From the Fear of Allah to Spiritual Friendship...
 
The arduous journey of our Soul begins
before our Birth and continuous after Death...

When Human Soul that is prone to evil keeps elevating spiritually, it reaches the stage of self-correcting righteousness, either with the fear of Allah or with the craving for salvation and rewards after the death. Continuing this journey, the Soul seeks the closeness of the Creator here and hereafter. Only when an unmitigated serenity and inner peace is Bestowed by the Creator upon such seekers, the Human Beings in which these Blessed Souls reside, become the "Protected Friends" of Allah (SWT).

"Behold! verily on the protected friends of Allah
 there is no fear nor shall they grieve." Qur'an 10: 62.
Abdullah Yusuf Ali's commentary to the above verse reads:
"Allah's all-embracing knowledge and constant watchful care over all His creatures,
may be a source of fear to sinners, but there is no fear for those whom He honours
with His love and friendship,- neither in this world nor in the world to come."

 The spiritual development of a Human Soul begins with the correct knowledge of the relationships that exists between BODY, LIFE, SOUL and SPIRIT. Here are brief introductions to these four entities:


 
HUMAN BODY:
 
Our body is a transitory tangible object that has been created and fashioned from the organic materials by the One, whose closeness and friendship we do seek before death.  It's creation from a mixture of fluids, with no external or artificial assist, demands the highest possible admiration for the Creator and Sustainer. We are informed that before our births, Allah had bestowed upon us with His Mercy, three essential human faculties. Using these endowments appropriately with gratitude, facilitates the Soul's journey.

 

 "And [O men], He endows you with hearing, and sight, and heart
(feelings and understanding), how seldom are you grateful! (Qur'an 32: 9).

 

Human body is also the transitory abode for the breath of Life, the human Soul and the divine Spirit. The physical Death is the time for the separation of these GUESTS from their temporary abodes. However, the blue prints of our physical bodies, each having nearly 100 trillion cells, are registered within a manifest record. Human DNA when uncoiled is a code 185 centimeter long, written in the four letters of chemistry A-T-G-C. But when this long code is folded it shrinks to trillionths of an inch and fits in a single cell. Perpetual everlasting phenomenon of repeatedly creating over again, is sublime miracle. On the Day of Judgment, when the Souls that have departed from this earth will be re-awakened from their states of hibernations and will be given the replicas of their disintegrated bodies - recreated once again from the recorded original blue prints.
Those who disbelieve say: Shall we show you a man who will tell you (that) when you have become dispersed in dust with most complete dispersal, still, even then, you will be created anew? Qur'an 34: 7
Today, artificial insemination is no more a dream but a proven reality by medical science. Only a century ago, when the uncovered theory of the stem cell was unknown it would not have been easy to understand and appreciate, the above concept of the preserved blue prints or the following divine promise made by Allah to us, fourteen centuries ago. The promise is to recreate the most difficult part of our bodies. Dermatoglyphics - the indicator of the chromosomal abnormalities of each individual, the patterns of lines and ridges on the skin of our fingertips that helps us to establish identities of human beings.
 
Does man think that We cannot assemble his bones? Nay,
We are able to put together in perfect order the very tips of his fingers. Qur'an 75: 3-4.
Human beings are called the "Children of Adam" by Allah. The off springs of Adam are being continuously drawn forth from the loins of the descendants of that progenitor.
And (remember) when thy Lord brought forth from the Children of Adam,
from their loins, their seed, and made them (every soul) testify
concerning themselves, (saying): "Am I not your Rabb (Lord)?"
They said: "Yea, verily. We testify."
Lest you should say at the Day of Resurrection: Lo! of this we were unaware.
Qur'an 7: 172.
We also learn from that book of Divine Revelations that Adam - the progenitor of modern Homo sapiens (the species to which modern humans belong - literally 'wise man'), was neither the first creation nor the last. To learn more on the subject click adam-our-progenitor Our body is subject to rewards, punishments and turmoil until the final separation of the Soul, Life and Spirit from it. As soon as these entities depart from the body, the organic matters start disintegrating. Some rapidly others slowly. There are several innovated myths and the false traditions as to what happens to these disintegrating Human Bodies, but most of these cannot be attested from the Qur'an. Soon we shall see further details on the subject of Human Souls. These disintegrating or disintegrated organic bodies, cannot and do not hear our pleadings for intercessions. Yet, millions of those who claim to have submitted themselves to Allah and recite everyday in their prayers "To Thee Alone we do worship and from Thee Alone we seek" stand before the grounds in which the dead bodies are buried and do raise their hands, seeking help and intercessions from the dead persons, who cannot hear their cries!
 
HUMAN LIFE:
 
All human beings start their lives from a fertilized live germ cell called the Zygote. When a mature male sperm cell called Spermatozoa, consisting of a head, body and tail joins ups with the female's egg called Ovum, the Zygote is formed. The head of the sperm cell is covered by a cap which contains a nucleus of genetic material from 23 chromosomes. The Female egg has a similar number of chromosomes. This Zygote with 46 chromosomes, divides and forms two cells. In turn each of these cells keep on dividing and multiplying. Within about five days after the conception, there is a hollow ball of about 150 cells called Blastocyst. The miraculous process of reproduction of a new Human being with its physical Life (Bio), has already commenced within the womb of a mother.
It is He Who has created you from dust, then from a sperm-drop, then from a leech-like clot; then does He get you out (into the light) as a child...
Qur'an 40: 67.
When fully fashioned within the womb, the Breath of Life (Spirit) is blown by Allah upon the "testified individual" - the descendant of Adam. As mentioned earlier, the developed embryo - the fetus, gets the gifts of hearing, sight and feeling. Clinically, this happens nearly eight weeks after the conception. Technically speaking, the worldly Life of a human being commences from the day a fully developed child is separated from its mother's womb and delivered into this world. Most often, this new born enters the world crying and those surrounding him or her are glad to hear that cry. Upon death, those surrounding the dead are crying and the deceased is eternally silent. Deaths are inevitable certainties for all human bodies that have lives. On an average, a man that was created from a single male sperm produces more than 12 trillion sperms before he passes away. A miracle of the Creator to perpetuate its creation. And, He perpetuates all the entities upon this earth that have lives. Just as our Birth is not the beginning of our Soul's journey, our Death is not its end. On the Day of Resurrection, the Soul of a deceased will be get the NEW LIFE with a NEW BODY. Allah has revealed to us that this NEW entity will have the knowledge of its EARLIER LIFE on this earth and the acts performed. 
They will say:" Our Rabb (Creator and Sustainer)! Twice hast Thou caused us to die, just as twice hast Thou given us Life! ('ahyayah).  Now have we recognized our sins: is there any way out (of this cycle of life and death)?"  Qur'an 40: 11

The mysteries of our Soul's journeys through the repeated cycle(s) of the life, death and its appearance before Allah, are in the Hands of our Almighty Creator and Sustainer. We did appear before Allah before our birth and did testify (see verse 7: 172 quoted earlier). We also know that when we die our souls are called back by Allah, to appear before Him. 

How can you reject the faith in Allah? - Seeing that you were without life and He gave you life; then will He cause you to die and will again bring you to life; and again to Him will you return.  Qur'an 2: 28.
Indeed, we all come from Him and we belong to Him, and indeed to Him is our return.
 
HUMAN SOUL:
 
Understanding of the Human Soul (Nafs), and taking appropriate steps - that can elevate a Human Being to Allah's Good Pleasure (Rada) or demote to the lowest depth of Allah's Displeasure, is a key to becoming "Protected Friend of Allah" ('Awli-ya'a-llahi).
 
We can easily ascertain the disintegration of the body after the death of a human being. All activities of Cell processing; Chemical, Electrical and Physical interactions between the body parts; and all tasks of the human faculties stop permanently with the death. What we call death is the separation or rather dismissal on the physical body by Soul. The Souls of dead individuals are recalled by Allah but not their lifeless physical bodies.

"It is Allah Who recalls the souls ('anfusa, pl. of nafs) {of men} upon their (bodily) death..." Qur'an 39: 42.

The formal activities of our heart and mind are often confused with that of our Soul. While in reality, they may be at times fighting wars against each other on critical issues. One of the foremost Commandment of God - out of the famous Ten Commandments, taught by Prophet Moses to his followers and reiterated by Prophet Jesus before his disciples, reads; "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." Deuteronomy 6: 5; Mark 12: 30. This Divine Commandment indicates that God has NOT regarded human heart, human soul and human mind to be one faculty or the united faculty but as separate human faculties. The repetition of the word "all" clearly indicates that the uplifting Sublime Love for Allah of our Soul should be undivided in all respect and above all other worldly admirations. One can be in tune with the Divine in the depth of his Soul, since it is the Soul has come from Allah and is to return back to Him when summoned by Allah.
 
On this important subject; "Fear Allah" (and the Love for Allah), there is a critical verse; "O you who believe! Fear Allah as He should be feared..." Qur'an 3: 102. One can think of several varieties of fears. But, the true believer or rather the one who is seeking to fall in Love with Allah, would fear of doing anything which may be displeasing to his Beloved. This higher form of Love for Rabb should not be because of the fear of "Hell Fire" or the reward of "Garden of Bliss", but the constant fear of not displeasing. Soon we shall see that this Soul is now; Nafsul-mutma'innah (a soul that is totally satisfied {with inner peace}). (see Qur'an 89: 27). There are countless reasons and blessings to LOVE Allah.
 
Our physical Body has the Death. There is no Death for our Soul. But, before it returns to Allah, it has the "taste of Death"; "Every soul is bound to have the taste of death (Kullu nafsin-za-'iqatulmawt); We are putting all of you to a test by passing you through bad and good conditions, and finally you shall return to Us." Qur'an 21: 35. Yes, placing us in a "good condition" by Allah and how we react to that Allah's Blessing, is also a test for us.
 
What is meant by the "taste of death" by the Soul? To fully understand a Message of the Qur'an, it is suggested to look for its elucidation within the Qur'an. "(This is) a Scripture the revelations whereof are perfected and then expounded." Qur'an 11: 1. Below is a verse of the Qur'an that explicates the issue of the recalling of Souls, during the sleep. 

"It is Allah Who recalls the souls of men upon their death, and of the living during their sleep. He withholds the souls of those on whom He has passed the decree of death, and restores the rest till an appointed term. Surely there are signs in this for those who think." Qur'an 39: 42.

The verse requires us to think harder on the sleep status of men. There are two kinds of dreams that men do experience during the sleep. i) Normal dreams, that have to do with their conscious or subconscious minds. ii) Virtual reality dreams, having far greater impact that have to do with their souls. In these instances, the souls do travel beyond to a different plane of existence and visit a different time frame. These souls with newer but similar bodies, do actively participate in the ongoing activities like a living member of that strange community. The community that have peoples of known and unknown faces. During such encounters, we do feel as if some one has instantaneously dropped us there to participate and experience the pangs and joys of those extended moments of that secondary life. Abruptly, our Souls are recalled or plucked up and returned back to the sleeping bodies with the vivid memories of the astral travel, but they soon fade away. We resume our daily routines as if our soul had not left this planet earth. One who has not read the above verses could not possibly understand such nightly encounters - the "tastes of deaths" and the lives on a different plane, akin to "Resurrection". One would simply dismiss them as joyful or frightening and unpleasant dreams - the nightmares. The intuition of a Righteous Believer may find a sublime hint or advice within such encounters.
 
Since, "All that is on earth will perish; But will abide (forever) the Face of thy Lord full
of Majesty Bounty and Honor."
Qur'an 55: 26/27, we can relatively speaking, declare  that the Human Soul is kind of eternal entity compared to the Body, which has transitory Life. "Say: "The Angel of Death put in charge of you will (duly) take your souls: then shall you be brought back to your Lord." Qur'an 32: 11. A text from the translator Abdullah Yusuf Ali's commentary 3642 reads: "If we believe in the soul at all - the very foundation of religion - we must believe in the Future, without which the soul has no meaning."
 
Reflecting further upon the above comment, we try to acquire a comprehensive  understanding as to what takes place with our Bodies and our Souls, after our deaths. There are deep rooted and greatly prevalent MISUNDERSTANDINGS concerning BODIES. Unless the collection of fabricated narrations are eliminated such falsehoods will prevail over the teachings of the Qur'an. To call them Hadeeths is a misnomer and a falsehood.
 
The Bodies without the Souls, the Lives and Spirits are mere effigies of dusts and water. Often, there is absolutely nothing tangible left behind from the millions of dead Bodies. During the recent Tsunami of South Asia, hundreds of thousand Believers as well as the non-Believers passed away from the surface of this earth with NO TRACES of their Bodies. This is just one such example of several such calamities and accidents that do happen.
 
The misconceptions of tortures or delights within the GRAVES, contradicts Allah's Justice.  There cannot be TWO PERIODS OF punishments and/or rewards. The first one BEFORE the Day of Judgment within the GRAVES, and another one AFTER the Day of Judgment. Secondly, it would be UNJUST if He had two different scales of Justice for Dead Bodies. DOUBLE PUNISHMENTS to those men and women whose Dead Bodies are laid in the graves!
 
Often, earnest pleadings are made by Imams to make the GRAVES holding DEAD BODIES wider, comfortable, filled with lights and to make the abodes like the "Garden of Bliss".
None of the above "prayers" have their texts or substances within the Glorious Qur'an.
The Qur'an REVEALS that the scale of His Justice will be set on the Day of Resurrection. Every man's fate will be decided on that Day, only after their Records of Deeds will be made wide open for them to read, alike every Courts of Law, Justice and the FAIR TRIALS.

Verily the Hour is coming. My design is to keep it hidden for every soul to receive its reward, by the measure of its endeavor. Qur'an 20: 15.

We shall set up scales of justice for the Day of Judgment so that not a soul will be dealt with unjustly in the least. And if there be (no more than) the weight of a mustard seed We will bring it (to account): and enough are We to take account. Qur'an 21: 47.

(And it will be said): Read thy book. Thy soul sufficeth as reckoner against thee this day. Qur'an 17: 14.

The graves of the deceased should be made places of respects for the bodies of the departed beloved ones whom we care to remember, but should not be made into shrines. The texts of the above verses also uphold the concept that the Future belongs to SOULS. When Allah recalls the Human Souls, they go into BARZAKH - a place of their hibernation.
The torment to the Bodies do happen while the Souls are being separated. Once the Souls depart the Dead Bodies become the "Stiffs". Statues of organic materials clay and water.
Below is an example of the pleadings from the wrongdoers, who do cling to the Falsehood until they see the "Realities of Death", when their Souls are about to leave their Bodies.

My Lord! I seek refuge in Thee from suggestions of the evil ones, And I seek refuge in Thee, my Lord, lest they be present with me. Until, when death cometh unto one of them, he saith: My Lord! Send me back, that I may do right in that which I have left behind! But nay! It is but a word that he speaketh; and behind them is a barrier (Barzakh) until the day when they are raised. Qur'an 23: 97 - 100

The intermediate place of dwelling for the Souls - the Souls that are recalled by Allah to Himself, is called Barzakh meaning a Partition - Barrier. It is also called the place of their deep sleep, bed of repose and grave. Behind them is the Day of departure from Bodies and before them is the Day of Judgment. When these hibernating Souls will be reawakened from their quiescent states they will be in a state of total surprise and say...
They will say: "Ah! woe unto us! Who hath raised us up from our beds of repose? (A voice will say:) "This is what (Allah) Most Gracious had promised and true was the word of the apostles!" Qur'an 36 : 52.
While the Soul is within a Human Body it could and should, with the close harmony and strict discipline with that Body, try to uplift and elevate itself from stages to stages. Three stages of Soul developments are called; (i) Nafsil-'ammara (the Soul that is easily prone to doing the evil and heedless of the sins body is committing, as in verse 12: 53); (ii) Nafsil-lawwamah (the self-reproaching and reprimanding Soul that is conscious of sins and tries to avoid them, as in 75: 2); (iii) Nafsul-Mutma'innah (the Soul that is restful with inner peace and has solace of heart, whatever the destined fate may be, as in 89: 27).
 
After years of training in horse riding, the experienced equestriennes and their disciplined horses pass the grueling tests of Showjumping faultlessly with grace, stamina and speed.  Awarded to the winners are the coveted trophies of the equestrian championships. Similarly, the righteous Believers and their disciplined Souls, with the Mercy of Allah, do pass almost all tests in life calmly, gracefully and giving thanks to Allah. Man's Body and Soul should have a relationship like that of a skilled rider and his trained horse out to win a trophy, if they wish to have the inner peace and serenity. The Body and Soul should move in the same direction, complementing the efforts of each other.
Whoever works righteousness, benefits his own soul; Whoever works evil, it is against his own soul: Nor is thy Lord ever unjust to His servants.
Qur'an 41: 46.
After our daily prayers, we do seek from Allah the "Garden of Bliss" Jannatul-Firdaws for our next life. Similarly, seeking for the elevation of our Soul to the stage of Nafsul-Mutma'innah, is greatly desired. It is a step towards becoming Muqarraboun - the one who is closer to his Rabb, here and hereafter.
That Day will every soul be requited for what it earned; no injustice will there be that Day for Allah is Swift in taking account. Qur'an 40: 17.

Allah Protects the Bodies and the Souls of His Righteous Servants, through His Angels.

Lo! those who say: "Our Sustainer is Allah", and, then steadfastly pursue the way of righteousness. The angels descend upon them (from time to time); Saying: "Fear you not nor grieve! But receive the Glad Tidings of the Paradise that which you were promised. We are your protecting friends in the life of the world and in the Hereafter. There you will have (all) that your souls desire, and therein you will have (all) for which you pray! - A hospitable gift from the One, Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful!" Qur'an 41: 30-32.
BREATH OF SPIRIT:
 
The realms of our Spirit and Spirituality are different from what we have so far examined. The title of this article encourages the development of "Spiritual Friendship" with Creator. Each and everyone of us has the Divine Spark of Allah's Spirit - our direct Link to Him.
Allah has bestowed that Spirit unconditionally to each of us with His Love and a purpose.
Purpose of this precious life is wasted if we fail to appreciate that Love and reciprocate.
It is observed that the primary stress and goal of today's teaching, preaching and practices of the Deen Islam, are devoted to physical duties and the rules of physiques.
Here one senses the smell of "Fear" rather than the unconditional "Love" for Allah.
The goal devoted to the "Spiritual Friendship" is either ignored or not stressed enough. The roots of this apathy are deeper than what one can realize, as we shall soon observe. The primary duties of the True Believers have become their secondary and vice versa.
 
For the time being we shall leave the issues of "physical obligations", "spiritual friendship" and "the roots of apathy" aside on the back burner and elaborate further on "ALLAH'S SPIRIT" that He breathed into Adam after making his form from the clay, into each one of us after fashioning us in wombs of our mothers and into His True Believers with faith.
 
No. 1: The Breathing of Allah's Spirit into Adam... Allah said to the Angels:
"And when I have formed him fully and breathed into him of My spirit (Rooh), fall down before him in prostration!" Qur'an 15: 29.
That was the creation of the first mortal man out of sounding clay - mud molded into shape (for details see the preceding verse # 28). Translator Muhammad Asad, in his commentary to the quoted verse, writes:

God's "breathing of His spirit" into man is obviously a metaphor for His endowing him with life and consciousness: that is, with a soul.

As the children of Adam from his seed, we have inherited that spark of Life and Soul.

No. 2: The Breathing of Allah's Spirit into each of us - in the wombs of our mothers...
Then He made his seed (Adam's descendant) from a draught of despised fluid; Then He fashioned him and breathed into him of His spirit; And [O men], He endows you with hearing, and sight, and heart (feelings and understanding), how seldom are you grateful! Qur'an 32: 8-9
With this Breath of Allah's Spirit we [men] got a few additional faculties, especially the heart to feel, understand and appreciate. In his commentary, Abdullah Yusuf Ali writes;

He has now the spiritual counterpart of hearing (i.e., the capacity of hearing Allah's Message) and seeing (i.e., the inner vision), and feeling the nobler heights of love and understanding the bearings of the inner life (both typified by the Heart), Yet with all these gifts, what thanks does unregenerate or corrupted man give to Allah?

These additional faculties are the sparks of Allah's Spirit - the Divine Light to visualize and appreciate the favors of Allah, and then fall in love. Allah (as-Samad ) has no wants as such but when we thank Him, He is well pleased with us and returns that love many folds.
He strengthens our hearts with a Spirit from Him. See the details in the following verse.

No. 3: Allah's Spirit upon the true believers for the ultimate spiritual success...

As for such (the true believers), He hath written faith upon their hearts and hath strengthened them with a Spirit from Him, and He will bring them into Gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide. Allah is well pleased with them, and they are well pleased with Him. They are Allah's party. Lo! is it not Allah's party who are the successful? Qur'an 58: 22.
Yusuf Ali ends his commentary to this verse with these words;
          The mutual good pleasure shows the heights to which man can attain.
 
What better source there could be to acquire wisdom and knowledge for learning means to fall in Love with Allah than Qur'an? Is it not the Book through which He talks to us?

Here is an often quoted verse on the subject of the SPIRIT (Rouh):

They ask thee (O' Prophet) concerning the Spirit. Say: "The Spirit is by my Lord's (Rabb's) Command, and of knowledge (thereof) you have been vouchsafed (given), but little.". Qur'an 17: 85. 
There are many insights that are GIVEN freely by Allah as His Favor, to every individual that reads His Book. And, there are other spiritual gifts that one has to earn himself.  Knowledge of Allah's Spirit is one such gift that He GIVES with HIS MERCY to those who devoutly study His Book and seriously endeavor to earn or achieve it, see 58: 22 above.
Allah strengthened them with a Spirit from Him, what counts is the intention of hearts and sincere cravings for Allah's Countenance (Wajh), meaning God's presence within as in verse 6: 52.
 
Going back to the subject of the BOOK THROUGH WHICH ALLAH TALKS, here are notes:
1. Allah sent that BOOK not only to "us" - the Muslims, but TO MANKIND.
2. Allah Declared that BOOK to be His Last and Final FAVOR TO MANKIND.
3. Appropriately, Book was Valid Yesterday, is Valid Today, will be Tomorrow.

Since Allah chose ISLAM to be THE RELIGION, we Muslims became the inheritors of BOOK. Becoming inheritors of the BOOK is misunderstood as becoming the inheritors of Heaven. Becoming the inheritors is meant that we the Servants of Allah have additional Duties. Our Primary as well as Secondary Duties are to FOLLOW the BOOK, PRESERVE the BOOK, DISTRIBUTE the BOOK to MANKIND and CIRCULATE the MESSAGE to MANKIND by all means. Let us ask ourselves a question; If this is indeed the True Test, what is our grade today? If our objective - intention, is to join the "Party of Allah" we better try our utmost to obtain the highest Grade. A pointer or two from the Qur'an suggested approaches, later.

Then We have given the Book for inheritance to such of Our servants as We have chosen: But there are among them some who wrong their own souls; Some who follow a middle course; And some who are by Allah's leave foremost in good deeds; That is the highest Grace. Qur'an 35 : 32.  

Non-Muslims find it unimaginable that Islam happens to be the fastest growing Region. Ask a reverted Muslim; What made him or her enter Islam? Likely answer; "THE BOOK".
Today it is no secret that many of these entrants who have studied the Qur'an discover to their astonishment that the Muslims by Birth are preaching and professing the ADABS OF ISLAM - the etiquettes of Islam, that are totally foreign to THE BOOK and at times contradictory to THE BOOK. When these reverted Muslims try to learn Islam from Muslims by Birth, expecting to acquire the inner meanings of Allah's Message, instead they get a sermon to follow as they have followed the footsteps of their fore-fathers without doubt. Imagine a Muslim of the 18th century. What was his source of information on Islam other than what he (rarely she), had learnt or heard from a Maulvi of the Village Madressah, Imam of a Town's Mosque and a passing by Sufi, without questioning the veracity of info. Today, following a sermon without self-verification and counter questioning is improbable. Hence, a significant number of the "disappointed", practice "DEEN OF ALLAH"  in private. Reverted Muslims surf my website and they do express their frustrations by e-mails.
These communications sadden my heart - being the heart of a Reverted Muslim myself...
Below are brief passages from such e-mails, received in the last thirty days.
 
Excerpts from an e-mail received on March 15, 2005 from a University Student:
 
I am an American, 26, and was raised Roman Catholic. I was first lead to read the Qur'an after meeting Muslims for the first time in Syria. I had been impressed by their kindness, open-mindedness and tolerance of others, while at the same time I was humbled by the strength of their own faith and discipline in Islam.

 

I had never seen this combination of qualities before, and had even assumed they were contradictory. As I paid closer attention to Islam I found myself slowly overcome by love for the aesthetics of Islam. /snip/
 
 
But these are all the superficial aspects of Islam. It was like meeting a beautiful woman who you first love because of how she looks, and you think that's as good as it can get! But then when you know the woman, things either become too deep for even the word "love", or you realize you made a mistake!! Well, reading the Qur'an confirmed for me I hadn’t been merely chasing beauty.
 
Islam has made a concrete difference in my relation to Allah. I always admired the Christian mystics when I was growing up (and still do), especially Thomas Merton and Saint John of the Cross, and obviously the prophet Jesus (SAW). But American Christianity had no spiritual practices to speak of and was generally political, social, and informal in nature.
 
Strangely, it also tended to be intolerant. At times I felt close to Allah, but never in church. It was Islam that gave me the practical methods to keep myself more focused on Allah, it was Islam that seemed at once tolerant and uncompromised, and Islam has deepened my understanding more than I had hoped for, alhamdulillah.
 
Sadly, I have a hard time integrating myself into the Muslim community here. There is a masjid one city over with a wonderful and exemplary Imam, but I always feel like I shock the other believers be being this sole, rather awkward white person appearing out of nowhere. My brothers are not always friendly, probably because other white people have been harassing them, and they are understandably suspicious of me. Also, I think some of them look down on Muslims with views that differ from their own and, despite the excellence of the Imam in representing true Islam along with most of the congregation, this minority seems to subscribe to “wahhabi” views. Therefore, I usually perform the weekly communal prayer with some Sufis who have a khaniqah very nearby. I was wondering what you think of Sufism? /snip/
 
I would rather pray in a proper masjid, as I think ideally all Muslims no matter what should pray together and not divide themselves, but the apparently “Wahhabi” attitudes of a minority of members of the masjid remains a real problem for me.
 
What a shame that the welcoming, open, and yet uncompromised Islam I love and found so abundant overseas seems so elusive in the US, and on the internet. If I had not seen it before, I would have a hard time believing it could possibly exist and would never have come to Islam. I don’t know why Allah has guided me, may I somehow live up to His immense mercy.
The following e-mail was received from Spain on March 23, 2005:
Salam 'alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatu.
 

My name is N....... and I'm a newly converted muslima from Spain. I said the Shahada on October 2004 and considered myself a Sunni Muslim since everybody made me believe that this is the True Islam. When I decided to convert, I had just read Al-Qur'an but then, I began to read Ahadith and my doubts arised.

 

For the last week i've been reading about the contradictions on hadith and how they were compiled. My heart and common sense tell me that nothing out of Quran can explain it. And Ahadith are man-made. I found your website and I thank you really much because what I was reflecting about was already written and confirmed with verses from Quran.

THREE ESSENTIAL PRINCIPALS TO JOIN THE PARTY OF ALLAH:
 
1. ABSOLUTELY NO compromise on; 'Iyyaka na'budu wa 'iyyaka nasta'een. meaning;
To Thee ALONE we worship and from Thee ALONE we seek aid (guidance included).
 
2. ALLAH HAD PERFECTED the Religious Laws of ISLAM the DAY Verse 5: 3 was Revealed.
To JOIN any MAZHAB of ANY IMAM, or to venerate any COMPILATION  by ANY SCHOLAR that came into being after that DAY, is to doubt "THE PERFECTION OF ISLAM" by ALLAH.
 
3.  Following the 'REVEALED LAW OF ALLAH' (Sunnat'ullah), includes PROPHET'S SUNNAH

Tell them: "I follow only what is revealed to me from my Rabb. This Book contains veritable insight from your Rabb, a guidance and blessing for the true believers." Qur'an 7: 203 (also read 6: 50).

As Revealed by Allah, the Prophet's Life is the BEST OF THE EXAMPLE for mankind to follow.
A vast majority of Muslims do follow the physical characteristic of their beloved Prophet. But very few follow the spiritual side of him, which is described in STEP NUMBER SIX below. 

STEP BY STEP TEACHINGS FROM THE QUR'AN...

Step Number One:   

We have sent down unto thee (O' Muhammad) THE BOOK that is full of Blessings that they may meditate1 on the Signs 2 and that
men of understanding may take heed 3. Qur'an 38: 29.
1. The word yaddabbarou(na) means; they meditate, contemplate, ponder, reflect.
 
2. 'Ayatihee can be applied to Verses of the Qur'an or Signs of Allah in His Creations.
 
3. The word yatadhakkara(u) means; he takes heed, bears in mind, receives admonition.
 
This verse supports the notion that Tafakkur Inner Contemplation - Meditating Intimately upon Allah's Creation, is like discovering artist's true identity from a magnificent painting. Contemplation is also one of the keys to become a Believer with deeper understanding - Ulul-'albab, that constantly bears in mind and takes heed from Allah's Signs that are within the Book. Meditation is the stepping stone for a Believer to KNOW, APPRECIATE AND FALL IN LOVE WITH ALLAH, step by step, as guided by the Qur'an.
 
Prophet Abraham (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon all His Prophets and Messengers) used to look at the sky, contemplate and then pose serious questions to his elders, who had no convincing answers, since they had never reflected as the Prophet had. Such thoughts lead him to become Hanif - an upright Believer of Allah. Prophet Moses spent forty days, alone on a mountain that is now named Jabal Musa, before he received the two tablets of stones written with Divine Writ. Prophet 'Isa also spent that number of days on a mountain in Palestine. Was confronted by the Satan, before he got the Good News of God (Gospel), which he preached to his disciples for the next three years. Prophet Muhammad -- a gentile Arab ummi, living within a community of the gentiles; meaning those who had not been favored with any Divine Scripture, regularly used to go on a nearby mountain overlooking the city of Mekkah for his annual meditative retreats. He got the First Revelation from his Creator and Sustainer, during one such retreats in a cave, when he was forty years old. All these great Prophets joined the "Party of Allah" and taught their followers --through The Bestowed Divine Writs and Message -- how to become Hanif like Abraham and the True Believers and the "Protected Friends of Allah".
 
With today's environments and social activities, one of the suggested methods to achieve the goal is to select a peaceful location in a Garden or a Public Park and sit on a bench or preferably sit cross-legged on the green grass under the shade of a big tree. All one has to do is to KEEP OPEN his endowed faculties of seeing, hearing and heart. These are the Special Faculties - Favors, we all did get when He breathed His Spirit while we were couched in the wombs of our mothers. From the distant stars to the nearby tiny creeping, crawling or flying insects and even a single blade of grass will challenge us "Men with Materialistic Understandings", to either negate or admit the magnificence, splendor and exquisiteness of the sublime beauties and the perpetual benefits that mankind has freely enjoyed from time immemorial. NEGATION would be a hypocrisy. ADMISSION is bound to make one look for the Signature of the Creator. Making it a practice to visit and meditate regularly is eventually bound to make his own Soul whisper from within to that man or woman sitting in that garden; What is it now stopping you to - LOVE HIM WITH ALL YOUR HEART, ALL YOUR SOUL (ME), ALL YOUR MIND AND ALL YOUR STRENGTH? DO IT BEFORE ALLAH CALLS ME (YOUR SOUL) AND I - YOUR SOUL, DEPART FROM YOUR PHYSICAL BODY!

NOTE: Begin every stage with the Name of Allah - the Most Beneficent and Most Merciful. Seek refuge in Him from Satan. End with Thanks, Praises, Seeking His Help for tomorrow.

Step Number Two: 
And remember your Lord within your soul 1 with humility and with awe, below thy breath, 2 in the mornings and evenings, and never be of the heedless. 3   Qur'an 7: 205.
1.  The phrase fee nafsika  indicates that this "remembrance" is to be within our Souls. Unlike the obligatory Prayers which we are supposed to recite in the "middle tone" (see Qur'an 17: 110), this 'bringing into the remembrance of Allah' is within our Consciousness.
 
2.   The phrase dounal-jahri  means without loudness or without publicity of the words.
The technique of below the breath remembering of Allah is explained in STEP NUMBER FIVE.
 
3.  The word gafilun meaning negligent, heedless stresses that this - 'below the breath silent remembrances of Allah' - is to be a kind of daily obligatory duty, for a True Believer.
 
This verse of the Qur'an educates as well as clarifies the fact that the SPIRITUAL LINK of our Body, Life and Soul with the SPIRIT of Allah is through or it is strengthened during this additional "BELOW THE BREATH" - SILENT REMEMBRANCES. Internalization of Allah's Attributes and Glory, every morning and evening with awe gives our Soul the spiritual strength and the peacefulness to our mind. The end part of the verse demands that this REMEMBRANCE should be the part of OUR DAILY ROUTINE. One suggested method is to remain seated before or after Fajr and Maghrib prayers and establish the LINK as shown.
Further details little later....
 
Again a quick reminder; THESE ARE THE STEPS TO GET OUT OF THE "FEAR OF ALLAH" AND TO ENTER THE "SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIP WITH ALLAH" AND TO JOIN THE "PARTY OF ALLAH".
 
Step Number Three:
And thy Sustainers greatness glorify! 3
And thine inner self purify! 4
And all defilement (Ar. rujz) shun! 5
And do not through giving seek thyself gain! 6
Qur'an Chapter 74; Verses 3, 4, 5, 6.  Translation is done by Muhammad Asad.
A BRIEF SUMMATION OF THE EARLIER STEPS:
 
After taking the heed (receiving admonition), and the commencement of meditating with faith upon Allah's Signs, as clarified earlier in Step Number One, we proceed to Next Step. After having commenced the regular internalization of Allah's remembrance silently within our Soul, as clarified in Step Number Two, we are now proceeding to the Third Step.
 
Here we try to acquire the Spiritual Lessons for the above quoted four sublime verses from chapter 74 that were revealed to Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.). The miracle and marvel of Allah's Speech are such that it very briefly but superbly hands over the essential directives and special advices to reach the highest position in the spiritual world. Since the Prophet happens to be the best of example for mankind, these brief directives and advises are also applicable to us, if our goal is to follow the path of the Prophet.
 
COMMENTARIES TO THE FOUR VERSES:
 
The verse 74: 3, exhorts us to Glorify the Greatness of Allah - our Creator and Sustainer, in the earlier Step Number One and Step Number Two.
 
Muhammad Asad's commentary to verse 74: 4 defines the Step Number Three. It reads:

Lit., “thy garments (thiyab) purify”: but almost all the classical commentators point out that the noun thawb and its plural thiyab is often metonymically applied to that which a garment encloses, i.e., a person’s “body” or, in a wider sense, his “self” or his “heart”, or even his “spiritual state” or “conduct” (Taj al-‘Arus). /snip/ Razi states with approval that “according to most of the [earlier] commentators, the meaning [of this verse] is, ‘purify thy heart of all that is blameworthy’”.

I would like to add one example. What good is water bucket with a hole at the bottom!
It is like filling a bucket with Allah's Good Pleasure during the Night and thereafter keep making holes during the Day in the same bucket with acts that invoke Allah's Displeasure.
  
In verse 74: 5, the Arabic word rujz has more than one meaning. Besides the physical cleanliness of garments and body, it exhorts us to shun the doubts or hesitancies;
shun the sinful acts. The spiritual journey demands the RIGHTEOUSNESS at all times.
Slight shortfall in the Righteousness and Allah may snip the connection, until one repents.
 
In verse 74: 6, the Spiritual consideration is that we give our unconditional love and serve our beloved Allah without any material expectation in return. Our cravings are for the eternal presence of Allah's Countenance (Wajh) Face - the Spiritual Spark, a Bliss within. See the verses 92: 19-21. "And have in their minds no favor from anyone for which a reward is expected in return. But only the desire to seek for the Countenance (Wajh - face; implies 'Good Pleasure') of their Lord Most High. And soon will they attain (complete) satisfaction."
 
Step Number Four:
But those who believe are over flowing in their love for Allah.     Qur'an 2: 165.

When a  Believer with an insight, practices contemplation - TAFAKKUR - "the root of understanding and motivation", everything within and around him points to One Entity as the Originator and Designer. And, to fall in over flowing Love with that ENTITY is natural. Heart having developed one on one base relationship of closeness and familiarity with the Creator, such heart does find contentment in silent, meditative FRIENDLY REMEMBRANCES of Allah within their own souls. The spiritual experiences and signs received internally cannot be shared with others, who have not received that light or that experience.

"Those who believe, and whose hearts find repose in the remembrance of Allah: for without doubt, in the remembrance of Allah hearts do find their tranquility - (and) they who attain faith and do righteous deeds are destined for blessedness (in this world) and the most beauteous of all goals (in the life to come)."   Qur'an 13: 28-29.
The Arabic phrase tatma'innu conveys that such hearts do find repose, get rest, are at tranquility, are reassured. In reality, these reassurances come from within. These are the miracles that only his own mind, heart and soul can experience, understand and rely upon.
"If you turn to Allah, that light, that experience, will come. If you do not, Allah will not force you.", writes Abdullah Yusuf Ali in his commentary. As for the Arabic word tuba = beatitude, bliss, blessedness, the commentator Yusuf Ali writes; "(it is) an internal state of satisfaction, an inward joy which is difficult to describe in words, but which reflects itself in the life of the good man..." In our daily contact prayers, we recite; "Allah Hears those who Praise Him". Allah not only Hears, but Allah also Responds in His own good time. Similarly, the Friendship over a period of time when responded becomes a two way street. This basic concept is the source of formulating the DESIGNATIONS, as well as the methods of REMEMBRANCES OF ALLAH within the Souls. Insha'Allah, the details in the NEXT STEP...
 
Step Number Five:  
Those who REMEMBER ALLAH while standing, sitting, and lying on their sides, and meditate (yatafakkarouna) on the creation of the heavens and the earth. Then cry out: "Our Rabb! You have not created this in vain. Glory to You!   Qur'an 3: 191.
There is one physical activity within our body that is unceasingly functioning, while we are "standing, sitting, and lying on our sides" or even when we are sleeping. It is the constant pumping action of our hearts and lungs. They have been from the day one, perpetually inhaling and exhaling the breaths, whether we care to notice them or not. Once we learn, practice and get acquainted with the technique of REMEMBERING ALLAH, along with the natural rhythm of that pumping of the breaths, it is possible to switch ON and OFF the REMEMBRANCE at will, while "standing, sitting, and lying on our sides". We are directed in verse 7: 207 (see Step # 2), to REMEMBER ALLAH "within our souls" (fee nafsika). There is a sort of unity of the actions between our BREATH and our SOUL. When our Souls do separate from our bodies instantaneously the pumping STOPS and we are declared DEAD. 
 
Since our ultimate goal happens to be is of becoming the "Protected Close Friend of Allah", it is recommended to select a designation for Remembering Allah that is likely to facilitate. One such suggested designation from the Qur'an is "KHALEEL" meaning, "Close Friend". The rhythm of our Breathing goes up and down with inhaling and exhaling. Also, to make the Remembrance an earnest calling from the Heart and Soul; adding of a prefix "YAA"  to "KHALEEL"  is recommended. "YAA" can swim UPWARD along with the INHALING and "KHALEEL" can slowly FLOAT DOWN with the EXHALING. This cycle can continue... Remembering Allah below the breath, without the movement of our tongue and without opening our mouth is akin to calling upon our KHALEEL, within our SOUL. The more we Remember... more we fall in love... and, that becomes a joyful experience...
 
CAUTION: The concept of the Believers being "The Friends of Allah", comes from the verse: "BEHOLD! VERILY ON THE FRIENDS OF ALLAH ('Awli-ya'a-LLahi), THERE IS NO FEAR, NOT SHALL THEY GRIEVE." Qur'an 10: 62. Three leading translators viz., Abdullah Yusuf Ali; M. M. Pickthall and F. Malik have translated the above phrase as THE FRIENDS OF ALLAH in their translations. The commentary by A. Yusuf Ali reads: "Allah's all-embracing knowledge and constant watchful care over all His creatures, may be a source of fear to sinners, but there is no fear for those whom He honours with His love and friendship, - neither in this world nor in the world to come." Here I may like to add that no one can negate the concept of Allah being The FRIEND of the Believers - in the sense of a "Protector", after reading the original Arabic text of the quoted verse. Calling upon Allah as a Close Protector FRIEND, is thus justified...  It is the intention that counts...
 
NOTE:
I am only a recently reverted Muslim, in the process of learning Islam and the Qur'an. Above are only my personal suggestions. One can adopt his/her own technique. I will appreciate if you convey to me good suggestions or if these recommendations do work...
 
Step Number Six:
O thou wrapped!1  Keep vigil at night, but not all night.2  Half of it - or a little less. Or a little more; and recite the Qur'an calmly, distinctly and with mind attuned.3  Soon We shall send down to thee a weighty Message.4  Truly the rising by night is most potent for governing (the soul),  and most suitable for (framing) the Word.5 True, there is for thee by day prolonged occupation with ordinary duties. But keep in remembrance the name of thy Lord6 and DEVOTE YOURSELF to Him in TRUE DEVOTION.7 (He is) Lord of the East and the West. There is no god but He. So take Him8 as GUARDIAN-PROTECTOR.9   Qur'an 73: 1 to 8. 
1. The heading of Surah 73 is derived from the quoted opening verse, the transliteration of which reads: "Ya-'ayyuhal Muzzammil."  Traditionally it is regarded that Muzzammil  is the affectionately addressed name of the Prophet (s.a.s.). Translators like Yusuf Ali have added the words "in garments" - without parenthesis - at the end of this opening verse. Many poets have glorified the Prophet's outer garment or cloak to express their devotions for Allah's Messenger. Upon the study of this Surah it is evident that it mostly deals with the Spiritual aspects of the Deen of Allah and the word "wrapped" has, besides its literal and physical meaning, a deeper metaphorical connotation. It is often preached that the enlisted additional duties were exclusively addressed to the Prophet, but upon reading of the verse twenty we learn that the revealed obligations were also observed by the companions of the prophet. This practice was one of the norms for the devoted believers to make advances in building Spiritual Closeness and Relationship with Allah. Metaphorically speaking the opening verse refers to getting out of the "Outer Material Thoughts for the Self" and devoting one's self whole-heartedly to the "Governing of the Soul" and "Remembering of the Word" during these Spiritual Night Vigils, suggested above. Today, there is a big vacuum for the study of Spirituality within the mainstream followers of the Deen of Allah. It may have been placed on the back burner or forgotten but it is not lost. READING OF THIS SURAH AND OTHERS ON SPIRITUALITY calmly, distinctly and with mind attuned, during the NIGHT, it is possible to revive the past practices of the companions and glorify ISLAM once again. Islam is the fastest growing religion. All we have to do is channel the energy to SPIRITUAL PROGRESS. Often a question is asked, when will WE MUSLIMS get back the lost GLORY/GRANDEUR?
The answer is through "NIGHT VIGIL". The TRADITIONAL MYTH of Jesus (Isa' a.s.) coming back to earth on a flying white horse to REVIVE ISLAM, IS NOT ENDORSED BY THE QUR'AN.  
 
2. Translators Muhammad Asad and Pickthall have opted for the translations; "Keep awake" or "Keep vigil". I tend to agree with them. Yusuf Ali has in his translation opted for "Stand (to prayer) by night", instead. But that does not seem to be the intended Command in Surah Muzzammil.  However, in Surah Al-Israa (17), verse 79, there is a specific Command for the ADDITIONAL Tahajjud  Prayer to be recited during the night. No doubt one has to stand up and offer that prayer. There is marked difference between the RECITATION OF A PRAYER and the READING OF THE QUR'AN WITH CONTEMPLATION and the  REMEMBERING OF THE ALLAH. Sitting is a better position...
 
3.  To obtain deeper insight from the verses of the Qur'an, "NIGHT VIGIL" is the best time. Allah's instructions for obtaining the results are very explicit in this verse. I wish to repeat them "recite the Qur'an calmly, distinctly and with mind attuned." Our mind can be in tune with the text only if it understands that language. Reading and evaluating the various translated text is better than chanting it in a language that is foreign to our mind. 
 
4. The verse number twenty tells us that this Surah was revealed when the Prophet and "a party of those with the Prophet" were at war with their enemies during the DAY TIME and yet used to observe the "Night Vigils" during the NIGHT.  The history records that a small number of these close companions were able to turn around the persecutions by the Mekkans into a victory. Later, they also defeated the armies of Persia and Rome, who were the super-powers of that era. THIS WAS ALL DUE TO THE MERCY OF ALLAH AND THE SPIRITUAL INSIGHT, INTERNALLY EXPERIENCED FAITH OBTAINED THROUGH "NIGHT VIGIL".
5. In the earlier STEPS, an in-depth study has already been done regarding how to Govern (Manage) the Soul and how to Frame the Word (Ism - Zikr). Please go through once again THE STEPS NUMBER TWO AND FIVE, before continuing...
 
6. The REMEMBRANCE OF THE NAME OF THY LORD, is NOT to be confused with the GLORIFICATION OF ALLAH or the PRAISES OF ALLAH. In the verse 13: 28 we are informed: "Verily, in the remembrance of Allah zik-ri-LLahi  do hearts find satisfaction!" While referring to the beautiful pattern (conduct) of the Prophet in verse 33: 21, we are reminded of engaging in zakara-LLahu katheera remember Allah much (during the Day and Night like the Prophet), FOR 24 HOURS SATISFACTION.
  
7.  This text reminds us that our LOVE-DEVOTION for OUR RABB should be WHOLE-HEARTED and with SINCERE AND TRUE DEVOTION. It is like "FALLING IN LOVE" with BELOVED ALLAH.
 
8. The Arabic word ittakhidh means; take, take-up, assume, take for you. This verse ENCOURAGES US to make ALLAH our INTIMATE GUARDIAN-PROTECTOR.
 
9.  The Arabic word wakil  means; an authorized agent, care-taker, trustee, deputy, guardian, custodian, GUARDIAN-PROTECTOR. Hence, the concept of calling upon or making Allah our BELOVED GUARDIAN-PROTECTOR FRIEND, originates from the Qur'an.
 
In verse 47: 11 Allah reveals; Allah is Mawla of those who believe.
This Arabic word comes from Wali  the dictionary meaning; To be very near to any one.
 
In verse 17: 110 we are explicitly told; Say: "Call upon Allah or call upon Rahman: by whatever name ye call upon Him (it is all the same).
 
The Word - Ism "YAA....KHALEEL"  suggested earlier has a significance of calling HIM from the bottom of the heart with TRUE DEVOTION as our CLOSEST GUARDING FRIEND.
Child crossing the street need not worry once his or her hand is in the hand of a Guardian.
An Assured Soul need not worry crossing the life's journey, after placing its faith in Allah. 
 
To glorify and praise Allah's Glory, one can select any one of the 99 attributes of Allah..
 
THE FOLLOWING TWO VERSES VALIDATE THE CONCEPT OF RECIPROCATING FRIENDSHIP:
"Behold! verily on the (Protected) Friends of Allah
 'Awli-ya'a-LLahi  
there is no fear nor shall they grieve."
Qur'an 10: 62
"But Allah is the (Protecting) Close Friend of the Righteous  
wa-LLahu Waliyyul-Muttaqeen.
 These are clear evidences to men,
and a Guidance and Mercy to those of Assured Faith".
Qur'an 45: 19 - 20
 
I conclude by saying: Please try and exercise the VIGIL with Humility in Private, whenever you have spare time. Watch out for Allah's Responses. Such inner experiences can build up the confidence in the power of remembering Allah, and Insha'Allah with His Rehmah that can lead you to become an Enlightened Righteous Muslim of an Assured Faith.
Remember, the Righteous are "in the habit of sleeping but little by night" Qur'an 51: 17.
 
ALLAH KNOWS THE BEST...

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Akbarally Meherally