In a precise and precious introduction, A. Helwa explains that she wrote this lovely and lyrical paean of praise to Allah especially for those with a "longing heart." She guides us through the Divine mysteries and practical exercises that "inspire love, strengthen faith and increase reliance on and intimacy with God."
Near the end of this honest introduction, Helwa confesses, "I am not a writer. I am a dreamer and lover of God. These words found their place on the page because God wrote it to be that way." Whether written by Helwa or God, this spiritual journey into the heart of Islam chimes in our minds, bodies, and souls long after we have pondered its fetching portrait of unconditional love and mercy.
Drawing on the words of the Holy Qur'an, the life-giving sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, and the writings of Islamic scholars and mystic poets, Helwa challenges us to connect with these treasures of Islam and the mighty mission to transform the world. She often trains our attention on the wisdom of the Sufi Rumi, who never fails to open our hearts. Here are just four examples:
"God sends hope in the most desperate moments. Don't forget, the heaviest rain comes out of the darkest clouds."
"Each moment contains a hundred messages from God. To every cry of, 'Oh God,' He answers a hundred times, 'I am here.' "
"The language of God is silence, all else is a poor translation."
"Nothing I say can explain to you divine love, yet all of creation cannot seem to stop talking about it."
Helwa covers key Islamic understandings of Allah, who we are, the message of the Qur'an, repentance and return, and the ecstasy of oneness. She does a fine job explaining the importance of salat (five-times-a-day prayer) as a means of tuning into Divine Love. She defines prayer as "swimming in the current of God's generosity and immersing every atom of our souls in gratitude for the blessing of being given another day to serve God's will on Earth." In sturdy chapters on Zakat: Giving as an Instrument of God; Ramadan, the Holy Month of Fasting; and Hajj: A Pilgrimage to God, Helwa presents these traditional pillars of Islam as poignant ways in which Muslims affirm to the world the Oneness of God.
There is so much wisdom creatively presented here that it is hard to capture the sweep and sweetness of this volume. Given our interest in spiritual practices, we especially appreciated the reflections at the end of each chapter designed to help us apply the teachings in our daily lives. Helwa explains: "These sections felt important to include because the Qur'an describes the acquiring of knowledge without internalizing that wisdom and putting it into practice like that of 'a donkey carrying books' (62:5)" (See the practices for examples.)
Helma ends Secrets of Divine Love with this reminder:
"Allah is waiting for you. Return to His ocean of love and let Him embrace you with the healing waves of His endless mercy."