Jun 10, 2001

Are We Devoted to Forms or Meanings?

  • From a Friday Speech of Master Ali Rafea (Ramadan 2nd, 1420 HC/December 9th, 1999)
  • Translated and Prepared for publishing by: Aisha Rafea
This Religion is steadfast; walk along(the Path) gradually and gently, for he who indulges hastily and exaggeratedly would be too exhausted to go forward or move back. (PH)1
It is the Straight Religion, the Religion of the primordial nature, the Religion that respects reason most.
Reason is the origin of my faith(PH)2
It is the Religion of Love and the Religion that pushes man forward towards whatever is best, most perfect and most forthright in all aspects.
And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), "(HQ: 29: 46)
Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: (HQ: 16: 125)
Religion is so gentle; It pulls in whoever attempts to defeat It.
It would attract anyone in because It would never be against what is best, and most straight.
Are we really living that Religion nowadays? Are we truly Muslims? Islam had always been (like) a Stranger and once again It is. Blessed are you Strangers! (PH)4 . Where are we in relation to the basic concepts of the Primordial Religion? Where are we in relation to the wise contemplation of all the Teaching?
When we look around and observe what people commonly do and say, assuming that this is Islam, we notice many times that they are concerned with enlivening among themselves many issues related to mere images and forms. They seem to be heedless of the authentic meanings, spiritual values, and reasonability beyond those images and forms. Therefore, we need to go back to the “origins”5 and make them our sources (of guidance); and to meditate devoutly upon the authentic meanings behind the forms. Namely, we need a truthful, enlightened and deep reading of our Religion. We have to distinguish the genuine precepts, the spiritual laws and the sublime meanings that our Religion supports. We should not turn aside into some side issues which would take us far away from the Original Path: the Law of Life.
Our Religion, as we frequently mention, uncovers to us some truths of the Sublime Law. (One of those truths is that) man needs a spiritual power and a moral support during his earthly journey, and that is why God fashioned the Teaching as a mechanism through which man can gain that spiritual support. Actually, all aspects of worship are a means for man to be attached to the Supreme and Transcendent Power that would supply him with spiritual and moral energy.
Fasting is a clear manifestation of that truth. A fasting person should live totally as a spirit. For several hours he is apart from his physical being. He practices an exercise from which he is apt to receive spiritual energy. He is also being prepared in how to do without the physical existence, so that when the time comes for quitting the earthly life completely at the moment of physical death, he goes through it smoothly. It is a moment when a person should be well trained not to adhere to his physical existence, but rather hurry to respond to the Truth when He calls him. He should not be like those addressed in the holy verse:
O ye who believe! what is the matter with you, that, when ye are asked to go forth in the Cause of Allah, ye cling heavily to the earth? Do ye prefer the life of this world to the Hereafter? (HQ: 9: 38)
A (spiritually prepared) person would answer the call of the Truth promptly and set out unhindered to his afterlife.
Thereupon, we can see in every aspect of worship a kind of spiritual exercise that would both support a human in this life, and prepare him for the coming one. This is the Law of Allah according to which he created man, and He taught all people about that Law by means of the Revelations.
O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, HQ: 2: 183)
So, fasting is one of the means by which man makes himself spiritually "primed" according to the spiritual law that controls this Earth. Teachings supply man with many pieces of guidance about what he has to go through and fulfill truthfully so that by the end of his earthly life, he might have realized a fruitful spiritual journey.
O Servants of God! There is certain wisdom underlying each Divine commandment. And there is the ultimate wisdom for which we were created.
I have only created Jinns and men, that they may serve Me.
(HQ: 51: 56)
"I made thee to be not other than Me"(HQ: 20: 39) (our translation).
"I have prepared thee for Myself" (HQ: 20: 41)
"Among all creatures Allah manifests Himself especially in man."
(A Sufi saying)
Accordingly, we have to discern everything (in Religion) as it is related to that supreme wisdom and the Sublime Law. Everything is working according to that Eternal Law, as we are, ourselves, the sum total of what we do. We have to realize also that any teaching the Divine guides us to is fashioned within that comprehensive frame of reference where the core objective is leading us to be good Servants of God. Namely, we have to discern the truthful implications of any divine saying, and realize that the "form" (of any religious practice) is a means for maintaining the Message addressed to us. We should neither be too much involved in superficial literality, nor too absorbed in the realm of transcendence. Rather, we would do better to stick to the concepts that we estimate as leading us to the goodness of our present life and guiding us to a righteous path. A balanced approach amr wasat is that which a person supposes to be appropriate for him and in it he realizes his path. In the meantime, he prays to God to endow him success in his task and to teach him what he has to be well aware of.
O Servants of God! Each person has a responsibility to shoulder, and he has to make his own decisions. He would not be relieved from that responsibility if he just followed others without awareness or comprehension. The holy verses teach us that truth.
Then would those who are followed clear themselves of those who follow (them): (HQ: 2: 166)
And Satan will say when the matter is decided: "It was Allah Who gave you a promise of Truth: I too promised, but I failed in my promise to you. I had no authority over you except to call you, but ye listened to me: then reproach not me, but reproach your own souls." (HQ: 14: 22)
Hence man's responsibility (for what he thinks and does) is one of the basics that we have to be aware of and learn (how to shoulder). Every individual human being should consider carefully what he does, and what he accepts or initiates, because he assumes full responsibility for all his deeds and attitudes.
To sum up, we continually remind ourselves of the origins of our Religion, so that we might not diverge into subsidiary things and miss our spiritual focus and truthful Path. We go back to the main sources of Religion, and read them meditatively to recognize the basics, the ultimate goal, and the direction to turn to. On discerning that ultimate goal, we try to read every verse and Prophetic Hadith to realize its truthful meaning and the Message addressed to us through it. This way we learn truly. We are fully aware that we cannot desert (this way of learning) because of the fact that each individual person undertakes a certain responsibility. He has nothing to do but to work all the potentialities that God endowed him with, in considering everything he is exposed to, and to come out with conclusions that his heart and mind accept.
“Consult your own heart, even if people have given you the best advice,”(PH)6
Man has to train himself in this process of learning, in order that he might transform into a true Servant of God. This way, a person is really a Muslim, a believer and a doer of good. It is not likely that a person will earn anything, unless he exerts effort, and unless he makes full use of all the capabilities and potentialities that God granted him, so that he might try to gain it.
On no soul doth Allah place a burden greater than it can bear. It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns.
(HQ: 2: 286)
  1. This is how Al Bzzar narrated the Hadith in Al Gam’e Al Sagheer of Al-Siuti. Ahmad Ibn Hanbal narrated it as such: This is the True Path; walk along gradually and gently
  2. It is narrated by Qadi Aiadi. Some scholars such as Shawkani say it is a fabricated Hadith. However, the contoversy is not about its content, it is about the documentation.
  3. Narrated by Bukhari
  4. Narrated by Ahmad, Moslem and Ibn Maja
  5. The word “origins” usul is generally used by Master Ali Rafea with two dimensions: first, the basics of Religion as stamped on the primordial nature of humans as they contain the Spirit of God. Second, the well documented Scriopture pure of any human interpretations along history. (t.n.)
  6. This is part of a Hadith narrated by Ahmad and Al Darmi