from “Alone to Alone” by Hasan Askari published 1991
He has left his home and children. He wandered like a prodigal father in search of another family, another home. His secret was hidden from himself.
His children, now grown up, often wondered about their father. He was a mystery to them.
He would have stayed at home but it was so destined that he should leave causing so much pain and misery to himself and to his family. His children hardly knew him.
He loved them though far from them. He believed that all things were near in love.
His youngest son often visited him. There was some deep bond between them however unexpressed.
“You speak so clearly and fluently while you are in the company of your friends” his son once said to him, “Whereas when I am with you, just you and me, you become self-conscious and talk superficially which is almost non-speech.” It was that evening that all of a sudden he felt that he was renewed deep from within. His son’s remark had demolished his shyness before his son. He felt that they were now brothers.
After a couple of days he told his son an old story relating to how a son initiated his father into an esoteric order. Once a visitor called and said to his father, “I have come to see your son. May I know where he is?” His father replied: “Do not call him my son. I am his son!”
Once his son asked him about the strange titles of Fatima. “The strangest of them all,” he said, “is Umm-e-Abi-ha” meaning, “the mother of her father!”
“It was winter. What is winter, she used to ask, and what could one say about it. It is sheer negation, a moving away from the sources of warmth.
North East India. The middle of the thirteenth century. A period of widespread upheaval and powerful manifestations. A century of the rise of Ghengiz Khan and the Mongol Hordes, and also a time shared by such great mystics as Francis of Assisi and ‘Attar of Nishapur, Ibn ‘Arabi and Mere Angelique, Rumi and Dogen.
A small town on the Gangetic plain. A mother and a child in a room without wood, without coal, without any means, without proper clothes, without adequate blankets for the cold season.
It was winter. There was poverty.
What is winter, she used to ask, and what could one say about it. It is a returning to one’s own self, to another fire and warmth, a compelling invitation to rethink our humanity.
Mother and child. There was an air of gratitude about them, between them.
She did not look at winter. She looked at one of the faces of God. The child looked at the face of his mother.
It was winter. It was also a Word from Him, she used to say to herself, and her face used to glow as if she were facing the sun on a warm summer day.
There was poverty. She was one of those few who knew that particularly in poverty God’s providence was beyond measure.
Nizamuddin Auliya was one of the well-known Sufi masters of India. He passed away in 1325. A contemporary of Dante, Amir Khusru, Eckhart, Bu Ali Shah Qalandar, Muso Kokushi and Haji Bekuash. Nizamuddin’s shrine is in Delhi, and has been a source of inspiration, over all these centuries, both for the seekers and the pilgrims.
When Nizamuddin was asked how and when it was that he first experienced the spark of divine love within himself, he said: First the spark of trust lights the lamp of joy, and then we discover that we are in the mansion of His Love. Then he recalled his childhood: It was a long time ago. My father passed away when I was a small child. My mother had no means of her own. Sometimes we used to get up in the mornings during winter to discover that there was nothing in the house, not even a piece of wood or coal to boil water. It was on one of those mornings that my mother used to come up to me while I was still all huddled up in some sort of blanket with lots of patches and holes, and say to me: “Wake up!” Then, after a pause, I used to hear, amidst all that poverty when we had nothing in our house, not even a loaf of bread, my mother saying to me:
“Baba Nizamuddin! Wake up! We are guests on this day in the House of God!”. And she used to glow with joy, and her hands were warm while she lifted me and held me in her arms. It was my mother who initiated me upon the path of trust and joy, who liberated me once for all from the slavery to the seasons and the conditions of this world.”
LOVE: A question, an idea, a goal, one of those elusive things that has pre-occupied humanity constantly. Therefore my first thought on love is that it is a “Constant”. Never failing and all Embracing. Crossing all categories of identification and limit. Running through them as like wind rushing through the trees and the leaves flutter all of a sudden coming to life. At times the wind rushes with such speed it overpowers, at others a gentle breeze of embrace and we rest in its arms. It is One & Many and yet no thing in one place or locality. Therefore my second thought is that it is “non-material, not physical” and thus available to all at one and the same time despite the differences in expression it may take in our lives – One Love. Leading by consequence to my third thought, one cannot speak of Love without speaking, or better still, “Remembering” one’s Being as non-material also, namely Soul. For me Love’s origin, in our lives, springs from the depth and breadth of Soul. The individual Soul and above it the Universal Soul. Love is that insignia, that spark within the Soul, that seed, which is pure “Longing”. Yearning to be whole, to be complete, to come to a rest after much wandering. It is love within the Soul that drives it, nay, compels it to yearn and long for its Source, once it realizes it has a Source, if it realizes it has a Source. Therefore, my fourth thought love is also a “returning home”. A fullness of Being. If I had a choice of either constantly feeling Love’s embrace through Soul or choosing that from which the Loving Embrace originates, its Source, I would give up love and choose the Home of Love instead. For what could be more “Loving” than that which inspires the Love I feel and seek, which my Soul feels and seeks? Therefore, my fifth thought, love is also to perhaps “forsake love”, to give it up at the final stage of Soul’s journey. After much wandering and longing, love has brought my Soul from shore to shore, over still and raging oceans only to realise to cross that last threshold there can be no duality. “Do not say two. Say One!” (Hasan Askari). I must give up even the feeling of love and be within, as they say “In-Love”. The ship of the seas is no use now. The journey is of another kind. There in that Realm Soul purified of all its ills and hypnosis, filled with the Vision of Visions, there nothing what I think of love or feel is of any use. What gift can I bring to the Giver of all gifts? No gift will suffice except my very Being, my Soul. I bring it back as it was given, “empty” of all projections. Empty with only that remaining which was given in fullness. “Wheresoever one looks, one sees the Face of one’s Glorious and Majestic Lord” (Quran). It is forgotten that this ayat (verse) is more about the Soul than anything else. What more drop of love can I add to the Source of Love itself? Then I, as Soul, realise with tears of joy and thankfulness, the Love within my Soul which drew me near to the Source, powerful and wondrous as it was, the wind in my sails, is nothing but an image of the Reality of Love. I give up the image and turn to the Original. Where Love is complete, simple, a Unity of all unities. Therefore my sixth thought, love is “pure”. And after such purification there is perhaps only one thing to do. Be humble with bowed head, to wait in patience for the “Beloved” to arrive. At that threshold one does not enter by one’s will for personal will was left far behind in the earlier stages of the journey. One is invited to enter at the behest of the Beloved – to be “in” Love. As the bride waits for the arrival of the bridegroom, an image well illustrated within the Indian custom as among others. And for that invitation, for that recognition, one would wait an eternity if one had to. This is “loyalty” at its peak. For there is no other to turn to. That is why perhaps we now can have a clue in the beautiful adage, “Home is where the Heart Is”.
One may be wondering why I have not referred to Beauty. Ah, but what to speak of Beauty at this stage, All is Beautiful. Love & Beauty are in Union now. And that is my seventh thought; “Beauty” itself. It drew me from the First and draws me to the Last. Should one be invited to enter in to that “Presence”,the journey continues and I cannot speak on that at present for that is Mystery, Beyond Being.
There is knowledge of Unity-Oneness (Tawhid) and then there is Unity-Oneness it-Self. The two are not the same. Words are of no use at that highest stage. With such a vision, with love considered, in my view considered properly with Soul, one can then engage with the world, with family, relationships, friends, neighbours, “strangers” (in truth there are no strangers to the Soul), seeing that behind all such relationships is the same Love, one-many. “In Love” there is no such thing as the “other”. All are One. Then one may say with utmost sincerity, “Your soul and my soul are one Soul. Your God and my God is One God.” (Hasan Askari).
Of particular interest, spiritually, across diverse traditions, has been and remains the relationship between Master-Disciple, Guide-Guided and Teacher-Pupil. That relationship sits within my heart and Soul all the days of my Life. Beyond grateful to have known it and know it still.
The pendulum swing of Life. Life as a Soul, un-embodied, embodied and un-embodied once more. On the upward swing “we are of God and unto God we return”. On the downward swing, “we are of God and unto God we return”. Only as Souls can one recite this.
From Love, With Love and In Love now and forever. Amen!
*(photograph, January 1995, Hasan Askari & Musa Askari)
*(Thank you to Rahul Singh for asking me about “Love”)
It was a day like any other. The dawn light would emerge slowly enveloping the night. The stars would fade in the sky and the sun would rise brining with it all the glory it had to bestow upon the earth. This rising would remind all those with eyes to see that the Universal Soul was taking its place upon the Throne of creation. The Universal Soul emanating as a ray of light from the Sun of all suns, One who sustains all that simply; is.
On such a day she would rise from her sleep that morning perhaps with no idea that this was the last day upon the earth. That the ordinary everyday things she did every morning and afternoon would take on greater significance simply because it would be the last time she would perform them.
The last time she would look at herself in the mirror and see her reflection looking back at her as she preformed her morning ablutions and combed her hair and put on her clothes. The last time she would see an image of her image. An image that was a reflection of her very soul.
The last time she would prepare food and eat her last meal or take a sip of water or take a cup of warm tea into her gentle hands. How was she to know that as she held that cup so carefully it was the same way God had held her all throughout her life?
The last time she would tend her garden and clean the weeds and turn the soil so that it would breathe with more ease. The last time she would smell the fragrance of a flower or feel the earth in her hands. The very dust from which her Lord had made her body is what she tended to. This earth that she tended was a creation of the inner peace that always resided within her soul, alas that she could have tasted this peace more in her life.
The last time she would feel the wind upon her face and hear the flutter of birds’ wing and their song. The last time she would wipe her brow or feel a rain drop fall in to her hand.
The last time she would pray salat to her Maker and offer up her last prayer.
The last time she would speak with another, a son, a daughter, her grandchildren, her brother, her husband.
Then would come the time when tired and fatigued from her toil in the garden she would take her last footsteps in to the house. The footsteps that began when she first walked as a child in to her mothers’ arms were now about to end. The last thoughts that passed through her mind and the last memory, recent or old, that would flash across her consciousness. The last time she would lie down never to rise as a body again. The last breath as she slept and everything within her came to rest and she was returned from which she came. May God have mercy on her Soul.
Her last day was a good day. With her tending the garden she left a sign for others. Always tend to the garden of your mind. Clear out the weeds of thoughts that infect your emotions and distract you from yourself and from those you love and have hurt you. Remember they are weak also. Having done that pay attention as time passes to new weeds and clear them. Having done that turn the soil of your mind and regenerate with new flowers and let kindness blossom like a spring morning. Then you will see and feel that you are becoming free and able to see things as they really are.
On the passing of a loved one we often think of ourselves here and when was the last time we saw them, held them, talked to them and heard their voice. It is also worth taking time to ponder what was their last day like? What was it like to have done the normal things for the last time?
It was like any other day.
Therein, hides the beauty and kindness of God to my dear mother. That on taking her back He will not alarm her. He will not let fear come into her heart on the last day by letting her know it is the last day. Not on this day.
To Him belongs the Dominion, to Him belongs the Command.
In the very everydayness He has enveloped His Mercy to you on the last day. In the ordinary hides often the extra-ordinary. That God has weaved his taking you back in to the very fabric of your outward existence. When he is able to do this in your outer life what can he not do for you in your inner reflective and meditative life?
The inner life is what remains enshrined in the soul. This is the insignia within the soul of its association with body and leaving it again. The inner life has now burst through and can wait no longer to be the outer life of the soul. God is truly kind in helping with this transition by not alarming you on the last day.
As in birth a baby does not know it is about to be born so in death the mind and heart do not know with certainty that this is the day. He is the First and the Last. He is there at the birth of your life in this world, from the first cell to the passing of your life from this world. Why would he want to alarm you?
Every Day and Every Night and throughout all the days and nights He is ever-present. In such a presence we are humbled and truly kind and forgiving to each-other. By such a presence peace makers act and peace is bestowed and troubles are left far behind.
Every Day God gives you back your soul and so you rise to see your loved ones again and live another day until the last day. So live now until whatever day that be, live not in the past but in the now. In the everyday and ordinary God is to be found also.
She closed her eyes, she was tired now and wanted to rest and God heard her call and I pray she rests eternally and the flowers bloom eternally.
Oh my mother I remember you this day.
Salam alai kum. Salam alai kum. Salam alai kum.
Peace be upon you. Peace be upon you. Peace be upon you