Boundless Mercy and the Reality of the Post-Muslim World

Dear Friends,


Greetings of peace! I pray you are well and enjoying the hopefully slower pace of the summertime. If you haven't had a chance to jump into our newest series on "The Book of Illuminations" yet, I wanted to share that it has been truly illuminating in so many surprising and stirring ways. When I first heard the idea of discussing what would be called "Islamic Wisdoms," I was excited and yet did not have any idea what to expect. I had heard that there was a book of aphorisms (I did not know what an aphorism was and the word itself unfortunately conjured up images in my mind of aphids - "small sap-sucking insects") so, of course, I had to look up the meaning: 1) a concise statement of a principle; 2) a terse formulation of a truth or sentiment or adage; 3) an ingeniously terse style of expression. Kitab Al Hikam is a text consisting of 264 aphorisms written by Shaykh Ibn Ata'illah al-Iskandari, a luminary from the 14th century.


Our engagement thus far with the Arabic text, which Dr. Abou El Fadl translates as "The Book of Illuminations," has proved to be so much more than a discussion of pithy wisdoms or translations of the text. The deep insights that Dr. Abou El Fadl shares at every session have become a veritable journey of discovery, self-reflection, and enlightenment about what it means to go from darkness to light, and demonstrate what the Islamic tradition has to offer for truth-seekers - those who want to journey to the light of the Divine and bask in the love of God. We have often heard the prophetic tradition: "If you want to know your God, begin by knowing yourself," and the spiritual injunction to "turn inward and engage in self-reflection." It is hard to know what that means exactly or what one should do if they want to take that journey in earnest. This engagement proves to be a detailed walk on that path, with Dr. Abou El Fadl as your esteemed tour guide, illuminating the entire purpose, the target destination, and the many challenges and intuitive obstacles that lay ahead. It is the destination to surpass all destinations!


In the seven sessions we have completed, we have covered only 18 of the 264 aphorisms, but the insights have been pure gold. We learned about the stages of development for those who seek the path of enlightenment, and were introduced to the nuance of each stage. We begin at the first stage, which seems largely occupied with rules, focusing on laws, and the necessary performance of good deeds. However, this is only the elementary stage that serves as the means to reach much higher levels of spiritual development. I realized from this discussion that sadly, many Muslim discussions seem to be stuck at the elementary stage, as if that is all there is. To progress to the higher stages of development requires work - hard and courageous work - confronting oneself honestly on many fronts for the purpose of an internal spiritual cleansing - to reconnect, purify, and intimately know the most divine part of oneself in preparation to connect with the Divine at a much higher level. 


It is impossible to summarize the incredible insights and wisdoms that Dr. Abou El Fadl has shared in these mere seven sessions. But perhaps I can share a beautiful moment from this past Saturday's class that left an indelible impact on me. It was a deeply personal experience that Dr. Abou El Fadl shared with us. It was obvious that he was very uncomfortable sharing this intimate experience, but he explained why he felt it was necessary to share. It runs from 39:00 to 60:00 in the video below:



The Book of Illuminations, Kitab al Hikam, Wisdoms 17 - 18
8 July 2023, Minutes 39:00 - 60:00



To encourage you to watch it, he explains why it is important, despite all of his discomfort, to share a personal experience in the absence of community that can help bring life to this learning. Then he shares his experience, which to me, explains the whole point of this journey. The visual he shares is simply priceless. Let me know your reaction! After this, there is not much more I want to say, except Boundless Waves of Mercy...


Wishing you a blessed and reflective week, and looking forward to seeing you online soon insha'Allah! 


In Peace and Hope,



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