So the famous story of the Jews that came to the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and purposely upset him in order to elicit a response and it was Umar who got very angry and the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) was completed unperturbed even though he was insulted by this man. The man said he had seen all the characteristics of prophecy except for one hilm, and he needed to test that so he purposely evoked a negative response but did not get it from the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) so we know that he had hilm or forbearance.
So one of the things about people that are disconnected from Allah is that they get completely disquieted whenever things get difficult. It is a sign of weak iman. People whose iman is weak when they lose the slightest thing you can see them disquieted, perturbed.
One of the things that we are increasingly becoming incapable of is listening to each other, just talk, human beings without getting disquieted. So people cannot have civil arguments, they cannot have discussions because once we start talking I get heated, you elicit a response from me like there was a physician in India who used to treat people with ruqyah and one of these modern physicians thought he was completely insane and when he started arguing with him about this, he said “how do you think that words can affect anything, you need to give people antibiotics and you need to give them things that will change their states” so the other physician who believed in ruqyah called him a donkey. He got really angry and then called him a pig and he was about to kill him. He said “two words I said to you and look at how they have changed your state. You are red and ready to kill me” because of two words so words have a power to elicit responses from us.
And so what hilm is, is the ability to not allow your button to be pushed and it really is one of the gifts of Islam if people take it seriously. It is hard to do and we are all working at it to some degree. People get better at it than others but it takes a great deal of effort and it does not stop. It gets finer and finer but removing resentment from the heart is a really difficult thing, hasad, all these diseases of the heart.
So this book he wrote as a way of helping people to understand what tribulations really are because one of the reasons we get disquieted about difficulties is that we do not understand what the wisdom of the difficulty is from Allah. That is one of the real problems so when Allah gives you a difficult situation. If you believe in Allah the difference between you and someone who does not believe in Allah is that you will derive benefit from that condition.
Now one of the beauties of the creation and for me one of the greatest proofs for the existence of God that if you do not believe in God you will live in a world filled with God but if you disbelieve in God you will constantly be re-affirmed in your disbelief and that is why atheists cannot understand people that believe in God and people that believe in God cannot understand atheists because both of them are seeking a proof for their belief. They really are and that is one of the meanings I think of the hadith “I am in the opinion of my servant” so if my servant thinks I am nothing, that is what he finds.
Allah is in the understanding of the believer so if you believe Allah is with you, Allah is with you. If you do not believe He is with you, He is not with you and that is why despair is haraam in every Abrahamic tradition. It is haraam and in Catholicism it is the unforgiven unpardonable sin in Catholicism to despair from the mercy of God. It is actually the one thing that is not forgiven. That is Iblees, that is his disease, he despaired so he wants everybody else to despair so part of the game that is being played in the world is to make everybody think that it is all horrible and whenever you talk to people that do not believe in God or people in this age in particular, what do they say to you? Look around you, how can you believe in God? Well that is my whole point I am looking around, how can I not believe in God? So where is the problem? The problem is in what they call evil and this is what ultimately every argument against the existence of God rests upon.
It rests upon what they call the problem of evil and that is why if somebody tells you they do not believe in God what you should ask them to do is to explain to me what your definition of God is because we might not believe in the same thing in other words I might agree with you that I do not believe in that thing because one of the things that they have done is that they are trapped in a Christian Manichean world view which is where good and evil are both creations of Allah. See the Christians cannot explain evil because they say God is all good and God is all powerful. Well if God is all good and all powerful how do we explain evil in the world? Because if He is all good He would not create evil and if He was all powerful He would remove it from the world. This is what they call the problem of evil in philosophy. That is the argument.
That is ultimately what atheists have a problem with so one of the benefits of this is we had scholars that looked at tribulations and said “never think something is evil because you do not know”. Now on the one hand we have a shariah that says killing is evil right so if somebody kills another person unjustly that is evil the person should be punished or forgiven or whatever is done but it is a wrong action that needs to be redressed so shariah is something we have to live with. The law that Allah has given is just like here in this society we have laws many of them are incongruous with our system of law and that is what Raghab il Misbahani calls Al Adal al Mutaqah which are shared by Muslims and non Muslims and then you have what is called Al Adal al Muqayyadah which relates to the shariah or the sacred law that a specific Prophet has brought and that adal can actually change, it can actually change but Adal al Mutaqah, it is wrong to take somebody else’s property. Everybody agrees on that and that is the basis of entering into transactions with non Muslims and that is why Muslims can transact with non Muslims because if we did not have a shared understanding of justice we could not communicate but every non Muslim that has got any brains at all will agree with us on many basic points and this is how it is capable for Muslims and non Muslims to live together based on those shared things.
There are other things where we disagree and then the shariah has ways of dealing with that. In a Muslim society even, non Muslims are allowed to do things that Muslims are not allowed to do.
So he begins this book Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem, in the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Every Muslim traditionally began their book with Bismillah or Alhamdulillah and that was because the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said that anything that begins without bismillah is cut off from barakah so it is a way of maintaining barakah.
The shaykh and shaykh in Arabic has several meanings one of them is simple just an old man, he gets grey hairs and shaykh also means the head of a tribe, it can be somebody who has wealth, it can mean a dignified person but here it is used to signify somebody who has wisdom and because usually wisdom comes with old age.
Imam is a paragon, somebody that embodies something. Ummah is a group of people that are moving towards the same object, that is what an ummah is. It is a people that are bound together by the same goal and that is why the ummah of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) has the same goal to get to paradise.
Then the mother obviously she is the umm which is related to the same root word. Hujjat al Islam. Hujjah is a proof and that is a level a degree that certain scholars reach when they become like Imam al Ghazali who was the famous Hujjat al islam, becomes a proof for the truth of Islam. That that person has become, the fact that they exist is a proof that Islam is true.
Mutamada Anam the one that that all of the creatures depend upon. Anam generally means the things that sleep but it also means the ins and the jinn.
Imam at-Tabari says that He placed the earth for the anam that it means all the living creatures, things that sleep and also the ulema are of benefit to the creatures because they defend their rights, creatures have rights, trees have rights. This is a modern argument in the West whether creation has legal standing or not. This is an argument that environmentalists lawyers have brought up whereas the Muslims dealt with these things.
His name is
Abu Muhammad Abzul Aziz ibn Abdus Salaam. He was Shafi but he also mastered the
Maliki madhab and then he says may Allah benefit the Muslims by him. Even today
800 years after he wrote this book we are here in
Calamities and tests and tribulations and distasters have different benefits based upon the different ranks of people. This is an important idea. Rutbah is a rank, it is used in modern Arabic in military rank. Rutub are the ranks that people are in relation to Allah. So just as you have in the military. “Nobody knows the armies of your Lord except Allah so Allah has junood”. Now people have different ranks, you have Generals, you have Colonels and then within that you have ranks and then you have Major and Captains and Lieutenants, Sergeants and Corporals. Now in the people of thahir the people actually wear uniform to let them know what their ranks are.
In Islam those ranks are hidden. You do not know the stations of people with Allah. It is something that Allah has hidden. One of the ulema said that Allah hid three things in three things. He hid His contentment in His obedience so in other words you never know what Allah will accept from you. Allah might not accept a great thing you did that was an act of obedience but He might accept a small thing like the prostitute who was forgiven for giving a dog water. That is the reason she was forgiven for giving a dog water. So Allah has hidden His contentment in obedience.
And He hid his wrath in His disobedience so the woman who locked up the cat and went to hell for locking up a cat. That was the thing, obviously that was an indication of her state. She was obviously a cruel woman because if you do not have compassion with animals it is a sign of cruelty and in our societies we know that children that are abusive to animals and torture animals when they are young often end up becoming very abusive when they are old so there is a relationship between kindness to animals and kindness towards humans.
That is one of the reason why every Prophet was a shepherd because they learned to be gentle to animals because that is a transitional phase into being….because if you are kind to animals you should certainly seem that you would be kind to humans. We are at the highest of that chain. Hierarchy of beings. People say you would not treat a dog like that, like why are you treating me like that? Well because dogs are faithful and you were unfaithful.
So he says benefits are based on the differences of the ranks of people. For some people a tribulation removes wrongs. Imam al Ghazali says there are wrongs in this world that are only removed by depression. If you are wondering why people get depressed, people get depressed from dunoob. Also the soul you see I do not care what anybody says about alternative lifestyles and all the people out there doing…….I guarantee you people have trouble in their soul, you can numb it. You can pre-occupy yourself, you can entertain yourself, you can do all these things to not deal with the soul’s anguish but you cannot remove the anguish of the soul. It is not possible which is Karl Marx said “Religion is the opium of the masses”. Abdul Hakim Winter said “but opium is the religion of the masses”. That is the idol, escape from reality. That is what they are worshipping because they will do anything for that idol. All they are trying to do is to numb the pain of existence but the existence is painful because you are not fulfilling your function. When you do not fulfil your function there is always trouble.
Anytime anything in the body is not fulfilling its function what is the first sign to let you know that you should go to the doctor? Pain, there is some type of disquietude in the body to let you know it is not fulfilling its function. So if suddenly you have got the pain in your liver and you go and he says you have got hepatitis. That pain is to let you know that the function has been disrupted.
The same is true for the soul. If you are not fulfilling your function which is to worship Allah, testify to His unity and to behave accordingly then you will be in pain and suffering until you come into accordance and that is a gift from Allah in the same way that pain, signs and symptoms are gifts for people so they can go to a physician and get well. If there were not signs and symptoms, that is why hypertension is such a dangerous disease because people can walk around and not feel any discomfort from hypertension and they can die from it.
The pain in the soul is there but people will do things and that is what people do. Kufr is essentially covering up. Now if you get a headache and you go and take Tylenol, you are not getting rid of the headache, you are suppressing the symptoms. So if you are sick in your soul from your kufr and you go and you do things in order to remove the pain of the kufr you are just covering up more and that is why it is darknesses covering darknesses and you just keep covering up more and more until that person is so diseased that it is a hopeless case unless Allah intervenes. That is what happens to people and so the ranks of people differ now the Prophets upon them all be peace, the Prophets have tribulation not to remove their wrongs but to elevate their rank. It is not to remove their wrongs and that is the case of some of the saliheen as well. They are moving up in degrees. The people of the greatest tribulation are the Prophets and then those closest to them and then those closest to them. It is like that.
Now obviously you can see people in the world and you look at them and you see tribulation like there are non Muslims and you see the tribulations they are in and you wonder about that. Well according to Ibn Abbas, he said that there is no tribulation that does not have a tribulation that could not be worse than it. So it is difficult to assess what really is happening when you look at people but this is one of the problems in religion is suffering in the world and the different degrees of tribulation out there and this is the way that we view tribulation for the believer. For people outside of Islam there is a whole other set of rules working because when you know things you have an accountability that is not included when you do not know things. One of the things that Sayyidina Umar said that they noticed about Islam is when they entered into Islam and they would do something wrong they would see an immediate effect of that whereas they never saw it in the jahiliyah and that was because of their maqam with Allah.
Once the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) was walking and there was a young man who saw a woman and he was looking at the woman he ran into the wall. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said that was his removal of the wrong that it happened immediately. So that was actually a blessing to have that wrong removed. Now there is another hadith where the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) went to a man that was completely devastated. He was dying, he was in his bed, flesh and bone and completely wasted. He said what did you ask Allah? He said I asked Him to purify me of all my sins and he said do not ask Allah for that because you cannot take it but ask him for afiyah for well being, do not ask him for that because you do not want that. You do not want Allah to purify your sins by forgiveness. That is what we want and that is why sincere tawbah is what we need. We need a sincere tawbah to Allah. We do not want to have to do all these things and get these things happening to us because of the wrongs that we are doing. But that is what happens with the people the saaliheen is that they get to a point where they are content with what is happening. It is no longer painful because they are in such a state.
A woman one of the saalihat was walking and she stumbled and hurt her leg. She began to laugh and somebody thought she was crazy and said are you majnoon? She said no I fell and when the pain came I remembered the hadith where the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said a believer does not get a thorn in his foot except it removed wrongs and the sweetness of my wrongs being removed overwhelmed my pain. She was actually alhamdulillah. That is iman, those are spiritual endorphins kicking in. There are spiritual endorphins, all those things are mithal, what you see in the world is just a metaphor for the unseen world. They have opium. There is spiritual opium. There are things that can put out your pain. When one of the sahaba had an arrow, they said wait until he goes into prayer to remove it. You think these are stories? You think these are things that people like made up? Like fairy tales and things like that. Seriously these are not made up stories. These are things that people witnessed with their own eyes and they removed the arrow during his prayer because he could not feel it.
I broke this arm severely, I had a fracture on my wrist and it is one of the worst kinds you can get and they gave me something called Fetinil. They could have broken my leg, I would not have cared because of that drug. It is a very short lasting drug the half life is very quick and it is a morphone derivative.
But once they had given me the Fetinil, he could have done anything. He took it and pulled it down and re-set it. I did not feel anything. I was in complete bliss from a drug and that is just a chemical reaction happening in the brain. It is all it is. So do not think those are stories. Those things are real. People go into those states with Allah where they do not feel pain, they actually feel delight. That is not something that you should ask for, let me delight in my calamities., you should ask Allah for afiyah but you should recognise that when the calamities come they come for a deep wisdom.
So he says the first benefit you realise is the power of Lordship over you. You realise that Allah is Rabb and you are marboob and the nature of Lordship is that Lordship Lords over you and this is why when tribulations come to you “la hawla wa la quwatta illah billah”, “Inna lillahi wa inna ilahi rajiun”. There are things that you can control. In my environment here there are things that I can control. I am thirsty, I have a cup, Allah has given me will, Bismillah, I can drink, I can quench my thirst, Allah has given me that but He can take it away. Allah can not only remove the power of motion. Guillian-Barre, has anyone ever seen someone with Guillian-Barre, the virus where they have to be on ventiliators, they cannot move. Healthy young people in their twenties get afflicted with this disease. One of the miracles of that is sometimes they actually recover and get back their motion so it is like this period where Allah removes it all and then gives it back to them but then there are other times when do not get it back and that is when they see reality because this is the illusion. The illusion is I am free, I am independent, I can do whatever I want, I mean we have got 6 billion people walking around this planet under that delusion but when the calamity comes suddenly that delusion is taken away and that is why Lee Attwater, does anybody remember that name? Lee Attwater, he was the republican head of the election committee, he basically destroyed Dukakis when Dukakis ran for democratic president, Lee Attwater wrote an extraordinary, and it is worth reading. It is a confessional that he wrote right before he died because at the age of 39 and this was a man who by dunya standards in this society had it all. That is what they said about him, he was young, handsome, wealthy, powerful, he had it all. He was a Machiavellian politician that basically destroyed people’s lives.
He said he based his life on Machiavelli’s book “The Prince” that was his bible and then at the age of 39 he got a tumour in the brain and all he wanted to do was to ask forgiveness of all the people that he had destroyed and he wrote it. It is really worth reading what he wrote because he said suddenly he realised and that is what it takes for some people, that is what it takes to learn that lesson. So learning that Allah is Lord and that He overpowers His servants.
The second benefit is that you realise your abject servanthood and your complete state of resignation and brokenness before the will and power of Allah and to this the words of God indicate when He said “those who when an affliction strikes them they say surely to God do we belong to Him we return”. They finally admit that they are in the dominion, they admit when the calamity comes that they are in the dominion of God. We belong to God in other words if I take something, if I take this, if I owned it and took it and threw it out and you said you cannot do that. Why can’t I do that? This is mine, I own it and can do whatever I want with it. That is the nature of property. Property is that the one who owns it has the right to do what he wills with it, that is the nature of property. If you do not have that quality of possession then it is not really your property.
Now because the dunya is not our property, we cannot do whatever we want with it can we? But we understand the concept of property. This world is the dominion of God and therefore God can do whatever He wants with it. If I have a book and I burn it and you say to me you cannot do that, yes I can, it is my book and I want to burn it. You should not burn books, maybe I should not but I can and you cannot stop me by law. So if a person asks you why did you burn the book, because there are mistakes in it, oh I do not realise. Now I have explained myself and now it makes sense to you. This is Musa and al Khidr right in that story of Al Kahf which is the story of the problem of evil because Musa is looking with the eye of the outward and everything he sees is wrong. But when it is explained to him by a servant who is given knowledge by Allah’s, suddenly Musa is saying I didn’t realise, now I have an explanation.
What happens on Yaum ul Qiyammah? Allah tells us in the Quran, He explains it all to us, and then everybody will say now it makes sense. The difference between the believer and the kafir is in this world we are saying we know it makes sense. The difference between the believers and the kafir is in this world we are willing to wait until the day of judgment to have it explained because we trust Allah. They are saying no, it is wrong. How do you know? You do not have all the information, you cannot make a judgment about a thing unless you completely understand that thing “to judge a thing is only one aspect of conceptualising the entirety of that thing”. It is a principle in logic and that is why a judge has to know all the facts. If you prejudge it is called prejudice and it is considered to be a moral vice to be prejudiced so we cannot prejudge God. We do not have that right to do that, we cannot prejudge Allah because Allah is the One who knows all things “and as for you, you have only been given a small amount of knowledge”.
On the way here I was talking with a physician in the car and one of the things he said was he was talking with a nephrologist, one of his anatomy professors said we do not even know how we urinate, we do not really understand it. We can explain to you what we know but why it is happening, how this whole thing is working, how the kidneys are doing all this, we do not really understand it. I responded by saying Imam al Ghazali was asked where is God? Imam Ghazali wrote a poem back to him, and in the poem he said “you do not even know how you drink water and how you urinate”. What is happening in between? You do not know your co-ordinates in the universe, how can you know where God is?
I love these maps in astronomy books where they show our galaxy and they say you are here. In astronomy books they have the milky way and then they say you are here. Give me those co-ordinates. Seriously do you know what co-ordinates are based on? Co-ordinate system, x, y, z. You have to have a system, here what we have are cardinal points which do not even exist in reality because cardinal points are experiential. It is all flat earth. Cardinal points are all based on pre-corpinocon theories about the universe but that is all we have got.
So if you ask for my
co-ordinates here in