My Mother and Father are Two Rivers That Come Together in My Heart

In the March 11th SeekersHub Newsletter, we were recommended to watch a lecture by Dr Umar titled “Marriage as a Cosmic Ideal and Social Reality.” Below are a few of the things Dr Umar said that stood out for me.

  • Important verse to reflect on: Surah Rum, Verse 21: “And among the signs of God is having created mates for you from yourselves that you may feel at home with them, creating love and compassion between you. Surely there are signs in that for people who reflect.” (The Quran: A New Translation by Thomas Cleary)
  • Mawadda is a special kind of love. A protective kind of love where you care about the future and wellbeing of your spouse. And rahma (mercy) is what makes everything work, what makes everything go.
  • When Allah speaks about marriage in the Qur’an, He says your wives are a garment for you. They give you beauty, protection, honour, status. And you are a garment for them.
  • Many scholars say that purpose of marriage is to live together in a good way. To live together in a way that we communicate, respect each other, and have communion between us that is dignified and proper.
  • When we have that, when a husband and wife relate to each other and understand each other and respect each other, so much good comes out of it.
  • Mawadda is defensive protection. Special care in a way that is not suffocating, but positive and of mercy and love.
  • Men and women are guardians of each other. We all have a common fidelity and loyalty to the deen.
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    We Have Lots of Free Time

    When you live in the present moment, you get barakah. You get blessing. And blessing has a timelessness quality to it. If Allah gives you barakah in your time, can do in your time amazing things that other people cannot do. And may Allah bless us with that. So you see someone like Imam Nawawi who teaches how many classes a day? I think 14 at least. And he’s also worshipping. He is also serving the community. He is doing all of these things. But it’s like for him time stands still because of where he is.

    When you’re in the present moment, you’re in the moment of God. And then time is filled with blessing. When we turn away from God and we live in the world of our illusions, then time is not very blessed. Then it’s like you never have enough time. And a lot of us actually especially if we compare ourselves to our mothers and fathers and earlier generations, we have lots of free time. We’ve said that we don’t. We’re so busy.  But what about your mother and father? They didn’t work from eight to five. A lot of them worked from sun-up until deep into the night.  And yet they still had time.

    (…)

    We talk about doing things by God, and doing things for God and when you work by God then you get in the present moment. And then you get great blessings. And then you rely on Allah and insha’Allah He gives you success in what you do. When you rely on yourself and say I can do this, I have all these abilities and I’m so smart, then the barakah is maybe not there. You may succeed but in the end it may not produce the fruit that you want.

    ~Dr. Umar Abd-Allah On Spiritual Guidance: Commentary on Ibn Ata’illah’s Hikam – 03 Dec 2011, Seekers Hub

    Be Aware of Your Breaths

    This is what living in breaths is about. It’s about being present in yourself, being present in the time that you are, in the place that you are. And not to live in another world of what I’m going to do this evening, what I’m going to do tomorrow, the things I want to do next year, or worrying about the past.

     The ordinary human being is torn between all sorts of you could say, illusionary considerations. Feeling regret about things in the past, worrying about things in the past, living in the past, (reliving the glories of the past) or more frequently, we live in terms of the future, of things that we want to do, places that want to go.

    The spiritual path is one of getting in the present moment, being where you are. Being aware of the situation you are in, being aware of yourself, your breaths and everything else about you. But also being aware of people that are with you, the needs of people with you. Being conscious of your breaths, that in every breath you take, there is a special destiny just in that breathing. You didn’t create that, God created that for you, you acquired it. So that has the spiritual effect of anchoring you in the present moment. Living in the present moment. Not living in your dreams, or your ideas or your fears or your expectations or anything else. That is really really important. That means also to be thankful for what you have now, instead of when I get this, when I go there, when this time is up, things will be so good. No. Where are you right now?

    ~Dr. Umar Abd-Allah On Spiritual Guidance: Commentary on Ibn Ata’illah’s Hikam – 03 Dec 2011, Seekers Hub

    Source: 

    The Beginning of Guidance (Class 1 at the SeekersHub)

    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..
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    The definition of shyness (haya)

    If it were not for God’s beautiful veiling, if it were not for God covering you beautifully, no deed you do would be worthy of acceptance.~Hikam 131 of Ibn Ata’illah.

    Dr Umar’ commentary:

    There is a huge spiritual truth in this Hikam. We don’t let anything we do go to our heads. We cannot make a claim to God based on the good that we do. When have we ever done anything really?

    Haya (shyness) is the earnest desire to do what is right. For example, we are ashamed not to do what is right by our parents. Haya is the shame of failure to fulfill obligations. Haya is the light of the heart.

    Muslims when covered, feel beautiful. Beauty is not in the physical body, in covering of the body. Marriage is important because it’s so difficult. When know someone intimately, you see their humanness. Marital relationship is one of uncovering in different senses. You are living together, therefore have to be very merciful. Marriage is a sign of God. You will not know someone more intimately than you know your spouse, except a mother and child. In that relationship humanness and human defects are revealed. Which is why spouses are garments for one another. They cover one another, they forgive one another.

    In our lives, it is foolish to remove covering, and to hear and see things shouldn’t hear and see. The next Hikam, Hikam 133 is about keeping away from things that will pollute your heart. Eye, ear, food all are channels to pollute your heart. That means we shouldn’t have arrogance when we see other people, should have an attitude of “there but for the grace of God go I.” Don’t look down at homeless people, if you saw the things that broke them, maybe you’d be in same state.

    ~Dr Umar, Dec 15th 2011, Post mawlid class at the SeekersHub

    There was a Mother Who Knew How To Be a Mother

    Last year, on the fourth day of the Knowledge Retreat Shaykh Yahya spoke about Tarim (a city in Yemen) and told us that before children go out, their mothers help them prepare for different scenarios they might encounter by asking questions like, “what will you do if you see an old man by the road? And “what will you do if you see the masjid door open?” And the children respond by saying, I will help the man and see if he needs anything, I will close the door of the mosque and so on and so forth. And through this process the mothers of Tarim help these critical meanings and intentions to grow in the hearts of their children in order for them to meet what they may encounter in the best way possible

    The same morning during Dr Umar’s class, he said hearing Shaykh Yahya’s story made him think of when he moved to Georgia from Nebraska as a child and how his mother helped him prepare for what he would encounter on the first day of school, because Georgia at that time was a very different world; it was the deep South. His mother explained to him the questions that the other children would likely ask him, and the best way to respond. And sure enough, the same questions were asked, Dr Umar responded in the way his mother advised him, and everything worked out just like she said it would. And Dr Umar stopped for a moment and said:

    There was a mother who knew how to be a mother.


    The moment touched me deeply. Then on the last day of the retreat, Dr Umar spoke to us about his mother again, and about her passing, may Allah be pleased with her, and said said “everything I am, I am because of her.” And from his voice and expressions, we all had tears in our eyes, and prayed for own families and mothers as well as Dr Umar’s in that moment. 

    What I thought about afterwards was how true that statement is. What we are, and the gifts and personalities we develop are very much a product of our families. To give something to your own family in turn and be a positive influence, it is necessary to be a strong person on your own and someone who has actively worked on purifying their heart. It takes struggle to prevent your own fluctuations in faith impact the consistency of your routines.

    I’m at home right now for a visit, and in the past few days I’ve been thinking about the things here I’ve always taken for granted. Whether it is the day beginning before dawn with sounds of people getting out of bed and getting ready for prayer and Qur’an, or quiet dhikr being the accompaniment to meals and snack preparation, or people getting up for prayer as soon as the time comes in, or structured sleep routines, or the many other ways I see the sacred in the mundane, I’ve always just thought of home being “like that.” I’ve assumed everywhere was a place of reading, and seeking development and growth as a shared endeavour. But of course nothing is naturally a particular way, it requires effort and striving and active intention on a daily basis to create a beautiful home. To be someone to anyone, to be mothers and sisters and friends and daughters who know the reality of their roles, it is necessary to be firstly full people ourselves.

    Learning History from Dr Umar (Notes from Qurba’s Witnesses over Mankind Course)

    Every Qurba Academy course is beautiful. The small classes, the incredible teachers, the opportunity to ask lots of questions, the familiar faces; everything about Qurba creates a beautiful learning experience that leaves you waiting eagerly for the next course. And in proper Qurba tradition,this past weekend  Dr Umar Faruq Abd-Allah taught a breathtaking one-day seminar on Islamic history. I was only able to come in the afternoon, but what I experienced was beautiful.  We travelled all over the world through different time periods, and heard stories about Islam in places like Switzerland, West Africa, and Spain and Portuga. We also learnt about lthe seapower of Muslims, and indigenous cultures in North America among many other topics. Dr Umar is an amazing teacher, and his memory, ability to explain complex subjects with ease, and patience with our unfamiliarity of the subject matter was inspiring. It was a wake-up call to the richness of Islamic civilization, the importance of reading and learning more about history, and the necessity of having constant learning goals.

    Below is a small (!) selection of my notes from that day. I’ve left out the actual stories Dr Umar was telling us because his lessons were amazing, and posting little sections of notes is an injustice to the class. But I am interested in continuing the learning process, and for those who are game, it would be neat to have a reading/learning circle of some of the books and topics that Dr Umar mentioned during the course.
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