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How do We Know? Summary of Lecture by Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas

(20th April 2013)Summary of Saturday Night Lecture (5th Session)

HOW DO WE KNOW?

 

Being a summary of the CASIS Saturday Night Lecture by

Tan Sri Professor Dr. Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas

on Saturday, 20th April 2013

Corruptio optimi pessima.”

– Latin proverb

Knowledge is the light by which everything else is made manifest and ready for the correct and proper understanding by man. Therefore, true knowledge is most precious possession that can be entrusted to somebody else and its corruption gave rise to all sorts of evil that brings about misery, injustice and suffering upon the individual and ultimately to the rest of the society.

Professor Dr. Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas began his deliberations by drawing attention to the fact that the description of the methods and channels by which man obtains and secures knowledge – the five external senses, sound reason and true reports – has been incorporated as part of the creed of Islām (aqīda), therefore emphasizing the central role of true knowledge that grounds proper understanding and practice of the religion of Islām.

This is exemplified in such works such as the ‘Aqā’id of al-Nasafī, which was written by the Sunnī and Ḥanafī jurisconsult and theologian belonging to the school of al-Māturīdī, Abū Hafs ‘Umar Najm al-Dīn al-Nasafī (d. 1142 A.C.), and which is later commentated upon by the likes of Sa‘d al-Dīn al-Taftāzānī[1] (d. 1387/8 A.C.); the Malay translation of this work represents the oldest known Malay manuscript text now extant and contains the fundamental beliefs and faith of the Muslims based upon the essentials of the religion of Islām[2]. He explained that of the motivations behind such a work is to dispel errors and misinterpretations regarding the essentials of the religion, and to fortify the Muslims against erroneous matters that contradict the correct understanding and practice of Islām.

Professor al-Attas set forth the idea that knowledge can be corrupted as well as lost, and then proceeded to describe in a succinct fashion the three groups of people that corrupt knowledge[3]:

The first group consists of those who are ignorant, and this may come about simply due to the different levels of perception and understanding between two people regarding the same object of knowledge. This simple ignorance may be remedied through continual and patient instruction and clarification. However, the second kind of ignorance, what is known as compounded ignorance, is less amenable to rectification or illumination because the one who suffers from such ignorance are ignorant of being in such a state or condition. In other words, those who languish in a state of compounded ignorance are unaware that he is engulfed in ignorance; therefore any attempt by others to remove himself from such a state will be met with psychological opposition and intellectual inertia from that same person. It is evident that this second kind of ignorance is more harmful to correct understanding and true knowledge as compared with the first kind because the latter can serve as a conduit for misinformation and misinterpretation that can give rise to widespread confusion and error.

The second group consists of the extremists or those who are excessive in thought, utterance or action or those who exceed the proper and just limits in a particular situation, whether going far beyond or falling short of what is required of them. Professor al-Attas made the point that extremism vis-a-vis religion can manifest itself either first, through what is commonly called ‘religious fundamentalism’[4], a term which he disapproves when carelessly applied to the Muslims because as far as Islām is concerned, the fundamental implies that which has already been established, clearly and firmly, therefore requires no further ‘development’ or ‘improvement’ in order to attain completeness, maturity and perfection; or second, through a strident anti-religious attitude as exemplified and promoted by the secularists who seek to confine religion to the realm of the private and the personal. Both groups are extremists insofar as they militate against just order and limits, specifically in matters pertaining to the purpose, role and value of religion at the individual and societal levels. He also added that the popular and present usage of the term ‘fundamentalist’ is much colored by the assumptions based on the Western historical experience with Christianity, whose long history saw moral conflicts within the Church, cycles of violence and wars between the various sects in Christianity, rivalry between the Church and secular powers whether for political supremacy or intellectual authority, and the battle waged by the Church against residual pre-Christian pagan influences, heresies and superstitions.

According to Professor al-Attas, Muslim extremists in the history of Islām, such as the Kharijites[5], always tried to differentiate themselves with the rest of the Community in terms of their outward appearance, for instance by wearing distinctive clothing or by performing religious rites in an excessive way, be it in terms of quantity or intensity. Ironically, their unthinking inflexibility in their interpretation of Islām has placed unbearable strain upon capacity of the majority of Muslims to fulfill their religious duties. Such extreme attitudes, Professor al-Attas gravely adds, are Satanic in nature because these people have unknowingly make the religion unnecessarily difficult for the majority of the Muslims, which subsequently repels people from faithfully completing such duties. Concerning the secularists, he describes their attitude as constituting a response against the excesses on the part of those who practice Taṣawwuf. The true saints (awliyā’) are to be properly respected and venerated because of their knowledge of Realities and not exclusively because of their claims to supernatural powers or abilities, which he does not deny that some do possess and display. Indeed, it is their knowledge of Realities that determines their ranks amongst themselves and with respect to other groups of scholars or men of discernment in Islām. Professor al-Attas gave the example of Imām al-Ghazālī who occupies a higher rank compared to the ranks of other saints, scholars and men of discernment because firstly, both Muslims and non-Muslims benefited from his numerous works, and secondly, his works are still being read, referred to and commented upon until today.

The third group that corrupts knowledge consists of the plagiarists, or those who steal ideas from other people without giving due acknowledgement to its original proponent. A plain and obvious example of this particular tribe are those who hijacked the idea of the Islamization of Knowledge originally conceived by Professor al-Attas[6] and who later discovers that they have neither the competence nor the courage to develop the idea according to its original purpose and along its logical course, substituted the word ‘Islamization’ with ‘Islamicization’ as if to signify a new and improved ‘version’ of the idea of Islamization. Professor al-Attas denounced this vulgar mutilation of terms by pointing out that the word ‘Islamicization’ denotes an action that is more passive and primarily concerned with transforming the external aspects of the object of knowledge, as opposed to the word ‘Islamization’ which carries a more active and dynamic connotation, being focused upon changing the internal aspects of the object of knowledge so that it wholly conforms with the just order established and projected by the worldview of Islam. The crimes committed by the plagiarists are not just merely ethical or moral in nature, but has intellectual and social ramifications as well because the plagiarist who fails to correctly develop the idea further as intended by its original proponent, inevitably corrupts it by turning what is originally praiseworthy into something blameworthy, or worse into a falsehood, thus depriving the Muslim Community of true guidance and timely advice that can alert and equip them with the necessary knowledge and the correct strategies to face contemporary challenges. The original proponent, in contradistinction with the plagiarists, will not only be able to clearly define and state their ideas in the most suitable manner depending on the level of understanding of the audience being addressed, but more importantly, he will be able to prescribe the most appropriate course of action that ought to be taken according to the priorities and needs of the Muslim Community, and finally achieves it. In the hands of the plagiarists, these same will be reduced from being succinct statements of great profundity to slogans littered with ill-defined, vague and hollow words and phrases. The original proponents are like skilled divers who are capable of plumbing the depths of the ocean to seek and return the most precious pearls, whilst the plagiarists are content with watching the waves lazily lapping on the shore and quietly lie in wait to steal the recovered pearls from the possession of the divers.

Professor al-Attas continues with a brief exposition of adab by drawing upon the analogy of the Holy Qur’ān as a banquet of Allah S.W.T. on Earth[7]. A banquet, he reminds us, consists of guests seated at different places around the table according to their respective merits and ranks, and enjoying the prepared meal and the pleasant company of each other. This then implies that each guest have a different rank in the eyes of the host, who extends the invitation to them in recognition of their respective merits. It also implies that guests who partake in the banquet must observe a certain decorum that befits their respective stations and the expectation of the host. Therefore, knowledge of the correct and proper places is presupposed for both the host and the guest, and more importantly, this knowledge of right place must be manifested in right action. This act of putting oneself in the proper place in conformity with the requirements of the knowledge of the correct and proper places of things is adab, from which the condition of justice (‘adl) manifests. In short, adab is right action that is illuminated by the lantern of right knowledge and that results in a condition of justice. In this way, the connection between adab, knowledge, wisdom and justice has been established.

For instance, adab towards knowledge implies certain suitableness between the nature of the object of knowledge with the knowledge and ability of the knower. Professor al-Attas demonstrated an interesting application of this principle by stating that what can be painted by an artist is limited in the sense that not every idea that was inspired to him can be adequately represented in paintings for certain ideas require to be revealed clearly without ambiguity through the medium of language as opposed to through the medium of art. Therefore, an artist cannot claim that he wants to paint ma‘rifah (illuminative knowledge) as the representation of such a concept cannot be sufficiently captured on canvas; in fact it might even potentially mislead those who saw such a representation from the true and correct understanding of ma‘rifah. Therefore, adab in this instance demands that medium through which the representation of an object of knowledge is conveyed be made to ‘fit’ the nature of the object of knowledge, which presupposes in the artist a correct understanding of the nature of the represented subject as revealed by sound reason.

Adab towards nature implies a recognition and acknowledgement that God had originally created and bestowed everything in the natural world their due measure. The orderliness, uniformity and rationality in nature – what the Greeks called the cosmos[8] – bespeak of the Divine Intelligence that creates and orders everything into their proper places, and do not result from the manipulation or ‘improvement’ of nature by man the through technological means abetted by modern science. Indeed, it is not man that produces a cosmos out of a pre-existing chaos, but man, out of his ignorance, spreads chaos throughout the pre-established cosmos[9]. The natural law that governs natural phenomena are to be understood as God’s customary way of acting, which though is infinitely creative, at the same time displays a certain regularity and uniformity so as to make the natural world susceptible to systematic investigation and thus may be understood by the human mind[10].

Sensible data regarding the natural world that flows through the channel of the five external senses are subsequently passed on to the five internal senses, which Professor al-Attas carefully described and explained as consisting of the common sense, the representation, the estimation, the recollection-retentive and finally the imagination[11]:

The first of the internal senses is the common sense (al-ḥiss al-mushtarak) that is responsible for gathering, combining and separating the individual sensibilia that it receives from the five external senses. However, the common sense is unable to retain the data it receives – Professor al-Attas quoted an analogy employed by Ibn Sīnā by drawing a comparison of the action of the common sense with the in-ability of a seal to leave an impression upon water – and the function of recording of the sensible data received by the common sense is performed by the second internal sense called the representative faculty (al-khayāliyyah). This faculty holds and re-creates the form of the perceived object when it is no longer present to the external senses, and is divided into the sensitive imagination (al-mutakhayyal) and the cognitive or rational imagination (al-mufakkirah). The former deals with sensible experiences and is able to combine the sensibilia in such a way as to give pleasure to the senses and is productive of technical and artistic skills, for instance, responsible for the construction of mythologies and legends; the latter deals with non-sensible objects that has been abstracted or idealized so as to aid the intelligence in discovering the natural world, for instance in the conception of mathematical objects, such as a perfect triangle or an infinitely long line, or of theoretical entities in physics, such as a point electrical charge or a frictionless surface[12]. The third internal sense is the estimative faculty (al-wahmiyyah) that apprehends ideas and, without reasoning, makes the individual soul form right judgment. According to al-Ghazālī, the estimative faculty is the source of errors for the philosophers concerning their judgments over questions or antinomies such as the infinity of space and the eternity of time, both of which have been contradicted by recent discoveries in modern astronomical and cosmological researches. The function of the fourth internal sense, the retentive and recollective faculty (al-ḥafiẓah and al-dhākirah), with respect to the estimative faculty is analogous to that of the representative faculty with respect to the common sense i.e. just as the representative faculty preserves the form of the sensible data for the purpose of subsequent action by the common sense, the retentive and recollective faculty retains the individual and collective meanings attributed to the sensible data for the estimative faculty, thus permitting comparison of the newly perceived data with prior ideas and past experiences. Finally, the fifth internal sense is the imaginative faculty (al-mutakhayyilah) that is responsible for the process of perfect abstraction by removing all concomitant qualities from an idea, and thus apprehends its meaning as a universal idea.

Professor al-Attas continues his discussion on the channels of knowledge by next focusing on reason and intuition, and by stating that there exist two kinds of intuition: in the sense of sagacity (al-ḥads), and in the sense of illuminative experience (al-wijdān)[13]. The former pertains to the kinds of intuition that great men of science and learning attain in the moments of their decisive discoveries of laws and principles that govern the natural world and is manifested at the normal level of human consciousness in terms of discernment, quick understanding and profundity. The latter kind of intuition refers to the direct and immediate apprehension of religious truths and which culminates in the intuition of existence itself. Professor al-Attas adds that the lowest level of intuition is closer to instinct, therefore not a reliable source of knowledge for the majority of people. However, intuition can be a source of knowledge for one who has assiduously prepared himself in terms of knowledge, training and experience, as can be gleaned from historical accounts of inspirational discoveries made by the great men of science and learning, for instance that of the German chemist, Friedrich Kekule (d. 1896) who discovered the hexagonal structure of the benzene molecule after dreaming of six snakes seizing each other’s tail to form a six-sided structure[14]. With regards to the relationship between knowledge and the brain, Professor al-Attas asserts that knowledge does not originate from the physical brain because the brain is just an instrument of the soul and though various functions of the human brain deteriorates as a person increases in age, the sum knowledge acquired by the person throughout his entire life does not decrease with the same proportion.

The third channel through which knowledge is acquired, the true reports (khabar al-ṣādiq), are of two kinds according to whether the authority behind it is absolute or may be questioned by the methods of reason and experience[15]. The first refers to true reports brought by the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace!) whilst the second refers to true reports established by those whom reason cannot conceive that they would conspire on a falsehood. Professor al-Attas made a penetrating point by highlighting the fact that though both criteria of sanad (the sequence, number and continuity of the transmitters) and of mutawatir (the sequence, number and continuity of transmitters is unspecified, but the transmitted narration is significant in and of itself) are important in the assessing the truth and veracity of ḥadīth, the latter criterion carries a higher degree of authority compared to the former because it sets a stricter intellectual requirement in evaluating the credibility of the narrators or transmitters. Furthermore, he adds that the criterion of sanad is appropriate for ḥadīth pertaining to legal matters, which is employed as a basis for legal judgments in the socio-political sense, but is not necessarily suitable and applicable to other types of ḥadīth, such as those pertaining to philosophy, ethics and metaphysics, which is more personal in its scope and implication[16].

Having described the three channels through which knowledge is acquired and secured, and the three groups of people who corrupt knowledge, Professor al-Attas addressed the process by which corruption of knowledge is effected. He maintains that the corruption of knowledge occurs through the medium of language, specifically due to the restriction of key terms and concepts[17]. The corruption of religious scriptures by the Jews and Christians through their religious history and as recorded in the Holy Qur’ān is a clear example of how the deliberate manipulation of terms can cause the meanings projected by these terms to become opaque and distorted, thus impairing its ability to convey knowledge correctly and without ambiguity, hence productive of confusion and error. It follows therefore that translation is not simply a process of substituting one letter or word for another, but more importantly, a process of transferring meaning as scientifically as possible; what is aimed for is not a superficial integrity in terms of form or utterance, but the faithful and correct rendering of the meaning of the word or phrase[18]. Professor al-Attas highlighted the impeccable translation of the word ‘ilm by the Malay-Muslim scholars in the past who, through their translation, distinguished between what may be called ‘knowledge by description’ (‘ilmu pengetahuan) and ‘knowledge by acquaintance’ or illuminative knowledge (‘ilmu pengenalan), the former corresponding to the general meaning of the word ‘ilm or knowledge, whilst the latter is more closely associated in meaning with the word ma‘rifah or illuminative knowledge[19]. Such a careful translation successfully captures and preserves the meaningful distinction between the terms ‘ilm and ma‘rifah in the Arabic language, therefore secures it against potential confusion and deliberate misinterpretation.

Towards the end of the lecture, Professor al-Attas deftly introduces the subject of secularization by pointing out that secularization arises in Western Europe due to the profound disappointment of Western society with Christianity in the early modern period, which is punctuated by a series of revolts against the political, intellectual and moral authority of the Church[20]. The increasingly ‘rational’ mind of the Western man rebels strongly against certain key Christian concepts such as the Trinity, which its proponents tried to defend for instance by drawing an analogy between the three aspects in the Trinity with the relationship between a rose and its various attributes, its smell, its color, its texture etc. Professor al-Attas cleverly unmasked the error in this analogy in the following manner: Supposing that we have a rose free of all its attributes i.e. it has no color, no scent, no texture. Do we still then consider a rose free of its concomitant qualities a rose? If we reply in the negative, then it implies that rose is dependent upon its attributes. If this is equally true for the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, it follows that God is dependent upon the other aspects of the Trinity, therefore compromising His Absolute Oneness and His Absolute Majesty and Power. In short, it is difficult to square the doctrine of the Trinity with the monotheistic conception of God, and any attempt to force this equivalence is liable to be objected by sound reason[21].

A member of the audience raised the question “Can moral and political wisdom be taught?” after the lecture has ended. Professor al-Attas replied the fact that there is a science of ethics implies the existence of a body of knowledge concerning right conduct with principles and methods that can be approached, learnt and developed in a systematic fashion. He also adds that ethics as far as Islām is concerned is not merely a matter for philosophical speculation but is something normative and to be practiced by those who follow and advocate it. This normative conception of ethics, Professor al-Attas adds, is evident in the logical order of Aristotle’s works in ethical and political philosophies, in that the Nichomedean Ethics precedes the Politics, thus indicating the priority of the theoretical understanding of the former for the practical application of the latter. In addition, the term ‘adl (justice) being one of the names of Allah S.W.T.[22] establishes in a self-evident way the intimate connection between ethics and religion in Islām. However, the fact that ethics in Islām is part of the religious sciences does not mean that Muslims cannot justifiably profit and must reject what has been discussed by the ancient philosophers regarding moral and political philosophy, especially since some of the philosophic virtues are consonant with the virtues enjoined by the religion of Islām.

In light of what has been summarized above and given the political dissensions convulsing the nation, it is befitting to emphasize that true knowledge must be deployed to guide political decisions, primarily to re-state that the ultimate problem of politics is to devise a method to select and prepare the best to rule for the common good and permanent happiness, therefore re-establishing the primacy of the individual over the collective, which fortifies the certainty of a single individual towards the truth over and above the blind faith of the many. Ultimately, true and meaningful empowerment must be founded upon knowledge that is certain and true, out of which the change for the better can be made permanent, not just for our time but for the many generations to follow.

Prepared by:

Wan Mohd Aimran Wan Mohd Kamil PhD student at CASIS

for the pdf version click here

for registration, click here


[1] Refer to Earl Edgar Elder, trans., A Commentary on the Creed of Islam Sad al-Din al-Taftaz Sa‘d al-Dīn al-Taftāzānī on the Creed of Najm al-Dīn al-Nasafī (New York: Columbia University Press, 1950).

[2] Refer to Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, The Oldest Known Malay Manuscript: A 16th Century Translation of the ‘Aqā’id of al-Nasafī (Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya, 1988).

[3] This classification is based on a hadith of the Holy Prophet (upon him be peace!) wherein he identified three groups of people that will corrupt knowledge and disrupt its proper transmission from one generation to the next as (i) those who exceed just and proper limits, (ii) those who make false claims upon knowledge, and (iii) those whose ignorance induces them to make erroneous interpretations. Refer to Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, Miftah Dar al-Sa’adah (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyah, 1939) vol. 1, pages 163-164.

[4] Refer to Henry Munson, ‘Fundamentalism, Ancient & Modern,’ in Daedalus, Summer 2003, pages 31-41, where he described fundamentalist movements as those which:

“…demand strict conformity to sacred scriptures and to a moral code ostensibly based on these scriptures. They are usually politically assertive, although they sometimes oscillate between periods of militancy and quiescence. They are fueled in large part by moral outrage at what their supporters see as violations of the laws of God. At the same time, such moral outrage is often meshed with nationalistic and social grievances.”

The problematic nature of the term ‘fundamentalism’ when applied to religious movements outside of its original Protestant meaning was also alluded to in this essay.

[5] Refer to Kate Chambers Seelye, trans., Al-Fark Bain al-Firak by Abu Mansur ‘Abdul Kahir ibn Tahir al-Baghdadi (New York: Columbia University Press, 1920), pages 74-115.

[6] Refer to Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, The Concept of Education in Islam (Kuala Lumpur: International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, 1980) for the original exposition of the concept of Islamization and its meaning and implications for a truly Islamic education. For further elaboration, refer to Wan Mohd Nor Wan Daud, The Educational Philosophy and Practice of Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas: An Exposition of the Concept of Islamization (Kuala Lumpur: International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, 1998).

[7] Refer to Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, The Concept of Education in Islam (Kuala Lumpur: International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization), pages 23-25.

[8] Refer to Frederick Copplestone, A History of Philosophy, Vol. 1: Greece and Rome From the Pre-Socratics to Plotinus (New York: Doubleday, 1993), pages 76-80.

[9] Ar-Rum (30): 41; Al-Baqarah (2): 11-12; al-A’raf (7): 56, 85.

[10] Refer to Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, Islam and the Philosophy of Science (Kuala Lumpur: International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, 1989), pages 20-21.

[11] Refer to Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, The Nature of Man and The Psychology of the Human Soul (Kuala Lumpur: International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, 1990), pages 9-16.

[12] Refer to Richard Blackwell, Discovery in the Physical Sciences (Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1969), pages 21-22, for a brief discussion on both theoretical and practical importance of idealization in the proper formulation of a scientific hypothesis. He wrote:

“The overwhelming complexity of the universe requires such a process of simplification. Hence, in formulating a new hypothesis the scientist does not hesitate to idealize. Such hesitancy would result in paralysis.”

Compare this statement with Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam (Kuala Lumpur: International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization), pages 137-138, and Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, The Origin of the Malay Sha’ir (Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa Pustaka, 1968), page 6, all of which disproves the oft-repeated allegation that the setting of limits necessarily restricts and retards intellectual inquiry.

[13] Refer to Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, Islam and the Philosophy of Science (Kuala Lumpur: International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization), pages 10-12, 16.

[14] Refer to P. B. Medawar, Induction and Intuition in Scientific Thought (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1969). I wish to express my gratitude to Professor Dr. Muhammad Zainiy Uthman for drawing my attention to this particular work.

[15] Refer to Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, Islam and the Philosophy of Science (Kuala Lumpur: International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization), pages 12-13.

[16] This point was also made by Professor Dr. Wan Mohd Nor Wan Daud during one of his lectures for the subject ‘Worldview and Epistemic Frameworks’ at the Center for Advanced Studies on Islam, Science and Civilization (CASIS) UTM in the 2012 winter term.

[17] Refer to Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, The Concept of Education in Islam (Kuala Lumpur: International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization), pages 33-38.

[18] Refer to Muhammad Zainiy Uthman, Pemikiran dan Pembinaan Tamadun: Transformasi Modal Insan ke Arah Negara Maju (Putrajaya: Jabatan Perdana Menteri, 2012), pages 45-52.

[19] Refer to Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, Risalah untuk Kaum Muslimin (Kuala Lumpur: International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, 2001), pages 52-56.

[20] Refer to Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, Islam and Secularism (Kuala Lumpur: International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, 1993), pages 15-48. The American historian and philosopher, Will Durant (d. 1981) summarized the conditions and achievements of the Medieval Church as follows:

“All in all, the picture we form of the medieval Latin Church is that of a complex organization doing its best, despite the human frailties of its adherents and leaders, to establish moral and social order, and to spread an uplifting and consoling faith, amid the wreckage of an old civilization and the passions of an adolescent society.”

Refer to Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. 4: The Age of Faith (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1950), page 818.

[21] Refer for instance to Gabriel Said Reynolds & Samir Khalil Samir, trans., Critique of Christian Origins by ‘Abd al-Jabbar (Brigham Young University Press, 2010).

SeekersNotes: The Prayer of The Prophet ﷺ – Shaykh Yahya Rhodus

Salaah comes from Seerah and is the essential connection to our Lord.

Notes taken by Seeker Aashif Sacha

  • Imam Al-Junaid said “Ultimately life is praying 5 prayers and waiting to die”
    • This is the essential trait of the believer.
  • If you think about the implications and the greatness of this, every single opportunity that we have to pray and stand before our Lord is an opportunity for us to reestablish this connection..

As human beings we have an element that is the physical aspect of our bodies which is like clay and is moving downwards.

Another element in our bodies is the spiritual element which is the ‘Ruh’ which is always wanting to rise.

  • You constantly see the human being fluctuating between these two states that are:
    • Human Nature or Earthy Nature
    • Spiritual Nature

Ultimately the Prayer is the Miraj of the believer

  • It is the ascent of the believer.
  • Renewing the believer of connection to the heavenly realms.

If we look back at the source of prayer we find in it a very deep indication about the nature of prayer itself.

  • When our Prophet ﷺ went on Isra’ wal Miraj and was taken to Jerusalem by night and ascended and went past the 7 seven heavens into the Divine Presence, this is where he ﷺ received the prayer.
    • This is the highest degree of Revelation that our Prophet ﷺ received from our Lord.
  • Every traveller when they come home they have a gift
    • When the Prophet ﷺ returned from Isra’ wal Miraj the gift that he brought back to the Ummah was the Prayer.

We should see the prayer as a deep and intimate gift and we have to move beyond merely the very base levels of the Nafs where we find it difficult and heavy to stand before our Lord and pray to where we reach a state and do it naturally.

  • Reach a state where this is the most exciting moment of our day is the moments where we stand before our Lord.
  • This was the state of our dearly beloved Prophet Muhammad ﷺ
    • When he bothered or troubled by an affair he used to hasten to prayer ﷺ.

This goes on to the beautiful statement of his “Pray as you see me Pray”

  • This is indication that this is our Prophet Muhammad ﷺ it is the means for us to know how to worship our Lord.
  • This is one of the miracles of Islam that every single one of our forms of Ibaa’dah are completely intact.
    • That after 1400years we know exactly how our Prophet Muhammad ﷺ prayed.
    • We have very detailed descriptions of things that he used to do in his prayer ﷺ.
  • This statement also helps us understand the state of the Prophet ﷺ before his Lord and the way he was.
    • Not only did he do this element outward but what was his internal state?
    • When he ﷺ was submitting before his Lord, the prayer is unique and gathers all of these different forms of worship.
  • When you see the true inheritors of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ which reflecting to you the way that our Prophet ﷺ used to pray himself.
    • When you sit before these rightly guided scholars that you start to tap into the way our Prophet ﷺ used to pray.

Included in this meaning of the hadith “Pray as you see me Pray”

  • There is not only an Outward element but an Inward element.
  • There is a spirit and a soul which both are important and inseparable.
  • We come from a Deen that a complete balance, between having the Latter of the Law and the Spirit of the Law.

Through the inner aspect of the prayer we concentrate on the meanings of what we are saying and take the opportunity to be humble before our Lord.

  • The pinnacle of the prayer is in the position of prostration.
  • The Prophet ﷺ said “The closest that a servant is to the Lord is when he is in prostration”
    • We find that the intellect is lower than the heart

The heart is higher than the intellect.

The heart is the tool which we come to have Ma’rifah – our gnosis and knowledge of our Lord.

  • The prayer is the greatest Wirid of all
  • The greatest opportunity to draw near to our Lord in this Life.
  • This is something we should take seriously.

As soon as the Prayer time enters we should be longing to stand before our Lord.

  • The more longing we have to stand before our Lord, it would directly translate into the next world into our degree of closeness to Him.

When the prayer is intact and in shape then everything else will be intact and in shape as well.

A’isha (may God be pleased with her) was from the greatest of those who got to see the Prophet ﷺ pray.

  • She prayed as she saw him pray.

When asked what was the most amazing thing that she saw about the Messenger of Allah ﷺ

She started to weed and say “What was not amazing of the Messenger of Allah, his entire affair was amazing. But when everyone went to sleep at night, and everyone went to lay with their beloved, the Prophet ﷺ used to stand before his Lord at night – this was the most amazing affair about him, the way he used to stand in night before his Lord in prayer.”

There is no better way to expose yourself to the Mercy and sweet breezes of Mercy of Allah than through the prayer and in particular praying as our Prophet ﷺ prayed, inwardly and outwardly.

  • We must be effort and strive to learn then it will be one of the most enjoyable and pleasurable experiences and will attain a portion of Prophetic inheritances.

SeekersNotes: The Virtues of Salaah – Imam Tahir Anwar

SeekersNotes: The Virtues of Salaah – Imam Tahir Anwar

Notes taken by Seeker Aashif Sacha

Allah reminds us of our obligation of Salaah – the prayer in various places in the Quran.

  • Recite from the Quran in your Salaah
  • Our recitation should increase in our Salaah

When we speak of the virtues of Salaah

  • We are fulfilling an obligation from Allah
  • The evil that every individual is inclined to do, a human is protected from that evil through their Salaah

·      This protection comes from Salaah performed in a manner and method it should be performed

There are many obligations of our Salaah we are not fulfilling

  • Among them is that we fulfill our Salaah in a manner and method in which the Prophet ﷺ taught us.
  • Once we have fulfilled that, any evil a human being is inclined towards an individual is protected when they pray their Salaah.

“All kinds of evil, Inward and Outward an individual is protected”

The Prophet ﷺ says “An individual who performs their Salaah correctly, Allah will forgive an individual’s sins until the next prayer”

The Prophet ﷺ goes out during autumn and shakes a tree and there’s so many leaves that fall down. The Prophet ﷺ says that “an individual who prays their Salaah their sins shed from that individual as trees shed their leaves in autumn.”

  • When we shake a tree outside, we see the leaves falling
  • When we see an individual praying you don’t see any sins falling
    • We should know that when are fulfilling this obligation to Allah, Allah is rewarding us.
    • In addition to the reward we are getting we should know and realise that our sins are being forgiven by Allah
    • Slowly and surely
    • As we go from one prayer to another prayer, Allah is forgiving our sins.

The Prophet ﷺ mentioned to the Sahabah’s “If there is a pool in front of someone’s house and they jumped into that pool 5 times a day, would any dirt remain on that individual?”

The Sahabah replied “Ya Rasool Allah, no dirt, no filth would remain on that individual”

The Prophet ﷺ replied “That’s the case with an individual who performs their Salaah.”

  • Allah is doing us a favor by forgiving our sins
  • Allah is doing us a favor by purifying us

We need to realise that when the Adhaan is called the time enters for a prayer, it is time for me to pray.

  • As soon as a person fulfills and completes this obligation we come to realise that we are being cleansed spiritually.
  • We are being elevated spiritually.

When the Prophet ﷺ had any difficulty he would resort to Salaah

  • These are extra prayers

On the Day of Judgment when an individual meets Allah the first thing they will be asked about is their Fard Salaah.

If there is any deficiency in their Fard Salaah then the extra prayer associated with each Salaah, they will be looked at.

  • We need to do our Sunnah and Nafl prayers in order to make up for any deficiency that may have taken place in our Salaah.
    • This is a great act of worship!

In Salaah we are talking directly to Allah, the Creator of ALL the creation.

  • Allah is the Creator of creation.
  • In our faith we are able to directly communicate to Allah.
  • We Bow and mention the Praises of Allah

“Subhana Rabbi Al-Adhim”

“Glorified be my Lord”

  • When an individual is in prostration, we happen to be at the lowest point on the face of this earth – the ground, the individual is highest in status while that individual is in prostration with Allah.
  • You are the king of all kings when you are in prostration because you are prostrating to the King of Kings.
  • You are in service to Allah – The Mighty, The Majestic.

We begin by Praising Allah “Allah is the Greatest”

We begin with Al-Fatiha by Praising Allah.

  • Then with our hearts and minds present we say

“O Allah, Guide us to the straight path” Ameen

  • There is no way that Allah can not guide a sincere individual who is asking Allah to guide him or her to the straight path in the form of Salaah.

Our mind and hearts need to be present then Allah will grant us all the rewards of Salaah and all the benefits of Salaah.

  • That begins with understanding all the magnitude of Salaah.

SeekersNotes: Nine Keys to Presence of Heart in Prayer – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

SeekersNotes: Nine Keys to Presence of Heart in Prayer – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

9 Keys to Prayer – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani from SeekersGuidance on Vimeo.

Notes taken by Seeker Aashif Sacha

Allah has never commanded merely to pray rather the Quranic command to pray has come in specific ways

Allah says “Establish the prayer for My Remembrance”

  • When you pray heedlessly of God you have done the form of what your Lord has commanded you but you have not fulfilled its purpose.
  • Establishing the Prayer is also known as iq’aamah – it is to make something upright without any crookedness or deficiency Uprightness has two aspects inward and outward
    • Outward: You fulfill the integrals and Sunnah’s during the prayer. You pray according to the Divine command and the Prophetic example
    • Inward: Praying with presence of heart. Your heart is directed to Allah because the prayer is the root meaning is Dua (supplication). You are calling on Allah.

Pray sincerely seeking the pleasure of Allah, with a heart that is mindful, a heart that is turning to Allah, a heart that is conscious of Allah during the prayer.

1. Who are you praying to?

The most significant reality is that you are praying to Allah.

The prayer is not an act you perform rather it is your turning to Allah.

The purpose is Allah and you must bring that to mind before you begin and in the prayer itself and after the prayer.

  • I am praying Allah
  • To my Lord
  • My Creator
  • My Sustainer
  • My Bestower
  • The One who has granted me all that I have
  • The One who has given me the gift of life
    • my health
    • my wealth
    • my knowledge
    • my guidance
    • my faith
    • everything that I have.

§  “You have no blessing Except that it is from Allah.”

So you pray to Allah and bring that mind.

This is why we begin prayer saying “Allah hu Akbar – Allah is Greatest”

This consciousness is helped by upholding the Inward Virtues related to your prayer. Thankfulness, Yearning, Love, Awe, Beholding & Bliss

You are supposed to be praying out of Thankfulness to Allah,

You are supposed to be praying with a deep sense of Yearning for Allah,

You are supposed to be praying with a deep sense of Love for the Divine,

You are supposed to be praying with sense of Awe of Allah

And when these become true with Beholding Allah with the eye of our heart, the eye of faith and a sense of absolute Bliss in that state of Beholding and intimacy with Allah.

  • The Prophet ﷺ said, “Spiritual excellence, the perfection of faith is that you worship Allah as though you behold Him.”
  • When you behold Allah, you are with Allah

You are in a sense of Awareness, Consciousness and Active Remembrance

Then you experience absolute Serenity, Contentment and Joy.

To get these you should stir your heart with these meanings:

  • The meanings of Thankfulness
  • The meanings of Yearning
  • The meanings of Love
  • The meanings of deep Awe of the Divine
  • The meanings of Fear of Allah.

The prayer is for Allah, and we may reach a day when these meanings are there in our hearts already and in our prayer we are nourishing and nurturing that which is already within us.

  • Until then we have to stir these meanings within us.
  • The Prophet ﷺ said:

“Cry when you pray, and if you don’t cry then make yourself cry for the sake of Allah”

“Knowledge is only through learning and Forbearance (Hilm) is only through making oneself act Forbearantly”.

 

2. Your neediness

You have to realise your neediness to Allah, your slavehood and indigence.

  • He is Free of all need
  • Worthy of All Praise
  • Possessor of All Majesty
  • Magnificence and Beauty.

Allah says in the Quran “O People you are the ones who are in absolute need of Allah, and Allah is Free of all need, Worthy of All Praise”

When Aisha (May God be pleased with her) asked the Prophet ﷺ why he prayed so long his reply was that  “Should I not be a slave that is Thankful?”

The state of the slave is neediness to their Lord and their Master.

  • That’s what made the Prophet’s prayer so beautiful because he ﷺ prayed it with a complete neediness to his Lord.
  • The Prophetic supplication “O Lord, I am in desperate need for any good that you may send me.”
    • This is pure Tauheed, Pure awareness of Divine Oneness.
    • Tauheed is to affirm That there is none free of need than any other worthy of all praise Except Allah.
    • There is none free of any other whom all are absolute need of Except Allah.

Allah defines Himself for us in the Quran in Surah Ikhlaas:

“Say He is Allah the Unique,

Allah the Absolutely Independent whom all depend upon”

  • Allah is Al Qayyum – The Sustainer.
    • At every moment your life is only yours because Allah is granting it to you at every moment.
    • All that you have is not only given by Allah but is being kept for you at every moment by Allah.

Your state should be like the one whose hands are out begging their Lord in neediness, and you bring to mind the Majesty of Allah

  • That He is the Possessor of absolute existence
  • All else besides Him is fleeting and waning
  • Its only there because He affirmed it
  • He is the One who is possessed by absolute transcendence
  • He is the One who is Beginningless and Endless
  • He is the One who is absolutely distinct from Creation
  • He is the One who is absolutely Independent in no need of any other
  • He is the One who has the attributes of Perfection
  • He has Absolute Life, Knowledge, Will, Power
  • He has the attributes of Speech, Hearing and Seeing all things
    • Think of the Majesty of Allah in prayer,

§  This is how you engage your heart in the prayer.

Even when you are standing silently in prayer i.e. in Taraweh prayer

  • Busy your heart with a sense of your Lord.

Keep in mind your neediness and His Majesty.

3. Enter With Purpose

Start your prayer in the right way by entering the prayer with a purpose

  • Pause for a moment
  • Gather your resolve
  • Bring to mind whom you’re praying to
  • Fill your heart with the sense of yearning, loving, thankfulness
  • Intend to pray for the sake of Allah
    • Then you begin.

The most important prayer is the obligatory prayer

  • The wisdom of having the Sunnah prayer before the obligatory prayer is for you to strengthen your sense of purpose in the obligatory prayer.
  • The Sunnah prayer is like a training ground for the training ground for the obligatory prayer because that is worth 80 times the Sunnah prayer.
    • It is praiseworthy to sit for a few moments to gather your thoughts, and do some Dhikr before you begin praying

§  When you do this – your prayer will be completely different.

Allah is your beloved, and those who believe are more intense in their love of Allah.

  • This is your moment of your direct encounter with Allah.
  • When you are waiting for the one you love, how do you wait for them?
  • That is why you prepare yourself
  • That is why it is recommended to renew your Wudu because it creates a sense of break of what you were doing before and what you’re about to enter into right now.
  • Enter the prayer with purpose
  • Gather your intention
  • Your resolve
  • Your focus
  • Get rid of distractions
    • The Prophet ﷺ said “A person only has from their prayer that which they were conscious of”.

4. What you say. What you do.

Within they prayer focus on two meaning What you say and What you do.

In every position. When you’re standing focus not only on what you are saying but the meaning of what you are saying.

  • Do you know what ‘Allah hu Akbar’ means?
  • Do you know what ‘Audhu billahi min al-shaitanir-rajim’ means?
  • Do you know the meaning of the opening supplication?
    • These are High meanings!

Don’t say anything that you say in the prayer in a hurried way,

Say it in a calm manner.

  • Pronounce it properly without emphasis without exacting
  • Your prayer is not a tajweed class
  • Say it properly with the tongue as it helps stir the heart
  • Don’t make your pronunciation the focus rather say it in a way that is comfortable and move your heart with it
  • Don’t say anything in prayer without bringing to heart what it means
  • Recite without haste
  • Say it with your tongue and with your heart
  • Move your heart
  • Review the meanings
  • Bring to mind the position that you are in
    • When you are standing, you are standing towards Allah
    • When you bow, you are bowing toward the tremendous Majesty of Allah

§  You say “Subhana rabbi al-atheem

“Glory be to my Lord, the Most Tremendous”

o   When you prostrate yourself

§  “Subhana rabbi al-a’laa”

“Glory be to my Lord, The Exhalted”

This is the highness on Majesty.

He is closer to you than your jugular vein and He is with you wherever you may be. It is we who are heedless of our Lord.

5. Fight distractions – Flee to Allah

You have to fight distractions, and anytime you find distracted Renew your sense that your prayer is for Allah.

  • Refocus on what you are saying and what you are doing.

 

6. After the prayer

After the prayer is finished, don’t just get up and leave

  • Adhere to the Sunnah’s after the prayer
  • Learn the Sunnah’s
  • Make a routine and don’t leave it – even if you are in a rush
    • Right after Salaah say:

Astagfirullah” 3 times

“I seek Allah’s forgiveness from my sin and shortcomings”

  • Say it sincerely for it is the tongue that guides the heart
    • Learn the post prayer supplication:
    • “Allāhumma Antas-Salām, wa minkas-salām, tabārakta yā Dhal-jalāli wal-ikrām.”

“O Allah, You are Peace, and Peace is from You, Exalted are You, O Possessor of Majesty and Grace”

o   “Allahumma a’inni ‘ala dhikrika wa shukrika wa husni’ibadatika”

“O Allah assist me in worshipping You, O Allah assist me in remembering You, and to be thankful of You, and to worship You beautifully”.

7. Keep to turning to Allah – Knowledge. Action. State

You need three things to keep turning to Allah

  • You need Knowledge: to know what Allah seeks from you at the level of obligation and that the level of what He’s encouraged you to do in order for you to draw closer to Him
  • Acting upon that knowledge sincerely
  • Result in State of becoming a true servant of Allah
    • Someone whose on the footsteps of Al-Mustafa ﷺ
    • Someone who draws ever closer to that state in which you worship Allah as though you behold Him and you’re granted true experience of the state of remembering Allah which is the state of true joy

§  It is only by the remembrance of Allah that hearts find rest.

8. Law as Love

If you’re with Allah in life, you’ll be with Allah in prayer

If you struggle to be conscious of Allah in life, you’re going struggle in prayer and you’re going miss out

  • Everything that you do remaining within the limits of the sacred law
  • Do it not as a burden but do it as a declaration of Love for Allah.
  • Do it seeking the pleasure of Allah

9. Knowledge is the path to God

In order to succeed in seeking the pleasure of Allah in life, in order to succeed in having a meaningful prayer you have to seek knowledge.

  • Knowledge is the path to Allah
  • Make a commitment to seek knowledge
    • You should know how the Prophet ﷺ prayed
    • You need to know how to purify your conduct and your character
    • You need to know how to be in a state of submission to Allah
    • You need to instill in yourself the Islamic manners
    • You need to know how to recite the Quran properly
    • You do all these things for Allah.

The Prophet ﷺ said, “Whomever Allah wishes well for He grants deep understanding of religion”

  • Knowledge is a light that shows the way to Allah
  • Knowledge that is beneficial and inspired your heart helps you tread that path to the pleasure of your Lord

Commit to learn

  • The Prophet ﷺ said “Whoever travels the path seeking knowledge therein, Allah facilitates for them through that the path to paradise”
    • It’s a sustained seeking in an orderly fashion
    • A path is a way that has been trodden by those before you that leads your desired goal and destination which is closeness to Allah
    • Seeking knowledge therein, the knowledge is on the path but it is not the purpose of the path, its purpose is your Lord

Remember your prayer must be established

Strive to learn the Prophetic way of prayer Outwardly to gain the Inward sense of turning to Allah in your prayer out of remembrance of Allah

“Verily it is only by the remembrance of Allah that hearts find rest”

SeekersNotes: Exploring the Qur’an with Shaykh Yahya Rhodus – Class 7 Gems

SeekersNotes: Exploring the Qur’an with Shaykh Yahya Rhodus – Class 7 Gems

Notes by Sister Shagufta Pasta

From the March 31st session.

  • The nafs is you. It’s your internal state.
  • Hawa is the entity in which the nafs manifests. Hawa is your internal inclinations, your desires.
  • True religion is about character, going against yourself.
  • The more you pray, the more you’re around good people, the more you do dhikr, the more your desires begin to change. You will always have desires, but the idea is for your desires to confirm to sacred teachings. It’s so important to have environments that cultivate this.
  • First need to be able to govern our souls before we can lead anyone else.
  • Need to be aware of the politics of the soul.
  • Religion is beautiful, but not necessarily easy.
  • We have a faculty of anger and a faculty of desire – both relate to caprice.
  • While we are in this world, we’re supposed to know Allah in times of hardship and in times of ease. We are supposed to know Him in His Majestic manifestations and in His Beautiful manifestations.
  • We should never be embarrassed to ask Allah for anything, no matter how small. Even if it is for salt in the food, if our sandal strap breaks, for whatever it is, big or small, we should ask Allah.
  • Whenever we are in need, anytime we need help, we should turn to Allah.
  • Know your Lord in a state of prosperity so that He will know you in a state of difficulty.
  • Use good times of health to know Allah

SeekersNotes: Exploring the Qur’an with Shaykh Yahya Rhodus – Class 5 Notes

SeekersNotes: Exploring the Qur’an with Shaykh Yahya Rhodus – Class 5 Notes

Notes by Sister Shagufta Pasta

Apologies for the delay in posting these notes! I haven’t been at home much this past week.

Verse 15: Has the story of Moses reached thee?

  • Rhetorical purpose: see Allah bringing solace to the heart of His beloved.
  • Makes us ask: What is the station of this creation that when Allah sees his prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) troubled, He reveals a verse to comfort him?
  • General point: the story of Moses and Pharoah appears many times in the Qur’an. Very important story. In different junctures we hear different aspects of this story. Many meanings ot this story that are very relevant for our time. One lesson here: some person can attain great status even being in the belly of the beast. Some people wil grow up in societies that in themselves are societies of unbelief, and yet they themselves will be the means for the demise of unbelief.

V16: When his Lord called out to him in the holy valley of Tuwa.

    • Allah called out to Moses in this sacred valley of Tuwa. Allah spoke to Moses. Learn from this that there are sacred places. There are places that are special and we deal with special places and special people and times with tadheem (exaltation)
    • If Ramadan comes and goes and we don’t have tadheem, our heart is dead. If we don’t have tadheem for jumu’ah, our heart is dead. If we don’t have tadheem for the mosque, our heart is dead. If we don’t have tadheem for our Muslim brothers and sisters, our heart is dead.
    • We have to have tadheem in our heart for the Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him. We exalt him. We respect and honour him.
    • Saying the name Muhammad is not like saying other names. We are supposed to say Rasulullah and all of his other beautiful names
    • To have tadheem means that in our hearts you esteem it.
    • If you have a bottle of water with water from spring and bottle with zam zam water, though we shouldn’t waste water and mistreat any of Allah’s creation,  we use zamzam in a different way. We are going to pour it  in different cups and stand up and face qibla before drinking, and going to say special dua. Will have increased amount of esteem
    • When walk in house, different than when we walk in a mosque.
    • Tadheem: it translates into respect and honour for these things.

Verse 17: Go to Phaorah because he has transgressed all bounds

      • Pharoah known to be a very bad person, He was a tyrant. And Allah is commanding Moses to go to Pharaoh. Imagine this! We learn from this that you and I have to have courage. We are part of a message that is of a heavenly origin. We have the keys to understand everything in the world.
      • Recall Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s poem Springs Gift: Muhammad has God on his side.
      • Doesn’t matter what technology is out there.
      • If everyone in world was to plot against you, you will always be successful  and honoured. Even when people were placing excrement on the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), he was honoured.
      • You and I ..where is our courage? We are the followers of Sayyidna Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him..
      • We have to believe deeply that what we have is the best thing that we could have.
      • This is the source of our izza (dignity) as Muslims. Whoever seeks izza from other than Islam, Allah will humiliate. If seek izza from books or beauty, or any other things. Source of izza is Islam.
      • Many of the Muslim today have an inferiority complex. Feel like the West has outstripped them.
      • People are asking “Why do they have it? But the question should be: Do you really want it?
      • We are grossly overconsuming. Everything we need is already there.
      • Think of the courage of Moses.

3 types of arrogance:

1)    worst is the arrogance human beings show towards Lord
2)    Messengers
3)    Other human beings

In reality: We cannot be arrogant to a rock, to insect, to animal. To honour and respect what Allah has told us to respect and honour is from the essence of our deen.

V18: And say to him, “Would you purify yourself from sin?”

    • Zakat relates to purity because it purifies your wealth.
    • Meanings of purity, purity in all of the different ways that we stray. This is a comprehensive word
    • Whenever we are trying to serve and help people, the  foundation is gentleness. Only move to coarseness in certain situations.
    • People want to spend time with are people who are gentle and soft.
    • Greatest purpose of the sending of the messengers…is hidaya (guidance). Guidance is that which points to and leads to the truth. One of the verses of the Fatiha:..guide us to the straight path. We say this at least seventeen times a day if praying 5 daily prayers.
    • Rest of the Qu’ran is about guidance in great detail. One of the names of Book of Allah is the guidance (al-Huda) Guidance to what? Path.
    • In reality travelling back to our Lord. Qur’an is guidance that we arrive safely in the travels that we are making.
    • Part of the reasons that it is so important that these meanings are solidified is that the closer we get to the end of time, stranger Islam and religious teachings become in the minds of people. Prophet told us this. If people think that you are strange, good thing. If you were to fit in the modern world, would be serious pb.
    • Much of modern world is based on falsehood
    • People who have reverence in their heart who will benefit from these stories.

SeekersNotes: Exploring the Qur’an with Shaykh Yahya Rhodus – Class 4 Notes

SeekersNotes: Exploring the Qur’an with Shaykh Yahya Rhodus (Class 4 Notes)

Notes by Sister Shagufta Pasta

For this week’s lesson, my notes are brief. I was mostly listening to Shaykh Yahya speak, and I had to depart about an hour in the class, at 5:30. So as always, for the complete reminder of what Shaykh Yahya taught us, please refer to the recorded session.  Till next week.

Q and A

  • When you incline towards something, have to be wary. If  the nafs desires to do something, have to be hesitant. Greatest criteria of whether we should do something is the sacred law.
  • Also have istikhara to guide you in this matter
  • Start by praying five daily prayers on time.
  • Doing salawat and istighfar are two of the greatest things that a person can do.
  • Salawat – is said that salawat is shaykh for person for person who doesn’t have a shaykh
  • Q: What is an advised translation of the Qur’an? A: If had to suggest one, would suggest the translation by Abdul Haleem. Other translations used in this course include Thomas Cleary’s translation, the Majestic Qur’an, and others. In this course, have used up to seven different translations.
  • Q: how can we expose ourselves to Allah’s mercy?
  • A: by praying the 5 daily prayers firstly.
  • By doing anything where that thing would be means of Allah’s mercy.

Surah Naziat

    • Name of surah is from 1st verse: By those who wrest violently (refers to removal of the soul). Word Naziat refers to the angels that remove the soul.
    • This is a Makkan surah, revealed before the Hijrah
    • 46 verses.
    • Correlation to chapter that came before: both of these chapters are discussing Day of Judgement
    • Starts with description of Yawm Qiyamah, and then emphasizes various events that are going to take place.
    • “By those who wrest violently”.
    • Our soul is what makes us truly human. Once soul leaves the body, then human being is dead. Soul is what determines life. Soul’s existence in the physical body is life. Soul has a connection to every aspect of the body. Taking of the soul is intense. For the disbeliever, it is not pleasant, the way that their soul is taken out.

2nd verse: ”By those that draw out gently.

      • Soul of the believer is taken out gently

Third Verse: By those who glide serenely

      • There are oaths in the Qur’an. The Creator swears by whatever He wants, we only swear by Allah. Even swearing by Allah, this is a form of emphasis and we should only do that when absolutely necessary. See people who are always swearing by Allah, poor adab to do that.
      • As if they are swimming, these angels are moving along so speedily

Fourth Verse: By those who race forward

      • Racing forward  with the souls of believers and disbelievers.

Sixth Verse: And by those that direct the affairs

      • Number of issues here.
      • This is from the Divine Will. Allah could have just given us a book and required us to work it out for ourselves. Wisdom in having that means in creation. Didn’t have to create angels.
      • Angels are beings of light, Allah is not in need of them
      • Created beings of life
      • The true doer of every act is our Lord.
      • The way we live will determine the way our soul is taken. This should be a matter of reflection.

Studying Tips for SeekersHub’s Students

Studying Tips for SeekersHub’s Students

1. Recite the Imam al-Haddad’s Intention for Seeking knowledge before the class. It is good
adab to have wudhu (ablution) before attending your class.

2. Schedule the live sessions into your schedule using a day-planner, especially if you are taking more than one
class with SeekersHub.

3. Study in an academic setting. Studying in a university or library can help you build discipline.

4. Show up 15-30 minutes early for class live sessions so you have time to review the last
lesson. Attending live sessions means you have plenty of time to ask your teacher questions
and to have your questions answered immediately.

5. If you are trying to catch up on previous lessons, then do so at a set time on a consistent
basis. Lunch hour is a good time that one can squeeze in.

6. Compose your class notes in clear terms and neatly so they will be easily accessible to you when
you consult your notes in the future. This is especially important for Fiqh classes.

7. Apply what you learn. Share with others what you have learned so it becomes easier to practice.

8. Make dua for your teacher, fellow students and that you benefit from it and be able to apply
what you have learned.

[cwa id=’cta’]

SeekersNotes: Exploring the Qur’an with Shaykh Yahya Rhodus – Class 3 Notes

SeekersNotes: Exploring the Qur’an with Shaykh Yahya Rhodus – Class 3 Notes

In this week’s class, we finished Surah Naba. This week I was mostly trying to take in what Shaykh Yahya was saying and so wasn’t able to take comprehensive notes. Still, here are a few gems that were mentioned during the session. Till next week…

Notes by Sister Shagufta Pasta

Exploring the Qur’an  (Week 3 Notes)

  • 2nd degree of taqwa : to set a barrier between yourself and unlawful things, whether they are internal traits of the heart like arrogance or outward actions like backbiting
  • A higher stage of taqwa: not only have you left the haram, the disliked matters, but you leave the doubtful matters too.

Note: Another meaning of doubtful matters: matters regarding which there is a difference of opinion among scholars. In this stage of taqwa, you leave them out of scrupulousness

  • Fourth stage: Did what you were asked to do with the permissible. Did you give you the right of gratitude to what you were given?
  • Remember: to the degree that you don’t give thanks, the Day of Judgement will be lengthened. So we have to constantly remind ourselves to give thanks, to give thanks, to give thanks
  • Zakat of having a car: give people rides when they don’t have a car
  • Zakat of having a home: opening it to people to study
  • Zakat of owning own medical practice: serving people who are underinsured, or not insured
  • If you choose to leave the permissible out of a desire to prefer the next life, it is good.
  • Example: permissible to speak to friends for four hours. But you know that if you spend four hours, things start to be mentioned that never would within first 30 minutes,or when food arises. Eventually speaking ill of people. So out of fear of being dragged to the impermissible, you leave the permissible.
  • Sahaba used to leave 9/10 of the permissible out of the fear that it would drag them into the impermissible. That was their maqam. We need to respect that.
  • 5th stage of taqwa: someone who strives to not have a thought come to their heart except that reminds them of the Divine presence. There are some people who are immersed in the Divine presence, that they don’t have any thought that doesn’t remind them of the Divine.

Allah says, “Truly for the God-conscious, there will be triumph.

  • We are not able to understand the true nature of the Garden.

Three of the Seven Central themes of the Qur’an

1)    Return to the God
2)    Promises that Allah makes
3)    Threats and Warnings

  • We need to be motivated as human beings. Fear is a deterrent, when used properly.To not do something out of fear though is a low level. Higher level to do something out of hope for reward.Higher level still to do it because it is the right thing to do. Because Allah deserves to be worshipped. Out of love and longing
  • When we’ve pushed ourselves to the extend can’t push anymore, then that is when we will get what we want. Nature of nafs is that you have to tire it out. You see this in exercise, where the most important part of the pushup is the last rep, where you really push yourself. As Shaykh Hamza says, “practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent!”. There is a difference between benefit and excelling. In the spiritual path have to work at it before you see doors opening for you
  • Paradise will be a place of purity, where you will only experience great things. There are some people in the world who you can’t stand to be around. No anxiety in jannah, no rancor, no hatred. All these things, completely removed in the next world.

Book recommendationA Dictionary and Glossary of the Qur’an by John Penrice

  • Start the process from now, try and memorise 10 root words of the Qur’an each week. See root word, see the derivatives in the book of Allah
  • Note: difference between reward and gift. Reward is when you’ve done something and given a recompense. A gift is just given to you
  • Q: Do our acts bring us to paradise? Do you earn Paradise through your acts? No, our acts do not enter us into Paradise. Entering paradise is solely through the mercy of Allah. We are supposed to expose ourselves to that mercy though.
  • Part of the maqam of deen is understanding Lordship and what that means. Part of that is to humble us. There is so much sheer arrogance today. If the veil was removed and we saw people’s reality, we would see people in complete illusion and delusion.
  • Reality is how Allah has chosen reality to be. We don’t have a choice in how Allah has chosen reality to be. But we become privy to certain parts of that reality through our submission.
  • He is the Lord of everything and everything has its function and purpose whether we understand its purpose or not. Intelligent person seeks meaning in everything.
  • If angels are not going to be speaking on Day of Judgement, what will this day be like? Only people who are going to speak are those who are given permisission to speak. From this, understand the station of Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. He is the one who will be given permission to speak who will only say what is right.
  • Everything that they say on this day will be truth.
  • See sometimes with children where they are so stunned that they will just tell you what happened. On the Day of Judgement we will be in such a state of awe, that we will just tell the truth. Will not be able to tell anything else.
  • Verse 39; That is the Day of Truth (That is the True Day)
  • The grammar of the Qur’an is essential and they are mistranslations because people don’t notice the grammar of the verses. Which is why the Qur’an cannot be translated, can just translate the meanings of the Qur’an. We are blessed, we have the Arabic Qur’an and the different recitations preserved through time.
  • That is the day of Truth. Day when truth will manifest and falsehood will disappear.
  • People will wish that they could turn into dust.
  • We are absolutely certain that it is day that is going to come.
  • We will behold everything we put forth in this dunya. We will behold everything we did of good.

SeekersNotes: Exploring the Qur’an with Shaykh Yahya Rhodus – Class 2 Notes

SeekersNotes: Exploring the Qur’an with Shaykh Yahya Rhodus – Class 2 Notes

Notes by Sister Shagufta Pasta

On Feb 17th, we were blessed to sit in Shaykh Yahya’s second session for the new SeekersGuidance live class, Exploring the Qur’an. This week, Shaykh Yahya reminded us to make learning about the Qur’an a priority, and emphasized that we need to reflect upon the akhira. He spoke about the reality of the Garden and the Fire and stressed that because it is difficult for the mind to accept these realities, we need to have environments where we can understand these topics.

He also spoke about the need to have role models we can follow, the importance of connecting ourselves to scholars who are part of a tradition, and advised us to take ourselves to account daily. Shaykh Yahya stressed that the more we take ourselves to account now, the better we will be when it comes to the Ultimate Accounting.

I love this class because Shaykh Yahya’s lessons are nuanced. At one point in the class for instance, he mentioned that “no one can ever say that if someone doesn’t wear hijab they are not going to Jannah. One of the most dangerous things you can do is have someone despair of the mercy of Allah and feel distant”. He followed this statement by reminding us that “the rules of the sacred law are beautiful, and we should strive to implement them.” An answer of perfect balance alhamidullah, and the whole session was like that.  My notes from class 2 are below.

 

Exploring the Qur’an with Sh Yahya Rhodus (Class 2 Notes)

  • According to our understanding of knowledge, all knowledge comes from Allah, and the greatest of knowledge is that which He revealed in His Book.
  • One of the greatest ways we can spend our time is in learning the meanings of wahy (revelation) that were descended to our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). How many difficulties did he go through to convey to us the message?
  • The risalah is not light, it is heavy. Allah when He refers to this amana (trust), He mentions that He showed it to the mountains, to the heavens, to the earth and they refused to assume it. And it was the human being that assumed it. The human being accepted. That is why legal responsibility is heavy.
  • The reality is that everything is serious. The more we reflect on the final abodes, the more we will take our lives seriously. For some people it takes a near death experience, or a tragedy in their lives, or tragedy in the lives of others for this to happen.
  • Time is experienced in a relative manner. Surah is talking about the stages after death.  The resurrection, the gathering and then we will be driven to the plain of Judgement.
  • Every nation will be with their Prophet (peace and blessings upon him). This is where we have to think twice: who are we following in this world? Who do we follow? Who are our exemplars? Allah has given us the exemplar par excellence. If you look around at people, especially youth, who are we following? There are people who see celebrities and faint. As human beings it’s very natural for us to follow people in positions in leadership. But if we follow people who don’t deserve to be followed, where will it lead us?
  • If you have patience, or don’t have patience, won’t change situation. What is going to happen will happen. But patience helps you cope. Patience helps you, you aren’t helping patience.  Allah made it that we feel naturally good. Allah could have made it the opposite where could have felt bad after doing good, but this is from His blessing that we feel good.
  • Then the horn will be blown 2nd time, and people will come to plain.
  • Verse 19: The sky is opened and becomes as gates/doors.
  • One of the rhetorical devices of saying something in the past, is that it asserts the fact that it is happening.
  • The structure of the earth is going to change. We don’t normally think of mountains as being in motion. When we think of mountains, think of stability. On the Day of Judgement, mountains will be set in motion, they will be a mirage. Like scattered dust. Right now when it is daytime, and the sun is shining, see particles in the air. These things are so insignificant, that unless light is shining, we cannot see them. So mountains normally the easiest of things to see. But once they are uprooted, will be a mirage.
  • See several verses pertaining to this in succession. Earth will be flattened, will be like wool, when earth violently shakes, it will be like scattered dust, the mountains will be uprooted from the earth. We have phenomenon that are going to take place.
  • One of the great overarching themes of the Qur’an is the return. Everything that is going to happen on the Day of Judgement. We forget how much previous people were connected to the Qur’an. Ordinary Muslim would apportion Qur’an in seven parts, so that they would finish it once in seven days. Scholars would finish it much sooner. Previous ummahs had a very close connection to the book of Allah. People had great knowledge of the Book of Allah because they were reciting it often.
  • When we come to the book of Allah, must go with humility. If go with arrogance, will miss its signs. Will go astray. When you go to the Qur’an, you will find what you are looking for. Allah tells us this in a Hadith Qudsi where He says, “ I am in the opinion of my Servant.”
  • Way you look at the world will be confirmed for you. Believer who is looking at the world will find what they are looking for, an atheist looking at world will find what they are looking for. Both will find confirmation for their beliefs. The person who is going to Qur’an to find guidance will find guidance. Ultimately Islam is about submission. Islam does not go against the intellect, there is nothing in our deen that goes against the intellect. But certain things that the intellect cannot understand, but the heart and the spirit can.
  • When we submit to reality, we will be privileged to see things as they are.Then the higher levels of intellect will kick in. At this stage will be light upon light. Light of intellect and light of revelation will complete human being.  But to subscribe to a purely rationalist framework and expect everything to be understood through intellect, is setting up a way of understanding the world that is very limited.
  • Rational and rationalism (different). Science and scientism are different. A lot of things, most things in existence are beyond science.  The things that we can know are a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of reality.
  • Then Allah goes into series of judgements, and here, it is important to note that yes we have a discourse that divides people into disbelievers and believers.
  • Kafir is a farmer. A farmer covers a seed with dirt. Kufr linguistically speaking relates to a covering because the seed of iman exists in the heart of every human being. Every person has the potential to believe.
  • Hell is a reality and Jannah is a reality and the Garden is a reality.
  • Important to deal with this now because going to come to many verses about Heaven and Hell in this course. Understanding the reality of Hell is not something that is easy for the human being to come to terms with. When we realise that this is eternal punishment, it’s unimaginable. Have to really understand these things theologically, and then do the work so that there is a submission at the heart level.
  • Our deen is not taken from books. Our deen is about a tradition of sitting in front of people who sat in front of people, who sat in front of people (..) who sat in front of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). In traditional societies, there is a widespread sense of connection to the scholars.
  • Difficult for human being to come to terms with Hell in and of itself. But have to understand that this affair has nothing to do with us, Allah has decreed the way it is going to be, and this deen is about submission. Unfortunately we live in a time where it is very difficult to transmit the deen as it is. People if you talk about Hell, they don’t want to listen. But when are we going to put ourselves in an environment where we can grow? Where we can accept the book of Allah as it is?
  • Remember:The truth is not in need of us. We need to align our selves with the truth. Things are as our Lord has decreed them to be.
  • The Qur’an has promises but also warnings. Fear is an important emotion, even though it’s not liked in the modern world. So is hope. So is love.
  • In Surah 21 we are told, indeed Hell lies in wait. We are told the Sirat is 3000 years long and  we will cross to the degree that we have istiqama and uprightness in this world.
  • Jannah and Naar created now, and they exist right now. This surah is telling us that Hell is a destination for transgressors.  To reside therein for ages. They will not taste coolness of drink. There will be nothing that quenches thirst. This is a fitting requital, and this is a suitable reward.
  • Note:  Allah is Just; everyone will get what he/she deserves. Allah gives His Bounty, His Fadl  where He  wishes.  No one will feel like they were slighted.
  • No punishment greater than the naar.
  • Take yourselves to account before you are taken to account. The more we take ourselves to account now, lighter it will be on the Day of Judgement. Imam Ghazali mentions how to take ourselves to account.
  • Not taking yourself to account is like if someone never looks at bank account, may have all these charges, spent too much etc. Or if you have a business and never crunch the numbers to evaluate how you’re doing. More we take ourselves to account ( for example: before go to bed) the better it is for us.
  • Kafr: Someone who has been sent a messenger, given the opportunity to believe and refuses
  • Theological distinction: someone who isn’t Muslim, doesn’t mean that are going to the Fire. They may not have heard the message. Ultimately someone’s state with their Lord we don’t know. We just have theological guidelines.
  • We need to have environments where we can come to terms with these realities. Let us take our affairs seriously so that we can be among the successful in this world and next. When was the last time that we really seriously pondered the true nature of the way things are?
  • People who are taking their lives seriously will do everything possible to be in the Divine bounty.
  • No one can ever say that if someone doesn’t wear hijab they are not going to Jannah. One of the most dangerous things you can do is have someone despair and feel distant. At the same time, the rules of the sacred law are beautiful and we should strive to implement them.
  • We have to have priorities in our life and we have to make reading the Qur’an a priority. For two months if you worked hard every day you would be reading Qur’an. If you sat with a teacher for 2 months every day for an hour, an hour and a half, you would be reading. There are people who study for several months for the GRE, etc!
  • If you were serious, you could learn Arabic. Arabic is not a hard language to learn. Could memorise Quranic vocabulary in a short period of time.
  • It has to do with priorities. In your off time, try and recite the Qu’ran. Open it every day and try and read at least a page. If you don’t know Arabic, open a translation and read that alongside. Foundation is that we recite the Book of Allah. and at other times we listen to the book of Allah.
  • The more we arrange our lives to learn and take ourselves to account and make dhikr and recite Qur’an, every time you do these things, it increases your iman. And iman is related to light. Move from knowledge of certainty to eye of certainty to truth of certainty.
  • I’ve seen people who are in a wakeful state. They don’t fall into ghafla (heedlessness).
  • Murabit al Hajj, didn’t even want people around him to talk to him about dunya.
  • He is a scholar and a worshipper. He is in the middle of the Sahara desert, and people come to him from the corners of the earth, his sustenance comes to him from all over the world, and he has impacted people from all over the world sitting in the middle of the sahara desert. The things we are experiencing from Zaytuna, Shaykh Hamza, all from light of Murabit Hajj.
  • Our goal is to create environments of upcoming scholars and righteous people that we can go to and connect to. There are people who have text and context. This is the essential link that is going to connect us back.
  • Salawat and istighfar – we have to focus on these things.