Saving Our Souls Series

Our teacher, Shaykh Yusuf Weltch, guides us through a journey, a path that ultimately leads to true happiness; the love of Allah.  Join us as we take this trip.  Keep an eye on this page for updates to new articles and podcasts.

Part 1: Introduction | Click here

  • An article on the heart and the need to take care of it

Part 2: Obligations of the Heart | Click here

  • We’ve heard of bodily obligations, but what are the obligations of the heart?

Part 3: A Precious Counsel from a Revered Scholar | Click here

  • The believer’s state

Part 4: 22 Sins of the Heart | Click here

  • Yes, even the heart can sin, which are the worst of sins

Part 5: 12 Sins of the Stomach | Click here

  • Everything we digest has an impact on the heart

Part 6: 12 Sins of the Eyes | Click here

  • Seeing eye to eye with the legislation

Part 7: 38 Sins of the Tongue | Click here

  • Do you want Paradise guaranteed for you?

Part 8: The Sins of the Ears

Part 9: The Sins of the Hand

Part 10: The Sins of the Private Parts

Part 11: The Sins of the Feet

Part 12: The Sins of the Body

The Masters and the Millennials | Part 8: Challenges in Living the Way of the Prophet – Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan

This is the eighth part of a series, click here for the previous article.

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

We continue our discussion of the book al-Fawa‘id al-Mukhtarah – selected beneficial anecdotes for the wayfarer – by Habib Zayn bin Sumayt. Our focus in this podcast is on the importance of books and reading in the life of students of knowledge.

The text provides insight into the lives of the scholars of Hadramaut and their attachment to books and reading. The west has lost its love of reading, and our youth almost completely neglect it. Let us take guidance from these great people and start reading.

Important books and their sequence of study

Imam al-‘Aydarus bin ‘Umar al-Habshi said that the six primary works of tasawwuf that should be studied are the following:

  1. Ihya′ ‘Ulum al-Din by Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazali
  2. Minhaj al-‘Abidin by Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazali
  3. Arba‘in fi Usul al-Din by Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazali
  4. Al-Risalah al-Qushayriyyah fi ‘Ilm Al-Tasawwuf by Imam al-Qushayri
  5. ‘Awarif al-Ma‘arif by Imam al-Suhrawardi
  6. Qut al-Qulub fi Mu’amalat al-Mahbub by Abu Talib al-Makki

These six works are foundational. Students of knowledge in western academic circles often believe they are able to study any text. This belief is mistaken and students who try to study any text often misunderstand the scholars. It is vital that they follow a specific sequence. For instance, the Hadrami scholars of fiqh follow this sequence:

  1. Al-Risalah al-Jami‘ah wa al-Tadhkirah al-Nafi‘ah by Imam Ahmed bin Zayn al-Habashi
  2. Safinah al-Najah fi Fiqh al-Shafi’i by Salim ibn ʿAbdullah ibn Saʿd ibn Samir al-Hadrami al-Shafiʿi
  3. Mukhtasar al-Latif fi Fiqh al-Shafi’i by ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abd al-Rahman Balhaj BaFadl al-Hadrami
  4. Al-Muqaddimah al-Hadramiyyah by ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abd al-Rahman Ba-Fadl al-Hadrami
  5. Al-Ghayah wa al-Taqrib fi al-Fiqh al-Shafi’i by Abu Shuja’ Hussayn bin Ahmad al-Asfahani
  6. Safwah al-Zubad by Ahmad bin Husayn bin Hasan bin ‘Ali ibn Arslan al-Ramli
  7. ‘Umdah al-Salik wa ‘Uddah al-Nasik by Shihab al-Din Abu al-‘Abas Ahmad bin al-Naqib
  8. Minhaj al Talibin by Abu Zakariyya Yahya Ibn Sharaf al-Nawawi

This order of study involves moving from a smaller to a larger text, each discussing the fiqh in greater detail. Students must not try to jump the queue. Those who do so have become raisins before being grapes! They remain unenlightened, devoid of understanding.

Sayyidi Habib ‘Umar wrote a book, Maqasid Halaqat al-Ta‘lim, on the importance of understanding the sequence of the books in the various disciplines. It has been translated by Shaykh Amjad Tarsin and published by Dar al-Turath al-Islami.

The Ihya of Ghazali
Imam al-Haddad said it is important to read books such as the Minhaj in fiqh and the Ihya in tasawwuf because, through them, one receives great openings, as well as elevation of the soul.

Habib ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Saqqaf was the qutb of his time. A qutb is a pole or axis around which everything revolves. It is one of the highest stations of sainthood. However, even if one reaches this station, he is not necessarily the qutb of his time because there can only be one quṭb at a time. Habib ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Saqqaf read the Qur’an eight times every 24 hours. He said: “Whoever does not study the Ihya does not truly have modesty”.

Imam Haddad loved the Ihya and collated whatever was mentioned in it in one of his books, Al-Nasa’ih al-Diniyyah, which has been translated into English under the title of Counsels of Religion. Some of the pious say that the one who reads and acts on the Ihya will be of the people of Paradise.

Our pious predecessors emphasised the reading of the following four introductions:

The books of Imam Nawawi
Imam Haddad had three books that would constantly be recited to him, one reading after the other. One of these books was Riyad al-Salihin by Imam Nawawi which has been translated into English. It has many benefits and Allah grants many openings to the one who reads it.

An enlightened person once visited a scholar. He saw the scholar’s library and asked why some of the books emit light while others do not. The scholar asked him to remove the books which were emitting light and he did so. They were all Imam Nawawi’s books.

Imam Nawawi was regarded as the qutb of his time. Habib Ahmad bin Hasan al-‘Attas said that Ibn Hajar al-Haytami memorised the Minhaj of Imam Nawawi, and through that, Allah blessed his writings so that their benefits spread throughout the world.

Other books of great benefit

  • Muqqadimah of al-Tafsir al-Kabir of Fakhr al-Din al-Razi up to Surah Baqarah
  • Muqqadimah Sharh Sahih Muslim by Imam Nawawi
  • Muqqadimah al-Majmu’ Sharh al-Muhadhdhab by Imam Nawawi
  • Muqqadimah of Ibn Khaldun

Al-Shifa by Qadi Iyad, which has been translated into English by Aisha Bewley, under the title, “Muhammad: Messenger of Allah”, is said to have been tried and tested for the removal of difficulties.

Let us attach ourselves to the books of the predecessors (salaf) for they contain blessings, knowledge and openings. Reading their books is like sitting at their feet, taking from them, connecting to them and receiving their secrets. It is an invaluable opportunity to insulate ourselves from the trials and tribulations of western society by seeking their light and guidance.

Saving Our Souls Series | Part 6: 12 Sins of the Eyes – Shaykh Yusuf Weltch


Our eyes and our ability to see are from Allah’s greatest blessings upon us. With them, we’re able to see His marvelous creation and reflect over his might, but all blessings need to be used correctly. If Allah blesses you with wealth it is from gratitude that you use that wealth in permissible ways. Likewise, the great blessing of sight must be used in halal ways and the sins of the eyes must be avoided.

The following are the sins the eyes commit:

  1. The looking of a man at marriageable women
    • Looking at a marriageable woman is of two types:
      • With desire – this is impermissible in every case unless for necessity.
      • Without desire – this is impermissible if one looks at a part of her body which is not permissible to see (i.e. everything except her face and hands).
        • Note: that in the Hanafi school the feet are also included in the above exceptions.
  2. It is also impermissible for women to look at marriageable men
    • Looking at a marriageable man is of two types:
      • With desire – this is impermissible in all cases unless for necessity.
      • Without desire – it is impermissible to look at that which is between his navel and knees.
  3. It is impermissible to look at the nakedness of anyone without a religiously sanctioned excuse.
  4. It is impermissible for the woman to expose any part of her body, besides the face and hands, in the presence of those who are not permitted to see
  5. It is impermissible for both a man and woman to expose that which is between their navel and knees in the presence of anyone who can see and understand what they are seeing, even if the onlooker is of the same gender or unmarriageable kinship. The exclusion to this is the spouse.
    • This also applies if the onlooker is a small child if they can discern what they have seen and could possibly describe what they have seen to others. Thus this doesn’t apply to the very small child who is too young to understand what they have seen.
  6. It is impermissible for the man to expose his genitalia and for the woman to expose that which is between her navel and knees, even if done in private without necessity.
    • The exception is in the presence of their spouse.
  7. It is permissible – in the case of unmarriageable kinship, between those of the same gender, or in the case of an undesired small child (even if the child is not from one’s unmarriageable kinship or of the same gender) – to look at the entire body besides that which is between the navel and knees on condition that no desire is present.
  8. The exception to this is the infant, whether boy or girl, who is not at the age of discernment, as it is permissible to look at them to every part except for the private part of a girl unless the onlooker is the mother.
    • All of the above is also permissible between spouses,
  9. It is impermissible to look at any Muslim with the eye of belittlement
  10. It is impermissible to look into the home of another without their permission.
  11. It is impermissible to look at anything which one has hidden (i.e without permission).
  12. It is impermissible to be witness to an evil done in one’s presence without trying to redress it with one’s hand or tongue.
    • That is unless one has a religiously sanctioned excuse or leaves the gathering.

May Allah forgive us for all that which we’ve looked at intentionally.

The Masters and the Millennials | Part 7: Importance of Etiquette – Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan

This is the seventh part of a series, click here for the previous article.

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

We will be focusing here on good etiquette (adab). We are in need of good manners because we live in a society where the youth do not respect the elderly, and the elderly do not display much care for the youth.

Virtues of good etiquette (adab)
It is narrated that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The one who does not show etiquette to the elderly is not of us.” In addition, many narrations discuss etiquette. Sayyidina Abdullah ibn Mubarak said, “We are more in need of a little adab than we are in need of much knowledge.” Imam Shafi’i said, “My teacher Imam Malik advised me to let my knowledge be the salt and my adab be the dough.” The vast majority of Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal’s students attended his classes to learn adab.

The work Ta’lim al-Muta‘allim tells the story of two men who left home seeking knowledge. They studied together for the same number of years. When they returned home, one had gained deep knowledge of fiqh but the other had not gained that much. When the people asked why this had happened, they were told that the scholar who had gained a deep understanding of the religion had faced the qiblah whenever he studied. Allah granted him an opening because of his adab. The other one had sat with his back to the qiblah and therefore had gained little knowledge.

You will receive knowledge in proportion to the amount of adab you show to your teachers. Abdurrahman ibn Qasim said, “I served Imam Malik for twenty years. I received knowledge from him for two years, and received adab for the other eighteen years. How I wish I had dedicated all twenty years to adab”.

Our level of adab is often connected to our opinion of ourselves. The more a person considers himself a great man of knowledge and demands respect from others, the more the illness of pride enters his heart, and the more difficult it is for him to display adab. On the other hand, the more a person considers himself the least of people, the more he is able to display beautiful adab.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “I was only sent to you to perfect your character.” He also said, “The best of you are those who are best in character.” Our scholars, especially the Ba’Alawi sayyids, take the view that tasawwuf is entirely about having good character.

Examples of Adab
For example, the seating arrangements for major events at Dar al-Mustafa, the institute of Sayyidi Habib Umar, reflect the utmost adab. Senior scholars sit in front of the gathering, facing the rest of the participants. The first few front rows are reserved for senior men, who are seated according to seniority. Younger students of knowledge are seated behind them. Many times when Habib Ali Mashhur (Allah have mercy on him) attended the gathering, he would be seated in the front, facing the gathering, and Habib Umar (his younger brother) would sit in the first row out of adab to his brother.

There are many examples from among the Prophet’s companions illustrating their adab to him. For instance, Thabit sat crying in the road after Allah Most High revealed the Quranic verse: “O you who have believed, do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet or be loud to him in speech like the loudness of some of you to others, lest your deeds become worthless while you perceive not” (Sura al-Hujurat, 49:2). A passing companion asked him why he was crying, so he said, “I fear this verse of the Qur’an was revealed regarding me, because I have a loud voice, and when I speak my voice is naturally louder than that of the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace). I fear that my deeds have been blotted out and I am going to be from among the people of the fire.” The companion, whose name was Asim, told the story to the Prophet, who asked him to call Thabit. When Thabit came to the Prophet, he said, “O Thabit, why are you crying?” Thabit said, “My voice is too loud and I fear that this verse of the Qur’an refers to me.” The Prophet cheered him up, saying, “Are you not pleased that you will live in this world praised and that you will be killed as a martyr and enter Paradise?”

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was displaying excellent adab by saying this, because it is good etiquette to cheer someone up by saying something that makes them feel good about themselves. His statement was very good news for Thabit, who also undertook never to raise his voice above the voice of the Messenger.

Self-sacrifice: a Form of Adab
The following narration is important within the current context of coronavirus: The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said it is haram for Muslims living in a city afflicted by plague to leave that city. They must remain in the city. No one must travel to or from the city. The Prophet is telling us not to run away to save our lives. We should stay in the city, fearing that we may already be carrying the disease, and prefer to be afflicted and die because Islam is about self-sacrifice. We must be prepared to sacrifice ourselves so that others can be safe.

If we develop the quality of self-sacrifice, it will become much easier to serve others, to give them preference, to honour and respect them, to display etiquette towards them, and to have a good opinion of them.

Etiquette with Our Teachers
Shaykh Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani once saw the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) before Zuhr. The Prophet told him to deliver discourses and teach and call people to Allah. He said, “I do not have a pure Arab tongue so how can I speak among the eloquent people of Baghdad?” The Prophet said, “Open your mouth.” So he opened his mouth and the Prophet spat into it seven times. He told him to speak in front of people and call them to the way of Allah Most High with wisdom and good admonition. Shaykh Abd al-Qadir prayed Zuhr and thereafter a large number of people gathered around him to learn from him. However, he was struck with fear and unable to speak. Then he saw Sayyidina Ali (Allah be pleased with him) standing at his side. Sayyidina Ali said, “O my son, call people to Allah.” He said, “O my father, the crowd has instilled within me a sense of fear that is causing me to become tongue-tied and I cannot speak.” So Sayyidina Ali told him to open his mouth and, when he had done so, Sayyidina Ali spat into it six times. Shaykh Abd al-Qadir asked why he had not done so seven times, so he said, “I stopped at six so I may have adab with the Messenger of Allah.” Thereafter Sayyidina Ali left and Shaykh Abd al-Qadir was able to speak to the people.

Habib Muhammad al-Saqqaf once remarked on the importance of adab. He said their nurturing had been such that they would always make sure that they dressed less well than their teachers.

Our community has a very insightful saying: you may achieve whatever you like in life, in the form of degrees, academic knowledge and wealth, but if you do not have etiquette and good character, you have nothing.

May Allah make us people possessing good etiquette.

Saving Our Souls Series | Part 5: 12 Sins of the Stomach – Shaykh Yusuf Weltch

When they said the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, they couldn’t have been more correct. Islam teaches us that the way to a sound heart is through a good stomach. On the contrary, if you consume haram it will hurt your soul. Quite literally, you are (spiritually) what you eat.

From the sins of the stomach are the following:

  1. Consuming money from usury:
    • This applies to direct consumption of it, spending from usurious money, and benefitting from it in any manner, even if not used for food.
  2. Consuming money from unjust taxation
    • This refers to all wealth that is misappropriated, whether unjustly taken by rulers or the imposition of unjust taxes.
  3. Consuming wealth which was misappropriated
    • Misappropriation is the open unlawful seizure of people’s wealth, forcefully, with no right to do so.
  4. Consuming wealth from theft
    • This not only applies to the thief, rather includes any benefitting from stolen property by anyone.
  5. Consuming wealth which was earned in a manner impermissible in the Sacred law
    • Such as corrupt business transactions
  6. Consuming alcohol. The Islamically sanctioned penalty for the drinker of alcohol is forty lashes for the free person, and twenty for the slave.
    • This applies to even a drop of alcohol or any intoxicating agent. The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whatever intoxicates in abundance than even a little of it is prohibited (haram).” [Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nasaa’i, and others]
  7. Consuming or drinking an intoxicating agent
    • This applies to marijuana and other drugs.
  8. Consuming any impurity whether by eating or drinking
  9. Eating or drinking anything considered filthy
  10. Consuming the wealth of the orphan
  11. Consuming endowments contrary to the conditions of the endower
    • An endowment is that which one relinquishes ownership of something permanent, stipulating benefit from it to remain for the poor, scholars, those striving in the path of Allah, the Muslims, or others. It has many religious injunctions related to it, thus any usage of it contrary to the conditions of the endower is impermissible
  12. Consuming anything which was taken under duress.
    • Anything which is taken without the full willful consent of the owner. So anything that was taken due to own’s shyness or shame for not giving it that had it not been for that they would not have given it – it is not permissible to take nor benefit from.

May Allah allow us to consume only that which is halal and forgive us our sins.

The Masters and the Millennials | Part 6: From the Cradle to the Grave – Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan

This is the sixth part of a series, click here for the previous article.

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

One of the challenges of the current age is that many young students of sacred knowledge stop studying after only a few years because they receive public recognition. They are not really scholars but imagine themselves to be, because they are either good at public speaking or are fulfilling some other scholarly role.

We should always seek to increase in sacred knowledge. For example, our Shaykh, sayyidi Habib Umar used to make a point of attending the classes of Habib Salim bin Abd Allah al-Shatiri before he passed away, even though his own classes drew hundreds or thousands of people.

‘Abd Allah bin ‘Amr bin al-‘As narrated that he heard the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) say:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ يَقْبِضُ الْعِلْمَ انْتِزَاعًا، يَنْتَزِعُهُ مِنَ الْعِبَادِ، وَلَكِنْ يَقْبِضُ الْعِلْمَ بِقَبْضِ الْعُلَمَاءِ، حَتَّى إِذَا لَمْ يُبْقِ عَالِمًا، اتَّخَذَ النَّاسُ رُءُوسًا جُهَّالاً فَسُئِلُوا، فَأَفْتَوْا بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ، فَضَلُّوا وَأَضَلُّوا

His statement:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ يَقْبِضُ الْعِلْمَ انْتِزَاعًا، يَنْتَزِعُهُ مِنَ الْعِبَادِ

This means that Allah will not remove knowledge from this earth by stripping it from the hearts and minds of men.

His statement:

وَلَكِنْ يَقْبِضُ الْعِلْمَ بِقَبْضِ الْعُلَمَاءِ

However, He will remove it biqabd al-‘ulama’. The common meaning of qabd is to take possession. Thus, taking possession of the scholars is commonly interpreted as causing them to die, so that knowledge will die out with them.

Habib Abu Bakr al-‘Adani points to another meaning of biqabd al-‘ulama. He says it refers to the restriction of sacred knowledge in contemporary societies. Short courses are common, with most Islamic universities producing graduates who call themselves shaykhs after four years.

Traditionally, students would continue their journey of sacred knowledge for ten, twenty or even thirty years before becoming scholars. Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, for example, studied for thirty years before he was permitted to conduct his own classes. In Tarim, graduates of Dar al-Mustafa are called students of knowledge (talib al-‘ilm), nothing else, even if they study there for ten years. They are only called ‘Sayyid’ (for the family of the Prophet) or ‘Shaykh’ (for others) if they have obtained recognition from the senior scholars and established themselves in the community.

Gaining sacred knowledge is a life-long journey that requires years of sacrifice and effort. It is not gained by studying at the hand of an academic who does not pray in the mosque five times a day, or who does not pray the voluntary night prayer (tahajjud), or who adheres to modernist ideologies, or who is not even a Muslim.

Studying under such people does not illuminate the heart with sacred knowledge. One must be an exemplary Muslim to be a scholar.

Imam Shafi‘i, one of the most exemplary of all scholars, once looked at the shin of a woman and his memory deteriorated. He sought advice from his teacher, Waki’ ibn al-Jarrah, who advised him:

I complained to Waki’ of my weak memory,
To abandon sin is what he advised me,

For knowledge is light from my ilahi (my Lord),
And a sinner is not given from His Luminosity,

May Allah allow us to be amongst those who seek sacred knowledge only for His sake and allow us to be amongst those who act upon their knowledge.

Saving Our Souls Series | Part 4: 22 Sins of the Heart – Shaykh Yusuf Weltch

There are minor sins and there are major sins.  There are sins of the limbs and there are sins of the heart. The latter in both are the most severe.  Before you can repent from sins you need to know that you’ve fallen into them. So it only makes sense for us to be aware of the sins our hearts make so we can avoid them and turn back to Allah.

From the sins of the heart are:

  1. Ostentation in acts of righteousness
    • to act for the sake of attaining status and reverence from people
    • this (action) invalidate the reward (if it coincides with the action)
    • for example, self-conceit regarding Allah’s obedience – which will be mentioned next
  2. Self-conceit regarding obedience
    • to perceive worship emanating from one’s ability and therefore honoring the self because of it. This is due to a lack of consideration of Allah’s blessings upon him.
  3. Doubt in Allah [This is tantamount to disbelief]
  4. Feeling safe from the plot of Allah (i.e. feeling un-punishable)
    • to continue to disobey Allah counting on his mercy
  5. Despair from Allah’s mercy
    • For one to hold a firm judgment that Allah will certainly punish him in the Hereafter.
  6. Acting arrogantly to Allah’s servants
    • To refuse the truth, belittle people, and to see oneself as being better than many of Allah’s creation, ignorantly neglecting the grave matter of the ending.
  7. Hatred
    • Holding enmity in one’s heart by resolving to cause harm to a fellow Muslim. If he then acts upon that resolve without abhorring the action – this is another act of disobedience.
  8. Envy
    • Disliking blessings for a Muslim and feeling troubled because of it, if he doesn’t abhor this feeling or act according to it. [If such a feeling of dislike merely comes to one’s heart it is not written for them as a sin. That is as long as they abhor the feeling and is not pleased with it. This is because Allah Most High does not take us to take for involuntary actions.]
  9. Reminding of Charity
    • To remind a person of one’s favor upon him with the intention of harm. This invalidates the reward of the action.
  10. Persistence in Sin
    • The hearts avidness and resolve to repeat a sin
  11. Holding a Bad Opinion of Allah
    • This can sometimes be tantamount to disbelief
  12. Holding a Bad Opinion of the Slaves of Allah
    • That is without Islamically sanctioned cause
  13. Rejection of Destiny
    • This is disbelief
  14. Being pleased about one’s sin or the sin of another
  15. Treachery
    • To break a covenant or betray a trust – even if to a disbeliever
  16. Plotting
    • Plotting to cause harm to another in an illicit manner
  17. Holding rancor to the companions, the family of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace), or the righteous.
    • Holding rancor for all of them is disbelief
  18. Withholding regarding that which Allah has made obligatory
    • For example, withholding Zakat
  19. Miserliness
    • Extreme miserliness and inclining toward usurping the possessions of people even if it is prohibited
  20. Covetousness
    • Extreme miserliness and avidness to take other’s rights even if it is prohibited
  21. Mockery of that which Allah Most High venerates
    • This is disbelief if it is done to belittle and it is sinful if done in a way that portrays a lack of fulfilling to right of veneration.
  22. Belittling acts of worship, sins, the Qur’an, Islamic knowledge, paradise, or hell-fire for which Allah has given great importance.
    • The is tantamount to disbelief

May Allah forgive us of our sins, ameen

The Masters and the Millennials | Part 5: The Shaykhs We Meet – Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan

This is the fifth part of a series, click here for the previous article.

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

Here, we will be discussing the different shaykhs and teachers we may encounter in our lives. They may fall into one or more of the following three categories (Although a shaykh can to fall into all of them, it rarely happens).

  1. The Shaykh al-Fath (Shaykh of Opening)

The first, and the greatest, is the shaykh al-fath – the shaykh who is the means of receiving an opening of sainthood. Through him, one becomes detached from the world and connected to his Lord, Allah Most High. One draws closer to Allah and finds enjoyment in worship.

The shaykh al-fath is the door to continuous presence with Allah. Many shaykhs experience this presence to such an extent that, if their heart is absent from their Lord for a minute, they regard themselves as apostates. For example, a shaykh repented to Allah for a single sin for forty years. His students asked him about the sin, and he said, “I had guests over one evening and served them fish. Afterwards, as they left my home, I had the smell of fish on my hands and wanted to get rid of it so I took a piece of mud from my neighbour’s wall and cleaned my hands”. The students said, “that is not a serious sin because you could have told the neighbour you took it by mistake and he would have pardoned you”. He said, “that is not the reason I am crying. I went to the neighbour immediately and apologised and he overlooked the sin. I am repenting of the fact that, for the moment that I took my neighbour’s mud without his permission, I was heedless of Allah.”

Words cannot describe the state that the shaykh al-fath facilitates in his students. He may be someone we meet once in our lives. He may be the most unassuming person, and we may think of ourselves better than him. In so doing, we may deprive ourselves of receiving the great opening.

We must take note that the opening is not given by the shaykh himself. Allah has made him a means for others to attain the state. You may reject this, saying there is no proof. However, our shaykhs are living proof of this.

For example, one day Habib ‘Ali al-Habashi was playing in the road with his friends, and Habib Abu Bakr al-‘Attas looked at him from his window. When Habib al-‘Attas’ gaze fell upon him, he became disconnected from everything around him and connected to his Lord.

  1. The Shaykh of Tarbiyah (Shaykh of Spiritual Nurturing )

The second is the shaykh of tarbiyah. He is the one from whom we take the pledge of spiritual allegiance (‘ahd or bay’ah). He tells us which adhkar or litanies (awrad) to recite, and he advises us in times of difficulty.

There is a debate among the scholars as to whether one should have a shaykh of tarbiyah. It cannot be regarded as compulsory, because this would imply that many Muslims around the world who do not have shaykhs are sinful. No scholar would wish to ascribe to this view.

However, the shaykh of tarbiyyah is important. Imam Ghazali says in Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din that there are different ways of attaining spirituality. For example, you can ask a friend – a trusted person who is close to you – to make you aware of your faults. You will respond readily when he advises you of your bad qualities because you trust him, and you will try your best to rid yourself of them. Nevertheless, Imam Ghazali says that a shaykh of tarbiyyah is the best way to attain closeness to Allah, to increase in spirituality, and to develop the qualities of a real believer.

What qualities should you be looking for in a shaykh of tarbiyah?

  1. There should be an appropriate bond or connection between you and the shaykh
  2. The shaykh’s students shouldn’t try to encourage you to become their shaykh’s student. You should be given the space to find someone who will have a life-long impact on your heart
  3. In addition to fulfilling all the commands of Allah, the shaykh should emulate the characteristics (shama’il) of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), and display as much of his sunnah as possible

Habib ‘Ali al-Habashi said if you find yourself in your shaykh’s heart and he receives divine outpourings, you will share in them. Imam Hasan al-Basri said if Allah gazes at your shaykh’s heart and you find a place in his heart, you will also receive Allah’s gaze.

  1. The Shaykh of Knowledge

The third shaykh is the shaykh of knowledge (shaykh al-ta‘lim). He is the shaykh from whom you study Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), Islamic doctrine (‘aqidah), Islamic legal theory (usul al-fiqh), tafsir, and all the other sacred sciences.

The shaykh of knowledge plays a major role in our lives. This shaykh ensures that I know how to worship Allah. Through this shaykh, we come to know halal and haram and are able to live lives that are pleasing to Allah. This shaykh assists us in knowing how to execute Allah’s command and to abstain from His prohibitions outwardly; while the shaykh of tarbiyah assists us in doing so, inwardly and outwardly.


Conclusion

We are emphasizing the shaykh of tarbiyah because we are in need of purification of our egos and assistance with our struggle to live as Muslims in the modern western world. The best way to learn how to live our lives in the west is to observe those shaykhs of tarbiyah who have adopted the way of the Messenger of Allah. For example, it is impermissible for a man to shake a strange woman’s hand. This is a big challenge in the west. However, if you really want to follow Allah’s law, He will make things easy for you. When Habib ‘Umar entered a university lecture theatre in North America, a woman professor tried to shake his hand. He raised his hands to his chest politely, thereby letting her know that it was not permissible for him to shake her hand, and smiled at her radiantly. So he made up for not shaking her hand by his smile, as well as his politeness and humility.

While the three kinds of shaykhs are all important, the shaykh of tarbiyah is of the greatest importance to modern western Muslims because he connects us to Allah and guides and benefits us in navigating the challenges we face.

Saving Our Souls Series | Part 3: A Precious Counsel from a Revered Scholar – Shaykh Yusuf Weltch

Our master ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Alawi al-Haddad (may Allah be pleased with him and benefit us by him) said, in his book ‘Religious Counsels’:

These qualities are obligatory for every believer to embody and acquire…

Referring to a prior statement just before this:

That the believer should be:

  • in a state of reverential awe
  • humble
  • in a state of fear due to consideration of Allah’s majesty
  • detached from the world;
    • content with less of it
    • generous with the surplus of his possessions
  • desirous for good for the servants of Allah Most High;
    • compassionate to them
    • merciful to them
  • enjoining toward the good and preventing the evil
  • competing in good deeds
  • perseverant in worships
  • guiding toward goodness
  • calling towards guidance
  • emulating of the righteous
  • dignified
  • respectable
  • tranquil
  • beautiful in character
  • big hearted
  • soft shouldered
  • lowering of his wing to the believers

He should not be:

  • arrogant or haughty
  • covetous of people
  • desirous of worldliness
  • giving preference to the world over the Hereafter
  • hoarding of wealth
  • preventing the good
  • harsh nor hard-hearted
  • argumentative
  • quarrelsome
  • accusing
  • rigid
  • evil in character
  • tight-hearted
  • lax
  • deceptive or untrustworthy
  • giving preference to the rich over the poor
  • frequenting the gathering of the sultans
  • quite regarding correcting the wrongs when able
  • loving of:
    • status
    • wealth
    • power
      • rather he should abhor all of these and not endeavour toward any of them nor associate himself with them – unless there be a need or necessity

 

May Allah make us ideal Muslims, ameen.

Cultivating One’s Environment to Develop the Inner Self – Shaykh Yahya Rhodus

* Courtesy of Cambridge Muslim College

Shaykh Yahya Rhodus draws a beautiful parallel between the human heart and soil.  We are experiencing over-cultivation and depletion of minerals in our soil that bares real fruits that lack any sort of nutrients.  Our hearts, similarly, have experienced a drought, and as a consequence this has manifested within our limbs.  We need to till our hearts. Even though this is our current state, we must understand that our hearts are not void of good, Shaykh Yahya says:

…there are so many aspects of our religion that are of a social nature, because its in the coming in contact with human beings that a lot of the meanings that lie dormant in the hearts rise to the surface, stirred up, in a way that you would have a bitter cup of tea with sugar at the bottom of it, that tea is not going to taste sweet until you stir it up, and once you stir it up, depending upon the amount of sugar, it will taste sweet.  Likewise, there are many things that lie dormant by way of potentiality in the hearts of the children of Adam that it’s only with that spiritual struggle and exerting oneself that these things ever truly become realized within one…

Check out this lecture on their Youtube page and leave them a comment.

Here are some courses we offer by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus at SeekersGuidance:

  • Haddad’s Book of Assistance: Complete Guidance for Turning to Allah | Click here for this free course
  • First Principles of Islamic Spirituality: Ibn Ashir’s Introduction to Sufism Explained | Click here for this free course
  • Clarity and Calm in an Age of Anger – Lessons on Navigating Troubled Times| Click here for this free course
  • The Divine Opening: Sura al-Fatiha Explained | Click here for this free course
  • 30 Days, 30 Deeds: A Roadmap of Virtues and Good to Transform Your Life and Relations | Click here for this free course