Acquisition of the Clear Light: Part 1

This is the first 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.

In the Name of God, the Gracious, the Most Merciful

Praise is due to God, who is all aware about the subtleties of the souls, who is all knowing about the secrets of the hearts. May His Peace and Blessings be upon the master of the messengers, the unifier of the religion and upon his pleasant and pure household.

To proceed, the honor and virtue of a human being is in relation to his inclination towards knowledge about Allah Most High which is that which renders him beautiful, complete and honorable in this world, and is a means of preparation and provision for the Hereafter.

This aforementioned inclination towards knowledge takes place in one’s heart, as the heart is the knower of Allah Most High, that which causes proximity to Allah Most High, serves Allah Most High, strives towards Allah Most High, is the recipient of the manifestations from Allah Most High and the limbs are but followers, helpers, and tools.

The heart, soul, spirit and intellect are synonymous in meaning which is a subtle spiritual substance divinely governed. It is the very essence of a human being and the point of perception for the Gnostics among them. So this subtle, knowledgeable and gnostic substance of a human being is at times referred to as a heart, spirit, intellect, or soul.

At times, the heart is referred to as a piece of flesh like a pine-cone in form, positioned at the left hand side of the chest which is the same heart present in animals and it is from the visible material world.

The soul is sometimes referred to as the container of a human being’s capacity of anger and desire. At times, the soul is referred to as a light body originating from the heart’s cavity, which disperses by means of arteries to the rest of the body.

The intellect is sometimes referred to as the means to knowledge of the true reality, and if what is meant is the comprehension of sciences, then this is the heart, and at times all four of these words share this meaning.

Soldiers of the Heart

The heart has three types of soldiers.

Firstly: a type that is dispatched towards obtaining that which is beneficial and appropriate, such as a desire or a protection from that which is harmful and incompatible, such as anger. His dispatching is referred to as will.

Secondly: That which causes the movement of the limbs towards the obtaining of these objectives which is referred to as capability.

Thirdly: That which perceives and comprehends things similar to the role of spies. This is the power of sight, hearing, smelling, taste and touch which is referred to as knowledge and perception.

Explanation of the Distinct Characteristics of the Human Heart

What distinguishes the heart of a human being, resulting in his great honor and his worthiness of attaining proximity to Allah Most High, is knowledge and will.

As for knowledge: It is knowledge pertaining to affairs of this life, the Hereafter, and intellectual realties. These things surpass the senses and no other animals partake in them.

As for will: If, through the medium of intellect, the end result and rectification of something becomes known, it brings about a strong inclination within one’s self towards that which is beneficial, its respective practical means and yearning towards it, which is neither similar to the desire’s yearning nor the will of animals. In fact, it is opposed to desire, as at times desire could shun a surgical operation whilst the intellect yearns for it.

So the heart of a human being is distinct in terms of its knowledge and will which differentiate it from the rest of the animals, in fact, even from the youth at its prime stage of its natural disposition, as this only takes place once puberty has been reached and one thereafter attain theses sciences through two stages:

Firstly: One’s heart must contain the core and fundamental knowledge, that is the science of the impossibility of impossible things and the possibility of outwardly possible things [logic], without which the speculative sciences are not attainable. However, their proximity is possible. This is like unto someone who, as far as the art of writing is concerned, only knows the inkwell, the pen, and the alphabet. He has gained proximity to the art of writing but has not attained it.

Secondly: To acquire knowledge through experience and contemplation, which is like a storage tool which one refers back to whenever one desires.

The people of this stage have innumerable ranks, surpassing one another in relation to the larger or lesser amount of knowledge, the honor and baseness of such knowledge, the method of attaining it, as some hearts receive it through divine revelation, and others through learning and acquiring it rapidly and slowly, so therefore the ranks of advancement are innumerable and the furthest of such ranks is that of the Prophet to whom most, if not all realities become manifest without effort or difficulty, in fact, through divine manifestation in the shortest possible amount of time.

The most honorable type of knowledge is knowledge of Allah Most High, His Qualities, His Actions, as by it, a human being is rendered complete and this completion results in his felicity and suitability for the Splendored and Perfect Companionship. The body is a vehicle for the soul, the soul is the location of one’s knowledge, and knowledge is a human being’s objective and distinct quality which is the very reason of one’s creation.

A human being is ranked between the animals and angels in that his nourishment and reproduction is like a plant’s, his senses and movement is like an animal’s, and his features and extension is like an engraved picture on the wall. What distinguishes him is his knowledge of the realities of things.

Whoever uses all of his limbs and strength whilst depending on this for attainment of knowledge and work, is similar to the angels and as for the one who directs his concerns to the pursuit of bodily pleasures, eating just as the grazing livestock eat, has as a result, declined to the lowest of animals.

It is possible to use every single limb as a means of arrival to Allah Most High. The one who uses them in this way attains success, however, the one who deviates from this, is lost and is unsuccessful.

A summary of felicity is for one to make his meeting of his Lord his objective, the Hereafter his place of settlement, this life as his temporary settlement, his body as a vehicle and his limbs as helpers.

Ali, Allah ennoble his countenance, described the hearts by saying: “Verily Allah Most High has vessels upon His land and they are the hearts and the most beloved of these to Him, are the most soft, pure and solid, thereafter he explained this by saying: The most solid in terms of religion, the purest in terms of certainty, and the softest towards brothers, which is an indication to Allah Most High saying: ‘Severe against disbelievers, and merciful among themselves,’ (Sura al-Fath 48:29) and His saying: ‘The similitude of His light is a niche in which there is a lamp.’” (Sura al-Nur 24:35)

Ubay ibn K’ab, Allah be pleased with him, said: “What is meant is, the similitude of the light and the heart of the believer. He Most High further says: ‘Or is like the depths of darkness in a vast deep ocean.’” (Sura al-Nur 24:40) which is the similitude of the heart of a hypocrite.

Zayd ibn Aslam, Allah be pleased with him, said about His saying: “In a preserved tablet” that this is the heart of a believer.

Sahl stated: “The similitude of the heart and the chest is like that of the Throne and the Chair. These are likenesses of the heart.”

 


This is part one 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.


 

The Virtues of Night Worship (Qiyam al-Layl)

Believers are divinely invited to perform night worship, or Qiyam al-Layl, as a way to draw closer to Allah. Nurulain Wolhuter writes on the great virtues of this act.night worship

The heart of the seeker yearns for the inner secret; the one which is devoid of the ego’s desires and purified from the filth of worldly attachments. It is the prize given by the Almighty to the one whom He draws near.

And who is nearer to Allah than His beloved Messenger? He, Allah bless him and give him peace, is the subject of the divine injunction:

O you who wraps himself [in clothing],
Arise [to pray] the night, except for a little –
Half of it – or subtract from it a little
Or add to it, and recite the Qur’an with measured recitation. (Sura al Muzzamil: 1-4).

So if he, the inimitably close, was commanded to rise at night and pray, how much more should we, the small and blemished ones languishing in the distance, strive to follow his example?

Humaid bin ‘Abdur-Rahman narrated: “The Messenger of Allah said: ‘The best prayer after the obligatory prayers is prayer at night.” (Nasa’i)

We will never be able to match his prayer, neither in length nor in quality. However, by doing our best, we can try to attain closeness, to become one of the muqaribin, or “the ones drawn close.”

Abu Hurayra narrates that the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “Our Lord who is blessed and exalted descends every night to the lowest heaven when the last one-third of the night remains, and says: Who supplicated Me so that I may answer him? Who asks of Me so that I may give to him? Who asks My forgiveness so that I may forgive him?” (Sunan Abi Dawud).

It is also narrated that, during this time, the Messenger of Allah used to pray eleven rakat, or in another narration, 13 rakat, and that he ended with the witr prayer. He gave life to this time of the night by supplications and acts of supererogatory worship.

Abu Hurayra also narrated that the Messenger of Allah said, ‘(Allah says) the most beloved thing with which My slave comes nearer to Me is what I have enjoined upon him (the obligatory deeds); and My slave keeps on coming closer to Me through performing Nawafil (supererogatory deeds) till I love him. When I love him I become his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his leg with which he walks; and if he asks (something) from Me, I give him, and if he asks My Protection (refuge), I protect him” (Bukhari).

The one who performs an abundance of acts of supererogatory worship, particularly in the last part of the night, is knocking on the door of Allah Most High, waiting to receive His love. The great Imam al-Haddad writes in his poem Qad Kafani (My Lord’s Knowledge Has Sufficed Me):

لم أزل بالباب واقف فارحم ربي وقوفي

I am ever a bystander at the door, so have mercy O my Lord! as I stand.

Some nights may be dry, others less so but our love remains lukewarm. Until, in the nights of the soul’s most ardent yearning, usually forged in tears and heaving breasts, the Most Merciful unlocks the door to a secret that no one knows but they. This is a meeting that may be fleeting or may be long, a full-blown union, or an encounter from which the tarnished soul may run. But for those who are timid, or who feel unworthy of the gift, the answer is to turn to the Beloved, seeking his intercession, and waiting for the next envelopment. He, the Most High, will open the door, again and again, at His Will and in His time, so the path to this inner secret is to stand at the door every night, crying, in sincerity and love, for the opening that is promised by the One who draws you near.


Nurulain Wolhuter is a student in the Shari’ah course at Dar al Safa in Cape Town, South Africa. She relocated there from Birmingham, UK, in order to pursue her studies and hopes to return in the future to do daw’ah and share her knowledge.


Imam al-Ghazali on Guarding the Tongue

Shaykh Walead Mosaad presents Imam al-Ghazali’s thoughts on guarding the tongue to protect the heart from nonsense and make room for dhikr of Allah.

Imam al-Ghazali puts a particular emphasis on the importance of guarding one’s tongue and that the tongue is indeed like a double-edged sword. It can do much good but it can also do much harm. There are two major things we need to know about what we say.

    1. 1. What we say is significant, it’s not insignificant.

 

    2. It has an effect.

It affects other people who are in earshot of it. It can affect people who may not even be in earshot of it, by hearsay. Someone might say, “Well, I heard NN say this and this about you.” And if you actually said that or you disseminated that, then it does have the potential to do a lot of damage.

Speech Is Not Just Verbal

While the pre-modern books such as the Ihya are talking about things we actually say, that we pronounce [verbally], obviously, that extends to any which way we may communicate. That includes not just what we say, but what we write, what we tweet, what we disseminate. Even what we retweet. What we propagate. We may not have said it, we may not have originated it, but if we contribute to its dissemination, then we have a role in whatever they said or what is retweeted in affecting other people. It’s significant.

How often have people’s reputations been completely maligned, if not destroyed, based upon something that happened on the social media, or something along the lines of the Internet? This is particularly important because as some of our ulama have stated, there’s this type of call you out, gotcha, culture that we have going on. Many people assume that somehow that’s supported by our Islamic principles. That if someone makes a grievous error, then we need to name and shame.

If they’re caught on camera doing something or saying something or maligning someone or even saying something that’s racist or abusive to other people, and we catch them on camera, then there’s this automatic assumption: name and shame. Let’s make these people famous. Let’s put them out on the Internet. Let’s get their photo everywhere, so everybody knows who they are.

When I see stuff like that, my next question is, and then what? Now we know who they are. Now what? Are we supposed to completely erase them from humanity, because they said something under their breath, even if it was to one of our Muslim sisters that was offensive? Does that fit the offense? Can they be completely maligned and destroyed, and lose their job, and publicly humiliated?

It’s a very powerful tool, especially now when we have access to these tools that – depending on how many followers someone may have or other people may have – within a matter of minutes something can exponentially be spread to all parts of the globe. That power, and it is powerful, wasn’t there ten years ago, let alone 20 and 30 and 40 and and 50 years ago.

The Book and the Wisdom

I think it behooves us to be even even more careful. To heed the words of our Imams, of our ulama, like Imam al-Ghazali and others, who pondered these issues and studied the Qur’an and Sunna very closely. They arrived at this articulation of the hikma, the wisdom. And the Qur’an refers to the Sunna itself as hikma, as wisdom. Everything about our Sunna is wise. Everything about what the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, did – the way he acted, his mannerisms, the way he treated people. There was a wisdom about it. Nothing was done in vain. Nothing was haphazard.

One of the Sahaba asked him, “Are we taken to task by what we say?” You read the hadith and it is as if he’s surprised. Is that like a big deal? The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, replies back very emphatically: “Are people not dragged on their noses [or on their faces] to Hellfire as a result of what their tongues harvest?” In other words, it does have an effect. The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, talked about the night of ascension where he saw some of the types of punishment people go through. Among them were the people who backbite, who slander. They will have punishments that reflect what they did in the dunya.

Think of the dunya the life that we live now. It’s representative of something that is more figurative and metaphoric. When we get to the Akhira, those things that are metaphoric will now be literal. The one who slanders will, literally, be carrying the weight of his tongue. It will become huge and he’ll have to carry it on his back like a satchel or a burdensome thing. Why? Because that’s exactly what happened in the dunya.

Speak Only of What Concerns You

Sura al-Hujurat 49:12 gives us a very physical description of the person who backbites. “Would you like to eat the dead flesh of your brother?” One of the hadith mentions that there were two women who were fasting and they started backbiting people and they became very ill. Then they regurgitated, they threw up, and the hadith says that meat and bones and blood came out. And the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “These two were backbiting.” It became literalized within them, because that’s how ugly it is in the eyes Allah, Exalted and Most High.

Imam al-Ghazali goes in an order of least worst to the worst. From the one that is it’s bad but not really bad to the last thing he talks about; the one that’s really bad. He says, “The first one is to speak about those things that do not concern you.” We know the hadith. “From the good Islam, the good din, of the person – the woman or the man – is to leave that which does not concern one.”

The question will be, “What is it that concerns me then?” Well, the Sunna makes tafsir of the Qur’an, and the Qur’an makes tafsir of the Sunna. So when the verse says, “There is no good in their private conversations (najwa),” talking about the Quraysh, “except for three things: to enjoin to charity or something that is good or to rectify between two people or two parties; ” (Sura al-Nisa 4:114) This is good speech. These are examples of things that would concern us. It means that pretty much everything else is going to fall at least in the category of not concerning us.

Giving Yourself a Break

Obviously, there is the other concept also. What we call istijmam (recreation), which is like tarwih (relief). You do need to go to less serious times in order to have aid and help for your more serious times. We are human beings. We can’t be very on 24/7. We’re not angels in that regard.

Some of the Sahaba complained to the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him. They said, and I paraphrase, “You know, when we’re with you we find that we are on, but when we go back to our families and our homes and so forth it’s not the same thing. Is this a sign of nifaq (hypocrisy)?” – Even Umar ibn al-Khattab and Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, Allah be pleased with them, were part of this conversation. – The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said, “No. If you were to do that, then, the Angels would have greeted you in the streets as you walk, but some time for this and some time for that.”

So there is a halal type of taking a break, istijmam, and things like this. But we have to be careful that that thing of itself doesn’t lead us to falling into something that would be blameworthy, something that would be either makruh, disliked, reprehensible, or haram. People want to take a break and watch a little bit of the game, and enjoy the athleticism of the athletes. I’m not going to say that’s wrong. Athleticism and paying attention to one’s physical prowess and things like this, that is part of the din. We can’t deny that. If you’re not healthy physically, it’s going to be very difficult for you to be healthy spiritually. They go hand in hand.

At the same time we should recognize that it’s very easy to fall into a cycle where these things dominate our thoughts and our attention and our time. It’s about indibat. It’s about trying to do it in a way so that we’re not falling into a place where we lose sight of what’s important.

Excessive Speech

So fudul al-kalam, it’s about leaving that which is doesn’t concern one. It’s better to err on the side of caution. The Sahaba used to count the number of words they would say in the day. I’ll bring up social media again because social media makes you feel like whatever you have to say is important. It also makes you feel like “I need to have an opinion about this thing.” If you see other people putting their opinions, “Well, I have more followers than them I should have an opinion too. I should be getting those likes and comments as well, because I have to say when I need to say and so forth.

We have to be very, very careful with that impulse and recognize it as a nafsani impulse. It’s an impulse of the nafs. It’s an impulse of the ego. It’s not something that the din is going to exhort you to. The din will tell you that you have good counsel for the people, no matter where it comes from. It doesn’t have to be you, and actually, preferably, it shouldn’t be you. I prefer it not to be me. I prefer that it be someone else who can do a better job than I can.

Imam al-Ghazali is strict in that sense. He’ll say, “Where you went on your trip and who you saw and what you did and how much you pay for the onions at the market are all things that are in the category of not that important.” Obviously, he’s addressing people who are not from the awwam. He’s addressing people who have made a commitment to living a life dedicated to the prophetic principles and ideals.

If that’s what you want to do, then what it’s saying is, if you’re going to go that route, then go all in. Do it the right way. Don’t just focus on the ritual aspects of the din: the number of prayers and number of days that you fast and things like this, and then neglect what really is the important underpinning of the whole thing altogether, which is to avoid those things that the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, avoided. Avoid the haram and embody the character of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him.

What Distinguishes the Awliya

How many of the people who can boast of their ritual prayers, how many prayers they’ve done, how many days they’ve fasted, how much money they give to sadaqa. Then this comes emblematic of the din. It’s an aspect of the din, even pillars of the din, but it doesn’t mean that that’s the measure of where one is with one’s relationship with Allah Most High. Especially if you want to have a committed, dedicated, principled way about living your life. These are the things one has to be aware of. These are the things that separate the people who are true awliya and then those who just make claims.

Another thing is talk that is a trivial or repetitive of something that’s not important. Sometimes people just speak so that they can bring people’s attention to themselves. They’re looking for people’s attention. This is called fudul al-kalam. Remember these are in increasing order, so these are the two least bad ones. As we go to the three, four, five, six, all 20 of them, they get worse and worse.

The third one is to talk about things that are actually haram to be doing. Haram to do, but then you go speak about them. You talk about some illicit type of gathering that took place. “I couldn’t believe I saw that roulette wheel on TV, and look at how much money that guy made from a slot machine, and wow, that’s interesting. Look at that drunk person and how much of a fool he made out of himself,” and things like this.

That’s talking even in a condemning way. To talk about it in a praiseworthy way is even worse. I would also include in this, the mushahadat, the things that we see, that we look at, that also depict things that are haram. They should also be avoided. There’s a general principle: “Everything that is not permissible to speak about, it’s also not permissible to look at or to engage with. The images that enter us, we think that are innocuous and don’t have a long-term effect, they do have an effect. They stay with you. Especially images, pictures, or video, because any type of simple reminder will have you recollect them, as long as they’re imprinted on your heart.

Free Up Your Memory

Ibn Ata’illah al-Sakandari says, “How are you going to reach a greater understanding of the divine, Allah Most High, and the pictures of the forms are imprinted on your heart?” They occupy your thoughts. Your subconscious works continuously and your subconscious can work for you or against you. You may not be actively watching that last movie or listening to that last pop song or rock song but your subconscious may be busy with it. And when your subconscious is busy with it that means it’s not busy with other things.

One of the things about creative people is that even when they’re not actively doing something creative their subconscious is helping them do that creative thing. That’s why ideas come to them sort of spontaneously, but they’re not really that spontaneous, because in the background you were working on it to begin with. If we’re going to use an example of software: you have an app running in the background. Your subconscious is kind of like that app. It’s running in the background. If you have too many other apps open that are nonsense, then they’re taking up all of your computer power, your RAM, your memory, and as a result the thing that’s in active mode doesn’t run that well.

The app that you’re on right now which is you as well as the things that you’re doing. I would venture to say that this is one of the the secrets of dhikr, of the remembrance of Allah Most High. It is one of the reasons why the ulama say that it’s better to do dhikr and with no hudur, no presence of mind, than to avoid dhikr. It’s obviously better to have dhikr and have hudur or presence of mind and heart, but that doesn’t preclude you from doing dhikr even without that, because that has a benefit as well.

Even when only the tongue is working it’s at least getting you on a spiritual level, so that even when you’re not doing the dhikr actively with your tasbih or reading the Qur’an, it begins to get imprinted upon the conscious of your spirit. Then it’s working for you even when you’re not actively doing it. And the adverse is true. When you’re working with nonsense things, those things are also working against you even when you are not actively doing them.

Increasing Presence with Allah

That’s why when people ask, “How do I have more presence of mind and heart in the prayer? I just get in the prayer and I’m just busy and I can’t focus and I can’t concentrate.” The problem is not your prayer, the problem is what you’re doing outside of the prayer. When you begin to have hudur or presence outside of the prayer, then you have presence inside of the prayer, because they feed off one another.

That is why in the hadith of Bukhari, the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, mentioned that “If the prayer time is upon us and the food is ready at the same time, then begin with the food.” Why begin with the food? Because that is what’s keeping you busy. You’ll be not focused in your prayer. So when you go into the prayer and you’re not focused on the food, you’ve at least removed the busyness and the lack of focus at least with the food.

During Ramadan for example ,also a hadith of Bukhari, the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, would single out a particular space in the Rawda, in his masjid, and pray in that space consistently, because it helps one focus better. All the things that would lend us to focus more not just in the prayer but outside of the prayer, if it leads us to a greater focus, then that thing becomes meritorious in and of itself.

Imam Malik is reported to have said, “If I knew that sitting on a pile of trash would bring my heart closer to Allah, then I would do it.” Because the point is to bring you closer to Allah Most High. That’s the whole idea. Sometimes a sin brings you closer to Allah. Ibn Ata’illah al-Sakandari said, “Perhaps a sin that breeds within you, that engenders within you humility and a sense of poverty towards Allah Most High, a sense of a need of Allah Most High, is better than obedient acts that breed within you arrogance and haughtiness.” If it makes you arrogant and it makes you feel like you’re better than everybody else, and that you have a degree over others. If that’s what your ‘ibada is doing for you, it’s having the opposite effect.

Humility Is the Child of Dhikr

The effect it should have is to make you more humble, to make you more agreeable with people. Not more difficult with people. More agreeable, more humble, easier to get along with. The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said, “The closest people to me on the day of judgment will be the ones who are best in character,” the ones who get along with people very easily and people get along very easily with them “and they lower their wing for people.” He always had a smiling face. He always greeted people with a smiling face. He had that quality about him, Allah bless him and give him peace.

So, aimless disputatious and arguing about things that may in and of themselves be haram to argue about and discuss. These would be discussion many people have about political realities or political situations and things like this, and then people have heated arguments. It happens in Ramadan so much too, because our routines are upended a little bit and we see each other more often and so there’s more of a opportunity for people to start talking about things like that. That has a you know a damaging effect on the heart. You come away with conversations like that and you feel constricted.

Obviously, it takes two people to to engage in it. What do you do when somebody is talking about things like that? How do you disengage? Either you try to change the topic or you could say, “You know what? I rather talk about something else.” Sometimes you just have to walk away, but exhaust the other possibilities first. Do it in a nice way, but if that doesn’t work … at the end of the day we’re all responsible for ourselves.

 


 

Drawing Closer to Allah – Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad

Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad expounds on the hadith of the supererogatory acts, and makes clear the criteria for determining if someone is a wali of Allah.

In the famous Bukhari hadith narrated by Abu Hurayra, Allah be pleased with him, the holy Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, says – with the words of his Lord, so this is a hadith Qudsi where Allah Himself is speaking: “Whoever harms a wali of Mine, I declare war upon him. My slave draws nearer to Me with nothing more beloved to Me than that which I have made obligatory upon him. And then My slave continues to draw near to Me with optional acts (nawafil) until I love him. And when I love him I become the ear with which he hears, and the eye with which he sees, and the hand with which he smites, and the foot with which he walks. And if he seeks My protection I will surely grant him My protection. And if he seeks My victory I will surely grant him the victory.”

As you know this is one of the great hadiths of Islam. It has a name. It is the hadith al-nawafil. The hadith of the nawafil or the optional, supererogatory acts of religion. And it’s telling us something fundamental. The ulama gives these names to a small number of hadiths, because they have something in them that is essential to the din – of the usul, the roots, not of the furu‘, the branches.

So what is the root of our religion that is being expounded, that is being taught to us by Allah Himself in this beautiful hadith? See how He begins it. He begins it by grabbing our attention – by talking about enmity and war. That’s the thing that we most fear. And what we fear more than human war, is fear of war from Allah Most High. Who could stand against that?

The Principle of Wilaya

He says, Exalted and Most High, “Whoever harms a wali of Mine, I declare war upon him.” This is announcing that this hadith is going to be about a particular principle: the principle of wilaya. The principle of being a wali. Do we next get a technical definition of what exactly that means? We don’t. Because the Qur’an and the Hadith, and these hadith qudsiyya particularly, speak to the heart. Speak to the deeper aspect of human intuition. Speak to the core of us, the qalb (heart) and the sirr (secret). The sirr which is the center of our religious life.

We’re not going to get some technical, theological definition here. Instead we’re told how to get there and what it might be like and what are the consequences in practice. See how the hadith goes on. It seems to change direction in a surprising way. It says, “My slave draws nearer to Me with nothing more beloved to Me than that which I have made obligatory upon him.”

It begins again with an attractive principle. It started with fear. Who wants Allah’s war? Then it talks about love. Another thing all human beings are going to be magnetized by. But it’s not love for ourselves. In this hadith, Allah is saying that His love is for those things which He has made obligatory upon us.

The Path of Religion

When we begin in the path of religion we ourselves may be very far from being lovable. That’s why we don’t say, in our religion, “Allah loves everybody.” Allah loves that which is true and good and beautiful. He loves that which we are called to become. And He loves our origin in the nature of Adam, peace be upon him, which is “ahsan taqwim” (Sura al-Tin 95:4). But He doesn’t love us in all our forgetfulness, in our sinfulness, in our envy, and all of the stuff that we do. It is not possible for the Supreme Being to love imperfection. He loves what we are called to be.

In this beginning of our path, and this is a journey that the hadith is telling us about, He has said that He loves the obligations. What is it about us in our religious life that is really most beautiful? When are we in the state, truly, of khilafa and Adamiyya? It is when we are following these obligations. It is when we are sajid (in prostration). It is when we’re following the Sunna and particularly the obligatory things. The five pillars and the other obligations. Those are the aspects of our life that Allah loves. And the other stuff, not so much or not at all.

This language that the hadith uses, which is of “drawing near.” It specifically says this. This is about the journey, not about the state. The journey of religion is a journey. It is suluk, wayfaring, spiritual traveling. Nobody ever stands still. In religion, if you don’t constantly make an effort, that will be like trying to ride a bicycle on the streets of Cambridge. If you’re not pushing the bicycle will fall over. Constantly, we are required, in order to persevere with this journey, to make an effort. And the first effort is to make sure we get these obligations right.

No Heights without Foundations

Do we really know the obligatory beliefs? Do we really know how to do the obligations of prayer and fasting? Before we go on to think about more fancy stuff, have we got the foundations correct? As the ulama say, “They never reach the heights because they neglected the foundations.” We should always think carefully and constantly about, for instance, all of these thousands of prayers that, insha Allah, it will be our nasib to say in our lives – are we sure that we’ve got them right? Are we sure that we’ve got the basic rules of wudu right?

What is more ridiculous than somebody leaving out one of the arkan, basic obligations, when it might take him only a couple of seconds. And he repeats that defective ‘ibada the rest of his days. Let’s make sure that we get these usul right, because it is those things, the aspects of our life as lowly beginners beginners, that Allah, Exalted and Most High, loves. At least in those situations where we are, outwardly at least, in the state of obedience, Allah Most High loves that aspect of us.

The hadith is linking this journey – this suluk, this taqarrub, this literally drawing near to the Creator – to the principle of the Divine Love. In our theology this is always very important. How can we fly our finite selves to the pleasure of the Infinite Being? What can we do that can satisfy the perfection of an Infinite Being? Well, not very much.

Even the obligations that we do are probably done inadequately. We may be outwardly compliant. Who knows where we are inwardly? Who knows what my niyya or intention is? Who knows what we’re really thinking about during these outward forms? But out of His love, because at least we have the outward manifestation of this, that is an aspect of us that He truly loves. And in that state we should be able to begin to find our peace, which is what we all crave.

The Principle of Love

So there is this principle of love in this hadith. And there is this principal of taqarrub: drawing near to Allah, Exalted and Most High. Then the hadith goes on. It’s not just about stopping with the obligations and Allah loves that part of us. No, it’s about progressing. “Thumma!” the Arabic then says. “Then, My slave continues to draw near to Me with optional acts until I love him.”

Now it becomes serious, more serious. It’s not those outward acts that He loves, of the various things that are existent in our lives. It’s our selves. We can be loved by the Creator, Exalted and Most High, despite our maggot-like mortality. Despite the eminent weakness of who we are, and how we think, and everything that we do, He can actually love us. And that is from His generosity, His magnificent mercy that He loves us. But that doesn’t just come without an effort. What is required is these optional acts.

Beyond the obligations there must be something more. Somebody who does the outward fundamentals with ikhlas or sincerity, insha Allah, has the key to Paradise. But there’s more to it than that. There are so many additional things, and the additional things include deepening and perfecting the outward acts, as well as learning about additional acts. As well as learning about fasting on Ashura, you can think about fasting in Ramadan, but better. I could really stop lying. I could really stop being distracted. I could really stop all of the stuff that we do that makes the fast a kind of outward thing but not always an inward flowing reality.

So the nawafil don’t just mean the extra prayers, the extra fast, and the Umra, and those other things. It means deepening what we already have. And if we do that that Allah, Exalted and Most High, is making us this extraordinary promise. Whatever the world might think of us, Allah will love us if we are in that situation. That’s an extraordinary thing. Out of all the orders of creation, Adam, peace be upon him, is singled out for this unique, divine love.

Chosen above All Creation

At the beginning of the human story, the Angels, even, were commanded to bow down to him. Not to Mount Everest. Not to the Andromeda galaxy. Not to space and time itself. But to Adam, peace be upon him, because of the greatness of the divine love for His creature (safiy). This specific title says that Adam, peace be upon him, is the chosen. People say, “I can understand Ibrahim, peace be upon him, is the khalil (friend) of Allah, and Musa, peace be upon him, being kalim Allah (the one who spoke to Allah), and our master Muhammad, blessings and peace be upon him, being habib (beloved of) Allah. Yes, but safiy Allah? Chosen? When he was the only one? Not much of a choice.”

Chosen indeed! Over all the other elements of creation. Over the angelic realms. Over the rocks. Over the Great Rivers. Over the mighty seas. Adam, peace be upon him, is the one to whom even the angels in their perception, in their infallibility, are commanded to bow down. That is the extent of Allah’s love for His greatest summit of creation.

Not just this dust that Iblis, Allah curse him, saw, but the luminosity of the ruh (spirit) which has been breathed into Bani Adam, which make us something unusual and unique in creation. And of all of those countless tens of millions of species, and of all of those other planets that they can just dimly glimpse through telescopes, the only entity that we really know in the whole wide cosmos that can actually think, that can be ethical, that can make meaningful choices is our weak selves – Bani Adam.

This is the meaning of the hamla al-amana (carry this trust). Allah Exalted and Most High offered this Amana to the heavens and the earth and the mountains but they refused to carry it. And they were afraid of it. And He caused man to carry this Amana. This knowledge, this capacity to choose, this capacity to say, “la ilaha illa Allah,” volitionally, rather than compelled. And then what do we do? “He who has proved a tyrant and a fool.” (Sura al-Ahzab 33:72)

We carry this Amana. We have the capacity to be these luminous beings, with this miraculous capacity to see, to understand, to name, to choose, to be ethical, to be better than anything else. But we choose the other stuff. This is “asfala al-safilin.” (Sura al-Tin 95:5) They’re supposed to be in the best of forms, but human beings, when they’re not the best of forms, can be the worst of the worst.

The Two Paths before Us

What is more impressive in the world than the real wali who is in complete outward and inward conformity and obedience and love with his Creator, Exalted and Most High? Nothing finer. What is lower in the world than the one who’s cheating and lying and defrauding people and being brutal? What it worse? [Is there] anything in the animal kingdom worse than that tyrant? No. [Is there] anything in the natural world lower than that tyrant? [Is there] anything in the wide universe that we know of that’s more disgusting than Firaun and Haman? No. Human beings will say, No.

So we can follow Musa, peace be upon him, or we can follow Firaun. There is the possibility of this najdayn. “We have guided him to the two paths.” (Sura al-Balad 90:10) And everybody has that choice. Those two paths are in front of us not once or twice in a lifetime, but at every moment. There is no conscious waking moment in our lives when there isn’t the right thing to do, which is there, and a lot of wrong things which we could also do in that situation.

This is what is meant by constancy. This suluk is constant. This iqtirab, this becoming closer to our Lord and His favor is a constant effort. It’s like riding your bike down King’s Parade. You have to keep going or you’ll fall off. Similarly, the constant effort in order to avoid the lower possibilities, the gravitational force that pulls us down to egotism, to vice, to stupidity, to self-pity, to the ugly things that human beings are good at. Then Allah in His grace can raise us up. Until we get this amazing outcome: “Until I love him.”

If you have that – even though in the madhhab of Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama‘ – we generally say wali doesn’t know that he is a wali. If he sees amazing things happening to him and Allah’s favor, he says: “I’m afraid this is some divine ruse.” This is Ibrahim ibn Adham, concerning whom the most amazing things happened, and people came to him from East and West for his prayers. A luminous individual who’d given up his kingdom just for the sake of Allah, Exalted and Most High. Whenever something amazing happened to him in a sign of the divine favor he would look frightened and say, “I’m afraid this is some divine ruse.”

That’s the brokenness and the beauty of the one who is truly close to Allah. He is the humblest of people. Even though Allah and his angels know that he is the best of people. This is one of the secrets of religion and one of the reasons for the beauty of those people.

This Divine Love

This divine love, we may not know it. We may possibly see signs and say, “AlhamduliLlah, Allah has been generous to us.” But generally as we move on this path of iqtirab and suluk, drawing closer to our Lord, we kind of shrink in our awareness of ourselves. Firaun is convinced that he is “your greatest Lord.” Our master Musa, peace be upon him, is the humble refugee and outcast. That’s the difference.

The tyrant soul is the inflated soul of the high net-worth individual, a billionaire, the one with the executive yacht who really thinks that the world is there to serve him. But Allah, Exalted and Most High, in His grace and His love is more likely to be with the weak and the poor and the despised and refugees and the poor taxi drivers, whoever they are. Those are the people who truly are in this state of mahabba, and whom Allah loves, which is why the holy Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, prays to his Lord to be resurrected among the poor. Not among even grandiose, pious, Islamic bankers, no, among the poor. “O, Allah, resurrect me in the company of the destitute.” Their egos are humbled but their hearts can be luminous.

The hadith doesn’t stop here. It goes on and then tells us something even more shattering and something that we need to think about carefully lest we misunderstand. It’s a sound hadith. It’s from Bukhari. There’s no problem about whether this is right. But how is it right? “When I love him,” Allah says, “I become the ear with which he hears, and the eye with which he sees, and the hand with which he smites, and the foot with which he walks.”

Obviously, every scholar of Islam has always said, “Don’t take that literally. Don’t think that your hand is God’s hand in any literal sense.” No, that’s the way of people we call the hashwiyya. In Medieval Islam there was a sect of people who said, “The faithful way of reading the Qur’an and Sunna is to interpret everything in the most literal possible way. So, Allah actually has some kind of physical form and He sits on something.”

This is not the way of the of Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama‘. Obviously, if you use the hashwiyya method for a hadith like this, then you’re going to get all kinds of strange difficulties, and it won’t be tawhid. Allah, exalted and Most High, cannot inhere in anything physical because He is infinite. He cannot have finite extension. You cannot have a body. This is the error of the Christians. With the incarnation they thought the infinity of Allah, Exalted and Most High, can somehow be squeezed and crunched into the confines of the physical body of the first century Palestinian Jew and that is muhal (impossible). It doesn’t work.

The Principle of Tawhid

We have to interpret this according to a criterion that saves the principle of tawhid. Some people can go astray in this, but it’s important. So what does it mean? Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani in his great commentary, the greatest commentary of commentaries of Bukhari, Fath al-Bari, has a long discussion on this. He says, “Some of the ulama say, that when Allah says he becomes the eye with which you see, He means you only see the things that He has commanded you to see. And when he becomes the foot with which you walk that means you only go to the things that He has commanded you to go to.” That’s one interpretation. It is a perfectly valid one.

There are others which are about obedience. That is to say, you only use these outward faculties that you have in obedience to Him, Exalted and Most High. So you’re conforming to the divine command. Others will say, Allah, Exalted and Most High, is the One who is, in His qualities of course, the ground of all being in creation. Why are the Angels bowing down to Adam, peace be upon him? Not because of his Adamiyya, his humanity as such, but because of the sirr that is there. There is something noble about the perfected human being. There is something noble about the one who Allah truly loves, which means that it is more than a question of just guidance, but looking at that person can bring you to a higher spiritual state. How is that possible?

We know that the Sahaba used to go just to look at the holy Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him. This is the hadith of Umm Waraqa. They used to go just to look at him. As if just to look at him was an ‘ibada. There is something in the quality of the perfected human being that is a reminder. How does this work? Well, the hadith is saying precisely this. But the hadith then goes on to speak about the consequences. Not to engage in dangerous metaphysical speculations, but to talk about consequences. “And if he seeks My protection I will surely grant him My protection. And if he seeks My victory I will surely grant him the victory.”

This is how the early Muslims were with their amazing victories, inwardly, spiritual, military, economics, everything. That amazing civilization they produced, East and West, almost overnight, was because they were in this state of Adamiyya. Because of their absolute ‘ubudiyya, their slavehood to Allah, Exalted and Most High, in them, they manifested something of the agency of the divine intention. They were in a state of muwafaqa.

Back to the Beginning

So, to take it back to the point with which we began and this deep mystery. What is it for somebody could be in the state of iqtirab, to be close, to receive the divine love, what exactly is that all about? We’re not allowed to misunderstand it, but the hadith is saying that it is important. What does it mean to be close to Allah, Exalted and Most High? This doesn’t mean geographical closeness or temporal closeness. It means something deeper. And Allah, Exalted and Most High, has describing Himself as al-Qarib. “If my slave asks concerning Me, I am near. I respond to the prayer of the one who makes supplication when he calls upon Me.” (Sura al-Baqara 2:186) He is al-Qarib.

This iqtirab of which the hadith speaks means going close to the One who is already qarib (near). He is never mentioned as ba‘id in the Qur’an and in the hadith. No, He is always close, but we are ba‘id. We are really far, because the lower shaytanic self within ourselves likes to see the world as just being a bunch of things causing other things and neglects the divine reality that is propelling absolutely everything. The divine Names that never cease to be an action in every single moment, in every single movement of every atom in creation, there is the divine agency. That is al-Qarib. “Closer to you than your jugular vein.” (Sura Qaf 50:16)

So that whatever one does is, as it were, just a reflection of Adam’s status with Allah. That one acts simply in accordance with the divine command. Acts as an agent of the divine instruction on earth. That extraordinary thing, that place which is the recipient of the divine mahabba, is what the hadith is referring to as al-wali.

But Who Is the Wali?

There is a lot of talk in Muslim cultures about the wali. We know that it is present in the Hadith. It is present in this hadith. What exactly does it mean? Waliya in Arabic means to be close. It is quite close to the idea of qarib. Allah, Exalted and Most High, uses it with reference to Himself. “Allah is the Wali of those who have faith.” (Sura al-Baqara 2:257) Interesting divine Name, like some of the others, like Latif, like Rahim, that can be used by human beings as well as by Allah, Exalted and Most High.

In this context, the Wali, the One who is the divine friend, the divine Patron, the one who takes responsibility for and is the Patron of, and lovingly guides and helps and protects the salihin (righteous). That is the Wali. That is what it means when we refer to Allah, Exalted and Most High, as al-Wali.

When this refers to a human being what can it mean? What ought it to mean? Well, the ulama here say, closeness. Of course, through this process of iqtirab, of drawing close, one is in proximity to the divine in whatever mysterious and ineffable and difficult way we may conceptualize that, because He is not in a place. But closeness, closeness to His love. Closeness to His obedience. Closeness to conformity to His command. Closeness to the sakina, to the peace, which is in His is presence. This is what it means.

Waliya also in Arabic has the sense: to be consecutive. It is said, “The wali is the one whose actions succeed one another uninterruptedly in conformity with the Sunna.” This is how Imam al-Qushayri defines. Who is the wali? Never mind elaborate definitions of some metaphysical something. Look at the practice. By their fruits you shall know them. Who is the wali in Islam? According to Imam al-Qushayri in his Risala, “It is the one whose actions succeed one another without anything else interrupting them in conformity to the divine command.”

By their Fruits…

Abu Yazid al-Bistami, one of the great, mysterious early Muslims, who is himself revered as a great wali, was told once in this masjid there is a wali. Now any Muslim knows that if you hear of such a person that is true, you want to get near him, because he can pray for you, and his prayers are more likely to be answered than your own. Whenever Muslims travel to a new institution or new town or new country they want to know who is a wali, because their presence is beneficial. They are somebody who is completely, inwardly as well as outwardly, in conformity with the Kitab and the Sunna.

He was told, “There is a wali in that masjid.” He goes to that masjid and there is this man who is doing his ‘ibada. At the end of his ‘ibada the man gets up, and Abu Yazid is watching. And the man makes this disgusting sound with his throat. The kind of noise that you hear sometimes often and mysteriously when people are making wudu in the mosque. Abu Yazid doesn’t speak to him when he comes out. He says, “Somebody who does not look after one of the courtesies of the Shari‘a, how can he be looking after some of the secrets of Allah in creation?” It is not possible. This is fundamental. This is the essential criteria.

Do you want to know who is really a wali, and you don’t want to read a million texts of metaphysical speculation that probably don’t get to the heart of it, and may confuse you if you’re not a super scholar? Just see, first of all, is that person is conformity with the Qur’an and the Sunna? Secondly, does the company of that person make you remember Allah and feel closer to your Lord? Is it, per proximity, something that increases your desire for ‘ibada. That increases your love for human beings, that increases your humility, that makes you want to go out and help people, and see the best in people?

The Firm Criterion

This is the criterion that we offer in Islam. Conformity with the Kitab and the Sunna, because anything else is not Islamic. But also this proximity that comes about with this iqtirab. This mysterious state where the wali is seeing with eyes that, as it were, the eyes that Allah is seeing with. Whatever that means. However we conceptualize it.

Ibn Hajar offered 17 different explanations for this to the common among the ulama. Whatever that might mean is not given to us to know, but we respect them. The key criterion is conformity to the Kitab and the Sunna, and that quality has to be perceived by our soul, so that in the company of those people we are healed and improved and made upright, insha Allah.

May Allah increase the number of His awliya in this umma, and make us their followers, and help us to seek them out, and insha Allah, by them to draw near to true rather than false victory and protection to this umma in these difficult times, insha Allah. Amin.


This post was transcribed, edited, and hyperlinked from a sound file of a lesson given by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad that was published on Youtube by tradarchive on 2 March 2017.


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.


The True Scholar: A Person of Knowledge and Action by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

This podcast is a recording of a talk that Shaykh Faraz Rabbani gave in Johannesburg Habib Umar’s tour. He speaks about the definition of a true scholar.

Click here to access the podcast. 

In Johannesburg, Shaykh Faraz spoke about the characteristics of a true scholar, or, a true Sufi as, “A person of knowledge who acted upon their knowledge, so Allah granted them knowledge of what they didn’t know.”

The first step to this, is simply being a person of knowledge, or ilm. Each time has its particular challenge. In our times, we see many educated Muslims who still have questions and doubts. We need to remain connected to sacred knowledge, so that we can help others clear up their doubts and misconceptions. Complaining about people who are disrespectful or rude will not help. In fact, even knowledgeable people can start having doubts if they disconnect from the knowledge and their teachers. Therefore, we should always have a regular routine of learning, even if small.

The second step is aml, or action. We have a responsibility to embody our knowledge and take our deen seriously. The Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, was known as The Honest and Trustworthy, even before he became a Prophet. We carry the trust of the religion, and we should ask ourselves whether we are fulfilling that trust.

The third aspect is haal, or our state with Allah. We should be engaged in correcting ourselves, and work on spiritual purification. A great scholar from Damascus, Shaykh Ali Zafar, used to give fiery sermons, saying, “O you who have turned away from your Lord! O you who have forgotten the command of your Lord!” The listeners used to cry and repent. One of his students went back to visit his hometown, and was asked to give a sermon. He did it in the same way as Shaykh Ali had, but before two minutes had passed, the congregants got angry and beat him. When he returned and told the story to his Shaykh Ali, he told him,” My son, when I address people, I am addressing people, I place myself in front of myself. I’m not putting anyone down, I’m talking to myself. And because I’m being true to Allah, people are being affected.”

May Allah allow us to be those who apply what they know, so Allah gives them knowledge of what they do not know.


Leaving Sins, Both Manifest and Hidden

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani expands on Sura al-An‘am 6:120, detailing what it means to leave manifest and hidden sins, and to find contentment in Allah.

One of the times when people really hurt themselves is in trials, because outwardly the trial itself doesn’t harm you in any way whatsoever. Whatever happens outwardly doesn’t harm you in any way whatsoever. What harms you is how you respond to what happens to you.

If you drown in a tsunami you’re not harmed in any way. If you respond to it right; you accept that you die. You die a martyr. You’re eternally in paradise. You weren’t harmed. Someone beats you up, but you were patient. It’s not the outward that harms you. It is how you respond to it.

So in trials, knowing how you turn to Allah Most High, how you respond, is one of the greatest of possibilities, because if Allah loves the servant He sends them trials.

Whoever Is Content Shall Find Contentment

If you respond to the trial in the way that is pleasing to Allah, you are the beloved of Allah Most High. At the same time the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, told us that Allah sends us trials. Whoever is content with Allah shall find contentment. Whoever is angered, whoever is upset, shall find anger and upset.

Whoever is content shall find contentment, meaning that they’ll find Allah’s contentment and Allah will place contentment in their hearts. Whoever is angered and upset will find the anger and upset of Allah upon them. And they will find a heart state of anger and upset.

This is one of the hidden sins. No one sees it. And it’s subtle because it is not simply what you claim, but actually how you are. One way of looking at leaving outward and inward sin. Leaving outward sin is leaving disobedience to Allah Most High. Leaving inward sin is leaving objection to Allah Most High.

That is integral to faith. One of the pillars of faith is that you believe, that you have conviction in, and accept and submit and surrender to the reality of divine decree. That it’s good and it’s bad are from Allah Most High.

Trials Are Tremendous Opportunities

This is why trials are a tremendous opportunity from Allah Most High. The righteous would rejoice more in trials then the common person rejoices in blessings. As the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him said: “The people most tested are the prophets, and then the righteous, and there were those from the people before you who would rejoice more in tribulations than you rejoice in blessings.”

Why? Because they saw the trials, the tribulations, the difficulties as being opportunities of expressing one’s love of Allah. Of expressing the true thankfulness to Allah. Of expressing one’s slave-hood to Allah. Of expressing one’s recognition of the Lordship of Allah Most High.

Shaykh Abd al-Rahman al-Shagouri said: “The slaps of the beloved, how sweet they are.” Because the lover realizes that everything is from the Beloved, and everything that is from the Beloved is beloved.

Ibn Ata’illah al-Sakandari said: “Let your knowing that it is He who is trying you diminish the pain of trials.” And are you accustomed to anything from Him except excellence and has He has he made you habituated to anything but what is good for you? You just need to learn how to turn in each situation in the way that is entailed by that situation.

What Is Entailed by Leaving Sin

Part of what is entailed by leaving sin that is hidden his contentment and surrender to Allah Most High. This is from hidden sin and from the sin that a lot of people are in. “Why is a lot doing this to me?” You are married you wanted a happy marriage. That’s not the way of the believer.

What should the believer seek? “I consign my affair to my Lord. And Allah indeed knows well His servants.” He knows what they need. He knows what they’ll benefit from. He knows what’s good for them. Allah is telling us that He will test us both with good and with bad as a trial. And the trial of good is sometimes more intense than the trial of difficulty.

One of the great Imams of the spiritual path, Ibn Ajiba, in his dictionary of spiritual terms, says that rida (contentment) is to face destruction with a smiling face. Everything that’s coming to you is coming from Allah, so you face it with a heart that is smiling.

The Vision of the Believer

The believer sees with two eyes. One eye is the eye of faith. “Say, It is all from Allah.” At that level the believer is smiling regardless of what’s happening. It’s from Allah. This is the creating of Allah. If He is your beloved, the lover has no objection to their beloved.

Ibn al-Farid says: “Punish me with what You will other than distance from You. For You will find me the most loyal of lovers.” And this is love. This is how love is, otherwise it’s mere pretense.

Another definition of contentment is happiness that one finds in one’s heart as destiny (qada) descends. Qada refers to the blows of destiny. You lost your job and the heart should be smiling. It’s from Allah. You take the outward means because that is what slave-hood entails. You take the means but you see everything as being from Allah Most High.

Another definition of contentment is to leave your choice for the sake of Allah – in what Allah has chosen and made to pass. We make our plans, we take our means, but it is Allah’s choice that comes to pass and you surrender your choice to His.

Leaving Your Plan for His Plan

You are planning to do your PhD and you’ve saved for it and worked for it, and done this and that. Then something happened and your parents need you. They need you to work and not to do your PhD right now. So you leave what you planned for what Allah is pointing you towards.

Yet another definition of contentment is for one’s hard to find expansiveness and to leave all objection to what comes to one from the One and Overwhelming: Allah Most High. That’s contentment. Surrender.

This is a reality of Islam: it is taslim. To leave self-direction. That is that you try to force your preferences in life rather than submitting to what is from Allah and what Allah is pointing one too. Leaving your personal choice.

You take the means. This is what you’d like to do. This is what appears to be good. But as things unfold, if you are awake and conscious and reflective, other things are entailed. So as things unfold you leave your choice for what is preferable with Allah Most High. You leave what you would like to direct yourself to to what Allah is directing you to.

Consigning One’s Affairs to Allah

This is the meaning of consigning one’s affairs to Allah Most High. How do you attain this contentment in surrender? Ibn Ajiba says: “It begins with patience,” which is to hold yourself to what is pleasing to Allah. “And to struggle.” To force yourself to be content. To surrender. To say, “Okay, this is what is right. I’ll do it even though I don’t feel like it.” Fake it…

The first step is patience. The intermediate level of contentment and surrender is to find serenity and to hold yourself to serenity. When the thoughts of objection and dislike come, you don’t even listen to the whisperings of why. “The lover is death to those who deny love.” To be a believer you need to learn how to love.

The end of contentment and surrender – to be fully realized by contentment and surrender – is when you find rejoicing along with that serenity and no impulse towards objection or dislike. These are stations of believers, because in every moment you are in a state of being completely enveloped by divine bounty, and by divine mercy, and by divine blessings.

The Lover Moves by the Grace of the Beloved

Hence the divine command: “Say, in the bounty of Allah and His is blessing, in that let them rejoice,” (Sura Yunus 10:58) because the contentment and surrender is with Allah and to Allah, so that whatever comes from Allah is accepted. True contentment and true surrender is with Him, Most High.

This is a little of what can be mentioned regarding this great verse: “Leave sin, both manifest and hidden.” (Sura al-An‘am 6:120). One has to be careful that one not only leaves disobedience manifest and hidden, but also leaves objection to one’s Lord, Most High.

The first step on the path to Allah is to leave the thing that calls you to turn away from the path to Allah, or that holds you back on the path to Allah, which is what the essence of sin is. May Allah make us of those rush to Him and who draw close to Him. Amin.


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.

 

Questions and Answers – Radical Gratitude Series

Whgrateful servantsat is true gratitude, and how can it make a difference in our lives? In this segment, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and Ustadh Amjad Tarsin answer some commonly asked questions about this topic.questions and answers

 

Q: How do you find ways to forgive when it’s very difficult?

A: This is a good question, because we should be real in how we cultivate spiritual ideals. The first thing to do is look at the life of the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, and see the incredible honor that stemmed from his forgiveness. His forgiveness of the Quraysh after the Conquest of Mecca was more than about a few arguments. He and his followers had suffered 20 years of serious aggression, wars, torture, and physical and psychological harm. However, his heart was so attached to Allah, and he wanted what was best for his people. Therefore, when he was given the upper hand, he chose forgiveness.

Forgiveness is one of the biggest steps to healing from pain, and resentment continues to burn us. Sometimes our nafs blocks this meaning from us. If someone is being harmed, then we have the right to prevent that. After that, we can try to look for excuses for them. If that’s difficult, you make duaa for them, that Allah guide them.

Q: How is it possible to have patience without being passive?

A: Scholars say that everything has a knowledge-based response, and then an action-based response. Before we try, we should keep in mind what patience means. Neither patience or gratitude are passive. Gratitude is more than seeing the good; it is using things for what it’s used. For example, being grateful to live in Canada does not mean ignoring the wrongs done by the Canadian government. Rather, we use our blessings to do what Allah has commanded us to do-work towards truth, justice, mercy and the prevention of harm.

Q: How does one explain gratitude to children?

A: Syed Naqib al-Attas, one of the most brilliant minds in education of the 20th century, broke down children’s education into three components. Firstly, there is tarbiya, or education, raising the child. Secondly, ta’deeb is the instilling of correct manners and etiquette to any situation.  Finally, ta’leem is teaching the child, which can be done in many ways.

Q: What about someone who isn’t feeling the essence of gratitude in his heart?

A: Ultimately, Allah does not squander an atom’s weight of good. The scholars define a good action as, “anything that has even a residual aspect of good.” The devil will try to suggest that you are not grateful enough, or not sincere enough, but flee from those thoughts.

About the Series

“If you are grateful, We shall surely grant you increase,” Allah promises in the Qur’an. “Should I not be a truly grateful servant?” said the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In this seminar, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and Ustadh Amjad Tarsin explore Radical Gratitude: How Thankfulness Transforms Our Life and Religion.


The Reality of Gratitude – Radical Gratitude Series

What is true gratitude, and how can it make a difference in our lives? In this segment, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani helps us understand the reality of gratitude.

All Gratitude is for Allah

As Muslims, our perspective on gratitude is very different from the commonly accepted definition. We practice gratitude for every situation we come across, not just the ones that we enjoy. This has a radically transformation effect on our mental state, spiritual state, and standing with Allah. This is the reality of gratitude.

The word for gratitude in Arabic is shukr. It’s essential meaning comes from the word “increase,” which gives it the meaning of a response to something with increase. A shakira was a type of bush that would grow in very dry environments, and would produce a lot of vegetation despite the difficult circumstances. Camels and other animals were also referred to with that word, because of their ability to give much benefit despite the little they ate and drank.

Outwardly, gratitude is a spiritual act. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said, “Whoever is not grateful to people, is not grateful to Allah.” This teaches us that even our gratitude to others is a means of showing our gratitude to Allah, since ultimately all gratitude is for Allah.

Imam Ahmad Zarruq defined gratitude as, “the heart’s rejoicing at the Bestower of blessings, not merely the blessings. This is manifest on one’s limbs, such that one’s tongue actively praises Allah, and one’s limbs express good works and leave contraventions.”

This is why sometimes blessings can be a more difficult test than sadness. When in a difficult situation, it’s easy to turn to Allah with sincerity. However, in times of ease, people tend to forget Allah.

For Every Situation, A Sunna

Allah says, “If you are grateful for my blessings, I will grant you increase.” (Surah Ibrahim 14.7) There are two levels of gratitude; gratitude, and true gratitude. Gratitude is to respond to blessings with joy and thankfulness to Allah. But true gratitude is to see all situations, good or bad, as coming from Allah.

The bridge to love to Allah is true gratitude. Allah says, “Few of my servants are truly grateful.” When Imam Junayd was asked about it the reality of gratitude, he said, “To do your utmost in the presence of your Lord.” Gratitude is not just to say “alhamdulillah,” but to use the blessing well. He also said, “Gratitude is to not disobey Allah with what He has given you.” Since Allah has given us all our facilities, true gratitude entails doing our best to never disobey Allah.

About the Series

“If you are grateful, We shall surely grant you increase,” Allah promises in the Qur’an. “Should I not be a truly grateful servant?” said the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In this seminar, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and Ustadh Amjad Tarsin explore Radical Gratitude: How Thankfulness Transforms Our Life and Religion.