Articles & Newsletters
The Understanding of Unity (Tawhid)
Allah says: ‘You are certainly on a clear path (sirat), a straight and direct way’ (36:04). The ‘straight path’ (al-sirat al-mustaqim) is the shortest distance between two points, between subject and object, between man and Allah. That is why it is direct, for it stretches from man to what he is always seeking, which is the All-Encompassing Reality. The understanding of unity (tawhid) is the straight path (al-sirat al-mustaqim), but it cannot be the subject of mere intellectual study. One must move along the path of submission (islam), through belief (iman) to sublime excellence (ihsan), until one begins to have glimpses of unity, through which one can then dive into the world of meaning.
When we remember that the end may come at any minute and we remember that we are suspended in air (one word related to nafs is nafas, meaning breath), we become more human. The Prophet, ṣalla- llāhu ‘alayhi wa ālihi wa sallam, said, “People are asleep, and when they die they wake up.” True seekers want to die while being awake — they want to enter a state of total silence. All the practices of the men of Allah from time immemorial lead man, the seeker, to inner death while still alive. If, while we are conscious, aware, and scintillating with life, we can enter a state of self-abandonment, then we will understand what inner death is. If we cannot reach this state, then we will remain in the turmoil of sa‘y, that is, running between Ṣafā and Marwah in Mecca.
AṢ-ṢAFĀ AND AL-MARWAH
Throughout your life you run back and forth between two opposite things, like aṣ-Ṣafā and al-Marwah. Aṣ-Ṣafā and al-Marwah are two clusters of rocks between which the pilgrim runs back and forth. They are the scene of Hajar's running to and fro in search of water, after being left alone with 'Ismail in the blistering heat and wilderness of Mecca. They figuratively bracket all human efforts, from hunger to fullness, from illness to wellness, and man's patience and tawakkul (trust, confidence) in Allah are tested through running between them. Aṣ-Ṣafā and al-Marwah, and the practice of sa'y (running between the two of them), are indeed true signs of Allah. Man performs sa'y throughout his life in his constant search for true contentment, seeking it outwardly, not knowing that the access to it is already within him.
FIṬRAH: THE INNATE, NATURAL DISPOSITION
Fiṭrah is the ‘natural and basic disposition’ of humankind and is derived from faṭara, to split or break apart, hence Ifṭār, ‘breaking of the fast’. Faṭara also means ‘to create’. Non-creation cracked and split open to reveal its opposite, creation. Basic knowledge is Fiṭrī, connected with the pre-creational crack. Access to Basic knowledge is through diving deep into the well to reach the source of the spring where the original crack is. The Safīh, the foolish, ignorant one whose life is cluttered and whose well is filled up with the debris of illusions, desires, attachments and covetousness, has no access to that original crack, that fiṭrah.