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Center for Action and Contemplation

The Breath of God

Thursday, September 27, 2018


The Breath of God
Thursday, September 27, 2018

my soul
there is a temple, a shrine, a mosque, a church
where I kneel.

Prayer should bring us to an altar where no walls or names exist.

Is there not a region of love where the sovereignty is
illumined nothing,

where ecstasy gets poured into itself
and becomes

where the wing is fully alive
but has no mind or body?

my soul
there is a temple, a shrine, a mosque,
a church

that dissolve, that
dissolve in

—Rabia (c. 717–801) [1]

Avideh Shashaani shares more insights drawn from her experience and study of Sufism:

Islam believes that creation has a purpose: “O Lord, Thou didst not create this (world) in vain” (Qur’an, 3:191). . . . Everything in the realm of nature and human existence is a sign—a manifestation of God’s divine names and attributes. Just as each entity is a reflection of the divine manifestation, so is the human being. As it is said in the Qur’an, “Wherever you turn, there is the Face of God” (2:115).

Each sign is intended to make us wonder, reflect upon, and ask for the reason and the source of our becoming and being so that we remember our covenant with God. In the Sacred Traditions [of Islam] God says, “I was a hidden treasure, and wanted to be known, so I created the world.” [2] The agent of God on earth who has the capacity to know God is the human being, and in knowing Him, we are able to know our own uniqueness. The Qur’an says, “Everything in the Universe hymns his praise” (17:44).

The edicts of faith are not intended to provide hardship for us, but to divert our attention from all that is transient and that makes us forget our divine nature. Living by the laws of God allows us to let go of things that create unrest and fear in us. . . .

Through grace, remembrance, and ceaseless struggle (jihad), the interior is cultivated and prepared to receive God and become the vehicle for God’s action and for what we are uniquely destined to do in the world. When the heart is cleansed of all else, “I,” as the fragrant breath of the One, break the boundaries of selfhood and emerge from the garden of being.

Hafiz also gives us a way of looking at the purpose of creation:

God revealed a sublime truth
to the world
when He sang,
“I am made whole by your life.
Each soul, each soul completes me.” [3]

[1] Daniel Ladinsky, inspired by Sufi mystic Rabia of Basra, “In My Soul,” Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West (Penguin Compass: 2002), 11. Used with permission.

[2] Annemarie Schimmel, The Mystical Dimensions of Islam (Chapel Hill: 1975), 189.

[3] Ladinsky, inspired by Hafiz, “The Christ’s Breath,” Love Poems from God, 150. Used with permission.

Avideh Shashaani, “An Islamic Perspective on Transgression: Oneness,“Transgression,” Oneing, vol. 2, no. 1 (CAC Publications: 2014), 27-28.

Image Credit: Muslims Praying toward Mecca (detail). Engraving.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: In the Qur’an, faith (iman) is something that people do: they share their wealth, perform the “works of justice” (salihat), and prostrate their bodies to the ground in the kenotic, ego-deflating act of prayer (salat). —Karen Armstrong
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