The Heart of the Believer is the House of God
July 1st coincided this year with the first of Muharram of the year 1413 AH. On that same date long ago the Prophet (s) was ordered by his Lord to emigrate from Makkah to Madinah. Why did the Prophet (s) emigrate? He is a prophet and God protects His prophets. God has said that He will protect His religion until the Last Day. So why did the Prophet (s) run away? Prophets never run away. What was the wisdom behind the Prophet’s (s) emigration from Makkah to Madinah? There must be a hidden wisdom and that wisdom is hidden in the heart of the Prophet (s).
Did the Prophet (s) leave because the Quraysh were attempting to carry out their plan to assassinate him? He threw sand into their eyes and recited the verse, “We have made a barrier in front of them and a barrier behind them, and we have covered them up so they cannot see.” [36: 9]. They were not able to see him as he walked pass them. In the same manner he could have thrown anything on them and have been done with them.
God protected His Ka`bah in the time of Abraha when Abraha tried to destroy it. At that time, Abdul Muttalib said, “There is an Owner for that House [Ka`bah] Who will protect it.” God sent birds carrying small stones in their beaks and they finished off Abraha’s army. Why, then, did the Prophet (s) go from Makkah to Madinah? He was able to ask his Lord to send some calamity on those people and be finished with them and their ignorance. There are many hidden secrets concerning the Prophet’s (s) emigration, so much so that a need to reveal each one exists.
As we know, according to the Divine Law, the Prophet (s) went from Makkah to Madinah to build the first government of Islam, the first base of Islam, from which that Light for human beings would spread from East to West. This is the external explanation-that he went from an unsafe place to a safe place in order to establish the first base for God’s Light. From that base, the Prophet (s) was to enlighten the hearts of his Companions and the hearts of his Community until the Judgment Day with the message, “O people, run from the torture of your ego and from its bad manners to the good manners of your spirit . Establish the House of your Lord in your heart on a good foundation.” The Prophet (s) also said, “The heart of a believer is the house of God.”1 God, Whom neither heaven nor earth can contain, has allowed Himself to be contained within the human heart. What is the foundation of that house? Good manners. When you are a good person, then God will send that Light into your heart. When you are not a good person, but you are trying to be one, God will support you. However, when you never try to be a good person, satan will support you. If you like satan’s support, take your support from him. But you will be the loser. If you want your Lord to support you, you are a winner. Establish that ‘House’ in your heart.
God said in Quran, “O believers, fear God and accompany true people” [9:119]. As one of our brothers here said, “Let us speak tonight about truthfulness (sidq).” What is truthfulness? It is a virtue which is very difficult, especially in this time. Very few people have this virtue. That is why the above verse from the Quran says, “Be with true people,” not, “Be a true person,” because it is very difficult to be a true person. But to be with true people is easy. You have to learn from true people. To establish the house of God in your heart requires requires a long journey and it is difficult to find the way by yourself. It is easier to find a true person and to follow him.
That is why the Prophet (s) emigrated from Makkah to Madinah-in order to establish a base of true people-his Companions-and that is why they have been called Companions (sahabah). They have been given that title by God. No one can be a Companion of the Prophet (s) except those that were with him (s). This is a rank no one can reach. After the Prophet (s), no one has reached the level of being a Companion.
So the Prophet’s (s) migration from Makkah to Madinah was to pass by a cave. According to the life story of the Prophet (s), that cave was called the cave of Thawr. It is one day’s distance from Makkah. The Prophet (s) stayed there three days. Why did the Prophet (s) stay in that cave? Why was he unable to continue? The unfolding of the secrets occurred in that cave.
The Prophet (s) was ordered to emigrate from Makkah to Madinah for the purpose of going inside the cave of Thawr where God taught him how to “remember God” (dhikr Allah). It was the first time that the Prophet (s) invoked God in a loud voice. This is a very great Sufi secret indeed.
To emigrate from Makkah to Madinah was very easy for the Prophet (s). He only had to say, “In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate,” and he would have been in Madinah as easily as it had been for him to take sand and throw it at the ignorant people’s eyes preventing them from seeing him as he was leaving his house. Or he could have ridden on his horse or camel and reached Madinah in ten to fifteen days. Why did he go to that cave? The ‘Cave of Silence’ as it has been called? Indeed, it is the ‘Cave of Silent Secrets’. Why was the Prophet ordered by God to go to that cave, which is one day’s travel from Makkah, when he had a distance of fifteen days journeying to go?
When the Prophet went into that cave, a spider and a dove came and made a house over the door in order that no one would know what was inside. This is common knowledge. As for the secret, look to love. When love for someone is pure, God will never forget that person. Before leaving Makkah for Madinah, the Prophet put someone in his bed because the ignorant people came to his door intent on killing him. He put Ali (as) in his bed. There is a secret to that, it means that he made Ali (as) his representative, in his place. He did not put Umar (r) there. He did not put Uthman (r)-none of the Companions, but someone of his own flesh and blood.
The Prophet (s) took with him as company his other mirror-image, Abu Bakr (r), to the cave. He said, “I am the city of knowledge and Ali is the door.”2 The door is something physical, external. When you want to enter the house, how do you enter? Through the door. In order to enter to the Prophet and to come to the knowledge that the Prophet is giving, you have to enter through the door. That door is Ali (r). The Prophet (s) also said, “Whatever God has poured into my heart, I poured into the heart of Abu Bakr as-Siddiq.”3 The Prophet (s) referred again to the secret of Abu Bakr (r) when he said, “Abu Bakr does not surpass you because of fasting or praying more, but because of a secret that took root in his heart.”4
So inside the house, we find Abu Bakr (r) and outside the house, we find Ali (as). That is why, of the two sources of Sufi knowledge, one came from Abu Bakr (r) and the other from Ali (as). From the time of the different schools of Divine Law, Muslims have agreed that the knowledge of the heart came from these two paths. Justice and laws, on the other hand, came from Umar (r).
The Prophet’s comment about Abu Bakr (r) is the secret of the cave. To represent his body, the Prophet put Ali (as) in his bed prior to his departure from Makkah to Madinah. This means that Ali (as) represented the external. But he took Abu Bakr (r) to the cave for the cave represents what is interior. In the Quran, God commands us, “Enter, resort to the cave! Your Lord will shower His Mercies on you and dispose of your affair towards comfort and ease.” [18:16]. And who is the cave for this Community except the Prophet? It is an order for everyone on this earth to run to the cave. Everyone has a cave in his heart which directs him to the great cave, the general cave: that is the heart of the Prophet. It is that great cave that takes you to the mercy of his Lord.
Who did Muhammad (s) choose to accompany him to the cave? It was Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (r). When the Prophet (s) entered the cave, he was very tired. He reclined and placed his head on Abu Bakr as-Siddiq’s (r) leg. Who, I ask, can put the head of a prophet on his leg? Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (r) bore on his the head of the most Beloved one of God. This is a great honor for Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (r) that the Prophet Muhammad (s) has put his honorable head on his leg. For us the Prophet (s) was sleeping, but for him, it was an ascension. He knows no sleep, “My eyes sleep, but my heart never sleeps.”5 His heart never sleeps! His heart is always connected to his Lord. He is always in ascension.
No one can know the level attained in Ascension. Even Gabriel (as) was not able to know it, because he said, “I cannot move beyond my level” when the Prophet (s) told him to continue with him. “If I go further, I will be burnt.”
The teachings of the Naqshbandi and other saints including Abdul Qadir Gilani and all the Sufis say that Gabriel (as) should have moved forward with the Prophet (s), even if he was going to be burnt. As the Prophet (s) said to Gabriel (as), ” “I am going to move higher even if I am going to be burnt.” He was ready to sacrifice himself to obtain that Light for his community, saying, “I have no concern for myself.” Therefore he moved forward, constantly progressing, traveling to that level, closer and closer to his Lord.
At that time God asked him, “Who are you?” What do you think the Prophet (s) answered? Is there a ‘Muhammad’ (s), is there ‘a prophet’ there, in the Presence of his Lord? Who can be something in the Presence of God? So he said, “O my Lord, I do not see myself. I do not see anything except You. There is no one except You.” That is the secret that the Prophet (s) wished to pass on to Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (r). Thus, he took him to the cave. He could have taken Ali (as) or Umar (r) or four people, two or one. But he took someone about whom he said, “Whatever my Lord has put in my heart I put in the heart of Abu Bakr as-Siddiq.”
As the Prophet (s) was lying down with his head on the leg of Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (r), Abu Bakr (r) saw a hole in the wall of the cave. Abu Bakr (r) put his foot against the hole to close it. He felt something biting him, causing him intense pain. He felt as if he were losing his body. He was trying to control himself until the flesh of his foot was eaten half away. As his flesh was being eaten, a large snake reared its head. Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (r) began to cry. A tear fell on the Prophet’s (s) face. The Prophet (s) said, “Oh Abu Bakr! Why are you crying? ‘Do not be sad. God is with us!’” [9:40].
The Prophet’s (s) question also contains a teaching, because he knew the answer without asking. “Are you afraid,” he asked Abu Bakr (r), “that people are going to come and kill us?” Abu Bakr (r) said, “O Messenger of God, I am not crying for fear that they will kill me. I am not afraid of them. But I am crying because of a snake which is eating my foot. When he finishes with me, he will come to you. I am afraid for you. My heart bleeds for you. That is why I cried.” The Prophet (s) spoke to the snake and said, “Do you not know that the flesh of prophets is forbidden for you to eat and the flesh of saints is also forbidden?”
The snake answered, “O Messenger of God, when my Lord created me I knew about you. That was before you came into this world from your mother’s womb. I asked my Lord 40,000 years ago to keep me alive to see your face and then die. Now Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (r) is blocking my view with his feet. I have to see you and fulfill my Lord’s promise, but he is blocking the hole with his feet. That is why I was obliged to bite his foot and come through the hole in order to be able to look at you.”
Now the Prophet (s) has said, “The saliva of a believer is a cure.” That is why you can drink from the same cup, and such is the practice in the Sufi retreat centers where Sufis gather together. One cup is enough, not the American fashion which is to have hundreds of cups and then bring another hundred, wasting money, water, soap and time, because, they say, “Microbes must not go from one person to another.” Where is the belief in the Prophet’s (s) Tradition? God is the One who cures and the one who makes you sick, not the cup. If God does not wish you to be sick, even if someone has tuberculosis and you drink after them-and this is quickly spread- through drinking-you will not get sick even if you drink hundreds of cups after that person. God is the Healer (al-Shafi), the Disabler (al-Muawiy), the One inflicting harm (al-Dharr). God is the one who alone holds cure and illness in His hands for people.
So the Prophet (s) said, “In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate,” and applied his saliva to the foot of Abu Bakr. The foot immediately healed and became whole as before. Then the Prophet (s) ordered the snake to look at him. The snake said, “I believe that there is no god but God. I believe that you are Muhammad, His Prophet.” As the snake said this, it wound around and around in circles. Grandshaykh said, according to inspirations to his heart from Ali (as) and Abu Bak (r) that the snake went around and around for two hours, looking at the Prophet’s face (s). After it had looked, the Prophet (s) said, “Now what you have asked for from your Lord is fulfilled. Now, die.” That snake died and immediately disappeared. That incident was a test for Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (r) to see if he was going to protect the Prophet (s) or not-was he going to be afraid for himself or for the Prophet (s)? But he sacrificed himself for the sake of the Prophet.
That was a snake, an animal; what about us? We do believe. To be sure, we deny. We are believing with our tongues but in our hearts we deny. We fight with one another. And when we fight with each other, that’s it! It is as if we deny God. It is as if we deny the Prophet (s).
In that sacred, holy cave, God ordered the Prophet (s) to pass whatever secrets God had ordered him to give, up to a point known to him, to the heart of Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (r). The Prophet (s) passed to him the secret of his knowledge. That is the secret behind the Tradition which came from Abu Hurayra (r), “I have retained from the Prophet (s) two vessels of knowledge. I have disseminated one vessel of knowledge among people. But if I were to give the other vessel of knowledge, they would cut my throat.”7 That is hidden knowledge. That knowledge is kept only in the heart. It can never be written down. No one can carry this knowledge. That is the kind of knowledge that the Prophet (s) put in the heart of Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (r).
If you look at the Traditions related on the authority of Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (r), you will only see between twenty and thirty. Where is that knowledge that the Prophet (s) put into his heart? Abu Bakr (r) did not say anything or so it appears. Do you think he withheld that knowledge from people? He had been ordered by the Prophet (s) to pass on the knowledge he had been given. Did he betray the trust of the Prophet (s)? The caliphs of the Prophet (s) cannot hide something in their hearts. They have to give it, to pass it on, but give what? They must pass on the knowledge that Abu Hurayra (r) described when he said, “If I revealed it, they would cut my throat.”
If Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (r) had disseminated that knowledge publicly, God knows what they would have said about him-they might have even cut his throat. So he kept it secret, but he passed it on to his successor, Salman al-Farsi (r). Then Salman (r) passed it to Qasim (q), the son of Abu Bakr (r). Then Qasim (q) passed it to Jafar as-Sadiq (as), the sixth Imam. That secret was passed from one to another, from one to another, from heart to heart, until it reached Shaykh Khalid al-Baghdadi (q). That Golden Chain begins from the Prophet (s), goes to Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (r), and then down to Shaykh Khalid al-Baghdadi (q), who is buried in Damascus. Then Shaykh Khalid (q) spread it to the East and the West by means of his three hundred caliphs who spread that knowledge everywhere. That is the origin of the most distinguished Naqshbandi Order. It began in that cave.
There is not enough time now to mention them, but many, many secrets were bestowed upon Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (r). The Prophet (s) continued his migration from Makkah to Madinah the next day.
In Madinah, there were people watching from the tops of palm-trees to see if the Prophet (s) was coming. When those people saw the Prophet (s), they recited in praise,
“From the hill-tops of the south, the full moon arises. With what a lovely call unto God does he call. And we thank him for it all. O you sent by the Merciful, you have come, best of heralds, you have honored Madinah, we bow to your demand.” They praised the Prophet (s).
As soon as he came to Madinah, he called all his Companions, and then there were revealed three other secrets. And, God willing we will relate them another time.
These secrets concerning the events in that cave were handed on and have come down to us today. This knowledge can never be contained between the two covers of a book. It cannot be written down because fresh knowledge keeps being added to it spontaneously. While it is never the same, it is always appropriate to time and place. That is why the order came from God in the Quran, “O believers, fear God, be righteous, and be with true people,”  because you do not know when they begin to speak and that secret will be revealed. When they speak, that Light will come from their speech and you will benefit.
Shaykh Abu Yazid al-Bistami (q), one of the masters of the Golden Chain in the lineage of this Way, was a famous saint. Here in America, they study his teachings wherever Sufism is taught. If I myself say were to say what he used to say, people would call me an unbeliever, because sometimes he spoke about something on the basis of hidden knowledge. So I shall not go into that. In any case, one day his Shaykh ordered him saying, “O Abu Yazid, there is a shoemaker downtown. Go. Sit with him. Listen to him.” What did Abu Yazid have to do with a shoemaker? Listen to what? At that time Abu Yazid’s knowledge was such that everyone knew of him as a deeply learned person, a gnostic, one who had experiential knowledge of spiritual realities.
But Abu Yazid (q) is not like us. If our Shaykh tells us, “Go. Listen to so-and-so,” we would say, “Me, listen to him? Who is he? He does not know anything about Islam. He does not know anything about the Divine Law nor about jurisprudence. Why should I listen to him? No, no, send me to someone else.” And if you tell someone else, “O so-and-so, go and listen to this one,” he will say, “Am I going to go and listen to someone who only knows the Divine Law and jurisprudence? Who? That fundamentalist, fanatic person? No need! We are Sufis. We are free from all that!” So everyone will find an excuse not to listen. Confusion, dissension and chaos come precisely from that.
Someone present among you said, “God willing, Muslims will listen to each other.” How are they going to listen to each other? They will never listen! If you say, “Muslims will fight with each other,” I will agree, but to listen, no, because everyone thinks he has reached the highest level, that there is no level above his. All knowledge stops with him. They like to ask how God sits on the throne, referring to “The Most Gracious is firmly established on the throne (of authority).“ [20:5].” God forgive us – this is all they know and all they will ever ask. No one wants to understand that “Above each possessor of knowledge there is one with more knowledge” [12:76] Above every knowledge there is more knowledge. There is no limit to knowledge. What you know, in comparison to the Prophet’s (s) knowledge and in comparison to God’s knowledge, is nothing.
So the order came to listen to a shoemaker. Abu Yazid, with all his elevated knowledge, knowledge of both the Divine Law or external knowledge and knowledge of the Truth or internal knowledge, accepted that order because he was humble. He did not say, “Why?” or “No!” He was just like the Prophet (s) waiting for Gabriel (as) to come to him and deliver the message. So he received the order and that was final, “I am going to follow that order.”
The shoemaker had been veiling his spiritual station from Abu Yazid al-Bistami for many years! Abu Yazid had passed by him many times and still did not know who he was, in spite of Abu Yazid being one of the Golden Chain. For God did not want him to know that one. He was testing him to see if he was going to listen to Him or not. As soon as he came to the shop, the shoemaker said, “O Abu Yazid! I have been waiting for you for a long time. Come and sit with me.”
That person was the spiritual pole of his time. There are five levels of spiritual poles: qutb, qutb al-bilad, qutb al-irshad, qutb al-aqtab, and qutb al-mutasarrif. Every spiritual pole takes secrets from one of the five great prophets. The highest spiritual pole takes secrets from the Prophet Muhammad (s). For three hours that shoemaker gave a lecture to Abu Yazid al-Bistami. When he finished, Abu Yazid al-Bistami went back to his zawiya and said to his followers, “What I have gained in these three hours and what level I have reached by sitting with this Friend of God, I would never have obtained if I had worshipped day and night from the time of Adam (as) until Judgment Day.” This is what is referred to in the Tradition of the Prophet (s) where he says, “One hour’s remembrance is better than seventy year’s worship.”9 Remembering in any way by invoking God, reading the Quran, thinking about what you have done during the day, of conduct-good or bad-towards others, this is also considered to be remembering. That is why sitting with true people is very important. Whenever you find a true person, go and sit with him. Even if he does not talk, sit with him. The Light in his heart will come to you. There is a saying, “Do not sit with a blacksmith, because one ember may fall on you and burn you, but go and sit with a perfume-maker, because one drop of perfume might fall on you.” So when you find one of those people, go quickly and sit with him.
How do you know a true person? Your heart quickly connects to him. You will know immediately that this is a true person. If your heart says to you, “No, this is not a true person,” leave. A true person must be a good example in the community.
Today is the second day of the Muslim month of Muharram al-Haram, 1413. It can be considered the Sufi year because it falls on the date of the emigration of Sufi people with the Prophet (s). Next week, on Thursday and Friday, is the tenth of Muharram, the day when the Prophet (s) fasted. The tenth of Muharram is when God sent Adam (as) to earth, saved Noah (as) from sinking in the ship, saved Abraham (as) from Nimrod’s fire, saved David (as) and made him kill Goliath and called Moses (as) to come to Mount Sinai. On that day Jesus (as) was betrayed. On that day the Prophet (s) arrived in Madinah. On that day Husayn (as) was killed. It is a tremendous day. And so on that day the Prophet (s) fasted. Whoever fasts on that day will be purified from the sins of the past year and protected from falling into sin in the new year. Anyone who can fast on that day must know it is a very important day for the folk of our own Sufi path. God willing, anyone who hears me say this will fast.
You must be happy, O people of God’s Remembrance. You are connected to a very powerful shaykh! It is not an easy thing. It is a reward from God. He did not ask you about it, he granted it to you. Praise belongs to God that we have such a connection with our Shaykhs.
We ask success from God through the Opening Chapter of the Quran, al-Fatihah.
1. Ghazzali, Suhrawardi.
2. Tirmidhi, Hakim, Ibn Asakir, Iraqi, Haythami, Suyuti.
3. Maybudi, Razi, Suyuti.
4. Ahmad, Ghazzali, Hakim.
5. Bukhari, Muslim.
6. Bukhari, Muslim, Darqutni, Jarrahi.
8. Ibn Hanbal, Darimi, Ibn Maja.