Life is a Sea of Choices

At the start of the day; the ignorant man thinks about what he will do that day’ ….

‘At the start of the day; the wise man thinks about what God will do with him’

(Sheik ibn Ata’ullah (ra).

If you’re swimming in the sea of choices and experiences that is the worldly life, having fun or just swimming along and then you find that its full of sharks and crocodiles who want to drag you down to a terrible place where you will be devoured, head for this Island of Blessings, Safety and Rewards, the route there is a straight one, but there are many distractions, ignore them, focus on that island and hold on to the only handhold that doesn’t break and God willing you’ll get there soon enough, do you want to be the fool who says ‘I’m having fun, the island is far away, I like it here’ and swims round and round in circles until the predators get him and drag him down.

(Anon)

Rumi (ra) once compared the world to the witch of Kabul who held men prisoner with her decorations and perfume. He informed the people that we may free ourselves from the witchcraft of the world by repeating;

‘I take refuge in the Lord of daybreak’

He reminded us to beware of the world and that to escape from her snares we need to follow a guide whose; breath is cool, who can loosen our shackles and who understand the mystery of ALLAH does whatever He chooses. The world is a trap and its bait is lust. We can escape from this trap by turning our faces to God. Rumi reminds us that when we go along the right way we have blessings, but when we wander on the wrong path we do not do too well.

Throughout the Mathnavi Rumi (ra) calls us to abandon desire for the unnecessary worldly things so that we can receive the mercies of the Creator and then we can find that without moving we can travel from His prison into His beautiful rose-garden.

Sufi Wisdom

Rumi once explained that there are two types of intelligence or wisdom. The first is that acquired intelligence which is gained through education; studying from books and lecturers, memorizing, reflecting and forming concepts. This intelligence has its uses, but it can also sometimes be a burden. The second type of intelligence is a gift of wisdom from God.

Acquired intelligence is like water supply entering a house from outside, if the supply is blocked the house may go without water, but the wisdom that is a gift from God flows from the heart. therefore e he advised the people to seek the wisdom that God may bestow upon a person more than acquired intelligence.

Intuition is an internal wisdom that exists at the core of each individual. This includes the intuition of the Fitra (the true nature of humans) and the subconscious memory of seeing God before entering the fetus, the memory of Him informing us that He is our Lord and Creator and that we should worship Him.

Intuition exists somewhere between intellect and emotion and it is the product of repeated pattern recognition. It is not intellectual, although intellectual knowledge aids it and neither is it emotional, although emotion informs it. Rather than intuition being the slave of emotion or intellect it is their true master.

The ‘humanist’ 20th century psychologist Carl Rogers became aware of the inner wisdom that resides in each individual whilst he was working as a psychotherapist. He called this inner ability to perceive things accurately, and to function in ways that promote well-being, the Organismic Valuing Process. Others such as Abraham Maslow have also become aware of the innate intuitive human ability of self-actualization.

Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and give him peace) is reported to have explained that ‘Religion (Islam) is sincere talking helping and good advice’ (Bukhari). He (may God bless him and give him peace) often gave wise counsel to the people such as explaining ‘make the most of five things before five others, life before death, health before sickness, free time before becoming busy, youth before old age, and wealth before poverty.’ (Saheeh al-Jaami).

Imam Jalaluddeen Suyuti (ra) recorded a narration that summarized the Holy Prophet’s (may God bless him and give him peace) practically talking helping a person over a broad range of areas in one meeting. Suyuti (ra) records how one time a person came to the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) and asked him to counsel him on some important issues. The Holy Prophet’s counsel is paraphrased below;

Question,

O Rasoolollah I desire to become an Alim.

Answer,

Fear and obey God and knowledge and wisdom will come to you.

Question,

I desire to be wealthy.

Answer,

If you choose contentment you will be wealthy.

Question,

I wish to be of the best of people.

Answer,

The one who benefits others is the best of people…..

Question,

I want to become a just person.

Answer,

Do for others what you like for yourself so you may become a just person.

Question,

I wish to be liked in the court of God.

Answer,

Then practice the Dhikr of God Ta’aala.

Question,

I desire to be amongst the devout.

Answer,

Worship God as though you are seeing Him….

Question,

I wish that my faith should be perfect.

Answer,

Correct your personality and your faith will become perfect.

Question,

I wish to be classed amongst the obedient.

Answer,

Perform your Fard duties so that you will be counted amongst the obedient.

Question,

I wish to be resurrected with light in the Resurrection.

Answer,

Avoid oppressing others and you will be resurrected with light on the Day of Judgement.

Question,

I desire God’s Mercy.

Answer,

Show mercy upon yourself and the creation of God Ta’ala and He will show Mercy to you.

Question,

I wish for my sins to decrease..

Answer,

Seek God Ta’ala’s forgiveness and your sins will decrease……

Question,

I wish to be honoured.

Answer,

Avoid complaining in difficult times and you will be honoured.

Question,

I desire abundant provisions..

Answer,

Always remain in a state of purity so there will be blessings in your provision.

Question,

I wish to become the friend of God and His Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace).

Answer,

Like the things that God and His Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) like and dislike that which they dislike….

Question,

 

I desire to be saved from the anger of God Ta’ala.

Answer,

Do not become angry with anyone without having a valid Shariah reason so that you are saved from the anger of God.

Question,

I wish to become a person who’s supplications are accepted by God.

Answer,

Abstain form unlawful things and unlawful speech.

Question,

I desire that God won’t disgrace me in front of everyone on the Day of Judgement.

Answer,

Hide the faults of your brother and God Ta’ala will cover your faults.

***

 

“A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.”

(William Blake – a wise saying)

A rich profligate

 

is a lump of earth gilded

 

and a pious ascetic worshiper

 

is a sweetheart

 

covered in earth.

 

The latter

 

is the patched garment of Moses

 

and the former

 

is the bejeweled beard of Pharaoh.

 

Nevertheless good men

 

retain a cheerful countenance in adversity

 

whilst the rich droop their heads

 

even in prosperity.

 

Who possesses wealth and dignity

 

but therewith succours not those

 

whose minds are distressed,

 

Warn him wealth and dignity

 

will not be his the mansion

 

of the next world.

(Saadi)

Many wise people have explained that the secret of happy life is to be in harmony with your Merciful Creator and enjoy it, appreciating the things He gives you.

 

When fortune is a person’s slave

 

His heart is perpetually disposed towards obedience.

 

It is not fit to turn aside one’s head from servitude,

 

since fortune is obtainable from obedience.

 

Happiness is procured from obedience;

 

The heart becomes illumined from the light of obedience.

 

If you girds thy loins with submission,

 

Thou wilt open the door of everlasting happiness.

 

The wise man doth not turn his head from obedience,

 

since no excellence is more lofty than obedience.

 

Keep your ablutions freshened with the waters of obedience,

 

so that to-morrow you may be free as from fire.

 

Establish your prayers with sincerity,

 

So that you may attain everlasting prosperity.

 

Enlightenment of soul springs from obedience,

 

Just as the earth derives light from the sun.

 

Worship the Creator;

 

Sit down in the portals of obedience.

 

If you makes choice to worship the Creator,

 

you will be a chieftain in the kingdom of fortune.

 

Raise thy head and keep not abstinence in thy pocket,

 

for Paradise is the abode of the abstinent.

 

Lighten the lamp of your soul with piety,

 

that you may become happy, like the prosperous

 

Whoever is clad with the garment of genuine spirituality

 

has no fear for the trials of the day of Judgement.

(from Saadi)

Harms that Wise Believers Try to Avoid

In this life God has given the human beings a choice as to whether they choose virtue, wisdom and good character or whether they choose to allow their lusts to lead them into vice and evil. Avoid misery for this life and the hereafter by avoiding harming others and avoiding self-harming, by trusting in God and having patience, by lessening ambitions and being pleased by what one has, by doing genuine and well intentioned good deeds and living by the Sunnah of the Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) and by seeking to develop genuine humble virtues and avoiding vices (keep life simple, humble and spiritually clean).

Vices are all the undesirable, unhealthy and spiritually unlawful forms of behaviour. They are those actions and habits to be avoided as they lead to unhappiness in this life and the hereafter.

Every believing person must train their intellectual faculty with deliberate thinking and reflection as to the benefits of virtue and the loss caused by vices. Through this process they may gradually develop true wisdom and virtues such as temperance and courage.

Sins are actions contrary to the orders of the Creator as recorded in Divine Law as taught by the Prophets through the ages. Previous Divine Laws were recorded in scriptures such as the Torah and Gospels, but the current explanation of Divine Law for this last age of humanity on Earth is the Holy Qur’an.

Wise believers avoid hurting or harming other living beings (human or animal) in any way without lawful cause…

  • wise believers avoid harmful lying,
  • wise believers avoid slandering,
  • wise believers avoid back biting (this is revealing others faults for gossip),
  • wise believers avoid haughtiness and arrogance, wise believers avoid showing off (especially in good deeds) – if you have some good quality or skill remember it is just a gift from God, like a loan it may be withdrawn,
  • wise believers avoid looking at others with envy,
  • wise believers avoid haughtily considering themselves superior to others due to wealth, looks, ancestry or any other reason,
  • wise believers avoid negative nationalism (be a human being not a tribalist),
  • wise believers avoid tribal iniquity and wise believers avoid racism, wise believers avoid harshly finding fault with others,
  • wise believers avoid ridiculing people, wise believers avoid being harsh with juniors,
  • wise believers avoid committing adultery,
  • wise believers avoid gazing lustfully at strange people of the opposite sex,
  • wise believers avoid being alone with people of the opposite sex in dubious circumstances that could facilitate adultery or rape,
  • wise believers avoid stealing, wise believers avoid using things belonging to others without permission,
  • wise believers avoid being miserly
  • wise believers avoid accepting usurious or corrupt earnings,
  • wise believers avoid abortion in cases without an extreme medical justification,
  • wise believers avoid treating parents and elders disrespectfully,
  • wise believers avoid delaying prayers until they are late or miss them altogether,
  • wise believers avoid associating unnecessarily with harmful or deviant people,
  • wise believers avoid oppressing others,
  • wise believers avoid breaking the ties of family (forgive and rejoin ties),
  • wise believers avoid breaking the unity of the believers,
  • wise believers avoid doing things that one suspects are forbidden with good cause,
  • wise believers avoid abandoning the ways of the blessed Prophets to adopt or copy the ways of the foolish of the disbelievers,

amongst other things…

Few Muslims Live in Houses of Wisdom

It seems to my simple mind that Muslims in the modern era seem to be leaning in two directions.

One large group of Muslims (somewhat like the Abbasids) runs after material things and rushes after scientific, technical, professional and business education. Yet if they forget about Islam they just turn their houses into homes of foolishness not houses of wisdom.

As a result the women amongst them may begin to wear revealing and alluring clothes in public, take up the hobbies of slander and back-biting, live to shop and fill their minds with obscene soap operas, whilst their men may enter various fields of work that God has cursed, they justify themselves with various excuses, driven on by greed and the tongue lashings from their wives. Many of these men and women even take up positions in usurious banks and insurance companies, laboratories of torture, monstrous armed forces or start to sell alcohol and swine in their restaurants. Their children or grandchildren often leave the fold of Islam completely.

This group is the most powerful political influence within the Muslim Ummah, they have no wisdom, but they have many sophists speaking on their behalf. As Saadi says…

When a sage comes in contact with fools, he must not expect to be honoured,

and if an ignorant man overcomes a sage in an oratorical contest,

it is no wonder, because even a stone breaks a jewel.

What wonder is there that the song of a nightingale ceases

when imprisoned with a crow

Or that a virtuous man under

the tyranny of vagabonds feels affliction in his heart and is irate.

Although a base stone may break a golden vase,

The price of the stone is not enhanced

nor of the gold lost.

(Saadi)

Another large group of Muslims runs towards Allah, learning Islamic sciences, turning their back on the modern world and thinking only of the hereafter. Their homes are homes of wisdom, but their countries are weak and exist either as clients to powerful disbelievers or get stamped on and robbed by east or west. They fail in their duty as callers to true faith on account of their collective weakness and their children may lash out against their relative poverty by reaching for materialistic aspirations.

It is observable that a smaller but more effective Muslim leaning seeks both scientific and religious knowledge in harmony, they know that Prophet Muhammad (saws) gave us the imperative to seek knowledge even if it be in far away China and they know that worldly knowledge can only ever be the servant of Divinely Inspired knowledge, such as that which came from Prophet Muhammad (saws) the Seal of Prophecy and Mercy to the Worlds.

Of course, the above is just an observation, and one including some (necessary) stereotypes. There are of course many shades of grey in this issue.

House of Wisdom

The House of Wisdom (Bayt al Hikma University and translation centre) was established 830 CE by the Abbasids in an era when the Muslim lands were benefiting immensely from the new knowledge, technologies, learnings and sciences. In this the lands of the Caliphate would also benefit from new public hospitals, whilst Muslim sailors would begin to trade with China over sea routes.

Caliph al-Mamun oversaw the establishment of this great University. It would be a great research centre and educational establishment where all the sciences and learning of the civilizations would be brought together, translated into Arabic, digested and improved upon for the well being of the citizens of the Caliphate and the world as a whole.

Indeed the Abbasid age in general saw the Islamic consumption and improvement of the existent sum of science and human civilization in the age. All human knowledge became the property of the Muslim thinkers and they proceeded to make great leaps in all areas of science.

The Islamic wisdom taught by the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) created a river of moral and intellectual rebirth in the world which sprang forth and would continue to flow for centuries. A tidal wave of good will spread throughout the truly believing followers of the Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) and as the Islamic knowledge was codified and recorded, both in books and in the oral teachings of the great Muslims, it was augmented by the best of the knowledge of the great civilizations of Persia, India, Greece and even China.

Islam had spread throughout the world with great speed in the early years of the Islamic society. The Caliphate inherited and greatly developed the artistic genius of the Persians. From wonderful mystical poetry to beautiful art objects the Persian skills, which had taken two thousand years to develop, were revitalized and used in better ways than ever before and become popular beyond the old Persian borders.

From India the Caliphate inherited the advanced mathematics and astronomy of the four thousand year old Hindu civilization. Rather than just talking on these ideas without review or analysis the great Muslim thinkers immediately began improving upon them.

From the Hellenic world the Caliphate inherited the great works of Greek philosophy, sciences and medicine. Muslim philosophers translated the works of Plato, Aristotle and Euclid, along with Neo-Platonic writings, whilst Muslim physicians began studying and improving upon the works of Hypocrates and Galen.

The Islamic thinkers took the knowledge and capabilities from many other lands.

Roman and Persian architects were called to assist with the construction of great Islamic buildings such as Masjid al-Aqsa and their skills passed into the pool of Muslim knowledge. The knowledge and capabilities of many lands such as Greece, Rome, Persia and India were suddenly synthesized and utilized by the idealistic Muslims to produce a society and a civilization unlike any ever seen before since the times of Prophet Idris (Enoch) and later Prophet Soloman (peace and blessings be upon them both).

The knowledge of these ancient cultures was not usually that of those who were strangers to the Muslims, but rather, quite often that of those who were ancestors to particular Muslim communities, reflecting the multi-racial and multi-cultural nature of the Caliphate. It could be said that the Islamic Caliphate has generally been a beautiful and truly multicultural society based upon the rule of benevolent Divine Law and thoughtful civilization. Islam teaches tolerance and charity between Muslims. It teaches that the Muslim Ummah is a whole and that all the Muslims are its parts.

The Abbasid Caliphs were strong on sponsoring research into the sciences and the Islamification of the knowledge of the peoples of the world since the early days of their dynasty.

Even as early as the second Abbasid Caliph al-Mansur the medical works of Galen and Hippocrates had been translated into Arabic by the official translator Abu Yahya ibn al Batriq. At the Bayt al Hikma scholars and scientists from Arabia, Persia, India, Greece, Africa, Transoxiana, and China (amongst other places) were able to teach and cross fertilize their ideas.

The Bayt al Hikma itself had a great library, an academy, observatories and astronomical observatories. It was a place where particular importance was placed upon the translation of ancient Greek philosophical and scientific works.

Missions were sent out into the world to collect rare and important books and the Byzantine s were paid great sums to hand over ancient Greek manuscripts, which were immediately transported back to the Bayt al Hikmah and translated by the Muslims and Christians who worked there and in the century from 750-850 CE a golden age of translation occurred that gave the Abbasid Caliphate access to all the learning of the old world.

The works that were translated were often translated into Hebrew or catalogued contained information on the authors, the contents and other relevancies to each book and it covered countless books on subjects from linguistics to chemistry. The number of great Muslim scientists during this period was legion and their works were beyond anything that had gone on before. Latin as well as Arabic and thus the people of Europe would gradually come to benefit from the Bayt al Hikmah as books gradually reached the intellectual backwater that was their home.

Yet at the end of the day the House of Wisdom was not a house of true wisdom as that is what comes primarily from God through the Prophets (as) not through sciences (even though sciences may help one understand many things). The true houses of wisdom were those of the great scholars and savants and the good hearted people of Islam, where divinely inspired knowledge was present and God was at the heart of minds, life and hearts.

Musk is known by its perfume

and not by what the pharmacist says.

A scholar is silent

like the perfumer’s casket

but displays accomplishments,

whilst an ignoramus is loud-voiced

and intrinsically empty like a war-drum.

A learned man among blockheads

(So says the parable of our friends)

Is like a sweetheart among the blind

Or a Qur’an among unbelievers.

(Saadi)