Friday, September 28, 2007

Doing Everything For Allah's Sake

Category: SOUND

The Holy Prophet(saw) has said, "If anyone gives something to someone else for the sake of Allah, forbids something to someone for Allah, loves someone for the sake of Allah and hates someone for the sake of Allah, then he will have perfected his faith." (Tirmizi, Sifat ul Qiyamah, Chapter 61)

"What is worldly from one angle becomes religious when seen from another angle."

Turn every love for Allah

There is a form of love in the life of every man. There is love between mother and child, father and child, husband and wife, etc. There is fraternal love and love between relatives. If the angle of view is aligned properly, these forms of love can be described as love for the sake of Allah. For instance, if anyone heeds the directive of Allah and His Messenger (saw) that one should love their parents then their love for their father and mother is regarded as love for the sake of Allah. We are told that if anyone casts even a glance towards his parents with love, they are regarded as though they have performed a Hajj and an Umrah. On the face of it, the person fulfills their natural tendencies in loving their parents but with proper alignment of their intention, they are credited with doing that for the sake of Allah.

Let a husband love his wife for the sake of Allah

A man's love for his wife is a part of his sexual instincts. However, he can gain credit for loving her for the sake of Allah if he forms an intention of obeying Him and His Messenger (saw) and if he tells himself that he follows the sunnah of the Prophet (saw) in doing so. Thus, if we have the case of a man who loves his wife because of his sexual instincts and another man who loves his wife for the sake of Allah, the two of them seem to be doing the same thing but actually, there is a wide difference in their respective behaviour.

Who is an 'Arif

An 'Arif (knower) is one who recognizes Allah and the Shari'ah as well as the path and knows them well. According to the Sufis, an 'Arif is a collection of paradoxes. His personality and his deeds seem to be contradictory for he is in constant link with Allah and remembers Him all the time, yet he mixes along with his family and other people talking to them and laughing with them.

Differences between the beginner and the graduate

Among the Sufis, one who is in the incipient stages is known as a Mubtadi, a Beginner, and one who has passed through all stages is a Muntaha, a Graduate we may say. The former has his foot on the road to Tariqah, the Sufi path in search of inner reality of religious and spiritual life. The obvious status of both of them is similar and their behaviours look alike, while one who is between them seems different.

For example, there is a man like us who is a Mubtadi, a novice, just beginning to tread the religious path. He does everything that is worldly. He eats, drinks, converses with other people, buys and sells, spends time with his wife and children, etc. At the other extreme is the Holy Prophet (saw) who also buys and sells in the market, does manual labour, and spends time with his wives but he is a Muntaha, in the final stage, the Teacher. The apparent condition of the two is alike but there is much difference between them. There is a third man who is a little ahead of the Mubtadi and in-between the two stages. His behaviour is different. He does not go to the market and does not spend time with his family but he is ever occupied in remembering Allah and seeking His forgiveness. He has nothing else to do from morning to evening and he is on a third and middle stage.

The example of a Mubtadi and a Muntaha

Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (ra) has explained the three categories through an example. There is a river and a man is standing at its bank while another has crossed over it and is at the other side of it while a third is swimming in its midst using his hands and feet. To one who sees them, the two men at either side of the river are alike; each is standing at the bank of the river although the one has yet to cross over the river and to endure the waves while the other has gone through the river and the tests involved in swimming before arriving at the other side. The third man is grappling with the waves and going through the tests in his attempt to arrive at the other side.

Paraphrasing the rest:

The reason that this is so is because like the person inbetween the two extremes, a person needs to practice before they can effectively transform their lives. The reason I bolded/italicized the word 'intention' above is to show that the fundamental principle throughout here is remembrance. Like I said earlier, sometimes things just remind you of Allah, whether its things, people, activities, whatever. It's a good idea to stick to them. On the other hand, most of our passing lives can be spent completely oblivious of Allah and that's why effort is needed to transform ourselves so we remember Allah, the Shari'ah (divine injunctions), and the Prophet(saw)'s Sunnah in everything we do.

One of the other effects of this is that it allows you to more effectively love something (by tapping into the most unselfish type of spiritual feeling at your core, your God-consciousness) and also to disengage if necessary... meaning you will be able to give up the love for the cause of Allah, whether for the rest of your life here or while temporarily rearranging priorities depending upon the demands on you. It prevents attachment of the psychological sort, the bad kind. Too much love is never a bad thing, but worldly love (not for the sake of Allah) can foster some unwanted phenomenon like attachment and other things.

Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (ra) related an incident in which he got into an argument with his wife and she spoke with him harshly. He told her if she wanted, he'd go live in a khanqah (where disciples undergo spiritual training and do dhikr all the time, etc.) for the rest of his life because he can't live with hearing her tone that way (lol, btw). He wondered to himself if he could follow up on this threat and remove himself from his wife and his love for her and realized that if the love was for Allah, of course he could, provided he was disengaging for Allah as well.

It takes some time. If you love kids, it's difficult to intercept yourself when you come upon one and be like 'WAIT! don't like the child YET. remember Allah first' and the same for everything else, like your spouses (obviously for most all of us, Allah is not being remembered before the sexual instinct kicks in... because that can't happen without an islamically sanctioned marriage, and often when it kicks in under this cultural mindset, the idea of marriage itself becomes unpleasant).

That analogy is also good for telling apart fakers. Consider the shores as the limits of Shari'ah and Sunnah. You wouldn't believe someone standing on the shore telling you "Whoa dude, I'm swimming like hell right now, you should totally check it out, it's cool."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Rumi on Love

Category: SOUND

When the Lover saw the dagger of Love in the hands of the Beloved,
Without fear and oblivious of danger he ran towards it.
And when the Lover saw the dagger aimed at him,
He felt it compulsory to offer his head towards the knife.
O truly Beloved, in Your remembrance Love seems good to me
And till Qiyamat I want to continue uttering this cry in madness.
When the self has claimed to be a wild duck,
Then when the storm of calamities descended what complaint could it have?

0 Foolish One, do not command the nightingale towards silence For when it remembers the garden, its complaints
will come on the lips.

When Love pulls the strings of its bow,
Many are the souls that become sold for a small price.

From afar love seems like being bloody
So that insincere lovers do not tread this path.
This bloody appearance is a guard
Against insincere and half-baked lovers, not to come this way.

0 Beloved, let it not be the good fortune of your enemy, to be destroyed by your sword,
May the heads of friends remain safe, for you to try your sword on them.

For the sake of the love of my Beloved,
I am in love with suffering pain and sorrow.

This is what is called True Love. What a sad state of affairs that today people look at sensual love and call it love. That is not love. The love that comes from metaphorical beauty is not really 'ishq'. It is jisq' (transgression), which is caused by overeating. If a person has to go without food for a few days he will forget his love and ask for bread. But the Divine Love, because it is placed within the essence of man, even if no worldly needs are acquired, no change comes about in the Lover and his Love does not decrease. Love is actually a name for that kind of surrender that Allah, the truly Beloved is the Doer of everything and the servant is he who is pleased and satisfied with all that He does.

-Hakim Akhtar

Following the Sunnah of dress

Category: SOUND

All are from translated oral lectures in Urdu of Mufti Taqi Usmani.

It is not lawful to give up a Sunnah for fear of being ridiculed

[paraphrased]If by following a Sunnah example it is likely that you will make Muslims turn against the Sunnah or commit an act of disbelief, then it's okay to refrain. It is not okay to stop if only you are going to be ridiculed. It is also not okay to stop if it is unbelievers who are ridiculing as they will ridicule the Sunnah anyway.[/paraphrased]

The effect of dress on character (Inside vs. Outside)

It has been narrated about Hazrat Umar (ra) that once when he came to the Prophet's mosque to deliver a Khutbah, he was wearing a very magnificent gown. After having delivered the Khutbah when he went back home, he put off that gown with the resolution that he would not wear it again, because it created in him a sense of pride and superiority. The gown in itself was something neither prohibited nor unlawful. Those who have been granted by Almighty Allah crystal-clear hearts are able to realize the slightest of vice in their inner selves. We do not at all realize in our hearts the bad effects of the sins we commit from time to time. Contrary to this, the hearts of the righteous are like spotless cloth. If a spot appears on it, it is clearly visible. The incident of Hazrat Umar (ra) demonstrates that the dress-style of man does have an impact on his conduct, character and trend of thought. One should, therefore, realize the importance of dress and obey the injunctions of the Shari'ah about it.

The notion that it is not necessary to take care of the outside as long as the inside is alright is a Satanic deception. The outside requiring amelioration consists of your dress, food, conduct and character in the society. Their soundness has a bearing upon the soundness of the inside which is the soul. Those who do not think on these lines have no real understanding of Deen. If matters had been as these ignorant persons presume, the Holy Prophet (saw) would not have issued so many injunctions about dress, etc. as he has done. In principle, he has issued his kind injunctions in matters which people are likely to go astray.

One of our saints used to give an example to illustrate this point. When a fruit gets rotten in its inside the effect of this rottenness appears on its outside in the form of ugly spots. If the fruit is not rotten in its inside, the outside remains sound and sightly. Similarly, if the outside of a man is unsound (un-Islamic, not necessarily unhealthy), it is a sign that his inside is also unsound to a certain degree. It is therefore, not correct to claim that our inside is alright, no matter what is the condition of the outside.

The narrow-mindedness of the English

People say that it is narrow-mindedness to stop them from using the dress of the disbelieving English people. Do you not know or have you forgotten the narrow-mindedness of this English community when they occupied India? They made the flowing gowns, shalwars and turbans of the Mughal rulers and kings a uniform for their menial servants, like gate-keepers, peons, butlers, and waiters. Why did they do so? They did so only to disgrace the people and to show them that they attired their low-grade servants in the dress of their former Kings.

Dr. Iqbal elaborates in a couplet: 'The secret of the power and supremacy of the West lie in their hard work in the field of art and science. Their advancement, progress and superiority all are due to their devoted research and experiment.' In the end he has said: 'Wisdom, art, and science do not depend on any particular style of dress. The eastern dress consisting of the gown and the turban too is not the cause of backwardness. It is nothing but hard work in the field of knowledge and science which is needed.'

You did not acquire from the West what would have really helped you viz. knowledge and technology, but you relied on imitating their dress, life-style, etc. In this way you disgraced yourself. The world honours and respects those who have regard and love for their own way of life. So the world shall accord no credit to you for this habit of mimicking others.

Protect Your Glances

Category: SOUND

All are translated from Mufti Taqi Usmani's oral lectures in Urdu.

"(O Prophet!) Tell the believers to lower their glances and protect their private parts. This is purer for them. Indeed, Allah is aware of what they do!"

Casting evil glances is a deadly disease

In this verse Almighty Allah has mentioned a deadly disease. This is a disease fraught with many vices. Many have become addicted to this sin from among those who sit in the company of Ulama and godly persons, also religious people regular in their prayers and fasting. Today the situation has deteriorated to such an extent that when you go out, you find it very difficult to protect your eyes from evil glances. Wherever you turn, you will find captivating scenes from which it is difficult to shield the eyes.

The reality of 'evil glances'

'Evil glances' means casting glances at those of the opposite sex who are not closely related to you, particularly when the glances are amorous and lustful or are intended for enjoyment. It is also a sin to cast such covetous glances even at the pictures and photos of those, gazing at whom falls within the definition of 'evil glances'. The sin of casting evil glances is a great hindrance in reforming the human soul. Of all the conceivable sins it is the most damaging to man's spiritual and inner soundness. The reform of the inner self of man is almost inconceivable, unless control on glancing is attained. The Holy Prophet (saw) has said in a hadith: 'The glance is one of the poisoned arrows of Iblis.' If anyone is hit by this poisonous arrow and fails to ward it off, it becomes very difficult for them to ameliorate their inner self. Of all the factors of destruction, the evil glances of the eye is the most destructive.

You shall have to take this bitter dose

I have heard my Sheikh Dr. Abdul Hai Sahib (ra) saying: An evil glance is a fatal poison. If anyone desires to reform their inner self they will have to protect their glances from being misdirected. This is, however, a very difficult task, as you cannot find refuge anywhere. Wherever you turn you find violation of modesty, hijab/purdah, nudity, lewdness, etc. It is very difficult for anyone to protect their eyes from forbidden glances. However, you have to take this bitter dose, if you want to taste the sweetness of Iman and establish nearness with Almighty Allah and win His love to purify your inner self. You can make no headway in this field without taking this bitter dose. The dose is bitter only in the beginning. When you get used to it, its bitterness turns into sweetness which you cannot afford to miss.

You will find it sweet and tasteful

Just like the coffee of the Arabs which tastes very bitter in the beginning, but becomes very tasteful when one has become used to its exhilirating effect.

In the same way, casting evil glances is also a very formidable task in the beginning, but when one gathers courage to protect himself, the task becomes easy and enjoyable. The taste of protecting the eyes from this sin becomes more enjoyable than that of polluting them by casting evil glances on forbidden scenes.

Right use of the eyes

If you put this blessing of the eyes to its right use, Allah has promised to reward you. For example, if you cast on your parents loving glances, you will, according to a Hadith, get recompense equal to that for performing one Hajj and one Umrah. It occurs in another Hadith that when a husband enters his house and he and his wife both cast on each other loving glances then Almighty Allah casts on both of them His glance of mercy. When the eyes are put to the right use then not only does Allah grant joy and happiness, but He also grants them reward and compensation in the Hereafter. On the other hand, if they use their eyes in looking at forbidden scenes and objects then the torment for this is also very severe. In addition, this evil act destroys the integrity of man internally.

Hazrat Maulana Thanawi (ra) has said: If a man comes across a woman and the 'self' incites him to cast a glance at her, because you will not go beyond this glancing, it should be understood well that this is a deception of the 'self'. Safety lies in the 'self' not being obeyed.

Remedy for lustful thinking

Once Hazrat Dr. Sahib (ra) advised us to banish from our minds lustful thoughts in this way. When a very strong urge is born to cast an evil glance on some forbidden scene or object, imagine that your father is watching you. Would you dare to commit this sin even then? Or would you commit this sin, if your Sheikh or your own children are watching you? Certainly you would not do that, despite your urge to commit the sin.

These persons whether watching or not watching you at that moment do not affect your life in this world or the life in the Hereafter. You should think that Allah, the King of all Kings, is certainly watching you Who has the power to punish you for this sin. By virtue of this trend of thinking, there is every hope that Almighty Allah will protect you from this sin.

What will happen if the film depicting your life is shown?

I also remember a speech of Hazrat Dr. Sahib (ra) in which he asked us to imagine Allah making this proposal:

'Alright, I shall save you from Hell on one condition. I shall run a film depicting the details of your entire life, of your childhood, your youth, your old age till death which will be shown to people including your parents, your spouses, your brothers, sisters, your own sons and daughters, your pupils, your teachers and your relatives, friends and acquaintances. If you approve this proposal I shall spare you from Hell.'

In such an awkward and humiliating situation said the Sheikh, a man will probably tolerate the punishment of Hell instead of the disclosure of the secrets of his life before all his near and dear ones.

The Heart's insistence on, and inclination to sin, is not a sin

In another speech, Hazrat Dr. Sahib (ra) has said:

'Casting an evil glance is a matter of inclination which is an unintentional act and is not accountable. The next stage is to act upon the demand of this inclination and it is accountable.' (Anfas-e-Eesa)

If a person's glance falls on a forbidden object or scene unintentionally, but they intentionally let their gaze remain fixed on this sight, this becomes a sin and they are accountable for it.

It is forbidden to seek pleasure through imagination

To seek pleasure, in imagination, from a forbidden member of the opposite sex is as unlawful as to cast a glance at that person with sinful intention. To get rid of this evil it is suggested to control your 'self' and keep looking downwards. Do not look all around [as it becomes easy to glance again] rather keep your eyes low towards the ground.

This distress is less severe than the distress of Hell

Hazrat Thanawi (ra) has further said:

One should pluck the courage to act upon these injunctions, though they may prove very distressing. This distress will, however, be less severe than the Distress of Hell.

The severity of the distress of Hell cannot be imagined which is endless and eternal, but the trials and tribulations of this world, however severe, are shortlived.

People wrongly think that some Shaykh shall prescribe for them some formula of secret words or blow over the patient after rehearsing something that will bring cure to them of this disease. You should all know that firm resolution accompanied with unyielding courage while turning to Allah for assistance is the only solution to this problem.

Adopt the character of Hazrat Yusuf (as)

We are well aware of the story of Hazrat Yusuf (as) as related in the Holy Qur'an. When he (as) was caught in the severe trial, he (as) too took resort to the formula of using his courage and resolution. When Zulaikha, the King's wife, locked all the doors and invited Yusuf (as) to sin, he (as) saw that there was no way out. However, he (as) ran towards the doors which had been locked. He did whatever he was able to do and become entitled to pray to Allah to help him out of his difficulty and distress, as he himself could do no more. Allah then did His part of the job by breaking the locks and opening the doors.

Maulana Rumi (ra) has expressed this incident beautifully in his Persian couplet: [You are not getting a way out of the vices of the world, nor a refuge from them. You should try to the best of your ability to save yourself from them, just as Hazrat Yusuf (as) had done to save himself].

Take the course of Hazrat Yunus (as)

When Hazrat Yunus (as) was in the belly of the fish he besought Allah in the following words: Qur'an 21:87 (memorize this). When you pray to Allah in these words, He shall rescue you from whatever darkness you may have fallen into.

So when you are surrounded by the darkness of the demands of your 'self', and of the environments, etc. Then call Allah for help against these darknesses and for rescue from their evils. If you make such a supplication with sincerity and from the core of your heart, your supplication is sure to be accepted by All Compassionate Allah.

What to do if a sin is committed after prayer?

[paraphrased]If someone prays for something and doesn't get it, it is because Allah knows what's best for them and shall give them something better. If you pray for protection from sin and wind up committing it anyway, don't forget you have the opportunity for sincere and true repentence which sometimes raises a servant's rank to hardly conceivable heights. The poetry of Rumi (ra) and many others is filled with couplets about servants turning to Allah with broken hearts and tears asking for forgiveness. That initial remorse is very valuable, don't let it slip away without acting on it.[/paraphrased]

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The branch of Deen dealing with Social living

Category: SOUND

All from Mufti Taqi Usmani's oral lectures in Urdu.

There are five branches of Deen

I have repeatedly stated earlier that the injunctions that have been imposed on us can be divided into five branches, viz., basic beliefs, worship, business transactions and dealing with people, social living, and ethics (ethical conduct and character). These five branches make up what is called Deen. If any of these five branches is omitted then Deen is incomplete. Therefore the demands of each of these branches should be fully met.

Deen is incomplete without reforming the social life

So far we have discussed and studied the subject of ethics. Imam Nuwawee (ra) has framed a new chapter "Mu'asharah" (co-living with other people) and has cited Ahadith concerning this branch. This considers how we should eat, drink, live in the house or the neighborhood with others. All these activities form part of "Mu'asharah" i.e, social life.

Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (ra) used to say: Nowadays people have excluded "Mu'asharah" from the definition of Deen. They do not accept that the injunction concerning Deen also applies to this important subject. This is the stand even of those people who are very punctual and sincere in other activities of Deen, e.g. prayers, fasting, Tahajjud, remembrance, etc. As a result, their Deen is incomplete.

It is, therefore, necessary to know and act upon the injunctions and teachings which Allah and His Prophet(saw) have issued on the subject of "Mu'asharah". May Allah help us all to act upon these injunctions and teachings.

The Holy Prophet(saw) has taught us everything

Allama Nuwawee (ra) has commenced the first chapter on "Mu'asharah" with the etiquettes of drinking and eating. The Holy Prophet(saw) has given us very important directions on drinking and eating as he has given direction on other areas of life. Once a polytheist raised an objection to Islam and said to Hazrat Salman Farsi (ra): "Your Prophet(saw) teaches you everything, even the way of easing yourself in the latrine."

The polytheist said this by way of finding fault with Islam that the Prophet(saw) taught the Muslims such insignificant things of life like the use of the latrine. Hazrat Salman (ra) replied to him saying: We consider your objection as insignificant. In fact it is a matter of pride for us. Our Prophet(saw) has taught us everything of life, including the etiquettes of sitting in and using the toilet. He has taught us just as the parents teach their children every big and small thing in life. If children were not taught these aspects of life, they would never know them to become polished and civilized members of society. Being kinder to us than our parents, the Holy Prophet (saw) has taught us such nice etiquettes about drinking and eating that by following them our drinking and eating become an act of worship entitled to recompense.

Change the viewpoint at the time of doing every act in order to transform it into worship

Hazrat Dr. Abdul Hai Sahib (ra) used to tell us that he practiced this principle for years and years and explained by saying:

'I am sitting on the dining clothing. The food is there. I am hungry too. I refrain from eating for a moment and think that I would not eat the food. The very next moment I realize that the food before me is only Allah's bounty and not the result of any effort on my part. It was the practice of the Holy Prophet(saw) that when food was placed before him he ate it with Allah's thanksgiving. I, too, will eat the food placed before me in compliance with the Prophet's Sunnah. Thereafter, I begin eating with the name of Allah (bismillah).

I entered the house and felt happy to see the playful, lovely baby. I felt an urge to take the baby in my lap and play with him with love. Yet I kept back for a moment and thought that it was not good to take the baby only for the sake of my liking. The very next moment I remembered that the Holy Prophet(saw) loved children very much and took them in his lap. Now following his Sunnah I will also pick the baby up in my lap. With this notion, I picked up the child.'

After relating to us this practice, he recited this couplet: This means: 'It is not an easy job to make oneself used to grief and distress (in love). This is achieved by putting up with the tensions of grief and pain for a long period.'

He went on saying: I have attained this by the grace of Allah, by constant practice and I hardly miss the opportunity. Whenever some blessing of this kind comes before me, I feel at once that it is from Allah and thank Him after pronouncing 'bismillah' I do the job. I have now become used to it. This is what I call a 'change in vision'. As a result of this change, a worldly act becomes an act of Deen and an act of worship.

Compensating for an optional act

Being that Dr. Abdul Hai (ra) was a Sufi Shaykh and his pupils, including Mufti Taqi usmani (ra) were mostly Maulawis (fiqh jurists) that came to him to learn tasawuf, he often had to deal with their ingrained view of things. For instance, jurists will say no compensation is required for optional (Nafl) acts of worship, only for Fardh or Wajib. Yet, the Shaykh points out, the Prophet(saw) said in a Hadith that if you forget to pronounce Allah's name when beginning to eat, you should pronounce it when you remember it. Likewise, he recommends to make up any missed Nafl acts or prayers, whether you call it Qaza or whatever.

Right way of shaking off the dining cloth (emptying the dinner plate)

We usually just empty the plate right into the garbage. Mufti Usmani relates that he learned from his father who learned from Sayyid Asghar Husain Sahib (ra) that it's better to sort out the plate so nothing goes to waste. The bones with some meat still attached were put in a special place for the cats. The bones with no meat were put in a place for the dogs of the area. The pieces of bread were put on a wall outside for birds. The tiniest pieces of bread were placed near ant-holes. So nothing was wasted of Allah's sustenance.

The Non-Muslims have adopted Islamic principles of living

Once I had the opportunity to accompany my respected father on a journey by air to Dacca (Bangladesh). During the flight I felt the need to use the toilet. You may have seen a notice above the washbasin to this effect: After having used the wash-basin, kindly clean it with the cloth and dry it so that those coming later may not feel disgusted.

After I returned from the toilet my father said to me: The notice written above the wash-basin means the same warning which I have been giving you off and on that it is a part of our Deen to save others from distress and inconvenience. The non-Muslims have adopted this principle and Almighty Allah has bestowed upon them success and progress in this world. We, on the other hand, have excluded these principles from Deen and have confined Deen only to prayers and fasting, etc. We have totally ignored the rules and etiquettes of social living or "Mu'asharah". The result is that we are going back to deterioration and failure. Allah has planned the affairs of the world on the principle of cause and effect. Therefore, the results, good or bad, depend on man's deeds. This is a law of nature which according to Allah's Decree, applies to all, whether they are believers or non-believers.

An incident relating to an English lady

Last year I had to go to London. From there I was going to Edinburgh by train. On the way I felt the need to use the toilet. When I reached the toilet I saw that an English lady was standing there. I concluded that the toilet was engaged and the lady was waiting for her turn. I came back to my place. A long time passed neither anyone came out of the toilet nor the lady went in. I again went and saw the sign of 'vacant' on the toilet door. I asked the lady to use the toilet if she wants to. The lady told me that she was waiting for the train to move. It is the law to neither flush nor use the toilet while the train is stationed. No sooner than the train leaves the platform she will flush the toilet which she forgot earlier.

Now think about how this lady was waiting only to flush the toilet which she could not do earlier. She is not flushing it presently because the law of the railway stands in her way. At that time I remembered the advice of my father that it is a part of Deen to take care of such small matters as flushing toilets and latrines, so that you may not be a cause of inconvenience or disgust to those who come to use the facility later. Our behaviour in such matters is just the opposite. We have formed the habit of looking to our own comfort and convenience, leaving others to mind their own business.

Why are non-Muslim nations making process

Bear in mind that Almighty Allah has, in His wisdom, planned the affairs of this world on the principle of cause and effect. Following this divine principle, the non-Muslims began to work hard and reap the benefit of their labour according to the divine law of nature. They have no share in the blessings of the Hereafter because of their disbelief, yet by following the principles and etiquettes taught by the Prophet of Allah, Muhammad(saw), they have made themselves entitled to the blessings of success and progress in this world. Being Muslims and believers we feel jealous of them for their success and progress in this world, but we do not compare our way of dealings with theirs. These non-Muslims do not tell lies in business, nor do they betray trusts, nor are they lovers of ease and comfort. They work hard with honesty and self-sacrifice and reap the fruits of their labour according to Allah's dispensation. The Muslims have given up these manly traits of conduct and have confined Deen only to the four walls of the mosques and madrasahs. We have excluded from Deen other areas of life. In this way we have suffered a double loss - remoteness from Deen as well as disgrace and humility in the worldly life. In spite of the fact that the Holy Prophet (saw) has taught us all the principles and formulas effective in attaining success in matters relating to this world as well as to the Hereafter. If we find ourselves backwards and disgraced, the fault is our own. May Allah help us see things with the right perspectives. Aameen.

The influence of food on the inner self of man

Whatever has been discussed in the foregoing pages belongs to externally palpable effects of food. People whom Allah has granted inner insight can look into things much farther and deeper. They can easily find out by the light of their spiritual intuition which foods have salubrious effect on the emotions and thoughts of man and which darken the inner soul of man leading to the birth of bad thoughts and urging him to commit sins. Some foods are so full of blessings (barkat) that they please and elate the inner personality of man and provie nourishment to the soul which induces him to do good deeds. We, however, do not perceive this fine difference between one food and another and their enlightening or darkening effects. During these days of material race we have become blind to the real qualities and inner properties of things.

An incident illustrating the influence of food

This incident relates to Hazrat Maulana Muhammad Yaqoob Nanotawi (ra) who was the Rector of Dar ul-Uloom, Deoband (India) and a teacher of Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (ra). Once a man invited the Sheikh to dinner. He went to the place of invitation and began eating. After putting only one morsel into his mouth he realized that the income of the man who had invited him was not lawful. He at once left the food and came back. He said that he felt for about two months the darkness of the one morsel he had swallowed. He felt during these two months an urge to commit sins. The experience related by the Sheikh appears to us to be incredible, because our chests are filled with darkness. Take the example of a white sheet of cloth full of spots. If one more spot is added it will make no difference. On the other hand even if a small spot is put somehow on a spotless white cloth sheet, it can be easily seen from a distance. Such is the similitude of the hearts of saintly men. So it is not at all surprising that Maulana Nanotawi (ra) instantly felt the adverse effect of the unlawful morsel which created in his pure heart an urge to commit sins. This was due to the darkness spread by that unlawful morsel. There is something which is called inner "Barkat" by virtue of which man develops in him spiritual integrity and ameliorates his conduct, character, and thoughts.

These are the conquerors of Iran

It was the custom of Khosran's court that, while he was sitting on his throne, the rest were standing in their respective places. Hazrat Rub'ee bin 'Amir (ra) told Khosran that they followed the teachings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) who had forbidden that one man should be sitting and the rest standing before him as is the custom in his court. They were, therefore, not prepared to take part in the negotiations that way. So, either they should be provided to sit down or the Emperor should also stand before them. Khosran felt his insult in meeting this demand. He refused to talk to them and ordered that they should be sent back with a basket full of earth placed on their heads. Hazrat Rub'ee bin 'Amir (ra) placed that basket on his head. While leaving the court, he said: 'O Khosran! Remember that you have bestowed upon us the earth (i.e, land) of Iran.' The Iranians were very superstitious people who took this event as an ill omen. Khosran, therefore, sent some of his men to overtake them and get back the basket of earth. They could not find Hazrat Rub'ee bin 'Amir (ra) who quickly escaped with the basket of Iran's earth.

Refer to the Prophet Muhammad (saw)'s Hadith: "After this Khosran has perished there will be no Khosran again."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Stories of the Sahaba - 'Umar (ra)

Category: SOUND

"It is said about Hazrat Umar (ra) that as a Caliph, he made rounds of the city at night to learn about the problems of his people. He helped the poor and needy and aided the grief-stricken. If he came across anyone doing something wrong, he reformed that person. One night, he was on his usual rounds at the time of Tahajjud, he heard two women in a house speak to each other and he pictured that one of them was an old woman while the other was young. The former said to the latter who was her daughter, "Mix some water into the milk to increase the quantity before we sell it." The young woman said, "Mother, the Aamir-ul-Mumineen, Umar (ra), has prohibited every milkseller from doing so. We must not do it." "The aamirulmumineen is not here. He cannot see you. No one can see you in this hour of the night if you put some water into the milk." The young woman replied, "Mother! It may be true that the Aamir-ul-Mumineen does not watch us but what about his Lord. Is He not watching us? We must not do the wrong thing." Hazrat Umar (ra) heard all that they had spoken and in the morning enquired about them. Then he sent a proposal of marriage of his son for the young woman and Abdullah bin Umar (ra) was married to her. His grandson, Umar bin Abdul Aziz (ra) was born from this family and became to be considered the fifth rightly-guided Caliph."
-Mufti Taqi Usmani

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Self/Ego/Nafs and Self-Reformation

Category: SOUND

All are by Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani's oral lectures in Urdu.

Take to humbleness and self-dedication

My Shaykh, Hazrat Dr. Abdul Hai Sahib (ra) used to say that what is needed is a matter of servitude, dedication, and obedience, a matter of humbleness and submissiveness. The more man effaced his ego and the more he displayed his quality of servitude, the more acceptable he would become - God willing - in the sight of Allah. The Shaykh would then recite this Persian couplet: This means that one cannot find the straight path leading to Allah by claiming wisdom and cleverness. The King's (Allah's) mercy and favour overtake him who displays his humbleness and obedience.

Our Hazrat Dr. Abdul Hai Sahib (ra) used to say very useful and wonderful points of wisdom and knowledge. One day he (ra) said: When "Palow" (a delicious dish of rice and meat) is cooked, the rice first begins to boil with a boiling sound and it circulates in the cooking pot. All this is a sign that the cooking is not complete and the dish is not yet ready to eat. When the process of cooking nears completion, the rice settles down in the pot: it has no noise, no movement and no boiling. No sooner is the process of cooking complete, then the rice begins to give out a refreshing and appetizing fragrance. Now it has become tasteful and palatable, worthy of being served and enjoyed. The couplet contains a reference to the story of Prophet (Joseph) Yusuf (as). Here the sudden fragrance emanating from the cooking pot has been compared to the smell emanating from the garment of Prophet Yusuf (as).

Same is the example of man. He is not ripe in his conduct, character and piety, as long as he claims openly or secretly that he has such and such qualities and accomplishments in him. On the other hand when he admits before Allah his worthlessness and nothingness by renouncing his high-sounding claims, he becomes a favourite of Allah from whose personality rays of goodness and piety radiate.

On such occaisons, Dr. Hai Sahib used to recite this beautiful couplet. This means: Almighty Allah has made me an aimless wanderer in the desert of self-dedication and has taught me the lesson of self-dedication. I have, thus, been granted a world which has neither a name nor marks of location. May Almighty Allah bestow this favour upon us also. - Aameen.

Expel the idol of Ego

It should be noted that as long as the idol of Ego is present in the heart the personality is immature and unripe. It will come to maturity like the boiling broth when the idol of "ego" has been smashed to pieces; this is the quality of self-dedication or self-effacement. Dedication means that man should purge his living and all his acts and movements from the vestiges of pride and arrogance and take to humbleness and modesty. The road to success will - God willing - be opened for him the very day he adopts humbleness. Pride is the greatest hurdle in the way leading to the Truth. However great and dignified a proud man may regard himself and however depressed and disgraced does he regard the rest of humanity, in the last resort Allah grants honour and dignity to the modest and disgraces the proud and the haughty.

The example of a proud man

There is a very wise parable in the Arabic language. The example of a proud man is like one who is standing on a mountain peak and thinks that those at the foot of the mountain are very small. In the same way those at the foot of the mountain think that the man at the peak of the mountain is small. This is an optical illusion, otherwise they are all equal. In the same way the entire world regards the proud man as mean and the proud man regards the entire world as mean. The truth is that Almighty grants honour to those who efface themselves before Allah.

May Allah inculcate in us also the quality of modesty and humbleness. Aameen.[/quote]

May Allah also save us from the trials of our times where traits such as pride and meanness are considered to be desireable (as the Holy Prophet(saw) predicted in Hadith), to the point of being a part of our subconscious mind. This is purely a result of our also having been infected with pride, for the proud love the proud. We see the world as 'mean' as the proud do, but being unsuccessful we admire the proud who do meet success in the same 'mean' world and claim sole responsibility for it, and envy them. This was not the situation in the old eras though we are led into believing it was so because we view all of history through this contemporary filter. A person is on the verge of committing shirk by being proud and equating theirself to Allah in their own mind, this is why the Ego is an idol of sorts.

Mufti Muhammad Shafi (ra)

Dr. Abdul Hai Sahib (ra) used to relate an anecdote about Mufti Sahib [my father]. He said that once he was sitting in his clinic on Robinson Road, Karachi, when Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Shafi Sahib (ra) was passing in front of the clinic all alone with some pot in his hand. Dr. Sahib asked those who were sitting with him if they knew the man who passing by. Then he himself told them that he was the Grand Mufti of Pakistan who was going with a pot in his hand. None could guess from his clothes, style, and mode of walking that he was such a great Allama.

Inferiority Complex vs. Modesty

Nowadays the science of psychology has become very popular among the people. "Inferiority Complex" is a term of this science which is regarded as something undesireable. Treatment is provided for a person who falls a victim to this malady. Some people allege that the mystic formula of "modesty" or "self-effacement" is only creating the feeling of "Inferiority Complex" among the people which is apparently not a desireable tendency.

It may be stated to clear that "Modesty" and "Inferiority Complex" are two different traits of human behaviour. Those who evolved the contemporary science of psychology were ignorant of Deen, Allah, and His Prophet (saw). They invented this term.

"Inferiority Complex" consists of accusation against Allah's creation. A man suffering from this complex thinks that he has been deprived of something which should have been given to him and that he has been pushed back. He has not been given his due share. He was born ugly, poor, sick, or crippled, etc. Such complaints necessarily create irritation and, in turn, jealousy. They create in him dependency and dejection. At any rate, "Inferiority Complex" is based on a complaint against dispensation and ordinance of Allah.

As regards "Modesty", it cannot be acquired by complaining against Allah's decree. It is acquired through rendering thanks to Allah for His grants and favours. The man practising "Modesty" thinks that he did not deserve any blessings, but Almighty Allah favoured him by His mercy and grace.

Making a show of modesty

Sometimes we make a show of modesty by using formal words like, "I am worthless, the lowest, sinful" etc. This is no Modesty; it is only a show of modesty; it is an illusion of modesty. Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (ra) has given us a very effective formula to test the modesty of anyone. When a person says that he is worthless, wrongdoer, guilty and good for nothing, etc. confirm to them their statements, saying, "yes, really you are what you are saying about yourself." Now see their reaction. If they do not take ill to what you have confirmed, then they are really sincere in their claim of modesty. On the other hand, if they feel offended then be sure they were making only a show of "modesty". They were using words of modesty with the intention that their listeners may contradict them, saying "No, you are very honourable, pious and modest, etc." This is not modesty, but a show of it.

A sign to indicate the acceptance of worship by Allah

Sometimes we make a show of modesty by using formal words like, "I am worthless, the lowest, sinful" etc. This is no Modesty; it is only a show of modesty; it is an illusion of modesty. Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (ra) has given us a very effective formula to test the modesty of anyone. When a person says that he is worthless, wrongdoer, guilty and good for nothing, etc. confirm to them their statements, saying, "yes, really you are what you are saying about yourself." Now see their reaction. If they do not take ill to what you have confirmed, then they are really sincere in their claim of modesty. On the other hand, if they feel offended then be sure they were making only a show of "modesty". They were using words of modesty with the intention that their listeners may contradict them, saying "No, you are very honourable, pious and modest, etc." This is not modesty, but a show of it.

The essence of Tasawuf (Mysticism)

Dr. Abdul Hai Sahib (ra) used to read to us a statement of Maulana Thanawi (ra) which is worth remembering. Maulana Thanawi (ra) often said:

'When you feel lethargic in obeying some command resist the lethargy and obey the command. Similarly, when you feel tempted to commit a sin, resist the temptation and refrain from that sin. This is the essence of Tasaw-wuf (mysticism). When you reach this stage nothing more is needed. This creates in the heart a 'relationship with Allah', then strengthens it and develops it.'

Tempt the Self to do right work

Dr. Abdul Hai Sahib (ra)used to say that we should tempt and induce our 'selves' to work. Thereafter, he related to us an incident of his own. He said: One day when I got up at night for the Tahajjud prayer, I felt very much depressed and lethargic. I was inclined to think that being advanced in age, indolent and tired there was no harm in missing the Tahajjud prayer one night, when it was neither obligatory nor compulsory. As against this, the Sheikh also thought: Although these excuses seem to be quite plausible, yet it is the blessed time when Allah accepts the supplications of his servants. When one-third of the night has passed, Allah's mercy descends on the earth and an announcement is made on behalf of Almighty Allah: Is there anyone to beg forgiveness that I may forgive them? I, therefore, thought that it was not proper to waste such precious hours. Then I addressed my 'self' in this way: Alright, do not offer the prayer, but get up and make some supplication, sitting on the bed, then fall asleep again. I at once got up from sleep and began to make the supplication. During supplication I again tempted my 'self' in this way: When you have disturbed your sleep, go to the latrine, clean yourself then sleep comfortably. After coming back from the latrine and cleaning myself I was disposed to perform ablution as supplication with ablution is more likely to be accepted by Allah. I, therefore, performed ablution, sat on my bedding and started du'a. Then I told my 'self': The bedding is not a fit place for Du'a there. With this argument I dragged the 'self' to the prayer-rug. Then I made 'intention' for two Rak'ats of Tahajjud.

The Sheikh told that in this way the 'self' has to be tempted to take the right course and do its work. He advised further: When the 'self' plays tricks with you, you should also play tricks with it. It is hoped that by the blessings of this strategem, Almighty Allah will assist us to take the right course.

Hey, it works for Shaitan and your Nafs, might as well try it yourself. And whatever tricks they pull on you to get you to not do good deeds, do that against them. Be lazy when it comes to committing sins. Keep putting it off if you can't resist outright, and maybe you'll have more courage next time around.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Hardships vs. Blessings, Preaching Islam

Category: STRONG

Hardships are of two kinds. If they are a blessing from Allah, they turn you to remembrance of Him. If they are a punishment, they turn you against the Deen.

When things are blessed, they are a source of ease. A person with 100 dollars who gets offered a ride home from work by a friend and happens upon a great discount while shopping has blessed money. A person who comes home with ten times that and finds he has many bills and debts to repay has money that lacked blessing.

All money made from bribery or tainted with interest will be affected thus.

How does one recieve blessings? By showing contentment with what you have and not exceeding the limits (i.e, resorting to interest) in order to gain more.

Another example is a person who has an offer of marriage from a family of a girl that is judged to be of sound character and Deen-oriented. But he turns that offer down in pursuit of a marriage with a woman of wealthier status and a more notable family for no other reason but that... he is turning down many instant blessings of the former marriage for one that could potentially be laced with hardships. It does not mean he is sinning, but he's got his work cut out for him in pursuing a life that lends itself to being one in which it is easier to abstain from sin (as is the case when one is content with what Allah has given and not faced with hardships and frustration... one should seek to surround one's self in such an environment by carefully reorienting their life so it is pleasing to Allah). If in this way, one does not manage to achieve what they wanted, they can then pray to Allah to give them something even better, as they have responded to the situation appropriately thus far.

The relationship of this issue of contentment/blessings/etc. to hardships is that a person whose life might be seemingly mired in hardship could quite very well be leading a content life owing to the blessings in that 'meager' life. What is hardship? It is in your head. All the belief systems throughout history have tried to pound that fact home, as it is a basic principle of human spirituality. It becomes most easily achievable with Islam as it reforms the heart, or the 'spiritual head' and thus the biological mind has no choice but to follow suit.

On preaching Islam:

A few points:

- Never give out your own opinion on the Qur'an's interpretation. Even if your opinion is correct, your act is incorrect. The Ulema have been passing down and refining the science of understanding the Prophet(saw)'s interpretation, not devising their own. This disease has caused many rogue sects to crop up in the current era, including the oft-hyped 'militant' or 'terrorist' strain (counting the real terrorists and not simply those labelled as such).

- There are two kinds, the individual enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong, and the collective. Leave the collective to the Ulema and those qualified (see above).

- - If a person is already involved in sin, they will not listen. Wait for them to stop before you gently remind them.

- - If by enlightening someone you run the risk of angering them or turning their opinions against the Deen, even to the point of mocking the Shariah, then don't. Otherwise, it is fardh on you to correct/remind a fellow Muslim if you see them neglecting a fardh aspect of the Deen. If there is risk of harm to you, then it is up to you. If the chances are 50/50 that you will be received negatively to the point of the person committing an irrevocable sin (insulting or mocking Islam's laws), then you should pray and proceed gently as well or look deeper into the situation and reassess it then.

- Always show mercy and kindness to everyone, non-Muslims included. You should be reforming yourself and as such should be on the path to loving everyone for the sake of Allah. Hate the sin, not the sinner. If someone insults you, you pray for them. An eye for an eye is voluntary after all, the Prophet(saw)'s personal example was to turn the other cheek (and pray).

- Don't goad other people into sins.

Law and Order in ex-Imperial lands like Pakistan

Category: SOUND

"In the Indian subcontinent, when the British ruled over it, Muslims and Hindus collaborated to drive them out of India, and launched a joint movement holding demonstrations and public meetings and calling for strikes. Sometimes the Muslims were asked to behave as Hindus and sometimes it was difficult to distinguish a Muslim from a Hindu. For instance, during the protest demonstrations, Muslims also marked their forehead in the Hindu fashion and went to their temples and took part in their rites. Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (ra) did not like the manner in which the Movement progressed and not only did he not take part in the movement but he also advised his acquaintances and disciples against it.

At one time during the movement, a delegation of its leaders visited Maulana Thanvi (ra) to convince him to cooperate with them. He told them plainly that he was not in agreement with the way the movement was going on when they suggested that if he joined and supported it the British would soon be driven out. He also asked them what they had achieved in the past few years during which they had held demonstrations, organised public meetings and called for strikes? One of them remarked that although they had not gained independence they had succeeded in removing fear of the Red Cap from the minds of the people. The police then used to don the red cap and were known by it. "No one now fears the police. There was a time when on seeing the police the entire locality trembled with fear. This is a great success and soon we will drive the British out too."

Maulana Thanvi (ra) told them that they had done a very bad thing by removing fear of the police from the minds of the people. He said, "By removing fear of the red cap you have given freedom to thieves and bandits. They will do bad things without fear of the police. The least you could have done when you removed the fear of the red cap was to instill the fear of your green cap in the minds of the people. That would have been a great success. But, you have removed the fear of authority without replacing it with another fear with the result that society will face lawlessness and restlessness. People will be in constant danger of losing their lives, property and honour. You have not done a good thing and I do not praise you for that.

These words were spoken by Maulana Thanvi (ra) about 60 years ago. [from 1995] We can see today that there is no longer fear of authority in the minds of the people and the consequences are apparent in the raging chaos and disorder our society goes through."

-Mufti Taqi Usmani

Fear of police, government, other people ensures man behaves well with others. But fear of Allah means man behaves well even when alone and isolated and under the most extreme circumstances.

Take for example how people in South Asia and especially the Middle East just do not seem to be able to stand in line (queue) properly, anywhere. It's always people cutting each other off in a mad dash to the front. Yet in the Masjids, they orient themselves in neat, perfect lines automatically each and everytime.

The Lightest Punishment of Hell

Category: SOUND

"We are told of a saying of the Holy Prophet(saw) in a Hadith: 'The lightest punishment a man will receive on the Day of Resurrection will be that two sparks will be placed below his soles. But they will be so severe that because of them the man's brain will boil and he will suppose that he is being given the severest of punishments.' Some narrations state that this punishment will be awarded to the paternal uncle of the Holy Prophet(saw), Abu Talib because he had been very helpful to the Holy Prophet(saw) but did not profess faith until his last breath. Allah knows best."

-Mufti Taqi Usmani

He mentions another hadith which relates that a dropped stone took 70 years to traverse the depths of Hell.

(translated from an oral lecture in Urdu)

Fear of Allah

Category: SOUND

"We may grow fear of Allah in our hearts by setting aside some time during the day or night to meditate. We can do it after dawn prayer or just before sleeping. We may imagine we are dying, lying on the deathbed, all relatives around. The soul departs from the body and it is being shrouded. Then the body is lowered into the grave after which the angels put their questions. We are then before Allah. Let us think along these lines. If a man thinks in this way everyday, then InshaAllah he will find that he is no more neglectful. We are neglectful because we do not think of death although we bury our dead relatives with our own hands. We do not think of death although we see many sudden deaths, we see people who are occupied day in and day out in amassing wealth die suddenly and do not even turn back to glimpse at their wealth. In spite of seeing all this, we connect death only to the dying and the dead but never think that we would die too. The Holy Prophet(saw) has said: "Remember often that which will end all pleasant seeming things." (Musnad, Ahmad)"

-Mufti Taqi Usmani

(translated from an oral lecture in Urdu)

Sinning is like an Itch

Category: SOUND

Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (ra) related how sinning is like an itch. Shaitan and the Nafs are like mosquitoes that bite your soul and scratching the resulting itch is sinning. It is better to resist the incredible desire to scratch, bear the torture, and try to remedy by applying an ointment (good deeds). If you start scratching, you will have to go on scratching until you wound the area.


Category: SOUND

"O you who believe! Fear Allah and speak words straight to the point"
-Qur'an (33:70)

"The one among you, who wakes up in the morning peaceful in their house, sound in their body and having food for the day, is as one who is given the world with all its possessions."
-Prophet Muhammad(saw) (Tirmizi)

"Remember often that which will end all pleasant seeming things."
-Prophet Muhammad(saw) (Musnad, Ahmad)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Molvi and the Madrassah

Category: SOUND

This is translated from an oral lecture in Urdu given in 1994 by Mufti Taqi Usmani in Dar ul-Uloom Karachi, Pakistan. Today Karachi is the global center of Islamic scholarship of the Hanafi madhab (and with an advantage on all the other madhabs) for sheer number of Ulema, students, graduates awarded degrees, institutions, and books published. Much like how Baghdad or other cities were centers of Islamic scholarship in their respective eras (though they were the centers of ALL learning back then).

Most of his lectures in the Islahi Khutbat series are of a personal reformative nature, this is one of the few political pieces.

"He meant by this witty remark to say that whenever some vice arises anywhere in the world, the people try to attribute it to the Molvis. They try to find one fault or another with whatever the Molvi does. If the poor Molvi, sitting in seclusion is rehearsing Allah's name or is imparting lessons to his disciples from the Qur'an and the Hadith, the people raise objections to him saying that he is ignorant of what is happening in the world and what turns its affairs are taking. He has no time to get out of the closed dome of 'Bismillah'. On the other hand, if a Molvi comes out of his secluded corner for the sake of some reformatory or social work, they object to the Molvi's action by saying that the best occupation for a Molvi is to rehearse the name of Allah sitting within four walls of the Madrassah, but today he is involving himself in politics and government affairs. If there is a Molvi hard pressed for financial resources and has fallen a victim to poverty and starvation, the people blame him saying that he has made no arrangements for financial resources for his students by way of making them financially independent of others, when they leave the school the next day. How shall such students earn their living when they leave the school? If a Molvi by chance happens to be a rich man, possessing sufficient money, they taunt him with affluence and richness."

He is using Molvi as the condescending, almost derogatory, term for Ulema (who might even be Maulanas or Muftis). Not just your local Molvi who teaches kids how to recite Qur'an and leads prayers.

The Ulema contain Islam. Islam (Fiqh), Iman (Aqeedah), Ihsan (Sufism/Tasawuf)... these are all specialized in and propagated by the Ulema. Thus, "This class of Molvis is a shield for Islam". Rooting out the Madrassahs where they teach, or trying to eradicate their influence altogether will pretty much annihilate Islam from that area good and proper. Uprooting religious schools from Muslim lands will do more damage to Islam than if they had bombed that place off the face of the Earth. The next best strategy is to transform them into puppet Madrassahs espousing a form of Islam that is government-approved. For obvious reasons, this totally negates the entire purpose altogether. Especially since the governments have no connection to Islam.

"I have had the opportunity of visiting Baghdad. This is the city which has been the capital of the Islamic world for centuries. The world has seen there the spledour and grandeur of the Abbasid Caliphate. All sorts of arts and sciences developed and flourished there.

When I arrived there, I enquired from someone the address of some religious schools or the centre of religious knowledge and learning. I wanted to visit some of them. I was told that there was no trace of such religious institutions: all these have given way to modern schools and colleges. Now it is only the University faculties where religious education may be acquired. By looking at the dress, etc. of the professors, it is difficult even to acknowledge that they are Muslims, let alone their being Alims of the Islamic Shariah and Fiqh. These institutes follow the co-ed system as well. Islam has become only a theory which is taught as a historical philosophy. This system of education has no effect on the lives of its students. Their study of Islam in these Universities is like that of the orientalists. Today Islam is being taught in Universities in America, Canada and in other European counties and the courses of study include Hadith, Fiqh and Tafsir. If you read their articles and research papers on Islam, you will come to know the names of books about which our naive Molvis are quite in the dark. Apparently great reseach work is being done there on Islam. What is the good of a system of teaching Islam which fails to equip men with the wealth of Iman? All this research and intensive study day and night remain fruitless and the students' thirst for understanding Islam in its true perspective remains unquenched. No doubt there are faculties of Shariah and the principles of Deen in these Universities of the West, but the studies in these Western Universities have no impact on the lives of their students. This is because the essence of these sciences and courses of study has been totally annihilated.

Then I asked the people the names and addresses of some scholars having the older pattern of teaching and learning. I was told that there was a Maktab (religious school of the classical type) attached to a mosque near the tomb of Hazrat Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani (ra), where a teacher of the old pattern of teaching lived and who had received education in the older system. I called upon that Ustad and found that he was really trained and educated on the older system and curricula. My contact with him made me feel that I had really met a righteous God-fearing saint. He had received education in the lowly old-type schools, sitting on mats and leading a hard life of want and scarcity. I could observe on his face the light of the sciences of the Islamic Shariah. From this interview I recieved spiritual inspiration and satisfaction."

"After formal introduction that saint asked me about my country and I told him that I had gone there from Pakistan. Thereafter he put to me a few questions about my Dar ul-Uloom and its curriculum. After I had given him some details about the Dar ul-Uloom he inquired of me about some of the books taught in the Dar ul-Uloom. When I told him the names of some of the books, he felt deeply impressed to hear the names of those books and expressed grief for having been deprived of the blessings contained in them. He said that those are the books that produce godly men and sincere Muslims. He asked me to convey a message from him to the scholars of Pakistan exhorting them never to abolish in any circumstances these schools."

This lecture was delivered in the early '90s so his visit must have been before Gulf War 1, when Iraq was well off. Look at its fate today.

"It is well known about the late poet of the east, Dr. Muhammad Iqbal that he used to make sarcastic remarks about the typical Mullah, except that from time to time he also said things disclosing the truth to the people. Referring to the attitude of the English and the enemies of Islam, he has written at one place in a couplet about Afghanis:

'If you want to eliminate the religious fervour of the Afghanis, then expel the Mullah from the hilly country that is Afghanistan. As long as the Mullah is there the love and fervour of the Afghanis for their Deen cannot be effaced from their hearts.'"

"A violent propaganda campaign has been launched against the religious schools, that their origin dates back to 1400 years ago. The administrators and the teaching staff are outmoded and old-fashioned. They are retrogressive, unaware of modern trends and developments of the world. They do not know how to live in this world according to the modern demands of life, nor have they equipped themselves with the modern scientific technology. These retrogrades want to shift the Muslim Ummah into the reverse gear. Such slogans have been raised from time to time. Their echo is again being heard in our country in full volume.

New force has been added to these slogans by alleging that these religious Madaris have turned into terrorist shelters and they are averse to progress. They are being defined variously with titles like fundamentalists, narrow-mindedness, retrogrades and many other blames are showered on this poor Molvi. The Molvi however, is firm and adamant in his stern attitude and stand."

"My respected father used to say that the Molvi is a die-hard. He is ready to tolerate all taunts, however severe they may be. He is able to put up with all types of adverse situations. This is because one who enters the field of religious life and Islamic activities, he girds up his loins to bear all hardships and taunts from all quarters. He, therefore, enters this thorny field of Deen, prepared to welcome with a good grace all pleasant and unpleasant situations that confront him in the path of Deen.

The idea contained in this line of Urdu poetry is that the path of Allah is difficult and only that person will walk on it who has the courage to face difficulties and give up ease and comforts of life.

A man gifted with an eye capable of seeing realities will readily recognize that these adverse remarks and taunts are in the nature of an ornament for one who preaches the way of Truth. These are taunts that were directed to the Prophets of Allah (as) and their successors and followers. These taunts will not stop, but will continue till the Day of Judgement."

"Voices are being raised today in our society that these religious schools should be closed. There are men who lend support to this demand, not out of opposition and enmity, but out of sympathy and by way of reform.

Sometimes people suggest that these Molvis should be trained for some jobs for earning their livelihood. Therefore, people come forward with proposals including the establishment of workshops for the benefit of the Molvi. My respected father (ra) used to advise that anxiety about the livelihood of these Molvis should be given up, because the Molvis shall themselves solve the problem of their livelihood. You can, he said, cite no case in which a Molvi ever took his own life on account of starvation. My father said: I can give examples of many people with doctorates and masters degrees who have committed suicide on account of financial difficulties. There are also many who hold these degrees, yet they are not finding employment. This cannot be asserted about a Molvi that he is facing unemployment. Almighty Allah the Creator and Sustainer by His infinite mercy, looks after the livelihood of His creatures much better than others."

He relates the story of Sahool Usmani (ra), a reknowned professor of the original Dar ul-Uloom in Deoband, India. He was very well-versed in the field of literature and he thought he might get another job to make money and work in the path of Deen for free. He obtained permission from his superiors to get a job teaching at a government school since that only required 2 to 3 hours of work a week giving lectures with not much preparatory work involved (as opposed to in the Dar ul-Uloom where each day 5 hours of teaching required 10 hours of preparation beforehand). After he spent some time doing this, he reported back to his elders and lamented that he had wound up accomplishing much less in this new lifestyle. That is to say that the environment of a religious school, both physically and spiritually, is blessed and is much more conducive to doing work in the path of Deen. Much more is usually accomplished there in a smaller amount of time and many books are written and published out of these places.

He also mentions how the Dar ul-Ulooms and other Madrassahs (the proper graduate school level) are gigantic institutions running on no income or budget. Yet they are always able to make ends meet, despite expenses that run into the thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars. In fact, there are Dar ul-Ulooms being opened in America and the UK doing the same thing. In the UK, 80% of the new clerics graduating from religious schools there are from Deobandi-associated Dar ul-Uloom-type institutions. Unfortunately those 20% get put on TV instead. He says the people claim no credit for this, it is Allah who runs these institutions by his Mercy and by virtue of the prayers of the righteous saints and God-fearing ulema.

If the thought of foreign donors (Saudi Wahabbis) injecting money into these Madrassahs by way of donations comes to mind, it doesn't apply for Dar ul-Uloom at least. They are strictly Sunni and follow the Hanafi madhab. They are quite critical of Ahl-e-Hadith (Wahabis, Salafis, etc.) and they (Saudis) in turn would rather fund their own Madrassahs (which have lost influence in recent times to the traditional kind... another miracle since there's no such thing as a marketing department in these things). They also rarely, if ever, ask for donations. It goes against their principles of avoiding begging. A few Deobandi Muftis who ran ShariahBoard in the US had gone so far as to close their operation rather than ask for donations (in Western communities, you usually need to ask via fancy fundraisers) so some of the community interceded and raised funds for them.

They are run on the principle that if they ever feel external pressure and feel that they are being forced to violate the Shariah or disgrace the Deen, they'll simply immediately shut it down rather than continue.

A nice anecdote:

"Hazrat Abu Hurayrah (ra) tells of his own hunger that he used to remain in the company of the Holy Prophet (saw) and often would fall down at the door of the Masjid Nabawi worn down from sheer hunger. People would think that he was having an epileptic fit and would pass over his neck because it was believed in those times that anyone suffering from epilepsy would recover if someone passed over his neck placing his foot there. He adds, 'By Allah! Neither had I epileptic fits nor did I suffer from convulsions or unconsciousness. It was hunger, very severe, that made me very weak and unable to rise.' This is how Hazrat Abu Hurayrah (ra) lived and went on to collect and transmit to us five thousand three hundred and sixty-four Ahadith, the highest by any person."

Abu Hurayrah (ra) was part of Ahl-us-Suffah, the first group of 'students' in Islam who made it their business to spend all their time studying every facet of the Prophet Muhammad (saw)'s behaviour, sayings, and teachings. They were so named because they sat on a platform in the Masjid Nabi called 'suffah' which one can still see there today. That suffah was the first Madrassah in the history of Islam.

^(all of the above quotes translated from oral lecture in Urdu)

The Ummah's Grassroots Revival

Category: SOUND

"In my opinion, two causes stand in the way of implementing the Islamic Shariah and both are concerned with the trend of thinking:
The first cause: Negligence in the reform and personality-building of the individual Muslim, and undertaking social and collective activities without reforming the individuals.
The second cause: Sincere and thoughtful research work is needed on the subject of implementing Islam [in this age] and adequate work has not been done in this field."
-Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani in 1993 on the Afghan civil war and the rise and fall of many youth/student-driven Islamic movements around the world

In another lecture, he related how he was on a flight and struck up friendly conversation with the person sitting next to him. When they served food he noticed the man was obeying the usual custom of holding the fork in the left hand. When he told him he would be entitled to great reward if he followed the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet(saw) and ate with his right, the man said that these sort of inane matters that the molvis dwelled on were holding back the Muslims from emulating the success of the Western nations which had leaped far ahead. Mufti Usmani replied asking how far ahead he had gotten and how much more progress had he made in the time since he had began eating this way. Obviously, the guy had no response. When he told him that the only way for the Muslims to catch up was to turn back to the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet(saw), the man protested again saying that the Western nations did everything counter to the Sunnah and enjoyed great success and they did this because of the fact they were opposed to the Shariah (that it was backwards).

So Mufti Usmani related a story to him about a wise man in a village. In the village, a man climbed a date palm tree and had become stuck. He called for help and when the villagers got there they had no idea on how to get him down. So they went and asked the wise man. He told them to throw a rope up there, have him tie it around his waist, then pull down the rope. When they did that, the man fell out of the tree and died. When they told the wise man what happened he said he didn't know why he died, perhaps it was his destiny to die then and there. He said he had used the same method to pull people out of wells many times without incident.

That's the best analogy I've read to describe the state of Muslims today and how they are attempting progress.

The Islamic World was and still is in a different predicament than the West, one that requires a different solution. Those who think that success is possible by emulating the West and indulging in sins, disobedience, and actions counter to the Sunnah are incorrect. It is impossible for Muslims to do that. Even if they emulated the West 100%, as long as they were believers, they could not succeed. If, however, they lost their Islam and belief, then they could do as the West does and emulate their progress. This is also true in a way on the micro, personal/individual level.

The only way for Muslims to achieve progress and advancement is by sticking to the principles of their own civilization (the Sunnah) which is altogether different from the Western way. After all, the original Muslims leapfrogged the world with just one book, the Qur'an, while we can't do anything with thousands of books today.

Stories of the Pious Predecessors - Abdullah bin Mubarak (ra)

Category: SOUND

"Abdullah bin Mubarak (ra) was an eminent jurist, scholar of Hadith and Sufi of high calibre. He was a contemporary of Imam Abu Hanifah (ra) and his student too. Before he turned to religion he was a very rich and free-thinking man. He had many properties, including gardens but he was not interested in learning or religion. He was an alcoholic much interested in singing and dancing. Among his gardens, he also had apple gardens. Once he took his friends to one such garden when the apples were ready to pick. There they had plenty of food and wine together with the fresh apples, and music. He himself was a good musicion and played very well. They had satiated themselves with food and were deeply intoxicated, the atmosphere was pleasant. Abdullah bin Mubarak had a guitar in his hands and he played it. He fell asleep. When he woke up, he still had the guitar in his hands. He began to play it again but it would not work. It did not produce any sound. So, he fiddled with the threads and wires and tried again but it did not omit any sound. He tried it a third time after some more fiddling with it. This time it did work but, instead of producing music, it reproduced the sound of the following verse of the Qur'an:

'Has not the time yet come for those who believe, and their hearts should be humble for the remembrance of Allah and the Truth.' (57:16)

The guitar gave out this sound. When Allah wishes to guide any of His servants then He provides such Unseen means too. The moment Abdullah bin Mubarak heard this voice, his heart accepted the Truth, and he answered the words of the verse: 'Surely, my Lord! It has arrived!'

This is the same Abdullah bin Mubarak who when visiting Baghdad during the reign of Harun al-Rashid, the Caliph heard a loud commotion from the outskirts of the city. Fearing an attack, the Caliph asked a man to find out what had happened. The man reported back that Abdullah bin Mubarak had sneezed and had said 'Praise be to Allah', and the crowd that had gathered to welcome him responded with 'May Allah have mercy on you' and the sound he had heard was of this, the crowd's response (indicating its large size and his esteemed position to attract such a crowd)."

-Mufti Taqi Usmani

(translated from oral lecture in Urdu)


Category: SOUND

"You may build large houses, hire many servants, have at your disposal large limousines, but, with all those luxuries, when you lie down on your bed at night, sleep eludes you although the bed on which you lie is the best available, the mattress the most superior and the pillows most ideal. You keep awake all night, now turning to the right, now to the left. You have to take sleeping pills to induce sleep but the pills lose their power after some time. We see here that all the means of comfort are available but none of these can help get the most wanted, yet elusive, sleep. These means are ineffective in removing restlessness. Only Allah can help remove it. On the other side of the world there is the labourer who has neither a worthy bed to sleep on nor a proper room yet when he goes to sleep he wakes up after eight hours of sound sleep. Now, decide for yourself who is comfortable, the labourer or the rich man? Remember, only Allah grants comfort. The means to comfort cannot provide it. Contentment and comfort are not something that may be bought although the means of comfort may be bought at will."
-Mufti Taqi Usmani

(translated from oral lecture in Urdu)


Category: SOUND

"They are unique people that during the nights they are devoted monks and during the day they are the best archers, swordsmen, and fighters."
-Byzantine soldier commenting on the Muslims at the Battle of Yarmouk

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Prayers Throughout Life

Category: STRONG

Most people start doing namaz in one of either two ways. By namaz, I mean concentrating on doing the five daily prayers and keeping them at high priority while making sure to make up any missed ones. Either they are instilled with the habit by their parents or they reach a turning point sometime later in their adult lives when they start doing all 5 prayers.

However, a Muslim is still responsible for all of the fardh prayers, regardless of whether or not they felt like doing them. The age at which prayer becomes mandatory is puberty, and if the exact year isn't known, 14's an okay number. In the Middle East and South Asia they use 15, and 13 would make more sense in North America and Europe.

So, calculate (erring on the liberal side) how many prayers you've missed. If you consistently did 4 prayers a day, then add up one prayer per day until you started doing 5. If you did none at all for three or four years then started doing all 5, add those up. For example, if you started doing 5 a day when you were 19 and were into puberty by 13 or 14, you would do 19-13=6 years,6*365=2190 days,2190*5=10,975 prayers. You have around 11,000 prayers that must be made up before you die. The best way to approach this is to offer the compensating prayers in place of nafil prayers (though not Sunnah, which should still be done). In addition, it is allowed to do makeup prayers after Asr and after Fajr, times usually forbidden for optional prayers. So for instance, at Fajr time you would do your 2 rakahs of Sunnah and Fardh each, then a makeup prayer for a Fajr. And a makeup for Zuhr after Zuhr and so on. This way you're making up prayers on a day by day basis... 2190 days worth of prayers will be made up in 2190 days exactly. On top of that, you can do a series of 5 during Tahajjud time before Fajr, so that cuts the amount of time in half and so on. It's also a strong Sunnah to keep a will and regardless of your age it's a good idea to keep a will where you lay out to your next of kin that you have such and such an amount of prayers to be made up via donating to charity from what you had left behind up to 1/3rd of your assets.