Acquisition of the Clear Light: Part 5

This is the fifth part of a series of translations of Habib Umar’s work, Qabs al-Nur al-Mubin, an abridgement of Imam al-Ghazali’s Ihya Ulum al-Din.


Obligatory precaution against the devil’s overpowering of the heart and the prevention of his entrances therein.

Know that the heart is like a pitched dome with doors through which concerns enter, and similarly like a target of which arrows from various directions are aimed towards, so the point of entry for these renewed influences are either external, through the five senses or internal, through imagination, desire, anger and natural traits within man’s composition.

The most notable of acquired influences within the heart are spiritual promptings, through the medium of thoughts and reflections which are its acquirement’s of knowledge by means of renewal or recall, which is called spiritual promptings, as a prompting takes place preceded by the hearts ignorance of it. So the base of actions are spiritual promptings, these spiritual promptings then awaken the desire, the desire awakens the resolve, the resolve awakens the intention and the intention awakens the limbs.

These are divided between that which calls to evil, of which is what is ultimately harmful and that which calls to goodness, of which is what is of benefit in the Final Abode. So these are 2 varying spiritual promptings, the good of which is called an inspiration and the bad of which is called a whisper. As long as the end result varies, it’s is an indication of the varying of its respective cause.

The agent of a good spiritual prompting is angelic and the agent of an evil spiritual prompting is demonic. The subtlety which equips the heart to accept a good inspiration is called harmonization and that which equips it to accept a demonic whisper is called deception and failure. An angel is an epitome of a creation which Allah Most High brought into existence, its role is the outpouring of goodness, benefiting by knowledge, revealing truth, counseling towards good, enjoining the good and this was the purpose for it being created and facilitated. A devil is an epitome of a creation which has an opposing role to that which is that of counseling towards evil, commanding immorality, to cause despair by means of distress, when considering to embark upon goodness.

A demonic whisper is opposite to inspiration, a devil is opposite to an angel, harmonization is opposite to failure, Allah Most high says: And of everything we have created pairs.” (Sura ad-Dhariyat 51:49). All matters have pairs except Allah Most High, as He is unique without a pair, in fact, He is the one, the Real who created all the pairs.

The heart is attracted towards the devil or the angel. He (SAW) said, : “In the heart there are 2 callings. A call from the angel promising goodness and belief of the Truth, so whoever amongst you finds this then know that it is from Allah Most High, so show gratitude to Him and a call from the devil promising evil, disbelief of the Truth and forbidding goodness, so whoever amongst you finds this should seek refuge in Allah Most High from the Devil.” Thereafter he recited His words: “Satan promises you with poverty and orders you to commit what is indecent, but Allah promises you His Forgiveness and bounty from Him. Allah is the Embracer, the Knower.” (Sura al-Baqarah 2:268)

Regarding the attraction towards these 2 dominating factors, He (SAW) said: “The heart of a believer is between the two fingers of Allah the Most Exalted.” Mujaahid mentioned regarding His statement: “From the mischief of the Whisperer who withdraws. It is spread out within the heart, upon him remembering Allah, it withdraws and shrinks and if he is unmindful, it spreads out within the heart.” Regarding their difference, Allah Most High says: “The Evil One has got the better of them: so he has made them lose the remembrance of Allah.” (Sura 58:19) Ibn Wadhaah said regarding the narration he mentioned: If a man reaches the age of 40 without repenting, the devil wipes his face with his hand and says: By my father, a face which will not succeed. By this, the meaning of a whispering, a spiritual prompting, an angel, a devil, harmonization and failure all become clear.

So it’s upon the servant to acquaint himself with every affair that comes to mind to know whether it’s an angelic calling or a satanic calling and to eagerly examine it with an insightful eye, without any caprice from the natural disposition, which is only perceived through the light of God-consciousness, insight and abundance of knowledge as He Most High says: “Those who fear Allah, when a thought of evil from Satan assaults them, make remembrance.” (Sura 7:201) Which means that they return to the light of knowledge. “At once, they have insight.” (Sura 7:201) Which means that the problem becomes manifest to them. As for the person who has not accustomed his self towards God-Consciousness, his nature is inclined towards the obedience of what has deceived him through the following of his caprice, and as a result, his mistakes are many and his destruction is brought near without him noticing.

Translator: Abdullah Salih, converted to Islam in 2003 and thereafter, embarked on a journey of seeking knowledge in the Valleys of Hadramouth in the beautiful city of Tarim. He was fortunate enough to sit in the company of Habib Umar, where he studied under him various sciences such as, but not limited to, some of the original works of Ihya as well that of the abridgment. He now resides in Namibia with his family and is engaged in Dawah activities locally as well as internationally.

What Is the Stance of Ibn Al-Jawzi Regarding Sufism and Why Did He Write Talbis Iblis?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: Assalam alaikum,

Some people quote extensively from Imam Ibn al-Jawzi’s book “Talbis Iblis” as a reference against Sufism in general.

What was the motivation of Ibn al-Jawzi in writing “Talbis Iblis” and what is his stance regarding sufism?

Answer: Walaikum assalam,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and spirits.

Ibn al-Jawzi critiqued all areas of society—including scholars and sufis, the learned and the unlearned, leaders and common people—and highlighted ways that some of them can be deluded and accept the whisperings and misguiding of the Devil. Thus the title of his work, The Deceptions of the Devil (Talbis Iblis).

When he critiques the Sufis, he is not critiquing all Sufis—as he himself wrote numerous works in Islamic spirituality (tasawwuf), including biographies of the great men and women of the spiritual path (such as in his work Sifat al-Safwa), and he quotes them regularly throughout his own writings. Rather, he is critiquiing specific errors and tendencies. Some of these would be agreed-upon as wrong, and others would be based on his understanding of faith, law, and right conduct—and therefore subject to the principles of respect for difference of opinion, where those critiqued are following established religious opinions.

Please see also: What is Islamic Spirituality? A Reader and: Imam Ghazali’s Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din’s Importance and Value: A Reader

And Allah is the giver of success and facilitation.

Faraz Rabbani


IBN AL-JAWZI [Biography]

by Shaykh Gibril Haddad

`Abd al-Rahman ibn `Ali ibn Muhammad ibn `Ali ibn `Ubayd Allah ibn `Abd Allah ibn Hammadi ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ja`far ibn `Abd Allah ibn al-Qasim ibn al-Nadr ibn al-Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn `Abd Allah ibn al-Faqih `Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Faqih al-Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Khalifat Rasul Allah — Allah bless and greet him — Abi Bakr al-Siddiq, Abu al-Faraj ibn al-Jawzi al-Qurashi al-Taymi al-Bakri al-Baghdadi al-Hanbali al-Ash`ari (509/510-597). He was, with Shaykh `Abd al-Qadir al-Gilani, the imam of Hanbalis and foremost orator of kings and princes in his time whose gatherings reportedly reached one hundred thousand, a hadith master, philologist, commentator of Qur’an, expert jurist, physician, and historian of superb character and exquisite manners.

Orphaned of his father at age three, Ibn al-Jawzi was raised by his aunt who later brought him to the hadith scholar Ibn Nasir, his first shaykh. He took hadith from him as well as over eighty shaykhs and was teacher to his grandson Shams al-Din Yusuf ibn Qazghali al-Hanafi – Sibt al-Jawzi – as well as some of the greatest Hanbali hadith masters and jurists such as Muwaffaq al-Din Ibn Qudama, Ibn al-Najjar, and Diya’ al-Din al-Maqdisi.

Ibn al-Jawzi took a staunch Ash`ari stance in doctrine and courageously denounced the anthropomorphism of his school in the interpretation of the divine Attributes in his landmark work Daf` Shubah al-Tashbih bi Akuff al-Tanzih (“Rebuttal of the Insinuations of Anthropomorphism at the Hands of Divine Transcendence”), also known as al-Baz al-Ashhab al-Munqadd `ala Mukhalifi al-Madhhab (“The Flaming Falcon Swooping Down on the Dissenters of the [Hanbali] School”) which he began with the words:

I have seen among the followers of our school some who held unsound discourses on doctrine. Three in particular have applied themselves to write books in which they distort the Hanbali madhhab: Abu `Abd Allah ibn Hamid,1 his friend al-Qadi (Abu Ya`la),2 and Ibn al-Zaghuni.3 I have seen them (Ibn Abi Ya`la, Ibn Hamid, and Ibn al-Zaghuni) descend to the level of popular belief, construing the divine attributes according to the requirements of what the human senses know. They have heard that Allah created Adam according to His/his likeness and form (`ala suratihi), so they affirm that Allah has a form and face in addition to His essence, as well as two eyes, a mouth, an uvula, molar teeth, a physiognomy, two hands, fingers, a palm, a little finger, a thumb, a chest, thighs, two legs, two feet!… Then they placate the common people by adding: `But not as we think.’… They have applied outward meanings with regard to the Divine Names and Attributes. Thus, they give the Divine Attributes a wholly innovative and contrived name for which they have no evidence either in the transmitted texts of Qur’an and Sunna or in rational proofs based on reason. They have paid attention neither to texts that steer one away from the apparent sense towards the meanings required for Allah, nor to the necessary cancellation of the external meaning when it attributes to Allah the distinguishing marks of creatures. They are not content to say: “attribute of act” (sifatu fi`l) until they end up saying: “attribute of essence” (sifatu dhat). Then, once they affirmed them to be “attributes of essence,” they claimed: we do not construe the text according to the directives of the Arabic language. Thus they refuse to construe “hand” (yad) as meaning “favor” and “power”; or “coming forth” (maji’) and “coming” (ityan) as “mercy” and “favor”; or “shin” (saq) as “tribulation.” Instead they say: We construe them in their customary external senses, and the external sense is what is describable in terms of well-known human characteristics, and a text is only construed literally if the literal sense is feasible. Then they become offended when imputed with likening Allah to His creation (tashbih) and express scorn at such an attribution to themselves, clamoring: “We are Ahl al-Sunna!” Yet their discourse is clearly couched in terms of tashbih. And some of the masses follow them.

I have advised both the followers and the leaders saying: Colleagues! You are adherents and followers of our madhhab. Your greatest Imam is Ahmad ibn Hanbal, may Allah have mercy on him, who said while under the lash of the Inquisition: “How can I say what was never said?” Beware of innovating in his madhhab what is not from him! Then, you said regarding the hadiths (of the Attributes): “They must be taken in their external sense.” Yet the external sense of qadam (“foot”) is a bodily limb!4 And when it was said concerning `Isa: ruh Allah (“Allah’s spirit”) the Christians thought that Allah possessed an attribute named His spirit which had entered Mary!

Whoever says: “He is established on His throne in His Essence (bi al-dhat),” has made Allah an object of sensory perception. It behooves one not to neglect the means by which the principle of Religion is established and that is reason. For it is by virtue of reason that we have known Allah and judged Him to be Eternal without beginning. If you were to say: “We read hadiths but we are silent,” no one would have any objection against you. However, your interpretation of the outward sense is morally repugnant and disgusting. Do not introduce into the madhhab of this man of the Salaf, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, what his thought does not contain.5

Because of this work, Ibn al-Jawzi was criticized by the Hanbali and Hanbali-leaning proponents of the views he lambasted, such as Muwaffaq al-Din ibn Qudama and his grandson the hadith master Sayf al-Din ibn al-Majd6 as well as Ibn Taymiyya and his circle. Among them al-Dhahabi said: “May Allah have mercy on him and forgive him! Would that he had not probed figurative interpretation nor diverged from his Imam.” Al-Dhahabi’s words are, of course, loaded assumptions that Ibn al-Jawzi had himself long since rejected as shown by the above lines from the Daf`.

Some went too far in criticizing him, such as Ibn Nuqta who said: “I never saw anyone relied upon in his Religion, knowledge, and reason, that approved of Ibn al-Jawzi.” Al-Dhahabi responded: “If Allah approves of him, they are irrelevant.”

Ibn al-Jawzi was a prolific author of over seven hundred books, among which al-Dhahabi lists the following:’;
2.Afat al-Muhaddithin;
3.Akhbar al-Akhyar;
4.Akhbar al-Nisa’, an informative handbook for Muslim women in 110 brief chapters followed by biographical notices on sixty-six eminent Muslim women. The book was printed under the title Ahkam al-Nisa’. In it Ibn al-Jawzi cites the following:
The Prophet — Allah bless and greet him — is related to say: “I hate for a woman to be brazen (salqa’) and bare-eyed (marha’), neither wearing kohl on her eyes nor henna on her hands.”7
`A’isha – Allah be well-pleased with her – is reported to say: “Allah’s Messenger — Allah bless and greet him — ordered us [women] to comb through our hair in ghusl and completely dye our hands with henna lest they become dry and rough like men’s hands.”8, a work on proverbs; fi al-Fiqh;
7.Dhamm al-Hasad;
8.Dhamm al-Hawa;
9.Dhamm al-Muskir;
10.Dhikr al-Huffaz;
11.Dhikr al-Qussas;`afa’, a compendium of weak narrators of hadith;
13.Dur’ al-Dim fi Siyam Yawm al-Ghaym;
14.Durra al-Iklil in history;
15.Fada’il al-`Arab;
16.Fadl Maqbarat Ahmad, on the benefits associated with Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s cemetery in Baghdad;’id;’id al-Muntaqat in fifty-six parts;
19.Funun al-Afnan fi `Ulum al-Qur’an’’iq in two volumes;
21.Hal al-Hallaj, “The Status of al-Hallaj,” in which Ibn al-Jawzi reports that he had in his possession the autograph copy of a treatise of the Hanbali hadith master Ibn `Aqil (d. 513) written in praise of al-Hallaj, entitled Juz’ fi Nasr Karamat al-Hallaj (“Opuscule in Praise of al-Hallaj’s Miraculous Gifts”). Like other Hanbali Sufis such as al-Harawi al-Ansari (d. 481), Ibn Qudama (d. 620) and al-Tufi (d. 715), Ibn `Aqil considered al-Hallaj a wali and did not doubt his sincerity and righteousness. `ala al-`Ilm; `ala Talab al-Walad;`Ilal al-Mutanahiya fi al-Ahadith al-Wahiya in two volumes, a companion work to his Mawdu`at; fi al-Khilafiyyat in two volumes; fi al-Qira’at al-Mukhtara;;
28.Jami` al-Masanid in seven volumes, which al-Dhahabi said is not even near the claim laid by its title;’ wa al-Sawab Min Ahadith al-Shihab;;
31.Manafi` al-Tibb;
32.Manaqib, a series of books on the immense merits of the following: Abu Bakr, `Umar, `Ali, Ibrahim ibn Adham, al-Fudayl ibn `Iyad, Bishr al-Hafi, Rabi`a al-`Adawiyya, `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz, Sa`id ibn al-Musayyib, al-Hasan al-Basri, Sufyan al-Thawri, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Shafi`i, Ma`ruf al-Karkhi, and others.;`a fi al-Madhahib al-Arba`a in two volumes;
35.Mashhur al-Masa’il in two volumes;`at in two volumes, a collection of what he considered hadith forgeries in which he included many authentic hadiths, as pointed out by those who criticized it;
37.Minhaj al-Qasidin wa Mufid al-Sadiqin (“The Road of the Pursuers and the Instructor of the Truthful”), an abridgment of al-Ghazzali’s Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din – which Ibn al-Jawzi criticized – in which he carefully avoids the use of the terms sufi and tasawwuf. The Minhaj was epitomized in one volume by Najm al-Din Abu al-`Abbas Ahmad ibn Qudama (d. 742). Here are some of its chapter-titles and excerpts most illustrative of Imam al-Ghazzali’s influence on Ibn al-Jawzi and of the latter’s general adoption of Sufi themes and terminology:

a-Fasl `ilm ahwal al-qalb (Section on the science of the states of the heart)
b-Fasl fi daqa’iq al-adab al-batina fi al-zakat (Section on the ethics of the hidden minutiae of zakat)
c-Fasl fi al-adab al-batina wa al-ishara ila adab al-hajj (Section on the ethics of the secrets of the Pilgrimage)
d-Kitab riyadat al-nafs wa tahdhib al-khuluq wa mu`alajat amrad al-qalb (Book of the training of the ego, the upbringing of the character, and the treating of the diseases of the heart)
e-Fasl fi fa’idat shahawat al-nafs (Section on the benefit of the appetites of the ego)
f-Bayan al-riya’ al-khafi al-ladhi huwa akhfa min dabib al-naml (Exposition of the hidden self-display which is more concealed than the treading of the ant)
g-Fasl fi bayan ma yuhbitu al-`amal min al-riya’ wa ma la yuhbit (Section exposing the self-display which nullifies one’s deeds and the self-display which does not)
h-Fasl fi dawa’ al-riya’ wa tariqatu mu`alajat al-qalbi fih (Section on the remedy of self-display and the way to treat the heart from its ill)
i-Kitab al-mahabba wa al-shawqi wa al-unsi wa al-rida (Book of love, passionate longing, familiarity, and good pleasure)
j-Fasl fi bayan mi`na al-shawq ila allahi ta`ala (Section exposing the meaning of passionate longing for Allah)
k-Bab fi al-muhasaba wa al-muraqaba (Chapter on taking account of oneself and vigilance) al-maqam al-awwal: al-musharata (The first station: commitment) al-maqam al-thani: al-muraqaba (The second station: vigilance) al-maqam al-thalith: al-muhasaba ba`da al-`amal (The third station: self-accounting after a deed) al-maqam al-rabi`: mu`aqabat al-nafs `ala taqsiriha (The fourth station: berating the ego for its shortcomings) al-maqam al-khamis: al-mujahada (The fifth station: struggling) al-maqam al-sadis: fi mu`atabat al-nafs wa tawbikhiha (The sixth station: castigating and chiding the ego) – Abu Bakr al-Siddiq said: “Whoever hates his ego for Allah’s sake, Allah will protect Him against what He hates.” – Anas said: I heard `Umar say as he was alone behind a wall: “Bakh, bakh! Bravo, well done, O my ego! By Allah, you had better fear Allah, O little son of Khattab, or he will punish you!” – Al-Bakhtari ibn Haritha said: “I saw one of the devoted worshippers sitting in front of a fire which he had kindled as he was castigating his ego, and he did not stop castigating his ego until he died.” – One of them said: “When the saints are mentioned, I say to myself: Fie on you and fie on you again.” – Know that your worst enemy is the ego that lies between your two flanks. It has been created a tyrant commanding evil, always pushing you towards it, and you have been ordered to straighten it, cleanse it (tazkiyat), wean it from what it feeds on, and drag it in chains, subdued, to the worship of its Lord.9

[Continuation of his bibliography:]; fi al-Madhhab;;, a massive Qur’anic commentary which he abridged into Zad al-Masir; fi al-Ash`ar, a ten-volume anthology of poetry;
Mukhtasar Funun Ibn `Aqil in over ten to twenty volumes;;
44.Muntaqad al-Mu`taqad; fi al-Tarikh, a ten-volume history of Islam in which he narrates with his chain from al-`Abbas ibn Hamza and Musa ibn `Isa respectively:
I prayed zuhr behind Abu Yazid al-Bistami. When he first wanted to raise his hands to say Allahu akbar he was unable due to his great awe of Allah’s name. His joints began to shake until I could hear the rattling of his bones, which shocked me…. He used to rebuke himself and say to his soul every morning: “O lair of every evil! A woman has menses then becomes pure again after three to ten days, but you, O my soul! have been sitting for twenty and thirty years and not become pure yet. When will you clean yourself?”10
46.Mushkil al-Sihah in four volumes;
47.Muthir al-Gharam al-Sakin ila Ashraf al-Amakin;`a fi al-Qira’at al-Sab`a;
49.Naqy al-Naql in two volumes; wa al-Mansukh;
51.Nasim al-Suhur;
52.Qiyam al-Layl in three parts;;;
55.Sayd al-Khatir in three volumes containing aphorisms and wise counsels;
56.Siba Najd;
57.Sifa al-Safwa in four volumes, an abridgment of Abu Nu`aym’s compendium of Sufis titled Hilya al-Awliya, in which he cited al-Junayd as saying: “Of the marks of Allah’s wrath against a servant is that He makes him very busy with what is of no concern to him”; in three volumes, on oratory;
59.Tadhkira al-Arib on the Arabic language;
60.Tadhkira al-Muntabih fi `uyun al-Mushtabih; fi Masa’il al-Khilaf in two volumes;
62.Tahrim al-Dubur;
63.Tahrim al-Mut`a;
64.Talbis Iblis, a work written against the Shi`a and the wayward Sufis;
65.Talqih al-Fuhum; fi al-Tafsir; `ind al-Mamat;`Udda fi Usul al-Fiqh;
69.Usud al-Ghaba fi Ma`rifa al-Sahaba;
70.`Uyun al-Hikayat in two volumes;`Uzla; bi Fada’il al-Mustafa, a large work on Prophetic biography and immense merits in several hundred chapters;, another title for al-`Ilal al-Mutanahiya;
74.Wird al-Aghsan fi Ma`ani al-Qur’an; wa al-Naza’ir;, a collection of sermons.

It was reproached to Ibn al-Jawzi that he wrote too much too fast without careful verification. Al-Dhahabi said: “We call Ibn al-Jawzi hafiz (hadith memorizer) in deference to the profusion of his writings, not to his scholarliness,” while Shaykh `Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda said:

Our reliance is on Allah! Ibn al-Jawzi composed a great big book on hadith forgeries so that jurists, preachers, and others may avoid them, then you will see him cite in his exhortative works forged hadiths and rejected stories without head nor tail, without shame or second thought. In the end one feels that Ibn al-Jawzi is two people and not one!… For this reason Ibn al-Athir blamed him in his history entitled al-Kamil with the words: “Ibn al-Jawzi blamed him [al-Ghazzali] for many things, among them his narration of unsound hadiths in his exhortations. O wonder that Ibn al-Jawzi should criticize him for that! For his own books and exhortative works are crammed full with them (mahshuwwun bihi wa mamlu’un minh)!”11 And the hadith master al-Sakhawi said in Sharh al-Alfiyya: “Ibn al-Jawzi cited forgeries and their likes in high abundance in his exhortative works.”12

Abu al-Muzaffar Sibt al-Jawzi said:

I heard my grandfather say from the pulpit: “With these two fingers of mine I wrote two thousand volumes; one hundred thousand [wayward Muslims] repented at my hands; and twenty thousand [non-Muslims] entered Islam.” He used to recite the entire Qur’an once a week and would not come out of his house except for jum`a or to the gathering.13 … He had renounced the world and shared little in it… He never joked with anyone, nor jested with little boys, nor ate anything that came from parts the licitness of which he was unsure of.

His Utterances

Al-Dhahabi cited some of Ibn al-Jawzi’s pithy remarks:

– To a friend of his: “You are widely excused for your absence because I trust you so much, and you stand condemned all the same because I missed you so much.”

– From the pulpit: “O prince! Remember Allah’s justice concerning you when you exercise power, and His power over you when you mete out punishment. Do not heal your anger by infecting your religion.”

– From the pulpit: “O commander of the believers! If I speak out, I shall fear you; and if I remain silent, I shall fear for you. I have decided to put my fear for you ahead of my fear of you. For the saying of one who counsels: ‘Itaqillah!’ is better yet than that of one who says: ‘You belong to a house that has been forgiven.’ [= Ahl al-Bayt]”

– To a man who was asking him what he should hold preferable, laud or asking forgiveness, he replied: “A dirty cloth needs soap more than incense.”

– To a man who told him: “I did not sleep last night in anticipation of this gathering!” he replied: “This is because you were looking forward to the show; but it is tonight that you should not sleep.”

– To a man who kept asking him who was better, Abu Bakr or `Ali, he replied: “Sit down. You are better than everyone else.”

– A man used to sit in Ibn al-Jawzi’s gatherings and frequently manifest his pleasure out loud at the Imam’s expressions. One day he remained silent a long time, whereupon Ibn al-Jawzi turned to him and said: “The Harun of your exclamations are an aid to the Musa of my expressions. Therefore send it forth to me as my prop.” This is a commonly-observed device of Arabic teachers who require a form of persistent ovation, beyond attentiveness or intent gaze, in order to perceive appreciation from their listeners and pour out their best to them.

– “The people of [Mu`tazili] kalam say that there is no Lord in the heaven, nor Qur’an in the mushaf, nor Prophet in the grave. These are three disgraces to be attributed to them.”

Ibn al-Jawzi was severely tried towards the end of his life when his criticism of Shaykh `Abd al-Qadir al-Gilani – his senior of forty years – led to accusations made against him to the Sultan al-Nasir by the Shaykh’s children and supporters. Thereupon Ibn al-Jawzi was publicly reviled, seized, and dragged away to jail while his house was sealed and his dependents dispersed. He was taken from Baghdad to the city of Wasit where he remained imprisoned for five years during which he never once entered a hammam, patching up his own clothes and preparing his own food. Ibn al-Jawzi was released after his son Yusuf succeeded in securing the intercession of the Caliph’s mother in his favor. At that time the Imam was about eighty years old.

It was related that Ibn al-Jawzi was handsome, mild-mannered, with a melodious voice, of sweet company. He used to take care of his health and always try and improve his constitution and whatever stimulated his mind and sharpened it. He wore perfumed, fine white clothes. He had a sharp wit and was swift in his reply. As a result of drinking anacardium marsh nuts (baladhir) early in life, his beard fell and remained very sparse, and he used to dye it black until he died. Al-Muwaffaq `Abd al-Latif said: “His books had many mistakes in them because he would finish a book and no longer look at it.” Al-Dhahabi commented on this: “His books are filled with all kinds of mistakes due to lack of revision and copying from written sources. He compiled such an amount that a second life would not have sufficed to revise it all.” The week of his death he recited the following line:

kam kana li min majlisin law shubbihat halatuhu latashabbahat bi al-jannati

“How many a gathering of mine, if its condition were to be compared to something, it would have been comparable to Paradise!”

His grandson related from his mother that on his death-bed Ibn al-Jawzi was heard repeating, addressing invisible visitors: “What do you want me to do with these peacocks?” He died between maghrib and `isha on the night before jum`a the 13th of Ramadan. He was washed before fajr and the people of Baghdad followed his bier to the cemetary of Ahmad ibn Hanbal. The crowd was such that by the time his grave was reached it was time for Jum`a. During the remainder of the month, people recited khatmas of the Qur’an at his grave uninterruptedly, day and night. The night after Ibn al-Jawzi’s burial the hadith scholar Ahmad ibn Salman al-Sukr saw him in his sleep standing on a pulpit of pearl, preaching to the angels.

Main source: al-Dhahabi, Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’ 15:483-494 #5342.


1Abu `Abd Allah al-Hasan ibn Hamid al-Baghdadi al-Warraq al-Hanbali (d. 403), Abu Ya`la’s teacher.

2The father of the author of Tabaqat al-Hanabila, al-Qadi Abu Ya`la Muhammad ibn al-Husayn ibn al-Farra’ al-Hanbali (d. 458).

3Abu al-Hasan `Ali ibn `Ubayd Allah al-Zaghuni al-Hanbali (d. 527), author of al-Idah and one of Ibn al-Jawzi’s teachers.

4A reference to the hadith whereby Allah places his “qadam” in the Fire. See on this the section entitled “The Salaf’s Interpretation of qadam, rijl, and saq” in Shaykh Hisham Kabbani’s Islamic Beliefs and Doctrine According to Ahl al-Sunna Volume One (p. 195) or his Encyclopedia of Islamic Doctrine (1:168). See also the relevant pages at

5Ibn al-Jawzi, Daf` Shubah al-Tashbih, introduction.

6On him see al-Dhahabi’s Tadhkira al-Huffaz (4:1446).

7Narrated from `A’isha by Ibn al-Jawzi without chain in Ahkam al-Nisa’ (p. 89).

8Ibid. Al-Haythami said in Majma` al-Zawa’id (5:171): “Al-Tabarani narrated it from Umm Layla in al-Awsat and al-Kabir (25:138) and its chain contains narrators I do not know.” Also narrated from Umm Layla by Ibn Mandah – as stated by Ibn Hajar in al-Isaba (8:296) – and Ibn al-Mulaqqin in Khulasa al-Badr al-Munir (1:358).

9Ibn Qudama, Mukhtasar minhaj al-qasidin li Ibn al-Jawzi, ed. M. Ahmad Hamdan and `Abd al-Qadir Arna’ut, 2nd. ed. (Damascus: maktab al-shabab al-muslim wa al-maktab al-islami, 1380/1961) p. 426.

10In Ibn al-Jawzi, al-Muntazam (5:28-29).

11Ibn al-Athir, al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh (10:228).

12 `Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda, notes to al-Lucknawi’s al-Raf` wa al-Takmil (p. 420-421).

13At this point al-Dhahabi asks: “What about congregational prayer?” Yet it seems needless to say that Sibt al-Jawzi’s statement takes it for granted as the school of Imam Ahmad considers obligatory prayer invalid unless offered in congregation if one has the ability.

Is orthodox Islam possible without Sufism? Shaykh Abdal-Hakim Murad

Ever wondered how Sufism relates to classical or orthodox Islam and vice versa? Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad (Dr. Timothy Winter) will take you on a journey with much needed clarity. This video was recorded at an event by Sufi World at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, in the Netherlands.

An Age Of Compassion and Ease

Shaykh-Abdul-Hakim-Murad“Khilafa is there by the acclaim of the scholars. If the scholars do not accept somebody to be a khalifa, then this person is not a khalifa. The scholars will only accept that somebody is a khalifa if that person is implementing the Islam of the scholars, which means not some individual full of white hot rage following the American destruction of Iraq, but someone who’s in control of their emotions.

Tasawafa – someone who recognises the weaknesses of the peole of this age and reaches for their most compassionate of the available fatwas rather than the most extreme and the most outrageous. That’s the sign of the authentic khilafa. That which reaches for the most extreme is automatically discounted as being a legitimate member of sunni Islam.

“Every Muslim has to have the aspiration and it’s there in the books of aqida to live in a just political order, one that implements what God really wants for the earth, but that has to be on the basis of what the sharia’a truly is in this age which represents something that has to acknowledge people’s weaknesses. People find it hard to wear even hijab nowadays, if you try to impose niqab on everybody and beat them if they don’t, that’s just not the correct fatwa and scholars will not acknowledge that. So this is an age of taysir, an age of takhfif.”


Resources for seekers:


Is orthodox Islam possible without Sufism? Shaykh Abdal-Hakim Murad

Ever wondered how Sufism relates to classical or orthodox Islam and vice versa? Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad (Dr. Timothy Winter) will take you on a journey with much needed clarity. This lecture was recorded at an event by Sufi World at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, in the Netherlands.

Has Sufism been corrupted? Shaykh Faraz Rabbani answers.

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani answers a critical question, “What is the place of Sufism in the Islamic sciences? Have many of the ideas within mainstream Sufism come from outside the Muslim faith?”

For more videos like this, subscribe to the SeekersHub Youtube channel.

What is Islamic Spirituality? A Reader

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

What is Sufism? (tasawwuf)
False Spirituality – from Reliance of the Traveller
What Are the Conditions for a True Spiritual Guide?
How is spiritual excellence attained?
Universal Validity of Religions and the Issue of Takfir
A Reader on Sincerity, Intention, and the Purpose of Spiritual Routines
What is Sufism? A Classical Introduction to Islamic Spirituality – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

A practical introduction by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani of SeekersGuidance to sufism (tasawwuf), Islamic spirituality (tasawwuf/sufism), from an introductory classical text on faith, worship, and spirituality by Imam Abu Bakr al-Mulla of Ahsa’ (Saudi Arabia), Ithaf al-Talib.
Video: Habib ‘Umar b. Hafiz: The Spiritual Imperative – Ribat Institute
An insightful lecture delivered by one of the true carriers of prophetic spirituality in our times, al-Habib Umar b. Hafiz. The lecture addresses the importance of spirituality, and the emphasis of cleansing the heart. The lecturer engages the audience by enumerating many heart-touching narratives.
Videos: Ustadh Yahya Rhodus on 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 Zaytuna College.
Shaykh Yahya Rhodus is also a teacher with Seekers Guidance teaching courses on the works of Imam al-Ghazali on spirituality.

Related Courses
Principles of Islamic Spirituality
Seeking Allah: Imam Muhasibi’s Treatise of the Seekers of Guidance Explained
Purification of the Heart & Praiseworthy Character (from Ghazali’s 40 Foundations of Religion)
Further Reading
Sea Without Shore: A Manual of the Sufi Path – Shaykh Nuh Keller – Now Available – SunnaBooks
Imam al-Haddad’s Advice to the Spiritual Wayfarer – Muwasala
Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali’s Commentary on the Hadith of Gibril
On Reflection (fikr) – Imam al-Haddad (Book of Assistance)

Is it Possible to Do a 'Wird' Without Having Access to a Shaykh?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Question: As-salaamu alaikum,
Is it possible to do a ‘wird’ without having access to a living true shaykh?
I have heard that engaging in a long dhikr can be harmful if I am not connected to a living shaykh to supervise me. How can one of Allah’s names harm me?
Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.
It is possible to have general spiritual routines without a teacher’s specific instruction.
However, it is best to consult a scholar, unless the particular supplication or litany is widely known to be for general reading, or more generally from the sunna of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace).
Sheikh Nuh Keller writes in his Sea without Shore, “Particular divine names such as Ya Hayy (“O Ever-living”) Ya Jabbar (“O Overmastering”) and so forth, like the Supreme Name, require permission to recite, except in limited numbers of short duration. This is because each divine name carries a particular power, and the heart and mind of the disciple may not be prepared to handle an overload of this power, just as an electrical appliance is designed to handle only a certain type of current.” [Keller, Sea Without Shore, 171]
Shaykh Gibril Haddad mentions regarding the exalted Divine Names, “the Ghawth, Sayyidi `Abd al-`Aziz al-Dabbagh said as related from him by his student the learned Shaykh `Ali ibn al-Mubarak in al-Ibriz:
“If they took them (those Names) from a shaykh who is a knower (`arif), it will not harm them; but if they took them from a shaykh who is not a knower, it will harm them.”
“I [`Ali ibn al-Mubarak] said: ‘What is the reason?’ He replied, Allah be well-pleased with him: ‘The Most Beautiful Names have lights from the Real (al-Haqq), may He be exalted and glorified! Whenever you want to mention the Name, if, with the Name, there is Its light accompanying It while you mention It, then such [dhikr] will not harm you; but if there is not, with the Name, Its light accompanying it, which is meant to protect the servant from the devil, it [i.e. the dhikr of the Name] will be a cause for the harm of the servant.
“‘When the shaykh is an actual knower of Allah Most High, meaning someone who is always in the Divine presence, and he wants to give his murid one of the Beautiful Names of Allah, he gives him [with it] that light which protects him, after which the murid mentions It and it will not harm him…. otherwise the murid will be destroyed. We ask Allah Most High for safety!'”” [see: Reciting The 99 Names Under A Guide]
In the meantime, you should learn what is obligatory for you to know, and subsequently work on applying it in your life. Making a lot of remembrance whilst committing much of the unlawful (haram) is not going to have effect it has the potential for. Ask Allah for sincerity, success, and right guidance.
And Allah alone gives success.
Tabraze Azam
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

What Are the Conditions for a True Spiritual Guide?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu

I began to listen to talks of a sufi Shaykh and it had a very good effect on my religiosity. Then I took a pledge (bay’a) with him and everything is going well but at the same time I am afraid that I am doing something wrong…Am I leaving mainstream Islam by following this path?
Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.
It would be from the sunna to pledge allegiance or to give bay`ah.
Sheikh Nuh Keller lists ten of the most essential conditions of a true guide (sheikh):
(1) Being a Sunni Muslim with valid tenets of faith.
(2) Being an alim capable of answering most questions about what Allah expects of man without having to ask someone else, yet humble enough to ask when he does not know.
(3) Having a verifiably public authorization from a true sheikh to be a sheikh, connecting him through an unbroken chain of authorization (silsila) back to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace). The success of the murshid lies in his being accepted with the awliya of his initiatic chain (maqbul al-silsila).
(4) Being a male, as a sheikh is an heir to the prophets (upon whom be blessings and peace), whom Allah made all males.
(5) Being worthy to be taken as an exemplar in religion, not privately disobedient or wicked.
(6) Knowing the basic terms of Sufism such as fana (annihilation), baqa (subsistence), ma`rifa (gnosis), and others by having travelled the path and personally experienced them at the hands of his sheikh.
(7) Not being self-satisfied, or veiled by others’ need for him from his own need for Allah.
(8) Exaltation of Allah’s commands in word and deed, acknowledging they are above every human being.
(9) Permission from Allah and His messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) above and beyond that given him by his sheikh, manifest inwardly in an unmistakable portent or sign, and outwardly in his tawfiq in inculcating in murids the perfections of Islam, Iman, and Ihsan.
(10) Being destined by Allah to be the sheikh of the particular disciple, who must be able to practice the sheikh’s teaching and absorb his secret from him.
[Keller, Sea Without Shore, 271]
Please see: What is Sufism? (tasawwuf)
And Allah alone gives success.
Tabraze Azam
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.