Unity: The Secret of
seek refuge in Allah from the evils of the accursed
name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate.
alone belongs the responsibility for the beginning and
the end of all things. He alone knows the secrets of all
the creations of the eighteen thousand universes. May we
praise only Him. Amen.
world, Allah created many different kinds of beautiful
and valuable things, but there would have been no
creation at all if the five elements had not come
together in unity. Earth, fire, water, air, and ether
are natural enemies to one another, but God joined them
together through the recitation of the kalimah:
"There is no god except the one God, and Muhammad is His
It was through the light of Nur Muhammad,2
that He united them, saying, "O Muhammad, without you I
would not have created anything. I have created
everything through you."
five elements joined together as one, each proclaimed
with great pride, "I! I! There is no one greater than I!
I can do anything I want." Water said, "I can do
anything I want." Air said, "I can do anything I want."
Earth and fire and ether also said, "I can do anything I
want." Each one boasted that it was invincible. But if
we consider everything that was created out of these
five energies, we will see that they all contain some
imperfection or weakness3
and that they all are subject to change and destruction.
Except for the All-knowing and Almighty Eternal God,
everything is imperfect and will change.
the pride of the five elements, to destroy their
arrogance, and to bring them together in unity, God
showed them their many weaknesses.
He said, "Do not think that you are great. Good and evil
and all that is filthy and discarded exist within you.
And everyone steps on you."
indeed full of faults," the earth was forced to admit.
told water, "You wash away dirt from others, but then
you keep it all within yourself, and the millions of
worms and insects and germs that grow within you make
you smell terrible. What is more, you have no shape of
your own; you are trapped by what surrounds you. Only
when there is an opening can you flow out and escape. O
water, how can you say that you are great, when you can
be pushed about by winds and blocked by earth from going
wherever you want?"
the kalimah in the name of the light of Nur
Muhammad," God commanded. And earth recited the
certainly have many faults," admitted water.
told fire, "You think you can do whatever you want, but
air can blow you out and water can drown you. That
should put an end to your arrogance. There is only One
who is without fault. That One is Allah, the eternal One
who has no beginning or end."
the kalimah in the name of the light of Nur
Muhammad," God commanded. And water recited the
also had to admit, "I am full of faults."
told air, "You look at everyone's face, but no one looks
at your face. You think you are great, but there are
tall mountain ranges that can block you. And when
houses, trees, or mountains stand in your way, what can
you do? Nothing."
the kalimah in the name of the light of Nur
Muhammad," commanded God. And fire recited the
many faults," admitted air.
told ether, "You are maya, you are illusion. You are
nothing but glitters. One storm pushes you this way, the
next pushes you that way. As soon as daylight comes,
your glitters disappear and the beauty of your own light
fades. You are powerless in the daylight."
recite the kalimah and know that there is
someone greater than you. That One is Allah." And air
recited the kalimah.
full of faults," admitted ether.
when the five acknowledged their deficiencies, affirmed
and said the kalimah in the name of the light of
Nur Muhammad, they became one, and Islam came
into being. Only after they recited the kalimah
did they join together in unity.
the kalimah," God commanded. And ether recited
the sacred words.
found within all creation is Islam. For both the
beginning and the end, Islam came in the form of unity.
It came through Prophet Muhammad, through Nur
Muhammad, through Ahmad, through the Muhammad
of the nine meanings. 5
When Allah said, "O Muhammad, without you I would
not have created anything, then or now," He was speaking
about that light of Muhammad which has existed as Islam
since the beginning, in the world of the souls,6
and which will exist forever. He was not referring to
something that came with the Prophet Muhammad 1408 years
ago. If Islam only began on that date, then what
happened to all the prophets and all the people who came
time of Adam, people worshiped many deities. Were they
sent to hell? Did God send Adam to hell? So many yugas
and eons have passed since then, so many people have
come and gone. Did they all go to hell? No, those who
understood and attained clarity in the past were
certainly within Islam. They were true believers,7
and they reached the eighth heaven.8
The light of Muhammad existed as Islam in the beginning
as it will in the end. God has been teaching the people
step by step, sending the prophets one after another,
each with a message for man, each with revelations for a
said that man is the most exalted among His creations,
because he has divine analytic wisdom. If he becomes a
true believer, he can know and see things that the
heavenly beings cannot. God gave the jinns and fairies
only thirty-six powers, but to man He has given
ninety-six. Beyond those ninety-six powers are four
more: true man,9
and Allah. The state of a true man, the true form of
comes into being once wisdom resplends. Then, when the
heart becomes radiant and shines in the face
(muham) as the beauty of that face, that is the
state of Muhammad. And when the light of wisdom becomes
complete and ever present, that is the beauty of the
Nur, the effulgence of Muhammad. Finally, when we
block off everything else and stand in silence as the
and then raise our hands in praise of God,13
that is Allah, resplending as wisdom, the One who makes
silent things speak and makes them become visible
Muhammad, Nur, and Allah: these four, together
with the ninety-six powers, represent the one hundred
names of God.14
God gave all but one of these names to man so that he
could bring them into action. That one name, Allah, He
kept for Himself. He is the One who never diminishes,
the One who cannot be compared to anything. Allah is not
like anything else. We can cut a rough stone, wash it,
facet it, and compare its value with that of other
stones, but Allah cannot be compared with any of His
creations. He is without price, without comparison. He
is the most valuable treasure of all, the treasure
concealed within man. A man could not even move if Allah
were not within him. And a true man is within Allah,
hidden within Him, surrendered to Him. He keeps Allah
within himself and Allah keeps that man within
created everything in unity. He created truth and the
light of truth. He also created flower gardens with
different kinds of flowers and countless precious gems
with different kinds of light. And He created Adam,
without whom no human beings would exist. Eve came from
Adam, and they joined together and had twenty-one sets
of twins. But instead of living together in unity, the
children separated from each other and scattered
throughout the land. As they settled in their different
environments, they began to imitate the voices of the
birds, animals, and other sounds there, and thus formed
separate languages. As centuries passed, mankind
developed more and more differences and forgot the
meaning of Islam.
all of His creations as one, but some of them have
separated and become soiled. Some who came in the form
of men behave like animals, while some who came in the
form of animals behave like men. An animal or even a
satan can be like a man, and a man can be like an animal
or a satan. Even though there are such things as evil
beings, that does not mean we should discard them,
saying, "They do this, they do that. They are not like
us. They must be kept separate." Instead we must wash
away the dirt and become one again. If a man's shirt
gets splashed with mud, does that make it a different
shirt? We cannot say that. He doesn't throw it out and
say, "This shirt has changed. It is different." It is
the same shirt that he bought, and if he washes it, it
will return to its original state.
you don't discard someone because he falls. You should
wash him with the kalimah, with wisdom and
absolute faith, with unity and good qualities. And when
the time comes, he will learn to clean himself. What can
we show him in the meantime? Love. Our love must be like
soap. If we show the qualities of compassion, love,
charity, generosity, justice, and peace, that will bring
him along. We are not
Muslims if we discard someone saying, "He holds another
belief. He belongs to a different religion. His color is
not like ours." None of that matters; what we need is to
be one. The only real difference between men lies in
their conduct and actions, their qualities, and their
faith, certitude, and determination. When these are
correct, then men are one, with no differences. So, we
must keep the good things and wash away the dirt. We
must wash our innermost hearts15
until they become light. We must make all people one
with us. The Prophet Muhammad explained this to us, but
some of us who came to the world forgot the message
Allah sent. We must learn to wash away our separations
and become one again. That is true Islam. True Islam has
never discarded anyone. Once we entrust the
kalimah to Allah, we will never again perceive
anyone as different from us. We will begin to love our
neighbors as ourselves.
stop looking at the outside, at colors and other such
things. If you peel off the skin of a dog, its flesh
will look the same as that of a deer. If you peel off
the skin of a pig, its flesh might look like that of a
goat. You may not even be able to tell the difference
between the flesh of an animal and the flesh of a child.
All flesh is the same color, only the skin looks
different. No matter what color a lampshade is, the
light will still shine through. Light is always light.
Truth and good qualities are the light in our hearts,
and that light must shine within.
We have to
look beyond what we see on the outside. A person may
have strayed from the path or may follow some other
religion, but he is still our neighbor. We must not
discard anyone, no matter what belief he holds. We have
to understand that people worship in many ways. Hindus
may call themselves saivam, which means purity.
Buddhists acknowledge purity. And Muslims say that Islam
is purity. There are many different names for purity.
not scorn others just because they follow a different
belief or speak a different language. People who know
Arabic claim that Arabic is the highest language. Those
who know Urdu say that Urdu is the greatest, Hindus
claim that Hindi is the best, Tamil people say that
Tamil is unequaled, and Buddhists say that Pali is the
finest language. The English boast that English is
spoken throughout the world; the Italians say that Latin
is the language of the scriptures; the Greeks say that
Greek is superior; the Japanese and Chinese make the
same claim. There are so many different languages, and
yet each person claims superiority because of the
language he speaks. But greatness does not come from
words. Words are
just sounds. In one language a word may have a very nice
meaning, but in another language it may be obscene.
Often words can cause misunderstandings that lead to
fights and disagreements.
does not lie in words themselves. It lies in
understanding. There are so many meanings hidden within
everything. There are things beyond, far beyond what we
have studied up until now. We must understand this. A
person who has learned several languages might think
that he is very exalted, but he cannot speak the
language that God has given to a bird! There is a story
about a man who learned so much from a tiny bird that he
threw away all his books.
there was a very learned man named Imam al-Ghazzali,
who had written nine hundred and ninety-nine volumes
about God. As he was finishing his one thousandth
volume he began to think, "I have written everything
there is to say. There is nothing beyond this."
four of those books were saved and are now circulating
in the world as the works of Imam al-Ghazzali. Out of
the thousand books he wrote, only those few remain.
he came to the bank of a river near the city of Rum.
After unloading his books from his camel, he cooked
and bathed and then sat down to write the closing
words of the final volume. Suddenly he saw a small
bird, the size of a hummingbird, diving into the
river. It flew to the tree under which Imam
al-Ghazzali was writing, perched itself on a twig, and
dropped two drops of water from its tiny beak onto his
book. Then it went back to the river, plunged into the
water, flew back to its perch, and again dropped two
more drops of water onto the book.
al-Ghazzali knew the language of birds and so he
asked, "O bird, what are you doing?"
replied, "I am emptying the river."
Imam al-Ghazzali said, "Do you intend to drain the
entire river? Why, you can carry only one or two drops
of water at a time. At this rate, how can you ever
hope to drain the entire river?"
course I can," the bird answered. "And I certainly
can you possibly do that?" Imam al-Ghazzali asked.
the little bird told him, "you have been claiming that
you have reached the end of everything which can be
written about Allah. If you can reach the end of
describing Allah and His glory in a thousand books,
surely I can drain this river!"
small bird has shown me the truth," Imam al-Ghazzali
thought. "I have wasted all this time carrying around
a mound of books that amount to only a drop of
knowledge, thinking that it was the entire river.
These books are useless and must be thrown away."
all the one thousand books went into the river. Then
the little bird said to him, "If you cannot write
everything about Allah, then I certainly cannot drain
the river. Therefore, I will go on my way. May the
peace and peacefulness of God be upon you."
the peace and peacefulness of God be upon you
Imam al-Ghazzali replied.
bird in this story was really the Angel Gabriel. He came
to Imam al-Ghazzali to teach him wisdom, and he can also
come in different forms to teach us. He may appear as a
bird or as the wind, or even as a formless voice, or in
the sounds of a child that cannot speak yet. There are
so many things we have to learn, so many hidden meanings
within things. But it is not enough just to read books.
The clarity and understanding we must attain does not
come from books; it is not something we can read about.
To understand this we have to go beyond words, into our
hearts; that is where He has revealed everything. We
must dwell within Him and find the tongue that will
reveal Him. If we have pride and say, "I have already
learned so much. I am indeed learned," then nothing will
be revealed to us. We can only attain wisdom if we grab
hold of God and hold on and hold on, saying, "I
surrender, I surrender, I surrender."
As soon as
we accept this with absolute faith and go on the
straight path to God, we will realize that the good and
in the world are within the responsibility of
We will reject the body, the world, and all that is
evil, and accept all that is good and eternal. Then when
suffering comes closer and closer to us, we will embrace
Allah even more. And if we live in God's embrace rather
than holding on to the world, everything will be
revealed to us. But instead, when we suffer we tend to
embrace the world in the way that a crab, when thrown
into a fire, embraces the flames with its claws until it
too becomes the fire. This is the way man behaves in his
We have to
embrace that one God who is without form. That is the
highest point of the kalimah. Everything but
Allah can be destroyed; only that Formless One is
indestructible. We must prostrate before Allah as His
and worship Him alone in the way that earth, fire,
water, air, and ether did. We must accept our
weaknesses, saying, "I am full of faults." Allah's
beautiful qualities must come to bloom within our
hearts, and that fragrance must emit a state of peace
that will console and comfort all hearts.
brothers and sisters, why do we all gather together in
one place when we pray? For unity. Why do we all bow our
heads at the same time? For unity. Everywhere in the
world, Muslims bow their heads as one. When we stand up,
we stand up as one. When we bend, we bend together. When
we all drop to the ground in prostration at the same
time, it is like saying, "We are all dead!" And when we
rise as one, that is like saying, "Come to life!" When
we gather together in a Muslim house for a happy or sad
occasion, we are as one. When we attend a funeral, we
recite the funeral prayer in unison to show respect for
a departed brother. In the name of God, we pay our
respects before the corpse is buried. We do all these
things in unity, because Islam is unity. In
we must not discard anyone. We must discard only what is
opposite to Allah, only what Allah has discarded.
don't carry a sword, carry God's qualities. Don't carry
a knife or a cannon, carry a heart of truth filled with
God's beauty. Bear a compassionate face, radiant with
the three thousand beautiful qualities of God. That will
bring peace to others. That is Islam. Nothing in the
world can conquer a heart with such qualities. Anything
that tries to destroy such a heart will fail and be
destroyed itself. Anything that tries to swallow
something good will itself die.
reflect on this. We need to know how to conduct
ourselves. We have to make ourselves into these
qualities in order to realize our true worth. The taste
of the fruit reveals the value of the tree. The
fragrance and beauty of a flower show its value. The
gleam from a polished gem demonstrates its worth. And we
must use our lifetime to try to make ourselves valuable,
to make ourselves perfectly clear. That is Islam. We can
wear white clothes, but they will be white only as long
as we keep them clean. How clean or dirty we are will
show on our clothes. In the same way, what we think in
our hearts, all the good and evil, is clearly visible to
others. What is inside can be seen on the
We must put an end to our desires and
our connection to this world in order to know Islam. If
we can shut out all that is evil we will see the good,
but if we continue to shut out what is good, we will see
only evil. We cannot see both at the same time.
It is like
a mirror. In order to see the reflected light on one
side of the glass, we must block the other side by
covering it with silver. Similarly, in order to see the
light of the hereafter21
in the mirror of the heart, we must block off the
But we have to remember that whenever we try to block
evil things, we will always meet with difficulties. Any
time we try to dig for something good, we will
experience a great deal of evil.
we look at will have a dark side and a light side. When
the sun shines on one side of the earth, the other side
is in darkness One side is revealed, the other side is
hidden. The mind always wants to look at the dark side,
at this world. If we look with the mind, the whole world
will manifest itself and appear before us. That is how
it takes form. However, to look at ourselves we must
look into the light side of the mirror. If we look with
clear faith and certitude into wisdom and God's
qualities, we will see our own true image.
the form of man, and the light within us is a reflection
which radiates from Allah. That radiance is Islam. But
we are only able to see that light as a reflected image.
The complete radiance of Islam extends from the time of
creation to the hereafter. Allah alone is true Islam. We
must always remember that from Allah we came to Adam as
the light of the Nur. We are all children of
Adam. When we were created, we were adorned with many
colors and given different sounds and voices. Just as
each string on a stringed instrument produces a
different sound, depending upon how the musician
positions his fingers, the five strings of earth, fire,
water, air, and ether that God placed within us will
bring forth the right resonance when they are tuned and
pressed in a certain way. In unity, those five strings
will play, "There is no god other than the one God, and
Muhammad is His Messenger. I witness that none is god
except God; He is One without partner, and I witness
that Muhammad is His slave and His Messenger."23
That sound has the power to call God. If our prayer, our
our meditations and worship are established in that way,
they too will reach God.
is an important introduction to the teachings of Islam,
the clear teachings brought by Prophet Muhammad, the
teachings of the love of Allah. We must gently enter
into this. We must study and learn. There are more than
four hundred trillion, ten thousand evil spiritual
forces we have to contend with. But goodness is one -
Allah. May the unity and peacefulness of God be with
1. La ilah illa Allah Muhammad Rasul
2. The light which became completeness
within Allah and then emerged.
5. The nine meanings refer to nine names of
Muhammad (The Unmanifested);
Muhammad (The Manifested);
Muhammad (The Beginning, the emergence of creation);
Muhammad (The Ruh, the emergence of the soul);
Muhammad (The Rizk, the food or nourishment, for all
(The Qalb, the innermost heart);
(The Beauty in the face, a reflection of the beauty in
Muhammad (The Plenitude, the Light which became
completeness within Allah and emerged);
Muhammad (The Light of Allah within Muhammad, and the
Light of Muhammad within Allah).
6. 'alam al-arwah
10. The resplendence of Allah, the
plenitude of the light of Allah.
11. surat al-Adam
12. The first letter of the Arabic
alphabet which to the transformed man represents
14. Asma' al-husna
16. al-salam 'alaykum; wa 'alaykum
al-salam. (A loving, respectful greeting and
17. khayr and sharr
18. tawakkul 'ala'Allah
20. Iman: absolute faith, certitude, and
determination. Islam: the state of absolute purity. See
23. The first kalimah and the al-shahadah
illa Allah Muhammad Rasul Allah. Ashhadu an la ilah illa
Allah wahdahu la sharik lahu, wa-ashhadu anna Muhammad
'abduhu wa rasuluh. See appendix.
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2003, Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship