From Darkness to Light

Principles of Sufism



Sufic Haqqu




Sherif Baba




Friday Sermon
Juma Prayer
Chapel Hill, NC

Those who pervert
The Truth in Our Signs
Are not hidden from Us.
Which is better?—he that
Is cast into the Fire,
Or he that comes safe through,
On the Day of Judgement?
Do what ye will:
Verily He seeth (clearly)
All that ye do.

(Quran, Surah Fussilat, 41:40)

In this beautiful aya, we are told about the two ways of coming before Allah. For the externalists, there are those who are brought securely to paradise, and those who are cast into hell fire. Those who come to paradise are brought in ease, with peace and tranquillity, while the path of those thrown into the fire is filled with difficulty upon difficulty. The people of outward meaning ask to be given ease, and to be brought to Allah’s presence through safety and not to be given difficulty. There is no doubt at this level of interpretation, but like a diver we penetrate into the Ocean of Meaning, searching for treasures.

There is also an essential level, insha’Allah, to this aya, as there is to all the ayet of the Quran Sherif, as there is in humanity, the supreme sign of Allah. The externalists talk about those who are brought to safety, and those who are thrown into the fire. At the essential level, we take seriously Allah’s own question: Who is better from among these two?

We need to ask: Who is thrown into the fire? According to the Quran Sherif, it was Ibrahim, Abraham, the Friend of Allah. Allah throws into the fire only those who are His Friends. This is something we are always saying, and we are standing firm on this teaching. The messengers are not just dead individuals from the past, but they represent as archetypes living spiritual realities and faculties within the soul of humanity here and now.

The Ibrahim thrown into the fire was not just the Prophet Ibrahim from the past, but that part of your own spirit which is Halilullah, the Friend of Allah. Before Ibrahim receives the full Message, he is thrown into the fire. Before the Message gushes forth in your heart, before the “deep sigh rising above comes back from the within as a message,” the Ibrahim of your soul is thrown into the fire. Then, and only then, emerges the Message. Ibrahim goes into the fire; a Halil, Friend, emerges. Isa, Jesus, goes into the desert; a Christ emerges. Muhammed goes into the cave; a Resul, Messenger, emerges.

If you happen to be at the station of Ibrahim, being thrown into the fire, Allah is giving you assurance:

We said: O Fire!
Be thou cool,
And (a means of) safety
For Abraham! (Quran 21:69)

Ibrahim goes into the fire and comes out a Friend of Allah and a Messenger. If you are burning, if the fires are sent to cook you, may the outcome also be cool and convey peace to you. And may you emerge a Being bearing the Divine Message.

Hazreti Mevlana says:

The whole of my life can be summed up
in these three short phrases:
I was raw,
then I became cooked.
Now I am on fire!

In this last state, one can even initiate the cooking process of other souls by treating them with good edeb, manners, displaying the mekâr ul-ahlak, the most beautiful of behavior, and above all, by acknowledging within them the Divine beauty and light that even they themselves might not have seen.
There is another difference between the external level and the inward level. The externalists are always repeating this prayer of the Quran: “Our Lord, lay not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear” (2:286). Allah is always giving to people what they ask for. If you ask for safety and ease, then Allah gives you safety and ease. To these people, Allah says, “Come, my servants, come safely through.”

But the people of love have a different prayer. They invoke the Divine through a prayer like that of Hazreti Inayat Khan, “Every soul is given that burden that it can bear.”
Allah knows at what pitch to tune your soul, what fire you need to become cooked. These people of love ask for that fire, longing to be cooked, to be tuned at the highest level, as Hz. Inayat Khan says:

Fire can cook food or burn it,
so is the effect of pain upon the human heart.

We are not just asking fire for the sake of fire, nor just burning for the sake of burning. We are beseeching Allah to cast us into the fire of love, not too much fire, not too little fire, but the highest flame that our souls need, the highest pitch at which it can be tuned, as Hz. Inayat Khan again reminds us, “Spiritual realization is attunement at the highest level.”
We ask to come before Allah not raw. We do not need to be brought in peace or with ease. For those who dare, those who wish to be cast into the fire of ashk, Hz. Inayat Khan says:

all the burden that we can bear. . .
for the highest pitch with which we can be attuned
for the pain to open the heart,
so that it bursts
and the flame coming rises from it,
which becomes our torch.

May all of our souls be given the burden they can bear. May they be pierced with the highest pitch to which they can be attuned. May they be cast into the fire of love, out of which a bearer of the Message can emerge.