Sunday, January 14, 2024

Awakening the Atrophied Eye: Mark of the Striver

Qur'an 57:11-12
11. Who is he that will Loan to Allah a beautiful loan? For Allah will increase it manifold to his credit, and he will have besides a liberal Reward.
12. One Day shalt thou see the believing men and the believing women- how their Light runs forward before them and by their right hands: their greeting will be: "Good News for you this Day! Gardens beneath which flow rivers! to dwell therein for aye! This is indeed the highest Achievement!"
Qur'an 50:31-35
31. And the Garden will be brought nigh to the Righteous,- no more a thing distant.
32. A voice will say: "This is what was promised for you,- for every one who turned to Allah in sincere repentance, who kept His Law,
33. "Who feared Allah Most Gracious Unseen, and brought a heart turned in devotion to Him:
34. "Enter ye therein in Peace and Security; this is a Day of Eternal Life!"
35. There will be for them therein all that they wish,- and more besides in Our Presence.

Ramadan took place in the middle of Spring last year. Since I've been faithfully fasting since I was a pre-teen, I had long ago gotten used to the hunger part of it, and can eat that ritual up like a champ with no complaint. In fact, after the previous 2022 Ramadan, I had started performing some of the voluntary fasts since I felt that I had the capacity for MORE. As I researched in this "more" spirit, I came across the following Qur'anic verse:

Qur'an 17:79
And pray in the small watches of the morning: it would be an additional prayer or spiritual profit for thee: soon will thy Lord raise thee to a Station of Praise and Glory!

I looked up how the prophet Muhammad (May the peace & blessings of Allah be upon him!) performed this special Night Prayer (Tahajjud), and it turned out he would get up before dawn and do it with 8-rakats, followed by 3-rakats of the Witr prayer to formally close out the salat of the day. For Ramadan, he also performed an additional 8-rakats (Tarawih) right after Isha. This all seemed really challenging—and it was!—and I found that depriving myself of sleep at night in that way, returned the challenge of Ramadan that the food deprivation aspect of the ritual no longer provided. I looked up what simple good deeds I could do everyday, and found this gem:

Al-Bukhari, 3119; Muslim, 2691
Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever says 'la ilaha ill-Allahu wahdahu la sharika lahu, lahu’l-mulku wa lahu’l-hamdu wa huwa ‘ala kulli shay’in qadirun' one hundred times in a day, it will be as if he freed ten slaves, and one hundred hasanat (good deeds) will be recorded for him, and one hundred sayiat (bad deeds) will be erased from him, and it will be a protection for him against the Shaytan all that day until evening comes. No one can do anything better than that except one who does more.”

Thrilled, I took the time to learn to recite it smoothly and added it to my dhikr (remembrance) folio.

At the end of Ramadan 2023, I found myself super-charged in faith & devotion and made the effort to increase my voluntary prayers to the max while I continued to get up at around 3am for the Night Prayer + Witr. Continuing my "more" research, I came across the following hadith:

Musnad al-Ḥārith #126
Anas reported: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Allah will announce on the Day of Resurrection: Where are my neighbors? Where are my neighbors? The angels will say: Our Lord, who is befitting to be your neighbor? Allah will say: Where are my servants who frequented the masjids?”

"Allah's neighbor" seemed like some awesome lanyard flair to pick up. lol I also found a hadith where the prophet said that to walk to the masjid with the intention to make a mandatory prayer, it would give the same reward as making the Hajj. In fact, he said it would actually count as making the Hajj in case you never get to officially perform the pillar. I'd walked to masjids in Kuwait plenty of times to make the mandatory prayers, but never with the intention to take advantage of that particular Mercy of Allah benefit. I wanted it!

My problem at the time I read that was that I was no longer in a Muslim majority country, where there was a masjid seemingly every two feet, like a Detroit liquor store. My current adventure location didn't have any masjids at all, which meant there were all kinds of spiritual benefits I was missing out on (including the mandatory Friday Jummah prayer!), especially tragic now that I was actually made aware of them. This dilemma reminded me of a telephone discussion I had long ago when I was a young man in my 20s. I was living with my maternal grandparents at the time, but I no longer remember who was on the phone. I remember they were very excited that I was in Texas, and suggested that I should "establish a masjid" while I was there.  I remember being appalled by the idea of it, like it seemed LITERALLY impossible for me to pull off, and I dismissed the ideal with a sniff. 26 years later, as I found myself without a masjid to go to, I recalled that old discussion from my new position in life, and started mentally working out the puzzle of how I would establish the first masjid in an environment even more alien to me than 1997 San Antonio, Texas was to my younger self. I reached out to the base Chaplain and told him my needs on 08 Jun 2023. 

Skip-jump to 28 Jul 2023, and I found myself posing with the Camp Commander and his team for the official ribbon cutting of the first masjid in the area. #WontHeDoIt The whole thing worked out without a single hurdle; it was ridiculously easy. I was certainly expecting a whole lot of hurdles, and simply prepared to face them with fortitude, to add the great good deed of patient perseverance in the Name of Allah to my record, but no need. I enthusiastically walked up to the new masjid all the time so I could claim my 'Allah's neighbor' flair, even groggily walking there when I awoke for the Night Prayer/Witr. I would come to fully unlock the dhikr ritual ('The People of Remembrance' is also great lanyard flair!), reciting in the 2,000-3,000 range a day, most of it pointedly done in the masjid; remembering Allah and celebrating His praises within this new space for worship dedicated ONLY to Him and Him alone. I put together a promotional flyer and was pleased to surprise some recent reverts who joined me for Friday congregational prayers. 2023 proved to be the Year of Ascension. Glory be to Allah!

Even though the Commander's ribbon cutting event marked the official opening to the public, the space was actually ready on 15 Jul, when after a formal inspection with the Chaplain, I immediately began making salat in the new space. I also decorated, adding my favorite faith-inspiring Qur'anic verses, hadith and dhikr phrases to the display board (including the ones quoted here in red). One night, when I walked in for one of the late evening prayers, I saw a shadowy figure standing in the darkened room in front of the display board. I felt an instant flash of anger, that someone was messing around in the sanctuary, but when I turned on the lights, the 'figure' vanished. Embarrassed, I blinked at what was clearly an odd trick of the light, fully expecting to see whatever it was again the next time I opened the door at night, but this was not to be. I never saw it, or even a hint of what that shadowy image was again, leaving behind an odd mystery. 

Is it possible that it was actually some kind of normally unseen spirit being that had somehow become partially visible to me due to all the heightened spiritual activity I had performed since the Spring?     

The intensity of the spiritual high I was riding lasted until early fall. Every day, I made all ten sunnah (voluntary) prayers along with the mandatory five, in addition to the 11-rakat of the Night Prayer + Witr, along with thousands of dhikr chants throughout the day. One day, in the first week of August, I caught a glimpse of something weird in a bathroom mirror. It looked for all the world like a darkened birthmark high up on my forehead where I touch down during the prostration position in salah. I dismissed it at first, thinking it wasn't actually possible. I pray on a mat that sits on carpet; it's not like I'm setting my head on hot stones, coarse sand or gravel... how could I possible get that prostration mark on me in the comforts of a 21st century life? Over the next week or so, it became increasingly obvious that it was indeed the prostration mark. 

Qur'an 48:29
Muhammad is the messenger of Allah; and those who are with him are strong against Unbelievers, but compassionate amongst each other. Thou wilt see them bow and prostrate themselves in prayer, seeking Grace from Allah and His Good Pleasure. On their faces are their marks, being the traces of their prostration.

I always assumed that the Qur'an's mention of the prostration marks were spiritual in nature  I remember reading that they would actually glow while on the Resurrection Field. But I found myself with the mark that came seemingly from earnestly seeking to please Allah by increasing my prayer habits from the mandatory five to purposely committing to the voluntary prayers as well. In just a matter of weeks, the effort burned an actual mark upon my body, the physical mechanics of which fail to make any sense to me. 

With eight points of contact while in the sajdah prayer position, it's not like I'm putting all my weight on my forehead. I'm not. It's actually a comfortable position. I also prostrate on 2-3 layers of soft cloth material, so how is this mark on my forehead? lol What am I missing? Without a sensible material explanation, it forces me to speculate in the other direction. Hear me out:

  1. Allah wants us to strive to get closer to Him in paradise. We can get in by strictly adhering to the mandatory 5-prayers alone—which what I had been doing for years—but the prophets did way more than the bare minimum and they will be in the company of those nearest to Allah in the shadow of the Throne, not down at lowest tier where the bare minimum dwellers will be (collecting people's coats in the foyer). 

  2. Allah said that salah is how you get closer to Him, and prostration specifically is the act of being closer to God, in full submission. 

  3. Our physical bodies are not designed to be in proximity to God. When Allah showed Himself in His Majesty to Moses (pbuh), it killed the prophet instantly and Allah had to resurrect him. Moses bore the golden burnt effects of the event on his skin for the rest of his natural life. 
Perhaps frequent prayers performed in devout duty to Allah, done while honestly seeking His Face striving to reach a higher rank in paradise, is basically pressing your forehead against the mystic third eye, and when done with true sincerity, discipline, patience and constancy — the four items on which our good deeds will be evaluated on the Day of Judgment — the quality of your righteousness will actually cause that mark to appear on the area of prostration. I reference the third eye here only as an analogy, to conjure the image of prostration as submitting so sincerely to Allah's Will, that the believer is spiritually pressing himself against the veil between realities, with the pleased attention of the Lord of the worlds leaving an actual physical mark on this side of the veil. 

It's fun to play around with the idea in genre-fueled speculation, but without any sure knowledge, it can only really be a fruitless mental exercise. It may not be true, but the idea excites me and strengthens my faith!


Very respectfully,

M. Rasheed
Cartoonist | Socio-Political Analyst | Graphic Novel Serialist | Shemesu Heru
Second Sight Graphix

See Also:

Awakening the Atrophied Eye: A Personal Quest to Find the Followers of Second Sight

Awakening the Atrophied Eye: DAY ONE

Awakening the Atrophied Eye: DAY TWO

Awakening the Atrophied Eye: DAY THREE

Awakening the Atrophied Eye: DAY FOUR

Awakening the Atrophied Eye: DAY FIVE

Awakening the Atrophied Eye: DAY SIX

Awakening the Atrophied Eye: DAY SEVEN

Awakening the Atrophied Eye: DAY EIGHT

Awakening the Atrophied Eye: DAY NINE

Awakening The Atrophied Eye: DAY TEN

Awakening the Atrophied Eye: INITIATION

Awakening the Atrophied Eye: The Wisdom Eye Returns

Awakening the Atrophied Eye: The Night of Power

Awakening the Atrophied Eye: Mark of the Striver

Awakening the Atrophied Eye: Third Eye FAQ

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