Channeling Negativity

[These are rough notes of a talk delivered by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed db on Saturday, March 25, 2017]

Sometimes Allah (swt) puts a person in a situation where there is no way out for them, except by turning towards Him. There is nothing they can do to change their situation. Many times these situations prompt a certain emotional reaction. If the person reacts in a negative way, then that situation, which could have been a means of developing qurb (proximity) with Allah (swt), while not necessarily making them distant from Allah (swt), can surely leave them stuck. On the path of suluk (spiritual development), there is ‘uruj (going forward), wuquf (getting stuck) and ruju’ (going backwards, in reverse).

A woman who is listening to talks like these is obviously trying to come closer to Allah. There maybe something out of her control in her surroundings, in her environment, maybe in her children or in-laws that might be holding her back. So she may feel as though she is in a tug. So for example, maybe she comes to a gathering, or she reads, or she teaches and she drowns herself in the dhikr for Allah (swt), but when she comes back home, her husband is watching TV, or her kids want to watch a movie, so this complete rupture, culture shock creates an emotional reaction.

The first feeling is sadness and despondency whereby she loses her motivation and inspiration. That spiritual connection and yearning she had felt earlier gets lost. You have to protect these feelings from things outside of your control. You cannot lose it due to something that is happening even in your own home, because that will lead to depression. Your emotional feelings should not affect your spiritual feelings. To some extent you have to employ a certain level of ‘ajnabiyyat (alienation), even if it’s in your own home, or with your own spouse.

For example, let’s say I travel to Blackburn/London on the weekend, and spend that whole weekend sharing and listening to nasihah (counsel); after one to three days, all of our mind and soul would be redirected towards Allah (swt), and then on Monday, we go back to our research, and sometimes encounter different people. Now, because that is not my home, you can all understand and imagine how I compartmentalize that. I don’t let that other environment intrude in my relationship with Allah (swt). You may also have to do this with maybe your own family at home.

It doesn’t mean you become a stranger to your family, or you become a social recluse. It doesn’t mean you don’t function, and don’t fulfill your roles as a mother, daughter etc. It just means that you inwardly maintain the feelings for Allah (swt). In fact, you should reflect even more, and develop more fikr (concern) for others. You need to channel it in a positive way. It doesn’t matter if you think your in laws or husbands will not change. It’s in your control to keep your own mukhlis genuine concern for them.

If they don’t change, and you think they’re stubborn, then your fikr for them should be as stubborn. Your fikr should also be as inflexible and rigid. Your fikr should  refuse to bend and adapt. You should also walk with your armour protecting your own spirituality. All of us can be sad about our family, in-laws etc. but you need to channel that in a positive way. Like we discussed the term miskin yesterday — when you are feeling trapped by challenges with nowhere to move, then we should have yaqin [firm conviction] at that point. Miskin believes that Allah can suffice him, and ONLY Allah (swt) can suffice him. We can try everything, but miskin feels that no-one can help him except Allah (swt).

So there are two things that can happen; one thing that can happen is Allah (swt) will accept your du’as and bring about change. Another possibility is that Allah swt wants you to be in this test forever, so yes, some of you say, it’s been like this for 5-10 years etc. The question is, will you give into depression or will you maintain your yaqin and connection with Allah (swt)?

Lets accept it at this point — maybe it is impossible for those affecting you to change, but do you change? You will be amazed at the types of situations some women go through, for example, for some of them their husbands were totally off deen, but then these women created their own environment. They found a way to preserve and continually increase in their relationship with Allah (swt). We can say it is impossible as far as the present and past goes, but as for the future, only Allah (swt) knows, so you should always have hope that things could change for the better. Allah (swt) may choose to bring khayr. For some divine wisdom, He (swt) may choose not to change that situation; either way, we should be fine.

It is easy to go into depression, despair etc. I know women in such situations who kept going even though for them it was a traumatic experience. They didn’t just survive in deen, but in dunya also. The whole world can tell them they are finished, but anyone who goes through zulm, or a traumatic experience, they won’t be able to carry on unless they turn entirely to Allah (swt).

Allah (swt) will never keep a person in one state permanently. Allah swt has promised in Qur’an:

إِنَّ مَعَ ٱلۡعُسۡرِ يُسۡرً۬ا
So, undoubtedly, along with the hardship there is ease. [94:5]

‘Usr is a word denoting extreme difficulty which Allah (swt) will follow up with yusr. You should always have hope in that promise of Allah (swt). For those of you who are studying online, you may have experienced exam anxiety at some point. However, ultimately, on the day of exam you are fine, because you know the exam will end in a couple of hours. Say you have an exam that starts at 9 AM and ends at 12 noon; guaranteed, it will definitely become 12 noon (if we live), and one way or another it will end. This notion of knowing the end will come lessens the difficulty. Allah (swt) wanted us to feel this in this verse too — that ‘usr will definitely end, and Allah (swt) will actually even bring ease. No matter how bad an exam goes, there is still happiness after it ends — you will celebrate its ending. Same goes for any situation Allah (swt) puts you in.

May Allah (swt) accept us, and every relationship for His sake. May He (swt) not allow things outside of our control affect our spirituality. May He make us the living embodiment of the ayah:

وَتَوَاصَوۡاْ بِٱلۡحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوۡاْ بِٱلصَّبۡرِ
And exhorted each other to follow truth, and exhorted each other to observe patience. [103:3]

وَآَخِرُ دَعْوَانَا أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

Being Part of the Ummah

[These are rough notes of a talk delivered by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed on March 12, 2017]

وَكَذَلِكَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا لِّتَكُونُواْ شُهَدَاء عَلَى النَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ عَلَيْكُمْ شَهِيدًا 
In the same way, We made you a moderate Ummah (community), so that you should be witnesses over the people, and the Messenger a witness to you… [2:143]

The concept of ummah in our deen is vast; it is not enough just to be a believer. Allah (swt) has mentioned many different attributes and features of this ummah – if we don’t have these features in us, we are not really members of the ‘ummah’. Same is the case with the organisations of the world; merely joining a company doesn’t mean you will have the company’s ethos, spirit etc. Just like that, many of us are believers, we are muminin , but we don’t have the spirit of ummah within us!

What does the word wasata mean? Many think it means moderate, in the sense of being somewhere between Abu Bakr and Abu Jahl. This is wrong. Moderate isn’t that we are mediocre. Jannah is an extreme place; it has extreme happiness, bliss, joy, purity; and so is Jahannam- they will both last forever. What wasata means is that we are an ummah of balance; it means our approach to dunya should be balanced. We should take from this world a reasonable amount of comfort. One female sahabiyah complained to Nabi (sws) about her husband, that he fasts all day and prays all night, and Nabi (sws) said your body has rights over you, your spouse has rights over you – meaning don’t fast all the time, and don’t pray all night long.

In the ayah mentioned at the beginning, Allah (swt) also said ‘you will be a witness’ – why? Because we are the last and final ummah, and we have the last and final book! Nabi (sws) was the last and final Messenger, hence we are witnesses to the previous generations.

This is an ummah for all of humanity – part of being from this ummah means we have a feeling of companionship with fellow believers. Previously we have discussed how to be a true believer in seclusion, in suhbah etc. Tonight, we will discuss how to be a true mu’min as part of the ummah.

كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللّهِ
You are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah [3:110]

You are the very best ummah- you enjoin towards that which is known to be virtuous and pure, and you call away from those things that are rejected by Allah (swt). This is ihtiyat; to stay away from those things Allah dislikes, and to do things which Allah likes.

Whenever I come to England, I’m always amazed at how little capacity we have to do da’wah on the non-Muslims. There is so much capacity in our colleagues, neighbours, friends etc, but so few of them do we bring to deen of Islam. Sahabah (ra) always had fikr. The original meaning of da’wah is to engage with people who don’t have iman, and then to bring them to iman. We don’t even try; we say we are too scared, and embarrassed. We find it awkward. You’ve known someone for 1 year, 5 years etc, and you can never talk to them about Allah (swt)? What if they grabbed you on the Day of Judgment, and said my colleague and friend never ever told to me to prepare for this Day. We should at the least do our duty, we should care. We shouldn’t feel awkward. Even if its awkward for a couple of weeks, at least we can say on the Day of Judgment that we tried.

Allah (swt) puts barakah in da’wah when we are truly sincere – we don’t appreciate and value our own iman. If you valued it, you would want to share it. For most of us, we didn’t actively accept Islam, since we were born in families of deen, and hence we don’t appreciate this iman, and we don’t share it.

The core of iman is tawhid and ubudiyyah. Our whole focus should be this. Once there was a Shaykh who asked his students, ‘What is tawhid?’ The students replied it is to believe Allah (swt) is one. The Shaykh then explained that it is not solely to believe in the oneness of Allah, but also to live your entire life for the sake of that one Allah (swt). This is called ubudiyyah.

Allah (swt) has many names. One particular one is Malik, which goes with our identity of slave. We have one name, we are one thing – we are ‘abd (slave). Allah can be Rahman with us, He can be Wakeel, He can be Malik, but we will always be ‘abd. We only have this one identity. We are ‘abd ur-Rahman, ‘abd ul’Halim, ‘abd ul-Malik etc. We always remain ‘abd!

At the conquest of Makkah, Nabi (sws) said Alhamdulillahil-lazi sadaqa wa’dahu, wa nasar ‘abdahu – Praise is to Allah (swt)  who has fulfilled His promise, granted victory to His slave – he (sws) didn’t enter as  a leader, as a conqueror; he entered as a slave. Even in tashahhud in salah, we attest he (sws) was ‘abd before rasul. Nabi (sws) was Rasulullah, but he acknowledged that he was ‘abd first. We also need to understand this; ‘abd first, engineer second; ‘abd first, doctor second!

True tawhid and ‘ubudiyyah will make us live a life of yaqin (certainty in faith) and tawakkul (reliance on Allah). You cannot invite others to the deen without tawhid and ubudiyyah.  Whatever difficult circumstance might happen, our faith should not decrease if we have true yaqin and tawakkul. In the battle of Ahzab, the disbelievers gathered as a coalition against the believers. This was when they should be fearing the enemy, but how did Allah (swt) mention this in Qur’an:

الَّذِينَ قَالَ لَهُمُ النَّاسُ إِنَّ النَّاسَ قَدْ جَمَعُواْ لَكُمْ فَاخْشَوْهُمْ فَزَادَهُمْ إِيمَاناً وَقَالُواْ حَسْبُنَا اللّهُ وَنِعْمَ الْوَكِيلُ 
those to whom people said, ‘the people have gathered against you; so, fear them’ – it increased them in faith and they said, ‘Allah is fully sufficient for us, and the best One in whom to trust.’ [3:173]

Whenever we face some opposition, maybe from our own nafs, maybe from some creation, maybe from some enemies – do we have the same yaqin and tawakkul? Most people suffer and fall into laziness, apathy, inaction, anxiety, and depression. They don’t even feel like making du’a. Do we only fear Allah (swt)?

فَلاَ تَخْشَوْهُمْ وَاخْشَوْنِي
…so fear them not, but fear Me [2:150]

‘Ulama go through difficulties, people doing relief work go through difficulties; individuals go through difficulties; people of da’wah go through difficulties. This world is a world of test – Allah (swt) wants to see who is the most virtuous in behaviour. This is the world of test and the world of effort. There is the world with no test – that is called akhirah (afterlife).

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ اسْتَعِينُواْ بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلاَةِ إِنَّ اللّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ 
O’ you who believe, seek help with patient perseverance and prayer; for Allah is with those who patiently persevere [2:153]

You must persevere in your good deeds, and you must patiently bear whatever difficulties Allah (swt) sends your way. Allah is with such people. Many times, we aren’t able to do this? Why?

وَاسْتَعِينُواْ بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلاَةِ وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ إِلاَّ عَلَى الْخَاشِعِينَ 
Seek help through patience and prayer. It is indeed exacting, but not for those who are humble in their hearts. [2.45]

Many people have ujub and value themselves as something, and when a difficulty comes to them, they find it extremely difficult to have sabr (patience). One core attribute is to develop this humility in us. If we are humble, we will be able to survive the tests and trials that come our way, otherwise we’ll just panic. These are things we can’t learn in difficulty.

Another attribute we need is taqwa – if we don’t leave sins, we don’t have this feature of ‘ummah’

إِنَّ اللّهَ لاَ يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّى يُغَيِّرُواْ مَا بِأَنْفُسِهِمْ
Surely, Allah does not change the condition of a people unless they change themselves [13:11]

So we need iman, khushu (humility) and taqwa, and this will all enable us to have sabr and salah – and it is then that we will have this balance and equilibrium.

What is a sign of a person truly being a part of the ‘ummah’

Nabi (sws) has said; A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim: he does not oppress him, nor does he fail him, nor does he lie to him, nor does he hold him in contempt. Taqwa is right here, and he pointed to his chest three times. [Muslim Sharif]

1. Don’t oppress anyone.

Taqwa is something internal. It is in the batin – and if we have this, we will never oppress or belittle anyone.

Don’t ever be a zalim (oppressor) – this means husband shouldn’t oppress the wife, and the wife shouldn’t oppress the husband. Children should not oppress their parents and parents should not oppress their children. There should be no zulm! Don’t be an oppressor, and don’t let anyone be oppressed – do something about it if you see someone else being oppressed. As a believer, we should rescue anyone else who is being oppressed.

2. Don’t view anyone with contempt.

Another thing is to not view anyone with contempt. Why don’t people care about the Rohingyas so much; because they are not some sacred ethnic group like Palestinians? Many haven’t even heard of the Rohingyas. Many didn’t even know there were muslims in Burma, Cambodia, Thailand etc. They are abandoned, they have no rescuers, illa masha-Allah. We viewed them as below our notice/time. Why does this happen? It happens when a person has worldly blessing, or they have some religious blessing maybe  – then we start viewing others as haqir (inferior) and faqir (destitute)!

Notice in this hadith of taqwa, there was no mention of anything about leaving sins. It was all about our relationship with others.

We know Allah (swt) has said in Qur’an:

إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ
Surely the noblest of you, in Allah‘s sight, is the one who is most pious of you. [49:13]

إِنْ أَوْلِيَآؤُهُ إِلاَّ الْمُتَّقُونَ
The friends of Allah are none, but the God-fearing. [8:34]

It becomes a fashion for people, that they want to become a wali of Allah, but many think becoming a wali has nothing to do with taqwa. They might think it has to do with wearing certain clothing, listening to a certain amount of nashid, doing certain dhikr. The friends of Allah are none, but the ones with taqwa!

Our pious predecessors would serve the needy, they would help the poor. Yes, they also did a lot of worship and dhikr, and they stayed away from sin – but this was also one of their attributes. They had feelings for ummah. How did islam spread in the subcontinent? Shaykh Moinuddeen Chishti (rh) sat with the poor people, and there were masses of such people who were known to be downtrodden, subdued, powerless etc in society. They were the lowest in terms of caste. He showed them so much compassion, and they accepted Islam. At least we should have a special feeling to do the same, because many of us owe our iman to such people. Half of the ummah is in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh! 600 million Muslims are from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

It’s a joke in our communities, that when someone gets some money, they upgrade their neighbourhood. We leave the people. Someone in the family might get a degree, and then they don’t come back to help their neighbourhood, they hang out with the elite university crowd. Being a believer doesn’t mean default, we are a member of the ummah. It involves a lot of features. How many from the 1.2 billion muslims are actually the ‘ummah’.

Abu Dharr reported Rasulullah (sws) as saying that he reported it from his Lord, the Exalted and Glorious:

‘Verily I have made oppression unlawful for Me and for My servants too, so do not commit oppression.’

Allah (swt) also this in Quran;

لَا ظُلْمَ الْيَوْمَ 
No injustice will there be that Day… [40:17]

This is the way Nabi (sws) made society; a zulm-free society! You support the truth, you help the needy, you serve the needy, you help the oppressed, you serve the oppressed.

Once Nabi (sws) was sitting with some of the sahaba and he tested them. He (sws) said, Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. So the sahaba (ra) asked, O Rasulullah (sws), It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor? Rasulullah (sws) said, By preventing him from oppressing others.

Nabi (sws) liked that Sahaba (ra) asked questions. So there are three aspects here. Firstly, don’t yourself oppress others; secondly, help the oppressed; and thirdly, try to roll back the zulm in the zalim! We have to help the oppressor also!

Nabi karim (sws) had a very different way of thinking; we just brush things under the carpet. Nabi (sws) said you must go to them, and help them!

To show the importance of this, there is another hadith:

It was narrated that ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr said: I saw the Rasulullah (sws) circumambulating the Ka’bah and saying: How good you are and how good your fragrance; how great you are and how great your sanctity! By the One in Whose Hand is the soul of Muhammad, the sanctity of the believer is greater before Allah than your sanctity, his blood and his wealth, and to think anything but good of him.

One dent in one brick of ka’bah! We would drop everything to save even one brick of ka’bah from one dent. That is our passion, emotion and jazbah! One scratch on one believer should be even more offensive to us than even one dent on one brick of ka’bah. K’abah is baytUllah, but ummah is ‘Abd-Allah! Forget scratch, slaughter, mass murder is happening. Burma is the lowest we can go. Burma is a backwards third world country; they are not even a superpower- even the Burmese army are slaughtering Muslims. This is how low we have become; we are not an ummah anymore.

It comes in another hadith:

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Rasulullah (sws) said, Verily, Allah, the Exalted, and Glorious will say on the Day of Resurrection: ‘O’ son of Adam, I was ill but you did not visit Me.’ He would say: ‘O my Rabb, how could I visit you and You are the Rabb of the worlds?’ Thereupon He would say: ‘Did you not know that such and such a slave of Mine was ill but you did not visit him? Did you not realize that if you had visited him (you would have known that I was aware of your visit to him, for which I would reward you) you would have found Me with him?’

Look at how strongly Allah (swt) expresses. Sickness is a natural thing. Imagine oppression.

‘O’ son of Adam, I asked food from you but you did not feed Me.’ He would submit: ‘My Rabb, how could I feed You and You are the Rabb of the worlds?’ He would say: ‘Did you not know that such and such a slave of Mine asked you for food but you did not feed him? Did you not realize that if you had fed him, you would certainly have found (its reward) with Me?’ 

Hunger is still less than oppression…

O’ son of Adam, I asked water from you but you did not give it to Me.’ He would say: ‘My Rabb, how could I give You (water) and You are the Rabb of the worlds?’ Thereupon He would say: ‘Such and such a slave of Mine asked you for water to drink but you did not give it to him. Did you not realize that if you had given him to drink you would have found (its reward) with Me?’

It shows us how much compassion we should have; we fall into israf (extravagance). How much we waste is amazing. Even when we go for umrah, we waste there. Many are blessed to fast Monday and Thursdays, but even there, many roll up so much good food after iftar. There is some extreme poverty in Muslim parts of the world. In another hadith, Nabi (sws) has mentioned;

Whoever relieves a Muslim of a burden from the burdens of the world, Allah will relieve him of a burden from the burdens on the Day of Judgement. And whoever helps ease a difficulty in the world, Allah will grant him ease from a difficulty in the world and in the Hereafter. And whoever covers (the faults of) a Muslim, Allah will cover (his faults) for him in the world and the Hereafter. And Allah (swt) is engaged in helping the worshiper as long as the worshiper is engaged in helping his brother.

This also could mean, as long as he doesn’t help his brother, then he is in danger Allah will stop helping him. Sometimes, we have to look at the simple things. Normally we discuss spiritual topics, but sometimes it is important to remember that it is not only about our own ibadah etc, it is also about our own ummah.

Practical steps

Begin with those who are closest to you – spouse, siblings, children, neighbours, friends. We fail right here. We fail with our spouses. Your wife is also part of ‘ummah’. Children and parents is also ummah. If you aren’t good at home, how can you be good to the global ummah. Begin close, and Allah swt will accept us for far.

May Allah (swt) accept this from us.

وَآَخِرُ دَعْوَانَا أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

Marriage Workshop – Session II

[These are brief notes from the second session of Marriage Workshop conducted by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed] [Session I]

Importance of love between Husband and Wife

Allah (swt) has put love of women in every man’s heart, it can be either lawful or unlawful. If you want your heart to have pure love for a woman, it should already have love for Allah (swt) and His Prophet (sws). Such a heart will find it very easy to love his wife. The heart lacking in the Allah’s love and Prophet’s (sws) love will find it difficult to have love for that which is pure.

First example of love illa mashaAllah that a child sees is between husband and wife (parents). Children learn about love from the love they see in the family. The family without love is raising a child without love. We are doing injustice to them if we don’t show them love. What kind of people will they become when they grow up? Science tells us what happens to children who come from broken homes; they don’t trust love because they have never seen it.

Once a child was asked what is love? The child said, there was an elderly couple that lived across from my street. When I stopped seeing the old lady around, I asked the old man about her. He began to cry because she had passed away. Child said that maybe this is what they call love. Children can recognize true love. Allah (swt) has given them that ability so they can be raised recognizing that love.

Imam Rabbani (rh) has mentioned a strange thing. He said that a woman is the ultimate manifestation of Al-Dahir (apparent). Al Dahir refers to his creation. And Al Batin (hidden) refers to that which He knows Himself the best. A woman is the manifestation because most beauty in Dahir is in a woman. There’s no beauty like the beauty of a woman. Allah (swt) decreed that the greatest beauty He has created should at times be revealed and at times be concealed, like revealed in front of mahram and concealed in front of na mehram. A woman should understand it this way that I am the manifestation of ism-e-dahir of Allah (swt), how can I show my beauty to just anyone?

So Allah (swt) has placed love for women inside the hearts of the men. Khyr there are so many stories of love, were we to mention, of so much love that the husband and wife can have for one another. We will give you one example.

Story of Umm Sulaim (ra)

There was a Sahabiya her name was Umm Sulaim (ra). Her husband was a tradesman. When she was expecting and was near to delivery, her husband had to leave due to urgent work. When she gave birth, her baby boy passed away a few hours before the return of the father. Umm Sulaim (ra) thought that I don’t want to hurt him just now, instead of being happy about coming back home he will be devastated. So she wrapped the child in a blanket to make it seem like he was sleeping. She adorned her beauty and said Alhamdulillah Allah (swt) blessed us with a baby boy and he is resting. Imagine that woman being intimate with the husband when her dead baby boy is lying a few feet away and she is still being loving and kind to her husband.

This is also a mujahida. It’s not always about your mood and feelings. Mujahida is to go against your nafs. It’s a tremendous tragedy. In the morning the woman asked the husband if Allah (swt) entrusts a person with something, and a time comes to return it, should the person return it with grief or joy? AllahuAkbar these are called Sahabiyaat. What a woman, what a mother, what a person! (Ra).. only Allah (swt) can give her reward for this. The husband (ra) was sad when he got to know, so he went to Sydna Rasool Allah (sws) and told him (sws) everything. He (sws) gave so many duas to Umm Sulaim (ra). She got the greatest of duas, the couple had so much barakah after that, they conceived 9 sons, and each one of them became Aaima.

Spiritual aspect of Marriage

Then Allah (swt) in Quran al Kareem has taught us that this love between husband and wife is not just in this world, but eternal.

Enter into Paradise, you and your wives, with delight. [43:70]

Scholars have written some people will also go to jannah because of the barakah of their pious spouse. Marriage is a very delicate topic. I’m myself a husband in progress. We try to do amal. We don’t just want to listen, we have to come and leave with the intention of amal. We have to live with all the hidaya.

Reflecting on the Khutbah of Nikkah

Why did Prophet (sws) pick out these three verses for the khutbah of nikkah?

You would have noticed that the tilawah that is recited in khutbah of nikkah has the word taqwah: taqwah means to abstain from sin because you fear Allah the way He should be feared, and also out of love for Him. These three ayats for the khutbah means that one of the things we need for a successful marriage is taqwah.

O humanity! You should have fear for Your Rabb who created you from a single cell and from it created its mate (Amma Hawwa) and from them propagated all of the human race. You should fear Allah (swt), that Allah (swt) by whom you ask (your rights) from one another. [4:1]

In nikkah, we invoke Allah (swt) to make man and a woman husband and wife. So we ask in the name of Allah (swt) when we ask our spouse for anything.

You who believe, you should fear Allah. [4:1]

Fear Allah (swt) as He deserves to be feared. Ya Allah! Having taqwah was hard enough. Doing haqq of taqwah, you can imagine, is so difficult. Imagine how delicate and precious this relationship is.

And die not except in the state of Imaan. [3:102]

It means if you don’t fear Allah (swt) in regards of your spouse then your very imaan and deen is in danger. Your deen is dependent on it. Allah (swt) wants these verses to be recited every time there is a nikkah.

O you who believe! You should have  imaan in Allah (swt) and you should always speak the truth. [33:70]

Husband and wife should always be truthful, they must always have the correct speech. If you fear Allah and out of fear speak truthfully to your spouse, then:

He will make your aimaal saleh, and will forgive you for all of your sins. [33:70]

Being happily married isn’t just on this earth. Allah (swt) says it’s going to be a means of your maghfira (salvation), sakoon (tranquility), muwwada (tender love), all of that.

And whoever obeys Allah (swt) and the Prophet (sws), he has gained a signal victory. [33:71]

If a person does this, Allah al Azeem is saying in Quran al Azeem, you will get magnificent success and joy. They will get jannatul firdous. Scholars say it cannot be anything less than jannatul firdous.

Taqwah: How to get that fear?

Has not the time come for the believers that their (spiritual) hearts should have fear for Allah (swt) whenever they do dhikr of Allah (swt), and for what has been revealed as truth? [57:16]

So one lesson here is that when you do dhikr of Allah (swt) or His dhikr is done in front of you, you should have fear of Allah (swt) in your heart.

Second thing you should know is that the fear of Allah (swt) can save a person from sin. Love cannot save a person from sin. Proof from Quran:

But as for he who feared the position of his Lord and prevented the soul from [unlawful] inclination [79:40]

Many people think that Allah swt is Rehman so we should not fear Him. Allah swt says:

The one who feared the Rahman (The All-Merciful Allah), without seeing Him, and came up with a heart oriented towards Him. [50:33]

That the person who fears Al Rehman when no one else is around: that wife will be loyal, that husband will be loyal who fears Allah swt even in seclusion.

This fear of Allah (swt) should also be inside our salah. We think that okay inside salah we should not sin. But inside salah we should also fear Allah swt. Can you imagine that Allah swt who tells us to fear Him in salah, can you imagine how much He would want us to fear Him when we are outside our salah?

Fearing husband and a fearing wife they are a true couple.

This fear doesn’t mean we are afraid in the same way we are afraid of a snake or something dangerous. It’s a fear borne out of love. Fearing that I will not be loved back by my Beloved if I do this thing.

6 types of crying accepted and valued by Allah (swt)

  • A person who sheds tears in hard times. Due to the museebat, they are moved to tears. These are real tears of mazloomeen; of people of Sham, of Palestine, etc.
  • When someone is separated from someone they love for the sake of Allah swt. Greatest example of this is when Syedna Yousaf (as) was separated from his father.
  • When someone is moved to tears by recitation.
  • The tears that are shed in the yearning and love for Allah (swt). Like when someone wish someone could go for hajj.
  • Tears of shukr (gratefulness). When a person is given something and they are so happy that tears of shukr comes out of their eyes.
  • Tears of khauf and khashiya. Tears out of fear of Allah (swt). It comes in a hadith (mafhoom) that a person will come to Allah (swt) and his deeds will be weighed and the scale of his good deeds will start going up and the scale of bad deeds will be so heavy that he will lose all hope. At this point a small piece of paper will be thrown in the scale of good deeds such that the scale will outweigh all of the bad deeds. That paper will have just one deed written on it: a time when that person had cried out of fear of Allah (swt) such that the tear had only wet one of his eyelashes.

Different levels of khashiya

Hope first that hadith is: O Allah, allocate to us a share of fear of You that will serve as a barrier between us and disobedience towards You. [at Tirmidhi]

  1. Fear of the awwamun naas (average people): Fear of punishment of Allah swt. That is the punishment of the fear of fire of Jahannam. All believers have that but some only have that and nothing more.
  2. Fear of saliheen (the pious): In addition to fear of punishment, they fear that we haven’t done enough. They are saliheen that what if I haven’t done enough for Allah swt? What if I fall short on the Day of judgement?
  3. Fear of siddiqeen (the truthful):In addition to the first two fears, they also fear that what if the aimaal that I have done are not worthy of being accepted by Allah (swt)? What if they are not maqbool?
  4. Fear of the nabiyyeen (the prophets (as)): All anbiya were afraid of Allah (swt). The were afraid of the beniyazi of Allah swt. The istighna of Allah swt. What if Allah (swt) simply says I don’t want you. I don’t need you. I accepted your aimaal e saleh. But I don’t want you. Nabiyyeen knew, they had the knowledge, that it won’t happen, but love exceeds knowledge. Imagine a newly-wed bride with everyone praising her, but she starts crying. She says all of you think I have these qualities but what if my husband doesn’t love me? What if he doesn’t accept me or want me?

The first step to launch on the journey of taqwah is through taubah. Make true taubah. We cannot land on taqwah directly. Those who are married, make taubah for all sins you did to your spouse. Those who are not yet married, make taubah for being such a daughter/son. Make taubah collectively. After your first step, then you have to keep moving. This is called tazkiya. So the person must keep taking steps and try to fit in some extra ibaadah in your daily regimen:

  • Daily recitation of Quran. If a passage is too much for you, recite less, but make sure you recite everyday even if it’s just one ayah.
  • Make istighfar everyday 100 times (sunnah)
  • Recite durood and salawat on syedna Rasool Allah (sws) 100 times.
  • Remember Allah swt. You can only fear Him if you remember Him.

How to get dhikr e katheer [remembrance of Allah (swt)]? Two steps:

  1. Try to remember Allah swt in your daily mundane tasks. Keep thinking thoughts, and keep reminding yourself to think thoughts, and remind the heart to have feelings for Allah swt and keep doing it for thousands of times a day.
  2. Do dhikr of Allah swt inside yourself. Take some time out to remember Allah swt with full concentration such that you forget everything else.And remember the name of your Lord, and devote yourself to Him with exclusive devotion.  [73:8]So we make dhikr of Allah’s name in such a way that you forget everything else.

وَآَخِرُ دَعْوَانَا أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

Marriage Workshop – Session I

[These are brief notes from the first session of Marriage Workshop conducted by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed]

What does a woman want

If you divert your attention and only listen to her half-heartedly, she would know. That’s not respect. That’s disrespectful. The wife feels like I’m his life companion, here I’m sharing my thoughts with him and he’s not even listening to me. So she gets upset and frustrated. And she’s right in doing so. That’s her taqwah that she keeps talking to you. If you don’t listen to her there will be someone else out there willing to lend her the ear. You can fill in the rest of the blanks yourself.

Just like a man feels that the wife is not fulfilling me, the woman can feel the same way. The husband should be a means of bringing her to good. Scolding your wife in front of the children is disrespectful. One thing is to reprimand her, and one is to do it disrespectfully. You can make her understand. But if you do it disrespectfully she will only feel hurt. Sometimes the husband does it in a bragging way. It means he is flattering himself by hurting his wife’s heart. He is showing that he is the man and can talk to her in front of others like that.

The woman’s emotional need is devotion. She wants his devotion. How do you express your devotion? Expressing devotion means you give her priority. If you pick up her phone on 1st ring, she would acknowledge it as a sign of devotion. If there’s a problem, instead of beating about the bush, you can just tell her clearly that I’m busy at such and such time etc. But she needs to feel she is not at the bottom of the priority list.

Husband should never say: I’ll find someone better than you.

What does a man want

A husband wants support from his wife. He needs emotional support. When he makes a decision, he doesn’t want her to second guess him. He needs her to support him even if the decision is wrong. He doesn’t need you to tell him that you can’t do anything right. He already has too many people against him. He needs support in how to get out of that blunder. Saying you don’t do anything right is like kicking the man when he’s down. You don’t know what that support means to him. That’s when you should bring your co-operative side. When he’s down bring in your support.

Wife should never ever say: You don’t do anything right. If you criticize your husband like that he will automatically turn away from you.

The husband wants that his wife should accept him. The job of husband is to change for the better, the job of the woman is to accept him as he is. We are not talking about haram stuff. But generally the certain way he does things, maybe he’s not the most handsome, refined person to walk the face of this earth. The same way wife feels he should accept her, the same way the wife should accept him. Many good wives are exactly precisely like this with their husbands.

A husband wants the wife to emotionally praise him. Especially in front of her own parents. You are mistaken if you think he doesn’t have emotional needs. He will never ask you for it. But he needs it. If a woman communicates to me for help and all she does is complain then I turn my ears off – there’s something wrong there. Wife should never be all complaining and never praising. Once I even asked is there anything good? And she said no! Never be all complaining.

This is also a kind of gheebah. You should not say my husband did this. If you sincerely want advice say what if a man does this or this? That woman who doesn’t complain behind her husband’s back, won’t do it in front of him either. If you do it in front of them then he knows you will do it behind his back also. Men know this.

Never to be Second Guessed
When it comes to children, sometimes the men will enter into the realm of the wife. The wife should never second guess the husband. If he tries to get involved with the kids, don’t stop him, don’t laugh at him. You can observe silently and wait and talk to him later. That will also give you a more relaxed tone. It would not become an unwelcomed comment.

Sometimes a man wants to embark on something good but he’s a little bit unsure. The role of the wife is if she feels this is best for his akhira, she needs to encourage him to that deed, she needs to play the famous role of the woman behind him.

DON’T treat one another the way you want to be treated

The wife makes the mistake that she treats the husband the way she wants to be treated. He is not a woman! This golden rule does not apply when there is a gender difference! Fulfill his male emotional needs, not female emotional needs! Same for men: don’t treat your wife the way you want to be treated. If there’s a car that runs on gas, and you put diesel in it, it won’t work.

Mistake a man makes

Husband does not spend enough exclusive time with his wife. You have to make time out to sit with your wife, alone, separate from the joint family. Sunnah: take her out for a walk. Because a woman needs her own dedicated time when the husband sits, eats, talks to her.

Mistake a woman makes

If the husband makes a decision she doesn’t agree with, she doesn’t follow it. If you live in a country and there is a law you don’t agree with, you still have to follow it. You have to follow it even if you don’t agree. This has a lot of barakah in it.

Sometimes women get overly suspicious of the husband. She doesn’t believe anything he says. She starts denying and spying. Can you imagine the effect it can have on a person? How will the investigation affect him if he is innocent? How will he feel about those who make those charges against him?

Husband makes the mistake that he becomes overly possessive of his wife. Not talking about cases when someone is guilty, there the spouse has to be cautious. Once there was a case of a fellow married man in UK. He imprisoned his wife at home. She was literally locked in the house. He made sure the home was stocked with food and other requirements but the woman could not leave the house for a long period of time. The result was that the marriage fell apart. That was the husband being overly possessive. This is if the wife is innocent. She couldn’t even call her own mother. Even the husband attested to this that she was completely innocent.

Example of Misunderstanding
Once some children were talking with mother and had a disagreement. They were asking whether to do something this way or that way. Husband walks in and he doesn’t know the wife had already told the kids to do A. Husband says do it B way. Wife gets upset. This is completely unreasonable! This shows a lack of respect.

Example of Respecting One’s Wife
Once Syedna Rasool Allah sws was travelling with Safiya ra, in a wedding procession she couldn’t climb on the camel. Prophet sws went there and asked her to step on his sws thigh and then step on the camel. This is a way of respect. If Syedna Rasool Allah sws can offer his body then why can’t we do something like this for our wife?

Example of Devotion to the Wife
Syedna Rasool Allah sws married ummul momineen Syedna Khadija ra when he was 25. For so many years of his life, he was a one-woman man. This is also a sunnah that you have to do. Women need to be deprogrammed. They need to stop accepting this! What would you love for your own daughter? Love for your wife what you would love for your own daughter. The women are young they don’t understand this. This is a big problem in UK.

So after marriage, Syedna Rasool Allah sws married Syedna Aisha ra and loved her so much. Then Khadija’s ra sister came and he (sws) heard her voice and said Aisha Aisha its Khadija’s voice! She asked him (sws) later why were you so happy when you thought it was her voice? He (sws) replied Aisha she was with me when everyone was against me. Allah has put so much love for her in my heart there is nothing you can do to take it away from me. This is the sunnah devotion. Syedna Rasool Allah sws gave so much devotion to his (sws) wife.

Example of Accepting Husband the Way He is
Prophet’s (sws) daughter Zainab ra was married to a non-believer before the manifestation of naboowat. During migration, Zainab ra did not migrate to Madina and lived with her husband. She wanted to go to Madina, wanted him to accept imaan but she showed him that I accept you the way you are. She offered her mother’s necklace to free her kafir husband who had gone out on badr to kill prophet (sws)! (He (ra) later accepted Islam after Zainab (ra) passed away).

Example of Praising the Husband
Syedna Aisha ra once told Prophet (sws) that you (sws) are more dear to me than butter and dates.

Example of Support
When Syedna Fatima ra and Syedna Ali ra were really poor, one day they made some simple basic food for iftar. Syedna Ali ra gave all the food to a beggar but wife didn’t say anything.

Easy and simple way is to make your life the sunnah way. That’s easy. Making point by point notes is difficult and is the long way. The more and more husband and wife follow sunnah, the more their marriage will become successful.

Investment and communication
Example of investment is like a gardener. When a gardener puts seed in the ground he is always putting water and fertilizer to nurture it. No one else knows. People trample the seed with their food. But he keeps caring for the seed because he has faith in it. Then when the seed sprouts, he puts a stick and trims the leaves. The more and more he invests time in it, the more and more he can bear fruit and flowers from it. The couple is the co-care-takers and gardeners of the seed of marriage.

Husband and wife also have to learn the body language of the marriage. The gardener can look at the color of leaves and shape can tell that something is going wrong. Sometimes husband and wife are not able to read one another’s body language. Sometimes they can’t say too many words. Ideally, be so much tuned into the needs of your spouse that you understand what they want even before they talk about it. This can also happen. But that’s up to us if we want to give that level attention. Husband also sometimes doesn’t understand the signals or expressions of the wife.

Hadith: Story of 11 women 

Once 11 women got together for a gathering and a meal. Each one of them said today we will talk about our husbands openly and clearly! This is the gist of it:

  1. My husband is like the camel on top of the mountain. There is no easy path (to climb up to him) and he is heavy and fat (doesn’t come down). [They are talking in symbols.]
  2. I’m not going to spread the news, what if he leaves me? [She didn’t say anything but said a lot with this statement. Shows her insecurity.]
  3. If I speak, he will give me a divorce, if I keep quiet then he will keep me [he is short-tempered and my only solution is to not say anything].
  4. He is like the cool spring night but I’m still afraid of him [She felt comfortable with him but at the same time he still had his jalal]
  5. He is like a lion on the outside, but he is generous on the inside. [Very strong personality, but very soft and generous in house].
  6. My husband eats all the food and drinks all the water, he drools when he sleeps and doesn’t even inquire about his partner.
  7. Either astray, and wounds people easily [he argues a lot and hurts others].
  8. Soft like a rabbit and fragrant like summer grass [very handsome and fragrant]
  9. Very tall and very generous [well-known and people would come to him for advice].
  10. My husband is maalik and he is beyond any praise.
  11. My husband’s name is Abu Zara and he has pleased me and I have become so happy that I feel proud of myself. My children are also very nice. [End of story is that Abu Zara ends up leaving his wife. She gets married for the second time, she says he still gave me more than the 2nd husband has ever given me].

Lessons from the hadith

a. Women speak in symbols. They have a symbolic language and men sometimes need to read between the lines.

b. A woman needs the assurance that you will never divorce her. It’s a sunnah way of saying, I will keep you like a queen and I will never ever divorce you.

What Women Say and What They Mean

We never ever go out: Husband will say we just went out a month ago! Actually she means symbolically. She never speaks literally. She means I need some time to go out of the house. Don’t treat her words on face value. She means take me out. You need a translator for this.

Everyone ignores me: Husband says I don’t ignore you! That is not the answer. It means I need your attention now. She means you have gotten so involved in everything I don’t know when you are coming and when you are going. She means don’t spend too much time on work.

This house is always a mess: Husband says not always. She means I want you to make it tidy NOW.

Nobody ever listens to me: Husband says I listen to you… sometimes! It means listen to me NOW. This is called melodramatic behavior, no offence to women. This is a tendency in women. That’s the way they are. She is not giving factual historical statements. She means I like spending time with you. I miss spending time with you. If the husband could translate that he would be happy to know this.

There’s no point in me saying anything anymore: Different husbands will give different reactions to this (laughs). What she means is that it’s not your words that will help me, it’s your actions that will help me. I don’t want your words I want your love.

What Men Say and What They Mean

Give me some space I don’t want to talk: That’s what they mean. In some sense this is a sunnah of Syedna Rasool Allah sws. We want to escape and go into khalwa (solitude) during stressful situations. Example, Prophet sws used to go to Mount Hira. Men are like turtles, they retreat into their shells.

Men have their own way of dealing with this. Women have their own way, she says don’t go away, be here with me, I need to talk about it. Man needs time and she doesn’t understand his need for space. She starts probing and she starts thinking what’s going on. Then shaytan tries to answer for her. Whenever you ask the question that what’s going on? Shaytaan will answer for you, maybe he is having an affair etc. Then she insists even more forcefully. Maybe he just genuinely needed that time. Instead of drawing him into conversation, turn to Allah swt and make dua for him and make ruju to Allah swt.

When woman is upset she starts global broadcasting. She broadcasts it to anyone tuned into her channel. This is the complete opposite way of dealing with stress. A man consoles himself by dealing with grief individually.

Similarly, men should not say to women deal with your grief on your own, stop telling anyone, stop complaining, stop whining. She is going to share her grief. The man should give the wife the ear she needs. He should say, broadcast it to me! Share it with me. I should be the first one you should share it with.

Responsibilities of men

Allah swt has put certain responsibilities on both men and women. Spouse should understand this that these responsibilities need to be fulfilled!

Earning rizq-e-halal. The wife needs to understand and give him space for these responsibilities. Sometimes he may not pick up the phone. Deal with it.

Caring of parents. This is the Haq of mother over him. It’s a responsibility he has to fulfill. He simply must DO it. Sometimes these rights will make him spend time out of the home longer. Sometimes it will be out of his control.

Huqooq Allah. There are some things that he MUST do. He must go to masjid to offer salah. Yes you could say that I know you were chatting with friends after maghrib, come home early . But you cannot say don’t go to the masjid at all.

There are also some types of worship that are not a must do. But some men need to do them. They need it for their own salvation. Like sometimes he has to be in good company, getting ilm of deen and spending time in dhikr. All nafal ibaadah I’m calling it dhikr here. A person does dhikr in two sense.

One is for spiritual purification to stay away for sin that is fard.

Then there is another dhikr that is to get closer to Allah swt it’s strongly recommended, but it is not fard. But if husband feels its keeping him away from sin then it becomes wajib for him.

Men should remember to have a balance in these activities with the family. Give and take. Sometimes you have to be away to be with dawah or to be with the shaykh. Sometimes you have to take away time and give it to family. But it has to be give and take on both on both sides. Wife should realize that he needs it. And especially if it makes him better at deen. The more he will be better at deen, the better husband he will become.

Responsibilities of women

Haqooq Allah. Let her fulfill all of her faraid and wajibat. Sometimes it happens that the woman has not yet prayed her isha, let her pray isha. Have sabr, don’t put her in that situation that it becomes difficult for her to pray it.

Haqooq ul ibaad. Children have rights over her too. If the child wants to sleep with her, the man should let the child sleep with her. It’s her duty and she must fulfill it. Her parents also have rights over her. Going to her parents’ home and spending time with siblings etc. within a reason and certain level is also haqooq ul ibaad.

Managing the house.  I’m saying this openly that this is the woman’s job. Woman’s responsibility is managing that. If she needs to do something for the house you need to give her space for that.

A woman needs taqwah as much as men. But she can take less time out for that. If she can do it online then husband should be more lenient with her that you are not going anywhere and the children are also with you. The husband should be more accommodating in these things. If she feels she doesn’t feel anything in prayer, my tongue gets into backbiting then, it’s also wajib for her to engage in religious pursuits that will curtail these sins.

Cont’d in Session II 

Maktubat-e-Rabbani Session 2

[These are the rough notes from the second session of the workshop conducted by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed (db) in UK, in 2011] [Notes of Session 1]

[Audio is available here]

Purpose of Tasawwuf in this Day & Age vs. in Previous Times

After one has acquired the right beliefs and subjected oneself to the rules of Shari’ah, one should, if Allah swt wills, enter the path of tasawwuf. What does this mean? At the time of Imam Rabbani rah, tasawwuf was, in some sense, different from what it is today. Today tasawwuf serves a bit of a different function, in other words tasawwuf has an additional function today.

In his time tasawwuf was viewed as something for people who were already strong in their imaan and had the proper aqaid of imaan, were already observing faraidh and wajibat, had already subjected themselves to the Shari’ah and if they wanted they would be involved in tasawwuf. And for them love for ghaiullah simply meant love for fame and popularity, just like Imam Ghazali rah writes in his letter From Skeptical Doubt to Certain Conviction, which we had covered in an earlier course.

Imam Ghazali rah had left his teachings not because he was doing any sin. He was not engaged in anything that was haram. He had not failed to do anything that was fard or wajib. He did it because he wanted something even greater. And he felt embarrassed that he was not able to do that, that is why he left and joined the path of tasawwuf, and later returned to teaching. That is a whole separate discussion.

In this day and age, it has been felt by the mashaikh of tasawwuf that since the past 100 or 200 years, the same method of taking out love for the world, putting in love for Allah swt that enables a person who has already been staying away from sins and doing the fard and wajib, to reach a higher level of closeness to Allah swt, the same love for Allah swt actually helps the people who are sinners; who have not yet subjected themselves to the rules of Shari’ah; who are still engaged in lust, in greed and in envy; who are still not regular or consistent in their faraid and wajibat, and they want to make that journey to leave all the haram and prohibited and disliked things and start all the faraid and wajibat. The mashaikh felt the tasawwuf was extremely helpful in the latter also.

Just like we shared in a talk on last Thursday, which some of you may have listened to, that my own experience of 17 years with tasawwuf is that most people have fallen into sins that can only be cured by love for Allah swt. Because most people have fallen into those type of sins, that is why tasawwuf in this day and age is beneficial not only after one has subjected oneself to the rules of Shari’ah, but actually to enable a person to subject themselves to the rules of Shari’ah.

What Imam Rabbani rah meant here (when he mentioned that tasawwuf is optional) was not simply tazkiyah – it was not purification from sin. That starts at the outset. He meant the higher pursuits of tasawwuf: longer dhikr, longer nawafil, more ibadat, not living in abject poverty but really simple living, when should a person do those type of things?

That a person should do when they have already subjected themselves to rule of the Shari’ah; when they have firmly established the faraid and wajibat, and even then by saying InshaAllah – if Allah wills – he is making it clear that this is still nafl at that level.

The first level i.e. getting that love for Allah swt that will help you stay away from sin, getting that level of love for Allah swt that makes you consistent in Salah, that is fard. That is not optional. The other higher level is actually optional, it is nafl. The higher level should be done if the person is already following faraid and wajibat, and that they already have the proper aqeedah and imaan.

When one peruses this path, it should not be done to get something over and above the beliefs and practices of Shari’ah. There is nothing extra that you are going to get once a person is already on Shari’ah. Now the question may arise if the person is already on the rules of Shari’ah, then why would they need tasawwuf?

You need it to get those feelings i.e. to know in detail what you already know in brief; to feel nearness to Allah swt. As Allah swt says in Qur’an:

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

Or in the Hadith Qudsi that was mentioned earlier that a person draws near to Allah swt through faraid, and then draws even nearer through nawafil. When a person wants that qurb of Allah swt, wants the ma’iyyat from Allah swt, wants love for Allah swt, they would go into this. But that also is not something new. That is a part of deen. That is in the same guidance of Qur’an and Sunnah.

The purpose of following the path of tasawwuf, I prefer to use this term rather than “sufi way”, is to gain yaqeen in the object of faith that cannot be weakened by the doubts of a skeptic, or shaken by the remarks of an objector. It means to have Imaan in Allah swt, that is done, now I want so much yaqeen in Allah swt that if you lock me up with a 100,000 atheists for a 100,000 years, I will never even have one doubt.

Compare that to our young men and women who study in universities. I have had hundreds of emails (with such questions), or thousands probably over the years. It does not mean they are in a state of kufr, they are in a state of imaan, they do believe in Allah swt but do they have doubts? Are they skeptical about a particular verse or a hadith? Definitely they are.

If you look at it in that sense, this is another reason why tasawwuf in this day and age is needed especially amongst the university graduates and further educated people. Because they have exposed themselves to secular, liberal, atheist epistemologies which guise themselves in humanism, and then a person gets confused.

One of the goals of tasawwuf is to get that same imaan. You will not get anything new. But to increase the quality and strength of our imaan we need something called yaqeen.

The conviction found in arguments is not firm. Interestingly, this is exactly the same thing that Imam al-Ghazali rah has said; that imaan which you have in Allah swt which is based on arguments, is not firm.

Many times people ask questions, and yes, we will give you the answers. Because what you get in the answers, it will put you on a firmer footing than what you are already on. The person who is suffering from doubts and skepticism, when you give them an argument, you put them on a firmer footing. And then when you bring them to tasawwuf, you put them on an even firmer footing.

So there is a need for ilm, there is a need for the ulema to answer the questions on free-will and all of those things. There is a need for aqeedah, there is a need for kalam, there is a need for all of that. Because that would put a person on a firmer footing than what they are already on.

However, to go on an even firmer footing, a person needs tasawwuf; a person needs to experience Allah swt; he needs to experience the meanings of all those ayahs in Qur’an; he needs to experience the meanings of the Hadith and Sunnah. He quotes an ayah from the Qur’an:

أَلَا بِذِڪۡرِ ٱللَّهِ تَطۡمَٮِٕنُّ ٱلۡقُلُوبُ
Listen, the hearts find peace only in the remembrance of Allah. [13:28]

That know it is only, and only through the dhikr of Allah swt, and only is there in Arabic, alaa is what we call a kalimatu tanbeeh. It means be well-aware. Bi zikrillah is what we call harf e muqaddam, [8:00] . That is where you get the only. It is in the grammatical construct. Be well-aware and informed, that only and only in the dhikr of Allah swt do the spiritual hearts find peace and tranquillity.

It means that the highest level of it’minaan can only be gotten from zikrillah. That is what Allah swt is saying in the Qur’an. Yes, there is a level of it’minaan you get when you get the answer. If you are confused about something, you ask somebody, you go through an aqeedah course, kalam course, you get a certain level of it’minaan. But if you want the highest level of it’minaan, that only comes through the dhikr of Allah swt.

He says that this is the object of the way of tareeqah and tasawwuf regarding belief. In terms of imaan what is tasawwuf trying to do? It is bringing a person to yaqeen. Regarding action, ‘amaal and ‘amaalu saleh, what is the purpose of tasawwuf? The purpose of tasawwuf is to make it easy and spontaneous such that you do not find it difficult.

If I say pray 20 raka’at, you would find it easy. If I say recite 1 juz, you would find it easy. If I say make du’a for 10 minutes, you would find it easy. If I say do a nafl fast, you would find it easy. Rather than spontaneous, a better word would be self-willed, you are doing these acts from your own initiative.

You do not need a huge bayan to make you do a nafl fast. You do not need a huge bayan to convince you to do 10 minutes of istighfar a day. You have your own initiative, your own energy, your own power, your own internal battery’s charged to remove your sluggishness and laziness.

We are lazy in our ibadah. We are lazy in our faraidh of Fajr and Isha. Or when we do pray them, inside we are lazy about them. We are happy when we are done. Literally, this is the state of our prayer that when we are done we are so happy and relieved that now we can sit down and comfortably surf for 2 hours, sleep late, and then miss our Fajr. This is our state.

To subdue the nafs is also a big aim of tasawwuf; to subdue the nafs, to put it in chains, to beat it into submission, to destroy the nafs e ammara. You will always have a nafs, but the nafs e ammara needs to be completely destroyed.

Things that are not the Aim and Goal of Tasawwuf

After outlining what the purpose of tasawwuf is, and again this is ain e deen, it is completely a part of the hidayah of Qur’an and Sunnah. It is a way to get and live that hidayah. Then Imam Rabbani rah makes it clear what is not the goal of tasawwuf. Likewise, the purpose of the path of tasawwuf is not to seek forms and images of transcendental realities. That I want to see the forms of the angels or I want to have dreams of the Prophets.

These things may happen to some people, no doubt, and if it does happen to someone, that person may feel tremendously blessed by Allah swt. For example, to see Nabi sws in a dream. But that is not the object. A person does not worship Allah swt for that. Remember the object was uboodiyah; we worship as we are slaves.

This is what we would call in urdu be-gharaz. In English this would mean with no expectations, no entitlement, we do not deserve anything. We are not trying to earn anything. We are slaves because that is what we are; slave without pay. That is what a slave is, otherwise it would be called an employee.

Employee is not the word selected by Allah swt in Arabic. He knew what a slave was. Slave is someone who does things which the master tells him to do without any remuneration, or any compensation, without any reward.

That is a separate thing that Allah swt has promised us a reward in Jannah. But our being a slave would mean we will do it anyway. That is the level of yaqeen that if Allah swt, just saying, Allah swt would never ever say that, but let’s suppose that Allah swt says that I have decided forget Jannah, that when you die you would just be disintegrated in the earth, you would still pray. That is what it means.

You would still do everything even if the promise of the reward was for some reason taken back from you. You would still live your life according to the wish and will and pleasure of Allah swt, for however long you have to.

To behold colours and lights, that is not the purpose of Tasawwuf. That I was doing dhikr, and I saw this colour, or I was doing dhikr and I saw this light. People say that. Now they maybe mentioning it because they saw it, but that should not be the purpose. How do you know seeing lights has become your purpose?

You would want to see it. You would think I heard so and so saw light, I also want to the light. Why don’t I see the lights? What is wrong with the way I am doing dhikr? There is nothing wrong with the way you are doing dhikr. If the dhikr is not changing your life and not bringing it closer to Shari’ah and Sunnah, then you can ask what is wrong with my dhikr.

You should not write in the e-mail that what is wrong with my dhikr because I don’t see the lights. You should write that what is wrong with my dhikr because I still cannot get up for Fajr.

The way you check the quality of your dhikr is not inside your dhikr. The quality and success of your dhikr is going to be checked outside of your dhikr. Is your life getting closer to Qur’an and Shari’ah? Then your dhikr is okay. It is going wonderfully. It does not matter if you are not feeling or seeing anything. It is going beautifully.

If your life outside of dhikr is still the same way it was, you maybe feeling something in the dhikr, you maybe feeling it honestly and genuinely, but it is not a good dhikr. Don’t you remember that Nabi sws made a dua for ilm: O Allah, I seek ilm from you, the ilm that benefits. I seek refuge from You from the ilm that does not benefit.

Just like that in dhikr we should make dua: O Allah, I want the dhikr that benefits. And I may have dhikr, just like I may have ilm. I maybe a person who has ilm but I do not follow it. I does not meant that I do not have the ilm, I do have it, but it is not benefiting me.

Just like I know the meanings of the ilm, you may experience the feelings in dhikr, but if it does not benefit you then it is not dhikr un nafe – beneficial dhikr. Benefit means that it brings you closer to Shari’ah.

Just like that aalim who does not do amal no matter how much he brilliantly understands the meanings, those meanings are not going to be of any benefit to him. Similarly the Sufi who does not do amal on the Shari’ah may get feelings during their dhikr, it is a mistake to think that if I was wrong I would not have gotten a feeling.

You will get the feeling. Just like that aalim who did get the meanings. What makes you think he does not know the meaning? What make you think that if I didn’t do amal Allah swt would have taken away the ilm? Allah swt does not work that way.

You will keep the ilm, you will still have it, but you will have to fix your sins. Getting ilm is not a proof that you somehow are not doing sin.

So to see images and lights, colours and forms is not the purpose of tasawwuf. This is nothing more than play or fun. This is what Imam Rabbani rah is saying. There were sufis of his time, and even in this day and age, who are into this stuff.

Material forms and physical lights are a lot more interesting if one wants to have fun. He is saying, if you want to see lights, go to a laser-light show. Why do you need dhikr to see the lights? Walk around at Christmas time and see the Christmas lights, if that is what you want. This is what he is saying.

Why should one leave them, and run after spiritual forms and lights? And take up difficult processes for that purpose, that I want to do dhikr because I want to “experience” something?

If you want an experience, go on a roller-coaster ride. They say I want to feel a trembling in my heart. You want to feel a trembling in your heart? Here’s a ticket, go. If that is what you want, that’s the easier way to do it. Why should you try to do hours and hours of dhikr? I could give you that feeling on a 10 minutes roller-coaster ride.

(They say) I want to feel haraqah, hararah, taharruq. These are words. They are there in Qur’an:

إِذَا ذُكِرَ ٱللَّهُ وَجِلَتۡ قُلُوبُہُمۡ
whose hearts feel fear when Allah is mentioned [8:2]

But you don’t do dhikr because you want your hearts to tremble. You do dhikr out of obedience and servitude to Allah swt. I am translating this into your terms “laser-lights” and “roller-coaster” so you would understand. At their time, roller-coaster was dancing, hashish, qawwali, going to tombs and shrines. That was their equivalent at that time, and it still is at some places today.

Forms, lights and colours, both physical and spiritual, are all created by Allah swt. He is trying to say that it is all makhlooq.  Tasawwuf is about turning away from makhlooq and focusing on Khaliq. And your seeing of lights, and visions and colours is all makhlooq.

Tasawwuf is about turning away from ghairullah, towards Allah swt. And if you are interested in experiencing lights, that is also ghairullah. That cannot be tasawwuf. You have just traded one ghairullah for a different ghairullah. He transcends them altogether. Allah swt is above and beyond all of these things. They are nothing but His signs and proofs. All of the creation in this world are nothing but a sign of Allah swt.

Then he says, as you would find some “modernist Muslims” who like to suggest to you that music is okay in sufi’ism. If you are too sufi, you would be fine with music. I speak very openly, unfortunately now we have some people who call themselves “traditionalists sufis”. And they also believe that you can use music in your dhikr. They do it in a very sophisticated way. They have a nice background. There are nasheed artists, and performances, and concerts.

Listen to what Imam Rabbani rah is saying. What should I say about hearing songs, or performing dances, or entering into a trance, or inducing an ecstasy? All the states and experiences which are produced by unlawful means are, in my view, a kind of temptation with which Allah swt tests men.

They say, no the nasheed will hit the person in the heart more if I have the drum-beat in the background. We don’t want his heart to be hit by that. Why should his heart need that? It’s a prop; that’s an artificial stimuli.

What do you think is weak? Is the qalb of the mu’min so weak that it needs drums in order to feel love for Allah swt? No, you have underestimated the qalb of the mu’min. Or have you underestimated the dhikr of Allah swt? That the dhikr of Allah swt is so weak that it cannot effect a person’s heart lest you add the drumbeat?

Allah swt only gives them latitude in this way. It does not mean they are given rukhsah.  It means Allah swt lets them slide into that sin. They undergo these states; they experience reunions, they have revelations and visions in terms of forms of this world. So they claim that they saw this or saw that, or they saw something in the future. The Brahmins in India, the Hindus, they had all of these experiences. You can read it in their books; they do all these type of things.

He says the signs of the validity of a person’s experience are that:

  1. It agrees with the doctrines of Shari’ah
  2. In order to have that experience, one does not commit anything that is forbidden by Shari’ah, and one does not commit anything which is doubtful in Shari’ah either

So a person says that maybe music is okay, but it is doubtful. It does not matter. We will still not use it. Nabi sws used drums with simple percussions, without any melody or harmony, in Jihad and in Walima. So if any “traditionalist sufis” ever go on a Jihad, I will personally come and play the drums. They may have to give me an advance notice. If I’m able to come, I will personally come and play the drums in the Sunnah way. It is just a simple beat, that’s it.

As far as Walima is concerned, I don’t know if I would offer my services for that. Because you see, that (beating of the drum) was also done for another reason; that was to get attention of the gathering. Many times the Nikkah was in the masjid, certainly there were witnesses, and the people in the Masjid knew.

But the Walima was a more broader broadcasting of the fact that the marriage had taken place in the community. And to make it even more broadcast, drums were beaten so that everybody knew. I don’t think that is required anymore. In fact, I think there is too much broadcasting as there are various functions and events.

This is a one-liner for you, this is a great WaliUllah who in one line is making clear his stance on sufi’ism on music:

Know that music and dance are but trivial as games. It is a game, a toy; it’s a play-thing. Why? Because it is ghairullah. In fact the best way to understand music in Islam is through tasawwuf. Remember, I said that the ulema can give you meanings and bring you on firmer footings. You can look up the hadith on music, it will bring you to a certain level. But then you realize also that this thing is ghairullah.

We should think that why am I so attached to it, so addicted to it that I cannot leave it? I am insistent on it, I am stubborn. I keep asking a 100 ulema so that maybe one will tell me it’s okay. Why am I addicted to ghairullah?

What should I say of the frivolous ideas of the sufis? He is not referring here to all the people of tasawwuf, he himself is a Shaykh of tasawwuf. It means he is calling those people, and using this term in a negative sense, who felt that wilayah was something greater than ubudiyah; those who were engaged in music and dance; those who wanted to see the colours and lights.

What should I say of their frivolous ideas, what should I say of their experiences? In the akhirah, their experiences and findings will not be worth even half a penny unless they are weighed in the balance of Shari’ah. And their revelations, and inspirations, kashf and ilham, will not be worth half a grain unless they are tested on the criteria of Qur’an and Sunnah. Yes, there will be those who pass that test. But those who do not pass that test, their experiences would be completely worthless.

The purpose of persuing the path of tasawwuf is to strengthen the imaan and the objects of faith, as stated by the Shari’ah, which is what imaan really means. And also to acquire the ability to perform with ease the duties of Shari’ah as ascribed in Fiqh. There is no purpose beyond that in the practices of tasawwuf. There is no other reason a person does dhikr, other than to make themselves follow the Shari’ah and Sunnah better.

As far as the vision of Allah swt, the ru’yat of Allah swt, the deedar, the vision of Allah swt is promised in the akhirah, it cannot be had in this life. And the revelations and visions which the sufis ravel, give them nothing but the pleasure of a shadow.

It means if they do experience a vision, it’s a shadow. It is not Allah swt. Ru’yat of Allah swt cannot happen in this world. It maybe one of His anwaraat, fuyuzaat, tajaliyaat, these are words that will come in a bit. It means these maybe manifestations of the Mercy of Allah swt, blessings of Allah swt. It is not possible to see Allah swt in this world.

So if a person really wants to have this experience, they should follow that life on Earth that will enable them to see Allah swt in the akhirah. They have to follow Shari’ah and Sunnah. That is the best way to get the vision of Allah swt. Allah swt transcends absolutely all the revelations and visions that the sufis have.

If I tell the truth about visions and revelations as it is, I fear that it may disperse the travellers of this path. He is saying that if I tell them, that all of these things which you experienced, that I did dhikr and I had this feeling, and I tell them that this feeling is nothing, then the person may not do dhikr. There are people who in their initial stages do dhikr for those feelings. If I tell a child that the sugar which is in your food which you enjoy is actually of no benefit to you, it may effect their ability to eat.

But on the other hand if I do not tell the truth, I fear that I maybe guilty of selling the untruth inspite of knowing the truth. So clearly you can see that he made the decision to tell it that is why he wrote about it. It is clear that he decided to tell people, and to wean them off from the false tasawwuf they were in.

You have this problem still today. I still meet people in Pakistan, and in England also, and they think they are sufi because they have had certain experiences. And I even recently heard about one these traditionalists sufi shaykhs. He criticized all the ulema of India and Pakistan, I will not take his name, he used the word “all” ulema and said that they do not understand tasawwuf because they do not have all of these experiences. He said that because they do not have experiences that is why they do not understand ibn Arabi and they think that wahdatul wujud is wrong.

Here I want to make a slight comment on ibn Arabi, though the details are coming later, but since I have brought this up twice already. Ibn Arabi rah has written many works and many of his words and phrases in those works were quite ambiguous. They were what we call in Arabic muhtamil ul m’ani – they are open to multiple meanings. Different interpretors have taken different meanings from that.

There are two things. One is husn e zann. It means that you should be optimistic and always think the best of the person. If you keep that in light, then almost everything that he wrote can be interpreted in such a way that wahdatul wujud  did not mean that he thought that everything was equal to Allah swt, or that everything was the same as Allah swt.

He actually thought that Allah is Allah and creation is creation. He was talking about something else; about the unity of grand scheme of things. It simply means that what is that thing which links us all? That we are Allah’s swt creation.

What is it that links me to wood? There is nothing that links me to wood except for the fact that wood is the creation of Allah swt and I am also the creation of Allah swt. So there is a unity between all of the creation because they are created by Allah swt. But there is no unity between creation and the Creator. That is what we call trying to give him a very fair reading benefit of the doubt.

Second is trying to find a balance between the two – which I like to call an honest reading. That is if he is saying something, and he keeps repeating it, and he is even giving examples and similes to illustrate it, it is kind of difficult to ignore that, unless you are dishonest that you do so much husn e zann to the point of being dishonest. That can also be problematic. We are going to see later on how Imam Rabbani rah tackled this issue.

The Chishti Mashaikh, even the Deobandi Chishti Mashaikh do not have a problem with him. I know one very big alim and mufti of Chishti silsila in Chicago, he actually teaches the books of ibn Arabi to his students. But the way he teaches them, like I told you, with a very fair reading of ibn Arabi. He does not teach the doctrine of wahdatul wujud as it is presented.

But in Imam Rabbani Ahmed Sirhindi’s rah times, what people had understood from ibn Arabi, and we will never know and only Allah swt knows best what ibn Arabi intended by those writings, but what people of his time understood from his writings were definitely the concepts such as the unity of beings and that the creation is united with the Creator. That is why he talks about it in such a way.

The object of the human beings’ creation is to worship Allah swt and obey (ibadah and ita’at). This is the whole purpose of life. The object of worship and obedience, what is the purpose of that? Why worship Allah swt? That is also a question that people ask that why do we need to worship Allah swt? It is to achieve conviction.

You see, the answer that tasawwuf gives is much more intense. Sometimes a university student would ask you, okay I understand that God does not need our worship, we need our worship. But why do we need it? You can try to explain to them that it is because you need Allah swt, you need to love Allah swt, you need to be a mu’min, you need to submit etc. And they may understand it and it might put them on a firm footing.

Even more firm footing is this that when you do the ibadah, you get yaqeen. You reach the end. You get that wilayah, you get the abdiyat to get the detailed understanding. You get to know Allah swt the way He has revealed Himself to be. You get to know Allah swt as He wishes Himself to be known. You feel Subhana Rabbi al’azeem in ruku differently, than you feel Subhana Rabbi al’Aalaa in sajdah. You will never get to feel the difference between al’Azeem and al’Aalaa if you do not do ibadah.

The more ibadah you do, the more you would feel those feelings. That’s why you do ibadah. Then he quotes an ayah of the Qur’an:

وَٱعۡبُدۡ رَبَّكَ حَتَّىٰ يَأۡتِيَكَ ٱلۡيَقِينُ
And worship your Lord until comes to you that which is certain. [15:99]

That you should worship Allah swt until you get yaqeen. Some scholar of tafsir have felt that yaqeen here means death. It means you worship Allah swt your whole life, until you die, until that certain inevitable outcome i.e. death overtakes you.

Other commentators have taken it the way Imam Rabbani rah is taking it here, and both of these meanings can co-exist simultaneously, that yaqeen also meant that you need to keep doing ibadah to get yaqeen in Allah swt.

This is very important because today we have been duped into thinking that faith is going to be acquired by reason. And Qur’an is saying that faith is going to be acquired by worship. Yaqeen – a level of certainty in faith. That is why you need ibadah because you need yaqeen. Every human being should feel that I need to feel all the feelings for Allah swt, I need to understand in detail all of His names and attributes.

So hat’taa introduces our purpose as it introduces an end. This is just a rule of Arabic Grammar that hat’taa comes for ghayah and gharaz. The verse may therefore be taken to mean worship and obey Allah swt in order to get yaqeen. In other words the imaan that a person has before ibadah and obedience is a formal one rather than the imaan that a person has after ibadah and obedience which means yaqeen.

You can look at it in terms of luke-warm faith and passionate faith. You will find this when you meet a non-practising Muslim. That term could never exist, but it does exist, and it is the case of majority; the majority of Muslims in the world are non-practising. If I were to choose to describe the practising Muslims just by one thing I would say that they pray 5 times regularly and consistently. If this is taken as the definition of practising, I can tell you that majority of the Muslims in the world are non-practising.

Just like Allah swt hides our individual sins, He hides the sins of this Ummah. Non-Muslims do not know that. You know what, they actually think that every Muslim prays 5 times a day. And they would give this example, in every book written on Islam they always talk about the 5 pillars.They always talk about the pillar of salah, and they always mention the 5 prayers.

If they had any idea that the majority of Muslims do not pray, they would definitely write it. That one of the pillars of Islam is praying 5 times a day, but 80% of Muslims do not even do that. They would have loved to write it, but Allah swt is as-Sattaar. It just does not occur to them. For some, the perception is hidden. And for others the awareness of that perception is hidden.

I can tell you when I taught in a university in Pakistan for 6 years, the estimates of our students was that 15% would pray 5 times a day regularly in the entire student body. My own estimate is 20 – 25%. No way more than 25% of university students in Pakistan pray 5 times a day. That is the situation.

And Pakistan is one of the more practising Muslim countries. And I don’t say this out of national pride. This is as far as larger ones are concerned. In smaller countries, I would say Somalia, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, with smaller populations. As far as countries with massive Muslim populations are concerned, level of practise here is generally considered more.

This is for the university students. And in rural areas, as our tableeghi brothers who go to these areas in jama’at tell us, which is the bulk of the population, it is even less there. They are not kuffar. That is what I am trying to say here. They have imaan. They are not unbelievers. But their imaan is very luke-warm.

That person who does ibadah, who does worship, who does ita’at, who obeys Allah swt, they have a glowing imaan. They have a passionate imaan, they have a noor of imaan. When they have the noor of imaan, then they become munawar by that noor. That is the real light to get. The real light that we want to be illuminated by is the noor of the very imaan that we have in our own heart.

This is why Allah swt says in the Qur’an:

يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓاْ ءَامِنُواْ بِٱللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ
O you who believe, do believe in Allah and His messenger… [4:136]

Literally it means, O you who have imaan, have imaan. It means that O you who have adopted imaan on your tongue, or are Muslim in name, become Muslim in heart. Have the passion of imaan. This is what Imam Rabbani rah is saying, O you who have a formal belief, try to have a real belief by worshipping and obeying Allah swt as that Allah swt in whom you believe has ordered you to do as believers.

Live like the mu’mineen, live like the allatheena amanoo, follow all the commandments of Allah swt addressed to allatheena amanoo. The objects of fanaa and baqaa, which are the essence of wilayah, is to acquire this conviction, and nothing else.

He generally said that the purpose of tasawwuf is to get this yaqeen. Now he is opening up different elements and features of tasawwuf; fanaa, baqaa and wilayah. And he is saying that even for these particular things, their only purpose is to get yaqeen. If one understands fanaa fillah, and baqaa billah. Fanaa fillah is fanaa in Allah swt. And baqaa billah in any other sense such as which would suggest a fusion, union, joining of humanity with Allah swt is a blasphemous distortion of imaan.

Many things come from the mouths of the sufi in the state of intoxication, which is his duty to eventually overcome, turn to Allah swt and ask for forgiveness. Ibrahim ibn Shebaan rah, one of the great sufis, has said that the real fanaa and baqaa consists in sincerely believing in the unity of Allah and honestly living as His servant and slave. Anything over and above it is sheer error and infidelity.

By Allah, what he says is true. His words witness to his rectitude that he was from amongst the Saliheen, and to his taqwah. Fanaa in Allah means effacing oneself in carrying out the will of Allah swt, you may understand it as sair lillah, or meditation leading to God, or sair fillah meditation on God on the same lines.

Explaining Fanaa and Baqaa

Now I have to explain to you all the terms; fanaa, baqaa, sair fillah, sair lillah what does all of this mean? This is what ibn Sheban rah said that real fanaa means to lose yourself in the fact that Allah swt is one, not that you are one with Allah swt. But that Allah swt is one, alone, singular, unique, perfect and incomparable; that is fanaa.

Real baqaa is to live yourself as His servant and slave; to realize that you are dependant on Him. He is the means of your subsistence. He is keeping you baaqi, He is maintaining you; subsisting you. And you are entirely dependant and needy on Him. You have no independency from His whatsoever.

This was the real relationship of the link between human beings and Allah swt. Not that we are one with Allah swt, but that Allah swt is one and we are wholly and completely dependant and needy of that One. Our existence is based only on Him giving us subsistence. Understand the difference. He is perpetuating and maintaining our existence.

Even though the human beings will also live for an eternity, this is due to the wish of Allah swt; that He has chosen to make human beings have an eternal life in the akhirah, that is why you will live forever. And for every single microsecond of that forever, you and I will still be needy and dependant on Allah swt. Even though we will have eternal baqaa, even though we will eternally subsist, we are eternally, infinitely dependant on Allah swt every second of that eternity.

Now I am going to make a chart for you which would explain to you fanaa and baqaa. There are two ways to draw this. In first, we draw a circle. There are going to be 4 stages. One is the beginning and the other is the end. Remember when we talked about tasawwuf, we were talking about a person being disconnected from their love for the world and having love for Allah swt. Becoming disconnected from following your own wish, will and desires of your nafs, and instead following wishes and pleasures of Allah swt.

Let’s take the extremes. First extreme is that the person can be 100% connected to ghairullah, and 0% connected to Allah swt. Their heart, mind, body, soul, personality is 100% attached to ghairullah. And they have 0% attachment to Allah swt. That would be an extreme situation. I am not saying this is kufr, we have Muslims like this. They have imaan, but their hearts are totally attached to ghairullah.

Were they to make a journey, that journey on this circle would comprise of 4 stages; they are going to try to flip it. Now I am going to explain fanaa and baqaa to you in several different ways. Firstly, making this 100%, which was engagement with ghairullah and this world, making this 100% into 0% is called fanaa. This is not a permanent station. This is a state. This is a haal; reaching a state of being in a way of existence.

Here the person will have 0% attraction, interest, love for nafs, material world etc. On top of that, not just making that 100% into 0%, but also making the other 0% (attachment to Allah swt) into a 100%. When you get these both things, that is called fanaa. They are called fanaa fillah in Arabic.

Fanaa literally means to become fani; to erase yourself; to become completely absorbed in something; to become completely ensconced on something such that you become oblivious to everything else. What happens is when you make what they call the return, you return to this world and you end up like this.

The return is also known as baqaa. On one hand of baqaa it means your 100% connection with Allah swt remains, even though you have been back and are engaging in the world. But there is a big difference between this state and the previous one.

They both represent 100% engagement with the world. But the previous was 100% engagement in what we call a 100% ghaflah with 0% remembrance of Allah swt; heedless, mindless engagement with the world; unstructured and ungoverned by the Shari’ah and Sunnah and Qur’an.

The later means you are engaged with the world. You are functioning in the society. There is no monasticism in Islam. The end is baqaa, the end is not fanaa. It is not in being a monk. But you have to be able to do that. Everyday, 5 times you have to be a monk, did you know that?

You cannot live the life of a monk, but in your salah that is what you are supposed to be. You are supposed to be doing this 5 times a day. During salah you are supposed to become completely unaware of anything other than Allah swt and to become completely and exclusively aware of only Him.

The path of wilayah is training the person to get that ability, but it does not keep them there. Keeping them there, and going to a monastery, is prohibited in Islam. But training them to have that ability to enter there, that is required in Islam. I will not say that it is fard in Islam, but it is part of our deen. That is the Qur’anic term; this is tabattul.

However this 100% is not toppled with a 0%, it is toppled with a 100% engagement with the world that coexists with dhikr. It is structured. It is only engaging with the world with what is permissible in the world i.e. the hasanat.

رَبَّنَآ ءَاتِنَا فِى ٱلدُّنۡيَا حَسَنَةً۬ وَفِى ٱلۡأَخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً۬
Our Lord, give us good in this world and good in the Hereafter [2:201]

In the hasanaat we ask for the noble, virtuous, pure things of the world; to be a functioning member of the society; to be a functioning member of our family; to be an earning member of the society; to be a contributing member of the society; to be a guide for the humanity; to be a guide for the ummah.

This is the khidmat type of engagement. The previous was the ghaflah type of engagement. In the later, the person is a 100% engaged in the world, but not only with the world. You cannot let the other 100% (remembrance of Allah swt) go down. Once you get it, you should not want to lose it. So you are going to re-engage in the world, but you can only re-engage in those things that will not touch this 100%.

Obviously, if a person wants to retain their 100% (remembrance of Allah swt) they are not going to engage in any sin, or even in anything that is disliked. One Shaykh in Pakistan used to say that taqwah means to leave the things that are prohibited, disliked, and also things that are permissible but useless.

And that is one of our big problems that there are so many useless things that we do, that is why we are not free for dhikr. One problem is the sin that we do. Second problem is the stupid things that we do; the pointless things that we do; the useless things that we do. Idle-time, wasteful-time, your trivial wasteful idle pursuits and games.

The ruling from that verse derived by fuqaha is not that it is haram. But this what the people of the dunya, people in this material world call an opportunity-cost. That time you could have maximized your profit, what were you doing? Why do you give 30-minutes lunch break to the factory workers, you could have generated so much more output. That is how they think.

Just like these people try to maximize their dunya, Muslims should try to maximize their akhirah. This whole world is a factory of ‘amaal us saleh and we are the factory workers. We are on a shift, we are on duty. Just like the factory worker is not supposed to have a slack, me and you are also not supposed to have a slack. That’s the word “slack”; slackers. Now do you get it?

Taqwah means to stop doing what is haram, stop doing what is disliked, and stop slacking. Imagine a person who thinks like that, the person who has that attitude towards life, that is called a waliUllah.

The process to get this, generally, is called wilayah. This is the way of wilayah; to attain fanaa. You stay there for sometime, long enough that it becomes an inseparable part of you, and then you must return and re-engage in the world. This is called baqaa.

You can think that the sunnah equivalent of the state of fanaa is what Rasool Allah sws was doing in the Cave of Hira. He sws was entering into a state of fanaa. When work came upon him sws, he sws was in the state called baqaa. That is why when a person is on this stage, they have to do the work of the prophet, the mission of nabuwwat; guiding humanity; teaching deen, guiding people towards Shari’ah. That is the work that they have to do. This what the hadith means: Ulema (scholars) are the heirs of prophets.

Ulema who have the baqaa, they have to do the work of the prophets. Now you understand fanaa and baqaa.

Explaining the 4 Stations

There are some other terms: sair fillah, sair anillah, sair fil ashiya – these are particular terms that have been used in the Persian tradition of tasawwuf. Fanaa and baqaa are Arabic terms.

I have made 4 lines on the board. These are 4 journeys. So I told you that sulook is a journey. The circle we made was disconnecting from ghairullah and connecting to Allah swt. The journey all the way, full circle is that you are 100% connected to Allah swt, and connected to the world a 100%, you are functioning in the world but in the name of Allah swt, in the nisbat of Allah, for the sake of Allah, lillah fillah.

That same journey that we drew with the circle, we are going to break that same journey into 4 sub-journeys. One of the words in Persian used for journey is sair. So these are called the suyoor e arba’a i.e. the 4 journeys.

First one is called sair illallah. ila means towards, so this is for a person who is at a 0% connection with Allah swt, and he wants to make a journey towards the connection with Allah swt. He wants to have more awareness of Allah swt, he wants to be more mindful of Allah swt, he wants to have more fear of Allah swt, he wants to have more love for Allah swt, he wants to have more closeness to Allah swt. All of these words are in Qur’an.

Taqwah, khashiyah, muhabbah, qurb; these are all in Qur’an. Qur’an has described the feelings that a person is supposed to have for Allah swt. In sair illallah, they are making a journey to Allah swt. How are they going to make that journey? They will make that journey by climbing down from the 100% connection with the world. First part of the journey is to bring the 100% down to a 0%.

That involves, at one level, to lose their attractions, and attachment to ghairullah. It also involves losing their awareness, and perception, you can even call it knowledge. They are trying to un-know. You know, like sometimes we have this thing in learning that you should un-learn, then learn and re-learn which you tried to un-learn. This is exactly that.

Imam Rabbani rah says exactly this. That they must lose the knowledge of all that is, he uses a fancy term, munqith ul wujud instead of wajib ul wujud. That they must lose, do nakeer of the munqith ul wujud, and only retain ilm of the wajib ul wujud. It simply means that they must lose their knowledge, learning and awareness of all that is ghairullah.

When the person is trying to remember Allah swt 100%, there is going to be a process that is going to enable him to do so. That is first level of the journey that they are trying to make themselves unaware. You know, a lot of these sinful feelings we have is because we are too aware of this world.

If you were unaware, you would not feel lust. That is why Allah swt has told us to lower the gaze, because He is trying to protect us from being aware. When you lower the gaze, you are unaware. And when you are unaware, then you will not feel the feelings. But when you are aware, you are going to feel it. Just like if you touch something hot, you are going to feel hot. But if you never touch it, you will never feel hot. Another way to understand this is that this is a kind of detox – spiritual detoxification.

The second journey is called sair fillah. Do not misunderstand this. This is not literal Arabic. This is something that we call in Arabic mudhaf maudhoof. Literal translation would be journey in Allah. It does not mean journey in Allah swt; you cannot be inside Allah swt. It is all about knowledge and awareness.

It is journeying inside the realm of the awareness of Allah swt; inside your awareness and perception of Allah swt. First aspect of the journey was to reduce your awareness of the world; your own awareness; your knowledge and perception of the world from 100% to 0 %.

Second was to increase the journey inside the realm of awareness and knowledge of Allah swt. You are within a realm; that I am 100% aware of Allah swt or I am 0% aware of Allah swt; these are the limits of the realm. I am journeying in that realm. Sair fillah simply means that I am journeying inside this realm.

Why is it called fillah? Because you have brought this dunya down to a 0%. In some sense, right after the first stage, you end up at 0% awareness of the world, while your awareness of Allah swt was already 0%. So you end up at 0-0.

The awareness of world, you have closed that. So now there is only one realm left for you i.e. the awareness of Allah swt. Now you are going to journey into that realm. This should be clear. You are not journeying in Allah swt. You are journeying in the realm of the awareness of Allah swt. What does journeying mean? Journeying means going from a 0% to a 100%. So journeying from 0% awareness of Allah swt (if you are on that extreme), to a 100% awareness of Allah swt, that is called sair fillah.

The third stage is sair minAllah. Now you will make the journey from Allah swt, again not literally. It means to journey from that position where you are only aware of Allah swt, and you have no awareness of anything else. But not to lose that awareness, you have to keep that awareness with you. Sair anillah billah; to make journey from that state where you have awareness of Allah swt alone, and taking that awareness which you have acquired of Allah swt with you.

Imagine you are at the top of a mountain. For sometime, you stay there. Now you are stationary. This part is not a journey. You stay there for sometime so it becomes deep in you that now you have negated your own awareness of your existence to get to 0%, now you stay there till your existence has become:

 أَنتُمُ ٱلۡفُقَرَآءُ إِلَى ٱللَّهِۖ 
You are the ones who need Allah [35:15]

You are actually living embodiment of absolute need and dependence on Allah swt. Your existence is only subsisting due to Allah swt’s will and wish. That is the reality actually for all of us. But we are not aware of it. Me and you only breath and exist because of His will and wish. But we do not feel like that. We do not think like that.

The reality is that Allah swt is the only truly existing one. We are all dependent on Him. Me and you actually do exist. But He is the only one what we actually call a non-contingent being. He is the only necessary existing being, which in Arabic we call wajib ul wujud. And we are munqith ul wujud.

This concept is a bit difficult to grasp. In the third journey, at the end we are still actually 100% connected to Allah swt, and 0% connected to the world. But the difference between the initial 100% awareness of Allah swt, and later 100% awareness is that after you get that, you cannot come back. You cannot join the world with that. You have to bring that awareness back down.

This is the most difficult stage to explain to people. When you have reached a 100% awareness of Allah swt, you have touched fanaa, then you stay in there, till you get something called baqaa. You got that 100% but you stay there till you reach that super intense level such that you realize that now I am completely nothing, and Allah swt is everything. Not that you and Allah swt are one. This is the complete opposite of that. That Allah swt is everything and comparably I am completely nothing.

Now we have to bring that baqaa 100% back down to the fanaa 100%. Because you can never return to the world when you reach that level. That level you will live with inshaAllah in the akhirah. That level of awareness a person will have in jannah that I am completely nothing.

You bring that 100% down, then you re-learn and re connect with the world and everything that is permissible. You re-open your horizons to the awareness and perceptions of the world. You re-engage in the world knowing it is a place of asbab. In surah Fatiha we pray:

إِيَّاكَ نَعۡبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسۡتَعِينُ
You alone do we worship, and from You alone do we seek help.

That O Allah swt we only ask You for help. But actually we ask others for help all the time. You ask your parents for help, you ask your friends for help, you ask your siblings for help, you ask your teacher for help.

Iyyaka na’budu; we worship You alone. We mean that. Not that we worship You alone and also sometimes we worship our friends, or our teachers. No. In that case it’s an absolute – we worship Allah alone. And in iyyaka nastaeen, we seek help from Allah swt alone. Yes, but this has partners. We can join asbab. We can seek help in the world.

The type of 100% in baqaa can exist with the asbab. Just like in the nastaeen relationship with Allah swt. There is another type of 100%. That cannot co-exist with asbab. This is very important to understand. Some people get stuck over here. They cannot co-exist with asbab. This is the sufi who walks on water. It does not mean that somebody walks on water all the time. It is not like that. But sometimes when they get stuck up there, but in reality they are still down here, they are still existing, so sometimes Allah swt makes some type of a karamah happen through them; it is a type of a miracle.

In Fatawah ibn Taymiyyah it is written that Karamat e awliya haqun that karamat at the hands of awliyah are truth. It is a universally acknowledged reality. That Allah swt has given some few awliyah some few miracles, in a few, special, specific circumstances. One reason that happens is when somebody gets stuck over there.

The person who’s travelled through these 3 stages now goes to something called sair fil ashiya – journey within the realm of things. In sair fillah you were journeying within the realm of awareness of Allah swt. Now you journey within things; you increase your awareness and perception and the knowledge of things. You turn the 0% awareness of this world back to a 100%. Now you are completely aware of the world, but your awareness of it does not overshadow your awareness of Allah swt.