Sunday, May 31, 2009

Shaykh Bahauddin Naqshband

Bismillah.

"When asked to detail all the links in his initiatic chain (silsila), Khwaja Baha al-Din Naqshband, founder of the Naqshbandi Sufi Order replied: "Nobody ever went anywhere by means of a chain."
From: JAMI, Baharistan

O son, we have been mentioning a number of mashaikh and now it is timely that we honor in our own little way the Grand Shaykh of the Naqshbandi Tariqah.

Shaykh Muhammad Bahauddin Shah Naqshband (1317 - 1389 CE) was actually the 17th in the lineage but his name remained to flourish the tariqah whose earlier notable gurus included, Abd al-Khaliq al-Ghudjawani (11th on the silsilah), Arif ar-Riwakri (12th) and Sayyid Amir Kulal (16th).

No doubt, it is difficult to post anything that could do justice to this honorable saint given the limited resources because Shah Naqshband had forbade recordings of his deeds and sayings. What we could afford is make brief quotations from the only extensive biography available on him written by none other than Shaykh Hisham Kabbani al-Haqqani in 'Classical Islam and the Naqshbandi Sufi Tradition'. May with his barakah, all the mureeds in the tariqah are able to cling tightly onto the chain of Naqshbandi and love one another in a close-knit fellowship, as he had intended:

طريقتنا الصحبة والخير في الجمعية
Tariqatuna as-suhbah wa 'l-khayru fi 'l- jam`iyyah
"Our way is fellowship, and the goodness is in the gathering."

Sheikh Bahauddin Naqshbandi was asked on the meaning of Prophet s.a.w narration, 'Part of faith to remove what is harmful from the Way?' He replied saying, 'What he meant by "harmful" is the ego, and what he meant by "the Way" is the Way Of God as He said to Bayazid al-Bistami, "Leave your ego and come to Us."

"What is meant by travelling the path?" He said, "The details in spiritual knowledge." They asked him, "What are the details in spiritual knowledge?" He said: The one who knows and accepts what he knows will be raised from the state of evidence and proof to the state of vision...Whoever asks to be in the way of God has asked for the way of affliction. It was narrated by the Prophet, "Whoever loves me, I will burden him". One person came to the Prophet and said "O Prophet I love you" and the Prophet said, "Then prepare yourself to be poor."

It is reported by his successor, Alauddin al-Attar, that when Sheikh Naqshband got new clothes he would give them to someone else to wear, and after they were used would borrow them back. He recited the verses: 'Everyone desires the good. But no one has attained ascension, except by loving the One who created the good.'

He was asked, "Why are the seekers called the poor?" He said, Because they are poor, but they do not need to supplicate. Just as Prophet Abraham a.s. when he was thrown into the fire and Gabriel a.s. came and asked him, 'Do you need any help?' He replied, 'I have no need to ask. He is well aware of my state.' Poverty is a sign of annihilation and the erasure of the attributes of existence.

He once asked, 'Who is the poor one?' No one answered him. he said, 'The poor one is the one whose inside is always in struggle and whose external is always at peace."

One of the scholars of Bukhara asked Shah Naqshband, "How can a worshipper reach the Divine Presence in his prayer?" He replied: "By eating from the hard-earned sweat of your brow and by remembering God inside your prescribed prayer and outside your prescribed prayer, in every ablution and in every moment of your life."

Shaikh Salah, his servant, reported: "Shah Naqshband said one time to his followers, 'Any connection of your heart with other than Allah is the greatest veil for the seeker,' after which he recited this verse of poetry:
The connection with other than God is the strongest veil, and to be done with it, is the Opening of Attainment.

"The people of God do not admire what they are doing;
they act only out of the love of God."
- Sultan al-Arifeen, the King of the Gnostics
Muhammad Bahauddin Shah Naqshband
May Allah sanctify his secrets
Al-Fatihah
___________________________________________
Read full write-up on Shaykh Bahauddin Naqshbandi here.
Photo of Shaykh Bahauddin Naqshbandi tomb taken from NFIE.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Attar's Perfumed Wisdom

O son,

This is one wonderful tale I would love to read with you - a story by Farid al-Din Attar (1145 - 1221 CE).
________________________

A dervish who had traveled long and hard through the desert finally came to a civilization after a long journey. The village was called Sandy Hills, and it was dry and hot. Except for the hay feed and some shrubs, not much greenery was to be found. Cattle were the main means of livelihood for the people of Sandy Hills; had the condition of soil been different, they might have been able to engage in agriculture as well. The dervish politely asked a passerby if there was some place where he could find food and lodging for the night. "Well," said the man, scratching his head, "we don't have such a place in our village, but I am sure Shakir would be happy to provide for you tonight." Then the man gave directions to the ranch owned by Shakir, whose name means 'one who thanks the Lord constantly."

On his way to the ranch, the dervish stopped by a small group of old men who were smoking pipes, to reconfirm his directions. From them he found that Shakir was the richest man in the area. One of the men said Shakir owned more than a thousand cattle - "And this is more than the wealth of Haddad, who lives in the neighboring village." A short while later, the dervish was standing in front of Shakir's home, admiring it. As it turned out, Shakir was a very hospitable and kind person. He insisted that the dervish stay a couple of days in his house. Shakir's wife and daughters were just as kind and considerate as he was and provided the dervish with the best. At the end of his stay, they even supplied him with plenty of food and water for his journey.

On his way back into the desert, the dervish could not help puzzling over the meaning of Shakir's last word at the time of farewell. The dervish had said, "Thank God that you are well off." "But dervish," Shakir had replied, "don't be fooled by appearances, for this too shall pass."

During his years on the Sufi path the dervish had come to understand that anything he heard or saw during his journey offered a lesson to be learned and thus was worthy of contemplation. In fact, that was the reason he had undertaken the journey in the first place - to learn more. The words of Shakir occupied his thoughts, and he was not sure if he fully understood their import.

As he sat under the shade of a single tree to pray and meditate, he recalled from his Sufi training that if he kept silent and did not rush to any conclusions, he would eventually find the answer. For he had been taught to be silent and not ask questions; when it was time for him to be enlightened, he would be. Therefore, he shut the door on his thoughts and drowned his soul in deep meditative state.

And so he passed five more years of traveling to different lands, meeting new people and learning from his experiences along the way. Every adventure offered a new lesson to be learned. Meanwhile, as Sufi custom required, he remained quiet, concentrating on the instructions of his heart.

One day, the dervish found himself returning to Sandy Hills, the same village at which he had stopped a few years before. He remembered his friend Shakir and asked after him. "He lives in the neighboring village, ten miles from here. He now works for Haddad," a villager answered. The surprised dervish remembered that Haddad was another wealthy man in the region. Happy at the prospect of seeing Shakir again, he rushed toward the neighboring village.

At Haddad's marvelous home, the dervish was welcomed by Shakir, who looked much older now and was dressed in rags. "What happened to you?" the dervish wanted to know. Shakir replied that a flood three years previously had left him with no cattle and no house. So he and his family had become servants of Haddad, who had survived the flood and now enjoyed the status of wealthiest man in that area. This turn of fortune, however, had not changed the kind and friendly manner of Shakir and his family. They graciously took care of the dervish in their cottage for a couple of days, and gave him food and water before he left.

As he was leaving, the dervish said, 'I am sorry for what has happened to you and your family. I know that God has a reason for what He does." "Oh, but remember, this too shall pass." Shakir's voice kept echoing in the dervish's ears. The man's smiling face and calm spirit never left his mind. "What in the world does he mean by that statement this time?" The dervish now knew that Shakir's final words on his previous visit had anticipated the changes that had occurred. But this time, he wondered what could justify such an optimistic remark. So, again, he let it pass, preferring to wait for the answer.

Months and years passed, and the dervish, who was getting on in years, kept on traveling without any thought of retiring. Strangely enough, the patterns of his journeys always brought him back to the village where Shakir lived. This time it took seven years before he got back to Sandy Hills, and by this time Shakir had become rich again. He now lived in the main building of Haddad's compound instead of in the small cottage. "Haddad died a couple of years ago," Shakir explained, "and since he had no heir, he decided to leave me his wealth as a reward for my loyal services."

As the visit drew to a close, the dervish prepared for his greatest journey: he would cross Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage to Mecca on foot, a long standing tradition among his colleagues. His farewell with his old friend was no diffrent from the others. Shakir repeated his favorite saying, "This too shall pass."

After the pilgrimage, the dervish traveled to India. Upon returning to his motherland, Persia, he decided to visit Shakir one more time to find out what had become of him. So once again he set out for the village of Sandy Hills. But instead of finding his friend Shakir there, he was shown a modest grave with the inscription "This too shall pass." He was more surprised at this than he had been on any of the occasions when Shakir himself had spoken those words. "Riches come and riches go," thought the dervish to himself, "but how can a tomb change?"

From that time on, the dervish made it a point to visit the tomb of his friend every year, when he would spend a few hours meditating at Shakir's abode. However, on one of his visits, he found the cemetery and the grave gone, washed away by a flood. Now the old dervish had lost the only traces left of a man who had marked the experiences of his life so exceptionally. The dervish stayed at the ruins of the cemetery for hours, staring at the ground. Finally he lifted his head to the sky and then, as if discovering a greater meaning, nodded his head as a sign of confirmation and said, "This too shall pass."

When the dervish had finally become too old to travel, he decided to settle down and live the rest of his life in peace and quiet. Years passed by, and the old man spent his time helping those who came to him for advice and sharing his experiences with the young. People from all over to have the benefit of his wisdom. Eventually his fame spread to the king's great advisor, who happened to be looking for someone with great wisdom.

The fact was, the king desired a ring be made for him. The ring was to be a special one: it was to carry an inscription such that if the king was sad, he could look at the ring and it would make him happy, and if he was happy, he could look at the ring and it would make him sad.

The best jewellers were hired, and many men and women came forward with suggestions for the ring but the king liked none of them. So the advisor wrote to the dervish explaining the situation asking for help, and inviting him to the palace. Without leaving home, the dervish sent back his reply.

A few days later, an emerald ring was made and presented to the king. The king who had been depressed for days, reluctantly put the ring on his finger and glanced at it with disappointed sigh. Then he started to smile, and a few moments later, he was laughing loudly. On the ring were inscribed the words, "This too shall pass."



"All I have said about the truth, I have learned from Attar."
- Jalaluddin Rumi

Friday, May 29, 2009

Where is joy hidden?

Bismillah.

The most secure place to hide a treasure of gold
is in some desolate, unnoticed place.
Why would anyone hide treasure in plain sight?
And so it is said,
"Joy is hidden beneath sorrow."


And
"Patience is the key to joy."


(Rumi Mathnawi III, 1133-1134)
From: 'Jewels of Remembrance' by Shambhala Publications

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ibn Arabi's Thursday Morning Prayer

Bismillah.

These are excerpts from Al-Awrad al-Yawmiyya (Daily Prayers) of Sheikh Muhyiddin Ibn al-Arabi (1165 - 1240 CE). Translated by Pablo Beneito and Stephen Hirtenstein, Anqa Publishing 2000.

Ibn Arabi's works are known to be complex. Ibn Arabi being Ibn Arabi, his du'a is not an ordinary du'a, it is laden with pearls of haqiqah and makrifah. In fact, it requires one to understand tawhid (unity) at a high degree for one to comprehend his du'a. Nevertheless, I present it here so that we could derive some benefits from this Sheikhul al-Akbar, bi-iznillah.
* Lisan al-Din's related post: Ibn Arabi on the Art of Making Du'a
________________________________________

O my God, You are Self-Standing by Your own Essence; encompassing with Your Qualities; Revealed through Your Names; manifest in Your acts; and hidden by virtue of what is only known to You! You are Alone in Your Majesty, as You are the One, the Unique; and You have singularised Yourself, as You permanently endure in eternity without beginning or end. You, You are God, who by virtue of Oneness is the Only One referred to in iyyaka. With You there is none other than You; in You there is none but You.

I ask of You, O God, for annihilation in Your subsistence, and for subsistence through You, not with You. There is no god but You!

O my God, cause me to be absent (from myself) in Your Presence, annihilated in Your Being and extinguished in Your Contemplation. Sever me from all that severs me from You; occupy me with You alone by turning me away from all that distracts me from You. There is no god but You!

O my God, You are the Truly Existent, while I am the fundamentally non-existent. Your subsistence is by virtue of Your Essence; mine is only accidental. So, my God, lavish your True Existence upon my fundamental non-existence, that I may be as I was when I was not at all, and You may be as You are, as You always have been! There is no god but You!

You are the One who accomplishes whatever you desire, while I am a servant for You, one among some of the servants. O my God, You have desired me and You have desired through me - thus I am the desired and You the Desirer. May You be what is desired through me, so that You Yourself become the Desired and I the desirer! There is no god but You!

O my God, You are unmanifest in all that is unseen; manifest in every concrete reality; heard in every account, be it true or false; known in the degree of Unity and Duality. You are the One named by the Names which have been brought down in revelation, so that You are veiled from being seen by the eye, and concealed from being grasped by the intelligence.

O my God, how often do I cry out to You as one who calls, when (in truth) You are the One who calls for the caller! How often do I secretly whisper to You as one who confides intimacies, when You are the One who confides for the confider!

O my God, if union is the essence of separateness, and closeness the very soul of distance, if knowledge be the site of ignorance, and recognition the seat of non-recognition, what then is the destination and where the starting-point of the path?

O my God, You are what is sought behind the aim of every seeker, what is acknowledged in the eye of the denier, what is truly close in the separation of the one who distances (himself). Yet here conjecture has supplanted understanding - who is distanced from whom? Who is favoured by whom? Beauty says "You alone", while Baseness "the One who rendered good and beautiful all that He has created". The former is an end at which journeying comes to a halt, and the latter is a veil by virtue of imagining there is other (than you).

O my God, acts of obedience do not profit You, nor do acts of disobedience harm You. In the hand of Your Almighty Sovereignty lies the command of hearts and forelocks, and to You is returned the whole affair, without distinguishing between obedient or disobedient.

O my God, for You rational evidence does not substantiate You, nor logical proof verify You!
O my God, for You Eternity without beginning and without end coincide in Your Reality!
O my God, what is this "You" and "I"? What is this "He" and "She"?

O my God, should I search for You in plurality or in unity? How long will I have to wait for You? And how can this be done when a servant has no preparedness nor support without You?

O my God, my subsistence through You lies in my annihilation, (but is my annihilation) from myself, or in You or through You? Is my annihilation thus realised through You, or imagined through me, or conversely, or even both at once? And is my subsistence in You likewise?

O my God, my silence is a dumbness necessitating deafness, and my speaking is a deafness necessitating dumbness! Perplexity in all, yet there is no perplexity (in You).

In the Name of God, my Lord is God. In the Name of God, God suffices me. In the Name of God, it is by God. In the Name of God, I place my trust in God. In the Name of God, I ask of God. In the Name of God, there is no power nor strength save through God.

Our Lord, in You we place our trust; to You we turn; to You is the homecoming.

O God, I ask You to grant me the mystery of Your Order and the grandeur of Your Decree; of the all-embracing grasp of Your Knowledge; of the special prerogatives of Your Will; of the efficacy of Your Power; of the permeation of Your Hearing and Sight; of the self-subsistent presence of Your Life; and of the necessary character of Your Essence and Qualities.

O God, O God, O God! O First, O Last! O Manifest, O Hidden! O Light, O Truth, O Most Evident! O God, distinguish my secret heart with the secrets of Your Oneness! Sanctify my spirit with the sanctified revelations of Your Qualities! Purify my heart with the pure knowledges of Your Divinity!

O God, instruct my intellect in the sciences of Your Private Knowledge, and perfume my soul with the virtues of Your Lordship! Assure my senses by extending illuminating rays from the Presences of Your Radiant Light! Liberate the quintessential gemstones of my corporeality from the constraints of gross nature, from the condensity of sense-perception and from the confinement of place and (phenomenal) world!

O God, transport me from the descending steps of my created being and nature to the ascending light of Your Truth and essential Reality. You are my Friend and Master: in You I die and from You I take life. It is You alone whom we adore and it is You alone we ask for aid.

Look upon me, O God, with that regard by which You arrange all my stages in a harmonious progression, and by which You purify the inner heart where my secrets appear, by which You elevate the spirits of my remembrance to the Highest Assembly, and by which You intensify the shining of my light.

O God, make me absent from the whole of Your creation and unite me to You through Your True Reality. Preserve me in the contemplation of the dispositions of Your Order in the myriad worlds of Your Differentiation.

O God, it is You that I turn to for aid; You that I turn my face to; You that I ask of; and You, and no other than You, that I truly desire! I do not ask of You other than You; nor do I seek of You aught but You alone!

O God, I beseech You to respond to that through the most august intercessor, the greatest excellency, the nearest beloved, the most protective friend, Muhammad the elect, the serenely pure and completely agreed to (by God), the chosen prophet. For him I ask that You bless him with the Blessing of everlasting eternity without beginning or end, the constant, subsistent, divine and lordly Blessing. (Accomplish this) in such a way that You make me witness the reality of his perfection, that I may be consumed by the contemplation of the knowledges of his essence. (And may this Blessing) be likewise upon his family and companions, for You are the Master of that!

There is no power nor strength save through God, the High, the Magnificent. And praise be to God, Lord of the universes.
_______________________________________
* Purchase 'The Seven Days of the Heart' from Anqa Publishing (£13.95)
* New from Anqa: 'The Four Pillars of Spiritual Transformation' - Ibn 'Arabi's Hilyat al-abdal, on the value of silence, seclusion, hunger and vigilance.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Two Strategies on Battle of the Nafs

Bismillah.

O son, if you could do this math, you will win the battle of the nafs. The reward is Tajalli - Allah's manifesting His attributes on His chosen servant i.e. the winner. Now who does not want to be clothed with the Lord's holy 'garment'?

The first strategy is called Takhali. The formula is 'minus 10'.
The second strategy is called Tahalli. The formula is 'plus 10'.

Takhali means emptying/ridding oneself of negative traits. There are ten bad traits known as Sifat Mazmumah:
1. Ghadab (bad tempered)
2. Hasad (envy)
3. Bakhil (stingy)
4. Sharrut Ta'am (eat too much)
5. Sharrul Kalam (talk too much)
6. Hubb al-Jah (love having power)
7. Hubb al-Dunya (love the world)
8. 'Ujub (flatter oneself)
9. Takabbur (proud)
10. Riya' (show off)

Tahalli means to fill/input oneself with positive traits. There are ten good traits known as Sifat Mahmudah:
1. Taubat (repent)
2. Khauf (be fearful)
3. Zikr al-Maut (remember death)
4. Mahabbah (love)
5. Zuhud (live simply)
6. Tawakkal (trust in Allah)
7. Ikhlas (be sincere)
8. Syukur (be grateful)
9. Redha (be content)
10. Sabar (have patience)

You will know that this battle against the lower self (jihad al-nafs) is not as simple as this over-simplified formula: Minus 10. Plus 10.
Imam Ja’far al‑Sadiq said: The Prophet s.a.w dispatched a contingent of the army (to the battlefront). Upon their (successful) return, he said: ‘Blessed are those who have performed the minor jihad and have yet to perform the major jihad.’ When asked, ‘What is the major jihad?’ the Prophet replied: ‘The jihad of the self (struggle against self)’.

Al-Junayd al Baghdadi said: Those who have striven against their desires and repented for our sake, we shall guide them to the ways of sincerity, and one cannot struggle against his enemy outwardly (i.e. with the sword) except he who struggles against these enemies inwardly. Then whoever is given victory over them will be victorious over his enemy and whoever is defeated by them, his enemy defeats him.

The Beloved Prophet s.a.w said in the Farewell Pilgrimage: "... The mujahid is he who makes jihad against himself (jahada nafsah) for the sake of obeying Allah."

O son, be a mujahid! Be a winning warrior! My love and prayers are with you!
_____________________________________
Further reading: Jihad al-Nafs, The Nafs,
Credits: Ustaz Shamsul Mohd Noor, Info Islam www.al-azim.com

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Make a pledge (bay'at)

Bismillah.

O son, be sure to make effort to be near with the solehin as in the du'a mentioned in the Qur'an:
‘My Lord, inspire me to be thankful for Your grace with which You have favoured me and my parents, and to do good that will please You, and include me, by Your mercy, among Your righteous servants’, the prophets and saints.
(Qur'an, An-Naml,19)

And please by all means, do make a pledge with the saints. Making a pledge with one of them is like making a pledge with Allah. This is our way. This is the way of your forefathers. So listen to me!

إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ يُبَايِعُونَكَ إِنَّمَا يُبَايِعُونَ ٱللَّهَ يَدُ ٱللَّهِ فَوْقَ أَيْدِيهِمْ فَمَن نَّكَثَ فَإِنَّمَا يَنكُثُ عَلَىٰ نَفْسِهِ وَمَنْ أَوْفَىٰ بِمَا عَاهَدَ عَلَيْهُ ٱللَّهَ فَسَيُؤْتِيهِ أَجْراً عَظِيماً
"Those who pledge allegiance with you (by placing their hands in your hand) they, in fact, pledge allegiance with Allah. Allah’s hand is over their hands. Then, whoever breaks his pledge breaks it to his own detriment, and whoever fulfills the covenant he has made with Allah, He will give him a great reward." (Qur'an, Al-Fath,10)
Sadaqallah al-Azim. Allah says the truth!

Thank God for Hodja! - Sufi humor for saints and sinners

Bismillah.

O son, did you know that it is Allah who make us laugh and cry?
وَأَنَّهُ هُوَ أَضْحَكَ وَأَبْكَىٰ
And that it is He (Allah) Who makes (whom He wills) laugh, and makes (whom He wills) weep. (Quran, Surah An-Najm, 43)
So know that and thank God for Hodja (or Mullah Nasruddin Hodja, believed to be Jalaluddin Rumi's contemporary during the 13th century). Below are some of Hodja stories which make me laugh, I hope you will too. Identify yourself in the stories and acknowledge that you could be as foolish as Hodja. To my other readers, many of whom are cultured, sorry if you have already read them before, but remember this blog is for my sons (yet to be born) and for your information I am not even married yet :)

1. Once Hodja was standing by the road near his house. A car came by and stopped in front of him. The man inside the car rolled down the window and asked about directions. Hodja watched him for a while and gave directions."Thank you" said the man and left. After a while he came back to Hodja. Annoyingly he said, "What is all this? I followed all your directions properly and here I am at the same place where I began from." Hodja coolly replied, "Fine, I was just checking whether you could follow the directions. Now I will give you proper directions."
2. Mullah Nasruddin Hodja sat on a river bank when someone shouted to him from the opposite side: "Hey! how do I get to the other side?" "You are on the other side!" Hodja shouted back.
3. Hodja went to the market and bought a large sack full of potatoes. He put the sack on his shoulders, got on the donkey and headed for home. But on the way he met some friends who said, 'Hodja, it must be difficult for you to balance that sack with one hand and guide your donkey with the other. Why don't you tie the sack to the donkey?' 'The donkey has a big enough load to carry with me and doesn't need any extra weight, so I'm carrying the sack myself.'

Significance of Humor
Humor is another means by which the sufi tradition awakens us to the spiritual world. It is a very subtle humor that underlines the detours taken by obstinate soul on its way to its greater destiny. The seeker will take an honest look at his situation, and laugh at his shortcomings. Then, this subtle humor will bring him to consider in a somewhat lighter fashion the knotted situations brought about by his alter ego, because he understands that this alter ego is none other than himself. (From: Institut Soufi de Montreal)

Humor as a catalyst to spiritual awareness is less well understood. Sufi teachers know and use the power of spontaneity and laughter, which can be at least as vital and powerful as any formal technique. The tradition of Sufism includes endless funny stories, usually on and about ourselves. For many of us, laughing at our faults is the first step in being able to release them. One of the great bonuses in learning through humor is that even as you have a good time and doubt that you have learned anything, the lesson penetrate subtly and stay with you, to come alive when the need arises. (From 'Essential Sufism', Edited by James Fadiman & Robert Frager)

"If you want special illumination, look upon a human face: see deeply, within laughter, the essence of ultimate truth..."  - Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi
____________________________________
Further Reading:

Monday, May 25, 2009

Shaykh Nazim Adil Haqqani on Love

Bismillah.

The Lord created us and loves us; that is why everyone loves love. No one complains of love or wants it to be taken from him, but all want to be loved more.
Where are you seeking love? Are you taking pure water from the gushing source, or muddy, slimy water from the ditch? You love people, but they will die. Perhaps your love will be unrequited, or because of a small error or indiscretion on your part that person's heart will harden to you and love will be no more. You say that you love him or her, but do you love him or her unconditionally? Is your love permanent-love for the real immaculate divine essence living in that person, or temporary, as a result of some desirable attributes: beauty, youth, wealth, station or wit? When that beautiful, young, wealthy, clever, amiable socialite becomes an ugly, old, penniless, senile, grumpy outcast will you still love her? Is your love of the spirit or of the world?
Oh people, seek real love, a love that cannot go astray. That love is the love of God and the love of his creatures for the sake of His love for them. That love emanation may bind all receptive hearts. There is a common saying: "The friend of a friend is a friend", so love people if you love God, for you must know that He loves them. It is not always easy to love people, even good people, so what about the Korahs of this world? Love pertaining to the ego is not love, as all the ego knows is to love itself, and what is commonly called love is but a mutual understanding to support each other's egoism. Don't trust your ego, nor anyone else's, for the ego is disloyal by nature. When the spirit gains ascendancy the ego may be harnessed and put to good use, as the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alayahi wasallam) said: "Your ego is your mount", but left to its whims it will take you many miles from your path in search of herbage.

This discourse is an Ocean, its summary is: what is of the world beware of, and pay attention to the dose. When crossing that ocean embark on a sturdy ship with well maintained lifeboats and life-preservers, and if you swim in it keep your head above water!

Quoted from: "Women of the Naqshbandi Tariqa" Facebook Group. Originally posted on 18 May 2009 on Haqqani Fellowship www.haqqanisoul.com
__________________________________________________
O son, if only this advice had come sooner, if only I had someone to give a good fatherly counsel like this, I would not have made as many mistakes. But past mistakes have made me what I am today Alhamdulillah, and for one who truly understands the essence of tawhid, you should not complain because everything is perfect and beautiful even if it may seem to be imperfect to you. Shaykh Nazim also said:
"The sign of perfection of a servant is to accept everything. A perfect person will see everything which happens in the past, present or future as perfect. If we see anything which is imperfect, it is perfect in its imperfection. The highest adab of a servant is to be able to see everything as perfect. Could you imagine a wezir in the presence of a sultan to say that something is wrong, even if he was allowed? Never! This is how people should behave towards each other, so how about towards Allah?"
Allahu akbar!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rooster vs. Sleepy Men

Bismillah.

Lukman al-Hakim said to his son:
“O son, don’t let the rooster be smarter than you are, as he calls His Lord before the dawn, while yet you sleep.”
O son,
Woe unto me for on many occasions the rooster had beat me hands down. Woe unto me, at this age of mine only do I know of the rooster’s rank in relation to sleepy men. And God even love the voice of the roosters! Thanks to a recorded Friday khutbah (sermon) given by Sheikh Abdullah Noorudeen Durkee at a far away masjid in USA. So now I will not look at roosters the same way again.


Sheikh Noorudeen was speaking on the significance of the nawafils (the extra prayers in the middle of the night) which is highly encouraged especially during difficult times. He quoted from Kitab al-Hikam about three voices that are loved by Allah, namely: the voice of the roosters, the voice of one who is reading Qur'an and the voice of the one who calls for forgiveness before the break of day.
Sufian at-Thauri r.a said:
Allah has created a wind that blows in the short hours of the night and carries the calls and the pleas for forgiveness to the owner of Majesty. He said, in the first part of the night, an angel from beneath the arch calls out, 'Will the devout worshippers then not rise?' So they get up and they worship until before the break of dawn. Surely before the break of dawn itself another angel calls out and says, 'Will the seekers of forgiveness not rise?' So they rise and ask for forgiveness. And then as dawn comes and light slowly begins to return to the sky, another angel calls out, 'Will the heedless (the ghafilun) not rise?' And so they rise up from their bed like the dead raised from their grave.

Allah says in the Qur'an, Surah Al Isra, 78 & 79 from Tafsir al-Jalalayn:
Establish prayer from the sun’s decline, that is, from after midday, until the dark of night, [until] its darkness has fallen, in other words, [perform prayers] at noon, in the afternoon, at sunset and at night, and the recital [of the Qur’ān] at dawn, the morning prayer. Verily the dawn recital is ever witnessed, it is witnessed by the angels of the night and the angels of the day.
And for a part of the night, keep vigil, perform prayer, therewith, with the Qur’ān, as a supererogatory [devotion] for you, as an extra obligation for you to the exclusion of your community, or [it means] as extra merit [for you] on top of the [other] obligatory prayers. It may be that your Lord will raise you to, establish you, in the Hereafter, in, a praiseworthy station, one for which the first and last [of mankind] will praise you — and this is the station of intercession [which will take place] during [the passing of] the Final Judgement.
Sadaqallah al-Azim. Allah says the truth!
 
May we heed this khutbah, the lesson from Lukman al-Hakim, the lesson from Sufian at-Thauri and the words of Allah Himself. Likewise, the words of Shaykh Abdul Qadir al-Jailani in Jila' al Khatir: "If you were one of the lovers of Allah, you would not wake up from your sleep reluctantly!"

O son, verily, you and I will be severely punished if we do not benefit from our knowledge, na'uzubillah. We seek refuge in God's mercy from His wrath. We seek refuge in His forgiveness from His punishment. We seek refuge in Him, from Him.

Imam al-Ghazali reminds us in Ayyuhal Walad (Dear Beloved Son): ...when they acquire knowledge, if they do not work according to it, the indictment against them is certain. The Messenger of Allah s.a.w said: 'The person most severely punished on the Day of Judgment is the learned one who did not follow Allah's guidance and did not benefit from his knowledge.'
O son, may Allah Ar-Rahman Ar-Rahim grant us the tawfik (strength) to practise every little knowledge we have. Ameen.
__________________________________
# Listen to Sheikh Noorudeen's khutbah at Green Mountain School website here.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Keys of the Treasures of the Heavens & Earth

Bismillah.

O son, I am very pleased to share with you this rare gem I found in 'The Book of Sufi Healing'. Shall we take the keys and uncover the treasures together?
_______________________________________________

Although there are thousands of prayers, supplications and practices used by the sufis, several are considered superior. Such is the one here presented called Maqalad as-samawati wal ard, 'The Keys of the Treasures of the Heavens and Earth'. Although it is specific to healing – conveying protection against any illness for the day it is recited, the benefits attached to its recitation are not limited to physical health, as one can glean following account from the hadith.
It is reported that Uthman bin Affan requested further information about Allah’s injunction of the keys of the treasures of the heavens and the earth (mentioned several times in the Qur’an). Prophet s.a.w said to him, ‘You have inquired of me something which nobody has ever asked me before. The keys of the treasures of the heavens and the earth are as follows:

La ilaha illahu wallahu akbar
Wasubhanallahi walhamdulillah
Wastagfirullahu allazi la ila hailla hu
wal awwalu wal akhiru waz zahiru wal batinu
Yuhyi wayumitu wahuwa hayyun la yamutu
Biyadihil khair
wahuwa ala kulli syai in qadir

"There is none worthy of worship except Allah
Allah the Almighty is the greatest
Allah is the glorious and praiseworthy
And I ask Allah for forgiveness
There is no power to do good
and no strength to be saved from evil
except with the grace of Allah
He is the First and the Last
He is the Apparent and the Hidden
He is the Ever-living who never dies
He imparts and takes away life
There is blessing with Allah the Almighty
He is the ruler over everything"

The Prophet s.a.w continued, “O Uthman, whoever recites it 100 times every day will be rewarded ten graces: First, all his previous sins will be forgiven; Second, his suffering from hellfire will be written off; Third, two angels are appointed to guard him day and night from his sufferings and diseases; Fourth, he is granted a treasure of blessings; Fifth, he will reap much blessings as someone who would have set free 100 slaves from the offspring of the Prophet Ismail; Sixth, he would be rewarded of blessings as if he had read the entire Quran, the Psalms, the Torah and the Bible; Seventh, a house will be constructed for him in the heaven; Eighth, he will be married to a pious heavenly maiden; Ninth, he will be honored with a crown of honor; Tenth, his recommendation for forgiveness of 70 of his relatives will be accepted.”

“O Uthman, if you were strong enough, you would not miss this remembrance on any day. You will be one of the successful ones and you will surpass everybody before and after you.”


One of the great contemporary sufi, Hazrat Abu Anees Barkat Ali of Darul Ehsan, Pakistan has achieved a unique position among the men of piety by reciting this sacred formula. He has erected a large signpost at the entrance way of his spiritual sanctuary upon which the words of this invaluable formula are inscribed. His own life bears ample testament to the efficacy of these words as he has personally adopted more than 10,000 Hindus of the lowest caste and provided them with a complete training and education in life. Moreover, he maintains a clinic that provides medical care and that has restored the sight of more than 3,000 persons so far without charge of any kind. He has written more than 300 books on Islam and Sufism. All of which have been distributed free of charge (the jacket of one reads: ‘These books are written for ourselves and you to read but not for sale. They have already been sold to Him for Whom they were meant’). A countless stream of devotees arrive at the well known Darul Ehsan sanctuary and receive by His grace spiritual instructions from among the 14 sufi orders of which Barkat Ali is a teaching master or shaykh.

The qualities and attributes of sufi Barkat Ali could be enumerated further but anyone who views his life with an open mind must conclude that he has exceeded the usual range of human accomplishments, he is now in his 76th year. (He died in 1997 - editor) The formula of the keys of the treasures of the heavens and the earth may be recited 21 times after each daily prayer.

On the night of 5th Rejab 633AH, the great saint Hazrat Khwaja Muinuddin Chisti as usual retired to his mediation cell after the night prayer Isha. He closed the door and commenced his practice as he had done for the past 30 years of constant recitation of the above verses. The Khwaja instructed his murids not to disturb him that night. They stayed away, but heard through the door a sound expressing unparalled ecstasy throughout the night. In the early hours of the morning the sound ceased. When the door of his cell did not open at the time of morning prayers (fajr), anxiety was felt by everyone. Ultimately the door was forced open by his students who to their astonishment found that the soul of the great saint had relinquished his mortal body. The following sentence was radiantly glittering upon his forehead as light:
Haza habibullah
Maata fi hubbillah

He is the beloved of Allah
And he died in Allah’s love

The above is quoted from: Chapter 15 of 'The Book of Sufi Healing' by Shaykh Hakim Moinuddin Chisti. Published by Inner Traditions International Ltd, 1985.
_________________________________________
O son, may Allah open your heart to receive and practise this wirid. Perhaps a hundred others who read this might also do the same. The formula is the same for all but what differentiate each one of us is the degree of certainty that each has on the words of Rasulullah s.a.w. Each will have a unique relationship or degree of adoration towards the Prophet s.a.w. Each will have a different degree of certainty on the qudrat (will) and iradat (wish) of Allah. Therefore, the benefits will be unique to each one of us.

O son, I hope you are inspired by the story of Barkat Ali who had made full use of his wealth and the blessings received from the Lord by helping others, by helping the religion. Wealth and blessings are meant to be shared. Be like Barkat Ali, be a conduit of wealth and blessings for your fellow people, for the needy among you. His position may be questioned by a typical modern mind - in order for one to do so much, one has got to be captain of an industry, a CEO of a giant enterprise, but who was Barkat Ali? O son, Allah provides in wondrous ways, do not be too encumbered on the asbab (cause) of such an abundance. Look at the Giver instead. Your job is to just do and pray. His job is to give to whomever He wish.

The adab, the attitude that we should have, as taught in 'Kitab al-Hikam', is that when we make du’a, do not think that Allah will give us because of the du’a that we make. We making the du’a is out of our adab as a servant, a sign of our humility and a sign of glorifying the Almighty, the Rich God. All has been pre-ordained by the Creator. We were not in a position to make du’a or practise this wirid or that wirid when we were in our mother’s womb. But He gave, He provided and He continues to provide out of His generous Mercy for us. He gives even before we know how to ask! Now that we know, now that we have learned a particular wirid, let’s practise it as a sign of gratitude to Him who teaches us and out of respect for Rasulullah s.a.w who guides us. O son, humble yourself, ask for His bounties and leave the rest to Him.

#Further reading on Barkat Ali: Pearls of Wisdom, Darul Ehsan


Friday, May 22, 2009

Sheikh Fahmi Zamzam on the virtues of Al-Waqi'ah

Bismillah.

O son,
This 56th verse of the Qur'an, despite its meaning - 'The (Inevitable) Event' (Al-Waqi'ah), is overshadowed by it's 'enriching' virtue. It is common knowledge that reciting this verse on a regular basis will enrich its reciter or at least protect him/her from poverty - God willing. And everybody is known to have passed on this tip to everybody else. I have to admit that every now and then I do jump on this 'Gold Rush' bandwagon. But as I have mentioned many times before, when you learn something from a qualified guru with silsilah (authentic lineage), the effects of the lesson is extraordinary - it sticks in your heart and you will have the tendency to be istiqamah (consistent) in practising what's been taught bi-iznillah.

I wish to share what I have recently learned from Sheikh Fahmi Zamzam al-Banjari an-Nadwi al-Maliki on the virtues and the prescribed practice for 'Al-Waqiah'. Apart from barakah from venerable Shuyukh, the weight of this lesson, in my opinion, lies on the meanings of the du'a that should accompany each recitation.

a. Recite Surah al-Waqi'ah daily, between Asar and Maghrib.
b. Upon reciting the verse, say this specially composed du'a, as prescribed in 'Provision for the Hereafter' - a Malay book called Bekal Akhirat compiled by Sheikh Fahmi as instructed by his guru, the honorable Sayyid Muhammad bin Alawi al-Hasani al-Maliki (1944-2004):

Allahumma sun wuju hana bil yasari
O Allah protect the dignity of our face because we are among those who are wealthy
wala tu hina bil ikhtaari
do not humiliate us on account of our poverty
fanas tar zikhu min tholibi rizkhika
from asking from people who they themselves ask provision from You
wanas taqtifu shiraa ra qolkhika
at times we have to submit our necks to your evil creations
wanash taqilu bihamdi man aqthonaa
and we might have to praise them unnecessarily
wa tub tala bizammi man mana 'ana
and when they do not provide us, we become angry
wa anta min wara-i zaalika kullihi ahlul 'atho-i wal man'ie
and You are the One who could give and withold our provision
Allahumma kama sunta wujuhana 'anis sujudi illa laka
O Allah protect our face from prostrating to your creations
fasunna 'anil hajati illa ilaika
to fulfill our wish, except You
bijudika wakaramika wa fadhlika ya arhamar rahimin
by Your generosity, by Your bounty, by Your compassion, by Your mercy
# Allahumma aqnina bihalalika 'an haramika wabitho'atika 'an maqsiyatika wabifadhlika 'amman siwaka
O Allah enrich us with all that is halal and not haram, with obedience and not disobedience, by means of Your bounty and not anyone else.
wasallah hu'ala Saidina Muhammad wa'ala alihi wasohbihi wasallam
walhamdulillah hirobbil 'alamin.

c. Recite du'a # for 70 times on any day.
d. For men: having completed your Friday prayers, before moving away, recite dua # for 5 times after reciting 7 times of al-Fatihah, al-Ikhlas, al-Falaq and an-Nas. For ladies: do the same after zohor prayers on Fridays.
e. Additionally, recite: Allahu Ya Ghani Ya Hamid, Ya Mubdi Ya Mu'id Ya Rahim Ya Wadud for 70 times.

O son,
The Prophet s.a.w had taught this du'a (#) to a sahabi assuring him that even if his debts were as high as Mount Sabir in Mina, Allah would help him repay the debts. I have heard about the merit of this du'a from someone else before, but having heard it from Sheikh Fahmi gave me a stronger conviction that Rasulullah s.a.w would never ever say anything that is untrue and that with a strong certainty on the words of the Prophet s.a.w. you will most definitely benefit from the du'a as well, bi-iznillah.

Note: The translation of the above al-Waqi'ah du'a is only an approximation. I'm hoping one of you readers to help fine tune. Click here for Lisan al-Din related posting on teachings by Sheikh Fahmi Zamzam - Talqin Zikir.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Learning from Dogs

Bismillah.

When a guru once mentioned about dogs having saintly traits, my jaw dropped. When inquired further, he refused to elaborate, he said 'go observe'. I thought one quality has got to be their loyalty. That's what they say about people born in the year of the dog (me!). Anyway, many years have passed and recently when a dear friend suddenly mentioned about '11 saintly qualities of dogs', my jaw dropped, again. Here they are, as posted on his blog several years ago (where have I been?):

The 11 qualities of a dog which if one maintains, one becomes an Awliya (friend of God, gaining insight of the Real), originally a teaching passed down from Ghauth al Azam:
1. Not forgetting goodness.
2. They don't forget those who have done goodness to them.
3. They are patient and always grateful for everything that they are given.
4. They are not angry with their master, even if they are beaten and sent away.
5. If their owner calls, they return with their tails wagging.
6. They are humble, obedient, truthful, trustworthy, good friends, loyal.
7. Always remaining with their owners and never turning traitor.
8. They are satisfied with small things; they are `zahid', not looking to anything from this dunya.
9. They have nothing from this world, they have no place for themselves.
10. They may sleep anywhere, and if someone throws stones at them, they quickly get up and go somewhere else.
11. They are very light sleepers, they don't sleep too much, and quickly awaken.
If a person has these attributes, he or she enters into the rank of a wali, by God's permission. Those 11 attributes belong to Saints, who are loyal to their Master! May God help us cultivate and retain these 11 qualities. Credit: http://warriorette.blogspot.com/

I have also discovered that there is a book written on this subject:
"Presented in the form of stories drawn from classical Sufi literature, this book communicates the value of humanity, loyalty and other praiseworthy qualities of dogs, and emphasizes the worthiness of a gentle training that tames wildness and makes this most noble animal useful to society. "
About the Author:
Dr. Javad Nurbaksh was born in Kerman, Iran. Prior to his retirement, he was professor and Head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Tehran. He has written numerous books on psychiatry and written and published extensively on the subject of Sufism. Dr. Nurbakhsh, who currently resides in England, is the Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order, a position that he has held since he was twenty-six years old.

"This book dispells the myth that all Muslims hate dogs. You will see that the kind hearted Muslim Sufis treated the dog with reverence as they revere all of God's creation."
"This book presents the image of the dog as portrayed in Sufi literature, and is illustrated with Persian miniatures. In contrast to the prevailing Islamic view of the dog as a foul, vicious and unclean animal, the Sufis held the poverty and wretchedness of the dog in special esteem, considering themselves to be dogs — or less than dogs — in the lane of the Beloved. These stories communicate the value of humility, loyalty, and other praiseworthy qualities of the base animal nature of their own ego, and emphasize the value of training that tames wildness and makes even the dog useful to society."
And of course, we all know the story of Qitmir the dog who accompanied the Ashabul Kahf, the seven young gentlemen who fled into a cave, as narrated in the Qur'an. How Qitmir spoke to them insisting on following and helping them! How God made a dog loved the solehin (the righteous)!
O son, may we take a moment to observe these 'saintly' beings the next time we get a chance.
Wallahu'alam.
_______________________________________
Related Lisan al-Din post: Ashabul Kahf
Credits: MS and Darvish.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Seeking guidance amidst confusion

Bismillah.

Ilahi, tahai yartu fi amri,
faquz bi yadaiya!
O Lord, I am confused with myself,
so please guide me O Allah!


As narrated in Kitab Al-Hikam, one Abdullah complained about the state of his heart to an awliya saying, 'You know I have so much pride in my heart. I asked one pious man for some cure and he asked me to fast. I did as told but the hardness in my heart remained. So I asked another righteous man who then advised me to do qiyamulail all night long. I tried but still the sickness is there in my heart.' Upon hearing this, the awliya told Abdullah to go to Kaabah Multazam and "humble yourself and say: O Lord, I am confused with myself, so please guide me O Allah." Abdullah took the advice and by the grace of Allah he found himself cured of the pride that clouded his heart for so long.

Dzul Nun al-Misri said: "Allah will not honor His servant more than He honors one who humbles himself in front of Him. He will not humiliate any of His servants more than the humiliation of being veiled from Him."

O son, the confession above may sound ordinary but to the one who is really confused, when he admits of his confusion, he knows very well of his own despair! May Allah purify our hearts and minds and grant us the gift of humility. 'Your Guardian-Lord has not forsaken you, nor is He displeased' - Ma wad da'aka robbuka wama khola. (Qur'an, Surah ad-Duha: 3).

Sadaqallah al-Azim. Allah says the truth!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

'Proof of Islam' - Speaking of Knowledge


Bismillah.

My dear son...
To advise others is an easy matter. The difficulty is accepting advice, since this is a bitter thing for those who follow their own inclinations and desires. They love the forbidden from the depth of their hearts. This is more applicable to seekers of knowledge and students of learning, those of them who are busy in the grace of spirits and the benefits of this world. They believe that mere abstract knowledge, without proper action, will rescue them. This is the belief of the philosophers. Praise and be glory to Allah, the Greatest of all. They do not know this much, that when they acquire knowledge, if they do not work according to it, the indictment against them is certain. The Messenger of Allah s.a.w said: "The person most severely punished on the Day of Judgment is the learned one who did not follow Allah's guidance and did not benefit from his knowledge." It has been narrated that someone saw al-Junayd (may Allah be pleased with his soul) after his death in a dream. Al-Junayd was asked: "What news do you have, Abul Qasim?"
He replied: "Perished are the speeches and vanished are the allusions; nothing benefited us except the prostrations which we made in the middle of the night."


Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali speaking in Third Counsel of Ayyuhal Walad (Dear Beloved Son). Translated by Dr. Kamal El-Helbawy. Al-Ghazali is known as Hujjatul Islam (Proof of Islam).

"Imam al-Ghazali (1058 - 1111 CE) offers advice that are of paramount importance. In analysing the human psyche, he is undoubtedly a master. He covers topic such as sincerity, knowledge, action, death, dakwah, hypocrisy, time, zikir, Shari'ah, in such delicacy and coherency that one is able to grasp clearly the multi dimensional facets of a comprehensive Islam. It seems as though this piece of work (Ayyuhal Walad) is a synopsis of his magnum opus Ihya' Ulumal-Din." - S M Hasan al-Bana.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Believer's Weapon - Al Ghazali's Du'a

Bismillah.

Ad-du'a silahul mukmin
Ad-du'a silahul mukmin
Ad-du'a silahul mukmin
"Du'a is the believer's weapon", says Muhammad Rasul Allah s.a.w.

O son, I just needed to reaffirm those lines. Oh, how needy we are, yet powerful we could become with du'a! I wish to say the du'a which Imam Al-Ghazali (1058 - 1111 CE) had lovingly written in 'Ayyuhal Walad' (Dear Beloved Son). This, being the last of 24 counsels the 'Hujjatul Islam' Imam Al-Ghazali had written, shows the great care he had in fulfilling the request of his student who seeked his advice. Now, it is with love that I dedicate the du'a to you.
_______________________________________
My dear son...
I have written in this chapter the answer to your request, so you should act accordingly, and do not forget (to mention) me in your most righteous du'a (supplications). As for the du'a which you asked me to teach you, you will find it among the supplications of the Sihah (authentic collection of hadith) Read this du'a at different times and especially after your prayer.

O Allah, I ask of You complete blessings, lasting protection from sin, comprehensive mercy, acquisition of well being (in this world and in the next), the best provision, the happiest life, the most complete favour, the most generous blessing, the sweetest grace and the closest gentleness.

O Allah, be for us and not against us. O Allah, seal our lives with happiness and good fortune, realise our aspirations accompanied with further increase. Combine our mornings and evenings with safety and make Your compassion our return and our last resort and pour the best of Your forgiveness over our sins and favour us with the reform of our defects. Make piety our provision and grant us interpretative judgment in Your religion, and make us depend on You and have confidence only in You.

O Allah, make us firm on the path of steadfastness, and safeguard us in this world from matters that will bring shame on the Day of Judgment, and lighten for us the burden of our sins, and grant us lives of the righteous and protect us from the evil of the evil ones. Save our necks and the necks of our fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters from the fire of Hell by Your compassion, O Most Powerful one, Most Forgiving, Most Generous, Concealing of our faults; O You, Most Knowledgeable, Most Overwhelming, O Allah! O Allah! O Allah! By Your Mercy, O Most Merciful of the merciful, O First before the firsts, Last after the lasts, O Possessor of Strength, Everlasting, Compassionate to the destitute, Most Compassionate of those who are compassionate. There is no god but You, glory be to You, verily I am of the wrongdoers. And may Allah bless our Prophet Muhammad s.a.w and all his Followers and Companions. All praise belongs to Allah, the Lord and Cherisher of all the worlds.
Ameen.



'Ayyuhal Walad' translation by:
Dr. Kamal El-Helbawy,
Awakening Publications, 2000.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ibn Arabi on the Art of Making Du'a (Supplications)



Bismillah.

These are excerpts from Sheikh Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi's (1165 -1240 CE) 'Al-Awrad al- yawmiyya' (Daily Prayers). The du'as composed by Ibn Arabi are crafted in such a manner that they reflect the intimate relationship between the one who asks and the One who answers. In other words, the essence of union or tawhid. Hence, it is important to understand and be certain that we are not far from the One we are asking and here Ibn Arabi explains the nature of the relationship between the one who makes the du'a and the One who responds. The awrad is translated by Pablo Beneito and Stephen Hirtenstein who elucidate on this point in the introduction of the book:

They (Ibn Arabi's du'as) are founded upon the detailed exposition of spiritual Union, expressing the most intimate of converse with the Divine Beloved, and situating the one who prays as the true adorer. Here the reciter and the one recited to are understood to be two sides of the same reality. What is recited is that which 'arrives in the heart' (warid) and 'is received' by the adorer, on the one hand, and the request that reaches the Real (al-Haqq) and is responded to, on the other.

God's response is as inherently necessary as the asking of the creature. With the injunction: 'Call upon Me and I shall answer you.', God has promised to respond to the constant request of the creatures, and this in itself is a request: He asks the servants to call Him, while the servant ask Him to respond. Thus both are asking and asked for (talib wa matlub).

The response is equally mutual:
'Whoever responds when he is called is responded when he himself calls. He responds when he calls Him, since he has responded to Him, until he actualises the language of the Envoy of God. If someone responds to the call of God when He calls him by the language of Revealed Law - and He does not call him except through it - God responds to him (favourably) in whatever he has asked for. Do tell His faithful servants to "listen to God and His Envoy when they call you...", since neither He, glory to Him, nor his Envoy call you except 'towards that brings you life.'

Given that there is always a divine response to our request, it is essential to become conscious of what is actually being asked for.
"In respect of His attributing to Himself closeness in listening and responding, this is analogous to His describing Himself as being 'closer' to man than 'his jugular vein'. Here he compares His closeness to His servant with the closeness of man to his own self. When man asks himself to do something and then does it, there is no time-gap betweeen the asking and the response, which is simply listening. The moment of asking actually is the very moment of responding to His servant is (identical to) the closeness of the servant in responding to his own self. Then (we can say that) what he asks of his self in any state is akin to what he asks of his Lord as a specific need."

The capacity of the heart to 'see' is precisely what transforms prayer from a repetitive act into meaningful conversation.
"Since (prayer) is a secret intimate converse, it is thus an invocation or remembrance (zikir) and whoever remembers God finds himself sitting with God and God sits with him, according to the Divine tradition: 'I sit with whosoever remembers Me.' Whoever finds himself sitting with the One he remembers, and is capable of inner vision, sees his 'sitting-companion' . This is witnessing (mushahada) and vision (rukya). If he does not have this inner capacity, he will not see Him. It is from this actuality or absence of vision in the prayer that the one who prays will know his own spiritual degree."

The three worlds and the three persons
Throughout the prayers there are references to two fundamental aspects of existence: on the one hand: the visible or witnessed (shuhud) realm, the world of Creation (khalq) and of the Kingdom (mulk); on the other: the invisible or unseen (ghayb) realm, the world of Command (amr) and of Kingship (malakut). These correspond to 'day' and 'night' respectively. Between the two realms, in Ibn Arabi's teaching, there lies an isthmus (barzakh) or threshold which both joins them together and keeps them separate: it is the place where meanings take on form and forms are given meaning. He calls it the world of Compelling Power (jabarut) or Imagination (khayal). It is a realm where the Magnificence of the Divine Presence is witnessed by virtue of inner sight, and where the one who prays is invited for converse. Real player takes place in this isthmus between the visible and invisible worlds.

These two realms can equally be viewed as that which is present to us here and now (shuhud), as opposed to that which is absent (ghayb). Ibn Arabi defines the unseen or absent (ghayb) as 'that of you which God has concealed from you, though not from Himself, and thus it indicates Him'. The third person (he) denotes someone who is not here, while the first and second persons (I and you) refer to those present and visible. The contemplation of this distinction opens up a different realm. To enter into converse with God is to step from apparent absence into His Presence. This renders the absent One ('He') into the One present ('You'), so that He may be addressed. At the same time here is always that aspect of 'Him' which remains unseen and eludes 'my' comprehension, for He is too majestic to be encompassed. Nonetheless, within the ultimate mystery of Union, the 'You' who listens is not other than the 'I' who speaks. God is thus simultaneously present and absent, I/You and He.

A late 16th Century Persian miniature, Safavid period, representing Ibn 'Arabi on horseback with two students. Courtesy of the Bodleian Library, Oxford. - From Ibn Arabi Society.


'How can I know You when You are the inwardly Hidden who is not known? How can I not know You when You are the outwardly Manifest making Yourself known to me in every thing?'
- Sunday Morning Prayer.
________________________________________
O son,
I know Ibn Arabi's teachings may be a little complex but the point here is that when making du'a, address Him intimately as 'You' who is near to you and who is ever waiting to hear your call to Him so that He could respond to you.
'Whosoever is in the heavens and the earth is in request of Him; everyday He is at work.' 'Yas aluhu man fissama watiwal ardh, kulli yaumim huwa fi sha'nin' - Quran 55:29.
This verse indicates that He will be working on your du'a, in fact everyday He is at work fulfilling all our du'as. So ask from Him and have certainty that He listens and that He will fulfill all requests in the best manner. Bi-iznillah.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Munajat al-Hikam (2)

Bismillah.

O son, know that the lessons which I share with you are those that I discover along my journey to know Allah and He being the Murabbi is the ultimate Teacher who will teach us what we need, when we need, at the right time. I myself am still learning and struggling, so please do not have the impression that I am above you or that I have mastered all that I have written here. I am not a saintly being. In fact, today's posting is a pause, a time to reflect on myself, for if God were to reveal my shortcomings, flaws, weaknesses and hypocrisy, you and everyone else will flee from me. So I say this prayer I learned from Sheikh Abul Hassan as-Shadhili as mentioned in Kitab Al-Hikam: '
Ilahi kam 'asika wa anta tas turuni.'
'O Lord, I have wronged myself, yet You hide my flaws.'

O son, we all need His forgiveness. We need His mercy. We are needy towards Allah. We are faqir. Faqir means needy. We need countless things from Him and one of the most important things is that we need His hidayah (guidance), lest we stray from the straight path. We need tawfik (strength) from Him so as to follow His guidance. Hidayah would be meaningless without the tawfik to carry out the appropriate actions. We need Him because He is the King and we are His subjects. Therefore, servitude (ubudiyah) and being needy (faqir) are inherent traits of ours.
Sheikh Abul Hassan as-Shadhili teaches us that we can be poor of everything except Allah. Hence, we seek richness with Him.
'Nas alukal faqra mimma siwak,
wal ghinna bika hatta la nash hada illa iyaka.'
'We seek from You, poverty from other than You
and richness with You, until we see not anything but You.'

Sheikh Abul Hassan also stressed the need for us to constantly be in the state of ubudiyah by admitting our poverty, weakness and unworthiness.
Ya Ghani! Man lil faqiri siwaka!
O Allah the Self-Sufficient!
Who else does this needy one hope for but You!

Ya Qawwi! Man lid dhoi'fi siwaka!
O Allah the Most Strong!
Who else does this deprived one hope for but You!

Ya Qadir! Man lil a'jizi siwaka!
O Allah the Most Able!
Who else does this weak one hope for but You!

Ya 'Aziz! Man lidz zaleeli siwaka!
O Allah the Mighty!
Who else does this worthless one hope for but You!

_______________________________________
O son, let's all heed the teachings of this sufi scholar from Morocco, Sheikh Abul Hassan as-Shadhili (1196 -1258 CE). With his barakah, may we be among those who benefit from the wisdoms of Al-Hikam (authored by Ibn Atha'illah as-Sakandari) and may we be granted the opportunity to visit Sheikh Abul Hassan's maqam, someday, InshaAllah.