Thursday, 11 August 2011

How can a living heart not love the Rabb?

Ar Rahman Ar Rahim, there is no ilah but He.
Without His merciful love, there will never be ‘me’.
In the womb before I could even ask.
He provided me with a heart, ears and eyes.

How can one not love the exceedingly Loving and Merciful?
So deeply touched by His Love, one can’t help being tearful.
With His incessant gifts, like the rain that showers.
Pause a while to ponder, naturally one’s heart quivers.

The Prophet told us a story of the sincere slave.
Who devoted five hundred years to worship and praise.
In a state of sujud he died and on the day he was raised.
By Allah’s merciful love, in Paradise he was to be placed.

‘Wait!’ said the slave so confident of his merits.
‘Send me to Paradise on account of my deeds.’
When the gift of his eyesight was on one side of the balance.
His hundreds of years of deeds failed to match its significance. 

Purely upon justice, into Hell fire he was ushered.
‘My Rabb, put me in Paradise by Your merciful love!’ he pleaded.
So The Most Kind Rabb called him to stand before Him.
To testify His merciful love that encompasses everything.

“O my slave, who created you?” the Rabb asked.
“You, my Rabb.” he answered his heart pounding fast.
“Who gave you the strength to worship Me for five hundred years?”
“You, my Rabb.” he admitted probably amidst tears.

“Who put you on the mountains in the island in the middle of the sea?
And produced palatable water for you from the salty sea?
And each day brought you a delicious pomegranate as food?
And even fulfilled your wish to die in a state of sujud?”

“You, my Rabb!” was all he could admit and answer.
His heart could not deny the favours of The Most Generous Master.
Even a million years in prostration could never be enough.
To  fulfill the rights of Allah to be worshipped, thanked and loved.

“All these(favours) happened because of My merciful love,
and I will make you enter Paradise by My merciful love.”

How can the heart not love the Master?
His merciful love has no equal in this world and the hereafter .
A lifetime of sincere worship can never repay.
All the favours He deliberately gives us each day.

The heart’s joy is to submit to Him with the greatest love.
It’s inspiration is in knowing the Rabb loves to be loved.

[This poem is written based on a hadith reported by al Hakim from his book al Mustadrak]
Wallahua’ lam.

Dear respected readers, assalamualaikum.

Upon discussing the first condition to be a slave of Allah which is Love, let us begin with a powerful means of obtaining love and that is by knowing the Rabb. Allah is known through His Names and Attributes He had named Himself with in the Quran and through the words of the Prophet SAW.

Dr Umar Sulaiman al Asyqar in his book Al Asmaa Al Husna wrote: “When asked who is Allah, a correct answer would be ‘He is the Being(Dzat) who is Ar Rahman and Ar Rahim.’ [Refer to Surah al Hasyr:22 and Surah Al Baqarah:163]....... With the names Ar Rahman Ar Rahim, Allah is praised and glorified. “ Praise and gratitude be to Allah, Rabbal alamien. Ar Rahman Ar Rahim." (Surah Al Fatihah:2-3)

Ar-Rahman means He is the Being who owns rahmah in the most superlative form of the word. His rahmah is a constant, continuous, inherent, inseparable attribute of Him. Ar-Rahim means He is capable of dispensing or giving rahmah. When ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim is put together it is a powerful means of emphasis of an infinite, unequal and unmatched rahmah of the Being who owns it and gives of it.

In Arabic, ‘rahmah’ comes from the root word ‘rahim’ which means womb.  Rasulullah in one occasion described the love a mother had towards her child as ‘rahmah’. He said “Look at the rahmah of the mother to her you think this mother will throw her child into the fire? Verily Allah has more rahmah for His slaves than this mother to her child.”

Rahmah is more than mercy as it is often translated. It is mercy plus love. Either we say it is a merciful love or a loving mercy.

In the Quran, Allah says: “ My Rahmah envelops EVERYTHING.” Surah al Araaf:156.  The verse carries the meaning as if there is no other rahmah except His. This is true because all rahmah originates from Allah Ar Rahman ar Rahim. The wild beast do not kill its child out of the rahmah Allah gives to it. This is part of the rahmah Allah gives to all His creatures for their existence whether they are believers or not.

Revelation(wahyu) given to the Prophets and Messengers is the greatest rahmah of Allah upon man. In Surah Ar Rahman, Allah tells us all His Acts which are manifestation of His name Ar Rahman. And first of all He mentions “He teaches Al-Quran” (Surah Ar Rahman:2). And then in the next verse he mentions that He has created man.  Teaching man the Quran is  a  greater act of rahmah than the creation of man. That is how He wants us to perceive  the value of the Quran.

Prophet Muhammad was sent as rahmah to all the worlds. What he brings is rahmah to every single man and every single thing: animate and inanimate, until the end of time. Even to the ants and the fishes and the plants and the rocks. There is rahmah in the syariah and rahmah in the sunnah. Following Rasulullah SAW brings us a life filled with rahmah. Happiness and security is guaranteed because Allah says "Verily, those who say 'Our Rabb is Allah' and remain firm(on that Path), on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve." (Al Ahqaaf:13)

It is obligatory upon the believer’s heart to love Allah. Love is an ibadah(act of ubudiyyah) of the heart which is wajib. It is the primary basis of his tawheed and comprises his ubudiyyah(slavery to Allah). Yusuf Qaradhawi in his book ‘The meaning of Tawheed’, describes ubudiyyah as the peak of submission plus the peak of love. Submission to Allah without love is an empty act of worship. Love without submission is a fake or a false claim. Partial love and partial submission too will not fulfill the meaning of ubudiyyah.

Why is love so important?

Khurram Murad said in one of his lectures:

The demands Islam place on man is not of a nature which could be fulfilled just through social pressure but must be fulfilled through an inner urge. Although man can do hundreds of things out of habit and to obtain social approval, or cultural norm or practice, what is needed in Islam is man do things out of inner urges from man’s heart  and the most powerful inner urge is LOVE.

Internalizing the attribute ar-Rahman ar Rahim will inculcate shukr and praise: the seeds of love. A heart soaked in shukr and praise will sprout with love of the Rabb. Attachment and hanging on to the rahmah of Allah also gives hope to the heart. So that no matter how distressed, fatigued, shakened and low, it will never despair.

Hereby is a simple translation from the words of Ibnul Qayyim in his book Syifa’ul Alil Fii Masaailil Qadha’ wal Qadar wal hikmah wat Ta’ lil, “No (amount of) good deeds and acts of obedience from a person can rightfully repay Allah for all His nikmah and rahmah upon him. If Allah chooses to punish a person, He has not done the slightest injustice on him. If He chooses to give him rahmah, that rahmah is greater than all his good deeds put together. Indeed all his good deeds have no value at all compared to that single rahmah from Allah.”

It is the greatest right of Allah that the slaves should purify and perfect their ubudiyyah to Him the best they could. The rahmah of Allah on us in the hereafter is proportional to the the degree of perfection of our obedience, inwardly and outwardly. O Allah, we ask from You Your Rahmah in this month of Ramadhan, the month You sent us the Quran. Please forgive us. By Your infinite rahmah, please include us to be among Your righteous slaves.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Our children perceive

In the name of Allah the Most Loving and Love-Giving.

In this beautiful and serene moment of Ramadhan, Allah made me ponder upon the miraculous verse from the greatest miracle bestowed upon His beloved Prophet Muhammad SAW.
" Praise and gratitude be to Allah, Rabb of all the worlds." Al Fatihah:2.

This is the authority we are gently called to submit ourselves to, inwardly and outwardly without reservation. By introducing Himself as the Rabb (Master),  Allah is naturally placing the highest demand of a Master upon us, the slaves. That is we submit and act as His slaves with the knowledge, awareness and consciouness of His infinite, limitless love and power as Rabb.

We owe Him for everything while He owes us nothing. He calls Himself Rabb, meaning Master. Allah is the sole Creator, Sustainer, Guardian, Ruler and complete Owner of all the worlds: from the tiniest atom to the super galaxies. He has established the kind of relationship we should have with Him and that is we  be His slaves, continuously at all times and place. Forever and ever. With praise and gratitude (Alhamdulillah) we begin this pure and beautiful bonding with the Most Powerful Master of all the worlds, everything  seen and unseen. Profound are the meaning of the well known words of the ulama' of old: "The Rabb loves to be loved."

This is a unique,  exclusive relationship with no equivalent between the Creator and the created which begins with love and appreciation from the innermost depths of the heart. In Arabic we call it tawheed ubudiyyah or tawheed uluhiyyah. It is comprehensively quoted as 'Indeed my sholat, my sacrifice, my living and my dying is only for Rabbal alamien.' (Al An 'am:162).  Yes, this is a live, continuous and eternal relationship, something you would experience every single moment of your life. A living heart is conscious of the perpetual acts of the Rabb upon him in sustaining his existence and guiding him. Sadly, most hearts are blind to the favours of the Rabb.

To be a slave is not limited to performing certain acts alone. You are not a slave only because you have done certain set of acts. But because mentally, phsychogically, spiritually, physically you are a slave. It is a state of 'being' involving not only the body but more important, the heart and the mind. Ibnul Qayyim described slavery (ubudiyyah in Arabic) as the most beloved state of the heart and soul,  closest to the Rabb. [Madarij as Saalikin volume 1]

One who has established it on earth will taste its beautiful and fullest manifestation in Paradise when one can lay eyes on the Supreme Creator, the possessor of the most perfect and most beautiful attributes. How the believing heart long and crave to meet its Master! No words suffice to praise Him except those He taught us. And we were taught to consciously recite repetitively Alhamdulillahi Rabbil alamien.

Allah is our Rabb.
He created us.
He owns us.
He feeds us.
Cures us when we are sick.
Guides us when we are lost.
Provides all our needs.
He has full power upon us.
He holds our life and soul.

Only He can tell us right from wrong and dictate the terms of our slavery. A good slave is how He defines it, not as how we think a good slave is. The One who has the power to create has the right to rule. Only He who creates, rules. A logic the intelligent heart can never defy.

Before we can tell others to be good slaves of Allah,  foremostly on our part we have to meet the conditions of being a slave of Allah. A parent has to strive his utmost to meet the conditions of being the slave of Allah. Because his children learn from him. Yes, our children perceive. Ever since the day they were born.

Our action, body languages, words, decisions, ambition, struggle, tears, laughter and endeavour imprint upon their minds and hearts what it is like to be a good slave of Allah. Could we be giving the wrong signals?

Ibnu Taimiyyah has listed 5 conditions to be a slave of Allah:

1. Love
2. Obedience (inward plus outward)
3. Sincerity (ikhlas)
4. Trust (tawakkal)
5. Terms of slavery defined by Him not us.  (The standard is set by the Master not the slave)

  Inshaallah we need to study them to act upon them. Wallahu a'lam. I seek His forgiveness.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Stress and anxiety

Stress is life. Stress is anything that causes mental, physical, or spiritual tension. There is no running away from it. All that matters is how you deal with it. This article does not deal with the factors of stress, anxiety, and depression, nor is it a clinical advice. If you feel depressed, you are not alone. It has been estimated that 75 to 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians in America are for stress-related problems. This is why it is wise to consult a doctor if you are having physical symptoms of stress. However, here are some tips that can help from a spiritual perspective.

1. Ask Him. He Listens: DU`A

Turn each anxiety, each fear and each concern into a Dua (supplication). Look at it as another reason to submit to God and be in Sajdah (prostration), during which you are closest to Allah. God listens and already knows what is in your heart, but He wants you to ask Him for what you want.

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon Him, said: “Allah is angry with those who do not ask Him for anything”.

Allah wants you to be specific. The Prophet advised us to ask Allah for exactly what we want instead of making vague Du‘a.  Dua is the essence of worship. (Hadith reported by Tirmidhi).

"Call on your Lord with humility and in private: for Allah loveth not those who trespass beyond bounds. Do not make mischief on the earth, after it hath been set in order, but call on Him with fear and longing (in your hearts): for the mercy of Allah is (always) near to those who do good" (Quran 7:55-56).

2. Tie your Camel: DO YOUR PART

One day Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, noticed a Bedouin leaving his camel without tying it. He asked the Bedouin, "Why don't you tie down your camel?" The Bedouin answered, "I put my trust in Allah." The Prophet then said, "Tie your camel first, then put your trust in Allah" (Tirmidhi).

Muslims must never become fatalistic. Although we know only Allah is in control and that He has decreed all things, we are each responsible for making the right choices and doing the right thing in all situations of our lives. We must take action. We must work to alleviate the hardships we, our families and our communities face.

"Verily Allah does not change men's condition unless they change their inner selves" (Quran 13: 11).

Turn each worry into a Du`a and each Du`a into an action plan. That will show your commitment to your request and will focus your energy in the right direction.

3. Remember that human responsibility is limited

While we need to carry out our duty to the best of our abilities, always remember that you don't control the outcome of events. Even the Prophets did not control the outcome of their efforts. Some were successful, others were not. Once you have done your duty, leave the results to Allah. Regardless of the results of your efforts, you will be rewarded for the part you have played.

However, never underestimate your abilities. Understand the concept of Barakah (blessings from Allah) and remember that Allah can and InshaAllah will expand them if you are sincerely exerting your energies for the right path.

4. Leave the world behind you FIVE TIMES A DAY

Use the five daily prayers as a means to become more Hereafter-oriented and less attached to this temporary world. Start distancing yourself as soon as you hear Adhan, the call to prayer. When you perform Wudu, keep repeating Shahada, the declaration of faith, as water drops slip down your face, hands, arms, and hair. When you stand ready to pray, mentally prepare yourself to leave this world and all of its worries and stresses behind you.

Of course, Shaytan will try to distract you during prayer. But whenever this happens, go back and remember Allah. The more you return, the more Allah will reward you for it. Also, make sure your Sajdas (prostrations) are talking Sajdas, in which you are really connecting to God and seeking His Mercy, praising Him, and asking His forgiveness. 

5. Seek help through SABR

Seek help through Sabr and Salat (Quran 2:45).

This instruction from Allah provides us with two critical tools that can ease our worries and pain. Patience and prayer are two oft-neglected stressbusters. Sabr is often translated as patience but it is not just that. It includes self-control, perseverance, endurance, and a focused struggle to achieve one's goal. Unlike patience, which implies resignation, the concept of Sabr includes a duty to remain steadfast to achieve your goals despite all odds.

Being patient gives us control in situations where we feel we have little or no control. 'We cannot control what happens to us but we can control our reaction to our circumstances' is the mantra of many modern-day self-help books. Patience helps us keep our mind and attitude towards our difficulties in check.

6. Excuse Me! You are Not Running the World, HE is.

It is important to remind ourselves that we don't control all the variables in the world. God does. He is the Wise, the All-Knowing. Sometimes our limited human faculties are not able to comprehend His wisdom behind what happens to us and to others, but knowing that He is in control and that as human beings we submit to His Will, enriches our humanity and enhances our servitude and obedience (Ubudiyah in Arabic) towards him. Read the story of the encounter of Moses with the mysteries behind God's decision (Quran: 18:60-82). Familiarize yourself with God's 99 Names, which are also known as His Attributes. It is a powerful way of knowing Him.

"God-there is no deity save Him, the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsistent Fount of All being. Neither slumber overtakes Him, nor sleep. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth. Who is there that could intercede with Him, unless it be by His leave? He knows all that lies open before men and all that is hidden from them, whereas they cannot attain to aught of His knowledge save that which He wills them to attain. His eternal power overspreads the heavens and the earth, and their upholding wearies Him not. And He alone is truly exalted, tremendous." (Quran 2:255).

The Prophet recommended reading this verse, known as Ayat al kursi, after each prayer, Allah's peace and blessings be upon him. Once Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, approached the Prophet during a difficult time and he found the Prophet in Sajda, where he kept repeating "Ya Hayy Ya Qayyum", words which are part of this verse.

7. Birds Don't Carry their Food

Allah is al Razzaq (the Provider).

"How many are the creatures that carry not their own sustenance? It is Allah Who feeds them and you, for He hears and knows all things (Quran 29:60)."

By reminding yourself that He is the Provider, you will remember that getting a job or providing for your family in these economically and politically challenging times, when Muslims are often the last to be hired and the first to be fired, is in God's Hands, not yours. As Allah says in the Quran:

"And He provides for him from (sources) he never could imagine. And if anyone puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is (Allah) for him. For Allah will surely accomplish His purpose. Verily, for all things has Allah appointed a due proportion (Quran 65:3).

"How A Muslim Should Deal With Stress and Anxiety" by Abdul Malik Mujahid

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Fear Allah, even stones do

In his book Fawa‘idul fawa‘id, Ibnu Qayyim wrote: “The ‘abd is not afflicted with a punishment (in this world) greater in severity than the hardening of the (spiritual) heart and it being distant from Allah. The fire of hell was created to melt the hardened heart, this heart which is the most distant from Allah. When the heart is hardened the eyes will become dry.”

Dear brothers and sisters, when was the last time we cried out of fear of Allah? Did we ever ponder over our enormous crimes against our Creator and Benefactor and cried over what we did? Was there a second in our whole life span we ponder over one of His Attributes of power and might? And then we cried? Or we visualized hell fire and we cried?

Was there a single moment we felt so desperate for His Mercy and forgiveness? When we felt as poor and destitute slaves until we begged to our Master  with all our hearts. Like what Prophet Musa did when he was leaning against the tree in Madyan as a fugitive from his homeland. He prayed: “ O my Rabb! truly I am in desperate need of any good that You can send me!” (Surah Al Qasas:24)

Or Prophet Yunus when he cried out of grief, pain, remorse and desolation in the midst of three layers of darknesses from the fish, the sea and the night? “ And We bestowed Our favour upon Dhu al-Nun. Recall, when he went forth enraged,  thinking We have no power to take him to task. Eventually he cried out in the darkness:  There is no god but You. Glory be to You! I have done wrong.ۖ” (Surah Al Anbiyaa:87).   These were cries that emerged from the softest and most tender of hearts from among the best of creations.

Beware of the hardened heart because it will lead us to the fire of hell.

How forbearing is the One who still cares for us while we rebel! Why does He in this world let us go every time we sin? He gives us time to correct ourselves. Time and time again, He gives us reminders in multiple forms. He is perfectly aware of every motion in our hearts and will graciously respond to our first step towards Him.  Because there is no one who loves our return to Him (in this world through tawbah) more than our Creator. Because there is none who loves that His slaves would enter Paradise but Allah Himself, the One who created us out of love and mercy. 

Allah invites and calls us to Paradise : وَاللّٰهُ يَدۡعُوۡۤا اِلٰى دَارِ السَّلٰمِؕ وَيَهۡدِىۡ مَنۡ يَّشَآءُ اِلٰى صِرَاطٍ مُّسۡتَقِيۡ          “(You are being lured by this ephemeral world) although Allah calls you to the abode of peace and guides whomsoever He wills to a straightway.” (Surah Yunus:25)

But our base desires make us inclined towards the call of shaytan to Hell. Out of heedlessness, love of this world and over a prolonged interval of time, our evil deeds hardened our hearts until our eyes can no longer cry over our sins. We delay and procrastinate tawbah until our hearts became harder than stones.  For some stones burst and others crack to emit water. And there are stones that fall down out of fear of Allah. Yet our hearts are arrogant and cannot humble themselves to Allah. Our hearts cannot show humility towards the most powerful Creator.

“But (even after seeing these Signs) your hearts hardened and became as hard as rocks; nay, even harder than rocks. For there are some rocks out of which springs gush forth, and others which split open, and water issues out of them; then there are some which tumble down for fear of Allah. And Allah is not unaware of what you are doing.” (Surah Al Baqarah:74)

In the above verse Allah was addressing a certain group of people in the past, but it is for us to learn a lesson. ‘Qaswah’ is a hardened state of the heart which makes it unable to show mercy, compassion and leniency. Nor is it able to respond to the miraculous power from the heart of  the Quran. Or to value the pearls from the heart of the Prophet. The heart has lost its natural capacity to receive and absorb light. It is no longer soft nor transparent. Rahmah(Loving Mercy) from Allah cannot enter it until finally the deprived heart can no longer express rahmah. The parable Allah gave to rahmah is water which gives life to other creatures. The startling fact for us to ponder is even stones can emit water. Why can’t we cry for Allah’s sake? We can only cry for our sake when we get hurt by people. No tears for Allah, only tears for us.  Because we focus our life, strength and passions wholly on us, not Allah. On our dunya, not the Hereafter. Hence, our hearts harden after being cut off from its life source.

Where do we stand in the scales of Allah? Where do we stand from our ancestors who had excelled in their deeds of ubudiyyah yet wept out of fear of being unaccepted by The Most Gracious Rabb. (Refer to Surah Al Mukminun: 60).  Where do we stand from those who “ When the verses of the Most Merciful were recited to them, they fell in prostration and weeping” (Surah Maryam:58).  Where lies our faith when measured with the heavenly standard of  “ those who, when Allah's name is mentioned, their hearts quake, and when His verses are recited to them their faith grows, and who put their trust in their Lord.” (Surah Al Anfaal:3) 

Concerning the virtue of weeping out of fear from Allah, the Prophet peace be upon him said, in a hadith narrated by Abu Huraira r.a, : “One who weeps out of fear of Allah, will not enter hell till milk returns back in the udder; and the dust raised on account of fighting in the path of Allah and the smoke of hell will never combine together”[Narrated by At-Tirmidhi and edited by Al Albani] Weeping out of fear of Allah is ibadah and is one of the reasons to gain entry into Paradise and be saved from Hell. Yes, dear brothers and sisters, one sincere tear could save us from Hell. Because that single tear is proof of pure iman in our hearts just as sincere jihad is.

The Prophet said, “Allah will give shade to seven (types of people) under His Shade ( on the Day of Resurrection). (One of them will be) a person who remembers Allah in seclusion and his eyes are then flooded with tears. (Bukhari, narrated by Abu Huraira) These are sincere tears shed either out of love or fear of Allah. Not to gain praise nor win respect from people.

In the ubudiyyah of the heart, fear(khauf) of Allah is an obligatory act.  It is one of the loftiest ranks or stations of the heart in the journey to Allah. The heart must attain a constant state of khauf to fulfill ubudiyyah.  Fear of Allah is a sign of true faith. ‘The absence of khauf from the heart is the sign of the loss of faith.’ [Madarij as-Saalikin volume 1]. It is one of the rights of the Creator. 

Ubudiyyah is based on three pillars:  ultimate love(hubb), fear(khauf) and hope(rajaa) towards Allah. These are powerful emotions which crystallize as attitudes, forming behaviour in man. These  most influential sentiments in man are directed or focussed towards whatever ilah or deity he choose to worship. An ‘abd cannot fulfill ubudiyyah without directing these strong emotions exclusively to the Rabb. Directing any or all of them to anyone other than Allah will amount to major shirk. The biggest right of Allah upon His slave is to be worshipped without ascribing partners to Him.  Hence, Allah is the only ilah or deity worthy of receiving our ultimate love, fear and hope.

With regards to khauf, Allah has commanded the believers “ So fear them not but fear Me, if indeed you are (true) believers” (Surah Ali Imran:(175)

“But for him who fear the standing before his Rabb, there will be two gardens(in Paradise).” (Surah Ar Rahman: 46)

Khauf, khasyyah, wajal, rahbah are terms used in the Quran to describe fear. They are different manifestations of fear with close meanings but they are not synonyms. [Madarij as-Saalikin volume 1]
How is fear (khauf) described?
1. Said ibn Jubayr said, ‘Fear(khauf) is what stands between you and disobeying Allah’. [ Tafsir Ibnu Kathir]
2. Ibnu Qayyim wrote, ‘The praiseworthy and correct khauf is that which prevents a believer from approaching all that Allah has prohibited.’
3. Abu Uthman al Hiri said, ‘Sincere khauf is to refrain from committing sins in one’s outward and inward actions.’
4. Abul Qasim al Junaid said, ‘Khauf is fearing the punishment of Allah with every
[ Quotes 2, 3 and 4 are from Madarij as Saalikin volume 1]

What makes the heart fear Allah?
“Indeed it is only those who have knowledge from among His slaves fear(khasyyah) Allah.” (Surah Al Fatir:28)
Shaikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah said concerning this verse: This indicates that everyone who fears Allah has knowledge, which is true; (but) it does not indicate that everyone who has knowledge fears Him. [Majmu’ al-Fatawa]

Indeed, true are the sayings of Hasan al Basri: “ It suffices you to know a person to have fear(khasyyah) of Allah and zuhud to dunya as proof of his knowledge.”
What is meant by ‘knowledge’ mentioned in the quranic verse (Al Fatir:28) is explained by Ibn Katheer (rahimahullah) as, “Those who fear Him as He should be feared are those who have knowledge of Him (Allah), because the more a person knows of the Almighty, All-Powerful, the more he will fear Him.”

Hence, khasyyah is more specific than khauf.  Khasyyah is khauf accompanied by ma’rifah(deep understanding and awareness) of Allah. While khauf is fearing the punishment of Allah and His Wrath. The bottom line is, all forms of fear of Allah is primarily a fruit of the knowledge of Allah and the Hereafter. The knowledge which first resides in the mind has penetrated the heart and turned into a beautiful fruit: the constant fear of Allah which makes the believer fear none but Allah. A fear which leads to loving and placing his hope totally in Allah. A fear which heightens his spirituality and consciousness of Allah in all his deeds and actions, inwards and outwards.

How is the fear of Allah inculcated?
1. Read, study and reflect on the Quranic verses which shake the minds and hearts, especially juzu’ amma.  Use a tafsir such as Ibnu Kathir’s.
2. Learn and reflect on the Uniqueness, greatness and perfection of Allah through His Names, Attributes and Works. (read a tafsir of the Quran or authentic books on Aqeedah)
3. Think of death and visualize its painful process.
4. Think of the grave and visualize the torments of the grave.
5. Think of Qiyamah and its events.
6. Visualize Hell and its torments: a place of pure pain with zero pleasure and no relief.
7. Bring to mind the sins we have committed and how severe the punishment of Allah is.
8. Think of sudden death. It might be too late to repent.
9. Think of suul khatimah or the evil ending of life.
[‘Al Khauf minallaahi Taala’ by Muhammad Syauman bin Ahmad ar-Ramli]

Every action of ours must begin with a sincere earnest du‘a.
How our whole life is pivotted on “Only You we worship and only You ask for help” (Al Fatihah:5),  is amazing. Subhanallah!

Monday, 11 July 2011

The First station: Repentance

(Please click on the image to enlarge)

Man was created solely for the purpose of fulfilling ubudiyyah to Allah. Ubudiyyah is a comprehensive term that asserts the meaning of the verse “ Only You we worship and only You we ask for help.” Al-Fatihah:5. It comprises the slavery of the heart, tongue and limbs to Allah. Ubudiyyah is the purpose while seeking help from Allah is the means to attain it. This purpose of man’s life is fulfilled not by following man’s desires and opinions but by following the rules(ahkam) and Syari‘ah (prescribed path) of Allah. This is the path of salvation which frees the heart from the misery of slavery towards created beings. 

A heart in ubudiyyah is one that is nearest and most beloved to Allah. In the journey to Allah, there are stations the heart is expected to attain in order to fulfill ubudiyyah. What is meant by ‘station’ is a praiseworthy quality that the heart has succeeded in acquiring through personal struggle with the help of Allah. Each constant quality of the heart will externalize itself in a person’s words and actions. There will appear in the tongue and limbs actions which show the presence of a certain state of the heart. Take for example, sabr.  It may begin by the heart ‘experiencing’ this state of sabr for certain moments but through persistent inner struggle, it becomes more rooted and becomes a constant quality which constitutes one’s character(akhlaq). Sabr will then be manifested naturally and effortlessly as external deeds of the tongue and limbs. The Prophet PBUH said: “ Indeed knowledge is acquired by learning it and patience(sabr) is acquired by imposing it upon oneself.” (declared sound (hasan) by alBani Silsilah al Sahihah)

Proximity and being far from Allah are not matters of distance, rather they are meanings pertaining to one being favoured with acceptance or deprived by being unaccepted by Allah. How close a person is to Allah depends on the attributes or qualities of his heart which externalizes as his actions and deeds. Those who have been favoured with acceptance by Allah are the Prophets, the truthful, the righteous and the martyrs.  None except the repenting heart realizes the deep meaning and relevancy of the powerful du‘a: “  Show us the right path, the path of those whom You have favoured, not those who have earned Your wrath and those who have gone astray.”   Surah al-Fatihah:6-7. 

The first station or quality of the heart is tawbah (repentance) without which the journey will never begin. It is a constant state of a believer’s heart which accompanies him throughout his journey to  Allah. His need for tawbah supersedes every other need. Allah has made tawbah the cause for a believer’s success.

What brings the heart to the station of repentance? It is primarily ‘ilm (knowledge). In the context of repentance,  knowledge generates fear and muhasabah which are the two prerequisites for repentance.

When knowledge has penetrated the heart, the first fruit is fear of Allah. Allah says in the Quran regarding fear: “Verily the ones who fear Allah from among My slaves are those with knowledge.” Surah Fatir:28.  Knowledge which does not give fruit to fear of Allah is merely information stored in the brain.

The Quran is the primary source of knowledge. When a man opens his heart to listen to the word of God and ponders upon its meaning, this miracle will find a way into his heart. Indeed the Quran is Nuur: a spiritual light which gives life to the spiritual heart. A light which will synchronize with the light of the fitrah ( natural disposition) of man. It is this ‘light upon light’ which empowers the heart’s ability to ‘see’ , ‘hear’ and understand. This is the intelligence and wisdom of the heart.

Understanding the Quran generates awareness of the perfection of the Creator and reveals the actual reality of the created beings in contrast to Him. Only when blessed with the light of wisdom can we see the ugliness  and lowliness of the nafs in us and  realize how unjustly we have behaved towards Allah Ar-Rahman Ar-Rahim. How kind and good our Master has been to us and how evil and ungrateful we have been. This is the act of  careful and sincere introspection of oneself. Indeed, it creates a  realization which generates pain, regret, sorrow and grief for past sins.  The burning regret (nadamun mukhrik) should be  accompanied by a strong resolve (azamun muhqiq) not to return to the sin. These are the internal indicators of tawbah.

The external indicators of tawbah include eyes dripping with tears when alone with Allah; being more watchful towards every motion of the nafs;  performing more righteous deeds and refraining from sins; and being more careful of the use of the tongue, stomach and external organs. Indeed tawbah increases our fear of Allah. It clears our hearts so that we have better vision of our faults and imperfections. Our sins become more discernible and thus leading us to more frequent and intense tawbah.

Allah commands the believers to repent from  their sins.  Sins are violation of the rights of God or the rights of creatures or both. The lowly nafs  always lead men to sin except by the mercy of Allah. The imperfections of the nafs are due to the ailments of  shirk, kufr, nifaq, kibr, ujub, riyaa, hasad, ghaflah, ignorance, greed, attachment to dunya, love of shahwah and so on.  Scholars mention at least a hundred of them. They differ in number and severity in each person and will be externalised in his conduct and behaviour.

“ And repent all of you to Allah, O believers, in order that you become successful.” An-Nuur:31
“Those who do not repent they are the unjust (dzalimun).” Al-Hujurat:11 

Allah made tawbah a cause for success and the command was phrased with a note of optimism. None is optimistic for success except those who are in constant repentance, from the beginning of their journey to the end. O Allah, make us of the at-tawwabin. Allah defined those who do not repent as dzalimun.  Continuously living in a state of unawareness and ma’siyah is dzulm (injustice). There is no one more unjust to himself than the one who is unaware and ignorant of the Creator, His rights, the imperfections of one’s own nafs and consequently of one’s deeds. And dzulm is haram. Therefore, tawbah is wajib (obligatory). The Prophet SAW asked forgiveness and repented more than seventy times a day.

To the general people, tawbah must be done purely out of the fear (khauf) of Allah. The more we understand His Attributes of power and might, the more we fear His wrath and punishment and the more intense will our repentance be. Our repentance must not be driven by the desire to seek the approval of people, or due to status quo, or because we can no longer commit the sins due to unfavorable external conditions or a physical handicap in us.The tawbah must emanate from an inner urge in us which is the fear of Allah  and His Punishment.

The second type of tawbah is of a higher level experienced by those with greater ‘ilm of Allah. As he realizes the Rahmah, Beauty and Majesty of Allah at a more advanced level in his heart, he develops the feeling of humility, shame and modesty towards Allah. This is hayaa (modesty) which is so strong in the Prophet SAW.   The realization of the perfection of the Creator and the awareness of being watched by this “Perfection” is so overwhelming. How could one with hayaa of Allah possibly do an act internally or externally against the intent of the Creator?  The meter of the heart is so sensitive, calibrated to  such high precision, it can detect an atom’s  size of deviation from the path of worship.

How soothing it is to the broken heart to know that The Master has love(hubb) for the ‘abd who constantly repents. So powerful is the incentive captured in the meaning of His words: “ Indeed, Allah has hubb (love) for the tawwabin (those who are steady and constant in their tawbah)...” Al-Baqarah:222.

The Most Forgiving Master is the One who accepts tawbah. He loves with an unequal compassion, generosity and mercy the ‘abd whose heart is continuously in the state of repentance. The ‘abd who, throughout the journey,  is conscious of the purity of his heart and is always cleansing it with tawbah.

Adapted and compiled. Please refer to Imam Ibnul Qayyim Madarij as-Saalikin volume 1 and Imam al-Ghazali Ihyaa Ulumuddeen for further reading. Wallahua’lam. Astaghfirullah.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Can there be no Allah?

I see a house, grand and beautiful.
With a flourishing garden so shady and cool.
My mind perceives its owner, architect and mason.
I don’t need to see them to be certain.

I see this universe, a seemingly endless beauty.
As regards its Owner and Maker I lack certainty.
My mind has yet to perceive and my heart yet to feel.
The reality my external eyes can never fulfill.

Can there be no Allah?

Physics and chemistry discovered the miraculous atoms.
Electromagnetic waves and the dual natured photons.
Chemical elements with their organized interactions.
Radio isotopes with their specific radiations.
Whose mercy unleashes the energy of heat, magnetism and electricity?
And whose power unlocks the atomic nucleus great binding energy?

Biology discovered fascinating plants and animals.
Species numbering tens of thousands!
With their peculiar ways of multiplication and propagation.
Including sophisticated ways of adaptation.
What kind of power can nurture the animals where ever they may be?
And what kind of mercy carpets the earth with plants so proportionately?

To the signs of The Creator, the honest heart will shake.
How the sky is constructed and the earth spread.
His Acts, so very unique... the searching mind can realize.
But His Attributes...only the pure heart can internalize.

Who has the power to teach bees make their hexagonal cells?
And the mercy to guide them to the flowers so well?
Exceedingly merciful is the One who inspires them to live in high mountains and trees.
And instructs them to exude honey concocted in their bellies.

Whose sovereignty instructs the ants to perform hard labour without pay?
Whose wisdom prescribes them the system of saving for a rainy day?
The Most Kind One who protects the spider in a house so fragile.
Is the One who directs the eel to travel thousands of miles.
From the southern seas to the northern seas the eel will race.
Just to lay its eggs at its original birth place.

Is there anyone who can compete with The Creator?
Or has the slightest share in His Dominion and Power?
To Him belongs all Attributes of Beauty and Perfection.
The Only Perfect Being without equal nor comparison.

How can there be no Allah?
No one can ever, ever, do what He does....

Because He is the Rabb with unique qualities no one can match.
Upon His Tawheed alone the heavens stand and the earth rests.
The mountains almost shook, the earth cracked and the heavens torn.
When people said Allah has taken for Himself a son.

Who teaches the bird to fly so gracefully?
To open and shut its wings in flight so timely.
What kind of power can hold the bird in the air with such loving mercy?
Most Powerful is the One who engineered the aerodynamic wings intricately,
created the law which relates air pressure with its velocity,
that in turn produces lift to a wing structure precisely.

Can there be no Allah? Subhanallah!

Is there any who has the Power and Mercy He possesses?
Only one percent of His Mercy, in this world He manifests.
Is He not worthy of my praise and gratitude?
My worship of him knows no substitute.

A small bird enters the mouth of a crocodile.
Just to clean the teeth of the large reptile.
The bird is fed while the crocodile is relieved.
A relationship quite hard to believe.

Can there be no Allah?

Allahu Ahad, The One whom the second is impossible.
The Unique singular entity with no equal possible.
No comparison and competitor ever, at any given time.
Ascribing partners to Allah will be my greatest crime.

Unique and perfect is the Eternally Besought.
The Self-Sufficient Being, Allah As-Samad .
He Whom everything in the universe seeks.
The Only Perfect Being every creature needs.

When You say You are the Master, everything else is the slave.
Your highest demand is we be Your slaves at all time and space.
You teach us to come to You with gratitude and praise.
Voluntarily, with “hamd” we become Your slaves.

Everything we have and do, we owe to You.
Our purpose in life is to worship and be in constant servitude to You.
Please our Master, help us do the acts You have created us for.
Prepare us  go through the long journey we were destined for.