Alhamdulillah wa shukrulillah we’re grateful to be in the presence of Shaykh Fahmi Zamzam Al-Maliki tonight. We must not take for granted ever the presence of habaib and shuyukh in our community. They are a gift, a borrowed gift from Allah.
Shaykh Fahmi elucidated a couple of aphorisms from Al-Hikam pertaining to praise. As stated in one aphorism, the shaykh asked: why do people praise us? It’s because people only see our zahir, what’s apparent and assume we are good. But really you should look at yourself with a critical view because only you know the reality of your heart, only you know your true state. Only you know your naughtiness and your nafs amarah. You know the carelessness in your heart. Abdullah bin Mas’ud was one sahabi who was worthy of praise, yet out of tawadhuk, he had this to say: “If people knew what I do at home, none would want to offer me praise.”
We don’t know the reality of our own nafs. Even a murshid guide sometimes missed out on certain aspects of your states, if Allah wished to hide it from him. The prophet too is not able to judge a person’s true state except for the facts which he sees presented to him.
There’s a story about a waliyullah (a saint) in Yemen who owned a good number of cows. When many of his cows went missing, the waliyullah lodged a report with the qadi (judge). The judge asked if he had any witness because the rule of law was such that the plaintiff should produce a witness and the accused must swear innocence under oath. But the waliyullah had no witness to prove that the stolen cows belonged to him while the thieves denied his charges. This made the waliyullah upset and to counter the situation he said he would ask his cows to speak up in his defense. The cows did defend their rightful owner but the judge said he could not accept cows as witness. The waliyullah got more upset with the judge and his wrath had caused the judge to get stuck in his chair! The judge then made a tawassul (du'a). He pleaded to Allah to release him because he was simply following the shari'at of Rasulullah in making his judgment. The judge eventually released himself from the chair and let the thieves keep the cows. But the thieves were frightened to see how powerful the waliyullah was and decided to tell the truth that they had in fact stolen the cows from the waliyullah. The moral of the story is that we can only judge based on physical evidence.
It was related that Usamah bin Zaid had pursued and killed an enemy despite him professing the syahadah. Usamah decided to kill him anyway because he doubted the person's sincerity. When the Prophet (pbuh) questioned the call he made, Usamah defended himself. He assumed the enemy had said the syahadah out of desperation because he had no way to escape when Usamah chased after him to the edge of two mountains. The Prophet (pbuh), furious, asked Usamah: 'Did you cut open his heart to see if indeed he was not sincere?!'
Coming back to the topic on praise, Shaykh Fahmi said we should not be deceived by people praising us. We should remind ourselves: 'O nafs amarah, you are still distant from Allah!'
You can praise people if you can be sure the person will not be negatively affected by your words of praise. Your praise might be haram if your words become fitnah to him causing him to feel riya/ujub (proud). All his amal would then become nullified and that would be unfortunate.
When people praise us, we should feel ashamed before the Lord because He knows us best and that we don't actually have the good traits which people praise us for. Those who truly seek Allah's redha would be indifferent towards praise and blame.
Imam Shafi'e said: "It's impossible to please everyone, so improve your relationship with Allah instead, and then leave it to people should they want to praise or blame you."
Be certain that we are actually not as good as people might perceive, we are not khusyuk in our prayers, we have plenty of misdeeds etc. Don't change that certainty you have about yourself (your true state).
People praise us due to what they perceive our outer state to be (zahir). It is Allah who makes them utter the words of praise. What people are actually praising is the good traits which Allah has honored us with. So it is He who is worthy of praise!
There are four types of praise:
There are four types of praise:
qadim for qadim - Allah praising Himself
qadim for hadis - Allah praising man i.e the Prophet pbuh
hadis for hadis - people praising people e.g. we praising our guru/awliya
hadis for qadim - we praising Allah
The most important point, said Shaykh Fahmi was, all praise goes back to Allah, Alhamdulillahi Rabbil alamin. Therefore, there is no need for us to feel ujub/riya' because it's not ours to begin with, it all belongs to Allah. We should not forget our beginnings, we were nothing, we weren't born clever or rich. We didn't even know how to smile or laugh, all we knew was to cry. We didn't know alif, the number one etc., we knew nothing. Everything that we have now is given by Allah. So whenever people praise you, remember it is all from Allah, so praise Him.
There is a munajat in Al Hikam we should all practise: it is good to recite during subuh, to ask Allah to make us a place of manifestation (tajalli) for His good traits (ehsan) and to give us the most perfect of appearance.
There is a difference between those who are zuhud and the areefbillah. People who are zuhud would feel disturbed when being praised because they see it coming from people (makhluk). The areefbillah however see it coming from Allah, so they don't have a problem about being praised. They would worry if people blamed them because they see it from Allah. The areefbillah are those who truly attain ma'rifah (gnosis). Their knowing of Allah, results in actions. They wish for nothing except Allah. Those who know Allah, would love Allah. They glorify Him. The ulama, awliya are areefbillah. But there are also awliya who are hidden (mastur). Outwardly they appear to be ordinary but inwardly, their hearts are areef about Allah. As mentioned in the third chapter of Sayirrus Salikin, areefbillah have different roles. Some of them are occupied only in worshipping, some get involved in public affairs, some are teachers. All have different functions for the benefit of the ummah. They are obedient and they leave the munkar. Their iman is solid and worthy of praise.
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