Monday, January 4, 2010

On Reflection

Chapter 9 of: Risalat ul-Mu‘awanah (The Book of Assistance)

By: Imam ‘AbdAllah bin ‘Alawi al-Haddad

Rady Allahu ‘Anhu

You should have a wird of reflection in every twenty-four hours, for which you should set aside one or more hours. The best time for reflection is the one in which are the least preoccupations, worries, and most potential for the heart to be present, such as the depths of the night. Know that the state of one’s religious and worldly affairs depends upon the soundness of one’s reflection. Anyone who has a share of it has an abundant share of everything good. It has been said: ‘An hour’s reflection is better than a year’s worship.’ ‘Alī, may God ennoble his face, has said: ‘There is no worship like reflection.’ And one of the gnostics; may God have mercy on them all, said: ‘Reflection is the lamp of the heart; if it departs the heart will have no light.’

The ways of reflection are many. One, which is the most noble of them, is to reflect on the wonders of God’s dazzling creation, the inward and outward signs of His Ability, and the signs He has scattered abroad in the Realm of this earth and the heavens. This kind of reflection increases your knowledge of the Essence, Attributes, and Names of God. He has encouraged it by saying:

Say: Look at what is in the heavens and the earth! (10:101)

Reflect on the wondrous creatures He has made, and on yourself. He has said:

In the earth are signs for those who have certainty, and in yourselves; can you not see? (51:20, 21)

Know that you must reflect on the favours of God, and His bounties which He caused to reach you.

Remember the favours of God, that you may succeed. (7: 69)

Should you [attempt to] number the favours of God, you would not be able to do so. (16:18)

All good things that you possess are from God. (16:53)

This kind of reflection results in the heart filling with the love of God, and continuously rendering thanks to Him, inwardly and outwardly, in a manner that pleases and satisfies Him.

Know that you should reflect on God’s complete awareness of you, and His seeing and knowing all about you.

We have created man, and We know what his soul whispers to him; and We are nearer to him than his jugular vein. (50:16)

And He is with you wherever you are, and God sees what you do. (57:4)

Have you not seen that God knows what is in the heavens and the earth, and no three [persons] converse but that He is their fourth? (58:7)

This kind of reflection results in your feeling ashamed before God should He see you where He has forbidden you to be, or miss you where He has commanded you to be. Know that you must reflect on your shortcomings in worshipping your Lord, and you’re exposing yourself to His wrath should you do what He has forbidden you.

I created jinn and men to worship Me. (51:56)

Do you think that We created you in vain, and that to Us you will not be returned? (23:115)

O man! What is it that has deceived you concerning your Generous Lord? (82:6)

This kind of reflection increases your fear of God, encourages you to blame and reproach yourself, to avoid remissness, and persevere in your zeal.

Know that you must reflect on this worldly life, its numerous preoccupations, hazards, and the swiftness with which it perishes, and upon the hereafter, and its felicity and permanence.

Thus does God render the signs clear to you, that you may reflect on this world and the hereafter. (2:219, 220)

But you prefer the life of the world, when the hereafter is better and more abiding. (87:16, 17)

The life of the world is but distraction and play; while the Last Abode is indeed the Life, if but they knew. (29:64)

This kind of reflection results in losing all desire for the world, and in wishing for the hereafter.

Know that you should reflect on the imminence of death and the regret and remorse which occur when it is too late.

Say: The death that you flee will indeed meet you, and you will then be returned to the Knower of the unseen and the seen, and He will inform you of that which you had been doing. (62:8)

Until, when death comes to one of them he says: ‘My Lord! Send me back that I may do good in that which I have left!’ No! It is but a word he says. (23:99, 100)

O you who believe! Let not your wealth or your children distract you from the remembrance of God!

up to:

But God will not reprieve a soul whose time has come. (63:9, 10, 11)

The benefit of this kind of reflection is that hopes become short, behaviour better, and provision is gathered for the Appointed Day.

Know that you should reflect on those attributes and acts by which God has described His friends and His enemies, and on the immediate and delayed rewards which He has prepared for each group.

The righteous are in felicity, and the depraved are in hell. (82:13, 14)

Is the one who is a believer like the one who is corrupt? They are not equal. (32:18)

As for the one who gave, had taqwā, and believed in goodness, We shall ease him into ease, (92:5, 6, 7)

up to the end of the sūra.

The believers are those who, when God is mentioned, their hearts tremble,

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they will have degrees with their Lord, and forgiveness, and generous provision. (8:2, 3, 4)

God has promised those among you who have believed and done good works that He will make them rulers over the earth as He made those before them rulers. (24:55)

Each We took for their sin; on some We sent a hurricane, some were taken by the Cry, some We caused the earth to swallow, and some We drowned. It was not for God to wrong them, but they wronged themselves. (29:40)

Hypocrite men and hypocrite women proceed one from another; they enjoin evil and forbid good,

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God curses them, and theirs is a lasting torment. (9:67, 68)

Believing men and believing women are helping friends to each other; they enjoin good and forbid evil,

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and good pleasure from God which is greater; that is the supreme gain. (9:71, 72)

Those who do not expect to meet Us, are content with the life of the world and feel secure therein,

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and the end of their prayer is, Praised be God, the Lord of the Worlds! (10:7, 8, 9, 10)

The result of this kind of reflection is that you come to love the fortunate, habituate yourself to emulating their behaviour and taking on their qualities, and detest the wretched, and habituate yourself to avoiding their behaviour and traits of character.

Were we to allow ourselves to pursue the various channels of reflection we would have to forgo the brevity which we intended. That which we have mentioned should suffice the man of reason.

You should, with each kind of reflection, bring to mind those verses, hadīths and other narratives relating to it. We have given an example of this by quoting some of the verses related to each kind of reflection.

Beware of reflecting on the Essence of God and His Attributes in the wish to understand their nature and how they exist. No one ever became enamoured of this without falling into the abysses of negation [ta’tīl] or the traps of anthropomorphism [tashbīh]. The Messenger of God, may blessings and peace be upon him, has said: ‘Reflect on the signs of God, and do not reflect on His Essence, for you will never be able to give Him His due.’

The aim and spirit of awrād is presence with God. Aim for it; you will reach it only if you travel the road that leads to it, which is performing the external activities and striving to be present with God during them. When you persevere in this you become immersed in the lights of Proximity, and the sciences of gnosis emanate upon you, at which your heart becomes wholly intent on God and presence becomes its nature and well-established quality. At that time you have to exert yourself to be attentive to creatures when you need to and you may not always be able to. Such a condition results in one becoming absent [from creation], engrossed [in the Creator], and extinct to anything that is not Him. It also leads to other states special to the people of God. The foundation of all this is perseverance in outward devotions and taking care to perform them well and with an effort to be attentive with God.

Beware of leaving a wird for fear of not being able to persevere in it; for this is foolishness. You should not do, in each period of time, whatever happens to suit your energy and free time; on the contrary you should have a minimum that you perform, which you can add to whenever you feel energetic, but never fall below when you feel lazy.

Know that hastening to acts of goodness, being careful with acts of worship and persevering in obedience, constitute the way of the Prophets and Saints, both at the beginning and end of their affair, for they are the creatures with the most knowledge of God, and it is therefore not surprising that they are the most worshipful, obedient, and fearful of Him (Mighty and Majestic is He!) The attentiveness of a servant is equal to his love for his Lord. Love is consequent upon knowledge: in as much as God’s servant grows more knowledgeable of Him, so also shall he love Him more and worship Him more abundantly. If you become too busy amassing worldly things and following passions to have awrādand keep to acts of worship, strive to give your Lord an hour at the end of the day when you occupy yourself with glorifying Him, asking forgiveness, and other kinds of devotions. It has been related that God the Exalted has said: ‘Son of Adam! Give Me an hour at the beginning of your day and an hour at its end, and I was will take charge for you, of all that is in between.’ It has also been related that the record of a servant is shown to God at the end of each day, and if at its beginning and end there is goodness, God the Exalted says to the angel: ‘Erase what is in between!’ This is God’s graciousness to us and all people, but most people are not thankful.

Source: Imam ‘AbdAllah bin ‘Alawi al-Haddad, Risalat ul-Mu‘awanah (The Book of Assistance), translated by Dr. Mostafa al-Badawi, The Quilliam Press, Buckinghamshire, U.K, 1989, p. 31-35.

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