Friday, 25 December 2009

The Buzz on Caffeine by Sam Murphy

The buzz on caffeine
by Sam Murphy
Confused about all the conflicting research on coffee and its effect on your health? Sam Murphy investigates the perks and dregs of your daily cup

Before you sit down to read this, why not go and get yourself a nice cup of coffee? You'll be in good company: 400 million cups of the stuff are drunk daily around the world. We Brits alone spend roughly £850 million a year on our morning cappuccinos, lattes and espressos. Aside from tasting good (and smelling even better), coffee is believed to have a number of health benefits. You may not need a man in a white coat to tell you that your daily dose of caffeine counteracts fatigue and improves alertness and concentration, but did you know that research suggests coffee can lessen the risk of heart disease, Parkinson's disease and gallstones as well as act as a powerful antioxidant and increase physical endurance? So is caffeine a health booster that actually tastes good? Well, not necessarily. For every researcher or health expert downing a double latte, there's another ordering green tea. What are we to think?

Coffee gets its kick from caffeine, one of a group of naturally occurring plant-derived compounds called methylxanthines. Caffeine is a drug, pure and simple. It's addictive - too much can be toxic (although no one has ever died of a caffeine overdose) - and withdrawal causes side effects such as headaches and dizziness. When ingested, caffeine has a 'global' effect, meaning it influences all body tissues, including muscle. Read about its effect on exercise. 'Drinking a cup of coffee stimulates the central nervous system and prompts the adrenal glands to release adrenaline, one of two hormones released in response to stress. Your heart beats faster, glucose is released into the blood stream and you feel energised,' explains Antony Haynes, a nutritionist at the Nutrition Clinic in London's Harley Street. 'In the short-term you feel revived, but over time this repeated stress response frazzles the adrenal glands, while the liver becomes conditioned to metabolise caffeine more quickly, meaning you'll need even more cups of coffee to get the same lift.'
In fact, even if you drink only one cup early in the day, caffeine is still at work on your system hours later. A recent study at the Duke University Medical Center in America, found that levels of adrenalin and noradrenaline remained elevated at night even when subjects had slurped their last cup of coffee at lunchtime - in effect, mimicking 24-hour stress. And that's not the only charge Haynes levels at the world's second favorite drink, after tea. 'Coffee is an anti-nutrient,' he says. 'It hampers the absorption of essential minerals including iron, magnesium, zinc and potassium, as well as the B vitamins.' So, for example, drinking a cup of coffee while eating a hamburger can reduce the amount of iron you absorb by 40 per cent, while zinc absorption is reduced if coffee is drunk within an hour after a meal.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Ghazali's Last

A Common Word : A Christian-Muslim dialogue

Anomisty : Is a video made by Ali Imdad that I helped in the production of to clear sterotypes about Muslims

Eid al-Fitr 08 Khutbah (sermon) by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

A Time For Change by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

The Light of India :Shaykh al-Hadith Muhammad Zakariyya

In the last century, India has undoubtedly become an important center for the study of hadith, and the scholars of India have become well-known for their passion for religious knowledge. Upon them ended the era of leadership in teaching hadiths, codification of the special fields [funun] of hadith, and commentary upon its texts [mutun]. Such was their mastery of this science that Muhammad Rashid Rida mentions in the introduction of his book Miftah Kunuz al-Sunnah, “Were it not for the superb attention to detail in the science of hadith displayed by our brothers, the scholars of India in the present era, this science would have withered away in the eastern cities. And, indeed, mastery of this science has been waning in Egypt and Syria since the tenth century AH.”

There is no doubt that Shaykh Muhammad Zakariyya was among the most distinguished hadith scholars of India and a great contributor in the service of the Sunnah. He was given the honorary title of Shaykh al-Hadith, or “Great Scholar of Hadith,” by his teacher, Shaykh Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri, who recognized his deep insight, clear-sightedness, and extensive knowledge of hadith and related sciences.

Lineage and Upbringing

He was born in the village of Kandhla (in Uttar Pradesh, India) on Ramadan 10, 1315 AH (February 12, 1898 CE). His full name was Muhammad Zakariyya ibn Muhammad Yahya ibn Muhammad Ismail, and his lineage continues all the way back to Abu Bakr, the great Companion of the Messenger (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam).

Shaykh Abu al-Hasan Nadwi said about him, “Shaykh Muhammad Zakariyya was born into a household rooted in knowledge and passion for Islam. His immediate family and his predecessors were distinguished by firm resolve, perseverance, steadfastness, and adherence to religion…. His family included many notable scholars… and his grandmother memorized the entire Qur’an while nursing her son [Shaykh Zakariyya’s father].”

His father, Shaykh Muhammad Yahya, was among the great scholars of India, whose primary teacher in hadith was Shaykh Rashid Ahmad Gangohi. Under him he studied Sahih al-Bukhari, Jami al-Tirmidhi, and others of the six famous authentic books of hadith [sihah sitta]. Shaykh Yahya went on to teach at Madrasa Mazahir Ulum, in the district of Saharanpur, but did not accept any payment for his services. He instead made his living through his own book-publishing business.

As a young boy, Shaykh Zakariyya moved with his father to the village of Gangoh, in the district of Saharanpur. Since his father and Shaykh Gangohi had a close relationship, Shaykh Zakariyya quickly earned the affection of his father’s teacher.

Growing up in this virtuous environment, he began learning how to read with Hakim Abd al-Rahman of Muzaffarnagar. He memorized the Qur’an with his father and also studied books in Persian and the introductory Arabic books with his uncle Shaykh Muhammad Ilyas (founder of the Tabligh movement). He stayed with his father in the company of Shaykh Gangohi until age eight, when the shaykh passed away.

At the age of twelve, Shaykh Zakariyya traveled with his father to Mazahir Ulum, There, under his father, he advanced his study of Arabic, tackling many classical texts on Arabic morphology, grammar, literature and also logic. But by the time he was seventeen, hadith became the main focus of his life. He studied five of the six authentic books of hadith with his father, and then he studied Sahih al-Bukhari and Sunan al-Tirmidhi (for a second time) with honorable Shaykh Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri. Out of his immense respect for hadith, Shaykh Zakariyya was extremely particular about always studying the hadith narrations with wudu‘.

On Dhu ‘l-Qa’da 10, 1334 AH, when Shaykh Zakariyya was just nineteen, his dear father passed away. This event was extremely traumatic for Shaykh Zakariyya, as he lost not only a father but also a teacher and mentor. His deep sorrow remained with him for the rest of his life.


Shaykh Zakariyya was blessed to live and learn in an era considered by many to be one of great achievements in Islamic knowledge by scholars in the Indian subcontinent. He studied with few but select teachers who reached the highest levels of learning, research, authorship, and piety. In addition to his father (Shaykh Muhammad Yahya) and uncle (Shaykh Muhammad Ilyas), he studied under the hadith scholar Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri, author of the Badhl al-Majhud, a commentary of Sunan Abi Dawud. Shaykh Zakariyya acquired a hadith authorization from him and remained his student until Shaykh Khalil’s death in Madina Munawwara in 1346 AH.

Before his death, Shaykh Khalil Ahmad expressed his desire to write Badhl al-Majhud, and he sought Shaykh Zakariyya’s assistance as his right-hand man. This experience revealed Shaykh Zakariyya’s gift of penmanship and, furthermore, expanded his insight in the science of hadith. He worked hard on the project, attained the pleasure and trust of his shaykh, and was even mentioned by name in the commentary. This indeed opened the door to Shaykh Zakariyya’s authoring many literary works and treatises over the course of his life.

Teaching Career

In Muharram 1335 AH he was appointed as a teacher at Madrasa Mazahir Ulum, where he was assigned to teach books on Arabic grammar, morphology, and literature, as well as a number of primary texts of Islamic jurisprudence. In 1341 AH he was assigned to teach three sections of Sahih al-Bukhari upon the insistence of Shaykh Khalil Ahmad. He also taught Mishkat al-Masabih until 1344 AH. Shaykh Abu al-Hasan Nadwi said, “Although he was one of the youngest teachers at the school, he was selected to teach works generally not assigned to those of his age, nor to anyone in the early stages of his teaching career. Nevertheless, he showed that he was not only able, but an exceptional teacher.”

In 1345 AH he traveled to Madina Munawwara, the city of Allah’s Messenger (SallAllahu alahi wasallam), where he resided for one year. There he taught Sunan Abi Dawud at Madrasa al-Ulum al-Shar’iyya. While in Madina, he began working on Awjaz al-Masalik ila Muwatta Imam Malik, a commentary on Imam Malik’s Muwatta. He was twenty-nine at the time.

When he returned to India, he resumed teaching at Mazahir Ulum. He began teaching Sunan Abi Dawud, Sunan al-Nasai, the Muwatta of Imam Muhammad, and the second half of Sahih al-Bukhari. The school’s principle taught the first half of Sahih al-Bukhari, and after his death, Shaykh Zakariyya was given the honor of teaching the entire work.

In all, he taught the first half of Sahih al-Bukhari twenty-five times, the complete Sahih al-Bukhari sixteen times, and Sunan Abi Dawud thirty times. He did not just teach hadith as a matter of routine; the work of hadith had become his passion, and he put his heart and soul into it. Shaykh Zakariyya taught until 1388 AH, when he was forced to give up teaching after developing eye cataracts.

Travels to the Two Holy Cities

Allah blessed him with the opportunity to visit the two holy cities of Makka and Madina. He performed hajj several times, and his multiple trips had a profound personal effect on him, both spiritually and educationally. He made the blessed journey with Shaykh Khalil Ahmad in 1338 AH and with him again in 1344. It was during the second trip that Shaykh Khalil completed Badhl al-Majhud; he died shortly thereafter and was buried in the Baqi’ graveyard in Madina. May Allah have mercy on him and put light in his grave.

Sincere Love for Allah and the Prophet (SallAllahu alahi wasallam)

Shaykh Muhammad Zakariyya inherited piety, honesty, and good character from his father (may Allah be pleased with him). He aspired to follow the Qur’an and Sunnah in all matters, big and small, with a passion not found in many scholars. He had extreme love for the Prophet (SallAllahu alahi wasallam) and the blessed city of Madina. His students have related that whenver the death of the Messenger (SallAllahu alahi wasallam) was mentioned during a lecture on Sunan Abi Dawud or Sahih al-Bukhari, his eyes would well up with tears, his voice would choke up, and he would be overcome with crying. So evocative were his tears that his students could do nothing but weep with raised voices.

He was often tested with regard to his sincerity. He was offered many teaching jobs at two or three times the salary that was customarily given at Mazahir ‘Ulum, but he always graciously declined the offers. For most of his teaching career, Shaykh Zakariyya never accepted any money for his services at Mazahir ‘Ulum; he did the work voluntarily, seeking Allah’s pleasure. Although he did accept a small salary at the beginning of his career, he later totaled up the amount and paid it back in its entirety.


Shaykh Muhammad Zakariyya was married twice. He first married the daughter of Shaykh Ra’uf al-Hasan in Kandhla. She passed away on Dhu ‘l-Hijja 5 1355 AH. He then married the daughter of Shaykh Muhammad Ilyas Kandhlawi in 1356 AH. Allah blessed him with five daughters and three sons from his first wife, and two daughters and one son from his second marriage.

Daily Routine

Shaykh Zakariyya organized his time meticulously. He would rise an hour before dawn and occupy himself in tahajjud and recitation of Qur’an before performing the Fajr prayer in the masjid. After Fajr, he would read his morning supplications and litany until sunrise. Thereafter he would go to meet with some people and drink tea (but never ate anything with it). He would then return to his quarters to read. During this time he would also research and compile his literary works, and, with few exceptions, no one was allowed to visit him at this time. When it was time for lunch he would come out and sit with his guests, who were from all walks of life; he would respect and treat them well, irrespective of who they were. After Zuhr prayer, he would take a siesta and then spent some time listening to his correspondence (which amounted to around forty or fifty letters daily from different places) and dictating replies. He also taught for two hour before ‘Asr. After ‘Asr, he would sit with a large group of people, offering them tea. After performing Maghrib, he would remain devoted in solitude to optional prayer and to supplication. He did not take an evening meal except to entertain an important guest.


Shaykh Abu ‘l-Hasan ‘Ali Nadwi says about his characteristics, “He was extremely vibrant, never lazy; light-hearted, smiling, cheerful, friendly; and he often jested with his close friends and acquaintances. We saw in him good character and forbearance with people, as well as a rare humilty; and above all, his personal qualities were always governed by his deep faith and sense of contentment.”


He had always hoped to meet Allah while in the city of the Messenger (SallAllahu alahi wasallam); Allah granted his wish. He died there on Monday Sha’ban 1, 1402 AH (May 24, 1982 CE) and was buried in Jannat al-Baqi’, in the company of the Companions and the noble family members of the Messenger (SallAllahu alahi wasallam). His funeral procesion was followed by a large number of people and he was buried in the Baqi’ graveyard next to his teacher Shaykh Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri. May Allah forgive him, grant mercy, and elevate his status. Amin.

Scholars’ Praise of Him

Many scholars, both Arab and non-Arab, have praised him and recognized his knowlege and excellence. ‘Allama Muhammad Yusuf Binnori relates,

Indeed there are some remnants of the scholars of past generations living today among the scholars of todays generation. They have been guided to praiseworthy efforts in multiple religious sciences, such as jurisprudence; they are on par with the previous generations in their knowlege, excellence, fear of Allah, and piety; they stir up memories of the blessed golden age of scholarship. Among these scholars is a unique figure envied for his excellence in knowlege and action, the author of outstanding, beneficial works and of beautiful, superb commentaries: Shaykh Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhlawi Saharanpuri.

Shaykh Sa’id Ahmad, the head of Islamic studies at the University of Aligarh, UP, relates,

It is evident to one who take a look at his works that he had a brilliancy, both in knowlege and with the pen, like that of Ibn al-Jawzi and Imam Ghazali. Of the scholars of his era I know of no one comparable to him in this regard, except Imam ‘Abd al-Hayy al-Farangi Mahalli (of Lucknow).

Shaykh Abu ‘l-Hasan ‘Ali Nadwi relates that Shaykh ‘Alawi al-Maliki said,

When he reports the ruling and evidences of the Maliki school [in his writings], we Malikis are astonished at the accuracy and integrity of the report…. If the author had not mentioned in the introduction of [his] book that he was a Hanafi, I would not have known that he was Hanafi, but would have definately concluded that he was a Maliki, since in his Awjaz he cites by-laws and derivatives of the Maliki school from there books that even we have a hard time obtaining.


Shaykh Zakariyya had numerous students who spread around the world and continue, to this day, to serve Islam, particularly establishing traditional Islamic schools in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, England, Canada, America, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and other countries. Some of his more prominent students in the field of hadith were Muhaddith Muhammad Yusuf Kandhlawi (d. 1384 AH), author of Amani ‘l-Ahbar Sharh Ma’ani ‘l-Athar, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Jabbar A’zami, author of Imdad al-Bari (Urdu commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari), and Mufti Mahmud Hasan Gangohi (d. 1417 AH). Many other scholars and students also acquired authorizations in hadith from him, including Dr. Mustafa’ al-Siba’i, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda, Dr. Muhammad ‘Alawi al-Maliki and Shaykh Muhammad Taha al-Barakati.

Written Works

Shaykh Zakariyya wrote many works both in Arabic and Urdu. A number of them treat specialized subjects intented for scholars, and the rest have been written for the general public. His works demonstrate his deep knowlege and intelligence; his ability to undertand the issue at hand, research it thoroughly, and present a complete, clear and comprehensive discussion; his moderation, humility, patience, and attention to detail. His respect and awe for the pious predecessors are evident in his works, even when he disagrees with their opinions on any particular aspect.

His first written work was a three volume commentary of the Alfiyya ibn Malik (on arabic grammar), which he wrote as a student when he was only thirteen. His written works amount to over one hundred. He did not withhold any rights to his works and made it publicly known that he only published his works for the sake of Allah’s pleasure. Whoever wished to publish them was permitted to, on the condition that they were left unaltered and their accuracy maintained.

Hence, his books have gained overwhelming acceptance througout the world, so much so that his work Fada’il al-Qur’an [Virtues of the Qur'an] has been translated into eleven languages, Fada’il Ramadan [Virtues of Ramadan] into twelve languages, and Fada’il al-Salat [Virtues of Prayer] into fifteen languages. He wrote four books on Qur’an commentary [tafsir] and proper recitation [tajwid], forty-four books on hadith and its related sciences, six books on jurisprudence [fiqh] and its related sciences, twenty-four historical and biographical books, four books on Islam creed [aqida], twelve books on abstinence [zuhd] and heart-softening accounts [riqaq], three books in Arabic grammar and logic, and six books on modern-day groups and movements.

Some of His Hadith Works

One can find a complete list and description of his books in the various biographies written on him. Here is a brief description of a few of his more popular works on hadith:

Awjaz al-Masalik ila Muwatta’ Imam Malik: One of the most comprehensive commentaries on the Muwatta of Imam Malik in terms of the science of hadith, jurisprudence, and hadith explication. Shaykh Zakariyya provides the summaries of many other commentaries in a clear, intellectual, and scholarly way, dealing with the various opinons on each issue, mentioning the differences of opinions among the various scholars, and comparing their evidences. This commentary, written in Arabic, has won great acclaim from a number of Maliki scholars.

Lami’ al-Dirari ‘ala Jami’ al-Bukhari: Written in Arabic, a collection of the unique remarks and observations on Sahih al-Bukhari presented by Shaykh Rashid Ahmad Gangohi. These life-long acquired wisdoms were recorded by his student Shaykh Yahya Kandhlawi (Shaykh Zakariyya’s father) during their lessons. Shaykh Zakariyya edited, arranged, and commented on his fathers compilation, clarifying the text and adding a comprehensive introduction at the beginning.

Al-Abwab wa ‘l-Tarajim li ‘l-Bukhari: An explanation of the chapter headings of Imam Bukhari’s Sahih al-Bukhari. Assigning chapter headings in a hadith collection is a science in itself, known among the scholars as al-abwab wa ‘l-tarajim [chapters and explanations]. In it, the compiler explains the reasons for the chapter heading and the connections between the chapter headings and the hadiths quoted therein. It is well known that the commentators of Sahih al-Bukhari have paid special attention to the titles therein, in tune with the Arabic saying: “The fiqh of Bukhari is in his chapter headings” [fiqh al-Bukhari fi tarajimihi]. Shaykh Zakariyya not only quotes and compiles what has been mentioned by other scholars like Shah Wali Allah al-Dehlawi and Ibn Hajar al-’Asqalani, but also correlates and clarifies these opinions and presents findings from his own research in many instances.

Juz’ Hajjat al-Wida’ wa ‘Umrat al-Nabi (SallAllahu alahi wasallam): A comprehensive Arabic commentary on the detailed accounts of the pilgrimage [hajj] of Allah’s Messenger (SallAllahu alahi wasallam). It includes the details of any juridical discussions on the various aspects of pilgrimage, giving the locations, modern-day names, and other details of the places the Messenger of Allah (SallAllahu alahi wasallam) passed by or stayed at.

Khasa’il Nabawi Sharh Shama’il al-Tirmidhi: Composed in urdu, a commentary on Imam Tirmidhi’s renowned work al-Shama’il al-Muhammadiyya, a collection of hadiths detailing the characteristics of the Messenger (SallAllahu alahi wasallam). This commentary explains the various aspects related to the different characteristics and practices of Allah’s Messenger (SallAllahu alahi wasallam). It has been translated into English and is widely available.

Adaptation from the Arabic biography on Shaykh Zakariyya Kandhalawi by Wali al-Din Nadwi. Taken from The Differences of the Imams by Shaykh al-Hadith Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhlawi –p.123]

Al-Attas’ Concept of Ta‘dib as True and Comprehensive Education in Islam - Wan Mohd Nor Wan Daud

Al-Attas’ Concept of Ta‘dib as True and Comprehensive Education in Islam

Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas (b.1931)1 is the first thinker in the contemporary Muslim world, for the last two centuries, who has systematically defined the meaning of education and has coherently articulated a system to actualize it, starting, strategically, at the university level. Deeply imbedded in the sufi metaphysical and ethical tradition, he has also consistently argued and clarified that the purpose of education in Islam is not merely to produce a good citizen, nor a good worker, but a good man. In one of his most important and influentional works he underlines that:

it is man’s value as a real man, as the dweller in his self’s city, as citizen in his own microcosmic kingdom, as a spirit, that is stressed, rather than his value as a physical entity measured in terms of a pragmatic or utilitarian sense of his usefulness to state, society and the world.2
He argues that a good citizen or worker in a secular state may not necessarily be a good man; a good man, however, will definitely be a good worker and citizen.3 It is obvious that if the employer or state is good as defined from the wholistic Islamic framework, then being a good worker and citizen may be synonymous with being a good man. But an Islamic state presupposes the existence and active involvement of a critical mass of Islamically-minded men and women. In a later work, al-Attas emphasizes that stressing the individual is not only a matter of principle, but also “a matter of correct strategy in our times and under the present circumstances.”4 He further argues that stressing the individual implies knowledge about intelligence, virtue, and the spirit, and about the ultimate destiny and purpose. This is so because intelligence, virtue, and the spirit are elements inherent in the individual, whereas stressing society and state opens the door to legalism and politics.5

However, al-Attas asserts that Islam accepts the idea of good citizenship as the object of education, “only that we mean by ‘citizen’ a Citizen of that other Kingdom, so that he acts as such even here and now as a good man.”6 The primary focus on the individual is so fundamental because the ultimate purpose and end of ethics in Islam is the individual.7 It is because of this notion of individual accountability as a moral agent that in Islam it is the individual that shall be rewarded or punished on the Day of Judgement.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Biography of Ibn Ata’illah as-Sakanda (God bless him)

Taj ad-Din Abu’l-Fadl Ahmad b.Muhammad b.Abd al-Karim b. Ata’illah as Sakandari, al-Judhami ash-Shadhili, known simply as Ibn Ata’illah as-Sakandari, was born in Alexandria, Egypt, as his family tree (nisbah) indicates, about the middle of the seventh [AH] /thirteenth [CE] century. His family were renowned Maliki scholars from the Banu Judham tribe, originally from Arabia. His grandfather, Abd al-Karim (d. 612 AH/1216 AD) had distinguished himself as an expert in Fiqh, usul (principles of jurisprudence), and Arabic, having studied under the famous Abu’l-Hasan al-Abyari. He had written several books, among which were al-Bayin wa’t-Taqrib fi Sharh at-Tahdhib, Mukhtasar at-Tahdhib, and Mukhtasar al-Mufassal, and had been very hostile to Sufism.

On the other hand, Ibn Ata'illah' s father Muhammad (death date unknown) seems to have been of a different mind and although a Faqih (scholar), he was also the disciple of the great Sufi Shaykh Abu’l-Hasan ash-Shadhili (593-656AH/1197-1258AD), the founder of the Shadhili Sufi order.

As a youth, Ibn Ata'illah received a traditional Islamic education in such disciplines as Qur’anic recitation, Hadith (Prophetic tradition) , Tafsir (Qur’anic commentary), grammar, usul, philosophy, belles-lettres, and Fiqh (jurisprudence) under some of the best and most illustrious teachers of Alexandria, in addition no doubt, to the instruction given him by his own family.

Ironically, in spite of his father’s attachment to the Shadhili master Abu’l-Hasan, Ibn Ata'illah was initially rather hostile to Sufism much like his grandfather, as he himself admits in his book Lata’if al-Minan, but not for any definite reason. In fact, what precipitated his meeting with Shaykh Abu’l-Abbas al-Mursi, the successor of Shaykh Abu’l-Hasan was an argument with one of al-Mursi’s disciples. Consequently, Ibn Ata'illah decided to see for himself who this man was after all, ‘a man of Truth has certain signs that cannot be hidden’. He found him holding forth on such lofty spiritual matters that he was dazzled. Ibn Ata'illah states that at that moment GOD removed whatever objections he previously had. Something had obviously touched his heart and mind, so he went home to be alone and reflect.

That was apparently the turning point for him, for shortly thereafter Ibn Ata'illah returned to visit Shaykh Abu’l-Abbas al-Mursi who received him so warmly that he was embarrassed and humbled. Ibn Ata'illah states, ‘The first thing that I said to him was “O Master, by GOD, I love you”. Then he answered, “May GOD love you as you love me”. Then Ibn Ata’illah told him of various worries and sadness he had, so the Shaykh told him: There are four states of the servant, not five: blessings, trials, obedience, and disobedience. If you are blessed, then what GOD requires of you is thankfulness. If you are tried, then what GOD requires of you is patience. If you are obedient, then what GOD requires of you is the witnessing of His blessings upon you. If you are disobedient, then what GOD requires of you is asking forgiveness.

After leaving Shaykh al-Mursi, he mentions that he felt that his worries and his sadness were like a garment that had been removed. From that time in 674 AH/ 1276 AD when Ibn Ata'illah was initiated into the Shadhili order until the death of Shaykh al-Mursi twelve years later, he became his devoted disciple and says that in all those years he never heard his Shaykh say anything that contradicted the Shari'a.

What spiritual fruits he must have received cannot be known, but his development into a Sufi master capable of guiding and teaching others took place within the lifetime of his Shaykh, i.e., well within e twelve-year period before 686 AH/1288 AD. His discipline and progress in the path coupled with his great learning made him renowned as a religious authority.

Ibn Ata'illah’s virtue, majestic presence, eloquence, and spiritual insights were such that he had many followers. He even performed miracles, some of which have been recorded, such as speaking from his grave to one Kamal ad-Din b. al-Hamam who had gone to the Shaykh's tomb to recite Surat Hud. As a result, Ibn al-Hamam was counselled to be buried there. Another miracle attributed to Shaykh Ibn Ata'illah is his having been seen in Mecca at three different places by one of his disciples who had gone on Pilgrimage. When the latter returned, he asked if the Shaykh had left the country in his absence and was told no. Then he went to see him and Ibn Ata'illah asked him, ‘Whom did you see on this trip of yours?’ The disciple answered, ‘O Master, I saw you’. So he smiled and said, ‘The realized sage fills the universe. If he summoned the Qutb (Spiritual Pole), verily he would answer.’

Still another miracle recorded is the story of three men on their way to attend Shaykh Ibn Ata'illah’s public lecture (majlis). One said, ‘If I were free from the family, I would become an ascetic’; the second one said, ‘I pray and fast but I do not see a speck of benefit’; and the third said, ‘Indeed, my prayers do not please me so how can they please my Lord?’ After arriving, they heard Ibn Ata'illah discourse and in their presence he said, ‘There are among people those who say…’ and he repeated their words exactly.

Ibn Ata'illah taught at both the al-Azhar Mosque and the Mansuriyyah Madrasah in Cairo as well as privately to his disciples. However, it is not known where his Zawiyah was located.

Shaykh Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah died at around sixty years of age in the middle of Jumada II 709 AH/November 1309 AD. As befitting an eminent and learned teacher, he died in the Mansuriyyah Madrasah. His funeral procession was witnessed by hundreds of people and he was buried in the Qarafah Cemetery in Cairo in what is today called the City of the Dead, at the foot of Jabal al-Muqattam. His tomb became famous as the site of homage, visitation, prayer, and miraculous occurrences. To this day this is still the case.

This pious and extraordinary contemplative figure left behind a spiritual legacy no less impressive than those of his own beloved Shaykh, and the eminent founder Shaykh Abu’l-Hasan ash-Shadhili. All the biographers refer to Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah with illustrious titles and reverence and mention how marvellously he spoke and how uplifting his words were. In spite of the fact that he followed the Maliki madhbab, the Shafi’is laid claim to him, most probably because some of his earlier teachers had been Shafi’i scholars, not to mention some of his students.

Hence, his disciples could only be all the more devoted in their attachment to and love for him. Of the untold numbers of followers that Shaykh Ibn Ata’ Allah had, both in Cairo, Alexandria, and elsewhere, only very few names are known. That is, doubtless, due to the fact that the Shadhilis did not advocate withdrawing from the world or wearing special clothing to distinguish themselves. They were ‘in the world but not of the world’, so to speak.

Biographical sketch taken from 'The Key To Salvation'.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

On Protecting knowledge

Abu al Hasan Abd al Aziz al Jurjani said :


They say to me that you are withdrawn, but they saw a man more humiliated and withdrawn.

I saw people who belittle any humble soul who drew near to


anyone who was exalted by pride they received with honour.

I gave not knowledge its due,

And every time a craving for the world came to me,

I used my knowledge as a staircase to attain it.

When it was said, “This is a fountain.” I said, “I see”.

I strove not in the service of knowledge,

Nor as a servant of the needy souls I met.

I sought, instead, to be saved.

Am I to be made wretched by the seedling I planted,

Harvesting only humiliation?

If this is so, it would have been better to have sought ignorance!

If only the people of knowledge had protected it,

It would have protected them.

If they had magnified it in their souls,

They would have been magnified.

To the contrary, they belittled it,

And thereby became despicable.

They disfigured its face with their craving for the world, leaving it frowning and dejected.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Advice for Arabic Study by Shaykh Suhayb Webb with comment by Gibril F Haddad

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim

I'm a student in the UK and have learnt enough nahu to read irab etc. But I find it hard to understand - vocab, meanings etc. What advice or methods (time-saving) would you give so I can read Arabic books with understanding? What Arabic literature would you recommend for beginners?

Reply by Shaykh Suhayb Webb (Shukran jazilan!):

I. This is the language of Revelation.

Understand that his is the language of Revelation. Thus, its study should be taken very seriously. The signs of this understanding are the following:

1. A checked intention. Meaning, constantly observe your inner state. I've seen a lot of Western students show off their latest understanding of Tamyeez, Haal and 'Alam. Beware of this quality because the Prophet MHMD said about this person, "The Fire! The Fire."

2. Have a lot of Sabar. Ibnu Malik (rad.ia-LLahu `anhu), the great scholar of grammar, began his famous Alfiyah with the line, "Kalamun Lafthun Mufedun Kastaqim."

"Kastaqim" means to be firm and upright. He opened his blessed poem with that line to say to the student, "Istaqim [Straighten yourself] upon the learning of this language." In other words Arabic, if you really want to grasp its secrets, is not hard, but takes time. The Ulema used to say, "The entrance to Arabic is hard and its exit is easy." Thus, don't try and overdo things. Once a man had studied for 19 years. He said, "I've failed to become a scholar? What have I learned?" Finally, he decided to leave being a student of knowledge and went back to his village. He sat on a stone well and noticed the rope that held the bucket had worn its way through the stone well. Suddenly he realized something and said to himself, "Seeking knowledge is like this rope. It takes time, but with sabar and focus, a rope can rub through stone."

3. A lot of supplication: Allah says, "(Allah) He taught men expression." Thus, you must beg Allah to give you this language. Remember that learning this language is a means of improving your servitude to Allah. Thus, implore Allah to give it to you.

II. Learning Arabic has a few components:

1. Nahu, Balagh and Sarf (these are the internal organs of the language), however, know, may Allah have mercy on you, that learning these sciences will give you a technical understanding of the language. Especially if you learn from the Mutuun in the beginning. Thus, most teachers advise a student to start with more basic books, which are current in content, and then later move on to the Mutun.

2. Speaking, writing and expression: This is usally the last thing to come. But, once one has it, they should praise Allah in abundance because they are expressing themselves in the language of the Qur'an, the language of the Prophet MHMD and the language of Ahl-Janna.

I would advise our brother to begin and communicate with others as often as possible. Although you'll make mistakes, and we all do, keep trying. Once, I was sitting with a group of Malaysian students from Al-Azhar. They were very strong in the Arabic and I noticed that they only spoke Arabic. I asked one of them, "Mashallah, what is going on with you brothers?" He told me, "We love to make mistakes in Arabic more than speaking our own language correctly." Thus, you must practice practice practice. What you fail to use, will fail you when you need it.

III. As for your study I would do the following:

1. Leave the classical books until you can understand them and read them with a teacher. The best books I've found for learning how to talk are, believe it or not, children's books. Their language is always great and there are a lot of conversations which will serve as great assistance for you in the future.

2. Use a common text book that teaches Arabic such as Kitabul Asassi, the University of Madina series and many others.

3. Try to study in a center in an Arab country. It is very important to remember that a language is a culture. Thus, while living in the culture you will learn the expression of the language in its natural state.

4. Work hard.

Finally, I would try and memorize some Qur'an and Hadith. Both, and the Qur'an more so, are a means of giving you Fasaha.

Allah knows best.

SDW June 11, 2005

Comments by GFH: The last statement echoes Dr. Sa`id al-Buti's reply when asked how come he spoke Arabic with such clarity although he never studied it formally. He replied: by reading the Qur'an. The statement by the Malaysian students: "We love to make mistakes in Arabic more than speaking our own language correctly" is `Ibada and Ikhlas. (It beats what Yahya ibn Ma`in said to Imam Ahmad after one of their teachers, al-Fadl ibn Dukayn, tripped Yahya to the ground to teach him adab. Yahya said: "That he tripped me was lovelier to me than our entire visit to him.") Add to this that `Ajams may get more reward for making mistakes in Arabic (and indeed Qur'an-recitation) than Arabs in speaking it correctly - depending, of course, on Intention.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

How to Identify the Four Types of Sentences Declarative, Imperative, Interrogative, and Exclamatory Sentence

By Tracey Carter

Sentences can be identified in two ways: purpose and structure. This article will explain how to identify sentences based on their purpose.

Sentences can be identified as having one of four purposes:

  • Declarative
  • Imperative
  • Interrogative
  • Exclamatory

While these four types of sentences have similarities, they are more easily identified by their differences. Each type of sentence serves a different purpose.

Declarative Sentences

Declarative sentences are the most common type of sentence in English literature. A declarative sentence states a fact. (Interestingly, the preceding sentence, and this sentence also, are declarative sentences.)

In addition to making a statement or sharing a fact, declaratives always end with a period.

Examples of declarative sentences:

  • The bus arrived late.
  • My pink sweater needs to be washed.
  • The book, while thought-provoking, was challenging to read because of its advanced vocabulary.

As the examples above show, declarative sentences can be simple, compound or complex sentences. Sentence structure does not effect the basic purpose of the sentence. Although it should be noted that using a variety of sentence structures increases reader engagement and decreases reader boredom.

Declarative sentences may be short and simple, getting straight to the point, or declarative sentences may be lengthier and include prepositions, objects of prepositions, direct objects, and indirect objects.

Don't let a sentence's structure or length fool you! A declarative sentence states something. A declarative sentence does not command, question, or proclaim. A declarative sentence states a fact.

Imperative Sentences

Like the declarative sentences discussed above, imperative sentences also end with a period. Imperative sentences give a command or ask someone to do so something.

Imperative sentences may appear to lack a subject:

  • Shut the door.
  • Clear the table.
  • Stop right this instant.

It is common for imperative sentences to have an implied subject. In all three examples of imperative sentences above, the implied subject is "you." Each imperative sentence above is commanding or requesting that "you" do something.

Imperative sentences, like declarative sentences, may be short and simple or long and complex, however, imperative sentences are typically short simple sentences. Again however, don't be fooled by the sentence structure. An imperative sentence can have any style of sentence structure and still be an imperative sentence.

An imperative sentence commands, requests, or orders someone to do something.

Interrogative Sentences

Interrogative sentences have different terminal punctuation than declarative sentences and imperative sentences. Interrogative sentences always end with a questions mark.

  • Where are you going today?
  • Will you hand me the red paintbrush, please?
  • I don't know; which train do you think we should take?

An interrogative sentence asks a question or requests information and ends with a question mark.

Exclamatory Sentences

Exclamatory sentences have different terminal punctuation than declarative sentences, imperative sentences, and interrogative sentences. Exclamatory sentences always end with an exclamation mark.

  • I'm so angry!
  • Get away from me!
  • It's so beautiful; I love it!

It is important to note that simply placing an exclamation mark at the end of a sentence does not automatically create an exclamatory sentence. An exclamatory sentence must also convey strong emotion(s).

An exclamatory sentence uses strong emotion and ends with an exclamation mark.

Exclamatory Sentences

Exclamatory sentences have different terminal punctuation than declarative sentences, imperative sentences, and interrogative sentences. Exclamatory sentences always end with an exclamation mark.

  • I'm so angry!
  • Get away from me!
  • It's so beautiful; I love it!

It is important to note that simply placing an exclamation mark at the end of a sentence does not automatically create an exclamatory sentence. An exclamatory sentence must also convey strong emotion(s).

An exclamatory sentence uses strong emotion and ends with an exclamation mark.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Book: Alchemist Reviewed

When one first picks up Paulo Coelho's Alchemist by looking at the orange book cover one wonders what to make of the book. However, although its cover is very ugly the content with in the book is certainly not.I had heard the novel was a masterpiece, before I picked it up. Now I truly know why.I love the fact the author uses his knowledge of Religion and his travels in the book. It is really simply and elegantly written so you absorb everything.This really opens ones imagination.The book is a book of life, it can teach you many lesson of life, the central lesson that runs through the book is whatever you aspire to do in your life, at least try to make an effort to achieve it. And, if you to, then life in turn will use all of its power to help you achieve your goal."To realize ones Personal Legend is a persons only obligation. And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it" Unlike other books that have numerous characters, that you can not keep up with in the novel.In contrast, the Alchemist does not.There very few characters but all have an important part to play. The main character is a Spanish Andalusian boy called Santiago. Although the reader only knows his name at the end of the book.Throughout the book he is just called Boy.Anyway, the boy is an Sheppard, who was training to be a priest.However, as the boy wanted to see Spain he goes against his fathers wishes.With the courage of an adventure he travels from city to city, picking up life's lessons along the way.However, while sleeping in a derelict Spanish church he has a dream that changes the course of his life. He is told that he has to pursue his Personal Legend by a Gypsy women full of wisdom and a mysterious King.To cut a long story short, the boy travels to Tangier in Africa, to achieve his dream. While in Tangier the boy loses his money, and this results in him getting a work for a crystal merchant.The merchant teaches him special lessons for the journey ahead.But, he falls in many predicaments and travels to the land of the Pyramids. On the way to the Pyramids, the boy while traveling with a dusty caravan meets an Englishman who is trying to become a Alchemist and disclose the Philosophers Stone. From the Englishman the boy learns about a old Alchemist who has unlocked the Philosophers Stone. While, stopping at an oasis to seek refuge from a war the boys meets his soul mate.It is love at first sight. However, the boy must leave his beloved at the oasis in danger from the war. To discover his personal legend with the wary old Alchemist. Once his discovers his personal legend he realizes things of inward and outward knowledge changing his observation on life.Does he get the girl? Does he live?

A great novel that will surely change our look on life if it does not it will at least be a good read.

In the Spirit of Tradition= Sidi Nazim Baksh

"Tradition" in academic circles has come to signify old fashioned customs, archaic cultural practices, ossified ideas handed down from the past and articulated to the letter by naïve, simple minded neo-Luddites. In popular discourse, to be traditional is to adamantly cling in the past. Those espousing traditional values are often lumped into the same category as the tree-huggers and angry protesters hurling insults at the towers of free-trade, liberalization and globalization and in the process braving the batons and pepper-spray of heavily armed policemen.

From this perspective, tradition is not only diametrically opposed to modernity; it represents a distinct historical period from which modernity saved the world by liberating itself from the shackles of tradition. Thus, anyone who consciously clings to the profound and perennial "Truths" or "Virtues" if you wish, embodied in all sacred traditions, is regarded as "backward looking," anti-progress or worst, hopeless romantics.

In "Arguing Sainthood: Modernity, Psychoanalysis and Islam," Katherine Pratt Ewing eloquently explains and historically illustrates that what has come to be regarded as "traditional" was never static nor monolithic, but was instead varied and constantly evolving over time. The accusation of rigidity was hurled at tradition, she argues, by the architects of colonization in order to establish the colonizer's hegemony over the colonized. Ultimately, in order for the colonizer to succeed in his colonization, the modern had to be cast as superior to the existing order. And thus the only reason why civilizations of old were destroyed, the argument goes, was because they failed to develop, progress, and to change. In other words, leave the old and dilapidated and get with the new program.

Unfortunately, many Muslims today have swallowed the false discursive assumption that tradition is something static. Therefore, in order to move forward, they have to tear themselves away from the past and embrace the modern, and by extension, the post-modern, with all its technological gadgetry, and its shifting house of virtues and ethics.

The consequence of this charge has produced some rather abnormal collective behavioral traits among us. We find in the murky water of contemporary Muslim reality those who feel the need to label themselves: modernists, progressives, reformists, fundamentalists; and even when there is absolutely no need for other categories, they nevertheless continue to pile up.

At this particular juncture, when young Muslims in the west are feeling a burning desire to understand and perhaps also experience something of the intellectual, spiritual, ethical and virtuous ambiance of earlier generations, it is important to clarify what we mean by the term "traditional."

According to Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, executive director of Zaytuna Institute in Hayward, CA, traditional Islam is the "plumb line", the trunk of the Islamic tree, if you prefer, whose roots are firmly buried in the soil of Prophethood.

Over time, tributaries sprout from the "plumb line" and eventually die out, but the line continues because ours is a tradition based on isnad - sound, authentic, reliable transmission of sacred knowledge.

Young Muslims in the West, I believe, are responding positively to the call of "tradition" because they are a tad fed up with the many tributaries that have fractured from the "plumb line." They want to experience an Islam free of ideology, statist or otherwise, an Islam free of political affiliations, organizational goals, and market driven visions hatched in lofty towers by engineers and doctors.

Therefore, by "tradition" we mean the "Sunnah" of our Noble Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, in all its timeless,

living and sacred glory. The Sunnah here is the worldly manifestation of the divine revelation which has been codified and preserved in the sacred text of Al-Qur'an.

To follow this sacred tradition means to stake all claims, whatever they are, in the two sources of Truth: The Qur'an and the Sunnah. In our Ummah, no one, regardless of what category he puts himself in, will argue to the contrary. Some may choose to stress only the intellectual, cultural, social, or spiritual aspects of the Islamic tradition instead of treating the tradition as an integrated whole. Regardless of what is given priority, it must be based on the explicit "Truths" evident in the Qur'an and the Sunnah for it to be regarded as within the parameters of the Islamic tradition.

This tradition is the whole of Islam (al-din) and whenever an attempt is made to compartmentalize or divide it up into edible portions, for whatever reasons, that effort will never survive the test of time. Having said that, we should recognize that those who emphasize one aspect of the tradition may be doing it out of a need and not an attempt to split the tradition into parts.

In order for speak of a sacred tradition there must be a model that serves as its reference point. We therefore recognize that the community of our Beloved Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, was established with divine guidance as a model, and at no time in history will there ever be another community like it. Further, the Islamic sacred tradition has been from its inception a living tradition and rigorously documented as such.

In order for the tradition to remain valid it has to be transmitted in a way that will stand the test of time. A sacred tradition cannot survive without transmission and the key to transmission is isnad, or sound and verifiable links that stitches each generation of believers to the preceding one all the way back to the Blessed Messenger.

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, has often said that "isnad" is the secret of this Ummah and a gift from Allah. Without "isnad" the entire tradition could very well collapse. The system of ijaza (teaching licenses) is intricately linked to isnad in that one takes his knowledge from noble men and women who took their knowledge from those who took their knowledge from those..all the way back to that model community and to the blessed Messenger himself, whose knowledge, without a shadow of doubt, came from the Lord of the Divine Throne through his messenger, the angel Gibril, upon him be peace.

There is a tested and established tradition aimed at preserving and transmitting sacred knowledge within the overall tradition of Islam. We recognize its validity and importance today especially when the "sacred" has been relegated to an inferior position in our modern educational system. Zaytuna Institute in California, and a host of other well-established organizations in the U.S.A., Canada and the UK, have dedicated themselves to preserving and re-establishing the traditional educational method of teaching the Islamic sacred sciences to the present generation of Muslims in the West.

The fact that the tradition must be transmitted to remain valid, necessarily entails that it cannot be static because time does not stand still and the world is certainly not one big snapshot. The established Truths of the Islamic tradition will always confront and must reconcile itself to new situations, events and circumstances.

A lot of the divisions and acrimony we find in our communities today is as a direct result over a problem in determining exactly what is an "authentic" tradition.

In "Rethinking tradition in modern Islamic thought" Daniel Brown points out: ".it is also evident that tradition is frequently appealed to as a way of defending against perceived innovation, as a way of preserving threatened values. Alternative uses of tradition are thus a major battleground; there is fierce competition to control the process by which the content of tradition is defined, and for modern Muslims, sunna has become the bitterest point of conflict. Thus, the modern problem of sunna arises out of conflict among Muslims over the definition and content of the authentic tradition, and over the method by which the tradition is to be defined." (page 3)

The only way to effectively deal with the thorny issue of what constitutes an authentic application of our tradition is to recognize that the mujatahid Imams, and by extension the `ulama who follow in their methodological footprints, are the final arbiters. This applies to fiqh as well as to the other branches of the Islamic sacred sciences.

Differences of opinions and interpretations in our sacred tradition is not a sign of weakness in the tradition, but instead, they attest to its richness and complexity.

When we live according to the Sunnah today we are preserving our tradition and ensuring its continuity and validity in time by handing it down to the next generation in much the same way as it was given to us by the pervious. The point here is that we act upon the tradition, not impose our modern sensibilities upon it, in the hope that the divine barakah may trickle down on us.

Finally, we are aware that the Islamic tradition, handed down to us over the years, is our link to the historic Prophetic community. By living it we are confirming that the way of our noble Messenger is as valid today as it was when Allah The Almighty sent him as a Mercy to all of mankind 1400 years ago.

This is what we mean by "tradition" and so when reference is made to the work we do as being "traditional," it is not an attempt to label, but to identify a focus that's broad enough to include all Muslims.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr, in his "Traditional Islam in the Modern World" offers the following comprehensive definition of tradition and one that I think works well as a summary:

"Tradition is at once al-din in the vastest sense of the word, which embraces all aspects of religion and its ramifications, al-sunnah, or that which, based upon sacred models, has become tradition as this word is usually understood, and al-silsilah, or the chain which relates each period, episode or stage of life and thought in the traditional world to the Origin..Tradition, therefore, is like a tree, the roots of which are sunk through revelation in the Divine Nature and from which the trunk and branches have grown over the ages. At the heart of the tree of tradition resides religion, and its sap consists of that grace or barakah which, originating with the revelation, makes possible the continuity of the life of the tree. Tradition implies the sacred, the eternal, the immutable Truth; the perennial wisdom, as well as the continuous application of its immutable principles to various conditions of space and time." (page 13).

(By Nazim Baksh. Nazim is a television journalist at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Toronto, Canada. Over the last five years he has been involved in organizing Deen Intensives, Rihlas and other traditional programs in North America).

Monday, 16 November 2009

Interview With Thomas Cleary

In the world of strategy books, a milestone was reached in 1988 when Dr. Thomas Cleary published his translation and interpretation of The Art of War. A Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from Harvard and J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Cleary redefined the military treatise by linking it to Taoist thought found in classics like the I Ching and Tao Te Ching. He purposefully highlighted "a profound undercurrent of humanism" to the often misunderstood book on warfare. Most Sun Tzu scholars have followed these viewpoints ever since.

Thomas Cleary is a prolific writer. He has penned 80 books, most of which are related to East Asian culture and philosophy, e.g., Buddhist and Taoist works. We have found the author to be fiercely independent and that he likes to draw information directly from the source (thus perhaps explaining his deep interest in translating classics from their language of origin). If you were Sun Tzu, wouldn't you want to gather intelligence the same way, too?

Thomas Cleary is very to very down-to-earth. He told us of a time recently when he worked with a contractor to install fiberglass insulation, which of course is not the safest work. The contractor liked his work ethic so much that he offered him the job. When Dr. Cleary finally fessed up to being a successful writer and just wanted to go blue collar for the day, the contractor said he graduated from Princeton but found his current career suited him better. Luckily for us, our esteemed author did not also change careers, and so we will continue to enjoy his works for years to come. You have translated numerous books; we are simply astounded by your productivity. When did you first take interest in translations?

Cleary: I got into Buddhism when I was in my teens and started translating when I was 18. The reason behind my research into various books was because I wanted to learn. Your Art of War edition is among the best-selling Art of War books of all time. What got you interested into translating the military classic?

Cleary: I usually translate works that have never been translated into English before. But in this case, everyone has heard of Sun Tzu. His Art of War has already been translated into English.

However, I found past interpretations of the book too limited. They are limited representations of the West. There are a variety of presentations not given, such as from a Taoist standpoint. Previously, Taoism in The Art of War has either been denied or minimized. I wanted to say, here is one way -- another way -- to look at the text. What concept from The Art of War would you say people misinterpret the most?

Cleary: I no longer read Western interpretations of the Art of War so it's hard to say. If I have to venture it would be that The Art of War is not political. It is military and technical. What was your most challenging book to translate?

Cleary: Of the eight languages and some 80 books I translated, I would say Old Irish was the most challenging. This is due to the destruction of Irish language and culture over the centuries, and so the records are very spotty. I am a student of law myself, and many aspects of Gaelic law can be useful in the American system such as in Restorative Justice.

The Flower Ornament Scripture, the Avatamsaka Sutra, was also challenging. Where would you place the importance of The Art of War in relation to the other 79 or so books you have translated? In other words, do you think it is particularly important or merely the most well known?

Cleary: I suppose that the importance of a book depends on whether people can benefit from it, according to their needs. The attention it gets, on the other hand, may be affected by different factors. Have you ever thought of teaching at a university?

Cleary: There is too much oppression in a university setting.

I am not in Engaged Buddhism, have never supported cults, am not a member of any academic clique, and do not belong in organized education. I am not confined to any group. I want to stay independent and reach those who want to learn directly through my books. But you were taught at Harvard, perhaps the most traditional of all universities.

Cleary: A good thing about Harvard was language training was done by native teachers. You did not find that everywhere. What are you currently working on and what is next for Thomas Cleary?

Cleary: I am currently studying law, e.g., Comparative Constitutional Law. The American system is in flux and needing new ideas. The current system is based on the power of precedent so change is slow. By looking into other systems around the world we may be able to resolve issues, for example, in a more humanitarian way. All this may be a subject of a future book. According to a recent LA Times story, you were with the Dalai Lama. The news reporter incorrectly described you as a Harvard professor. Could you tell us more accurately what happened?

Cleary: I am not a Harvard professor, as the LA Times article says. All the other representations and their implications are likewise fictitious. I was not onstage with the Dalai Lama, and did not flank him at any time. I was not among those sporting the silk scarf he bestows. My work is not connected to any personal, political, or sectarian associations or alliances. My message that day had no relation whatsoever to the Art of War, and I was not introduced or identified that way.

As I have already translated both Buddhist and Islamic scripture from their original Sanskrit and Arabic, I was requested to address that assembly. I just recited some scripture as an amicus mundi, friend of the world.

These are the passages I presented.

Qur'an: The Age By the age, man is indeed at a loss, except those who have faith and do good works and take to truth and take to patience. The Atheists Say, "O atheists, I don't serve what you serve, and you don't serve what I serve. And I won't serve what you serve and you won't serve what I serve. You have your way, and I have my way." Assistance Do you see the one who repudiates religion? That is the one who rebuffs the orphan and does not encourage feeding the poor. So woe to those who pray yet are inattentive to their prayer: those who put on the appearance and yet are withholding assistance.

Flower Ornament Scripture (Avatamsaka-sutra):

I know all the various arts and crafts and sciences in the world dealing with writing, mathematics and symbols, physiology, rhetoric, physical and mental health, city planning, architecture and construction, mechanics and engineering, divination, agriculture and commerce, conduct and manners, good and bad actions, good and bad principles, what makes for felicity and what for misery, what is necessary for enlightenment, and behavior linking reason and action. I know all these sciences, and I also introduce them and teach them to people, and get people to study and practice them, to master and develop them, using these as means to purify, refine, and broaden people. We understand you will introduce a series of books on the different schools of traditional Japanese military and political science. Please tell us more about the first book, The Warrior’s Rule, and how it would help a person in today's world?

Cleary: The Warrior's Rule may serve several purposes, depending on the reader.

There is an underlying social purpose, in broadening and deepening general understanding of Japanese culture, including the special characteristics and distinct varieties of the warrior culture of the samurai. While it is well known that Japan has for some time been subject to external pressure to change its constitution to permit international military action, nonetheless the potential implications of the revival of Japanese militarism have not, for historical reasons, been as carefully considered in the West as in the East.

The safeguard of the postwar Japanese constitution, moreover, is not necessarily as solid as popularly imagined, even if it remains as is, and may not inhibit international action that is formally framed in terms of national defense. Indeed, the label of defensive purpose might conceivably be applied even to preemptive action, without requiring any constitutional change within this framework of interpretation. Anecdotal information suggests that many Americans are not even aware that postwar Japan has military forces at all, but the following quotations illustrate something of the gravity with which the potential role of the modern Japanese military in the power balance of East Asia is viewed in certain circles:

From US Dept of Defense, Quadrennial Defense Review Report, Feb. 06, 2006, page 41:

"Of the major and emerging powers, China has the greatest potential to compete militarily with the United States and field disruptive military technologies that could over time off set traditional U.S. military advantages absent U.S. counter strategies."

Now let us consider the following suggestion for Japan 's possible role in a counter strategy addressing this fear of China:

Japan Policy Research Institute, Critique, Vol. XII, No. 1 (January 2005)

Will Japan Go Nuclear? by Marshall Auerback

"While the rest of the Asia/Pacific region is increasingly turning to Beijing as its new economic and political locus, Japan appears to have made the decision to throw in its lot completely with Washington . Economically, the Bank of Japan has systematically destroyed its balance sheet through its longstanding (and ultimately futile) dollar support operations to accommodate the most egregious excesses in U.S. economic policy-making. But as Japan 's Iraq deployment indicates, this cooperation is now manifesting itself to a greater degree in the military sphere. Although not yet explicitly stated, the logical culmination of these ties would be to encourage Japan to go nuclear at some stage in the future. From Washington 's perspective, this would also have the added advantage of curbing China 's growing influence in the Asia/Pacific region."

A nuclear Japan may be one of those phenomena that become more possible to the degree popularly ignored or dismissed as improbable. There are, nonetheless, undoubtedly those with grave concerns in this regard:

From The Korea Times , 7/9/2006:

"We see the recent move of elevating its defense agency's status as being closely related to Tokyo 's growing inclination to beef up its military capabilities. The recent moves by Japan to gloss over its wartime atrocities in school textbooks is also viewed to be deeply related to a strong current that is pushing for a revival of nationalism and militarism in Japanese society.

Japan 's Self-Defense Force (SDF) has been steadily strengthening its military capability at a rapid pace, introducing state-of-the-art weaponry and expanding its sphere of operations. It is an undeniable fact that the rapid transformation of the SDF into a full-fledged military force is awesome enough to bring back neighboring countries' bitter memories of Japanese militarism."

Considering the magnitude of the powers and forces involved, maximization of all-around understanding of the underlying cultural and psychological elements that are engaged in international relations can be useful to minimize miscalculations of potentially disastrous proportions, by rendering the principals involved, and the public at large, less vulnerable to the influence of ill-informed opinion, the destabilization of artificial inflammation, and the peril of indiscreet experimentation.

On May 1 of 2006, the US Department of State issued a joint statement by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with Japan's Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense, saying, "The Ministers stressed the imperative of strengthening and improving the effectiveness of bilateral security and defense cooperation in such areas as ballistic missile defense, bilateral contingency planning, information sharing and intelligence cooperation, and international peace cooperation activities, as well as the importance of improving interoperability of Japan 's Self-Defense Forces and U.S. forces..."

The envisioned role of Japanese forces in this alliance is evidently not limited to the East Asia . Afghanistan , Iraq , and the greater Middle East are also mentioned in this joint statement, suggesting the potentially world-wide scope of US-Japan military cooperation.

This increasing emphasis on the US-Japan alliance will unavoidably intensify the need for American military directors, officers, and soldiers to understand the many faces of Bushido; and expansion of joint operations in the future may be expected to bring the subject to the attention of the American public to an unprecedented degree.

In terms of specific applications, military officers and noncoms will recognize the significance of the care that Bushido devotes to the cultivation of the warrior spirit. The effects of warfare on the human psyche have been studied for ages, and it might be said that a general concept of chivalric education and training is to balance the personality of the warrior under the most difficult of circumstances. This balance is considered beneficial both to the individual and to society, given the entire nexus of stress created by the conditions of mobilization and combat. In view of widespread warfare and the proliferation of private military corporations, currently said to be active in over one hundred nations, the moral and psychological elements of martial culture are of intrinsic concern to both civil and military sectors of society.

For the military sector, information on the disciplines of other orders can be useful, not only for understanding the ethos and operation of those other orders, but also for stimulating improvement in the discipline of one's own order. This latter effect is enhanced by difference of origin, because the material of other orders is not authoritative in one's own order, and therefore the individual defiance impulse does not operate so automatically, resulting in less resistance to absorption by recruits. The consequent institutional and psychological detachment permits the material to be sorted in an objective and pragmatic manner, for relevance and usefulness, without dogmatic or traditionalistic compulsion.

Some element of competition, such as is characteristic of the combat mode itself, can also contribute to the efficiency of external stimulation to excellence. This is in fact one of the principles of the specific school of military science represented in The Warrior's Rule, that is adopting and adapting whatever technique or method is useful at the time, whatever the source, whether in one's own tradition or another.

This principle of adaptation is also extended to matters of individual organization and personal self-discipline. It is emphasized that ideals and precedents of the past, however excellent in themselves, may not be applicable unaltered in the present, and should therefore not be taken as inflexible dogma; but can nevertheless be profitably studied to suggest or to illustrate certain practical principles, with the understanding that their actualization in real life in the present requires accurate adaptation to current conditions. This is a most important point in this school, and its fundamental culture of conscious consideration, applied to all aspects of life, including education and profession, expands the relevance of The Warrior's Rule beyond the realm of political and military science per se, to the condition of individual human beings responsible for themselves and others in a world of massive forces that are not entirely predictable and under no one's absolute control. The training of the warrior's spirit fosters qualities of character and habits of conduct that can help develop character and effectiveness in all walks of life, personal powers of self-government including vigilance, order, thought, will, discernment, and decision.

Another aspect of The Warrior's Rule that is associated with the theme of adaptation is somewhat more specialized, but the significance of the issue implied does have the potential to affect the entire world. This melancholy matter has to do with the development of Jingoism in modern Japan , a monster as yet undead, indeed showing signs of revival. When considered in connection with the foregoing views of global affairs, the problems that a revival of Japanese Jingoism could pose demand serious consideration. The Warrior's Rule illustrates the fragmentary origins of ultra-nationalism in the attempt to extricate Japanese political and military thought from uncritical and inefficient idealism based on ancient Chinese classics. The original impulse was not anti-Chinese as it was to become in its ultimate deformity, but an initiative toward intellectual independence for practical purposes, in an atmosphere clouded by an intensifying sense of being surrounded by powerful forces.

In this connection, while illustrating the beginnings of this individuation process to differentiate subsequent developments and distortions, The Warrior's Rule also balances the circumstantial division with inherent evidence of the profound and indelible interconnection that Japanese culture has had with Chinese culture throughout history. The last and longest of the five treatises translated in The Warrior's Rule, entitled The Way of the Knight, exemplifies this profound appreciation of Chinese culture with particular vigor and clarity. The extent and sophistication of Chinese learning evinced by the Japanese author is remarkable in any era, and Western readers in particular may be surprised to read such accessible, practical, and even dynamic presentations of ancient classics as sources of inspiration for self-development and self-mastery, personal dignity a

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

A warning we should heed: Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad

The message of Islam is that pursuit of money for its own sake is unnatural, inhumane, and will lead us to catastrophe

O you who believe! Let not your wealth nor your children distract you from remembrance of Allah. Those who do so, they are the losers. (63:9)
This verse in the Qur'an is an invitation for humanity to make a relatively small effort in this world, in return for the eternal reward of the hereafter. It is a call to save ourselves from becoming fixated on our wealth and on providing our children with the latest gadget and games, which ultimately are mere distractions from our remembrance of the creator.
But humans are short-termist; we think primarily of our pleasures now rather than the harmony and serenity of the world to come. Chapter 102 of the Qur'an says that we are distracted by competing in worldly increase, until we finally end up in our graves where we will be questioned about our excesses.
Does this mean that it is wrong to own things? Of course not, as money and offspring can be positive things in the life of a believer, and we do of course have basic needs which need to be met. But we must remember that the pleasures of consumption are quickly gone, while lasting benefit comes only from using our wealth to uphold the rights of others; namely the orphan, the traveller, and the needy. Wealth is thus truly ours only once it has been given away.
Those who are genuinely distracted by worldly increase, and who make it an end in and of itself rather than as a means towards something better are in effect guilty of a form of idolatry. Ours is an age that has made idols of the great banks and finance houses, driven to frenzy by competition amongst billionaires who are kept awake at night by the thought that a rival might make a business deal more quickly than them. A banker who can asset strip companies and throw its employees out onto the street is someone who is in the grip of an obsession that has thrown him beyond of the normal frontiers of humanity.
Neo-classical economics has traditionally focused on four things: land, labour, capital and money, the first three of which are finite, while the fourth, money, is theoretically infinite, and is therefore where human greed has been particularly focussed. Thus arose a system where someone could, with approval, set up a bank with only £1, and then lend £100 using property and other assets promised by others as security.
The lender now has £100 including interest, which they earned by just sitting there and doing nothing. On the basis of this £100, they can then lend £1000, and on and on, until the cancerous growth lubricated by greed becomes so huge that it leads to a fundamental breakdown in the system. Such a system based on usury, with interest as the bizarre "price of money" which itself becomes a commodity, was once prohibited by all faiths. People had a simple and natural intuition that the commoditisation of a measurement of value would open the door to trading in unreal assets, and ultimately to a model of finance that would destroy natural restraints and even, potentially, the planet.
In the classical Islamic system, by contrast, money is the substance of either gold or silver. With a tangible and finite asset being the only measure of value, there is a great deal more certainty about the value of assets and the price of money. This basic wisdom was though not just a theoretical ideal; it succeeded. Muslim society at its height was mercantile, and it was successful. Never was money assigned its own value and never was it seen as an end in and of itself.
Since the abolition of the gold standard however, theoretical limits on the price of money were removed. Last year's meltdown, whose final consequences were unguessable, was a sign of the inbuilt dangers of a usurious world. Humans are naturally short-termist but in times of crisis we must take stock. As with the related environmental crisis, now is the time to be smarter and more self-restrained. The believer is in any case allergic to the mad amassing of wealth, since he or she expects true happiness and peace only in the remembering of God and in the next world.
Now is the time to think seriously about finding an economic system to replace the one whose dangers have just been revealed. Upon the conquest of Mecca, a verse of the Qur'an was revealed commanding people to give up what remained of their interest-based transactions, upon which a new system based on the value of gold and silver was initiated.
Those who relied so heavily on the old system would of course have been unable to understand a system without banking charges, but not only was such a system created but a successful civilisation was created using these ideas.
Last year we peered into the abyss; now we must apply self-restraint and wisdom, before complete catastrophe ensues.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Praise of Shaykh ‘Abd Allah Bin Bayyah

Praise of Shaykh ‘Abd Allah Bin Bayyah (b. 1935) By Shaykh Yūsuf al-Qaradāwī (b. 1926)(May Allah preserve them both)

Praise of Shaykh ‘Abd Allah (SWT) Bin Bayyah (b. 1935) By Shaykh Yūsuf al-Qaradāwī (b. 1926) (May Allah (SWT) preserve them both)

Indeed it is from God’s blessings upon a person that they be acquainted with great people—those who have their scholarly importance, their religious importance, and their intellectual (fikrī), spiritual (sulūkī), and reformist (islāhī) importance. This is a blessing that deserves gratitude, and I believe that among the favours of God (Most High) upon me, and from His beneficence towards me, is that I know one of the unique scholars the like of whom time is rarely generous [in bringing forward].

Indeed he is none other than the supremely erudite (al-‘allāma) Shaykh ‘Abd Allah (SWT) ibn Bayyah, whose renown in knowledge and eminence has reached the horizons, and whom [people] far and near have come to know. I have known him for many years in the context of conferences and councils in which he participated with his knowledge, ideas, and efforts.

The reality is that the more I have come closer to him and got to know him better, the more I have loved him and [the more] he has risen in my estimation. Rarely does a person combine both love and esteem for an individual: there are people whom one esteems and respects but does not love, and there are those whom one loves and has a strong emotional [attachment] to, but one does not esteem them and respect them.

As for those for whom one combines [both] love and esteem, they are few [in number], and among these few is the Shaykh ‘Abd Allah (SWT) ibn Bayyah, who God has given numerous excellent qualities. He combines [religious] conservatism and liberalism: he is a conservative individual, but he is not closed; and he is an individual who facilitates, but he is not lax. He is a Mālikī: he has memorized the fiqh of the Mālikīs, their texts (mutūn), their commentaries (shurūh), their supercommentaries (hawāshī), and their various poetic codifications of disciplines (manzūmāt), but he is also supremely erudite in fiqh in general, and comparative fiqh. He is Salafī in creed, but he is also a Sūfī, with spiritual inclinations, without monasticism, just as our Shaykh Abū al-Hasan al-Nadwī said that he adopts Sūfism on the basis that it is spirituality, and purification for the soul, and connection with God, Blessed and Exalted is He. Shaykh ‘Abd Allah (SWT) ibn Bayyah is [thus] between Salafism and Sūfism.

He also combines what people in our age call purity of origin (asāla), and being contemporary (mu‘āsara), for he is a man of authenticity, connected to the [Islamic intellectual] heritage, cognizant of it, well aware of its various treasures in fiqh, exegesis, hadīth, history, literature, and other [disciplines], but he is [at the same time] not distracted from the [present] time, for he lives the time, its problems, its various currents, unlike many of our scholars who live alone in the past, and do not know anything about the present, while Shaykh Ibn Bayyah knows the past, lives with the present, and peers into the future.

Perhaps it is his knowledge of the French language, on the one hand, and his assuming [positions] of great responsibility in his country—more than once he was a minister, and more than once he bore great responsibilities—perhaps all of this has made him open up to the age and look to it with an eye, and look to the [intellectual] heritage with the other eye. For this reason he has concerned himself with the aspects of Islam pertaining to reform and renewal, and the necessity of changing the umma to that which is more blessed and better, by means of changing its thoughts, changing its learning, changing its aspirations, or what the Qur’an has expressed as “souls”: “Indeed God does not change the condition of a people until they change their own souls” [13:11].

The reality is that the excellent qualities of Shaykh ‘Abd Allah (SWT) ibn Bayyah are [so] many [that] this place does not have the room for [their enunciation], and the [aforementioned comments] are simply passing thoughts by means of which I express the eminence of the Shaykh, and express my love for him; and [they are also] a prayer that God brings us together with him, for I believe he is one of the righteous (sālihūn), one of the doers of good, God willing, and I say, as Imam al-Shāfi‘ī has said:

I love the righteous, and I am not one of them;

Perhaps through them I will attain intercession.

And I dislike the one whose wares are sins

Even though I am equal to them in wares

I ask God, Glory be to Him and be He Exalted, to shower blessings upon the life of Shaykh ‘Abd Allah (SWT) ibn Bayyah, benefit the umma through him, benefit the religion, the religious, Islam, and the Muslims through him, and bless all his family and progeny, and that He raises us [in the Hereafter] together, with those [around] the Messenger of God, may God bless him and give him peace, with “Prophets, the veracious (siddīqīn), the martyrs, and the righteous (sālihīn), and how blessed they are as companions! [4:69]”

Translated from by Usaama al-Azami for