‘Salawat’ – a musical tradition in Islam

Assalamu alaikum dear readers, peace be with you,

There is a great musical tradition in Islam, one that the West knows little of. One that spans a multitude of styles, genres and ages. From the deep rhythm of African drums to the mournful haunting melodies of Central Asia to the lyrically joyful sounds of the Indonesian percussion to the complex soothing majesty of the middle eastern Oud, Santoor and Violin, there has been a wealth of musicality in the Muslim world. Most of these classical traditions revolve around ‘salawat’ (=sending prayers upon the prophet, peace be upon him), and many are the lengthy poems and odes sung in every part of the world in praise of Muhammed, the beloved messenger (peace be upon him, his family and his followers). I will hope to collect a few of these genres together soon to give you a glimpse into this rich tradition.

There is a difference of opinion among Muslims as to the permissibility of Muslic in Islam. Islam is more commonly understood as a way of life among its adherents rather than a religion (see this post where I detail this better) and therefore everything in life has a law attached to it. The default state of everything is that it is permissible and only exceptions are forbidden. This is the classical scholarly understanding. The burden of proof always falls on rendering something invalid rather than the other way around. However I am sure all my Muslim readers would have come across the so called ‘haram police’ at least once in their life. These are the self-righteous self-appointed ‘scholars’ who would have you think that everything was forbidden and the burden of proof was on rendering validity (yet another symptom of the disease of lack of sound knowledge of Islam among Muslims nowadays). These people suck the joy out of life, and that is rather strange that they claim it is Islamic, when we know that the prophet (peace be upon him) was one of the most positive cheerful kind gentle accommodating of people, always smiling and always benevolent.

For myself, I have never found in my practice of Islam, anything except for joy, and that ever present sense of deep peace, which especially is strengthening during those difficult times that this life is bound to be peppered with.

So as to the permissibility of Music – the strictest opinion is that only using the human voice is allowed, the next lenient one is that the voice and percussion (some specify exactly which type of drum) is allowed, the next lenient one is that any instrument is allowed. However for all of the above, there is a consensus that the lyrics/message of the music must be ‘sound/wholesome/good/halal’. In other words ludity, lyrics that encourage impermissible actions, disturb the heart (e.g., violence, ugliness) etc. are to be absent in order for it to be allowable to partaken in.

About this difference in opinion – what is important to note is that scholarly difference of opinion is always respected and one may choose the opinion that suits one. One may disagree with another Muslim’s stance but one is not allowed to impose one’s way on the other. The latter point should be underlined, such is the sad state of lack of Islamic knowledge among Muslims these days that many do not know this principle, and a lot of unnecessary argumentation and much worse ensues. There are a vast number of issues upon which opinions differ in the Muslim’s life, and this is not a problem or should not be.

Music affects different people in different ways.  I have always found it healing and spiritually very uplifting. Someone once told me that ‘music is mathematics in motion’. This makes perfect sense to me. I have always adored mathematics…it is as they say ‘the language to understand the divine’ – of course mathematics will only lead us to a glimpse of divine truths, as a complete understanding of the divine is not possible in this lifetime given the limitations of our brain, and only God knows if it will ever be possible!

After all, while we all know that there is a concept called ‘infinite’ do we really *know* what that means? So can we really ever comprehend an infinite being? In mathematics it is proven that any number divided by infinity equals zero, and thus we say that anything or anyone compared to God, who is infinite, equals nothing! Hence the deeply spiritual person’s moving to a state of being devoid of  ‘ego’ (a good way to recognize a true teacher from a false one). This is why we also emphasize the oneness of God.. Mathematically, one (as in the absolute ‘one’..here I am talking about the concept of singularity) is the only number that cannot be divided…were it to be divided, it would not be one, and were it capable of being divided, then it would by definition have a limit, and what is limited is not infinite and hence cannot be God. These are some brief points to note on why mathematics has always been a cherished science in the Muslim world, and why Muslim scholars of old have recognized the power of music, being that ‘mathematics in motion’.

In the Islamic Golden age (when Algebra was invented) Muslim art always used geometrical patterns for that same reason – using pattern work to symbolize eternity and using the mathematical ratios of sides to symbolize the oneness of God. So that one who looks upon this pattern work is transported ‘out of the body, freeing the mind so as to catch a glimpse’…thereby making art a means to ‘know’ God, so to Islamic music has sought to transcend or elevate the limits of human consciousness.

That long preamble done, I wanted to share with you a piece from the ‘Firdous ensemble’. A very unique group of musicians who are blending different musical genres to produce what to me is a marvelous rendition of classical Islamic musical works. They are based in modern day Spain and strive to bring back to life the spirit of old Andalusia. A spirit some have argued this fractured world of the so called ‘clash of civilizations’ is much in need of rekindling. A place and time when people of different faiths, cultures and ideas lived and worked side by side, in what some historians have called was ‘the closest thing to paradise created on earth’.

So here is the Firdous ensemble. They are singing in praise of the prophet (peace be upon him)

They combine traditional and modern elements, even incorporating some celtic fiddle work in certain pieces! It’s best enjoyed with headphones. You can youtube more of their work, here are two clips I particularly like-

1. Salawat Dimashqiyya –

salawat = sending prayers upon the prophet (peace be upon him) and Dimashqiyya = from Damascus. It must be an ancient piece, or perhaps it is their name for it. I will translate what I can for your enjoyment and better appreciation below;

Begins with recitation from Quran, Surah 49, ayat 13 and Surah 33, ayat 56

49:13
(Quran 49:13) Sahih International Interpretation

O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.

33:56
(Quran 33:56) Sahih International Interpretation

Indeed, Allah confers blessing upon the Prophet, and His angels [ask Him to do so]. O you who have believed, ask [ Allah to confer] blessing upon him and ask [ Allah to grant him] peace.

@min 2:24 various salawat in Arabic…

refrain – “la ilaaha illallaah” = there is no God but God

@min 5.56 – singing in turkish (?)

@min 6.14 chorus –

“hasbi rabbi jallalah, maafi qalbi ghairullah = sufficient is my Lord, the majestic, for me, there is none in my heart except God/

“nur Muhammed sallallah, la ilaaha illallah” = The light of Muhamed (peace and blessing be upon him), there is no God but God.

refrain – “la ilaaha illallaah” = there is no God but God

end – “Muhammed rasullullah” = Muhammed is the messenger of God.

A recitation of the opening chapter of the Quran, Al-Fatiha = ‘the opening’ is given at the end as is often customary.

2. Madha Morisco – Morisco was the name give to Muslims who lived in Spain after the Reconqista. The video has subtitles and and an explanation. This one I find rather poignant, as there is some reason to believe I may have partially descended from the Moriscoes. Perhaps this geneticist should sequence her genome to find out! Enjoy 🙂

A ‘rahma’ to the worlds

Assalamu alaikum dear readers, peace be with you,

I have been on the fence about posting re what went on in Paris. Without doubt nor hesitation I say those people who perpetrated that bloodbath have nothing to do with me and I have nothing to do with them. It seems hardly necessary for me to state that, but such are the confusing and confused times we live in, where truth is twisted into falsehood and falsehood masquerades as truth, that I must state this over and over again.

Now having said that, I will fall silent except to say two things – that below is the text of a speech a dear sister of mine sent me recently and with her permission I post it here. She speaks to this and speaks from the heart, so I am honored that she lets me share her words. She would like to be known by ‘Umm Zakir’ (=the mother of Zakir, it is a Muslim custom that adults will take on a ‘kunya’ or nickname that goes as ‘mother of’ or ‘father of’ and it is usually their first born child’s name used in this form though that is not essential. It is considered a mark of honor and modesty to be addressed as such. I personally love it) and she is a fellow Canadian Muslimah (=female of Muslim is muslimah)

The second to say is that this is a month of great joy as it is the birth month of the blessed prophet (peace be upon him). He was born in the 3rd month of the Muslim calendar which in the year of his birth, 610 CE, would have been in spring time. Pre-islamic Arabs followed a lunar calendar but would add days so that the lunar calendar followed the solar (i.e, the months in the lunar calendar did not change through the years). Islam abolished that and since its advent the lunar calendar does not shadow the solar, hence Rabiul Awwal (the name of the 3rd month in the lunar calendar) moves across the year now, and it falls this year in the winter. So it is a month of great joy typically…and this year we have the greatest sorrow – that so called Muslims would carry out in the name of our beloved (peace and blessing of God upon him) what he would forbid and abhor, and that his good name continues to be besmirched and disparaged beyond the limits of what is civilized.

So may we grow in patience and grow in the personality, taking on the ‘colours’ of the beloved messenger of God who is given the title ‘habibullah’ (=the beloved of God), our master Muhammed (peace be upon him). While other of the noble prophets (peace be upon them all), and we consider them all the best of humankind, were given titles of honor in the Quran, such as ruhullah (=word/spirit of God) for our beloved Isa (=Jesus, peace be upon him), and kaleemullah (=the one to whom God spoke) for our beloved Musa (=Moses, peace be upon him) and khalilullah (=the intimate friend of God) for our beloved Ibraheem (=Abraham, peace be upon him), none was given the title of ‘beloved of God’ except Muhammed, who is called in the Quran, a ‘rahma’ to the worlds.

Rahma is often translated as ‘mercy’ in English. But it means much more, I have blogged on this before, it means everything from cherishing protection to love to nurturing care…and since he is the seal of prophethood, the last of the messengers of God, guidance sent through him is for all people and all time till this world comes to an end.

Here is the text of the speech of Umm Zakir, Allah bless and increase my beloved sister! (I have added a footnote for abbreviations used, and extremely moderately edited the text toward the end)

***

Introduction:
I am honored to be speaking during this special time to all of you special people. Know that was is true and beneficial comes from Allah SWT alone and what is incorrect is from me.

IRONY/IGNORANCE
-It is a great irony that in the month of Rabbi awwal, the month that our beloved Prophet Muhammad SAW was sent as MERCY to the worlds, violent  and dark-hearted people took REVENGE on his (SAW) name and killed innocent people without due process.

To layer irony upon irony, these people who were supposedly representing Muslims, defending and protecting the honor of Muhammad (SAW) also known as Ahmed (the praiseworthy one), in the end shot a police officer by that very name, Ahmad (May Allah have mercy upon his soul and give patience to his family). So the defenders of Ahmad, in their very act of defending him, in fact murdered Ahmed. SubhanAllah! (=glory to God, we often say this when we are stupefied/amazed/stunned) This is not a mere coincidence but a wake up call…

All of this along with other recent events:
-Boko Haram slaughtering 2,000 Nigerians,
-The Taliban massacring close to a 150 people, most being children in Peshawar.
All of this should cause us to pause and reflect…what is happening to our great legacy?

 

Even though such people say that they are avenging the “supposed” insult that was inflicted on our Prophet (SAW), if they knew anything of the Prophet’s life they would have known that this was not true to the way he (SAW) lived nor what he (SAW) taught. Such a terrible act contradicted his very essence.

And that is the problem, the crisis of our time—: ignorance and the darkness that it spreads. And as long as we remain ignorant of our religion, we too will remain in the dark. It is no longer good enough to know that all of these acts are wrong instinctually, in our gut, but we all must know why they are wrong.

LOVE/RAHMA
All of this violence, this hatred, this hard heartedness comes from a place that lacks love/Rahma and it is love that many scholars including Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah have argued is THE signature of Islam—it is the defining character of our deen, our very way of life.

Islam is the religion of Love. And fittingly, the Quran teaches that Prophet Muhammad is “the prophet of Love.” God shows love to the loving and withholds it from those who hold it back from others.

Therefore, The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said:
“People who show rahma to others will be shown rahma by the All-Merciful. Be merciful/have love to those on earth, and He who is in heaven will be merciful/be loving to you.”1 (TirmidhÏ, Sahih)

In his article, “Mercy: the stamp of creation,” Dr. Abd-Allah explains, “this teaching is so important, it was considered the bedrock of our dealings with ourselves and others, that it was called the “Tradition of Primacy.” In other words, it was the very first tenant taught by Classical Muslim scholars and it was the first tenant that students had to memorize with it’s isnad, it’s chain of narration/transmission going back to The Prophet (SAW).

ALLAH’s MERCY
Islamic scriptures emphasize that Rahma—above other divine attributes—is God’s hallmark in creation and make up His interaction of the world from it’s beginning through eternity.

It is no coincidence that one of the most oft mentioned attributes of Allah SWT in the Quran is Ar-Rahman. In Islam, the All-Merci- ful/Loving (ar-Rahman) and the Love/Mercy-Giving (ar-Rahim) may be said to be the greatest names of God after Allah.

As Dr. Abd-Allah explains, “Of all His names, they are most descriptive of his relation to the world and emphasize His will in the salvation of history throughout eternity to benefit creation and ultimately bring about the triumph of supreme good over evil.”

THE PROPHET OF MERCY
The Prophet SAW is introduced in the Qur’an in these words:
[And We have not sent you forth but as a mercy to humankind. ] 
(Al-Anbiyaa’: 107)
And also The Qur’an says of him: “We did not send you but as a special mercy to all the worlds.”7 (Qur’An 21:71)

The Prophet, himself stated:
 “In certainty, I was not sent to bring down curses; I was only sent as a special mercy.” (Recorded in Muslim)

Describing Prophet Muhammad’s beautiful and gentle demeanor, Dr. Abd-Allah writes:
Muhammad (SAW) played with children, showed a kind humor toward adults, and even gave his followers friendly nicknames. He visited the sick, asked about the welfare of neighbors, friends, followers, and even those who disbelieved in him. He was always willing to forgive, rarely chastising those who disobeyed him. AND He did not restrict his mercy to his followers. In today’s time, this understanding is especially important.

The Hadith of the JEW
One day in Medina, he was sitting with his Companions, who later related: “A funeral procession passed us by, and the Prophet, may God
bless and keep him, stood up so we all stood up because he had. Then we said: ‘O Messenger of God, it is only the funeral procession of a Jew.’ He replied: ‘Was he not a human being?’” (narrated in Bukhari and Muslim)

His (SAW) mercy did not only encompass all of humankind but also all of creation, including animals. So we here this beautiful story:

The Hadith of the DOG
When the Prophet (SAW) “conquered” Mecca peacefully. As he approached the city with the largest army ever assembled on the Arabian Peninsula till that time, he noticed a wild dog on the roadside nursing her litter and told one of his Companions, Ju’ayl ad-Damari (rA), to stand guard near her so that the entire army could pass without disturbing her or the pups.

In some sense, he was one of the first animal activists.
His Rahma was so special that it even extended to the natural world of trees.
So in some ways, he (SAW) may have been the first environmentalist understanding nature and giving each of Allah’s creation its due respect and care.

Story of the TREE:
In medina, during the period when the Muslims were a nascent community, it is narrated that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) used to lean against a date palm tree-trunk when he delivered his Friday sermons/qutbas. Upon seeing this a woman offered to have pulpit/minbar built for him (SAW). Prophet Muhammad graciously accepted. But the next week when he stood on the minbar to deliver his qutba (=sermon), everyone begins to hear a moaning, wailing, sound full of anguish and pain. The sound only subsided when Prophet Muhammad (SAW) stepped down from the pulpit and embraced the date palm tree-trunk he used to lean on. That date-palm trunck missed his leaning so much it was groaning and moaning! And the blessed beloved considered the feelings of a tree so much, he stopped his sermon to go and hug it. What is miraculous about the narration is that everyone present there heard the sound and witnessed the event. It is a mutawaatir Hadith (=a hadith whose authenticity cannot be doubted. This is the highest classification of authenticity given a hadith in the vast science of classification of ahadith, or narrations from the life of the beloved, peace be upon him). So many have reported it through so many chains of narration its authenticity has always been considered unshakable even by the scholars most averse to acknowledging the supernatural. It reveals as to the deep spiritual connection that the best of creation had with the rest of Allah’s creation.

The correct definition of MERCY:
How do we define Mercy?
English,
-forgiving,
-setting things right
 -after the fact
But in Arabic it is far more encompassing:
-it includes being forward thinking,
-quality that makes a break with the past
-fosters new beginnings
-and constantly thinks of actions that give the best benefit of the future.

[-that is why though the word ‘rahma’ is often translated as mercy it is better defined as love. Arabic has many words for love, far more than English. Rahma is a special form of that love – a word used in Arabic to denote the love of a mother to a child.]

Conclusion:
Mercy is Hope. And in today’s time, we need to be agents of Mercy, we need to be inspired by hope all working for a tomorrow that will be better. There is not a better time to start than now, the month of Rabbi awwal, where the special gift of Mercy was bestowed upon all of humankind. So let’s not allow blood and hatred, darkness and ignorance to stain this month, let’s be people of life and love, light and knowledge as we not only celebrate his (SAW) legacy but we also continue his legacy. And let’s give Him (SAW) the gift that he deserves—that when people look at us, and deal with us, you and I, they say, we want to know more about this man, Muhammad, and this religion of Islam. IA.

For a more in-depth examination of the theme of Mercy as a stamp of creation, please see Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah’s brilliant article.
***
SWT (= Subhahana wa ta’ala, glory be to Him and He is the exalted – a phrase used when speaking of God)
SAW (= sallalaahu alaihi wasallam, may the blessing and peace of God be upon him, a blessing we send upon Muhammed, whenever we mention his name)

 

Love in Islam

For all those who think or say that there is no understanding of love in Islam’s concept of the Godhead, please do listen to this. It is only 15 mins and is excerpted from one of our foremost scholars today. We have a deep deep and wide understanding of love in our tradition. Unfortunately many of us, even among the Muslims, are divorced from this reality in the modern world. One of the greatest tragedies to befall the Muslim nation is our loss of our knowledge sources which happened to a large extent during the colonial period. So the past 200 years or so has seen the Muslim nation loose much of its base. I think it is almost akin to the other great tragedy that befell the Muslim nation which is when the Mongol hoards sacked Baghdad (Genghis Khan’s grandson lead that campaign). Thankfully knowledge is coming back into Muslims from what has been preserved now, as it did in our history some decades after the sacking of Baghdad. Ironically the descendants of the invaders themselves became Muslim and contributed much to the Muslim world. But let me not go off on a tangent. For now, by God’s grace, nNew scholars are emerging, teaching and spreading knowledge and books are being unearthed and translated. God will preserve His teaching. And this is true for all true traditions that lead to the worship of the Source. May we all be reunited with the One we love. And God’s peace and blessings be upon His messenger Muhammed

Peace be with you all, Assalamu alaikum

Azaan – calling to prayer

Assalamu alaikum warahmatullah,

The recent global events and events in my own life and in that of my circle of brothers and sisters, whether known ‘virtually’ or ‘in-person’ (Sendie, here’s a call out to you, I hope you’re fine) has made it a quiet time. A time of reflection and renewing, of one’s purpose and one’s plan to live and thrive in this world without becoming damaged or bitter. Truly, God does test those He loves and truly God does come to the aid of those He tests when they call out to Him, and Truly God does not place a burden on any soul greater than it can bear. References for these statements by Allah, the One and Only Creator below;

Or do you think that you will enter Paradise while such [trial] has not yet come to you as came to those who passed on before you? They were touched by poverty and hardship and were shaken until [even their] messenger and those who believed with him said,”When is the help of Allah ?” Unquestionably, the help of Allah is near.
Quran (2:214)

And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.
Quran (2:186)

Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity. It will have [the consequence of] what [good] it has gained, and it will bear [the consequence of] what [evil] it has earned. “Our Lord, do not impose blame upon us if we have forgotten or erred. Our Lord, and lay not upon us a burden like that which You laid upon those before us. Our Lord, and burden us not with that which we have no ability to bear. And pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy upon us. You are our protector, so give us victory over the disbelieving people.”
Quran (2:286)

The last ayah (verse or better translated as ‘sign’, as each verse in the Quran is considered a ‘sign’ of the miracle of God), is the one which ends the longest chapter in the Quran (chapter 2), and indeed after the statement that God does not lay a burden on anyone greater than that soul can bear, God guides us to how to bear whatever we do have to bear – bear it by asking God to help you with it! For indeed Allah loves to hear the call of his creation and loves to answer that call.

This is a time when our patience is being tested in deep ways. We are bleeding at the disrespect they cause to our beloved prophet (peace be upon his gentle and exalted soul!) and saddened by their ignorance. May God guide us all to light!

Muhammed (peace be upon him) himself was taunted by much much much worse numerous times in his life. He never retaliated. One very telling short hadith gives us a glimpse of his attitude, at a time when they twisted his name to make fun of him, look at with what good character, light-heartedness and wisdom he replies;

Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 56, Number 733:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah’s Apostle said, “Doesn’t it astonish you how Allah protects me from the Quraish’s abusing and cursing? They abuse Mudhammam and curse Mudhammam while I am Muhammad (and not Mudhammam)”

The Makkans made fun of the Prophet (PBUH) by twisting his name because of its meaning being “The one deserving of praise” , and calling him Mudhammam (belittled one).

I leave you with a beautiful clip from a recent CelebrateMercy event. I urge you all to check out the celebratemercy website if you have not already. It is dedicated to the prophet, the prophet who was sent for all mankind, not just for arabs, not just for the 7th century, but for all people and all time.

And I leave you with two beautiful azans, one from the grant mosque in Medina, the city of the prophet and the other from a young muazzin (one who calls the azan) in Los Angeles, presented at a beautiful interfaith event in a Church.

Peace to all, as Muhammed (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and his family!!) taught us to say and live. Peace to all

Eid Mubarak! May the festival greeting of barakah (blessings) be true for you and me

Assalamu alaikum (Peace be with you)

My dear sisters and brothers in Islam and in humanity, I greet you and wish you much joy and peace on this most beautiful celebration of the festival of ‘fitr’, or of breaking the fast. It has been a month of illumination and bonding, patience and self-descipline, a much needed bootcamp of the soul, heart and importantly, stomach.

We Muslims unfortunately neglect the importance of the stomach and all that goes in to it. If you think about it, other than your lungs that take in air every few seconds (without stopping since you popped out of Mum’s uterus to till you die- isn’t that amazing? Subhahanallah!) the system that has most interaction with the outside world is your GI (gastro-intestinal) system. And the GI system has to contend with a lot more variety than your lungs do (at least as far as we know to-date). So be easy on this precious blessing that is the GI system on the day of Eid. Don’t make the month of training be of no or little consequence by gluttonous feasting. Remember, moderation in all things. In abstinence and in celebration. It is the way of our beloved teacher, the best example and beautiful guide, Muhammed (may Allah bless him and elevate him!). The middle way.

 

So this reminder is first to myself and then to you. The prophet (peace and blessings of God be on him) said on eating, the very famous and sound hadith (narration, or record of his words, ‘sound’ here means it has been rigourously authenticated as true, as there are many hadith and not all of them are authentic…not knowing which narrations are sound vs. which are not, has lead to much disarray among the Muslims, but I digress) below;

On the authority of Al-Miqdaam ibn Maadiy-Karib who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah saying: “No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight. But if it must be, then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath.”

Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasaa’I, Ibn Majah – Hadith sahih.

 

I found these useful comments by early physicians and scholars of the Muslim world on the hadith ;-

1. Ibn Masaweh, a Muslim doctor, said after reading this hadith: “If the people only used these words, they would avoid all diseases and maladies and the clinics and pharmacies would be idle.”

2. Another doctor, Al-Harith ibn Kalada said: That which has killed mankind is the introduction of food on top of food before it has been digested.

3. As for spiritual benefits: humbleness of heart, strength of understanding, lessening of lower desires, lessening of personal opinions and anger, while overeating induces the opposites of all of those. Al-Hassan Al-Basri said: “O, son of Adam, eat with one third of your stomach and drink with one third and leave one third of your stomach to breathe so that you may think.”

4. Ibn Umar: A man said to Ibn Umar: Shouldn’t I bring you some jawarish? Ibn Umar said: What is that? He said: Something which aids in digesting your food after you eat. Ibn Umar said: I have not eaten to being full for four months. That is not because I am not able to do so, but I was with a group of people who were hungry more than they were full.

5. Not reaching your goals: Muhammad ibn Wasi said: Whoever eats little will understand and make others understand and will be clear and humble. Overeating weighs a person down and keeps him from much of what he wants [to accomplish].”

6. Al-Hassan Al-Basri: The test of Adam, peace be upon him, was food and it is your test until Qiyama. And, it used to be said: Whoever takes control of his stomach gets control of all good deeds. And: Wisdom does not reside in a full stomach. One day, Al-Hassan offered some food to his companion who said: I have eaten until I am no longer able to eat. To which Al-Hassan said: Subhaana Allah! Does a Muslim eat until he is no longer able to eat?

[these notes are taken from a well known scholarly text by a great scholar, Imam Rajab al-Hanbali (d 1393). The book is called ‘Jami’al Uloom al’Hikam’, a commentary on the famous forty hadith by Imam Nawawi. Copied with thanks from Br. Saleem Morgan’s website]

And indeed, Imam Ghazali (one of the best known of the Muslim scholars and a great luminary who lived in Persia about 900 years ago) in a commentary of the Quran, famously said to paraphrase in my own words (and I intend no disrespect or frivoulty by this, only ease of making this post, please look this up for a more accurate rendering) that indeed one of the reasons mankind fell, was his excessive love of food! 🙂 Though I smile, I do take this seriously as a practitioner of prophetic medicine (the teeny bit I know) and a scientist, as well as a person trying to be a Muslim. Indeed we have moved so far from the mark of our early scholars that we laugh at serious matters. Allah protect me and us!

This reading of the story of Adam and Eve (may Allah bless them both) and their eating of the apple (this story is given in the Quran, but differs in detail quite a bit from the better known biblical version…however the eating of the apple remains, though the Quran calls both Adam and Eve tempted and not just the one, this story appears in several places in the Quran, the second chapter in particular has detail if you are interested in reading it) is quite profoud if you come to think of it.

We neglect the influence the GI tract has on us and shorten the long lives God would give us by our own folly. So celebrate in joyful light, eat moderately and be thankful for your tummy! Don’t over-stress it after treating it so well in the month of fasting.

We Muslims have lost a lot of the education, guidance, wisdom and character our predecessors had. No wonder the Muslim Nation suffers so. We have a long way to climb back up again. I would humbly submit that a first step is controlling the stomach. Verily, it will only help and not hinder, the controling of the heart. As the Quran says in the words of our father Abraham (God elevate and bless him) ‘And indeed the only ones saved that day are those who bring a sound heart ‘…

 

26:87
Sahih International

And do not disgrace me on the Day they are [all] resurrected –

26:88
Sahih International Interpretation

The Day when there will not benefit [anyone] wealth or children

26:89
Sahih International Interpretation

But only one who comes to Allah with a sound heart.”

Quran (26: 87-89)
 
With that shared, I must take your leave. Indeed mashaallah (by God’s grace) writing it out here is like sharing something with a dear friend, it only cements the sentiment in one’s heart. Indeed this is my prayer.
 
One last thing, your true home is on that prayer mat alone in front of your Beloved, The Beloved. I am sure you felt this during the many hours of standing in prayer the nights of Ramadan, don’t let the deceiver make you forget. So increase the prayer these days after Ramadan and inshaAllah the feeling of loss at the passing of the month of mercy will not be so great.
 
Allah bless you all and guide and protect us and may we be aware of the Cherishing Nurturing Protection already around us… in the food we eat, the air we breathe, the birds and colours and fragrances and immense beauty around us. Truly our Lord is a Generous Lord.
 

Peace to all of you.

Several realms of gratitude

Alhamdulillah, alhmadulillah, alhamdulillah, Subhahanallahi wabihamdihi, la ilaha illallah!

Now half this beautiful blessing of a month has flown by. How swiftly it goes. These precious hours, each more gracious than the one past, oh they come to us one after the other and leave us breathless. They raise us higher and higher as we go closer and closer to the divine. This training of the body, opens up vistas of the mind and soul, cleans the heart and purifies the ego. Oh, what a wise blessing this obligatory fast is. Praise be to God, praise be to God, praise be to God, there is no God but God and God is the most pure, sublime, worthy of all praise, to whom is due all thanks.

 

Everynight now, after a long day of heat, we are blessed with a sip of cool water to drink…and as the prophet (Allah bless and elevate him) said;

ذَهَبَ الظَّمَأُ وَابْتَلَّتِ الْعُرُوقُ وَثَبَتَ الأَجْرُ إِنْ شَاءَ اللهُ

Dhahab az zamaa’u wab tallatil urooqu wa thabat al-ajru Insha-Allah

The thirst has vanished, the veins have been wetted and the reward is established – Insha-Allah. [Abu Dawud]

indeed, the veins are refreshed by this. But oh, so many in the world are in an involuntary fast, and have no means of breaking it. Water is such a precious precious gift. Such a miracle. How easily we waste it. A few days ago I was hurrying to a meeting, having parked my car along a residential street. This was in the middle of a hot day and mashaAllah I was feeling the blessing of water, being thirsty with the fast. I noticed a water-sprinkler in full swing on someone’s lawn. It is a silly time to water one’s lawn, as in the mid-day heat, the water evaporates sooner than it can be absorbed and therefore it is not good etiquette to water one’s lawn at this time, rather it is better to water the garden/lawn early in the day or in the evening. So I was thinking of all this at the back of my mind while hurrying, and then forgot all about it. But it was very sad, for an hour and a half later, returning after the meeting…I saw the same sprinkler still working. This was very sad indeed! What a waste of a precious resource and so many in the world suffer so without water to drink. God forgive us all for the way we squander the resources of this precious earth. Now writing this out, I get to thinking about this wisdom I learned back home on what time is best to water the garden. It was always done either early after dawn or just before sunset. Since my home country is poor, it was always done by a person who doubtless did not want to toil in the hot sun watering the garden, so there was more than one benefit. I wonder though, had my country been rich and there was an automatic water sprinkling system…would the ancient wisdom of ‘do not waste’ have prevailed?

 

God knows best the condition of the human and our weaknesses. And indeed we are forgetful creatures. I know there is a thousand things I do that are wasteful now, that I did not do before when I had less. So Allah forgive me for my countless sins and mistakes and forgetfulnesses. Indeed, our real sin is that we forget. Even the great prophet Moses (may God bless and elevate him) forgot as is mentioned in the beautiful and profound story of his encounter with Khidr-

قَالَ لَا تُؤَاخِذْنِي بِمَا نَسِيتُ وَلَا تُرْهِقْنِي مِنْ أَمْرِي عُسْرًا
Sahih International translation

[Moses] said, “Do not blame me for what I forgot and do not cover me in my matter with difficulty.” (Quran 18:73).

 
But look at the etiquette of Moses (peace be upon him) who stated his deficiency and asked for leniency with dignity and sincerity. This is a lesson to us. There is no way we will not be forgetful, there is no way we will not sin. Indeed if that were the case, we would be angels or we would be in heaven! So do not despair of the loving kind protection of your Lord and that you have someone, always there, for you to turn back to. Indeed the beauty of the sin, if I may call it that, is that it brings us back to our Lord. And that we all need. So there is a wisdom in everything created. And God alone is the only true reality.
 
Remember His name…you inhale and exhale it with every breadth, your heart beats to the rhythm of Allah, of expansion and constriction…this is your Lord, everywhere Manifest and everywhere Hidden. Glory to Allah, the most Beautiful, the most Majestic, the One, Everlasting.
 
I began this post really to document the great blessing of water and also to acnowledge with humble thanks, the ‘lovely blog’ award that my beautiful sister, Rosa Noor, bestowed upon me sometime ago. I was trully bowled over by it and super happy 🙂 MashaAllahu ta’ala! And I praise and thank my gracious Lord that this blog began so many months ago, has been able to reach out in such a way to my larger family. As we Muslims believe, if there is any good in it, it comes from God and God alone. InshaAllah, I will soon be able to aknowledge the award as it should be and complete the post. But now it is late and there is much to do and learn these precious Ramadan nights so please Sr. Noor (what a lovely name you have!), forgive me for the delay. Please do check out her amazing blog, ‘Greetings from England’.    MashaAllah such an active blog and here I am scarcely able to pen an entry in a fortnight! 🙂 Truly, God distributes His blessing in the best way.
 
To end, today was a blessed day of being on the water kayaking (one of my favourite things to do)…and since I began with water here’s a picture of a favourite lake where I was blessed to kayak with my God daughter when she was here (how I miss her). Do make du’a for her and all the children in the world who suffer and bear so much. Allah, help us all!
 
 
Image

 

O’ Moon

image

There is a beautiful moon outside and the night is clear and still. These nights of the full moon of rabiul awwal…the time of the birth of the beloved, the final messenger Muhammed, upon whom be peace and salutations, what beautiful nights they are.
Looking at the moon my heart realizes the prayer Muhammed himself would make on beholding the moon. And so my lips say it too- “O Moon, as thou dost worship my Lord, so do I!”
But tonight I gaze on the moon and add to it this yearning ( and these words are my own) – ‘O Moon, you are the same moon who looked upon the prophet making that prayer. O Moon how blessed you are! I am gazing on you that has seen my beloved and time stands still. How blessed my eyes to behold you! O Moon, as you do worship Allah so do I’
So saying my beloved’s words my heart fills with the light of the answering moon
Thanks and Glory be to God.

And peace to you all.

‘A kind word is a charity’ – Prophet Muhammed (peace and salutations of God upon him)

Peace be with you all,

I came across this beautiful short talk by Habib Al-Jifri, a great scholar and one of very noble birth, both his parents are descendents of Ali (Allah be pleased with him), the prophet’s couzin. You can read more of his bio here and I have copy-pasted an excerpt from that site below. This talk and the manner in which it is delivered is a beautiful light and a reminder of what a mercy to mankind we were given in our beloved prophet Muhammed. May you benefit from it as I did and may we all come to know more about and love this great man, this light to the worlds.

Bio excerpt of Habib Ali Al-Jifri- ‘He began taking knowledge from his early childhood from his first teacher, his mother’s great-aunt the scholar and knower of God Safiah daughter of Alawi son of Hassan al-Jifri, she had an immense influence on him and the direction he took in the pursuit of knowledge and spirituality.

As a continuation of the authentic methodology of receiving Sacred Knowledge, and wayfaring on the spiritual path, through an unbroken chain of masters, all the way back to the Messenger of God may God Bless him & his family and give them peace, a methodology the preservation and maintenance of which, the valley of Hadramaut and the city of Tarim are renowned, this work was continued in the intellectual Milieu of the Hejaz which became a meeting point for the Scholars of the School of Hadramaut when they were exiled from the South of Yemen during Communist Rule; he received his education in the Sacred Sciences and the Science of Spiritual Wayfaring at the hands of Scholars and Spiritual Educators’

On the death of a child

Assaalamu alaikum, peace to all

Tonight I heard from my sister of the death of a dear child, a beautiful little girl who lives down the street from us back home in Sri Lanka. Her family is not well to do, being fruit sellers…but are some of the most kind and giving people I know. Her grandfather in particular, went out of his way to look after my grandmother when she had a stroke…bodily lifting her up and carrying her out to the vehicle waiting to rush her to hospital. Being a manual laborer he had the strength to do it and being as fond of her as he is, often saying ‘she is like a mother to me’, he had the heart. I, stuck on the other side of the globe, and knowing it would take 48 hours to reach there, could only arrive to be by her hospital bedside. Thank God, she survived that attack and then this little child would visit her almost every day to keep her company as she recovered. She was an adorable bunch of mischief, naughty and full of smiles as she played one prank after another. Her name in Sinhala has no particular meaning I know but can be considered to mean ‘flower’ so I will call her that.

Well Flower has died. Of Dengue fever, a mosquito borne disease more deadly than Maleria in my Island home. The Doctors who examined her not being able to diagnose her correctly at first her treatment came too late. ‘Inna ilaihi wa inna lillaahi rajioon’, the beautiful and profound sentence we Muslims are taught to say on the passing of anyone… ‘From God we come and to God we return’. So then as we believe, another angelic soul reunited with the divine presence. Sinless, she will be in heaven, awaiting her parents and praying for them. So then there is peace.

I wonder about the beauty of children. How their presence gives us life. How we remember what is essential when we are with them. I think it is because they are so recently arrived from that divine presence, and unsullied by the world yet, they are able to communicate an angelic nature. Yes, even in their mischief, they are angelic! The prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) taught us never to hit a child. Glory be to God, what a source of mercy our beloved prophet is!

After the tsunami happened I saw so many children who had died. So many children. Indeed, it was as if my soul shaken to its depths could not feel anymore. Only in blindly going through day after day after day indulging in back breaking work was there solace. Trusting without a shadow of a doubt, that Allah’s help will come and He is the MOST MERCIFUL. And so Allah is indeed the most merciful. Some time after the tsunami, I moved to another country and then moved in to live with a family where there was a beautiful baby. It took 5 years of growing with that child to be healed. Five blissful years of peace playing with a child and the world was right again. So I wonder at my Lord’s way, taking things away but giving back more. All we have to do is be patient. And kind and giving ourselves. All we have to do is learn to trust and that trust softens our speech so that we learn to speak to one another with kindness and gentility. Not a superficial gentility but one that has permeated our very soul. Is this then the way of the Buddha? the way of Lao Tse, of Jesus (peace be upon him) and of our Master Muhammed (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him)?

One of my most beloved sayings of Rasullulah (the messenger of Allah, peace be upon him) is where he stated that the best means of persuasion is the gentle means…but I cannot find this reference and indeed I am also not sure if it is Quranic. Please forgive me for my lapse, but here is a hadith very close in meaning to that

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Be gentle and calm. . .because God likes gentleness in all affairs.”
Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Hadith 404

This gentleness children possess. It is there in every coo and gurgle and in every time they stretch their arms out to be hugged. It is there when they put their little hands in yours as you walk along. It is there when they sit in your lap and ask for a story to be read to them. And yes, even when those little eyes dance with mischief and they enjoy annoying you, it is there for they want you. They always want you.

Imagine then the angelic presence and to be united with that. Glory be to God. How much we have to learn to be better. And I say this first to myself and then to everyone else. Allah help me.
May the little ones be in an eternal and beautiful peace.

I wanted to share some other ahadith beloved to me in case it is of benefit to you. And indeed remembering our prophet is never anything but a strength and mercy;

Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Book 56, Number 759:

Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr:

The Prophet never used bad language neither a “Fahish nor a Mutafahish. He used to say “The best amongst you are those who have the best manners and character.”

Malik Muwatta Book 47, Number 47.1.8:

Yahya related to me from Malik that he had heard that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “I was sent to perfect good character.”

Sahih Muslim Book 032, Number 6264:

Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Charity does not in any way decrease the wealth and the servant who forgives Allah adds to his respect, and the one who shows humility Allah elevates him in the estimation (of the people).

Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 11, Number 677:

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

The Prophet said, “When I start the prayer I intend to prolong it, but on hearing the cries of a child, I cut short the prayer because I know that the cries of the child will incite its mother’s passions.”

May Allah forgive us all our countless sins, guide and strengthen us!

And may Allah the almighty, most beautiful, kind, generous, glorious and loving Lord, the Almighty, give rest and ease to every parent who has ever had to go through the torture of loosing a child.

Reminding myself

Assalamu alaikum, Peace to all.

I wanted to share two excellent articles I came across on Suhaib Webb’s virtual mosque, reminding me first about the nature of our beloved. I ask your prayers to help me be more like him and my prayers for all of you to. On this note, a very beautiful elder I was blessed to meet once told me to say this prayer whenever possible, it has helped change my life so I will pass on the wisdom…he said to say ‘O God, I do not know what mistake I have done, but forgive me’. It purifies one, and indeed my soul is in heavy need of purification. And a second short prayer to make that unites us all is ‘Allahumma irham ummati Muhammed’, translated to ‘O Allah be merciful to the nation of Muhammed’ a worthy prayer to make after every salah indeed.

Here are the articles. I will cut and paste them and cite the original. Hope they are of benefit inshaallah. Jazakum Allah Khairan

He Kept it Real! (taken from http://www.suhaibwebb.com/personaldvlpt/character/he-kept-it-real/)
Reehab Ramadan | June 6, 2011 5:00 am

Commanded to Love: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII

Many of us have a wide variety of masks that we put on throughout the day depending on whom we are with and what their expectations are. Some of these masks are masks of patience, masks of gratitude, or masks of kindness. But the ones who see the ‘true us’ are those we live with. They see our faults and the side of us that we would never show to the outside world. When talking to the sahaba (Companions) the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) said, ‘The best of you are those whom are best to their families, and I am the best among you to my family’ (Tirmidhi). One of the wisdoms we can take from this is that it’s easy to be kind to people when you only have to see them a few hours a week, or even a few hours a day. It’s easy to put on a smile and make someone feel like they are worth something when you know that the show you are putting on will end soon. But it takes work, effort, and perseverance to keep up that niceness and compassion with the people you see day-in and day-out. It is with your family that your true colors show. Through the narrations and commentary of the wives of the Prophet ﷺ , we know for a fact that he was not one to wear masks nor was he one to be fake and insincere.

One of these narrations is of the time when the Prophet came bursting into the house of our mother, Khadija radi Allahu `anha (may God be pleased with her), seeking refuge from the experience he had just been through and begging her to cover him up. After listening to the story of what had occurred in the cave, which we now know was the beginning of the revelation, Khadija (ra) didn’t rush to call him a mad man, laugh at him, or even feel sorry for him. Rather, she had full confidence that something amazing was happening by the will of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) because she knew of his noble qualities. She began to comfort him, reminding him of all the good things that he consistently did, assuring him that there is no way that Allah (swt) would abandon him or allow him to be experiencing this out of madness nor out of possession. She reminded him that he was always good to his relatives, was always true to his word, helped those who were in need, supported the weak, fed his guests and answered the calls of those who were in distress. Had this account of his actions come from extended family or even neighbors, it would be awe-inspiring, but it wouldn’t be as powerful as when it came from the lips of his wife. His wife, a woman who sees him in the different moments of his life, who sees him day and night, who knows him for who he really is when his guard may be down, testifies confidently that he is a man of honor and a man that would never let anyone down.

They say if you really want to know who a man is, ask his wife how he is at home when no strange eyes are watching. Our beloved Prophet ﷺ was the same man behind closed doors as he was in public. His deeds did not change depending on who he was with nor did it change depending on who was watching because he knew that the only One who mattered was Allah (swt), and Allah (swt) could see him no matter where he was. He was not two-faced nor did he switch between different masks. No, the Prophet ﷺ kept it real—no matter where he was.

and

A Man of Mercy (taken from http://www.suhaibwebb.com/personaldvlpt/character/a-man-of-mercy/)
Reehab Ramadan | May 30, 2011 5:00 am

Commanded to Love: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI

Today, often times a “religious” person is seen to be someone who is rough and rigid, spouting do’s and don’ts without thinking twice about the emotions of the person being scolded. The Prophet ﷺ, however, was the farthest from any such description. He was a man who was enveloped in mercy, who cared for the weak, encouraged the women, and stood up for anyone in need.

Allah (swt) describes the character of the Prophet ﷺ in the Qura’n when He says:

“So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].” [Qur’an, 3:159]

The Prophet ﷺ did not only have mercy towards the men of his society at a time when women were treated very harshly, he was also busy working against this to replace it with mercy and compassion.

The men at the time of Rasul’Allah ﷺ were privileged with the opportunity to constantly be in his company, learning and growing with him. The women wanted to have such an opportunity, and being the leader that he was, the women did not feel any shyness or fear in requesting this from him. Upon request, the Prophet ﷺ set aside a special time just for the women so that he could answer their questions and help them with what they needed. There is a narration in which the Prophet ﷺ was sitting amongst the women and they were talking loudly to him. Umar came into the room and the women completely changed their demeanor. Seeing this, the Prophet ﷺ did not get angry, nor offended, nor even jealous–rather, he laughed. Umar radi Allahu anh (peace and blessings be upon him), asked the Messenger ﷺ why he laughed at their behavior and he replied that he was amazed at how the women hid the instant they heard Umar’s voice! This angered Umar and he questioned the women, asking how they should fear him yet not the Messenger ﷺ! Their response exemplifies the mercy that Prophet ﷺ had towards these women; they responded confidently that in comparison, Umar (ra) was hot-tempered, while the Prophet ﷺ was the epitome of mercy.

The Prophet ﷺ’s mercy was vast and inclusive. He spread it far and wide to the point that even animals could find refuge in his kindness. Of the many instances that are breathtakingly vibrant with the clemency of RasulAllah ﷺ is that of the helpless bird. ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud was traveling with the Prophet ﷺ and a few other men. One of the men took an egg from the bird’s nest. Out of despair, the bird came and flapped its wings at the Prophet ﷺ, and he took immediate notice to her sad state. He turned to his companions and asked them who had made this poor bird miserable. Upon finding out that her egg had been taken, he ordered the man to return the egg to her as a sign of mercy and compassion. At a time when many humans were not being shown kindness, the Prophet ﷺ mastered kindness to mankind and was already encouraging kindness and rights of animals.

Today, we look to the lives of the sahabah and read their stories. Many times, it is hard to comprehend how they had so much energy and drive to do all the things that they did. Their energy stemmed from pure Divine Love which was not built through harsh reprimands or robotic movements—rather, this love was built by being in the presence of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, seeing his amazing mercy and knowing that if he, the creation of Allah (swt), could exhibit such mercy, then what of his Creator?

Allah help us all be more like our beloved, and please Lord, shower your blessings and salutations upon Muhammed and his family.