For Every Spiritual Practice: In the Beginning and at the End is Taqwa | Divine Consciousness

The end 
is present 
at the beginning. 

- the Impressionist Sufis 
(the Naqshbandi)

We are approaching the end of the blessed month of Ramadan. In couple of days or so, the new moon shall appear, marking the end of Ramadan as well as the beginning of the Celebration of the completion of Ramadan (Eid ul Fitr). The original spirit of this single month, a particular cycle of the ancient moon set aside for immersion and deepening our relation with what is Real, relation with our original nature - has certain wisdom in it. This is because as human being, running after and dealing with 'ten thousand' vanity of vanities in life, we often forget the most important questions and answers regarding our own reality - which has to do with remembering: Remembering of who we are, why we are here and where we are going. We may call them the Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.) of all enlightened human beings and by extension they are timeless F.A.Q. for humanity - and whosoever wishes to begin his or her quest of knowing himself or herself, begin with these questions.

Ramadan is a full month of immersing in practice of awareness of that reality of our being. As we ride out on our time-craft out of the month of Ramadan, its worth looking back to recapture in our heart and contemplate upon the primogenial goal of this month, the teachings and awareness that was placed in front of us to learn from this month-long practice. Even if the majority of its blessed days and nights have vanished, perhaps we might still find a moment, a single moment in time before this holy month disappear completely that we might behold in our heart of heart the true intention of this month's practices.

.. when the Spirit of Truth (Ruhul Haqq) comes,
he will guide you into all truth.
He will not speak on his own,
he will speak only what he hears from the Divine Voice,
and he will tell you what is yet to come.  
- Christ, in Gospel of John 16:13

In continuation of the Divine Message transmitted following the Old Testament and New Testament - from the same source fountain - each Word of the The Final Testament, Quran, is considered a Sign (Ayah), a Sign that guides to truth and inspiration, unfolding moment by moment to its readers, speaking of what is yet to come and born within our consciousness.

When we turn to the original verses of the Quran where message regarding the month of Ramadan is spoken of: we have five verses together all of which ends with keywords (all of which ending with the same letter Nun) which, according to many scholars and mystics of Islam are pointers to the intention and the destination to which Ramadan beckons all who find it.

These five verses are in the 2nd Chapter of the Quran beginning with: verse 183:  yaa Ayyuhal-ladhina amanu kutiba alaykumus siyamu kama kutiba alal-ladhina min qablikum la 'allakum tattaqun.

O you who securely believe! Fasting is prescribed for you just as it was prescribed for those who came before you, in order that you might (lead yourselves) to Taqwa (tattaqun).

The next four verses ends with the words:
- Ta'lamun (from 'ilm, meaning 'knowledge', 'knowing')
- Tashkurun (from shukr, 'thankfulness')
- Yarshudun (from rashad, irshad, 'guidance', 'to be guided')
- Yattaqun (from taqwa, to attain higher consciousness, 'divine consciousness')

On Taqwa

So the first of Quranic verses on Ramadan ends with the word Tattaqun and last verse ends with the word Yattaqun, both of which come from the same root , Wa Qaf Ya, which forms the word Taqwa. Taqwa is an unique word in the Quran and almost impossible to translate properly in any other language. The meaning of this word is a composite of the following meanings:
         - to preserve, to safe guard
         - to take good of something,
         - to shield,
         - to become conscious,
         - righteous, piety,
         - to attain divine consciousness and through that awareness taking (imbuing) what is good and guarding against that which is base.

Having Taqwa allows a person to be constantly aware of both God's omnipresence and attributes and a reminder of one's relationship and responsibility to God as creation and servant. The scholars explain that the way to Taqwa is through obedience of God, avoiding disobedience, and striving to stay away from doubtful matters. Put simply, Taqwa is awareness of God's presence as one moves through life.

To place it in the context of the month of Ramadan and the practice of Siyam (fasting, abstinence) - Taqwa is placed at the beginning and at the end as a goal to be obtained. Taqwa is God consciousness which has no limit and one can deepen one's taqwa to an indescribable height, beyond the idea of beyond.

Such height of realization of Taqwa gives rise to blessed prayer such as, "I take refuge in Thy approval, in Thy contentment from Thy discontentment, Thy rejection!" (for a lover the severest of punishment is the punishment that the Beloved rejects the lover, forsaking, turns away and be discontent with) (as Quran warns against this reality, They have forgotten Allah and so He has forgotten them. - Q 9:67)

And while attained even higher stage one utters, "I take refuge in Thee from Thee!"

At its apex the theophany arrives where the heart song becomes:

      What shall I do
               if not fly from Thee to Thee?
       To whom shall I go,
               to whom recite my tale?

Be conscious of Allah!
- Quran

O you mankind! Surely the Divine has created you from a man and a woman and made you peoples and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Truly the most honorable among you with Allah is the one who has Taqwa. - Q 49:13

The most common thing which leads people to Paradise is Taqwa of Allah and good conduct (akhlaq), and the most common thing which leads people to the Hell Fire is the mouth and the private parts.
- Saying of the Prophet, in Tirmidhi

Taqwa is: to be in awe of the Supreme Divine Awesomeness (Jaleel),
Acting upon the Tanzeel (divinely revealed message, Quran),
Being content with Qaleel (little),
and preparing for the day of Raheel (Journeying from this world).
- Ali ibn Abu Talib

Taqwa is an ocean and only lovers (of God) who understand the secret of it can dare to dive into it. As gnostic and sufi poet Attar said, "He who would Know the Secret of both Worlds will find that the Secret of them both is Love."

Approaching Taqwa is striving towards that divine awareness, that God consciousness which makes the lover not be forgetful for a moment, to be in love constantly in every moment to such degree that a gnostic's Eye of Certainty opens and starting inwardly at himself, he finds himself lost, bewildered and vanished ... but ... he finds the Friend, the Beloved and when he looks still deeper, realizes the Friend is here:

       Beloved, I sought You
                      here and there,
       asked for news of You
                      from all I met:
       then saw You through myself
                      and found We were identical.
       Now I blush to think I ever
                      searched for Signs of You.

Taqwa is occupation with the Beloved to such degree from which the beloved Jesus could say, "I and the Father are One, the Father in me and I in Father." This comes from merging into the Divine Consciousness (the apex of Taqwa) to such degree about which the gnostics wrote:

        occupy me so
                    with Thy Love
        that in such Love I no more
                    busy myself with Thee.

Direct Knowledge

And do not follow (blindly) any information of which you have no (direct) knowledge. (Using your faculties of perception and conception, you must verify it for yourself). (For in the Court of your Lord,) you will be held accountable for your hearing, sight, and the faculty of reasoning. - Q 17:36

Every Spiritual practice is meant for receiving the Direct Knowledge because that which is meant to be tasted, must be tasted in order to experience it. A recipe no matter how well scripted, is no match for the real food itself. “He who tastes knows” say the Sufis.

The wisdom of every spiritual practice, including fasting is that such practice bestows upon the seeker who are at different level of their journey - gifts according to their capacity and development. At the very fundamental level fasting is abstaining from food and drink and even though one who fasts can eat and drink behind people's back when no one is seeing, but doesn't because he or she is aware that fasting is for God's sake and God is always with us, Ever Seeing, Ever Knowing. Thus it help develop a constant awareness of God.

Though abstaining from unnecessary usage (misuse) / vanity of vanities of different faculties such as the faculty of hearing, seeing and reasoning and to use them only for which is pure, for example thinking the purer thoughts, having right intention etc. guide a seeker into a pure / holy life (hayatan tayabah). And this also brings the awareness that at the end of the journey we shall meet the Lord and be held accountable for our hearing, sight and faculty of reasoning (which all are sacred trust given to us) had we abused them. According to the level of the seeker and his or journey, practice of fasting bestow gifts.

For a gnostic, the station of Taqwa is even higher. On the higher esoteric level, for the 'aref (gnostic) "the protection and shielding" meaning part of Taqwa means to safe-guard one's lower self (nafs, psyche) from duality. This duality is what causes separation from man's own divine essence. Unity is seeing that behind every cause, behind every action is God, it is to know with certainty that all is by His Will and that realizing that our living and our dying is for His sake. All in the heaven and earth belongs to Him, blessed is He. It is His manifestation we witness through our being. This when remain only as head knowledge, intellectual concept, it is far from truth, but when it becomes heart knowledge through practice, work and grace - then it becomes truth embodied.

Turning to the five verses of the Quran, it begins with Taqwa, and Allah says, the goal of Ramadan is to approach and to attain Taqwa.

After which is mentioned Ta'lamun, the 'ilm or knowledge - the direct knowledge which illuminates the inner heart. Taqwa ennobles illumination. And direct knowledge is obtained from direct participation, being active in the practice and thus tasting the experience. Many misguided people (they call themselves new age spirituals, shun religious practices) who take spirituality only as head knowledge, reduce it to mere intellectual pursuit (thinking book knowledge is all they need) without practicing what is prescribed fall into grave error  and hence limit their spiritual advancement. True knowledge is only through experience. And hence its so important to participate in prescribed practices, which in this case, the fasting itself as it is given guidance about.

As Sufyan al-Thawri said, "Knowledge is enlivened by active search and sincere implementation, and it dies through neglecting these two things." Allahu al-Alim - God alone is the Bestower of Knowledge.

After which the third verse ends with Shukr, thankfulness, gratitude. Gratitude (Shukr) is to understand with heart that every blessing is from Allah and not from our own doings and not to misuse them in the disobedience of Allah. The verse says, "... for you to magnify Allah for having guided you, and to give thanks to Him." Thus during the practice of fasting one is called to be grateful for everything that one is given and a very direct opportunity to realize that is after a day long fasting, sitting in front of the meal and giving thanks to God for providing us the food and nourishment. It is also to understand that in this world there are many who have much less than what we have. To become sincerely grateful for our existence, for our guidance is another goal of the Ramadan. Allah ash-Shakur: God is Appreciator, no matter how small is our effort, no matter how tiny is our action compared to His Immensity and Vastness, God appreciates it all out of His boundless compassion.

The next verse is about guidance. The Divine Voice transmits: "And when my worshipers ask you about Me, so (know that) I Am near (Qarib). I answer the call of the caller when he calls Me. So let them respond to Me, and believe in Me, so that they may be rightly guided (yarshudun). - Q 2:186.

This verse alone encompasses the secret of mutual remembrance between lover and Beloved, the Ever Present Nearness and the elements that enable the alchemy of divine guidance. Achieving this awareness of Divine Nearness is a gift that is given to the one who fasts. By remaining within the bounds of divine prescription, by responding to what is called for as action, as a token of sincere faith and love for Lord - one is rightly guided - that is the promise conveyed. Indeed Allah is ar-Rashid, the Sole Guide.

And in the end, the fifth verse directly connected to Ramadan and its fasting practice, it ends as: "...Allah makes clear His Signs to people in order that they may attain Taqwa (yattaqun)."

Thus as at the beginning, so is at the End, the prime goal of fasting practice in Ramadan is to attain Taqwa, God-Consciousness, Divine Illumination, Pure Awareness of the Divine Reality - the reality in which we participate through our existence and awareness. 

May all our fasting be accepted by Allah the Most High, may we be helped  and guided to attain Taqwa, Divine Consciousness: the singular goal of every spiritual practice. May Taqwa seal the beginning and the end of our month of Ramadan. May Allah forgive and overlook our shortcomings and out of His Boundless love be pleased with us all.

Wa ridwanum minAllahi akbar, zalika huwal fowzil azim.
And Divine Satisfaction is greatest, that is the supreme attainment.
- Q 9:72

* Some of the Sufi Poetry are quoted from Divine Flashes by Fakhruddin 'Iraqi published by Paulist Press

# Resources:
. What is Taqwa
. The root of Taqwa (Wa Qaf Ya) and meanings
. The Folding Up (Al-Takwir)
. A talk by Shaykh Nooruddeen Durkee on Ramadan  
. Akhlaq: Sacred Teachings of Islam on Character
. Prophet's sermon about Ramadan
. Self Discipline | Fasting and others 
. Haqiqat of Siyam | Reality of Fasting Practice
. The Quranic Arabic Corpus



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Technology of the Heart: For Every Spiritual Practice: In the Beginning and at the End is Taqwa | Divine Consciousness
For Every Spiritual Practice: In the Beginning and at the End is Taqwa | Divine Consciousness
Technology of the Heart
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