This was delivered by Habib Ali al-Jifri and translated by Ustadh Wael Zubi on 10th August 2022/12th Muharram 1444 in Slough. Habib Ali al-Jifri commented upon selections from The Book of Wisdoms by Ibn Ata’illah al-Iskandari. The day retreat was organised by Ihya Initiative.
Note: Each wisdom that Habib Ali al-Jifri commented upon will be uploaded individually.
In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate
All praise to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. And salutations and greetings upon our Master Muhammad and upon his family and companions.
I intend to study and teach, take and give a reminder, take and give benefit, take and give advantage, to encourage the holding fast to the book of Allah and the way of his messenger, and calling to guidance and directing towards good hoping for the countenance of Allah and His pleasure, proximity and reward, transcendent is He.
Wisdom 33: The Real is not Veiled from you, Rather it is you who are veiled from seeing It; for, were anything to veil It, then that which veils It would cover It. But if there were a covering to It, then that would be a limitation to Its Being: Every limitation to anything has power over it. “And He is the Omnipotent, above His servants.”
The veil is a barrier that stops you from traversing or being able to see a thing or being able to pass through to reach a thing. A veil that is a barrier that stops you from traversing, meaning your perception to see a thing because you are barred from seeing a thing or you are unable to reach a thing because you are barred from reaching it. So, when the clouds are thick and intense, and they stop the light of the sun from coming through, we says the clouds have veiled the sun. A veil cannot be a veil unless it overwhelms that which it veils in one way or another. Meaning, it overwhelms and has power over the thing it veils. So, the clouds overpower the rays of the sunlight and stop the rays of the sunlight from reaching down to the earth.
He says, in this wisdom, الحق, by this He means one of the names of God; isn’t veiled. For, He, Glory be to Him, is manifest in every atom of existence; in every breath of every created thing; in everything known; in every natural science; in every spiritual experience; in every reaction of the soul: He is manifest in all of this. “And, in everything there is a sign that indicates He is one.” So, how can this affair not be seen by so many people on earth? How can this reality not be known and seen by so many people on earth? People say that He is not veiled so how can we not see Him. Ibn Ata’illah says, “Rather, it is you who are veiled from seeing Him.” The problem is with you. So, what is it that veils me from seeing Him? Your ego: it is the veil. There is no veil between me and God except my ego. For it veils me, it doesn’t veil Him because Ibn Ata’illah said, “If a thing was to veil Him it would envelop Him. But if there were a covering to Him, then that would be a limitation to His Being. Every limitation to anything has power over it. ‘And He is the Omnipotent, above His servants.’” Nothing overwhelms Him.
This wisdom is great but it is self-explanatory. It is almost like one of the sayings of the scholars of the rational sciences and theology; when they speak, they give you a definition. Or, like the logicians who give a logical statement. So, where is the profundity of this statement? It is very deep. It is saying to you that your veil is from you. Your affirmation with His transcendence and of the impossibility that nothing can veil Him is in in order to establish a proof against yourself. Shall I give you an example?
Two, three centuries now have passed and the world wants to say that the only way to know something with certainty is empirically; knowing through our senses. Shall we say 2 centuries the world has been like this? Before that, historically, from the time of Adam until 2/3 centuries ago, humanity understood that there were 3 parts to knowledge. One was a traditional proof that was established to be sound, the other was through sound intellectual enquiry and the third was through our sensual experience (experimental). These were the 3 ways of knowledge for the generality of the human race. But, there came a time, when people had a rebelling against religion; now is not the time to discuss why. That led to any sound tradition or narration or scripture being struck off; that was not considered something we could take as a sound source of knowledge. Then came a time where they had a rebellion against intellect. They denied that the principles by which the intellect was known to understand were soundly established. So, by doing so they ignored any diversity in the paths to knowledge and they went on a singular path of knowledge. They insisted that anyone else was going to be expelled if they didn’t accept this to be the way of knowing something soundly even though they have these memes and slogans like: ‘We want diversity’; ’We don’t want people feeling excluded; and ‘We want multiple discourses’. They practiced expulsion and exclusion in the most important thing which is the sources of knowledge.
Look at this table. How many legs does it have? It has 6 legs. If I broke one of the legs, what would happen? Most likely it will still be able to stand, yes. If I break 3 of its legs, will it still stand? One of you will come up and say it depends where you break it. If you break it so there’s a triangle of legs still standing, it will likely still stand. If I break one of the 3 legs, only 2 will be left. Will it still stand or no? You may say if you leave the 2 opposing legs it may still stand but you can’t place any object on top as otherwise it will topple. If I broke one of the 2 remaining legs, will it still stand? It will fall, yes. Someone may say it will still stand if you stay holding it. It’s true, it will stand if I am holding it, but will you be able to put objects on top like an incense burner or cup of water? Will I be able to put these objects on top with one leg and other heavier objects? Some people may say, yes, if you stay holding it, but what is the benefit of the table if I have to stay there holding it the whole time. It’ll be easier for me to hold the two objects than the table holding them. The purpose of the table is to carry things. When in the pursuit of knowledge, they place the burden on the table of knowledge, which is that it is no longer able to carry on having the leg of tradition and the leg of reason and everything was carried by the leg of what we can measure through the senses, the table gave way and collapsed. What do we mean that the last leg gave way and collapsed? Meaning, the intellect could no longer make sense of what the senses perceived or put meaning onto the objects the senses perceived.
So, the natural or experiential sciences, are no longer able to carry the burden of the egos and what the egos wanted to prove because of the ego’s claim to freedom and happiness. True? Is a biologist able to speak openly in front of a gender activist when it comes to defining gender without feeling if they say the wrong thing as a scientist that they will be threatened and ostracised? Meaning, ideology has again held sway over Europe and now takes science and the experimental methods to task. They used to claim that religious ideology stopped the progress of the sciences. Science was able to progress when it was no longer under the sway of ideology. Now, we have an ideology that has no relation to the heavens or to revelation and it wants to impose its opinions that are based on its own desires under the illusion of happiness and freedom. It wants to impose upon the experimental sciences so it takes a step back so the ideology can take a step forward. The first time in maybe 3, 4 or maybe 5 centuries, the world of experimental sciences or empirical sciences now feel they are threatened in their progress. Where is this going to lead us? It’s going to lead us to breaking the last leg of the table, even empiricism is going to break. Ideological terrorism is imposed upon the sciences.
Many of you have anxieties and worries about the futures of your children. True? The mother who stood at the threshold of death to give birth to her child and the father who stood by her side in order to struggle together to bring this child up, they now feel threatened that if they say something out of place, their child will be taken away by social services or to a foster-home, because this child is being influenced by ideas about gender that have been officially propagated in the schools. This child, Habib used the word for sexual assault, there is a rape of the mind of the child about the realities of gender, how a child sees gender and what gender is. The parents when they have done everything they can for their child, they say 2 years ago a child wouldn’t be considered an adult who could make certain decisions until they were 18, and now today when a child of 6 or 8 can make a decision about their gender and I can’t do anything as a parent. The madness has reached a point where some people are saying it is better we bring the age down to 4. What is this? Does science say this? I have listened to a number of experts who are non-religious, they say the opposite. I listened to people who try and refute those scientists and scientifically, rationally and logically their arguments are not plausible. What has happened? How can a group of mad people destroy the lives of societies and human beings by doing these crimes? Because, some of the politicians have betrayed themselves and their nations when they needed to get the votes of these mad people. In order for the diversity and rights of minorities against the polarity which is a right-wing ideology; they have destroyed the lives of human beings. Is this right? What then? What is coming next? This concern we have is not a concern we have alone, we share it with Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and even with Atheists, who have this concern because they don’t ascribe to this ideology. This trangression has even transgressed onto science itself. What do I mean by transgressed against empirical science?
When they ask a biologist, how do you define a male or female. Our friends who organised this do not want us to talk too much about this phenomena but I’m sorry, I’m going to talk. When a biologist isn’t allowed to say what a definition of a male and female is scientifically, and he knows this with scientific certainty, that there are objective differences that can define what is a female is and what a male is, and this scientist feels threatened, then they have to coin a new term which is this is a biological male and this is a biological female. What next then? What else is there other than the biology? What other definition is there? ‘He is biologically a male but he wants to be a female.’ But, the fact that he wants to be a female doesn’t make him a female. I’m sorry, I’m objectively saying that doesn’t make him a female. We don’t lie. It doesn’t make him female. ‘We respect the fact that he likes to be called she.’ But, he is a he. ‘No, no, he’s a he biologically but he’s a she.’ Ok, in what way is he a she? ‘He’s a she in his desire.’ It has created this delusion that this is freedom and happiness.
We have reached a point with freedom where we have to get what we know to be right and true. If you go further back in history, there are people who have been taught there is no intrinsic reality and meaning. So, that was torn away from people for a few generations in the past. People were told things were relative. So, if there is no absolute, there is no truth. So, okay, we will say ‘he’ is free to want to be called ‘she’ even if he is objectively ‘he’. But, I am free if I perceive him to be a ‘he’. He is free to see himself as a ‘she’ and I’m free to see himself as a ‘he’, isn’t that how freedom works? No, freedom, is you are sensitive to his needs too, meaning that I have to make sure he isn’t hurt. I respect that I am not going to hurt or disparage them, my faith teaches me not to hurt others. For the last 20, 30 years: you have cursed God, our Prophet ﷺ , the Qur’an; you have talked in a way that was ill about Jesus; you have made films about his life that scandalised him; and you even changed the story about Noah to make a motion picture with artistic license. We have been saying all this time that this is hurtful and you have said this is freedom of expression. Tell us what the criteria is, please. You have the right to say things about me which I find hurtful and offensive and you can offend me with something that is worth more to me than my life itself. But, you don’t allow me the freedom to express myself, this is under the claim of freedom to express what I perceive in front of me. I see you biologically, that is my choice. You have chosen to see yourself as you desire. You want to see yourself the way you want, that is your choice, I’ve got no right to judge you; that’s between you and God. But, I am free to see you the way that I perceive. Or, is it the fact that people feel they have this monopoly to truth? When they see that they have the monopoly, they have the license to take drastic action to ensure that it is followed.
Why did I go off on a tangent when we are speaking about these wisdoms? I am not here to tell you to be contentious or start arguments with anyone. This is not what our faith teaches us and neither is it the purpose of our faith. But, I don’t want anyone to terrorise you. What you are on is the truth. What you are on is the truth. Whoever sees that what they believe is true, it is their business. If they want to oblige you to see true what you see as false because they see it as true, that is double standards. Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid! Shall I say it again? Do not be afraid! Allah says in the Qur’an, “Those whose faith only increased when people said, ‘Fear your enemy: they have amassed a great army against you,’ and who replied, ‘God is enough for us: He is the best protector, returned with grace and bounty from God; no harm befell them. They pursued God’s good pleasure. God’s favour is great indeed.”
Be wise in how you deal with others. Many of those who have been taken up by the grips of this madness, there is a great good in them. They were taken in by the ideology because of their desire to respect others, to be sensitive to the needs of others, and it was those good qualities in them that someone exploited in a predatory way to bring them to an agenda. Meaning, if I don’t agree with you on something, that doesn’t justify me being predatory towards you. Allah says in the Qur’an, “O you who believe! Let no people belittle another people. Perhaps, before God, they are better than you.” How one’s life will end is not known, it’s in Allah’s knowledge. We can’t judge people. We have no right to look down on someone. We need to look at people with love even those who harm us. To be firm in your positions and resolute doesn’t mean you hate others; be aware of this. Being firm in your position and resolute doesn’t mean you have to be against others. Just like standing up for someone else and making sure they aren’t oppressed, doesn’t mean I agree with the wrong that they do. Same as even when a person falls into error, it doesn’t stop me from standing up for them if they are oppressed or wronged. When I see someone being oppressed, regardless of their background or point of view, I should stand up for them. As long as I can stand up to do something, I should step up; no matter my difference with that person. My helping a person doesn’t mean I agree with them or what they believe or do. My difference or disagreement doesn’t negate your humanity or my humanity. That is what we need to live. Why? Not only because it’s a means for us to live with each and save ourselves from annihilation. Rather, it is the door to open the veil that he is talking about in this wisdom.
Ibn Ata’illah says, ‘Rather it is you who are veiled from seeing Him.’ From being able to see the theatres of manifestation of Him in existence. Everything in existence is a theatre that shows you His beauty; even if the thing apparently looks ugly; even if it looks hideously ugly. It is an expression of His reality and beauty. How? Many facets. You will see in it the beauty of God’s will delineating that thing and you will see in it the beauty of God’s power bringing that thing into being. You will see also the beauty of God’s forbearance and clemency towards His creation. You will also see the beauty of the manifestation of His names: al-Sabur, the Patient; al-Afuww, the One who relents; and al-Razzaq, the One who gives sustenance. How many of those on earth deny even His being and going against what He has revealed yet He still gives them sustenance and He still covers their faults and is still patient and still gives them and He still gives them grace? This is beauty. You see Him in them or through them. Glory be to the One who is self-sufficient and sustains all of us.
Some of the knowers of God say, ‘In every moment and in every breath what He gives to you of bounties in the next moment is like He is giving you a new existence.’ You didn’t receive this continuity because of anything you deserved. It wasn’t warranted and nor did you give God the dues of gratitude of what you have. We have rebelled against Him with His very bounties and gifts yet He doesn’t strip us of those bounties. These are facets of His beauty being manifest. He is manifest to us even in the ugliness we see in the world. From His clemency is that even though He knows we aren’t stopping in our wrongs and transgressions, and wholly things are thing to become worse, He stills shows us patience by His name ‘The One who is patient’. Because, it is He who gave us the responsibility to be custodians of this earth when He made us caliphs.
When you see plants and vegetation growing after a storm or natural disaster, and you see them first coming out of the ground as a green and verdant sapling and then a tree that bears fruit, this is what is happening the world today. The beauty you see at that moment is what is happening in the world today. What stops us from seeing this beauty of God and its expression in the world around us is nothing but ourselves.
These are notes which are close to verbatim of the translation. Any mistakes, errors or misinterpretations of words are from the Treasures for the Seeker admin. Please correct us when you spot any mistakes.