Bismi’Llāhi ir-Ramān ir-Raīm

In the Name of God, the Universally Merciful, the Singularly Compassionate


Most of humanity is immersed in the life of the world. Even monastics spend a large portion of their time caring for their monastery. The fact that this is the nature of things is not insignificant. You can try to run from life, but rest assured that it will find you. At the end of the day, it is Allāh Who ﷻ is seeking you out through so many skillful means. Nevertheless, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all things are meant to be embraced at their level. In other words, temptations and distractions are not dangled in front of you simply for you to partake of them.

Because Allāh ﷻ is Merciful ﷻ and Just ﷻ, He ﷻ had to reveal to us the spiritual means that allow us to face this world and life that He Himself ﷻ created. The Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ was sent to complete the curriculum that began with Adam ع —of establishing a clear, practical means for God-conscious presence in all domains of worldly existence, including spiritual practice, family, community, marriage, parenthood, education, business, hygiene, and health. He ﷺ is our exemplar for a spiritual life that is not divorced from the life of the world. No subject was off limits to him ﷺ, no concern too trivial, because we relate with Allāh ﷻ through all things.

We live in this world, but we are not ultimately of this world. We come from Allāh ﷻ, and to Him ﷻ is our return. We are travelers. On the journey, there are some who are caught up in the life of the world, believing it to be real and ultimately satisfying. Invariably, this perspective leads many to seek superiority in the (ultimately) ordinary life of the world. Those with spiritual insight, however, seek to be ordinary (honest and authentic, the result of which is humility) in the superior world, i.e. in the Presence of Allāh ﷻ, where He ﷻ sees everything that we do and knows what is in our hearts.

It can be quite challenging to sustain God-conscious presence (taqwā’Allāh) while engaged in the life of the world. And many struggle to leave worldly concerns behind during their times of spiritual practice. To establish God-conscious presence in all domains of life, private and public, is a rare accomplishment. Allāh ﷻ describes these rare souls in the Holy Qur’ān: “Men for whom neither business nor profit distracts from the remembrance of Allāh ﷻ…” [Surat al-Nr, 24:37]. “Solitude in the crowd” (khalwat dar anjuman) is the experience of one who is intimate with the Friend ﷻ, as if on spiritual retreat, while simultaneously being immersed in the “crowd” of daily life. This is a lofty spiritual station, as the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ said, “I have two sides —one faces my Creator ﷻ and one faces creation.”

May we all strive to remember our Lord ﷻ in the way that He ﷻ deserves to be remembered. And Allāh ﷻ knows best.


© Ḥakīm Ilyās Kāshānī