The Sustainer – Ar-Razzaq

Assalamu alaikum (peace be with you)!

Copyright http://www.joymanifest.com (c) 2012

MashaAllah (by God’s grace) almost a year since I began it, today I finished a painting that is rather special to me. After days and days of carefully controlled hours with not much free time, finally today it was a day of nothing scheduled to do and therefore the luxury of being able to paint. This piece is special because I began it at a time I needed to be reminded that God indeed is in control of everything. It was a time when much I had built my hopes on was falling apart around me, a lot of it due to my own wrong doing or that my own best efforts were not enough. I felt like a bird, adrift over an angry sea, trying to keep my wings held high and keep going without the waves washing over me, trying to ride the storm.
I was reminded of the Albatross, that amazing bird, the true master of the seas… a bird some say once airborne over the oceans does not come back to land for over a year if not many years. And I was reminded of one of the names of God, what we Muslims call the ‘asma-ul-husna’ (the names of beauty or goodness). We say God has 99 names. Actually what is meant by names is more like ‘attribute’. For each of the attributes, God is the ultimate, the absolute sense of it. For example, one of the names is ‘al-wadud’ which means ‘The Love’. So God is THE love, all love come from Him, His love is the purest and truest sense of love. One of the things I love the most about the Asma-ul Husna, is that half are considered names of ‘Majesty’ or ‘Jalal’ and the other half are names of ‘Beauty’ or ‘Jamal’. You can see the first half are essentially masculine in quality and the second half are essentially feminine in quality. To illustrate, ‘Al-Lateef’ meaning ‘The Subtle or near’ would be a name of Jamal (beauty = feminine) while ‘Al-Jabbar’ meaning ‘The Compeller’ would be a name of Jalal (majesty= masculine). Without going in to too much detail, let me end by saying that many Muslims have these 99 names memorized and sing them or chant them as a form of worship or remembrance. We say we must try to live our lives embodying as many of these names as we can and in the best way, not many of us can do all, but it is a good to pick a few we want to focus on building in to our character and manifest that 🙂

The name I was reminded of during my time of difficulty is ‘ar-Razzaq’ meaning ‘The Provider’ or ‘The Sustainer’. We say all provision is from Allah. Indeed it is true, for we cannot create energy. All that we need and we take is already made. The source is the One. And on the less metaphysical but more everyday sense, we say every animal and tree has it’s provision assigned by God. Same for us, whatever we need, has been assigned. There is a beautiful article on this majestic name here. Do read it, It is much more descriptive than I can manage.

So the painting is about that. That for every bird out there in the ocean, each albatross on its solitary journey for miles and miles and months and months, ar-Razzaq, The Provider, is watching over and will sustain and nourish as needed. This reminded me of a beautiful ayah (verse) in the Quran, which mashaAllah I put at the end of the painting. It is ayah 19 of one chapter 67. A chapter that is considered to have many healing properties in its recitation.

أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا إِلَى الطَّيْرِ فَوْقَهُمْ صَافَّاتٍ وَيَقْبِضْنَ ۚ مَا يُمْسِكُهُنَّ إِلَّا الرَّحْمَٰنُ ۚ إِنَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ بَصِيرٌ
Yusuf Ali Interpretation
Do they not observe the birds above them, spreading their wings and folding them in? None can uphold them except (Allah) Most Gracious: Truly (Allah) Most Gracious: Truly it is He that watches over all things.
Quran (67:19)

I will end with a link of a version of the recitation of the 99 names so you can listen to what it sounds like. And to end as always, to acknowledge that any good in me is from God and God alone.

Peace to all!

‘The foundations of the foundations of the cure’

Assalamu alaikum (peace be with you)

The title of this post is a quote from my teacher Ustad Yahya Rhodus, with whom I’m mashaAllah (by God’s grace) taking an online class. The class is run free at SeekersGuidance. I would invite you all to check out SeekersGuidance. It is a great initiative offering high calibre classical islamic scholarship completely free. The courses are short but do provide an enormous wealth of sound knowledge. Having a taste of it is a glimpse in to all the Islamic world must have been, when scholars were sound and sincere in their intention and the populace was educated and refined, able to hold their scholars to a high standard of integrity and rigour. Sadly these two are missing in the Muslim world now in my honest opinion. But throughout history as Karen Armstrong famously said, Muslims have always used times of trial and tribulation to renew themselves.

I would posit that if the above is true, it is only true because of what God does. Allah says in the Quran, in a very famous ayah (verse, the correct translation is ‘sign’, as all the verses in the Quran are considered ‘signs’ )

‘surely Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change their own condition’

This is from ayah 11 of surah (chapter) 13 called Ra’ad (Thunder)

Makes you think doesn’t it? Perhaps all that is going on in the Muslim world is a time for Muslims to wake-up and do some serious soul searching. I am not alone in this opinion I know. May God guide us all.

 

To get back though, we are studying part of a poem, the last section of a classical text called ‘The Helping Guide’ written by Imam Abdul Wahid Ibn Ashir (d1631), who lived in Fes in Morocco and was a great scholar. It is written in classical arabic poetic form and is a beautiful and deep treatise of guidance. May Alalh help me learn and practice. We were talking about the illnesses in the heart, in particular, ostentation (a particular disease the scholars and practitioners of a religion are prone to!), jealousy and vanity. The purpose of this post is not to go in to those but to share with you this statement from our teacher when explaining the line of the peom

‘…which has no cure but to be compelled to flee to Him’

Indeed all this that goes on in the world, all that goes on within us, all the trials and tribulations and tests we face, their sole purpose is to turn us back to our source. Only that, to remind us that God is one and go back to that one source. Go running back, go tripping and tumbling back to that one source of Love, Protection and Wisdom. Just to remind us where we came from and where we are going. For the one thing assured about any of our lives is that it will end. The one certain thing in life is death! So all this is a reminder. We have no power on our own, all of it is borrowed and channeled. This is the Muslim theology. There is only One. No duality anywhere, no good and bad, there is only absence of good. There is only One. Grasping this is understanding Islam. We Muslims often say ‘God only tests those He loves’, well the purpose of the test is to turn you back to that source of Love to say, ‘please God help me’. Indeed it is a cure that is a true cure, not a fleeting treatment of symptoms, but a lasting deep and complete cure.

 

There is no duality in the God-head, there is no other source, no other reality. Indeed grasping and understanding this and above all trusting and acting upon it, indeed it is the ‘the foundations of the foundations of the cure’

 

Wishing you peace, and keep me in your prayers. All good in me and all good is from God and God alone.