Upraised Hands: Seeing is Believing
When my children were small and still inclined to gather near me after the Salat my youngest son Idris in particular, would watch my every gesture. –He seemed to be fascinated with my hands and what I would be doing with them –particularly with the tools of the trade: The Tasbih (prayer beads) and the books of Duah.
One day that will live in my memory forever is the day a tiny inquisitive voice asked: “Abu, I have been watching you for a long time (he was about five years old at the time) and I never see anything”. I asked him to explain –“In your hands”, he replied — “I never see anything coming into your hands”. “You hold your hands like you are asking for something, and I never see anything coming into them.”
I began to explain to him from my limited knowledge at the time that Barakat could be thought of as a blessing, and blessings come in many forms and in many ways, and that the up-raised hands gesture was after all a Gesture — it implied an asking — that it was an appeal for aid.
The next question came as innocently as the first, and set the tone for twenty years of serendipitous research –much like my search for “The Perfect Cup of Coffee”, the search that takes you all over the world. And during your travels you are searching for that definitive moment the moment of truth, in my case being a great lover of the Coffee Bean it was The search for the Perfect cup of Coffee, now to become the Search for a reasonable definition of Barakat. The search takes you around the world and back again — amazingly — you find the answer in your own kitchen while you are preparing a cup of coffee. So to speak.
“Abu, but what are blessings? And how can blessings be Barakat”? He asked, and again I was confronted with his wide-eyed innocence.
I tried as best I could to explain to my young son just what a blessing was –but to no avail. He was looking for a tangible, hands-on seeing is believing explanation that could not be explained but seen, touched and concretized as a thing, held in my hands, a visual reality like an ice cream cone or a bright colored ball that one could throw into the air, and have fun with.
After many years of asking questions of many divergent types of Alim’s, sheikh’s, Mullah’s and maulana’s, students of religion and spiritual pundits from many different schools of thought and religious orientation which include: Yogis, Monks of both Tibetan Buddhism and various Hindu sects, a plethora of Christian illuminati from Evangelicals to Jesuit scholars. All of these distinguished and not so distinguished men and women from the vast spectrum of academic and grass roots religiosity offered what amounts to several notebooks full of answers to the question of Barakat and Blessings.
Some of the many explanations have proved useful depending on the circumstances and the situations at that particular time. But one simple explanation seems to capture (grab) the absolute enormity of the situation by the horns, and in its simplicity offer a universal introduction to Barakat — in light of the fact that this is an intellectual enterprise and requires the use of our rational faculties.
The story goes something like this: One day a man came to the Prophet Muhammad and asked him why he raised his hands in supplication whenever he asked for Allah’s help and assistance in certain matters. The Prophet answered: “I am asking Allah for His Barakat!” “And what is Barakat”? Asked the inquisitive man. The Prophet answered: “Clarity of Mind”.
Please do not ask for the source of this story — the piece of paper it was written on has long since disappeared, as so many quickly scribbled bits of information happen to get lost. However, it behooves all of us to think deeply about this answer and meditate on its message. Perhaps roll it around in your mind in as many ways possible. As you will soon discover, it is an answer that can provoke and stimulate your imagination in a very positive way.
Before I part I would like to share another tidbit that comes from the same simple wisdom –source as the first — and this brief tale involves the supreme power of love.
One day the famous Horticulturist and scientist Dr. Luther Burbank paid a visit to Tuskegee Institute, a little known Black College in Alabama that was originally built to educate former slaves. He had traveled a long way to pay homage to the resident horticulturist and scientist Dr. George Washington Carver –a black man who was the son of former slaves, who was now quite old and spent most of his time with his beloved peanut plants.
Luther Burbank asked Dr. Carver how he was able to make such vast inroads in the development of thousands of uses for the lowly peanut Dr. Carver replied simply: “If you love a thing, it will reveal its secrets to you”.
Again, I asked you gentle reader to dwell on these answers –and take them with you into your moments of meditation. These are fine examples of what might be considered “Old School”, the topic of my next installment. Until the next time, may: “Peace/Love and Light be your constant companions!”.
1. The Meaning of Man: Sidi ‘Ali al-Jamal of Fez, Diwan Press — England/1977. Glossary of terms: pg. 447. Baraka — A subtle energy, which flows through everything. It is experienced in certain places more strongly than in others, and in some places and objects overpoweringly so. Its highest realm of activity is the human being. Purity permits its flow. For it is purity itself, which is light. Density of perception blocks it. It is transformative, healing, and immeasurable. To deny it is to limit Allah and deny Tawhid. For further and deeper explanations see the Qur`an. As a subject it is endless.
2. The Autobiography Of a Yogi: Swami Yogananda, Self Realization Fellowship, Cal