Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Be humble..but not ungrateful!

Sounds impossible really - to be humble we must view our a'maal as unacceptably inferior, but then at the same time be careful that this attitude does not spill over into ingratitude - ingratitude for the favour that Allah conferred on us by guiding us to perform such a'maal in the first place.

The solution to this quandary is to be found in one of Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanavi's malfoozhat - a collection of his day-to-day sayings - in which, after reprimanding a certain guest who had delusions of grandeur, he goes on to say

'And now there is this malady which many people are falling into - perceiving themselves as very pious and saintly but I say who would think such a thing when they have no way of knowing what state they will find themselves in when they die? On what virtuousness do they take pride in? Allah protect us from such thinking.

What is there to be arrogant about when in all likelihood we cannot pick out one ra'kaat from our entire life that can be said to match up to the standards expected by Allah and then these paltry offerings themselves are also by dint of His favour and His blessing otherwise we could not even execute this'
(malfooz 211, pg 169, Malfoozhat Hakeem-ul-Ummat, [Al-ifhadhat al yawmia...], Published Idara Taaleefat-e-Ashrafia)

In this short excerpt, Maulana Thanawi demonstrates this very quality - though acknowledgeing the imperfectness of our a'maal (as a prerequisite to modesty) he does not fail to mention that we are fortunate to have them anyway, fortunate to have Allah guide us to them and should value them as undeserved gifts from Allah.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

The Islamic Ideals of Justice and Equality

The Qadi Shurayh once said : When Ali was setting out for Siifin, he found that he was missing a coat of armour of his. When the war was over and he returned to kufah, he saw the coat in the hands of a Jew. he said to the Jew 'the armour is mine; I have not sold it or given it away' and the Jew replied 'It is my armour and it is in my hand, let us go to the Qadi'.

In the court, the Ameer-ul-Mumineen sat where the common litigants would sit and gave his case 'This armour which this Jew has, is my armour and I did not sell it nor give it away'. Qadi Shurayh asked the Jew what he said and the Jew insisted 'This is my armour and it is in my posession'. Shurayh said 'Do you have any evidence Ameer-ul-Mumi'neen?' and Ali replied 'Yes, Qanbar and my son al-Hasan will witness that the armour is mine' but the Qadi ruled that a sons testament for his father is not acceptable - even if the son was a man promised Paradise and Hasan was indeed the leader of the youth of Paradise. The Jew, having prevailed, saw the unparalelled equality in Islam and declared 'The Amir-ul-Mumineen brought me before his Qadi and the Qadi judged against him. I witness that this is the truth, and I bear witness that there is no God but Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is His messenger (peace and blessings be upon him).

(Taken from 'The History of the Khalifah's Who took the right way' Jalal ad-din Al-Suyuti p 193-194, Ta-ha Publishers)

Saturday, 28 July 2007

The caterpillar and the Grapes

In a speech, Maulana Hakeem Akhtar, who is a Shaykh belonging to Maulana Thanvi's chain, describes a story in the mathnawi of Maulana Rumi.

He tells us about a caterpillar who is told by the other caterpillars about the delicious fruit of the grape vine. He sets off to find these grapes and climbs onto the vine and on the way he sees lush green leaves. Seeing their dazzle, he starts thinking that these are the fabled grapes and settles on one to eat. Beguiled, he decides these are the grapes and sits there all his life, munching away on the leaf believing it to be his aim. The observers, however, know what a fool he had been in getting attracted by the green colour of the inferior leaf and forgetting about the real prize - the delicious grapes.

One look at our own lives reveals us to be like that caterpillar, getting caught up in the glitter of this world, and totally forgetting to journey on towards the fruit of Allah's pleasure.

The importance of keeping busy

It is quite true that many sins are a result of too much eating and merry-making. All these things seem to crop up when one's belly is full and mind is free - get an eyeful of a non-Mahram, throw a few comments here and there, fall in love with yet another. Hungry ones will never think of taking up such exploits, but what else will a person - who's got a years worth of wheat in his larder be up to, other than ogle at women. He'll be completely free from worries of that sort and with nothing else to do, his days will be devoted to such pursuits.

Though as soon as such louts get entangled in a lawsuit or suchlike, all that tomfoolery vanishes into thin air and day and night we see the poor things worried sick over the developments, whilst eating, drinking and sleep is all but forgotten. This is why the elders have written that one should always keep himself occupied by something, if not something deeni then at least a permissible activity of the dunya. Keeping busy helps prevent the nafs from thinking up some mischief whilst too much free time lets us roam our eyes in all directions. Thus, it provides good protection against many sins.

From here, the less well-off among us should feel grateful that Allah has not given them an easy life. They like to cast wistful glances at the rich people around them, who have nothing to worry about and spend at leisure, thinking how wonderful it would be to have no concerns, but what they don't know is that because of such carefreeness they are falling prey to many sins, whilst you are so occupied with your struggles that you don't have time to indulge in such things and earn Allah's wrath.

(Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi, Taqleel Ta'am ba Suratus Siyaam, pg 32-33, Published Maktaba Thanvi, Al Ibqa, Karachi)

Sunday, 15 July 2007

A man related that once I saw two men negotiating a sale of a goat and the buyer was urging the merchant to be lenient in the price. Then I saw a man coming who was very handsome, with beautiful features and a thin nose and delicate eyebrows, wearing old cloaks. When he neared he greeted us and we answered and then the man who was buying the goat called him and said 'O Rasool of Allah! Tell the man here to make a lenient trade with me' He, raising his hand replying, 'You people are free over your property and wealth, I am mindful that I go on the Day of Judgement in this state that I have none of you who has any claims upon me and I am not guilty of oppressing or compelling anyone- whether it be regarding blood, honour or wealth. Whatever I do, it should be the for the sake of Allah. And Allah shows mercy to he who is clement in his dealings of buying and selling, gentle in paying his debts and gentle in collecting his debts.

(haithami v 9 pg 18, as quoted in Hayatus Sahabah of Maulana Yusuf Kandhlawi)

This beautiful story just spells out for us the extent of the struggle that the Messenger of Allah went through to convey the deen to us without getting an ounce of worldly benefit for himself.

Friday, 6 July 2007

Hmm, does this sound familiar?

In another one of his stories, Maulana Thanvi tells us about the state of our salah in this time.

People were praying Asr with jamaat at one masjid when the Imam forgot the number of raka'ats he'd led. After finishing the namaz, he turned around and asked the muqtadi's if they could tell him but no-one had any idea. The Imam was obviously angered at the chronic inattentiveness of his congregation and was chiding them when one man stood up to say that he remembered, and it was three rakaats that had been read. 'Ah! One true servant of Allah we have here' said the Imam, pleased 'how did you know?'

'err...' the man began 'You see, I have four shops and for Asr, I go over the days dealing of each one in each rakaat. This time, I'd only done three when you sat down and finished the namaz. I still have one more shop's accounting to do!'

After this Maulana Thanvi offers a solution for the problem that blights the salah of nearly all of us - lack of khushoo'.

He says that when a hafiz is forgetful in his recitation, you will find that he reads with full concentration whenever he is called to relay from memory. Nothing is on his mind apart from the actual words he is reciting because he is so careful to avoid a mistake. We can apply this to ourselves in salah and read the words as if we have just newly learnt them, and may make a mistake. When our mind is occupied with this, all other thoughts will not enter, and slowly khushoo will be attained.

Another method is to memorise the meanings of each word we read, and keep them in mind as we say each sentence, keeping a medium pace (as opposed to the sprinting that our tongues are accustomed to). We will realise that we are actually addressing Allah in the words that we use and this thought should be enough to rectify our waywardness.

Maulana Thanvi mentions a friend of his who went to Turkey to visit the then Sultan of the Ottoman dynasty. When he entered the compound he saw that the window of the Sultan's room opened out to where he was walking, and it struck him that the Sultan could be watching. This thought compelled him so much that he was unable to lift his gaze again, nor start looking around and taking in the beautiful scenery. All he thought of was to look respectable in front of the Sultan, in case he was watching.

Maulana comments that at the mere possibilty of a King watching us, we are so awestruck and yet we know for sure that Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, is watching us in Salah, but we still indulge our minds in frivolous thoughts and fiddle and scratch and do whatnot during it.
One last thing, nobody is pretending it's easy, but we should not stop trying. If a thought comes to our head, we expel it and if it comes again we expel it and again the same. Even if we do not achieve a thought-free salah, as long as you don't succumb to them, Allah will reward you insha Allah .

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

The true meaning of Fana

Someone once enquired after the health and well-being of a wali (Friend of Allah) in the manner that is customary saying 'How are you'. The wali replied ' Do you ask after the well-being of a man who never experiences anything against his pleasure?' Amazed, the man asked whether this was really so, and the wali said 'Of course, I have made my desire in accordance with whatever Allah desires, and does anything happen that is against His Desire?'

The concept of 'fana' in tasawwuf is nothing more then this and every Muslim will do well to achieve it.

Happiness is so elusive in our times, but if we apply this simple formula as much as we can to the events in our lives, we too like this elder will be surprised when someone enquires how we are!