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Sufism is to Train the Self How to Be a Good Servant

Ramadan Series 2014, Vol 5

Mawlana Shaykh Hisham Kabbani

3 July 2014 Fenton Zawiya, Michigan

A`oodhu billahi min ash-Shaytani ‘r-rajeem. Bismillahi 'r-Rahmani 'r-Raheem.

Nawaytu 'l-arba`een, nawaytu 'l-`itikaaf, nawaytu 'l-khalwah, nawaytu 'l-`uzlah, nawaytu 'r-riyaada, nawaytu 's-salook, lillahi ta'ala al-`Azheem fee hadha 'l-masjid.

As-salaamu `alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh to those who are here, those who are seeing us and those who are watching later. Dunya is small compared to this universe. This world that we are in, compared to the universe, looks non-existent. We don't know what other Creations Allah created in other planets. No one has that knowledge, but what we know is what we are in today. We are in this world from Sayyidina Adam (a) upto the Day of Judgment. And this universe points to one issue: the Creator, where we have to say “Ash-hadu an laa ilaaha illa-Llah wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadu ‘r-Rasoolullah.” If we say that, we will be saved from punishment. Let us say that another time, “Ash-hadu an laa ilaaha illa-Llah wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadu `abduhu wa habeebuhu wa rasooluh. Allah (swt) wanted from His servants to be loyal and when you are loyal, you respect your Master. What about to be loyal to Allah (swt), Who is The Creator?

So those people who were given the greatness and the reflection from the Prophet (s), they are like stars in the dark night, they are the Sahaabat an-Nabi (s), Companions of the Prophet (s). No one can reach their levels, because they were under the protection of the Prophet (s). They are the stars for us in the dark nights. Whomever of the Sahaabi (r) you follow, you will be guided. They are those who heard the Holy Qur’an from the Prophet (s), those who saw the good manners that the Prophet (s) was teaching and they followed, those who dropped Shaytan under their feet and followed the Prophet (s), those who gave their life for the Prophet (s), for Allah and for Islam: those are the ones we have to imitate! We cannot follow their footsteps as it is difficult for us, but at least we can imitate some of their good manners.

Imam Abul-Hasan ash-Shadili and Ibn `Ajeeba on Tasawwuf

We explained about Tasawwuf and how it came. We don’t want to repeat, but we will follow from here of what we said in the previous sessions. We know the term “Tasawwuf” is coming from “as-siffah” or “as-soofa,” as we explained previously. One of the great scholars who is buried in Egypt, Abul-Hasan ash-Shadhili (r), said, At-Tasawwuf tadreeb an-nafs `alaa `uboodiya, “Tasawwuf,” Tazkiyyatu ‘n-Nafs, Purification of the Self, “is to train the ego on voluntary worship, not just to do the obligations and run, but to train yourself in more worship.”

When you do that the ego will be suppressed, just as you take tablets for flu and that suppresses the cough. So we, as human beings, we are coughing out every breath with bad manners. When we suppress the cough with a tablet, it will go down and be suppressed until it disappears. So also in Tazkiyyatu ‘n-Nafs, you suppress the ego with a maximum amount of `uboodiyya by dhikrullah, and when you suppress your ego down, then you are able to reach the light and the purity of the lungs. When you are coughing, your lungs are full of phlegm, virus and bacteria, and by suppressing it slowly, slowly dies. We have to suppress our ego. Tasawwuf is a knowledge to suppress the ego and to do something that we are not aware of.

I will give an example to show that Tasawwuf is the masterpiece of Psychology and all psychologists take from Islamic Tasawwuf. When people have a problem--husband and wife, men to men fight and argue, all kinds of people have problems--they go to a psychologist or psychiatrist. The psychiatrist listens to the patient. Why does he listen to the patient, give him an ear and constantly write and take notes? After many sessions he says, “Now you do this,” is that not the way? So the psychiatrists listen to what is disturbing you and then at the end he does not give you something from his mind, but he tries to find the cause of the problem. So you don't give a suppressant only, as the cough might come back another time. They want to find the cause of the cough, the cause of the fight. There is a different way to solve the problem in every person. They build the foundation in each person in order to build on it the good manners and good behaviors and advise him so that he will be in peacefulness.

Tasawwuf is the knowledge that finds the cause of your problems of the ego, and then tries to give some kind of dhikrullah that suppresses and eliminates from you the bad desires. And that is why those big shuyookh like Abul-Hasan ash-Shadhili (q) say that Tasawwuf is training the ego for dhikrullah and worshipness, because as you take more and more, as if you are taking more tablets and getting rid of all your bad desires.

Ibn `Ajeeba (r), one of the big scholars, said, “Tasawwuf is a way that the Gnostics have to follow in order to reach the Divine Presence and to clear up and purify your insides from all kinds of diseases of the heart and to decorate it with all kinds of fadaa’il, good manners.” So when you take the hand of the shaykh, which is another subject, he will study every one of his followers, not just give baya` and disappear. He has to live with them, to study them one by one, to describe for them the sickness they are in and to give them certain kinds of dhikr to learn in order to purify them.

Example of Sayyidina Amir Kulaal with Shah Naqshband

What is this tariqah called? “Tariqat an-Naqshbandiyya,” meaning related to Shah Baha'uddin Naqshband (q). He is the pillar of this tariqah and everyone of the Golden Chain is a pillar of this tariqah, as well. This is a story of when he went to visit as-Sayyid Amir Kulaal (q). One time as he was in his house when he smelled a nice smell coming through the window, a smell so nice that he never smelled before. He was very well-known as a scholar, from what the Prophet (s) described:

العلماء ورثة الانبياء

Al-`ulama warathatu 'l-anbiyaa.

The (genuine) scholars are inheritors of the Prophets.

So these scholars who are the inheritors of prophets are those who are trying to suppress their bad desires and lift up their good desires through worshipness. All his life, Shah Baha'uddin Naqshband (q) was trying to suppress the bad manners and bring the good manners, to take away sins and be protected by Allah’s Power from Shaytan. All awliyaullah tried their best as they are not infallible, only the Prophet (s) and other prophets are infallible. So he followed that nice smell into the alley and began walking for some time, it might have been for half-an-hour or one hour. How was he able to smell it? The smell was not at the door of the masjid, it was coming from far away, and we don’t know far. He kept walking until he reached the door of the master that he liked, as-Sayyid Amir Kulaal (q).

وَأْتُواْ الْبُيُوتَ مِنْ أَبْوَابِهَا

W’aatoo ’l-buyoota min abwaabihaa.

Enter houses through their doors. (Surat al-Baqarah, 2:189)

So he stood at the door in adab, waiting for the permission to enter. As soon as Sayyid Amir al-Kulaal (q) saw him from the corner of the door, he said, “This man has nothing to do with us, throw him out!” Shah Naqshband (q) didn’t even enter yet! How hard it is when your shaykh says to you, “You have nothing to do with me, go away!” You might say to yourself, “I didn’t do anything!” but you must take it like Sayyidina Shah Naqshband (q) did, as that might be a test and you have to carry it. Shah Bahauddin Naqshband (q) was struggling with his ego and he is the master of the Naqshbandi Sufi Order! That is to show us how far we are from the reality and from Tasawwuf.

So they threw him out, and what does he have to do? He left, he went walking and didn’t know which way to go and was walking and struggling within himself. So as he was struggling within himself, and this is a psychological problem because he had been kicked out with no reason, so he had to find the cause and eliminate it from himself in order to be accepted. So he was struggling with himself, asking, “What makes me like that?” Some people would leave, but he didn't; he was walking and thinking, “It must be something I did,” but he could not solve it. So he went to his psychologist, which was his good side as he was a big scholar, and he reviewed what he had achieved in `Ilm ash-Shari`ah and in `Ilm al-Haqaa’iq, Knowledge of Realities and Knowledge of Tazkiyyatu ‘n-Nafs, Spiritualities. He put everything together and said, “What is the issue? If I have been thrown out from the door, I will come from the window! I will not leave my teacher as I gave my life for him.”

Imagine someone gave his life for his shaykh and then some people come and throw him out, what kind of test is that? You continue on the way you know, because that is a knowledge that you achieved. You are on a highway and as much as you drive over the highway, more sceneries and more sceneries come in front of you until you reach heavenly visions, as we described in first four sessions of this series, and you can go back through them.

So he went back to the masjid and everyone had left and the door was locked, so he prayed outside and in sajda, he put his head on the threshold of the masjid and it was a snowy night. When he was going out of his house smelling that nice smell, he had only a vest on him. In Bukhara, suddenly the temperature goes down from ₋34 to -45 below Celcius, and the cold eats your bones. There is snow here, but there it goes to the bones. So he was by the threshold in sajda and said to himself, “I am not raising my head until I know why I have been thrown out. I love my shaykh!” The shaykh wants something from that: he wants to bring his pride and arrogance down.

And as the snow was coming down, it covered his head. So his shaykh, Amir Kulaal (q),was going to the masjid for Qiyaam al-Layl one hour before Fajr and he came to the door and put his foot on the head of Shah Baha'uddin Naqshband (q). He knew it was Shah Baha'uddin and he pressed his foot on his head and scratched it.

Then he said, “O you are here? I didnt know that.”

Shah Naqshband (q) jumped up and hugged his shaykh and kissed his hand and said, “O my shaykh! You are my teacher and I cannot live without you.”

The shaykh took him to his house and dressed him well and took him to the masjid, and he later became his successor. So these kind of shuyookh polish you, even if you are a shaykh yourself. They know the cause. Shah Baha'uddin Naqshband (q) was a big scholar and every day he was sitting and discussing Shari`ah, Tasawwuf, Holy Qur’an or Holy Hadith and at least 5,000 people were sitting and listening, and all of them sitting and eating at his table, and he was speaking with no microphone. That is Shah Baha'uddin Naqshband (q), without saying anything further, going into all his stories.

When You Keep the Company of a Genuine Shaykh, He Polishes You

We have to find the cause within ourselves as to why we are not improving. The shaykh will show you why you are not improving by sending a test and look at how you are going to react, then he gives you the awraad that is necessary. Today, sorry to say, it is not like before. Before, if they get you in, first you have to be knowledgeable in Shari`ah; they would never accept someone who is not knowledgeable in Shari`ah as that person does not know the limits, he might lose the way or he might get arrogant. Just like someone came to his shaykh and said, “I have been with you for 27 years and I have achieved nothing; I feel I didn't achieve anything.” There are too many like that today, because these representatives have nothing to give you; they give you a plastic toy to play with, or a better example is plastic fruit to play with.

So he came to his shaykh and said, “I have been with you for 27 years and I am getting nothing.”

The shaykh said, “Yes, what you said is correct, you didn’t achieve anything.” He was a big scholar and well-known in his community. He said, “You want me to build you up?”

The man said, “Of course, yaa Sayyidee.”

He said, “Alright. Go to the market, buy a basket, fill the basket with walnuts, sit by the door of the masjid and put your shoes near you, then say to anyone coming into the masjid, ‘Do you want a walnut? Okay, then take my shoes and hit me on my head one time and I will give you one walnut. Hit me twice and I will give you two walnuts.’ This is your job. Give your shoes to everyone entering the masjid and tell them to hit on your head.”

That was to teach him humbleness; there is no arrogance in tariqah, no pride that you are sitting on a chair, so don't think you are a master of masters! Today they think they are master of masters. It is an ego issue, like the rooster; he is the only one among the chickens who has a good voice, so when the rooster crows, all the chickens are coming around thinking he is Elvis Presley! I don't know these western style singers...or they think they are like him as he is the master of songs and music, like our friend here. The rooster alone can sing, so every rooster wants to sing or to crow and that is why they fight, because the chickens will have to choose one of these roosters. So this is what we are finding today. Yes, you recite qaseedahs, that is very nice, and you praise Allah (swt) through His Beautiful Names and Attributes, that is very nice, but that does not mean you are someone to guide. Guide to what?

So that one said, “Take my shoes and hit me on my head one time and I will give you one walnut.” I think many representatives need to be hit on the head, including me, and have a walnut. That walnut is a nice fruit, but what happens? The one you are hitting becomes someone famous and someone known, someone who left bad manners and has good manners because you are hitting him, and as much as you are hitting him he is being raised, because Allah will defend the Believers.

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُدَافِعُ عَنِ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا

Inna ’Llaaha yudaafi`u `ani ’Lladheena aamanoo.

Allah will always protect and defend those who believe. (Surat al-Hajj, 22:38)

As much as they hit, as much you will be raised. Let them hit as much as they like, don’t make them to stop or say no, no problem, Allah knows the truth better, He knows where everyone stands by their limits. When you transgress the limits you will be left to do it and then at the end you will face a major problem.

The People of Perfection

Another scholar in the book Kashf adh-Dhunoon[1] said, “You will find Tasawwuf is a knowledge through which you will learn how these People of Perfection reached that level, so you should imitate them.” So who is best to follow and imitate?

العلماء ورثة الانبياء

Al-`ulama warathatu 'l-anbiyaa.

The (genuine) scholars are inheritors of the prophets.

So follow the scholars. What did Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (r) say? He was a student of Ibn Taymiyya, but a great `alim. He said, “When you want to follow someone, examine his behavior.” Is he keeping his prayers? Is he keeping the dhikrullah and any voluntary worshipness that has to be done? Is he lying or benefitting from wealth, is he cheating or deceiving, or is he hating some people? What is the benefit of calling people to yourself and then hating them from behind? There is no benefit. So the perfect shaykh is the one that everything coming from him is perfect. You cannot reach perfection as only the Prophet (s) is fully perfect, as Allah described him (s) in Holy Qur'an:

وَإِنَّكَ لَعَلى خُلُقٍ عَظِي

Wa innaka la-`alaa khuluqin `azheem.

You are of the most exalted character. (Surat al-Qalam, 68:4)

The rest have to work it out. So these scholars have been guided because they followed the footsteps of the Prophet (s). Allah (swt) said in the Holy Qur'an:

قُلْ إِن كُنتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ اللّهَ فَاتَّبِعُونِي يُحْبِبْكُمُ اللّهُ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ وَاللّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

Qul in kuntum tuhibboona 'Llaaha fattabi`oonee yuhbibkumullaahu wa yaghfir lakum dhunoobakum w 'Allaahu Ghafooru 'r-Raheem.

Say (O Muhammad), "If you (really) love Allah, then follow me! Allah will love you and forgive your sins, and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Surat Aali-'Imraan, 3:31)

Tasawwuf is not Bida` (Innovation)

The Sahaabah (r) loved the Prophet (s) and followed him and we have to follow the Sahaabah (r) in order to reach to the Prophet (s). Ahlu ‘t-Tasawwuf, the People of Tasawwuf, didn’t invent something new, it is something in Islam. It is the psychologists who innovated, so why don’t you come against them? They changed the name and came up with “`Ilm an-Nafs.” They teach it in Arab universities, such as the American University in Beirut and many other universities. `Ilm an-Nafs is the Knowledge of the Self, the science of Psychology and that is `Ilm an-Nafs, what appeals to the nafs/self. The bad desires or good desires, that is what entered in the gearbox, as we mentioned, when the conscious (mind) and unconscious (heart) work together, the system is functioning and you see no problem. That is from Islam and is from tafakkur, meditation. That is al-mudhaakira, to meditate and to think.

One of the elements of `Ilm an-Nafs, the knowledge of Tasawwuf, or today they brought too many elements of psychology in Tasawwuf and the Naqshbandi Order is very clean and does not accept innovations, although there are some students of Mawlana Shaykh Muhammad Nazim Adil (q)...you cannot control everyone. They say, “I am representative,” and put up a website and you see that many of the websites are not acceptable. How can you stop it? It is an epidemic, a sickness. Everyone wants to make a website and some people I protested against. We don’t know them. They call themselves ‘disco majaalis’! They make qaseedah, sing and call themselves disco majaalis, associations of singing and disco, playing guitar and attribute themselves to one famous Tariqah in order to make a name. How to control these? You can't control them. They are terrorists that hijack the microphone for the benefit of the chair. They give answers to hijack the podium; that is their business, because if the microphone stops, their business stops.

That is why it is necessary to have companionship with your shaykh. That is why Sahaabah (r) became Sahaabah (r), by accompanying the Prophet (s). The mureeds or disciples of any tariqah--there are 41 well-known tariqahs, but in reality there are thousands of branches--must follow a real shaykh, someone who can balance Shari`ah and Haqiqah.

As Imam Maalik (r) said, “Whoever learns Knowledge of Tasawwuf and Knowledge of Fiqh, that person is really on the Right Path. He reached `Ilm al-Yaqeen, `Ayn al-Yaqeen, Haqq al-Yaqeen.” They have reached knowing: to hear what people don't hear and see what people don't see, when hearing and seeing synchronize in a gearbox. Some people can’t hear, so they teach them sign language. The real knowledge is `Ilm al-Yaqeen, `Ayn al-Yaqeen, Haqq al-Yaqeen, what people cannot hear and see. When they put them together in a gearbox to synchronize, then you hear and see what others can’t.

We continue next time. Bi hurmati ‘l-Fatihah. We will give an example: Imam Ghazali (r) was able to see a vision and that is important for us to know. Bi hurmati 'l-habeeb, bi hurmati 'l-Fatihah.


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[1] A bibliographic encyclopaedia that lists thousands of major literary works in Arabic, Persian and Turkish.