I’m 17 years old and I am sick of life.
The following is an excerpt from a suhbah given by Shaykh Taher Siddiqui:
Why does Allah send tribulations like earthquakes and calamities on people? That question has resonated in the minds of people since the first human beings. Why? The answer is not easy, but the answer is to make us wake up. When an earthquake occurs or a disaster such as a tsunami…. I was there in Indonesia when the (2004) tsunami took place. I was traveling with Mawlana Shaykh Hisham Kabbani, who was there on a very important visit and the tsunami occurred just as he left. When we landed, we heard the news that 200,000 people had disappeared in one hour!
So these things are shocking. When you are well, healthy, in good health, you never think about anything as everything is good. You live your life very free, easily, but as soon as you have a little bit of illness, immediately you begin to stop and reconsider everything and you begin to examine yourself. When you feel that pain, that suffering, it is a signal that “Wake up, you’re doing something wrong!” For example, if you have pain in your gallbladder or your kidney, you’re doing something wrong. Then you immediately run to the doctor, saying, “O doctor! Please find what’s wrong with me. If you don’t find it, I think I’m going to die.” A little bit of pain immediately wakes something inside you.
Similarly, when the earth feels a pain, a shock, it immediately wakes everyone and makes them think, “What do we have to do and what have we done?” Allah is calling those souls back to the Divine Presence. So we say after such an event when someone passes, inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raaji`oon, “From Allah we come and to Him is our return.” It’s the seal, the stamp that we all belong to Allah, that we don’t belong to ourselves as much as we think we do. When something happens that we have no control over, we realize, “It’s not me in charge anymore.”
So these events happen to remind us that we are not in charge. However, Allah in His Mercy is not going to let people suffer without giving them something in return. Don’t think that people suffer in vain. What Allah wants to give them is so great that He cannot give it to them in this physical life, which cannot contain the mercy which Allah has for people who endure suffering in difficulties and calamities, because He is taking those souls back to His Divine Presence.
The Path of Sufism is not other than that which is to take you back in a regression, because when we come to this worldly life we come completely pure and free of any veils between us and the Divine Presence. That’s why a baby comes out of the womb of its mother crying, because suddenly that connection with the Divine Presence, with the angelic realm that we call “Malakoot,” is suddenly cut and that child is placed in a cold, difficult situation, coming out from the womb.
The womb is the seat of mercy. Just as the farmer plants a seed in the ground, it has to go in the ground before it can ever come out as a plant, human beings are the same; we come from a seed. The human being also has a spiritual side that is like a seed. If that seed is never planted in the ground, it will never grow and come out as a spiritually uplifted person. Everyone has that seed and the Sufi Way is to take that seed that grows in the heart and place it where it will be secluded, completely sealed off from the outside world, because we’re always in the outside world. Our eyes are open and we’re constantly bombarded from up and down, from right to left, from our family, our work, our studies, our teachers. We are constantly bombarded by information, requests and requirements. As long as that happens, that seed that is the root of spiritual consciousness can never grow. So the Sufi Way is to take that seed and put it in a place where it can grow.
For that reason, the Sufis developed the science of seclusions. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, went through a great seclusion in order to prepare himself to receive from the Divine Presence, and he perfected himself through rigorous discipline and training, just as you see some people do. They go in the cave and retreat for many months with strict discipline and a little bit of food and water, and then the whole focus is always on the inside. As long as we focus on the outside, all we will see is each others’ faults. But when we begin to focus on what is within us and begin to polish what’s called “the heart” (not the physical heart, but there is something inside of every human being called the spiritual heart), once that begins to be polished, it becomes like a mirror. When it becomes a mirror, anyone can come and look in the mirror and see themselves. For that reason, the Sufi Shaykhs are called, “The Mirrors to Humanity.” When you meet one, you feel very small because you begin to see your true self, your good side and your bad side, your positive and your negative, as everyone has each aspect within themselves.
We come to this world as a baby, completely pure, but as we grow up we begin to imbue different things from our environment and especially from the people around us that are the negative traits: anger, selfishness, the desire to always satisfy oneself before others and the desire for material gain and possessions. These are all aspects of that negativity that begins to build in every human being until they grow up, and then those things are rooted within the self and it is very difficult to extract them or to find them. There are many different processes for doing that and the Sufi Way, as I said, involves meditation and seclusion.
The first step in the Sufi Path is to meet with someone (a murshid) who has already traveled that path. That’s why it is called “The Way” (tariqah), which means a path or a road that takes you from one place to another. So that Sufi Way was actually traveled by many people before us and that makes it what we call it today “the trodden path,” as it is very well-trodden. There are those who know the way. If you don’t know the way, it’s very difficult to reach your destination. However, if you can follow the one who knows the way, he will take you like a guide. When you go in a place like Kashmir, sometimes there is a precipice that you have to cross, and the path is so narrow. In that case, what does your guide do? They blindfold the donkey or the horse, because they know if it looks around it will become so frightened that it will either stop or remain trembling and fall off the edge. So they blindfold him, and the person who knows the path then leads the way.
The way of spirituality is like that. It has many precipices and many cliffs and many chasms and difficult situations. So you need someone who can guide you and blindfold you to take you through those difficult and treacherous situations. Once you pass the very difficult paths, then you reach the end goal, but that is a long journey.
For that reason, they have designed a system to be built around following a teacher, a guide. In the Naqshbandi Sufi Way, the first founder of the principles of this way was Shah Bahauddin Naqshbandi, who learned the way from his teacher, and his teacher learned the way from his teacher, and so on, all the way back to Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, also had a teacher, the Archangel Gabriel. Even though he knew all kinds of knowledge of the Unseen that Allah granted him through the revelation of the Qur’an, still he needed to take a teacher in order to show us that the way is by learning and by practicing.