How to Ride Our Donkeys

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is adapted from a swuhbah from Shaykh Muhammad Nazhim Adil al-Haqqani (q.s.) on the 27th March 2010.

Our ego is always opposing us.  We are Given the reins of control, to ride our ego as our donkey but the ego is always trying to wrest the reins of control from us.  It wants to put the reins on us, and make us its donkey.  Once our ego rides us, it does as it pleases, and we follow where the reins pulls us.

Although things around us appear to happen randomly, nothing occurs except by Allah's (s.w.t.) Permission.  Every creature has a connection to Allah (s.w.t.); no creature could have come into existence without a connection to Him and no atom can exist without a connection to its Creator.  Allah (s.w.t.) Administers each occurrence in Creation.  Nothing escapes His knowledge.  Allah (s.w.t.) Knows each atom so intimately, even the atom does not understand its own Creation the way its Lord does.  Do we then understand ourselves?  It is puzzling that many spend their entire lives seeking to understand all that is around them and yet neglect to know themselves.   So we have becomes creatures that can see this world but are blind to ourselves.

We are Raised to a status above angels.  We are Honoured above all creatures because we have been Given the capacity to think and to understand.  But we are supposed to understand ourselves first for Rasulullah (s.a.w.) said, “He who knows himself, knows his Lord.”  The Qur'an contains all the knowledge to help us know ourselves, and the Basmallah is the key to all such knowledge.  An example is the first ayat of al-Baqarah: Alif, Lam and Mim.  Why are they placed just after the al-Fatihah?  That, in itself, is already an ocean of knowledge.  Each of those three letters is also another ocean of knowledge, an ocean with no shores.  No person can comprehend it all.  Now, we consider the number of letters in the Holy Qur'an and contemplate how vast an Ocean of Guidance that is.  So how can any one of us claim to be learned?

Many scholars are contented just to know some book-based knowledge.  They walk around with their kutub, looking important and scholarly.  That is not enough.  They must preach these teachings to their communities, they must want such life-saving knowledge to be propagated.  They should never feel that they are fountains of knowledge.  Just the stories of the past prophets and their pious inheritors, are enough to overcome any scholar, so numerous are these stories.  No one can remember them all.  So we always say we are students.  We never say we are teachers.  When we say we are students, there is a possibility of learning and of climbing spiritually.  But once we say that you are teachers, that caps our limit and we may no longer climb.  We have reached our own self-imposed peak.

Many modern scholars do not even understand what they are teaching their followers.  Allah (s.w.t.) Said in the Holy Qur'an, that we must seek knowledge from an expert in the field.  Scholars must accept that there are always those who are above them in knowledge, those who have Divine Connections and Divine Inspiration.  That is why not everyone is able to lead Friday prayers, and give khuthaab on the mimbar.  It is a heavy responsibility.  Not everyone can bear such a responsibility.  Only one who is spiritually accomplished can bear heavy spiritual burdens.

In order to climb, we always need a tool or device of some sort.  In this worldly life, we climb short distances using a ladder, a staircase or an elevator.  To rise even higher, we need machines with powerful engines, like airplanes and rockets.  Saints have found the vehicle that helps them rise high up in their spirituality but many scholars reject the teachings of such spiritually-raised guides because the Scholars cannot find evidence of such teachings in their kutub.  That is an erroneous attitude for the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Ask for more and more knowledge.”  The physical body's limits are reached very quickly – we get tired or full after a short while.  But the spiritual self has a massive capacity to absorb and assimilate.

So what is the secret to spiritual ascension?  We need to find our vehicle, we need to find our means of transportation in order to ascend.  And what is our spiritual instrument that will take us up?  It is our egos.  Our egos are our donkeys, our egos are our rides.  Only one who can ride on his ego, can soar.  For when we ride our egos, it becomes our buraq.  It can take us to the Divine realms.  There is no other vehicle for our spiritual ascension.  What does it mean to ride our ego?  It means to conquer our whims, fancies and desires.  It means to do what is pleasing to Allah (s.w.t.), and not what is pleasing to ourselves.  Our ego should obey us but most of us are instead, obeying our egos.  If our donkey is riding on us, how are we ever to rise?  So many people cannot find their donkeys because they do not look in the mirror.

The journey to remove our donkeys from our backs, and to learn to ride them requires a trainer, a guide.  That is why Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

O ye who believe!  Fear Allah and be with those who are true (in word and deed). (Surah at-Tawbah:119)

Only the swadiqin, the truthful, can open our eyes, take our hands and teach us to tame the wild ego in ourselves.  We are in need of such instruction and illumination.  We need to attach ourselves to such guides, and we must then make great effort to obey them in carrying out the various spiritual practices they prescribe for our diseases.  One cannot reach the ‘Arsh with this physical body but the spiritual self can do so by riding on the ego.  That is why the Prophet (s.a.w.) said that if we could rein in our egos, that would be a powerful vehicle.  We must seek real knowledge from the purified guides, who are always looking into the mirror of the Seal of Prophets (s.a.w.).  Such guides know how to give us what is necessary, as Islam is so wide, it is for all of humanity, but not all of it can be absorbed at one go.  We need time to digest as we go along.  Like a hospital patient being wheeled into the operation theatre, though a hundred instruments may be laid out for use during the operation, only those instruments that are needed will be used by the surgeon.  So we seek the guidance of the swadiqin so that we can learn to soar on our donkeys.


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