On November 3rd 2012, the SeekersHub held a seminar titled “Lasting Love: What Makes for a Successful Marriage”. The course was live -streamed, and I logged on from Vancouver to hear the sessions. It was masha’Allah, a day that was well worth the investment in time. In summary, what I learnt from the course was that the core of marriage is good character, and that marriage is a long term opportunity for you to strive to be a better person. It is a means for you to work on the lifelong task of returning back to Allah with a sound heart. When two people have that intention, insha’Allah that leads to lasting love and a successful marriage, but really the seminar was not so much about marriage as about being a good human being. The video of the event is now available, and can be accessed here. And they are by no means comprehensive, but below are my notes from the event.
Online on Facebook this morning, I saw that SeekersGuidance had opened up the final live session for their marriage course to general attendees. I wasn’t able to attend the whole class, but below are notes from the part of the lesson I was able to hear. Also, the new SeekersGuidance semester with courses on a variety of topics begins soon! Don’t miss out the chance to study from wherever you are, with qualified, reliable teachers.
- (Some)Quranic supplications for getting married:
- People will come with 48 points that they are looking for in a spouse. One example: Your husband must like reading! Not really. Discuss books with someone else. You are reading, he might be doing something else. Not such a big deal. Just have essential characteristics as your criteria.
- Have a good opinion of Allah. Your Lord has said, call upon Allah with certitude in His Answer. How and when the answer comes is up to Allah. It may be that the dua is answered now, it may be that Allah wards off harm from you, it may be that the answer is given in the akhira, but He always answers.
To find a spouse: Most effective means to is go to people who are connected, who have influence and experience. That person might be relative, might be community leader, might be scholar, might be parents.
If want to study, need to choose someone who understand and is supportive of those long term goals
If someone wants something, they should ask a lot. Sunna to ask a lot, but in state of slavehood, not in a state of demanding Allah.
~Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Dec 16th 2012.
I was in Toronto a couple of weeks ago for a visit, and had the blessing of being able to visit the SeekersHub for the Friday night Surah Yasin class and Family Potluck. It had been at least several months since I had last been to the Hub, and in the interim, the Hub had only increased in light. It’s beautifully designed, there is dignified segregation with equal space for both genders, and it feels like a community space. I met family friends I hadn’t seen for a while, and was warmly welcomed by others who had never met me before. While there is good in both, the visit was a reminder that there is a world of difference between studying online, and changing your routine to get on a train and journey to a class. It was also a reminder that really, if you want to study in a way that takes into account your local context, and you value healthy communities, this is a project to support. Below, some of my notes from the evening.
- Thankfulness is a sign of intelligence and the secret of increase.
- Allah is the Fulfiller of all needs. All neediness should be with Allah. If your reliance and seeking of assistance is with Allah,you’ve directed your needs in the right direction. Remember whose servant you are. If you know that, nothing whatsoever to worry about. Be mindful of Allah, and Allah will be Mindful of you. He will grant you assistance. If ask, ask Allah. If seek, seek Allah. Remember Hadith 19 of Imam Nawawi.
- Don’t let anything in created universe shake you up. Know who to turn to. Things have a reality in the knowledge of Allah. In eternity.
- Remember the verses of Surah Imran 190-194. The Prophet used to pray them at Tahujjud.
- Have shyness before your Lord. Slavehood entails turning.
- Just as plan worldly life, plan your spiritual life too. Use walking time to listen to Quran, to recite and review what you’ve learnt. Don’t waste a moment.
~Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, November 16th 2012, SeekersHub, Final Surah Yasin Class.
These notes are from a lecture Shaykh Faraz and Shaykh Yahya gave during Shaykh Yahya’s visit in Sept 2011. For greater clarity and as a self-reminder, am reposting this section of the talk here.
In our penultimate session of the Purification of the heart class with Shaykh Faraz, it was beautiful to hear both the gems of wisdom he had to share, but also to observe practically what good character looks like. We were unable to get power in the room so the slides couldn’t be projected, the class couldn’t be live streamed in its entirety, and we didn’t have a proper desk for Shaykh Faraz. With each challenge, Shaykh Faraz simply said “no problem” and adapted to what was going on with a smile. It was beautiful, and one of the most memorable things I’ll take away away from these sessions. Here are a few gems from the tenth session of the course.
In our eighth session with Shaykh Faraz at the University of Toronto studying Imam Haddad’s poem of counsel, we had a beautiful evening with so many wonderful gems. Masha’Allah it’s a gift having these classes so accessible for us on campus, and we hope that these notes can be a small complement to those who could not make it. As always, these notes are not complete, but we hope they are of benefit.
Selections from Week 2 of this blessed class.
- When seeking knowledge, have to be very careful about what you’re seeking it for. Same applies for anything that is supposed to be sought for Allah alone. For instance activism, if not doing it explicitly for Allah on path of destroying yourself. Why? Because in doing worldly things, nobody really cares (ie-making a better cake or having better car than someone else), these things may be low ambitions and ultimately meaningless, but on scales of eternity does not have eternal consequences. But any pride or envy when it comes to something of religious significance, destroys, because basis of religious activity is that it must be sincere. Submission is the form one does. The reality is the sincerity within.
- Reality is that your life is a transaction. Allah has created us for a purpose, to submit to Him, in exchange for Paradise. We said “I accept” before we were created in the world of form.
- Servants of the most Merciful tread lightly on the earth because they give everything its due. And because they give everything its due, the rest of creation is thankful.
- If want meaningful success, must have good beginnings. The right beginning is making the right intention and directing yourself in the right way. For ex: To get to Makkah, not actually headed there until direct yourself there. Until direct yourself there, either wasting your time or distancing yourself from your destination.
- Can’t be generous until do generosity. Not just about self talk. Saying I’m calm, I’m generous, this is an illusion until you act in the way that trait/characteristic entails. About outward conduct but also need inward seeking of change. Without both, can actually be harmful.
- What is the reality of your religiosity? Is it self-satisfaction or seeking the pleasure of Allah?
- Very easy to gain microphone fever. It’s a cold without a cure. Many people their religiosity is having good Facebook updates, good twitter updates. And every person shall have what they intended. Those tweets and updates may be benefiting others, but you only get that benefit if that is what you intended.
- Someone who is serving others, teaching others, but doing it only to show off…will be taken to task.
- Saying I’m going to be good without doing any good, and doing anything to express that care is delusion.
- Beneficial knowledge gives you a sense of the greatness of God. That gives you the practical sense of the greatness of God. Need knowledge that enables you to have khashya. Knowledge that comes with awe of Allah, it is for you. If not, it is against you. Which is why the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) prayed for protection against knowledge that does not benefit.
- Odious to Allah to say that which you are not concerned to do. (Telling someone to pray while you continue to sit and watch television for example)
- Allah answers the call of the needy.
- Will be asked about knowledge that you had, but did not act in accordance with (ex: knowing the etiquettes of how to eat, and not acting in accordance with those Prophetic habits).
- The gift of being put into existence is an gift from Allah that you can never repay.
- Gift of guidance, wealth, health, if tried to count and enumerate that blessings of Allah, could not because your sense of thankfulness is a gift of which thanks and gratitude is due.
- All that you have is a blessing of Allah. And so you must seek the next abode with what you have.
- Do good, as Allah has been good to you.
- All that you seek is with God alone.
- Close with words of Ibn Ata’illah: Let not the intent of your resolve turn to other beside Allah. For the most Generous, the highest of hopes cannot outstrip Him.
- (Dr Umar reminder: Highest is to seek it for Allah and by Allah. That is contentment in life. When seek from other than Allah, in state of delusion).
- Another hikam: Do not lift any need to other than Allah. For He is the One who gave you the need in the first place. And How can another lift something that Allah has placed? How can one who cannot lift their needs lift another’s needs.
- Religion is not about identity, about sophistication, about finding meaning in life, religion is about God.
- Homework: Listen or read to the commencement address that David Foster Wallace, one of the greatest novelists of the later twentieth century gave titled “This is Water”.
- Love of Allah is the axis around which all good revolves.
The new semester at the University of Toronto has begun, and with that, our lessons with Shaykh Faraz studying Imam Haddad’s spiritual counsel have started once again. Today’s lesson was specifically about vices of the heart. My notes (though incomplete because I realised today that I’m not very good at listening and writing at the same time) are below.
Why are we studying this? Because “whoever fears the station of their Lord, and rids their soul of its caprice, then Paradise is their abode. This is a conditional statement.
Nothing removes desire from oneself except for fear that makes one uneasy or longing that is painful. (Ibn Ata’illah). Some people say that they prefer love than fear. But the way of love is more difficult than fear. Because one who fears is making an admission of shortcoming whereas love is a claim.
Important to guard the heart. The chest (sadr) is what surrounds the heart. The fortress of the heart is the chest. This is why Allah says about the Messenger; did we not expand your chest? (94:1) Have to guard thoughts and impulses that come to you because these threaten the soundness of your heart.
Deceit, cheating, all these things go against the way you’re fundamentally supposed to be. All these qualities arise from lacking the basic impulse/attitude believer is supposed to have toward others. Impulse/attitude supposed to have is nasiha: seeking good in relation to others.
Introductory remarks about the vices:
Envy (hasad). Definition: Wishing for the blessings that another possesses to leave them. For another to lose a blessing they have. Either explicitly wishing it, or implicitly by being upset by their success, or wishing you had the blessing instead.
Pride: look down on others and reject truth. Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said whoever has even a mustard seed of pride will not enter Paradise. Someone who dresses well or enjoys luxuries of life, has more than others. Companions asked Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) about this, and he (peace and blessings be upon him) said: Allah loves to see the traces of His blessings on his servants. Rather pride is looking down on others.
Conceit (‘ujb): Seeing oneself and being content with states as if from yourself. One definition: To remember good deeds and forget your faults. To see success and do not see that it’s from Allah, and neglect to take yourself to account. Another definition: To see good deeds as a lot and to claim ability (goes back to tawhid principle of laa hawla wa laa quwwatta illa billah, no ability or power except through Allah) Conceit is for the heart to be veiled from seeing Lord.
Why poets caution from saying I: I is a barrier between you and Allah. If want to check good calligraphy is to check alif. If not straight, doesn’t matter how pretty it appears to you, not good calligraphy.
These four vices are mentioned because these are the greatest of harms.
Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was asked, who are the best of people? Response: One with guarded heart. Guarded heart is a pious, pure heart, that does not have deceit or rebellious (toward Allah) nor rancor or envy toward people.
How to attain such a heart?
Ibn Ata’: that the soundness of one’s breast is attained by standing firm on the realization of certitude (the realities of the Qur’an). So through the realization of certitude the heart attains this quality of soundness.
Further details on envy:
Envy eats good deeds like fire consumes wood. Deeds are in accordance to benefit and harm and nothing harms human relations like envy. Deen is nasiha. The Prophet (peace and blessings told us that truly religion is sincere concern. Truly religion is sincere concern. Truly religion is sincere concern.
All the things that cause envy are blameworthy. Caused by enmity or thinking yourself better than others, or conceit, or because you have a desire for leadership and standing and when see others gaining facilitation to standing and recognition, you are troubled. Or out of fear of missing what is beloved to one because others got them. All go against basic realizations of tawhid, that Allah is the Giver, Allah is Generous, that Allah answers. Instead of envy, right adab is to pray that Allah bless others in something, and then to also ask for the same. Also, when one is praying for others, better to begin by praying for someone’s worldly benefits (health, family etc) before religious benefits, because to start with duas for religious life (ex: Oh Allah, make so and so sincere, guide so and so) can seem like you are putting the other person down. Prophet would always make dua for people’s worldly good and religious good. Like Sayyidna Anas (Allah be pleased with him), Prophet prayed for his long life, his wealth, children. And Sayyidna Anas (Allah be pleased with him) had much wealth, had so many children that lost count, and lived past hundred.
Be o servants of God: brethren. The mu’min is the brother of another. Brother is one who cares for you, who stands up for you.
People only turn away from religion because of how little they see their own people benefiting from it.
Spread the salaams. Not just incidental salaams, but anyone that you had negative relationship with or had something, keep sending salaams. Call them up, send text message. Don’t just say words, intend the messages.
Arrogance (kibr) Pride is an inward state. Conceit arises from it. Prevents from paradise.
Hadith Qudsi: Haughtiness is My cloak, and tremendousness is My garment. And whoever vies with me for it, I destroy them.
Meant as a metaphor. Pride which comes down to the self affirmation of greatness, is Allah’s alone. Allahu Akbar. Having pride is the first slip of creation. Iblis. Tremendousness belongs to Allah, but Allah affirms it for those who turn to him. Have to be aware of signs of kibr in conduct.
Implicit signs: what you expect from other people. Ex: what we expect from parents. Ex: what did you cook, why didn’t you do that? Because you think you have some standing that should be considered. One of the central causes of anger is arrogance. Because expect things to be a particular way for you. Sign that anger for sake of Allah is that it is expressed in ways pleasing to Allah. One channels it in the right way.
Be content with humility as your distinguishing trait for it is the trait of the foremost. Definition: Being humble is to lower oneself from its standing and abase it by forcing it to surrender and obey the truth. This is the conventional usage but deficient. Not reality of humility. Humility is accepting the truth with good character.
Follow the righteous. The Prophet would praise past people for their virtues. (ex: Hilful Fudul) One looks up to virtues. Wish the good for people, but also see the good in them. (Think of Surah Fatiha and its dua to be guided as the people who Allah is pleased with were guided) In the Qur’an it is mentioned: O you who believe. Have taqwa and be with those rightly guided.
Keys to acquiring good character:
Part of acquiring good character is keeping good company and having exemplars and also looking at the good of others in relationships. It is also important to benefit from all kinds of company. One way you benefit on errors of others is by reflecting on them. See someone praying hastily, and think I sometimes do that.
Sayyida Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) was really cool. She had an attitude of good and scholars have written books on Sayyida’s Aisha’s objections. Sayyida Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) said: You are heedless of the best of worship in this life; humility. Best of worship because humility was the distinguishing quality of Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would carry his own meat. (quite a task, wasn’t in plastic bags) He (peace and blessings be upon him) would go around in market and buy things. And market was a messy place. He would at home express that humility. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was in the need of his family. He used to help them with his chores, he would tie down the animals, he would clean the house, he would milk the sheep, he would repair his sandals, he would eat with his servants, he would shake hands with both poor and wealthy, (And remember the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was from the Quraysh, who were aristocrats), and he would be with the poor and children. His was a humility with honour and strength.
Note: Sunnah for a servant to be treated like anyone else in family. Disliked for them to eat away from everyone.
Reminder: too many people focused on Islam, the primacy should be on Allah. Islam is a means. The analogy is being obsessed with one’s cutlery and not paying attention to the meal. So much of dawah falls short because of this. Unless centre it on Allah, can be difficult to understand the tenets of Islam (fasting, zakat, praying five times a day, pilgrimage to Makkah etc)
For many of people have been held back and they have not sought the acquisition of high virtue, and sufficed themselves with my family used to..” (lines of the poem)
True satisfaction: when one finds the good, ascribes it to Allah and praises Allah. Recognizing the good as being from Allah gives you a responsibility to direct that blessing to what is facilitated
Book references: The Graves of Tarim (University Berkeley Press)
Oppose the self and feel its enmity. Refuse your caprice and what it chooses, turn away from. (lines of the poem)
Nafs is the sum of one’s desires. Base impulse of self is harmful. Self is ever commanding to wrong (Surah Yusuf: verse 53)
Book reference: Degrees of the Soul: al-Shabrawi.
You: A Guide
1) Nafs (lower self): That’s not you.
2) Hawa (caprice)
3) Aql (intellect) : discerns
4) Qalb (heart)
5) Ruh (soul)
1) Seek Allah: Have a goal in life. Guide us to the straight path, which has a destination
2) Nurturing Faith (iman)
3) Rooting piety (taqwa)
4) Seeking beneficial knowledge
5) Spiritual routines that seek to do with excellence
6) Good company
7) Service. Nothing tests your sincerity like service. If try and serve, will realize most people are not thankful. If respond in the right way, will polish you. Also, should always have some service between you and Allah that nobody else finds out about. Underlying concern should be of benefit.
Note: Comfort conjoined with thankfulness is better than toil accompanied with self consequence.
The Spiritual Path.
Al-Junayd: True spirituality is not by saying and quoting, rather it is hungering (fasting), and leaving worldliness and one’s habits and likes for that which is pleasing to Allah.
Al-Hiyari: whowever establishes the sunna on themselves in words and actions will speak with wisdom. Opposite is true as well.
Amr ibn Uthman: “Knowledge is a guide. And fear leads one forward and self is rebellious between these two. Shepherd yourself with diplomacy. Giving it all it wants is harmful but keeping all it wants from it isn’t helpful either.
Can’t win war on self. Any war needs a battle plan Do things gradually. Have a routine. Every day do three things, four, five, things to oppose one’s desires.
This summer, I received a beautiful gift in the form of Imam Ghazali’s book The Beginning of Guidance. What I’ve read so far is beautiful, but the book is also very rich, and I’m only able to read a bit at a time. So when I discovered that the SeekersHub is offering a class on The Beginning of Guidance this winter, it seemed like the perfect way to get to know Imam Ghazali’s work a bit better. I was late logging into the class and mostly listened to what Shaykh Faraz was saying instead of taking notes, but below are few pieces from the lesson. (To hear it properly though, you can tune into the class live from the SeekersHub classroom, or attend in person at the Hub) Till next week insha’Allah..