The Second of nine Discourses on Tawhid,
3rd April 2004,
Al-Jami’a Mosque, Claremont, Cape Town, South Africa
Last week we were looking in the Qur’an at the use and presentation by Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, of one word, ‘Hubb’ – the love of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, and the meanings of this love for the muminun.
Tonight we look at the meanings of one other word which is ‘ibada. We will look at what defines ‘ibada, which is that the way in which the mumin aligns himself with worship of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, this ‘ibada is from ‘abd. So the worship of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, is itself slavehood. It is putting oneself under the acknowledgement of the power of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, and it is from the knowledge in which the ‘ibada is performed that it takes its meaning.
There is a very famous hadith in the Sahih collection which recurs in various versions, where Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, in defining the importance of Salat refers to a Salat with understanding. This is not the same as someone just going through the motions of Salat, but it is someone who knows what this standing, bowing and prostrating means. Who is being worshipped is what gives it meaning. This is what we will look at in the following ayats.
Look at Surat Al ‘Imran (3:175), the second part of the ayat:
But do not fear them – fear Me if you are muminun.
The word khawf is fear, actual fear. It is not a psychological condition, but physical. Khawf is what goes through the body, like the man seeing the wild tiger. Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, says, “Do not fear them – fear Me if you are muminun,” so Allah is taking the mumin and changing his whole identity so that ‘them’ in this general sense refers to the enemy, and it therefore also refers to everything in the creation that the mumin is afraid of. Do not be afraid of what opposes you and what confronts you, but “fear Me,” fear Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala.
Here He is using a structure by which He says, “Me,” and when Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, says that, it is as though He is speaking from His Essence because He is speaking about Himself in the first person. Sometimes He speaks in the Qur’an to the people about Himself as ‘He’, but here He is saying ‘Me,’ so this is an absolute command from the very core of our understanding of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala.
“Fear Me if you are muminun.” In other words, the condition of being mumin, of being one who trusts in Allah, is that he has fear of Allah. Fear of Allah means that you cannot have fear of anything else. It is a change in the condition of the human creature who has become mumin, and at this point the fear that he would have of the other, and of the enemy, and of what opposes him, this khawf becomes something very deep that is fear of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala. That in itself would be so great that it would paralyse the mumin if it were the only condition under which he could live, and great Awliya have had such a great fear of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, at a certain stage of their journey to Allah that they have become transfixed by it and Allah, by His power, has taken them out of that and this is because in the language of Tasawwuf, khawf is balanced against raja’, hope.
There is a famous story of the man who came to Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib, rahimahullah, from the Sahara to give him the Idhn of being in the Darqawi Tariqa. Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib, rahimahullah, was then teaching Arabic in the Qarawiyyin mosque in Fes, and this man had been sent with an instruction from his shaykh: “Go to the Qarawiyyin and when you get there, there will be a circle of ‘ulama sitting. Go up to them and say, ‘I am the guest of Allah’,” which is a way of asking for hospitality, “and whoever accepts, you go with that man.”
So this man, who was one of the salihun, went there and said, “I am the guest of Allah,” and they all bowed their heads, they did not want the bother of this guest from the Sahara. “I am the guest of Allah.” The third time he asked, Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib, rahimahullah, said, “Marhaban,” and took him.
He took him to a tiny little room he had in the wall of Fes. The room is built inside the wall and so the steps up are very steep. As he climbed the steps, this man who had been sent to Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib put one foot up on the step and said, “Khawf,” then his next foot up and said, “Raja’.” “Khawf! Raja’!” Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib, who at that point was one of the great ‘ulama of Fes, who had no experience of Tasawwuf directly, suddenly was confronted with another kind of man and it had an effect on him. This man stayed with him and Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib never asked where he had come from or why he was there, he accepted him as his guest and asked him no questions, and the man stayed with him for almost two years.
In this time Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib had seen that this man was someone who never said anything against anybody and if people spoke badly, liking to gossip and attack people, he would leave the room. Also, all the time he was doing Wird and making Ismul- ‘Adham. Then one day he said, “I have a letter for you.”
Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib said, “I am not expecting any letters!” The man said, “It is for you!” He said, “Well then, it is from you. You read it.” So he read out from his shaykh in Tinjdad giving Idhn to Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib to take the Tariqa.
In all this the resonance which made him enter the Sufic path was the impact of this man climbing a stair where on every step he was poised between fear and hope. So this khawf is a reality for the mumin – that he has fear of Allah. “Do not fear them – fear Me if you are muminun.” This is the beginning of the correct relation of ‘ibada.
Now we look at Surat az-Zumar (39:36-37):
Is Allah not enough for His slave?
Yet they try to scare you with others apart from Him.
If Allah misguides someone, he has no guide
and if Allah guides someone, he cannot be misguided.
Is Allah not Almighty, Exactor of Revenge?
We are now understanding the ‘Who’ of Allah, how we can speak of Allah, Who is dealing with us because we cannot say that we are dealing with Him.
Allah is asking, “Is Allah not enough?” You must remember that we have all been educated with a materialist education. We have all received an education which believed that we had to master things and by mastering things it extended that we had to master people. The Deen of Islam does not accord with this, which is why in the present day you have such a chaos because people are trying to behave with that education and viewpoint as Muslims. This is why you have this horrible situation in Palestine and the horrible situation of all the Arab peoples for whom this is their language they use over breakfast.
They do not know, because they have taken on this world-view of the kuffar, and yet here the Revelation is saying: “Is Allah not enough for His slave?” This is a tremendous statement. Are you then looking for some other power to take you through the whole process of your life? Do you really think that there is some process that you can do that is going to support you when the Islamic position is that all you are called upon is not to do nothing, but to obey Allah? And if you obey Allah, He is enough for you. You do not need anything else. The things in turn will obey you.
“Is Allah not enough for you? Yet they try to scare you with others apart from Him” – that is coming out of the television set every day. That is what the news is – to make you feel that power lies elsewhere than with Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala.
If Allah misguides someone he has no guide.
The word for guide is Hadi. One of the Names of Allah is Al-Hadi so if you are not guided by the One who Guides then you are not going to be guided. There is not some other guidance that you will get that will take you through the process of life with success. “If Allah misguides someone, he has no guide and if Allah guides someone, he cannot be misguided.” In other words the people who follow in this path of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, they are safe, they are secure.
Then Allah says: “Is Allah not Almighty, Exactor of Revenge?” He is All-Powerful but he also takes revenge. So it is reminding you that this One you are being guided by is not going to let off those people who oppose you. They are not going to escape. This One who is All-Powerful, who is guiding the muminun, is also the One who will take a terrible revenge on those who do not obey Him. This also means that what you might call the ‘foreign policy’ of the Muslims has to be based on this. The transaction of the Muslims has to be based on this. This is part of the power of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala – that He does not let the enemy of Allah escape.
We come now to a very important thing which you have to remember because it is something that the Sufis lean very heavily on for the knowledge to give them strength and insight. It runs right through the Futuhat al-Makkiyya of Shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi where he talks about Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, as the Creator. Allah says in Surat az-Zumar (39:38):
If you ask them, ‘Who created the heavens and the earth?’ they will say, ‘Allah’.
What Allah is telling us by this is that the kuffar are not necessarily atheists but that they have in fact limited Allah. The kuffar think they live in an already-created reality and then on this created reality they run wild and do what they like. This is not the truth of the matter.
In the rest of the ayat Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, shows them that that is not how it is. There is nothing in creation that is not in the process of action. Allah is One in His Names and His Attributes and His Essence, and He has created the things in a dynamic state. Therefore not only the human beings, the animals, the living organisms, but even the chemical foundation of the world, the mountains, what Ibn al-‘Arabi called the ‘gypsum foundation’ of creation – all of these things are in motion. Anyone who has any doubt should look at what has been happening in Turkey and look at what has been happening in Iran. The mountains and valleys have been erupting, splitting, everything is in motion – there are gases coming out of the earth at every minute, the whole thing is alive.
The evolutionary lie is that there were these simple organisms which got more and more complex and then, poff! you have man, and that is the creational process. Then this man does what he wants, he makes up his rules, he makes up his ideas – the whole of the eighteenth century was men making up ideas about how they should live and what existence was – they invented the whole thing!
Allah is telling us that the kuffar will say that Allah created the heavens and the earth but that is not understanding because you cannot separate a man from his actions. Therefore the creation of man enclothes the fulfilment of the destiny of the man. That is part of His creation, it is part of the creativity, just as the creation of the birds, the animal kingdom involves the whole cycle of mating and reproduction. For instance, the whole cycle of hibernation of the bears – there is no such thing as a bear without hibernation, it is not possible. So creation goes through the seasons, it goes through life.
When the kuffar give this insufficient answer, Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, tells us to respond with this:
Say: ‘So what do you think? If Allah desires harm for me,
can those you call upon besides Allah remove His harm?
Or if He desires mercy for me can they withhold His mercy?’
In other words, all this dynamic process of life which the kuffar call history and which the sociologists call social relations and so on, is actually under the command of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala. When good comes it is from Allah, when trouble comes it is from Allah and they cannot control how Allah works with His creation, making it happen.
The position of wisdom is then given:
Say: ‘Allah is enough for me.
All those who truly trust put their trust in Him.’
Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, has set out that there is in the human race a body of people who have another orientation which by its nature, because it contains the wisdom about how existence works, has to triumph. But they can only triumph if they are in that circle of the muminun who are defined by ‘ibada, and their visa, their passport is ‘ibada.
Look at Surat al-Hadid (57:22):
Nothing occurs, either in the earth or in yourselves,
without its being in a Book before We make it happen.
That is something easy for Allah.
This is the depths of the wisdom of Qur’an which is only to be found in Qur’an. Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, opens up all His treasures of His secrets to the muminun. “It is in a Book,” means that it has already been stated, it has already been sent down. The history is told.
Sayyiduna ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, radiyallahu ‘anhu, was with Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and he asked, “O Rasul! Are we on a matter that is just beginning or are we on a matter that is just finished?” Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, “The Book is written and the ink is dry.” ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab then said, “If that is the case, what then is the use of my making an effort to do things if it is already determined what is going to happen?” Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, “Every creature is on a pattern from Allah and he will do that which is the destined thing for him, and he cannot escape it.” ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab said, “Now I can go back to work.” Look at the quality of those people. That did not stop him, he said that he was one of those people who would do the utmost to serve Allah and, “I will go back to work.”
It was not an imprisoning thing or a crushing thing but a liberating thing. That is why the muminun make the du’a, “O Allah, give me an Iman that is lasting.” You want the seal of the destiny to be secure so that you die in Islam, so that your path all the way through is dynamic. This is something easy for Allah. Then in the next ayat of Surat al-Hadid Allah says:
That is so that you will not be grieved about the things that pass you by
or exult about the things that come to you.
This is very significant because Allah defines for the mumin, like the question of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, the condition in which he is left. These two opposites do not anymore impinge on your heart. Once you understand how things are, you will not be grieved about the things that have passed you by. There is no such thing as having missed something. That is it! That is the who-ness of you. And you do not exult about the things that come to you because they have come by the destiny and by the same power of the One who has held other things back from you. So you become unified in your understanding of Tawhid.
Surat az-Zumar (39:62-64):
Allah is the Creator of everything and He is Guardian over everything.
Look at the uncompromising viewpoint that is offered the Muslim, it is like standing on granite, it puts you on firm foundations. You cannot be shaken because once you grasp the Tawhid of Allah you are men of knowledge, you know how existence works. You must realise that the kafirun do not know what is going on. They do not understand the process. The Muslims who have taken knowledge from the Book of Allah and from the Sunna of Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, they know that Allah is the Creator of everything and He is the Guardian over everything. If He is the Guardian over everything, then He is the Guardian over you and you will move in a confidence that what you will do is that which will best secure your safety. This includes everything, including war. It is an understanding of security and safety that is inside the person.
This next thing is very important. Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, says:
The keys of the heaven and earth belong to Him.
It is those who reject Allah’s Signs who are the losers.
He does not say that just the heavens and earth belong to Him, we have already established that, He also says the keys of the heavens and earth. That is the patterns, and the patterns of the heavens are all those things that bring to life all the living forms from the Unseen into the Seen. So the disappearance of the species is under Allah’s law as well as the appearance of the strong mumin at the time the Muslims need it. All these things are because Allah has the keys and He, subhanahu wa ta’ala, unlocks events.
We may not like the events which are unlocked, but the ones who have this strong Tawhid can read events and know what to do. For example, Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said that there will come a time when the best property will be sheep and to hide and retire in the mountains. Alhamdulillah, we have not reached that point, but there is a point when that will be the thing the mumin knows to do. The keys to the heavens are with Allah and also the keys of the earth belong to Him. This means that He unlocks events just as He unlocks living forms. He unlocks the earth and makes this earth sterile and makes this earth fertile. He makes this earth shake and He brings down a city. All of this is in His power that the patterns of existence are in His hands.
Allah says: “Those who reject Allah’s signs are the losers.” Allah’s signs are those manifestations in existence of His power. Everything which is happening in the world is to teach the mumin, even the things we do not like, even the situation today with our Ummah – there are signs and Allah is giving us indications. What He disapproves of and what He approves of have not changed, so we have to interpret them and there are those things which awaken in the Muslims this vibration which we call khawf, that you fear Allah. At the same time, when things become intolerable, Allah also has a guidance that He never puts on the mumin more than he can bear.
Finally Allah says:
Say: ‘Do you order me to worship something other than Allah, you ignorant people?’
The ignorant people are all those we are dealing with in the world today, the atheists and the people who have corrupted former religions who are completely lost. They are ignorant. Our strength lies in our knowledge Allah has given us through the Qur’an and through the pattern of what is pleasing behaviour to Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, which is that of the Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
Now we look at Surat al-Ahzab (33:41-43):
You who have Iman! Remember Allah much,
and glorify Him in the morning and the evening.
It is He who calls down blessing on you, as do His angels,
to bring you out of the darkness into the light.
He is Most Merciful to the muminun.
Allah gives a direct order how to keep in you this inner fulcrum, this inner compass that is going to put you into a knowledgeable state about the events which come in your life. You will know how to deal with the different things of existence because everything in existence is alive – you are not wandering in a desert but living through a situation where everything is alive and full of possibilities which Allah is offering you and giving you at every moment. You will know how to discriminate – one of the names of the Book is the Furqan – and you will know from this wisdom how to react in every situation.
Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, says: “You who have Iman!” and then He says that the way the whole thing is kept alive is: “Remember Allah much.” This is the famous phrase which repeats in the Qur’an, ‘dhikr kathiran’ – lots of dhikr. Allah is saying that this reality you are living in is so tremendous that while you have been given the pattern which is enough for you there is much more. You can go on and on by degrees because Allah explains in Qur’an that the muminun are raised up by degrees of Divine knowledge which they receive from Allah.
One of the Bedouin came to Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and said, “Is it true that I have to confirm that Allah is One and Muhammad, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger?” He said, “Yes.” Then he asked, “Is it true I have to make Salat five times a day?” He said, “Yes.” “Is it true I have to fast every year?” He said, “Yes.” “Is it true I have to pay the Zakat?” He said, “Yes.” “Is it true I have to take the Hajj?” He said, “Yes.” “Well that is all I know, I am not doing anything else!” Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, “Then you will have success.”
Another time, a Bedouin said to him, “I do the five prayers, I am not doing anything else. That’s it!” Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, smiled and said, “Allah will give you the Garden. He will reward you.” In other words, because of the mercy of Allah the minimum is enough. Yet among the muminun there is an elite body of people who are not content with this, they want more. They have read in the Qur’an that Allah raises people up by degrees and the highest degree is the people called the Muqarrabun, the people who draw near to Allah. Because He has not got place, Allah has explained: “Allah is nearer to you than your jugular vein,” so it is a nearness which has no spatiality in it at all. This nearness is the condition of the ‘Arifin and the salihun. This is the Qur’anic language for the Sufi. The Muqarrabun are the Sufis.
“Glorify Him in the morning and the evening” – that is in the Fajr and after the Isha. “It is He who calls down blessing on you, as do His angels, to bring you out of the darkness into the light.” The interesting thing is that in another part of the Qur’an (Surat al-Ahzab, 33:56), Allah specifically says about the Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam:
Allah and His angels call down blessings on the Prophet.
You who have Iman! call down blessings on him
and ask for complete peace and safety for him.
But here it is more. One cannot make a mistake about this so we went to the great tafsir of Shaykh Ibn ‘Ajiba who says that Allah says: “My Salat is a mercy on you, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and on your Ummah.” Now, with overflowing love of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, He makes the salat on Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and the angels on the whole Ummah of the Muslims. So we are a community overwhelmed by the protection and love and the blessing of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala. It is because of him we all get this direct, Divine covering and protection and blessing of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala.
Then Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, says: “He is the Most Merciful to the muminun.” We are in a position of absolute security, absolute safety and we cannot go wrong as long as we remember that He is the Lord of the Universe, and the Lord of our destinies. I think we will stop there, but there is more!
We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, to cover us in His Rahma. We ask from Allah a great forgiveness beyond anything we could merit. We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, to cover our wrong action. We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, to strengthen us in our good action. We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, to make us people of good actions. We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, to raise us up to degree after degree of knowledge. We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, in all the destiny to give us an Iman that lasts to the grave. We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, to let us die among the salihun and in the best of company.
We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, to give victory to the Muslims. We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, to pardon the Arabs for their having abandoned the Deen of Islam. We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, in His Mercy to bring them back to the Deen by the secrets of His Qur’an. We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, to revive the Muslims in every land. We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, to remove the false ‘ulama from their places. We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, to remove the thrones from their places. We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, to place thrones of honour and thrones of ‘ibada to rule the Muslims. We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, to give us leaders to restore us to our full splendour. We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, to let it happen during the lives of the people here assembled. We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, to protect the children of the people here assembled and to give them a world in which the Deen is stronger than it has ever been.
We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, to make the people of this Tariqa travel wherever they want in the world and to establish the Deen wherever they go. We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, for benefits beyond anything we deserve. We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, to be generous to us by His promise of generosity and to give us generosity on our fellow Muslims in order to merit such generosity from Allah. We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, whose generosity cannot be compared to ours, to be merciful to us, to strengthen us and to give us the Sirat al-Mustaqim into a future with hope dominating our fear.