Nov 1, 1999

The Starting Point is Man Himself Not Holy Scripture

  • From a Friday Speech of Master Ali Rafea (May 29th, 1998).
  • Prepared for publishing by: Aisha Rafea
The objective of this “path” Tareek is to present a new vision of Holy Koran and Prophetic Tradition (Sunna). We say “new” because some of the prevailing ones are so stagnant and rigid. It is very natural that several approaches to Holy Scripture exist. Actually there should be. There is no harm as long as different approaches extend mutual respect. The harm occurs only when each group supposes that theirs alone is the absolute truth. No man or group, however exalted, can reach absolute truth. What any person or group presents is always relative. Out of that conviction we assume that ours is one of some existing approaches. Some others were there in the past, and there will be new ones in the future, always.

A basic concept in our approach is that spiritual evolvement is the fruit of a deep and sustainable inner transformation. Seeming commitment to religious teachings from the side of a person who does not understand, nor feel the essence of those teachings is meaningless. However committed a person is, it could be a mere work of senseless imitation or habit. Prophetic Tradition Sunna highlights the fact that any form of worship is not genuine unless man has a proper conception of its significance, pursues the purity of the heart, and expresses his belief through work of goodness. Otherwise it would be nothing but shallow display and pretense of piety. Some of these Prophetic sayings Hadiths are:
1-(according to a story about a person who was said to be committed to performing ritual prayer but he practices evil deeds; “ He prayed not, if ‘his prayer’ has not taken him afar from atrocity. Man might go on praying but still gets further and further from God.”
2-“ It is so possible that a fasting person does not come out with anything but hunger and thirst”.
3-“ If reading Koran has not led you to quitting (atrocity), then you have not read Koran”.
Man (by superfluous and superficial commitment to forms and shapes alone) might live his whole life in an illusion of being a good believer while he is not. He is only a truthful believer, we think, if he is in conformity with the basis (of spiritual evolvement). The basis is: making full use of the capabilities that God endowed him with; reason, heart, physical body. Many verses in Koran labels those who do not use their minds and hearts as “the worst of beasts” and that they are (spiritually) “ deaf and dumb” : HQ 8, verse 22. Persons who reiterate holy words without feeling or understanding their meanings are described as “donkeys which carry huge tomes”: HQ 62, verse 5.
“The pursue of knowledge on all levels” is the first prerequisite for anyone whose target is to be a believer. Hundreds of verses in Koran urge man to search for knowledge. Few examples are:
“Travel through the earth and see how God did originate creation”: HQ 29, verse 20.
“Now let man consider how he came into an earthly existence. He is created from a gushing fluid. Proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs.”: HQ 86 : 5, 6, 7.
“Would not they go and see how camels are created. How the sky is raised high. How the mountains are fixed firm. How the earth is spread out”: HQ 88 : 17, 18, 19, 20.
“Thou canst see no fault in the Beneficent One’s creation; then look again: Canst thou see any rifts?” HQ 67, verse 3. (these verses and many others are pushing man towards scientific research in all fields: Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Astrology, Astronomy, Botany, Geology, …etc)
The second prerequisite which compliments the first one, with no contradiction, is: the purification of the heart and conscientiousness. Koran says about those who are keen about it that “they remember Allah (all the time), standing, sitting and reclining”: HQ 3, verse 191. “… (they) call on their Lord morning and evening, seeking His face”: HQ 18, verse 28. The third prerequisite is to carry on the kind of physical work that reflects both reasonability and purity of the heart. In that sense God in the Koran tells people to “Work, soon will God, the Apostle and Believers observe your work “: HQ 9, verse, 105. “…every act of hearing, seeing and feeling has got a responsibility to shoulder (a task to fulfill)”: HQ 17, verse 36.
So, the starting point is to make full use of the reason, heart and physical body That is method that Prophets adhered to:
  • All prophets did not accept the dogmas of their times. They did not follow what they saw as unreasonable. The justifications that people gave to rigidity and stagnant traditions when saying, “we have to be committed to what our ancestors left us” were of no significance to all prophets.
  • All prophets went for seclusion to give the chance to communicate with their pure hearts and their innermost nature fitra which is innately aware of the Truth.
  • All prophets called for honesty and perfection of work, and advocated service.
Why have not, their supposed followers adhered to that method?
The answer is:
because they have regarded religion not as a method but a set of dogmas, spiritless shapes and forms, stagnant social traditions. Under the claim of committing to religion, man stops any reasoning. Consequently he becomes the victim of layers and layers of misconceptions. Misconceptions turn into barriers between his mind and the innermost primordial nature within, which discerns the truth. He does not know how to communicate with his own heart. Under the claim of religiousness, man is so lazy and does not make full use of his tremendous physical capabilities.
Religion urges man to listen to the sound within; one of the many hadiths in the Prophetic Tradition says: “consult your own heart, even if they gave you the best advice, even if they gave you the best advice, even if they gave you the best advice.”. Religion commands man to communicate with his inner being; one of the Koranic verses states, “(signs of the Truth) are within you; do not you discern!” HQ 51, verse 21.
Our path Tareek states that man cannot gain any thing from a Holy Scripture before he develops his own tools and get qualified to receive Knowledge. Man’s tools qualify him tremendously: his heart frees his whole existence from the desires of the limited self; his mind is capable of absorbing all the sciences and developing them to know more and more secrets of the universe; his physical body can, industriously, accomplish lots of things.
When man’s point of departure is to urge the work of the mind, heart and body, naturally he will be exposed to many inquiries that need answers, and problems that need solutions. Only then Holy Scripture will supply him with clues. A person, for instance, might use up his mind, (trying to reach knowledge about a certain issue: e.g. if he asked himself: what is the meaning of life?). Then he discovers that reason is not the only factor; so he tries to communicate with his heart. It is his heart that makes him sense the existence of the Supreme Transcendent Power (the Unseen) that controls everything in the universe including the stream of his life. Now he understands that he needs the work of both mind and heart. The problem he faces is: how can he be sure that he does not, mistakenly, refer some things to the work of the Unseen Al-Ghayb while he can reach the required knowledge by more exertion of reason? How can he distinguish between the two areas; that of the Unseen and that within his own reach? Would that faith in the Unseen push him to insult his own reasoning?
Such a person would find guidance in verses of the Koran and the Prophetic Tradition Sunna. Hundreds of them tell him that his “communion with the Unseen” is a sole means for supplying him with luminous spiritual power that nourishes his soul to flourish and subsist. With that power he should go and seek knowledge endlessly, and operate all his physical capabilities freely. He should respect reason and behave according to what he estimates as a reasonable action. That person would understand then why “prayer” is recommended: it is a response (from the side of the Holy) to his own need to keep the bond with the Unseen, and hence supplied with spiritual nourishment. That connection with the Unseen reflects positively in his life; he is supposed to respect reason more and more, and not to conform to dogmas and solid traditions, however influential in his society they might be, as long as he does not find them reasonable. With reasonability he is to be keen to seek being supplied with spiritual power that purifies his heart and body.
The fact that a person would not benefit from Holy Scripture unless he had been qualified is mentioned plainly in the very opening verses of Sura 2 in Koran ( The Cow Al Bakara) where God states that those who will be truly guided by The Book are those“ who (already) believe in the Unseen” and “are steadfast in prayer”; they keep connected to Him, and “spend out of what We have provided for them”: an indication to “ righteous work”. A righteous work is nothing but an action that is motivated by a feeling of goodness, within the framework of free reasoning. That action can be expressed on different levels: the power of positive thoughts, the beats of loving hearts, the exercise of talents in any field, the work of science, the good use of one’s money, health, or experience.
Everything here on earth is not created in vain. It could be a tool for service. Service is the equivalent of “righteous work”. Many Hadiths of Prophet Muhammad’s state that a person attains greatly spiritually when he does any thing of benefit for his brother; it might be as simple as relieving him of his sufferings by listening to him attentively and sympathetically. The Spiritual Mission also assures that man is greatly evolved spiritually through service. Service, Master Silver Birch says, “is the Great Spirit in action” and “through service the soul is uplifted”.
It is very natural that when man is living his life according to what corresponds to the work of reason, heart and physical capabilities, he is faced with so many issues that need contemplation. Each of the Islamic teachings is handling an issue extensively. Those teachings show that the work of the reason, heart, and body compliment and integrate; and do not contradict. There is no presumed superiority of the mental or spiritual activity over physical work. Nor can physical work alone substitute that of the mind and heart, “a little bit of a loving heart’s power is sometimes more influential than the work of the physical senses, tremendous as they might look”. What matters is “the Direction” towards which an activity is taking place. The work of the intellect is no longer a merit if it is used for evil ends; nor is the heart when it is spreading feelings of envy and hatred. The physical body is also mislead when it is doing such a great job but it is the result of obeying the orders of a blind heart and an evil mind. The opposite is also true: a very small physical work can be spiritually estimated as great because it is motivated by such a big energy of love.
Our greatest issue is how to make all our capabilities go harmoniously in the “Direction” of Goodness, Love and Beauty. If anyone shares us the same interest, we expect him or her to be joining us in a very long journey of exploration. We try to go as deep as recognizing our “real Selves”. Teachings of Islam term the very essence of man or his real Self as Fitra, God’s spirit in man, God’s secret: the divine part. With that part of him man feels “We (God ý) are closer to him than his own veins”: HQ 50, verse 16. Man is also well informed that he has the potentiality of being devilish. As soon as man is born on earth that potentiality is activated by the attributes of the earthly existence, which is termed as the “self”. When man is linked to the Love Supreme Power that “self” nafs is apt to evolve, and it is no longer an obstacle on his way of spiritual unfoldment. The “self”, for someone on the righteous path, fulfills its appointed mission; it is a means of protecting his soul from the dark energy existing on earth. If man does not know how to start his spiritual journey, the “self” takes him to the opposite direction; it tries to make him serve its own desires. He naturally turns to be selfish, greedy, covetous….etc. Such a person cannot develop communication with the divine part of him because layers and layers of the desires of the “self” cover it.
When man is willing to lead a life that is in the Direction of developing the divine part in him, keeping up his fitra and he is aware that he does not want to be the servant of the “self”, he will find guidance in the teachings of Islam:
  • He is told about how to keep his spirit connected to the Supreme Love Power; that is the core of prayer.
  • He will learn how to keep up being spiritually purified; this is the essence of fasting and almsgiving.
  • He will learn how to send away all unlit effect of any negative power within and without; this is the core of “continuous repentance” Isteghfar.
  • He will learn how to give no chance to the “self” to attract him to her realm; this is the core of all permissions and prohibitions in Islam.
  • He will learn how to be supported by the Sublime; this is the core of prayers Do’aa.
  • He will learn how to be free from the bad influence of the self’s lusts, and possible temporal goals that might deviate him from his path. He would feel no fear from others whom he thinks control his life; this is the core of the first part of the Islamic creed “there is no God but God”.
  • He will learn how to choose doing what is best, in this life; there are Exemplars on earth who teach us how to do the best in this life, and it is an aspect of work for the other life, with no contradiction. This is the core of the second part of the Islamic creed “Muhammad is the Messenger of God”.
  • He will learn that every moment of this earthly life can be an expression of a relation with the Divine; this is an aspect revealed in the rituals of pilgrimage, when read deeply.
He will also learn that man’s spiritual evolvement goes forever; this is the meaning of being God’s Servant.
The Book reveals divine meanings and concepts for those who seek them, and DOES NOT impose practice of domination of any kind. Those meanings are expressed in our Islamic inheritance as well as all the spiritual inheritance of mankind. But people do not revive those meanings; they have turned them into rigid forms and shapes. They need to be read anew in a way that guides man to know the real value of his being here on earth; to fulfill a truthful mission: the evolvement of his True Self.
If mankind did that life would be very different.