19th April 2007, Lickey Hills, Birmingham
It was late in the day. The sky was still bright and clear with its canvas of blue enveloping the earth in a gentle embrace. The sun where unhindered by the trees was warm and loving. The slight chill in the air was bearable. He walked, not knowing what else to do, towards a rise in the ground taking his seat upon a solitary bench shaded by a tree. Children were playing with their parents down below to his left. For a passing moment their innocent laughter was uplifting. He plucked a leaf from a near by tree and held it for a while. He looked to the sky. He looked about his feet and took to hand a bare branch slim and strong. Its bark wet to the touch. He rose and walked again with staff in hand. To sit still made it all the more unbearable. Thoughts of sorrow racing through his mind at the passing of his and his brother’s mother the day before.
Though this happens daily, the sun has seen for eons, and the earth has accepted back since the beginning, the passing of mothers and fathers and the closest of kin, it was, however, knowingly for him, the first time. It was tremendous and shattering. He was in that half way house of darkness between the extinguishing of one candle and the lighting of another. That moment where all that which is familiar is no longer visible. Where in that darkness you reach out your hands and find nothing to hold and ask for guidance.
It was then he remembered the recital taught by his teacher who spoke words from the sacred scripture:
Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth
The Parable of His Light is as if there were a niche
and within it a Lamp
the Lamp enclosed in Glass
the glass as it were a brilliant Star
Lit from a blessed tree; an olive tree
neither of the east nor of the west
whose oil is well nigh luminous
though fire scarcely touched it.
Light upon Light!
Allah Guides to His Light whom He pleases
And Allah sets forth parables for men, and
Allah is the Knower of all things
He climbed higher away from the openness and drawn to the shelter of the woods to walk among the trees. There a slender path made by the footsteps of others before him was etched out. The give of the ground on the path was different. The earth below foot was soft to walk upon. His feet sank a little each time as the earth gave way a little. The greenery on either side of the path was dense. The trees seemed countless. A bird call rang out here and there and the faint rustle of small creatures could be heard and then stop. He looked piercingly but listened more to hear the sound of the rustling. There in front of him only a few feet away, camouflaged by the foliage, was the small figure of a squirrel with hands joined holding a morsel of food. They looked at each other for a few moments. He smiled and the creature raced away. He whispered, “Go, go, climb higher, go.”
He walked on with thoughts of sorrow returning eventually coming to a stop. He was standing at a bank that slopped away steeply. He looked again at the sky and through the dense leaves the sun was breaking through. The light only broken by the swaying of the leaves. He closed his eyes and felt the warmth of the sun lapping his face and he could feel the waves of emotions building. Which shore would these waves break upon now?
He thought of her life. He thought of motherhood. He thought of her name. He thought of all the care she showered upon him. He closed his eyes recalling the memory of witnessing her body the night before, lying as if only sleeping. He recalled the coldness of touch as he bowed to kiss her forehead tearfully uttering,
“No more pain now, do not worry. The life to come will be better than the one just lived. Be at peace. Salam alia kum, salam alia kum mere ma”.
Opening his eyes he wailed out in despair in to the silence. He looked about him finding himself amongst countless trees. They looked and felt alive as people with intense concentration. He felt their presence as they stood there tall and magnificent. He raised his hands and asked the trees and all of creation to join with him as he recited the zikr for his mother, for the journey her soul was to make.
“O my Lord. Let my entry be in truth and sincerity, and my exit be in truth and sincerity, and grant me from Thy Presence an authority to support me.
There is no god but God. That is One. There is no other.
To That belongs the Creation To That belongs the Command To That belongs the Praise And That is powerful over all things. God is enough for us: God is the Best of Protectors Best of Guardians Best of Helpers”
He then kneeled on the ground and placed his right hand into the earth. He beckoned the earth to hear him and rise up and hear his words of pleading now for the soul of Liaqat Begum. He spoke aloud to the earth:
“You who are created by the Highest Soul which in turn emanates from the very Mind of God, who by His Grace gives life to all that you cradle, you who are the “mother” of all that is Nature on this earth are about to receive the body of a wife, mother, sister, grandmother, mother in-law and daughter. Who in this life was known as Liaqat Begum bint Aga Mumtaz Hussain. Do not call her back; let her soul continue to the higher ground. Let her soul travel in Light. Let it not look back and long for the care and worry of those left behind. Let her forget all that tormented her and even all that gave her happiness. Let her soul’s memory be only of the “original memory”; that it is of God and unto God it must return. Let her soul not be attached to this realm by the briefest of times in this incarnation. Oh Earth you who recite the recital of your Lord in ways unknown to humanity, send her soul from your realm to the greater realm safely. Let her soul Fare-Well. I need no witness for this plea save God Himself.”
He raised his hands in prayer once more:
“SubhanAllahhai, walhamdulillahai, walaillahaillallaho wa Allah hu Akbar”
The sun was lower on the horizon as he descended from where knelt he yet the light seemed brighter to him than when he had set foot upon those hills earlier that April evening.
As months passed he looked for signs of his plea and prayer having been accepted. He looked for it in the faces of people he encountered in daily life. He looked for it in the passing of clouds and seasons. He looked for signs in dreams that visited him. He looked for it in the faces, voices and words of his family. His wife and children. His brothers and their families. He looked for it in the words of his mother’s brother and sisters.
He took his plea to his father-teacher and recounted to him the time spent upon the hills. He listened to his father enlighten him once again. He rested with this advice and stopped looking. If he was to know at all, he realised, he would not find it. “It” would find him.
30th August 2008, Mother’s room, past mid-night.
He rose from his slumber while his wife and children were deep in sleep about him in the room. He rose to perform the zikr in the room within the house where his childhood and youth had been spent. The room which was a repose and sanctuary for his mother. There and then he felt compelled to perform the zikr of remembrance of The Lord of the Heavens and Earth.
He began slowly, almost inaudible. He recited every syllable with deep concentration trying to connect with how they would have been uttered for the very first time centuries ago by a man known as a Mercy to Mankind. A man who used to withdraw in to the sanctuary of solitude to be found beneath the starry heavens or within a cave.
He continued past the opening of the zikr and in to the phase on entry. Each line passing beyond his lips as if for the first time. He wept and struggling with emotion continued into the phase of recital of remembrance itself and repeated this phase countless times. Time itself was forgotten. He knew not how long he sat there in remembrance. He then stopped and waited. He felt a “presence”. With eyes remaining closed he raised his face.
She stood before him as if standing in another world. She stood as Vision Complete. She was all that Grace, Beauty, Love and Compassion could endow upon the world. If but those that weep could see how She was now? They would weep anew for what She was now. Such tears that replace anguish with Pure Longing of the highest order which cleanses not a little but entire leaving no corner of grief untouched. As tall as the sky itself. As slender and elegant as the beautiful hands of her wedding day. One hand gently overlapping the other.
She was young but with none of the naïve innocence of youth. She was wise beyond any measure of wisdom we could offer. She was commanding with no want of any adoration. She was awe inspiring and yet displaying a welcoming comfort to those enchanted by her.
She was…. “Motherhood” itself.
She was…. “Motherhood” itself.
An Ideal Form. The Archetype of Motherhood. An archetype that exists by the Grace of its Prior Principle, Divine Intelligence -The Mind of God, The Light of God. Which itself orbiting about the very Source of All, The One -The Supremely Absolute One. The Un-Nameable. The Good. She was in a realm that is intangible, immaterial and placeless. A realm without which this sensible world of matter is nothing. This world a pale reflection of that which is within the Universal Soul entire. The One Soul which gives of itself through Ideal Forms to a world that is entranced by what it receives but does not know why.
Her hair long and black, sweeping though flowing in the breeze never losing its essential form. Words fail to describe not only the Vision to behold but, most importantly, her Presence before him was one of the most real things he had ever experienced. She was more real to him in that moment than when she was embodied. Though his eyes were closed he felt her before him standing tall. He felt as if he could reach out and touch her. A Reality unquestionable and true.
She was one of the perfections of Intellect. A perfection more than ideal symmetry could express. Where only The Light of The Divine has the Power to crown with what is truly noble; Beauty!
First and Last he was awestruck with how beautiful she appeared.
Her Beauty was Mighty.
A beauty which even the ancient writer Homer, on the enchanting Aphrodite, would have bowed towards, just as the magicians of Pharaoh had bowed in the presence of Moses to a Higher Reality.
She appeared untouched and unmoved by anything that we in body suffer from. What we would call as important she would not consider even as a passing thought. However her commanding presence, her gaze was upward. Her profile he would etch upon his mind forever.
She was not self-conscious. She knew there was a Mightier Power above. She bowed to it eternally. A bowing that is neither toward the east nor the west.
Perfect though she was in what she was; she longed yet for a Higher Life. To shed this greatest of lives and “Be” simpler still.
She longed for the very essence of what endowed her with Beauty. She was longing for the One from which Beauty emanates eternally. She still recited “innan lil la hai wa inna alia rajoun” but in a completely superior way to what we do here con-joined with body.
Time and his own identity had stood still for him. Was it minutes or hours he knew not. Time and his very consciousness of presence to himself were absent. As he titled his head up, with his eyes remaining closed, to witness innerly the Vision of her, a mother in this life. Her eyes were clear as crystal waters. Did she even know how magnificent she was? Did she have any idea of her commanding presence?
He felt briefly another presence behind her of his father who by now had also passed to the other side.
Her complexion was fair. She was dressed in a sari which shimmed and glistened strangely. It rippled with streams of silver, white and satin. From being draped over her shoulder to the trails at her feet it shimmered relentlessly. One moment one colour then another. Then all three at once flowing from her left shoulder diagonally down towards her right.
As the pace of the colours slowed she lowered her face toward him. Her face moving from left to right downwards and then her eyes fixing their gaze upon him. Impossible to express what now was the movement within his very soul. She smiled a little and lowered her right hand and placed her palm upon his head. Impossible to express the very state of his soul. With bowed head he sobbed for what seemed an eternity for even being noticed let alone recognised.
He raised his hands and took her hand and kissed it. The coldness of touch from the last time he had seen her was no more than a distant cloud of a memory as he felt the warmth of her hand in his. She had fared well.
Years later, approaching the tenth anniversary of his mother’s passing, he recalled the words his teacher-father (Syed Hasan Askari) had written about the great Sufi Mystic Nizamuddin Auliya and his spiritual connection with his mother who says…
“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.”
See also “A Day Like Any Other” about the passing of beloved Liaqat Begum.