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January 28, 2014
28 Jan 2014

Questions and Answers

Question and Answer Session with Shaykh Zulfiqar
Ahmad (damat barakatuhum)

Hear the Questions and Answers session Download the Q&A session’s recording in Urdu

Question 1: Some people have said that they feel a degree of apprehension in the heart when they sit down for muraqaba. Can you shed some light upon this?

Answer: Actually this is not apprehension but a natural uneasiness that comes with starting anything new, but this goes away with time and experience. For example, a new driver is extremely scared, a fear compounded by the pressure of having an instructor next to him. The new driver fears every car that races past or toward him from the opposite direction, and clutches the steering wheel for dear life as if the car is going to run away. Moreover, he tells everyone in the car to be quiet so he can concentrate on his driving, and he gets mentally and physically exhausted after a mere half an hour of driving. This same person can tolerate more time behind the wheel the more he drives and actually begins to enjoy taking long drives.
In exactly the same way, a person feels the same kind of uneasiness and tension when he first begins muraqaba. However, with time and repeated sittings of muraqaba, this tension turns into joy and the heart looks forward to drowning in the remembrance (dhikr) of Allah subhanahu wa'tala.

In the heart lies the image of the Beloved
Look inside whenever you wish

Question 2: What exactly is Wuquf-e-Qalbi and should one’s heart resound with the Name of Allah subhanahu wa'tala or not?

Answer: No, one’s heart does not have to repeat the Name of Allah subhanahu wa'tala but one should be conscious toward Allah subhanahu wa'tala and His Omniscience. For example, two brothers leave the house in the morning; Brother A to his office and Brother B for an important court date in which he is the defendant. Despite carrying on with his work load at the office, Brother A will be preoccupied with thoughts of his brother and the process and outcome of the court case. He checks his mail in the morning, interacts with whoever he needs to in the office, but his thoughts are elsewhere. When the two brothers meet at the end of the day, Brother A says that Brother B was in his heart and mind all day.
In exactly the same way, the believer takes care of his worldly duties throughout the day but his heart and mind remain connected with Allah subhanahu wa'tala. The lover thinks of his beloved not just one time during the day, but hundreds of times during the day. In the same way, the believer will be preoccupied with thoughts of Allah subhanahu wa'tala if love for Allah subhanahu wa'tala enters the heart. Focusing the heart and mind upon Allah subhanahu wa'tala throughout the day is called Wuquf-e-Qalbi.

Question 3: How do we rid ourselves of spiritual diseases like anger, stubbornness and hatred, which only fuel quarrels and distance our hearts?

Answer: Anger, jealousy, hatred, backbiting and such are all spiritual diseases for which the dhikr of Allah subhanahu wa'tala is a river that cleanses all. The Messenger of Allah sallallaho alaihe wasallum told us that dhikr is a sure cure for the heart. The underlying principle and purpose of muraqaba is that, with frequent application, the love of Allah subhanahu wa'tala should become entrenched in our hearts and cure us of all these spiritual diseases. Our elders used to say that evil thoughts are chased away by dhikr. If you are steadfast in your muraqaba, then Allah subhanahu wa'tala will make the way obvious for you.

Question 4: Do we have to perceive an image or other sort of picture when we sit in muraqaba?

Answer: Absolutely no image, picture, or place should be brought to mind. One should only perceive that the mercy of Allah subhanahu wa'tala is entering the heart and being absorbed, and the heart is calling out Allah! Allah! Allah! One should do no other activity except listen to this call just like one listens to an audio cassette.

Question 5: Some ladies have presented concerns that their husbands wish to see them in American dress and want them to come out in public and interact with their friends otherwise the husbands feel ‘insulted.’ Young Muslims say that they feel distanced from Allah subhanahu wa'tala and hence confused about their direction. They want to learn their religion and put all their efforts here whereas their parents want them to pursue secular careers and become doctors etc. What is their responsibility to their parents in this regard and where does the line of obedience and disobedience lie in this context? Can you elaborate on all this?

Answer: The purpose of life is servitude to Allah subhanahu wa'tala, and whatever a person does in life goes toward or should go toward fulfilling that purpose. There is a difference between necessity and purpose. Whatever we might do in this life we do to fulfill necessities: we study and gain knowledge so that we may function in life and be in a better position to guide our children towards fruitful and successful lives. However, serving and pleasing Allah subhanahu wa'tala is our purpose, and it is forbidden and truly sad to sacrifice the purpose for necessity. So a person may spend his life however he wants just as long as he keeps this purpose clear in his head, and does every action in a way that is pleasing to Allah subhanahu wa'tala. If actions are pleasing to Allah subhanahu wa'tala, then He will grant us success both in this life and in the Hereafter. Allah subhanahu wa'tala will become ours if we give ourselves to Him, which means that we have to submit to His Will in everything that we do. Please Allah subhanahu wa'tala and you will see that He will put love and honor in people’s hearts for you.
A Companion asked Hadrat Aisha radhi Allah anha for advice. She said that if we please creation and in that process displease Allah subhanahu wa'tala, then Allah subhanahu wa'tala will put rebellion in the heart of creation toward you, such that the same creation we are trying to please starts hating us. She continued and said that if we displease creation but in that process please Allah subhanahu wa'tala, then Allah subhanahu wa'tala will put love in the hearts of creation so that those who may have opposed us in the past will love us and become our allies. Allah subhanahu wa'tala looks after the one who gives himself to Allah subhanahu wa'tala.

Question 6: Some people have said that they feel helpless in maintaining connection with the shaykh (Rabta-e-Shaykh) to let him know how they are doing and getting feedback on their situations.

Answer: Whoever wishes to remain connected and in touch should first of all be regular in listening in on these lectures that you have started, and people should also try to stay in touch via phone. No one is excluded from supplications, and insha’Allah, Allah subhanahu wa'tala will make things easy. Allah subhanahu wa'tala never excludes anyone due to physical distance; physical distance has no meaning in the spiritual realm. Physical distance has no meaning for something like electricity, such that a light bulb in the east can be lit if a switch is flipped in the west. If physical distance has no meaning for electricity, what possible detriment could physical distance hold for the spiritual? No matter how far a person is, if he maintains his relationship of love and fulfills what he has been told to do, then he will indeed benefit even though he may be physically distant. Whereas physical distance does not make a difference, there should not be any spiritual distance.

Question 7: What are the established branches (silsalas) of self-purification in Tasawwuf?

Answer: There are four major, established silsalas that the scholars and mashaikh agree on:  Qadriyya; Chistiyya; Naqshabandiyya, and Suhrwardiyya.

Question 8: How do we balance Deen and Dunya? In dunya we have our work, our wives and children. How do we strike a balance?

Answer: Our Deen does not tell us to shun society and live in caves. On the contrary, our deen tells us that we have to be models in society; we have to be good to our spouses and to our children and we have to build relationships of love. In fact our deen thrives on relationships of sanctified love. The balance is this: a person must weigh every action against the shariah and sunnah. The action is allowed if sanctioned by shariah and sunnah, but should be shunned if not. If a person weighs every action this way then there will be peace both in this life and in the Hereafter.
Hadith says that Allah subhanahu wa'tala grants honor and success to whoever honors His commandments, and contrarily dishonors and ruins one who does not. There is no joy, but only sadness and worry in the life of one who rebels against Allah subhanahu wa'tala.

Neither with luxury, wealth, nor home,
Hearts find tranquility in naught but the remembrance of Allah.

Allah subhanahu wa'tala helps those who submit to Him. Hadith Qudsi says that there is the Will of Allah subhanahu wa'tala, and then there is our will. If we wish our will be done, then Allah subhanahu wa'tala will not only exhaust us in the earth but also never allow our will to be fulfilled. However, if we will that Allah’s subhanahu wa'tala Will be done, then Allah will not only grant us success in life but also make sure that our wishes are fulfilled.

January 28, 2014
28 Jan 2014

The Indispensability of Abundant Zikr and Muraqabah for the Seeker

Translation of a talk given by Shaykh Zulfiqar Ahmad (damat barakatuhum)

Listen to the Audio in Urdu

The first lesson in the esteemed Naqshbandi Silsilah is Latifa-e-Qalb. Upon this, the seeker traveling the spiritual path (salik) engages in the spiritual exercise of muraqabah, where he or she sets aside some private time to sit and reflect on Allah. In this exercise the salik strives to empty the heart of all thoughts and imagines the blessings and mercy of Allah entering the heart and erasing its darkness. As if in gratitude to being cleansed of darkness the heart joyfully calls out the Name of Allah over and over again… Allah! Allah! Allah!

A general scientific principle states that whenever a vacuum is created, something comes in to fill it and therefore the vacuum does not stay as is. Similarly when we sit and strive to remove all thoughts from our heart the aim is to create a void that will hopefully be filled with thoughts of Allah.

Darkness and light cannot coexist in the same space. Hence the more we strive to rid our hearts of filth, the hope is that divine light, goodness and blessing will enter to replace the darkness that was there. This is why it is extremely important to do muraqabah in abundance. Wherever in the Holy Quran we find the command to practice dhikr, the word is accompanied with the adjective signifying abundance (dhikr-e-kathir).

O you who believe! Celebrate the praises of Allah, and do this often [33:41]

What then is meant by abundant dhikr? At all times a person is either lying down, sitting or on his feet. Abundant dhikr refers to remembering Allah at all times in all these states.

To clarify this, the elders usually present the example of a man who falls ill and is running a high fever. Under this scenario his doctor prescribes antibiotics three times a day for seven days, so that it would take a total of 21 pills to cure the fever. Now, if this person breaks this sequence and has one pill every 3 days, even if he were to have a total of 22 his illness will not be cured.

Why then is the illness not cured even though the person takes more of the medication? Despite the accuracy of the diagnosis and the effectiveness of the medicine, it was not taken in the quantity prescribed by the physician and so the person remains ill. This indicates that quantity counts for a lot in some matters, especially here. Thus even if a patient skips a dose of his medication just one time, the doctor tells him to start the course again from the beginning for the sake of effectiveness.

Consequently, quantity in dhikr is absolutely crucial for a seeker on this path. A little dhikr does the seeker no benefit.

Little do they hold Allah in remembrance [4:142]

The result of this is;

(They are) distracted in mind even in the midst of it, being (sincerely) for neither one group nor for another whom Allah leaves straying, never wilt thou find for him the way [4:143]

A person whose dhikr is insufficient becomes a victim of doubt. He does not tread with confidence the path that leads him to his destination – his feet falter and he constantly changes direction. On the other hand, abundance of dhikr eliminates the darkness of the heart. It is thus that our elders tell us that the filth of thought (fikr) is only removed by the abundance of remembrance (dhikr).

How can a person tell whether a particular thought is inspired by Allah or the Devil (Shaitan)? Remembrance (dhikr) and piety (taqwa) reveal this distinction. The Holy Quran says Allah grants furqan to whoever has taqwa.

He will grant you a criterion (to judge between right and wrong) [8:29]

Furqan is the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, the insight that distinguishes between good and evil. While there may be no apparent basis for making this distinction, this internal light [1] allows a person to differentiate between righteousness and wickedness. This furqan is a blessing that Allah grants to those who engage in plentiful dhikr.

So we must strive to remember Allah lying down, sitting, and whenever we are on our feet. The hearts of the believers should be connected with their Lord in every situation until the very traces of sinfulness are erased from every vein and muscle of their bodies. Constant remembrance leads to spiritual connection (nisbah) to Allah, and cleanses a person completely when it permeates the body. Such a person submits his entire being to Allah and his life and death become only for Allah, and Allah does not let down a person who so completely gives himself up to Him. The Glory of Allah is His alone, and He never abandons the one who submits to Him, but rather protects His servant.

The basic rule for one who seeks to gain all this benefit is to engage in abundant dhikr, and this is one criterion that the majority of seekers fail to meet. They give bay’ah [2] and most of them even change their lifestyle and appearance, but fail to do sufficient dhikr. If they sit for muraqabah at all it only lasts five or ten minutes, and they fail to realize that Allah is not found through mere minutes of muraqabah! Even the world cannot be gained with just a few minutes of effort, so how can we expect to reach the Lord of the worlds by such a meager attempt?

It is commonly understood that if one wishes for a meeting with someone of importance, then he or she will have to wait in line for one’s turn just because of the high rank and demand of the individual or party sought after. For example, people line up for hours and sometimes days for an audience with a famous movie or sports star just because of that individual’s high status in society. Now if people are required to wait for a meeting with another human being, then surely a meeting with Allah the Lord of the Worlds mandates a waiting period also. This waiting time is fulfilled through muraqabah.

A person who thus spends his life sitting with his head lowered yearning for a meeting with Allah , fulfills his waiting time on the Day of Judgment. Consequently the one who does not do this in the world will have to spend the necessary wait time in the Hereafter. But the wait time in the Hereafter is indeed grueling! Someone will have to stand in wait for a thousand years – someone for a thousand more.

Abundance in dhikr is so important that Allah ordained it upon His Prophets. Allah commanded Prophet Musa:

Go, you and your brother, with My Signs, and slacken not either of you in keeping Me in remembrance [ 20:42 ]

Whenever our elders say or command something their words carry potency and weight. How incredibly important must dhikr be in our lives if Allah is issuing the command and on the receiving end are two prophets?

So if we want the love of the world and the darkness of sin to be erased from our hearts, the only way to achieve this is through abundant dhikr. Just like the earth is cleansed when rain falls upon it, hearts are purged when mercy rains down upon them through abundant dhikr.

Hadrat Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlvi (may the mercy of Allah be upon him) has written that there are two ways in which the earth regains purity if there is filth upon it.

1. Water pours down in such abundance that the filth is completely washed away.
2. The sun shines down so intensely that all trace of filth is burned away.

Similarly, there are only two ways to attain purification of the heart. One way is to engage in so much dhikr that mercy rains down upon one’s heart to such an extent that it eliminates the filth and cures the diseases of the heart. The other is to remain in the company of a righteous Shaykh and serve him, and like the sun the heart of the Shaykh shines its rays upon his heart. The resulting blessing (faidh) removes all signs of the filth and a person’s heart is rendered pure.

Thus, we should be frequent and regular in our dhikr so that Allah grants us annihilation of the heart (fana-e-qalbi), a blessing attained after the heart is purified in which a person is forever occupied in the remembrance of his Lord. However, this does not mean that he always sits in prayer and forsakes all other responsibilities. Rather the opposite is true and he takes care of all his worldly and family responsibilities but with a constant awareness of and a deep connection with Allah.

The love of the world has taken over our hearts and we are constantly thinking about it! Even if we make the firm intention not to think about worldly affairs during prayer or throughout the day we cannot let go of these thoughts. This is called annihilation in the world (fana-fid-duniya). Today we are so absorbed in the world that despite our best efforts we are not able to rid our hearts of preoccupation with it. If only we would gain such a level of annihilation in Allah (fina-fillah) that we wouldn’t be able to forget Him even if we tried. Such is the station that we aspire towards, and how pitiful is our present state! It is our prayer that Allah grants us this lofty station, so that our life is spent upon goodness and our feet remain firm on the path that leads us to Him. Ameen.

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[1] A saying of the Prophettells us “Beware of the insight of a believer, for he sees with the light (nur) of Allah

[2] Students begin their spiritual journey by taking an oath (bay’ah) with a spiritual master (Shaykh). This oath entails seeking forgiveness from Allah for past sins and renewing a lifetime commitment to living according to the Holy Quran and the example (sunnah) of the Prophet. The Messenger took such pledges from many of his companions, and hence the act of bay’ah is classified by traditional scholars as a sunnah.

January 28, 2014
28 Jan 2014

Attaining fina-e-qalbi: Annihilation of the Heart

Translation of a talk given by Shaykh Zulfiqar Ahmad
(damat barakatuhum)

Listen to the Audio in Urdu

“And that person who was dead, we gave him life and we granted him a light because of which he walks amongst people.” (Surah al-An’am, Verse 122)

A heedless person is like a corpse, whereas truly alive is the one who is constantly engaged in remembering Allah. Through the abundant remembrance of Allah the heedless heart of a person is transformed into a living one. Hence, this light of nisbah (spiritual connection) is such a blessing that it gives life to the heart that was once dead and devoid of the remembrance of Allah.

Different people display different signs of the attainment of this light. This light in the language of our mashaikh (spiritual elders) is also called faidh, barakah, rahmah, and noor. All these words point to the same blessing. Attainment of faidh means the attainment of illumination. When a person gives bayt (pledges allegiance) to a shaykh and engages in the remembrance of Allah (dhikr) he attains faidh through this dhikr and his heart fills with noor. His heart attains peace as a result.

Light and darkness cannot coexist in the same space. Whenever noor enters the heart of a person he achieves tranquility, and whenever his heart is engulfed by darkness he is in a state of perpetual anxiety. Darkness causes unrest and confusion while noor brings peace.

Engaging in dhikr and muraqabah, praying, and coming to the mosque are all righteous acts that attract the noor of Allah which makes us feel light and at ease. This inexplicable happiness is because of the attainment of faidh and cannot be adequately expressed in words. We experience this elation despite the overwhelming amount of worries in our life. Who is there in this world that is not plagued by problems? Indeed, this world is the very place of troubles. One has to face different difficulties at different stages of one’s life but attaining tranquility in the heart despite these worries and challenges is a proof of the attainment of faidh.

At times a person has pleasant dreams in which he may be visited by the auliya (friends) of Allah, the Prophet, or even by Allah Himself. For the majority of the time such dreams are indicators of the attainment of faidh and noor. On the other hand, if the person lives a life of heedlessness then his dreams may be very frightening. He may dream that various animals are chasing and attacking him, and is likely to be persistently haunted by such bizarre and frightening dreams. Hence, a sign of the attainment of faidh may be that a person receives mubasharaat (glad tidings).

In some people the faidh causes the fire of the love for Allah to burn so intensely that its heat can be felt throughout the body. Sometimes an indication of the attainment of faidh is that at times seekers experience a sleep-like state while in muraqabah. In reality this is not sleep but rather it is a drowsiness that is called nuaas in Arabic. Allah says in the Holy Quran:

“Remember he covered you with a sort of drowsiness (nuaas), to give you calm as from Himself” (Surah al-Anfaal, Verse 11)

On the night of the Battle of Badr, Allah sent His sakina (serenity) down onto the Prophet and the Noble Companions. This sakina took the form of nuaas, about which Allah says:

“But Allah did pour His calm (sakina) on the Messenger and on the Believers.” (Surah at-Tauba, Verse 26)

The descent of this kind of sakina is a mercy, and we also know from the sayings of the Prophet that a deep tranquility descends upon those who remember Allah. When sakina descends it overwhelms the heart and the person experiences a state akin to drowsiness that an ordinary person mistakenly assumes is sleep as he cannot distinguish between the two.

However, sleep is different from the drowsiness felt due to the descent of the mercy of Allah. A person who consumes an intoxicating drug might experience a state mirroring the effects of sleep. The person is not physically experiencing sleep but the drug is altering the state of his mind. Similarly a person’s mind can attain a state of drowsiness because of this rahmah.

This is one reason why our elders have said that one should not worry if one experiences drowsiness during muraqaba because it is in fact a sign of the mercy of Allah. The example of such a person is like that of a beggar who waits outside the door of a rich and generous person in the hope of being given something. He waits there all day and during that time drowsiness or even sleep may overtake him. Now when the owner of the house asks his attendants the length of time that the beggar has been sitting at his doorstep, will they subtract from their estimate the one or two hours that the beggar might have dozed off or rather say that he had been sitting there since Fajr? Indeed they will say that he came after Fajr and the time he napped will be included in his waiting time.

Similarly, even if a person dozes off after having sat down with the intention of muraqaba, the time he dozed will be included in his muraqabah. These days it is even easier to understand this concept. If we connect our cell phones with a charger it makes no difference whether the screen is on or off because the charging takes place in either case. Similarly in muraqabah whether the screen of the person is on or off he continues to benefit from the faidh because the connection has been established.

Other manifestations of faidh are that hearts become more attentive towards the Hereafter; towards the grave, resurrection and Paradise. Furthermore, faidh softens a person’s heart and it overflows with the love and remembrance of Allah. Now what are the consequences of the attainment of this faidh on the heart of the believer?

If a person regularly and abundantly engages in dhikr a time comes when his heart becomes jaari (set in motion). What is meant by the heart becoming jaari? This has several meanings.

One is that a person experiences a movement in his heart. Just as we may feel a muscle in our body quiver at times, the heart muscle of a person also gains some movement because of dhikr. His heart experiences intense attention towards the name of Allah. It is important to distinguish between the regular palpitation of the heart and the heart being jaari. The beating of the heart is the pumping of blood seventy to eighty times a minute, but movement due to abundant dhikr is two to three times faster than the beating of the heart and is experienced as a delightful tickling in the heart. This is referred to as taharruk (movement) which soon after transforms into tazakkur (remembrance) where the person actually perceives his heart calling out the name of Allah.

The heart is the control center of the body and the limbs respond to the decisions that the heart processes. Hence the limbs will act righteously only if the heart is pure and vice versa. Consequently some elders have said that the heart becoming jaari means that the commands of the righteous heart are accepted by every other part of the body and thus the body becomes subservient to such a heart. Another opinion is that a heart becomes jaari when a person’s body begins to obey the commands of Allah, the shariah.

If a person thinks that his heart is jaari he should see if he is obeying the commandments of Allah. It is a blessing if he is but if not, then what is the use of dhikr if it does not take one towards the inculcation of the sunnah of the Prophet? These blessings are attained with muraqabah and and we should try to perform dhikr abundantly so that Allah will bless us with His favors.

Once a heart becomes jaari one attains such immense pleasure that he cannot forget Allah for an instant even if he tried. We should all ask Allah for this blessing because this is a grand station from which there is no return. About this our elders have said that a fani (one who has achieved annihilation) never returns.

Some people raised objections to this and asked why it is that a fani cannot return. To this objection our elders responded by asking whether a fully ripened fruit can ever return to its former stage of growth? Can a child ever return to infancy after having attained maturity? The answer to both these questions is negative. Similarly, once a person has attained this blessing Allah protects him from sin in such a manner that the question of him falling back into error does not arise. This is called fina-e-qalbi (annihilation of the heart) and we should all pray to Allah to grant us this blessing.

December 24, 2012
24 Dec 2012

Seeking Knowledge

   [24.12.2012]  [N/A]   [03′ 38″]