Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Speak for long term


I never would have imagined that I could take home a profound religious lesson from a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article. We all know that backbiting is bad and we often heard from Sufi gurus the importance of talking less, but having read an article in HBR, I realized better the weight of our spoken words.

In 'How to Speak More Strategically', Peter Bregman described what he had learned while having a sore throat.   Naturally, when we have a sore throat we speak very little and listen more. Bregman noticed that  people speak for three main reasons: "to help ourselves, to help others and to connect with each other." However, in reality, when we speak we tend to do the opposite of all those. We talk to gossip about other people to feel good about ourselves, that we are better than that person and we do it so that we could connect with the other gossipers. In truth, we stray from the real purpose of talking 'to connect with each other' because by gossiping or backbiting we actually distance ourselves from the person we gossip about and our fellow gossipers might well turn their back against us sooner or later.

Bregman also felt that he had the urge to be helpful to people by sharing information with them. But then again he realized while doing so he often would speak to show that he knows something so that people would give their attention to him so that he would increase his influence in his group so that people would like him and respect him. In short, he ended up projecting the image of a show-off guy. 

Having a sore throat gave him the opportunity to observe how people speak and evaluating his own speaking habits (which we all could relate to) he concluded that: "We often speak to make ourselves feel better in the short-term."  This poses a problem because life and relationships are long terms. Backbiting, raising one's voice, offering unsolicited opinions, making jokes about others, etc. are not going to add value to our lives and relationships in the long run.

My own conclusion from Bregman's article: when we are about to open our mouth, pause and think if the words we are about to utter could benefit others and ourselves in the long term. Would it be useful for the other person? Would it make him/her happy? Would it improve the situation? Let's try to be more calculative about the contents and quantity of our spoken words. Cut all the craps, speak little and speak pearls. Think long term.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Once upon a Rajab in Syria | God bless all women


There's no denying the fact that we all have our highs and lows. When I lamented to a friend, "life is not a bed of roses", he quickly reminded me of the sufferings the Syrians people have had to face recently. But come to think of it, a bed of roses is not that comfortable, besides who wants to stain their linen? Hotel's linen,  OK, but then you would have to pay a high price for a honeymoon suite with a bed of roses. 

Anyway, my friend was right about Syria and no I have not forgotten. In fact, I had naively called upon the help of the late Shaikh Wali Raslan, a saint from Damascus. Can you dissuade a believer of the unseen? I say no.

Of course, we (the rest of the sane people left in this world) are concerned and appalled by the massacre that took place in Houla, Syria on 25th May. None of us would have imagined this scene: people killing innocent people, who are mostly women and children in a Muslim country on a Friday, in the month of Rajab, in a "spiritual" land such as Syria?

What did Habib Umar bin Hafiz say about this month? He said: "It is a blessed month, may Allah bless us and the Ummah in it. In the times of Jahiliyyah the noise of battle would not be heard this month. This was due to the veneration that people had for the month, even though they were polytheists. Allah revealed concerning this month: 'They ask you about the sacred month - fighting therein. Say: fighting therein is a grave offense."

Sadly and evidently those men didn't have any respect towards the weak i.e. women, children and the elderly. Oh wait a minute, according to Shaykh Yusof da Costa - Naqshbandi, we must stop labeling women as weak. He said: "I have said on numerous occasions and I want to say again, if we know the standing of women in the "eyes" of our Lord, we will kiss their feet every day. We have been made to believe by male scholars that women are the "weaker" sex or "other gender" or even I suppose the "disposable" gender. If one examines the history of Islam and the role of women in different disciplines of knowledge, we would talk otherwise."

It looks like Syrians and many women everywhere are at a low point of their lives or rather at a low point in the history of civilization.

By the blessings of Rajab, may Allah forgive you and this writer for our weaknesses and everything. I quote once again the venerable Habib Umar bin Hafiz: "If you say this when you go to bed 3 times, your sins will be forgiven even if they are as numerous as the foam on top of the sea:

Astaghfirullah al Azeem 
allazi la ilaha illah huwal Hayyul Qayyum wa atu bu ilaih
"I seek forgiveness of Allah, the Most Great,
besides Who, there is no god,
the Living, the Sustainer and I repent to Him."

Let's repent to Him.

# Thanks N for your email re Shaykh Yusof da Costa.
p/s Astaghfirullah, I've just heard it again, that sickening noise - an Arab woman living downstairs is being beaten by a man with what sounds like a huge belt! According to my good neighbour who has been living here longer, it is a usual occurrence among Arab families at this condo : (

Monday, May 28, 2012

Shaykh Wali Raslan on exiting from yourself


"Now then, know that the whole of you is covert polytheism and your realization-and-affirmation-of-Oneness (tawhid) will not become evident to you until you exit from yourself."
- Shaykh Wali Raslan ad-Dimashqi (d. 1296 CE)

Because we cannot be sure we have properly exited ourselves we should not think that we belong with the Sufis. I dare not make any lofty claims. Our friend Brother Ruslan Moore is a publisher at Al-Baz Publishing whose publications we often quote here (with permission, Alhamdulillah). Out of humility he regarded himself more as a "miner" than a publisher. In the 'Publisher's Preface' for "Concerning the Affirmation of Divine Oneness" (Risala fi't-Tawhid) he described his role as a miner of the sands of time to find the gold  i.e. the works of awliya who have left us. And in the case of the aforementioned kitab it was Shaikh Wali Raslan Ad-Dimashqi of Damascus (d. 1269 CE) a saint who was known for making a live demo of the four seasons just by gesturing with a stick. If only he, who had amazing karamah, who had his hands on non-time and non-spatial phenomena, if only he would throw pebbles and hit the oppressors of the Syrians now, as he had miraculously done on the Armies of the Crusaders.

Obviously, Shaykh Wali Raslan was who he was, and we cannot be sure if there is anyone like him in the present time, because he realized the special kind of knowledge which he expounded in Risala fi't Tawhid.     I shall reproduce it here so that we can read and re-read and try to fathom what he meant. It's little wonder why the Prophet s.a.w had spent so many years preaching tawhid before other aspects of religion came into place.

"Now then, know that the whole of you is covert polytheism and your realization-and-affirmation-of-Oneness (tawhid) will not become evident to you until you exit from yourself. Provided you are sincere, it will be disclosed to you that it is He, not you, so you must ask forgiveness for you. And whenever you encounter [any form of it], your own polytheism [shirk] will be evident to you. You must therefore, renew, in every hour and at every moment, an affirmation of-Oneness [tawhid]  and a faith [iman]. And whenever you become detached from you, your certitude [yaqin] will increase."

"O prisoner of desires and formal acts of worship, O prisoner of stations and revelations! You are deluded and you are preoccupied with you. Where is your preoccupation with Him to the exclusion of you? he is Present and Attentive, "and He is with you wherever you may be," in this world and in the hereafter . When you are with Him, He screens you from you, and when you are with you, He screens you from Him."

Faith is your separating from them, and certitude is your separating from you. When your faith has increased, you will be transported from state to state; and when your certitude has increased, you will be transported from station to station.

"The Sacred Law [Shari'a] is for you, until you seek Him from Him for you; and the Reality [Haqiqa] belongs to Him, until you seek Him through Him for him, beyond when and beyond where, for the Sacred Law does have limits [hudud] and modes [jihat] but the Reality has neither limit nor mode."

"One who lives with the Sacred Law [alone] is given the privilege of striving [mujahada] and one who lives with the Reality is given the privilege of grace [minna]. How great is the contrast between striving and grace!"

One who lives with striving is existent [mawjud], while one who lives with grace is extinct [mafqud].  Practices are linked to the noble Law [Shar]. As for total trust in the Lord [tawakkul], this is linked to faith [iman] and the realization-and-affirmation-of-Oneness [tawhid] is linked to illuminating disclosure [kashf].

People wander astray from the Lord of Truth because of the mind and from the hereafter because of passion. For, when you seek the hereafter with passion, you stumble and slip.

The believer sees by the Light of Allah, and one who has direct knowledge [al-arif] beholds Him by it. 'As long as you are with you, We command you. Then once you have been rendered extinct to you, We take charge of you.' For He does not  take charge of them until after their annihilation [in Him]. As long as you continue, you are a seeker [murid]. Then, when He has made you extinct to you, you are one who is sought [murad]. The most lasting certainty is your absence from you and your presence with Him. What a big difference there is between what is at His command and what is because of Him! If you are at His command, worldly means will be subservient to you. And if you are because of Him, the whole universe will be submissive to you.

The first of the stations is patience in obedience to His Will (Exalted is He) and the last is that you come to be in accordance with His purpose. [Practical] knowledge ['ilm] is the way of action, and action is [the way of ] knowledge . And knowledge is the way of experience [ma'rifa]. And experience [of Allah] is the way of unveiling [kashf]. And unveiling is the way of extinction [fana'].

'You have to become fit for Us as long as there is still within you any remnant of anything apart from Us, so when you have set everything else aside, We shall render you extinct. You have now become fit for Us, and We have entrusted you with our secret.'

When there does not remain with you any self-motivation, your certitude will be perfected, and when there does not remain any existence of yours, your realization-and-affirmation-of-Oneness [tawhid] will be perfected.

The people of the inner are with certainty [yaqin] and the people of the outer are with faith [iman]. So when the heart of the master of certainty is stimulated in response to anything other than Allah, his certainty is deficient and when no notion ever occurs to him, his certainty is perfect. And when the heart of the master of faith is stimulated in response to anything other than the divine command, his faith is defective, and when it is stirred by the divine command, his faith is complete.

The sin of the people of certainty is unbelief [kufr] and the sin of the people of faith is falling short. The dutiful servant is diligent, and the lover is totally trusting and he who knows by direct experience  [al-arif] is calm and serene and he who is found is lost. There is no rest for a dutiful servant, and no movement for a lover, and no resolve for one who knows by direct experience and no being found for one who is lost.

Love is experienced only after certainty, and when the lover is sincere in his love, his heart must be empty of all that is apart from Him. And as long as it retains any trace of love for anything but Him, he must be lacking in love.

One who takes delight in misfortune, co-exists therewith, and one who takes delight in and rejoices in prosperity co-exists with it, so when He makes them extinct to them, the enjoyment of misfortune and prosperity departs.

As for the lover, his breath is wisdom [hikma] and as for the loved one, his breath is power [qudra]. Formal acts of worship are for the compensations, and love is for the nearness. [In the words of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He]: 'I have prepared for My righteous servants that which no eye has ever seen, of which no ear has ever heard, and which has never occurred to any human heart. When they wish for Me, I give them that which no eye has ever seen and of which no ear has ever heard.'

When He has made you extinct to your passion by decree, and to your self-will through knowledge, you will become a servant with undivided loyalty, with neither passion nor will of your own. Then the veil will be lifted for your benefit, so that servitude will vanish away into Oneness, for the servant will be annihilated and the Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He) will remain.

The whole of the Sacred Law [Shari'a] is constriction, and the whole of knowledge ['ilm] is expansion and the whole of direct experience [ma'rifa] is dalliance and playful teasing.

Our method is love, not labor, and annihilation, not perpetuity. When you enter into work, you belong to you, and when you enter into love, you belong to Him. The worshiper looks to his worship, while the lover looks to his love.

When you have come to acknowledge Him, your breathing will be through Him, and your movements will belong to Him, but if you are ignorant of Him, your movements will be your own.

The formal worshiper ['abid] has no rest, and the ascetic [zahid] has no appetite; and the champion of truth [siddiq] has no dependent reliance; and he who is endowed with direct experience ['arif] has neither might no strength, neither choice nor will, neither movement nor rest; and he who is existent [mawjud] has no existence.

When you have come to be on familiar terms with Him, you will be estranged from you. "If someone is preoccupied with Us for his own sake, We shall make him blind. But if someone is preoccupied with Us for Our sake, We shall give him sight.'

When your passion has faded away, the door of the Reality [Haqiqa] will be unveiled for your benefit, so that your own will is annihilated and Oneness [Wahdaniyya] is unveiled to you and then you will realize that it is He, not you.

If you surrender to Him, He will draw you close, but if you argue with Him, He will keep you at a distance. If you draw near through Him, He will bring you close, but if you draw near through you, He will keep you at a distance. If you seek Him for your own sake, He will burden you, but if you seek Him for His sake, He will pamper you. Your nearness to Him is your separation from you, while your distance is your sticking with you. If you come without you, He will accept you, but if you come through you, He will exclude you. The worker is hardly likely to be free from attachment to his labor. So be one of the sort disposed toward grace [minna], not one of the sort disposed toward work ['amal]. If you know Him, you will come to rest, but if you are ignorant of Him, you will be agitated. So the point is that He should be and you should not be.

As for the common folk, their works are suspect, and as for the elite, their works are good deeds, and as for the elite of the elite, their works are degrees of spiritual progress. Whenever you shun your passion, your faith is reinforced and whenever you shun your own essence, your realization-and-affirmation-of-Oneness [tawhid] is reinforced.

Creatures are a screen and you are a screen, but the Lord of Truth is not one to be secluded and He is concealed from you because of you and you are concealed from you because of you. So separate from you and you shall witness Him."

Rabbi zidni 'ilma warzuqni fahma
Translator credit: Allahyarham Muhtar Holland
Click here to purchase 'Concerning the Affirmation of Divine Oneness' 
by Al-Baz Publishing.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Observing the holy month of Rajab


Really we cannot afford not mentioning the coming of the three blessed months.

You know I was not supposed to come here but I have been awakened in the middle of the night to prepare a work assignment and at the back of my mind is the arrival of Rajab. How can we not say something about it here for it could well be our last chance to see it come by? We are weaklings, that's the least we could do, honor its arrival by mentioning it, a small way of remembrance, an insignificant way to show the shi'ar (signs) of our faith. 

Life as a servant of the Lord can be difficult at times. How do we balance our responsibility for others, for ourself and our Creator? How do we face the passing of time...the coming of holy months with a clear conscience while knowing that He knows all that which we hide and reveal or that which is hidden and exposed? He the Almighty who creates our strengths and weaknesses, oh glory be to He, what else can we say?

It's 2.30 a.m., obliged to mark the coming of this holy month I flipped 'The Sublime Revelation' and saw a du'a made by Ghawth al-Azam on the 2nd of Rajab 545 Hijri, oh yes today is second of Rajab already. To tell you the truth I am ashamed to be quoting this venerable saint for I am not worthy of it but I pray that Allah would forgive me and that you would just ignore this dusty and rusty pipe and just take any clean water that comes out of its end.

The blessed Shaykh Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani qaddasallahu sirruh (may Allah soften our hearts and limbs to follow what he preached); he made this du'a on this day:

"O Unique One (Wahid) make us uniquely Yours. Deliver us from creatures and choose us for Yourself. Certify our claims with the proof of Your grace and Your mercy. Gladden our hearts and ease our affairs. Let our companionship be with You and our loneliness with those who are apart from You. Let our concerns be but one concern, namely our concern with You, and grant us nearness to You in this world and the hereafter."

"Our Lord, give us in this world good, and good in the hereafter, and guard us against the torment of the fire." 

Translator credit: Allahyarham Muhtar Holland
Publisher credit: Al Baz Publishing

Friday, May 18, 2012

A conduit of blessings


Did you know that 17th May is World Telecommunication and Information Society Day? Well, I work in this industry so it's been etched on my mind for many years already and I wish to say something in support of telecommunications technology. It is evidently, a conduit of blessings, provided that our usage or involvement in it does not harm other people, either with our words or actions.

It seems that this year my work is grabbing me away from this space more than ever. As much as I want to hang out on the Blogosphere every day, I need to spend more time at work so that other people could have access to this conduit of blessings, especially those living in rural areas in Malaysia. I feel blessed that in conjunction with World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, this year, the organization where I work has been granted millions of dollars to spend so that more people could be in touch and be counted as a Netizen. And since my superiors were all occupied, I was entrusted with receiving the valuable grant while I am a nobody in the company. MashaAllah walhamdulillah. What I am trying to say is that there will not be as many blog postings as previous years due to work commitment. Still, we pray Allah would grant the strength to put our time and energy to good use.

I was at a seminar recently and it was comforting to learn that research conducted by a local uni showed that people have been using the internet to search about religion more than any other topic. Indeed, many good things come out of this conduit called the Internet: understanding, wisdom, opportunities, happiness,  friendship, peace and love. Well, that is if you view the glass as half full and not half empty.

May Allah reward you for your generous praises and appreciation for this space. The only reason why people seem to favor us is that Allah has made our weaknesses and flaws hidden. And verily He honors and dishonors whom He wills.

I humbly ask for your prayers so that I keep steadfast on the right path and hold fast to the deen and that Allah will strengthen any incompletes, purify any blemishes and fulfill all needs. I shall pray for the same for you. Ameen.

See you when I see you InshaAllah.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Inspiration | The Spirit in us


Glory be to Allah, we have no knowledge except what He has taught us. He is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. So we learned that invocation from the Qur'an. Thus, we are resigned to the fact that He is the Only Teacher. 

With that let's hope that some of the students on the path of Allah will not be too stingy and overly possessive of what "their teachers" have taught them. I had been told not to share some of the teachings of a certain guru. I said, why all the fuss? At the end of the day, the knowledge that gets accumulated in our hearts is from Allah. All knowledge belongs to Him. He is the ultimate copyright holder.

On the other end of the spectrum, some people asked me, "What can I get from attending a majlis conducted by those habaib/shuyukh? What do they do there?" do we answer that? If there is one word I could use to describe the habaib and the shuyukh, I would say, they are utterly inspiring. What does that mean? 

Lately, I have been listening to Dr. Wayne Dyer and I must say that I am very impressed and surprised at the same time that he could articulate very eloquently some aspects of Sufism, although he did not use such a term. He said the word inspiration comes from two words: "in" and "spirit". Being inspired is to be in spirit, that is to be in touch and connected with the Spirit from which we came. According to him, "to live an inspired life is finding a way for you to be in harmony with the spiritual essence from which you originate. And not just in feelings but in behavior and in every single thought that you have. It's about living in spirit at all times and catching our self when we are disconnected from where we originate, from that divine source." The core underlying theme of many of Dr. Wayne speeches is that we are connected to God because His spirit is in us. It is, in my interpretation, very similar to what we learned from the Qur'an in Surah As-Sajada: "...then (He) formed him and breathed His Spirit into him and gave you hearing, sight, and hearts. What little thanks you show!"

Now coming back to the question posed earlier. Why do I find the habaib and shuyukh so inspiring? I reckon and I believe it's because they are so very in spirit. They are deeply connected with the Spirit, the Divine Source, they are closely in touch with Allah in their zikr, in their remembrance, perhaps in each of their breath that their speech, in fact, their presence alone could make you feel calm, secure and inspired. When we are in their presence, we are often reminded not to forget Allah, not to lose touch with our Source, so much so that when we see them, we remember Allah. When we are at their majlis, we are often reminded of the true purpose of our being. They would recite lengthy and meaningful prayers that could bring us to tears and we seek solace in that because they being so in Spirit, their du'a is likely to be more maqbul than ours.

Let's think about it a little deeper. Think about the Spirit that has been breathed into us. We have the tendency to take that for granted, to forget it so easily, to be so fragile and get disconnected from it. 

I leave you with some thought-provoking and encouraging words from Dr. Wayne again: "How could you have a body that comes from a divine source that created you, be anything other than beautiful, and divine? It is a perfect creation of God, of Source that you carry around with you." He said because of our connection to the Spirit, we should feel empowered and recognize ourselves as a genius with unlimited talent and that anything we may intend to have, is on its way.

O friends, let us all be in Spirit always and be inspired. We welcome anyone whose words and actions inspire us and make us grow in our thinking capacity. And we say no to anyone who tries to delimit our knowledge receptivity.

# Watch "Inspiration: Your ultimate calling" by Dr. Wayne Dyer 
# Pic credit: Brother Hamid Iqbal Khan

Monday, May 7, 2012

Almarhum Shaykh Raja Ashman | 40 Hari Berlalu Pergi


Tiada sesuatu pun yang terlepas daripada perancangan dan kekuasaan-Nya.

Ternyata malam ini mengundang ingatan dan rindu yang mendalam padanya. Tatkala saya menerima tetamu di rumah sebentar tadi (seorang jemaah Naqshabandi), saya di-ingatkan tentang 40 hari yang berlalu pergi setelah kemangkatan Yang Mulia Almarhum Shaykh Raja pada 30 Mac 2012. Masing-masing mengimbau saat menerima berita hiba itu. Yang jelas, karamah Almarhum nampak lebih ketara setelah beliau tiada.

Ramai jadi diam terpaku mendengar kisah awan mengukir nama Allah di saat persemadian Almarhum. Malam ini pula saya terkesima mendengar cerita bagaimana seorang berbangsa India yang rapat dengan Almarhum membuat keputusan memeluk Islam sesudah mengalami sesuatu yang luar biasa ketika menziarahi makam beliau. Subhanallah!

Sungguh ramai yang dahulunya tidak mengenali Almarhum dan aktiviti spiritualnya jadi semakin terbuka mata dan minda. Betapa Allah berkuasa menyembunyikan sesetengah waliNya ketika hayat mereka. Allahu a'lam.

Esok genap 40 hari Almarhum meninggalkan kita. Tuhan jua yang lebih tahu makam yang bagaimana Almarhum duduki di alam barzakh. Sedangkan kita yang ditinggalkan sekadar dapat mengenang dan cuba menilai keistimewaannya yang pergi dengan mudah, di malam Jumaat yang indah, sesudah majlis zikir secara husnul khatimah. MashaAllah!

Benarlah kata-kata: sesiapa yang tidak merasai sesuatu itu pastinya tidak akan mengerti. Perasaan kasih sayang itu sukar dimengerti kecuali bagi mereka yang merasainya sendiri. Kenapa hati jadi terpaut pada seseorang? Kenapa hati merasa rindu padanya? Terlalu seni...sehingga tiada kata-kata yang dapat saya nukilkan lagi dalam mengimbau memori pemergiannya setelah 40 hari.

Sekadar berdoa agar Allah akan kumpulkan kita bersama-sama mereka yang kita sayangi di hari kemudian nanti. Betapa hebat natijah kasih sayang yang tiada kan terputus, dari dunia membawa ke syurga, dengan izinNya.   

Almarhum Raja Dato' Seri Ashman Shah ibni Sultan Azlan Shah
28 Disember 1958 - 30 Mac 2012

Friday, May 4, 2012



Wishing all of you a blissful Jumaah.
With love,

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Working for no god but Allah


Alhamdulillah wa shukrulillah for this labor day holiday so we get to relax and reflect on our life as an employee and ponder on the One and Only Employer.

And again we recalled the daily affirmation which we had mentioned before: "I do God's work in peace and harmony." We are indeed grateful to be gainfully employed. We have had the experience of being unemployed for about three years so we know better how to appreciate and enjoy our present occupation. Alhamdulillah, with every hardship comes ease. 

As we examine our present state a little deeper, we realize we are happy that our worldly job allows us to have a better and more meaningful occupation, which is to blog about the people and a subject that we care about. We are thankful and grateful for this opportunity. And surely we draw inspirations from many people out there especially the habaib and the shuyukh who labor tirelessly in the cause of Allah in a much greater way. May Allah keep our intentions pure and accept our little actions for we try to contribute in our own way. Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi said, "Everyone has been made for some particular work and the desire for that work has been put in every heart."

Let's pray so that Allah would give us plenty of wealth through our work so that we could give away plenty to the people we care and love, all for the sake of Allah. He knows our intentions and our plans and in Him alone, we harbor our hope for success. Verily He is the Most Generous Giver, He has let us score a 1 in our intention and we hope He will manifest the desired results and let us score a 10 for carrying out our intention. This deen is beautiful indeed.

Therefore, as a worker of Allah, we have every reason to be happy when we rise in the morning and leave home for work and then to come home and continue working. In this wonderful religion we believe in, every good thing we do may be considered as ibadah. So, let's plod on.

There is no power and no strength save with Allah, the High, the Great. Glory be to Allah for creating us and our actions.

وَٱللَّهُ خَلَقَكُمْ وَمَا تَعْمَلُونَ
"While Allah created you and that which you do."

Work for no god but Allah