Sunday, March 11, 2007

Spiritual Beauty and Primordial Religion

On the origin, nature, and development of moral conscience:

Forget Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, the labels, and all the ideological baggage and cultural misattributions that hang onto them.

Just think of ad din, or the deen, the primordial religion, or the primordial unity, if you will, into which we are all born, which is often then acculturated out of us.

The first principle of the 'ddin is the complete unity of God. Nothing exists outside of God, and that includes us. We are within God, of God.

Recognizing this, we strive to surrender to God's will, and to use our God given gifts of free will to direct us to do the good, both for ourselves and for others, to the extent that we can discern it.

This represents the development of conscience, one of the higher forms of human consciousness.

Just as no one else can take responsibility for our own individual acts of conscience, or our failures of conscience, all the more so no one can mediate between any one of us and God. It is a purely personal relationship, sans priests, rabbis, gurus, imams, sheiks, et cetera. This is a truth of the 'ddin.

In the 'ddin the essential nature of God is held to be beauty, compassion and mercy. And our fitra ~ the essential, primordial nature of our own souls, is also held to be beauty and goodness. This is how we come into being: as beauty, from beauty, as a goodness, out of Mercy.

Thus, the central inborn attribute of our God-given conscience is a profound moral and spiritual beauty.

Sadly, unfortunately, culture often works to deform this God-given conscience. Our often degrading print, broadcast, and other media, even certain aspects of our own religious traditions, may work to mask our spiritual beauty, and to instill a false view, an illusion of spiritual ugliness.

From Judaism we have the angry, vengeful, exclusive egregore of the chosen people, and a several millenia-old body of law in the Talmud that sanctions the mistreatment of children, and all who are not Jews. An ugly picture. In Christianity we have been burdened with fear and revulsion at our own physical natures, with the albatross of original sin hung around our necks, along with the false notion that only by praying to Jesus, who was indeed a unique prophet of God, can people know and express their love of God. In parts of the sharia of Islam we have many absurd, often obsessive and even draconian rules and punishments, covering things from obscure aspects of personal grooming to millenium-old culture-bound ideas of social behavior and custom. All of the foregoing, each in their own ways, can and frequently do form tableaux of spiritual ugliness.

So we may suffer, even those of us brought up with faith in God and within a religious tradition, from a refusal to let go of deeply embedded, culturally-instilled illusions of our own spiritual ugliness. And of course the purveying of ugliness, particularly debased views of human nature and socially "acceptable" speech and behavior by the media industry does much to make this already dire situation far worse. And the reactionary forces of secular humanism, a form of idolatry unto itself, exacerbate the situation even more.

These are forces with which we must struggle internally, as well as with our outward behavior, throughout each day of our lives.

We find that we must strive to recover our fitra, our primordial and pristine spiritual and moral beauty, and work to re-establish it, to nurture it and to strengthen it.

And while our primordial conscience may then become present in something resembling its pristine state, we may yet remain like the once ugly duckling, now grown to physical maturity, who needs a mirror and some reassurance in order to realize that we are in fact beautiful swans.

Our culturally instilled fear and reluctance to accept and acknowledge this, our own spiritual beauty, over time can become reified into an actual inability to perceive this beauty, a veritable spiritual blindness imposed upon us by the same sick culture whence it arises. And it functions thus, via the process of cultural reinforcement, as that very thing which most serves to keep the ugliness going.

This moral agnosia or spiritual blindness is thus culturally instilled and culturally self-perpetuating to our own detriment, and to the detriment of all.

We are helped immensely by the reassurance that there are many other lovely, intelligent, faithful, noble, and kind-hearted swans in this world. We need to pay attention to the evidence that there are many such people who are also beings of conscience working at large in this world, despite the programming to which we have been subjected with messages to the contrary. Such good people exist, and they may possibly see things in this world, ourselves included, more clearly than we may sometimes be able to see ourselves.

If we continually strive to find and hew to the good and to the morally beautiful, to immerse ourselves in such thoughts, and deeds, then surely goodness and beauty will come to occupy more and more of the space in our lives, and we shall find ourselves once again in the state of fitra.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Rumi on Free Will

“Yes,” said the lion, “but the God of whom we are servants set a ladder before our feet.

Step by step we must climb towards the roof, to be a fatalist here is to indulge in foolish hopes.

You have feet: why do you make yourself out to be lame? You have hands: why do you pretend not to have fingers?

When the master put a spade in the slave’s hand, his intention was made known without words.

Hand and spade alike are God’s implicit signs: to think about the end is God’s explicit instruction.

When you take God’s signs to heart, and you devote your life to fulfilling that indication,

You will be given may hints of mysteries, the burden will be removed from you, and you will be given authority.

Do you bear it? Then you will be lifted up. Do you receive commands? Then you will be received.

If you accept God’s command, you will become the spokesman. If you seek union, then you will become united.

Free will is the endeavor to thank God for God’s beneficence: your failure to accept responsibility is the denial of that beneficence.

Thanksgiving for the power of acting freely increases your power. Denying responsibility takes the gift of free will out of your hand.

Your irresponsibility is like sleeping in the road: do not sleep. Do not sleep until you see the gate and the threshold.

Beware. Do not sleep, inconsiderate one, except underneath that divinely given fruit-laden tree,

So that every moment the wind may shake the branches and shower upon the sleeper spiritual desserts, and provisions for the journey.

Abjuration of responsibility is to sleep among highwaymen and the devil: should the rooster that crows too early be fed or butchered?

And if by turning up your nose at God’s signs you deem yourself a brave and wise man, then consider more deeply and see you are less than a man, something weak and foolish.

The measure of understanding which you possessed is thus lost: and a head from which understanding has been severed becomes an eager ass,

Because ingratitude is wickedness and disgrace: it brings the ingrate to the bottom of Hell-fire.

If you are putting trust in God, put trust in God as regards your work: Sow the seed, then rely upon the Almighty.

~Masnavi i masnavi, book I, verses 929-947

Jalalu’ddin Rumi, Konya, Anatolia, ca. 1255

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Jesus Christ ~ Muslim


With the definition of muslim being
one who surrenders, or submits, only to God,
Jesus, Isa in Arabic, is considered to be completely muslim.
Indeed, Jesus, is given a special name, the Spirit of God, in the Qur'an.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, Maryam in Arabic,
is mentioned more frequently in the Qur'an
than she is in the New Testament of the Bible.

Here are examples of some prominent Qur'anic verses
portraying Isa, Jesus. All quotes are from the Qur'an,
Surah [Chapter]: Verse


Those who believe in the Qur'an,
And those who follow the Torah
And the Christians and the Shebans ~
Any who believe in God
And the Last Day,
And work righteousness,
Shall have their reward
With their Lord. On them
Shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.


We gave Moses the Book
And followed him up
With a succession of messengers.
We gave Jesus, the son of Mary
Clear signs and strengthened him
With the Holy Spirit. Is it
That whenever there comes to you
A messenger with what you
Yourselves don't want, you are
Puffed up with pride?
Some you called imposters,
And others you slay.


Those who believe (in the Qur'an),
Those who follow the Jewish scripture
(the Torah - the first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch),
And the Shebans and the Christians,
Any who believe in God
And the Last Day,
And do good works ~
On them shall be no fear,
Nor shall they grieve.


One day God
Will gather the messengers together,
And ask: "What was
the response you recieved
(from mankind to your teachings)?"
They will say: "We
have no knowledge. Thou, only Thou it is,
Who Knows in full
All that is hidden."

Then will God say:
"O Jesus, the son of Mary!
Remember My favour
To thee and unto thy mother;
How I strengthened thee
with the holy Spirit,
so that thou didst speak unto mankind,
in the cradle as in maturity.
I taught thee the Scripture and Wisdom,
the Torah and the Gospel.
And you didst shape
out of clay the figure of a bird,
By My permission,
and you did breathe into it
and it became a bird
by My permission,
and thou didst heal those
born blind and the lepers
by My permission.
Thou didst raise the dead
by My permission,
and I restrained the Children of Israel
from thee
when thou didst show unto them
The clear signs,
and the unbelievers said:
'This is nothing but mere magic.'"

And I inspired
the Disciples to have faith
in Me and in My messenger.
They said: "We have faith.
Bear witness that we have surrendered
Unto God as muslims."

When the disciples said:
"O Jesus, son of Mary!
Can thy God send down to us
a table spread with food
from heaven?" Jesus said:
"Observe your duty and
fear God, if ye are truly faithful."

They said: "We only wish
to eat of it that we may satisfy
our hearts and know
that thou hast indeed
spoken truth to us, and
that we ourselves may be
witnesses to the miracle."

Jesus, the son of Mary, said:
"O God our Lord, if You Will,
Send down for us from heaven
a table spread with food,
that it may be for us,
for the first of us and for the last of us,
a solemn feast
and a sign from Thee.
Provide our sustenance,
for Thou art the Best
Sustainer (of the needs of all)."

God said: "I will
send it down for you.
But if any of you,
after that, resist faith,
I will punish him
with a penalty such
as I have not inflicted
on anyone among
All the peoples."

God will say:
"O Jesus the son of Mary!
Didst thou say unto mankind:
'Take me and my mother
as two gods beside God?'"
He (Jesus) will say: "Glory to Thee!
Never could I say
What I had no right
to utter. Had I said
such a thing, then Thou wouldst
Indeed have known it.
Thou knowest what is
in my heart, though I
know not what is
in Thine. For only Thou art the
Knower in full of
All that is Hidden.

Never did I say unto to them
anything except what Thou
didst command me, saying: Worship
God, my Lord and your Lord.
I was a witness
over them while I dwelt
among them, and when Thou
didst take me up,
Thou wast the Watcher
over them. Thou art
Witness to all things.

If Thou dost punish them,
they are Thy servants.
If Thou forgive them
Thou art the Almighty,
the Wise."

God will say: "This is
a day on which
the truthful will profit
from their truth. Theirs
are Gardens, with rivers
flowing underneath ~ their eternal
Home." God, well-pleased
with them, and they in Him.
That is the great salvation.

Unto God doth belong the dominion
of the heavens and the earth,
and all that is therein,
and it is He who hath power
Over all things.


Note well that, as in the Qur'an, so also in the New Testament of the Bible, nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus ever declare himself to be God.

Jesus says he is the "Son of Man."

It was not until the fourth century, that the Council of Nicea in the year 325 A.D. declared Jesus to be God and canonized the doctrine of the trinity.

Jesus never said that.

So the Qur'an is completely consistent with what Jesus himself said.

Moses also figures prominently in the Qur'an, as do Noah and Abraham. We will hear more of them in later posts, Insha'llah.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

How Jesus Fled From Fools

according to Jalalu'ddin Rumi

Jesus, (the son) of Mary, was running away to a mountain. You
might say (that) a lion was wanting to spill his blood.
Someone ran behind (him) and said, "(May you be) well! There
isn't anyone following you, (so) why are you fleeing like a bird?"
(But) he kept running in the same manner, bound to urgency, (so)
that he didn't answer him, because of his own haste.
(The man) pressed forward following Jesus (for) one or two
(more) fields. Then he called (out) to Jesus with great seriousness,
Saying, "For the sake of God's approval, stop for a moment! --
since I have a problem in (understanding this) fleeing of yours.
"O noble and generous one! Who are you running from (in) this
direction? (There's) no lion or enemy following you, and no fear or
He answered, "I am escaping from a fool. Go (away)! I'm rescuing myself, (so) don't restrain me!"
(The man) said, "But aren't you the Messiah,(1) by whom blind and deaf (people) become normal?"
"Yes," he replied. (The man) asked, "Aren't you the (spiritual)
king who (is) the dwelling place for mysterious spells and
incantations? (2)
"(So that) if you recite a spell upon a (man's) corpse, he leaps
up (joyfully) like a lion (who has) brought back prey."
"Yes," he answered, "I am that one." (The other) said, "O
beautiful faced one! Don't you make (living) birds out of clay?"(3)
"Yes," he replied. (The other) said, "O pure spirit! Then you can
make (happen) whatever you wish ~ (so) who are you afraid of?
"With evidence such as this,(4) who is there in the world who wouldn't be among your (devoted) slaves?"
Jesus said, "By the Holy Essence of God, the Originator of the body, the Creator of the soul in (its) superiority! (5)
"(And in) reverence for His Holy Essence and Attributes, (for)
whom the collar of the heavens is torn (in ecstasy)(6):
"(I affirm) that those incantations, as well as the greatest Name(of God),(7) which I spoke over the deaf and over the blind, were beneficial.
"I recited (the words) over the rocky mountain (and) it became
split, tearing the robe (which was) upon itself (down) to the navel.
"I spoke (the words) over a dead body (and) it became alive. I said (them) over a point of nothingness (and) it became something.
"(But) I said those (words) a hundred thousand times with
loving-kindness over the heart of a fool and it was not a cure.(8)
"(Instead), it became(9) a hard rock and didn't change from that
habit; it became sand, from which no seed grows."
(The man) said, "(Then) what is the wisdom that the Name of God
was beneficial in those places, (but) here it had no superiority? (10)
"That is also (a case) of disease, and this is an affliction.
(So) why was it(11) a cure for that (but) not for this?"
(Jesus) replied, "The affliction of foolish stupidity is (caused
by)the overwhelming anger of God. (Normal) afflictions and blindness
are not (from God's) anger-- those are tests and trials."
Trials and hardships are an affliction which [eventually] brings
(Divine) Mercy. (But) ignorant foolishness brings blows and
That which is his scarring has been produced by His seal,(12)
(and) no supporting hand can bring a remedy to it.
(Therefore), escape from foolish people just as Jesus escaped.
(For) companionship with fools has spilled so much blood!
The air steals water very gradually,(13) (and) the fool steals
religion from you also in the same way.
He steals your warmth and gives you cold (in its place), just like
one who puts a rock under (your) bottom.
The escaping of Jesus is not because of (real) fear, (for) he is
secure (from such). (But) is for the sake of teaching (a lesson).(14)
Even if intense cold filled (all) the horizons of the world, what
grief would there be for the radiant sun?

~ Mathnawi book III: verses 2570-2599
ca. 13th century by Jalalu'ddin Rumi

Translated from the Persian by Ibrahim Gamard
(with gratitude for R.A. Nicholson's 1930 British translation)

(c) Ibrahim Gamard (translation, footnotes, & transliteration)

(1) the Messiah: "(And) when the angels said, 'O Mary! Truly God
gives you good news of a word from Him, whose name will be the
Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, [al-masîHu `îsà ibnu maryam]
worthy of honor in this world and the Hereafter and among those
(who are) nearest to God." (Qur'an 3:45)

(2) mysterious spells and incantations: Nicholson translated, "in
whom the spells of the Unseen World have their abode."

(3) (living) birds out of clay: a reference to a verse in the Qur'an
where Jesus was sent as a prophet of God to the Children of Israel
with the message: "Surely, I have come to you with a (miraculous)
sign from your Lord. I will make for you (something) resembling the
shape of a bird and I will breathe into it so that it will become a
(living) bird, by the permission of God. And I will heal the blind and
the lepers, and I make the dead alive, by the permission of God."
(Qur'an 3:49)

(4) With evidence such as this: Nicholson translated, "With such
(miraculous) evidence..."

(5) the soul in (its) superiority: Nicholson translated, "the Creator
of the soul in eternity," and explained, "Literally, 'in priority.'"
(footnote) This refers to the teaching in the Qur'an that God created Adam as superior to the angels, which they were commanded to
acknowledge (2: 31-34).

(6) (for) whom the collar of the heavens is torn (in ecstasy): refers to the ancient practice of "rending one's garments" during a state of extreme devotion. In Islamic culture, public nudity is forbidden. However, dervishes used to tear their shirts or robes from the collar to the waist, while in a state of spiritual ecstasy, such as during a samâ`, or mystical concert, when spontaneous movement (and sometimes dancing and whirling) occurred while hearing mystical poetry and music.

(7) the greatest Name (of God) [ism-é a`Zam]: Nicholson translated,
"the Most Great Name." Although the name "Allah" is considered to
be the greatest Name of God, because it contains all of the
traditional Ninety-Nine (and the infinite) Names of God, it probably
refers here to the sufi teaching that God allows a few of His chosen
servants to know His greatest (and most secret) Name-- by which he
allows them to perform miracles [mu`jizât] (if they are prophets,
such as Jesus) and wonders [karâmât] (if they are saints). In a similar story, Rumi tells about a fool who asked Jesus to teach
him "that sublime Name [nâm-é sanî] by which you make a dead man alive" (II:142). The man wanted to revive some bones he saw in a hole. After receiving clarification from God, Jesus pronounced the Name over the bones, a lion sprung to life and killed the fool. Nicholson explained the meaning of "that sublime Name" as referring
to "the Greatest name of God (ismu 'lláhi 'l-a`zamu), generally
said to be Allah, wherein Huwa [= He, meaning the Divine Essence] is
contained. Knowledge of the name confers miraculous powers on
those who possess it, viz. prophets and heads of the hierarchy of
saints, and can be communicated" [= to selected others].(Commentary)

(8) it wasn't a cure: "One of the sayings which Moslems attribute to
Jesus is má `ajaztu `an ihyá'i 'l-mawtá kamá `ajaztu `an isláhi
'l-ahmaq." [= As much as I worked miracles in regard to reviving the
dead, even so, I was helpless in regard to mending the fool.]
(Nicholson, Commentary)

(9) It became: refers to the heart, mentioned in the previous line.
Nicholson translated, "He became..."

(10) here it had no superiority: Nicholson translated, "(while) it had no advantage (good effect) here?" And he explained: "I.e. 'in the case of the fool.'" (footnote)

(11) why was it: Nicholson translated, "why did it (the Name of

(12) his scarring has been produced by His seal: Means that his
punishment has been sealed or stamped upon him by the Decree of
God. "Of course Rúmí does not imply that because the fool acts
according to his predestined folly he is therefore excusable."
(Nicholson, Commentary)

(13) The air steals water very gradually: means through evaporation.

(14) for the sake of teaching (a lesson): "...the prophet or saint,
though 'united' with God and endowed with Divine knowledge,
nevertheless turns to God in solitary prayer and supplication
(khalwat ú namáz). It is in order that his example in this
respect may be followed by those who seek salvation under his guidance." (Nicholson, Commentary)


gorêkhtan-é `îsà-- `alay-hi 's salâm--
farâz-é kûh az aHmaq-ân

`îsà-yé maryam ba-kôhê mê-gorêkht
shêr gôy-î khûn-é ô mê-khwâst rêkht

ân yakê dar pay dawîd-o goft khayr
dar pay-at kas nêst che gorêz-î chô Tayr?

bâ shetâb ô ân-chon-ân mê-tâkht joft
k-az shetâb-é khwad jawâb-é ô na-goft

yak dô maydân dar pay-é `îsà be-rând
pas ba-jidd-é jidd `îsà-râ be-khwând

k-az pay-é marZât-é Haq yak laHZa b-êst
ke ma-ra andar gorêz-at mushkilê-st

az ke în sô mê-gorêz-î ay karîm
na pay-at shêr-o na khaSm-o khawf-o bîm

goft az aHmaq gorêzân-am, be-raw
mê-rahân-am khwêsh-râ band-am ma-shaw

goft âkhir ân masîHâ na tow-î
ke shaw-ad kûr-o kar az tô mustawî?

goft ârî, goft ân shah nêst-î
ke fusûn-é ghayb-râ ma'wîst-î?

chûn be-khwân-î ân fusûn bar morda'yê
bar jah-ad chûn shêr-é Sayd-âwarda'yê

goft ârî, ân man-am, goft-â ke tô
na ze-gel morgh-ân kon-î ay khwob-rô

goft ârî, goft pas ay rûH-é pâk
har-che khwâh-î mê-kon-î, az kî-st bâk?

bâ chon-în burhân ke bâsh-ad dar jahân
ke na-bâsh-ad mar to-râ az bandag-ân?

goft `îsà ke ba-Zât-é pâk-é Haq
mubdi`-é tan, khâliq-é jân dar sabaq

Hurmat-é Zât-o Sifât-é pâk-é ô
ke bow-ad gardûn garîbân châk-é ô

k-ân fusûn-o ism-é a`Zam-râ ke man
bar kar-o bar kûr khwând-am shod Hasan

bar koh-é sangîn be-khwând-am shod shekâf
khirqa-râ be-drîd bar khwad tâ ba-nâf

bar tan-é morda be-khwând-am gasht Hay
bar sar-é lâ-shay be-khwând-am gasht shay

khwând-am ân-râ bar del-é aHmaq ba-wud
Sad hazâr-ân bâr-o darmânê na-shod

sang-é khârâ gasht-o z-ân khô bar na-gasht
rêg shod k-az way na-rôy-ad hêch kasht

goft Hikmat chî-st, k-ân-jâ ism-é Haq,
sûd kard, în-jâ na-bûd ân-râ sabaq?

ân ham-ân ranj-ast-o în ranjê, che-râ
ô na-shod în-râ-wo ân-râ shod dawâ

goft ranj-é aHmaqî qahr-é khodâ-st
ranj-o kûrî nêst qahr, ân ibtilâ-st

ibtilâ ranjê-st k-ân raHm âwar-ad
aHmaqî ranjê-st k-ân zakhm âwar-ad

ân-che dâgh-é ô-st mohr-é ô karda-ast
châra'yê bar way na-y-ar-ad bord-dast

z-aHmaq-ân be-g'rêz chûn `îsà gorêkht
SuHbat-é aHmaq basê khûn-hâ ke rêkht

andak andak âb-râ dozd-ad hawâ
dîn chon-în dozd-ad ham aHmaq az shomâ

garmiy-at-râ dozd-ad-o sardî deh-ad
ham-chô ân k-ô zêr-é kûn sangê neh-ad

ân gorêz-é `îsà na az bîm bow-ad
âmin-ast ô, ân pay-é ta`lîm bow-ad

zamharîr ar por kon-ad âfâq-râ
che gham ân khworshêd-é bâ-ishrâq-râ?