The Humble "I"

Knowing, Doing, Becoming

Archive for the category “religion”

Golden Chains, Blessed Names

hadith-brotherhoodImam Muslim records the following hadith in his esteemed Sahih, no.2880: Sufyan b. ‘Uyaynah narrates from al-Zuhri; from ‘Urwah; from Zaynab b. Umm Salamah; from Habibah; from Umm Habibah; from Zaynab b. Jahsh that the Prophet, peace be upon him, woke-up from his sleep and exclaimed: ‘La ilaha illa’Llah! Woe be to the Arabs for an evil that is fast approaching. Today, a gap has been made in the wall [that restrains] Gog and Magog like such;’ Sufyan formed a circle with his thumb and index finger [to demonstrate]. Zaynab asked: O Messenger of God, shall we be destroyed even though there are righteous people among us? He said: ‘Yes, if evil becomes widespread (na‘am idha kathura’l-khabath).’

Imam al-Nawawi wrote in his commentary to this hadith: ‘This chain (isnad) contains four female Companions (sahabiyyat) – two of the Messenger of God’s wives, and two of his step-daughters – narrating one from another. No other hadith is known to have four female Companions relating one from another, besides this one.’1

Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi relates a rare and unusual chain, consisting of nine forefathers reporting one from another. He says that Abu’l-Faraj ‘Abd al-Wahhab b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz b. al-Harith b. Asad b. al-Layth b. Sulayman b. al-Aswad b. Sufyan b. Zayd b. Ukaynah b. ‘Abd Allah al-Tamimi narrated to us from memory that I heard my father say; that I heard my father say; that I heard my father say; that I heard my father say; that I heard my father say; that I heard my father saying; that I heard my father say; that I heard my father say; that I heard ‘Ali b Abi Talib saying: ‘Knowledge calls for action; so either the call is responded to, or knowledge departs.’2

As part of his commentary to the following verse: Think not of those who are slain in the path of God as dead. No, they are alive with their Lord, well-provided for, [3:169] Ibn Kathir wrote:

‘We have narrated from Imam Ahmad’s Musnad a hadith that contains glad tidings for every believer in that his soul shall roam freely in Paradise and shall eat of its fruits. It shall see what it contains of joy and delight and witness the great honour that God has prepared for it. It is reported with an illustrious and splendid authentic chain (bi isnad sahih ‘aziz ‘azim), containing three of the Four Imams whose law-schools are followed, that Imam Ahmad, may God have mercy upon him, narrates from Muhammad b. Idris al-Shafi‘i, may God’s mercy be upon him; from Malik b. Anas al-Asbahi, may God have mercy on him; from al-Zuhri; from ‘Abd al-Rahman b. Ka‘b b. Malik; from his father, may God be pleased with him, who related that God’s Messenger, peace be upon him, said: “The believer’s soul is a bird clinging to the trees of Paradise till God returns it to his body on the day of his resurrection.”‘3

1. Sharh Sahih Muslim (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1995), 18:3.

2. Iqtida al-‘Ilm al-Aml (Damascus & Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islami, 1977), no.40.

3. Tafsir Qur’an al-‘Azim (Beirut: Dar al-Ma‘rifah, 1987), 1:437.

Me, My Soul & I

Dhikr: To Be in the Presence of the One

GlassesMasters of the inward life say that remembrance of God, or dhikr, is the cornerstone of the spiritual path, the key to sanctification (wilayah) and the weapon of the seeker. In fact, it is the goal behind all acts of worship, as the Qur’an itself teaches: Establish prayer for My remembrance. [20:14]

Dhikr is for the heart to feel the presence of the One being remembered, by freeing it of distractions, maintaining its constant attentiveness and making it aware of what the tongue is uttering. For the best dhikr, and the one yielding the greatest fruit, is one that involves the heart and tongue together; if not, then the heart; and then just the tongue.

In his customary minimalist fashion, Ibn Juzayy (whom we encountered in a previous post which can be read here) distils for us the reality of dhikr. While commenting on God’s words: Remember Me and I shall remember you [2:152], he wrote:

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‘Know that remembrance of God (dhikr) is the best of all works in general, even if in some hadiths other acts, like the prayer, are given superiority. For this is only due to what they contain of the meaning of dhikr and of being present (hudur) with God. The proof for the superiority of God’s remembrance can be seen from the following three angles:

Firstly, the texts that are related about its merits over all other works. The Messenger of God ﷺ said: ‘Should I not inform you which of your deeds is best? Which purifies you most before your Sovereign? Which raises you higher in rank and is better for you than giving away gold and silver; better than facing your enemies that you might slay them or be slayed by them?’ They said: O Messenger of God, inform us! He replied: ‘The remembrance of God.” [Tirmidhi, no.3377]

The Messenger of God ﷺ was asked: Which deed is best? He replied: ‘Remembrance of God.’ It was said: Is remembrance better even than jihad in God’s path? He said: ‘Even if he should smite the non-believers until his sword breaks and blood flows, the one who remembers God is of a loftier rank.’ [Tirmidhi, no.3376]

Secondly, God, exalted is He, wherever He instructs us with remembrance, or extols it, stipulates that it be done profusely and abundantly: Remember God abundantly. [33:41] Those who remember God abundantly. [33:35] This is not the case for any other deed.

Thirdly, remembrance has a quality particular to it and it alone: being present in the loftiest Presence (hudur fi’l-hadrat al-‘aliyyah) and arriving at closeness – expressed in hadiths that speak of “sitting” and “being with” God. God says: ‘I sit with the one who remembers Me.’ Also: ‘I am as my servant thinks Me to be, and I am with him when he remembers Me.’ [Bukhari, no.7536]

People intend by their dhikr one of two stations. For the general Muslims, it is to earn rewards (iktisab al-‘ujur); for the elite, it is to draw near to God and be in His presence (al-qurb wa’l-hudur). What a tremendous gulf there is between the two stations. What a difference there is between one who takes his reward from behind a veil, and one who is drawn close and becomes of the elite lovers!’1

1. At-Tashil li ‘Ulum al-Tanzil (Beirut: Maktabah al-‘Asriyyah, 2003), 1:159-60

Marriage: Law, Spirit & Meaning

marriage-services1One hadith states: “Marraige is of my guidance; one who acts contrary to my guidance is not of me. Thus marry, that I may outnumber other nations by you. Those of you who possess the means should marry. If he cannot, let him fast, for fasting is a shield.”1

The Qur’an says: And of His signs is that He created for you wives from yourselves that you might find repose in them, and He set between you love and affection. In this are signs for people who reflect. [30:21]

Marriage, the shared life of man and woman, is commended in the Revelation as being honourable. It was the way of God’s prophets, with the notable exception of Jesus, son of Mary, peace be upon him. We sent Messengers before you, says the Qur’an, and appointed for them wives and children. [13:38] Here, in the above hadith, we see the Prophet, peace be upon him, adorning the institution of marriage with his words.

Given the gravity and importance of marriage, it must not be entered into hastily or unadvisedly. But rather, honourably, reverently and soberly and with trust in God. The causes for marriage should be contemplated over before embarking on this quest of intimacy. In Islam’s legal literature the causes for which marriage was ordained are said to be:

Firstly, that the natural instincts of love and intimacy implanted by God can be given blessed expression.

Secondly, for the increase of humankind and for children to be brought up in God’s remembrance and in reverant thanks of Him.

Thirdly, for the benefit of society at large: for family is the foundation of a just and caring society; it is the realm in which love, duty, commitment, support and sacrifice are first encountered and learnt.2

To state it in the language of anthropologists, the function of marriage is to ensure: social reproduction, the socializing of children and the passing on of social capital.3

Sexual relations outside of marriage (zina) is seen in Islam as one of the primary causes of social disintergration, to be avoided at all cost. Adultery and fornication, both subsumed under zina, stand in direct opposition to marriage. In fact, Islamic law conciously sets out to combat zina through marriage, as may be sensed in the above hadith. This explains the juristic stance which holds marriage to be wholly obligatory in the case of those whose sexual desires are uncontrollable or nearly so. The failure to marry, in such a case, is said to entail sin (ithm), to be punished in the Afterlife. For those with “average” sex drive and who are able to keep their urge in check, marriage is held to be recommended. Those with no inclination to marriage or no sexual desire – either due to old age, illness, or any other reason – some jurists still deemed marriage recommended; others held it to be disliked (makruh), especially if it takes them away from what is more beneficial in terms of gaining religious knowledge or being engrossed in devotional worship.4

The nuances found in the juristic rulings on marriage reflect a sensitivity towards differences among people in this regard. But the different rulings corresponding to the differences in people’s nature is intended to serve a single, overarching purpose: social harmony.5

1. Ibn Majah, Sunan, no.1836. The hadith is hasan, as per al-Albani, Silsilat al-Ahadith al-Sahihah (Riyadh: Maktabah al-Ma‘arif, 1991), no.2383.

2. Cf. Ibn Qudamah, al-Mughni (Riyadh: Dar ‘Alam al-Kutub, 2007), 9:343.

3. Scruton, Arguments for Conservatism (London: Continuum, 2006), 95.

4. See: al-Mughni, 9:341-44.

5. Consult: Hallaq, Shari‘ah: Theory, Practice, Transformations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 272.

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