Posts

Was Sufism Recommended by the Prophet?

Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch

Question: Assalamu alaykum

Was Sufism recommended by the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and is it permissible?

Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate

True Consideration is Given to Meanings not Terms

Before answering your question it is important that we correctly understand what is meant by the term ‘Sufism’.

Sufism is a term later coined for a meaning that has always been part of our religion. It refers to purification (tazkiya) and spiritual excellence (ihsan).

Imam Ahmad al-Zarruq defines sufism as sincere turning to Allah. [Zarruq, Qawa’id al-Tasawwuf]

Purification of the Heart

Allah Most High tells us that the Prophets (may Allah bless him and give him peace) were sent with clear roles.

He says, “Just as We have sent to you a Messenger from amongst yourselves, reciting to you Our verses, purifying you, teaching you the Book and the wisdom, and teaching you of that which you knew not.” [Qur’an; 02:151]

This concept of purification is mentioned in many other verses. For example:

Allah Most High says, “By the soul and He who fashioned it. He then inspired it of its virtue and its vice. Successful indeed is the one who has purified it. And at loss indeed is the one who soiled it.” [Qur’an; 91:7-10]

The purification mentioned in these verses and many other verses are what is understood by the science of sufism. Thus the essence of sufism is directly from the Qur’an and Sunna of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace). However the word sufism was a term coined much later.

Spiritual Excellence (Ihsan)

In the Hadith of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) which has been coined the Hadith of Jibril the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) is asked three question. What is islam? What is (faith) iman? What is (spiritual excellence) ihsan?

Replying to the third question – What is ihsan? – the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) replied, “To worship Allah as though you see Him and if you do not see HIm, indeed He sees you.” [Bukhari]

Imam Ahmad al-Zarruq (Allah have mercy on him) mentions in his fundamental principles of sufism, “The foundation of sufism is the station of spiritual excellence (ihsan) explained by the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) as ‘to worship Allah as though you see Him and in you do not see Him certainly He sees you.’ [Bukhari]

This is because the true meanings of sincere turning to Allah (as he defines sufism) go back to and revolve around this foundation. That is, since its wording refers to the seeking of vigilant mindfulness of Allah which is a necessary result of ihsan. So the encouragement in this hadith is, in essence, an encouragement to sufism itself. Just like Islamic law is central to the station of Islam and Islamic beliefs are central to the station of Iman (faith).

Therefore sufism is a part of the religion taught by Jibril (peace be upon him).

[Zarruq, Qawa’id al-Tasawwuf]

Definitions of the Purification of the Soul

The path of purification was defined by Sidi Ahmad al-Zarruq (Allah be pleased with him) as, “Sincere turning to Allah Most High.” [Zarruq, Qawa’id al-Tasawwuf]

Others have defined purfication as the removal of all blameworthy traits from the heart and adopting all praiseworthy traits of the heart.

Blameworthy and Praiseworthy Traits

Blameworthy traits include the following:

Arrogance
Jealousy
Rancor
Anger
Ostentaion
Love of Worldliness
Love of Status
Love of Praise
Self-Conceit

Praiseworthy traits include:

Repentance
Humility
Sincere Concern for Others
Renuciation of Worldliness
Reliance on Allah
Patience
Gratitude
Contentment with Divine Decree
Love of Allah

Purification is Personally Obligatory upon Every Muslim

Just as it is obligatory for every Muslim to abstain from that which is prohibited (haram) with their limbs it is likewise obligatory to abstain from that which is prohibited for their hearts, like the above traits.

That is the role of the science of purification or you could call it, sufism. Many of the elite of the early Muslims were people of this spiritual path, Sufis per se.

However it must be said that due to some charlatans posing as spiritual guide and extremist posing as sages – Sufism attained a bit of a reputation with some groups. Notwithstanding this reputation, the core principles of sufism and the true sufis – many of whom were great scholars of the Islamic sciences – are authentically in accordance with the teachings of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace).

The Origin of the Word Sufism

There is much discussion of the origin of the word Sufism. One famous opinion is that ‘sufism’ was a term given to the early Muslims who wore wool (suf) due to renunciation of worldliness (zuhd ‘an al-dunya).

Abu Sulayman al-Darani (Allah be pleased with him) said, “Wool (suf) is a sign from the signs of asceticism…” [Qushayri, Risala al-Qushayriyya]

Other Definitions of Sufism by Great Imams

The great jurist and Hadith master Imam al-Nawawi is quoted saying, “Sufism (Tasawwuf) is abandoning every portion for the ego.” [Qushayri, Risala al-Qushayriyya]

Husayn bin Ahmad bin J’afar said, “I heard al-Kattani saying, ‘Sufism is praiseworthy characther. So whoever surpasses you in characther has surpassed you is sufism.” [Qushayri, Risala al-Qushayriyya]

M’aruf al-Karkhi said, “Sufism is to adopt the realities (of the religion) and to abandon hope in that which the creation posseses.” [Qushayri, Risala al-Qushayriyya]

Nasrabadhi said, “The foundation of sufism to holding fast the the Book and the Sunna, abandoning caprice and innovation, revering the inviolability of the scholars, finding excuses for the creation, persistance in ritual worships, and abandoning the taking of concessions and interpretations.” [Qushayri, Risala al-Qushayriyya]

Notable Sufis in Early Islamic History

Besides those great imams we have already mentioned, the list goes on. Amongst the most notable of the early muslims, many of whom were scholars, devout worshippers, and ascetic, are:

Ibrahim bin Adham
Fudhail bin ‘Iyadh
M’aruf al-Karkhi
Sirri bin al-Maghlas al-Saqati
Bishr bin al-Harith al-Hafi
Dawud bin Nasir al-Taa’i
Shaqiq al-Balkhi
Abu Yazid al-Bustami
Muhammad bin Sahl al-Tustari
Abu Sulayman ‘Abd al-Rahman bin ‘Atiyya al-Darani
And many more…

The Preservation of the Religion

Allah Most High says, “It is certainly We Who have revealed the Reminder, and it is certainly We Who will preserve it.” [Qur’an; 15:09]

Allah Most High has taken responsibility for the preservation of the Qur’an, not only in its wording, but in its understanding and application as well. This preservation was by means of scholars who inherited the Prophetic legacy and lived by righteous people.

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The scholars are the heirs of the Prophets…” [Tirmidhi]

It is through these scholars and illuminaries that we have received our religion unadultered by ego and worldly desires. It is through them that the true teachings of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) are found.

The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “There will continue to be a group of My nation manifest on the truth, those who betray them will not harm them until the command of Allah comes and they are still thus (i.e. manifest on the truth).” [Bayhaqi, al-Sunan al-Kubra]

Hope this helps
And Allah knows best

Wassalam,
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch

Please see also:

Has Sufism been corrupted? Shaykh Faraz Rabbani answers.

Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a graduate from Tarim; student of Habib Umar and other luminaries; and authorized teachers of Qur’an and the Islamic sciences.

What Is the Benefit of Reciting the Chain of Transmission of a Sufi Tariqa?

Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah

Question: Assalamu alaykum

I would like to enquire about the reality of some of these statements below given by a Sufi group. Especially point 3 and 4.

I would like also to enquire on the sort of statements whereby one is instructed to recite “yaa shaykh Abdul Qadir Jaylani” and the like?

Benefits of reciting one’s shajrah (lineage of the Grand Masters):

1. memorisation of the continuous spiritual chain which reaches back to the Messenger of Allāh .

2. invoking the mention of the pious, which brings about the descent of Divine mercy.

3. conveying the rewards of one’s deeds to each Spiritual Master individually, which brings about their generous spiritual focus.

4. the mentioning of such luminaries in times of safety will ensure they in turn come to his aid when times of calamity strike.

Answer: Wa’alaykum assalam, thank you for your question.

Each spiritual path and spiritual guide will have their own way of transmitting spiritual knowledge to their students, because each has an individual relationship with Allah Most High.

Therefore, each path may emphasis different aspects of spiritual training, or have differing focal points compared to another path. Many spiritual lines also have their own literature which explain their way and reasons for certain practices.

I would advise that you ask these specific questions to the spiritual guide that you are looking into. The essential thing to observe is that both the path and the guide are authentic, adhere to the shariah inwardly and outwardly in all matters, and despite the differing training methods, the ultimate goal is realizing one’s absolute slavehood to Allah Most High.

Please also refer to the following:

What Are the Conditions for a True Spiritual Guide?

Warmest salams,
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah

Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.

Sufism: Its Essence & the Traits of its People: Book by Habib Umar

What is Sufism? This new treatise by Habib Umar ibn Hafiz and translated into English by Ustadh Amjad Tarsin, covers the principles of Sufism and the characteristics of those who follow it.

What is Sufism?

This book seeks to clarify the meaning behind this often-misunderstood term. Sufism, or tasawwuf as it is known in the original Arabic, is the science of purifying the heart for the purpose of reaching Allah. This is done by acting with ihsan, or excellence, in every situation, and following the sunna of the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace.

A true Sufi is someone who has reached the station of ayn al-yaqin, or the witnessing of certainty, which usually comes after many years of hard work. The people who try their best, but have not yet reached, are really quasi-Sufis, or mutasawif. As for the people who love them, but are not actively trying to progress spiritually, are attempting to resemble Sufis.

The Traits of Sufis

There are many people all over the world, who claim to be Sufis. Habib Umar outlines the ten traits that must be followed by anyone who claims to be a Sufi. These traits are universal to the various spiritual paths.

  1. Knowledge of the Qur’an and the Sunna: This forms the very foundation of the Sufism, and any actions that contradict the basics of Islam, are not from Sufism. This also means that the Sufis strive to follow the  sunna with utmost excellence. In fact, the isnad (chains of transmission) of all the major works of Qur’an, hadith, tafsir (Qur’anic exegesis), fiqh (jurisprudence) were passed down through the people of Sufism. Therefore, everyone today who is qualified to teach any of these sciences, has Sufis in their chain of transmission.
  2. Concern with perfecting the heart for the sake of Allah: Since Allah looks towards our heart, not our outward forms, Sufis prioritise working on their hearts to attain ihsan. Sufism is not about singing, clapping, or wearing specific clothing. Rather, it’s about removing everything besides Allah from the heart.
  3. Sincerity. Sufis should be extremely meticulous in analysing their actions, making sure that they are solely for the sake of Allah, and shy away from praise and recognition.
  4. Trueness: This entails doing everything possible to do a deed for the sake of Allah alone, with no pride or ostentation. This also means being humble enough to accept advice from everyone, and not to mind if others turn away.
  5. Humility of the heart: There are countless verses, hadith and stories which emphasise the centrality of humility. A Sufi does not raise themselves above others, or believe that they are better than anyone else, preferring instead to carry themselves with humility.
  6. Recognising the people of honor, and eliminating envy: By showing honor to people who posses it, they strive to give everyone their rights, and not have envy towards anyone.
  7. Remembering Allah abundantly: Sufis strive to make dhikr and remember Allah, with presence of heart, as much as possible.
  8. Conveying with excellence and eliminating discourteous argumentation: They strive for excellence by avoiding arguments unless absolutely necessary. If an issue arises, they clarify it in the best manner.
  9. Responding to evil with goodness, and having concern: A Sufi has utmost concern for others, and does their best to strive for their wellbeing. They forgive those who wrong them and respond to any evil they face with goodness.
  10. Love of Allah, preferring Him over all else: In their daily life, they consider Allah more important than everything, and strive to attain his love.

Sufism: Its Essence & the Traits of its People, is published by Dar al-Turath Islami. If you would like to learn more, consider enrolling in our On-Demand course The Path of Spiritual Excellence.


Imam Haddad and Neo-Sufism – Dr Hisham A. Hellyer

Dr. Hisham A. Hellyer starts with an excellent testimony to the collections of Al-Imam Al Haddad in this video. Beginning with the specific supplication of intention that Imam al-Haddad formulated, the stage is set for the introduction of this great Yemeni scholar who left behind a strong spiritual legacy for generations to come.

 

The Question of Neo-Sufism

 Within some academic circles, there was a term created called “Neo-Sufism”. The idea of Neo-Sufism was said to be elicited as a direct response to normative Sunni Islam. In this assessment, it was stated that were things in Sufism that were not Orthodox.

Dr. Hellyer brings up a few different topics that some authors allege against the Sufi tradition, such as the unique relationship between the teacher and the seeker or the notion that Sufism essentially cloaked itself in orthodoxy to better blend in. He takes these points, among others, and carefully discusses them with his audience.

Before Imam Haddad, Dr. Hellyer states, there was not a lot of codifying the tariqa in writing.

Imam Haddad helped codify and recognise the different levels of relationships between the murid and the tariqa. Dr. Hellyer believes that Imam Haddad ultimately helped the tariqa become more accessible too. He asserts repeatedly that the notion of the tariqa more generally – and not simply Imam al-Haddad’s tariqa – is not “neo” or new as some claim, but a very established part of Islamic history.

Dr Hellyer also brings to our attention a new book that he has co-authored with two khulafa’ of a pre-eminent 20th century scholar and sage, Sayyid Muhammad b. Alawi al-Maliki, entitled, “A Sublime Way: the Sufi Way of the Makkan Sages”, which promises to expound on a number of these points. The work is due to be released in October of this year.


Dr Hisham A. Hellyer (Biography from A Sublime Way)

A noted scholar and author focusing on politics and religion, Dr H.A. Hellyer was born to an English father and to an Egyptian mother of Sudanese & Moroccan heritage and Ḥasanī & ʿAbbāsī lineage. He was raised between London, Cairo and Abu Dhabi, before receiving degrees in law and international political economy from the University of Sheffield, and a doctorate from the University of Warwick. He began researching Islamic law, theology and spirituality in his teens, keeping the company of and studying under a number of classically trained-scholars in the UK, Egypt, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa and elsewhere, receiving ijāzāt from a number of them.

Dr. Hellyer’s career has included positions at and affiliations with the Brookings Institution, Harvard University, the Royal United Services Institute, the American University in Cairo, the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies of the University of Oxford, and the Centre for Advanced Studies on Islam, Science and Civilisation (CASIS).

He is a frequent commentator and columnist in various media in the United States, Europe and the Arab world, and is included in the annual global list of ‘The 500 Most Influential Muslims’ in the world (‘The Muslim 500’). Among his written works are ‘Muslims of Europe: the ‘Other’ Europeans’ (Edinburgh University Press), ‘A Revolution Undone: Egypt’s Road Beyond Revolt’ (Oxford University Press) and “The Islamic Tradition, Muslim Communities and the Human Rights Discourse” (editor)(Atlantic Council). Dr Hellyer works between London, Washington DC, and Cairo, where he continues to research, teach, and study.


Resources for Seekers

Can I Hide My Interest in Sufism from My Husband?

Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Question: Assalam aleykum,

I have been reading and studying about Sufism, and I really want to start my path to Ihsan, to Allah Ta’ala.

My husband is totally against that. For him, the Sufis make innovations, their practices are out of Qur’an and the sunna of our Beloved Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) and is not necessary at all to follow a Shaykh and join a tariqa.

Every time I try to talk about that with him, I give up because he does not understand and he tries to convince me that it is wrong path. I would like to know what should I do? Should I hide from him that I am really interested and I want to follow this path?

Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for reaching out to us. Please forgive me for the delay.

Sufism

Dear sister, your spiritual path is between you and Allah. Your relationship with Allah is the most important relationship you will ever have in your life. Please remember this, as you navigate the waters of your life.

It is not necessary for you to disclose everything about your life, including your spiritual practice, to your husband. Marriage does not mean dissolving all boundaries between you and your husband. Doing so can be unhealthy. At the same time, the more secrets you keep from your husband, the more distant you are likely to feel.

Prayer of Guidance

I suggest that you perform the Prayer of Guidance about how to proceed. If Allah places tranquility in your heart about your decision to join a tariqa, then that is your answer. If Allah places unease in your heart about doing so without your husband’s blessings, then that is your answer. You can perform this prayer as many times as you need to until you are certain.

Husband

I doubt that your husband will change his views on Sufism through direct confrontation. I suggest that for the time being, please leave the topic of Sufism alone. It sounds like when you bring up this topic, your husband immediately goes on the defensive. Instead of riling him up through these heated discussions, focus on nurturing the parts of your marriage that you do have in common. Make happy memories together. Grow a sense of ‘we’ instead of ‘me’.

When registration opens, please enrol in the SeekersHub course Marriage in Islam: Practical Guidance for Successful Marriages. In the meantime, please listen to the lesson set Getting Married with Ustadha Shireen Ahmed and Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

Lead your husband by example. If your marriage is healthy and strong, then your husband will be far more open to accepting your influence. It is not uncommon for initially rigid husbands to eventually relax and change their beliefs once they feel secure, loved and respected by their wives. However, this change may take many years, and I suggest that you work on accepting your husband’s good qualities.

Emotionally Intelligent Husbands Are Key to a Lasting Marriage
Husbands Can Only Be Influential if They Accept Influence
7 Research-Based Principles for Making Marriage Work

I pray that Allah blesses you with nearness to Him, and the gift of a loving marriage.

Please see:

Love, Marriage and Relationships in Islam: All Your Questions Answered
Selected Prophetic Prayers for Spiritual, Physical and Emotional Wellbeing by Chaplain Ibrahim Long

[Ustadha] Raidah Shah Idil

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil has spent almost two years in Amman, Jordan, where she learned Shafi’i’ fiqh, Arabic, Seerah, Aqeedah, Tasawwuf, Tafsir and Tajweed. She continues to study with her Teachers in Malaysia and online through SeekersHub Global. She graduated with a Psychology and English degree from University of New South Wales, was a volunteer hospital chaplain for 5 years and has completed a Diploma of Counselling from the Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors. She lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with her husband, daughter, and mother-in-law.

Do I Have to Take a Shaykh to Cure My Heart?

Answered by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Question: Assalamu alaykum

I recently realized that my nafs is enticing me mostly with evil thoughts (arrogance, pride, competing with Allah, I can do what Allah can do). It started with whisper 5 months ago. How to train my nafs in this condition? Is this necessary to work under a sheikh or a sufi?

Answer: Wa ‘alaykum as-salam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh

Thank you for your question. Firstly, this realisation that you have had is a huge blessing from Allah Himself. One of the righteous one remarked that ‘When Allah wants good for a servant He makes him aware of his faults so the servant can repent from them.’ You should thank Allah for this and turn to Him seeking His help in getting over this hurdle.

It is superior to resort to a master of Islamic Spirituality in matters of purification of the heart, as he is usually someone who has experienced and overcome the challenges people face on the path to drawing closer to Allah, and an external observer usually sees things which you may not. The first step, however, is to ground yourself in the knowledge you need to practice your religion, and you may find that many of your issues fall away due to the blessings of Sacred Knowledge. Thereafter, if you feel inclined to finding a teacher of Tasawwuf you should ask Allah by means of the Prayer of Need (Salah al-Haja) and the Prayer of Choosing and Facilitation (Salah al-Istikhara). Allah, out of His tremendous generosity, will show you someone who is right for you.

The first thing to do with an unwanted, intrusive thought is to not identify with it and to hate the feeling of arrogance, competing with Allah etc, in your heart. You should sincere repent from the thought and dismiss it if it returns. The best solution is ignore them after that and should go away. Focusing on them and worrying about them is a means of empowering them.

If they persist regardless, you may have a mild form of OCD which can be remedied through basic therapy. An effective, and easy therapy is E.F.T. (Emotional Freedom Technique); it can be learned by anyone in a few minutes and many a time the issues will disappear fairly quickly. If the issue is deeper then you should consider finding a practitioner and wprking through the issue with.

May Allah facilitate for you all the means to attaining His pleasure.

Wassalam,
[Shaykh] Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. After graduating with a degree in English and History he moved to Damascus in 2007 to study and sit at the feet of some of the most erudite scholars of our time.

Over the following eighteen months he studied a traditional curriculum, studying with scholars such as Shaykh Adnan Darwish, Shaykh Abdurrahman Arjan, Shaykh Hussain Darwish and Shaykh Muhammad Darwish.

In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies for the next six years, in Fiqh, Usul al-Fiqh, Theology, Hadith Methodology and Commentary, Shama’il, and Logic with teachers such as Dr Ashraf Muneeb, Dr Salah Abu’l-Hajj, Dr Hamza al-Bakri, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, Dr Mansur Abu Zina amongst others. He was also given two licences of mastery in the science of Qur’anic recital by Shakh Samir Jabr and Shaykh Yahya Qandil.

His true passion, however, arose in the presence of Shaykh Ali Hani, considered by many to be one of the foremost tafsir scholars of our time who provided him with the keys to the vast knowledge of the Quran. With Shaykh Ali, he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Qur’anic Sciences, Tafsir, Arabic Grammar, and Rhetoric.

When he finally left Jordan for the UK in 2014, Shaykh Ali gave him his distinct blessing and still recommends students in the UK to seek out Shaykh Abdul-Rahim for Quranic studies. Since his return he has trained as a therapist and has helped a number of people overcome emotional and psychosomatic issues. He is a keen promoter of emotional and mental health.

What is Spirituality, and Who Are Sufis? by Yusuf Latif

The concept of spirituality is rather vague and is used to describe any number of views and practices among peoples. Whether it has always been this way is a question that is difficult to answer, especially as it is posed, argues Yusuf Lateef Zanella.

When the question is general in nature, as if spirituality were one concrete thing among other things, like chairs, dresses, automobiles, and so on. It is not at easy to answer as, say, a question like: Has the use of ankle-length skirts among women of a certain background become more or less widespread?

When we talk of spirituality in relation to Islam, in order to make sense of it, we need to be more specific as to what we mean by the word. Here the word is meant to cover what is traditionally known as Tassawwuf. Now many will not find that distinction to be very helpful, for what is Tassawwuf? The answer that Tassawwuf is merely Islamic spirituality, more commonly known as Sufism, leaves us treading the same water while trying to get a grip on the rope of understanding. It does not answer the question. Because, as we said, there are many views and opinions on what Tassawwuf is. Its use, though not as common, is almost as diverse and wide-ranging as that of the word spirituality. So, whose view should be taken into serious consideration when seeking an answer to that question?

In his concise yet profound article “The Place of Tasswwuf among the Islamic Sciences” (1995) Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller makes it clear that, in order to answer the question: What is Tassawwuf? one must ask those who know, namely, traditional Muslim scholars who are knowledgeable in the science itself and practice it. Justification for this is found in the Qur’anic verse: “Ask those who know if you know not” (16:43). But is this also not, as Shaykh Nuh himself alludes to in recounting his own search for knowledge, what one would do in any matter of great importance?

One Who Knows the Object and the Science

To draw a material analogy, one could say that if one wanted to know what a combustion engine is one would ask a person who not only knows how to repair certain builds or types of engine, but also the principles of combustion and the science behind engine construction. Not only that, the person must have an understanding of the point of combustions engines, their purpose, and the roles these play in human life. For no one (for the sake of argument) wants a combustion engine in and of itself, rather it is a means toward some goal, toward something one wants to attain.

The Heart’s Desire

Anyone who professes Islam will, upon reflection, know that the ultimate goal in the life of a Muslim is Allah Most High. He, alone, is the true heart’s desire. For what, really, could be more rewarding, more awesome in the truest sense of the word, than to stand in His presence. Can one truly imagine being more alert, more awake, more present and aware other than in the presence of one’s Lord and Maker? Common synonyms of the word awesome as can be found in any reputable dictionary are words such as wonder, reverence, and dread. It is for the purpose of awakening this sense of awe that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) in the Hadith of Muslim stated that “the perfection of faith” (ihsan) is “to worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you see Him not, He nevertheless sees you.” The presence of mind in worship entailed here lies in realising that one is always in the Presence of one’s Lord. For instance, when one stands in prayer, but not only then, for worship is not limited to prayer.

In a related Hadith of Muslim, which precedes the one mentioned above in Imam Nawawi’s Arba‘in, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) says that “Actions are according to intention. And every man shall have what he intended. So whoever’s emigration (hijra) is for the sake of Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace), his emigration is for the sake of Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace). And whoever’s emigration is for worldly gains or for a woman to marry, his emigration is for the sake of that for which he emigrated.” It is clear that the question of intentions and acts spoken of here can be generalised to include all acts and states in the life of any one Muslim—that any one of our acts with the proper intention is an act of worship.

This state of presence in all acts is also alluded to in the Qur’an, where Allah Most High says: “Truly, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the variation of night and day there are signs for the people of understanding” (3:190). The people of understanding Allah Most High goes on to define as “Those who mind Allah while standing, sitting and lying down” (3:191). The word “mind” here is a translation of yadhkurun, from the verb dhakara (to remember) in the sense of keeping something or someone in mind. They strive to be or are constantly in and aware of His presence. For they know that although they do not see Him, He nevertheless sees them.

To Strive Is No Easy Thing…

This state of presence before Allah Most High is something one can experience or come to an awareness of at any moment. From my own experience I can definitely say that there is a difference, in taste almost, between a prayer prayed alone or behind someone when  in Allah’s presence, that is when mindful of Him, and a prayer in which this is not the case. This is not meant as a slight to anyone or to myself, but rather to say that to strive towards this state is no easy thing. That, however, does not mean it is something one should not strive towards. A sure way of attaining this state, as Shaykh Nuh emphasises, is by keeping the company of the people of understanding mentioned by Allah. That is, the people of the spiritual path.

This Desert Life: Not Even Shoes

In Islam (in Arabic) the word for the Sacred Law is al-Shari‘a and is related to the noun shari‘a (without the definite article) which commonly means water hole or drinking place or the approach to it. Like many things in Islam it is derived from the context of life in the desert. This image of life in a desert, dependence upon water, and the trope of nomadic existence in this world permeates our religion through and through. The first line of the Hadith of Bukhari that rounds off Imam Nawawi’s Arba‘in reads: “Be in this world as if you were a stranger [foreigner] or a traveller on the way.”

In many cultures and languages the words “way” and “law” are often used interchangeably, in the sense of how one properly goes about things, or right conduct. What is sometimes lost sight of in our mode of life is the peril of not acting according to the law. In the context of life in a desert this becomes more apparent, for e.g. the way to water or sustenance is of vital importance for survival, and not acting in accordance with it can have grave consequences. Every word, indeed every action, is a matter of life and death. When viewed from this perspective what one says and does, the meanings of one’s words and actions, are not mere abstractions. The attention and care accorded to them must be commensurate with the situation at hand. To fall short here is not only to risk one’s own life but more importantly the lives of those is one’s care and protection. A true child of the desert will learn how to survive and thrive, where to find sustenance and safety, where to go and when, and to stay put and when, from those who know, through instruction and through imitation. Knowledge in this context is not book learning, but knowing what to day at any time of the day, in any place or situation. Books and diplomas and other things are useful, but as Imam Ghazali said: That which is of greatest value is what you will not lose in a shipwreck.

The point is that, being a traveller in this desert life is so much more that buying a train, boat, or plane ticket and having oneself transported from one point to another. It often means not even having the shoes on which to get through the day, much less the comfort of hot tea on the back of a camel. It also means that one’s goal is ever present to one’s mind, and that is Allah, Most High and Transcendent. We are only passing through this world that is not our “country of origin”. Finally it means that in order to get through this world safely, to make the best of this desert life, it is incumbent upon us to ask those who came before us and who have spent countless hours of their lives learning at the feet of those who came before them the best ways and means of crossing this empty quarter of creation and to make it back home to Allah Most High. To ask those who live this desert life.

They are the people of understanding. The Masters of the Way. The one’s who know the Shari‘a like they know their own hearts. They are those about whom one can say: They have already departed. Their exemplar is of course none other than he “whose character was the Qur’an” (Muslim), who said of himself “I have been sent to perfect righteous character” (Musnad Ahmad), the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). They are the heirs not only of his knowledge (Allah bless him and give him peace) but also of his states. They are the Sufis.

About the Author

Yusuf Latif became Muslim in 1998 at the hands of Shaykh Abd al-Baqi al-Husayni al-Naqshband. The Shaykh sent him to Jordan to learn from Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller in 2001, from whom he took the Shadhili tariqa in 2003. He spent four years in Amman where he studied tasawwuf, fiqh and aqida, and worked for Islamica Magazine. Now, besides working for Seekers Hub, he writes childrens’ books that he one day hopes to see published. 

Resources for Seekers

What is a Zawiya? An Answer From Dr Umar Faruq Abdallah

Mosque? Seminary? Sufi lodge? What exactly is a zawiya, and what is its function? Dr Umar Faruq Abdallah explains.

Take a tour of a  zawiya in Rosales, and listen to Dr. Umar and other attendees, explain the role of a zawiya, in the historical and modern contexts.

Some consider it a retreat, to spend time with other students and scholars. Some consider it the home that they never had. Others consider it a place of patience and gratitude. Yet others consider it a manifestation of God’s beauty

Yet they all agree on one thing; it’s a place that connects you to God.

Photo by Victor.

Resources for Seekers

The Dangers of Judging People Based on Their Status Updates, by Ustadh Salman Younas

Do you find yourself painting a mental picture of someone based on their social media profile? Ustadh Salman Younas has valuable advice on how to keep a good opinion, especially if you disagree with them.

 

My personal rule is not to formulate judgments about people based purely on online interaction/information. This applies especially to those who I do not see eye-to-eye with on particular issues. There are exceptions to this rule but my personal experience demonstrates that perceptions formulated based on web-interactions are often highly deceptive and skewed. I’ll mention two examples here:

A Learned Scholar With Impeccable Character

My first experience was with Shaykh Muhammad ibn Yahya al-Ninowy: Prior to meeting him, I would read and hear a lot of things concerning him and his views. His connection to X group of scholars, his views on such and such theological matter, or this and that prophetic tradition, and so forth. When I first had a chance to meet and spend a few days with him nearly a decade ago, the person I saw was a learned scholar with impeccable character, attentive and caring to those around him, generous with his time, always smiling, and very positive.

I remember holding the door open for him one day and he kept telling me to enter first. Later, I asked him about the issue of disobeying the commands of elders and scholars when it was done out of adab as Ali (God be well-pleased with him) had done with the Prophet (blessings be upon him). He laughed, held my hand, and simply said, “I am not the Prophet, Salman, and I pray to God that you will be like Ali.”

Graves, Music, and Miracle Stories?

My other experience was with Shaykh Nuh Haa Meem Keller. I always thought Haa Meem was a rather odd middle name. Being a Sufi did not aid my initial perception of Shaykh Nuh either, nor did the hadra, and nor the fact that Sufis were associated with graves, music, miracle stories, and a host of other practices and beliefs that seemed extremely odd at the time. I eventually matured and settled in Amman where I lived for nearly half a decade. To this day, I have never seen anyone more actualized in his spiritual state than Shaykh Nuh, nor anyone more attached to the sunna of the Prophet (blessings be upon him). There was no grave “worship”, no music, no giving your money to the shaykh, no constant miracle stories. All I heard was one message: realize tawhid, worship Him, trust in Him, be people of good and benefit, etc. He is the one who demonstrated to me that the notion of al-insan al-kamil (‘the perfect man’) was in fact a reality and continues to be a reality realized by some.

These are two examples from among many where the portrayal of someone on social media and websites turned out to be utterly deceptive and false. We have a tendency to be quick in formulating judgments about others based on some website setup against that person, or some limited exposure to certain views, or the polemics of certain people and groups.

Small Screen Projects Resentment

Among our own fellow brothers and sisters whom we may discuss and disagree with publicly on the internet, we fall into the error of reading anger, resentment, hatred, and animosity into their comments and stances. This projection on our part is amplified manifold by the small screen that stands between us. I have found that meeting people humanizes them; it brings about a more respectful, civilized, and beneficial relationship. Some of my closest colleagues today are people who are in some ways my polar opposites and who disagree with me on fundamental issues. I was fortunate enough to have actually had the chance to sit with them and discuss things like real people are meant to.

Don’t let the internet damage your relationships with others. Don’t let it allow you to fall into the sin of ill-will towards people, arrogance, hatred for your fellow brothers/sisters, animosity, backbiting, and the like. Recognize the potential of this medium to distort your perception and take the means to make sure that does not happen. When discussing with another, refer to him/her respectfully, thank that person for sharing their thoughts, make a supplication, and do not say things you would not say to someone in person.

Follow Ustadh Salman Younas on Facebook.

How Can I Purify My Heart? A Reader

“Success is really attained by him
who purifies it”
[Qur’an, 91.9]

The duty to purify the heart

The Place of Tasawwuf in Traditional Islamic Sciences

What Islamic Perspective is Taught at SeekersHub?

How to purify the heart?

How is spiritual excellence attained?

A Reader on Sincerity, Intention, and the Purpose of Spiritual Routines

What is Islamic Spirituality? A Reader

How to Strengthen Faith in Allah and Return to Him? A Reader

Presence of Heart in Prayer: A Reader

A Reader on Anger Management and Good Character

Retweeting Sufism: Appreciating Tasawwuf in the Modern Age by Shaykh Ahmad Saad

We live in a world of advanced technology and a pervasive socal media, yet many people feel emptiness and they experience a vacuum in their hearts. Can Tasawwuf help? Is Sufism still relevant today? Can Tasawwuf bring meaning to our lives? Find out as the speaker, Shaykh Ahmad Saad, shares his knowledge and thoughts on this subject.

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf – Curing The Heart

Purification Of The Heart by Shaykh Sayyid Muhammad Al-Yaqoubi

Shaykh Yahya Rhodus: DISCIPLINING THE SOUL

A lecture series based on two sections in the third quarter of Imam al-Ghazali’s Revival of the Religious Sciences (Ihya’ Ulum al-Din). This course will delve into the foundational principles of disciplining one’s soul, offering a theoretical framework of how this is achieved. Brought to you by, www.zaytunacollege.org

Related courses

Essentials of Spirituality: Ghazali’s Beginning of Guidance Explained (STEP)

The Marvels of the Heart

Recommended readings

Sea Without Shore: A Manual of the Sufi Path

The Beginning of Guidance

Photo: International Rivers