Nafs, Spirit & Heart
by Hazrat Mir Ghotbeddin Mohammad

from Vol. 8, No. 1

Sufism and Consciousness:
part one

by Amineh Amelia Pryor

from Vol. 8, No. 2

Sufism and Consciousness:
part two

by Amineh Amelia Pryor
from Vol. 8, No. 3

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Human Longing
for Spirituality

By Dr. Shahid Athar

"We must try to transcend the barriers between humans so that we break the barrier between humans and God.

We must see ourselves in others and we must see God in each of us.

We must love others in order to be loved by God and we must enter into Islam (submission or surrender to God) peacefully, willingly and whole heartedly."

Man is not only a social animal, but in fact a spiritual one, too. This spirituality stems from the fact that he was created by God who had blown His spirit into him. Thus, while our body is a container of the soul, which is from earth and is attached to earthly matters, the soul, which is the essence of the spirit, always longs to be united with Whom it was separated from. The soul always longs to return to the Creator as stated in Qur’an “to God we belong, to Him is our return.” During our life on earth, the soul and the body are again united but then there is a temporary separation during death with the final union to take place in the life thereafter. Thus, spirituality is recognizing the presence of God within us.

One of the meanings of the word “Islam” is surrender and human life is nothing but surrender. We had no choice when our souls were created, nor did we have a choice when our souls were united with the flesh in our mother’s womb, nor did we have a choice living as a fetus, and after birth we were helplessly dependent on our parents and others around us without any choice. The Qur’an states “when God comprehended in His design, heavens and earth and asked them to come together willingly or unwillingly, they said we come together in willing obedience.” (41:11) Humans longing for union with God are no different from a child who gets separated from his mother in a mall and then finds her and runs back to her, into her folds. It has been said that it is not man who is the seeker but it is he who is being sought. For this union of soul to take place with its Creator, one must achieve the state of peaceful bliss. As the Qur’an states “O soul at rest, return to thy Lord well pleased and well pleasing. Enter as My servant, enter into My heaven.” (89:27-30) Just like the lost, small child in a crowd who is looking into other faces, looking for his parent, we look into different faces or earthly manifestations of God in the form of His reflection. We consider them to be reality, to some degree, and sometimes we get so attached to them as reality that we fall in love, until we realize that they were only a mere reflection and that we must go to the true source of that light. Thus, our acts of worship, whether they are fasting, prayer, pilgrimage or good deeds like charity, are only keys to the door that will unlock the house where my beloved resides.

My union with Him will materialize when I enter that house. I find that I cannot unlock the door with a rusted key. It is the love and remembrance of God which will remove the rust both from the key and the lock. Human beings live a fragmented life but they thirst for wholeness. Thirst for inner peace and knowledge is the motivating force. The heart remains the center of life and center of responsibility. According to an authentic saying of Prophet Mohammad, “inside the human body there is a morsel of flesh which, if healthy, the whole body is healthy and which, if diseased, the whole body is diseased.” Then he pointed to his heart and said “this piece of flesh is this heart.” Thus a sound heart, one which is pure and is clean from all idols, where God resides, gives life to the body. We must tame our evil self which otherwise would destroy the kingdom of God. We must cultivate longing in search of the Beloved. We humans are wired for God and all we have to do is plug ourselves into the electrical outlets and turn the switch on by standing for prayer. We must recognize God’s presence within us and with us. Our hearts will remain restless until they rest in God and as the Qur’an says “for sure it is in the remembrance of God that the heart finds rest,” (13:28) and according to the saying of the Prophet, there is polish for every rust and the polish for the rust of the heart is the remembrance of God.

What prevents us from surrendering to God is nothing but the love of the material world. These are the distractions of life in our journey toward Him which diverts us, our conscious thoughts and our hearts being occupied with the thought of the One. Another factor which prevents us from surrendering to God is human arrogance which is a Satanic trait. It was this that prevented Satan from bowing down to Adam when told to do so by saying “I am better than he, (Adam)”(7:12). We must avoid such instincts and be humble, realizing that all we have achieved, our wealth, power, knowledge or physical strength are gifts from God.

The message of Islam, Judaism, Christianity and all other religions is the message of love and service to others.

When we close our hearts to others, our eyes are closed to see the beauty of God in others. The message of Islam, Judaism, Christianity and all other religions is the message of love and service to others. If God, Himself, decides to care and love and feed even those who deny His existence, then who are we to deprive someone else of our love just because he is of different color or speaks a different language or is born in a different country or prays to the same God but in a different direction or using different words? We must try to transcend the barriers between humans so that we break the barrier between humans and God. . .

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Presented at the Eighth Annual Sufism Symposium in Fremont, California, USA, on March 24, 2001. Dr. Athar is on the Board of Advisors for the International Association of Sufism.