This one would love to write to each of you individually, but this body is still challenged with the electricity of the computer and the movement of typing, so Farid is helping me to send this. By heart I am sending love and much gratitude to each of you for your dear love with so much gratitude for the beauty and strength enhancing being you each are. Inshallah little by little these steps are becoming firm with the grace of Al-Shafi and angels like you.
Kabir has been such a wonderful care-taker as has Muneeb, with us every moment of the emergency room and overseeing my care with such attention along with his dear brothers, Qasim and Bilal, my wonderful hospitalist and so many kind doctors and nurses, physical therapists and assistants of many sorts, and dear friends here in Louisville and beyond, support of the extended family, and the grace of all three of our children visiting and the beauty and strengths they each bring. Through all the tests to discover the cause of my post-surgery collapse, the only thing that showed itself is atrial fibrulation, which inshallah is now regulated so that this body can now gain strength.
So now beginning again, this “blank piece of paper” opens to the Pen, the “pen of revelation.” Emptiness arises from the Unseen, and truly Beauty is everywhere.
One beautiful part of the story these last weeks has been the presence of the doves. The morning I left for the emergency room (the 27th), hardly able to move, with heart beating strangely, just before leaving for the hospital, we heard the doves calling, and we watched as a dove landed in the windowsill. She sat very quietly looking at us. Soon her mate joined her on the windowsill and after a while flew off again, but she remained, still and quiet, even as we left for the hospital with the EMT team.
Hospital admission and days of multitudes of tests followed. One day of particular challenge Kabir brought the sweet news that he had seen the dove again, and opening the blind more to see better had discovered that there was a nest in the windowsill with two baby doves.
All three of our children visited during that time—what a grace and a heartening joy! First Cara, then Matthew and his son, Limi, and Shams, a hospitalist doctor himself now, also flew in to help oversee my care. As Matthew’s son watched as the doves’ feathers grew, Matthew was able to catch a picture of the mother dove feeding her young ones, attached for you here.
When at last I was released from the hospital, that same morning, the doves flew from the nest. Through that long and challenging week of hospital khalvet, they had kept Presence with us, reminding us of the doves who nested outside Muhammad’s cave when he and Abu Bakr were in seclusion there enroute to Medina. Love and support comes to each of us through so many ways!
So many of you will be gathering soon in England and others in Turkey, with Kabir. Still gaining strength with God’s good grace, inshallah this one will be continuing a healing khalvet in Vermont, like Heidi and her friend, going to be in the fresh mountain air, with our son Shams and his wife Star. Heart to heart though I will be joyously accompanying you wherever you are, and send much love to all of you, with prayers for your well-being, also, and deepest gratitude always,
Reflection on August’s theme: Falsehood troubles the heart; Truth brings joyous tranquility.
In the 1962 film Mutiny on the Bounty, Marlon Brando leads a mutiny against the captain of his ship because of his cruel and inhumane treatment of the crew. In so doing he condemns himself and his crew to being exiles and fugitives from the law with death sentences hanging over their heads. “I believe I did what honour dictated, and that belief sustains me. Except for a slight desire to be dead, which I’m sure will pass,” he says, so po-faced that you can only laugh at his delivery.
The Prophet Muhammad(s) tells us to “Consult your soul, consult your heart. Righteousness is what is satisfying to your soul and your heart. Sin is what wavers in your soul and causes hesitancy in your chest, even if the people give you a judgment, and again give you a judgment.”
We are only truly lost when we betray our own hearts, obeying instead the childish, pleasure seeking demands and base desires of the nafs al ammara, the inciting ego, driven by false pride, greed, jealousy, lust, backbiting, stinginess and malice. “The self indeed commands to evil acts – except for those my Lord has mercy on.” Qur’an 12:53. “Have you seen the one who takes as his god his own desire?” Qur’an 25:43. The Nafs al-mutma’inna, however, the soul at peace, is unperturbed by adversity and is content with God’s decree.
We tend to think that the happier and healthier we are, the better. It’s easy to mistake happiness for the goal, and to see difficulty, pain and suffering as a useless inconvenience. Being present in the moment has become very popular, yet misapplied this spiritual practice can be twisted and used to feed a materialistic culture of instant gratification which can produce a superficial feeling of happiness and fulfilment which has nothing to do with spirituality, instead feeding the desires of the nafs al ammara, distracting and entertaining one in a state of ghafla, or headlessness. “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!” Being present and grateful for each moment is no excuse for ditching patience in the face of adversity, or for abandoning a conception of the sacred and the distinction between this and the profane in favour of a hedonistic nihilism driven by the desires of the ego.
Separating the desires of the lower nafs from the voice of truth in your heart is not always as simple as it might seem. In surat an-Nas we ask for protection from the insidious whisperings of men or jinn, who whisper “fi suduur in-nas” right in the breasts of men- not just in their ears
The nafs almutma’inna, the soul at peace, is in a state of joyous tranquility unperturbed by happiness or sadness, illness or hardship, welcoming everything as a gift from God. As Rumi says in his poem the Guest House,
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes,
because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
~ Rabia Saida, London
September’s theme is: Put this vain thinking to sleep, lift up your head into spiritual wakefulness. ~Mevlana
We welcome your reflections on this theme. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Annual Retreat conclusion and dates for next year
We had a wonderful weekend retreat with Shaikh Kabir, Jeremy Henzell-Thomas and 100 other attendees. Thank you to all who participated in our largest and most beautiful gathering yet. Dates for your diary for next year’s gathering – Aug 28-30th. Check back soon on our Facebook page for some more pictures!
Wherever You Turn Is the Face of God ~ Shaikha Camilla
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Sep 6: Threshold London Monthly Open Group, 7pm, Library room, Westminister Quaker Meeting House, 8 Hop Gardens, off St Martins Lane, London WC2N 4EH (look for ‘Gymbox’ sign – and lots of scaffolding!). Newcomers to the group are asked to seek a telephone introduction and briefing with the host/facilitator before attending. Please phone Sadat on 07710 511517, or e-mail Mahmoud on email@example.com with your phone number so he can call you back – please do this at least two days in advance.
Sep 20: Rumi’s Circle will be performing music and poetry at Sacred Dances of the Silk Road in Manchester, see here for more details and tickets.
Sep 27: Rumi’s Circle will be holding a Prayers for Peace Day at the Brahma Kumaris centre in Manchester, inviting speakers of different faiths to share prayers for peace. Check Rumi’s Circle website for more information later this week.
Oct 4: Threshold Society in collaboration with Turkish musician Latif Bolat will be performing at the Edinburgh Italian Cultural Centre to celebrate St. Francis of Assisi and Mevlana Rumi. Contact Saimma for more details: firstname.lastname@example.org
Oct 26: Family Eid event, Christ Church Hall, Wanstead. An afternoon of spiritual discussion on the significance of Eid al-Adha with music and activities for children. More details in the next newsletter.
Get in touch
We’d love to hear from you — a favourite piece from Mevlana, your own poetry, reflections on the path… please do contribute. We learn so much from each other, may this space be an opportunity for community, connection and companionship.
Can a Mirror Ever Lie?
Could a mirror not reflect, or balance-scale lie,
[Mathnawi I: 3546-3551, The Rumi Daybook]
for fear of hurting or shaming anyone?
Mirror and balance are both like touchstones:
even if you beg for two hundred years,
saying, “Conceal the truth for my sake,
display the abundance, not the lack,”
they’ll say to you, “Don’t be ridiculous:
how can a mirror or balance deceive?
Since we are a means for knowing the truth,
if we fail to display it, what good are we?
If not for us, who else will mirror the face of the fair?”