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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Islam and Poetry

By Mufti Bilaal Cassim

CHECKED AND APPROVED: Mufti Ebrahim Desai


Q.) What does Islam say about poets and any type of poetry? Is poetry other than romance allowed in Islam? Please give me a detailed answer about the poetry and poets. [Ali]

A.) Ubayy Ibn Ka'ab, Radi-Allahu anhu, reports Rasulullah (s.a.w) as having said; "Poetry contains (much) wisdom." (Mishkaat with Mirqaat Vol. 9 Pg. 122 Ashrafiyyah).

Mullah Ali Qari (r.a), a renowned Muhaddith explains that poetry containing truth, wise words, advices, useful parables, etc. that are of benefit to mankind, as well as those containing praises of Allah and Nabi Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, promoting abstinence from worldly luxuries, exhortation towards the Aakhirah and other aspects of Deen are indeed praiseworthy. Poetry devoid of these things is malignant and disliked. (e.g. songs containing lewdness or depictive of sins etc.) The words of the Qur'an (viz. "(As for) the Poets, only the misguided follow them. Can you not see their (aimless) wandering in the valleys, their statements devoid of action?" As-Shu'araa: 224-226) and the Ahadith maligning poetry refer to these kinds of poetry.

Thereafter he mentions that poetry is a form of speech and must be judged by the same standard. i.e beneficial poetry is like beneficial speech and useless and evil poetry like useless and evil speech) (Mirqaat VOl.9 Pg. 122 Ashrafiyyah).

From this principle we can deduce that recital or composition of romantic poetry is permissible (and even rewarding) only if it is for one's spouse with the intention of promoting love and tenderness and providing it is free of lewdness or obscenity, much the same as a loving or kind word. When not for one's spouse, it is not permissible.

And Allah Ta'ala Knows Best

What is Tasawwuf?

By Khalid Baig

"Verily, he who has purified the heart is successful and he who has despoiled it has lost."

A lot of people have misunderstandings about tasawwuf. Many think that it is something beyond Qur'an and Sunnah. Errant Sufis as well as the superficial ulema, although on the opposite ends of the spectrum, are together in holding this mistaken notion. Consequently the first group has shunned the Qur'an and Hadith while the second group has shunned tasawwuf. Actually, although the term tasawwuf, like many other religious terms in use today, evolved later, the discipline is very much part of the Shariah. The department of the Shariah relating to external deeds like salat and zakat is called fiqh while the one dealing with the internal feelings and states of the heart is calledtasawwuf. Both are commanded in the Qur'an. Thus while commanding Salat and Zakat, the Qur'an also commands gratefulness and love of Allah and condemns the evil of pride and vanity. Similarly, in the books of hadith, along with the chapters on Ibadat, trade and commerce, marriage and divorce, are to be found the chapters on riya (showoff) takabbur,akhlaq, etc. These commands are as much a mandatory requirement as the ones dealing with external deeds.

On reflection it will be realized that all the external deeds are designed for the reformation of the heart. That is the basis of success in the hereafter while its despoiling is the cause of total destruction. This is precisely what is known technically astasawwuf. Its focus is tahzeebe akhlaq or the adornment of character; its motive is the attainment of Divine pleasure; its method is total obedience to the commands of the Shariah.

Tasawwuf is the soul of Islam. Its function is to purity the heart from the lowly bestial attributes of lust, calamities of the tongue, anger, malice, jealousy, love of the world, love of fame, niggardliness, greed, ostentation, vanity, deception, etc. At the same time it aims at the adornment of the heart with the lofty attributes of repentance, perseverance, gratefulness, fear of Allah, hope, abstention, tauheed, trust, love, sincerity, truth, contemplation, etc.

To diagnose and treat the diseases of the heart normally requires the help of an expert mentor or Shaikh. Here are the qualities of a good Shaikh.

1. He possesses necessary religious knowledge.

2. His beliefs, habits, and practices are in accordance with the Shariah.

3. He does not harbor greed for the worldly wealth.

4. He has himself spent time learning from a good Shaikh.

5. The scholars and good mashaikh of his time hold good opinion about him.

6. His admirers are mostly from among the people who have good understanding of religion.

7. Most of his followers follow the Shariah and are not the seekers after this world.

8. He sincerely tries to educate and morally train his followers. If he sees anything wrong in them, he corrects it.

9. In his company one can feel a decrease in the love of this world and an increase in the love for Allah.

10. He himself regularly performs dhikr and shughal (spiritual exercises).

In searching for a Shaikh, do not look for his ability to performkaramat (miracles) or to foretell the future. A very good Shaikhmay not be able to show any karamat. On the other hand, a person showing karamat does not have to be a pious person --- or even a Muslim. Prominent Sufi Bayazid Bistami says: "Do not be deceived if you see a performer of supernatural feats flying in the air. Measure him on the standard of the Shariah."

When you find the right Shaikh, and you are satisfied with his ability to provide spiritual guidance, you perform baya or pledge. This is a two-way commitment; the Shaikh pledges to guide you in light of Shariah and you pledge to follow him. Then the Shaikh will give his mureed (disciple) initial instructions. They include the following:

1. Perform repentance for all the past sins and take steps to make amends, e.g. if any salat has been missed so far in the life, you start making up for it.

2. If you have any unmet financial obligations toward another person make plans to discharge them.

3. Guard your eyes, ears, and tongue.

4. Perform dhikr regularly.

5. Start a daily session of self-accounting before going to bed. Review all the good and bad deeds performed during the day. Repent for the bad ones and thank Allah for the good ones.

6. Perform muraqaba-maut (meditation over death) every night before going to bed. Just visualize that you have died. Reflect upon the pangs of death, the questioning in the grave, the plain of Resurrection, the Reckoning , the presence in the Court of Allah, etc This helps bring softness to the heart and break the tendency to commit sins.

7. Develop humility. Even if you observe another individual committing the worst of vices you should not despise him/her, nor should you consider yourself nobler. It is very much possible that the perpetrator of the vice may resort to sincere repentance while the one who despised the sinner become ensnared in the traps of nafs and Shaitan. One has no certainty regarding one's end. One, therefore has no basis for regarding another with contempt.

The essential idea of tahzeebe akhlaq is to bring our natural faculties in a state of balance. The three basic faculties are anger, desires, and intelligence.

Anger:

When in equilibrium it results in valor, forbearance, steadfastness, the ability to restrain anger, and dignity. Excess will result in rashness, boastfulness, pride, inability to restrain anger, and vanity. A deficiency will result in cowardice, disgrace, and feeling of inferiority.

Desires:

Equilibrium here results in chastity, generosity, haya (decency), patience, and contentment. Its excess leads to greed and lust. The other extreme results in narrow-mindedness, and impotence, etc.

Intelligence:

Equilibrium here makes man wise, sharp-witted and one with great insights. Excess here makes one deceptive, fraudulent and imposture. Its lack results in ignorance and stupidity with the consequence that such a person is quickly misled.

A person will be considered as having a beautiful seerah(character) only when these faculties are in the state of balance and equilibrium. Internal beauty varies with people just as external beauty does. The possessor of the most beautifulseerah was Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. The beauty of our seerah is based on its closeness to his seerah.

[Condensed from writings of Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi]

Further Reading:
1)
Fiqh aur Tassuwuf aik Taaruf (Urdu)
2)
The Kashf Al-Mahjub (English)