Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Babies and Awliya: Lessons for All

*This was written two years ago, but being published now*


On a blessed, sunny Saturday some weeks ago, our beloved guide, Shaykh Abdallah arrived in Montreal having travelled from Fez to visit the fuqara here. We drove out to welcome him at the airport and took BabySalik with us so that he could meet our noble teacher. Seeing BabySalik in Shaykh's arms, I beheld the vision of two of the most beloved men in my life and I began to reflect on their purity.

Babies and awliya have much in common.

There is an old sufi saying, "the Sufi is the son of his moment" (as-Sufi ibnu waqtihi). That is, in one meaning at least, that the Sufi is attached neither to past nor to the future, but rather is present in the moment because of his presence with the Divine. The Sufi lives in the moment. If one observes a baby, it will become clear to them that the baby, too, lives in the moment, for babies are not concerned about what transpired even a moment ago nor at all thinking about what is to come. Rather, they are concerned only with what is taking place at that moment. And so we can learn quite a bit from babies about how to live without attachment so that as we age, we can become like the awliya, insha'Allah.

Another quality of the awliya is that people are drawn to them. We all flock to them because we recognize the innate beauty in them, we love that beauty, and we wish to behold it. Likewise, when a baby comes into the world, everyone is joyous at the news and excited to hear all of the details. Family, friends, and neighbours are all anxious to meet the little one and come baring gifts. Thus both do the good of bringing people together -- something all the more needed in our current culture of individuality and isolation.

Of course, the purity that is found in babies and awliya is clear to any observer -- this magnetic force attracts us to them. To be pure is to be untainted by that which is inferior or base -- to be untouched by the dunya. Another Sufi saying teaches us that "the Sufi is in the world, but not of it". Babies because they have just come from the Divine Presence are pure of the filth of this world and of any personal ego or desire. The awliya having struggled through the various stages of the Spiritual Path, have left their egos and desires and risen above the lowliness of this world, and, having died to themselves, have returned to God (without having actually passed away). This purity of soul is why babies can see much of the unseen world that we cannot, and why the awliya are often granted the same vision.

So we see ourselves as knowing so much more than babies, and yet they have so much to teach us. They live in the moment, bring people together, and are pure of heart. They love without prejudice, pride, or pretension. They are sincere, honest, and true. They are whole and thus closer than we are to the Holy. Sidi Hakim was the first to draw my attention to the hikmah of children many years ago when he taught me observe them if I wanted to know how we are meant to do such "simple" things as sit and breathe properly...and there is so much more we learn in observing these sweet creatures sent to us from above. When I shared these insights with him, he commented that indeed, when we do the tahnik for a baby, the child purifies us.

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