In Memory of Syed Mohmmed Taqui
by Syed Musa Askari
To learn of the passing of a loved one thoughts issue forth like the dawn of a sunrise. The first ray of light followed by countless rays that, due to their brilliance, are now indistinguishable one from the other. There is only light. Light upon Light.
When I heard the news of the passing of my dear uncle Syed Mohmmed Taqui I felt the sun of his soul had fully risen. As if the entirety of a life was akin to the slow gradual rise of the sun above the horizon, the last tip of the sun having bid fare-well to the line of horizon. A line drawn from birth to the moment of passing. A line along which a life had been lived. A line that was drawn horizontally is now drawn vertically leading one to another life, another horizon, another sunrise.
A life lived is more than the trace of footsteps left in its wake. Above all it is a sign of journeying from here to there, from right to left, from below to above. All the rotational points forming a circle of many dimensions. Our life as soul to sojourn knowing the permanence of our abode is “elsewhere”. No place of locality, but eternal, placeless and traceless. To become “homeless” innerly we are home. I pray for the continued safe journey of the soul of Syed Mohmmed Taqui.
When reflecting upon one’s own life or the life of another it is as if we are always watching a sunrise. There is no death only the beginning of another journey. The birth of a life is the sun rising, a new “day”, our whole life as one “day”. For the Soul knows this association with body is but a fleeting moment within many moments.
The reverse I find holds more in it, not the setting of a sun, not the receding light of a life lived but the full glory of a magnificent sunrise. We are left to bathe in the light of his life, the mark of all that was and remains the best of his life. No mark such as that of a seal, of ring impressed upon wax, no impression such as this to be worn away by the weathering of time. Rather a mark made upon one’s consciousness, one’s heart and one’s soul.
The mark of his life summed up in words such as courage, strength, compassion and great humour. I will forever remember the glint in his eye and the warmth of his smile. When these two qualities combined, there in those moments, I recall now one was meeting the essence of his nature.
What to speak of sadness and grief? How to speak of sadness and grief? These deep feelings for us left behind to undergo. Clutching to them like the trailing string of a kite set aloft to the wind, cut free from the bonds of the hand that held it with love during its flight before our eyes. It flies now held by and tugged by another Hand.
A child stands upon a rooftop balcony; a kite flies from its hand. A tug, a lengthening of the string followed by a firm grip. Without warning the kite breaks free, separated from its connection with the earth as like the passing of a life from this world. The face of the child aghast and distressed. The smile upon his face moments ago is no more. A tearful sadness and perhaps a desperation takes hold; a longing to taste again the sense of freedom through the symbol of a kite imparting.
The kite swaying in the wind like a leaf set free from some branch. The trailing string of the kite passing overhead; a prayer leaps forth with hope to reclaim it. The child rushes to the street below and searches patches of sky in-between the towering buildings as if looking for a lone cloud in a cloudless sky. A fleeting glimpse of the kite gliding overhead, the heart races, a memory recalled. He turns corner after corner just about keeping pace with the trailing string but the kite itself is out of view.
His hand outstretched while he runs ahead as if the roles are now reversed. Where the kite once danced to the tune of the child’s hand it is the child which is now beckoned. The joy which was the mark of friendship between the kite and child still remains though now expressed differently. An invisible bond connects them.
This journey of following a kite, a free spirit, akin to a mystical relationship between a master and disciple. One may live an entire lifetime until eventually the kite and follower must part ways. The kite has brought the child to the shores of a mighty ocean and flies on to the horizon. There is sadness; there is grief as like the passing of a loved one.
He raises his hands in prayer to the Supreme, bidding a final fare-well to his beloved kite, his master. A prayer of gratitude, a prayer of friendship, a prayer of love. As his hands pass over his face he feels each line, each groove, each fork and twist. Each line a path the kite had lead him to tread. Each line upon his hands a horizon upon which countless suns had risen and set during the course of their journey. The child has now become a man. He looks up to the horizon. The sun is rising upon the ocean.
It is the dawn of a new life. This journey of longing, sadness, mourning and grief has not been in vain. It has cleansed entire. The kite flies on to the horizon. Soon there is no kite to be seen. Only a glorious sunrise. Each soul moves toward a greater horizon should it so choose. Each kite longs to fly freely to meet the rising sun.
May the Light of a Greater Sun forever shine upon the soul of Syed Mohmmed Taqui. May the horizon to which his soul journeys draw ever nearer.
“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.”
“O One who is like a Gentle Breeze amidst my hardships; O One who is the Hope amidst my distresses; O my Friend in my despair; O my Companion in my loneliness; O Sign in all my wanderings: Thee alone we worship, and from Thee alone we seek help: Guide us unto the path that is inward and stable.
O Light of Lights; O Illuminator of all Lights; O Creator of Light; O Light before any Light existed; O Light after every Light is gone; O Light which is above all Lights; O Light which is unlike any other Light: Thee alone we worship, and from Thee alone we seek help: Guide us unto the path that is inward and stable.
O Friend of one who has no friend; O Support of one who has no support; O Peace of one who has no peace; O Companion of one who has no companion; O Proof of one who has no proof; O Refuge of one who has no refuge: Thee alone we worship, and from Thee alone we seek help: Guide us unto the path that is inward and stable.
O One Who In His promises, is faithful: O One Who in His faithfulness, is powerful: O One Who in His power, is Sublime: O One Who in His Sublimity, is near: O One Who in His Nearness, is subtle: O One Who in His Subtlety, is noble: O One Who in His Nobility, is mighty: O One Who in His Might, is great: O One Who in His Greatness, is glorious: O One Who in His Glory, is praiseworthy: Thee alone we worship, and from Thee alone we seek help: Guide us unto the path that is inward and stable.”
Translated by Professor Hasan Askari (4th July 1932 – 19th February 2008), selected prayer of Calling upon God in His Names by Ali Bin Abu Talib (d.661).