Sunday, May 01, 2005





Praise is due to the One who has clarified what is needed to purify the heart and adorn it. Praise and peace be upon Muhammad and his family as long as he is the means by which it is achieved and grant him safety. The lights of the pearls of tasawwuf in relation to other lights is like the pearl in relation to the oyster shell Or like the ninety-nine lines written in gold next to the one line written in ink.

Having said this, the condition of people, in this time of preoccupation and movement, seems to seek from me a book about the rectification of the hearts. Suddenly, I find a down-pouring of the bounty of Allah. I responded by bringing forth a clarifying poem that fulfills the most important needs. It draws the distant close even for one of slow comprehension, and with it the illiterate becomes literate.


I began by starting with the heart of beginnings [which is courtesy spelled backwards] Since this is the highest and noblest of beginnings
Thus, have courtesy with Allah, the High, the Majestic by practicing incessantly modesty and humility, Dejected out of shame, humbled, imploring Him.

Shaykh Muhammad Maulud says in this poem, "Fa qultu badian bi qalbi al-bada'," and this line has two meanings. The first, more literal meaning is "I begin with the heart of beginnings." The word "al-bada'," has to do with "beginning," and the word "qalb" has two meanings: "heart" and "to turn over." Thus, this is a play on words, and so the author is also saying, "I am beginning by flipping the beginning over." If you flip over the word "bada'" (beginning), you get "adab" (courtesy). Hence, the author says he begins with adab because courtesy is the highest and noblest of beginnings, and Muslims should have adab with Allah.

The word "adab" has many meanings in Arabic. A person who is erudite is called "adib," because, generally, with learning comes manners. Thus, the root meaning of the word "adab" is related to "courtesy." In addition, a muÂ’addib is a teacher of children, and the word literally means "the one who is causing somebody to have adab." An educator of children is someone who teaches the students how to behave properly, and proper behavior is at the heart of this science. Thus, the shaykh emphasizes the extreme importance of having proper adab with Allah and of behaving properly with Him before anyone else.


We show adab to Allah in two ways: one, by expressing haya and the other, by having dhul. The root-word of "haya" is related to life. "Hay" means "living," and "hayat" means "life" itself. According to a famous Hadith, "Every religion has a quality that is characteristic of that religion, and the characteristic of my religion is haya." Haya is important not only in Muslim culture but in many other cultures as well, such as the Filipino culture. "Hayah," meaning shame in Tagalog, is significant to the Christian Filipinos as well as for many other northern Filipinos. (This is from the Muslim influence because the Muslims had a strong and lasting influence on the Filipinos before the Spanish arrived there).

Although this is no longer the case, there was once a time when if you had grown up in this culture, you most probably would have heard the phrase "shame on you" as a child. In modern American culture however, "shame" has become a bad word. We are told that shaming a child is a bad thing to do because it will harm the child's self-esteem. Therefore, everything a child does is okay, and we must make him feel good about himself, no matter what he does. If he just slit his brother's throat, they say, "well, he has had a trying childhood, so we have to make allowances for him." This is an extreme this culture has reached.

Anthropologists have divided traditional cultures into shame and guilt cultures where guilt is an inward mechanism, and shame is an outward mechanism. The word "guilt" comes from a German word that has to do with debt. When indebted, you feel an obligation to the person to whom you are indebted. The idea with guilt is that if you have done something wrong, there is an internal mechanism that caused you to feel guilty about your actions and thus you want to relieve that guilt by rectifying your wrongdoing.

Most primitive cultures are not guilt-based cultures but shame-based. For them, the reason why you refrain from doing something wrong is because you loathe being shamed by other people and do not desire others to say such things as, "how could you?" "how dare you!" or "shame on you!" Furthermore, you do not want to bring shame upon your family, your tribe, and the like due to your own actions. While this culture has almost entirely lost and even dishonors this concept, Islam not only honors the idea of feeling shame for your wrong actions, it takes it to another level by instructing you to have shame before Allah and the unseen world. Thus, you recognize that even if people cannot see you, Allah and the angels always see you, so you have shame before Him and the angels. Hence, Muslims have a shame-based culture; however, that shame transcends the cultural sense of feeling shame towards oneÂ’s elders or towards oneÂ’s parents and takes it to another level which has an int! erior mechanism that is not akin to guilt.

"Haya" is having shame before Allah, and the author of this poem says that is part of having proper adab with Allah. Thus, if you want to have correct behavior (adab) with Allah, then have a sense that Allah is always watching you so that you feel shameful to do something that is displeasing to Him. This is similar to the way most healthy people do not desire to act in a manner that displeases their parents because their parents are the means by which they came into existence. Their parents supported them; the mother cleaned the child when he was young and spent nights awake for him. By having this shame with his parents, the child honors them.

In addition to haya, Shaykh Muhammad Maulud says to have dhul. A dhalil person is someone who is lowly, abject, and humble. Although this is a negative quality when displayed towards others, it is a noble quality when shown toward Allah. The Quran mentions that people who incur the anger of Allah get dhul thrust upon them. The shaykh advises being dhalil before Allah alone. Al-dhalil is someone such as a slave who is afraid to do anything in the presence of his master; there is a type of humility before God contained in this idea.

Thus, according to the shaykh, a person with adab is one who possesses haya and dhul. Furthermore, he says that not only should you feel this haya and dhul, but you should also feel dejected out of shame before Allah. That is, you should feel you are munkasir, broken. You become broken in the presence of Allah when you recognize that you are bringing to Him nothing but yourself and your wrong actions. When you seriously ponder upon all that Allah has given you and then reflect over what you have given to Him in return, you really feel this breaking (inkisar) out of shame; you become humbled before Allah in awe, and you realize you can only implore Him to change your state.


Give up your desires for His, emptied of desire for what His servants have, hastening to fulfill His commands, fearful of the subtle fault of bad manners.

The Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam is reported to have said "none of you truly believes until his desires are in accordance with the very thing that I brought." Muru'ah (virtuous merit) is what the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam brought, and that is what Allah wants from us. Thus, the shaykh says that adab with Allah is to give up your designs for what Allah desires for you to be emptied of desire, having no tam'a. Tam'a is greed, avarice, desire, wanting something out of situations, and having ulterior motives behind your actions. Al-tama'a is one who desires to know what he may gain out of all situations, asking himself, "what's in it for me?" According to the shaykh, we must rid ourselves of this attitude. We should desire nothing from the servants of Allah; rather, all of our desires should be sought from Allah because He is the One who possesses everything.

Furthermore, the shaykh says that you should be quick to fulfill Allah's commands and constantly be aware of the hidden fault of having bad adab with Him. The subtlety of bad adab is illustrated by the hadith, "A man amongst you will say a word giving it no consideration at all, and it will drag him 70 seasons in the hell fire." Thus, as this hadith demonstrates, if you do not learn the commands of Allah, you will not know when you are breaking them. For example, if you do not know what is a stop sign, you just pass right through it, unaware of having done something wrong. The problem is that accidents tend to occur when people, whether knowingly or unknowingly, do not follow the rules. Similarly, when we breach adab with Allah, bad things happen: we bring harm upon ourselves, and this should be a serious fear of ours.

Once, a Mauritanian shaykh and I saw a mouse coming out of its hole, and we noticed that every time the mouse heard a sound, it would stop and shoot back into the hole. "That's taqwa," the shaykh explained. Taqwa is worrying about being eaten alive by your own mistakes. Having this kind of fear of Allah ultimately turns into love, and that is the highest maqam (spiritual station). We do not fear Allah because we think Allah is horrible-the contrary is true: Allah is the Merciful, the Compassionate, the Forgiving. However, at the same time, we wish not to incur the wrath of Allah because Allah does have wrath. Similarly, our parents will sometimes do painful things to us out of love, and often, we are not aware of the reason.


If you realize your attributes of servitude, you are assisted with the attributes of the Independent One. Realize your abjectness and impoverishment, and you will gain dignity and wealth from the All-Powerful.

Shaykh Muhammad Maulud then explains that if you realize the qualities of haya (shame), dhul (humility), and faqar (poverty) in yourself and empty yourself of all of their opposites, such as shameless behavior and arrogance, then you will gain dignity and wealth from Allah. Thus, by realizing your 'ubudia (servitude) to Allah, you truly gain freedom.

Freedom is gained because in completing your servitude to Allah, you are no longer a slave to yourself, and such a person is in actuality the only free human being. If you cannot control yourself, you are a slave to yourself. Someone may claim to be free, but when the food shows up, he cannot resist and stop himself. Such behavior does not indicate freedom as far as Muslims are concerned. Another person may also claim freedom, but when an opportunity to have an illicit relation emerges, he cannot control himself, even if he is the president of the United States. One former president of the United States of America was a Rhodes scholar who went to Cambridge and received the highest level of education, yet he was a slave to the lowest aspects of himself. He is unable to control himself. Such a person is not free; he is 'abd al-hawa, a slave of his passions.

On the contrary, when such a situation arises for a person who is 'abd Allah, he has taqwa of Allah. Thus, even though the temptation might be there, as it is natural for human beings to have shahwa (desire), he can control it because he is not an ‘abd (slave) to his desire; rather, he is a sayyid (master) of it. If one has desire for one's spouse, then the shahwa is mubah (permissible). However, if the desire is for someone with whom such a relationship would be illicit, then the 'abd Allah does not even consider it, and such a person is a truly free person. The same applies to any other shahwa because the 'abd Allah is not a slave to any of his desires. They serve him, and he does not serve them.

The stronger your taqwa is, the more control you have over your desires. According to Imam al-Ghazzali, the stomach and the genitals are the two most dominant desires, and if you can control these two, then the other ones become easy. In addition, the desire of using the tongue is something that also causes people trouble. There are people who cannot stop backbiting no matter how much they are admonished to stop. I have seen this occur a great deal. In fact, I once pointed out to a person that he was saying something wrong, and in less than three or four minutes, he began to say the same thing and was not even aware of what he was doing. This inability to control the tongue is a major problem for most of us. We speak badly about others, complain, and say other things that we should not be saying. Learning to control the tongue is an important matter.

Another problem with human beings is that we perceive these qualities that the shaykh mentions, of being impoverished and being humble, as abject qualities. We do not wish to be poor, yet the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam chose poverty over wealth. He had no money or jewelry in his house; he slept on the ground on a "bed" made of leather and palm fibers; he had only two pillows in his room for his guests to sit upon. He lived in total poverty. In this culture, if people lived like that, they would most likely be in a state of total humiliation and degradation, being concerned about what other people think, not about what is best for them. On the contrary, the shaykh says that if you realize your true state of 'ubudia to Allah, you will have dignity with Allah; that is, you will be mu'azaz with Allah no matter what your living conditions are in this world.

In Surat Yasin, we are told about the two people who came to warn the town's people of Allah's punishment, yet the town's people threatened them in return. Then Allah says, "'Azazna bithalithin: We gave them ‘iza with a third." Allah gives 'iza to whomever He wants. He says, "Ya'izu man yasha'u wa yudhilu man yasha'u. Tu'izu man tasha'u wa tadhilu man tasha'u: You give iza to whomever You want, and You humble whomever You want." Amazingly, there are people in the world today who are out on the streets begging while their ancestors were people who used to rule the world. Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala can do so to any people He wants.

A secret of creation is that if you realize the true attribute in yourself before Allah, Allah gives you its opposite. For example, if you realize humility before Allah, Allah will make you 'aziz before other people, giving you dignity because of your realization of your true state of humility with Him. If you are arrogant with Allah, He may let it go for a while, but when He takes you to account, He completely humbles you before everyone. This is a big secret that the shaykh gives us in this poem.


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sara said...