THRESHOLD SOCIETY NEWSLETTER ~ JUN 2017
Notes for a Talk Given to a Gathering of The Nahdatul Ulama in West Java, May 2017
~ Shaikh Kabir Helminski
The world is full of suffering and injustice. We are here to consider the possibility of how Muslims could bring peace to the world. Especially since 9/11 humanity has been saying to the Muslims, whether consciously or unconsciously, prove to me that we don’t need to fear you. I think we would all agree that Muslims in general have not been successful in demonstrating that Islam can bring peace and compassionate justice to the world.
We hear ourselves complaining about the state of Islam and the Muslims; we find fault with ourselves and with each other, but always there is an unspoken assumption that there is nothing wrong with Islam as it has been formulated. Perhaps the great majority of Muslims do not quite know where to draw the line between divine revelation and human opinion. Most Muslims believe that Shariah was given by God, not formulated by human beings subject to their own limitations and conditioned by the level of cultural development of their own time and place…[read more]
The Stirrings of a Humanitarian Islam
~ Shaikh Kabir Helminski
Stirrings of a Humanitarian Islam, an analysis of the crisis in Islamand the vision of the Nahdatul Ulama for the recontextualization of some aspects of Islamic Law (Fiqh): read the HuffPost article.
Reflection on May’s theme: Make extraordinary and bold efforts on the Path, but remember who the Doer is. ~Abul Hasan Kharaqani
~ Mahmoud Mostafa (London, UK)
What is the significance of Sayyid Abul Hasan Kharaqani’s guidance to us? What could “extraordinary and bold efforts on the Path” mean? After several days of reflection, these words resonated in my heart, “Reflect on the end in order that you may see the beginning.”
“We are for Allah and unto Him we return.” Our life journey is from our Source to our Source. This is our common destiny. As certain as this is, most of us live our lives as if this inevitable return will not happen. Our days are usually consumed with the concerns and urgencies of the world. Our attention is primarily occupied with our likes and dislikes, with seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.
The Quran often mentions death and the importance of building our inner awareness of the Other World (Akhira). The Prophet was very clear on the importance of remembering death, of being conscious of the fleeting nature of this earthly life. He gave poignant guidance to one of his companions urging him to, “Keep death before your eyes!”
Imam Ali continued in the footsteps of the Prophet. He said, “I wonder at a person who occupies himself with what is perishing and abandons what is eternal.” And he advised his son Imam Hussein, “My son, know that from the moment you are born into this world, it is receding from you and the other world is approaching you. So give your attention to that which is coming to you and turn away from that which is leaving you.” Mevlana Rumi speaks often of the fleeting nature of this life and the importance of opening ourselves to eternal life.
Many of us have a framework that views life as a linear period of time that ends with death. But what if the guidance about remembering death is meant to lead us to a transformation of our paradigm? What if it’s about more than the fact that we are destined to die? What if it is guiding us to a radical understanding of our existence that can reorient us towards a greater truth?
If we can learn to expand our attention towards the limitless eternity of the Divine, beyond the limits of our bodily senses, our memories, our conditioned responses, if we can live our lives from Allah’s divine perspective this would be truly extraordinary! If we live from the perspective of timelessness, limitless abundance, certainty of the flow of our sustenance, unqualified forgiveness, and unconditional love this would be indeed a bold living! This would be living in this world but being of the other world. This would make us of the Prophets.
What bold and extraordinary effort could emancipate us from being enslaved by an ego that is itself imprisoned in the cage of this earthly body? The great Sufi masters often say that we need to give up our own existence. What does this mean? How do we become non-existent while we’re still embodied? Our own existence says, “I am the cause. The universe revolves around me. Everything that happens is because of me. Outcomes are due to my efforts. I determine the results of life.” When we are trapped in our own limited sense of existence our perspective is confined to, “I am the center of the Universe!” And we cannot see the real Doer. And in this state our experience of life is narrow and constrained. We are stuck in the world of gain and loss. We are doomed to a repetitive cycle of wishful thinking, disappointments, blame, fear and sorrow. We can only see and understand life’s experience from our own limited perspective of what we want rather than seeing a greater purpose. This distorts reality and keeps us trapped in the illusion that life depends on us.
Mevlana Rumi gives us guidance in the Mathnawi on how we can go beyond our limitations:
Cut back a little on sleep and food:
bring this gift for your meeting with Him.
Become scant of sleep in the night;
be seeking forgiveness in the pre-dawn.
Stir a little like an embryo,
in order that you may be given the senses which behold light,
And you can become outside this womb-like world
and go from earth into a wide expanse.
Know that the saying, God’s earth is wide,
refers to that ample region where the prophets have entered.
[Book I: 3178-3182]
The bold and extraordinary effort is in taking our body beyond its accustomed limits with sleep and food and entering the world of the night travellers, the lovers who spend the night time in intimate conversation with their Beloved. It is to follow in the footsteps of, “O you who are enshrouded, stand for most of the night…” and “Remember the name of your Rabb and devote yourself to Him with utter devotion.”
And Mevlana proceeds to remind us of who the Doer is:
The saints are the Men of the Cave, O obstinate one:
They are motionless while rising up and turning to and fro.
He is drawing them, without them taking on the burden of action,
without proclamation, to the right and to the left.
[Book I: 3187-3188]
Remembering the real Doer is to be in a state of surrender. To be in stillness and peace with whatever is, to be ever watchful over the heart, being patient during contraction and grateful during expansion. It is to remember that our action is part of a greater whole. It is to realize the truth of, “…my Rabb has encompassed everything with knowledge…” When we reach understanding that we are an integral part of a majestic and beautiful oneness, and that there is a universal consciousness (Aql Kulli) that encompasses our own consciousness then we will come to know the meaning of “Die before you die”.
~ Mahmoud Mostafa, born in Egypt, has been on the Sufi path for more than twenty years. He currently lives in London where he is a guiding hand in the work of the Threshold Society.
Mix with the people with your tongue, but distinguish yourself from them by your deeds. ~Imam Ali
We welcome your reflections on this theme.
Annual British Columbia Retreat: Living in the Truth
Kabir Helminski with Sufi music by Ali Razmi
Living in the Truth, implies honesty and sincerity with ourselves,
a reliance on our own experience even when guided by the beauties of a tradition.
The Mevlevi Path of Sufism is not about adding to our beliefs,
but opening to spiritual perception, living the Truth.
A Threshold Retreat is a time to recharge, elevate our vibration,
deepen our perspective on life, and be inspired by each other.
Join us for Summer (inshallah) in British Columbia: a weekend of friendship,
Sufi music, zhikr, and contemplation in the tradition of Rumi.
Al Qadir, The Pourer of Power
Al Muqtadir, The Supremely Powerful Determiner of Existence
Excerpt from Ninety-Nine Names of the Beloved
~ Camille Hamilton Adams Helminski
Ya Qadir, Ya Muqtadir, Ya Adl
O You Who measure all
in the most beautiful proportion,
teach us Your Wisdom
what to do when,
how much or how little.
May we water the roses,
not the thorns,
except enough to protect
the tender branches
and feed the camels,
who find there their sustenance.
So well You have ordered
let us not overstep our bounds
assuming we have power
to override Your laws
of nature and their
when we step over
to gain more
of anything in our rush
Let us not sell our souls for such a little price—
when You have poured
such elegance and grace
into these vessels of Your Love—
what a Treasure You have measured
into these hearts!
We are in awe
of the power that can come
to us, even in the night,
when we are listening,
even as Muhammad
in the cave—
hearts melt in Your Light.
The dross flows away
and we are bright
in the Truth of Your Giving,
always of the Best—
may we recognize it in each other
and belittle no one,
honoring all that You have made,
for You are al Muqtadir,
the Supreme in Power
and in Love,
and can intimate Yourself
into the smallest of us.
Atoms whirl within Your Grace.
Your energy keeps us going,
searching, and knowing
upon the wings of the angels
singing in the dawn.
Ya Qadir, O Pourer of Power
Ya Muqtadir, O Supremely Powerful Determiner of Existence
Ya Adl, O You Who Are Completely Just
He/She is the Sustainer of the worlds.
He/She established the mountains standing high above it
and bestowed blessings on the earth,
and measured all things there to give them nourishment in due proportion.
Have We not created you out of an infinitesimal fluid,
which We then let remain in [the womb’s] firm keeping for a determined term?
Thus have We determined [the nature of the human being],
and felicitous indeed is Our power to determine!
“O my people! measure and weigh justly
and don’t deprive people of what is rightfully theirs;
and don’t act harmfully on earth, spreading corruption.
That which rests with God is best for you
if you would have faith!”
[11:84-85, saying of the Prophet Shu‘ayb]
And He/She has made in service to you as a gift from Him/Her
all that is in the heavens and on earth:
witness, truly, in that are signs for those who reflect.
Tell those who have faith to forgive
those who do not consider the coming of the Days of God:
it is for Him/Her to recompense each People
according to what they have earned.
If anyone does a righteous deed it is to his/her own benefit;
if he/she does harm it works against his/her own soul.
In the end you will all be brought back to your Sustainer.
Truly, in the Messenger of God you have a beautiful standard
for anyone whose hope is in God and the Day of Return
and who remembers God unceasingly.
Whatever is in the heavens and on earth
declares the praises and glory of God:
to Hu belongs all sovereignty and to Hu belongs all praise,
and Hu has power over all things.
And to everyone who is conscious of God, God always prepares a way of emergence,
and provides for him/her in ways he/she could never imagine;
and for everyone who places trust in God, God is sufficient.
For God will surely accomplish His/Her purpose:
truly, for all things has God appointed an appropriate measure.
In the Name of God, the Infinitely Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful
We have indeed revealed this during the Night of Power.1
And what will explain to you what the Night of Power is?
The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.
Within it the angels descend bearing divine inspiration
by God’s permission upon every mission:
Peace! . . . This until the rise of dawn!
1 The night during which the Prophet Muhammad received the first revelation of the Qur’an is referred to as the “Night of Power”. Historically, it is recognized as one of the last ten nights of the month of Ramadan, probably the 27th. Yet, a “Night of Power” may arrive any moment, a night when inspiration and closeness with one’s Sustainer are present, so one is ever watchful for the arrival of
that infinite blessing.
Friends are sharing daily video reflections on a Name of God during Ramadan. See the videos so far here. And watch out for Shaikha Camille who will be reciting her poem above for al-Qadir on day 27.
Day 1: Daniel Thomas Dyer on as-Samad
Day 2: Hasan & Sara Choudry on as-Sabur
Day 3: Hana Iqbal on al-Karim
Day 4: Shanon Shah on al-Fattah
Day 5: Jannah Borish on al-Waliyy
Day 6: Ghassan El-Jabche on as-Salam
Living Presence – 25th Anniversary Edition
A revised 25th anniversary edition of the classic work on Sufism that Jack Kornfield called, “A heartfelt modern illumination of the Sufi path, filled with the fragrance of the ancients.”
Publishing June 1st, available on Amazon, etc.
In Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, presence is the quality that describes a heart-filled state of mindfulness, an experience of being conscious in the present moment. It is only in this present moment, Sufi teachings reveal, that we can connect with the Divine, and the Divine can live through us.
In Living Presence, Shaikh Kabir lays out the basic principles of Sufism, and how these ideas can lead to the experience of presence. In this inspiring work, readers will learn how to cultivate presence in their lives through:
* Finding a balance between the outer stimuli of the world and our inner reactions to them
* Harnessing faithfulness and gracefulness
* Learning about the parallels between ancient spiritual wisdom and modern psychological knowledge
* Meditation and contemplation to discover more meaning in daily life
With unique clarity, this book describes how presence can be developed to vastly improve our lives. Drawing on the work of the beloved Sufi poet, Rumi, as well as traditional material and personal experience, this book integrates the ancient wisdom of Sufism with the needs of contemporary life. Completely revised and updated for its 25th anniversary, this edition of Living Presence offers a wisdom that is both universal and practical.
Holistic Islam. Sufism, Transformation, and The Challenge of Our Time
Publishing June 1st, available on Amazon, etc.
Sufism has long been the kernel of Islamic truth and the embodiment of its wisdom. Kabir Helminski’s Holistic Islam is a sagacious and indeed perspicacious walk through the heart and soul of Islam. It is an essential source for anyone who is interested in Sufism or in the moral impulse that motivated great sages like Rumi and Hafiz. Perhaps, more importantly, I think this book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the real Islamic faith.
~ Dr. Khalid Abou El Fadl, Distinguished Professor of Islamic Law at the UCLA Law School, UCLA. and author of The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists
Threshold’s collaborative blog channel The Living Tradition on Patheos.com is reaching new audiences and sharing the experiences of our community in a unique and vibrant way.
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.
Wishing everyone Eid Mubarak!
Jun 26: Eid al-Fitr (TBC)
Jul 7-9: Whistler, Canada. Annual Retreat British Columbia, deep in nature, following Ramadan. More details. (K)
Sep 1-4: UK Annual Retreat, Gaunts House, Dorset. More details and registration in July. (KC)
Oct 19-23: San Jose, US. Science & Non-Duality Conference (K)
Nov 10-12: Kendal, UK. Sacred Pattern in the Feminine & Masculine, with Beth Hin. More details soon.
Events with Sh. Kabir and Sh. Camille marked (KC)
~ Camille A. Helminski
Excerpt from Ramadan Love Songs
For the whirring of the wings of the doves!
For Your Light
upon the table,
and within the tresses of the roses.
You sing us such songs!—
with gentle bird voices,
and even the drone of the oven fan
cooking our sustenance.
Such miracles You make
How could we ever turn away
trans-fixed with Your Beauty?
Held between the worlds,
translating from There to here
and here to There,
we sway with the tides
of Your Bestowal,
La illaha il Allah,
we stand and bow,
and prostrate upon this earth,
You have given us,
smiling before Your Face.
We’d love to hear from you – get in touch at email@example.com
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