Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

JESUS & MUHAMMAD, PEACE BE UPON THEM – NOTES ON THEIR REALITY IN ISLAMIC TEACHING

December 25, 2016

With the Name of God, All-Merciful, Most Merciful

 

 

JESUS & MUHAMMAD, PEACE BE UPON THEM

 

 

– NOTES ON THEIR REALITY IN ISLAMIC TEACHING

 

 

in the hope of helping to increase Christian-Muslim mutual understanding, an absolute necessity for our times

 

 

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Birthplace of the Virgin Mary according to Christian tradition, on the edge of Temple Mount (al-Masjid al-Aqsa / al-Haram al-Sharif) in Jerusalem. The story of her birth is also in the Qur’an, Family of Imran, 3:33-37. Photo (c) Usama Hasan, May 2015

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Chapel inside the birthplace of the Virgin Mary according to Christian tradition, on the edge of Temple Mount (al-Masjid al-Aqsa / al-Haram al-Sharif) in Jerusalem. The story of her birth is also in the Qur’an, Family of Imran, 3:33-37. Note that this site was largely preserved as a place of pilgrimage and prayer for Christians throughout Islamic rule over Jerusalem since c. 640 CE / 17 AH. Photo (c) Usama Hasan, May 2015

Dome of the Rock mosque atop Temple Mount (al-Masjid al-Aqsa), where Mary, Jesus & Muhammad all worshipped God, according to Islamic tradition.

Dome of the Rock mosque atop Temple Mount (al-Masjid al-Aqsa), where Mary, Jesus & Muhammad all worshipped God, according to Islamic tradition. Muhammad was brought here by Gabriel, in one of the many magnificent meetings between these two great Spirits. Photo (c) Usama Hasan, May 2015

With the Name of God, All-Merciful, Most Merciful

 

JESUS & MUHAMMAD, PEACE BE UPON THEM

 

– NOTES ON THEIR REALITY IN ISLAMIC TEACHING

 

in the hope of helping to increase Christian-Muslim mutual understanding, an absolute necessity for our times

 

 

  1. WORD (LOGOS)

 

1.1 JESUS CHRIST: A WORD OF GOD & THE WORD OF GOD

Jesus Christ is “the Word of God” cast unto Mary (Q. Women 4:171), “a Word from God” (Q. The Family of ‘Imran 3:45) as well as being a Prophet and Messenger of God. In Christian Greek scriptures and theology, the Word of God is the Logos.

 

1.2 THE QUR’AN: THE WORD OF GOD

The Qur’an is also the Word of God. Hence, there is a parallel between Jesus and the Qur’an, both being Logos.

 

1.3 LOGOS, CREATION & COMMAND

This Word or Logos is specifically associated with the Divine Word and Command, “Be!” (Kun) that Creates all Being (Kawn), and thus there is a parallel between Jesus and Adam (Q. The Family of ‘Imran 3:59). Islamic views on philosophical discussions about “being” all derive from this Qur’anic teaching about the Divine Command, “Be!”

To God belong the Creation and the Command (Khalq and Amr: Q. The Heights 7:54). Everything besides God is outwardly Creation, inwardly a Divine Command (Sufi teaching, based on the above Qur’anic verse). Adam and Jesus are prime reminders of this reality.

It is for this reason that theologians who later wrote Islamic creeds often included the phrase “… the Word of God: it originated from, and returns to, Him” (kalam Allah, minhu bada’a wa ilayhi ya’ud).

And just as the “Christological controversies” exercised early Christians about the nature of Christ: human, divine or both, the “Qur’anological controversies” exercised early Muslims about the nature of the Qur’an: created, divine or both. For example, both traditions produced the identical phrase “not made” or “uncreated” in attempts to resolve this theological paradox between Creation and Command. The Christian formulation about Jesus being “begotten, not made” (mawlud, ghayr makhluq in Arabic) is identical in its second half to the Islamic formulation about the Qur’an being “the word of God, uncreated” (kalam Allah, ghayr makhluq).

 

  1. SPIRIT

 

2.1 JESUS CHRIST: A SPIRIT FROM GOD & THE SPIRIT OF GOD

Jesus Christ is also a “Spirit from God” (Q. Women 4:171), and in several hadiths, the “Spirit of God” (Ruh Allah).

When Christians accepted his message, Prophet Muhammad would often ask them to affirm in addition, after the basic declaration of faith, “There is no god but God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God,” that “Jesus Christ is the Messenger of God and His Word, cast unto Mary, and a Spirit from Him,” echoing the Qur’an.

 

2.2 ARCHANGEL GABRIEL: A SPIRIT OF GOD & THE SPIRIT OF GOD

The Archangel Gabriel is also the “Spirit of God” (Q. Mary 19:17), sent to Mary in human form to cast the Word of God into her, resulting in “the effusion of the Spirit of God” into Mary and into her womb (Q. The Prophets 21:91, Prohibition 66:12).

Specifically, Gabriel in the Qur’an is the Holy Spirit (Ruh al-Quds or “Spirit of Holiness” – Q. The Heifer 2:87, 2:253). According to some commentators, Gabriel is also the all-embracing “Universal/Cosmic Spirit” or “Spirit of the Universe/Cosmos” or simply, “The Spirit” (Al-Ruh), i.e. the Spirit that encompasses all created beings, which is why it is called the “Spirit of God.” (cf. commentaries, including Tafsir Ibn Kathir, on Q. The News 78:38, Destiny 97:4)

The Qur’anic Arabic for Gabriel is Jibril or Jibra’il, the meaning of which is variously given as “servant of God” (‘Abdullah) or “higher realms of the Kingdom of God” (Jabarut Allah), which resonates with Gabriel’s title of being “The Spirit” – cf. e.g. Fath al-Bari of Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani.

Note also that it is not only Christians who believe in the Holy Spirit being with them: some Muslims also had this honour; when Prophet Muhammad encouraged his poets such as Hassan bin Thabit during war, he urged them, “Attack them (with your poetry): the Holy Spirit (Ruh al-Quds) is with you!” (Sahih Muslim)

 

2.3 ADAM & HUMANITY: RECIPIENTS OF GOD’s SPIRIT

Adam, the first full human, received the effusion of God’s Spirit (Q. Rock 15:29, S 38:72), as did all human beings in turn, since they share in his Adam-ness or humanity (Q. Prostration 32:9; hadiths about foetal development in the womb). This is another parallel between Jesus and Adam.

Adam was created in the image of God (authentic hadith), and was taught all the beautiful Names of God, thus surpassing even the angels (Q. The Heifer 2:31-33).

 

2.4 THE QUR’AN: A SPIRIT FROM GOD

The Qur’an is “a Spirit, from God’s Command” inspired to Prophet Muhammad (Q. Consultation 42:52). Note that the early Islamic controversy over whether the Qur’an was created or uncreated is related to the aspects of Creation and Command mentioned above (section 1.3).

The Qur’an is a Light and Guidance, just as were the Torah and Gospel before it (Q. The Last Supper 5:44,46). Prophet Muhammad is also a Light and Guidance (Q. The Last Supper 5:15-16).

 

2.5 PROPHET MUHAMMAD’S SPIRIT

In a famous hadith (Sahih Muslim), Aisha described the character (khuluq) of the Prophet as being the Qur’an. The character is the inner aspect of creation (khalq). Therefore, the Prophet’s inner reality (haqiqa Muhammadiyya) or spirit is also Logos, being the Qur’an, which is itself a “Spirit from the Divine Command.”

 

2.6 INTERACTION OF THE SPIRITS:

GABRIEL — JESUS (LOGOS) — MARY:

Already mentioned above. Note that Mary was chosen “over all the women of the worlds” (Q. The Family of ‘Imran 3:42), and was a female Prophet (nabiyya or Prophetess) according to some leading Muslim theologians such as Ibn Hazm and Ibn Hajar, based on the fact that God sent His Archangel Gabriel directly to her.

GABRIEL — QUR’AN (LOGOS) – -MUHAMMAD:

The Qur’an was revealed from God to Prophet Muhammad by Archangel Gabriel as the Holy Spirit (Ruh al-Quds, Q. The Honey Bee 16:102) and the Faithful or Trustworthy Spirit (al-Ruh al-Amin), directly to the Heart (qalb) of the Prophet (Q. The Poets 26:193-4)

These interactions or relationships show that not only are there parallels between Jesus and the Qur’an, but also between Mary and Muhammad, another aspect of interest for Christian-Muslim dialogue and mutual understanding.

 

  1. MERCY

Where there is Spirit, there is Mercy. (And Love: the Islamic scholar William Chittick states that the Biblical “Love” and the Qur’anic “Mercy” are very close in meaning: we might say that they are Merciful Love and Loving Mercy.)

 

3.1 When Adam was created in the image of God, this was especially true of the Divine Names of Mercy. (hadith: disputed authenticity, sound meaning)

3.2 The Qur’anic chapter named “Mary” (19) uses the Divine names “All-Merciful” (al-Rahman) 16 times, “God” (Allah) 7 times and “Lord” (Rabb) 23 times. “Mercy” (rahma) is mentioned a further 4 times, all with regard to Abrahamic Israelite prophets, including a description of Jesus as “a mercy from God” (Q. 19:21). The Qur’anic “mercy” is derived from “the womb” (rahm), thus further resonating with the story of Mary, the only woman mentioned by name in the entire Qur’an; all others are described as mothers, sisters or wives with regard to men.

3.3 All but one of the 114 chapters of the Qur’an begin with the formula, “In the Name of God, All-Merciful, Most Merciful”: the Qur’an is thus inextricably linked with the two foremost Divine Names, being those of Mercy.

3.4 Prophet Muhammad is nothing but a “mercy for the worlds” (Q. The Prophets 21:107) and “most kind and merciful to people of faith.” (Q. Repentance 9:128)

 

  1. DISCUSSION / CONCLUSIONS

4.1. Although Islam rejects a trinitarian or tri-theistic formulation of God as One (Q. The Last Supper 5:73), the above discussions show how much reverence is accorded to the holy personalities of Jesus Christ and Mary in the Qur’an: Jesus is not “just a prophet”!

4.2. In Islamic teaching, Jesus Christ is one of the manifestations par excellence of spirituality, being a spirit of, or from, God: others are Archangel Gabriel, the Cosmic Spirit, Mary, the Qur’an, Adam and Prophet Muhammad.

4.3 Thus, although Muslims do not believe that God is a trinity of “Father, Son and Holy Ghost/Spirit”, Muslims certainly believe, directly from the Qur’an, that God is “Lord Most Merciful”, that Jesus is a Word and Spirit of God, and that Gabriel is the Holy Spirit and a Spirit of God. Furthermore, the Qur’an is also a Word and Spirit of God, and constitutes the inner reality of the Prophet Muhammad. The Spirit of God was also effused into Adam, and hence into all of humanity.

4.4. All human beings have the potential to be illumined by some of the above divine spirituality and mercy by virtue of sharing in the humanity of the above holy persons, and of being created in imago Dei (the image of God).

4.5. In the Islamic tradition, Jesus and Muhammad are regarded as extremely close, being respectively the last (and “Seals”) of the Israelite and Ishmaelite branches of prophethood deriving from their common Abrahamic ancestry. All prophets are regarded as brothers, and Prophet Muhammad regularly referred to other Abrahamic and Israelite prophets as “my brothers.” He also once joined his index and middle fingers together and declared, “Jesus, son of Mary, and I are this close in this world and the hereafter: there is no prophet between us.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)

4.6. A striking example of the common love and mercy for humanity manifested by both Jesus and Muhammad in the Islamic tradition is as follows:

Prophet Muhammad once spent an entire night awake in worship (in addition to his worship and public duties by day), repeating the following prayer of Jesus Christ for sinners countless times, whilst standing, bowing and in prostration,

“If You (dear God) punish them, they are indeed Your servants;
but if You forgive them, truly You Yourself are the Mighty, Wise!”

(Q. The Last Supper 5:118 – this incident is reported in an authentic hadith widely transmitted by Islamic scholars, from the Sunan-collectors to Ibn Arabi in his Fusus al-Hikam or “Bezels of Wisdom” to Albani in his Sifah Salah al-Nabi or “The Prophet’s Prayer Described”)

4.7 This universal Christian and Muhammadan compassion is a metaphysical reality, and one that Christians and Muslims worldwide need to continue to manifest and enhance, especially in our troubled times. May God bless Prophets Abraham, Moses, Mary, Jesus and Muhammad, peace be upon them and all their followers, and grant us the courage to follow in some of their noble examples.

 

Usama Hasan

London, 25th December 2016 / 26th Rabi’ al-Awwal 1438 (updated 27/12/2016 // 28/03/1438)

 

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FREEDOM – Islamic reflections on Liberty

December 25, 2016

With the Name of God, All-Merciful, Most Merciful

FREEDOM

Reflections by Imam Usama Hasan, Head of Islamic Studies at Quilliam Foundation, in preparation for the Inspire Dialogue Foundation conference in Cambridge, Saturday 17th September 2016, hosted by Lord Rowan Williams, Emeritus Archbishop of Canterbury

There are many universal human rights: arguably, freedom is one of the basic ones, intertwined with life itself. As Tipu Sultan, the famous Indian resistance leader against the British, exclaimed: “better to live one day, free as a lion, than to live as a slave for a thousand years.” Caliph Omar once berated one of his commanders, who had followed the common pre-Islamic medieval wartime practice of enslaving the women and children of a defeated army, asking: “how could you enslave people whom God had created free?!” echoing Moses’ defiant response to Pharaoh in the Qur’an (26:22), which asks: “is this the favour, of which you are reminding me, that you have enslaved the Children of Israel?”

Theologically, true faith is based on free will and free choice: any practice that is not free, including faith and religious observance, cannot be genuine. Hence the famous Qur’anic declaration (2:256), “There is no compulsion in religion!”

The centrality of freedom to faith raises important issues: drugs, alcohol, mental illness, carnal lusts and social pressures all mean that our choices and decisions in life are not totally free. How, then, are these actions judged by fellow humans and by God? In particular, one of the goals of religious practice has always been to remove internal shackles that inhibit our expression of humanity, enabling greater self-awareness and realisation of our potential. Thus, a tradition of the Prophet Muhammad says that “the world is a prison for the believer,” i.e. the moral person, and great sages survived imprisonment because they were, internally, free spirits. Ideas of freedom and liberty have, of course, strongly shaped the modern world since the 18th century with the abolition of slavery, French and American republican ideals and anti-colonial independence movements.

It is my firm belief that the great philosophers, sages and prophets: Moses, Mary, Christ and Muhammad, Buddha and Confucius, and men and women of God through the ages, supported the liberation of men and women of all colours, races and religions, children and slaves, individuals and populations, from the yokes of tyranny and oppression. Our modern heroes in this regard range from Wilberforce to Jefferson to Gandhi, Jinnah, Martin Luther King and Mandela.

But today, we still have our modern forms of slavery: bonded and child labour; entire multiple-generation families working in sweatshop factories; highly-organised international rings dealing in human trafficking, including that of children, for financial and sexual exploitation. Therefore, we need to address the above problems by rekindling the same spirit that historically liberated children from labour into education, slaves from enslavement into liberty, peoples from colonisation into independence, and people of colour from segregation and apartheid into civic equality.

Tony Blair, whilst UK Prime Minister, once said in an historic speech on Capitol Hill that “to be American is to be free.” In reality, as spiritual-animal beings made in the image of the Divine, to be human is to be free. Now, let’s continue with working towards inner and outer freedom, and sharing it with our fellow travellers, with the goal of reaching our full and common humanity.

INNER AND OUTER ASPECTS OF ISLAMIC RITUAL PRAYER (SALAT)

June 26, 2015

Bismillah. This is about some of the beautiful symbolism and meaning behind the salat or ritual prayer, one of the five pillars of Islam and to be performed at least five times a day.  When the salat is reduced to pure ritual without any understanding of the Arabic words or of the symbolism of the actions, many inward and outward problems arise, God forbid!  But the salat is the believer’s daily ascension (mi’raj) and communion with God: it is up to us to deepen this daily experience of ours. It is the Muslim’s daily practice of mindfulness, meditation and remembrance, to develop a deep wellspring of love, faith and humility to equip us for life’s individual, social and political challenges. May God continue to bless our journeys!

All italicised phrases are from the Qur’an and Sunna; references are omitted for ease of reading and clarity: this is not an academic article, but an attempt to elucidate certain indications and symbols, with the hope of helping people on their own journeys.

With the Name of God, All-Merciful, Most Merciful

INNER AND OUTER ASPECTS OF ISLAMIC RITUAL PRAYER (SALAT)

  1. Prayer times: Time is sacred (God says, I am Time); we offer each prayer within its time in order to share in the sacredness of every part of the day and night, and to give thanks for that portion of sacred time.
  2. Washing (ablutions) before prayer: we cleanse our limbs and hearts of wrongdoing.
  3. Ablutions are nullified by toilet or sexual acts: these represent our basic animal natures, so we wash again to symbolise recovering our angelic natures in order to stand before God.
  4. Facing Mecca: The Ka’bah, as the House of God, symbolises the heart, which is also the House of God. Whilst facing Mecca outwardly, we turn inwardly to face the home of God at the centre and core of our being. So turn your face towards the Sacred Mosque!
  5. Standing in straight rows: we are in fellowship, equal before God, and imitating the ranks of the angels. The hearts of the people of Paradise beat as one … By Those Who Stand in Ranks!
  6. Raising the hands at the beginning of the prayer: symbolises the “lifting of the veil” between us and God. In prayer, we are talking directly to our Lord.
  7. Standing before God in prayer: facing up to life as a journey to God; a foretaste and preparation for standing before God on Judgment Day.
  8. Keeping the eyes open, rather than closed, in prayer: do not be veiled by multiplicity from Unity, nor by Unity from multiplicity.
  9. Lowering the head and looking at the ground (if practised): humility before God.
  10. Keeping the chin up and looking straight ahead towards Mecca (if practised): facing life, and one’s inward reality, directly.
  11. Folding the arms across the body (if practised): the servant’s pose before the Master.
  12. Reciting the Opening Chapter of the Qur’an (Surat al-Fatiha): we are sharing in a communion with God. God says, I have divided the prayer between Me and My servant …
  13. Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds; All-Merciful, Most Merciful; Master and King of the Day of Judgment: God says, These belong to Me, as our glorification is of God.
  14. You alone we worship; You alone we ask for help: God says, This is (shared) between Me and My servant; the God-human relationship.
  15. Guide us to the Straight Path; the path of those whom You have favoured, who neither receive (Your) anger nor stray: God says, These belong to My servant, and My servant shall have whatever he or she requests.
  16. Reciting further from the Qur’an: the remembrance of God continues; God and the angels bear witness to it. Truly, the recitation at dawn was witnessed.
  17. Bowing: humility before God; bearing life’s hardships, followed by standing tall again.
  18. Prostration, with forehead, nose, hands, knees and feet pressed to the ground: ultimate humility before God; one is closest to God in this posture, which is outwardly humiliation, inwardly elevation; our hearts are higher than our brains, whilst the rest of the time, our brains are higher than our hearts; Pray hard, for your prayers are most likely to be accepted in this position; death.
  19. The second prostration, after a brief sitting: the second death, at the blowing of the Horn. Our Lord! You caused us to die twice, and to live twice …
  20. In prayer, do not sit like a dog, peck like a cockerel or squat like a monkey: throughout prayer, we must rise above our animal natures and try to inhabit our angelic natures.
  21. Standing, bowing, prostration: the body forms the Arabic letters Alif (A), Dal (D) and Mim (M) respectively, hence spelling Adam during the prayer; we are seeking our original Paradisal, primordial humanity before the Fall through our communion with God.

    [In Hebrew and Arabic, the Aleph/Alif (A) also signifies the number 1, so “Adam” is identical to “1 dam” meaning “one blood”: humanity is united; we have different skin colours, but we bleed the same colour. Red blood cells have no DNA (although white ones do), so in a sense blood represents our common humanity – much of it does not have our unique, genetic fingerprints that are found in every other of the trillions of cells of our body.]

  22. Standing, bowing, prostration: the body forms a straight line, right angle and (semi-)circle respectively, the bases of all geometry and form; we are signifying that we are at one with Nature and its beautiful forms. God is Beautiful, and loves Beauty.
  23. Sitting in remembrance of God at the end of the prayer: a foretaste of the eternal rest in Paradise.
  24. The prayer ends with the greeting of peace (salam): Their greeting on the Day they meet Him is Peace; Their greeting there (in the Garden) is Peace; they hear no vain or sinful talk, only the words, Peace, Peace!

Usama Hasan

London, Ramadan 1436 / June 2015

Inner Aspects of Ramadan

August 23, 2011

With the Name of Allah, All-Merciful, Most Merciful

Inner Aspects of Ramadan

Three Levels of Fasting

Imam al-Ghazzali, in his Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din (Revival of the Sciences of Religion), describes the following three levels of fasting (cf. Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship, publ. Islamic Foundation, which is a translation by the late Mukhtar Holland of an extract from the Ihya’):

  1. Fasting of the body: abstaining from food, drink and sex
  2. Fasting of the tongue: abstaining from backbiting, gossip, slander, idle talk, etc.
  3. Fasting of the heart and soul: abstaining from the remembrance of anything or anyone except God and engaging constantly in dhikr Allah, the mention or remembrance of God

Patience & Gratitude (Sabr & Shukr)

Allah says often in the Qur’an (e.g. 14:5, 34:19, 42:33), especially in regard to the ups and downs of life and history that constitute the Days of God (ayyam Allah), “… In this there are Signs for every extremely patient one, given to much gratitude.” (sabbar shakur, both intensive active participles derived from sabr and shukr, respectively)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) taught, “One who eats gratefully is like one who fasts patiently.” (al-ta’im al-shakir ka l-sa’im al-sabir, a sound hadith found in the Sunan collections)  Thus, eating wholesome food with thanks to God is spiritually equal to depriving oneself of food and drink for the sake of God.

Some of the early Muslim authorities (Salaf) said, especially in explaining the above Qur’anic ayah, “Faith has two halves: half of faith is patience; the other half is gratitude.” (al-iman nisfan: nisf sabr wa nisf shukr)

Thus, as Imam Ibn al-Qayyim explains, Patience and Gratitude are two sides of the same coin of faith: we are required to have patience in troubled times, and show gratitude to God in good times.  This is why these two qualities are mentioned in the Qur’an alongside lessons from time and history, or the Days of God.

Showing gratitude to God includes being grateful to people through whom we receive God’s favours. It also includes using our God-given talents, skills and faculties for good and noble purposes, rather than for disobeying God and engaging in mischief and evil: all good actions thus become part of the worship of God.

Imam Ibn al-Qayyim, further explains the importance of balancing these two qualities to achieve true faith and grow closer to God, with the following simile: “Patience and Gratitude are like the two wings of a believer in their flight to their Lord.”

Another beautiful teaching of the Prophet, peace be upon him, that reinforces these themes, is the following: “Wonderful is the situation of the believer! If he or she is afflicted by misfortune, he or she is patient, and this is good for him or her.  If he or she is touched by good fortune, he or she is grateful, and this is good for him or her.  This (grace) is not available to anyone except the believer!” (A sound hadith transmitted by Bukhari and Muslim)

(For further reading, refer to Patience and Gratitude by Ibn al-Qayyim, trans. Huda Khattab, publ. Dar al-Taqwa, London)

Life & Death

The Prophet (peace be upon him) famously taught that “The person fasting enjoys two moments of happiness: (1) happiness upon breaking the fast and (2) happiness upon meeting the Lord.”

Thus, the joy of iftar or Fitr (breaking the fast) is a foretaste of the joy of meeting God.

The daily cycle of fast and break-fast is a symbol of life and death: the daily fast symbolises the constraints, difficulties and tribulations of life; the daily break-fast symbolises the joy of death and meeting God, for the believer.

These inner meanings are wider: the entire month of fasting symbolises the tribulations of life, whilst ‘Id al-Fitr (the Festival of Breaking the Fast) symbolises the joy of meeting God.

The practice of I’tikaf (Seclusion in the Mosque) during the last ten days and nights of Ramadan, partly in order to seek the greatest night of the year, also contains reminders of these themes, amongst many other benefits.  Seclusion in the mosque entails devoting time to prayer, remembrance of God and other types of worship, avoiding worldly matters completely and minimising profane thought and talk.  Seclusion affords much time for silence and reflection.  The time of I’tikaf, i.e. the last third of Ramadan, is followed immediately by the ‘Id celebration.

I’tikaf may thus be seen and felt as a foretaste of our time in the grave, followed by ‘Id, which we hope is a foretaste of Paradise!

The authentic Sunnah (Way of the Prophet, peace be upon him) is that women may also stay in the mosque also for the spiritual seclusion of I’tikaf: many of the Prophet’s wives and female disciples engaged in this practice.  Mosques should thus be available to women for this uplifting bodily-and-spiritual practice.

Ramadan Cheer, Generosity and Spirit

As described by his Companions, Allah be pleased with them, the Prophet, peace be upon him, was the most generous of people and was especially generous during the month of Ramadan: even more generous than the winds that herald live-giving rains.  He, peace be upon him, himself explained why this was so: it was because the Archangel Jibril (Gabriel), the Ruh al-Qudus (Spirit of Holiness or Holy Spirit), would visit him daily to rehearse the Qur’an with him, consolidating during each Ramadan all that had been revealed of the Qur’an so far.  In the final Ramadan of the Prophet’s life, Jibril rehearsed the Qur’an with him twice, indicating that the revelation of the Qur’an was almost complete.  All the minor variations in the Qur’anic revelation were thus superseded by this “final rehearsal” (al-‘ard al-akhir), as it is known in Qur’anic studies.

Much may be learnt from this breathtaking meeting of Spirits (the Prophet Muhammad, the Noble Qur’an and the Archangel Gabriel) during Ramadan in Madinah during that Blessed Age:

  • The importance of visiting each other to strengthen spiritual contact.  The Prophet, peace be upon him, would sometimes complain to Gabriel outside Ramadan that the latter did not visit him enough, upon which the verse of the Qur’an was revealed, describing the movements of the angels, “We do not descend, except by the command of your Lord …” (19:64)
  • The blessed practice of rehearsing as much as one knows of the Qur’an during Ramadan, especially with someone who has preserved it equally or better (e.g. a teacher or colleague).  This should be done whether a person knows one verse or ten, one surah or ten, and in the case of preservers of the whole Qur’an (huffaz), one recitation (qira’ah) or ten.
  • The blessings of spirituality and generosity that arise from the above two matters: the Prophet’s generosity peaked during Ramadan due to these two factors.

Thus, Ramadan is the month of: fasting, recitation of the Qur’an, remembrance of God, generosity, mercy, charity and Jihad (struggling against all forms of evil).  And just as our Christian friends speak about “Christmas cheer,” Muslims should manifest the “Ramadan cheer, generosity and spirit.”

Tips for Getting the Most out of Ramadan

The following obvious tips may be derived from the Divine guidance to the Prophet, peace be upon him, “So when you have completed and become free (of worldly matters), stand (in worship).  And to your Lord, turn your desire!” (94:7-8)

  • Take time off work if possible
  • Get important worldly matters out of the way before Ramadan, e.g. house/car/furniture purchases and maintenance, bills, payments, etc.
  • Devote time to worship in all its forms, e.g. prayer, fasting, charity, reconciliation amongst people, serving people and the rest of God’s creation in general

May Allah shower upon us all the blessings of Ramadan, this year and every year.

© Usama Hasan

Reflections

June 8, 2009

Inspired by Ibn al-Jawzi, Salman al-‘Awdah & Abdal Hakim Murad. 🙂

Written in 2005, published again here with minor revisions.

Reflections

With the Name of Allah, All-Merciful, Most Merciful.

REFLECTIONS

by Usama Hasan

(Inspired by Sayd al-Khatir of Ibn al-Jawzi, Khawatir of Salman al-‘Awdah and “Contentions” of Abdal Hakim Murad)

1          All Praise be to Allah. (Q. 1:1)

2          Say: He is Allah … (Q. 112:1)

3          Say: He is Most Merciful … (Q. 67:29)

4          Say: He is Omnipotent … (Q. 6:65)

5          The “quiet” prayers are associated with the bustle of the day; the “loud” prayers are associated with the stillness of the night.

6          Allah deprives riba of blessing, but He gives riba on charity. (Q. 2:276)

7              Interest is negative Zakat.

8              Allah says, “Fasting is for Me.” Man says, “Fasting is not for me!”

9              The Hajj: a Journey of Love. (Ibn al-Qayyim, Qasidah Mimiyyah)

10            Mecca is Majesty; Medina is Beauty.

11            The Ka’bah is clothed in Majesty embroidered with Beauty. (Ibn al-Qayyim, Qasidah Mimiyyah)

12        In the Old Testament, his name is “Muhammad,” a quantitative aspect (from the form fa’’ala), appropriate for the Mosaic Law. In the New Testament, his name is “Ahmad,” a qualitative aspect (from the form af’al), appropriate for the Christian Spirit.  In the Qur’an, his name is both “Ahmad” and “Muhammad,” appropriate for the Balance of Islam. (Ibn al-Qayyim, Jala’ al-Afham)

13        A surah of Majesty followed by a surah of Beauty: al-Qamar (The Moon) followed by ar-Rahman (The All-Merciful).

14        Nuclear fission is a type of falaq: do not use it to disobey Rabb al-falaq. (Q. 113)

15        “From the evil of that which He created.” (Q. 113:2)  – There is evil in the world because the world is not God. (Martin Lings)

16        “If what you say is true, may Allah forgive me!  If what you say is false, may Allah forgive you!” (Reply of the Companions and Followers to people who abused them.)

17            The Muslim theory of relativity: la ilaha ill’Allah, “all is relative to the Absolute.”

18            The turban is the symbol of the amanah (trust, responsibility) borne by Man. (Shaykh Abdal Qadir al-Murabit)

19            Every thing (shay’) is a manifestation of His Will (sha’a, yasha’u, shay’an).

20        History is a powerful witness to the fact that Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) was indeed the Last Prophet, for there has not been a person even remotely comparable to him since.

21            From the baraka (blessing) of knowledge is to mention its source. (Imam Nawawi and others)

22            The [apparent] anthropomorphism of God in the Qur’an implies the theomorphism of Man. (Frithjof Schuon, Understanding Islam.  i.e. The issue of the Attributes of God returns to the hadith, “Allah created Adam in His image.” cf. Khan & Hilali, Translation of the Noble Qur’an, 4:86)

23            The numbers of the raka’at and adhkar are in perfect balance, like a chemical or culinary recipe. (Imam Ghazzali, The Alchemy of Happiness)

24            The prayers have raka’at: two, three or four.  The angels have wings: two, three or four.  The raka’at of the believer are like the wings of the angel, on his Flight to his Lord. (Ibn al-Qayyim)

25            “The Garden is surrounded by hardships; the Fire is surrounded by lusts.”  Another transmission of this hadith with an important variation: “The Garden is veiled by hardships; the Fire is veiled by lusts.”

26            He began the second quarter of His Book with Praise: the opening of al-An’am. (Imam Suyuti)

27            The congregational salat is the real “group dhikr.”

28            Does wearing a turban or hijab elevates one’s sense, as well as one’s centre, of gravity?

29            Islam is like a society of married monks and nuns. (Seyyed Hossein Nasr, The Young Muslim’s Guide to the Modern World)  The home is the monastery of the believer. (A saying of the ‘ulama)

30            When you fear for him, throw him into the river! (Q. 28:7)

31            Profane philosophy: chewing the cud.

32            The Wahhabis emphasise Transcendence; the Sufis emphasise Immanence.

33            The Wahhabis emphasise Majesty; the Sufis emphasise Beauty.

34            The Wahhabis emphasise the first shahadah; the Sufis emphasise the second.

35            “The Wahhabis are a sect of the Jews.” (A contemporary Sufi shaykh)  In that case, the Sufis would be a sect of the Christians.

36            The son is the secret of the father. (Ibn ‘Arabi) – The daughter is the secret of the mother.  (U.H.)

37            Everything has already been said. (Frithjof Schuon)

38            Isn’t it ironic that Schuon, an extreme, Perennialist Sufi refutes the Ash’aris and defends Ibn Hanbal, appreciating the depth of his apparently-superficial statements whilst the “orthodox” Ash’aris continue to attack the Hanbalis?

39            Al-ghusl min al-janabah: every part of your body has enjoyed the climax with another creature, so wash every inch of your skin to stand before Me in purity! (Ibn ‘Arabi)

40            No fear, except of Him.  No hope, except in Him. (Iqbal Nasim)

41            The woman is the incarnation of the home. (Frithjof Schuon)

42            The madhhabists forget that it is possible to stand on the shoulders of giants.

43            True recitation of the Qur’an is to actualise its teachings, for tilawah means “to follow”: cf. Q. 91:2 (Imam Ajurri)

44            Men reflect Transcendence; women reflect Immanence.

45            Men reflect Majesty; women reflect Beauty.

46            Prophethood has forty-six aspects. (Hadith)  Every human being has forty-six chromosomes, in twenty-three pairs.  The Prophetic qualities are like a spiritual DNA.

47            So, we have “The Wahhabi who loved Beauty.”  Where is the Sufi who feared Majesty?

48            Hallaj said, “I am God!”  Darwin said, “I was an ape!”  – Each according to his own aspiration! (Akbar of Allahabad, satirical poet)

49            The kharijis are mis-kharijis of justice.

50            Islam is the tariqa.

51            He began the second half of His Book with Praise: the opening of al-Kahf. (Imam Suyuti)

52            Celebrating birthdays is childish.

53            If any birthday had been worth celebrating, it would have been his (may Allah bless him and grant him peace).

54            The sun is the siraj, the blazing lamp.  The moon is the nur munir, the reflected light.  The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) is Siraj, Nur and Munir.

55            Wave-particle duality: the particle reflects al-Hayy (The Living); the wave reflects al-Qayyum (The Self-Subsisting). (Adapted from Aisha Bewley)

56            An Islamic quantum theory: la hawla wa la quwwata illa bi’Llah, “there is no hawl (change of state) or quwwah (force), except by Allah.”

57            Sufism and Advaita Vedantism are essentially the same, with a surface difference of terminology. (Martin Lings, What is Sufism?)

58            What is Sufism? If it is other than Islam, then we want nothing to do with it.  If it is nothing but Islam, then Islam is the only way by which we reach Allah. (Shaykh Abu Bakr the Algerian, of Madinah)

59            What is Salafism? If it is other than Islam, then we want nothing to do with it.  If it is nothing but Islam, then Islam is the only way by which we reach Allah.

60            The false sufis should celebrate Christmas, too.

61            No-one can contain the whole truth, except the Messenger of Allah. (Shaykh Hamza Yusuf)

62            “Life’s a journey – take a guide.” (Cover slogan, mail-order catalogue.)

63            Better a polluted jama’ah than a pure sect. (Shaykh Hamza Yusuf)

64            The fitnah amongst the ‘ulama (Ibn ‘Arabi, Ibn Taymiyyah, Subki, etc.) is like the fitnah amongst the Companions – we withhold our tongues and pray for them all. (Shah Waliullah of Delhi)

65            Everything is outwardly created (khalq), inwardly a result of the Divine command (amr).  (Shaykh Nuh Keller, cf. Q. 7:54)

66            Whoever opposes falsehood, wins. (Motto inscribed on an Arabic audio cassette.)

67            Raising the hands in prayer symbolises the raising of the veil between us and God.  (Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymin)

68            “Most people of the Fire are women” is not the same as, “Most women are people of the Fire.”  As long there are more women than men in total, the two sexes have an equal chance of salvation or damnation.  Study Bayes’ rule of mathematical probability!

69            Never Under-Estimate the Power of the Prayer-Station.

70            “The false salafis veil the Prophet with his Sunnah.” (Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad)  The false sufis separate the Prophet from his Sunnah, and veil him with bid’ah.

71            He was neither veiled by unity from multiplicity, nor by multiplicity from unity.  This is why, and Allah knows best, he kept his eyes open during salat.  (Shaykh Nuh Keller)

72            The head has caught fire with grey hair! (Q. 19:4)

73            The Sunnah within Islam is like Islam amongst the religions. (A saying of the Salaf)  “True Islam” is nothing but the true Sunnah.  Hence, “Islam is the Sunnah and the Sunnah is Islam.” (Another saying of the Salaf)

74            Political Islam: political activity before learning Islam properly is like marriage before puberty. (Shaykh ‘Abdul Ghaffar Hasan)

75            Love your beloved, but don’t get carried away: perhaps he’ll be your enemy one day. (‘Ali b. Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him)

76            He began the third quarter of His Book with Praise: the openings of Saba and Fatir. (Imam Suyuti)

77            Hate your enemy, but don’t get carried away: perhaps he’ll be your beloved one day. (‘Ali b. Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him)

78            Islam is neither Islamism nor Sufism.

79            What would the false sufis do if they ever took over in Mecca, God-forbid?  Perform a giant hadrah around the Ka’bah?

80            Criticism is infectious. (Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad)

81            Backbiting is cowardly.

82            Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, and often the greatest chasm between friends.  (English sayings)

83            The qafiyah of the Qasidah Burdah is mim, for obvious reasons.  Every ayah of Surah Muhammad ends with mim, except for two that end with alif.

84            To some, it is unbearable that Islam has more than one madhhab. (Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad)  To others, it is unbearable that we should benefit from more than one madhhab. (U.H.)

85            He said to the fire, “Be cool!” – and it was. He said to them, “Be ye apes!” – and they were.  Whenever He decrees a matter, He merely says to it, “Be!” – and it becomes!

86            Al-Qadr (Fate; Predestination) is a secret of Allah in His creation. (Saying of ‘Ali b. Abi Talib & of Imam Tahawi, ‘Aqidah)

87            The literal meaning of “mortgage” is “the grip of death.”

88            People today attacking Imams Ghazzali and Ibn Taymiyyah: goats butting mountains.

89            The salafi idea of progress: let’s start at the beginning every day.  (Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad)  The mubtadi’ idea of progress: let’s keep going in the wrong direction.

90            Men reflect the Outward; women reflect the Inward.

91           Islamophobia is becoming our equivalent of anti-semitism: a stick used to stifle legitimate criticism.

92           After the reformers and re-formers, we have the deformers of Islam.

93            The deformers of Islam replace the breadth and flexibility of the Sunnah with a narrow, rigid madhhabism.

94            The deformers of Iman pollute the light of revelation with convoluted kalam.  (This is like drinking sewage instead of milk and honey – Ibn al-Qayyim, Qasidah Nuniyyah)

95            The deformers of Ihsan abandon the spacious Straight Path leading to Allah in favour of a labyrinth of narrow, cult-like, bid’ah-riddled tariqahs.

96            The blogger has killed balaghah.

97            The crescent is not the only symbol of Islam.  All the ayatullah, the Signs of God, are symbols of Islam.  In inter-faith or multi-faith forums, please note!

98            “Whenever he saw me, he smiled at me.” (Jarir b. ‘Abdullah, may Allah be pleased with him).

99            To Allah belong the Most Beautiful Names: call upon Him by them. (Q. 7:180)

100          To Him belongs Praise in the end. (Q. 34:1)

London, 29th Sha’ban 1426 / 3rd October 2005 (updated 8th June 2009)