The Weekly Ṣalawāt: Sayyid Ahl al-Shuhūd

 

اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ و سَلِّمْ على سَيِّدِنا مُحَمَّدٍ سَيِّدِ أَهْلِ الشُّهود صَلاةً و سَلاماً نَرْقَى بِهِما في مَعَارِجِ القُرْبِ إلى المعْبُود وعلى آلِهِ

وصَحْبِهِ و التَّابِعيِنَ لَهُمْ بِإِحْسَانٍ إلى يَوْمِ المَوْعُود

Allāhumma ṣalli wa sallim `alā sayyidinā Muḥammadin Sayyidi Ahli-shuhūd ṣalātan wa salāman narqā bihimā fī ma`āriji’l-qurbi il’al-ma`būd wa `ala ālihi wa ṣaḥbihi wa’attābi`īna lahum bi iḥsānin ilā yawmil-maw`ūd

O Allāh, bestow prayers and peace upon our Master Muhammad, the Master of the people of divine witnessing, and through that allow us to ascend the paths which grant proximity to the One we worship, and upon his Family and Companions and those that follow them in excellence until the Promised Day.

The above is a prayer upon the Prophet  composed by Sayyidī al-Ḥabīb `Umar bin Ḥafīẓ. The weekly salat has no set number and has not been prescribed by one of our teachers. We started sending out these salawat out of a desire to share some of these beautiful formulas with those that we love. Try to read it once at least upon first seeing it and then read it as many times as you are able. The more salawat you read, the more gifts you will receive. It should not take priority over any other adhkar you have been given by your teachers. The best time to read it is on Thursday night and Friday since the Messenger of Allah ﷺ encouraged us to bestow abundant prayers upon him at these times. It can of course, be read at any time and in any place.

The Blameworthiness of Status and Ostentation — Habib Ali al-Jifri

The following classes were delivered by Habib Ali al-Jifri on “The Blameworthiness of Status & Ostentation – Part Two” from Habib Umar bin Hafiz’sabridgement of the Ihya Ulum al-Din of Imam al-Ghazali.

The classes were delivered at the Reviving the Islamic Spirit Knowledge Retreat in Toronto, Canada (December 2013). Audio recordings and summaries of each class are included below.

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Class 1 — The Blameworthiness of Ostentation

Why Study Ostentation?

  1. Ostentation is the opposite of sincerity. Without sincerity, our actions are worthless.
  2. Ostentation is a sign of poor manners [sū’ al-adab] with God. From this perspective, it is the most dangerous spiritual illness which can afflict the heart of a believer, and this is why it [i.e. ostentation] was characterized by the Emissary of God ﷺ as minor polytheism [al-shirk al-asghar] or hidden polytheism [al-shirk al-khafiyy].
  3. Ostentation is complex and it can become more and more subtle and more difficult to identify or diagnose it in its various forms, and in so doing, to “surgically” remove it from our hearts.

Learning about ostentation and how to abandon it is a significant challenge, but do not allow fear of failure prevent you from confronting this spiritual disease.

Concerning the Blameworthiness of Ostentation

Ostentation is forbidden and the one who shows off in worship is one whose state is loathsome in the Sight of God Almighty.

God also reveals: “We feed you for the Countenance of God alone: no reward do we desire from you, nor thanks” [Q 76:9]. God praises those who are sincere seeking nothing but His Countenance.

The Prophet ﷺ said: “If someone shows off, God will expose him, and if someone seeks reputation, God will also expose him.”

He ﷺ also said: “The thing I most fear for you is lesser polytheism.” The Companions (may God be pleased with them) asked: “what is ‘lesser polytheism’, O Emissary of God? He ﷺ replied: “It is ostentation.”

Minor polytheism, ostentation (or showing off), is subtle and complex. For example, it can take the form of “affected humility”, i.e. a humility by which whose who affect it expect others to praise them. Affected humility can be expressed as false confessions of guilt about one’s shortcomings in worship of God.

A Practical Suggestion to Counteract Ostentation

Recite “lā ilāha illa Allāh” abundantly without moving your lips. This way, you can remember God Almighty with words beloved to Him, and it would not be obvious to somebody not observing you closely that you are remembering God.

Class 2 — The Reality of Ostentation (Part 1)

The root of the Arabic word riyā’ is derived from the root verb meaning “to be seen.” Fundamentally, it involves seeking to be held in esteem by people by showing them one’s best attributes. Status and position [jāh] are usually sought by both non-devotional and devotional acts.

Ostentation is a term only used to designate the act of using devotion or worship to seek attention. So it is by definition wanting the attention of God’s servants through obedience to God.

  • The ostentatious one [murā’i] is the worshipper.
  • The audience of the ostentation is those people one is showing off to in order for them to hold one in esteem.
  • The ostentation itself is the acts the ostentatious person seeks to show.

What is the relationship between jāh and riyā’?

Every worshipper [murā’i] seeks a position of esteem [jāh], but not everybody seeking a position of esteem [jāh] is a worshipper [murā’i].

Ostentation takes many forms but they can be reduced to 5 categories:

  1. One’s body
  2. One’s clothing
  3. One’s speech
  4. One’s action
  5. One’s popularity

Note: Since we cannot be certain that what we observe [empirically] about an act is proceeding from a desire to show off or a true desire, we are not permitted to come to a judgment about the hearts of others. It is only for God to judge the intentions of others and our attempts to do so is like trespassing on the domain of our Lord Almighty. So we do not learn about this to judge others but to increase our self understanding and change ourselves.

Wretched is one who learns about ostentation to judge others and felicitous is one who learns about ostentation to judge oneself in order to worship God alone with sincerity.

Class 3 — The Reality of Ostentation (Part 2)

Principle: the means to forbidden things are forbidden.

Consider the case of loving wealth and fame. Love of wealth and fame are not praiseworthy. However, working to attain wealth and fame as mere means to achieving beneficial objectives is not blameworthy. The problem for us is when the heart becomes attached to wealth and fame: it is that attachment that leads us into ostentation. If the heart becomes attached to love of these things, then that abases the self and compels it to be preoccupied with these things.

If people’s hearts are not preoccupied with their fame and they are not concerned with maintaining their fame, or anxious about its loss, then their fame may not be harmful to them or blameworthy. But if those things happen, this is dangerous.

If we are to consider the difference between a hypocrite and an ostentatious person, we could say in summary:

The hypocrite is one who acts as though he has faith but in fact no faith is present in his heart. An ostentatious person has real faith in his heart but his heart’s preoccupation with status and power leads to his acts of worship being governed by people’s perception rather than being dedicated to God alone.

Class 4 — Degrees of Ostentation

Ostentation has three pillars and each of the pillars has various degrees. The three pillars of ostentation are:

  1. Act of Ostentation Itself [nafs qaṣd al-riyā’]
  2. Goal of Ostentation [murā’a li ajlih]
  3. Object Used for Ostentation [murā’a bih]

The degrees of ostentation, within each pillar, are summarized in the following mind map (click the image to enlarge):

Degrees of Ostentation

Class 5 — Questions & Answers

Dealing with ostentation feels overwhelming due to its complexity. I feel like avoiding it altogether. What advice do you have?

God has commanded us to do good actions and He warned us about the things that ruin those actions. So if we fall short in doing the action and we do not purify our intentions, then we have committed two mistakes.

The first mistake is that we neglected the good that God commanded us to do.

The second mistake is that we did not work on purifying our intentions. Ostentation, desire for prestige, and the like, are ailments of the heart regardless of whether or not we do good actions. These illnesses exist within the heart and we still need to treat them with doing the good actions that God has commanded. Seek God’s aid and do not consider yourself incapable.

If the point of ostentation is to please people, should we then withhold complimenting others [to protect them from ostentation]?

There isn’t one universally applicable answer here and context changes things. To begin to answer this question we must consider (1) the giver of praise and (2) the receiver of praise.

If a person wants to express true love for the person he praises, such an intention makes the act sound in relation to the person praising. If, however, the person praising intends dissimulation or to trick others, this is incorrect.

One should, by one’s knowledge of the person to be praised, determine as best he can if the person praised will become deluded or harmed by the praise received [e.g. the praise leading to him becoming conceited]. If that could be the case, one would be justified in withholding praise of that person. If, however, the praise would likely encourage him to continue or to increase doing good, then giving praise to such a person in this context would be acceptable.

Hassān ibn Thābit and Ka`b bin Zuhayr composed much poetry in praise of the Prophet, peace be upon him, who was protected from ostentation and he praised those who were not protected from it from his sahaba, e.g. Abu Bakr, `Umar, `Uthman, and Ali, may God be pleased with them.

When a believer is praised, his faith increases. But if one fears that the one praised will not be able to deal with praise or become conceited or deluded, then refrain from praising.

Class 6 — Subtle Ostentation

Subtle ostentation can be apparent [jaliyy], hidden [khafiyy], or even more hidden [akhfā’].

The kind of ostentation that is subtle but still apparent relates to the motive of the ostentatious action.

The kind of ostentation that is subtle and hidden relates to when a worshipper finds an act of devotion lighter or easier to do when being seen by others.

The kind of ostentation that is subtle and more hidden than the previous two kinds of subtle ostentation above relates to ostentation that is so hidden that it can only be indicated by certain signs. The most obvious of these signs is when a person merely feels pleased when others see him performing an act of worship.

In your approach to worship, be like the one who plants seeds hidden in the earth. Do your work and don’t worry about what is not in your capacity. Winds may appear to be blowing away what you’re planting but with patience you might see that what was actually happening was pollination leading to fruit.

Class 7 — Ostentation which Invalidates Actions

It is narrated that `Abdullah ibn Mas`ūd [may God be pleased with him] heard a man saying: “I read the chapter of ‘The Heffer’ from the Quran yesterday. So Ibn Mas`ūd [may God be pleased with him] said “That is all he will get out of it.” This saying of Ibn Mas`ūd [may God be pleased with him] indicates that that man’s heart was not free from ostentation even when he was doing an act of worship (reciting from the Quran).

One of the most serious spiritual dangers is when a person engages in contention for lordly attributes, i.e. those qualities that are only becoming of God Almighty. Since only Allah can see people’s intentions, we cannot determine specifically which individuals are rewarded by God but we can say that this or that deed deserves divine reward based on Qur’an and Sunnah. We can say this act or that act is legally valid (in Sharia), but we cannot say whether Allah has accepted it or not.

We need to nurture the souls of human beings so that sincere hearts motivate and govern their adherence to the law and moral principles. Otherwise, a rational person without sincerity can always find ways to twist the law to their ego’s desires and behave in ostentatious ways.

Class 8 — Remedies of Ostentation and the Means of Treating the Heart

Ostentation can be removed through effort exerted in self-discipline by the grace [tawfīq] of God Almighty. Everything discussed so far has been to prepare us for the work we have to do in discipling the self.

Two remedial measures are:

  1. To remove the roots through which the tree of ostentation grows. This is the foundational approach.
  2. To put a stop to any thoughts of ostentation as soon as they occur. This is a preventative measure.

This class discusses the roots of ostentation and the practical ways of treating them. It also goes into great depth about the transformative and protective power of loving Allah the Exalted — especially when dealing with ostentation.

A powerful prayer to protect oneself from the whisperings of the devil shared by Muhammad bin Wāsi` [may God be pleased with him]:

اللَّهُمَّ إنَّكَ سَلّطْتَ عَلَينَا عَدُوا بَصِيرًا بِعُيُوبِنَا، مُطَلِّعًا عَلَى عَوْرَاتِنَا، يَرَانَا هُوَ وَقَبِيلُهُ مِنْ حَيثُ لا نَرَاهُم , اللَّهُمَّ فَآيِسْهُ مِنَّا كَمَا آيَسْتَهُ مِنْ رَحْمَتِك , وَقَنِّطْهُ مِنَّا كَمَا قَنَّطتَهُ مِنْ عَفْوِكَ , وَبَاعِدْ بَينَنَا
وَبَينَهُ كَمَا بَاعَدْتَ بَينَهُ وَبَين جَنَّتِك

O God! You have inflicted on us an enemy who sees our faults, is aware of our weaknesses, and he and his tribe see us from whence we see them not. O God! Strip his hope of harming us just as you have stripped his hope of receiving your mercy. Make him despair of misguiding us just as you have made him despair of your pardon. And make him distant from us just as you have made him distant from Paradise.

Class 9 — Signs of Sincerity

Being free of ostentation and sincere for God alone in one’s worship can be indicated by certain signs. Some signs to consider include:

  • If you encounter someone else who appears to be more competent or better in some other way than you, and more popular than you in the eyes of people, you do not feel jealous or anxious; rather, you feel happy for that person. Further, there is nothing wrong with feeling happy for other people and wanting to also have what they have for yourself as well.
  • If “important” people are in your presence then you do not change the way you speak especially for them. That is to say that you do not show more concern for or give more attention to people who have a relatively more privileged position in society than others.
  • If people follow you around like an entourage, you do not like it.
  • If people sin in front of you or suffer embarrassment in some way, you do not become pleased. Instead you pray to God in private to make those people safe from sin and whole.
  • You do not take advantage of people or have expectations from them that you should only have of God.

Calling to God [da`wah] is not about seeking authority over others. It is not about taking advantage of the insecurities of people or exploiting their spiritual needs for your own ends for this would be incompatible with the objective of calling people to God, i.e. to know, act according to, and realize the deep meanings of lā ilāha illa Allāh and Muḥammad al-rasūl Allāh.

On Preparing for Imam al-Mahdi

Answered by Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him)

How do we prepare for the coming of Imam al-Mahdi?

The coming of Imam al-Mahdi, may Allah’s peace be upon him and all of the Prophets and pious people, comes into the category of unseen things of which the Messenger of Allah ﷺinformed us. It is similar to the coming of the Dajjal or Ya’jaj and Ma’juj, the return of Sayyiduna `Isa bin Maryam or the Day of Judgement. We must believe in these things just as the Prophet mentioned them.

However, these unseen things should not distract us and prevent us from fulfilling our obligations. We should not become absorbed by baseless beliefs regarding them. People become obsessed by certain dream visions which cause them to claim that they have attained certain stations or that the Imam al-Mahdi is in a certain place. Some claim to know his age while others deny his existence altogether! People tend to become distracted by these things even though they are not required to concern themselves with them.

We have to ask that if Imam al-Mahdi did come in their time, would these people who speak so much about him be among his true supporters? Or would they surrender to the desires of their lower selves or to their own delusions and fail to do so? If people are unable to support the cause of the Prophet ﷺ in themselves, their families and their households then it is feared that they will be unable to support the cause of Allah and His Messenger when Imam al-Mahdi comes.

In whatever time we are living in, we must obey the commands that we have received through revelation. If someone lives in the time in which Imam al-Mahdi comes, it is obligatory for them to support him because the Prophet ﷺ clearly informed us that he will be the true leader of the Muslims.

The Prophet  ﷺ did not specify when Imam al-Mahdi would come or when Sayyiduna `Isa would return but we must have absolute certainty that these events will take place at their appointed time as the Prophet described them.

It is not our duty to speculate on the time or the place in which he will come, unless these things have been specifically mentioned in the Sacred Texts. We know, for example, that people will first pledge allegiance to him next to the Ka`bah, between the Corner and the Maqam.1 This has been narrated in the Sacred Texts and we believe in it as it has been narrated.

We should busy ourselves with performing that which is incumbent upon us. This is what would please Imam al-Mahdi when he comes and this would be a means of supporting him.

 

1 Meaning the corner of the Ka`bah, in which the Black Stone is embedded. The Maqam is Maqam Ibrahim.

 

The Weekly Ṣalawāt: Yā Quddūs

 

اللَّهُمَّ يا اللهُ يا قُدُّوس صَلِّ على عَبْدِكَ و حَبِيبِكَ سَيِّدِنا مُحَمَّدٍ النَّبِيِّ المُقَدَّس و على آلِهِ و صَحْبِهِ و سَلِّمْ تَسْلِيماً و قَدِّسْنِي بِهِتَقْدِيساً

Allāhumma yā Allāhu yā Quddūs ṣalli `alā `abdika wa ḥabībika sayyidinā Muḥammad an-nabī al-muqaddas wa `alā ālihi wa ṣaḥbihi wa sallim tasliman wa qaddisnī bihi taqdīsā.

O Allāh, O Transcendent, bestow abundant prayers and peace upon Your slave and beloved, our Master Muḥammad, the Prophet purified from all imperfection and by him purify me from all imperfection.

The above is a prayer upon the Prophet  composed by Sayyidī al-Ḥabīb `Umar bin Ḥafīẓ.

 

The Weekly Ṣalawāt: Nasīm Qurbik

 

اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ و سَلِّمْ و بارِكْ على حَبِيبِكَ أَحْمَد الَّذي تَفَرَّعَتْ عَنْهُ جَميِعُ المحَامِد و اجْمَعْنَا بِهِ عِنْدَكَ في أَشْرَفِ المقَاعِد وعلى آلِهِ

وصَحْبِهِ ما اسْتَنْشَقَ شَذَا عَرْفِ نَسِيمِ قُرْبِكَ سَاجِد

Allāhumma ṣalli wa sallim wa bārik `alā ḥabībika Aḥmad alladhī tafarra`t `anhu jamī` al-mahāmid w’ajma`nā bihi `indaka fī ashrafi’l-maqā`id wa `alā ālihi wa ṣaḥbihi ma’stanshaqa shadhā `arfi nasīmi qurbika sājid

O Allāh, bestow prayers, peace and blessing upon Your beloved Aḥmad, from whom come forth all praiseworthy qualities and unite us with him in Your presence in the noblest of places and upon his Family and Companions as much as a person in prostration smells the sweet scent of Your closeness.

The above is a prayer upon the Prophet  composed by Sayyidī al-Ḥabīb `Umar bin Ḥafīẓ.

The Weekly Ṣalawāt: Yā Raḥmān Ya Raḥīm

Due to the importance of bestowing prayers upon the Prophet ﷺ, we aim to present a prayer upon the Prophet every week, in shā Allah. We aim to post the prayer in time for Thursday night and Friday, the best time to bestow prayers upon him ﷺ . We will be focusing primarily upon the prayers composed by Sayyidī al-Ḥabīb `Umar bin Ḥafīẓ (may Allāh preserve him and benefit us by him), but we will also post prayers by earlier Imāms from time to time.

We begin with the first prayer in Ḥabīb `Umar’s collection of prayers using Allah’s beautiful names. In this collection, Ḥabīb `Umar calls upon Allah by His beautiful names one by one and then asks Him to bestow prayers upon His Beloved by those names. Finally, he asks Allah for a portion of those attributes which belong to Allah and which He has bestowed upon His Messenger ﷺ.

 

اللَّهُمَّ يا اللهُ يا رَحْمَنُ يا رَحِيمُ صَلِّ على عَبْدِكَ و حَبِيبِكَ سَيِّدِنا مُحَمَّدٍ النَّبِيِّ الرَّحِيمِ و على آلِهِ و صَحْبِهِ و سَلِّمْ تَسْلِيماً و ارْحَمْنِي بِهِ رَحْمَةً واسِعَةً

 

Allāhumma yā Allāhu yā Raḥmān yā Raḥīm ṣalli `alā `abdika wa ḥabībika sayyidinā Muḥammad an-nabī ar-raḥīm wa `alā ālihi wa ṣaḥbihi wa sallim tasliman w’arḥamnī bihi raḥmatan wāsi`ah. 

O Allāh, O Most Compassionate, O Most Merciful, bestow abundant prayers and peace upon Your slave and beloved, our Master Muḥammad, the Most Merciful Prophet and upon his Family and Companions and by him bestow immense mercy upon me.

 

The True Meaning of Calling to Allah

Habib `Ali al-Jifri (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him) explains the true meaning of calling to Allah. Extracts from a speech delivered in Dar al-Mustafa 1st Muharram, 1435/ 3rd November 2013. The full Arabic speech is available from here.

Calling to Allah is an act which draws one closer to Allah. Its essence is a burning passion in the heart of the caller based upon love, mercy, wanting good for people and the desire to be a source of joy to the Prophet . If this is ignited in the heart of the caller, he longs to attach the hearts of those around him to their Creator. Other worldly things which motivate most people then become meaningless to him.

This noble call, with its connection through chains of transmission in inward and outward knowledge going back through great scholars to the Prophet , is based upon mercy—there is no harshness in it. It is based upon love—there is no hatred or rancour in it. It is based upon wisdom, beautiful preaching and debate in the best way.

The fruits that it has borne can be seen in the East and the West. Where did these fruits come from? They came from the people serving this call focusing completely on the purpose of the call. This focus in turn prevented them from demanding things from Allah which they had no right to demand: namely, that they swiftly reap the fruits of their own efforts. One of the things that veils many callers to Allah is hastily demanding to see results and selfishly wishing to be the one who picks the fruit. The true callers see their work as merely planting seeds. They would say:

“We have planted tiny seeds and we leave it to Allah to bring forth the crops.”

True callers know how to apply the Sacred Law to the situation in which they are in, and do not allow the current climate to dominate their perspective. The meaning of calling to Allah is that Allah chooses you to bring His slaves out of the heedlessness which they find themselves in to a state of wakefulness in which they seek Allah’s pleasure.

The difference between the way of Prophetic inheritance and other methodologies built on infirm foundations is that those who follow this way seek to attain understanding directly from Allah, they seek to attain sincerity, they seek Allah’s assistance so that they can serve Allah in whatever role Allah has placed them in.