Ocean of Being

You turned and pointed, and when I looked in the direction You were indicating I saw a vast horizon of which I was unaware before. We stood at a great height and from here the distant sea was visible with its sparkling reflections of light. On the shoreline I discerned a boat waiting to set sail. You waved your hand towards the boat, becoming impatient with my reluctance to leave. Finally I began the descent to the shore but as soon as I had taken a few steps the brambles and rocks around the mountain gathered force against me and I slipped and became entangled in their relentless power of impediment. Covered in scratches and bruises I stood once again and continued in my effort to reach that waiting vessel. Gradually a path became evident and the brambles no longer held me back and I climbed right over the rocks until I reached the shore.

The ship floats on the surface of the water, content in the gentle rocking of the waves. I board the navigator of the ocean of being and discover it is You who are the sea, and its vastness, and the lands beyond.

Reading the Signs of God

Ship on the Mediterranean by I. Chatterjee

I live high in the Alpujarran mountains of Andalucia in Spain and the views across the mountains to the Mediterranean are stunning and give a great deal to reflect upon. The entire universe, including ourselves, is a great book filled with the signs of God waiting to be read. At this time of year, after the intense heat of summer, the weather is beginning to change. A pleasant drop in temperature, cooler breezes, a subtle change in the quality of the light are all harbingers of the coming Autumn and as I walk above the village and look out to sea I am reminded of the importance of rhythm in our lives and its connection with time.

From the beating of our hearts and the breathing of our lungs rhythm is an essential partner in the passing of time and the two link arms and appear throughout the natural and biological world and also manifest in cultural, religious, and social scenarios. If rhythm is honoured then the result can be a creative unfolding of divine surprises and moments of grace that reveal the true humanity of an individual. It is these divine surprises and blessings that suggest to me the melodies, keys, and chords for which rhythm builds the framework.
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Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani on the Elements

While reading Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani’s ‘The Secret of Secrets’ (translated by Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi al-Halveti) I came across the following ayat (verses) from the Qur’an which he introduces like this:

“Two of the four elements are earth and water, which are responsible for the growth of faith and of knowledge, give life to the living and appear in the heart as humbleness, for earth is humble. The other two elements are fire and ether. They are the opposites of earth and water. They burn, destroy, kill. It is the Divine that unites these opposites in one being. How do water and fire coexist? How are light and darkness contained within the clouds?

It is He Who shows you lightning, causing both fear and hope; it is He Who raises up the clouds heavy with rain.

Nay, thunder repeats His praises, and so do the angels, with awe. He flings the loud-voiced thunderbolts and therewith strikes whomsoever He will … (Sura Ra’d 12, 13)

The Shaykh goes on to speak of the union of opposites and how the human becomes a mirror reflecting the Divine Names, or Attributes. Of all creatures the human being is the only one that reflects all the Attributes. Traditionally these are seen as Jamal (Beautiful) and Jalal (Powerful). The Shaykh goes on to say, “Man contains the whole universe in his being: that is why he is called the unifier of multiplicity, the macrocosm.”

When experiencing a storm like the one I posted about yesterday, there is the experience of the Power and Might of God in the roar of thunder as the electric tension cracks through the air causing the lightning and a sonic shock wave as the surrounding air expands. Then comes the rain, beautiful, welcome, and full of blessings for the soil. The loud and magisterial followed by the musical and the nourishing. Yet even within the former there is great beauty and in the latter the power to destroy through flooding.

Observing the elements provides so many lessons on the Names of God and how their ‘energy’ works within creation and within ourselves.

Thunderous Outburst

I thought I had finished here for today but I just had to come back again and let you know that it’s raining. In this very dry and hot landscape we love water and never take it for granted. After finishing the last post I went out to take the rubbish to the bins at the bottom of the road/track. As I walked through the night the entire landscape was suddenly lit up over and over by sheet lightning. I was delighted as the rumble of thunder crossed the skies shortly after the lightning. But was it going to rain? Sometimes we get the special effects without the water as it passes over very fast. I felt one drop, then another. Finally, Alhamdulillah, as I was walking back heaven let loose its blessings. Immediately I think of Hazrat Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani and his words on the elements in The Secret of Secrets. More about that tomorrow I have to hurry before the electricity cuts out …

Herbs Against Flying Insects and a Writer’s Worst Injury

There are plenty of insects flying through the air at this time of year but the locals have an intriguing custom to keep them away. A sprig of small leaved herbs is hung over one ear. It looks like young marjoram and wilts very quickly giving the wearer something of a rakish look. Strangely it is only the men who follow this custom.

It isn’t the insects that are worrying me right now though but an injury to my right thumb (I am right-handed). I cut myself quite deeply on glass. The wound is small but deep and is now dressed and bound. Inshallah, it should be better in about three days but at present I am typing very slowly. One advantage is that I get a break from washing the dishes!

Translation and the Power of Words

Spain Ronda by 115
Today the heat has been hard to bear. The usual breeze that brings some refreshment didn’t arrive today and even now as the call for Maghrib prayer is about to sound from my laptop it is hot and humid. The sky over the Mediterranean is pink and blue and the swallows of the village are returning to their nests under the church eaves. As they settle down for the night I continue writing. I have had a good writing day today. I completed some translation work this afternoon and wanted to press on with an article that needs to be finished tonight.

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