Monday, 30 June 2014

Numbering the Days of 'Iyd

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

How many days of days of ‘iyd, celebration, are there in Islam in total?

As recorded in Swahih ibn Hibban, a man came to Abu Hurayrah (r.a.) and asked, “Do you discourage people from fasting on the day of Jumu’ah?”

Abu Hurayrah (r.a.) replied, “I would not have discouraged people from fasting on the day of Jumu’ah but I have heard Rasulullah (s.a.w.) say, ‘Do not fast on the day of Jumu’ah because it is a day of ‘Iyd unless connected with the days.’”

The meaning being that one should not fast on Friday by itself unless one fast on a Thursday or a Saturday with it.  This precludes Fridays that fall on significant dates, and the fast is for that event.  From the above hadits, we are told that Friday is a day of ‘Iyd and there are about 52 Fridays in a year.

As recorded in Sunan at-Tirmidzi, ‘Uqbah ibn ‘Amir (r.a.) narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “The day of ‘Arafat and day of sacrifice and days of tashriq are days of ‘iyd for us and these are days of eating and drinking.”  This refers to a period from the 9th to the 13th of Dzu al-Hijjah.

For a believer then, every day may be a day of ‘iyd and can be honoured appropriately.  From these two ahadits alone, there are at least 58 days of ‘iyd including al-‘Iydayn.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

The Recipients of Zakat

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Zakat al-mal must be paid to the eight categories of Muslims deserving of zakat as mentioned explicitly in the Qur’an:

Alms are for the poor and the needy, and those employed to administer the (funds); for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to Truth); for those in bondage and in debt; in the cause of Allah; and for the wayfarer: (thus is it) ordained by Allah and Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom. (Surah at-Tawbah:60)

The fuqara’, the poor, are those who earn less than half their basic needs.  The masakin, the destitute, are those who have less than even that.  The former do not have enough and the latter have absolutely nothing.

The amilun ‘alayha, the workers of zakat, are those assigned by the authorities to collect and distribute the zakat.  They get a share because of the work involved in collecting and distributing the zakat discreetly.  This money may not be spent on their behalf on equipment and utilities as some Muslim organisations have done so.

al-Mu’allafat al-qulubuhum refer to the new converts to Islam and those in the process of conversion even if they have yet to say the shahadah, those whose hearts are to be reconciled.  So in this case, the recipients need not even be Muslim.  ar-Riqabah are the slaves who are short in satisfying their contract for purchasing their freedom from their owners.  In the current context, it also refers to economic slavery.  The priority is Muslims.

al-Gharimun are those who are unable to pay their debts.  Those who are in debt due to straightened circumstances such as a failing in business, a student loan or a housing loan; have precedence to those who are indebted due to gambling, for example.  As to the latter, their addiction has to be addressed first, before the zakat is used to settle the debt, and that only, as a last resort.  Many scholars and authorities would forbid the zakat used in such a manner since the circumstances leading to it is haram.

Fi Sabilillah, refers to those in the way of Allah (s.w.t.).  This is a broad category.  In the days of the Islamic state, it was used for the volunteer constabulary to maintain peace and safety.  It is used to fund the scholarship of students when they travel to learn.

Abnah as-sabil, are the travelers who do not have enough to enable them to reach their destination, the stranded.  The zakat is used to enable them to reach their destination.

It is not permissible or valid to pay zakat to other than those eight aswnaf specifically mentioned above.  Hence, it is not valid to use zakat funds for to any charitable project, hospitals, mosque building or such like.  Orphans are also not included in the zakat unless they fall under any of the aswnaf.

On the issue of how we differentiate between those who are deserving of receiving zakat and those who are not, it is written in Futuh al-Ghayb and elsewhere that a rich merchant approached Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (q.s.), the mufti of Baghdad then, and asked how he could find deserving recipients of zakat.  The great shaykh said, “Give to them whether they are deserving or undeserving, for Allah (s.w.t.) Gives to you whether you are worthy or unworthy.”

Saturday, 28 June 2014

An Overflow of Ecstasy

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is adapted from Signs on the Horizons by Shaykh Michael Sugich.

“A few days later, we were told that a very great saint was coming to visit.  We gathered together in anticipation.  The gentleman in the passageway arrived.  His appearance was less than impressive.  He had none of the romantic Arabian Nights mystique about him that some of the other Sufi saints we met possessed.  He looked exactly like the shopkeeper that he was.  The only thing I noticed that set him apart was that he seemed to be in a constant state of remembrance, repeating invocations and supplications under his breath from the moment he entered to the moment he left.

He sat before us, eyes lowered.  He sat for what seemed like a long time, lips moving in silent supplication.  The atmosphere became charged, transcendent.  He exhaled the Name of God slowly.  Then, without introduction, he began to speak.  His talk was aphoristic and seemingly random, almost like a stream of consciousness.  He would say something, wait in silence and then he would say something else entirely unrelated.  Yet, I noticed that each time he spoke his words seemed to have a profound impact on a single member of the audience.  Whenever he said something someone would quietly exclaim, ‘Allah!’ or ‘Masha’Allah!’, as if he was speaking directly to that person, as if his words struck the heart.  One by one, his speech hit each member of the audience.  He was speaking heart to heart to heart.  I cannot remember what he said that struck me personally but I remember his words hit me hard.

What I do remember vividly – and this memory will never leave me as long as I live – was the awesome transformation we witnessed.  It was like watching an accident of nature; the eruption of a volcano, the formation of a tsunami, the approach of a cyclone.  Gradually, as he spoke of God, he began to tremble.  His eyes filled with tears.  He looked toward his listeners but he saw something else.  His eyes widened.  He began to weep uncontrollably.  He began shaking.  Overwhelmed, his deep sighs became intense heaving.  He swayed in awe.  He looked into the distance, crying out the Name of God.  The atmosphere brimmed with an overflow of ecstasy.  We watched in stunned silence as this unassuming, quiet shopkeeper, became a raging, crazed, drunken lover: Majnun crying out for Layla.  He left the gathering in a state of utter devastation, sobbing, supplicating, calling out the Names of God, and leaning on one of our companions for support.  He had swamped us with passion.  He had shown us a glimpse of the overwhelming power of Divine Love.”

Shaykh Abu Madyan Shu’ayb (r.a.) said:

“O Distracter of Lovers, arise and openly proclaim!
Fill us to the brim and refresh us with the Name of the Beloved.”

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Why Do We Stop Eating 10 Minutes before We Begin the Fast?

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is with regards imsak, the act of abstaining from eating approximately ten minutes before the commencement of the fast.

Most books of fiqh state that the wajib time to begin fasting is at true dawn, the time when the second adzan in pronounced.  Many fasting calendars, particularly of the Hanafi and the Shafi’i, recommend that people stop eating ten minutes before the true dawn.  It is recommended to delay the pre-dawn meal, sahur, to the last part of the night, before fajr, but to stop before about ten minutes, the extent of reciting 50 verses of the Qur’an, because of the hadits narrated by Zayd ibn Tsabit (r.a.).

It is recorded in the Shaykhayn, from Zayd ibn Tsabit (r.a.), “We had sahur with the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), and then we got up to pray.”

Anas ibn Malik (r.a.) asked, “How much time was there between the two?”  He was referring to the interval between imsak and fajr asw-swadiq.

Zayd (r.a.) replied, “50 verses.”

There are other ahadits about this, but they do not indicate any obligation.  Rather, this is a recommendation, by agreement, with the reasoning being not to enter a time in which there is doubt whether fajr has come in or not.  This has been explained in Imam an-Nawawi’s (r.a.) Majmu’, Imam ibn Qudamah’s (r.a.) Mughni, Imam ibn al-Humam’s (r.a.) Fath al-Qadir, Imam ibn ‘Abidin’s (r.a.) Radd al-Muhtar; and Imam al-Buhuti’s (r.a.) Kashf al-Qina’, amongst others.

The Hidden Sweetness

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Mawlana Jalal ad-Din ar-Rumi (q.s.) wrote:

“There is hidden sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness.
We are lutes, no more, no less
If the sound box is stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and the belly are burning clean with fasting,
Every moment a new song comes out of the fire.
The fog clears, and new energy makes you run up the steps before you.
Be emptier and cry like reed instruments cry,
Emptier, write secrets with the reed pen.
When you are full of food and drink, an ugly metal
Statue sits where your spirit should.
When you fast, good habits gather like friends who want to help.
Fasting is Solomon’s ring.
Do not give in to some illusion and lose your power, but even if you have,
If you have lost all will and control, they come back when you fast,
Like soldiers appearing out of the ground, pennants flying above them.
A table Descends to your tents, the Lord’s table.
Expect to see it when you fast, this table spread with
Other food, better than the broth of cabbages.”

Against the Awliya'

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Certainly Allah (s.w.t.) Protects His friends.  Whosoever has hatred for them, has incurred the Wrath of Allah (s.w.t.).  And whosoever honours the friends of Allah (s.w.t.), Allah (s.w.t.) Honours them.  As recorded in Rawnaq al-Majalis, it is said that one day, while Shaykh Bayazid al-Bistami (q.s.) was lying down with his feet outstretched, a man came by and deliberately put his foot on that of Shaykh Bayazid (q.s.) and went away.  Another man who saw it, objected and informed the offender that it was the foot of Shaykh Bayazid al-Bistami (q.s.) that he had trampled.  The man said, ”So what?” and went on his way.  When that man was about to die, both his feet turned black.

As recorded in Dala’il al-‘Arifin, Khwaja Mu’in ad-Din Jisti (q.s.) narrated, “There was a man who hated the awliya’.  When he died and was placed in the grave, the people tried to turn his face towards the qiblah but it would turn away from that direction.  The people were astonished.  There was a voice from nowhere announcing that it was an exercise in futility to try to turn his face towards the qiblah because he used to turn his face away on seeing the awliya’ and that, ‘He who would turn his face in disgust from My friends, I will turn My Face on him.  He is a Condemned soul and on the Day of Judgment, such people will appear with faces of donkeys.’”

A preacher in an Amritsar mosque claimed that he was more learned than Imam Abu Hanifah (r.a.) because he remembered more ahadits.  This fact was brought to the attention of Mawlana ‘Abd al-Jabbar (r.a.), who was his teacher.  Mawlana ‘Abd al-Jabbar (r.a.) rusticated the offender from his school and predicted that he would become an apostate.  After a week, he became a follower of the deviant, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.  Someone later asked Mawlana ‘Abd al-Jabbar (r.a.), how he knew that that this man, called ‘Abd al-‘Ali would apostatise, he replied. “I was reminded of a hadits from Swahih al-Bukhari which Allah (s.w.t.) states, ‘I Declare war on the enemies of my friends.’”

In another incident, once a wali was walking.  As his foot landed in a puddle of mud, the mud splashed on a passing couple.  The husband was instructed by the wife, “Look what that stupid old man has done to my clothes!  Aren’t you going to do anything about it?”

The husband went to the wali and slapped him really hard in the face.  The man returned to his wife proud, his wife was smiling while the wali lay on the ground.  The wali got up and carried on.  However, the man who had just slapped the wali walked a few steps and he instantly fell down and died for no apparent reason.  There was a shopkeeper who had witnessed the whole incident.  He ran to the wali and he said, “That man that slapped you just died?”

The wali turned around and said, “The man slapped me for his friend, but my Friend Who Sees all and Knows all, Saw this and Slapped him back.”

There lived a man in Sanjar who used to ridicule the awliya’.  When he was about to die, he was able to talk but unable to recite the shahadah.  His attendants were worried and they went to Shaykh Sawa’id as-Sanjiri (q.s.).  The shaykh came, sat near the dying man and did the silent dzikr.  When the shaykh raised his head, the man recited the shahadah several times.  Then the wali explained that because of his insolence towards the awliya’. Allah (s.w.t.) had Rendered his tongue unable to recite the shahadah.  When this was revealed to Shaykh Sawa’id as-Sanjiri (q.s.), he implored to Allah (s.w.t.) and Allah (s.w.t.) would Grant his du’a provided the awliya’ he used to ridicule forgave him.  Shaykh Sawa’id as-Sanjiri (q.s.) then contacted Khwaja Ma’ruf al-Kharkhi (q.s.), Shaykh Sirr as-Saqathi (q.s.), Imam Junayd al-Baghdadi (q.s.), Shaykh Bayazid al-Bistami (q.s.), and others.

Shaykh Sawa’id as-Sanjiri (q.s.) presented the unfortunate man’s case and sought his forgiveness, and these awliya’ forgave him.  The man himself told that when he wanted to recite the shahadah, a black thing would grip his tongue and would say. “I am your blasphemy.”  When he was forgiven, a bright thing came and removed that black fiend and said, “I am the consent of the awliya’.”

Then he said, “I am seeing illuminated horses between the earth and sky.  Their riders too are illuminated and they are bowing their heads in utter humility and reciting, ‘Subbuhun Quddusun Rabbana wa Rabb al-Mala’ikatihi wa ar-Ruh.’”  The man read the shahadah until his last breath.

It is recorded in Khulaswat al-‘Arifin, that Shaykh Baba Farid Ganj (q.s.) narrated, “A sinful young man died in Multan.  Someone asked him in a dream about his state.  He replied that Allah had Pardoned him.  He explained that one day, when Shaykh Baha’ ad-Din Baha’ al-Haqq Zakariyya al-Multani as-Suharwardi was passing by, he kissed the shaykh’s hand with reverence and because of this, he had been Pardoned.”

It is recorded in Dzikr al-Khayr, that a sinful person went to the river Tigris to wash himself.  Incidentally, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (r.a.) was performing wudhu’ downstream.  On seeing this, the man got up and out of the reverence for the imam washed himself on a spot further down the river.  After his death, the great imam inquired as to his state.  He performed dzikr and supplicated to Allah (s.w.t.) at this man’s grave. He was told that he was Granted Salvation for showing a momentary reverence for Imam Ahmad (r.a.).

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Perfume of a Saint

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is adapted from Signs on the Horizons by Shaykh Michael Sugich.

Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah as-Sakandari (q.s.), author of al-Hikam, Taj al-‘Arus and other seminal Sufi treatises, is one of the greatest Sufi saints in history.  He is buried in the City of the Dead, the vast cemetery that stretches for miles along the Northern edge of Cairo embracing the tombs of some of the most illustrious saints and scholars of Islam, including Imam ash-Shafi’i (r.a.), Shaykh Dzu an-Nun al-Miswri (q.s.), Imam ibn al-Farid (r.a.), Shaykh Muhammad Wafa’ (r.a.), Shaykh ‘Ali Wafa’ (r.a.), and many, many others.  As with so many of the tombs in this awesome burial ground, Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah’s (q.s.) grave site had deteriorated almost to the point of being lost.  There was a broken down marker in the general area where the saint was supposed to be buried but no indication of an actual tomb.

During his tenure as Shaykh al-Azhar, Dr. Abdul Halim Mahmud (r.a.) dispatched a search party to the general area where the shaykh was interred to try to re-locate the exact grave site and erect a proper memorial for the great saint.  The area was a scene of total desolation, forgotten and neglected for many decades, if not centuries.  The group spread out and began sifting through the rubble and ruins without success until, suddenly they caught the scent of a unique, unworldly fragrance.  They followed the perfume until it was overpowering and began to clear the stones and debris and dug down until they found the body of Shaykh ibn ‘Atha’illah as-Sakandari (q.s.) perfectly preserved, as if he were asleep, wreathed in an intoxicating celestial perfume.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Serenade

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is adapted from Signs on the Horizons by Shaykh Michael Sugich.

“When I was young, the most arresting Sufi singers were from Algeria.  The Algerians brought with them a distinctive pulsating rhythm to the Andalusian tradition of song that never failed to electrify their listeners.  A delegation of Algerians would come to Morocco to celebrate the hawl of Shaykh ibn al-Habib (q.s.).  This was before the borders were closed between the two countries with the onset of the Polisario War between Morocco and Algeria.

The lead singer of the Algerian fuqara’ was a stout, cherubic gentleman with shining eyes behind thick spectacles.  Hajj ‘Umar hailed from the town of Boufarik, inland and south of Algiers.  I first met him in Morocco at the hawl of Shaykh ibn al-Habib (q.s.), and then later in England when he came to visit.

Years later, he came to Makkah and we spent time together.  As I recall, he was staying near Masjid Jinn, about two kilometers from the Holy Mosque.  I picked his companion and him up from their hotel to take them into Jeddah.  His friend had to mail a letter at the post office so we let him off and waited for him.  Hajj ‘Umar was sitting beside me.  We waited silently.  Suddenly, he turned toward me, leaned into my ear and began to sing.  He sang intoxicating verses in a lilting rhythmic flow.  His eyes glowed.  He could make the heart dance with his voice.  It was a moment of pure felicity.”

“All men are sure that I am in love,
But they know not whom I love.
There is in Man, no beauty,
That is not surpassed in beauty by a beautiful voice.”

A verse chanted to Shaykh Ibrahim Khawwas (q.s.), sending him into ecstasy 

Dead Hearts & Empty Supplications

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

It is reported that Shaykh Ibrahim ibn Adham (q.s.) once passed through the market of Basra.  People gathered around him and asked, “O Abu Ishaq, Allah the Exalted Says in his Book, ‘Call on me; I will Answer your prayers’, but we have been calling on Him for a long time and He does not Answer our prayers.”

Shaykh Ibrahim ibn Adham (q.s.) replied, “O people of Basra, your hearts have died in respect to ten things: First, you know Allah but you do not give Him His Rights; second, you have read Allah’s Book but you do not act by it; third, you claim to love Allah’s Messenger (s.a.w.) and yet you abandon his sunnah; fourth, you claim to be enemies to Shaythan but you conform to his ways; fifth, you say you desire Paradise yet you do not work for it; sixth, you say you fear the Fire yet you put yourselves closer to it; seventh, you say death is true but you do not prepare for it; eighth, you busy yourselves with the faults of others and disregard your own; ninth, you consume the favours of your Lord but are not grateful for them; and tenth, you bury your dead but take no lesson from them.”

Work for This World & the Hereafter

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is extracted from The Counsel of Shaykh Ahmad az-Zarruq (q.s.).

We must work for this world as if we will live forever, but work for our next life as if tomorrow we will die.  In other words, we must not neglect the externals of our worldly needs, all the while keeping in mind our end and final resting place.  And we must be extremely vigilant about avoiding positions of leadership, but should we be tried with such matters, we must know our own limitations.  We must be absolutely sincere to Allah (s.w.t.) with the sincerity of one who knows full well the One Who is Placing Demands upon him, and surrender completely to His Decree with the submission of one who knows he can never overcome Him.  Once we have a firm foundation in all of our affairs, and we will be safe from their pitfalls.  Organise our devotional practices, and we will find our time is extended due to the grace that pervades it.

We should never be fanatical about anything, whether it is the truth or not, and our heart will remain in a state of soundness toward others.  We must never claim anything to which we are entitled, not to mention that to which we are not entitled, and we will be safe from connivance and treachery.  Indeed, anyone claiming a rank above his own will fall, scandalised and humiliated.  Moreover, those who claim a rank they warrant will have it stripped from them.

Conversely, those who claim a lesser rank than their own will be elevated to an even higher one than they deserve.  We must never reveal to our companions anything of our state other than what his own state warrants.  The reason is that if we go down to his level, he will have contempt for us; whereas if we attempt to raise him up to our level, he will forsake us.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Pruning the Human Personality

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is a transcript of discourse delivered by Mawlana Waffie Mohammed.

One of the greatness of the mission of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) is that he was able to help and teach us how to trim off all the unwanted habits and desires of the human personality.  This process is referred to as tazkiyyah an-nafs or purification of the baser self.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) was Commanded to rehearse the Signs of Allah (s.w.t.), to teach the people everything about the working of the Allah (s.w.t.); to sanctify them and to teach them the wisdom of the Book.  His mission therefore is to develop the entire all round personality of a believer and to make him a true representative of Allah (s.w.t.) on earth.

Now, the nafs has some peculiar habits and qualities.  Because the nafs is the energy produced from working of the human’s physical self, it is inclined to all things material.  At its baser self; the nafs does not care about morals and ethics.  Instead it just wants pleasure, comfort and all the materially attractive things.  But the nafs is one of the ideal dimensions of the personality that Allah (s.w.t.) has Given to man to represent Him on earth; because it is through the nafs we can display the Divine Attributes of Allah (s.w.t.) in our finite way; such as generosity, kindness, compassion and love.  The ruh, which is the other dimension of the human personality, cannot be contaminated.  The ruh is connected to the nafs, thus the nafs can impact the ruh and the ruh can also affect the nafs.  Both entities are energies.  One is energy that came from the Command of God and the other is energy that comes from the working of the physical body.

Now, if the energy that is generated from the physical body is pure energy, it will coordinate positively with the ruh and through this, we can achieve real peace inside.  If however, the nafs emits negative energy; it will be a direct contradiction with the ruh and we will not have peace.  And we see this ever so often; some people have all the wealth and status in the world and still they suffer from a lack of peace.

All of us would like peace and the only way of achieving it is to prune or trim out the unwanted desires and habits from our personalities.  This, however, is an individual matter and no one can do it for us.  This is the real jihad.  Why do we call it a jihadJihad connotes fighting against some evil; thus we are fighting the negative energy that is being generated inside of us.  Possibly, this is why Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) is reported to have said, “I have returned from the small jihad to the greater jihad.”

The swahabah enquired, “What is the greater jihad?”

The Prophet (s.a.w.) replied, “Jihad an-nafs.”

To take it a step further; when Allah (s.w.t.) cursed Satan for his disobedience, Satan vowed that he would openly attack the progeny of Adam (a.s.).  So before we came into this world we had an open enemy.  And the base ingredient of losing the battle against Satan is to follow his handiwork and Allah (s.w.t.) Specifies the handiwork of the devil as being intoxicants and games of chance.  And today, society is in a downward spiral because of the prevalence of drugs, alcohol, and greed.  So we see the tangible manifestation of the workings of Satan.

For those who do not succumb to the devil’s handiwork, he uses a different strategy.  He works on our intentions and desires.  Look at how he got Adam (a.s.) and Eve to disobey Allah (s.w.t.) in the Garden of Eden.  Can we imagine how long he would have worked and played on the mind of Eve to get her and, thereafter, Adam (a.s.) to abandon their obedience and obey their baser desire?  The same goes for us.  Every day is a new battle.

We need to humble ourselves and understand that Satan is our open enemy.  Let us sincerely try our best to purify our intentions and desires so that our nafs will only be producing positive energy.  The choice is ours.  Material possessions and acquisitions are nice as it can enable us to have a comfortable stay in this world however one day we will all inevitably leave everything behind.  We must create that right balance that allows us time to work for this world and also the hereafter.  What we are leaving behind must always be secondary; what we are sending in front of us is really important.   Am I sending beautiful, positive things that my Lord will be pleased with or am I sending things that will drag me in the abyss?

Whenever we recap topics like this, it is always nice to reflect on the aswhab asw-swuffah or the founding Sufis as they referred to.  They lived in the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) mosque and were only engaged in worldly matters out of necessity.  And later when the Prophet (s.a.w.) left this world, they were the ones that really spread Islam all over the continents.  And if we looked at some of them, they had all the power and status one could want before they went to live with the Prophet (s.a.w.) in his mosque.  Why did they pay so little heed to this world and gave up everything they would have worked for?  It goes to show that not everything can be deduced through scientific reason and logic and material assets.

We beg Allah (s.w.t.) to Forgive us all, to Bless us and to Guide us so that there will only be positivity emanating from our personality, insha’Allah.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Shaykh David Rosser Owen: No Less a Christian

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

This is the short biography and conversion narrative of our Naqshbandi khalifah, Shaykh David Rosser Owen, also known as Shaykh Daoud.

“I was born in Swansea in South Wales.  My paternal great-grandfather had been a Church of England curate in Northamptonshire but he changed to the Congregationalist Church and became a well-known Minister in the port, marrying the daughter of the harbour master.  My maternal grandfather was an Elder of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church of Wales, a local church in the west of the city – this was somewhat strange as most of the congregation were Scots from the Islands and West of Scotland who had drifted down the coast and settled for one reason or another and were presumably attracted to the church because of its name.  I grew up in that church, and in my grandfather’s Presbyterian household.

I was always a fairly devout and practicing Christian, but there were a number of issues that I had problems with.  Some of these were fairly major, and some apparently trivial but they seemed important to me at the time.  I no longer remember them all, but those I do remember were a problem with Trinity, and the abandonment of the Law as it related to diet and slaughter.

I think that there is an underlying Unitarian tendency in Presbyterianism, at least as it developed in the Celtic West of the British Isles – the first major figure in the Unitarian Church was a Presbyterian minister, Thomas Emlyn (1663–1741), who found his belief in Unity while teaching in Dublin.

Anyway, Trinity did not make sense to me, especially in the light of:

Matthew 19:17
17He said to him, “Why dost thou come to me to ask of goodness?  God is Good, and He Only...”

So I rationalised it to my temporary satisfaction by viewing the Trinity as a pyramid with God the Father at the apex, and the Son and Holy Spirit a step down below Him.

The dietary laws were more of a conundrum.  As Christ (a.s.) said:

Matthew 5:17
17“Do not think that I have come to set aside the law and the prophets; I have not come to set them aside, but to bring them to perfection.”

Paul of Tarsus’ overriding of this, apparently making everything halal to eat, did not seem right.  If Christians were to follow Christ’s (a.s.) way they should not be eating pork and should be slaughtering animals for the table by shechita.  This one was not as big a problem as the Trinity, as we rarely ate pork at home anyway.

When I was 13, we moved to Shrewsbury, and I became a member of a local Presbyterian church there.  When I finished school, I joined the Army.  After commissioning I was posted to Far East Land Forces based in Singapore.  Before flying out, I was sent a very interesting booklet, which I kept for several years, issued by HQ FARELF called, “Serving with Muslim soldiers” – I think it had originally been produced by the British Indian Army – which really was my first introduction to Islam and Muslims.  It listed the Pillars of Faith and the Pillars of Belief, it talked a bit about praying towards the Ka’bah, diet, and things to do and not to do so as not to upset Muslim sensibilities.

Some weeks after arriving I was sent on the Army Colloquial Malay language course at the Language Wing of the Far East Training Centre at Nee Soon.  This was an intensive course, meant to last six weeks but ours was cut short at four as we got involved in Internal Security duties.  We were given a basic 500 word vocabulary which we had to expand by our own means.  I, in common with a couple of the others, took to chatting to British Army Malay soldiers on duty at the General Headquarters in Tanglin.

Then I got sent to Borneo and Brunei, based at Labuan.  And so I spent a lot of time talking Malay to soldiers of the British and Malaysian armies.  What became apparent very quickly was that social chat with Muslim soldiers centred around two principal topics: religion and soldiering.  I rapidly learned the Malay words for parts of the rifle, senjata, for instance, and patrolling, meronda; and for religious activities: sembahyang – praying; basuhwudhu’; mandighusl; and so forth.  Soon we got involved in comparative religion – what did I believe in and why, compared with what they believed in and why.

Soon they involved the guru agama from the nearby Malaysian Army unit, and the theology moved to a higher level.  Eventually, military duties getting rather in the way, I came to two conclusions: my questions as a Presbyterian, that I had often put to various Christian clerics and not received a satisfactory answer to, had in fact been answered; and that I was probably more of a Muslim than I was a Christian.  So I made shahadah with the Qadi of Labuan.

I fact, much later, I came across the statement about John Louis Burckhardt, (died in Cairo in 1815, I think) that in becoming a Muslim he considered himself to be no less a Christian – which rather summed up how I felt, and still do.

Some time later, back in Singapore, came the awareness in the Officers’ Mess that as the UK government was proposing to cut back on the size of the Army our promotion prospects above the rank of major were very low.  Some of us, like me, felt that we were young enough to start again at a different career not fancying spending the next 20 years or so “as a passed-over major”.  So when my run-out date came, I elected to leave.  My plan was to go to university, get a degree and go into academia or teaching.  In the event it did not quite work out like that , but close enough.  I went back to the UK, saw my family, and then returned to Malaysia to study Islam enough to tide me over before embarking on The Plan.”

The following is extracted from Shaykh Daoud's Blog: “He is a follower of the Naqshbandi Sufi Order and of the Shafi’i Sunni school.  He is fluent in Malay (both Jawi and Rumi), and a couple of other languages.”

He studied diniyyah, fiqh, tajwid, and taswawwuf with Shaykh Ahmad Labib al-Azhari and Ustadz Muhammad Dahlan Arshad al-Azhari in Malaysia and London.  He first became involved with the Naqshbandi Sufi Order in Malaysia, with Shaykh Daud Abdullah of Ulu Selangor, and in Turkey with Shaykh Mehmed Kotku; and later through Sultan al-Awliya Shaykh ‘Abdillah ad-Daghistani (q.s.).

He has various ijazat in fiqh and diniyyah through Shaykh Ahmad Labib, and in taswawwuf through Shaykh ‘Abdillah ad-Daghistani (q.s.) himself.  He was the khalifah for the British followers of Shaykh Muhammad Nazhim Adil al-Haqqani (q.s.), the successor of Shaykh ‘Abdillah ad-Daghistani (q.s.).

He is an alumnus of SOAS where he read Arabic and Malay, the University of Kent where the subject of his doctoral research was “The American Colonial Government of the Southern Philippines, 1898-1946″, and the Cordwainers’ Diploma Course in Saddle, Bridle and Harness-making.

As he said, “I ended up in journalism, being Features Editor of Arabia: The Islamic World Review; Editor of the Islamic World Defence Magazine; UK Editor of Armada, a Swiss magazine; and latterly Managing Editor of Q-News International.  I then freelanced, which I still do, as well as being a saddler.  I am also the Amir of the Association of British Muslims, which I am in the process of modifying into a charity and handing on to the next generation.”