The 'Ahlul Bayt' or Family of the Prophet Muhammad
Bismillah Al Rahman Al Raheem
The purpose of this article is to prove from the Quran and sunnah what the status of the Ahlul bayt (as) is and what our duty towards them is. Different muslim sects (especially the sunnis and shias) have slight differences in how they approach this topic but no one disputes their high status and qualities. This article will not deal with the differences but will present the Ahlul bayt (as) as explained by the Quran and Sunnah (using narrations that are accepted by ALL muslims). It is hoped that by the end it will become clear that along with the Quran, the Ahlul bayt (as) are also another source of unity among all muslims. The Holy Quran Families of other prophets (as) and not just Muhammad (saw) are also respected in the holy Quran. The Quran testifies that the family of Prophet Abraham (as), was blessed by angels and was given the glad tiding that his wife Sarah (as) will give birth to two prophets of God. The Quran says: "And his wife, standing by, laughed when We gave her good tidings (of the birth) of Isaac, and, after Isaac, of Jacob." (11:71) "She said: "Alas for me! Shall I bear a child when I am an old woman and my husband now is an old man? That would indeed be a strange thing!" (11:72) "The (angles) said: Do You wonder at Allah’s decree? The grace of Allah and His blessings be upon you, O People of the House! (Ahlul bayt) He is indeed worthy of all praise full of all glory!" (11:73) Likewise, the Quran speaks of the mother of Prophet Moses (as) as “a kind household (ahla bayt)”: "And We ordained that he refuse to seek any foster mother before so she said: Shall I point out to you a household (ahla baytin) who will take care of him for you, and will be kind to him?" (28:12) "So We restored him to his mother that she might be comforted and not grieve, and that she might know that the promise of Allah is true. But most of them know not." (28:12) It is important to remember that Ahlul bayt (as) are specific individuals from the family of a prophet (as) and not just every single relative. The Quran sometimes condemns a wife of a prophet, like the wife of Prophet Lut (as) or the son of a prophet as in the case of prophet Noah (as). The Quran says: "And Noah Cried unto his Lord and said: "My Lord! Verily my son is of my family; and verily Your promise is true, and You are the most just of the judges." (11:45) "He (Allah) said: "O Noah! Verily he is not of your family; Verily he is (of) conduct other than the righteous; Therefore do not ask what you have no knowledge about; Verily I advice you not to be of the ignorant ones." (11:46) And finally when referring to the household of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp) Allah (swt) says: "Verily Allah intends to keep off from you every kind of uncleanness O’ People of the House (Ahlul-Bayt), and purify you with a perfect purification". (33:33) "Peace be unto El Yasin! Thus indeed do We reward those who do right" (37:130-1) The first verse shows without a doubt, the high status and purity of the individuals who are part of the family of the prophet (pbuh&hf). The second verse if read “Aal Yasin” (which is one of the accepted recitations) would refer to the family of Muhammad (pbuh&hf) as stated by many mufasireen (e.g. Al Tabari). You might have noticed that I used the letters “as” whenever I mentioned the Ahlul bayt (as). This stands for “alaihum al Salaam” i.e. peace be unto them” as the above verse states. The Sayings of the Prophet (pbuh&hf)
The sayings about Ahlul bayt (as) are vast and it will take years if not a lifetime to go through and explain them all. I therefore will present the most important and authentic ones. The messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF) said: “I am leaving for you two precious and weighty Symbols that if you adhere to both of them you shall not go astray after me. They are, the Book of Allah, and my progeny, that is my Ahlul-Bayt. The Merciful has informed me that These two shall not separate from each other till they come to me by the Pool (of Paradise).” (narrated with similar wording in many places e.g. Sahih muslim, Tirmidi etc.)
This is probably one of the most important hadiths. It is narrated in many sources and is at the level of “mutawatir” (highest level of authenticity). Here, we are informed that we will never go astray if we adhere to both the holy Quran and the Ahlul bayt (as). Without Ahlul bayt (as) the Quran is not enough because as we see today, people can interpret it in different ways. It is clear from this hadith that the Prophet (pbuh&hf) and his family (as) are the walking, talking Quran. If we want to be on the right path, we have to ask ourselves if we are following these 2 weighty things, otherwise we will go astray. We have to follow the examples and teachings of Ahlul bayt (as).
Narrated Sa’d Ibn Abi Waqqas: When the verse: “But whoever disputes with you in this matter after what has come to you of knowledge, then say: Come let us call our sons and your sons, and our women and your women, and our selves and your selves; then let us be earnest in prayer and invoke the curse of Allah upon the liars.” (Quran 3:61) was revealed the Prophet called Ali, Fatimah, al-Hasan, and al-Husain. Then the Prophet said: “O Lord! These are my family members (Ahli).” (Sahih Muslim).
In the above verse (3:61), according to what Jabir Ibn Abdillah al-Ansari (the great companion of the Prophet) said, the word “sons” refers to al-Hasan and al-Husain, the word “women” refers to Fatimah, and the word “our selves” refer to the Prophet and Ali. Thus Ali is referred as “the self” of the Prophet (Nafs of the Prophet) (al-Durr al-Manthoor by al-Hafidh Jalaluddin al-Suyuti, v2, p38).
Narrated by Aisha: One day the Prophet (PBUH&HF) came out afternoon wearing a black cloak (upper garment or gown; long coat), then al-Hasan Ibn Ali came and the Prophet accommodated him under the cloak, then al-Husain came and entered the cloak, then Fatimah came and the Prophet entered her under the cloak, then Ali came and the Prophet entered him to the cloak as well. Then the Prophet recited: “Verily Allah intends to keep off from you every kind of uncleanness O’ People of the House (Ahlul-Bayt), and purify you a perfect purification (the last sentence of Verse 33:33).” (Sahih Muslim).
From the above 2 narrations it is clear that at least Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Hussein (peace be on them all) are part of Ahlul bayt (as). Furthermore: The Messenger of Allah, from the time the revelation of “Verily Allah intends to… (the last part of Verse 33:33)” and for six (6) months thereafter, stood by the door of the House of Fatimah and said: “Time for Prayer Ahlul-Bayt; No doubt! Allah wished to remove all abomination from you and make you pure and spotless.” (Sahih al-Tirmidi)
The Prophet (PBUH&HF) looked toward Ali, al-Hasan, al-Husain, andFatimah, and said: “I am in the state of war with those who will fightyou, and in the state of peace with those who are peaceful to you.” (Sahih al-Tirmidi etc.)
The Messenger of Allah said: “Al-Hasan and al-Husain are the chiefs ofthe youth of Paradise and Fatimah is the chief of their women.” (Sahih al-Tirmidi etc.)
Narrated Ka’b bin Ujra: It was said, “O Allah’s Apostle! We know how to greet you, but how to invoke Allah for you?” The Prophet said, “Say: O Allah! Send your blessings/greetings (Salawat) on Muhammad and his family, the same way as You sent Your blessings/greetings on Abraham’s family. You are indeed worthy of all praise, full of glory.’” (Sahih Al-Bukhari).
You might have noticed that after the prophet’s (pbuh&hf) name I add “pbuh&hf” this stands for “peace be upon him and his family”. It is good to always remember the Ahlul bayt (as) whenever you remember the prophet (pbuh&hf) because that is what he wanted. The Messenger of Allah said: “He who loves me and loves these two: al-Hasan and al-Husain, and loves their father and mother, he will be with me in Paradise.” (Sahih al-Tirmidi).
The Messenger of Allah said to Fatimah (who was crying at her father’sdeathbed): “Are you not satisfied that you are the chief of all theladies of Paradise” (sahih al-Bukhari) The Messenger of Allah said: Four women are the mistress ofthe worlds: Mary, Asiya (the wife of Pharaoh), Khadija, and Fatimah.And the most excellent one among them in the world is Fatimah.” (Ibn Asakir)
Even the final victory of Islam will be perfomed on the hands of a member of Ahlul bayt (as): The Prophet (pbuh&hf) said: “Even if the entire duration of the world’s existence has already been exhausted and only one day is left (before the day of judgment), Allah will expand that day to such a length of time, as to accommodate the kingdom of a person from my Ahlul-Bayt who will be called by my name. He will fill out the earth with peace and justice as it will have been full of injustice and tyranny (by then).” (Sahih Al-Tirmidi) Allah’s (swt) blessings on Ahlul Bayt (as) is so great that even, Jesus the son of Mary (as) will pray behind one of them: Jabir Ibn Abdillah al-Ansari said: I heard the Messenger of Allah saying: “A group of my Ummah will fight for the truth until near the day of judgment when Jesus, the son of Marry, will descend, and the leader of them will ask him to lead the prayer, but Jesus declines, saying: “No, Verily, among you Allah has made leaders for others and He has bestowed his bounty upon them.” (Sahih Muslim)
There are many, many more hadiths speaking about the importance of Ahlul Bayt (as). Here is a small fraction of them: The prophet (pbuh&hf) said: “Behold! My Ahlul-Bayt are like the Ark of Noah. Whoever embarked in it was SAVED, and whoever turned away from it was PERISHED.” (al-mustadrak, tafsir al kabir, Ahmad, etc.) The Prophet (PBUH&HF) said about Ahlul-Bayt: “Do not be ahead of them for you will perish, do not turn away from them for you will perish, and do not try to teach them since they know more than you do!” (Al Dur Al manfoor by Suyuti, Al-Sawaiq al Muhriqa, Ibn Al-Athir etc.).
The Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF) said: “My Ahlul-Bayt are like the Gate of Repentance of the Children of Israel; whoever entered therein was forgiven.” (Ibn Hajar, al Tabarani, Al-Haythami etc.) "The stars protect the inhabitants of earth against drowning, and my Ahl al?Bayt protect my nation against dissension. If a tribe among the Arabs differs from them, they will all then differ and become the party of Satan." (al-Hakim)
The Messenger of Allah had frequently said:”Fatimah is a part of me. Whoever makes her angry, makes me angry.” (Sahih Bukhari). The Messenger of Allah said: “Husain is from me and I am from al-Husain.” (Musnad Ahmed).
The narrations about these individuals are vast. To conclude this section I will mention a virtue given to the Lion of Ahlul bayt (as) with 2 more Hadiths: In the Famous incident of Ghadeer Khum where a very huge number of muslims where gathered, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh&hf) said: “Do I not have more right over the believers than they do over themselves? The People cried: “Yes O’ Messenger of Allah!” Then the Prophet (pbuh&hf) held up the hand of Ali and said: “Whoever I am his Mawla. This Ali is his Mawla. O Allah, Love those who love him and be hostile to those who be hostile to him” (Sahih al-Tirmidi).
The Messeger of Allah said: Surely Alî is from me and I am from Alî and after me he is Wali of every believer (Ibn Kathir, Al Bidaya Wal Nihaya) In both narrations I have left the word “Wali” or “Mawla” untranslated because there is difference of opinion between the scholars as to whether these words mean “leader” or “friend”. But one thing is clear; none one has been such a virtue by the Prophet (pbuh&hf). Selection of some of the Sayings of famous Muslim Scholars In this final section I quote a selection of sayings by Scholars, especially the Imams of the four schools of thought. Imam al-Shafi’i has said: “The Household of the Prophet is my means of salvation, and they are my means of drawing near to the Prophet. It is my hope that for their sake the record of my deeds will be given into my right hand on the Day of Judgement.” (Ibn Hajar, al-Sawa’iq, p. 108. See too al-Firuzabadi, Fada’il al-Khamsah, Vol. II, p.81).
Again al-Shafi’i said: “O People of the Prophet’s House, love for you has been made obligatory by God through mention in the Qur’an. Sufficient cause of pride it is for you that whoever fails to invoke blessings on you in his prayer will fail to have his devotions (salat) accepted.” (Ibn Hajar, al-Sawa’iq, p. 108. See too al-Firuzabadi, Fada’il al-Khamsah, Vol. II, p.81.)
All the famous scholars of Islam have looked up to the figures from Ahlul bayt (as). Regarding Imam Ali (as) Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal has said: "Nobody among the sahaba, according to all authentic musnads, has as many virtues as Ali, may Allah be pleased with him…" Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal is known to have compiled the virtues of Imam Ali (as) and clearly defined him as the "4th Rightly guided Caliph. This was very important because of the strong wave of Nasibis (enemies of Ahlul bayt) during and before his time. Also, Imam Al-Shafi’i and his followers are known to say “Karama Allahu Wajhah” after Imam Ali’s (as) name. This title was given to him because he is the only companion who never worshipped an idol in his life. Another top figure from the Ahlul bayt (as) was Imam Ja’far Al-Sadiq (as). He was around during a significant period where Islamic Jurisprudence was being refined and the 4 schools of thought were developed. All looked up to him as the un-matched, most knowledgable Islamic figure of his time. In one incident, the Abbasid Caliph, al-Mansoor, commanded Abu Hanifa to prepare for Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq a number of hard questions concerning the Islamic Law and to ask the Imam those questions in the presence of al-Mansoor. Abu Hanifa prepared forty difficult questions and asked Imam Ja’far about them in al-Mansoor’s presence. The Imam not only answered all the questions but also informed about the opinions of the Iraqi as well as the Hijazi Scholars. Abu Hanifa commented on this episode saying: "Certainly, the most knowledgeable among people is the most knowledgeable of their different opinions." (Shaikh Muhammad Abu Zahrah in his book "al-Imam al-Sadiq", p27)
Abu Hanifa described his feelings (when he entered the palace of al-Mansoor and found Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq sitting with him) by saying: "When I saw Imam Ja’far, I felt his personality commands more respect than that of the Caliph himself. Yet the Caliph was ruling the Muslim World, and Imam Ja’far was a private citizen." (Shaikh Muhammad Abu Zahrah in his book "al-Imam al-Sadiq", p27)
Imam Malik has said: “I used to come to Ja’far Ibn Muhammad and went to him for a long time. Whenever I visited him, I found him praying, fasting, or reading the Quran. Whenever he reported a statement of the Messenger of God, he was with ablution. He was a distinguished worshipper who was unconcerned with the material world. He was of the God fearing people.” (Shaikh Muhammad Abu Zahrah in his book “al-Imam al-Sadiq”, p66).
Shaikh Muhammad Abu Zahrah who was one of the outstanding contemporary Scholars said: “The Muslim Scholars of various Islamic Schools never agreed unanimously on a matter as much as they agree on the knowledge of Imam Ja’far and his virtue. The Sunni Imams who lived during his time were his students. Malik was one of them and those who were as contemporary as Malik such as Sufyan al-Thouri and many others. Abu Hanifa also was his student in spite of their being close in age, and he considered Imam Ja’far the most knowledgeable in the Muslim World.” (Shaikh Muhammad Abu Zahrah in his book “al-Imam al-Sadiq”, p66)
In conlusion, there is no doubt about the obligation of all Muslims towards Ahlul bayt (as). The least we can do is respect, love and follow them to the best of our abilities. May Allah’s peace and blessing be on Muhammad and his progeny and May Allah guide us through them.
THERE IS NO GOD ONLY ALLAH,AND MUHAMMAD IS THE MESSENGER OF ALLAH.
Islam means submission and also means peace (salam in Arabic). Submission to the Creator and Lord of the Universe, Allah may He be glorified, Who is named by different attributes and Who has been known by the signs of His Generosity, His Mercy and His Power, through His prophets, messengers and others sent by Him. The consequence of submission to His commands is peace, as much within the individual as in society.
Islam is the teaching and the guidance of all prophets and messengers of God since Adam, the first human being and first prophet up to Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, who was the seal and culmination of all those preceding him. This is the transforming science that was transmitted in their time and to their people by Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, John and Jesus, son of Mary the Messiah who was rejected by the pharisees although they knew the signs and the writings.
The prophetic message of Islam in the Book of Allah, the Qur’an, carries the final divine revelation and provides a model of human perfection both in the individual as well as the social spheres.
The revelation that descended on Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, the Qur’an is unadulterated, not even one letter has been changed since the original revelation. It has been translated into many languages but the original Arabic is intact and it continues to be memorised by millions of human beings throughout the five continents with photographic precision.
The meticulous and detailed compiling of the sayings and actions of the Messenger of Allah gathered within dozens of scrupulously verified volumes are so reliable that we have an exact record of his noble example as well as the courage, compassion and generosity of the men and women surrounding him. Their behaviour was to develop into the supreme model of community justice. The ten thousand men and women who lived at his side in Medina represented the pinnacle of the human possibility. What is more important is that this example continued alive in the daily practice and behaviour of those millions of muslims who imitate and follow in the footsteps of the Messenger of Allah in his personal conduct and his character.
What are the practices of the Muslim?
Islam is based on five pillars that support the life of the believer during the course of his life: to affirm of the unity of Allah and that Muhammad is His messenger, to perform five prayers a day at pre-established times, to fast for one month a year, to pay out every year a small portion of accumulated wealth (2.5%) to the needy and to fulfil at least once in a lifetime the pilgrimage to the Ancient House of Allah in Mecca, enacting the rites of the prophets of old.
Concern for the poor, the aged and the sick, care and respect for nature, loyalty, good neighbourliness, brotherhood between believers, open, extended families, homes in which God is remembered and worshipped – these are the features of a way of life fundamentally different from the neurotic individualism of the consumer society. Islam prohibits any form or amount of usury, which is lending or borrowing at interest and financial speculation. These are at the root of all the abuses and injustices of our modern so called free society.
The muslim is enjoined to give hospitality, food and money, in other words to share with others what Allah has bestowed upon him, as well as to help the needy and defend the oppressed without distinction of race, community or creed, to advocate the good and reject injustice, corruption and oppression. The highest form of integrity is the struggle with one’s own personal life and possessions in the service of truth and justice and to defend the worship of Allah.
The believer is bound to honour any agreement, pact or commitment. When he promises he fulfils and when he talks he speaks the truth. Parents are respected and obeyed and his neighbours have a right to good manners, assistance and generosity. These injunctions are taken on voluntarily by the believing muslim without any need of external pressure and constitute the foundations of a type of society where the villain becomes the exception instead of the rule and people are safe from one another, creating an environment in which compassion and justice can flourish naturally.
What are the pillars of Muslim belief?
That only Allah is worthy of worship and submission; worship being the expression of gratitude. He is One and Alone in His absolute sovereignty over all that exists, the visible and the invisible. No thing and no one resemble Him.
Existence is a gift as well as a responsibility. The behaviour and actions of men will be assessed and judged by the Master of the Day of Judgement: good actions will be rewarded, as evil actions will be repaid in kind. The final and irrevocable reward and punishment will occur in the next life, in which every one will reap what they have sown in this world.
The source of all good is in the recognition of Allah, the Only God, Compassionate and Merciful, and in expressing gratitude and submission to Him. Allah is known by His names, His attributes, and His signs manifest throughout the universe and in our own selves.
The acceptance of Divine power is accompanied by the recognition and acceptance of His chosen prophets and messengers, culminating in the final messenger the Prophet Muhammad who brought a clear and definitive criterion, valid for all time and in all places, the ultimate book of revelation in a pure Arabic language – the Qur’an.
Belief in Allah includes the acceptance that there are other worlds existing in subtle dimensions inaccessible to our normal perceptions forming an unseen yet essential part of our lives, such as the angels, the djinn, the Garden and the Fire and that our existence after death is everlasting and as real as this one, in fact more so.
PEACE AND LOVE TO ALL.AMEEN
The Three Dimensions of Islam [ Islam-Iman-Ihsan.]
It is reported from ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab:
"One day while we were sitting with the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, there appeared before us a man whose clothes were exceedingly white and whose hair was exceedingly black; no signs of journeying were to be seen on him and none of us knew him. He walked up and sat down by the Prophet. Resting his knees against his and the palms of his hands on his thighs, he said, ‘O Muhammad, tell me about Islam.’ The Messenger of Allah said, "Islam is to testify that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, to perform the prayers, to pay the zakat, to fast in Ramadan, and to make the pilgrimage to the House if you are able to do so.” He said, ‘You have spoken the truth,’ and we were amazed at him asking him and saying that he had spoken the truth. He said, ‘Then tell me about Iman (faith).’ He said, ‘It is to believe in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day, and to believe in the decree both of good and evil.’ He said, ‘You have spoken the truth.’ He said, ‘Then tell me about Ihsan.’ He said, ‘it is to worship Allah as though you are seeing Him. Even though you do not see Him, He sees you.’”
In the end the Prophet informed them that it was Jibril (Gabriel) who had come to teach them their religion (deen).
The Five Pillars of Islam:
The outward form
Shahada: Affirmation of the unity of Allah and the prophethood of Muhammad
Salat: Five Prayers a day
Zakat: 2 1/2% wealth Tax
Fasting: The month of Ramadan from dawn to sunset
The Hajj: Pilgrimage to Makka. Once in a lifetime if one is physically and financially able to do so.
The Six Fundamentals of Iman (Faith):
In addition to belief in Allah, it provides the Muslim with a blueprint for a view of a multi-dimensional universe which includes both the spiritual and physical worlds. It is more than passive acceptance, it is active affirmation. The basic Arabic root of iman means rest of mind and security from fear. The six fundamentals of Iman are faith in:
Allah: Who is not Connected to Events; Existing Before and After Time, Self-Subsisting, One.
The Angels: Made of light, Neither male nor female. They do not disobey God and do not require sustenance.
The Divine Books: Torah, Gospel, Psalms, Scrolls of Abraham, Qur’an, etc.
The Messengers of Allah: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, David, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad.
The Last Day: When all the dead will be raised from their graves. It is the Day of Judgement when people will either be sent to the Garden or the Fire for all eternity.
The Decree of both good and evil: The destinies of all things are in God’s hand and occur according to His decision. Nothing happens that He has not decreed.
The inward path which amounts to recognition of what the self is, its position in the cosmos and how it can be purified.
The Stages of the Self:
An-Nafs al-‘Amara:the insinuating self
The insinuating self which is wholly evil and totally under the control of passions and bent only on self- gratification. It is totally blind to any higher reality. "The lower self of man commands to evil acts." ( 12:53)
An-Nafs al-Lawwama:the self-reproaching self
The reproachful self which is indecisive in choosing between good and evil and is constantly embroiled in an inner struggle. It is unable to overcome the impulses of the lower self while it nonetheless recognises the higher one. “No, I swear by the self-reproaching self.” (75:2)
An-Nafs al-Mulhama: the inspired self
The self which recognises its faults and strives to correct them. “By the self and what proportioned it and inspired it with depravity or godliness!” (91:7-8)
An-Nafs al-Mutma’inna: the self at peace
Finally there is the self at peace which is illuminated and acts according to the good and is therefore liberated "O self at peace, return to your Lord, well-pleased, well-pleasing. Enter among My servants. Enter My Garden." (89:27)
Tasawwuf or Sufism is not esoteric Islam. Tasawwuf is the science of the path to Allah. Tasawwuf is the science of conforming the path of Islam through the direct experience of the Real instead of through the tongue or learning from books. This implies the abandonment of any theology. Tawhid is not theo-logical. In this sense Tasawwuf is the protector of Tawhid: La ilaha illallah.
The Muslim affirms: La halwa wa la quwwata illa billah. It implies that there are not two forces in the universe. There is only Allah. It is typical of the esoteric theology to say that the world is divided into two forces fighting each other; the good verses the evil or the darkness versus the light or the truth versus the false. “Haqq is fighting Batil” - this is a typical dualist statement. But it is impossible. Batil, “falsity”, cannot stand against Haqq, because there are no two powers except in the imagination of the mushrikun. And yet how many modernist books come with this deviating cosmology proper to the mushrikun.
La halwa wa la quwwata illa billah also means that there is one source of power. Allah lends us His power and veils it from us with our limitations. Therefore we are the source of our own tribulations. We are only obstacle to the establishment of Islam. All the means are available to us. From this comes tawakkul: hasbunullahu wa niamal wakil, “Allah is enough for us and He is the best Guardian”. Tawakkul is trust in Allah. It is the food of the faqir. It strengthens the faqir like the zuhud weakens the “I”, and it is one of the praiseworthy qualities which everybody must acquire. Allah says, “Whoever relies on Allah, He is enough for him.” Its reality is confidence and calmness in the heart and the realization that the sustenance of your physical body is by Allah alone. It is not by anyone other than Allah, and it is not by any of the debris of this world nor by any other cause.
What will help us towards this is to remember Allah that Allah guarantees us provision, and His knowledge and power are perfect, and that He is detached from creation and far remove from forgetfulness and from incapacity.
Shaykh Ibn Ataillah wrote in his book The Abandonment of the Management of Affairs: “Entrusting our affairs to Allah is also a very important quality to acquire. In Quran, Allah relates that the believer among Pharaoh’s people said: “I have entrusted my affair to Allah.” Its reality is our desire for Allah to preserve us from all that has danger in it and against which we have no security. What helps us in that is to remember our own incapacity, on the basis of which we abandon our selves to Allah.”
Without this understanding people end up paralysed. But with it the Muslims is free to be a slave, that is, to obey in a way without barriers. The problem of trying to obey without understanding is that you can only do what you can. You can only move at the speed of your own misfortune and limitations. But to obey Allah while trusting Him is to abandon all sense of practical limitations, and to embark on the achievement of what Allah has ordered us to do. We obey Him not according to our deeds, but we obey Him according to what He has commanded us. We abandon the idea of being practical and we enter into the swift way of being slave. Obedience only takes place with understanding.
Tasawwuf is the light and the heart of the Deen, and without it our understanding of the Shariah is superficial. Tasawwuf enhances our possibilities because it gives wisdom and light to every situation in life: it enlightens us in difficulty and guides us in ease. Tasawwuf is not being a passive, docile consumer in this society with enlightened evenings and weekends. Tasawwuf is the transformation of your heart so that you realize that you are in charge of Dunya, and dunya is not in charge of you. It allows us to understand that what Allah has ordered is possible, and it shows us the path to achieve our highest goals fisabilillah. Tasawwuf allows us to understand that the deeds of the heart are more powerful than the deed of the limbs. Tasawwuf renders all other knowledges subject to the highest knowledge which is La ilaha illallah. With Tasawwuf we realize that knowledge of Allah is above every other knowledge. Tasawwuf allows us to taste La halwa wa la quwwata illa billah. Those who are touched by this knowledge becomes different people and to them there are no barriers and no fears other than Allah. These are the people we want to create.
Ihsan – the Gnostic Knowledge of Mankind
The Arabic word ihsan, which begins the title of this talk, comes from the verb ahsana which means t”o act well, to do something expertly, to master something”, but although these meanings are indeed included in it, the word as it is used here comes from a well-known saying of the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, in which he was asked to define the deen or life-practice he was sent to convey to mankind. He divided it into three parts: firstly Islam which he defined in terms of the five pillars, the actions every Muslim must perform; secondly Iman or faith which he defined in terms of the things every Muslim must believe; and thirdly Ihsan which he defined by saying, “It is to worship Allah as if you could see Him, for though you may not see Him, He crtainly sees you.” In other words Ihsan involves the bringing together of the other two aspects of the deen by a human being who is in a state of intense awareness of the presence of his Lord. Many great Sufis have said that this is sufism. Our master, Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi, says as part of his definition of sufism, and therefore Ihsan, at the beginning of his book The Hundred Steps:
Sufism is the science of the journey to the KingÉ It is taking the ancient way, the primordial path of direct experience of the Real.
The sufi is universal. He has reduced and then eliminated the marks of selfhood to allow a clear view of the cosmic reality. He has rolled up the cosmos in its turn and obliterated it. He has gone beyond. The sufi has said “Allah” – until he has understood.
Something of the meaning of these words will unfold, Allah willing, during the course of this talk.
Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib, the first shaykh of Shaykh Abdalqadir, says with reference to Ihsan in the long supplication which forms part of his wird, one of the central practices of the path we follow:
We ask for an Ihsan which will drive us into the presence of the unseen worlds and which will purify us from every kind of forgetfulness and defect.
This brings the matter right back to home to us sitting here in this zawiyya which is a place dedicated to making Ihsan a reality in the lives of those who use it. What is being talked about is not some theoretical construct but rather what is possible for us as human beings; what direction we are going to take in our own lives. The shaykh speaks here about the presence of unseen worlds and he also speaks about forgetfulness and defects, and this brings us immediately face to face with two very different paths we might follow in our lives. The word for human being in Arabic is insan. One meaning of this word is the pupil of the eye; another possibility is that it comes from the word which means to forget. So the word itself contains the two directions which a human being can take. One possibility is that we become completely engrossed in this world, forgetting that it is merely part of a much longer journey which started before we were born and will continue beyond our death. The other possibility open to us is that, like the pupil of the eye, we become a lens, except that whereas the pupil stands as the interface between the outer world of forms and the inner world of sense perception, the human being as a whole stands potentially as the conscious interface between this material world and the unseen world of spiritual realities.
So how does it come about that we hold this exalted position in the scheme of things? There are three sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, which together make up a complete description of the true nature of existence and of our place as human beings in it and which take us to the very root of our humanness and put us beyond all the evolutionary or historical definitions with which we have been so profoundly indoctrinated.
The first is: “Allah was and there was nothing with Him – and He is as He was.”
The second is Allah’s words on the tongue of His Messenger: “I was a hidden treasure and I desired to be known. So I created the creation in order to be known.”
And the third is Allah’s words conveyed by the Prophet: “The whole universe cannot contain Me but the heart of My believing servant contains Me.”
"Allah was and there was nothing with HimÉ" The current climate of opinion has turned the existence of God into a matter of philosophical speculation with the result that for most people, including many who consider themselves believers, the existence of God has been turned into a speculative hypothesis. How far we have come from the Truth! The existence of Allah is the most absolute certainty. Not, it is true, the distant, capricious, potentate God of misinterpreted scripture but Reality itself, that Oneness on Whom everything is totally and continually dependant for its being, but Who is Himself beyond need of anything – Oneness, not in the arithmetical sense of being the first of two or three but rather that absolute singularity the physicists talk of which does not permit the independent existence of anything else along side it. Everything else comes into existence and goes out of it again, begins and ends, is born and dies. Allah is before and after. There is no beginning to His firstness, no end to His lastness. Nothing is like Him or can be compared with Him nor is it possible to have any conception of what He is like.
"And He is as He was." If this is the case how come we are sitting here now living on this planet which is part of the solar system in one of countless galaxies in a universe which seems to go on for ever? The answer to this question is that the absolute, majestic and overwhelming transcendence of the first tradition is conditioned by the second: "I was a hidden treasure and I desired to be known. So I created the creation in order to be known." It was the desire for self-knowledge expressed in the depths of the Essence of the Divine Being that caused the process of creation and led to the unfolding of the many layers of existence and all the forms contained in them including ourselves and the universe we inhabit. And there is another tradition about the actual moment of creation which says that when Allah decreed that the creation should come into existence out of non-existence He grasped a handful of His light and said to it, "Be Muhammad!" And then from that light He created everything else in existence.
Now we have to be careful when we hear this that we do not dismiss it by considering it to be merely a figure of speech or a poetic metaphor. It is literally what happened. Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib says in his Diwan at the beginning of the qasida entitled The Qualities of Muhammad:
Muhammad is the fountain-head of lights and darkness and the source of their emergence from the presence of before-time.
So his light was the first of lights when He determined the manifestation of His Names in the first world.
From him all things were clothed in their origination in being, and their support comes from him without any interruption.
And this, of course, as it applies to the whole of existence also applies to our own universe and everything in it including our own emergence as human beings on the earth. I must repeat: be careful you do not take this as metaphor; it is a literal description of how things have come into existence. Taking the present state of the expanding universe and working backwards from it, cosmologists, both astronomers and quantum physicists, have come up with a more or less consistent picture of the first moments of the universe. They say that the universe developed from a singularity, an infinitely small, infinitely dense point emerging out of nothingness. It was a fireball, they say, and by that they mean, of course, not fire as we know it today, but rather a ball of pure energy. Its rate of expansion was incredibly fast as we understand time now but because in those early moments space and time were inextricably bound up together we can have no real idea of what the conditions were like within it. The important point for us in the present context is that the whole event in these very early stages can only be described as being made up of undifferentiated light.
So what has, through the aeons of expansion, turned into innumerable galaxies made up of stars and planets, a few of which are visible to us when we look up into the breathtaking beauty of the sky at night, was all present in a latent form in this literally fistful sized ball of light. Because of the inconceivable degree of chance necessary to bring about the conditions which made our emergence as sentient human beings on this planet a possibility, the scientists have developed a theory they call the anthropic principle. They say that if we make the simple assumption that human beings exist, all the principle qualities of the universe, all the natural laws, even all the physical constants, can be derived from this assumption. In other words what they are saying is that the whole universe exists only in order to give human beings somewhere to live, so that they, in turn, will be able to describe the universe. How little they understand!
In the 13th Century Shaykh Muhyi’d-din ibn al-‘Arabi, whose family came from Murcia and who lived down the road in Seville, enunciated clearly what was in any case common knowledge among the Muslims: “In the universe it was man who was intended.” This was, of course, because they knew that the first impulse of creation took the form of the Muhammadan Light: in other words they understood that the whole purpose of existence was the coming into being of the perfect human form which became physically manifest in the succession of incorruptible Messengers and Prophets of Allah, may the peace of Allah be upon all of them, who reached their apogee and fulfilment with the advent of the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. That was the mirror in which the “Hidden Treasure” became known by revealing Himself to Himself in all His Majesty and Beauty.
Now we are approaching the subject matter of this talk: the gnostic knowledge of mankind; what Shaykh Abdalqadir referred to as the journey to the King. Knowledge of our universe forms part of it, but only a very small part. Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib says in his Great Ode about the person making this journey:
He would see the planets and the secrets of their constellations and the meaning of their tremendously rapid movement.
But this is entirely insignificant when compared with scale of the journey as a whole. He also says:
The veil of the tablet of forms would be lifted from his secret and so the hidden sciences would emerge uncovered.
- Had the trees been the pens to write it and their ink all of the surrounding seas, they would have dried up –
And he would visit the domain which is peopled by the limitless array of innumerable angels,
He would freely roam around the Throne and the Footstool which make the heavenly bodies appear like a small ring.
With reference to this last statement the great early gnostic Abu Yazid al-Bistami said when describing his own path to knowledge that as he rose through the seven heavens, the size of each of them in comparison with the succeeding one was like that of a ring thrown into a desert. Then he reached the Throne of Allah, which is the greatest of all created forms and he said of it that it disappeared into a corner of his heart. Are you now beginning to grasp what an extraordinary thing a human being is; what our possibilities really are? And the most extraordinary thing is that all this is just the preliminary stage. Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib now goes on to say:
And, in his quest to purify the secret of his secret from every delay, he finally stops at the door to the pure Presence.
This station of the People in the journey of their spirits is the station of concealment and bewilderment.
After it comes knowledge – which may not be disseminated except by the one who in vision has received a clear authority.
So the gnostic knowledge we are talking about only begins after this vast inner outer journey has been brought to its completion. Finally the Shaykh says, echoing the final hadith about the heart of the believer:
So there are signs in the self for any who ponders it because all existence is contained in it.
In purification the self expands to contain the Real. Now do not wonder and ask ‘How?’ or ‘Where?’ or ‘What?’
Now take the words of Shaykh Abdalqadir we quoted at the beginning:
He has reduced and then eliminated the marks of selfhood to allow a clear view of the cosmic reality. He has rolled up the cosmos in its turn and obliterated it. He has gone beyond.
Now perhaps these words can be seen in their true perspective. And he is one of those who not only have clear authority to impart what they know but are obliged to convey their knowledge in order to guide to other human beings to the path of Allah.
He says in The Hundred Steps about this ultimate human possibility, about gnosis itself:
Ma’rifa – gnosis
Gnosis is the knowledge on which all other knowledge rests. All knowledges are suppositional yet verifiable in the realm of contingency. This knowledge is real yet not demonstrable. Other knowledges do not, however, illuminate their knower, nor remove his anguish, nor give him judgement in every case, nor invest his presence with light and radiance. The man of knowledge remains in needs and creational dependence. The man of gnosis does not remain in any need except dependency on his Lord who gives him what he requires from creation. Other knowledges, being constructs without foundation, are baseless. Gnosis, the central knowledge, for it is knowledge of the self, is a proof to the one who knows it and this is its glory and its supremacy over all others. By it its possessor knows the Universe, how it is set up and its underlying laws in their action, their qualities and their essences. His knowledge of the Universe is his own self knowledge, while his knowledge of his own self is direct perception of his own original reality, his adamic identity. Everything he has comes from Allah. He never sees anything but he sees Allah in it, before it, after it. There is only Allah in his eyes as in his heart.
Whoever has gained this has gained the red sulphur. By it he can transform the hearts of those who come to him, for his presence alone is a guidance and a reminder. He guides to Allah by Allah.
And as Shaykh Abdalqadir makes clear in his book, this ultimate knowledge is in fact the beginning of another phase of endless unveilings in which, as he says, the secrets of love flow without end. And, looking at it from a slightly different angle, Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib says about it in the qasida we have been looking at:
A man would not hesitate to spend all he had – if he only recognised the secret of his own heart.
If a man could but grasp the bliss of his secret he would shed a tear with every breath he breathed.
This has hopefully been enough to give us at least an idea of what Ihsan, the true birthright of the realised human being, entails. But, of course, for those in whose beings a chord has been struck, for those who feel a stirring in their hearts towards this highest human possibility, an idea is not enough; they will only be satisfied by the experience itself. But such ultimate fulfilment does not come cheap. The price is very high. Shaykh Abdalqadir alludes to it when he says, talking of the man who achieves the goal: “He has reduced and then eliminated the marks of selfhoodÉ” This is referring to path of the purification of the self which forms the necessary preliminary stages of the journey to the King. But for this too there is a necessary precondition and that is the basic act of submission which every human being must make and this brings us back to the hadith of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, about Islam, Iman and Ihsan with which we started.
Shaykh Abdalqadir says at the very beginning of The Hundred Steps:
'There is no road to the realities except on the tongue of the shari'a,' said Shaykh al-Akbar. The shari'a of Islam is the confirmation that there is no divinity but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. It is to pray five times daily the ritual prostrations. It is to fast the month of Ramadan. It is to pay the zakat tax of wealth. It is to take, if possible, the Hajj to the pure House of Allah and the plain of 'Arafat. It is based on these and confirms that the one following the shari'a has elected to live within the broad moral parameters set down in the Qur'anic commands and according to the guidance within the sunna, the life pattern of Muhammad, blessings of Allah and peace be upon him.
So adopting the divinely ordained framework of Islam, becoming a Muslim, is the necessary first step for someone who wants to set out on this path of self-knowledge; it is the gateway which must be gone through to make the journey we have been talking about possible. But as the shaykh makes clear this does not involve saddling oneself with some arbitrarily imposed set of laws but is in itself just a further recognition of what it is to be a human being. He says that by becoming a Muslim and accepting Allah’s limits as conveyed to us by His final Messenger Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, we are simply recognising:
Éthat the human creature is limited, is in a body, and thus like all bodies in the physical world is subject to given laws. É(so the legal framework of Islam) is the self-chosen pattern of life one has adopted in order to deepen knowledge until one reaches one’s own source, one’s spring of life, to drink the water of illumination. It implies the recognition of biological laws that function at every level of existence.
The choice facing each human being is, therefore, very straightforward: either to go in through this door and follow the path of Allah and His Messengers which leads, in any case, to the pleasure of Allah and also opens the way to the glorious possibility of that gnostic knowledge we have been talking about here this afternoon, which is both the ultimate purpose and the complete fulfilment of human existence; or to fail to go through it and go one’s own way, following one’s own whims and desires, and by doing that to deny oneself the possibility of any permanent satisfaction or peace of mind and condemn oneself to an eternity of burning regret for having missed the chance. We have to go one way or the other. There is no third way. The choice is ours; the choice is yours.
Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “By the One in whose hand my soul is, you will not enter the Garden until you submit. You will not submit until you love one another. Extend the greeting to one another and you will love one another. Beware of hatred, for it is the razor. I do not tell you that it shaves the hair, but it shaves away the deen.” [ “Al-Adab al-Mufrad “ IMAM BUKHARI [ R.A. ]
Contains a sample read by AbuBakr Carberry “The man of Taqwa has no fear of the creation,thus the world belongs to him and the elements are his willing servants. “[ Shaykh AbdalQadir as Sufi aka Ian Dallas]
The term taqwá comes from the Arabic root W-Q-Y from the 8th stem verb, ittaqá “be wary, Godfearing.” Taqawa is cognate to the Hebrew term תקווה tiqwah (“hope”), deriving from the Semitic root Q-W-I.