Bargaining Versus Investing
Recently a murid asked Sheykh Lokman Egendi in sohbet about losing progress due to mistakes and sins that we keep repeating. One big difference I have learned about tarikat versus the contemporary “mainstream” Islam is the way reward or sawab, is spoken about in lectures and khutbas, versus sohbets in our way. I still fall into the trap of thinking of Allah SWT as a businessman (Astaghfirullah) even though our Sheykh reminds us over and over again not to treat our relationship with our Lord in this way. The notion that we “make deals” with Allah SWT by our good behavior or extra worship so we will get rewarded in return is prevalent. Yes Allah SWT promises us in the Quran Kerim and hadith a good reward for the obedient believers, elhemdullillah, but this is different from how we can fall into the trap of believing we are somehow owed by Allah SWT in a tit-for-tat fashion and accounting of each good deed. If you have ever said to yourself when faced with a trial or test, even in the silence of your heart and mind “why is this happening? I have been doing everything I’m supposed to” then you know how easily we can fall into the trap of accounting with our Lord, the most High, Creator of All. Yes I agree, reading that in print is a stark confrontation with our lower, childish selves, who are always wanting candy instead of the reality of true guidance and obedience.
In the same sohbet, Sheykh Lokman Efendi reminds the questioner that the focus should not be on the “savings account of sawab”, but in the connection to your Sheykh. Rabita must be a part of our practice and the quality of that rabita, should not just be the intensity of our emotional connection. Just as Allah SWT is not a businessman to make a deal with, neither is your Sheykh Santa Claus to give you presents and candy, gratifying your nefs and ego. It is difficult to be washed up and to keep the right understanding when we truly want to please and obey our Sheykh and through that please Allah SWT. But, growing up in tarikat is incredibly important: “candy” isn’t meant to be eaten all the time if one is going to be healthy and our childish desire to avoid change can make us spoiled and weak, avoiding wash ups and unable to cope with them when we do get them. As someone who has struggled with this, I can say I must constantly remind myself that the washups are almost always where the real growth can take place: the earth is sometimes scorched, yes, because ash makes the soil fertile. Changing the focus to growth instead of what our nefs and ego desire is key to being in rabita properly and renewing our intention in this way. Our sawab is important but we are looking at its richness in a new way: not as paper money we stack up in greed for the hereafter, but as an investment with our Sheykh who is guiding us to the pleasure of Allah SWT, for which there is no equal currency.