The Science of the Sunna

The word Sunna, meaning the Practice, derives from the root SNN, meaning 'to form'. It is nothing less than the form of man, that is, man as a living social organism, man in his wholeness. Any mechanistic or legal idea from your Judaic or Christian background must be removed before you can open to this reality which is utterly organic, physical and metaphysical, a spontaneous human creature in harmony with his creation being the end result, and not an inhibited and outwardly controlled animal. The error of the Jews was not that they failed to obey the Law, but that they turned what was a scientific Law about man – that is, if you do this, that happens – into a legalistic structure exterior to and imposed on man. The error of the Jews made it inevitable that when the existential reality of lawfulness, in its organic sense, the Messiah, appeared, they could not recognise him. So involved were they with the theory, they failed to identify the practice in a living and perfect exemplar. The error of the Christians was its counterpart – so determined were they to enshrine the metaphysical aspect of man's nature, so terrified were they of losing the secret of man's glory, that they felt obliged to enshrine it in a Mystery, in symbol and ritual, letting its protectors be an elite whose raison d'etre was to guard the Secret, until in the end these men did not feel obliged to respond to the social obligations of the teaching, so that they became immoral and corrupt in the name of the perfect Teacher. These two attitudes are what may be understood as 'religion', they are the forms that bind together (religio) a people in an exploitation that must inevitably lead to tyranny.

Islam is based on the reality and primacy of this Sunna, this self-form of man, that indicates that there is a behaviour pattern for the human species wherever it may exist on earth. It is significant that one of the stumbling blocks to people approaching the experience of Islam is that they feel that it is indigenous to a desert culture, or that it is the desert culture, and therefore does not transfer to other societies. Most ironically, the pseudo-sufis always refer to 'we in the West', as if for cultural reasons we were in some special situation that somehow made us different, and by implication, superior to other peoples. As if the complexity of our social modes and the glutted density of our noun-packed post-scientific vocabulary somehow made us superior or more inaccessible to some 'ancient wisdom'. The Hikmat, the Wisdom, is not culture and does not become culture. Culture is simply the illusory reality you bestow on the dynamic forms of your society's transitory activity and achievement and the shadows of the mental forms you become hypnotised by – culture changes and decays and renews. Islam merely selects and simplifies the cultural situation – sweeping away the worst excrescences of fantasy, such as the burning of widows on their husband's pyres in the decadent phase of Hindu spiritual culture – and purifying the nobler practices – such as the ancient rites of Hajj. The proof of the Sunna as a profound and effective anthropological patterning for man is seen every year at the Hajj where people from the most disparate cultures come together socially and spiritually unified by their adherence in recognisable degree to the vast Sunna of Muhammad, peace be upon him.

The proof of the ignorance of our epoch and the barbarism that is enveloping our society can be found in the modern Muslim state's urgent desire to shelve the whole patterning of the Sunna and reduce Islam to a kind of Party with membership, dependent only on the five ritual prayers and not on the complete inner and outer transformation that takes place as a man begins to absorb the Sunna, and thus open himself to his humanity and to his Khalifdom. It is all the more tragic in the light of the situation of the so-called intellectuals in Western society. Despite the top-heavy structuralist nightmare that collapses on itself, some anthropologists have begun to recognise that there must be what they call a 'canon' of knowledge, that they realise man once had access to and which we have all but lost. It is of course the sufic point of view that we are the canon, for if it were not in us, how could we know it when we saw it outside us. A'isha, the wife of the Messenger, and a Perfect Woman according to the Messenger – Perfect that is in this total metaphysical understanding of what a human creature is – was asked what her husband was like and she replied: 'He was Qur'an walking!' In other words, he was the Book. He was his Book. The two names of the Book, al-Qur'an and al-Furqan, mean the gathering-together and the discrimination. So the complete man is a gathering-together of that whole canon of knowledge that tells man his place in the Universe of stars and also opens him inwardly to Union with the reality of the Cosmos, and at the same time he is a separation, a discrimination in the dual world of nature, of night and day, hot and cold, true and false. This is why in the original and complete science of anthropology, the study of man, it is enough that you study yourself that you understand the total cosmic situation of the species. You are the whole man, but not as you are. Muhammad is the measure of man. He is al-Qautham, the completely perfect man, or as the Sufis call him, al-Insanu'l-Kamil. This is the Station of the one who has achieved the goal, who knows himself. Now in earlier treatises on Sufism it was taken for granted that people accepted the Sunna, but the situation today is such that the Sunna has become a dangerous and quite terrifying possibility, so that the Muslims, whose heritage it is, are at pains to assure you that you don't need to do this and you don't need to do that – a situation which the Messenger himself foretold as preceding the last phase of the human condition:

Al-Miqdam bin Ma'Dikarib said that he heard the Messenger say, peace be upon him: 'I have indeed brought the Qur'an and something like it along with it, yet the time is coming when a man replete on his couch will say: ÒKeep to this Qur'an – what you find in it to be permissible treat as permissible, and what you find in it to be prohibited treat as prohibited.Ó But what Allah's Messenger has prohibited is like what Allah has prohibited.'

It is Sufism that insists on the total picture of a man both outwardly and inwardly in a state of transformation. Once the Muslim denies the inner realities of the states and Stations we will examine shortly, he then does not have to have his own motives examined. Once he has denied the inner reality, he has denied his own and yours, then it is a step to his dismantling the Sunna-pattern that gives flesh and blood to that inner reality. In a short time he is using the language of duality – and then he tells you that it does not matter that you have a beard, that you sit on the ground and sleep on the level surface of the floor, and eat with three fingers from one plate, and greet the stranger and feed the guest, and so it goes on until in the end why should you bow and why should you prostrate and why should you fast, and where is the Garden and where is the Fire, and what is an angel, and what is a Messenger, and what reality has any of the whole business when you live a bourgeois life utterly enclosed in the insane rituals of consumerism and reputation-tokens? It is in the beginning of this process that the sufic tradition insists on the complete social reality of an Islam which never ceases to extol poverty, simplicity, and measure, in behaviour and possessions, and which calls for kindness and good words between men, respect for women, and affection for the young and the old. It is Sufism, as guardian of the Islam of the Companions, that demands a radiant city as the setting for the man of knowledge to experience his gnosis. The Sufi's place is in the community – look at them from the beginning:

Hasan of Basra, may Allah be pleased with him, said: 'I saw seventy comrades who fought at Badr: all of them had woollen garments: and the greatest Siddiq (Khalif Abu Bakr) wore a garment of wool in his detachment from the world.'

Al-Hallaj, the carder: Attar, the scent-merchant: Moulay Abd al-Qadir, whose real glory only began when he came out from retirement to live in Baghdad: these and the whole line of Shaykhs testify to the fact that Sufis lived in the world, worked in the marketplace and the farmyard, because they were the guardians and are the guardians of this picture of man whose complete silhouette and whose luminosity is from the same source, Muhammad, peace be upon him.

Sufi, however, is a word – Muslim is a word – faqir is a word. The essential perspective to hold to is that the inner reality and the outer condition must be One. Whatever came to be known as Sufi was nothing but the condition of the followers of the followers, and before them of the followers, and before them of the Companions of the Messenger himself. What concerns us is a social quality of being whose interiority is gnosis and whose exterior is detachment from the world. The image of man is the image of Muhammad, peace be upon him, and he said: 'My Companions are like the stars. So whichever of them you follow you will be guided.' This Hadith is from 'Umar ibn al-Khattab, Razin transmitted it.

Bukhari and Muslim both transmit a Hadith from Jabir saying on the day of al-Hudaibiyya our numbers were one thousand four hundred, and the Messenger said to us: 'Today you are the best people on the earth.'

There are many Hadith which affirm the fact that the best people, the best community that has ever been on the earth, was the community in Madinah at the time of the Messenger. And it is here that we are obliged to take on something about the nature of Islam, and clarify for ourselves something that is essential to an understanding of Islam and the reality of the sufic phenomenon.

The social achievement of the Messenger, and for the Sufis a social achievement is a total human reality which implies that people were able to realise their inward capacity as well as their human capacities with others, was to create a complete and far-reaching revolution in life-pattern. In an amazingly short time, starting with a small band of people, he built up a highly educated group of people who had all been instructed by him, irradiated by his presence, purified by his practices and guided by his revelations. Completely non-violent, they were a savagely persecuted minority who stubbornly persisted in their practices despite the humiliations and tortures they were subjected to, and their impact began to resonate throughout the whole community. All they were doing, it must be remembered, was rhythmically bowing and prostrating and glorifying the Creator of the Universe and praising Him for the wonder of existence. Socially, they called for an end to the girl-child murder that was an accepted cultural practice, and an end to blood feuds. What was being introduced by the Messenger was his Hikmat, his Wisdom, which he later defined through the use of two terms, jahiliyya and hilm.

Jahiliyya the Messenger saw as the energy force of the unbridled nafs, utterly flamboyant and expressed, ruthless in its infantile determination to experience gratification whether of appetite or violence. This was the natural flow of destructive energy that came from the nafs which saw itself as separate from existence and in conflict with reality. To this basic energy the Messenger taught the acquiring of the truly human faculty, hilm. Hilm can be defined as a state of calm serenity which is not overthrown by anger from within or violence threatening from without. Hilm implies that the nafs has been tamed and is under the subject's control while jahl defines a nafs that is in such urgent flux that the subject is too identified with his action to be able to avoid conflict.

When those who cover up had placed in their hearts arrogance, the arrogance of jahiliyya, then Allah sent down His serenity upon His Messenger and upon the trusting-ones and imposed on them the word of self-restraint, for they were worthy of it and suited to it. And Allah is aware of all things. (Qur'an 48.26)

In the Qur'an, the Messengers Nuh, Hud, and Sayyedina Musa all denounce jahl as being the enemy of reality, and the impulse of violence in man which imposes on him a primary excuse for denying the Unity in the name of his dualistic conflict. Jahl is, therefore, the very stuff of history, of event, of conflict, and by that token, of unreality and covering-up. The awakening of the Messenger's Companions to the tremendous power of hilm within themselves as a social dynamic was, inevitably, a challenge to the existing community of his day, as it remains to the power structures of the world fourteen hundred years after the establishment of his community in the Illuminated City, as he renamed Yathrib when he called it Al-Madinah al-Munawarra. That small group of people who gathered around the Messenger in Makka, with an electric force shook the whole foundation of the tribal society which had survived for so long virtually unaffected by its wars and feuds. What brute force was unable to do, and what cunning and treachery failed to achieve, was to halt the flowering of Wisdom in an apparently ordinary world-oriented society, until within a few years they had become an illuminated and radiant group of people, men, women and children, who taught peace and practised hospitality and generosity as no social group had ever done before or after them in the world's history.

Of his closest Companion, Sayyedina 'Ali, Amir al-Mu'mineen, he said, peace be upon him: 'I am the house of Wisdom and 'Ali is its door.' Of his Companion Abu Dharr he said: 'The sky has not covered and the earth has not carried anyone more truthful than Abu Dharr. He is like 'Isa, son of Mary.' Yet along with the Hadith that praise the Companions of the Messenger are disturbing ones that indicate the trouble that was to come. A trouble utterly inevitable in the light of what the Messenger had brought among people, for the Deen, or transaction, that he called them to not only was one that overthrew the old values and powers, but it was one which had such a dynamic that by its energy they stood to gain a much greater fame and glory than they had known before. So tremendous were the rewards that came to the victorious Muslim forces that they soon found that the obligations of Islam were a hindrance to tasting the fruits of their victory and the old values of jahl which had never completely vanished appeared again with renewed force.

The Messenger was well aware that the light that came from his presence among them was a great restraint on the natural greed and lust for power that man is prone to, and that is why he urged men to respect the Companions and the next generation, the Followers. It must be remembered that Islam is a science that is passed on by existential transmission and not by books and texts. Once the people who embodied hilm were removed from authority and from a place of influence it was all too easy to set up the dynasties of luxury and imperialism which were what Muslim history so rapidly became. He himself, peace be upon him, had this to say about the future generations and Islam:

Abu Burda told on his father's authority that he, meaning the Messenger, raised his head to the sky, which was a common practice of his, and said: 'The stars are a means of safety for the sky, and when the stars depart what the sky has been threatened with will come to it. I am a means of safety for my Companions, and when I depart what my Companions have been threatened with will come to them. My Companions are a means of safety for my people, and when my Companions depart what my people have been threatened with will come to them.' Muslim transmitted it.

'Imran bin Husain reported Allah's Messenger as saying: 'The best of my people are my generation, then their immediate followers, and then their immediate followers. After them there will be people who give testimony without being asked, who will be treacherous and not to be trusted, who will make vows which they do not fulfill, among whom plumpness will appear.'

'Abdallah bin Mughaffal reported Allah's Messenger as saying: 'Fear Allah regarding my Companions. Fear Allah regarding my Companions and do not make them a target after I am gone. He who loves them does so for love of me, and he who hates them does so from hatred of me. He who injures them has injured me and he who injures me has injured Allah, and he who injures Allah will soon be punished by Him.'

Zaid bin Arqam reported Allah's Messenger as saying of Sayyedina 'Ali, Fatima, Hassan and Husain, may Allah be pleased with them: 'I am war to him who makes war on them, and peace to him who makes peace with them.' Tirmidhi transmitted it.

Yet within only twenty-nine years the Gate of Wisdom, the Amir of the Trusting Ones, was stabbed in the back in the mosque in prostration before Allah by a so-called Muslim. Soon after him the Messenger's two grandsons were murdered. Sayyedina Hassan was poisoned and Sayyedina Husain was slaughtered on the field of Kerbala and beheaded in the most horrible massacre that ever blighted the Muslim community. These deaths were known to the Messenger in his lifetime and the Hadiths tell of his weeping for them while they were still children. Abu Dharr, the most noble Companion, was humiliated and beaten and finally sent to an exile's death, also just as the Messenger had told him he would end his days. It is a tragic and sobering picture, and it is useless to start to apportion blame these centuries later, as it is to mourn for them. They died martyrs to Reality and they went from the worst to the best. What is important is that we are prepared to look at the complete picture of these events or as complete a picture as we can piece together. Thousands of the Ansar were slaughtered by so-called Muslims, although the Messenger said of them: 'You are the most beloved people to me.' Again, from the Hadith it is clear that he foresaw their end. Indeed, the most moving aspect of the whole story is the Messenger's recognition of what lay ahead and his acceptance of what was to be. As a Messenger he could not appoint a successor, for there is no succession in Messengership. Islam is not a state concept, it is an organic life-pattern for men in society: once roles are imposed and structures are solidified you return inevitably to the rigid imposition of authority and the dialectical conflicts of history.

During the lifetime of the Messenger, the Munafiqun or the Hypocrites, were a constant threat to the spiritual revolution of Islam. The word derives from the root NFQ which means 'to enter a hole from which there are several ways out'. The inner condition of the munafiq is marked by a split between his outer behaviour and speech and his inner way of experiencing reality. Its nature is such that the munafiq wavers between one possibility of Islam and another, between betrayal and attraction. Nifaq is, itself, the dynamic to split reality, to separate inner and outer – it is nothing less than a sickness, and Qur'an indicates that it is the basic sickness of the human mind, 'marad'. Let us look at the astonishing description of these people in the Qur'an and it will be immediately apparent to us that the munafiq is not just one of those who turned against Islam in the early days of the Madinan community, but that the munafiq is the person who on the threshold of awakening to the true nature of reality takes flight from the unitary nature of existence and makes war in order to distract attention by foreground violence, from the vast detached majesty of peace that is the Cosmic Reality. This marad, this basic illness of the human species, is nothing other than the splitting of the inner and the outer experiencing self, the separation of the subject-mind from the object-body. Fragmentation, once started, continues until the mind itself breaks up and one part of it opposes another and the conflict becomes internalised. 'I did not mean to do it.' 'I was not myself,' is the process that starts with, 'They are other than I,' and 'I am other than the Universe!' Qur'an has made clear that if you kill one man wrongfully you kill the whole of mankind. Here in its entirety is the Surat al-Munafiqun, The Form of the Hypocrites, in the Glorious Qur'an:

In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

When the hypocrites come unto thee (Oh Muhammad) they say: 'We bear witness that you are indeed Allah's Messenger.' And Allah knows that you are indeed His Messenger, and Allah bears witness that the hypocrites are all liars.

They make their trusting a covering so that they may turn from the Way of Allah. Truly evil is that which they have been doing.

That is because they trusted then covered-up, therefore their hearts are sealed so that they understand not.

And when thou seest them their outward forms please thee: and if they speak thou listeneth to what they say.

They are like propped up blocks of wood.

They deem every shout to be against them.

They are the enemy, so beware of them!

Allah confound them. How perverted they are.

And when it is said to them: 'Come! The Messenger of Allah will ask forgiveness for you!' they avert their faces and thou seest them turning away, disdainful.

Whether thou ask forgiveness for them or ask not forgiveness for them, Allah will not forgive them.

Lo! Allah guides not the people who go against the Way [i.e. people who come out from the human transaction, from the root FSQ, meaning 'to emerge from the husk of the datestone'.]

They it is who say: 'Spend not on behalf of those with Allah's Messenger that they may disperse,' – when Allah's are the treasures of the heavens and the earth: but the hypocrites do not understand.

They say: 'Surely if we return to Madinah the mightier will soon drive out the weaker,' – when might belongs to Allah and to His Messenger and to the Trusting-Ones, but the hypocrites do not know.

Oh you who have Trust! Let not your wealth nor your children distract you from remembrance of Allah. Those who do so, they are the losers. And spend of that wherewith we have provided you before death comes to one of you and he says: 'My Lord! If only Thou wouldst reprieve me for a little while, then I would give sadaqa and be among the Salihin.'

But Allah does not reprieve any self when its term comes, and Allah is aware of what you do. (Qur'an 63)

The first thing we discover in the Surat is that the munafiq is a Muslim. He has affirmed the authority of Muhammad, peace be upon him. What follows is the essential affirmation of the oneness of reality by which Qur'an acknowledges that Allah – the Truth – knows who the munafiqin are, but that their affirmation itself is a lie. Thus a discrimination is made between them and the Trusting-Ones, so that the 'Muhammad rasulullah' of the latter is not the same as the 'Muhammad rasulullah' of the former. The next ayat (sign) says that they trusted then covered over reality. At this point they are 'split' in a false way from existence, they are 'cut off' from their own inner nature. The clinical picture builds up: they are pleasing of aspect, therefore they are outwardly sculpted according to the Deen, they are coherent. But then we are told: they are like propped up blocks of wood. This is the key – instead of having that suppleness and transparency of the Trusting-One who is aware of the real nature of the Unseen, they are solidified, opaque, become objects, alienated. They deem every shout to be against them. They are at war with existence, with the other, because of themselves – they cannot get at their own hearts having made this act of splitting inwardly. For the Truth is the other way around. They are the enemy – their own enemy, and the enemy of the basically sane Muslim.

They reject forgiveness with pride because they desire conflict, and therefore their reality is conflict, that is, they are by definition unforgiven by reality. They take as their reality the myth of event and see themselves as the activators of existence. They call on people not to spend their wealth on others, i.e. the Muslims, and they define existence as being a struggle in which the stronger will triumph. This, then, is the nature of human illness, this is neurosis. This is the fantasy structure of life as seen through the eyes of those who have covered up the reality of life on a planet which is a garden and where everyone may be provided for in every way.

Qur'an goes on to affirm that real strength lies in being in harmony with Reality, and therefore the proof of this is that the Messenger, as the perfect exemplar of humanity, is assisted and made strong through his submission. The things that trap man into the neurotic process of nifaq are nothing other than his wealth and his children. It is these that create for him the illusion of a separate kingdom of selfdom if he fails to see them along with the whole cosmic situation as a gift of the Creator to His slave. It is this close-up view of the personal existence as 'belonging' to one that makes for forgetfulness of how-things-are. Such are the people who, when they come to the end of their life-span, try to bargain with existence, and when they do they know that the correct transaction is to give gifts to the needy and to keep the company of the noble pure ones who have knowledge of Reality, that is the Shaykhs and the awliya – the Saliheen. But the transaction is not magical and there is no escaping the organic destiny of one's life pattern. It is here that the legalistic image of a day of judgment is shattered in the light of a quite vivid cosmic reality, which is that the creature is himself a record of his life. The cells of the body are the record of the life.

Qur'an puts it vividly: 'They-are-demonstrated Form':

'Till when they reach it, their ears and their eyes and their skins testify against them as to what they used to do. And they say unto their skins: 'Why testify ye against us?' They say: 'Allah hath given us speech Who giveth speech to all things, and Who created you at first, and unto Whom you are returned.'

Ye did not hide yourselves lest your ears and your eyes and your skins should testify against you but ye deemed that Allah knew not much of what ye did!

That – your thought, which ye did think about your Lord – hath ruined you: and ye find yourselves among the lost. (Qur'an 41.20-23)

It is so clear, the picture. We are our own record. We are our own Book. Our cells do testify against us or for us, depending on how we have treated the body-form that has been loaned to us. Then the Qur'an touches on the particular nature of the ordinary separateness of phenomenal existence from the total Divine Reality. We cannot hide ourselves from ourselves, we are convinced that we have covered up the record – even though we are the record. That is, we think that the Reality does not see what we ourselves are aware of in our split inwardness. It is the thought – the illusion of otherness – that has 'ruined' the lost human creature. That thought is lostness itself. Separation is necessary outwardly, as we have said, according to the science of Wisdom, but joining is necessary inwardly by the same token. In Surat Ya-Sin:

Lo! We it is who bring the dead to life.

We record that which they send before, and their footprints. And all things we have kept in a clear register.

(Qur'an 36.12)

We think because others cannot read us that we cannot be read. The form is nothing other than the meaning. Our form is our record. The cell is the story. As the Shaykh al-Kamil says in his Song 'Withdrawal into the Perception of the Essence':

Truly, created beings are meanings set up in images.

All who grasp this are among the people of discrimination.

Let us now return to our picture of the split Madinah community and the conflicts that tore asunder the first Muslims. Here is the perspective that the Messenger gave of the situation:

Abu 'Ubaida and Mu'adh bin Jabal both reported the Messenger, peace be upon him, as saying: 'This matter began as prophecy and a mercy, then it will become a Khalifate and a mercy, then a tyrannical kingdom, then how much haughtiness, pride and corruption there will be on the earth!' This was transmitted by Baihaqi in 'Shu'ab al'Iman'.

Abd-Allah bin Ma'sud told that the Messenger, peace be upon him, said: 'The mill of Islam will go round till the year 35 or 36 or 37, then if they perish they will have followed the Path of those who perished before them, but if their Deen is maintained for them it will be maintained for them for seventy years.'

He asked if that meant seventy years more or altogether and the Messenger replied that it meant seventy years altogether. This was transmitted by Abu Dawud.

Sayyedina 'Ali, may Allah have mercy on him, said that when Allah's Messenger was asked who should be appointed Commander after he had gone, he replied: 'If you appoint Abu Bakr as Commander you will find him trustworthy, with little desire for worldly goods but eager for the next world: if you appoint 'Umar as Commander you will find him trustworthy and strong, fearing for Allah's sake and no-one's blame. If you appoint 'Ali as Commander – but I cannot see you doing so – you will find him a guide who is rightly guided and who will lead you on the Straight Way.' Ahmad transmitted this.

The bitterness and the distortions that arose from the great initial schism still resonate today among the Muslim community, what is left of it as a functioning reality – but that reality is blurred because of the successful and false crystallisation that both Shi'a and Sunnis achieved in equating Islam with a Muslim State. There is no such thing as an Islamic State in the world today. As I have indicated, the two terms are mutually irreconcilable. If it is Islam, it is not a state, rather it is a community functioning organically according to the Book and the Wisdom, that means Amir and Fuqahah but not a canon Law with a judiciary and a power elite. Police, prisons – although prisoners may be taken in war, that is a temporary situation – banks and standing armies are nothing to do with Islam. They are the stuff of Statism. In Islam, every man is a policeman, the bank of Zakat is emptied annually, every man is a soldier ready and trained to fight in self-defence when necessary. The long history of the Muslim conquest despite the many energies that it brought along in its wake, must not be equated with Islam. Islam is the Book and the Wisdom, and the teaching of it is not by the intake of structured information, it is by the transmission of the behaviour-form from a man who is himself already to an acceptable degree a self-form of the Wisdom. This man – the rajulullah – the man of Allah – is Islam, is the transmission, is the copy of the Muhammadan original self-form.

It is not that the Sunni were wrong, or that the Shi'a were right. For these formations took place over a period of time and did not become defined on the minute, as it were. The dramatisation and mourning for the death of Sayyedina Husain, may Allah have mercy on him, was an innovation, and a solidifying of the nafs through ritualised mourning, and a culture token of the Shi'a counter-society in conflict with the Sunnis. He was a martyr, so properly speaking we can only rejoice for him, that he is assured the fullest life in the Garden. And so it goes on – this and that, until the animosity is revived. It is not necessary to be part of that schismatic thinking at this stage of the business of Islam. On the contrary, we have an opportunity now to detach ourselves and look at the picture as wholly as we can, sifting the evidence without prejudice, fitting together the pieces, the better to understand these extraordinary men, and their moving story.

The reason, however, that this has been brought up is not, as I have said, to start the schismatic energy flowing, but to get to this point where we can see why there is such a thing as Sufism at all! It was this picture of the formation of a new style of expansionist and imperialist State founded on the basic tenets of Islam reduced to a law-pattern and introducing a punitive legal system along with it – that led to the need for the Followers and the Followers of the Followers to redefine what the original picture was. The great Companions had all gone, martyred in battle or murdered by the monarchic Islam of the Umayyads and the Abbasids. This form of man as a completely renewed being, inwardly awake, turned away from the world and worldly obsession, radiant through an awareness of the Unseen Reality, filled with awe of Allah, and sweetness for his brothers, and generosity – above all, with generosity – this form was in imminent danger of being lost forever. Generosity and tolerance – the two things the Messenger most extolled and embodied, had already been swept aside as weaknesses – and somehow somebody had to recover them before it was too late.

It is easy to understand why the Traditionists finally made their collections in despair lest the whole picture of the Sunna got lost. The Qur'an had been gathered and written down as a Book for the same reason – there was the terrible risk that the slaughter would engulf the Muslim as a human record. Yet the books do not create the man. Transmission is from man to man. Even with the Hadiths, while it was a tremendous and scholarly achievement of enormous dimensions calling for both patience and integrity, the living and essential way was and still is one of personal transmission. Still today, for example, at the Qarawwiyin in Fez, the Master of Hadith will instruct you in the exact Hadith and its Isnad or chain, back person by person, to the Messenger himself. You may not transmit them in turn until he is satisfied that you have fulfilled the learning task and yourself been purified to such a stage that you too have absorbed them as he has done. That picture of transmission is the basis of a man's Islam and his inner awakening.

Thus the uncle of Imam Junayd, may Allah be pleased with him, Sari as-Saqati, once asked him as he left the house to what assembly he was going. He replied: 'To the majlis of Harith al-Muhasibi.' His uncle said: 'Good. Accept his learning and his discipline but beware of his speculative reasoning.' Al-Junayd recounts: 'É and as I left I heard Sari say: ÒMay Allah make you a traditionist who is a Sufi and not a Sufi who is a traditionist.Ó Indeed, I studied the Shari'a according to the schools of such masters of Hadith as 'Abu 'Ubayd and Abu Thawr, and later I was taught by Harith al-Muhasabi and Sari ibn Mughallas. That has been the reason for my success, because our knowledge must be controlled by going back to the Qur'an and the Sunna. Whoever has not learned the Qur'an by heart and has not formally studied the Hadith, and has not learned Shari'a before embarking on Sufism, is a man who has no right to lead.'

So right at the beginning of Islam, immediately following the Messenger's death, we see the establishment of a State and along with it the deliberate persecution of the Messenger's Companions and Followers, and worst of all, his own family and grandchildren. With the closest family isolated from the State structure on the one hand, and the coalescing of the ruler's courts with the civic and spiritual courts, the inevitable annexing of the learned men took place. Despite the many Hadiths warning against so-called learned men who served rulers, it became the inevitable result of the State structure:

The Messenger said, peace be upon him: 'As long as the learned men associate not with the rulers, they are the deputies of the Messengers of Allah over His servants, but when they associate with rulers they betray the Messengers. Beware of them and avoid them.'

Of course, just as there were men who succumbed to the flatteries of the Sultans and Khalifs, there were many who stuck steadfastly to their Islam and defied their rulers or were martyred by them and died rather than surrender what they knew to be the Way. What a state-religion had to do was banish the whole concept of Sunna except as an outward aesthetic – a social aesthetic if you like, a deep style. The profound and vital nature of the Sunna was however something else. It was that every action and every thought solidified the experiencing reality of a man and separated him, gave him the illusion of a kind of permanence, removed his awareness that he passed fleetingly through the world, and that things had no lasting value, only the heart's intentions had a reality because they contained the life dynamic of his existence. All the rest was illusion. Man carried nothing with him. He was his own record of his life and after death he had to answer for what he had done in the zone of action called the world.

Aisha reported the Messenger, peace be upon him, as saying: 'The world is the dwelling of him who has no dwelling, and the property of him who has no property.' This has been transmitted by Ahmad and by Baihaqi.

Ibn Ma'sud told that the Messenger slept on a reed mat and got up with the mark of it on his body, so Ibn Ma'sud said, 'Messenger of Allah, I wish you would order us to spread something out for you.' He replied: 'What have I to do with the world? In relation to the world, I am just like a rider who shades himself under a tree, then goes off and leaves it.' This has been transmitted by Ahmad, Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah.

The Messenger said, peace be upon him: 'Every building is a misfortune for its owner except what cannot, except what cannot É' Anas reported it and Abu Dawud transmitted it.

'The son of Adam has a right only to the following: a house in which he lives; a garment with which he covers his private parts; dry bread and water.' This is from 'Uthman and transmitted by Tirmidhi.

Abdallah bin Mughaffal told that a man came to the Messenger and said, 'I love you.' When he had told him to consider what he was saying, and when the man had declared three times, 'I swear by Allah that I love you,' he replied: 'If you are speaking the truth, prepare a complete armoury for poverty, for poverty certainly comes quicker to those who love me than a flood does to its destination.' Tirmidhi transmitted this.

The Messenger said, peace be upon him: 'If you were to trust in Allah genuinely, He would give you provision as He does for the birds which go out hungry in the morning and come back full in the evening.' This was narrated by 'Umar ibn al-Khattab and transmitted by both Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah.

Abu Dharr, may Allah be pleased with him, said: 'I came to the Messenger when he was sitting in the shade of the Ka'ba and when he saw me he said: "By the Lord of the Ka'ba, they are the ones who suffer the greatest loss." I asked, "Who are they, you for whom I would give my father and mother as ransom?" He replied: ÒThose who have the most property – except those who say, 'Take this and this and this,' before them and behind them, on their right and on their left: but they are few!Ó' This was transmitted by Bukhari and Muslim.

Sayyedina 'Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, said in a transmission by Baihaqi, that the Messenger said: 'A time is soon coming to mankind when nothing of Islam but its name will remain and only the written form of the Qur'an will remain. Their mosques will be in fine condition but will be devoid of guidance, their learned men will be the worst people under heaven, corruption coming forth from them and returning among them.'

There is no avoiding the uncomfortable fact – uncomfortable for those who wish to use Islam to buoy up a secular State – that the Messenger came with a message that was a guidance as to how they should prepare for the next world. He came with 'the good news and the warning' in the Qur'an – and both these concerned a man's cosmic place in the two worlds. This is not to say that Islam is the Way of avoiding the human situation, of going off into the hills, although the Messenger makes it quite clear that at the end of the planet Earth's history, the man of the Way will have no option but to leave the barbaric society of the time in order to survive. Indeed, so intense will be the inner agitation of the last days that it will be essential for the Muslim to adopt the most reflective and meditative quietism –

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger, peace be upon him, as saying: 'There will be periods of turbulence in which the one who sits will be better than the one who stands, the one who stands better than the one who walks, and the one who walks better than the one who runs. He who contemplates them will be drawn by them, so he who finds a refuge or shelter should go to it.'

Abu Sa'id reported Allah's Messenger, peace be upon him, as saying: 'A Muslim's best property will soon be his sheep which he will take to the tops of the mountains and the places where the rain falls, fleeing with his Deen [i.e. the Way, the transaction] from civil strife.' Bukhari transmitted this.

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger, peace be upon him, as saying: 'When time is contracted, knowledge will be withdrawn, civil war will appear, meanness will be cast into people's hearts, and harj will be prevalent.' He was asked the meaning of harj and said it meant rioting.

The first Community of Madinah al-Munawarra, the Illuminated City, were men who lived in the world but were not servants of the world, they worked in the city, and on the battlefield they defended themselves. They lived lives of luminous activity, giving and sharing and guiding to Wisdom as no community has ever done since the human race began. Yet among them were those who loathed generosity and praise of the Creator, who scorned lack of reputation and desired return to the Jahiliyya. In the end these men achieved their desire. After the Khalifates of Abu Bakr, 'Umar, and 'Uthman, may Allah be merciful to them, each of whom did his best to maintain the life-pattern of the Sunna in Madinah, came the tragic and final attempt of Sayyedina 'Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, to recover the full social nexus of the Messenger's Sunna, but by that time, in precise fulfilment of the Messenger's prophecy, the Khalifate came to an end, he was martyred, and a kingdom was established. Ibn 'Abbas said: 'There is no one except the Messenger whose knowledge is not sometimes followed and sometimes rejected.' The Companions advised their people, 'Commit to memory as we have committed.' The first Khalif, Abu Bakr, and the Companions disliked the idea of even submitting the Qur'an to paper. Transmission, the direct existential exchange of energy-wisdom, was the Way of Islam. Abu Bakr said, 'How should we do what the Messengers did not do?' The rationalisation was that the Companions had all but been slaughtered and the risk was that there would be no-one to transmit the Message. Yet this is the very anxiety situation that real Islam had come to dispel. The matter was not and could not be in the hands of 'Uthman and the others. It was in the hands of Reality itself. The act of putting it in writing was the first step in the betrayal of the Wisdom-process. It was inevitably followed by the quite unnecessary step of codifying the Hadiths of the Messenger on which the Sunna is built. Now we have all the documents and cannot find the man. We have the books from Allah and we have lost the rijalallah – the men of Allah. He has become the vanishing man – the imperilled creature of our polluted planet – the man of inner luminosity who outwardly is a fountain of generosity and peace and encouragement to others and guidance and strength, the man whose whole behaviour and energy is unified and in harmony with the Divine transaction of existence, the Seen and the Unseen. When Imam Malik compiled the Muwatta – one of the first collections of Hadith to be written down – Ahmad Ibn Hanbal criticised him and said, 'He has originated an innovation (from the Wisdom-practice) by doing what the Companions did not do.' The first books all appeared after the year 120 Hijra after the death of all the Companions and most of the Followers, including Hasan al-Basra, who was the Shaykh of knowledge following the death of Sayyedina 'Ali, may Allah be pleased with them both. Once the process had begun, the Muslim community began to develop a Rabbinical tradition, and it was a matter of time before the thing snowballed into abstract 'theology' and scholasticism appeared and argument and refutation – all of which are merely exaltation of the nafs – so that by the 4th century Hijra, the game element of corrupted teaching had begun. Imam al-Ghazzali, may Allah be pleased with him, says in his great work – which is nothing but a vast and scholarly attempt to have done with scholarship and return to Wisdom: 'The Science of Certainty – 'Ilm al-Yakin (that is, knowing by inner experience) began to disappear and the science of the heart, research into the qualities of the nafs, and the study of the stratagems of Shaytan became rare and unknown.'

He goes on to say that the acts of the Companions were concealed from men and also their learning, so that the Muslims could not get a clear picture of what in fact this vast matter of Islam was about! He goes on, 'At the same time the science of the Other World became forgotten and the difference between knowledge and argument no longer known except to a select few. Thus did the Deen wane during those early centuries: but how about its condition at the present time? [600 A.H.] Things have come to a point where anyone who would dare show his disapproval of the present state of affairs would run the risk of being called insane.'

It is against this changing and increasingly difficult situation that the appearance of what is called Sufism took place. It must also be understood without any doubt that it follows from all that has been said that naming oneself as Sufi or as belonging to an Order is in itself irrelevant – what the reality of the sufic phenomenon is cannot be compromised by evolving and proposing a special 'role' for the sufic brotherhoods. The reason and end of all the practices and all the dhikr and study is the creation of the rijalallah – the men of Allah – following the original picture of the Messenger, as he was described in a Hadith quoted by Imam al-Ghazzali:

In the course of a khutba [Friday address to the people in the Mosque], the Messenger of Allah said: 'Blessed is he whose concern for his own faults keeps him from meddling with the faults of others, lives on money which he obtained without wrong action, associates with the learned and the wise, and shuns the people of evil and wrong action. Blessed is he who humbles himself, whose nature has been refined and whose heart has been altered, and who avoids inflicting harm upon men. Blessed is he who acts in accordance with his knowledge, who gives away the surplus of his substance and who witholds whatever is superfluous when he speaks, who lives within the Shari'a and does not overstep its bounds by introducing innovations.'

The Messenger has said: 'The Deen is behaviour.' The word Deen derives from 'to be indebted' and 'to judge', so that its meaning is the transaction, the debt – between you and your Creator, the judgment – how things are, what must be done – and so the Way itself. Thus, the transaction is behaviour. There is no compromise. The rajulullah is who he is because of the perfection, harmony, and selflessness of his behaviour. It was inevitable that in the culture-forming, fantasy-involved state structures that became known as the Muslim world, such a man would be at different times and in different degrees either endangered and martyred or, and this rarely, honoured and listened to as a guide. Thus there is no history of Sufism, or development of a movement within Islam called Sufism, all that is of the fantasy pattern, just as much as the pottery and the archways and the minarets are so much fantasy and have nothing to do with Islam. It suited the Christian world to admire Islamic art and talk of Islamic culture, but these are simply inventions by Christian intellectuals of a situation that had nevertheless been created by so-called Muslim societies. Islam, however, is not and cannot be equated with any Muslim society. It is a non-reality that is its own reality. No-one owns it and no-one can put it in a book – it is the Way, and the Way must be embodied. It is the Wisdom and the Wisdom is dynamic, a practice, it cannot be encapsulated in formulae or in information retrieval units. The Messenger brought Islam and left it with his people. Where you encounter a true Muslim, you encounter Islam. That's it. No more. The Qur'an itself had to come through the Messenger – a Book did not fall out of the sky. It could not be apprehended unless it came through the form of the man – and later we shall see how the revelation came, and recognise the way in which the whole Book was integrated into the lived experience and reality of the desert Messenger.

The transmission that went from the Messenger to Sayyedina 'Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, was passed on to Hassan of Basra, who is therefore the first of the Shaykhs.

He said: 'Islam is going into the books and the Muslims into the graves.'

In Al-Ghazzali's great work, he recounts this of Shaykh Hassan:

A man said to Hassan: 'Oh Abu Sa'id, how do you fare?' He said: 'Well.' The man then said: 'How is your state?' So Hassan smiled and said: 'You ask me about my state? What do you say about people who have sailed in a ship till they reached mid-ocean and then their ship foundered until each of them clung to a plank of the wreckage – in what state are they?' The man replied: 'In a state of great extremity.' Hassan said: 'É then my state is one of greater extremity than theirs.'

Hassan of Basra transmitted his knowledge to Shaykh Habib al-Ajami. Al-Hujwiri recounts this of the Master:

It is well known among the sufis that when Hassan of Basra fled from Hajjaj, he entered the cell of Habib [fleeing, remember, from 'Muslims']. The soldiers came and said to Habib: 'Have you seen Hassan anywhere?' Habib said: 'Yes.' 'Where is he?' 'He is in my cell.' They went into the cell but saw no-one there. Thinking that Habib was making fun of them, they abused him and called him a liar. He swore that he had spoken the truth. They returned twice and thrice but found no-one and at last departed. Hassan immediately came out and said to Habib: 'I know it was owing to your baraka that Allah did not reveal me to these evil men, but why did you tell them I was there?' Habib replied: 'Oh Master, it was not on account of my baraka that they failed to see you, but through the blessedness of my speaking the truth. Had I told a lie, we both would have been shamed.'

What – we now have to ask and discover – was this fundamental difference that made self-styled Muslim hunt down Muslim? How did State-Islam define itself in such a way that it was not challenged by, nor able to recognise, the nature of the lovers of Allah? State-Islam is, strictly speaking, the Christian heresy of the Church in the protestant sense of a priesthood of believers. It is sustained by an elite of scholars and priests – now called 'ulama and Imams – in accordance with the Jewish Rabbinical heresy. Heresy in this instance being simply a designation of that deviant energy that turns Islam into 'religion', binding-together into a State. The State-Fantasy is in turn dependent on one thing and one thing alone. Not the police and not the army and not the bank – Statism depends on the prevention of the people from seeing the nature of their rulers. Authority has become outer and ceased to be inner, knowledge is informational and an instrument of manipulation, not illuminative and an instrument of liberation. This is the basis of Statism, whether it be called Islamic or any other name. Islam – the Islam of the Messenger – the Sufism of the Sufis – for we are beginning to see that the two are identical in all terms of reference – is based on one premise and one premise alone. Life is a journey towards death, and after death there is the grave, and after the grave the form is restored and its 'meaning' becomes its reality – the life-form which is recorded in the cellular record unfolds and the true form is revealed, and according to the nature of the 'inner' form the self goes on to another form-state where it experiences the garden-serenity of Wisdom or the fire-anguish of imagining one is separate from the totality that is the Divine situation. In the whole journey through the worlds of form, the passage through the world of 'solid' phenomena is but the briefest, and not even the first of the great journey. It is the zone of action – and ALL that matters is what you achieve in terms of an existence demanding mercy and generosity and humility and above all, gratitude – that is to say, centring not on the false-self, but on the existence-form which is all-sustaining and all-giving. The Islam that the desert Messenger brought cannot exist unless you are open to the nature of life as being multi-dimensional and to the nature of phenomena as being basically unreal. There is no avoiding this issue, and it must be understood that what is being said is not some simple doctrine by which it is proposed that this is not here – all this stuff we are surrounded by – of course it is here – but this 'is-ness' is a seeming, this solidity is a veiling. To the people of the Path the senses are not openings onto reality, they are veils from reality. Anyone who thinks that sensory and thought-experience have some kind of total structural factuality are living in a world of basic insanity and deep hallucination which could be shattered by a few easy demonstrations without even recourse to the zone of extra-sensory perception or the sub-atomic world of vanishing forms.

Yet it is precisely on this lie about existence that the State-Fantasy is built, for it is nothing more than a fantasy on a fantasy, the construction of a super-form, the State, built on the foundation of the solid forms of 'money' and 'capital' and military 'power'. Once committed to this first insanity of Statism, there is properly speaking, only one enemy – the one who will, as in the legend, be the child who points out the nudity of the Emperor. Such is the true Muslim, the rajulullah. Call him anything you like – but beware lest you become hoodwinked into denouncing him along with his name. If the name Sufi is anathema, drop it – but recognise the reality. Muslim is a word, not a reality. Look at the man!

Who does he honour – the salih? The pure radiant self who is turned towards Allah?

Or the people of jahil – the Ambassadors, the Ministers, the Presidents?

Does he admire the Kings who drive to the Mosque in their bullet-proof cars with machinegun-armed outriders, or the poor and contented man behind the pillar doing dhikr and guiding to peace and wisdom?

That even today there are such men – there are saliheen – and there are many sincere Muslims who honour and admire them and turn regretfully away from the spectacle of State-Islam – is an overwhelming miracle, and the Hajj is the proof of it. Among the thousands of pilgrims they stand out – the Muslims, shining, radiant, and filled with awe of Allah. Nevertheless, we must look carefully at the picture the world gives us at this time and to help us grasp this view of the true Muslim we must examine briefly four terms that are used in Qur'an to give us our spatial sense in the science of Islam. This spatiality is a dual picture of interpenetrating terms, for the physical reality has superimposed on it a hidden form, or rather the hidden reality has imposed upon it the developed and solidified world-picture. It is very simple.

Samawati – 'Ard.

Here is the double picture of the phenomenal reality. Samawati is the plural of SMA, a root meaning 'to be lofty' or 'on high'. The word for 'name' derives from the same cluster, so that the existence of the phenomenal heaven, the up which gives us down, the high which gives us low, is the basic duality of the whole structural existence – without it there is no universe, no time/space and no need for naming. It is the 'higher' which calls for names, and the lower is the following negative.

It is the spiritual picture of discrimination.

'Ard is the polar opposite – the Earth, and therefore land, country.

Our other duality is:

Dunya – Akhira.

Dunya – is the world as structured fantasy – family and wealth, reputation, money – the culture illusion, the State illusion. It derives from a root meaning 'to be near or low' – like fruit hanging low and near at hand. The meaning then folds subtly into its deeper meaning – 'easier', 'worse', 'viler', as it were, 'more ready to hand'. Dunya, a crucial Qur'anic term, indicates not the beauty of the mountains and the ocean – all that is 'ard, earth, the unreality which is nonetheless reality itself. Dunya is pure illusion, is the accretion and crystallising that the false-self absorbs and annexes around it as its reality-giving setting, justifying the anguish and the struggle and the crimes. It is important to taste the subtlety of this matter that is existence – for the argument of the enemy of Islam is that this is a false asceticism and you are invited to partake of dunya in the name of the Messenger. Yet here is the picture as seen by the Shaykh al-Kamil: 'Dunya is good! Dunya is wonderful!'

In other words, the problem is not that we desire something we should flee from, but that this fantasy-palace can be lived in, as long as you do not imagine it is permanent. The good things of the dunya are there for you – but you must know that while they are the gift of a generous Lord, they are NOT existence itself, they are merely aids to the journey. If the journey is not taken and the aids become the end, then the palace becomes a prison and man is trapped.

That seeming nearness is in fact distance. This is the secret of Shaytan, for Shaytan – the devil – derives from ShTN, meaning 'to be distant'. In other words, Shaytan when he takes form in 'things' makes dunya seem near in order to make Haqq – the Reality – seem distant – while the truth according to the Truth is that, 'He is nearer than the jugular vein.' (50.16) He is that nearness that is the presence of the things themselves. Thus the forms manifest the Reality in all its tremendous immediacy – He is Presence, dunya is essentially an absence. Knowing how to behave in the 'ard/world surrounded by dunya is like knowing not to panic in the shifting landscape of a dream while asleep – and that is a science that must be learned – and the science is Islam, the Islam of our desert Messenger, peace be upon him.

Akhira has no root but indicates 'the last', 'the latter', 'what comes next', 'what is put off until later'. It is this life that opposes dunya, the immediacy or seeming immediacy is followed by another state, a deferred state which later comes showing the true nature of the forms. This seeming distance of akhira is part of our veiling, the immediacy of the akhira is the gift of knowledge, the knowledge that is the property of the Trusting-Ones in Islam. As dunya is recognised, by experience not conceptually, to be of its nature a shadow-show, an effect of consciousness-as-it-starts, then of course the nafs in awakening to the Unseen and the multi-dimensional nature of existence begins to open up, and consciousness-as-it-ends begins to emerge. To the sleeper in the cave of his body/world, dunya is present and akhira is later or not at all – to the awakened, akhira is immediate and all-surrounding, and dunya a vanishing dream.

To return to our political man immersed in his State-fantasy – we are faced with a fascinating situation. The truth of the matter is not that he is dealing with a 'real world' and you are some crank with an illusion about how things are and therefore should be merely rendered socially ineffective so as not to confuse others – the truth is that the political man dare not allow his fantasy structure to be seen in the light of the rajulullah. He can argue dialectically all day, but his world crumbles when he is in the PRESENCE of the man of Allah. For his world is not there, it is dunya, and when he reaches for it there is nothing, and the sheer inner radiance of the rajulullah floods over him and that Light reveals the illusory power-structure to be sheer fantasy, and his achievements mere dreams. The political animal has no inner reality, he is still experientially trapped in his animality, and his animal-nafs will be all that can manifest in any confrontation with the saliheen. The political animal thrives on conflict and violence to distract from the realities of existence – faced with the rajulullah he finally comes face to face not with his fantasies and not with his action-dramas, but with himself. He sees his own paltry form in the mirror, in the clear mirror of the polished and reflective self of the Salih. Most men on being shown a mirror express astonishment, as the saying goes, many flee in terror, a few recognise the reflection. Man is frightened only of himself, he is terrified by his 'thing-ness' – he knows in his own being that Reality is One, and therefore he cannot be 'two'. That fact is the unbearable fact of existence, that illusion of otherness. Faced with the rajulullah, the man of personality/event is horrified because he cannot 'see' him as other and finds himself looking into the mirror at his own reflection, at that which he most fears. The rijalullah cannot be distracted by the false battle and violence in the foreground, they see beyond the shadow-show to the luminous reality. The political man in that situation would see his own nafs reflected in the mirror, but the Salih would see only Reality in all the nafs-mirrors. Thus the man's seeing himself together with the Salih's refusal to see his nafs – for it has no real existence – would produce intolerable anguish – the result of which could only be either surrender to the truth of how-things-are and thus surrender to the Wisdom of the Shaykh, or else to turn on the offending mirror and smash it. This is the battle against Islam, this is the persecution of the awliya – the friends of Allah. 'Abu Bakr 'recognised' the Messenger immediately without hesitation – for all he did was recognise his own nafs as mirrored in the Messenger – for 'Abu Bakr was Muslim, and the Messenger was the 'first of the Muslims'. Abu Lahab rejected him because he was busily engaged in rejecting himself and bringing about his own destruction. Statism makes safe the outer structure and the society collapses from within. Islam makes safe the inner experiencing of reality and the people are not in danger from any source, for they are in harmony with a compassionate reality. Statism means to divide the body politic up – one man a policeman, another a lawyer, another a helpless citizen-worker, inevitably it makes one man a policeman and another a criminal – and civil war is the outcome of Statism as the Messenger warned again and again:

Usama bin Zaid told that the Messenger looked down on one of the fortresses of Madinah and asked: 'Do you see what I see?' When his hearers replied that they did not, he said: 'I see civil wars occurring among your houses like falling rain.' This is transmitted by both Bukhari and Muslim.

Islam means to unify the body politic in harmony, so that every man is a soldier, every man is the bank – through sadaqa and zakat, that is, acts of personal generosity and obligatory self-taxation – every man is a judge, he is his own policeman. It means to Unify and Surrender – to the true nature of existence.

We are now ready to look more closely into the mirror of the nafs, clearly established in a science which does not oppose the Sufis to Muslims to faqirs to anything – but avoiding the names, keeping one's eyes fixed on the actual nature of things, on the behaviour of the human creature, on the courtesy and the humanity and the humility of the man – not on his label. This is the Way that opens up to the person who bows and prostrates with their whole being, body and consciousness – this is the process and the practice that begins the alchemy of the nafs.

One shaykh was asked who his first Master was and he replied: 'A dog.' He told that he had seen a dog desperately thirsty come upon a clear pool of water. When the dog advanced it saw itself clearly reflected in the pool and retreated in fear taking the image to be that of another dog. Again and again he advanced snarling only to retreat in terror at the ferocious image that menaced him, until finally, driven mad with thirst, the dog dived into the pool and the reflected image vanished.

We are now about to approach the science of States.

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