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A Path Towards Harmony

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February 1, 2004 / Dhul Hijjah 1424

Volume 1, Issue 4


The basic concept of mysticism in Islam is to know oneself and to know one’s Creator as the Hadith says:

“Whoever knows himself,

knows his Lord.”

It is through this process that one discovers the unity in man. Selflessness is the substance of Tasawwuf (Sufism or Islamic Mysticism). Self-discipline is used to raise oneself above the self and identify oneself with the Divine Self. Man has to establish a harmony between his body and soul to reach the Divine Light that Allah Almighty has placed in him. The proper method to reach the Divine is to go through the following stages: Shari’ah (Islamic Outer Law), Tariqah (Islamic Inner Path), and Haqiqah (Ultimate Reality). There is no dichotomy between Tariqah and Shari’ah. Shari’ah refers to the laws that govern man and society.

Tasawwuf can be translated in English as metaphysics. However metaphysics may not explain the full meaning of Tasawwuf. Nevertheless, this is how it is typically translated. People of Tasawwuf are called Sufi (one of the meanings of which reflects the simple, woolen garments worn by the earliest Sufis). In Tasawwuf the first stage is to follow the path led by a Shaykh or Murshid (spiritual guide) on the journey to the soul.  This is done through Bai’ah, or spiritual contract where the seeker promises for the sake of Allah and His Messenger (Peace Be Upon Him), giving his word that he or she will try to never commit a sin or do anything against the Shari’ah. In Tasawwuf, taking Bai’ah or giving one’s hand in the hands of one’s Murshid is in reality giving one’s hand in the Hand of Allah Almighty through one’s Murshid who is connected eventually to the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) through his spiritual guides in a chain of transmission that connects heart to heart. In Tasawwuf the orders and  commands of the spiritual guide must be followed. It is imperative to submit oneself to the Shaykh without any doubts because he is the Ameer (leader). Regarding this, Hazrat Shaykh Ali Hajweri (may Allah Almighty have mercy on him) refers  the Quranic ayah:

O People who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Noble Messenger, and those amongst you who are in authority.”

[Al-Qur’an 4:59].

Follow Allah Almighty’s orders, and the Noble Prophet’s (Peace Be Upon Him) orders and “ulil amr” means spiritual guides.

A Sufi who chooses the path of Tasawuuf may finally reach the level of a Wali, i.e. a Friend of Allah. The Awliya Kiram (Noble Friends of Allah) and the Ulema Kiram (Noble Scholars of Islam) should not traverse different paths in different directions, but they should meet on the straight path, i.e. the Sirat-ul-Mustaqeem and hand in hand create in the human being the consciousness of the soul and the body. Hazrat Shaykh Ali Hajweri (may Allah Almighty have mercy on him) clearly defines in his book about the importance of the Shar’iah and that the people of Shar’iah could be excellent preachers of Islam through Tasuwwuf.  Allah Almighty has said:

“There are servants of God who

walk humbly on earth and when

an  ignorant one converses them,

they pray for his welfare.”

[Al-Quran]

As the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) said:

“Those who hear the prayers of a Sufi and do not say Ameen, come in the list of the negligent, in the eyes of Allah Almighty.”

The stated Hadeeth (saying of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him)) clearly refers to Sufism and presents a comprehensive knowledge about acceptance in the eyes of Allah Almighty. The Hadeeth proves that Sufism was practiced in the blessed time of our Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).

The people striving to attain and reach the Divine Light are those who curb their worldly requirements and selfishness and submit oneself to the willingness of Allah Almighty and His Beloved Messenger (Peace Be Upon Him).  In a Hadeeth, the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) said:

“Die before your death.“

When a Sufi attains to Allah Almighty, he never loses Him, and when he loses himself i.e. through the negation of his ego and super ego, he never regains it. This means that when he involves himself in the Dhikr i.e., remembrance of Allah Almighty, he never regains his own personality. According to Hazrat Abul Hasan Husri (may Allah have mercy on him): ”a Sufi is he whose existence has no nonexistence and whose nonexistence has no existence.” Meaning that whatever he attains, he never loses and whatever he loses he never regains.

In short, it can be said that Sufism is a comprehensive applied syllabus of cosmic law (Shari’ah). Mostly, people are confused with their social, political, economical and ethical viewpoints due to lack of knowledge of the Shari’ah which emphasizes human relations, forgiveness, and the most important aspect of society, i.e. tolerance. Tasawwuf is a knowledge of peace and justice, harmony among different cultural groups and supremacy of humanity. Contemporary social order requires comprehensive principles of Tasawwuf to be applied in the different societal institutions for the betterment of state, politics, public administration, international relations with reference to peace and justice in the world.

References: Taken from articles and speeches of Prof. Dr. Manzoor-ud-Din Ahmed, a distinguished professor of Columbia University, USA and Prof. Dr. Mohammed Ahmed Qadri, Founding Director of IECRC in CA, USA.

Sohail Rana Qadri & Aniqa Rana Qadri

Mr. & Mrs. Rana Qadri are active members of IECRC Canada and contributors to the IECRC Newsletter.

Written by iecrc

May 20, 2010 at 7:28 pm

Islam in the Contemporary World

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August 16, 2003 / Jamad-uth-Thani 1424

Volume 1, Issue 2

Islam is a complete code of life.  The whole combination of the teachings presented by Islam is known as Shariah.  Both sets of acts, viz., Amaal-e-zahiri and Amal-e-batini, are included.  The function of religion is to bestow order upon human life and to establish an “outward” harmony upon whose basis man can return inwardly to his Origin by means of the journey towards ones inner-self.  This universal function is especially true of Islam, this last religion of humanity, which is at once a Divine injunction to establish order in human society and within the human soul and at the same time to make possible the journey within, to prepare the soul to return unto its Lord and enter the Paradise which is none other than the Divine Beatitude.  Allah Ta’ala says in the Holy Quran:

O thou soul which are at peace, return unto thy Lord, with gladness that is thine in Him and His in thee. Enter thou among My slaves. Enter thou My Paradise. (Quran – LXXXIX; 27-30 (trans. by M. Lings.)

God is at once the First (al-awwal) and the Last (al-akhir), the Outward (al-zahir) and the Inward (al-batin).  By function of His outwardness He creates a world of separation and otherness and through His inwardness He brings men back to their Origin. Religion is the means whereby this journey is made possible, and it recapitulates in its structure the creation itself which issues from God and returns unto Him.  Religion which consists of a dimension that is outward, upon the basis of this outwardness, leads one’s self inwards.  These dimensions of the Islamic revelation are called the Shariah (the Sacred Law), the Tariqah (the Path) and the Haqiqah (the Truth), or from another point of view they correspond to Islam, Iman, and Ihsan, or “surrender”, “faith” and “virtue”.

The body and the soul together make up a complete person.  While the body belongs to this world, the soul’s origin is within the realm of Divine Power.  Allah Ta’ala by His Divine Power has united them and made provisions for their growth.  Just as Allah Ta’ala has provided various foods for the nourishment of the body, He has also provided sustenance for the soul.  This vital sustenance, which invigorates the soul, is the Remembrance of Allah also called Dhikr.  During Dhikr one recites loudly or silently names and attributes of Allah, which purifies the soul and heart.

At times, the body is prone to ailments, the cure of which is available in various medicines and Duas (Prayers).  The soul also falls ill in which case Allah Ta’ala has provided remedies.  Sometimes illness of the soul also causes physical illness, which medical doctors are unable to determine.  Doctors treat the body at times of illness and Awliya Allah (Friends of Allah Ta’ala) are healers of the soul. As we consult doctors for our physical ailments, we should consult the Awliya Allah for our spiritual ailments.

The body and the soul each have their particular impurities.  Impurities of the body are urine, pus and so forth.  Similarly, impurities of the soul are lying, cheating, jealousy, anger, greed, malice, vanity, pride, polytheism (associating partners with Allah), and any other activities that are against the Shari’ah (Islamic Law).  Just as we dislike any filth to defile our bodies and if this happens we immediately remove it, it is incumbent on every Muslim to cleanse and purify his soul from any impurities.  The impurities of the body are cleansed with water, and the water to cleanse the soul is sincere repentance.  The tear of a repenter purges his soul and cleanses his heart.

Allah Ta’ala declares:

 “Undoubtedly, he attained to his goal who is purified“.

The cleanliness and purity intended in this Aayah (Quranic Sign) is of a comprehensive and inclusive nature.  The heart, mind and body are so interwoven that they mutually affect each other.  Hence, purification of the body affects the purity of the mind and heart.  In the light of this, the Holy Quran teaches:

“Glorify your Lord and keep your garments clean”                           (Mudaththir: 4-5)

The Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) informs us that cleanliness is part of faith (Mishkaat, Book of Cleanliness, Chapter 1). To attain purity of the soul one needs knowledge relevant to this purity.  This particular knowledge is the science of Tasawwuf (Sufism), which aims at the adornment of the heart with the lofty attributes of repentance, gratefulness, fear of Allah, hope, Tauheed (Monotheism), trust, love, sincerity, truth, meditation, reckoning, contemplation, etc.  In this way attention towards Allah is inculcated in a person through faculties governing the conduct of the Murshid (spiritual guide) and the Mureed (disciple), and the knowledge and practice of Awraad (special prayers).  Tasawwuf, Tariqat, Suluk, Ihsan are the different names conveying the same sense.  The basic aim of Tasawwuf is not simply Dhikr (the remembrance of Allah), as most people understand.  They think that when they offer a Bay’ah (allegiance) to a Shaikh, he will teach them the Wazaif (a roster of religious supplications).  There are people who take Tasawwuf to embrace certain practices and spiritual healing which they expect the Shaikh would prescribe for them.  All these practices are part of the path of Tasawwuf but not an end towards Tasawwuf.  Such individuals should keep one thing in mind that Sufism is the name of giving every thing in the name of Allah and in return Spiritual healing and Dhikr are the gifts of Allah Ta’ala for the seeker of Truth, i.e. Sufi.  In short the real aim of Tasawwuf is the Purification of soul and means to an end, which is Shariah with theory and practice.

Dr. Syeda Saiqa Zubeda

Dr. Syeda has worked as the Principal of the Canadian Institute of Islamic Sciences, Toronto Canada for the past three years. She has designed and taught the Islamic curriculum for the Institute. She obtained her Ph.D. in Islamic Political Sociology and was awarded two gold medals from the University of Karachi, Pakistan. Dr. Syeda is currently fully dedicated towards research work for the IECRC.

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April 5, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Reflections of a Seeker

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August 16, 2003 / Jamad-uth-Thani 1424

Volume 1, Issue 2 (Part 4)

Harmony can be defined as a pleasing or congruent arrangement of parts, which in the human paradigm leads to inner peace.  The corollary would be that lack of congruency creates internal turmoil, and in severe cases leads to chronic depression.  Human beings are consciously or unconsciously in constant search of this harmony.  I have realized through my personal experiences that this harmony can be achieved by finding one’s place in the Court of the Creator, submitting to it, cherishing the relationships bestowed by the King and practicing unconditional love.

In the Muslim worldview, we believe in the reality of creation and design – that everything we see around us has One Creator – Allah Almighty and that He, the Most Exalted, has created a systematic world full of meaning and purpose.  Out of His Infinite Mercy, instead of placing His Message of Guidance directly into our hearts, He created the institution of Prophethood, where He chose special people to administer this awesome task.  It is essential and a matter of gratitude that we pay homage to this institution, primarily to its pinnacle and most perfect exemplar – Prophet Muhammad (prayers and peace of Allah be upon Him).  He is the greatest Gift of Allah Almighty to us and it is imperative that not only are we grateful, but are also in constant show of this gratitude. Most people respond to this by emphasizing the importance of obeying His Sunnah (Practices), i.e. we must live our lives in accordance to the way He (prayers and peace of Allah be upon Him) lived it.  This is absolutely true. However, obedience out of love, as opposed to fear or compulsion, is the only true and lasting obedience.  So loving the Prophet (prayers and peace of Allah be upon Him) needs to precede trying to imitate Him.  As a matter of fact, loving the Prophet (prayers and peace of Allah be upon Him) is what completes our faith, as corroborated by the following Hadeeth:

Allah’s Apostle  said, “By Him in Whose Hands my life is, none of you will have faith till he loves me more than his father and his children.” (Sahih Bukhari Shareef)

The philosophy of love is a complex one.  To some people like myself, it is missing the Beloved (prayers and peace of Allah be upon him), wanting to see Him, yearning to be with Him and seeking His presence, desiring His approval and pleasure, attempting to make the Beloved (prayers and peace of Allah be upon Him) happy and making every effort not to displease Him.  This motivates me to try to follow everything He commands us to do.  Allah Almighty says in the Noble Quran:

Whoever obeys the Noble Messenger has indeed obeyed Allah              (Holy Quran, 4:80)

Those who fear that the expression of such emotions borders on shirk (i.e. associating partners with Allah Almighty) need to consider the fact that it is Allah Almighty Himself who chose to include His Beloved’s (prayers and peace of Allah be upon Him) name in the shahaada (the testimony that “There is no God but Allah and that Muhammad  is His Messenger”).  In addition, the Hadeeth (saying of the Prophet Muhammad, prayers and peace of Allah Almighty be upon Him) says that Allah Gives and His Prophet (prayers and peace be upon Him), distributes.  In other words, Allah Almighty is the Absolute Authority and the Prophet Muhammad (prayers and peace of Allah be upon Him) is His delegated authority in creation.  Therefore, to bypass Allah Almighty’s delegated authority and claim direct connection with Him is in the best-case naiveté and in the worst case impertinent and disrespectful to Allah Almighty, as one is not submitting to His System (Nizam). As the Persian saying expresses beautifully:

Bades Khuda Buzurg Tuhi Qissa Mukhtasar

After Allah, you are the greatest spiritual personality and that is the end of the matter

Unfortunately, today’s Muslim psyche has become plagued with what can be coined as “shirk-phobia”, due to the lack of understanding of the definition of the word shirk. Some think that praising and loving the Prophet (prayers and peace of Allah be upon Him) should have a limit, after which somehow it can seep into the realm of shirk.  Nothing can be further from the truth. The more we love and praise Allah Almighty’s Beloved (prayers and peace of Allah be upon Him), the closer we get to Allah.  These acts increase our love for the Beloved (prayers and peace of Allah be upon him) and are highly recommended, such as sending copious salawaat (prayers) upon him, writing and reciting poetry and prose that praise Him, talking about His birth, life, love, message and personality and remembering and celebrating the most awesome day that He was sent to this earth.

The Prophet (prayers and peace of Allah be upon him) epitomized unconditional love, which can be defined as genuinely wanting the best for others, doing something practical about it and wanting nothing in return except Allah Almighty’s love and rida (contentment and pleasure).  To those who make statements that He  was “just” a Messenger, that He  completed his “job” by conveying the message (may Allah protect us from such thoughts), need to consider that He (prayers and peace of Allah be upon Him) as the Messenger embodies Allah’s Message as reported in the famous Hadeeth by Sayyidatuna Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) that He is the walking Quran.  In addition, He (prayers and peace of Allah be upon Him) is described as “Shaahid” (Witness) in the Quran [48:8] and therefore He is aware of all that we do on a daily basis and He continues to pray for His Ummah (community).

I once heard a speaker at a conference say “It is better to be at the tail of Truth than the head of falsehood”.  At the time, the statement resonated with my heart but its full meaning did not descend upon me until I had the great honor of affiliating myself with the Qadri Tareeqat (Sufi Path) of  Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani (may Allah be pleased with him).  Allah Almighty says about His awliya (Friends / Saints) that they have no fear of the future and no grief over the past.  I believe this is so because they have surrendered themselves absolutely, not in negative resignation but a conscious willing submission to their Infinitely Merciful, Beneficent, Wise and Loving Lord with the understanding that He Almighty does everything for the good of His creation whether that is immediately obvious to us or not.

In my limited understanding, the Path of Tasawwuf (Sufism) is about self-effacement, taming and eventual annihilation of the ego, considering everyone else as better than oneself, removing all prejudices and biases, breaking stereotypes, becoming completely non-judgmental, recognizing that we don’t know where any human being stands with Allah Most Exalted, that we mustn’t judge by the external as we don’t know what is in someone’s heart. This Path is a path of no claims, just pure and total surrender, longing and love.

The Path is a tough one for anyone who wishes to tread it, but it is the only way for those who yearn for their Lord and seek His and His Beloved’s (prayers and peace of Allah be upon Him) contentment and pleasure.

Syeda Shagufta Ahmad Qadri

Introduction to Sufism

with 2 comments

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Volume 1, Issue 3 (Shawwal 1424)

“Today Sufism is a name without a reality.  It was once a reality without a name,” said Abul Hasan Fushanji some 300 years after the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him).  These two sentences indicated two important points.  The first point being that Sufis, who had dedicated themselves to the worship of God, had once been an actuality during the time of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) and His Companions.  The word Sufi did not exist then, but its realities lived within those holy people.  The second sentence suggests a loss of this way of life with the acquisition of wealth as the Islamic empire expanded.  With the spreading of worldliness, “men tended to become more and more bound up with the ties of this life, [and] those who dedicated themselves to the worship of God were distinguished from the rest by the title of Sufis” (Lings, 45).

The word Sufi literally means ”woolen”.  The term was in reference to the clothes that came to be associated with those who had given up the material aspect of life in pursuit of a spiritual and deeper approach to God.  In going along with the concept of duality in this particular approach, the word Sufi also had the meaning of “purity”.  This sense of purity was the beginning and the end goal for the spiritual seeker.  Together these two meanings summed up much of what the Sufis strove for: a negation of this world and the achievement of purity in their faith.

If one asked a Sufi “What is Sufism,” he or she would expect a response that was abstract and to some extent unintelligible because of its mysticism.  But to a large extent, beyond these seeming abstractions, lies a simplicity.  There are a few core concepts that when explained make Sufism a very accessible approach to faith.  The first one of these core concepts deals with the heart itself, the most important organ that ties the believer to his or her Lord.  The ultimate goal of Sufism lies here: only through purity of the heart and character will the believer reach his or her Lord.  Therefore, the heart becomes the centerpiece.  And if looked at through the scope of imagery, one could liken the heart and its centrality to the sun around which the other planets revolve.  Just as the sun is crucial to our lives, for without it there would be no life on earth and no existence, so too, is the heart in such a vital position.  Without the heart, man is dead – both spiritually and physically.  One could then ask, “But everyone has a heart.  So what makes a Sufi’s heart different from an ordinary man’s?”  The answer to this question lies not in the physical realm but in the spiritual.  The “awakened” heart symbolizes consciousness of God.

Achieving consciousness of God, however is not as simple as it seems.  First off, the heart may be enshrouded in darkness / ignorance such that the person may exist in a state of unconsciousness.  It could also be that the person may know that his or her heart is enshrouded in darkness, and hence to release it from such chains, it needs a method of disentangling.

How does one release himself from such chains of ignorance?  Here is where the role of the sheikh / pir, the spiritual leader steps in. Just as it is impossible to imagine Islam without the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) because of His fundamental role in being the teacher of Islam, it is impossible in Sufism to imagine the approach to God without a sheikh.  It is only through him that the Sufis can reach their true potential.  It is the sheikh who unlocks certain secrets regarding the understanding of faith, but more importantly provides a link back to the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him).  The silsilah, or the chain of shuyukh going to back to the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) himself, can be looked at as a series of links that connects the Sufi back to the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) in a spiritual connection.  Creating this chain is of great importance for it in essence is creating a link back to the Receptacle into which God poured faith and knowledge.

The sheikh is important for another reason.  In the process of becoming closer to God, the novice may experience spiritual visions which he may interpret  incorrectly.  For example, as the Sufi learns to awaken his heart by  negating his self, the greatest danger that lies ahead of him in this process is the danger that the individual might interpret those visions as a sign of his own divinity.  Such grave mistakes are avoided by being in complete obedience to a Sufi master.  The Sufi master can be likened to a manual which tells the reader how and when and why to perform certain actions to reach the desired conclusion.  He is the warner that gives the alarm to the follower when he or she is exceeding their bounds.  The novice, then, is required to place his hands, symbolically speaking, into the guiding hands of the Sufi master.

This obedience is not a blind obedience.  In fact, one can call it a specialized and individualized type of obedience.  Because in a given population the spiritual ailments that people suffer from differ from individual to individual, so, too, do the treatments. Therefore, the tariqah, the order, which the novice wishes to enter is also particular to him.  If looked at in this light, the sheikh is actually seen as a type of doctor.

In all this, it is easy to get caught in the trap and believe that Sufis are antinomianists – meaning that they forsake the external law, the shari’ah, in favor of the inward law (Sufism).  Yet Sufis would argue the exact opposite.  The Sufi having mastered the external law, begins to focus on the nawafil – the voluntary acts.  The nawafil represents to the Sufi not only a love for God, for they are moving beyond what they are required to do, but they are also simultaneously becoming active followers.  A passive follower would just do the obligatory (fard) acts of faith and feel fulfilled, whereas the Sufi would strive to reach God through “extra credit” work. This concept of love through voluntary acts is summed up in the hadith qudsi, “Nothing is more pleasing to Me, as means for My slave to draw near unto Me, than worship which I have made binding upon him; and My slave ceases not to draw near unto Me with added devotions of his free will until I love him and when I love him I am the Hearing wherewith he hears, and the Sight wherewith he sees and the Hand whereby he grasps and the Foot whereon he walks.” This is in essence the doctrine of Sufism.

Prof. Dr. M. Jahangir Warsi

mj_warsi@hotmail.com

Dr. M. J. Warsi received his Ph.D. in Urdu language and linguistics from Aligarh Muslim University, India. He is the author of several books and research papers in his subject. Before coming to California, he was a professor of Urdu language and linguistics at the University of Michigan.

Written by iecrc

March 24, 2010 at 10:04 pm