Monday, June 1, 2009

Al Muhasibi's Risala al Mustarshidin

Lesson 1

نموت ونحيا كل يوم وليلى ولا بد من يوم نموت ولا نحيا

وإنا في الدنيا كركب سفينة نظن وقوفاً والزمان بنا يجري

We die and live every day
And every night
And it is a must that
One day we will die
And not live
For surely we
Are in this
Life like a
Sailor of a ship
We think we’ve
Stopped, but time
With us is racing

What does the title of the book imply?

It implies that this epistle is for the one who seeks guidance.

Three types of people are going to take this class:

  1. One who takes it for entertainment or just to see what’s up
  2. One who knows that his/soul is calling out to him like a sick child in the night, however, he decides to ignore the child and sleeps.
  3. One who understands the gravity of the situation, the relationship between the heart and the limbs is like the relationship between the head and the rest of the body.

Who was al-Muhasibi?

His Name: al-Harith the son of Asad al-Muhasibi.

Time Period: He was born 165 A.H and died 243 A.H

Where: Basra, Iraq

Brief background answering a few doubts

We was respected in the science of hadith as mentioned by Ibn Hajar, considered truthful by great scholars like Imam al-Dhahabi. However, he was censured by Imam Ahmed for, as noted by the great biographers, engaging in some theological questions that the scholars of hadith disapproved of. However, as was noted by al-Zarkali and Ibn Taymiyyah he repented from those things.

There are some strange stories regarding him that are untrue and one should fear Allah before relating them. One of them is that he was so despised for his deleving into kalam that only four people prayed on him. Imam Dhahabi refutes this ridiculous story stating that the chain “is broken.”

Famous For

He is most famous for writing and talking about the issue of the heart. He wrote, as noted by the scholars more than 200 works most of them dealing with this subject. Al-Kawthari noted that Imam al-Ghazzali relied heavily on the works of al-Muhasibi in the writing of his Ihyah. Thus, it can be safely stated that his most famous contribution was in the area of Tasawwuf.

Moving beyond labels and compassing maturity

It is not fair, just nor mature to judge a person by labels within the framework of general orthodoxy. What should be judged is one’s statements, actions and articulation according to Islamic rules. This was articulated by Ibn Taymiyyah in his Risalah al-Fuqara and al-Shattibi in al-‘Itisam. The latter saying about tasswuf that it is incorrect to contend that every aspect of it is an innovation, nor is it fair to label every aspect of it as correct. “Nay, this issue is inspected.”

Reviving Qur’anic Terms:

  • Iman instead of aqidah
  • Tazkiyah/tasawwuf

Text Background:

This is a short treaties on the subject of tazkiyah written during the age of the salaf. Much like grammar is to language, it presents a body of rules and principles which, if lived on, will assist in building and sustaining one’s relationship with Allah.

Pillars for the One Seeking this Path:

  1. Sound Creed
  2. Sound Practice
  3. Sound Conceptions

Sheikh Abdul Fattah Abu Ghuda:

He was one of the greatest scholars of hadith of the last century; set about preparing this text for publication in the early 1960s. He added a large number of verses from the Qu’ran, Hadith and antidotes from the lives of the righteous in order to give the text life and support the claims of the author. In addition, as stated by his son Sh. Zahid, he wrote this book to counter a form of mysticism that he felt was a contradiction to the practices of the Prophet and Islamic law in general.

The Importance of Studying the Lives of the Salaf

Imam al-Junaid said, “Stories of the righteous are a soldiers from the soldiers of Allah. With them Allah strengthens the hearts of those near to Him.”

Abu Hanifa said, “The stories of the scholars and their good works are more beloved to me than an abundance of Fiqh [here he means studying], because [in such stories] there are etiquette of the people [the salaf] and their behaviors.”

Ibn Muflih mentions that when Ibrahim al-Tahan was mentioned in front of Imam Ahmad, the former having died. Imam Ahmed was reclining and suddenly sat up saying,

لا ينبغى أن يذكر الصالحين فنتكي

“It is not appropriate that the righteous are mentioned and we sit reclining.”

‘Umar’s statement:

“If were not for three things in this life, I would not love to live:

  1. To prepare an army for the sake of Allah
  2. Struggling to worship at night
  3. Sitting with people and picking the best statement from their words, as the best dates are picked from the date tree.”

Some notes on the texts: [in bold]

Al-Muhassibi states,

“Insightful servants”

The word used he is dhawi al-Bab. Al-Bab comes from the word al-lub which means a pure clean minds as noted by al-Asfahani. Thus, they are those who, as he wrote “who are able to grasp the delicate meaning related to religious rulings.”

Here the sheikh mentions an array of qualities that cover ethics, behavior, internal and external worship. From this we garner the Muslim’s religion is comprehensive.

“Following the way of the insightful, taking care of the limits [set by] the shari’ah from the book of Allah, the Sunna of His prophet [صلى الله عليه وسلم] and that which the rightly guided scholars agreed upon.”

The one seeking the path to Allah must do so by respecting the foundations of Islam; the Qu’ran, the Sunna and the ‘Ijama [binding agreement of the scholars]. In areas where the scholars differed there were two opinions held by the salaf:

  1. The majority held that on should not be censured for following a legitimate opinion of a qualified scholar. This was noted by the Malikis, the Shafi’s, the Hanafis, Imam Ahmed in one statement attributed to him and Imam al-Nawwai.
  2. One could be censured for holding a different opinion. This attributed to Ahmed and it is reported that he clung to this opinion.

In the age of pluralism with our communities moving beyond the villages, I believe 1 to be the opinion that will preserve our unity and strength as a community.

“Faith in the allegorical verses”

Most scholars stated these are verses that cannot be understood on their own, but require a second source for understanding them.

“Those who perfect the outer”

Those who use the inner as an excuse to ignore the rules and regulations of Islam are lost in deception. Al-Sh’arani mentions and binding consensus on one who fails to master the outer [rulings] and delves into the inner. Imam Ibn Ashir in his meta poem begans it with faith, usol, fiqh and finishes with the inner- purification. The same with al-Ghazzali’s Ihyah, he began it with the importance of knowledge, acts of worship, creed and after that engaged the inner.

Sidi al-Zaruq said,

“The scholar of the outer [fiqh] can be free of a sufi, but a sufi can never be free of a faqih.”

“Distancing one’s self from the doubtful.”

The doubtful are those things who, as al-Ghazzali mentioned, “are composed of good and bad- halal and haram to such an extent that one is not able to grasp its reality.”

The scholars offered different possibilities for “the doubtful.”

  1. The forbidden
  2. The makrouh
  3. What was mentioned above

The Doubtful are a Bridge to the Forbidden:

Sheikh al-Qabbari of Alexandria wrote, “The permissible are an obstacle between the servant and the disliked. Thus, who ever engages in the permissible will fall into the disliked; the disliked are an obstacle between the servant and the forbidden. If he increases in the disliked acts, he will fall into the forbidden.”

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