Connection: Human & Divine
Different people reached out to me this month, and I reached out to them. Many of my closest friends live a great distance from me. We stay connected thanks to technology. My friend Lindsey would say, “I’m only a heartbeat away” and it’s true. We all need someone who cares, whom we can turn toward and confide in, someone who will love us rather than judge us. People who help us see what’s right when everything feels wrong.
January has been a daunting month for me. Our family had several illnesses in December causing everyone to fall sick. I caught three different viruses that lingered into the New Year. My husband pointed out that I was still managing well, despite setbacks in my core routines. But I must confess to becoming angry with myself and the situation. I wanted to do more. I wanted to meet and exceed my expectations. I wanted better results from the work I produce and I wanted to get over something that’s been privately plaguing me.
Anger and Desire
In this regard, Shaykh Ismail gave me a profoundly punny perspective. He said, “I would love to be popular in Allah’s site.”Anger is a spiritual malady that innumerable prophets and mystics have warned against. Prophet Muhammad (upon him peace) advised one of his companions multiple times not to become angry. He said, “Anger spoils faith, as vinegar spoils honey,” and gave practical advice on how to control it. He recommended changing one’s posture from active to passive. For instance, a person standing should sit, ideally on the floor. Another technique is to splash water on one’s face by performing the ritual ablution. Similarly, Rumi gently reminded his followers to “Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”
India’s most important and influential scripture The Bhagavad Gita provides a compelling philosophical framework:
“When you keep thinking about sense objects, attachment comes. Attachment breeds desire, the lust of possession that burns to anger. Anger clouds the judgment: you can no longer learn from past mistakes. Lost is the power to choose between what is wise and unwise, and your life is utter waste… When you let your mind follow the call of the senses, they carry away your better judgment as storms drive a boat off its charted course on the sea.”
It also offers an attitude one may adopt to remedy the problem:
“You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself—without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat. For yoga is perfect evenness of mind. Seek refuge in the attitude of detachment and you will amass the wealth of spiritual awareness.”
The Holy Quran discusses the human tendency to attribute good fortune to divinity and our egoic attachments. Misfortune and unfavorable circumstances are projected onto others, especially people and things we dislike. Verse 4:78 reveals how to avoid dualism and this type of dichotomous thinking:
“Say: It is all from Allah.”
(قُلْ كُلٌّ مِنْ عِنْدِ اللَّهِ)
By accepting everything in life as coming from Ultimate Reality, a person reduces her ego and begins to live the words of two of the world’s holiest scriptures. Or, if you prefer the famous Taoist story of the farmer who answered life’s ups and downs by simply saying, “We’ll see, if this is good or bad.” God only knows! It’s a lofty aspiration. One we constantly need to remember. Sufis have done this through Divine Remembrance (zikr), attributing praise to God, and acknowledging their teachers. Babuji, for instance, would always say, “It’s Daata Sahib’s grace” (the blessing of his teacher Hazrat Muzzaffer Ali Shah, whom many revered as a saint).
In closing, I’d like to share some free verse, kindly receive it, as-is:
Don’t look up to me,
I won’t look down on you.
I’m lost at sea,
swept up in the throng.
I try to do what’s right,
but often find I’m wrong.
No one is free of filth,
save the one who purifies herself.
Wash me then in Your Ocean of Love.
Extinguish the flame of my desire.
I’m tired of burning hot,
for other than Hu.
In faith and kinship,
PS. Tangentially, does anyone else remember the Spartan cheerleaders from SNL played by Will Ferrell (Craig) and Cheri Oteri (Arianna)? When writing about Ultimate Reality, I always keep in mind that subscribers come from all faiths and none. But for some reason, I got tickled thinking about that skit and a call-response cheer/zikr came to mind:
Craig: I say, Allah.
Arianna: You say, Hu?
In Sufism, Hu represents the Essence, the breath. It is pronounced just like who in English. To learn more, see Dr. Safi’s short Twitter thread.
PPS. In this video, Dr. Gulaam Dastagir demonstrates a simple meditation taught to us by our late spiritual guide and the inspiration for this website, Babuji (may Allah perfume his resting place).