Similarities Between Islam and Other Major Religions
A short talk given by M. R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen from Questions of Life, Answers of Wisdom Volume 2.
Bawa Muhaiyaddeen: May Allah protect us. May everything be what He wills.
My brother! What shall we speak about? Do you have anything on your mind? Is there anything you would like to talk about, you or any of the children?
Shaikh Tosun Bayrak: If Bawa would be good enough we have debated among ourselves regarding the basic similarities between Islam and other major religions. The following are a few questions we were considering earlier: Can the relating of one’s dreams to the shaikh in the Sufi tradition be compared to the institution of confession in the Roman Catholic faith? And also, is there a parallel in the Sufi tradition to that of Judaism, in which the believer talks to Allah in an informal manner, even demanding at times, in the hope that Allah will grant his wishes? For example, one might say, “Allah! I know that You know everything, that You are aware about my existence, but sometimes I wonder if You have forgotten, so please let me know that You know!”
Bawa Muhaiyaddeen: If one is a Sufi, for him only Allah exists. The Sufi does not exist. The Sufi is not there. Only Allah is, and if Allah is then there is nothing to ask for.
Allah created Adam and Eve (A.S) and placed them in heaven. But in order to lead Adam and Eve (A.S) astray, satan, using various acts of subterfuge, deceived the peacock and tricked the serpent into carrying him (in its mouth) into heaven. Once there, he took on the form of an angel, deceived Eve (A.S) into eating of the forbidden fruit, and thereby changed heaven into hell for them.
Now, just as Adam (A.S) was about to swallow the forbidden fruit Eve (A.S) had given him, the Angel Gabriel (A.S) came and pinched his throat closed, in order to stop him from swallowing it. But Eve (A.S) had swallowed the fruit, and as a result, it was decreed that females will not keep any secrets. They will tell what is in their hearts, without concealing it. But in males there is the quality of pondering over things before they speak. The place where Adam’s throat was constricted stands out like a knot and has come to be called the Adam’s apple.
Above that knot, Allah placed the spring called zamzam.1 As long as one is alive, water, which is the grace, the rahmat, of Allah, flows from that spring. When the water stops flowing from that spring, it signals the time of death for that individual. This is why people often keep asking for water near the time of death.
Now, while Adam and Eve (A.S) were still in heaven they had no urine or feces, no lust or anger; they did not have the pride or other evil qualities of satan, the qualities of hell. Up to that point they were aware only of a body of light, the heavenly body. But the moment they ate the forbidden fruit, the beauty of that heavenly body of light disappeared and the body of hell became visible. Then they began to be aware of their nakedness, of their private parts, and they ran and hid behind some trees in order to conceal the nakedness of that body. They begged the trees to give them leaves to cover themselves, but none would agree to do so. Finally the incense tree, a creeper, agreed to lend them its leaves, but no sooner had they used them to cover their private parts than the tree realized it had acted without Allah’s permission. Judging itself to be guilty, as a penance it wound itself around their hair and hauled them up and held them suspended in midair.
Then the sound of Allah came through Gabriel (A.S), “O Adam! You ate of the forbidden fruit without My permission. Therefore, you are banished to the hell called the world. You have no place in heaven any longer. If you can regain the heaven I gave you originally, you can come back, but for now you have taken on the form of satan, the body of hell. As long as you have this form, you cannot stay here.”
And so Allah commanded that Adam (A.S) be cast out of heaven. But Adam (A.S) kept begging and begging Allah for forgiveness. He asked in the name of every prophet who was going to be born from him, prophet after prophet. He asked in the name of every saint that would be born from him. But Allah paid no heed, and the angels continued dragging him out of heaven. Finally Adam (A.S) pleaded, “In the name of Muhammad Rasül who will be born from me, please forgive me, for his sake.” Until then his body had been dragged along the ground, but now he was lifted up and made to stand upright, and then pulled along on his feet.
And so it came about that Adam (A.S) was thrown to the east and Eve (A.S) to the west. The peacock was banished to the north and the serpent to the south. Satan was thrown into hell. This is what happened.
Although Adam (A.S) begged in the name of every prophet, Allah did not forgive him. Even when he pleaded in the name of Muhammad (S.A.W.), the only reprieve he was granted was to be allowed to stand up and walk.
If we think about this, we will realize that if we fail to obey the word of Allah, there is no one in this world who can grant us forgiveness. Which saint, which prophet, can possibly grant us forgiveness? Even though Adam (A.S) begged in the name of every prophet, he was not forgiven.
Only when we acquire that light-form in which Allah created us that beautiful heavenly form we had in heaven only in that form can we see Allah. Anyone who has been deceived by satan and taken on his qualities and partaken of the prohibited (haräm) food that satan indulges in will assume the body-form that belongs to hell. That body-form imbibes and grows on prohibited foods, contrary to the commands of Allah. Such a one has agreed to wear the clothes of hell (which are satan’s qualities), and as a result, the form of light and heavenly beauty will disappear.
No matter what religion we may follow, no matter what scripture we may read, once we realize Allah’s truth, we will understand the difference between right and wrong, between that which is permissible and that which is prohibited (haläl and haräm), between good and evil (khair and sharr), and between the essence and the creations (dhät and sifät). And once we understand these, we must then exclude what is prohibited, keep what is good and discard what is evil, and cast off the things that are wrong for us (as decreed by Allah), thus making ourselves worthy of being in heaven again.
Adam (A.S) was raised to the fourth heaven. [There are eight heavens.] That fourth heaven is our qalb, our innermost heart. Satan will climb up to that point to deceive that house of our heart, but he can go no higher. He can climb only up to that fourth level, which is the fourth heaven. From there he can practice his deceptions, instilling jealousy, envy, treachery, and deceit, cunning, divisiveness, pride, and anger into the heart, thus feeding it with disruptive forces and disunity. Satan will commit all these actions that are contrary to the laws of Allah.
God created the jinns and satan out of fire, which contains the qualities of anger, hastiness, hatred, pride, the arrogance of the ‘I’, jealousy, treachery, deceit, and cunning. Anyone who has the fire of anger has the quality of the jinns, of satan. Anyone who lets those fire qualities come into him, who is deceived by those qualities and accepts the food and speech of hell, will be changed into hell. He will forfeit his beauty, his light-form, and the heaven which belongs to that beauty.
But if we can clear the innermost heart by excluding satan’s qualities, satan’s food, and satan’s actions, we will regain our original beautiful form, the form that belonged to Adam (A.S), the form of light. At that stage we will have no lust, anger, miserliness, or greed. What we will see at all times will be Allah’s grace, His rahmat. Every type of food will have seventy thousand tastes. Every fruit will have seventy thousand tastes for us. Honey will have seventy thousand sweetnesses. Flowers will emit seventy thousand fragrances. Milk will have seventy thousand different tastes. In everything we look at, we will see Allah’s grace and love in limitless, bounteous ways, in that fourth heaven which is the qalb of man, the house of Adam (A.S).
Adam (A.S) was created in the world, the dunyä, and placed in the fourth heaven, but he disobeyed the command of Allah and paid heed to the words of satan. Anyone who disregards the word of Allah and gives ear to the word of satan creates, in that house of the heart, many millions of idols and statues. His every thought or intention turns into something he worships as an equal to Allah. Each thought becomes an idol. Each intention becomes a statue. Each yearning becomes a god in place of Allah. As long as anyone persists in such thoughts he will not be forgiven. We create these idols and statues when we take on these different states. Whether they are outer idols and statues or inner ones, they all belong to hell. We should realize this and eliminate our satanic qualities. Thus said Allähu ta’älä Näyan.2
Now, when Allah had satan thrown down from heaven, He also cast out the incense tree, saying, “Since you gave of your leaves and twigs without My permission, I banish you to be burnt in the world of hell. However, since you did it out of love for your father and mother, I endow you with fragrance. Let Adam’s progeny enjoy that fragrance, but for it to come forth you will have to be burnt in fire and charred.” This is why the children of Adam (A.S) burn incense at their ceremonies. Unless it is burnt, it has no fragrance.
If we who are children of Adam (A.S) can progress without being deceived by satan, if we can realize the truth and adhere to Allah’s laws, our form will become a light-form, and with the beauty of that light we will regain the heaven that was decreed for us by Allah. Only when we are filled with Allah’s qualities and have unwavering faith in Him will we be able to realize who we are and understand who Allah is. At that point we will see Allah, man, and heaven in the same place. That is true prayer. To meet Allah face to face, to dwell in the same heaven in which He dwells, and to worship Him that is prayer. To live every moment in heaven, to eat the food of heaven and worship the One who resides in heaven that is true worship.
Otherwise, no matter who offers prayers of supplication on our behalf, we will end up with the same as what was meted out to Adam(A.S). We cannot look upon anything or anyone as equal to Allah, whether it be a shaikh or a sayyid, a saint or a qutb. Such beings can only give us the map for our path. They will reveal to us what is within our heart. They will give us the method by which we can create light within our heart. They will point out and explain to us the meaning of Ïmän-Isläm and show us the way of good and evil, of permissible and prohibited. They will show us what earns Allah’s love as well as what actions stem from the ignorance belonging to hell. They will explain the right and the wrong in everything. They will be like a staff that supports us as we walk on our journey. They will give us a map that shows the direct path.
If you have a shaikh, he might take your hand and walk with you for part of the way, but there is a limit beyond which even he cannot go. Then you will have to walk on alone and find your own way, carrying the map he showed you the qualities and actions of Allah. The shaikh will bring you up in the proper manner, feed you with Allah’s qualities, raise you to a state worthy of Allah’s love, and explain the difference between what is permissible and what is prohibited. Then, having taken you as far as he can, he will say, “My children, now I have to go back, I have more work to do, work that Allah has given me. Here is the path. From here on you must travel on your own. Go carefully.”
After a time Adam (A.S) was taken up to the sixth heaven, which corresponds to the sixth level of wisdom, divine analytic wisdom. The six heavens represent the six levels of consciousness: perception, awareness, intellect, judgment or assessment, subtle wisdom, and divine analytic wisdom, the wisdom of the qutbiyyat. The shaikh or sayyid or saint or qutb can take you up to the sixth heaven, but from there onward you must go by yourself. Beyond there, you have to proceed alone through the seventh and eighth heavens.
At that point you will begin to hear sounds and voices. You must not be disturbed or agitated by them. If your ïmän is steadfast, if you keep firm your faith in your shaikh, or sayyid, or saint, or qutb, then you will hear a voice which resembles his, instead of hearing those other sounds and voices. So, if you go on the path your qutb or shaikh mapped out for you, Allähu ta’älä will send you sounds that resemble his. You must proceed with determined faith, without any fear of the sounds you hear.
Beyond this are seventy thousand mysterious veils, angels, jinns, fairies, illumined beings which are mixed into our body. We have to go beyond all of these before we can see Allah face to face.
So, we must find our heaven. We must give up this body of hell and find the body of light. If we can cut away the qualities that were injected into us when we were deceived by satan, if we can regain that original light body, then we can find our way back to the heaven from which we came. If we do not regain that light-form while we are in this world we can never hope to return to heaven. Allah told Adam (A.S), “You can come back here only when you have regained the resplendent form I gave you. Otherwise you will remain in the form you are in now, the body of hell.” We have to realize this truth. As long as we hold on to this body which belongs to hell, we will be far, far away from Allah.
Nobody can grant us forgiveness no religion, no scripture, no doctrine Allah alone has the power to judge. Even the shaikh and the archangels Jibrïl, Mïkä’ïl, Isräfïl, ‘Izrä’ïl, and the angels Munkar and Nakïr (may the peace of God be upon them all), can only take us to the sixth heaven. Who can climb beyond that? Only the light of Allah. That was the state of Muhammad (S.A.W.) when he climbed alone, as Allah’s light, beyond the sixth heaven and ascended on the Mi’räj 3 to meet Allah face to face. We too must go in that same state, in the form of Muhammad (Sürat Muhammad), the form of true man (Süratul-Insän), the form of light (Süratun-Nür), and as Alläh-Muhammad (Sürat-Alläh). This is the only form that can transcend the sixth heaven and meet Allah face to face.
Thus, from this form we are in now, we must transform ourselves into Süratur-Rahmän, Süratur-Rahïm, Süratul-Insän, Süratul-Fätihah, Süratur-Rasül, Süratun-Nür. Each of these different names refer to man. We must open out and understand the meaning of each sürat, 4 each form. Our true form must progress through these different stages. As long as we fail to attain these stages, we will be bound to this hell-form, and no one can forgive us. This is what has been said in the Qur’an.
Twenty-eight Arabic letters combine to form our subtle body. Of these, one is the world, the ammärah, which is darkness. The other twenty-seven are forms that we must understand, open out, and examine.
We have to surrender ourselves to Allah’s will. We do not know what is going to happen in the next moment. So we say, “Tawakkul-‘alalläh (It is within the will of God).” And for this moment, for this waqt, 5 we say, “Al-hamdu lilläh (All praise is to Allah).” So, if we are still alive for this waqt, then we say, “Al-hamdu lilläh,” and for the next waqt, we say, “Tawakkul-‘alalläh.” These are the two ‘times’ we have to act upon. In each, we must surrender to His will.
We need to remember this at every moment. This is forgiveness. This is the state we have to attain and make steadfast within us. This is dhikr, the remembrance of God. If we can establish this state, if we can hand over responsibility for each moment, even the moment of our death, into His hands that is tawakkul-‘alalläh. That is the only prayer that worships Allah without considering anything to be equal to Him. Any other form of prayer is idol-worship, the worship of things that are considered as comparable to Him. This is the word to keep only Allah as our true faith. If we maintain this faith, Allah will be the One who sees, who hears, who knows. This will be evident to us at every moment.
In no religion can anyone grant forgiveness. Even Adam (A.S), begging in the name of the Rasülulläh (S.A.W.), was only granted a small respite to be allowed to stand erect. Therefore, until we regain our light-form, until we come to partake of Allah’s permissible ‘foods’ 6 and relish their tastes, we will continue to dwell in the form that is hell. That body will develop foul smells and fetid odors. Our blood will stink. And the food it eats will be prohibited food. All these things are in our body now. Only when these qualities are destroyed and this form is gone will we take on the form that belongs to heaven and the grace of heaven.
The shaikh, sayyid, saint, and qutb can only give us the map. They may take us up to the sixth heaven, but not beyond. We have to reflect on this. No religion, no idol, no scripture, no magic or miracle, no sitthis or sakthis can take us there. They will be an ‘opposite’ to Allah. Our trust in them will compete with our belief in Allah. We must surrender to Allah alone. He is the One who has the power to control all these energies. We must believe this. Al-hamdu lilläh: all praise belongs to God.
Good and evil belong to the one who has earned it. What good or evil the wife has earned cannot be shared by the husband, and what the husband has earned cannot be shared by the wife. What is earned by the shaikh cannot be given to a disciple, and that earned by a disciple cannot go to the shaikh. Allah has decreed that each one’s good and evil belong to him alone. Therefore, each one of us must try to regain that resplendent form. Al-hamdu lilläh!
To help us escape from hell and satan, the shaikh must carry us over and release us from the six regions belonging to lust and sex: arrogance, karma, and mäyä; tärahan, singhan, and süran. Through karma we are connected to hell, and through mäyä we become infatuated and fall into a state of torpor. Tärahan is the force one uses to return into the place of birth. Singhan is the arrogance, like a lion, that one displays at the time of sex. Süran takes different forms, such as miracles and sitthis.
These six places belong to the fire of hell. Then there are six qualities that compose the kingdom of satan: lust, hatred, miserliness or greed, fanaticism, bigotry, and envy. So, these twelve qualities must be overcome.
The shaikh will take us across these twelve, to the sixth heaven. To go beyond that we have to take his map and go alone. Forgiveness, surrender to Allah (tawakkul), giving all praise to Allah alone (al-hamdu lilläh) these words will be the map. You must understand their meaning and carry them with you to guide you on your journey. And through the qutbiyyat you can acquire the wealth of ‘ilm (divine knowledge) and the wisdom that will transform you into Muhammad, the Nür, the light of Allah.
But if you want to proceed beyond the sixth heaven and go on to earn the crown, you must climb up to the seventh heaven and even the eighth, the gem-studded palace, where you will be crowned. A place will be defined for you there. You will be allotted duties and stations in Allah’s kingdom. That is where you will meet Allah face to face.
Shaikh Tosun: We have to go back to New York. We appreciate what was given to us.
Bawa Muhaiyaddeen: Al-hamdu lilläh! (All praise and glory is to Allah alone.)
5. waqt (A) Time of prayer. In the religion of Islam, there are five specified waqts each day. But there is really only one waqt, the never-ending prayer of direct communication with God when one is merged with Him.
6. The use of the word ‘food’ is not conned to what we eat, but includes anything we choose to nurture our lives. We should seek only haläl, or permissible, enrichment and avoid all haräm, or prohibited, things.