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Why Do Muslims Fast?

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Ignorance of Reality -
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Seeing Versus
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Knowledge of Reality and
Ignorance of Reality -
Journeying In
The Spiritual Path

Book of Theophanies

The Month of Ramadhan

Sufi Psychology:
The Isolation and
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of the Nafs

To Be Or Not To Be

Imposter Or
Mistaken Identity?

Moulana Rumi -
The Mirror of Divine Love

The Transformative Power
of the Fear of God

Test of the Hardship

The Theatre
of Life

Peace and the
Inner Jihad

Sufism and the
Paradox of Self

Surrender

Faith and Action

What is Tasawwuf
(Sufism)?

Listening for God:
Prayer and the Heart

 



Bismillaah ir Rahmaan ir Rahiim
In the name of Allah, The Merciful, The Compassionate



IMPOSTER OR MISTAKEN IDENTITY?

By Fatima Fleur Nassery Bonnin


Psychology tells us that we are not who we think we are and that most of the personal and relationship problems that we experience stem from two issues:
a) Our mistaken identity; thinking we are someone with certain characteristics but those who are in relationship with us perceive us differently.
and/or
b) We hide our self and our true emotions from others and to some degree from ourselves, and present an altered persona to the outside world.

Spirituality tells us that in spite of the above identifications and misidentifications, there is yet a greater picture at stake. In Reality, we are not this personality and this body, we are what is within us, the soul or the higher self, not the ego-personality or lower self “nafs”. The spiritual masters tell us that if we knew the truth and had a glimpse of the divine reality, we would not bother with all the hide and seek of the ego-personality and the unhappy consequences it brings.

This picture of a whole society pretending to be something that they are not, consciously or unconsciously, while convincing themselves and others that they are real, seems quite disconcerting and unbelievable. It is unbelievable because it is disconcerting. However, when the majority behaves in a certain way or holds a certain belief, then it becomes normal, and when it is normal then it seems real. Of course people in the societies with the help of sociologists and psychologists have created some parameters and measuring systems so that if a behaviour or emotion goes beyond a certain degree, then it is considered abnormal. For example, according to many psychologists we live in a narcissistic society as a whole; this means the majority of people are narcissistic, which is a psychological disorder. However rather than trying to find out what is the cause of this and what are the ramifications of such psychological trait, we assume that a certain degree of narcissism is normal, and beyond that measure is considered abnormal with varying degrees of severity. I used the example of narcissism because it plays an important role in the distortion of both the human identity and the spiritual identity.

So who are we, if we are not who we present ourselves to be? Who is housed in our body and why do we have such little knowledge and connection with who we really are?

Sufi Masters tell us that everything in creation, including human beings and their lives in this world, is constantly in the process of moving toward its final goal, both in the inner spiritual life and in the outer worldly life. From the moment anything comes into existence, its face and direction is orientated towards an end goal, and it moves towards that goal using the form and faculties that it has been endowed with and are embedded within it. For instance, from the moment that a grain of wheat in the ground opens itself up and a tiny green shoot emerges, it is being directed towards a fully grown wheat plant full of clusters of wheat. Or the seed of an apple, from the moment it sprouts, is moving towards becoming a fully grown tree full of apples unless an obstacle gets in the way. Human beings are no different in this order of creation.

In other words, human beings have an inner journey heading towards sincerity and submission in the inner, while in the outer they are engaged in a different journey of life pursuits and may be totally unconscious of the inner journey. But if the veil is taken off one’s eyes, (which is usually after death due to being cut off from the body and the senses or sometimes during this life, in an authentic spiritual journey), he can witness the truth and the reality and realise the unreality that he has been living.

The path begins with the belief in God and the hereafter. The call of all religions is to God, so that we know this creation has a Creator and that there is a plan and a purpose to it. However, the spiritual dimension of religions calls on people to increase their faith and knowledge in God and to move on to discover the relationship with the Creator and the purpose of this journey of life and live accordingly. As one walks on this path one keeps shedding the layers of false beliefs about the self. With each step of realisation about the false self, one makes a connection with the true self.

Human beings are in two journeys simultaneously, one conscious or semi-conscious, and the other unconscious.

According to Sufi Psychology, the conflict between who one really is and who he thinks he is and consequently how he lives his life according to that belief, is the core factor in many psychological problems, such as narcissistic personality and depression. As we continue being more and more unaware of our inner dimension and become more and more disconnected with the spiritual self, the problems we face increase and the subsequent recourse of superficial remedies such as alcohol, drugs, pre-occupation with work, position and possessions etc also increases.

As for the inner journey, if we keep taking ourselves as this ego self without realising that our mind is a tool for keeping us off the right path of discovery, and we don’t recognise how much we are the servant of this ego-self (which is an impostor who is sitting in the place of the real self) - then we are one with that impostor.

There is a Sufi story that the master of the house went away on a trip which took much longer than he originally intended. As time went by, the servant who had the whole house to himself got into the habit of enjoying being his own master and after a while believed that he truly was the master of the house. On his return, the real master faced not a servant any more, but a master who treated him as a servant.

Such is the relationship of the ego-self with the real self. From another perspective, when a person totally identifies with his lower ego-self (nafs) the majority of his thoughts, desires and actions are consequently governed by the ego-self, without a genuine opposing force of the spiritual voice.

As one moves higher up the ladder of transformation of the nafs, the inner spiritual voice grows stronger and helps one to distinguish between right and wrong, true and false and it gets guided in taking steps in the right direction with more ease.

We are told that in the higher dimensions, only reality exists and falseness, or other than the truth, does not exist. According to various verses of the Qur’an, falsehood (Shaytan) cannot enter those higher realms.

When a man (a human being) joins the circle of “mokhlesin”, sincere servants of God, Shaytan leaves him alone, since in that realm, neither “vahm” (taking the false for the real) nor mistaken identity, exist.

We learn from the Qur’an that Shaytan, who used to be one of the angels, when he did not obey the command of God, due to being arrogant (which is a consequence of false self), was expelled from being a sincere servant (an angel). When God questioned his actions he responded to God saying:

     

“I am better than him (Adam); You created me from fire and him from clay” - Qur’an 7:12

So Allah says to him:

     

“down with you from this place (state), for this is not the place for you to show arrogance” - Qur'an 7:13

The story of Adam and Shaytan is one of the most important stories of the Qur’an, and other Scriptures too, and we need to ponder what it is that the One who created us is alluding to.

Without going to the esoteric meanings of these verses, even if we remain at the exoteric level, which should be understandable and accessible to the mind, the story and the verses in the Qur’an on this subject reveal to us that we are told not just a story about the beginning of creation, but rather we are facing something very important about the ongoing human dilemma. If we realise that Shaytan symbolises the lower ego-self, then the story reveals itself as being both a part of the journey of life and the obstacles that we run into and therefore it becomes alive and very personal.

It is also important to know more about a key word in this story, the “mokhlesin” because translating it as "the sincere ones" is close but not close enough to give it the light of realisation it requires. “Mokhlesin” comes from the word “ikhlas” that, while it means sincere, also refers to purity and being removed from other parts or mixtures. A “mokhles” is someone who has filtered himself from falsehood and impurity. It can also be used for inanimate objects. For instance we call gold “khales” (pure) only when all the other mixtures which had infiltrated it have been removed and nothing else is left except what it really is, which is gold. Similarly in relation to human beings, “mokhles” means the one who has become “khales” (pure, removed from other infiltrated parts).

With this understanding we look at the messages within these verses of the Qur’an and what they are telling us about human beings and our real identity. So the “mokhles” or sincere ones are those who have realised the truth of themselves and are not blinded by falsehood. They are freed from the trap of the mistaken identity and have moved toward their real identity, which is being the sincere servants of God, “mokhlesin”.

In the following verses of the same chapter (and also in some other chapters of the Qur’an), Shaytan points out how he is going to misguide human beings and how he will infiltrate their thinking and make "bad things look goodly to them" without them realising it. Shaytan goes on to say:

     

“I shall beguile them all into grievous error” - Qur'an 38:82,

 

“except those who are Your sincere servants (mokhlesin)” - Qur'an 38:83

And Allah lets him do whatever misguiding he wants to do to the people who choose to follow him, but not His sincere servants.

Is God telling us only stories or is He showing us the way to remove the distorted identity and to become who we are created to be and reach the goal that was intended for us? Allah says:

     

“And so We propound these parables unto man: but none can grasp their innermost meaning save those who are aware.” - Qur'an 29:43

How does one become a sincere servant and have God's protection and the good life He has promised in the hereafter and have peace and serenity in this life?
To become a sincere servant we need to begin with realising our insincerity or rather our false self and then move on step by step to shed the many layers of false identity that we have put on. That is a part of our journey in this life.

If a seed stays attached to its form of being a seed and does not open and give itself up to the soil, it will not use what has been put inside it and does not grow to be a tree, bearing its fruit. However man is given an intellect and free choice in his outer journey, so that he could either bring himself to unity with the inner or go astray in a different direction. He has been given the tools and the maps for both.

May Allah help us to become one of the “mokhlesin”, the sincere ones under His protection so that our eyes see the truth and our ears hear the truth, so that the journey becomes easier for us.

     

“O you servants of Mine! Be, then, conscious of Me - seeing that for those who shun the powers of evil lest they (be tempted to) worship them and turn unto God instead, there is the glad tiding (of happiness in the life to come). Give, then, this glad tiding to (those of) My servants who listen (closely) to all that is said, and follow the best of it: (for) it is they whom God has graced with His guidance, and it is they who are (truly) endowed with insight!”

 
 
Qur'an 39:16-18          
 
Muhammad Asad translation

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Sufi Teachings:

Ibn 'Arabi On Proximity And Distance

Why Do Muslims Fast?

Knowledge of Reality and Ignorance of Reality - What is Knowledge of Reality?

Knowledge of Reality and Ignorance of Reality - Seeing Versus Not Seeing

Knowledge of Reality and Ignorance of Reality - Journeying In The Spiritual Path

Book of Theophanies

The Month of Ramadhan

Sufi Psychology: The Isolation and Transformation of the Nafs

To Be Or Not To Be

Imposter Or Mistaken Identity?

Moulana Rumi - The Mirror of Divine Love

The Transformative Power of the Fear of God

Test of the Hardship

The Theatre of Life

Peace and the Inner Jihad

Sufism and the Paradox of Self

Surrender

Faith and Action

What is Tasawwuf (Sufism)?

Listening for God: Prayer and the Heart

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For further information contact the
Australian Centre for Sufism and Irfanic Studies (ACSIS)
Phone: (02) 9955 SUFI (7834)
or email: acs@australiansuficentre.org


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