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!

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Debating with someone? Hope he isn't like this...

Through an amusing story, Maulana Thanvi tells us that you will find some people to be of such low intelligence that it is completely futile to argue, persuade or dissuade them from anything through reason. Most of the time, it is just good to bid them on their way rather then to waste your effort on them.

Once, a man was getting his son married and he borrowed a shawl from his friend for the groom to wear on the day.

The wedding day arrived, and as is the norm, the guests were asking the whereabouts of the groom. The man who had given the shawl was also present, and duly told them 'the groom is over there...and yes the shawl is mine'. The father of the groom felt quite put out by this, and said to him 'You are a right buffoon, why did you have to say the shawl is mine?' and he answered 'yes you are right, it was a mistake, I shall not do it again'.

Later, some other guests asked after the groom, and the man responded 'Yes, the groom is over there, and the shawl is NOT mine' Again, the grooms father, fearful for his dignity, chastised him saying 'Look, what is the need to mention the shawl?' and the man agreed 'hmm yes, there really wasn't any need, alright I won't mention it now'

As usual, some others asked where the groom was, and the man again came forward 'Gentlemen, the groom is over there, and there is no mention of the shawl!'

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Humility and Serving the people

Maulana Muzaffar Hussain (ra) of Kandhla (India) once was journeying to a place and on the way he met an old man who was struggling with his luggage and had put it on his back. Immediately he took the burden from the old man and carried it with him to his destination. The man asked him where he was from, and he answered 'I am from Kandhla'. Hearing this the old man said 'Oh so do you know that great saint Muzaffar Hussain, he is so devoted and righteous, such a great man...' and he went on like this for quite some time. Maulana simply answered 'hmm well I don't really think he is that wonderful actually, but yeah he reads his salah'. The old man was quite affronted by this, saying 'You can't say that about such a pious man, no, no he is truly great' but the Maulana merely replied 'No...I am telling you the reality', angering the man even more. A passer-by stopped to see why the he was so outraged, and immediately recognised Maulana Muzaffar. He told the old man 'Uncle, this is Maulana Muzaffar Hussain' at which he fell to the Maulana's feet weeping. Tears came to the Maulana's eyes as well, and he consoled him kindly.

(Hikayat Auliya, Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi)

The lives of our elders were modeled on those of the illustrious companions and the good character that was found in them was consciously imitated by our pious predecessors. A similar account can be found in Tabaqat ibn Sa'd about the Prophet's (peace be upon him) companion Salman Farsi (May Allah be pleased with him)

In the caliphate of Hazrat Umer, (may allah be pleased with him) Salman Faarsi was appointed governer of Madain, and remaining true to what he learnt from the Prophet (peace be upon him) lived a meagre existence.

Once he was strolling the streets of Madain, as the commoners did, when a trader from Syria walked over. Thinking he was a lowly labourer, the trader ordered Hazrat Salman to pick up his baggage and without any hesitation he hoisted it on his back and followed the trader to where he wanted.

When the inhabitants of Madain saw their governor like this, they immediately rebuked the Syrian trader saying 'this is the Amir of the city'. Surprised and ashamed, he began to apologise and sought to take the load from Hazrat Salman but he refused saying 'no, I have made the intention to perform a good deed so I will see it through to the end' and did not stop till he took the baggage to the traders desired place.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Islam's treatment of non-Muslims

In the Caliphate of Hazrat Umer, radhiyallahu anhu, there was a very God-fearing Companion named Amr bin Saeed who was appointed the governer of Hims and he accepted on the condition that he will not take any salary for his service. There were a number of Christian dhimmi's under his governance at the time and one day, in anger, he said to one of them 'May God disgrace you!'. Immediately he began to wonder whether he had a right to say that and, finding that he didn't, went to see the Ameer-ul-Mumineen Hazrat Umer and gave his resignation saying 'If I didn't have this governance, those words would not have been said that caused hurt to the Christian'

(Islam mey madh'habi rawadaari pg 326)

Friday, 22 June 2007

Wedding spendthrifts

We have all probably seen the extravagance and spending-sprees that take place for a wedding, especially if we are South Asian. This has grown to alarming proportions, where even the most cash-strapped families have to book the banquet halls and serve the 4 or 5 dishes (excluding the meetha of course) to hundreds of barely known guests and make sure they give the obligatory 45 suits, 10 dinner sets, 56 pieces of jewellery, 20 more suits and 40 other bits and pieces their daughter (well her in-laws) might need, just so they won't be 'disgraced' in the community. No wedding lasts for less then four days, during which all manner of strange 'customs' have to be performed, and which mostly involve forking out yet more cash for their entertainment and food needs.

Apart from being totally un-Islamic, where simplicity is emphasised in weddings, it is disastrous for the more straitened families - who end up paying for these four days the rest of their life. Maulana Thanvi used be extremely averse to these customs, and worked tirelessly to eradicate them. He says:

At places I've seen people give their daughters so many clothes that even if she wore them her whole life they would not finish. Then what she does is, if she is generous gives them away to others and if she is stingy stores them in a box and most never again see the light of day. One has to ask, what is the point of giving so many clothes? But of course, where would be the admiration if they didn't? How would they show off and get peoples comments of 'look how much so-and-so gave to her daughter - there were this this many' and so on.

Once a very wealthy man married off his daughter, and in the dowry gave a palanquin, a rug, a wash can (lota!) and one Quraan majeed. He gave nothing else - no clothes or shoes or dinner sets - and instead bought her land worth one lakh rupees. He said that initially I had earmarked 1 lakh rupees for my daughter's wedding because I was going to do it with much fanfare and pomp. But then I thought how would all that pomp and show benefit my daughter - the people will just eat, frolic and go off, and my lakh rupees will be spent and my daughter will not get anything out of it. So, I have chosen to invest it in land for my daughter that she and her family will be able to live on for generations, and still nobody can mock me for stinginess or penny-pinching because I didn't keep the money for myself either.

Look, this is what intelligent people do!

Monday, 18 June 2007

How to rectify yourself - part 2

Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (rahmatullahi alaihi) says:

The best opinion, however, is to perform both of these things simultaneously. That is, to work on letting go of sins and displeasing acts whilst increasing your worship, zikr and connection with Allah. The realised (muhaqiq) Shaykhs are all in favour of this method, though the main thrust is always on what the seeker himself feels more attuned to.

Our Shaykhs always used to find out the temperament of the seeker before guiding him. Once, Maulana Muneer Nanotwi came to Haji sahab (Haji Imdadullah) and asked to be taken in for guidance. Haji sahab asked him 'Tell me, if there is a field with much weeds and dereliction, would you first clean it all up and root out the weeds and thistles, thereafter planting seed or would you first plant seed and clean it after?' Maulana answered 'I would plant the seed first - at least something will be there to reap, the cleaning could be later. We don't know how long the weeding might take and the season might be over by that time' Haji sahab laughed at that answer and decided the Naqshbandi method was best for him.

As I was saying, seeing the lack of free time, inclination, the short lifespans of the people at present, it was decided that the best method was to take both ways side by side - to clean and weed the terrain and plant the seeds as you clear it up.

There is not a more obvious example of this than in the prescribed practices of shar'iah. Where one is encouraged to sleep little (sleeping too much being displeasing) he is also told to worship Allah in that time in Tahajjud and Taraweeh. Similarly, one is not told to simply silence his tongue from lying and gossiping and idle talk, but also to recite the Quran and remember Allah at the same time.

In this method, there is a great benefit to be gained. The reason being that a lot of seekers of the pleasure of Allah fall prey to a mistake in this regard. That is that they exert themselves in trying to shun all relations and things around them, thinking that once I am free from these distractions I will be able to turn solely in attention to Allah. This is in itself a good intention, but sometimes he does not go about it the right way.

When he is cutting out from his life these 'wordly' things, he does not simultaneously fill his heart up with Allah's love and devotion. The result is that there comes a time when his heart is completely empty, since he did not actively engage his heart in connecting with Allah - or he aimed to but did not perform much effort in this regard, especially since connecting with Allah is actually connecting with an unseen thing which is difficult to immerse yourself in fully without due striving.

So, he has emptied his heart from all other things, but has not matched it with attaching himself to Allah's love, and his empty heart becomes easy prey for Shaytan.

So, to protect yourself from this danger, extricate yourselves from your wrong habits but at the same time fill in the vacuum with love for Allah, by increasing your good deeds and remembrance.

(Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi, Taqleel-ul-kalaam, pg 200-201, Published Maktaba Thanvi, Karachi. )

Saturday, 16 June 2007

How to rectify yourself.

As you know, Tasawwuf is a science, the science of self-purification. It is a branch of Islam just as valid as the other branches such as Tafsir (science of explaining the Quran) and Fiqh (science of extracting rulings).

According to Maulana Thanvi, there were two theories as to how self-purification should come about. What method should we use that will make us pious and righteous Muslims? One was to concentrate on letting go of the sins that we are accustomed to commiting, and once that is achieved, we should then work on improving and increasing our good deeds and worship. The other way was to start loads of zikr, worship and good deeds immediately and the sins would then slink away themselves. Though both methods are good and beneficial, the first method was more preferred by the Chishti's whilst the latter by the Naqshbandi's (this makes it clear why there are different Tariqa's, they differ in methodology but the goal is the same).

In the first instance, the priority is given to shunning his sins since they argue that this is the most important for a Muslim and supercedes nafl worship (as the Prophet [peace be upon him] said: If you guard against the forbidden things, you will be the most devout of men' Ahmad, Tirmidhi). Maulana Thanvi says that it is like when doctors want to give medicine to remedy the disease and then concentrate on strengthening the patient but the downside is that the person may while his life away in this battle and not gather many good deeds and dhikr in the time - he may even lose hope and give up.

The second group says that the person should immerse himself in zikr and ibadah, and this should itself help to erode the bad habits he has (Allah says 'establish regular Prayer: for Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds [29:45]). The danger with this is that the person may become complacent, thinking that since he does so much worship, one sin here and there won't really matter. Maulana Thanvi compares it to feeding a person strengthening potions when he is ill - it'll probably just strengthen the persons illness, making it worse. (Maulana was a doctor specialising in herbal medicine).

The great Maulana then comes to his own conclusion, which I will detail insha Allah in the next post.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Etiquettes of Guests and Hosting Them

The son of our teacher (Ra), a doctor, was such that once Maulana Gangohi happened to visit him and at that time there was no food in the house. He frankly informed him of the situation saying that the house is empty of food, I don't feel like getting a loan and there are quite a lot of people around who will be more than happy to entertain you if you would like. Maulana Gangohi refused and said if you are hungry and then I will stay hungry as well, I am your guest and so the Maulana did not eat a thing until the evening.

Near Maghrib time, a man came to the house saying that so-and-so was cured from your medicine and he sent these eleven rupees. Immediately the doctor went to the Maulana saying 'Hazrat, it is in your blessed presence we have received some provision, now I'm definitely going to buy some delicious food for us to enjoy' The Maulana said that there was no need for that, something ordinary would suffice but he still insisted as they had both been very hungry all day. And so they all enjoyed a sumptuous meal by Isha time.

The host should be similarly frank with his guests, but the guest himself should not be overly so and start requesting this delicacy and that drink and this bed. The second thing is that if the host wants to be particularly formal with his guests then for how long will he be able to keep it up? How many loans is he going to take? Because many people have a habit of visiting those who are known for their good spread. So much so that the poor guy becomes exasperated by the constant entertaining and even then they don't stop, it's simply free food for them.

Once in Thana Bhawan there was a similar person who used to be inundated with guests and visitors and it got to the point where he had to borrow money to pay for all the niceties. He complained to me about this and I told him from now on don't make any effort, if you have enough chapaati's put that in front of them whether they eat to their fill or not, don't borrow money to serve anything - when they are going to stay hungry they'll stop coming. That's what he did and soon enough he was rid of them.

So these type of 'guests' don't care a jot about the feelings of their host, they are just interested in the food whatever the situation of the housekeeper. In fact some people travel simply for that reason - they'll get all kinds of nice food from places.

There was an Islamic student in Kanpur who used to say that those people who finish their books and graduate are quite foolish, because then we don't get the easy bread and butter from our hostel. Thats why we are still lying around and don't get past 4rth grade, if we completed our studies who'd give us our roti's?!

So that good-for-nothing was aiming for roti's even from studying!

(Maulan Ashraf Ali Thanvi, Hurmaat-ul-Hudood, pg 104-5, Published Maktaba Thanvi, Karachi)

Monday, 11 June 2007

On a coffee break?

An amusing anecdote which I thought I'll share with you, if only for it's general interest:

Once a person asked his Shaykh, are there differences between the styles of pious shuyukh? He said well find out. Go to that mosque and three of the pious are seated there - slap each one of them. So he went and gave the first one of his best, the dervish slapped him back with equal vigour, and sat down. The second ignored him completely and the third started massaging his hand saying oh I hope you did not hurt yourself in the process.

Another good story but not one that you should try at home!:

One saint used be overcome with 'haal' a lot. Haal is when the saalik erupts in emotion and in this condition may utter words of a dubious nature (who can forget Bistaami and his 'glory be to me' and al-Hallaj 'ana al Haqq'). So this saint also used to be overcome from his love from time to time and his mureeds became quite alarmed at the strange comments he would make in this state. They told their Shaykh that this is rather unsavoury and he should stop lest he be sinning. (Maulana Thanvi, at this point, said that this is how mureeds should be, ever-vigilant against anything that contravenes shari'ah, be it even from their Shaykh.) The Shaykh answered 'Very well, next time it happens and I say something like that, set upon me with your swords' and so they got ready. After a while, the same haal came upon him and the Shaykh uttered the same words, at which each mureed lunged upon him. They were shocked to see that, by the will of Allah, the swords had no effect on their Shaykh and they sat down rather dazed. The Shaykh explained to them in spite of giving the command for his death, the words still came out which shows that he could not control the love that envelopes him in that time and hence Allah saved him.

(Taken from various speeches of Hazrat Ashraf Ali Thanvi)

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Sufi Principles Revisited - No. 2 Eat Less

Rain, isn't it so pure and beautiful? Yet, in some of the places it falls, it yields flowers and fruits and in others - nothing but weeds and thorny grass. Likewise is the effect of blessings and favours showered by Allah upon his servants. If a person is decent and upright, even after drinking a simple glass of cold water, he will fall to the ground in gratitude and humility, and he will think that despite so many sins I am favoured so much -water, ice, refreshment - even though I am deserving of ruin for my deeds.

In reality, blessings should have precisely this effect, but if someone is a lowlife anyway then what can be done of that? When this cretin receives favours, he is not thankful and instead gets more arrogant and sure of his wrong ways. These are his antics when he actually receives food and provision, imagine what will happen when he goes hungry! He'll probably lose his faith.

You have probably noticed that it is the poor and downtrodden who usually turn apostate whereas this is very rare amongst the well-off and well-fed. For this reason, I think ordering the masses to restrict their food and drink is not a good remedy any more. The times are different and less charged with fervour, and so one should not deprive themselves of food. Instead, eat and contemplate Allah's favour, and in this way your love for him will increase far more then if you kept yourself hungry.

(taken from Taqleel-Ta'am baSurat as Siyaam, pg 79-80, Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi)

Friday, 25 May 2007

Sufi Principles Revisited - No. 1: Sleep Less

Mature Sufi's would be very familiar with the mantra (for want of a better word) 'Sleep less, Eat less, Talk less and Socialise less'. Some may even replace the word 'less' with 'never', but we all know that it isn't the department of everyone, nor is it required by Shariah. Maulana Thanvi has always stressed that the Sunnah is the best and quickest way to 'wisaal' (attainment of the Pleasure of Allah), whilst these other ways (the Sufi 'Ishgaal'), if one chooses them, should be employed as strengthening exercises that make it easier for one to control ones desires. They are not be viewed as virtuous in themselves, for they are lacking in sound support from the Sunnah of the Messenger (sallalahu alaihi wasallam).

The Maulana always likened these exercises to medical remedies administered by Doctors. Their purpose was to get someone healthy and able to carry out his tasks. They were not viewed as the objectives or virtuous in themselves, but they only serve as catalysts for the Muslim to perform good deeds and excel in them. Thus, the label of 'bidah' bestowed on these exercises by some over-enthusiastic groups are unfounded and betray a lack of understanding of the term on the part of these pseudo-Mufti's.

Now, for those who don't think much of these disputes, I'll come to the point. Maulana Thanvi, I always say, is the peoples Shaikh. Everyone from the local postman to the Aalim in your Mosque can act on his easy instructions and bring themselves closer to Allah, and today as well I'd like to share with you a particular piece I came across that is particularly relevant to todays great-results-with-zilch-effort world.

'Sleep less' is an acknowledged Sufi principle, and it comes from the Shari'ah. However, the point is not to stay up all night and do nothing (or worse, watch Sky Movies) but to worship Allah Subhanahu wa ta'ala. Tahajjud, the night prayer, is prescribed for this aim and the Quran describes Allah's righteous servants as
'They used to sleep but little of the night' 51:17
'Who forsake their beds to cry unto their Lord in fear and hope,' 32:16.

OK, so you've tried a zillion times to get up and read tahajjud but your bed is much too warm in that part of the night and you can't. Pathetic yes, but all is not lost.
The word يَدْعُونَ is unspecific. It means 'cry unto' or 'call upon' and it could also point to zikr and remembrance as well as salaah. So if, in some part of the night we wake up and say a few SubhanAllah's then it should insha Allah get us counted amongst those 'who cry unto their Lord in fear and hope'. We should hold high hopes from the Bounty of Allah.

So, if at 2 or 3 in the morning you are awakened then rememember to do some Zikr. Perhaps those few words may prove to be the source of your salvation.

Any excuse for the Mercy of Allah
No price is asked for the Mercy of Allah

(my awkward translation of a Faarsi couplet)

(this piece was taken from Hazrat Thanvi's speech entitled 'Taqleel manaam bi suratil Qiyaam', page 120-121, Maktaba Thanvi, Office of Al-Ibqa, Karachi)

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Wisdom of the Kids...

A blonde-haired, blue-eyed (rather podgy as well) non-Muslim girl, 7, talks to a black-haired, brown-eyed (and not too thin either, mind) Muslim girl, 7.

Non-Muslim girl: What are you doing?
Muslim girl: (hiding her rice-covered hands) nothing
NM girl: OMG, do you eat with your hands?
M girl:
NM girl: then why are they like that? Anyway...have you ever been ill?
M girl: errr...yes
NM Girl, well I've got a disease
M girl:
NM girl: yeah..a disease...the doctor said it's called ADHD

(for those who don't know, Attention Deficit Disorder, the most destruction it can cause is get a teacher to kick you out of class)

M girl: ooookaaay...
NM girl: that's what the doctor said, he did
M girl: uh-huh
NM girl I might die...
M girl (finally impressed) oh really!
NM: (triumphant) yeah!

Now the question is, as a Muslim, are you as unafraid of death as this one here?

Friday, 18 May 2007

Enjoy Allah's blessings

Hazrat Haji Imdadullah Makki once said to his disciple Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi
'Ashraf, When you drink water, make sure it's refreshingly cold, your mouth, even when its closed, will say Alhamdulillah. And if you drink warm water, your tongue will say Alhamdulillah but your heart will not support it'

Thursday, 17 May 2007

The Muhsineen...who are they?

After motivating you to attempt the Path to Allah and obey his commands, through his commentary on an ayah, Maulana Thanavi goes on to warn that not everyone receives Allah's support:

In this sentence ' وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَمَعَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ ' Allah tells us that he will not be with every
anyone who does 'mujahida', but only with those who practise 'Ihsaan'. This is because mere grinding and empty striving is not the aim, but a'maal (righteous actions) are.

A'maal is mujahida with Ihsaan. Some Sufi's wrongly believe that mere strenuous exercises are what takes one closer to Allah, and they concentrate all their efforts into those things. The Maulana here is refuting that notion.

Ihsaan is sincerety, righteousness and its reality is described in the

That you worship Allah as if you are seeing Him, for though you
don't see Him, He, verily, sees you. (Muslim).

So we all need to perform our good deeds with sincerety, and not show; with heartfeltness, not through coercion; with concentration, not with a million other things in our minds. Then Insha allah, Allah will take us through and help us reach our goal: His Pleasure.

One last word of advice:

That doesn't mean now you can sit contented thinking when Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala will lead us, (and with Allah's lead there is no way we will fail) we can just relax and do nothing. Remember that Allah will only take us to success when he sees the desire in us, the will in us and our efforts towards it. Only then will he favour us with his mai'yyah. As soon as cease wanting, He'll cease taking.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Comforting words, spurring to action

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

Usually nowadays, when we exhort someone to follow the deen and live righteously, to shun the prohibited things - music, backbiting, ogling (it's amazing how much people do that!) To read salah all five times; to obey the parents; to follow the sunnah; grow a beard; don the hijab, you either get blank looks or apologetic mumblings about how difficult it is, and how we can't keep at it and we want to look, listen and disobey.

To be honest, I can see their point. Practising Islam in the current times has become very difficult and at every turn there's a new temptation. We should resist. But we can't.

Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanavi comments on the following ayah and provides us with the answer

وَالَّذِينَ جَاهَدُوا فِينَا لَنَهْدِيَنَّهُمْ سُبُلَنَا وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَمَعَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
29:69 And those who strive in Our (cause),- We will certainly guide them to our Paths: For verily Allah is with those who do right

He says
All of Islam is a mujahida - a striving against ones desire.
That's what everyones complaining about right? Our goal is to attain Allah's (subhanahu wa ta'ala) Pleasure through obeying him and striving. Maulana understands this and says:

When we think of the loftiness of the goal, when the majesty of Allah is so high, we think so should the path be lengthy and difficult. By this thinking though, reaching the end seems impossible so who would attempt it? What will be the point? In the end of the above ayah, Allah dispels this doubt when he says 'verily Allah is with those who do right'.وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَمَعَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ . It signifies that one shouldn't be worried, the goal will be achieved when Allah Himself takes him through.

To elaborate I give you the example of a child who only crawls, and you order him to go all the way to the next town which of course is impossible. Now like us, this child says 'I'll go....but what will happen when I get tired?' to which his guardian says 'then I'll pick you up and take you with me'. Sure enough he makes the effort but manages only a few steps before his guardian is overcome with love and picks him up in his arms.

So similarly, there is the assurance in this ayah that you should strive your utmost and Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) will take you to the end. An otherwise impossible path will be completed easily with Allah's 'ma'iyyah' (help, support). It is seen that when a guardian takes the hand of a child and leads him he becomes at ease and here as well you should feel heartened by Allah's promise that he will be with those who are righteous.

Friends! That person will not fail whom Allah accompanies! Though the path is very long and fraught with danger, it will become lighter than flowers and very attainable. But here we must understand who those people are who recieve Allah's help.

Next post, insha Allah, I will write the next part of Maulana Thanavi's advice, in which he informs us what kind of people are rewarded with Allah's support. Up till then, it should be easier to wake up in Fajr insha Allah, now that you are buoyed with the knowledge that Allah's help is not far off if you make the effort. And now you know what to say to those unmotivated peers when they complain of it being too hard.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Did Maulana Qasim Nanotwi deny Khatam-e-Nabuwwat?

This same question was asked by the ulema of the Haramain in a letter to the ulema of Deoband in India, and the answer was given to them -and published- way back in 1907. Nowadays, some unworthy people have been digging up the false allegations made all these years ago, and despite the fact that they have been cleared, still ascribe them to Maulana Qasim Nanotwi.

Before I go on though, a small introduction is necessary. Maulana Qasim Nanotwi was the founder of Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband, a seminary in the city of the same name, Deoband, India. This institute flowered into one of the most prolific centres of Islamic learning and produced great towers of knowledge who spread to all parts of the Sub-continent and served the Deen to their utmost.

Today, many Ulema that hail from the sub-continent are affiliated with the seminary in some way or another through their teachers, and there are many luminaries of this school present in Western countries as well.

To read more about Maulana Qasim visit and click on Introduction of ulema-e-Deoband and then choose 'The six great ones (Founders)'

Now back to the topic, the booklet that was published in defense of the Ulema of Deoband is called Al-Muhannad alal Mufannad and I will translate the section on Maulana Qasim for your benefit. I have also added my own comments in square brackets to aid understanding.

16th Question : Do you accept that there may be another prophet after Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) even though he is the Seal of the prophets and his declaration that 'there will be no prophet after me' has reached an uncontestable degree ( wa qad tawatur ma'nan) and upon this the whole ummah is unanimous(ijma). What is your opinion about the person whom, after this, believes that there could be a Prophet after Muhammad (peace be upon him)? And has anyone among you or your teachers said anything of this kind?

Answer: Our belief and that of our teachers is that our Master and Maula, our beloved Intercessor (peace be upon him) is the Seal of the Prophets and there is no prophet after him as Allah has declared in his Book

'وَلَكِن رَّسُولَ اللَّهِ وَخَاتَمَ النَّبِيِّينَ

and this is what is evidenced from the many sayings of the Messenger (upon him be peace) that have reached the degree of uncontestibility, also by the unanimity of the ummah. Impossible it is that any one of us could deny this because any person who rejects this [finality] is an unbeliever and apostate in our opinion because he is denying the clear Proof.

Our Shaikh Maulana Qasim Nanotwi has, through his astuteness, actually outlined it in a profound way and given his Finality more perfectness and made it more decisive.

Whatever he said in his treatise 'Tahdheer un Naas', its summary is that Finality (khatamiyah) is a trait that is of two types. The first being Finality of era and that is that RasoolAllah (peace be upon him) is the Seal and the Final of the prophets because he came in the last period, after all the others. So, he is a Seal in the sense that he 'sealed' the line of prophets and came last.

The second type is Finality in itself, meaning that it is his Prophethood that the prophethood of others fall under and finish at.

Muhammad rasoolAllah (peace be upon him) is both the Seal with regards to his position in time, and the Seal in essence. He is the most Perfect and unequaled [among the prophets] and the centre of the circle of Prophethood.

He is not the Seal of Prophethood only in the sense of coming in the last era, because it is not something that constitutes much excellence in itself [for example Yaqoob and Yahya (peace be upon them) came after, in time, to Ibrahim (peace be upon him) but the latter holds a higher rank] but actually Muhammad rasoolAllah's (peace be upon him) greatness and mastership, and the pinnacle of perfection and honour will come from being the Seal in both the senses, timewise and finality in itself [where all other merits converge and finish at].

Merely saying Muhammad RasoolAllah (peace be upon him) is the last of the prophets timewise will not raise his ranks to the highest degree and mastery nor will it do justice to his complete nobility and augustness.

This erudite exposition is actually the product of Maulana's insight. We don't think anyone of the preceding ulema and deep-thinking scholars have been able to approach such a field and it has instead become a reason of, in the opinion of the Innovators of Hindustan, disbelief and misguidance.

These innovators have misled their followers and alleged that this is actually a rejection of the finality of the holy Prophet (peace be upon him). Oh how deplorable! I swear on my life that this is nothing but deceipt of the highest order and slander, borne out of hatred and grudge with the Friends of Allah and Allah's Way (sunnat-ul-Allah) has been like this with his Prophets and Friends.

Continuation of Maulana Thanvi's speech - from previous post

I always say the fuqaha (scholars) are the sages of this ummah. Those people really understood the shariah.

For conversation the Prophet (peace be upon him) has stipulated conditions:

No two people should whisper to each other in the presence of a third, until a fourth joins them

This is so the third person does not feel left out and uncomfortable, and when a fourth person comes, they have been given permission: if he feels like a chat he can talk to this person and if not, then at least he won't feel that he is the one that is being snubbed by the first two. Maybe it's this fourth person who they can't divulge their exchange to, and the fourth person will in turn have this thought about the third and there will be no bad feelings.

SubhanAllah! This is the miracle of Prophethood, that Muhammad rasool Allah (peace be upon him), despite having so many other engagements, did not ignore even the subtletest of social decorum. Is this possible from a non-Prophet? Never. It was upon seeing this comprehensiveness that the disbelievers of Makkah said to the Companions ' Your Friend teaches you everything even how to go the toilet!' They said this mockingly but the Companions answered 'Yes he has forbidden us from facing the Qibla when we go, and not to use our rights hands, to purify at least three times and not to use coal or bone for it'(Muslim and Ahmad). Hearing this the disbelievers were astonished and saw that such perfect and refined teachings can only be acquired from a Higher source.

I mean, is there anything like this elsewhere? A religion that has even organised the way it's followers go the toilet!

For cleanliness, the rule is:

When any of you wake up from sleep then he should not place his hands in a he does not know where his hands have been during the night (Bukhari and Muslim)

This is organisation and these are rules. He also says 'Clean the front of your houses'. SubhanAllah! When we are ordered to keep our front yards clean then imagine how important it must be to keep the insides of our houses clean. And then, when keeping the house clean is so emphasised then of course our own bodies are a priority as well. By that, we can see then that purity of our hearts and souls is paramount since it is what makes us righteous. (This is the aim of Tasawwuf and correct Sufism).

Nowadays though, we have erased this lesson from our minds so completely that if someone is seen to be paying attention to cleanliness and order around him then he is accused of being influenced by Christianity!

So once in a Mosque in Madras, a new Muslim who was an Englishman came to do wudhu and saw that the plughole was choked with dirt. He took a few pails of water and washed it out and said to the others 'Friends, clean out these places from time to time, look how unsightly it is' and what did they say to that? 'Looks like you still have Christian tendencies'!

إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ

Is this a way to behave? If something Islamic has been taken up by another people then does it cease to be part of Islam?! How much shall I enumerate the way Shariah regulates our activities? The Prophet (peace be upon him) said

None of you should say 'I am abominable' but rather should say 'I feel unsettled' (Bukhari and Muslim)

SubhanAllah! The Prophet (peace be upon him) has even taught us how to speak! A Muslim can never be abominable and so he told us not to demean ourselves in that way, but instead, if we feel depressed, we should just say that we are unsettled. Look at how he has taken care of our lives, expounding on everything. Organization and good manners are our traits, if some other society take these up it does not mean we follow them : They are following us.

Friday, 4 May 2007

From my favourite scholar

An amusing but beneficial excerpt from a speech of Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanavi:

Once in Seohara, I felt very tired after a long journey and retired to bed to get some rest and close my eyes. A certain gentleman came over and in a very loud voice asked: ‘where is so-and-so (taking my name)’ The others told him that I was sleeping and thus to be quiet. He said ‘well, I need to meet with him now’ and despite their refusal he charged in and almost shouted ‘Assalamu alykum’. I was awake but deliberately kept my eyes shut (because this was the wise thing to do). Upon seeing that, he took my hand, rubbed it on his forehead and left and when outside he was reprimanded he retorted ‘Well what? I am departing for hajj soon and who knows when we will meet again!’ So he wants his hajj, what others want can go to the wind.

Shariat has stipulated such respect for the sleeping man that whenever the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) entered his house late he would say Salam in such a voice that the waking ones would hear whilst the sleeping ones would not be disturbed. Subhanallah! This is such a person that the Sahaba would give their lives for him, let alone sleep, and he gave so much thought to such things. And here the situation is that that a persons musafaha (hand-shake) is paramount, no matter how much commotion is caused.

In a ceremony at Deoband, I was to lead the salaah and as I walked to the front a man reached out from one of the rows, seized my hand, shook it and let it go saying now go! This was the only time he found for a musafaha?! No thought to another’s discomfort or rest and then when someone calls for some order and rules he’s labelled arrogant and authoritative.

Under me, such behaviour is reproached which is why many benefactors have bestowed quite a few titles upon me. One of them said to me, we don’t like these rules and regulations, they smack of Britishness. Sadly, he thought that organization is not part of Islam whereas in reality the kind of order and regulation that is in Islam is exemplary. Everything - salah, saum, hajj, zakaat, etc.- is done systematically. If Hajj, for instance is delayed even a day after its appointed time then one must wait till next year. Similarly, salah is timetabled and so does zakah have regulations, will anyone call that ‘Britishness’?

Similarly, there are rules for visiting an ill person: The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) commanded us to keep the visit brief because the ill person usually dislikes too much of a crowd around him. The fuqaha have understood the reality of this command and thus they prohibit anything that will cause the patient bother. For example if he believes visiting on a Wednesday is a bad omen then you should visit on another day. The ‘dry’ ulema will now say no we should visit on that exact day in order to prove that notion he holds as wrong.

Well friend, it is more a contention then a commiseration in that case.

The purpose of such a visit is to extend sympathy, whilst your opposition is going to add to his angst. In fact, he will be irked by the sight of you: oh why did this numpty descend today…who knows what bad luck he’s going to bring…

Just like once a deaf man went to visit an ill acquaintance. Now hear he couldn’t, so on the way there, he cooked up a conversation in which he set out the dialogue: I will say how are you and he’ll answer fine and I’ll say Alhamdulillah. Then I’ll ask which Doctor is he seeing and he’ll give me some name or other and I’ll answer Allah make his opinion blessed, Mashallah he has a great healing hand, keep to his medicine. Then I’ll say what remedy are you taking and he’ll say something to which I’ll answer Yes, it is extremely potent, may Allah run it through every vein. And so he got to the place and upon seeing him the patient was extremely annoyed as he was going to be a general nuisance, yapping away and not hearing a thing. So the gentleman starts off, asking ‘How are you feeling?’ to which the angry reply comes ‘Dying’. Oblivious, he answers ‘Oh Alhamdulillah’. Then he continues ‘Who is the Doctor?’
‘Oh May Allah make his steps blessed and Mashallah he has a wonderful healing hand, keep to his suggestions, and what remedy are you taking?’
‘Poison’ comes the acerbic reply, which obviously goes unheard.
‘Well May Allah run it through your every vein. It is Masha Allah very effective!’ So Friends there is no point in such a visit as instead of sympathy and condolence, you simply cause the patient more stress.

Such a person, like this deaf one, should not perform these visits if he’s going be a unhelpful. At most, he should go in a group of people, so as to earn the reward and not cause any trouble.

(continued next post insha allah)

Monday, 30 April 2007

Musings of a deeni nature...

Whatever we sow here in this world, we reap in the hereafter.

Allah (subahana hu wa ta'ala) says

:فَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ خَيْرًا يَرَهُ وَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ شَرًّا يَرَهُ
Then shall anyone who has done an atom's weight of good, see it! And anyone who has done an atom's weight of evil, shall see it. (99:7-8)

The spirit of a Muslim, his longing for Allah, his yearning for jannah, compels him to use his every moment in a way that earns His pleasure. But our every moment instead, is filled with inanities, gossip, and all the other important things we fill our time with.

My previous post reminded me of something I'd like to share with you though, something that our ulema have highlighted, something so easy and effortless that it's hard to give it any importance, but as the ayah above tells us, even a tiny good deed will not go forgotten or be wasted. They will all count towards our final goal.

It was just out of curiosity that I picked up that magazine but I managed to gain a deeni benefit from it: it helped me to appreciate the command of hijab. Likewise, many things that we do can be changed into a good deed, a hasana, if we simply pay a bit of attention to our intentions before we carry them out.

Let me explain. Living in England, we have to spend six precious hours in the dingy corridors of school, but instead of going just because it's the law (or because your mum/dad wakes you with chappal in hand every morning), study with the intention that you will benefit the Muslim Ummah with the knowledge you gain. You have to do it anyway, so why not get your right-side angel going while you're at it.

When you work your socks off before the exams for those high grades, mentally make the intention that you want to up the respect of the Muslim community through them. It's dunya and aakhirah simultaneously.

Things that appear mundane and useless deen-wise can be turned into lucrative good deeds just by checking your intention.

Before you crash into bed at night, think 'I'm taking rest to refresh my body for another days ibadah'.

Before you gobble up the parathey, wait (say bismillah of course, but I'm thinking you know that already) and make the intention that you eat to provide yourself with energy so you can be vigorous in following your deen.

When you read the news, look especially for stories about Muslims, with the intention that you will make dua for them. (I sometimes have a look through the tabloids, remembering to appreciate how the teachings of Islam protect us from such lowlifery!)

Learn to drive, but with the thought that it will enable you to travel to Mosques and for other deeni needs.

Be very careful though, some things just cannot be moulded into deen, however much Shaytan helps you.

For example, a friend of mine once said 'I'm going to model modest clothes just so Muslim girls will know you can still look glamorous wearing them!' No, I'm not joking, it's a real quote. A haraam act will never be permissible whatever the intention you have. Just as in man-made law, you won't get away with speeding, even if it was so you could see your ailing auntie and you'll still get a ticket for parking on a double yellow line even though you meant to pick up some litter. In Islam a sin is a sin no matter how good your intention.

This also applies to listening to nasheeds with instruments, just so you can wean yourself off pop songs. It is simply replacing one type of music with another type of music. The ulema of Deoband have opposed music vehemently, and called the Sufi's who allow it as misguided.

Volume 7, Book 69, Number 494v:
Narrated Abu 'Amir or Abu Malik Al-Ash'ari:
that he heard the Prophet saying, "From among my followers there will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, the wearing of silk, the drinking of alcoholic drinks and the use of musical instruments, as lawful...Allah will destroy them during the night and will let the mountain fall on them..'

Saturday, 28 April 2007

In the post today...

Well not exactly, this isn't a post about my post, but more specifically a catalogue that arrived today from some High Street shop, I think H&M.

In my experience, there is nothing in a High Street shop that could remotely be of any interest to me, since I am completely averse to this fusion chic thats going around amongst the Muslim youth, where they wear shirt-dresses upon jumpers upon jeans upon trainers (no wonder it's called the 'layered look') but I admit I do get impressed at the way that these pieces of western attire, obviously NOT targeted at these lot, is turned so expertly into a paragon of modesty. So Islamically, I suppose there's nothing wrong, just a matter of taste (or lack of in my opinion).

Still, out of curiosity, I flicked through. Splashed over the first few pages was a model in a bikini, quickly flicked it over and was met with the same sight. True to form, on every subsequent page there was a similar woman modelling...well...almost nothing. Of course I abandoned it straight away ( Some females are under the false impression that they're only women so it should be ok, but the fact is that the thighs are 'satr' so its haraam to let your gaze fall on them, man or woman).

The word 'degrading' came to my mind as I put it away. Allah's (subhanahu wa ta'ala) command to believing women that they should 'draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty' (24:31) is so beautiful, so full of benevolence to his slaves that it is hard to describe.

Now the average non-Muslim will just retort 'how is that degradation, they are there by choice'
but of course it is, these particular models are there by choice, but the legions of western women have no choice but to follow the fashion and the culture that these clothes create and wear such things, emulate the 'style' that is being promoted by these people and it is obvious for all to see that when they don't, they lose all chance of success in this society. Its only the women of course who has to 'display their beauty' to get anywhere, for men it's completely irrevelent.

We see it everywhere. For a job interview, a woman's chances are hugely dependant on how she looks. A friend of mine was told to 'pretty herself up' for her job in Boots! For a measly job like that, she was told to make sure she put her make-up on everyday!

I don't know about you but I always think of Carol Vorderman. I remember her from countdown when she used to wear loose-fitting trousers, full sleeves, and a smart jacket. All very modest. Her profile rocketed though after her 'new look' and I'm relying on you to remember because i'm not providing any pictures, she lost weight, wore stilettos loads more and showed loads more leg and bust. Look at this, but it's from 1999 which details her change and is predicted not to be a good omen.,,321599,00.html

Now though she is one of the most highest paid faces on TV.

I couldn't think of a more pertinent illustration of what women have to do to make their mark in the West, all because they refuse to see the wisdom behind the revelation that the Prophet received, the command to practise hijab.