Some people have asked us for spiritual advice in this time of war. At the beginning of Book Six of his Mathnawi, Mevlana Rumi tells us that his book is “a lamp in the darkness of imagination, bewilderment, fantasies, doubt, and suspicion.” In the following lines Mevlana refers to all of worldly existence as a state of war. The world is maintained by heedlessness; oppositions are the pillars of existence. Even the four elements are continually at war with each other:
Mevlana’s Meditation on War
The snakes are scattering venom
and though the sour-faced folks distress us,
yet up in the mountains in hives among the trees
communities of bees still create their stores of honey.
As much as the poisoners spread their poisons,
these antidotes will neutralize them.
When you reflect, this world is all in conflict, particle with particle,
just as spirituality is in conflict with denial .
One particle flies to the left, and another to the right.
One particle flies up and another down:
Witness the conflict in every movement.
All of this visible strife is the result of hidden strife:
This outer discord springs from that inner discord. . .
By means of truly unto him we are returning.
We have come back from ourselves to Your Ocean,
and we have begun to nurse at the source that suckled us.
Phantoms have distracted you from the path,
so don’t boast of principles,
if you have lost the Principle.
Our war and our peace are in the light of essence:
It does not depend on us alone, everything is
between the two fingers of God.
The wars of nature, action, language-these terrible conflicts
exist in all the parts of this universe.
This world is maintained by means of these wars:
consider the elements in order to solve these difficulties.
The four elements are four strong pillars
by which the roof of this present world is supported.
One pillar is a destroyer of another:
the pillar of water is a destroyer of the pillar of fire.
And so this whole edifice of creation
is founded upon conflicts;
and for better or worse we are at war.
My own states oppose each other:
each is in conflict with the other.
If I am constantly warring against myself,
how can I be in harmony with another?
Behold the surging armies of my states,
each at war and in conflict with another.
Contemplate this same poignant war in yourself:
why then be so busy warring with others?
Unless God spares you from this war
and brings you into the single-colored world of peace?
Mathnawi, Book VI: 33-39, 41-55, Translated by Kabir Helminski
These words are a reminder of the conditions of life on earth and the conditions within ourselves. These words point toward the spiritual work and inner transformation that are necessary. They are not meant to lull us into a state of spiritual complacency or inaction. Each must decide what action is necessary and effective in establishing just peace and true harmony. Yet, the polarized and precarious world situation calls for renewed remembrance and reliance on God.
If we look to the ninety-nine names of God for some insight, we will surely find something to help us remember what is real and true. Consider these two divine attributes:
Al Qayyum, (Self-Subsistent) The idea behind Qayyum is that all of life is given existence through the One who truly exists. That nothing is meaningless, purposeless, pointless. That which gave us existence maintains each of us. Even while the stream of life flows by in the horizontal dimension, Al Qayyum is eternally present as the vertical dimension.
Should we become disheartened, out of balance, and reactive at this time of obvious disunity and conflict, Al Qayyum can realign us. Nevertheless, even though dogs bark, the moon travels steadily in its orbit; even though crows caw, the fruit ripens in the orchard. This is not a call for placidness or passivity, but for a centering in the depths of our being. We can understand this deep centering if we remember that everything that exists is dependent on that Self-Subsistent One who gave us our existence and maintains each of us.
As Samad (the Only Satisfier of Needs). Samad is that One which is independent of all needs, yet can satisfy all needs. To know that we can turn toward That which has no needs, in order that our own need will be recognized. We can contribute to satisfying the dire needs of the world around us if we remember that As Samad is the true satisfier of needs, the One who looks after the need of every living thing. It may very well be that this is accomplished through the actions of God’s conscious servants here in the world, not merely through some ineffable power and grace. . . but that too.
Some of the needs that I recognize right now include:
The need not to be consumed with resentment, bitterness, discouragement, or hate.
The need to see what is truly required of me, both in action and presence.
The need to be in such a state of consciousness that I can help to dispel ignorance and illusion.
Much of humanity is enslaved to illusions rooted in fear and self-righteousness. There is much pathos in this-each side convinced of its own moral rightness. Even more touching are those caught in the middle of this pointless violence. May As Samad be a comfort to them.
Rumi has said that “All human beings are children except for those who are intoxicated with God. The wars of humankind are like children’s fights-all meaningless, pointless, and contemptible. They are all fighting with wooden swords; all their reasons are futile. They get on their hobby-horses and imagine they are riding a magical steed like Buraq, or Muhammad’s mule, Duldul. Wait until the day when those who are really borne aloft by God shall pass, galloping beyond the nine tiers of heaven.”
May we deepen our practice, our prayer and remembrance, and our giving.
Some practical suggestions:
Some friends have asked where they might contribute to assistance for those affected by the continuing war on Iraq. Among the many service organizations working for peace and well-being, is the American Friends Service Committee, which can be contacted at www.afsc.org/iraq or contributions sent to: American Friends Service Committee, Contributions Processing, PO Box 98015, Washington, DC 200590-8015. For ongoing solace and inspiration, we also recommend the Muslim Peace Fellowship at www.mpfweb.org
Call your Senators and ask for their support for a safe haven for Iraqi women and children. Call your senators immediately and ask their support for an initiative being introduced on the floor of the Senate this week by Senator Ted Kennedy, to create a system of Safe Havens for Iraqi women and children should an invasion begin. This project has been coordinated by Nobel Laureate Betty Williams, whose website is: www.centerofcompassion.org The number of the congressional switchboard is (202), 224-3121. Please make this call. It could save the lives of many.
Lobby for a U.S. Department of Peace: On April 8, Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio will re-introduce a bill in the House of Representatives that would establish a U.S. Department of Peace. Check out the Global Renaissance Alliance website and participate in any way that you can. http://www.renaissancealliance.org/
Threshold Society, Sufism.org
March 26, 2003