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The First Four Steps in Gnosticism

Mawlana Shaykh Hisham Kabbani

7 January 2012 Burton, Michigan

`Asr Suhbah at As-Siddiq Mosque

A`oodhu billahi min ash-Shaytaani 'r-rajeem. Bismillahi 'r-Rahmaani 'r-Raheem.

Nawaytu 'l-arba`een, nawaytu 'l-`itikaaf, nawaytu 'l-khalwah, nawaytu 'l-`uzlah,

nawaytu 'r-riyaadah, nawaytu 's-sulook, lillahi ta`ala fee haadha 'l-masjid.

أَطِيعُواْ اللّهَ وَأَطِيعُواْ الرَّسُولَ وَأُوْلِي الأَمْرِ مِنكُمْ

Ati`oollaha wa ati`oo 'r-Rasoola wa ooli 'l-amri minkum.

Obey Allah, obey the Prophet, and obey those in authority among you. (an-Nisa, 4:59)

Bismillahi 'r-Rahmaani 'r-Raheem. Alhamdulillahi Rabbi ‘l-`alameen was-salaat was-salaam `alaa ashraf al-mursaleen Sayyidina Muhammad (s) wa `alaa aalihi wa sahbihi wa sallam.

The way of awliyaullah and Gnostics is not an easy way. Gnostics are people who gave their life to know and to understand realities that are all around them and also in the communities where they are living. Between normativity, things that are normal in your view, and realities, there is a big difference. In normal life, you might identify things through special names that are known to you, but Realities may be different. An example is in physics, chemistry or medicine, to understand or analyze something they develop a theory that may be wrong or correct, and until they experiment in the lab and reach results, they don’t know the accuracy of their theory.

Lab analysis is the way of gnostics. For us, everything is a theory; they tell us, “do this and that,” and they give us the meanings according to the text, but through lab analysis a deeper understanding is found. The way of gnostics is to identify and see Realities, and in Sufism, the way of gnostics, especially in the Naqshbandi Sufi Order, the first step is based on four different elements or ways of coming against your bad desires, the animal desires that human nature carries. We are comprised of perhaps 10% or even 90% of animal desires, depending on how much your bad ego has control over you. Animals cannot find Realities; they can know some things for which they are trained, but compared to human intelligence, their intelligence is nothing. So if we are not throwing away our animal desires, we are unable to reach Realities; it is like the difference between pebbles and diamonds or rare gems. Which do you prefer? Animals cannot distinguish between them.

You are a walking lab who can be trained in methods as a lab assistant to look for Realities. Sometimes a trained animal is worth more than an untrained animal. They told me there are areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and between Lebanon and Syria, in the mountain border regions between countries, where trucks cannot traverse the difficult terrain and so donkeys are more valuable than cars, because a car needs a driver, but you only load the donkey, let it go and it knows the way, they unload it and then it comes back to its house. Also, if soldiers catch it, no problem, it’s a donkey!

We are donkeys. Some animals have good behavior that we can learn: donkeys are patient, and dogs are loyal. Every animal has its own good manners, but to identify that you have to study your self. In the way of Gnosticism you have to have four characters, namely:

1. As-Samt: Silence

The first of these is as-samt, to be silent, not to be talkative, because when you begin to talk you backbite and harm someone without them being present (to reply). It is not allowed for anyone to speak against someone, even if he has mistakes or harmed you, or you heard from someone else that he did something. Also, it is not allowed to spread rumors about someone, even if they are true; you must not spread it around to someone who has nothing to do with it. Samt, silence, is important if we are going to go on the way of Gnosticism and find our Realities at the end.

2. as-Sabr: Patience

Second after being silent, to be patient as much as you can in order that you will test your patience, through your silence. It is not that we are animals; rather, we are human beings that God has honored, but we give examples. To be silent is a sign of patience, because everyone wants to speak. You see or listen to talk shows in which they make everyone speak; they are like the Turkish hamaam (bath house), or like in Parliament when all the MPs are speaking, or like in Congress! All of them are talking; they don’t keep quiet. Keep quiet a little bit so we can understand! It’s as if they are saying, “No, this is a Turkish hamaam and we have to speak!” So silence teaches you patience.

That’s why we go back to the example of the donkey and how it is always patient. The donkey never says no; even if you put a heavy load on him, he will carry it until he falls down without saying, “I’m in pain!” Do you see it speaking? That is why silence is very important; keep silent and listen.

3. Al-`Uzlah: Seclusion

It is not possible to seclude yourself from work, from the community or to simply run away, but rather this step is to seclude yourself from something that does not concern you. It means to be busy with yourself! Even if you are sitting in an association of two-hundred people, be busy auditing yourself while you sit. So along with its many other meanings, “seclusion” also means to seclude yourself from what is going on around you by meditating and, even more than that, by contemplating, as the Prophet (s) said:

تفكر ساعة خير من عبادة سبعين سنة

tafakkarru sa`atan khayrun min `ibaadati saba`een sannah.

To remember Allah (swt) for one hour (contemplate or meditate) is better than seventy years of worship.

4. Al-Ju`: Hunger

This is what most people are not doing. The Prophet (s) said:

نحن قوم لا نأكل حتى نجوع، وإذا أكلنا لا نشبع

Nahnu qawman laa naakul hatta najoo`, wa idhaa akalna laa nashbi`.

We are a people that do not eat until we are hungry and we don’t eat until we are full.

In another hadith, the Prophet (s) said:

It is enough for a human being to have luqaymat (from three to nine mouthfuls) that prop

up his spine and, if he must have more (in his stomach), then one-third of food, one-third of water, and one-third of air. (at-Tirmidhi)

So don't fill up your stomach, keep yourself hungry, then you will feel the same as the homeless and those who cannot find food. When you are full you feel like a king and you don't care for anyone, but when you are hungry you feel the suffering of others and their daily struggle to survive which, in turn, will enable you to realize how to help them.

Silence, seclusion and hunger all teach patience. The more you feel physically hungry in the way of Gnosticism, your quest for Realities will be that much greater. You will no longer be interested in satisfying your hunger for food, but rather you will seek Realities and knowledge, as you will hunger for it, like awliyaullah are hungry for knowledge. So whenever you are hungry, don't eat food and that will slowly teach you patience and how to hunger for knowledge, which is what everyone wishes. University students hunger for their lessons in order to do well in different areas such as law, medicine or engineering. However, the hunger for knowledge in Gnosticism is greater than the hunger for dunya knowledge because Realities aren’t like theories, they are far more satisfying than food. When you find one Reality you will be hungry for more, as then you will know how valuable they are.

4. As-Sahr: Be Awake

Sleeping less makes you worship more. Here, as-sahr also means to be awake in the way of finding Realities, because you don’t know when that Reality will open up. Sometimes at night when you look up in the sky you see lots of stars, but strangely, you see far more stars when you go further south. We might need an astronomer to explain this. In any case, as you are looking at the sky, you don’t know when, at any moment, you might see a shooting star. You might not miss that if you are clever like astronomers, who are always awake, looking and waiting for the Reality to come, and to capture it with pictures. Countless Realities are passing by day and night throughout our life and we are not aware of them because we are not awake. Wake up, open your mind, and know there are Realities all around you!

People come only when they have difficulties; you don’t see people when they are happy. They think, “Who cares?” They come only when there is a problem and then you have to help because it is everyone’s job to help. But those who are finding difficulties must check what they have done in their lives (that may have brought the difficulty upon them).

You cannot find Realities in these four elements except through “al-inkisaar wa't-tawada`a,” broken-heartedness and humbling oneself. Have you sometimes felt broken-hearted? If you have a broken heart, you will understand how much you have to work on yourself to come out from that state. The heart of a Gnostic is broken for their Lover, Allah (swt)! They went on the way to find the Light of their Lord, to be enlightened in that knowledge. So broken-heartedness and humbleness are very important.

من توضع لله رفعه

man tawada`a lillah rafa`hu.

Whoever shows humbleness to his Lord, his Lord will raise him.

But today no one is thinking about their Lord and Creator, instead people say, “There is no Creator,” and they are only going towards their desires and very few desire their Lord. You see nearly a thousand channels on T.V, from which 950 are devoted exclusively to all kinds of useless topics, such as the economy, politics, talk shows, game shows, or fashion. Very few channels are devoted to remembering and guiding people to their Lord! We see very few for remembering the Lord, very few Islamic, Christian, Jewish, very few.

So that way of Gnosticism doesn't come if you don't show a broken heart and humbleness to Him. In other words (Allah reminds us), “Don’t be arrogant and think you are better than any of My servants whom I have created with My Hands; you are like them and they are like you, there is no difference.” A man is a man and a woman a woman; Allah (swt) didn't create a third gender. There is nothing between animals and nothing between humans. There are subtle beings, yes we understand that, but all of us are equal, as the Prophet (s) said:

الناس سواسيه كااسنان المشط

an-naasu sawaasiyatan ka-asnaani' l-masht.

People are equal like the teeth of a comb.

Everyone is equal and no one better than the other. When we show this equality, then we will succeed. So look for a guide that teaches you equality, or in fact, that you are even lower than everyone else, because when your ego is crushed by your guide, then you have a broken heart. He will crush your bad ego in order to expose your good ego, to bring out all the animal elements in you and guide you to the way of Allah (swt).

Gnostics seek this way of enlightenment, as-sulook, to, at any moment, find their way to a ship of safety, safeenat an-najaat, that will take them from one shore to the other. We are looking for where that vessel is anchored, (like when) Sayyidina Musa (a) jumped in the boat where Sayyidina Khidr (a) had made a hole, to sink the boat. However, Sayyidina Nuh’s (a) boat had no hole. Both events are mentioned in the Holy Qur'an: one was given a hole in order to sink it, and the other was not given a hole, as it was unsafe to sink it. In the first boat, the hole Khidr (a) made the boat safe, as then the evil king would not seize it. The other boat, Noah’s ark, was tightly glued together and was only safe by not having a hole or sinking.

Look at the difference: one boat was safe with the hole and the other was safe without it. Saints are an example of Noah’s ark (riding the flood to safety), and the boat of Sayyidina Musa (a) is an example of human nature (which must be sunk to save the real self). May Allah (swt) bless us and forgive us.

Wa min Allahi 't-tawfeeq, bi hurmati 'l-habeeb, bi hurmati 'l-Fatihah.

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