A Letter from Shaykha Amina al-Jerrahi
"Whoever makes any effort in Our direction, surely we will guide them."
"In truth God does not alter the state of a soul until this soul does it for itself."
Holy Quran 13:12
"Everything has its entrance and the entrance of adoration is fasting."
Hadith Sherif (noble oral tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, s.a.w.s.)
"The sleep of he who is fasting is adoration before the eyes of Allah."
"Two joys have been prepared for those who realize the prescribed fast: the joy of breaking it and the joy of meeting your Lord."
Dear ones, may Divine Peace be with you,
It is told that the blessed Prophet said to Hadrat-i Aysha, daughter of Abu Bakr Siddiq: "Persist in knocking at the doors of Paradise." To which Aysha responded "And with what should I knock?" "With hunger" he responded. Hunger is emptiness. A heart hungry for God is sufficiently empty of itself to have room for God. Emptiness is transparency. To be empty of oneself is to be transparent to Divine Reality. To be transparent before Divine Reality is to be free of all false reality.
This is the attitude towards fasting, towards the obligatory month of Ramadan, just as also it is the attitude towards the voluntary fast at any other time of the year. This is the attitude of the one who feels attracted to the words of the Beloved of Allah, peace and blessings upon him when he says: "spiritual poverty is my glory." Perhaps for this reason the Prophet enjoyed fasting so much. The one who feels attracted to the reality that pulses in these words is a dervish, a faqir, although he may never have heard these terms in his entire life. Or perhaps one should say: he liked so much to be in the state of fasting because abstinence from eating and drinking is not an isolated act when it is offered to God; it is an entire universe of being, of seeing, and of perceiving existence with the eyes of emptiness, with the eyes free of the great weight that goes by unperceived-the weight of habitual conditioning. The entire weight of a pattern that one has established in order to move and to see, that takes for granted absolutely all of the ingredients of this permanent and incessant unfolding of Divine attributes that is existence.
Hadrat-i Isa (Jesus), Divine Peace be with him, said that there are demons in our interior that can only be overcome by fasting. On the other hand, we have heard that one single tear shed for the love of God is capable of completely extinguishing the flames of hell. And it occurs to me that perhaps the fast, in effect, kills "the demons" that prevent us from crying in the face of so much love. And that they provoke in us the forgetting of a love that is of such a magnitude that in an instant it could blind all the demons of our heart.
Fasting does not take place only in the literal sense. That is to say, the intention is presented and one consumes nothing during a series of hours, but this is not the only level of the fast that the sacred Quran unveils. In the journey brought by the experience of the fast there are multiple levels of the emptying of self and one of them for example, is to resist negative waves of emotion, emptying ourselves of negativity, of harmful thoughts, of obsessive tendencies, of compulsions, of recurrences in our conditioning or of our patterns of habitual conduct.
Fasting is a practice that has been realized now for many centuries, throughout many eras of humanity. It is not something that occurred to someone, nor did it emerge as any one person's brilliant idea. The fast that is offered to God in response to Him, is an adornment of the heart that has been revealed by God in order to draw the souls that love Him near to Himself, because He can´t get any closer, but how 'close' do we really are? The sacred Quran reveals that the fast draws the souls close to God and to the prophet Muhammad, may peace be with him. He said that there is no fragrance more favored by God than the breath of the one who fasts.
Emptying oneself of oneself is an entire, very subtle project; it is not about a set of rules. It is simply to say YES to God, to the divine dynamic.
Without doubt, there is a dimension within us that truly longs to practice an impeccable dedication in relation to the longing for God; this is a part of us that also coexists with another, in reality, much stronger, authentic, innate, and intrinsic part. The other part of us, the temporal and finite part, the one that is identified with the four terrestrial elements: water, fire, air, and earth, is only our transitory I, our vehicle, or what is usually called the ego. The ego has not been created to guide us, but rather to be guided by the divine I-what is only Real. We have to witness in ourselves and in everyone else this divine I; that is what Ramadan is about.
In truth the moment of breaking the fast is one of great blessing and great joy. I believe that in the above hadith, with "the joy of breaking it" the Prophet refers to all situations of joy, of expansion, of fraternity between the spiritual companions of all times in sharing together this moment, this grace, and not the specific act of eating or of drinking. It is an experience that cannot be narrated. I do not pretend to express the inexpressible. For example, Muzaffer Efendi said: There is a Mount Sinai for the one who fasts at the time of breaking his fast-Mount Sinai, where Hazreti Musa (Moses) spoke with Allah-the burning bush. It is like saying: there is a burning bush awaiting us at the moment of ending the fast.
It is also true that every day of the fast is a universe unto itself.
Something peculiar about the fast is that it is an act of adoration that does not give itself away. In truth I clearly see that only the fast that is directed exclusively towards God, that is offered exclusively to Him, has merit, because there is no room for anything, or anyone else within such intimacy. No one sees it, no one knows except for Him.
However, I remember that one time while in Morocco during the month of Ramadan, while traveling through the country-side of Marrakech in a fasting state, a happy Muslim, native to those lands, asked me to open my mouth and to show him my tongue so that he could see if it was sufficiently white enough for the fast. The man could not believe what my traveling companion had said to him. He could not believe that this young foreigner, in jeans and without a veil to cover her head, was indeed fasting in Ramadan. (Perhaps he found out because my traveling companion did not believe it either). And there they had me, an ingenuous pilgrim, without the spiritual maturity or range to dare to let him know with a single look that the fast is a private affair between the human soul and Allah Most High, who is also the Most Near.
Only God knows if my fast is valid before His eyes. The fast is a matter that one must settle exclusively with Him. Of course we can have and should have this kind of exchange and can listen to the experiences of our companions on the path, but we do not need to loose sight of the intimacy that the fast offers to us-the intimacy with God that opens before us. I believe that it is a good moment to clarify this. We are entering upon an especially sacred time. If we present to Allah our intention to fast this day or another, may we always know that it is by His will and with His permission that we have been able to fulfill the fast, and may we not fall into the error of attributing it to our own selves or to anything akin to personal power.
A resistance to breaking with these habitual patterns of our conditioning, of our habitual behavior, is easily detected in us. A sacred tradition always brings one to a place of breaking with these patterns. Maybe it is more notorious within a sacred tradition, or of the practices of a sacred tradition which are not identified as culturally one's own, as is the specific case of this sacred tradition. (Then again, the sacred tradition too can become part of cultural conditioning and of family and social conditioning). But in this case we have the possibility of this virginity, of this freshness before all that the revelation brings, as was also the situation of the original community of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. One of the issues that one can take note of is this resistance that is rooted in the sense of not transgressing the pattern of our habits. For example, if I always bathe with hot water, then to bathe with cold water is to transgress this; if I am accustomed to getting up at 7 a.m. and to having a good breakfast, then to fast is to transgress this conditioning. If I am accustomed to going to bed every day at 9:30 at night, then coming to Zikr on Thursdays is to transgress this conditioning; if I am accustomed to interact sitting in a seat, then coming to sit in this way, on the floor, is to violate this comfort.
We all can recognize, and it does help us to both recognize our conditioning and to violate it and to transgress it, especially in the light of Divine Guidance. What we already know, we do not truly know. One has to return again to knowing it in the light of this part of us that is free and that longs to realize this freedom of spirit in this world and in this body.
Blessed be the voice of divine light in our heart: the true sheik, the true sheikha in the throne of the heart. Dear sisters and brothers, may God open your treasures in this blessed month of Ramadan.