Maktubat-e-Rabbani Session 4

[These are rough notes from the fourth session of the workshop conducted by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed (db) in UK, in 2011]

[Notes for Session 1, Session 2 and Session 3]

This letter is also talking about the shat’hat — the ecstatic utterances. Here Imam Rabbani (rah) just coins a new term which is called kufr of tareeqat as opposed to the kufr of Shar’iah. This needs to be explained a little. Kufr of Shar’iah means that a person becomes an unbeliever according to the teachings of Shar’iah in terms of aqeedah. As in he becomes an unbeliever in Allah (swt), or he ascribes partners to Allah (swt). That’s obviously terrible. That’s an apostate that a person loses their imaan.

What does it mean to have kufr of tareeqat? By the kufr of tareeqat or the kufr of tasawwuf, he means how a person can become a kafir as far as tasawwuf is concerned, not actually become a kafir, this is just a term he is using. We could just skip this whole thing altogether. The only reason now I’m stuck explaining this is because I have given it to you in the course packet. This is not something I should have given to you because there is no way I’ll be able to teach this in depth here. This is one of the things you will misunderstand if you read on your own. Let me show you straight up the line what you will misunderstand, and then you will understand why I’m worried.

The kufr of tareeqat is superior to the Islam of shari’ah, although it is inferior and lower than the Islam of the reality of shari’ah. What he is talking about here is actually a very simple thing that to even reach such a stage where, not that you believe in wahdat al-wujud as an aqeedah in the sense that you believe everything is one with Allah (swt), he is talking about the ecstatic utterances; that you are overwhelmed by such a feeling in dhikr that you actually feel for some moments, for some limited period of time, you feel as if all of the world is one with Allah (swt), so he called that kufr of tareeqat.

That’s the wrong thing to say. But a person gets out of it, which is the context in which he is saying this. If they get out of it, then the fact that they even reached such an ecstasy is greater than what he is calling the Islam of shari’ah, but it is lower than what he is calling the Islam of the haqeeqat of the shari’ah. There is a particular way he is using this term Islam of Shari’ah. This is not what we would call deen of Islam, or shari’ah.

He is saying that someone who is outwardly Muslim, but doesn’t have love for Allah (swt) in their heart, doesn’t have the feelings of Qur’an, doesn’t have the feelings of imaan, doesn’t have taqwa, tawakkul, ikhlas, sabr, shukr, khashiya, muhabbat-e-ilahi, muhabbat-e-Rasool Allah (sws), etc. He is just a Muslim in name. You would call it in English a nominal Muslim. Better than that nominal Muslim is that person who has all of these feelings, including taqwa, and was overpowered momentarily in those feelings that they made an ecstatic utterance which suggested that they thought that the world is one with Allah (swt). But then they repent from that. They have to repent from that. And even better than that person is the person who never-ever makes such a statement, and has all of those feelings the mu’mineen are supposed to have which are mentioned in Qur’an. This is what he is trying to say.

He chooses to label the first one Islam of shari’ah. It’s not deen of Islam. There’s actually a very famous hadith of Blessed Prophet (sws) where he (sws) talked about imaan, Islam, and ihsan (Hadith-e-Jibrail). There the word Islam is not being used for deen. There the word Islam is being used simply for outward appearance. So he is using the word Islam in the sense it has been used in the hadith. Similarly, in Qur’an there is a very famous ayah; there were some Bedouins, Allah (swt) told them don’t say amanna, don’t say you have imaan, but instead say you have Islam (49:14). You have something lesser because the inner reality of deen has not entered your heart. You just have the outward form.

So by the word Islam here he means the outward form, that’s why he uses the word Islam again for the greatest thing which is the reality of true deen. So he says better than having only outward Islam is having true deen but lapsing into an ecstatic utterance, which you make tawba from, and the best is to have the inward Islam, to have real deen inwardly, without ever having to lapse into that utterance.

Next letter.

He takes five ecstatic utterances by particular people in tasawwuf, and he addresses and analyzes each one in turns and he explains how each one taken on its literal meaning is incorrect, and it would be incorrect to follow these people in the literal meaning of their words thinking that the literal meaning of their words represents true teaching of Islam.

In the view of sober sufis (he gives this distinction between anybody who is sober and intoxicated) however, these words are the outcome of intoxication and the result of non-distinction between the reality of something and its symbolic form between the haqeeqat and the majaz (The translator has mistranslated this, it is majaz, not muzaj). Know that intoxication is a mark of wilayat, and sobriety is a characteristic of nabuwwah, parts of which are available to the most perfect followers of the Prophet (sws) (i.e. siddiqin). They get the same soberness (sobriety means their calm and control, that they don’t make these ecstatic utterances).

This is that explanation as to why Sahaba Karam (ra) would not make such utterances although they had the greatest feelings. So a person may ask the question that look you are saying that when a person is overwhelmed with feelings of love for Allah (swt), they may sometimes make these statements. So in the entire history of tasawwuf, there are no more than 5-10 people who made these statements like Mansur al-Hallaj, Rabia Basria etc. There are 5-10 people in the entire history of Islam rather I would say. Right now there are 1.2 billion Muslims on earth. Fifty years ago there were 1 billion Muslims on earth. Over the course 1400 years there have been hundreds of billions of Muslims, and out of the entire history of the ummah of Islam, only 5-10 people in tasawwuf made these ecstatic statements.

The reason I’m making this clear to you is that it means that statistically 0.0000001% go astray. But many times people engage in what you call fear mongering. They say we understand if you really are careful about tasawwuf, you follow shari’ah, you follow Sunnah, it would be okay. But you really don’t want to try that because don’t you see what happened to Mansur al-Hallaj? Mansur al-Hallaj said annal Haqq — I’m God basically, you really want to take that risk? So the risk is again 5-10 people in the whole history of the ummah who went astray. So you are not really putting yourself in that risk. If you are going to be that statistical about taking risk, you can no longer drive on the road, literally, because the statistics of being in a road accident is far greater than being on a tasawwuf road accident — on going astray on the path of tasawwuf. This is mere fear mongering.

The other difference is that the people who made ecstatic utterances didn’t know that a person can get into these ecstatic state on the path, otherwise they could have safeguarded themselves as well. Imam Rabbani (rah) has now explained it clearly to us. In other words, ever since Shaykh Ahmed Sirhindi (rah), nobody has ever made such an ecstatic utterance. He has successfully purged classical oriented tasawwuf from this problem. You may still have quacks who do all types of crazy things. People do crazy things in the name of Islam too. So people can do crazy things when they are on sufi’ism today. But rightly guided people on tasawwuf, in the history of Islam, 5-10 of them made a mistake. Ever since Shaykh Ahmed Sirhindi, there’s no rightly guided person on tasawwuf who has ever made that mistake.

Next letter.

This is slightly contextual. Some people at the time of Imam Rabbani (rah) denied the need for prophethood and prophecy. They claimed that it is possible to obey Allah (swt) without obeying the Prophet (sws). So he simply says that obedience to Allah (swt) and obedience to the Prophet (sws) are exactly the same thing. This is clear in Qur’an that there is no difference.

مَنۡ يُّطِعِ الرَّسُوۡلَ فَقَدۡ اَطَاعَ اللّٰهَ
Whoever obeys the Messenger obeys Allah [4:80]

That person who obeys the Prophet (sws) it is indeed equivalent to as if he has obeyed Allah (swt). This incident is not about one of the rightly guided shaykhs who went astray. This is one of the rightly guided shaykhs who never went astray at all, but people misinterpreted some events. That also happens. The event was that some people said that mashaikh in the state of intoxication have uttered words that differentiate obedience to Allah (swt) and obedience to Prophet (sws) and speaking of choosing love of one over the love of the other.

For example, it has been reported that once Sultan Mehmud Ghaznavi, who was the Muslim ruler of the time, came to Khartan [?] during his rein when he was its ruler, and he put up camp there. He must have come for some reason. He sent his messenger to request his shaykh, Shaykh Abu al-Hassan Kharaqani (rah) to visit him. He instructed him that in case the shaykh was not willing to visit him, because sometimes the ulema and mashaikh didn’t like to visit the kings, then he should recite to him the verse:

يٰۤـاَيُّهَا الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡۤا اَطِيۡـعُوا اللّٰهَ وَاَطِيۡـعُوا الرَّسُوۡلَ وَاُولِى الۡاَمۡرِ مِنۡكُمۡ‌ۚ
O you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. [4:59]

That you should obey Allah (swt), obey the Prophet (sws) and those who are in authority of you. This is also one of the most commented upon ayat of Qur’an that who are the ulul amr? Are they those who have a political authority over you, or are they those who have a religious authority over you? Religious authority would mean that you have to follow the ijtihad of the mujtahidun. Some people say it means both. Obviously, Sultan Mehmud Ghaznavi felt it meant people of political authority. So he meant it in the sense that in Qur’an Allah (swt) is asking you to obey me because I am the one in authority therefore you should come when I’m telling you to come.

This messenger went and as he invited the shaykh, he saw exactly this that Shaykh Kharaqani didn’t want to go. So he recited the verse. At that moment Shaykh Kharaqani (rah) said that I am still occupied with Allah’s (swt) obedience, I feel ashamed that I have not moved to the obedience of Prophet (sws), and what to say about the obedience to the ruler? It wasn’t his aqeedah statement. He was just saying this to the guard to get out of this issue. He wasn’t saying that I’m obeying Allah (swt) right now and I have not yet obeyed the Prophet (sws).

In fact, it’s mentioned in hadith that the Prophet (sws) has taught us not to associate with people who are corrupt rulers. There is no ayat in the Qur’an that actually says that. So the very act of Shaykh Kharaqani (rah) refusing to go to the king is actually based on him following that prophetic model. This was just a statement he was saying that you think that ulul amr means I have to obey Sultan Mehmud Ghaznavi so don’t you see there is an order in Qur’an that first obey Allah (swt) and then obey the Prophet (sws), and I’m still busy on the first. He could have said that I’m still busy with first and second, but then he would have said the next step is three, so to keep them from even giving that answer, he just said that I’m busy on number one. That’s all it was. It did not in any way mean that he was viewing these things as different.

Now he is going to talk about kashf. What should I write about kashf? In this field, the causes for mistakes are many and the possibility of error is great. He is making it clear that kashf and ilham is not an infallible source of religion. It is fallible. It is subject to error. There is a possibility of mistake. The occurrence of these revelations are as good as their non-occurrence. If you don’t get kashf, or if you get kashf, it’s equally good. Them happening or them not happening is equally the same thing.

There is no merit, no fadhilah that is attached to getting kashf. Because merit and fadhilah are attached to the siffat of Qur’an and siffat of sunnah. If you have more tawakkul on Allah (swt), that’s better than if you have less tawakkul on Allah (swt). If you have more kashf that’s not any better than you having less kashf. The kashf does not have value in deen. It occurs, but it doesn’t have value. That is a very important teaching to be made clear in tasawwuf.

The Path of Qurb-e-Nabuwwah vs. Qurb-e-Wilaya

Somebody asked him a question that you observed that one does not attain the nearness to Allah (swt) unless one has experienced fanaa and baqaa. He is also mentioning the state of jazba (rapture) in sulook — that’s another way to describe the stages I previously mentioned to you. The Sahaba Karam (ra) of Syedna Rasool Allah (sws) are universally held superior to any wali of the ummah. Even that Sahabi (ra) who met the Blessed Prophet (sws) for a very short period is greater than all of the awliya combined. This is a fact. Even that Sahabi (ra) who met the Prophet (sws) just for a fraction of a second is greater than all the awliya of the history of Islam combined.

The question then is that do they complete all of these stages of fanaa, baqaa, sair, and sulook just in one short contact? Because if you are saying going through that journey is necessary to get to that final goal, which was the ultimate goal of being 100% attached to Allah (swt) and also doing work and khidmah and dawah in this world, then how did the Sahaba (ra) do it since they didn’t go through this whole long path?

Second question, whether the Sahaba (ra) got fanaa and baqaa due to the spiritual attention of the Prophet (sws)? — just through the sohbah in that they got it from the heart of the Prophet (sws) and that’s it — they got it all? That could have been a possibility. Maybe the questioner is himself thinking of possible answers. Maybe for Sahaba (ra) it was an instantaneous journey because they didn’t do it through the process of dhikr or the process of nafl i’tikaf (chilla). They did it through the sohbah of the Prophet (sws). Just being in the company of the Prophet (sws). So he is asking if that’s the reason. Or was it by virtue of their submission to Allah (swt)? Was it because of their perfect taqwa? Is that how they got wilaya?

Lastly, he wanted to know whether they became aware of sulook and jazba by undergoing these experiences or without them? So the, quote unquote, experiences that occur to a person on the path, did the Sahaba (ra) also experience them or did they get to the destination without going through these experience? But if they did not have them, and they didn’t receive the attention of the Prophet (sws), would we call them bid’ah hasana (good innovation)?

Bid’ah hasana is a topic that we have talked about in detail in the bid’ah workshop. This is a concept that was mentioned by Syedna Umar (ra) in a hadith of Bukhari. He was ameer al-mu’mineen — so it’s after the Prophet (sws) has passed away — he enters Masjid-e-Nabwi in Ramadan and he sees Sahaba (ra) praying in multiple groups. When he (ra) walks in, he orders that they should all form one group.

Syedna Ubay ibn Ka’b (ra) protests and asks what are you doing? The Prophet (sws) never did this. You are doing something new. You are saying that all of us should pray tarawih in one jama’ah in the masjid, you are saying there should not be multiple simultaneous jama’ah at the same time offering tarawih. And the word that is used is bid’ah. Syedna Umar (ra) responded — this is a conversation between two of the greatest sahaba in Masjid-e-Nabwi — he says na’imal bida’t al-haza that this is such a wonderful bida’h which I’m doing. Then Syedna Umar (ra) does it, all the Sahaba (ra) agree, Syedna Ubay ibn Ka’b (ra) is quiet so he also agrees, and from that day until today there has always been only one jama’ah of tarawih in Masjid-e-Nabwi.

Who instituted this practice? Syedna Umar (ra). What are the words which he has used which Imam Bukhari (rah) has recorded? He used the word bida’h. He knew how Blessed Prophet (sws) had used the word bida’h in hadith. He knew the hadith that Blessed Prophet (sws) said every bida’h is dalalah (i.e. leads a person away from truth) and every dalalah leads to hellfire, etc. But he also knew that when Blessed Prophet (sws) used the word bida’h at that occasion, he (sws) had in mind every bida’h and innovation that was against shari’ah. He understood the meaning of the word and did not confine himself to the wording of the word. The writer of the letter was an ‘alim so he knew about this concept (and he was asking with reference to it).

Imam Shafi (rah), who is from the tabi tabi’in, from the salaf, also completely believes in bida’h hasana. He makes a whole long argument in his books and establishes the case for a whole category of actions that should be called bida’h hasana. This ‘alim is asking Imam Rabbani (rah) if that’s what this is. That all of these experiences you have to go through and those four stages, maybe they are bida’h hasana.

Imam Rabbani (rah) gives two answers. This is one of the difficult letters. You must know that in order to understand these points, you should rather see me and spend some time with me. Because there is only so much you can respond in a letter. We have the same problem — there is only so much you can do over an e-mail. For example, if you asked me the question that what is fanaa and what is baqaa, what is hairat, what is ilham and what is kashf, I can’t write an e-mail in response to something like this. You will have to come see me, we would have to have some interaction. You cannot communicate all knowledge through letters and e-mails. Anybody who is involved in education, is studying, or teaching, will understand this.

It is not easier for you to appreciate truth which no one has so far disclosed. He is going to disclose a bit of it and I will explain that. This is maybe his most amazing understanding of tasawwuf. However, now that you have raised these questions, I have no option except to discuss them. I will, however, do them briefly (because this is a letter). The qurb to Allah (swt) that one attains through this whole process of fanaa, baqaa, suluk and suyur is the qurb of the awliya. It is the qurb which the awliya of the ummah attain. However, the qurb that the Sahaba Karam (ra) got because of their association with the Blessed Prophet (sws) was the qurb of nabuwwah.

Sahaba (ra) got the closeness to Allah (swt) that the Blessed Prophet (sws) had. We are not saying that the Sahaba (ra) became prophets. We are saying that they got the qurb to Allah (swt) that the Prophet (sws) had. To show you this, in Akhirah there is a place called Jannat al-Firdous. It is not just for Anbiya (as). The entire ummah has ijma on this that all the Anbiya (as) will be in Jannat al-Firdous, and non-anbiya will also be in Jannat al-Firdous. There are seven Jannahs. Allah (swt) has not made the system, although that may have been a possibility, and it would have made rational sense to us, that the qurb of the Anbiya (as) in Akhirah would be more than everyone else. So whatever their level of Jannah is, that would be just for Anbiya (as), and maybe Sahaba (ra) would be in level 2.

However, Sahaba (ra) will also be in Jannat al-Firdous. As far as qurb with Allah (swt), He has opened it up to all of the truest followers of the prophets who are called siddiqeen in the Qur’an and the greatest of them is Syedna Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (ra). In other words, he is saying that the Sahaba (ra) are closer to Allah (swt) than the awliya are. They received this qurb through Prophet (sws) by following him (sws), and in that qurb (when you get the qurb that the Prophet (sws) had) there is no fanaa, baqaa or suyurHe is making two points:

1. It is a higher qurb.

2. There is no process for that. Only the Sahaba (ra) could get that and they got that through the sohbah of Blessed Prophet (sws), because the sohbah of Blessed Prophet (sws) is infinitely more powerful and intense than fanaa, baqaa and all of those things that a person could try to do by means of dhikr.

However, it is many times superior to the qurb of the awliya. This is the first order qurb, while other is the second order qurb — he means the real qurb, the highest level of qurb that you can get, because when you can’t have union, what can you have? You can have nearness, and that’s in Qur’an:

فَاِنِّىۡ قَرِيۡبٌؕ
Then (tell them that) I am near. [2:186]

وَنَحۡنُ اَقۡرَبُ اِلَيۡهِ مِنۡ حَبۡلِ الۡوَرِيۡدِ‏
We are closer to him than (his) jugular vein. [50:16]

اُولٰٓٮِٕكَ الۡمُقَرَّبُوۡنَ‌ۚ
Those are the ones blessed with nearness (to Allah). [56:11]

This is a Qur’anic concept — the qurb of humanity with Allah (swt). What’s the maximal level of qurb you can get? We are not talking about unity. The maximal level of qurb is qurb-e-nabuwwah; the closeness that the Prophet (sws) had. The Sahaba (ra) were gifted with that closeness, that is infinitely superior than the qurb-e-awliya. You are surprised by the answer. Many people can come up with this question but they don’t understand the answer. You will not be able to come up with an answer on your own. That’s why you need people who understand things like qurb. The mashaikh of tasawwuf understand these things.

Maybe you can’t appreciate the tone and tenor of this letter in English. He is saying what in the world are you talking about? In Urdu we would say Sahaba (ra) ka qurb kahan aur aap awliya ka qurb kahan, aap tou zameen aur asmaan k farq ki baat kar rahe hein. You are talking about the difference of day and night. You are comparing incomparable things. The qurb of Sahaba (ra) and awliya is radically different. We need to understand the greatness of Sahaba Karam (ra) also, we don’t understand that. Jannat al-Firdous means they have the same level in Akhirah in terms of qurb with Allah (swt). That’s an amazing thing.

People do not generally know this truth. You will find that sometimes a person would think Shaykh Qadir Jillani (rah) is as great as the Sahaba (ra). That’s a crazy thing to think. In this regard, the scholars are no better than the common man. Even some ulema don’t understand the real maqam of Sahaba (ra). Then he quotes a poem had Ibn Sina sung like a sufi, everyone who is called a qalandar would have been a saint. It’s a bit difficult to explain to you, there are many puns going on here. It’s a sarcastic statement. I don’t want to go into who are the qalandars because that will take me out of my objective right now.

However, if one wants to achieve the prophetic qurb — let’s say someone says I also want to be among the siddiqin — that’s also something that Allah (swt) has opened up, in other words Jannat al-Firdous is not closed. It is still open-admissions. Who knows who can make the criteria, but it’s not just for Anbiya (as) and Sahaba (ra). Anyone who can make themselves among the siddiqin can get Jannat al-Firdous.

That’s why we need to realize why are we on earth? What are we doing? Really, we don’t understand the choices we have made. If for the sake of career, you lose Jannat al-Firdous, and you just get Jannah, even that is a stupid choice. In the name of balance, you should not want to sacrifice Jannat al-Firdous. I don’t think anyone would want to sacrifice being an abdi sahaba — because in Jannat al-Firdous you will also be in the company of Prophet (sws) for all of eternity. One is Madni Sahabi, one is Jannati sahabi. You will become a sahaba — not sahaba in the earthly sense, but you will be the companion of the Prophet (sws) in Jannat al-Firdous like they were his (sws) companions in Madinah Munawwarah or Makkah Mukarramah. That’s still open.

How can a person get that qurb? He says there are two ways to get that. One is by going through fanaa, baqaa and all of these journeys, and in further trying to get the qurb of the siddiqin and the qurb of the awliya — these are both words in Qur’an. One once achieves the prophetic qurb by the saintly qurb, he cannot avoid fanaa, baqaa, jazba and sulook (because these are the basic principles of the way of wilaya). But if one does not take qurb in this way, and follows instead the sulook of nabuwwah, (they follow the path of qurb-e-nabuwwah directly and don’t go through this fanaa and baqaa thing. So the Sahaba (ra) followed the way of the prophetic qurb, which has nothing to do with fanaa, baqaa, jazba and sulook).

In my letters, wherever I have written that my fair’s above sulook and jazba and above illuminations and appearances, I meant this qurb. He also feels he went beyond this stage. I will explain to you what the importance of that is. This is what was revealed to me while I was in the company of my shaykh. I wrote to him that something has been revealed to me with which meditation on the Self stands just as the meditation on the world stands on meditation on the Self. These are all terms we cannot do for you today: sair-e-anfusihi and sair-e-anfaki afaki are also two terms that he uses.

I said, I have not words other than that to express that thing. Many years later, however, when that wonderful thing became perfect, I put it into words. Praise be to Allah (swt) who guides us to the truth and never could we have found guidance had He not guided us. Indeed, it was the truth which the messengers of the Lord brought forth for us. Thus the terms fanaa, baqaa, jazba and sulook are innovations. But here he is using the word mohda, not bida’h, by this he means these are new things. They were not around at the Sahaba (ra). No Sahabi (ra) thought about fanaa, baqaa, suyur; they did not think like that and they did not go through that. These are the creations of the awliya. Maulana Jamī (rah) writes the first man to talk about fanaa and baqaa was Abu Saeed Kharraz (rah). 

Now I’m going to explain the difference between these two paths which was taken from several letters of Imam Rabbani (rah). He wrote in this letter that he himself went through this path (i.e. qurb-e-wilaya). Afterwards, he went more deep into dhikr, taqwa and sunnah. Then it was unveiled to him the way to get the qurb of the siddiqin, which is called qurb-e-nabuwwah, without going through this whole path. That’s how the Sahaba (ra) got the qurb — through the sohbah of the Prophet (sws). The question then is how can a person who is not a nabi and not a sahabi get into Jannat al-Firdous? How can they get the qurb of Allah (swt) for all of eternity? And do they have to go through this process of fanaa and baqaa etc? Imam Rabbani (rah) outlined the path is of qurb-e-nabuwwah vs. the path of qurb-e-wilaya.

  1. Both paths are there but he chose to teach the former. He ends up within the course of his life and the course of all of his letters in favor of teaching people qurb-e-nabuwwah. Although there are some of his earlier readings where he does talk about the need for fanaa and baqaa, but towards the end of his life, he comes completely onto this path and takes people on this path.
  2. You can reach qurb-e-nabuwwah through qurb-e-wilaya. It’s possible that you can go through those four stages; fanaa, baqaa and get the qurb of the awliya and then keep going to get the qurb of the sahaba, siddiqin and anbiya. That’s also possible.

He feels he has found a way to take people directly on this path, even though this path is longer and more difficult, but at least it doesn’t require a person to go through all that. In a whole series of letters he outlines what is the difference between these two paths. This is what I will compare out for you. These are all features and the reasons thereof why he prefers this path.

1. Qurb-e-wilaya is a path of ecstasy and qurb-e-nabuwwah is the path of sobriety.

There are no ecstatic utterances on the path of qurb-e-nabuwwah. This is what was later called the mujaddadi silsila and sulook — so the naqshbandi mujaddadi way is a way in which you are not going to have these ecstatic utterances. You will not say any of those things. You will not feel overwhelmed by emotions to say those things, as some people who went through the path of fanaa and baqaa got stuck on that. When they got stuck, sometimes they made an ecstatic utterance.

2. Qurb-e-wilaya can cause elimination of duality and qurb-e-nabuwwah firmly maintains duality.

In the path of qurb-e-nabuwwah, you preserve the duality of Allah (swt) and the world. It means that Allah (swt) is One and the world is something else. They are two — they are not one. In this path, he says, it will never ever occur to you that the world and Allah (swt) are one. Whereas in the path of qurb-e-wilaya there is danger that a person may eliminate that duality i.e. they may no longer view Allah (swt) and the world as two things. They will view both as one.

3. Qurb-e-wilaya initially aims at removing duality and qurb-e-nabuwwah never aims at elimination ever.

There is no attempt to eliminate duality in the first place in the path of qurb-e-nabuwwah. There is no attempt in trying to forget the difference between the world and Allah (swt). When you forget the world, you remember only Allah (swt) plus one more thing which is the difference between the world and Allah (swt). On the path of qurb-e-wilaya, the people forgot the world, and forgot everything other than Allah (swt) including the difference between the world and Allah (swt).

3. Qurb-e-wilaya aims at eliminating the Self identity and qurb-e-nabuwwah aims at preserving Self identity.

You will not forget your identity, this is what I am saying, you are not trying to eliminate the world altogether in the path of qurb-e-nabuwwah. You will retain your self identity and your will. Whereas in qurb-e-wilaya, you are also trying to eliminate your very will itself. In the path of qurb-e-nabuwwah, what you will eliminate is what you can call the evil objects in your will. In other words, you have to eliminate your bad and unlawful desires, will, wishes, without having to eliminate your very emotion itself.

For example, in English the word anger is always used negatively, but there are certain cases where you should be legitimately upset about something. In order to eliminate the unlawful anger, you don’t have to eliminate anger altogether. You just have to eliminate the evil objects and the unlawful parts of the anger. There is something that you will eliminate, but not everything entirely. You can imagine that in the path of qurb-e-wilaya, you burn, incinerate and then remake yourself. On the path of qurb-e-nabuwwah, you only burn and incinerate those parts that are not according to the shari’ah.

4. Qurb-e-wilaya is the path of enaba and qurb-e-nabuwwah is the path of ijtiba. 

He describes qurb-e-nabuwwah as rah-e-ijtiba (rah means path) and qurb-e-wilaya as rah-e-enaba. Qurb-e-nabuwwah is viewed as the path chosen by Allah (swt) for you, and qurb-e-wilaya is the path of enaba where you will try to attain Allah (swt) through your own acts. He has taken this word from Qur’an:

اُولٰٓٮِٕكَ الۡمُقَرَّبُوۡنَ‌ۚ
Those are the ones blessed with nearness (to Allah). [56:11]

Muqarrab in Arabic is ism maf’ool; it doesn’t mean those who draw near to Allah (swt), it means those who are drawn near by Allah (swt) to Him. So in Arabic it would mean qurb-e-nabuwwah is the path where you will get the qurb of the muqarrab, while qurb-e-wilaya is the path where you are trying to get the qurb of the muqarrib. Maqurrib means you yourself are trying to draw close to Allah (swt) as much as you can. While muqarrab means Allah (swt) will Himself draw you close to Him. It is a Qur’anic term.

5. Qurb-e-wilaya views nafl ibadah as a means to qurb and Qurb-e-nabuwwah views it as gratitude for qurb. 

In the path of qurb-e-wilaya, you engage in a lot of nafl ibadah because you view your ibadah as a means of acquiring the qurb you are trying to get. In the path of qurb-e-nabuwwah, you also do a lot of nafl ibadah, but you don’t view it as a means, you do it out of shukr, gratitude and gratefulness for the qurb that Allah (swt) bestowed upon you. In one of his letters, Imam Rabbani (rah) quotes a hadith that someone asked the Blessed Prophet (sws) that why do you (sws) do so much ibadah? The Sahabi (ra) meant that he (sws) is Anbiya al-Mursalin suggesting he (sws) would not need that. The Blessed Prophet (sws) replied that should not a slave be grateful to their Lord? So the notion was that this ibadah was done out of gratitude.

6. Qurb-e-wilaya is the path of kasbi and Qurb-e-nabuwwah is the path of fadhli.

In qurb-e-wilaya, because you are trying to attain this on your own, you can call this kasb: you are trying to earn wilaya on your own. While in the path of qurb-e-nabuwwah, the qurb is bestowed upon you by Allah (swt). It is not something you can acquire on your own so you become, what we call, fadhli.

لِكَ فَضۡلُ اللّٰهِ يُؤۡتِيۡهِ مَنۡ يَّشَآءُ‌ ؕ وَاللّٰهُ ذُو الۡفَضۡلِ الۡعَظِيۡمِ
It is Allah’s bounty that He gives to whomsoever He wills, and Allah is the Lord of the great bounty. [6:4]

This is the fadhl of Allah (swt) and He gives it to whomsoever He wants. And Allah (swt) is the possessor and giver of great fadhl. So on this path, whatever qurb you get, you view it as a great fadhl of Allah (swt) on you. You are not going to view it as an achievement of your lengthy fasts and sleepless nights etc. Then, you become a faqir in this sense:

اَنۡتُمُ الۡفُقَرَآءُ اِلَى اللّٰهِۚ
You are the ones who need Allah. [35:15]

You view yourself as needy of that fadhl. If we were to explain this in Urdu, we would say you are a fadhli faqir. You are a faqir; a person who is needy and dependent on the fadhl, on the great generosity of Allah (swt). When a person transforms themselves into that, when they write off all other aspects of their personality and reduce themselves to this aspect of their identity, that’s when they get that qurb with Allah (swt). That’s what’s called being siddiqin and salihin. That goes right back to what he had said earlier that the end of everything is ubudiyyah — to end up in a state of absolute servanthood and slavehood. This method brings a person to that state of ubudiyyah.

7. Qurb-e-wilaya takes out love for Akhirah and Qurb-e-nabuwwah retains love for Akhirah.

In the path of qurb-e-nabuwwah, you only have to give up love of this world. Whereas, there were some people on the path of qurb-e-wilaya who used to give up on the love of this world and the love of the next world. In some of his letters, Imam Rabbani (rah) critiques Rabia Basria (rah) who is very famously known to have been walking with a bucket full of water and a piece of wood which was on fire, and she said that whoever is worshiping Allah (swt) because they yearn for Jannah, I’ll set fire to their Jannah, and whoever is worshiping Allah (swt) because they have fear of Jahannam, I’ll put out the fires of the Jahannam which they are afraid of. What she was trying to suggest was that it was a higher level of worship to worship only out of love for Allah (swt), as opposed to worshiping out of yearning for Jannah or fear for Jahannam. Some people’s aqal may tell them today that that’s correct. Imam Rabbani (rah) said that it is incorrect because Allah (swt) has said in Qur’an:

يَدۡعُوۡنَ رَبَّهُمۡ خَوۡفًا وَّطَمَعًا
They call their Lord with fear and hope. [32:16]

You should make du’a to Allah (swt), worship and call upon Him in both hope and fear. Because this is what Allah (swt) wants, and the highest level of ubudiyyah is to submit yourself according to every ayah of Qur’an, therefore hope of reward and fear of punishment is ubudiyyah, and there is nothing higher than ubudiyyah. Thus, it is not higher to worship Allah (swt) only out of love, and not out of desire for Jannah and fear from Jahannam. You must love Allah (swt) out of love for Him, also have hope and yearning for Jannah, and also have fear of Jahannam.

There are many examples of this. For example, Blessed Prophet (sws) — the greatest of ‘abd — made it clear in the beginning when he taught us the du’a Allahumma inni as’aluka al-Jannah, Allahumma ajirni min an-nar. It is correct that this was an instruction for ummah on how to make du’a, but it was also a reflection of his (sws) heart. He (sws) had that same fear and hope. He (sws) was an ‘abd. Highest is to worship Allah (swt) the way He wants us to worship Him. So, the love of the next world is good in qurb-e-nabuwwah which is the love for Akhirah. Whereas sometimes in qurb-e-wilaya people felt love for Akhirah should also be left, because Akhirah is also ghair. Jannah is also ghairullah, isn’t it? Jannah is not Allah (swt) any more than this world is Allah (swt). They said you should even stop loving that.

In other words, for Imam Rabbani (rah), love for Allah (swt) includes all the loves that Allah (swt) has Himself commanded us and wants us to have. Love for Jannah, or yearning for Jannah, if you will, is part of love for Allah (swt), it is not viewed as that love for ghairullah which you have to take out from your heart. Then Allah (swt) says further — and they are fearful of Us. Kana is from istamrar — they were always fearful of Us. Because Allah (swt) wants that we should always be fearful of Him, so fear of Allah (swt) and fear of Jahannam is part of being close to Him.

8. Qurb-e-wilaya’s end goal is dhikr and Qurb-e-nabuwwah’s end goal is dawah.

For Imam Rabbani (rah), the end aspect was that a person should teach, preach and guide to shari’ah, do dawah, iqamat, ihya, tajdeed of deen, and that he viewed to be greater than the dhikr of the sufis. The people who were on the path of qurb-e-wilaya felt that dhikr was greater than dawah and establishment of deen. He says no, in the path of qurb-e-nabuwwah, which is the path of tasawwuf he was teaching, doing khidmah, dawah and revival of deen is greater than dhikr.

It doesn’t mean you don’t do dhikr at all. He was a shaykh of tasawwuf, he used to guide people and teach them to do dhikr. It should not be misunderstood. Sometimes people only listen to the part they want to hear. So the people who like dawah are like that’s exactly what we have been saying all this time that all the sufis should leave tasawwuf and join the tabligh. That is not what Shaykh Ahmed Sirhindi (rah) is saying. You still have to do dhikr. Dhikr is the means that will enable you to do dawah, that is why you cannot dispense at dhikr. It is not an end in of itself. The first function of dhikr is to put love for Allah (swt) in your heart and to bring it to that level of qurb. The second function of dhikr, when you get that love, is that it enables you to do dawah.

وَ لَا تُطِعۡ مَنۡ اَغۡفَلۡنَا قَلۡبَهٗ عَنۡ ذِكۡرِنَا
And do not obey the one whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance [18:28]

Allah (swt) is saying don’t listen to the dawah of that person whose qalb yani spiritual heart is empty of dhikr of Allah (swt). Allah (swt) is commanding in Qur’an.

9. Qurb-e-wilaya focuses on mujahida and Qurb-e-nabuwwah focuses on sunnah.

That’s another feature, in qurb-e-nabuwwah you follow the sunnah. That is your mujahida. If you want to fast, fast on most Mondays and Thursdays and 13th, 14th and 15th of the month — that’s it. No need to fast everyday with just water. It is permissible to do that, but in Imam Rabbani’s concept of tasawwuf, the only mujahida you need to do is to bring yourself in alignment with sunnah. That is enough disciplining of the soul that you need to do. Whereas in the path of qurb-e-wilaya, people used to do lots of mujahida, and that actually started at the time of Sahaba (ra) in that they used to fast perpetually. It was something that the Prophet (sws) did not do, it was still permissible for them to do it.

Next letter.

On the day of Judgement, we should be questioned about shari’ah, not tasawwuf. Entrance into Jannah and salvation from Jahannam depends upon obedience to shari’ah. That’s why the Anbiya (as) (who are the best of creation) preached and taught Shari’ah, and they made salvation from Jahannam conditional upon shari’ah. This is one of the things Imam Rabbani (rah) keeps talking about; shari’ah and sunnah. Hence, the greatest virtue lies in preaching the shari’ah, because the greatest of human beings are the prophets (as), the function of the prophets is to teach, establish and preach shari’ah, therefore the greatest human activity is to teach, preach and establish shari’ah. And reviving its provisions that have been neglected (particular to his time) the sh’a’irullah (the manifestations, the hallmarks of shari’ah) are in ruin. Imagine if he is writing this 480 years ago, how would he describe the situation today?

For in doing it (in reviving the shari’ah) one does the work of the prophets and participates in their mission and legacy. They are the best of creation and the greatest honor is reserved for them, even though others can spend hundreds of millions in Allah’s (swt) way. That’s why his particular way of dawah was not just through one particular angle. It was not just to teach people dhikr. It was to bring people on to shari’ah. That’s a problem with a lot of our dawah groups that they also initially begin it as a means to an end, but they end up making it an end in of itself. Some people in tasawwuf are like that as well. Being a student of tasawwuf is a means, it is not an end in of itself that you think now I’m a student, or I’m naqshbandi, like you have arrived at some destination. It is not a destination. It is a car which should be used to travel.

People today don’t like this type of tasawwuf because this is the type of tasawwuf that is hard on their nafs. We want the type of sufism where we can still lead a life that is not according to sunnah. We want that type of sufism where we don’t have to follow shari’ah. We want that type of sufism where we can listen to music. That’s the type of sufism a lot of people like today. It is not because these are teachings of tasawwuf, it is because of their nafs. That’s the type of tasawwuf nafs likes.

Moreover, when you practice the shari’ah, you conquer the nafs because shari’ah is designed to subdue the nafs. If someone wants to get rid of nafs al-ammara, they should adopt shari’ah themselves and every aspect of sunnah — everything, even this hadith where Blessed Prophet (sws) has said wearing an imama teaches a person hilm; gives them forbearance; gives them strength to withhold; gives them a stronger hold on the lease of their nafs. Every drop of shari’ah and sunnah is what defeats the nafs. The shari’ah was designed by Allah (swt) to subdue the nafs which was also designed by Allah (swt).

In spending money, on the other hand, Self sometimes feels gratified. There may be a lot of people like that today who give a lot of money in charity and they think that’s their deen. That is not sufficient for deen. That is definitely a part of deen in terms of sadaqah. But really, like he said people feel gratified, I have seen people who will spend like a few $1000s on a completely mundane vacation, but if they give $100 to the masjid, they feel so proud. They give themselves such a big pat on the back. If they give $500 to the masjid, they feel like they are the greatest philanthropist alive in the ummah, and they will drop $500 on a completely pathetic thing, like a traffic ticket or something. They want their names written on the masjid. I saw a masjid like that in your country England, but I will not take the name of the city.

Be sure the money which is spent on strengthening rule of shari’ah or preaching deen is a higher order virtue. To spend a penny on that is equal to spending millions in other ways. From the four aspects I showed you of his life, this is the aspect of revival of shari’ah, revival of deen. That is what these people were, that is why they were called mujaddid — they were the renewers and revivers of deen. They were not just trying to teach people dhikr and make them sufi. They had a greater goal in mind.

You cannot say how is it possible to give priority to students who are bonded over sufis who are emancipated. He is talking about the students of the madrassahs, and he is saying that it is better to spend money on students there because they are studying ‘ilm which is going to enable the deen and shari’ah to be revived, instead of funding a person who wants to go for, let’s say, four months to do dhikr — like people get scholarships to study. If you can get a scholarship to study history, you can also get a scholarship to do dhikr. There have been endowments like that in Islamic history that someone would say I want to go for a few months to do dhikr, and someone else would say fine, you go and work on yourself and I will take care of your household expenses. It is a nice thing to do just like it is a nice thing to give someone scholarship to study. But he is saying even greater than that is to spend on the students of ‘ilm in madrassahs because that is the effort which will revive deen and shari’ah.

So the student is not yet liberated and is nevertheless the cause of liberation of others. What he meant by liberation was in the sense of getting liberated from nafs. There were people who would say you should spend money on the sufis because they have liberated themselves from the nafs, why do you want to instead give money to the students of madrassahs who may not yet have liberated themselves from their nafs? He says this is not a problem. They are getting the knowledge which will enable them to liberate masses of people.

He (i.e. student of ‘ilm) preaches shari’ah to benefit others, even if he has not benefited himself. The sufi has emancipated only himself and has nothing to say to others. This is not the type of sufi Shaykh Ahmed Sirhindi (rah) is creating. It is not going to apply to those who are students of knowledge. But the other type of sufi who is on the path of qurb-e-wilaya and if he is just doing dhikr and ibadah, he is not trying to revive shari’ah, he is not doing dawah, then he is only saving himself. Unfortunately when some of our friends do dawah they make it sound like everyone in tasawwuf is like this. That everyone in tasawwuf is worried about their own self and they say things like woh infradi mehnat hai, ham ijtama’i mehnat karte hein.

It is plain that one who is instrumental in saving many people is better than the one who is occupied with only saving himself. However, if a sufi has completed fanaa, baqaa and sair (through the path of qurb-e-wilaya) and then they come to qurb-e-nabuwwah, they return to the world and they engage in preaching of humanity, they do the work of the prophets (as). I told you there was going to be that path also that you could get qurb-e-nabuwwah through qurb-e-wilaya. So when you get qurb-e-wilaya after going through fanaa, baqaa, sair and you engage in dawah, in establishing deen and shari’ah, you get qurb-e-nabuwwah also. He is the preacher of shari’ah and belongs to the ulema of shari’ah. This is the favor of Allah (swt) which He bestows upon whomsoever He likes. He is the most Beneficent.

If, along with the work which you are doing, you could also enforce the shari’ah, you would be doing the work of the prophets (as) and rehabilitating the desolate house of Islam and restoring its glory. We sufis who just do dhikr on our own, if, on the other hand, work for years and years and even lay down our lives in dhikr, we shall never reach anywhere near the people who established the shari’ah. 

Suppose a person who is engaged in dhikr suddenly finds a blind man standing at the realm of a well and were that blind man to take another step he would fall into the well. What is better for this man — to continue in his dhikr or to save the man from falling into the well? There is no doubt that to save the blind man from falling into the well is better than to continue doing dhikr of Allah (swt). God does not need that person and does not need his dhikr, but the blind man needs his help and he needs someone to save him. Therefore, saving the blind man in this scenario is a form of dhikr in obeying the command of Allah (swt).

When you remember Allah (swt), you only attend to one duty: the duty towards Allah (swt) (haqooq Allah). When you try to save people, you attend to two duties: doing your duty towards Allah (swt) (that if you are able to teach and preach, you are doing that) and your duty towards your fellow human beings that they have a right over you that you should save them, if you have that ability. In fact, to do dhikr at that time could even be a sin — to keep doing dhikr and let that man fall could even be a sin. Doing dhikr is not always good. At times not doing it is better than doing it.

For example, instead of teaching you from 10 AM to 6 PM, I could have stayed at oxford and done dhikr from 8 AM to 8 PM. That’s what I gave up to be with you. My speed is less but considering maximum speed, may be I could have even completed the recitation of the entire Qur’an during that time. Have you ever thought about that? It is not just my example, there are so many people who give talks and teach, –why in the world do they do that? If they have that free time, they could just do their own ibadah. Because it is a responsibility that has been placed on us by our teachers, this is what we have to do. But this does not mean you can get by with zero dhikr. You cannot do that either.

You see, the car needs fuel. If you keep putting fuel in the car and never drive it, that is a problem. If you try to drive the car without fuel, that is also a problem. You will only understand this if you have a teacher — that which stage you are at: are you at the stage where you should be filling up the fuel or should you be driving, then filling up fuel a bit as you go? You would not know. You cannot self-diagnose yourself anymore than you can self-diagnose yourself for a small illness — that whether it is bacterial or it is viral, you cannot even tell that. Your doctors would not even know if it is gram-positive or gram-negative unless they run sophisticated tests.

Remember that dhikr means to avoid forgetting Allah (swt) in any way that is possible. Contrary to what people think, dhikr is not exclusively saying la ilaha illallah, or saying Allah, Allah. In fact, every act that is in compliance to the ahkam/commandments of Allah (swt), is dhikr. Whether you are positively doing the things which you should do or you are staying away from His negative commands and prohibitions. If you go to business, and you run your business model according to shari’ah, your business is dhikr. If you go to the clinic and lower your gaze whole day, that time at the clinic counts as dhikr.

Even the buying and selling in which you observe the regulations of the shari’ah is dhikr. Similarly, marriage and divorce that is carried out according to shari’ah is dhikr. Why are you doing these acts according to shari’ah? Obviously you are conscious of Allah (swt), you have not forgotten Him. Because you remember Him, you want to be shari’ah compliant. That is dhikr. Dhikr which consists the formal dhikr, consists of making remembrance of the names of Allah (swt), the attributes of Allah (swt), is more affective and more helpful in generating the feeling of love for Allah (swt). If you run your business according to shari’ah, you are not going to feel feelings of love for Allah (swt). If you sit down to do tilawah, or pray nafl, make du’a, make dhikr, make tasbih, you will get love for Allah (swt).

Formal dhikr is more beneficial in getting His qurb. But dhikr that consists of submitting to the commandment of Allah (swt) is less effective in getting qurb. However, some people have acquired these qualities as a result of practicing dhikr in the sense of obeying Allah’s (swt) commands and avoiding His prohibitions. Such cases are few, but it is possible. For example, if a person feels that if I do more ibadah type dhikr, let’s say it will soften his heart and give him more fear of Allah (swt). But there may be a person that everyday makes sure to keep their business according to shari’ah, and then that God consciousness, that taqwa that they have, that will also brings them to the same fear of Allah (swt) for which otherwise people had to do lots of tilawah, tahajjud and dhikr and du’a for. It’s possible. That gives you scope, for those of you who want to continue as professionals in your life. But it has to be a very shari’ah compliant life.

On the other hand, the dhikr which is saying the names and attributes of Allah (swt) is the means to the dhikr, which is obeying the rules of the Shari’ah life. That person who makes more dhikr is more likely to follow shari’ah, because dhikr puts inside them the emotional desire to obey that Being they have fallen in love with. Doing this type of formal dhikr increases love for Allah (swt), the more love you have for Allah (swt) the more you would want to obey Allah (swt). Again, he is showing you that dhikr is a means to obeying rules of shari’ah. For it is impossible to observe the rules of the shari’ah in all manners unless one has a strong love for the giver and sender of that shari’ah, and the strong love for Allah (swt) depends on strong dhikr of Allah (swt) by making dhikr of His names and His attributes. Allah swt said in Qur’an:

وَلِلّٰهِ الۡاَسۡمَآءُ الۡحُسۡنٰى فَادۡعُوۡهُ بِهَا‌
For Allah there are the most beautiful names. So, call Him by them. [7:180]

You have to call upon Allah (swt) with them. You have to use them in du’a. It is there in Qur’an. The Blessed Prophet (sws) did not tell us how to do ‘amal on that. There is no hadith that tells you how to use the names of Allah (swt). Now are you going to accuse Blessed Prophet (sws) for not accomplishing his (sws) mission? No, his (sws) mission was his (sws) prophethood. Allah (swt) can give hidayah in other ways. Where will you get the hidayah on how to make du’a and dhikr using asma al-husna, when you will not find it in hadith or Qur’an? Allah (swt) has given that hidayah to the ulema, just like there is so much hidayah in the books of tafsir. Hence, one has to say formal dhikr in order to do this noble dhikr (of following shari’ah).

Next letter.

The reward for fard is infinitely more than the reward for sunnah, and the reward for following sunnah is infinitely more than the reward of any nafl act. But you have to have a proper understanding. It does not mean that you think I will never do any nafl ibadah again, because Allah (swt) Himself has told you to do nafl ibadah. Let’s take the example of nafl ibadah called durud salawat. Everybody knows reward for fard is more than sunnah, reward for sunnah is more than nafl, but that same Allah (swt) commanded you to do nafl. The du’a of asma al-husna commanded by Allah (swt) in Qur’an is nafl. Making durud salawat is also nafl.

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا صَلُّوا عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا
O you who believe, do pray Allah to bless him, and send your Salam (prayer for his being in peace) to him in abundance. [33:56]

You have to be a completely Qur’anic insan. The problem is that you use your aql while trying to understand. It’s part of the whole materialistic thing — your priorities. We have to do everything; we must do fard, we must do sunnah, but we must also do nafl. It is part of deen and we want to follow all the hidayah in the deen. For example, if there is a person who says I have never made du’a using all the asma al-husna, he is missing something in deen. That is a problem because it is in Qur’an.

Next letter.

Baqaa is better than fanaa. Teaching the deen, preaching and reviving the shari’ah is better than remaining stuck in that stage where you are absorbed in Allah (swt) and just doing dhikr. And I tell you, emotionally you would not want to come out of it. Who in the world would want to do that — even if you had the choice, you would rather enjoy doing dhikr from 10 AM to 6 PM than listen to me, if you had that ability. I don’t know how many of you can say I did dhikr for 8 hours straight and just broke for zuhr, lunch, tea etc. We may not have that ability, but even if you do have that ability, sometimes you have to do other things. Deen is not about what you enjoy, deen is about what Allah (swt) wants you to do.

He is addressing those awliya ullah who went through the path of qurb-e-wilaya and he is trying to pull them into qurb-e-nabuwwah. He is trying to tell them I know you have gone through fanaa, and you went through the four suyur, you did not make any ecstatic utterances, and you are feeling a lot of qurb with Allah (swt), but now I want you to take another step. I want you to sacrifice the time you spend in dhikr and I want you to engage in dawah and establish shari’ah.

A lot of his letters are written to his students and ulema counseling them that you must do work of deen. And he was successful by and large. He did not get ahl-e-ilm (people of knowledge) or ahl-e-baseerat (people of deep insight) or ahl-e-tadabbur (those who consider consequences of things) or ahl-e-tafakkur (people of deep contemplation); he did not get the doctors and the PhD doctors to do work of deen, he got the people who were doing dhikr, the ahl-e-dhikr, who were remembering Allah (swt), to do work of deen. That turned back the tide entirely on Akbar’s incredible and devastating attack on deen of Islam. This was one of his brilliance; combining dhikr and dawah. It is so unfortunate that people have tried to separate these two. 

Next letter.

Every Prophet (as) is a preacher and is trying to preach the shari’ah. There are various levels of preaching and preachers of varying grades. The ulema are preoccupied with preaching the outer form of shari’ah, while the sufis are preoccupied with preaching the inner form of shari’ah. However, the one who is both an ‘alim and sufi is excellent for preaching both the inner and outer form. He is the true successor of the Blessed Prophet (sws). He has mentioned this in many writings written to ulema to bring them into dhikr, because they were ulema and they were doing dawah only on the basis of their ‘ilm and didn’t have dhikr in their heart. He wanted to make them better in their dawah. He told them you need to do dhikr because only then will you be ulema worthy of the work of Anbiya (as) and a manifestation and embodiment of this hadith:

Al-ulema warasat al-Anbiya
Scholars are the heirs of the Prophets. 

The scholars who master the outer and inner form of shari’ah, they are the heirs of the Prophets (as). Some people think the scholars of hadith are the best in the Muslim community. However, they consider them best in all of the sections of ummah, that is doubtful. But if they consider them best in all of the scholars of outward form of shari’ah, that is possible. The best in all of the ummah are those preachers who teach the entire shari’ah; tafsir, hadith, fiqh, dhikr, tazkiya — all of it. They teach the complete deen. That includes the hadith, but it is much more than hadith.

Just make sure you don’t misunderstand this: he is saying those who teach hadith only, as opposed to those who teach fiqh only, as opposed to those who teach everything in hadith, fiqh, tafsir, and tazkiya. These are the three groups he is comparing. He was writing to hadith scholars and fiqh scholars, not trying to get them to leave that, but to add to that. He meant in addition to teaching people words of hadith, try yourself to do dhikr so you feel the feelings of hadith and then make yourself the person who does not just teach the wordings but brings people to the feelings of those words of hadith as well. You are getting an insight into how he was doing the work of tajdeed.

Next letter.

This is about karamat. Very briefly, he is saying having kashf and not having kashf are equal. Having kashf is not an issue of having merit or virtue, just like that karamat are also not an issue of merit or virtue. The person who has karamah is not at all better than the person who has one because being better is based on taqwa, sunnah, ibadah, deen etc.

Next letter.

Imam Rabbani (rah) had written several letters regarding ibn Arabi. This is one of the shorter ones towards the end of which he writes that he feels ibn Arabi was mistaken but Allah (swt) is still pleased with him despite his mistake. This is a different take from those people who don’t think ibn Arabi is mistaken at all, or others like Imam ibn Taymiyya (rah) who was quite harsh on ibn Arabi and felt that Allah (swt) is not pleased with him at all. Imam Sirhindi (rah) does husn-e-zan and he feels that he was mistaken, but he was not misintentioned and considers him to be among the people Allah (swt) is pleased with, even though we will denounce, censure and make clear that we disagree with his mistake.


What is the linguistic definition of Shari’ah?

Shari’ah in Arabic language means way or a path. It is also sometimes used to identify a way or a path to a source of water in the desert. The use of the word Shari’ah in Islam means living that way of life that remains within the boundaries of halal and never crosses out and goes into the area of haram. The understanding of what is halal and what is haram, which is derived from Qur’an and Sunnah, is called fiqh.

It appears to me that in the path of qurb-e-nabuwwah doing dhikr would not be enough and we have to be involved in some type of khidmah of deen. In this notion, what would be, quote unquote, enough?

These are the six things:

  1. Taqwa
  2. Ibadah
  3. Sunnah
  4. Dhikr
  5. Sohbah
  6. Khidmah

This equals wilaya. All of these can be established from Qur’an, let alone from hadith. When are you ready for what? Different people have different propensities but in our lifetime everybody should do some level of khidmah of deen to get the qurb, because the siddiqin are not just true followers of the Blessed Prophet (sws) in terms of sunnah, but they were true to him (sws) in terms of his (sws) mission and message. They were true in the sense that they had this fikr. That’s why khidmah can be done in many ways. That’s why we are saying that in tabligh and tasawwuf, or ‘ilm and tasawwuf, or jihad and tasawwuf, or in any type of activity in tasawwuf, there is no competition. These are different categories. These are multiple ways of doing khidmah of deen.

This is our basic concept about the khidmah of deen — I will first say it in Urdu and then I will translate it for you in English. Ham khidmat-e-deen k tamam shoboun k qaail hein, kisi eik shobay ki afzaliyat k qaail nahi hein. We believe in merit and virtue of all areas and branches of khidmah of deen. We do not believe, nor will we accept from anyone, a statement of superiority of one particular branch over the others. You will see that even within ‘ilm; did Imam Bukhari (rah) write tafsir? Are you going to accuse him that he is against Qur’an? Can anyone talk like that?

Not doing something does not mean you are against it. For example, I don’t go on tablighi jama’at, but I’m not against it, I love the work of tabligh, I love it. If I don’t do it doesn’t mean I am against it. That’s like me telling Maulana Tariq Jameel (db) you are against tafsir, because he is actually a very good ‘alim and he could write tafsir if he wanted to, but he doesn’t write it. Not doing something doesn’t mean a person is against it.

Also, I will tell you that in khidmah we also want to follow the path of ijtiba which means don’t try to self-select yourself for a particular khidmah. People make this mistake that they think let me sit down and see which khidmah I should do. No, work on the first five and see which khidmah Allah (swt) opens up for you. The door Allah (swt) opens up for you will be easy for you to get through. If you keep knocking on doors then it’s very difficult.

This is a great lost sunnah of Blessed Prophet (sws) which was his (sws) human resource management. He (sws) knew which Sahabi (ra) was great for which khidmah. He knew khadim of ‘ilm from a mujahid. Blessed Prophet (sws) allotted Sahaba Karam (ra) to their respective khidmah tasks. For example, he (sws) told Abu Huraira (ra) to be among as’hab-e-suffa and made him a muhadith. He (sws) told Ubay ibn K’ab (ra) to recite Qur’an and made him Imam of the Qurra’.

That’s also a sunnah, not even nafl, to put yourself as a student of a teacher who can know you like the Blessed Prophet (sws) knew Sahaba (ra) and therefore can allot you to a khidmah. Let them open the door for you, allot you a khidmah that is suited for you, you will have qabuliyyah, the same way Blessed Prophet (sws) allotted khidmah to the Sahaba (ra). They didn’t select themselves. Nobody is going to say Syedna Khalid ibn al-Walid (ra) was against hadith because he hardly narrated any. Nobody is going to say Syedna Abu Huraira (ra) was against jihad because he hardly went on any. Khidmah was given by Blessed Prophet (sws), and in this day and age it can be given by a shaykh, or you can just ask Allah (swt) to open up a door for you.


Indeed who are the awliya of Allah (swt) other than the people of taqwa? Taqwa in the beginning means stopping sin one by one. So in the beginning we have to leave sins, we have to start increasing our ibadah (fard, wajib and “sunnah”) both in consistency and quality (there is no question of quantity there because these are fixed). Third is you have to increase in your quality and quantity of sunnah; number of mansoon sunnah du’as you know, number of masnoon sunnah du’as you say and in quality the number of sunnah du’as you feel. After eating when you say Alhamdulillah, do you really feel it from your heart, or do you say it real quick with your tongue?

Next is to have sohbah. Allah (swt) has commanded us in Qur’an:

وَكُوۡنُوۡا مَعَ الصّٰدِقِيۡنَ
And be in the company of the truthful. [9:119]

To get this path of wilaya and sidq, you have to keep yourself in the company. That’s a command of Qur’an. When I used to teach this course, I would teach from the text of ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (rah), he said clearly in his text that if you find a person with these qualities you should make that person your shaykh. For him his shaykh was ibn Taymiyya (rah). It may not be the exact same thing. The word bayah, tasawwuf, silsila may not have been there but it doesn’t matter. Sohbah means put yourself in the company of someone.

If one would like to make bayah to a shaykh, how does the communication and the bond play out?

There are different ways in which this relationship has played out in history and contemporary times. According to some biographies, Shaykh Ahmed Sirhindi (rah) only met his shaykh three times. After meeting his shaykh till when he passed away, there was a lapse of five years (check). For every person, it works out differently just like it did for Sahaba Karam (ra). Syedna Abu Huraira (ra) met Blessed Prophet (sws) just a few years before the Prophet (sws) passed away. Syedna Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (ra), on the other hand, knew the Blessed Prophet (sws) even before the manifestation of nabuwwah. There were some sahaba (ra) who lived in as’hab as-suffa, some who lived in Madina Munawwarah, others who lived in surrounding areas like some sahaba in Yemen who came ever so infrequently. There have been different types of relationships and there is no one single model.

That said, a person needs to assess. I can give you my own example, because giving my own example is safe as I am not talking about, hurting or praising anyone else. We met our shaykh in end of May of 1994 and I have spent pretty much seventeen years because now we are in May of 2011. In the first couple of years, he came to America twice a year, then four times a year, then back to twice a year. Later, I myself moved to Pakistan in 1999 and I was there for eleven years. In Pakistan, obviously I met him more than two or four times a year. Sometimes when I go to Lahore, even though I spend more days there as compared to Karachi and Islamabad, but because when I’m at home then I’m obviously busy with family, so those people actually felt that they got less time. In fact, people of Pakistan sometimes say that you people of England get more time. Point being living in the same city does not necessarily mean greater access.

How does the relationship work out on its own? Shaykh is just a means, he is not an end in of himself. If a person cannot benefit from regular but infrequent contact, it is unlikely they will benefit from more contact. Our own practice, when we take students to tutor and guide on this path of dhikr, is generally we have twice a year as the absolute minimum of live sohbah. So if anyone sends me an e-mail from a place where I feel they cannot come from twice a year, they should consider that.

The purpose of shaykh is to teach you dhikr. If you do the dhikr, then you respond and tell the shaykh I am doing this dhikr and then work on improving the quality of dhikr. Then maybe I might give you additional dhikr to do. For that type of tutoring, we should always try take out time to inform, which can be through e-mail, SMS or in person. Second type of tutoring is tutoring taqwa, ibadah, sunnah — for that we give bayan. We have live bayans as well as many recordings online. The words that are spoken don’t always have to be heard live. But twice a year live meeting should also take place.

Everything I’m saying is for men, by the way. It’s quite different for women. Because for them there are Islamic rules and we never want to see women in our life. But I will also say that women are becoming more and more like the men. Historically, women in Islam for most part used to remain in their homes. Now we have women university students, women doctors, women lawyers — so they are as exposed to the radiation of society as men are. We didn’t have this before. Tasawwuf wasn’t prevalent among women before because they didn’t have these problems. They didn’t have the sins that they needed to get taken out of because they were pretty much fine living simple lives in their homes. They could even become bayt to a shaykh and get one letter, get the dhikr and benefit from it their whole life. They would never need to ever contact again. That’s the pure era we used to have.

Second, particularly in our silsila, in my own practice because Alhamdulillah my wife has also been a student of our shaykh for many years, we very much focus on the women. And I think women need to have as much access to the teachings of tasawwuf and tazkiya so that they can do better khidmah, especially those women who have ‘ilm of deen, or women who have those abilities. Imam Rabbani (rah) used to tell the men also who had ‘ilm to do dhikr so they could do better dawah, but we as men cannot reach the women. Only women can reach other women. So it is important to work and try to prepare women who can do khidmah of deen and to bring women to that level of dhikr, because we need women to do that dawah to other women. Therefore, sometimes for women also it’s very important to be more regular in their dhikr.

That’s pretty much how it works and sometimes a person may even be fortunate enough to find a shaykh in their own city who holds weekly gatherings. For example, when we were living in Lahore, every Thursday we would meet these boys there. Really, there are some men who need that. When I look back I can see there were some boys that had they not gotten their weekly dose over the course of several months, they would not have been able to change. At the same time, I have also seen people who have only met me twice a year and they have been able to change. That’s what I’m saying, it’s not the meeting so much, it’s just reinforcing, encouraging, it’s motivating etc. But the person should have a desire of their own.

وَآَخِرُ دَعْوَانَا أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ



The Spiritual Path; Concepts – I’tidal and Ihtiyat; Training; Practice

[These are rough notes from the second day’s morning session of Historical, Intellectual and Spiritual Approaches to Islam conducted by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed (db) in Karachi, during Jan, 2017]

Today I want to say some very important things to you about the Spiritual approach randomly. Not everything is in the title. We load it up a little bit just for fun.

The Spiritual Path: Effort, Humility & Sincerity

This is the asal (core) of the path. The whole purpose of tazkiya, tasawwuf, dhikr is ‘amal. Sometimes people get too caught up in the concepts and theories that they become an end in of themselves. There is only one end and goal — a’maal; taqwa, ikhlas, sidq, ibadat, akhlaq — there is a whole range of a’maal. Some people get stuck in the theory somewhere, or they get stuck in haal; this has happened to a couple of people.

You need to understand that in 1400 years of Islam, there have been very few people; Mansur Hallaj, Ibn Arabi, and a few others who got stuck in haal. Statistically you are talking about 0.0000001% of people, it doesn’t mean you leave the teachings for that. They got diverted from their goal. They got some feeling along the way, which is called haal or kaifiyah, and they started making that the goal. And they also made a bigger mistake perhaps of trying to make others make it their goal. That’s a problem we are still stuck with today. For example, fanaa fillah is just an Arabic phrase. It’s the same thing that Allah (swt) says in Qur’an:

وَاذۡكُرِ اسۡمَ رَبِّكَ وَتَبَتَّلۡ اِلَيۡهِ تَبۡتِيۡلًا
And remember the name of your Lord, and devote yourself to Him with exclusive devotion. [73:8]

Tabattul ilayhi tabteela means fanaa. It means that lose yourself in the remembrance of Allah’s (swt) name so that you remember His name to the exclusion of everything else. Arabs are like that, they just come up with different words. Like the Arabic word for head covering is khimar, today people call it hijab. Arabic word for the gown or the cloak that women wear is jilbab, today people call it abaya. The Arabic word in Qur’an for proper recitation is tartil, today people call it tajweed. This has happened in many other fields also.

The Arabic word in Qur’an is tabattul, people call it fanaa. But fanaa is not a goal itself that you train people to get fanaa. You train people to have the dhikr of Allah (swt) so they remember Him such that they never sin and they constantly do ‘amal. Yes, in the training process sometimes they may have a phase of fanaa.

For example, the purpose of western education is not to give you fanaa in that field. It’s to give you training and expertise so that you practice with proficiency in that field, but somewhere along the way, in final exams’ week or in residency, you might get fanaa; you might drown so deeply in your field that you just forget everything else except that particular essay that you are writing about. But that’s not the goal. That’s just an experience that occurs along the path towards the goal. The asal is ‘amal. The reason people lack in that is due to a lack of effort, or lack of humility, or lack of sincerity. These are the three things.

Some people think it’s because of their lack of concepts or lack of theories or a lack of dedication to the cause or that I’m not a hardcore enough sufi. That has nothing to do with it. You don’t have to be more sufi.  You just need to put in effort, you need to have humility, and you have to have sincerity. If you do this, believe me your a’maal will go up. If you just increase your sufi identity or your sufi theory, your a’maal might not go up. I’ll even go further, if your a’maal go up only due to increasing your sufi identity and theory, that’s a delusion. You will not get istaqamat on such a’maal. That would be a fleeting, ephemeral, transitive stage.

Effort: sa’i; humility: ajz/ajzi; sincerity: ikhlas. Sa’i + ajz + ikhlas = guaranteed formula for your a’maal to go up. This is the summary of how Blessed Prophet (sws) trained the Sahaba Karam (ra). The accounts of Sahaba (ra) are captured in many ahadith. The amount of effort they made for their tazkiya, the amount of effort they made in their ibadah, the amount of effort they made in jihad fi sabil lillah, the amount of effort they made in dawah of deen; it’s phenomenal, so was the amount of humility and sincerity they had. This is the recipe.

If you are after something other than ‘amal, then I could have recited Iqbal’s poetry and Rumi’s poetry and talked to you about Ibn Al-Arabi and wahdat al-wujud, and gotten all philosophical and theosophical and you would have also said we have never attended a dars like this before. But that would not have benefited you. So I’m just using this title to tell you a couple of things.


  • Imam al-Ghazali (rah)
  • Imam ar-Rabbani Shaykh Ahmed Sirhindi (rah)
  • Shaykh Maulana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi (rah)
  • Shaykh Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (rah)

I’m going to talk to you about these four people. I’m just sharing with you my own individual journey. This is not all-encompassing. The authentic tradition of Islamic learning and spirituality has thousands of scholars. We are not a group of just 3-4 people. Thousands upon thousands of people have successfully found the path of ‘amal and have guided others to it. I’m mentioning these four for a number of reasons.

  1. Personally I have been able to benefit from them.
  2. These people have published works so it’s something that can guide us. Because we don’t have authentically attributed published work of a lot of great guides of the past.
  3. They have works that are accessible in languages that you people know which is English and Urdu.

Even for the above reasons, there are more than these four scholars available. Even the number of people I have benefited from in my life is more than four, obviously. The number of past great ulema and shuyukh who have their works in Urdu and English are also greater than four. This is just a beginning point. You could choose to begin with a totally different list. But I’m going to tell you some particular teachings of these four. You can find these teachings outside of these four. But the teachings are critical.

Imam al-Ghazali (rah)

Imam al-Ghazali (rah) came in a time in Islamic history when the ummah was ghalib (dominant), which was perhaps the most ghalib time in the history of Islam. We are talking about Baghdad at its prime. We are talking about when Europe was in the drudges of its dark ages. We are talking about an incredible moment in Islamic history.

The second predominant feature of his time was that immediately before him, in fact a century before him, notwithstanding the fact that the ummah was ghalib at that time, a lot of great learners and great minds of Islam started following Greek philosophy and neoplatonism. He comes after Ibn Sina — and Ibn Sina is not the first. There is a whole line of people before him; Al-Kindi, Al-Razi, Al-Farabi. These are big names. People are doing PhDs on these guys today. They had a huge impact. This was dangerous because while you had the height of Islamic civilization and, although there were some areas in philosophy that had nothing against Islam, you also had a lot of things that were departures from Islam.

First lesson from Imam al-Ghazali’s particular approach was that if there is a dominant epistemology in our age — for us today it’s called secular liberalism, in his century and the century that preceded him it was the Greco-Arabic tradition — what he did to the Greek philosophy is the same thing that we have to do to secular liberalism. There was a scholar of Ghazali studies that talks about this approach in American terms as the good, the bad and the ugly. So Imam al-Ghazali (rah) took all of the philosophy and he divided it into the good, the bad and the ugly. The ugly is outright kufr. The bad is bida’h. The good is perfectly acceptable. The same thing is true for secularism and liberalism; there are some things that are good, there are some things that are bad and there are some things in them that are downright ugly.

What Imam al-Ghazali (rah) did was an incredible thing in his century and that’s why — there is a hassan hadith of Blessed Prophet (sws) which mentions that there will be a mujaddid, a person, at the turn of every hijri/century, who will be raised by Allah (swt) from the ummah to renew Islam [1] — the overwhelming majority opinion of that century is that Imam al-Ghazali (rah) was the majuddid of his time.

Second lesson is something he did for tasawwuf. He extracted the good in philosophy and sometimes explained tasawwuf using that good philosophy because he thought that if I have to catch the philosophers in dawah, the closest way I can do that is by showing them that the virtues for which they love the philosophers so much are to be found all the more in the awliyah. I’m not saying that the only dawah in the world is the one done on the English speaking elites, but if you are going to do dawah on English speaking elites, it could be done in the same way in which Imam al-Ghazali (rah) tried to reach out to the people of his time, using something they could resonate and connect with.

Now I’m going to move quickly to his theories, concepts and practices of tasawwuf. Three of the main features of Imam al-Ghazali’s understanding of tasawwuf are as follows:

1. The way he talks and writes about yaqeen; it is one of the most beautiful articulations that when you embark on a path of dhikr and worship, when you start leaving sins, when you start becoming a person of practice, when you start having taqwa and sunnah, it’s only then that you will get yaqeen. A big misunderstanding we find today is that people say the reason I don’t practice is because I don’t have yaqeen. They have reversed it. You will only get yaqeen through practice. His own individual life story is about that. He wanted this yaqeen, he felt he didn’t have it, and he embarked on a journey to increase his own ‘amal and practice in order to get that yaqeen. That life-effort and sacrifice of his is also a big lesson to us. Sometimes you will have to sacrifice. Simply speaking, sometimes you have to pinch your dunya to get more deen. Sometimes you have to squeeze your dunya to get closer to Allah (swt). He was willing to do that. That was one aspect of his yaqeen.

2. His excellent explanation on naboowah. His understanding of Syedna Rasool Allah (sws) and the concept of prophethood and prophecy is one of the most brilliant things that we have ever read. It shows that his love and connection with Syedna Rasool Allah (sws) is beyond just emotional. He views Syedna Rasool Allah (sws) as a murshid/shaykh/hadi. This was his relationship with the Sunnah and Hadith. He really took the Prophet’s (sws) entire sunnah, everything. The way he talks about one hadith of Prophet (sws) is the same way some people — and this is a big problem today that we don’t talk about the Prophet (sws) this way but if shaykh says something that blows the person away. He talks about the Prophet (sws) this way. It’s ajeeb when he talks about hadith, although, he wasn’t a hadith scholar and it’s not like he has huge hadith commentaries, but when he talks about tasawwuf and he talks about these hadith about practice, adab, akhlaq, the way he explains it and talks about it — it’s beautiful. It shows the way to get tarbiyyah from naboowah and tarbiyyah from the sunnah.

3. The way he talks about akhlaq. You will have to go a little deeper to figure this one out. Initially, you will feel uncomfortable that he is trying to use the philosophical explanation of virtue, ethics and character to rope in the philosophers. But when you see how deeply he understood the depth of akhlaq of Nabi-e-Karim (sws) and the refinement of character that Allah (swt) wants insan to have, that’s also amazing. His expositions on acquiring good character are also available as a whole book titled Ihya Ulum al-Din or The Revival of Religious Sciences. 

These are the three things: yaqeen, naboowah and akhlaq. I’m not saying Imam al-Ghazali (rah) is the only person who has done that. I’m just using a few thinkers to highlight to you the real content matter of spirituality. You can get it from whoever you are comfortable with.

Imam Rabbani Shaykh Ahmed Sirhindi (rah)

Let’s look at the history. If you know your Mughal history, he was living first at the time of emperor Akbar, then Jahangir and finally, just at the latter moments, Aurangzeb. If you look at the history from Akbar to Aurangzeb, you will find a huge transformation. Akbar was a person who had gone way astray in terms of his deen, so much so that he made a new deen which he first called Deen-e-Akbari and later Deen-e-Ilahi. I mean, even to make a new deen itself is wrong. And to name it after yourself is also wrong. But then to call it Deen-e-Ilahi!

One element of that deen was that people should make sajdah to Akbar. I don’t think I even need to go further — that one thing is enough. There is a lot though, if you were to ever see, you would be stunned how it was all made possible, how anyone could incorporate all this. But because he was the Mughal emperor, he had the state, he had the enforcing mechanism, he actually implemented and enforced his deen on the entire South Asian continent — which is now India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan.

If you know your history about Aurangzeb, he repealed and reversed all of that entirely and actually revived the Qadhi courts, Islam and Shari’ah. How did this transition happen? How did you go from an emperor like Akbar to an emperor like Aurangzeb? Literally, even Hindu historians write that this transition took place due to one man. It was a one-man show; Imam Rabbani Shaykh Ahmed Sirhindi (rah). If you want to talk about bringing a systematic change, these awliyah ullah have done it. He’s not alone. There are other examples like this. There are awliyah ullah and mashaikh who have done it. That’s one of his major features. But right now I want to use some of his writings to highlight some concepts in tasawwuf for you.

1. He purified the aqa’id. He was able to entirely purge and purify tasawwuf from notions of wahdat al-wujud; that the world is a shadow of Allah (swt), and all these, what in fancy English they call theosophical concepts — trying to insert philosophy into theology. His writings have refuted each and every one of these things.

2. He cleared out the concept of bid’ah; which in English you call the innovative practices. So when you think you are doing practices and a’maal to get closer to Allah (swt), whatever you can think of even today, he has already spoken about it. Be it the concept of milad-e-nabi, tombs and shrines, all such things. He is the first person in South Asia to write about all the issues and to write about them forcefully. These things are still going on today, unfortunately, in many places. But you find that this person tried to stop it. And he was very successful and was able to, at least, save some of the rightly guided awliyah, mashaikh of his time who were beginning to show some of those tendencies. He was able to swerve a lot of them back on to the path of Shari’ah. In fact all of the Chishti, Qadri, Suhrawardiyya, the mashaikh of the time, are all indebted to him and they all acknowledge him like that. If it wasn’t for him, we would still be going that way.

3. He wrote extensively on the notion of Shari’ah. He views Shari’ah not just as law but as a way of life. He says the whole purpose of the path of tasawwuf is to live and practice Shari’ah. For example, in one of his writings he says that those people who live and practice and call others to a Shari’ah life are far better than the sufis who are simply doing their own dhikr for hours in the mountains. He understood that  you can’t just benefit yourself. You have to benefit others. And you can’t just make dhikr. Dhikr is not an end in of itself. It’s a means. The goal of every believer is to follow Shari’ah.

Ihtiyat and I’tidal

Shaykh Maulana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi & Shaykh Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (rah)

Now I will show you, it’s not just about tasawwuf, but in every part of religion, I think it may just be the nature of religion. Religion is a very delicate matter and there is always some slight, off-course wearings and leanings, and every now and then someone keeps having to steer the boat aright. That’s what happens in our own journey towards Allah (swt) as well. No matter how learned we might be, no matter how much we want to be sincere, every now and then we have a little bit of off-course leanings, a little bit of departure, and if there is somebody who is looking at us and tracking us, they will try to keep us on track. This is what these two had done, I’m combining them because it was a combined effort on their part as they are contemporaries of each other.

All of the above is done, they have yaqeen, tabiyyah through naboowah, akhlaq, pure aqa’id, elimination of bida’at, establishing and understanding that the true goal is Shari’ah. So they did all of that and a few more things. Not that they were absent in the others, but they added a few more things. I have been talking about this a lot and that is to combine the path of ihtiyat and i’tidal. This is the hallmark of Hadrat Gangohi and Thanvi (rah). Otherwise, normally a person in the name of ihtiyat loses their i’tidal. And sometimes in the name of i’tidal, they lose their ihtiyat.

What does that mean? Let’s take, as an example, the field of dawah in case of ihtiyat. I have traveled to some places, and without naming them, I have seen some circles in Pakistan that have become very closed-circuit communities. What happens is just 50-300 families, who are all ultra-conservative and ultra-orthodox, group together and basically they think everyone else is completely astray and doesn’t practice properly. Such communities are not able to help others. They are making the same mistake about which Imam Rabbani (rah) said that the individual sufi who is just making dhikr on the mountain — this is not an individual but a small community. That’s not the mission of dawah because Nabi-e-Karim (sws) did outreach.

On the flipside, it doesn’t mean you drop your ihtiyat, but you have to have i’tidal in dawah. Like I used to tease the kids that let’s say I call somebody on Jumu’ah to have a concert in the masjid right before Jumu’ah. In the name of concert you will all come and once I see you there, I will unplug the guitar, plug in the mic and give the azaan and then I got you. That would also be a way to do dawah, but there is no ihtiyat in that. So you have to have i’tidal. There is a certain amount of outreach you can do, and this is a very tricky thing, so I will give you an example.

Once I went to a country and one of these people who I think have ihtiyat, I celebrate and solute them for their incredible taqwa, but they don’t have the i’tidal. So he critiqued me because I do this radio program for South Africa on Thursday nights. The name of the radio is called Channel Islam International, just so you know, it’s an Islamic radio station. I also accept that there are a couple of things they do that may not be strict. They don’t happen on my program, but there are a couple of things they do that I may not necessarily agree with. Although they do have a mufti; they have a Shari’ah adviser who is actually known to be a fairly strict person in that country.

So this person started critiquing me that you are a shaykh and you speak on a radio. I say okay, Mufti Muhammad Shafi (rah) used to do a program on Radio Pakistan at a time when on Radio Pakistan there were also, not during his program, but there were musical programs, readings of dramas, plays and all types of things, which is much worse than anything Channel Islam International does — they don’t have any music. Why did Mufti Shafi (rah) do that? Because he had that i’tidal. In his own program, there is ihtiyat. But he is going to use that opportunity for dawah. He is going to do that outreach. He is not going to say that I’m not going to go on radio. This was their foresight. Mufti Muhammad Shafi (rah), as you know, is one of the great students of Shaykh Ashraf Ali Thanvi (rah). He is in that thanvi tradition.

Now that we have done the example of ihtiyat and i’tidal, there are three particular things: the concept of a Shaykh, non exclusivity and formal dhikr.

1. Clearing the concept of a Shaykh: It is a natural human tendency to do, what you can call, hero-worship or personality worship. There is a tendency towards shakhs parasti. Marx Weber captured this concept when he talks about charismatic leadership — there’s charisma, authority, attraction, persona, etc. Remember, ihtiyat and i’tidal. On the one hand, you need this to inspire and motivate people. If you lower them too much then people will view them as having no authority whatsoever and consequently they will not be able to inspire and motivate others. More importantly, they will not be able to do islah — they won’t be able to correct them. You will not take islah; rectification, correction, guidance, instruction, daant dapat unless somebody has some authority over you.

At the same time, you have to have i’tidal. If you elevate a person too much then there’s going to be a problem. The shaykh is a means, he is not the end, just like a professor is a means, he is not the reason you go to the university. He is a means to help and guide you as an instructor. He is not the end. He is a part of the process. He is not the process. In this particular concept, even more significant than their writings was their own practice. The kind of shaykhs these two were is really a role model for how to be a shaykh. I don’t know how to explain this to you because I am bringing you to this side of the table, so to speak. These are very personal things that I have personally benefited from. If someone wants to know how should a shaykh be, how should a shaykh interact, these two people are perfect role models for this. Nobody’s perfect, but they were near perfect, excellent role models for this. More than their writings, it was their own lived lives.

Sometimes you might experience this in your corporate jobs. If you had a really good manager and you thought that’s the way a manager should be, and if you trained under that person for a long time, then when you become a manager you will use the same managerial practices and things that you noticed in that good manager that you had the good fortune to train under. It’s important that we take an example from more recent past for that. Because Imam al-Ghazali and Imam Rabbani (rah) were living in times so different that to be a shaykh today like they were is just not going to happen. If we tried to do that, it would be very awkward. There would be a lot of, what we call, takalluf and tasanno; there would be a lot of formality and artificiality in that. These two i.e. Hadrat Gangohi and Thanvi (rah) are great examples in that regard.

2. Promoting Non-Exclusivity: I’m trying to address some misconceptions that exist in certain circles of tasawwuf. Non-exclusivity means that they were not exclusive — that you could only be their student or that they were the only shaykh or that they considered their method to be the only method. Interestingly, and I’m a very blunt person, everyone, including the traditions that I myself may belong to and respect, and even some of the people today in Shaykh Thanvi’s own tradition have fallen into this exclusivity. They say things like ham sirf Hadrat Thanvi ko mante hein. Jo Hadrat Thanvi kahein wohi sahi hai. That’s completely against his own mizaj.

Someone from his own line once told me that a person wrote to Shaykh Thanvi (rah) that I’m looking for a shaykh. He wrote back saying there is this one Chishti Shaykh, one Qadri Shaykh, and this one Naqshbandi Shaykh. Interestingly, first thing you notice is that he did not mention himself. Number two, he gave him recommendation from each of the three different methodologies that were prevalent at his time. Today were you to write to somebody, they will say we only accept Hadrat Thanvi — ham sirf unhi ko mante hein aur iss hi silsilay mein these 3-4 people exist in Pakistan and you should only go there.

There is a famous incident of a person who goes to Shaykh Ashraf Ali Thanvi to become a student, he sends him to Shaykh Madni. Shaykh Madni sends him back to Shaykh Thanvi. They are just playing tennis with him! Even more importantly, by non-exclusivity they tried, even though some time after the person passes away, the legacy is not as intact as it used to be when they were alive, but they did try that being a student of a shaykh should not become some type of a separate group identity. It’s not sectarianism because sect means a difference in aqeedah and theology. But it sometimes becomes such a distinct group that the Arabic word tafarruqa; making of firqa — can apply, not in terms of theological sect but in terms of some distinct and differentiated group.

This is very difficult to do. I myself have not been able to 100% successfully do this. The sign for this non-exclusivity is what in Arabic we call adm-e-mugha’ira. Mugha’irat means that when two people are sitting, they should not feel ghair-ghair to each other. If I sit next to a person of tableeghi jama’at, I shouldn’t feel that he is in tableegh and I’m not. If I make him feel like that, or if he makes me feel like that, then one of us is guilty of being an exclusivist. Or, similarly, if I’m a student of one shaykh, and I meet a student of another shaykh, and if we feel that he is not my peer-bhai, and it creates a little, not animosity, but some slight fasal (distance). Having any group identity should not create any fasal — it cannot be a faasil in your ummah identity.

That’s much easier said than done. I can’t even 100% manage this. But the point is to at least articulate that and to keep repeating and reinforcing it, and to try your best to practice it and lead by example.

3. Formal dhikr. There are two types of dhikr.

i. Those adhkar that are thabit min as-Sunnah — you can call them masnun adhkar. There are quite a lot of them; Subh’an Allahi wa bi hamdihi Sub’han Allahil Azeem, la hawla wala quwwata illa billah, la ilaha illallah — lots and lots of salawat, durud sharif, istighfarat, du’as etc. Muhadithin have compiled whole books on this. One of the greatest works on this, which was also recently translated into English, and is also available in Urdu and Arabic, is a book by the great Imam an-Nawawi himself titled Kitab al-Adhkar or The Book of Remembrances where he tried to gather a very large amount of the adhkar that are mentioned in the authentic, reliable hadith of Nabi-e-Karim (sws).

ii. The second type of dhikr, I’m coming up with this term myself, I’m not coining or formally launching a terminology, what you call wadha’ mein istilah, that you go and run with this, you can call it izafi dhikr or extra dhikr, maybe you could call it a training method or a tool. Bottom line is, this is that mode/method/form of dhikr which is not mentioned in the Sunnah. If I were to be more precise with you (I have talked about this in the last year’s workshop and established it from the sahih hadith, you can refer to it if you missed that, you can make dhikr that is not mentioned in the sunnah. Otherwise the first question that comes is that how can you make dhikr that is not mentioned by Nabi (sws) or is not part of the sunnah?

It has been established from the same sunnah that it is absolutely permissible and acceptable to do a form of dhikr that was not done by the Prophet (sws). Let me first tell you about the second type. You just have to trust me on this and see because I have established it through proofs and references in slides from last year. But even though it is permissible to do that extra dhikr, how you conceptualize that extra dhikr, how you emphasize and prioritize it, what role this extra dhikr should or should not play in your spiritual development, that is also a brilliant articulation of Shaykh Gangohi and Thanvi (rah). So I will share that with you.

1. It is permissible. They make that clear also.

2. Its status/darajah is secondary but in the initial stages, its benefit to you might be primary. This is a bit tricky. It’s a unique thing. The way they explain this is that this dhikr is being done first as ‘ilaj meaning it’s a cure. For example, let’s go back to the first type of dhikr which is the masnun dhikr, even greater than that is the fard dhikr, like salah. What happens is that someone even in faraid has an illness of ghaflah, waswasa and heedlessness which doesn’t go away by praying more fard salah, let alone by praying masnun dhikr.

What a person needs is something which is an ‘ilaj/cure. This secondary in status dhikr, which is the non-sunnah dhikr, which were methods of dhikr designed by awliyah ullah (hence vary which is why you have different terms like naqshbandi, chishti, qadri — these terms actually refer to different methods of dhikr) they are of secondary status in terms of their ajr; their sawab is much less than the ajr/sawab you would get from doing the sunnah dhikr, but in the beginning, they are done as ‘ilaj/treatment and they can treat the problem more than the mansoon dhikr because the masnun dhikr was for qurb, which comes later, mutlaq qurb, while these dhikr are designed specifically for specific ailments.

You can say, in terms of medicines, some are target medicines and some are general tonic. But because it is secondary in status, and because it is being used as an ‘ilaj, so it should never be a goal in of itself, it’s only a means and it’s a means to an end of being able to do the masnun adhkar without the ghaflah. That is its purpose. As soon as a person reaches that stage where they can do the masnun adhkar without the ailments and ghaflah, then they no longer need to do the adhkar of the silsila or the adhkar of the awliyah. They simply have to do the adhkar of Nabi-e-Kareem (sws).

Shaykh Gangohi (rah) was also very deeply inspired by Imam Rabbani (rah)  — he wrote explicitly when talking about this naqshbandi method of dhikr that the beginner, the muqtadi, should initially do this type of formal dhikr to cure the illness of ghaflah, wasawa, lust, anger etc. Then, he says, for the person who is intermediate such that his major ailments have been resolved, should do more tilawat of Qur’an al-Kareem — that’s masnun. That’s thabit min as-Sunnah. He should do kathrat-e-tilawat, and should drop that formal dhikr to a very small amount. After that, the person should just pray nawafil; tahajjud, ishraq etc, as far as extra dhikr is concerned.

That was basically what the Sahaba Karam (ra) did. Their real extra ibadat was to pray long nawafil because that includes tilawat — you recite Qur’an inside salah, so it includes the tilawat, and it includes the first thing which is yad-e-ilahi. So you did the formal dhikr to cure the ghaflah in order to remember Allah (swt). Then you did recitation of Qur’an. Now you can pray salah while reciting Qur’an and remembering Allah (swt). He says that’s the best way to go. But it’s a process.

Imam Rabbani (rah) is also very firm on this third thing. In fact, Imam Rabbani (rah) took it one step further which is dawah, that even then when you have reached this level, better than doing a lot of nawafil salah is to do dawah. He is very focused on dawah. That’s why you find that the people who are from his line are more into dawah. And you find that the people who are in other lines are less subdued, let’s say, about their dawah.

Going back to non-exclusivity, one of the things that was there with Shaykh Gangohi and Thanvi (rah), which may not be here today in those who claim to follow any of these people, is that they would not judge others according to their own mizaj (temperament). For example, if there is one mizaj, or temperament, that most people shouldn’t make so much dawah. So, fine, I follow the temperament that you should try to make maximum dawah. If someone is on the temperament that I follow a line of shuyukh who don’t believe so much in making dawah, rather their focus is on own ibadat and that’s it. Fine, I’m not going to judge you on my temperament. That’s fine if your shaykh said that, you can do that. Don’t do dawah.

I was talking to you about tasawwuf, but when it comes to usul of dawah, then the greatest person for that is Maulana Ilyas (rah) and his fikr was that dawah should be as much as possible because dawah is what benefits the masses. He took this from his understanding of Naboowah — the anbiya (as) came not just to guide small groups of humanity to Allah (swt), the anbiya came to guide masses of humanity to Allah (swt), and the way to guide masses of humanity isn’t through darul uloom or madrassah, it isn’t through high level tasawwuf. The way to guide masses is through dawah. He is also basically in that mizaj of Imam Rabbani (rah).

The non-exclusivity thing is to not judge others who may have another valid, acceptable, no doubt different to yours mizaj. That’s also something very hard to do, it is much easier said than done. We have not been able to achieve or enact 100% success as I already told you, in the non-exclusivity thing. I will share with you something about that also. Once I asked one of my teachers, Maulana Manzur Ahmed Chinyoti (rah), who passed away a few years ago, a question pertaining to this non-exclusivity thing. I said, Ustad Jee, I notice this in people that whoever is in one line, he just thinks that his line is better. Let me just do this in Urdu first and then I’ll translate it in English for you.

Mein ne poocha k mein ne dekha k har banda apne kaam ko afzal samajhta hai. Tou unhoun ne farmaya k dekhein haqeeqat ye hai k ham deen ki khidmat k har shobay ki fazeelat k qaail hein, kisi eik ki afzaliyat k ham qaail nahi hein. Mein ne kaha Ustad Jee yehi to muamla hai k har banda apna hi shoba, apna hi mizaj, apna tareeqa, apna shaykh, apna idara, apna manhaj, apna maslak — jo bhi hai — uss hi ki afzaliyat k qaail hein.

Unhoun ne kaha k haan, iss zamanay mein aisa hai. Waja yeh hai ab iss zamanay mein logoun ka imaan kamzor hai. Un k imaan ki kamzori ki waja se woh chal nahi sakte jab tak woh apni uss line ko afzal na samjhein. Tou aap un ko na cherein, unko apne iss junoon mein chor dein, aur jo kisi bhi kaam mein nahi lage hein, aap unki fikar karein k woh kahin lag jaein. Jo lagey hein, bhaley hi thora sa tuasib un mein ho, thora sa junoon un mein ho, ya thora sa woh apne hi tarz ko afzal samajhte houn, kam az kam woh uss mein lag tou gaye. Jo nahi laga hai un ki fikar karein. 

Alhamdulillah, I had so much sukoon from this answer. That’s the way I even managed exclusivity, because I told you you cannot eliminate it. For the people who are listening in the other countries who know English, my teacher said that we believe in the virtue and merit of every single branch of deen, and every single way of serving and guiding and practicing deen, but we don’t believe in the unique and exclusive superiority of one way over all the rest. When I said this is exactly what I’m asking. This is what I have seen in people that whatever they practice, whoever they are affiliated with, whatever group they have a membership in, wherever they study, or whoever their shaykh is, they view that to be superior to others. He said that yes, this is a problem in the current age because the imaan of people is weak. Because their imaan is weak, they will not be motivated and inspired and stimulated to do ‘amal unless they think their way is better.

If you think about it, it’s kind of true in your dunya also. When you choose to major in physics, why would you study all night to become a scientist — if that’s your goal? It must be because you think physics is better than economics. And if a person is stuck thinking I don’t know what to major in, I don’t know if I should do physics or economics or philosophy or history — he’s stuck and he keeps going around in circles. Then if the guide says this is the better way, he will quickly make the decision.

That’s a nice, beautiful way and this is why you need the living tradition also, you really need to sit with living mashaikh, shuyukh and ulema. This one nugget, this one sentence from this one person has helped me for years. It was from a 10 minutes conversation. This conversation happened in 2003. For 13 years this 10 minutes conversation has given me immense guidance. There are not many people like that left on this earth that you spend 10 minutes with them and you can be guided for 10 years of your life.

So I jumped back to the non-exclusivity. And I ended up with Imam Rabbani (rah) taking it even one step further — to dawah. There are different understandings. I have already talked to you about dawah in terms of the i’tidal and ihtiyat. The purpose of this was not to confine you to just these four, but to show you that there are very real, substantive things to be learnt from this tradition. I just showed you what I learnt from these four. And I think all of you would agree that that was some real learning that took place. This is real help for us, real guidance and tarbiyyah.

In order to do practice, there are two things. I’m going to do these very quickly for you. The first is the training — to be trained to do a’maal, and the second is for me to tell you what those amaal are, which is called practice.


Training is the motivation, inspiration and learning to become a person of ‘amal and practice is to describe concretely and discreetly what are those a’maal and practices that we should be trying to do.


There is a lot of emphasis on sohbah in our deen. This is something I did in a bit more detail last year, so I’m not going to repeat it, but I would just say those verses and hadith for you.

يٰۤـاَيُّهَا الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللّٰهَ وَكُوۡنُوۡا مَعَ الصّٰدِقِيۡنَ
O you who believe, fear Allah, and be in the company of the truthful. [9:119]

It might be difficult, no doubt, to find out who are as-sadiqeen. But you might be able to find at least relative to yourself, that this person has more sidq (truthfulness) than me. That’s enough for you to benefit from a person. You can actually benefit from a person who may not be 100% siddiq, but if he is more siddiq than you, you can benefit from them tremendously. Whenever there comes the time that you are no longer able to benefit from that person, Allah (swt) will take you onward and guide you further. The words kunu and ma’a — both of these Arabic words are intense. Kunu, as you know, is from kun fayakun. It talks about your very wujud (your Self). That’s an intense level of company — that to what extent you will align your wujud with that person’s wujud. Ma’a is from ma’iyyah which is the most intense and intimate companionship.

Al mar’u ‘ala deeni khaleelihi fal yantur ahadukum man yukhaalil
A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so each one of you should look whom you befriend. [Sunan Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi]

A person will be on the deen of whoever they choose to make their khalil — which, again, is what we call a bosom buddy; your real best friend. So Prophet (sws) further said that each and every one of you should reflect and consider carefully, man yukhaalil, who you choose to make your khalil. Make that a wise choice. This is enough; one verse and one hadith will be enough to establish it.

How does sohbah work? It’s slightly different for men and women. It’s significantly different for men and women. For men, in the good old days, when there was no travel, there were no airlines for Shaykh Thanvi (rah) to fly all over the world to. I’m sure if there were airlines in his time, although his mizaj was not at that level of dawah, but still he would have traveled to some extent. Normally the students would themselves go and travel and spend some time in the sohbah of a shaykh.

That’s another beautiful thing about these two — especially Shaykh Rashid Ahmed Gangohi (rah), that when he felt a person had benefited enough from his sohbah, he would actually prevent him from traveling to him. There’s a beautiful letter between one of his students and him, and you can tell that the student is desperate to go but the shaykh is writing refusing, and this is going on. The Shaykh then finally writes him agar aap ko wahan beth kar mujh se faida nahi mil sakta, aap ko mere pass aa kar bhi faida nahi miley ga.

He said if you are not able to benefit from all that I have already taught you, and instructed you in, and all our prior companionship and sohbah, and sitting in your own home-town if you haven’t reached that level yet (it wasn’t a first time, it was after an association of sohbah), then you are not going to benefit any further by coming to me. He didn’t let him come. Their letters and their lives are a very good behind-the-scenes look at how shaykh-student relationship is when you look at these two shuyukh. Of course bayan, workshops, courses, all of these things are sohbah. For women, it’s confined to that — bayan, workshops, online bayan, recordings etc. There is no question of being in the front row or in physical proximity, physical company or traveling with shaykh etc.


Ta’leem means that you need the teachings. There are teachings in our deen that if you read them they will have an effect, but if you are taught them they will have a deeper effect. There are teachings on how to control your gaze, how to control your anger, how to improve your concentration in salah, teachings about love for Allah (swt) and love for Nabi-e-Karim (sws). Being taught those things has a deeper effect than simply reading them on your own. That is one aspect of training — to be in a relationship where there is somebody who teaches you.

In our method, teaching is bayan. Because when you are taught something then many times, but not necessarily always, I can completely confess I don’t think my teaching has an effect on everybody, but generally when I was taught by my teachers, being taught by my teachers was more motivational and inspirational to me. In other words, it led me to ‘amal — the asal is practice. Being taught made me practice it. Sometimes reading it wouldn’t make me practice it. That’s the kind of person I was. If you are a person like that, this is the system for you.


Tarbiyyah is slightly different than ta’leem. The way we do this is that ta’leem is bayan and tarbiyyah is majlis. Majlis is a more intensive type of training for those people who really want to be pushed. This is also islah — for someone to be corrected, rectified and molded. One is that I want my practice to change, I need ta’leem for that. Second is that I myself want to change, I need tarbiyyah for that.

If I want my practice to change, I need some instructions on how to practice and some motivation and inspiration to practice that. Second is that I want myself to change, that is tarbiyyah. When a person comes to you with that intention, that’s what I call a majlis. Again I’m not launching a new terminology. Personally this is when I feel there are a bunch of people sitting in front of me or I want to gather a bunch of people who are coming with that intention, that we have been listening to bayans and learning about the practices, now we want ourselves to change. I also call it ragra; islah/tabiyyah.


In English it means purification. The reason I put it last is because it’s the asal. All of the sohbah, ta’leem and tarbiyyah is to purify oneself of sins and to purify oneself of anything that is even slightly displeasing to Allah (swt). That’s the asal of all these things. In other words, these three things are done for the sake of ‘amal, practice, and for the sake of purification as well. Because the big aspect isn’t just to do good a’maal, but it is to leave the bad a’maals as well. That’s what we are talking about when we talk about tazkiyah. And obviously you need all three. Sometimes being in good company helps you stay away from sins. Sometimes learning how our deen guides us to stay away from sin helps us stay away from sins. Sometimes you might realize that a sin is so deeply ingrained in me that I will never be able to leave it unless I change. It’s not just about changing my company and increasing my ‘amal. Until I change, the sin won’t leave me.


This is another aspect of training, but it is coincidental, it occurs along and during the process of this training, during the sohbah, ta’leem and tarbiyyah, which was done for the sake of tazkiyah and for a’maal. Naturally, the longer you associate with any professor, you sort of get to know them and they sort of get to know you. Then a relationship starts, then it develops, then it builds. It takes place overtime. This also has to have balance.

Purpose of the shaykh is sohbah, ta’leem and tarbiyah for the sake of tazkiyah. The purpose of the shaykh isn’t ta’luq that I want to be in a relationship with the shaykh. I’m obviously talking about men, because some of them look at us with puppy dog eyes and they just want to be in this deep relationship with the shaykh. For them that’s what it’s about. This can also have some negative consequences. Then they start noticing that who is closer to shaykh, who did the shaykh pick to make the slides, why didn’t he pick me to make the slides? Then all types of negative externalities and crazy things start coming up — why did he go on his car, why didn’t he go on my car? He remembered his name, he still doesn’t yet know my name.

The ta’luq is not the asal. These tags can be used for different things so focus on the concepts and forget the tags. It’s not about your personal friendship with the shaykh. That’s a coincidental or incidental, non-essential, ghair-maqsudi thing that can happen. And it might not happen. I benefited from so many teachers in my madrassah about whom I cannot say I had a personal ta’luq with or that they had a personal ta’luq with me. In fact, two teachers just popped up into my mind — one who I did have a personal ta’luq with and second who I didn’t really have a personal ta’luq with, but in terms of ilm, I benefited equally from both of them. That was the asal. That’s why they were my ustad so I would learn ilm of deen from them.

So this is coincidental, incidental, it can happen, it may happen, it may not happen, it might sometimes happen, it may not always happen. Maqsud is tazkiyah and a’maal, as long as you are making progress in that, that’s the asal. Still, the question remains that if the ta’luq happens then what is it? There are aspects of that ta’luq beyond that who makes the slides and in whose car do you go, and whose house do you stay in. That’s totally irrelevant. There is something that to some extent is beneficial in tazkiyah and that is the level of correspondence, a level of individual guidance, a certain aspect of individual counseling, that can and may take place. Two of the structures for that are as follows in terms of Shaykh Ashraf Ali Thanvi (rah):

  1. It’tila
  2. It’tiba

It’tila means that when you have someone who you can inform about any spiritual hiccups, any problems, any obstacles, seeking some individual guidance, counseling, but that ittila will only have benefit if you do it’tiba i.e. you follow the naseeha that is given to you. The proof for this is that Nabi-e-Karim (sws) said:

Ad-deenu naseeha
Religion is sincere counsel. [Muslim]

That all of deen consists entirely of good counseling and advice. For that to work, for naseeha to be deen, there must be somebody giving the advice, there must be somebody hearing the advice, there must be some following of that advice and there should be some change and transformation in ‘amal due to that advice. Some people would call that islahi ta’luq.

For example, my teacher of Bukhari Sharif, who was also a shaykh — Shaykh Sufi Sawwar — he doesn’t do it anymore because he has become quite old, but back when I used to study he had this rule that if you want to be my student in tasawwuf, you first have to write me 20 letters and you have to get 20 replies and he might not always reply to every letter. Once you write 20 letters and get 20 replies then I will know you are serious in your desire to change because 20 times you would have reached out and consulted and tried to learn, and 20 times I would have guided you and understood and then I will decide whether I feel there is munasiba, affinity, compatibility, and then I will decide whether to take you as a student. Different shuyukh have different ways of admissions, enrollment, registration and education.

I am very deliberately sharing these things with you so that those who actually are students can understand. It was a failure of ours to not explicitly explain these things to our own students and therefore some of them ended up with their own understanding of these things. This is also a duty of ours. I am still unsure about this because for me personally I have always had a lot of affinity with Imam Rabbani’s and Maulana Ilyas’ (rah) feeling about dawah. That’s why what I used to do was that anybody who would ever come to me, I would think Allah (swt) has sent them, I have to take them because how can I say no to somebody who wants to learn anything?

Anybody who wants to enroll, we don’t have anything — no fee, no criteria, there is nothing, we have open admissions and enrollment — in academics, tasawwuf, dhikr, everything. But overtime, I thought about this and I told you that I also do view Mualana Ashraf Ali Thanvi and Mualana Gangohi (rah) to be very excellent examples of ideally how a person should be a shaykh. Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (rah) had much more hurdles placed which you would have to pass before you could become their student. There was some criteria to become their student.

Then I reflected (this is also a good way for you to see why I always say historical, intellectual and spiritual — because you have to look at all things) for every person, for every thinker, other than Nabi-e-Karim (sws), what they think is partly due to their context. So I tried to think that although Shaykh Ashraf Ali Thanvi (rah) wouldn’t accept everyone as a student, but if he was in this context advising me, would he advise me the same thing?

I found several differences in the two contexts. The first was that in his time there were many shuyukh. If you turn someone away and tell them to find a local shaykh, who also has the same amount of munasibat with them, he would actually be able to do that, because there were hundreds and hundreds of shuyukh. That’s not so much the case in this day and age. Second, the vast majority of people who used to go to him, with notable exceptions, were very practicing, pious people of deobandi adherence. Many times people who come to me, again not all, but a large number who come are people who are not from very religious family backgrounds and maybe from English educated elites, and if I turn them away where are they going to go? And I would be scared to do that.

I am still working this out. Should I still keep the open admissions and teach whatever I have learnt, although what I have to offer is limited, because I am over stretched and over committed nor do I live in one place? Mostly it works. But every now and then Shaytan tries to play with somebody’s head — that you did join and now you are not benefiting, aap ne uss waqt eik jazbe mein kiya, and now shaykh is not in Karachi and you are wondering and you are left to your nafs and shaytan. This happens less than 10% of the times, but it sometimes happens to people.

I accept this is one of the elements of nazool in our times that just like the society is not perfect, the system is not perfect, nothing is perfect. There is no perfection left anymore. There is no perfection in tasawwuf. There is no perfection in ilm. We are all imperfect people living in an imperfect time with imperfect relationships. The question is how to make the best out of it?

For me the easier position, and I still think it’s the true position and that is to do tawwakkul on Allah (swt). And I still think if Allah (swt) puts someone in front of me, Allah (swt) put him there, Allah (swt) is making him say this to me, so I would say yes. Allahu Aalam how it’s going to work out practically. But Allah (swt) is the ultimate guide, and that I have seen with this online audience. That’s an amazing thing so I address all of them. We have people who are online students, who have never ever even been maybe in the same country as me in their life, and the way they write in their emails, and the way they benefit — I’m amazed.

That’s Allah (swt) guiding, it’s not me. It shows me what I told you — effort, humility, sincerity — and that doesn’t come from the shaykh. That’s entirely in the student. You can’t even ride on the shaykh’s humility, effort or sincerity, it’s your own effort, entirely your own humility and your own sincerity that will do it for you. And I have seen that in not just a few but a dozen. Sometimes I’m amazed and I confess this to them also that sometimes I get so busy so I catch up on emails altogether. Sometimes there will be a person whose 2-3 emails I would be reading together, because I couldn’t read them all as they came in.

Let’s take the example of a woman, for example, there’s a woman who wrote that please make du’a I want to start wearing the hijab. I wouldn’t even have read that email, so I didn’t make du’a. Next email that I started hijab, make du’a I wear niqab. Third email Alhamdulillah I’m wearing niqab. I’m reading all three emails together. Clearly you can see it’s not my du’as that make it happen. And there maybe women who may have heard hundreds of bayans of mine in Karachi and they may never think of adopting more haya. It’s not always about only the sohbah and only the ta’luq, without negating these things, it’s much more about a person’s effort, humility and sincerity. In any case, the goal is ‘amal, and the goal is tazkiyah.


The very last thing to show you today are practices. I’m just going to give you headers. Each one has a lot of instructions, ta’leemat and tarbiyyah about it.

Leaving Sin

The first one is leaving sin. We have several bayans on this topic. You can go and listen to them on our website. This is a constant and a lifelong ‘amal, because we keep sinning. It’s very rare that a person reaches that level of taqwah that they actually say that they stop sinning entirely. At that level there is no concept of leaving sin, because there would be no sins to leave. I would even go further, even if someone reaches that, they wouldn’t know that about themselves, and if they ever think that about themselves, that’s a bit dangerous. That could itself be a door that could very much open into sin.


Second is ibadah. One greatest ‘amal in our deen is still ibadah. Don’t underestimate ibadah. Don’t overestimate khidmat (service) and akhlaq (refinement of character) so much that you think they are substitutes for ibadah. Don’t overestimate good akhlaq that you think it can compensate for bad ibadah. These are very big misconceptions that people have. There is nothing like that in this world. For example, you can be the greatest husband, but that wouldn’t compensate if you are a bad father. Your kid will say, look, I know you treat mom very well, but you are terrible to me. You would say but I’m a great husband. He will say it’s irrelevant. It does not compensate for the fact that you are a terrible father.

Similarly, the most amazing akhlaq cannot compensate for poor ibadah. That’s not the meaning of those hadith. This is why you need to be taught hadith formally. When Nabi-e-Karim (sws) said those hadith about the virtue of akhlaq and khidmah, he (sws) wasn’t negating ibadah. You have to also look at those hadith that talk about ibadah. They are all there and no one is negating or cancelling the other. You have to have a holistic and complete understanding.

Two ways to increase ibadah:

1. In the masjid

For the men, you should try to increase your ibadah in the masjid. Sometimes sit a little bit before salah, sit a little bit after salah, do intezar of salah, that’s also a hadith, that also gives a person reward. When you sit after salah, you linger in the after affects of salah because Allah’s (swt) gaze of mercy falls on the person while a person prays salah, it doesn’t stop when a person does salam, it stops when they get up, they do airaz, when they move away from the place where they prayed salah. As long as you remain sitting in that place where you prayed salah, you are still in shower of the radiant nur of Allah (swt) even if you have said salam. It’s only when you get up and move, which is called airaz, it’s only then you exit from the shower of nur.

You should go before and you should linger after. This is what you do when you go to the dawat of a friend. We like to get there early and we hang out later. You need to have that feeling sometimes, not in every salah as you have to go back to meeting or your class, I understand that, but there are many times we pray salah when there is absolutely nothing that we have to do afterwards and we came from doing absolutely nothing. In a few of those nothings, try to linger. Those who want to do more, sometimes try to sit from fajr to ishraq. Sometimes sit from asr to maghrib, or another time when you get a chance.

2. At home

Second is that you should try to establish some environment of ibadat in your home. For the women it’s only the second one, and for men they should also try to establish the second one. That’s also something your children will see. The children will not see the ibadah you do in the masjid. They don’t see the bayans you give in the workshops. They see how you are at home. You have to have some level of ibadah at home. It was the practice of women in earlier Islamic communities that they would designate a part of their home which they would call masjid al-bait. This is a formal term in the works of the fuqaha which means that they would have a corner or a room where they would have their musallah and it would be their ibadat khana.

We have so many places in our houses; mehman khana, bawarchi khana etc. This is also a place and it helps because you are not that strong and you have to be honest about it. We are not that strong that we feel spiritual in our bedrooms and living rooms. That’s a problem. What is wrong with the interior design of our living rooms and bedrooms or what is wrong with the a’maal of ghaflah that we do that we don’t feel the dhikr of Allah (swt) there? But if you can’t change all of that right now, at least have some room which you can call no-ghaflah zone. This is the room where no ghaflah can take place in the house. When you designate that place, you will feel more closeness and connection with Allah (swt). This is especially for the women, but the men also should do this as a family.

Nafl Ibadah: Group/Individual

Next is group and individual ibadah. Individual ibadah is clear. There has always been a question among the jurists about the extent to which group nafl ibadah is permissible and there is a range of opinions of jurists on many different matters. Here again I will say practice i’tidal and ihtiyat; don’t do entire nafi of it, but don’t be exclusively reliant on it either. Some people only do dhikr when they do it in a group. You should be doing individual dhikr. Yes, occasionally you might join group dhikr. So I gave you a relative ratio for that.

I will even go further, you will only get benefit from the group dhikr if you are a person of individual dhikr. If you never make your own individual dhikr of Allah (swt), you just randomly, arbitrarily, occasionally attend group dhikr, it’s not going to change you in terms of tarbiyyah, it’s not going to remove you from sin in terms of tazkiyah, it’s not going to change your ‘amal. It will still be good — you will get reward, you will stay away from ghaflah, you will get certain benefits from it, but it wouldn’t be able to take you all the way. If a person does individual dhikr regularly, then if they sometimes do group dhikr, it can really give them a boost.

Nawafil Adhkar — Guided Regimen

Next is the nawafil adhkar. Here for example the question is what do I do? If I sit from fajr till ishraq, if I sit from maghrib till isha, what am I supposed to do in that time? We suggest to people that you should follow some guided regimen so that you do it systematically. For example, if someone makes the intention to improve their physical health, they don’t just randomly workout. They do some research or they go to some fitness trainer and they make a plan of action, they decide the exercises, the weights, and they follow that plan of action systematically under some level of guidance and instruction.

If you were to look at Imam an-Nawawi’s (rah) Kitab al-Adhkar, there are so many adhkar out there, and then especially for those of us who are at that earlier stage in that we need a cure for ghaflah and sin, then this means are there any extra, secondary adhkar of the awliyah that actually could directly cure my illness of ghaflah and sin so that I can move on to the adhkar of qurb and wilaya? This is the guided regimen.

We are going to start with masnun soon with a focus on du’as. I want to do the tafsir with you of every du’a in Qur’an. You learn those du’as and you know the translations but you need to understand it to really feel the feelings of du’a. This is one example of masnun adhkar.

Secondary adhkar is tazkiya, qurb and thawab. The secondary adhkar are done for ‘ilaj, but the qurb and thawab of the masnun adhkar is greater than the qurb and thawab that you get through the secondary adhkar. It should also be clear that masnun adhkar are not empty of tazkiya. That’s a general tonic, you get general tazkiya through the masnun adhkar.

For example, a person goes to a shaykh and says that I know the Blessed Prophet (sws) has said in many ahadith that you should remember death but I’m not able to do it. Shaykh tells him every night before you go to sleep, they call it muraqaba-e-maut (contemplation of death) for a few minutes imagine that you have died, you are lying there as a mayyat and people are praying janaza over you. People are taking you up, putting you in the grave and then they are putting mitti over you. One by one each person is walking away and you are left all alone in your grave. When he comes back after a few days of doing this, he says, shaykh can you undo this? Because I can’t work and all I’m thinking about is death.

Now you understand the ‘ilaj part? It kicks a person. This concept of muraqaba-e-maut is not in the sunnah. The Blessed Prophet (sws) never told any Sahaba (ra) that. Some mashaikh and ulema say the answer it’s because Sahaba (ra) already had these things so they didn’t need to be told — they had suhbat-e-Rasool (sws). When they heard about these things live, then:

وَقَالُوۡا سَمِعۡنَا وَاَطَعۡنَا‌
and they have said: “We have listened, and obeyed.” [2:285]

We don’t have access to that so sometimes we need a little jolt. Again, if you start doing that for the rest of 40 years of your life, there is no need for that. This was a tool. Once you get that remembrance of death, you can go back and do some masnun adhkar.

Husool ‘Ilm — Guided Curriculum

There is some place where you should begin. There should be a process for you to attain and acquire fehm — an understanding and knowledge of deen.

Purification of the Heart

This means two things:

  1. Remove Bad Attributes: Can be unlawful lust, envy, jealousy, pride, anger, laziness, negative opinions, doubts, skepticism, there’s a long list.
  2. Adopt Virtuous Attributes: The good feelings in the heart of compassion, softness, gentleness, love for Allah (swt), love for Blessed Prophet (sws) etc.

In these two things the sohbah, tarbiyyah and ta’leemat are very effective. It’s very beneficial to get the training, learning and the practice to do these things.


The initial part of practice was all about you and Allah (swt). But don’t think a’maal is confined to that. There is another aspect of a’maal as-Saleh and that is about you and others. People love to talk about haquq Allah and haquq al-ibad — but that term is misleading also. It’s not just about the rights. You have to go beyond your rights. It’s not that I will only do what people’s rights are on me. Maybe some things I’m telling you are beyond the rights they have on you.

Interpersonal Relations

It can be marriage, siblings, parents, children, these are the family relations. It can be employees, employer, colleagues, fellow students, teachers — any human interaction, let me rephrased that, any human interaction that Allah (swt) has placed you in has certain adaab, usul, and could be used as a means of pleasing Allah (swt). That’s also a learning, training and a practice.

Professional Societal & Humanist Ethics

This is about how you earn; to earn virtuously, lawfully which Allah (swt) has mentioned as halal and tayyib.

يٰٓاَيُّهَا النَّاسُ كُلُوۡا مِمَّا فِى الۡاَرۡضِ حَلٰلًا طَيِّبًا
O people, eat permissible good things out of what lies in the earth [2:168]

That’s basically what I’m calling ethics. Halal is a shari’ah matter — it’s permissible and legal. Tayyib means it should be virtuous. I have spoken about this a lot in the previous session. Basically, you should have compassion for the mazloom, the poor, and the uneducated — this is just the beginning. These are societal responsibilities, it’s not their haq necessarily, but it doesn’t matter. You are a member of the society and you try to become a person of khyr — of good in the community. I should also add the word ummah. So it’s about practicing ethics in your profession, your circuit, then in the broader sense of society, then in an even broader sense of ummah, and an even broader sense of humanity.


This is a major thing. I’m very much in this mizaj of dawah on your friends, colleagues, neighbors, family, random rickshaw drivers — this is a new field of dawah that I’ve jumped into — Uber and Careem drivers. And they are very receptive also. I can just be quiet or talk on the phone the whole time. But Allah (swt) put me with a person for 30 minutes of my life, probably I will never meet him again until the Day of Judgment, may be on that day Allah (swt) decides to send me to Jannah based on those 30 minutes with that guy. It’s quite possible. So having the spirit and feeling of dawah is also important. Maybe another thing to add here could be du’a, because dawah and du’ah work together. You have to do both. They are almost like lazim and malzum as we say.


There has to be some element of service. No doubt, if someone has an opportunity of service right at their homes with elderly, needy or sick parents, you could get it right at home. But if you don’t have it at home, then search for it. It can be orphans, widows, elderly, poor, illiterate, oppressed, refugees, homeless — there’s a whole long list and each one has millions in it.

You will not be able to do all of this instantly. I just gave you the list and some of you, especially the younger people, should not make the mistake of trying to do everything. This is a common mistake so don’t set a plan of action for yourself that is outside your reach. Reach for what is in your range and Allah (swt) will put that which is out of your reach in your range. That’s how it works, as opposed to reaching for what’s outside of your range, falling flat and sitting and crying — which is something, I’m sorry to be blunt, a lot of men in their 20s are stuck in. What I did right now is called ragra — in case you wanted to know what is islah and tarbiyyah.

[1] Surely, Allah will send for this ummah at the advent of every one hundred years a person (or persons) who will renovate its religion for it. [Sunan Abu Dawood]

Do not worry, do not be sad

[These are rough notes from a talk conducted by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed (db)].

وَلَا تَهِنُوۡا وَ لَا تَحۡزَنُوۡا
Do not lose heart and do not grieve [3:139]

Allah (swt) says in Qur’an — if we were to translate it in very simple contemporary English — that do not worry and do not be sad at all. In every kalam, every speech, every address, it matters a lot who is speaking, how they choose to issue that speech, and who is listening. Speaker is Allah (swt); al-Mutakallim. His manner of speech is Qur’an al-Kareem. The people being spoken to are you and me, and anyone else who accepts the message of Qur’an.

This particular verse in Qur’an has a broader context, and one day inshaAllah we will go into the tafsir of that, but today I just wanted to concentrate on its general universal meaning. It’s a strange thing that that same one and only Allah (swt) will send on each and every one of us many things in our lives that outwardly, apparently and rationally should make us worry and should make us sad.

In some sense, because it is a matter of grammatical structure, Allah (swt) is negating something, prohibiting something rather, which is already there. In other words, were we to open this up, Allah (swt) is saying that when I, Allah ta’aala, send a situation, a test, a difficulty, a trial, oppression, or injustice on you that will make you worry and will make you sad, remember these words of Mine. Remember My mercy. Remember My help. Remember the nur of your imaan. Remember that infinite absolute justice will be on the Day of Judgement and not in this world. Remember that this world is but a means of trial, tests and tribulations.

Therefore, when you remember Me, and remember these words, and remember your deen, then no longer worry and no longer be sad. Erase your worries and erase your sadness. This is the teaching of Allah (swt) in Qur’an al-Kareem. It’s not that we have to be super-human and never feel worry or sadness. We will feel worry, anxiety, tension and stress. We will feel sadness, melancholy, some may even feel depression. But, when we remember Allah (swt), remember deen, all of those feelings will go away.

Another way to understand this is that it’s not just about Allah’s (swt) help. It’s not just about taqdir, that okay I know whatever is happening to me is because Allah (swt) willed and wished it to happen. It’s not even just about Allah’s (swt) promise of ease after difficulty.

فَاِنَّ مَعَ الۡعُسۡرِ يُسۡرًا ۙ اِنَّ مَعَ الۡعُسۡرِ يُسۡرًا ؕ
So, undoubtedly, along with the hardship there is ease. Undoubtedly, along with the hardship there is ease. [94:5-6]

Allah (swt) said it twice that indeed after every hardship comes ease, after every hardship will come ease. All of those things are, too, to remove our worries and sadness. But then there is another aspect of our deen called shukr i.e. to be grateful to Allah (swt). It is to be joyous and happy, to take farah, surur, itminan, sukoon, to take happiness, joy, delight, tranquility, peace, contentment from the fact that we are on deen, from the very na’ima and blessing of iman. Far better to be in a financial hardship and have imaan, than to be extremely wealthy and not have imaan. Far better to be oppressed and have imaan, as opposed to not having imaan and living in a state of worldly peace. The value of imaan, and the happiness and joy that comes from our imaan, is enough to overcome all worries and sadness.

Our problem is that we are not able to take joy from imaan itself. Therefore, we need a lot of explanations for tawakkul in Allah (swt), trust in Allah (swt), turning towards Allah (swt), ease after hardship. We can’t take joy from imaan itself.

The second thing that a person can and should take joy from are their ‘amaal; ibadaat, salah. One of the great attributes of Syedna Rasool Allah (sws) was that whenever he (sws) was a in a state of hardship or oppression, because perhaps there was no other prophet who was as opposed and treated as unjustly in an oppressive manner like Syedna Rasool Allah (sws) was treated by the people in his (sws) time, you see a recurring thing throughout his (sws) life in his (sws) seerah, he (sws) turned to Allah (swt) in du’a and salah.

اسۡتَعِيۡنُوۡا بِالصَّبۡرِ وَالصَّلٰوةِ
Seek help through patience and prayer. [2:153]

He (sws) was the living embodiment of that. He (sws) got joy from that. It’s not going to happen that instantly the worries and sadness will be removed. We have to learn to tap into the feelings of imaan, and into the feelings of ibadah and a’maal, and that will then enable us to erase the worries and sadness.

If we are not able to do that, and let me rephrase that — if we are not able to do that on good days; on days when we have no worries or sadness, no difficulty, no stress, if on days like that we cannot experience the joy of imaan nor can we experience the ecstasy and  happiness of ibadah and ‘amaal, then what hope do we have to feel that joy and  happiness in tough times, during our difficult and dark days?

That is why the amount of ghaflah that exists today — someone was telling me about a recent study that people are sleeping less. Why? It’s not because they are working harder. People are sleeping less because they are just addicted to staying up late at night engaged in all types of fuzool. It might be late night surfing, late night random non-beneficial reading, late night infotainment, or even worse, haram things such as all types of different late night entertainments. Therefore, they are going to sleep much later than they should. They sleep at 1 AM or 2 AM, then they say they can’t fall asleep, they experience sleeplessness.

Because people are not sleeping as much as they should, or as much as they need to, their whole productivity of the day also goes down. Whatever they do, maybe they are a teacher, worker, or a mother, they can’t function properly during the day. Then they start struggling. They try to increase their caffeine intake, or they feel depressed about not fulfilling their duties or roles or responsibilities.

Where did it begin for a person as a believer? It began with the inability to take happiness, joy, solace and comfort from one’s own imaan, one’s own ibadaat, one’s own ‘amaal. The most simple way it can happen to a person is loneliness. Sometimes we have worries and sadness and we are tensed and depressed due to injustice, war, or intense fitnahs from immense trials that Allah (swt) puts a person through. Let’s talk about something that is, relative to those things, less and that is loneliness.

You are not suffering from any harm in terms of oppression or injustice, you are not suffering from any plight or difficulties such as trial tests and tribulations. In fact, some people now feel lonely even though they are free from all of those fitnahs. There is no injustice of oppression upon them, there is no major fitnah in their life, there is no failure that they have to confront. In fact, outwardly, apparently, they will also say that their life seems just fine. Financially, health-wise they are fine.

They have received so much hidayah from Allah (swt), enough taufeeq to have access to deen through many ways; Qur’an, hadith, seerah, ‘ilm, amal, dhikr, suhbah, so many ulema shuyukh. Deen is apparently fine. These are the basic things. But they still feel sad. It comes down to loneliness. This is a strange thing.

If you go back to Qur’an al-Kareem, there are many passages where Allah (swt) talks about the story of Syedna Adam (as) and the conversation that takes place between Iblis and Allah (swt). Iblis says that I am better than him; you made me from fire and you made him from the elements of the earth. Then Allah (swt) tells Iblis to leave, to get out, descend from here. Then Allah (swt) tells Adam (as):

وَقُلۡنَا يٰٓـاٰدَمُ اسۡكُنۡ اَنۡتَ وَزَوۡجُكَ الۡجَـنَّةَ
And We said, “O ’Adam, dwell, you and your wife, in Paradise” [2:35]

You and your spouse should live in Jannah. Immediately, the very first gift Allah (swt) gave Adam (as) after his creation, because one can assume that this conversation between Iblis and Allah (swt) was right when he was told to make sajda to Adam (as). Allahu Alam how long the time was between Allah (swt) creating Adam (as) and presenting him in front of the angels. But it might have been that no time had whatsoever elapsed. So immediately Allah (swt) gifted Adam (as) with a zauj, the partner, with a wife, spouse is a better term, so immediately there is no loneliness.

You would have thought that maybe if Adam (as) didn’t have a spouse in Jannah, or even on earth, he would have been fine. Maybe he could have had malaika, angels for company. But immediately in the beginning of his creation, maybe because he didn’t even have a father or a mother, Allah (swt) gave him a zauj; a spouse. This is why in some way we can see that in our deen there is an understanding and acknowledgement that a person can feel lonely if they don’t have kind, loving, supporting company or are not in kind, loving, supportive relationships.

In such a situation when a person feels lonely because of their distance from makhlooq, or they feel lonely because of absence of makhlooq, that’s the time when la tahinu wa la tahzinu means that you must seek comfort and delight in the presence of Khaliq — in the qurb with Khaliq. So in case of being distant and absent from makhlooq, be near and present with the Khaliq. Being present means being near and aware of the presence of Khaliq. Yani qurb is dhikr. Taqarrub is tadhakkur.

Trying to draw closer to Allah (swt) and actively trying to remember Allah (swt) to create a feeling of intimacy with Allah (swt), our Creator, that is the only thing that can replace the loneliness or sadness a person feels from creation. If a person is able to feel that closeness with the Creator, then they won’t feel that absence, or that distance from creation. This is much easier said than done. Anybody who hears such an explanation will say this is 100% correct, I understand, this is what I want to do and I want to learn and they even may try to formally learn how to do this taqarrub and tadhakkur, they may listen to talks on that, they may read all types of books on that, they may try to set up a schedule of ibadaat and dhikr for themselves to get that nearness and closeness. They may even try to study ‘ilm and get knowledge to try to learn more about how to get that nearness and closeness.

Regardless, when the time comes to act in a sense when that night time comes, when they have that feeling of loneliness in their heart, they can’t put any of that into ‘amal. They have learnt how to make dhikr, but they can’t actually do the dhikr when it’s time for it. They have learnt about different attributes of Allah (swt), different aspects, different du’as to call upon Him, but again when it comes the time to act, they are not able to act upon it. This is another strange thing. So not only do they believe in what is the cure for loneliness, they have been trained in the cure of loneliness, they have the knowledge about what is the cure for loneliness, they know many different practices of ibadah, du’as, dhikr that can take them out of loneliness. But when it comes to it, when it is late into the night, they would still rather just surf. Or they will still rather just read random books. They would still rather do random things.

It goes even deeper. The person who is just like I described, he will feel sad about this. Everything I said, they realize it themselves too. Everyday they will say that either I will go to sleep early, or if I am going to stay up, I am going to do some ibadat or dhikr, but they can’t do it. Again they end up surfing at 1 AM or 2 AM. The next day again they are groggy and unproductive and again they make the niyyah, azam, iradah; a firm resolve and intention that they will fix their night, and again when night comes, they can’t do it.

The reality is that it takes a certain amount of strength and a lot of us don’t have that strength anymore. It takes a certain strength of the heart to connect to the Creator when you feel lonely from the creation. So no doubt, whether it’s spouse, or it’s friends, a person should try to increase their ta’aluq — their productive, permissible, beneficial, shar’i ta’aluq — with creation so that some of this loneliness can go away.

The best ta’aluq is the ta’aluq fideen, ta’aluq fillah. So if there are a few friends, let’s say a group of young men who are studying in a university, or let’ say a group of women who have this problem and they know that they have this problem, they should then reach out to one another. They should monitor one another. They should keep a check on one another and keep a track of one another at that time, let’s say, roughly from 11 PM to 1 AM, when a person may suffer from that loneliness which their friends, and fellows and colleagues, associates aren’t suffering from.

This is a mutual help that people have to do for one another. We see in western countries that they have a lot of helplines at night. Sometimes they call it nightlines. So a nightline means that helpline that roughly starts, let’s say, from 10 PM and goes on till 3 AM. Even western counseling, psychology and therapy understands that this is something that happens to a person at night. Shaytan also understood this and therefore he designed all types of organizations and institutions and environment which can be used to sin at night.

Syedna Rasool Allah (swt) also understood this. Allah (swt) revealed it to him (sws), and therefore he (sws) taught us that look after you pray your isha salah, if you don’t have anything worthwhile to do in terms of your deen, or in terms of family, then it is better that you just go to sleep. In fact, the way Nabi e Kareem (sws) expressed this, and Imam Bukhari (rah) made a whole chapter on this (those who are students of hadith would remember what’s in this chapter) that don’t even speak, yani on conversation after isha salah.

Syedna Rasool Allah (sws) said that don’t engage in a conversation after isha salah unless it is for the sake of family or for the sake of deen etc. That’s ideal. But if there is a person who cannot reach that ideal yet, then they should reach out to their friends and fellow associates and they have to fight this. You have to fight the worry and you have to fight the sadness. After they do this they should also make, this is very important, they must make that mujahida, they must try to make that ibadah, ‘amal and adhkar which they have learnt, which they sought training for. They must do ‘amal on them, they must practically implement it at that time.

For example, if there is a person and it’s not their ma’mool yet, it isn’t their regular practice/daily habit yet, to wake up for tahajjud before fajr salah, at that time from 11 PM to 1 AM they should make some nafl salah, they should recite some extra Qur’an. There are some people who have too much time on their hands. This is not the time to drown yourself in poetry or physics. This is the time to drown yourself in Qur’an. Recite, read and study it. Memorize it and reflect upon it. You will find that Qur’an al-Kareem can be that perfect companion. You may not have people around you; friends and family whom you could turn to at that time at night. So the companionship with Qur’an, salah, dhikr — these things lead to khullat yani intimate companionship with Allah (swt).

It’s very important even if you think I can’t do it and I’m sleepless and I have two hours, just start and last however long you can. If you begin that 2-hour night time with ibadah, dhikr, du’a, Qur’an and ilm, then even if you can’t do it for that whole duration of time, the barakah of that effort and mujahida will grant you Allah’s (swt) protection for the remainder of the time you are awake. Let’s say from 11:00 to 11:30 PM, you engage for half an hour in deen, then from 11:30 till 1:00 AM you will be in hifazah, inshaAllah. You will be protected from doing something sinful, you will be protected from falling into loneliness and anxiety. You might even become productive. First be protected, and then be productive. The way to be protected is to make that initial effort for however long you can last to remove the worry and sadness and loneliness by turning to Allah (swt).

We make du’a that Allah (swt) may give all of us the taufeeq to have good companions in our life and companions to our heart, fellow seekers on the path of sirat al-mustaqeem. We make du’a that may Allah (swt) grant us the companionship of Qur’an al-kareem, ibadat, du’a, dhikr, ilm and we make du’a that Allah (swt) accepts us for His ultimate companionship. May Allah (swt) grant us nearness to Him and a closeness and awareness of His presence that can make us forget every distance, every absence and every loneliness in this world. May Allah (swt) give us taufeeq to make shukr and be grateful to Him for protecting us from all types of real worries and real torments and real trials. Finally, we du’a that Allah (swt) sends His special nur and hidayah on the millions of members of our ummah who are suffering from injustice and oppression, who have every reason to be worried and sad, but still with the karam of Allah (swt) continue to have smiles on their faces. May Allah (swt) accept us for the khidmah, may He enable us to remember them in our du’as at night and may Allah (swt) remove their depression and grant them happiness in this world and the hereafter.

وَآَخِرُ دَعْوَانَا أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ