Why Do We Waste So Much Food in Ramadan? – Shaykh Muhammad Metwali Al-Sha’raawi

In this video, the late Egyptian luminary and scholar, Shaykh Muhammad Metwali Al-Sha’raawi (RA) urges us to reflect on our consumption of food in the month of Ramadan. He reminds us that there is no benefit in overeating or being gluttonous once the time of breaking fast sets in. Rather, we should suffice ourselves with minimal food so that we may reap the spiritual and physical benefits of fasting. By being conscious of the true meanings of Ramadan, Muslims will be able to live lives of moderation and balance.

 


Biography:

Shaykh Muhammad al-Sha’raawi was born in Egypt on the 5th of April , 1911. At the age of 11, he had completely memorized the Quran. He graduated from the Faculty of Arabic Language at the al – Azhar University in 1941. He was considered and recognized as a gifted exegete of the Quran. He was revered and respected in the Muslim world for his scholarship and piety. His regular weekly programme on Egyptian television immediately following Friday prayers was followed by millions of people around the Middle East. During his programmes, he would explain the Qur’an with humor, wisdom and the use of examples drawn from everyday life. He passed away on the 4th of June, 1998. Reportedly more than a million mourners packed Cairo’s streets in a display of grief.


 

The Trodden Path (Episode 4): A Glimpse At the Lives of the Illustrious Scholars and Saints of the 20th and 21st Century.

In this 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 fourth episode of the The Trodden Path series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed writes on the life of Shaykh Muhammad Shakur al-Mayadini

 

The Trodden Path  Shaykh Muhammad Shakur al-Mayadini   

The Shaykh was born in the city of Mayadin in Syria in 1938 (1356). He hailed from a noble family and his lineage joins with the household of the Prophet Muhammad through his grandson, Husayn ibn Ali (RA). The city of Mayadin was on the banks of the Euphrates River and was an old city that was known from the Roman era and it also featured during the era of the Abbasid leader, Harun al-Rashid.

He was born into a family of average financial standing and his father lived until his 90’s. Initially, the young Muhammad Shakur was the only child. Thereafter his father married for a second time and he was blessed with sons and daughters. Because he had to serve his mother and she had no other children, he was pardoned from the normally compulsory military conscription.

Muhammad Shakur married for the first time when he was 17 and he was blessed with his first child when he was 19. He had six children from his first wife. His wife was the perfect aide and confidant and patiently bore all the difficulties including the times when he was imprisoned and the unsettled lifestyle. Shaykh Shakur said the following about her when she passed away: “I lived with her for 50 years and never once did I go to bed angry with her.”

After her demise, he married for the second time to woman from Jordan who bore him a daughter. She too took excellent care of the Shaykh even during the days of his illness.

He assisted his father in his business and various other chores and patiently bore all the difficulties as a result of the travelling between different towns and cities.

He was loved by all, the young and the old and spent almost all his time in the masjid. He is not known to have missed the Fajr Salat in the masjid except due to severe illness.

Education:

Period in Syria

He completed his primary education in Mayadin and he continued in Dayr Zor. It was during this period that he began acquiring sacred knowledge in the different masjids and he even began delivering the Friday sermon (khutbah) in the city and in some neighboring villages. He completed his secondary school at Dar al-Mu’allimin in Aleppo in 1959. During this period he had some confrontations with the Syrian Government and he was imprisoned. His secondary school certificate allowed him to teach and so he taught for a while. He studied under Shaykh Mahmud Umar Mushawwah under whom he studied various subjects and remained with him for a long time. There was a mutual love for one another between the shaykh and the student. Shaykh Shakur regarded his teacher, Shaykh Mahmud as his father. In 1962, he obtained his general secondary school certificate.

He was appointed as a teacher in Hasakah but continued in his quest for knowledge. He enrolled at the Faculty of Shariah at the University of Damascus and graduated in 1967. During his time as a student at the university, he realized that he needed to increase his knowledge because what he gained at the university was not sufficient. So, he began reading profusely day and night until he is supposed to have read about 30 000 pages in one year in different subjects that included the nine famous canonical books of Hadith. He also read voluminous books like Tafsir al-Tabari, Tafsir al-Zhilal (fi zhilal al-Quran) and about nine volumes of Tafsir alRazi and other books. He used to makes notes as he read. If he was not reading then he was listening to a recorded lesson or khutbah on the old cassette players.He spent a lot of time with his teacher (shaykh) and discussed various juristic, political and social matters. Every Friday, asked Shaykh Shakur about the topic of the sermon. The teacher and studied would then walk out of the town discussing and brainstorming the topic. He was prevented from delivering the Friday sermon on a number of occasions because he was fearless when he ascended the pulpit. During this period there were many who were his students and later became reputable scholars and even professors, engineers and teachers.

Period in Makkah

The next phase in his life began in 1976 when he moved to Makkah where he was honoured to teach at one of the schools close to the Haram in the Shamiyah district. Very often he used to go to the Haram early before his teaching commenced in order to perform tawaf. He also taught at the Abu Zayd al-Ansari Hifz School in the Tan’im district until 1983.During this period he had a permanent place in the Haram where he taught various subjects including Tafsir and Islamic etiquette. He began editing and annotating various books and one of his first works was alAwa’il by al-Tabarani which was published in 1983. He registered for the Masters’ degree in Egypt and successfully completed the first year but was unable to complete his studies due to financial constraints. He also wished to return to his country to promote the religion. It was during his time in Makkah that he became acquainted with various scholars that included; Shaykh Ali al-Tantawi, Shaykh Muhammad Mahmud al-Sawwaf, Shaykh Muhammad Ali al-Sabuni and Shaykh Diya al-Din al-Sabuni.

He was fortunate to have entered the Ka’bah on a number of occasions. During his stay in Makkah he collected many books which resulted in his own large library. His passion for books continued until a short while before his death. His selection was so huge that even while completing his doctoral thesis there were only two books that he required that were not in his library. He eventually bought these as well.

He was even appointed as an Imam in one of the mosques in Makkah for four years and served as the Friday preacher in another mosque in Aziziyah also for about four years. Thereafter he resigned from his teaching post in Makkah and decided to move to Baghdad in Iraq to devote more time calling people to Allah.

Period in Iraq

In 1983 he moved to Baghdad, Iraq where he remained for a few years calling people to Allah while never neglecting his research. While in Baghdad, he edited a number of books which were published.He visited the different libraries in Baghdad to familiarize himself with the different manuscripts. It was during his stay in Iraq that he was able to complete his Masters’ degree which he obtained from the Punjab University in Pakistan. Even while in Pakistan, he maximized his time to study and read Hadith with various scholars from whom he obtained ijazah. He travelled numerous times to Makkah where he was fortunate to have met and read with scholars like Shaykh Muhammad Yasin al-Fadani, Shaykh Abu Turab al-Zhahiri and others and from whom he also received ijazah. It was during this time that he studied under Shaykh Husayn Usayran. He read the entire SahihalBukhari and the complete Quran to him and he received ijazah from him. His son, Muhammad Adib also read a portion of SahihalBukhari with Shaykh Husayn and also received ijazah from him.

Period in Jordan

This is regarded as the golden period in his life because it was filled with his lessons from which many benefited. He dedicated all of his time to serving the religion. He was appointed as the imam and preacher in two cities; Zarqa and Amman. He moved to Jordan in 1991 where he lived in Zarqa and served as an imam in one mosque after which he moved to Masjid al-Quds in Zarqa. This mosque became a beacon of knowledge because it was here that Shaykh Shakur led the prayers, delivered lectures and taught hundreds of students. He used conduct lectures in various other mosques as well. He conducted weekly lessons during which he taught Tafsir, special lessons for the women on a Wednesday. Many of these ladies were prominent in the field of Da’wah and used to phone him for answers to their questions. During his lessons in Zarqa, he explained a reasonable portion of the book, alHidayah by al-Mirghaynani. He also conducted lessons in sirah.

After some of his students insisted, he finally registered at the al-Quran al-Karim University in Sudan for his doctorate with a special focus on Hadith. He obtained his doctorate cum laude in 1998 when he was about 60 years old. Thereafter he relocated to the capital, Amman where students from different parts of the world thronged around him. Some were post-graduate students and others were scholars. They studied SahihalBukhari and Muwatta under him. He continued conducting lessons in some of the other mosques. He continued teaching women on a Wednesday and these lessons continued for over 12 years. Many completed SahihalBukhari, Muwatta, alAdab alMufrad and a portion of Ihya Ulum alDin. These women maintained a very high level of dedication and punctuality and would rarely miss a lesson except if it was beyond their control.

During this period he began conducting some online lessons. During these lessons, students would read to him and he explained. He did this despite his ill health because he was too ashamed to turn a student away. He delivered the Friday sermon in Jordan for about 24 years and only stopped due to his illness in 2012. He obtained Jordanian citizenship in 2003.

Some of his Shuyukh:

  • Shaykh Mahmud ibn Umar ibn Muhammad Sharif Mushawwah (d. 1420) who was the Mufti of Dayr Zor. With him Shaykh Shakur studied Fiqh of the Hanafi School.
  • ShaykhHusaynUsayran
  • Shaykh Abu Abdullah Muhammad A’zam ibn Fadl al-Din al-Jondalwi (d. 1405). Shaykh Shakur received ijazah from him.
  • Shaykh Ibrahim Fatani.
  • Shaykh Muhammad Ubaydullah, a mufti from Paksitan.
  • Shaykh Abu al-Tayyib Muhammad Ata Allah Hanif al-Fojiyani (d. 1409). He received ijazah from him.
  • Shaykh Muhammad Malik Kandehlawi, who was the senior scholar of Hadith at the Dar al-Hadith al-Ashrafiyah in Lahore. He received ijazah from him as well.
  • Shaykh Abu Muhammad Badi’ al-Din Shah al-Rashidi al-Sindi (d. 1416).
  • He received ijazah from both Mufti Taqi and Mufti Rafi’ Uthmani who are two senior scholars from Pakistan.
  • Shaykh Muhammad Yasin al-Fadani (d. 1410). He read the Muwatta as per the narration of Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan.
  • Shaykh Abu Turab al-Zahiri who was the son of Shaykh Abdul Haq al-Hashimi.
  • Shaykh Abdul Wakil who is a son of Shaykh Abdul Haq al-Hashimi
  • ShaykhHusaynUsayran (d. 1426). He read the Quran and SahihalBukhari to him.

Shaykh Muhammad Shakur was blessed with many students. This is due to him having taught in Makkah, Baghdad and Amman. He read and taught SahihalBukhari and the Muwatta well over 20 times.

Some of his students who are respectable scholars are:

  • Shaykh Ali ibnYasin al-Muhaymid
  • ShaykhHusayn al-Ubaydli
  • Shaykh Muhammad Adib (son of Shaykh Shakur)
  • Shaykh Muhammad Daniel (Britain)
  • Shaykh Ali ibn Muhammad al-Imran
  • ShaykhNizamYaqubi
  • ShaykhRiyadibnHusayn al-Taaie (Iraq)
  • Shaykh Abu al-Hajjaj Yusuf al-Alawi

His character:

He was deeply hurt and affected when a Jewish soldier killed a number of Palestinians during the Fajr Salat in the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. After this incident he delivered two fiery and emotional sermons after which he was admitted to the hospital and they discovered that he had a clot in his heart. He underwent numerous medical procedures and operations. Some of the medication had side-effects and caused other complications. He was afflicted with prostate cancer and received treatment for about four years. Despite his ill health, he remained committed to the Din and continued teaching.

Those who interacted with Shaykh Shakur would agree that he was soft natured, he cried easily, devout worshiper and a person who was eager to impart knowledge at every opportunity.  He was very emotional when he heard the blessed characteristics of the Prophet Muhammad. He loved and respected the ulama.

He continued teaching even in his old age and despite his illness. He even had women attend and complete Sahih alBukhari with him. He was alert during the recital of the Hadith and very often pointed the variations in the different editions. He preferred commenting on various aspects related to the Hadith.

We witnessed all of the above when we invited him to South Africa in 2013 as per the recommendation of Shaykh Muhammad Daniel (Cordoba Academy). When I (Shoayb Ahmed) phoned him to invite him, he gladly accepted despite his ill health and having never met me previously. Yet he was willing to undertake the long journey. He traveled with his wife and his young daughter. It was a pleasure having such a scholar with such an amazing personality. I asked him as to why he didn’t hesitate in accepting the invitation. He said that a Muslim brother made a request and he accepted the opportunity to travel for the pleasure of Allah and to impart ‘ilm. He did not inform his children about his planned visit to South Africa until the night prior to his departure. He feared that had they known earlier, they would have prevented him from travelling. He didn’t even inform us that he was unable to walk and needed a wheelchair. When he was questioned about this? He said that if we knew that he was unable to walk, we would have cancelled his visit. He would sit for hours while we read alMuwatta and other works to him. He carried many books with him as gifts for the students and he even distributed cash to those who were graduating. He was overjoyed to have met an old friend when he was reunited with Shaykh Muhammad Ali al-Sabuni in South Africa. The day before he departed he was taken to the Pretoria Zoo and he really enjoyed himself. When he departed and we greeted him at the airport, it was as if we were bidding farewell to our father. This is how attached we became to him during his ten day visit.

His books and annotations:

Despite his teaching, his Hadith sessions and his responsibility as imam, he still found time to write and annotate various books. Sometimes he used to spend 14-15 hours a day reading and researching various aspects.

  1. He gathered 40 Hadith on sending salutations upon the Prophet Muhammad. He compiled this in Baghdad in 1405.
  2. Fayd al-Mu’in ‘ala Jami al-Arba’in fi Fadail al-Quran al-Mubin by Mulla Ali al-Qari (d. 1014). He referenced the Hadith and edited the work.
  3. Targhib Ahl al-Islam fi Sukna Bilad al-Sham by al-‘Izz ibn Abd al-Salam. He edited it and referenced the Hadith.
  4. Fad al-Wiaa’ fi Ahadith Raf’ al-Yadayn fi al-Dua by al-Suyuti. He edited this work in Pakistan
  5. Al-Rawd al-Dani ‘ala al-Mu’jam al-Saghirby al-Tabarani (2 volumes)
  6. Al-Lum’at fi Khasais al-Jumuah by al-Suyuti
  7. Al-Ifsah ‘an ahadith al-nikah by Ibn Hajr al-Haytami.
  8. Hibat al-Rahman al-Rahim min Jannat al-Na’im fi Fadail al-Quran al-Karimby Muhammad Hashim al-Sindi. Shaykh Shakur condensed it and edited it.
  9. Siham al-isabah fi al-da’wat al-mujabahby al-Suyuti.
  10. Majma’ al-zawa’idwamanba’ al-fawa’idby al-Haytami
  11. Al-Imta’ bi al-arba’in al-mutabayinah bi shart al-sama’ by Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani.
  12. He edited al-Majma’ al-Mu’assas li al-Mu’jam al-Mufahras by IbnHajr
  13. Tasdid al-Qaws fi Takhrij Musnad al-Firdaws by Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani. This book contains about 6000 Hadith. He passed away before completing this work. He completed about one third.

His demise:

He passed away on a Friday night having conducted his last lesson in Sahih alBukhari a day prior to his demise. He requested to be taken to hospital where his health deteriorated and he was in severe pain. He used to place his hand on the area where he experienced pain and say: ‘Ya Allah!. His children were at his side and he spoke to them. He passed away on the 10th December 2015(28 Safar 1437).

 


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.


 

 

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

Husn Dhann and Social Media – Saad Razi Shaikh

How a Prophetic virtue can allow us to have a more positive internet experience.

During one of the GRE Verbal Classes, the tutor threw an interesting question at the students. “Say, you enter my living room, and see the fish bowl smashed, the goldfish not in sight, and the fat cat relaxing on the couch, happily licking its paws. Picture this scenario. What can you infer from it?” The overwhelming response was that the cat ate the fish. The tutor said no. What if actually one of my friends had come, taken the fish to a larger tank, and had thrown some cookies for the cat? Did you consider that scenario? Do we have any evidence the cat ate the fish? No. Do we have any evidence the fish is dead? No. All that we know for sure is that the fish is not in its bowl.

The tutor then gave us some sound advice. Don’t assume anything that you don’t see. Don’t add up stuff. Don’t use your imagination. Take what’s in front of you at face value.

Even for non-GRE folks, this is sound advice. Here, allow me to repeat an example Shaykh Walead Mosaad used in one of his talks. Say, you see a religious scholar walking down the street. At the local pub, he stops and walks in. He then emerges a little while later, walking funnily. Do we assume that our scholar got drunk at the pub, and consider the worst about him? Or do we count for the possibility of something else? For example, he could have walked into the pub as he wished to use a restroom. A few Islamophobic guys, seeing him in, may have attacked him. Injured and shaken, he walked out, with his bruises, although hidden from view, painful enough for him to stumble. Did we consider this possibility?

Psychology points towards an interesting observation. If the uncharitable behavior belongs to others, we tend to explain it in terms of their personality, their choices. If however, it belongs to us, we tend to explain it in terms of the situation. We look for the nuances, the missing details that will somehow excuse us. A friend with whom I discussed this denied this, saying truth is truth. I then dug out two pieces of information about him, and asked him if they were true. The first was a time during university, when he was passing by the gates of the mosque. A brother called him to prayers, he however didn’t go inside, but kept walking ahead. I asked him, was this true? He said yes. Another incident happened during university, when he walked into the girls hostel, even as the watchman tried to stop him. I asked him, if I introduced you to everyone using these two incidents, would it be okay? He protested, saying that while what I said was true, it was not complete.

He didn’t stop at the mosque because he had already prayed at another mosque where prayers were held earlier. He had walked into the girl’s hostel as a university function was happening at the common hall there, where he was appointed a volunteer, a fact the watchman didn’t know. This was the complete picture.

If this is the state of the ‘real’ world, how does the virtual one fare? Not any better, and in all probability, much worse. Non-verbal communication constitutes as much as sixty-five percent of our communication, it includes our facial expressions, our body language, our cues and gestures. In the virtual world, it is well, virtually lost. And so with little facts in hand but much clutter in our heads, it is easy to fall for the wrong picture.

It’s necessary then, that we realize that communication via the internet is even more imperfect than the one in real life. Huss Dhann allow us to remedy this. What is Husn Dhann? It is having a good opinion of others. It’s a simple command, yet one we’re most prone to overlook. Measure the chatter in your head for an entire day, and you’ll see husn dhann being traded for su dhann (ill opinion of others) all too often.

Abdullah ibn Muhammad ibn Munazil (Allah have mercy upon him), one of the early Muslims, said, “The believer seeks excuses for their brethren, while the hypocrite seeks out the faults of their brethren.” [Sulami, Adab al-Suhba]

Husn Dhann works at three levels. The first is having a good opinion of  ourselves, to not self-flagellate, to not have waswasa over our actions. The second works at the level of others, how we judge and measure the actions of others. The third works at the level of our relationship with Allah. Do we have a good opinion of our Creator? Do we accept the truth that we know little and worry much, and often fall into despair? Husn Dhann allows us to correct this.

Hamdun al-Qassar, one of the great early Muslims, said, “If a friend among your friends errs, make seventy excuses for them. If your hearts are unable to do this, then know that the shortcoming is in your own selves.”[Imam Bayhaqi, Shu`ab al-Iman, 7.522]

Here’s one way to understand this. Say, you’re given glasses you normally don’t wear. You are then asked to read what’s in front of you. You wouldn’t be able to. Does that mean the text in front of you is blurry? Or is it the case that you have put the wrong glasses on? We need to be honest and accept when the latter is the case, as it often is. As wondrous the world of the social media is, it is a makeshift reality. It is not a complete picture, and we should not assume it to be.

Much of the acrimony and bad taste can be avoided if we pepper our usage with a little husn dhann. We’re not at the other end, we don’t know what’s it like, we don’t know what place the other person is coming from. We’re not yet adept at decoding the nuances of language over the internet. Worse, the rage from the everyday is pumped into the virtual world, where it only rebounds. We need to calm ourselves, before we enter a place where the accountability is little, but the consequences real. Both as an antidote to the misinformation of our times, and as a way to follow the Prophetic character, husn dhann is a virtue we need now more than ever.


Saad Razi Shaikh is a journalist based in Mumbai. He writes on popular culture and community initiatives. He can be reached on Twitter @writweeter


 

An Overview of the Maqasid Podcast: Knowledge, Devotion and Service by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus

Nilufer Gadgieva provides an overview of the Knowledge, Devotion and Service podcast, a podcast series available on SeekersGuidance by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus.

 

The Maqasid podcast is a series of brief, half-hour lessons discussing the altruistic aspects of knowledge, devotion and service, many of which are critical to the well-being of the Muslim soul. With poise and dedication, Shaykh Yahya covers various aspects of chivalry and companionship which could better strengthen and grow the relationships between modern Muslims, as it once did in the past.

The first set of lessons cover a book by Imam Abdulwahhab ash-Sha’rani known as Adab As-Suhbah, or the Etiquettes of Companionship. Through the life stories of the pious, the Shaykh thoroughly explains the significance of some of the most important aspects of good companionship in the context of Islam and how we can implement and integrate them into our own lives. Among the most important of these are selflessness, humility and understanding, and the removal of hasad, or envy, in our hearts towards our companions. He provides targeted steps for Muslims to take to practically increase love and affection in our daily relationships with our fellow human beings, and it makes for a compelling series.

The next set of lessons which are currently ongoing cover Imam Al-Husayn Al-Sulaimi’s Kitab-Al Futuwwa, or the Book of Spiritual Chivalry. This series is expansive and rich in classical Islamic etiquette of moral conduct between Muslims, and Shaykh Yahya touches upon important experiences in human life that relate to the points he discusses. While similar to the traits of Adab As-Suhbah, these characteristics are highly specific and indicate the reality of chivalry that comes from genuine love for the sake of Allah. Both moving and relatable, this podcast will surely make us reconsider our social priorities as family members, friends and neighbors of one another.

Personally, this podcast had a positive impact on me, particularly when I was in a place of uncertainty with my companions. Questioning their intentions towards me, I realized that companionship for the sake of Allah is purely just that, and I can’t take anything my friends do, say or act towards me in a personal light. Those who genuinely love me will reciprocate my efforts for them, and if they do not, I must be the better friend, partner and relative and give them 100% regardless of their attitude towards me. Loving for Allah’s sake removes the burden of conflict, sensitivity and suspicion from among friends, near and far, as it enhances a rational manner of approaching companionship.

The example of the Prophet, his Companions and the pious is sufficient for us, and to emulate their strong, unbreakable bonds between one another is truly a goal to be achieved in one’s life. Islam is a social religion, not one of individualism and isolation, and to be able to live in harmony with one’s family and friends (and to maintain that harmony) essentially contributes to our purpose in life – to submit to Allah and envelop Islam in our lifestyle.


Click here to listen to listen to “Knowledge, Devotion and Service” by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus.

The Ghazali Project for Children – Interview with Virginia Gray

Lola Elniaj sits down with an interview with Virginia Gray Henry, founder of Fons Vitae publishing house and Ghazali Project for Children.

 

Lola: It is obvious your work is infused with a spiritual sense of purpose but how did it come about?

Virginia: I majored in World Religions in university in New York. This was in the early 60’s.  And Islam was not even included back then. And we all had the idea it was 1001 Nights, camels and harems and Baghdad! We all had read 1001 Nights. But it wasn’t taught among the world’s religions. And I majored in Hinduism. And when I got out of university I was looking for a way, because every faith tradition is both a doctrine and a methodology.

In that, you finally come to realize that the aim of all faith traditions, every single one of them, is…(and we have the prophets and messengers and each one of them exemplifies humility and service and emptiness of ego. You empty of all that comes along with your nafs in order to be fully present when you meet God at the end of your life. And so you realize that you can’t really do that from just reading books)…that you actually need a spiritual direction; you need to see that alive.

So at the time, I was married to a Venezuelan film director and we became Muslim through reading Al-Ghazali and other books but at that time either they were crummy books, you know, like horrible paper, awful print, you know really embarrassingly crummy books or really academic books done by scholars at Cambridge and Oxford.  But those were done by what we call the Mustashriqeen or Orientalists translating some of the great books like the Mutanabee but the problem was that back in their minds, at least in our estimate, they were really serving the British and the people who needed to feel comfortable about colonizing all these Muslim countries. So there was always the element of sneering at Islam, the Prophet’s wives, whatever you have it. And I really felt this was really unfortunate.

So in the summer of ’68 we sailed over to Morocco on a freighter with 8 people and bought a Citroen car in Paris, and drove to Cairo which took about year because we saw all of Morocco. And then I got pregnant and we had a baby born in Libya, Hajar, and we lived in Baydha. And then we came into Egypt in the spring of ’69 and we met some of the most beautiful and saintly beings you can imagine! They were there, living in Cairo. There were three of them, in fact.

So we began meeting with people our own age from Japan, and from France, and from England,and many countries, who were also looking for spiritual direction and guidance. And so we spent ten years studying in Al-Azhar in special studies in Arabic, Fiqh, Tajweed. And our son Mustafa was born there.  And after ten years of that we thought ghasb ‘anna– it’s our responsibility to give back. We now see what it really is. By that time we had worked with the Saudis and made a film about Muslims making the Hajj, (featuring)Muslims from as far as Taipei, Kyoto, Kuala Lampur, Indonesia.

So we have come to understand the beautiful nature and quality of the Muslim people, which is really magnificent-never mind in the desert how a mechanic would take us in when our car broke in the Algerian desert and make sleep in their only bed. You know that’s really touching you know.

Then, after all those years of study, we move to England in ‘79 and opened Jam’iyat Alnusoos Alislamiya (Islamic Text Society). The idea would be to start getting really amazing scholars from japan to California and translate all the great Islamic classics. Beautifully translated but also produce it beautiful and highest form of publishing and typesetting because we saw a need and started to fill the gap.

So it began at Cambridge.The children grew up there, and I did a Master’s in Education started a doctorate. We had a beautiful building on Green Street.  We had some wonderful Saudi friends who made it possible for us to have a whole building with a book store. And we started with Abdul-Hakim Murad (Tim Winters). He was just coming out of Pembroke. He was in his early twenties and he was already brilliant in Arabic. And so he translated the first of our Ghazali series which is book 40, which is on death and what comes after, from the ‘Ihaya’ Uloom Ideen. And we knew him and we’ve been close to him all the way through. I mean I just went with him to Bosnia this past August and I actually worked in the war with him in the ‘90’s and he is the one who actually has named my publishing company, the new one – Fons Vitae. So anyway we started this publishing in England and began doing Al-Ghazali and we were trying to do things in the “ahsani taqweem” (in the best form) and it worked. I am very happy to say I can’t tell you how many Islamic publishers copy us. And I am so glad they are because the amount of beautiful books are being produced by Muslims is really wonderful

 

Lola: What would you say is your role as Muslim publisher?

Virginia: Well, you see there are two kinds of things going on.  If you look at the publishing lists of Oxford and Cambridge universities (press or slash?) Yale. Most of the books by modern day scholars and academics are really about the changing scene, ISIS or politics, or history. And I am not interested in any of that. Because life is extremely quick. I mean this last 25 years since I’ve been back in America has gone in a flash. Like Omar Alkhayam said: Life is like the snow on the desert’s ((breast)). It’s that fast. The reason I was interested in religion to start with even as a child, is that friends of mine, even at 15 and 16 years, died and I wanted to know where are they, what happened, what is death. And everyone wonders about that and that’s why I focused on religion, but I’ve always thought that I’m about to die. And I’m right. I am. In a way, you and I, we think we’ve got all this time but time is very fast and in a certain sense we both are already dead and we’ve got just a few minutes left in our mind. If you think about the past 10 years in your mind, it’s just a few ideas. And it’s going faster all the time.

So we focused on the inner life and how to prepare and cleanse the soul in order to meet God. So that’s been our thrust. I have zero interest in the refined little things that people do their doctoral thesis on. That’s well…they’re all talking to each other. But they aren’t giving anything that will address the real question at hand that we are going to die very quickly and you know we really never had any time. If you devoted your whole life to your inner life, you would barely have time, much less to go off in a thousand different directions.

So anyway, the one thing that I did think (of how others view our role as publishers) was just a couple of years ago, might be 3 or 4, in Marrakesh.There was a huge festival done in honor of Fons Vitae and it was very touching. It was organized under the auspices of the king.Scholars came from all over Europe and everywhere to talk about our books, and I presented the Ghazali (for Children project) as well. And they said the reason they were doing it because (and this is very touching) because Fons Vitae has devoted itself for keeping the magnificence of the Islamic spiritual heritage in print for the West. Because you see it’s in Arabic and French, and many languages but at least Fons vitae is the foremost Sufi publisher in the world.

Islam is a beautiful religion. It has everything, it is wonderful, it has inner dimensions.  There’s something for everybody, every moment of their lives. And I had met people who can’t stand Ghazali, who can’t stand Sufism, who’ve led lives of perfect service, perfect humility,who honestly were sanctified at death. So it’s not Sufism or literalism, but it’s really doing the thing which is at the core of the whole thing which is finally being humble and putting everything else aside to serve

 

Lola: How did the Ghazali for children project come about and what was the process of turning this magnum opus into a children’s series like?

Virginia: What got me off on to this whole path was when I was about 22 and read in the New York public library Ghazali’s “almunqith Min aldhalal”, (Deliverance from Error). His spiritual autobiography which he wrote towards the end of his life, after he wrote the “Ihya’. In it, he describes his crisis where he was teaching in Baghdad and he was the equivalent of the president of Oxford and Harvard today and everyone looked up to him, and he knew everything and he won every argument and then he really looked, he realized, “I know the truth but I am not able to do it”. And that’s a crisis I feel I am going through in my life. And I am trying to go inward now at the lasts second but the Ghazali children’s project has been a God sent. But anyway, then when Ghazali had written in his autobiography: “My soul is on a crumbling bank. Up, up, and away. If not now, when?!”

And you know when I read that and I was only 22 and I mean by the time you are 22 you already know it all. You know what the deal is. You (don’t) have to read about it over and over and over again. It’s clear in all faith traditions and the essence of human life. I was so scared by that that I fell in love and wanted to know more about Alghazali. With his quotations from the Qur’an and Hadith and quotations from the Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din.’”, I was in a state like very high but I was like clinging to the pages with my fingernails. I could read it. I could go high with it. But when I shut the book I was still me and I didn’t know how you could incorporate those great teachings into your own daily outlook.

About 8 years ago Hamza Yusuf called up and he was very sad because he said his children were going to an Islamic school and it wasn’t working out. Probably because it was so dry and rote and not fun. So we hatched the idea for the Ghazali children’s project.  Everyone said, how can you do Ghazali for children? But what it was that it was my own salvation in a certain sense, the beginning of my own spiritual life, because I sat with the Book of Knowledge, the first book of the forty of the Ihya. And that particular book is said to be a summation, the essence of the entire ‘Ihya’ Uloom Ideen, in this book 1. And everyone said don’t start with it. It’s really hard. But how could you not start with book 1?

I sat right here behind on this couch. So I sat there for 4 yrs.

Four years read it very slowly. First I printed it all out. We had all of these books translated. Hamza Yusuf picked the latest critical edition of Alghazli, the Arabic edition by the Darul Manhaj press in Jeddah. We would print out, let’s say, book 1 and send it to a scholar. So in the case of book 1 it would be Ken Honerkamp (Abdulhadi) You have to be very careful when you choose a translator, because it is their (level of viewing the world) that will flavor the entire book, and if the person themselves is not seeking the inner life they are not going to be able to translate it right. And a lot of them were done by Abdurrahman Fitzgerald who lives in Marrakesh who is a saintly being. And they are wonderful.

And then after they put them into English, they go to editors; Muhammad Huzein who has Gazali.org the greatest Ghazali website, most complete in the world and his wife who is a top editor for every publisher in the world. They then very carefully put these translations into English that could be read by parents and teachers as well as scholars. It’s totally scholarly but it just doesn’t use words that are just too high all the way through. And then I take a print out of this and would go through this and circle every key idea because you can’t leave anything out because Ghazali builds. You can outline what he says. And each thing is based on what comes before. It is utterly brilliant.

And Hamza Yusuf I think said to me once “the Ihya is the Qur’an in a usable order and if you did everything that Ghazali said, you would have arrived as it were at true being.”

So I was sitting with the book of knowledge and imaging how I would say it to my granddaughter who was 5 or 6 at the time, and so I sort of whispered it.  How I would really get it across to her?

So the Book of Knowledge is forty stories which deal with all those essential points about the nature of the heart.

 

Lola: What were your deepest aims and purposes of this project? How did you go about turning a private prayer into a public work?

Virgina: A man is putting the whole project into Swedish. It is now going into 12 languages the Urdu one is already being used in Pakistan, and Al-Azhar University did the Book of Creed children’s book in Arabic for their school system.

But the Swedish translator had said honestly until he had this system he had no way to talk to his children about such profound concepts .

Think about it, how do you start to tell your children about the deeper realities? Well why figure it out when Ghazali already did it?

We have a huge pilot school program with over 180 schools all over the world

Some people don’t have the money to buy the books and if they sign up for our pilot school, we can send them the pdf’s and they can use them in their classes. But the pity is that the books are so beautiful; big and hard-back and exquisite illustrations. Such a shame that Muslims parents who don’t buy books, wouldn’t buy this because when the children see the beauty of the books they realize the importance of the subject. The subject is the only subject (purification) the Prophet of God, Allah bless him and give him peace, said “I only came to teach good character”.

What it is that we are doing here, is the inner Sunnah. It’s easy to be told do ten of these, three of these, use siwak, etc. the outer Sunnahs. But what about the inner state of mind? The literal inner state the inner Sunnah? And this is what’s been left out (from mainstream teachings of Islam to children)

In the stories we have a motif. There are some children walking home from school in an anonymous Muslim town somewhere in the world. and they are discussing how their parents are upset with them about being late to prayers but we don’t know the meaning behind why we have to do it.

So they find a forgotten garden (quite a symbol) and they go and find a beautiful clearing with flowering trees and rabbits and they agree we’ll meet here and talk about our concerns. And then they think but who will answer our questions? And then they recall sitting in the park everyday this beautiful old man with birds all over him feeding squirrels etc. named hajj Abdullah. Hajj meaning he has made THE pilgrimage to his heart, right?! And Abd Allah servant of God. And so they go to him and he says yes I will come and answer your questions but not from myself. it will be through the great writing of imam Alghazali.

So that’s how it’s done. Right from the start even the book on wudu and prayer.
Allahu akbar” is it just moving your lips? Or shouldn’t we also be in mode of being that is for that.

And he (Alghazali) said when you open your prayer and do the takbeer you should gather yourself into your heart, and be totally attentive and present with God. When you say Subhan Allah you should be in a state of awe. When you say: “ihdina alsirata” should inspire a state of lowliness and seeking guidance.

With each aya there is a different way to be. And this state of being when you do it in prayer, the prayers become full of light. It’s even fun doing it in this way.

Being awake to the inner dimensions of it and learning over time to be present and awake and not just mouthing words and doing postures without understanding.

Hamza Yusuf says Islamic education has ta’leem, the learning of everything, which we need to do.  And tarbiya which is the character change.

In terms of our methodology, each book comes with a work book, and a teacher’s manual and a full curriculum, chapter by chapter. And each chapter in the curricula has a Qur’anic or a Hadeeth passage to which the whole core teaching relates and then of course the workbook has fun things to do and then the curricula has play acting as its major thing.

I have to say it saved my life. I can work on myself because I have the tools to do it. Now I have the meanings. I didn’t see the meanings. I didn’t see what was really going on. I was just taught the five pillars and “do this” and “don’t do that”.

 

Lola: Can you tell me about your Interfaith work?

Virginia: I have always been an interfaith person because of the passage in the first book I read on Islam in 1966 was called “Focus on Islam” and on the opening page it said: “We have sent at all times prophets to people in their own language”. And I thought that’s wonderful because I majored in world religions, and of course God is merciful and He doesn’t leave somebody out. He doesn’t. So I’ve always been interested in, not just faiths tolerating one another, but learning to admire one another because each faith has some very special beautiful things that we can learn from each other. So I’ve done a lot of interfaith work and publishing. We did a book with Prince Ghazi of Jordan called “The Common Ground Between Buddhism and Islam”

Because Buddhism is focused on emptiness and mindfulness. Being empty of all but God and being mindful. And if you think of the essence of Islam is faqr (holy poverty) and humility and the remembrance of la ilaha illa Allah so they are not very different.

I’ve worked on something international that is based here (Kentucky) called the Festival of Faiths board for 25 years.

(As for) the local network of interfaith work, the Muslims here in Louisville Kentucky (Let’s just say the Pakistani doctors) are doing amazing things and they are loved by our community and our mayor. For example, there’s a Christian group that has created something that’s called a Water Step which is a device that can be taken by/into interior land and it’s like a car batteryIt is taken by land and it can purify like fifty gallons of water in a minute. And when Haiti had those terrible devastating floods, these Muslim doctors paid for that to be put in Haiti and then when there were floods in Pakistan they gave the Christian group $200,000 and went with them and trained their Pakistani brothers and worked on the water. And it’s that kind of thing that should be going on between all faiths.

Somebody had gone just this past week (Feb 2019) here in Louisville into a Hindu temple and desecrated it and the Muslims were there first. Everyone was there standing with the mayor and there to help clean it off. And that’s the way we should be. We are a human family. There’s no point in disliking another group because of a religion they’ve been raised. Ghazali said: I noticed the Jews raise their children as Jews and Christian children of course taught Christianity by their parents etc etc and Ghazali says: “I wonder who we were before our parents said, ‘here’s the package’”.

These are our human brothers and we should just have nothing but mercy and love and compassion and respect for everyone. I can’t imagine being taught anything less than that.

All religions have a form, and because Islam has a form that is copying the Sunnah it is beautiful that no matter where you go in the world because people are practicing the Sunnah you can find yourself at home no matter where you go. It’s all beautiful.

Why Learn? – A Conversation with Dr Recep Senturk

Following is an excellent podcast from ImanWire. In this podcast Dr Recep Senturk reflects on the higher purposes of learning and the importance of cultivating independent, critical thinkers.

 

Click for the audio: https://soundcloud.com/almadinainst/ep-40-why-learn-dr-recep-senturk

 

Please subscribe to the podcast and visit www.imanwire.com for the latest articles and podcast episodes. Send any questions or comments to @imanwired on Twitter or [email protected].

Acquisition of the Clear Light: Part 4

This is the fourth part of a series of translations of Habib Umar’s work, Qabs al-Nur al-Mubin, an abridgment of Imam al-Ghazali’s Ihya Ulum al-Din.Qabs al-Nur al-Mubin

This chapter describes the levels of faith and how to achieve certainty.

Purification of the Heart

The objective of all pious acts and deeds of the limbs is purification, cleansing and clearing of the heart. Allah Most High says: “Success is for he who purifies it.” (Sura al-Shams 91:9). 

The meaning of its purification is “the obtaining of the lights of faith”. Allah Most High says: “As for the one whom Allah wants to guide, he expands his breast towards Islam.” (Sura al-An’aam 6:125). He the Most High says: “Is the one whom Allah has expanded his breast towards Islam, he is upon the Light from his Lord.”( Sura al-Zumar 39:22)

This clearance and faith is of three levels:  

  1. Faith of the laymen, which is implementation through mere imitation.
  2. Faith of the theologians, which is blended with logical reasoning.
  3. Faith of the gnostics, which is clarity through the light of certainty.

An example of this:

Your belief that Zayd is in the house is of 3 levels:

First stage: To be informed about this by a person who you have proved his honesty and not known dishonesty from him, nor have you ever doubted his word. Therefore your heart is tranquil towards him and finds serenity in his information. This is what is referred to as mere imitation, which is the faith of the laymen.

Second stage: To be inside the house and hear Zayd’s words and voice from behind a wall, so it will be a means of proof to you of his presence in the house. As a result, your faith and belief will be stronger than only merely being informed.

Third stage: To enter the house thereafter, and see and witness him with your very own eyes. This is the real understanding and the certain witnessing, similar to the understanding of those drawn near and the truthful servants, because their belief is based on witnessing.

So equip and prepare yourself by purification of the heart, continuous remembrance and blockage of the devil’s entries towards the heart.

He (the Prophet) Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “The unique have advanced.” It was said: “Who are the unique O Messenger of Allah?” He, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “Those men and women who remember Allah abundantly.”(Tirmidhi) Another narration says: “Those who absorb themselves in the remembrance of Allah. Those who consistently remember Him.” (Tabarani)

Allah Most High says: “… and those that strive in Our path, We will surely guide them to our path.” (Sura ‘Ankabuut 29:69).

Every wisdom which manifests from the heart after consistent worship, without any seeking of knowledge, arrives by way of inspiration. Allah Most High says: “…and the one who fears Allah, He will create for him a way out.” (Surah al-Talaaq 65:2), meaning from problems and doubt. “…and grants him provision through unperceived means.” (Surah al-Talaaq 65:3). It means that He teaches him Knowledge without studies or though experience and He Most High says: “O you who believe, if you fear Allah, He will grant you a criterion…” (Sura al-Anfaal 8:29). It is said that: It is a light which distinguishes between truth and falsehood, therefore it removes him from doubt.

He, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to frequently supplicate for light by saying: “O Allah illuminate me light, increase me in illumination, illuminate my heart, illuminate my grave, illuminate my hearing, illuminate my sight,” until he says: “a likewise, my hair, my skin, my flesh, my blood and my bones.” This has been mentioned in al-Sahihayn of the Hadith of Ibn Abbas, May Allah be pleased with them both. (Bukhari and Muslim)

  Ali, may Allah be Pleased with him and ennoble his face, said: “We don’t have any secrets which the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, confided in us, except that Allah bestows understanding to a servant of his book. (Bukhari, Nasa’i)  This is not through studying.”

It has been said regarding the exegesis of Allah Most High saying: “He Provides wisdom to whoever He decrees.” (Sura al-Baqarah 2:269), it refers to an understanding in the book of Allah. (Tirmidhi)

He , Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “Fear the foresight of a believer, for verily he sees by Light from Allah.” (Tirmidhi) al-Hasan narrated from the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, that he said: “Knowledge is of two types: Knowledge which is located in the heart which is beneficial knowledge and knowledge which is located on the tongue which is a proof against his creation.(Tirmidhi, al-Hakim)

al-Bukhari narrated it from the hadith of Abu Hurayrah and Muslim from the hadith of ‘Aisha that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “There were recipients of Divine inspiration among the nations before you. If it happens that there is such an individual among my nation, it must be ‘Umar.”       


This is part four of a translation of al-Habib Umar bin Hafiz’s abridgment of Ihya Ulum al-Din by Imam al-Ghazali entitled Acquisition of the Clear Light, not only provides the reader with a concise understanding of the Ihya but also serves as clear guideline to the main themes and focal points within the actual book.

Translator: Abdullah Salih, converted to Islam in 2003 and thereafter, embarked on a journey of seeking knowledge in the Valleys of Hadramouth in the beautiful city of Tarim. He was fortunate enough to sit in the company of Habib Umar, where he studied under him various sciences such as, but not limited to, some of the original works of Ihya as well that of the abridgment. He now resides in Namibia with his family and is engaged in Dawah activities locally as well as internationally.


 

Acquisition of the Clear Light: Part 3

This is the third part of a series of translations of Habib Umar’s work, Qabs al-Nur al-Mubin, an abridgment of Imam al-Ghazali’s Ihya Ulum al-Din.clear light

This part explores why a person may not actualise the spiritual sciences that he is learning.

Specific similitude of the heart in relation to sciences:

The mirror may not reflect the image for five reasons:

First: Deficiency within its design, such as the nature of iron before it’s shaped and polished.

Second: Dirt, corrosion and grime.

Third: Being turned away from the angle of the picture towards something else.

Fourth: A veil placed between the mirror and the picture.

Fifth: No knowledge of the direction of the intended picture.

Likewise, the heart is a mirror, wherein the true reality of matters becomes manifest, but can became void of sciences due to these five reasons:

First: Deficiency in its essence, such as the heart of a youth, where the sciences don’t become manifest to him due to its deficiency.

Second: Due to the grime of disobedience and the dirt which accumulates upon the face of the heart caused by numerous desires, so turning towards the obedience of Allah Most High, and avoiding the demand of the desires, is that which cleanses the heart.

Allah says: And those who strive in Our (cause), We will certainly guide them to our paths. (Sura ‘Ankabuut 29:69)

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: The one who acts upon what he knows, Allah will bequeath him with knowledge which he does not know. 

Third: Due to it being turned away from the direction of the intended reality, the obedient and good heart – despite being pure – does not have the clear reality manifesting within it, since it’s not in search of the reality, nor is it parallel to the mirror in the direction intended. In fact, it may be that he is fully aware of the details pertaining to physical obedience or preparations of means to earning a livelihood. He does not pay any heed to pondering about the Divine presence and the subtle divine realities, so nothing becomes manifest to him save that which he is pondering about in terms of the precise details regarding the diseases of the deeds and subtle defects of the soul which he is pondering about or affairs related to one’s which he is pondering about.

Fourth: The veil. As for an obedient individual who has overpowered his desires, confining his thoughts towards a reality from amongst the realities may not have this manifested to him due to a belief since youth which reached him through tradition, which has been a cause for majority of the Muslim theologians and those strictly adherent to specific school of thoughts; in fact, many of the pious, since they are veiled by their traditional beliefs solidified within their souls.

Fifth: Lack of knowledge of the direction from which the sought out matter is discovered, since the seeker of knowledge is not capable of attaining knowledge of that which he is unaware of except by bringing to memory those science related to the sought out matter. The sought out sciences are not found within the natural disposition, and are only caught through the nets of acquired sciences. As a matter of fact, they are only acquired through the 2 previous sciences which are in harmony with each other and paired in a specific manner.

Therefore, ignorance of the sources and their methodology of pairing is a barrier towards the knowledge, similar to what we previously made mention of in terms of ignorance of the picture’s direction, in fact, it’s similar to a person who wants to look at his nape in the mirror, so if he moved the mirror in front of his face, he would be nowhere nearby the direction of the nape and as a result, the nape would not become apparent to him. If he were to lift the mirror behind his nape, parallel to it, he would then have turned the mirror away from his gaze and will not see the mirror, so he is in need of another mirror which he will set up behind his nape which will then be opposite to this one, to a point where he is able to see it and he should pay attention to the relation between the positioning of the 2 mirrors in order for the picture of the name to reflect in the opposite mirror to the nape thereafter this picture from this mirror will reflect in the other mirror which is facing the eye, thereafter the eye will comprehend the picture of the nape, and likewise in the capturing of sciences their exists many strange techniques containing deviances and distortions stranger than that which we mentioned about the mirror.

So these are the causes of obstruction against the heart to know about the realities, so nevertheless, every heart by its natural disposition is suited to know the realities, since it’s a lordly and honorable affair, and is equipped to carry the responsibility.

He, SAW, said: Every child is born upon a religious sound disposition but thereafter, his parents call him towards Judaism, Christianity or Magianism.    


This is part three of a translation of al-Habib Umar bin Hafiz’s abridgment of Ihya Ulum al-Din by Imam al-Ghazali entitled Acquisition of the Clear Light, not only provides the reader with a concise understanding of the Ihya but also serves as clear guideline to the main themes and focal points within the actual book.

Translator: Abdullah Salih, converted to Islam in 2003 and thereafter, embarked on a journey of seeking knowledge in the Valleys of Hadramouth in the beautiful city of Tarim. He was fortunate enough to sit in the company of Habib Umar, where he studied under him various sciences such as, but not limited to, some of the original works of Ihya as well that of the abridgment. He now resides in Namibia with his family and is engaged in Dawah activities locally as well as internationally.


 

25 Years’ Worth of Marriage Advice: Hina Khan-Mukhtar

In celebration of her jubilee anniversary, Hina Khan-Mukhtar shares some marriage advice gathered over the years.marriage advice

Have you ever set foot inside a couple’s home and immediately felt a sense of sakinah, or peace, wash over you? Whether it was a modestly-furnished apartment in a neighborhood where people struggle to make ends meet or a magnificent mansion in the most coveted district, these spaces radiated warmth and love and tranquility. What was their secret? How did the husband and wife together achieve this calm and quietude in a world that is too often overwhelmed with cacophony and chaos?

Over the past quarter of a century, many of my elders, teachers, relatives, friends, and community members have shared a whole range of marital advice with me. Being fortunate enough to have witnessed tawfiq, or Divine success, in a number of harmonious unions — in which many of the tips outlined here were implemented — I feel it is advantageous for us to learn from the success stories in our circles. Therefore, I am sharing the most helpful gems of wisdom in the hopes that you will find suggestions that are of benefit to you. I am not a perfect wife nor would I say I have a perfect marriage, but I do know that these suggestions have worked for me whenever I have been able to act on any of them, alhamdulillah.

Please keep in mind that this advice is for those women who are in substantially healthy marriages. The assumption is that their husbands are God-fearing, are not emotionally or physically abusive, know how to give their wives their rights, and do not have any debilitating addictions, vices, personality disorders, or mental health struggles. Although most of the following counsels are primarily for the wife in the marriage, some do apply to both partners — however, you will have to go to a male writer if you want advice solely for the husband.

Therefore, dear sisters, while reading, please resist protesting, “But what about him?” This isn’t about him — this is about you and me.

Make Allah Your #1 Love

A scholar once encouraged us to look at our order of priorities in life as a pyramid with Allah, great and glorified is He, at the top. It is from the understanding of having a hierarchy — of Allah first; then husband; then children and parents and teachers; then closest friends and extended family; then greater community — that the barakah, or blessing, comes into the home and flows out to every family member. Many people mix up the order and then don’t understand why there isn’t peace in the home and why the children are rebellious. Look at your circles of concern, and then make sure that an awareness of Allah, great and glorified is He, is at the top of the pyramid which then runs as a core through all of the other layers.

Pray together and pray for one another. Supplicate every step of the way. Rely on salaat-ul-istikhara, or the prayer of guidance, for all major family decisions. Pray for your union to bring healthy and righteous children into the world who will grow up to be beloved to Allah, great and glorified is He. One scholar lightheartedly but sincerely advised us to “pray that your partner is someone who drags you to Jannah (Paradise).”

Make your marriage a means of drawing closer to Allah, of pleasing Him. Look at it as an act of worship. Have big intentions. Don’t keep score of how much you’re doing for your husband versus how much he’s doing for you; instead, make your intention solely for Allah, great and glorified is He. Seek His approval and pleasure — and His alone.

Work on Increasing Your Love and Affection

Follow the example of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and give him peace; there was a reason he encouraged spouses to hold hands and to feed one another from the same plate. Just like any other blessing, marriage can eventually start to feel “old” and “stale” and “taken-for-granted,” but these types of intimate gestures help to re-invigorate the marriage.

Take note of the five “languages of love” — providing service; giving time; giving verbal praise/affirmation; giving physical affection; giving gifts — and see which one your spouse utilizes on you the most. If you have a different language of love, he may not notice it unless you reciprocate from time to time with the same language that he is using. Learn his love language and then use it in order to be “heard.”

Flirt.

But please don’t be overly demonstrative in public. That just makes everyone else extremely uncomfortable. As a couple, preserve your dignity and self-respect.

Establish a routine or a tradition that no one else is allowed to get in the way of — not work, not parents, not children. For some couples, it will be Sunday morning brunch together; for others, it will be after-dinner tea; yet others may choose to go for an evening walk or to read aloud to one another in bed. There are many who have established a designated “Date Night” in their weekly schedule. Have something special just for you two and then jealously guard it; it should be something that you both will miss if it ever got taken away.

Hold onto your passions and interests. You may not be into each other’s “pet projects,” but be each other’s biggest cheerleaders. Ask sincere questions about whatever hobby the other is into.

Khidma, or service, wins hearts. Filling his gas tank that you realize is almost on empty, helping him complete the dreaded tax forms, sewing on his button that you noticed came loose are all signs that you care about him and are looking out for him. For some spouses, actions speak much louder than words. There should be a difference between you being present in his life and you being absent.

Go to bed at the same time.

Among the most important duties of husbands and wives in the Islamic context is the fulfillment of one another’s sexual needs. This is not something to take lightly. Spouses who insist on rejecting their partner’s advances cannot be surprised to witness their relationship disintegrate. There are situations when a husband is forbidden to approach his wife for intercourse (i.e. during her menstrual cycle, during her postpartum bleeding, and during fasts in Ramadan), but outside of these cases, it is imperative for both spouses to do their utmost to make sure they are partners in every way — not least of which, physically.

Always pray that Allah, great and glorified is He, maintains the love in your heart for your spouse and that He preserves the love in your partner’s heart for you. Allah is the One Who puts love in our hearts for one another, and He is the One Who can take that same love out in any split second. If you stop to think about it, it is a sheer wonder that out of the billions of people in the world, there is one person who has that special love in his heart for you — that is nothing short of a miracle in and of itself. Thank Him for that blessing.

Your Grandmothers Were Right — All Men Want Respect

The wife might be the one to instigate most major changes in life; she might be the one who brings home the thicker paycheck; however, the husband should be given the respect of having the clear role of being the Emir, or leader, of the family. He should be honored by the wife and the children as the guardian of the household, and he in turn should recognize that Allah is the Guardian of his and his wife’s household. Of course, acknowledging your husband as the Emir doesn’t mean that you aren’t very vocal in sharing your own opinions. As one grandmother joked, “The husband is the head of the family, but the wife is the neck that turns the head!”

Don’t contradict or correct him in public. Give him the dignity he deserves. (As my own husband had to once firmly remind me, “I’m not the one being homeschooled.” Eek! Duly noted.)

Don’t ever demean your husband to your children. If you don’t honor their father, they won’t either. And, remember, it’s still gheeba, or backbiting, to talk about your spouse in a way that he wouldn’t like, even if it’s only with the people who will always love him. Don’t let your guard down when it comes to his rights.

If he ever buys you a gift that you don’t love, love it anyway. See the heart of the gift-giver behind the gift. There are always gentle and cheerful ways of honestly communicating your preferences at a later time.

Regardless of whether you had a social media presence before marriage or not, once you’re his wife, be aware of his views on how much you post about yourself and your life with him. Respect his limits.

Put your cell phone, your book, and — yes — even your prayer beads away when he’s trying to talk to you about his day. Give him your undivided attention, and teach your children (who are old enough to understand) that they are not to interrupt their parents’ time together.

A sense of humor — that isn’t cruel or mocking — is one of the most attractive qualities in a man. I still shake my head and chuckle at hubby’s corny joke that he’s been lovingly teasing me with for the past 25 years: “On August 14, Pakistan gained its independence…and I lost mine!”

Laugh with him but never at him.

Make Your Home a Haven, Make Yourself His Houri

I realize that many women today are uncomfortable with the word “houri,” but houris are real creations of Allah, great and glorified is He, who are described in The Holy Qur’an as “companions in Paradise.” I believe it’s time that we reclaim this word and own it for what it is. There is no reason why our homes can’t be little pieces of Paradise, insha’Allah, and no reason why we can’t be heavenly companions for our husbands within our own homes!

When you see your beloved for the first time after he returns home, make sure to greet him and kiss him and hug him. Practicing Muslim men who have taqwa, or God-consciousness, will avoid all physical contact with women who are not their blood relatives, and many of them are surrounded at work by women who make an effort to look attractive. You are the reward your husband gets at the end of a long, dry day. Be soft and affectionate and fragrant.

When you know life has been stressful and busy, wait until he’s he’s had a chance to relax before asking him to do anything or before breaking any bad news to him.

Everything about you — from your clothes, to your hair, to your skin, to your breath — should smell clean and fresh…for yourself, yes, but especially so for your husband!

Be kind and welcoming to one another’s friends. (But don’t ever be in solitude with the opposite gender — and that includes not being alone with another man on social media either.)

Cook together. And even if you don’t consider yourself to be a talented cook, at least make a sincere effort to learn how to make some of his favorite dishes.

Take care of yourself physically — exercise, eat well, and have a self-care regimen. So many of us make such an effort for strangers, but it is our spouses who deserve our best selves. Think of marriage as one long dating experience where both partners are still intent on presenting their best selves — becoming their best selves — for each other. I still have childhood memories of my mom brushing her hair and putting on lipstick and perfume before my dad came home from work.

Make your home an oasis of calm in this stormy world, a place of refuge to which he can escape — a world that smells nice, is clean and organized, has a well-stocked fridge, and where the members of the household speak in respectful and loving tones with one another.

Conflict is Inevitable — Learn How to Manage It in a Healthy Manner

The first two years of marriage often end up being the most exciting as well as being the most challenging. Even if you were to go on a fun all-girls’ adventure trip, you would find yourself getting rubbed the wrong way by your closest friends at some point or another. In the first couple of years of marriage, you’re learning how to live with another nafs, or ego, while he’s having to do the same. But what it comes down to is that marriage isn’t so much about struggling with another’s nafs as it is about struggling with your own. Expect to be challenged. Intend to grow.

It’s perfectly okay to have different personalities and different interests. After all, variety is the spice of life! What you want to make sure, however, is that you both have the same goals for your marriage and for your future family and that you’re both on the same page about how to achieve those goals, insha’Allah.

One cousin of mine caused quite a bit of consternation amongst our elders. “I don’t believe in the word ‘compromise’ when it comes to marriage,” he proclaimed. “What are you saying?! Marriage is compromise!” my mother scolded him. But then he explained: “If you think of everything as a ‘compromise,’ you will keep score and you will eventually become bitter. Once you decide to do something, try to embrace it fully and believe in it. Don’t think of it as a ‘compromise’ any more.”

Self-reflect, and don’t be too proud to apologize. The relief on his face and the peace in the home that comes after suffering the sting of stepping on your own ego in order to say “I’m sorry; I was wrong” is so so so worth it.

It is a given that all of us will get angry at some point or another, but it is when tempers are flared that people’s true natures are revealed. Be mindful of whom you always want to be. Try — even if it’s a struggle — to maintain your adab, or manners/etiquettes, when you’re upset. Being angry is never an excuse to break or throw things, scream, curse, use foul language, slam doors, pull hair, scratch, spit, raise an arm, or throw punches. Don’t casually toss around the D-word (divorce!) every time you feel overwhelmed. In regards to our interpersonal conduct when we feel frustrated, it is important to always remember: Allah, great and glorified is He, is watching.

When your spouse is angry or visibly agitated, stay quiet in the heat of the moment. You can always make your point at a later time.

When addressing your disagreements, avoid using absolutes like “always” and “never.” It’s not fair to forget the positives in your husband by saying: “You always do this bad thing” or “You never do that good thing.” It is rare that issues are black and white; most of the time, there will always be shades of gray. We shouldn’t be so quick to condemn one another.

Don’t expect him to be a mind-reader. If something is bothering you, discuss it with him. Set yourself up for success by beginning your conversation with an “I” statement instead of a “You” statement. For example, avoid saying, “You left your clothes all over the bedroom again! That was so thoughtless of you!” Instead, try saying, “I feel frustrated when I find clothes all over the bedroom at the end of a long day.” Try to avoid getting personal, and don’t assume that he knows exactly how his actions are affecting you. Give him the benefit of the doubt.

Don’t go to sleep angry (stay up and fight instead — just kidding!). Contrary to the age-old advice to resolve all conflicts before going to bed, sometimes it actually helps to sleep on a problem. But first you have to calm yourself down by reminding yourself to have tawakkul, or trust, in Allah. Once you’ve had a full night’s rest, you can tackle your problems with a fresh attitude the next day. Make sure to avoid sleeping in separate beds; you’ll be surprised how many problems can eventually get solved just by snuggling together under the covers. It is Shaytan who wants to separate you two.

Avoid arguing in front of your children, but if they ever do witness a loud disagreement between you and your spouse, make sure to make up in front of them as well. Show them that marital conflict is not the end of the world and that there are healthy ways to resolve issues. Let them witness you apologizing and hugging it out.

Holding grudges breeds toxicity and dysfunction. Once issues are resolved, don’t keep bringing up past mistakes. Learn to forgive. And then forgive every day.

Have a sense of humor about each other’s annoying flaws and foibles. Case in point: I am frequently misplacing my eyeglasses and losing my wallet. It is such a bad habit of mine that even I have gotten to the point that I have difficulty forgiving myself. Alhamdulillah for a patient husband who manages to laugh it off, no matter how many times he ends up being inconvenienced (which is unfortunately a little too often). As long as they’re not extremely serious issues, try to act like you don’t even see each other’s faults.

Go with the flow.

Four other words: JUST LET IT GO.

Be a Uniter and Not a Divider

When you get to know your in-laws, you will see that not every family does everything the way your family does. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Take the good you see in your new family and adopt it. Ignore the “bad.” Do resolve with your husband, however, not to allow either of your families’ poor habits and poor choices to continue in the next generation that you two are raising together.

Don’t complain about or criticize your spouse to your own family. You’ll eventually get over whatever issue was bothering you, but it will be difficult for them to forgive and forget so easily. You want them to respect your husband. Be a veil for him. (Physical abuse, however, is a non-negotiable deal-breaker — God forbid, if that line is ever crossed, sound the alarm and get help immediately!)

If you want him to respect your family, you will have to show respect for them first. He will follow your lead. If he sees that your family is always causing you to feel annoyed, he will eventually start to resent them for bringing stress into his own household. Protect and nurture that special yet fragile relationship between him and his in-laws.

Even if it doesn’t seem to be a priority for him, take the time to buy his parents and siblings thoughtful presents — just because. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Give gifts to each other and you will love one another.” So go ahead and “buy” their love — it’s sunnah after all!

If your husband is ever upset with his own parents or siblings or extended family, don’t jump in and encourage him in his negative opinions. Defend them and make excuses for them and encourage him to see the good in them. Be their advocate. If you have nothing nice to say, stay silent. He may not admit it then, but he will be grateful for your attitude and thank you — even if only in his heart — later. The truth is: no one wants to hear anyone else bad-mouthing his family. Remember when we talked about service being one of the “five languages of love?” Well, here is an opportunity for one of the highest forms of service. Be someone who helps mend hearts and helps bring relations together; don’t be a cause for discord in the family.

Don’t Try to Keep Up with the Junaids

Avoid debt like the plague. A large, fancy, expensive house may do nothing toward making you happy. However, a small, clean, cozy, simple, peaceful home in a safe neighborhood filled with people who are hopefully trying to please Allah can very well feel like a palace in Heaven, insha’Allah.

Responsibly managing the family budget will avoid a lot of stress in your marriage. Paying riba, or usury, brings about all kinds of problems in one’s life and destroys the barakah, or blessing, in the home. Don’t ever pay interest, even if it means you never get to own your own home or car in this life. Keep your “akhirah (hereafter) glasses” on.

Make do with what you have, and only complain to Allah for your wants and needs. Make your husband feel like a hero. Having said that, don’t hesitate to schedule time to have honest conversations with your husband about anything that needs to be improved — the key is not to become an irritating nag who is constantly whining and complaining and issuing orders. Talk to your spouse when he is in the headspace to listen.

Be grateful. Be grateful. Be grateful. Allah, great and glorified is He, says in The Holy Qur’an: “If you are grateful, I will surely increase you.” And Allah always keeps His promises.

Remember: you will never have it all (not in this life at least).

Don’t compare your life to others’.

At the same time, you might not want to brag to the world about how happy you are. ’Ayn (the evil eye) and hasad (malicious jealousy) are two realities that Allah in His Wisdom has allowed to exist in the world. Protect your marriage from them. Besides, who would ever want to be the cause of any pain or sadness for those who are struggling with their own love lives?

There will be “little things” that will irritate you about him, and sometimes those causes for irritation might start to feel like “big things” (even when they are not). At those times, remind yourself that perfection is only for Allah, try to think about what life would be like without him, and be grateful for a spouse who is choosing to somehow still accept you despite your shortcomings. (And if someone else’s husband seems perfect to you, remember that everyone has flaws, and good wives hide their husbands’ shortcomings, so you are probably not getting the full picture — nor should you expect to.)

Instead of chasing “happiness,” try aiming for “contentment” instead.

Don’t take one another for granted. Your spouse is a duniyawi, or worldly, blessing that can be taken away at any moment. And, believe it or not, somewhere out there is someone who would be more than happy to trade places with you. Appreciate what Allah has given you.

Have a Mentor in Marriage

Avoid getting marital advice from people whom you know are having their own relationship problems. Similarly, stay away from getting advice from newbies who are still learning the ropes themselves. Look to someone who has a long-term, successful marriage of his or her own to find out how to make it work. Try to find one wise, discreet person to consult; don’t tell everyone your “problems.”

If someone you respect says you need therapy, you probably do. Don’t be ashamed to do whatever it takes to save your marriage. Give it your all.

If you do pay for marital therapy, only seek out trained professionals who understand and respect the parameters and priorities of your religion. You’ll be surprised at how often well-meaning (but spiritually clueless) therapists will prescribe the haram, or Divinely prohibited, as medicine for a troubled marriage.

Set Yourself Up to Soar Spiritually


He may be your best friend, or maybe he’s not. Either way, don’t neglect your girlfriends. Take time to nurture those bonds that help you be a better person. There will come a day when you will need the support of your sisters. Don’t let falling in love make you fall out of friendship with your “tribe.” Consider connection with your soul sisters as part of your self-care, but remember that your husband and his needs always take precedence. If, after being married, people routinely mistake you for being “single,” you’re definitely doing something wrong.

Attend religious classes together, either in person or online. The point is to keep growing together spiritually. You may not grow at the same pace (and that’s okay — you’re two separate souls after all!), but at least you’ll respect the same teachers and will understand each other’s motivations and end goals.

Instead of listening to those who advise “Don’t let marriage change you,” amend their words to “Marriage should only change you for the better.”

Take an occasional break and travel — even if you can only afford to do so locally.

But make Allah, great and glorified is He, be your ultimate destination.


Hina Khan-Mukhtar is a mother of three young men and one of the founders of the homeschooling co-operative known as ILM Tree in the San Francisco Bay Area which now serves over 35 homeschooling families. In addition to having taught Language Arts to elementary, middle school, and high school students, she is also involved in interfaith dialogue. Hina was a monthly contributor to The Muslim Observer’s “Raising Our Ummah” column and also writes for Seeker’s Guidance where she shares parenting advice and ideas for nurturing spiritual traditions in childhood.