Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Beginning of the Path...

Peace, one and all...
In recent months, I've increasingly felt pulled towards the inner life. Although, God forgive me, I've sinned and turned away, I can still feel it, pulling me onwards. I find that I've been reading a lot of books and poetry on tasawwuf (Sufism, or Islamic Spirituality) of late. Indeed, the more I read, the more I feel I need to! In my heart of hearts, what I really desire is a teacher: someone who will guide me on the path and help me to learn my deen. Insha Allah, Allah will send me such a person when the time is right: 'when the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear' as the old adage has it.
Anyway, I was reading another of the works of Imam al-Haddad and was struck by one of his chapters. It's from his short treatise called Good Manners. The Imam addresses the topic in his usual eloquent style.
Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim...

'Know that the path begins when a powerful urge is cast into the heart of the servant which troubles and unnerves him, drives him towards God and the last abode. It turns him away from this world and from being, like others, engaged in amassing and grooming it, tasting and enjoying its pleasures, and being deceived by its ornaments. This urge is one of the hidden warriors of God; it is a gift of solicitude and a sign of right guidance. It is often bestowed upon a servant as he listens to those people who stir in him the fear [of God] as well as desire and yearning [for Him], and when he looks at the men of God and they look at him. It can be given without cause.

It is commanded and encouraged to actively subject oneself to receive such gifts, for to expect to receive something when not standing at the door and subjecting oneself therein is foolish and unintelligent. The Messenger of God (sall Allahu alaihi wa salem) said, "Your Lord has gifts in these days of your time, subject yourself to receive them!"

He whom God honours with such a noble urge must know how precious it is. Let him also know that it is one of the greatest favours of God, Exalted is He, such that he will never fully know how truly precious it is, nor will he ever be able to show gratitude enough for it. So let him thank God, Exalted is He, to his utmost for having selected him from among his peers to receive it. How many a Muslim reaches the age of eighty or more and neither finds this yearning nor is affected by it a single day of his life!

A disciple [murid] should do his best to strengthen, protect, and respond to this urge. Strengthening it is by remembering God often, reflecting on what He has, and keeping the company of the people of God. Protecting it is by keeping away from the company of those who are veiled and by ignoring the insinuations of devils. Responding to it is by hastening to return to God and sincerely seeking His nearness - by neither waiting, postponing, procrastinating, nor delaying. This is a chance that one is given and should seize; the door is now open for him, and he should he enter. He is being called, and he should be swift. Let him beware of letting one day pass after the other, for this is the work of the devil. He must advance and not weaken. He must refuse manufacturing excuses, such as saying that there is no time or that he is not good enough for the task. Abu'l-Rabi', may God have mercy on him, said, "Go to God with your limps and your broken limbs. Do not wait for full health for that would only be idleness".

Imam Ibn Ataillah said in his Hikam, "To say that the work must be postponed until one is free is but the idleness of the soul".
(Imam Abdallah ibn Alawi al-Haddad, Mutual Reminding & Good Manners, page 49-50)

I realise that this is a very long quote. I have to say though that it describes things as I find them now very accurately.

Ma'as salama,

Abdur Rahman

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