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Part 2: Dikhr, the Essence of Salah

Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) said:

"Everything has its polish and the polish of hearts is the Remembrance of Allah."

"For those who believe, and whose hearts find Rest in the remembrance of Allah, for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find Rest."

- The Holy Qur'an, 13:27-28

The Obligation of Five Prayers

In the sacred Hadith (words and deeds of the Prophet), it is narrated by Ana bin Malik how the angel Gabriel took the Prophet through the seven gates of Heaven (which are the seven chakras of the Hindu religion and the Seven churches of the book of Revelation in the Christian Bible) until he reached the Lote Tree beyond which none may pass. Then Allah approached and came closer to the Prophet. Among the things which God revealed to him was "Fifty prayers were enjoined on his followers in a day and a night."

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A page from a Koran
from the 18th century
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A manuscript from a
commentary on the Hadith

But as the Prophet was descending he met Moses at the entrance of one of the gates of Heaven. (The sixth gate) Moses stopped the Prophet and told him to ascend back to Allah. Moses knew that the followers of Mohammed cannot keep this command of fifty prayers in a day and a night. The Prophet went back and prayed to Allah, and Allah deducted for him ten prayers. Each time the Prophet returned, Moses sent him back to Allah to request Him to reduce the prayer. After the fifth ascent Allah had reduced the enjoined prayer to five times.

Again Moses sent the Prophet back to Allah to reduce the prayer one last time. (Moses knew from his own experience how hard it was for his people to keep the ten commandments of Yahweh). But when Mohammed ascended this time, Allah did not withdraw His Word but gave the Prophet a promise: "Every good deed will be rewarded as ten times, so it is fifty when you perform five prayers."

- Hadith, Book 001, Number 0314

The inner meaning of this story is that one should begin with the requirement to pray five times a day at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and night fall until the whole of one's life becomes an uninterrupted awareness of Allah’s Presence.

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Surrender and Prayer -
The Soul of Islam

One should, in the beginning at least, remember Allah five times a day until one’s consciousness is totally unified with the Name of Allah in the three levels of awareness. For, Allah says to His Prophet (Peace be upon Him) in the Glorious Qur’an, Surah An-Nisa, chapter 4:v103:

"Then when you have finished the prayer, remember Allah while standing and sitting and lying down"

In other words, the very goal of Salah is to remember Allah at all times of the day and night, and in the three states of consciousness – while waking (that is standing), while dreaming (that is sitting) and while sleeping (that is lying down).

All prayers and worship, all rituals and spiritual disciplines have this final goal: Dhikr - the Remembrance of Allah. Dhikr is the Soul of Islam. Without remembering Allah, according to the Prophet (peace be upon him) the whole of man’s actions and indeed the whole of his life is a mere waste. In the Hadith, Bukhari, Abu Musa al-Ashcari related that the Prophet said:

"The difference between the one who makes dhikr and the one who doesn't make dhikr is like the difference between the living and the dead."

- Hadith, Book 004, Number 170

Muadh ibn Jabul also said that the Prophet stated:

"The people of Paradise will not regret except one thing alone: the hour that passed them by and in which they made no remembrance of God."

The Prophet, peace be upon him, would often tell his Companions:

"Shall I tell you about the best of deeds, the most pure in the sight of your Lord, about the one that is of the highest order and is far better for you than spending gold and silver,… The Companions replied, "Yes, O Messenger of Allah!" The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "Remembrance of Allah."

- Hadith, Narrated by Tirmidhi, Ahmad, and Hakim

Why is Remembrance of Allah so important? The mind can only surrender at the feet of a Superior Authority. This Authority which has the power to subdue the mind is the Name of God.

The nature of the mind is sound. The vibrations of thought waves in the mind produce very subtle sound which cannot be heard by the physical ear. Nevertheless, the inner ear can hear these sounds. In fact, the physical sound is only a resound of the sound of thought. The interval between two consecutive thought waves is the gate to Silence. The Name of God is the key to this gate. The Name of Allah is the key to the Infinite. To enter this gate is to enter the Heart of Islam. For, Allah says to His Prophet (Peace be upon Him) in the Glorious Qur’an: Al-Anaam, chapter 6.v125, "Of whosoever it is Allah’s Will to guide, he expands his Heart into Islam”. The ‘Heart’ here means Absolute Silence. When the mind is unified with the Name of God, it dissolves into Silence. This is because the Name of God is the Primordial Sound of Silence.

“Chanting of God’s Name (Namasmarana) is the easiest path to liberation.”

- Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. 35 p.87

Allah, the Primordial Sound of Silence

God is Silence. Silence cannot be described. The moment you describe it, it ceases to be Silence! It is neither being nor non-being. It is not emptiness and it cannot be described as something. It is That which is beyond attributes.

"Remember Me and I will remember you."

- The Holy Qur'an, 2:152

Every sound is born from the womb of Silence. Every sound dies too in the tomb of Silence. The whole of creation as sound has emerged from the womb of Silence and will finally dissolve in the tomb of Silence. The first Sound that arose from the womb of Silence is the Name of God. And from this Primal Sound, the whole of Creation came forth. It is also through this Primal Sound that the whole of Creation will return into Silence.

The Name of God is the Primal Sound which leads one back into the Soundless.

Different religions refer to this Primal Sound of Silence by different Names: Allah, Aum, Jesus, Rama, Krishna, etc.

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AUM - the Primordial sound

In the Mandukya Upanishad (chapter1:v1) of the Sanathana Dharma (ancient Indian religion), it is said:

AUM, the Word is all this, the whole Universe
All that is past, present and future is indeed AUM
And whatever else there is, beyond the threefold division of Time
That too is AUM

Again in the Gospel of St. John (Chapter 1:v1) of the Christian Bible, it is said:

In the Beginning was the Word
And the Word was with God
And the Word was God…
All things were made and came into existence through It
And without It was not one thing made
That has come into being.

The Name of God therefore is both the efficient and material cause of the Universe. Everything in the Universe is a vibration of God’s Name. Every atom in the Cosmos is a resound of the Primal Sound. The Heart of Creation beats with the Name of Allah. When the mind is unified with God’s Name, it becomes one with the whole of creation; one with the music of being and becoming; one with the all-pervading Sound Stream which has no direction because you cannot point where it is coming from. When the mind is unified with God’s Name, like the Prophet (Peace be upon him), one will begin to hear the echo of the Divine Word in everything; as if the Sky, the Earth, the Moon and the Universe, all said the same Name that he was repeating.

“The seven heavens and the earth and all that is therein praise Him, and there is not a thing but hymneth his praise; but ye understand not their praise. Lo! He is ever Clement, Most Forgiving”.

- The Holy Qur'an, 17:44

In this state of Oneness, one’s heart expands into Islam.

How does Dikhr Annihilate the Seed 'I' Impulse?

The Prophet said, Allah says:

“I am just as My Devotee thinks I am. I am with him if he remembers Me. If he remembers Me in himself, I too, remember him in Myself, and if he remembers Me in a group of people, I mention him in a better group in My presence. If he comes one span nearer to Me, I go one cubit nearer to him; and if he comes one cubit nearer to Me, I go a distance of two outstretched arms nearer to him; and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running.' "

- As narrated by Abu Huraira in the Hadith, Volume 9, book 93, number 502

Our Beloved Sathya Sai Baba reiterates this same Truth:

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"When you take one step...God take ten steps"

“Remember that with every step, you are nearing God; and God too, takes ten steps towards you when you take one step towards Him. There is no stopping place in this pilgrimage; it is one continuous journey, through day and night; through valley and desert; through tears and smiles; through death and birth, through tomb and womb.

When the road ends, and the Goal is gained, the pilgrim finds that he has traveled only from himself to himself.”

– Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. 8
(22-7-1968 )

How does one unify the mind with the Name of God? This is the most practical question for which Prophet Mohammad’s paradigm is the best solution.

WIFE = Worries Invited For Ever = Thoughts

Like the deer yearning for running streams my heart longed to behold the Physical Divine Presence of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. I was by then an associate priest in a parish in the archdiocese of Lagos, Nigeria. This dream came true in September, 2001. Just to set my eyes on Him who has stolen my heart was all I desired.

On the second day of my visit, I was sitting among other devotees in the second row waiting for His Darshan. Then, He came and stopped in front of me. He was looking at me with an everlasting Love. When He broke His Silence, the following conversation took place:

Swami: “Where do you come from?”

Me: ‘Swami, from Nigeria”. (Truly we came from God)

Swami: “How many are you?”

Me: “One, Swami”. (Yes, there is only One; Allah)

Swami: “Go!” (Go means to let go of everything that separates you from the One)

After His Darshan, Swami came and ushered all those He had called into the interview room. I was sitting at a far end of the room. Truly, I was totally lost in the beauty and bliss of His Form. Swami was busy talking to other devotees and materialising different objects for them. Then, like a thunder from the blues, He turned to me and asked: “How are your wives?”

This question woke me up from my sleep of bliss. One could imagine the confusion that the Lord threw me into. Here I was, a catholic priest, without even one wife. On the other hand, I knew without a doubt that He knew me inside and outside, and that there was nothing I could hide from Him. I also knew that the Lord does not waste words and that every Divine utterance is replete not only with inner meaning and also with the power to actualise this meaning in one’s life.

I opened my mouth several times and simply closed it without saying a word. The rest of the devotees in the interview room were wondering why this African was not answering Swami’s question. Then the Lord ignored me in my ignorance. I was glad that the rest did not know that I was a Catholic priest and was not supposed to have even a wife and not to talk about wives!

WIFE = Wisdom Invited For Ever = Allah

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True marriage is union of one's mind with God

On another occasion, Swami had called a number of Muslim devotees for an interview. During this interview, one lady threw a question to Swami:

Swami, why is it that Mohammed married eleven wives?” Swami looked up with surprise in His face and said: “Mohammed…?” “Eleven wives!...” No, No. Mohammed had only one wife!...Allah.”

When I heard this story, I understood in an instant what Swami meant by asking me, “How are your wives?” True marriage is that state of Divine union where one’s mind has been totally unified with God.

Until this state is realized, no one can say he has no wife. Since your wife is what you think. Although the Prophet had many wives, truly he had none because his one thought was Allah. Whereas the priest was unmarried but he had many wives since many thoughts occupied his mind. When the mind is filled with thoughts, the mind is full of worries. When the mind is filled with God, it is turned into a house of Wisdom.

"O ye who believe let not your riches or your children divert you from the Remembrance of Allah. If any act thus, the loss is their own."

- The Holy Qur'an, 63:9

“Listen Oh Israel, the Lord thy God is One. And thou shall love the Lord thy God with thy entire Mind and with thy entire Heart and with thy entire Strength”

- Deuteronomy, Chapter 6:4

To love God with the entire mind happens when one has unified the 'I' Consciousness with the Name of Allah. This requires integrating the three levels of consciousness with God’s Name. The 'I' consciousness is operative in the waking and dreaming states and remains as a latent seed impulse in the deep sleep state. When the 'I' consciousness is operative, one is mindful of the 'I' as the 'doer' and 'experiencer'. From dawn to dusk and vice versa the ‘I’ parades itself as: ‘I am a doctor’ and ‘I am a Professor’, ‘I am a husband’, ‘I am a devotee’, ‘my property’, etc. But once the 'I' has been unified with the Name of God, one is only conscious of God.

“I forgot myself so that I may remember You.”

When this unification is attained, the three levels of consciousness become automatically integrated with the primal Sound of Silence. Then, the little individuated “I” is replaced with the Name of God. The cry of “I”, “I”, “I” turns into a Divine call: “Allah”, “Allah”, “Allah”. The self pride of “I am this” and “I am that” turns into a Divine glorification: “Allah is this” and “Allah is that”. The greed of “This is Mine” and “That is yours” is converted into La ilaha illa allah: there is none but Allah.

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"Allah" - The mightiest
and the mysterious
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[above] bismillahi ir rahman ir rahim [below] la illaha illah llah

Islam is attained when the “I” forgets itself in the remembrance of Allah. St. Paul attained this essence when he said: “It is no longer “I” who lives, but God living in me”. (Galatians 2:20)

"Do not say, 'I am nothing'; neither say, 'I am something.' Do not say: 'I need such and such a thing'; nor yet: 'I need nothing.' But say: ' Allah,' and you will see marvels."

- Mulay al- cArabi ad-Darqawi in, Letters of a Sufi Master

Author: Father Charles Ogada, a Catholic Priest of the Order of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers and an ardent devotee of Sai.

End of Part 2

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Vol 6 Issue 09 - SEPTEMBER 2008
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