A Letter To A Friend During Difficult Times

A Letter To A Friend During Difficult Times, by Mohammed Tayssir Safi

Sidi Mohammed Tayssir Safi was asked by a friend, “Where should we focus our energy today?” Here’s what he wrote in response.

As-salaamu ‘alaykum my dear friend,
I miss you! I pray you are well. I know these are difficult times. I saw your message and wanted to reply but I wasn’t sure how to put into words what I have learned from Allah and His Messenger through the teachings and actions of those who strive every day in their way. However, tonight during our weekly Hikam class I found the words of those with purified hearts that speak to such trying events. I’ll paraphrase some of it and put it in a sequence I feel best speaks to our situation:

God the exalted says in His Generous Book, “Do not be sad, for God is with us.” [9:40]

It is reported that God revealed to the Prophet David:

“O David, what I love for my creation is that they be spiritual beings. Spiritual beings are not distressed because they know that I am the lantern of their hearts. So don’t let concern darken your heart and decrease you from the sweetness you’ve inherited from spiritual beings.”

This is the crux of our existence. We struggle to realize, to know, and to witness that God exists, is present, and that He knows everything, nothing escapes Him. A person who knows God and witnesses Him is not distressed by the ever changing world. He knows that all other events in existence are in God’s firm grasp and are encompassed by His Gentleness and Mercy. The world has its ups and its downs but God is constant.
The famous scholar Shibly is narrated to have said,

“Whosoever truly knows God will never experience distress.”

This is best explained by the saying of Ibn Ata Allah Iskandari who said: “Bliss, even though its outward manifestations vary in form is ultimately based on witnessing God and being close to Him. As for punishment, it too varies in its manifestations but is ultimately based on being veiled from God and being distanced from Him. The real root cause of punishment is a veil between you and God and complete bliss is gazing upon His Generous Countenance.”
It is for this reason, dear friend, that the Knowers of God, the Friends of God, the Saints, they are never shaken. Although they are concerned for the world and for its inhabitants… particularly the oppressed and the overlooked, that does not cause them to lose sight of Who is in charge.
Their innermost hearts are not shaken by difficult times even if their concern for people is high. Their hearts are concentrated on the only constant, Allah. They can balance between being completely focused on God and serving creation. Their knowledge of God does not remove them from the station of serving the needy and the oppressed.
What I have mentioned is a lofty station that most of us struggle to understand, let alone achieve. I personally know how much I need these words because I often find my heart shaken by world events and by events in my day to day life.
Thankfully, those of us who have not reached the station mentioned still find benefit in difficult times. Such difficult trials put out the fire of the ego, purify the heart, remove from us greed, or love of worldly things. And for some of us it is an expiation of our sins and elevates us in ranks in the next life.
You asked what we should focus on, on THIS day… and I would say that we should focus on God, Exalted is He.
I leave you in God’s care,

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