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Adab 03: The Etiquette of Allah’s Elect – Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Ustadh Tabraze Azam writes on the adab or etiquette of Allah’s elect among the scholars and students of knowledge as attested to by various sources.

In our desire to become true students, we have to uphold the kind of adab, or right etiquette, that colors Allah’s elect. People of knowledge are chosen by Allah Most High, and we cannot do anything more but to aspire to the way of those whose scholarship is recognized by one and all in the hope that we may become of them in our own distinct ways. It is reported that Imam Abu Hanifa said, “If the jurists (fuqaha) aren’t the elect (awliya’) of Allah, then Allah has no elect servant (wali).”

The one who acts according to his knowledge with sincerity is the true faqih, even if he knows only a little. What we see from the righteous, godfearing scholars is that they had a tremendous amount of adab in their seeking of sacred knowledge. Imam al Halwani, a giant of the early Hanafi tradition, famously remarked, “I’ve never touched even a piece of paper without wudu.” This was his state with that which will [eventually] contain knowledge, so what then of the knowledge itself? Being true students is a tall order, and we can only hope that if we traverse in the right direction with the right attitude, that Allah will complete this matter for us.

Continuing on from the last post, the following are the remaining points of adab which we can all strive to uphold in our respective journeys. Entire monographs (and commentaries!) have been written on the duty of upholding adab in seeking sacred knowledge, so keep in mind that this is a brief listing of some important points, and certainly not an exhaustive study.

Seeking Beneficial Knowledge and Practice

Beneficial knowledge is a light which Allah casts into the heart of the one who possesses it. This light brings about reverential awe (khashya) of the Divine which manifests upon the limbs and in the person’s character and dealings, transforming him into an “imam,” a leader to be followed and a prophetic inheritor. Thus, the fruits of your knowledge should be plain in the way you are. If you aren’t doing what you’ve learnt, there is a problem.

Sufyan ibn ‘Uyayna once remarked, “The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, is the perfected criterion, and everything is measured against his character, disposition and guidance. Whatever corresponds to it is truth, and whatever contradicts it is falsehood.” The upshot is that beneficial knowledge is that which is transformative. It calls you to an increase in everything from righteous works to your state with Allah, and makes you put Allah first in life such that you see Him before you proceed with anything.

Humility and Saying “I don’t know”

Sajiqli Zada mentioned a report in his brilliant treatise, Tartib al ‘Ulum, where he says that our master ‘Ali, may Allah ennoble his face, was asked a question whilst he was upon the pulpit and he responded with, “I don’t know.” He was told that this isn’t where you should be standing if you don’t know the answer. So he remarked, “This is where you stand if you know things and don’t know others. As for somebody who [thinks he] knows everything, he has no place.” Such a person is all dressed up for people, with no place to go.

The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “No servant ever humbled himself before Allah Most High except that He raised him.” (Muslim) Imam Shafi‘i stated that he saw Imam Malik being asked forty-eight questions to which he responded to thirty-two of them by saying, “I don’t know.” What this should teach us is that there is no shame in not knowing something. Rather, it is shameful to respond when you don’t know. Studying is a lifelong journey and the religion is deep and vast, so take your time and avoid making false claims.

Good Companions

Allah Most High said, “O believers! Be mindful of Allah and be with the truthful.” (Sura al Tawba 9:119) And the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “A person is on the religion of his close companion, so let each of you look well to whom he takes as a close companion.” (Tirmidhi; Abu Dawud)

Companionship (suhba) is important (we’ll be looking at this in more detail in a future article, insha’Allah). Ibn Jama‘a noted that “dispositions take from one another.” Naturally, then, a student of knowledge would do well to surround himself and keep the close companionship of those who will increase his state, either in knowledge or character, or some other virtuous trait like his work-ethic or resolve. The simple idea is that when you see hardworking people, for example, you are more likely to work hard.

Gratitude and Honoring Knowledge and Its Folk

One of the secrets of Divine Increase is sincere gratitude to Allah. Whether you understood the lesson or you didn’t understand, be grateful for the opportunity and what little you did understand, even if only the words themselves (and not the meanings intended), and you will see an increase. Allah Most High says, “If you show gratitude, I will surely increase you.” (Sura Ibrahim 14:7) If you strive with sincerity and are truly grateful, you can be sure to receive a tremendous windfall.

Gratitude, namely, directing blessings toward that for which they were created, includes benefiting from people of knowledge. But in doing so, we need to give scholars of sacred knowledge the respect and honor they deserve by being inheritors of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. This sense of veneration (ta‘dhim) is a duty of those seeking closeness to Allah. As one of the elect said, “Nobody deems the rank and worth of the elect of Allah to be tremendous, except somebody who is of tremendous rank and worth with Allah.”

Allah Is the Giver

This is a return to the point we began with: Allah chooses beneficial knowledge for those He wishes. As we learn from our studies in Theology (‘aqida), there is no necessary correlation between cause and effect. Allah is the creator of everything, and He gives to whosoever He wills. Studying day and night for a decade doesn’t necessarily make a deeply learned person, just as studying on weekends for a decade doesn’t make a well-educated Muslim. Of course, this is usually the case, but the point is that these matters are means which are necessary, but not intrinsically relied upon.

Hence, we should focus our hearts on Allah in our seeking, and not busy ourselves with knowledge from Allah who is the point from beginning to end. If knowledge isn’t making you more Allah-centered, then it is not true knowledge. When somebody remarked to Imam Ahmad that Ma‘ruf al Karkhi, an early ascetic, scholar in his own right, and deeply devotional man, wasn’t very [outwardly] knowledgeable (in comparison to those who were busy with knowledge, but missing the greater point!), he said: “Be quiet! May Allah pardon you. Is the point of knowledge anything other than what Ma‘ruf attained unto?”

May Allah Most High bless us with an ever-increasing state of adab in all our affairs, deep gratitude which He is pleased with, and a heart which can discern truth from falsehood by His Grace. “Our Lord! Grant us mercy from Yourself and guide us rightly through our ordeal.” (Sura al Kahf 18:10)


In this series of articles and podcasts, Ustadh Tabraze Azam discusses the meaning of adab and what it means for a Muslim to do things in the right way.


Sister Heraa Hashmi’s Guide to STEPS 1

Prolific blogger, student activist, and Confident Muslim award-winner 2017, sister Heraa Hashmi shares advice on the STEPS program.

I grew up in a relatively small town in Colorado. It was not until I attended a few courses with Qalam Institute in Dallas that I felt far behind my peers in terms of knowledge of the deen.

Between university, work, and family, it seemed impossible to continue studying aside from attending halaqas at the local masjid here and there. I came across the Seekershub STEPS 1 program and enrolled because they offered regular, structured courses that still offered me the flexibility to go at my own pace. Most, if not all, of the courses consist of 12 lessons.

The way they interwove with my university classes changed week to week, especially around midterms, but by the middle of the semester I settled on a general schematic. During the week, during breaks or after classes, I would plow through the readings or any additional resources preceding that week’s lesson.

The weekends were reserved for the hour-long lectures, and because I had already finished the readings, I felt prepared with a solid foundation in order to get the most out of the lessons. Then I would take the quiz right after, and in the next few days go over any questions I missed and retake as needed, and prepare for the next lesson in the same fashion.

Once a month, I would go through haphazard notes taken during lecture and rewrite them. This would serve as a review. This is not to say that this will work for you, but that dedicating time towards the courses is a necessity.

Firstly, center your mindset — rather than making seeking knowledge a chore that’s done in your free time, make it a point to free your time. Even if it’s ten minutes a day or an hour a week, with sincere intentions to thrive spiritually and live the religion, Allah Most High will put baraka in your time, insha Allah.

Second, go at your own pace, but try to be consistent. Even during weeks where you’re overwhelmed, delaying one lesson will become two then ten. Keep the momentum.

Third, do the readings! Or at least skim through them. They’re there for a reason, and often serve as primers for the lectures, or as supplements to the topic.

Last, take advantage of the extra resources on the website. A nice feature of the courses to take advantage of is the audio only recordings – download them onto your phone for long commutes. Print out the slides (every lesson has a handout) and take handwritten notes, if you learn better that way.

Make flashcards for new vocabulary, especially useful for the Arabic language courses. Join a study circle, or host your own! Learning the essentials in order to be grounded in belief and practice is a responsibility of every Muslim.

Every time the thought of being behind or not knowing where to start crosses your mind, remember that true intelligence is in remembering Allah, remembering death, and preparing for the afterlife.

May Allah Most High bless our journeys in seeking sacred knowledge.


If you enjoyed this piece, you can keep up to date on my twitter: @caveheraa, and YouTube channel, and read more of my works at traversingtradition.com.


True Greatness: Sura al Mulk Explained – New Study Circle

A new global study circle started this Saturday, 8 July 2018, in Toronto. The subject of the course is True Greatness: Sura al Mulk Explained.

Sura al Mulk consists of 30 verses and presents believers with numerous lessons on how to bring their faith to life. Shaykh Faraz Rabbani elucidates the meanings of the verses based on the commentary of Shaykh al Islam Ibn Kamal Basha (940 AH).

Utilizing this commentary in conjunction with other classical commentaries Shaykh Faraz synthesize pertinent lessons for the believer. Listeners will learn how to nurture their faith in God through contemplation (fikr); be able to understand what distinguishes those who accept the truth from those who reject and refuse; learn the qualities of the people of faith; understand the prophetic role of the Messenger of God, and much more.

Start A Study Circle in Your Community Today

Do good: Join the 50+ existing study circles around the world and participate in this class from your city or town. Click here for a listing of locations around the world.

Do better: Pass this message on to your friends and family, and encourage them to start a SeekersHub Study Circle to bring sacred knowledge to their communities.

Want to Start a New Circle?

Setup is relatively easy – all you need is a stable internet connection, a screen/projector, and speakers. You can use a home as a venue to host the circle, or a public space like masjid, library, or university room are suitable as well.

We provide you with posters to advertise, and once you’ve confirmed your participation, we will provide you with access to course materials. Study Circles ensure that Muslims around the world, young and old, are continuously engaged with religious counsel and can better equip themselves to handle the challenges of our time.

If you need help or more information please write to us at: [email protected]


O Seeker! – Habib Ali al Jifri

Habib Ali al Jifri speaks on overcoming the seven obstacles in spiritual wayfaring to Allah Most High, and the fruits thereof.

This is the third and perhaps final series of “O Seeker!” by His Eminence al Habib Ali al Jifri, may Allah preserve him and benefit us by him.

The first series filmed in 2008 in the Grand Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, may Allah grant its people relief, was about the concept of spiritual wayfaring to Allah, the Exalted, and awakening a desire for it.

The second series held in the Heart of Chechnya Mosque in Grozny in 2016 detailed how to overcome each of the seven obstacles during spiritual wayfaring to Allah.

The current series of thirty episodes is about the fruits of overcoming these obstacles, which are spiritual stations and spiritual states. If Allah wills, a new episode will be added to this playlist everyday this Ramadhan (2018).

The program also airs on TV on the following channels (GMT +3 Makka time):

Al Irth al Nabawi (Nilesat 11334H) – 7:30 p.m., 1:30 a.m., 1 p.m.
CBC (Nilesat 11488H) – 10 p.m., 12 p.m.
CBC +2 – 12 a.m., 2 p.m.
Extra CBC – 3.10 a.m., 3:45 p.m.
Palestine (Nilesat 11823H) – 2:30 a.m.
Libya (Nilesat 10872H) – 1:10 a.m., 5 a.m.

Among the works referred to are Al Risala al Qushayriyya of Imam Abd al Karim al Qushayri (465 AH / 1072) of Nishapur, Iran, and Manazil al Sai‘rin of Shaykh al Islam Khwaja Abdullah Ansari (481 AH / 1088) of Herat, Afghanistan. May Allah be pleased them!

The program airs with English subtitles.


With gratitude to Muwasala.org and Almoreed.com.


Adab 02: Seeking Sacred Knowledge – Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Ustadh Tabraze Azam delves into the necessary adab for the student seeking sacred knowledge based on Revelation, Hadith, and advice from Scholars and sages of Islam.

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

“Seeking knowledge is a duty upon every Muslim,” said the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. Namely, learning specifically that by which you can validate your religious obligations is a duty which none are exempt from. Beyond that, however, we enter the realm of those who want to learn and apply the Divine Address more fully. In doing so, there are duties and manners which need to be upheld in order to truly benefit from a share of the prophetic inheritance.

The famous sage and scholar, Ibn ‘Ata’ Illah al Iskandari, may Allah sanctify his secret, remarked in an aphorism: “If sacred knowledge is accompanied with reverential awe (khashya) [of the divine], it will be for you. Otherwise, it will count against you.” Knowledge, thus, brings about a weighty responsibility and essentially entails carrying something of the prophetic message. Naturally, the expectation for those who carry it and have been honored with it isn’t the same as that for others.

At the end of the day, this matter is about you and your Lord. It is not about test scores, refutations or knowing more than others. This realization should bring about in us a sense of reverence for what this is and what it is for, namely, worship. If sacred knowledge isn’t transforming us and altering our very being, it is time for some introspection.

A good start, then, is to remind ourselves of the adab, or proper duties and manners, to be upheld in studying and seeking. This is what we’ll be striving to remind ourselves of here, insha’Allah.

Intention and Sincerity

It cannot be lost on any of us that the point of learning what Allah Most High and His Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, commanded is to actually do what they said. Accordingly, the primary intention in one’s seeking should be to please Allah Most High alone. A reminder of this point is the verse, “they were only commanded to worship Allah alone with sincere devotion to Him in all uprightness.” (Sura al Bayyina 98:5) Learning is worship when it is for Allah. But worship only truly takes place when there is knowledge.

The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “Actions are only by their intentions, and each person shall get whatever they intend.” He also said, Allah bless him and give him peace: “The intention of a believer is greater than his action.”

This gives us something to be hopeful for because even if our studies never fully kick off, we will be rewarded in accordance with our intention and not what actually happened. But take your first step with the right intention, and ask Allah to take care of the rest for you.

Priorities and Focus

Khatib al-Baghdadi relates from Qadi Abu Yusuf, the most senior companion of Imam Abu Hanifa, that he remarked that “Knowledge is something which will not give you even a part of itself until you give it all of yourself. And even if you give it all of yourself, it may not give you anything at all.”

What he is telling us here is that you will not attain unto this sacred knowledge until you give it all you’ve got of your time and energy. Essentially, it cannot be a mere hobby, but something taken very seriously.

Now, this is obviously with respect to somebody on the road to becoming a scholar, but the same can be applied to somebody merely seeking to learn something of their religion. If you are listening to recordings or attending live sessions, don’t browse the internet, update your social media, have a conversation, sleep (!) or do anything which indicates a lack of sincere concern and interest.

If you want to learn, you have to give what you’ve got. Anything worth having takes time and effort, and gaining sacred knowledge is no different.

Consultation

Consulting is imperative for anybody seeking to traverse the path of the righteous scholars of the past. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, indicated this “trodden path” in the famous tradition (hadith) of seeking knowledge. It should be noted that consultation in this context would refer to a variety of matters, but what is of primary concern here, is to consult regarding from whom knowledge should be taken. Clearly, there is a difference between a caller (da‘i) and a scholar (‘alim/shaykh), and you should know well how to benefit from both.

Imam Shatibi demarcated what should be sought of in a teacher of sacred knowledge. If any of these matters are missing, you should be wary of taking from such a person. One: he acts in accordance with his knowledge. Two: his knowledge is taken from genuine scholars. Three: he follows the way of those he took from.

The point of consultation is to ask somebody knowledgable, righteous and trustworthy about the wisdom in undertaking whatever you are about to do. If you don’t know who to ask, you should read about the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and the way he was, and ask the person that most resembles what you read.

Mastery

As ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-San‘ani said: “Every type of knowledge which doesn’t enter the lavatory with you isn’t real knowledge.” This doesn’t mean you should take your library into the restroom! Rather, the sign of knowledge is mastery and memorization such that you don’t need your books to explain the point. Others have noted this as “students of the day” and “students of the night.” The former require light to look in their books, but the latter aren’t in need of them. Imam Ghazali reportedly learnt this the hard way when his books were stolen from him on a journey.

The early Muslims would learn prophetic traditions and the religion in general by taking something small and applying it in their lives until it became second nature to them. There are two lessons we can take away from this. Firstly, memorization needn’t be specifically rote, but anything by which you can learn the details would be considered memorization.

Secondly, you need to be gradual and practical in your learning. If you jump ahead to commentaries, glosses or specialized sciences, you will simply get lost in a sea of knowledge. Rather, the first step is to learn the most important rulings, and then to grow in knowledge by consulting with those who have already traversed the path. There is much that can be said here, but we’ll suffice with this, insha Allah.

Preparation and Review

This is an extension of the previous point. The only way to become a person of knowledge, namely, scholarly in the outward sense, is to take the means of mastery. What this practically entails is that you prepare for your classes by, at the very least, going over the material you’ll be covering. This process of preparation, when done right, is extremely beneficial. Similarly, reviewing the material after the lesson, or ideally, discussing it with your fellow classmates, if any, is very important as it helps to actually consolidate the material covered.

The idea is to ensure that you are always actively engaging with the material. Knowledge cannot simply be deposited into you. “Seeker” is an active participle. It entails that some effort and action is going into the matter. Any manner of fulfilling this which demonstrably works would be acceptable, but the key is to have something in place. Again, there are many specifics which have been left out here, but hopefully the idea is plain.

We ask Allah Most High to facilitate for us His Good Pleasure in this life before the next, and that He bless us with the tremendous gift of true knowledge and practice so that we may be with those He loves.

“And whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger will be in the company of those blessed by Allah: the prophets, the people of truth, the martyrs, and the righteous — what honorable company!” (Sura al Nisa 4:69)

And Allah alone gives success.


In this new series of articles and podcasts, Ustadh Tabraze Azam discusses the meaning of adab and what it means for a Muslim to do things in the right way.


Consideration: Content of Character 04 – Shaykh Yahya Rhodus

Shaykh Yahya Rhodus reflects on the act of consideration, of thinking things through before you act, and how it is framed in the Qur’an and Sunna.

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said:

التأني من الله والعجلة من الشيطان

Consideration is from Allah and haste is from the devil. (Bayhaqi)

We find an alternative narration of the hadith narrated by Tirmidhi. They are similar in meaning and language as well. Another version reads: “Having clarity about things (or making sure that one knows the true nature of something) is from Allah.” So be clear about things and make sure you know about things before you judge them.

The word ta’ni stems from the root in the Arabic language a’na/ya’ni and it connotes the idea of maturing, becoming ripe, and that also in relation to time: “The time for something has come.”

If we look at these two nouns a’na and ta’ni translated here as consideration or deliberation, but it also has meanings of preservation and patience.

Think before You Act

The idea behind this hadith is that we think about things well before we do them. If we think about things that we do, we are conscious. We have an intention behind things that we do. When I do things – fully considered before I do it – it is not impulsive. That is, we do things in a thoughtful, careful, unhurried way – over a period of time as opposed to quickly – and with sensitivity to others. All of these meanings are packed in to this one Arabic word.

Even the other narrations that have these other words for example “al tabayun.” This is when things become clear, its to ascertain and seek to ascertain something.

This word tathabut means to consider carefully. As we will see there is a verse that relates to this. Lets look at some of the meanings and benefits of this hadith. We must see this hadith and all the hadith of our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, as advice of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace: “There is no good except that He told us about it. And there is no evil except that He warned us from it.”

If It Is from Allah It Is Good

Here this is a great blessing. Our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is informing us of our reality and anything that is from Allah must be good and anything that is from the devil must be evil.

The meaning from this sense is that Allah is pleased with it and He will reward for it. And the intellect is the distinguishing feature of the children of Adam. In other words, to act in accord with the intellect is to act according to what is pleasing to Allah.

To not do so is to fall short and it is to fall victim to the plots of the devil. What we are warned about here is ‘ajala. This translates as haste.

Let’s think for a moment about haste and the nature of our nafs, our lower soul. One of the contentions of Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad is “Haste is usually the consequence of sloth not of diligence.”

Often times when we are hasty, if we would tear back the layer and see what’s really taking place deep within the heart, it is because we are spiritually lazy. We don’t want to take the time necessary to look into, to ascertain, to carefully consider what it is we should be doing.

The Irony of Fate

The irony of this whole thing is, in our attempt to be hasty and to get things done quickly, often times it causes more problems for us and we end up having to put in more energy as a result and thus that we have the English proverb, “Haste makes waste.”

In other words we don’t really save time by working too fast. By hurrying, you will make mistakes, and you have to take extra time either correcting what you did wrong or to do the job again. And there is a similar proverb in Arabic that says: “How many times did haste actually make you waste more time.”

We know that this is a part of how we are, Allah says in Sura al Anbiya 21:7: “Man was created of haste. I shall show you my signs so do not demand that I hasten.”

This is the way Arabs say, “If someone is so generous it is as if they have been created from generosity and because human beings are constantly and continuously so hasty is that it is as if we have been created from haste.”

This is a part of the human experience but our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is giving us this overarching principal. Its general application covers so many different aspects of our lives. We are going to speak about:

    1. 1. Decision making

 

    1. 2. Judgements

 

    3. Worship

Deliberation before Decision

As for decision making, this is one of the most important that aspects of this hadith, how it is that we make decisions. Even though there is lots of research and lots of books that are coming out that get into a lot of details of when we need to make quick decisions and when we need to make very thoughtful decisions.

The general principal of this hadith and how that applies to the vast majority of our affairs.

We are encouraged to really think things through before we make a decision. In other words, haste will prevent consideration and prevent deliberation. What we mean by consideration and deliberation more importantly is reflecting on the end result of things and that will require intellectual strength.

What is going to be the end result of what I do?

Ibn Khayyim comments on this hadith. He notes that haste leads someone to putting something in its improper place. It could potentially prevent much good and bring about much harm and it is a trait of character that stems from an imbalance.

Desire Matures through Deliberation

It is a desire for things to happen before their time, this is where we could take it back to the linguistic root of the word ‘ana ya’ni’ which is to mature, to become ripe. There are certain things that you cant do at other than its given time. That you try to pick a fruit too early, its not going to taste right, likewise if you try to give something to someone too early that maybe they are not ready to receive it. And so forth and so on.

Things have an appropriate time and that one of the companions said: “If we try to be hasty, what will end up happening is we will constantly be afflicted with remorse.”

At this level of decision making we are considered to think things through and to deliver it. And we have been gifted with istikhara and praying the prayer whereby we can come to know whether this is something we should do or not. This all takes time.

Implications of Consideration

Often times we find people don’t reflect on the consequences of things. They don’t reflect on the potential outcomes especially that in many of the modern innovations that we have, such as genetic engineering, cloning and many different types of technology.

We are playing with things that we do not know the result of. These things are going to be. But just because it is possible doesn’t mean that we should do it. This is also interlinked with impatience and the way of life these days that is unsustainable.

The reality is that we have more access to knowledge now in many ways than we did previously. Outward forms of knowledge. We don’t have a way to process that knowledge and from here we can understand another contention of Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad: “Today we grow up quickly but into something childish.” It is as if we are like children. This is the nature of children, to act impulsively.

This hadith also applies to our interactions with people. Allah says in Sura al Hujurat 49:6: “O you who believe, if a fasiq comes to you, ascertain. Verify what he is saying. You might afflict a person through ignorance and thus be remorseful for what you did.”

Damage Done By Incomplete Information

How many times have people brought us that part of the story that if we were to look into the entire story we wouldn’t have had the same opinion? How many times have fights broken out or bad opinions resulted in a damaged relationship as a result of people telling other people things.

Or bringing them other news about other things that people have done, or said or of that nature. It is what Allah is speaking to the people of faith: If someone who cant be trusted comes to you, with some type of news, ascertain what they are saying and verify it and make sure that we don’t fall into something that we shouldn’t as a result.

Here being hasty in terms of viewing other people and understanding the situation and judging between a husband and his wife trying to resolve a dispute between them we need to deliver it.

Hasten to Worship, Not Through

Also it applies to worship. If we are hasty, there is something about the celebrity culture that we live in the instant gratification of the nafs that goes along with that, the people then also apply this to the religious sphere.

People often times prefer to be entertained. They don’t want to roll up their sleeves and do the real work, to do service, and to work on their lower self and to struggle.

People are also quick when they learn just a little, they want to have a platform where they can speak to other people and so forth.

In previous times it was expected that people were grounded in knowledge, before they do this. There was an idea of mastery and we know that some have estimated that it would take 10,000 hours to master anything. This is one the tricks of Shaytan in worship as well. He wants us to hasten in our worship, do it quickly and get it over with.

There are two types of haste:

  1. 1. Blameworthy haste is doing something before its time. Doing something without proper deliberation and consideration.
  2. 2. Praiseworthy haste is doing something in its right time. “Hasten to the forgiveness of your Lord.” “Indeed they used to hasten to do good things.”

This is something that is praiseworthy: to hasten to do good. In other words that you were motivated to take on a life in learning and worship and do what is right. But when it comes to decision making and our interaction with people and worship and learning, the words of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, apply.

Consideration is really important here, there are times we have to respond in a split second. There are times we need to respond quickly. But the general principle is we need to deeply consider the things before we do them. We need to deliberate before we act.

This is from God. This will lead to the pleasure of God. It will lead to Him rewarding us.

May Allah give us tawfiq and bless us to be people of consideration and deliberation and be people who receive the divine contentment.


The Content of Character podcast is brought to you by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus of Al-Maqasid Institute, and powered by SeekersHub Global Islamic Seminary. Listen to this episode in full on the SeekersHub website, or subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, Android, or RSS.


Adab 01: The Art of Doing Things Right – Introduction

In this new series of articles and podcasts, Ustadh Tabraze Azam discusses the meaning of adab and what it means for a Muslim to do things in the right way.

In the Name of Allah Most Merciful, Most Compassionate.

Zakariyya al Ansari, the great polymath, shaykh al Islam of his time, and teacher and guide to generations of scholars, wrote in his masterful commentary on Qushayri’s Epistle on Tasawwuf: “The goodly life (al hayat al tayyiba) is only attained by bringing the heart to life,” pointing to the Qur’anic verse:

Whoever does good, whether male or female, and is a believer, We will surely bless them with a good life, and We will certainly reward them according to the best of their deeds. (16:97)

Hearts come to life when they are watered with the divine breezes and revelatory springs of guidance embodied by the beloved Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace. From the tremendously grand to the seemingly mundane, our religion teaches us how to live a life pleasing to Allah Most High.

And herein lies the ultimate goal of those nigh unto Allah Most High: the desire to respond, “O believers! Respond to Allah and His Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life.” (8:24) The desire to be pleasing: “Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him.” (98:8) The desire to worship: “I did not create jinn and humans except to worship Me.” (51:56)

Worship entails humbly seeking Allah Most High in all of one’s affairs. Yet, what the scholars remind us time and time again is that you do not need to be standing on the prayer mat to be in a state of continual worship. Rather, merely altering an intention, for example, can change something otherwise permissible into an act of worship.

Reorienting Our Point and Realities

What this series of articles aims to do, with the permission of Allah Most High, is to highlight the sunna of the sunna, namely, the manners or decorum of undertaking different matters in life. It hopes to point out ways in which you can seek Allah Most High in your day to day life. In Islamic parlance, this is termed adab, which is, essentially, the right way of doing something.

Adab, from the Arabic root a-da-ba, linguistically contains an idea of propriety or correction. Munawi further explains that adab is actually “training the self and attaining gracious character traits.” Hence, any form of action that brings about a religiously praiseworthy outcome, or causes somebody to exhibit gracious traits, is termed adab.

The reality of adab, thus, is that it is a manifestation of gracious character (al khuluq al hasan) about which the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “The most perfect of believers in faith are the most gracious of them in character.” (Tirmidhi, Al Jami‘)

Allah Most High says regarding His messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, “And you are truly a man of outstanding character.” (68:4) And in speaking of this station himself, it is reported that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, remarked, “My Lord taught me adab.” (Even if the wording here isn’t soundly established, its meaning, however, is.)

Adab and Fiqh

What we can sometimes forget in our seeking to apply the law (fiqh) we are taught is that the religion must be taken as an organic whole. Fiqh cannot be divorced from the sunna of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and the high moral and ethical standard he displayed, upheld and encouraged. If fiqh is to be truly and soundly applied and understood, it must necessarily correspond to the way of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, fully. Anything that ignores the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is not true religion (deen), but merely a wrongful claim to the treasures of prophetic inheritance (wiratha nabawiyya).

Manners, and sunnas generally, are important because these are the matters which beautify actions to the point where they begin to actually resemble the guidance of the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace. This is why it is reported that one of the early righteous, Ruwaym, may Allah sanctify his secret, advised, using the similitude of bread: “Make adab your flour and actions your salt” – indicating the proportions required of each in order to make something that tastes like bread, and for our purposes, something that looks like Prophetic guidance.

In pointing to this reality, the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “None of you truly believes until his very desire is in accordance with that which I have brought.” (Nawawi, Al Arba‘un, relaying from Maqdisi’s Al-Hujja). Missing his way is missing the point and the essential nature of his message.

True Adab

The master of the spiritual path, Imam Junayd al Baghdadi, may Allah sanctify his secret, stated in an aphorism: “Slavehood (‘ubudiyya) is holding fast to adab.” So we ask Allah Most High that He bless us with true adab. An adab which befits those who are striving to seek Him in their affairs. The kind of adab which colors His elect. And an adab by which we win unto His Divine Pleasure in this life before the next. Amin.

In the coming articles, we’ll be looking at some of the proper manners to be upheld in a variety of different circumstances, such as, seeking sacred knowledge, reciting and dealing with the Qur’an, supplicating, earning a living, fulfilling rights, disagreeing, and manners related to homes and mosques.

And Allah alone gives success.


In this new series of articles and podcasts, Ustadh Tabraze Azam discusses the meaning of adab and what it means for a Muslim to do things in the right way.


 

 

Heroes and Heroines of Islam: Part Two–Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf

We regularly hear of the great heroes and heroines of Islam. However, we know little about what made these men and women so beloved to Allah and their people. In these series of talks, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf speaks about these famous men and women.

In the second segment of the series, Habib Kadhim speaks about the lesser-known heroes and heroines of Islam; those who struggled behind the scenes. We might not know their names, however we definitely feel their influence on us.heroes and heroines of Islam

The Unknown Teacher

There were some companions around the Prophet, whose work was famous although their names remain unknown. For example, Abu Huraira, one of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ  is famous in the Muslim world for his great legacy in the transmission of Hadith, or Prophetic narrations.

However, we do not know much about the Companion who taught Abu Huraira about Islam, and supported him in becoming Muslim. Whoever this man was, we know that he is receiving the like of Abu Huraira’s rewards, because of the knowledge and help he gave.

The Famous Poet

Another example occurs later on in Islamic history. Imam al-Busiri is well-known for his work, Qasida Burda (the Poem of the Cloak), one of the most famous poems in praise of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace.

Imam al-Busiri was an extremely talented poet, well-known among royalty and kings at the time, whose praises he used to sing. However, he soon became paralyzed and could not move.

When one of his close friends visited him, he said, “You are a skilled poet, why don’t you write a poem in praise of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace?” Imam al-Busiri asked him, “I am paralyzed, what use will it be?” His friend said, “What use is this mastery of the Arabic language and rhetoric that you possess?”

Imam al-Busiri spent the rest of the night writing the poem, and when he woke up in the morning, he was completely healed. Not only that, but the poem of praise is frequently recited in Muslim communities all over the globe, because of the friend of Imam al-Busiri that supported him.


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A Great Female Servant of God by Ustadh Amjad Tarsin

Ustadh Amjad Tarsin reflects on the apparent contradiction some minds see in the idea that there are female saints in Islam. He frames this within a tale of a personal journey to visit Hubaba Safiyya al Attas in Hadramawt in 2006.

While taking a class on Islamic Spirituality at the Hartford Seminary one of my Christian classmates gave a presentation on the famous lover of God, Rabiʿa al-ʿAdawiyya. Before starting the presentation she sincerely asked the question: “Does it seem contradictory in Islam to have a female saint?” I was shocked at the question and immediately shook my head, seeing no contradiction at all.

I looked around at my fellow Muslim men and women in the class and saw some hesitation on their faces. Were they perhaps thinking that there was some sort of contradiction? I don’t know for sure what was running through their minds, but it is because of my classmate’s question that I feel the need to write about my extraordinary visit to a waliya — a female saint.

Hubaba Safīyya al-ʿAttas

On September 16th, 2006 (Shaʿban 1427 H.), in Wadi ʿAmd in Hadramawt a group of friends and I drove for a few hours to visit a special servant of God: al-Hubaba Safīyya al-ʿAttas, may God have mercy on her. We desired to seek her out because her great station with God and of her endless devotion to and love of Him, Blessed and Exalted is He, was legendary.

The story I was told was that she was discovered by a scholar of Ḥaḍramawt who had seen the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, in a dream. It is said that the Prophet informed the scholar of Hubaba Safiyya and after telling the scholar where she lived, the Prophet commanded him to seek her out. Shortly thereafter, her name became well-known throughout the region, and even the most well-respected scholars sought her out to ask her for dua.

It never really occurred to me before going to Hadramawt that there existed righteous women worth seeking out, but I learned early on that even though I was living in a very conservative society, the people there nonetheless had great respect and reverence towards women of piety and knowledge. Even though I had heard great things about Hubaba Safiyya, I still didn’t really know what to expect.

A Strong Spiritual Presence

After driving several hours through the Hadramawt Valley, we finally reached the small village where Hubaba Safiyya lived. We arrived unannounced, and several children, who I later discovered were Hubaba Safiyya’s grandchildren (or maybe even great grandchildren, for she was over 100 years old at the time), surrounded us, immediately recognizing us as outsiders. The children ran off to tell the elders of our arrival, and it was immediately known that more people had come to seek the baraka of Hubaba Safiyya.

We were greeted warmly by a man in his early fifties who guided us to the Ḥubāba’s house. As we walked up the hill, the excitement and anticipation in my heart began to overflow. I felt something considerable was imminent. We finally made it to the old clay house and we awaited permission to see Hubaba Safiyya. We were graciously given sweet tea while we waited. Soon thereafter, permission was granted.

As we walked towards her room, I felt a strong spiritual presence overcome me. As we entered her room, ducking our heads to enter through the door (which was quite low by Western standards), my eyes fell upon one of the most astounding human beings I had ever seen. Hubaba Safiyya was at such a late stage in her life that she could not get up from her bed. But although she rested there weak in body — her spiritual qualities dwarfed all those present.

Immersed in Remembrance

She was completely immersed in the remembrance of her Lord. I felt from her words and demeanor that it was as if she was standing in the Rawda of the Prophet’s Mosque, peace and mercy be upon him. We all lowered our heads in front of this spiritual giant and were thankful for being able to see one of God’s righteous servants. Being in her presence made us all more mindful of our Lord and increased our yearning to seek His good pleasure and Noble Countenance.

What stood out the most to me were her eyes (a rare grayish-green color). When she looked at me through her face-veil, I felt her gaze pierce my soul. She had ancient eyes that looked like they had seen more than my imagination could muster. Her eyes were filled with wisdom, knowledge, mercy, and love. I felt something within me change forever after she looked at me.

You Have Attained Your Goal

We all asked her to make dua for us, and she gave us all hope and joy when she said, for the first time directing her words to us, saying, “You have attained your goal. You have attained your goal.” The rest of her words the entire visit were just dhikr — being completely engulfed in remembrance of her Lord.

After we left Hubaba Safiyya’s house, we all felt changed. Her prayers and her presence gave us more than words can describe. We felt an overwhelming sense of power and mercy. Although since then I have visited many righteous men, there was something absolutely unique about Hubaba Safiyya.

I was fortunate enough to visit her two more times before leaving Hadramawt, and will remember her for the rest of my life. I thank God for being able to spend time with a human being like her, and I pray to be united with her in the next life in the company of the Mothers of the Believers, Lady Asiya, Lady Maryam, Lady Khadija, and Lady Fatima – may God’s peace be upon them all.

Al-Hubaba Safiyya passed away in late 2007/1428. Scholars from all across the Hadramawt Valley flocked to her funeral, honoring one of God’s beloved saints. May God be well pleased with her and shower her with His infinite mercy.

Source: The Fragrance of Fatima


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