by Navid Zaidi
The Sufi’s book is not composed of ink and letters:
It is not but a heart white as snow.
The scholar’s possession is pen-marks.
What is the Sufi’s possession? – foot-marks.
The Sufi stalks the game like a hunter:
He sees the musk-deer’s track and follows the footprints.
For some while the track of the deer is the proper clue for him,
But afterwards it is the musk-gland of the deer that is his guide.
To go one stage guided by the scent of the musk-gland is better than a hundred stages of following the track
and roaming about.
Allama Iqbal explains : “The truth is that all search for knowledge is essentially a form of prayer. The scientific observer of Nature is a kind of mystic seeker in the act of prayer. Although at present he follows only the footprints of the musk deer, and thus modestly limits the method of his quest, his thirst for knowledge is eventually sure to lead him to the point where the scent of the musk-gland is a better guide than the footprints of the deer. This alone will add to his power over Nature and give him that vision of the total-infinite which philosophy seeks but cannot find. Vision without power does bring moral elevation but cannot give a lasting culture. Power without vision tends to become destructive and inhuman. Both must combine for the spiritual expansion of humanity.”
Prayer is not a one way communication with an external agency such as God. It is a connection between man’s internal and external world. It’s more like self-reflection. There is nothing occult about it. It is a means of spiritual illumination that leads to self-awareness and self-affirmation. In this way, it is an inner act of self-discovery.
Since prayer is an inner act it has been expressed by mankind in a variety of forms. There should not be dispute over the form of prayer. The Quran says,
To every people have We appointed ways of worship of their own. (2:148)
Which direction you turn your face to (i.e., ritual) is certainly not essential to the spirit of prayer. Again states the Quran,
The East and the West is God’s; therefore whichever way ye turn, there is the face of God. (2:115)