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Annotated and includes sections of the Holy Qur'an and Prophetic (SAW) Traditions.
Witnessing Perfection addresses the concerns of those who are aware that an urgent redress in the balance between head and heart is needed and comprehended that this can only be fulfilled by personal spiritual development.
Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri explores the process of spiritual growth starting with the discovery that the basic dynamic in creation is duality and the balance of opposites whose roots are the one cosmic source of all life.
Witnessing Perfection delves into the universal question of deity and the purpose of life, with the appreciation that these are dilemmas clarified only by the image of unity, wherein all dualities and diversities fuse cohesively. Durable contentment is a result of this perfected vision.
By Hasan Joban
The quest for lasting, durable happiness and contentment is very much a part of human nature. It could be argued that every human action, no matter how it manifests, is an attempt at echoing this primal impulse for experiencing peace and joy. Occasionally, we manage to capture the blissful moment, only to see it wriggle from our clutches and replaced all-too-quickly by longer periods of agitation, turbulence and anxiety.
In Witnessing Perfection, Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri provides a road map for the journey of life that can facilitate the experiencing of this state of durable peace. The opening lines of the Introduction set the scene: "Lasting fulfilment can only be achieved when an aspect of perfection is perceived within every moment. Every moment contains a glimpse of perfection".
What follows through subsequent pages is the unfolding of a formula, immersed in spiritual wisdom, which discusses such issues as the nature of the self, the relationship between self and soul, the family, civilizations and cultures, and the ultimate goal of personal transformation through self-knowledge. However, it is only by constant reference to an internal unifying essence underpinning everything, Shaykh Fadhlalla points out, that lasting happiness can be experienced. This is a recurring theme. In essence, what we learn is that the more our intentions, thoughts and actions are wedded to this pristine reference point within us, the greater the likelihood of achieving durable bliss. How does this exactly happen? Shaykh Fadhlalla explains:
"The journey of the spiritual seeker begins by looking for meaning and patterns behind events, feelings and experiences. The compass of this journey is the reference to the essence of life, which is the soul within the human's heart. When all dualities and opposites are seen through this unified lens, all of these experiences and events will change in meaning and significance. Conflicts, difficulties and disappointments will no longer bring about undue suffering and emotional reactions. This new state of authentic understanding enables the person to interact wisely with the outer world, whilst experiencing harmony and ease at heart. The door to the magnificent present moment and the joy therein begins to open" (p. xv-xvi).
The book outlines a broad map to reaching this magnificent moment. There is a wealth of teaching emanating from the pages, punctuated by frequent aphorisms that glisten in their wisdom. This book is not meant to be read cover to cover in one sitting and then returned to the bookshelf; instead, it needs to be placed within arm's reach so that it can be delved into again and again for deep and frequent reflection. As the author explains, "To fully benefit and be transformed by this book you need to read, reflect and apply what touches and benefits you most... Apply what is relevant to you at the time and trust that there is perfection within every situation and experience". (p. xv).
What impact has this book had on me personally? I have had this book for a while now; I refer to it frequently and can say that it has had a deep and transformative impact. One benefit that I would like to share is that I am comforted by the meaning of the self as expounded in the book. It provides me with a map by which to understand the nature of my own emotions, thoughts, desires, anxieties, and so on. This perspective helps me to identify when I might be getting overwhelmed by my own feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, or blaming others for my misfortune, and therefore enables me to change my thinking accordingly. It helps me to reflect upon the feelings of affliction as indicating whether I am aligned to the pristine essence within or not. Thus, rather than reacting in a knee-jerk fashion, I might take a moment to reflect and then act appropriately, as befits the perfect moment! In my view, to be guided to cultivate that attitude alone makes Witnessing Perfection worth having.
This book comes highly recommended to anyone who is interested in self-knowledge, personal transformation, and a desire to partake in a healthy and balanced life.