August 30, 2012
I have reflected on the brilliance of Dr. Nasr in the past, in posts, but am currently delving into The Essential Seyyed Hossein Nasr, and am absolutely mesmerized by his works. He is truly a revivalist of the Post Modern age of the West, and a revolutionary era of the East. SubhanAllah.
For a taste of his succinct, yet in depth views, compacted into an easily understandable essay, please do read further :
IT is often said that music is forbidden in Islam and this assertion is repeated by many contemporary Muslims as well as by orientalists. Yet, when one studies the Islamic world, either in its present form or during various stages of its history, one is startled by the presence of music in many of the most fundamental aspects of that tradition. The call to prayer (al-adhân) is almost always sung,[i] as is the Holy Quran whose chanting is the most nourishing of all music for the soul of the people of faith (mu’minûn). During Ramadân, even now in some Islamic cities, one can observe the age old tradition of waking people in time to eat before the dawn and the beginning of the fast by means of chants, drums and sometimes trumpets. Moreover, funeral orations performed under the most strict religious canons are usually sung melodies and in some holy sanctuaries music accompanies religious ceremonies as in Mashhad in Persia at the tomb of Imâm ‘Alî al-Ridâ where drums and an instrument resembling the oboe welcome the rising sun every morning at the earliest moment of the day. Finally it might be mentioned that the Muslim armies performing the holy war (al-jihâd) were accompanied from the earliest times by a type of music which intensified the qualities of bravery and courage within the hearts of the soldiers and that the first military band was created by the Ottomans and later emulated in Europe.
Besides these specifically religious instances from the Sharî‘ite point of view[ii] there is of course that ocean of celestial music connected with Sufism, music varying from the playing of drums in the Senegal to elaborate performances including many instruments found in Turkey and the Indian sub-continent primarily among the Maulawîs and Chishtîs. This music is also of a directly religious character, although here the esoteric rather than the exoteric dimension of the religion is involved. Furthermore, this type of music overflows to embrace nearly the whole community of believers of certain occasions such as the anniversary of the birth or death of great saints.
There is also the more popular form of music, or folk music as it is called today, which has existed as an integral part of the life pattern of various groups, especially in the countryside and among the nomads throughout the Islamic world and which has been sung or played by peoples who have adhered most strictly to the Sharî‘ah. Sometimes this type of music has served as inspiration for various Sufimasters who have adopted it for strictly spiritual ends in their gatherings. Even Jalâl al-Dîn Rûmî, the founder of the Maulawî order, often took songs from taverns of Anatolia and converted them into vehicles for the expression of the profoundest yearning for God.
Besides all these forms of music, one must mention the great classical traditions of music in the Islamic world such as the Persian, Andalusian, Arabic of the Near East, Turkish and even North Indian traditions which have survived to this day. Although the origin of these musical traditions goes back to ancient civilizations, they became fully integrated into the Islamic universe and took their place among the major expressions of Islamic art. These classical traditions were supported mostly by the courts of various caliphs and sultans or the nobility and were more of an aristocratic and knightly art than anything else as far as patronage was concerned,[iii] but the content of this art remained highly contemplative and spiritual. Often the musicians supported by the court or the aristocracy were themselves members of the Sufi orders as can be seen so clearly in Persia and India during the past three centuries[iv] This classical tradition was in any case closely related to Sufism and in certain cases, such as that of the Maulawî order, the cultivation and preservation of the classical traditionwas directly due to a Sufi order.[v]
Many of the outstanding Islamic men of learning especially philosophers, mathematicians and physicians were well-versed in music and its theories and some like al-Fârâbî, Ibn Sîna and Urmawî were notable authorities in musical theory.[vi] Certain Muslim physicians used music to cure ailments of both body and soul and several treatises were written concerning the therapeutic view of music.[vii] Men of letters were also usually acquainted with music. Poetry in particular has been almost inseparable from music throughout Islamic history as the Kitâb al-aghânî of Abu’l-Faraj al-Isfahânî illustrates for the early Islamic period. In both Arabic and Persian literature, the close wedding between masterpieces of poetry such as the Burdah or the ghazals of Hâfiz and their musical rendition is to be observed in almost all periods and climes. The same holds true of Turkish, Urdu and other Islamic languages. One can hardly conceive of Urdu, Bengali and Sindhi poetry, just to cite a few languages of the Indian sub-continent, without recalling the sessions of poetry (mushâ‘arah) which are usually combined with the singing of poems and the qawwâlîs which are by nature musical performances with instruments but in which the chanting of poetry has the central role.[viii]
With all these considerations in mind, it might be asked what is the meaning of the banning of music in Islam? What domain does the banning involve and what kind of music falls under the Sharî‘ite injunctions concerning music? There is no doubt that this question was debated by noted jurists and theologians including such eminent authorities as Ibn Hazm and al-Ghazzâlî.[ix] But the question of the significance and legitimacy of music in the total structure of the Islamic revelation is not merely juridical or theological. It involves most of all the inner and spiritual aspect of Islam, and therefore the answer must be sought above all in Sufism. It is of interest to read, concerning this question, the words of one of the most eminent of Sufi masters, Rûzbahân Baqlî of Shiraz,[x]] who was an authority in both Sufism and the Sharî‘ah as well as on music itself. The words of the patron saint of Shiraz in his Risâlat al-quds are a most telling witness to the significance of music, the conditions under which it is legitimate, the kinds of people who may listen to music, and the kind of music which is worthy of being performed and listened to.[xi]
“On the Meaning of ‘Spiritual Music’ (samâ‘)”
‘Know O Brothers—May God increase the best of joys for you in listening to spiritual music—that for the lovers of the Truth there are several principles concerning listening to spiritual music, and these have a beginning and an end. Also the enjoyment of this music by various spirits is different. It can be enjoyed according to the station of the Sacred Spirit (rûh-i muqaddas). However, no one, save he who is among those who reign in the domain of gnosis (ma‘rifat), can be prepared for it, for spiritual qualities are mingled with corporeal natures. Until the listener becomes purified from that filth, he cannot become a listener in the gatherings (majâlis) of spiritual familiarity (uns). Verily, all the creatures among the animals have an inclination toward spiritual music, for each possesses in its own right a spirit. It keeps alive thanks to that spirit and that spirit keeps alive thanks to music.
‘Music is in the coming to rest of all thoughts from the burdens of the human state (bashariyyat), and it exites the temperament of men. It is the stimulant of seigneurial mysteries (asrâr-i rabbânî). To some, it is a temptation because they are imperfect. For others, it is a precept (‘ibrat) for they have reached perfection. It is not proper for those who are alive on the natural plane, but whose heart is dead, to listen to music, for it will cause their destruction. It is, however, incumbent upon him whose heart is joyous, whether he discovers or fails to discover the soul, to listen to music. For in music there are a hundred thousand joys, of which with the help of a single joy one can cut across a thousand years of the path of attaining gnosis in a way that cannot be achieved by any gnostic through any form of worship.
‘It is necessary that the passions in all the veins of the seeker after music becomes diluted (as far as the passions are concerned) and that the veins become filled with light as a result of the purity of worship. In his soul, he must be present before the Divine and in the state of audition so as to remain free, while listening to music, from the temptations of the carnal soul. And this cannot be achieved with certainty except by the strongest in the path of Divine Love. For spiritual music is the music of the Truth (al-Haqq). Spiritual music comes from God (the Truth- Haqq); it stands before God; it is in God; it is with God. If someone were to conceive one of these relations with something other than God, he would be an infidel. Such a person would not have found the path and would not have drunk the wine of union in the spiritual concert.
‘The disciples of love (mahabbat) listen to music without recourse to their carnal soul. Those who walk upon the path of yearning (shawq) listen to spiritual music without recourse to reason. The possessed followers of intense love (‘ishq) listen to spiritual music without recourse to the heart. Those agitated by spiritual familiarity listen to music without recourse to the spirit. If they were to listen to music with these means they would become veiled from God. And if they were to listen to it with the carnal soul they would become impious (zindîq). And if they were to listen with the power of reason (‘aql) they would become creditable. And if they would hear with the heart they would become contemplative (murâqib). And if they were to listen with the spirit they would become totally present. Spiritual music is the audition and vision of Divine Presence (hudûr). It is terror and sorrow. It is wonder in wonder. In that world canons cease to exist. The man of knowledge becomes ignorant and the lover is annihilated.
‘In the feast of Divine Love, the listener and the performer are both one. The truth of the path of lovers is accompanied by music but the truth of its truth is without music. Spiritual music comes from discourse (khatâb) and the lack of it from beauty (jamâl). If there is speech, there is distance, and if there is silence there is proximity. As long as there is audition, there is ignorance (bîkhabar) and the ignorant dwell in duality. In hearing spiritual music, reason is dethroned; command becomes prohibition and the abrogator (nâsikh) the abrogated (mansûkh). In the first stage of the spiritual concert, all the abrogators become abrogated, and all the abrogated abrogators.
‘Spiritual music is the key to the treasury of Divine Verities. The gnostics are divided: some listen with the help of the stations (maqâmât); some with the help of the states (hâlât); some with the help of spiritual unveiling (mukâshifât); some with the help of vision (mushâhadât). When they listen according to the stations, they are in reproach. When they listen according to the states, they are in a state of return. When they listen according to spiritual unveiling they are in union (wisâl); when they listen according to vision they are immersed in the Divine Beauty.
‘From the beginning to the end of the stations (maqâmât), there are thousands upon thousands of stations each of which possesses thousands upon thousands of pieces of spiritual music, and in each piece of music there are thousands upon thousands of qualities, such as change, warning, elongation, union, proximity, distance, ardour, anxiety, hunger, thirst, fear, hope, melancholy, victory, sorrow, fright, purity, chastity, servitude and lordship. If any of these qualities were to reach the soul of the ascetics of the world, their soul would involuntarily depart from their bodies.
‘Likewise, from the beginning to the end of the states (ahwâl), there are thousands upon thousands of maqams in each of which there are a thousand allusions (ishârât) within spiritual music. And in each allusion there are many kinds of pain such as love (mahabbat), yearning, intensive love (‘ishq), ardour, purity, aridity and power. If one of them were to pass within the heart of all the disciples, the heads of all of them would become separated from their bodies.
‘Also from the beginning of spiritual unveiling to its end during the hearing of spiritual music, there is one theophanic display after another. If the lovers of God were to see one of these displays they would all melt away like quicksilver. Likewise, in mystical vision during the spiritual concert hundreds of thousands of qualities become revealed, each of which prepares a thousand subtleties (latâ’if) within the being of the gnostic. Such qualities as knowledge, truth, calamities, flashes and gleamings of the Divine Lights, awe, strength, inconstancy, contraction, expansion, nobility and serenity, will cast him to the Invisible beyond the invisible world, and reveal to him the mysteries of his origins.
‘Through each leaf in the paradise of spiritual vision, and from the trees of the qualities, the birds of light will sing the eternal song with uncreated notes before the soul of his soul. One syllable of that song will annihilate the gnostic from the state of servitude and make him subsistent in the state of Divinity. It will seize the foundations of his being and bestow another foundation upon him. It will familiarize him with himself and make him a stranger to himself. It will make him know himself, audacious vis-à-vis himself and fearful of himself. While he is amidst the assembly, it will transform him into its own colour. It will speak of the Mystery of mysterious with him and enable him to listen to the discourse on Divine Love from its tongue.
‘Sometimes it says ‘thou art I’, and sometimes ‘I am thou’. Sometimes it makes him annihilated in subsistence and sometimes subsistent in annihilation. Sometimes it will draw him near; at other times provide peace for him through familiarity. Sometimes it fatigues him with the scorching of Unity; at other times it brings his soul to life through perplexity. At times it makes him listen; at other moments to flee or to recite. Sometimes it casts him into the state of pure servitude; at other times into the essence of lordship. Sometimes it makes him inebriated with beauty; at other times humbled by majesty. Sometimes it makes him sober, or strengthens him, or makes him inconstant. Sometimes it takes his soul through the languor of spiritual music. At other times, through the eradication of the calamities caused by the unceasing light shining from the dawns of Unity upon the roof of Majesty, it will place him upon the throne of kingship. Sometimes it will make him fly with the aid of the mystery of blessedness through the space of pre-eternity. At other times, by means of the shears of transcendence, it will cut the wing of resolution in the space of self-identity.
‘All these are to be found in spiritual music and still more. He knows this truth who, at the moment of spiritual vision and through the beauty of this vision in the presence of the Divine Presence, acquires from the eternal saki without the toil of non-existence the wine of spiritual familiarity; one who is able to heal the sublime words issuing from the blessed dawn within the invisible dimensions of the “rational spirit” (rûh-i nâtiqah). He will know who is there. Those who are here do not know its exposition. These teachings are neither for the unripe who would fall into a state of doubt through them, nor for strangers who would become stranded by them. For this is the heritage of Moses, the secret of Jesus, the ardour of Adam, the sincere friendship of Abraham, the lamentation of Jacob, the suffering of Isaac, the consolation of Ishamael, the songs of David, the familiarity of Noah, the flight of Jonas, the chastity of Joseph, the calamity of Jacob, the remedies of John, the fear of Zackarias, the yearning of Jethro and the spiritual unveiling and vision of the friend, Ahmad (Prophet of Islam)—May the blessings of God the Merciful be upon all of them.
‘These words are the secret of ‘I am the Truth’ (ana’l-Haqq); they are the truths which glorify God. The reality of spiritual music belongs to Sarî Saqatî; the speech of this music to Abû Bakr Wâsitî; and the pain of this music to Shiblî.[xii] The spiritual concert is permissible (mubâh) for the lovers of God; it is forbidden (harâm) for the ignorant.[xiii]
‘Spiritual music is of three kinds: one for the common people, one for the elite and one for the elite among the elite. The common people listen through nature and that is destitution.[xiv] The elite listen with the heart, and that is being in quest. The elite among the elite listen with the soul, and that is being in love. If I comment upon music, I fear that it will cause constraint in the world of those with large ears. For I come from the ruins of annihilation and I have brought the mystery of subsistence. If I speak, I speak without foundation.[xv] I speak according to the foundation of the listener. My musician is God and I speak of Him. My witness is God and I see Him. My words are the song of the nightingale of the eternal covenant.[xvi] I hold discourse with the birds in the pre-eternal nest.’
My case has become strange to all strangers,
And I have become ‘wonder among all that is wonderous’.
* * *
The very sobriety of Islam prevented music from becoming an externalized profanation. While on the exoteric level it remains confined to special situations such as those already mentioned in which music is governed strictly by canons to prevent it from arousing animal passions, esoterically music became the means of arousing the sentiments and transforming the soul. But then it was played under conditions that guaranteed the subjugation of the carnal soul before the transmuting effect of music was allowed to enter the arena.
Islamic civilization has not preserved and developed several great musical traditions in spite of Islam but because of it. It has prevented the creation of a music, like the post-classical music of the West, in which an “expansion” takes place without the previous “contraction” which must of necessity precede expansion in the process of spiritual realization. Islam has banned music which leads to the forgetfulness of God and forbidden those Muslims from hearing it who would become distracted from the spiritual world and become immersed in worldliness through listening to music. But Islam has preserved music in its most exalting and yet sober aspect in its psalmody of the Holy Quran and the like for the whole community, while in its inner dimension it has made of music the ladder to the Divine Presence with a contemplative quality which is an echo of paradise where are combined the sensuous and the ascetic, the otherworldly and the beauty of the here and now. It has made of spiritual music, a vibration and echo of that Reality which is at once transcendent and imminent.
The samâ‘ or spiritual music of which Baqlî speaks is the voice of God calling man unto Himself and a means whereby man is led back to his spiritual origin. It is an adjunct to the Path (tarîqah) to God, and only he who is willing to undertake the necessary discipline to become worthy of traversing this Path has the right to listen to this music. As for others, they should not disdain the path which they are not meant to follow, for to negate or deny any of God’s gifts is to commit a sin for which man must ask the forgiveness of Him who alone can forgive. Ultimately man is himself God’s music and Islam as an integral tradition could not but include this reality and to provide the possibility for those with the right qualifications to hear the music of the lyre of their own existence being plucked by the Divine Hand.
Look here for notes on the research:
August 30, 2012
In April 2011 an international symposium was held in Riyadh, under the auspices of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies as well as the Austrian Embassy to Saudi Arabia, on the life and work of my father. The conference as a whole was entitled “Muhammad Asad – A Life for Dialogue,” but I was asked by the organizers to write specifically on “Muhammad Asad Between Religion and Politics.” Unfortunately I was unable to attend the symposium so I sent in my written contribution to be read out by someone else at the meeting. What follows is a slightly elaborated version of the argument I sent.
I should begin by correcting a view that has become common among people interested in my father’s life and work, that his conversion can be seen as the building of a bridge between Islam and the West. He has even been described by some as a European intellectual who came to Islam with the aim of liberalizing it. Nothing could be further from the truth. When he embraced Islam (aslama, “submitted,” is the Arabic term) he entered a rich and complex tradition that had evolved in diverse ways – mutually compatible as well as in conflict with one another – for a millennium-and-a-half. Thus in his own life’s work he sought to use the methodology of the medieval Spanish theologian Abu Muhammad Ibn Hazm, he drew often and copiously on the interpretations of the nineteenth-century Egyptian reformer Muhammad Abduh, and again, despite strong disagreement on various points of substance with the fourteenth-century Syrian theologian Taqi al-Din Ahmad Ibn Taymiyya, he attempted, like the latter, to integrate reason (‘aql), tradition (naql), and free-will (irāda), to form a coherent and distinctive vision of Islam. His view of Sufism, incidentally, was also influenced by Ibn Taymiyya, for whom it was the excess of Sufis rather than Sufism as such that was the object of reproach. In fact most of what my father published in the early years of his life (Islam at the Crossroads, the translation of Sahīh al-Bukhāri, the periodical Arafāt, etc.) was addressed not to Westerners but to fellow-Muslims. I would say, therefore, that he was concerned less with building bridges and more with immersing himself critically in the tradition of Islam that became his tradition, and with encouraging members of his community (Muslims) to adopt an approach that he considered to be its essence. His autobiography was the first publication that was addressed to non-Muslims (as well as to Muslims, of course), a work in which he attempted to lay out to a popular audience not only how he became a Muslim but also what he thought was wonderful about Islam. His translation of the Qur’an into English, completed in the latter part of his life, was not simply a translation: it was a detailed presentation of his final vision of Islam.
My father was not a political but a religious thinker for whom the Qur’an and Sunnah together formed what he called “the most perfect plan for human living.” It was in this connection that he wrote on the idea of an Islamic state, and even prepared suggestions for an Islamic Constitution in Pakistan in the early yeas of its existence. These suggestions were elaborated in his well-known book, Principles of State and Government in Islam. But his interest in that subject declined in later years when he became preoccupied with his translation of the Qur’an. Like most intellectuals who have lived a long life (born in 1900, he died in 1992) his views evolved and developed through reflection and changing circumstances. I am not able to trace this development here, but I will nevertheless try, by thinking about what he said and wrote two decades after his death, to interpret and reconstruct what I believe was his vision of Islam. In doing so I will sometimes disagree with what he wrote and sometimes try to make explicit what I see as valuable but implicit in his views, and elaborate on it.
The first and most important idea in my father’s vision has to do with his conviction that access to Islam is based on reason, and that therefore argument is necessary to becoming and being a Muslim. When I was a boy he used to tell me that one must try to persuade other Muslims and non-believers not by force but by reason: This is what the Qur’an means by saying “There is no compulsion in religion” (lā ikrāha fi-ddīn). In the Qur’an, he pointed out, God always addresses human beings by appeal to reason. If you read it carefully, you will realize that the Qur’an is continually engaged in argument by means of provocative questions because argument is what it expects its listeners to understand. So when the Islamic message fails to persuade by reason, he insisted that Muslims must live in mutual acceptance with the followers of all “religions,” hence another Qur’anic saying: “To you your religion to me mine” (lakum dīnakum wa liy ad-dīn). God reveals his message at a particular moment in history through Muhammad, “the last of the Prophets,” but he doesn’t control everything in the world. Humans are free to choose what to believe and how to act: “Truly, We offered the trust [of reason and volition] to the heavens, and the earth, and the mountains: but they refused to bear it because they were afraid of it. Yet man took it up – for, truly, he has always been prone to be most wicked, most foolish.” (Innā ‘aradnā-l-amāna ‘ala-s-samāwāti wa-l-ard wa-l-jibāli fa abayna an yahmilnahā wa ashfaqna minhā wa hamalahā insānu innahu kāna zalūman jahūlan. [Sūrat al ahzāb, 72].) Divine intervention, my father claimed, is not essentially an Islamic idea; the only miracle in Islam is the Qur’an itself. Hence another of his favorite Qur’anic citations: “Truly, God does not change a people’s condition unless they change their inner selves.” (Inn allāha lā yughayyiru mā bi qaumin hatta yughayyirū ma bi anfusihim. [Sūrat ar-ra‘ad, 11].)
I recall my father often reciting the following verses: “Truly, those who have come to believe, and those who belong to the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabeians – all who believe in God and the Last Day and do what is right – shall have their reward with their God, and they need not fear and they will not grieve.” (Inn alladhīna āmanu walladhīna hādu wa-nnasāra wa-ssābi‘īna man āmana billāhi wa-l-yaum-il-ākhiri wa ‘amila sālihan falahum ajruhum ‘inda rabbihim wa lā khawfun ‘alayhim wa lā hum yahzanūn. [Sūrat al-baqarah, 62].) There was nothing, he would say, quite like these verses either in the Hebrew Bible or in the Gospels. And the verses expressed the Islamic teaching that followers of Judaism and Christianity, “the people of the book” (ahl al-kitāb), belong to the very tradition that culminates in Islam. They were earlier revelations (the Qur’an speaks of earlier prophets, such as Abraham, as muslim) that had become distorted over time but were nevertheless to be recognized as having truth in them. They might be doctrinally mistaken but it followed from the fact of a common tradition that they were to be respected. Unlike the historic Christian view, the continued presence of believers in an earlier “religion” in the same tradition (i.e., Judaism) is not regarded as a scandal in Islam. It is seen as an indication of how easy it is to remain stubbornly attached to a mistaken point of view. In the “real Islamic tradition,” he would say, there is no simple distinction between friend and enemy, no single divide that categorizes whole peoples of the world into good and evil. To my father this meant therefore that the tradition of Islam not only urged Muslims to tolerate the followers of all other “religions,” it encouraged them to consider all as deserving of equal respect. And respect meant being able to listen sympathetically to what they had to say about their deepest hopes and commitments. In that sense respecting someone was a way of including him/her within one’s circle of friends. Although in Islamic history respect was generally accorded to what we now call “monotheistic (or Abrahamic) religions”, my father insisted that the beliefs and rituals of all “religions” should be respected. He acknowledged that there were verses in the Qur’an that mentioned Jews or Christians critically, but he held that these were responses to specific historical circumstances in the Prophet’s life and they referred to particular groups whose attitude in particular situations indicated the difficulties of an alliance between them and the nascent Muslim community. Some Muslims in our day might invoke these verses but they were not, he insisted, doctrinal statements about Judaism or Christianity within the Islamic scheme of things. In any case, divine truth belonged to the larger tradition within which all three emerged and not to the actual practice of Muslims, because distortion and misunderstanding of the divine message was found not only among Jews and Christians but among Muslims too.
For my father, however, …
Continue reading & finishing with the commentary…
August 30, 2012
Shaykh Sa`id Ramadan al-Bouti is a well-respected modern-day scholar and author who is most popularly known for his esteemed work Fiqh us-Seerah.
In my time in Damascus, I saw hundreds of people from every walk of life – mothers and shopkeepers, students and cab drivers, young and old – flock to his weekly classes at differentmasajid in the city to benefit from his knowledge. Known for his eloquence and deftness in language, one would often see foreign students sitting in his classes with dictionaries in hand, understanding only parts of his talks but fully absorbing how Arabic is spoken by someone with true mastery of it. Shaykh Bouti is also known for his sharp intellect and – at times – acerbic critique and comments. During one of his Friday sermons, when he noticed an attendee taking a picture of him on his cell phone, he interrupted his line of thought to rebuke him by saying, “O you who is worshipping your device! How is it that you use this time for other than remembering Allah?” A full biography of Shaykh Bouti is quoted below.
I wanted to share with you this short clip from a television interview with Shaykh Bouti for a few reasons. In the remarks he makes regarding modern-day tariqas (often translated as Sufi orders), we come to realize that people do not always easily fit into one designated ‘camp’ or another – pro-Sufi or anti-Sufi, Salafi or anti-Salafi, etc – and that we should not be quick to put people in such pre-constructed labels or boxes. We also learn that taking a critical stance on an issue does not necessarily mean that one finds it devoid of benefit. Most significantly, we see from this clip the intense importance of sincerity and being honest with ourselves in our relationship with Allah, especially for those who teach and call others to Islam.
May Allah bless our teachers and grant us the beautiful quality of sincerity in our efforts.
Muhammad Sa`id ibn al-Mulla Muhammad Ramadan al-Bouti, born of Kurdish descent in 1350/1931 in Damascus. The son of one of the foremost Shafi’i scholars of his time, Mulla Ramadan, he studied Arabic grammar, logic, and philosophy with his father, as well as Shafi’i jurisprudence and fundamentals of Islamic law and faith, and after graduating from the al-Tawjih al-Islami Institute of Damascus, traveled to Cairo and took a degree from al-Azhar before returning to Syria, when he taught first in Homs and then in Damascus at the College of Sacred Law. He took a doctorate in principles of Islamic legal methodology from the University of Damascus in A.H. 1385, and was appointed as a professor there in the Faculty of Sacred Law and Arts. He has written many works, among them Fiqh al-sira [Sacred law inferred from the prophetic biography], and al-Lamadhhhabiyya akhtar bid’ah tuhaddidu al-shari’a al-Islamiyya [Not following a school of jurisprudence is the most dangerous innovation threatening Islamic Sacred law], while his most recent work, al-Salafiyya marhala zamaniyya mubaraka la madhhab Islami [The ‘way of the early Muslims’ was a blessed historical epoch, not an Islamic school of thought], has gained wide readership. He lives in Damascus, where he writes, teaches at the university, and gives well-attended public lectures at several mosques.
Edited Transcript of Interview
Interviewer: …Are they an accurate, pure, and untainted representation of Sufis and tassawuf?
Shaykh Bouti: As far as previous generations are concerned, it’s not possible for me to pass judgment on them because I did not live in those times. However, I have read biographies of people such as Shaykh Abdul Qadir al-Jilani, Shaykh Raslan al-Dimashqi, and Shaykh Ahmad al-Rifa`i. I swear by Allah, these people embodied prophethood, except that they did not receive divine revelation.
Interviewer: They embodied prophethood?
Sh. Bouti: Prophethood, minus divine revelation. In other words, if they had revelation, they would have been prophets. What I mean by that is that they represented, in their character, in their self-discipline, in their inner development, the life of God’s Messenger (peace be upon him). However, since divine revelation was not present in their case, [obviously] they were not prophets or messengers.
And for such people – the foundation of their journey to Allah was the two wings of the Divine Book and the Sunnah[Prophetic tradition], and nothing more. Abdul Qadir al-Jilani – may Allah sanctify his soul – when death drew close to him, his son, whose name was also Musa like your name, was sitting next to him. He gave him his parting advice. Among what he said to him was, “My son, fly to the Truth with the two wings of the Book and the Sunnah.” And he warned him frombid`ah [innovation].
So I don’t want to speak about such people [who came before us]. If I want to look for strict adherence to the proper methodology, it is in their lives that I will find such an adherence. If I want to look for opposition to bid`ah, it is in their lives that I will find opposition to bid’ah.
However, if you’re asking me about the tariqas of this age, I request that you show me a single tariqa from among them whose murshid [spiritual leader and advisor] possesses knowledge of Islamic law that is proficient and sufficient, who is aloof from this world and everything that it contains and is attached to it, and who possesses uprightness in his character. [If such a person were found] I will go tomorrow to become his murid [student]. But I have looked everywhere, and have not found such a murshid.
Interviewer: What is the reason for this, respected shaykh?
Sh. Bouti: Well, I don’t know. The nafs [lower self] is as it always has been – and I don’t absolve my own nafs from this – “Verily the nafs is ever commanding of evil.” The whole business of being a murshid is a dangerous business. It’s a slippery road. The murshid, when he tastes the pleasure of leading others, the pleasure of having a following… it’s something that is almost intoxicating. When he sees people kissing his hand day and night, and some almost willing to kiss his knees and his feet [out of awe and respect]…. when he sees things like this, he begins to believe and imagine that he has become someone great. And the nafs is a constant presence. If such a person has not spent long periods of time in self-reproach, reminding himself that he is nothing, and that he has done so many bad deeds etc, he will not be able to withstand these pressures.
Furthermore, when [this murshid] finds his murids bringing gifts for him, giving him money… Even if I didn’t have an appetite for wealth when it was first given to me, I begin to develop one. I begin to desire wealth. I begin to desire position. I begin to desire humility and deference from people because I am such an important and great human being. All of this isfitnah [trial and tribulation] for me… a fitnah… a fitnah.
And the person who does not fulfill the essential requirements for being a murshid, yet somehow becomes a murshid –this responsibility is dangerous for him, and dangerous for his murids.
Just to make what I’m saying clearer for you, my brother, let me present to you the opposite picture. Let us turn to the age of Shaykh Ahmad al-Rifa`i, may Allah sanctify his soul. Now that is an amazing man. He always used to say in his gatherings, in front of his murids, something that he would repeat again and again – that he was not a shaykh, and not amurshid, and warned against people looking at him in that light. He said in one of his gatherings – and this can be found in his book al-Burhan al-Muayyid – “May I be resurrected with Fir’aun and Hamman if I consider myself better than any one from among you.”
“I am not a shaykh. I am not a shaykh. My name is Little Ahmad, The Nothing. Or better yet, Nothing, The Nothing [a play on his name which literally means ‘the praised one, the high’]” – this is what (Sh. Ahmad ar-Rifa’i) used to say.
And he used to say, “The murshids whom Allah favors with karamaat [special abilities or occurrences] conceal them, just as a woman [naturally] conceals her menstruation from others.”
Compare between this and what we see from murshids of our times. Some of them extend their hands for people to kiss, to teach them [the practice of] kissing hands, and if one of them doesn’t kiss their hands they consider him negligent in his duties.
Interviewer: But is there something wrong with kissing the hand out of respect? There are many people who would even wish to kiss your hand, but you absolutely refuse?
Sh. Bouti: Yes… yes. Why do I refuse my dear brother?
Sh. Bouti [close to tears]: I swear by Allah, the One besides whom there is no other god, I feel embarrassed before Allah when someone from among the people kisses my hand. Because I know myself, and my Lord is One who conceals and veils the mistakes of His servants. He conceals so much… He conceals. I know my shortcomings. I know how much I’ve fallen short in my relationship with my Lord. Yet, He makes it so that the people only see the positive side of me, and He hides the rest from the eyes of people and keeps it something hidden between us.
So if some innocent person comes to me, who only sees my outer state and doesn’t know my inner state… it’s true that he doesn’t know, but doesn’t Allah know? How can I say to him, “Go ahead, kiss my hand, it’s ok, so that you may learn proper etiquette,” while Allah azza wajal [Mighty and Majestic] is watching me and saying, ‘Haven’t you done this? Haven’t you done that? Aren’t you the one who sees such and such [bad qualities] in your self?” This is what prevents me from allowing people to kiss my hand.
August 19, 2012
August 11, 2012
“It is the greatest, profound commentary on the Seerah.. the Seerah was written originally from a historians perspective, the external. The inward has been seperated somehow, and so we have to balance the two, Imam al Ghazaali does exactly that. Rasulullah s, said that Adab, is about balance. The end of times is proved the imbalance between the esoteric and exoteric; today. Those who think they speak the most in favor of the religion, are usually the ones who chase people the farthest from Tauhid, in today’s society. Problematic.
So Imam al Ghazaali as, puts Rasulullah s, as the core, center of his Ihya. He was the meeting point of the two oceans. Imam is talking about the perfection of humanity, of the Adamic form- through Rasulullah s. He doesnt get into the nit & grit of the battles etc, but paints the picture of the best of forms, micro and macrocosmically. SubhanAllah. Justice & Mercy, Rigor & Beauty, Dunya & Akhirah.
August 9, 2012
Honey is the only food on the planet that will not spoil or rot. What it will do is what some call ‘turning to sugar’. In reality, honey is always honey. However, when left in a cool dark place for a long time it will “crystallize”. When this happens loosen the lid, boil some water and sit the honey container in the hot water, but turn off the heat and let it liquefy naturally. It is then as good as it ever was. Never boil honey or put it in a microwave. This will kill the enzymes in the honey.
Cinnamon and Honey
Bet the drug companies won’t like this one getting around. Facts on honey and Cinnamon: It is found that a mixture of honey and Cinnamon cures most diseases. honey is produced in most of the countries of the world. Scientists of today also accept honey as a ‘Ram Ban’ (very effective) medicine for all kinds of diseases. honey can be used without side effects for any kind of diseases.
Today’s science says that even though honey is sweet, when it is taken in the right dosage as a medicine, it does not harm even diabetic patients. Researched by western scientists:
HEART DISEASES: Make a paste of honey and cinnamon powder, apply it on bread instead of jelly and jam and eat it regularly for breakfast. It reduces the cholesterol in the arteries and saves the patient from heart attack. Also, those who have already had an attack, when they do this process daily, they are kept miles away from the next attack. Regular use of the above process relieves loss of breath and strengthens the heart beat. In America and Canada, various nursing homes have treated patients successfully and have found that as one ages the arteries and veins lose their flexibility and get clogged; honey and cinnamon revitalize the arteries and the veins.
ARTHRITIS: Arthritis patients may take daily (morning and night) one cup of hot water with two tablespoons of honey and one small teaspoon of cinnamon powder. When taken regularly even chronic arthritis can be cured. In a recent research conducted at the Copenhagen University, it was found that when the doctors treated their patients with a mixture of one tablespoonhoney and half teaspoon Cinnamon powder before breakfast, they found that within a week (out of the 200 people so treated) practically 73 patients were totally relieved of pain — and within a month, most all the patients who could not walk or move around because of arthritis now started walking without pain.
BLADDER INFECTIONS: Take two tablespoons of cinnamon powder and one teaspoon of honey in a glass of lukewarm water and drink it. It destroys the germs in the bladder.
CHOLESTEROL: Two tablespoons of honey and three teaspoons of Cinnamon Powder mixed in 16 ounces of tea water given to a cholesterol patient was found to reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood by 10 percent within two hours. As mentioned for arthritic patients, when taken three times a day, any chronic cholesterol is cured. According to information received in the said Journal, pure honey taken with food daily relieves complaints of cholesterol.
COLDS: Those suffering from common or severe colds should take one tablespoon lukewarm honeywith 1/4 spoon cinnamon powder daily for three days. This process will cure most chronic cough, cold, and, clear the sinuses.
UPSET STOMACH: honey taken with cinnamon powder cures stomach ache and also clears stomach ulcers from its root.
GAS: According to the studies done in India and Japan, it is revealed that when honey is taken with cinnamon powder the stomach is relieved of gas.
IMMUNE SYSTEM: Daily use of honey and cinnamon powder strengthens the immune system and protects the body from bacterial and viral attacks. Scientists have found that honey has various vitamins and iron in large amounts. Constant use of honey strengthens the white blood corpuscles (where DNA is contained) to fight bacterial and viral diseases.
INDIGESTION: Cinnamon powder sprinkled on two tablespoons of honey taken before food is eaten relieves acidity and digests the heaviest of meals
INFLUENZA: A scientist in Spain has proved that honey contains a natural ‘Ingredient’ which kills the influenza germs and saves the patient from flu.
LONGEVITY: Tea made with honey and cinnamon powder, when taken regularly, arrests the ravages of old age. Use four teaspoons of honey, one teaspoon of cinnamon powder, and three cups of boiling water to make a tea. Drink 1/4 cup, three to four times a day. It keeps the skin fresh and soft and arrests old age. Life spans increase and even a 100 year old will start performing the chores of a 20-year-old.
RASPY OR SORE THROAT: When throat has a tickle or is raspy, take one tablespoon of honey and sip until gone. Repeat every three hours until throat is without symptoms.
PIMPLES: Three tablespoons of honey and one teaspoon of cinnamon powder paste. Apply this paste on the pimples before sleeping and wash it off the next morning with warm water. When done daily for two weeks, it removes all pimples from the root.
SKIN INFECTIONS:Applying honey and cinnamon powder in equal parts on the affected parts cures eczema, ringworm and all types of skin Infections.
WEIGHT LOSS:Daily in the morning one half hour before
breakfast and on an empty stomach, and at night before sleeping, drink honey and cinnamon powder boiled in one cup of water. When taken regularly, it reduces the weight of even the most obese person. Also, drinking this mixture regularly does not allow the fat to accumulate in the body even though the person may eat a high calorie diet.
CANCER: Recent research in Japan and Australia has revealed that advanced cancer of the stomach and bones have been cured successfully. Patients suffering from these kinds of cancer should daily take one tablespoon of honey with one teaspoon of cinnamon powder three times a day for one month.
FATIGUE: Recent studies have shown that the sugar content of honey is more helpful rather than being detrimental to the strength of the body. Senior citizens who take honey and cinnamon powder in equal parts are more alert and flexible. Dr. Milton, who has done research, says that a half tablespoon of honey taken in a glass of water and sprinkled with cinnamon powder, even when the vitality of the body starts to decrease, when taken daily after brushing and in the afternoon at about 3:00 P.M., the vitality of the body increases within a week.
BAD BREATH: People of South America, gargle with one teaspoon of honey and cinnamon powder mixed in hot water first thing in the morning so their breath stays fresh throughout the day.
HEARING LOSS: Daily morning and night honey and cinnamon powder, taken in equal parts restores hearing. Remember when we were kids? We had toast with real butter and cinnamon sprinkled on it!
August 8, 2012
A little breeze of mercy, in this Month of miracles.
I’ve never asked God to give me a specific person.
“Please let me marry so and so.”
No matter how much I’ve wanted to at times.
No. I’ve always prayed that God grant me someone who I love only for His sake, and someone who loves me only for His sake. It’s hard. It’s really really hard biting back the name of the person youthink is right for you. Somebody may seem so, so, perfect on the outside, but only God knows what is in a person’s heart.
He knows you best, and He will give you somebody better than you could have picked out for yourself. Keep making du’a about being blessed with someone who is the BEST for you, and see what He does. He knows what we want, but He also knows what we need. Our sight may be limited, but His is infinite.
Investing in God will never leave you poor. In fact, it’s when a human being gives up control and realizes that NOTHING is in his hands, that the true spirit comes out. God has already chosen the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with. Nothing you do, or don’t do, will change that. Instead, God has created barriers and obstacles in the path of meeting that person that are there to test how we react. Are we patient, or do we start to fret and worry when something doesn’t go our way?
I know it’s hard. It’s hard seeing others getting married and being in “love” (Things may not always be so perfect as they seem on the outside.) Especially if you’re of marrying age, and you’re waiting to find the right spouse. But be patient. Patience and prayer. They always work. Always. Prayer develops patience. And patience is the one vital thing most humans lack. (This one at least.)
God will give you a love story better than any of the ones you’ve ever read about or the ones you pay $10.50 to go and watch. Never ever let your trust in Him decrease. Grow as a person. Learn to love yourself first and wholeheartedly before you have to love someone else. Remember, you are the only person you need to make yourself whole. Marriage is only for someone to give you support, love, and friendship to make YOU a better YOU. You are you, and you are enough. But there’s someone out there who can help make you a better you. And God willing, you will find them.
I pray that we all can have patience when it comes to waiting for the right one. And that God blesses us with people who are righteous and who will help us attain the ultimate goal: Pleasing Him and being granted Jannah.
This is only a test.
August 3, 2012
The esteemed Shaykh Muhammad Mendes recently shared a quote that generated some amazing discussion regarding the Tariqa.
”Sufi tariqahs (schools of Islamic mysticism) provided a most valuable and unique service and may still continue to do so in certain situations. An intelligent, educated and self-disciplined seeker can discover original Islam and be transformed by it without belonging to a Sufi tariqah. That does not preclude the need for teachers, guides and spiritual coaching…
I think we are living at an age of ‘post-tariqah’ and the rediscovery of transformative worship and enlightenment through living Qur’an.”
– Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri
The discussion is very long, but I have selected some specific comments that struck me:
“There will never be a post Tariqa age Sidi and you know this. The Tariqah is the purest form of traditional Islam. “
“If anything Tariqah is more important in this time than any other, in traditional Islamic systems there were numerous institutions to support a man’s Islam, now most of those institutions have been destroyed. One of the most important surviving institution is the Tariqah which preserves the spiritual foundation of Islam which all the other institutions can draw strength and be rebuilt upon. There is plenty of evidence that the Turuq knew the coming of this age and prepared themselves for it, opening the opportunity for bay’ah to the masses to save their iman. Very few men can see themselves for who they truly are and many have such high opinions of themselves that they mistake themselves for those few. Placing your hands in the hands of those who know themselves and let you know who you are is essential for any real self-development in this age or any other.”
“I couldn’t disagree more strongly with statement!! Wow who ever this imam is has totally lost touch with the reality of this umma. We have never in our history needed them more. All these sects claiming Islam like these wahabbies and so on and so fourth. This statement is unbelievable! That would just open the flood gates to un authentic Islamic spirituality with no chain of transmitted of authority going back to the Rasuul (S). It’s just like the wahabbiys say we only need Quran and sunna. Purely to detach us from our scholars ulema and Shaykhs.”
“Shaykh Fadhlalla does not discount the place of the “Turuk”, nor does he deny the veracity and important role they have played, are playing and their role in the future. What he is addressing is the idea that intimacy with the creator and access to knowledge is available to people not necessarily being associated with any Tariqa, Those whom Allah has opened and gifted His knowledge, through possessing, sincerity, yearning, discipline and love. To think that access to Him is only through the Tariqa is placing limits on where there are none. Many throughout the world are begging at the door of Mercy every day and night, it would be arrogant and elitist to imagine for a moment that His access to His servants, require a validation from a Tariqa. Shaykh Fadhlalla is also sharing a vision of a time (and that time will come with the advent of the era of our Imam Mehdi) where the need for Tariqa will no longer be relevant.”
“Admittedly I am a bit perplexed by the quote. While I agree that “tariqah” is not always necessary – e.g. Nawawi, and the others Sidi Muhammad Adeyinka Mendes mentioned, and that one can achieve without a Shaykh in rare circumstances especially through Salawat upon the Nabi (saaws) as attested to by many of the Shuyukh, I do see – more than ever – a deep need amongst the laity of Muslims (including myself) for a Murshid. This Ummah is suffering from many diseases that only the insight and intuition of an ‘aarif can cure!”
“Truly, all the reactions and positions to this very interesting perspective by Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri (may Allah preserve him) are not ‘mutually exclusive’ if we broaden our vision (basira) enough. I think what should be noted here is the underlying ‘need’ for bringing the spiritual light and teachings found in turuq to a more popular level for Muslims and Islam in the West and in Modernity all over the world, is readily apparent. Certainly the turuq will continue to preserve their teachings, but their function to ‘reach out’ more I think will expand iA. As crude and exclusivist forms of Islamic formalism become rampant in which ‘religious anger’ masquerades as piety, I think the more profound and inclusivist manifestations of Islam need to manifest, in which Prophetic compassion (hilm) and wisdom win the day. And God Knows Best.”
“My understand of tariqah is that it’s never been obligatory on anyone but rather the safest and fastest way to reaching Allah providing the seeker is sincere. There have always been great men who have reached wiliyah without ‘taking a tariqah’. Many say this is the case with Imam Nawawi and Ibn Hajr al Haytami to name a few. We can look at the great wali of our time, Shaykh Murabit al-Hajj and see the purity he has been able to acquire without ‘tariqah’. I don’t think anyone who knows claims tariqa is the only way. I still say that its what most people will need. The vast majority of people aren’t naturally endowed with the discipline necessary to just live the Qur’an and Sunnah rigorously applying everything they learn like a Shaykh Murabit al-Hajj.
I speak as a person who for years tried the ‘self help approach’. I for years read translation of Ihya Ulum ud deen, Tariq al-Jannah, Umdat ul-Bayyan and others trying to apply what I read without the guidance of a man who knows the way. Men like this are the extremely rare exception. Then when you factor in the times we are living in. The moral decay taking place around us, I cannot see how anyone could possibly feel that this is some ‘post tariqah’ age.”
Finally, a comment by Shaykh Muhammad Mendes and a response from one of the brothers, and his final response on the matter.
When I read the last response I got shivers. A close friend of mine spoke with Shaykh Mendes briefly at the Seekers Retreat this past spring. He was delievering his Shaykh’s Salams to Shaykh Mendes, and Shaykh Mendes returned the Salams, and asked my friend to tell his Shaykh to make Dua’ for the people who are (presently) taking care of the Mahdi… And Allah Knows Best!
Mendes: “I think Shaykh Fadhlallla is making a very profound statement. He never said tariqah has no benefit, he never said the Shuyukh of Tariqah have no place…he happens to be one himself. But he is stating that there is an open path to God outside of the sufi tariqahs that is available to those seeking the Essence of God. Other shuyukh have written and taught about this extensively, among them Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi, Bediuzzaman Sa’id Nursi, and Shaykh Ahmadu Bamba (God be pleased with them all).
I have heard and read from Sufi shuyukh that Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him) will come with and teach nothing but the Pure Way (Deen Khalis) like the divine revelation (wahy) received by the Prophet (peace and blessings on him and his folk), and in effect abrogate all of the historical and current schools (mathahib) of theology, jurisprudence, and spirituality just as Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings on him and his family) abrogated the religions before him with the Universal Way.
Wouldn’t that be called a “post-tariqah” age, Sidi? Whether or not that time has come is not my argument, only its possibility concerns me here.
Interestingly, Shaykh Muhiyiddin ibn Arabi and Shaykh Abdul-Wahhab ash-Sha’rani both assert that it is the rigid followers of the mathahib that will be among the greatest opponents of Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him).”
Brother Luqman: “Yes, however that is in the time when there won’t even be Madhahib as the Mahdi will be both the Mujtahid Mutlaq and the Caliph, Amir and Qadi, Mufti, etc as is explained by Ash-Shar’ani in his Kashful Ghummah. So yes in this time I do agree, however before this la Adree and Allah always knows best.”
Mendes: “For some people the Mahdi is already all of those things (smile)”