Roses of Islam: Rabi’a Al-Adawiyah, Part VI

June 27, 2012 § 1 Comment


It was part of her faith that she welcomed an asceticism which accepted everything as a Gift from Allah, the Lover to his beloved slave. Therefore, she regarded misfortune in the same way as she regarded favors and happiness, and this was the ultimate of bondsmanship to her. About this she said, “You have given me life and have provided for me, and Yours is the Glory.” And she added, “You have bestowed upon me many favors, and gifts, graces and help.” In this she acknowledges her bondsmanship to the Giver and Bestower of all Bounty.

There is a story related that she once said, “I praised Allah one night with the praises of dawn, then I slept and I saw a bright, green tree, not to be described in size and beauty, and lo, upon it were three kinds of fruit, unknown to me amongst the fruit of the world, like virgins’ breasts, white, red and yellow and they shone like spheres and suns in the green spaces of the tree. I admired them and said, ‘Whose is this?‘ And one said to me, ‘This is yours, for your praises aforetime.’ Then I began to walk around the tree, and lo, underneath it were eighteen fruits on the ground of the color of gold, and I said, ‘If only these fruits were with the fruits on the tree it would be better.’ That person said to me, ‘They would have been there but that you, when you offered your praises, were thinking, ‘Is the dough leavened or not?So this fruit fell off. This is a warning to those of insight, and an exhortation to those who fear Allah and worship Him.”

And has the Provider of the poor forgotten the poor on account of their poverty? And does He remember the rich because of their riches?

Her attraction to a life of poverty was also part of her need not to be distracted from her inner journey by the necessity for material considerations. There is a story about this poverty of hers, as one of her companions said, “I went to visit Rabi`a and saw her in her house with nothing but a broken water pitcher out of which she drank and made her ablution. There was also an old reed mat and a brick which she sometimes used as a pillow. When I saw this, I felt very sad and I said to her, ‘I have rich friends. If you wish I will get something from them for you.’ She said, ‘You have committed a grievous error. Is not my Provider and theirs one and the same?‘ I replied, ‘Yes.’ Then she said, ‘And has the Provider of the poor forgotten the poor on account of their poverty? And does He remember the rich because of their riches?‘ I replied, ‘No.’ She said, ‘Then since He knows of my state, how should I remind Him? Such is His Will and I too wish what He wills.‘”

Rabia’s love, which was passionate and all-consuming was also full of humility, fear and reverence for her Beloved, and when she was asked about how she had such a degree of intimacy, she said, “By constantly saying: I take refuge in You from everything which has distracted me from You and from every hindrance which has hindered me from You.” She also said, “You must conceal your good deeds as you conceal your evil deeds.” In the same way, she said, “What appears of any (good) works, I count as nothing at all.

There is a story that Rabi`a was once on her way to Mecca. When she was half-way there she saw the Kaaba coming to meet her and she said, “It is the Lord of the House Whom I need. What have I to do with the House? I need to meet with Him Who said: ‘Whoso approaches Me by a span’s length I will approach him by the length of a cubit.The Kaaba which I see has no power over me. What does the Kaaba bring to me?

And again, a story of the same nature is as follows: It is related that Ibrahim ibn Adhan, a very holy person, spent fourteen years making his way to the Kaaba because in every place of prayer he prayed two raka’ats and at last when he reached the Kaaba he did not see it. He said to himself, “Alas, what has happened to my eyes. Maybe a sickness has come to them.” Then he heard a voice which said, “No harm has befallen your eyes, but the Kaaba has gone to meet a woman who is approaching.” Ibrahim was seized with jealousy and said, “O indeed; who is this?” He ran and saw Rabi`a arriving, and the Kaaba was back in its place.

Continued… Part VII
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Roses of Islam: Rabi’a Al-Adawiyah, Part III

June 27, 2012 § 1 Comment


She never married nor did she have any children but as she, may Allah be pleased with her, said, “My peace is in solitude but my Beloved is always with me. Whenever I witness His Beauty He is my prayer niche (mihrab); toward Him is my qibla. Oh Healer of souls, the heart feeds upon its desire and its striving towards Union with You have healed my soul. You are my Joy and my Life to Eternity. You were the Source of my life; from You came my ecstasy. I have separated myself from all created beings, for my hope is for Union with You; for that is the Goal of my searching.

When a woman walks in the Way of Allah like a man, she cannot be called a woman

At about this time she left Baghdad and returned to Basra where she remained for many years, until she finally traveled to Jerusalem where she died and is buried. She, may Allah be pleased with her, had a long life in this dunya (material world) during which she continued, to her last days, to give of everything that Allah inspired her to give to all who loved her, because she was His special Light for them all. She is often referred to as the first true waliya (saint) of Islam and was praised, not because she in any way represented womankind, but because as someone said, “When a woman walks in the Way of Allah like a man she cannot be called a woman.

The same writer also said that Rabi`a was “That one set apart in the seclusion of holiness; that woman veiled with the veil of sincerity; that one en-flamed by love and longing, lost in union with God; that one accepted as a second spotless Mary.” Although, as she said herself, she was always busy with her Beloved God all the time and she did not have any moment for anybody or anything else but Him, she also knew the meaning of what she said, for her Beloved Allah revealed Himself to her in every face around her. She said, “The groaning and yearning of the lover of Allah will not be satisfied until it is satisfied in the Beloved.” And Rabi`a was, for many people, that Beloved. May Allah protect her secret, and that of all His true holy lovers.

Many of the incidents recorded about Rabi`a’s early life are said to concern her relationship with Hasan al-Basri, in spite of the discrepancy in the dating of their lives. Nevertheless it is the sayings themselves that are important, and the incidents which brought them about are, in themselves, irrelevant. It is said that she, may Allah be pleased with her, once sent Hasan al-Basri a piece of wax, a needle and a hair, and said, “Be like wax and illumine the world and burn yourself. Be like a needle and work naked. When you have done these two things a thousand years will be for you like a hair.

Another story tells of how one day Hasan al-Basri saw Rabi`a near a lake. Throwing his prayer rug on top of the water, he said, “Rabi`a come! Let us pray two raka’ats here.” She replied, “Hasan, when you are showing off your spiritual goods in the worldly market, it should be things which your fellow-men cannot display.” Then she threw her prayer rug into the air and flew up onto it. “Come up here, Hasan, where people can see us,” she cried. But seeing his sadness Rabi`a sought to console him, so she said, “Hasan, what you did fishes can do, and what I did flies can do. But the real business is outside these tricks. One must apply oneself to the real business.

Continue… Part IV

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Roses of Islam: Rabi’a Al-Adawiyah, Part II

June 27, 2012 § 1 Comment


From that moment she left everything that she had been doing before, and she refused either to sing or to dance, or to play any music for anyone except for her Beloved God. This made her master very angry because he could no longer use her to make money for himself. He began to ill-treat her, to beat her, and even to put burns on her body hoping that this would frighten her into returning to her former ways. But she refused everything that her master tried to do to her.

She had begun to pray all through the night, crying to her Beloved God to help her in her desperate state. After a time her master, seeing that he could not influence her in any way, and because she was no longer of any use to him, decided to sell her. So he put a cord around her neck and took her to the slave market of Baghdad. There a holy man took Rabi`a to his home, gave her food and simple clothes, and told her that he did not want anything from her, except that she could pray and be free in his house. Rabi`a thanked him with all her heart and said, “If you want anything from me for the Face of Allah, He will give you your reward, but if you want anything from me for yourself only, I have nothing to give you. I have everything that I need from my Beloved God and I do not need anything from any human being.

The holy man replied that he would like to marry her, and to free her from being a slave, but that he did not ask anything from her except what she wanted to give. Rabi`a thanked him for his kindness and consideration, and she said that she did not want to marry anyone, but was grateful for the way that he cared for her in her deep need. Then Allah, the All-Mighty, sent a very holy person to Rabi`a, some say that it was Hasan al-Basri. There seems to be some doubt about who this holy person was, because it is recorded that Hasan al-Basri was born in al-Madina in the year 21 A.H./642 C.E. to a servant of the Prophet’s wife, prayers and peace be upon him, Umm Salamah. As a young child he had lived with his mother in Umm Salamah’s household. In manhood he followed a follower (at-tabi’un) of `Ali ibn Abu Talib, the Prophet’s cousin and close Companion, and the fourth of the ‘Righteous Caliphs’ (Al-Khulafa Ar-Rashidun) from whom the Line of the Prophet’s Inheritors descended. It is recorded that Hasan al-Basri died in 110 A.H, at which time Rabi`a would have been about eleven years old and had perhaps just arrived in Baghdad as a slave-girl for her master.

How did you come to know Him?

You know of the How but I know of the How-less.

In spite of this discrepancy of dates, Hasan al-Basri is usually referred to as being one of the closest of the Beloveds of Allah around Rabi`a in her early life. It is he who is recorded as being the person who said to Rabi`a, “Do you desire for us to get married?” To which she replied, “The tie of marriage is for those who have being. But here being has disappeared for I have become as nothing to my self, and I exist only through Allah for I belong wholly to Him, and I live in the shadow of His control. You must ask for my hand from Him, and not from me.” Hasan then replied, “How did you find this secret, Rabi`a?” She answered him, “I lost all found things in Him.” Hasan then replied, “How did you come to know Him?” She said, “You know of the how but I know of the how-less.” For Rabia`s case was that she had heard the Voice of her Beloved Who was Allah and none other than He, and she had no need for any earthly husband because the only true marriage for her was with Allah Himself alone. Like many of the ascetic sufis, Rabi`a made no separation in her love between man and woman if they lived for the Face of her Beloved God.

Many people loved her and needed her and wanted to take from her something of the special Gift which she had been given from Allah. She had many followers who yearned to feed themselves from her Love which she gave to all those whom she loved. Allah himself was her real Beloved but she kept company with her fellow beings, as she said, “Everyone who obeys (and she meant by this the true lover) seeks intimacy.” Then she recited these lines: “I have made You the Companion of my heart. But my body is available to those who desire its company, And my body is friendly toward its guest, But the Beloved of my heart is the guest of my soul.

Continue… Part III

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Memorizing The Qur’an (Becoming A Huffaz)

June 10, 2012 § Leave a comment


A huffaz is someone has memorized the whole Qur’an (30 Juzuk, 114 Surah). Some tried but only a few succeeded. Most of us, at one time or the other, just wish that we are able to become one but we never did make an attempt to it. “Ohh, it will be so difficult” would be one of the excuses, “It must be time-consuming and I just do not have the time” would be another one. Yes, we hear it all the time whenever the subject of becoming a huffaz is being mentioned.

Young boys taking Qur'an lessons from wooden t...

Young boys taking Qur’an lessons from wooden tablets in Mauritania, West Africa. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did we ever wonder that we could recite the Fatihah so easily, while at the same time doing some other work. It just flows out instinctively without any moment of thought. It has withstood the test of time whereby we do not need to refresh the memory by looking the Qur’an itself. Sure we can quickly memorize a short surah but can we recite it back in a month’s time? Perhaps that’s the key…how could we have done it with Al-Fatihah? Let’s look at this phenomenon and figure out how can we apply it to the whole Qur’an.

Certainly, We have made this (Qur’an) easy in your tongue, in order that they may remember
(Ad-Dukhan, Chapter #44, Verse #58)

And We have indeed made the Qur’an easy to understand and remember; then is there any one who will remember (or receive admonition)? 
(Al-Qamar, Chapter #54, Verse #17)

We have been taught Al-Fatihah since we were kids, repeating them a minimum of 17 times daily, which amounts to more than 450 times in a month!. Is that the key? Repetitions? Kids in Mauritania (north-west of Africa) have been known to repeat 1000 times daily during their memorization of the Qur’an and/or Hadith. Before that, let’s establish some useful numbers. Looking at a typically normal Qur’an, it is divided into 30 Juzuk and each Juzuk is covered in 20 pages. And each page contains 15 rows of ayats.

  • Let’s start small, say we hope to memorize 3 rows of the Qur’an daily. On the 1st day, recite the 3 rows 300 times.(for ease of reference, we will label this “A”)
  • On the 2nd day, get to the next 3 rows and recite them 300 times as well (we will label this “B”). Once completed, recite “A” 150 times.
  • On the 3rd day, get to the next 3 rows and recite them 300 times as well (we will label this “C”). Once completed, recite “B” 150 times and recite “A” 75 times.
  • On the 4th day, get to the next 3 rows and recite them 300 times as well (we will label this “D”). Once completed, recite “C” 150 times and recite “B” 75 times and recite “A” 35 times.
  • On the 5th day, get to the next 3 rows and recite them 300 times as well (we will label this “E”). Once completed, recite “D” 150 times and recite “C” 75 times and recite “B” 35 times and recite “A” 15 times .
  • On the 6th and 7th day (will be Saturday and Sunday if you started on Monday), you will need to reconcile the whole page (yes, it’s a whole page of 15 rows) by repeating each page 100 times daily.

By now, you would have realized that most of it comes almost naturally, albeit a few glitches here and there. Surprised? Feels good?

Effectively, you will be reciting each set of 3-rows for 300 + 150 + 75 + 35 + 15 + 100 + 100 = 775 times!!!

And repeat the following weeks accordingly. You will soon get the hang of it and the process becomes easier as the weeks passed by. You will be tempted to increase the number of rows daily…just DON’T. Get a few Juzuk under your belt and progress in small steps. Once you have completed a Juzuk (in 20 weeks), take the following week by just reciting the Juzuk daily.

Again, let’s re-visit the numbers. The Qur’an contains 30 Juzuk and each Juzuk contains 20 pages. That brings us a total of 600 pages for the whole Qur’an. By sticking to the above program, you will become a Huffaz in 11 years. What? No worries, as you make those small progressions, you will accomplish it in 3-5 years, insyaallah.

Note: Get a standard copy of the Qur’an (mushhaf) and use it throughout your journey. It will breed familiarity.

Work hard, istiqomah (consistency) and make du’a. Allah shall make it easy for us to remember!!!

Grooming the Young: Firm, Gentle & Compassion

June 3, 2012 § 4 Comments


An Imam leading Maghrib prayers in Cairo, Egyp...

An Imam leading Maghrib prayers in Cairo, Egypt, in 1865. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just last night, I was attending the Maghrib solah (prayer) at my local surau (masjid/mosque). As usual, there was this group of boys (age 7-14) standing in a saf of their own (behind everyone). Boys being boys, they would chat and giggle just when everyone is standing up and ready to perform the solah, right after the iqamah. And every time, there will be this few old men (more than 60 years old) would stare back at them, scowling and uttering some harsh remarks “Be silent”, “if you want to play go outside”, “stupid boys”. etc. And every time, I shook my head sadly, wishing that a more gentle way could have been observed.

And after a sermon by a scholar, we were ready to perform the Isya’ solah and again, the same routine occurred. Mind you, this has been going for ages. Again, I was wishing and thinking…there must be a better way to do this. Right after solah, when everyone was shaking each others hands and wishing Salam, an elderly man, much to my surprise, went over to this group of boys and perform a series of vocal volleys, which was really unnecessary. Adding to my disbelief, some of the men joined in as well. I knew I had to intervene, as I could see tears building up in their eyes.

I gathered all the boys and escorted them out of the surau and quietly asked them to go about their ways, and made them promise me that they would return for the prayers tomorrow night. I hurried home, fearing that a big argument would occur if I waited for the elderly to come out. More of offering them my respect, I guess.

On the way home, sadness enveloped me remembering how the young boys were treated. That is no way to teach young boys. They are so young and yet they are already visiting the house of Allah frequently (that in itself is already a Blessing by Allah). Much more frequent than the said elder-lies, just a few years ago. And young boys, talking and running and giggling (all at the same time, mostly) are always like that. They will soon outgrow that but surely, they will never forget the utter humiliation unleashed onto them that night.

Islam is a religion of compassion and there are codes of conduct to be observed when dealing with people (especially the young ones), who have delicate souls, hearts, emotions, and feelings. People want to feel love and acceptance. They want to see warm, inviting smiles that will reflect the greatness of Islam. They need to be shown on how the Prophet SAW dealt which such matters. Rasulullah SAW surely loved kids and would never have reacted in such a manner. The Prophet SAW (peace be upon him) never sugar-coated the truth or stopped calling to the way of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He). Yet, it was his soft, gentle approach that made his message so palatable and soul-satisfying.

The Qur’an testifies: “So, by the mercy of Allah [O Muhammad], you were gentle with them—and had you been harsh or hard-hearted, they would have dispersed from around you. So, pardon them, and ask forgiveness for them and consult them about matters…” (Qur’an, 3:159).

Look at the beautiful advice of the Prophet SAW: “Make matters easy, and do not make them difficult; and give glad tidings and do not turn people away,” [Bukhari]. He also made gentleness a beautifying component of everything: “Gentleness is not in something except that it adorns it, and it is not stripped from something except that it ruins it,” [Muslim].

My fear is that, unless corrected, the boys when becoming older will do similar things to young boys during his time. It is how society has taught them and the cycle will repeat itself until the end of time. Lost will be the beautiful ways of Rasulullah SAW. Lost will be the chance to show Islam Is Great.

The important thing when advising the young ones is to adorn it  with tact, kindness and humility. It is important to remember that guidance ultimately comes from God. We hope that by being Firm, Gentle and Compassionate, a breed of ummah with such virtues will arise in abundance, InsyaAllah.

Let’s show Islam is Great

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