Sep 26, 2000

Meeting My Spiritual Teacher .. Is It By Chance Or An Act Of Providence?

  • Author: Huda Ez Al Arab
  • Translated by: Magda el Seba'i
Was it a mere chance, or the work of Providence that has led me to joining this spir itual path ?. I shall tell you first my past experience.
A year before, I was constant in attending, somewhere else, religious lectures on the interpretation of the Holy Koran. My reaction towards these lessons was so violent that I almost developed a new personality based on extreme fanaticism and bigotry. I became very harsh with myself if I allowed anything to take me away from listening to these religious lessons. I also tried to impose this spirit on every member of my family. I would be very upset if my husband listened to a song or even if he and my children would watch some plays or soap operas. I considered that a waste of time.

After attending the previous traditional lessons regularly for a year, I noticed a big change in my heart. My attitude and my view of life became severe, critical and sarcastic towards anyone whose way of thinking was different from mine. And that was a big change from my former nature. I used to find excuses to justify other people's mistakes. I used to defend them strongly if they fell victim to injustice or malice. I changed into a completely different person. I would even avoid my own brother because his beliefs were different from mine.
At the end of that year, however, I started to feel suffocated whenever I attended those meetings and I couldn't find any explanation for that feeling for I always looked forward to learn as much as possible about my religion. So, why did I have that feeling? Why was I upset throughout the lessons? I sought to attend more lessons believing that what I needed was a greater number of lessons and not a different kind of lessons. One of my acquaintances at that time asked me if I had the desire to attend a "Sufi spiritual" session. I was ecstatic at the idea.
I attended my first spiritual session in this group, and to my surprise it was given by Dr. Aliaa Rafea whom I had met once at a symposium, at Al Opera Salon, on her book 'The Egyptian Identity between Life and Art'. This symposium was also attended by the celebrated Egyptian artist Hamed Saeed. That evening seemed to me as if Providence arranged it! The effect of that symposium on me was so great that I looked for Dr.Aliaa's book in all the bookstores, but I couldn't find it. In despair Providence led me again to this "Spiritual Society" and I was surprised to see that Dr. Aliaa Rafea was one of the people who ran, taught and guided spiritual lessons.

How did I start my first steps on the path?

At the beginning of this spiritual path and after taking the oath of membership, I wondered about "Al Werd" (repetitive prayer invocation), its meaning and significance. I also objected within myself to the text of saluting and greeting the Messenger of Allah. It was to me too long and I had decided to make it shorter by only saying the following phrase for two days:
" I salute Syedna (Master) Muhammad, his family and companions." I did not even remember how long it took me to repeat that phrase. But I remember having the following vision:
I saw in my sleep a blackboard on which the following words were written in white:
" Huda...hold on!"
Before this I had had no vision that I could interpret or even care about. I interpreted this vision as an order to follow "Al Werd" and that I shouldn't interfere in the text by trying to alter it.
Two months later I faced a very serious crisis. I prayed very hard for guidance and I had a dream, which had great consequences in my life since I was in the middle of my crisis, and I was unable to find a way out. This dream was as follows:
I was in the Holy Land of Mecca and I heard myself saying, "I've performed Al Omra (the holy visit to Mecca) ...yes...I've gone around the house (Al Ka'aba) and I performed the circumambulating...that is is not necessary to make Al Sa'ay (the endeavors, the efforts of walking back and forth between the two mountains of Al Safa and AlMarwa)...that is enough...I went to the market where I saw my son standing in my way. He was astonished and said to me, "Mother, why are you here while my father is performing Al Sa'ay between Al Safa and Al Marwa?!!! Why did you leave him?"!!! I said, "I'm done with all my rituals, I've gone around the house (Al ka'aba)." My son was scared and said, "No, mother, you've not yet finished the rituals!" I was so confused. Was what my son said true?!!! What should I do now?!!! Should I go again to Al Haram (the holy mosque of Mecca) and follow his father in his Al Sa'ay ?!!! Would that work out or should I start all over from AL Ehram

Did this dream indicate a New Direction in my life? Actually, this dream was a guidance for me because I realized that my endeavors (Al Sa'ay) in life were in the wrong direction. A part of me told me that I should work harder and harder in a different direction. I should strive and strive in a different way.
I cannot recall all that has happened to me since I've started this spiritual path. But I can say that what I see in "myself" is that it has been liberated from many chains that prevented it from establishing relationships with others. I've come to accept people whom the slightest reason would in the past alienate me from. I was also liberated subconsciously from glorifying" myself". I used to be so confident that I was infallible and that my ideas were sound and other people's were wrong. I've learned about polytheism and idolatry and I've learned that quantity of religious teachings is not the target but that quality is.
I'm still crawling at this path. I still face crises with myself as well as hardships which were not there before in the course of which I violently break and discard parts of "myself". I've learned about meaning and that form alone is not enough. And if I confine "myself" to form, I will never reach the state of bliss.
I'm grateful to God for having guided me to this path. I pray for my teachers on this spiritual path and all other spiritual teachers that they continue to provide us with this spiritual guidance.

Calling on God in Prosperity and Adversity

I was confused about "myself"! I was in great harmony with my Creator during the time of prosperity. I felt then safe and comfortable and I prayed, praised and thanked God. But that state changed to its direct opposite during the time of adversity. I rushed through my rituals and I had no energy to pray or even the inclination to think about praying! I was not aware of the strangeness of my reactions until a friend of mine told me that she also had reacted in the same way in time of adversity and she also expressed her bewilderment at the way she had reacted. Only then did I realize how strange and unacceptable our attitude was. I felt that I had to change this attitude because it was only natural that man should have recourse to God calling on Him for help when he felt at his weakest!
So, what is the interpretation of my strange state of mind? Then verse 9 from Sura Hud came to my mind and I pondered over its meaning:
"If we give man a state of Mercy from ourselves, and then withdraw it from him, Behold! He is in despair. And falls into blasphemy."
Therefore, refraining from calling on God at the time of adversity is considered a state of despair and a kind of blasphemy. And this goes against the innate true feelings of man. I then also realized that my wrong reactions at the time of adversity could have been the result of pride and self-deception since the subsequent verse says:
"But if we give him a state of our favors after Adversity hath touched him, he is sure to say "All evil has departed from me; Behold! He falls into exultation. And pride." Verse 10 Sura Hud
So, the right attitude during adversity should be one of patience and acceptance and not of rejection and objection. Verse 11 of the same Sura states:
"Not so do those who show Patience and Constancy, and Righteousness; for them is forgiveness (of sins) and a great reward."
Before joining this spiritual path, I used to read all these verses of the Holy Koran without a real comprehension of their meaning and therefore they didn't arouse any feelings in me because I had not attained self-knowledge as yet. Blasphemy is then a state of mind in which a man lives if he has not achieved self-knowledge.

Love Is My Religion

I felt very tense yesterday morning when I met my friend who talked about religious matters in a way and tone different from what I understand and what I accept. Though we both look for a common goal which is the Truth (Al Haq), and try to establish a connection with God, our paths are totally different. I felt within me a powerful objection towards what she believed in. And I found myself angry and clung more strongly to what I was being taught.
However, my objection to and my criticism of ideas, which were different from mine, have caused me to feel a great deal of self-blame. And I started to ask myself why am I so bigoted?! And what are the roots of this bigotry? Why was I so intolerant of opinions different from mine? I accused myself of being unfair, ignorant, proud and pretentious. If I had achieved any degree of self-purification, I would have not criticized the beliefs of others even if I wished them to follow my own path.
After a long period of self-struggle, God purified my soul and gave my heart tranquillity through a friend on this spiritual path who had given me a few lines of poetry written by Ibn Al Arabi. It was the first time for me to read his poetry, but I was stunned to find in his lines an answer to my perplexity. These lines read as follows:
Until today I rejected a friend
If his religion was different from mine.
Today my heart can accept any version
Whether a pasture for gazelles or a monastery for monks.1
A house for idols or Kaa'ba for pilgrims
A Book of Torah or a Holy Koran.
Mine is a religion of Love I've embraced
its rituals.. Love is my faith and Love is my religion.
I'm so grateful that I've read these lines at the right time. I'm at the very first steps of the spiritual path. I'm still learning. My goal is to learn and to know my shortcomings. I've started to discover the darkness of "myself" and I've started to face problems which are a test for me and an inducement to learn more and to comprehend more. Only through this path can I achieve the self-realization that I've never experienced before in my life.
  1. In Sufism " a pasture for gazelles" is a symbol of wisdom.