Gateways to Enlightenment¶
These talks cover modern approaches for moving from information to transformation; broken down for ease of understanding into four gateways of enlightenment.
The first of these doors is hij'ra: to cut off, cut back, or leave behind. This cutting or leaving occurs at numerous levels. It includes physically moving, but the inner meaning is to do with departing from the movements and activity of the mind. This means abandoning your general mental habits and thoughts and turning away from your personal tendencies and attachments. Hij'ra is, in fact, a perpetual process. Fears, habits, and attachment to situations always occur and remain whilst living in this world.
The dynamics of hij'ra are further elaborated as an essential inner quality that appears as outward action. By selecting and discussing a few specific verses from the Qur’an, Shaykh Fadhlalla describes an updated and user-friendly map for moving away from the lower self and recognizing the higher that is always-already there, within you. Select Qur’anic beams are relayed in concordance with different aspects and subtleties of ‘turning away’. Ultimately, Allah or Supreme Consciousness is not subject to distance, or time. Inner stability is borne by the recognition of change and difference, from which we must make hij'ra, using a reference for our journey ever-present, constant, Oneness.
The second in this series of talks begins with a short overview of the previous gateway: hij'ra – departure, severance from that which is not conducive. There are many stages and degrees of departure and turning away along the arc of human evolvement. It is not sufficient just to depart from one's bad habits, we must also act well in this world and so arrive at the second gateway: right intention (niyyah). Like hij'ra, niyyah occurs at numerous different levels along the path of true transformation. All of us end up in our ultimate destiny according to our niyyah.
The Prophetic profile is presented as a model of complete harmony in intention, action and character - a living tablet of the revealed knowledges. We may improve our intention through practicing discrimination, remembrance, watchfulness and accountability. Prophetic lore, Sufi traditions and Qur’anic verses related to each of these aspects are described so as to present the fine edges of total self-awareness and inner accountability in which these qualities serve as the keys to true abandonment and thus the birth of a steady state of wholesomeness and inner expansiveness.
Purified intention breeds courage, honesty and the sincere living experience of la ilaha illallah.
“Let go, because you don’t have it! Let go of what? Of life. Who gave you this life? Practice it now and you’ll be amazed that you are the guest of the Creator. Why not now? Why not every day, every instant? Practice it.”
The first two talks in this series cover the complementary opposites which serve as the foundation of creation and the dualities all human beings encounter in the journey of transformation. First is to avoid evil, that which retards development and enlightenment. We make hij'ra from that which is unacceptable. In doing so, one becomes conscious of niyyah, or ‘intention’, and can learn to use this such that action is constantly directed in the highest possible direction, at numerous different levels.
Having departed from that which is not conducive and brought goodness and wholesomeness into awareness, the traveler arrives at a dangerous interspace which must be navigated with care. The third gateway to enlightenment is refinement of one’s thoughts and actions; which operates in tandem with watchfulness and witnessing. Life is a process. All of life is a work in progress and there is no end to striving. The gateway of refinement requires attention, vigilance and diligence so that one becomes rooted in higher wisdom. There are numerous important references and subtle indications presented in this discourse via Qur’anic verses and the prophetic teachings relevant to this stage of development: commitment, access to the zone of durable joy, constant watchfulness of the lower self, and an appreciation of the meaning of guidance are the essential themes. The necessity for constant accountability, right references and companionship is emphasized until it is discovered that guidance, authority, and light come from within the purified heart.
“Allah’s guidance comes from Allah according to the purification of your heart. You have made your hijra. You are constantly accountable. You are performing the best you can. You are beginning to taste happiness and joy for itself and by itself, not as a passing pleasure. It is just here. This is not about a pleasing-but-passing state: it is about developing a permanent station, secured by truth and faith in what is.”
“You accept worldly challenges and deny nothing, but you are constantly referring them to the zone of Oneness, to the light in your heart. Here, human tragedies become comedies. You will not have higher humor until you refer it to the One. Then it is no longer success and failure, but perpetual victory by reference to the Ever-Victorious.”
The final talk in the series presents the Gateway of ihsan- the station of contentment or excellence, otherwise known as makam al’ihsan. The previous three talks emphasized the modes and means of completing humanity, or how to perfect the science of acceptance and willful surrender: being completely in Islam. This process evolves into the refinement of awareness, perception and watchfulness, perfecting Iman: faith and trust in the totality and the Unicity of reality.
It culminates in Ihsan: the threshold of being. The key themes explored in this talk are the nature of selfless service and its parameters; perfected resonance with truth; the meaning of refined watchfulness; and total instantaneous accountability. Arriving at this gate means you have done all that you can, and continue to strive to your utmost. The dawning of self-knowledge - the station of ma’arifa - is also discussed, leading into a brief presentation on the levels of unity and the dynamics of living in full consciousness, coupled with living awareness.
In this state, one witnesses the perfection of truth encompassing and within all states and experiences. Various Qur’anic verses reflecting different aspects of the states and stages surrounding this station are discussed as the motive force required to reach this gate. The meaning of the completed person and some of the key driving forces of human life are discussed through the vista and lens of excellence, with reference to the Prophetic profile. Shaykh Fadhlalla shares several fundamental keys to constancy, unfolding awareness and resonance with Essence, coupled with the appropriate general indications, warnings and guides.
“To go into the ultimate mi’raj, flying beyond limits, you have to put your face into dust, and die. Look at the miracle of Creation! Everywhere you turn, there is the Face of Allah. What do you see that is not perfect? As The Prophet (pbuh) said, “When you can see your affliction as a gift, you are entering into the boundlessness of ihsan.”