Your Lord is a Generous Lord (Gems from Prohibitions of the Tongue, Class 3 with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf)

Last year I started listening to a class from the 2012 Deen Intensive Rihla called Prohibitions of the Tongue. Recently, in preparation for Ramadan, and with the desire to improve my own speech, I’ve restarted my listening. Here are notes from Session 3. These are not complete notes, and all mistakes in notetaking are my own. (You can find my notes from the 1st lesson here, and from the second session here.)

  • Yesterday we were looking at the journey, the Rihla of life, and the central purpose of the human being, which is to know their Lord, to know their Lord in this body that Allah has placed us in for this time. We’ve been placed in this cage, and the soul is in the cage, and we’ve been told to do certain things. And we were reminded by Prophets who came. There were also long periods of time for certain people where they were not sent Prophets.
  •  One of the distinctions of Bani Israel is that they were given Prophet after Prophet
  • Line of the Jewish Prophets is Ishaq (Yaqub alayhis salaam). Prophet’s line is Ismaili line.
  • No people that didn’t have Prophets. Every people has had Prophets. We don’t know their numbers. Weak hadiths that indicate 124,000, we see these numbers mentioned in the books, but in the end the ulama say Allahu Alam.
  • The meaning of Islam is our relationship with our Lord which is submission to Allah. So we believe that islam abrogates what came before it.

3 type of people hear about Islam

  • 1. Those who live among Muslims and see the true Islam. And these people the hujja is against them. If they die in that state of rejecting Islam the hujja is against them.
  •  2. People who live near the lands of Islam. These people are in a precarious situation because they’re exposed to it and they could know, but less so then the people among the Muslims.
  •    3.   And finally the people in far distant lands who have never heard of Islam. Imam Ghazali said if the people near the lands of Islam have a distorted image of Islam, then they are not judged according to their rejection of the distortion, because what they are rejecting is not Islam, but a distorted image of Islam. But he likens them to people among us who hear about false prophets that came and told lies, and people said oh they are just liars. No Muslim is interested in hearing about these people because they are told since they were a child that he is a false prophet.  And he (Imam Ghazali) said that this is also true of other people. Imam Ghazali is recognizing the sociological filters that people have. It’s very hard to penetrate, it’s quite rare for people to have a natural ability to penetrate beyond their historicity. And so he takes a very merciful view of that. Still, we believe that Islam abrogates. And that the true path and the last and final path is Islam.
  • Previous dispensations -Islam recognizes truth in them and recognizes good people among them, which is important. So you don’t make blanket statements about other traditions because good people among them and people of righteousness among them, people that are attempting to live according to their truths. So you’ll find righteous Christians practicing charity and doing other things.
  • So really the Muslim shouldn’t look with contempt at other people outside our faith. Islam is looking at people with the eye of mercy. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him did not look at people with contempt.
  • So whatever reason, there are long periods when Prophets don’t come. One of them is the time between the Prophet Isa and the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon them both. There are no Prophets between these Prophets.
  • Hunafa- people who naturally inclines to the truth.  Abu Dharr al-Ghifari was someone like that. He used to do sajda. Which is why when he heard about the Prophet,peace and blessings be upon him, he went immediately. He had amazing iman. He was a highwayman, but there was decorum, adab with the raiding. They only took so much, they left the women alone, and it rarely led to bloodshed. They knew bloodshed was dangerous because it leads to war.
  • The Quraysh were amazed when they saw his piety because he was a Ghifari. When he came to Makkah, the Quraysh started beating him because he went straight the Kaaba and declared his shahadah. When Abu Bakr came he said “this is a Ghifari”, and they all stopped because they didn’t want to mess with his tribe. Very tough man. Amazing man. The Prophet peace and blessings be upon him loved him. He is an example of someone who had a fitra belief.
  • I would argue that if you read Surah Baqarah, from beginning to end, can find the entire message of the Qur’an in Surah Baqarah.  Surah Baqarah is a restoration of this Abrahamic way. This fitra way. Its calling to this milah of Ibrahim that is free of the sectarianism, divisions, of all the deviations of previous traditions that have lost their way. It is time to come back. To get rid of the decorum that has clouded your mind, and get back to a simple prayer. To get back to this simple fitra way. And this is what Islam is calling humanity back to. It’s a stripped down way. It’s what you take on the lifeboat when the lifeboat is sinking.
  • As long as have water and Qibla, have nothing to worry about. I have had the blessing of living with bedouins, and one of the things the bedouin teach you is how little you need, because everything the bedouin needs is in a little box. Everything they own. And they live very well. They smile. Some of them have permanent smiles. Not worried about 401K or stock markets, because all they need is their tent, and don’t even need that, because if they don’t have it, will make it out of tree branches etc.
  •  So the fitra way is this way that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, came to restore. It’s the way of the original people. Fatir is the originator. Fitra is your original nature. And your original nature is to be happy, it’s not to be sad, the baseline of children is actually happy, they get sad when things happen, they get hurt, they get hungry, but there’s always a reason for their sadness. They’re not endogenously sad. Which is what the state of many modern people are. They’re sad but they don’t really know why they are sad. The baseline state for humans is to be happy. The baseline state for humans is to be honest. Which is why when you have a conversation with someone, they’ll believe you. Children are often embarrassingly honest. They haven’t yet learnt there is decorum, comportment in the world.
  • Fitra nature is also to be curious. Curiosity is part of fitra. You want to find out.
  • Fitra nature is to know and understand. All human beings have a desire to know.
  • And so all of these truths that have been restored with Islam, are a restoration of these ancient truths. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, because he knew that his way was for the last people, he gave us many warnings about things.
  • He knew for instance, about diversions and about the nature of lahw.  Like in the past, if you wanted to have lahw, you had to create your own diversions. Like unless you were wealthy, if you wanted to listen to music, you had to make your own music. Couldn’t just play music or turn on a machine. If you wanted to be entertained, had to go to a play outdoors. Could just turn on the TV, or download a film. So the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him warned us about too much diversions, and this is very important. And about the means of lahw – what the Turks call, “white people’s inventions”.
  • So the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, knew that these means of entertainment would come and people would get lost in them, and so he warned his religion. And so that’s why we have a creative tension. You’ll never have something that has a power of diversion in Islam, but you’ll have a creative tension in Islam. Music is a good example. There are ulama who permit music and there are ulama who prohibit music and then there are people who make very clear caveats about what’s permitted and what’s not permitted. But the fact that we have a creative tension means that it prevents Muslims from completely falling into something that is inherently profoundly dangerous.  So Islam is never blanket. It’s always to create a beautiful balance and tension so that Muslims never go completely astray. They can deviate, but the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, put all these checks and balances in his religion. Which is why you can find hadiths which seem completely contradictory, but they’re actually not, they’re to create these dynamic tensions so Muslims will always maintain this balance so they don’t go completely overboard on either side.  Because you can become too strict, and there is no recreation, no relaxation.
  • There is a sahih hadith of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him going to a wedding, and asking Sayyida Aisha, do they have entertainment? Because the Ansar like entertainment. And then he told them to have entertainment. But it’s not something he wanted all the time because he knew the danger of it. You can become so entertained you can forget the purpose of your existence. Of why you’re here.
  • So these are really important aspects of our religion that the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, saw because he understood the time he was living in and Allah showed him and revealed many things about the end of time that would become clear as time passed.
  • Prophet said I didn’t see any good except I indicated it to you, and I didn’t see any evil except I warned you about it.
  • In each time and place, it becomes incumbent for group of Muslims to learn the religion, preserve the religion and teach the religion and pass it on.

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Why is it that..

I’m reading an incredible book right now by Habib ali al-Jifri called Wayfarers to God, and so far, it is one of those reads where your heart softens because everything you are reading speaks to you. Below, a passage that made me stop and re-read several times.

No sooner do you attempt to examine your faults than the wickedness of the nafs surges forward to cover those faults. Yes indeed, many in the Community are far worse than you are, but have you been created to transfix your gaze upon those worse off than yourself? How many times have you looked at someone driving a car more expensive than yours and wished you had one like theirs? How many times have you worn a garment only to see a more expensive garment that you wished you could have worn instead? And how many times have you heard that gifts – from the gifts of this world – have been conferred upon so-and-so and wished that they were yours? Why didn’t you say, “alhamidullah. Many are without food and I am eating, alhamidullah”? Why do you not say, “Some people don’t have a mount or clothes, but I do”? Why is it that in the affairs of this world we look to those above us, but in the affairs of the Hereafter we look to those below us? Do you know why? Indeed it is because the nafs has not been purified, developed and cultivated. Indeed, it is your greatest foe on the path to Allah.

~Wayfarers to God, Habib Ali al Jifri, p. 21

The Doors of Good Are Beyond Counting (Purifying our Hearts at U of T Session 8)

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.
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