A Khutba of Shaykh Nur al-Jerrahi delivered in 1994
Al-Hamdu-li-Llah, wa-l-Hamdu-li-Llah, wa-l-Hamdu-li-Llahi-r-Rabbi-l-‘alamin. As-salatu wa-s-Salamu ‘alayk Ya Rasulu-Llah, as-salatu wa-s-Salamu ‘alayk Ya Habibu-Llah. As-salatu wa-s-Salamu ‘alayk Ya Nuru-l-Arshi-Llah. As-salatu wa-s-Salamu ‘alayk Ya Nurun ‘ala Nur, Ya Nuru-l-Anwar. As-salatu wa-s-Salamu ‘alayk Ya Nur Muhammad, sala-Llahu ‘alayhi wa Sallim.
May we be swept away in the flood of praise which is arising from all minds and hearts in creation, directed only to the Source and Goal of Being, the vast Ocean of Light without shores, the Reality that calls Itself Allah Most High and by all of the beautiful Divine Names.
Once we see the spontaneous praise that is arising from our own heart, from all beings, even from the atoms as they whirl, even from stars and galaxies as they whirl and revolve, then we will understand why such perfect Mercy and Justice flows constantly from Allah Most High to all the dimensions and beings in His creation. It is because we are all totally receptive and open to Allah. Reveals the Holy Qur’an: "All beings bow before the Ultimate Reality," no matter what their thoughts or motivations. There is no other possibility for us as creations, as created beings, except to bow before the Creator. Bowing is something intrinsic and natural to our being. It would be impossible for the atom not to whirl. (A small child in the room begins to cry loudly.) Similarly it would be impossible for the heart not to cry out to Allah. Gradually, like our little brother here who is crying, we learn more and more what we are really crying for, and to Whom we are really crying. Insha’llah, we grow and the child in us grows into a mature human being. Our cry becomes a conscious cry for the Infinite. Our cry also even goes beyond that: it becomes a cry for all humanity, for our sisters and brothers who are not yet consciously receiving the great Mercy of Allah. Our cry becomes a cry for them.
Think of the Night Journey of Rasulallah, salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallim, when he entered the Garden of Essence. Did he stay there in rapt contemplation and just enter the state of total union and communion with his Lord? No. He prays, "O Lord, my sisters and brothers, my community, all of humanity, are wandering without a clear goal, without a conscious relation to the Supreme Reality. I intercede for them. Show them the straight way." This should be our true cry.
What comes to my mind from Qur’an are the various prayers that Allah Most High taught to the Prophet, upon him be peace. Once in Spring Valley with Muzaffer Efendi, someone had a book entitled, The Prayers of Muhammad, representing those passages in Qur’an which were prayers. I objected to the title. I said to Efendi, "These aren’t the prayers of Muhammad, salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallim. These are the prayers that Allah showed to him and asked him to pray." The Efendi was very pleased with my insight. He placed the insight in me in the first place. He trained me in the subtle discernment of Islam. I don’t know how he did that—I didn’t go to any seminars with him, I didn’t study Arabic with him. I don’t know how he made this training of the heart, but our order specializes in it. Our hearts are being trained directly. Our minds are not even always engaged in it. Of course we encourage study in Islam itself. We ask the lovers to study and to recite and to praise, but the fact is that one’s heart matures in Islam and then one has an instant sensibility like a tuning fork—a sense of perfect pitch. So when we see a book that says The Prayers of Muhammad, we know immediately there is something slightly off pitch.
One of the prayers that Allah asks his Messenger to pray is, "O Lord, increase me in knowledge." If we could pray for this with a genuine cry like our little brother was making, if we could really cry out to Allah, "O Lord, increase me in knowledge," that would be a tremendous turning point in our lives. What better time than the Juma to make that cry. (We are to make this cry) no matter how much we know—imagine, it was Rasulallah, salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallim, himself that Allah was asking to pray in this way. Allah wasn’t saying, "O Messenger, pray: ‘O Lord, may my community be increased in knowledge,’" but "…may I be increased in knowledge." It doesn’t make any difference how much knowledge we have. In fact, the more genuine knowledge we have, the more we really will cry, "O Lord, increase me in knowledge."
The more genuine knowledge we have the more we realize how little we know, and how profound our responsibilities are, and how we have to have this knowledge to function as instruments for the uplift of our culture and of this time. Islam is always for this time. Of course we contemplate the past and we revere the great moments in Islam’s past, but Islam is for the present. Islam is for now and for the future generation, the coming generation. We are very, very oriented towards the present and the future of Islam. When we see the vastness of what needs to be done we certainly will cry with a greater and greater cry, "O Lord increase me in knowledge," because without knowledge, sincerity and good intention can be counterproductive and even harmful. It is possible that those Muslims whose knowledge is confined to a superficial understanding of the five pillars of Islam—as noble and valuable as those pillars are—their limited, confined knowledge may be doing more harm for the Islamic cause than helping it.
Today on this Juma let us cry together, "Ya Rabb, O Lord, increase me in knowledge." The Hebrew word Rabbi comes from the same root as Rabb. It means the Guide and Educator. It doesn’t mean ‘the Lord’ in the sense of your landlord: "O landlord, here I am living in your creation. As rent I will give you the five times a day prayer…." That is not the relationship with the Lord. It is an intimate relationship, as with the Rabbi, with the Supreme Educator. Allah alone is the Teacher. Allah alone is the Rabbi, the Shaykh. Allah alone is the Prophetic Voice, the Voice of Truth. It is the Voice of Truth that speaks through the Prophets, upon them be peace. It was the Voice of Truth that spoke to Pharaoh (through Moses when he confronted Pharaoh).
"O Lord, increase me in knowledge." We are asking the Supreme Educator, the Supreme Teacher. What joyful response one receives when one has a very fine teacher. The problem with schools today is that kids, all the way up to college, don’t really want to learn. They are there for various other reasons. Maybe when certain people reach college they are there for a career, going to the minimal amount of classes, and reading the minimal amount of things. How many people ever go to their teacher and say, "I really want knowledge. I am thirsty for it. Let’s read outside of class. Give me some other books to read." What joy awakens in the Divine Heart when one of us cries, "O Lord, increase me in knowledge," because the Lord is Ya Alim—the Lord is that infinite Knowledge and the Lord longs to transmit That. He sent His noble Prophets and His awliya, His intimate friends, to humanity simply for that transmission of Knowledge. It is a knowledge of the heart.
To know, for instance, how far the Sun is from the Earth, down to the exact number of miles, is not the ‘knowledge’ we are talking about when we say, "O Lord increase me in knowledge." But we do ask for the knowledge of how to take away the armor that we have placed around ourselves in protection against our supposed enemies, how to take that armor off when we are meeting with a beloved friend, and how to actually expose our naked heart and our naked being to the other person. That is ‘knowledge’. That is an example of Knowledge.
When we pray, why do you think we take off our shoes and make ablutions? We are taking off the world; we are taking off the armor of the world. You can’t walk around barefoot in the world. There is broken glass—there is everything there. But in the masjid we take off the coverings, the hard coverings we place over our bodies and our minds to protect us from the negativity of the world. We take all of that off. We take the ablutions so we will be protected. The ablution is like an armor of light. It is a total protection but without covering us over with any veils.
At this time let’s exercise this knowledge to be able to cry to Allah with a real cry (the child calls out long and loud, "Mom!") just like a child calls to his mother and feels that she is available at all times, even if she is in the middle of a Juma and there is a khutba going on. Allah Most High is available at all times. There is an infinite Motherliness. Let’s cry, "O Lord increase me in knowledge," and let’s cry it with knowledge. Let’s divest ourselves of all the hard thoughts and hard doctrines and hard resentments with which we surround ourselves. Let’s divest ourselves. What good does it do to take off the shoes to come in to pray and to make the ablutions, if we keep all these things around us? But divesting ourselves of them takes knowledge; this takes knowledge of the heart. It is not something simple. Salat is not something simple. It is, Al-hamdulillah, also something simple. What I mean by ‘not something simple’ is that everyday one sees new implications, new vastness about what this act means, this act of opening ones heart. Allahu Akbar.
Some commentators say that when you say Allahu Akbar in salat, the motion of the hands here (raising his open hands) means that you are putting the world behind you. Al-hamdulillah, that is a beautiful interpretation, because just as one takes off ones shoes, one has to put the world behind. There is another meaning of the Allahu Akbar: Aren’t you opening yourself completely, opening your heart and your being completely? You are not covering anything. You are completely open. Then one can link one’s hands here (at the solar plexus) or here (at the heart) and enter into the innermost regions of one’s being. But not until one has divested oneself of everything. Then the head falls down slightly, subtly turned to the left, and one is in touch with the heart, with the eyes of the heart. Then one prays.
May the very movements of our salat this morning be, "O Lord increase me in knowledge." May this be our breath. May it be our heartbeat on this day of Juma when great graces are descending from Allah.
The very angels that ascend and descend on the Night of Power, bringing messages and bringing answers and responses to prayer, those very angels are active on the day of Juma as well. Because the day of Juma is also a kind of Day of Power. Allah’s generosity is such that He has manifested His Night of Power once a year, hidden in the last ten nights of the Ramadan. By revealing that night to us He is revealing the nature of the way Reality is. On that night it is revealed to one and all. For those of us who have the courage to see it, that Night of Power is manifesting at other times too. I would say that there is a very, very real possibility that it is manifesting in the Juma. In our order we make the dhikr on Thursday night. The day of Juma begins at sunset on Thursday. Already in the Juma, we meet and make the dervish circle—as a preparation for this moment that we are just about to enter. The mystics like to prepare themselves more deeply. But we feel that every Muslim on this planet who is going to Juma now, including any of our sisters who may be making Juma in their houses, and all Muslims who are absent from Juma for an acceptable reason, and even all Muslims who are absent from Juma without an acceptable reason—we feel that everyone on the planet, including people who have not consciously accepted the invitation to Islam, are receiving the blessing of this day.
This is the high-point. This is the great moment of communication, confirmed by the fact that Rasulallah, salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallim, addressed his community on this day. The day of Juma was really the only time he addressed his community. He was a man of extremely few words. He would say a few things to answer a few questions. He would work out practical problems, but as far as giving an extended teaching, or a khutba of any kind, that was not his way; it was not his style. Even his personal style was suspended on the Juma because of the depth and importance of that day, and he actually spoke. Imagine the increase in knowledge to hear the words of Rasulallah, salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallim. Imagine how it would increase one in knowledge, to actually hear him speak.
Sometimes reading things does not increase one in knowledge. Maybe a person has read all of Bukhari. I am sure there are lots of people who have, but they may not have been increased in knowledge. They may have a knowledge of the Hadith, like as I said earlier, a knowledge of exactly how many miles it is to the sun. All knowledge is valuable. In Islam there is no knowledge which is denigrated. Scientific knowledge is considered worthy. Knowledge of Hadith is considered worthy. Knowledge of Qur’an is worthy. But that might not be the knowledge with the capital "K," the Knowledge that we are crying for now: "O Lord increase us in Knowledge." Someone may have more Knowledge from knowing a few hadith than other people from knowing all of the hadith of Bukhari.
I am reminded of someone who told me that she received her Islamic education from her mother. This person was a very, very profound Muslim. I asked her, "What did your mother teach you—Qur’an? Hadith?" She said, "No." I said, "Then what did her teaching consist of?" She said, "Well, when we were kids she used to tell us about her Hajj." One Hajj in her life! "She would tell us about her Hajj." Over the years this had such a profound affect on all the children that theywere increased in knowledge.
O Lord, increase us in knowledge, in an unexpected manner, in a direction that we don’t necessarily choose for ourselves, O Lord, but one that You choose for us. O Allah, increase us in knowledge precisely through those events in our life—which You have permitted to occur—that we might think are the most unacceptable. O Allah, don’t allow us to be proud and have proud hearts, because then how can we be open to the Divine Knowledge?
When we say Allahu Akbar, that is a gesture of complete humility; it is the opposite of a gesture of something like this (raises hands with fists tightly closed) which is a gesture of a secular warrior, a warrior of the dunya. But this (opens his hands in the gesture of prayer) is the gesture of total humility. May we become that kind of non-violent warrior of humility; warriors of love bearing the bright sword of love. Amin, amin, Ya Rabbi-l-‘alamin.