One of our dervishes asked: I have seen in me these last days of Ramadan, principally in my thoughts, an aspect which says to me: "Look how responsible you are, doing all these prayers, and fasting, more than the others..." And I feel proud of myself. Who is it who is talking to me? Who is feeling this sense of happiness and pride?
The shaykh answered: It would really be a pity to pass a whole month of hunger and thirst and not get anything out of it except hunger and thirst. Every night I have begged you, my children, to look inside yourselves, and seek what is happening, to identify who is there, to discover in this single body that somebody seems to be watching somebody else. As the expression goes, "Who is watching who?" There must be two I's, at least a duality; in fact you contain a multiplicity. Then after realizing this, how can you help but get emotional? Amazement, wonder, fear, disgust, pain, regret, tears, and finally a terrible feeling of shame ensue. This creature with many heads and tentacles, legs and arms, appears in the mirror as a rather nice looking single creature, well proportioned, well spoken, who eats, and drinks and breathes and acts, marries, has children, dresses in nice clothes and lives in a nice house. He has a name and a title. He really is not worthy of any of these things, yet shamelessly and thanklessly he claims the ownership of it all, without tasting a little bit, like you and I do, this lamentation. But if we truly and fully experienced this shame we would be flattened and dead, just as the mountain crumbled when Allah showed Himself to it upon the request of Moses a.s. to see Him.
When that happens, we will have felt a little taste of thankfulness. You see, if you have a dozen shoes and somebody gives you a gift of a new shoe, you politely say, "Thank you," but you don't really mean it. That is the way we thank Allah. Whereas, if we were barefoot with no shoes, and we received a pair of shoes, we would not be only thankful for the shoes, but also for having two feet to put them on. So my daughter, first, we have to see the reality that we have nothing, we are nothing, yet we receive all these gifts for which we have no right and which we are not worthy to ask for.
You ask, who is the one who sees this? Well, Allahu Teala tells us, “When My servant comes close to Me with extra ibadat, I become his eyes with which he sees, his hands with which he holds, his tongue with which he speaks...” Extra ibadat: Salat? Sawm? Zakat? Dhikr? Extra means over and above them. Some say it is service for Allah's sake. Yes, but that is only a part of it. The extra ibadat, instead of five prayers a day, is to be in salat-i daim, continuous prayer. Is it possible? My shaykh talked about it. He said that one should thank and praise Allah twice at every breath: one when you inhale and one when you exhale. I have seen it, when I visited a Halwati shaykh in Tanta, Egypt, Shaykh Hatib, who was doing it while he was at the same time talking to us. And continuous fasting is being continuously conscious, smelling the air you breath, tasting the food you eat, not just looking but truly seeing and taking lessons from what you are seeing. Dhikr-i daim means everything you see, everything which happens to you, everything which you seem to do you remember is certainly from Allah. And zakat-i daim is not to give away just a tiny fraction of what you own, but even if you have got the title for the whole world as your property, it means to realize that nothing is yours, nothing belongs to you, as it will be when you enter your grave.
I think that is what the extra ibadat is. Then inshallah one sees oneself and everything else with the eye of Allahu Teala. But sometimes the fortunate ones have flashes of it.
May Allah the All Seeing, the All Hearing, the All Knowing wake us up from the sleep of heedlessness. Amin.
Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al Jerrahi al Halwati September, 2009