The Importance of Certainty

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is adapted from a swuhbah from Shaykh Muhammad Nazhim Adil al-Haqqani (q.s.).

It is impossible for a person to leave evil and to take the right path unless his Lord Helps him.  Therefore, we seek Divine Help, for everything.  We cannot take ourselves away from evil if we do not ask our Lord for Help and we cannot put our step on a good way without asking help from your Lord.  Therefore, when we are in need of leaving evil, we must seek Divine Help by saying, “A’udzu bi Allah min ash-Shaythan ar-Rajim.”  That creates a protection, a fortress.  Any time we feel Shaythan approaching, you recite this.

When we ask to be Put on the right path, we say “Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim.”  In our time, if a person seeks to walk on the right path, one hundred Shayathin rush at him to catch his feet so that he cannot move forward.  When we say “Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim,” it takes them away and gives us power to walk on that straight path.  That is the reality of “Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim.”  It is the key to every miraculous power to the extent that we may be certain of that if we put our feet on water, we can walk on it.  It is only with certainty we can achieve that.  Everyone knows something, but only a few people have certainty; knowledge may be for everyone but certainty is not.

Shaykh Hasan al-Baswri (q.s.) was a famous shaykh.  One of his students was Habib al-‘Ajami (q.s.).  He was not an Arab.  He was a Persian from Bukhara.  Habib al-‘Ajami was illiterate.  Once Shaykh Hasan al-Baswri (q.s.) saw Habib al-‘Ajami (q.s.) praying maghrib.  When Shaykh Hasan al-Baswri (q.s.) heard that he was unable to say “al-Hamdu” but pronounced it “Elhemdu.”  He thought his recitation was not correct and did not pray behind him; he prayed alone.

That night, Allah (s.w.t.) Said to Shaykh Hasan (q.s.), “Apart from that prayer which you did not pray behind Habib al-’Ajami, I Accept all your prayers.”  Shaykh Hasan al-Baswri (q.s.) was still looking at the words, not at the heart of the imam.  Allah (s.w.t.) does not look at the recitation; He Looks at the heart.  If his heart is with Allah (s.w.t.), that imam is in the Divine Presence.  If his heart is not with Allah (s.w.t.) but is occupied with making his voice and his recitation beautiful, the angels bring that prayer to Allah (s.w.t.).  But for the one whose heart is with Allah (s.w.t.) when he prays, He Accept his prayers directly without any intermediary.

Therefore, all prayers are of two kinds.  One from a person who when he says “Allahu Akbar,” he casts everything aside and is with his Lord.  Allah (s.w.t.) Directly Takes his prayers to his Divine Presence.  But for the one who says “Allahu Akbar” and through his prayer, is traveling, selling and buying, going and coming, sleeping and awaking, eating and drinking, running after this and that, angels take his prayer to Allah (s.w.t.).  But Allah (s.w.t.) Directly Takes the prayers of those who are with Him.  And Shaykh Hasan al-Baswri (q.s.) wept so much upon hearing this.

Once, Shaykh Hasan al-Baswri (q.s.) was sitting at the Tigris River in Baghdad, waiting for the ferry to come so as to cross over to the other side.  Habib al-‘Ajami (q.s.) came along.  He said, “My master, what are you waiting here for?”

Shaykh Hasan (q.s.) said, “I am waiting for the ferry boat, to cross to the other side.”

“You are the shaykh.  Why are you sitting here waiting for that raft?  Come and say ‘Bismillah’ and walk.”  Then Habib (q.s.) said “Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim,” and walked on the Tigris to the other side.

It was then that Hasan al-Baswri (q.s.) cried, “This ‘ajami is crossing the Tigris and I am sitting here!” Shaykh Hasan (q.s.) knew the power of Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim, but his student had certainty.  Shaykh Hasan (q.s.) did not have enough certainty to say “Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim” and walk on the water.  We are in need of certainty more than knowledge.  In our time people run after learning.  Where is the benefit?  They may learn much and then forget much.  But certainty never leaves us.  Certainty is the seed of knowledge; we can plant it and it grows.

Once when Habib-al-’Ajami (q.s.) was sitting in front of his khanaqah, his takkiyah. Shaykh Hasan al-Baswri (q.s.) came running.  Shaykh Hasan (q.s.) said, “O Habib, hide me, because Hajjaj, the Caliph’s governor has sent his soldiers to catch me.  Hide me!”

And Habib (q.s.) said. “Go in and hide yourself.”

Shaykh Hasan (q.s.) went in and found himself a hiding place.  The soldiers came running and asked Habib (q.s.), “Have you seen Hasan al-Baswri?”

“Yes, I saw him inside.  He is hiding.”

They went in and looked around.  They looked everywhere, even looked directly at Shaykh Hasan (q.s.).  It is said they searched the khanaqah three times after Habib al-‘Ajami (q.s.) insisted that Shaykh Hasan (q.s.) was inside.  Finally, the soldiers scolded Habib (q.s.), “How could a man like you tell a lie?”

“Inside, I am not lying.  He is inside.”  They could not see him and left angrily.

Shaykh Hasan al-Baswri (q.s.) came out.  “O murid, what is this?  I came to you asking you for help me and you told the soldier where I was.”

“O my Shaykh, you were saved by my truth.  I told the truth and Allah (s.w.t.) Protected you by it.  I entrusted you to Him and recited Ayat al-Kursi.”

We are in need of some certainty.  Once again, Shaykh Hasan al-Baswri (q.s.) visited Habib al-‘Ajami (q.s.).  He brought two loaves of bread, putting them in front of him as a courtesy to his guest.  Just as he was beginning to eat, someone who was hungry came and asked for something for the sake of Allah (s.w.t.).  Habib al-‘Ajami (q.s.) took back the loaves from Shaykh Hasan al-Baswri (q.s.) and gave them to that person.

Shaykh Hasan al-Baswri (q.s.), said, “O Habib, you are a good person but if you had some more knowledge of the shari’ah it would have been better for you.”  He meant to say it would have been better if Habib (q.s.) left one loaf for Shaykh Hasan (q.s.) and one for that person instead of taking both and giving them away.

Habib (q.s.) said nothing.  After awhile, someone came to the door and brought a tray full of plates for them to eat.  “You know so much,” Habib (q.s.) said to Shaykh Hasan al-Baswri (q.s.), “but you have little certainty.”  Because he had certainty, Habib (q.s.) knew that if he gave this for the sake of Allah (s.w.t.), Allah (s.w.t.) would Return it at least tenfold.  There is a similar story involving Shaykha Rabi’ah al-‘Adawiyyah (q.s.).  Certainty gives more benefit to everyone, and we are in need of that.  If there is no certainty, knowledge can never benefit.  It would be only an ornament to the ego.

Imam Sha’rani (q.s.) was of the people of tawwakul, those who trust in their Lord totally.  He said, “Once I was travelling and it was near maghrib.  I saw a dome and walked toward it.  When I entered it, I saw that there was a tomb in it, under the dome, in ruins.  After a short while, some peasants came and said, ‘O shaykh, you must not stay here.  Come with us.  Our village is nearby.  This is a terrible place, particularly at night.  So many snakes, big snakes, come out and if anyone sleeps here, in the morning we find only his body, nothing else.’”

Imam Sha’rani (q.s.) said to the peasants, “O my brothers, when you told me that, I cannot move even one step out of this place.  When you warned me about those big snakes, my ego was afraid of them, and I am ashamed in front of my Lord because my nafs is frightened of snakes and not of Allah (s.w.t.).  I cannot accept your invitation.  I must sleep here this night; it is better for such an ego that I be killed by snakes.”  The peasants left.

In the morning they hurried back with shovels to bury the Shaykh’s body.  They found the Shaykh in dzikr and the snakes were like wooden beams beside him. If we know our Lord and trust in Him, He Protects us.  If we are familiar with our Lord, everything is familiar with us.  That is certainty.


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