How To Attain Focus, Patience And Stillness In A Chaotic World

“The scholars sacrifice immediate benefit for long-term benefit,” Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Today, the modern world lives in convenience, expecting to be served, rather than to serve. Although some may argue that convenience and technology save time and reduce physical labor, we continue to complain that we do not have time or energy, reducing ourselves to potatoes sitting on the living room’s couch.

Focus: a salient virtue within Islamic mysticism

Traditionally, focus — a salient virtue within Islamic mysticism — was regarded as a core characteristic of the aspirant, especially among the Sufis. As such, the saints were focused individuals who, despite the calamities they faced, were depicted in the Qur’an as, “Those who are neither fearful nor sad.” In simple words, the saints enjoy the present moment, leaving their past to the will of God and their future to His decree. Hence, the seeker of knowledge is, essentially, a seeker of God, striving, with discipline, practice, and patience to maximize his benefit in every moment while taking the most excellent of ways to do so.

Impatience: Your place is where God has positioned you

Patience is a trait that the seeker should inculcate to facilitate depth in knowledge. In his lexicon on Sufi terminology, Ibn Ajiba defines patience as, “An imprisonment of the heart in submission to God’s command.” Impatience, if understood by the contrary (mafhum al-mukhalafa), would be to release the ego in contradiction to God’s command.
To understand this better, my math teacher, Dr. Yousseif Ismail, once told me that impatience was the desire to cross the current moment that God had willed for you to be in, for a moment that you believed to be better for yourself. In practice, patience is significantly important to the student for a number of reasons.
Firstly, our teachers say, “Your place is where God has positioned you,” suggesting that one should be content with one’s condition, wherever God has decreed him to be. The student of knowledge should recognize that he is a student and must act according to the etiquette of one.

Unstable premises lead to faulty conclusions

As for the second, in order to have depth in knowledge, the student of knowledge should not speak without internalized and externalized foundations that inform his speech, unless a need arises to do so or he is given permission by his teacher(s). The reason given for this is closely related to the he first: a student should not speak in the place of a scholar, fooling the community and inciting his own ego — a celebrity preacher. Unstable premises lead to faulty conclusions; hence, the true aspirant takes the time to ground himself in knowledge, submitting to his current instant, and follows the lead of his teachers throughout.

Prioritise your objectives

To maximize my own time and focus, Shaykh Faraz advised me to have a clear objective of my studies, so I applied the categories of need to my own studies. The scholars divide need into three categories:

  • necessities (dharuriyat)
  • needs (hajiyat)
  • perfections (takmilat)

For example, when considering a new home, you ensure that its foundations are strong, since the house will collapse without solid ground. Then after, you may inspect the ceiling and walls for cracks, because a house is incomplete without these secondary things. After ensuring the house is livable and safe, you might begin to think of ways to beautify your living space with artwork, curtains, rugs, although such adornments are not essential to a house — you can live without them. Similarly, like any profession, one needs to take the proper means to acquire his goals; otherwise, means become ends.
Lastly, in taking steps towards focus, the individual must seek the counsel of God, a metaphysical correspondence to his subjective reality, and the advice of masters, an earthly exchange from experts for an objective assurance (istikhara wa istishara). Thus, remember that you are the present; the future passed a moment ago, but take from those who have passed and know that God is ahead — you are in between the two.
Yousaf Seyal

 Photo by Frida Eyjolfs

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Four Keys To Successful Action – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Four Keys To Successful Action

Guaranteeing Success by “True” Conditions

By Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

The idea of striving for success is a central theme of both the Qur’an and Prophetic teachings. It is something ultimately sought by every human. But how is success achieved?

Shaykh al-Islam Shabbir Usmani, one of the great Muslim scholars of the 20th century and a leading voice in the Independence Movement in the Indian subcontinent, said we can understand from the Qur’an and Prophetic teachings that, if the following four conditions are present, success is guaranteed.

The Four Keys

1) One’s intention must be true;

2) One’s goal must be true;

3) The means one takes must be true; and

4) The way one takes the means must be true.

How are these four conditions made “true”?

First: True Intention

A true intention is for one’s action to be sincerely for the sake of God.

God Most High says, “They were only ordered to serve God, making their religion sincerely His.” (98:5)

And, “Whoever hopes for the meeting with his Lord, let him do righteous work, and make none sharer of the service due unto his Lord.” (18:110)

The Messenger of God (God bless him and give him peace) said, “Actions are by intentions, and each person shall only have that which he intended.” (Related by Bukhari and Muslim, on the authority of Umar – God be pleased with him)

The second Islamic century scholar and Sufi, Abdullah Ibn al-Mubarak (God have mercy on him), said, “How often is a small action made tremendous through its intention, and how often is a tremendous action rendered small through its intention.” (Dhahabi, Siyar A’lam al-Nubala, 8.400)

Second: True Goals

Having a true goal entails that one’s goal is something that is pleasing to God. What pleases God is seeking to make good one’s relationship with Him and to seek the good for oneself and for all creation.

Third: True Means

The Prophet (God bless him and give him peace) said, “The strong believer is better and more beloved to God than the weak believer, though there is good in both. Be avid for that which benefits. Rely on God, and don’t deem yourself incapable.” (Related by Muslim, on the authority of Abu Hurayra – God be pleased with him)

The “strong believer” in this hadith has been explained in various ways, but perhaps the best explanation is that the strong believer is the one who is able to take the best of means – outward and inward – in each situation.

Some sunnas in planning the right way of action include:

[1] Considering all options;

[2] Consulting those worthy of consultation;

[3] Carefully weighing the choices based on the greatest likely benefit;

[4] Consigning the matter to God by suspending one’s judgment before acting and performing the prayer of seeking guidance (istikhara); and

[5] Acting in the way one then feels is of the greatest likely benefit. It is a Prophetic promise that such action will be blessed.

Fourth: True Way of Taking the Means

This entails that the way one takes the means be in accordance with the spirit of excellence, wisdom, gentleness, dignity and forbearance that are the essence of the way of the Beloved Messenger Muhammad (God bless him and give him peace).

It entails striving to promote the good – for oneself and others – in one’s action and as one acts; and to strive to respond to all challenges that arise in the best way possible.

May God inspire us to all that is best and most pleasing to Him.

And God alone gives success.

What is Intelligence? (Khutbah by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani at Princeton University)

In this khutbah, delivered at Princeton University, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani explains that true intelligence is the capacity to seek ultimate benefit and to know God.

Download this talk: here

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