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“There is nothing on earth that God loves more than His slave, hands raised helplessly in supplication, weeping, and pleading.” (Signs on the Horizons)

Haroon Sugich, Dubai, 2014

Haroon Sugich, Dubai, 2014

Towards the end of November 2014, I was sent for a week long work assignment to Dubai. Whilst I was out there, I had a wonderful meeting with Michael Sugich (whose Muslim name is Haroon), author of the beautifully written book: Signs on the Horizons. Sidi Haroon came to the UK in May 2014 and conducted a book reading at Rumi’s Cave. As much as I wanted to attend that event and meet Sidi Haroon, I was unable to go because of work (it was quite an intense period at work and I could not make it to the event in time). Six months down the line, not only did I get to meet Sidi Haroon, but I also was fortunate to be able to spend a couple of hours with him, talking and discussing his book, and simply listening to the many wonderful stories he had to share. It’s amazing how work was the reason I could not attend his event in London, but then, work was also the reason I was out in Dubai and had the meeting with Sidi Haroon. Allah plans beautifully! For those who have not read the book: Signs on the Horizons is a memoir written by Michael Sugich (Sidi Haroon) about his spiritual journey of finding his spiritual guide, meeting and interacting with men who have transcended the ordinary and achieved stations of spirituality and enlightenment. I won’t reveal details about the book, but all I can say is that it is one of those books that you must all own and read at least once in your lifetime because it is full of stories that are inspiring and REAL. The interview below has been checked and approved by Sidi Haroon, and I am publishing this after his consent. If you have a chance of meeting him, please make sure you do! —- Sidra: What inspired you to write the book? Haroon: I started writing these stories down over a period of years because I was afraid I was going to forget the details as the years went by. And I began to write them mainly for my children because, while the older children remember some of these great people (who are mentioned in the book), but the younger ones had no connection with them. That was initially the motivation for writing these stories down– basically just to preserve the memories. Shems Friedlander, a very close friend of mine, was publishing a journal on Sufism and he asked me if I would contribute something, and I had one of these stories to share. The story was on Moulay Abu Qassim as the story had a big impact on me when I was young. I had a story already written, I sent it to Shems, and he included it in his journal. What surprised me was the reaction. People would say: “You really met these people?” “These people really exist?” The reaction from people started to make me think that it would be useful for a wider audience, there seems to be a longing for this sort of thing. The response to the book has validated that idea because I have come to learn that many Muslims have become disconnected from these kind of people (those mentioned in the book). They exist, but they have receded. When Sidi Abdul Adheem (Peter) Sanders and I were young, we would be in a room where you might have 50 Awliya (Friends of God)! This is very hard to find anymore. It’s not because they don’t exist, but they’ve withdrawn to a certain extent because people have lost interest in spirituality. Also, I have spent the last 20 years writing for other people, and I felt I wanted to write something that had meaning for me. My daughter was studying in an art school in Paris in 2009. She would go off to school in the mornings and I would spend the whole day writing and loved it because I got to think about these people, it was a wonderful experience, and I would like to do more of it. Sidra: A lot of your book covers personal experiences, in fact all of it is based on your personal interactions with these great people. Many people shy away from writing and sharing these kind of experiences where as you have been very open. How comfortable did you feel about writing and sharing such intimate and personal experiences? Michael: I wrote about things I felt I could write about. I am an old man now (laughs), so something that I might not have written 25 or 30 years ago, because it’s something in the distant past (most of the stories are recounted from when I was so young), there was less to reveal in a spiritual way back then. Sidra: What was the hardest part about writing the book? Haroon: I would not say that writing the book was hard. However, what was difficult was that I had to be careful, true and accurate to the memory and try not to embellish things or make up things for the purpose of impact and literary effect, which can be a temptation. I had to be very careful as this was going to be something before Allah. Once the first draft of the book was done, I spoke to a lot of friends and asked them to share some of their memories to make sure I didn’t get it wrong. What I found out though was that most of my friends have a worse memory than I do! (laughs). I did not get as much detail back from my friends as much as I thought I would. An example of this is as follows. There is a chapter in the book called “All Night Long”, and it’s about a wonderful Naqshbandi Shaykh, Sufi Abdullah (who is based in Birmingham, UK). I wrote the story, and it was about a night of Dhikr we had. It was an amazing night, but what I completely forgot, and my friend Abu Qassim Spiker (who was there that night reminded me, saying, “Don’t you remember Sufi Abdullah was wearing Christmas lights around his neck!” (laughs). If I do another version of the book, I will add that in because it was so bizarre and funny, and it reminds us that people are human. Sufi Abdullah is a great man and I was able to see him recently, he is old and frail now, and it was a poignant and beautiful meeting with him. Also, when we were putting together the book, Shems insisted that each chapter ends with a quote or epigraph. That was the hardest part and took me longer than actually writing the book!

Moulay Hashem said, “It is through the prayer on the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ , and love of the Prophet that you receive knowledge and an Opening.” He admonished us to balance the invocation of the Great Name (Allah) with Prayer on the Prophet ﷺ .” The Name of God is hot,” he said. “The Prayer on the Prophet cools the heart.” (Signs on the Horizons)

Sidra: What was the best part of writing the book? Haroon: The best part was to be able to spend a lot of time thinking about these great people. I loved it. I loved thinking about them. Next to that, the best part has been meeting people who have read the book, who have come to the readings, it’s been a wonderful experience. It has given me a lot of opportunity; there are a lot of wonderful young people out there. People need to understand that my generation dropped out: Peter Sanders, Yusuf Islam, Richard Thompson, Abdul Latif Whiteman, etc, most of us dropped out and left everything we were doing because there was no social context; there were no communities. The communities that existed forty years ago were immigrant communities with dysfunctional families, but now it’s completely changed. Your generation have a lot of young people who are vibrant, intelligent, active, who are Muslims but also living in mainstream society, working and achieving. This wasn’t the case back then so it’s so encouraging to see. As troubled as young people seem to be sometimes, it’s encouraging to me to see how much faith young people have. There is so much publicity about extremists and fanatics, but there are many more young people who have their heads in the right place and are decent and productive. Sidra: Your book has been well received. How does that make you feel? Haroon: It’s great. I said to Shems Friedlander that if one person is moved by the book or the book has meaning for just one person, then that would make the effort worth it. However, it has been thousands of people who have appreciated and taken the book to heart. It’s gratifying, I am truly grateful for that.

One member of our group had been struggling on the Path. He asked the Saint (Sidi Mohamed Al- Sahrawi), “What do you do if you perform remembrance of God for year after year but it never reaches the heart?”. He replied, “You keep on invoking God because you never know when your invocation will take hold of the heart. Sometimes the effects of remembrance cannot be felt until the moment before you die. Have patience. Persist. Never give up.” (Signs on the Horizons)

Sidra: In your opinion, do you think every soul needs to go out in search of a teacher or spiritual master? Haroon: I am not really qualified to answer something like that. I think every soul longs for God and Knowledge and wants to tread this path, and should find someone whom is alive to take the path with. But should every simple human being do it? Maybe, but they don’t. Sidra: What would your advice be to the younger generation who are struggling to find that balance of seeking God and living this worldly life? How do we find that balance? Haroon: Firstly, we tend to romanticise the past thinking the past was so perfect and if we were living in another time, everything would have been different. The fact of the matter is that people have always struggled with this, struggled to find a balance of being in the world and heading into the next world, and being distracted by the world. The first thing our society exalts is the accumulation of wealth and fame. I am not sure that was as intense in earlier times as it is now. Someone nowadays can become famous for no reason. We definitely live on a much higher level than our ancestors lived in terms of greater comfort. But are we closer to God? I don’t know. I doubt it. The most important thing young people have to remember is that: you are going to die. The most insane thing in existence is the denial of death, because its the only thing that is certain. My friend Faarid Gouverneur once said to me “There are three certainties: Now, Death, God”. You are not going to live forever, and you won’t be able to retain things forever. Imam al-Ghazali said: ‘Love whatever you like but you will lose it. Live as long as you like but you will die’. And this is the reality. But in this age people think that it is being morbid. It is not morbid, and it’s real and a relief. Why do you want to keep struggling along as a donkey in this life when there is the next life? If you don’t believe in a next life, then I believe you are in trouble. That’s why we remember God. My advice to young people is to remember God standing, sitting and reclining. Moulay Abdul Salam ibn Mashish said, ‘There is nothing acceptable to Allah except DhikrAllah’. What does this mean? It means that if you are doing Salah and you are not remembering Allah, then your Salah is useless. If you are fasting and not remembering Allah then your fasting is useless. If you are giving Zakat and you are not remembering Allah, then your Zakat is useless. If you are struggling for the sake of Allah and you are not remembering Allah then your struggling is useless. Everything is remembrance and this is what absolutely transforms the soul. So this is what young people need to embrace. Everyone makes the way and path harder than it is. Part of the reason I wrote the book is, if you read the existing text on the Awliya, especially in English, you read someone (I am making this example up) who prayed and fasted all the time for 40 years, which seems like an extreme thing and then has an incredible opening. What you don’t read about is all the hundreds and thousands of men and women who had tremendous spiritual benefits from just being ordinary people and remembering Allah. With regards to young people, what I have seen is a lack of confidence. This is because of the inordinate influence of Salafis who see everything in black and white terms. For example, if you sin, you will go to hell, that is what is taught to the youngsters, but Allah is Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem. He is the Most Forgiving, and His Mercy precedes His wrath. My teacher Sayyid Abdullah said that if you read the Qur’an carefully, you will see that most people go to heaven. I found that Muslims feel insecure and they feel they are sinners. Of course we are sinners, but the Rasul ﷺ  said that if you did not sin, Allah would destroy you and replace you with the people who did sin so they can make tawba (repentance) and ask for forgiveness. That is the transaction: tawba and istighfar, that is what it is all about. What is the sin of a Wali of Allah? Forgetting Allah for a split second. That is what his sin would be in this world. In our world today, remembering Allah for a split second is a great thing! We are in that cycle where we make a mistake, we correct ourselves. We make a mistake and correct ourselves. And so on until we are finally purified. We live in an instant age! We want instant Nirvana, everything has to happen tomorrow. You have these insane weekend groups, enlightenment weekends and after one weekend, you are supposed to have changed! People spend 30,40, 50 years on the path, day in and day out doing the same thing. This is what it is all about, not instant results. Yes, some people who are very pure and have sudden openings when they are very young, however these people are exceptional. My teacher Sayyid Umar used to say “The later the better”. By this he meant that later in your life you have maturity and can handle deep spiritual openings.

“God is so immensely generous that He gives His servants everything that they ask for, even if only at the moment of death” (Signs on the Horizons)

Sidra: Your book does not cover or mention any female Saints. I am curious whether you met any? Haroon: No, mainly because of conventional Muslim societies. Men do not meet women. I have met 1-2 women who are Saliheen, but I did not mention them in the book because it would have imbalanced it (i.e more men featured than women). Sidra: As a writer, what would your advice be for aspiring writers? Haroon: Write every day and find a way to do that. Read a lot. If you are writing on Islamic subjects then be humble and refer to people who know more than you. One of the worst things that has happened in modern times is you have a lot of ignorant people writing about Islam and we have to be very careful about that. However, in terms of pure technique, write and re-write. Good writing is re-writing. Basically good writing is part of good thinking. My advice is keep at it. If you don’t have any talent for writing, then don’t do it! Find something else you have a talent for. But if you do have a talent for writing then refine that and get better and better at it, love language. Language is a beautiful thing which separates us from animals. We are able to express ourselves. Therefore it’s a responsibility if you have a gift for writing. One of the reasons I wrote the book is I felt the need to use what small talent I have and do something that has some meaning, rather than just do it. John Steinbeck, when he was young, wrote two huge novels that were never sold. Then he wrote a book called “Tortilla Flat” which was a success. He then wrote “Cannery Row”, which was a huge success, and then he wrote “Grapes of Wrath” which was his masterpiece and while he was writing it he knew that it was going to be a masterpiece. Steinbeck wrote to his friend saying that ‘it was all those millions of words before’. Sidra: When can we expect your next book and what will it be about? Haroon: I am working on 3-5 books at the moment, it’s not a good thing! I’m working on a book on extremism, another on the turning of the heart (tawba), a third is a kind of sequel to Signs on the Horizons. We have a project pending on Morocco. It will take me a while, but something may come. The answer is, I don’t know!

“I told him with some pride that three people had just converted to Islam with me. He smiled sweetly and said, “Why not three hundred?” His response left me deflated. Was he teaching me humility? Was he teaching me not to be satisfied with a small achievement but to aspire to greater things? I expected a pat on the back and felt that my efforts had been dismissed by this great man. In retrospect, it occurred to me as I was setting down these memories decades later that one of the three souls who had converted to Islam was an intense and brilliant 18 year old former theological student who subsequently learned Arabic, travelled the world in search of knowledge, sitting with many of the great men of the Way and emerged as one of the most influential Muslim thinkers and orators in the West, reaching millions and guiding thousands on the path of Islam. He is known today as Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. In balance I would say he counts for three hundred, at the very least. Perhaps Shaykh Al- Azhar understood this with the eye of insight” (Signs on the Horizons)

—– BookThe book is available to buy from Amazon. You can also follow the Signs on the Horizons Facebook Page. Please keep Sidi Haroon and his family in your prayers! Special thanks to my dear brother and friend “The Conscious Muslim” for his help and support in checking this blog post for me before I published it- please recite a prayer for him too!

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“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years”- Abraham Lincoln.

Another year older, and another year better, inshaAllah! 🙂 Others may disagree with me, but I think birthdays should be celebrated by expressing gratitude to the Almighty for giving us this life in the first place, and for allowing us to be part of the best community: the ummah of the Rasul ﷺ

Our birthdays give us the opportunity to reflect on all the blessings we have been bestowed with, rather than focussing on all the things that we wanted to have achieved by now, but have not. As each year passes, we should be aspiring to be closer to Allah and his Habib ﷺ, and we can use our birthdays as a way of reflecting back on how far we have journeyed towards our Lord. At the end of the day, what we have to remember is that Allah created us and allowed us to experience this world for some great purpose just as Imam al-Ghazali beautifully wrote:

“Know O’Beloved that man was not created in jest, but marvellously made and for some great end”

So, let’s use our birthdays to be grateful for the blessing of life; grateful for having loving parents who brought us into this world; grateful for health and Iman (faith); grateful for wonderful friends and companions; grateful for peace; grateful for hardships and blessings; grateful for………the list is endless!

And to end this note, here is a quote by Billy Mills which I love:

“My life is a gift from the Creator. What I do with it is my gift to the Creator”

Alhumdulilah for everything! 🙂

Sunset in Venice during my recent trip.  Photo taken on the iPhone.

Sunset in Venice during my recent trip.
Photo taken on the iPhone.

The video clip posted below is taken from one of Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s lectures: “The Critical Importance of Al-Ghazali in Our Times”. Shaykh Hamza in this 2:25 min video clip touches upon what Imam al-Ghazali meant when he spoke about Trust in God and Tawhid. I would encourage you to listen to the clip (and the whole lecture if you can, but this clip in particular). For me, this clip pretty much sums everything up. I think once we get our heads around this thing Imam al-Ghazali wrote about and Shaykh Hamza narrates (which doesn’t happen overnight), we will be able to deal better with the situations and circumstances God places us in. It’s not an easy thing, but hey, who said this life was meant to be easy? But we strive, and strive, and persevere, and try to build our understanding which ultimately gives us the strength and spiritual energy we need to carry on in our journeys back to our Lord.

I have transcribed the video clip (well most of it!) which I have pasted below. Hope you find it beneficial. 

 

Transcript
“…Realising that, the destination that you’re on is the one to your own death. And he ends this, he has fear and hope and trust in God, and he puts Trust and Tawhid in the same chapter which is very interesting. Because to him, Tawhid is not a theoretical construct which it is to most Muslims, this idea that God is One. No, to him, God is doing everything at every instant. That is Tawhid. And Ghazali is arguing that if you really understand this, you will have utter trust in God. You will put all your trust in God because it’s all God. God is doing everything in every instant. And this is why if you’re not content with your circumstances, he argues you’re not content with God because it’s God that put you in those circumstances but what God is asking you to do is to respond to them appropriately. That’s the challenge. It’s not the circumstances. The challenge is the power that God has given you in your will, your irada, to actually take your circumstances and respond appropriately. And there are only four circumstances and four requisite responses. You’re in tribulation, and he says the response to that is patience. You’re in a situation of blessing and you have to respond to that with gratitude, and that will increase you. And if you don’t do those things, what he says is, if you are in a state of gratitude and you respond by heedlessness, the blessings will be taken away from you. Not as a punishment, but as a reminder to pull you back. One of the things he says is, there are only two types of people (from a hadith):
1. People in tribulation
2. People in good situations
He said, if you are in a good situation, God will send the people of tribulation to you. And if you reject them and close the door on them, He will make you the people of tribulation. He will take away your blessings because your blessings are to serve the people in tribulation. These are the awakenings that he is trying to instill and inculcate, and this is why as you read this book, a transformation should occur. If it doesn’t, you haven’t read the book.”  

 

  • Sometimes when you are given things, you are not given them a second time, so cherish what you have!
  • You have to manage your time. You have to reflect on what you have missed.
  • If you are person who reflects, be sincere in that.
  • Guard your heart against anything other than Allah.
  • Make your heart the dergah/house of Allah, make the name Allah the sultan of your heart.
  • Guard your tongue from excessive speech.
  • Always be the person who makes tawba and istagfir.
  • Understand the value of every moment. You are only born with a number of breaths!
  • Let not any moment be wasted, make every moment be beneficial.
  • Afflictions are many, but the greatest affliction is the passage of time without any benefit.
  • You have to have thirst for knowledge as a means for your salvation. What are you going to do in that moment Allah has given you?
  • Take your cup and fill it with beneficial knowledge, and also for others who are in this stage- others can benefit from.
  • Your intention should be that you want to revive the deen when seeking knowledge.
  • Books are not the same as people who carry knowledge.
  • You want to be a means of knowledge through your tongue and actions.
  • If there is place of ‘Rida’, (Contentmemt), it’s al-Jaanah (paradise) where death does not even enter.
  • By saying Bismillah in front of everything, you attach it to the Eternal! Allah is the All-Living. The simplest things can go far so intend to say Bismillah before you begin or do anything.
  • Missing prayer is a big thing, it’s like missing an appointment with Allah! Would you miss an appointment for a job interview?
  • You yourself will become a source of guidance to other people.
  • There is an inward and outward aspect of knowledge.

 

  • Sometimes ignorance is a good thing; sometimes knowledge is a curse for people because they acquire it and then don’t implement.
  • Knowledge is as the tree, and worship is the fruit of knowledge.
  • The beginning of your knowledge has Shariah and Tariqa. Shariah is what the Law giver gives you. Shariah is there to align you with Paradise!
  • The best good you’ll ever have is Allah’s contentment with you, so obtain it through implementing the shariah.
  • Cling to the Qur’an and Sunnah, instead of being like a cheap post it note that, before you know it, has fallen off.
  • The best thing you want is Rida of Allah!
  • Adab is everything; the meaning of ‘Adab’ is how you carry yourself.
  • You must never lose expectation or hope that you can be someone you are not in terms of adab.
  • Ikhlaaq is about transforming yourself.
  • Your nafs is there to be trained. Nafs wants to be like spilled water and pour over everything, but you need to channel it through Shariah.
  • Your whole life is about renewing character traits and molding yourself. Look at the character of the Prophet sallaAllahu alayhi waslam and mold yourself.
  • Don’t be like a candle whose light benefits all yet it does not benefit itself from its own light. Work on yourself first!
  • A companion never leaves you.
  • An imtihaan (test) is a moment of exposure from Allah. He wants us to see our fracture points in our life. As long as we are in the realms of brokenness, there’s potential for completeness.
  • When you are alone, in solitude you know your relationship with Allah. When you are alone, there should be a state you are in with Allah, if you are bored, it shows your relationship with Allah.
  • Be a positive, optimistic kind of a person; don’t be one of those “doom and gloom waiting for the Mahdi” kind of a Muslim.
  • All organs are passageways to the heart.
  • Be humble.
  • Focus attention on Allah, make one objective and that is Allah!
  • What is inside you comes out. If there is stillness of Allah in you, it will come out! If you are agitated inside, it will come out in your speech.
  • Don’t put all your trust on things or people, they’re no more reliable than you are. Rather, rely upon Allah!
  • If there is a divine command, you fulfill it.
  • The more you avoid harm, the higher you rise.
  • Success is getting through the door of al-Jaanah (Paradise).
  • Don’t justify your sins by blaming it on Divine Decree.
  • You have to have constant remembrance of Allah.
  • Every thorn thrown by the Beloved becomes a rose in the eye of the lover.
  • Marriage reveals who you really are and it’s up to you if you accept that truth and grow. And if you never grow you never bear fruit.

 ~ Shaykh Naeem Abdul Wali – ‘The Beginning of Guidance’ lesson, Rihla 2011, Bursa, Turkey (Paraphrased)

More gems to follow inshaAllah ta’Ala……

(Photos courtesy- Rihla Student Please keep them in your prayers. Please do not re-use or save the photo without permission. )

 

 

 

Gems from Rihla 2011- Shaykh Hamza Yusuf (Part 2)

  • Imam al-Ghazali is a giant; he is a mountain. And the more you learn about him, the bigger the mountain becomes.
  • The Iyha was Imam al-Ghazali’s magnum opus. He wrote it with the intention of giving the Ummah the book that besides the Qur’an will be enough for the educated Muslims. Some argue that the Ihya is all you need as your guide back to Allah.
  • The Ihya has immense impact. First thing tells us that the Ihya is in 4 parts. In each section/part Imam al-Ghazali put 10 books. There are 40 books in the Ihya. 40 is a special number.
  • The Qur’an is central to Imam al-Ghazali’s teaching.
  • If God can make a house holy, you don’t think He can make a heart holy? If He can sanctify stones, He can sanctify a human heart.
  • If you’re knocking at the door, the knocking is itself the opening of the door; if you are journeying, your start is your beginning, don’t worry if you don’t get there. Stop wasting time. Death is waiting for you. This was the key message of Imam al-Ghazali
  • Only thing that reduces anxiety is by certainty (Yaqeen), and knowing that everything that happens is only because of Allah, and you’re in good hands.
  •  Wudu is ibadah. It’s independent worship. You can do wudu just as a form of worship. If you are not doing any practices to prepare for prayer, you will probably not feel anything in prayer. Sidi Ahmed Zarruq said “The degree of your presence in prayer is dependent on your wudu”
  • Wudu comes from Wada’a which means to make bright. The wudu is how the Prophet sallaAllahu ‘alayhi wasalam recognises his Ummah on the day of judgement, i.e by the light of their limbs.
  • Don’t let shaitaan take the light away from your prayer.
  • You have to have time between you and your Lord.
  • The greatness of the creation of the mosquito is no less than the greatness of the creation of the elephant. Everything that happens is a cause for marvel.
  • The whole world is a metaphor; we are all travellers in this world.
  • The world can reject you, but Allah will never reject us. His door is always open.
  • Allah created a world of expansion and contraction. The heart contracts and expands. Natural state of human is that he is in-between contraction and expansion.
  • Allah creates death and life to try us to see which of us is best in virtue and action.
  • If you are in blessing, you have to be very grateful.
  • The easiest thing in this world is not very beneficial. The hardest thing is very beneficial. The struggle is what makes us stronger and gets us closer to Allah.
  • In the lifting up of our feet, even the act of walking is indicative of our fitra desire to yearn for a return to al-Jannah.


  • The Van Allen belt is formed by Earth’s rotation and serves as a protection barrier from radiation. This is the secret behind the power and protection of making tawba and our turning to towards Allah.
  • The recording Angel on the left doesn’t record our sins until the end of the day. So hasten to make tawba.
  • Our aspirations should always be in the celestial. That’s why almost all of the early scholars of Islam were astronomers.
  • Every civilization in power has been obsessed with astronomy and law. Astronomy equals law of the heavens; Law equals law of the land. 
  • If the stars ever go out in the night sky, how will men come to know God?
  • Just as the sun rises bit by bit, it’s the sunnah of God for openings from Him to also come bit by bit. So, be patient

Allah created the stars:

1. As a way to ornament the sky with the lamps- stars so we would marvel at them.

2. To strike down the shaitan.

3. Signs that we are guided by.

4 Levels of patience:

1. Patience with ibada (worship).

2. Patience with avoiding sins.

3. Patience with tribulations and we show this by being content with the decree of Allah.

4. Patience with blessings, we show this by thanking Allah for all the blessings He has given us.

  • When things get really bad, know that things will get better. The Sahaba (companions) of the Prophet sallaAllahu ‘alayhi wasalam used to say that when they were in trepidation, they knew bad/hard things will be coming their way, and when bad things happened, they knew that good things will be coming their way.
  • If someone commits to the practice of surrendering and sabr (patience), over time the tribulations become easy and they no longer feel the tribulation. You are in paradise whilst in duniya then!
  • ‘We will test you until we see who is patient’- to see what you are made out of. The struggle and patience go together. The best attitude to have is patience.
  • Patience takes time and effort. Over time you can acquire this natural state.

Don’t attach to dunya because:

1. It’ not permanent

2. It is the tests you will go through due to it

  • ‘With hardship comes ease’ The ease will overwhelm the hardship!
  • In tribulations, things come slowly. The night is peeled away. Just as the night is peeled away slowly, tribulations move away slowly.
  • The opening is there, but will only come when the time is right!
  • The clouds of goodness contain rain; when the time comes, it will pour. Allah sends down rain to dead lands; He does it at the appropriate time. When the appropriate time for openings come, it will come. He does things in His time, not our time. This is part of being content with the Qadr and what happen has been apportioned for you.
  • A person is not a Sufi until the angel does not record a sin for 20 years!!
  • A person on a path will change 40 times in a day where as those who do not have a path stay in the same state for 40 years!
  • Your spiritual life is not curvier linear; it should be constantly moving up!
  • A life is made up of building blocks and how you move through the knowledge block.
  • Every believer is a wali.
  • Shariah = outward path to Allah, Tariqah= inward path to Allah and only joining the both together will give you Haqiqa- reality.
  • Seeing the Creator in all of creation and seeing the Provider in all provision is Tawheed in a nutshell.
  • When doors of guidance open for you, hasten up. Don’t try to get to the end before the beginning.
  • ‘Practice makes perfect…’ no it doesn’t, it makes permanent. If you practice wrong, it doesn’t make perfect. You need a Teacher.
  • Don’t follow books; follow the people who know the books.
  • Often times people are deficient in one area, but are made up for it in another area. Historically, Muslims recognised this.
  • One of the great mysteries of the Qur’an is that no matter how often you read it, you always find something new in it.
  • So many verses in the Qur’an relate to being patient. Being patient with people in Iman/faith. Some are naturally born more tolerant, but you can change that.
  • Patience is a sign of sincerity and its from Taqwa you show patience.
  • Even the Prophet sallaAllahu alayhi wasalm was commanded to be patient!
  • Allah loves the patient; part of the reason the tribulation comes is to draw the quality of patience out of them- He loves this quality. Allah is with the patient one.
  • When tribulations hit you, patience (sabr) is actually when you are accepting something. This also relates to having a good opinion of Allah. When you have a good opinion of Allah, the tribulation you know happen for a reason, although it might not seem so at the time.
  • The one who submits their entire being. This means that the future is not a concern for them, and the past is not a worry for them. They are living in the present. There are people of good and those who do good; they are not in fear and nor do they grieve.
  • Children are very much in the moment, they do not worry or care about their past or future. The Arifs’ (Gnostic) heart is like the child. Childrens hearts are in submission. They are in Tawhid.
  • Trusting the past is over, and doing Tawba that its over. If you truly made tawba, you don’t remember your sin as it obliterates the past. Tawba is like editing a video. You go and edit the parts of the video you do not like so on the day of Judgement, you can see the film without any blunders. Just say Astagfirullah, the angels will cut the bad thing!
  • Hold onto Allah! He is your Lord, He is the One who takes care of your affairs.
  • Some people focus on reliance on Allah, others only focus on means; but a balance of both is all that will save the ship of humanity.
  • If you make all of your concerns of the akhira (afterlife), Allah will take care of everything for you.
  • The benefits of your Lord are many; all the benefits of your Lord are for your nourishment. It has a beautiful fragrance- seek it out.
  • The blessings of Allah are countless.
  • Sometimes there is a fail that comes that brings you to life; there are great waves/ocean that come to you. Creation is all in the hands of Allah; some are being elevated, some being debased; some are being difficult or tested in blessing.
  • Media is one of the tribulations of our life, they make things worse!
  • Single most difficult limb is the tongue. Its one of the great wonders of Allah. You have to discipline the tongue. The tongue is a great tribulation.
  • The world is not cursed. The world is also the cosmos. When we talk about the blameworthy aspects, we mean the duniya. This mountain (Uludag) is not cursed, it’s an incredible testimony of Allah. 
  • You should worship Allah because He is worthy of worship!
  • Allah is Wahid- al-Qahr. Everything in the heaven and earth are acknowledging this at some level. He is calling us to reflect on this. The events that happen in our lives are purposeful; there is always a reason behind it.
  • The best sleep is immediately after Isha and the Prophet sallaAllahu ‘alayhi wasalam said not to engage in too much entertainment at night.
  • Nawafil night prayers protect the body from diseases and wrong actions. But you won’t be able to get up if you sin a lot.
  • Contentment with the decree of Allah is appropriate- this should be your reliance. The Contentment with Allah’s decree is a very high Maqam. Rabia al-Adawiya was asked how do you know if someone is content with Allah’s decree. She replied by saying ‘ When you feel the same joy in periods of tribulation as you do during periods of blessing’

~ Shaykh Hamza Yusuf – Jewels and Pearls of the Qur’an lesson, Rihla 2011, Bursa, Turkey (Paraphrased)

More gems to follow inshaAllah ta’Ala……

(Photos courtesy- Rihla Student Please keep them in your prayers. Please do not re-use or save the photo without permission. )

  • Path to Allah is through struggle. That struggle brings its own reward and bliss.
  • Seeing Allah in al-Janaah is better then anything else in this world.
  • A person who arrogates themselves won’t go much higher but the one who humbles himself before Allah, Allah elevates him.
  • Allah has power over all things; He does whatever He does. Don’t limit the Qudra (power) of Allah. If Allah wants to give you that gift, He will give you that gift. We should have good etiquette with Allah.
  •  Increase the love for the Messenger salla’Allahu ‘alayhi wasalm through knowledge, Seerah and the Shamail. Learn about his struggles and tribulations, and the knowledge he brought to us. Salla’Allahu ‘alayhi wasalam.
  • A Muslim’s compassion is a form of dhikr.
  • Human have aspects of beasts and angels within themselves. The more we pray, the closer we get to angels.
  • Salah bequeath light to us.
  • Expose yourself with the gentle breezes of Allah; Allah blesses the night with His gentle breezes and in the early hours in the morning. What Allah gives through Gentleness, He doesn’t give through harshness.
  • Allah is good and pure and only accepts that which is good and pure.
  • Fasting has an internal and external reality. It’s a powerful form of Ibadah, and it’s reward is unlimited. Fasting is a manifestation of patience, and the reward for patient people is unlimited.
  • Greatest act of taqwa is fasting. We give up things which are lawful and pure, therefore we cannot manifest insincerity in fasting.
  • The prophet salla’Allahu ‘alayhi wasalam was asked why he fasted on Monday, he salla’Allahu alayhi wasalam replied because it’s the day I was born. So fasting is a mawlid!
  • Always ask Allah for sincerity. Once you have done the act, move on, don’t let shaitan whisper to you.
  • Struggle in the way of your Lord. Hardship brings ease. The one who does not struggle, does not get ease.

~ Imam Zaid Shakir– ‘Forty Foundations of the Religion’ Class, Rihla 2011, Bursa, Turkey (Quotes above are paraphrased)

More gems to follow inshaAllah ta’Ala……

(Photos courtesy- Ibrahim Varachia. Please keep him in your prayers. Please do not re-use or save the photo without permission. )

Since it’s Ramadan, I thought I’d share some notes relating to the benefits of fasting, eating less etc, from “Breaking the Two Desires” class we had with Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad on the Rihla this year.

  • The way of the fitra is to keep things in balance.
  • The 2 main desires are: gluttony (obsession with food) and lust (sexual desires)
  • The dangerous of sins is gluttony, for by means of this desire, Allah expelled Adam and Hawa from the abode of permanence to the abode of humiliation and neediness. In so far they had been forbidden the tree, but their desires overcame them and they ate from the tree. Desire for food is the primal desire which kick starts the whole process of what expelled Adam out of al-Jaanah in the first place.
  • The belly is the fountainhead of desire and the seabed of sickness and defect. It is followed by the desire by sexual relations. The desire for food and physical relations is followed by strong desire for status and wealth, as these provide more opportunities for sexual enjoyment and gluttony. Once we have stuffed ourselves with food, we fill ourselves with other desires. By acquiring wealth and prestige, the vice of ostentation, boasting, pride and arrogance then follows. This then leads to hatred, rancor, envy and other things; which then leads the person who has these vices into oppression and other ugly acts. All of this comes from not paying attention to the stomach and what goes in it.
  • The halal we eat, the adab and attitude towards food is very important. We need to get our attitude right towards food and then the other things will all fall into place.
  • Get two things right:

1. Eat what is in front of you and be less fussy

2. Don’t be obsessed by food and desire less

If you get these two things right, you will find the rest of the deen will become a lot easier.

  • Imam al-Ghazali talks about the sunnah of food and eating in the Ihya, but its something which we do not want to think about.
  • We are not designed biologically to eat in a 5 star hotel! We are designed to eat less…
  • The holy Prophet salla’Allahu ‘alayhi wasalam shows us the alternative. His way is a way of zuhd, and not being very interested in a whole lot of food.
  • Fasting helps, eating not too much helps, and not being inwardly attached to food helps overcome the beast within us.
  • We need to be less interested in what is provided, and more grateful for what Allah ahs provided us, i.e being in that maqam of shukr.
  • Allah created our bodies in balance, but we have eating disorders and dieting disorders. People over-eat for many reasons, such as anxiety, fear.  The disorder in this world is to do with gluttony.
  • Allah created enough for us to eat but due to greed, we are destroying the planet by eating too much!
  • The holy Prophet sallAllahu alayhi wasalams’ hunger was so great that he would tie stones to his belly. The sacrifices he made when he could have been the lord of the Queresh are unimaginable, and he only made those sacrifices for us. Where as we can be in this hotel and all we do is complain about the buffet!
  • The lives of the awliya have always been focused on the principle of eating less. It’s the quality of the awliya.
  • Through fasting, we are constantly knocking on the door of paradise.

Imam al-Ghazali talks about the benefits of fasting/eating less and making the stomach hurt (Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad went through these benefits in detail but I have summarised only a few below)

1. Purification of the heart and helping one’s perception to be more penetrating. If you don’t eat so much, you will be more perceptive; your basira (insight) will go much further. Ramadan is hard work, but towards the end of it, we do feel that things in deen are coming to us with more ease. We can feel we are detached from duniya and the hunger you feel, you get used to it so you don’t even notice it much or think about it. You are no longer distracted by hunger, and are in a state of greater purity.

2. Brokenness, humbleness and ending of pride and exuberance. The pride we get into after eating good food, if we are hungry our pride is broken. We experience this in Ramadan. In Ramadan if you have been fasting for 10-12 hours, it is harder to be proud, we are broken a little bit. Pride is deadly of the deadly sins and hunger helps suppress that.

3. Through hunger we do not forget Allah’s trials and tribulations. The one who is always full ignores the one who is hungry and ignores the reality of hunger. However, when we fast, we empathise with those who are hungry.

4. Breaks everyone of the desire for sins, and helps control the nafs- the beast that is within us.

5. Helps us worship more.

6. No need to earn so much if we eat less. If you eat less, you can spend less, and that extra money you are saving can go towards sadaqa.

  • Imam al-Ghazali talks about rejecting the imbalance, he doesn’t say abandon food completely but instead watch what we eat.
  • Ramadan is all about sabr- patience.
  • To be in a maqam of aboodiya (servanthood) shows us that we are always in need of Allah.
  • Allah is active in every moment. He is constantly creating and re-creating. Everything is the unique consequence of Him.
  • Allah didn’t just wind the clock at the beginning of the time and sat back to see everything unwind; our needs which we are not even aware of, He fulfills them.
  • The benefits of physical discomfort like eating less is that we are in  a constant state of absolute need, absolute dependence on Allah. He doesn’t need us, but we need Him for everything!
  • When we start to recognise everything is from Allah and He is al-Wakil, we will find tranquillity. People who have always been in hardship will always be in a state of calmness and ease, then those who always have things their way.
  • Sometimes to be woken up, we need to be slapped!

~ Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad, ‘Breaking the Two Desires’ class, Rihla 2011, Bursa, Turkey (Paraphrased)

More gems to follow inshaAllah ta’Ala……

(Photos courtesy- Ibrahim Varachia. Please keep him in your prayers. Please do not re-use or save the photo without permission. )


“Wait for the work of your Lord, for it will bring you what you desire in the form of relief near at hand, and do not despair if nothing special has yet occurred, for there are so many wondrous marvels in the unseen”

A poet

As the beautiful month of Ramadan approaches, I would like to take the opportunity to wish you all a very blessed month ahead!

May we all be blessed with His gaze on the first night of this month, may He forgive all of our sins, accept all of our fasts and worship, and may this month be a means of gaining nearness to Him and His beloved salla’Allahu ‘alayhi wasalam.  Amin ya Rabb! Please keep me and my loved ones in your blessed prayers.

(Picture by Peter Gould)

Some very useful and beneficial links about Ramadan below:

Moonsighting

The Moon sighting papers from Zaytuna. Very important as it teaches one the basics of usul al-fiqh (legal methodology).

Cesarean Moon Births Part 1

Cesarean Moon Births Part 2

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on Moonsighting- audio

Imam Zaid on the Crescentwatch Policy change


Articles:

Inner Dimensions of Fasting by Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, trans. from the Ihya’ by Mukhtar Holland

Ramadan Mubarak! A Message From Imam Zaid

Ramadan Address by Habib Ali Jifri

Approaching Ramadan By Imam Zaid Shakir

Chapter from al-Imam al-Ghazali’s Ihya

Chapter from al-Imam al-Haddad’s Nasa’ih ad-Diniyyah

Blessings Exclusive to Ramadan

Seeking His gaze in Ramadan by Shaykh Abdulkarim Yahya

Pre-Ramadan reminder :: Sheikh Ibrahim Osi-Efa(You need a Facebook account to access these notes by sister Fadhila Bux)

Fiqh:

The Fiqh Of Fasting In the Hanafi Madhhab

Maliki Fiqh on Ramadan (click on the relevant links)

Shafi`i Fiqh of Ramadan

Audio:

Ramadan advice by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

What do we do in Ramadan Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller

Ramadan by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad

Imam Al-Haddad On Fasting By Shaykh Abdul Aziz Ahmed.

Khutba: Ramadan: The Month of Seeking Closeness to Allah by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Video:

Ramadan Advice – Where is Your Heart? by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Ramadan lectures by Shaykh Faisal Abdur-Razak

Ramadan and Charity by Imam Zaid Shakir

The Fast of Ramadan & the Furious Shaitan by Imam Zaid Shakir

Ramadan Resolutions by Imam Suhaib Webb

Many thanks to A.Tariq, S.Aslam and S. AlMuslim for their assistance in helping me collate the list above. May Allah reward them in abundance. Please keep them and their families in your blessed du’as also in this month.

Yours in peace,

Sidra

” If you see God withholding this world from you, and inflicting more and more hardships and suffering upon you, you must therefore know that you are noble in His sight, that you hold a lofty rank in His presence, and that He is making you tread the path of His saintly friends, for He sees you and He does not need that (withholding of this world…). You have surely heard His saying: “So wait patiently for your Lord’s decree, for you are surely in Our sight” (52:48)”

~ Imam al-Ghazali (May Allah increase his rank)

( The Path of the Worshipful Servants to the Garden of the Lord of all the Worlds)

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