The name of the religion is Islam, which comes from an Arabic root word meaning “peace” and “submission.” Islam teaches that one can only find peace in one’s life by submitting to Almighty God (Allah) in heart, soul and deed. The same Arabic root word gives us “Salaam alaykum,” (“Peace be with you”), the universal Muslim greeting.
“When you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return with what is better than it, or (at least) return it equally. Certainly, God is Ever a Careful Account Taker of all things.” (Quran 4:86)
Better Islamic greetings include, Assalam Alaikum wa Rahmatullah, which means, May God grant you protection, security and mercy, and Assalam Alaikum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuh, which means, May God grant you protection, security, mercy and may He bless you. Greeting in return with something better would be, for example, after hearing the words Assalam Alaikum you would respond, wa Alaikum Assalam wa Rahmatullah.
Making that small effort to greet others in this manner at every opportunity increases rewards. Each time a believer says the words Assalam Alaikum or responds to this greeting, his bank of good deeds is increased.
One day a man passed by the Prophet Muhammad while he was sitting with some men, and said “Assalamu Alaikum”. The Prophet said “He will have 10 rewards”. Another man passed by and said “Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah”. The Prophet said he will have 20 rewards”. Another man passed and said “Assalamu alaikum wa rahmat ullaah wa barakaatuh”. The Prophet said, and he will have 30 rewards.
In addition, throughout the Quran, God repeatedly points out that this is theIslamic greeting. God assures us that struggling to please Him will result in peace and security in Paradise, and when the believer enters paradise he will be greeted by the words Assalam Alaikum.
“And those who believed (in the Oneness of God and His Messengers and whatever they brought) and did righteous deeds, will be made to enter Gardens under which rivers flow, – to dwell therein for ever (i.e. in Paradise), with the Permission of their Lord. Their greeting therein will be, salam!” (Quran 14:23)
“Salam Alaikum for you persevered in patience! Excellent indeed is the final home!” (Quran 13:24)
“When those who believe in Our Ayat (proofs, evidence, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) come to you, say, “Assalam Alaikum”; your Lord has prescribed Mercy for Himself, so that if any of you does evil in ignorance, and thereafter repents and does righteous good deeds (by obeying God), then surely, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Quran6:54)
“Those whose lives the angels take while they are in a pious state (i.e. pure from all evil, and worshipping none but God Alone) saying (to them), Assalam Alaikum enter you Paradise, because of that (the good) which you used to do (in the world).” (Quran 16:52)
“But when you enter the houses, greet one another with a greeting from God, As-salamu Alaikum – blessed and good.” (Quran 24:61)
“And those who kept their duty to their Lord will be led to Paradise in groups and when they reach it the its gates will be opened and the keepers will say, Salam Alaikum, you have done well, so enter here to abide therein.” (Quran 39:73)
Prophet Muhammad reiterated God’s message when he said, “You will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I tell you about something which, if you do it, will make you love one another? Greet each other with Salam”
Who is a Muslim?:
A person who believes in and consciously follows Islam is called a Muslim, also from the same root word. So, the religion is called “Islam,” and a person who believes in and follows it is a “Muslim.”
I ask them to take a poem and hold it up to the light like a color slide or press an ear against its hive. I say drop a mouse into a poem and watch him probe his way out, or walk inside the poem’s room and feel the walls for a light switch. I want them to water ski across the surface of a poem waving at the author’s name on the shore. But all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it. They begin beating it with a hose to find out what it really means.
Meditation, ecstasy, states, stations and ascension. The various stages on the mystical path are known as maqamat, or the ‘stations’, which can be reached by any Sufi by means of prayer, fasting, meditation, and the hal or ‘mystical state’, which may be vouchsafed to the Sufi by the Grace of God but is not attainable by the mystic’s own efforts. A Sufi may be blessed by an experience which reveals to his soul the reality of the whole universe, from the lowest layer of earth to the highest heaven. This experience is called mi’raj or the ‘ascension‟. In this, a Sufi is generally accompanied by the spirit of his shaykh, and comes in contact with the spirits of other shaykhs and prophets. Various stations are also re-vealed to him with different colours and lights.
Extinction (fana) and subsistence (baqa):
One of the important phases of mystical experience which is attained by the Grace of God by a traveller on the mystical path is the state of fana fi Allah, ‘extinction of the self in God’, which is the transition to the state of baqa billah or the ‘eternal life in union with God.’ By passing away from self, the individual does not cease to exist, but is permitted to enjoy the supreme mystical experience in union with God. He is fully absorbed into the Love of God which gives him an everlasting awareness of the all-pervading presence of God.
This doctrine is further explained in an authentic tradition of the Prophet (pbuh) which states that God said: “Nothing is more pleasing to Me as a means for My slave to draw near unto Me than the worship I have made binding upon him. And My slave does not cease to draw near unto Me with added devotions of his free will until I Love him. And when I Love him, I am the Hearing wherewith he hears, and the Sight wherewith he sees, and the Hand wherewith he smites, and the Foot whereon he walks”.
Most Sufis who have gone through this experience have preferred to live eternally in the greatest depth of silence which transcends all forms and sounds. Yet a few others have produced works of unsurpassed glory, especially in the fields of literature and music, which have crowned the culture of the entire Islamic world. Their works have inspired Sufis and non-Sufis for genera-tions. As the great Persian Sufi poet, Hafiz of Shiraz, who is fondly remembered as the ‘tongue of the unseen’, said centuries ago for all times: “He whose heart is alive with love, never dies.”
Over the centuries, as the Sufi orders grew, the Sufi masters were generally recognized as sages and men of wisdom and grace, enjoying the esteem of the general populace.
The growing social prestige of the Sufis attracted self-seekers who posed as Sufis and dervishes and embarked upon the exploitation of the goodwill of the people. These pretenders indulged in superstitious practices, neglected moral order and religious ordinances, and boasted of their ignorance and lack of learning. In order to cover their own lack of discipline and dedication to the goal, some of these charlatans even tried to cut Sufism from its very roots–namely, the Qur’an and the practice of the Prophet (pbuh).
The acts of these pseudo-Sufis never altered the true course of Sufism. The heart of Sufism re-mained pure, well guarded by the traditional practice of the initiation of a seeker into a Sufi order by a Sufi master. The master’s authority had properly been passed upon him by a previous master through the investiture of the traditional mantle of authority, symbolized by the presen-tation of a patched cloth. This initiation is supported by the tree of lineage going back through all the previous masters to the Prophet (pbuh) from whom the authority to instruct in the eso-teric doctrine originated. Even today, this is the general practice of all the recognized Sufi orders.
It is Sufi masters such as al-Junayd, al-Ghazzali, Ibn Arabi, Shaykh Abdul-Karim al-Jili, Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti, and Jalaluddin Rumi, among many others, who devoted their lives to spreading the light and grace among all men, irrespective of man’s geographical, social, religious and racial origin. They left for all men a rich tradition of love and peace for all times. Even today, their example is a source of light and guidance to the seekers of truth everywhere. Indeed, only through total surrender to the Will of God can man hope to attain freedom and peace.