THRESHOLD SOCIETY NEWSLETTER ~ DECEMBER 2016
Why Do We Need a Spiritual Path?
~ From a book in progress: The Living Tradition, Conversations on the Sufi Path, Kabir Helminski
I was talking to somebody recently who, with a good heart, said, “I have no need for religion. I know what is right and what is wrong.” I didn’t comment or argue but, actually, this brings up some very important subjects.
Do we need God? Do we need God to do and be good? The answer is no, up to a certain point. You can do good without God. You can be kind, generous, respectful and sensitive to other human beings without bringing God into it. What’s the significance of bringing God into it?
First of all, my sense is that people are led to various religions and mystical traditions by a yearning from within. Something in them feels unfulfilled. It’s like an inner drive or hunger. It’s not, “I want to follow a religion so I can be a good person.” It’s more a sense of “I don’t want to just be at home. I want to be together with others. I feel like I need to be in a holy place.” There is something more than just being nice, kind, and all of that. There’s a deeper yearning operating within humans who undertake a spiritual practice. There is something else calling us. These things are part of a bigger whole.
Moments with the Names
~ offered by Shaikha Camille Adams Helminski
We offer these reflections on the “Ninety-Nine Names of God,” traditional to Islam and the Qur’anic revelation, to support the increased opening of our awareness to all the Generosity and Loving-Kindness of the Divine Bestowal. The Divine is so generous with the qualities of Being that in any moment they may be perceived in new ways, in varied intermingled resonances, with different hues, to touch our hearts and minds and souls and bodies, and awaken us in awe. Inshallah, more windows and doors might open every day for us to witness the Beauty and Magnificence of this Creation, both outwardly and inwardly, bestowed by that One who continually sustains us in every moment, with such an immense outpouring and in-pouring of Love. Subhanallah, Ya Rabbil al Ameen! Glory be to God, the Sustainer of all worlds!
“I was a Hidden Treasure, and I so loved to be known that I created
the two worlds, seen and Unseen, in order that My Treasure of Generosity
and Loving-Kindness might be known.”
~ Hadith Qudsi (A communication from the Divine, conveyed through the
heart of the Prophet Muhammad, beyond the frame of the Qur’an)
Ya Rahman, O Infinitely Compassionate One, Ya Rahim, O Infinitely Merciful One
“Ya Rahman, Ya Rahim, Ya Wadud”
Ya Malik, O Sovereign
“Ya Malik al Quddus”
Ya Quddus, O Most Holy and Pure, Ya Wadud, O You Who Are Infinitely Loving
“Ya Quddus, Ya Wadud, Ya Hadi, Ya Wakil”
Reflection on November’s theme: Kindness is not found in anything except that it beautifies it, and it is not removed from anything except that it disgraces it.
~ Shazreh Hussain (Islamabad, Pakistan)
I was recently invited by a school to speak to a group of young Muslim girls, 15 year-olds, about Islam. They greeted me with a barrage of questions: “Is there an Islamic dress code?” “Do Muslim women have to wear hijab?” “Why are the Shias and Sunnis fighting with each other?” “Does the Quran say men are superior to women?” “If I am wearing a dress with the picture of a living thing on it, can I still say the namaz?” I listened to them carefully. “I will do my best to answer your questions about Islam,” I reassured them. “May I ask you a question before I respond to yours? Turn to your own heart and tell me: What is at the heart of Islam?” The girls responded promptly, with certainty and confidence: “Kindness.” “Compassion.” “Goodness.” Their hearts knew kindness was of the Essence. Their hearts knew the truth of our beloved Prophet’s hadith, “God is kind and likes kindness in all things” (Bukhari, 6601).
I told the girls that God had manifested His/Her signs in three loci – the human heart, the universe and the Book. In their quest to understand Islam, their own hearts, filled with loving-kindness and purified from self-interest, would be their finest guides. The questions they were asking were important but the most fundamental questions had to do with what they themselves knew to be the heart of Islam: What is compassion? What is kindness? What will enable me to follow the Prophetic example and be compassionate and kind in every moment?
In our quest to live in the heart of Islam, to practice “kindness in all things”, the hadith selected by our teacher lights the way: “Kindness is not found in anything except that it beautifies it, and it is not removed from anything except that it disgraces it.” The Prophet illuminated the nature of kindness by choosing to use the word rafaq. The root of this word, R-F-Q, carries the meanings of compassion, gentleness, service, courteousness, tenderness, companionship, something from which one profits, skilfulness, ease and rest. When applied to an action, it means to perform an act skilfully, judiciously, thoroughly, neatly and nicely. Where the Prophet’s words explicate the nature of kindness, his actions embody kindness in its fullest sense. My heart is drawn to two incidents from the Prophet’s life in which we can find all the colours of kindness reflected.
The first took place during the Prophet’s conquest of Mecca. The Prophet was advancing towards Mecca at the head of an army of ten thousand men. In the moment of victory over his bitterest enemies, in the moment of entering his hometown after seven years, the Prophet paused his triumphal march to take under the cloak of his kindness a dog giving birth to puppies. He sent out an order for the army to move a few yards to one side so that the dog would not be distressed. He ordered soldiers to stand around the dog so the advancing army did not trample her. His heart was not veiled by the momentous importance of this march or by the joy of entering his hometown. There was nothing too insignificant in creation not to be deserving of his unstinting kindness. With incredible tenderness, he chose to move, not the dog, but his army.
The second incident took place in Medina. The Prophet was going to the mosque to lead the Eid prayers. On the way, he noticed a little boy sitting alone and weeping while other children were playing. The Prophet stopped and asked the little boy why he was crying. The little boy told him that he was an orphan and very poor. No child wanted to play with him. The Prophet lifted the little boy into his arms and consoled him. He asked for clothes to be brought for the little boy. He waited till they came and changed the clothes of the little boy himself. He then told him, “Today onwards, if anyone asks you who your father is, tell them it is Muhammad, and if anyone asks you who your brothers are, tell them they are Hassan and Hussain. He then took the boy to the other children who were playing and asked them to include the little boy in their games. In the heart of the Prophet, the little orphan boy took precedence over the large crowd of women and men waiting for Eid prayers. It occurs to me that he could have given instructions for the boy to be clothed, said some kind words and proceeded for the prayers. But then I think this act would not have been infused with kindness in its fullest sense, kindness as the Prophet practised it: compassion, tenderness, gentleness, thoroughness, companionship, service, bringing ease and comfort to a little boy’s broken heart.
Such is the teaching of our Prophet and such is the teaching of the Quran. A famous saying of Imam Ali’s tells us that the entire Quran is contained in the Surah Fatihah and the entire Surah Fatihah is contained in the Bismillah, “In the Name of Allah, the Infinitely Compassionate and the Infinitely Merciful”. If a Muslim were challenged to recite the entire Quran standing on one leg as Rabbi Hillel was asked to recite the Torah by a pagan who made it a condition of his becoming a believer, s/he could recite the Bismillah and say, on the best of authorities, that the rest of the Quran is a commentary on this verse. If we knew no other verse of the Quran, understanding and living by this one verse would bring us to an unceasing practice of kindness, to that heightened state of God-consciousness in which tenderness and care flow unstintingly to all of God’s creation. We would know that all of creation is in the Name of Allah and therefore everything we think, believe, and do should carry the fragrance of that Name. The attributes defining the Divine Essence in this verse and exalted above all others are ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim – compassion and mercy – and so each and every thought and action, if it is to carry the fragrance of the Divine, must have its roots in compassion and manifestation in kindness. In the words of our beloved Mevlana :
Go and be kind for Time is aware of kindness,
and He will not take kindness away from the kind.
Material things outlast everyone and will outlast you, too,
but better for you is that kindness will outlast you.
~ Shazreh Hussain works as a social development consultant with a focus on poverty and gender. She has been on the Sufi path for the last 20 years and she facilitates the Islamabad Threshold circle.
Sufi Chivalry is a virtuous act you perform without seeing yourself in the act.
We welcome your reflections on this theme.
The 99 Names of God
An Illustrated Guide for Young and Old
Written and Illustrated by Daniel Thomas Dyer
We are so delighted that this absolutely lovely rendering of the 99 Names has arrived in publication. In its presentation it is so accessible, gentle, and opening for the heart for both children and parents, and extended family, who might study these Names together, reflecting on the qualities they evoke. Teachers and students of Islam and comparative religion can greatly benefit from this beautiful guide. It presents a well-balanced view of Islam through the Names of God as expressed through the Holy Quran and opened in meaning through accompanying words of the saints.
~ From the Foreword by Camille Adams Helminski
Available now: chickpeapress.co.uk
After the Election: Seeking The Face of Allah
Reflections and spiritual conversation with Shaikh Kabir Helminski following the Presidential Election 2016.
Rumi’s Circle annual UK Urs celebrations will be taking place this year with music and poetry on the theme of the illuminated heart. With whirling dervishes and music from Latif Bolat and Zeliha Akdan. Get tickets: rumiscircle.eventbrite.com
Fri Dec 9: Manchester
Sun Dec 11: Bradford
Sat Dec 17: London
Threshold Canada will be hosting Urs celebrations in Vancouver and Toronto, more details: firstname.lastname@example.org
Let us know what you think by commenting on the posts — join the discussion at www.patheos.com/blogs/livingtradition and “follow” The Living Tradition.
Dec 17: Toronto & Vancouver, Canada. Urs celebration, more details: email@example.com
Dec 13-17: Konya/Ankara, Turkey. Shaikh Kabir will speak at the Celebrations for Rumi’s Urs. Other guests include Cemalnur Sargut & Omid Safi. (K)
Feb 24-26: San Francisco, US. Mercy Center Retreat. (KC)
May 5-9: Paradise Island, Bahamas. Meditation Symposium at the Sivananda Ashram. Sivananda.org (KC)
July 7-9: Whistler, Canada. Annual Retreat British Columbia, deep in nature, following Ramadan. (KC)
Events with Sh. Kabir and Sh. Camille marked (KC)
Words from the East
~ Shaikha Camille Adams Helminski ~
I come to You
with my arms folded across my heart
and open, dancing
in Your Presence.
Your fire burns in my body.
Your spark has kindled me,
and I am ablaze –
ablaze with Your Light.
My feet burn against the floor …
may Your fire spread.
Burn us all up in Your Love
’til ash is all that remains.
Then with Your Breath
blow us into nothingness,
the purity of non-existence,
where we may reform,
gathering Your moisture
into a cloud of being;
then rain us down onto this earth
letting Your thirsty ones absorb You
through this carrier
that we through Your Grace have become.
No longer is there any barrier.
Your water can flow freely now.
We’d love to hear from you – get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org