Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The Sayings of Khwaja Mu’in ad-Din Jisty (q.s.)

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following are some sayings of Khwaja Mu’in ad-Din Jisty (q.s.), primarily from Dalil al-‘Arifin, by his premier caliph, Khwaja Quthb ad-Din Bakhtiyar Kaki (q.s.) of Osh.

“The heart of a lover constantly burns with the fire of love, so much so that whatever intrudes upon its sanctity is burnt to ashes.”

“When the river pursues its course, the flow occasions force and noise, but when it ultimately merges into the sea, it rest in supreme peace.  The same is true of the individual self, covering various stages on its onward journey to merge itself in the Universal Self.”

“He indeed is a true servant, Blessed with the Love of God, who is Gifted with the following three attributes: charitable like the sea; affectionate like the sun; and hospitable like the earth.”

“The association with the pious and godly is better even than doing a good deed, and the association with ungodly and impious is worse than committing an evil act.”

“A sin committed does not harm an individual as much as the looking with contempt upon one’s own fellow beings.”

“The estate of a hermit settles upon him who has no earthly belongings, which might excite his sense of attachment.”

“Realisation of God comes to him who keeps vigilance and forgets recollection of self.”

“The test of a true devotee’s mind is that it is always, and to all intents, strictly obedient to the Will of God and is constantly afraid of behaving in a manner which is apt to Displease Him resulting in the Withdrawal of His Grace.”

“A witness of the essence of things is characteristically mute and meditative.”

“It is an elevated stage on the path leading to the realisation of God that the seeker of the goal can witness the universe and its panorama through his two fingers only.”

“Concentration on the implications of drawing and discharging breath is a part of the gnostic’s worship.”

“Of all the worship, the worship that Pleases God Almighty most is the grant of relief to the humble and the oppressed.”

“He is hardened sinner who commits sin and yet simultaneously entertains the belief that he is one of God’s chosen few.”

“He is a knower of the path of love who relinquishes attachment to both the worlds.”

“The most prized Gift for a dervish is his association with other dervishes, while his greatest loss is to remain away from them.”

“Patience is tested through resignation to sorrow, sufferings and disaster without murmur or disclosing one’s pains to others.”

“The more one learns about the reality of things, the more one wonders.”

“The gnostic regards death as a friend, luxury as an enemy and the constant remembrance of God as an exaltation.”

“Knowledge is comprised unto an unfathomable ocean and enlightenment is like a wave in it; then what is the relation of God and man?  While the ocean of knowledge is Sustained by God Alone, the enlightenment pertains to man.”

“Those having insight into the reality of things are endowed with light like the sun and they impart illumination to the whole world.”

“Without performing swalah, none can approach God because swalah is the climax in the process of such approach for the pious.”

“There are four cardinal virtues of the individual self; firstly, refraining from begging in the state of penury; secondly, showing the attitude of the well-fed when feeling hungry; thirdly, maintaining cheerfulness in the time of sorrow; and fourthly, befriending the enemy.”

“By attaining perfection in the observation of shari’ah through a pious conduct, one reaches the stage of the path leading to thariqa’, and then onward he passes on to ma’rifat, and lastly to the attainment of haqiqat.

“The soul of him who perform ablution before going to bed always soars high in the ‘Arsh, taking a bird's eye view of the lower worlds.”

Swalah is like a trust committed to human care by God, and as such it should be zealously guarded.  Swalah is the climax or destination of the faithful, and lastly, swalah is a secret relationship existing between the worshipper and the worshipped.”

“Even the angels in the heaven pray for him who, having performed his morning swalah, remains sitting there engaged in the meditation of God.”

“Incessant recitation of Praise of God is the infallible remedy for the fulfilment of one's needs.”

“The graveyard is the place for picking up a lesson.  In such a solemn surrounding, one should not indulge in laughing or burst into laughter or eat or drink or do any other worldly thing.”

“In the matter of realisation of God and self, no distinction in made between an ‘arif and a salik; they both reach the same and identical destination.”

“God Rains misfortune and misery upon the heads of those whom He Loves.”

“It is a pious act to look at God’s Scripture, greater is the piety in reciting it even if it be but one letter.  It will banish ten vices and enable ten virtues being Recorded in lieu.  It improves the eyesight and will impart immunity to the eyes against all mishaps.”

“A devotional approach to the saint and friendship with dervishes attract Blessings from the Most High.”

“The devotional visit to God’s Ka’bah is as good a Reward as one thousand years of worship and devotion to God.  The piety resulting from the hajj itself is over and above this.”

“To cast a devotional look towards one’s murshid and to serve him faithfully are comparable to the devotion to God.”

“The best way of evading the Fire lies in feeding the hungry, providing water to the thirsty, removing the wants of the needy and befriending the miserable.”

“It amounts to devotion and worship on the part of a son to cast a look on the faces of his parents.  All the sins committed by the son who kisses the feet of his parents are extinguished.  Shaykh Bayazid al-Bistami once said, ‘Whatever position of distinction I have attained, it is a legacy bestowed upon me by my parents.’”

“He is an ‘arif who is visited every day by a hundred thousand flashes of inspiration from the Heavens.”

“He is an ‘arif whom unseen wisdom enlightens to enable him to reveal mysteries to solve all thorny problems and meet all arguments successfully.  He is always swimming in the ocean of interpretation and is capable of extraction the pearl of secrets and of light and to present it to those who are competent enough to test its genuineness.”

“Just as the sunshine increases gradually in the morning, so does the Divine Light expand in one who performs the swalah al-ishraq.”

“When the ‘arif meditates over a thing, he attains a state of absorption in which even if thousands of angels assuming wonderful forms try to attract him, he would remain entirely undisturbed for the time being.”

“For an ‘arif, it is an ordinary miracle that he ascends beyond the Heavens by taking only one step and reaches the Veil of Divine Glory.  But God Alone Knows the secret implications of that stage.  He cannot say where it leads him ultimately to, and what he perceives in that mysterious state when he returns.”

“The mouth of a human being is regarded as sanctified irrespective of his personality, be it that of a mu’min, or a kafir, be he purified or impure.”

Swalah is a pledge between a mu’min and God.  Its faithful discharge leads to redemption.  If it is not discharged faithfully, the defaulter would not be able to show his face to God on the Day of Judgment.”

“Offer your repentance quickly before death arrives and hurry up to perform swalah before its final hour passes.”

“It is greatest sin is not to perform the obligatory prayer at its proper and appointed time or to say two obligatory prayers simultaneously at one and the same time.”

“Almighty God will Erect, on the Day of Judgment, veils, the thickness of which will take 500 years to cross, between Hell and the man who feeds a hungry person.”

“That man is a true servant of God who resigns with pleasure to the misfortune that comes from his Beloved.”

“For the seeker who follows the true path, it is the greatest sin if his heart does not melt with the fear of God when the Name of God is uttered before him, or when Qur’an is recited before him.”

“It is incumbent on the follower of thariqa’ that he must first renounce dunya, then akhirah, and ultimately, his own self, failing which, he should abandon the enterprise of Sufism.”

“For a follower of the path of Haqq, it is worse than a sin to disdain or look down upon anyone.”

“The stage of perfection in ‘irfan is reached when the gnostic enlightens the hearts of others with Divine Light.”

“When the ‘arif becomes silent, it means that he is talking to God; and when he closes his eyes, it means that he is knocking at God’s door.”

“The path of Love is such a path that whoever stepped into it, he lost himself.”

“Those who are true lovers of God give away both of the worlds for the sake of their Beloved, and even then, they feel that they have done nothing whatsoever.”

“Three things are dearer than all other things in the world: firstly, the savant who says according to what he has digested; secondly, the person who does not succumb to avarice; and thirdly, the gnostic who is always singing the praises and glory of his Beloved.”

“There are no rituals to be performed in Sufism, nor are there academic dissertations which may be easily acquired by reading, but, according to men who are lovers of God and the shuyukh of thuruq, Sufism means scrupulously maintained moral behaviour which one must observe towards all he creatures of God.”

“The resignation of the gnostic is indicated in his reposing unflinching faith in the Mercy and Grace of God and God Alone, and that he should not be attracted to anyone else.”

“Only two things are enough for one desirous of establishing himself on the path of thariqa’: devotion to and worship of God and obeying His Commandments.”

“Death is a bridge which expands the passage for a lover to reach his Beloved.”

“Love of God transcends and is above all passion for others.”

“According to those well-versed in the doctrines of the seeker of true path, penitence assumes shape in the combination of three things: moderation in food with the resolve of fasting; moderation in speech in order to save time for singing the praises of the Beloved; and moderation in sleep in the interest of reserving more time and energy for his devotion.”

“Without performing swalah, none can approach Allah (s.w.t.), because swalah is the mi’raj in the process of such an approach for the pious.”

“The one who does not perform devotion of Allah is engaged in the career of earning a sinful living.”

“Perfection in faith is evident by three things: fear, hope, and love.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

O My Soul

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

As translated by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, Imam ‘Ali ibn Husayn al-Habshi (q.s.) wrote:

“Should you not gain your wants, my soul, then be not grieved;
But hasten to that banquet which your Lord’s Bequeathed.
And when a thing for which you ask is slow to come,
Then known that often through delay are gifts received.
Find solace in privation and respect its due,
For only by contentment is the heart relieved.

And know that when the trials of life have rendered you
Despairing of all hope, and of all joy bereaved,
Then shake yourself and rouse yourself from heedlessness,
And make pure hope a meadow that you never leave.
Your Maker’s gifts take subtle and uncounted forms.
How fine the fabric of the world His hands have weaved.

The journey done, they came to the water of life,
And all the caravan drank deep, their thirst allieved.
Far be it from the host to leave them thirsty there,
His spring pours forth all generosity received.
My Lord, my trust in all Your purposes is strong,
That trust is now my shield; I’m safe, and undeceived.

All those who hope for grace from You will feel Your rain;
Too generous are You to leave my branch unleaved.
May blessings rest upon the loved one, Muhammad,
Who’s been my means to high degrees since I believed.
He is my fortress and my handhold, so my soul,
Hold fast, and travel to a joy still unconceived.”

Notes on the Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 3

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The third chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew introduces John the Baptist (a.s.) and addresses his baptism of Jesus (a.s.) at the Jordan River.  John the Baptist (a.s.) is known as Yohanan Hammathbil in Hebrew, Yuhanna al-Ma'amadan in Arabic and Iohanan in Aramaic.  He was a major religious figure mentioned in the canonical Gospels and the Qur'an.  He is described in the Gospel according to Luke as a relative of Jesus and Muslims believe so as well.  He led a movement of baptism at the Jordan River.  From a Jewish point of view, it was likely he belonged to the semi-ascetic Essenes sect.  The Essenes expected an imminent apocalypse and practiced rituals strongly associated with baptism  John (a.s.) is regarded as a prophet in Christianity, Islam, the Baha'ism  and Mandaeism.

John the Baptist (a.s.) was a contemporary of Jesus (a.s.) and first cousin since his mother and Mary (a.s.) were said to be sisters.  At the time, the mission of Jesus (a.s.) was just beginning.  John (a.s.) already had a following and an established reputation for righteousness, sanctity and fidelity.  The Qur’an attests to this:

And pity (for all creatures) as from Us, and purity: he was devout and kind to his parents, and he was not overbearing or rebellious.  So Peace on him the day he was born, the day that he dies, and the day that he will be raised up to life (again)! (Surah Maryam:13-15)

Matthew 3:1-12
1In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea; 2”Repent,” he said, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  3It was of him that the prophet Isaiah spoke, when he said, “There is a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, straighten out his paths.’”  4And he, John, wore a garment of camel’s hair, and a leather girdle about his loins, and locusts and wild honey were his food.  5Thereupon Jerusalem and all Judaea, and all those who dwelt round Jordan, went out to see him, 6and he baptised them in the Jordan, while they confessed their sins.  7Many of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees came to his baptising; and when he saw these, he asked them, “Who was it that taught you, brood of vipers, to flee from the vengeance that draws near?  8Come, then, yield the acceptable fruit of repentance; 9do not presume to say in your hearts, ‘We have Abraham for our father;’ I tell you, God has Power to Raise up children to Abraham out of these very stones.  10Already the axe has been put to the root of the trees, so that every tree which does not shew good fruit will be hewn down and cast into the fire.  11As for me, I am baptising you with water, for your repentance; but one is to come after me who is mightier than I, so that I am not worthy even to carry his shoes for him; he will baptise you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.  12He holds his winnowing-fan ready, to sweep his threshing-floor clean; he will gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will consume with fire that can never be quenched.”

The prophecy of Isaiah (a.s.), mentioned in Matthew 3:3 is as follows:

Isaiah 40:3
3A cry, there, out in the wilderness, “Make way for the Lord’s Coming; a straight road for our God through the desert!”

Every prophet had a herald to indicate his coming.  The Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) had Bahira (r.a.), also known as Sergius the Nestorian monk to foretell his future prophetic career.  In the case of Jesus the Messiah (a.s.), it was John the Baptist (a.s.).  He was the voice crying in the wilderness.  And as a herald, he made the way for the fulfillment of prophesy.  The straight road is the religion of Allah (s.w.t.).

Show us the straight way. (Surah al-Fatihah:6)

Te desert refers both to the spiritual wilderness that the people were in and the fact that John (a.s.) shunned the decadent civilisation of the time and spent time in the wilderness, on the edge of the desert.  Coming back to God, therefore, meant going through the desert.  As an ascetic, a zahid, he was a practitioner of taswawwuf.  His rejection f dunya, also meant he vehemently opposed the Sadducees who used their religious position to accumulate wealth and power.  They were viewed by the prophets as hypocrites of the law.  His talk of the axe to the root of the unfruitful tree is echoed in the Qur’an.

Seest thou not how Allah Sets forth a parable?― a goodly Word like a goodly tree, whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches (reach) to the heavens― It brings forth its fruit at all times, by the Leave of its Lord.  So Allah Sets Forth parables for men, in order that they may receive admonition.  And the parable of an evil word is that of an evil tree.  It is torn up by the root from the surface of the earth: it has no stability. (Surah Ibrahim:24-26)

The practise of baptism is the absolution from sin and represents sincere repentance.  To Muslims, it is ghusl, the cleansing bath, done after one has left kufr, disbelief, for faith.  From the Catholic point of view, the baptism of John (a.s.) did not confer sanctifying grace and that is why there is a reference to the one that comes after.  The Christians believe only when the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus (a.s.), was sanctifying grace conferred in baptism henceforth.  As Muslims, we believe that there is much dispute on the meaning of the words that are translated as Holy Spirit.  We see this as nothing more than a step in the preparation for his mission of prophethood in the same manner that Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) had his hear washed by Jibra’il (a.s.).

From an Islamic point of view, Matthew 3:11 confers a totally different meaning.  John the Baptist (a.s.) was the third from last prophet.  The one who came after could not refer to Jesus (a.s.) but Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).  Jesus (a.s.) came to be baptised, not to baptise.  He was a contemporary of John (a.s.) lived in the same era.  John (a.s.) also says that the one who comes after is mightier than him.  At that point, John (a.s.) had more disciples than Jesus (a.s.) and greater renown.  It could not refer to Jesus (a.s.).  Because he said:

Matthew 11:11
11Believe me, God has Raised up no greater son of woman than John the Baptist; and yet to be least in the kingdom of heaven is to be greater than he.

The second part of the statement is of dubious translation and origin.  It was believed to have been added later to exalt Jesus (a.s.) at the expense of John (a.s.) in order to show that he is the Son of God.

The rendering of the Holy Ghost is not found in much earlier translations of the Bible.  That word was ‘paraclete’ from the Greek translation.  In Latin, it was rendered as . paracletus.  It means advocate, helper or intercessor.  In Christianity, the term has most commonly been translated as the Holy Spirit or the Holy Ghost.  Paraclete, which comes from the Koine Greek word, ‘parakletos,’ can signify, "one who consoles or comforts, one who encourages or uplifts; hence refreshes, and / or one who intercedes on our behalf as an advocate in court".  The word was later borrowed by rabbinical Hebrew writing from Hellenistic Jewish writing.

Many Muslim writers have argued that the “another Paraclete” from John 14:16 after Jesus (a.s.) refers to Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).  John (a.s.) speaks of one that comes after him.

John 14:16
16and then I will ask the Father, and He will Give you another to befriend you, one who is to dwell continually with you forever.

With regards, ‘to befriend you,’ the Greek word here used is ‘the Paraclete.’  The earliest scholar to advocate that the Paraclete refers to the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) is probably Shaykh ibn Ishaq (r.a.), who Islamic tradition states was the grandson of a Christian.  Others who made the same interpretation include Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.), Hafizh ibn Katsir (r.a.), Imam al-Qurthubi (r.a.) and contemporary Muslim scholars such as Shaykh Martin Lings (q.s.).  A few Muslim scholars, such as Ustadz David Benjamin Keldani (r.a.), have argued that the original Greek word used was ‘periklytos,’ meaning famed, illustrious, or praiseworthy, rendered in Arabic as ‘Ahmad,’ and that this was substituted by Christians with ‘parakletos.’

It is easily understood then that the one who comes, the Paraclete, is none other than Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).  And the baptism of fire can be said to be jihad, the struggle against ignorance, oppression and polytheism.  The Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) is the Imam of all the prophets and messengers.  Such is his rank in the Divine Sight, not even another prophet is fit to carry his Blessed sandals.  Imam at-Tirmidzi (r.a.) records a hadits narrated by Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah (r.a.) where the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, "I am the Leader of the Messengers, and this is no boast; I am the Seal of the Prophets, and this is no boast; and I shall be the first to make intercession and the first whose intercession is accepted, and this is no boast."  The truth of what John (a.s.) says is evident in the sirah.  It cannot be Jesus (a.s.) because he does not fulfill this prophecy conclusively and the anecdotal evidence from the passages to come as well do not readily lend themselves to the credence that they refer to him.

Jesus (a.s.) did not minister any sort of baptism, whether by water or by fire.  Baptism is practiced by Christians in emulation of the baptism of Jesus (a.s.) at the hands of John (a.s.).  This baptism by fire is further elaborated in the next line where John (a.s.) says that the one who is to come, “holds his winnowing-fan ready, to sweep his threshing-floor clean; he will gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will consume with fire that can never be quenched.”  This signifies trials and tribulations in the course of his prophethood.  It can be said that much of Jesus’ (a.s.) legacy and message was only kept by the last ummah, the Ummah of Muhammad (s.a.w.).  Christianity is not based on the Gospel as taught by Jesus (a.s.) but by the teachings of Paul of Tarsus and his disciples.  They never met Jesus (a.s.).  However, in the time of the prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), the Muslims endured much trial.  Those amongst the Quraysh and those around who accepted the Message of Islam, were gathered into safety.  And those who opposed the Messenger of Allah (s.w.t.) in his lifetime were all destroyed.  There is even a surah about the fate of one of the enemies of the Prophet (s.a.w.), Surah Lahab, also known as Surah al-Masad.

Surah al-Masad
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Perish the hands of the Father of Flame!  Perish he!  (1) No profit to him from all his wealth, and all his gains!  (2) Burnt soon will he be in a Fire of Blazing Flame!  (3) His wife shall carry the (crackling) wood ― as fuel! ― (4) A twisted rope of palm-leaf fibre round her (own) neck! (5)

It is also interesting to note that when John (a.s.) spoke of the one to come, he did not recognise it as Jesus (a.s.).

Matthew 11:2-3
2Now John had heard in his prison of Christ’s doings, and he sent two of his disciples to him; 3”Is it thy coming that was foretold,” he asked, “or are we yet waiting for some other?

We must also understand that there is much in the Gospels and indeed the entire Bible that has to be seen with skepticism since much of it has been distorted and the Gospels themselves disagree on key points.  It does not contradict the assertion that John (a.s.) was the herald of Jesus (a.s.) since he knew who Jesus (a.s.) was as proven below.  It only shows that he did not recognise Jesus (a.s.) as the ne to come after him that he described.

Matthew 3:13-17
13Then Jesus came from Galilee and stood before John at the Jordan, to be baptised by him.  14John would have restrained him; “It is I,” he said, “that ought to be baptized by thee, and dost thou come to me instead?”  15But Jesus answered, “Let it be so for the present; it is well that we should thus fulfill all due observance.”  Then John gave way to him.  16So Jesus was baptised, and as he came straight up out of the water, suddenly heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and resting upon him.  17And with that, a voice came from heaven, which said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Most biblical scholars are of the opinion that that John (a.s.) baptised Jesus (a.s.) at "Bethany beyond the Jordan", by wading into the water with Jesus (a.s.) from the eastern bank.  John the Baptist (a.s.) is also mentioned by Jewish historian Josephus and in the Pseudo-Clementine literature in addition to the Gospels and the Qur'an.  Accounts of John in the New Testament appear compatible with the account in Josephus.  This is important because there are no other historical accounts of John the Baptist (a.s.) from around the period of his lifetime.

The opening of the heavens and the descent of the dove is allegorical and not likely an actual occurrence.  The Gospel authors wanted to demonstrates the symbolic anointing of the Messiah and the formal beginning of Jesus’ (a.s.) ministry.  There is a lack of credibility with regards these verses.

From the passages above, we can see that John (a.s.) anticipated a messianic figure greater than himself and foretold of the Paraclete.  Jesus (a.s.) is the one whose coming John foretold, but only as the Messiah. Unlike the Christians, Muslims believe that the Paraclete is none other than Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).  John (a.s.) is commonly referred to as the precursor of Jesus (a.s.), since John (a.s.) announces Jesus' coming (a.s.).  John (a.s.) is also identified with the prophet Elijah (a.s.).  Some of Jesus' early followers had previously been followers of John (a.s.).  But there are reports of followers of John (a.s.) in Iraq until the present day.

Acts 19:1-7
1It was while Apollo was away at Corinth that Paul finished his journey through the inland country, and came to Ephesus.  He met some disciples there 2and asked them, “Was the Holy Spirit given to you, when you learned to believe?”  “Why,” they said, “nobody even mentioned to us the existence of a Holy Spirit.”  3What baptism, then, did you receive?” Paul asked; and they said, “John’s baptism.”  4So Paul told them,” John baptized to bring men to repentance; but he bade the people have faith in one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.”  5On hearing this, they received baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus; 6and when Paul laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came down on them, and they spoke with tongues, and prophesied.  7In all, these men were about twelve in number.

There are several passages within the Old Testament interpreted by Christians as being prophetic of John the Baptist’s (a.s.) role in this role as the herald of Jesus (a.s.).  These include a passage in the Book of Malachi:

Malachi 3:1
1See where I am sending a messenger of mine, to make the way ready for my coming!  All at once the Lord will visit his temple; that Lord, so longed for, welcome herald of a divine covenant.  Ay, says the Lord of Hosts, he is coming;

And also at the end of the next chapter in Malachi, where it says:

Malachi 4:5-6
5And before ever that day comes, great day and terrible, I will send Elias to be your prophet; 6he it is shall reconcile heart of father to son, heart of son to father; else the whole of earth should be forfeit to my vengeance.

The Jews of Jesus' (a.s.) day expected Elijah (a.s.) to come before the Messiah.  Some modern Jews continue to await Elijah's (a.s.) coming as well, as in the Cup of Elijah the Prophet in the Passover Seder.  This is why the disciples ask Jesus (a.s.) of it.

Matthew 17:10-13
10And his disciples asked him, “Tell us, why is it that the scribes say Elias must come before Christ?”  11He answered, “Elias must needs come and restore all things as they were; 12but I tell you this, that Elias has come already, and they did not recognize him, but misused him at their pleasure, just as the Son of Man is to suffer at their hands.”  13Then the disciples understood that he had been speaking to them of John the Baptist.

The Eastern Orthodox believe that John (a.s.) was the last of the Old Testament prophets, serving as a bridge between that period of revelation and the New Covenant.  They also teach that, following his death, John (a.s.) descended into Hades and there once more preached that Jesus the Messiah (a.s.) was coming, so he was the Forerunner of Christ in death as he had been in life.  According to their Sacred Tradition, John the Baptist (a.s.) appears at the time of death to those who have not heard the Gospel of Christ (a.s.), and preaches the Good News to them, that all may have the opportunity to be saved.  He is thus, their ‘angel of death.’

Some Catholics have held to a belief that John the Baptist never sinned, though this has never been a point of doctrine and is not binding in belief upon any adherent as is the sinlessness of Mary (a.s.).

In  Islam, John (a.s.) is prophet Yahya ibn Zakariya (a.s.).  He is believed to have been a witness to Revelation, and the prophet who heralded the coming of Jesus (a.s.).  His father, Zechariah is also recognised as a prophet.  Like Jesus (a.s.), John (a.s.) was also a product of miraculous birth since his parents were beyond childbearing age.

In the Qur'an, Allah (s.w.t.) frequently mentions Zechariah's (a.s.) continuous praying for the birth of a son.  Zechariah's (a.s.) wife, mentioned in the New Testament as Elizabeth (r.a.), was barren and therefore the birth of a child seemed impossible.  As a gift from Allah (s.w.t.), Zechariah (a.s.) was given a son by the name of "John", a name specially chosen for this child alone.  In accordance with Zechariah's (a.s.) prayer, Allah (s.w.t.) made John (a.s.) and Jesus (a.s.), who was born six months later, renew the Religion of Allah (s.w.t.), which had been corrupted and lost by the Israelites.

(His prayer was answered): "O Zakariya!  We Give thee good news of a son: his name shall be Yahya: on none by that name have We Conferred distinction before."  He said: "O my Lord!  How shall I have a son, when my wife is barren and I have grown quite decrepit from old age?"  He said: "So (it will be): thy Lord Saith, `That is easy for Me: I did indeed Create thee before, when thou hadst been nothing!'"( Surah Maryam:7-9)

John (a.s.) was exhorted to hold fast to the scripture and was given wisdom by Allah (s.w.t.) while still a child.  He was pure and devout.  John's (a.s.) reading and understanding of the scriptures, when only a child, surpassed even that of the greatest scholars of the time.  Muslim exegesis narrates that Jesus (a.s.) sent John (a.s.) out with twelve disciples, who preached the message before Jesus (a.s.) called his own disciples.

(To his son came the Command): "O Yahya!  Take hold of the Book with might": and We Gave him wisdom even as a youth. (Surah Maryam:12)

John (a.s.) was Exalted by Allah (s.w.t.), for his bold denouncing of all things sinful.  Furthermore, the Qur'an mentions John's (a.s.) love for all creatures and his humble attitude towards life, for which he was granted the Purity of Life:

In summary, we have shown that when John (a.s.) was peaking at the Jordan and describing the one to come, it most definitely was not Jesus (a.s.).  We cannot ascertain the credibility of every verse of the chapter but we can distill what is left give any Christian with an open mind to ponder the prophecy in the passages.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Not Even an Ant...

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is adapted from a swuhbah from Shaykh Muhammad Nazhim Adil al-Haqqani (q.s.) on the 16th March 2010.

Are we able to accept that Allah (s.w.t.) can Send His help to us even by an ant?  Though our minds may not fully understand how this may be possible, the heart can accept such a possibility.  To understand is difficult, as there is a limit to our ability to understand.  But to have faith is easy since there is no limit to a man's ability to believe.  That is a special Grant that Allah (s.w.t.) has Bestowed upon us.  Our capacity to believe is endless.  We can never understand everything in life.  There is much that we simply accept with faith.

If the abilities of every person were joined together into a single human being, that fusion super-human would still be unable to understand every single creature on this planet.  Even the Quthb al-Mutaswswarif, the Spiritual Pole of our time, who has been tasked to oversee all the creatures on this planet, only knows the creatures in a general way.  He cannot know each creature in a personal and intimate manner, unless Allah (s.w.t.) so Wills it.  Only Allah (s.w.t.), the Creator, Knows each creature personally and intimately, down to the hidden and deepest secrets in their hearts.

It was We Who Created man, and We Know what dark suggestions his soul makes to him: for We are Nearer to him than (his) jugular vein. (Surah Qaf:16)

This is how weak we are.  We are Allah's (s.w.t.) khulifa’ on earth, yet when we look at a single ant, moving along the earth, what do we know of it?  Do we understand its thoughts, and its current condition?  Do we know its name, its origin, its final step?  We know nothing except that it is an ant.  And that is just for one ant.  What about the trillions of ants that scurry about on this planet's surface?  Each one has its own personality and we are completely in the dark about each one of them.  What more the infinite other creatures that Allah (s.w.t.) created; each one, a unique individual within a community of unique individuals, each of whom Allah (s.w.t.) has a Complete and Perfect Understanding of.  And what about the creatures of other worlds in other parts of the universe?  Surely, Allah the Most Rich has more than just one planet of creatures.  There are other worlds filled with creatures totally unlike what we see on earth.  And for all those planets filled with wondrous and complex creatures, Allah (s.w.t.) Knows each one of His Creation Perfectly.  And we have not even come to understand ourselves, let alone the other creatures in Creation.

This revelation is like a flash of lightning striking our minds, bringing light and realisation to us.  Divine Lights bring understanding to us.  Before we can ask, “Who is Allah?”, we should ask the ant first, “Who are you?  Where are you from?  Who Created you?  We must never for a moment think that the ant is deaf or dumb.  It can hear us and it can answer us.  It may even know more about itself than we know about ourselves.  Allah (s.w.t.) Commands us in the Holy Qur'an to have faith in Him and His Rasul (s.a.w.).

O ye who believe!  Believe in Allah and His Messenger... (Surah an-Nisa’:136)

What does Allah (s.w.t.) mean by that?  It means that our faith, our belief, that certainty in our hearts is still very weak.  The knowledge that leads to true belief in Allah (s.w.t.) is a vast Ocean.  How can we feel that we have already acquired strong faith?  It is not enough to simply say, “I believe in Allah (s.w.t.) and His Rasul (s.a.w.).”

The desert Arabs, say "We believe."  Say "Ye have no faith; but ye (only) say `We have submitted our wills to Allah.' for not yet has Faith entered your hearts…” (Surah al-Hujraat:14)

Despite already having acquired a little faith, we are still Veiled by so many curtains.  We must never think it is just one veil.  There are countless veils that we need to pierce through, in order to reach our objective.  Faith has boundaries, it has a border, and when we reach such a limit, we must dive into that Ocean of knowledge again, to seek more knowledge that will lead to an increase in faith.  Even if we are at level zero now, or even if we are below level zero, we must strive onward to build faith in Allah (s.w.t.).  That effort will open doors of understanding from our right and from our left and we will grow in our understanding of Allah's (s.w.t.) Greatness and Perfection.

We can never stand still at any one point in our journey of faith.  We must keep pushing forward without rest, for the levels of faith are infinite.  Beyond each horizon that we reach is a new horizon.  These may bring new veils that we must pass through and new experiences that you must swim in.  For every veil that we pass through, we receive a new set of honours and pleasure.  Allah (s.w.t.) Created us to climb this spiritual ladder of faith, to be bestowed honour and pleasure at each level of our ascension.  This is the purpose of our Creation.  We were not created for dunya.  As much effort as we make, that much we will rise on the spiritual ladder of faith, rung by rung.  Each time we reach a new rung, we ask to go higher, for we have yet to attain perfection.  Allah (s.w.t.) Himself urges us to climb higher, to take more from His Gifts.

We were not Created to roll in the mud of this dirty worldly life!  Every prophet came to teach us to clean ourselves from the filth of this material life, from the filth of our egos and the filth of our worldly desires.  The lowest rung on the ladder is the level of animals.  An animal only looks at the earth all its life.  It never looks up to the sky.  It never yearns for spiritual ascension.  It is only concerned with its worldly desires and fully occupied with fulfilling its carnal needs.  That attribute of only looking to dunya, is what causes people to fight, to hate, to shed blood, to be jealous, to persecute, to create chaos and mayhem on earth.  If we were to look to the heavens and seek ascension in faith, we would be like the angels.  We never hear of angels fighting or quarreling, killing and warring.  So the prophets came to teach us how to cleanse ourselves of this dirty material life, to discard our animal characteristics, and to rise to angelic stations.

If we stay at the level of the animals and you make no effort to rise, we will never reach the Divine Presence.  What stops us from ascending?  We cannot rise, because we are trying to carry our donkey, our ego, on this journey to meet the Master.  When the angels of the Divine Court see us approaching with our donkeys on our shoulders, they chase us away, for we are supposed to ride on our donkeys, not carry them, to the Divine Presence.  If we are slaves to our dirty egos, slaves to dunya, slaves to Shaythan; we cannot rise.  We will remain in this filthy state, unable to taste the pleasures of either dunya or akhirah.  So we must repent and start moving upwards.  The first step is to leave the level of the animals.  We may be happy to remain at a low level of faith but the Lord of the Heavens is not Pleased.  We are meant to Return.