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Holding Fire

“Obey God, obey the Prophet (s), and obey your leaders” [4:59]. We are in a time in which wherever one looks, there is confusion and corruption. We are in a time in which life is very difficult. Everyone is chasing after material life. No one thinks of eternal life. Everyone is thinking about this life only – how to make more money, generate greater income, how to enjoy a higher standard of living. Now no one is saying to you not to generate more income in order to live well. God wants you to live a good life. God created you in this world and told you, “Live a good life.” But He also said, “Forget Me Not.”

What is the use of this life if you are going to forget your Lord? God has created us to know Him. He did not create us to chase after money. He created us to know Him and to take our share and portion of this life. If you need to generate income, work, earn money. You must live life, so live it. But do not forget your Lord. If you have one hour for your own life, you must have another hour for your Lord. Nowadays no one thinks to give one hour for his or her Lord. A minute is enough! In these times, no one is willing to give even a single minute of their time to their Lord. Everyone in this life is chasing after money twenty-four hours a day and even if they are making money twenty-four hours a day, they still do not stop. God said, “I have created spiritual beings and human beings only to worship Me.” [51:56]. All the messengers came to tell you, “Worship your Lord.” They did not say, “Worship money.”

There was once a saint famous throughout the Muslim world. His books are still studied today in all universities where philosophy or Sufi teachings are taught. One day he said, “What you worship is underneath my feet.” Scholars understood at the time that one great saint was saying, “Your Lord is underneath my feet,” but what he was really saying, “The object you worship is underneath my feet,” not “your Lord.” So they said, “He must be hanged,” and they killed him. Even though he knew they were wrong, he said nothing. He accepted God’s Will, saying in effect, “If God wants me to pass away and sacrifice my life for the benefit of human beings, I am willing.” His secret was not revealed until after his death. They dug out the spot where he said this phrase and found a vast treasure of gold there. That treasure is what had been underneath his feet.

From the beginning of time people have chased after money. No one thinks that God has created us in this life to worship Him and to live a good life. No one says not to live a good life. Live a good life. God gave you this beautiful life. He gave you nature. Enjoy it. But also worship Him, remember Him in your heart.

Does anyone remember His Lord? How many people are here? We are thirty or forty people. Yet how many thousands and millions are outside? Who remembers? Very few people remember. That is why the Prophet (s) said that in the last days of this world, “Whoever keeps a firm grasp on his religion, it will be as if he were holding fire in his hand.”1 Who is holding onto his religion now? Jews? Very few. Christians? Very few. Muslims? Very few. Why? Because they seek only the material things of this world.

No one recalls that Moses (as) came and preached of One Lord, Jesus (as) came and preached of One Lord and the Prophet (s) came and preached of One Lord. Today everyone preaches his ego. He considers his ego to be a god. No one considers his God to be the One who is in heaven. Everyone says, “No, I am god! There is no god except me, myself!” No one says, “There is no god but God.” That is why no one listens to his Lord. Rather, each one listens to his ego.

If you invite a Jew to a synagogue to pray, a Christian to a church, a Muslim to a mosque, each will say, “There is no need for that.” Why is there “no need?” If you do not want to go to church or to the synagogue or to the mosque, make your house or room a place of worship. Sit by yourself, alone with your Lord. Sit and ask forgiveness. God is Merciful. He is not about making people afraid of Him. Indeed, it is He who said, “I am the Merciful One, I am the Forgiver!” [15:49], that is, “I am the Concealer! I hide the sins of My servants. But let them come and ask Me for forgiveness.”

God asks us to forgive those who have injured us by saying, “Whoever forgives and makes peace will receive his reward from His Lord.” [26:40]. If He lays down this order for us, what about Himself? If someone harmed us or hurt us, He asks us to forgive that person and make peace. What about Himself? Is it not even more the case that He will treat us in a forgiving manner? If He asks this from us, is He not going to forgive us when we come to Him? He is waiting for us to take one step towards Him in order that He will take ninety-nine steps towards us. Come towards Him one step and He will run towards you ninety-nine steps. Only come to Him and ask forgiveness. Repent to Him. Say, “O our Lord, the Merciful One, we are coming to Your Mercy. Forgive us.” He is the Just One, the One who is true. His justice is everywhere. He created us. Do you think He created us and abandoned us to our egos? God will never leave one of His human beings. He created us in order to forgive us in the end. So go to Him at least one time and say, “O my Lord, forgive me.”

The Prophet (s) said in a well-known tradition that if you commit the same sin seventy times daily, and every time, you come to your Lord and ask for forgiveness, God will forgive you. God said to the Prophet (s) in the Quran, “Tell my servants who are pursuing their desires and pleasures without ceasing, “Do not despair of the mercy of God. Always seek mercy from Him, God is the One who forgives, who takes away and erases all sins; He is the Master of Mercy” [39: 53].

Where then are we? We are running away. Why are we running away? He gives us provisions. He provides for everyone without looking at whether someone is bad or good. Go and look. You will find tyrants in good health, eating, drinking, and doing whatever they like. You will see good people also being provided for. God does not look at our behavior. He is merciful towards us. “I have created spiritual beings and human beings only for worship. I do not want sustenance from them, and I do not want them to feed me. God is the One who gives sustenance, He is the Lord of unbreakable might” [51:56-58]. He is the One Who provides everything to human beings, without looking at their race or their color, without discrimination.

Everyone is equal in God’s eyes. Inequality does not exist with Him. In His eyes there is no white, no black, no red, no brown, no yellow. All are the same, human beings – can you say someone is not a human being? All are coming from one father and one mother. Why do we create enmity and hatred among ourselves?

So come to your Lord. Come to God – if you believe in Him. If not, that is another matter. But if you believe there is One God in heaven, whether you are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, whatever you are, come to your Lord. God does not change. He is the Lord of all human beings. Come to Him. Do not run away. There is nowhere else to turn except towards the One whose Attribute is to be Ever-Merciful. Do not think that there is someone else who is going to be merciful to you or forgive you your sins except Him.

Once some men of learning went to Ali (as), the fourth rightly-guided caliph of the Prophet (s). They were neither Muslim nor Christian scholars but agnostic philosophers. They asked him many difficult questions and he answered every one of them. Finally they came to him and said, “There is no God.” He said, “I cannot give you an answer here. Let us go to the shore.” They went to the Red Sea in Jeddah. Ali (as) sat on the shore. The philosophers were with him. He looked across the horizon and saw a ship making its way to shore. He said, “Oh, I am astonished. There is no pilot on that ship, and no crew. That ship is coming by itself to the shore. What miraculous power!” They said, “Are you crazy? Are you saying that ship has no pilot and no crew to bring it to the shore?” And he said, “Yes because I do not a pilot or a crew on that ship. It is natural for me to think that ship is coming to shore by itself.” They said, “We thought you were a man of wisdom. It turns out that you are not wise at all.” He said, “Why are you rushing to draw this conclusion? Wait until the ship gets here. If it indeed has a pilot and a crew, then you may say that I lack wisdom.” They waited as this condition he proposed was reasonable. After an hour or so the ship reached port. From out of the ship came forth a pilot and some crewmen. The philosophers looked at Ali (as) and said, “Did we not say that you lack wisdom? You said that ship was coming here by itself and now you see this crew and pilot.” He said, “Yes, I saw.” Then they said, “But you said before that there was no pilot and no crew on that ship.” He said, “For that ship, you accept that there must be a pilot and a crew, but to govern this universe, you do not accept even one Lord!”

If a comet changes its orbit for a single second, everyone on this earth becomes afraid that it will hit the earth. Who keeps the comets in their orbits? Who maintains the distances between moons and suns, between stars, between galaxies? Is it by chance? Is it by accident? Some say that everything had been created by chance! Glory be to God! How crazy they are. They said men come from monkeys. One hundred years from now they will say men came from donkeys. This is what they are going to say. A little bit later, they will say they come from mosquitoes!

Everyone must remember his Lord in his heart. God has created us in order to know Him. This is why He said in a sacred Tradition, “I was a hidden treasure and wanted to be known and so I created this universe.”2 If He did not create us, how could we know Him? This is the wisdom of our creation: to know our Lord! If He did not create us, we would never know Him. That is why He brought about this creation.

In olden times they used to hold debates between scholars. If one group of scholars defeated another in a debate, the vanquished group would have to follow the winners. If you defeat them they must follow you. Some scholars came to Harun al-Rashid and said, “We have come to debate your scholars.” Harun then had a dream in which he saw the Prophet (s) coming to him accompanied by Jesus Christ (as), telling him that the only one who can successfully debate those scholars is Imam Shafi. At that time, Imam Shafi was only thirteen years old. He was a young child, yet he was supposed to debate scholars forty, fifty and sixty years of age.

After that dream, Harun al-Rashid immediately called Imam Shafi and ordered him to debate those scholars. At the assigned place and time, these scholars sat in the presence of many people. Imam Shafi, a young boy, entered and sat opposite them. The challenging scholars belonged to a secular group – they were non-believers in God, neither Jewish, nor Christian, nor Muslim. They thought that this boy was Imam Shafi’s son who had been sent him ahead of him with some news for them. They said to him, “Son, where is your father? Where is the scholar? Why are you sitting there?”

Imam Shafi answered, “Egypt is a vast ocean of scholars. Why should they waste their time debating you? They sent me instead, because even a child can handle your level of intellect.” This is an example of the maxim, “War is deception.”3 One must trick the enemy. So following this saying he tricked them. Those scholars immediately became afraid. When a child of thirteen says such a thing, he undermines their power. They thought if they debate this child and defeat him, they will still have to contend with his father. Then what will happen? So their power was immediately diminished by half.

They began to ask him questions. For each question, Imam Shafi would give the correct answer, right on the spot, one after the other. Finally, they said, “All right, we accept what you say, but let us see God. Let us see God. If you show us God, we will accept. If you do not show us God, we will not accept!”

How was he going to show them God? Imam Shafi then said to the caliph – who up to then was happy with all his answers – “O my sultan, I hear someone selling milk outside. Order someone to go and bring me that milk.” The sultan was so happy that he did not even wait to give the order but went outside himself. He looked around and saw no one selling milk. What had Imam Shafi heard if there was no one there? Harun ar-Rashid waited and waited. Finally after ten minutes, he saw someone coming, carrying milk.

Imam Shafi had seen someone coming from a distance with the eyes of his heart – not with the eyes in his head. Eyes of flesh see nothing except what is located in the same room. They cannot see behind a wall. But the spiritual eyes of the heart can see even behind walls. That is why all saints, all prophets are able to speak about the future. God gave everyone that power, but we do not use it. Use it and God will give you power upon power and more besides. In order to use it you must remember God in your heart so that He will remember you. If you only remember money and pleasure, God will never remember you.

Harun al-Rashid took the milk from the milk seller and brought it to Imam Shafi. The Imam called the most knowledgeable of the scholars and said to him, “O my father, (out of respect), I ask you if there is cheese in that milk?” The agnostic scholar said, “Yes!” The Imam asked, “Is there butter in that milk?” He said, “Yes!” The Imam asked, “Is there water in it?” He said “Yes!” The Imam said, “Show it to me.” The scholar answered, “How can I show it to you? It needs a special process in order to separate the butter, the cheese and the water from the milk.” The Imam then said, “If you need a process for this milk, how then are you going to see the Lord of heavens without a process? You have to follow a way, a path, a religion in order to be able to see your Lord. But someone like me, who has such eyes and eyes of the heart are open, need only say, ‘In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.’” Immediately the cheese separated, the butter separated and the water separated from the milk. He continued, “Someone who has such eyes can see his Lord, but someone like you can never see his Lord except by going through a process.”

One scholar immediately asked, “What kind of process? Show it to me and I will accept what you say.” He was convinced. Imam Shafi said, “You have to believe in God and you have to believe in all his prophets – Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ and Muhammad, peace be on them all. If you believe in these five messengers and in all other prophets, at that time you will see your Lord. At that time, your heart will be an enlightened heart, a heart full of light, not full of hatred and enmity. You have to believe in His prophets and in His messengers. If you do not believe, then it is very difficult for you to know your Lord.”

Our Lord has made everyone equal, everyone the same, by saying in the Quran, “The best among you are the most God-conscious or righteous” [49:13], and the Prophet (s) said in his last speech, “There is no superiority of Arab over non-Arab except in piety.” Blacks and whites, believers and non-believers, colored and non-colored, male and female. Whoever has piety, that one is going to be the leader. Whoever is corrupted will be left behind. If you want to be in the forefront, you have to be good people.

What is the meaning of ‘good people’? Good people must not have hatred, enmity or inequity towards any one of God’s servants in their hearts. Everyone must be equal in their eyes. It is up to God. It is not your judgment. You cannot judge this. “If someone calls a believer in God ‘unbeliever,’ he, the speaker, is the unbeliever.”5 This is a saying of the Prophet (s), and this is what we believe. As soon as one believes in God, the matter is finished. The judgment is between a person and his Lord. One cannot interfere. Whether he prays or does not pray, fasts or does not fast, it is up to God, not up to you. You do not have any right against him. Once he says, “There is no god except our Lord in the heavens,” the case is closed! Iis not our duty to fight him, to kill him, or to say bad things about him. That is why it is a very grave sin to call anyone an idolater or unbeliever. Judgment belongs only to God, not to us!

We have to keep this in our heart and to know this fact. We must not do as other people do who call and classify everyone unbelievers. It is not our duty. You cannot sit on God’s Throne. God is God, servant is servant. Slave is slave! There is One Lord. All else are slaves. We are all the same. Why do you interfere with Him? He sent messengers. You have no right to hate people because of their religion. You have no right to fight them because of their religion. You have no right to utter any bad word against them because of their religion. All of them are equal. This must be our belief.

God willing, we beseech our Lord to open our hearts and to cause us to hear and obey His words revealed in the Quran, the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. “Be one hand holding the rope of God, tightly, all of us together,” [3:103], against corruption and against disbelief.

We ask success from God through the Opening Chapter of the Quran, al-Fatihah


1. Tirmidhi, Ahmad, Hakim.

2. Razi, Suyuti, Jarrahi, Ibn Iraq.

3. Bukhari, Muslim.

4. Ahmad, Haythami, Ibn Jawzi, Suyuti.

5. Tabarani.