Summary Notes of Embracing Excellence: 30 Steps on the Straight Path (01) – Ustadha Shireen Ahmed

DAY 1: On Certainty

Synopsis: Ustadh Amjad starts this class by reviewing who is the author and why this text is important.  He then delves into the topic of what is certainty (yaqīn), and what are the benefits of having strong faith.  He explained that one’s certainty can be strengthened by three actions, and that believers have three degrees of certainty.

 

“Certainty (yaqīn) is the essential thing, and all other noble ranks, praiseworthy traits of character and good works are its branches and results.” (Imam Haddad)

Notes:

  • Imam Haddad was a 12th Century (Hijrī) Shafi’ī scholar who had a deep level of knowledge in many Islamic disciplines.
  • Certain books are constantly repeated as they are not just a matter of taking information from each chapter, rather it is a reminder to constantly purify our intentions
  • The strength of Ali’s (may Allah be pleased with him) faith & certainty
  • Yaqīn is a level above the general faith of an average believer
  • The difference between faith and certainty (faith can be shaken but not certainty)
  • In general people start by rectifying their outward, and then from there they start to rectify their character, and then they work to strengthen the Iman in their heart; although all of things are virtuous, the order is backwards.  One should start by strengthening their belief & connection to Allah (Exalted is He), the natural result will be a purification of their heart & character, and righteous deeds.

How One Can Strengthen their Belief & Certainty:

1) Listening attentively to the Qur’an, hadith, & stories of the prophets sent throughout time

    • Reciting the Qur’an strengthens our belief & certainty, while pondering on the meanings within it.  Listen with your heart as well as your ears.
    • The importance of reflecting on the signs around us; the Might and Power of Allah Most High; the stories of the past and what became of the people who did not follow the prophets sent throughout time
    • Example of Prophet Musa being pursued and reflecting on how that may have felt: Prophet Yusuf and the many tribulations he faced, but how he overcomes the trials
      • We learn from this to be people of patience, success at the end will be for the people of belief

2) Learn from the Kingdom of the heavens and the Earth, and the creatures within it

    • Example of Prophet Sulayman asking for a unique blessing from Allah
    • How one learns from documentaries about Allah’s absolute Majesty; reflecting on the galaxy and how it is only the lowest of the heavens; there is no creature on earth except that Allah provides for it; reflect on how all of these creatures glorify Allah (Exalted is He)
    • How detrimental it is for the human condition to not be connected with the natural world

3) To behave according to what one believes, outwardly & inwardly with zeal and determination

    • Act upon what you know, every time it increases you in your certainty in all of your acts of worship; when one distances oneself from acts of obedience one is severely weakened and shaytan can overcome them
    • The importance of using all of one’s energy to seek the pleasure of Allah
    • How the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلّم would find comfort and rest in the prayer
    • The results of good actions and how that helps us to taste the sweetness of faith

Benefits of proper certainty:

    • Acquiescence in God’s promise
    • Turning to God with pure longing continuously
    • Abandoning what distracts one from Him
    • Spending all one”s energy seeking His pleasure
    • Sets the foundation for having noble rank, praiseworthy character & good works

 

 

The Trodden Path (Episode 2): A Glimpse At the Lives of the Illustrious Scholars and Saints of the 20th and 21st Century.

In this newly anticipated series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed of South Africa will take us on a journey through the lives and biographies of some of the most celebrated and well known scholars of the twentieth and twenty – first century. These historical accounts will provide us with refreshing insights and lessons, and motivate us to follow in the footsteps of our pious predecessors.


In this second article of the The Trodden Path series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed writes on the life of the Syrian scholar, Shaykh Tahir Al-Jazairi (RA).

Shaykh Tahir Al-Jazairi (1268-1338=1852-1920)

His full name is Tahir ibn Muhammad Salih ibn Ahmad ibn Mawhub Al-Samouni Al-Jazaairi Al-Dimashqi.

This reformer and great scholar of tafsir, hadith, fiqh, usul, history and the arabic language was born in Damascus in 1852 (1268) where he passed away in the year 1920 (1338).

His father Muhammad Salih emigrated from Algeria to Damascus in 1846 (1263) along with the great Algerian leader Abdul Qadir Al-Jazairi. He lived there until he passed away in (1285). His father was a scholar in the Quraanic sciences and a reputable scholar in the Maliki Madhab. He was the authorized Mufti on behalf of the Madhab in Damascus.

Shaykh Tahir received his early education from his father; thereafter he studied with other ulama in Damascus. His father, Shaykh Salih migrated from Algeria after the French occupied their lands and imposed various pressures on the Muslims. He was a scholar and was responsible for Fatwa in the Maliki madhab in Damascus. He also read and repeated the lessons in Sahih AlBukhari on behalf of Shaykh Ahmad Al-Kuzbari in the Umawy Mosque. He authored a few useful books. He passed away in Damascus in 1868 (1285).

He studied Arabic, Turkish and Persian under Shaykh AbdurRahman Al-Banushnaqi. He also studied French, Syriac, Hebrew and the Ethiopian Language. He also knew some of the Berber tribal languages, particularly of those who inhabited parts of Algeria.

The scholars under whom he studied the various Islamic sciences with were many. One of them was Shaykh Abdul Ghani Al-Ghunaymi Al-Maydani (1222-1298=1807-1881, author of AlLubaab in Hanafi Fiqh, Sharh AlAqeedah AlTahawiyah and other books), who was one of the most senior Hanafi scholars who was a student of Imam Ibn Abideen (author of Rad AlMukhtar), one of the greatest Hanafi scholars in that century. From him, Shaykh Tahir learnt how to be thorough, accurate and precise when analyzing complex fiqh issues.

Shaykh Tahir devoted all his time and energy towards studying which also included studying the natural sciences. He also studied mathematics, astronomy and history. His knowledge of history was superb and in addition he was very well acquainted with the biographies of the previous scholars and their books.

In his youth, he was among the founders in a charitable organization that was established by a group of scholars of Damascus in 1877 (1294). In 1878 (1295), at the age of 26 he was appointed as a general inspector for the primary schools. During the period he served in this position, he wrote some books that were necessary at the time for pupils in various levels. Together with Shaykh Ala Al-Din Abidin (d.1888), they agreed to establish the Al-Jamiyat Al-Khairiyah Al-Islamiyah that was very active in Damascus and was responsible for establishing many schools.

In 1879 (1296) he attempted to gather in one place all historical manuscripts from the endowment libraries in Damascus. The result of his efforts was the establishment of the Zahiriyah Library that became one of the most prominent libraries in the Arab world because of its valuable collections of manuscripts.

After his success with this library he strove to repeat the same in Jerusalem to establish the Khalidiyah Library in Al-Quds. Shaykh Tahir continued to serve the knowledge of Islam through his writing, teaching, and promoting it through his libraries.

His activities increased after 1886 after he had abandoned his work with the government. He devoted his time to teaching and towards promoting various reforms.

In 1907 (1325), he faced some harassment and pressure from the Turkish authorities in Syria. As the result he immigrated to Egypt where its scholars welcomed him, especially the likes of Ahmad Taimur Basha and Ahmad Zaki Basha.

He refused to take a cent from the State, because he feared that he would be forced to be silent on issues that were not palatable to the leaders. Instead, he lived by sacrificing his most beloved possessions. He sold his books and his manuscripts in order to survive. Even in these desperate times, he chose to sell his books to Dar Al-Kutub Al-Misriyah for half the price he would have received from the British Museum because he wanted to ensure that the books remain in Muslim lands.

Shaykh Ali Yusuf and Ahmad Taimur Basha tried to allocate some position to him, which would enable thousands to benefit from his vast knowledge and at the same time he would receive a salary. He excused himself because of his old age and his inability to fulfill official administrative and time requirements and also because he was accustomed to reading and researching the whole night right until Fajr. This was particularly his practice in the last forty years of his life. He remained in Cairo for about thirteen years and in 1920 (1337) he became seriously ill, and he returned to Damascus. Soon after his return he was elected as a member of the Arabic Academy in Damascus and the Director of the Zahiriyah Library. He passed away four months later in 1920 (1338) and is buried on the Qasiyoun Mountain in Damascus, Syria.

As Shaykh Taahir was so careful about utilizing his time, he did not care about his appearance and dressed very shabbily. He never married and used to spend a great deal of the night with his friends and the remainder in reading and writing. He enjoyed swimming and walking as an exercise. He was very particular about performing his salah punctually to the call of the adhan, no matter where he was. He defended the Arabic Language and the Hijri Calendar.

Although he was modest by nature he was fiercely independent. He never accepted any gift from the rulers. When he was financially in need, he continued to sell some of his books. The most expensive and dearest thing to him was his books and the time he spent studying and conducting his research. Nothing at all distracted him. He was able to answer questions that were posed to him with ease and was very annoyed at those who tried to insult the scholars.

He used to prepare a large quantity of coffee that would last for a few days to save on preparation time.

He drank coffee to give him energy and to keep him alert and awake. Whenever he left his home he always carried a book or some notes from which he could benefit, thus never wasting any time.

Despite the great amount of time he spent in reading, he advised students to lessen their reading during the holidays and, instead, to increase their sporting and recreational activities. He maintained that, deep immersion into books could lead to seclusion and alienation from people. He in turn had an excellent relationship with many scholars of Damascus that included; Shaykh Abdul Razaaq Al-Baytar, Shaykh Abu Al-Khair Abidin, Shaykh Salim Al-Bukhari and his special friend Shaykh Jamal Al-Din Al-Qasimi (author of a 17 volume Tafsir titled Mahaasin Al-Tawil fi Tafsir Al-Quran Al-Karim, 1283-1331=1866-1914). Shaykh Tahir visited Shaykh Jamal Al-Din daily from the beginning of 1906 until he left for Egypt in 1907. He attended Shaykh Al-Qasimi’s lessons in Mustalah Al-Hadith and Tafsir. Shaykh Tahir even reviewed Shaykh Al-Qasimi’s book in Mustalah Al-Hadith. They continued to correspond with one another even when Shaykh Tahir was in Egypt. Many orientalist scholars respected him and consulted him on numerous occasions. The Jewish orientalist scholar, Goldziher was one such scholar who even attended the Shaykh’s lessons in Damascus and translated his book Towjeeh Al-Nazhr  into German.

He wrote many books, over 35 in number on various subjects. These include aqidah, ulum Al-Quran, tajwid, the science of hadith, sirah, usul, Arabic rhetoric, Arabic literature, the philosophy of natural mathematics, history and introductions to many Islamic manuscripts.

His most important books are:

  • Irshad Alba (in teaching the Arabic Language)
  • Al-Tibyan (the science of the Quraan)
  • Towjih Al-Nazhr (in the science of hadith). This book is described by Shaykh Abu Ghuddah as one of the most extensive works on the subject. Shaykh Abdul Fattah Abu Ghuddah edited and published the last two.
  • Al-Jawahir Al-Kalamiyah fi Al-Aqaaid Al-Islamiyah (Aqidah)
  • Al-TaqribilaUsul Al-Ta’rib (Arabic Grammar)
  • Sharh Khutab Ibn Nabatah(Poetry and Literature)
  • Al-Tazkirah Al-Zhahiriyah (articles on various topics)
  • Al-Uqud Al-Alaali fi Al-Asanid Al-Awali
  • Muniyat Al-Azkiya fi Qisas Al-Anbiya
  • Mukhtasar Adab Al-Katib by Ibn Qutaybah
  • Madkhal Al-Tulabila Fan Al-Hisaab

Some of his works are still manuscripts and have never been published. Some of the titles are:

  • Asna Al-Maqasid fi Ilm Al-Aqa’id
  • Al-Ilmam bi Usul Sirat Al-Nabi Alayhi Al-Salatwa Al-Salam.
  • Al-Tafsir Al-Kabir. (4 Volumes and can be regarded as notes to Tafseer Al-Baydawi).
  • Various others describing his travels to Alexandria and other places.
  • Various compilations of biographies of scholars of different eras.
  • Selections from Al-Muwafaqat by Al-Shatibi and Zaruq’s work in Tasawwuf

He could be distinguished from many of his contemporary scholars because he enjoyed the following:

  1. His initiatives in spreading education and establishing schools. Through his interaction with the Turkish authorities, he worked tirelessly to achieve this many times convincing people who owned large palatial homes to donate a portion, which could be used for a school. These schools were in all the cities of Syria and he even established a school for girls.
  2. He personally took charge of the syllabus. He did receive some opposition from certain sectors in Damascus, who wanted this knowledge to be exclusively for them and their families. He endured and persevered and because of his acquaintance with the governor, he was successful. He also encouraged and supported the establishment of a school dedicated to teaching the seven modes of recitation of the Quran.
  3. His active participation in establishing social and charitable organizations.
  4. His efforts in promoting history and various aspects related to the Arabic language.
  5. His role in bridging the gap in some way between realities and absolute aspects of Islam and modern science.
  6. His emphasis on education (tarbiyah) and ethics (akhlaaq).
  7. His activism through writing and keeping the people informed through the newspapers. Once Ahmad Zaki Basha received 10 000 pounds from the Minister of Education to publish rare books. A year passed and nothing was done. When a new minister was appointed, this amount was returned to the Ministry. Shaykh Taahir was very annoyed and upset and he felt that Ahmad Zaki had done a great disservice to the Ummah.

His students, Shaykh Muhammad Sai’d AlBani Al-Dimashqi, Muhammad Kurd Ali, Shaykh Ali Al-Tantawi and Shaykh Adnan Al-Khatib revered him and they wrote about his productive life and distinct personality.

 

* This biography may be found in the book: Muslim Scholars of the 20th Century by Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed


Biography of Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed

Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed is a well respected South African Islamic scholar who lives in Pretoria, South Africa. He studied at the King Saud University in Riyadh and the faculty of Shariah at the Islamic University of Madina. He has attained a M.A. in Islamic Studies from the University of South Africa. Through his extensive travels he has met and benefited from many senior scholars from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, India, Turkey etc. He has received numerous Ijazahs from the various scholars that he has met, studied with and served. He is currently a senior educator at the al – Ghazzali College in Pretoria.

He has authored two books:

  1. Muslim Scholars of the 20th Century.
  2. Muslim Scholars of the 21st Century.

He was one of the translators of Shaykh Sayyid Muhammad Alawi al – Maliki’s work: The Way of the True Salaf.


https://seekersguidance.org/articles/the-trodden-path-a-glimpse-at-the-lives-of-the-illustrious-scholars-and-saints-of-the-20th-and-21st-century/

Sufism: Its Essence & the Traits of its People: Book by Habib Umar

What is Sufism? This new treatise by Habib Umar ibn Hafiz and translated into English by Ustadh Amjad Tarsin, covers the principles of Sufism and the characteristics of those who follow it.

What is Sufism?

This book seeks to clarify the meaning behind this often-misunderstood term. Sufism, or tasawwuf as it is known in the original Arabic, is the science of purifying the heart for the purpose of reaching Allah. This is done by acting with ihsan, or excellence, in every situation, and following the sunna of the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace.

A true Sufi is someone who has reached the station of ayn al-yaqin, or the witnessing of certainty, which usually comes after many years of hard work. The people who try their best, but have not yet reached, are really quasi-Sufis, or mutasawif. As for the people who love them, but are not actively trying to progress spiritually, are attempting to resemble Sufis.

The Traits of Sufis

There are many people all over the world, who claim to be Sufis. Habib Umar outlines the ten traits that must be followed by anyone who claims to be a Sufi. These traits are universal to the various spiritual paths.

  1. Knowledge of the Qur’an and the Sunna: This forms the very foundation of the Sufism, and any actions that contradict the basics of Islam, are not from Sufism. This also means that the Sufis strive to follow the  sunna with utmost excellence. In fact, the isnad (chains of transmission) of all the major works of Qur’an, hadith, tafsir (Qur’anic exegesis), fiqh (jurisprudence) were passed down through the people of Sufism. Therefore, everyone today who is qualified to teach any of these sciences, has Sufis in their chain of transmission.
  2. Concern with perfecting the heart for the sake of Allah: Since Allah looks towards our heart, not our outward forms, Sufis prioritise working on their hearts to attain ihsan. Sufism is not about singing, clapping, or wearing specific clothing. Rather, it’s about removing everything besides Allah from the heart.
  3. Sincerity. Sufis should be extremely meticulous in analysing their actions, making sure that they are solely for the sake of Allah, and shy away from praise and recognition.
  4. Trueness: This entails doing everything possible to do a deed for the sake of Allah alone, with no pride or ostentation. This also means being humble enough to accept advice from everyone, and not to mind if others turn away.
  5. Humility of the heart: There are countless verses, hadith and stories which emphasise the centrality of humility. A Sufi does not raise themselves above others, or believe that they are better than anyone else, preferring instead to carry themselves with humility.
  6. Recognising the people of honor, and eliminating envy: By showing honor to people who posses it, they strive to give everyone their rights, and not have envy towards anyone.
  7. Remembering Allah abundantly: Sufis strive to make dhikr and remember Allah, with presence of heart, as much as possible.
  8. Conveying with excellence and eliminating discourteous argumentation: They strive for excellence by avoiding arguments unless absolutely necessary. If an issue arises, they clarify it in the best manner.
  9. Responding to evil with goodness, and having concern: A Sufi has utmost concern for others, and does their best to strive for their wellbeing. They forgive those who wrong them and respond to any evil they face with goodness.
  10. Love of Allah, preferring Him over all else: In their daily life, they consider Allah more important than everything, and strive to attain his love.

Sufism: Its Essence & the Traits of its People, is published by Dar al-Turath Islami. If you would like to learn more, consider enrolling in our On-Demand course The Path of Spiritual Excellence.


 

New Translation of the Abridged Ihya Ulum al-Din

Mokrane Guezzou has completed a new translation of Salah Ahmad al-Shami’s abridgement of the Ihya Ulum al-Din.

Given the title, Revival of the Religious Sciences: An Abridgment, this new translation of Salah Ahmad al-Shami’s abridgement of Imam al-Ghazali’s Ihya Ulum al-Din will be available in January 2019.

Translated by Mokrane Guezzou, the author and translator of such works as The Adab of the True Seeker by Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Buzaydi (2013); Red Sulphur by ‘Abd Allah al-‘Aydarus (2015); and The Onlooker’s Delight: The Biography of Shaykh Abd al-Qadir Jilani by Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (2016), this beautifully produced new work published by Serenity Productions is a must have for all Muslims who wish to build their relation to Imam al-Ghazali’s seminal and timeless masterpiece.

Revival of the religious Sciences An Abridgement

With its four major sections dealing with Acts of Worship, Norms of Daily Life, Qualities Leading to Perdition, and Qualities Leading to Salvation, a Muslim can gain a better understanding and appreciation of what it is that makes firm our relationship to Allah Most High and His Chosen Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, and how to manifest that relationship to everyday life and thereby make our way to the Hereafter brighter and blessed with ease and grace.

As Imam Taj al-Din al-Subki remarked: “If people had no concern for any of the works authored by scholars save the Revival, it would suffice them.”

For more information visit Serenity Productions.


The Write Legacy: Interview with Dr Saadia Mian and Sr Ambareen Syed

Fatimah Gomez interviews two female Muslim authors, who were guest speakers at the recent Muslim Women’s Literary Conference. interview

Dr. Saadia Mian

Fatimah: Today we have the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Saadia Mian, author of Crowning Venture, and a deeply inspiring person who also completed the memorisation of the Qur’an.

Dr. Saadia, you gave a beautiful uplifting talk about the journey of your book The Crowning Venture, and how this book has changed your life. I’d like to start off from the beginning— where did your writing journey essentially begin?

Dr. Saadia: Well to start with, I was writing on and off for the past five years, usually being inspired by the journeys that my medical career took me upon. I was always a reader, and this has enabled me to write even more.

Fatimah: From what you mentioned during your talk, writing The Crowning Venture was something very personal and involved you telling your reader many personal experiences that you went through along your journey in memorising the Qur’an. Can you tell us how you were so motivated write about these experiences, no matter how personal they were?

Dr. Saadia: Well you see, I realised that if I didn’t let people know and understand the beauty of the journey that comes with learning the Qur’an, nobody would ever know how journey is. I always ask myself, “Is this a message that will help others?” And with this mindset, we as writers have to be willing to write freely from our hearts and not be afraid of what others think of our writing or how they will respond.

Fatimah: And who would you say motivated you the most along your writing journey?

Dr. Saadia: Well, I had amazing editors that really pushed me to write what I wanted to convey to my readers without worrying about anything. They always supported me and encouraged me to write now and they would be able to edit everything later accordingly.

Fatimah: Many of us struggle with articulating the seriousness of our writing. How would you say is a good easy to show others how serious you are with your writing?

Dr. Saadia: I would say just keep on writing, push aside your fears and get your feelings out with your words. Eventually people will come to realise how passionate you are.

Fatimah: And what would be one piece of advice you’d like to leave us with?

Dr. Saadia: The best thing that I can tell you is to find people who are willing to support you and who you can lean on throughout your writing journey. This path of writing isn’t meant to be travelled alone.

Fatimah: Thank you Dr. Saadia, for giving us this amazing opportunity of benefiting from your experience and words.

Dr. Saadia: You’re very welcome.

You can find out more about The Crowning Venture here


Sr. Ambareen Syed

Fatimah: Here we also have with us Sister Ambareen Syed, author of the Henrietta Gee series and mother of six beautiful children.

Tell us, Sister Ambareen, where did you first discover your passion for writing?

Sr. Ambareen: Well, ever since I was young, I was always a big reader. I loved reading sci-fi books and when I started to hit my teen years, I started entering contests with my manuscripts and won them, which encouraged me forward along my writing journey.

Fatimah: And what inspired you to write the Henrietta Gee series?

Sr. Ambareen: It began with storytelling. I used to create stories of this girl named Henrietta and tell them to my kids. They always begged me for more stories and this encouraged me to write them down. Eventually, these stories grew into the Henrietta Gee series.

Fatimah: Amazing. It’s always beautiful seeing inspiration coming from your own children.

Sr. Ambareen. (Laughs.) Yes, definitely.

Fatimah: How would you advise Muslim writers of today to embed the spiritual perspective into their writing?

Sr. Ambareen: Firstly, we must understand that other people will always connect differently to our writing, compared to how we do. But it’s also important that we take advantage of this opportunity of literacy that has been presented to us and use this, striving to uplift our society with our works.

It also comes back to your intention. You have to think of your intention before you write, think about what kind of feelings you want to leave your readers with. What kind of lesson do you want them to think about and take to heart. This makes a difference in our manuscripts because it gives a meaning to our words, creating a message for our readers.

Fatimah: Very important. I know a lot of young writers out there today who are passionate about their work but don’t feel encouraged enough to stay motivated along the journey of literacy. What would you like to tell them to encourage them forward?

Sr. Ambareen: Keep writing. Just keep along at it, don’t even bother to edit your ideas. You want to let the creative process and ideas flow out first, and then later you can hard-core edit everything.

Fatimah: Well thank you so much Sister Ambareen. I’m so glad that you were able to share some of your time with us and hopefully, have motivated and inspired others with your words. Until next time.

Sr. Ambareen: Alhamdulillah, it was my pleasure.

You can find out more about the Henrietta Gee series here


Fatimah Gomez is 15 years old, and the second eldest  of five. She’s currently in high school and has had a passion for writing since age 9. Recently, she completed her first book for Muslim youth, which she intends to publish soon. She enjoys playing and watching soccer, training for taekwondo, jdm cars, discovering the beauty in art and poetry and connecting with Allah’s creation.


 

Red Sulphur: A Spiritual Treatise – Free eBook

The Red Sulphur, written by Imam al-Aydarus, is a short treatise on spiritual wayfaring. It has been translated into English and is available as a free eBook.

Al Kibrit Al Ahmar or The Red Sulphur was written by Abdullah ibn Abi Bakr al Aydarus who lived the 800s AH/1400s CE. He lived in Tarim, Yemen, and taught both the outer and inner sciences of Islam.  Scores of students graduated at his hands, many of whom went on to become great teachers in their own right.

Imam al-Aydarus was the first of his tradition to write books to reach students far and wide, since his contemporaries and teachers would mostly focus on the students around them, as well as those who had travelled to learn from them. In less than 100 pages, the author codifies the main concepts and foundational beliefs of the Ba Alawi spiritual path. However, this book is universal and is just as relevant for any individual who is serious about getting nearer to Allah.

Designed for those beginning the beautiful path of spiritual wayfaring, this book outlines the steps one must take on the path to reaching Allah. Beginning with the necessity of keeping the company of a learned teacher and how to tread the spiritual path, The Red Sulphur goes on to codify a variety of basic beliefs for the devoted aspirant, such as Godfearingness, having a good opinion of others, and having a correct understanding of creed. It then lists other conditions and steps, such as the ten stations for the spiritual wayfarer and the many states that one passes as they grow in their quest towards Allah Most High.red sulphur

The Red Sulphur is available in English and in Arabic as a free download from The Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Amman, Jordan.


 

What Ghazali’s Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din Means to Me

Sister Tuscany Bernier offers an insightful reflection on the very personal impact that the Ihya Uloom al-Din had on her.

The Ihya ‘Ulum al’Din ( The Revival of the Religious Sciences) is a 40-volume work, the mangus opus of the great scholar Imam Ghazali. The IGhazali's Ihyamam also compiled a Mukhtasir, or abridgement, which captured the essence of each volume into a chapter, making it a single, 40-chapter book.

The Ihya and I met in unique circumstances.  In April 2015, I bought a copy of the Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din…or at least I thought it was the whole Ihya. It wasn’t until last year that I realised it was actually the Mukhtasir, or abridged version.

As it happened, I did not open the book for several months. Looking in its direction, I would sigh at how much dust it was collecting.

Eventually, I joined a small women’s group, designed to explore leadership, feminism, and spirituality. Participating in the group inspired me to stretch my mind to explore what I didn’t understand. Thus, I picked up the book I had desired to read the most – the Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din. Before opening its pages, I made dua that Allah Most High grant me understanding and I aimed to clear my intentions.

Over the next nine months of the program, I poured over the 470+ pages in front of me. On the very first page, there was a hadith narrated from Allah’s Messenger, Blessings and peace be upon him, that said, “Belief is without clothing: its dress is piety, its beauty is modesty, and its fruit is knowledge.”

I was hooked.

The first quarter is titled “Al Ibada”, or worship, and the first chapter covers the virtues of seeking and imparting knowledge.The book then takes you through the second quarter based around or religious practices and onward into the third quarter, al-Muhlikat or moral vices. The final quarter brings the text to a close by focusing on the saving virtues, or al-Munjiyat. The final chapter is a reminder to take the time to remember death, which ultimately brings the entire book to a earnest, yet beautiful closure.

My mind felt simultaneously calmed by the constant invocation of Allah Most High, and stimulated by the diverse concepts brought up in each chapter.  I finished it over those nine months, but I often try to revisit the text that brought me so much happiness.

However, reading a translation by myself was nowhere as exciting as reading the original, or learning about it with esteemed scholars  through SeekersHub’s free on-demand course, Renewing Religion: Overview of Ghazali’s Ihya. But at the time I was reading it, I had no clue any of these resources existed.


Last year, I had the pleasure of reading a different translation – one much closer to the full Arabic original. It was at this point I realised that the book I’d initially read was only the Mukhtasir, and that every chapter of the Ihya could be considered a book on its own! In fact, the book I was reading was the first one of these books. It was called “
The Book of Knowledge” and was considered the backbone of the methodology course at the seminary that I was studying at.

The Ihya brought me closer to my understanding of the religion on a different level and for that, I thank the scholar who wrote it in the 11th century, Abu Hamid al Ghazali. Almost every topic within its pages was relevant to the human experience and thus, touched my heart centuries later.


Tuscany Bernier is from Indiana where she lives with her husband and two cats. She is passionate about cultural diversity and women’s studies. She published her first book in 2015 and hopes to write more in the future. You can visit her website for more information.


 

The Fitra Lessons 4/4 – Dr Umar Faruq Abd Allah

Dr Umar Faruq Abd Allah talks about the Sibgat of Allah and how it pertains to taking on the color of Allah, which is the Fitra of Islam.

Allah Might and Majestic says in Sura al Baqara 2:138:

صِبْغَةَ اللَّـهِ ۖ وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ مِنَ اللَّـهِ صِبْغَةً ۖ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ عَابِدُونَ

The baptism of Allah; and who is there that baptizes fairer than Allah? Him we are serving.

The word translated here as baptism: “sibgat,” connotes notions of dyeing or coloring of cloths, notions of immersion into a substance such that one takes on the coloring through and through.

The Dye of Allah

The Dyer of the cloth being Allah Most High. Allah dyes His servants in the most lasting and most beautiful of colors. This indicates that the Fitra – this coloring – is natural and that it promotes our inherent beauty in disposition and character.

The context of this verse also suggest that the baptism of the People of the Book, Jews and Christians, comes through the mediation of men. Whereas the baptism of Muslims by Allah comes to us directly from Allah.

The Fairest Stature

In Sura al Tin 95:1 Allah says:

لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ فِي أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيمٍ

We indeed created Man in the fairest stature

Referencing the Fitra or our true nature. This goes against our common understanding when viewing creation through worldly eyes. The common conception, if we look through history and so on, is that man generally behaves badly. That implies, in the perspective of the Qur’an, that man generally behaves contrary to his nature.

This is an important point that one must not lose sight of. The call of Allah, the call of Revelation, is the true call for us to return to nature – primordial nature. The Fitra. It is a call to immerse ourselves in the coloring of Allah.

Allah’s call to the Truth is His call for us to truly become who we are. This is the return.


Dr Umar Faruq Abd Allah taught a series of four lessons based on his book Al Iman Fitra during his visit to Cairo 23-27 February 2018. The lessons were orignally recorded and posted online by The Qadriyya Association.


The Fitra Lessons 3/4 – Dr Umar Faruq Abd Allah

Dr Umar expounds further on the concept of the Fitra, how it ties to the Primordial Covenant, and how natural and easy it is to believe in Allah.

“Truly, Allah will say to the person of the People of the Fire whose punishment is the lightest: ‘If you had everything that is in the Earth will you pay it as a ransom to rid yourself of this punishment?’ The disbeliever will say: ‘Yes.’ Then Allah will say: ‘But what I asked of you when you were in the loins of Adam [peace be upon him] was much lighter than this. Namely, that you not associate anything with me. Yet your refused to do anything but associate others with me.’” (Bukhari)

Faith Is Easy

What this Hadith tells us is that it is easy to be a Muslim. It is easier to believe than it is to disbelieve. The Qur’an (Sura al Haqqa 69:41) says of the disbelievers in Makkah:

قَلِيلًا مَّا تُؤْمِنُونَ

[L]ittle do you believe.

This can be understood to mean that they did not believe at all. But some commentators say that, no, it means exactly what it says. That the disbelievers believed a little bit. That they could not go beyond that because of the fact that there are consequences they fear. They might fear for their jobs, careers, friends, and so on.

Truth Rings True to Our Nature

One sees this often with people. You present the truth to them. They accept it a little bit but then think “Uh oh, I‘ve got to get rid of this because it will lead to other things.”

That is also why one of the great signs of tawfiq, of success, is when we have the courage to say that “I will follow the truth.” Yet in the end, it is easy for us to be ourselves, and to believe is to be yourselves.

Allah took the primordial covenant in Na‘man, which is Wadi ‘Arafa. That dry valley we cross upon a long bridge to go from the Haram of Makkah to ‘Arafa. All of us who assemble there by the billions go back to the place you already know.

The Mother of All Towns

You are going back to Umm al Qura: The Mother of all Towns. To the place where the primordial covenant was taken. On that day we heard Allah’s Eternal Speech (Sura al A‘raf 7:172):

أَلَسْتُ بِرَبِّكُمْ

Am I not your Lord?

This Eternal Uncreated Speech connected you to the Infinite Knowledge of Allah. We all heard Him speak on that day. And all that we find beautiful – the glitter of jewelry, the playing of a flute, the song of a bird – we think of it as such because it reminds us, deep down, of the words of Allah on that day. “Am I not your Lord?”

We did not just hear Allah. We saw Him, directly. One on one. Just as we will in the Garden. For the greatest reward of the Garden is to see Allah. As He says in Sura al Qiyama:

وُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ نَّاضِرَةٌ
إِلَىٰ رَبِّهَا نَاظِرَةٌ

Faces, on that Day, will be radiant
Looking at their Lord. (75:22-23)


Dr Umar Faruq Abd Allah taught a series of four lessons based on his book Al Iman Fitra during his visit to Cairo 23-27 February 2018. The lessons were originally recorded and posted online by The Qadriyya Association.


The Fitra Lessons 2/4 – Dr Umar Faruq Abd Allah

The fitra when it pertains to us includes everything that is true to our nature. The human fitra, is especially great, good, and praiseworthy.

Allah says in Sura al Rum (30:30):

فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا ۚ فِطْرَتَ اللَّـهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا ۚ لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّـهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَلَـٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

So direct your face toward the religion, inclining to truth. [To] the fitra of Allah upon which He has created [all] people. No change should there be in the creation of Allah. That is the correct religion, but most of the people do not know.

This verse is the verse of the Fitra of Allah. It indicates that human beings are perfectly created. Although all other creatures have fitra we do not call that the fitra of Allah. It is the greatest fitra of them all.

Allah’s masterpiece is the human being when the human being is at his or her best. The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “There is no child born but that it is born [entirely] on the Fitra.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Allah says, in a Hadith Qudsi, “Verily I created My servants as hanifs. Then the satanic demons came to them and diverted them away from their religion. And they declared to be forbidden what I had made permissible for them. And they commanded them to associate with Me that which is not Divine, and for which no authority had been sent down.”

The basic meaning of hanif is “to incline toward the truth and away from falsehood.” All human beings were created this way. The fasiq, who inclines towards falsehood and away from the truth, is the opposite of the hanif. But Allah did not create anyone as a fasiq.

Abraham’s Nursery

On the Night Journey, the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said [to the angels]: “Truly, I have some tonight something amazing. So, what is it that I have seen?” And the angels said “As for the tall man in the garden, it is Abraham, peace be upon him. As for the children around him, they are every child born that died on the fitra.” Then some of the Muslims said: “Messenger of Allah, even the children of idolators?” And he, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “Even the children of idolators.” (Bukhari)

This is the nursery of Abraham, peace be upon him. It is the place where all children who die before the age of maturity go. All the children present there are described as the most beautiful of children, whether they were born of Muslims, Christians, idolators, even.

The beauty of these children indicates again the beauty of the fitra. They are manifestations of that fitra – the embodiment of it.

These children are worthy of the company of Abraham, peace be upon him, for although they did not follow him, they died on the fitra – on the primordial covenant.

The Primordial Convenant

There are many hadith on the primordial covenant. They are all commentaries on Sura al Araf (7:172-173):

وَإِذْ أَخَذَ رَبُّكَ مِن بَنِي آدَمَ مِن ظُهُورِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ وَأَشْهَدَهُمْ عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ أَلَسْتُ بِرَبِّكُمْ ۖ قَالُوا بَلَىٰ ۛ شَهِدْنَا ۛ أَن تَقُولُوا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِنَّا كُنَّا عَنْ هَـٰذَا غَافِلِينَ

أَوْ تَقُولُوا إِنَّمَا أَشْرَكَ آبَاؤُنَا مِن قَبْلُ وَكُنَّا ذُرِّيَّةً مِّن بَعْدِهِمْ ۖ أَفَتُهْلِكُنَا بِمَا فَعَلَ الْمُبْطِلُونَ

And when thy Lord took from the children of Adam, from their loins, their progeny and made them bear witness concerning themselves, “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Indeed, we bear witness.” Lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection, “Truly of this we were heedless.”

Or lest you should say, “It is only that our fathers ascribed partners unto God before us, and we were progeny after them. Will You destroy us for that which the falsifiers have done?”

The Cornerstone of Sacred History

All commentators agree that these verses are proof texts on the fitra. The vast majority of commentators take the story literally. Scholars who believe that it is literal allow others who disagreed to take it metaphorically.

The standard position on this text is to take it literally. It is a reference to the Days of Days, the primordial day – the foundation of Allah’s purpose in creation. This verse is the cornerstone of Islamic sacred history and anthropology.

It establishes that the fundamental relationship between Allah and all human beings is premised upon the simple, unmediated recognition of Allah’s Lordship that took place on this day.


Dr Umar Faruq Abd Allah taught a series of four lessons based on his book Al Iman Fitra during his visit to Cairo 23-27 February 2018. The lessons were orignally recorded and posted online by The Qadriyya Association.