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I’m not sure about you, but I am quite an avid “Instagrammer”. I love taking photos, although I am not a professional photographer!
Mevlana Rumi wrote:
“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do”
I fully embrace what Mevlana wrote and use Instagram as an “iPhoto diary” (I am part of the iPhone tariqa you see!). I take photos as a way of capturing beauty, gaining inspiration and sharing stories with family, friends, work colleagues and people who I am closely acquainted with. My photos mainly consist of nature, my travels, some of the things I like, love and which inspire me. As the famous Chinese proverb goes: “one picture is worth ten thousand words”, and I completely agree with this.
God-willing, I am going to run an “Inspiration series” on this blog where I will share a photo everyday (or every other day) and the caption will either be a quote, famous saying, personal reflection, or a story. I might even get some of my Instagram friends to contribute as well!
Here is one to begin with.
Reflections On My Beloved
By Abd-Allah Friedman
And once again I sit in a state of disillusionment from this world, this life, this sensual reality that defines my existence. It seems that I am forever at a loss in my search for beauty. I am imprisoned by the requirement to exist within the confines of time and space. My search for beauty is not confined to this realm; it is no longer fixated on the superficial reality I once held so dear. The fascination of a transient rose without the adoration of its creator seems insolence. However, the absence of appreciation for this rose is equally ungrateful.
The physical exists only in so far as to testify to the eternal, and the eternal is intellectual and ethereal, unbound by a corporal reality. An ephemeral existence is, by its very nature, contingent and cannot be an absolute reality. But an ephemeral existence can and does testify to a higher and absolute truth, one that is not contingent upon the existence of the physical.
This is the primordial milieu that gives birth to my search; I aspire to arrive at a physical reality that testifies to the Eternal Truth. The search exposes one truth: that the greatest manifestations of these realities, these ‘signs’, that navigate one to the Sublime are inextricably intertwined with beauty, and so as if by inspiration it dawns on me that ‘The Divine’ is merely a synonym for ‘The Beautiful’.
What subsequently ensues is an appreciation for the Artist who is by definition the creator of the ‘beautiful’. The main aim of art has always been to conceal the artist while revealing the art and so my sight permeates the objects in my line of vision and settles on their Creator. I drift through the physical realm attempting to translate His impressions, attempting to identify the signature of the Artist.
And this becomes my existence, blindly wondering through the cascade gazing at the diversity within the celestial spheres. Each instance allows me to attain a brief glimpse of the Divine. However, each glimpse is veiled and so I am left longing for unity with the Creator. What I desire most is a physical manifestation that facilitates this union by incinerating the veils.
And so in my helpless state I stumble upon my beloved, as if a gift from the realm of the spiritual; the masterpiece of the artist, without doubt His greatest creation. At this instance the physical reality dissipates into insignificance, and all that remains is my beloved, carrying the signature of the Artist in every instance of his existence, al-Mustafa.
I am reminded of the moment of creation when the Divine breathed into man His own breath and thus endowed him with the potential to truly reflect Him. And so my beloved exists, the actualisation of that potential, the crowning endorsement of the Divine’s command to the angels to prostrate to man.
I am asked who this beloved is that I speak of, I pause and reflect. My soul recollects the statement of the Divine addressing my beloved: “If not for you, I would neither have created the Heavens nor the Earth”. And so I close my eyes and the perfume of my beloved immerses my soul, I am emancipated, transported to a transcendental reality. I am in the presence of my beloved, a dust particle in his light, and he addresses me, “I am the messenger of God without boasting. I shall bear the banner of praise on the Day of Resurrection. I am the first to intercede and the first whose intercession will be granted. I am the first to move the knocker at the gate of Paradise. It will be opened by the Divine and I will enter along with the poor among the faithful. Thus, I am the most honoured among the leaders of the earlier and the later days.”
But alas, I am hesitantly drawn back from this state of primordial adoration to my material reality, and I respond with a whisper, ‘The Divine was a hidden treasure and desired to be known, and thus He created the light of my beloved. This lantern was lit from the flame of the Divine, nurun ala-nur, and predates The Preserved Tablet, The Pen, the Heavens and the Earth. An understanding of his true stature is beyond the ability of mortals as his praise originates in the realm of the Divine and is bequeathed in the Divine Book. He is the simorgh that elucidates the path to an audience with the Divine’.
Deliberating on his status delivers me once more to the realm of imagination, in which I exist merely as an unworthy visitor attempting to observe with the mind’s eye. I stand, silently, engulfed in the mist of dawn in front of the lote tree. The point that demarcates the limit of even the angelic beings, where the intellect surrenders itself to the translucent heart, and I find my beloved beyond this limit. He approaches the Divine, at a distance of ‘two bows’ length or even nearer’ and so I realise that this proximity leaves upon him the Divine ‘seal’, an imprint that allows him to crystallise the characteristics of the Divine.
And so the reality that my beloved was a prophet even when Adam was between water and Clay, no longer seems fanciful. He was present when Adam was brought down from the garden, and when Noah boarded his ark and when Abraham was thrown into Nimrod’s fire. Even before all this he was the most perfect and complete of creation.
My beloved is not merely the cup bearer who offered the world the wine of Divine wisdom, but is the vessel through which this wine was offered. And so is it any wonder that to commemorate his entrance into this world, the skies were decorated and the angels moved about in continuous processions. And upon his birth radiance illuminated the horizon so much so that the castles of Damascus were visible from as far as the Sacred Sanctuary.
The ‘shining light’ of my beloved is not in rejecting the transient world, but rather transcending it by the establishment of a harmony founded upon the quest of the Absolute. The nucleus of this existence is the appreciation that ‘All that exists dissipates, save the face of The Lord’. The culmination of his status rests not with his intimate discourse with the Absolute, but with his return to beautify the corporeal world.
Upon his return he is adorned with the greatest attribute of the Divine, His mercy. It permeates into his very essence and becomes his defining characteristic. The Divine Himself bears testimony to this trait and designates him a “mercy to all of the worlds”.
This eternal flame which is the symbiosis of the light of the Divine refracted through my beloved has illuminated the world. This light is encapsulated by his interaction with the corporeal world and penetrates his every moment. His compassion and benevolence to the orphans and the poor becomes the validation of his mission, and so it is that he is adorned by humility. The trivial instances are more indicative of the authenticity of this reality that any grand gestures could ever pay homage to. The enduring of a bitter taste so as not to the hurt the feelings of a poor man or accepting the criticism from a departing old lady while quietly carrying her bags. Or maybe even refraining a father from collecting his children to avoid highlighting a father’s absence to the orphans present. If all the oceans were made into ink and all the trees were made into pen, I could not do justice to the praise that is due to my beloved, the ‘perfect model’. He is praised by the Divine Himself outside the realm of time. And so I persist through time intoxicated with love, testifying that my beloved is indeed the ‘best of creation’.
Reflecting on any instant of his being attests to this mercy, the quality that penetrates to the core of his very existence. This is the incandescent light that emanates from my beloved; the niche wherein is the lamp. This lamp is the vessel that is able to contain the Divine, when the heavens and earth acquiesce. His heart is the lamp that is encased in a glass, that which reflects the light of the Divine, as if it were a star shining like a pearl. A radiant candle encircled by innumerable souls like spellbound moths. I accompany these souls in the hope of tasting the ecstasy of annihilation, a moment of coalescing with the apex of creation, to be set ablaze, to finally be emancipated.
And so I now reside in this new reality that is ameliorated by his luminosity. My solitude in this ephemeral existence no longer causes me any distress. I view creation merely as a reflection, allowing me to transpose everything onto the creator. I seemingly exist in a dream-like state which intermittently recollects remnants belonging to another dimension. My beloved has become my soul’s sanctuary. So I struggle with the distractions that constitute my engagement with the corporeal reality. Nothing equals a blissful moment engulfed in adoration of my beloved and I realise that my extensive agitation is merely the result of longing. So I retrace my steps and once again begin circumambulating my beloved. His fragrance envelops me and I return to my serene silence, my state of tranquility. It begins to permeate my being and liberates my soul, and once more I am at peace.
© Abd-Allah Friedman, January 2012
”Each perception of beauty is a prayer upon the Prophet.” (Contention 13.87, Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad)
“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is
revealed only if there is a light from within.”
~ Elizabeth Kubler Ross
“Richness isn’t found in wealth, as wealth can diminish. Nor is it found in beauty, for beauty fades with age. It’s found in good character and kind hearts. So treat people in such a way and live amongst them in such a manner that when you die, they make du’a for you, and when you’re alive, they benefit from you and they thank Allah Most High for having you in their life.”
Muhammad (salla’Allahu ‘alayhi wasalam) travelled for five hundred thousand light-years, after which he arrived at the fifth paradise which is called Jannat al Naeem: “the Garden of Beauty and Felicity.” Its door is made of mixed gold and silver from heaven. Jibraeel knocked at the door and a voice said: “Who is it?” “Jibraeel, bringing Muhammad (salla’Allahu ‘alayhi wasalam).” “Has he been sent for?” “Yes.” “Welcome, Beloved one, to the fifth paradise!” The door opened and Muhammad (salla’Allahu ‘alayhi wasalam) saw five beautiful ladies whose radiant light among their servants made them appear like diamonds surrounded by pearls. His heart was moved towards them. He asked Jibraeel: “Who are these ladies?” He answered: “This is Hawwa (Eve), the mother of human beings, this is the Virgin Maryam (Mary), the mother of Isa (Jesus), this is Musa’s (Moses’) mother Yukabid, and this is Assia, the wife of Pharaoh.” The fifth lady looked like a sun among stars. Her light shone over the rest of the inhabitants of that paradise like a gentle breeze passing through the tree-leaves. Jibraeel said: “This is an angel representing your daughter Fatima”
Muhammad (salla’Allahu ‘alayhi wasalam) asked: “Jibraeel, what is the secret of this paradise?” Jibraeel said: “Allah created this paradise to reflect the beauty and perfection of women. The light of this paradise is the source of the angelic lights of all women on earth. Women have been created to carry the secret of creation in themselves. Allah has honoured them greatly by making their wombs the repository of His word which represents the Spirit. He looks at the most sacred place and there descends His mercy and blessings. He perfected that place and covered it with three protective layers to shelter it from any damage. The first is a layer of light, the second a layer of love, and the third a layer of beauty. There he fashions and creates human beings after His likeness, as Muhammad (salla’Allahu ‘alayhi wasalam) said: ‘Allah created Adam after His likeness.’ He orders the angels of the womb to perfect His creation by giving the baby life, beauty, health, intelligence, and all kinds of perfect attributes that will make each one distinguished among human beings.”
“Women are not created weaker but more generous than men. They are created more beautiful and less fierce, as beauty hates to hurt and harm others. That is why they seem weak to people, but in reality they are not. Angels are the strongest of created beings, and women are closer to the angelic nature than men, as they are readier than men to carry angelic light. It is the good manners and ethics of spirituality which they carry which makes them less forceful than men. Even physically, however, they are extremely strong. They undergo great upheavals in their body without flinching for the sake of childbirth, and face the direst physical conditions more successfully than men because Allah has enabled them to insure the survival of generations.”
“Allah gave women five angelic qualities which men rarely have. They are the source of peace, as Allah said that He created them “so that you might find rest in them” (30:21). This is the attribute of the first paradise which is named “the Abode of Peace.” They are oasis of constancy in the midst of chaos and change. That is why they give birth as the mother nurtures and shelters the baby more reliably than the father. This is the attribute of the second paradise, which is named ‘the Abode of Constancy.‘ They perpetuate generations. Through their offspring Allah creates angelic prophets and saints who establish His perpetual remembrance on earth as the angels establish it in heaven. This is the attribute of the third paradise which is named ‘the Abode of Eternity.’ They are generous and bountiful. They are described as ‘a fertile land’ in all Scriptures because they give without counting, including life. They sacrifice themselves for the sake of another creation, and this is the attribute of the fourth paradise which is named ‘the Sheltering Garden.‘ Finally, they are the source of Beauty. Through their softness and subtlety, Allah has crowned the earth with the diadem of angelic grace. This is the attribute of the fifth paradise which is named “the Garden of Beauty.”
Blessings and Peace on Muhammad, his Family, and his Companions.
Excerpt taken from Meem Connection.
I’ve recently been introduced to Nur al-Din ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Ahmad al-Jami, more often known as “Jami”, who was one of the greatest Persian and Sufi poets in the 15th century. I haven’t read much of his writings just yet, but having read the following, I think his poetry is something I might quite enjoy!
“Hidden behind the veil of mystery, Beauty is eternally free from the slightest stain of imperfection. From the atoms of the world, He created a multitude of mirrors; into each one of them He cast the image of His Face; to the awakened eye, anything that appears beautiful is only a reflection of that Face.
Now that you have seen the reflection, hurry to its Source; in that primordial Light the reflection vanishes completely. Do not linger far from that primal Source; when the reflection fades, you will be lost in darkness. The reflection is as transient as the smile of a rose; if you want permanence, turn towards the Source; if you want fidelity, look to the Mine of faithfulness. Why tear your soul apart over something here one moment and gone the next? “
~ Jami, translation by Andrew Harvey and Eryk Hanut – ‘Perfume of the Desert’