On the day of Arafat (November 5) some millions of pilgrims gather on Mount Arafat outside Mecca. It is a reminder of the Day of Reckoning—or the Day of Recognition, as we sometimes call it. It is a very cosmic moment. Some of our friends are there on this very day.
Imagine yourself standing with millions of other human beings at Arafat, stripped down to bare essentials, wearing a simple sheet of white cloth, all distinctions of wealth, position, and national identity erased. All you have is the sum of your life’s thoughts, feelings, and deeds, the net result of your relationships, your loves and hates—all these things that have shaped your soul, what you are. The people on Hajj are experiencing that today. We all will experience it one day, on the day of conscious recognition.
We are reminded that true spirituality, true surrender, is about awakening to what is real and true. The Day of Judgment should not be something that we fear, but a reminder of the preciousness of this life on earth as an opportunity to penetrate the veils and come to the deepest reality.
When we come to that deepest reality, we will discover the pure ecstasy of being, the ecstasy of infinite compassion and love, the ecstasy of infinite intelligence and beauty. True spirituality is nothing less than this. It is amazing, even confounding, that some representatives of religion espouse a religion of fear, a religion of difficulties, and in some cases a religion of tyranny. Some people even fear the spiritual path, imagining that it is all about sacrificing what we love, what we enjoy, what is precious to us. But this is only the perspective of the false self that needs the support of false pleasures, attachments, and defenses, and fears losing whatever threatens its imaginary security and comfort.
If we analyze where the false self gets its satisfactions and its illusory sense of security, we will see how shallow and unreal are the things it depends on. The part of ourselves that is primarily focused on appearances, possessions, and entertainments will never be satisfied nor secure.
At the heart of spiritual experience is the ecstasy of being that we only know when we have been faithfully focused on what is most real. The human heart has the capacity to know this, to experience this, and, in fact, we are created and designed to experience the immense dimensions of divine love and beauty. What we have to sacrifice is our trivial distractions and superficial desires—nothing very important or real. We have a right to our humanness, to certain healthy pleasures and satisfactions—as long as we remember that we are servants, as long as we are conscious of our need for our divine Friend, as long as we are grateful for everything.
What is unreal will fall away in the presence of what is Real. The discipline that is required is the discipline of faithfulness to this truth, of being true to our yearning. That is why it is recommended on this day of Arafat, and every day, to frequently say: God is great (Allahu akbar), thanks be to God (alhamdulillah), and glory be to God who is subtle beyond all knowing (subhanallah).