Thursday, June 25, 2009

Welcoming the Month of Rajab

And race to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden wide as the heavens and earth which has been made ready for the heedful. (3:133)

The Special Blessings of the Month of Rajab

Certain days are most special because on them the mercy of the Lord abounds, His grace and bounty overflow like the ocean, He bestows pardon and forgiveness upon His servants, and He brings joy to those who repent to Him by honoring them with Paradise and His Beauty. It is of His loving mercy that He grants us such days, such nights, such hours.

These special times include the first night of the month of Rajab, and the first Friday night of that same month. The following noble Tradition was reported by the venerable Hasan, beloved grandson of the blessed Prophet: "There are four nights in the year when Allah's mercy, forgiveness, generosity, bounty and grace fall like rain upon the world. Blessed are they who know or will come to know the value of these nights, namely: 1) The first night of the noble month of Rajab; 2) The night called Bara'a (Absolution), the fifteenth night of the noble month of Sha'ban; 3) The night of the feast of Ramadan; 4) The night of the feast of Sacrifice."

Since Islam follows a lunar calendar, the beginning of each day is reckoned from sunset. Thus the fifteenth night of the noble month of Sha'ban is the night of the fourteenth to fifteenth. The night of festival marking the end of the month of fasting is the night between the last day of the noble month of Ramadan and the first day of the festival. The first night of the feast of Sacrifice is the night between the eve of that festival and its first day. Friday night is the night between Thursday and Friday.

Those who appreciate the worth and value of such nights spend these blessed times not in disobedience but in worship and obedience, charity and good works, prayer and supplication. On such nights they earn the good pleasure of their Lord.

Thawban, one of the noble Companions, relates: "I was with the blessed Prophet when we came upon a cemetery. Our Master stopped there and began to weep. His breast became moist with the tears that flowed from his eyes. I went up to him and asked: "O Messenger of Allah, my mother, my father and I myself be your ransom, why are you weeping? Has a revelation come down to you?" He replied: "O Thawban, those who lie here, the dead who occupy this cemetery, are suffering the Torment of the Tomb. It is on account of their condition that I weep." He then continued: "If they had spent any of the days of the month of Rajab fasting and had worshipped Allah at night, they would have been spared this torment.""

The blessed Messenger is also reported as saying: "If someone keeps vigil on the first night of the month of Rajab in worship and obedience, when other hearts die his heart will not die. The All-Glorious One immerses that servant in His mercy and makes him as clean of sin as on the day his mother gave birth. Through the mercy of that night, he receives permission to intercede for seventy people otherwise doomed to Hell."

What grace and generosity we see here... Not only is he himself pardoned, he also receives authority to intercede for seventy other people. What grace, what generosity, what a blessed night this is. What can we say to those who cannot appreciate the worth and value of this night, who disobey Allah and follow other ways, who do not appreciate this precious life of theirs but throw it to the winds?

If a man were to throw his gold and his diamonds into the sea, destroy the house in which he lives and set fire to his property, we would pity him and say: "The poor man must have lost his reason." And we would be right to feel sorry for him. At least he would have the possibility of working and earning so as to recover these goods. But neither money nor labor can bring back life that is gone. Is it possible for those who waste their lives, even spending them in sin, to return to life when death has come? Of course not. This means that your precious life is more valuable than gold, emeralds or anything else.

The blessed Messenger is reported as saying: "My Community, be careful to take advantage of Allah's Month (that is, the month of Rajab). The month of Rajab is certainly Allah's Month. If someone who hopes for reward from Allah will fast for one day in that month, Paradise will be his of right. He will definitely go to Paradise. If he keeps fast for two days he will attain a position in the sight of Allah such as no one in heaven or earth can describe. If he fasts for three days he becomes immune to the sorrows of this world and the torments of the Hereafter, to madness, elephantiasis and leprosy, and to the mischief of other people. For anyone who fasts for seven days in the month of Rajab, the seven Gates of Hell will be shut. If he fasts for eight days to earn the pleasure of Allah, the eight Gates of Paradise will be opened for him. If he fasts for ten days Allah will grant whatever he wishes. If he fasts for fifteen days, his former sins are not only forgiven, but transformed into good deeds. If anyone fasts for more than fifteen days, Allah will increase his reward accordingly."

According to another noble Tradition, recorded in a book called Rawdatu-l 'Ulama', fasting to please Allah on the first day of the noble month of Rajab is expiation for three years of sins past, fasting on the second day is atonement for two years of sins past, fasting on the third day for one year of past sins, while fasting on each of the fourth and subsequent days gives expiation for one month of previous sin. Only those sins are pardoned, however, which are matters between man and Allah; the rights of other people are not affected. The fulfillment of human rights is an absolute obligation, that is to say it is our bounden duty to satisfy anyone who has a right over us.

Our noble Master said that on the night of his Ascension he saw a river in Paradise the water of which was sweeter than honey colder than snow and sweeter smelling than musk. He asked Gabriel, on him be peace: "Who drinks from this river?" The blessed Gabriel replied: "The name of this river is Rajab. If any member of your Community fasts in the month of Rajab and pronounces blessings upon you, the Exalted Lord will grant that he drink of this river."

Those who would drink of that river must fast in Rajab, 'Allah's Month', and give blessings to the Messenger of the Almighty, the Intercessor on the Day of Judgment.

In its Arabic spelling the word "Rajab" consists only of the three consonants 'R', 'J' and 'B'. The letter 'R' is the initial of Rahma, God's Mercy; 'J' stands for jurm, meaning crime, while the letter 'B' is the first in the word bari', meaning innocent. The All-Glorious One says: "My servant, you are guilty of crime and sin. Of My mercy I have absolved you of these and made you innocent. For the sake of your disobedience and sin I have granted you this month." Learned scholars have stated that these letters have this symbolic value. When the month of Rajab is over it enters the Divine Presence and the All-Glorious and Exalted One says to it: "O My Month! I wonder if they loved you? Did My servants treat you with respect?" The month of Rajab will say nothing in reply, though the Lord will ask the same question over and over again until Rajab finally says: "O Lord, You are the Veiler of Faults! You have commanded Your servants to hide the faults of others. Your Messenger named me the 'Deaf Month'. I heard what Your servants did in obedience but I was deaf to their disobedience and sin." This explains why the month of Rajab is known as the 'Deaf Month'.

The All-Glorious One says: "You are My month, you hear no sin. Since you accepted My servants along with their sins and disobedience, I have done likewise and forgiven them for your sake. Provided they once show remorse, I shall forgive them any sin and disobedience they commit during you."

Another reason why the month of Rajab is called the 'Deaf Month' is this: Two Recording Angels are always at our side writing down the good and bad things that we do, but it is a peculiarity of Rajab that during that month they record only our worthy actions and not the evil ones. Since in this month of Rajab the bad deeds of those who display penitence and remorse are kept from the sight and hearing of the angels, they cannot record them.

Our noble Master said: "Certainly Rajab is Allah's Month. The month of Sha'ban is my month and Ramadan is the month of my Community."

According to Imam al-Suyuti in his book called al-Jami' al-Saghir, the venerable Abu Hurayra said: "Apart from Ramadan itself, the blessed Messenger fasted most often in the months of Rajab and Sha'ban."

The literal meaning of Rajab is: "To revere, to regard as great." The custodians of the Ka'ba keep it open from the first of Rajab to the last, out of reverence and respect for this month. In other months, they keep the Ka'ba shut except on Mondays and Thursdays. They say: "This month is God's Month and this house is God's House. Since man is God's servant how can we keep him out of God's House in God's Month?"

-Sheikh Muzaffer Ozak al-Jerrahi, ( from: Wisdom of a Sufi Master)

Friday, June 12, 2009

"My God, If I worshipped you out of fear .............

The famous Sufi woman, Rabi'a al-Adawiyyah said:
"My God, If I worshipped you out of fear of the fire, then burn me with the fire of hell; and if I worshipped you out of desire for paradise, then deprive me of it; but if I worshipped you for your love; then don't deprive me, my God, of your eternal beauty". She also said: "I did not worship Him fearing His fire and desiring His paradise, then I would be like a bad hired hand; but I worshipped Him out of love and yearning for Him".

Virtues of Knowledge

Abu Nu’aym reports some sayings of Mu`aadh bin Jabal about the excellence of knowledge, among which we find the following:

Abu Nu’aym narrates in Al-Hilyah that Mu’adh bin Jabal said:

“Knowledge is a comforting friend in times of loneliness, it is the best companion during travels, and it is the inner friend who speaks to you in your privacy. Knowledge is the discerning proof of what is right and what is wrong, and it is the positive force that will help you surmount the trials of comfort, as well as those of hardships. Knowledge is your most powerful sword against your enemy, and finally, it is your most dignifying raiment in the company of your close companions. Through knowledge, Allah, blessed be His Name, raises some people in rank, and He makes them leaders in righteousness and models in morality. The vestige of their faith is avidly sought, their deeds are emulated perceptively, and people will seek and sanction their opinions solicitously and unequivocally. The heavenly angels seek their company and anoint them with their wings, every fresh or withered life they pass by implore Almighty Allah to forgive them their sins, even the fish in the oceans, the beasts of the lands and every bird of prey and migratory bird pray and solicit the mercy of Almighty Allah on their behalf. This is because knowledge revives the dead hearts and drives them out of darkness into light, and because knowledge is the light of the inner eyes that cures one’s blindness and restores his inner sight”

Ma`rifah: Being Acquainted with Allah

Author: Abu Aaliyah Surkheel
When we compare our lifespans wherein our endeavors unfold to the age of the earth, or to that of the universe which we are told is fifteen thousand million years old, they seem of less significance than a droplet of water in an endless ocean. For today’s materialist life holds little significance other than that of consumption and seeking instant gratification. To believers in God and His Divine Unity, however, life is seen as a rich tapestry of signs, and as an arena of tests, that afford us the opportunity of knowing Allah and worshiping Him: “I created men and jinn, avers Allah in the Qur’an, only that they may worship Me.” [1]
Early Qur’anic exegesists have cited Ibn ‘Abbås, and his illustrious student, Mujåhid, as saying that Allah’s words: ‘that they may worship Me’ - illå li ya‘budun, actually mean: “that they may know Me - illå li ya‘rifun.” [2] The reason for this is quite straightforward, which is that we cannot worship Allah without first knowing Him. This is why it has been said:
Awwalu wåjibin ‘ala’l-‘abidi
Ma‘rifatu’Llåhi bi’l-tawhidi
Meaning, “that the first duty upon a person is to know Allah vis-a-via His Oneness and Divinity.” [3]
In his essay on Divine love and intimacy, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali wrote: “Allah created creation so that they may worship Him through love, fear and hope of Him. Allah, Exalted is He, strictured: “I created jinn and men only that they may worship Me.” However, Allah can only be worshiped by possessing knowledge (marifah) of Him; which is why He created the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, as an indicator to His divinity and majesty. About this, Allah proclaims: Allah it is who has created seven heavens, and of the earth a similar number. His command descends through them, so that you may know Allah has power over all things, and that He encompasses all things in knowledge.”[4][5] Here we are told that creation was created li ta‘lamu - ‘that you may know’ Allah, and that His Command courses through the creation, and that His omnipotence and His omniscience envelop all things.
Commenting on the above verse, Imam al-Sa‘di writes of the creation that, “All of this was [created] in order for people to know and to discern that His knowledge and power circumscribe each and everything. As they come to know Him through His Beautiful Names and Sublime Attributes, they will then adore and worship Him, and also fulfill His rights. This is the greater purpose behind the creation and command: to know Allah and to then worship Him.” [6]
In explaining the hadith: “Know Allah in times of prosperity and He will know you in times of adversity,” [7] Ibn Rajab writes about ma‘rifah , or knowing Allah:
“A servant’s ma‘rifah of his Lord is of two levels: Firstly, a general acquaintance which involves acknowledging, affirming and having faith in Him: this type of ma‘rifah is common to all believers. Secondly, a deeper type of ma‘rifah, or acquaintance, which leads to hearts being totally inclined to Allah: devoted to Him; intimate with Him; at peace when remembering Him; being shy of Him; and being held in awe of Him. This is the specific type of ma‘rifah around which the gnostics, or ‘årifun, revolve - as one of them remarked: “The poor people of this world have departed from it without xperiencing the most delightful thing in it.” He was asked: What is the most delightful of things? He said: “The ma‘rifah of Allah, Mighty and Majestic is He.” Ahmad ibn ‘Asim al-Antaqi said: “I desire not to die until I attain ma‘rifah of my Lord. I do not mean ma‘rifah in the sense of merely believing in Him; but a ma‘rifah so that, when I know Him, I feel shy of Him.” [8]
These levels of ma‘rifah can be likened to the example of a man and a neighbour who has just recently moved in across the road. [9] At first he becomes acquainted with his new neighbour in a general sense. He may learn of his name, his vocation, whether he is married with kids; he will also learn of his general appearance and be able to recognise him when meeting him on the street. He may well, by asking around, be able to glean other facts about his new neighbour. Yet whatever information he learns about him will be at an indirect, impersonal level; unlikely to stir the heart into having any deep senseof respect or admiration for the neighbour. Indeed, beyond acknowledging the neighbour’s existence and presence in the locality, his outlook towards him may possibly be one of polite indifference. This is akin to the first level of ma‘rifah spoken of by Ibn Rajab.
Let us now suppose that he decides to know his neighbour directly and introduces himself to him; visits him frequently; socialises with him; and, over time, forms a sincere and faithful friendship with him. He is now able to observe and experience at first hand his neighbour’s fine character: his kindness, generosity, knowledge and wisdom, compassion, and other virtues that can only be known through direct contact. This intimate knowledge of his neighbour evokes in the man a profound respect and admiration for his neighbour, and a deep and abiding love for him. What is more, it is probable - guaranteed even - that his neighbour will begin to disclose to him many of his most private thoughts, and share with him many of his most intimate feelings, which could never have been known even in a lifetime’s worth of indirect observation or investigation. Instead, such knowledge is only granted to him out of the neighbour’s desire to be more intimately known, and out of the man abiding by the rules of propriety (adab) in seeking to know and to draw closer to his neighbour. This reflects the second degree of ma’rifah discussed by Ibn Rajab. No wonder, then, that the ma‘rifah of Allah has been described as ‘the most delightful of things’ on this earth.
As for the hadith frequently cited in Sufi literature: “I was a treasure unknown but wanted to be known, so I created creation and made Myself known; they then knew Me,” hadith masters have declared this narration to be a chainless forgery. In his dictionary of fabricated hadiths, Mullå ‘Ali al-Qåri states: “Ibn Taymiyyah said: ‘This is not a saying of the Prophet, peace be upon him, nor is it known to have a chain of transmission; be it sound or weak.’ Al-Zirkashi and al-‘Asqalåni said the same. Its meaning, however, is sound, taking its cue from Allah’s words: “I created jinn and men only that they may worship Me,” meaning “that they may know Me” - as explained by Ibn ‘Abbås, may Allah be pleased with him.” [10]
Ibn al-Qayyim has noted: “In the Qur’an, Allah, Exalted is He, invites people to acquire ma‘rifah; or knowledge and gnosis [of Him], via two ways: Firstly, by reflecting upon the divine handiwork [in creation]; and secondly, by contemplating over the Qur’an and pondering over its meanings. The former are His signs that are seen and witnessed, the latter are His signs which are heard and understood. “The first type is referred to in His saying: In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and day; in the sailing of ships through the ocean for the benefit of mankind; in the water that Allah sends down from the sky and with which He revives the earth after its death; in the animals of all kinds that He has scattered therein; in the ordering of the winds and the clouds that are driven between heaven and earth, are signs for people who can think. [11] And His words: In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of the night and day, are signs for those of understanding. [12] Verses like these occur frequently in the Qur’an.The second is referred to in His saying: Will they not reflect on the Qur’an? [13] As well as: Do they not reflect about what is being said? [14] And: This is a Book that We have sent down to you, full of blessings, that they may reflect over its signs. [15] Such verses also occur frequently.” [16]
Another way by which ma‘rifah is nurtured in the heart is by engaging in divine remembrance, or dhikr. Ibn al-Qayyim said of dhikr: “It opens to a person the greatest door to ma‘rifah. Hence, as his remembrance [of Allah] increases so does his ma‘rifah.” [17] Amidst the dramas of this world, therefore, and amidst its songs of sorrow and joy, the Qur’an asks the human creature to know their Maker and to remember Him, and to live out their lives in conscious awareness of Him.
Having dwelt upon the need for, and nature of, seeking ma‘rifah of Allah, Ibn Rajab then says: “Allah’s ma‘rifah of His servants is also of two degrees: A general awareness, which refers to His knowledge of His servants and His awareness of all that they do: whether done openly or secretly. Allah said: We created man, and We know the promptings of his soul, and We are closer to him than his jugular vein. [18] And He informs: He knows you best since He created you from the earth, and when you were embryos your mothers’ wombs. [19]
Secondly, a particular type of ma‘rifah which leads to His love for His servant; His drawing closer to him; His responding to his prayer; and His delivering him from trials and hardships. This is expressed in the Prophet’s words, peace be upon him; who relates from his Lord: “My servant continues to draw closer to Me with superogatory works so that I shall love him. When I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask something of Me, I would surely give it to him; and were he to seek refuge in Me, I would surely grant it to him.” [20] In another wording: “ … Were he to call on Me, I would surely respond to him.” [21]
Thus those who worship Allah upon such ma‘rifah, and in accordance with the Sacred Law (shariah), are led by it to an even deeper gnosis or ma‘rifah. And so it is that Allah, in His overwhelming grace, raises those who are imperfect and ignorant, yet strive to subdue their lower selves; open their hearts to His light; and seek to know and draw closer to Him.
1 5 - 0 5 - 0 7
1. Qur’an 51:56.
2. Cf. al-Baghawi, Ma‘ålim al-Tanzil (Beirut: Dår Ibn Hazm, 2002), 1236. After citing these words, al-Baghawi remarks: “This is the best [of what has been said]; for had He not created them, they would never have known of His existence or divinity.” Also cf. al-Qurtubi, al-Jåmi‘ li Ahkåm al-Qur’ån (Beirut: Dår al-Kutub al-’Ilmiyyah, 1996) 17:38; and Ibn Kathir, Tafsir Qur’ån al-‘AΩim (Beirut: Dår al-Ma‘rifah, 1987), 4:255.
3. Cf. al-Safårini, Lawåmi‘ al-Anwår al-Bahiyyah (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islåmi, 1991), 1:112.
4. Qur’an 65:12
5. Istinshåq Nasim al-Uns, 60.
6. Al-Sa‘di, Taysir al-Karim al-Rahmån fi Tafsir Kalåm al- Mannån (Riyadh: Dår al-Mughni, 1999), 955.
7. Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 1:293; al-Tirmidhi, Sunan, no.2516. Shu‘ayb al-Arnåut declared its chain to be authentic (Sahih) in his verification to Ibn Rajab, Jåmi‘ al-’Ulum wa’l-Hikam (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risålah, 1998), 1:459-60.
8 . Jåmi‘ al-’Ulum wa’l-Hikam, 1:473.
9. The metaphor is culled from Sayyid Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas, Islam and Secularism (Lahore: Suhail Academy, 1998), 80-81. I am indebted to Shaykh Muhammad al-Afifi for pointing this book out to me.
10. Al-Asrår al-Marfu‘ah fi’l-Akhbår al-Mawdu‘ah (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islåmi, 1986), no.353. Similar verdicts occur in al-Suyuti, al-Durar al-Muntathirah (Riyadh: Riyadh University, 1983), no.330; al-Sakhåwi, Maqåsid al-Hasanah (Beirut: Dår al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah), no.836.
11. Qur’an 2:164.
12. Qur’an 3:190.
13. Qur’an 4:84.
14. Qur’an 23:68.
15. Qur’an 38:29.
16. Al-Fawå’id (Riyadh: Maktabah al-Rushd, 2001), 42-3.
17. Al-Wåbil al-Íayyib min al-Kalim al-Tayyib (Cairo: Dår al-Rayyån, 1987), 62.
18. Qur’an 50:16.
19. Qur’an 53: 32.
20. Al-Bukhåri, Ía˙i˙, no.6502. This is the last portion of a famous hadith, which begins: “Allah, Mighty and Majestic is He, said: Whoever shows enmity to a friend of Mine, I shall be at war with him. My servant does not draw closer to Me with anything more beloved to Me than the religious duties I have enjoined on him. My servant continues …”
21. Jåmi‘ al-’Ulum wa’l-Hikam, 1:473-4

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Abu Huraira had a wonderful attitude with the Prophet, peace be upon him. His mother was not a Muslim, and she refused to embrace Islam.

However, he never stopped asking her to follow Allah. Each time he went to talk to her about Islam, she replied very harshly.

So once when he went to her, she said very bad things about the Prophet, peace be upon him, and insulted him. He went to the Prophet, peace be upon him, crying. The Prophet, pbuh, asked him what was wrong.

"My mother, Allah's messenger, refuses Islam. And I asked her today to embrace Islam, and she said words about you which I hate. So pray to Allah, Allah's messenger, to guide my mother." ...

The Prophet pbuh raised his hands to the sky and said: "O Allah! Guide Abu Huraira's mother. O Allah! Guide Abu Huraira's mother!"

He said: "I left the Prophet pbuh, and returned to my home while I was cheerful by his invocation, until I reached home. My mother heard my footsteps.

Before I knocked on the door, she said: "Abu huraira, stay in your place"

I was afraid, so I stopped. So she opened the door and said: "Abu Huraira. There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah."

So I returned to the Prophet, crying again.

I said: "rejoice Allah's messenger! Allah has accepted for your prayer!"

The Prophet pbuh sat down, thanking Allah. So when Abu Huraira found that the Prophet?s prayers are being accepted, he asked him for another prayer!

So he asked the Prophet pbuh, peace be upon him, to pray for him and his mother, that all believers love them and that they love all believers.

So the Prophet pbuh raised his hands to the sky and said: "O Allah! Make the believers love this servant, and make him love the believers".

Abu huraira said: "So every believer who heard about me, even if he didn't meet me until the Day of Judgment, loved me".

source: ikhwan insight


Suaid Ibn Ghaflah said: Ali Bin Abi Taalib(May Allah be pleased with him) became hungry one day and in need of food.

Therefore, he asked Fatimah (May Allah be pleased with her) to go to her father, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) to ask him for food.

So she went to her father, and Umm Ayman (May Allah be pleased with her) was there at the time. Fatimah (May Allah be pleased with her) knocked on the door..

The prophet (Peace be upon him) told Umm Ayman (May Allah be pleased with her): "Indeed this is the knocking of Fatimah, and she has come at a time which she does not regularly come in".

When Fatimah (May Allah be pleased with her) entered upon the prophet (Peace be upon him), she said: "O Prophet of Allah, the food of the angels is tahleel (Saying La Ilaha Illa Allah), tasbeeh (Saying Subhan Allah) and tahmeed (saying Alhamdulillah), so what is our food?"

He replied: "I swear by him who has sent me with the truth that a fire has not been lit in my house for thirty days! And we have received some goats, so if you will, I'll order for you five goats, and if you will, I will teach you five words which Jabriel (Peace be upon him) has taught me".

She said: "Teach me the words which Jabriel (Peace be upon him) has taught you".

He said: "Say: O Allah you are the first of the first, O Allah you are the last of the last, O Allah you are the lord of unbreakable might, O Allah you are the one who has mercy on the poor, O Allah you are the most merciful of the merciful".

Fatimah (May Allah be pleased with her) said: So I left and entered upon Ali, in which he asked: "What happened?"

She replied:"I left you for dunya (the worldy life) and I came back with akhira (the hereafter).

Ali (May Allah be pleased with him) said: "This is the best of your days"

source: ikhwan insight


A man once came to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) carrying with him his belongings and a box.

He said, "O Prophet! While I was passing through a jungle, I heard the voice of some bird's babies. I took them and put them in this box. The moment I did that, their mother came fluttering round my head."

And the Prophet said, "Put them down".

When the man put the box on the ground, the mother of the young birds joined them.

Seeing this, the Prophet asked the man who now had a look of surprise on his face, "Are you surprised by the affection of the mother towards her young?

I swear by Him (Almighty Allah) who has sent me, surely, God is more loving to his servants than the mother to these young birds. Return these baby birds to the place from where you took them, and let their mother be with them."

"Fear God with regard to animals", said the Prophet, "ride them when they are fit to be ridden, and get off their backs when they are tired; surely, there are rewards for being kind and gentle to animals, and for giving them water to drink."

source:ikhwan insight

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sufism: A Journey Into the Heart of Islam

Lately, I’ve been receiving many questions about Sufism: “What is Sufism?” “Is it Islam?” “What does it teach?” I think there are many misconceptions about Islam’s spiritual dimension, especially from Orthodox Muslims. I decided to share some of my knowledge about Sufism in order to help clarify what it’s really all about. I hope you all find it helpful.
I think the best way to understand Sufism is to know that it is not different or separate from Islam. Sufism is Islamic mysticism (or spirituality). And mysticism is essentially one’s journey for Self, Love, and God. It’s a journey that emphasizes more on the inner struggle and dimensions of a human being, but since we’re not secluded monks, we have to also establish a bond with the outside world, i.e. our purpose. The Qur’an says [28:77] : “Seek — among that which God has bestowed upon you — the Hereafter. But do not forget your portion of this world either.” To me this refers to the balance that we must establish in the inner and outer worlds. If I am too spiritual, then I will miss out on my purpose. If I am too secular, then I will truly be dead. I will have no knowledge about who I am, who I Love, and where I am going.
This is a little something I wrote about Sufism on a discussion board one time: “Sufism” is merely a word if treated like a word. Just like “Islam” is simply a word if treated like one. The meaning is what’s important. Islam is submission, i.e. to the One and Only Eternal God of the Universe. Whatever you may call it, spirituality did not begin at a certain time or place, it has always been Present, even before the creation of the Universe. The Law of Submission exists in all created things, it exists in the Universe, in the air we breathe, in our cells, in everything we touch, feel, and hear. It doesn’t matter what you call it because that Divine Beauty is always Present because its Source is Eternal.
Here is another thing I wrote about it when I was speaking to someone who was asking if Sufism and Islam are different:
Sufism is the heart of Islam, just because something didn’t have a label or name in the past doesn’t mean it never existed. The spiritual teachings of the Sufis always existed, including and especially during Muhammad’s revelations, peace and blessings be upon him.
The way of the Sufi is the way of the Muslim (submitter) – to tear down the walls of separation, to discover one’s Self, to unveil the Secrets of the Universe, and to fuse in union with God. You cannot separate the Qur’an or the Prophet Muhammad from Sufism in the same way you cannot separate Sufism from Islam. “There are many numbers, but only One is counted” says Shabistari, a 13th century Sufi poet.The Sufis interpret the Qur’an in a unique way. For example, the Sufis would look deeper into certain verses like the following:
[15:28] Your Lord said to the angels, “I am creating a human being from aged mud, like the potter’s clay.
[15:29] “Once I perfect him, and blow into him from My spirit, you shall fall prostrate before him.”
[15:30] The angels fell prostrate; all of them.
From these verses, the Sufis would emphasize on how Allah’s spirit is within us all and that the Angels admire us because of this innate Gift. If one observes Persian paintings (which are heavily influenced by Sufism), one will see depictions of Angels always smiling and adoring human beings. It comes back to these verses. So the fact that Allah’s spirit is within us, we human beings can all make contact with this inner Divinity — not saying that we are God, but just that we are morethan flesh and bone. A lot of us have forgotten about this spirit, we live life without God-consciousness and awareness, and many times, it’s not our fault. We just get caught up in so many things in the world.
The profound works of the 13th Century Persian Muslim poet, Jalaluddin Rumi, are so beautiful and Divinely-inspired that he is often synonymous with the word, “Sufism.” However, it’s not like he started his “own religion.” The Sufis expressed themselves through poetry and they wrote about how Muslims needed to bring Islam back to its True and Spiritual roots. Here are some beautiful verses from Rumi:
The thousand spears of Pharaoh, Moses knew,
With just one rod how to split them in two;
Medical sciences once Galen taught
But next to Jesus’s breath they’re worth naught;
The finest poetry was put to shame
The day illiterate Muhammad came
~ Rumi
This next one is especially important since it shows that Sufism is not separate from Islam:
I am the servant of the Qur’an as long as I have life.
I am the dust on the path of Muhammad, the Chosen one.
If anyone quotes anything except this from my sayings,
I am quit of him and outraged by these words.
~ Rumi
Another interesting aspect about Sufism is that learning is not just about reading books or memorizing verses. Learning is also about experiencing — in fact, a lot of emphasis is based on one experiencing the Beauty from Allah’s Divine Love. As exemplified here in a Punjabi poem by the great 17th-18th century Sufi poet, Bulleh Shah:
paRh paRh ilm hazaar kitaabaN
qaddi apnay aap nou paRhiya naee
jaaN jaaN waRhday mandir maseedi
qaddi mann apnay wich waRhiya naee
aa-vaiN laRda aye shaitan de naal bandeaa
qaddi nafss apnay naal laRiya naee
Yes, yes, you have read thousands of books
But you have never tried to read your own self
You rush in, into your Temples,
Into your Mosques,
But you have never tried to enter your own heart
Futile are all your battles with Satan
For you have never tried to fight your own desires
~ Bulleh Shah
There is a movement art in Sufism that is quite famous: The Whirling Dervishes (as you can see depicted in the Persian painting above). Many strict Muslims misunderstand whirling meditation, and they find it to be blasphemous since there is singing and dancing involved. However, as I mentioned, the whirling meditation is a movement art, and it is in no way meant to replace prayer. It is a form of zikr(or dhikr) which, in Arabic, means “remembrance/mindfulness of God.” The Sufis emphasize heavily on being mindful of God at all times, so that one journeys through life with a clear and less-conflicted mind. No one is expected to learn how to whirl because it is not compulsory. It is something that must be acted upon, something that must be a choice, and something that a person needs to feel. In South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc.), there is a popular Sufi music tradition called Qawwalis, which are best described as Love and Devotion Songs. But these Love songs are not sung in praise of romantic relationships; they are sung in praise of God, the Prophets (mainly Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him), Imams (like ‘Ali, peace be upon him), and Sufi mystics (any song about romantic relationships will always incorporate God). The songs are traditionally sung live with acoustic-only instruments (tabla, guitars, harmonium, sitars, flutes, etc.) and they are mainly driven by ecstatic and passionate wailing, which symbolizes the human longing to be reunited with the Divine. From mystical poetry and music to dancing, the Sufis find these forms of art as a way to absorb themselves in God’s Love. It is also a way to empty one’s self of longings and desires, so that one becomes free of the ego and empty. God fills the void with His Beauties.
In conclusion, it’s important to understand that Sufism is not different than Islam, but rather the inward dimension of Islam. The Qur’an, of course, is the basis for everything, but there are deeper meanings and secrets that are embedded in the Message. Since we are not Prophets, we cannot communicate directly with Allah, however we can follow the Prophetic Light. There is always going to be more to learn in Life — that is one of Life’s Hidden Joys. The most unhearing people are those who think they know everything.
As Muhammad, peace be upon him, once said, “He who knows himself knows his Lord.” The more we learn about ourselves, the closer we are to God. The further away we are from who we truly are, the further we are from God. This journey is not just one of learning, but of experiencing; to feel Divine Love with your mind, body, and soul — your Entire Being. It is a journey of self-discovery, and self-discovery ultimately leads to a state of Oneness, Peace, and Ever-Lasting Love. May we all acheive that with the help and guidance of our All-Loving Creator. Ameen.
Source: ~ Broken Mystic ~

Tasawwuf aims

Tasawwuf aims, by purifying man’s heart and employing his senses and faculties in the way of God, to live a life at the spiritual level. Tasawwuf also enables man, through constant performance of the acts of worshipping God, to deepen his consciousness of being a servant of God. It enables him to renounce the world with respect to its transient dimension and the face of it that is turned to human desires and fancies, and awakens him to the other world and to the face of this world that is turned toward the Divine Beautiful Names.

The benefit of Tasawwuf is that man develops the angelic dimension of his existence and acquires a strong, heart-felt and experienced conviction of the truths and articles of faith that at first he had accepted only superficially.

The principles of tasawwuf may be listed as follows:

* Reaching substantial, true belief in Divine Oneness and living in accordance with its demands.
* In addition to heeding the Divine Speech (the Qur’an), discerning the commands of the Divine Power and Will on the face of the universe (the laws of creation and life which are the subject matter of the sciences) and obeying them.
* Overflowing with Divine love and getting on well with all other beings in the consciousness (originating from Divine love) that the universe is a cradle of brotherhood.
* Acting with a spirit of altruism and therefore giving preference or precedence to the well- being and happiness of others.
* Acting in accordance with the demands of the Divine Will—not with the demands of our own will—and trying to lead our lives at the ‘peaks’ of self-annihilation in God and subsistence with Him.
* Being open to love, spiritual yearning, delight and ecstasy.
* Acquiring the ability to discern or unveil what is in hearts or minds through the expressions of the face and the Divine mysteries and meanings on the face of events.
* Visiting such places and seeking the company of such people as will encourage avoidance of sin and striving in the way of God.
* Being content with lawful or licit pleasures, and being determined not to take even a single step toward the sphere of the unlawful.
* Continuously struggling against worldly ambitions and the illusions that lead us to suppose this world to be eternal.
* Never forgetting that even in the way of serving religion and striving for the guidance of people to the way of the Truth, salvation is only possible through certainty or conviction (of the truth of religious principles of belief and conduct), sincerity or purity of intention and aiming only to please God.
(adapted from an article on tasawwuf )

The Contribution of Rabia Al-Adawiyyah in Sufism

by Nusba Parveen
Journal of the Iqbal Academy Pakistan
Volume: 40 Number: 1
Rabi‘ah BaÄriyyah has played a significant role in the development of Sufism. She was a representative of that particular style of Sufism which grew in her time. Separation from her family in her childhood made her live a life of slavery. This in turn enabled her to accomplish her goal, i.e. complete devotion and full submission in the service of Allah. Her contribution was highlighted by later Sufis without any thought of her being a woman and they considered her a prominent Sufi. Particularly her concept of selfless - love with God is noteworthy. Why was she accorded this high position? What was the essence of her experience/teaching and how did she achieve it? We would try to offer some thoughts on these issues in the following.
According to J«mâ (d. 1492 A.D. who wrote NafaÁ«t al-Uns) the term ‘Sufi’ was for the first time applied to Abë H«shim of Këfa (ob. before 800 A.D.). He founded a monastery for sufis at Ramlah in Palestine. This marked the development of a new trend in Sufism. Commenting on the distinction between earlier ascetic trend and this new sufistic trend, Nicholson says, “They were the via purgativa and the via illuminativa of Western medieval mysticism.” However. this does not mean that Sufism in Islam became devoid of that inner purification with this new trend. But it remained as it always was, as a means to attain the nearness of Allah. Louis Massignon explains the emergence of Sufism as the result of an inner rebellion of the conscience against social injustices, not only those of others but primarily and particularly against one’s own faults.” Thus early Sufism was a natural expression of a person’s contemplation regarding his self and reality.
The problem in Sufism started, as Trimingham observes, that early sufis “were concerned with experiencial than theosophical theorizing and sought to guide rather than to teach.”
Development of Ascetic Trend
Asceticism developed as a trend in reaction to the Umayyad misrule. Theoretically everything was same as before but in practice they were lacking in justice, their love for luxury was growing and their Khil«fah was becoming individualized. Thus Mu‘tazilaism emerged as bearing a moderate attitude in reaction to Kh«rijites (fanatical and rigid) and Murjites (political conformists) but it changed to extremism later. Asceticism was not a new trend developed at this time but it became popular with the passage of time. Traces of the ascetics (Zuhhad) were found in the life of the Prophet (SAW) in the companions whose sense of fear and responsibility was stronger than others. The names of Uways al-Qaranâ, Abu-¿arr al-Ghif«râ, Salman F«rsâ are worthy to be mentioned who had been praised by the Prophet himself for their piety. A companion, Tamâm al-Darâ is said to have passed the whole night repeating a single verse, (xiv, 20).
“Do those who work evil think that we shall make them even as those who believe and do good so that their life or death shall be equal?”
Abu Darda used to say: “if you knew what you shall see after death you would not eat food nor drink water from appetite.” A prophetic tradition goes like this: “If you knew what I know you would laugh little and weep more”.
The disgust with the tyrannical and impious rulers strengthened these thoughts and a sense of grave responsibility and fear for what was going on overtook them. Àasan al-BaÄrâ was the first representative of this trend and his fear of God was so strong that Sha‘r«nâ says, “It seemed as though Hell-fire had been created for him alone.”
‘Umar II, the Umayyad ruler was regarded like Àasan in this matter. So the purpose of early Muslim sufis according to Massignon only if they retired or isolated themselves was in order to be better able to meditate on the Qur’«n (taqarraba is the old synonym of tasawwaffa) by seeking to draw near to God in prayer. Fazlur RaÁm«n does not differentiate these ascetics from ‘Ulama as “they were identically the same persons with varying degrees of emphasis on personal piety and abstinence. Thus he says that this trend was purely ethical with a deepening of inwardness of the ethical motivation”.
Development of Rabi‘ah’s Ascetic Ideas
Sibt Ibn al-Jawzâ (d. 1257) relates a story which shows Rabi‘ah’s feeling towards other Muslims at that time. Once when she went out on a feast day and she was asked about her impression of it, she said, “I saw how you went out (nominally) to make the Sunnah a living force and to put a stop to heresy, but you displayed a love of luxury and soft living and thereby you brought humiliation upon the Muslims”.
This does not at all suggest that these Muslims were extremely corrupt, but their lifestyle were changing towards the world compared to the time of the Prophet and the rightly guided caliphs. In another story quoted by ‘AÇÇ«r, Rabi‘ah asked a man to buy her a blanket and gave him four silver dirhams. The man left and came back to ask her what colour he should buy. “How did colour come into the business? Rabi‘ah answered and demanded her money back and threw it into Tigris. It implies that the fear of too much indulgenoe in the world had stopped her to do what was even necessary.
Another story is quoted by ‘AÇÇ«r, which he claims was her first experience in asceticism and she gave up all her worldly desires after that.
Once for seven days and seven nights she had been fasting and had eaten nothing and during the night she had not slept at all, but had spent every night in prayer. When she was in extremity from hunger someone came into the house and brought her a cup of food. Rabi‘ah took it and went to fetch a lamp. When she returned, a cat had upset the cup. She said, “I will go and fetch a jug and break by fast.” When she brought the jug the lamp had gone out. She intended to drink the water in darkness, but the jug fell from her hands and was smashed to pieces. Rabi‘ah broke into lamentations and heaved such a sigh that it almost seemed as if the house would catch fire. She then prayed to God that why are you doing it to me? And she heard a voice that if you desire these pleasures I will confer it on you, but I shall take concern for me out of your heart. Since then she says she separated her heart from worldly things.
Details of Rabi‘ah’s life have reached us through many different sources, and above all from her biographer Farâd al-Dân ‘AÇÇ«r (ob. A. D. 1230). He wrote Tazkirat al-Awliyah in which he mentions Rabi‘ah in detail. Rabi‘ah was born about (95 or 99 A.H/717 A.D) in BaÄra in a poor but religious and noble family. She was from al-Atik, a tribe of Qays b. ‘Adâ, therefore called Qaysiyyah or ‘Adawiyyah. She was the fourth daughter thus called Rabi‘ah and some miraculous events occurred after she was born. It is said that there was no oil for lamp and cloth to wrap her. Her mother asked her father to go and get some oil from the neighbour. Her father had vowed that he wouldn’t ask any human being for help, so he went out but came back and while sitting in that agony he slept. He dreamt Prophet Muhammad (SAW) who said words of comfort and relief and asked him to write a letter to Isa Zadan, Amir of Basra reminding him that he prays one hundred prayers every night and four hundred on Friday night, but this Friday night he has neglected, and as a penance, he must give you four hundred dinars, lawfuly required. (related by ‘AÇÇ«r).
Rabi‘ah’s father did as he was asked and the Amir himself came to see this noble man with penance money, while also giving two thousands dinars as thanks giving to poor. But after some time her parents passed away and she became an orphan. Then the sisters were also scattered after a famine in Basra. One day while walking Rabi‘ah was seized by an evil minded man who sold her for six dirhams and was forced to do hard labour by her master. Again she was attacked by a wicked person on the street and in the struggle to run she broke her hand. Then she broke into tears and said,
“Lord God, I am a stranger, orphaned of mother and father, a helpless prisoner fallen into captivity, my hand broken. Yet for all this I do not grieve, all I need is thy good pleasure, to know whether you are well pleased or no.” She heard a voice saying, “Tomorrow a station (rank) shall be thine such that those who are nearest to God in Heaven shall envy thee”.
Rabi‘ah then came back to her master’s house and continually fasted in the daytime and carried out her appointed tasks and worshipped all night till the day began.
This throws some light on the condition of that time, which left women insecure, and they held fast their relationship with Allah. There were some other women also who were known for their asceticism at that time. One of them, Rabi‘ah binti Ismail of Syria was given a high position by sufis. Sometimes she has been confused with Rabi‘ah BaÄrâ but the fact that she was married has cleared the confusion. Another woman of this time was Muadha al-Adawiyya, who was known for her humility. She was an associate of Rabi‘ah BaÄrâ and was married. Sha‘wana was another sufi whose assembly was attended by men and women sufis. She used to cry a lot for God and followed the way of love like Rabi‘ah. Nafisa was great granddaughter of HaÄan (son of Ali), born at Mecca in 145 A.H. She was so well versed in the Qur’an and religious knowledge that Imam Sh«fi’â used to come and listened to her discourse. (Ibn Khallik«n) etc. etc.
Now, one night while Rabi‘ah was praying, her master woke up and saw her worshipping, she was shying, “O my Lord, you know that the desire of my heart is to obey you, and that the light of my eye is in the service of your court. If the master rested with me, I should not cease for one hour from your service, but you have made me subject to a creature”.
This reflects the inner state of Rabi‘ah which was not taught to her but was developing due to her sincere devotion to God. Her master saw a light on Rabi‘ah’s head which illumined the whole house. He called her when the day was dawned and set her free. She journeyed into desert first then obtained a cell in which she was engaged in devotional worship. Afterwards she left for pilgrimage which tells a story how her ass died and she was left-alone rejecting offer of men to carry her luggage. She then prayed to God, “O my God, do kings deal thus with a woman, a stranger and weak? Thou art calling me to thine own house (the Ka‘ba) but in the midst of the way thou hast suffered mine ass to die and thou hast left me alone in the desert”. Her ass stirred and got up before she had finished her prayer and she proceeded.
‘Attar quotes another story that once in the desert alone, how she desired to see God, “show thyself in this very place”. Then she prayed until God spoke in her heart directly without any medium. Saying, “O Rabi‘ah … When Moses desired to see my face I casted a few particles of my glory upon the mountain (Sinai) and it was rent into forty pieces. Be content here with my name’.
This was the beginning of Rabi‘ah’s asceticism which developed in her due to strong faith and trust in God.
One aspect of her life which needs to be commented is her choice of celibacy. Margaret Smith quotes the following passage from Tazkira al-Awliyah, (p. 66) which was Rabi‘ah’s answer to Hasan Bari’s proposal, she said, “The contract of marriage is for those who have a phenomenal existence (i.e. who are concerned with the affairs of this material world). Here (i.e. in my case) existence has ceased, since I have ceased to exist and have passed out of self. My resistance is in Him, and I am altogether His. I am in the shadow of His command the marriage contract must be asked for from Him, not from me”.
Commenting on the passage Smith says;
So, like her Christian sisters in the life of sanctity, Rabi‘ah espoused a heavenly Bridegroom and turned her back on earthly marriage even with one of her own intimates and companions on the way.
But Rabi‘ah’s case cannot be compared to Christian sisters as in Rabi‘ah’s case it was only her choice not teaching. She did not deny marriage but she was (just) too occupied with her worship and prayers that it had not left any sensual desires in her heart. On another occasion, al-Hurayfish (al-Rawad al-fariq; p. 214) writes that when she was asked to choose any man for her, “She said, yes willingly. Who’s the most learned of you, that I may marry him? They said Hasan of Basra so she said to him, “If you can give me the answer to four questions I will be your wife”. He said, “Ask if God permit, I will answer you”.
She then asked (i). “What will be the judge of the world when I die? (means Muslim or Kafir?). And (ii) When I am put in the grave and Munkar and Nakir question me shall I be able to answer them or not? (iii) In the Resurrection, shall I be given my (book) in my right hand or in my left’? (iv) In which two groups (paradise or hell) shall I be on the day of judgement?
Àasan BaÄrâ’s answer to all four questions was that it is hidden and only Allah has the knowledge of it. She then concluded that if this is not known and I have to concern myself with these four questions, how should I need a husband with whom to occupy.
Rabi‘ah lived a long life alone and died in 185 A.H. (801 A.D.) and was buried at Basra.
Rabi‘ah’s Teachings
It is interesting to note, that there is no evidence that Rabi‘ah learnt or studied from any teacher. As for her anecdotes related to Hasan Basri and other leading sufis of the time, it implies that they had high regard about Rabi‘ah as their teacher. They use to come to her for her advice and counselling. But there is only one story quoted by Abu al-Qasim al-Nishaburi (in Uqala al-Maj«nân p. 128) which tells that she attended Hayyuna’s company, who practised the greatest austerity and used to pray, “O God I would that the day were night that I might enjoy thy proximity”. In the middle of the night sleep overcame Rabi‘ah and Hayyuna came to Rabi‘ah, kicking her with his foot he said, “Rise up, the Bridegroom of the truly guided ones has come. The adornments of the brides of night are revealed by the light of the night prayers”.
Munawi (d. 1622) places Rabi‘ah in the second, of the two classes of individuals “one is the class of those who seek a master in the way that leads to the majesty of God, who may act as an intermediary between them and God… (prophet)…. the second class are those who, when they seek to follow the right path, do not see before them the footprint of any of God’s creature, for they have removed all thought from their hearts and concern themselves solely with God. And he says, “This state is the state of Abd al-Qadir and Abu Said Shibli and Rabi‘ah al-”Adawiyya”
Rabi‘ah has not written any book but her sayings have been quoted by almost all (great) sufi writers, Rabi‘ah was regarded a guide and teacher both in her time, and the following generation of sufis on that path were highly indebted to her teachings. To give an example, of what was her view of teaching we quote this story from ‘AÇÇ«r:
“Once ‘Rabi‘ah sent Hasan three things - a piece of wax, a needle and a hair.
“Be like wax”, she said “Illumine the world, and yourself burn. Be like a needle always be working naked. When you have done these two things, a thousand years will be for you as a hair”. It can be understood from this that to her, the existence should be to enlighten the world on a higher level. On a lower level we can say to help and benefit others. By naked she probably meant not to be outwardly but in necessary natural condition and the thinness or fineness of hair imply the feeling shortness of the time which is troublesome on this path.
But it is also very important to clarify that she was not aware of the problem, on her path. Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 1257, wrote Mir’at al-zam«n p. 257a) mentions this conversation of Rabi‘ah with Zulfa bint Abd. al-Wahid who says,
“I said to Rabi‘ah, O my aunt, why do you not allow people to visit you?’” Rabi‘ah replied, “I fear lest when I am dead, people will relate of me what I did not say or do, what if I had seen, I should have feared or mistrusted. I am told that they say that I find money under my place of prayer, and that I cook (food) in the pot without a fire”. I said to her, “They relate of you that you find food and drink in your house”, and she said, O daughter of my brother, if I had found such things in my house I would not have touched them, or laid hands upon them, but I tell you that I buy my things and am blessed in them”
We can derive the following points from this story.
i. Rabi‘ah’s teaching was limited to only those who were able to understand it. Those who did not stand on the same level of understanding in this path were immune to be misled. It suggest that sufism which is the attainment of higher knowledge that’s known as Ma‘rifa cannot be taught to everyone. It is the knowledge which is given by God to those servants who come nearer to him through their self worship and struggle.
ii. It also suggests that it cannot be taught to common men except in the language that they understand. This means that certain things are not apprehended by everyone. For example, miracles are done by the command of Allah for those whom He wills. They should be the means to strengthen the faith for both, who see and for whom it is done. But they tend to mislead instead and become a source of deviation.
iii. People should not deny the miracles considering the command of Allah, nor should they consider them within the power of sufis.
iv. That Rabi‘ah’s miracles associated with food and drink were nothing but her trust in Allah, which Allah promises to everyone and provides through strange means.
The aim of the Sufis like Rabi‘ah was not to show miracles and teach their practices but as Abë ñ«lib Makkâ (d. 996) writes in Qët al-Qulëb, “Thou shalt worship God as if thou sawest Him”. This attainment of Ihsan was one of the initial goals of the sufis and they experience it through by worship. First, as to be seen by Him. For He sees us if we cannot see Him. This brought them closer to Allah and finally they arrived at the stage where they were able to see, hear and speak by Him. The Holy tradition speaks of it like this.
“My servant ceases not to draw nigh unto me by supererogatory worship until I love him; and when I love him, I am his ear, so that he hears by me, and his tongue, so that he speaks by me, and his hand, so that he takes by me”.
The sufis aimed at achieving this position and there were some like Said Abil Khair as Nicholson points out who stopped their practices, which were the means to that goal. But the sufis like Rabi‘ah continued their practices until their very end. Thus to quote Prof. ‘Attas, “tasawwuf is an integral part of Islam; just as all reality and truth has an outer and inner aspect to it so is tasawwuf the inner dimension of Islam; it sincere and correct practice is none other than the intensification of the shari‘ah upon one’s self; it is the expression of ihsan in the ‘abd.
Different Aspects of Her Teachings
Tawba (Repentance)
Sufis have given great importance to Tawba which was derived from various Qur’anic verses Al-Hujwiri says, “There is no right service without repentance. Repentance is the first of the stations in this path” and it includes 3 things (i) remorse for disobedience (ii) determination not to sin again (iii) immediate abandonment of sin. Al-Ghaz«lâ said that Tawba is the conviction of sin which leads to amend it. Rabi‘ah’s sense of Tawba was very grave which caused her to grieve and weep. ‘AÇÇ«r says, it is related that Rabi‘ah was always weeping and when it was said to her, ‘Why do you weep like this? She said, ‘I fear that I may be cut off from Him to whom I accustomed and that at the hour of death a voice may say that, I am not worthy. When she was asked that, Will God accept the Tawba of a person who has committed sin? She answered, How can anyone repent unless his Lord gives him repentance and accepts him”. So the sense of seeking Tawba itself was a gift from God, to Rabi‘ah. But her concept of Tawba was full of shame which implied to ask for forgiveness for something shameful.
Taqi al-Dân Hisnâ (ob. A.D. 1426 wrote Siyar al-Salihat) relates that Ibn ManÄër came to Rabi‘ah who was praying and saw her place of worship like a marsh from her tears. And she asked him the reason for coming, he replied, to greet you. She then rose up for Âal«t and said “I ask forgiveness of God for my lack of sincerity when ‘I say (those words) I ask forgiveness of God”.
Tawba free from sincerity may arise the sense of pride in a person and thus may not be effective. J«mâ (d. 1492 A.D. wrote Nafhat al-Uns) relates that Sufy«n al-Thawrâ exclaimed in Rabi‘ah’s presence, “Alas! for my sorrow”. Rabi‘ah said to him, “Do not lie, if you were really sorrowful, life would not be so pleasant to you”. She used to say, “my sorrow is not for the things which make me grieve, but my sorrow is for the things for which I do not grieve”.. This is very important because Tawba is a positive aspect for wrong actions. But if the sense of awareness of the sin is not there, the person keeps doing it unconsciously. The concept of sin to Rabi‘ah was not sorrowful because of the punishment in hereafter but because it separates the sinner from God. Hurayfish (d. 1398 A.D wrote Al-Rawdal-Faiq) says that she used to refer to God as the “One who can cleanse her from her sin”.
Âabr (Patience)
Rabi‘ah’s teaching of Sabr was a complete example of her practices. She demonstrated the highest stages of Sabr during her early life, when she suffered from all sorts of injuries. Later on her stories related to her sicknesses or her domestic needs all show that her main concern was to seek the pleasure of God and she justified everything as His will. ‘AÇÇ«r refers to her secret of Sabr in her coversation with Sufyan. Sufyan tempted her to seek what she desired from God, and she answered, “If I will a thing, and my Lord does not will it, I shall be guilty of unbelief”. This is important as not surrendering to the will of Allah makes a person react and say Këfr. Therefore to accept everything from Allah makes man submit and patient. Al-Ghazali and al-Qushayri considered patience as an essential part of faith.
Shukr (Gratitude)
Rabi‘ah’s sense of gratitude was not only for the gifts but rather for the Giver. ‘AÇÇ«r quotes this story that her maid servant asked her to come out to behold the works of God. She replied, “Come you inside that you may behold their Maker. Contemplation of the maker has turned me aside from contemplating what he has made. Smith says that here “Rabi‘ah’s attitude was different from pantheistic sufis who felt that God was seen (and could be worshipped) in all His creation”.
Al-Qushayrâ (Ris«lah, p. 106) regarded gratitude as an important quality on the mystic way. He mentions three elements leading to Shukr, faith, feeling and action. Faith must accept the fact that all benefits come from God. This faith must produce the feeling of joy and the humility before the Giver. And consequence of these two leads to action and make an individual grateful, praising and thanking the Giver and avoid its opposite.
‘ttar relates this story on her teaching of Shukr. “It is related that one time she saw someone who had a bandage bound about his head. She said, “Why is this bandage bound (round your head)? He said, “My head is paining me”. Rabi‘ah asked him, “how old he was”? “Thirty years old he replied. She asked him “Were you in pain and trouble for the greater part of your life”? ‘No’ he answered. Then she said, “for thirty years (God) has kept your body fit and you have never bound upon it the bandage of gratitude, but for one night of pain in your head you bind it with the bandage of complaint”.
Raja’ and Khauf (Hope and Fear)
Hope and fear were regarded as the two main pillars of faith by sufis. Al-Sarraj (al-luma; p. 66) says, “Those who fear, serve God through dread of separation from Him, and those who hope, serve in the expectation of union with Him. Al-Sarr«j refers to three kinds of fear, the commonest being fear of punishment. Others fear being cut off from God, or anything that might hinder attainment of gnosis. But there is a higher type of fear even than this, and the holy fear of elect is the fear of God alone.
Al-Qushayrâ says that the terror of the common sort (rahba) makes a man run away, but holy dread (Khashya) brings him near to God. And so he compares it with the lamp, which makes heart see what is good and what is evil. “He who truly fears a thing flees from it, but he who truly fears God, flees unto Him.”
The Sufi doctrine of fear and hope is summarized by al-Sarraj as follows:
“The fear is like a state of darkness, in which the soul wanders, bewildered, seeking always to escape from it, and when hope comes to lighten it, the soul goes out to place of refreshment and grace prevails.
Rabi‘ah’s fear was caused from the effect of hell fire and it used to express in her weeping (as we have already seen). Her biographer Munawi says that she remained for forty years without raising her head to heaven, out of her reverence towards God. And she used to say, whenever I have heard the call to prayer, I have remembered the trumpet call of the Day of Resurrection, and whenever I have seen the snow I have seen also the pages of the records fluttering. Commenting on Rabi‘ah’s teaching on hope and fear, Smith says, “Seen in an eschatological setting, it is closely linked with her teaching on the doctrine of disinterested love to God, and since she appears to have been among the first to bring this doctrine into prominence among the sufis and to lay particular stress upon it as the essential element in the saint’s relation to God. It is possible that she was also one of the first to teach this exalted ideal of hope and fear and to conceive of paradise as a spiritual state”. Al-Ghaz«lâ also regarded Rabi‘ah responsible for this important development in Sufi doctrine.
Al-Munawi relates that Rabi‘ah heard a reader reading that “the inhabitants of paradise are occupied in enjoying themselves,” and she said, “the inhabitants of paradise are unfortunate in their occupation and their companions”. But Rabi‘ah was blamed for making this statement by Ibn ‘Arabâ, who said that it was she who was unfortunate and that they were occupied only with God and this was His will for them. Smith elaborates Rabi‘ah’s point by saying, “She probably wished to make it clear that in her view paradise was not a place for sensual delights but rather a state of contemplation of the face of God”. There are several occasions when Rabi‘ah was asked to say something about paradise, she said, “first the neighbour, then the house”. Al-Ghaz«lâ’s opinion on this statement was that, “in her heart was no leaning towards paradise, but to the Lord of paradise.
Tawakkul (dependence), Zuhd and Poverty
Tawakkul is related to poverty, and asceticism. Rabi‘ah’s life was a perfect example of abandoning everything for the sake of God and relying in Him. “AÇÇ«r relates one story of Rabi‘ah when she reached ‘Araf«t while making pilgrimage. She heard the voice of God saying, “O you who invoke me, what request have you to make of me? If it is myself that you desire, then I will show you one flash of My Glory (but in that) you will be absorbed and melt away.” She then said, O Lord of Glory, Rabi‘ah has no means of attaining to that degree, but I desire one particle of (spiritual) poverty.
And then the voice explained poverty, that it is as a wrath in the way of men.
Smith says that poverty, here” signifies the state of complete self-loss, exceedingly hard to attain and not leading to union unless it is perfect and even then the mystic may, in the good pleasure of God, be subject to a dark night of the soul before attaining to union. Such a poverty could be attained only by the adept, divested of every attribute of “self”. ‘Zuhd’ (asceticism) she says is considered side by side with poverty. And the first state of ‘Zuhd’ is initiatory and represents the purgative life, through which the Nafs, the carnal soul must be purified from its sins which come from the desires of self.
Abë ñ«alib Makkâ (pp. 248, 250) says, that piety in the servants leads on to ‘zuhd’ and ‘zuhd’ to love of God, and these two states are the aim of those who seek to love God and to be intimate with Him and he is not truly a Zahid who does not attain to the station of love or the mystic state of intimacy (Uns)’.
Al-Hujwiri refers to three kinds of ‘zuhd’ by Ahmad b. Àanbal. One, the renunciation of what is unlawful, which is common enough. The renunciation of what is lawful, which is a more special type, and finally, the renunciation of all, whatever it may be, that distracts the servant from God most High and this is the zuhd of gnostic.
Rabi‘ah’s teachings have played a major role in the development of this early school of Zuhd. ‘Attar says that when she was asked “whence have you come?” She said, from that world” they asked her, “Whithers are you going? She replied, “To that world? and she was asked, “what are you doing in this world”? and she answered, “I am sorrowing”. “In what way”, they asked and she said, “I am eating the bread of this world and doing the work of that world.” Then someone said, “One so persuasive in speech is worthy to keep a rest-house and she responded, “I myself am keeping a rest house, whatever is within, I do not allow to go out and whatever is not does out come in. If anyone comes in or goes out, he does not concern me, for I am contemplating my own heart, not mere clay”.
On Love and Union
Rabi‘ah’s teaching on love can be summarized as follows: First, she says this love of the servant to his Lord must shut out all others than the beloved. One must raise above the claims of the sense and allow neither pleasure nor pain to disturb his contemplation of the divine. To her God seemed to be a jealous God, who will suffer none to share with Him that love which is due to Him alone. Secondly, she teaches that this love, which directed to God to the exclusion of all else, must be disinterested, that it must look neither to hope of reward nor to relief from punishment but seek only to the will of God and to accomplish that which is pleasing to Him, that He may be glorified”. Schimmel says, “Rabi‘ah’s love of God was absolute”. She was the pioneer of disinterested love and love of jealous God. Smith says that though she was not the first to seek God through love, she was the first to lay stress upon the doctrine and to combine with it the doctrine of Kashf, the unveiling at the end of the way, of the Beloved to His lovers.”
‘AÇÇ«r speaks of her as “that woman on fire with love and ardent desire… consumed with her passion”. Abë ñ«lib refers to Rabi‘ah’s comment on Sufy«n at-Thawrâ, when he said, “O God mayst thou be satisfied with Him”. And Sufyan said, I ask forgiveness of God”. Ja‘far then said, to her, when is the servant satisfied with God most high”? and she said, when his pleasure in misfortune is equal to his pleasure in prosperity”. Al-Ghaz«lâ says that sincere love causes you to obey and “everyone who obeys seeks intimacy”, and he refers to following verses recited by her.
“I have made thee the companion of my heart, But my body is available for those who desire its company,
And my body is friendly towards its guest, But the beloved of my heart is the guest of my soul”.
There is a famous story attributed by Afl«kâ to Rabi‘ah, where her disinterested love for God is demonstrated.
One day a number of saints saw that Rabi‘ah had taken fire in one hand and water in the other and was running with speed. They said to her, “O lady of the next world, where are you going and wheat is the meaning of this”? She said:
“I am going to light fire in paradise and to pour water on to hell so that both veils (i.e. hindrances to the true vision of God) may completely disappear from the pilgrims … and the servants of God may see Him without any object of hope or motive of fear”.
‘Attar mentions one story that Rabi‘ah was asked, “Do you love the Lord of glory”? She said, `I do”. Then he asked “do you hold Satan as an enemy”. She said, “no”. And when astonishingly asked, ‘why is that”? She said “my love for God leaves no room for hating Satan”. She further said, “I saw the Prophet in a dream” and he asked ‘O Rabi‘ah, do you love me”? I said, “O Prophet of God! who is there who does not love you, but my love of God has so possessed me that no place remains for loving and hating save Him.” Rabi‘ah has been blamed to have heresy in her teaching for this saying. But it is clear that she had a completely different picture of God and was indifferent to any other love.
Someone asked her, “what is love”? She replied, “love has come from eternity and passes to eternity and none has been found in seventy thousand worlds who drinks one drop of it until at last he is absorbed in God, and from that comes the saying “He loves them (saints) and they love Him”. (al-Qur’«n 5:59).
There have been some confusion about the famous verses on love attributed to Rabi‘ah and according to Smith, Abu Talib who is attributed to them, have himself referred them to Rabi‘ah’s own. (They are reported by all her biographers, except ‘AÇÇ«r):
“I have love you with two loves, a selfish love and a love that is worthy (of you),
As for the love which is selfish, I occupy myself therein with remembrance of you to the exclusion of all others. And for that which is worthy of you, therein you raise the veil that I may see you.
Yet is there no praise to me in this or that, but the praise is to you, whether in that or this”.
After elaborating these verses, Abë ñ«lib commented that she had reached the highest truth in regard to love. Al-Ghazali said, “she meant by the selfish love, the love of God for His favour and grace bestowed and for temporary happiness. And by the love worthy of Him. The love of His beauty which was revealed to her and this is the higher of the two loves and finer of them” He further says that she wanted to achieve the union with God and His Beatific vision.
Mun«jat or Prayers
Rabi‘ah’s prayers were an important part of her daily practice and an insight into her feelings. Introducing her prayers to God, Schimmel says, “The nightly prayers, one of the early pivots of early ascetic life, become, with her, a sweat and loving conversation between lover and beloved; as she says in one of the prayers;
“O God, the night has passed and the day has dawned. How I long to know if you have accepted my prayers or if you have rejected them …..”
Rabi‘ah was one of those few figures in Islamic history, like al-Ghaz«lâ who have been highly respected by all Muslims. And this is a fact to which Smith points out that any pious woman in Muslim society is given the nickname of Rabi‘ah. She has influenced a great deal on general Muslim women but with regard to sufism, her teachings were highly appreciated by all great sufi writers like Abë ñ«lib Makkâi, al-Qushayrâ, al-Ghaz«lâ and Sohrawardâ. They all consider her teachings an integral part of sufism. Her main biographer ‘AÇÇ«r calls her “the second spotless Mary,” who was chosen over all the women of the worlds (al-Qur’«n). And it is possible that Rabi‘ah was inspired by Maryam’s personality. The Qur’an mentions Maryam as the most purified and devout figure. Allah mentions her name with praise, for devoting her life for the service of Allah. This justifies the isolation of sufis like Rabi‘ah for which they have been generally criticized.
While commenting on the personality of Rabi‘ah Schimmel holds the view that “the attitude of sufism towards fair sex was ambivalent, and it can be said that sufism was more favourable to the development of feminine activities than were other branches of Islam”. This is very interesting to note that we certainly do not find any prominent female figure in other disciplines in Islam. And the only reason as the scholars point out could be the technical difficulties faced by women in contributing their intellectual qualities.
Rabi‘ah’s life was a good mixture of Qur’anic teachings. She demonstrated both hope and fear in her actions an ideal for true belief. This in turn developed to the extent that she desired to see God and this typical love for God found its way for her.
Posted : May 22 2008

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Spice of life- Sharing the same interest

my beloved children

I thank Allah for giving me bright children with different interest and abilities.... entering university in their teenage years, my son doing his first degree in pure chemistry in USM, my identical twin daughters, first degree in science horticulture in UPM, and accountancy in UUM and my youngest daughter who is still schooling is interested in language and writing just like me! As mother we want the best for our children, but sometimes we need to give them some room to move, to explore, to discover their own interest, but we have to guide them on their road to success and make sure it is in line in seeking Allah’s pleasure. Bringing up my children especially during their teenage and adolescent years is not an easy task for me , sometimes it’s enjoyable, sometimes it’s not smooth and the going gets tough....but...I love each moment of I put LOVE as an important ingredient in my family life. Children are Allah’s gift, our responsibility to bring them up as true Muslims. Love them, cherish each moment with them, talk, laugh, smile and cry with them, hug and kiss them.....and the most important thing let them grow in LOVE so that they can discover on their journey of life the essence of Allah’s love and parents love.

My youngest daughter’s, who is 14 years this year, has a great passion to write and she is good at creative arts too. Recently she showed me her first article which was published in her school magazine. Alhamdulillah,the editorial board in her school was touched with her work and it was selected although there were many other contributions from the senior students. I felt that I am seeing a reflection of me in her, as my first article was also published in a school magazine when I was 14! That was years ago! She has started writing with her creative mind. Alhamdullilah. Well done my dear, mum will always pray for your success dunia akhirat!!!! I always tell my daughter that in order to be a writer who can touch the lives of others; we must open the door of discovering of our inner self, explore and grow in passion to write no matter what happens. The most important thing is our intention not to seek human admiration but write to make ourselves and others closer to Allah for the sake of our love for Allah and His Prophet (pbuh)…………..

The Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) attitude towards children is an example for us to treat and treasure our sons and daughters justly at all times:
“Fear Allah and treat your children [small or grown] fairly (with equal justice).” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

O Allah, I shelter behind you from all deeds that will displease you.

"O Allah, I shelter behind you from all deeds that will displease you. O Allah, I ask for the most essential, the most clean, and the honor You bestow. O Allah, do not make me so busy that I fall into the forgetfulness of those who forget You. May I be worthy of Your approval. O Allah, make me a servant remembered only for loving You, hoping for nothing from his worship! O Allah, fill my heart with joy from You, purify my tongue with Your Names, let my limbs labor on tasks You will find good and of which You will approve. O Allah, eliminate all traces, memories, recollections, and feelings that are not of You!"
~Junayd al-Bagdadi~

May Allah place us in the company of those on whom Allah has bestowed His Grace.

‘A’ishah reported that a man came to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and said: “O Messenger of Allah! Indeed, I love you more than I love myself, and I love you more than I love my family, and I love you more than I love my children. When I am at home and I think of you, I am unable to contain myself until I can come to you and look at you. When I think about my death and your death, I know that when you enter Paradise, you will be raised to where the Prophets are. But, if I enter Paradise, I am afraid: will I be able to see you?”
So, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) did not answer him at all until Jibril revealed to him: {“And whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger, then they will be in the company of those on whom Allah has bestowed His Grace - of the Prophets, the truthful, the martyrs and the righteous. And how excellent these companions are!”} [an-Nisa’; 69]
[‘Silsilat al-Ahadith as-Sahihah’; #2933]

Allah helps those who help others

An-Nawawi’s Hadith No.36
On the authority of Abu Hurairah (Radhiallaho anha) that the Prophet (Sallallaahu 'alaihi wasallam) said:
"Whosoever removes a worldly grief from a believer, Allah will remove from him one of the griefs of the Day of Judgment. Whosoever alleviates [the lot of] a needy person, Allah will alleviate [his lot] in this world and the next. Whosoever shields a Muslim, Allah will shield him in this world and the next. Allah will aid a slave [of His] so long as the slave aids his brother. Whosoever follows a path to seek knowledge therein, Allah will make easy for him a path to Paradise. No people gather together in one of the houses of Allah, reciting the Book of Allah and studying it among themselves, but tranquillity and peace descends upon them, mercy envelopes them, the angels surround them, and Allah makes mention of them amongst those who are with Him. And whosoever is slowed down by his actions will not be hastened forward by his lineage."
Related by Muslim in these words.

Let there be no envy

‘Abd Allah Ibn Mas’ud said, the Messenger of Allah (SAAW) said:

“Let there be no envy, except in two things:
1- A man whom Allah gave wealth and guided him to spend it in righteous way.
2- Or a man to whom Allah gave wisdom and he acts wisely and teaches it to others.”

(Al-Bukhari and Muslim; An-Nawawi, Riyad As-Salihin)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The journey of seeking Islamic knowledge as a muslim convert

~ sharing my own experience with new converts~

Assalamualaikum my beloved brothers and sisters,

All praise is for Allah, the Lord and Cherisher of the Universe. We praise Him and seek His help and forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from the weaknesses of own deeds. Whomever Allah guides, cannot be lead astray and whomever Allah does not guide, none can guide him. I bear witness that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah, alone without associate, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His Messenger. May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, his household, his companions and all those who follow them in righteousness till the Day of Judgment.

Life as a Muslim convert is VERY challenging especially when we are in search of knowledge, living in a non Islamic environment and still maintaining close family ties with non Muslim family members. In order to understand Islamic knowledge and gain wisdom, we need guidance and support. We need a pious murshid (a teacher ) to guide us in understanding in order that we can implement the Islamic practice in our lives in the right way on the straight path. We must know that Islam is not a self-interpretation religion, we cannot just try to gain our knowledge in Islam through reading books, surfing the internet etc as there are many web sites that can be very deceiving. We should not be panic if we received message stating about certain websites propagating falsehood Islamic teaching. At the same time there are also many websites created by good Muslims who have good intentions of bringing someone closer to Allah and His Prophet (pbuh). When we are guided, we can differentiate the truth of Islam from the created falsehoods that are being propagated as Islamic teachings. So, in learning Islam, self-teaching by referring to websites can draw us into many pitfalls and lead us astray if we are not guided. Allah mentioned in the Holy Quran, “If you know not, then ask those who have got knowledge of the Book.” (Translation: Surah An-Nahl: 43).

Classical Islamic education was taught through direct contact with teachers for many centuries. Through this wisdom and knowledge are acquired and application of the way truly put forth by Allah and His Messenger (pbuh) is practiced. Furthermore, we should not stop learning as learning is a continuous process; never stop from being a learner. One of attributes of learning is humility. To be a learner we need the sense of humility. Besides that, Imam Ghazali said “Nobody is born learned. Learning is to be acquired. The prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: If a man seeks the path of acquiring knowledge, God guides him to a path leading to Paradise. He said: Angels spread their wings out of cheer for the seeker of knowledge. He said: To rise up at dawn and learn a section of knowledge is better for you than to pray one hundred rak’ats.” There are also some people whom Allah open the khasyaf. When a person has acquired the knowledge and practice it sincerely and wholeheartedly, always reciting the Holy Quran and dzkr, Allah will bless him and increase his piousness and open the khasyaf , it’s the hidden knowledge which Allah gives to those He loves. But this is only for Allah’s chosen ones.

Finally, we should also be very careful of the authenticity and genuineness of a murshid (a teacher ). Some of the qualities of a true murshid are having true akhlaq, his life is dedicated to Allah, his face reflects his piousness and his taqwa, his actions reveal his wisdom of knowledge. When we are guided by a true mursyid, we can gain wisdom through the knowledge we learn from him. Knowledge with wisdom will make us LOVE Allah, walk in the straight path and not just follow Islam blindly. When we love Allah, we will dedicate our whole life to Him. Thus a good teacher will help us along the path to Allah. May Allah grant us sense of humility and humanity and may Allah bless us and guide us in His Light of Truth as we trod further on the pathway of our journey returning to Him.

Laa haulawala quwwata illa billa hil alyyil aadzim

With love and duas always,
sister nur sakinah thomas
2nd June 2009

Because of the importance of knowledge, Allaah commanded His Messenger (pbuh) to seek more of it. Allaah says (what means): "and say: `My Lord! Increase me in knowledge" [Translation Surah Ta-Ha:114]

The Prophet (pbuh) said: "When a man dies, all his deeds come to an end except for three — an ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge or a righteous child who will pray for him." (Muslim)

On the authority of Zayd ibn Arqam radhiallaahu `anhu that the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam used to say, "O Allaah, I seek refuge in you from knowledge which does not benefit, from a heart which does not feel humble, from a soul that does not feel contended and from an invocation that is not answered."[Muslim]