Sifat as-Safwa


Here are a few narrations from Sifat as-Safwa by Imam Ibn al-Jawzi, a book of short descriptions and stories of righteous men and women from the early generations of Muslims.


From the chapter on Notable Women Worshippers of Kufa:


Umm Hasaan al-Kufiyyah


Sufyan ath-Thawri and Ibn al-Mubarak and others used to visit her.


Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak related: Sufyan ath-Thawri mentioned a woman of Kufa who was called Umm Hasaan, a woman of great ijtihaad and worship.  So (we went to visit her) and entered her home, and we saw that there was nothing in it except a small worn-out mat.  Ath-Thawri said to her: “If you write a note to some of your relatives, they could help change your poor condition.” 


She said, “Sufyan, in my eyes you were better (than this) and in my heart you were greater before this moment.  I do not ask for things of this world from the One who controls it, owns it and rules over it, so how is it that I would ask those that have no control over it nor rule in it?  Sufyan, I swear by Allah, I dislike that a time comes upon me in which I am too busy for Allah, by being occupied with other than Him.”


Sufyan wept at these words.


Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak said: It has reached me that Sufyan married this woman.




Waki’ related from my father from Mansur from Ibrahim: (A worshipper named) Umm al-Aswad became crippled and lost the use of her legs.  A daughter of hers became concerned about her, but she said, “O Allah, if there is good in this, then increase it.”





From the chapter on Worshippers whose Names and Locations are Unknown:


Dhun Noon al-Misri related:  I was travelling through the desert of Bani Israeel when I came across a black slave woman, overwhelmed in rapture of love of the Most Merciful, her gaze fixed on the heavens above.


I said to her, “Peace be with you, my honorable sister.” 


She replied, “And peace be with you, Dhun Noon.”


I asked, “How do you know who I am?”


She replied, “Allah created the souls (of mankind) two thousand years before (their) bodies, and then made them circumambulate His Throne (in worship), and the ones who became acquainted there are (eternally) connected, while those who did not are (forever) divided.  My soul knew your soul when they roamed that realm together.”


I said, “I see that you are a woman of great wisdom.  Please, teach me something from what Allah has taught you.”


She said, “Abu Fayd, put upon your limbs a scale of justice (that will keep you from committing sin), until everything done for other than Allah leaves it, and your heart remains pure and free, with nothing remaining in it except the Lord (ar-Rabb), may He be Exalted.  After that, He will place you at His door, and He will befriend you anew, and will order that those who guard hidden treasures be in your obedience.”


I said, “My sister, increase me (with more knowledge).”


She said, “Abu Fayd, withhold from yourself for your own self’s sake, and obey Allah when you are alone, and He will respond to your prayers.”




Published in: on January 13, 2009 at 11:30 am  Comments (1)  

A True Talib ul-‘Ilm [Student of Sacred Knowledge]

A story from the book “Safahaat min Sabr al-Ulama” [Glimpses of the Perseverance of the Scholars] by Sh. Abdul Fattah Abu Ghuddah:

…And here [we will mention] another account from among the most extraordinary of narratives, which occurred with an Andalusian scholar when he traveled from al-Andalus to the East. He traveled this great distance walking on his two legs [without the help of a horse or camel on which to ride] in order to meet with an imam from among the [great] imams and to acquire knowledge from him. When he arrived there he found that the imam had been put under house arrest and banned from teaching the people. In spite of this, by utilizing some secretive and artful means, the Andalusian scholar was able to learn from him… And history is replete with such strange and interesting occurrences…

….His name was Abu Abd ar-Rahman Baqiyy bin Makhlad Al-Andalusi al-Hafidh. He was born in the year 201 [after the Hijra] and passed away in the year 276, may Allah have mercy on him. He traveled to Baghdad by foot when he was about twenty years of age, and his deepest and most heart-felt desire was to meet with Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal and to study with him.

It is reported that he said:

“When I came close to Baghdad, the news reached me of the difficult trials that had encircled Ahmad bin Hanbal, and that meeting and communicating with him had been made prohibited. I was greatly grieved by this news. I lodged where I was, and the first thing I did after renting out a room for myself was go to the great masjid [of Baghdad]. I wanted to sit in the lessons there and hear what was being studied therein.

I came across a noble gathering for knowledge [at the masjid], in which a man was teaching about narrators of the hadith, elucidating upon the weaknesses of some narrators and the strength of others. I asked someone sitting next to me, ‘Who is that?’ and he replied, ‘That is Yahya bin Ma’een.’

I saw that a place had opened up [in the gathering] close to the teacher, so I moved to fill it and said to him, ‘Ya Aba Zakariyya, may Allah have mercy on you. [I am a] stranger [among you], whose home is in a far distant place. I have some questions, so do not disdain me.’ He said to me, ‘Speak.’ So I asked him about some of the narrators of ahadith I had met, and he praised some of them for their excellence, and warned about the weaknesses in others. I asked him a question about Hisham bin Ammar, and I had asked and gained a lot of knowledge from him […] when the people of the gathering called out, ‘That’s enough for you, may Allah have mercy on you! Others have questions too!’

Finally, as I was standing up [to leave], I said, “Can you inform me about one other person: What about Ahmad bin Hanbal?”

Yahya ibn Ma’een looked at me astounded, and said, ‘Can such as us judge a person like Ahmad bin Hanbal! He is the Imam of the Muslims, the best among them and the most honorable of them.”

I left the masjid and asked to be directed to the home of Imam Ahmad. I knocked on his door, and he answered it. I said, “Ya Aba Abdillah, I am a stranger from a far distant place, and this is my first time entering upon this land. I am a student of hadith and one who is bound to the Sunnah. I made this journey only to meet you.”

He said, “Enter from the alleyway to the side, and let no eye fall upon you.”

He then said to me, “Where is your home?” I said, “The distant west.” He asked, “Africa?’ I said, “Further than that. I would have to travel across the sea to get from my home to Africa. It is al-Andalus.”

He said, “Your home is indeed a great distance from here. And there is nothing more beloved to me than to help someone like you attain what you are seeking, but for that I am being tried with this difficulty, which you may already be aware of…”

I replied, “Indeed the reached me as I was approaching the city and coming towards you… Ya Aba Abdillah, this is my first time in this land, and I am unknown to its people. If you allow me, I will come to you each day in the garb of a beggar, and I will speak the way that they speak, and you can come to the door. If you narrate to me only one hadith each day [in this way], it would suffice me.”

He agreed, on the condition that I did not attend the gatherings of knowledge and did not meet with the [local] scholars of hadith [so that I would remain unknown among the people].

So I would carry a walking stick in my hand and wrap an old rag around my head, and I would hide my papers and writing instruments in my sleeve, and I would go to his door and call out, “[Give in charity] for the reward of Allah, may Allah have mercy on you!” as the other beggars there used to do. He would come out and close the door behind him, and narrate to me two ahadith or three or sometimes more, until I had collected about three hundred ahadith in this way.

I remained constant in doing this until the ruler who was trying Imam Ahmad died, and in his place came someone who adhered to the madhab of the Sunnah. Imam Ahmad then returned to his teaching and his name became renowned, and he became honored and loved among the people. His rank was elevated, and many people flocked to him to study.

He would always remember my perseverance in seeking to learn from him. When I would attend his lessons he would make room for me to sit close to him, and he would say to the other students, ‘This is someone who has earned the title of Talib ul-‘Ilm!’ and he would tell them my story. He would narrate hadith to me, and I would recite them to him.

One day I became ill, and I was absent from his classes for some time. He asked [the other students] about me and when he heard that I was ill he rose immediately to visit me, and the students followed. I was laying down in the room which I rented, a [cheap] woolen blanket beneath me, a thin cloth covering me, my books near my head [so that I could study laying down].

The lodging literally shook with the sound of many people [entering], and I heard them say ‘That’s him over there…’ […] The lodge-keeper rushed to me, saying ‘Ya Abd ar-Rahman, Abu Abdullah Ahmad bin Hanbal, Imam of the Muslims, has come to visit you!’

The Imam entered my room and sat at my bedside, and the lodging filled up with his students. It wasn’t large enough to fit all of them and a group of them had to remain standing, all of them with pens in hand. Imam Ahmad said to me, “Ya Abd ar-Rahman, have glad tidings of reward from Allah. In days of health we often fail to reflect upon illness, and in days of illness we don’t remember our health. I ask that Allah raise you to good health and wellbeing, and may He touch you with His right hand in healing.” And I saw every pen in the room moving to write down his words.

He left. The workers of my lodge were very kind to me after that, and were constantly in my service, one of them bringing me a mat to lay on, another bringing a good blanket and wholesome food for me to eat. They treated me better than family because such a righteous person came to visit me…”

He passed away in the year 276 [after Hijra] in al-Andalus. May Allah have mercy on him.

[…] His student Abu Abdul Malik Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Qurtubi said of him: ‘Baqiyy bin Makhlad was tall, strong, and had tough endurance in walking. I never saw him on a ride, ever. He was humble and unpretentious, and would always attend the funeral prayer.’

How excellent was his patience and his passion for sacred knowledge, and how beautiful his struggle to attain and collect it!

Published in: on November 25, 2007 at 4:29 pm  Comments (14)  

some nice articles

as salaamu alaykum,

In the last few days I’ve had the opportunity to surf the net and read a number of Muslim blogs in a more thorough way than I’ve ever done before. There must be a million blogs out there, and after some time online, surfing from one to the next, reading here and there, I just felt tired and overwhelmed, like you do when you’ve spent too long in the mall jostled by too many people. It’s just an ocean of voices, ideas, experiences…

They seem to be an overwhelming mixture of many things, including what seems to be simple cathartic venting and opinionated ranting on various issues. My concern when reading these things are two fold; one, the development of a sort of intense self-focus that veils a person from seeing their life and their opinions in a wider context, which would help them put things in perspective; and secondly, the trend towards everyone in our community being content with their own reading and understanding of Islam, even if that understanding is formed without any reference point or basis in knowledge.

Alhamdulillah, however in the mix I also found some excellent creative writing, thoughtful reflection, insightful commentary and sharing of knowledge.

Here are some nice things I’ve read recently:

Imam Suhaib Webb’s answer to the heat wave 🙂

A beautiful response to the question, “How do I improve my Quranic recitation?” by Sidi Faraz Rabbani.

Some good (and funny) tips on learning Arabic on the Islamic Law Etc. Blog.

 — A thought provoking piece on knowledge.  (It gives a new shade of meaning to the Prophet’s (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) duaa, Allahumma innee a’udhubika min ‘ilmin la yanfa’ “O Allah, I seek refuge in You from knowledge that does not benefit.)

happy reading 🙂

wasalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullah.

Published in: on June 12, 2007 at 3:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Sh. Habib on Women and Scholarship

I watched an excellent program the other day with Sh. Habib Ali Jifri on the important role women have to play in Islamic scholarship, and the great need we have today for women to study and become teachers, scholars, writers, to give fatawa, etc.

One thing that I find very beautiful in our tradition, but something that is often overlooked, is the critical role women have played in developing our scholarship from the very beginning and for centuries thereafter. It was only when the Muslim world began to degenerate in many different areas, politically, economically, as well as intellectually that we find a disengagement of women from the scholarly arena. (Interestingly enough, some historians cite the influence of Christian thought on the Muslim world as one of the reasons for this reversal of roles for women.)

Here are some points the shaykh said on the program (hafidhahu Allah) that I found very interesting:

— We have Sayyidah ‘Aisha (radhi Allah anhaa), as one of the first examples of a Muslim woman who was a scholar and a faqih, a woman who gave fatawa (religious rulings) and basically had her own madhhab (school of law). Many of the Ummahaat al-Mu’mineen and others of the sahabiyaat (women from the generation of the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) were teachers and narrated hadith, and in the following generations we find many, many women scholars. Some of the greatest male scholars that we know of had women teachers. Imam Shafa’ii for example, had a woman as one of his primary teachers, Sayyidah Nafeesa bint al-Hasan. Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, the Ameer al-Mu’mineen in Hadith, had among his teachers sixteen or seventeen women, all of whom had reached the level of Muhadith. There was a woman scholar (didn’t catch her name which was mentioned on the program) who resided in Damascus, and it is reported that students from many different countries would flock to her to study, crowding outside her door on Mount Qasiyoun. There were women who had majalis of ‘ilm at Jamia’ Umawiyy (the Omayyad Mosque) here in Damascus, and men and women would gather to attend and reap the benefits of their knowledge. He gave many, many examples, but unfortunately I did not take notes during the program so I don’t remember all the names and exact details. (sorry)

— Women especially shined in the field of Hadith in Islamic history, and he had a print-out of some women that related hadith, the number of hadith that they related and the number of their students. A number of these women were from the Ummahaat al-Mu’mineen, such as ‘Aisha, Juwayriyyah and Umm Salamah (radhi Allahu anhunn). He made the point that these women, being mothers of the believers, had some restrictions (relating to the ayaat in the Quran that talk about speaking from ‘waraa’ al-hijaab’ and so forth) and yet we still find them contributing to the knowledge. His point was basically that if there were any women who would have stepped back from studying and teaching because of the restrictions of hijab or aadaab, it would be these women, and yet we find them playing such a vibrant role in teaching.

— The interviewer asked Sh. Habib about women teaching men, something that may be considered odd or even wrong in the Muslim world today. Sh. Habib said that there needs to be a conveyance of knowledge taking place and we should not confine men and women from benefiting from each other, as long as it is based on a relationship of proper adab between teacher and student. When it comes to more basic and fundamental things, which can be taught by a number of different people, the norm should be that women teach women and men teach men. However, he said especially when we are talking about a higher level of knowledge a person should not be prevented from learning from someone because of their gender.

— On the print-out we saw a listing of some women narrators of hadith and the numbers of their students. Consistently, all of the women had more male students than female, and some even had only male students. Sh. Habib said that many people ask the question ‘why do the number of male scholars in our history outnumber that of women?’ He said that the answer can be seen from that chart. Its clear that women had the opportunity to teach and that they were esteemed for their knowledge (which is why they had students from both genders); however the number of women who stepped forward to learn were less than those of men.

And here Sh. Habib made a critical point: Women need to step forward and study. Yes, Muslim societies and male scholars and teachers need to encourage women to take on these roles, and there are many things in the Muslim community that need to be remedied in this regard, but YOU as a woman are not incapable… you are strong and you need not wait for someone to tell you that this is what you should be doing. You need to step forward, just as those women did before us.

He mentioned a modern day example from Syria, that a group of women approached Sh. Nur ad-Din ‘Itr and requested that he teach them, and this really started a movement of women in Syria who are studying and memorizing hadith. There are something like ten women now who have memorized the Six Sound Books in their entirety, with all of their isnaad! He said that he hadn’t even heard of this before, among men or women in our time. Also in Syria tens of women have memorized Bukhari, hundred have memorized Riyadh as-Saliheen…. Sh. Habib said that memorization is not necessarily the focus, but that this is a beautiful example of what can happen when women are passionate and are energized to study and take it upon themselves to seek out knowledge.

I was really moved by the shaykh’s talk, may Allah ennoble and bless him.

I hope that women out there really take this message to heart. Sometimes we are told in subtle or overt ways that in order to use our intellects in a meaningful way we need to ‘reinterpret’ Islam and have a more ‘progressive’ understanding of what our deen is about (read: change it), as if it is something intrisically oppressive of women; and on the other hand we may be told in different ways that our role is confined entirely to domestic tasks.

While the truth is something else, and we just need to go back to the roots of our religion to find it. We are the inheritors of a tradition of women poets, scholars, teachers… who were ennobled and empowered by this deen to share sacred knowledge with others. I ask Allah to make us people who walk in their footsteps, treading a road shaded by angels’ wings and that easens the one to Paradise. May Allah make us people who reflect and study and learn, and who are beautified with knowledge, and share it with others in the best of ways.

wAllahu a’lam. This is what I remember and understood in summary from the interview, and they are not the exact words of the shaykh.

wasalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullah.

PS: Here is an interesting article from the NY Times about a brother’s research into the large number of female Muslim scholars in history:

Published in: on June 10, 2007 at 10:11 am  Comments (5)  

a few words on Arabic

pt 1: The Classical

Arabic is a beautiful language, and also a difficult one. It’s grammar is quite complex, which is what makes the language so exact. For example, to refer to the 2nd person tense in English, a person would use ‘you’ in a number of different situations, whether talking to an individual or a group — e.g., ‘You are reading this blog’. While in Arabic, there are different forms for ‘you’ to refer to a singular male, singular female, dual male, dual female, a group of men or a mixed group, or an all-female group. Each one of these would be a different sentence, said using a different pronoun and a different conjugation of the verb. (In English you could add words to make the language more precise ‘You two, You all,’ etc, but in Arabic the exactness is intrinsic.)

Also, Arabic has many, many, many words, which makes it a very rich language and a beautiful one once you’ve mastered it, but which can also make it really difficult for a foreigner seeking to understand it. It seems like you’re never done with the dictionary, and there’s always a new word to learn. For example, in Arabic, there are something like ten different words for sleeping – to sleep heavily, to sleep lightly, to sleep during the day time, to nod off, to doze, etc – all have particular words that express each particular meaning. While in English, if you wish to specify ‘sleep’ in this manner, there is no one word that can convey it and you simply have to explain it. It is for this reason that Arabic is very powerful, and that translation is difficult. You may find that four or five adjectives are used in a sentence in Arabic, each having a slightly different connotation, but if you try to translate the sentence into English, you can only use one.

Also, there are different standards for eloquence in Arabic and in English. We find that in English, conciseness and directness are what make beautiful language (at least in the modern day); while in Arabic, descriptive, sort of flowery writing is what makes beautiful language.

However, another interesting thing about Arabic is that there is a lot of taqdeer, meaning that sometimes syntactical parts are not expressly written in a sentence if it’s understood between the speaker and the listener. It’s considered more eloquent to take out unnecessary, repetitive things from the language if they are understood. To give a simple example, you would say ‘the book is on the table’ instead of saying ‘the book is present on the table’, even though technically in terms of the grammar, the word ‘present’ is there, but implied and hidden away. I read a book a while back on Sibawayhi, the founding father of Arabic grammar (though interestingly enough he was not Arab), and it made an interesting point about how, in developing this method of grammar, he put a lot of emphasis on that live understanding between speaker and listener, on communication of ideas more than on technicality of syntax and that’s why he formalized taqdeer.

(The Arabic Gems blog has short anecdotes that describe some of these beautiful and interesting qualities of the language. (link is on the right of the pg)

When you begin to study these things and you start to see the combination of the powerful words used in the Quran and the subtle complexities of its grammar, and the real meaning that that conveys, it’s really mind blowing and you start to get a very deep appreciation for what this Book contains. Subhan’Allah, and if we feel this way as people who are just beginning to understand the nuances of the language, what about those who were its very masters, the ancient Arabs whose words and poetry are used as evidences today for the basic principles of grammar? For them, for whom language was really their talent and their joy, the Quran must have been such a humbling and awe-inspiring thing.

pt 2: The Colloquial

Arabic is an ancient language, and the foundational texts of Islam, the Quran, the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) and the classical books of Islamic scholarship (as well as most things in written form even until today), are all in classical Arabic. But what’s developed over time (a natural consequence of the language being spread to so many different peoples and over such a long period of time) are dialects that differ widely from one another. For example, in Syria, they tend to prefix present tense verbs with an ‘m’ – so ‘aktub’ (I’m writing) becomes ‘amaktub’ (I’m mwriting :). They also tend to slant their a’s, so instead of saying ‘mawjoodah’, they say ‘mawjoodayyy’. They drop the Qaf (Q sound) from the language and replace it was a hamza (short ‘a’ sound) so ‘qalb’ becomes ‘alb’. All of these things tend to make it difficult for the average foreign student studying classical Arabic to understand the average Syrian, and almost impossible to understand the taxi drivers who really seem to have a language of their own 🙂

It’s also so difficult to try to express yourself in a new language. It’s frustrating to have to articulate what may be a deep or meaningful idea in a sentence construction that a child would use… As someone who really likes language and writing, and appreciates beautiful words, I find it really confining… and I pray that Allah (swt) blesses me with eloquence and ease in Arabic.

You’ll also make a lot of mistakes… especially when you’re upset. I remember trying to get a new pair of glasses made here, and the shopkeeper messed up big time on the prescription. (We wrote out the numbers in Arabic and in English for him, and he still got it wrong.). In the end he kept trying to lay the blame on us, when actually he was the one that was mistaken. I kept telling the man, “La la la, anta khata… anta khata…” At the time, I thought that I was saying “No no, you are mistaken” but actually what I kept repeating was “You are a mistake”… lol 🙂

So it’s when emotions are high that you really began to appreciate having a native language, in which you can really express yourself and articulate your feelings and thoughts clearly. It’s an everyday blessing that we often overlook. Allah (swt) says in the Quran, “‘ allamahu al-bayaan“, that Allah has taught us clear, articulate, intelligent speech, that’s understood between us. Definitely something to be grateful for…

Published in: on April 27, 2007 at 10:47 am  Comments (8)  

if eyes could see

a story I heard from one of my teachers:

Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali had a brother who was of ahl Allah, a person of deep spiritual insight and understanding. At the time when Imam al-Ghazali was known for his mastery of Islamic law and excellence as a teacher, his brother would never pray behind him, for reasons he left unsaid. His mother would often chastise him for this (‘What will people think? They’ll think that there’s some problem between you two, or that you find his prayer unacceptable’) until one day he relented. He went to the masjid where Imam al-Ghazali led the prayer, and after the iqamah was called, he joined the ranks of worshippers. He left immediately after the prayer, his perturbed and troubled feelings apparent on his face.

When Imam al-Ghazali returned home, he questioned his brother about the manner in which he left the masjid, and his apparent unease. His brother replied, “In the first raka’h I saw you in a vast garden, reciting words of the Quran. But from the second raka’h until the end, all I saw was blood, blood, blood… you were swimming in a pool of it…”

Imam al-Ghazali’s face colored, and he confessed: “In the first raka’h I was in a state of khushu’ with Allah [focus and connection]; but in the second, I recalled that a woman had approached me earlier in the day, and asked me a question related to haydh [menstruation], and I became distracted thinking about her question.”

It was shortly after this time that Imam al-Ghazali left his high ranking position as a teacher and scholar and went into seclusion, focusing on purifying his soul and worshiping Allah. It was from this time of spiritual focus that he produced Ihya Ulum ad-Deen, one of the greatest and most influential books of Islamic history.

Published in: on February 15, 2007 at 2:42 pm  Comments (7)  

seize the day

“The wealthiest place on the planet is the cemetery. Why? Because it is the place where so many unrealized dreams, unwritten books, unopened companies and unfulfilled ideas lie.”

— from a talk by br. haroon sellars

Published in: on January 9, 2007 at 1:12 am  Leave a Comment  

poem: Arrival

As salaamu alaykum wa rahmatullah,

“Dear Damascus Dreams,

Why are you posting so much these days? Aren’t you supposed to be like studying and learning Arabic or something over there?


A Concerned Reader.”

Dear Concerned Reader,

That’s a very good question! I’ve got the studying blues these days for some reason, which means I’m spending a lot of time daydreaming and not too much time doing any real work… but I have exams starting this Sunday, so that’ll bring me back to my senses I think 🙂 In the mean time, enjoy the frequent posting and don’t ask too many questions 😉


Here is a beautiful poem that one of my teachers mentioned in class the other day…

naseem al-waSli habba ‘ala an-nudaama
fa askarahum wa maa sharibu mudaama
wa naadaahum ‘ibaadiy laa tanaamu
yanaalu al-waSla man hajara al-manaama
yanaalu al-waSla man sahara al-layaali
‘aala al-aqdaami wa istaHlaa al-qiyaama
famaa maqSooduhum jannaatu ‘adnin
wa laa al-Hooru al-hisaanu wa laa al-khiyaama
siwaa naTHr al-Jaleeli wa dhaa munaahum
wa haadha maTlabu al-qawmil-kiraama

The gentle breeze of Arrival embraces the penitent ones
And intoxicates them, though they drank not a sip of wine.
And it calls them, ‘O my Servants, sleep not (this night…)
Arrival is for those who forsake sleeping.
Arrival is for those who stay up at night
Upon their feet, and taste sweetness in devotion.’
Their object is not the Eternal Garden,
Nor it’s pure Companions nor it’s lofty tents,
But only vision of the Sublime,
Of He who can grant their every desire;
And for this the noble aspire and yearn.

 (al-Wasl: connection to Allah (swt), arriving in His presence, full consciousness, awareness and knowledge of Him.)

May Allah make us people of Qiyaam, and people with hearts connected with Him; and people who are honored by the vision of His Noble Countenance in the hereafter, Ameen.

Pray for tawfiq in my studies,


Published in: on December 20, 2006 at 12:47 pm  Comments (3)  

the greatest gift

Shaykh Abdul Ghani an-Nabulsi was a famous scholar and ‘man of Allah’ who lived in Damascus. The masjid where he used to teach and in which he is buried (Jami’a Nabulsi) is just a few blocks from my home; his grandson, carrying on the noble family tradition from his father, from his father, is the resident scholar and imam there now.

One of my teachers mentioned this story about Sh. Abdul Ghani:

Whenever he used to feel constraint in his heart and narrowness in his chest, which happens when one’s eman needs to be renewed and increased, Sh. Abdul Ghani would go and visit the hospitals of Damascus. He would, in seeing the ill and weak, become more conscious of the blessings Allah had bestowed upon him; and he would also pray for those in need.

One day when he was about to enter a hospital specialized for those with leprosy, he saw a man being kicked out from it onto the street: he was a leper, his body broken and decaying, and about to die. The hospital attendants could do no more for him. Seeing this man in such a pitiful state moved Sh. Abdul Ghani’s heart, and he raised his hands to pray for him, when he heard him say: “Ya Abdul Ghani! Do not stand between me and my Lord.”

In astonishment, Sh. Abdul Ghani asked, “How is it that you know my name?”

The man said, “The ones who know Allah know the ones who know Allah.”

The shaykh asked, “If you are of the ones who know Allah, then why don’t you ask Him to heal you?”

He said, “I see others with perfect bodies, but with hearts that are damaged, broken, and disfigured. And yet Allah has blessed me with a sound, healthy, whole heart. So I am content with Him; and can ask for no more.”


A beggar.“A penny for Allah, a penny for Allah? Doesn’t anyone have a penny they can give me for Allah’s sake?”

“May Allah bless you! May Allah grant you a long life! Give some food to those in need! Don’t you have something to give?”

“A small sadaqah is big in Allah’s sight… A small sadaqah…? Can’t you give me a small sadaqah, may Allah reward you?”

Among beggars.

“Is there anyone who can give something to this beggar? A whole heart? Is there anyone giving away a pure, whole heart?”

For a whole heart, I would give the life of this world: every moment of monotone emotion felt, every numb pleasure that kills my soul, every restless feeling that eats away inside.

For a whole heart, I would give away all my broken dreams, gathering each piece from it’s scattered place, blown in every direction by the winds of confusion and desire.

For a whole heart, I would give all of my bitter tears, shed from mistaken hurts and affected wrongs, or complexities that I myself constructed.

For a whole heart, I would give my own tongue that speaks ill instead of truth.

I would give my very eyes, that see the night sky in all it’s splendor, and that still choose slumber over vigil.

I would give my soul, troubled and heavy, always foolishly choosing darkness over Light.

But who would accept this currency or this exchange?

I’m just a poor beggar, with nothing to give. Instead, I depend on the compassion of the Owner to fulfill my needs, and be generous with me, though I have nothing to give Him in return; my worthless possessions clutched tight.

sign me,

(as br. haroon sellars used to say)

–the poor and in need of Allah.

Published in: on December 14, 2006 at 1:43 pm  Comments (7)