Wayfarer's Rest

Some assorted ramblings and occasional thoughts from Talib al-Habib. Updated randomly and irregularly (if at all). Talib takes no responsiblity for anything that he may write, as responsiblity implies capacity, and capacity implies a sound mind...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Spring and Mawlid

With a whisper of the wind appears the first new leaf

And the trees tremble as life returns anew

Like a gentle breeze that grows to a tempest

A new song enters in my heart,

And lifts me on its wings.

Spring is here again.

The birds have begun to sing again. Looking out, I see tiny buds beginning to poke their way through the soil; branches bare all winter have dared to send forth their first green shoots. The wind blows warmer, the rain feels somehow fresher. It is unmistakeable – spring is here again.

How fitting that, as we approach the month of lights, the blessed month of mawlid, we should find ourselves entering the season of spring. For what more fitting time could there have been for the one whose birth signified the dawning of new hope for mankind, a new spring of tauhid after the dark and cold winter of disbelief; for the one who loved all things green and who revived dead hearts to life, than the month of Rabi’ al-Awwal (lit: the first spring)?

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf mentioned that the Prophet (s) was born in spring and loved green. He continued that green was the first colour that the eye could perceive, and the last that it could make out; the middle of the spectrum of light. Green is also the colour of chlorophyll, which mediates photosynthesis in plants – the conversion of pure light into energy and nourishment that ultimately allows our continued existence. The parallels are manifest but beautiful nonetheless: he (s) is from the light of Allah, the first Prophet and the last, the moderate and median way, neither too harsh nor too lenient; he is the source of all nourishment and the means of continuation for all spiritual life. He (s) is, as the commentaries of the Quran mention, the solitary flowering tree in the midst of a barren desert – from whose fruits all men feast, and beneath whose boughs all find shade and rest.

The advent of spring fills one with gladness – a joy that the believer cannot but feel when he or she contemplates the arrival of the best and most beloved of all creation (s). Allah says in the Holy Quran: ‘In the blessings of Allah and in His mercy – in that let them rejoice,’ and, ‘make remembrance of the Days of Allah.’ al-Bayhaqi relates that the Prophet (s) said, ‘the Days of Allah are Allah’s Blessings and Signs, and the Prophet’s birth is a great bliss.’ For almost a millennium, Muslims have joyfully commemorated the arrival of our spiritual Spring with the celebration of mawlid.

Mawlid has three meanings: the time of the Beloved’s (s) birth, the place of his birth and the fact of his birth. However, for hundreds of years, the word mawlid has been used to signify the celebration of the Prophet’s (s) birth. Mawalid have been – and still are – held wherever there are Muslims; from the Islamic heartlands of Arabia, Egypt and Syro-Palestine to the very borders of the traditional Islamic lands such as Indonesia, the Caucasus and Western Africa. In the 20th century, the globalization of the Ummah and mass migration has seen mawlid celebrated in the most unlikely of places – from the rain-swept streets of the UK to the snowy mountains of Canada to the tip of Southern Africa.

It is beloved of the common folk of the community and cherished by the elect. Kings and rulers have used mawlid to connect to their followers; scholars have used it to educate the people. Such has been its popularity among the learned and the unlearned – so deeply has it touched the hearts of Muslims from every walk of life – that one would struggle to find a place that has not been graced by the celebration of the Beloved of Allah (s).

Rabi` al-Awwal Mubarak, dear friends. May Allah enlighten all our hearts with the love of his Beloved (s), ennoble our eyes with his (s) vision in this world and the next, and fill our limbs with the strength to follow his blessed way.

Oh Cherishing Lord! Through the honour of Sayyidina Muhammad in Your eyes, purify our hearts from every evil quality that distances us from Your witnessing, Your love and Your mercy, let us die as members of his (s) community and under his banner of praise, yearning for the encounter with You, Oh Lord of Majesty and Grace! Then peace and blessings upon the elect of creation, the Master of the children of Adam, the Beloved of the Lord of the Worlds, Sayyidina wa Habibina Muhammad, his family, companions, and all who light their hearts from his blessed lamp.

from the editorial to the forthcoming magazine - Illumination

was salam, Talib

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A glimpse into some commentaries of the Burda


An erudite response, by Shaykh Gibril Haddad, to a recent discussion about selected verses from that most majestic and beautiful of praises upon the beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him), the Qasida al-Burda. The author delves into six classical commentaries on the work - primarily regarding the verses quoted immediately below. In addition to clarifying their meaning, he provides a fascinating insight into the nature of traditional Islamic scholarship - incremental, layer-upon-layer analysis and exegesis that is surely unrivalled in religious tradition.

It is also an signal indication that the Burda - and works like it - are not merely enjoyable and invigorating devotional poetry, but prized works of doctrine and spirituality that were taught at Islamic Universities with ijaza, in much the same way as books of fiqh and hadith.

In the verse of the Burda:

"fa-inna min judika al-dunya wa-darrataha / wa-min `ulumika `ilma
al-lawhi wal-qalami"

the two "min" are "referring to the subset of a whole" (tab`idiyya) as
the language and context make clear. Min clearly marks off the set
(`ulum), which is in the plural, from the subset (`ilm) which is in the
singular, indicating other `ulum that are also encompassed. It is
incoherent to say that such subsets could be encompassed in part and not
necessarily in their entirety. Contextwise, this and the previous verse
speak of [1] the undiminishable high standing and [2] abundant
generosity of the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace. It would be
lukewarm iman, not to mention defective praise, not to mention poor
craftsmanship, for an Arab poet to conclude a poem of Prophetic praise
by suggesting limitation or incompleteness for such attributes. Hence,
the correct meaning denotes encompassment as I had translated it years
ago, in what became the Encyclopedia of Islamic Doctrine:

152. ya akrama al-khalqi ma li man aludhu bihi / siwaka `inda hululi
al-hadithi al-`amami

O noblest one in creation, I have none [in creation] from whom to
request protection other than you when the Universal Event befalls.

153. wa-lan yadiqa rasulallahi jahuka bi / idha al-karimu tajalla
bi-ismi muntaqimi

Your great standing, O Messenger of Allah, will not diminish for
advocating me, if the Generous One manifests Himself with His name of

154. fa-inna min judika al-dunya wa-darrataha / wa-min `ulumika `ilma
al-lawhi wal-qalami

For your generosity encompasses both this world and the one that comes
next, and your sciences encompass the knowledge of the Tablet and the

At that time I had said:

They claim that it is wrong to say "and your sciences encompass the
knowledge of the Tablet and the Pen," and that such encompassing
knowledge belongs to Allah alone. However, their objections are needless
and far-fetched, since one of the meanings of the Tablet in the Qur'an
is the Qur'an itself: "A Glorious Qur'an in a Preserved Tablet"
(85:21-22), which Allah has taught the Prophet salla Allahu `alayhi
wa-Alihi wa-Sallam and the knowledge of which He has guaranteed for him
when He said: "Its gathering and recitation rest upon Us... Then verily
upon Us rests its exposition." (75:16-19)

As for the Pen, the Prophet salla Allahu `alayhi wa-Alihi wa-Sallam
said, as related by Bukhari and Muslim, that during the night of his
Ascension he reached a level where he could hear the screeching of the
pens writing the Decree, and this stands for his being granted its
knowledge, and Allah knows best.

Furthermore, they are gravely wrong in their suggesting that Allah is
unable to grant such knowledge to whomever He wills. We have already
established beyond doubt that the Prophet salla Allahu `alayhi wa-Alihi
wa-Sallam was granted the knowledge of all things except five matters.
This has been explained above in detail, in the section on `Ilm al-ghayb
and there is no need to repeat it here.

Imam Kawthari said in his Maqalat (p. 404): "Concerning [those] who
criticize al-Busiri for saying that the Prophet salla Allahu `alayhi
wa-Alihi wa-Sallam knows the science of the Tablet and the Pen: neither
does all that is hidden, nor does all knowledge reside exclusively in
the Tablet. Therefore the denial of the knowledge of the Unseen does not
necessitate that of the knowledge of what is in the Preserved Tablet.
The denial mentioned in Allah's saying: fa la yuzhiru `ala ghaybihi
ahadan "He discloses unto none His Secret" (72:26) presupposes exemption
of all that is excluded from "His Secret," signifying the negation of
universal disclosure [= no one knows all that Allah knows], not the
universal application of such negation [= no one knows anything that
Allah knows]. Therefore the meaning is the negation of the knowledge of
ALL the Unseen; not the negation of the knowledge of SOME of the Unseen.
This was demonstrated by Sa`d al-Din al-Taftazani in Sharh al-maqasid."

As for the Prophet's generosity which "encompasses both this world and
the one that comes next," it is clearly a reference to his abnegation on
behalf of his Umma in this world, and his intercession on their behalf
in the next world: to acknowledge both of these is a required article of
belief for all Muslims. And it is established in the hadith narrated by
Tirmidhi who declared it a fair narration (hasan), that Anas asked the
Prophet salla Allahu `alayhi wa-Alihi wa-Sallam for his intercession in
the next world, and he replied: ana fa`il, i.e. "I shall do it." This is
a proof against those who claim that it is unlawful to ask for the
Prophet's future intercession while still in this world.

Al-Hamdu lillah, even then a fumbling pauper's love was enough to read
the Arabic correctly and be guided to some of the Aayaat and Ahaadith
that show the mendacity of that specific attack upon the Burda. Even
before I had sat down I instinctively knew that the writer of such an
obviously inspired poem could not be guilty of what his attacker
claimed, especially in light of the latter's highly suspicious proneness
for the anathema and tadlil of our Salaf Imams and the common Muslims. I
knew, even as a four-year old in Islam, that the Seal of all Ummas was
protected from error in its `Aqida and could not possibly have been
propagating wrong for centuries from West to East, and that Ibn Shama
could not have been teaching the Burda to al-Nawawi in Syria, nor Ibn
Hajar to al-Sakhawi in Cairo, nor al-Sakhawi to his students in the
Haramayn, nor al-Haytami to al-Qari in Makka, if there were even the
smell of shirk in one of its letters, for Ibn `Uthaymeen to credibly
propose, at the tail-end of times, a fatwa which said "Qasidat al-Burda
contains passages that constitute shirk" as quoted in the
Arabic-language periodical al-Sirat al-Mustaqeem published in the US
(Issue #46-47, Rabee` al-akhira 1416 / September 1995, p. 7).

We can be even more certain now, as I knew then, that no conscientious
Muslim would fly in the face of the Arabic language, ignore the `isma of
the Umma, and leave the company of the Sadiqin among the greatest Ulema
upon whom the Umma concurs, to follow some non-ma`sum teacher(s) except
a misguided muqallid who fell prey to his hawa.

I will quote from various commentaries of the Burda, again al-hamdu
lillah, which confirm one after another the soundness of the above, by
the following:

1. Imam Muhammad Abu al-Su`ud al-Hanafi (d. 951),
2. Shaykh Muhyi al-Din Muhammad ibn Mustafa al-Hanafi, known as Shaykh
Zadah (d. 951),
3. Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami al-Shafi`i (d. 973),
4. Mulla `Ali al-Qari al-Hanafi (d. 1014) whose commentary is by far the
most interesting,
5. `Allama Ibrahim al-Bajuri al-Shafi`i (d. 1277), and
6. Imam Muhammad al-Tahir Ibn `Ashur al-Maliki (d. 1284).

Some of the above excelled their respective contemporaries in the Arabic
language and they excelled also in fiqh and usul, while Ibn `Ashur and
Abu al-Su`ud were arguably the two greatest mufassirs of the last five
hundred years.

1. Abu al-Su`ud: "Knowledge of the Tablet and the Pen (in the sense of
what is written on the Tablet through the coursing of the Pen) is some
of what your knowledge flows through / has thorough access to [ba`du
mimma jara fihi `ilmuk]." As quoted in Sayyid Hasan al-`Idwi al-Hamzawi
al-Maliki's (d. 1303) al-Nafahat al-Shadhiliyya fi Sharhi al-Burdat
al-Busiriyya (Damascus photocopy of the Cairene ed. of the Nafahat p.

2. Shaykh Zadah: "It may be that Allah Most High showed him, upon him
blessings and peace, all that is in the Tablet, and increased him on top
of that also, because the Tablet and the Pen are created, so what is in
them has a limit, and it is possible for the limited to encompass the
limited. This is according to your understanding [O reader]. As for him
whose heart's eye has beed dyed with the kohl of Divine light, he
witnesses through spiritual taste that the sciences of the Tablet and
the Pen are a portion (juz') of his sciences, upon him blessings and
peace, just as they are a portion of the knowledge of Allah Most High."
Shaykh Zadah's Hashiyat al-Burda in the margin of al-Kharputi'
s `Asidat
al-Shuhda Sharh Qasidat al-Burda (Ottoman 1320 ed. p. 219).

THE PEN, that is: Of some of your vast learning (ay: ba`di ma`arifika)
which Allah Most High gifted you. [...] And the sense in which knowledge
of the Tablet and the Pen is part of some of his sciences, upon him
blessings and peace, is that on the night of Isra', Allah Most High
showed him everything that is in the Preserved Tablet and added to that
other types of knowledge, such as the secrets which pertain to His
Essence and Attributes, may He be exalted!" Al-Haytami, al-`Umda fi
Sharh al-Burda, ed. Bassam Muhammad Barud (UAE: Dar al-Faqih, 2003, p.

4. Al-Qari: "Min is tab`idiyya [...]. The commentators have said
conflicting things on the second hemistich of the verse. It was said
that 'al-`ilm' is a substantive which is in construct with its subject
(masdar mudaf ila fa`ilihi), that is: the Tablet and the Pen's knowledge
of things, but then we need to say that they possess perception and
feelings toward what was attributed to them. It was also said that
'al-`ilm' is in construct with its object, that is: the people's
knowledge of the Tablet and the Pen, but then we need to say that there
are different positions here. It was also said that Allah Most High
showed him, upon him blessings and peace, what the Pen had written in
the Preserved Tablet, which is the knowledge of the first and the last,
and this is the preponderant explanation (wa-huwa al-az.har). To clarify
further, what is meant by the knowledge of the Tablet is what was
entered into it among other transcendent writs and shrouded images
(al-nuqush al-qudsiyya wal-suwar al-ghaybiyya). What is meant by the
knowledge of the Pen is what was entered with it into the Tablet as
Allah Most High wished, so the construct implies the nearest
connection (al-idafatu li-adna mulabasa). The fact that the knowledge
of the Tablet and the Pen is part of his sciences consists in that his sciences
are multifarious, including universals and particulars, hidden matters
and minutiae, subtle wisdoms and arcane sciences pertaining to the
Essence and the Attributes, whereas the science of the Tablet and the
Pen are only a few lines (sut.ur) among the lines of his knowledge and a
mere river from the seas of his knowledge. Then, in addition to this, it
is from the blessing of his existence according to the report that was
said to be transmitted: 'The first thing Allah created is my light,'
that is, He looked at it with a gaze of majesty, so it cleaved in two,
and from its two halves were created the two worlds. This [light] is
what is meant by the Pen, hence the transmitted report: 'The first thing
Allah created is the Pen,' so there is no contradiction. The upshot is:
this world and the next are aftereffects (aathaar) of your existence and
generosity, and whatever appeared out of the Pen and onto the Tablet is
from the secrets of your wisdoms and the lights of your sciences."
Al-Qari, al-Zubda fi Sharh al-Burda, ms. from the Damascus library of
the Musnid Sayyid Muhammad Salih al-Khatib (also containing al-Qari's
two treatises on the Mawlid), folios 54b-55a.

5. Al-Bajuri: "His saying 'fa-inna min judika al-dunya etc.' [...] min
is for tab`eed. [...] 'Wa-min' in his saying 'wa-min `ulumika' is for
tab`eed also [...] meaning the informations Allah Most High showed him,
for He, Most High, showed him the sciences of the first and the last.
[...] {The problem was raised that part of 'the knowledge of the Tablet
and the Pen' are the five things mentioned at the end of Surat Luqman
although the Prophet, salla Allahu `alayhi wa-Sallam, does not know them
for Allah Most High reserved their knowledge for Himself alone, so the
aforementioned tab`eed is incomplete? It was replied that it is not
granted that those five things are among what the Pen wrote on the
Tablet, or else whoever is entitled to look into the Tablet, such as
some of the muqarrabin angels, would have seen them; and even if it were
granted that they are part of what the Pen wrote into the Tablet, what
would be meant is that some of his sciences, upon him blessings and
peace, are the science of the Pen and the Tablet which a creature may
look upon, thus excluding those five matters} [curly-bracketed material
is largely from al-Qastallani], although the Prophet, salla Allahu
`alayhi wa-Sallam, did not leave this world except after Allah Most High
did inform him of those matters. If it is asked: Since the knowledge of
the Tablet and the Pen are some of his sciences, upon him blessings and
peace, then what is the rest? The reply is, the rest is [to say the
least] what Allah Most High informed him of with regard to the states of
the hereafter, because the Pen only wrote into the Tablet what was going
to happen until the Day of Resurrection and nothing more, as already
mentioned in the hadith ['The first thing Allah created was the Pen, and
He told it to write, so it said, What shall I write? He said: Write the
apportionments of every living thing until the Hour rises' al-Tirmidhi
(sahih) and Ahmad]." Al-Bajuri, Sharh al-Burda (`Abd al-Rahman Mahmud
Cairo ed. p. 132-133).

6. Ibn `Ashur: "The meaning is: how could your great standing diminish
for advocating me, whereas you are the noblest of all creatures in the
sight of your Lord Who gave you exclusively the magnificent special
attributes that show your rank before Him, among which, that He created
this world and the next for your sake, and also among which, that He
taught you what no one else encompasses by their knowledge, to the point
that what is in the Tablet and the Pen is some (ba`d) of your sciences."
Ibn `Ashur in `Umar `Abd Allah Kamil's al-Balsam al-Murih min Shifa'
al-Qalb al-Jarih, the epitome of Ibn `Ashur's Shifa' al-Qalb al-Jarih fi
Sharhi Burdati al-Madih (Beirut: Bisan, 2004, p. 164-165).

In conclusion, the statement that "The wording used by Imam Busiri does
not specify that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) had
all the knowledge of the Tablet and the Pen" is incorrect, and Allah
Most High knows best.

I long to see the commentaries on the Burda by Imam Fayruzabadi and
Hafiz Murtada al-Zabidi, even more that of Shaykh al-Islam Zakariyya
al-Ansari, and even more that of Imam Abu Shama, the earliest of them

Blessings and peace on the Prophet, his Family, and all his Companions.

walhamdulillahi rabb al-`alamin, wa as-salat wa as-salam `ala habib

Saturday, October 21, 2006

'make me one of those who will see your blessed face'


a reply to a brother who emailed questioning the following lines in 'Allahu' from the album 'Songs of Innocence:'

Oh Lord of the Worlds, full of mercy and grace
Make me one of those who will see your blessed face'


Just want to ask the Nur Al Habib team.... if they know much about this artist: Talil Al Habib?.......because i have listned to one of his track and in it this Talil Al Habib says something something 'face of Allah' is that not a wahabie thing to say? by putting human like attributes to Allah? the lyirc is in Track 4 it goes: 'Make me one of those who will see your blessed face....'
Please someomne correct me if i am wrong...... i hope to hear your opinions....Jazakallah


as salamu alaykum brother

Nur al-Habib Productions have passd this email on to me (talib) for answering. Jazakallah for your question, and for having the adab to ask it of me rather than others.

Firstly, it should be noted that the lyrics of each song - especially Allahu (which concerns aqida) - were submitted in advance of recording them (2 years ago now) to senior ulama including Shaykh Gibril Haddad (Syria - a specialist in Ahl as-Sunna aqida) and Allama Rasul Baksh Sa`idi (Birmingham, UK - my teacher) for proofing. They were also approved by Hazrat Ghulam Muhyi ad-Din Kazi al-Chishti (South Africa - my shaykh) .

To get on to your question: there are two issues here.

1. Seeing Allah
2. Allah's 'face'

In terms of the first, it is stated in the Quran that the believers will see Allah on the Day of Qiyama (explicitly) and in Paradise (implicitly). 'On that Day faces will be radiant, gazing at their Lord (ila rabbiha nazira)' (75:22-23) is the explicit reference; and 'for those of ihsan will be beauty and even more,' (10:26) where the commentators have mentioned that 'beauty' refers to Paradise and 'extra' is the vision of Allah (I heard this directly from Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqubi). Regarding the connection between the two verses, Imam Qurtubi narrates in his Tafsir al-Jami li-Ahkam al-Quran the hadith of Suhayb from Sahih al-Muslim:

" ibn Umar used to say [in commentary of the verse of Sura Yunus] that, 'the most honoured with Allah of the people of paradise are those who will look upon His 'face' (wajh) morning and evening. Then he recited the ayat, 'verily faces on that day will be radiant, gazing at their Lord.' [This was confirmed by al-Hasan and Ikrimah]. It is also said that 'gazing' means 'expectant of reward from their Lord' as related by ibn Umar and Mujahid. " This meaning is also confirmed by the hadith of ibn Umar narrated by Tirmidhi, which also specifically mentions that the people of Paradise will see the Face of Allah (yanzur ila wajhihi).

It goes without saying that the 'seeing' referred to is bila kayf (without concept of the modality or the 'how-ness' of the seeing).

In regards to the 'face' (wajh) of Allah, then this too is a phrase that recurs frequently in the Quran. Please refer to, for example: 'Wheresoever you turn, there is the Face of Allah' (2:115), 'whatever of good you give benefits your own souls, and you shall only do so seeking the Face of Allah' (2:272), and 'all upon it shall perish, save for the Face of your Lord, full of grace and majesty' (55:27).

Each of these usages, of course, indicates a sligthtly different meaning. The word 'wajh' is unquestionably among the mutashabihat (those words whose meaning can never be properly understood by the intellect). However, one does find that the phrase 'ibtigha wajh Allah' - or 'seeking the face of Allah,' is used as a metaphor to mean 'to purely seek the pleasure of Allah.' This is the sense in which it is used in the second ayat quoted, as well as throughout Islamic history.

The words in question, therefore, are both a dua to be among the people of ihsan on the Day of Qiyama, as well as to be among those who sincerely seek to earn Allah's good pleasure. By the 'wahhabi' aspect, I assume you mean the danger of tajsim (anthropomorphism). May Allah preserve us from this. It is not incorrect to attribute a 'wajh' to Allah, as He has attributed this to Himself. What is incorrect, from a doctrinal point of view is to, is to delineate human-based parameters and pre-conceived understandings to the word 'wajh,' such as explaining this as 'a round fleshy countenance with two eyes, a nose and a mouth...'

As mentioned, it is not supposed to be taken in this context, for Allah is glorified beyond all mortal understanding, but rather as explained above. I trust that this explanation meets with your approval, and I sincerely seek forgiveness from Allah if what I have said is incorrect.

wa ma taufiqi illa billah
jazakallah khayra jaza'

was salam
talib al-habib

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Sunna as Primordality

salams all

Is there a more brilliant writer scribing today than Shaykh AH Murad? If so, please let me know!


Please read through this long but profound article. Don't be put off by the beginning, where you may find yourself wondering 'where is he going with all this?' In fact, print it out and absorb it piecemeal. It's one of those essays that builds and builds in power and subtlety. Then tell me your iman, your love and reverence for Rasulullah (s) is not increased!

An excerpt:

Let us remind ourselves of the lifestyle of the Prophet (s). We live in a time of ‘lifestyle choices’; but for us, in fact, there is only one appealing ‘lifestyle choice’. Modernity holds up to us a range of ideal types to imitate: we can be like Peter Tatchell, or Monica Lewinsky, or Alan Clarke, or Michael Jackson. There is a long menu of alternatives. But when set beside the radiant humanity of Rasulullah (s.w.s.), there is no contest at all. For the Prophet is humanity itself, in its Adamic perfection. In him, and in his style of life, the highest possibilities of our condition are realised and revealed. And this is beauty itself: the word jamil, beautiful, which is one of his names, refers also to virtue. Ihsan, the Prophetic state of harmony with God, means the engendering of husn, or beauty.

Here is a condensed recollection, a kind of verbal icon, of that Prophetic beauty. It is paraphrased from a passage by Imam al-Ghazali, in Book 19 of his Revival of the Religious Sciences, Ihya Ulum al-Din.

‘The Messenger of God (s) was the mildest of men, but also the bravest and most just of men. He was the most restrained of people; never touching the hand of a woman over whom he did not have rights, or who was not his mahram. He was the most generous of men, so that never did a gold or silver coin spend the night in his house. If something remained at the end of the day, because he had not found someone to give it to, and night descended, he would go out, and not return home until he had given it to someone in need. From what Allah gave him [...] he would take only the simplest and easiest foods: dates and barley, giving anything else away in the path of Allah. Never did he refuse a gift for which he was asked. He used to mend his own sandals, and patch his own clothes, and serve his family, and help them to cut meat. He was the shyest of men, so that his gaze would never remain long in the face of anyone else. He would accept the invitation of a freeman or a slave, and accept a gift, even if it were no more than a gulp of milk, or the thigh of a rabbit, and offer something in return. He never consumed anything given in sadaqa. He was not too proud to reply to a slave-girl, or a pauper in rags. He would become angered for his Lord, never for himself; he would cause truth and justice to prevail even if this led to discomfort to himself or to his companions.

‘He used to bind a stone around his waist out of hunger. He would eat what was brought, and would not refuse any permissible food. If there was dates without bread, he would eat, if there was roast meat, he would eat; if there was rough barley bread, he would eat it; if there was honey or something sweet, he would eat it; if there was only yogurt without even bread, he would be quite satisfied with that.

‘He was not sated, even with barley-bread, for three consecutive days, until the day he met his Lord, not because of poverty, or avarice, but because he always preferred others over himself.

‘He would attend weddings, and visit the sick, and attend funerals, and would often walk among his enemies without a guard. He was the most humble of men, and the most serene, without arrogance. He was the most eloquent of men, without ever speaking for too long. He was the most cheerful of men. He was afraid of nothing in the dunya. He would wear a rough Yemeni cloak, or a woolen tunic; whatever was lawful and was to hand, that he would wear. He would ride whatever was to hand: sometimes a horse, sometimes a camel, sometimes a mule, sometimes a donkey. And at times he would walk barefoot, without an upper garment or a turban or a cap. He would visit the sick even if they were in the furthest part of Madina. He loved perfumes, and disliked foul smells.

‘He maintained affectionate and loyal ties with his relatives, but without preferring them to anyone who was superior to them. He never snubbed anyone. He accepted the excuse of anyone who made an excuse. He would joke, but would never say anything that was not true. He would laugh, but not uproarously. He would watch permissible games and sports, and would not criticise them. He ran races with his wives. Voices would be raised around him, and he would be patient. He kept a sheep, from which he would draw milk for his family. He would walk among the fields of his companions. He never despised any pauper for his poverty or illness; neither did he hold any king in awe simply because he was a king. He would call rich and poor to Allah, without distinction.

‘In him, Allah combined all noble traits of character; although he neither read nor wrote, having grown up in a land of ignorance and deserts in poverty, as a shepherd, and as an orphan with neither father nor mother. But Allah Himself taught him all the excellent qualities of character, and praiseworthy ways, and the stories of the early and the later prophets, and the way to salvation and triumph in the Akhira, and to joy and detachment in the dunya, and how to hold fast to duty, and to avoid the unnecessary. May Allah give us success in obeying him, and in following his sunna. Amin ya rabb al-alamin.‘

This moving portrait by Imam al-Ghazali depicts our role model, and simultaneously our ideal of humanity lived in the form of absolute beauty. His was a life lived in fullness. There was no aspect of human perfection that he did not know and manifest. And his perfection also indicates the nature of specifically masculine perfection. He was a great warrior; a sound hadith narrated by Imam al-Darimi tells us, on the authority of Ali, that

‘On the day of Badr I was present, and we sought refuge in the Prophet (s.w.s.), who was the closest of us all to the enemy. On that day he was the most powerful of all the combatants who fought.’One of the Companions described him riding his horse, wearing a red turban and holding his sword, and said later that never in his life had he seen a sight more beautiful.

In 23 years he became undisputed ruler of Arabia. Through his genius and charisma, and the attractive force of his personality, he united the Arabian tribes for the first time in their history. He took his people from the depths of idolatry into the purest form of monotheism. He gave them a law for the first time. He laid down, in his mosque in Madina, a system of worship, self-restraint and spiritual fruitfulness that provided the inspiration and the precedent for countless generations of later worshippers and saints. In affirming the Ka‘ba, he affirmed beauty; so that all else that he did was beautiful.

And in all this, he attributed his success only to Allah. He was, as Imam al-Ghazali records, the most humble of men. He was forbearing, polite, courteous, and mild. He paid no attention to people’s outward form, but assessed and responded to their spirits. He forgave constantly. He was indulgent with the simple Bedouin of Central Arabia, the roughest people on earth. When one of them. who wanted money, pulled his cloak so violently that it left a mark, he merely smiled, and ordered that the man be given what he wanted.

All of this came about through his detachment. The veil of self and distraction was gone: he saw by the Truth. He knew his own prophetic status, but was not made proud by this. He said: ‘I am the first around whom the earth shall split open at the Resurrection - and I do not boast’. He knew his worth, but because he knew his Lord, he was not proud.

And the most perfect peace and blessings, without number or end, upon the Soul of mercy, the Quintessence of existence, the Beloved of Allah and His creation, Sayyidina Muhammad, his family, companions and inheritors - such blessings that will be a source for our salvation on the Day of Rising!

Allah! Allah! Allah!

was salam
`abd da`if
talib al-habib

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Reponses to the Pope


Three responses to Pope Benedict, pointing out the fallacies of his lamentable speech.

The first, courtesy of Islamica, is a telling response to the Pope by 40 of the most prominent traditional ulama of our time. It is a concise but excellent analysis of several extremely important concepts in Islam, some of which are particularly relevent to our troubled times. Quite apart from its content, its beautiful adab, eloquent style and penetrating wisdom illustrates the Prophetic (s) manner of discourse with non-Muslims, as well as the central qualities of 'returning evil with good,' and 'inviting with wisdom and beautiful preaching.'


The second - sharper and more pointed - is from Imam Zaid Shakir:

Lastly, a more philosophically inclined, point-by-point analysis by Aref Ali Nayed. This article additionally illustrates the Pope's inclination towards an exclusivist Euro-Centric, Hellenized Christianity seemingly defined by its opposition to everything non-European (and therefore irratonal?). This appears to be the Catholic / European version of the self-aggrandizing Americus Imperius model of Evangelist Christianity currently being courted by the Bush Administration. The former sees the way of Jesus Christ as referring exclusively to European norms; the latter binds it inextricably with America's Star-Spangled Banner. Courtesy of www.masud.co.uk


What a pity that nuanced, intelligent and well-grounded responses such as these do not find their way into the mainstream media, whilst the slatherings of Ayman al-Zawahiri and co make front-page headlines! La hawla wa la quwwata illa billah!

was salam

Sunday, October 15, 2006

What is worship

a pome of sorts. Based on a conversation with my shaykh (may Allah bless him and give him good health) a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away... :)

Insha-allah, something to think about at the terminus of this blessed month of Ramadan

What Worship Is

And I asked you in my silence, ‘what is worship?’
You smiled in your heart and said:
It is that you journey with God, through God, to God, for God.
That your very breath be because of Him.

That you awake each morn in thankfulness,
With a song of praise on your lips.
That sleep be the wakefulness of your spirit
And your dreams, as winged flights unto Him.

It is that you weep for another man’s sadness,
And drink deep from the cup of his joy.
Strengthen his hand when he falters,
Restrain it, when he rushes to wrong himself.

It is that you see in his sin, your own frailty,
And in his righteousness, that which you may yet become.
That you grasp the thorns of your enemy, flung in your path
And, by forgiveness, fashion of them roses to adorn his house.

Let your work be service – not of your self or of your fellows,
For Allah suffices for all, beyond means and cause –
But of Him, through the service of his creatures.
No more, no less does He ask of you.

Give one who asks freely, begrudge him not your pennies,
And be grateful for the blessing he has gifted you.
For every beggar is a benefactor;
He fills your soul when you fill his cup;
And food given to the hungry will quench your own thirst
On the Day when wealth and power will not avail you.

It is that you look beyond colour and wealth and fame,
Further still, past man’s virtues and vices,
To the inner soul that bowed with you before God in awe
And worshipped Him without words or doubt
On that First Day before memory and beyond thought.

Veil from all strangers not only your body,
But the deeper beauty of your goodly deeds;
For, in the same action, will you tear down the veil
That lies between you and your Beloved.

And when you stand for prayer,

It is that you cast yourself from your Self
Deep into the ocean of His Majesty and His Unity,
And drown in your helplessness.

That you do not read His Word,
But hear Him speak to you;
That you prostrate your very heart in his presence
And surrender all that you are unto Him.

Let your feet tread in the footsteps of the holy and the saintly,
And let your light be taken from their lamp.
Live not as if God’s beloved (s) watches you,
But as though you are him.
Let your words be echoes of his voice;
And your deeds be shadows of his radiance.
Then will you truly taste the sweetness of his blessed Way.

It is that you pass your days and nights, restless,
Yearning for the meeting with Him,
That you water your faith with tears of regret,
But rest content in the certainty of His mercy.

What is worship?
It is that you perfect all this, yet regard yourself
As more insignificant than a grain of sand in the trackless desert,
And more unworthy than the most wretched of men in your eyes;
Until you have become nothing, and a stranger to yourself.

Then, when you have sacrificed your Self on Love’s altar,
When you have forsaken this world for the sake of the next,
When you have abandoned the next world for the sake of God Alone,
Then will you die unto yourself,
And in dying find eternal existence in Him.

Then will you live in God, with God, through God, for God;
A drop in His ocean, a reed-flute at His mouth.
Then, when you transcend both heaven and earth,
When all has perished, except for the vision of Him,

Then will you worship.

Ramadan Karim
was salam

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

the passing of two great Mustafas

salams all

'Allah does not take away knowledge by removing it from the hearts of scholars; rather He takes it by removing the souls of the scholars...'

Two great masters of the internal and external paths have been taken to the enfolding embrace of Allah's mercy less than a month apart from each other. One on the Night of Mercy (Laylat Nisf Sha'ban); the other in the month of mercy.

Shaykh Mustafa Turkmani of Damascus.


Shaykh Mustafa Basir al-Darqawi
by Shaykh GF Haddad

We belong to Allah and unto Him we shall return. Sayyidi Muhammad al-Mustafa Basir ibn Sayyid Ibrahim ibn Sayyid Imbarak al-Basiri al-Hasani al-Maghribi al-Susi al-Muqri' al-Maliki al-Shadhili al-Darqawi passed away in his zawiya in Bani A`yaat (Middle Atlas region of Morocco) on the night of mid-Sha`ban 1427 (night of 7-8 September 2006), at the age of 67.

He is survived by many sons and daughters and countless murids. His eldest son, Sidi Isma`il, continues to be in charge of running the affairs of the zawiya which is heavily frequented by the Fuqara and the Bearers of the Qur'an at all times of the year and which I had the honor of visiting for a month, as I described in my article "From Blessed Morocco: World of the Qur'an."


During my time there, I was blessed to read with him the `Aqida part of the Risala al-Qushayriyya, Ibn Juzay's tafsir of Surat al-Fatiha, and pages from Sayyid Ahmad Zayni Dahlan's Mi`raj al-Wusul ila Ma`rifat Allah wal-Rasul.

When I gave Sidi Mustafa a copy of the large arabic volume of Mawlana al-Shaykh Nazim's talks, published in Lebanon under the title Jami`al-Irshad al-Sharif, he held public readings from it in his zawiya for weeks. A year or two later, when his son-in-law drove him to Damascus,they took me with them on a memorable visit of Mawlana al-Shaykh in Cyprus, at which time the latter vested Sidi Mustafa with his jubba. The least benefit of travels around the seasoned Shuyukh of irshad is that they strip one bare of such amounts of pretense that if one were a tree one might muse whether one consists exclusively of dead bark.

Sidi Mustafa often visited Damascus on his way to Hajj or `Umra and graced the homes of those who loved him with his gracious presence - visits which left such homes in awe at his simplicity and good humor. He commanded attention and attraction wherever he went, especially for the North African students who turned his gatherings into the most special "all-sufi all-memorizers of the Qur'an" circles. Among them the noble stand most learned of them by agreement of those who met him, the adib,usuli, and sufi Shaykh Farid ibn `Azzouz al-Hasani al-Jaza'iri (who spent over ten years in Damascus and is now back in Algeria) bore special love for the Shaykh, who gave him ijaza in Tariqa.

I remember a visit with Sidi Mustafa to Shaykh Muhyi al-Din Ibn `Arabi's grave in Damascus, after which men and women flocked to him for advice and help but he said to them: "The Shaykh is here so there is no need for me," i.e. Shaykh Muhyi al-Din. Another time, we visited the Hadra of Shaykh Mustafa al-Turkmani in Jami` al-Ward. After the Hadra, as people took their seats and tea was distributed, Shaykh Mustafa al-Turkmani gave Shaykh Muhyi al-Din Ibn`Arabi's book of Wasaya to Sidi Mustafa and asked him extemporaneously to give the dars for him. Smile for smile, Sidi Mustafa Basir obliged. I remember the latter's commentary on the wasiyya that we should not sleep before washing mouth and hands after eating lest we feed our shaytan: "The point is not to strengthen your shaytan but to weaken it." Another time, Sidi Mustafa took us to Amman, where we visited Shaykh Nuh Keller in his zawiya, who gave him his Shadhili works and led the hadra. In his last visit to Damascus he was hosted by Abu al-Nur Institute, where we visited him.

One of Sidi Mustafa's favorite repartees in his exchanges after enquiring after the health of his friends was: "Bi-khayr, wa-fi khayr, wa-`ala khayr!" He smiled often and his friendly, unassuming manner hid from our sight, much of the time, the fact that he peered into the spiritual states of people and could diagnose their needs before they even voiced them. His family hailed from the desert and he did not caref or appearances. His anger could be fierce and he reserved it, as far as I saw, for the Wahhabis, whom he called "Shalafis" and "Talafis" and for whom he had no tolerance. One time, as we travelled in the Marrakesh region we stopped to pray Maghrib in one of their mosques and one of them had the misfortune of nudging the Shaykh's toes with his toes as they love to do inside prayer. As we went into ruku`, the Shaykh slapped the man below the knee and he retreated.

The senior Shuyukh of da`wa and irshad are never coy about asserting the superiority of Ahl al-Haqq to other schools which they rightly view as the offshoots of modernity and misguidance dressed up as religion. It can never be said of them that they are "neither sufi nor wahhabi" as this would be identical with saying they are "neither guided nor misguided" and is confusion dressed up as moderation. Their successors, on the other hand, are a different story. Another son of Sidi Mustafa, Sidi `Abd al-Mughith, whom I met in Damascus and to whom I owe the honor of meeting his father, authored a large volume entitled al-Nazr al-Yasir min Manaqib Zawiyat Al al-Basir fil-Sahra' wa-Sous wa-Bani A`yat bil-Maghrib ("A Glimpse at the Merits of the Zawiya of the Basir House in the Desert, Sous, and Bani A`yat in Morocco"). He also authored a brief history of the Shadhiliyya and a biography of Imam al-Jazuli accompanied by a new edition of Dala'il al-Khayrat.

I was told, years after first meeting the Shaykh, the story behind his heavy limp and scarred leg. In his early days, a deranged man showed up gun in hand in the school in which Sidi Mustafa was teaching. People took to their heels but Sidi Mustafa did not budge. The man faced him and said: 'Who will protect you from me?' Sidi Mustafa replied: 'Between you and me there is Allah.' The man then shot Sidi Mustafa and kept shooting until the gun was empty but by the grace of Allah, Sidi Mustafa survived and was graced with four wives and the successorship of his father in directing the zawiyas of the Darqawiyya-Basiriyya.

May Allah grant him the highest abode in Paradise next to his forefather, our liege-lord the Messenger of Allah, upon him and his House blessings and peace.

GF Haddad

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un

Friday, October 06, 2006

No of rakats in tarawih


The hoary old chestnut of how many rakats in tarawih. I was (yet again) witness to a (mainly civilised) debate about this last night.

I'm going to approach the topic from a slightly different perspective - that of linguistics. Any understanding of shari`a (lit: fiqh ash-shari`a) has to minimally be in keeping with the basic principles of Arabic grammar. For example, if one said, 'muslims have prayers during the day,' it would be understood that this meant more than 1 prayer, as the word used was in the plural.

To wit:

1. The prayer in question is called salat al-tarawih.
2. Tarawih is the (broken) plural of the singluar tarwiha.
3. tarwiha is the verbal noun (masdar) of the verb ra-ha on the scale of taf`il (the second derived verb form pattern).
4. The verb scale ta`fil gives the meaning of 'to effect or cause [the meaning of the root word].'
5. The root in this case is ra-ha, which means, 'to be at rest.'
6. Thus tarwiha means, 'to cause a rest' or 'to have a rest.'
7. The plural in Arabic is numbered as three or more - unlike English which does not have a dual case.
8. Thus tarawih means, 'three or more periods of rest.'
9. And salat al-tarawih means, 'the prayer in which three or more periods of rest are taken.'
10. A rest is taken between each set of 4 rakats by agreement.
11. Mathematically, therefore, in order for the prayer to be validly called, 'salat al-tarawih,' it is necessary to take at least 3 rest periods between sets of four rakats.
12. The minimum number of rakats in tarawih - linguistically - thus has to be sixteen [4 rakats - rest 1 - 4 rakats - rest 2 - 4 rakats - rest 3 - 4 rakats]
13. It is therefore impossible for the prayer to be called 'salat al-tarawih' and consist of 8 rakats.

Allah knows best.
Ramadan Mubarak

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Knowledge is Light (and hearts are candles)

salams to whoever reads...

I phoned my Grandma in South Africa yesterday for Mi'raj - kind of a family tradition, though I really should phone more often! The formidable old lady, now 81 and going strong, was my very first teacher of deen - may Allah reward her abundantly for teaching me 'alif, ba tha,' and, 'awwal kalima tayyab.'

She was - of course - deliriously excited to speak to me and, between informing (several times each) about the whereabouts and circumstances of our ever-widening family diaspora, she imparted some precious information.

Nothing that you or I would call spectacular - simple advice like, 'say bismillah before you do anything,' 'sleep and wake up with the shahada,' and so forth. Yet it had a profound effect on me - as much as the words of any shaykh.

Strange thing was, I repeated what she had said to my wife not a few hours later, and it fell flat. It just didn't have the same 'zing' to it when I retold it. And - being me - I gots me to thinking why... How many times have many of us experienced this? You can't tell it the way the shaykh/imam/teacher did? Your words don't have the same impact on others that their's did on you? You just had to be there?

The way of acquiring spiritual benefit from people is not through their words; but from their states. It is a two-fold process: our connection to them, and their connection to their Lord. The latter is a pathway for Divine wisdom; which is knowledge that melts hearts and enraptures souls, whose traces fundamentally affect behaviour. Their hearts are candles lit by the Divine out of His blessed providence.

The former requires that one's own heart be open to theirs. When Allah's rain is falling, we cannot benefit if the containers of our hearts are sealed shut. There are many people - if not most - to whom our hearts are closed, for we have no connection to them - connections such as love and respect. But those to whom they are open, will affect us with the simplest of their words - no, even their stillness and silence, their looks or gestures, their very presence or absence.

My heart is open to my beloved grandmother; and her's - after a lifetime of worship and unfailing service - is open to Allah's. She is not learned by the standards that most of us have. She does not quote hadith; she has forgotten most of her Quran; she was taught her fiqh 70 years ago. But she has a state with Allah, a secret so secret that perhaps even she does not know it. And she told me to say 'bismillah.'

Mi'raj Mubarak. May Allah bless you, and her, and forgive me, and her.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A maths problem


my daughter Noor (7) chirps up with a comment during math's homework:

'Islam is like a math's problem. Allah is the answer, Rasulullah (s) is the example. To get to the answer, you have to do one step at a time, following the example. It's easy if you do it that way, but if you don't, you get the answer wrong.'


alhamdu lillah. Clearly takes after her mother... :)