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These notes are from a talk called “Making our hearts fertile”, which is one of a number of talks on Tasawwuf. The speaker is a Chicago-based scholar, Shaikh Hussain Abdul Sattar. You can find this 16 minute talk (fertile_hearts.mp3) and many others of his at http://www.sacredlearning.org/general_talks.htm.

 

Making our hearts fertile

Humans = 2 parts: body and soul, each with a head (command centre / key aspect)

  •  
    • Head of body: nafs (base, animalistic desires)
    • Head of soul: heart

Spiritual battle of each person is in the heart

  •  
    • Teachings of Prophet s.a.w. -> aims to purify the heart
    • Shaytaan -> aims to destroy heart

The heart – which is where passion lies – controls the physical body: what’s in the heart is what the physical body will pursue.

2 components of the heart:

1. ‘Soil’ of the heart
2. ‘Seeds’ planted in the heart

 

1. The soil:

Not all plants grow in all soil.

You need the right soil for a particular plant you want to grow.

If the soil isn’t right, planting the seeds will make no impact – seeds won’t grow.

 

What we take in (hear, see, smell, etc) is processed by the mind. The mind then plants the seed in the heart. That heart must have the right soil in order for the seeds to survive and grow.

*This is why something can sound good in our mind, but it might never stick within us – we don’t have the right soil.

Our soil of the heart must be: Allah, Prophet s.a.w., the Hereafter.

With this as your focus, your heart becomes fertile to the seeds of the deen – and what you learn of it sticks with you, grows, and you implement it.

Then, when you’re reminded of that which has been planted, the whole body submits to that thing.

 

How to cultivate the Soil:

  1. Recite Quran and spend time with it: creates receptive soil in heart
  2. Istighfaar: cleans up the soil
  3. Salawaat: Fertilises the soil
  4. Reflection (Muraqaba): helps to enlighten the soil
  • On Allah, Day of Judgement, Grave, blessings given to you, life of the Hereafter, your self
  • Muraqabat were Sahabah that were deep in their reflection

 

2. The seeds:

Seeds are planted into the heart via:

  • the company of one another
  • the impulses the mind generates.

 

The mind is the thing with the biggest effect on the heart: if the mind is generating good thoughts, those thoughts filter through to the heart, and sticks in the heart.

The heart is what will be judged on Qiyammah

 

The power of the mind, and developing your mind:

Very important, because what starts in the mind ends up in the heart. 

If you sit and reflect on the life of this world:

  1. your impulses and thoughts will be focused on this world
  2. that filters to your heart, and your goal becomes this world
  3. your mind is then occupied with this world, which leads to actions (which can end up haraam) towards the goal

If you sit and reflect on the Hereafter:

  1. think about the Hereafter
  2. that filters to your heart, and your goal becomes the Hereafter
  3. that then filters back up to your mind  – which then leads you to do that which is good for the Hereafter, and abstain/avoid things that are bad for the Hereafter

 

Muraqabah focuses on training the mind to reflect and focus on Allah, so that you can generate positive thoughts. 

Having proper Islamic knowledge straightens out and purifies your mind:

  1. The ideas coming out of your mind are regulated, restricted.
  2. Your mind’s impulses are generated from Quran and Hadith.
  3. Those impulses, plus the proper deeds (i.e. deeds that fertilise the heart) = goodness, goodness, goodness
  4. In the heart, beautiful ‘garden’ grows. A pure heart:
  • pleasure for that person
  • please for those around them (who can see that beauty)
  • success on Qiyammah – that garden (heart) is presented to Allah

Dhikr (remembrance of Allah) focuses on the heart, purifies the heart, creates fertile environment in the heart.


This series of posts is based on a talk given by
Zimbabwe’s Mufti Ismail Menk, and it focuses on the lessons we can learn from the ritual prayer (salaah). It’s really amazing, when you think about the various aspects of salaah, and you see how much depth there is to it…these are things most of us never even thought of, yet the wisdom is all there, and by seeking this kind of knowledge, insha-Allah we can benefit even more from one of the most important pillars of our faith.

 

These posts only summarise what was spoken about. I’d recommend you download the whole talk to get the full impact of what is being conveyed in it – because hearing (or seeing) often makes a bigger impact than just reading.

 

The talk was given in Cape Town a few years ago, though I don’t know the year. You can find the talk here, in the downloads section of http://www.muftimenk.co.za/. (All downloads are free on the site. For those concerned about legality, the website is legal. The guys who run the website have Mufti Menk’s permission to put these mp3s up, so don’t be suspicious about that J).

 

Part 1: The importance of salaah

According to a Hadeeth: ‘Salaah is one of the founding pillars of Islam. Whoever has established it has uplifted the pillar, and whoever has disregarded it has dropped the founding pillar.’

 

I think for many of us today, we see things the wrong way: we see things through selfish eyes, rather than the point of view which Allah wants us to see.

 

If you know the story of how salaah was given to us, you’ll know that it was given to us as a gift; a special act of worship which connects us to the Creator of all things, a period of intimacy in which our minds, hearts, souls and bodies actively remember the One who brought everything into being, and to whom we are returning.

 

But for many of us, being in the state we are in, we see salaah as a burden on us. Something which we have to do – something which interrupts the rest of our lives; the day to day things we think are important…sometimes more important than showing obedience and gratitude to the Almighty.

 

And when we feel this way – when we lack understanding like this – we’re in a dangerous zone, because shaitaan is always ready to pounce on our weaknesses, and could cause us to unnecessarily delay, then totally abandon our salaah. For he works cunningly slowly sometimes – gradually tempting you further and further into sin, not letting you see where he’s leading you until you actually reach the awful sin that was his objective.

 

This point is perfectly illustrated in the story of Barseesa, a pious man who lived amongst the children of Israel. If you haven’t heard it, you can read it here. It’s a perfect example of the step by step approach shaitaan can take in leading a person to evil.

 

So, while we may not understand why we’re reading salaah (and if this is the case, we should seek the knowledge) – as a Muslim, one who submits him/herself to the will of Allah, we go on reading our salaah. Because, after all, “we hear and we obey”.

 

Before, I end, let me leave you with a quote from Al-Hasan Al-Basree:

 

“If the shaytaan looks at you and sees that you are consistent in an act of obedience to Allah, he will try to come to you again and again. If he sees that you are persistent in your actions (despite his efforts) he will tire of you and leave you. But if he sees that you are one day like this and one day like that, he will have high hopes in you.”

 

Insha-Allah, the next topic in this series: Preparation for salaah.

“But teach (thy message), for teaching benefits the Believers.” [Quran 51:55]

“All Muslims have the responsibility of learning HOW TO LEARN AND TEACH and of teaching HOW TO TEACH AND LEARN.”

[Achmat Cassiem; Humanology class; April 17, 2008; Gleemore Hall, Athlone, Cape Town]

Unintended consequences

In the class I’m attending on the biography (seerah) of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), clear parallels were drawn between the pre-Islamic era (the so-called “Days of Ignorance”) and our modern times.

 

One of the stories covered is that of ‘Amr ibn Luhayy – a chief of the Arab Jurhum tribe – who was the first man to bring an idol to the Kabah in Makkah. Initially, he brought it back to Makkah with him as a form of ‘spicing up’ the worship that already existed at the Kabah. He saw benefit in it – something which would bring people closer to God, commit them more to their religion (which was originally that of pure monotheism, but by then had been tainted). Unfortunately, the lunacy of idolatry caught on, and what started as a simple act of trying to benefit his people, ended up in mass indulgence in the greatest sin of all – shirk (that is, associating partners in the worship of Allah).

 

Idolatry soon became an industry, with people making a lot of money from it, and many of the people of the time becoming severely polluted in their religious beliefs. And as the generations passed, each new generation followed the practices of their forefathers – not questioning why they were doing it, but merely repeating the actions. Thus, the Arabs of the time were plunged into the Days of Ignorance – a time of sever calamity for the region.

 

As we know, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) later came to ‘cleanse’ the region – and the world – of these and all other false beliefs; re-introducing the world to the pure, monotheistic faith which has been the call of all Prophets, from the beginning of time: the first man, Adam, through all the others – including Noah, Moses, Abraham, and Jesus (peace be upon them all).

 

But the lessons that can be drawn from this story are extremely relevant in today’s world:

 

Blind following:

Human nature – the traps and errors humans fall into – remains the same; be it murder, fornication, lack of general moral conduct, or any other evil which we’ve been known to indulge in. What starts off as a simple act, which we don’t think as being ‘bad’ or ‘major’ – can have extremely negative, unintended consequences.

 

What starts off small can snowball: Satan is always ready to take advantage of our faults, inviting us further and further into sin and transgression; wanting us to be his companion in Hell – the place he’s been promised as his eternal abode.

 

The idols of those times were statues and figures – physical manifestations of things that the misguided people of the time thought would assist them in their worldly lives.

 

The ridiculousness of this belief is evident in a story of Umar, one of the greatest companions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh): on a journey before he came to Islam, he had left home without his idol. At his prayer time, he realised that he had forgotten the idol at home, and so he used the resources he had with him– dates – to mould and fashion the idol, so that he could pray to it. Later in the journey, he was hungry, and the dates – now fashioned into the shape of the idol – were all he had to eat. And so he ate this idol.

 

Imagine that! Worshipping a created thing, then later eating it!

 

It just goes to show how twisted things can become when humans blindly follow questionable practices, without knowing the reality of why their predecessors / fellow humans are doing it.

 

This is especially true of many cultural practices which have crept into religion in modern times.

 

The lesson in this is that we should do things based on knowledge – not merely be a blind follower.

 

We have so many resources available to us in this Information Age that we can easily access the History of whatever we want to know about.

 

What we bring into our lives:

Another important lesson from ‘Amr ibn Luhayy’s story is that we must be very careful about what we bring into our lives and daily practices.

 

When we introduce things which are not Divinely ordained (i.e. not part of the Quran or Sunnah – not part of true Islam), we are putting ourselves at risk of falling into very dangerous traps.

 

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was granted a vision of ‘Amr ibn Luhayy’s destiny: that ‘Amr ibn Luhayy will be walking through Hell, dragging his intestines behind him.

 

That being part of his punishment for introducing this most major of sins to the Kabah, to the people of his community…an act which snowballed into the darkest period in that region’s history.

 

We may see something as minor, and not thing it’s ‘that bad’ – and therefore introduce it into our lives. But what happens when that thing gets out of control?

 

A general guideline to follow is that if the bad in a thing outweighs the good in it, then keep away from it.

 

For example, alcohol has some good in it – but the bad in it far outweighs the good; therefore Allah has prohibited it to us; and He only prohibits what is bad for us.

 

We have to be very careful when introducing things into our lives, so that we don’t bring unintended consequences into our lives and community.

 

Be aware of modern day idolatry:

Have any of you ever watched the music show “Idols”?

 

Have you heard famous people – be it in sport, music, movies, or whatever other field – being referred to as a person’s “idol”?

 

Have you heard people casually saying that they “worship” this or that person or thing?

 

These words may be thrown around lightly in today’s times, but they reveal what really is at play in reality: idolatry is alive and well in our world today. People worship themselves, other people, brands, objects.

 

Some supporters of the football club I follow, Manchester United, have even gone so far as to say that following their club is “a religion”. That attending the games are their ‘holy service’.

 

And with the commercialisation and popularity of the sport nowadays, it’s easy to see how football can consume a person’s life. And, of course, just like mobile and mini-idols were an industry then, merchandising is a massive industry now which deepens a person’s ‘dedication’ to their club. The most clear manifestation of ancient idolatry in this industry being mini figurines which can be bought in stores and online.

 

Brands – be it clothing, food, entertainment – are also idolised today. An obsession – to the point that a person believes they ‘can’t live without it’ and ‘need it’ – is a clear indication that they’ve become so invested in this object, this created thing, that it has become the object of their worship.

 

It is only when we open our eyes and see things as they really are, that we can be liberated from servitude to that thing.

 

And that’s something that we need to pray for – to ‘see things as they really are’ – because in today’s world, truth is presented as falsehood, and falsehood presented as truth.

 

It is only with the guidance of Allah that we can be saved from falling into such error that befell ‘Amr ibn Luhayy and other misguided predecessors.

 

May we seek knowledge and lessons from the past, and may we be guided by the Almighty to that which is right, and away from that which will cause us doom.

 

 

Notes:

If there are any historical inaccuracies about the facts related in this post, please let me know.

 

This post is largely centred around notes taken from the Seerah class I attend, so credit must be given to the teacher and sources he uses for it. If you’re in Cape Town, I highly recommend you come along to the class, as it really is amazing. It not only teaches us History, but also reconciles the lessons of the past with today’s world. If you’re interested in the class, please post a request and I can let you know when and where the classes are held, insha-Allah.

So we once again embark on yet another march against the occupation of Palestine on the 24th May, 2008 in commemoration of the 60 years of occupation. Will it make a difference, I wonder?

 

Often I look at the pitiful state of mankind’s affairs and question why I even try to carry on with perpetuating goodness. Why try to eradicate poverty and starvation when the governments of the world are only going to allow food price-hikes and privatisation of countries’ natural resources.

 

An interesting lecture I was listening to one day managed to answer a couple of my misguided questions. [The lecture was an audio recording of Imam Anwar Al Awlaki]

 

In this world of corruption and craziness, there is hardly a clear distinction between good and bad. Sometimes, to do good we have to touch bad and sometimes doing bad can wield good.

 

The world has ceased to be black and white. We are living in a dull, grey world today.

 

But, as the speaker so righteously put it:

 

DO NOT GIVE UP HOPE DUE TO THE CONFUSION OF THIS WORLD.

 

Instead, he advised the following steps in doing good and inevitably, calling to God:

 

1)    Advise people to do the good that you do

 

2)    Do good wherever you find it and as much as you can. Do not leave it off until you “find the time” or for the “opportune moment”, like a holy month or day. If you have the opportunity to do good, do it at that moment, and don’t think of the here and now inconveniences.

 

3)    If you are not able to do some form of good completely, don’t leave it completely, but do some of it. In most things that we do there is always some form of bad and some good. Thus sometimes we cannot change a bad situation 100% but we can change it 5%.

 

4)    There are steps to the fulfilment of complete good, thus we need to each be a stepping stone in the righteous path. We must remember the lesson of gradualism. Change is a step-by-step process. It took the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 30 years to change the vices of the Arabs at that time and it will no doubt take the Righteous of today way longer. But we must stay positive and be patient.

 

5)     Each one of us should be a key for good. Wherever we go, we should leave behind the essence of goodness and remind people of God.

 

6)    The successes and the outcomes of our efforts depend on God (Allah) alone. We are in charge of our efforts, not whether it will work. We can march for the freedom of the oppressed or we can sit at home and curse the oppressors. Both ways the oppressed will be freed and the oppressors will be made to pay for their crimes. But the difference between the one who marched for freedom and the one who sat at home is in their effort. And, as the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) goes:

 

“Intention determines the worth of a person’s actions and he will attain what he intends…” [Related in *Bukhari and Muslim]

 

Hence, humans are not punished or rewarded on the basis of the outcome of their deeds but on why they carried them out. The one who makes the effort will be rewarded by God here or in the Hereafter.

 

 

7)    Put your trust in God. If you have the right trust in God, He will provide for you like He provides for the birds: they leave their nests in the morning hungry and come back full. The birds made the effort to leave their nests in search of food and God took the responsibility of leading them to the good food and availing that food to them. If we have trust in God, He will make things easy for us. He will make our endeavours fruitful, if He so wills it.

 

8)    Lastly, don’t let personal issues that you have with people cloud your judgment and prevent you from the truth and from doing good toward them.  

 

 

So, we cannot give up hope in the goodness of this world and the goodness of people, even if they be evil. We cannot live in terror of the unknown, by thinking that things will only get worse or stay the same, nor can we dwell on the negatives of each situation. We plan, take action, and leave the rest to Allah, God Most High.

 

May we all be blessed with the ability to do good and to be in the company of the good doers.

 

Amen.

 

 

What is it that we as human beings need to survive; and in what order?

 

Do we, as the famous sociologist Abraham Maslow puts it, first need food and clothing above all else? Or is it a strong faith that ensures our survival?

 

Maslow’s pyramid of self actualization:

Picture from: http://cit.dixie.edu/vt/reading/maslow.asp

Prophet Abraham (may God be pleased with him) speaks of a different kind of self fulfilment than Maslow; showing us that as humans we need a relationship with God, first and foremost, even before food and drink.

 

In a prayer related in the Quran, Allah tells the last Prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him) what Abraham asked his Lord to provide for his wife and child upon leaving them stranded in the desert.

 

“Oh Our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, By Thy Sacred House; In order, Oh our Lord, that they may establish regular prayer; So fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them, And feed them with Fruits: So that they may give thanks.” (Koran: Chapter 14; Verse 37)

 

In the prayer, the order of needs is illustrated as being:

 

  1. Spiritual needs: “establish regular prayer”
  2. Social needs: “fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them”
  3. Physiological needs: “feed them with fruits”  

This illustrates that, in the mind of Prophet Abraham, mankind’s relationship with God – man’s spiritual needs – are the base and most important of human needs. This must be established through “talking” to God, via prayer. Only after this do other needs come into play.

 

While many may be in favour of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Prophet Abraham captured the true reality of man. We all need God in order to survive, as He is our Sustainer and without Him, we will not survive. Food or not; there will always be something to bring us down if we have no real faith, whether in this life or the next.

 

To continue on the last post: it is important to take account of what you say.

It’s NEVER JUST chit chat. Take cognisance of the potential harm of your words.

 

Before you say anything bad about an alleged “bad” person or a person’s “bad” deed, remember:

 

  • Make 40 excuses for your Muslim brother / sister.

 

  • Hide your Muslim brother or sister’s faults and Allah will hide your faults on the Day of Judgment.

 

[The Prophet (PBUH) told one of his companions, who was about to tell him (PBUH) something about someone else, not to tell him something bad about the next person lest he should judge that person upon meeting him/her.]

 

Lesson: No matter how badly someone may have hurt you or how wrong they were, do not tell people of how this person has wronged you, unless it’s absolutely necessary for mediation. Otherwise be quiet or very vague.

 

THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK:

 

Would you say those things in front of the person you are talking about in his/her absence? If not then hush!

 

“O ye who believe! avoid suspicion as much (as possible): For suspicion in some cases is a sin; and spy not on each other, nor speak ill of each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay you would abhor it . . .But fear God : For God is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.”   (Quran:49;12) 

 

 

Remember Surah Furqaan-the purpose of life:

 

The true virtues of the servant of God are:

 

1)    they are humble and forbearing to those below them in spiritual worth

 

2)    they are constantly in touch with Allah

 

 

3)    they always remember the Day of Judgment

 

4)    they are moderate in their behavior

 

 

5)    They avoid treason to God, humans and themselves.

 

6)    They stay clear of falsehood and futility

 

 

7)    They pay attention to the signs of Allah

 

8)    Their ambition in life is to bring up families in righteousness and to lead in all that is good.

 

 

 Hence we see that the purpose of our being is to be praising our Lord by living the life He has mapped out for us. there is no point in revenge, in conjuring up past demons or spreading the word of those who have harmed you in the past…

 

 

I plead guilty. Pardon me my Lord and forgive me my errs…

 

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