Thursday, June 21, 2012

Notes on the Hikam of Ibn Ata’Illah - Our Lord is far above the servant dealing with Him in cash, and His repaying him in credit

Notes on the Hikam of Ibn Ata’Illah taught by Shaykh Nuh Keller from the commentary of Shaykh Ahmad ibn 'Ajiba.

This article will be part of a series containing notes from the classes of Shaykh Nuh Keller in 2007 on his commentary of chapter 10, verse 89 – 104, on the Book of Wisdoms of Shaykh Ibn Ata'illah Iskandari.

On a side note, Shaykh Nuh repeatedly stresses that books are merely a guide to the Shaykh for helping him give instruction / council to his mureeds / students.

Hikam 89

جل ربنا أن يعامله العبد نقدا ، فيجازيه نسيئة .
Our Lord is far above the servant dealing with Him in cash, and His repaying him in credit.


In a general sense the chapter concerns tasleeq, making it possible for the mureed, or the person who aspires to Allah SWT to pass through the veils, that represent obstacles in his way. 

The main veil for most people is that which is passed through and that which is transcendent, by realizing one’s own slave hood. Therefore the person who is captain of his soul and master of his fate, is not the sort of person that reaches Allah SWT very quickly.

On the one side we have hijab (wahm), which is one’s own limitarianess. There are many hijabs’ if we consider them, many different veils or obstacles that represent hindrances on the spiritual path. However the entire world (with the veils in it) – if it can be called this - return to the one for whom the world is, as a phenomenon. 

In other words the nexus of the slave’s instrumentality, is the biggest (is the veil itself). If he (the slave) understood what the purpose was of Allah SWT in each thing or action, there would be no need for a veil between him and between Allah SWT. Rather it would be his own projects and his own designs. 

The fact that he thinks he knows what he is seeing by saying to himself, “This is obviously this, and that is obviously that” when in reality it is not obviously this or it’s not obviously that. “These are just things after all” when in reality they are not just things, these are acts, whose? Allah’s acts. And this is the difference between the person for whom the veil has been drawn aside, and someone who is veiled. 

The one who is veiled and thinks he knows exactly the what the things are that he is seeing, returns to his own limits, projects or construing of matters. 

On the other hand we have the revealing, the hijab is a hijab of one’s own limitation and one’s own instrumental praxis. The things one means to use for something. 

The revelation which pulls aside the hijab is "Being", understanding the "Being" of the slave and the "Beingof Allah, the "Being" of the slave is through the "Being" of Allah. So contingent "Being" discloses the necessary and absolute "Being" of Allah. 

In other words the whole “shooting match” if it could be called that, is between the ubudiayah (the slave hood of the slave) and between the Rububiyyah (the Godhood of Allah SWT). “Rab” being a tremendous word indicating closeness, dearness, concern and care for the Marbub to that whom Allah is the Lord. 

So you have to be something in order for the veil to pass away, one has to realize what it is at the center of one’s being, "Heart". A heart may reflect Allah SWT so on the one hand you have the Being of the slave and on the other hand you have the Heart of Allah SWT.

Of the most important projects, before we set out to do anything in this world we ask ourselves, what we have to do in order to effect the project of reaching Allah SWT, what’s A, B, C or D and in what order do we have to go about these steps in order to effect the project. 

One presumes analogically that in order to effect the "project" of reaching Allah SWT that things have to be done, and they do have to be done. So the actions or deeds that the person is going to engage his path unto the Divine through are in fact also of his projects. So they return to the way in which he envisions them which can also be a veil, therefore actions can also be a veil. To mistake the divine largess, the infinite generosity of Allah SWT in paradise and toufeeq in this world. 

There are many blessings that Allah SWT bestows on people who are regular about the prayers and who don’t miss any of their fard prayers and who do the other required acts of ibaadah. "Saumu tu sighur", The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said fast, and you will have good health. So there are this worldly, and other worldly benefits in it.

The mistake comes in making one’s works into a veil in this context. i.e. making good health the purpose for fasting. Nothing motivates you except this and that. In other words hard workers get big wages. 

So what Shaykh Ibn Attaillah wants to say here is that with a person whose acts of ibaadah, is in true adoration of Allah SWT, Allah SWT places the secret of that that ibaadah within the adoration or worship itself. 

The real worth of it there it is, which is namely the divine presence. So its not even through the generosity of Allah (SWT) in the infinite eternal world and the limitless paradise that Allah SWT has prepared for the believers and for those who work (those who do spiritual works), this is not the purpose, but rather Shaykh Ibn Ataillah is saying, Look for something that relates to your Being and your adoration in your worship of Allah SWT, because this is where the secret of it lies.

Shaykh Ibn Ataillah says Allah SWT is far to exalted and he only said this, as Shaykh Muhhideen Ibn Arabi said, the trouble with the Shaykhs are is that they speak on their own level, they don’t always answer on the level of the mureed that is asking the question. Here, Shaykh Ibn Ataillah is talking from his own level.

The spiritual path depends on first getting good habits. Meaning the habits of outward slavehood, that all of the things that should happen in a religious persons life do happen. 

To motivate one’s self, cranck up the nafs to do these things and getting the nafs to go into the right direction we have to talk about sticks and carrots. 

A carrot hanging in front of the nose of the horse so that it can go after it, and the stick from behind to get it moving. However Shaykh Ibn Atailah is saying that there is more. 

How does he know that there is more? Because he has realized it by saying our Lord is far too exalted to be adored, as He should be adored for there not to be any noticeable effects within the secret or heart of the believer, when the heart of the believer is the very peak or apex of all created being, the very secret for which the universe was created. This is clarified within the first four of the mystic maxims of chapter 10.

With maxim 89 which says “Our Lord is far above the servant dealing with him in cash and His repaying him in credit”, what is it that we should find? We should find a heart that is changed, a heart that is less desirous of that which does not have any lasting benefit. 

This is one of the things we should look for and there should be an effect in our worship of Allah SWT. A distain for uselessness, a distain for useless doings and for useless things which do not put you forward and closer to Allah SWT. 

There should be a qualitory change, qualifiable difference before your ibaadah and after it, little incremental changes. So the biggest change is someone who is with Allah SWT, the person is always affected by that which he is with. 

Speaking in another context about the so-called miracles or preternatural events with people that don’t have any iman at all. Wonders and signs that are worked by people that come about as a result of them closing down and restricting the perceptual and physical range of their intellect so that a hypertrophy comes about in the ruh. 

Likewise in the attainment of any change in quality of the servant there has to be a focus and there has to be things that are not focused on. Walking along and doctor right hand said well have you ever seen the right hand of a tennis player? It looks like it belongs to someone else’s body. 

Similarly the person that has a surpassing skill in drawing sketches accurately and properly can produce a building sketch on a piece of paper in ink in no time at all. There are necessarily other things that he cannot do well.

Focusing on Allah SWT is a question of including many things in a religious persons life like the sunnah of the Prophet SAW in which he is explained in great detail everything that a person needs for eternal bliss, for limitless happiness. 

So we exclude quite a number of other things. "Hufatul jannatu bil makaarih wa huffat annaru bi shahwaat" the Prophet SAW explains by saying, paradise is encompassed by things that are unpleasant and hell is encompassed by things that are allurements. So there are many things that one has to do and not do. 

The expectation with anything is that when one becomes proficient at something, one changes, and that one is able to do something that one could not previously do, including thikrullah, including salaah (riotousness, being a good person, being upright), including getting rid of those bad traits that we find within ourselves e.g. Lying when we get into a fix.

So there has to be work but the work is not because of the thawaab but the thawaab is because of the qualitative change that comes about. Allah SWT sees ilmun attallahi bi qalbi saleem except for someone who comes to Allah SWT with a truly sound and blemish free heart as the Quran says. So this heart is something that one is working on. And this is ones slave hood produces and brings the fruits of the heart.

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