From the field of Patience the field of Striving is generated.
Striving, Jihad, means to fight against one’s ego (nafs), against evil (div), and against the enemy. Allah Most High says, Strive in Allah’s cause as you ought to strive…(22:78).
Striving may occur in three ways: one way is to confront the enemy with the sword, the second is to confront one’s ego by means of wrath (jalil?), and the third way is to confront the evil (or devil) by means of patience.
Those who strive (mujahidan) with the sword are of three groups of people: one group are those who strive and are rewarded for their striving, the second group are those who are exhausted but are forgiven for their exhaustion, and the final group are those who are killed and are considered martyrs.
Those who strive against their ego are of three groups: those who strive and are servants among the righteous servants (abrar) of Allah, then there are those who discover and are supporters (awtad), and finally those who are free and liberated and are among the spiritually transformed apostles (abdal) of Allah.
Those who fight against the devil are of three groups of people: one group are those who continuously seek knowledge and are among the near to Allah (muqaribun), then those who are obedient and thus are considered sincere ones (sidiqun), and then there are those who are pious and thus considered the friends of Allah (awliya).
The first group refers to those who are called to take up arms in the defense of their country or their people or their family. It is good to see that the exhausted ones, meaning those who are elderly or sick or too weak or poor or too young or who have already expended their life energy in battle, are excused. This exoneration came already in the Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime when the revelation spoke of those members of the ummat who wanted to go into battle with him but could not because they could not afford the mounts or because they were ill or elderly. “There is no blame on those who are infirm, or ill, or who find no resources to spend… “ (9:91) It mentions the tears of those who were turned back because the Prophet had no mounts for them. “And when thou said, ‘I can find no mounts for you,’ they turned back their eyes streaming with tears’…(9:92)
The second group refers to those who struggle against their limited self, which struggle the Prophet Muhammad, saws, called the ‘greater jihad’. Shaykh Ansari, ra, has linked degrees of struggle with degrees of spiritual stations, thus implying that the more we engage in spiritual struggle the more we attain to spiritual stations. (Of course there are limits and exceptions to this teaching, as there are limits and exceptions to all principles.) The spiritual stations or groups constitute the ‘spiritual government’ of Allah which manifests in every generation. Just as there is a temporal earthly government there is also a spiritual one, and this is the government that actually exercises authority in conducting earthly events. For instance, Muzaffer Effendi, ra, shared with us that the President of the United States is chosen by the group of ten spiritual saints called the Abdal! It might be surprising to us but this is in keeping with the structure of creation by which everything on earth is issuing from something more essential, like a flower coming from a seed. The friends of Allah are the seeds, or we can also call them the keys. “To Him belong the keys of the heavens and the earth...” (Zimar, 39:63) Allah has many friends and there is great diversity among them. The names of some of them are mentioned by Ansari in this Field but we will not go into them here. If you are interested in pursuing knowledge of the categories of friends you can consult a mind opening book by Michel Chodkiewicz called, The Seal of the Saints.
The third group is made of those whose struggle is directly against the forces of evil. This obviously requires a great maturity and spiritual strength that is not given to many. And yet, every time someone struggles against the negative tendencies in their soul they are also combatting the forces of negation.
The main lesson for us is that we should be aware to continue struggling, ‘with our possessions and our selves,’ so that we can be included among the friends of Allah. As we pray with our Pir in the Evening Wird, “O Allah please include us among those whom You call Your friends!” This is where intention connects to struggle. For making and holding a good intention for our self and for others is also a form of struggle… easier than the outer struggle.
On a physical level we struggle both against the forces of apathy and against the forces of excessive desire. On the spiritual level we struggle to remember our Lord. As dervishes we struggle to offer our tasbih and Salat. We struggle to remain in a continuous state of ablution. We struggle to be kind even when we do not feel well. We transmute forgetfulness into gratitude. We transmute fear into trust. We transmute ignorance and confusion into clear knowing. We transmute anger into forgiveness. We transmute despair into hope. We struggle to uphold the middle way, the midpoint, the way of the heart. Everything on earth is struggle, jihad.
“O humanity you are struggling toward your Lord, painfully toiling, and you will meet Him/Her.” - 84:6
This makes us think of the fish who struggle upstream expending the last reserves of their life’s energies to return to their place of origin. How touching. How like them we are, how like us they are. Even the autonomic body system struggles, although we do not attend to it. The heart beats, the lungs breathe, the eyes blink, the blood flows – all struggle to keep us alive so we can be in the blessed struggle of life on earth manifesting the qualities of our Lord and Beloved.
What keeps us struggling? What is the motivation and force behind such an intense jihad as life, and particularly a life of the spirit? What keeps turning our consciousness and moving our bodies?
Love. Only Love can call us back on this immense journey. Only Love can keep us breathing and sighing and panting and striving through days and nights and cold and heat and illness and wellness and heartbreak and joy and success and failure. Love alone has the power to keep us on this journey and on this path. Allah’s Love. Allah’s love. Allah’s love. And our love, our love, our love. Love is the Mother, the Matrix from which we came. As the Prophet cried, “The Mother, the Mother, the Mother.”
O Beloved increase Your love upon us and increase our love to You! So that we may engage even more beautifully and ardently in the life of spiritual struggle. For ultimately the spiritual struggle is our love-making with You, like the struggling motions of lovers in love’s embrace, like the fish in the water.