Thursday, November 16, 2023

Lisan al-Din blog morphing into a book | Boost Your Faith


Alhamdulillah, I am delighted to announce that a book called 'Boost Your Faith' is on the way, bi-iznillah. The book will feature over 100 Islamic scholars' discourses from this blog, including my review of specially selected books on Sufism. Here is an excerpt of my synopsis of the book by Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr.

The Garden of Truth

Seyyed Hossein Nasr chose the book's title, befitting the Islamic symbolism of the Garden as paradise, in conformity to a similar symbol in the Quran. Fifty years of studying and involvement in Sufism has spurred him to write this book, dedicating it to seekers of the Truth. In doing so, he consciously moves away from academic jargon, preferring contemporary language instead.

In the book's first part, he begins by provoking readers to the big fundamental questions of 'Who am I?' and what it means to be human. The answers to these questions, he claims, are available in Sufism. "Sufism addresses the few who yearn for an answer on the deepest level to the question of who they are, and in a manner that would touch and transform their whole being. The Sufi Path is the means within the Islamic tradition of finding the ultimate answer to this basic question and discovering our real identity." Indeed, Muslims need not wander too far for clues because Prophet Muhammad said, "Whoever knows his self knows his Lord."

Moreover, for Muslims, knowledge of the Divine (knowing my Lord) predates his earthly existence. As stated in the Quran, verse 17:172, we, the Children of Adam, admitted: 'Yes! We do testify!' to the question: "Am I not your Lord"?

However, as we travel on life's journey, we tend to forget this covenant, forgetting who we are in the big scheme of things. We forget our reason for existence as God's servant. Seyyed Hossein states, "Our ego must realize its full servanthood, which the Sufis call ubbudiyyah, before the Lord, and we must realize that as servants, we can never become the Lord." 

While we are nothing more than servants, Sufism offers its own doctrine to the question, 'What does it mean to be human?' Seyyed Hossein cites two authorities in this field who were among the earliest known to have defined and explained in detail the characteristics of al-insan al-kamil or the Universal or Perfect Man. They are Ibn' Arabi and Abdul Karim al-Jili. The most notable example of the Universal Man is the prophets and the great saints. They are like a mirror before God, "reflecting all His Names and Qualities…"

But what about us? "Most of us are daydreaming in our ordinary lives simply because we have forgotten who we are." Therefore, we should all wake up to the reality of who we truly are and wake up sooner rather than later because Prophet Muhammad said, 'Man is asleep, and when he dies, he awakens.' Sufism has the answer, "Sufism is meant for those who want to wake up, who accept dying to the ego here and now, to discover the Self of all selves and to be consumed in the process, in the fire of Divine Love."

In Part 2 of his book, Seyyed Hossein talks about "the knowledge that illuminates and delivers from the bondage of ignorance", particularly on the significance of attaining gnosis, that is, knowing God by God, through Sufi doctrine known as "theoretical gnosis" (al-tasawwuf al-ilmi). However, the author asserts that while this may serve as a map, a seeker or traveller can only realize the Truth through spiritual practice. 

Seyyed Hossein then describes the Divine Essence, or al-Dhat in Arabic, as being beyond definition, just as Ipseity is to Christian theology. The Islamic term for God - Allah, denotes the Almighty as the indescribable Divine Essence and the manifestable Divine Names and Qualities or Attributes (as in the Asmaul Husna, the 99 Divine Names of Allah). Regarding Sufi science, the Divine Reality can only be understood if one can discern the often misconstrued aspect of Sufism, namely wahdatul wujud or 'transcendent oneness or unity of being'. While this can only be fully understood through spiritual experience, a seeker should at least consider its theoretical explanations about the hierarchy of reality, starting from Non-Being or Beyond-Being, a metaphysical concept which, according to Seyyed Hossein, is also known as "sunyata (or the Void) in Buddhism and the supreme Tao which cannot be named in Far Eastern doctrines." He then explains the concept of Muhammadan Reality (al-haqiqa al-Muhammadiyah), the inner reality of the Prophet, identified as the "Word or Logos in divinis" at the second level of the universal hierarchy of reality. Christianity has a similar understanding. It states that "it was by the Word (that is, the Logos) that all things were made and Christ was the Logos." This often-misunderstood aspect of Sufism, especially in the later years of Islam, has its roots in the works of Shams al-Din Fanari, Ibn Turkah Isfahani and Sadr al-Din Shirazi. 

The author emphasizes the need to supplement this theoretical knowledge, or rather its realization, with the virtues of love and beauty. The Truth, the object of one's journey, cannot be known without loving it and that "love leads finally to the embrace of God who in turn loves those among His servants who love Him." However, one must be able to discern between love "as emotion" and its metaphysical importance. Regarding beauty, the path to the Garden of Truth cannot be traversed except by one who beautifies their soul with the capacity of beholding God's Beauty, for that is unquestionably the aim of their yearning.

Having identified knowledge and love as "the two main gates to the Garden of Truth", Seyyed Hossein then introduces the reader to the practical aspect of the journey, the actions. If I may equate it to the spoke of a wheel made of knowledge and love combined, human actions could either steer the soul toward or away from the Truth because our actions can either be good or evil. This affects our ability to love and know God, which affects our souls. While we control our actions as our intelligence and free will drive them, Seyyed Hossein opines that detachment from the fruit of one's actions is necessary because that is the correct spiritual attitude. Furthermore, a seeker's actions must evince sincerity, chivalry, and courtesy. Taqwa, or "reverential fear of God', which the author defines as a combination of detachment, purity of action and mindfulness, is also a condition required for seekers of the Truth.    


Drop me a line if you wish to pre-order 'Boost Your Faith', authored by yours truly. The price has not been finalized yet, but I trust, it is not a deciding factor for you : )

Email: ezatulhada at gmail dot com

[Subject: Preorder Boost Your Faith]



Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Thank you for visiting Lisan al-Din


1.5 million clicks means 1.5 million "Bismillah" recited, at the very least.
So, for that, I am grateful.

Thank you.

Eza Ismail
June 2023


Thursday, May 25, 2023

Notes from Habib Umar bin Hafiz's Post-Fajr Lecture in Kuala Lumpur on 25th May 2023 | On Tasawwuf and the levels of certitude


Credit: Nabawi TV Youtube channel

The venerable Habib Umar bin Hafiz hosted a post-Fajr lecture on a book entitled Kitab Mahiyatu At-Tasawuf.

Habib Ali bin Zaenal Abidin Al-Hamid translated his lecture from Arabic into Malay. The English translation below is by Al-Faqir to document Habib Umar's words in English for the benefit of our English-speaking readers, bi-iznillah. It is done based on a recording of the majlis on the Nabawi TV Youtube channel dated 25th May 2023.

Habib Umar began his speech by praising the Almighty for His great gift and the vastness of His bounties. This book [Kitab Mahiyatu At-Tasawuf] discusses the realities of tasawwuf and the signs of those who practice it. The book enlists terminologies on tasawwuf from the 2nd or 3rd Hijri based on available books and sunnah [at the time]. Since the discussion of tasawwuf relates to the aqidah of one who guards oneself or muraqabah [attentiveness] towards Allah, thus it pertains to noble character/behaviour, the author therefore, begins the book with the recited verses.

The verse recited in Arabic reads: Allah the Creator of Heaven and the Earth is All-Knowing of all His creations. Allah is well aware of the attributes of the heart, thus Allah says in the verse, Allah knows all that your heart and soul contains, therefore you should be wary.

The book continues with the proclamation of shahadah and the verse about Allah being present with His servants. As per the words of Allah in the Quran, no speech is uttered in secrecy among three people, except that He is the fourth, amongst them, and so on and so forth. Regardless of the number of people in a conversation, He is with them no matter where they are. Allah will reveal their conversations in the Hereafter, verily He knows all. 

The book continues with the witnessing of the Prophet Muhammad, as a testimony of certitude towards the messages that Allah had given to all former prophets and Rasul. Prophet Muhammad was sent to acknowledge the previous messages and as a seal of the Prophets. It is Allah's prerogative to manifest the Prophet as he was, despite the will of the disbelievers (mushrik). Allah then speaks His words to His Rasul on the characters of the Prophet. As stated in one verse of the Quran, "O prophet, we have sent you as a messenger of glad tidings, a warner and one who calls people to Allah by His will and you are a source of light. Convey to the believers of a great bounty from Allah. 

Any and all praiseworthy attributes can be found in Prophet Muhammad's [pbuh]. And Allah made an oath to mention so in the Quran. As stated in Surah Al-Qalam, Allah says: "Nun, consider the Pen and all they write therewith, indeed he (the Prophet) is of a great moral character." 

The tasawwuf scholars defined the term tasawwuf as akhlak (character). He who improves his character is said to have also increased his tasawwuf. Allah says in the Quran of His gifts for the believers, a prophet among them, whose role is to read the words of Allah, purify their hearts and souls, and teach them from the books and teach them wisdom, though they were clearly misguided. 

'Wayuzzikihim' as mentioned in the book, means to purify the heart and soul and is meant to emphasize the significance and realities of tasawwuf. The reality of tasawwuf is of those who purify their hearts and souls, hence they are the people of tasawwuf
As stated in another verse of the Quran about a Prophet among you, who is displeased by any burdens that may befall you, one who is eager to help save you, and one who is empathetic towards the believers.  
Salutations to the Prophet! By making salutations to the prophet one could thereby purify one's heart and soul. One who earnestly makes salutations to the Prophet will be purified by Allah, and Allah would facilitate him/her to get closer to the Prophet and Himself. As said one companion, I will occupy all of my time to make salutation to you O Prophet.  

The book summarizes the essentials of tasawwuf so that it would be easier for you to benefit from it. The terminologies offered in the book describe the components of tasawwuf and also its virtues. The definitions of tasawwuf terminologies provided in the book include many other definitions of the subject. [audio lost].

The people of Tasawwuf are those who truly embody their relationships with Allah through Ihsan, Islam and Iman. As such, the person will be perfectly guided in his moral character and exhibit the right behaviours hence attracting love from Allah for him/her. Those who wholeheartedly display the attributes and moral character until it becomes his/her reality. By having the correct understanding of tasawwuf and by manifesting the qualities of tasawwuf, his/her behaviours will appear noble and he/she will become praiseworthy.           

The second definition of tasawwuf is to widen one's certainty of knowledge (ilm yaqin) to include ainul yaqin (certainty of witnessing) and to understand its realities. The meaning of ilmu yaqin is one whose heart is resolved to do good deeds. This is the beginning of tasawwuf. When one progresses from ilmu yaqin to ainul yaqin he/she begins to see the invisible as a manifested truth. Ainul yaqin is reserved for those elect who are worthy in the eyes of Allah. When one is steadfast on the level of ainul yaqin, he/she will then progress to haqqul yaqin. This lofty level is typically granted to the prophets (anbiya) and those among the siddiqin and awliya.

The analogy between the three, ilmu yaqin, ainul yaqin and haqqul yaqin is such that someone informs you of a glass of water. If the informer is one whom I do not trust then I will not have ilmu yaqin on the information that he/she has conveyed to me. I will doubt it. 

If the informer is honest and trustworthy, I therefore have a reason to believe the informer and as such I will have obtained ilmu yaqin. If I were to be given the same information from more trustworthy sources, I would have greater certainty on the matter. 

If the informer had also made a sound by knocking on the glass and I heard it. This would heighten my certitude in ilmu yaqin. There are many levels of certainty in ilmu yaqin. The same analogy applies to the messages that Allah has sent us about Islam and iman (belief) in the hereafter, in Allah and His Rasul and all that is listed in the six pillars of faith (Rukun Iman). The level of our iman or certainty of knowledge on these matters varies among us.  
If I were to enter the room where there is a glass of water and I see it with my own eyes, this would make my certainty stronger, that of ainul yaqin. As I get closer to the glass, the degree of my ainul yaqin increases. Likewise, if I could get to the glass to hold it and see its contents. Many awliya among the ummah is at this level of ainul yaqin. And the elect among the awliya is even higher in their level of certainty at haqqul yaqin - those who hold the glass and taste the water.  
As said Imam Abdullah al-Haddad in his poetry: acquaint yourself with the Quran and follow the sunnah of the Prophet and the salaf, the ahlul yaqin - people of certitude those who are at ainul yaqin and haqqul yaqin, those who arrive at the reality of their relationship or knowledge (makrifah) of Allah. The taste of such certainty is the sweetest of drinks for us. Therefore, drink it, for it is beyond your imagination. May Allah let us savour the drink of certainty, elevate us in ilmu yaqin, and onward to ainul yaqin and bless us with Your generosity so that we shall all arrive at haqqul yaqin. There is nothing more sacred regarding certitude than one that descends from heaven to the earth. 

O Allah, we are gathered here with all who are present here, we raise our hands to You O Lord so that You grant us your mercy (redha) and grant us ilmu yaqin, ainul yaqin and haqqul yaqin. And perfect Your gift to us so that we will be among the people of haqqul yaqin.  We gather here solely for Your sake. 

The third definition of tasawwuf is one's effort to progress the path of Islam and iman to get closer to Allah and attain gnosis (makrifah) of Allah and to seek His love for His sake. Imam Abdul Rahman bin Abdullah bin Faqih said about the physical manifestation of Islam, iman, Ihsan and makrifah. That these definitions of tasawwuf complement one another. And the definitions may be concluded with one that is most complete which is to perfectly follow the sunnah of Rasulallah. The "fruit" of following the Prophet, is the love of Allah, as stated in the Quran: "If you love Allah, then follow me, Allah will love you..." Know that all good lies in following the Prophet who grants intercession.

Now that we understand the definition of tasawwuf, who are they? Who are the people of tasawwuf? Who are the Sufis? The Sufis are those who have reached the fruit of their good deeds, the fruit of their noble characters for they have in reality exemplified the characters as commanded by Allah, they have won the love and mercy of Allah, and they are the Sufis.

One cannot be called a Sufi unless he/she has reached the level of ainul yaqin, he/she is a mutasawwif, that one aspires to become a Sufi. A group of people who are confused about tasawwuf or Sufi asked Shaykh Muhammad Abduh Yameni if he was a Sufi, and he replied, "If only I was a Sufi. I am not one. I love them."

Those who lack understanding of tasawwuf or Sufi could cause confusion and mislead others. The steps to attain the level of a Sufi have already been clarified in the hadith of the Prophet relating to the concept of Ihsan, that one should worship Allah as if one sees Him, and if you do not see Him, know that He sees you. As for those who love the Sufis and strive in following their footsteps, but have yet to reach the level of ainul yaqin, they are the mutasawwif, they are the Sufi aspirants. And those who love the Sufis but whose efforts are somewhat lacking, are neither Sufis nor mutasawwif, they merely adore the Sufis. This matter is related to a hadith about one who mirrors a people, for they are regarded as among those whom they try to emulate. This hadith tells us the significance of trying to imitate or emulate someone. One who tries to imitate someone has a chance of belonging with those he/she is trying to imitate.

Imam Abdullah bin Abu Bakar Al Idrus, an arif, expounds on the realities of Sufi. Imam Abdullah Al-Haddad acknowledged the lofty position of the former for his ability to foretell an event. Imam Abdullah defined a Sufi as one who is on the path towards Allah. 

The third group is those who try to emulate those who adore the Sufis but are not as steadfast, they are known as "mutashabbihul mutashabbih." A hadith that is relevant to this situation states that one who loves a group of people is considered among those he/she loves. In another hadith, the prophet is asked about one who loves a group of people but whose deeds are not equal to theirs, the Prophet replied: one will be gathered with those whom he/she loves.
These are the signs of the people of tasawwuf: they understood the contents of the Quran and Sunnah. This is the fundamental of tasawwuf. One cannot possibly perform any good deeds properly without having a fair understanding of the kitab and sunnah. This is related to the definition of tasawwuf as given at the beginning of this session. 

One will find numerous people of tasawwuf and those who love them, in the sanad of qiraat knowledge, tafsir, and even hadith. Imam Malik's Al-Muwwata also has Sufis in its chain of transmission. Similarly, Kitab Musnad by Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim including those by Imam An-Nawawi and all the classic references on fiqh by Imam Shafie, Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik and Imam Ahmad.        
It suffices to conclude that the people of Tasawwuf who expounds on Islam and all its branches of knowledge, they are the protector of the religion.  Imam Junaid ibn Muhammad, the leader of the people of Tasawwuf of Baghdad said, "Those who do not memorize the Quran or write the hadith cannot be followed for our knowledge is based on the Quran and Sunnah. That our knowledge has its basis in the hadith. I will not easily fall on claims or dreams unless it is in line with the Quran and sunnah."

Verily, one who claims to be kashaf or performs miracles that is against the kitab and sunnah is a liar. Those who believe such a person is ignorant. As narrated in a hadith, if Allah wants a person to be good, He will grant him/her an understanding of the religion. And certainly, Allah will not appoint a wali among those who are ignorant. Imam Abdullah bin Abu Bakar Al-Idrus said I see very few people on the path of haqiqat so many ignorants tend to make false claims. It is impossible for one who lacks knowledge and good deeds to arrive at haqiqat. Only one out of 70,000 people can attain such a level. That shows how difficult it is to achieve it. Imam Abdul Rahman As-Saggaf and his grandfather Abu Bakar Adni are said to have perfect certitude and Shariat. According to Imam Abdul Rahman As-Saggaf, any knowledge that is devoid of amal is considered null and void. Any knowledge and amal that is absent of a niyyat are worthless. Any knowledge, amal or niyyat that is not following the Sunnah is not accepted. Any, knowledge, amal, niyyat and sunnah that lacks piety (waraq) might result in a great loss and humiliation on the Day of Reckoning. 

So, all that has been described is the summary of the path to Allah. When Habib Ahmad bin Zain Al-Habshi asked his guide, Imam Al-Haddad about the meaning of the realities of Tariqat Tasawwuf, he said it consists of five: knowledge, good deeds, fear of Allah, sincerity, and piety. And that is one of many attributes of the people of Tasawwuf. May Allah grant us such an attribute.
Imam Abdul Rahman As-Saggaf emphasized the importance of keeping a close connection with the Quran and reading it consistently so that he/she can complete the Quran once in the morning and once in the evening and increase the frequency to two, three, and four khatam. These are the people of the Quran. They are very close to Allah. 

They are the guided ones. They are contented with the gifts of Allah. They have no other intentions except Allah. They keep close company with the Quran. May Allah bless us with their blessings. May Allah guide us on account of their holiness. Let us die in their path while we are safe from fitnah
May Allah protect the ummah from both seen and unseen fitnah. Grant those who are present at this majlis ilmu yaqin and haqqul yaqin. Grant us an understanding of the religion. That we may follow the Prophet Al-Amin. Let us not leave this gathering unless You have granted Your mercy and maqbul. Keep us guided under all circumstances.   


[May I be forgiven for any errors or ommissions]

Friday, May 19, 2023

Eid Mubarak - 2023



Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri.
We are still in Syawal eh?
I hope you have enjoyed your best Eid yet 

I have.
Alhamdulillah wa shukrulillah.
Super grateful to have hosted Eid celebration for a group of new reverts, my kampung kids, my NGO mates, my street dakwah buddies and my close friends.

And tomorrow on the last day of Syawal, yet another Eid gathering.

May Allah grant you and me the opportunity to see another blissful Ramadhan and Syawal.

Eza Ismail
28th Syawal 1444 H