By Aishah Miller
In my time as a Muslim, I have found many ways to worship God, to praise God and to practice. Through reading the Quran, studying the prophets and the saints—-in Islam and other faiths—-reading the Gospels, the Hindu Bhagavad Gita, and other sacred texts, and watching some of you here—I have discovered ways to witness what is before us as an everyday opportunity to praise God and commission the Mercy of God. I really enjoy, watching and listening and learning and listening and learning some more. Sometimes its difficult for me to talk about God because He is so close to my heart and I fear making a mistake or losing track of my thoughts—its like speaking about the innermost part of myself which holds a well of life, inspiration and truths about me I am still exploring in my faith and rarely share with myself, let alone anyone else... but I value the importance of speaking about God for the Believer's progress and understanding—-as well as for the community. So I offer this talk, as my contribution to the Ummah and as a supplication to the One God.
I am a writer by blessings from God and I write to see the world and also to understand myself and others and contribute to my community and my families. And in this watching and learning and writing, I have found that the age old tenet of the Abrahamic tradition that God is everywhere is a reality difficult hold within the delicate folds of our hearts. As Believers we often wrestle with this reality that God is Everywhere and not just in the mosque or the church or our dhikr or our prayer or that he is not only in our practice of "good work" or our works of charity. Most certainly, God is in those places but it is sometimes hard for us to accept God in others.
It's hard for us to conceptualize God in other places. We, as humans, have expectations of divinity or divine intervention and it is often couched in a romantic, clandestine world of beauty, ecumenical piety and serenity, and in moments of utter clarity, cleanliness and even in the halls of intelligence. We expect God during dhikr (remembrance), we expect God when we are reading the Quran or the Bible or the Talmud or Torah, we expect God when we are sharing with other believers, some of us expect God even when we interact with young children—because of their innocence and utter sincerity in their words and actions—but if this was the case God would not exist in the bowels of extreme poverty, in the thoughts of the lesser educated, within the cells of a prison or in other unimagined places or deplorable conditions that you may never find yourself in, inshallah. We do not expect God in the boardroom of a corporation or expect God in the blaring music and dancing of a nightclub or in our interactions with self-professed non-Believers or atheists. We do not expect God in a television sitcom or in the produce section of our local grocery market. But it is asked of us to expect God everywhere—-because God is everywhere. I once wrote this poem in the misapprehensions and anxiety of my teenage years—-I found Jesus in my Eggs Benedict this Morning—stuck half way between my English muffin and the hollandaise sauce. Then it was funny and quirky to me, today it rings more truth than I can usually muster in the morning over breakfast.
As Believers, we should expect God everywhere, when we read in Sura Baqara, the Cow, the second Sura in Quran verse 255:
"There is no god but He,-the Living, the Self-subsisting, Eternal. No slumber can seize Him nor sleep. His are all things in the heavens and on earth. Who is there can intercede in His presence except as He permitteth? He knoweth what (appeareth to His creatures as) before or after or behind them. Nor shall they compass aught of His knowledge except as He willeth. His Throne doth extend over the heavens and the earth, and He feeleth no fatigue in guarding and preserving them for He is the Most High, the Supreme (in glory)."
I am not suggesting that we seek God in a nightclub or a situational comedy or in your Eggs Benedict. What I am suggesting is that as believers we must always revisit and revise our expectations of God and what are our underlying thoughts that form the bedrock of those expectations. In other words what is the underlying need that we have or insecurity or misgivings that makes us, each one of us, delineate our expectations of where, and how God is. In becoming better Muslims and in growing in the faith, I believe that this is some of our critical work—I believe that in exploring our own expectations of God that we will begin to unearth our biases, our fears and insecurities, our personal challenges, some of the characteristics of our personal Shaytan, and we may also unearth some of our own grandiose expectations of ourselves—that cause us not to trust ourselves or forgive ourselves when we make mistakes (or forgiving others when they do not live up to our expectations).
We must ask ourselves what do we expect when we enter a Tariqa, what do we expect when we start dhikr, what do we expect from our Imam, from each other—-are these expectations realistic or the most important, why do you personally have those expectations? Which may lead you to bigger questions such as what brought you here, why are you here or, the most salient of question for me, what do you want from this prayer, this practice, this dhikr, and this community. This is some of the self-explorations that I have been doing over the last few months and I believe I will continue throughout my life in learning about my self and on this path, insh'allah.
This is what I wanted to share. My experience in finding God in the places that I did not expect a year ago turned, recently, into expecting God in places that I never would of expected before. I do not feel that I have the spiritual fortitude or knowledge to say where God is,—as in he is there in that plant or there in the azure lines of that lily flower or in my mothers cry or embrace—however tempted I may be to make such acclamations—-
Rumi once wrote, If you seek God, look into the eyes of an ant—-speaking, not only, of how accessible God is but at the same time expressing the dual reality that we could never see into the eyes of an ant—-because the eyes of an ant are essentiallymultiple- mirrored reflections back of your own eyes. (how beautiful)A reflection on God is a reflection back on the self—but the first step, an outward looking towards God is implicit and necessary.
But as for me, I don't know where God is...I heart where God is. In other words, I trust my heart to tell me—-what I don't believe my polished mind knows too much about.
May Allah answer our prayers and be with all of us during this Ramadan. May you be successful in your fast. Thank you for listening to me and for all the words that I've expressed that wrung clear and true to you—-are all from the blessings of Allah and all of the inaccuracies or mistakes were from my own soul, which is a work in process. God is Most High, God is Great.
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