You Have Wings to Fly, So Don’t Crawl
In January of this year, I had the opportunity (the good fortune) to accompany Shaykh Jaleel Ahmad Akhoon on one of his travels in the UK. My reasons for wanting to do so were simple: Shaykh Jaleel isn’t only a scholar of the outward shari‘ah sciences, he is a profound spiritual guide too. Keeping company with those who can instruct you in shari‘ah rules and more importantly, whose presence can help reform your inward state, is a crucial teaching of the Qur’an – and one which is too often forgotten or overlooked. O you who believe! Fear God, and be with the truthful ones [9:119], says Allah in the Qur’an.
What follows are just a few of the pearls the three of us who accompanied the Shaykh gleaned from our suhbah, or spiritual companionship with him. All our conversations were in Urdu; so for the most part I have sought to convey the overall meanings of his words, while at other times I have attempted a direct translation of them:
Having settled down in our car journey (and with his permission), I asked the Shaykh, may Allah protect him, how one can acquire presence of heart (hudur al-qalb) in one’s prayer and other acts of worship?
The Shaykh replied that there are two things that are powerful aids in bringing about presence of heart: (i) Constant remembrance (dhikr) of God. (ii) Vigilance (muraqabah) of God. Vigilance is to focus on God, particularly the af‘al al-rabb or “Divine Acts”, so as to see that all the good in this world emanates from God’s acts and His enabling grace (tawfiq); and all evil as being from His acts but our own acquisition (kasb).
The actual morning of the journey was a delightful surprise for Shaykh Jaleel. Coming as he does from Pakistan, the Shaykh had never seen, or experienced, snow before. So to see the entire street, the cars, trees and roof-tops covered in a thick fluffy blanket of snow did nothing short of bring a radiant smile to the Shaykh’s face. About an hour or so into the journey, as we were on the motorway, the Shaykh asked what the lorries in front of us were doing. We said that they were gritting the roads, so as to give the tyres better grip on the snowy road. He asked what they were using. Rock salt (grit), we told him. He then went on to say:
Allah has placed much blessings in salt. Here, he said, you use it to grit roads to make it safer to drive. In Pakistan, we use it to help gel ice-cream. Salt, he said, is also found in the sea. If Allah hadn’t put salt there, how could it be kept clean or purified – given the number of sea-creatures or corpses that die and decay in it on a daily basis. He sighed for a bit and then said: Our tears have salt in it, out of Allah’s love and compassion for those who weep. It helps keep eyes healthy when they shed tears. I think, at that point, we all sighed and exclaimed, subhana’Llah! A few minutes later, vigilance of the af‘al al-rabb, I felt, was beginning to deepen in me.
Along with his God-given gift of stirring in souls an acute love and yearning for Allah, Shaykh Jaleel also felt it important to speak about the inherent natures of truth (haqq) and falsehood (batil), and of faith (iman) and disbelief (kufr). As we were approaching the north of the country, he said:
Truth is like a needle, with ease it can puncture a hole in the fabric of kufr! He also said that we needn’t fret about the huge sums of money or resources being ploughed into propping-up the current global, materialistic monoculture; and neither be overly concerned about the lack of resources at the disposal of believers. Falsehood, he went on to say, is like a corpse; while truth is like a living person. It requires a lot of effort and power to prop-up a corpse; even more to make it move. But just a little effort – a nudge, even – is all that is needed to make a living person move! In other words, he said, do whatever little you can in terms of the truth, and it will be filled with much barakah.
In between a little casual chat, some resting, and the dhikr, reflection and long periods of silence, Shaykh Jaleel, may Allah protect him, also stressed the following:
The salik or “seeker”, in this day and age, tends to be negligent of three matters: Firstly, nurturing a strong connection (rabitah) with his shaykh, in much the same way a child is connected to its mother and her nourishment. Secondly, being constant in his dhikr of Allah. Thirdly, striving against sins.
There were many other gems to be gathered in the overall two day trip: not all of them were verbal. Many were simply a matter of keeping to adab and silence, and observing and learning. I hope to relay more of such benefits in a future posting, insha’Llah. May Allah shade and protect Shaykh Jaleel Ahmad Akhoon, and reward him with abundant goodness. Amin.