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!'