Poetry and the Spiritual Journey

Fatimah Gomez reflects on her writing journey, and how poetry can cultivate spiritual growth.poetry

Sometimes, we may feel as if few truly understand the hardships that we go through in our lives. As I grew older, I realized that the struggle in our spiritual paths was something very real. I wanted to convey the importance of it to others, show that others go through hardships like any of us.

Ink written upon smooth paper brought the gravity of the spiritual journey to life for me. I knew that not everyone connected, understood and articulated words in the exact same way, but I found that the beauty of poetry was just that. It gave so many different meanings, connections and recognition of intentions for others to see, for a chance for others to take what they benefited from and leave the rest. The vast door behind poetry created a connection, a form of articulation of feelings and expressions for me. It gave me a way to convey my praise, my love, my joy, my struggles, within just a structure of words in a satisfying way for the soul.

Muslim Poets Through the Ages

Muslims poets in the past demonstrated their great yearning for their Beloved by compiling poems that spoke of sweet praise and yearning. Their words gave a way of reflecting over experiences of praise and striving for closeness to Allah. They also used poems to articulate themselves to the world, letting their thoughts and heart spill onto the paper. Even the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, had his own poets that would praise and glorify Allah through their words that were stitched with such love and sweetness. The poets who appeared in every age, created a connection spurred by words with their Beloved, enclosing them in a bonded connection that we all seek today as Muslims. Many of these poets are greatly known today, including Imam Al-Busiri, who wrote the entire Qasida Burdah, which is recited around the world. Spiritual masters such as Gawth Abu-Madyan, and Sheikh Muhammad Al-Habib, wrote poetry and songs that gave us a invitation to the experiences and deep connections they shared with their beloveds.

Words and Intentions

My goal was to let people understand the hardships of others, letting them recognize that we all struggle. I found that this understanding led to closer relationships with like-minded hearts who struggle along the same path, focusing on the same goal in their sight. However, I didn’t want to unwisely expose my own personal experiences and struggles. When I stumbled upon poetry, I realized that rhythms, rhymes and free verses were a perfect way for me to do so, while concealing my real story behind my own words.

Every word that I crafted, every verse that was written, I did so with three intentions. Firstly, I prayed that my words were a way for others to find an uplifting joy in the connection that would inspire them in beneficial ways along their own journey. Second, I had the intention of writing words to bring me closer to Allah’s pleasure. And lastly, all my poetry has the light of hope twisted into the meanings. I wanted to show others that there’s still hope to cling onto in a world of pain and destruction.

Writing to Allah and His Prophet

My poetry of praise brought me closer to loved ones, strengthened my desire to be with the Prophet, and made me yearn to learn more about him and Allah. Another beautiful thing about writing poetry is that we all articulate ourselves in our own unique manners and ways, making every word we say particularly special, ultimately discovering our true selves in the words we say, write, chant and praise.

My words held stories of struggles, pain, joy and moments nobody would ever truly know or understand except for my Lord. Writing created a wall that I could hold myself behind, a wall of words that people understood and connected to in their own unique and special ways, while behind that wall I shared a conversation with my Lord that only He knew about.

Not everyone will be attracted or encouraged to the idea of discovering the secrets behind poetry, but I would encourage others to try writing about their experiences, feelings, expressing their emotions in an intimate way with their Lord. I’ve always felt relieved and satisfied after putting together a poem that speaks my heart out, and I pray that we will all be able to find ways to re-connect, build and strengthen the delicate relationship of our Lord in such ways.

Poetry in Practice

A year ago, I stumbled upon a beautiful project called “Letters to the Beloved,” led by Sanad Collective, an organization based in Ottawa, Canada. This annual competition was aimed at a diverse audience of all ages and backgrounds, an invitation to allow others to discover their connection with the Prophet by writing a letter or a poem to him. This allowed for many to discover the power of their connection with their Beloved and express their yearning for him through the power of words. Over 300 letters and poems were submitted this year, with so many beautiful writings and articulations of love and longing. This year, I decided to submit a poem of mine, which explains where I continuously found love of the Prophet in the many journeys and roads of life.

Where Love is Found

A Poem to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم by Fatimah Gomez

Where it steeps from my heart the longer you’re near me

Where your presence is louder than the yellow sun collapsing

Where the pulse on my throat races against its own mortality

Searching for the true faith I need from you.

Where these ungrateful limbs of mine weep with endless sins

Where you give me the clearest water to cleanse my soul within

Where the clarity on this path of golden light starts to begin

I clutch your promise to my chest true.

Where ten thousand lies dance around

Where life’s lines are blurring, never ever sound

Where my ego’s long trailing cape is stripped, no longer gowned

Because humility and shame at this point are long due.

Where times become blurred with confusion and pain

Where the struggles of this world are enough to drive me insane

Where this candle of hope suddenly bursts into flames

And I imagine how you fell down hardships, too.

Where I trip and nearly devolve deep down in desperate despair

Where life leads me down traps I enter, completely unaware

Where mocking whispers enter my heart in a confused nightmare

I call out frightened, but knowing that like you, I’ll find my way out soon.

Where sweetness shrouds my body and paves my nights

Where I beg you to take my hand, not to leave from my sight

Where I press my fingers to your pulse as I’m overcome with plights

Knowing that your firm faith will eventually carry me through.

Where the chant of praise stirs within my heart, penetrates my soul

Where it forms this spirit of mine completely whole

Where this heart is purified from its cloaked state of coal

I realize that pain in this life was something I never knew.

Where the gentle rhythm of your heart revives mine from the dead

Where I place my foot ever so carefully upon the path that you tread

Where the soothing praise through my entire body begins to finally spread

And the light of your presence shines through.

Where your golden light strikes my vision suddenly blind

Where I was offered the distant mirages of this world but politely declined

Where the rope of your mercy I finally could grip and find

Suddenly, I want to see only the light emitting from you.

Where this heart of mine aches sorrowfully with painful cries

Where tears spring into these watering eyes of mine

When I wish that I were alive at that time

Just to have a brief glimpse of you.

Where your gentleness sweeps away the layers of dust off my heart

Where my tears of shameful cries are flowing from the start

Where realization strikes me that along this journey, we will never part

Because my Beloved صلى الله عليه وسلم,

I need you.


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.


 

Loving Allah: A Reader

Love and longing of the Divine, although active in the Islamic  tradition, is a concept that is fading in modern society. Here are some resources on how to understand the concept of Divine love.

loving Allah

Understanding Allah and His Attributes

I Am Near: Understanding and Living the Reality of Allah’s Closeness

A Reader on Understanding the Attributes of Allah

Understanding Allah’s Attributes: Love & Mercy

 

How to Grow Love of Allah

The Key to Loving Allah – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

How to Fall in Love With Allah – Habib Umar bin Hafiz

Why Should I Be Grateful to Allah for Being Created in This Painful World?

Understanding Allah’s Attributes: Love & Mercy

Poem in Praise and Magnification of Allah by Imam Abdullah bin Ja`far Mad-har al-Alawi

Advice for those Feeling Down: Remembrance of Allah is the Key to Contentment

Fighting Depression Through The Remembrance Of Allah

The Best of Spiritual Actions – Imam Shadhili relates from his teacher, Ibn Mashish

 

Becoming of Those Whom Allah Loves

The People Whom Allah’s Love is Incumbent For | Avidness for Benefit | The Best of Actions

 The Most Beloved of Actions to Allah | The Company You Keep | High Aspirations for the Afterlife

How To Be Free of All But Allah

 Seeking the Pleasure of Allah and His Messenger – Habib Umar

Spiritual Routines & Night Worship

Fasting for Love: Habib Kadhim’s Ramadan Message #Fast4Love

Loving the Books of Imam Ghazali is a Sign that Allah Loves you

 

The Historical Significance of the Dala’il al-Khayrat

Laila Abdel Ghany explores the history behind the Dala’il al-Khayrat, and why it had such a massive impact on Islamic history.Dala'il al-Khayrat

The Dala’il al Khayrat wa Shawariq al-Anwar fi Dhikr al-Salat ‘ala al-Nabi al-Mukhtar (The Index of Good Things and the Advent of Blazing Lights in the Remembrance to ask for Blessings upon the Chosen Prophet) is a compilation of salawat, or sending of blessings and peace upon the Prophet, combined with supplications for oneself, for the umma, and callings upon Allah Most High. It was authored by Imam Jazuli from Fez, Morocco, a North African center for knowledge.

The text can be read many different ways. In Fez, it is read in one sitting on Fridays. Later, text was divided into sections, in order to facilitate a weekly completion.

Who Was Imam Jazuli?

One day Imam Jazuli intended to perform his ablutions from a well,  but failed to find something with which to draw water from the well. A young girl saw him and wondered how this well-praised man could be confounded by this matter. She merely spit into the well, and the water flooded up. After finishing his ablutions he asked her how she had attained this station. She answered, “through constantly invoking blessings upon the one, who if he walked on the dry lands, the beasts would cling to him.” Tihis encounter impacted him greatly, and he swore that he would write a book of invocations of blessings upon the Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace.

Imam Jazuli lived in 9th Hijri-century Morocco, a time of weakness in the Muslim umma, with weakening scholarship and corruption that lead to a normalization of major sins. He compiled this text for an umma that was increasingly in need of re-establishing its connection with the very foundation of the religion; the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him. By understanding his centrality to our religion, it becomes even more important that we follow the command of our Lord Most High:

“Indeed Allah and His angels confer blessings upon the Prophet, O believers! Confer blessings upon him and salute him with a worthy salutation” [33:56]

The Chain of Transmission

The lesson by Sheikh Muhammad Ba-Dhib and Sheikh Faraz Rabbani also addresses the times of confusion that we live in, with ideologies springing up and bringing doubt to what have for centuries been established traditions. Texts like the Dala’il were taught continuously, its inheritors becoming scholars of the Dala’il al-Khayrat, who carried out gatherings of reading the text. The chain of transmission is a symbol that proves the longevity of the tradition. This teaches us, as inheritors of the religion and the next links in its chains, that such gatherings can be traced all the way back to Imam Jazuli’s life, and that each link in the chain is benefitting through this continuity.

To conclude, the benefits of invoking blessings upon the Messenger are plentiful and numerous. Among them is the chance to draw near to Allah through praising His Chosen and Beloved Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him. And as it is impossible for anyone in a lesser rank to truly see the value that lies in the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, it is only through asking Allah that we are able to do so.

May we continue to benefit from the many blessings Allah Most High has continued to preserve for the umma of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him.


Laila Abdel Ghany lives in Cairo, Egypt. She studied Comparative Literature, with minors in Anthropology and Education, and is interested in how these fields can be brought together and perfected through the Islamic tradition.


The Genre of Love and Beauty: al-Shama’il – Tarek Ghanem

Al-Busiri’s Burda and Celebrating the Mawlid – Shaykh Muhammad Ba-Dhib

Can A Sinner Love the Prophet? – Ustadh Salman Younas

7 Student Testimonials to Inspire You #2

Last year alone SeekersHub Global Islamic Seminary served more than 80,000 students from over 140 countries.

Here is what some of them had to say.

SeekersHub courses challenge you on the things you thought you knew

I wanted to sign up with a course from SeekersHub as I wanted to gain more knowledge on the deen, but I never knew where to start. People from various social media platforms encouraged me to be engaged with this organization as it was one of the more authentic means to gain knowledge in comparison to the variety of non-authentic things you can get on the internet.

I didn’t have any concerns when signing up because it was more of a case of I won’t lose out on anything if I signed up. You’re getting more out of signing up than you could lose. Since the classes were online, I was able to organize the time in my daily life to prioritize the gaining of knowledge. It helped me remove the unnecessary things that I do day to day and It helped me gain a wider understanding of things that I was not clear about in the beginning.

The courses challenge you on the things you thought you had an idea on. You have nothing to lose by signing up and the worst that could happen would be you would be where you started on your path, not behind it.

Joshna Yasmin Ali – London, UK

SeekersHub helped me realize the importance of prayers

I saw taking classes at SeekersHub as a tangible way of keeping my ever-turning heart more consistently in line with Allah’s grace. I also saw it as a useful way of learning for the sake of Allah. My only worries was how manageable would it be to pick and commit to a course and the background of the teachers I would be learning from.

Through these classes I realized the importance of prayers, and learning that knowledge is for Allah alone. I felt a sense of grounding in my spiritual development through this. To someone wondering on whether they should take classes here, just do it – procrastination and putting things off is either our way of masking our fears of getting things wrong, or Shaytan’s way of keeping us down and in despair of Allah’s mercy.

Have hope in what Allah is offering to you and give it a try – you’ll have lost nothing for trying. Thank you to all the teachers, and thank you for making it free and accessible.

Mobeen Salih – London, UK

SeekersHub changed my approach to knowledge from combative to gentle

I joined SeekersHub because I believe that the teachers are trustworthy and that they have a good agenda and a good intention. I wish to benefit and be a part of that. My only worries were from my end due to the fact that I have learning difficulties, and executive function difficulties.

I often wish I can be near to SeekersHub but I am very blessed to have access via the internet. Through SeekersHub I was exposed to some of the most knowledgeable and beneficial scholars of our time. I wish Seekershub can refresh Islam everywhere, because it refreshes myself.

I have changed my approach to knowledge from being very literal and harsh and debate-driven, thanks to Shaykh Faraz’s gentle example. He has taught me that intelligence can be equally deep and meaningful as a spiritual tool. I don’t know the history of SeekersHub except it may have been inspired by SunniPath some time ago.

I live in NZ but so much of the real estate of my heart is deeply affected by those who are spreading light with the aid of SeekersHub. I can only pray for Seekershub to have success in much abundance. If there is a reviver, I feel your work is a big part of this.

Thank you all so much and may Allah reward all of you with much abundant good both in this life and in the hereafter

Lydia Mills – Auckland, New Zealand

SeekersHub studies improved my relationship to Allah

I registered for Seekers courses because I felt that my knowledge about Islam was very insufficient and I wanted to improve my relationship with Allah Ta‘ala. Alhamdulillah, my family and I never hesitated to register for the courses we took on Seekers.

I’ve realized the importance of studying with a teacher and I’ve realized the importance of seeking Sacred Knowledge in this day and age. After taking a few Seekers courses, I continued to pursue my Islamic education, and I’m now taking an ‘Alimah degree, alhamdulillah.

Learning the Faraid al ‘Ayn is a must for every Muslim, and we’re here in this world to please Allah Ta‘ala in whatever we do. We must know that which pleases and displeases Him, so that we may perform those acts which please Him, and avoid those which displease Him.

Ikhlas – Auckland, New Zealand

SeekersHub offers a rich variety of important and needed Islamic courses

I joined SeekersHub to learn more about my deen. SeekersHub truly follows the Sunni way and it has benefited my family and me. SeekersHub offers a rich variety of different Islamic courses which are very important nowadays and which we are in immense need of. I pray that Allah may reward you.

Hayat S – Switzerland

SeekersHub courses have changed everything in my life in a positive way

Alhamdulillah, Allah Most High blessed me at a young age with a desire to seek sacred knowledge. But living in the West, and in a rural community, imposed many limitations. Being a woman also meant I couldn’t travel and live in a foreign country to learn (more than the fard al-‘ayn) without a mahram. So I had a look at several online courses offering traditional Islamic knowledge, but most of them were either too costly or had many prerequisites which I wasn’t yet able to fulfill.

SeekersHub seemed like the only option for me, so I enrolled. Alhamdulillah that I did! I often think, where would I be today if I hadn’t? Alhamdulillah, I had no qualms before or after signing up for my first class, or for any Seekers course since. This is because I know with certainty that the knowledge being conveyed is taught through authentic chains of transmission, and that the teachers are all qualified Islamic scholars.

I feel like these courses have changed everything in my life (in a positive way). But one thing I can say really benefited me is the absolute and apparent sincerity of the teachers. Even though I read many books on my own, learning these vast subjects with a qualified teacher enriched my understanding and truly humbled me. Through SeekersHub I’ve learnt that the benefits of seeking sacred knowledge are innumerable.

I now feel more motivated to perform supererogatory acts of worship and I have more respect for those around me, especially my parents. My aspirations are loftier now than ever. If you’re unsure about joining SeekersHub, do some research, and “ask those of remembrance if you know not.”

I probably would not have looked into SeekersHub if it hadn’t been recommended to me by a scholar I respect. But in the end, just pray istikhara and click that ‘Register’ button; you won’t regret it! I think the team at SeekersHub is taking care of a much-needed fard al kifaya. May Allah Most High preserve our scholars, and reward well those who seek knowledge of His din!

Sufi – New Zealand


Support SeekersHub Global as it reaches over 10,000 students each term through its completely free online courses. Make a donation, today. Every contribution counts, even if small: http://seekershub.org/donate/


The SeekersGuidance Steps Curriculum Explained

The SeekersGuidance Steps Curriculum allows you to navigate your journey from an absolute beginner in the Islamic sciences to scholarship and mastery.

The curriculum is modelled on the traditional method of teaching the Islamic sciences in large mosques, as Imam As-Shafi did in Cairo, Imam Abu Hanifa in Kufa, and other great scholars all over the Muslim world.
Students who attended these classes were arranged into a small inner circle of close and serious students,and much larger outer circles of less serious students, who flocked from all over the city, often even from all of the world, to listen to the great scholars.

The teacher interacted with the two circles in different ways. The inner circle was allowed to ask questions. The outer circles were only sometimes allowed to ask questions during class, and sometimes not allowed to ask any questions at all, but would be reminded of Allah by listening to a great teacher. Everyone had the opportunity to benefit from great scholars like Imam al-Shafi’i or Imam Abu Hanifa. The inner circle were nurtured and mentored towards scholarship; the outer circles were guided towards veneration of the divine command.

At the SeekersHub Islamic Seminary, our students are divided into three circles.

The first, outermost circle, are the beginner students, who listen to our teachers’ lessons for religious benefit and for the spiritual blessing (barakah) of being connected to gatherings of sacred knowledge.
The second, middle circle, are the intermediate students. Intermediate students are fewer in number than the beginner students. They have demonstrated a commitment to studying sacred knowledge, memorising, reviewing, and sitting exams. They can thus benefit from our teachers in a way that beginner students cannot, and interact with them at a closer level than the beginner students.
Finally, there is the third, inner circle of advanced students who have demonstrated an even higher level of commitment to studying sacred knowledge, and are on their way to scholarship and mastery of the Islamic sciences.  
These three kinds of students work their way through our five-step curriculum of Islamic sciences and our Arabic curriculum.
All students begin with Step One, as well as some basic Arabic courses, as beginner students.
Step 1 consists of eight courses that comprise of the personally essential knowledge that every Muslim must know. The basic Arabic courses teach basic Arabic reading proficiency, how to make a simple sentence, and some simple Arabic vocabulary. 
When they successfully complete all of these courses, they commit themselves to praying all five of their daily prayers on time, and earn the Essentials certificate.
Once they earn this certificate, students can choose to become intermediate students by completing a comprehensive exam that tests them on their Step One courses, as well as their knowledge of the life of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), of the proper recitation of the Qur’an, and of the memorisation of some short Qur’anic suras.
Going into Step Two, we now have two circles of students: beginner students and intermediate students. There are no advanced students yet.
These two circles of students move forward by completing Step Two along with the SeekersHub Arabic program. (Arabic is not a prerequisite for Step One or Step Two, but it is for Step Three and Step Four).
Beginner students compose the outer circles of learning; intermediate students compose the inner circle. Both complete the 15 courses in Step Two, one in each of the Islamic sciences. The goal of Step Two is to introduce students to each of the Islamic sciences using translations of traditional mutun–concise teaching texts that have been used for centuries to take students of sacred knowledge step-by-step through their study of the Islamic sciences. As they complete these courses,
  • They learn the technical terms of each Islamic science.
  • They learn the key questions of each Islamic science.
  • They learn about the historical development of each Islamic science.
  • They learn about important contemporary issues tackled by that science today
The outer circle of beginner students listen to the lessons, complete carefully designed automated assessments, and ask questions.
The inner circle of intermediate students receive closer personal attention, collaborating with their teachers as they complete case-studies in order to understand the course material at a higher level. If these intermediate students successfully complete Step Two and the SeekersGuidance Arabic program and make a commitment to a higher level of religious practice, they receive the Foundations diploma.
They now have the choice of rising to become advanced students by completing a comprehensive exam that tests them on Step Two, as well as several courses of independent study.
There are now three circles of students: an outer circle of beginner students, a middle circle of intermediate students, and an inner circle of advanced students.
Steps Three and Four are geared towards this inner circle of advanced students—Step Three initiates them into the books of the Muslim scholarly tradition, and Step Four takes them to a level of general scholarship in the Islamic sciences. In Steps Three and Four, the beginner and intermediate students are grouped together into an outer circle–these students can join any course but their interaction with teachers is limited. The teachers focus their attention on closely mentoring the advanced students as they progress towards scholarship.seekershub steps curriculum
It appears at this point that Steps Three and Four will comprise of over 50 online courses. But advanced students will complement their online learning with in-person studies with teachers in their local area, or with in-person studies by travelling to learn with teachers at the SeekersGuidance Toronto Islamic seminary, or elsewhere in the world. Teachers, institutions of learning, and time for study are now scarce everywhere, and most full-time students of sacred knowledge are unable to complete a full curriculum in the Islamic sciences anywhere in the world. Through Steps Three and Four, students all over the world can fill the gaps in their learning by studying online whatever they are unable to do in-person.
Students in Steps Three and Four study traditional commentaries on the mutun that they studied in Step Two. They now study all texts in their original Arabic. They learn how to understand the commentaries, use them as references, and apply what they reference to contemporary issues in a way that is consistent with the method and spirit of traditional Islamic scholarship.  

Advanced students who successfully complete Steps Three and Four will receive a degree of scholarship in the Islamic sciences. Full-time students who are on the SeekersGuidance learning scholarships are required to earn this degree in order to complete their studies.

The learning of sacred knowledge never stops, and students can continue to acquire mastery and specialisation in particular sciences through Step Five of the SeekersGuidance curriculum.

We pray that you are able to be a part of the SeekersGuidance Steps curriculum, and take a portion of the Islamic sciences and benefit at whatever level you are in.
Registration is completely free. Click here to register. 

 

6 Steps to Self-Change – Living Hearts Series

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani covers a critical topic; how to gain nearness to Allah through personal reformation. In this segment, he discusses 6 practical steps to self-change. steps to self-change

Allah tells us in the Qur’an:

By time, humanity is in loss. (Sura 103:1)

The key to avoiding loss is committing to change, which happens through an active choice to make things better. Imam Ghazali outlined how to get closer to Allah through personal accountability. In book 38 of his Revival of the Religious Sciences, he mentioned six steps to achieve this:

Step One: Goal-setting, or musharata. One should commit to upholding the obligatory acts, such as prayer, fasting, and worship. In addition, one should leave all the prohibited acts. After these basics have been established, one should then move onto bringing in the sunnas, and leaving the disliked acts. Doing this properly require knowledge of beliefs, worship, social relations, and transactions.

Step Two: Watching over oneself, or muraqaba. It’s easiest to begin by watching over one’s prayer, and one’s tongue. Prayer is one of the central aspects of the deen, and most of life’s problems happen through toxic speech. Having these standards will bring caution and concern into one’s life.

Step Three: Taking oneself to account, or muhasaba. One should sit down once a day, week, or month, and look over what they did. They should identify the positive and negative, and deciding what could be done better.

Step Four: Self-penalty, or mu’aqaba. This refers to positive self-discipline, as the nature of humans is that they will continue to push boundaries unless there is a consequence.

Step Five: Spiritual struggle, or mujahada. The easiest way to do this, is to strive to be constantly in remembrance of Allah.

Step Six: Self-reproach, or mu’ataba. Nothing harms the self as much as self-satisfaction, and one should remain humble. Scholars would ask themselves, if they died shortly, would they be satisfied to meet Allah? Was there any harm, negligence, or sins on their record? Are there many good deeds on record? It was said about Imam Hamaad, the teacher of Imam Abu Hanifa, that if he were told he were to die tomorrow, he could not possibly increase in good deeds.

About the Series

In this engaging and inspiring series Shaykh Faraz Rabbani covers Imam Ghazali’s brilliant explanation in his Renewal of the Sciences of Religion (Ihya Ulum al-Din) of how one could become God conscious through watchfulness (muraqaba), and self-accounting (muhasaba). This series will give you keys, insights, and timeless wisdom on how to change oneself, through setting goals and conditions, watching over oneself, taking oneself into account, and spiritual striving.


Why Muslim Youth Need Guiding Mentorship

In this memoir, a student speaks about how having knowledgeable, concerned mentorship in his teenage years helped him take the right path.

My Two Mentors

One day in my late teens, I remember being out all day with my brothers and younger cousins. We engaged in all kinds of activities, such as football, laser tag, and then going to a restaurant to eat.

We had fun all day. My father simply took us to where we wanted to go and would watch us have fun, until we were ready to go to the next one. When we got home that evening, I began talking to my cousins about the next activity my dad could take us to.

At this, my two older cousins, Umar and Ali, approached me. They both pointed out quite bluntly that I needed to be more grateful to my parents and appreciate how much effort and sacrifice they’d made for me. Only then did I realize how much I was taking them for granted.

I benefitted a lot through Umar and Ali, who served as my mentors through my teenage years. Both about ten years older than me, they had been through the same education system as me, and had been brought up in the West just like me. They’d seen the same challenges to their faith that I was going through. I knew I could speak to them whenever I needed.

I didn’t have the benefit of having learnt sacred knowledge from a young age. As a result, for the first twenty years of my life, my knowledge of Islam was quite basic. Like the other Muslims in my school, I had to figure it out largely on my own. I remember being in school at age 12, where the teacher was asking the students how many of them believed in God. Despite their age, many answered that they did not.

In most subjects there was either an anti-God, anti-religious, or anti-Islamic narrative. In history classes, the Islamic nations were always the bad guys, whether it was the Ottoman armies or the successful “kicking out” of the Muslims from Spain. Religious study lessons would include philosophical challenges to the existence of God, such as the so-called “Problem of Evil,” without mentioning the vast contributions and proofs of the great Muslim thinkers.

And of course, biology lessons always featured evolution in biased ways. When speaking about animals that were well adapted to their environments, the teacher would attribute it to the genius of evolution. But when there were apparent biological flaws in an animal, the teacher would say that a Creator would not have let that flaw to exist.

This environment impacted me greatly. I felt very insecure about not having clear answers. I’d find myself around the age of 14 and 15 lying in bed at night for hours thinking about how the universe began, whether evolution existed, and everything else.

By the grace of Allah, I always remained a Muslim in belief. However, I had fundamental questions that needed answering. During this period, I benefited immensely from Umar and Ali, who would answer my questions. They would explain how there is no problem believing in the Big Bang as long one believes it is God that caused it to happen. They explained the problems with evolution from a scientific perspective, and that explaining how science and Islam are compatible. Their mentorship was so effective because they had gone through the same journey that I had. Because of this, they were able to help me in a way that parents, aunties and uncles were not.

Battling Ideology

But my troubles weren’t over. When I began university I got involved with the Muslim student groups. Their arguments seemed logical and straightforward, and I got caught up in them. After all, why did we need to follow a school of thought, if we had the Qur’an and sunna? And why were we introducing innovations if our religion was already clear?

Alhamdulillah, yet again, there were Umar and Ali. They tried their best to gently explain the issues with textual literalism, and the importance of schools of thought and following traditional Islam. It wasn’t an overnight process, nor was it an easy one.

They would patiently tolerate me debating with them on religious issues, but would not argue with me. “Don’t worry,” I heard Umar say to Ali. “He’ll figure it out for himself one day.” With wisdom and kindness, they gave me the space to explore for myself, while also advising me at the right moments when I most needed it.

A few years later, when I was ready, Ali very generously paid for me to study some Sunni Path courses (now Qibla), including an Aqida al-Tahawi course taught by Shaykh Hamza Karamali, and a course that covered the sources of Islamic law, taught by Shaykh Farid Dingle.

I remembered how I told a brother from university that I was about to take these classes. “Be careful,” he warned. “They may be Asharis!” “What are Asharis?” I asked. “They interpret some parts of the Qur’an figuratively,” he replied. “For example, when the Qur’an refers to ‘Allah’s hand,’ they say it’s a metaphor for His power, because He does not resemble created things.”

I personally couldn’t see what was wrong with that. He gave me a CD and told me to listen to it instead. I tried, but the speaker was just bashing the other methodologies without actually proving his own points.

I decided to go ahead with the Sunni Path courses. They were detailed and well-taught, and confirmed to me the truth of traditional Sunni Islam in a clear, factual manner. The Aqida course included some articles written by Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller about the Sunni Aqida. I sent them to the brother from university.
When he finally responded, he told me that the articles were not backed up by sources from the Qur’an and Sunna.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “The whole article is based on hadith!” “Yes, but they need to be verified.” “They are sahih, what more do you want?” I was frustrated with the lack of response. Learning from Shaykh Hamza and Shaykh Farid gave me the inspiration to study more. Alhamdulillah, Ali also introduced me to the spiritual teachings of Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller, who I now learn from and do not ever want to look back.

However, their work was not yet over. When the time came for me to start searching for a spouse, it was time for them to help me again, as some of my family members, although they wanted nothing but the best for me, weren’t on the same page as me when it came to what to look for in a spouse. My cousins themselves had gone through the same challenges while looking for a spouse. By now, they were both married and starting families, and through their advice I eventually did find a wife who had the same religious perspective and goals as me.

To this day, Umar and Ali continue to guide me with their calm influence, wisdom and life experience. To me, my story is an example of the importance of Muslim youth having role models, who are older than them but not too old, and well-grounded in their own faith.

By Amjad Shaykh


This piece was written by a SeekersHub student. Looking to inspire? Consider writing for our Compass Blog! We are looking for individuals willing to submit feature pieces for publication. Share your stories with us. Contact [email protected] with your pitch and inspire and motivate hundreds – if not thousands – of others.


Begin Right, Begin Light: New Year Message by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

As 2019 begins, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani encourages us to look forward positively and see everything around us as signs from Allah.

Much is going on in the world, much that can be considered stressful, disappointing and devastating However, the believer looks at the world as a sign of Allah.

The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, when he would wake up for night worship, would recite:

Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding. Who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], “Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]; then protect us from the punishment of the Fire.  (Sura Ali Imran, 2: 190-191)

Signs in the creation point to the Creator. A believer looks from the eye of faith; everything in this world is from Allah. The struggle of servitude is figuring out how to turn to Allah in the moments where He manifests.

Life is about the Beloved, and there is one Beloved: Allah. The believer sees everything in their life as good, and reminds themselves about Allah’s call to seek Him and know Him.

When we begin something with Bismillah, we are saying, “I am doing this with Allah, for Allah, reliant upon Allah.” These are the keys to the beginning of guidance.

Let’s begin our year with light, and make our year a year of light. Let’s make everything for Allah, reliant on Allah, with Allah and conscious of Allah. If love for Allah is true, what is there to worry about? Everything else is mere dust.

However, there are things to do, so let us direct ourselves to the highest of matters in the best of ways, recognising our shortcomings.

May Allah grant us the most blessed of years, most blissful of years, a year of light, where we begin right and end right, beginning with Allah and ending with Allah. We are Allah’s and to Him we are ever returning.

 

Intention for Seeking Knowledge by Imam Haddad

In this article, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani provides commentary on Imam Haddad’s famous “Intention for Seeking Knowledge.” Text and translation of this supplication is also provided.

In the Name of Allah, the Merciful and Compassionate.

The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Actions are by their intentions, and each person shall have whatsoever they intended.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

The reality of our actions is not merely what we do, but also why we do it. As Ibn Ata’illah explained, “Actions are lifeless forms, whose soul is the subtle reality of sincerity within them.” (Hikam al Ata’iyya)

Seeking Knowledge as a Spiritual Work

Seeking sacred knowledge (talab al-ilm) has been described in the Qur’an and Sunna as one of the highest of spiritual works. Thus, a sincere intention is particularly important.

Seeking knowledge can also be a source of honor and recognition in this world. This can be dangerous, as it can result in sinful inward traits such as pride, conceit, and arrogance. Only sincere intentions can protect a person, and fulfill the spiritual potential of seeking knowledge.

What is an Intention?

The scholars explain that an intention (niyya) is, “The resolve to (a) perform an act of obedience to Allah, (b) drawing closer to Allah thereby, (c) at the beginning of one’s action.” (Taftazani, quoted by Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar)

This has three components:
(a) “The resolve to perform an act of obedience” entails mindful, purposeful action. Bring to mind what are you doing, and that you are doing it as an act of obedience.
(b)“ … drawing closer to Allah…” entails bringing to mind that you are acting for the sake of Allah alone – seeking His Closeness, Love, Good Pleasure, and reward.
(c) “… at the beginning of the action,” entails pausing for a moment before you begin any action, at any time, in order to renew your resolve.

What is Sincerity?

Sincerity, or ikhlas, is the heart of Islam. It is defined by the scholars as, “Seeking to draw closer to Allah with one’s actions, without any ulterior motive.” (Qushayri)

Sahl ibn Abd Allah said, “The intelligent looked at sincerity, and the best description they found is that it is for one’s motions and rest – in private and in public – to be for Allah alone without partner, without anything being mixed into one’s motives. Not one’s ego, nor one’s whims, nor any merely worldly aspirations.” (Bayhaqi, Shu‘ab al-Iman)

Imam Haddad’s Intention for Knowledge: A Practical Means for Making High Intentions

Part of having sincere intentions (al-niyya al-saliha) is to reflect deeply on all the multiple ways one is seeking the Pleasure of Allah through one’s actions. This is called “multiplying one’s intention,” or ta’addud al-niyya.

Because such deep reflection is rare for most of us, the scholars compiled statements of intention to help us make high, transformative intentions before we act.

One such powerful statement of intention for seeking knowledge is Imam Abd Allah ibn Alawi al-Haddad’s “Intention for Seeking Sacred Knowledge.”

This intention defines both the ultimate purpose of seeking knowledge – “seeking Allah Himself, His Good Pleasure, Closeness, and Reward” –  as well as the multiple ways one can make one’s knowledge sincerely for Allah.

The scholars encourage making it a deliberate, purposeful habit to make such a statement of intention – in one’s heart or uttered – every time one begins studying, teaching, reading, or listening to Islamic knowledge.

Imam Haddad’s Intention for Seeking Knowledge


 

The SeekersHub Steps Curriculum Explained

The SeekersHub Steps Curriculum allows you to navigate your journey from an absolute beginner in the Islamic sciences to scholarship and mastery.

The curriculum is modelled on the traditional method of teaching the Islamic sciences in large mosques, as Imam As-Shafi did in Cairo, Imam Abu Hanifa in Kufa, and other great scholars all over the Muslim world.
Students who attended these classes were arranged into a small inner circle of close and serious students,and much larger outer circles of less serious students, who flocked from all over the city, often even from all of the world, to listen to the great scholars.

The teacher interacted with the two circles in different ways. The inner circle was allowed to ask questions. The outer circles were only sometimes allowed to ask questions during class, and sometimes not allowed to ask any questions at all, but would be reminded of Allah by listening to a great teacher. Everyone had the opportunity to benefit from great scholars like Imam al-Shafi’i or Imam Abu Hanifa. The inner circle were nurtured and mentored towards scholarship; the outer circles were guided towards veneration of the divine command.

At the SeekersHub Islamic Seminary, our students are divided into three circles.

The first, outermost circle, are the beginner students, who listen to our teachers’ lessons for religious benefit and for the spiritual blessing (barakah) of being connected to gatherings of sacred knowledge.
The second, middle circle, are the intermediate students. Intermediate students are fewer in number than the beginner students. They have demonstrated a commitment to studying sacred knowledge, memorising, reviewing, and sitting exams. They can thus benefit from our teachers in a way that beginner students cannot, and interact with them at a closer level than the beginner students.
Finally, there is the third, inner circle of advanced students who have demonstrated an even higher level of commitment to studying sacred knowledge, and are on their way to scholarship and mastery of the Islamic sciences.  
These three kinds of students work their way through our five-step curriculum of Islamic sciences and our Arabic curriculum.
All students begin with Step One, as well as some basic Arabic courses, as beginner students.
Step 1 consists of eight courses that comprise of the personally essential knowledge that every Muslim must know. The basic Arabic courses teach basic Arabic reading proficiency, how to make a simple sentence, and some simple Arabic vocabulary. 
When they successfully complete all of these courses, they commit themselves to praying all five of their daily prayers on time, and earn the Essentials certificate.
Once they earn this certificate, students can choose to become intermediate students by completing a comprehensive exam that tests them on their Step One courses, as well as their knowledge of the life of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), of the proper recitation of the Qur’an, and of the memorisation of some short Qur’anic suras.
Going into Step Two, we now have two circles of students: beginner students and intermediate students. There are no advanced students yet.
These two circles of students move forward by completing Step Two along with the SeekersHub Arabic program. (Arabic is not a prerequisite for Step One or Step Two, but it is for Step Three and Step Four).
Beginner students compose the outer circles of learning; intermediate students compose the inner circle. Both complete the 15 courses in Step Two, one in each of the Islamic sciences. The goal of Step Two is to introduce students to each of the Islamic sciences using translations of traditional mutun–concise teaching texts that have been used for centuries to take students of sacred knowledge step-by-step through their study of the Islamic sciences. As they complete these courses,
  • They learn the technical terms of each Islamic science.
  • They learn the key questions of each Islamic science.
  • They learn about the historical development of each Islamic science.
  • They learn about important contemporary issues tackled by that science today
The outer circle of beginner students listen to the lessons, complete carefully designed automated assessments, and ask questions.
The inner circle of intermediate students receive closer personal attention, collaborating with their teachers as they complete case-studies in order to understand the course material at a higher level. If these intermediate students successfully complete Step Two and the SeekersHub Arabic program and make a commitment to a higher level of religious practice, they receive the Foundations diploma.
They now have the choice of rising to become advanced students by completing a comprehensive exam that tests them on Step Two, as well as several courses of independent study.
There are now three circles of students: an outer circle of beginner students, a middle circle of intermediate students, and an inner circle of advanced students.
Steps Three and Four are geared towards this inner circle of advanced students—Step Three initiates them into the books of the Muslim scholarly tradition, and Step Four takes them to a level of general scholarship in the Islamic sciences. In Steps Three and Four, the beginner and intermediate students are grouped together into an outer circle–these students can join any course but their interaction with teachers is limited. The teachers focus their attention on closely mentoring the advanced students as they progress towards scholarship.seekershub steps curriculum
It appears at this point that Steps Three and Four will comprise of over 50 online courses. But advanced students will complement their online learning with in-person studies with teachers in their local area, or with in-person studies by travelling to learn with teachers at the SeekersHub Toronto Islamic seminary, or elsewhere in the world. Teachers, institutions of learning, and time for study are now scarce everywhere, and most full-time students of sacred knowledge are unable to complete a full curriculum in the Islamic sciences anywhere in the world. Through Steps Three and Four, students all over the world can fill the gaps in their learning by studying online whatever they are unable to do in-person.
Students in Steps Three and Four study traditional commentaries on the mutun that they studied in Step Two. They now study all texts in their original Arabic. They learn how to understand the commentaries, use them as references, and apply what they reference to contemporary issues in a way that is consistent with the method and spirit of traditional Islamic scholarship.  

Advanced students who successfully complete Steps Three and Four will receive a degree of scholarship in the Islamic sciences. Full-time students who are on the SeekersHub learning scholarships are required to earn this degree in order to complete their studies.

The learning of sacred knowledge never stops, and students can continue to acquire mastery and specialisation in particular sciences through Step Five of the SeekersHub curriculum.
We pray that you are able to be a part of the SeekersHub Steps curriculum, and take a portion of the Islamic sciences and benefit at whatever level you are in.
Registration is completely free. Click here to register. 

http://seekershub.org/articles/7-student-testimonials-inspire-2/