Are You Making the Most of Your Wuḍūʼ? (Podcast Transcript) – By Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

The following is a transcription of “Are You Making the Most of Your Wuḍūʼ?” podcast.

 

People ask: “What are the spiritual meanings of our ritual ablution?” – the wuḍūʼ. 

Very often people forget that the ritual ablution – wuḍūʼ – is an act of worship. Very often our wuḍūʼ turns into a routine: “I need to pray, so let me do my wuḍūʼ, let me finish my wuḍūʼ.” So sometimes it just becomes routine: “I’m doing this, so I can now go and pray.” 

And this is true, in that wuḍūʼ is a means to be able to pray, but it is at the same time an act of worship. So one needs to pay attention to it. 

Other people make a mistake with respect to the wuḍūʼ, in that they become excessive and fall into misgivings about it. They put all their focus on worrying and that is a mistake, because the Prophetic teachings give us a balance, that we do things in a right way, as best we can, but we attach our hearts not to our actions but to the One we are doing the actions for. 

So what is the wuḍūʼ? The word wuḍūʼ in Arabic, comes from waḍā’a, from radiance, and naẓāfa, cleanliness. So the purpose of wuḍūʼ is to clean oneself in a ritual manner to be ready to pray, and it is a means of radiance, because the outward washing has a sense of spiritual purification and spiritual illumination. 

So when we make wuḍūʼ we have to keep in mind that we begin the wuḍūʼ with intention: “Why am I making wuḍūʼ?” For the sake of Allāh. This is an act of worship. It contains a beautiful reminder that God loves purity, God loves beauty. So you are readying yourself for the encounter with your Beloved. 

So you begin with the intention. In fact, some of the great masters of spirituality, like Imām Aḥmad Zarrūq, he says that presence of heart in prayer begins with presence of heart in the ritual ablution, in the wuḍūʼ. So you begin with intention: “I am seeking Allāh through this action,” and you behold the meaning that each of the limbs that you wash, that you are seeking to rid it of blameworthy qualities, and to adorn it with the qualities of spiritual illumination, the qualities beloved to Allāh. So that when you wash your hands, intend to wash yourself of all acts that are sinful that you may have committed with your hands, in your dealings, in your actions. And to acquire with your effort, and your actions all those qualities that are beloved to Allāh. When you rinse your mouth, you intend to rid yourself of vile speech, and the consumption of anything that is displeasing to Allāh, and to characterize yourself with speech that is beloved to Allāh, of remembrance and supplication and recitation of Qur’ān, and speech that inspires others, that encourages others, that assists others. Likewise, when wash your face, you intend to wash away directing yourself in life towards all that is displeasing to Allāh, and to characterize yourself with those radiant concerns, the concerns for God Himself and for all that is beloved to Allāh in your life. When you wash your arms, the same meanings, that you be of those who receive their book of good deeds in their right hand, the hand in which the righteous receive their book of good deeds on the Day of Judgment, not to be of the people of perdition, those who receive their book of deeds in their left hand. That you perform the actions of the servants of good, not the actions of those who turn away. Likewise, with your feet, that you direct your feet towards all that is pleasing to Allāh, and that you rid yourself of directing yourself in life towards all that is displeasing to Allāh. 

In the ritual ablution, in the wuḍūʼ, not only is it from the Prophetic example to begin in the name of Allāh, by saying bismiLlāh, but it is also from Prophetic practice to remain in remembrance of Allāh throughout the wuḍūʼ, So with each of the actions that we perform, before you wash your mouth engage in remembrance, before you wash your face engage in remembrance. You can say lā ilāha illa Allāh, or subḥān Allāh, or to make a du’ā, make an interactive wuḍūʼ. With each action ask Allāh for meanings related to that particular action. This was not only from the broad Prophetic practice, but the early Muslims used to engage in frequent supplication at each of the stages of wuḍūʼ. In some of the great books of Islām, like the Beginning of Guidance by Imām al-Ghazālī, are suggested particular supplications that you can recite at each stage of your wuḍūʼ, and this is the kind of wuḍūʼ that results not just in physical cleanliness and then to be outwardly ready to pray, but it results in inward purification, inward radiance, and a spiritual readiness to pray. And this is why when we finish the wuḍūʼ, we take a sip of the water source from which we are making wuḍūʼ, and then we look up to the Heavens, we raise our finger, and we make the testification of faith, and we make the du’ā: 

“رَبِّي اجْعَلْنِيْ مِنَ التَّوَّابِيْنَ وَ اجْعَلْنِيْ مِنَ الْمُتَطَهِّرِيْنَ”

Oh Lord, make me of the oft-repentant and make me of those who purify themselves completely!” 

And these are the two meanings of the ritual ablution: complete repentance and complete purification, illumination, and readiness for the prayer.

Hajj, Haajar and Kashmir – Shaykh Sadullah Khan

* Courtesy of Masjid al – Furqaan’s Youtube page

In this Pre – Khutba talk, Shaykh Sadullah Khan discusses the historical meanings and lessons that we can derive from the sacred days of Hajj, including the great status that Haajar (may Allah be pleased with her) holds in Islam. Furthermore, Shaykh Sadullah reminds us about the legacies of illustrious Muslim female personalities that played significant roles in Islamic history. Additionally he reflects on the overt bigotry and discrimination that has become common on the global political stage, particularly in Kashmir. Shaykh Sadullah emphasizes the fact that our duties towards refugees and the oppressed need to move beyond lip service. We as Muslims need to be aware of the current wave of hatred and bigotry that has engulfed the world. It is critical that we look at Hajj as a symbol of unity, and an opportunity for each and everyone of us to sacrifice our self interests.

The Gifts of Hajj – Habib Umar

The Meaning of Hajj

Sayyidi al-Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah preserve him) reminds us that the linguistic meaning of Hajj is seeking or intending. Thus the people of Allah are constantly performing Hajj because they are constantly seeking Allah. Just as their whole year is Ramadan, likewise their whole year is Hajj. Just as those performing Hajj respond to the call of Allah by saying “labbayk” they are swift to respond to the call of Allah. They take themselves to account and leave that which is disliked and dubious in all their states and actions. They reject the desires of their lower selves and they are the furthest of people from that which is prohibited. They constantly receive new blessings from their Lord so they constantly renew their ihram. Day and night they make tawaf around the House of their Lord, the One to Whom they turn themselves with absolute sincerity until nothing remains in them which is directed to other than Allah.

The bounty of Allah is available at all times of the day and night. This is why Allah swears by the morning light (duha) and by the night that He has not forsaken His Beloved (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), nor is He displeased with him.

If the Hajj has not been made possible for you, join with those making Hajj and share in their reward: by spending your wealth for the sake of Allah on your relatives, on the needy, by turning to Allah with your whole being. Make numerous your footsteps to good places, especially at the time of Fajr, and you will receive glad tidings from the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace): “Give glad tidings of complete light on the Day of Judgement to those who walk constantly to the mosque in the darkness.” Those whose light is complete will no doubt be in his company (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) on the day on which Allah does not disgrace the Prophet and those who believe along with him. Their light stretches out in front of them and upon their right sides.

Ask to be present with them, and thank Allah for allowing our spirits to be with them. So many hearts in the far East or the far West receive the gifts of `Arafat and Mina because of their truthfulness with Allah.

 

Actions That Carry the Reward of Hajj

Nothing of course can equal actually performing the Hajj and worshipping Allah in those blessed places. However, since Allah knows that many people long to make Hajj every year but are unable to do so out of His generosity He made the reward for certain actions similar to the reward of a supererogatory Hajj.

1. Remembering Allah from Fajr until Ishraq. The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “Whoever who prays Subh (Fajr) in congregation and then sits in the place where he prayed remembering Allah until the sun rises and then prays two rakats has the reward of a complete Hajj and `Umrah.” He repeated “complete” three times.

2. Attending a gathering of knowledge. The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “The one who goes out to the mosque wanting only to learn good or teach it has the reward of a complete Hajj.”

3. Going to the mosque for the congregational prayer. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “Whoever performs ablution in his house and then goes out to perform the obligatory prayer in the mosque has a reward similar to the reward of a Hajj pilgrim. Whoever goes out to perform the mid-morning prayer (Duha) has a reward similar to the reward of the one performing `Umrah.”

4. Performing the Friday Prayer. Sa`id bin al-Musayyib said performing the Friday Prayer is “more beloved to me than a supererogatory Hajj.”

5. Performing the Eid Prayer. One of the Companions said: “Going out to pray Eid al-Fitr is equal to performing `Umrah and going out to pray Eid al-Adha is equal to performing Hajj.”

6. Fulfilling the needs of your brother or sister. Hasan al-Basri said: “Going to fulfil the need of your brother is better for you than performing Hajj after Hajj.”

7. Being good to your parents. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) commanded one of the Companions to be good to his mother. If you do so, he said: “You are a Hajj pilgrim, a person performing `Umrah and someone striving for the sake of Allah (mujahid).”

8. Performing obligatory actions. The slave can only draw near to Allah by performing supererogatory actions after first having performed that which is obligatory. This includes purifying one’s heart from forbidden attributes and guarding one’s tongue and limbs from committing forbidden actions. All of this is much harder on the lower self than many supererogatory acts of worship.

Finally there is no action more beloved to Allah on the Day of Eid than making a sacrifice. The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) told his beloved daughter Sayyida Fatima al-Zahra that she would be forgiven for her previous wrongdoings with the first drop of blood to be shed from the sacrificed animal. She asked if this reward was specifically for the household of the Prophet and he replied: “For us and for all the Muslims.”

 

Talk about Islam with Shaykh Hamza Karamali (Episode 3) – What is True Love?

Dear readers, welcome back to the continuation of our third episode of our periodic conversations with Shaykh Hamza Karamali as part of the “Talk About Islam” series. Shaykh Hamza Karamali is the Dean of Academics at SeekersGuidance, and is one of our senior teachers.

 

 Osama: Let’s begin by connecting this conversation to our previous one, in which we talked about the purpose of life. My first question is: Is it the purpose of our life to truly love the Divine?

 

Shaykh Hamza: Yes, Allah says in the Quran:

وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الجِنَّ وَالاِنْسَ اِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُوْنِ

“I only created jinn and mankind so that they might worship Me.”

 

This worship (‘ibadah) of Allah is closely tied to the idea of loving (mahabbah) Allah.

To worship Him means to love Him, it means to know Him.

The acts of obedience that we do in order to worship Him are an expression of our love for Allah.

The purpose of our existence is to worship Allah, and this worship is adoration, and so the purpose of our existence is to love Allah but not in the way that many might imagine, and maybe this leads into your question about true love.

 

Osama: The ayah of the Koran that you cited specifically mentions the term worship (‘ibadah).

How are the concepts of knowing (ma’rifah) and loving (muhabbah) Allah related to worshipping (‘ibadah) Him?

 

Shaykh Hamza: In the Arabic language, the concept of worship (‘ibadah) is linguistically related to the concept of slavehood (‘ubudiyyah). Both of them share the triliteral root ‘aynba’dal. The relation between the two words is that worship (‘ibadah) is the expression of our slavehood to Allah.

I once heard Shaykh Abu Munir (may Allah Most High preserve him), the personal servant of the late Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Shaghouri, explain that there are four kinds of slaves:

  1. The one who is a slave out of fear—this kind of slave worships Allah because he fears being punished in the Hellfire. He knows His Lord as someone who punishes people for not worshipping Him.
  2. The one who is a slave out of a hopeful desire—this kind of slave worships Allah because he hopes that Allah will reward Him with Paradise. He knows His Lord as someone who rewards people for worshipping Him. This slavehood is higher than the previous one because this kind of slave knows who Allah is better than the previous one does. Like the previous one, he knows that Allah Most High punishes people for not worshipping Him, but He also knows that His mercy outstrips His wrath and that He is someone who is kind, generous, loves to give.
  3. The one who is a slave out of submission—this kind of slave worships Allah out of sheer submission to Him. Like the previous two kinds of slaves, he fears the Hellfire and hopes for Paradise, but He sees them both, like everything else that exists, in the grasp of his omnipotent Lord. The omnipotence of His Lord strikes his heart before the terrors of Hellfire or the joys of Paradise because He sees the Hellfire and Paradise as manifestations of His Lord’s omnipotence. He knows that struggling against His Lord by trying to be free from Him is hopeless, so He surrenders, He submits. There is a sweetness to this submission that is not found anywhere else. Submission to God is not like submitting to another human being. Submission to God is something that we can accept because God deserves our submission. And we can see that because He doesn’t need our submission, the reward that He has promised for those who submit to Him is His pure largesse. Submission to another human being, on the other hand, is bitter because we are just as human as anyone else and there is no reason why we should submit to anyone else like us. We would only submit to someone else if they threatened us with danger or if they promised us some kind of reward. Both the danger and the reward would return to some kind of selfish motive that this other human being would have. Neither the danger nor the reward would be sincerely and genuinely for our benefit.
  4. The one who is a slave out of love—this kind of slave worships Allah out of love. Like the first slave, He fears the Hellfire; like the second slave, he hopes for Paradise; like the third slave, he surrenders to His Lord; but he goes beyond all of them because He sees everything in the universe as a manifestation of Allah Most High’s kindness, generosity, and love. Everything that happens in the universe, to him, is sweet. Unlike the previous kind of slave, who merely surrenders to the commands of His Lord, this kind of slave goes beyond what His Lord commands to search out everything that He loves, even if it is not obligatory. He’s propelled by love to have slavehood to His Lord. Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Shagouri (may Allah have mercy on him) used to say that someone who methodically fulfills his obligations to his Lord (salik) is walking to Him, but someone who is in love with His Lord is flying to Him.

This last kind of slavehood is the highest kind of slavehood. And this is how love (muhabba) is related to slavehood (‘ubudiyyah).

Love (muhabba) is also related to the idea of knowing Allah (ma’rifah), which, in turn, is also related to the idea of slavehood (‘ubudiyyah).

The Companion Ibn ‘Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) explained the verse, “I only created jinn and mankind so that they might worship me.” as, “I only created jinn and mankind so that they might know me.” He explained worship, in other words, as knowledge of Allah Most High.

Knowing Allah (ma’rifah) means to experientially realize that He is the Master of every single atom in the universe, that He created the universe from nothing, and that He needs nothing, and that everything else needs Him. This is not just a conceptual realization in the mind, but a realization in one’s heart that pervades one’s soul. So when one knows Allah as He really is, there’s a beauty to the being of Allah that the heart perceives and falls in love with.

The Sufis have a famous saying:

مَنْ عَرَفَ نَفْسَهُ عَرَفَ رَبَّهُ

Whoever knows himself knows His Lord.

 

This means that whoever knows that he is a needy, indigent slave, will realize thereby that he has a Lord who doesn’t need anything, is Powerful, and everything that he has comes from His Lord.

 The scholars of Sufism describe and teach that the deepest knowledge of who Allah is does not come through the mind but through the heart. He is known through realizing one’s neediness to Him. That’s the knowledge of Allah–it’s a realization. This knowledge can only exist if there is submission and slavehood, if there is a feeling of one’s neediness, and a realization of His Power, His Might, His Will, His Kindness, His Generosity, His Forgiveness, and–ultimately–His Godhood. It can only come if those things are realized in the heart.

Conceptually, slavehood (‘ubudiyyah) to Allah is different from loving (mahabbah) Allah, which is different from knowing (ma’rifah) Allah, but whenever one is there, the other two are also there, and each enriches the others. Since they are always found together, one can use them interchangeably, and one can say that the purpose of our life is to know Allah, to love Him, or to worship Him.

 

Osama: In simple terms, could you kindly provide working definitions for each term?

 

Shaykh Hamza: The scholars of tafsir define the worship of Allah as the utmost expression of lowering and humiliating oneself to the object of one’s worship. The best outward expression of it is the prostration. When we prostrate, we take the most honorable parts of our body–the face and the head–and we put them down on the ground before Allah. By doing this, we are lowering and humiliating ourselves completely before Allah. This is the essence of worship.

To a modern humanist reader, the idea of humiliating oneself before God might sound unpleasant, but it is, in fact, extremely pleasant. As I explained above, submitting to God is sweet but submitting to a human being is bitter. In the same way, humiliating oneself to God is sweet, but humiliating oneself to another human being is bitter.

When we humiliate ourselves before God, we fulfill the purpose of our existence, which is to worship Allah, and in return, Allah Most High honours us because He is the Most Generous. When we humiliate ourselves before Allah, He raises our rank. When we realize our weakness, He aids us with His Power. When we realize our ignorance, He aids us with His Knowledge.

This is worship.

As for the knowledge of Allah (ma’rifah), Ibn ‘Ajibah in his lexicon of Sufi terms, defines it as perpetually witnessing Allah with a heart that is madly in love. The “perpetual witnessing” (mushahadah) that Ibn ‘Ajiba has mentioned in his definition of love also has a definition, but the challenge with Sufi definitions is that they describe a reality that is not shared by everyone, and so as we go from definition to definition, we might find that we don’t really get anywhere. The way to understand the realities that the Sufis are defining is to undergo a spiritual development and then experience them for oneself.

Definitions work for concepts that are in the public domain, meaning concepts that can be understood by everyone regardless of their spiritual development. For example, the human being is commonly defined as a “rational animal.” We all understand the meaning of “rational” and we all understand the meaning of “animal. Therefore we all understand what a “rational animal” is and the definition of “human being” helps us understand what a human being is.

But spiritual experiences are personal experiences that are not shared by everyone. When someone who has had an experience tries to define it for someone else, the definitions will only be useful for someone who has had the same experience, or, perhaps, someone who is on the verge of having that same experience. For the rest of us, they don’t lead to a full understanding of the term that is being defined, but only an approximate understanding. This is something we should keep in mind when defining these terms.

Let’s return to the definition of the knowledge of Allah, which used the term “perpetual witnessing” of Allah (mushahadah). Elsewhere in his dictionary of Sufi terms, Ibn ‘Ajibah defines “perpetual witnessing” as the witnessing of the heart as a result of one’s indigence, which is only realised vis-a-vis Allah Most High’s being completely free of need from everything besides.

 

Osama: Could one potentially say that knowing Allah (realization of one’s indigence to Allah) leads one to loving Him?

 

Shaykh Hamza: Yes, one could understand it like that.

 

Osama: Now that we have gone over the distinction between the ideas of knowing, loving, and worshipping Allah, I’d like to return to the main question of this conversation: What is true love?

 

Shaykh Hamza: Right, so you’re asking me about what “true love” is. However, before we get into that discussion, I’m interested in knowing why you have used the adjective “true” here. It seems to imply that there is a kind of love that is false. I agree with this distinction, but I’d like to know what, in your mind, is the concept of “false love”?

 

Osama: Well, when I think of love, what immediately comes to mind is human love, an example of which is the kind that exists between a man and a woman. Often, however, one sees that a person may claim “love” yet still harm their “beloved.” One naturally wonders in such a situation about the genuineness and truth of such a person’s “love” for their “beloved” — this then brings up the distinction of “false love” versus “true love”.

You are probably better aware than I of the distinction that scholars make between a lustful sort of attraction to another as opposed to one that is grounded in love for the other. The lustful sort of attraction for the other often superficially adorns itself with the outward mantle of love yet is empty of its inward reality. This might explain why a person claiming love can harm their beloved; it is probably because they have mistaken lust for love.

“True love”, it seems, has the element of effacing the ego, prioritizing the happiness of the beloved over the self, and self-sacrifice, whereas “false love”, or lust in this case, is a type of aggrandizement of the ego, prioritizing the happiness of the self over the beloved, and an objectification of the other.

This is what comes to my mind when I think of the distinction between “true love” and “false love”.

 

Shaykh Hamza: That’s very good! The Sufis talk about human emotions. They talk about emotions like love, gratitude, envy, and anger. These emotions have been placed within us because they find their true meaning in relation to Allah.

A righteous person, like any other human being, feels love, anger, good envy (wishing for something good without wishing that it be taken away from anyone else), gratitude, but the way in which those emotions are realized for a pious person is different to the way in which they are realized for the common person. The point here is that we can understand what these emotions mean with respect to Allah if we step back for a moment to understand what they mean in relation to other human beings.

I once heard from Shaykh Abu Munir that someone came to one of the great spiritual guides of recent times to take the Sufi path from Him in order to draw close to Allah. So the spiritual guide asked him, “Have you ever loved something in your life, even if only a cat?” to which the man replied, “No.” and the spiritual guide ordered him to leave and not return until he had loved something because if someone who seeks Allah Most High doesn’t know what it means anything, then he won’t be able to learn what it means to love Allah.

One of the things that this story shows is that Allah Most High created all of our emotions within is for a great wisdom. We need all of them. Someone who is close to Allah Most High isn’t someone who is devoid of emotion. Rather, someone who is close to Allah is someone who has all of his human emotions, but attaches them to Allah Most High. His emotions are all for the sake of Allah. When that happens, our full human potential is realized, and we flower. This is how the human being finds the purpose of his existence.

 

Osama: So what is true love with respect to other human beings?

 

Shaykh Hamza: The global monoculture has done away with true love. Most of us no longer understand what it means to truly love another human being. This was, however, understood very well by the ancient Arabians, even before the advent of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). The ancient Arabians were a people who loved poetry, and in their poetry, they loved to write about love. We’ll read some of their poetry today.

In ancient Arabian poetry, there is a kind of love that is called “the love of the tribe of Bani ‘Udhrah” (al-hubb al-‘udhri). Let’s call it, “‘Udhrian love.”

There’s a famous line in the Burda of al-Busiri towards the beginning of the poem where the author of the Burda describes what his love for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) has done to him–he says that his has turned pale and that he is crying tears of blood. He has an imaginary conversation with someone who blames him for wasting his life in this kind of love, so he says to his blamer:

O you who blames me, in ‘Udhrian love, I ask you to excuse me.

But if you were fair and objective, then you would never blame me.

In other words, if you understood what I was going through, then you wouldn’t blame me, but rather, you would feel sorry for me, help me, and support me.

 

Osama: Could you please describe what you mean by ‘Udhrian love?

 

Shaykh Hamza: Bani ‘Udhra were a tribe from Yemen. Now, there is a sahih hadith in which the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said that the people of Yemen have very tender hearts. Perhaps one of the manifestations of this tenderness was the love of Bani ‘Udhra.

They say that when the men of the Bani ‘Uzrah tribe fell in love with a woman, they would wither away and die. This often happened when they were unable to marry the woman they loved because, for example, her father had accepted the proposal of some other suitor. There are stories about people from Bani ‘Udhra dying in this manner from the time of the Companions. They would become silent, not speak to anyone for a year, lie in bed, be immobile, compose poetry (often cryptic except to those who knew what they were suffering from), and, eventually, die. This long illness and death was the mark of ‘Udhrian love.

You might wonder how true love and death are related. Someone who is truly in love doesn’t want anything for himself. If there is anything that he wants for himself, then he is an impostor, he is someone making a false claim, and he is someone who has a selfish motive, he is someone who is trying to take advantage of another person.

The Sufis use imagery of human love as a metaphor to describe the love that a human being has for Allah. So they tell the story of a man who went to a woman and told her that he loved her and that he finds her very beautiful. She replied that he should turn around and look in the other direction where her sister is standing because her sister was even more beautiful than her. When the man turned around, there was no one there. When he turned back to the woman, she slapped him and told him to get lost. It turned out that there was no sister. She had only been testing the genuineness of his love.

The lesson of the story is that someone who is truly in love doesn’t even turn to look at anyone else. This goes back to the definition of knowing Allah that we just talked about–we read that someone who knows Allah Most High is perpetually witnessing Him. His witnessing is perpetual because he doesn’t turn to look at anything else.

Now, I’m just describing what the Sufis say because I find it beautiful, not because I am actually realized in any of it. Imam al-Shafi’i used to say:

 

أُحِبُّ الصَّالِحِيْنَ وَلَسْتُ مِنْهُمُ   لَعَلِّي أَنْ أَنَالَ بِهِم شَفَاعَه

وَأَكْرَهُ مَنْ تِجَارَتُهُ المَعَاصِي   وَلَوْ كُنَّا سَوَاءً فِي البِضَاعَه

I love the righteous, even though I’m not one of them,

It maybe that because of them I will find on the Day of Judgement that they will intercede for me,

I hate the one who trades in acts of disobedience

even though we trade in the same kinds of goods.

 

The only thing they want is the beloved, and they’ll give up everything they have–even themselves–for the beloved in order to express their love, even if it means that they wither away and die, because the point of life is the beloved and nothing else. Giving your soul out of love for the beloved is the ultimate expression of love.

The Sufis have many different definitions for love. One of these definitions is that love is when you prefer the one you love over yourself. That’s why when someone truly loves Allah, their love will reveal itself as outward obedience to Allah Most High. They will do what He has commanded and shun what He has forbidden:

 

تَعْصِي الإِله وَأنْتَ تُظْهِرُ حُبَّهُ  هذا محالٌ في القياس بديعُ

لَوْ كانَ حُبُّكَ صَادِقاً لأَطَعْتَهُ  إنَّ الْمُحِبَّ لِمَنْ يُحِبُّ مُطِيعُ

You disobey God while showing to others that you love Him,

This is something that is outrageously impossible,

If your love for Him was true, then you would have obeyed Him,

Verily, the lover is utterly obedient to the one who he loves.

 

If a lover hears what their beloved wants, they rush to go and do it. They prefer what their beloved wants to what they themselves want.

By the grace of Allah Most High, I haven’t listened to modern pop music for a long, long time. But sometimes when you walk into a store, there’s something playing, and when you listen to what’s being said, it’s usually about what the singer imagines to be love. The singer sings about kissing, hugging, and needing the beloved, etc. This is not true love! Love is not what you want the other person to do for you; love is when you want to do everything for the other person, and this is what ‘Udhrian love illustrates.

Nobody understood love except for the ancient Arabians, and perhaps that’s one of the reasons why Allah Most High chose them to be the people who would carry His final revelation all over the world.

 

Osama: You mentioned that the lover wants to give up everything for the Beloved, in other words, a lover has unconditional love for their beloved. Now, on this point, modern Christian philosophers like William Lane Craig, point out that Islam’s God is not as loving as the God of Christianity because the God of Islam hates disbelievers, sinners, and transgressors. People like that point out that if a human being can have such great capacity for unconditional love, of which many examples were cited in our conversation, why does the God of Islam not have such a capacity? If He did, they argue, there would be no suffering, nor would there be people who would be destined to go to the Hellfire forever and ever.

 

Shaykh Hamza: Someone who asks these questions is really far from being in love.

Let’s return to the example of human love, if you were to talk to a marriage prospect and tell her that they don’t really love you, and that you expect her to love you because women these days don’t love their husbands, and that if they women truly loved their husbands, then they would take care of them and listen to them (smiles) … You then go on to tell her that you were recently in a conversation with [Shaykh] Hamza who told me that the lover is the one who listens to everything that her husband says, and I won’t stand for it if you don’t listen to me and love me (laughs). What do you think she will say? She will probably say, “Go to Hell!”

Now Allah Most High is not like a human being, so you have to delete the example of your prospective wife from your mind, but if someone goes to Him and tells Him that they expect Him to love them, then Allah Most High will not just tell them, “Go to Hell!”, he will actually throw them into Hell!

The type of thinking that you have described comes from having the idea of love all wrong.

The starting point is not going to God and saying that you don’t love me, and you must do such and such thing for me. This is how this ties in with knowing Allah and worshipping Him. True love for Allah is this selfless love that is like the love of people of Banu ‘Udhra. It is a giving of oneself completely to Allah, wanting Him, and doing anything for Him.

The imagery that the Sufis use for this is a lover who is wooing his beloved. There is a woman who you are in love with, you say to her that you will do anything for her, and you want her to marry you, but she says that she’s not interested. When women say that they are not interested, this is not what they mean, what they’re really doing is that they are testing you.

Here’s a marriage tip for you: if your wife decides not to show much interest in you, it means that she wants you to chase after her. Women love to be chased after and wooed. And the act of chasing after one’s wife (or wife-to-be) and wooing her is something that Allah Most High has made natural to men.

This is why the imagery that the Sufis use for our loving Allah Most High is a that of a lover who is wooing his beloved.

There is a qasidah (poem) ascribed to Shaykh Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi (Allah have mercy on him), in which he says:

 

أَيُّهَا العَاشِقُ مَعْنَى حُسْنِنَا   مَهْرُنَا غَالٍ لِمَنْ يَخْطِبُنَا

جَسَدٌ مُضْنَى وَرُوْحٌ فِي العَنَا  وَجُفُوْنٌ لَا تَذُوْقُ الوَسَنَا

O you who are in love with our beauty, the bride price is high for the one who is proposing to us:

an emaciated body, a soul that is in longing, and eyes that will never taste sleep. 

 

The beauty of Allah, here, is a reference to His necessary existence, the fact that He is need of no one while everyone is in need of Him.

The emaciated body, here, is a mark of ‘Udhrian love, as the lover (that’s us!) is withering away in love because of the long nights of worship and days of fasting that he knows Allah Most High loves.

The soul in longing, here, is one in difficulty and distress because it is longing for the Beloved, and because the Beloved is not coming, the soul is begging, longing, and pleading by vowing that it will do anything just to be with the Beloved.

The eyes that don’t taste sleep, here, they say that when somebody is in love like that, then they are thinking of their beloved all night and for those who are seeking Allah this finds expression in worshipping Him at night.

This is the price that we need to pay: we give something, and Allah asks for more, so we give more, and He asks for more, and we are constantly knocking at His door, and this is a test from Allah to see whether or not we truly love Him or not. If we are like that man who looked away to look at the more beautiful sister, then we are turning away from Allah, and we have shown Him that we don’t deserve to be with Him. But, if we persist, then eventually the door will be opened, and we will be with Allah. This is the ultimate quest for the seeker: to be with the beloved.

Now, going back to your question, that question is asked by someone who doesn’t deserve the love of Allah. If you were to talk to any other human being like that, they would tell you to get lost. The same applies, with greater force, to Allah.

Allah Most High says in the Qur’an:

Allah loves the godfearing. (Qur’an, 3:76)

 

Godfearingness entails that one protects oneself from the wrath of Allah Most High. So the love of Allah is connected with His fear. We love Him, yet we fear Him. How can you love someone that you fear?

We fear Him because He is dangerous, He can send us to the Hellfire.

We love Him because despite the fact that we deserve nothing, He still showers us with His blessings and promises us with paradise even though we don’t deserve to go there, and also because He is Beautiful so we love Him. Within this love there is a sense of undeservedness.

In the question that you cited, however, there is no sense of undeservedness. To the contrary, there is every sense of deservedness.

To summarize, the answer to this question is that it is what logicians call a “loaded question”. For example, if Allah loves us, then why is there suffering? This question assumes many things: it assumes that Allah loves us, it assumes that if He loves us then there will be no suffering, and it assumes that we don’t need to do anything, that all we need to do is sit back and wait to be loved by demanding it. All of these assumptions are false, and we don’t agree with them. We hope that Allah loves us, but we need to earn His love.

The love of Allah is not a given; it is something that needs to be earned, and so in the famous hadith of wilayah in the Forty Nawawi, Allah says:

My servant doesn’t draw closer to Me with anything more Beloved to me than the things that I have made obligatory, and He continues to draw closer to Me with non-obligatory acts until I love Him.

This hadith tells us how to be someone who Allah loves. If we want Allah Most High to love us, then we must do what He has made obligatory on us and then do even more than that. The hadith continues and then describes the experiential knowledge of Allah that comes when the love is there. That is why knowledge, love, and worship are related.

Allah created us to love Him, and He described to us how we tread that path to love Him. When we tread that path to love Him, then He loves us, but people who don’t tread that path to love Allah and turn away from Allah by being arrogant and by being at war with Him, these people Allah doesn’t love.

So does Allah love us? Well, none of us will know until we die, and if we complete our lives as people who Allah loves, then the answer is yes, and if we die as people who Allah doesn’t love, then the answer is no. That’s how we need to look at the problem.

The type of thinking in your question is a result of the Humanist and Enlightenment thought that we have talked about in our previous conversations. This type of thinking is human-centered and focused on “I, Me, My, Now, and My terms”, and somebody who does that cannot fulfill the purpose of their existence because they don’t know themselves. We saw that the one who knows himself, knows his Lord. So this person, he thinks that he is something great whereas we are not something that great; as long as someone thinks that they are someone great, then they won’t know Allah because to know Him they need to feel that they are nothing, and only then will they see that Allah is everything.

The God-centered view is not “I, Me, My, Now, and My terms”; it is “You, You, You, and You”, and when we look at the world like that, then we find the purpose of our existence.

 

Osama: I have some lines here in which a lover expresses his love for his beloved:

 

Tomorrow,

Whether you accept,

or reject;

Whether you love,

or hate;

with a gift,

I’ll always remain standing,

by your door,

yearning for nothing,

 but a gaze.

This gift,

my failings have shattered countless times,

yet I hold onto it despite it’s imperfection.

I have nothing to give,

besides this gift of which I speak:

‘tis my heart.

 

Now, in these lines which were inspired by a song, the writer admits his failing of not being able to express his love in just the right way, but he says that he will always keep trying and hoping that maybe one day the beloved will accept him despite his imperfection. This, it seems, is an expression of the indigence and neediness of the lover in front of the beloved. Is this the type of indigence that we want to have in front of Allah?

 

Shaykh Hamza: Yes, absolutely. The lines are a beautiful expression of true love, and that is exactly what we need to do in front of Allah’s door to keep on trying to show our love. The Sufis would use lines such as these to express their relationship to Allah. This goes back to what we said earlier about human emotions; the spark needs to be there through one’s relationship with other human beings, and this then gets redirected to Allah. That spark is there in these lines, and when one sees that and feels it, then one needs to come to the realization that this can truly be realized with respect to Allah.

 

Osama: Good actions, it seems, like the gift of which the lines speak, should not be looked at as a means that entail and justify Allah’s love. Rather, it seems that when one does good outward actions, it must be coupled with knowledge of one’s imperfection, and too with complete indigence to Allah in hope that He may accept one’s worship as an expression of one’s love and slavehood.

Often we find that we as people practicing religion, instead of viewing our actions as imperfect, and having hope in Allah that He will accept them despite their imperfection, we sometimes look upon our actions with pride.

How can we correct this?

 

Shaykh Hamza: Worship has an inward element (knowing and loving) and an outward element (doing something with the limbs). When we talked about knowing and loving Allah and their relation to worshipping Him, we saw that they are all related and are found together.

So what I think you are trying to describe is that when there is outward worship but the other two inward elements aren’t there, then it is not true worship — there is something that is off. It might appear to be worship but it is not.

Someone might have a long beard, they might recite Quran, they might give religious lectures, they might appear to be religious, they might tell others to be religious, they might be a religious figure, and they might be calling people to worship Allah, but, even though they are doing all of these things, it may be that they don’t know what it means to worship Allah because their actions are making them proud and causing them to look down on others. Perhaps they feel entitled, or that other people should respect them, or that they should give them deference because they feel that they are people of God. This happens, and has been happening for a long time.

Imam al-Ghazali, when he wrote his magnum opus, one of the best books ever written in Islam, Ihya ‘ulum al-din, which means, “Bringing the religious sciences back to life,” when he wrote this book, he gave it this name because he believed that people like this had caused the religious sciences to die. So somebody who studies Sacred Law or tafsir or some other religious science, but their study doesn’t humble them, nor is their studying and teaching an expression of loving Allah, then what they are doing is just an outward form without the inner reality. The people who they teach feel and see that the inner reality is missing, and they are driven away from such people. This is what happened in an extreme form to the Christian Church before the Enlightenment, as we discussed in our previous conversations. That’s why people were driven away from religion. The people of religion were people they hated and detested because they were using religion for their own selfish motives. So when a religious person uses worship and obedience for his own selfish motive in order to be high in the eyes of other people, or for him to be higher in his own mind over other people, then the worship is not there — it is outward movement but the inward reality is not there. The inward reality of worship is that it is an expression of one’s love to Allah, one is giving one’s self up for Him. So when that is missing, then something is off.

Imam Malik has a famous statement:

Whoever studies Sacred Law and doesn’t study Spirituality becomes a transgressor, whereas someone who studies Spirituality and doesn’t study Sacred Law becomes a heretic. The one who joins between them both is realized.

The person who studies Sacred Law and doesn’t study Spirituality disobeys Allah inwardly through the outward actions that he is doing that seem to be obedience, whereas the one who studies Spirituality and doesn’t study Sacred Law disobeys Allah outwardly because he doesn’t keep to the limits that Allah has set. The one who joins between them both is realized; this is what you were referring to when you spoke about “balancing” the letter and the spirit.

We need the outward form with the inner reality. That’s what the line of poetry was in reference to:

 

تَعْصِي الإِله وَأنْتَ تُظْهِرُ حُبَّهُ  هذا محالٌ في القياس بديعُ

لَوْ كانَ حُبُّكَ صَادِقاً لأَطَعْتَهُ  إنَّ الْمُحِبَّ لِمَنْ يُحِبُّ مُطِيعُ

You disobey God while showing to others that you love Him,

This is something that is outrageously impossible,

If your love for Him was true, then you would have obeyed Him,

Verily, the lover is utterly obedient to the one who he loves.

 

The one who has inward love has outward obedience. This means that if love is there, then the outward will be there. If the outward is not there, then it means that the love is not there inside. And if the outward is there, that doesn’t guarantee the love, but you need to take the means to bring that about as well.

 

Osama: Love, it seems, is more of a continuum as opposed to an attainment that one achieves. Can one ever claim to have attained unto the absolute love of the Divine?

 

Shaykh Hamza: I certainly don’t know the answer to that question.

 

Osama: We’ve established that when one inwardly  knows and loves one’s beloved, then the outward sign of it is obedience, and this obedience can sometimes even make one wither away like the people of Bani ‘Udhra because of the selflessness that it entails. Related to this, the Sufis point out in their poetry that in reality Allah is both the Lover (muhibb) and the Beloved (mahbub); if this so, how does Allah’s Love manifest itself for His Beloved creation?

 

Shaykh Hamza: Theologically, this question is problematic because when you ask a “how” question with respect to Allah, then what you are seeking to do is understand Allah in human terms. That is why frequently, theologians, when they talk about Allah they say “bila kayf”, which means “without any modality”, which means that He doesn’t resemble anything that we have experienced.

As an example, we will see Allah in Paradise, but bila kayf, without modality, without “how”, because the meaning of the question “How?” is, “Of the things that I have experienced, which one does this resemble?” So when someone asks you, “How does honey taste?”, you say “Like sugar.”, and your response is only understood by someone who has experienced the taste of sugar, otherwise they won’t understand. So what you are trying to do is that you are giving an analogue, you are giving something similar. The answer to a “How?” question is: “Like something else.”. So with regards to Allah, the “how” is not something that we can understand with the mind.

Let’s start with theology: in the science of ‘aqidah, there are two approaches.

Allah, He says in the Quran:

Allah loves the godfearing. (Qur’an, 3:76)

 

What does it mean for God to love?

The theologians, they will say that the reality of love is a change that comes about in the heart. So, when you fall in love with somebody, there is a pain that you feel in the heart, there is an emotional change that happens in the heart. Then, when this emotional change happens, then it drives you to do for the beloved, for the one you love, whatever it is that they love.

There are a number of divine attributes that are described in human terms. Take, for example, His Mercy. Mercy for us is a tenderness of the heart that you feel when, for example, you see a poor man that passes by. When that happens, your heart becomes tender, and this emotional change, i.e. your heart becoming tender, drives you to put your hand in your pocket to give that poor man some money. He is also described as being Grateful (al-Shakur). You become grateful as a result of an emotional change that comes about in your heart when somebody does you a favour, and this drives you to return their favour.

When Allah is described in these terms, we subtract the emotional change aspect from the description because Allah is perfect and therefore He does not change. We interpret these things to mean the consequences, the end-result of the emotional change. So, when you love someone, then you do for them what they love. When Allah loves us, then He does for us what we would love for Him to do to us, but there is no emotional change on His part because Allah is Perfect and does not change. When Allah has Mercy on us, He fulfills our needs, but there is no emotional change. When Allah is Grateful to us, He rewards us for the good deeds that we do, but there is no emotional change.

This is what the theologians do. They are good at telling you what Allah is not. At the end, then, what you’re left with is not a lot of difference between Allah’s Love, His Gratitude, and His Mercy because all of them return to giving us things that we desire so you might as well use one name for all of them.

So what I just described was the approach of ta’weel, figurative interpretation. This is a particular type of figurative interpretation called majaz mursal, which is explained in detail by the scholars of balaghah, or Arabic eloquence.

Another approach to such names that seem to describe Him in ways that seem to imply that He resembles His creation is to start off by denying that He resembles His creation (so you deny that there is any emotional change), and to then consign the meaning to Allah Most High. You say, “Allah knows what it means; I don’t know what it means.” This is called tafwid.

The Sufis like this approach because, they say that as one comes closer to Allah, one experiences the meanings of these Names in an inexpressible way, one comes to understand the meaning of Allah’s love in an inexpressible way.

You alluded to something about Allah being the Beloved and the Lover in your question. This is how some Sufis express their experience of Allah’s Love in their poetry. What they say is that our Love for Allah transforms into a realization of our complete dependence on Allah. It transforms into a realization that the love we have in our hearts is something that Allah has created within us; it transforms into a realization of forgetting about oneself and focusing only on the Beloved; it transforms into a realization in which one loses one’s identity. So when one loses one’s identity, one forgets about oneself and focuses on Allah alone, and all one sees is Allah and His Love, and one doesn’t see oneself. The Sufis describe this experience in various lines of poetry.

I don’t have the qualification to explain these lines of poetry but that’s what they say.

Ibn al-Farid, possibly the most eloquent poet to ever talk about loving Allah Most High, described the same experience as follows.

 

أنتمْ فروضي ونفلي

أنتمْ حديثي وشغلي

You are my obligations and my supererogatory actions.

You are my conversations and my occupations.

 

يا قِبْلَتي في صَلاتي،

إذا وَقَفْتُ أُصَلّي

O my direction in my prayer

when I stand to pray:

 

جَمالُكُمْ نَصْبُ عَيني

إليهِ وجَّهتُ كلِّي

Your Beauty is before my eyes;
To it I direct my entire being

 

 Osama: How are the ideas of pain and sacrifice related to the idea of love? They say that love is a painful path that demands a sacrifice of the self.

Must one necessarily face pain and sacrifice in order to attain unto love?  Christians often allude to the sacrifice of Jesus when they talk about the love of God.

 

Shaykh Hamza: The idea of sacrifice is in us, it is not in Allah.

The Christians got it wrong because they say that God sacrificed Himself in order to show His love to us. This is completely wrong! Allah doesn’t need us. He doesn’t need to sacrifice Himself. We are the ones who need Him. He doesn’t need anything.

For Him to have a son, and the son to be God, and for that god to die is completely senseless. Who would worship a god that dies and is killed by other people? You wouldn’t feel very needy of that God. This is also ascribing a defect to Allah.

 

Allah says:

 

لَقَدْ كَفَرَ الَّذِيْنَ قَالُوا اِنَّ اللَّهَ ثَالِثُ الثَّلَاثَة

Those who say, “Verily, Allah is the third of the trinity,” have surely disbelieved. (Qur’an, 5:73)

 

There are many other verses that describe such a belief as associating partners with Allah. To hold such a belief is to ascribe defects to Allah; it’s an insult to Him.

Allah’s love for us doesn’t involve any sacrifice because for Him to sacrifice something for us would be an expression of His neediness, which is a defect for Him because it would imply some kind of human power over God.

This idea of the crucifixion, the divinity of Christ, all of these are foreign Greek pagan intrusions upon the true monotheism of Prophet Jesus Christ upon him be peace.

What we need to ask is: What do we need to do in order to show our love for God?

This does involve sacrifice.

It involves sacrifice because it entails preferring the one who we love over ourselves.

I really want to do something, but I will show God that I love Him by preferring not to do what I really want to do. You can think of that as a sacrifice.

 

Osama: How can a loving God be Vengeful (al-Muntaqim) to His creation, and why would He want to Abase (al-Khafid) His creation?

 

Shaykh Hamza: The theologians explain that Allah Most High’s names are divided into two categories: those that have an opposite, and those that don’t. Both the names that you’ve mentioned–al-Muntaqim and al-Khafid–have opposites. The opposite of al-Muntaqim–the One who “takes vengeance” (I’ll explain shortly why I’ve put the translation in quotation marks)–is al-Shakur–the One who is “intensely grateful” (again, I’ll explain shortly why I’ve put the translation in quotation marks). The opposite of al-Khafid–the One who lowers–is al-Rafi‘–the One who raises.

Examples of names that don’t have an opposite are al-Qadir–the All-Powerful–and al-Qawiyy–the Almighty. The opposites of these names are impossible for Allah Most High. For Him to be unable to do something or for Him to be weak would be a defect that conflicts with His godhood.

Names that have an opposite describe what Allah Most High does. They are descriptions of His actions. Theologians call these attributes sifat al-af‘al. Or, in other words, they are descriptions of His acts of creation. Since Allah Most High can do absolutely anything, since His actions are unconstrained by any limitation, He can do an action and its opposite: He can create and destroy; He can reward and punish; He can support and abase. The absolute freedom of Allah Most High to do anything, regardless of whether it is in our interests or against our interests, is what it means for Him to be God and for us to be His slaves. That is why we worship Him: we seek His mercy, His forgiveness, His gentleness, and we seek refuge from His wrath, His punishment, His rigor.

Names that don’t have an opposite describe who He is. They are descriptions of Allah Most High Himself, descriptions of His perfections. Theologians call these attributes sifat al-dhat. His knowledge, His power, His will, His life are all descriptions of Allah Himself.

Now, in order to answer your question, we need to note three things.

The first is that Allah Most High’s “vengeance” and His abasing His creation are both descriptions of His actions, not of Allah Most High Himself. He is, in other words, someone who “takes vengeance” and someone who abases His creation, just as He is also someone who is “intensely grateful”, and someone who honors and raises His creation. In your question, you asked, “How can a loving God be vengeful?” The way that you’ve used the adjective “vengeful” suggests that it’s a permanent attribute that describes who He is rather than an attribute of what He sometimes does. Remember that Allah Most High does whatever He wills and when He tells us that He can harm us (such as with the two names that you’ve mentioned), He is reminding us that He is God and we are His slaves, that He doesn’t need us and that we need Him, that He deserves our worship and submission and we shouldn’t approach Him with a sense of entitlement. This returns to the question about slavehood and love that we began this conversation with.

The second thing to note is that human language falls short of the majesty of Allah Most High. This returns to an earlier part of this conversation in which we asked what it means for God to love. We saw that when we say that Allah Most High has  mercy, gratitude, or love, then we need to strip these words of the accompanying emotional changes. Once we do that, we have two options: we can either give the words a figurative interpretation (ta’wil) or we can consign their meaning to Allah Most High.

The same applies to Allah Most High’s “vengeance”. Fakhr al-Din al-Razi explains that “vengeance” in human beings comprises three things: (1) extreme anger, (2) a severe chastisement that is delayed (an immediate chastisement is not normally called “vengeance”), and (3) that the chastisement lead to the quenching of some kind of thirst for revenge. When we use “vengeance” with respect to Allah Most High, we need to subtract this third meaning because it is an emotional change and Allah Most High is perfect and transcendently beyond any kind of change. So we understand Allah Most High’s vengeance as a severe chastisement that does not befall immediately, but after some time, without there being any quenching of some kind of thirst for revenge. When you problematized vengeance for Allah Most High, you were assuming that it comprises the quenching of some kind of a thirst for revenge. You can now see that it doesn’t.

As for Allah Most High’s abasing His creation, recall that the meaning of worship returns to a voluntary abasement of oneself to Allah Most High. There is a general theme in the Qur’an that someone who does not voluntarily lower themselves before Allah Most High through worship in this life will be forcibly lowered before Him in the afterlife, whereas someone who does voluntarily lower themselves before Allah Most High will be raised by Allah Most High in the afterlife. This raising doesn’t just happen in the afterlife; it even happens in this life. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “No one humbles himself for the sake of Allah except that Allah Most High raises him.” (Muslim)

The third and final thing to note is that your question–“How can a loving God be …”–assumes that God loves everyone. That is a false assumption. Allah Most High says in the Qur’an, “Allah does not love those who do wrong.” (Qur’an, 3:57) He also says, “Allah does not love any vain and arrogant person.” (Qur’an, 31:18) He also says, “Allah does not love any utterly ungrateful and sinful person.” (Qur’an, 2:276) Those who receive Allah Most High’s vengeance–in the meaning that I have just described above–are those who Allah Most High does not love.

If you think about it, it should make sense that God does not love everyone–why else would He send people to the Hellfire? Would you really think it fair that a criminal who had mercilessly tortured and killed millions of other human beings should be someone who God loves and sends to Paradise?

 

Osama: We began our conversations with a discussion about the relevance and significance of religion; that made us realise that true religion is a path to felicity. This path to felicity, which we established as the purpose of our life in our second conversation, is the path to knowing, loving, and worshipping God. In this conversation, we’ve described what it’s like to be in true love, in other words, we’ve talked about what it means to fulfill our purpose. Now, from hereon, what do you think is the next step, where do we go from here? I would think that these discussions should spark within us the desire to know how to fulfill this purpose, and reach unto the love of the Divine.

 

Shaykh Hamza: Allah sent us Messengers to call us to Him, to call us to love Him, and to explain to us the way to loving Him.

When we worship Allah everyday, we pray five times a day, we recite surah al-fatihah, we praise Allah:

 

أَلْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ العَالَمِيْنَ

 

Praising Him is an expression of our love for Him.

 

الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيْمِ

 

We bring to mind His Mercy, this is again something that drives us to love Him.

 

مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّيْنِ اِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَاِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِيْنَ

 

The core of the Fatiha is asking Allah to show us the straight path.

 

What is the straight path? The straight path is the path of guidance.

 

The idea of a “path” is a common Qur’anic metaphor. I didn’t understand this metaphor until I started taking my sons on hikes in beautiful forests and canyons here in Jordan. When you enter a forest and you’re trying to find your way, then you are looking for a path to follow. What is a path? It is something that other people have walked on. It’s ground that you can see is well-trodden and then you can discern that people have walked here and it took them somewhere so you walk on the same path.

Sometimes when I go on hikes with my family, we say that we don’t need a guide and that we will figure out the way ourselves. When we do that, we often get lost because the path is sometimes not that clear. If you have a guide, the guide can show you where to go so that you don’t get lost.

Allah Most High calls His Prophets guides and He calls His Quran guidance. The Qur’an is, in other words, ia map that’s showing the way, and He calls the trajectory of our lives, the choices that we make He calls it a path, and so the guides are there to show us where to go. The path is a straight and wide path, and so it is very difficult to get lost; it is not veering this way or that; it doesn’t lead you into the bushes, and behind the trees — on such a path you can get lost.

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) came as a guide on a clear straight path, and our goal is to listen to him, to listen to revelation, to learn the beneficial religious knowledge that he brought.

Beneficial religious knowledge is knowledge that teaches us how to make choices in our lives that will help us reach the afterlife with felicity, that will help us love Allah and fulfill the purpose of our life.

 

The Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:

I have left you on a clear, straight path, it is as clear at night as it is during the day. Nobody veers from it except somebody who is destroyed.

You have to be really bent on turning away from God to veer from the path; it is clear, the evidence is there: God exists, the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) is the messenger of Allah, the path is here but we have to learn about it. That’s what the messengers came to teach us. Their teachings were preserved by the scholars who followed him.

That is why the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:

 

العُلَمَاءُ وَرَثَةُ الأَنْبِيَاء

Scholars are the heirs of the prophets.

Prophets don’t leave behind money, dinars or dirhams, but they leave behind religious knowledge, so whoever takes religious knowledge has taken a great share.


Imam al-Haddad’s Counsels on Hajj and `Umrah – Muwasala

* Originally Published on 14/09/2013

COUNSELS ON TRAVELLING

You must hold fast to all the acts of devotion which you perform regularly when you are not travelling. Do not make light of leaving any of them. You should make up any acts of devotion which you are unable to perform due to travelling when you are able to do so, if they are of the sort which can be made up. If it is not possible to make them up, then remember that Allah has made things easy for people travelling. The hadith states: “If a believer travels or becomes sick, Allah orders His angels to record for him the same actions that he would perform when he was not travelling and was in good health.” This is a blessing, a mercy and ease from Allah. All praise be to Allah – He is so merciful and kind to His slaves!
Imam Hadadd's Mosque, Tarim, Yemen
Beware of belittling the dispensations of shortening and joining one’s prayers when it is permissible to do so, for “Allah loves for people to take His dispensations just as He loves people to perform that which has normally been made compulsory for them.”
Be consistent in reading the supplications that it is recommended to read while travelling, such as the supplication you read upon mounting (your horse) or dismounting,  or the supplication you read upon entering a town. You will find a large amount of these in al-Adhkār [of Imām al-Nawawī] so look for them and memorise them.
When you travel, make your spiritual ambition drive your feet forward and make your heart travel with your body. Let reliance upon Allāh be your provision, having a good opinion of Him your support, truthfulness your vehicle and neediness and brokenness your inner and outer garments. Let your contentment with Him to the exclusion of all others be your companion.

HAJJ

You must purify your intention to go to Allah’s Sacred House, to perform the rights of Ḥajj, to venerate the things which He has made inviolable and sacred and to visit the grave of His Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family and grant them peace. In your journey to those places you should have no other purpose or aim except this and any other praiseworthy intention connected to this. Beware of combining these noble intentions with the desire for recreation or trade.
You must make ṭawāf (circumambulation) of the Ancient House in abundance, for the one making ṭawāf is immersed in mercy. While you are doing so, your hearts should be overflowing with veneration and magnification for the Lord of the House. Do not busy yourselves with anything other than recitation of the Qur’ān, remembrance of Allah and supplication. Beware of idle speech.
Be consistent in reading the adhkār and supplications which should be read during ṭawāf and sa`ī and in other places on the Ḥajj. You should also have the utmost concern for visiting all the sacred places.
You should perform `umrah in abundance, especially in the month of Ramaḍān, for performing one `umrah in Ramaḍān is equal in reward to performing Ḥajj with the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his Family and grant them peace.
You must have veneration for the two Sacred Precincts and observe the correct etiquette in them. You must also honour those living there, and give them the right due to them for living in proximity to those blessed places. Maintain a good opinion of them specifically and of the Muslims generally. If you see or hear something you dislike, be patient and remain silent. However, if you are able to openly speak the truth then do so, for no one has any excuse to remain silent unless he is absolutely certain he is unable to change a wrong that is being committed.
One of the best states to be in is to focus fully on Allah and on worshipping Him such that you are unaware of the state of those around you, since the people of this time have contravened the way of the pious predecessors and left behind their praiseworthy teachings. The one who Allah guides is rightly guided; but the one who Allah causes to go astray – for him you will find no protector to guide him.
Masjid Ul Haram Mekka (16)You must perform abundant pious acts in the Sacred Precinct in Makkah, for one good deed therein is rewarded one hundred thousand times over. This multiplication is narrated specifically regarding the prayer by the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) but some scholars regard it to apply to all acts of obedience. Just as the reward for acts of obedience is far greater in the Sacred Precinct, likewise acts of disobedience are far graver therein. One of the pious predecessors said: “There is no place where someone is taken to account for wishing to commit an act of disobedience other than Makkah.” The scholars use as evidence for this Allah’s saying: If Anyone wishes therein to do wrong out of deviance We will cause him to taste a painful punishment.
Ibn `Abbās, may Allah be pleased with them both, said: “I would prefer to commit seventy sins outside the Sacred Precinct than to commit one sin in Makkah.” May Allah protect Makkah, and increase it in greatness, stature and nobility.
When you reach His inviolable House and your eyes gaze upon it, make your heart gaze upon the Lord of the House. Ḥajj has an outer element and an inner element. The outer element is the Sacred Law (sharī`ah) and the inner element is reality (ḥaqīqah). Do not focus on one element to the exclusion of the other, but rather combine the two.
Know that there is a house inside you that belongs to Allāh, which is your heart. He has ordered Ibrāhīm (your knowledge) and Ismā`īl (your intellect) to purify it for the angels and spirits who wish to make ṭawāf (circumambulation) of it, seclude themselves in it, bow and prostrate in it.[6 – See below] Anyone who possesses neither Ibrāhīm nor Ismā`īl is ignorant and foolish, and the Fire will consume him. Anyone who possesses them both but does not allow them to purify the house so that it is fit for those who wish to make ṭawāf (circumambulation) of it and seclude themselves in it, is a representative of the Devil. An example of such a person is a heedless scholar who does not act according to the dictates of his knowledge and intellect.
The Prophet ﷺ said: “Zamzam water is what it is drunk for.” This means that if someone drinks it for a sickness, Allah will heal them; if someone drinks it for hunger, Allah will cause them to be satiated and if someone drinks it for a need, Allah will fulfil that need. This is because the well was brought forth when Allah’s aid was sought and Allah gave relief to Ismā`īl by it. The great Imāms have tried this with their own needs and found the Prophet’s words to be true. However, it requires a correct intention and sincerity and it is not for everyone.

CONCLUSION: STORIES OF THE PIOUS

This conclusion is somewhat appropriate to the counsels which preceded it, and someone of intellect and intelligence may derive etiquettes from these narrations which he should observe in those sacred places.
Mentioning the pious predecessors and their lives gives comfort to travellers on the path to the next life, for they are the examples which we should take. Looking at their striving helps seekers to realise their shortcomings. If someone looks at the people of his time and their heedlessness and procrastination, he will most often become proud of himself or harbour a bad opinion of them, both of which are blameworthy. The felicitous one is someone who emulates the pious predecessors, uses them as a proof against himself and drives himself to walk in their footsteps and to follow their straight path.

  • The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and his Family and Companions and grant them peace) made Ḥajj riding on a shabby-looking saddle, under which was a rug worth less than four dirhams. On his return he said: “O Allah, make it a blessed Ḥajj. Let there be no ostentation in it, nor reputation-seeking.”
  • `Umar made ṭawāf around the House. He placed his hand on the Black Stone, kissed it and then cried. Then he said: “By Allah, I know that you are a Stone that cannot harm or benefit anyone. Had I not seen the Messenger of Allah doing this, I would not have done it.” Then he turned round and saw `Alī (may Allah ennoble him) behind him. He said to him: “O Abū al-Ḥasan, this is the place where tears flow.”`Alī said to him: “On the contrary, O Leader of the Believers, this Stone harms and benefits people. When Allah took the covenant with the progeny of Adam and said to them: ‘Am I not your Lord?’, He recorded this and this Stone swallowed this document. It will then bear witness to anyone who touches it with truthfulness.”
  • A man met `Abdullāh bin `Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) while making ṭawāf. He asked `Abdullāh bin `Umar for something but he did not respond. `Abdullāh bin `Umar met the man again later and said to him: “Perhaps you were upset when I did not respond to you. Do you not know that when we make ṭawāf we present ourselves to Allah? In any case your need has been answered.”
  • Ṭāūs said: “I saw `Alī (Zayn al-`Ābidīn) the son of Imām al-Ḥusayn in the depths of the night standing in prayer in the Ḥijr [7 – See below] so I came close to him, saying to myself, ‘This is a pious man from the People of the House. Perhaps I will hear him say something that will benefit me.’ I heard him saying while in prostration: ‘A beggar is at Your door, a poor man is at Your door, Your needy slave is at Your door.’ [8 – See below] Whenever I called upon Allah using these words, my prayers were answered.”
  • It was said that when `Alī (Zayn al-`Ābidīn) the son of Imam al-Husayn entered into iḥrām he wished to say ‘labbayk’, but instead he started shaking, his colour changed and he fell off his camel. When he was asked what happened he said: “I feared that I would say labbayk – responding to the call of my Lord – and it would be completely rejected.”
  • Sālim bin `Abdullāh bin `Umar met Hishām bin `Abd al-Malik who was then the governor of Makkah inside the Ka`bah. Hishām said to him: “Ask me, that I may fulfil your need.” “I would be ashamed to ask other than Him, when I am in His House.” When they were outside the House, Hishām said to him: “You are now outside, so ask what you wish.” Sālim said: “Do you mean from the things of this world or the next world?” “All I possess are the things of this world.” “I did not ask for worldly things from the One Who possesses them, so why would I ask them from anyone other than Him?”
  • A pious man said: “I once saw a man performing ṭawāf and sa`ī. His slaves were around him driving people out of his way to make space for him. I later saw him in Baghdad begging. I asked him what had happened and he said: ‘I showed arrogance in a place where people show humility so Allah humbled me in a place where people show arrogance.’”
  • Al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī once stood at `Arafāt in the sun on an extremely hot day. He was asked: “Why do you not move into the shade?” He replied: “I did not realise I was in the sun. I recalled a sin that I had committed and I did not feel the heat of the sun.” It was so hot that had someone wrung out his clothes, sweat would have run forth from them. This sin that he recalled was probably a mere thought that had it come to anyone else’s mind, they would not have even considered it a minor sin. This is the veneration the pious predecessors had for their Lord and their distance from acts of disobedience.
  • A man once took seven stones from `Arafāt and made them bear witness to his testimony that there is no god but Allāh. He then saw in a dream that he was standing in front of Allāh to be judged. He was taken to account and then ordered to be taken to the Fire. However, whenever he was brought to one of the seven gates of the Fire, a stone came and blocked his entrance. He realised that these stones were the same stones that had born witness to his testimony. Then his testimony was brought and the gate of Paradise was opened to him.
  • `Ali bin al-Muwaffaq said: “On the eve of the Day of `Arafah I saw in my dream two angels who had descended from the heavens. One said to the other: “Do you know how many people have come to our Lord’s House to perform Ḥajj this year?” “No,” said the other. “Six hundred thousand,” he said. “Do you know how many have been accepted?” “No.” “Six people.” So I remained in a state of sorrow and distress. I said to myself, ‘What chance do I have of being among those six?’ The following night, the eve of the Day of Slaughter, I saw the two angels again. One said to the other: “Do you know what the judgement of our Lord was?” “No,” said the other. “He gave one hundred thousand people to each of the six (and thus accepted them all.” Upon hearing this, I woke up in a state of joy that was indescribable.

TURNING TO THE MESSENGER OF ALLAH

We round off these counsels with Imām al-Ḥaddād’s address to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ on his visit to him.

أَتَيْنَاكَ زَوَّاراً نَرُومُ شَفَاعَةً إِلى اللهِ في مَحْوِ الإِسَاءَةِ و الذَّنْبِ
و في النَّفْسِ حَاجَاتٌ و ثَمَّ مَطَالِبُ نُؤَمِّلُ أَنْ تُقْضى بِجَاهِكَ يا مُحْبِي
تَوَجَّهْ رَسولَ للهِ في كُلِّ حَاجَةٍ لنا و مُهِمٍّ في المعَاشِ و في القَلْبِ
و إِنَّ صَلاحَ الدِّينِ و القَلْبِ سَيِّدي هُوَ الغَرَضُ الأَقْصى فَيَا سَيِّدي قُمْ بِي
عَلَيْكَ صَلاةُ اللهِ يا خَيْرَ مُهْتَدٍ و هادٍ بِنُورِ اللهِ في الشَّرْقِ و الغَرْبِ

We have come to you as visitors, aiming to attain your intercession with Allah in wiping out our sins and wrongdoings
In our souls are needs and requests that we hope to be fulfilled through your status, O Giver
Turn (to Allah), O Messenger of Allah, regarding every need and concern of ours in our worldly lives and in our hearts
The rectification of my religion and my heart is my utmost goal, my Master, so assist me.
May Allah’s blessings be upon you, for you are the best one who guides by the light of Allah in the East and West.

[Taken from Imām al-Ḥaddād’s al-Waṣayā al-Nāf`iah, from his Dīwān and from al-Fuyūḍāt al-Rabbaniyyah by Ḥabīb Zayn bin Sumayṭ]

* Originally sourced from Muwasala

Have We Really Progressed? – Shaykh Sadullah Khan

* Originally published on the 19/07/2019 (Masjid al -Furqaan)

In this Pre Khutba talk delivered at at Masjid al – Furqaan in Cape Town (South Africa), Shaykh Sadullah Khan reflects on mankind’s progression and advancement in the scientific and technological domains. He asks us to ponder on the fact that the majority of human beings still live in poverty and under oppression despite the wonderful advancements that man has made. Our preoccupation with material progression has caused us to forget our moral and social responsibilities to humanity and our surroundings.

* Courtesy of Masjid al – Furqaan’s Youtube page

 

 

Clarifying the Issue of Talfiq in Islamic Law – Dr H. A. Hellyer

In their personal lives, are Muslims required to perform taqlid [practice by way of imitation] of only one madhhab [school of law]? If not, when can they go out of the one that they have studied or practiced?

Different ulama [scholars] in different madhhabs [schools of law] have different considerations and principles in looking at this question. The below is a mainstream understanding within the madhhab of Imam al-Shafi’i.

(Out of the four extant schools for Sunni Muslims, the madhhab of Imam al-Shafi’i is the third that was founded. It is the school of nearly all Sunni Muslims in Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines), east Africa (Tanzania, Somalia, Kenya), Yemen and significant parts of the rest of the Arab world.)

It is important to note: this is a general comment on the issue of talfiq [mixing between different opinions in different schools of law] that applies to most lay (unspecialised in legal studies or awaam] Muslims. Considerations differ for muftis in giving fatwa; considerations might differ for those who are studying a madhhab to a more advanced level; those who receive specific instruction as part of their tarbiya [training] in a particular relationship with a teacher; and so on.

A Typical Shafi’i Viewpoint on Talfiq: Conditions

As noted above, the details around this issue may differ within a particular madhhab, or between madhhabs. A mainstream understanding in the Shafi’i school is as follows, nevertheless, may be understood as follows.

Generally, most individual Muslims may depart from their taqlid [practice by way of imitation] of the madhhab that one has studied or been taught if the following conditions are met:

Staying within the extant schools

  1. Such a departure entails following an alternative position that is transmitted reliably. Different scholars will have different positions on what ‘reliably’ means practically speaking – a precautionary view would be to limit it to well-known views within one of the four extant schools, though there are other viewpoints on this issue, which are available to the expert jurisprudent to evaluate. It is advisable that one learns that position from someone who is properly familiar and trained with it, rather than learning that position simply by picking up a book.

Impermissible and permissible talfiq

  1. That one is not guilty of impermissible talfiq, according to preferred precautionary opinion.Impermissible talfiq means that the end result of one’s combination of different opinions means that the final outcome is one that is not valid according to any of the madhhabs.By way of example: after performing wudu’ [ablutions] in a way that is only acceptable in Shafi’i and Hanafi schools, one bleeds (which breaks wudu’ in the Hanafi school), but considers his wudu’ intact based on the Shafi’i school (in which bleeding does not break wudu’). Later, he touches his wife and considers his wudu’ intact based on the Hanafi school (in which touching between spouses does not break wudu’). The end result being that his wudu is not valid according to both the Shafi’i and Hanafi schools respectively.
  2. There is a mainstream understanding, represented by the likes of Ibn Ziyad al-Yamani in the Shafi’i school,that talfiq is only problematic if it takes place in a single ritual (such as wudu’ mentioned above). It would mean one could do wudu’ according to one school, and salat (prayer) according to another, without considering this to be problematic talfiq in any way.

Having a need, and not treating religion like a play-thing

  1. Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, an authoritative scholar in the Shafi’i school, notes in his Tuhfah al-Muhtaj: “If al-mushaqqa [hardship] increases (as a result) of iltizam [being committed] to our madhhab, then there is no shame in withdrawing (from that) by taqlid to another school.” Imam al-Nawawi, one of the foremost authorities in the Shafi’i school, elaborates upon this further in his Minhaj al-Talibin, which Ibn Hajar’s work is a commentary on: “That which the proof necessitates is that a layman is not obligated to follow a specific madhhab.”
  2. However, Imam al-Nawawi immediately goes on to note: “Instead, he seeks a fatwa (religious ruling) from whoever he wishes, provided he does not chase after concessions (emphasis mine). Perhaps those who prevented him (from following other schools) did so because they were not convinced he would not chase after concessions.”
  3. There are three points to be kept in mind here. The first is that generally and ordinarily speaking, Imam al-Nawawi confirms that a layman who does not have a madhhab in the first place, is at liberty to seek and apply a fatwa via whatever legitimate jurist might tell him, as does Ibn Hajar. The guidelines mentioned here are more applicable to individuals who have consciously chosen a school to study and practice, at whatever level.
  4. The second thing, however, is that in so doing, a constant and exhaustive search of the most lenient positions in the various schools (what would be described as ‘tatabbu’ al-rukhas’) is hardly advisable in terms of safeguarding one’s religion.
  5. The third point Imam al-Nawawi makes hints at the reason behind the second. Seeking out the most lenient positions is the opposite of precaution and taking one’s religion seriously. In other words, it turns one’s religion into something of a plaything, and is dangerous for one’s spiritual development.
  6. To avoid treating one’s religion like a plaything, indeed, it is advisable to consciously try to find a hajja [need] of some sort in terms of going outside of one’s school – such an attempt will, insha’Allah, safeguard someone from the concern Imam al-Nawawi points out above about ‘chasing after concessions’.
  7. The scholars have differed on what constitutes a ‘need’, and there is thus some leeway in this regard – but one should consider it carefully. Avoiding undue hardship would be an example of a ‘hajja’, for example. Again, the point to consider here is simply this – is one ‘chasing after concessions’, and making that the basis of their practice? Or does one genuinely have a need? Or is someone simply asking the first most qualified person they came across to ask, rather than seeking out the most lenient opinion? These are questions to be asked of one’s self.
  8. This point is less about whether the going out of one’s school will be valid or not, and more about a far wider consideration – how seriously one takes their commitment to their religion. If one is constantly seeking out the easiest position from among the schools, then many scholars, such as the aforementioned Ibn Hajar al-Haytami,will speak of their concern that such a person may become spiritually corrupted.

Philosophical and intellectual consistency

  1. On an intellectual level, one can only perform talfiq if one genuinely considers the position one is now taking from that is different from the one that one was taking before, is a valid one and possibly the correct one.
  2. If one genuinely believes that the position one was taking previous is actually the stronger and correct position, then one cannot intellectually then form a honest intention when it comes to following a contrary position. As such, it makes the action of talfiq effectively very difficult. If one is convinced of such an assessment of a position, then one should act upon it, and shouldn’t abandon it.
  3. As a result of these considerations, it becomes intellectually more difficult for more advanced students in a particular school to engage in talfiq. It is not impossible, but this intellectual honesty that is linked to intention is what makes the ability to engage in talfiq more difficult, the more one is educated in a particular school.
  4. As such, many of our scholars, such as Imam al-Kurdi, indicated that this preferable and easier intellectually and consciously to follow a less reliable opinion in one’s own school than to follow another school. This is because that in such a scenario, one is still able to consider that the same usul [legal methodology] is at work, because both positions are underpinned by the same usul in the same madhhab. When one goes outside of a school, one is implicitly accepting that not only the position may be valid, but also the different usul may be as well.

As noted, this is the general set of guidelines. They alter according to the level of learning of a person; if one is giving fatwa, another set of considerations apply; the tarbiya [training] of a particular student by a teacher; and so forth. By way of an example: many scholars, for example, will insist that their students actively avoid taking dispensations, even when it is ordinarily permitted to do so, in order to train themselves in the spiritual path. This is not a general point that is necessarily applicable to all Muslims.

As an example of how this might alter altogether – and without claiming this is the standard, normal approach – Imam Abdul-Wahhab al-Sha’rani, a prominent Egyptian scholar (b. 891 Hijri) and Shadhuli Sufi, offered the view that the pious, who are the ‘strong’, would always pursue the ‘azima [stricter] opinion from among the schools. In his perspective, the Sufi, in his struggle against his lower self would choose the stricter opinions. This would be during a particular period of the Sufi’s sulūk [wayfaring or path] – and it would be a matter of intense ethical consideration, as opposed to the legal domain per se, in that it is not everyone who is supposed to follow such a way of practice. At another stage of sulūk – including at an advanced stage – considerations might be different.

Any student of knowledge seeking to know how to apply such understanding to their lives in any given circumstance is advised to seek counsel from a faqih [jurisprudent] they trust, and who is familiar with their circumstances. May God grant us all understanding, Ameen!


Ustādh Dr. Hisham A. Hellyer (Biography from ‘A Sublime Way: the Sufi Path of the Makkan Sages’) 

A noted scholar and author focusing on politics and religion, Dr Hisham A. Hellyer was born to an English father and to an Egyptian mother of Sudanese & Moroccan heritage and Ḥasanī & ʿAbbāsī lineage. He was raised between London, Cairo and Abu Dhabi, before receiving degrees in law and international political economy from the University of Sheffield, and a doctorate from the University of Warwick. He began researching Islamic law, theology and spirituality in his teens, keeping the company of and studying under a number of classically trained-scholars in the UK, Egypt, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa and elsewhere. They include the likes of Shaykh Seraj Hendricks, the former head of the fatwa department of South Africa’s Muslim Judicial Council, and the khalifa of the Makkan polymath and sage, Sayyid Muhammad b. Alawi al-Maliki. Dr. Hellyer was appointed by Shaykh Seraj Hendricks as a Senior Scholar of the Zawiya Institute in Cape Town, South Africa.

Dr. Hellyer’s career has included positions at and affiliations with the Brookings Institution, Harvard University, the American University in Cairo, Cambridge Muslim College, and the Centre for Advanced Studies on Islam, Science and Civilisation (CASIS).He is a frequent commentator and columnist in various media in the United States, Europe and the Arab world, and is included in the annual global list of ‘The 500 Most Influential Muslims’ in the world (‘The Muslim 500’). Among his written works are ‘Muslims of Europe: the ‘Other’ Europeans’ (Edinburgh University Press), ‘A Revolution Undone: Egypt’s Road Beyond Revolt’ (Oxford University Press) and “The Islamic Tradition, Muslim Communities and the Human Rights Discourse” (editor)(Atlantic Council). Dr Hellyer works between London, Washington DC, and Cairo, where he continues to research, teach, and study. @hahellyer


 

The Trodden Path (Episode 6): A Glimpse At the Lives of the Illustrious Scholars and Saints of the 20th and 21st Century – Mufti Muhammad Shafi‛

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


In this sixth episode of the The Trodden Path series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed writes on the life of Mufti Muhammad Shafi‛ Uthmani

 

Shaykh Mufti Muhammad Shafi‛ 1314-1396=1897-1976 (Pakistan)

He was born in 1897 (1314), in Deoband, India and is a descendant of the Uthmani family. His father, Mawlana Muhammad Yasin was a scholar and a very pious person. He thus grew up in a very religious environment and had the great fortune of sitting in the company of great luminaries of the time.

At the age of five, he began his Quranic education under Hafiz Muhammad Azim. He studied Persian works under his father and some mathematics under his uncle, Mawlana Manzur Ahmad and other secular subjects. Qari Muhammad Yusuf Mirthi whose recitation was broadcasted over the All India Radio, taught him Tajwid.

He was admitted to Dar Al-Uloom at the age of sixteen and qualified in 1918 (1335). Some of his teachers and mentors were:

  • Shaykh Anwar Shah Kashmiri. Under his guidance and supervision, he read and studied Sahih Al-Bukhari, Al-Tirmidhi, Al-Shama’il, Al-Ilal and some books in Fiqh. His Shaykh loved him and requested that he write a critique of the Qadiyani movement. He complied and wrote a book in Urdu and another in Arabic titled Hadiyat Al-Mahdiyin fi Ayat Khatmi Al-Nabiyin.
  • Shaykh Aziz Al-Rahman Uthmani. With him he read Al-Muwatta with both narrations that are Imam Yahya Al-Laithi and Imam Muhammad ibn Hasan. He also read Sharh Al-Ma’ani Al-Athar, Mishkaat Al-Masabih, Sharh Al-Nukhbah and Tafsir Al-Jalalayn.
  • Shaykh Shabir Ahmad Uthmani. With whom he read Sahih Muslim and about half of AlHidayah. He also accompanied him a lot and benefited tremendously.
  • Mawlana Asghar Husain. With him he read Sunan Al-Nisai, Sunan Abi Dawud and a portion towards the end of Al-Tirmidhi.
  • Mawlana Izaaz Ali
  • Mawlana Rasool Khan Hazarwi
  • Mawlana Habiburrahman Uthmani

Each of these was an ocean of knowledge and piety. His son, Mufti Taqi Uthmani mentioned his other teachers in Zhayl Al-Izdiyad Al-Sani ala Al-Yani Al-Jani.

From his student days, he was regarded amongst the highly intelligent and diligent. He distinguished himself in all examinations, and as a result he was loved by his teachers.

After graduating, Mawlana Habiburrahman appointed him to teach some subjects for the lower classes and very soon he progressed to the higher classes when he taught almost every subject. He taught for about twenty-seven to thirty years until 1943 (1362). During this period, about 30 000 students, from all over the world benefited from his discourses.  Until today there are some of his students still serving the cause of Islam in various parts of the world. He was also given the task of heading the Dar Al-Ifta.

 

Mufti Shafi’ also reached a very high stage in Tasawwuf. He initially took the allegiance (baya’t) to Shaykh Al-Hind in 1920. After the latter’s demise, his spiritual contact continued with Shaykh Thanwi who conferred the mantle of Khilafat to him in 1930. He spent about twenty years in the company of his Shaykh under whose supervision he produced some outstanding literary works.

Mawlana Jamil Ahmad Uthmani said that Shaykh Thanwi had such a reliance on Mufti Shafi’s juristic acumen, that he consulted him on his personal matters as well.

Shaykh Thanwi once said, “May Allah lengthen the life of Mufti Shafi’, for I achieve two joys due to him. Firstly, I obtain knowledge from him and secondly, I have the satisfaction that after me there are people who will continue the work.”

After the demise of his teacher, Shaykh Aziz Al-Rahman, he was appointed as the Head of Fatwa at the Dar Al-Uloom. He remained in this position from 1350-1362. His fatawa were compiled in an eight-volume book entitled Imdad Al-Muftin.

 

Besides his literary and religious endeavors, he also served the people in the political arena. He played a major role in the independence of Pakistan, by openly supporting the Muslim League. Shaykh Thanwi chose him above other scholars to reform and spiritually rectify the leaders of the League like Muhammad Ali Jinnah and others. Mufti Shafi’ was also appointed as the Chief Supervisor of the Jamiyat Al-Ulama, a body created by the scholars who participated in the movement for the creation of Pakistan. In 1945, due to his influence, voting went in favour of Liaqat Ali Khan, who was elected as the President. Due to his political involvement in trying to establish an Islamic State, he was unable to teach, so he resigned.

In 1947 (1367), after the founding of Pakistan, and at the request of Shaykh Uthmani, he left Deoband. In 1949, after the demise of Shaykh Uthmani, he was elected as the Chairman of the Jamiyat Al-Ulama. He was also elected to many national bodies and made great efforts to promote Islam in the country.

In 1950 (1350), he established an institute in Karachi, which after a few months developed into a fully-fledged Dar Al-Uloom, with more than two thousand students. He wrote more than a hundred books some of which like his Tafsir; Ma’arif AlQuran is a great contribution to the study of the Quran. Besides his writing, his Tafsir of the Quran was broadcasted on Radio Pakistan for many years.

Some of his other works are:

  1. Ahkam Al-Quran. He wrote this as per instruction form Shaykh Ashraf Ali Thanwi. Shaykh Zafar Ahmad, Shaykh Idris Khandehlawi and Mufti Jamil were amongst those also selected for this task. Mufti Shafi’s allotment was the portion from Surah Shuaraa until Surah Al-Hujuraat. He completed this in one large volume.
  2. Alaat Jadidah. Fiqh rulings on new issues.

 

Mufti Shafi’ spent his entire life in Islamic activities. Despite his elevated status he was a very humble person. He had an immaculate character and was always smiling. He had a habit of speaking softly but his replies were concise and to the point. He wore simple clothing throughout his life. He had an exceptional ability in both writing and reading and had a phenomenal memory. During his discourses he would give references of books that he had read many years ago. He was a poet in Arabic. Above all he was the head of all the scholars of Pakistan.

Very few people are aware that he was also an expert calligrapher, bookbinder and a hakim (physician). He learnt calligraphy and bookbinding during his student days. He studied herbal medicine as part of his course in the Dar Al-Uloom. His intention was to teach without remuneration and earn a livelihood by practising as a physician. However, Allah had not decreed this for him. When he was initially appointed as a teacher, his monthly salary was five rupees. When he left the institute after twenty-six years his salary was sixty-five rupees a month, whereas he had offers to teach in several parts of the country for a much higher salary, but he did not accept these offers. Madrasah Aliyah of Calcutta, offered him seven hundred rupees a month, but he refused the offer.

 

He passed away in October 1976 (Shawaal 1396). More than 100 000 people participated in his Janazah. Dr. Abdul Hay, senior successor of Shaykh Thanwi and a close friend of Mufti Shafi’ led the Salat. Many scholars expressed grief at his demise.

Mawlana Ihtisam Al-Haq said, “All the ulama have become orphans with his demise.”

Mufti Mahmud said, “Now it is very difficult for such a great learned man and jurist to be born.”

He is survived by his sons, Mufti Taqi Uthmani who is an excellent scholar, a Judge in the Supreme Court of Pakistan and a member of the International Fiqh Academy in Jeddah and Mufti Rafi Uthmani.


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

He has authored two books:

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

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


Connecting to the Imams of Fiqh – Mufti Taha Karaan

* Courtesy of Bayt Muhammad Academy

In this video, Mufti Taha Karaan elucidates with eloquence and precision why Muslims should connect and find value in the various schools of Islamic juristic thought. Contrary to what many believe and assume, the schools of Islamic jurisprudence have always employed rational and intellectual tools in their respective methodologies when arriving at solutions for people and societies. As the world changes and progresses, new challenges will arise and confront people. It is in these circumstances that qualified and astute scholars will need to build on the legacy of the past in order to guide and provide new solutions for Muslims in the modern era.

* This video was recorded on Monday 22nd May 2017 at Masjid-e-Rizwan in Blackburn (UK) as part of Mutfi Taha Karaan’s Affinity lecture tour with Bayt Muhammad Academy. For the original youtube link please click here

 

Channeling Anger for the Doing of Good – Nurulain Wolhuter

Anger is one of the more serious diseases of the heart. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, emphasised its severity in numerous ahadith. For example, Abu Huraira, Allah be pleased with him, narrates that a man said to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace: “Advise me”. He said: “Do not become angry”. So he (the man) reiterated (the question) over and over. He (the Prophet) said: “Do not become angry” [al-Bukhari]. And Anas, Allah be pleased with him, asked the Prophet about that which distances him from the anger of Allah, and he said: “Do not become angry” [Ahmad].

But does this mean that one should never feel anger? How should we feel, for instance, when experiencing or witnessing oppression, cruelty or injustice? Or when someone reviles our religion or our beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace? Imam al-Ghazali takes the view that excessive anger, as well as the inability to become angry at all, are reprehensible. However, being angry in moderation is permissible, as long as it is controlled by the intellect. This is in accordance with our Prophet’s instruction to always follow the middle way in everything.

By way of illustration, let us consider the case of Islamophobia. As Muslims living in the West, we have become all too familiar with its subtleties – veiled comments about bomb-carriers, descriptions of women in niqab as letter-boxes – as well as with its more overt forms – women’s headscarves being ripped off, pigs’ blood being spattered on mosques. But how should we deal with the anger that these experiences evoke?

Imam al-Ghazali’s cures for anger are as insightful in this respect as they are in regard to anger more generally. He exhorts us to humility and patience, and to view ourselves as no better than others. Rather than step forward to take on the perpetrators, to insist on our rights above all else, or to retreat to a siege of separatism, we should think of how our response can demonstrate the truth and beauty of Islam. And how better to do this than to emulate the example of Allah’s Beloved, Allah bless him and give him peace. In this way, our moderate anger will be kept under the control of our intellect. For he, when people reviled and hurt him, responded with the best of character. Instead of seeking the destruction of the people of Ta’if who had hurt him so badly, he expressed the hope that believers would come forth from among their descendants. And instead of being harsh to Abu Jahl, he asked Allah to honour Islam with the one whom He loves more: Abu Jahl or Umar ibn al-Khattab [Tirmidhi].

So the anger we feel when we experience or witness things that hurt or offend us in our religion is justified, provided that it is moderate and controlled. But if we go beyond that, and try our best to transform the anger into forgiveness, gentleness and kindness to those who have hurt or offended us, we will be calling them to the truth and reality of Islam. Let us try to emulate our Beloved in this, as we try to emulate him in everything else.