends a new life to the day, binding it into the rhythm of a sacred circle. Like a waterwheel that ceaselessly catches water out of a stream and spills it into a garden, The Prayer lifts us up again and again out of our preoccupations and sets us into a sacred time. The Prayer empowers us to put aside the ten thousand cares and realign to the unity and blessedness intrinsic to all things.
Be courageous and discipline yourself.
Work. Keep digging your well.
Don’t think about getting off from work.
Water is there somewhere.
Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that
is a ring on the door.
Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who’s there.
The Prayer is a deep psycho-logical force field to help us over-come our mole-like resistances to the light. The Prayer is an unfolding series of archetypal motions and gestures that appear in endless variation throughout all the devotional practices of the human family.
Salat is a remarkably compact and focused exercise. It gently returns our lives to “that which we really love” five times every day, and grounds that returning in the movements and knowledge of body-wisdom.
The body itself is a screen to shield and partially reveal the light that’s blazing inside your presence.
Following celestial law, the earth each day performs a complete turning. The light moves through five stages as the sun dawns, climbs to its zenith, descends downward in the slanting rays of aftemoon, sets in glowing colors, and disappears into darkness. For the Sufi, this cycle is a mirror of the human life span: our dawing into the world, our growth, maturation, decline, and death. In these five stages, the soul makes its journey around another sun that never rises or sets.
The Prayer invites us to awaken from the superficial self at these moments of the day. By aligning our devotional work with these natural times of power we start to move with the rhythms of God’s creation in a new way, attuned to the mystical correspondences between outer and inner and to the seasons of life.
Think of how PHENOMENA come trooping
out of the Desert of Non-existence
into this materiality.
Morning and night,
they arrive in a long line and take over
from each other, “It’s my turn now. Get out!”
A son comes of age, and the father packs up. This place of phenomena is a wide exchange of highways, with everything going all sorts of different ways.
We seem to be sitting still, but we’re actually moving, and the Fantasies of Phenomena are sliding through us like ideas through curtains.
- MAY THIS INTENTION BE FULFILLED
The Five Times of Prayer are linked with the five elemental forces of Earth, Fire, Water, Air, and Ether.
Note: Man’s Nature
When God breathed His Spirit into Adam, Ibn ‘Arabi says, the profusion of the Breath generated the quadrature of his nature through the four humours: yellow bile, black bile, blood, and phlegm. These four natures of the human biological structure derive from the four principal elements (arkin): Fire, Earth, Air, Water. The yellow bile came from Fire, the black bile from Earth, blood from Air, and phlegm from Water. In addition, God provided man with four natural forces—attractive, fixative, digestive, and repulsive—to enable the functioning of these natures. This quaternary pattern reflects the divine creative quadrature—Life, Knowledge, Will, and Power—the model for all created quadratures.
According to Ibn ‘Arabi, this is the primary “struc-ture” of being: “God established being upon quadrature and made it for himself as a house standing upon four arkan, for he is the first, the last, the outward, and the inward.”
These four attributes formed the primary quadrature that necessitated the establishment of the “house” of being upon four corner pillars, within the structure of which the world of spirits and the world of bodies were manifested. From the world of divinity this structure prompted the creative attributes of Knowledge, Will, Power, and Utterance, which generated the world of spirits, which is beyond nature, as well as the natural world. The manifestation of the natural quadrature of heat, cold, moistness, and dryness followed and was employed in the generation of the world of bodies, dense and subtle. Before forming the bodies, however, God laid out the spiritual world of “writing” (tadwïn) and “inscription” (tastïr) that produced the original blueprint, al-Ghazâlï’s exemplar. This included the quadrature of the Intellect, the Soul, Nature, and Matter, through the agency of which the four elements (arkân) of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth were generated. It is in this divine and cosmic hierarchy that the four humors of the animal body and the four functioning forces were eventually created.
As a whole constituted from the four natures, man reflects the primary divine quadrature of the first and the last, the outward and the inward in different ways.
The Ether is the fifth element holding all together:
With regard to God, he is the inward; with regard to the world, he is the outward; with regard to God’s intention (al-qasd) in the creation, he is the first; and with regard to his existential formation (al-nash‘), he is the last. Thus man is first in intention, last in existence, outward in form, and inward in spirit. Holistically, “he is to the world as the point is to the circumference.”
These five forces fit within a grand living cosmology, and to get inside it we must slip the mechanistic world outlook that imprisons the soul. We must contemplate what the Sufi called the Beginningless Beginning, a dimension that is not so much before time as outside time, and so is also now. This is a deep-water teaching of the Qutb. It is not ordinary information, and we must enter it as a drifting out to sea, as a glimpse through blue green waters at ancient truth-currents no tongue can describe. It is an account told by one who never lies, who can never find words to hold its ineffable truth.
Out of the profound silence of the Beginningless beginning a Divine Longing arises:
I was a Hidden Treasure and I desired to be known.
In response to this Original Intention, a great light upwells from within the Longing, and God beholds it as the beautiful radiance of His own face. This is the Nur Muhammad, pure consciousness aware of itself:
The moment Allah gazes upon this light, all the mysteries that had lain dormant burst from within Him as rays of sparkling luminosity. These are the souls of all creation, and they settle on the primordial elements: earth, fire, water, air, and ether, permeating them with living consciousness.
But by nature these five forces are inimical to each other: water drowning fire, fire scorching earth, and so with the rest. Then Allah places before them the Nur, shining with the radiance of the full moon, resonating with the Great Truth: THERE IS NO COHERENCE, NO MEANING, NO OTHER CENTER BUT GOD. The elements bow in reverence and humility. Forsaking pride of otherness, they are fused into a whole by the compelling beauty and energy of the Nur. Chaos becomes Cosmos.
The archetypal relationship between creation and Creator is established, a ceaseless flow of adoration and praise. In this field, all things flower. This is called Awwal, the Sphere of the Souls.
O God! You are the infinite open ray of light.
You alone are God, transcending everything,
You are all that Adam must become.
You are the tiny seed and the great universe.
You are the refuge, You are the path.
You are the handhold, You are the strength.
You are formlessness, You are form.
You are the bud and the fully opened flower.
You are the jeweled light within the eyes.
A glimpsethrough blue Green waters at ancient truth-currents no tongue can describe.
From Awwal, our souls descend from pure adoration into the dense realm of forgetfulness- our world- and become buried in form of the body,the “shadow of God’s love.” Here the story of the Hidden Treasure unfolds once more. Just as the Nur ( pure Light) emerged from within God, so the Nur must also emerge from concealment within the human heart.
When the soul first put on the body’s shirt,
the ocean lifted up all its gifts.
When love first tasted the lips
of being human, it started singing.
We’re from a country beyond this universe, yet our best guess is
we’re made of earth and ashes.
We go knocking on strangers’ doors to find out who we are.
We search this world for the great untying
of what was wed to us with birth
and gets undone at dying.
Eventually, when our longing grows deep enough, it brings us into the presence of a clarifying intelligence whose task it is to recover the hidden treasure, the “deep truth within a lie.” This is our innate guide, the Qutb. Our scattered thinking and unfulfilled desires resist, but the nature of the Guide is irresistible love.
Why not become fresh from the gentleness of the heart-spring?
Why not laugh like a rose?
Why not spread perfume?
In the supremely human act of submitting to the Guide, the work of release begins. As the separative dynamic of our elemental impulses is understood, the need to be a unified Self becomes an obligation spreading through our life. Innate wisdom begins to cleanse the heart of impurities so that the radiant brilliance of the Nur Muhammad may shine forth. In the presence of this higher organizing principle of light, the elements become a creative matrix of life.
In the end, the hidden treasure of the Nur is finally known on earth as it is in heaven. The veils dividing Creator and creation, seer and seen, fall away.
Rabī’ al-Awwal is the third month in the Islamic calendar. The name Rabī‘ al-awwal means “the first [month] or beginning of spring“, referring to its position in the pre-Islamic Arabian calendar. During this month, many Muslims celebrate Mawlid – the birthday of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. Although the exact date is unknown
The word “Rabi” means “spring” and Al-awwal means “the first” in Arabic language, so “Rabi’ al-awwal” means “The first spring” in Arabic language. The name seems to have to do with the celebration events in the month as “spring” is the end to winter (symbol of sadness) and consequently the start of happiness. The Arabic calendar being lunar calendar, the month is naturally rotating over years and Rabī‘ al-awwal can be in spring or any other season every now and then, so the meaning can not be related to the actual season. See also Time of Spring in Sufism, Traditions and Folklores
- THE REAL WORK OF THE FIVE TIMES
Conflict among the five elements obscures the unifying impulse of love. Each element rules certain mental and emotional energies and, according to the teachings of the Qutb, exerts its greatest negative influence during a particular time of day. At these times The Prayer is most effective in transforming these elemental forces.
- DAWN PRAYER
Dawn Prayer comes in the sacred hour before sun-rise when a thread of light appears on the horizon. The angelic dimension moves into intimate contact with the ordinary world now, and anyone alert senses a remarkably sweet silence in the airwaves: Breezes stir, birds wake into song, and pilgrims arise. Keeping this prayer loosens the earthy torpor that lies heavily upon us at this hour. Earth is the realm of attachments to form: our own bodies, our possessions, our blood ties and lusts. Earth energies are bom at the base of the spine. If they remain there, we stay fascinated with the things of the world, fearful of change and loss. Fajr releases these grasping earth obsessions into the flowing generosity of dawn.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to telt you.
Don ’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don ’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don ’t go back to sleep.
- Noon Prayer (called Zuhr)
Noon Prayer comes just after the sun has reached its greatest height in the sky. Fiery power is at its peak, stimulating abundant movement, growth, creativity, and forgetfulness. Human beings are engaged in what Rumi calls desire-singing and rage-ranting, the elaborate language of personality. Elemental fire is centered in the belly and manifests as anger, arrogance, and impatience. Persistent turning to inwardness at this time can transform these wild, surging energies into a passionate search for God. Our spiritual fire is fearlessly intent on annihilating the separate “I” and burning up resistances. You are burning up your soul / to keep the body delighted, says Rumi, but you don’t know what you are doing./ I am another kind of fire.
A candle is made to become entirely flame.
In that annihilating moment it has no shadow.
It is nothing but a tongue of light describing a refuge.
Look at this
just-finishing candle stub as someone who is finally safe from virtue and vice,
The pride and the shame we claim from those.
- Afternoun Prayer (called Asr)
Afternoon Prayer comes when the sun has dropped halfway to the horizon and the length of an object’s shadow is twice its height. Every day mirrors the sweep of a lifetime; lengthening shadows now signal the midlife time of crisis. An easy flow into swirling waters of life beckons and each must consciously choose to persevere on the Way of union.
The time of lengthening shadows is the domain of the watery element. Its energies flood our emotional body as turbulent affairs of the heart. On a more subtle level water fascinates us with a vaporous pantheon of spirit guides and spiritual fantasies. The heart is alternately buffeted, perplexed, or seduced by tides of feeling. Desire and fantasy intermingle with genuine soul-longing. Prayer at this time calms this watery confusion. The Qutb says: To complete Asr, we must understand the distinction between becoming one with God, or becoming one with the world.
“A secret is hidden in the rhythms of music. If I revealed it, it would upset the world.” One afternoon a musician was playing the violin and Rumi was listening with great concentration. A friend entered and said, “Stop this. They are announcing the Afternoon Prayer.” “No,” said Rumi, “this is also the Afternoon Prayer. Both talk to God.”
- Evening Prayer (called Maghreb)
Prayer comes after the sun has disappeared over the horizon and the clouds have lost their redness . The business of the day is completed, and quiet returns to the world. As mirrored in the span of a lifetime, this the age of ripened maturity, when the strength of the body is wanning, and darkness draws closer. Yet the mind is still restless and unhumbled. The element air governs mentation,cerebration and unpredictable thought.
Turning to prayer at this time grounds us in what is real and unchanging, and cuts our elemental attachements to mental airiness.
The thoughts and theories of the day are released into proper perspective, along with the illusion of human will. Of the sunset prayer, Qutb Muhaiyaddeen says, it is the time when the darkness of the world is dispelled by wisdom.
A chunk of dirt thrown into the air breaks into pieces.
If you don’t try to fly,
and so break yourself apart,
you will be broken open by death,
when it’s too late for all you could become.
leaves get yellow. The tree puts out fresh roots
and makes them green
Why are you so content with a love
that turns you yellow
- Night Prayer ( called Isha)
Night Prayer comes about an hour after sunset, when stars are bright and the deep of night has setteld over the earth. In the life cycle, night prayer comes at the time of death, the time of Jesus, the soul of man.
This is when the body is laid in the earth and the soul continues its journey.
Solidity falls away, but the spacious quality of ether grows, hypnotizing us with twinkling illusion.
Turning to prayer at Isha erodes this elemental fascination with etheric phenomena, inclines us once more toward the other direction, where we are neither attracted nor repelled, where the seer and the seen become one, and God alone is real.
The Sufi’s goal is to master the last prayer, the night prayer, before the body dies, and so to die before death.
Prayer goes deep at night.
Images dissolve. There’s only God, and
silence, kindness, and grace.
- The Call
Forget your life. Say
God is Great.
You think you know what time it is . . .
It’s time to pray.
You’ve created so many little idols,
Don’t knock on any random door,
like a beggar. Reach your long hand out
to another door, beyond
where you go on the street.
The street where everyone says
How are you?
and no one says
How aren’t you?
One of the most memorable sounds in devotional community is the Call to Prayer. It is said the Call is not merely an announcement that the time of prayer has arrived, it’s an invitation God extends to the family of man through their own voice. Give the Call aloud to cleanse the consciousness-field. The hands are cupped behind the ears, a strangely natural position that blocks distractions and focuses attention.
The Call penetrates unseen worlds, surnmoning not only the faithful, but angelic beings from other dimensions.
Sufis are not particularly interested in history, and this witnessing is more than the acknowledgment of a noble figure who left footprints in desert sand 1,400 years ago. It embraces a radiant light-guide that is now and ever shall be, the living light of the Nur Muhammad. Bawa was once asked, “What is the relationship between God, Muhammad, and myself?” He replied, Imagine yourself as an orange. Muhammad is the juice, God is the taste.
We have heard the call and begin the turning of our
attention away from surface matters.
An orchard in fall, fruit trees full and the vines plump.
A man sits there with his head on his knee, eyes closed.
His friend says,
“Why stay sunk in mystical meditation
when the world is like this?
Such visible grace.”
He replies, “That outer is
an elaboration of this inner. I prefer the origin.”
Natural beauty is a tree limb
reflected in the water of a creek, quivering there, not there.
that moves in the soul is more real.
We turn toward what the early Christians called Philokalia, or “the beautiful-good,” what a Navajo sings of in his Blessingway, Beauty above me, beauty below me, beauty before me, beauty behind me.
- The Ablutions
To prepare ourselves to walk into spiritual beauty, we perform ablutions, the rite of purification, or wudu. We join with all the great traditions in honoring the power of water to renew the spirit while washing away the grime of the world.
We begin by setting our intention: a simple, essential sentiment springing from the heart will focus spiritual life into the purifications that follow. Worshipers dedicate their ablutions with the Bismillah.
The Ablutions fall into an easy natural sequence. Each action is done three times, with an appropriate blessing.
- Wash the hands to the wrists:
May these hands be instruments of peace.
- Then cup a handful of water to the lips with the right hand, rinsing the mouth three times:
May this mouth speak only the pleasing words, the healing words, the truthful words.
- Then lightly snuff water into the nose three times, which has a remarkably brightening effect on the senses:
May I long for the sweet fragrance of sanctity.
- Then wash the whole face and eyes:
May this face shine with the light of compassion. May these eyes see the work of the Creator everywhere they look
- Run damp and refreshing hands over the top of the head. Pass the wet tips of the fingers inside and outside the ears, and over the nape of the neck:
May these ears hear only the resonance of the Creator, may this neck bend in humility to the One.
- Wash the feet up to the ankles: May these feet walk on holy ground.
I first understood ablutions when I was traveling through Persia. I was sleeping in a courtyard, when a whole family came and did ablutions in the cistern. Then they were up and down all night, praying, talking, praying, I don’t know what. It was so natural and joy-ous I knew I had a connection.
Your spirit needs to follow the changes happening in the spacious place it knows about.
There, the scene is always new, a clairvoyant river of picturing,
more beautiful than any on earth.
This is where the Sufis wash.
Purify your eyes, and see the pure world. Your life will fill with radiant forms.
It’s a question of cleaning
and then developing the spiritual senses.
- TRUE ABLUTIONS
When you are performing your ablutions,
it is not merely washing your hands and feet. That
is not the real point, washing eyes, ears—
The purpose of washing each of these parts of your body is
that it gives you time, bit by bit, part by part,
to move your awareness away from the world
and toward God.
Time to say within your heart,
I am now going to establish a connection with God.
I am going to turn toward God.
I am going to hand over my responsibilities, my love, to God.
The blessed Prophet, may God ’s peace be upon him, said,
“While doing your ablutions, you must be aware only of your love for God. Make your heart steadfast in that state.”
This determination must become strong
through the process of your ablutions.
By the time you have finished, you must have
the intent and the aim of seeing God.
It doesn’t matter, then, whether your eyes
are opened or if your eyes are closed.
God is all you will see whether they are opened or closed.
This is the point when you can really call prayer surrender.
The day you succeed in these ablutions, your prayer becomes fruitful!
Then it is fulfilled.
Then it is what we can call True Prayer.
If you can make this state steadfast in yourself
then not one second of your prayer will be wasted.
Then your prayer will be The Prayer of completeness.
When you have that prayer, when such a prayer is made,
every part of it is a contract with God.
Then your eyes won’t draw you away. Your ears won’t draw you away. Only He will be drawing you, and you will be drawing Him.
This is the connection you will have. This is the true prayer.
Note: Man has two souls. One is called Ruhu Hayvani, the animal soul, and the other is Ruhu Insani, the human soul. The animal soul is a created, refined substance which controls life, mind, senses, feelings, emotions, will, and movement of the physical body. And our being, which relates to this animal soul, is called the “animal self,” the self ruled by the desires of our flesh or Nafsi Ammara, the evil commanding self which is the first and lowest of the seven levels of being.
Nafsi Ammara is a manifestation of the animal soul in man, while the six steps above the evil commanding ego are the development of the human soul, which is also called the Nafsi Natiqa, the being who can communicate with speech, or the Rational Being.
- The Place of Prayer
For those who have come to grow,
The whole world is a garden.
For those who wish to remain in the dream,
the whole world is a stage.
For those who have come to learn,
the whole world is a university,
For those who have come to know God,
the whole world is a prayer mat.
—From the teachings of Bawa Muhatyaddeen
In this prayer no special sanctuary is needed. Little space is required for Face-to-Face Seeing, just a clean area in which a prayer mat can fit. Magnificent buildings have been raised for prayer, but Sufis build with something more permanent than baked brick and lime: We are raising a mosque of indestructible light in the inner quarters of the heart. A teaching:
The Qutb asked, if the world is a place to grow, what are you?
I am the farmer.
No, you are the earth; I am the farmer. I am the one who will clear your thickets and thorns and plant sweet orchards! But if the world is a theater, what are you?
Then I am the stage, and you are the actor.
And if the world is a place to learn?
Then I am the school and you are the student.
And if the world is a place to pray?
Then you are The Prayer and I am The Prayer mat.
THE FAR MOSQUE
The place that Solomon made to worship in,
called the Far Mosque, is not built of earthand water and stone, but of
intention and wisdom and mystical conversation and compassionate action.
Every part of it is intelligent and responsive to every other.
The carpet bows to the broom.
The door knocker and the door swing together
like musicians. This heart sanctuary
but it can’t be described. Why try?
- The Direction
The Sufi compass points unwaveringly to a unified field of divine consciousness within which the multiplicity of the world appears. The eye looking in this direction sees profound singleness, sees all humankind as one family, sees all prayer as a turning this way. As symbol and focus of this unity, we have been given the ancient shrine of the Kaaba. We are all familiar with scenes of pilgrims circling this mysterious black cube, bowing in unison—with millions more around the world turning toward it five times a day in great planetary waves.
A single geographical direction for Prayer transforms the entire planet into one vast place of prayer. But ultimately, we face not to a direction within the universe, but toward the place of surrender, the inner heart. True unity moves from the inner outward. It may be reflected by a sublime extemal order, but soul freedom is rarely won by outside arrangements. Facing the Direction is a subtle matter; it open the eye that in the many sees the One.
The history of the Kaaba yields rich mythological understandings. It reaches down to the roots of human experience, to the exile of Adam and Eve. Outside the Garden, as the history goes, the primeval couple part ways, and alone, each wanders the outer realm, the world of sickness, old age, and death.
As parents of the human family, Adam and Eve are also embodiments of the two sides of human nature: receptive and creative, spirit and body, yin and yang. Their story is a timeless mystery-drama in the inner world, and their estrangement is a split in our lives as well, a crisis the I Ching calls “Stagnation.” The male principle draws farther and farther away, while the female principle sinks farther into the depths. Heaven and earth are out of communion and all things are benumbed. What is above has no relation to what is below, and on earth confusion and disorder prevail.
In vain the pair searches the world forIa place of comfort. At last, repentance is awakened, the light of wisdom dawns, and they find each other on a remote hill called Arafat, the Mount of Mercy. Such joy of meeting! It is the joy of the soul reuniting with its Lord, and with itself.
Surrendered again into Divine Accord, they are led to a nearby valley, “ground turning green beneath their feet as they pass.” There, lifting their eyes they behold the heavenly throne with countless angels circling in adoration. Just as the heart is the center of the body, so is this place to which they have come the central place of the world, center of the four directions, the four elements, the place of union. There they build the first altar, the original house of prayer. The valley is called Mecca, which in Babylonian means “sacred house.”
Eventually the shrine is swept away. Ages pass, but this is a place of destiny and prophets, and so it is that in the strength of their days Abraham and his son Ishmael come to the valley of the Sacred House and rebuild the sanctuary. Generations come and go. By the time of Muhammad, the house of the Holy One is filled with a jumble of tribal idols.
Muhammad is the Rasul, light of the heart, dispeller of differences. His is the task of cleansing the Kaaba and restoring its pristine emptiness, the emptiness only the One of Infinite Grace and Incomparable Love can fill.
Turning to the Kaaba in prayer means turning to the center, to the place of mystic union, the refuge, to the only place that is the same in you as it is in me. For one who understands, the heart is the Kaaba. For those who do not understand, the Kaaba is a proof, that they may someday understand.
Abraham constructed this building, revealed it as a place for the Remembrance of Allah
— as an outward example.
Wherever those with spotlessly pure hearts replendent with Allah congregate
—that is the Kaaba.
Wherever everyone gathers in unity
— that is the Kaaba
Any place Satan cannot approach
—that is the Kaaba.
Where the purity and power of Allah intermingle
—that is the Kaaba.
Where Beginning, Is Now, and Ever Shall Be meet
— hat is the Kaaba.
The place where you find your unity with Allah
—that is the Kaaba.
The place where our prayer unites with Allah
—that is the Kaaba.
Shams of Tabriz said, “The Kaaba is in the middle of the world. All faces turn toward it. Take it away, See! each is worshiping the soul of each”
STANDING BEFORE GOD
We have heard the Call and heard it repeated. With simple dignity we turn toward the Direction, the qibla, and step onto the prayer mat, and out of the ordinary world. Here is the domain of inner need, the refuge where the demands and cares of life lose their grip.
Shoulders relaxed, arms hanging naturally at your side, posture balanced, easy, grounded. Feet slightly apart. The Prayer embraces body as well as spirit in common cause. Breathe easily. Eyes are downcast. The gaze is indrawn, resting lightly on the point of the carpet or mat or earth where forehead will meet the ground in prostration. Find yourself in a state of humility.
Humility is the doorway to the secrets of the heart, humility knows the “I” is an illusion, knows it’s a smoke-and-mirrors affair endlessly struggling to project an appearance of solidity.
Humility means seeing our lives as games, our games as trivial, our triumphs as temporary. It means abandoning here on the prayer mat all that we thought that we were and knew. If we want to understand the meaning of humility, we might search out the strength of the servant, not the whining and resentful servant, but the strong and willing one whose strength comes from helping others and in serving a Master who shines with the light of a million suns.
Lo, I am with you always means
when you look for God,
God is in the look of your eyes,
in the thought of looking,
nearer to you than your self,
or things that have happened to you.
There’s no need to go outside.
Be melting snow
Wash yourself of yourself.
THE SETTING OF INTENTION
Raise your hands with palms upward in a pose that evokes both supplication and the receiving of bounty. Move into a state of readiness and one-pointed concentration. We are reaffirming our intention to step into God’s embrace. Recite:
In the Name of God,
Boundlessly Merciful and Compassionate!
Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
Clear away all possibilities except the possibility that we can move into the Radiance.
Formal intention includes these simple commitments:
—to perform a certain number of rakkats, or cycles, according to the time of prayer.
—to turn toward the qibla, the Direction of Prayer.
—to do this only for the sake of the Lord, the Beloved, the inner heart.
—to take refuge in the Beloved from gossip and anger and hatred and all the snares that separate and delude us.
The rest of the intention rises from the heart.
The graceful, rhythmic movements that follow are not an accompaniment to The Prayer, they are The Prayer itself, a mysterious flow of form through which God praises God. We will move through two cycles of prayer although each time has its own number. Additional cycles were recommended by the Prophet and it is traditional to include them.
Dawn Prayer (Fajr) is two cycles aloud.
Noon Prayer (Zuhr) is four cycles in silence.
Afternoon Prayer (Asr) is four cycles in silence.
Evening Prayer (Maghrib) is two cycles aloud, one silently.
Night Prayer (Isha) is two cycles aloud, two silently.
As salt dissolves in ocean,
I was swallowed up in you,
beyond doubt or being sure.
Suddenly here in my chest a star
came out so clear, it drew
all stars into it.
THE RECOGNITION OF GOD
Raise hands up with palms open and facing forward. Women raise their hands to the level of their shoulders; men raise them level with their ears.
With this beautiful gesture of transformation, all worldly attachment is pushed behind us. Readiness becomes spiritual alertness. With our open palms expressing total receptivity to Divine Presence, we say:
God is the Greatest! Allahu Akbar!
Allahu Akbar! is a joyous bursting forth of exaltation and praise; an affirmation, a sudden intuition that God is not an abstract idea, not the “greatest of all things,” but the source of greatness, a mighty and unimaginable fortress. So great, God is also smallest, subtlest, all penetrating, all pervasive, the hidden and the manifest, the doer, the seer, and the seen.
Muhammad said, “Don’t theorize about Essence!” All speculations are just more layers of covering. Human beings love coverings!
They think the designs on the curtains are what’s being concealed.
Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don’t claim them. Feel the artistry
moving through, and be silent.
Or say, “I cannot praise You as You should be praised.
Such words are infinitely beyond my understanding.”
THE FATIHA, OR OPENER (MEN)
Men join their hands over the abdomen, right over lelt, creating a quiet restraint on this powerful energy center (called the hara in the martial arts). Recite:
I seek refuge in God, from the darkness of evil
Audhu billahi mina-shaitan ir rajim
In the Name of God, Source of Mercy and Compassion
Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
Now the Fatiha, the first sura of the Quran is recited. It is a sonic opener of inner worlds, mystically encompassing the entire Quran in seven lines. God needs no praise or plea from us, yet praise lifts the heart from the bondage of self-will into union with the Beloved.
All praise is of You, 0 Lord of all Universes,
Boundlessly Gracious and Merciful.
0 Master of the Day of Judgment,
Thee alone do we worship And Thine aid we do seek.
Guide us upon the straight Way,
The Way of those on whom Thou has bestowed Thy grave,
Those whose portion is not wrath, and who go not astray. Amen.
Alhamdu lillahi Rabbil alamin
Iyyaka nabudu wa iyyaka nasta-in
Ihdinas siratal mustaqin
Sirat allathina an amta alaihim
Ghairil maghdubi alaihim wa la dallin. Amin.
During the first two rakkats, the Fatiha is followed by the recitation of a passage (containing at least three lines) or a chapter of revelation. These additional passages are not recited in the third and fourth rakkats.
Selections from the Quran are given in the last chapter.
THE FATIHA, OR OPENER (WOMEN)
Various schools of Salat have developed. In some of them women clasp their hands over the heart center of the chest, right over left. See how this most tender of initiatory gestures stirs the qalb, or inner heart, the abode of Jesus, the soul of humanity. Angels and madonnas are often painted in this pose.
There is nothing between us and the mysteries of divinity. Recite the Fatiha, and at least three more lines of revelation.
Bow at the waist until the back is parallel to the ground. Hands come down to rest lightly on knees, fingers are spread. Knees are straight. Eyes gaze down at the point that the forehead will touch in prostration. With a simple motion our body imbibes its first taste of submission. This position has been likened to a cow grazing in a storm, so concentrated on nourishment it is oblivious to the rain beating on its back. Recite three times:
Glory to the Lord, the Magnificent One
This is a profound meditation on the quality of magnificence. When we behold magnificence in the natura! world, our response is spontaneous praise. In this emotion is a trail we can follow to its source. Magnificence in the world is like a stained-glass window. Its glory is not in bits of colored glass, but in the light streaming through. Allah, the Creator-Sustainer-Dissolver, Light-of-a-Million-Suns, is the magnifi-cence behind all magnificence.
Whatever the devotee is looking for, he is that himself.
How can a lover be anything but the beloved?
Every second he’s bowing into a mirror.
If he could see for just a second one molecule
of what’s there without fantasizing about it,
His imagination, and he himself,
would vanish, with all his knowledge, obliterated
into a new birth, a perfectly clear view,
a voice that says, I am God.
That same voice told the angels to bow to Adam,
because they were identical with Adam.
It’s the voice that first said,
There is no Reality, but God.
There is only God.
As you begin rising to an upright position, recite:
The Lord hears the one who praises
Sami Allahu liman hamidah
When you have fully risen, arms naturally at your sides and eyes still fixed on the prayer mat, recite these words of gratitude:
Our Lord! Yours is the praise!
Rabbana lakal hamd
Then, as you begin dropping into the prostration, recite:
God is the Greatest!
and continue on to this position of total trust.
Sometimes you hear a voice through the door calling you, as a fish out of
water hears the surf ’s come back.
This turning toward what you deeply love saves you. Children fill their
shirts with rocks and carry them around. We’re not children anymore.
Read the book of your life that has been given you. A voice comes to
your soul saying, Lift your foot, cross over, move into the emptiness
of question and answer and question.
Drop gracefully to your knees, and in an unbroken flow of movement, reach forward and with great care place your hands, then forehead on the ground in prostration. Hands are beside the head, arms are lifted up at the elbows, not resting on the floor. Our gnostic eye comes to earth. The gates of Paradise tremble: This is the moment of surrender, the aba-donment of the ego. Recite three times:
Glory to the Lord Most Supreme!
Subhana Rabbiyal A’ala
What the world needs now is not more religion and dogmas but a stream—a torrent of warm heart-melt that cuts through the ice cap of our mental hardness. God surely reveals Himself to all who can prostrate themselves before His unknowable reality.
Can we give ourselves over to the possibility that we, too, are something so marvelous that no one has ever been able to say it? Something so outrageous that knees could actually give way. We could drop to the ground, fall prostrate, fall within the center of the word humility, and disappearing, live within it.
Conclude your prostration, and recite:
as you draw back up into a kneeling position. For a moment stay steady and silent as a mountain, awake, both grounded and reaching up to the heavens. In such a state, we probe with utter honesty into our lives, and histories, and thoughts for the worst that we are. Then turn to the source of mercy, and ask for forgiveness. Recite three times:
Forgive me, 0 my Lord
Astagh-firallah al’ Athim
Be suspicious of yourself! Inquire
about your hidden motives. It takes courage
to repent, and more courage to change.
But realize this: just as dust grains shine
in sunlight coming through this window,
so there’s a light of reality, within which ideas,
hidden hypocrisies, and the qualities
of every action become clear. All you’ve done
and will do will be seen in the light of that sun.
When we’re totally surrendered to that beauty,
we’ll become a mighty kindness.
THE SECOND PROSTRATION:
Recite: Allahu Akbar, and drop into the prostration exactly as before. Plunge directly into the ocean of Allah! Again, the moment of surrender and the same recitation, three times:
Glory to the Lord of the Universe!
Subhana Rabbiyal A ‘ala
Usually to prostrate means to pay our respects to something so worthy we abandon our self-importance. Prostrating, we give up ourselves. Giving up ourselves means to give up our dualistic ideas.
Bowing to Allah, releasing all ideas of separation, we can even abandon our ideas of God. Within the heart there is a great wanting to release all burdens and dive into an ocean of Returning, to become one with One. Becoming one with One is to become inseparable with all being. If we become inseparable with all being, everything becomes our teacher, and everywhere is seen our own face, and within our own face is seen the face of God.
POINTING TO THE ONE:
Recite: Allahu Akbar, and rise to standing, completing one cycle, or rakkat of prayer. Every prayer is at least two rakkats, the second is as the first, ending in a kneeling. After two rakkats, we enter the presence of the great prophetic lineage; each prophet a perfection in the stages of spiritual evolution. Recite:
All blessings and acts are sanctified by You, 0 my Lord.
Peace be upon you, 0 Messenger of my heart, and the
mercy of God and His blessings as well. Peace be on us and
on every pilgrim on the path of self-abandonment.
At-tahi yatu lil lahi was-salawatu wat-tay-yibatu
As-salamu alaika ay-yuhan nabiyyu
As-salamu alaina wa ala ibadil-lahis salihin
Lift the index finger of the right hand. Point straight toward the Direction of Prayer, toward the One, and reaffirm the great covenant first heard chanted in the Call:
I bear witness that there is no reality but God.
Ashhadu a-la illaha il Allah.
I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger.
Wa-ash hadu anna Muhammadan abduhu wa Rasulullah.
Then evoke blessings upon the prophetic lineage, joining a glorious procession of soul-messengers. Recite:
0 Allah! Shower Your blessings on our guide Muhammad and those who walk with him on the path of truth,
as You showered Your blessings on our guide Abraham
and those who walk on his path of unity.
Truly, 0 my Lord, You are the One worthy of praise, the Glorious.
Allahumma salli ala sayyidiina Muhammadin wa ala
sayyidina Muhammadin kama sallaita ala sayyidina
Ibrahima wa ala ali sayyidina Ibrahim innaka Hamidun
To the awakened guide, the succession of prophets is not an event in the realm of long ago and far away. Their vitality is more than mythological, historical or symbolic.
They are experienced directly in the present as blazing lights in the vast firmament of human Being. They are grand transformations in the mystical dimension that all humanity participates in.
To invoke blessings upon them is to affirm and invigorate our own highest wisdom-nature, to create a living continuity between our inner being and the evolutionary process.
GREETING THE ANGELS:
It is said that when we stand in prayer, angels pray also, spreading the merit to the farthest horizons. As a seal to our devotions, we give greetings to this invisible congregation, particularly the angelic awarenesses recording our qualities in thought and deed. We turn our heads to the right and lelt, reciting each time:
Peace and blessings of God be upon you.
As-salamu alaikum wa rahmatulah.
Are angels real? More than once, after a spontaneous welling up of song, Bawa would remark what a great number had come. Not us, he meant the light-beings who had has-tened to listen: angels and others, invisible to our eyes, not to his, all attracted to the truth-field of a fully enlightened human.
There is a hierarchy:
human over animal, angel over
human, and true human beings, the sheikhs,
the teachers, are above angels.
Why else would the angels be commanded
to bow before Adam?
Does a rose bow to a thorn?
Let your soul follow a one-pointed,
perfected human as thread follows needle.
UNITY IS THE ESSENCE OF THIS PRAYER
A mystery: After the riches of Salat, the greatest treasure of all comes last, at the very end, in the simplest act of all. We stand and take each other’s hand and look into each other’s face, looking with the eye that sees the radiance of God within another, sees one’s self in another.
Embrace gently, saying MAY THE PEACE OF GOD BE UPON YOU, Asalaam aleikum, to which the other replies, AND MAY THE PEACE OF GOD BE UPON YOU AS WELL, Aleikum salaam.
And, following the original instructions from the time of the Holy Prophet, we give this embrace first to those immediately beside us, and then to all who have joined us in prayer, friend and stranger alike.
Only in embracing all
can we become the arms of God.
There is one bright Truth illuminating all religion, and these words and pictures have tried to honor a powerful spiritual technology that expresses it. The Prayer is embraced by millions of people as a living link with the divine. Its formal practice is many-layered, and these introductory instructions invite the seeker to deeper levels of understanding. Those drawn to more complete instructions are directed to the works Sheikh Nazim al Haqqani of the Naqshbandi tariqat, Bawa Muhaiyaddeen and Jellaludin Rumi, and other wise masters with knowledge of the ways of prayer.
The beginnings of prayer are the yearnings of the imprisoned heart.
One after another
is the essence of prayer
Every door is a passage,
another boundary we have to go beyond.
We aqueeze ourselves through,…. and then go.
the purpose of The Prayer is not to stand and bow all day long.
is to possess continuously
that fragrant state which appears to you in prayer.
Asleep or awake,
writing or reading,
in every state never be empty
Be rather one of those
The constant prayer of the Sufis is the practice of Silent Dhikr, which was root and blossom of The Naqshbandi Tariqat and of Bawa Muhaiyaddeen’s wisdom teaching. Dhikr (or Zikr) means “remembrance of God.” Among Sufi orders it is often a generalized term for a wide variety of chanting practices.
But it is actually a unique act, a unique way of remembering. Not like remembering some important information, it is more remembering that you exist, and that your existence is in unbroken continuity with the existence of God.
Bawa called this the Dhikr of the Innermost Heart, the Chant of Realiry, and its transmission turns on a paradox: Doing nothing, we remain in darkness, yet there is nothing we can do to bring us to God. This doing is the problem. Doing is how empires are built, Olympic medals are won, and trains are kept running on time—and the idea of an ego-self, a doer, is reinforced.
Approaching the Great and Mysterious One requires a whole other kind of movement, a nondoing, an undoing, a melting.
What then? Though we seek Thy-Will, not-my-will, many-branched and endless is the path of one with little will. In the end, we need practices. We have work to do, grinding and smoothing and opening—if only to polish ourselves thin enough that light can shine through or exhaust ourselves to the point where the one thing left is surrender.
Bawa’s method of teaching Silent Dhikr reflected this paradox. It was not a simple package, another thing to do. It was the Dhikr in which duality ceases to exist. It was the marriage of sun and moon, of word and breath. It was a passageway opened by the grace of the Qutb.
A flower can only give its own fragrance, is this not so?
Only jasmine can give the fragrance of jasmine.
The fragrance of Allah can only
be given by Allah.
That is true prayer.
In the way of what can be said and taught, here is the teaching.
May some fragrance of grace be here as well!
- Message of Sufi Saint Sultan al-Awliya Mawlana Shaykh Nazim al-Haqqani for our Times: “Be Rabbani”:
“Be Those Who Establish Lordly Worship” Koonoo Rabbaniyeen,
By Sufi Saint Sultan al-Awliya Mawlana Shaykh Nazim al-Haqqani
“O People! From east to west, from north to south, try to be thankful servants for your Creator, that He created us and granted us endless favors here and Hereafter. And Almighty Allah is asking to be honored. He Almighty honors dominions of honors with no limits and He likes that His servants honor their Creator. They are not going to give anything, but He likes His servant to say, shukr Yaa Rabbee, “Thanks O my Lord!” That is an honor from weak servants to the Lord of Heavens, but He likes it. If an ant says, subhaanAllah yaa Rabbee, “Glory for You, my Lord,” He is happy and He likes it. That point we must learn, know, and teach, that every good word, good action, and good effort makes our Lord happy with us.O People! Whole religions are based on this principle from the beginning of Mankind, from Adam, peace be upon him, who called Rabbuna, Rabbuna! Allah Almighty likes His servants to call on Him, Yaa Rabbana, “O our Lord, O our Creator!” Therefore, He likes to change every thing on Earth, that means Mankind in particular, for every other thing”. Read more here
See the website sufi path of Love
In the Naqshbandi Order, the daily awrad and the weekly congregational dhikr, known as Khatm-ul-Khwajagan, are important principles which the murid must not leave. The Khatm-ul-Khwajagan is done sitting with the Shaykh in congregation. This is held once a week, preferably on Thursday night or Friday, two hours before sunset. The Khatm-ul-Khwajagan is of two categories: Read more here
Silent Dhikr begins with contemplation of the First Kalima, fust heard in the call to prayer:
LA ILLAHA, IL ALLAHU
Kalima means word, aphorism, or authority, and this formulation compresses with poetic brevity a vast wealth of information about the true nature of reality and our relationship with it.
Word-by-word translation is cryptic: Not-infinite-if-not-God. But Arabic words always have a wide range of meanings. The usual rendering, There is no god but God, is somewhat vague. The poetic There is no reality but God goes deeper, hinting that things are not always what they seem. But Bawa’s initiatory The “I” is an illusion; God alone is Realtouches secrets. A friend once asked Bawa to explain. For three days, the master tried to communicate a direct understanding of reality. Finally, frustrated by the limitations of language, he declared:
THE CAR IS GONG DOWN THE ROAD
BUT THE ROAD IS INSIDE THE CAR!
THE BREATH WITHIN BREATH:
Having begun contemplation of the Kalima, we now open our attention to include our breathing. With pure observation only, witness your breath, making no attempt at control. The human body is a complex spiritual instrument. Ordinary physical breathing is not only the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, it is a link to our light body.
With every inhale-exhale, a parallel energy flow in our light body is occurring.
Bringing attention to the outer breath cultivates a growing awareness of this inner breath, harmonizes these inter-penetrating bodies, and quiets the mind.In breath the visible and invisible worlds meet.
Truth seekers of every tradition have studied this phenomenon. “What we call ‘I”, said Zen master Suzuki Roshi, “is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. It just moves;that is all.
When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing: no `I,’ no world, no mind or body; fust a swinging door.“
Various healing systems have developed sophisticated maps of this other anatomy and its energy paths. Ayurvedic medicine knows 72,000 subtle nerves called nadis; acupuncture has mapped the meridians. The profound Silent Dhikr of the Qutb awakens these pathways.
The Holy Prophet said:
May divine light be before me, behind me, to the right and left, above and below.
May my limbs be filled with divine light. May my skin be filled with divine light.
Now the Kalima is joined with breath. LA ILLAHA moves with and empowers exhalation and IL ALLAHU moves with and activates inhalation. We discover that with every outer breath, an inner breath is engaged in an ongoing gnostic process, alternating between a self-surrendering exhale and a God-embracing inhale. Purification and glorification. Death and birth.
The Kalima ’s insights become experience. This is the original breath of the harmonious human being. The noble prophet Muhammad said,
For everything there is a polish which takes away rust,
and the polish of the heart is Dhikr
This current of the Dhikr, the remembrance of God, is something we discover, not create. It is always flowing in and out with the breath like a secret tide.
SAY LA ILLAHA IL ALLAHU. Don’t waste your breath.
With every breath, say LA ILLAHA IL ALLAHU.
It must be said with your breath. You don’t have to make a sound; your tongue silently repeating: La Illaha, nothing is real; Il Allahu,only God exists—and planted firmly within the qalb, your inner heart.
“Whatever time it is or whatever place you may be, whether you may be, whether you are walking or sitting or working or sleeping—at all times this breath must flow continually. Both the in and out movements must be clearly understood. Its sounds, its meanings, its lights—everything should be understood in Divine Luminous Wisdom. Say it like this. Do not even waste even one second!
“All states of consciousness must unite together and recite these words. Whatever work you are doing, it is good if you keep on reciting like this. Always remember to recite it like this.
“It must go on like this. His actions—the actions of God—must be acquired. Become the duty of God. Say it like this. Whatever you may be doing, this work should go on. These words must go on resonating in your heart.
“This Prayer must go on! The work of uniting with God must be done! “When you come here to listen to wisdom, even at the time of listening you should still be doing this work. This is the most important work you can do. All the time it must go on. It is only then that the seedlings will grow. Then only will the light resplend. Only then will unity become apparent. Only then can we unite with God and do His will.
“Make yourself aware, and by making yourself aware you will make others aware. Do it like this. Don’t waste your time. We have very little time left!
“My sons—my daughters! This is the pure word! It is on the left and it is on the right:
Other than God there is nothing;
God alone Exists.
In this way you are in unity with the Eternal One.”
The Qutb approached the mystery of Silent Dhikr from every dimension. Sometimes it was a not: not a prayer, not a meditation. Sometimes the flow of its energy through the body was catalogued in microscopic detail. Or Dhikr was words repeated inwardly. I asked if the Dhikr must be recited in Arabic and was told it could be Arabic or English, but Dhikr isn ’t words at all. The mind demands clear directions, but mystical understanding always slips through conceptual nets. Truth prefers metaphor. Like the glimmer of light on water, like the sound of one hand clapping.
The practice of this Silent Dhikr is circular, but it is not a mantra, not magical vibratory sound patterns evoking elemental energies. It is not associated with any deities or powers or presences, except the presence of the Great Mystery, That-by-which-all-else-is-known. Silent Dhikr is a matter of longing and remembrance, of submission to remembrance, of guiding breath, of surrendering to the great spaciousness of the soul, sliding into the sea of light.
There’s a voice that doesn’t use words…
Silent Dhikr is a drawing of the cu-tains, an invitation into the secret gardens of submission, a small blue doorway suddenly opening into a great chamber. Entering, we must let ourselves be absorbed by what the early followers of Jesus called the Cloud of Unknowing. One of the most graphic and challenging depictions of such submission is the Buddhist image of a female supplicant being utterly possessed by a powerful flashing-eyed deity. This bizarre and dreamlike vision imparts a fleeting sense of what it is to raise the flag of unconditional surrender at the “embrace” of al-Aziz, God-the-Mighty, or al-Fatah, God-the-Opener. Of course, the Ground of Being can never be depicted, but sometimes images, like sunsets, teil a worthy God-story. Rumi often depicted the infinite as an intimate lover or Friend:
I would love to kiss you.
The price of kissing
is your life.
Now my loving is
toward my life
What a bargain!
let’s buy it!
We are moving into a new course of study, away from the certainties of acquired knowledge and into the mysterious work of knowing ourselves.
This study is both the most difficult and easiest of all pursuits. Difficult because it doesn’t fall under the supervision of our familiar Department of External Studies and universities….
Easy because it is a study of that which is most familiar: our own consciousness, that by which all else is known. It is also near, no farther than the awareness reading this lines.
Understand all external phenomena as manifestations of internal phenomena
The flagrance of Dhikr finally must penetrate all our actions. If God alone is real, then all people and situations must be perceived as partaking of the divine and therefore not separate from ourselves. If the “I” is melted away, abandoned—if only for an instant—then for that instant we become divine action in the world. God’s gesture is our gesture, the Great Compassion is our compassion, our mercy can be most merciful. Our lives become the Dhikr in action.
Let the beauty we love
be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel in prayer.
In every action that we do,
in everything we do,
we should treat each other
with the soft hand.
Not the callused hand
of the woodcutter,
but the soft hand of the flower,
the inner flower of the heart.
Here is a selection of Quranic verses for recitation after the Fatiha. Reciting scripture has always been a doorway to spiritual power. No one who has listened to the Quran chanted melodiously can miss its resonant force.
But what is scripture? What is the holy Quran?
There is another kind of tablet, one
already completed and preserved
A spring overflowing its springbox.
in the center of the chest.
This other intelligence
does not turn yellow or stagnate.
It’s fluid, and it doesn’t move
from outside to inside
through the conduits
This second knowing is a fountainhead
from within you, moving out.
This fountainhead is what Sufis call the Primeval Quran, a universal well of knowledge secreted deep in the heart. To most people it is hidden, but from time to time, certain unique souls are sent to deliver some of its transcendent knowledge in a form understandable to their people. They are the nabis, or prophets, who give words to a vastness beyond words. Their utterances become scripture, visible shapes carved in language by the invisible flow of holiness.
Whatever religion, the original message is the same:
Come into the heart, where the Great Mystery lives! Look, here is the Way.
These soul-mentors have come to all peoples, and when Muhammad emerged, a distinctive cycle of revelation that had flowed through 124,000 previous messengers was completed.
The sacred languages—Sanskrit, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, and others—are distinguished by a unity between a word’s sound and its meaning. Without knowing a language we can often understand a word, as in Ahh-LAAAH, the Arabic word for God. Its vowels roll out softly from deep in the back of the throat, a universal cry of longing. Translation dilutes intensity, and transmissions from a higher dimension are clearest in the language delivered. In orthodox practice Quranic passages are always recited aloud in Arabic. However most readers will not only be unfamiliar with Arabic—their yearning is in English. Bawa would tell a story about parrot-work:
Don ’t recite words you ‘ve learned by rote and think you’re praying.
That ’s panrot work.
lf a cat comes, what does the parrot say? “Help! A cat approaches?”No, it will squawk and screech, completely forgetting its prayer-performance!
Yearning for God in every thought, directing every breath toward the One,
intending no harm,
that is prayer.
These passages are given first in English. Rather than calling them translations, with a sense of finality, think of them as meditations, a process the reader is invited to join.
After the Sura Fatiha, which is recited standing during each rakkat of prayer, a passage of revelation is recited. Many let the choice come spontaneously to their heart. The pri-mary requirement is that it should speak to your life. Here are three potent, compact suras.
SURA IKHLAS, OR PURITY OF FAITH:
In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Say: He is God
The One and Only;
God, the Eternal, Absolute;
He begetteth not; nor is He begotten;
And there is none like unto Him.
Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
Qul: Huwallahu ahad
Lam yalid, wa lam yulad
Walam yakul-lahu kufuwan ahad.
The Sura Ikhlas is so vital that it is said to be equivalent to one-third of the Quran. Its simplicity holds infinite depth. This is the prayer of the heart that wants nothing other than Allah and is lost forever in the boundless light of Ahad, The One: “He is Allah, the One and Only Reality, the All-Encompassing who does not originate from some other reality. Nor does anything originate separate from Him. Apart from Him, there is absolutely nothing. He is Oneness Alone. Fragmentation, false appearances, and separations are all dissolved in the light of certainty.”
- Two Verses of Protection:
SURA FALAQ, OR DAYBREAK:
In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful Say:
I seek refuge in the Lord of the Dawn,
From the deception within created things;
From the mischief of those who misuse secret knowledge,
And from the snares of the envious nature as it practices envy.
Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
Qul auzu birabil falaq
Min sharri ma khalaq
Wa min sharri ghasiqin iza waltab
Wa min sharrin naffasati fil uqad
Wa min sharri hasidin iza hasad
“I seek true refuge with the Lord of perpetually dawning Wisdom—from the darkness of despair; fear, and uncertainty that is generated by limited conscious beings, by magic practices and super-stition, and from the disturbances of envy.”
SURA NAS, OR HUMANKIND:
In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful Say:
I seek refuge in the Lord and Cherisher of humankind,
The Mystic Sovereign of humankind,
The God of humankind,
From the mischief of the whispering, elusive tempter Whispering in the human heart
And from (the temptations) of intangible spirit beings,
as well as men.
Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
Qul auzu bi-Rabbin nas
Min sharril waswassil khanas
Allathi yuwaswisu fi-sudurin nas
Minai jinnati wan-nas.
“I seek refuge in the Lord and Cherisher of humankind, the Mystic Sovereign of humankind, the God of humankind, from the invisible forces of nature that affect our psyche and confuse and tempt us into wrongdoing, and from the promptings of the impure heart that incite divisiveness. And from the subtle influences of intangible elemental spirits, as well as the ill wishes that can flow from men.”
Lefke – North Cyprus.
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Tomb shrine of Rumi, Konya