Naturally, the passage of time is the courier of change. But just as with the global warming of Islam, when change begins to eclipse Essence, it is time to attend to the damage being inflicted, to heed the warning symptoms of a process gone awry, and act…
الْكَوْنُ كُلُّهُ ظُلْمَةٌ وَ إِنَّمَا أَنَارَهُ ظُهُوْرُ الْحَقِّ فِيْهِ
The creation in its entirety is darkness, illumined only by the manifestations of the Truth in it. [i]
There was a time when ‘ulamaa (Islamic scholars) who held varied opinions would sit together, con·frères – perhaps sipping tea with tiny, green pods of cardamom afloat; or enjoying thick, sweetened coffee from miniature cups:
Imam Shafi’i used to say to Imam Ahmad:
“You have more knowledge about hadiith and narrators than I. So, if a hadiith is authentic, then tell me. If it is authentic, I will accept it, even if it is (reported by narrators) from Kufah, Basrah or Damascus.” [ii]
Some of the great scholars of the Ahl ur-Ra’i, like Abu Thawr, Az-Za’farani, Al-Karabisi and others, attended the study circles of Imam Shafi’i. Many abandoned the way of Ahl ur-Ra’i and began to follow him. Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal also attended these circles, and it is narrated that he said:
“Any narrator of hadiith who ever carried an ink-pot benefited in some way from Imam Shafi’i”.
“The Ahl ur-Ra’i used to laugh at Ahl ul-Hadiith until Imam Shafi’i taught them otherwise, and vindicated the traditionist position through sound arguments.” [iii]
They gathered together – imbibing from each other: discussing differences, sharing similarities, pondering possibilities. Gentle breezes of diversity wafted through branches of knowledge, carrying the unique fragrance of each tree throughout the land. Travelers strolled freely: no path was barred; no way, condemned.
An action which emanates from a free and pure heart is not the same as one motivated by personal desires, fears and ambitions. [iv]
How different the modern climate, in the midst of the global warming of Islam:
The atmosphere in many places is heavy and oppressive. The slightest variance of interpretation sends cumulus battle-cries thundering through virtual skies, triggering tumultuous tides across the sea of the ummah. Issues are “hotly” debated until “I’m right, you’re wrong” bubbles up and spews itself in every direction.
Under darkened skies, unpredictable terror-strikes, now commonplace, create surges and outages that shock and incapacitate, leaving residents in utter darkness, agitated by high-voltage damage to their diin (way of life).
Roaming, deviants raid supplies. Like rodents, they devour, gnawing away at the meat of Islam, then toss back bones. Sustenance is scarce.
Smoke rises high from the edges of roads, contaminating the air with foulness as resources are scorched – burned even, then replaced with deficient, genetically-modified, self-serving materials.
The means for survival is but one: go back. We must retrace our steps through contemporary clubs (modern societies or groups and their frames of reference) and seek out the zawaayaa: the corners; gathering places and “watering holes” for the wayfarer. We must track down the sanctuaries of Living Islam-preserved.
We can’t afford to neglect honing our tools, weeding out webs of deceit and tearing down tangled, intellectual overgrowth so we can make our way back. We need to keep heading back to the heart of Islam.
Crossing canyons of cult-cadavers-of-Truth (the abysmal ignorance of groups who empty Islam of its deeper meanings with practices of removing, redefining, re-inventing or covering-up what exists and has been accepted by Islamic scholars for centuries), overcome by the stench, we are often left gasping. Distracted, we waste our breath.
Like a fish out of water flopping this way and that, we fight for air.
For spiritual health we need to turn away from desires and struggles, confusions and shirk. [v]
Wise it is, on such a clouded passage, to seek out a friend: who uplifts us when we are weak-kneed and clears the smoke when the way is obscured. The worthy companion knows the way back. He has come from there and carries its lamp of guidance. The light from this lamp, by its Divinity, distinguishes Truth from falsehood; the pure from the tainted.
When a sincere heart faces the Divine Light, it reflects profound Truth and when it faces the world of change and discord, it reflects the relevant disturbance and transient realities. [vi]
Most times, when I am immersed in a place, the first step out is to see that I’m in.
Contentment with destiny is the foundation of courtesy towards Allah and thus a door to illumination and insights. [vii]
On the way back, may the lamp of guidance illuminate our hearts with His Presence and guide us to contentment and the realization of His Mercy and Closeness.
[i] Al-Hikam, Ibn Ata’illah
[ii] Usul al Fiqh al Islami, Source Methodology in Islamic Jurisprudence: Methodology for Research and Knowledge, Taha Jabir Al ‘Alwani. English Edition by Yusuf Talal DeLorenzo, A. S. Al Shaikh-Ali
[iv] Shaykh Fadhlalla’s commentary on Ibn ‘Ata’illah’s Al-Hikam