Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education

The Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education (NFIE) is a non-profit, tax exempt, religious and educational organization dedicated to serve Islam with a special focus on Tasawwuf(Sufism),

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tawhid & Risala, Dr.Arthur Buehler

Tawhid and Risala: Two inseparable aspects in Submitting to Allah
Professor Arthur Buehler,University of Victoria,Wellington,NZ
(Presented at NFIE Mawlid un Nabi Conference 1998,Chicago)

We seek refuge in Allah the one and only sustainer. We seek refuge in Allah from ourselves from our anger our hastiness, selfishness, pettiness our differences . We seek refuge in Allah from our desires, from our self-righteousness, from anything other than God, and we say b-ism-Allah ar-rahman ar-rahim in the name of God who is mercy compassion and love. The love within all love the one who is seeing in everything that sees; one who is knowing in everything knows; the only life living in everything alive, One who is love beyond all limitation.
Yet every cell in our body says I. Every thought centers on a self-centered script. Paraphrasing a prophetic hadith, No one can call him or herself a muslim unless one is concerned with the needs of others like they were one’s own needs. When one exits the program that is centered on self one not only gets closer to God but to the rest of creation. The boundary between you and me, I and God, dissolves in the Oneness of Allah, the declaration of which is often called tawhid. What separates us from God also separates us from other human beings.
Let’s see how the Kalima or shahada [La ilaha ila Allah wa Muhammadun rasulullah] relates to this. There is a deliberate tension in the first part of the shahada: La ilaha and ila Allah:
La Ilaha – our ideas even true ideas, personalities or identities, experiences, even spiritual experiences, all are not God. Everything I am saying and you are thinking, this room, is not God. The Ila Allah – love, compassion and patience, are a few of His attributes. People say Allahu akbar as if he is a Power beyond all other powers. In a sense this is true, yet He is the only power, He is the only cause, genderless, endless, beyond all qualification. He has given these attributes as gifts for people to follow the way but is beyond all this.
The process of moving from la ilaha to ila Allah, in a sense, is the process of submitting what is not-God to God. This is how one becomes closer to God, becoming a muslim. In God’s divine mercy we are permitted as a creature of His to know Him as infinite love to the extent that we become that love. Samnun, a tenth-century sufi living in Baghdad, exclaimed: "A thing can be explained only by something that is subtler than itself. There is nothing subtler than love – by what, then shall love be explained?
So how do we become close to God? If we take a step toward Allah He comes to us at least ten steps for every step we take toward Him. How do we take one of these steps ? Muhammad [S]is the model for how to take those steps. Following his model is following the prophetic sunna. We have come here today to honor the last in the long line of human prophets [S]. He is the model that shows us how to differentiate and transform ourselves, to move from the la ilaha and to realize the ila Allah. One can eliminate the veils between the ego and God. This can be done! Muhammad is the example, as all the other prophets and their heirs, so we can know that each person can be perfected. The la ilaha, the multiplicity of the universe, is the school we attend so that we can come to experience the oneness of Reality, ila Allah. Muhammad [S] is our teacher and guide in this school. The totality of the negation, the affirmation and the means between the negation and affirmation is beautifully expressed in the shahada: La ilaha ila Allah wa-Muhammad rasul Allah. Thus the school, the goal, and the teacher.
But Muhammad [S] is not in a human body to easily guide us, although some are fortunate enough to have his disembodied guidance in dreams. There are prophetic hadith but which one of these thousands of sayings and examples applies to our situation? The ego and the intellect are very sly. Most of us need to rely on an heir of the Prophet, a pious individual, often called a sufi or a pious religious scholar who is qualified to monitor the manifold ego games that people play. These individuals have gone on an inner mystical journey analogous to the Prophetic ascension. Abu Yazid al-Bistami complained, "`O God, with my egoism there is no way to You nor is there [any way] I can escape from egoism. What should I do?' God replied, `O Abu Yazid your deliverance from your ego [will result from] following My beloved [Muhammad]. Anoint your eyes with the dust of his feet and follow him continually.'. . . Sufis call this Bayazid's ascension (mi`raj), meaning [his] proximity [to God]. The ascension of prophets manifests outwardly with the [physical] body while that of the friends of God manifests as an inward journey of the spirit. The bodies of the prophets resemble the hearts of God's protégés in their purity and nearness [to God]."
From a sufi point of view, a believer without a personal guide runs the risk of never progressing past the stage of belief (iman) to become a muslim, i.e., a person who has submitted his or her ego to God. The situation is similar to Iblis who, believing himself to be superior to a being of clay, refused to bow down to Adam (Q. 38:71-85). This would be equivalent to accepting the first half of the Muslim profession of faith, "There is no god but God," without also fully accepting the second half, "and Muhammad Is His messenger." Identifying only with the transcendental aspect of Islam, as Iblis did, makes one susceptible to the danger of pride. The human capacity for self-deception is such that people could easily think they were good Muslims on the basis of their love for an invisible, distant, and impersonal God and their fulfillment of ritual obligations. It is precisely this tendency, "Iblisian Tawhid," of deviating from the teaching of the prophets, that eventually requires new prophets or heirs of the prophets to remind people of the "original" message.
The function of the spiritual master is to bring divine trials to those who have not submitted their egos to God. Abu Yazid, in the example above, was advised to follow the Prophetic path to escape from egoism. The personal authority of a shaykh, who himself follows the sunna, will continually utilize the skillful means at his disposal to challenge, entrap, and ultimately transform the egos of his disciples. It is easy to be complacent and proud while worshiping a Transcendent God, or even venerating the Prophet. But there is nowhere to hide under the piercing gaze of a sufi pir. People who proudly believe they are really exemplary Muslims, on the basis of memorization of the Qur'an, hadith, and other knowledge obtained from books, and who reject any need for personal guidance would, from a sufi perspective, be considered under the influence of Iblisian Tawhid. Through the master's example and guidance one learns how to tame the ego (nafs) and experience what it means to worship God in an unassuming fashion. These heirs of the Prophet have arrived at their stations by following the Prophetic example and have achieved perfection in this endeavor to the extent that they have annihilated their egos by loving the Prophet in the depths of their hearts.
Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi (d. 672/1273), whose compendium of mystical poetry in the Mathnawi-yi ma`nawi has been called "the Qur'an in Persian," continually emphasizes the need for submitting one's ego to an heir of the Prophet. Underlining the functional equivalence of the Prophet and the friend of God, he writes: "God made prophets intermediaries in order that envious feelings arise through anxiety [of the ego]. Since no one was shamed by God, no one was envious of God. [However] the person whom he considered like himself would be [the object of his] envy -- [precisely] for that reason. When the greatness of the Prophet became established, from [his] acceptance [by the Muslim community] no one became envious of him. Thus in every time a friend of God (wali) exists to [act as] a continual test until the Day of Judgment." Since God sent the Prophet to guide humanity personally, sufis believe there will always be heirs of the Prophet to guide succeeding generations.
May the love of Muhammad resonate in our hearts and the peace that comes from that resonate in our hearts. May our intelligence understand the miracle of God and we may treat other’s life as our own life. May the divine Wisdom fill us with love. May we live like true human beings so that we may be examples of what human beings can achieve. All praises are due to Allah alone. May all the pure intentions expressed today be magnified and fulfilled in the name of the Prophet Muhammad(saws).
Kalma Shahadah Video Lecture Part 1
Kalma Shahdah Video Lecture Part2


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