Thursday, August 2, 2018


A reader commented on one of my blogs that Quranic tafsir based on Baatin is un-Islamic and heretical. 

Nothing could be farther from the truth. 

It deeply hurt me that petrodollar-funded Wahabi propaganda has distorted Islamic culture to the extent that we have disavowed our own occult, mystical history to embrace a 100-year-old materialistic cult-like Salafism which is completely disconnected from the 1400 year old rich and syncretic Islamic history.

It's important to discuss the concept of Baatin or Baatiniyat; it's one of the most important words in Islamic mysticism and is the cornerstone of Shite faith and Sufi worldview. Ismailism was once even called Batiniya owing to its' deep belief in the baatni world view.

Imam Ali once wrote in on of his letters that one of the signs of awakening in this life from the deep sleep of unconsciousness is to be able to see (perceive) the inner meanings of things, not just the outer. ( He, of course, was gifted with the sight to penetrate the meaning of existence beyond the veil of time and appearances

Life is full of various levels of inner meanings and messages, clues and hints according to the level of the person’s spiritual unfoldment. There are many ayat in the Qur’an and ahadith to confirm this phenomenon. 

The words zahir and batin are two Quranic terms that, while not too well known outside specialist circles, describe something highly important in the Islamic tradition. Zahir refers to the outer dimension, or the outer face, of the Islamic faith. 
Batin, on the other hand, refers to the inner, spiritual dimension. At its most simple level the former term refers to acts while the latter refers to the intention behind those acts. 

He is the First and the Last, the Zahir (outward) and the Batin (inward), and He is, of all things, Knowing

– Holy Qur’an 57:3

Are you not aware that God has made subservient to you whatever is in the heaven and whatever is in the earth, and has bestowed His favours upon you both in zahir and in batin.

– Holy Qur’an 31:20

Most of the Universe is composed of the dark matter and dark energy which is shaping the cosmos. Our reality mirrors that reality. Quranic verses carry mutitudes of meanings within it as does sufi poetry and sufi rituals. The Baatin of reality is its true meaning beyond the social labels and the veil of compromise laid over the truths which man is often too demenetd to ever truly comprehend.

This is where the term “blind” has been used in the Qur’an, alluding to people who in spite of having eyes, yet cannot see. Indeed they see the forms and the exoteric aspects of things but do not see the esoteric meaning within.

Consider this: over ninety-five per cent of the universe is invisible. The existence of the so-called dark matter and dark energy cannot be measured or observed directly; we can only rely on the gravitational effects caused by them. Dark matter, which outweighs standard matter five times, has mass and gravity but it does not reflect or absorb light. 

What is essential is invisible to the eye. And yet it is fundamental to the whole universe. It initiated its creation. It anchors galaxies, making them stable instead of full of celestial objects spinning around precariously. 

Allah (swt) points to this repeatedly in various verses in the Holy Book, usually after a story, parable or symbolism:

“in this there are lessons for those who can understand”
"there is indeed a lesson for all who have eyes to see" 
“if only they could understand” or 
“if only you could see”

"we detail Our signs for people who understand".

Becoming conscious of these unconscious processes active in our universe requires a shift in perspective. As Jung noted in Mysterium Coniunctionis, “the conscious mind is usually reluctant to see or admit the polarity of its own background, although it is precisely from there that it gets its energy.” Or as Rumi said, “life’s water flows from darkness.

As RUMI says in the 6th verse of the opening of the Mathnawi:

Every one became my companion through his own perception
None tried to know my inner secrets and notion

And immediately follows it with:

My secret is not distant from my outcry
But your eyes and ears do not possess the light

What is this light that the ordinary eyes and ears do not possess in order to find out the secrets? 

For the answer we go to Rumi himself, since he says he has revealed everything in this book, sometimes through explanation, sometimes through allusions, sometimes only hinting.

Why so?

 He explains that by saying:

The secrets are hidden in between the lines
If I say it any more clearly, it would disrupt the order of the world

In other words, if everyone knew the truth, hardly anyone would go after the affairs of the world. This is why the enlightened people are always only a few, compared to the masses. 

The Qur’an also refers to this by repeatedly saying 'only a few would know', or ‘only a few would perceive’ or ‘only a few would think’ etc.

But somehow, although we are looking right at them, the majority of these signs are missed. They go right over our heads and we see only the outermost aspect of them, for good reason since our heads are not the apparatus for the perception of these things. 

God taught Hazrat Yusuf (Joseph) the ta’wil of dreams and visions, experienced by himself and others:

And thus will your Lord choose you and teach you the ta’wil of narratives and complete His favour upon you and upon the family of Jacob, as He completed it upon your fathers, Ibrahim and Ishaq. Indeed your Lord is Knowing and Wise.

– Holy Qur’an 12:6

And thus, We established Yusuf in the land that We might teach him the ta’wil of events.

– Holy Qur’an 12:21

My Lord, You have given me [something] of sovereignty and taught me of the ta’wil of dreams.

– Holy Qur’an 12:101

We are told that all the signs/ayat of Allah are in two books; the book of the Holy Qur’an, and the book of the cosmos - life and creation.

 We are clearly told with regards to the Qur’an that only the cleansed or pure ones (motaharoun) will be able to touch this (Qur’an 56:79).

 The “cleansed" or "pure ones” have generally been taken for their outer meaning of having been physically cleansed and having had ablution. 

While that holds, yet there is more to it. It alludes to the state of inner purity, the purity of heart. If all that was meant was outer cleanliness and ablution, why then would we witness from time to time, that people who have not prepared themselves that way, still gain access and are able to touch the Qur’an? 

When we consider that Allah’s word is the Truth and there cannot be an exception to it, then when we see these exceptions it should highlight the discrepancy between our understanding and the real meaning of the Words.

Wanting to know what is veiling us from the light of hearing and seeing, we go to Moulana again. He says:

The blinkers covering people’s eyes are nothing but the secondaries
Who ever did not go beyond the secondary is not one of the companions

So the eyes which Rumi is talking about are the eyes that could see the Reality and not be veiled by people, the material world, and above all by the self, which is the biggest obstacle. We need to acquire the eyes that could see the primary beyond the secondaries.

He says:

I want the eyes that would know the King
So that it could recognise Him in every different clothing

How does one acquire these eyes? 

He guides us to journey on the Sufi path.

Sufis possess a Surmeh, go and seek that
So that your eyes of narrow stream become an ocean

What is this veil that is with us all the time and gives us a different account of the reality? 

An account that we believe is true. 

What is self, and how does it prevent us from realising the Truth and the Reality?

When Moulana tells us to go and take the journey of the Sufi path, so that our power of seeing widens, he is pointing to this widening of sight and insight, since an enlightened person could see and perceive things that are not available to most people. Enlightened people are capable of seeing the unseen, in various degrees, according to the level of their enlightenment.

Therefore we need to understand there are different kinds of seeing, and realise how limited our ego-senses are and not take that for the absolute reality. We need to be mindful that what we think and see is not all that there is, and there is another kind of seeing which requires journeying on the Sufi path and going beyond the senses of the self.

The purpose of these signs is the realisation of the purpose of our life in this human body, which is God-consciousness, in spite of the forgetfulness that has been placed in human beings, and in spite of distractions we experience, some of which provide very strong attractions that constantly pull us in the opposite direction. 

This purpose has been revealed in a famous Hadith Qudsi, where Allah (swt) explains the purpose of the creation by saying:

“I was a hidden treasure and I loved that I be known, so I created the creation so that I can be known”.

It is no wonder that His creation and the life of human beings are encoded with clues towards knowing Him. But that potentiality does not reach fruition for everybody. One needs to have a sincere longing and desire for his Creator and put on the walking shoes and set forth on the journey in order to be accepted as a traveller on the path to God, “salek”. In modern times we see a lot of people putting on their walking shoes but all they do is keep jogging. This walk is a different walk and in reality shoes are not necessary and are allegorical. As Allah (swt) said to Moses:

“Take off your sandals”, since he did not need them there.

In Sufism, we are told that there is nothing in this world whose source is not in the unseen. Therefore wherever we look lies a reminder, for those who can see.

“Wherever you look is the face of Allah” - Qur’an 2:115

In looking at birth, at childhood and dependency, at growing up, at relationship with parents, at becoming self-sufficient and independent, at using our will and putting it in action, at love relationships and at work and making a living; as I am reflecting on the list, I am reminded of at least one ayah in the Qur’an that applies to each stage and/or category, teaching us the right versus wrong behaviour, guiding us to the straight path and therefore to Him.

“How many a sign is there in the heavens and on earth which they pass by, and on which they turn their backs!” - Qur’an 12:105

One then must question why it is that with so many reminders, so many people remain asleep and only see things for their outer form, and in one dimension. 

My response is that the inner eyes do not open until one has done some degree of internal Jihad against one’s ego-personality (nafs). The potentiality is there in everyone – man is made in the image of God – to reach a degree of perfection in his attributes, but he has been sent to the lowest of the low. 

Our Creator says in the Qur’an:

“The life of this world is nothing but a play, whereas, behold, the life in the hereafter is indeed the only (true) life: if they but knew this!” - Qur’an 29:64

Imam Ali (a.s.) says in Nahjul Balagha:

“They have not taken lessons from things which are full of lessons, but they have taken them from far off places.” - Sermon 221

Moulana Rumi says:

"You see the world according to the measure of your eye" and then goes on saying

“the Arifs (gnostics) possess a ‘surmeh’ (black powder make-up used on the eyelid), 

go and seek it. So that your eye of stream may become an ocean." - Mathnawi, Book 5:1905-7

He is alluding that Arifs having done the required inner purification, are given the reward of seeing the inner reality of things, (which is an act of Beauty).

In the story of Moses and his staff, Allah tells Moses to throw his staff down and it turns into a serpent moving rapidly, and then tells him:

“Take hold of it, and fear not; We shall restore it to its former state.” - Qur’an 20:2

In this story, first Allah sets the stage by asking "what is this in your right hand O Moses?" and Moses responds:

"It is my staff; I lean on it; and with it I beat down leaves for my sheep; and other uses have I for it." - Qur’an 20:17-18

There have been different interpretations of this verse such as Allah wanting to hear Moses speak or that Allah is testing him.These verses are pointing to the esoteric and mystical reality. It means that as long as man only sees the outer form of things he will only see the staff. But things in life inherently carry other and deeper dimensions and uses. 

The miracle is the transformation to perceive the inner dimension of things.The fear referred to is the fear of letting go of the familiar form and touching (perceiving) beyond the form. 

We then are being assured in this story not to be afraid since after the transformation we are still able to see the form.
We need to pay attention to every word in the Qur’an and not get carried away with the story because the story covers the esoteric teaching since the stories are meant to be the apparent (zahir) and the teachings hidden (batin). 

In this Ramzan, during the special nights, recite Al Baatin many times so Allah may open your heart to recieve the true essence of reaity beyond the corruption of zaahir and materialism! 

our real self


  1. Dear Sophia,

    Glad to be on Zoya. :-) Read couple of your posts. You have love and serenity and your words are sincere. I'm a writer in India now launching a weekly magazine on religion & spirituality. Can you mail me your email id to joshnewt at Would like to mail you a proposal to be a columnist.

    Many thanks,

  2. Love your blog and especially all the Rumi quotes! I'd love it if you would check out my blog on sufi music. here's my latest entry on Badar Ali Khan, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's cousin!

    salaam sister!

  3. Lovely post, great blog you have running!

  4. Sophia.. my strong recommendation that you do give a thought about writing a book on Islamic Spirituality.. your thought process consists of practical intellectualism along with spiritual wisdom and I am certain that your writings can help readers see the hidden pearls of wisdom deeply rooted in Islam and Sufism

  5. Beautiful post keep posting more frequently also besides dhikr please enlighten us on sufi rituals and some exercises thankyou dear sister duas to you and your family

  6. بسم اللّہ الرّحمان الرّحیم
    اسلام علیکم و رحمتہ اللّہ و برکاتہُ
    ماشاء اللّہ مولا آپ کو اور ہمت دے یہ انتہائی احسن کوشش ہے اس روشنی سے آشنائی کی جو ہمارے وجود کی ضرورت ہے... آپ کوشش کیجئے گا کہ کتاب مرتب کریں ان تمام بلاگ کا جو آپ تحریر کر چکے ہیں...
    جزاک اللّہ
    التماسِ دعا