Islamic Garden

Islamic Garden
Islamic Garden in Lausanne, Switzerland

Friday, June 29, 2007

Divine Wrath - The Pathology of an Archetype of Consequence

As I have contemplated and reflected on the sixth verse of al-Fatiha over the years, I have been concerned over how this particular Face of Allah can be so misinterpreted. There was a moment when I felt the need to "soften" the translation to make it more palatable to recite. This was out of a sense of fear as well as out of a tentative theological position. Isn't God all good and great? Rahman and Rahim? So, what's up with His Anger? Is this really the angry and violent God of Islam? Are we willing to face this question about the religious expressions of our faith?

The troubling image that comes to mind is of my mother who was very vigilant and devoted in her spiritual practice. Yet, when she was suffering from excruciating pain from the cancer which had spread to her bones, she pleaded with Allah: "What have I done to deserve such pain?" She was convinced that some how she was experiencing some form of Divine Retribution.

This is a sensitive topic, so I ask my readers to indulge me in some critical reflections.

Where did my mother get this idea? Was it self-evident? Was this her understanding of "karma?" Did she really believe that she had been so bad, strayed off the path so far, that Allah would treat her with such condemnation and suffering? If this is the consequence of her pure and moral life, what can we expect for our mistakes and errors of judgment?

For years, I have been unable to hold the notion that Allah could actually "curse" anyone or any thing of His Own Creation. The translations that do not use the words Divine Wrath, allude to the "cursed ones." So, this implies that these unfortunates have been cursed by Allah. Were they cursed because they were wilful in their errant deviations from the straight path? Is it not possible that they were just not capable of reaching a level of awakening and consciousness that could have informed their ethical decisions? Is there only a religious and moral basis for pathology? Could they not have stolen because they had no where else to turn to for nourishment?

I have consulted various sources on this topic and will post specific commentaries that I believe actually politicize al-Fatiha to the point of perverting the essence of Islam. In the meantime, I wanted to leave my readers with some time for reflection on this "loaded" topic. Let's all sit with this for a while...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Walking the Holy Way of al-Ikhlas

The Deep Connection between Sirat al-Mustaqeem and al-Ikhlas

A Sufi of the Shadhiliyya order sent me this quotation, see,
from the teachings of Sidi Muhammad Sa'id Al Jamal ar-Rifa'a ash Shadhuli

Al-Ikhlas The Highest Courtesy, Trust, Sincerity, Offering, Gift

Bismi'llah ir-rahman ir-rahim

In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate Open the eye of your heart to catch a glimpse of His truth. Such a glimpse is more than a dream,to lose yourself in Him,to lose all of the sciences of the earth,to listen only to what the Truth says.When Muhammad, may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, was asked about al-ikhlas, he said, " I must ask the angel Jibra'il," and when he asked, Jibra'il said, "I must ask Allah." When he asked Him,Allah said, "It is one of My secrets that I give only to those whom I love among My servants. Even the angels do not know it, and no devil can destroy it."This is the station of the illuminated knowing of the believers who keep Allah in the eye of their heart and in their prayer, and who do His will as if they are beholding Him; for if they are not seeing Him,surely He is seeing them. But, in this case, they have let everything die but the awareness of Him; and so they see Him as He sees them, and they know.

The ikhlas, trust or offering, has three stations of which the deep illumination is the last without end. The first station of trust is of the ordinary person. These people, obeying the law, trust only in their money, themselves, their sons, and to succeed in this. This they ask for in this life and in the next. This is the station of the world, in which all those who have a religion, follow the laws of their religion. They pray to God to gain something, and if they lose they will stop praying.The second station, the middle way of al-ikhlas is al-khawas, the special in which the believers trust in the next life rather than this life, for they prefer the end-life because it is the most perfect to them. It is an end without end, and it exists forever just as Allah exists forever.

Those who want to reach this station must travel to it and leave this material world (ad-dunya) because all of this world of the body will be destroyed, and there is a great distance between the world of the body and that of the soul.Then know beloved, that the third station, al-khawas al-khawas, is the most special of the special in which the offering and trust is to be facing Allah with all your being. You do not care whether you are turned toward the garden or the fire, wishing only to be facing Allah and not another thing, and to see Him, and to do the business of His will, loving and thirsting for this alone, and to know the truth of your praying – to surrender to the Will of God from pre-eternity. This is the only gift for the people in this station. As it is said, "He loves them first, and then they love Him." Thus it is their complete absorption only to manifest His Will.

In this station of the essence of the essence (al-khawas al-khawas), both this world and the next cease to exist. These people have no fear of the fire or desire for the garden, but they yearn only for the deep secret love of Allah, and they are prostrated in the qibla of His love. They do not say why or what, but they live in the essence of the deep love (al-'ishq), and are immersed in the silence of the certainty (al-itqan), sleeping always between His arms.This is not sleeping as people normally sleep, but it is a deep awakening, in which there is no rest but in the arms of the Beloved,the Reality. These people drink only the wine of the truth and eat only the bread of knowing, and this puts them into the ocean of original essence (al-badt). This ocean can be understood by a metaphor. When one is constantly engaged in drinking milk from the Beloved, and when all his life and being are dependent upon the flow of milk from the source, then he cannot live a moment without it, and he cannot stop drinking to talk or to look to the right or the left.He lives only for the milk of the divine truth, and there is nothing in all the worlds that can distract him from this. This state is called absorption in the ocean of al-badt.This is the condition of the essence of the lovers of Allah in the third station of al-ikhlas. These are the nearest to Him, and here the wisdom is la ilaha illa'llah. When He wanted to see Himself in Himself, as in a mirror, Allah came to them in the soul world and asked, "Have I not created you? Are you not My people?" They answered,"Yes, You are our God in truth, and we are Your children. We ask You for courtesy, love and knowing, and to keep us in Your presence because we cannot live without You, and we ask You to give us the remembrance of You with the words of al-ikhlas, la ilaha illa'llah.So know, my beloved, that the offering and trust of these people is to be dying for truth, to kill themselves to live in God, and to be like the wool in His hands until they reach the station of completion, and to be resting face to face with the All-Powerful. The tongue of theirsituation is as Rabi'a's, who says, "Everyone prays to You from fear of the fire, and if You do not put them in the fire, this is their reward. Or they pray to You for the garden full of fruits and flowers,and for them, this is their reward. But I do not pray to You like this, for I am not afraid of the fire and I have no desire for the garden. All I want is the essence of Your love, and to return to be one with You, to become Your face."All this means that the family of God guides people by means of their total absorption in His presence, and by drinking the water of the truth and the milk of wisdom from His lips, from the world of the body, to the world of the soul, to the station of the presence, so that their picture becomes the picture of truth, and their station becomes the station of proximity and union.

As Rabi'a says, "I have hurried to the refuge of Your will to give You my being, so that You may take me into Your being." Then she is completely effaced in His face.After all this, may I be ready, prostrated in the qibla of love, which has no boundaries and which You reveal to all Your lovers as the straight and perfect way of turning to face You; forever bowed before You with no prostration to anyone but to You alone. This prostration is the dearest meaning of knowledge which You give me. This knowledge that You give me is Yourself. When I know the meaning of prostration before You, then I know with certainty that I have come to the real beginning of al-ikhlas, which is loving Your compassionate face.The person who arrives at this station has finished his business with people in the outside sense. He does not look at what they do or what they say, whether they are waking or sleeping, or whether they are here or there because he has returned everything to Allah. He is with Him alone in all his conditions. He has left his body, with the shaitan spirit in it. He has left his thoughts and finished thinking to travel to God with all and everything. He says, "I am traveling to my God; He will guide me." Then Allah takes him, embraces him, and puts him in His heart. With that, he becomes the servant, the slave,and in the perfection of his servitude he becomes one with his Master.Then, when he says to a thing, "Be!," it will be because his voice has become as the voice of Allah, and what he says he says by Allah. What he does he does by Allah. His hearing is as the hearing of Allah, as was mentioned earlier in the supplication, "Listen my beloved, and understand."

One reaches this station by the power of Allah, fearing Him and being polite with Him in everything, watching himself attentively and everything around him, through the eye of his Lord. For the King Whom one serves is, Himself, the source and the completion of courtesy.So you see that the one who trusts, and offers himself, and is honest and far from pretension, nothing can stop him from realizing the will of Allah. He does not regret his mistakes because Allah says, "O My people! If you do not make mistakes, how can you know Me? I am the Forgiver. Return My children, for I want to hear your voices calling for forgiveness, mercy and guidance. The mistake is a gate to righteousness. Through the gate of the mistake, most of My beloveds come to reach Me. First, I put them in the fire of the mistake, then this fire brings them to the deeper fire of My love.

Then I show them My light in the fire, and in a moment they jump and are face to face,the Rabi'a of their time. Do not think that your mistakes forbid you to reach Me. They are the instruments of My will. But learn and repent. Consume the essence of the mistake, so that once having done this and deeply understood, you cannot return to make that mistake again. Offer the essence of the mistake to Me in the fire of your love for Me and My love for you, and do not take it back again."Know, my beloved, that the holy mistake is like a dress. He Who puts this dress on your body does not keep it on your body all the time,but He takes this dress when you are ready to let go of it and gives you another wholly new dress. You see yourself in the morning in the world of al-mistake and then, an hour later, you have returned to the straight way. Know that everything is necessary for you. Allah puts everything in its place, and He knows what you need. So do not let your mistakes keep you from your Beloved, but again and again, wash in the water of forgiveness, the water of His mercy and truth, and offer all that you have and all that you are back to Him who created you,and walk straight to Him, your Beloved, your Lord.Again and again He sends His voice to you. Listen to His voice, my heart. When you truly listen and hear and trust and obey, without asking why or what, then you begin to walk in the station of al-ikhlas.

The station of the trust is a journey from the life of the body to the life of the truth. The life of the body will be merged with the life of the truth in one picture, one life, the life of Muhammad, may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him. The truthful one does not want anything but to be with the Beloved, and his heart is yoked to the hands of Allah. Then his journey will take him from this existence to another existence, and from that existence to the source of existence. This is the sacred moment for him, the moment of his holy birth. If he does not die to be born, and be born to live in the truth of Allah, he loses the jewel which Allah created for him alone. If he loses his jewel, his life and his way, who else can find this jewel?Know, my beloved, that the trust of al-ikhlas, which the lover puts in the hand of his Beloved to carry him through every station of the holy road, is an echo in the valley of existence of the first trust, which God bestowed upon the creature when He brought him to life and to His holy way.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Path of Prophets and Saints in al-Fatiha

Deep in our hearts the Light of Heaven is shining
Upon a soundless Sea without a shore.
Oh, happy they who found it in resigning
The images of all that men adore.

Blind eyes, to dote on shadows of things fair
Only at last to curse their fatal lure,
Like Harut and Marut, that Angel-pair
Who deemed themselves the purest of the pure.

Our ignorance and self-will and vicious pride
Destroy the harmony of part and whole.
In vain we seek with lusts unmortified
A vision of the One Eternal Soul.

Love, Love alone can kill what seemed so dead,
The frozen snake of passion. Love alone,
By tearful prayer and fiery longing fed,
Reveals a knowledge schools have never known.

God's lovers learn from Him the secret ways
Of Providence, the universal plan.
Living in Him, they ever sing His praise
Who made the myriad worlds of Time for Man.

Evil they knew not, for in Him there's none;
Yet without evil how should good be seen?
Love answers: "Feel with me, with me be one;
Where I am nought stands up to come between."

There are degrees of heavenly light in souls;
Prophets and Saints have shown the path they trod,
Its starting points and stages, halts and goals,
All leading to the single end in God.

Love will not let his faithful servants tire,
Immortal Beauty draws them on and on
From glory unto glory drawing nigher
At each remove and loving to be drawn.

When Truth shines out words fail and nothing tell;
Now hear the Voice within your hearts. Farewell.

~ R.A. Nicholson, excerpted from "An Autobiographical Sketch by the Late Professor A.J. Arberry" contained in"Mystical Poems of Rumi 2" (translated by A.J. Arberry).
In celebration of the 800th anniversary of Rumi and a tribute to Nicholson, the scholar who was instrumental in first introducing Rumi to the Western World.

The following is a reflection on Nicholson's poem by Karim Maherali which he considers as an esoteric interpretation of the al-fatiha par excellence. He elaborates on each verse of al-fatiha as reflected in the poem which will have overlapping references across verses.

In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful
The poem begins with the phrase:

Deep in our hearts the Light of Heaven is shining Upon a soundless Sea without a shore.

The Light of Heaven alluded to above is the Universal Intellect and the soundless Sea is the Infinite Divine Essence. We can also say that the Light represents 'God with attributes' and the Sea represents the Limitless Divine Essence. The Sea in esoteric traditions is also a symbol of the limitless reservoir of the Ameeras (the Water of Life) which sustains the worlds. Hence Light in conjunction with the Sea represents the most compassionate divine attributes of the Most Beneficent and the Most Merciful.

All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds, the Most Beneficent the Most Merciful

One of the verses of the poem states:

Living in Him, they ever sing His praise Who made the myriad worlds of Time for Man
There are degrees of heavenly light in souls

According to the esoteric cosmology, the universe is not out there but the projection of our consciousness out there depending upon the degree of heavenly light endowed upon us - a Perfect Man would perceive the entire universe in it's totality whereas an ordinary mortal would have a limited perception. Hence there are many worlds according to the degree of individual souls - an act of highest mercy by the Lord of the worlds, each soul having his/her personal Lord according to his/her understanding and capacity of worship.

The Lord of the Day of Judgement

The Lord of the Day of Judgement according to an esoteric understanding is not someone out there waiting to punish an individual soul but rather it is our own inner conscience driving us to regret and curse as eluded in the following phrase of the poem.

Blind eyes, to dote on shadows of things fair Only at last to curse their fatal lure

Thee alone we worship and thee alone we seek support

The poem states:

God's lovers learn from Him the secret ways Of Providence, the universal plan. Living in Him, they ever sing His praise Who made the myriad worlds of Time for Man. Evil they knew not, for in Him there's none

Existence in Him as alluded to above means total submission and reliance - a sense of total providence and protection resulting in gratitude and praise.

Guide us to the Right Path, the Path of those whom you have bestowed favours, not of the cursed ones, nor of those who have gone astray.

The poem states:

There are degrees of heavenly light in souls; Prophets and Saints have shown the path they trod, Its starting points and stages, halts and goals, All leading to the single end in God

In esoteric tradition the Right Path is the path in which the Lord is constantly experienced as an ever presence as per living in Him above. The Prophets and Saints where blessed with the constant presence and they are referred to as those upon whom 'you have bestowed favours'. Hence submission to the command of the living Saints comprises the Right Path and they guide individuals according to their capacities.

The cursed ones and those who have gone astray are those who do not feel the presence and hence are led to the clutches of 'The frozen snake of passion' and in 'ignorance and self-will and vicious pride Destroy the harmony of part and whole' as mentioned in the poem.snake of passion as mentioned in the poem.

Wait! You mean there is a meaning..... to the meaning?

In those who are most alive and therefore most themselves, the life of the body is subordinate to a higher life that is within them. It quietly surrenders to the far more abundant vitality of a spirit living on levels that defy measurement and observation. The mark of true life in man is therefore not turbulence but control, not effervescence but lucidity and direction, not passion but the sobriety that sublimates all passion and elevates it to the clear inebriation of mysticism. The control we mean here is not arbitrary and tyrannical control by an interior principle which can be called, variously, a “super-ego” or a pharasaical conscience: it is the harmonious coordination of man’s powers in striving for the realization of his deepest spiritual potentialities. It is not so much a control of one part of man by another, but the peaceful integration of all man’s powers into one perfect actuality which is his true self, that is to say his spiritual self.

Man, then, can only fully be said to be alive when he becomes plainly conscious of the real meaning of his own existence, that is to say when he experiences something of the fullness of intelligence, freedom, and spirituality that are actualized within himself.

But can we really expect a man to attain to this kind of consciousness? Is it not utterly cruel to hold before his eyes the delusive hope of this “fullness” of life and of “realization?” Of course, if the nature of the hope is not understood, it is the cruelest and most mocking of delusions. It may be the worst of all spiritual mirages that torments him in his desert pilgrimage. How can a man, plunged in the agonia, the wrestling of life and death in their most elemental spiritual forms, be beguiled by the promise of self realization? His very self, his very reality, is all contradiction: a contradiction mercifully obscured by confusion. If the confusion is cleared away, and he fully “realizes” this tormented self, what will he see if not the final absurdity of the contradiction? The “real meaning of his existence” would then be precisely that it has no meaning.

In a certain sense, that is true. To find life we must die to life as we know it. To find meaning we must die to meaning as we know it. The sun rises every morning and we are used to it, and because we know the sun will rise we have finally come to act as if it rose because we wanted it to. Suppose the sun should choose not to rise? Some of our mornings would then be “absurd” – or, to put it mildly, they would not meet our expectations.

To find the full meaning of our existence we must find not the meaning that we expect but the meaning that is revealed to us by God. The meaning that comes to us out of the transcendent darkness of His mystery and our own. We do not know God and we do not know ourselves. How then can we imagine that it is possible to chart our own course toward the discovery of the meaning of our life? This meaning is not a sun that rises every morning, though we have come think that it does, and on mornings when it does not rise we substitute some artificial light of our own so as not to admit that this morning was absurd.

Meaning is then not something we discover in ourselves, or in our lives. The meanings we are capable of discovering are never sufficient. The true meaning has to be revealed. It has to be “given.” And the fact that it is given is, indeed, the greater part of its significance: for life itself is, in the end, only significant in so far as it is given.

As long as we experience life and existence as suns that have to rise every morning, we are in agony. We must learn that life is a light that rises when God summons it out of darkness. For this there are no fixed times.

~ From The New Man by Thomas Merton (1915-1968). Thomas Merton is one of the foremost spiritual thinkers of the twentieth century. Though he lived a mostly solitary existence as a Trappist monk, he had a dynamic impact on world affairs through his writing. An outspoken proponent of the antiwar and civil rights movements, he was both hailed as a prophet and castigated for his social criticism. He was also unique among religious leaders in his embrace of Eastern mysticism, positing it as complementary to the Western sacred tradition. Merton is the author of over forty books of poetry, essays, and religious writing, including The Seven Storey Mountain, for which he is best known. His work continues to be widely read to this day.

Friday, June 22, 2007


In reflecting upon "the Straight Path, the path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favors," I came across this excerpt from a lecture delivered, circa 1922, by renowned Cambridge scholar, R.A. Nicholson at the Univeristy of London on "The Idea of Personality in Sufism:"

"According to the Egyptian Sufi Dhu'l -Nun (ob. A.H. 245 = AD 859), Divine Love is a mystery that must not be spoken of, lest it come to the ears of the vulgar. Dhu'l-Nun took a very important step in the development of Sufism by distinguishing the mystic's knowledge of God (ma'rifat) from traditional or intellectual knowledge ('ilm) and by connecting the former with the love of God (mahabbat).

"True knowledge of God, " he says, "is not the knowledge that God is One, which is possessed by all believers; nor the knowledge of Him derived from proof and demonstration, which belongs to philosophers, rhetoricians, and theologians but it is the knowledge of the Divine Unity, which belongs to the Saints of God, those who behold God with their hearts in such wise that He reveals unto them what He revealeth not unto any one else in the world."

And again: "Real knowledge is God's illumination of the heart with the pure radiance of knowledge, " i.e. the sun can be seen only by the light of the sun. Hence "the more a man knoweth God, the deeper and greater his bewilderment in God," because (as the commentator explains) the nearer he is to the sun the more he is dazzled, until he reaches a point where he is not he.

"They that know God, " Dhu'l Nun continues, "are not themselves and subsist not through themselves, but in so far as they are themselves they subsist through God. They move as God causes them to move, and their words are the words of God which roll upon their tongues, and their sight is the sight of God which hath entered their eyes. The Prophet, on whom be peace, told of those qualities when he related that God said: 'When I love a servant, I the Lord an his ear, so that he hears by Me, and his eye, so that he sees by Me, and his tongue, so that he speaks by Me, and his hand, so that he takes by Me.' "

These quotations show that what the Sufis call ma'rifat, knowledge of God, resembles the gnosis of Hellenistic religion: it is an immediate experience in which the intellect has no share, an ecstatic contemplation of God by the divinley illuminated heart. Moreover, it involves the effacement of the individual self and the substitution of divine qualities for human; yet all this is the act of God."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


From a Muslimah in Bosnia & Herzegovina:
Reciting Al-Fatiha and understanding its full meaning, the believer can achieve wonderful benefits because it improves emotional, mental and spiritual growth... I take it as our basic prayer which is healing our hearts and our bodies, helping us to overcome difficulties, leading to a change of direction of negative effects, enabling us to achieve patience, motivating us to be truly responsible doing good deeds and avoiding sins; to control anger and discontent. It is very supportive and represents a shelter (safe place) for recovery. Al-Fatiha is actually the universal key that is opening the door of a true cognition of the Only One God, s.w.t, and His attributes. Reading Al-Fatiha made me feel His Justice and His Mercy upon all things and all beings..It made me feel secured and safe in Tawakul and completely free from the illusions, from serving the systems, situations and people on this world....
Dr. Amra Delic of Tuzla offers the above submission of her experience of reciting al-Fatiha and the following contribution on "A Holistic approach to mental well being."

According to the World Health Organization there is no one "official" definition of mental health. Cultural differences, subjective assessments, and competing professional theories all affect
how mental health is defined. "From perspectives of the discipline of positive psychology mental health may include an individual's ability to enjoy life, procure a balance between life activities, and efforts to achieve psychological resilience. Mental health can be seen as a continuum
whereas an individual's mental health may have many different possible values.
Mental wellness is generally viewed as a positive attribute, such that a person can reach enhanced levels of mental health, even if they do not have any diagnosable mental health condition. This definition of mental health highlights emotional well being, the capacity to live a full and creative life and the flexibility to deal with life's inevitable challenges.
A holistic model of mental health generally includes concepts based upon anthropological, educational, psychological, religious and sociological perspectives as well as theoretical perspectives from personality, social, clinical, health and developmental psychology.

An example of a wellness model includes one developed by Myers, Sweeny and
Witmer. It includes five life tasks - essence or spirituality, work and
leisure, friendship, love and self-direction-and twelve sub tasks-sense of
worth, sense of control, realistic beliefs, emotional awareness and coping,
problem solving and creativity, sense of humor, nutrition, exercise, self
care, stress management, gender identity, and cultural identity-are
identified as characteristics of healthy functioning and a major component
of wellness. The components provide a means of responding to the
circumstances of life in a manner that promotes healthy functioning.

Cultural and religious considerations

Mental health can be socially constructed and socially defined; that is different professions, communities, societies and cultures have very different ways of conceptualizing its nature and causes, determining what is mentally healthy, and deciding what interventions are
appropriate. Therefore different professionals will have different cultural and religious
backgrounds and experience which may impact the methodology applied during treatment.

Many mental health professionals are beginning to or already understand the importance of competency in religious diversity and spirituality. The American Psychological Association
explicitly states that religion must be respected. Education in spiritual and religious matters is also required by the American Psychiatric Association (as far as I know it is now included in
Training Programs in Psychiatry in the States with a tendency to include it in European Training Programs too).


It is stated in DSM IV and confirmed by clinical studies that extreme trauma exerts an impact on important aspects of functioning of the survivors. Wilson and Moran (1997) have also emphasized that highly traumatic experiences can have a devastating impact on human psyche and personality, which results in collapse of inner coping mechanisms and severe complaints
that put normal life in disorder (Pajevic, 1999), including religious belief and spirituality that are integral parts of human existence. Facing with reality of today (with entire tragedy and insecurity of human existence onto Earth), mental health professionals have to understand the influence of psycho-social trauma and PTSD on spirituality and personality (Hasanovic,
1999). During and after the aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992-1995), mental health professionals are facing with a number of various mental health disorders, the consequences of severe traumatic experiences.
In our clinical work with survivors we meet people that "have lost" their faith, complaining on the "God's injustice" and "so cruel punishment they have gone through although being innocent". In the souls of highly traumatized we found out that they feel disconnected, spiritually abandoned by God and His system of protection, which has been supportive until then. Majority of our clients belong to Muslim cultural circle. They actually belong to Islamic spiritual background regardless their active or passive participation in daily religious 'rituals' (salat). During various methods of clinical treatment most of them expresses the needs to talk about spiritual perspectives of the meaning; death and significance of martyrdom
sacrificing their closest that have been killed. Within the frame of individual and group sessions, a need for Islamic explanation of life on this world (dunja) and hereafter appeared. They expressed the wish to establish a daily rhythm of prayers during their stay at the department.
Therefore, we provided two rooms; one for our Muslim clients (masjid) and one for non-Muslims, mainly Christians (a prayer room). The clients found it of great importance and helpful. Knowing historical roots of mental health care that in our social reality absorb the spiritual forces from Islamic background, we interfaced arguments between spiritual dimension of personality from Muslim perspectives on one side, and psycho-social trauma
and PTSD and efforts put for its healing using Islamic principles on the other side. Compared to other religions, Islam is not religion only but a comprehensive, holistic system that addresses all aspects of our life (both individual and community level). Unfortunately, being weak, we have tended to reduce this most special way of life (universal model) to the lowest common denominator of a set of legalistic rituals. This Deen, that our Lord and Creator has entrusted to us is greater than we are and our limited knowledge and understanding of it is indicative of the dilemma we as Muslims are facing today.
In the Quran, Allah s.w.t., draws our attention to all aspects of our life, as physical beings with an intellect as well as emotions and most importantly as spiritual persons. We are reminded,
"It is He Who brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers, when you knew
nothing, and He gave you hearing and sight and intelligence and affections that you may give thanks" (Quran 16:78). It is logical, therefore, that when we reject His way, "Allah hath set a seal on their heart and on their hearing and in their eyes is a veil" (Quran 2:7).

El-Azayem (1995) stated that a firm bonding to Islamic principles enables humans to overcome depression, to strengthen the will and support feeling of hope and optimism.
Islam, with all of its disciplines (including shariat/fikh, tafsir, hadith, Sufism etc.) is offering such a life concept that enables individual living in harmony and spirit of Islamic principles
to affirm himself/herself as healthy, creative, self-aware and stable personality. The prayer (including dikhr) neutralizes emotional conflicts, which is greatly illustrated by the
life model of Prophet Muhammad, s.a.w.s., who, according to the ayats and
hadiths, in the state of sorrow and suffering, arousal or anxiety, took refugee in the prayer.
"And if you fear, perform prayer." (Al-Baqarah, 239).

Beside the prayer, our clients participate in spiritual group setting with religious/spiritual psychotherapy oriented staff (trained in neuropsychology and neurophysiology of spiritual experience as well as in Islam). We also co-operate with (Islamic) theologians, some of which
completed Group Analysis Education with us, Seminar on Psychoactive Substance Abuse as well as the School of Psycho-social Trauma (at the Missouri University, Columbia, Missouri). Our clinical experience with traumatized confirmed the scientific evidence that after the prayer and spiritual therapy, the clients feel less anxious, less depressive, and they report on improving communication skills, and decrease in symptoms of avoidance and hyper-arousal. Following religious and spiritual needs of our patients and developing holistic (multidisciplinary) approach in our work, we found out that dealing with spiritual issues in the process of healing is
beneficial and supportive.

He created us as physical, mental and spiritual beings. Our responsibility is to understand ourselves first, because it is only when we do this, that we can help our community. If there
is the absence of Islam, Iman or Taqwa, then the "security and safety" of the individual is missing. The rebellion against Allah is a state of neglect of the spirit which leads to a corrupted
heart. Understanding the physiology of the brain-heart connection we will understand how it affects our health, both physical and spiritual and how to achieve a peacefulness of the heart
which is the greatest treasure.

Tracing back to the history, it can be seen that very many people embraced Islam via Sufism (spiritual aspect of Islam). I would say that the basics are of importance. Namely, the body
requires regulations that are needed in our lives in order to function normally. Sharia, tariqat, hakiqat and marifat in Sufism can be compared to the egg where we can see the shell,
membrane, white and yolk..Each part has its own function. The function of the Law is to put all the things on this Earth in order.. From my point of view, the basic is to do no harm to the
others, while performing duties towards God in a proper way (as it is 'prescribed') is a matter of maturation and decisions. Yet, it is a private matter, which does not necessarily harm or benefit others.

Islam came to Bosnia via Turkish sufis not in the way the missionaries are doing. It simply came as a model of life demonstrated by sufis. Starting point in Sufism is that all people are same (the way I perceive Islam), His creatures, with predispositions to be better than me or you..In this way, the door is opened to all as Mowlana Jelaluddin Rumi says: "Come, come, and
come over again, whoever you are, wherever you are." When the heart is opened the gifts are coming.. It is said that most important is to have a good intention (nijjat) so the one does not have to care how God will treat him/her. Allah, s.w.t., the Creator of people, loves people and wont reject sincere intention of people.
We are all seekers and we all lean upon His Mercy through the stages of our spiritual development. Zikr (type of meditation technique) is performed for it cleans and calms our hearts and support our further growth and integration..The Holy Qur'an says: Be with
those who are calling (remember) Your Lord..
The Prophet Muhammad,
s.a.w.s., said: "Oh Allah, I seek refuge in You from perversity and anxiety
and I seek refuge in You from aspiring after that which is beyond aspiration."

In peace..

Dr. Amra Delic
Department for Psychiatry
University Clinical Center Tuzla
President of the Association of Trainees and Young Psychiatrists
Bosnia and Herzegovina

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Commentary on Ikhlas (Purity) in al-Fatiha

Allama Nasir Hunzai's commentary inspired a response from Maheroon Pradhan, who is of Scottish-Hispanic background. She embraced the faith in 1975 and says she experiences "peace" in the recitation of al-Fatiha.

Ikhlas (Purity, Sincerity):

In the fourth verse of the Fatihah, first is mentioned ikhlas or sincerity, that is, to purify one’s belief regarding the unity of God from all things other than Him. Ikhlas literally means to purify something from adulteration and mixture. Therefore, everything which can possibly be adulterated and alloyed, but is found pure in a true sense is called khalis (pure), such as gold, silver, etc. Nonetheless, in religious terms ikhlas means that state of the heart in which its attention is towards God alone and in this state, there is not the slightest mixture of the other imaginations and thoughts. Regarding this state of the heart, an example from the wise Qur’an is presented here, which is: “And when they mount upon the ships they pray to Allah, making their faith pure for Him only, but when He brings them safe to land, behold they ascribe partners (unto Him)” (29:65). The purport or meaning of this verse depends purely on wisdom. That is, most of the believers in God do not apparently start to pray to Him purifying their faith for Him when they embark on a ship, nor do they unusually ascribe partners to Him instantly upon coming ashore. However, it is true that due to the fear in their hearts when embarking on a ship they become attentive to God, in such a way that no worldly thing can divert their attention from Him, but after landing, this state of the heart, which according to God is called ikhlas or ‘pure faith’, vanishes and worldly imaginations and thoughts start to enter their hearts. This state of the heart, according to God, is called shirk or ‘ascribing partners to God’. Thus, ikhlas is the name of that state of heart in which attention is directed towards God alone, just as the people of a ship in a dangerous sea are attentive to God alone.

Memory of Beach Excursions with Abuelo

Upon setting foot on sand, abuelo (grandfather) would head for one of the piers with four-year-old grandson in tow. From the safety of the shore, I anxiously watched and prayed as Jaime screamed, his skinny arms releasing the strangle hold of abuelo’s neck when he reached the safety of the pier. During my turn at crossing the ocean between piers, abuelo got tangled in ropes (which cordoned off the beach) and we both went under. Years later, Jaime and I sailed alongside the beach watching distant bathers and recalled abuelo’s insistence we confidently engage the mysterious depths of the ocean. In that perfect moment as if on cue, the sky turned gray and a quick moving tropical storm overtook us. Jaime gave me instructions on how to position the sails; but after struggling for a while and sickened by the incessant rocking of the boat, I dove for the safety of the cabin. In prayer, I found relief for the familiar fear. Focused sincerity, gets us past agonizing moments in which self must surrender to the most merciful, generous One. Graced with access, we find the assistance we seek and as self struggles to understand the experience, the most hazardous leg of the journey begins.

In the midst of the tempest, gripped by confusion
SOS sent, self surrenders the ship’s wheel
To a loving, peaceful response and the feared
Boogey man disappears upon the first rays of dawn.
Navigating unpredictable waters, the Captain sails
Past treacherous, rocky shores of duality anchored
In the fathomless single Reality of being.

~ Maheroon Pradhan, Stafford, VA

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Symbols and Secrets of Ummu'l-Kitab

Dr. Allamah Nasir al-Din Nasir Hunzai is a highly acclaimed writer on Islam. He was born in 1917 in Hyderabad, a small village of Hunza. Beginning in early childhood he was inclined towards the esoteric meanings of faith. He was deeply inspired by the preachings and teachings of Pir Nasir Khusraw. He leads the austere life of a "sufi saint".

Allamah Sahib has interpreted the Qur'anic verses from a new perspective. His emphasis is on the inner meaning and wisdom of the Qur'an. He is the author of more than a hundred books on spirituality. He was the first writer to coin the terms 'spiritual science', 'monoreality' and 'thousand wisdoms'.

Allamah Nasir is also a Sufi poet of many languages. His books have been translated into English, French, Swedish, Persian, Turkish, and Gujarati.

The president of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan conferred upon Prof. Dr. Nasir al-Din Hunzai the award of Sitarah-i-Imtiyaz on 23 March, 2001 in recognition of his outstanding service in the fields of literature and scholarship. He was awarded an honorary PhD degree by Senior University in Canada where Allama Sahib has been associated for a long time as a visiting professor. He has been a pioneer in developing the first Burshaski German dictionary in association with Heidelberg University, Germany.

The following is an excerpt from his in-depth examination of al-Fatiha:

The Symbols and Secrets of Ummu'l-Kitab

"One of the names of the surah of Fatihah is Ummu'l-Kitab, which means the origin of the Book. This means that all the wisdoms of the wise Qur'an and the book of the universe are condensed in it. Or, in other words, the entire Qur'an is the Divine exegesis of the surah of Fatihah. Both these statements are correct, as God says: Wa-innahu fi ummi'l-kitabi ladayna la-aliyyun hakim (And it 'the holy Qur'an' is in the Ummu'l Kitab (surah of Fatihah) and that the Ummu'l Kitab (in luminous existence) is with Us, which is the wise Ali" (43:4). Thus it is an accepted fact for the wise people that, if the Qur'an on the one hand is condensed in the surah of Fatihah, on the other it is with the light of Mawlana Ali. For according to a Prophetic Tradition, the Fatihah is the external Ummu'l Kitab, whereas the light of Mawlana Ali is the internal Ummu'l Kitab.

The Fatihah being the origin of the Book means that it is the gist of the entire Qur'an. That is, what is elaborated in the Qur'an is condensed in it. In other words, the Fatihah is the condensed Book, whereas the Qur'an is the elaborated Book. Thus, the Fatihah is a comprehensive and all-embracing example of Divine guidance and the entire Qur'an is a compendium of the subsidiary examples of this guidance. Further, in a wisdom-filled way, the Fatihah is a list of necessary realities by carefully examining which every fortunate wise person can understand what God wills to teach His servants in His cherished Book. This means that one of the beauties of the Fatihah is that it is a complete list of Qur'anic subjects as shown in the following:

1. Marifat (Divine Recognition)
2. Al-Hamd (praise and extollation of God)
3. Uluhiyyat (Divinity)
4. Rububiyyat (Divine Providence)
5. Alamin (worlds)
6. Physical mercy
7. Spiritual mercy
8. Kingdom of God
9. Time
10. Religion and Resurrection
11. Ikhlas (sincerity)
12. Ibadat (worship)
13. Isti'anat (seeking help)
14. What should we pray for first?
15. Hidayat (guidance)
16. Sirat-i mustaqim (straight path)
17. Different paths
18. God's greatest favour
19 The people who God has favoured
20. What is Divine ghadab (anger)?
21. Deviation

In addition to these, there are other subjects, which are alluded to in the Fatihah. For instance, why does the dot come before alif, i.e. why did the Qur'an begin with the dot of Bismi'llah, whereas al-hamd begins with alif? Why is the first word of the wise Qur'an "bism"? What is the wisdom hidden in the composition of the Qur'anic letters ba' and sin, making "bis"? What do the nineteen letters of the "Bismillah" allude to? What do the seven verses of the Fatihah signify? What is the allusion of the quinqueliteral (five lettered) word al-Hamd = alif, lam, ha, mim, and dal in the beginning of Fatihah? However, as these realities are hidden in the depths of wisdom, there is no immediate necessity for ordinary people to search for or enquire about them, nor can this short book contain more elaboration than what has been said. Therefore, God willing, we will confine ourselves to explaining the above-mentioned subjects to a certain extent only."

Sunday, June 17, 2007

"All Beings" in Al-Fatiha

The Sura Al-Fatiha and the Sura Al-Ikhlas are sister suras in my opinion because they help us to delineate clearly those who need to be maintained and sustained and He who is self-maintaining and self-sustaining. In the Sura al-Fatiha, Allah is referred to as the 'Maintainer of all beings'('Rabil aalameen') and in Sura al-Ikhlas Allah is referred to as 'Absolute, Independent, Self-Sustaining, Self-Maintaining'('Allahu samad').

The 'beings' in Sura al-Fatiha refer not just to human and other living beings but also to all beings in the entirety of creation, such as the Universal Intellect and Universal Soul as identified in philosophical Ismailism.

According to a famous hadith of the Prophet Muhammad: The first being created by God was the Intellect ('aql). In philosophical Ismailism, Universal Intellect was the only being to issue, by a process of origination through the Divine Command or Divine Will, from the Absolutely Transcendent God, and everything else in creation is an emanation from Universal Intellect.

In more recent times the above concepts have also been described by the 49th and 48th Imams of the Shia Ismaili Muslims:

"Of the Abrahamic faiths, Islam is probably the one that places the greatest emphasis on knowledge. The purpose is to understand God's creation, and therefore it is a faith which is eminently logical. Islam is a faith of reason."(Aga Khan IV, October 9th 2006)

"The creation according to Islam is not a unique act in a given time but a perpetual and constant event; and God supports and sustains all existence at every moment by His will and His thought. Outside His will, outside His thought, all is nothing, even the things which seem to us absolutely self-evident such as space and time. Allah alone wishes: the Universe exists; and all manifestations are as a witness of the Divine will" (Memoirs of Aga Khan III, 1954).

~ Dr. Nasser Hadi Velshi, Toronto, Canada

From Hunza with Love

" We offer prayers several times a day. I think it is call to Almighty
Allah or to His Vicegerents on this planet for two purposes;

1. It is a remembrance in love; we call someone when we are
intimately attached to one another. It is for reunion; the presence of
the lover and beloved is like a flower and its fragrance.
2. The second purpose is to ask the superior for some help; it may
be material, physical, psychological, or spiritual by nature. The reason
for such prayers are to satisfy our inner ego (self) with presence of
another powerful being; who gives us hopes, illuminates our path in
reducing the troubles and to understand the mechanics of nature in the
right perspective.

These are my humble submissions on this issue. May God guide us on the
right path. Ameen.

~ Ahmed Jami Sakhi, Hunza, Pakistan
Gilgit, NAs. Pakistan

Age: 49 years (1-4-1958)

At what age did you first hear al-Fatiha recited?
I heard al-Fatiha recited during the first week of my birth, when my parents held the naming ceremony.

At what age did you learn to recite al-Fatiha?
As a concious person, I learnt al Fatiha when the current Ismaili Du'a was introduced.

At what age did you learn the meaning of al-Fatiha?
I don't remember exactly, but I think at the age of 10 years.

How has the meaning changed as you have aged?

The meaning of the concept of Tauheed (Oneness of God, Nabuwwah (Prophethood) and Imamah (The Leader of Islamic Community, especially the spritual leader of the Ismaili community); & Qiyamah (the day of resurrection) are the concepts; which always keep changing with the passage of time. By the time we grow mentally and spritually our understanding deepens and the perspectives keep changing.
All concepts should be looked at as a process instead of hard and fast abstract ideas.

May Almighty Allah & His Vicegerents illuminate our souls and guide us on the right path. Ameen

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Can the essence of the Holy Qur'an be contained in al-Fatiha?

Perhaps you have come across the concept of "holography" or even the concept of the DNA.The renowned transpersonal Czech psychiatrist, Dr. Stanislav Grof, M.D. who has written a book entitled "The Holotropic Mind," would argue that al-Fatiha can potentially contain in its "essence" the mystery of the entire revelation. Here's what Grof says about "Holography and the Implicate Order:"

Holography is a photographic process that uses laser-coherent light of the same wave-length to produce three-dimensional images in space. A hologram - which might be compared to a photographic slide from which we project a picture - is a record of an interference pattern of two halves of a laser beam. After a beam of light is split by a partially silvered mirror, half of it (called the reference beam) is directed to the emulsion of the hologram; the other half (called a working beam) is reflected to the film from the object being photographed. Information from these two beams, required for reproducing a three dimensional image, is "enfolded" in the hologram in such a way that it is distributed throughout. As a result, when the hologram is illuminated by the laser, the complete three-dimensional image can be "unfolded" from any fraction of the hologram. We can cut the hologram into many pieces and each part will still be capable of reproducing an image of the whole."

Can you now see the implications of the Umm al-kitab? Imagine the revelation as Divine Light. Can you see how the Umm al-Kitab could convey the essence of the entire revelation? It is, of course, just the opening to the Divine Secret, but it is also the one surah that every single Muslim, world-wide - regardless of age, gender, culture, intelligence, economic status, health and well-being, sectarian orientation - knows how to recite. Alhamdulillah!

Now, this is the one single phenomenon which ties the entire Ummah together. Perhaps you have even considered the relationship between Umm and Ummah. This experience of reciting al-Fatiha is what binds us as a faith of over one billion followers. So, this is my starting point in developing a Psychology of Islam.

Al-Fatiha: A Divine Expression

Al-Fatiha is an example of divine expression. The divine is always unfolding before us and engaging us in a multitude of ways. Recently,I spoke with a young (early 20’s) American couple who were interested in my religious beliefs. After answering their questions, I asked about their religious affiliation and they responded they had none. When they said they had no spiritual calling, I asked if they had been in awe of a sunrise, sunset, a star filled sky, a loving relationship with another person or with an animal (dog, cat, etc.). Yes, of course, they responded. "In fact," said the young man "I feel a strong connection to nature". I explained these moments of awe may be perceived as spiritual experiences. When we pay attention to the divine calling, we transcend our humanity, simultaneously inspired, grateful and humbled by the connection. The Prophet (pbuh) in his seeking was graced with the divine experience which he shared with humanity as had many before him. The al Fatiha, beautiful to read and hear recited, reveals depths of meaning when through our personal spiritual search we connect with the infinite love and peace which is an integral part of our being.

~ Maheroon Pradhan, Stafford, Virginia

Monday, June 11, 2007

A Sufi Story from Turkey

"Once, a Sufi saint known as Somonju-baba was lecturing on the sura Fatiha, the opening sura of the Koran. He pointed out that each line has at least seven levels of meaning. The first level is the most basic, literal meaning and is understood by anyone who knows the words. The second level can be understood by those who have reflected on the meaning of the words. The third level is understood only by scholars who have studied still more deeply, and so on.

When Somonju-baba came to the sixth level, he said, "Besides me, the only one in the room who understands this level is a man sitting in the back behind a pillar." The man behind the pillar was the grand mufti, the religious advisor to the sultan, considered one of the greatest scholars in the Ottoman Empire. Somonju-baba said that he himself was the only one in the room who truly understood the seventh level.

The grand mufti was seized with the desire to learn this seventh level of interpretation, and so he went to the Sufi master's lodge. After greeting the saint, the grand mufti said that he had come to learn the final level of meaning of the sura Fatiha. The master thought for a moment and then replied, "No, I'm afraid that you are not able to learn this final level of meaning."

The grand mufti said, "Please try me. I am considered a fairly accomplished scholar, and I am sure I will manage to learn what you have to teach." After all, he had been the best student of the finest, most accomplished scholars and was now the religious authority for the whole empire.

The saint replied, "All right. The first step will be for you to ride my donkey into town in your formal robes. Tie the donkey's feed bag around your neck, fill it with walnuts and give them to all the children on the street."

The grand mufti thought long and hard. "I have consulted my nafs (ego), and I must admit that I cannot carry out this first step."

The scholar's pride prevented him from penetrating fully the depths of wisdom of the Koran, but at least he was honest about his limitations.

Then Somonju-baba said, "Because you have been so kind to come here and honor us with your presence, even sitting in the straw with my dervishes, I want you to make an interpretation of the sura Fatiha for us."

The grand mufti began to interpret the sura and was amazed to hear the new depths of understanding coming from his own mouth. Later, he wrote a manuscript on the sura Fatiha and told this story in the introduction. The manuscript can still be found in some of the great libraries in Istanbul today. How much more might he have understood had he been able to ride the saint's donkey!"

From "Heart, Self and Soul - The Sufi Psychology of Growth, Balance and Harmony" by Robert Frager, Ph.D, co-founder of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology and also known to some of us as Sheikh Ragip of the Jerrahi Order

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Al-Hamd: A Psychology of Aesthetics and of Imagination

Valerie Gonzalez's book "Beauty and Islam" raises some questions for me as to the appropriate starting point for a Psychology of Aesthetics and of Imagination:

"The field of aesthetics falls into two interconnected but distinct spheres: primary aesthetics, or 'meta-aesthetics' we should say, which consists of philosophical activity whose object is the beautiful and the experience of beauty; and aesthetics in the modern and specialised sense which is both a practical and a theoretical knowledge of artistic creation. Naturally, by virtue of its purpose and/or its ability to produce beauty, art involves both kinds of cognitive practice since it is basically the tangible result and the expression of a certain concept of the beautiful. Therefore, there are two paths towards an understanding of aesthetics: the study of texts through which one defines the concepts of beauty and the doctrine of the creation of art; and the direct observation of artistic forms as meaningful things and the experience they induce. These paths clearly constitute separate subjects for reflection. However, though it is far from easy to relate texts and arts in the framework of Islam, the former necessarily contain useful material for the grasp of the latter."

Somehow, within the context of Al-Hamd, this seems to be a very limiting place to begin a discussion of "Beauty and Islam." Granted, the focus of her work is on "Aesthetics in Islamic Art and Architecture," but surely Al-Hamd, by invoking Allah as the Source of all Praise, points, first and foremost, to a deeper aesthetic than material and artistic representations of Divine Beauty.

In fact, my impulse is to say that, if "All Praise is due to Allah", our creative imaginations are instantly summoned in the process. For, to express our praise from the heart, we must ponder all the beauty that the Giver of Life has created. We are really being called by al-Hamd to praise all that is seen and unseen in Creation!

It is from this act of aesthetic appreciation for all of Creation and our experience of it that our gratitude emanates, is nourished and nurtured on a daily basis through a full, unstinting expression of praise. It is when we deny the Divine Hand in all of Creation that we experience more mundane thoughts and sensations. And yet, even in imagining a world for ourselves in which social justice is sought on a purely material if not moral basis, we must first cultivate an aesthetic sensibility for the Source of all imagination.

If one can truly embody the principle of Al-Hamd at various intervals of the day and night, then it must perforce influence our perception of reality, which in turn has far reaching implicatons for our mental and emotional states of well-being. It is my contention that a series of daily aesthetic experiences is the key to human happiness and contentment.

Most of us can only begin, through our cherished repetitions of al-Fatiha, to express the beauty of the Seen, but how do we praise Allah for all of the gifts which remain unseen?

Nasir Khusraw on al-Sirat al-mustaqim

On the Meaning of the Straight Path

"O brother! you asked: 'What is the sirat (lit. path, way, bridge)? It is said that the sirat is stretched over hell, that it is thinner than a hair and sharper than a sword, and all people have to cross it. The fortunate ones cross it and reach paradise, whereas the unfortunate ones fall from it into hell. Explain so that we may know.'

Know, O brother, that (the word) sirat (in Persian rah) means a path or a way. The path is of two kinds: one is the external path that the people walk upon the surface of the earth, and the other is the path which people follow with their souls in goodness and badness. Had the path stretched over hell been the only one which people have to cross, God in his His book would not have mentioned it in the Surat al-hamd and commanded us to remember Him so that He would show us the path, as He says in the verse: 'Guide us to the straight path (al-sirat al-mustaqim)'. (1:5) Since He has commanded us to seek the straight path, it is a proof that on the path which is not straight but crooked is found that which is other than God. If God had made only one path on which we had to walk and traverse, he would not have commanded us to say this prayer. (The straight path is the way of those upon whom God has bestowed His favours, and they are the prophets, the truthful, the witnesses, and the righteous.) As He says: ('All who obey God and the Messenger are in the company of those) upon whom God has bestowed (His) favours: the prophets (nabiyyin), the truthful (siddiqin), the witnesses (shuhada), and the righteous (salahin). (4:69)

Thus it is established that the sirat is not (a path for the body) but the path for the soul which it should traverse, because God obliged (this path) first for the prophets, then their legatees (wasis) and the true Imams, and then their (proofs <hujjats>), as mentioned. These are the ones whom God has obliged: the prophets who are the Messengers, and they are so called because they convey the news of that world to the people; 'the truthful' by which He means the legatees who (expounded) the ta'wil of the shari'at and the book to the people, and by doing so disclosed the reality of the parables which they contained and proved to the wise that the Messengers are truthful; by the 'witnesses' are meant the true Imams as they are witnesses of God among the people; and by 'the righteous' are meant their (proofs) because the betterment of the souls of people is due to them.

When we come to know that the sirat is the path of the soul and not a path for the body, and with regard to what has been said that it stretches over hell, that is thinner than an hair and sharper than a sword, that people have to traverse it in order to reach paradise, and if they fall from it they reach the eternal fire - all this is correct, but it is necessary to know the esoteric meaning (ta'wil), not (merely) the exoteric description. Thus, we say that the sirat has the status of man (who is positioned) between animality and angelicity, and is required to walk on it straight because unless he traverses it he will be unable to reach paradise. Paradise is the higher (spiritual) world and hell is the fire which surrounds this lower (material) world. The ta'wil of this statement is that paradise means our liberation from the world of animality, and hell means to remain in that (animal) nature. If man practices the shari'at without understanding its ta'wil, then he makes himself into an animal, he inclines towards the left hand and falls into hell from the sirat. If he acquires (esoteric) knowledge, but does not practise the shari'at while claiming angelicity, he inclines towards the right hand and falls into hell from the sirat. However, when man walks on the path of humanity, in which he has a share from both animality and angelicity - that is, he does the work which is the share of his body and acquires knowledge which is the share of his soul - he walks on the straight path (sirat-i mustaqim); then when he traverses the sirat he is said to have reached paradise. This is so because having walked on the straight path using both knowledge and practice, when his soul leaves the body which is his sirat, he reaches the higher world, the place of angels and the true paradise."

~ From "Knowledge and Liberation - A Treatise on Philosophical Theology" - translated by Faquir Hunzai

Carl Jung on the Tao of Siratal Mustaqeem

"Because the things of the inner world influence us all the more powerfully for being unconscious, it is essential for anyone who intends to make progress in self-culture (and does not all culture begin with the individual?) to objectivate the effects of the anima and then try to understand what contents underlie those effects. In this way he adapts to, and is protected against, the invisible. No adaptation can result without concessions to both worlds. From a consideration of the claims of the inner and outer worlds, or rather, from the conflict between them, the possible and the necessary follows. Unfortunately our Western mind, lacking all culture in this respect, has never yet devised a concept, not even a name for the union of opposites through the middle path, that most fundamental item of inward experience, which could respectably be set against the Chinese concept of Tao. It is at once the most individual fact and the most universal, the most legitimate fulfilment of the meaning of the individual's life."
~ From "Two Essays on Analytical Psychology" by C.G Jung, 1953

Saturday, June 9, 2007

The First And The Last Judge

The Satpanthi (True Path) tradition of Islam from the Indian sub-continent prides itself on its "ginanic tradition" - devotional hymns which were inspired by the mystical dimension of Islam. Here is one such ginan offered by a murid of the Imam, expressing a Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim 's interpretation of the essence of al-Fatiha. (Please refer to Hazrat Ali on al-Fatiha):


hak tu(n) paak tu(n) baadshaah maher baan bee Ya Ali tu(n)hi tu...1
You are the Just, You are the Pure,
Oh Ali the Gracious Heavenly King, You are indeed all.

rab tu(n) rahemaan tu(n) ya ali aval akhar kazi tu(n)hi tu........2
You are the Lord, You are the Merciful,
Oh Ali, You are the First and the Last Judge, You are indeed all.

te upaayaa te nipaayaa sirjann haar ya ali tu(n)hi tu.............3
You are the one who originated and You are the one who created,
Oh Ali you the Creator, You are indeed all.

jal thal mull mandal haar naa ya ali hukam teraa bi tu(n)hi tu....4
In the water and on the land, You have laid the roots (foundations, of creation),
Oh Ali everything therein and on is at Your command, You are indeed all.

teri dostee me boliyaa peer shamsh me bandaa teraa bi tu(n)hi tu..5
In Your friendship says Pir Shamsh: "I am also Your created being",
You are indeed all.

~ translated by Karim Maherali, Calgary, Canada

Dear Jalaledin,

Al-fatiha begins with mention of Allah and his most compassionate
attributes of the beneficient and merciful. The ginan gives the same
sense when it uses the words haq - the truth, pak - the pure without any prejudice and badshah maherban - the gracious king.

Then it expresses praise to the Lord of the worlds which finds resonance
in the words rab - the Lord, raheman - the merciful, the mention of the originator and creator of the universes and of everything being at
his command.

The words haq - the just, the awal- first and the akhar - last, qazi - judge gives the sense of the Lord of the Day of Judgement and the underlying justice in creation.

The final verse mentioning friendship and submission to Ali gives the sense of being in favour and following the right path.

Hence the entire ginan does convey al-fatiha.


Karim Maherali completed the Institute of Ismaili Studies' Waezeen and Teacher Educator Programme in 1987. Prior to that, Karim received his B.Sc. with Honors in Actuarial Sciences from City University, London. Karim received his M.A. in Education in Developing Countries (Planning, Management and Curriculum) from the University of London in 1985.

Siratal Mustaqeem

This phrase in al-Fatiha has been translated variously as:

The Straight Path,
The Right Path,
The True Path,
The Direct Path.

In my own psycho-spiritual journey, the path
has never been straight, right, true or direct.
It has been a long and winding road.
I am sure I have strayed and lost my way...
Perhaps Siratal Mustaqeem speaks to
a "centered path" or "a razor's edge?"

So, I feel the need to seek
the insight and the wisdom of the poets
who can help me to understand
the nature and challenges of
Sirat al-Mustaqeem.

Here are three of my favorite poets
who have walked deeply on their own path...

If you have some musings on your path,
that you would like to share,
please feel free to send them my way
to light the path for me and
others who are out hiking...

Rumi on the Path...

There are two types on the path. Those who come
against their will, the blindly religious people, and those
who obey out of love.

The former have ulterior motives.
They want the midwife near, because she gives them milk.
The others love the beauty of the nurse.

The former memorize the prooftexts of conformity,
and repeat them. The latter disappear
into whatever draws them to God.

Both are drawn from the source.
Any movings - from the mover.
Any love - from the beloved.

~ From "The Essential Rumi" - translations by Coleman Barks

Hafiz on the Path...


What I really want to give you
I can't
Yet all day long
I try painting maps on the sky
With bright, tender sounds
That say,
"Turn left a thousand feet from here,
Just past that next hill.
Then make a sharp right
As soon as you see that big rock
That looks like an egg,
There you will find a decent tavern."
I am like a wise friend.
If you come close to me
I will write down the address
Of the Woman who will ravish you most.
Hafiz never wants to offend,
So in anything I ever say
You can always freely switch the gender.
Come close to me,
I will whisper in your ear
A secret about the One who
Has made us all

~ From "The Gift" - translations by Daniel Ladinsky.

Kahlil Gibran on the Path...

In your longing
for your giant self
lies your goodness:
and that longing is in all of you.

But in some of you that longing
is a torrent rushing with might to the sea,
carryng the secrets of the hillsides
and the songs of the forest.

And in others it is a flat stream
that loses itself in angles and bends
and lingers before it reaches the shore.

But let not him who longs much say
to him who longs little,
"Wherefore are you slow and halting?"

For the truly good ask not the naked,
"Where is your garment?"
nor the houseless,
"What has befallen your house?"

~ from "The Prophet," On Good and Evil.

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Psychology of Ultimate Concerns

Robert Emmons, in his book, "The Psychology of Ultimate Concerns" illuminates one's understanding of why there are references to the Day of Resurrection and the consequences of the actions and life style choices - as a collective - of those who have strayed from the Straight Path. Here is an excerpt from the Introduction to this fascinating psychological exploration:

"The central theme of this book can be summed up using a concept that was coined by the existential theologian Paul Tillich in the 1950s. In his classic analysis of the affective and cognitive basis of faith, Tillich (1957) contended that the essence of religion, in the broadest and most inclusive sense, is ultimate concern. Faith, according to Tillch, is the state of being ultimately concerned, that is, focused on the concerns that have a sense of urgency unparalleled in human motivation. Ultimate concern is a "passion for the infinite" (1957,p.8). Religion "is the state of being grasped by an ultimate concern, a concern which qualifies all other concerns as preliminary and which itself contains the answer to the question of the meaning of our life" (Tillich, 1963, p.4). Although Tillich used the term "ultimate concern," I will use the plural "ultimate concerns" to refer to the multiple personal goals that a person might possess in striving toward the sacred. As we will explore in this volume, the concept of ultimate concern enables a bridge to be built from issues of ultimacy in the abstract to everyday concerns and goals where issues of ultimacy "meet the road."

The Psychology of Gratitude

Robert Emmons, Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Davis, has authored two books that contribute considerable understanding towards a Psychology of Islam. They are: "The Psychology of Ultimate Concerns - Motivations and Spirituality in Personality" and "The Psychology of Gratitude." Here is an excerpt from Emmons' introductory essay on this fascinating topic in this very rich anthology, which has profound significance for al-Fatiha in which Muslims are enjoined to praise Allah:

"A number of contemporary trends have emerged that have helped to make this a propitious time for a volume on gratitude. First, the positive psychology movement (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000) has directed attention toward human strengths and virtues - those inner traits and psychological processes that most cultures, philosophies, and religions have commended as qualities that fit people well for living in the world. Gratitude is a virtue, the possession of which enables a person to live well, and therefore must receive a hearing in any comprehensive treatment of the topic. The positive psychology movement has also called increasing attention to pleasant emotional states or what Ben Ze'ev (2000) has referred to as the "sweetest emotions": happiness, joy, love, curiosity, hope and gratitude. German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1967) wrote, "IN ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich" (p.370). Psychologists who have aligned themselves with positive psychology are quite interested in those psychological propensities that lead to a rich life, and several contributors to this volume maintain that gratitude is one of those propensities.

Second, there is a renewed interest among social scientists in people's religious and spiritual lives. The roots of gratitude can be seen in many of the world's religious traditions. Thus, interest in personal manifestations of religion and spirituality may transport the scientist into a realm of gratitude. In the great monotheistic religions of the world, the concept of gratitude permeates texts, prayers and teachings. The traditional doctrine of God portrays God as the ultimate giver. Upon recognition of God's outpourings of favor, humans respond appropriately with grateful affect, and gratitude is one of the most common emotions that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam seek to evoke and sustain in believers. The Hebrew Bible is replete with the motif that man owes God gratitude for life, health and sustenance. There are numerous thanksgiving psalms and other prayers in which the person or the community that is praying pours forth expressions of gratitude. In one of the earliest psychological studies of religion, Leuba (1912) characterized gratitude as a religious emotion and a distinguishing mark of religious experience.

Even though gratitude has a clear religious connotation, a distinction can be made between transpersonal gratitude and theistic gratitude. Transpersonal gratitude may be gratefulness to God, or to a higher power, but may also be directed toward the cosmos generally (Nakhnikian, 1961). It is the gratitude one feels when contemplating a starry sky or a majestic mountain peak. Such a vast thankfulness, Nakhnikian contends, cannot be directed toward a person or even a supernatural agent and occurs in the absence of a belief that a favor has been intentionally conferred upon a person by a benefactor. The spiritual quality of gratitude was aptly conveyed by Streng (1989): "In this attitude people recognize that they are connected to each other in a mysterious and miraculous way that is not fully determined by physical forces, but is part of a wider, or transcendent context" (p.5).

A third factor that makes this a propitious time for gratitude is the resurgent interest in virtue ethics, a subfield of moral philosophy (Hursthouse, 1999; Taylor, 2002). Philosophers have counted gratitude among the most important virtues, and as a necessary ingredient for moral personality. Viewed through the lens of virtue ethics, gratitude is a purely person-to-person phenomena, apart from any reference to the divine."

Ideals and Realities of al-Fatiha

According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr, author of "Ideals and Realities of Islam:"

"The basmalah opens every chapter of the Quran except one which is
really the continuation of the previous chapter. It also opens the
Surat al-fatihah, the opening chapter of the Qur'an, which is recited
over and over again in the daily canonical prayers, and which
contains the essence of the Qur'anic message. This chapter expresses the primordial relation between God and man. It consists of seven verses, three concerning God, three man, and one the relation between the two. In reciting its verses man stands in the primordial state before God, and prays in the name of all creatures and for all creatures. That is why its verbs are all in the first person plural and not the singular. It is the prayer of man as the conscious centre of all creation before the Creator and as such it contains symbolically the total message of the Quran.

The basmalah begins the Surat al fatihah and therefore the whole of the Quran. It thus comes at the beginning of the prophetic message which is itself revealed because of God's mercy towards men. It is in reference to the inner meaning of this formula that 'Ali, the
representative par excellence of esotericism in Islam, said that 'all
the Qur'an is contained in the Surat al-fatihah, all this Surat is
contained in the basmalah, all of the basmalah in the letter ba'
with which it begins, all of the letter ba' in the diacritical point
under it and I am that diacritical point.'

The beautiful symbolism indicated in this saying refers to Ali's 'supreme identity' as the perfect saint who is inwardly in union with God. This point with which the basmalah begins is according to another Hadith the first drop from the Divine Pen. It thus marks the beginning of things as it is also the beginning of the Quran. Like the point which generates all geometric space, this point is the symbol of the Origin of all creation, as the basmalah itself marks the beginning of things. Its recitation at the beginning of an act relates that act to God and sanctifies it. Even if every Muslim is not aware of the metaphysical implications of the formula, yet its sanctifying power is known and felt by all and for that reason every act which is necessary and legitimate in life should begin with the basmalah, such as eating a meal or beginning a journey. In fact that act is illicit at whose commencement a devout Muslim cannot pronounce the formula. Otherwise all that is acceptable before the eyes of God can be sanctified by it. Through the basmalah the Divine joy and bliss enters into human life to bless and sanctify it." (pp. 62-63).

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Mercy and the Wrath

"Revelation, being the complete and unsentimentalized Truth, must delineate both the mercy and the wrath. And yet in the Qur'an it is said,

"My Mercy is greater than My Wrath."

In fact, from the highest point of view there is even more "mercy" in the wrath than there is wrath. The stringency of the wrath is simply lawful consequence of turning our backs to Reality. And yet this "stringency" is also "mercy" in so far as it may turn us in the direction of Truth, may reconnect us with our Source."

~ Sheikha Camille Helminski from "The Light of Dawn."

The Day of Resurrection

Surah 17:71

"One Day We shall call
Together all human beings
With their (respective) Imams:
Those who are given their record
In their right hand
Will read it (with pleasure),
And they will not be
Dealt with unjustly
In the Least."

~ Yusuf Ali translation

Hadith Qudsi 36:
On the authority of Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) from the Prophet (PBUH), who said:

The believers will gather together on the Day of Resurrection and will say: Should we not ask [someone] to intercede for us with our Lord? So they will come to Adam and will say: You are the Father of mankind; Allah created you with His hand He made His angels bow down to you and He taught you the names of everything, so intercede for us with you Lord so that He may give us relief from this place where we are. And he will say: I am not in a position [to do that] - and he will mention his wrongdoing and will feel ashamed and will say: Go to Noah, for he is the first messenger that Allah sent to the inhabitants of the earth. So they will come to him and he will say: I am not in a position [to do that] - and he will mention his having requested something of his Lord about which he had no [proper] knowledge (Quran Chapter 11 Verses 45-46), and he will feel ashamed and will say: Go to the Friend of the Merciful (Abraham). So they will come to him and he will say: I am not in a position [to do that]. Go to Moses, a servant to whom Allah talked and to whom He gave the Torah. So they will come to him and he will say: I am not in a position [to do that] - and he will mention the taking of a life other than for a life (Quran Chapter 28 Verses 15-16), and he will fell ashamed in the sight of his Lord and will say: Go to Jesus, Allah's servant and messenger, Allah's word and spirit. So they will come to him and he will say: I am not in a position [to do that]. Go to Muhammad (may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him), a servant to whom Allah has forgiven all his wrongdoing, past and future. So they will come to me and I shall set forth to ask permission to come to my Lord, and permission will be given, and when I shall see my Lord I shall prostrate myself. He will leave me thus for such time as it pleases Him, and then it will be said [to me]: Raise your head. Ask and it will be granted. Speak and it will be heard. Intercede and your intercession will be accepted. So I shall raise my head and praise Him with a form of praise that He will teach me. Then I shall intercede and He will set me a limit [as to the number of people], so I shall admit them into Paradise. Then I shall return to Him, and when I shall see my Lord [I shall bow down] as before. Then I shall intercede and He will set me a limit [as to the number of people]. So I shall admit them into Paradise. Then I shall return for a third time, then a fourth, and I shall say: There remains in Hell-fire only those whom the Quran has confined and who must be there for eternity. There shall come out of Hell-fire he who has said: There is no god but Allah and who has in his heart goodness weighing a barley-corn; then there shall come out of Hell-fire he who has said: There is no god but Allah and who has in his heart goodness weighing a grain of wheat; then there shall come out of Hell-fire he who has said: There is no god but Allah and who has in his heart goodness weighing an atom.
It was related by al-Bukhari (also by Muslim, at-Tirmidhi, and Ibn Majah).

Rumi says...

But don't be satisfied with stories,
How things have gone with others,
Unfold your own myth,
Without complicated explanation,
So everyone will understand the passage,
We have opened you.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Al-Fatiha to Music

Honoring the Diversity of the Ummah, here is a contemporary rendering of al-Fatiha to music by Wahiduddin.

Beloved Jalaledin,

Thank you. Yes, when you are ready to publish an anthology, I'm certain that we can work out a suitable arrangement, honoring the glory of Allah.

The direct link to the "Opening Bismillah" is:

May Allah reward you greatly for your good works.

with love,

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Language of al-Fatiha by Wahiduddin

al-Fâtiha - The Opening

1. In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
2. Praise be to God, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the world;
3. Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
4. Master of the Day of Judgment.
5. Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek.
6. Show us the straight way,
7. The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace,
those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray.

- translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali

Al-Fâtiha is the first sûrah (chapter) of the Qur'ân, and was one of the earliest portions of the Qur'ân revealed to the prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel. The entire Qur'ân was revealed in the years from 610 to 632 AD.

The Arabic word fâtiha indicates an opening, beginning or commencement, and is derived from the root f-t-h which means to open, unlock, reveal, conquer.

The idea of opening or beginning is significant in several ways: first, this is the opening verse of the Qur'ân, secondly, this is said to be the first complete sûrah that was revealed to the Prophet, but more importantly this name also symbolizes the fact that the grace of Allâh has opened the doors of Life to us and that as we begin to live our lives in harmony with the ways of Allâh, the heart truly begins to open, thereby allowing us to begin to allow the Divine Presence of the One to consciously manifest openly through our daily lives, and thus, it is we that have been opened by the grace of the Opener.

In many ways, the verses of the Fatiha are virtually identical to a prayer that Jesus gave, called the Lord's Prayer, as recorded in Matthew 6:9-13, and are also nearly identical to the Gayatri Mantra which was given in the Rig Veda. In each of these glorious prayers, the opening lines sing praise of The One, while the final lines acknowledge the gift of Divine Guidance on the path of Righteousness and Understanding.

The Fatiha, the Lord's Prayer and the Gayatri Mantra all illustrate a specific manner of communion with the Divine. In each of these glorious supplications, the opening lines are a recognition of the Glory and Majesty of the The One, and then the prayer is closed by honoring the guidance of the One who guides us all... not a selfish request for specific things for the little "me", but a selfless recognition of the wondrous gifts that are continually bestowed upon all of mankind.

There is only one God, and for those who find it difficult to say the name Allah, it may be helpful to note that in the Semitic language of Aramaic that Jesus probably spoke, the Aramaic name that is translated as God in the European bible was actually Alaha. Indeed, Allah of the Qur'an and Alaha of Jesus are the same One, there is only one God (and Arabic was largely derived from the earlier Aramaic, much the same as Aramaic was derived from the earlier Hebrew). However, the name God is a relatively new, and perhaps unfortunate, European invention that has been the source of much misunderstanding, fear and hatred.

A deeper look into The Opening:

The following is the Fatiha, line-by-line in Arabic, followed by a simple transliteration, and four well-known English translations.

(Pronunciation guide: i as in sit, a as in bat, u as in put, â as the a in father, î as the ee in reel, û as the oo in moot.)

bismillâh ir-rahmân ir-rahîm

Yusuf Ali: In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
Pickthall: In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Shakir: In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Muhammad Ali: In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

al-hamdulillâhi rabb il-âlamîn

Yusuf Ali: Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds;
Pickthall: Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds,
Shakir: All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.
Muhammad Ali: Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds.

ar-rahmân ir-rahîm

Yusuf Ali: Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
Pickthall: The Beneficent, the Merciful.
Shakir: The Beneficent, the Merciful.
Muhammad Ali: The Beneficent, the Merciful.

mâliki yawm id-dîn

Yusuf Ali: Master of the Day of Judgment.
Pickthall: Master of the Day of Judgment,
Shakir: Master of the Day of Judgment.
Muhammad Ali: Master of the day of Requital.

iyyâka na`budu wa iyyâka nasta`în

Yusuf Ali: Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek.
Pickthall: Thee (alone) we worship; Thee (alone) we ask for help.
Shakir: Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help.
Muhammad Ali: Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help.

ihdinâ s-sirât al-mustaqîm

Yusuf Ali: Show us the straight way,
Pickthall: Show us the straight path,
Shakir: Keep us on the right path.
Muhammad Ali: Guide us on the right path,

sirât al-ladhîna an`amta `alayhim
ghayr il-maghdûbi `alayhim wa la d-dâlîn

Yusuf Ali: The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace,
those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray.
Pickthall: The path of those whom Thou hast favoured;
Not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger
nor of those who go astray.
Shakir: The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favors.
Not (the path) of those upon whom Thy wrath is brought down,
nor of those who go astray.
Muhammad Ali: The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favours,
not those upon whom wrath is brought down,
nor those who go astray.

going even deeper into 'The Opening'....

No simple literal translation can capture the magnificence or the delicate nuances of these Arabic verses. Every word has multiple levels of meaning, and each line brings new insights and inspirations with every reading. To begin to discover the deeper meanings of these verses, let's look at the deeper meanings of the words, line by line:

(Pronunciation guide: i as in sit, a as in bat, u as in put, â as the a in father, î as the ee in reel, û as the oo in moot.)

bismillâh ir-rahmân ir-rahîm
bismillah = for the glory of Allah, in the name of Allah, by means of the Light of Allah
There are three parts to this beautiful word: (see also the bismillah web page)
1) bi : by, for, by means of, with the aid of, through (pointing towards the idea of what happens next)
2) ism : name, reputation, glory (root indicates light, vibration, essence)
3) Allah

ir-rahmân = the beneficent, the merciful, the compassionate, the One who continually showers all of creation with blessings, nourishment and prosperity
Root r-h-m: womb, kinship, mercy, compassion, tenderness requiring the exercise of beneficence.

ir-rahîm = the compassionate, the merciful, the One who gives even more to those who live in loving harmony and righteousness
Root r-h-m: womb, kinship, mercy, compassion, tenderness requiring the exercise of beneficence.

al-hamdulillâhi rabb il-âlamîn
al-hamdulillâhi = all praise is to Allah, all praise is for Allah
hamd : praise, commendation, laudation
continual praise with a feeling of pleasure, continual praise for the sake of Allah (not for any specific action)

rabb = lord, master, owner, nourisher, cherisher, guardian
Root r-b-b: indicates the idea of fostering something in such a manner as to help it to attain one condition after another until it reaches the goal of completion

il-âlamîn = all the worlds, all that exists, all that Allah has created
(plural of 'alam)

ar-rahmân ir-rahîm
ar-rahmân = the beneficent, the merciful, the compassionate, the loving One who continually showers all of creation with blessings, nourishment and prosperity
Root r-h-m: womb, kinship, mercy, compassion, tenderness requiring the exercise of beneficence.

ir-rahîm = the compassionate, the merciful, the One who gives even more to those who live in loving harmony and righteousness
Root r-h-m: womb, kinship, mercy, compassion, tenderness requiring the exercise of beneficence.

mâliki yawm id-dîn
mâliki = lord, master, owner, controller
Root m-l-k: to own, possess, acquire, control, rule, have dominion over, lord over, to be master of.

yawm = day, age, era, time, a period of time, moment

id-dîn = religion, faith, creed, sovereignty, submission, belief, accountability
Root d-â-n: to be indebted, to owe, to be subject, be under someone's power, owe allegiance; to repay. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen said: dîn means the light which is perfectly pure, dîn is what existed in the beginning, the "ancient thing" which was with God originally and is always with Him.

iyyâka na`budu wa iyyâka nasta`în
iyyâka = to you and only you, to you alone, unto thee only, unto thee and none other
iyyâ : with you , unto you
ka : you (2nd person masculine singular suffix)

na'budu = we worship, we serve, we adore
na: (imperfect prefix)
Root '-b-d: to serve, worship, adore, venerate, submit
u: (indicative suffix, 1st person plural)

wa = and, and also, while, whilst, but, together, with

nasta'în = we seek help from
Root '-A-n: to aid, to assistance, help

ihdinâ s-sirât al-mustaqîm
ihdi-nâ = guide us, show us, lead us
ihdi: Root h-d-y: guide, show, direct, be made aware, to be led back, to be rightly led with kindness until one reaches the goal. This is also the root of al-Hâdî, the Guide, the Leader.
nâ: pronoun, referring to we, or us.

s-sirât = course, path, way
specifically, a path which is even, wide and can be easily followed to the goal.

al-mustaqîm = straight, shortest, smooth, exact, right
Root q-m: get up. stand up, stand erect: make straight, correct, reform, lift up, resurrect, appoint, arouse. This is also the root of al-Qayyûm, the Self-existing, the One who stands alone.

sirât al-ladhîna an`amta `alayhim
ghayr il-maghdûbi `alayhim wa la d-dâlîn

sirât = course, path, way
specifically, a path which is even, wide and can be easily followed to the goal.

al-ladhîna = those who, whoever
some early manuscripts read man rather than al-ladhîna

an'amta = you have have bestowed grace, you have favored, you have blessed
Root n-`-m: to bestow favor, be graciously disposed, to make comfortable, to take great pains; to live in comfort and luxury, life of ease
ta : you (subject, 2nd person masc sing)

'alayhim = unto them, upon them, over them
(prep) `alâ on, upon, over, toward, for

ghayr = unlike, different from, other than

il-maghdûbi = the recipient of anger, frustration, annoyance
Root gh-d-b: means to be cross, angry, irritated, furious, annoyed, enraged.

'alayhim = unto them, upon them, over them
(prep) 'alâ: on, upon, over, toward, for

wa la = and not, nor, neither, not even

d-dâlîn = one who diverges from the goal, one who goes astray, one who is diverted
Root d-l-l: means to lose one's way, go astray, to err, to be misled, to be deceived.

Armed with these definitions and your own insight, you may enjoy creating your own poetic interpretation of al-Fâtiha in order to explore some of the many meanings and interpretations... just go through the Fâtiha word-by-word, inserting the meaning of each word that seems to speak to your heart, such as:

1) For the glory of Allah, the Merciful One Who is endlessly Beneficent, and Who Graciously rewards those who live in Divine harmony,
2) every manner of this praise and joyful gratitude is for the glory of Allah, the one Lord of all of creation,
3) the One who is forever lovingly beneficent and who rewards those who surrender to a life of harmony and righteousness,
4) Owner of the Moment of Awakening,
5) You alone do we adore and from You alone do we seek aid.
6) (You are) guiding us on the glorious path of harmony and righteousness,
7) the way of those who have accepted your loving blessings and not the way of those who have anger over them nor of those who have gone astray.

- a rendering by wahiduddin

This has been only a brief introduction to al-Fâtiha... there are entire books written to explore the significance of al-Fatiha more fully.

Click this link to hear al-Fatiha recited by the renowned Saudi qari Shaykh Saad al-Ghamdi.

On my music page you'll find an original composition called The Opening Bismillah which weaves the bismillah phrase in and around al-Fatiha as musical calligraphy.

with love,
Wahiduddin (Richard Shelquist)