Success, in this world and the Next By Hamza Yusuf
My advice to you, O Possessor of virtue and courtesy: if you desire to reside in an exalted place amongst the ranks of people, a place where you are high and exalted of virtue and courtesy is..." Thus opens the poem of the great scholar, Ibn al Haddad as translated and commented upon by Hamza Yusuf.
Though short, this poem of council contains an immense amount of wisdom and is similar to the study of the Purification of the Heart.
Shaykh Ibn al Haddad gives the seeker of knowledge the keys to both success in this world and success in the next world. Hamza Yusuf's commentary contains his usual style of putting the obvious before us in a way we will never forget. He reminds us of such things as, "Islam is the only religion where you will find a king at the door of beggars asking for their prayers." This is an inspiring talk that will help us to establish our own priorities for this world and the next.
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
Alhamdulillah, praise and blessings be upon the Prophet. InshaAllah I wanted to go over the poem that was written by Shaykh Abdullah al Haddad. It is a poem, it is very short and yet he really put into it all of the qualities that one needs to have success in this world and in the next. It is a poem of advice and counsel. It is a poem of counsel and it was commented upon by one of the students. It is a beautiful commentary. I thought it was so beneficial I wanted to share it with other people because I had not seen it before. I just recently, somebody was kind enough to bring me a copy from Hadramawt as most of you know is in Yemen. It is a place that the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) blessed. It is also a place that became a refuge for a lot of the Prophet’s family when they were being persecuted in Iraq. Many of them actually fled to the Yemen and many fled to Morocco and many fled to India which is why you have very large numbers of Al Bayts in places like India, Yemen and Morocco. It is disproportionate to other parts of the Muslim world. It has to do with the fact that those were places were the family actually sought refuge and obviously one of the reasons why they sought refuge was because Bani Ummayah basically set out to eliminate the family of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) because they were so worried about the political implications of charismatic figures from among them a major concern of theirs because this was obviously the initial split that occurred between the muslims was where does authority lie and many of the muslims took the opinion that authority lied in the family of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) and that many of them became of the party of Ali or Shia Ta’Ali.
Now we disagree with the Shia on one particular which is that we actually believe that the authority that the Prophet’s family was given was a spiritual authority in other words that from many of the family would come some of the greatest scholars of Islam and some of the greatest spiritual guides but the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) informed the community early on that political sovereignty and spiritual sovereignty would separate and he actually gave a very exact date. He said it would happen 30 years after his death and that occurs with the death of Hasan bin Ali. At that point the political authority became political and was severed from the spiritual reality and that is in no way to detract from Sayyidina Mu’awiyah but Mu’awiyah was a political leader and the people that were under him were political more than spiritual.
That is why his period of khilafah is not considered from the Khulufah-a-Rashideen which does not mean that he was not rightly guided. It has to be understood. It is just that his political authority became divested of the spiritual authority that the first four khilafah had. So that is the difference and a lot of people do not understand that. It becomes a problem because if you study the early history, the early history is actually quite complicated and it has been simplified by scholars because it causes so much trouble when people actually read about what happened because it is very hard to understand how sahaba could have started killing each other. It is very difficult to understand how people that were actually in the presence of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) could start fighting over political authority but that shows you how central that issue was early on.
Now what happens and this is something that is absolutely necessary to understand today which a lot of muslims I feel do not fully understand and that is the idea of having an absolute separation between spiritual reality and political reality and the reason for that is when the spiritual and the political become mixed up the political deludes or remotes from its reality. So what you have is state controlled religion and state controlled religion is always a disaster. It has always been a disaster and will always be a disaster until a Prophet comes or a student of a Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) and that is why students of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) were very adept at doing that especially Abu Bakr and Umar because of the gifts that they have been given. The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) made it very clear that Umar that if there was a Prophet after the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) it would have been Umar. In other words his ability to perceive things was so extraordinary that even in the most difficult of circumstances he was able to come up with remarkable solutions for them.
That is important to note which does not mean that we do not want political leaders to have ethics or morals. We just do not want them to be mullahs or ulema because once that happens they have to compromise. That is the nature of politics. Politics is the ground of compromise, it is not the ground of religion. Religion is the ground or principle and if you want the biggest proof for this ask yourself why every great scholar fled from government service in the history of Islam. You have to ask yourselves that question. Why did Abu Hanifah prefer jail over becoming a civil servant? Why? If he understood that to be in a political position was a good thing for a righteous man then he would have been the first to do that because he would have felt that responsibility. Why did he then as a spiritual and religious leader flee from political leadership because he knew what it meant. Nobody is ever pleased with their politicians. It is just the human condition. Even the munafiqun grumbled in Madinah. Nobody is ever pleased with their politicians and once the spiritual person becomes a politician, it is the spirituality that suffers not the politics. It is the spirituality that suffers.
So these people who fled to Hadramawt many of them actually became great scholars and that is where you get the ba’lawi tradition and Shaykh Haddad was part of that. It has continued up to the present day, they have schools. Within their tradition they have a complete Islamic system in other words they have fiqh, they have Arabic texts, they have texts in logic, usool everything including the science of ihsan. The same is true for instance of Morocco, the same is true for Turkey, the same is true for Pakistan, Mauritania. Mauritania you can study the entire Islamic tradition from beginning to end only reading Mauritanian scholars with the exception of the Quran, the hadith, those are givens but I am talking about usool. Sidi Abdullah Hajj Ibrahim wrote the book of usool that is studied in Mauritania which is his versification of Jum al Juwami of Imam Suqi so when you study usool in Mauritania you study his. He versified al-Iraqi’s famous book Al–Alfiyah. When you study grammar, you will study commentaries of the Mauritania grammarians on the classical texts.
So that is one of the unique aspects of Islam, wherever it goes it develops an intellectual tradition and is indigenous to the people. It actually ends up becoming complete in of itself and this has yet to happen in the West but it has to happen in other words we have to develop within our Western muslims, we have to develop the Islamic tradition. It has to be here and the text that we use and the language we speak in has to be indigenous to the people that is part of Islam wherever it goes. One of the ulema said Islam is like water but the vesicle that contains it has a colouring so that Islam is pure but it takes on the colour of the vessel. So in Senegal it has a certain colour. In Indonesia it has a certain colour. That is why when you see it, it is different. In Afghanistan, it is different. So every place it goes it is the same water that has nourished the people but it takes on its own colouring. That is part of the universality because if we were all meant to become Arabs then that is a disaster. It is nothing against Arabs but it is just not what Allah wanted for human beings for us all to become Arabs. I mean people say why do you not speak Arabic to your children? I say because it is not my mother tongue. Their tongue is English. That is where I grew up and that is the language. For me, Arabic is a religious language which is why I learned it. I didn’t learn it to talk to Arabs, to have conversations to say “how much are the tomatoes?”. You can buy tomatoes here, you do not need to go to Arabia. In fact, they come from here.
When we study we should study for Allah and that is why Islam has to be freed of any cultural apparatus. It has to be freed of that Islam. It does not mean that Islam does not adapt to the culture that it is in but Islam in of itself has to be seen of being free of that.
So he wrote this as a counsel and really just put everything that was needed for the purification of the self in it. So it is similar, it is more abridged than say the Mathurat but it really does contain an incredible amount of wisdom in it. All of these texts share similarities because they are largely derived from Imam al Kushayri, Imam al Ghazali, Abu Tariq al Makii, Imam Junaid founding teachers of the science are the same so they are all deriving from these sources.
So he begins “my advice to you of possessor of fadl and adab, if you desire to reside in an exalted place amongst the ranks of people, a place where you are high and exalted”. So he begins by saying wasiyah and the wasiyah is counsel, it is an advice. Allah says in the Quran “that we have counselled those that went before you and you yourself to have taqwa”. So that is called the wasiyah of Allah. It is the advice of God to have taqwa and the wasiyah al ashara are the famous ten commandments so it can also be seen as a type of principle that somebody should follow.
So he is giving counsel and it is to you. Counsel only benefits the people who are willing to accept it. If you given counsel to somebody who is a vile person they will not accept your counsel. One of the things that the poet al Mutanabi said that noble people if you are good to them you possess them in other words if you do good to somebody that is noble it is a type of possession because he feels indebted. It is the nature of good people. If you do good to them they feel indebted. But if you do the same to a vile person he becomes angry and resentful which is very interesting about human nature. There are people who become resentful because you have treated them well so that is what he is arguing. He is arguing I am giving it to you, why? Because you are somebody that has fadl (virtue) and you have adab and these are two really important words in the Islamic tradition because the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) is somebody who taught you virtuous character. “I was only sent to teach people virtuous character, noble character”. These are called the fada’il.
The fada’il tradition according to Qadi Abu Bakr ibn Al Arabi the famous Andulucian Qadi. He said all of virtues are reduced to four: courage, temperance, prudence and justice. Those are called the moral virtues. All virtues are extensions of one of those four. So for instance generosity is a virtue. Out of these four which would it be classified under? Courage because generous people are courageous people because what prevents you from being generous. It is fear, you are afraid if I give him this thing then I won’t have any money. So it is only fear that prevents you from being generous. So generous people are actually courageous people. They are courageous with their money.
Now chastity which is also a virtue, what would that go under? Temperance. Any virtue that you can think of that is a moral virtue you can find it categorised under one of those four virtues. The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) was the most courageous of men but which meant he was also the most generous of men so he was not only courageous in battle but he was courageous in wealth.
Now look at the Quran, what does Allah link in the Quran? “Allah has purchased yourself and your wealth”, both of them are expenditure. You have to expend your wealth and yourself and they are both acts of courage. He is talking to the one who already has virtue. You have to have the same fadl in order for you to recognise virtue because if you are bereft of that then you do not.
Now you also have to have adab because advice is only given when you are receptive to it. Now there are people if you give them advice they become angry at you. Why do they get angry? Well there are a number of reasons. One of the reasons they get angry is they simply think “who do you think you are to be giving me advice?”. So what does that mean? That person feels one of two things. Either you are beneath him or you are equal to him or her and you have no right. But if you actually see somebody as being better than you, you will take their advice. That is why people look to people who they think are in this culture more together, I will go ask him because he has got his act together as opposed to me, I am a mess so this is what people do which in this culture which is one of the things that people do, they go to psychiatrists. I guarantee you the reason people get interested in psychiatry is almost inevitable because they are deeply disturbed people. They are actually trying to work out themselves. They often have real serious problems. That is not everybody but I am talking about a lot of people and that is why if you study the statistics about psychiatrists the number of illicit relationships they get into with their clientele, things like that, you are dealing with people that are not prepared to be giving counsel if things like that happen something very seriously is wrong, there is a breakdown.
So when you give advice one of the things about adab and this is really interesting to me. Adab is the ability to know the place of things and to give things their proper due so it is really translated as comportment or a type of discipline in which you recognise where things belong and part of recognising where things belong is to recognise where you belong in relation to social hierarchies. One of the things that this culture almost never talks about it, it talks about civil rights or human rights a lot but I do not think it is ever mentioned the idea of social rights, is your right to have equality in society you see because that is a “ideal” of democracy – people are equal but in fact they are not. In this culture it is very clear there are social hierarchies and if you fall at the bottom of one woe unto you if you try to crash the party of a higher rank of society so social rights are never talked about.
In the Islamic tradition one of the really interesting things about Islam is that it teaches us that there is an internal hierarchy that is known only to God and therefore it challenges you to recognise that everyone outside yourself may be better than you in the eyes of God and so you have to have comportment with everybody even a person that you might think is lower in social standing. They could be higher in spiritual standing and this is why you had kings at the doors of beggars in the history of Islam. There is no other religion that I know of that has that quality where you literally had kings at the door of beggars asking for their prayers. The other that is really interesting is that in this culture you will not get people from Blackhawk or from Los Gattos going to church in East Oakland. It is just not the way society works yet in the Muslim world the richest man could pray next to the most impoverished man in the same prayer line and it has always been like that and that is something that is really unusual about Islam is it creates a true brotherhood.
There is a recognition that people have things in the world that Allah has given them and other people lack those things but that does not prevent you from seeing this person as essentially equal before God and possibly and in fact probably according to most of the hadith about rich and poor people. The poor person is probably closer to God than you are and that instils in you a desire to actually be kind to them because you are actually worried that you might upset your Lord by having any contempt or even just simply treating them less than they deserve. This is the secret of adab and that is why our tradition is a tradition of adab and adeeb in Arabic is the one who has mastered language. It is what they call a literary person. An adeeb is a literary person. Why? Because the adeeb is the one who puts words in their proper place. The adeeb is the one who learns language and this is something that if you look at modern man and modern woman we are a very degraded creature because we do not speak proper language anymore. I am talking about English, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, the whole lot of us. There are very few people on the planet that know how to actually speak properly, that really understand the mechanics of language and what words go in what order and for what person and traditionally in the Muslim world in Arabic at the time of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) everybody knew how to speak. They did not know how to write. They did not know how to read. They knew how to speak and that is why when the Quran spoke to them it spoke to them in their language so they knew what “qalla” meant, if Allah says “qalla sawfa ta la’muun”, they knew exactly what qalla meant. When Allah said la ilaha not la ilahun ill Allah, they knew exactly what that meant. When Allah said “itiqAllah” they knew what taqwa was they understood what it meant. This is something that has been lost so he is talking to a person who has virtue and comportment adab.
“If you really want to be exalted” now this exaltation that he is talking about is not in the eyes of others it is in the eyes of Allah because there are people that concern themselves with rank in the dunya. These are ahle-dunya and one of the signs of ahle-dunya traditionally I am talking about in the Muslim worlds, one of the signs traditionally were people that concerned themselves with those things that would ensure social ranking, that it would ensure they would be upwardly mobile and that was their obsession. Well for the people of akhirah their concern was that they were internally upwardly mobile not externally that their standard of living was not increasing. They were not concerned with their standard of living but they were concerned with their standard of conduct with Allah. That is what they were concerned about. Were they living upto the standard that Allah had set for them because Allah has set a standard for humanity in behaviour and that was their concern. Were they living upto that standard? That was their desire to raise their standard of spiritual living not their standard of material living and we are now living in a world where the standard of material living is literally the only that people perceive anymore and therefore increasingly to achieve that people will be remiss in their standard of ethical behaviour. They will actually neglect principled standards in order to achieve that external standard.
Then he says that “in order for you to be in the forefront to outstrip, to go ahead and to achieve the ghayah” and the ghayah is it traditionally came from a word that meant the flag, the standard, the standard bearer was always out front and it became a metaphor for achieving an end. So a ghayah is originally a rayah, a flag that came to mean to achieve an end. If you want to achieve this end and to reach it in the state of felicity and to achieve your goals and desires what is his advice?. TaqwAllah, now taqwa is an amazing word in Arabic because it comes from a very small group of words which have weak radicals on both ends – waquah. Its root meaning is to protect or defend and weqiah is the word Arabs used for prevention, to prevent something from happening so the Arabs say “a penny of prevention is better than a pound of treatment” so it is more intelligent to prevent illness than to wait until it happens and then to have to suffer treatment.
What he is recommending here to us is taqwaullah. The one who desire His graces, compassion of Allah. The unique, the single, the remover of all calamities and tribulations so that is what he is saying. This is the foundation of all advice and this is from the Quran directly. Allah says “save yourselves” same root word and “save your families from the fire”. Now how do you do that? How do you save your families?
First of all save yourself and that is important because Allah now we usually think Allah save us but Allah is telling us to save yourself. It is very interesting if you think about that, we usually think of Allah save us but Allah is saying to us save yourselves so why would Allah be saying that to us because only Allah can save us in reality. The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said that no one would get into paradise because of his actions and they said what about you Ya Rasulullah, not even you O Messenger of Allah?. He said not even me unless Allah immersed me in His mercy. Now that does not mean that this is simply you go to paradise and you go to hell. That is not the way it works. So when Allah says save yourselves and your families from the hellfire what He is telling us “I have given you all of the means for salvation and you have to use them because if you do not you have not allowed Me to save you”. This is the idea that if you go to a physician and the physician gives you a medication why did you go to the physician? To be cured. What did you think you were going to get from a physician? A cure. Well he gave you a cure but it was not what you expected. You thought he was going to give you a pill and you just had to take it every morning and you would spontaneously get better but he told you you had to start exercising everyday. He told you you had to stop eating fats, he told you you would have to give up sugar. He told you you couldn’t smoke any more. So he gave you a list of things to do and then six months later you come back and nothing has changed in fact things are worse and then the doctor says what happened? Didn’t you take my advice? I found it so difficult well here is the choice do not take my advice and keep getting worse and then see what is more difficult losing your health completely or taking my advice. The aqal is the one who thinks things through.
He goes to the end. “Don’t they reflect about the Quran in a deep way?”. Tadabbur in Arabic. Duibbar is the end of something. You have qubl and dubbar. The front and the back yatadubbar mean to force yourself to the end of something so it is taking something to its logical conclusion so for instance you do not like to exercise which at 30 is not really a problem but at 40 it becomes a problem and then at 50 it is getting very serious and by 60 you are immobile. So the person who at 30 was thinking about what is it going to be like when I am 60 if I do not do something about this that is an intelligent person. It is not a genius, it is just somebody that is looking around at others and noticing this person is 60 and he is fit and has energy and he is doing all these things and this other person he has been smoking so now he has to go round with a canister. He is walking round with a canister or he is in a wheelchair or he is on a ventilator and that is just looking. That does not mean fitness and all these things are going to guarantee because there are not guarantees with anything in life other than that we are all going to die. But the point is there are asbab in the world.
Now if you look at people that were filled with m’aasiya (disobedience) dissipate themselves. They expend all of their energies in disobedience you know by the age of 25 or 30 there is a darkness that has descended upon their faces. Young people whether they are muslim or non muslim or whatever. Young people have a light and that light is simply they have not accrued a lot of wrong actions. That is why if you see young dark people you know something is seriously wrong but there is a light in youth that is simply the vigour of youth and it is also the fact that young people have not accrued a lot of wrongs. If you look at the faces of children, it is shining. Why are people so attracted to the faces of little children? Because they see innocence. Why is that innocence there? Because there are no wrong actions so you are attracted to purity by nature and that attraction in really sick people is what causes these problems in this culture and it is a problem in the muslim world as well because that attraction becomes sick because there is platonic attraction. They are people that are attracted to virtuous people. That is their nature. There are people that are attracted to those people but shaytan, nafs, hawa, dunya, they like their portion in attraction so they will attempt to take something that is pure and defile it. That is the nature of the dunya is defilement. It is what the people of ihsan called the qudurat. Qudara means to stir up the mud at the bottom of a pond. You have a clear pond, easy to look down and see the bottom but if you muck up the bottom then you stir up all of that dirt. Well that is the nature of the should that if you allow these m’aasiya to be stirred up they will eventually muddy up the purity of the self because we are made of mud but we are also made of spirit so whichever one is dominating is the one that is going to show itself. This is why the light of the aged is obedience it is not youth and the darkness of the aged is disobedience, absolutely sound principle. So if you look out there, I mean I wanted to do just an experiment where you took all of the pictures of our awliya our righteous people and then you just put pictures of old people in the dunya and just see the faces and let the people see for themselves which group they want to be among when they get old. This is not about knowledge even because you can see faces of purity in villages amongst the simplest people.
One of the things about us that should prevent us from any type of arrogance or spiritual superiority is that most of us are not even practicing the Islam of the most common people in the villages of the muslim lands. I mean if you go to Mauritania I can show the people that no one in Mauritania thinks anything of and they do a juz of Quran every morning and every night. They do the mathurat of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) every morning and every night. They fast the three days of the month every month, they give whatever little sadaqah they have to give which is a lot more than most of us to because for him a quarter is like a hundred dollars to us or more. This is a simple muslim nothing special there. So that is the type of age we are living in where people that do a little start thinking that they are really something. Part of having taqwa is that you do not fall into these traps because the self by nature is deceptive. It is constantly trying to deceive you.
It is the nature of the self, it is delusional and there is a psychology of self delusion which is very interesting and worth reading and I would recommend for people that are interested in this and I think everybody should be interested. I would recommend reading Daniel Gorman’s book called “Simple Truths, Vital Lies: The Psychology of Self Deception” because one of the things that he points out in there is that groups are completely delusional. Groups enter into delusional states and individual delusion is actually less dangerous than group delusion because once groups become delusional it is very difficult to break it so we are living in a country that is in a delusional group state. We live in a country that people are in a delusional, a group delusion about how they perceive themselves in terms of what they are actually doing, what we are actually doing. I would like to say I am not part of all this but I am and so for me to set myself up outside of it is really the height of arrogance, what we are doing here, what we as a people are doing collectively and we are in a delusional state. The muslims are in a delusional state complete delusional state. So groups become very delusional.
If you study the Quran and I would do this as an exercise, read the Quran one time as an exercise. If you do not read Arabic read it in English as an exercise in looking at group delusional states and what you will find is every single Prophet was an individual that confronted a delusional group. Every single one of them, it is one individual going up against a deluded group and they always want to kill him. I mean that is the thing about groups, if you are not with us you are against us and that is a delusional state because nothing in this world is like that. That is manician, it is actually a theological fallacy that was rejected by the Christians through St Augustin and the muslims through Abul Hasan because muslims called them the Qadriyah. That was an early group in Islam, the Qadriyah who put everything black and white. There is good and evil. I am good therefore you are evil. That is the way it works. It is not like that, if it was like that we would not to have to face evil in ourselves and what Raghab al Hisbahani says that anything you see in other people is actually either manifest in you clearly to other people looking at you or is hidden in you like fire in flint in other words given the right situation it will come out because as he is human you are human and that is why once you start realising that you become less judgemental about people out there and that is why the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) what did he say? I was commanded to judge outwardly, I do not judge people’s hearts as it is not my business. Only God can do that. If I see somebody doing something wrong I can condemn the outward action the inward reality I do not have any authority over it. It is not my business because I do not know. There are too many variables only Allah can work that out.
So he is saying that this is at the essence of this teaching is to have taqwa of Allah. Now Allah says in many verses of the Quran, the first commandment in the Quran, if you read Surah Baqarah the first commandment you come to in the Quran is to have taqwa and it is to all of humanity. The first degree of taqwa is taqwa al kuffar and that is why when Allah says “my Mercy has encompassed all things and I have decreed it for the people of taqwa” is that only meant the idea of taqwa that you and I think of when we think of taqwa then we would all be lost but that taqwa includes the mercy of Allah the taqwa of kuffar which every muwahid enters into. Every muwahid is a muttaqi because he has fear of kuffar, he does not want to associate with Allah.
Now even because Allah is merciful and this is something to think about. Imam al Ghazali’s position to me it just seems the one that seems the fairest and that is why he obviously I think expounded it, he felt that this included people that had been show shirk to understand it so as long as people had not been really shown and explained what they were doing wrong they were not accountable for which is closer to the understanding of the mercy of Allah because Allah’s mercy is vast and that is also consistent with the verse in the Quran whish is the first prohibition mentioned in the Quran “do not set up idols with God once you know”. Once you know, We do not punish people until they are given knowledge. Once they are given knowledge then they are held accountable, responsible for that knowledge. Prior to that we do not believe there is an accountability. There is a khilaf about that in aqeedah. The dominant position in the Islamic world which the majority of muslims follow is the position that there is intellectual accountability in other words even if people are never given a message they are accountable for what in the west is called natural law. In the West, there is a natural law and this is what the founding fathers of the US when they said “we hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator”. How did they do that? They did not use recourse to revelation in that text. What they meant was a natural law, it is discernable that people have rights given from their Creator one of them is life so every human being in essence understands that he has been given life and really does not have the right to take life from another so according to Abu Mansour al Naturdi according to his people, people will be held accountable for murder even if they had never been given a message, that is a position. I am personally inclined to that just naturally. It is not the position of Abul Hasan’s people. They actually feel that you are not accountable until you are actually given a message of revelation because of the nature of the intellect. It is too clouded and it cannot work out things.
So what then is taqwa? The first level of taqwa is taqwa kuffar. The second level of taqwa is taqwa al kaba’ir that you are actually fearful of major wrong actions with Allah. What are the kaba’ir? There are differences of opinion about that but generally. Imam Dhahabi wrote and he has over seventy and most of the ulema say that is just too much because people would be held to account for far too much. Some of the ulema say there are only the seven that are mentioned in the seven deadly sins in Islam which are different to the seven deadly sins in Christianity. The dominant opinion is they are those sins that you have performed and a specific punishment has been given in shariah for them. A specific punishment either worldly or other worldly it is very clear whoever does this, this happens so there is uqoobah associated with it.
There are certain things where we are not told clearly what would be the effect of that and those go under the category of sughahir or the lesser sins although Ibn Abbas and others were of the opinion that any sin that was continuous enters into the realm of enormity, kabirah simply because a person they do not have the contrition or remorse for that sin that their heart is bereft of real taqwa of Allah.
So taqwa is putting the self in the protection of the sanctity of the law the shariah and what protects it from evils in both abodes in other words in this world and the next so that is the definition of taqwa. It is placing the self in the protection of scared law and in what protects from the evils of the two abodes and Allah says in the Quran in Al-Mudathhir “He is worthy of being guarded against” in other words His wrath. Allah is worthy of taqwa, it is a right of Allah that we actually have taqwa and also He is worthy of maghfirah in other words if you have taqwa then what you expect is maghfirah for your shortcomings because everybody falls short and so that is from the mercy of Allah so what we are being told basically is that if you do these things then you will all be forgiven so that gets back to who saves us? Who saves us? We save ourselves but we only save ourselves by the grace of Allah so when Allah commands us to save ourselves He is not saying something that is meaningless, He means very much guard yourself against the fire, save yourselves, guard yourselves and your family.
Now how do you guard your family? Ibn Abbas said you teach them and you give them adab. That adab of the shariah is taqwa. That is the adab, that is the comportment of the sacred law to have taqwa.
So one of the definitions of taqwa is to guard oneself against those awesome matters that should put fear in your heart and also to roll up your sleeves in the work of what Allah has given us, the wazaif. It is an interesting word because wazaifa now in modern Arabic means employment so wazaif is an employee but in classical Arabic in the technical vocabulary of the ulema the wazaif were those things that one did in order to draw near to Allah so again if you look at people in this world why are they in the wazaif in their employment? In order to raise their standard of living. Why are the people of Allah in their wadaif? In order to raise their station with the living. That is the difference.
So taqwa is the foundation of the path to God and some of them said it is four matters: to fulfil the obligations, doing what Allah commanded and avoiding what He prohibited you inwardly and outwardly, to follow the sunnah and adab because this is an important aspect the adab, I will give you an example. I was in a situation where somebody did something which was a gross breach of adab and I mentioned that. It had to do with the culture and adaat. For instance in Arab culture you do not walk upto a woman and propose to her I mean you just do not do that. Now is there anything in shariah saying that you cannot do that? Does it say in shariah that it is haraam to propose to a woman so where then does adab come in? It comes with how you do the proposal and that is part of the shariah. This is something a lot of especially modern muslims, I mean that is a whole word in itself “modern muslim” because modern muslims have a whole other understanding of Islam to the point that many of the early muslims would pull out their hair if they saw the behaviour or worse and I will tell you a true story. I know a Moroccan man who was on a bus with…I mean Sharh Bariyah like the Arabs said the worse calamities are the things that make you laugh. This man was on a bus and the bus had all of these people from the desert, village people, very pure people and I mean I lived with them I know. They drove into Agadir for the first time and they saw all of these tourists that were basically naked. He said they all start screaming and literally they could not believe it. They just went into a total state and he said it was one of the most powerful things I mean because he had got used to it but it was the first time they have ever seen it and they just went into this state. They thought it was some end of time, it was all something that happened that was terrible and they all started screaming and for the first time he told me he realised how enormous it was so adab is something we have completely lost I mean we really have forgotten about adab.
Now there is obviously adab can go to another extreme which is where you get into protocol and that is a whole other problem because it goes to the other extreme where the cultures becomes so inundated with the particularities of adab that you no longer have freedom. You breach adab in the tradition that is why I always stipulate with some of the ulema that I am just a primitive American so you have to allow some leeway because in the traditional Muslim world if you spend time with the ulema there is a real expectation of certain comportment which is now only in places like Yemen and some places in Morocco, some places in Syria and Sudan and places. It has been lost in a lot of places, I mean people do not have that understanding any more. I mean if you read the early stories about the…I mean I finished this edit of Imam Al Dariee biography who wrote Dua Nasiri. I am going to tell you this, a true story because I wrote it in the thing. We recorded Dua Nasiri in Fez and we finished at about 1 in the morning and nobody knew I was in Fez apart from these people and somebody had given me 100 dollars to give to somebody in Fez. We went out, had dinner and it was about 3.30 in the morning and we have to go to Tangiers and as we were driving up the hill I said to this man Muhammad bin Nees I said I have an amanah, a trust for so and so and I am not going to be able to see him because we just had to leave so quick. I said can you give it to him? He said bismillah I will give it to him. Just as I said that he said SubhanAllah I think we just passed him. It was 3.30 in the morning. He said go back so we drove back and he was standing in front of a white van without any windows. He did not know I was in Fez and he said when he saw me, he said SubhanAllah we just finished a khatam of the Quran and I made dua that I would see you tonight. Now we have just finished the Dua Nasiri, he opened the door of the van, there was about 20 of his people in there because they did khatam. He went like this bismillah and went down and they all broke into Dua Nasiri and they recited it from beginning to end. True story believe it or not, I don’t care.
So Allah does those things. I call that on the shore of unseen oceans you see because if you look out at the ocean, why do people look at the ocean? It is much more interesting usually what is to their back right the land because you can see all these plants and trees and flowers but why do they look at the ocean? Part of it is what is that awe in us when we look at the ocean. Part of it is what is under. It is all that stuff that is hidden from us. If you wait long enough you will suddenly see this fish jump. Did you see that? That is what people do. Did you see that? Why are they so amazed? It is really interesting why they are amazed. Did you see that? Look over there. That is what Allah shows you when you believe in the unseen with these fish “did you see that?”. If you spend enough time doing it you do not do that anymore. You just say subhanAllah. I am not making that up, that is the reality of life. Once you open yourself up to belief, it just keeps confirming itself to you. That is how you increase in imaan by just increasing in imaan because Allah gives you more to believe in. Have taqwa in Allah will keep teaching you more to have taqwa about. It is a real gift from Allah to all of us and that is why we should see it as a gift and then some said it is protecting the matter which is your deen and avoiding sin. Guarding oneself against those calamities that befall us and cause us to trip and stumble.
Then he says our Shaykh meaning Abdullah bin Haddad said that is what is beautiful about our tradition in Yemen it is the same tradition as it is in Morocco as it is in Indonesia as it is in Mauritania as it is in Turkey as it is in Bosnia, that is the same teaching and it is all from the same source which is the Quran and then our beloved Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) and in reality it is all from Allah from the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) because the Quran is from him and then in reality it is all from Allah because the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) is from Allah and then in reality it is all from whoever teaches us because that it is the way it works so behind everything in reality is Allah but Allah has made means and so acknowledge the means is part of what Allah demands “if you are not grateful to people you are not grateful to Allah” so the greatest gratitude we should have is to the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) because in being grateful to him we are grateful to Allah and that is what Allah says “if you are not grateful to people you have not been grateful to Allah” so the only important matter that must always be at the forefront is that you recognise your gratitude to the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) or to your teachers, or to your mother and father in reality gratitude to Allah, there is no shirk because you are not veiled by the means. People of this world, people of dunya are veiled by the means. They think the means are reality behind the doctor is Allah, behind the job is Allah, behind the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam), behind everything is Allah. Therefore in being grateful to everything we are grateful to Allah including being grateful to people who harm us because in reality they are doing us a big favour in drawing us near to Allah and so it gets to the point where you begin to feel gratitude towards everything and that is the highest maqam.
What does shaytan say and you won’t find most of them in gratitude. That is what he wants to take you away from. Allah says how few of My servants are grateful so really it is gratitude. That is the root and taqwa is in essence gratitude. I mean do not be immersed by all this fear. Allah is worthy of taqwa in other words He is worthy of it because if it is all about the fear then you end up becoming somebody who is doing things motivated out of a very low force in this world which is fear. Fear is a low force. Fear is how these rule everybody. Do this otherwise this is going to happen. Get your insurance. Somebody sent me an ad and it was for insurance, life insurance. It said who is going to take care of your wife and children if you die? I said Allah, that is my answer. They are asking me and then they said who is going to take care of your house payments and this and that if you die. I said Allah, all the answers I had were Allah ad then I realised I did not need the life insurance. So why does that work with these people? It works because they do not have the right answer. When they say who is going to take care of your wife and children when you die? What did Abu Bakr say when he gave all of his wealth to the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam)? He said I left them Allah and his Messenger and that is why he is who he is. That is his insurance policy and aman the word in Arabic for insurance is the same root as imaan, they are from the same root istimaan. Yastaminu means to insure yourself but it also means to seek amaan and imaan is to make yourself safe. How? Not with Blue Cross or any cross. So it goes on. This is a great subject alhamdulillah.
The Nasiri Dua
O You to Whose mercy one flees! You in Whom the one in need and
distress seeks refuge! O Master, You Whose pardon is near! O You Who
help all who call on Him! We seek Your help, O You who help the weak!
You are enough for us, O Lord! There is nothing more majestic than
Your immense power and nothing mightier than the might of Your force.
Kings are humbled to the might of Your domain and You lower or
elevate whomever You wish.
The entire affair returns to You, and the release or conclusion of
all matters is in Your hand.
We have presented our affair before You, and we complain to You of
our weakness. Have mercy on us, O You Who know our weakness and
continue to be merciful. Look at what we have experienced from
people! Our state among them is as You see. Our troops are few and
our wealth is little. Our power has declined among groups. They have
weakened our solidarity and strength and diminished our numbers and
our preparation. O You Whose kingdom cannot be pillaged, give us
shelter by Your rank which is never overcome!
O Succour of the poor, we trust in You! O Cave of the weak, we rely
on You! You are the One on Whom We call to remove our adversities,
and You are the One we hope will dispel our sorrows. You have such
concern for us that we cannot hope for protection which comes through
any other door. We rush to the door of Your bounty and You honour the
one You enrich by Your gift.
You are the One Who guides when we are misguided.
You are the One who pardons when we slip. You have full knowledge of
all You have created and encompassing compassion, mercy and
forbearance. There is no one in existence more lowly than we are nor
poorer and more in need of what You have than us.
O you of vast kindness! O You Whose good encompasses all mankind, and
no other is called on! O Saviour of the drowning! O Compassionate! O
rescuer of the lost! O Gracious Bestower! Words are lacking, O
Hearing, O Answerer!
The cure is difficult, O Swift! O Near! To you, our Lord, we have
stretched out our hands and from You, our Lord, we hope for kindness.
Be kind to us in what You decree and let us be pleased with what
pleases You. O Allah, change the state of hardship for ease and help
us with the wind of victory.
Give us victory over the aggressors and contain the evil among those
who asked for it. Overpower our enemy, O Mighty, with a force which
disorders them and crushes them. Overturn what they desire and make
their efforts fail, defeat their armies and unsettle their resolve. O
Allah, hasten Your revenge among them
They cannot stand before Your power. O Lord, O Lord, Our protection
is by Your love, and by the might of Your help. Be for us and do not
be against us. Do not leave us to ourselves for a single instant. We
have no power of defence nor have we any device to bring about our
benefit. We do not aim for other than Your noble door, we do not hope
for other than Your encompassing bounty. Minds only hope for Your
blessing by the simple fact that you say 'Be" and it is. O Lord, O
Lord, arrival is by You to what You have and seeking the means is by
You! O Lord, You are our high pillar of support! O Lord, You are our
impregnable fortress. O Lord, O Lord, give us security when we travel
and when we remain. O Lord, preserve our crops and herds, and
preserve our trade and make our numbers more!
Make our land a land of the deen and repose for the needy and the
poor. Give us force among the lands as well as respect,
impregnability and a polity. Appoint it its might from the protected
secret, and grant it protection by the beautiful veiling.
By sad, qaf and nun, place a thousand veils in front of it. By the
rank of the light of Your noble Face and the rank of the secret of
Your immense kingdom, And the rank of 'la ilaha illa'llah' and the
rank of the Best of Creation, O our Lord, And the rank of that by
which the Prophets prayed to You and the rank of that by which the
Awliya' pray to you, And the rank of the power of the Qutb and the
Awtad and the rank of the Jaras and Afrad, And the rank of the Akhyar
and the rank of Nujaba' and the rank of the Abdal and the rank of the
And the rank of every one worshipping and doing dhikr and the rank of
everyone praising and giving thanks, And the rank of everyone whose
worth You elevated both those who are concealed and those whose
renown has spread, And the ranks of the firm ayats of the Book and
the rank of the Greatest Supreme Name, O Lord, O Lord, make us stand
as fuqara' before You, weak and lowly.
We call to You with the supplication of the one who calls on a noble
Lord who does not turn aside those who call. Accept our supplication
with Your pure grace, with the acceptance of someone who sets aside
the fair reckoning.
Bestow on us the favour of the Generous, and show us the kindness of
O Merciful, extend Your mercy over us and spread Your blessing over
us, O Generous. Choose for us in all our words and select for us in
all our actions. O Lord, make it our habit to cling and devote
ourselves to the resplendent Sunna.
Confine our manifold desires to You and grant us full and complete
gnosis. Combine both knowledge and action for us, and direct our
hopes to the Abiding Abode. O Lord, make us follow the road of the
fortunate and make our seal the Seal of the martyrs, O Lord!
Make our sons virtuous and righteous, scholars with action and people
of good counsel. O Allah, remedy the situation of the people and, O
Allah, make the reunification easy. O Lord, grant Your clear victory
to the one who takes charge and empowers the Deen, And help him, O
You Who are forbearing, and help his party and fill his heart with
what will make him pleasing to you. O Lord, help our Muhammadan deen,
and make it end mighty as it began.
Preserve it, O Lord, through the preservation of the scholars, and
raise the minaret of its light to heaven. Pardon, grant well-being,
make up for our deficiency and forgive our sins and the sins of every
Muslim, O our Lord.
O Lord, bless the Chosen one with your perfect prayer of blessing.
Your prayer is that which grants success in his business as befits
his lofty worth. Then bless his noble family and glorious Companions
and those who have followed them.
Praise belongs to Allah by whose praise those with an aim completely
fulfil that aim.