FRIDAY, AND WHERE TO MEET THE LORD
We ask You, Who is Closer to us than our very selves,
to forgive us
to pardon us
to bless us with the gifts You gave to the greatest of Your friends
We ask You to connect us with the great Guide, Saviour of humanity,
the humble one who conveyed Your Message to humanity
with total devotion, commitment and trustworthiness,
the one who has handed us the flame of Your Light to walk by.
Our Lord God has permitted us this noble hour, a time that is supposed to be the time of great assembly when the people leave their homes to go to spaces dedicated to God. The middle hour of Friday is when gatherings of guidance are supposed to take place, gatherings where people come to be taught, to be reminded of the Order of God.
This holy moment is one that God consecrated in order to not let the days and weeks pass into a blur for us. He has made this hour a gift to us, in which we are invited to remember what matters: the account we must deliver to God at the end of all things.
One of the philosophies of the Friday Assembly (Jumua as it is called in Arabic), and of the Meditational Prayer (Salah) itself, is this return – this “forced” return about which we are not given a choice. God Himself chose these times for us to meet Him. The times of prayer were not chosen by the human, the days of Ramadan were not chosen by the human, the rites of the Hajj, not chosen by the human; in contrast to the hours and moments the human chooses to remember God. Indeed, you can choose any time of the day to remember God.
But I want to focus on this “forced” time with God. Because it is forced. It comes as an order. It is an order to be in order – to function well. And to be well-ordered – to put our lines and minds straight and focus on what our actual purpose here is.
God says: Leave it all aside, and come now!
This order is the principal element that God has placed in the five times Meditation, and its purpose is to liberate us from this illusion that we have all our lives to come to Him, as if we have control over time, though in reality, we know very well, we don’t have control over these things. This call from God to show up is His kindness; He knows that were He to leave it to us, we would keep putting off coming to Him, not least because we believe there is always “later.”
But God knows, there is not later for these appointments. Life is fleeting, and we need to have time with Him to be able to survive, thrive, and come out at the end of all this unscathed by the lashes of satan and the tyrants of this world – be they capitalists bent on making us forget our truth and thereby limiting our spiritual lives, or actual dictators limiting our actions. God’s enforcement of our meeting with Him is is His telling us that we don’t have time to waste, we can’t wait, we must come right away.
This forced meeting with the Lord is at once an expression of His insistence on our being saved, His love for us, and His Assistance to us. And it brings the beauty of yielding to that call – in us. When we respond, we are accepting His love, agreeing to be pulled to Him, letting Him seize us by the shoulders and put us in rows to face Him – to face forward to be washed in the light and love that He has set aside for us, and is about to give us.
The intelligent human being will learn from this forced time with God, and will decide to do other things in his life in this way. He will build the rest of his time on this model. Even for the extra prayers, he will make fixed times and force himself to have fixed meetings – that apply whether he is sick or busy. At minimum, we should have 10 minutes in the evening, 15 minutes after Fajr, as our self-enforced meeting times with God.
We need at least one meeting with God that we have decided to force ourselves to maintain: a ritual that we respect. It could be a gathering of communal prayers, it could be a class you take, it could be a nightly vigil. The important thing is that you realize that you must stick to it.
THE DAY OF RESPONSIBILITY
The most beloved actions to God – in other words the most beneficial to the human (what God loves will be what is most beneficial to us) – are those actions that follow an order, that become a regular rendezvous – even if small and short.
God calls us to order because we have a tendency to forget and sweep our our soul’s desires under the rug. We have this tendency to think we have all our lives to work on ourselves and can feed and free our souls later. The only problem is: we don’t know the duration of this life. No one knows the length of his time here on earth. We need to remember the moment of standing before God, that comes as a final stage to this current life we are living.
Friday and its rituals are a good way to bring ourselves to think about time, about the final standing before God, about how we are using our precious moments and days. In fact, there are texts that say that the day of Reckoning will be on a Friday – thus we can think of the Friday gathering as a rehearsal.
As I write these words, I invite myself and you to contemplate for a moment the extent of the loss we have experienced in the fact that today we are unable to enjoy access to the ritual of the Friday Assembly. We see, however, how very rapidly Muslims have become accustomed to its absence. One would say that the only attachment they had to it was as a routine, like going to the mall.
It’s a huge loss to no longer be able to assemble on Fridays, but the secret of this day remains. This day, Friday, is still an invitation to review your week, is still an invitation to think about your life, to get ready for the final reckoning. After a week of listening to your own story, it’s the chance to step out of your comfort zone and listen to the story God is telling you.
In what is happening in the removal of our public and communal religious rites, there is perhaps a gift. And that is the gift of being liberated of certain illusions, and certain delusions. The loss of the Friday Assembly is a chance to move beyond the form, and into the simplicity yet profundity of the meaning of being with and for God.
DON’T TRY TO BE BIG
One of the things we need to be liberated of, and can find ourselves liberated of when we are deprived of some communal presence, is our delusions of grandeur. There is nothing that prevents growth more than delusions of grandeur. On the personal level and on the collective level. Sometimes when we get the chance to talk to people, we find ourselves creating a story about who we are and what our grand plans and our role is. Yet when we are alone, we are stripped of that storytelling, and through that isolation, we come back down to size.
Meditate on this: the child who thinks he is big now ends up being the most immature. The child who acts like an adult and thinks he can do all things, is often the like a child when he actually becomes an adult. Similarly, the person who makes grandiose plans to change the world or to save the world, often speaks prematurely. We find people who have big plans in mind, huge projects like the renaissance of Islam, yet they end up doing nothing much at all. Often the group and the individuals who are possessed by grandiose notions end up with nothing – or even become one of the problems of their time.
If we are too attached to this idea of changing the world and bringing about a renaissance, if we think too abstractly, and in too much of a global way, we find ourselves not doing our basic duties. We find ourselves overlooking what is right before us – portals into the great meaning of things that are so close that they appear small to us…and in this decision to not do what is before us, we end up neglecting the moments of meeting with God in the details that are already here in our lives.
Our problem is that we make an image in our minds of what the meeting with God looks like, what His presence feels like. And he who makes an image of what that would and should be like, misses the real moments of meeting God that are found in the everyday. For indeed, in every single thing, there is a portal to the spiritual. Even in the sin – there is a portal to learning to fear and have awe of God, and learning to come back to Him seeking His protection and cover. So what then of the good deed or the duty you fulfil? How could they be any less of a door to the Unseen? Indeed, they are.
SINCERITY IS THE CURRENCY OF THE DAY
“Every act of goodness is a Sadaqa,” said the Noble Guide, may the light of God continue to nourish his soul and our connection to him.
Sadaqa is usually translated as “charity” – and yes, it does mean giving one’s wealth or time for the Sake of God. And it also means an opportunity for the cultivation of sincerity, since giving in charity takes sincerity. Linguistically, Sadaqa is related to the word “sidq” which means “sincerity.”
Each good action carries in it the opportunity to be truly sincere – to come to a level of yearning for God and seeking truth – in the midst of the deed – that is a new level for you. Our aim is to reach, with every deed we do, for a new height of authenticity – and we do this by aligning ourselves a little more with God, each time. Each action you do, open your heart a little more, be a little more authentic than you were the moment before. Be a little more open, courageous, committed. And this is how you will grow with time.
Sincerity is important – it denotes this engagement with getting better and getting real with each thing we do. And God tells us that this sincerity is the only currency that will remain the Day of Judgement, the day when no wealth, no property, nothing of this world, will be worth anything. Nothing will be something you can exchange anymore for the prize you seek – eternal peace in heaven. The exchange is done, the purchasing period is over. But one thing remains – and it comes from all the past transactions you have made: it is your sincerity.
قَالَ اللّهُ هَذَا يَوْمُ يَنفَعُ الصَّادِقِينَ صِدْقُهُمْ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٌ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا رَّضِيَ اللّهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُواْ عَنْهُ ذَلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ
And on Judgment Day, God will say: “This is the day when the sincere ones will find their sincerity to be the only thing which benefits them now. In exchange for their sincerity, God gives them gardens spread out over rivers and brooks. They will dwell there for always and ever, their Lord God being Pleased with them, and they being pleased with Him That is truly the ultimate gain, the greatest prize.”
Surat Al-Ma’idah (The Banquet) Chapter 5: Verse 119
Sincerity is to be true, honest, real. We think we can be sincere and still be distant. But there is no distance or alienation if there is sincerity. Sincerity always brings authenticity. It is the fullest expression of your humanity, in all its vulnerability before God and before those who you need to connect to on this journey to Him.
Take the opportunity to be sincere in every action, so that the action is turned into something that will form a springboard for your growth and bring you to the ultimate destination of Paradise.
Searching for the truth in each thing is the way.
Even in the smile, there is a sadaqa – an opportunity to be sincere and to be authentic, says the Apostle of God, may the light of God continue to nourish his soul and our connection to him.
These are the moments of meeting with your Lord, these are the moments of encounter with your Lord and His Messenger, the Beloved one who we yearn to meet – Muhammad, may his light enter our hearts and pierce our souls.
God tells us in the Holy Address to humanity:
O you who wish to grow in the path of God, remain conscious of Him and align yourself with the sincere ones.
At-Tauba (The Chapter on Repentance) Chapter 9: Verse 119
In other words: continue to do this exercise of developing your consciousness by cultivating sincerity in all things and becoming authentic in the presence of others who are also seeking to be authentic.
STOP WAITING, START WHERE YOU ARE
In waiting for a grand moment we miss all the small chances. You find sometimes that you are so caught up in your task or project, that you miss the entire point. The person doing all the decor for a celebration of the Eid or Mawlid, wanting each thing to be perfect for that moment, misses a chance to smile at his brother. The brother comes near, but the one doing the decorating is so “busy” that he can’t even say assalam alaykum to his brother.
Thus it is that we miss the chance to be connected with the Prophet, may the light of God continue to nourish his soul and our hope in him, all because we are so obsessed with an image of “the meeting” that we don’t realize we just recieved the invitation to it.
On the level of the mental aspect of the human being, the person who is obsessed with saving the world and believes he is taking part in a big mission to fix everything – is often a person with the biggest personal struggles in his daily life, that he is not willing to address or face. He escapes that by focusing on thoughts about big projects. All the while, his own spouse, children or parents have major relationship issues with him. But the version of himself that he puts out to the world is this one that keeps saying: we have to do something! We have to do something about the state of the world!
DO SOMETHING – BUT WHAT?
Yes – we have to do something. But start doing something by taking a look at how many things you are in the process of missing in your life. God will judge you according to the things He gave you to do in your life. We waste our time coming up with grand plans that are mostly hot air, and we miss out on the practical things we can do. This is the art of being a person of Go: that you find no action too insignificant to engage in, even lifting a fly from a glass of water in which it is drowning, or making a cup of tea for someone, or cooking a meal, or changing a diaper.
The most important thing is to be aligned with the Prophet. When you carry out the luminations (wudu) you should be doing so to align yourself with him. And when you go out on the battlefield to fight the good fight, you should also be doing that to align yourself with him. The consistent piece in all you do, is that you do it to be aligned with him. The rest is commentary.
We must align ourselves with the Apostle of God, the Light of God, in all the contexts we are offered. We don’t get to choose the context. God chooses the context. He is the One in charge! As for us, let us align with Truth wherever we are and whatever little thing we are doing.
At the end of the day, anyone who wishes to fuse into the Prophetic light in all aspects of his life will be chosen for the great things. The Companions and the Apostle of God were not in a daily study of how will we open the world to Islam?. But they were always looking for ways to open their hearts to God.
And that’s what brought about the opening in the cosmic realm.
It was not something calculated or planned. All they sought was to be submitted to God and that God would use them for what He willed. O my Lord, I seek nothing but to be submitted to You and to Your Prophet. After that, do with me what You will. The important thing is that I be used by You as an instrument.
THE INFINITELY SMALL
It’s the small grains of ink that can dissolve enough to be used to write with, to flow from the stylus of the pen. The big pieces are too big to come out of the nib, and end up being left aside.
Today, we find people afraid of the spectre of evil controlling the world, we find people truly feeling demoralized as they see the plans of the Antichrist (Dajjal) unfold. Many people are living in a state of fear now about the vaccine and the things that concerned people are saying of it. They are speaking of how the vaccine could contain nanometric technology that could control people’s feelings, stop them from being able to connect to God. People are saying that this vaccine will affect people’s receptivity to the spiritual realm. What I have to say about this is that we should not be afraid of such a thing. Nothing can control a heart that is alive. And the truth is that it’s not the vaccine that is the actual problem. At most a vaccine that could affect people’s feelings about faith is no worse than a magic spell – and magic has been around since time immemorial. It’s not there that we should place our fears.
We have seen the change in our brothers and sisters from right to left, this emotional cooling down or freezing that occurs in people – without any vaccine. The cause is not in external factors. The threat to our faith does not come from outside. It is from a gap we leave untended to, on the inside.
In the world of matter, there is the small – like the wonderous world of nanotechnology of which we just spoke – the fact that there is the inifinitely tiny that the human can now perceive. In non-matter, the world of the spirit, there is also the infinitely tiny – the human being him or herself is small beyond words.
But in that same spiritual world, actions and deeds are not clearly big or small – only God Most Vast knows what deeds are in reality big or small. What seems to the human to be a small deed or action, in a small and limited context, could be massive in the Sight of the Lord. These are the unsung heroes in the world of deeds – those things that no one praises, no one even pays attention to. Often, they are called “duties” – plain and simple. No fanfare, no pats on the back for them.
But given this truth, and given the fact that it is safer to focus on what is before us than to project big statements onto the future, let us be pleased with being small in a positive sense, and doing our duty.
You are an ‘abd – a slave of God. Who asked you to take the role of God? Yes, you can feel concerned for the state of the world, but you can’t carry the world on your shoulders. Sadness should not become a handicap and a debilitating load upon you. Sadness of this sort is not ibadah (devotion to God).
You are an ‘abd, a devotee of God. Accept to be infinitely small, and God will give you the strength from Him. And the strength of God cannot be received except by the infinitely small – the one who sees himself as small and insignificant, just fulfilling the duties before him and not entertaining delusions of grandeur about his role in this universe and its fate.
Do what you can do, do what you must do, and let God do the rest and make what you do better. “Can” and “must” cannot be taken lightly. You cannot be excused of your responsibility to do you what you can do. And you must not underestimate your capacities either.
WORK YOUR HEART
Even as time winds down and the difficult days draw near, you need to know that there is nothing that can block a living heart from God. How do you establish that living heart from now, so it will be your parachute for the days to come? Your lifeline and your lifeboat and your lifejacket all in one?
You make sure that you are not simply living the religion through your mental capacity and as a cerebral experience. If we engage with God with our hearts, we will have living hearts. And a living heart will stay alive through any storm.
We see how even an old lady who goes under anesthesia, all of her body goes to sleep, but that heart keeps on, as ever. So I tell you again, and I implore you: cultivate a heart that lives that is alive with God, that will cleave to Him beyond all context, beyond all that flows in the veins and the blood – even it be poison that ends up in your blood.
From now, seek to have a relationship with God that goes beyond the context so you can see God in all things. And that is what it means to be in a true process of spiritual journeying. It’s not what you imagine, it’s a reality. It’s not something down the road or in the air. It’s not some off-the-map experience. It’s right there in the existing map of your life, right there in every moment, at every corner, in every coordinate of the journey. Meet Him – there.