From The Evil Of…

Luscious green groves with bright yellow daffodils, white tulips, red roses and an array of daisies and dandelions. These delights not only provide a sensation to the landscape, nor are they only for the pleasure of our sight; they do not only provide nectar to the bee, nor pollen to the butterflies; but instead, they are all this and much more. The green fingered horticulturalist has before him the laborious task to ensure the survival of the planet, and in these delights of the meadow, grove and field, the flora provides it with an apparel of celestial light. The celestial light that keeps our souls nourished and our planet’s heart pulsating.

Likewise, the task of the gardener is ever more multiplied as the consequences of not ensuring the survival of the plants may well lead to the loss of the planet. The plant kingdom is overwhelmingly interlinked with the animal kingdom that the loss of the former results in the loss of the latter. Human beings are not exempt from this rule. And it is because of this we find the Lord Almighty schooling us to take refuge from inherent evils of ourselves and of the world around us just like a gardener is cautious in taking care of his seedlings. Only then can the seedling grow to its potential and bear colour, fragrance, and fruit. 

The final two chapters of the Quran, surahs as they’re referred to in Arabic, encapsulate these instructions of how we are to beseech the Almighty to shield us from the vulnerability of life’s stern strife. The penultimate surah reads as follows:

“Say: I take refuge with the Lord of Daybreak”

The daybreak heralds the coming of a new day, a new beginning. Refreshing, restoring, and replenishing our energies, and thus nourishing our bodies and souls. It fills them with zest, gusto and flavour. And so, it befits us to seek the refuge of the Lord, Cherisher and Sustainer, whose hands control the orbit of our planet and its rising sun that is a harbinger of a new beginning.  

“From the evil of what He has created.”

Taking our gardening analogy further, we can see that the gardener has before him several tasks. First, after sowing the seed, he must net the strawberries, sprinkle slug-killing pellets and erect a scarecrow to cry away the ravenous starlings. These pests have no ill-will of their own. They’re not sworn enemies of the gardener, but, are merely fending for food for their own survival. Here the words: “from the evil of what He has created”, alludes to this inherent natural disposition of theirs. Not evil incarnate, but evil in a relative sense that may be potentially harmful to the gardener’s seedling. And so, likewise, snakes, scorpions, lions, tigers and bears, amongst a number of other predators, can become obstacles to security for our bodily and spiritual growth. For our frail mortal frames cannot reach its optimum when there is nothing left to grow. “From the evil of what He created” is the first line of petitioning our Creator in prayer to ensure our security in this earthly existence.

“From the evil of darkness when it outspreads.”

The dangers do not solely lie with predators. The world is a constant motion of cause and effect. Deprived of ample sunlight, water, and nutritious soil, the seedling cannot grow even without the danger of slugs and birds. And so, the gardener makes use of the dung-pit and the water-tank. This ensures the natural causes to take on their natural course of action. The Arabic word ghāsiq can denote the sun, moon, or darkness, any of which coupled with the verb waqaba – meaning concealed, absent and hidden: aptly fits our gardening analogy. The sun disappears and is concealed at night: the darkness outspreads,  and the moon appears causing a cessation to the supply of heat, warmth and energy. The sun is also concealed when there are dark overheard clouds or misty fog and thus prevents the nurturing environment so needed to ensure a good harvest. Likewise, we too in our fragile state, forever need shielding from adverse conditions that may hinder our physical and spiritual growth. Just as husbandry requires breaking backs, hardening hands, sweat, and toil, so too do we.  – and so we are taught to supplicate: “From the evil of darkness when it outspreads.” To beseech His omnipotent power to bestow all the wordly and spiritual causes needed to grow to our full potential.

“From the evil of those who blow on knots”

Magick was a common belief in days of old, and here the verse teaches us to seek protection against all such practises of the occult. It was commonplace in Arabia when witchcraft was used, to blow upon knots after reciting specific incantations. Here the gardening analogy helps us further. For the husbandman also makes use of cold-frames, water tanks and greenhouses to protect the seedling from unseasonal, extreme weather conditions that can occur unexpectedly. Morning dew can turn to frost and destroy the lettuce. Snow can fall and ruin the runner beans. Heavy rain can finish off a crop of strawberries. The use of cold frames and greenhouses ensures that these unexpected conditions do not ruin the crop. And so, akin to this is the practice of witchcraft which hinders the natural growth and the normative cause-effect relationship in this world, we are taught to ask His protection from the onslaught of such evil practices.

“From the evil of the envier when he envies.”

In the final verse of this surah, having sought protection from predatory pests; asked that the natural elements procure their normative causal affect; sought protection from unnatural, unexpected environmental conditions; we arrive at the final hurdle of externalities that may befall our budding gardener: the rival. The jealous neighbour. The envying allotmonteer. How many a begonia have been jealously destroyed by a covetous competitor at a garden competition? A large pumpkin stolen because someone else wanted to hold the trophy? Likewise, humankind’s growth may be halted, hindered and prevented from progressing further by a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, jealous, covetous rival. And so the surah in its final verse schools us in seeking His refuge against “an envier when he envies.” And so the surah ends. 

But this is not the end of the story. Having sought and safeguarded our seedlings from all such externalities, there remains a hidden, often concealed predicament: the bad seed. Bad seeds lead to bad crops. Yielding a much less harvest of 50%, 40%, 30% or worse still: a nil harvest. This is an internal problem which no cold-frame or greenhouse can protect against; and which no amount of horse manure can solve. If they’re bad, the only solution is to throw them out. Replace them.   

This surah is a supplication unto our Lord to assist us in ensuring the suitability of our inner seed. A prayer asking Him to protect us from internal feeders that feed on whole grains where the larvae live inside the kernels and seeds causing damage, laying eggs and rendering a once wholesome grain into a hollow void of nothingness.

And because the danger is subtle, discreet and often unnoticeable, the prayer begins by invoking God’s attributes. Whereas in the foregoing surah, only one Divine Attribute was invoked – “Lord of Daybreak” – here, three Divine Attributes are invoked: alluding to the enormity and grave consequences that can result of such inner feeders.

قُلۡ أَعُوذُ بِرَبِّ ٱلنَّاسِ

“Say: I take refuge with the Lord of Men”

مَلِكِ ٱلنَّاسِ

“The King of Men”

إِلَٰهِ ٱلنَّاسِ

“The God of Men”

The subtle nature of these inner workings of weevils demands that we supplicate to the One, Knower of All, from whom none and nothing is hidden. And hence our faith requires us to behold God through three lenses: acknowledging Him as Nourisher, Sustainer and Lord Supreme; acknowledging Him as King and Ruler par excellence – more than any earthly king; and as the Absolute God – to whom humankind is held accountable. It is through these three aspects of God’s Divine nature that we are taught to seek His protection.  

مِن شَرِّ ٱلۡوَسۡوَاسِ ٱلۡخَنَّاسِ

“From the evil of the slinking whisperer”

ٱلَّذِي يُوَسۡوِسُ فِي صُدُورِ ٱلنَّاسِ

“Who whispers in the hearts of Men”

The subtle and alluring net of the devil insinuates in a myriad of evil, insidious and deceptive ways so as to sap all good from Man’s inner soul. Akin to how the weevil renders the most perfect seed completely hollow and unable to bear any fruit.

مِنَ ٱلۡجِنَّةِ وَٱلنَّاسِ

“Of Jinn & Men”

This final clause amplifies the sources of these weevils from which emanate the satanic whispers: they may be men you see or invisible spirits you do not. When something is so obviously marked and plain for all to see one can become blinded to its existence. Likewise, the invisible is hard to detect. And so, this verse tells of our double-blinded myopia – not seeing evil as evil in the form of evil men, and not detecting the subtle deceptive, alluring acts of the invisible. So long as we constantly put ourselves before God’s protection, evil cannot touch us.

These two surahs, point to the necessity of seeking God’s protection against both external and internal factors affecting our bodily and spiritual growth. The verses are all-encompassing and taught to us by the Knower of All. To shine God’ light on the darkness around us we must first let it shine in our own true selves. These two surahs are the first steps in accomplishing this goal.    

Shazad Khan,

Birmingham, UK


The Prophet in Makkah (Arabic)

و من لم يصانع في أمور كثيرة  

يضرّس بأنياب و يوطأ بمنسم

(زهير بن أبي سُلمى)

هذا البيت من معلقة زهير بن أبي سُلمى ، معناه أن من لم يجامل الناس و يداورهم في الأمور ، قهروه و غلبوه و أذلوه و ربما كشّروا عن أنيابهم و وطأوه بمناسم الإبل. هذا البيت جعلني أفكّر فيما كان للنبي ﷺ من أخلاق كريمة، و خُلُق عظيم. فإن النبي ﷺ لم يقض حياته قبل البعثة بين أحبابه و أصحابه ، بل قضى أربعين سنة قبل المبعث بين مشركي مكة، يخالطهم و يتعامل معهم في حياته ليلاً و نهارًا، و يتعاطى فيهم التجارة و هو عيش طويل طريقها، وعرة مسالكها، كثيرة منعطفاتها، تعترضها وهدات مما قد يصدر عن المرء من خيانة و إخلاف الوعد و أكل مال الباطل ، و عبقات من الخديعة ، و تطفيف الكيل و غير ذلك ، و الرسول ﷺ قد اجتاز هذه السبل الشائكة الوعرة و خلص و نجا منها نقيًّا سالمًا ، لم يصبه شيئ مما يصيب عامة الناس حتى لقد لقبوه بالأمين

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Ramadan The Healer (Arabic)

شهر رمضان المبارك

بقدر ما أكره  الاعتراف به ،أني لم أكن أتطلع إلى قدوم رمضان هذا العام، و كنتُ أتمنّى تأجيل مجيئه. لقد كنتُ غارقًا في مشاغل الحياة الدنيوية السمّيّة، لم أشعر بالاستعداد، و لم أشعر أني أعددتُ ما يكفي، فبينما كان الآخرون يعدّون الأيّام و الساعات حتى يكرمهم هذا الضيف المبارك بحضوره، شعرتُ كما لو أن لساني كان كاذبًا في ما يقول، و قلبي خاليًا عن أيّ تمنٍّ، وكان هذا القذى في جفني مدّ الطول

لكن رحمة هذا الشهر لا تستثني أحدًا، حتى المُذنِبين مثلي، فمع أفول الشمس حينما رُئِي الهلال، تبدّل الجوّ عاطرًا طاهرًا، شعرتُ بحلّ عقدةٍ في روحي، كأن أحدًا تنفّس الهواء النقي الصافي في رئتي المضطربة، كما لو أن روحي تمدّ يدها إلى كلّ ما هي محرومةً منه في الأشهر الماضية، كانت عطشانةً و لم تشعر، كانت جائعةً و لم تحسّ، كأنها تستخدم المخدّرات. لكن مع بدء هذه الأحاسيس و المشاعر شيئًا فشيئًا، كانت روحي تحاول الوصول إلى ما كانت تعرف أنها بحاجة إليها ، مثل الفقير الذي يمدّ يده في عطش شديد لرشفةٍ واحدة من ماء. ربما تعرف أرواحنا أحيانًا ما لا تستطيع أجسادنا فهمَه أبدًا

وهكذا في تلك اللّيلة المباركة مع مرور كلّ لحظة، شعرتُ أن العقدة التي حرّمتني الوجدان الروحي تحلّ و تتفكّك ببطء…و بينما كنتُ واقفًا في صلاة التراويح بين الأجانب تمامًا، غمرني شعور تغلغل في أحشائي و تمكّن في نفسي: نحن كلّنا هنا على استعداد مع عدم استعدادنا،و مع توقع أنه سوف يُصلَح ما انكسر بداخلنا

بدأ الإمام يقرأ الكتاب العزيز في الصلاة، الكتاب الذي حمَلَه المسلمون في فتوحهم الأولى، تلك الرسالة القوية الواضحة المشرقة، فأخذتْني الأفكارُ تطير بي، فالفاتحة التي سمعتُها من صوت الإمام كانت غير الفاتحة التي حفظتُها عن ظهر قلبي في صِغَري، نعم، آياتها كآيتها، و نظمها كنظمها، لكن معانيها كانت غير معانيها التي تعوّدتُ ذكرها. فغشيني موج كموج البحر فبدأتُ أغوط في هذه البحار العميقة

ٱلْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ ٱلْعَـٰلَمِينَ. هو الذي يسمعني حتى و أنا صامت، الرب الذي يغذيني دائمًا، الذي أنبتني نباتًا حسنًا، و أنشأني نشأةً طيّبة، له الحمد و له الجزيل الثناء

ٱلرَّحْمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ : هو الرب الذي يحتضني كطفل، يغلفني رحمته التي وسعتْ كلّ شئي

مَـٰلِكِ يَوْمِ ٱلدِّينِ: هو الذي سأعود إليه

إيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ: لا أهِمّ و لا أهتمّ  بأيّ شيءٍ أو أيّ شخصٍ آخر… كل ما يُهِمّني هو أنا وهو فقط

 ٱهْدِنَا ٱلصِّرَٰطَ ٱلْمُسْتَقِيمَ: أرشدني إلى ما يرضيك يا مقلّبَ القلوب! حوّلني إلى طريقك، وعلى الرغم من أنني قد أتركك مرارًا وتكرارًا ، فلا تتركني أبدًا. لا تكلني إلى لنفسي طرفةَ عين

وهكذا تردّد صدى كل آية حولي. كلمات ربي كانت تعني بي غير مستحق، و شعرتُ بأن الأغلال التي ربطتُّها على قلبي تتراخى، و كلّ آية أسمعها تفيضُ بالبهجة، وتموجُ بالنشوة، و تتفتح بالحياة الروحية

لا يمكنني أبدًا أن أكون مستعدًّا تمامًا للرحمة التي ينزلها عليّ ربّي، سأصِلُ دائمًا مجرّدًا ومهملًا، لكنه يراني، ويسمعني، و يعرفني حقّ المعرفة. إنه يعلم أنني سأحتاج إلى أن آتيه كل عام وأفتح جراحي. و كل عام مع تقدّم حياتي ونموها ، ستكون جراحي مختلفة ولكن الشفاء الذي أتوق إليه سيكون دائمًا كما هو، وحيدة، منفردة، طازجة كما قال ﷻ: وَنُنَزِّلُ مِنَ القُرْآنِ مَا هُوَ شِفَاءٌ وَرَحْمَةٌ لِلْمُؤْمِنِين

هذا رمضان! ربّنا يجعل لنا نجد كل شفاءنا فيه

شهزاد خان



The Nature of Prayer

Photo by Monstera on

The Quran speaks of two great worlds: the unseen and the visible (Q, 59:22); the world of matter and the world of spirit. We often refer to them as things visible and invisible – putting are sight as the main criterion for differentiating between the two great worlds. Yet, this is far from the truth. Indeed, the world of matter is all things made known to us by all our senses – the air we breathe, the sounds we hear, the things we touch, the food we taste; by the world of spirit we mean all those things our bodily senses cannot sense, perceive, feel, or make known to us.

Just as senses put us into connection with the material world, so to does our Faith put us into connection with the spiritual world. Faith is to the spiritual world what sense perception is to the material. Thus, Faith is often called the eye of the soul. But this is only partially true: Faith is not only the eye by which the soul can see, it is also the ear by which it can hear, the hand by which it can touch, the nose by which it can smell and the tongue by which it can taste that which the body cannot. Our senses realise the world of matter by making it real, substantial and evident. The work of Faith is to realise the world of spirit; to make it real, substantial and evident. This work of Faith is plainly described in the words, “This is the Book, wherein is no doubt; a guide to the God-fearing, who have Faith in the Unseen” (Q, 2:2-3).  Its task is to draw us out of the physical and material and place us before the presence of the unseen, invisible and spiritual.

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Spiritual Lineage of the Tariqas

Sincerity%20Tatton%20Red%20RugIn Sufism, as in hadith studies, there exists a lineage that connects each disciple with their shaykh, who has also taken it from his shaykh, and so on, in a continous chain back to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace). The spiritual lineage of my own teacher, Shaykh Asad Madani, comes from its prophetic origin through a number of tariqas. The main ones are given below: Continue reading →

No Gain Without Pain

mathnawiTo show that there is no gain without pain in the path Mawlana Rumi tells us the following tale in his ‘Mathnawi’:

The strong men of Qazwin were accustomed to have themselves tattooed. One customer calls for a lion to be emblazoned on his shoulder. The tattooist starts work on the lion’s tale; but the pain is too much for the customer who insists that the tale be left out. The same happens when the tattooist begins to draw an ear and again with the lion’s belly. Enraged, the artist flings down the needle: ‘Whoever saw a lion without a tale, ear and belly? Allah Himself never created such a lion.’ 

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Sufism: Distinguishing the Kernel from the Shell

sufism Any sane person would agree that having upright good-moral character is an objective of Islamic Law; that Ikhlas (sincerity) is a noble trait; that jealousy and pride are blameworthy characteristics. All and sundry would agree that ridding oneself of blameworthy traits and adorning oneself with praiseworthy traits are Shariah-countenanced aims. Yet the moment the word Sufism, Tasawwuf or any other of its synonyms is mentioned it becomes a bidah or reprehensible innovation.

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Ibn Ataillah’s Aphorisms on Sincerity with explanatory notes by Shaykh Abdullah Gangohi

Works are like lifeless forms and the presence of sincerity endows them with spirit.

Works, like ritual prayers, fasting and hajj without sincerity are like lifeless forms. They are like pictures of animate beings and the presence of sincerity therein endows them with life. Sincerity means to perform works solely for the pleasure of Allah. The presence of sincerity renders the work fruitful in the hereafter, and its absence renders it fruitless. Continue reading →

Shah Waliullah: The Objective, Benefit and Pre-requisites of the Pledge

Perhaps you might say tell me about the Pledge (bay’ah)

(1) Is it obligatory or Sunnah? (2) What is the wisdom behind its legislation in Sacred Law? (3) What are the pre-requisites of the shaykh? (4) What are the conditions of one who takes the pledge? (5) How does one fulfil the pledge, and how does one violate it? (6) Is it permissible to repeat the pledge with one scholar or multiple scholars? (7) What are the transmitted words of the pledge?

So I say: Continue reading →