It is Thursday in Istanbul and we are in Khalwah ( self retreat) .
Thursdays in our Fellowship are practice days to connect with the Divine individually and yet in a group. It is preceded by the tafsir of a HIKAM by ibn Ataullah a sage whose wise sayings rest on the Quran and Sunnah and propel you to desire perfection in your relationship with The Divine.
I shower and get dressed to go to class. Getting to today’s class is a little different than usual.
I won’t be rushing down the stairs of my apartment building hoping I get to class in time. I won’t walk at the upper level of the Bosphorus and marvel at the good fortune of Allah Subhanawataala placing me in this beautiful place and thank him repeatedly.
I won’t be rushing down along the antique Ottoman house with the second-floor balcony where once upon a time some Ottoman princess looked across the island of Uskudar towards the Top Kapi Palace. As she adjusted her veil, wondering when her Sultan would be done with official affairs of the State and come to visit.
I won’t be turning the corner where the lone cat sits every day and looks at me and my empty hands and seems to titlt her head back in a “Turkish no” and seems to say “Ahh these foreigners they never carry any goodies for me……..give me a Turk any day instead!”
I won’t be rushing on the narrow newly paved sidewalk towards the taxi stand where the man who runs the taxi stand will be smoking outside with the door to the office ajar.
Today I won’t be gesturing to him to see if I could ride in the taxi standing there ( sometimes taxis standing are not free as they have been scheduled for a pick up by the Bitaksi App)
Today my taxi driver will not be the spitting image of Ralph Fiennes in the English Patient with the same attitude as I tell him where to turn. He turns to looks at me with those disdain filled, green colored bored eyes and says “Biliyorum” i.e I know.
Today I won’t bound up the stone steps from the cobbled street into the courtyard of the Cami which have been hewn by leather slippers and shoes over the last 500 years by common people, Sultans and Sultanas arriving to pray in this mosque.
Today putting my shoes in the rack and entering the Prayer hall through the leather curtain placed to ward off the cold and remembering to say the entrance dua when I set my right foot into the mosque…….won’t happen.
I won’t see my fellow students booting up their computers while others memorize the Quran and some perform the Duha salah.
I won’t have to put my backpack and pocket book down in my favorite seat , one over from the center aisle to get a few cycles of Duha in before the Shaikh arrives.
Today I won’t be blinded by the shaft sunlight coming through the dome windows right into my eyes as I hear the hush fall over the studentsI will know that the Shaikh has sat down.
I won’t feel that pull of the people of the graves in the courtyard behind him who seem to be listening intently just as we are, the only difference is the veil that makes them invisible to us.
Today will be different, unique and unprecedented for today my teacher is going to be in my living room.
I am blessed…….. I think aloud.
The flowers on my table smile and nod their head, like the poem by David Whyte everything in my quiet apartment is waiting “……………..Everything is waiting for you”*****
I turn on the computer and airplay and lo and behold the presence of my teacher fills the room. I immediately uncross my legs as I was sitting casually and sit up respectfully. Suddenly he looks up after the opening dua right into my eyes and I am frozen in place wondering if my hijab has slipped.
Heya it is said is an intrinsic part of emaan. Heya with your teacher and guide is essential. Heya gets worn out and disintegrates in the west if one is not vigilant.
They say that RasulAllah ( Prophet Muhammad pbuh) had so much decency and heya ( modesty) that he would not even hike up his izaar even for manual labor (izaar: the cloth that covered him waist down). He even had tremendous heya with Allah and would never dream of doing anything which in the slightest sense be immodest in front of Him Subhanawataala.
When the students of Imam Muslim the renowned hadith Scholar whose work to this day is respected verbatim came to study Hadith with him, they would wait outside for hours hoping to be selected for the private tutoring that day. Student ship of the Sheikhs was not a ticket bought with a few dollars of tuition but a privilege to be chosen by a Shaikh of Knowledge.
Imam Muslim who was an affluent man. He would perform Ghusl and change into new crisp white clothes every day and wash his mouth well, in anticipation of utter words of the Hadith from his mouth : words that were spoken by RasulAllah (Prophet Muhammad pbuh) i.e. ( Qaala Rasulallah……….. The Prophet of God said) and then he would speak the direct quote from the lips of Rasullallah Pbuh, with utter reverence.
Such was the respect for the Hadith and the mention of the Prophet pbuh by the scholars over 12 centuries.
I listen to the Shaikh and the Hikam he is transmitting across this virus riden world, and marvel at the fact that my teacher is in my living room giving me personal instruction…………
Gratitude fills me and I have no words………….
***** EVERYTHING IS WAITING FOR YOU by David Whyte:
In search of Ibn Ataillah and his Hikam
Please remember me in your duas!