Thursday, 29 January 2009

Do We Actually Believe Islam is Universal?

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Prior to the last century, almost no work of Islam mentioned the word Islam in its title.  Now, we have titles like Marriage in Islam, Truth in Islam, anything in Islam, Muslim such and such.  Have Muslims reverted from believing that Islam is the Universal Truth?  In the Old Testament, it should be noted that the Religion of God was presented as monolatric as opposed to monotheistic.  The Chosen People have their Supreme God but tacitly acknowledging the gods of the surrounding tribes.  Herein lies the true greatness of Musa (a.s.).  He was the first to truly turn Judaism into a monotheistic faith.

Deuteronomy 6:13-15
13 Take heed diligently lest you forget the Lord, Who Brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  You shall fear the Lord your God, and shall serve Him only, and you shall swear by His Name.  14 You shall not go after the strange gods of all the nations, that are round about you: 15 Because the Lord your God is a jealous God in the midst of you: lest at any time the Wrath of the Lord your God be Kindled against you, and Take you Away from the face of the earth.

In the Qur’an when Musa (a.s.) went before the Pharaoh, he talked about God, not “your God” and “my God”.  He asked them to come back to the fold, not come to the fold.  So monotheism is a natural state that is constantly forgotten.  Where in the days of yore, we invented many gods, now we have made ourselves Gods.  Humanism talks about the rational man.  It ignores the fact the spiritual man pretends that the rational man is never the emotional man.  When the self is so inherent, can there be recognition of the Truth?

Muslims now talk about the Islamic point of view, the Islamic Law, the Islamic Truth.  We imply, unknowingly that there is another truth.  Since Allah (s.w.t.) is al-Haq, then there is only One Truth, One Submission.  Everything else is either a facade or an aspect.  There is only justice, not Muslim and non-Muslim justice.  The world has gone full circle and just as Musa (a.s.) came to bring it back, and Muhammad (s.a.w.) after that, so too do Muslims believe that ‘Isa (a.s.) will return as the Messiah to bring back Islam as it was meant to be.  Islam came as a stranger, and it will come again as a stranger.  It will come from a stranger we think we recognise but we will not.

What hypocrites we have become.  We look down on the idolaters.  But the idol worshipper forgets his petty god the moment he has left his presence.  Perhaps even in worshipping the tree, he has recognised His Majesty in Creation which is a Reality beyond the blind.  But many Muslims, they have made themselves god.  They worship their worship.  They worship their achievements and their knowledge and their piety and they have aggrandised the self.  That idol, they carry with them always and they never cease to worship it.

We have made ourselves gods.  It is therefore fortunate that Allah (s.w.t.) in His Infinite Mercy will Send someone to bring us back.  We may have forgotten the Promise of Hudaybiyyah, but that promise will be kept by our Prophet (s.a.w.).  That is one of the Gifts to the ummah.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Shah Baha' ad-Din an-Naqshband (q.s.)

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Shah Baha’ ad-Din an-Naqshband (q.s.) is the 17th Shaykh of the Golden Chain of the Naqshbandi Haqqani Thariqa’.  He is acclaimed as the greatest of those who have kept the Secret of the Golden Chain and it is from him that the Naqshbandi get their name.  Shah Baha’ ad-Din an-Naqshband (q.s.) was born on the 14th Muharram on 717 AH / 1317 CE.  He was born in Qaswr al-’Arifan, near Bukhara, Central Asia.  He learned about the Path from Shaykh Muhammad Baba as-Samasi (q.s.) and later from Sayyid Amir al-Kulal (q.s.), whom he succeeded.  He also learnt through uwaysi from the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) presence and one of the stars of the firmament of the Naqshbandi.

There is a story from the Qadiri thariqa’ of Shah an-Naqshband (q.s.).  It is said that 150 years after the death of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (q.s.), people asked Shah an-Naqshband (q.s.), “Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir said, ‘My foot is on the shoulders of all the saints’, what do you think about this?”

Shah an-Naqshband (q.s.) replied, “May Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadirs foot be upon my eyes and my vision.”

One day, Shah an-Naqshband (q.s.) was traveling in the desert when he met Khidhr (a.s.), who transported him to the spiritual presence of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (q.s.).  This was before he had earned the title, an-Naqshband.  Shah an-Naqshband (q.s.) said, “O one who holds hands in the universe, hold my hand so they will be your holder of hands.”

Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (q.s.) put his hand on Shaykh an-Naqshband’s (q.s.) heart and said, “O the holder of the adornment of the worlds, hold my adornment so that they can call you ‘Naqshband’.”  “Naqshband” means “the one who adorns”.

And then Shah Baha’ ad-Din an-Naqshband (q.s.) recited the following poem, which is inscribed on both the tombs of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (q.s.) and Shah Baha ad-Din an-Naqshband (q.s.):

“The King of this world and the hereafter is Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir
The head of the children of Adam is Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir.
Sun, Moon, heavens, the Throne and the Pen,
They all get their light from the heart of ‘Abd al-Qadir.”

Shah an-Naqshband (q.s.) was eighteen years of age when he was sent by his grandfather to the village of Samas to serve the shaykh of the thariqa’, Shaykh Muhammad Baba as-Samasi (q.s.), who had asked for him.

Of his youth he relates, “I would arise early, three hours before fajr prayer, take ablution, and after performing sunnah prayers, I would go into prostration, supplicating Allah with the following prayer: ‘O my Lord, Give me the power to carry the difficulties and the pain of Your Love.’  Then I would pray fajr with the shaykh.

On his way out one day, he looked at me and said, as if he had been with me when I made that supplication, ‘O my son, you have to change the method of your supplication.  Instead say, ‘O Allah, grant your pleasure to this weak servant.’  Allah does not like His servants to be in difficulties.  Although Allah in His Wisdom might Give some difficulties to His servants to test them, the servant must not ask to be in difficulties.  This would not be respectful to your Lord.’”

He also said, “When Shaykh Muhammad Baba as-Samasi died, my grandfather took me to Bukhara and I married there.  I lived in Qaswr al-‘Arifan, which was Allah’s Special Care to me because I was near to Sayyid Amir Kulal.  I stayed in his service, and he told me that Shaykh Muhammad Baba as-Samasi had told him a long time before that, ‘I will not be happy with you if you will not take good care of him.’”

Shah Baha’ ad-Din (q.s.) also related, “One day, I was sitting with a friend in seclusion, and the Heavens Opened and a grand vision came to me and I heard a voice saying, ‘Is it not enough for you to leave everyone and to come to Our Presence Alone?’  This voice reduced me to a state of trembling, causing me to run away from that house.  I ran to a river where I threw myself in.  I washed my clothes and prayed two raka'at in a way that I had never prayed before, feeling as if I was praying in the Divine Presence.  Everything was opened to my heart in a state of kashf.  The entire universe disappeared and I was not aware of anything other than praying in His Presence.”

With regards his Path, he said. “I had been Asked, in the beginning of my state of attraction, ‘Why are you entering this Path?’

I answered, ‘In order that whatever I say and whatever I want will happen.’

I was answered, ‘That will not be.  Whatever We Say and whatever We Want is what will happen.’

And I said, ‘I cannot do that.  I must be permitted to say and to do whatever I like, or I do not want this Way.’

Then I received the Answer, ‘No, it is whatever We Want to be said and whatever We Want to be done that must be said and done.’

And I said again, ‘Whatever I say and whatever I do is what must be.’  Then I was left alone for fifteen days, until I was overwhelmed with a tremendous depression.

Then I heard a voice, ‘O Baha’ ad-Din, whatever you want, We will Grant.’

I was overjoyed.  I said, ‘I want to be Given a thariqa' that will lead anyone who travels on it straight to the Divine Presence.’

I experienced a great vision and heard a voice saying, ‘You are Granted what you have asked.’”

On the Naqshbandi Way, Shah an-Naqshband (q.s.) said, “Our Way is very rare and very precious.  It is the Firm Handhold, the way of keeping firm and steadfast in the footsteps of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and of his companions.  They Brought me to this Way from the Door of Favours, because at its beginning and at its end, I witnessed nothing but the Favours of Allah.  In this Way, great doors of Heavenly Knowledge will be opened up to the seeker who follows in the footsteps of the Prophet (s.a.w.).”

Of all the thariqa’, the Naqshbandi Haqqani is the easiest to take initiation.  Our shaykh, Shah Baha’ ad-Din an-Naqshband (q.s.) said that he will take the worst of us and make us the best.  And that is why the spiritual exercises of the Naqshbandi tend to be heavier.

Shaykh ‘Ali Damman (q.s.), one of the servants of the shaykh, said, “The shaykh ordered me to dig his grave.  When I finished, it came to my heart, ‘Who is going to be his successor?’

He raised his head from the pillow and said to me, ‘O my son, do not forget what I said to you when we were on our way to the Hijaz.  Whoever wants to follow me must follow Shaykh Muhammad Farsa and Shaykh ‘Ala ad-Din ‘Aththar.’”

In his last days, he stayed in his room.  People made pilgrimage to see him and he gave them advice.  When he entered his final illness he locked himself up in his room.  Wave after wave of his followers began to visit him and he gave to each of them the advice they needed.  At one point, he ordered them to read Surah YaSin.  Then when they had finished the surah, he raised his hands to Allah (s.w.t.).  He then raised his right finger to say the shahadah.  As soon as he finished, his soul returned to Allah (s.w.t.).

He passed away a Monday night, the 3rd of Rabi’ al-Awwal, 791 AH / 1388 CE.  He was buried in his garden as he requested.  The succeeding kings of Bukhara took care of his school and mosque, expanding them and increasing their awqaf.  Shaykh ‘Abd al-Wahhab ash-Sha’rani (q.s.), the quthb of his time said, “When the shaykh was buried in his grave, a window to Paradise was Opened for him, making his grave a Paradise from Heaven.  Two beautiful spiritual beings entered his presence and greeted him and said to him, ‘From the time that Allah Created us until now, we have waited for this moment to serve you.’

He said to these two spiritual beings, ‘I do not look to anything other than Him.  I do not need you but I need my Lord.’”

Shah Baha’ ad-Din an- Naqshband (q.s.) left behind many successors, the most honourable amongst whom were Shaykh Muhammad ibn Muhammad ‘Ala ad-Din al-Khwarizmi al-Bukhari al-‘Aththar (q.s.) and Shaykh Muhammad ibn Muhammad bin Mahmud al-Hafizhi (q.s.), known as Muhammad Farsa, the author of Risalah al-Qudsiyyah.  It is to the first that Shah Baha’ ad-Din an-Naqshband (q.s.) passed on the secret of the Golden Chain.

Friday, 23 January 2009

How the Naqshbandi Spread in Southeastern Europe

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

One time, Shaykh Jamal ad-Din al-Ghumuqi (q.s.) was with his followers in the big mosque of the city praying the night prayer in congregation.  When the prayers were finished, everyone went out and they locked the mosque from the outside.  One person remained behind, inside the mosque, hiding behind a pillar.  His name was Orkallisa Muhammad (q.s.), one of the best muridun of Shaykh Jamal ad-Din (q.s.).

Shaykh Urkallisa Muhammad (q.s.) said to himself in a state of introspection, “O Urkallisa Muhammad, now there is no one with you, you are alone.  Defend yourself.” And he answered himself, “How can I defend myself?  I am the worst person that Allah has Created on the face of the earth.  To prove it, I swear an oath that if what I say is not what I honestly believe, then may my own wife be haram to me!”  He did not know that his shaykh was still in the mosque and observing him.  The shaykh looked into Shaykh Urkallisa’s (q.s.) heart.  He saw that in his heart, he truly believed himself to be the worst person in Creation.

Shaykh Jamal ad-Din (q.s.) revealed himself, laughing and said, “Urkallisa, come here.”  The latter was surprised to see his shaykh since he thought he was alone.  The shaykh told him, “You are right and you are also loyal and sincere.”  As soon as he heard this, Shaykh Urkallisa (q.s.) floated up and hit his head on the ceiling of the mosque.  He came down and floated up and came down again.  This happened seven times.  When the murid is cleansed of dunya, his soul will lift him up and he will fly like a bird.

Then Shaykh Jamal ad-Din (q.s.) told him, “Sit,” and he sat.  The shaykh pointed with his index finger at the heart of Shaykh Urkallisa (q.s.) with a circular motion.  As he rotated his finger, he opened Shaykh Urkallisa’s (q.s.) heart, not to the Divine Presence, but to the secrets hidden already in his own heart.  What the shaykh opened up to him were the six levels that must be opened to the seeker in order for him to set his first steps in the Way.  These are: the reality of attraction, haqiqat al-jadzba; the reality of receiving Divine Revelation, haqiqat al-faydh: the reality of directing the heart to the Prophet (s.a.w.), haqiqat at-tawajjuh; the reality of intercession, haqiqat at-tawaswswul: the reality of guidance, haqiqat al-irshad and the ability to move in spacetime in a moment, haqiqat ath-thayy.

These six powers that the shaykh opened to him are the first major steps on the Sufi Path.  As the shaykh opened these six powers, he took him to the state of witnessing, mushahadah.  In that state of vision, he saw himself sitting with 124,000 white birds encircling him.  One large green bird flew to the middle.  After that vision, the white birds disappeared and in their places there appeared the spirituality of 124,000 saints.  Then the green bird disappeared and there appeared the spiritual form of Muhammad (s.a.w.).  The Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “I testify that he has reached the state of perfection and now you can depend on him.  Give him the secret of the Naqshbandi Order.”

Then Shaykh Jamal ad-Din (q.s.) poured from his heart into the heart of Shaykh Urkallisa (q.s.), secrets of which he had never dreamed.  He said to his shaykh, “O my Shaykh, do these things exist in thariqa’?”

Shaykh Jamal ad-Din (q.s.) replied, “Yes, my son, and that is only the beginning of the Way.”

It is said that the secret of his shaykh could be seen in Shaykh Urkallisa (q.s.).  He would go up on the minbar on Friday and he would clap his hands and say, “O people, cry!” and they would all begin crying.  Then he would clap his hands and say, “Laugh!” and they would laugh.  Then he would make a du’a saying, “O Allah, they are crying in repentance and asking Forgiveness.  Forgive them.  And they are laughing at the pleasure of Your Mercy!”  Then he would clap a third time and say, “Do you accept the Naqshbandi Sufi Order to be your Order?” and they would accept.  Then he would ask them, “Do you accept the 5,000 repetitions of ‘Allah,’ by tongue and 5,000 in the heart?” and they would accept.  By this method, he spread the Naqshbandi Order all over the land of Daghestan, Kazan, Southern Russia and among the soldiers of Imam Shamil (q.s.).

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Starting from Scratch

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

It has been 10 years since I became a Muslim.  And on the 19th of January, my birthday, I decided to leave the religion.  I had had enough of this so-called ummah.  I was so angry at the Muslims; I thought Allah (s.w.t.) and his Prophet (s.a.w.) had abandoned me.  I was wrong.  So, I had to start from scratch, rediscovering what it was that brought me to Islam.

I started at the beginning - I re-read Martin Ling's Life of Mohammed.  And I read the Qur'an again, spending long hours into the night trying to search for an answer.  I did not get any.  Or so I thought.  I put up on my Facebook: The Well of Kawtsar is bitter; it's promise a pack of lies.’

The angels were busy; the prophets had other business so Allah (s.w.t.) Sent an old friend.  He was more than a friend.  He was a mentor, my first Muslim Teacher.  It was a touching post.  Quite unexpected.  I guess everybody has a different side.

I met up with him; we sat at the coffee shop having tea.  As usual, conversations with him involve a lot of thinking.  We discussed my situation.  I realised that God Answered me after all - but in His own time.  We talked about the political situation in the Middle East - we agreed that war was in everyone's interest except the Palestinians.  We talked about the Converts' Association - that place is undergoing a slow, painful period of decline.  And we talked about my journey to Islam.

After the failure of my marriage, another aborted engagement; all the issues I had with Muslim organisations, it was decided that there was something I had to do to go to that next level.  Almost 20 years ago, I left Singapore to go sailing.  I physically left my comfort zone.  10 years ago, I left Roman Catholicism to the great shock of those who knew me.  I became a Muslim.  I spiritually left my comfort zone.  Everything I have done was guided.  I know that on hindsight, Allah (s.w.t.) Has a Plan for me.  In the same vein that there is a Plan for everyone.  I am far from complete.