[These are the rough notes of a talk delivered by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed (db) in Stanger Masjid, South Africa on Jul 07, 2015]
[Audio is available here]
Allah swt says in the Qur’an that those who strive in the path in order to please Allah swt, We Allah (Allah swt uses we to express His grandeur and majesty) will surely guide them to many many paths that lead to Me. Our hope too is to spend 10 days and nights in mujahida and striving for Allah swt.
One meaning of mujahida is to strive against our own nafs; to battle our nafs and exert ourselves in the ibadah and dhikr of Allah swt. To facilitate that for you, we have structured this sunnah itekaf. This is a tazkiyah program. First I want to share the schedule with you and tell you what exactly we will be doing.
Rough Breakdown of I’tekaf Schedule
The good news is that we have made 8 hours of sleep for you. The bad news is that this is the maximum amount of sleep that you can get. Imam alGhazali rah says the absolute most a person should sleep is 8 hours. Otherwise a person should sleep for 6 hours in every 24 hours. Ask the CEOs and chief surgeons of the this world, how much they sleep in 24 hours? They sleep 4 hours in a day. There was a time when the people of deen were stronger than the people of dunya, in a time like this if a CEO sleeps 4 hours, the alim would sleep 3 hours. There was a time like that.
Our mashaikh, ulema and pious predecessors also used to sleep for 3-4 hours. For you in order to have balance, you should sleep for 6 hours. But we have put enough time that you can sleep up till 8 hours as well.
When we use the word “rest” or “sleep” it means that it is a private time. It is understood that you will use some of that time for ibadah of Allah swt. Other than that, there is some scheduled time for ibadah as well.
Timings of Suhoor
Then some people have this question that if fajr is at say 5:28 AM, in the schedule why does the end suhoor time says 5:25? The reason is that you should stop eating a minute before fajr time. And any calculation will have potential error of 1 minute, plus or minus. Then in your own watch there is a potential error so therefore as an aggregate it has been made 5:25.
Post Fajr Dars
After fajr there will be a small dars of approximately 10 minutes. We will read out and explain passages from the work of a great Shaf’i Muhadith and Faqih Imam al Bayhaqi rah. He has written a book on the branches of Imaan. It comes in a Hadith that there are 70 odd branches of Imaan.
After that, we have left it up to you. Ideally you will do some ibadah and stay up to pray ishraq and go to sleep. That ibadah might be recitation of Qur’an, dhikr, muraqaba, 40 durud and salam or any other. There will be some nights when you will be very tired. In that case you may also sleep and rest at that time.
At 11 AM, we give bayan addressing the women in the masjid. The men should listen as well. I know this that most of you skip ladies bayan, but it is not my habit to force someone. Some khanqas do drag the people out, but we would rather that you listen with your own wish and will so you may benefit more.
Post Zuhr Dars
From 12 noon till 1 PM is another time for you to do ibadah. After zuhr salah we do a brief dars. Previously this used to be dars of Fazail-e-Amaal but Allah swt put in my heart that Shaykh ul Hadith Hadrat Muhammad Zakariya Kandhlawi rah also has many great works besides Fazail-e-Amaal. So we thought to take you a little bit through his works every year. This year we have picked “Fazail-e-Sadaqat”.
Post Asr Khatm-e-Khwajgan
Then we will have Khatm-e-Khwajgan which is the only collective spoken dhikr that we will be doing, followed by a short dua. From 2-3 PM we will have the sunnah sleep. This is a sleep which even I will insist that you do sleep at this time. Because it is the sunnah of Nabi e Kareem sws and by sleeping in this time you will be fresh for tarawih, night bayan and majlis.
After asr, try to ideally pray the 4 Asr sunnah – here you should treat ghair mu’qaddah like mu’qaddah (i.e. give it importance also, however the ruling of Shari’ah remains the same). After Asr there will be a bayan and collective dua. After maghrib, make dhikr and ibadah till isha. After tarawih there will be a bayan, dhikr and dua. After about an hour there will be a majlis. From then on all the time till suhoor you may do both ibadah and sleep. Try to push yourself a little bit in these days.
Guidelines to follow during I’tekaf
1. Stay away from the screen. Phone, sms, whatsApp all are included. This way you will get a complete disconnect from the dunya in these 10 days and nights.
2. Be quiet. Not to interact, talk, chat, linger as much as you can. Speak in hush tone when you are in the masjid. Try to have the adaab of the masjid. Try to revive these adab of masjid at every level.
3. Be where you feel more for Allah swt. As much as possible, spend time in the masjid’s prayer room. Avoid going to the room where they would serve you food. Be in the places where you feel more feelings, keep a watch on your heart.
4. Do more dhikr. There are a wide range of ibadah that you can do. Many people try praying their qada salah. But you should do that a little bit. Pray salatul tasbeeh, try to recite one juz of Qur’an everyday, do istighfar and durud shareef a 100 times each.
In our khanqah in teachings of mashaikh of Naqshband, they teach dhikr e qalbi; that is called muraqaba. Those who know should try doing it for 1-2 hours a day. Those who do not know it will be explained soon. It is when you do it for long period of time that you will get the feelings.
Especially those of you who are our students and all year round only were able to do it for 10-15 minutes daily, and some days even skipped it, they should utilize this time to build the momentum in their hearts. Try to do it for 40-60 minutes at a stretch. You want to see how deep you can go. It is like you are digging for gold; so you keep digging.
Importance of doing Muraqaba
There is a gold called imaan in your heart, there is a gold called love for Allah swt in your heart, there is a gold called yaqeen in your heart, there is a gold called dhikr in your heart. If you keep digging you will find the gold. Gold in dhikr means fana; that you forget all dunya; you are able to remember Allah swt.
How to do Muraqaba
Remember the name of your Lord so much, that everything else goes out of focus. So much so that you forget everything else. This is what you are chasing. You want to chase this fana, so you have to practice this muraqaba. It means that you make the intention that Ya Allah swt, now I’m free and I want to remember only You.
Dhikr is not meditation. Meditation means to close your eyes and connect to yourself. Dhikr means to disconnect from the world and yourself, and connect to Allah swt. Dhikr has nothing to do with pulse or heartbeat or your breathing. All of this is ghairullah. Ghair means anything other than Allah swt, and you want to only and only remember Allah swt. For this you would need something to focus on and that is His name.
تَبَارَكَ اسْمُ رَبِّكَ
Glorious is the name of your Lord. [55:78]
Full of Barakah is the name of your Rabb. The ultimate blessing and barakh of His name is that when you are making dhikr of His name, you are actually making dhikr of Him. When you remember the name, you are ultimately remembering the named One. One way to understand that who is Allah swt? Allah swt is that being who is named by the name “Allah”.
You do not need to conceptualize. Sometimes university students ask what does Allah swt look like? La hawla wala quwwata illa billa. No, that is how you imagine things in dunya. So you will make dhikr of Him by making dhikr of His name “Allah”.
This is what you will do here; you will remember the name of Allah swt. You will not say it with your tongue. You will make the niyyah that the heart of your ruh is making dhikr of Allah swt’s name. You will just sit with that intention.
Why we need to do Dhikr e Qalbi
We should focus more on this dhikr. Because we already know how to recite with our tongues. The problem is that our hearts have become to ghafil and negligent that as we recite, our heart is not into it, it is thinking of dunya. Therefore, dhikr of the tongue does not have its maximum effect on us. We do not even feel the feelings during our salah. We recite Subhaana Rabbi al alaa, but it does not affect our heart, because our heart was absent in salah.
The cure for the ghaflah and negligence of the heart is the dhikr of the heart. The cure for the empty mindedness of the heart is the dhikr of the heart.
Sit for 1-2 hours in muraqaba; in the night, in the day, before or after salah. When you go deep into this dhikr, then you will feel some connection to Allah swt. All you have to do is to connect to His name, and you will become connected to Him.
More explanation on the concept of Fana
Let’s begin at the beginning. What is the worst case a person could be? The very worst case is that a person’s heart is 100% attached to dunya, and 0% attached to Allah swt. Now they need to fix this. Ibadat, dua, tarawih, itekaf, fasting; all these things attach us to Allah swt. As you get more attached to Allah swt then automatically your heart will start getting less attached to dunya.
In a normal situation (besides itekaf) you are supposed to maximize this while doing other things of the world. Try to remember Allah swt as much as you can while working, shopping etc. Then sometimes a person wants 100% connection with Allah swt and 0% connection with dunya. This is called fana.
However, you cannot live your whole life like this; like monks or nuns do in monastery and convents. Nabi sws has said that there is no monasticism in Islam. Fana is a temporary stage, a process through which we purify our hearts. There are different ways to get this.
One excellent way to get it is itekaf. All the masail and adaab of itekaf are because of this. Like do not talk extra or do not leave the masjid. This is to get a 100% disconnect from dunya and 100% connection with Allah swt. All of our 10 days here should be for this fana. This is our goal. Fana in Arabic means people erase their own awareness because they are so aware of Allah swt.
Fana is a sunnah of Nabi sws. This is from Qur’an and Sunnah, do not think I’m telling you some sufi theory. I will show you from Qur’an and Sunnah.
Proof of fana from Sunnah
When Nabi sws was in cave Hira what was he sws doing? Nabi sws could have stayed in Makkah Mukarma in his sws room and pondered upon Allah swt. Rather he sws wanted 0% connection with dunya. He sws climbed the mountain, and could have stayed there. But he sws wanted more disconnection from this world. He sws found a cave and went inside that cave.
Proof of fana from Qur’an
In Qur’an Allah swt tells us about ashab e kahf. It has hidaya for us. What do they do? They were young men living in a society that was corrupt and distant from Allah swt.
First they tried to get connected to Allah swt while being in that society. Then they wanted 100% connection with Allah swt. They left their home and they left that place. They also climbed up a mountain and they also went inside a cave.
This is hidayah for us that we need to disconnect as well. They went there with the intention of a temporary time period. That is a separate part of the story that Allah swt made them sleep. So we are being guided to take some time out to connect to Allah swt.
Another proof of fana from Sunnah
Let’s go back to the sunnah of Nabi sws. After staying in cave Hira, Allah swt bestowed prophethood on him sws. But he still had 100% connection with Allah swt during tahajjud salah. He had fana during that time. Nabi sws said, I have a special time with Allah swt. It means that during this time of tahajjud he sws would forget everything except for Allah swt.
This is a process. It is a wonderful chance for us to begin the process of fana during this time of itekaf while we have the niyyah of fasting, and we are making extra dhikr, praying tarawih etc. That is why we say do not speak. Do not be curious about who is around.
We came because we are curious about Khaliq. We are seeking Allah swt. Muraqaba is the dhikr that brings a person to fana. There is no takalluf and formality of words and meanings involved in this dhikr. Lisani dhikr (dhikr of the tongue) has both words and meanings involved. Muraqaba, on the other hand, strips you bare of all of that so you can go straight to fana.
You should sit and beg Allah swt for fana. Try to drown in the name of Allah swt.
What happens when a person gets fana?
When they get it they will want to stay in it. You will never want to remember the world again once you forget it. But sunnah will take you out. Because the sunnah of Nabi sws continues. He had fana in cave Hira, and in tahajjud but then he had baqa – which means you re-engage the world. You once again become aware of world but in a different way. You become connected according to shariah and sunnah of Nabi sws.
It comes in a hadith that one of the kind of people to get the shade of Arsh on the Day of Judgment would be those who loved one another for the sake of Allah swt. This is a different engagement.
Explanation of the concept of Baqa
Proof of Baqa from Qur’an
رِجَالٌ۬ لَّا تُلۡهِيہِمۡ تِجَـٰرَةٌ۬ وَلَا بَيۡعٌ عَن ذِكۡرِ ٱللَّهِ
By the men whom no trade or sale makes neglectful of the remembrance of Allah. [24:37]
Then Allah swt warns us:
يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لَا تُلۡهِكُمۡ أَمۡوَٲلُكُمۡ وَلَآ أَوۡلَـٰدُڪُمۡ عَن ذِڪۡرِ ٱللَّهِۚ وَمَن يَفۡعَلۡ ذَٲلِكَ فَأُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمُ ٱلۡخَـٰسِرُونَ
O you who believe, your riches and your children must not divert you from the remembrance of Allah. And those who do that are the losers. [63:9]
Do not let you children and you wealth distract you from Allah swt.
The problem is that we do not understand these verses and ahadith. No problem, we are happy to explain it to you. The way to practice this is called muraqaba. Allah swt is indeed Raqeeb over you. It means He is very closely looking at you. Muraqaba means I simultaneously want to be intensely aware of Him. I want to make my heart completely aware of Allah swt.
ٱدۡعُواْ رَبَّكُمۡ تَضَرُّعً۬ا وَخُفۡيَةًۚ
Supplicate to your Lord humbly and secretly. [7:55]
Allah swt says make dhikr of your Rabb in yourself, secretly silently, with yearning and longing, without any sound or utterance – straight from Qur’an. You came here to practice muraqaba. You should begin even if you are first timers – Bismillah. Keep sitting. Nothing will happen in the first second. No problem. Is there anything that you got in this world in one second? You have 10 days and 10 nights. In this world we say just give me 1 more day and I’ll get the work done. Allah swt has given you 10 days and nights to start this process of fana.
Ibadah to focus on during itekaf (besides the obligatory)
4. Sitting in muraqaba for 1 or 2 hours
Make a lot of dua after every ibadah that ya Allah let me continue in this ibadah. You are here to create this spiritual hunger and thirst so you can eat and drink all year from it. We have duas of our mashaikh and Shaykh with us, I have yaqeen it will happen. Because I have seen that when our Shaykh gives us a mission, Allah swt makes it happen.
There is a hadith that indeed there are some servants of Allah swt, if they take Allah swt’s name, Allah swt fulfills their wishes. And there will always be people like this. There are only a few like that in the world at a time. They are qabair e awliya mashaikh e tareeqat.
So many mashaikh have sat in this masjid in previous itekafs. They were generous in their duas and tawajjuh. You are living in their barakah and their karam. You should try and try. You should take a strong start. I do not want to receive the emails anymore that O Shaykh! I spent sunnah itekaf with you, now it has been 2 months and I am back to my old self. I’m coming on strong because of these emails. I do not want to receive these emails anymore. More than that, you yourself should not want to be writing these emails anymore.
Make dua to Allah swt that ya Allah swt I cannot wait till 27th or 29th of Ramadan. I’m a faqir slave of yours. The faqir of this world instantly brings his cup forth to get something from the giver. Even the faqirs of this world are not told to wait for days because of their condition. I am also a faqir of Your door. We should learn to make duas like these. We should make dua ya Allah give me taqwah wilayah in the first night of Ramadan.
وَآَخِرُ دَعْوَانَا أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ