An Exploration of Sacred Parenting and Education

Kayf al-Haal?

In Uncategorized on April 3, 2012 at 8:37 pm

The Arabs have an interesting phrase “kayf al-haal” + pronoun or simply “kayf ak” in colloquial – lit “how is your state”. There is a saying of Abu al-QAsim Isma’il ibn Muhammad ibn al-HakIm in the Kitab al-Arba’in fi al-shuyukh al-Sufiya by al-Malini (d. 412/1021), an early book of hadith and sayings transmitted and said by early Sufis in which he writes

“The state of whoever is affable expands; and the state of whoever is argumentative contracts.” اتسع حال من يداري وضاق حال من يماري

Somebody once said not to judge people through labels or definitions but simply see how your state changes around them. If it expands stay, if it contracts leave. I feel this also applies to reading what people write. Some write from a state of presence, compassion, wisdom or love and their words seem to carry that quality, affecting the state of consciousness of the reader/listener. Kabir Dede’s writings or translations of Rumi normally do this for me. Others seems to carry a certain negativity or in the worse case ill intent and again it comes through in what they write.  May be that’s an area of Cyber security yet to be explored. May God protect us!

For some reason, I’ve been reflecting on this word ‘haal’ today. Having just spent a few days in the Peak District, with so much beauty around me, I see a noticeable effect on my haal – not just feeling but also consciousness. The most noticeable effect was sitting on a bench just under a castle on a high hill surrounded by greenery and just watching birds fly by, often in pairs. I also went down to the caves on a guided tour. Very educational experience as we were told about rope makers who lived there for about 300 years. With the school holidays there were many families with children. The tour guide asked what would we see ‘down there’ if we lived 300 years ago? A young boy of about 7 put his hand up enthusiastically and said ‘bats’! The guide met his answer with a hard “No” … I can’t remember his answer but I do remember seeing the boys ‘haal’ change; his face changed from one exuberating enthusiasm to one of disappointment. He tried to hide his feelings as the tour guide continued to explain ‘facts’ to us. His feelings probably went unnoticed to the tour guide and I’m sure he didn’t intend this. I just began to wonder how much of that happens in classrooms everyday in the name of education? Words are powerful. The Mevlevi Sufis are very careful with the words. They wouldn’t say for example ‘put out the cigarette’ but rather ‘lay the cigarette to rest’ or at dawn prayers order another to ‘wake up’ but instead ‘be aware’.

Another reason I was thinking of ‘haal’ is the deeper spiritual state one can experience through Beauty and how that turns the heart to a state of Love in which one’s sense of identity becomes effected.

“Love is the movement of Beauty, Beauty is the ultimate aim of Love. Where there is no Beauty there is misery. When the Tibetan Lama Akong came to lecture at our school, one of my co students asked him why there was so much misery in the world. Akong’s answer was as superb as his wisdom. He said, “why is there I’? The first person singular. The man whose center is in his first person singular can neither know nor serve, nor can he love. To arrive at Union man must love. If not, then not. If a man’s creed is Love he will crave for, strive for, work for and attain Union” Bulent Rauf.

For me, it’s interesting to see how events, orchestrated by the Divine, unfold turning the heart bringing forth different qualities and hence educating it. Without Beauty in the world life would truly be miserable. The movie American Beauty conveys this quite well. In particular the dancing bag scene:

“This bag was dancing with me… That’s the day I realised there is an entire Life behind things. This increadibly Benevoulant force, wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid. Ever.”

Maybe our ‘haal’ isn’t just affected by outward events but also the paradigms we carry about the Divine, ourselves and our place in this universe. The Sufis often call this place ‘Love’s universe’. Elif Shafak in Forty Rules of Love, writes as the first rule “How we see God is a direct reflection of how we see ourselves. If God brings to mind mostly fear and blame, it means there is too much fear and blame wealed inside us. If we see God as full of love and compassion, so are we”.

There’s an interesting story between Jesus and John that explains this well:

“Jesus laughed often; John often wept. John said to Jesus: “You must think you are completely safe from all occult and subtle attacks to be able to laugh so much.” Jesus laughed and replied: “You must have become very forgetful of God’s grace and tenderness to weep so much.” One of God’s lovers was also present at this exchange. He prayed to God and asked Him, “Which of these two is closer to You? Which has the higher rank?” God answered, “The one who has a higher opinion of me.”

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  1. ‘Cosmic Love’ is up there as being one of my favourite songs of all time. Thank goodness it’s trending!

  2. This brings up some very interesting points, particularly, how our view of the Divine is limited by our own perceptions and states. Sometimes when we are feeling in a poor state, we can view the Divine in a harsher way as being angry and punishing and other times when we feel light we view the Divine as being compassionate and kind. Interesting and strange isn’t it?

  3. I think the answer lies in gnosis and unveiling until nothing remains but the Beloved as Mevlana so beautifully puts it “The Beloved is all and the lover but a veil; the Beloved is living and the lover a dead thing”.

    The Divine is so generous, so infinite, so humble He is in the opinion of His servant. Forgive me if I have this wrong, but He doesn’t say I am limited to your opinion rather I am in the opinion.

  4. Saqib, in your post you mentioned that instead of judging others we should observe our own state when we are with them. How can we discern from what is our false self i.e. personal frailties and insecurities than that of wisdom?

    As a sensitive person, I tend to not put weight on my mental or emotional state while I am in the other person’s presence. I might feel uncomfortable but I do not know whether or not it stems from my own emotional baggage. It is only after gaining some distance from that situation do I gain emotional clarity and can choose an appropriate response.

  5. Yes, I see what you mean. The heart will let you know.

    May be not make it about you or them, but just the state you experience. If you’re with somebody and are constantly left in a contracted state then tells you about your interaction with that person, weather its emotional baggage from you or the other person isn’t relevant unless you’re deliberately working with the ego in a spiritual context. If you feel in an expanded state again and again then keep the company. This is actually from the Hikam of Ibn Atallah al Iskandari. I’ll see if I can reference it for you.

    For example, I met with a friend recently and found because he was older then me he treated me like his younger brother. For him that meant putting the other person down subtly, male bantering sort of thing. It was so subtle in fact i hadn’t quite picked up on it, until recently. Another example is I spent time traveling with somebody I knew but not very well. I instinctively knew I had to spend some time with this person. We understood each other so well and ended up laughing so much we needed paracetamols at the end of the day. With him I experience mutual respect and mirroring. I’m always left in an expanded state. I carry the same emotional baggage but one friend leaves me generally contracted and the other expanded.

    Taking a step back is always a good move when you’re unsure. We all need space. Especially when we want to be receptive for some guidance.

    These are just reflections based on my experience. Maybe somebody else can add theirs. God knows best.

  6. The best reason of all to be happy! I once read a lovely saying on one of the wise people of Islam (which I will paraphrase as I can’t remember it verbatim): If Shaytan ever bothers you (with fear, hatred, misery etc), be happy, because a happy believer is the most repulsive thing to Shaytan.

    I don’t understand why so many religious people take their faith as cause to be downcast. What’s the deal?! It isn’t good da’wa let alone piety. Surely Allah wants people to be happy? Islam to me at its deepest level is a search for happiness. Who can really be happy with a life devoted to crumbling material things and fleeting desires?

  7. How can we help each other understand the happiness of being in Love’s Universe?

  8. Happiness is to desist from stumbling onto the path of least resistance strewn with all kinds of delight that tantalizes our earthly senses.

    Happiness is found in the struggle to overcome our nafs or temporal pleasures and vices. The struggle itself is clothed in Misery bearing goody baskets loaded with the rotten apples of our negativity and flimsy excuses. It is repulsive to have to deal with this old hag again and again, but it seems to be the reality of Loves’s Universe that true Beauty and Happiness is veiled to all but the dscerning Seeker.

    • Thank you Asma. Well said.

      In my understanding, there is the false self. This is the one satan works with. It’s only concern is itself. If a friend, it may show lots of enthusiasm yet at the slightest disappointment or sacrifice will turn his back. Then there is the Essential Self – or without getting too spiritual in the words of Shakespeare ‘To thine own self be true’. A friends working from here may not give a tight hug upon meeting, simply acknowledge each others presence, smile and greet each other. Yet, in my experience, such a person would be willing to drive four hours just to be with you. For me true happiness lies in connecting and living from this Essential Self. It’s not a linear path but a spiral one. We will be tossed back and forth. We need each other as well as the Divine to be fully human.

      I also feel, at the root of it, lies our relationship with al-Haqq’. My reflections on the question ‘How can we help each other understand the happiness of being in Love’s Universe?’ are below. Needless to say this is a Love which is the cause of our existence and not a fleeting emotion which it tends to get labelled as.

      Learning to be still,
      in the midst if the story
      and seeing the false self with a light more Real,
      cultivating an appreciation of the paradoxical mysteries of Life
      without trying to solve or explain anything
      but holding it as it is
      with all its beauty
      in our hearts
      with love

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