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On Ramadan

Shaykh al-Islam Zakariyyah al-Ansari

All praise belongs to Allah Who has declared the month of Ramadan the lord of all months and Who has perfected its glory in so far as He has placed it as a well-spring of blessings and grace. In it He has revealed the Quran as a warning, as a healing and as a guidance to all that resides within (our) breasts.

I praise Him, the Glorious, the Sublime; and I turn to Him in repentance with complete trust and with complete dependence. And I bear witness that there is no deity other than Allah, the Unique, the One without peer – Majestic and Exalted. The One Who stands in no need of companion or offspring.

I bear witness that our master and our Prophet Muhammad is His servant and His messenger – a Prophet who has come to us with clear proofs and as a Guide.

May the blessings of Allah be upon him, his family and his companions – blessings and peace that are perennial and constant, endless and eternal – and may he be granted the greatest salvation.

Bondsmen of Allah, the one who exerts his soul with obedience to Allah has indeed regaled it. And the one who has disciplined it through performance of the Divine commands and avoidance of the prohibitions has indeed set it free. And the one who wishes to enter the Garden, let him repent, for repentance during this month is the key to the Garden. So be conscious of Allah, O bondsmen of Allah, and turn in repentance to Him; for Allah, the Exalted, has full knowledge of all that you are.

This is the month of fasting, this is the month of vigilance in prayer, this is the month of the Sovereign perfected in knowledge. This is the month of giving and cementing the ties of kinship. This is the month of support and care for th0se who are poor and those who are orphans. This is the month of feeding and the spreading of peace. This is the month in which the Quran is constantly recited. This is the month during which the doors of the Garden are opened and the doors of Perdition are closed. This is the month in which Allah purifies the corporeal human condition, illuminates the created order and bestows upon all things the blessings of His beneficence.

O you (unbeknownst): how is it possible for one to fast while he devours the flesh of his fellowmen through backsliding and slander? Or how is it possible for one to pray while his heart is in one place and his body in another? Or how is it possible for one to give in charity from that which has been procured unlawfully? In this case his likeness is that of one who clothes another while he himself remains naked.

The truth I speak; and the truth –  for all – is bitter and difficult to bear. Each one of us is alike in this – the speaker and those who listen. In this our misfortune is one! For indeed “from Allah we come, and to Him we will return.”

Said the Prophet (pbuh): “The sleep of one who fasts is a form of worship; one’s silence is a glorification of Allah; the reward of one’s deeds are multiplied manifold; one’s prayers are answered; and one’s sins are forgiven.”

Translated by: Sh Seraj Hendricks

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Do not envy one another, do not vie against and undercut one another, do not hate one another, do not turn your backs on one another

(Sahih Muslim)

Bigotry, prejudice, exclusivity and hostility – phobias in a variety of shapes and hues – appear to have emerged as the hallmarks of large tracts of humanity. They are no less evident in those who harbour a visceral hatred of Islam than amongst some of our own Muslims who mistake the grist for the wheat – the exoteric contingencies for the cardinal verities. It is one thing to maintain a detached and confident distance of objective criticism; it is quite another to collapse an entire world view – founded upon a universal edifice of purposive spirituality – into an obscurantist pit of regressive rigidity.

To be fair and objective is a divine imperative: “Do not let the hatred of a people cause you to swerve from justice; be just! For that is nearer to God-consciousness (taqwa).” (Q, 5: 8). To be reactionary, on the other hand, is satanic and a mark of spiritual dementia. It is what happens to reductionist ideologues and conspiracy theorists who conflate oceans of human complexity into shallow and tiny puddles of delusional certainty. And so they sit and stare at their little puddles with the full complacency that they have discovered the vastness and diversity of an ocean. Richard Dawkins, in my opinion and paradoxically so, is part of this “god delusion”. We know it all. Yet the Qur’an tells us – and I do not quote this for the edification of those who do not believe in Him (I am not a missionary) – that “Of knowledge we have given you but a little!” (Q,17: 85).

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Yearning for History

Of the accepted and established principles amongst the people of knowledge (ahl al-‘ilm) is that a particular moment in time is made remarkable or auspicious by the events associated with it. The event, in other words, forms the source of the values and the estimation ascribed to that moment.

The magnitude of the event determines the magnitude of the occasion; likewise, the ascribed blessings of the event determines the ascribed blessings of the occasion.

Moreover, the stronger the identity, and the greater the impressions made by the events on people, the stronger and greater will they identify with the time during which the events occurred.

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Beyond the forbidden fruit

There is the sweet  taste of love.

Beyond the taste of love there is exile.

All that is satanic desires estrangement, desires separation.

Segmented verses that float and flow

Through the weft and warp

of our imaginal worlds –

worlds darkly contoured in fire and flame,

and we suck at their seams to spew our own –

A rush to die and dream

Our dreams of Promethean holiness;

But God’s exile was ordained

long before the forgetfulness of the forbidden fruit;

long before the fire of the ego proclaimed its superiority over clay;

Long before one imagined world

proclaimed its superiority over another inspired;

Long before Prometheus stole the fire of the gods.

And so Adam prayed for the presence of Eve…

And Eve prayed for the presence of Adam…

A prayer that yearned for Union

United in the singularity of a single essence.

And the prayer became presence.

Upon a mount called Mercy

Upon a plain of wisdom sanctified,

the womb of All was honoured

So that All might come to know one another

In a symphony of harmony and grace;

A symphony that celebrated the sacred origins of all things;

A symphony that celebrated Allah…

the common origin of All

The Fitra of Existence

We may either choose to stand on the edge of darkness (and note how darkness is often pluralised in the Qur’an in the form of Dhulumat), or we may choose to stand on the edge of light (and note how light – or Nur – is never pluralised in the Qur’an because light is One); or we may choose to dwell in those vast empty spaces in between where missionaries and zealots find the room to inflate their profoundly insecure egos. In those vast spaces they seek out bedrocks of granite upon which to build their castles of stone. But in their zeal they mistake the certainty of their castles for the fragility of their egos – and it is through the fragility of their egos upon which their castles are built that they announce their self-righteous triumph. And so it is that their “triumph” is spawned and proclaimed in a hail of belligerence and corrupted elemental bigotry. In these vast cemeterial plains, corpses put to the torch are often paraded as light.

While the Devil may be seen to personify darkness pluralised; or while he may even be seen to be the details, he is yet not in the details. He is in those vast spaces seeking out those so sure of themselves, so sure of their incorrigible bigotry – men and women alike – that even Santa Claus would stand envious of his facility in handing out infinite gifts of hatred, division, rancour, animosity, enmity, revulsion and aversion, all in gilt-wrapped boxes that would make Pandora scream with envy. In the Promethean scheme of things Pandora had a point; but you don’t set out to destroy evil with evil.

But beyond those vast and dark plains of burning corpses there is always the hope of life…the hope of love – a life and a love that shine with the radiant unicity of Light. I dedicate this as a prayer to the fitra of existence, to that which IS, to that which is so endearingly Pure and incorruptible.

(This “sharh” is a response in agreement with an article about women’s inclusion in sacred spaces.)

A number of my students have asked me about the position of our beloved teacher, the late Sayyid Muhammad ‘Alawi al-Maliki regarding the question of madhahib (Legal Schools of Thought) and ijtihad (the creative exercise of reason). It is important to remember that while he endorsed the distinction between those qualified to engage in ijtihad and those who are bound to follow the opinion of one or another mujtahid (one qualified to perform ijtihad) that his distinction was certainly not one of an absolute nature. He was far more wary of sectarianism than any degree of taqlid (imitation). He was acutely aware of the fact that both the mujtahid, particularly those who are mujtahidin within any particular school of thought, and the muqallid (the one bound to the learned opinion of a mujtahid), may well find themselves entrapped in the snare of rigidity and bigotry. In short, the relationship between the individual and any learned opinion or school of thought is defined and determined more by the attitudes inculcated in those individuals than any degree of adherence to a madhab or taqlid of an opinion could ever be.

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Precious Extracts

Precious Extracts is a collection of excerpts, translated by Shaykh Seraj from the works of his revered and beloved Shaykh al-Sayyid Muhammad ibn Alawi al-Maliki (ra), as well as reminiscences of their time together, containing gems of wisdom, for the discerning heart and mind.

It would be impossible to recollect, in its entirety, the  biography of Sayyid Muhammad in a few paragraphs. The immensity of his life and its far-reaching impact are like the ripples which form when a stone is dropped on still water, ever-expanding and perpetually resonating.

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