Islam and World Peace - Explanations of a Sufi
by M. R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen

Unity: The Secret of Creation

 I seek refuge in Allah from the evils of the accursed satan.
In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate.

To Allah 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.

In this 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 Messenger."1 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."

Before the 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.

To break the pride of the five elements, to destroy their arrogance, and to bring them together in unity, God showed them their many weaknesses.

To earth 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."

"I am indeed full of faults," the earth was forced to admit.

"Recite the kalimah in the name of the light of Nur Muhammad," God commanded. And earth recited the kalimah.

Then God 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?"
"I certainly have many faults," admitted water.

"Recite the kalimah in the name of the light of Nur Muhammad," God commanded. And water recited the kalimah.

Then God 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."
And fire also had to admit, "I am full of faults."

"Recite the kalimah in the name of the light of Nur Muhammad," commanded God. And fire recited the kalimah.

Next God 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."
"I have many faults," admitted air.

"Then recite the kalimah and know that there is someone greater than you. That One is Allah." And air recited the kalimah.

Then God 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."
"I am full of faults," admitted ether.

"Recite the kalimah," God commanded. And ether recited the sacred words.

And so, when the five acknowledged their deficiencies, affirmed their faith,4 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.

That unity 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 before that?

In the 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 particular time.

God has 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 Muhammad, Nur,10 and Allah. The state of a true man, the true form of Adam,11 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 alif;12 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 within.

True man, 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 Him. 

Allah 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.

Allah made 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.

Similarly, 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.

We must 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.

We must 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.

Meaning 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.

Once 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."

One day 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.

Imam al-Ghazzali knew the language of birds and so he asked, "O bird, what are you doing?"

The bird replied, "I am emptying the river."

Astonished, 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?"

"Of course I can," the bird answered. "And I certainly will."

"But how can you possibly do that?" Imam al-Ghazzali asked.

"Well," 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!"

"This 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."

And so 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."

"And may the peace and peacefulness of God be upon you also,"16 Imam al-Ghazzali replied.

Three or 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.

Now the 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 evil17 in the world are within the responsibility of Allah.18 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 ignorance.

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 slaves19 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.

My 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 Iman-Islam,20 we must not discard anyone. We must discard only what is opposite to Allah, only what Allah has discarded.

Therefore, 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.

We must 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 outside.

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 world.22 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.

Anything 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.

We have 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 remembrance,24 our meditations and worship are established in that way, they too will reach God.

This 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 you. Amen.

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1. La ilah illa Allah Muhammad Rasul Allah
2. The light which became completeness within Allah and then emerged.
3. hayf
4. iman
5. The nine meanings refer to nine names of Muhammad:

  • Anathi Muhammad (The Unmanifested);
  • Athi Muhammad (The Manifested);
  • Awwal Muhammad (The Beginning, the emergence of creation);
  • Hayah Muhammad (The Ruh, the emergence of the soul);
  • An`um Muhammad (The Rizk, the food or nourishment, for all creations);
  • Ahmad (The Qalb, the innermost heart);
  • Muhammad (The Beauty in the face, a reflection of the beauty in the heart);
  • Nur Muhammad (The Plenitude, the Light which became completeness within Allah and emerged);
  • Allah Muhammad (The Light of Allah within Muhammad, and the Light of Muhammad within Allah).

6. 'alam al-arwah
7. mu'min
8. firdaws
9. insan
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 Allah.
13. takbir
14. Asma' al-husna
15. qalb
16. al-salam 'alaykum; wa 'alaykum al-salam. (A loving, respectful greeting and response.)
17. khayr and sharr
18. tawakkul 'ala'Allah
19. 'abd
20. Iman: absolute faith, certitude, and determination. Islam: the state of absolute purity. See glossary.
21. al-akhirah
22. dunya
23. The first kalimah and the al-shahadah kalimah:La ilah illa Allah Muhammad Rasul Allah. Ashhadu an la ilah illa Allah wahdahu la sharik lahu, wa-ashhadu anna Muhammad 'abduhu wa rasuluh. See appendix.
24. dhikr


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Copyright 2003, Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship