Thursday, 23 August 2012

Shaykh Bishr al-Hafi (q.s.)

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Shaykh Bishr al-Hafi (q.s.) saw a piece of paper lying in the mud at the side of road.  His eye fell on the Divine Name written in one of the sentences.  He lifted the paper, cleaned it, bought some scent, perfumed it, and placed it in a cavity of the wall of his house.  That night he heard a Voice say to him, “O Bishr, you have made My Name fragrant in this world and now I will Make your name fragrant in your world and in Mine also.”

Shaykh Bishr ibn Harits (q.s.) is better known as “Bishr al-Hafi”, “Bishr the Barefoot.”  He was a wali born near Merv, in 767 CE.  He was converted from a life of iniquity and studied hadits under Shaykh al-Fudhayl ibn Iyadh (q.s.), himself a great wali who had repented from banditry. Shaykh Bishr (q.s.) then devoted his life to Allah (s.w.t.) and became famous as one of the greatest saints in the area.

Shaykh Bishr (q.s.) settled at Baghdad.  The story of his conversion was narrated by Shaykh Farid ad-Din Aththar (q.s.) in Tadzkirat al-Awliya’.  Shaykh ‘Aththar narrated that Shaykh Bishr (q.s.) had lived a life of dissipation.  One of his neighbours was a pious man who did not think very much of Shaykh Bishr (q.s.) and his lifestyle.  One day, as he was staggering home drunk, he found a piece of paper on which was written, “Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim.”  Shaykh Bishr (q.s.) is said to have bought an ‘aththar of roses and perfumed the paper with it, and then deposited it reverently in a nook in his house.  In some narrations, it was his last dirham.

That night, the pious neighbour had a dream in which he was bidden to tell Shaykh Bishr (q.s.): “You have perfumed My Name, so I have Perfumed you.  You have exalted My Name, so I have Exalted you.  You have purified My Name, so I have Purified you.  By My Majesty, I will surely Perfume your name in this world and the world to come.”  The venerable man was perplexed by the dream, as he knew Shaykh Bishr (q.s.) to be dissolute, so he went back to sleep.  However, the man had the same dream two more times during that night.  After the third time, he arose and went in search of Shaykh Bishr (q.s.) to tell him of the dreams.  He found Shaykh Bishr (q.s.) at a drunken party. There was great surprise to see the neighbour there.  A man known for his piety was not known to be found in such disreputable company.  The neighbour found Shaykh Bishr (q.s.) and informed him that he had a message from Allah (s.w.t.) and related the dream.

It had a profound effect on Shaykh Bishr (q.s.).  He immediately understood the man and told his companions, “I have had a Call.  I am going.  I bid you farewell.  You will never see me again at this business.”  Shaykh Farid ad-Din ‘Aththar (q.s.) further narrated that from that day onwards, Shaykh Bishr (q.s.) lived in so saintly a fashion that few equaled him in righteousness.  One of Shaykh Bishr's (q.s.) customs was to walk barefoot wherever he went and as such he earned the name, “Bishr the Barefoot.”

He became one of the early Sufi Masters and a teacher to Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (r.a.).  Imam ibn Hanbal (r.a.) was already a noted mujtahid when he went into the service of Shaykh Bishr (q.s.) in order to attain this ma’rifat.  When he was asked why he kept close to Shaykh Bishr al-Hafi (q.s.), he answered, “He knows Allah better than I do.”

Regarding renunciation of the world, zuhd, he said, “Renunciation is a king who dwells only in a free and empty heart.”  Regarding sadness, huzn, Shaykh Bishr al-Hafi (q.s.) said, “Sadness or sorrow is like a ruler.  When it settles in a place, it does not allow others to reside there.”  Regarding Imam Abu Hanifah (r.a.), he said, ‘None criticises Abu Hanifah except an envier or an ignoramus.”  Regarding tawakkal, trust in Allah (s.w.t.), Shaykh Bishr al-Hafi (q.s.) said, “One of them may say, ‘I have put all my trust in Allah,’ although he is actually telling a lie.  For, by Allah, if he had really put all his trust in Allah, he would be perfectly content with the way Allah Treats him.”

Shaykh Bishr al-Hafi (q.s.) passed away in 840 CE and is buried in Baghdad, Iraq.

To be Aware That Death Approaches

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is adapted from a swuhbah from Shaykh Muhammad Nazhim Adil al-Haqqani (q.s.) on the 09th October 2010.

Shaykh Nazhim (q.s.) advises us to put aside some time daily to attend the swuhbah as it contains news of our akhirah.  Just as we spend time daily keeping abreast of worldly news, we must also make time for the news of the hereafter.

Shaykh Nazhim (q.s.) tackled the issue of narrow-minded Wahhabi scholars who were constantly on the lookout for, what they viewed as transgressions in religion.  For example, at funerals, they would forbid crying, the reading of the talqin and the placing of any sort of tombstone on the grave.  They liked to control people and impose their literal and shallow interpretation of Qur’an and the ahadits on people.

The Wahhabis want graves to remain unmarked, unnoticed and unvisited.  Rasulullah (s.a.w.) said death was the best reminder for the ummah.  They should not desecrate and demolish graves when they serve as a potent reminder of the hereafter.  Rasulullah (s.a.w.) said death is that thing that, when mentioned, removes the pleasure of this life.

By destroying graves, they are destroying that which reminds us of death.  Whenever anyone visits a cemetery, and looks at the names of loved ones on the tombstone, it is a reminder to our time eventually comes to an end.  Once they walked the earth, but now they are beneath it; perhaps even the bones are no more.  The reality of death sinks into us.  We are reminded of our mortality.

When the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) was six years old, his mother, Aminah (r.a.), passed away.  She told him, every living thing must die.  For everyone, there is a time that is written on the Preserved Tablets, and when that time is over, the Lord of Heavens Commands the Angel of Death, Azra`il (a.s.) to bring back the soul of His servant.  Everyone is going to die.  Everyone must taste the bitterness of Death.

Every soul will taste of death.  Then unto Us ye will be Returned. (Surah al-‘Ankabut:57)

We must remember that we are going to pass away, so prepare ourselves for life after death.  Death is not going to be the end for us.  We are not going to disappear into oblivion.  Death brings people to a new beginning, ‘alam ul-barzakh.

For 1,400 years, no one touched the graves of the companions in Makkah and Madina.  Then Wahhabis came along and destroyed all the graves there.  They destroyed a legacy that had been intact for so long, one that would have served as a powerful reminder for future generations.  Those ancient graves were like history books.  They contained so much that would have helped Muslims remember their heritage, and to reflect about death.

We must never assume we have many years ahead of us, just as we should never believe those who believe that the earth has another thousand years to exist.  The Seal of Prophets (s.a.w.) said to his Companions, when he was asked about how long his Ummah had on earth, “My Nation will be given one day by Allah, if they walk on the straight path, and half a day, if they deviated from that path.”  A day in the sight of Allah (s.w.t.) is 1,000 years in this world, and given that the early Muslims did walk the straight path, whilst the latter-day Muslims have largely deviated, the age of this ummah is said to be 1,500 years.  Now being the year 1431 AH, Shaykh Nazhim (q.s.) says we may have between 60 and 70 years to the ajal of this ummah in dunya.

Such ahadits should be taught to the believers so that they are aware of how close they were to the inevitable end.  We are now in a time of tyrants – many countries are ruled by tyrants, and many humans are oppressors to themselves, subjecting themselves to cruelty and wickedness, by leading themselves astray.  All those who do not follow the shari’ah of Allah are oppressors and will be punished.  We must always remember the life of the hereafter, by remembering death.  That removes heedlessness and oppression.  It is not merely to hear about akhirah but to have certainty, yaqin.  It is important for Muslims to attain certainty of faith, for that is their strength which will take them across the swirat.  We haven’t been created for that purpose.  We have been created for His Divine Service.

I Created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me. (Surah adz-Dzariyat:56)

A historic photo of how Ma’ala Graveyard in Makkah was before the demolition of the tombs.  The main central tomb was of Umm ul-Mu’minin Khadijah bint Khuwaylid (r.a.).  Others known to be resting here include ‘Abd al-Manaf, the great, great-grandfather; Hashim the great-grandfather; ‘Abd ul-Muththalib, the grandfather and Qasim (r.a.) the son of our Prophet (s.a.w.).

Shaykh Najm ad-Din al-Kubra (q.s.) & the 10 Principles of the Kubrawiyyah

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Shaykh Abu al-Jannab Ahmad ibn ‘Umar (q.s.), better known as Shaykh Najm ad-Din al-Kubra, was a 13th century Persian Sufi from Khwarizm.  Shaykh Najm ad-Din al-Kubra (q.s.) was known as the ‘Pillar of the Age’ and one of the greatest Sufis of all time.  He is the founder of the Kubrawiyyah Sufi Order which was influential in the Ilkhanid and Timurid dynasties.  His methodology is considered exemplary of a golden age of Sufi metaphysics.  It was related to the Illuminism of Shaykh Shahab ad-Din Suhrawardi (q.s.) the founder of Suhrawardi Order.  His close associates included Shaykh Sa’adi ash-Shiraz (q.s.) as well as Shaykh Shams at-Tabrizi (q.s.).

Born in 540 AH / 1145 CE, Shaykh Najm ad-Din (q.s.) began his career as a scholar of ahadits and kalam.  His interest in Sufism began in Egypt where he became a murid of Shaykh Ruzbihan al-Baqli ash-Shirazi (q.s.), who was an initiate of the Uwaysi Order.  After years of study, he abandoned his exploration of the religious sciences and devoted himself entirely to the Sufi way of life.  Shaykh Zia ad-Din ‘Ammar Badlisi (q.s.) was Shaykh Najm ad-Din’s (q.s.) shaykh.

Shaykh Najm ad-Din (q.s.) gained a large following of gnostics.  Shaykh Najm ad-Din (q.s.) was given the title “Manufacturer of Saints” and his Order was named the Kubrawiyyah.  Shaykh Najm ad-Din’s (q.s.) main body of works concerns the analysis of ma’rifat.  He wrote numerous important works discussing the visionary experience, including a Sufi commentary on the Qur’an that he was unable to complete.  He passed away in 617 AH / 1220 CE.  Shaykh Najm ad-Din (q.s.) died during the Mongol conquests after refusing to leave his city.  He fought in hand-to-hand combat against the Mongols.  Overall, Shaykh Najm ad-Din (q.s.) is remembered as a pioneer of the Sufi tradition and explanation of spiritual visionary experiences.  Shaykh Najm ad-Din’s (q.s.) works spread throughout the Middle East and Central Asia where it flourished for many years, until it gradually was taken over by other similar more popular ideologies and Sufi leaders.

In addition to his work centering around the Sufi commentary of the Qur’an, Shaykh Najm ad-Din (q.s.) wrote other important treatises including Fawa’ih al-Jamal wa Fawatih al-Jalal, Uswul al-‘Ashara and Risalah al-Kha’if al-Ha’im min Lawmat al-La’im.  His works discuss the analysis of dreams and visions, such as the significance of dreams and visions, the degrees of luminous epiphany that are manifested to the mystic, the different classes of concept and image that engage his attention, and the nature and interrelations of man’s subtle centres.  The Kubrawiyyah Order were avid practitioners of seeking the meaning of visions through ritual performances and meditation.  Shaykh Najm ad-Din (q.s.) being the manufacturer of saints, led him to analyse popular dream episodes from Muslim hagiographical works, and his disciples would follow his analysis.

The influence of the Kubrawiyyah can be seen on the Islamic world as a whole because of its relationship to the strong influence of Shi’ism in Iran.  The Kubrawiyyah was not largely popular until after Shaykh Najm ad-Din’s (q.s.) death in the 16th century.  The Order found great development outside of Central Asia, but its influence and presence only lasted until the 19th Century, when it was replaced by the Naqshbandiyyah during the Ottoman Empire.  The Kubrawiyyah’s influence in Central Asia established many political, social, and economic activities there, but the Naqshbandiyyah developed these ideas to their fullest potential.  The Kubrawiyyah’s main teaching was the total focus on dzikr as a means of allowing for the perception of spiritual visions.  Today, the Kubrawiyyah is almost non-existent, but the Naqshbandiyyah continue to practice similar rituals and profess similar ideas about analysing spiritual visions.

Shaykh Najm ad-Din (q.s.) had twelve muridun.  They included Shaykh Najm ad-Din ar-Razi (q.s.), Shaykh Sayf ad-Din al-Bukharzi (q.s.), Shaykh Majd ad-Din al-Baghdadi (q.s.) and Baha’ ad-Din al-Walad (q.s.), the father of Mawlana Jalal ad-Din ar-Rumi (q.s.).  His most influential disciple was Shaykh Sa’ad ad-Din Hamuwayi (q.s.).  Shaykh Najm ad-Din (q.s.) informed Shaykh Hamuwayi (q.s.) to leave the city in which they resided with the impending Mongol invasion on the horizon.  However, Shaykh Hamuwayi (q.s.) stayed with Shaykh Najm ad-Din (q.s.) and received his ‘ijazah from him.  Shaykh Hamuwayi (q.s.) wrote over thirty important manuscripts and other works concerning the work of Shaykh Najm ad-Din (q.s.) and the influence of the Kubrawiyyah.

This is extracted from Adab as-Suluk, a treatise on spiritual wayfaring from the chapter, “On the Inward Rules of This Journey.”  This book was written by Shaykh Najm ad-Din Kubra (q.s.).

There are 10 principles for inner perfection, bathin, with which a salik should adorn his nafs in order to be admitted into the Divine Presence.  Otherwise his sincerity and aspiration will be deemed false; his love will be merely a false claim; though he may consider himself as a wayfarer towards God, in reality he is plunged in the dungeons of sensuality.

First is keeping watch over the nafs.  That is, the salik should always keep vigil over his heart.  He should not neglect it even for a moment for otherwise he would succumb to his carnal desires and Satanic temptations.  He should consider himself as being Watched by God, as He has Said:

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
… for Allah Ever Watches over you.  (Surah an-Nisa’:1)

The Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Allah Watches your heart and acts, not your apparent behaviour and worldly belongings.”

Second is the expression of humility, poverty and abasement before the Lord of the world.  Shaykh Abu Yazid al-Bistami (q.s.) said that a voice, sarush, called from within and said, “O Abu Yazid!  There are many servants in Our service.  So if you seek Us, bring humility and neediness.”  Shaykh Abu Yazid (q.s.) further said, “You know for certain that you are in a crying need of your Lord at every hour on many counts; so you are needful of His Guiding Light as well as His Merciful Glance, Guidance and His Sustenance at every moment.  And also, you are in need of Him at the time of death so that the light of Islam and its knowledge are kept intact in your heart.  In the grave too, you are in need of Him so that you successfully answer the questions asked by Munkar (a.s.) and Nakir (a.s.).  It is He Who will be your friend in the terrors of the grave.  The greatest of all of your needs is your dependence on Him in the Day of Judgement, the day of regret and remorse so that Allah (s.w.t.), may Make your face luminous, Conceal your blemishes with His Mercy and Enhance the weight and worth of your good works in His Balance mizan, that He may Facilitate the Clearance of your account and Put the book of your deeds in your right hand, that He may Keep you firm on the Path, shat, and Save you from hellfire and Lead you towards Paradise.  His highest Generosity and the most excellent Favour is to Bless you with His beatific vision.”

These are our essential needs with regard to our Master in this world and the other world.  Hence our expression of poverty and humility before (s.w.t.) should be according to your real poverty and need.

The third principle is repentance, tawbah, and penitence, inabah, before Allah (s.w.t.) in all conditions of hardship and affluence, comfort and calamity.  Referring to the Prophet Sulayman (a.s.), Allah (s.w.t.) Said, “He was a good servant, because he was penitent.”  Allah (s.w.t.) Said the same thing about the Prophet Ayyub (a.s.), for Sulayman (a.s.) saw his Benefactor in His Bounties, ni’mah, and Ayyub (a.s.) saw the One who tries in His Trials.  Neither did the bounties enjoyed by the former blur his vision of the Provider nor the hardship and tribulations of the latter veil his sight from seeing the Hand of their Sender.  In both the cases they attributed all that happened to the Lord.

The fourth principle is surrender, taslim, to the Command of Allah (s.w.t.).  Taslim means to surrender to Allah (s.w.t.) both with the heart and the body, both of which are under His Ownership.  To surrender a property to its owner is an essential condition of submission.  The Owner has the Right to Control His Property and Dispose it in any way He Deems proper.  It is up to Him whether He Honours or disgraces His slave, Breathes life in him or Kills him, Causes sickness or Bestows health on him, Makes him rich or poor.  Hence it is required of a salik not to raise any objection against His Will.  He should not complain overtly or covertly, for the protest against the real owner is absurd and violation of all norms.  Complaint against the Lord by someone who claims to be His slave and lover is a shortcoming in one's love, servitude and devotion.

The fifth principle is ridha’. acquiescence, accepting Divine Dispensations without questioning though they be bitter.  The common believers take recourse in patience, swabr, when a calamity befalls.  But the state of the elect in a similar situation is that of ridha’.  The difference between swabr and ridha’ is that the patient person, swabir, by virtue of his faith, faces calamity with forbearance; his faith remains unshaken and he does not get disturbed in times of calamity; he will not deviate from the path of servitude, howsoever great and unbearable the calamity should be but his heart resents the calamity.  But the acquiescent person, radhi, is the one whose heart is always in the state of acquiescence and happiness.  Calamity and affluence do not affect him, for whatever he receives from Allah (s.w.t.) he considers it as a Gift from a Friend.  He enjoys hardships inflicted upon him by his Beloved and Friend with the same pleasure as others enjoy favours.  ‘Ali (k.w.), in a famous sermon, Khutbat Hammam, describing the qualities of the pious said, “They are as happy in the face of calamity as others are in the state of comfort.”

The sixth principle is permanent grief, huzn.  The Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Allah Loves every grieving heart.”  Regarding the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) attributes. it is said that he was always in the state of contemplation and grief.  According to the ‘urafa’, every heart which is devoid of grief is nothing but clay.  How can a believer manage to be cheerful while he does not know what was Written by the pen of pre-eternity about his fate, whether it is felicity or wretchedness.  Also, he is unaware of his end for he does not know what he will earn tomorrow in the way of virtue or vice.  He does not know whether his obedience will be Accepted by Allah (s.w.t.) or not, and whether his sins will be Pardoned or not.

Shaykh Abu al-Hasan al-Kharqani (q.s.) was among the people of grief.  One day, he was asked the reason of the grief of the great mystics.  He replied that the reason is that they want to know Allah (s.w.t.) as He Deserves to be known but that is impossible, for no one can know Allah (s.w.t.) as He Deserves to be known.

The seventh principle is to have good faith, husn azh-zhan, in Allah (s.w.t.).  And He Said, in a hadits qudsi, “I Treat My servant in accordance with his opinion of Me, so let him have whatever opinion he has.”  Therefore, it is necessary for a servant of Allah (s.w.t.) to have good faith in Allah (s.w.t.) or a favourable opinion of Him.  This state is reached as a result of discerning the Attributes of Beauty of Allah (s.w.t.), comprising Generosity, Mercifulness, Magnanimity and the Vastness of His Forgiveness.  Whoever mistrusts Allah (s.w.t.) or has an unfavourable opinion of his Lord and loses hope in His Mercy, considers his vices and sins bigger than the capacity of Allah’s (s.w.t.) Generosity and Mercy.  This amounts to ascribing defect and shortcoming to Allah (s.w.t.).

The eighth rule is that one should not consider oneself out of reach of Allah’s (s.w.t.) Devising, makr.  As Allah (s.w.t.) has Said:

Did they then fell secure against the Plan of Allah?  But no one can feel secure from the Plan of Allah, except those (doomed) to ruin! (Surah al-A‘araf:99)

Further, He has also Said:

… Those truly fear Allah, among His servants who have knowledge ... (Surah Fathir:28)

This fear and awe is produced in one who contemplates Allah’s (s.w.t.) Attributes of Magnificence and Wrath.  For in the same way as Allah (s.w.t.) is Attributed with the qualities of Generosity and Mercifulness, He is Attributed with Wrathfulness and Power as well.  Allah (s.w.t.) has Said:

… “I will fill Hell with jinn and men all together.” (Surah Hud:119)

The ninth principle is love, mahabbah.  In this regard, Allah (s.w.t.) has Said:

… soon will Allah Produce a people whom He will Love as they will love Him ... (Surah al-Ma’idah:54)

Love is the essence of all stations, maqamat, and virtues, karamat, by means of which the slave of Allah (s.w.t.) progresses toward the Lord of the Heaven and the Earth, and by virtue of which he will attain to the higher degrees of the journey, suluk.  Love is the fruit of the knowledge of the Beautiful Names of Allah (s.w.t.).  No one possesses beauty which is his own in the world except Allah (s.w.t.).  Whatever beauty and perfection is seen in the creatures is in fact a particle of the sun of His Beauty, a drop from the oceans of His Perfection.

If we consider beauty and perfection to be confined to material forms and worldly things, know that we are imprisoned within the world of corporeal form and are deprived of observing the reality.  For the real beauty and rational perfection are found in the essence of a being that possesses power and life, has the attributes of generosity, benevolence, forbearance, and is devoid of any shortcoming and defect.  It is due to this reason that the generous, the noble, and the wise are loved by all.  Similarly, the warrior and the courageous are loved due to their might, and the learned and the pious are respected due to their honesty and purity.  We know that each one of these attributes of glory and beauty are inherent in the Divine Essence, which possesses them infinitely and eternally.  But beings other than Allah (s.w.t.) possess a beauty and perfection that is limited, reckonable, accidental, finite and mortal.  Even such attributes are borrowed from the Divine Ocean of Bounty and Beneficence.  Hence, none except Allah (s.w.t.) deserves to be loved in the real sense, for every form of beauty, jamal, is derived from Him.  So everyone who loves something other than Allah (s.w.t.) is surely blind to the beauty of Allah (s.w.t.).

The tenth principle is to give up reliance on one's will, mashi’ah, and freedom, ikhtiyar, and to take up trust in the Omnipotent Lord of the World.  Allah (s.w.t.) has Said:

Allah Sets Forth the parable (of two men: one) a slave under the dominion of another; he has no power of any sort; and (the other) a man on whom We have Bestowed goodly favours from ourselves, and he spends thereof, (freely), privately and publicly: are the two equal? ... (Surah an-Nahl:75)

So a slave has nothing to do with freedom, for freedom suits those who are free.  And the ‘urafa' have said, if a seeker has a single desire, it means that his vision is obstructed by veils.  They have also said that this desire is the greatest of veils.  Hence even the desire of union with Allah (s.w.t.) is the darkest of all veils.  So when even the desire of proximity to Allah (s.w.t.) is considered to be the greatest veil, what is to be said about the condition of one who is plunged in sensual desires and mundane enticements?  Thus it is essential for a seeker to be like the corpse in the hands of the bathers, ghussal, so that he may attain communion with al-Haqq.  Every desire takes one away from Allah (s.w.t.).

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

When Madina Wept

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Bilal ibn Rabah (r.a.) moved to Damascus upon the demise of Rasulullah (s.a.w.).  He dreamed of the Prophet (s.a.w.) who asked him, “Why did you run away from me, O Bilal?”

Bilal (r.a.) quickly returned to Madina.  He went to visit the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) maqam, crying.  On his way back, he met Abu Bakr (r.a.) who said to him, “O Bilal, I wish you would perform adzan as before.”

Bilal (r.a.) replied, “No, I cannot bring myself to do it since the passing of the Prophet.”

Bilal (r.a.) continued walking and met ‘Umar (r.a.).  He, too, asked Bilal (r.a.) to perform the adzan.  Bilal (r.a.) replied, “I cannot. I'm afraid I will not be able to say the Prophet's name.”

Bilal (r.a.) walked away until he met Hasan ibn ‘Ali, the Prophet's (s.a.w.) grandson who also made the same request.  To him, Bilal (r.a.) said, “I cannot say no to you.  I fear I will not get shafa’at from the Prophet (s.a.w.) should I turn you down.”

Without much delay, Bilal (r.a.) finally said the adzan.  The moment Bilal (r.a.) began, the women of Madina were startled.  “This is the voice from the time of the Prophet!” they cried.

When it was time for Bilal (r.a.) to profess “Ashhadu anna Muhammadar Rasulullah', the city of Madina wept and trembled.

“Muhammad is still alive,” they said.  And indeed, the Prophet (s.a.w.) is still alive.

A Lesson on Not Jumping to Conclusions

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is from al-Ashbah wa an-Nazha’ir by Imam ibn Najim (r.a.).  The lesson here is about not jumping to conclusions and thinking the best of people.

Imam Abu Hanifah (r.a.) was told by a man in the presence of his students, “I do not hope for Paradise.  I do not fear Hell.  I do not fear Allah (s.w.t.).  I have eaten the dead.  I have prayed without recitation, bowing or prostration.  I testify to that which I do not see and I love tribulation.”

Imam Abu Hanifah’s (r.a.) students were unanimous in their opinion: “This man has a problem.”

Imam Abu Hanifah (r.a.) said, “This man hopes in Allah (s.w.t.), not in Paradise.  He fears Allah (s.w.t.), not the Fire.  He does not fear oppression from Allah (s.w.t.) in his punishment.  He has eaten fish and grasshoppers.  He prays the funeral prayer.  He testifies to the Oneness of Allah.  He detests death and this is truth and he loves wealth and children; they are tribulation.”

The man arose and kissed the Imam Abu Hanifah’s (r.a.) head and said, “I testify that you are a treasury of knowledge.”

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The Reality behind Forms

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

It is related that the Sufi Master, Imam Abu al-Qasim Junayd al-Baghdadi (q.s.), once went for a walk outside of Baghdad, his disciples following him.  The Shaykh (q.s.) then asked them how Bahlul was.  They answered, “He is a crazy person, what do you need from him?”

“Bring me to him because I have a need for him,” he said.

The students searched for Bahlul, whose reputation was that of a mad mystic, and found him in the desert.  They took Imam Junayd (q.s.) to him.  When Imam Junayd (q.s.) went near Bahlul, he saw Bahlul lying in a state of agitation, with a brick under his head for a pillow.

Imam Junayd (q.s.) greeted him with the salutation of peace.

Bahlul replied thus, and then asked, “Who are you?”

“I am Junayd al-Baghdadi.”

Bahlul asked, “Are you Abu al-Qasim?”

“Yes.” replied Imam Junayd (q.s.).

“Are you the same Shaykh al-Baghdadi who gives people spiritual instructions?”


Then Bahlul asked, “Do you even know how to eat?”

“Yes!” answered Imam Junayd (q.s.). “I say ‘Bismillah.’  I eat what is in front of me.  I take small bites, put them in the right side of my mouth, and slowly chew.  I do not stare at others.  I remember Allah while eating.  For whatever morsel I eat, I say, ‘al-Hamdulillah.’  I wash my hands before and after eating.”

Bahul stood up and shook the dirt of his garment on Imam Junayd (q.s.), and said, “You want to be the spiritual teacher of the world but you do not even know how to eat.”  Saying this, he walked away.

Imam Junayd’s (q.s.) students said, “O Shaykh!  He is a crazy person.  Let him be”

Imam Junayd (q.s.) replied, “He is a madman who is spiritually intelligent in his words.  Listen to the correct statements from him.”  Saying this, he went after Bahlul, saying, “I have a need for Bahlul.”

When Bahlul reached a deserted building, he sat down.  Imam Junayd (q.s.) came near him.

Bahlul asked, “Who are you?”

“Shaykh al-Baghdadi who does not even know how to eat.”

“You do not know how to eat, but do you know how to talk?”


“How do you talk?”

“I talk in moderation and to the point.  I do not speak without purpose or too much.  I speak so the listeners can understand.  I call the world’s people towards Allah and the Prophet.  I do not talk so much that the people would get bored.  I care about the deepness of inner and outer knowledge.”  Then he described whatever was connected with manners and etiquette.

Bahlul said, “Forget about eating, you do not know how to talk either.”

He stood up, shook his garment on the shaykh and walked away.

The students said, “O Shaykh!  You saw, he is crazy.  What do you expect from a lunatic!”

Shaykh Junayd (q.s.) said, “I have a need for him.  You do not know.”

Again he went after Bahlul until he reached him.

Bahlul asked, “What do you want from me?  You who do not know the manners of eating and speaking; do you know how to sleep?”

“Yes, I know.”

“How do you sleep?” Bahlul asked.

“When I am finished with swalah ‘isha’ and reciting supplications, I don my sleepwear.”  Then he described the manners of sleeping which were transmitted to him by the learned people of religion.

Bahlul then said, “I understand that you do not know how to sleep either.”

He wanted to get up, but Imam Junayd (q.s.) caught hold of his garment and said, “O Bahlul!  I do not know; so for the Sake of Allah, teach me.”

Bahlul said, “You claimed knowledge and said you knew so I was avoiding you.  Now that you confessed your lack of knowledge, I will teach you.  Know that whatever you described is secondary,” said Bahlul.  “The truth behind eating meals is that you eat lawful morsels.  If you eat forbidden food even with one hundred kinds of good manners, it will not benefit you, but will be the reason for blackening the heart.”

“May Allah Grant you Great Reward.” remarked Imam Junayd (q.s.).

Bahlul continued, “The heart must be pure, and have good intentions before you begin to talk.  And your conversation must be to please Allah (s.w.t.).  If it is for any worldly or useless work, then however you express yourself, it will become a calamity for you.  That is why silence and quietude would be best.

Whatever you said about sleeping is also of secondary importance.  The truth of it is that your heart should be free of enmity, jealousy, and hate.  Your heart should not be greedy for this world or its wealth, and remember Allah (s.w.t.) when going to sleep.”

Imam Junayd (q.s.) then kissed Bahlul’s hand and prayed for him.  The students who saw this incident and had thought that Bahlul was crazy and nothing more, realised the error of judging by appearances and their spiritual states increased.

Prisoners of Misfortune

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is from Mawlana Jalal ad-Din ar-Rumi's (q.s.) Divan-e Shams.  It was translated by the esteemed Dr. Alan Godlass.

“In the path of Your Love,
We are prisoners of misfortunes.
Poor lovers, we are unlike anyone You have seen.
Throw Your Glance this way,
For we are strangers in this town.
Be Generous with us,
For we are beggars in this town.
No piety to sit in solitude of prayer.
No joy to run around the tavern.
Neither temperate nor drunkards.
Not here nor there.
Who are we, where from?
Like Hallaj; we are not afraid of death;
We are crazy lovers of God.
If our fear was the fear of misfortune,
What should we fear now?
When we are in the midst of misfortune?
We have a secret with You,
No soul can ever share,
Even if we lose our heads.
Our lips are sealed;
We do not worry about hell,
Nor care about heaven.
Unveil Yourself for we are eager to see Your Face
O Shams, have pity, Take us in,
For we are Branded by the Mark of God.”