The Journey of the Self (1992)
Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri
The English word for ruh is Spirit, though the ruh cannot be described. Nafs describes the Soul in Arabic. The person is the persona or mask. From the unseen an energy command comes to a fetus – this is the beginning of the growth of the soul. Birth is the beginning of the journey of the self.
We go through various stages of growth. Initially growth is physical, until the non-physical growth catches up. In later stages of life, the meaning of the soul supersedes the physical. Steps of growth we go through:
1. Dependence on the mother in the womb.
2. At birth, this dependence includes the mother and other family / support. Interdependence is experienced as the child grows when they learn to interact with others.
3. Inner reliance: With growth of virtues, we learn that we need less from the outer world and that pleasures or joys come from within us. We are created not for happiness or pleasure but to know Allah. We accept all experiences to gain inner reliance.
The soul has a blueprint of the original self (fitra) which seeks equilibrium and joy. We are programmed wanting wellness, harmony, love, etc. Shari`ah prevails over haqiqah.
Shari`ah relates to the outer existential occurrences and rituals of `ibadat, and relates to the outer physicality. Life has form and meaning, and the form is the shari`ah, and the meaning or purpose is called haqiqah.
We need to outwardly feed and clothe the body for haqiqah to maintain a balanced state of being. As we get older, the attention towards the shari`ah decreases and instead increases in terms of seeking haqiqah and meaning. We should seek the essence of Allah, e.g., the root of generosity, mercy etc. We should be seeking to move towards the haqiqah within ourselves, moving from the outer form to the inner meaning.
He who is blind in this physical, existential, cause and effect world, won’t be able to sort out all the inner meanings. He who is blind in this world will be blind in the hereafter. We need to use our limited freedom in this world to groom ourselves, as we won’t be able to take any actions once we are dead. Who we are and how we behave in this life is written in our cells, and this energy in these cells will continue forever.
The journey of the self starts from the unseen as spirit, catching up with matter in the womb, creating an individual entity with our own unique blueprint, yet we are the same. We don’t want to die but we forget that the real 'you' never dies.
We identify with the body, even though we know that the body is dying. This world is another womb from which we will be released to the real world. Our journey is to stop associating / identifying with the physical world. The 'I' we consider ourselves to be, is more than what we see in the mirror.
Our bodies are only an outer reflection of something more. We are born with a fitra to love ourselves, or we won’t be able to love others. Loving ourselves can become selfish, destructive and perverse or we can love our universal self for its generosity, openness, freedom etc.
Every self has been given the spectrum of either being degenerate and corrupt, or virtuous and connected to the higher reality. That is our journey. How do we get there? By disassociating from the outer entanglement that I am this or that. These are just indicators of our individuality.
The journey of the self is from Allah to Allah, by Allah. Original love is the love of the Creator, not the worldly goods or people. We should be seeing Allah in all our experiences or we else we deny him.
As the soul journeys, it inwardly becomes haqiqah, light upon light, the light of the Creator. You will have confidence that Allah is your Creator and guide. If we are struggling inwardly, then we are struggling with the meaning. The inner must be free and this relates to the laws of the Qalb (heart).
The outer is the shari`ah which says how someone should be punished if wrong and taught the right way. We need each other to build a society that upholds the shari`ah so that everyone can grow inwardly as fast as they can. Outer exercises must allow us to be more focused inwardly so that we just are, while we are playing roles in this shadow world.
Visiting graveyards creates an urgency to awakening to be focused on spiritual awareness. We need to be in perpetual state of Salah. We should not be afraid of others, only of Allah. We are free if we are a slave to Allah; otherwise, creation will enslave us.
Our journey is about transforming the soul, from the child that constantly looks after its own pleasures to being transformed to its knowledge of its divine origin. Trust in Allah. If Allah knows that there is goodness in your heart, he will give you better than that which He has taken away. All shocks will have meaning, and we can ask, what does Allah want me to learn? We can’t live in the tombs of the past – we need to live in the now and trust that we are where Allah wants us to be.
We journey from the darkness to the light, and the purpose of life is a growth process. If we live by the inner, then the outer does not matter as much because the haqiqah is now the experience. We can then stop seeking outward pleasures because we have access to something much higher that gives joy and solace.
You have a choice, either live in gratitude or cover your experiences. Kufr and cover are the same word and you are covering the truth and the truth is that Allah has created you to know him.
When we are ill, for example, we don’t know for whose benefit we are ill. Being part of a larger jigsaw puzzle, we don’t know for what purpose. Every situation is a lesson from Allah.
The journey of the soul is to discover that the so called 'you' belongs to a realm that encompasses all existential realms. You are a divine being caught for a short while in a prison. You are both the prison and the warden at the same time. The journey is to recognize these and to groom the body for its infinite flight.
Where does guilt come from? We have driving forces of good and bad. We have an inner witness that tells us when we have gone too far. Our practices enhance the witnesser such that it can immediately stop our lower self.