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Liberation Metaphysics

Zachary Markwith


Liberation Metaphysics is an unpublished volume of prose and poetry that I sent to a few colleagues and friends, including Pir Zia Inayat-Khan, who kindly expressed interest and encouraged me to share a few excerpts with readers of Seven Pillars. It is hardly a systematic expression of liberation or metaphysics, but it came from the heart in moments of reflection and inspiration. Certain angels, prophets, and friends of God figure prominently in the imaginal landscape, including Gabriel, Joseph, Mary, Jesus, Muhammad and his family, Hallaj, ‘Attar, and Ibn ‘Arabi. One of the main themes is the interiorization of the message of these luminaries in our own lives. Additionally, Liberation Metaphysics seeks to recall a vision of God among human beings and in our daily lives, through which all life is revered as sacred. Can we translate this vision into simple acts of kindness and more organized demonstrations of solidarity with not only those who share our beliefs and identities, but all human beings, especially those who are suffering? I certainly do not have all of the answers, but believe that we can tap into our collective spiritual and material resources to help support one another and build a more humane world. The vision articulated in the words that follow would not have been possible without the wisdom and examples of family, friends, mentors, and strangers. Special thanks are due to Rand Abbas for the photographs that accompany my words.

Liberation Metaphysics

Gabriel asked the Prophet Muhammad, ‘What is ihsan?’
The Prophet replied that it is, ‘To worship God as if you see Him,
and if you do not see Him, know that He sees you.’
To worship Him as if you see Him in the mosque, the church, or the synagogue,
whether before the throne beyond the highest heaven or the dust on earth.
To worship Her as if you see Her as your beloved,
your mother, your sister, your teacher, your friend.
To worship in the market, the garden, the kitchen, the bedroom, the prison,
the hospital, the brothel, the tavern, the march, the shelter, the street…
Our worship here is through service, affection, and justice.
The face of our Lord is shown in the faces of human beings, great and small alike,
and in the faces of animals, birds, trees, rocks and earth.
If you need proofs the Prophet said,
‘Looking at the face of ‘Ali is an act of worship.’
And, ‘Looking at greenery is an act of worship.’
Or, as it says in the Book,
‘Everywhere you turn, there is the Face of God.’
Hallaj spills the secret and the world thinks him drunk.
It is the world that has forgotten that We are the Truth.


The tender soul is greater than the spirit,
a soul like Mary’s greater than the angels.
The luminous body is greater than disembodied light,
the hidden treasure greater as known than unknown.
If this faqir said more people would stone him
and the stones would be greater than the God of our beliefs.
In the words of the shaykh, ‘When you say human, do not veil using human…’
There is none more sacred than a human heart, a human life, a human body.
‘The heavens and the earth do not contain Me,’ said God through the Prophet,
‘but the heart of My believing servant contains Me.’
God have mercy on us and us on each other.


God will say to us on the Day of Resurrection:
O son of Adam, you detained, shot, and killed Me. He will say: O Lord, and how could I detain, shoot, and kill You when You are the Lord of the worlds? He will say: Did you not harm My servants Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown…? Were you not silent? Had you recognized them as human beings you would have found Me with them.

O son of Eve, you attacked, killed, and burned Me and My family. He will say: O Lord, and how could I attack, kill, and burn You when You are the Lord of the worlds? She will say: Did you not harm My servant Abeer Qassim Hamza and her family? Were you not silent? Had you recognized them as human beings you would have found Me with them.

O son of Adam and Eve, you beat, tortured, and left Me to die. He will say: O Lord, and how could I beat, torture, and leave You to die when You are the Lord of the worlds? God will say: Did you not harm My servant Matthew Shepard? Were you not silent? Had you recognized him as a human being you would have found Me with him.

O daughters and sons of Heaven and Earth, you destroyed Us all. We will say: O Lord, and how could we destroy You when You are the Lord of the worlds? We will say: Did you not harm Our servants the Animals, the Trees, the Earth, the Oceans, the Sky, and Yourselves? Were you not silent? Had you recognized all as sacred beings you would have found Us with all.

May the Day of Resurrection be the Day of Unveiling today!

The scholars say that “real love” is the love of God
and “metaphorical love” is the love of Layla and Majnun.
The scholars are wrong.
They are far from the heart of the poet.
Layla and Majnun love each other with the love of God.
There is no love but God’s love, always and forever.


Certainty in the face of the unknown is stupidity,
Knowledge in the dark light of infinity ignorance,

Compound ignorance to feign omniscience next to the neighbor,
Her insights, experiences, pain, joy and mystery.

Sometimes not knowing is the greatest gnosis.


Where is that youth who will support this cause when the world turns against you?
O God, where is there one man in all the world with the courage of Zaynab?
Where is the one who can bear the company of Shams?

Where is the one who you love with all your heart and who loves you back?
With this fire we will burn through all hate and separation.

Your smile is the rising of the Sun upon the heart.

The child of Fatimah with the strength and tenderness of heaven and earth.
The days of sorrow have passed,
The night of Peace eternally near.


You know you’ve met your beloved when their words mean as much to you
as the revelations of Gabriel.


Religions rise and fall like empires.

They come into being when the Origin touches a pure heart.

This heart then touches a community and the world around them,

Reminds us of our original nature, our compassion, peace, justice, and mercy.

The living memory of these ancestors sustain and inspire later generations,

Until their images and message are co-opted and inverted.

The Origin and the ancestors only remain with us when we embody their message.
If we mimic their appearance and words, but not their spirit and qualities,

The thing is dead and let the dead bury their dead.

God is the Living, the Life of all lives.


‘There are as many paths to God as there are human souls.’
For artists You are Beauty,

For activists Justice,

For lovers the Beloved,
For philosophers Wisdom,

For worshippers Lord,

For the folk You are the Mystery of every heart.


A Creation Story
Before the beginning I was a hidden treasure,
luminous darkness,
 one without name.

I am being before existence,
consciousness before thought,
love before sentiment,

silence before speech,

eternity before time,
unity before opposition…
In the beginning was God,
Satan, Adam and Eve,

the tree of good and evil,
heaven and earth,
spirit and body, male and female,

created as one and rent asunder.

The beginning is creation and destruction,
life and death, knowledge and ignorance
woven together as one.

In the beginning God was and there was nothing with Him…
and He remains now as He was,

and She remains now as She was,

and I remain now as I was,
and You remain now as You were,

and We remain now as We were.

The beginning, the perpetual beginning,
was, is, and will be good

if we remember who We are.

In the beginning it was said, ‘Am I not your Lord?’
So ask yourself, with the Maharshi, who am I?

The Burning Bush, Jesus, and the Quran

all speak of the same I am.
They speak of the reunion of opposites,

of consciousness and being, mind and matter,
of inner and outer, female and male,

of humanity and God, lover and beloved…
They speak of nothing but Love.

In the beginning, I was a hidden treasure and I loved to be known.
I am known in colorful hues, in intoxicating hymns,

in food and drink of light, in passionate embrace,

in sun-scorched fields with scintillating scents,
I am known in secret thoughts,

the Being in the innermost heart,

and as the outermost surface of all beings.

I am your skin, hair, smile, and eyes!

I am the First and the Last, the Outwardly Manifest and the Inwardly Hidden.

I become the ear with which you hear,
the eye with which you see,

the hand with which you grasp,

the foot with which you walk.
I am the immanent God and transcendent human,
Divine spirit embodied.

Through My prostrations on earth,

I was raised to sit upon the Divine throne.
I guard and disclose the secret.

I am the treasure of every hero who sacrifices everything.

I become the martyred, I take My eternal Spirit back.

I am the Command of the blessed Husayn and the wretched Yazid.
The face of the poor, the sick, the hungry is My face.

I am family, friend, and ally,

I am neighbor, stranger, and foe,

I am saint and sinner, rich and poor.

I am servant and Lord, and servant is My supreme Name.

So serve well and know Me.

I am Joseph and Zulaykha, Layla and poor Majnun,
I am ecstasy and pain, separation and union,

I am Face and veil, and naked embrace.

I am the Love that moves the Sun and other stars.
I am That I am.
I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
There is no god by Me.

I am every I and all that is true,

I am the Truth.

I am the One, the Many, the One-Many.

To count Me is a fool’s task…

I am All.

I am Time and Eternity, constancy and change.

I am the ancient of days, the son of the moment,
the nameless principle of the Chinese sage
to the beardless youth of the Arab prophet.
I am the present.
Be still and know that I am God.

Image Credit: Rand Abbas



Zachary Markwith is a doctoral student and adjunct professor at the Graduate Theological Union who specializes in early Islamic spirituality and comparative religious studies. He earned an M.A. in Hinduism and Islam at the George Washington University and a B.A. in Islamic and Near Eastern Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has also worked for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Food Not Bombs, and the International Peace Project on issues that include Islamophobia, poverty, nonviolence, and interfaith relations. Zachary has studied Islamic spirituality with traditional teachers from West Africa, Iran, and North America.

Read more about Zachary Markwith

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12 December 2016

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