A poem of Rabia Al Basri (717-810)

 Very little if any of her work of Rabia survived and reliance is from  secondary sources.  Farid Uddin Attar(1150-1222) in the 12th century revived her work and poems. Her Tomb is in Basra in Iraq and hence the name Rabia Al Basri..

O God, my whole occupation

And all my desire in this world,

Of all worldly things,

Is to remember You.

And in the Hereafter

It is to meet You.

This is on my side, as I have stated.

Now You do whatever You will

Rabia Al Basri or Al Adawiyya an overview.

Rabia Al Basri, an early scholar of Islam and a Sufi was born in 717, about 85 years after the death of the Prophet(pbuh) in 632. The Prophet (SAWS) was born in 570 and the Hijrat (the migration to Madina) took place in 622, the start of the Muslim calendar.

 The injunction of Islam to seek knowledge was taken seriously by the Umma. Muslims quite early in their history started to excel in Science, Philosophy, medicine and other fields.  They also spread out to far away countries.

As early as 710, Muslims started to reach Al Andaluse (Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar etc.)  An era began  when  Muslim rule started in Cordoba in 756 and ended in 1492 when Granada surrendered.  Blood shed and a wholesale expulsion of Muslims from Andalusia took place. Those who remained were forced to convert.  Jews also met the same fate and they settled in several Muslim Countries.

 The Muslim rule in Spain was a period of learning and enlightenment. Big advances were made in science, medicine, governance, architecture and other fields. The introduction of paper making** in 751 led to an explosion in the number of books written and collected. It reinforced the culture of books in the Muslin world. In th 9th century the library of Cordoba had 500,000 books in a city of over 200,000* inhabitants. In contrast the largest library in Europe in the monastery of St. Gaul (Switzerland)  had only 36 volumes. Cordoba was not unique, libraries in Cities such as Baghdad*, Damascus, Cairo, Bokhara and other cities also had huge collections of books and manuscripts.  The first paper mill started in Samarkand in the 8th century. Baghdad and other cities, including those in Spain, followed. In Europe, manuscript on paper, probably from Spain, appeared in the 11th century*.

Here is a selection from Rabia Al Basri .

“Your prayers are your light;
Your devotion is your strength;
Your life is the only opportunity that life can give you.
If you ignore it, if you waste it,
You will only turn to dust.”

 www.uga.edu/sufism. by A. Godlas is a comprehensive site on Islam and Sufism

*Articles1.”Science the Islamic Legacy” April/May issue of Aramco world 1982  (Ww.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/198203/islam-the.science.legacy), has good information on science and Andaluse.

2.   www.ibnaeabisociety.org/articles/womenoflight. “women of light in Sufism:   by Sachiko Murata  is a good read

* Baghdad in the 10th century had a population of over one million. Merve, Cairo, Damascus and other cities  were in the 200,000 range. By comparison in the same century, London had a population of 10,000, Paris below 50,000. Rome around 20,000 and Genoa, the largest in Europe had 80,000. By the end of the 12th century, many Muslim cities had grown to 500,000 and over range.

 **paper making came from China before that papyrus, parchment, palm rip etc., were used.

What is Nafs

What is Nafs, a brief explanation. Khaliq
Nafs is the self, soul in its unrefined state. It is the lowest dimension of one’s inward existence. The Nafs has 7 main characteristics and each has several other related characteristics and all of them must be overcome. The main 7 are:
1.Greed (Hirs), 2.Envy (Hasad), 3.Lust(Shahwah), 4.Backbiting (Gheebat), 5.Malice(Keena) and includes hate, resentment and anger. 6. uncharitable or ungenerous(Bokhl)*. 7. inflated sense of self (Takabbur).
The struggle to overcome them continues as long as one lives.
The suggested steps to gain control on them and acquire virtues like compassion, forgiveness, patience, truth, justice etc., are described below. However before starting one needs to contemplate on all the 7 and related characteristics and decide the one you will start to work on first. Once you have started be persistent and do not hop to the next until you have gained some control on the previous one. Remember that it is a life time struggle and hence called the major or the real jihad.
Step 1: Reflection: At the end of each day, devote time to evaluate your deeds and compliance of your obligatory duties*. Continue to perform all prayers and try to do more good deeds each day. Develop a consciousness of what is right from the religious perspective and develop awareness of sin and sawab. Use your will power to shun temptations. Continue to do Zikr in your free moments whenever it is possible. You do not need tasbeeh to remember God. You can do it while waiting for a bus or while riding the subway etc. It does not need to be a specific number that you have to count. It can be as many times as time permits. Tasbeeh is good when you have time and space to do it.
Step 2: Self‑conditioning: After getting some self control by observing actions described in step 1 make a commitment to refrain from a habit, for example, backbiting, and continue exercising your will power for several days until you have achieved some control over this habit. During this process add a virtue such as forgiveness. Then proceed to other habits like inflated ego or greed and add a virtue like compassion and work on it for as many days as necessary. At the end of each day thank Allah for the progress and pray that you succeed in your struggle to purge all sinful desires and acquire virtues such as compassion, justice, truth, humility etc. It is a life long process and is a test of your patience and will power. During the process keep up the Zikr, acts of good deeds and Ibadat(prayers and devotion).

Muslim women rulers, scholars and Sufies.

Muslim women rulers, scholars and Sufis.

1.Women Sufies and ScholarsRabia Al Basri and Fatima Naishapuri, born in the 8th century were the early scholars and Sufis. As-Sulami (died in 1021) in his publication Early Sufi Women* mentions that between the 8th and 11th century there who 80 respected Sufi teachers and spritual guides. Some known figures were Lubna of Cordoba (Spain) who died in 984, who was a scholar and a mathematician. She presided over the famous Library of Cordoba that had about 500,000 books. Fatima b Al Qasim died in 1216. She was also from Andalusia and is regarded as one of the most learned scholar of her time. Zainab B Ahmed died in 1339 and was an eminent Islamic scholar of the 14th century. Bibi Hatati Kirmani and Aisha of Damascus were known Sufi teachers in the 15th century. Jaahan Ara(1592-1666) daughter of Emperor Shahjahan was a Sufi and a writer.(Women of the Prophet’s family,  and some others had a very important role in Islam and it cannot be dealt with in the short space here).

2, Muslim women Rulers (excludes queens who were not rulers). Among the well known rulers were Queen Razia Sultana of India in 1236 and Queen Shajaratul-Durr, ruler of Egypt in 1249.  King Louis IX of France who led the 7th crusade** was defeated and captured under the rule of Queen Shajaratul-Durr.  Women rulers were in Yemen (Malika al Hurra in12th century who also had co – rulers). In Nigeria Amina (Aminatu)  ruled Zaria in 1576 and Abuja and Kano in 1580. The Mongols had converted to Islam and had several ruling queens in their Khanates (Princedoms). Muslim women rulers were in princely states and Sultanates in India, Central Asia, Indonesia, Kenya, Mali, Thailand (Patani Kingdom*** from 1516 to 1902 had female only rulers), and In the Philippines (Sulu Sultanate 1405 to1915).

 There were also a number of Muslim women regents in several countries who ruled between successions. There were also a number of powerful queens who were not rulers such as Empress Noor Jahan (1577-1645) a very able wife of the Emperor Jahangir who was the power behind the throne.

 It is interesting to note that so many women rulers, scholars and Sufis were in a period when scholarship in Islam, the sciences and all other fields were at its height. The decline in the role of women appears to happen when there is a deficit in the knowledge of Islam among its followers. Lack of respect for civil liberties and justice for all is also a factor. This cannot be eliminated without high quality education available to all.

 * 1. Dhikr an-Niswa al-Muta’abbidat as-Sufiyyat  translated by Rkia Elaroui Cornell of Duke University. 

 -An excellent section on Muslim women Leaders and rulers – www.guide2womenleaders.com/Muslim_Leaders.htm.has

2. Camille Helminsk. Article on women and Sufism in the The Threshold society website.

3. “Women’s contribution to Classical Islamic Civilization, Sciences Medicine and Politics by Salim Al Hassan U of Manchester. www.muslimheritage.com/…/womens-contribution-clasical-islamic-civili..

4. ://ballandalus.wordpress.com/…/15-important-muslim-women.

 ** Crusades started in 1095 and came in 9 major waves. They were urged on by Popes starting from Pope Urban the 2nd. The crusade movement led to the demise of Muslims in Spain. Their destruction in the Hartland was restricted to their travel routes. They did occupy Cities like Aleppo in Syria and Jerusalem from 1099 and were expelled by Saladin in 1187.  By 1291 Mamelukes of Egypt (slave dynasty) defeated the 9th crusade and expelled them from Palestine the last of the stronghold in the heartland. The Crusade movement continued in Europe and resulted in the expulsion of Muslims from Hungary and other east European countries.

***Patni Kingdom in Thailand is a Muslim majority enclave next to the Malaysian boarder. Like the Patani kingdom, Bhopal in India was ruled by Begums(female successions).

Please note that the role of an Imam as compared to a Minister or a priest in a church is minor. A non-Imam can lead the prayers and perform other rituals in a Mosque. Where as in a church service, Baptism, Communion and other rituals cannot be performed without a Minister or a Priest. A Sufi teacher is a much more knowledgeable person and has a much higher status than an Imam of a Mosque.

What is Sufism or Tasawwuf

What is Sufism or Tasawwuf

Professor Sayyed Hossein Nasr of George Washington University and an authority on Sufism, says Sufism or Tasawwuf is the name for the inner or esoteric dimension of Islam. Professor Allan Godlas of the University of Georgia says that Tasawwuf is the inner, mystical, or spiritual dimension of Islam.

An Islamic website says that  Tasawwuf is the rooh (soul) and state of perfection of the Deen (religion). Its function is to purify the heart from anger, malice, hate, jealousy, greed, etc. and to fill it with truth,  justice, compassion, forgiveness, Zikr (remembrance of God) and other virtues.

The way I understand it, Tasawwuf is necessary to build a foundation of our Deen(faith). It requires that we control our ego (Nafs) and get rid of the toxic trash/baggage* from our heart and replace it with compassion, humility, truth, forgiveness, gratitude, justice and other virtues and that will illuminate the heart and bring love of God. The fear of God leads to the love of God. One does not have to join a  Sufi order to do Tasawwuf. . 

*The toxic baggage is anger, hate, resentment malice, greed, jealousy, lust, ostentation, deception, backbiting and slander(gheebat) and other negative emotions.

PS. In Sufi poetry especially of Hafiz and Omar Khayyam there is lot of mention of wine,  intoxication and love. But the wine they mention does not cone from a bottle . It is a  spiritual state one reaches with Ibadat, devotion and Tasawwuf. Love is love of God(ishq e Allah).

ABC of Islam

Here is a  short overview of Muslims and their belief. To start, humanity is one and is created by the same God (Allah), Who created the universe.

(1)   Muslims believe in the strict Oneness of God.  God has no gender or shape or form that we can comprehend. God is without any equal, Eternal. Nothing precedes Him, He is without any end. He is the First and the Last. He knows everything….  .

(2) Belief in the prophets, who received  God’s revelations from Abraham to Prophet Mohammed, the last prophet, through whom the Quran was revealed. Jesus is a prophet and not a son of God. God sent his message to other people but those messengers are not mentioned.

(3) Belief In the Day of Judgment when everything ends. There is no free pass for Muslims, who will be judged like everyone else based on deeds and actions.

Islam has no defined clergy. It is the responsibility of every individual to read the Quran and follow the religious obligations and these can be done in a mosque or at home without the presence of an imam. It is not necessary to belong to a mosque. One may pray in any mosque or any place that is convenient. The imam of a mosque does not have a status anywhere near close to a priest or a minister in a church .

Before I go to obligatory duties I will clarify terms often heard in the media. A Fatwa is simply a religious opinion of a scholar and is not binding on any one.

“Infidel”. It is also not an Islamic term. The word “Kafir” simply means a person who denies the existence of God or does not believe in God(Allah). A non believer..

Jihad does not translate into Holy War and  is misunderstood by radicals and also the media. It means a struggle. The struggle with one’s own ego, soul (Nafs), that one does every day to keep on the right path. To be a good person, to control envy, malice, anger, greed, resentment, inflated ego etc., and to replace these with compassion, forgiveness, justice and other virtues. Jihad does permit to defend and protect ones family and community from attack or harm. However, it does not permit one to be an aggressor. 

Obligations or religious duties are  Prayers, (namaz or salat) 5 times a day, morning, noon, late afternoon, at sun set and a few hours after sun set. It takes a few minutes. One can pray at any place, at home or in a mosque. In Muslim countries it is a common sight to see people taking a few moments to  pray in a park, a bus or train station or an airport.

Fasting(no food or water) from sunrise to sunset in the month of Ramadan.  Your fast is negated if you indulge in anger, envy or other negative emotions or bad deeds. It is a month of prayers and devotion. However, your good deeds and actions should continue as long as you live. It is a religious duty to be just, fair in your dealings in business, work and everyday life and to obey the laws of the land. 

 Zakat is compulsory giving to the poor and needy.

Hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime is obligatory if one can perform it without incurring  economic liabilities or debt. Several million people perform the Hajj every year. Its ritual takes 5 days and is centered around the Kaaba.

Kaaba. A brief background. As you may know  Abraham had 2 sons, Isaac (Ishaq) with Sara and Ishmael (Ismail) with Hagar(Bibi Hajra). Tradition states that Abraham (Hazrat Ibrahim) left Hagar and his infant son Ishmael in a valley near Mecca. When water ran out, Hagar ran in search of water for her son between two hills called Safa and Marwa, praying to God for water. On the seventh round God revealed a spring that is known as ZAM ZAM. Her running between Safa and Marwa is part of the Hajj ritual and so is the drinking of water from that spring. Abraham returned and found Hagar and Ishmael. There he was commanded by God to build the house of worship near the spring. With the assistance of Ishmael he built the Kaaba. Today the Kaaba stands close to the original location, but the only original object remaining is the black stone.
Just to point out that Muslims are not allowed to drink alcohol or take substances that alter the mind or are harmful to the body(That means pot and  drugs). Also prohibited are pork products and gambling or any game of chance for money. One cannot trade or benefit from the production, trade or sale of substances and activities that the religion prohibits.
I will conclude with a quote from the Quran which is followed by an often recited supplication or Dua:
 

“Verily men who submit (to God) and women who submit,

And men who believe and women who believe,

And men who are devout and women who are devout,

And men who speak the truth and women who speak the truth,

And men who are patient and women who are patient,

And men who are humble and women who are humble,

And men who give alms and women who give alms,

And men who fast and women who fast,

And men who guard their modesty and women who guard,

And men who remember God and women who remember,

God has prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward”.

                              

 

An often recited supplication (Prayers, dua)

“O Allah (God)! Give my soul Piety and my conscience purity. You are the Master of my soul and guardian of my conscience. O God I seek refuge in you from oppressing others or being oppressed, from doing wrong or suffering wrong, and from committing an error or a sin that You will not forgive”.

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More Suras from the Quran

                                49.13

O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).

                                5.8

O ye who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well acquainted with all that ye do.”