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)