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COMMENTARY ON LETTERS INSIDE THE JOURNEY PREFACE

Shaykh Ebrahim and I discussed my third book, Letters Inside the Journey, which I wrote in 1994. We decided there would be great value in my going back through the book and adding a detailed commentary. 16 years after having written it I see many misleading and erroneous concepts which must be addressed in order to put the record straight, so to speak. Not only will this project be of value to me, but it may be useful to others in avoiding the pitfalls and potential damage that can occur on the Sufi path. And most importantly I hope this 2009 commentary will present a correct picture of the Shadhiliyya, for I now realise that certain aspects of the Shadhiliyya were grossly misrepresented in the original text of the book. This is not to say the entire book is chock-a-block full of errors. Far from it! I also see many valuable insights which could be of benefit to other travellers on the Sufi path. The format of the original book is quite complex, containing as it does extracts from my first book (And the Sky Is Not the Limit [1992]), plus commentaries and footnotes. However, I have decided to rewrite the original text in its entirety and then at the end of each section add my 2009 commentary. I will skip the introductions which were written by various people but shall commence with my Foreword, which is an explanation to the format of the book. The letters cover a 2-year period from 1990 to 1992. I thought it would be beneficial to myself and others to use this text as a topic on the Discussion Board of Zawia Ebrahim. Then, as I complete each section and its commentary I will paste to the discussion board for further comments, should there be any! The original text was first published in 1994 by AS Noordeen in Kuala Lumpur. An Indonesian translation is due for publication in 2009 by Mizan Publishers, Bandung, Indonesia.

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LETTERS INSIDE THE JOURNEY Amatullah Armstrong

FOREWORD

And the Sky is Not the Limit An Australian Womans Spiritual Journey Within the Traditions, told of my first 33 years of journeying towards Islam, then the next 8 years of journeying to the Spiritual Path of Islam (Tariqa) and finally the initial stages of the endless journeying on that path. In this book, Letters Inside the Journey, I have endeavoured to look more deeply into various aspects of that Infinite Journey. A selection of private letters that I wrote to my Spiritual Guide (Murshid) has been used as a means with which to seek and discover just a few of the abundant jewels that are contained within the Treasury of the Teaching of the last of the Prophets of Allah, Muhammad al-Mustafa May the Blessings of Allah be upon him and Peace. Interspersed with detailed footnotes and commentary these letters afford the reader an opportunity to receive, through the Grace of Allah, a hint of the beauty and power of this Great Teaching. Every human must make the journey of return to his source and because each man and woman is unique, his or her journey of return is therefore also unique. The realisations and knowledge attained by one person are not necessarily those reached by another. For this reason the spiritual traveller must not try to expect a particular sequence of events to occur or a succession of wisdoms to be opened to him. Recorded in the following pages are some of the thoughts, struggles, questions and experiences of an individual traveller on her journey. These things are not bound to happen to every traveller, though certain facets of my travelling may be similar to those of another. Direct spiritual experience cannot be shared, yet, delicate fragrances from higher realms can, and do, reach sensitive seekers who are sincerely looking for the Way to travel on their journey. Praise be to Allah. The dates in these letters have been purposely taken out in order to protect the reader from building up personal expectations of the time required to traverse particular stages of the journey. To prevent him from being tempted to experiment with the Teaching I have also omitted the number of times certain spiritual exercises were performed. Such experimentation can only lead to confusion and more deceptions of the ego self. Because this Teaching is sacred its methods should only be practised under the strict supervision of a Murshid. However, within this book is one spiritual exercise which contains a safety factor and can be undertaken, by the genuine seeker of a Spiritual Guide, as a preparatory step towards encountering his own Murshid. This is known as al-Asaas, an Arabic word meaning The Foundation. Starting at the foundation the sincere seeker can begin the work of clearing away much debris from the lower self, in readiness for his Journey Home. Al-Asaas should be practised twice daily, in the morning and evening, with an attitude of respect and dignity, always bearing in mind that this exercise comes directly from the Sacred Teaching of the Prophet Muhammad May the Blessings of Allah be upon him and Peace. Through the Infinite Grace of Allah the writing of this book has been undertaken fi sabilillah in the Way of Allah, and in my Murshids words, so that it

may bring benefit to someone, somewhere, at sometime. All shortcomings, mistakes and faults are my own. And success is only with Allah. Amatullah Armstrong June 27 1994/ 17 Muharram 1415 Queensland, Australia

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The Holy Quran is the Word of Allah. The Arabic language is the vehicle which carries the Word of Allah to mankind. The Word of Allah is beyond words. The Word of Allah is understood within the polished heart of the purified servant of Allah. The Heart that point of awareness where Allah is realized in man. AND THE SKY IS NOT THE LIMIT, P.152

We offered the Trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, but they refused to carry it and were afraid of it; and man carried it. al-Quran 33:72 The Trust carried by man is to fulfil his raison dtre, which is none other than being Allahs representative on this earth, the khalifah of Allah. To attain such an honoured position man must become a purified and polished mirror in which Allah is reflected. In other words, man must become Perfect man if he is to carry the Trust. Had We sent down this Quran on a mountain, verily thou wouldst have seen it humble itself and cleave asunder for awe of Allah. al- Quran 59:21 The weight of the Trust is immense and the responsibility of carrying it is the only task to which man should turn in totality. He should struggle with every available resource to be one of the Trusted Carriers. Every man is born with the capacity to be a carrier, but, not every man wants or needs to do so. The one who yearns, with the utmost intensity, to strive for such a perfection, to beautify his soul with the virtues which will qualify him as a Carrier of the Trust, must seek out and find the one who dispenses this Trust to mankind. Who is a Dispenser of the Trust? The Holy Quran was sent down to one man to the Perfect man to the Holy Prophet Muhammad May the Blessings of Allah be upon him and Peace. The Holy Quran is the Word of Allah; it is the Final Revelation which gives to man everything that he needs to enable him to carry the Trust. In the Hadith it is said of the Holy Prophet: His nature was as the Quran. The Holy Quran and the Prophet Muhammad give to each of us the means by which we can become worthy of being Carriers. They teach us and show us how to attain a point of perfect equilibrium, that God-given equilibrium through which one can reach the supreme rank of being a khalifah of Allah. The Living Teaching of the Holy Prophet is transmitted today by his Inheritors. These are the Lovers of Allah; those purified ones who have themselves become Trusted Carriers and Dispensers of the Trust. The Living Teaching, the Islamic Spiritual Psychological Study of the Self and Knowledge of Divinity, is called Tasawwuf (Sufism in the West) and the Spiritual Path within which this Teaching is transmitted is known as a Tariqa. There are many Turuq (plural of tariqa) and the starting point of each one is the Holy Prophet Muhammad May the Blessings of Allah be upon him and Peace. When a man or woman enters a Tariqa he makes an Initiatory Pact of Allegiance with his Murshid. This is known as the Bayah. At the time of taking the Bayah the Murshid recites this verse from the Holy Quran: Verily they who pledge unto thee

their allegiance pledge it unto none but Allah. The Hand of Allah is above their hands. (al-Quran 48:10). This verse is the very essence of the Murshid/murid bond. By taking the Murshids hand, the murid has made a covenant with Allah. From this moment onwards it is his duty to honour that pledge to the death; and beyond. It takes time for the reality of this Covenant to become firmly fixed in the heart, and the closer he gets to a true understanding of The Hand of Allah is above their hands, the greater will be his love, honour and respect for the Murshid. Allahs Good Pleasure was on the Believers when they pledged allegiance unto thee beneath the tree. He knew what was in their hearts and He sent down tranquillity to them and He rewarded them with a speedy Victory. (al-Quran 48:18) * ** Each murid has his own unique experience of entering the Tariqa and taking the Bayah. This is a sacred time; a treasured moment; the first step into Eternal Life.

My Murshid was on the other side of the continent in Perth whilst I was living in Brisbane. I became initiated into the Tariqa through Bayah Uthmaniyya. It was to be a further five months before I would actually sit in the Presence of my Murshid to take bayah at his hand. And I had no idea how that handclasp was to alter me, totally and forever. AND THE SKY IS NOT THE LIMIT, p.95.

The spiritual energy, the barakah, of the path is transmitted on the breath of the Murshid, and it is only through receiving the bayah, the Pact of Initiation, face-toface from him that the full power of the Divine Breath can start working within the murid. The Murshid, who himself has received this transmission of the breath from his own Murshid, then passes the breath to his murids. The breath can be likened to the yeast which is used in breadmaking. Only a tiny piece is required for the rising process to begin. Each human has been allotted his own specific number of breaths which are to be breathed in this earthly life. When that last breath is breathed life ends. Allah breathed His Spirit into us and each one of our breaths can take us back to Him. This is the method of Islamic Spiritual Psychology the Path of Return to Allah. The seeker on the Path should not inhale or exhale absent-mindedly; every breath should be associated with an awareness of the Divine Presence. Within a week of being initiated into the Path I received a cassette from my Murshid in which he explained to me, in a meticulous and detailed manner, the spiritual work which I was required to do. Throughout this collection of letters the reader will gain an understanding of the way in which the significance of my Murshids breath gradually opened up to me, revealing itself in a powerful and often overwhelming way. The importance of his

voice on this first cassette was great, though at the time I certainly did not realize the fact. * **

LETTER 1 In the Name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful Dear Brother Peace be upon you and the Mercy of Allah and His Blessings. Praise be to Allah Who guided me to Islam, Who guided me to your door in Perth in 1984, and Who has opened for me the door to Guidance. Brother , your cassette, in which you explained our awrad1, arrived yesterday. Now, Allah Willing, I will truly work.

1. The spiritual work given to me by my Murshid is called in Arabic wird (plural: awrad). The wird is a unit of dhikr, constructed to contain in it certain patterns of knowledge and self awakening. This spiritual work, wird, is given by the Murshid individually to each murid according to his specific spiritual needs. Once the dhikr has been given it is entirely up to the spiritual desire and energy of the murid, and it is at this point where himma manifests itself. AND THE SKY IS NOT THE LIMIT, p.125. Dhikr, which means Remembrance or Recollection of Allah, is the fundamental method of concentration and inner purification in the Sufi Path. It is through this Remembrance that the heart of the murid may, by the Grace of Allah, become cleansed and fit to contain Him. Allah says: My heavens and My earth contain Me not, but the heart of My believing slave does contain Me, and the Holy Prophet Muhammed May the Blessings of Allah be upon him and Peace said: There is a polish for everything to remove rust, and the polish of the heart is the Remembrance of Allah! The awrad activates certain mechanisms to bring about movement, revolution and transformation. It is through devotion and dedication to his personal awrad that the lower self of the murid can be transformed into his Higher Self. The awrad, which is based on the essence of the Teaching of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, consists of repetitions of Divine names, litanies by Masters of the Tariqa and verses from the Holy Quran. When, on entering a Tariqa, a new murid already recognizes the importance of the awrad and the seriousness with which it must be approached and undertaken then many inner barriers are removed, clearing the Path for more progress.

Praise be to Allah you are my Murshid. I know this gift from Allah is the greatest gift to be given to the Sufis!2

2. When Allah Loves someone He gives that person to the Sufis, in order to give to that person the Way to love Allah in return. These Masters of the Path, the Sufis, have the means by which the Eye of the Heart, the basirah, can be opened to see the wonders of Allah. When the reality of Allah is witnessed He is loved with an Unconditional Love.

Brother , everything is very clear about our awrad. I have been striving to learn Ayat al-Kursi3 Allah Willing I will soon have it memorized.

3. Ayat al-Kursi (al-Quran, 2:255) Allah! There is no god but He, - the Living, the Self-Subsisting, Eternal. No slumber can seize Him nor sleep. His are all things in the heavens and on earth. Who is there can intercede in His Presence except as He permitteth? He knoweth what (appeareth to His creatures as) Before or After or Behind them. Nor shall they compass aught of His Knowledge except as He Willeth. His Throne doth extend over the heavens and the earth, and He feeleth no fatigue in guarding and protecting them for He is the Most High, the Supreme (in glory.) The Holy Quran is the Book of Return. It is the Book containing everything that man requires to make the Return Journey to Allah. The recitation of its verses, particularly in the five daily prayers, constitutes an integral part of a Muslims life. The reciter is given the means to Return to the Source. However, within the Tariqa this recitation is multiplied many times, so that much of the murids day and night are devoted to the dhikr. To recite, for example, Ayat alKursi dozens or even hundreds of times during one day is to activate and bring about astounding alchemical changes within the self of the murid.

And I have memorized the other suras, except the 128th and 129th verses of Surat at-Tauba,4 which Allah Willing I will soon know.

4. (al-Quran 9: 128,129) Now hath come unto you a Messenger from amongst yourselves: it grieves him that you should perish: ardently anxious is he over you: to the Believers is he most kind and merciful. But if they turn away, say: Allah sufficeth me: there is no god but He: on Him is my trust, - He is the Lord of the Throne of Glory Supreme! As with each verse of the Holy Quran this particular verse can be a source of constantly new knowledge. The inner meanings may descend into the heart of the sincere believer when he approaches the Sacred Words with humility, need and deep love of Allah. Laqad jaa-akoum Rasuluun min anfusikoum Now hath come unto you a Messenger from amongst yourselves.

May Allah increase us in knowledge, give us high himma5 and open our basirah.6

5. Himma is intense yearning for Allah. It is the most powerful energy which man contains, because on it, on his himma, he is enabled to fly back to his Lord. And the Holy Prophet Muhammad May the Blessings of Allah be upon him and Peace said, A man is rewarded according to his himma.

It is this himma which moves the murid to rise in the early hours of the morning, to sit in dhikr, to struggle against the bodys desire to sleep and rest and pamper itself, AND THE SKY IS NOT THE LIMIT, p.125. 6. When a heart becomes Pure and filled with Goodness. After the black spots have been removed and no stains remain, then the eye of that heart will slowly open, and the owner to the heart will begin to See. This inner eye is called al-basirah and with it one sees deeper than what meets the outer eye. The word basirah comes from the Name al-Basir which is one of the Beautiful names of Allah. It means He is the One Who is All-Seeing, Now and Always and Forever. Amatullah Armstrong. THE WATER OF LIFE, A Traditional Story for Our Time, 1994.

Peace be upon you and the Mercy of Allah and His Blessings. Your murid7 Amatullah

7. Throughout this book we have used the word seeker to indicate the one (male or female) who has not yet reached his Spiritual Guide, and either the word murid or traveller for the one who is developing his own self, under the strict direction of the Murshid, within the Islamic Spiritual Path.

* ** 2009 COMMENTARY From the outset the Murshid is placed in a far too exalted position. The murid is in complete awe of the man who she perceives as being perfect. She is seeing him as a divine being! Such an erroneous view should, ideally, have been squashed at the outset by the Murshid himself. Sayyiduna Ali (R.A) said that if someone praises you you should throw dirt in his face! By allowing the murid to regard him as almost sublime he is in fact feeding his own ego. In a way, this is a form of shirk. Respect, honour and love of the Shaykh are essential, but exaggerated honour, praise and awe of the Shaykh are not what the Path is about. Allah is the All-Significant, the One Worthy of Praise. The concept that the bayah with a Sufi master is a covenant with Allah is misleading. The historical event to which this Quranic ayat refers was in fact a political allegiance, not a spiritual one. In the first days of Islam there was no bayah. The People of the Bench, the ahl al-suffa, wanted to follow the spiritual teaching of Rasulullah (SallAllahu alaihi wasalam). That was their intention. So, what was the necessity for a bayah? Intention is all that is necessary. The idea that a murid is bound to a Murshid/Shaykh and must honour the bayah to the death and beyond is erroneous and potentially damaging. Should the murid lose respect and honour for the Shaykh or should he encounter another Shaykh from whom he wishes to learn or to whom he feels attracted, he must feel free to move-on. If the murid feels that he/she is irrevocably bound to the Shaykh it may take years for the barrier to eventually fall,

thereby allowing the murid to move-on. Or that barrier may never fall, and the murid may remain stuck, unable to progress or develop. However, the positive aspect of this Foreword and first letter is that, upon entering the tariqa, the murid immediately dedicates herself to the awrad and the quest for knowledge. An essential attitude.

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LETTER 2 In the Name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful Dear Brother Peace be upon you and the Mercy of Allah and His Blessings. Praise be to Allah for the time you have given to listen to me and answer my questions in our recent phone conversations. Allah Willing I dont ring at I inconvenient times and Allah Willing I dont interrupt you too much.1 _____________________________________________________________ Here starts the dilemma the murid is filled with spiritual yearning for direct guidance and true knowledge from the Murshid, yet, the awe in which the Murshid is held and the murids honour, love and respect for him make the murid sensitive to, and very aware of, the possibility of overstepping the bounds of correct moral behaviour, by inadvertently disturbing or interrupting the Revered Guide. The delicate balance must be found, that point where the hunger for knowledge is satisfied whilst leaving the Murshid undisturbed! A fine balance indeed! _______________________________________________________________ So, I thought to write to you about something which is hard to express over the phone and requires a little time to actually put into words. It basically comes down to the questions, Am I fooling myself? and Is my lower self deceiving me? I have been a very private person for about the past 15 years. I really dont like socializing. I like living very quietly and spending as much time as possible in studying Islam and reading about Tasawwuf. I always feel barriers going up around me when someone is trying to invade my privacy. Our Beloved Rasulullah May the Blessings of Allah be upon him and Peace said, You are on the deen2 of your closest friend. And Ibn AtaIllah says in his Hikam, Do not keep company with anyone whose state does not inspire you and whose speech does not lead you to Allah.3
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2. The word deen is most frequently translated as religion, though its meaning is much more profound than the present day understanding of religion. Whereas a religion is often considered as a one hour on one day of the week activity, a deen is the life transaction between Allah and man. And just as life is continuous, so too is the deen, which should therefore fill each moment of mans life. 3. Shaykh Ibn AtaIllah al-Iskandari (d.1309) was the third Shaykh od the Shadhiliyya Tariqa. His Hikam (Book of Wisdom) is regarded as the finest expression of the Teachings of Shaykh Abu-l-Hasan ash-Shadhili. See IBN ATAILLAH, THE BOOK OF WISDOM, translated by Victor danner, SPCK, London 1979. p.58.Hikmah Number 43. ___________________________________________________________________

For a long time I have been asking myself if this need and desire for relative isolation is in some way a sort of trick of the nafs.4 ___________________________________________________________________ 4. The word nafs refers to, not only the lower self, but also the stages of the Self through which the traveller passes on his Journey to the Higher Self. There are seven stages of the Self which are often referred to as; i). Nafs al-ammara (the animal self): The (human) soul is certainly prone to evil. al-Quran 12:53 ii). Nafs al-lawwama (the complaining self): And I do call to witness the selfreproaching spirit (eschew evil). al-Quran 75:2 iii) Nafs al-mulhama (the inspired Self): By the soul, and the proportion and order given to it, al-Quran 91:7 iv) Nafs al-Mutmainna (the Self at Peace): (To the righteous soul will be said:) O (thou) soul, in (complete) rest and satisfaction! al-Quran 89:27 v) Nafs al-Radhiyya (the well-pleased Self): Come back thou to thy Lord, - Well pleased (thyself), al-Quran 89:28 vi) Nafs al-Mardhiyya (the well-pleasing Self): And well-pleasing unto Him! alQuran 89:28 vii) Nafs al-Kamila (the Perfect Self): Enter thou, then, among My slaves! alQuran 89:29 The murid in a tariqa has taken up the supreme work in life he has pledged to undertake the Spiritual Journey of return, which is the very reason for his existence he has started the struggle to transform his Nafs al-ammara into his Nafs al-kamila. In these letters nafs generally is used when referring to the nafs al-ammara, the lower self, which the murid is striving to transform. ___________________________________________________________________ Is my nafs telling me, Of course its best for you to be alone. You would never have yearned for Tasawwuf if youd not worked to secure the privacy. You would not have reached the tariqa had you mingled in the marketplace?5 _____________________________________________________________________ 5. In this struggle against the lower self a certain amount of selfishness is necessary! At first sight this may seem like a contradiction, but, it is obvious that the murid must protect himself from those outside influences which will not only distract him from his spiritual work, but which may also pull him completely away from his individual endeavour. Selfishness or selfprotection- in this case both words amount to the same thing. Besides, a man truly cannot help others until he has helped his own self. ____________________________________________________________________ Ibn AtaIllah also says, Your desire for isolation, even though Allah has put you in the world to gain a living, is a hidden passion. And your desire to gain a living in the world, even though Allah has put you in isolation, is a comedown from a lofty aspiration.6 And, He who wishes there appear, at a

given moment, other than what Allah has manifested in it, has not left ignorance behind. 7 _________________________________________________________________ 6. The Book of Wisdom, p.47. Hikmah Number 2. 7. The Book of Wisdom, p.51. Hikmah Number 17 _____________________________________________________________________ And in answer to the question, Sayyidi, what does Allah Taala want from creation, the great Master Sahl at-Tustari replied, The state they now have.8 ____________________________________________________________________ 8. To understand this profound statement and to then live every moment of ones life with such a conviction, is to reach Knowledge of the reality of the Lord and slave relationship. This state is called taslim Perfect Surrender. ____________________________________________________________________ Through the Grace of Allah I am now connected to the Heart Teaching of Islam, and, Praise be to Allah, I have been given the great opportunity to devote much of my time to studying the works of Tasawwuf. A certain amount of privacy is necessary to develop ones self, isnt it? Should I be simply full of gratitude to Allah Taala for having given me this wonderful opportunity? I feel that this is the truth of the matter, but truly I often wonder whether or not I am fooling myself. And when I first spoke to you on the phone you said that the time I have been given without children is in fact a blessing. But it is only a blessing if I utilize this time in the correct manner, isnt it? Allah Willing these words convey what I am trying to express. In a way I think Ive sorted it out for myself in just writing down these thoughts but then again that could be another deception!9 ____________________________________________________________________

9. Even at this early stage, after being in Tariqa for only one month, the murid is on the lookout for the deceptive and cunning trickery of the nafs al-ammara. __________________________________________________________________ Praise be to Allah I now have you to talk to, to guide me. Allah Willing I will phone you after you receive this letter. Brother, yesterday you spoke to me about Mechanical Worship. A long time ago you sent me a little book The Naqshbandi Way.10 __________________________________________________________________ 10. Sheikh Abdullah ad-Daghistani, THE NAQSHBANDI WAY: A Guidebook for Spiritual Progress, Sebat Offset Printers, Konya, Turkey _____________________________________________________________________

You wrote, To help clean the rust from our hearts.11 _____________________________________________________________________ 11. The spiritual work undertaken in the tariqa is purely and simply the polishing of the heart. Once it has been polished to such a high degree that the Almighty Allah can be reflected therein then man has arrived at the honoured rank of khalifah of Allah. The Holy Prophet Muhammad said, There is a polish for everything to remove rust and the polish of the heart is the Remembrance of Allah (dhikrullah) __________________________________________________________________ I had been trying to follow many of the practices in this book before finding my Murshid. When I read that the People of Determination should not leave the Sunna prayers12 at all, I then did Sunna prayers always. __________________________________________________________________ 12. Sunna Prayers A fixed number of prayers which, though not obligatory, are nonetheless recommended to be performed daily. __________________________________________________________________ (I think I wanted one day to be a Person of Determination, Allah Willing!). I really worry about that Mechanical Worship when the mind wanders during prayer and I have to keep dragging it back.13 __________________________________________________________________ 13. The murid may strive and struggle to stop the mind from wandering during prayer and contemplation, but, by his own efforts he will not be able to drag his mind back to concentration and fixity. This is a delicate mystery, and one over which the murid will ponder for many, many long years. It is said; No one worships Allah but Allah. The best we can do is make our intention, at the beginning of the prayer, to turn all our attention to Allah. Everything else is His Grace. ____________________________________________________________________ Brother, is it right for me to strive to do all the Sunna prayers and Tahajjud?14 _____________________________________________________________________ 14. Tahajjud prayer is prayer performed at night, between midnight and dawn. The Holy Quran says: Their limbs do forsake their beds of sleep, the while they call on their Lord, in Fear and Hope. (32:16). The Holy Prophet Muhammad said: Each night, when a third of it hath yet to come, our Lord blessed and exalted be He! descendeth unto the nethermost heaven, and He saith: Who calleth unto me, That I may answer him? Who prayeth unto Me a prayer, that I may grant him it? Who asketh My forgiveness, that I may forgive him? This is a powerful means of stifling the lower self, used as it is to ease and comfort. As soon as a devotee starts rising in the middle of the night for prayer and supplication, he has made a real and noteworthy effort in his own personal Holy War against the ugly vices within. _________________________________________________________________ I really want to, but I fear Mechanical Worship!! May Allah protect me from that terrible abyss. Several years ago, when my heart was being pulled to

Tasawwuf, I read in The Darqawi Way15 that the seeker must persevere until he finds a Lover of Allah who will guide him. _______________________________________________________________ 15. Shaykh ad-Darqawi: THE DARQAWI WAY, Diwan Press, 1981 _________________________________________________________________ That concept of perseverance, in conjunction with the beautiful Hadith Qudsi, .and My slave ceaseth not to draw near Me with added devotions of free will until I love him.,16 filled my heart and pushed me on. Praise be to Allah. _________________________________________________________________ 16. A Hadith Qudsi is a Holy Saying from Allah, which descended upon the Holy Prophet Muhammad, but is separate from the Holy Quran. My servant draws near Me through nothing I love more than that which I have made obligatory for him. My servant never ceases drawing near to Me through supererogatory works until I love him. Then, when I love him, I am his hearing through which he hears, his sight through which he sees, his hand through which he grasps, and his foot through which he walks. This particular Hadith Qudsi is referred to, again and again, in writings by the Lovers of Allah. It contains many secrets and profound mysteries. See THE SUFI PATH OF KNOWLEDGE, Ibn al-Arabis Metaphysics of Imagination, William C.Chittick, SUNY, 1989. ___________________________________________________________________ Brother, Allah Willing I have not taken up too much of your time with this letter. But, this is ALL I want to do if I cant talk about the Tariqa and the way to draw nearer to Allah Taala, I dont want to talk about anything!!! My prayers are always for you. May Allah bless you and love you and give you Bliss in this life and in the Hereafter. And may you lead me to Him. Ameen. Peace be upon you. Your murid Amatullah * **

2009 COMMENTARY The Shaykh should be there and available for the murids. The murids are not there for the Shaykh, to make him feel important, and boost his ego. To be a Shaykh is to facilitate your murids, not cause unnecessary stress and confusion over trivial matters. Here is where internet plays a big part. Physical proximity doesnt matter when the internet is in front of you. Instantly connected!

A very positive aspect of this letter is that it illustrates how many texts were being studied, and important extracts being noted. And it was my good fortune to have time to explore classical Sufic texts. One mistake is that Nafs al-ammara should have been translated as the commanding self rather than the animal self. Nafs al-haywaniyya translates as the animal self. However, knowledge of these technical terms is not really important, except if one is reading through texts and wants to understand concepts. The journey has little to do with explanations of terminology! In fact, now, in this era, I believe we actually can do away with the terminology altogether. When I first read Shaykh Ebrahims book Intent I was really blown away by the fact that he had explained the entire Sufi journey without using even one word of Arabic, no Sufi Terminology! Brilliant! Abu Madyan Shu'ayb, the great Sufi Shaykh of twelfth century North Africa and a contemporary of Shaykh Muhyi-d-Din Ibn al-'Arabi, used to say to his murids, "Feed us with fresh meat." He didnt want them to merely relate someone elses experiences and ideas. He wanted them to speak from their own direct experience and insights. So the terminology isnt really important. The direct experience, the tasting is! I once heard a lovely story about mechanical worship. There was a faqir, sitting outside the mosque at the time of Subh salat. The faqir was eating cucumbers. As the Imam walked into the mosque he noticed the faqir, sitting on the earth with his cucumbers, and reprimanded him for not preparing to pray. Now, it so happens that on the previous night, the Imam had been deciding whether he would buy some donkeys for resale. So, as the Imam led the prayer his mind became engrossed in the buying and selling of these donkeys. Throughout the standing, bowing, prostrations and dua, the donkeys and the profit he would make on the resale, filled his mind. Yet, he still led the congregation in prayer!! As he exited the mosque, there was the faqir, still sitting on the earth, eating his cucumbers. Once again the Imam reprimanded him! The faqir lazily looked up at the Imam and casually commented: Better a cucumber breakfast than a donkey prayer! (But I wonder if there is anyone whose mind doesnt stroll away, up side alleys on donkeys, thinking about cucumber breakfasts, during prayer!) Practising methods of silencing internal dialogue are essential. A person who enters a tariqa and devotes a great deal of time to the spiritual practices runs the risk of becoming an incredibly boring person to be with! All I want to talk about is Sufism! Friends depart and relatives keep away! Marriages are put under great strain, some to such an extent that they break! I now believe that it is totally irresponsible for a Shaykh to overload a devoted murid with excessive spiritual work! As we shall see in later letters I was pushed to the limits and beyond.

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Dreams can be of great value on the Sufi Path. The dreams of murids are indications of their spiritual states and are always to be kept very secret, being related only to the Murshid who is the interpreter of dreams. He is the one who will reveal the symbolism within the dream. The Prophet Muhammad (May the Blessings of Allah be open him and Peace) instructed his Companions to remember their dreams and to bring them to him for interpretation. A little while after my initiation into the Tariqa I had my first dream. It was during the Holy Month of Ramadan. Bushra, said my Murshid. Good news. AND THE SKY IS NOT THE LIMIT, p.114

Dreams are Allahs gift to the murid. Throughout these letters there are references to dreams, which, through private, can on occasion be revealed, with the Murshids permission, in order to stress the power of the Sufi Teaching.

DREAM I am in a University. It is a very old University like Oxford or Cambridge. There are numerous people, scholars, professors, intellectuals who are sitting in groups, engaged in discussions. Others are working at computers. I attempt to enter several of the conversations with these so-called learned men, but they tell me that I am silly, that I wouldnt understand what they are talking about. In an act of defiance I walk naked down a long cloistered corridor, passing many groups of these intellectuals who are whispering behind their hands and glaring at me with utter disapproval. They are disgusted with my behaviour, telling me to behave myself and remember where I am!! Then I am on a journey. I am dressed in my normal clothes. I am walking through buildings, streets, shopping centres, department stores, up and down escalators. I keep asking people for directions. No one assists me. I then ascend a very, very long escalator. I emerge onto a windy clifftop like one in the Mediterranean. The wind is blowing fiercely and the Ocean, which is to the right of me, is immense and grey. Waves are crashing upon the clifftop and the spray from the waves falls over me. There are a few desolate houses and there is a lighthouse. I walk towards the houses and then find myself in narrow, dark alleyways like those in the souk in Tunis. There are a few old Tunisian men, with magnificent brown wrinkled faces standing at corners of the alleyways. Silently they direct me along the narrow paths. They point and tenderly smile. I reach a door and then enter descend a long flight of wooden stairs. At the bottom is a very tiny inner courtyard. My Murshid comes from a side door into the courtyard to greet me. He leads me into a small room, like a stable, with straw strewn on the floor. There are perhaps two or three brothers sitting at the side, close to the wall. Then my Murshid and I sit in the middle of the floort, cross-legged, facing each other. He holds out his upturned palms. On them are two pieces of pink cake. I think to myself that it looks like semolina cake. Then he tells me it is much better with jam on top. With his fingers he spreads dark crimson jam all over the pink cake. Then we each eat a piece of cake. ***

All murids are different and therefore each one has his or her own manner of approaching the Murshid, much in the same way as the devoted Companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad may the Blessings of Allah be upon him and Peace approached him. Some felt at ease and relaxed in his Presence whilst others, whose awe and love of him were so overwhelmingly strong, were spiritually fulfilled simply by seeing him from afar. When as murid is acutely aware of the reality of this link between the Murshid and the Holy Prophet then a fleeting glimpse of the Murshid or a word from him can sustain that murid, and inspire him to yearn and struggle in the Way of Allah. I wrote very few letters during those first months in the Path and tried to keep my phone conversations brief, being quite unsure just how much or how little I should write or say. In those early days my questions to my Murshid were quite broad and general. I was acutely aware of my ignorance and therefore did not dare delve too deeply into the complexities, let alone the mysteries, of the Path. However it was during this period, between the time of Bayah Uthmaniyya and the Night of Bayah five months later, that I first experienced the power of the dhikrullah. My initial taste of this overwhelming spiritual energy came upon me without the slightest forewarning. Quite suddenly I was engulfed by a wave of barakah, spiritual energy, which left me dazed, empty, floundering, and somewhat frightened. I clung to the Silsilah, the spiritual chain of our tariqa, reciting those Blessed names over and over again, trying to prevent myself from being washed away in the deluge. The following letters reveal the gradual progress of the murid moving along the Path to Knowledge of Allah, a journey regularly punctuated with direct spiritual experiences, the intensity of which were ever-increasing.

***

The five months passed, during which time I spoke frequently with my Murshid in Perth. I turned myself totally towards the work which had been given me and longed for the day when he would cross the continent to honour my home with a visit. AND THE SKY IS NOT THE LIMIT, p100.

Books cannot convey the profound nature of the Murshid. Words can simply act as signposts or indicators, for as the Lover of Allah, Shaykh Ibn al-Arabi said: a sign is sufficient to him who attains.

Before phoning him I would begin to get agitated, my breathing would become tight, my nerves would tingle and my sight start to blur. Then I would hear his voice and Id be clutching the phone so tightly, shaking from head to foot, desperately trying to take in and absorb every precious word that he said. IBID, p 108

The day finally dawned when I was to once again meet my Murshid, in the physical realm, and take basyah at his hand.

The Presence of my Murshid in Brisbane was immediately apparent to me. Without any outside indication I knew within my heart that he had arrived. Somehow, the atmosphere seemed different, though I cannot say how this was. He is here, I know he has arrived. And, early the next morning he phoned me. IBID p. 101

During the above mentioned phone conversation my Murshid said something which was to haunt me for many months to come. He said, in reference to the telephone, We can have other forms of communication. I sat in his Presence and took Bayah at his hand, and received the direct transmission of the Breath.

As he [my Murshid] drove away from my home on that night I simply wanted to pick up my subhah and follow him. I didnt start walking, but I did start phoning him and when we talked I had no idea how much or how little time had passed. How many years had I been holding all of this inside? So many words poured out. My letters to him were long and frequent. The written words also poured out. Written words and spoken words. IBID p.103.

***

LETTER 3 In the Name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful Dear Brother Peace be upon you and the Mercy of Allah and His Blessings. Praise be to Allah, you are safe. May Allah protect you always. You once said to me on the phone that we could have other forms of communication, other than the phone. I yearned for such a communication last Sunday when you were in hospital.1 _____________________________________________________________________ 1. Two months after having taken Bayah my Murshid was involved in a car accident, and as he lay in hospital, thousands of miles away, I truly yearned for this other form of communication. These were early days as his murid and, even though I wished to phone the hospital, I felt perhaps it was not the correct thing to do. So I sat and made dua (supplication) to Allah to protect my Murshid and keep him safe. Thank you for all your dua were his first words to me. I was overwhelmed because I thought no one knew of my prayers. Here was the proof that the dua always reaches the one for whom it is made! Here was one of those other forms of communication. ____________________________________________________________________ With you as my Murshid, Allah Willing, one day I will be able to purify my inner self enough for such a communication to take place! My need for my Murshid is so immense. Hearing your voice yesterday was like The Ear of Certainty!!!2 ___________________________________________________________________ 2. In Note 3, Letter 2 we quoted those verses from The Holy Quran which indicate the seven stages of the self. These stages are also referred to, in the Holy Quran and the hadith, as Islam, Iman, Ihsan, Ilm al-yaqin, Ayn al-yaqin, Haqq al-yaqin, Islam (istislam): i) Islam is to declare that there is no god, only Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah; to say the prayers, to pay zakat, to fast during Ramadan and to perform the Pilgrimage, if one is able. (Hadith) The desert Arabs say, We believe. [amana]. Say, Ye believe not, but rather say we submit [aslama] for the faith [iman] hath not yet enetered into your hearts. (al-Quran 49:14) ii) Iman is to believe in Allah, His angels, His Books, His Messengers, fate and the Hereafter. (Hadith)

Each one [of the men of faith] believeth in Allah, His angels, His books, and His Messengers. (al-Quran 2:285) iii) Ihsan is to worship Allah like you see Him, and though you do not see Him, be certain that He Sees you. (Hadith) Verily, in Rasulullah, ye have a beautiful example (al-Quran 33:21) iv) Ilm al-yaqin The Knowledge of Certainty. This comes from hearing about the Fire of Truth. Ayn al-yaqin The Eye of Certainty. This knowledge comes from seeing the light of the Fire with the inner eye, ther basirah. Musa said to his household: Verily beyond all doubt I have seen a fire. I will bring you tidings of it [i.e. ilm al-yaqin] or I will bring you a flaming brand that ye may warm yourselves [ayn al-yaqin]. (al-Quran 27:7) Haqq al-yaqin The Truth of Certainty. To be consumed by the Fire. To become one with Reality. But when he [Musa] came to the fire, a voice was heard: O Musa! Verily I am thy Lord! Therefore (in My Presence) put off thy shoes: thou art in the sacred valley Tuwa. (al-Quran 20:11,12) Islam the very essence of Islam is istislam, which is going to meet the Divine Will in utter compliance. Behold! His Lord said to him [Ibrahim]: Surrender! (aslim), he said I have surrendered (aslamtu) to the Lord of the Worlds. (al-Quran 2:131) In this letter, the Ear of Certainty is an allusion on my part, to the above mentioned three degrees of certainty. _________________________________________________________________

v)

vi)

vii)

With unspeakable gratitude to Allah for this gift of the Path. Peace be upon you and the Mercy of Allah and His Blessings. Your murid Amatullah

******* 2009 COMMENTARY My friends, I know this book is a bit tiresome but I think it may be useful, with this new commentary. So do bear with me!!

Looking back through this book I am amazed and irked by the attitude I had towards the murshid: speaking of his almost divine breath and his perfection! It is bordering on shirk! And I was never warned that such an attitude was damaging to myself, and I was too blind to see my own idol worshipping. Theres no point in stating this point over and over again in this 2009 commentary. It continues and grows throughout the entire book! We no longer have space on this planet earth to accommodate iconic Sufi Shaykhs. We need teachers who are firmly grounded, willing to get their hands soiled with manual labour if the moment requires such an action, teachers who give every moment its due and regard themselves as insignificant. It can be somewhat dangerous to publish ones autobiography, particularly when dealing with ones inner journey. We are in constant change and growth and what we were 15 years ago we are no longer. (Allahs Blessings are Infinite!) To keep a journal is constructive but to have it published is another thing entirely. You run the terrible risk of influencing other people with your misguided views, hence the necessity to put things right. Dreams contain messages to the dreamer, the symbols relate to him, not to someone else. The dreamer should interpret his own dream, read the symbols and follow the narrative of the dream. Its not a good idea to put the private world of your dreams in print. In fact, it is yet another trick of the self wanting to claim significance. I cannot see how the above quoted dream could be of any possible use to anyone. And so to the question of the awrad! I was overloaded with dhikr to the point of physically collapsing under the strain. Was it barakah or was it exhaustion? But the point that has to be kept in mind is that I willing chose to do this, to undertake the excessive work and to struggle on. My soul demanded it. I dont regret having spent those physically painful years in mujahada, spiritual endeavour. Each experience, each moment is a stepping stone to the next experience and moment. For me it was necessary. Hopefully not too many others need travel the same sort of route. ******* Just a brief word for any new friends on Facebook who are reading this topic. Here on the Discussion Board I am reproducing the text from my 1994 book Letters Inside the Journey and adding a new 2009 commentary in order to clarify and correct certain points. Seeing things in a new light, so to speak.

LETTER 4 In the Name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful Dear Peace be upon you and the Mercy of Allah and His Blessings. Praise be to Allah and Eternal Blessings and Peace upon our Prophet Muhammad, the light whose shadow the things are.1 _________________________________________________________________ 1. These words are from a poem in Praise of the Prophet by Fakhruddin Iraqi. _________________________________________________________________ On the night you had your accident, and for about a fortnight after it, I was quite bereft and felt helpless and inadequate. In my heart I was making dua2 for you almost constantly, but that just didnt seem enough. __________________________________________________________________ 2. Dua is the private and personal supplication of the slave to his Lord. Your Lord hath said, Call upon Me and I shall answer you. (al-Quran 2:260). Call upon Allah, or call upon Rahman: By whichever name ye call upon Him, (it is well): for to Him belong the Most Beautiful Names. (al-Quran 17:110). This personal form of prayer gives to the worshipper the opportunity to pour out his heart, expressing his longings, his fears, and his intense need of his Lord. In so doing man can rid himself of accumulated poisons and emotional debris which block the celestial channel between himself and Allah Almighty. Sitting, with head bowed and palms upturned in an attitude of readiness to receive the barakah from above, man may become a symbol, not only of spiritual poverty but also one of supreme trust. ___________________________________________________________________ What more could I do? It sounds pretty strange, but all my dhikr and prayer I did with the intention that if any barakah was coming to me, for it to go to you instead!! It sounds arrogant a murid wanting her barakah to go to her Murshid but truly I had no pride in this just a real need to do something for you. Did I do something that was totally lacking in abad? I dont know! But, Praise be to Allah, you are now well. Peace be upon you and the Mercy of Allah and His Blessings. Your murid Amatullah

_____________________________________________________________________

Much of the higher teaching in Tariqa takes place in the murids dreams when he will be given indications or instructions. Frequently my Murshid was with me in my dreams telling me things of immense importance. AND THE SKY IS NOT THE LIMIT, p.114

The problem of adab, moral courtesy, arose very early in my time as the murid of my Murshid. The male and female relationships of Islamic Sharia is well defined, and from what I had observed on my travels in Muslim countries, quite often it is incredibly strict. For a Western woman who has been used to mingling with people, both male and female, this aspect can cause a great deal of strain. IBID, p.102

Many of the letters collected in this book bear witness to just how great this dilemma was for me! ***

LETTER 5 In the Name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful Dear Peace be upon you and the Mercy of Allah and His Blessings. Yesterday morning I had a very fleeting dream. Within this dream you told me to phone you at 2 oclock in the afternoon, as you wished to speak to me. Thats why I rang yesterday. And, you DID want to speak with me about my awrad!1 _____________________________________________________________________ 1. One of these other forms of communication has just occurred between the Murshid and murid, though, at this very early stage the murid may find it all too incredible to believe and as a consequence will regard the incident as a mere coincidence! _____________________________________________________________________ I told you about the harrowing time I had during the two weeks after your accident. On one of those mornings when I was feeling really dreadful I was sitting on the front verandah, staring in front of me. Then I realized I was actually staring at something. A shaft of sunlight had penetrated the dark undergrowth of the garden just in front of the verandah, and at the point where the light fell on a fern was written, in Arabic script ALLAH.2 __________________________________________________________________ 3. We shall show them Our signs on the horizons and within themselves, until it is clear to them that this is the Truth. (al-Quran 41:53).Within this Spiritual Journey the traveller firstly makes the voyage in the universe ( Sayr-iAfaqi), observing Allahs signs on the horizons, then he makes the voyage within the self (Sayr-i-Anfusi), reading the signs within his own self. The Holy Prophet Muhammad May the Blessings of Allah be upon him and Peace ascended to the Divine Presence during his Miraj after having been shown everything about the world. He then left his own self and entered the realm of Absolute Truth. The Prophet Muhammad is our beautiful example, and if we sincerely yearn to reach Allah then we must follow in his footsteps. _____________________________________________________________________ Praise be to Allah. I have been reading William Chitticks book on Shaykh Ibn al-Arabi The Sufi Path of Knowledge. What an incredible book! Its taking me ages to read. After every couple of paragraphs my head starts to whirl and spin! There is SO much I want to talk about in this book. Allah Willing in the future I will be able to sit with you and learn. Before you became my Murshid, during those years when I was reading about Tasawwuf, I truly thought that I wasnt qualified to even consider being in a Tariqa. I used to read about people who would attach themselves to the periphery of the

Tariqa so that they could benefit from the barakah3 and this even seemed like an impossible dream for me. _____________________________________________________________________ 4. Barakah is a subtle spiritual energy which flows through everything, but is strongest within the human. The more purified the human becomes the greater the flow of barakah. Overpowering barakah can be experienced in sacred art and sanctified people, all of which are theophanies, revealing and manifesting the Divinity here on earth. _____________________________________________________________________ But now that all of this has happened to me I find myself wanting, wanting, wanting!!!! When you were with us on the night of bayah it was like an indication to me of what lies ahead. Sitting in your company was astounding, and I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life in such company; with the Lovers of Allah.4 _____________________________________________________________________ 4. Man is on the deen of his closest friend, says an Hadith; and it is not easy to become a Perfect Man, says Ibn al-Arabi, it is only possible to find a Perfect man and hold onto his hand and serve him. And Shaykh Jalal-ud-Din Rumi says, Do not look at vessels. Dive into the sea of meanings! Perhaps you will see Me [Allah] in the company of the Sufis. __________________________________________________________________ The period of your illness is a great trial for me. Ive been questioning myself about so many aspects. Adab5 has been a worry to me _____________________________________________________________________ 5. Adab is right behaviour or courtesy: spiritual coutesy of the way. Each moment, each situation, has its particular adab: right courtesy with ones own self, right courtesy with creation, and right courtesy with Allah and His Messenger. The one who know Allah (arif) sees things as they are in there reality. He has discernment and therefore is able to observe the right behaviour which each moment demands. And it has been said by the Lovers of Allah of the Sufi Path that all Tasawwuf is courtesy. The one with adab is he who has constant and perfect awareness of Allah. His heart is always connected to his Lord, at all times and in all situations. That is perfect adab. The Holy Prophet Muhammad May the Blessings of Allah be upon him and Peace said, I was sent to complete the noble (beautiful) character traits for humanity and Allah says in the Holy Quran, regarding the Holy Prophet Muhammad: And thou (standest) on an exalted standard of character. (68:4). The Sufis follow in the footsteps of the Holy Prophet Muhammad May the Blessings of Allah be upon him and Peace and so Tasawwuf is all courtesy and adab. _____________________________________________________________________ Ive read about adab between Murshid and murid, but that is always with brothers. Ive been following my heart with adab, but I know my heart is so

covered with rust that its probably misguiding me. Please forgive me if I am guilty of a lack of adab. I always make dua for Allah to guide me to correct adab with my Murshid. And I find it really difficult to bear the fact that you are in pain, yet, when I am in pain I never ask Allah to stop the pain and even tough I use various medicines to help remove the cause of the sickness I do not ask Allah to remove it even though it is permissible to do so. But, Allah Willing, your pain soon eases. And Allah Willing this letter hasnt tired you. I feel that perhaps I do tire you when I speak with you by phone. Peace be upon you and the Mercy of Allah and His Blessings. Your murid Amatullah *** 2009 COMMENTARY The footnotes are helpful in these letters with the explanations of adab etc. Even in these early stages I was aware of the concept of correct moral courtesy (seeing things as they are and giving everything its due). That is the essence our journey from immaturity to maturity, from being here to get to being here to give, what we now refer to as transactional correctness. This is the underlying theme of the classic Sufic texts. But in those texts the theme is often clothed in a terminology which is no longer necessary for us. We are living in an era when elitism and exclusiveness are hindrances to ones development. Sufi terminology can get in the way! Looking back at these letters I am now aware that my obsession with correct adab with the Murshid, was a hidden method of seeking significance. I seem to have wasted a lot of time and energy pondering over this aspect. Adoration of the Murshid has been discussed in earlier notes. Here I will insert an extract from my latest book The Lamp of Love. I think it illustrates an opening of awareness, on my part, that we are here to give not to get. *** On the plane journey to Brisbane I reflected upon my months in Pakistan. And I quickly realized that each day of life as a traveller in the Subcontinent had brought with it a growing awareness of a previous inner imbalance. Vital qualities had been absent in my life prior to Pakistan, the quality of compassion, which is the very heart of Islam and that of love, the essence of Tasawwuf. The more contact I had with the Pakistani people the more I came to understand just how meagre had been my compassion and love for Allhs humanity throughout the years in my first tariqa in Australia when I had devoted myself almost entirely to zikr and fikr. But, perhaps this is as it should be because Pakistan was destined to be the earthly setting for this particular awareness to unfold. Pakistan ripped me apart and opened me up to an inflowing and an outpouring. Love flowed to me from so many people. And I reciprocated with a great outpouring of love and compassion for them. Everywhere I went I encountered raw, beautiful,

sad, joyful, exultant, desolate, dignified, impoverished humanity. Pakistan changed my entire life. Sufism had to be a dynamic reality. It had to be lived. ***

What is it exactly about the Murshid that is causing so much worry and confusion to the beginner on the Spiritual Path. The Murshid as a Man. Yes. But, with a difference. What is this difference? The difference between your Murshid and every other man you have ever encountered is his Perfection. Perfection? In the words of Shaykh Ibn al-;Arabi: The Perfect Man is such a pure, clean, absolute mirror, that Allah, Who is Absolute Beauty, sees His Ipseity unconditionally therein (Kernel of the Kernel) AND THE SKY IS NOT THE LIMIT, p.144

LETTER 6 In the Name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful Dear Peace be upon you and the Mercy of Allah and His Blessings. Praise be to Allah and Eternal Blessings and Peace upon our Beloved Rasulullah. I have been thinking, as I always do, about our little talk this morning. What a wonderful invention is the telephone! There are many things I would like to write down, Allah Willing, in a later letter: but Ive thought about the way I get agitated and spacey before I talk with you. Im still so totally overwhelmed about being in the tariqa, and I know this is the greatest gift from Allah. Always in my heart I knew you were of great importance to me. The first time I read Ibn AtaIllahs Do not keep company with anyone whose state does not inspire you and whose speech does not lead you to Allah I thought that you were the one whose state would inspire me and whose speech would lead me to Allah. And when I read the beautiful saying of Rasulullah May the Blessings of Allah be upon him and Peace When they are seen Allah is remembered, it is you I think of.1 ___________________________________________________________________ 1. When the Prophet Muhammad May the Blessings of Allah be upon him and Peace was asked who are the Truthful Ones, he replied that they are the ones who when they are seen, Allah is remembered. As was stated earlier, it takes time for the murid to even begin to comprehend the import of the quranic verse: The Hand of Allah is above their hands. The meaning of this verse is indeed a mystery, a secret which the murid will continually yearn to penetrate, but which will remain elusive. This and many other aspects of the journey are encompassed in the words of Abu Bakr Siddiq May Allah be pleased with him the Beloved Friend of Rasulullah: Inability to attain comprehension IS comprehension. _____________________________________________________________________ Praise be to Allah. And when finally I saw you again after 6 years, and I sat with my Murshid, it was like an incredible dream. Is this really happening to me? I know there is a true love and respect between Murshid and murid, but also there is a great awe from me because you have travelled the Path and you are the most important person in the world to me. You said I shouldnt get agitated when I speak with you, but how can I not get agitated? You are the only person who speaks the Truth to me and that is quite agitating!!! And after Ive spoken with you I think Im even more spacey than before!!! Then the agitation subsides and I just sit with a great sweetness flowing in me. Praise be to Allah. In The Book of Strangers2 Ian Dallas (Shaykh AdbulQadir as-Sufi) mentions something similar, about the sensation he experienced when in close proximity to his Shaykh.

____________________________________________________________________ 2. Ian Dallas, THE BOOK OF STRANGERS, SUNY, 1988. ____________________________________________________________________ My sensation seems to have nothing to do with actual physical distance it seems to me to be much more subtle than that! The memory of the serenity and intensity of the night I took bayah fills my eyes with tears. And, as I said to you its fairly strange to speak with someone knowing that he knows the dreadful mess of your inner-self!!!!3 _____________________________________________________________________ 3. Yet another instance when the murid does not really understand the present situation. He may have read how the Murshid possesses powers of mind-reading, heart-reading and insight into future developments within his murids; powers which fully qualify him as the Physician of souls, but, reading about something and knowing that same something with certainty are two completely different things. Throughout the Journey there is a beautiful unfolding of, and a gradual awakening to, the spiritual gifts which have been bestowed upon the Murshid by Allah _____________________________________________________________________ May Allah love you. Ameen. Peace be upon you and the Mercy of Allah and His Blessings. Your murid Amatullah ***

The Murshid may at times appear to be ruthless and harsh. He must say things which seem to cut deeply and hurt as he attacks the lower self of the murid, who is then thrown into utter confusion. From within the chaos the murid is enabled to see certain base character traits and having recognized them as negative and ugly elements he can then make war. [The murid who craves gentleness from the Murshid should bear in mind those beautiful words of Jalal-ud-Din Rumi: Do not imagine that his severity is the opposite of his gentleness behold the unity of these two in their effects!] During a phone conversation my Murshids words hit their mark, throwing me into turmoil and causing me to look much more deeply inside myself. Recalling that incident I now realize that in reality my Murshid did not actually say anything hurtful. He simply was bringing out of me the base character traits which were so deeply hidden. His words were quite straightforward and gentle. The guilt and fear within myself was receiving them as words of criticism and pain. ***

The alchemy is a painful process, but the Murshid is the master of spiritual alchemy and you have handed over your will to him. The journey is long and it requires long and patient work and struggle. AND THE SKY IS NOT THE LIMIT, p.115

LETTER 7 In the Name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful Dear Peace be upon you and the Mercy of Allah and His Blessings. Thank you from my heart for all the time you take to talk with me on the phone. You spoke about the length of time required for spiritual maturity to be developed and attained. Sometimes I think Ill need one hundred years to start maturing not ten years!!! Today, the extent of my own spiritual immaturity seems to have hit me full-on in the solar plexus. I think that the snake between my sides1 is far, far bigger than your other murids. ____________________________________________________________________ 1. This is reference to the story about Shaykh Alawi, the great Algerian Lover of Allah, who as a young man used to charm snakes. His own Shaykh told him that if he could charm the snake between the two sides of his body, i.e. His lower self, then he would indeed be a sage. See Martin Lings, A SUFI SAINT OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY: SHAIKH AHMAD AL-ALAWI, Allen and Unwinj, 1973, p.52. The Holy Prophet Muhammad May the Blessings of Allah be upon him and Peace said, The worst enemy you have is [the nafs] between your sides. People of the Path know that from within the Tradition things can be viewed from different angles. From the Shariah viewpoint; from the Tariqa viewpoint and from the Haqiqah viewpoint. Shariah Sacred Law; Haqiqah Inner Reality; Tariqa the means to travel from Shariah to Haqiqah. As with the Holy Quran and with the Hadith literature there are inner and outer meanings waiting to be penetrated and unveiled. The worst enemy you have is [the nafs] between your sides. Your lower self is an enemy to your Higher Self; OR the worst enemy to you (i.e. you as an individual; a separated and scattered mass of matter which has lost its Unity) is the Secret, the reality, which is contained deep within your Higher Self. For if the reality of your Secret is unveiled, then the you which is distanced from your Lord will be annihilated! _____________________________________________________________________ Today I feel as though I havent even commenced the struggle with my nafs. I feel as though I dont deserve even one hour of sleep at night: and I thought I was struggling by getting six hours sleep!! And, I feel that Im one of your troublesome murids with all my questions and concern over my physical state. Allah Willing, I will soon discover some sincerity in my heart and truly start to struggle, and Allah Willing I will one day start to act. Thank you, for everything. For your words, your time, your love. Praise be to Allah, you are my lifeline.

Our Beloved Prophet Muhammad May the Blessings of Allah be upon him and Peace said, He who acts upon what he knows, Allah will give him what he doesnt know.2 _____________________________________________________________________ 2. In the phone conversation I had with my Murshid he elaborated upon the hadith, and in so doing, emphasized a particular aspect which was lost in the above translation. He said: He who acts upon what he knows, Allah will make him inherit that which he does not know. He stressed the aspect of inheritance. Only members of a family are eligible for inheritance. By loving our Beloved Prophet Muhammad more than anything, by meticulously following his perfect example, by applying oneself with total sincerity to the deen of Islam and by striving to do ones utmost to observe the nobility of his Great Teaching, one can become worthy of being a member of his family. To such a believer will be given his inheritance. There is a kind of paradise called the paradise of heritage (jannati-wirathat), which is the paradise of the praiseworthy disposition, the attainment of which may be achieved through perfect observation in following our Prophet. _____________________________________________________________________ And say My Lord, increase me in knowledge!3 _____________________________________________________________________ 3. High above all is Allah, the King, the Truth! Be not in haste with the Quran before its revelation to thee is completed, but say, O my Lord, increase me in knowledge. (al-Quran 20:114) This dua, My Lord, increase me in knowledge!, should be constantly upon the lips and within the hearts of all those who strive to be freed from the passions of the lower self. And once having been freed the Gnostic will then ceaselessly supplicate; My Lord, increase me in knowledge!, because now he will truly understand that the Journey upon which he began, in reality has no end. Allah is Infinite. Knowledge of Allah must therefore also be infinite. An endless trajectory into the Unknown, whose horizons forever hold the promise of more and more and more sources of knowledge. _____________________________________________________________________ Your murid, Amatullah

******* 2009 COMMENTARY At the beginning of this section there is a quote from And the Sky is Not the Limit. I look at those words now in 2009 and say Astaghfirullah! We have been brainwashed into believing every Sufi Master is perfect. We study the classic texts, written at a time when, no doubt, there were many luminous figures in the Sufi arena.

The times of Shaykh Ibn al-Arabi, Shaykh Abdul Qadir al-Jilani, Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, Shaykh Abul Hasan ash-Shadhili. And we then start yearning to make connection with masters of the same eminence, in the 20th/21st centuries. And many of us become blind, blinded by our own misconceptions, our own expectations. In so doing we are not only damaging ourselves but also the other person who we are placing on an unreachable pedestal! Semi-divine! No doubt there also are amazing spiritual teachers in the 21st century and there are innumerable sincere seekers. Just click a key on your laptop and voil at your fingertips are answers to a million questions and access to spiritual masters. What a blessing that our perspectives change with time and maturity! One thing that has struck me when reading these letters is the amount of reading I did in those early days. At that time I didnt have computer or internet, but I did have an extensive library of books on Tasawwuf. (A positive aspect is that the Murshid had a Sufi book shop!) So, anyone who is reading this commentary, consider your self very lucky. Voil. Its all there for you sufic texts and spiritual teachers on the internet! And its time for the litist attitude to be swept away and out of spiritual circles. If you are blessed to be in a circle you have the duty to take what you have gained and spread it wherever and whenever you can. Theres no more time or space for the semi-divine spiritual master to sit with his devotees around his ankles, holding onto the hem of his shirt. Yes, serve the spiritual master by all means and serve all humanity. The true spiritual master of the 21st century will be a man of action, a man involved with dunya, out there to help wherever possible, a man attentive to the requirement of the moment: a man who sees things as they are and gives everything its due. *******

LETTER 8 In the Name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful Dear Peace be upon you and the Mercy of Allah and His Blessings. After speaking with you last Saturday evening, when you broke off your contemplation to come to the phone, I was totally stunned. I felt so totally out of my depth on the phone; I felt totally clumsy. I desperately never want to interrupt you. Then, after our conversation I literally couldnt stop crying for days. But I still dont know why I was crying! In a way I felt very similar to how I felt after the Bayah.1 _____________________________________________________________________ 1. On the Night of Bayah when I sat with my Murshid, after having not seen him for over five years throughout which time I could never recall his face, I experienced something so ravishingly beautiful. Before I touched his hand he glanced at me and I looked at him and then as soon as the bayah had been sealed I once again looked at him. He was different. Somehow he was more beautiful, glowing, radiant. He had changed, or was it that I had changed? Something so pure had occurred as he was reciting the Blessed Silsilah of our Tariqa. What had descended on Murshid and murid? I did not know. AND THE SKY IS NOT THE LIMIT, p.121 On occasions the murid may be truly blessed, in a manner that he at once comprehends, by being given a radiant glimpse of insight into an Hadith or verse from the Holy Quran. One such occasion occurred when reading the following Hadithm whose meaning shone an entirely new light upon my experience during the Night of Bayah. And the Prophet said also; While the people of Paradise are in their enjoyment a light will shine upon them and, raising their heads, they will see their Lord has looked down upon them from above. He will say: Peace be upon you, O people of Paradise! He will then look at them and they will look at Him, and they will not turn aside to any of their enjoyment so long as they are looking at Him until He veils Himself from them, though His Light remains. And again, the Prophet said: By Him in whose hand is my soul, no gift of His is more precious than this looking upon Him! and when the vision fades, and they have come back to themselves and return to their celestial household, their companions in delight observe that they are now more beautiful than they were before. Gai Eaton, ISLAM AND THE DESTINY OF MAN, Allen and Unwin, 1985, p.241 _____________________________________________________________________ The tears wouldnt stop. Allah Willing my tears were because of yearning, but something inside me keeps telling me that I was crying for myself! crying for my out-of-control nafs.2 _____________________________________________________________________ 2. This is early in the Journey. The murid is still very spiritually immature, and of necessity, this immaturity makes him keenly aware of his ignorance. And indeed, this

is a good sign! For to have even an inkling that one understands any of this Great Mystery, at such an early stage, is to be truly steeped in ignorance! Due to this immaturity, combined with a real fear of misinterpreting the Murshids words (and incidents connected to him), I immediately thought that the floundering and clumsy sensation experienced during this decisive conversation was my out-of-control nafs. The murid must always be on guard, never allowing his lower self to mislead him into believing that his experiences are profound mystical occurrences. Some Westerners are drawn to the Sufi Path expecting to find miracles and hoping to experience unearthly visions. Such expectations and hopes are the symptoms of a partial ignorance of the reality of the Spiritual Journey. The Sufi Path is based on slaveness, and knowledge of the moment, and above all else, love of Allah. If the murid sets out with a relatively clear idea that celestial visions and unearthly voices are merely seductions to lead him astray and provoke his fall from the Way, he will be able to turn to the spiritual work with sincere and pure intention. He must be seeking nothing but Allah and His Good Pleasure. _____________________________________________________________________ May Allah give you bliss in this life and in the hereafter and may you guide me to Him. Ameen. Praise be to Allah and Eternal Blessings and Peace upon Muhammad. Peace be upon you and the Mercy of Allah and His Blessings. Your murid, Amatullah ***

The golden thread would weave its way from book to book, Master to Master, and I would try to follow is as I journeyed through the Great Teaching. AND THE SKY IS NOT THE LIMIT, p. 128

The murid must be prepared to make great sacrifices as he travels on the Spiritual Path. He must strive to willing give his time, his efforts, his wealth and his physical health. He must be prepared to sacrifice everything in an endeavour to arrive at his Goal, which is Allah. Every spare minute should be devoted to reading al-Quran, studying Hadith literature, meditating on the works of the Lovers of Allah, sitting in dhikrullah, or contemplating the Murshids words. His efforts should be totally directed to the spiritual work, therefore he must be attentive, not allowing these priceless struggles to be diverted to lesser goals. His material wealth should be regarded as a gift from Allah through which he can advance along the path. Money to purchase books of knowledge; money to phone his Murshid; money to spend on his brothers and sisters; money to help spread the Teaching via his tariqa. And he should be prepared to subject his body to the strain and pain which are an inevitable part of this struggle against the lower self.

The Sufi Teaching is first and foremost an oral one. The transmission of true knowledge which passes between the Murshid and his murid is sacred, and therefore their conversations must not be divulged to anyone except with the Murshids permission. The letters included in this book have been selected in an endeavour to assist those sincere seekers of Truth who are striving to develop their innate potentialities for Knowledge of Allah. The murid who understands the weight of the Murshids speech will never allow even one of his precious words to pass by without giving it its due. Trying to retain his unparalleled spiritual advice and guidance in ones head is not enough. The sacred knowledge which he reveals to his murids deserves and demands the utmost respect and attention. It is advisable to write down everything that the Murshid says so that his words of Truth can be thoroughly and carefully contemplated. I always recorded the words, hints and signs which were given to me during the phone conversations with my Murshid, and afterwards would spend days, often weeks, and sometimes even months, reflecting and meditating upon al that he had said. On occasions it would be a year or two before I returned to those notes to pick up and follow through something that had been subtly hinted at long before. One word would trigger off a great chain of thoughts which I would desperately attempt to follow. Yet at times, there was no way I could keep up with this inundation of flowing thoughts. As wave upon wave of new concepts flooded my mind I would be forced into accepting the fact that I simply could not follow any of it. The murid begins to learn how to not think as he flows along on the great stream of the Teaching. Sayyiduna Ali May Allah Be Pleased with him said, I have come to now Allah by abandoning thought. Everything is in constant change. The Holy Quran says: Each day He is upon some task (55:29). Shaykh Ibn al-Arabi says that Allahs tasks are the creatures, and His day is the indivisible moment, so that in each instant Allahs relationship to every existent thing in the cosmos changes. Therefore, when the murid starts to experience this flood of changing thoughts he is beginning to experience the moment al-waqt. This is a gift of Allah to the murid. Here and now this is where and when the murid can realize the Truth! Here is the space where he is physically situated, and when the here is realized it opens into Infinity. The restricted space becomes limitless space. Now is this moment he is placed in, and when the now is realized it opens into Eternity. The seemingly fixed point in time becomes endless time. Allah is Absolute. Allah is Infinite and Eternal. And being Absolute, Infinite and Eternal He cannot be limited in any way whatsoever. It has been said by a Lover of Allah, Whatever you imagine within yourself or give form to in your imagination Allah is different from that. And a Hadith Qudsi says, I am with My slaves opinion of Me. These seemingly contradictory statements actually reveal the true situation. Rational thought cannot contain the Absolute, the Infinite, the Eternal. The seewker of Truth believes in Allah. With his mind he conceives the Absolute. But the Absolute cannot be contained by thought. It is beyond thought, beyond reason. Thought cannot contain Allah, yet, the faculty of imagination allows us to approach the bewildering

truth of the Unknowability of Allah. The realm of Imagination is a real/unreal realm. We see things in our imagination but they are not really there. There/not there. He/Not He. The knower of Allah is the one who has emptied himself, made of himself a void, so that the Divine can enter the world through him. The following letter, which appears to be disjointed in its manner of jumping from subject to subject and concept to concept, actually reveals the spiralling, changing, moving thoughts of the murid. These moving thoughts are a preparation for no thought. [This will be in my next post, inshaAllah] *****

2009 COMMENTARY I have just been interviewed on a phone link-up to a radio station in Cape Town. This book, Letters Inside the Journey, was being reviewed. A very timely interview as it gave me the opportunity to explain, to whoever may have been listening, that the book is really an historical document. I was able to give voice to some of my new insights into this old immature text! I could emphasize some of the errors and misrepresentations contained within that original text. Alhamdulillah. And as Shaykh Ebrahim says, Dont let your biographies define you! The interview went well, alhamdulillah. I somehow managed to end up with the issue of benevolent intent! When I watched the Elizabeth Gilbert video, recommended by Shaykh Ebrahim, I understood what she felt when her book Eat, Pray, Love was regarded as the pinnacle of her creativity and all else that would follow would never reach that peak. Ive even had this said about my first funny little book And the Sky is Not the Limit. Regarded by many as my best (whatever that means). And when I look back on that book I wonder who was the person who wrote it!! People expect a writer or artist to keep churning out what the audience wants! Fit into the same frame. Beware of publishing your biography because people will continually ask you to tell us your story! You get stuck. In the above letter I wrote:The murid must be prepared to make great sacrifices as he travels on the Spiritual Path. He must strive to willing give his time, his efforts, his wealth and his physical health. Beware of the spiritual teacher who expects or requests or demands money from his murids! Many nave seekers have fallen into this trap, believing that they would travel swiftly along the Path if they sacrifice (willingly or unwillingly) their money. Some give their money through fear of the Murshid, thinking that to disobey him will bring down Divine Wrath! Others give money through love of the Murshid, hoping to bond more tightly with him or to become significant! A so-called Shaykh or Murshid who falls into this category should be avoided. As I stated previously, the true teacher of the new millennium is a man of the world, out there, doing his bit, earning his money through his own efforts, a man who really does follow in the footsteps of the Rasul.

Another quote from the letter: Every spare minute should be devoted to reading alQuran, studying Hadith literature, meditating on the works of the Lovers of Allah, sitting in dhikrullah, or contemplating the Murshids words. His efforts should be totally directed to the spiritual work, therefore he must be attentive, not allowing these priceless struggles to be diverted to lesser goals. If every spare minute is spent in this manner one can be pretty sure that eventually somethings gonna give! Such dedication is feasible for short intense periods, but if pursued on a daily basis for months or even years on end, it may result in fractured relationships, broken marriages and a completely distorted outlook. All work and no play certainly made the murid a dull person!! So far as oral transmission is concerned. This morning I sat with Shaykh Ebrahim and discussed this point. Shaykh said that transmission is not oral but photographic. Light emanates from one heart and is absorbed by another heart. Beautiful! People whose intent has matured become radiating beings. These are people who have put aside their own agendas and serve humanity. They radiate. Shaykh said that people with idhn are radiating beings. Radiating beings are not owned solely by Tasawwuf. There are radiating beings everywhere. Beings who radiate spontaneously. A man sitting in a train, who is not even looking at you, can be radiating and you respond to that radiation. However, people who are in the process of maturing their intent need access to radiating people. And they need that access, face-to-face, even if only once, briefly, with the Shaykh. A glance can be sufficient for the transmission to take place. SubhanAllah. So, even with internet and online linkups and Skype etc, that face-toface encounter is essential. Sayyiduna Ali May Allah Be Pleased with him said, I have come to now Allah by abandoning thought. I wrote a lot in this letter about preparing for the abandonment of thought, though I dont think I ever came even remotely close to achieving it. It wasnt till I met Shaykh Ebrahim last year that I was given the way to open up to the Now, the moment. Khalwa is a great gift from Allah.

***** Part 7- (i). Bear with me folks! This is a long circuitous ramble of a letter! But maybe theres some benefit somewhere in it. Lets see.

LETTER 9 In the Name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful Dear Peace be upon you and the Mercy of Allah and His Blessings. May Allah bring you closer to Him in each moment. Ameen. Several days ago you said to me, in relation to certain outside disturbances, Let everything flow through you.1 12. The beginner on the Spiritual Path must begin to distinguish between those disruptive aspects of life which may cause worry and agitation or which may excessively occupy his thoughts, and those helpful and positive facets which can be of use in the spiritual struggle. Detachment is a necessary attribute on this Journey to truth, for, without it the murid will soon discover that people, friends, situations, past experiences, future hopes, are all able to put their hooks into him, preventing him from devoting and directing his thoughts towards Allah Almighty. This is why he should contemplate the meanings within: Let everything flow through you! Flow in and flow straight out again. _____________________________________________________________________ Since you spoke those words I have found that as I sit in dhikr,2 particularly before dawn, when in dhikr Jalaal,3 the concept keeps coming to my mind All existence is flowing through me. All existence is flowing through me. All existence is flowing through me. I dont understand what it means, but the sentence keeps flashing through my thoughts.4 2. Each authentic Tradition has its own specific method of recollection of God, the practising of which enables the devotee to purify his heart in an effort to allow the Divine Grace to flow through him. Within Tasawwuf this method is called dhikr the Invocation or Remembrance of Allah. The dhakir, (the one who remembers), devotes himself to repetition of one of the Divine names, or a sacred formula, or a phrase from the Holy Quran. It is this astounding practice of the dhikrullah which awakens the consciousness of the murid, purifies the heart, wages war on the vices, and ultimately, through the Grace of Allah, transforms the base character traits into noble and beautiful qualities which lie hidden within him. Then will the Light of Allah enter his heart. The aim is perpetual dhikr, when the heart is constantly remembering and present with Allah. 3. Jalaal means Majesty. Dhikr Jalaal is the dhikr of majesty. It is the repetition of the Name ALLAH, and it is a most exalted dhikr. In AND THE SKY IS NOT THE LIMIT, reference was made to Dhikr Jalaal, and the awe which was experienced regarding it, even before entering the tariqa. I set aside a special time for my dhikr every day. I followed it meticulously. But there was one dhikr I could not perform! This was the dhikr of the Name ALLAH. I

felt, deep within myself, that it would be utterly wrong for me to even consider performing such an exalted dhikr! I did every dhikr but this one! pp.88, 89. 12. Here is an example of how the Murshids words can penetrate, activate and develop a particular train of thought within the murid. And this is why the murid should constantly be present with the Murshid, attentive to his words, his subtle hints and his breaths. And Praise be to Allah, Ive started to realize just how precious those predawn hours are! I look forward to the longer nights when I can have more hours before dawn. I find myself not wanting dawn to come too quickly I want time to slow down. You once said to me, You will have a moment that lasts a thousand years. Allah Willing. Shaykh Abd al-Qadir says in The Way of Muhammad,5 when talking about the encounter of murid with Murshid: One finds a man who is both Abd alWaqt and Abid al-Waqt, slave of the moment and worshipper of the moment. 12. Shaykh Abd al-Qadir as-Sufi, THE WAY OF MUHAMMAD, Diwan Press, 1975 About two weeks ago, after Salat ash-Shuruq,6 I felt a relative calm descend upon me. 6. Shuruq prayer is a voluntary prayer to be performed a short time after the sun has risen. This prayer is one which the Holy Prophet Muhammad May the Blessings of Allah be upon him and Peace would observe. After praying the dawn prayer he would lie on his right side, at his place of prayer, awaiting the rising of the sun. Calling to his beloved companion, Bilal May Allah be pleased with him to inform him when the sun had risen, he would then pray Salat ash-Shuruq. At this stage of the journey, following the isharah (subtle allusions) made by the Murshid, the murid is praying as many voluntary prayers as possible. If there is a spare moment, an available minute, this precious opportunity for prayer is never ignored. I became very aware that nothing could happen before its time. The yearning, the pain and agitation in my chest was still there, but the anxiety about my Journey seemed to fall away. Many wonderful words I had read in the past seemed to flood in on me: He who wishes there appear at a given moment, other than what Allah has manifested in it, has not left ignorance behind at all. 7 Your being on the lookout for vices hidden within you is better than your being on the lookout for the invisible realities hidden from you. 8 Do not request Him to get you out of a state so as to make use of you in another one: for, were He to desire so, He could make use of you as you are: without taking you out. 9

7. THE BOOK OF WISDOM, Hikmah Number 17, p.51. 8. Ibid., Hikmah Number 32, p.54. 9. Ibid., Hikmah Number 19, p.51 Then I read some words by the Lover of Allah, the Shaykh al-Akbar, Ibn almeditative speculation and sitting with the Truth by dhikr on the carpet of courtesy, watching with presence and preparation for the acceptance of what He wills to us from Him, May He be Exalted. Today I had a little nap after praying the Zuhr prayer,10 10. Zuhr prayer is the midday prayer. And during my sleep I had a little dream my first dream of 1991; You are sitting with me and you say: Have you noticed on this Journey how the Path slowly leads off to the right and all the teachings spiral in on themselves? And I heard the word ellipsis! This brought to mind that stunning book by Frithjof Schuon May Allah Shower him with His Choicest Blessings Sufism, Veil and Quintessence,11 the first chapter is called Ellipsis and Hyperbolism in Arabic Rhetoric. Frithjof Schuon, SUFISM: Veil and Quintessence, World Wisdom Books, 1981. Here is another example of the manner in which a dream can direct the murid towards a particular aspect of the Teaching. One word is capable of triggering off the mechanism which will alter the course of study. The books by the lover of Allah, Frithjof Schuon (Shaykh Isa Nur ad Din Ahmad), the greatest writer of our time, can be one of the most profound sources of wisdom for certain seekers of Truth. Through the Infinite Grace of Allah, Frithjof Schuon can express the inexpressible! Sometimes I have to give myself a good talking to! I feel so inclined to let dunya duties12 fall by the wayside. 12. Dunya indicates this world as compared with akhira, the next world. Dunya itself does not impede the murid on the Journey but it is the attachment to dunya which creates a barrier. Dunya is good and can be put to use in the right way only when there is non-attachment to it. In a state of non-attachment the murid can be in Khalwa (spiritual retreat) whilst in jalwa (society). His heart is occupied with Allah whilst outwardly he is mingling with man in society. He is mashgul farigh, i.e. one who is engaged and yet is free or busy/unbusy. When the heart is liberated from attachment to dunya, then akhira appears.

Allah says in a Hadith Qudsi, O this world of Mine! Serve whoever serves Me and tire whoever serves you. Within the Sufi Teaching, and particularly within the Shadhiliyyah branches, stress is always placed upon the necessity for the murid to continue his normal everyday activities naturally assuming that these do not contradict the sacred Law whilst pursuing the Spiritual Path. The lower duties must not be neglected, but merely put into their rightful place. Spiritual realities are to be injected into everyday life, thereby giving every action a deep meaning and also filling it with spiritual energy. And, most importantly, as the murid travels and evolves and matures, he will understand that the weight of his responsibility to mankind has become much heavier. No longer can he ignore the ones who are genuinely seeking the Straight Way. Everything, in one way or another is a manifestation of Allah, and as the illusory mask is removed from these manifestations the murid sees Allah everywhere in everything, before everything, after everything, with everything seeing Allah everywhere. How can anything be ignored or passed by when the murid witnesses Allah within that thing? The Grace of Allah surrounds each and every man, but man has become thick and insensitive to this Grace. It may be argued that the contemplative, in setting himself apart from attachment o the world, has neglected his duties. In actual fact, the contemplative is indeed fulfilling his duties to mankind by striving to cleanse himself of all passions and illusions and in so doing, remove from this earthly realm and ugly and maleficent being. However, and this is an extremely important point which must be stressed, at the beginning of the Spiritual Journey, the murid must, of necessity be quite selfish. Selfish with his time and selfish with his efforts. Without a certain degree of selfishness, he would be easily diverted into lesser activities, surrounded as he is with a society which unconsciously is trying to pull him downwards to the depths of unbelief. He must be strong, and have the ability to discriminate and choose what is best for his own self. And, he must be prepared to say, No! to those influences which are so eager to see him fail. _____________________________________________________________________ Part 7 (ii) Because I have a real hunger for this new spiritual food, I am discovering little ways in which to lighten the load of daily work. Praise be to Allah such small changes do actually give me more time for reading and contemplation. Somehow everything seems to get organized. I hardly even remember being engaged in these necessary activities! In earlier letters I wrote about the beautiful Adh-Dhatiyya prayer.13 How important it is to my existence! _____________________________________________________________________ 13. This prayer by the Great Master, Sayyidi Ibrahim al-Qurayshi Dasuqi, is a blessed litany of our Path, the Tariqa al-Borhaniyya, al-Dasuqiyya, ash-Shadhiliyya. THE PRAYER OF THE MUHAMMADAN ESSENCE (As-Salaah adh-Dhatiyya al-Muhammadiyya) O my Lord, Bless the Muhammadan Essence which is both subtlety and unity. Sun of the sky of secrets. The locus of manifestation of the lights. The majestic centre around which all revolves. The beautiful axis of the firmament. O my Lord, by his

secret with You and his journey to You, quieten my fears, decrease my faults, remove my afflictions and desires. Exist for me and take me to You from me. Grant me annihilation of my self to Myself. Do not make me led astray by my base self nor make me veiled by my senses. Reveal to me all hidden secrets. O the Perfectly Alive! O The Ever Self-Existing! With gratitude to our brother Muhammad Nasim Cuff for this fine translation May Allah Bless him with His Choicest Blessings. _____________________________________________________________________ And the Ibn Mashish14 now seems to penetrate so many of my thoughts. _____________________________________________________________________ 14. This Prayer of Sayyidi Abd as-Salam ibn Mashish, who was the Master of Sayyidi Abul Hasan ash-Shadhili, is his only remaining text. It is recited by all the branches of the Shadhiliyya Tariqa, and is as it were a summary of the Sufi doctrine of Universal man (al-insan al-kamil). THE PRAYER OF IBN MASHISH (As-salat al-Mashishiyyah) O my God, bless him from whom derive the secrets and from whom gush forth the lights, and in whom rise up the realities, and into whom descended the sciences of Adam, so that he hath made powerless all creatures, and so that understandings are diminished in his regard, and no one amongst us, neither predecessor nor successor, can grasp him. The gardens of the spiritual world are adorned with the flower of his beauty, and the pools of the world of omnipotence overflow with the outpouring of his lights. There existeth nothing that is not linked to him, even as it was said: Were there no mediator, everything that dependeth on him would disappear! (Bless him, O my God), by a blessing such as returneth to him through Thee from Thee, according to his due. O my God, he is Thine integral secret, that demonstrateth Thee, and Thy supreme veil, raised up before Thee. O my God, join me to his posterity and justify me by Thy reckoning with him. Let me know him with a knowledge that saveth me from the wells if ignorance, and quencheth my thirst at the wells of virtue. Carry me on his way, surrounded by Thy aid, towards Thy presence. Strike through me at vanity. So that I may destroy it. Plunge me in the Oceans of Unity, pull me back from the sloughs of Tawhid, and drown me in the pure source of the Ocean of Unicity, so that I neither see nor hear nor am conscious nor feel except through it. And make of the Supreme Veil the life of my spirit, and of his spirit the secret of my reality, and of his reality all my worlds, by the realization of the First Truth. O First, O Last, O Outward, O Inward, hear my petition, even as Thou heardest the petition of Thy servanr Zacharia; succour me through Thee unto Thee, support me

through Thee unto Thee, unite me with Thee, and come in between me and otherthan-Thee: ALLAH! ALLAH! ALLAH! Verily He who hath imposed on thee the Quran for a law, will bring thee back to the promised end. (28:85) Our Lord, grant us mercy from Thy presence, and shape for us right conduct in our plight. (18:10) Verily Allah and His angels bless the Prophet; O ye who believe, bless him and wish him peace. (33:56) May the graces of Allah, His peace, His salutations, His mercy and His blessings be upon our Lord Muhammad, Thy slave, Thy Prophet and Thy Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, and on his family and on his companions, graces as numerous as the even and the odd and as the perfect and blessed words of our Lord. Glorified be thy Lord, the Lord of glory, beyond what they attribute to Him, and peace be on the Messengers, Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. (37:180-2) (See Titus Burckhardt, MIRROR OF THE INTELLECT, SUNY, 1987, for commentary on the Prayer of Ibn Mashish. Alternative translation by Aisha Abd ar-Rahman, can be found in THE DIWANS OF THE DARQAWA, Diwan Press, 1980.) _____________________________________________________________________ I couldnt actually express how I felt these to be calming, whilst I found dhikr jalaal to be so different. But, when reading Heart of the Koran,15 I discovered that the author had explained perfectly my feelings. _____________________________________________________________________ 15. Lex Hixon, HEART OF THE KORAN, Quest Books, 1988 _____________________________________________________________________ He talks about the Blessed Cities of Medina and Mecca and what he says about Medina is exactly what I was trying to express about the two prayers. The spiritual atmosphere is Pure Sweetness in Medina there is a delicate and intimate mystery. Medina is the transport of love, whereas Mecca has an entirely different sacred atmosphere, with its terrifying sense of vastness and power. Mecca is the all-consuming fire of knowledge. And this is how I find dhikr jalaal! 16 _____________________________________________________________________ 16. Behind everything within this physical realm there is a meaning. Every thing is a symbol of some higher reality. When a person starts to understand this concept, that everything in existence has a hidden meaning, he will start searching for those meanings. And, for the Muslim, such a search will bring him to the edge of the Ocean. Ocean of meanings contained within his deen, Islam. Tasawwuf is the Ocean. In this letter the murid is starting to experience some of the inner meanings of Mecca and

Medina. Mecca is the place of the House of Allah, where the slave stands alone before his Lord. Mecca total inwardness and bewilderment. Mecca Reality. Medina is the home of the Messenger of Allah, a place overflowing with human love and compassion. Medina is the Outward Manifestation of the Inner Reality. The slave cannot reside permanently in Mecca because he would be burned-up in the allconsuming Fire of the Reality of the Truth. He must live in the world, in Medina, amongst men, sharing and loving and following the sacred law. The slave makes the journey to Mecca, but he returns to Medina. All is balance. The Inward and the Outward. Mecca and Medina. In the lifetime of our Beloved Prophet May the Blessings of Allah be upon him and Peace this balance between the inward and the outward was of immense concern to his Companions. The Prophet Muhammad always stressed that the ideal was to perpetuate the consciousness of spiritual realities without withdrawing from everyday life. He said: By Him in whose Hand is my soul, if ye were to remain perpetually as ye are in my presence, or as ye are in your times of Remembrance of Allah, then would the Angels come to take you by the hand as ye lie in your beds or as ye go your ways. Now this and now that, now this and now that, now this and now that! _____________________________________________________________________ I distinctly remember about five and a half years ago, when I was reading Sura al-Kahf,17 I became very anxious to understand the inner meaning of the fish that took its course through the sea in a marvellous way!18 _____________________________________________________________________ 17. Sura al-Kahf, the 18th sura of al-Quran. The entire Teaching of tasawwuf is contained within the Holy Quran and the Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad May the Blessings of Allah be upon him and Peace. Sura al-Kahf forms a particularly important part of the Inner Islamic Teaching. For example When ye turn away from them and the things they worship other than Allah, betake yourselves to the cave: Your Lord will shower His Mercies on you and dispose of your affair towards comfort and ease. (Verse 16). I hope that my Lord will guide me ever close (even) than this to the right road. (Verse 24) I will not give up until I reach the junction of he two seas or (until) I spend years and years in travel. (Verse 60) So they found one of Our slaves, on whom We had bestowed Mercy from Ourselves and whom We had taught knowledge from Our Own Presence. (Verse 65) Say: If the ocean were ink (wherewith to write out) the words of my Lord, sooner would the ocean be exhausted than would the words of my Lord, even if We added another ocean like it, for its aid. (Verse 109). 18. He replied: Sawest thou (what happened) when we betook ourselves to the rock? I did indeed forget (about) the Fish; none but Satan made me forget to tell (you) about it: It took its course through the sea in a marvellous way! al-Quran 18:63 _____________________________________________________________________

I remember that I instantly wrote to you in Perth, expecting to be sent a nice book which would explain everything to me!!!!19 _____________________________________________________________________ 19. There is no way of understanding the Spiritual Journey without embarking upon it. It cannot be understood through reading books. It cannot be understood by sitting in discussion groups. Reading and talking can inspire the seeker to work harder, but Knowledge of Reality, inherited Knowledge, can only be gained through respecting, honouring and carefully following the instructions and work given by the Murshid. Until the seeker embarks upon the Journey of Return to Allah he has no clear understanding of the nature of the Journey or the efforts which he will be required to make. He may even think that the travelling will be easy! The pre-Islamic era is referred to as al-Jahiliyyah, the time of ignorance. When a new murid is totally honest with himself he will quickly realize that everything that went before the moment of initiation into the Tradition was his own personal al-Jahiliyyah. As we said in our first book: At the beginning of the journey the murid is so very impatient, wanting and yearning for Allah. The murid wants to reach his goal now! He wants to make it happen. He is so spiritually immature. He cant make anything happen. As he travels on the way he may take a glance back at his immature desires and earlier ignorance, and perhaps he may even blush a little at his naivety. P.121. Tasawwuf is the taking away of ignorance. _____________________________________________________________________ Earlier today, when sitting in dhikr the 16th ayat of Sura al-Kahf came to mind (and heart). When ye turn away From them and the things They worship other than Allah, Betake yourself to the Cave: Your Lord will shower His Mercies on you And dispose of your affair Towards comfort and ease." I feel as though I am having so many Mercies showered on me. Never will I be able to number them. 20 _____________________________________________________________________ 20. Referring to: And He giveth you of all that ye ask for. But if ye count the favours of Allah, never will ye be able to number them. (al-Quran 14:34) If ye would count up the favours of Allah, never would ye be able to number them, for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. (al-Quran 16:18) _____________________________________________________________________ May Allah love you always and may you guide me to Him. Ameen. O Allah! Bless our Master Muhammad and his family and his Companions and give them Peace.

Peace be upon you and the Mercy of Allah and His Blessings. Your murid Amatullah.

******* 2009 COMMENTARY Just another point about that Radio 786 interview of last week: the lady who had read my book said that the commentary and footnotes were too much for her so she just read the letters!! The book WAS the commentary and footnotes! The letters by themselves are disjointed ravings. Throughout these letters great emphasis is placed upon dhikr. Perhaps too much emphasis! I was concerned about this issue and last night spoke with Shaykh Ebrahim about dhikr, its place within our practice and engaging in excessive dhikr. I had been given a heavy burden of dhikr by the first Murshid: 6666 times something, 313 times something else, 114 times that, 40 times the other, etc etc etc. on a daily basis! Excessive indeed! How I ever managed to run a home and write books is a mystery! I recall that the majority of my time was on the prayer mat! You must not brutalize the nafs. It will fight back. Brutalize the nafs and you will get sick, you will become more nafsani, you will treat people with complete discourtesy. The nafs was brutalized when it was separated from Allah. The nafs therefore is brutal. It must be treated with gentleness, not brutality. You cannot pulverize the nafs. Shaykh Ebrahim said that the actual purpose of dhikr is to silence internal dialogue, but practice should not exceed 3 hours daily, unless of course one is in khalwa. The fire of dhikr has to be tempered with the water of transactional correctness. So, from my own pulverizing experience I know that excessive dhikr makes you very sick and ruins relationships and doesnt transform the nafs at all! For the entire 4 years that I engaged in these excesses I never had one single day of good health! My marriage slowly but surely crumbled. And that is ridiculous. And it is utterly irresponsible of a Murshid to place such a burden upon a murid. The path towards maturity, seeing things as they are and giving everything its due, is I often referred to THE BOOK OF WISDOM by Shaykh Ibn AtaIllah. It is an incredibly important book. I recommend it highly. An important book in our tariqa. In the above letter I wrote: And, for the Muslim, such a search will bring him to the edge of the Ocean. Not just muslims! The search is for everyone, anyone, the search into form and meaning! They will reach the Ocean! It is not just the muslims. I wrote in this letter: He must live in the world, in Medina, amongst men, sharing and loving and following the sacred law. The slave makes the journey to Mecca, but he returns to Medina. All is balance. But, living in the world, amongst men is not all ease and sharing and cooperation. Rasulullah said: By Him in whose Hand is my soul, if ye were to remain perpetually as ye are in my presence, or as ye are in your times of Remembrance of Allah, then

would the Angels come to take you by the hand as ye lie in your beds or as ye go your ways. Now this and now that, now this and now that, now this and now that! We must beware of excess. During these years in the first tariqa I did not follow, Now this, now that, now this, now that. This surely is the meaning of The fire of dhikr has to be tempered with the water of transactional correctness. THAT is the balance. How can balance be gained when transactional correctness is absent? So one must be careful not to overload oneself with practices. It will all backfire. Everything that happens, all experiences, each moment is a stepping stone to the next moment, to the next moment, to the next moment. So, each moment opens a new knowledge. Ignorance/knowledge. Ignorance/knowledge. A bewildering journey where nothing is arbitrary. Its all text. We are walking through the text. We read the text. And We shall show you Our signs on the horizons and in your own selves. ******* PART 8. When you embark on the spiritual Journey you believe that you have love for Allah. You do, but it is neither Pure nor Total. Your heart is so full of love for other-thanAllah, however, until taking the hand of your Murshid you never realized just how many minor loves and attachments were buried inside you. Recognizing these loves and attachments is the first step then they must be overcome and transformed. AND THE SKY IS NOT THE LIMIT, p.117.

LETTER 10 In the Name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful Dear Peace be upon you and the Mercy of Allah and His Blessings. I make dua many times every day for Allah, the Great and Glorious, to guide me to pure and perfect adab with my Murshid. I seem to need to write to you very often. You once said that on this Journey we travel by plane, by car, sometimes we walk, sometimes we are on a donkey!1. _____________________________________________________________________ 1. Each seeker is unique. The speed of journeying on the Spiritual Path differs from one seeker to another and the time required to cover a particular stage also differs. As Bernard Bethell stated in the Introduction to AND THE SKY IS NOT THE LIMIT, Just as the period of gestation varies with different animals, so also the interval between the moment of initiation and the actual realisation of the Truth may be longer or shorter according to the ripeness of the disciple. The seeker is required to keep a close watch over the downward-pulling forces of the lower self, the strength of which can easily fool him into believing that vast distances are being covered and immense wisdom being gained. Listening to these whisperings of the inner shaytan and becoming concerned with the where am I? aspect of the Journey can create barriers and hinder movement along the Path. My Murshid had constantly advised me to do the work, and not think about the stage I was at. One time he had said, Sometimes we are travelling so fast on this Path that we think we are standing still!! The seeker is required to apply himself to the spiritual work whilst keeping his sight firmly fixed upon the Goal. And the Goal is Allah. The Grace of Allah is always descending upon the murid. He is never without this Grace. The murid, sitting in dhikr, has Allah sitting with him, for Allah said: Ana jalisu man dhakarani I am sitting with the one who remembers Me. And the muird cannot remember Allah unless Allah first remembers him! That is the greatest Gift the Grace of Allah. And, even though the murid may at times feel stuck in the awrad as he attempts to drag himself the thick and sticky spiritual work, the barakah is constantly present in the doing. A barakah which lies hidden within the work itself within the doing. Sometimes the murid can feel like a supreme hypocrite, as he sits in dhikr without enthusiasm, without yearning, without hope even! His prayers may feel empty, his Quran reading lacking any sense of sacredness and earnestness. Simply getting through the daily awrad appears to be his aim! Dragging himself through the thick and heavy spiritual work. This can be a time of severe disillusionment. The murid thinks back and says, This isnt what I thought it would be like! Wanting to know where am I?, but struggling to be content with not knowing!

_____________________________________________________________________ So, I think letter-writing is a part of my Journey when the heart aches for spiritual conversation and words need to be said. I wanted to write to you about a small discussion I had last night with J. We quite different views perhaps his was right for him and mine for me, or perhaps one of us has it wrong! This is what it stemmed from: I know that a Murshid always chooses his words carefully. Nothing is said in an off-hand or flippant manner. Each word is packed full of meanings. I try to store in my memory (and heart) all you have ever said to me right from the very beginning right from August 1984 when I first saw you at Nasihah Bookshop in Perth! I feel as though all those words are carved on my heart. You have said so many beautiful things to me my heart expands and flies away. Now, the problem for me is whether or not I actually interpret your words properly. Or whether my nafs is intervening and making me get the wrong meaning. Everything you say is stored away inside me and I feel that it all adds up to something incredible and then I am filled with panic and dread and feel so sure that my nafs is fooling me, playing a sick game with me, misguiding me! So, last night we were talking about this aspect. J couldnt understand why I was so worried, why I wanted to know about my rotten nafs. He said I should just accept the situation of uncertainty of not knowing whether or not my nafs was fooling me! But, I totally disagreed. If I am going to fight the Jihad al-Akbar, 2 surely that means searching for these hidden vices within me. _____________________________________________________________________ 2. Jihad al-Akbar is the Greater Holy War. When returning from a battle, a jihad, the Holy Prophet Muhammad May the Blessings of Allah be upon him and Peace said to some of his Companions, We have returned from the Lesser Holy War to the Greater Holy War. And when one of them asked: What is the Greater Holy War, O Messenger of Allah? he answered: The war against the self. Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth and ye know not. (al-Quran 2:216) The Holy Prophet said: The Garden is surrounded by hated things. It is this constant bringing-to-mind of the True Goal that enables the murid to struggle and strive and fight In the Way of Allah fi sabilIllah. This is the true jihad, the Greater Holy War. This is the battle to bring peace to the earth not that physical earth out there, outside the window but this earth of the self. [The greater peace cannot be achieved on the planet earth until the inner peace within the human being is achieved.] To subdue all the infidels in the land of the ego-self. To struggle in the journey from the lower self to the Higher Self. This is why the murid is able to

subject himself to seemingly harsh disciplines. AND THE SKY IS NOT THE LIMIT. P.126. Only the brave fighters obtain it, said Sayyidi Abdal Qadir al-Jilani. He speaks of the spiritual struggle where the warrior persists in combat, with sword drawn and besmeared with blood of his self and his desires, until he meets his Lord. Balance, harmony, peace and tranquillity can all be attained through dhikrullah. Perfect balance of ones inner and outer existence, harmony with all of the creation and peace and tranquillity of the self. But, before there can be Peace there must be a conflict, a great battle, which will subdue the enemies and bring them under control. Previously we said that Tasawwuf is the taking away of ignorance. It is also the removal of ugliness of the self. To remove and ugliness and replace it with a beauty. A virtue replacing a vice. This removal of ignorance, which is possibly one of the greatest forms of ugliness, can only be achieved through Balance. Tasawwuf is Balance. Perfect Equilibrium in each moment and under every condition. Taking away of ignorance. See Chapter One, The Spiritual Significance of Jihad, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, TRADITIONAL ISLAM IN THE MODERN WORLD, Foundation for Traditional Studies, Kuala Lumpur, 1988. _____________________________________________________________________ Our Beloved Rasulullah said: He who knows his Self truly he knows his Lord. 3 _____________________________________________________________________ 3. Allah is Absolue and He is Infinite. And being Absolute He is therefore the AllPossibility. And All-Possibility demands the possibility of being there, within the world of manifestation, a creature who has the capacity to know Allah, the Absolute, the All-Possibility, the Infinite. Man is this very creature!Man has the capacity to attain Ultimate Truth. This is the reason for his existence. Man was created and placed within this world of opposites, this realm of multiplicity, so that there would be someone within this world who could realize Unity, the Truth Allah, and in realizing Him, return to Him. All-Possibility demands this. This Truth, this Unity, is contained deep within every human this is the Allah within and it is only through knowing ones Self that one can come to know ones Lord. He who knows his Self truly he knows his Lord. This beautiful hadith of the Holy Prophet Muhammad may the Blessings of Allah be upon him and Peace contains the very essence of Inner Islamic Teaching, the Journey from the lower self y sto the Higher Self from the self to the Self. See Ibn Arabi, WHOSO KNOWETH HIMSELF, Beshara Publications, 1976. Also, THE SUFI PATH OF KNOWLEDGE, pp 344-346 _____________________________________________________________________ Surely the warfare is on all fronts. I cant bear the idea of being deceived by my nafs. Isnt that what the last sura of al-Quran4 is all about?

_____________________________________________________________________ 4. Say: I seek refuge with the Lord and Cherisher of mankind, the king of mankind, the God of mankind, from the mischief of the whisperer (of Evil), who withdraws (after his whisper), - (The same) who whispers into the hearts of mankind among jinns and among men. (al-Quran 114) The sneaky whisperer is a cunning and clever enemy who is everpresent with the murid, trying to seduce him with sweet words of advice and deceive him with subtle insinuations. He is sneaky because he constantly changes his disguise. One moment he lures the murid into the web by whispering words of praise and encouragement Your spiritual work is going really well. It wont be long youre nearly there! any second now you will SEE ALLAH!; the next moment he snatches away the murids longing and yearning this is hopeless where is all this getting you? Go back to bed and rest for a while! Your prayers are so pure! Your prayers are pathetic! Your efforts are admirable! Your efforts are woeful! Your Murshid is very pleased with you! You are a nuisance to your Murshid! Whispering in an attempt to pull the murid off the Straight Path. The murid must be aware and on guard, and he must unceasingly cling to the Murshid because this is where there is safety and security. _____________________________________________________________________ I want to know about and to taste Fana Fi-Murshid5. Allah Willing one day! _____________________________________________________________________ 5. When reading books about the Science of the Self Tasawwuf, one will encounter numerous references to the spiritual stage called fana. Fana translates as annihilation or self-effacement. When travelling to the Source, to Allah, the murid passes through different levels of fana, each of which brings him closer to his Goal. There are hundreds, even thousands, of fanas. Every time a form of ignorance is removed to be replaced by knowledge, the murid has experienced fana. He has tasted the annihilation of ignorance. And, every moment of existence is in fact a moment which is pregnant with its own particular knowledge. So, for the aware one, each moment can be a fana. However, within Tasawwuf there are three major types of fana, through which the murid must travel if he is to reach the Absolute Allah. These are Fana fi-Murshid, Fana fi-Rasul and Fana Fi-Llah. Through respecting, honouring and loving the Murshid the murid may attain the first Fana fi-Murshid. Fallen man cannot, by his own resources, reach this stage of Annihilation in the Source. He requires a Guide. This is the Murshid. Now, the Murshid is a pure receptacle for the Divine Outpouring which emanates from our Beloved Rasulullah May the Blessings of Allah be upon him and Peace. This Outpouring comes through his Teaching, and from the Divine Book of Allah, the Quran, which contains all the mysteries of life and which was brought to creation by Rasulullah. The Murshid is everpresent with the murid, but his identity changes as the murid travels upwards along the {ath of Return. Initially he is seen as the Murshid, who is such-and-such a man living in such-and-such a place. The murid must first reach fana fi-Murshid

annihilation of the self in the Murshid. This occurs when the Teaching of Rasulullah, which is passed on by the Murshid, enters the murids heart and becomes firmly established. The murid becomes absorbed by the Teaching, through constant meditation and contemplation of Allah. After this fana has been reached, through the Grace of Allah, the identity of the Murshid seems to change. The murid may start to perceive a marked difference in his Murshid, who, whilst still remaining physically such-and-such a man now assumes an added dimension, a new aspect! As was stated above, the Murshid is the pure receptacle for the Divine Opening which emanates from HIS OWN MASTER, who is the Holy Prophet Muhammad himself May Allah everlastingly shower him with His Choicest Blessings. Then, if it is the Will of Allah, the murid may be blessed with an eye to see and an ear to hear and a heart to know, that the Murshids words are now the words of his Beloved Master. His identity has changed. His identity has dissolved into that of his Master, the Guide of guides, the Teacher of teachers, the Prophet Muhammad al-Mustafa. No one will meet Allah before meeting the Prophet. After self-annihilation into the Self of the Murshid, the murid journeys to the next fana, which is fana fi-Rasul self-annihilation in the Prophet. Here the murid loves the Holy Prophet Muhammad more than anything; more than life itself. From this exalted stage the murid may be blessed with the ultimate fana Fana fi-Llah, selfannihilation in Allah. On this Journey to the Higher Self the murid knows that he must become annihilated in the Murshid before any real progress can be made. This stage is the first rung on the ladder of ascension, and after this self-realization in ones Murshid the steps are easier. And, knowing that the Journey will be easier once fana fi-Murshid has been realized, the murid quite naturally yearns for it. This yearning will show in his attitude to and his respect and honour for the Teaching and for the teacher. Such an attitude must be of the highest degree. _____________________________________________________________________ May Allah Subhanahu wa Taala grant us in our lifetime a Hajj6 with our Murshid. Ameen. _________________________________________________________________ 6. Hajj is the Pilgrimage to the House of Allah, the Kaaba, Mecca. It is the fifth Pillar of Islam. We spoke earlier of the symbolism of Mecca, and within Tasawwuf the meaning, the symbolism of the Hajj is for the murid to make the journey to the House of Allah, which is the heart. Here, at the Source of Oneness, the murid, who has realized his own slavehood, must leave all multiplicity. The idols within the Sacred House, his heart, must be cast out. Only then can the slave stand in the Presence of the Absoluteness of Allah. Allah the Almighty says in the Holy Quran: Associate not anything in worship with Me; and sanctify My House.: (22:26) For a stunning interpretation of the meaning of hajj and other major Islamic rites see Shaykh al-Alawis KNOWLEDGE OF GOD, Diwan Press, 1981. See also Sayyid Haydar Amuli, INNER SECRETS OF THE PATH, Element Books, 1989. _____________________________________________________________________

O Allah! Shower Thy Eternal Blessings upon our Master Muhammad and his family and his Companions and give them Peace. Peace be upon you and the Mercy of Allah and His Blessings. Your murid Amatullah ******* 2009 COMMENTARY Theres so much nonsense in this book. Im amazed that I ever felt such things. Should I ever publish this book with the new commentary it shall be titled Letters of Error! By the way: I am actually retyping the entire text of this book, not simply the new 2009 commentary!! I dont have the original on disk!! So, this has given me the opportunity, word by word, to be astounded, amazed, disgusted, embarrassed, upset, even horrified, and to rethink the contents of these ramblings! There is so much here to misguide others. But obviously it was in Allahs Agenda that this book was published. As I read each letter I truly exclaim, Astaghfirullah! Throughout this book I have again and again referred to the Goal, the Goal of the Journey. Goal objective, aim, end, ambition, purpose, target, object, aspiration. I stated in the letters that the Goal is Allah. But Allah is here and now in this moment so, how to aim at whats right there inside you, around you? I hope this new commentary may be a signpost to others, so that they wont waste their time and efforts seeking the Goal! We are so blessed and lucky to have Shaykh Ebrahim and such writers such as Eckhardt Tolle. The pivot of this letter is the famous Sufi triad: fana fi-Murshid, fana f i-Rasul, fana fiLlah. This section of the above letter upset me a great deal when I reread it. Astaghfirullah! I have long been disturbed by this triad and perhaps never really believed in the process from one fana to another fana to another, even though I wrote about it with such audacity, authority and conviction! Several days ago I spoke at length with Shaykh Ebrahim on this matter. And he shed light on the issue and the relevance of this traditional triad to us NOW. Historically it had some significance and was employed as a teaching tool within the traditional society. However, now in this egalitarian era it no longer holds. To hand over oneself to someone else is to completely dodge the issue, to get out of taking responsibility for ones actions. It is a dereliction of duty. None of us are in charge of our own agendas. Not one of us. Allah has His Agenda. So, imagine a Shaykh with the weight of hundreds of agendas of hundreds of murids! When he cannot take charge of his own agenda how on earth can he even believe that he can take charge of others? This entire concept of being like the corpse in the hands of the washer is dangerous and shaytanic. The Shaykh is there to facilitate. Several years ago I came across a website www.sufi-spiritualabuse-recovery-assistance.com. I dont know if it is still functioning. The name of the site is enough to explain the present day plight of Tasawwuf. Reading traditional

Sufic texts is beneficial but I think it must go hand-in-hand with contemporary spiritual texts. And all this talk about the perfection of the Murshid is irksome. The Shaykh, Murshid, Pir is still a man, with feet of clay. As Shaykh Ebrahim says, there are no angels this side of the grave. The Murshid has a nafs. He can still go astray. The Grace of Allah is always descending upon everyone and everything in existence, not solely upon the murid in a Sufi tariqa! O dear! How very melodramatic are some extracts from these letters! I am quite embarrassed. The Murshid should have given me a strong slap to stop such ranting and raving, but instead, he directed me to write a book of guidance (!!!!) based on the letters. It so happens that the person in the above letter, referred to as J, (actually my husband Jihad), was viewing me from the outside. I wasnt to discover for several years just how sound was his perception of things. Had I taken notice of him, many months, even years of psychological torment under the first Murshid could have been balanced and put into the right perspective. Alas, I did not heed his words, the adoration of the Murshid being too strong for me to give space to the advice of others! Beware! Beware! Beware! I have a friend who was imprisoned and put into solitary confinement for taking part in an attempt to overthrow a corrupt military regime. For 18 months he lay in a cell, not big enough to allow him to stretch his legs or arms, and with a 200 watt globe burning 24 hours a day. Occasionally he was taken from his cell, blindfolded and put before a firing squad. Obviously, they never fired! He told me that alhamdulillah he came through that trial with very little psychological damage. Possibly my husband and I suffered more under the Murshid referred to in the above letters. Yes, I know I am being bold to state such things now! But I must. *******

SUMMING UP Letters Inside the Journey Having reread and commented upon about a quarter of my 1994 publication, Letters Inside the Journey, I realize there isnt any need to continue through to the end of the book. As soon as the task became tiresome and the points in the commentaries became repetitive I knew that the book could be closed and returned to the archives. There are two themes which kept surfacing and resurfacing during the process. Firstly: my gullibility. Secondly: the exaltation of the Murshid and his inappropriate response to my excessive praise and awe. Personally I have benefited from undertaking this work and it is my hope that the candid commentaries may shed some light on dubious interpretations of certain aspects of Tasawwuf. And, as a final comment, I state that I can look back on that period of my life and see that it was an affirmative phase, filled with experiences of growth. There is only One Wayfarer Allah Subhana wa Taala. It is all His Journey. His journeying, his myriad ways of wayfaring, through us, the creatures. Every way is right because there is only One Wayfarer. SubhanAllah! Alhamdulillah!

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