The Reality of Laa Ilaha Illa Allah in Dzikr

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is adapted from “When You Hear Hoof Beats, Think of a Zebra” by Shaykh Shems Friedlander.

There was a shaykh who came to Istanbul.  He was a wandering dervish.  He went to the governing authority in charge of religious affairs and asked for a building to be used as a dervish prayer lodge.

“How many dervishes do you have?” the officials asked.

‘I just have this one dervish,” he said, “and myself.”

They thought this odd, but there was an old rundown building, and they agreed to give it to him.  He accepted, and with his one dervish, occupied the building.  Very soon there was an enormous light coming from within this building.  The sound of dzikr could be heard every night, and crowds of people attended.  The light was great and bright.

The government authorities in charge of dervish prayer lodges wanted to know what this man was doing to draw so many people to him.  And what about this light that was reported coming from the old building, which the shaykh had now rebuilt.  So they sent for him.

The officials said, “We are the educated ones, and we want to question you to make certain you are doing things correctly.”

“All right.”

“What is the meaning of laa ilaha illa Allah?” they asked.

“Do you want the meaning as you understand it, or do you want the meaning as I understand it?”

“We know how we understand it.  Tell us how you understand it.”

“For this I need my one dervish, the one I brought with me the first time I came to this building.”

They agreed, and sat down as he and his dervish began to make the dzikr.  When he said “Laa ilaha,” his dervish disappeared.  When he said, “Illa Allah,” he reappeared.  When he said, “Laa ilaha,” again, they both disappeared.  When he said, “Illa Allah,” they reappeared.  The last time he said, “Laa ilaha,” the entire room disappeared.  And when he said, “Illa Allah,” everyone reappeared.  He turned his face to the officials and said, “This is how I understand the dzikr.

Laa ilaha, there is no God - if there is no God, then, we do not exist.  Illa Allah, but Allah.  And if Allah Exists, He has Created us, and we appear.”


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