‘Prayer, Meditation and Zikr’, by Azim Looker

Azim Looker, Beshara Turkiye, http://www.beshara.org

‘Caer Sidhe’, painting by Azim Looker

“Prayer is the highest form, the supreme act of the Creative Imagination. …For prayer is not a request for something: it is the expression of a mode of being, a means of existing and of causing to exist, … The organ of Prayer is the heart, the psychospiritual organ, with its concentration of energy, its himma… Prayer is a “creator” of vision, … .” (Henry Corbin).
I am writing from the point of view of Prayer, Meditation and Zikr, in the end, in their Reality, being One. As Hazreti Muhammed said “One instant of Real Meditation is the equal of 70,000 occasions of sincere ritual prayer”. But REAL prayer in its highest form, Real Meditation, Real Zikr, join indistingushably into Tawhid, Oneness. From the point of view of the “World is an illusion” (the reference is to a Sufi statement; “The world is an illusion, but / and it is also the Truth in Truth”) the practices can appear different; in the Hadaras, ‘Planes of existence’, they can appear different to, depending on which hadara they are viewed from (This world, the world of Creative Imagination, the Angelic world, the world of being under direct Divine Compulsion, Jebbarut, in one scheme). But from Haqqiqat, Truth, which sees all the worlds as Haqqiqat, ‘Truth’, ‘The Real’, (“but it is also the Truth in Truth”), illusory distinctions disappear in The Presence.

Bulent Rauf…On Prayer…”whether it be by turning a prayer drum, sending up in flames a written sheet of paper, or offering flowers or songs, these may be, on the part of the man praying, a sincere devotional correspondence with his Lord which makes of his seemingly mechanical act a personal act of praise or of grace. This, then, no matter what his act seems like, makes of his prayer a sincere devotional practice, a communication between man and God.

Yet there is another prayer which, in the ultimate man-before-God confrontation, makes of the event a communion. By this prayer I understand standing in the presence of that God which is One and Only and Unique. This supra-monotheistic concept is at the basis of all existing religions, very often hidden deep down in the recesses of its esoteric foundation, sometimes clearly hermetic, sometimes forbidden, sometimes veiled and sometimes so thinly veiled that it is blatant.

This concept, however, must be clearly and definitely understood. The monotheistic God may be sometimes con­ceived as ruling over a polytheistic pantheon. It may sometimes be taken to mean a power beyond and above a manifest duality of transcendence and immanence, or of positive and negative qualities where each, since it is the negation of its opposite, then is in constant strife and war. Or it may be a monotheism of plurality and oneness, a triune singularity which represents both the plurality of the number three and the uniqueness of its own existence. Be these as they may, or any other view of monotheism, yet at the principal basis of all esoteric theology it will be found that there is always a condition attached to the theistic concept. This is the condition of an absolute and unique existent.

By its definition the absolute must be all-inclusive since anything outside of it would necessitate its being a relative concept, not absolute, but nevertheless in relativity to what it does not hold in itself. Hence, it is understood that for the absolute to be, so to speak, absolutely absolute, it must contain its own relativity. This then makes of the relative state a state ‘no other’ than the Absolute. Strange to think that infinity, which is not of the state of relativity, and relativity, which obeys conditions which do not exist in the Absolute, should be formulated in one equation through the finding of a mathematician, a genius, a scientist. Since Einstein, we know that in relativity every thing is one related to the other ‘ad infinitum’.

With this condition of Unicity attached, sine qua non, to the Monistic Ipseity, the concept of prayer takes on a different perspective, a different dimension in relationship. This relationship presumes the existence of a dialogue between the Ipseity and its manifestation as creation. This creation, then, is nothing other in its reality than the Theophany and the prayer ensuing is no other than the Theophanic Prayer which is the Divine Service, since the Unity of Being is the condition of prayer. It means that the prayer is the expression of a mode of the Being, a means of existing and of causing to exist.

One must understand ‘causing to exist’ as the sequel to the man standing before God in prayer, in the state of Theophany with and before God, who is present and revealing Himself by and to the form of the one who prays. Henri Corbin says: ‘this view of prayer takes the ground from under the feet of those utterly ignorant of the nature of the Theophanic Imagination as creation…’

Thus viewed in its reality, prayer becomes the highest and the purest form, the ultimate act, of the Divine Service or the Theophanic Vision.

Yet this is not the ritual prayer of the temple, mosque, church or synagogue; in short, it is not the prescribed ritualistic prayer of religions, although the raison d’etre of these religious practices, including the ritualistic prayer, are designed as man’s media to arrive at, or rather, to provide means of arriving at, this Divine Service. But to do this, it is necessary for the ritual of the prayer of religions to pass beyond its ritualistic, not conformity, but emphasis. We see this happen sometimes, actualized during a ritual. Most prayer, ritualistic and religious as it may be, does allow scope to pass beyond its ritualistic emphasis. It is this emphasis of form in the ritual that binds and bounds the spirit of prayer to the performance of the ritual, not allowing it to soar as a mirror-thought to the Theophanic Imagination but remain within the limits set for it in its form.”

Bulent Rauf…On meditation… “Sometimes the meditator’s aim, the direction he will dedicate his meditation to, is the elimination of everything so as to leave him in the presence of that supreme quiet centre, that still-point which is the epicentre of all movement, of action or thought; the perfect void wherein resides the essential relationship of immanence and transcendence. Here is the cup, so to speak, fully open, the perfect flower fully bloomed, ready to receive the All ­Creational Impulse, the perfect Theophany, and merge it with the matching creaturial receptivity of the in-flowing Most Holy Effusion. This meditation does not aim at reciprocity but to alignment. It is a conscious, concentrated dialogue of expression of the Essential Existence and, but not with, its image in an active receptivity. At this moment, if it is a moment, there is no time. The meditator is beyond the confines of time which only rules within relativity. He is beyond, is aligned to, in unison, with his essence which is His Essence. The only existent there present is the One and Only Unique and Absolute Existent and His individuation as the perfected man. For this extension of the Being into the clear cup of the meditator there can be no extension, since extension presumes space, and space, like time and distance, is a rule and requisite of the relative state, and the Being may not, cannot, be conditioned by these.

Nothing really happens. The meditator has not moved or changed; the Essential Being has not reached down or moved or extended Itself anywhere. In that still-point they have ‘re-met’ without ever having separated from each other, they have re-cognised their unity. The ‘tone’ was prepared by the harmony of the stillness; the intensive concentration without qualification or thought has actively prepared the receptivity of the harmonious place wherein alone can take place the Divine Self Revelation, the Theophanic Prayer, the Divine Service. This is not a re-enactment of an original unity of Being. On the contrary, this is the aim and purpose of the Creative Imagination, which in its reality being out of time, is permanent and ad infinitum. Again, this is the sole cause and purpose of there being man at all, so that he can fulfil that which is required of him, the establishing of that condition of prayer which is the Unity of Being.

There can be no greater prayer and there can be no superior meditation. This is the apotheosis of all prayer and meditation.”

In Central Asia an extraordinary series of Sufi Masters, known as the Hocagan/ Khwajagan, lived and taught. The first master, Hoca/ Khwaja Yusuf Hamedani was later followed by Ahmet Yesevi (known in Turkey as “The Father of Turkish Sufism”… recently it was “The year of Ahmet Yesevi” in celebration of his life); the Bektashi Sufi Order came directly from his school; another later illustrious master was Bahaudin Naqshband, founder of the Khwajagan Naqshbandi line still carried on today by a few groups like the Nuriyye-Melamiyye. Turkish Sufism and the original Turkish tariqats came from this pool of knowledge and inspiration (the Arab tariqats were later imports into Turkey, as part of a campaign by the Sultans to gain better political control by ‘standardising’ central Asian Islam and Sufism).

The Hocagan collected their teaching in a text known as the “20 Words” or “The Essence of the Teaching of the Masters”.

1. Hosh dar dam…Conscious Breathing, to be attentative to The Presence. “Sheikh Najm al-Din al-Kubra said: “The ‘h’ in the divine name Allah is the very sound we make with every breath.The other letters (in the Arabic spelling; alif and reduplicated lam) represent an intensified definite article (serving to emphasize the Uniqueness of God). The essential part of the divine name is therefore that ‘h’, which automatically accompanies our every breath. All life depends on the constant utterance of that noble name”.
The venerable Makhdumi (Mawlana Jami) was obviously refering to the stage of Loss of Separate Identity (Ghaib al-huwiya) in his stanza:
Your alphabet I’m sure you know
We lose ourselves in ‘H’ with every breath we blow
Utter it carefully and be awake:
That is no ordinary sound you make!
In Sufi Terminology Loss of Separate Identity is an expression for non-individuation (la ta’ayyun), referring to the indefinable essence of the Glorified and Exalted Truth. We are speaking of genune transformation through liberation from all limitation: since this transcends the confines of all knowledge and perception, it represents the Absolute Unknowable” (Commentary of Nuriyye Melamiyye Hasan Shushud Effendi).

2. Nazar bar Qadam… watch your step! Direct yourself to your goal.

3.Safar dar Watan…journey homewards, from the world of potentiality to the world of realisation.

4.Khalwat dar Anjuman… To be alone in the crowd…free from limitation in the midst of limitations.

5.Yad kard…Rememberance, transforming the Zikr of the tongue into the Zikr of the heart. Khwaja ‘Ubaidallah al-Ahrar “The real meaning of Zikr is inward awareness of God, Exalted is He. The purpose of Zikr is to attain this consciousness”.

6.Baz gasht…Returning. Single mindedpursuit of Truth, returning to God.

7.Nigah dasht…attentiveness.

8.Yad dasht…The heart aware of God…the heart is the comphrehensive human entity within which all other organs and faculties are contained. Khwaja Ahrar “It is the divine manuscript on which infinite mysteries are recorded”.

The Khwajagan were not just another tariqat, following a Guru; Seyh…but never leading to “The individuated individual”… in the time of the Khwajagan it was Bauhaudin Naqshband who really began the ‘silent Zikr” and recommended that as soon as possible the vocal zikr should be moved to the heart…and then deepened into Zikr i-Daim (see below)… like the “The Practice of the Presence of God”.

Bulent Rauf www.bulentrauf.org used zikr with his “fellow students of the Real” at ‘Beshara’ every night for six months and then recommended it be done no more than 5 times a year. A stage… What is Zikr FOR? To bring us to the direct perception of Tawhid, Oneness, like prayer and meditation.

It is to realise the Presence of God every instant we are able to in our ‘ordinary lives.’
Bulent seemed amused by the notion of doing 5 prayers a day as ‘sufficient’ (in his practice he was a normative Sunni of the Hanifi meshrab, doing the 5 prayers)…”They think thats ENOUGH?’

“We are a prayer” “Prayer is not a performance, but a constant awareness”…every “Ha’ of indrawn breath is Zikr”…as Sheikh Najm al-Din al-Kubra said.

“Everything is doing zikr, even the stones” (Ibn ‘Arabi)

We have only to really see and find the zikr already proceeding in us, beyond even the silent Zikr i-Qalb, (Zikr of the Heart) lies ” Zikr al-Daim, the perpetual zikr, which has no form, uses no words or images, arises spontaneously, and reveals a sheer form of presencing. Strictly speaking it is not a practice, although it is attended by vigilant awareness. Bennett for example misunderstood this” (Private correspondance with Yannis Toussulis Ph.D. writer of “Sufism and the Way of Blame” and Khalifa of Mehmet Selim Ozic Baba of the Nuriyye Melami).


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