Al-Fatihah – An Expanded Understanding

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Al-Fatihah – An Expanded Understanding

 

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A Quranic Defense of Islam – Part 1

بِ سْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيم

“In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful”– Quran 1:1, (Yusuf Ali)

I will begin in remembrance that there is none Aware, but The One Aware Alone!

لَّا  يَمَسُّهُۥٓ  إِلَّا  ٱلْمُطَهَّرُونَ  

“None shall touch it save the purified ones.”– Quran 56:79, (Hamid S. Aziz)

I will also elucidate herein why The Final Testament, Al Quran, is beyond reproach, as only a purified heart can touch It’s Noble Understanding.

ذَٰلِكَ  ٱلْكِتَٰبُ  لَا  رَيْبَ  فِيهِ  هُدًى  لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ

“This is the Scripture in which there is no doubt, containing guidance for those who are mindful of God”– Quran 2:2, (Abdel Haleem)

The preeminence The Quran places on mindful awareness cannot be overstated. Without it, no good deed has any merit, and even becomes an error. With it, even that which appears as a wrong can transform into transcendent benevolence. The key to understanding and benefiting from The Quran lies in such conscious awareness. The keyhole for this key of mindfulness is through humble submission, or peaceful surrender.

There is presently a wide variety of disagreement and misunderstanding of what is commonly referred to as “Islam.” What was revealed to the heart of the Prophet Muhammad, (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), has from the very beginning been received and understood, or rejected and misconstrued in innumerable ways and for a wide variety of reasons.

Recently a meme of social media came to my attention, which illustrates many of the most severe misunderstandings and typical distortions common today. I would like to shed some light on these misconceptions which have long been used to attack and defame Islam, and to blaspheme the very Spirit of the Quran’s teaching. This is what the “kafiroon” do. They conceal, cover and deny the very Spirit of Truth, being themselves ungrateful, thankless, unappreciative disbelievers and deniers devoid of faith. This Arabic word, “kafiroon” has all these connotations, but is usually poorly translated as simply “disbelievers.” This is of course, a gross oversimplification, losing far too much meaning in the process. What is even worse, on other occasions the word may be completely mistranslated as “infidels.” Oftentimes, the distortion of these “kafiroon” become so great as to make a mockery of the very art of translating itself! Unfortunately, this is all too common today.

The social media meme addressed in this series of articles is a case in point. The verses, (more properly called ayat; or ayah in the singular), are so misleading as to beckon the question as to whether they represent purposeful distortions.

They are as follows:

2:191 “Slay the unbelievers wherever you find them.”

The verse is best translated, “Fight them, wherever you encounter them…” as it prompts believers to “drive them out from where they drove you out.” This would not be possible if they had all been killed.

It is also critical to remember why the fighting was authorized in the first place. It was an answer as to whether they should retaliate to defend themselves, even within what was considered a sacred place (e.g., within the masjid, or the boundaries of Mecca). If engaged in a careful contextual reading of The Quran, the previous ayah, 2:190, would have just informed us to, “Fight in God’s cause against those who fight you…” while also adding, “…but do not overstep the limits.” There is agreement among scholars that these limits are 1) to initiate hostilities; 2) to fight non-combatants; and, 3) to have a disproportionate response to aggression.

It is also evident from ayah 2:191 that the believers were being persecuted, afflicted and oppressed. The first portion of the verse affirms, “persecution is worse than killing.” That this is the context is also obvious from the later part of the same ayah, where it is said, “Do not fight them near the Sacred [Masjid] unless they fight you there. If they fight you there, then kill them– such is the reward of [those who cover, conceal, and reject Truth; and who are themselves ungrateful, thankless, and unappreciative] disbelievers [who are deniers devoid of faith].

That it is not the desire of Allah, or the message of The Quran, that we slay anyone without such just cause is apparent from ayah 2:192 where Allah commands, “If they cease hostilities, there can be no [further, sic.] hostility, except towards aggressors [i.e., oppressors].

Understanding this context, who would object to a verse that tells believers to defend themselves against those who attack them, regardless of where they are, and to slay those persecuting oppressors when they do attack?

The next verse (ayah) fragment is: 3:28 “Muslims must not take the infidels as friends.”

A better translation of this could be, “Let not those who can be safely and securely trusted, [whose hearts have become quiet and tranquil, and whose minds are free from the expectation of evil and devoid of hatred, who bring an assurance of faithful confidence in their belief, manifested through humble submission], let not these take the disbelievers, [who by their very nature conceal, cover and reject the Truth, being thankless and unappreciative deniers who are utterly devoid of faith], as allies instead of their trustworthy friends.”

The above difference in understanding is among the best of examples to illustrate why it is incumbent upon every Muslim man, woman and child to learn what the original Arabic Quran has to say to them, specifically!

Furthermore, as noted by Muhammad Asad when commenting on the same wording in ayah 4:139:

The term “allies” (awliya, sing. wali) does not indicate, in this context, merely political alliances. More than anything else, it obviously alludes to a “moral alliance” with the deniers of the truth: that is to say, to an adoption of their way of life in preference to the way of life of the believers, in the hope of being “honoured”, or accepted as equals, by the former. Since an imitation of the way of life of confirmed unbelievers must obviously conflict with the moral principles demanded by true faith, it unavoidably leads to a gradual abandonment of those principles.

The difference in the two ayat (3:28 vs. 4:139) is the later adds, “… do they hope to be honoured by them when, behold, all honour belongs to God [alone]?” Thus, we have demonstrated here a rhetorical device that reveals the importance of The Quran’s style of repeating/comparing/contrasting, ayah upon ayah, to broaden and deepen the understanding of certain critical points.

Therefore, it is not just that the initial quotation in this case was misleading, inadequate and taken out of context. It also ignores the richness of understanding inherent in the Arabic revelation; as well as the style of The Quran to place contextual layer upon contextual layer, to further broaden and deepen the understanding of the devoted reader.

Awareness

Awareness is The Way; The Way of Being rightly aligned.

Forgetfulness is to miss the aim of life, which is to be consciously aware.

With Awareness comes a patient appreciation. Over time this patient appreciation instills apprehension, which leads to realized knowledge beyond mundane information. This realized knowledge, when it ripens, yields the fruit of wisdom. Wisdom, when applied as life’s guide, brings the only lasting freedom, and the purity of peace.

Do not attempt to confuse this by confabulating it with dualistic ideas of of diety. There is none Aware, but The One Aware Alone!

Universal In-Dependence Part 1

Thank you for Your Presence; my Awareness thereof, and Your Love!

I am present in the Presence of the One, All Aware, to make (“the required” or  “a voluntary”) conscious-connection of the (morning, mid-day, afternoon, evening, night, late-night, etc.), focusing my heart on the Qibla

To the One Aware alone, who’s even greater!

Transcendent and Glorious art Thee, and Yours is the praise; and blessed is Your remembrance; and beyond exaltation, Your majesty; and there is none Aware but the One Aware Alone.

We shelter in this One Aware Alone, in whose Presence is the Pleasure of all Love and Kindness;

From the misidentifying mind;

Rejecting its false ego, along with its devaluing debasements of every kind.

Residing in the Precious Presence of Pleasurable Awareness, All-Loving, Ever-Kind, we begin.

Celebrating and appreciating, we give thanks to this One, Aware of all that is with a peaceful mind;

Loving and Kind;

And thus we see every moment masterfully designed;

This Awareness we adore as aid’s only source;

Our guidance on a way noble and straight;

A way without taint, full of favor and grace;

Not of displeasure’s complaints, nor of those who deviate.

We acknowledge that there is none Aware, but the One Aware; and we affirm that Your messenger is simply a slave raising such awareness, by perfectly delivering and demonstrating this message of awareness.

To the One Aware alone, who’s even greater!

Be Aware, and experience Our Presence, The Pleasure of love, Ever-Kind!

Celebrating, appreciating, and giving thanks with a peaceful mind;

Experience this– Most Loving, Ever Kind;

Mastering every moment’s design.

This alone adore, as aid’s only source;

Your guidance on a way noble and straight;

A way without taint, full of favor and Grace;

Not of displeasure’s complaints, nor of those who deviate.

We have no “other” to worship– just Thee!

There is no “other”– just This!

This is Thee, and Thou art The Oneness of Absolute and Eternal Refuge! Oneness un-begetting and unbegotten.

There is nothing but Thee!

We meditate on Thee as Illuminating Generative Light; And upon all Your glorious attributes. These are Your Holy Names; and they are the basis of all that exists.

As The Source of All that Is, You alone are adored as omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, self-existent Conscious Being. Only You, who remove all ignorance and disturbance from the mind, are capable of purifying and sharpening all intelligence!

From the darkest regions of ignorance that which was thought to be the “i” was formed. This idea of “i” came forth, with the eyes of understanding closed tightly shut. With Your torchlight of knowledge You enlighten these eyes. In the light of this sight we bear Your torch.

I thank You for This, Awareness of Your Presence– The Present Moment, Now– as it is! I devote all to This, to facilitate Supreme Enjoyment; which is life’s highest pleasure. I thank You for the will to do whatever is required– confident of Your perfection– and the patience to persevere and endure to the end. I give all praise and thanks to You, O’Supreme Source of Being, mindful that such Conscious Awareness is Thy Saving Grace!

This is Love; to be deeply rooted in Your Presence; in Aware Appreciation of what is. I adore this!

Preparing to begin, I contemplate the day as it spreads before me. Directing my thoughts to You, O’Highest Consciousness, I relinquish any attachment to selfishness, dishonesty, self-pity, and the many forms of false egoistic fear. If disturbance, agitation, doubt, or uncertainty plague me, I pray to relax; seeking refuge in the inspiration of Your Presence, and guidance for right-thinking or action. I am thankful for the power to walk in Your Divine Understanding, as it is revealed to me—as well as Your gracious release from the bondage of self-will. Consciously aware, liberated from the delusions of self-seeking, and harmonizing my will to Yours, O’Highest Consciousness, I will do what is to be done today. Thus, I am free of the dangers and disturbances of self-centered fears, arising from the selfishness of the ego’s lust, anger and greed. Such liberation allows for better decision-making, and more efficiency. This absence of a separate agenda allows for a conservation of energy. Because I am not extending myself to arrange life to my liking, I remain serene, equipoised and full of vitality. For This, I give thanks!

I am as I am; one with all existence. Every day, every situation and even every breath continuously brings transformation, expansion, growth and development. This is so by the Grace of Peaceful Surrender. This is not something that my little “i” has done. Surrender is not an action of myself. It is a gift, for which I am eternally grateful! You have made it immanently accessible, by inspiring the cessation of struggle and action, through meditation. This has resulted in my ultimate return and reunion with You, O’Source of All Strength. By such Graceful Surrender You have freed me from the demands of a self-centered agenda; thus protecting me from the creation and harboring of errant views. Such liberation from the ego’s incessant commands allows for complete spiritual integration and transcendent unity, both internally and externally. By this sublime process You provide the freedom for me to exemplify meditation and meditative spiritual practices– and to join with others in this endeavor of loving kindness and peaceful surrender– by all means. I am now what I am meant to be — a divine trustee of creation and the Creator, embracing goodness, purity and light– emancipated from darkness, evil and negativity.

With life has come this opportunity, to submit the delusion of “I”, this idealized self, as a peace-offering; a sacrifice to serve as a refuge for all people, for this planet and for all of creation. I am accepting this divine mandate as my only worthwhile occupation, my reasonable service, and Your intimate and cherished trust. Thus is my illusion of self transmuted into a pillar of peace, presence and light. And this, not in any separate sense of existence, but in a stupendous and glorious display of Your Graceful Presence in each environment encountered. This is so whether at home, at work, or in spiritual gatherings. It is true whether interacting socially or professionally. It is the case at all levels of transaction, whether personal, communal, national or international. By the grace of such surrender, peace naturally exudes forth from it’s Source, affecting all who are in proximity. Nor, have You limited the scope or design of these results to any particular class or rank, but have afforded them to all who surrender. It’s not just a word. It’s not an idea or a belief. It’s a way to live and be in the world. Thanks to You, it is my reality!

–12SteppinSufi

Why Would a Muslim Meditate?

The Importance of “Muslim Mindfulness”

The Quran is “The Reminder.” Our leader, the Prophet Muhammad, (A.W.A.S.), was sent to deliver a message. That message is “The Reminder.”

Of what are we being reminded? Allah says in His Holy Quran, “Remember Me and I will remember you” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:152). So, we are being reminded of Allah. But what does this mean– to be “reminded?”

To “re-mind” is to bring-back-to-mind. However, due to Allah being The Absolute Truth, He is primary. Therefore, rather than saying “bring-back-to-mind,” it is more appropriate and perfect to say, “bring-the-mind-back” to Allah. After all, The Holy Quran tells us, “We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:156).

This message delivered by the Holy Prophet, (A.W.A.S.), and the very purpose of revelation, is to bring our minds– indeed even our very souls– back to Allah!

What happens to the mind at this moment of encounter; when we return to the Presence of God?

The normal activity of the un-awakened mind in this world serves to veil our awareness of the Truth. However, the closer we come to Allah’s Divine Presence, the more our mind submits, becoming quiet. This allows for Allah to disclose Himself to the awareness of our still, awaiting hearts.

Recognizing in all humility that our finite mind can never fully realize the infinity of Allah we, nevertheless, inquire as to His nature and attributes. Our very profession of faith tells us, “La illaha illa’llah,” there is none to adore but the One to adore.

Of Allah’s many names depicting His unlimited attributes is Al-Khabir, The All-Aware. This could also be stated in the form of a testimony, “The One we are aware of is the One who is aware of, there is none aware, but He!”

So, our Prophet, (A.W.A.S.), is bringing a message to remind us to be aware of the One who is aware of us. Indeed, He is aware of everything in the heavens and the earth! He is Awareness Himself! And, we are to be aware of His Awareness– ever mindful– conscious of Allah as the only One to adore.

Why is this so important to Allah? The answer is really quite simple, and yet incredibly profound. God wants us to be aware of Him— our very source of awareness— in all His Majesty and Glory, simply because HE LOVES US!

Being All-Knowing, Allah is Ever-Aware of how we are created, formed, and fashioned– and to what purpose. We were created to worship Him (Surat -Dhariyat 51:56); to adore Allah. When we are aware of who He is we cannot help but fall down in prostrate adoration! He alone is adorable; which is to say, He is the only one worthy of worship.

Because we are made for such recognition through re-awakening our awareness, Allah knows there is no other way for us to be satisfied. Without an awareness of this awareness there is no possibility of peace or contentment—no hope of happiness.

To try to please a soul without Awareness of Allah is analogous to trying to please a fish without providing water. The only source of satisfaction for the fish is to be immersed in water. Likewise, there is no pleasure for the soul, except that he be immersed in the Awareness of Allah!

Ridwan’llah is the Pleasure of Allah. Our whole point and purpose of existence is to please God. It pleases Him when we remember Him. Meditation is one of the best ways to do this.

So, why would a Muslim meditate? Simply because, it is one of the best ways to please Allah!

How is a Muslim to Meditate?

Now that we can clearly see that it pleases Allah for us to remember Him through meditative practices, the question beckons, how is a Muslim to meditate?

As in all things we follow our Prophet Muhammed, (A.W.A.S.), who is the perfect example of how to be a Muslim in all circumstances. Let us take a closer look at how he received guidance.

When the Revelation of The Quran came to Muhammed, (A.W.A.S.), he had gone into seclusion. He got alone. So, we can initiate our practice by following his example. We find a quiet place to be alone.

The next thing we know is that the Prophet heard. To hear requires us to be listening; so, we get still and quiet. We simply remain in this awareness, waiting for Allah to reveal Himself to us, as He revealed Himself to Muhammed, (A.W.A.S.). We bow the mind and all its seemingly incessant activity to the Presence of Allah. In Islam we call this type of observance Muraqaba. It simply means to sit still in quiet observation.

Since we do not find ourselves elevated to the status of prophethood, we may want to prime our hearts and help to still our minds by calling upon our Lord, BEFORE attempting to enter into His Presence with Muraquba. We do this with a practice known as Tasbeh.

Tasbeh involves repeating various names of God, or phases of Truth. This is done in order to associate with and surrender to Allah in all His attributes. And, while this is usually done with the aid of beads, or counting on the fingers, there are no hard and fast rules. The Quran reminds us of the crucial activity when it says, “Call upon Me and I will respond to you!” Only those who are too proud would reject such an invitation (Surah Al-Ghfir, 40:60).

Are these the only ways we are reminded? No. In fact, all of Islam is a reminder to submit our own self-centered will to Allah. Our prayers five times daily are periods of reminding. These practices of meditation prepare the heart and mind for such blessed conscious connections. As we engage in Muraqaba, such periods of stillness are likely to calm our minds and raise our awareness. This allows us to develop a much deeper appreciation of one or many of the various aspects of Al-Haqq, The Truth.

If, during Muraqaba we are reminded of a particularly profound Truth, we can then further our meditative practice with Tafakhur (continuous contemplation). When this contemplation is directed towards the character of those who live this truth, such as the Prophet, the Companions, or our own teachers, this form of communion becomes known as Murabita.
 

Conclusion

 

In conclusion, a Muslim will meditate when s/he understands remembering Allah is what provides the power to surrender. Calling upon the Divine Names and attributes of Allah pleases Him. Thus, He is quick to respond to those who call upon Him. The response of His Presence brings a peace to calm the restless mind. When the mind is calm, one can see more clearly through the veil with the awareness of the heart.

When one looks in this way one is able to dive deeper into the contemplative depths of Allah and those who love Him. This practice then further empowers the process of surrender, allowing the practitioner to attain higher and higher degrees of appreciation for Allah’s Divine Majesty and Transcendent Glory.

With all this being said, perhaps we have been asking the wrong question. The question is not, “Why Would a Muslim Meditate?” The question is why would s/he NOT?

–By 12SteppinSufi