[These are the rough notes of a talk delivered by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed (db) in Stanger Masjid, South Africa on Jul 09, 2015]
[Audio is available here]
Alhamdulillah, we are in a blessed month, in a blessed time and in a blessed night. We have a great hope that Ya Rabb You chose to keep us in Your masjid in this blessed night, so You will send all of Your blessings on our hearts.
You should want to spend this night is worship, ibadah and dhikr. Without taking much of your time, I want to clarify some things about the path of dhikr.
Clarification about Dhikr-e-Qalbi
Normally a person wants to recite a lot of Qur’an in Ramadan. However, you may have observed that we keep telling you to do muraqaba. The question arises that should we make muraqaba or recite Qur’an?
Should One Make More Muraqaba or Recite More Qur’an?
What we used to do was that we would finish Qur’an at least once before going for it’ikaf. So at least in the month of Ramadan we have once completed our recitation of entire Qur’an. When we would sit in it’ikaf with our Shaykh, we would practice our muraqaba. We would still recite a little Qur’an, but mostly we would work on muraqaba.
Why do we Focus More on Muraqaba in It’ikaf
Muraqaba is not just something that you will only practice, but you have come here to learn it. You do not need to learn how to recite Qur’an, you already know how to do that. You do not need to learn tasbih of istighfar or durud sharif, you already know how to do that. But you need to learn how to make muraqaba. We need this muraqaba to open up for us in our hearts.
The best chance you will have to work on muraqaba is this time you have in it’ikaf. Since you are in seclusion and khalwah, and you also have barakaat of it’ikaf, you have a greater chance to focus and concentrate on the dhikr of Allah swt’s name in your heart. You should want to take advantage of that time.
Drawing Prallel between preferance of Muraqaba in It’ikaf and Preferance of Tawaf in Baitullah
It is very similar to the situation of a person in Makkah Mukarma. According to all ulema, the best act that one can do there is tawaf. You should make tawaf as much as possible. Then if you tire of that, you can shift to other ibadaat. Then you might recite Qur’an, recite durud Sharif, make istighfar and other things. But as soon as you get strength again, you should make tawwaf.
We seen some mashaikh and awliyah that when they go there, they even change their sleeping schedule so they can do maximum tawaf. They try to sleep at the time of maximum rush and try to be awake when rush is least. So that in the less rush, they can make even more tawaf. They make their nights into days and days into nights for the sake of being able to do more tawaf.
Something similar to that is when you make sunnah it’ikaf in this khanqah. You have this opportunity; you have extra thing here. Your recitation here and at home is not going to be too different. It will not be as different as your muraqaba and dhikr here is going to be. You are here to practice muraqaba and go deep into muraqaba.
That said, there maybe some of you who have not yet done the khatam of Quran, it depends how much is left. And by the way, there is no such prescribed thing strictly in Shari’ah that you must recite the Qur’an at least once in Ramadan. It is considered recommended and preferred. But some of you maybe way behind.
Some maybe in a state that there are seven days left, and they have twenty-something juz left. That is a lot to recite. And we have kept you on a program of bayan and majlis. That means in all of your free time you will be reciting Qur’an. I would say no.
Please do not misunderstand or misquote me on this that he came and told us not to recite Qur’an. We have to be careful at times because some people have an uncanny ability to misunderstand and misrepresent.
Imam Rabbani’s (rah) Explanation about Preference of Dhikr for the Beginner in Sulook
Imam Rabbani Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi Mujaddad Alif Sani rah wrote clearly in his Maktubat that for the beginner on the spiritual path of tazkiya, making muraqaba is more beneficial. For the intermediate, the recitation of Qur’an is more beneficial. And the person who reaches the advance stage, for them nawafil, nafl salah, is more beneficial.
I will explain this. Allah swt says that there is guidance in the Qur’an, but who will get that? Whose heart will be changed from that recitation?
إِنَّ فِى ذَٲلِكَ لَذِڪۡرَىٰ لِمَن كَانَ لَهُ ۥ قَلۡبٌ أَوۡ أَلۡقَى ٱلسَّمۡعَ وَهُوَ شَهِيدٌ۬
Indeed, there is a lesson in all this for him who has a heart and gives ear (to the truth) attentively. [50:37]
That person will be changed who has a heart when they recite, whose heart is in it during recitation.
Our problem is that we recite Qur’an, but our heart is not in it. When you recite with your tongue, you get the ajr and reward and blessings, however that shifa for quloob – healing of the hearts – does not take place.
Sad state of Hufadh who Sin
That is why we have another problem these days. There are so many people who are hufadh who have sins in their lives. Do they not recite Qur’an? Of course they do recite it. I am not talking about the hufadh who does not recite and forgot.
We have dozens upon dozens of cases of hufadh who do recite Qur’an but they are still caught up in different sins. What does this mean? Their heart must not be in the recitation. It means that their recitation is not penetrating their heart. What does this mean? Their heart must not be in the recitation. It means that their recitation is not penetrating their heart.
The Need to Unclog our Hearts to get the Noor of Qur’an
You can imagine it like this that their heart is blocked. They would need to make some other exercises to unclog that heart. To unclog the heart that process is called muraqaba; that process is called dhikr e qalbi; that process is doing dhikr of Allah swt’s name from heart.
There might be some like that here as well in this sunnah it’ikaf. We need to unclog our heart.
Story of a man Reciting Durud thousands of times and still Committing Sin
Once a person came to our Shaykh while I was sitting there and I witnessed this. First he told Hadrat Jee that I make so many thousands of times salawat durud sharif a day. Then in the next sentence he mentioned some sin; unspeakable and unmentionable sin; but he was true and sincere and had come for his islah. Our Shaykh spoke with him lovingly, and guided him and he left.
I asked Shaykh that I do not understand that in the first sentence he told you that he is reciting so much durud and salawat and next he told you of an unspeakable sin. How is this possible? Shaykh explained that it was because he was reciting it with his tongue. Had he recited the durud and salawat once with feeling in his heart, that may have been enough to save him. It means that our heart is missing.
Sad state of Namazi who sin
إِنَّ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ تَنۡهَىٰ عَنِ ٱلۡفَحۡشَآءِ وَٱلۡمُنكَرِۗ
Surely Salah restrains one from shameful and evil acts. [29:45]
That indeed the salah will stop you, it will prevent you, from shameless, immodest and crude sins and from everything repudiated by Allah swt. However, we find that people who pray salah, they sin. They pray regularly; they pray five times a day, and they have been praying five times salah for months and years.
But still some are involved in the sin of lust, someone has sin of anger, someone has sin of adultery, someone has sin of lying; they are still sinning even though they are praying fard salah.
The Need to Unclog our Hearts to get the Noor of Salah
Qur’an is correct that salah will protect us from sins. It means that their heart is not in it. Their heart is not present in that salah. Their body is making salah; their tongue is making salah; but their heart is not making salah. There must be some process to unclog this clogged heart. That process is called dhikr e qalbi.
This is why Imam Rabbani rah said that for the beginner, muraqaba is more beneficial. Muraqaba is the base, the pre-requisite to get the full benefit from the other ibadaat.
The Process of Cleansing the Heart (Tazkiyah)
When a person can train their heart to remember Allah swt, when they can put their heart into their ibadah, when they are no longer heartless, rather are heartfelt in their relationship to Allah swt, then when that person recites Qur’an, they get the noor of Qur’an. They get the spiritual brilliant light of Qur’an. They get the benefits of Qur’an.
When they get this noor, then just their recitation changes them. When a person reaches this stage, then they should recite more. When they recite Qur’an more and get the noor in their heart, now they are ready for the next phase which is nawafil. Now their dhikr is just to pray nafl salah.
Why didn’t Sahaba ra need Muraqaba?
If you look at the lives of Sahaba ra, you will find that they did not do muraqaba, they did not do these things. They did not need to do these things. They went straight to advance level. This was because they had a method of tazkiyah which is not available to me and you: they had suhbat-e-Rasul sws.
Their method was to be in the company of Nabi e Kareem sws. When they put themselves in his sws company, the noor that was in his sws heart went to their heart. That is how they got this done. But we have to get this done through muraqaba because we do not have suhbat-e-Rasul sws. We have to go through a process.
Sahaba ra simply sat there and they learnt all the sunnah. If me and you have to learn the sunnah, we will have to go through a process called Hadith course, Hadith books, Hadith text and curriculum. We have to go through the process to get the same knowledge of Sunnah that they had. They did not have to go through that process.
There must be some process because we are also responsible for the same thing they are responsible for. Allah swt said in the Qur’an:
إِلَّا مَنۡ أَتَى ٱللَّهَ بِقَلۡبٍ۬ سَلِيمٍ۬
Except to him who will come to Allah with a sound heart. [26:89]
You must bring to Allah swt a pure heart on that Day. We are equally muqallaf and duty-bound to purify our hearts. Sahaba ra got that purification of the heart from Suhbat-e-Rasul sws.
…and purifies them… [62:2]
That is why Allah swt told Nabi sws in the Qur’an that Nabi sws will do their tazkiyah. Nabi sws did the tazkiyah of Sahaba ra. We do not have that. When you make muraqaba, that is the process through which the heart gets connected and starts becoming present in salah. The heart starts becoming aware when you pray salah. The heart becomes aware when you recite Qur’an. Then they recite Qur’an and then they pray nafl.
If you look then that is exactly what Sahaba ra did. How much dhikr did the Sahaba ra do? All night, half the night or two-third of the night praying salah. It combines all three, because when they were praying salah, they were reciting Qur’an with a heart that was remembering Allah swt. They were doing all three as their heart was doing dhikr of Allah swt, they were reciting Qur’an and they did both of these things inside salah.
But we are going to have to build it; it is like building-blocks. We have to start at the first block i.e. the heart remembering Allah swt. We are on step 1 right now. We are making our hearts dhakir of Allah swt. When the heart becomes dhakir of Allah swt, then we add the second block: the recitation of Qur’an. Then once we get trained to recite the Qu’ran with a heart that is remembering Allah swt, then we add the third block: to recite Qu’ran with a heart remembering Allah swt inside salah. We have to go step-by-step.
Why are there Different Models of Tazkiyah?
Our mashaikh understood this process. They took the tazkiyah model of Nabi sws and and what the Sahaba ra had, and made it into steps for us. Sahaba ra did not have to go through these steps because they went in an instant. They were transported in an instant due to the noor of suhbah of Nabi sws.
Different mashaikh have made different steps for this. Mashaikh-e-Chishtiya made different step-by-step process. Mashaikh-e-Naqshband made different step-by-step process. Mashaikh-e-Qadri silsila made different step-by-step process.
This is just like you can study one curriculum of Hadith. Muhaditheen made other curriculum as well. There are different books of Hadith. There are also different ways and sequences to study that text. There are different step-by-step processes, but when you reach the end, you get the ilm of Sunnah.
Similarly the mashaikh make different methods of tazkiyah with different step-by-step processes. If you reach the end, you get that tazkiyah.
Example of Tareeqat as a path leading to the Mountain Top
You can imagine it in another way. The top of the mountain is taqwah. We need to climb. Sahaba ra had an elevator; it is called the suhbah of Nabi sws. They just took imaan, entered the elevator of his sws suhbah, and it took them straight up to the top of the mountain.
Every singly sahabi ra is a wali of Allah swt. You must understand this: every single Sahabi ra reached the top of the mountain. Every Sahabi ra was the greatest wali of Allah swt. Any one Sahabi ra on one side would outweigh all the other awliyah after Sahaba ra combined. That one Sahabi ra is more, all those other awliyah are less. They were at the top of the mountain. They got there through the suhbah of Nabi e Kareem sws.
We were not blessed to be in that time. So me and you will have to climb. Our mashaikh who were kamileen, mut’taqeen, saliheen and siddiqeen, they also got to the top of the mountain. They looked down and saw me and you at the bottom. So one of them threw a rope, another one threw another rope, another one made another path. They made different ways to get to the top. All the paths are going in the same direction.
Kamileen, siddiqeen, mashaikh-e-tareeqat awliyah are all at the top. They are the same. Yes, these paths are a little different from one another. One path may have twenty steps, one may have fifteen steps, some in thirty steps. One path may have some certain terms, another may have different terms. One may be made up of wood, the other of marble, another is made up of stone. These are different features of the path, that is all this is.
You should be happy. All you have to do is start climbing. Our job is to climb and keep climbing. However, some people get confused about these things. They just keep making tawaf at the bottom of the mountain. They do not climb. Sometimes they look at one path and they say it looks nice, it has wood, it is going to the top, but I do not know, I am not sure, I am not ready. They keep making tawaf. Then they see another path. It maybe made up of rock and granite. They look at it and say it also looks nice, but maybe I should wait. They keep making tawaf. They are also moving but they are not moving with direction.
The Need for both Movement and Direction
You need direction and movement both. Vectors, young people studying physics would understand. You will need movement and you will need direction. Movement without direction is no good. Knowing direction without movement, ulema listen, knowing direction without movement not good.
These are mashaikh who laid out a path called tareeqa, and it was aligned with Shari’ah. So thenceforth you got movement and direction.
Example of Tareeqat as a Moving Walkway
Once our Shaykh explained it beautifully. We were at the airport and there was a moving walkway. He said this is tareeqat: a moving walkway. One is walking without the moving walkway, and one is getting on the moving walkway. Moving walkway means we have suhbat-e-Shaykh, this in silsila tareeqat helps you move faster. It is giving you movement and direction. Can you imagine that at a place like an airport discovering the marafah of Allah swt?
It is very important that a person should adopt the path and that you start climbing. It is not enough to just enter the path. You must have movement and direction. That is what you are focusing on here. This is a special thing. You are here to increase your movement and learn more about direction. This is why we push you to make more muraqaba, so that your vehicle starts moving.
Otherwise people are just coasting, cruising and they are stuck in neutral. This is why our mashaikh call this path “sulook”. Sulook means to journey. Salik is the traveler. So they are trying to give us the feeling that you should keep moving. You are a wayfarer, a traveler, a journeyer of the path.
Our mashaikh-e-Naqshband teach the path of dhikr-e-qalbi. They go straight to the heart. They fix the problem where it is lies. Our problem is not that we do not know how to make dhikr from the tongue. Everyone here can do that. You do not need to learn that from me. If I tell you to recite durud sharif ten thousand times, the stamina is a separate thing, but there is nothing to learn about it. You can recite it. If I tell you to recite Qur’an for five hours, there is nothing to learn about that. You can recite it. If I tell you to do this tasbih of la illaha illallah ten thousand times, you have the ability to recite it.
But if I say remember Allah swt from your heart in a way that you cannot think about anything else, you will not be able to do it. You do not have the ability to do that. You need to learn it. You need to practice it. That is why we tell you to make muraqaba.
So you should keep learning and practicing. Do not worry, you may not get the hang of it in the first night, or your may not even get the hang of it in 10 nights, but you should keep learning and keep practicing. InshaAllah this heart will open up and then you will get the dhikr of Allah swt.
Once you experience the dhikr of Allah swt, you will not want us to explain it anymore. You will not require explanation after explanation.
What is Experiential Knowledge: Imam al Ghazali’s Mango Example
Imama al Ghazali rah said that if a person has not tasted a mango, you can explain it to him that it is yellow, it is soft, it is sweet, it is succulent, it is juicy. Still the person who has not tasted it will not be able to fully understand. The day they taste the mango, they will not need any of the descriptions any more.
I do not want to keep describing it to you, rather I want you to taste it. I want you to experience it for yourself. How are you going to taste it? How are you going to experience it?
You will have to do one to two hours of muraqaba everyday. Those of you who are older students of ours, you will have to do it for two to three hours.
The Real Meaning of Naqshband
Why was Hadrat Shah Bahauddin Naqshband Bukhari rah called Naqshband? Naqsh means the written script of ism-e-Jalala Allah, band means to inscribe, to imprint. So they called him Naqshband, because he used to inscribe and imprint this name of Allah swt in the spiritual hearts of the people. Allah swt says in the Qur’an:
.وَٱذۡكُرِ ٱسۡمَ رَبِّكَ بُكۡرَةً۬ وَأَصِيلاً۬
And remember the name of Allah morning and evening. [73:25]
Make dhikr of the name of your Rabb, the name of our Rabb is Allah. So if you are new, start with one hour. Try to sometimes reach two hours in the course of these ten days. And if you have been with us for a while, then you need to make muraqaba for two to three hours a day. Then you will get a feel.
Learning Muraqaba will Require Time
It is not going to happen like this if you say that I am going to do for ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes in the evening. You can never learn anything like this. Remember, it is about learning, it is not about reciting. Dhikr of the tongue can be done ten minutes in the morning and ten in the evening.
Can you say that I read a text book for ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes in the evening? Can you learn tafsir like that? Learning requires hours. You have to sit and do it for one to two hours and focus; that is called learning.
You have come here so you can learn muraqaba. We have invited you here to learn muraqaba. We traveled all the way here so you could learn muraqaba. So sit and learn. Keep trying, keep learning, keep sitting. If you feel nothing, keep sitting. If you fall asleep, keep sitting. If your mind is wandering, keep sitting. If you get different thoughts, keep sitting. It is part of the process. You have to go through a process.
The students will know that if I open the book my mind wanders, they will say okay then close the book and drop out of school. Did anyone ever talk like that to you? You are getting happy that I wish someone would say that to us. Nobody talks like that. So what if your mind wanders? That does not mean that you stop.
If you say when I open the book, I feel sleepy. They will say keep reading, study more. The hifz instructors would know. They will keep telling you to keep sitting and keep memorizing. We are saying the same thing to you. The are trying to get you to learn the words of Qur’an. We are trying to get you to feel the feelings of Qur’an. Do you know the effort it takes to memorize the words of Qur’an? You would have seen it.
Now can you imagine the effort it would take to feel the feelings of Qur’an? You have to do it. This is why we take our mashaikh. They are our guides. They push us in the movement and they push us in the direction.
You should make effort and also make dua to Allah swt on this night:
لَيۡلَةُ ٱلۡقَدۡرِ خَيۡرٌ۬ مِّنۡ أَلۡفِ شَہۡرٍ۬
The Night of Qadr is much better than one thousand months. [97:3]
That Ya Rabb e Kareem this is that night that it is better than a thousand nights, then if I sit for one or two hours in this night, it will be like I sat for one to two hours for dhikr for eighty-three years consecutively. This is why it is such a special chance because this takes time. Allah swt is magnifying the time in these last days.
You have already learnt recitation, you do not need time to learn it. You have learnt how to recite Qur’an. You have learnt how to make tasbihaat. Now come and learn how to make muraqaba. Use the barakah of this time to learn how to make muraqaba.
May Allah swt accept this niyyah from us. May Allah swt accept us on this night. May He accept us for every night in this it’ikaf. May He grant us that layla-tul-Qadr that we have come seeking, that we have come searching for. Allah swt out of His infinite Mercy, He can make every night layla-tul-Qadr for us.