Excerpt from the Book ‘The Crown of Life’
As the name indicates, Islam is the religion of peace and good will for who believe in the Prophet and follow his behests. Every religion that comes into being fulfils the purpose of God, the need of the hour, and fills a gap in the religious history of man. Prophet Mohammed too came at a time and in a place which was stinking with rank superstition, idolatry, social degradation and moral bankruptcy of the virile Arab race, debased as their brethren, the Jews, and other races had sometimes been. Both Arabs and Jews are Semitic in origin and the descendants of Abraham: the one from Ishmael, banished eastward, and the other from his brother Isaac, who remained in the general area of Palestine. The rough and sturdy Bedouin tribes of the desert, owing allegiance to none but Mammon and Bacchus, were steeped in utter ignorance and given over heart and soul to warring against one another. It was to save such people that Mohammed, a deeply religious shepherd-boy, was chosen by the most High as His Elect, to carry out the fiat of the most Merciful among His creatures. The call to the Ministry of God came to him only after he had practiced intense spiritual discipline for several years in the rough and barren cave – Ghar-i-Hira – in the suburbs of Mecca.
He started his mission in the true spirit of humility, not to work wonders and offer miracles, which he always decried and desisted from, but as a simple preacher of God’s words, a common man like anyone else.
His message was essentially that of One God, for he emphatically declared:
There is no God but God and Allah is His Name. Mohammed is but His messenger, or message-bearer.
On this fundamental basis of monotheism, he built his system of ethical teachings and democratic brotherhood. This was, indeed, the need of the time, and he admirably fulfilled it. To the barbarous, crude and intellectually semi-developed race, he could hardly offer metaphysical postulates for their consideration, specially when even his simple teachings evoked derision and ridicule from the people, and fierce vilification, leading in time to open hostility, that forced him and his followers to flee to Medina for safety. It was in the year 622 A.D. when the band of the faithful migrated form Mecca, and was followed by a period of hard struggle for the newly born faith, for the preservation and propagation of which, the Prophet had to unsheath the sword in self-defense.
The process of consolidation took about a hundred years of relentless fighting, during which was carved a mighty empire from East to West, the Indian Ocean on the one hand and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.
The Koran or the Islamic Bible is a great wonder and an outstanding miracle that surpassed everything else of that period. It has one 144 Suras or chapters, each with verses varying from 286 to 6, the number of verses going down in a descending order. It is in an elegant and polished Arabic and was revealed in parts to the unlettered Prophet when in moments of intense meditation, by Gabriel the Archangel of God, whose voice, originating in the reverberation of bells, would gradually assume sound, shape and form.
The simple teachings of the Koran center around Allah (God), His Makhluq or the created world, Insan (man) and Qiamat or the doomsday. Since Allah is real and basically good, so is everything else created by Him. As all life is individual, so everyone is to render an account for his deeds in life, for he who wanders from the path has to bear the full responsibility for his deviation in the after-life, on the day of reckoning or qiamat.
The Path of peace and righteousness for Man is defined as one dedicated to:
- Allah or God;
- Namaz or prayer, which is enjoined at least five time a day whether standing, sitting, kneeling or lying down (to signify constant remembrance), and which may be performed anywhere by just spreading the prayer-carpet (Sajadah) and facing Mecca, the one common centre of adoration for the faithful;
- Zakaat or charity of one-fourth of one’s effect’s once a year, for the poor and the needy, so that all may share jointly as members of the same human family;
- Roza or fast, during the month of Ramazan, so that the faithful may know what hunger is and learn to alleviate the sufferings of the hungry and also develop spiritual discipline, love of God, and compassion for their brethren, and lastly
- Haj or performance of pilgrimage to Mecca, the Jerusalem of the faithful, at least once in one’s lifetime, in simple sheet clothing, similar for all, thus making the rich and the poor alike, at least for the time being.
These in brief are the social teachings of Islam, designed for the betterment of the Arabic society. But there is in the Koran not much mention of the spiritual practices of the Prophet himself, which transformed a simple camel-driver into a Prophet-preacher and a statesman of high order. This once again brings into bold relief the ancient formula that there is some knowledge, by knowing which all else becomes known, that brings about complete identification with the heart of the Universe in a state of maraqba or meditation. We are told by the Master-Saints that the practice in the solitary Ghar-i-Hira (cave of Hira), was no other than that of Shughal-i-Nasiri, or the Sound that works as an open sesame to the Kingdom of Allah.
Sheikh Mohd Akram Sabri tells us that the Prophet practiced communion with Awaz-i-mustqim for fifteen years before he started receiving messages from God. We also learn that the Prophet accomplished Shaqul-qamar, i.e., he broke the moon in twin astride a milk-white charger barq, which figuratively and literally means lightning. These are clear indications of the inner spiritual experience of those who travel the Path of the Sound Current and who know that they have to cross the star and the moon in their spiritual journey.
Today, we see the symbolic representations of this in the star and the crescent moon on Muslim banners, Muslim coinage and postage stamps, etc. Again, the appearance of the moon on the Id days is always hailed with rejoicing and acclamation, and everywhere the people of the Mohammedan religion anxiously wait and watch from the housetops to see the dawning of new moon on the horizon, little knowing the inner meaning that it conveys. Bound to the Book, they are rightly called the Kitabis or the people of the Book. Mohammed may be the last in the chain of the Prophets who have come, but the Koran enjoins one to seek some mediator for contact with God.
Apart from these references, we have the incontrovertible testimony of the Muslim mystics or Sufis, who have, in unmistakable words, spoken highly of the saving life-line as Kalam-i-Qadim, Bang-i-Ilahi, Nida-i-Asmani, Saut-i-Sarmad, all signifying the Abstract Sound (Ism-i-Azam), the one creative life-principle in all nature – the Kalma, which created fourteen Tabaqs or Regions. To this class of mystics belong Shamaz-i-Tabrez, Maulana Rumi, Hafiz Shirazi, Abdul Razaq Kashi, Inayat Khan, Baba Farid, Bulleh Shah, Shah Niaz, Hazrat Abdul Qadar, Hazrat Mian Mir, Hazrat Bahu, Hazrat Nizamud-din and many others, who all practised Sultan-ul-Azkar (the highest sound principle). The Fukra-i-Kamil, travelers in the domain of Marfat, or true wisdom, bypass both Shariat and Tariqat, the paths of scripture, as well as Hadis or tradition.
Hazrat Inayat Khan in his book 'The Mysticism of Sound' speaks of the creation as the Music of God, and tells us that Saut-i-Sarmad is the intoxicating vintage from the Garden of God.
is filled with Saut-i-Sarmad or the Abstract Sound.
The vibrations of this Sound are too fine to be either audible or visible to the material ears or eyes, since it is even difficult for the eyes to see the form or colour of the ether vibrations on the external plane. It was Saut-i-Sarmad, which Mohammed heard in the cave of Hira, when he became lost in his ideal. The Koran refers to it as Kun-feu-kun – Be and all became. Moses heard this very Sound on Koh-i-Toor or Mount Sinai, when in communion with God. The same Word was audible to Christ when absorbed in his heavenly Father in the wilderness. Shiva heard the same Anhad-Naad in the Himalayas. The flute of Krishna is allegorically symbolic of the same Sound. This Sound is the source of all revelation to the Masters to whom it is revealed from within and, therefore, they know and teach the one and the same Truth for it is in this abstract reality that all the blessed ones of God unite.
This Sound of the Abstract is always going on within, around and about man. Those who are able to hear it and meditate on it are relieved from all worries, anxieties, sorrows, fears and diseases, and the soul is freed from the captivity of the senses and the physical body, and become part of the All-pervading Consciousness.
This Sound develops through and into ten different aspects, because of Its manifestations through the different tubes of the body (Nadis), and sounds like thunder, the roaring of the sea, the jingling of bells, the buzzing of bees, the twittering of sparrows, the vina, the flute, the sound of Shankha (conch) are heard, until It finally becomes Hu, the most sacred of all sounds, be they from man, bird, beast or thing.
In one of his addresses, Abdu’l-Baha said:
We must thank God that he has created for us both material blessings and spiritual bestowals. He has given us material gifts and spiritual graces; outer sight to view the light of the sun and inner vision by which we may perceive the Glory of God. He has designed the outer ear to enjoy the melodies of sound, and the inner hearing wherewith we hear the Voice of our Creator.
In the 'Hidden Words' of Baha’u’llah, a mystic saint of Persia, we have:
Oh Son of dust! hearken unto the mystic voice calling from the realm of the Invisible […] up from thy prison, ascend unto the glorious meadows above and from thy mortal cage wing thy flight unto the paradise of the Placeless.
Many other Sufi mystics have sung likewise:
From the heavenly turret, God bids thee home, Alas! thou listeneth not to the divine call, None knows the mansion of the Beloved, But sure enough the chiming of the bells comes from there.
Rising above the horizon, hearken to the melody divine, the prophet would attend to It as to any other task.
Oh God, lead me to the place from where flows the ineffable Kalma without words.
All repeat the Kalma by word of mouth, a rare soul may do it with the tongue of thought, he who communes with it mentally, he can hardly describe it in words.
In Tazkra-i-Ghausia (p. 332), Amir Khusro, great mystic poet and a scholar of repute, has given an account of the ten types of sounds that one hears within, and he beautifully concludes with the following lines:
Such indeed is the Heavenly Orchestra, oh Khusro, it is in these ten melodies that a yogin gets absorbed. With senses stilled and the mind at rest, so saith Khusro; with the flourish of the limitless blast within, all the lusts of the flesh and the deadly sins fly off, the Master too has a wonderful world of His own, and Khusro is now deeply engrossed within his self.
From the above, it is abundantly clear that the inner spiritual experience of the Sound Current is within the reach of an individual provided there is a competent Master who is capable of imparting his own life-impulse, and who can bring the consciousness in man to the centre of his being and then into contact with the Light and Sound of God by opening the inner eye and by unsealing the inner ear.
Traces of these may now be found in the Qawalis or the outer music, and the raqs or dances with jingling anklets in which some of the Muslims engage to produce Wajd, a state of forgetfulness, as a means to the higher inner way.