God said that He sent prophets and saints as a mercy for human beings. He did not say, “I sent saints and prophets for men,” or, “I sent saints and prophets for women.” That is why you can find among the saints both men and women. There are women who are considered saints and there are men who are considered saints. In God’s Eyes there is no discrimination. Everyone is equal. Each human being has a light in his or her heart. That is the light of sainthood.
God has created us with love. When we who have children see them do something harmful, we try to correct them. We try to correct them. We do not even beat them. That is not allowed. We only try to correct them, and tell them, “This is right, That is wrong.” Many people nowadays say “God created human beings for punishment. ” Why do they say this, but they never say that God created human beings to be sent to His Mercy? They demonstrate a cruel side of human nature. God is Merciful, God is Love, God is Light. He created us with His Mercy and Love. Why do we not use that love and mercy which God has given us, that love and mercy for which we were created? Why do we not use it to reach out to others?
If a woman loves a man or if a man loves a woman, you will always find one at the door of the other. Both desire to reach their beloved. Not for one second do they wish to be left without some connection to their beloved. When two persons love each other, they are always together.
What about God who put that love in our hearts in the first place; who possesses all love; who in fact, has Oceans of Love? Do you not think that He loves you? He loves everyone! All that love which God has placed in our hearts, the love which brings us together, which causes us to live together as couples, belongs to Him. It is all in His Hands. He holds all of it, completely, in His Hands. What about Him? Does He not love the servant whom He created with His own Hands? Why do we not use that love and go to Him? Why do we not reach for those secrets our Lord has planted in our hearts?
We are reflections just as everything here, in this mortal life, is a reflection. We are mere imitations of our ultimate realities. Our ultimate realities, however, are in the Presence of our Lord. In this respect, do not think that you are ever away from your Lord. In this life, we are only reflections. It is just as when you look into a mirror and see images. But where are the realities? Our real selves are in the Presence of our Lord. There we exist ing a real fashion. Here, we do not really exist. Here, we are only imitating true existence. When do we truly exist? We truly exist when our images coincide with our realities.
A person may never have children. That person may love someone who is unrelated to him or her. Because of that love, he might make that non-relation heir to everything that he owns. This comes from love. God loves us. He created us. He gives us everything. Why do we not take what He gives and use it? Instead, people refuse those gifts. That is why He sent prophets and messengers, and after them, saints, masters of this universe. There are 124,000 saints on earth, continuously moving here and there to look into people’s hearts; to bring them back to God.
The aim of the saints is to take you to your real self. That is why they speak and write books. They try to teach you in order to reach out to you. When a saint says something, you cannot help but see it, smell it, feel it. This is the power of the saints. It is not the power of asaint that you take his book and read it. When you read, you do not feel, you do not see, you are only reading. You must receive power directly from his heart, not from words written in books. And the power of saints is communicated to the hearts of their followers. If a group of people follow a saint, you see them united. But when you observe people who do not follow saints, who read books by themselves and do not take a guide, you will find them apart. The power of a saint is always felt by his followers.
My shaykh once said, “Saints are like the circumference of a circle. There are so many points-millions and billions, countless–on that circumference. No one can count them. Yet the center is but a single point. In the center you cannot have many points. You have only one point. Each saint receives light, receives power from that point. The radii extend to every point on the circumference. The distance from that center to each point on the circumference is the same. It might be this saint here or that saint there. One saint receives from the center. Another saint takes from the center also. All of them on the circumference are brothers and sisters. There is no difference between them. When they reach this level, each knows and recognizes the other. But outside this level, they do not know each other.
That is why 124,000 great saints know each other, all of them swimming in the same orbit. This is the meaning of the verse, “Everyone is swimming in his orbit” [36:40]. Saints, exalted saints, swim in one orbit, the orbit of the 124,000 saints. They receive from the center, which is also the Center of everything, God Almighty. Therefore, if you are holding the hand of any saint, it is as if you are holding the hand of each one of them. And when you reach one of them, it is as if you had reached them all. The light which belongs to all of them will be bestowed on you and illumine your hearts.
Our masters, all masters, try to send that light to our hearts, but we are sunken into the life of this material world. Consider this example. As we know, if a person has a television, even one with an antenna, there may be interference from the outside. The picture received is hazy or distorted. Similarly, if interference from this material world enters our heart, how will our image of Reality not be distorted? For some people, the picture is clear. For some, the picture is hazy. But whether our image is clear or distorted depends on our receiver.
All spiritual masters try to reach us with their light, the power that God gave to each of them. Our master is reaching out to us with Divine Power and your master reaching out to you with the power that God gave him. The problem is that we are not using that power. If we did, we would find ourselves floating in the same orbit as our master. There cannot be different orbits. You are pointing to God. We are pointing to God. She is pointing to God. He is pointing to God. That one is pointing to God. Why then are we different? We are not different. Egos are different. Reality itself can never be different.
Spirituality is the same for all. It is from God. If God had made different spiritualities, He would have been discriminating. Then there would be no justice on this earth. If He had made my spiritual nature different from your spiritual nature or her spiritual nature, then there would be discrimination. That is why spirits are never different from each other. That is also why God has said, “We have made you nations and tribes in order that you will know each other” [49:13]. When we know each other, we will swim in that ocean of love. If we harbor hatred and enmity in ourselves, how will we get to know each other? We will then be going against what the Prophet (s) has said, “Spirits are marshaled soldiers countless in number. When they come together, they know they come from the same origin.” 1
Spiritually we have the same origin. But our ego is trying to destroy us. Each person’s ego makes him believe that he is the only one who should be recognized, who should be famous, the only one who has the truth, the only one who should have wealth and own cars, the only one to whom everyone should listen. This is wrong.
We have only to heed our spirit. It tells us that we can listen to a child and receive wisdom. We can listen to a boy, a girl, a teenager or an elderly person and receive wisdom. We should not reject anyone! If we listen to the inspirations of the spirit, one can take wisdom from everything. If we listen to the voice of the ego, we will have nothing except hatred, pride, and enmity.
Once a very famous oricame to grandshaykh Abd Allah Daghestani in Damascus and said, “O my master, I come to you after studying the Psalms, the Torah, the Bible, and the Holy Quran. I have studied all kinds of philosophy, all the religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, everything. But still I feel nothing in my heart. I feel no satisfaction in my heart. On the contrary, it is as if I were standing on a cliff about to fall. I have become so shaky that I go from one center to another, seeking what is Real, trying to find Reality. Where can I reach that Reality and gain satisfaction in my heart ? Where can I find my Lord? Finally, I have come to you. After you, I am not going to go anywhere. I have been everywhere. I have asked famous philosophers, orientalists, people whom I considered saints. I have read everything I could. Yet when I asked any scholar a question, they gave me an answer I already knew. They did not give me anything new. I am confused. I heard your name and I have come to you. Will you give me an answer to my question? Whatever you say, I will follow and believe. But if you do not give me an answer, I shall remain as I am-confused and uncertain for the rest of my life.”
Grandshaykh said, “My son, if you take the seed of an apple or any fruit and leave it there to dry for hundreds of years, it will remain dry. But if you take that seed, put it in a field, plant it, and then come back after one month, you will find that it has sprouted from the earth as a green shoot. If you dig into the earth to try to find that seed, you will not find it. It has vanished. Something new is there. If you continue to water that plant, it will grow into a tree and that tree will give fruit. But where is the original seed? It has disappeared. The original seed is no longer there. That seed has become a large tree now loaded with fruit. Similarly, if you take an egg and put it under a chicken for a certain number of days, after those exact number of days have passed, that egg disappears and a new chick comes forth. Something new comes into being. If you look under the chicken you will no longer find the egg there. The egg has vanished. It lay a certain number of days under that chicken. Then it emerges as a new generation. Something similar happens with a human fetus when it is in its mother’s womb for about nine months and ten days, without connection to anything outside, alone. Yet after those nine months and ten days of loneliness, it will come forth a new generation, a new creation.
“My son, in each of these three examples I have given you there was something that went into seclusion. The seed cut itself off from the material world above the ground and went into seclusion for thirty or forty or fifty days. Then a new plant emerged. The egg went into seclusion under its mother with no connection to material life outside its shell and came forth as a new generation. The sperm went into seclusion in the mother’s womb for nine months, without connection to the external world of this material life. After this seclusion, it emerged a new generation.
“My son, if you do not enter into seclusion, if you do not say to yourself, just as a seed says to itself, ‘I want to cut myself off from the materialistic life of this world and vanish from it for the love of God and for the benefit of creation-for the seed begets fruit-if you do not experience a retreat like this, if you do not cut yourself off from material life, forsake your ego in complete sacrifice and vanish into nothingness to exist only in God, you will never find your ultimate reality, your true self. You will never be like that tree that bears fruit for everyone to eat. If you will not to be like that egg and sever yourself from materialism, retreating into the shell of seclusion, existing only in the Presence of your Lord, meditating, concentrating on Him, worshipping Him, and keeping His Presence always in your heart, you will never find that happiness and satisfaction you seek.
Why must you imitate that sperm that enters into seclusion for nine months ? It is because the mother’s womb consists of three layers. This was mentioned fourteen hundred years ago in the Quran [39:6]2 at a time when no microscopes existed. The Prophet (s) also said that the womb of a mother is made up of ‘darknesses’, that is, layers. Hence, if you do not enter into this loneliness, severing your bond to everything external, cutting yourself off from the material things of this world to be alone with your Lord, and thus make connection to your Ultimate Reality by fitting that image you wear here to its original there in the Divine Presence, you will never know satisfaction no matter how many books you may read. For when you read, you only ‘hear’ the books. The knowledge they contain is only ‘heard of’ knowledge’. It is not real. Yet in seclusion, you not only hear, but you feel. You not only see, but you smell. It is then that the eyes of the heart open. My son, if you do not enter into seclusion, your heart will never feel the contentment you have been seeking for so long.”
Immediately, the scholar said, “You have given me the answer I needed. My heart is open. Show me the way.” Grandshaykh gave him permission to enter into seclusion in a certain place, cutting himself off from everything. The scholar entered that place an ordinary man. After one year, he emerged a saint.
All saints now are waiting for some great changes to take place. The ones who have passed away knew that soon a great event will occur on this earth. Now, those saints who are still alive await those events which signal the golden age before us. We pray that our Lord grant us life so that we may witness those events. Everyone will see the saints all together at that time. It will be the happiest time to ever come to this earth. You will find no more hatred and enmity. Saints will come together. People will follow them. This will last for a period of forty years. After that forty years, another period of decline will set in and the end of this world will be upon us.
We are ordered to be humble. We are ordered to respect everyone without discrimination. We keep everyone high in our regard. If we do not keep them high, God will never keep us high in His regard. We have to respect and value everyone. Once, Abu Yazid al-Bistami, one of the greatest saints of old, was approaching the door of his Lord, the Divine Presence, with the power of his heart. As soon as he reached that door to the Divine Presence, he said, “O my Lord, please open the door and let me see You.” The answer came, “O Abu Yazid, you cannot see Me. It is an easy thing to approach that door, but it is not easy for the door of my Divine Presence to open for you. It has a price.” Abu Yazid replied, “O my Lord, what is the price? I am willing to sacrifice even my life for it. Just let me come to you.” God said, “O Abu Yazid, My price is that you have to go back and be a dump, a place for My servants to throw their garbage.”
This meant, ‘carry their burdens’. You must carry people’s burdens, making no discrimination between people. All of us are human beings. If you accept this fact and you go and become a carrier of people’s burdens, God said, “Then will I open My Divine Presence to you.” Abu Yazid al-Bistami went back and for seven years tried to carry people’s burdens by taking their sins upon his shoulders. He came to his Lord and prayed,
“O my Lord, I come to you. Whatever You will to do with me, do! As for others, leave them in peace. If You Will punishment, let me alone receive Your punishment. Let everyone else go free. I shall take their punishment on myself. O my Lord ! Make my body as wide as hell is wide and as high as hell is high that I might enter that space and completely fill it so that no one else can get in.”
All this is for the love of God. If you love your Lord, you love His servants. What good is it if I love my Lord or if I love my master only, my shaykh, and I do not love his followers? It is not true love. True love is loving both your master and his followers. This is the true love that we understand. If you love your Lord with a true love, you must love everyone, all humanbeings without discrimination. But where is such love to be found on this earth? Only with saintly people and followers of saints. Only with them does this frame of mind exist. Outside this saintly circle, everyone fights each other in enmity and hatred. For that reason, wherever you go, you must be messengers of peace, love and respect.
Thank you for your attention and thank you for your visit.
Question: I heard this quote perhaps ten years ago, “Our shadows are our spirits.”
Shaykh Hisham: It is true. But when? When you have that connection. Look in the mirror. You see your reflection. It is an image of yourself. If there is sun, you see your shadow. If we can see the shadow, we know that there is an origin, a body, a shape, or else that shadow would never appear. Now the shadow is an indication of the spirit-our shadows signify our spirits. Our spirits are always in the Divine Presence. Our shadows are here, on this earth. When we are able to make that connection, we find our path. That is why saints come-to show us our path. When we find our path, we can see our spirit there-through our ‘shadow’. Then we establish that connection. And when you have established that connection, at that time, the reality of ‘our shadows are our spirits’ will appear to us. Only at that time is there no separation. Then they are together.
Al-Junayd was one of the greatest saints. In every twenty-four hour period he was in the Presence of his Lord in every moment. He was never separate. He always received, received from Him day and night. All saints are that way. That is why I gave you the example of the circumference and the center. They receive. No point of the circumference is off center at any time. At every moment, they are equidistant, taking from the center. This is a geometric fact, a truth of mathematics. We hope to be like Junayd-to imitate him. We cannot be like him. He had a very high station. But we ask our Lord through Junayd to reach even that height. We must use all means necessary to come to our Lord.
Question: When you talk about withdrawing into seclusion every day, should I understand people coming together for their own practice or worship-or one person alone? Are there two different types of seclusion?
Shaykh Hisham: They are two different types. Collective retreat is also a kind of seclusion. When people come together to observe their spiritual practices, it is considered a seclusion. When they keep what their master ordered them to practice they sit together. This is seclusion. But the higher level is to be alone, to separate oneself from everything and everyone. When you sit with people around you, you may be disturbed. If you are sitting in this hall and a person comes inside to join you, it will be a disturb your heart. But when you are sitting alone, however, with the door closed, no one will disturb you. Nothing is between you and your Lord. This is done for a period of time-not forever. That seclusion is for a specific period of time, to train you. When you sever your connections with the world, this is to train you. After that time, when you sit with your group, brothers and sisters together, all of you will be more effective in keeping back all forms of disturbance.
As we sit together now, this is considered a seclusion because we are not mentioning anything about the outside, materialistic world. We are only concerned about that which connects us to our reality. [Pointing to the person who asked the first question], as he has a phrase to repeat , “Our shadows are our spirits, our spirits are our shadows,” in seclusion you will be given something to repeat many times, because you have to ride on a means in order to reach your destination. You will be given something to ride on in order to reach your reality-your spirit.
This [pointing to himself] is a cage. Your body is a cage. When you break that cage, you free your spirit. Then you can be everywhere. Until that time, you have to work on breaking it. How do you break it? You cannot break it except by seclusion, by sitting together or sitting alone, practicing to break out of that cage. When you break that cage, it is over. At that time you can be with people outside, you can be with people inside, you are free. Your spirit is free
We ask success from God through the Opening Chapter of the Quran, al-Fatihah
2. Qur’an [39:6].