Sheikh Nur: The preliminary for meditation is this: to establish a beautiful atmosphere. In Islam, there is no altar. We are the altar. There are no images of Divinity. We are the divine image. Human beings were created in the divine image. So now we are offering tea to this perfect image. We are seeing each other in a perfect light.
Visitor: Noetic Sciences was founded by the astronaut Edgar Mitchell. On the way back from his trip into space, he had a realization that the universe is loving and intelligent and purposeful. His background gave him no preparation for this experience. Apparently, a number of the astronauts have had more or less similar experiences, but he decided to found an organization that would study the interface between science and spirituality. His background was scientific, and he wanted to see if there was some way that one could understand the connection between science and spirituality.
Sheikh Nur: We will adopt that analogy. We are in an astronautical capsule right now. The universe is opening up above us, around us. All mystics of the great traditions have been astronauts into spiritual space and into physical space, because mystics walk through planetary experience, too, and perceive the Divine. They do not have to go to outer space or to inner space. They find sacred space everywhere. We are engaged in the countdown now. Instead of getting rocket engines prepared, we have to prepare the right kind of sweets, the right kind of tea, the right kind of fragrance, the right kind of friendship, the right kind of respect. All this is part of preparing for our lift-off.
I’m so glad to know the background of your Noetic Society. It’s a large organization—tens of thousands of members, isn’t it?
Visitor: When I last heard, it was about forty thousand in various parts of the world.
Sheikh Nur: That’s quite a mystic order, forty thousand. Founded by a very modern person who had a profound spiritual experience. The founder of our order lived about three hundred years ago in Istanbul. He had extraordinary experiences, made possible by the spaceships that were available then.
Visitor: Can you tell us about what happened to him?
Sheikh Nur: Yes. He finished his extensive education in sacred law when he was about nineteen. He was already married. He had been appointed from Istanbul, which was the capital of the Ottoman Empire at that time, to go to Egypt and function as a Grand Mufti there, to give consultations on sacred law. The night before he was to leave, with everything packed and his passage on the ship secured, his uncle took him to a place like this, where you are tonight. The dervishes began chanting and whirling. Young Nureddin entered ecstasy. He took off his jacket and threw it in the center of the circle, which means he renounced his independent career and placed himself under the guidance of the sheikh. Everything was unpacked. His wife went to stay with her family, and he spent three years in intensive retreat.
When he was twenty-six, he had completed his total spiritual training, and his sheikh received the inspiration from Allah that Nureddin Jerrahi should start a new branch of the order. The young man, flanked by two supremely mature dervishes in their eighties, strolled a few miles from the tekke, the dervish lodge, into the center of Istanbul to found a new tekke. They had no money. They had nothing. The night before, the Sultan and also one vizier both had dreams that a young man flanked by two old sages would be coming into the city and would be founding a new mystic order, and that the state should open its coffers in order to give them funds. So the vizier went and easily found this configuration, one young man and two old men. They were just joyfully strolling. With the money that was provided they bought a beautiful old wooden house.
Sheikh Muzaffer Ashki, the nineteenth successor of Nureddin Jerrahi, arrived in New York in 1978. He similarly came with no particular money and no particular plan of how to establish a new tekke. He met the beautiful, radiant young couple who are sitting on either side of me right now. They are not as young as they were in 1978 but still as beautiful. They provided the means by which my Sheikh Muzaffer could establish the Jerrahi Order in New York City. That is the way it happens—spontaneously, by Divine Will.
This spontaneous unfolding is the secret, the art of meditation and of life. It is very personal. In the oral tradition of Islam, the Day of Judgment is described as the personal meeting of every soul with its Lord. It is not done with vast numbers of humanity stretching out beyond the horizons, and Divine Reality, as it were, sitting on a throne, judging. It is an individual, one-to-one, one-within-one experience.
Visitor: Does it happen at a particular time?
Sheikh Nur: It happens three times. The first time the Day of Judgment happens is every moment. The second time it happens is at one’s physical death. The third time is at the culmination of history, when Being Itself will return into the glorious Source of Being. Those are three very real Days of Judgment.
I might add, a fourth time when it occurs is every Friday at the Friday prayers of Islam, which are called Juma, the gathering. That day, there is a reflection on earth of the cosmic Day of Judgment. A fifth time it happens is when the pilgrims on the pilgrimage to Mecca gather on the plain of Arafat. That is also a reflection in space and time of the cosmic Day of Judgment. The first three instances are metaphysical, and the other two are historical, earthly reflections.
The amazing thing about the Day of Judgment is that there is nothing but infinite Divine Mercy manifest on that day. There is no judgment as we understand it from any limited human standpoint. Allah says of Himself in the oral tradition, transmitted by His beloved Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace, “My Mercy extends completely beyond My Justice.” The Divine Quality of Justice is one of the facets of Supreme Reality, but the Divine Mercy extends infinitely beyond that. It is the essence of Supreme Reality. So the Day of Judgment is the day of infinite Mercy. In that Mercy, there can occur what we would consider chastening. There can be what we consider suffering, because people have to face themselves and be purified by the spiritual fire of Truth. Not physical fire. This Day of infinite Mercy is terrible in the sense that it can cause terror to the soul because it is such overwhelming mercy.
Dervish Farhad Fatima: Sheikh Nur, do we meet the prophets on Judgment Day?
Sheikh Nur: A beautiful question. On the Day of Judgment that happens at the time of physical death and on the Day of Judgment that happens at the End of Time, we do meet with all the prophets, upon them all be peace. All the saints and wise beings, both men and women who have been spiritual guides of humanity, also descend. The Cosmic Quran, which is to say the source of all the scriptures of the world, all the revealed principles, also descends. The earth of Judgment Day is a spiritual earth that can receive such manifestation, so intense that it would vaporize the physical earth. The bodies are spiritual bodies. All the human eyes that have ever gazed into creation, all the human nostrils that have ever taken grateful breaths of life-giving atmosphere on this planet—all these are resurrected, but in a spiritual sense, not in an ordinary, literal, physical sense. These are spiritual bodies, but they are very tangible.
This is not a subject I had thought of talking about tonight. It is just coming up spontaneously. In the Holy Quran, there is an interesting description of a particular soul who, when first awakening into the Resurrection, cries, “O Allah, please do not return me into my limited body.” Our physical body, although it is an amazing body with tremendous spiritual reach, is limited. The soul is a limitless reality. This limitless reality cries, “Do not place me back inside limitation again.” Allah replies in this Quranic passage, “Look at your body.” The soul looks and sees that its body of resurrection is a body composed of light and love. In fact, it is a limitless body. Then the true mystery of the Resurrection begins to dawn on the soul, and the soul enters an ecstatic state of praise.
On the Day of Judgment that is appearing at every second we can also have this experience. We can experience our spiritual bodies. These spiritual bodies can appreciate fragrances and beautiful sights and tender touch. In Holy Quran, Allah says that the ones who pray sincerely and deeply will feel Divine Presence touching them through every pore of their skin—not just as a metaphysical presence, but as a direct touch.
Science fiction often depicts planet earth as some kind of prison planet. “If we were more evolved, we wouldn’t be here.” I have heard many New Age people say that. But that is not the Islamic view. This planet is at the very apex of spiritual possibility. The proof of this is that the beloved prophets have manifested here. The prophets are perfect, full human beings. Most prophets have rejoiced in marriage and in family, in food and drink. Most prophets have engaged in deep study and in sacred battle. The complete range of fruitful human experience and responsibility has been engaged in by these perfect human beings to show that there is nothing intrinsically limited here in our earthly life. We create limitations by our egocentric thinking, by our misapprehension. In the Day of Judgment that is happening at every moment, right here and now, we can know this limitless nature of our soul’s experience. We can know the Resurrection.
This merciful Divine Judgment is happening right now within all of us. Look down at your body. It is composed of light. It is composed of love. It is not composed of what we theoretically and conventionally call matter. This experience is only for persons who can see metaphysically during earthly life. At the moment of our physical death, however, there is no avoiding this experience. Quran confirms this. We can avoid looking at our spiritual situation all our lives, but when the body is carried to the grave, then the soul has no recourse but to look at the situation fully. We do not have to wait for thousands or millions of years until the Day of Judgment at the End of Time. Definitely, at the moment of death, we will enter fully into that Day Without Evening.
I do not know what physical theory prevails right now, but according to some theories of the universe, there is an original expansion and then the universe contracts back into a single point. Metaphysically, this is the Quranic or the prophetic view. Creation is not just an endless dissipation into space. Creation has an actual rhythm to it. It reaches a certain point and then returns into its Source.
The Big Bang theory does not say anything about the Source. The Source is not something that can be investigated scientifically, so how can scientists talk about the Source? As human beings, however, we can and must talk about the Source. Creation returning into its Source is not a disappearing, a cancellation. It is the ultimate fulfillment of creation. So at that time, too, there will be a Day of Judgment—very grand, inconceivably magnificent.
The mystics are not confined by time, so they can experience that final return of Being into its Source here and now. They can experience their physical death before they die. Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, often instructed his close companions, “Die before you die.” This was originally a usage of the desert fathers of Christianity. The original form of the statement was, “Die before you die, and resurrect before the Resurrection.” Can you imagine the ancient desert fathers saying that to each other? It is so beautiful. Instead of saying, “hello,” one greets, “Die before you die,” and the other responds, “Resurrect before the resurrection.” Resurrect before the resurrection means that the mystic must experience within himself or herself that final Resurrection, even on the vast scale that it occurs at the end of history, including all living beings throughout space and time.
Now let’s consider Sufi meditation, which is the subject requested by the Society of Noetic Sciences tonight. I have selected three passages from my book of meditations called Heart of the Koran. Everything in Sufism and Islam comes out of this root scripture, the Quran. You may have heard of Jelaluddin Rumi and other mystic Sufi poets. Their poetry is like a candle flame, and the Quran is like the sun. They would be the first ones to say this. The Holy Quran calls itself a hidden book. As the great Persian mystic Rumi wrote, “Quran is like a bride. She lifts her veil only for her husband.” We are not like fundamentalists who claim, “Everything is in the Torah, everything is in the Bible, everything is in the Quran.” The fundamentalist position really is, “Everything is in this book, but you have to agree with me about what you find here.” This is not the way to deal with holy scripture. Holy scripture is the most subtle of the subtle. Our Sheikh Muzaffer used to say that to study Quran is the highest mystical study. It should only be undertaken far into one’s spiritual development, and it should be pursued under the guidance of one’s sheikh, one’s mystic guide. Quran study should never be undertaken merely from a scholarly standpoint, although scholarship about Quran, both in Islam and in the modern academic world, is very extensive and its findings are valid. But the mystical study of the Holy Quran should not be made through scholarship. It should be made through what we call unveiling. The meanings should be unveiled—exactly as Rumi suggests, like a bride unveiling herself to her husband.
I have selected three passages that I thought would shed light on what the Noetic Science Association calls Sufi meditation. I do not know what Sufi means or what meditation means, but I think that if we can find it anywhere, we can find it out from Quran.
Try to concentrate intensely as you listen. Although this is not the Arabic Quran, it is a mirror reflection of the Quran. This is not like reading from an earthly book. Experience these words as written on your hearts. As Saint Paul says about the Gentiles, they have the sacred law, the Torah, written on their hearts. The Holy Quran is found in the heart of humanity.