Lost & Found





Bismillahi rahmani r-rahim
(In the Name of Allah, Most Beneficent, Most Munificent)

La hawla wa la quwatta illa billah il aliyy il adhim
(There is no strength and no power save that of Allah, Most High, and Majestic)

Rabbi yassir, wa la ta‘ssir.  Rabbi tamim bi-l khayr.
(O Lord, make it easy, and do not make it difficult.  O Lord, make it end well.)

We recently began our muraqaba (conscious awareness).   There were many questions and comments about it from our brothers and sisters.  So we would like to say a few words about it.

Sidi Jalaluddin Rumi has said:

O you who are thirsty and heedless, come!  We are drinking the water of Khidr from the stream: the speech of the saints.
If you do not see the water,  act like a blind man: Bring your jug to the stream and dip it in.
For you have heard that there is water in the stream.  The blind man must act in imitation.
Dip the waterskin, which is dreaming of water, in the stream, so that you may feel it become heavy.
When it becomes heavy, you will have attained guidance:  At that moment your heart will be delivered from dry imitation.
These few lines from one of the great awliya (friends of Allah) and spiritual guides of Islam should make us think about what muraqaba is.  Yet it is something which is not special, but rather should be the permanent state of someone who is following a path.

The fact that we are intending to do this practice only at certain times, although we hope to do it more often, does not mean it is restricted to those times.  It is a means of practice so that it becomes constant, permanent.  If someone gives you a certain number of things to do for your awrad (daily recitations), it is important to stick to that number.  But any number is limited. It begins and ends.  However, the reality of dhikr (remembrance) does not have a beginning or end, and this is like every other spiritual practice.

Muraqaba was a particular spiritual practice which was done in the history of the tariqa and it was done for a certain length of time.  Until, in our days,  it has shrunk into the few minutes of rabita (connection) at the beginning of our Khatm al-Khawagan.  There are certain reasons why this happened and why we are ordered to do so.
Every practice, in the beginning, must be delimited but in its reality it  is not limited.  This also goes for muraqaba.  You may remember that the description of muraqaba is taken from a certain hadith.  When the angel Gabriel came to visit the Prophet, peace be upon him, he asked him about islam, iman, ihsan.  This is part of the answer concerning ihsan, that we should worship Allah as if we saw Him, because if we do not see Him, He sees us.  This is the practice of ihsan.  All of tasawwuf (Sufism) is contained in this description of ihsan.  In a certain way, tasawwuf can be seen as the practice of ihsan.  That makes tasawwuf nothing special outside of religion, but it rather is one particular level of practicing in  our religion.  It is the highest.   For this level of practice Allah has the greatest Reality.  What is that Reality?  To worship Him as if you see Him and if you do not see Him you, He sees you.  To be always aware that although you do not see Him, He sees you.  If you are saying I am of the ahl at-tasawwuf (people of Sufism) then you cannot say, “Where is He? I cannot see Him”.  Then you are not at the level of ihsan. You must always strive to act in this way.

Contained in this hadith there are two names.  These names are the description of two main religious practices:  mushahada, to be as if you see Him, and if Allah grants it, it may actually be as if we actually Him.  You must always try to be as if you saw Him.  This is not easy.  It requires constant discipline and reminding.  This is witnessing or mushahada.
Muraqaba  refers to the second part:   to always be aware that He sees you.  It comes from the word al-Raqib, from an ayat in the Qur’an.  Sidi Muhyidin Ibn Arabi says that this is referred to in the last ayat  in Ayat ul Kursi.  “Wa la ya’udu hifdhuhumaa.”  He is the Raqib of the samawaati w-al-ard, of the heavens and earth.  The muraqaba of the servant is an imitation of the divine attribute of the al-Raqib or the One who is aware of everything and with everything.  Our muraqaba consists in practicing being aware of our Lord seeing us.  That does not happen only at certain times and not at other times.  Times are the affair of the servant, whereas for Him He is at all times or at no time.  He is looking at all times and keeping track at all times, always.  Try and be aware of this, that He is watching, keeping track of His servants, seeing them at all times, day-time and night-time, any time.  That awareness is not normally with us. Why not? Because we are too busy with other things that seem to be more important, with things that are also in existence.  It is because we are distracted with everything pertaining to dunya (this world).  You may understand that dunya  itself is a distraction.  However,  there is a wisdom in dunya.  It also means to come back to Him.  We cannot say that we would be better off without this dunya because it is only through it that we find back to Him.  He has created this distraction for us to find back to Him.  The problem is: we are with these things and not with Him.

As Ibn Ata’illah said,  “Subhanallah! Glorified be Allah who created that which has no existence.”
He created only a veil, and a veil has no existence.  It is only through the veils that we can see that there is something behind them.  But we have to see the veil as veil.  All of these practices are to make us become aware of the veil, not to throw away the veil.  The veil goes away when we recognize it as veil.  The practice is not to make this dunya disappear but to know this dunya for what it is.  We have to understand this dunya, not misunderstand it.  Muraqaba is a way of becoming aware more and more.
We must begin with small things to practice before we can begin with something bigger.  Although, when we say small here, it is not actually true because it is very big.  What are the tools with which we have to see Allah?  We only have our imagination.
Mawlana Sheikh was citing the ayat in which he says that Allah is wherever you are.  Try to imagine that He is with you. We may try to do so, but if we are sincere with ourselves, we cannot really imagine it.  You must therefore go one step lower, try to imagine His Beloved Prophet, peace be upon him.  Some of us may do so, if some of us have been given that favor to see Him but generally or commonly we are not even able to do this.   So what we do is we try to imagine someone we have met, someone we have heard speaking, someone we have visited.  We have been told that that someone is in the same footsteps as Allah Almighty’s Beloved Prophet, peace be upon him.  That one we can imagine easily and at any time.
When we are asking for muraqaba we ask for something simple.  People are always asking about techniques, especially Western people.  They even ask the Sheikh about techniques for how to love.   What is important: is to be simple.
In our muraqaba, we were dressed in white and sat in silence. The great hikma (wisdom) is that it was done in a group and thus it has a stronger spiritual impact.  You can do it any time, preferably at night, when it is quiet.  You must make ghusl (major ablution).  This is important because everything must be washed away.  This muraqaba  is a step in the level of purification.  You must wash outside and inside.  You begin with what is easiest for us, people who are always living outside, we wash the outside first.  You will then sit and say  to your Sheikh, or to the Prophet, peace be upon him, or to Allah:  “You were with me all day, and I was never with you.  Now I am trying to be with you.  Now I am trying to leave everything in order to be with You because I cannot be with You when I am also with other things.”  That is a means of washing everything from the inside.    “I am sitting with You for a little time, I am trying to be with You now.”  I have to sit in quietness and darkness.  That dustbin that we are, in which we collect all our garbage needs to be emptied.  We need to practice to empty our wastebasket.    Do not have any illusions about this, because our wastebasket started to be filled when we entered this life.  The things that are in this life may not leave us but that is because we are holding on to them.  All those emotions and images and things, why don’t they leave us? Because we like them.  We also like our sufferings and our unpleasant things and that is why they don’t leave us.
There is a story from the Far East where people concentrate very much on meditation.  In Japan, in a Zen monastery, a visitor was taken around the monastery and the abbot himself took him around .  The man said that this must be a holy place because all these people are sitting all the time in these special positions.  They entered a hall where people were sitting and meditating and the visitor asked, “What are they meditating on ?”  The abbot said, “This one is meditating on a fridge, this one is meditating on the movie he saw last night, this one is meditating on his bed, and so forth”.
Everyone is making muraqaba but they are meditating about the wrong things!  Change the fridge, get something better than the fridge.  You should understand whom you should make muraqaba about.
Once a young man came to see his Sheikh.  “Mawlana (Master),” he said, “I  am confused - give me peace.  Some time ago I fell in love with a girl, and since we both liked each other, we decided to get married.  However, as we were confirming our decision, she met someone else whom she liked better and married him instead.  I am suffering terribly because of this.  I can’t bear the pain.”  The Sheikh said: “There is nothing to worry about.  Just find another girl and marry her.”
He replied:”That is good advice, but my mind has become possessed by her, and even if I tried a million times, I could not get her out of my mind.”
“ But why do you remember her like this?” the Sheikh asked.
“ It is not that I remember her,” he replied. “The memory of her comes to my mind.  Without my doing anything.  I see her image moving in front of my eyes.”
Isn’t that remarkable?  He had not worshipped the girl over a long period according to prescribed ritual;  he had not made muraqaba on her, he had not received a wird (recitation) containing her name from any holy man.  Her image would not leave the young man’s mind.  These are the consequences of being together.  When we set someone in our heart with love, we cannot remove him even if we try.  We say: “Leave my mind!” but he does not leave.  This is the fruit of muraqaba united with love.  Then why don’t you make muraqaba on your Sheikh with the same kind of love?  He has only to enter your heart and mind once for his image to form and settle there;  then he won’t leave it, even if you try to make him leave.
People often repeat:  “Mawlana, I try to make muraqaba, but as soon as I sit down, things of this dunya come before me - the office, the job, the children.  What should I do about it?  I just can’t make muraqaba.”
  The Sheikh answers: “ But you are making muraqaba.  To have your office and your job and your children within you is muraqaba.  To see the vision of your family is muraqaba.  Aren’t you satisfied with the fruits of your muraqaba?  All the things you have loved, thought about, and pursued in your everyday life are now bearing fruit in you.  You have visions of your office and your children;  but you do not consider it muraqaba.  Look,  I am in the same situation.  I made muraqaba on my Sheikh.  I embraced and kissed his hands and feet.  Now all this continually arises in my heart.  ‘Mawlana, Mawlana’ repeats itself within me, even when my mind is not thinking of him.”
When the object of your thought begins to vibrate in your heart, you are making muraqaba.  As these vibrations continue, the object itself is forgotten.  This is a very high level of muraqaba.
It depends on whom you love or imagine to love.  You don’t have to do anything to become aware of it.   You must be humble and sincere and wait quietly, then things will go away from you, will fall away from you.
One of our brothers said that during the muraqaba there was a lot of noise from the street.  When there is noise in you, then you don’t hear the noise outside.  But if you are getting quieter and quieter then you will hear.  One of the main techniques is not to do anything.  You are only sitting quietly and your body is not tense.  Let your body fall, this is part of the emptying.  You must let go.  Let everything that is in you fall.  Remember that Mawlana Sheikh is looking at you.  If you are breathing then try to remember with every breath,  “Allah.”  Allah, Allah, Allah with every breath.  And that is all.  There is no more need for any technique or details. 

Wa min Allah at-tawfiq
(And from Allah comes success)

Bi hurmati l-Habibi, bi hurmatil Fatiha.