The Seventh of eight Discourses on ‘Amal,
15th December 2007,
Nizamia Mosque, Tokai, Cape Town, South Africa

We began our journey into the matter of ‘Amal with a deliberate turning-upside-down of Imam al-Ghazali’s famous definition: ‘Ilm al-Mu‘amala precedes ‘Ilm al-Mukashafa.

The purpose of this reversal lay in the claim that the process and procedure of right action was itself dependent on a prior Ruhani illumination. Or, if you like, that a movement towards good action sprang from a Divinely designed capacity towards choosing what was pleasing to Allah, glory to be Him. To perceive the emergence from intention to right action implied an unveiling of the Destiny itself, and a glimpse of the secret of our lives which lies in our cognition that our act of will is from the Willer, the One Who Wills – Allah, glory be to Him.

Our first examination of this matter led us to an awareness that among the great Sufis the highest type of human creature is the man of Fata. Futuwwa was, as it were, the aimed-at science of Tasawwuf. Imam Junayd, Imam ibn Hanbal and Shaykh ‘Abdalqadir al-Jilani competed in elevating it and in defining its contours.

What emerged from this exploration was that Futuwwa represented, as it were, the Himalayan aspects of nobility, but it was of the same earth, the same mineral as what lay in the slopes and valleys of human existence. It was not other, not cut off from, not an inaccessible zone, not of another element than what was the norm of Muslim behaviour.

The conclusion we have been forced to arrive at is that Futuwwa is the summit of what is the fundamental matter of the Deen. We discovered that this was the essential matter of Islam and it had been named by our ‘Ulama as ‘Birr’. From this came the knowledge that to the Muslim Ummah, right-action was in itself a Ruhani event which in itself represented an active and demonstrable declaration of Allah’s Unity and that nothing can be compared to Him.

We then gained an insight from the Qur’an that Allah, ‘Azza wa Jalla, had set up Ascending Steps of this Birr, that led to the highest Ma’rifa. We also found that Allah had linked the spiritual ascent of the Muslim to necessary acts of generosity, courage and rescue – in short, with the raising-up of lost humanity – mankind being a species in loss. Humanism thus being nothing more than the stoic and useless philosophy of loss. We go to the famous Surat al-‘Asr (103:1-3): 

In the name of Allah, All-Merciful, Most Merciful

By the Late Afternoon,
truly man is in loss –
except for those who have Iman and do right actions
and urge each other to the truth
and urge each other to patience.

How is it that we, the Muslims, are able to see so clearly that men cannot arrive at knowledge and wisdom, let alone understanding, by thinking a way out of the human situation? Philosophy, a man-made construct, by its nature becomes more dark, more inaccessible, and more metaphoric. The philosopher, his life continuing, is forced to metaphors of hope: the light at the end of the tunnel, the bright clearing in the dark forest.

The answer is dual and lies in our dual Shahada. It declares the Oneness of Allah. It also links this to the Messengership of His Messenger, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. The knowledge of Allah is linked, inexorably, to the event of the Messenger. As Shaykh ibn al-Mashish explained: “If it were not for the means, the end would have escaped us.”

Qadi ‘Iyad said that the Messenger had plumbed “depths of knowledge which no mortal but him has reached.” He confirmed that this can be verified “by anyone who studies the development of his states, the course of his life, the wisdom of his Hadith, his knowledge of what was in the Torah, the Injil, the Revealed Books, the wisdom of the sages and the history of past nations and their battles, making metaphors, managing people, establishing the laws of the Shari‘at, laying the foundation of his incomparable Adab, and praiseworthy habits.”

His greatest qualities of manhood were his ‘Ibada, his generosity and his courage. These dynamic forces in his character are what have marked the whole World Muslim Community from his lifetime until today.

Ibn al-Munkadir heard Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah say: “The Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, was not asked for anything to which he said, ‘No!’”

Anas said: “A man asked him for something and he gave him all the sheep between two mountains. The man returned to his people and said, ‘Become Muslim. Muhammad gives the gift of a man who does not fear poverty.’”

He returned the captives of Hawazim who numbered six thousand. He gave Abbas so much gold that he could not carry it. Ninety thousand Dirham were brought to him and he placed them on a mat, and then he got up and distributed them. He did not turn away anyone who asked until he had given them all away.

Of his courage we find in Al-Bayhaqi:

Ubayy ibn Khalaf caught sight of the Messenger during the Battle of Uhud, and Ubayy shouted out, “Where is Muhammad? May I not survive if he survives!” Now this Ubayy had previously been ransomed on the Day of Badr, and at that time he had declared, “I have a horse which I feed several measures of wheat every day. If I ride him I will kill you.” The Messenger, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, told him, “I will kill you, if Allah wills.” So it was that on the Day of Uhud, when Ubayy saw the Messenger, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, he drove his horse towards him. Some of the Muslims tried to block his way but the Rasul called out, “Leave him alone!” He then took a spear from Al-Harith ibn Simma and shook it in such a way that all the men fled from him, as flies scatter from the back of a camel when it shakes itself. Then the Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, turned to face him and pierced him in the neck so that he swayed and fell from his horse. People said, “He has broken a rib,” but he returned to the Quraysh and said, “Muhammad has killed me!” They said, “There’s nothing wrong with you!” Ubayy replied, “Anyone would have been killed by what I have received. Did he not say, ‘I will kill you!’? By Allah, if he had spat on me, it would have killed me.” He died at Sarif on his way back to Makkah.

Allah tells us about him in Surat at-Tawba (9:128-129):

A Messenger has come to you from among yourselves.
Your suffering is distressing to him;
he is deeply concerned for you;
he is gentle and merciful to the Muminun.
But if they turn away, say, “Allah is enough for me. There is no god but Him.
I have put my trust in Him.
He is the Lord of the Mighty Throne.”

Connected to that we look at Surat al-Anbiya’ (21:107). These are Allah’s statements of the Maqam of the Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam:

We have only sent you as a mercy to all the worlds.

And most importantly, we turn to Surat Saba’ (34:28):

We only sent you for the whole of mankind,
bringing good news and giving warning.
But most of mankind do not know it.

The Divine Contract is that Allah educated His Messenger, and he in turn is sent to teach mankind. Look at the second part of the Ayat in Surat an-Nisa’ (4:113):

Allah has sent down the Book and Wisdom to you
and taught you what you did not know before.
Allah’s favour to you is indeed immense.

The greatest of all honours in this world comes to him in Allah’s exalting Islam above every other religion. We go to Surat at-Tawba (9:33):

It is He who sent His Messenger with guidance and the Deen of Truth
to exalt it over every other Deen,
even though the Mushrikun detest it.

So it follows that no Muslim may be invited to tolerance as if it somehow were morally superior and dominant over us. To those who preach and call you to ‘tolerate’ – tell them: “You are speaking another language. These words have no meaning for us. Learn a new language – one we have by Divine Revelation. Book and Sunna.”

This brings us to the Miracle of the New Direction for Prayer, the physical setting of Islam over every prior religion. Turn to Surat al-Baqara (2:144-152):

We have seen you looking up into heaven, turning this way and that,
so We will turn you towards a direction which will please you.
Turn your face, therefore, towards the Masjid al-Haram.
Wherever you all are, turn your faces towards it.
Those given the Book know it is the truth from their Lord.
Allah is not unaware of what they do.

If you were to bring every Sign to those given the Book,
they still would not follow your direction.
You do not follow their direction.
They do not follow each other’s direction.
If you followed their whims and desires,
after the knowledge that has come to you,
you would then be one of the wrongdoers.

Those We have given the Book recognise it as they recognise their own sons.
Yet a group of them knowingly conceal the truth.

The truth is from your Lord,
so on no account be among the doubters.

Each person faces a particular direction so race each other to the good.
Wherever you are, Allah will bring you all together.
Truly Allah has power over all things.

Wherever you come from, turn your face to the Masjid al-Haram.
This is certainly the truth from your Lord.
Allah is not unaware of what you do.

Wherever you come from, turn your face to the Masjid al-Haram.
Wherever you are, turn your faces towards it
so that people will have no argument against you –
except for those among them who do wrong
and then you should not fear them but rather fear Me –
and so that I can complete My blessing to you
so that hopefully you will be guided.

For this We sent a Messenger to you from among you
to recite Our Signs to you and purify you
and teach you the Book and Wisdom
and teach you things you did not know before.

Remember Me – I will remember you.
Give thanks to Me and do not be ungrateful.

This tremendous passage takes us from the Divine Command to establish the new world religion, itself turned to the most ancient House of Allah, the Masjid al-Haram. It then reveals to us that those of earlier dispensations have fallen into conflict and ignorance. It then makes plain that the deciding element of the new religion is defined in the Book and the Example of the Messenger as a guide and model for mankind. This in turn promises, as Ruhani reward, Divine Knowledge – Ma’rifa. Allah says: “Remember Me – I will remember you.”

What we discern from these revealed Qur’anic secrets is a dynamic interaction from Allah to His Messenger and from him, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, to his Ummah. Surat Al ‘Imran (3:31-32):

Say, “If you love Allah, then follow me and Allah will love you
and forgive you for your wrong actions.
Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

Say, “Obey Allah and the Messenger.” Then if they turn away,
Allah does not love the kafirun.

There remains always the warning to the kafirun and the only rescue for them: Obey Allah and the Messenger.

To us, the Muslims, remains the Path of Islam.
We love Allah – so we follow the Messenger – so Allah loves us and forgives us.
This is the Deen, and this is its ‘Amal.