Thursday, January 2, 2014

"Lose yourself in the service of others" - Shaykh Abdul Aziz Ahmed Fredericks at Sacred Path of Love 2013

Bismillah.

Shaykh Abdul Aziz Fredericks was one of four key speakers at the Sacred Path of Love event that took place in Singapore in December 2013.

He delivered a tausiyah to a packed audience at the Masjid Sultan Auditorium. His speech was equally packed with wisdom and hilarious at the same time. The event was organized by the Sout Ilaahi Group of Singapore.

The title of the tausiyah itself was both motivating and comforting: "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."

I thought it was an excellent title because oftentimes we feel like we need to find ourselves because we do not know what our raison d'etre is; we are not sure what our life purpose is. Oftentimes we feel like we have lost ourselves through ways and means which may not be positive. Oftentimes we feel really lost not having a meaningful activities to occupy ourselves with. So the shaykh said: "the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."

Paradoxical as that may sound, the main point which I gathered from his talk was that it's not about me, myself and I, but OTHERS. In serving others, we will find our sense of self, a sense of duty and in that sense of duty we will find a sense of worthiness. It's a very fulfilling experience. I am sure the Sacred Path of Love volunteers are in a better position to talk about this.

Shaykh Abdul Aziz began his tausiyah quoting some big names who are known for their big hearts - selfless characters like Mother Theresa who said: 'Love is service. The fruit of service is peace. And I serve and I saw that service is joy.' Khalil Gibran said: 'I slept and I dreamed that life is joy. I worked and I saw that life is all service."

The shaykh then enlightened the audience on the definitions of happiness. What is the meaning of happiness? It originates from the word saadah meaning felicity or happiness. Imam Ghazali defined happiness as being actively in control of oneself (nafs) and not the other way around, not the self/nafs controlling you. Compare saadah with shaqawah or damnation. 

In relation to service, the shaykh elaborated the root word for service in Arabic i.e. khadamah. It means to be at work and to be at work means to do something that weigh you down. There are four principles to service:

i. Rahmah lil khalq - mercy to creations/mankind. 
Why khalq? Because the greatest of creation is human kind. And the first hadith is known as hadith of mercy about the importance of compassion. The gist of which is that if you want Allah to be merciful to you, then be merciful to people. The shaykh also mentioned the word madad which means assistance. He said, if you want assistance, then you should grant assistance to others. Others being your brothers in humanity.

ii. Service has to has benefit. 
All of creations are dependents of Allah. We all need Him. And He chooses the means to give. When you sow the earth, He gives rain. As in a hadith, we know that he who benefits his dependents the most, is the best of men. The shaykh said we should not underestimate our work. He related his own experience with a woman who approached him at a car park. He had at that time just finished his talks/programs and was feeling exhausted. So when this lady approached him telling him that she writes poetry, the shaykh had nothing more to say than 'mashaAllah.' Later, he found out that that one word he managed to utter in response to the lady had actually changed her because according to her, that was the only one time anyone had ever praised her work.

iii. The path to joy is the path to service.
Shaykh Abdul Aziz quoted some important points we could all learn from Ghandi. And in offering our service we must check our intentions because as stated in a hadith, actions are by your intentions. 
   
iv. Love is the essence of service.
The shaykh mentioned the word futtuwah or chivalry in this context. As defined by Abdul Rahman al-Sulami, futtuwah means preferring others over yourself. Quoting the advice he got from Shaykh Ninowy, Shaykh Abdul Aziz in turn advised the audience to: "Outwardly we do the work but inwardly we are in the state of solitude in divine presence" and if you do service you will find yourself with Allah. 

Shaykh Abdul Aziz concluded his tausiyah by sharing the lessons we could learn from fish which is at one with the sea. Fish is created to serve mankind and even fish wants humankind to benefit. Similarly, if we are at one with ourselves, we will find happiness. If we are at one with everything around us we will be in a happier world. This is the way to pursue happiness.

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Allahu a'lam. May I be forgiven for any errors and omissions. 
Pic credit: Sacred Path of Love FB

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