Ihram – Hajj chronicles 1

Dear readers, Assalamu alaikum warahmatullah (peace be with you and God’s blessing)

Alhamdulillah (=thanks and praise to God), I am safely returned to Vancouver after successfully having performed all the rituals of Hajj. I pray my Hajj is accepted and that of all the hujjaj (=pilgrims). I pray also that all who lost their lives in the tragic accidents and events of this Hajj are elevated by it to ‘shuhada’ (=literally those who witness, often translated as martyrs, meaning those who are elevated to a very close state in/with the Divine presence, certainly their place in heaven assured), and I pray for strength, forbearance and fortitude for their families and friends.

Though none in our group was affected, we had a tent-mate from a different group who lost a relative that day…so the tragedy was brought close. Also close due to proximity and the near misses we ourselves had. But I will leave talking about this for later…the Hajj is such a once-in-a-lifetime experience, with so much it teaches, so much you learn about yourself and about people, about humanity and human nature, about the Divine presence and about life, that it is hard to find any words to synthesize one’s thoughts and emotions accurately. Therefore I thought to try to write a series of shorter articles, that each focus on a ritual or aspect of the Hajj and this way try to communicate some of what this journey is about, to my dear readers.

I will begin with the ‘Ihram’ (=pilgrim state, meaning both the dress and the demeanour a pilgrim must enter into in order to perform the Hajj. the word comes from the root word – ‘harama’, which carries the meaning of sanctuary. The grand mosque in Makkah is called the ‘haram’ meaning sanctuary, and in the way of life that is Islam, all things forbidden to a practitioner are called ‘haraam’ which though often translated to mean ‘forbidden’ actually means something more akin to ‘protection’). Ihram for men is that they wear two white untailored pieces of cloth and nothing else. Ihram for women is that they wear clothes that cover their ‘awrah’ (all except the face and hands, interestingly in the Hajj, women who wear a face-veil are required to remove it), and that it be un-figure revealing and in sombre shades, preferably white. Ihram for both includes, that hair and nails cannot be cut in that state, no perfume or any sort can be used, and that any act of intimacy is disallowed. Finally once in the Ihram state, one is not allowed to harm anything – one cannot pluck a leaf from a tree, nor step on an insect, and therefore of course, one is not allowed to harm another human being in any way or form – no pushing, shoving, no yelling, loosing one’s temper etc. One is also encouraged not to talk about worldly things…so the pilgrim focuses their thoughts and speech on being in dhikr (=remembrance, remembering God, being conscious of the Divine presence at all times), reciting Quran, contemplation, sending blessings upon the blessed beloved messenger of God, Muhammed (peace be upon him) while in Ihram.

The dress, the state one enters, the sacred places one is in, and unchanged rituals practiced since the time the prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) instituted the Hajj, and the fact that one is doing this in unison with millions of other human beings from all around the world and all walks of life, combine to make it a powerful state where one is helped abundantly to go ‘into ihram’. Others who have made the Hajj told me you forget everything else but where you are, what you are doing, and who you are going to, i.e., the final return to the Divine. I didn’t understand it, until I was in it. And it is true, no matter what is going on around one, you do forget everything else. Family, home, the work you left behind, all fade away and you feel a strong connection to humanity – a connection running through thousands of years, all the way to father Abraham (peace be upon him). You feel his greatness, his purity of worship of the One God, and the tremendousness of his faith. You are both crushed by it and elevated by it. You feel the strongest sense of gratitude to Abraham (in Arabic, ‘Ibraheem’, peace be upon him) and an immense sense of strength and guidance coming from him, through our beloved Muhammed (his heir and the final messenger, peace and blessing of God be upon him), and you feel that all of life has fallen into place. You feel the strongest connection to God, you feel the fragile nature of your own life, and the immensity of the Divine presence, and yet at the same time, you catch a glimpse of the greatness it is to be human and you are grateful and humbled by that.

Once in the ihram state, the pilgrims also constantly chant aloud ‘the talbiya’ – it too a chant that has not changed even by a syllable since the time of Muhammed (peace be upon him) who taught it to us. I don’t know if it was sung before then. It goes like this;

“labbayk, Allahumma labbayk

labbayka, la sharikalaka labbayk

inna al-hamda, wa al-ni’amtha,

laka wa al-Mulk. lasharikalak”

= ‘Here I am O God, here I am (answering your call)

Here I am, No partner do you have, Here I am

Verily, all praise belongs to You, verily, all good comes from You

And Your’s is the Dominion/Creation/Sovereignity/Ownership of all. No partner do You have’

We chant this non-stop through all the days and nights we are in Ihram, wherever we are. It is a very moving experience, when the chant begins, first in the plane, as all pilgrims chant it aloud once we pass over the ‘miqaat’ (=literally rondezvous point, it is the place where once you cross it, now you are in the pilgrim state), and then in the bus as we travel from one point to the other, then as we are walking, sometimes all of us seated in our tent, or you hear refrains from people sitting in solitary contemplation or walking alone. So I heard this call, and made it, from the bottom of my heart all those days I was in Ihram (about 8 or 9 totally) and I miss that state very much.

There are five ‘miqaat’ that Muhammed (peace be upon him) set out for us. kaartje miqaat

They mark the points where pilgrims from all around the world are allowed to enter ‘Ihram. And they are positioned around the holy sights where the Hajj take place. When we first flew into the port city of Jeddah, (from where we took a bus to Makkah), our plane flew over the miqaat of ‘Yalamlam’ to the South of Makkah. The pilot makes an announcement that we are so many minutes away from the miqat, and once over it, we all make the intention out aloud that ‘O God, here I am to do the Hajj for You’ and then we have entered the state of ihram. We begin the talbiya then. It is awesome when the whole plane erupts into chanting talbiya! So we have done all the physical acts of Ihram (wearing the special clothes etc) before we board the plane, and we then ‘enter the state of ihram’ when we make this intention. Now, until we complete all the rights of Hajj, we are not allowed to remove the ihram.

In the way we did the Hajj, we entered into Ihram twice, first to perform the lesser pilgrimage, called ‘umrah’ and then on the 4th of dhul Hijja (Islamic 12th month of the year, Hajj takes place from 8th to 13th of dhul Hijja) to perform the Hajj. We entered into Ihram on the 4th of dhul Hijja from the miqaat north of Makkah, called Dhul Hulaifa. It is very close to the city of Madinah, where Muhammed (peace be upon him) spent the latter portion of his life. It is from this miqat that Muhammed (peace be upon him) entered his ihram when he performed his Hajj. So we were blessed to follow in his footsteps.

Dhul Hulaifa is about 450 km north of Makkah, and so the blessed prophet and his companions (God be pleased with them all) would have been in ihram a long time, as they went on foot from Madinah to Makkah. We traced the route, but traveling by bus. Nevertheless it was a beautiful feeling, to go along that same road. I was blessed to take the recommended shower before wearing the ihram, and then offer two units of voluntary ‘salat’ in the mosque of the prophet (peace be upon him), where he is now buried, in the city of Madinah, and then to go from their to Dhul Hulaifa where I ‘entered the state’ of Ihram. From this point onwards my Hajj had begun.

I will leave you with some pictures, inshaAllah more to follow in the days to come. It is now exactly two weeks since we left the tent city of Mina. Hard to believe, but glad I can finally begin to update this blog. Alhamdulillah!

One of the entrances to the prophet's mosque in Madinah, 'Masjid al-Nabawi'. The second holiest place for Muslims, after Makkah. No photographs are allowed inside. It is the most beautiful, serene, peaceful mosque I have ever been in. The feeling of 'rahma' (=love, mercy, compassion, kindness) there is palpable.
One of the entrances to the prophet’s mosque in Madinah, ‘Masjid al-Nabawi’. The second holiest place for Muslims, after Makkah. No photographs are allowed inside. It is the most beautiful, serene, peaceful mosque I have ever been in. The feeling of ‘rahma’ (=love, mercy, compassion, kindness) there is palpable.
The courtyard of Masjid Al-Nabawi, bustling just after a salat. The awnings unfold and retract as per the weather.. it is very beautiful to be under those large white canvas canopies, like you are in a cool date plantations with the palm trees shading you from the sun
The courtyard of Masjid Al-Nabawi, bustling just after a salat. The awnings unfold and retract as per the weather.. it is very beautiful to be under those large white canvas canopies, like you are in a cool date plantations with the palm trees shading you from the sun
20150918_043002
The courtyard of the prophet’s mosque in Madina, ‘masjid al-Nabawi’, before dawn on the day we left on the Hajj
Just after dawn, I have changed into my Ihram and ready to go.
Just after dawn, I have changed into my Ihram and ready to go.
The mosque in Dhul Khulaifa, where we made the intention and entered the pilgrim state
The mosque in Dhul Khulaifa, where we made the intention and entered the pilgrim state

Finally, here is a rendition of the talbiya I love, from an artist who is close to my heart – Dawud Wharnsby, a Canadian folk singer, very gifted. He captures the ‘feel’ of the talbiya in a very beautiful way. The way the talbiya is chanted at the start is how it is done during the Hajj. The group leader will begin, and we follow.

Islam as Religion

In one of the best known and most authentic ahadith (=narrations of the blessed beloved, peace be upon him), known as the ‘hadith Jibra’eel’ (=Gabriel narration), the archangel Jibraeel (peace be upon him) visits the blessed beloved and questions him about three facets of the religion of Islam.

“While we were one day sitting with the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), there appeared before us a man dressed in extremely white clothes and with very black hair. No traces of journeying were visible on him, and none of us knew him. He sat down close by the Prophet (peace be upon him), rested his knee against his thighs, and said, “O Muhammad! Inform me about Islam.”

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “Islam is that you should testify that there is no deity except Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger, that you should perform salah, pay the Zakah, fast during Ramadan, and perform Hajj to the House, if you are able to do so.”

The man said, “You have spoken truly.” We were astonished at his questioning him (the Messenger) and telling him that he was right, but he went on to say, “Inform me about iman.”

He (the Messenger of Allah) answered, “It is that you believe in Allah and His angels and His Books and His Messengers and in the Last Day, and in qadar (fate), both in its good and in its evil aspects.” He said, “You have spoken truly.”

Then he (the man) said, “Inform me about Ihsan.” He (the Messenger of Allah) answered, “It is that you should serve Allah as though you could see Him, for though you cannot see Him yet (know that) He sees you.”

He said, “Inform me about the Hour.” He (the Messenger of Allah) said, “About that, the one questioned knows no more than the questioner.” So he said, “Well, inform me about the signs thereof.” He said, They are that the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress, that you will see the barefooted, naked, destitute, the herdsmen of the sheep (competing with each other) in raising lofty buildings. Thereupon the man went of. I waited a while, and then he (the Messenger of Allah) said, “O Umar, do you know who that questioner was?” I replied, “Allah and His Messenger know better.” He said, “That was Jibril (the Angel Gabriel). He came to teach you your religion.”

It was narrated on the authority of Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), and recorded in Muslim.

These three facets; Islam, Iman and Ihsan, together make up the whole of the practice of the religion. We say about these three words, that used separately each can be used in place of the other – i.e., Islam (=practice), Iman (=faith), ihsan (=excellence or beauty of practice/faith) can singly denote the meaning of all three, the statement ‘a person has iman’ also means that person has islam and ihsan by default – but used together, each word has a specific meaning.  E.g., saying “you’re iman is strong” can be taken to also mean ‘you are a strong muslim’ or ‘your practice of the deen has ihsan’, but if you say “you’re iman is strong and you have ihsan” that means the person has a strong faith and excellence in character and personality.

Therefore the statement, ‘a person has islam, iman and ihsan’ here denotes a distinct meaning for each word; islam means the ritual practices and jurisprudence determining the lifestyle of a practioner of the religion, iman means the faith or beliefs of that person, and ihsan denotes a higher state of perfection where the practioner is able to marry perfect faith to perfect practice. I.e., he or she feels with the heart, what occurs on the limbs.

Under this schema, Islam is usually the domain of study of  ‘fiqh’ = jurisprudence… or law, Iman the domain of study of ‘aqeeda’ = creed, and Ihsan the domain of study of ‘tazkeeya’ or ‘tasawwuf’ = purification of the soul, or mysticism.

God willing as this blog evolves more and more will be covered on the above three aspects, especially the last, which is has been considered the pinnacle and adornment of the religion – Ihsan or Islamic Mysticism.

But suffice to say now, that sadly in today’s Muslim world we see a polarization between those who lean too much toward the external practices devoid of any internal meaning, epitomized by the puritanical ‘wahhabi’ school of thought – those of strict fiqh. And on the opposite pole are those who lean so deeply toward the internal, that they forget to practices islam, the people who have unfortunately been called ‘sufis’ (a great insult to the term, as true sufis are the most conscientious about practicing Islam in all its dimensions), who focus so much on belief in God, they may disregard it’s pillars such as prayer etc.

It is marrying the two, that Ihsan is achieved… excellence is in marrying the faith to practice. By doing this the Muslim is able to be as the prophet, peace be upon him was, truly of the world, but truly other-wordly, at all times.

This is the great beauty and challenge of Islam, which does not promote a priestly class, does not encourage ascetism, but calls upon on its practitioners to be completely with God at all times, while being totally in the world serving humanity and all of creation, at all times.

On this note I will end with the prayer that God enable us all to be like this. Completely able to give and receive and fulfill all the immense potential of the creation we are, by, for, from and through God.

Peace be upon you all. Assalamu alaikum.

Eid Mubarak!

Eid-ul-Adha Mubarak ! (=May it be a blessed festival of sacrifice)

Dear readers, Assalamu alaikum (=peace be with you)

The rights of the Hajj pilgrimage are over and it is time to celebrate. The hujjaj (=pilgrims) will be shaving their head or cutting locks of their hair off to symbolize their completion of the pilgrimage and soon the ‘udhhiya’ will be carried out. Udhhiya is the term given for the religious sacrifice of an animal, where each pilgrim must sacrifice a goat, sheep, cow or camel and distribute it’s meat to the poor. There are rules governing the distribution, with at least 1 third being obligated to be distributed to the poor.

This year, there would have been over 2 mill pilgrims amounting to about 500,000 sacrificial animals at least. It’s commendable that the Saudi government has put in place a system whereby the meat from this massive sacrifice is processed in modern facilities and then distributed to the poor of over 30 different countries. And though some of you may find this hard to believe there are plenty of people in many parts of the world where this is the only meat they see the whole year. I personally have heard of many such cases.

The sacrifice is an enactment of the willingness of the prophet Abraham (peace be upon him, the name is rendered ‘Ibraheem’ in Arabic) to sacrifice his son Ishma’el (peace be upon him, the name rendered ‘Isma’eel’ in Arabic) upon the command of God and Ishama’el’s willingness to comply. At the last minute, God sends down a ram to take the place of Ishma’el. There are many other events from the life of Abraham and his family (peace upon them all) that the hajj symbolizes, which I won’t go into here. And there are many places in the Quran where God, Exalted and High, speaks of these events. Here are one set of ayaath (=verses, literally ‘signs’). Interpretation in English from Sahih international, surah Saffat (=those arranged in ranks, or who set the ranks), verses 100-106

Bismillahi ar-rahman ar-raheem

In the name of God, the Most Loving, the Most Nurturing

37:100
My Lord, grant me [a child] from among the righteous.”
37:101
So We gave him good tidings of a forbearing boy.
37:102

And when he reached with him [the age of] exertion, he said, “O my son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I [must] sacrifice you, so see what you think.” He said, “O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the steadfast.”

37:103

And when they had both submitted and he put him down upon his forehead,

37:104

We called to him, “O Abraham,

37:105

You have fulfilled the vision.” Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good.

37:106
Indeed, this was the clear trial.

 

The lesson from the Hajj is about trust I think. Certainly the sacrifice is all about trust. Both Abraham and his son (peace upon them both) completely trusting of the will of God and that it is good for them. The pilgrimage is arduous and one is forced into circumstances and situations where one’s usual ‘props’ are all taken away. Everyone dressed alike and stripped of all the illusion we surround our souls with in terms of material possessions, we are confronted with our humanity. Confronted with our utter need and dependency. No wonder all who go have something to say about this life-changing experience.

I was searching for a video to share for Eid, and I found this 8 min clip of thoughts shared by returning pilgrims. The last speaker said what I found to be especially enlightening.

 

Eid Mubarak once more! I leave you with a clip of the hujjaj performing their final circumbulation of the ka’aba, symbolizing many things, among which, the muslims willingness to rotate their life around the axis of God, and aligning oneself with the movements of the planets and constellation and galaxies that we also believe are rotating around the axis of the One Creator. They chant as they go the ‘eid takbeer’, which we also chant in our homes during the times of Eid as we celebrate with them.

 

A chat among scholars

Dear Readers,

I came across this ‘chat’ on youtube. It is an obviously an old recording. But it was delightful to me and I thought to share it. Why? because it is a chat between two of the greatest scholars of Islam, in the English language, today. Both these men (Allah ihfidhuma = Allah preserve them both) have had a great impact on my life. They are extremely well schooled in the classical or traditional Muslim scholarly tradition and both individuals who converted to Islam in the 70s (independent of each other).

A few words on the Muslim scholarly tradition. There is a well known hadith from the beloved Muhammed (peace be upon him). He is reported to have said

“Scholars are the inheritors of the prophets.” [Related byTirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Nasa’i, Ibn Maja, Ahmad, Ibn Hibban, and others] Ibn al-Mulaqqin, Zayla`i, Ibn Hajar, and others seemed it sound (hasan) or rigorously authentic (sahih)]

Please see here for a nice commentary on this hadith by another one of my beloved teachers, Sheikh Faraz Rabbani. Gems from there are

A sure sign of having this knowledge & inheritance is that one upholds excellence of character, as the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The weightiest thing on the Scales on the Day of Judgment is good character.” [Abu Dawud] And he said, “The believers most perfect in faith are those best in character, and the best of you are those best to their spouses.” [Tirmidhi]

The best of good character is restraint and forbearance (hilm), for the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Forbearance (hilm) is the best of character.” The most beautiful of character and conduct was the character and conduct of the Beloved Messenger of Allah (peace & blessings be upon him & his folk).

True inheritors of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) reflect some of this excellence and beauty in their character and conduct. This character emanates from making Allah one’s true concern; being conscious of Allah; and true love for Allah.

What Islam uniquely brought (as per my limited knowledge) in the field of religious scholarly tradition is the ‘sanad’ system. Loosely translated as ‘chain’, the sanad is the living link between generations. In this system, knowledge is transmitted teacher to student, teacher to student and so on and on all the way up to the first teacher, the prophet of God, Muhammed (peace be upon him). For the westerner, the easiest way to understand it is the apprentice system. In the apprentice system, traditions are handed down generation to generation, without change and the knowledge is most authentic because the training of the student is not only in theory but in practice. In the context of an apprenticeship in ‘religious knowledge’, the student often lives with the teacher (or sheikh) and imbibes characteristics, mannerisms, ways of life that no book can hold. Students do not ‘graduate’ after a few years of study, nay, rather they are moulded over decades until they finally take their place as a full-fledged scholar. Usually this place is cemented upon the consensus of the populace. Being a trainee in scientific academia, I see so many parallels between that system and my own training. For example, how many a PhD student comes out of the long doctoral ‘apprenticeship’ imbibing their advisor’s method of thinking, writing, or  methodology of deducing arguments! Anyone who has been through this track will know what I mean.

So then an authentic scholar does have a sanad all the way to the prophet, peace be upon him. And so they really are inheritors of the prophets. The greatest catastrophe (as I’ve said often before, sorry for the repetition) upon the Muslim nation nowadays is the widespread dearth of such scholars. Worse, even the Muslim population is no longer able to distinguish a real scholar from a weak one or a poorly trained one, even from an imposter (and oh don’t we have plenty of those!). Once the population is unable to hold the scholarship to a high standard, then that results in poorer scholarship which leads to a more dummed-down population. It is a spiral downward.

This catastrophe is a result of the colonial period it is true, but still no point looking back and blaming others, it is time for us to revive authentic knowledge in our nation. Only so that we Muslims are aware of what happened, we should know, that there were scholars assassinated en masse in places like Turkey during the colonial era (targeted assasinations also took place in Iraq as recently as the American occupation of that country, not just of religious scholars but also of the secular academia – but this leads to another topic). There was also a systematic denigration of religious education in the minds of the common man by the colonial powers in the countries they ruled. I once listened to a well-researched talk on this from a visiting doctoral student from the USA. And indeed, I then could put two and two together and understand the poor estimation my own grandfather (Allah rest his soul) used to view the Ulema (=Muslim scholars) with. At the same time, their caliber was so poor that they were known for many lapses in good character and no honest person could admire them.  An example of that downward spiral.  That period was truly a colonization of the mind, for the remains of it still exist and many Muslims of today from those countries still reject religious scholarship. May God grant our hearts and minds are opened from this imperial domination and grant us sound scholars, as well as protect us from the sin of imposing such injustice upon another, no matter even if in our own home!

So here are two luminaries, both ‘signs’ of Allah :). An American convert from California and an English convert, who both independently journeyed, sought and found, and lived with authentic Muslim scholars and learned copiously as well as obtained license (=ijaza) to transmit Muslim scholarly works and who are now back in their respective homelands doing a great deal of good in spreading sound knowledge. My Muslim readers will know them well, for my non-Muslim readers – they are Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson (who has founded the first Islamic seminary in the USA – at UC Berkeley) and Sheikh Abdul Hakim Murad or Tim Winter who is a professor of Islamic Studies at Cambridge University and is building a truly unique mosque/community center there. Apart from their very high caliber of Islamic scholarship, they are both masters of the English language, and as such are rare gems indeed.

Albeit their amazing stories, there conversation is more enjoyable. I felt this was a treat, so I hope you enjoy it too. I do believe one of the greatest lawful pleasures of life in this world is the gaining of sound beneficial knowledge (no matter the field) and being among the erudite. May God grant the latter pleasure in the hereafter as well!

BTW the Arabic word for discovery ‘kashf’ has a root that is shared by the word ‘ecstasy’! Indeed a true discovery is true ecstasy. I leave you then, to hopefully, experience some of that here.

May Allah preserve and increase them both and to you all the same!

Peace be with you all

 

 

Al-Latif

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Al- Latif is one of the ‘names’ of God that I most love. It is another word hard to translate into English. I have a very beautiful Arabic-English dictionary of the Holy Quran (linked for your reference) that is essential for any one from an English language background hoping to read and understand the original Arabic of the Quran. And indeed, we Muslims believe the Quran is the word of God. It has been preserved without a single change since its revelation to that most blessed of Messengers, Muhammed (peace be upon him). BTW on this I recently realized most people are not aware of how Muslims view prophets or messengers, peace be upon them all. Briefly we do not elevate them to divinity, believing they are human beings, but neither do we consider them ordinary people, rather we consider them the best of mankind, who were great lights upon the earth, who had the most beautiful comportment, manners and daily transactions – and this for all of them, without reservation or question, peace be upon them all. The Quran is very clear in this and addresses this special noble people in the most beautiful salutary terms. Surah (=chapter) 21 in the Quran, is called ‘The prophets’ and gives the stories of some of them. It is one among many other places in the Quran they are mentioned. I am going off on a tangent so I will stop, but inshAllah (God willing) I will post about this more later on. I actually had no idea people could think badly of any of them (peace be upon them all), i.e., that they would commit major sins such as tell lies etc. until recently and that was shocking to me.

To get back to my topic, so I opened the dictionary to look up the best way to translate this word for you, my dear readers, and found something very special that I will share further down. Especially my Muslim brothers and sisters who are reading this, I think if you did not know it, you will feel happy to know it. The word ‘latif’ comes from the root ‘latufa’ meaning to be delicate, graceful, elegant, gentle, kind, fine. ‘Lateef’ means to be Gracious, Kind, Gentle, Subtle, Sharp-sighted, Acute (the dictionary capitalized each word so I am doing the same, I think this is on the intensive form of the word so that is why). As the name of God, ‘Al-Latif’ = The ‘Latif’, it means roughly, ‘The All Subtle Being’, ‘Unfathomable’, ‘Incomprehensible’, ‘The Gentle’ and so on. We say the Arabic can never really be translated, only interpreted. Actually Muslims don’t consider the Quran in any other language other than the Arabic as the Quran. That is, while we are obligated to be in a state of purity, having taken wudu (see here for a description of this ritual washing) before touching the Arabic Quran, this rule does not apply to it in any other language. This is what I specially wanted to share about what I found in the dictionary;- The word that appears at the very middle of the Quran (and remember when I say Quran, I am talking about it in Arabic) is ‘Walyatalattaf’ (this is a complex form derived from ‘latif’, in arabic you can get a whole sentence just by using the rules of derivation upon a triliteral root word). It means ‘And let him be courteous, let him behave with great care, conduct himself with caution’. In Arabic, there are 8 letters to this word, exactly 4 belong to the first half and the rest to the second half! Isn’t that amazing! Subhahanallah (=exalted is God). It comes in ayat 19 of sura 18. As if a central admonition to us Muslims is to be gentle!

I just looked up Surah 18, it is actually Surah ‘Kahf’ (=the cave). And the passage is about the sleepers in the cave. I am not sure, but I think the Bible has this story as well? BTW I got to visit this cave which is in present day Amman, Jordan. InshAllah I will share more about that later on. Surah Kahf is a surah the prophet peace be upon him, used to recite every Friday and told us to recite every Friday too. My Muslim readers will know the specialness of this surah. It contains many stories, in addition to the ‘sleepers in the cave’ full of wise meanings and messages.

I wanted to write about this word, ‘latif’ as it denotes a trait I love. And Muhammed, peace be upon this most strong yet most gentle of human beings had many wise sayings about how to be gentle. I wanted to post because of these ahadith (saying, narration from the blessed prophet) that I love;-

He who is deprived of gentleness is deprived of good.

(Muslim)

Keep to gentleness and avoid harshness and coarseness. Gentleness is not found in anything without adorning it, and is not withdrawn from anything without shaming it.

(Muslim)

And on this note, here is a story from the traditions of the prophet peace be upon him, that I do love. It shows the gentleness of his approach toward teaching people religion. As you may know, during the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast. It is not just an external fasting (abstaining from food, drink and sexual relations) from dawn till dusk, it is also an internal one (abstaining from telling lies, gossip, backbiting, slander, being careful to not look at unlawful images etc). How much we are able to adhere to this is another story. But indeed the month is meant to train us and to help us regulate ourselves. It is like an annual cleanse you could say. A most special time (it’s only 4 months away! so excited looking forward to it. May Allah grant I have the felicity to meet another Ramadan!). I took this story from an article in the Baltimore Examiner, referenced here. However the story itself is well known and found in a many places, it is considered a very ‘authentic’ narration. The way ahadith (plural of hadith) are graded is a science itself, and there are Muslim scholars who specialize in this. Unfortunately these days due to the dearth of sound Muslim scholars, there are many deviant or fallacious ahadith floating around and many Muslims who don’t know a sound narration from a bad one, who would end up following the falsified ones. Before I go off on another tangent, albeit it is an important topic, here is the story. It is about this man who couldn’t keep his fast and came and confessed to the prophet (peace be upon him) and wanted to know what he could do to compensate –

“A man came to Allah’s Apostle and said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! I am ruined!’

The Prophet said, ‘Waihaka (May Allah be merciful to you)!’

The man said, ‘I have done sexual intercourse with my wife while fasting in Ramadan.’

The Prophet said, ‘Manumit a slave.’

The man said, ‘I cannot afford that.’

The Prophet said; ‘Then fast for two successive months.’

The man said, ‘I have no power to do so.’

The Prophet said, ‘Then feed sixty poor persons.’

The man said, ‘I have nothing (to feed sixty persons).’

Later a basket full of dates were brought to the Prophet and he said (to the man), ‘Take it and give it in charity.’

The man said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! Shall I give it to people other than my family? By Him in Whose Hand my life is, there is nobody poorer than me in the whole city of Medina.’

The Prophet smiled till his premolar teeth became visible, and said, ‘Take it.’”

(Bukhari, Vol. 8, Bk. 73, No. 185)

Peace be upon you all my dear readers. Al-Latif be with you!

Celebrating the change of the seasons with music that is divine

Fall is my favourite season. The depth and range of shades on a single maple tree….Subhahanallah! (praise and glory to the Pure and High), it is beyond description. Beyond the ability of this meagre slave to extol with words, beyond the capture of any camera lens. Surely, this time if at no other, some inner chord vibrates to the call of the Creator, surely at this time if at no other, some inner voice speaks and finds resonance. You are a special creation of a magnificent Creator. The human soul is not to be belittled, denigrated to a heartless scientific experiment, not to be relegated to the happy outcome of a series of accidents. No, you are greater than this, created to do great things, understand great truths, come into great states of knowing, of understanding, of transcending, of being. Don’t let time slip by you, don’t let distraction upon distraction take away precious moments of reflection and thought, precious moments of connections and communication.

I think all great musicians have known in some deep way some knowledge of the divine, how else can they create these great timeless works, unless through inspiration. And what is inspiration except from the Creator. The source of all is The One, and there is no other. Subhahanallah!

So I am sharing one of my all time favourite pieces below. Listening to this, it takes you higher to that heavenly realm. Vivaldi’s four seasons, apt too now that the leaves are changing. May God’s light, blessing and love be with you. May you come to know Him, as He is to be known. And having said that, none of us can really ever know God, at least not in our present limited state of creation. This is the orthodox Muslim view. We have been taught

‘Laisa kamithlihi shai’

‘there is nothing like unto Him’

Quran 42:11

So whatever comes to your mind about God, He is other than that. Beyond the constrains of time and space, beyond change. How can you then grasp this fully. So study the creation to know the Creator. Study the creation and love the bounty and beauty of Allah, and Allah will love you back. When Allah loves you, your life will transform. We Muslims have lost our spiritual core, now it is just some diluted corrupted tribal nonsense we are pandering in the Muslim world. Forgive my outspokenness, but I am heartily sick of all these brutal barbaric wars and people committing humanly unthinkable acts in the name of Islam, so cruel even the ancient barbarian hoards would be cringe at committing them, and yet people do this and take on the exalted pure name of ‘Allah’ while doing so. I fear for them, for I would be shivering in my boots to do even a petty crime in the name of Allah. For Allah is swift in punishment (this too is Quranic), and yet they openly flout the teachings of Islam. Allah’s swiftness is not our swiftness, but it is swift and certain.

We Muslims who know and love and study and practice our religion the way it is meant to be have a lot on our shoulders. To our non-Muslim friends, I say, help us out. We are speaking out, living and being the best citizens we can be. Very grateful to live in countries of social justice and civics and ethics, so dear to the Muslim heart and mind. We will continue to fight against all those who claim to be Muslim and violate the sacred tradition of Islam and malign the pure and noble name of our beloved Muhammed (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Please do also read about Islam, about our dear prophet, the chosen one. Read from authentic sources. May God help us all and may we truly become who we are created to be.

God’s peace and blessing be upon you all. Assalamu alaikum (peace be with you!)

 

 

 

 

One from one of my favourite poets – may God rest her soul

Hope is the thing

with feathers

that perches in the soul

and sings the tune

without the words,

and never stops at all…

– Emily Dickinson

 

I would add, I would call this the voice of God, ar- Raqeeb, The Watchful One*

* Ar- Raqeeb mentioned in the Quran –

Now, verily, it is We who have created man,and we know what his innermost self whispers within him: for We are closer to him than his neck-vein. And so, whenever the two demands of his nature come face to face, contending from the right and from the left, not even a word can he utter but there is a watcher with him, ever present.

-Quran, Surah Qaf 50:16-18, Interpretation by Muhammed Asad

And so, as Imam Ghazali and others have said, despair is not the condition of the believer.

 

***

Joymanifest

Trust

InshaAllah one day I will be able to share several life events that have been miraculous…and not just single big miraculous events, but several events that are a series of one thing leading to another each bringing the other on and all in perfect symphony. A symphony that takes time to unravel. But for now I wanted to say I am mesmerized by the perfection with which Allah looks after the affairs of the slaves who entrust themselves to Him. So be patient and trust your Lord, Allah does things in His own time, and verily His timing is perfect with a perfection we cannot predict, being ourselves trapped in the time-dimension, while He, Exalted, Beautiful, Holy, Light upon Light, The One and Eternal Refuge, is the Master of time. So trust and be patient, verily we are hasty by our nature so don’t go hard on yourself if you are hasty…just call on your Lord to help you be patient.