Thursday, April 30, 2009

Message from Sheikh Hisham Kabbani

Bismillahi 'r-Rahmani 'r-Raheem
Was-salaat was-salaam `ala Sayyidina Muhammad wa `ala aalihi wasahibihi ajma`een.
On the blessed occasion of the Birthday of our master, Mawlana Shaykh Muhammad Nazim Adil al-Haqqani, we are pleased to announce again the Haqqani Fellowship website as a social network for the benefit of the Naqshbandi-Haqqani members who are the followers, mureeds, around the world of Mawlana Sultan al-Awliya, all around the world. This network was established for the purpose of knowing each other as Allah has ordered in Suratul-Hujurat:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَىوَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْعِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ

O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware. [49:13]

I asked Mawlana Shaykh about the website and he is very happy with this website and has endorsed it. Therefore we are asking all mureeds and muhibeen to become members and participate in this website with their whole enthusiasm, join in its forums, blogs, posting videos, photos and audio files suitable to the tariqah and following its good conduct (adab). On the occcasion of Mawlana Shaykh's birthday, we pray that Alalh make this site and social network a beacon for all those lost in the storms and tempests of this dunya life, bringing them to the shore of safety in Mawlana Shaykh's harbor of tranquility and peace.

Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani

Sheikh Ninowy on Al-Hikam (1)


This is a partial transcript of Sheikh Ninowy's lecture on Al-Hikam at Green Mountain School Virginia, USA (Winter 2008). I hope it will entice you to listen to the audiotapes available at:

O son, you will know that when someone speaks from his heart, everything he says will fall into your heart. I've been listening to this talk over and over again and Alhamdulillah I discover new things each time and I was inspired to record its transcript for you, albeit partially.

"Shaykh Muhammad bin Yahyah an-Ninowy - One of the few true 'ulema in America, he grew up in Syria, studied at al-Azhar Sharif University, Faculty of Usool-uddeen and then at the feet of many great scholars including the Ghumari brothers and other teachers in Syria, Fez, Egypt, Sudan, and Jordan. He is the imam of al-Madina Masjid in Atlanta, and is much in demand as a speaker, author, and lecturer in Europe and the United States."

We are entering a science, this science is called Sufism or tassawuf but that’s what people call it. I call it the science of love or the topic of mahabbah. Mahabbah means love, this is what tassawuf is all about. So before we even start going into all these things. There are many things about tassawuf and as you all know many people linguistically speaking they say tassawuf/Sufi comes from wool. Linguistically speaking maybe, terminologically speaking maybe not. But even linguistically speaking because the wool is in a sense warm and soft at the same time so I’d like to have the warmth of your heart and the soft side of your heart and I hope your entire heart is soft InshaAllah. Because that’s who we are and also because the piece of wool is sort of like the Sufi in a sense that he or she is like a piece of wool that is foldable and manageable in any way Allah wants it to be. Of course, terminology speaking we say Sufi is from safa, safa means purity, so the whole point here is we are trying to arrive at how can we attain purity so we can be illuminated.

So that makes us all go to the first question, what is the objective, why are we here, why are we created? We know there is a creator, there cannot be a writing without a writer. There cannot be a creation without a creator. Why are we created? (Bala shahidna?) How about plain English, this is too sophisticated. I want to go from basic, may Allah take us to the makam of shahadah.

(In order to worship him). That’s the most common question usually the most common answer. Let me ask you this, is worship an objective by itself or is it a means to an objective? When Allah tells us to do fasting, we do fasting because he tells us to do fasting. So that's fulfilling the objective but then also what's the benefit of fasting? How about people lie and cheat while they are fasting, do they have a fast? Fasting as worship has an objective, the objective is to polish you, to give you better traits. To sharpen your skills and qualities. What else? What's more important than that? (Purifying the soul) Is purifying the soul an objective by itself? What do I want at the end? I want to be close to Allah! All these things are means so they can get you close to the Creator. All these things are objectives, mechanisms, and tools so that they make us fit to enter the presence that’s already there, but we are not there. Often people ask me a question, 'Sheikh, how can I get close to Allah?' Allah is close to you but are you close to Him? He is close to you but are you close to him?

This is what tassawuf deals with, but ultimately Nabi or Allah Himself tell us what he wants from us from worship. Hadith Bukhari, hadith Qudsi: When Allah tells us: “My creation will keep doing extra worship, nawafil means extra worship until I love him..." The hadith begins by saying Allah saying, which means the creation can get close to me better by fulfilling what the worship I prescribe upon them. You want to be close to Allah? Do what He prescribes upon you. That’s the best way. His way is the best way to get close to Him. Sometimes the problem is, sometimes we think our way is the best way to get close to Him. The objective that the worship will take you eventually is that Allah loves you. "If I love him", then metaphorically speaking, "I become his eyes, his ears, hands, etc. which means Allah will guide you with your eyes, ears foot, hands, with all these things. The point is that you are in the love of Allah. The point that you do solah is not that simply you do these movements but you get close to him so that Allah loves you. I’m not saying that you love Allah, that’s a given, that means you love him. It's like you keep knocking on His door. 'Ya Allah I want you to love me, I am here for you, I am going to do more and more to please you, I am all for you. I'm detached from other than you, I am here so I can attain Your pleasure, So I can be eligible that You love me. So, that’s where we gonna go.

This is the ocean of knowledge that Ibn Athai'llah puts us through. How do we get to that level where we are eligible that Allah loves us? How can we get that enlightenment? So we can really see things as they truly are not as we delusionary think they are. Because oftentimes we describe things in our mind with certain traits and qualities where in reality they are totally the opposite. Therefore, we can talk about all these things but in Islam the love is the key. You follow the Prophet (pbuh) because you love him. No love, no following. You read the Qur'an because you are in love with the Qur'an. There is interaction with the Qur'an. You hear the words, it's like it is being revealed upon you.

Nabi, when he speaks, when he speaks to you, he doesn’t speak to your ear but he speaks to your heart. You are there. You go and visit in Madinah, you are not visiting stones and bricks but you are actually listening with the ears and eyes of haqiqah. You are listening, seeing and hearing the interaction with all these things.

Therefore, Islam is all about love, if there is no love, there is a problem. Tassawuf is the point of science that deals with that love. How do we purify our love? The love for ourselves, the love for each other and the love for Nabi, the ulama the guides of the sunnah, the anbiya and ultimately, of course, the love to Allah. The more love you have in your heart, the closer you are. Therefore, the poet says: “ukhatiru fi mahabatikum bi ruhi wa ar kabu bahrobikum imman wa imma". He was speaking to his shuyukh or to the Prophet: 'I would risk my soul for the sake of attaining your love.' When some people are in love or even in love with creation or someone, when they get engaged, they are willing to do anything. So they risk so many things for the sake of that love. That’s the kind of love we want to feel. "I would risk my soul...I would ride the oceans that are with massive waves without any fears, I would take any road for the sake of your love, any road that says the end of it is your love and I will drink your cup even if it has poison in it." When people are in love everything becomes sweet, even poison becomes sweet. I don’t listen to people who say here and there for my ear is closed. I leave everything for you. I am all yours. You have sold your soul. I leave everything for you even if it means, yakni, my father and mother. I am all yours. You have sold your soul to them. That’s among the key objective in who we are. The sahabat when they talk about love and how they have annihilated themselves in the love of Prophet...
Anas narrated a hadith, he says “we were invited to a gathering where Rasul was eating squash.
Anas says 'I never liked squash' but he says 'from that day since I saw Rasul eating squash, that became the most beloved food for me.’ Self annihilated - what does that mean? I left what I want to what he wants. Further - I left what I love for what he loves. But furthermore, what he loves became what I love.

We feed our bodies every single day...yet we fail to feed our souls that many times a day and even our worship becomes a matter of ritual, not a spiritual oasis that we escape to and feel comfortable. Sometimes worship becomes a burden. I need to get that solat over with, I feel burdened. The Prophet said to Bilal, “arihna bihaya Bilal " O Bilal go and announce the prayer so we can go to our comfort zone. Not “arihna minha ya Bilal" - not let's do it so that we put it behind us. Call it so that we can be in the comfort zone. The sign of a bankruptcy of the seeker on the path to Allah is when they feel the comfort more with the creation than when they are with the Creator - spiritually bankrupt because your heart and desire still fall with the creation, you are not seeing that you need to be going to the Creator.

Al-Hikam Wisdom No 2:
'Your desire for isolation, tajrid, even though God has put you in the world to gain a living is a hidden passion or desire. And your desire to gain a living in the world even though God has put you on isolation is a comedown from the supreme aspiration.’ Tajrid in the Arabic language does not really mean isolation. In a terminological sense it means being with Allah only. Ibn Atha'illah sayings: your desire to be attached to Allah only, in other words, self annihilated, you don’t exist anymore - what does that mean? The first step is you worship until you get close to Him with that worship. The second step is you do extra worship until He loves you. The third step, if He loves you, He becomes this and this. You move with Allah, by Allah, for Allah, from Allah. Everything about you is for Allah, by Allah, to Allah, from Allah until you reach self-annihilation where you don’t exist anymore. You may exist in mass but you don’t exist in the sense you are totally absorbed in the syuhud, in the observance of Allah and the illumination that is coming to you. So you don’t even feel yourself. I’m bringing you to a closer example, you know the event in the cave where the snake was biting Saidina Abu Bakar, he wasn't even moving, S. Abu Bakar was in total self-annihilation in the love of Rasul, that presence of Muhammadan reality so he couldn't feel anything because he wasn’t even there, he wasn't even present with himself, but he was present with Rasul. When you are in love you don’t feel the pain, it’s still sweet, the more the better. So then when you are totally attached to Allah, you are fana, you are totally annihilated in the love of Allah - observance of the attributes of Allah, observance of that illumination that is coming, overwhelming you, you are not even there anymore. Especially those seeking suluk when you experience the spiritual experience you realize the world is much more than the body that you are in, the world is much more simply than distance, time and the laws of physics -other dimensions of the world that people don’t see with the eyes, those who are walking to Allah see, they taste these things. Those who are walking to Allah, the earmarks blind you from the real deal. In tassawuf they call it distractors, those bonuses on the side, it's a trick, the real deal is when you go straight to; at the end, that’s when you taste the sweetness.

Anyway, I told the sheikh, sidi, in this spiritual world, people see the souls of other people and they talk to the soul of other people and there is a union in the spiritual world. Tassawuf is not about words, it’s about experience and struggle, struggle to get there. Words or books will never get you there. My father was close to my heart...

The poet says - 'For the teacher: stand up and honor your teacher for the teacher is almost a messenger.' Alexander the so-called great, people used to observe him treating his guru differently than he treats his own father, with so much respect and glorification than he treats his father. They say 'how come you treat your teacher more than you treat your own father?' He says 'my father is my biological father and this one is my ideological father. That one brought me to the world, this one who illuminated the world.' My father is both. I am sad and always sad about my father's early departure. I was 19 when he died, I wasn’t capacitated yet to observe more truth and take it in. I told the shaikh 'can I speak to my father, can I sit with him?' I want to apply the rules of the world in the world of barzakh, do a time machine. He said, 'Listen, son, you wanting to be with them for that reason, to them is like that they are saying it's like someone who goes for a vacation for two weeks. The whole dunya is like a few weeks compared to them. You are going to be there. Concentrate on the more important things.'

What I am trying to tell you is to the world there is more than the average eyes see and if we are capacitated to see all those dimensions that Allah creates, our life will be different tomorrow. We are human beings, if there's a policeman driving behind you, you’ll be driving 55 miles per hour but if you do not see, he might be behind you, you are speeding. When you see it, then you act totally different. So, act like you see it for it is a fact. Just like you and me are sitting, this world has many dimensions to it and those who passed away in the world of barzakh, in that world of spirituality, those who passed and those who haven’t passed are there. And this has a much higher objective than eating, sleeping and working and getting married and having children and building a house, and all these things. The world has a higher objective than that. If you don’t know, everyone has a purpose, if you don’t know what that purpose is, start falling in love with the Prophet for you’ll realize what the purpose is.

Going back to the hikmah, the wisdom. Your desire for tajrid, to be totally self annihilated and attached to Allah while Allah put you in this word in asbab. Here's a point, two kinds of people on the path to Allah. People are travelers, people who are totally detached, they have completed their self-annihilation, they are there, they are not here. Just like when you are on the path and you experience the world in different dimensions and you are looking and you trying to absorb all those facts around you in those dimensions, there's no time to speak. Time is an irrelevant thing anyway in the world of souls. Once you taste it and you know it, you are not only fascinated but you are overwhelmed by this fascination around you. You are not in this world. Imagine if you are in the presence of Allah, and you are with Allah and the illuminations are overwhelming and overtaking you because your capacity to receive, your transformer within you, the one that receives - that is only 1/10 volt but the electricity that you gonna get, the nur that you gonna get is much higher than that, the transformer even give up. And you are overtaken by Allah's nur, you are no longer in the dunya per se - that’s tajrid. That road is very well paved for thousands of years but again there are curves here and there, walking alone without a light may be difficult. Here's the point, the other one who is in dunya teaching, talking, engineer, writer, a janitor in their life and Allah put them in that situation for a reason. The ones who are involved in that dunya but realizes he is in dunya vs. the other one who's not in dunya now, what happens is:
Ibn Atha'illah says: 'your desire to be in tajrid though Allah has placed you in the dunya is because of the hidden desire, the weakness you have. Your desire to be in dunya when you are almost (taken to Allah) is a comedown from aspiration than you ought to be in.'

You have to be detached and be attached to Allah. What is detached? You either purify your zahir/external or your batin/internal, both the internal and external or both together.
How do you purify your external?
1. Abandoning the dunya, the worldly affairs.
2. Breaking physical habits.

Saidatina Zainab who is Saidina Ali and Fatimah Zahrah's (daughter), the household of the Prophet - she was talking to Saidina Ali, 'Do you love us?'. 'Of course, I love you?'. 'How can you love us and love Allah in the same heart? How about you love Allah in your heart and you take care of us.'
Your love is not with your job. Become detached. Allah wants you to have that money. (But you earning and having the job) is not because you are so unique and great in planning, it's because Allah facilitates for you for things to be this way. The point is you do good because you want Allah to be close to you but you ought to be good not because you are worthy, but because you are seeking Allah pleasure. You should do the absolute good because you want to be close to Muhammad. (Say) 'I do not ask anything in return and I will keep giving.' And don’t depend on your work or for who you are. You are to do the best work you can as a student, you are doing all these to be close to Allah. Your role is much bigger than executing. There’s so much potential, don’t limit yourself, don’t blind yourself. Purify the external and detach. You are not powerful, the job that you have today may be changed tomorrow. (You have) power because you are close to Allah. In Islam we believe in the power of love and not in the love of power. It's not naïve. The biggest example is all the prophets. Did any of the prophets come with nuclear weapons? What happens to most of the prophet? Tortured. Still despite all that Allah gives them the power of love.

So for the external, abandon what you think you are this you are that, detach from dunya. Secondly, breaking their habits. There are so many habits we like to do. If you don’t break the habits you’ll be enslaved. Mind over body, you have to break the habit so you are in control of the self and not the self in control of you. Practice breaking the habit, take your heart, keep your heart with Allah...

I seek refuge in Allah for any unintentional mistakes. This transcript is not verbatim. I only wish to inspire you to listen to the actual audiotapes at May Allah increase us in knowledge, grant us wisdom and take us to His Nur. Ameen.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Sufi vs a Muslim?


I'm disturbed by these statements which I will quote hereby and wish to clarify to you the lisan al-din (the language of faith) as I know it, as I have learned it from the gnostics (arif). May Allah protect us and keep us on the straight Path. Wallahu'alam.

How can anyone say "Islam is different from Sufism"
- when Sufism is the essence of Islam? Sufism is a branch of Islamic knowledge that belongs to the third category after iman (faith) and Islam (submission to the Divine Will); it represents ihsan (excellence or virtue). It is the epitome of Islam regardless if one considers himself a Sufi or not. A Sufi is definitely a Muslim first than anything else. In fact, it is a maqam which the Prophet wants all Muslims to strive for - to worship Him as though we see Him.

How can anyone say 'a Sufi lives in the name of Allah' and 'dies for the sake of Allah'. 'But a Muslim strives to approach Almighty God.'- when a Sufi just like any other Muslims profess at least 5 times a day: 'inna solati wanusuki wamahyaya wamamati lillahirobbil 'alamin? (My prayers, my worship, my life, and my death is for the sake of the Lord of the Universe)
- when a Sufi is guided by a pertinent motto which is 'Ilahi anta maqsudi waredhoka matlubi' meaning 'Lord You are my goal and Your mercy is what I aim for.' Isn't this an act of approaching Allah?

How can anyone say, "our goal is not to 'perish' but to 'bloom'? This is done not 'for Allah' but to bring us 'toward Him'. Allah is not far away from you, therefore, try to reach Him. Allah is closer to you than yourself."- when a Sufi's goal is to let his false/lower self perish and let Allah the 'wajibul wujud' (must exist) bloom after all he is only 'mumkinal wujud' (possible existence) and he knows what his reality is and hence he knows He The Reality.
- and this is done obviously for Allah because that's what He wants as in
laila haillallah (no god but Allah)
billah (with Allah)
minallah (from Allah)
illallah (except Allah)
lahauwala quwata illah billah
(there is no power and no strength save with Allah)
kullumin indallah (all is from Allah)
and he is forever seeking to see His face wheresoever he turns as in 'liwajhillah'?
- at the same time, a Sufi is surely one who commits himself towards Allah with each breath for he is continuously circumambulating the Kaabah of his heart with Allah as the only occupant of his heart?
- so how can Allah be far away from a Sufi when He is the closest to him for a true Sufi devotes his life to be taqarrub (close) to Him and by Allah's grace so many of the Sufis we know are regarded as muqarabbin (the near ones)?

O son, be careful when you hear these false allegations towards a Sufi for many do not understand what Sufism or tassawuf really is and perchance they are envious of the name Sufi whereas a Sufi by any other name is a Sufi, and a Sufi will not care if anyone calls him that or not, for one cannot detach the fragrance of rose from the rose.

The quotation below is from "Classical Islam: A Sourcebook of Religious Literature" By Norman Calder, Jawid Ahmad Mojaddedi, Andrew Rippin. Published by Routledge, 2003

Al-Ghazali: The Path of the Sufis
On al-Ghazali (d 505/1111) and the book from which this passage is taken "al-Munqidh min al-dalal" (Deliverance from Error). As was suggested above the entire treatise is probably better understood as a work of epistemology. The aim is to show that the right knowledge will deliver one from error. Here he speaks autobiographically about the knowledge of the Sufis, the last group whom he describes on his quest for knowledge. It is therefore with the Sufis that al-Ghazali finds his thirst for certain knowledge of the truth, satisfied. He describes the practical steps necessary for purifying one's heart, and the importance of direct experience or 'taste' for mystical knowledge. Al-Ghazali discovers that the path of the Sufi saints bestows on the seeker direct experiences that are comparable with the experiences of prophets, in this way providing irrefutable proofs of the truths of religion. Following the discussion provided here, he is able to argue for the reality of prophecy in general, through a faculty of perception grounded in the soul, which can be verified by non-prophets through taste i.e. direct experience on the path of the Sufis.

Al-Ghazali's own words:
"When I had done with these sciences, I turned my efforts to the Sufi way. I came to know that their way became complete only through both knowledge and practice. The sum of their sciences is the removal of soul's deficiencies, and cleansing it of its reprehensible and vicious qualities, so as to achieve a heart empty of all save God and adorned with the constant remembrance of God."

O son, listen to this man, Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali for he has "contributed significantly to the development of a systematic view of Sufism and its integration and acceptance in mainstream Islam. He was a scholar of orthodox Islam, belonging to the Shafie school of Islamic jurisprudence and to the Asharite school of theology. Ghazali received many titles such as Sharaful A'emma (شرف الأئمّة‎), Zainuddin (زين الدين), and Hujjatul Islam, meaning "Proof of Islam" (حجّة الاسلام)."

Alhamdulillah alla kulli hal. Praise be to Allah in every circumstances.
Further reading: Sheikh Hamza Yusuf quoting Sidi Ahmed Zarruq on why some people wrongly reject Sufism.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Munajat al-Hikam (1)


O son, the best of du'a is one that reflects the essence of tawheed and who is better in composing a munajat (petition) which is laden with hikmah (wisdom) than the author of Al-Hikam, the venerated Ibn Atha'illah. May Allah bless his soul.

O Allah,
How do I implore my conditions to You when my conditions are not hidden from You.
How do I translate them to You into words when my words originate from You and go back to You.
How could You forsake my ambition when my ambition is walking towards You.
How could You not improve my position when my position is to stand with You and return to You.
Bismillah (In Allah's Name)
wabillah (with Allah)
waminallah (from Allah)
wa illallah (to Allah)
wa 'alallah (by Allah's Will)
wa fillah (in Allah's protection)
wala haula wala quwata illa billahil 'aliyil 'azim.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hukum Waqt


O son, please accept my apology for not being able to post something useful for you in the last two days. We are all subject to "Hukum Waqt" or the Laws of Time. And Time for me in the last couple of days (or at all times I should say) was to surrender to His Will.

For now I wish to share a couplet from Qasidah al-Burdah by Imam al-Busairi:
Amar tulkal khaira lakin ma' tamartu bihi
Wamas taqamtu fama qauli lakas taqimi
'My sins are heavy for I have asked you to do good deeds while I fail to do them myself. And I have asked you to be istiqamah yet I myself waver.'

Alhamdulillah, for only a murshid can diagnose one's spiritual illness, and I was lucky to have been given counsel on my shortcomings. Therefore, O son, I must go back to what I have ordered you to do recently which was reading and understanding the truth about tawhid and hence avoid the unforgivable sin of syirik - particularly that of syirik khafi. It is no wonder that syirik khafi is said to be like 'a black ant on a black stone on a dark night'. So let us all take heed.

I had on sunday had the opportunity to sit before Sheikh Nurrudin al-Banjari who hails from Indonesia. He is a well known 'aleem who is regarded as 'Azharu Thani' meaning 'the second al-Azhar'. We studied ahadith and one of them really brought much comfort to my ears.

It was narrated that the hajar aswad (the black stone) on Kaabah will rise in the hereafter having two eyes and be witness to those who did 'istilam' - those who waved or kissed it. And the Baitullah will be like a bride escorted by those who did tawaf in their lifetime - all will walk with the Bride into the Heavens bi-iznillah.

O son, may we find encouragement in increasing our good deeds for when we die the good places that we have frequented for zikr or ilm will weep our passing and be ever ready to defend us and grant shafaat bi-iznillah.

Reference: Qasidah Burdah is a translation from a book on the same by Ahmad Lutfi bin Abdul Wahab al Linggi

Friday, April 24, 2009

Salawat Nariah/Tarfrijiyah


Let me tell you a story about this wonderful salawat, how it landed in my heart.

Surely we acquire knowledge from books, listening to our guru or observing the surroundings but know that in reality, it is Allah the Murobbi who inspires, teaches and plants the seed of knowledge in our hearts.

I have learned to cherish this salawat because of the way it was inspired to me. After my father, Ismail, passed away in 1995, I fell into a state of severe depression and chaos. Lights of healing gradually appeared two years later when my mother and I went for umrah. I went there as someone who was very ignorant about religion hoping for guidance from Allah s.w.t. Due to inadequate understanding of pilgrimage rites and ibadah in general, the quality of my umrah, in my opinion, was way below acceptable and Allah knows best of the poor state of my soul. The only simple zikr I knew and recited was: 'Ya Halimu, Ya Aleemu, Ya Aleeyu, Ya Azeem'.

I would sit on the staircase facing Baitullah and lost myself in deep sadness for my inadequacies. Coming back from umrah I was, sadly, still in the state of ignorant as there were no traces of hidayah outwardly. But somehow, inwardly I became attached to a little du'a book, a book which had been in my possession for many years (though hardly touched). It went on for several days that each time I flipped the book, I saw Salawat Tafrijiyah. Although it appeared to be difficult at first, I felt a strong urge to read and by the grace of God, eventually memorized it, Alhamdulillah.

This was an important achievement for a faqir like me because it was not only my first salawat but a much-needed consolation for the umrah tarnished by ignorance. To this day I look back with humility at how badly lacking I was and I pray that if there were any benefits I could reap from my first pilgrimage, let it be my being istiqamah in reciting Salawat Tafrijiyah. Ameen...Ameen Ya Allah.

And I seek solace in the words of one venerable woman saint Rabiatul Adawiyah who says, 'The best of all karamah is in being istiqamah.'

Please, please let us all learn this salawat by heart and be istiqamah with it.

أللّهُمَّ صَلِّ صَلَاةً كَامِلَةً وَسَلِّمْ سَلَامًا تَامًّا عَلَى سَيِّدِنَا مُحَمَّدِ الّذِي تَنْحَلُّ بِهِ الْعُقَدُ وَتَنْفَرِجُ بِهِ الْكُرَبُ وَتُقْضَى بِهِ الْحَوَائِجُ وَتُنَالُ بِهِ الرَّغَائِبُ وَحُسْنُ الْخَوَاتِمِ وَيُسْتَسْقَى الْغَمَامُ بِوَجْهِهِ الْكَرِيْمِ وَعَلَى آلِهِ وَصَحْبِهِ فِيْ كُلِّ لَمْحَةٍ وَنَفَسٍ بِعَدَدِ كُلِّ مَعْلُوْمٍ لَكَ

'O Allah, send complete salutation and send perfect peace upon Sayyidina Muhammad,
with whom ceases all that binds,
and ends all sadness,
and fulfills all wishes,
and attains all desires,
and ends with goodness,
and causes the pouring of rain,
by his generous countenance,
and upon his family and his companions,
as much as a glance of an eye
and every breath that is made
that is in Your Knowledge.'
Credits: Arabic script from bahrusshofa.blogspot. English translation from islaminus.blogspot

Thursday, April 23, 2009

See the birds fly...


Whenever you see the birds fly in the sky, remember this verse from the Qur'an:
Al-Mulk (67):19 - that nothing holds the birds in the sky except for Allah Ar-Rahman.
'Do they not see the birds above them, spreading their wings and folding them in?
None upholds them except the Most Gracious (Allah).
Verily He is the All-Seer of everything.'

'Awalam yaraw ilaalttayri fawqahum saffatin wayaqbidna
ma yumsikuhunna illaalrrahman
innahu bikulli shay in baseer'

أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا إِلَى الطَّيْرِ فَوْقَهُمْ صَافَّاتٍ وَيَقْبِضْنَ ۚ مَا يُمْسِكُهُنَّ إِلَّا الرَّحْمَـٰنُ ۚ إِنَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ بَصِيرٌ

None upholds the birds in the sky, except Allah.
Photo credit: Randomguru/Flickr

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sufi Fable on the Cities of the Soul


O Son, in addition to Kitab al-Ahadiyyah (The One Alone) by Ibn al-Arabi, this is the second most important posting I would like you to read and contemplate. Have patience, ponder over them and ponder over your own state, see in which city you presently belong to and move on until you know when you have arrived at the One Alone, bi-iznillah. Ariftu Robbi bi Robbi - I know my Lord by my Lord.

'After passing through the outer domains of the nafs, Ammara, the Imperious City of Freedom and Pleasure, and Lawwama, the City of Self Reproach, he at last reaches Mulhima, the four districts of the inner City of Love and Inspiration. Here a guide appears who will lead him on to Self-Annihilation...he reaches faqr, the total emptiness required for the soul's Return.' - and ultimately reaching the Castle of Mutma'ina and hearing the Lord's invitation - Irji'ee.

'Ya ayyatuhan nafsul mutmainnah, irji'ee ila robbiki rodiyatan mardiyyah, fadkhuli fi 'ibadi, wadkhuli jannati.' 'O, (you) soul, in complete rest and satisfaction! Come back you to your Lord, well-pleased (yourself) and well-pleasing unto Him! Enter you, then, among My devotees! And enter you My Paradise.' (Al-Qur’ân 89: 27-30)

City of Ammara:As I was wandering in this temporal world, Allah led me to a straight path. Walking on it in a state between sleep and awakening, as if in a dream, I reached a city which was enveloped in darkness. It was so vast, I could neither see nor conceive of its limits. This city contained everything which was created. There were people from all nations and races. So crowded were the streets that one could hardly walk, so noisy was it that one could hardly hear oneself or others. All the ugly actions of all the creatures, all the sins known and unknown to me, surrounded me. In awe and amazement I watched the strange scene.

Far in the distance, in the apparent center of this city, there was yet another city, with high walls, huge in size. What I observed all around me led me to think that never since the beginning of time, had a ray of light from the sun of truth fallen upon this city. Not only were the sky and the roads and houses of this city in total darkness, but its citizens, who were like bats, had minds and hearts as dark as night. Their nature and their behavior were like those of wild dogs growling and fighting with each other for a mouthful of food, obsessed by lust and anger, they killed and tore each other apart. Their only pleasure was in drinking and in shameless sex, without discrimination of male and female, wives and husbands or others. Lying, cheating, gossiping, slander, stealing was their custom, with total absence of concern for others, conscience or fear of Allah. Many among them called themselves Muslims. In fact, some were considered by them to be wise men - shaykhs, teachers, men of knowledge, and preachers. Some among them who became aware of Allah’s commandments, of that which is right and lawful in the eyes of Allah and men, and of that which Allah forbids, tried to act upon these and found satisfaction in it and could no longer associate with the people of the city. Neither could the people of the city tolerate them. I heard they took refuge in the walled city I had seen in the center of this realm.

I stayed in this outer city for a while. At length I found someone who could hear me and understand what I said. I asked him the name of the place. He told me that it was Ammara, the imperious city, the city of freedom where everyone did what he pleased. I inquired about their state. He said that it was the city of joy, which derived from carelessness and heedlessness. In the beautiful darkness that surrounded it, each one thought that he was the only one. I asked him the name of their ruler. He informed me that he was called ‘Aql al-Ma’ash, His Highness Cleverness, and that he was an astrologer, a sorcerer, an engineer who engineered things, a doctor who gave life to the ones who otherwise would die, an intelligent learned king who had no equal in this world. His advisers and ministers were called Logic, his judges depended on the ancient Law of Common Sense, his stewards were called Imagination and Daydreaming. He said that all the citizens were totally loyal to their ruler, not only respecting and appreciating him and his government but loving him, for they all felt an affinity to him in their nature, in their customs, in their behavior. I, possessing the same intelligence, and with it knowing that indeed the king of this city was the perfect master of all the sciences of this world, wished to learn these sciences in order to be rich and famous. I stayed for a while in the king’s service and learned from him many clever things. I learned commerce, politics, military sciences, manufacturing arms, the law of man, and arts to glorify man. I became world-renowned. As men pointed me out with their fingers and talked about me, my ego rejoiced. Since all the parts of my being were totally under the influence of my worldly intelligence, they all found energy in the rejoicing of my ego and rushed to spend that energy in worldly delights and the pleasures of the flesh, without any consideration of whether all this hurt others, or even myself. Something inside of me at times saw that all this was wrong, but I had no strength nor ability to prevent it. That part of me which saw was pained, and wished to get out of the darkness of this city. One such day, when the pain was most acute, I went to my master the king, His Highness Cleverness, and daringly asked, “How is it that the men of knowledge of your realm never act upon their knowledge and fear Allah? How is it that none in this city fear the punishment of Allah, while they fear your punishment? How is it that there is no light here, nor outside, nor in your people’s hearts? How is that your subjects appear as human beings, yet their nature is like that of wild animals and worse still?” He answered, “I – the one who can figure out how to derive personal benefit from this world, even if my benefit is their loss – am their ideal. I have an agent in each of them. They are my servants and the servants of my agents in them, but I also have a master who guides me, and that is the Devil. No one here is able to change his way, and all are content and think of themselves as better than others. None will to change, and therefore they will not change.”
When I heard that, I wished to leave that city, and intended to escape. But knowing the king’s strength and control over everything, I asked his permission to leave. “O my absolute ruler,” I said, “You have done so much for this humble servant of yours and have given me all I have. What a joyful life I have led under your rule! You clothed me with rich furs, gave me companions for fun and games. Neither drunkenness nor gambling have you forbidden. I have tasted all the pleasures, and I feel I have had my share. Did you know that I came to this city as a traveler? Permit me now to go to that big castle that I see in the middle of your city.”
The king answered me, saying, “I rule over that castle also. That district is called Lawwama, Self-Reproach, but its people are not the same as we are here. In this imperious city of ours, our idol is the Devil. Neither he nor I blame anyone for what they do. Therefore, none regret what they have done for we live in imagination. In the city of Self-Reproach, imagination does not have total power. They also do what is called sin – they commit adultery, they satisfy their lust with men and women alike, they drink and gamble, steal and murder, gossip and slander as we do – but often they see what they have done, and, regret and repent.”

City of Lawwama:As soon as I finished talking with my master, Cleverness, I rushed to the gates of the City of Self-Reproach. Over the gates was written at ta’ibu min adh dhanbi ka-man la adhnaba, “The one who has repented is like the one who has never committed a sin.” I gave the password by repenting for my sins, and entered the city. I saw that this city was considerably less crowded than the City of Darkness from which I had come. I would say that its population was half of the city I had left. After I had stayed there for a while, I found out that there was a man of knowledge who knew the Holy Qur’an and expounded upon it. I went to him and saluted him. He returned my salutation and wished Allah’s peace and blessings upon me. Although I had been told by the ruler of the City of Darkness that he ruled here also, I checked with my teacher, asking him the same of their ruler. He confirmed that they were under the jurisdiction of His Highness Cleverness, but that they had their own administrators, whose name were Arrogance, Hypocrisy, Bigotry and Fanaticism. Among the population were many men of knowledge, many men who appeared to be virtuous, devout, pious and righteous. I made friend with these men and found them to be afflicted with arrogance, egotism, envy, ambition, bigotry, and in their friendship, insincerity. They were hostile to each other setting traps for each other. What I can say for the best of them is that they prayed and tried to follow Allah’s commandments because they feared Allah’s punishment and Hell, and hoped for an eternal pleasurable life in Paradise.
I asked one of them about the City of Darkness outside the walls, and complained about the people there. He agreed with my complaints, and said that the population of that city consisted of corrupt, seditious, murderous nonbelievers. They had no faith, nor did they ever pray. He said they were totally unconscious and heedless. But from time to time, by some mysterious guidance, they were led to the City of Self-Reproach. Then they realize what they had done and regretted, repented, and asked for forgiveness. In their city, he said, they did not know what they were doing, so it never occurred to them to regret or to ask for forgiveness. Therefore, they did not help each other, and no one interceded for them.

City of Mulhima:When I had first come to the City of Self-Reproach, I had seen that in its center there was yet another castle. I asked the learned inhabitant about it. He said that it was called Mulhima, the City of Love and Inspiration. I asked about its ruler, and was told that he was called ‘Aql al Ma’ad, His Highness Wisdom, Knower of Allah. This king, said my informant, had a prime minister whose name was Love. “If ever any one of us enters the City of Love and Inspiration,” he went on, “we don’t accept him back to our city. For anyone who goes there becomes like the rest of the city’s population – totally attached to that prime minister. He falls in love with him, and is ready to give up anything – all that he has, his possessions, his family and children even his life – for the sake of that prime minister called Love. Our sultan, His Highness Cleverness, finds this attributes absolutely unacceptable. He fears the influence of those who have this quality, for both their loyalty and actions seem to be illogical and are not understandable by common sense. “We hear that the people of that city call upon Allah chanting and singing, even with the accompaniment of reed flute and tambourines and drums, and that doing so they lose their senses and go into ecstasy. Our religious leaders and theologians find this unacceptable according to our orthodox rules. Therefore, none of them even dreams of setting foot in the City of Love and Inspiration.” When I heard that, I felt a terrible distaste for the City of Self-Reproach, and ran to the gates of the blessed City of Love and Inspiration. I read over the door bab ul-jannati maktub: la ilaha illa Llah. I recited aloud the sacred phrase: la ilaha illa Llah – ‘There is no god but Allah” – prostrated myself, and offered my sincere thankfulness. At this, the gates opened and I entered. Soon I found a dervish lodge, where I saw the high and the lowly, the rich and the poor together, as if one single being. I saw them loving and respecting each other, serving each other with regard, reverence, and deference, in a continuous state of pure joy. They were talking, singing – their songs and their talk captivating, beautiful, always about Allah and the Hereafter, spiritual; removed from all anxiety and pain, as if living in Paradise. I did not hear or see anything that resembled dispute or quarrel, anything harmful or damaging. There was no intrigue or malice, envy or gossip. I felt immediately a peace, comfort, and joy among them. I saw a beautiful old man, consciousness and wisdom shining through him. I was attracted to him and went over and addressed him: “O my dearest, I am a poor traveler and a sick one at that, seeking a remedy for my sickness of darkness and consciousness. Is there a doctor in this City of Love and Inspiration to cure me?” He stayed silent for a while. I asked his name. He told me his name was Hidaya, Guidance. Then he said, “My nickname is Truthfulness. Since time immemorial not a single untruth passed from these lips. My duty and my charge are to show the way to the ones who sincerely seek union with the Beloved. And to you I say, And serve thy Lord until there comes to thee that which is certain. (Hijr, 99). And remember the name of thy Lord and devote thyself to Him with complete devotion. (Muzammil, 8). “You are also a sincere lover: listen to me with the ear of your heart.

There are four districts in this city of Love and Inspiration (City of Mulhima) to which you have come. These four districts are one within the other. “The outer one is called Muqallid, the district of the imitators. The skillful doctor you seek to cure your ills is not within that district. Neither is the pharmacy that has medicine for the sickness of heedlessness, darkness of the heart, and hidden polytheism. Although you will find many who advertise themselves as doctors of the heart – appearing as such, dressing in robes, and wearing great turbans; declaring themselves to be wise men while trying to hide their ignorance, their depravity, their lack of character; unable to prove what they claim to be; seeking fame and ambitious for the world – they themselves are sick with the sickness of themselves. They assign partners to Allah, and are masters of only of imitation. “They hide their intrigue, duplicity, and malice well. They are intelligent, perceptive, jolly and humorous, bon vivant. Although their tongues appear to be pronouncing the prayers and the name of Allah and you find them often in the circles of dervishes, their minds, which guide them, do not lead them to see the influence and benefit of their prayers. Therefore you will not find with them the balm to soothe the pains of unconsciousness and forgetfulness. “You may as well leave this district of imitators and take refuge in the district of Mujahid, the district of warriors.”

I followed his advice and went on to the district of the warriors. The people I met there were weak and thin; gentle, thoughtful, thankful; devoted to praying, obeying, fasting, contemplating, and meditating. Their strength lay in living in accordance with that which they knew. I became close to them, and saw that they had left all the failures of character produced by egoism and egotism and the shadow of unconsciousness. They had formed a talent for being servants, pleased with their Lord and content with their state. I stayed in the district of the gentle warriors for many years. I acted as they acted and lived as they lived, seeing how I acted and how I lived, not letting a moment pass in heedlessness. I learned and showed patience and forbearance, and learned to be content and satisfied with my lot, and I was content and satisfied. I fought hard, day and night, with my ego but still I was left with the polytheism of many “me’s” and “I’s” fighting amongst themselves, even though they faced one Allah. This, my sickness of shirk khafi – setting up many “I’s” as partners to Allah – cast heavy shadows over my heart, hid the truth, and kept me in heedlessness. I asked the doctors of the district, I begged them. I told them of my sickness, the hidden polytheism, the awful heedlessness, the darkness of the heart, and asked for help. They told me, “Even in this place of those who battle their egos there is no cure for your ills, for He is with you wherever you are.” (Hadid, 4)

Then they advised me to travel in the direction of the castle of Mutma’ina, the City of Peace and Tranquility. Near that city lay a district called Munajat wa Muraqaba – supplication and meditation. Perchance there, they said, there would be a doctor to cure me. When I came to the district of meditation I saw its inhabitants, quiet and peaceful, remembering Allah inwardly, reciting His Beautiful Names. To each and every one of them a son of the heart had been born. They stood, heads bowed in the presence of their Lord, silent, melancholic, sad, in deep humility and veneration. Although their exteriors seemed annihilated, ruinous, their hearts shone and flourished. Their ways were gentle and courteous. They barely spoke with each other for fear of distracting each other’s attention from the One in Whose presence they felt themselves to be, preventing each other from deep meditation. Light as feathers they were, yet they feared most to be a burden and a load on others. I spent many years in the district of meditation and contemplation. I did as they did, and indeed I thought I was finally cured of heedlessness, polytheism, and unconsciousness. But I was not cured of the hidden dualism of “I” and “He” that still cast heavy shadows upon my heart. My tears ran in torrents. Wretched and in total awe I fell into a strange state where an ocean of sadness surrounded me. I wished to drown in that sea. I found no other solution but to die. But I could not do anything, I had no will, not even to die.
As I stood there helpless, sad, in ecstasy, there appeared the beautiful teacher whom I had first met in these strange lands, the one who was called Hidaya, the Guide. He looked upon me with compassionate eyes. “O poor slave of himself, in exile in this foreign land! O wanderer away from home! O poor wretched one, you cannot find your cure in this state of spirit. Leave this place. Go to that district yonder, just next to the gate of the castle of Mutma’ina. The name of that quarter is Fana – self annihilation. There you will find doctors who have annihilated their selves, who have no being, who know the secret of fa-afnu thumma afnu thumma afnu fa-abku thumma abku thumma abku – “Be nought, be nought, be nought, so that you will be, so that you will be, so that you will be forever.”

Without delay, I went to the district of annihilation. I saw its population mute, speechless, as if dead, with no strength in them to utter a word. They had left the hope of any benefit from talk and were ready to give up their souls to the angel of death. They were totally unconcerned whether I was there or not. I saw no action among them except their performing their prayers five times a day. They had lost the concept of separation between this world and the Hereafter, forgotten it. Pain and joy were equal to them. They had no taste for either material or spiritual things. No thought preoccupied them. They did not remember anything, nor did they look forward to anything. All need and desire was strange to them. They had even stopped asking Allah for what they wanted. I stayed with them for many years. I did what they did. I did not appear other than they, but I did not know their inner state, so I could not do what they did inwardly. Even in that place, among them, I felt great pain. Yet when I wished to describe the symptoms of my ill, I couldn’t find a body nor any existence, so as to say “This is my body”, or “This is me.” Then I knew that which was “me,” turned into the owner of me. Then I knew that to say “That being is mine” is a lie, and to lie is a sin for everyone. Then I knew that to ask the real owner for what was “mine” was the hidden polytheism of which I had wished to rid myself. What, then, was to be done? In awe, I saw that I was free of all my wishes, I cried and cried. In my despair, if I were to call upon Him and say, “O Lord,” then there would be two – I and He, me and the One from Whom I seek help, the will and the Willed, the desire and the Desired, the lover and the Beloved, oh so many. I knew not the remedy. The woeful wailing attracted the pity of the angel of inspiration whom His Lord had charged to teach the lovers. With the permission of his Lord, he read to me from the book of divine inspiration: “First, annihilate your actions.”
He gave that to me as gift. As I stretched my hand to receive it, I saw that there was no hand. It was a composition of water and earth and ether and fire. I had no hand to take with. I had no power to act. There is only One Who has power, the All-Powerful. Whatever action occurs through me, it belongs to the Absolute Actor. All power, all acts, I referred to Him, and I left all that had happened to me and through me in this world. I knew, as I had been taught by the angel of inspiration, what the annihilation of one’s action is. And all praise is due to Allah.
The proof of the necessity of disowning one’s actions in the path to truth is in the verse in the Holy Qur’an: "Qul kullun min ‘indilla-hi", Say, all (action) is from Allah. (An-Nisaa, 78) I am unlettered and have not been taught, yet Allah Most High in His manifestation of the Ultimate Truth has graced me with the ability and power to teach. As what is related here are occurrences that happened to me, experiences that brought a state of mind and spirit, and as it is said, "al halu la yu’rafu bil-qal" – “the states cannot be told by words” – and it is not possible to express such states so that others can appreciate or even imagine them. Then I wished, with the permission of Allah and with the help of the angel of inspiration, to leave my attributes – those qualities which makes one’s personality. When I looked, what I saw was not mine. Neither was the content mine. Totally helpless, I was cut off from all the attributes, visible and invisible, that distinguished me, from all qualities exterior and interior that had made me “me”. With all my being and feeling and spirit, I supposed myself a pure essence. Then I sensed that even this was duality. What do I have to do, what relation do I have, with something that does not belong to me? I was helpless again. Then even my essence was taken away from me. Still I wished and longed for Him. I felt the meaning of "wa talibu ‘ayni ‘abdi" - The one who longs for Me is My true servant. Woe to this me in me, I know not what to do. Helpless, I hope for union.
Wa Llahu bi kulli shay’in muhit,
Allah Who encompass all things,
huwal-awwalu wal-akhiru waz-zahiru wal-batinu wa huwa bi kulli shay’in ‘alim,
Who is before the before, and after the after, and all that is evident and all that is hidden, and He is the knower of all things became manifest in the secret of my heart. Even then I wished that the secret of "mutu qabla an tamutu", “to die before dying” be actualized in me. O woe, again this hidden duality of I and the One I long for. This, too, cannot be the truth. What ill is this that give pangs of pain when I move, when I wish, when I long, when I ask for help, when I pray and beg? What strange state have I fallen into, difficult to resolve?

Castle of Mutmai'na:
Helpless, I gave all these to their Owner and waited at the gate of acquiescence in agony of death, senseless, without thought or feeling, as if dead, expecting death to take me at every breath. I stayed in that state I know not how long. Following the advice "istafid qalbaka" - “Ask your heart,” I told my heart to instruct me. It said, “As long as there is a trace of you in you, you cannot hear your Lord’s call irji’ee – ‘Come to Me!’” If a cat fell into a salt pit and drowned, and in time its body became salt, if a single hair were left, could that salt be used as food? How often and how long do theologians debate and discuss such matters! Some say that in spite of the single hair the salt is clean, that the corpse of the cat is now the salt; and some say that the single hair is as much as the cat as was the whole body. Thus the salt is dirty and unlawful to eat. I felt the truth of it and wished that trace of me in me would die. I immersed that trace in divine beatitude. An ecstasy came, from me, to me, over which that was mine, covering it all, the taste of which is impossible to describe. Without ear, without words, without letters I heard the invitation: Irji’ee - “Come.” I tried to think, “What is this state?” My thought could not think it. I was made to know that thought cannot think about the sacred secret. Even that knowledge was taken away from me as fast as it came to me.
O seeker, what has been said here is not intended to show that I know. Therefore it will only be made known to you after I am gone from among you. It is for the benefit of the seekers of truth, for the lovers who long for the Beloved, so that it may help them to know themselves, so that they may find in which of the cities I traveled through they themselves are, and which of its citizens they befriend. When and if in sincerity they know their place, they will act accordingly, and know the direction of the gate of Allah’s pleasure, and be thankful. Perchance they will remember this faqir, the writer of these words, with a little prayer. Allah’s peace and blessings be upon Shaykh Muhammad Sadiq Naqshabandi Erzinjani, the original writer of these words, and the ones who read them. Al-Fatihah.

From:Suhrawardi, The Shape of Light: Hayakal Al-Nur
By Yahya ibn Habash al-Suhrawardi, Tosun Bayrak
Published by Fons Vitae, 1998
ISBN 0188752056, 9780188752052

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sahl al-Tustari


O son, I will say this again to you and I will repeat it a thousand times if need be, that the blessings one could get when learning from habaib is simply incredible. You will know this is so when whatever 'ilm (knowledge) they transmit to you would just stick with you in your heart.

Not too long ago I had the opportunity to sit before Sheikh Habib Yusuf Bakhour al-Hassani at 'Ijtima Ulama' organized by Al-Jenderami. It was my first experience being in the presence of a habib whose aura simply overwhelmed me. The beauty of his face and his charming persona would remind a discerning heart of Nabi Yusuf a.s.

One lesson I learned from Habib Yusuf was the story of Sahl al-Tustari (Abu Muhammad Sahl Bin Abdullah Al Tustari: 818 -896 CE) - how a young Sahl learned a simple wirid from his uncle, but profound enough that it had transformed Sahl into a great sufi.

Sahl would often wake up in the middle of the night only to see his devout uncle engrossed in his prayers. So he asked his uncle if he could be like him, to which his uncle, Muhammad ibn al-Sawwar replied, "You are still young, suffice that every night you remember Allah in your heart by repeating these words 3 times without moving your tongue. When you are strengthened by it, increase it to 7 times. This will be benificial for you for if you know Allah is witnessing you, Allah is looking at you and Allah is with you, surely you will not do anything that would displease Him."
So say:
Allahu shahidi
Allahu naziri
Allahu ma'i
Allah is watching me.
Allah is looking at me.
Allah is with me.

Sahl grew up to be, as al-Dhahabi described, "the master of knowers (Shaykh al-`ârifîn), the ascetic sufi (al-Suufî al-zâhid) who has a firm foothold in the path." It was narrated that Sahl had said to one of his disciples: "Try to say continuously for one day Allah, Allah, Allah and do the the same the next day, the day after, until it becomes a habit." Then he told him to repeat it at night also, until it became so familiar that the disciple repeated it even during his sleep. Then Sahl said "Do not consciously repeat the Name anymore, but let your whole faculties be engrossed in remembering Him!" The disciple did this until he became absorbed in the thought of God. One day a piece of wood fell on his head and broke it. The drops of blood that dripped to the ground bore the legend Allah, Allah, Allah.

It is also worth mentioning that one of Sahl's famous disciples was Mansur al-Hallaj (858-922 CE) - the Persian sufi mystic who was executed for proclaiming 'Anal Haqq' (I am the Truth). 'Many if not most of the Ulema consider him one of the Friends (awliyâ’) of Allah, such as Ibn Khafif who visited him in jail, Abu al-Qasim al-Nasir Abadi, al-Qushayri, Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah..' 'Among his sayings: “Take care of your ego; if you do not make it busy, it shall make you busy” and “Whoever points to Him is an aspirant-Sufi whereas whoever points on His behalf is a Sufi.”

Sahl's rare works have only recently been made available by a favorite publisher of mine Fons Vitae: TAFSIR AL TUSTARI - "The earliest surviving Sufi commentary on the Qur'an, this record is not only one of the few authenticated works in Tustari's name but is also a key source for understanding the mystical thought and teachings of this important and influential Sufi. In addition to insights into the spiritual significance of almost 1,000 verses of the Qur'an, this commentary, presented in complete English translation for the first time, includes numerous references to traditions of the Prophet, explanations of the ethical and mystical dimensions of the religious life, stories of the prophets, and anecdotes about earlier mystics. Generously augmented with explanatory footnotes throughout, the book will provide readers with an invaluable introduction to the Sufi tradition of Qur'anic interpretation and acquaint them with spiritual doctrines fundamental to the later development of Sufism."

Tafsir Al-Tustari
By Sahl ibn 'Abd Allah al-Tustari, Annabel Keeler, Ali Keeler, Yousef Meri
Translated by Annabel Keeler, Ali Keeler
Edition: illustrated
Published by Fons Vitae, 2009
ISBN 1891785192, 9781891785191
310 pages

May Allah Kareem Wills that this valuable and priceless book makes its way to my hands soon and most importantly may Allah make us practise what Sahl al-Tustari had practised: Allahu shahidi, Allahu naziri, Allahu ma'i.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ashabul Kahf (Part 1)

Entrance to the Cave

O son, may you learn the morals exemplified by the Ashabul Kahf and know that Allah will protect you if your himma (determination) to defend your faith surpass what may have been more desirable for a youth. This is a story of seven young men who fled into a cave for fear of losing their iman, a compelling story mentioned in Surah No 18 of the Qur'an, a surah named after these young devout royals.

In Surah al-Kahf, apart from the fable of the seven sleepers, it also comprises two other major subjects, namely a lesson on ruh as given in the story of Khidr and Musa; and about Zulkarnain the great traveler. These parables are major lessons in their own right. Khidr, Musa and Zulkarnain are prominent characters, yet, the Ashabul Kahf was chosen to be the surah's title. That says a lot about these men who lived between the time of the prophethood of Nabi Musa a.s. and Nabi Muhammad s.a.w and who were followers of Isawi teachings.

Allah in His mercy made the sun rise and set in such a way that the Ashabul Kahf would not be affected by its rays. "And you might have seen the sun when it rose, declining to the right from their Cave and when it set, turning away from them to the left, while they lay in the midst of the cave. That is the proof of Allah. He whom Allah guides he is the rightly-guided but he whom He sends astray, for him you will find no Wali (guiding friend) to lead him" (Al Kahf:17)

According to Habib Ali Zainal Abidin, Allah could have placed a rock or any covering at the mouth of the cave so as to protect the Ashabul Kahf, but Allah wanted to grant His bounties by instructing the sun to be of service to them. Allah also made them "turn on their right and on their left sides, and their dog stretching forth his two forelegs at the entrance."
If God had not made them twist and turn they would have been consumed by the earth for that is the sunnah of Allah for it. What is more amazing is that Allah even made a dog affectionate towards them - the solehin -'yuhibbu solehin'. So who are we not to love the solehin? Imagine a dog getting mentioned in the Holy Book. It was narrated that as the dog was tailing the men while they were taking refuge, Allah made the dog speak to them saying that he knew they were fleeing for Allah's sake and that he wanted to follow and guard them!

This story of Ashabul Kahf is loaded with precious lessons especially for the young people who are often easily distracted and whose iman is vulnerable. It is not only a parable which fascinates our mind but Allah promises that reciting its verses would bring us tremendous benefits as follows:

1. Those who memorize the first 10 and/or the last 10 verses will be protected from fitnah Dajjal.
2. Hussain Ibn Hudair while reciting this verse had made his horse neighed for it saw clouds descending onto his home. The clouds were a visible manifestation of sakinah that Allah promised to those who recite the Qur'an. Even if there was no physical evidence, the hearts are able to feel the serenity and blessings.
3. For houses in which the Qur'an is being recited, the angels will see them shine like stars just as we humans see the stars shining like a guiding light in the night skies. Likewise, if we were to recite any verses such as Al-Fatihah or Yaasin before a corpse or burial place, the recipients will benefit from the light of the Qur'an in the same manner.
4. Anyone who recites Surah al-Kahf on a Friday will be granted protection from all kinds of fitnah and his sins pardoned until the next Friday.
5. Allah will grant those who recite the Qur'an, a bright light shining forth from his feet to the highest skies and Allah will reserve these for him during the darkest hours in the hereafter.
6. Whoever recites the last 5 verses of al-Kahf before bedtime, he shall wake up at whatever time he wants.
7. A house in which Surah al-Kahf is recited will be protected from shayatin and certainly, the best protection is from Allah the Most High.

O son, I hope you will feel encouraged to amal Surah al-Kahf as much as I was motivated hearing this tausiyah (lesson) from Habib Ali Zainal Abidin. Although I have already known some of the virtues of Surah al-Kahf listed above, hearing it from Habib Ali has left a lasting impression in my heart, bi-iznillah. Certainly, the barakah that one gets from learning directly from a guru cannot be overemphasized. May Allah increase us in knowledge and make us steadfast in our amal. Allahumma Ameen.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Book of Illumination & The Book of Wisdom


The above book published by Fons Vitae is a translation of al-Tanwir fi Isqat al-Tadbir, a Sufi text composed by the most renowned Muslim saint and jurist of the 13th century, Ibn Ata'illah al-Iskandari, one who is famously and continually quoted for his pearls of wisdom in Kitab al-Hikam (The Book of Wisdom).

One of the aphorisms in Kitab al-Hikam which my guru expounded yesterday evening (that has inspired this posting) was on the issues of tadbir and takdir. Tadbir literally means arranging but in the context of this aphorism by Ibn Ata'illah, it is the pre-occupation one has in taking care of business by selfishly planning and calculating one's affairs. Takdir is, of course, the opposite, that which He has pre-ordained for you.

Words from the publisher:
"What happens if you stop taking care of yourself? Will anyone else step in to take care of you? This Sufi text by the renowned Shadhili master, Ibn Ata'illah al-Iskandari, asks and answers this basic existential question about the way we live our lives. In Kitab al-Tanwir fi Isqat al-Tadbir, Ibn Ata'illah proposes that if you desist from selfish calculation to secure your own welfare, then you invite Allah to step in and take care of you, materially as well as spiritually."

"Quoting al-Jilani, the Shaykh says, "My brothers and sisters, I did not arrive in union with God by staying awake all night in worship, by staying aware all day fasting, or by staying engrossed learning knowledge! Rather, I arrived at union with God by generosity and humility and letting my breast be at peace." He adds a Sufi master has said, "How do you expect to enter into God's presence when something behind you is dragging you back…" Then Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah goes on to present ways in which the "whole heart" is realized fully in one's life and how we shift our attention away from being overly self-preoccupied and endlessly absorbed in self-directed calculation into a state of utter trust."

Certainly, we can appreciate that especially for a novice, this shift from tadbir to takdir is akin to making that leap of faith into darkness, into uncertainties and into the unknown. How could that be possible, the rational mind asks. It demands a great deal of faith in the words of Allah in Surah Hud verse no 6:
"No creature is there crawling on the earth, but its provision rests on Allah..."

While He provides, our task as He has subtly and categorically taught us through His instruction to Maryam a.s was 'to shake the tree'.
"And shake the trunk of date palm towards you, it will let fall fresh ripe dates upon you. So eat and drink and be glad... (Qur'an, 19: 25-26) If He had wanted, He could have just made the fruits fell onto Maryam's lap but Maryam despite undergoing the pains of childbirth was compelled to make an effort of her own.
More so for us! And going back to the Sufi Aphorisms, Ibn Ata'illah says 'and while you should avoid putting in conscious effort in managing your affairs, your effort should be focused on you being effortless.'

We recall the story of Maryam a.s. and surely we empathize with her as she was in the state of utter helplessness that she even lamented 'would that I had died before this, and had been forgotten and out of sight!' (Qur'an 19:23)
Buy nay, her effort was guided, she was instructed to do a specific thing that God knew she needed to do. The guidance on effort came from Him alone and so she did, she shook the tree. Imagine, if she were to come out of that agonizing episode and tell people 'look, I shook the tree, if it was not for my effort, I would have been in a more dire state.' Of course she did not. Likewise, can we say upon reaping the fruits we thought we sow, that it was entirely our own effort?

O son, your duty as has been advised to me by many wise men is that, before you achieve anything, your job is to shake the tree for that is a job of a servant of Allah. Afterwards, should you be fortunate enough to earn something from the 'effort' that you have put in, your job then is to return all praise and all efforts to Him. Outwardly, Shari'a-wise, you make the effort but inwardly, haqiqat-wise, you leave all things to Him and to Him alone.

And this brings me to a du'a which I got an ijazah for, from a student of as-Sayyid Muhammad bin ‘Alawi al-Maaliki al-Hasani (rh), a du'a said by Nabi Adam a.s.
The gist of the du'a goes something like this:
O Lord you know my secrets and my intention, please forgive me. You know my wish please fulfill it. You know my true self please forgive me. And please let iman grows in my heart, so that I become truly certain that I will not receive anything except what You have ordained for me. And please let me be pleased with what you have destined for me.

Wallahu'alam. May Allah have mercy on me for any unintentional mistakes in this transmission. May the fragrances of Ibn ‘Ata’Illah's gnosis engulf our hearts and minds. Ameen.

Friday, April 17, 2009

'Truly I Have Love for You'


A friend of mine, a friend on the Path, is blessed to have gotten an ijazah for a hadith from his guru who received it from the fragrance of the land of al-Haram as-Sayyid Muhammad bin ‘Alawi al-Maaliki al-Hasani (rh). A truly great man whom I had met only once but his perfumed soul lingers in my heart until today and for the longest time. Alhamdulillah indeed!

The same hadith was narrated from Mu’az bin Jabal (ra) where Rasulullah (saw) had said:
يا معاذ، إني أحبك فقلاَللهُمَّ أَعِنِّي عَلَى ذِكْرِكَ وَشُكْرِكَ وَحُسْنِ عِبَادَتِكَ
O Mu’az, truly I have LOVE for you, therefore you should say:
"O Allah I plea that You make me always remember You, be grateful to You, and be of good service to You.”
"Allahumma a'inni 'ala zikrika wa shukrika wa husni ibadatika."

Imagine, the LOVE that the Prophet s.a.w has for us, and I say 'has' not 'had' for he is near and he is with us. Therefore, to show your appreciation for the Beloved of Allah, Yaseen Habibullah, please memorize this short but meaningful du'a and recite it after solat or whenever really. Please also pay attention to the three keywords mentioned therein:
- remember,
- be grateful and
- serve.

These are what Allah would LOVE us do for His sake, so hasten.
I pray we will all be istiqamah (constant) in reciting this du'a.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Divine Graces / al-Minah al-Qudussiya


Extracts from al-Minah al-Quddusiya
by Sheikh Ahmad al-Alawi
(Ahmad ibn Mustafa al-’Alawi al-Mustaghanemi, 1869 - 1934)
“Remembrance is the mightiest rule of the religion.…The law was not enjoined upon us, neither were the rites of worship ordained, but for the sake of establishing the remembrance of God.”
In the Name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Know that this knowledge of the Divine is favored above all others; to have an understanding of it is better than all else and no one denies it save he who is cut off from its blessings. One may at some time be able to do without other forms of knowledge but one cannot do without this knowledge at any time, and no one claims to be able to, save the ignorant man who is deprived of the taste of union; and he who turns away from something, is thereby put far from it.

Al-Ghazali often used to refer to the two verses of Abu al-Fath al-Busti (may God have mercy on them both) which are as follows:
"O servant of the body, how you strive in its service!
And seek profit through things of error.
You have a duty to your soul, so perfect its happiness.
For you are by virtue of the soul, not the body, a man."

We can see by these words that this knowledge is the noblest of all, for its nobility derives from the nobility of the known, and its power derives from the power of that with which it is associated, namely the Eternal itself. God possesses a nobility above all things, and all other realms of knowledge are but slaves and handmaidens to it.

This is demonstrated by the words:
"O you who hasten seeking knowledge.
All knowledge is a slave to spiritual knowledge.
You seek to know the law in order to act correctly,
while you ignore the One who revealed all wisdom."

From 'Two Who Attained: Twentieth-Century Sufi Saints: Shaykh Ahmad al-'Alawi & Fatima al-Yashrutiyya (Leslie Cadavid) by Fons Vitae