Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Etiquettes and manners of a good writer - Sayyid Alawi al-Maliki


Shaykh Fahmi Zamzam in his opening remark for a new lecture series on Kitab al Targhib wat Tarhib authored by Sayyid Alawi al-Maliki said:

Sayyid Alawi in his attempt to author a lecture (sharah) from an abridged version of the said kitab was doing one of 8 things that were common among the ulama during the old days. That they would either expand a particular kitab by expounding on it in greater details; or summarizing its contents to ease reading; or collate some scattered theories into a more structured version; or extract and expand on a given chapter of a bigger volume; or re-write texts into poetry format or translate a poetry into a narration.

Sayyid Alawi in coming up with his sharah of Kitab al-Targhib wat Tarhib whose original author was Imam Al-Munziri (581 - 656 Hjjriah) said: "succeeding authors should rectify whatever mistakes that the original author has made and be sure to commend him for initiating the kitab. Succeeding authors cannot outwin the original author because being the first to initiate a study, he would have received a greater barakah for his effort. It is important to keep adab and not criticize the original author. He must be praised because Allah does praise three groups of people: the faqir muhajirin, the Ansar and those who follow them (tabi'in wat tabi'in). So the adab is to praise people who came before us and to seek forgiveness for their misgivings, if any."

Sayyid Alawi, therefore, made a du'a in his version of Kitab al-Targhib wat Tarhib that the readers of his kitab will gain benefit at the same degree of barakah obtainable from reading the original Kitab al-Targhib wat Tarhib  by Al-Munziri.

Shaykh Fahmi Zamzam, highlighted the barakah and everlasting-ness of classsic kitabs written by honorable writers such as al-Munziri and Imam Malik. Imam Malik was asked why he had chosen to write Al-Muwata' when there had been many other authors writing on the same. Imam Malik said: "that which will last a long time is that which Allah has redha upon." And as it turned out, his Al-Muwata' was the one that lasted many hundred years! SubhanAllah! So did prolific authors like Hidayatus Salikin's which lasted more than 200 years. Other examples include Imam Bukhari's Sahih and al-Ghazali's Ihya Ulumuddin. These kitabs became valuable classics because they were written with great sincerity, said Shaykh Fahmi.
"If you want something to last a long time i.e. istiqamah, all it takes is just sincerity (ikhlas). Those great kitabs were written from a pure sincere heart hence, they were effective in waking up dead hearts. It is not just about creative writing techniques, delivery methods etc. but it is all about the waraq (piety) of its authors - who keep their ikhlas in check, ibadah, qiyamulail and salawat. The strengths of these author's spiritual acumen (ruhaniah) is what made the lessons effective, leaving a distinct impression on its readers.

Allah has clearly stated that there is a great difference between one who has iman and one who doesn't have iman; and one who has knowledge and one who who doesn't have much knowledge. Shaykh Fahmi also said that, one who is capable of taking heed of advice and counsel is one who is blessed with a good intellect. They are the ulul albabs. Imam Ghazali said, "the best of God's gifts is your intellect". A sign of one who has intellect is that he feels good at doing good and embarassed to do bad. One's intellect must be nurtured continually.

According to Imam Shafie, there are 6 pre-requisites to be an 'alim (knowledgable person):
1. zaka'un - one must have basic intelligence.
2. hirsun - one must be thirsty for knowledge.
3. sabr - one needs to be patient for one has to struggle with a lot of things in the process of acquiring knowledge.
4. enough funding - a student should not be burdened about money matters. Imam Nawawi had eaten only food which was provided by his father and wore clothing that was sewn by his mother so that he need not worry about his needs.
5. irshad - one needs to have a good guide/guru
6. time - one needs to invest plenty of time to master a particular subject. Imam Shafie had spent 14 years with his guru Imam Malik.

Shaykh Fahmi Zamzam said that of all those pre-requisites, the most important factor is adab with one's guru, adab in handling kitabs, even in arranging kitabs on the bookshelf, adab with other students and adab at majlis ilm. Imam Shafie said: "If you have su'ul adab (bad manners) with your guru, you must then be patient with your ignorance. If you have su'ul adab with your doctor, you must then be patient with your illness."

One also needs to acquire knowledge with sanad (lineage) for barakah sake. And make du'a Rabbi zidni ilma like the Prophet s.a.w on a daily basis! Daily! A mukmin's thirst for knowledge shall not be quenched until he is at the door of the Heavens. One of Shaykh Fahmi Zamzam's guru by the name of Shaykh Abdul Kadir Hassan had lost his voice when he was 90 so what he did was, he went to study (listen) to the lectures of his own murid!

This world will be cursed by Allah if there is none of us who pursue knowledge or has anything to do with knowledge. A hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah stated that: "The world shall be cursed if not for zikrullah, for the sake of the pious and those who seek knowledge."
Wallahu 'alam.

FROM lecture by Shaykh Fahmi Zamzam at KL Ba'alawi on 18 April 2010.
May I be forgiven for any errors in transmission and my apologies for delayed posting

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