Sheikh Ninowy on Al-Hikam

07 April 2012


O son, this is a partial transcript of Sheikh Ninowy's lecture on Al-Hikam at Green Mountain School Virginia, USA (Winter 2008). I hope it will entice you to listen to the audio tapes available at:

O son, you will know that when someone speaks from his heart, everything he says will fall into your heart. I've been listening to this talk over and over again and Alhamdulillah I discover new things each time and I was inspired to record its transcript for you, albeit partially.

"Shaykh Muhammad bin Yahyah an-Ninowy - One of the few true 'ulema in America, he grew up in Syria, studied at al-Azhar Sharif University, Faculty of Usool-uddeen and then at the feet of many great scholars including the Ghumari brothers and other teachers in Syria, Fez, Egypt, Sudan and Jordan. He is the imam of al-Madina Masjid in Atlanta, and is much in demand as speaker, author and lecturer in Europe and the United States."

We are entering a science, this science is called sufism or tassawuf but that’s what people call it. I call it the science of love or the topic of mahabbah. Mahabbah means love, this is what tassawuf is all about. So before we even start going into all these things. There is many things about tassawuf and as you all know many people linguistically speaking they say tassawuf/sufi comes from wool. Linguistically speaking may be, terminologically speaking may be not. But even linguistically speaking because the wool is in a sense warm and soft at the same time so I’d like to have the warmth of your heart and the soft side of your heart and I hope your entire heart is soft InshaAllah. Because that’s who we are and also because the piece of wool is sort of like the sufi in a sense that he or she is like a piece of wool that is foldable and managebale in any way Allah wants it to be. Of course terminology speaking we say sufi is from safa, safa means purity, so the whole point here is we are trying to arrive at how can we attain purity so we can be illuminated.

So that makes us all go to the first question, what is the objective, why are we here, why are we created? We know there is a creator, there cannot be a writing without a writer. There cannot be a creation without a creator. Why are we created? (Bala shahidna?) How about plain English, this is too sophisticated. I want to go from basic, may Allah take us to the makam of shahadah.

(In order to worship him). That’s the most common question usually the most common answer. Let me ask you this, is worship an objective by itself or is it a means to an objective? When Allah tells us to do fasting, we do fasting because he tell us to do fasting. So that's fulfilling the objective but then also what's the benefit of fasting? How about people lie and cheat while they are fasting, do they have a fast? Fasting as a worship has an objective, the objective is to polish you, to give you better traits. To sharpen your skills and qualities. What else? What's more important than that? (Purifying the soul) Is purifying the soul an objective by itself? What do I want at the end? I want to be close to Allah! All these things are means so they can get you close to the Creator. All these things are objectives, mechanisms and tools so that they that make us fit to enter the presence that’s already there, but we are not there. Often people ask me question, 'Sheikh, how can I get close to Allah?' Allah is close to you but are you close to Him? He is close to you but are you close to him?

This is what tassawuf deals with, but ultimately Nabi or Allah Himself tells us what he wants from us from worship. Hadith Bukhari, hadith Qudsi: When Allah tells us: “My creation will keep doing extra worship, nawafil means extra worship until I love him..." The hadith begins by saying Allah saying, which means the creation can get close to me better by fulfilling what the worship I prescribe upon them. You want to be close to Allah? Do what He prescribe upon you. That’s the best way. His way is the best way to get close to Him. Sometimes the problem is, sometimes we think our way is the best way to get close to Him. The objective that the worship will take you eventually is that Allah loves you. "If I love him", then metaphorically speaking, "I become his eyes, his ears, hands etc. which means Allah will guide you with your eyes, ears foot, hands, with all these things. The point is that you are in the love of Allah. The point that you do solah is not that simply you do these movements but you get close to him so that Allah loves you. I’m not saying that you love Allah, that’s a given, that means you love him. It's like you keep knocking on His door. 'Ya Allah I want you to love me, I am here for you, I am going to do more and more to please you, I am all for you. I'm detached from other than you, I am here so I can attain Your pleasure, So I can be eligible that You love me. So, that’s where we gonna go.

This is the ocean of knowledge that Ibn Athai'llah puts us through. How do we get to that level where we are eligible that Allah loves us? How can we get that enligtenment? So we can really see things as they truly are not as we delusionary think they are. Because often times we describe things in our mind with certain traits and qualities where in reality they are totally the opposite. Therefore, we can talk about all these things but in Islam the love is the key. You follow the Prophet (pbuh) because you love him. No love, no following. You read the Qur'an because you are in love with the Qur'an. There is interaction with the Qur'an. You hear the words, it's like it is being revealed upon you.

Nabi, when he speaks, when he speaks to you, he doesn’t speak to your ear but he speaks to your heart. You are there. You go and visit in Madinah, you are not visiting stones and bricks but you are actually listening with the ears and eyes of haqiqah. You are listening, seeing and hearing the interaction with all these things.

Therefore, Islam is all about love, if there is no love, there is a problem. Tassawuf is the point or science that deals with that love. How do we purify our love? The love for ourselves, the love for each other and the love for Nabi, the ulama the guides of the sunnah, the anbiya and ultimately of course the love to Allah. The more love you have in your heart, the closer you are. Therefore, the poet says: “ukhatiru fi mahabatikum bi ruhi wa ar kabu bahrobikum imman wa imma". He was speaking to his shuyukh or to the Prophet: 'I would risk my soul for the sake of attaining your love.' When some people are in love or even in love of creation or someone, when they get engaged, they are wiling to do anything. So they risk so many things for the sake of that love. That’s the kind of love we want to feel. "I would risk my soul...I would ride the oceans that are with massive waves without any fears, I would take any road for the sake of your love, any road that says the end of it is your love and I will drink your cup even if it has poison in it." When people are in love everything becomes sweet, even poison becomes sweet. I don’t listen to people who say here and there for my ear is closed. I leave everything for you. I am all yours. You have sold your soul. I leave everything for you even if it means, yakni, my father and mother. I am all yours. You have sold your soul to them. That’s among the key objective in who we are. The sahabat when they talk about the love and how they have annihilated themselves in the love of Prophet...
Anas narrated a hadith, he says “we were invited to a gathering where Rasul was eating squash.
Anas say 'I never liked squash' but he says 'from that day since I saw Rasul eating squash, that became the most beloved food for me.’ Self annihilated - what does that mean? I left what I want to what he wants. Further - I left what I love for what he loves. But furthermore, what he loves became what I love.

We feed our bodies every single day...yet we fail to feed our souls that many times a day and even our worship becomes a matter of ritual, not a spiritual oasis that we escape to and feel comfortable. Sometimes worship become a burden. I need to get that solat over with, I feel burdened. The Prophet said to Bilal, “arihna bihaya Bilal " O Bilal go and announce the prayer so we can go to our comfort zone. Not “arihna minha ya Bilal" - not let's do it so that we put it behind us. Call it so that we can be in the comfort zone. The sign of a bankruptcy of the seeker on the path to Allah is when they feel the comfort more with the creation than when they are with the Creator - spiritually bankrupt because your heart and desire still fall with the creation, you are not seeing that you need to be going to the Creator.

Al-Hikam Wisdom No 2:
'Your desire for isolation, tajrid, even though God has put you in the world to gain a living is a hidden passion or desire. And your desire to gain a living in the world even though God has put you on isolation is a come down from the supreme aspiration.’ Tajrid in the Arabic language does not really mean isolation. In terminological sense it means being with Allah only. Ibn Atha'illah sayings: your desire to be attached to Allah only, in other words self annihilated, you don’t exist anymore - what does that mean? First step is you worship until you get close to Him with that worship. Second step is you do extra worship until He loves you. Third step, if He loves you, He becomes this and this. You move with Allah, by Allah, for Allah, from Allah. Everything about you is for Allah, by Allah, to Allah, from Allah until you reach self annihilation where you don’t exist anymore. You may exist in mass but you don’t exist in the sense you are totally absorbed in the syuhud, in the observance of Allah and the illumination that are coming to you. So you don’t even feel yourself. I’m bringing you to a closer example, you know the event in the cave where the snake was biting Saidina Abu Bakar, he wasn't even moving, S. Abu Bakar was in total self annihilation in the love of Rasul, that presence of Muhammadan reality so he couldn't feel anything because he wasn’t even there, he wasn't even present with himself, but he was present with Rasul. When you are in love you don’t feel the pain, it’s still sweet, the more the better. So then when you are totally attached to Allah, you are fana, you are totally annihilated in the love of Allah - observance of the attributes of Allah, observance of that illumination that are coming, overwhelming you, you are not even there anymore. Especially those seeking suluk when you experience the spiritual experience you realize the world is much more than the body that you are in, the world is much more simply than distance, time and the laws of physics -other dimensions of the world that people don’t see with the eyes, those who are walking to Allah see, they taste these things. Those who are walking to Allah, the earmarks blind you from the real deal. In tassawuf they call it distractors, those bonuses on the side, it's a trick, the real deal is when you go straight to; at the end, that’s when you taste the sweetness.

Anyway, I told the sheikh, sidi, in this spiritual world, people see the souls of other people and they talk to the soul of other people and there is union in the spiritual world. Tassawuf is not about words, it’s about experience and struggle, struggle to get there. Words or books will never get you there. My father was close to my heart...

The poet says - 'For the teacher: stand up and honor your teacher for the teacher is almost a messenger.' Alexander the so called great, people used to observe him treating his guru diffrently than he treat his own father, with so much respect and glorification than he treat his father. They say 'how come you treat your teacher more than you treat your own father?' He says 'my father is my biological father and this one is my ideological father. That one brought me to the world, this one who illuminated the world.' My father is both. I am sad and always sad for my father's early departure. I was 19 when he died, I wasn’t capacitated yet to observe more truth and take it in. I told the shaikh 'can I speak to my father, can I sit with him?' I want to apply the rules of the world in the world of barzakh, do a time machine. He said, 'listen son, you wanting to be with them for that reason, to them is like that they are saying it's like someone who goes for a vacation for two weeks. The whole dunya is like a few weeks compared to them. You are going to be there. Concentrate on the more important things.'

What I am trying to tell you is to the world there is more than the avarege eyes see and if we are capacitated to see all those dimensions that Allah create, our life will be different tomorrow. We are human beings, if there's a policeman driving behind you, you’ll be driving 55 miles per hour but if you do not see, he might be behind you, you are speeding. When you see it, then you act totally different. So, act like you see it for it is a fact. Just like you and me are sitting, this world has many dimensions to it and those who passed away in the world of barzakh, in that world of spirituality, those who passed and those who hasn’t passed are there. And this has a much higher objective than eating, sleeping and working and getting married and having children and building a house, and all these things. The world has a higher objective than that. If you don’t know, everyone has a purpose, if you don’t know what that purpose is, start falling in love with the Prophet for you’ll realize what the purpose is.

Going back to the hikmah, the wisdom. Your desire for tajrid, to be totally self annihilated and attached to Allah while Allah put you in this word in asbab. Here's a point, two kinds of people on the path to Allah. People are travellers, people who are totally detached, they have completed their self annihilation, they are there, they are not here. Just like when you are on the path and you experience the world in different dimensions and you are looking and you trying to absorb all those facts around you in those dimensions, there's no time to speak. Time is an irrelevant thing anyway in the world of souls. Once you taste it and you know it, you are not only fascinated but you are overwhelmed by this fascination around you. You are not in this world. Imagine if you are in the presence of Allah, and you are with Allah and the illuminations are overwhelming and overtaking you because your capacity to receive, your transformer within you, the one that receive - that is only 1/10 volt but the electricity that you gonna get, the nur that you gonna get is much higher than that, the transformer even give up. And you are overtaken by Allah's nur, you are no longer in the dunya per se - that’s tajrid. That road is very well paved for thousands of years but again there are curves here and there, walking alone without a light may be difficult. Here's the point, the other one who is in dunya teaching, talking, engineer, writer, janitor in their life and Allah put them in that situation for a reason. The ones who are involved in that dunya but realizes he is in dunya vs. the other one who's not in dunya now, what happens is:
Ibn Atha'illah says: 'your desire to be in tajrid though Allah has placed you in the dunya is because of the hidden desire, weakness you have. Your desire to be in dunya when you are almost (taken to Allah) is a come down from aspiration than you ought to be in.'

You have to be detached and be attached to Allah. What is detached? You either purify your zahir/external or your batin/internal, both the internal and external or both together.
How do you purify your external?
1. Abandoning the dunya, the wordly affairs.
2. Breaking the physical habits.

Saidatina Zainab who is Saidina Ali and Fatimah Zahrah's (daughter), the household of the Prophet - she was talking to Saidina Ali, 'Do you love us?'. 'Of course I love you?'. 'How can you love us and love Allah in the same heart? How about you love Allah in your heart and you take care of us.'
Your love is not with your job. Become detached. Allah wants you to have that money. (But you earning and having the job) is not because you are so unique and great in planning, it's because Allah facilitate for you for things to be this way. The point is you do good because you want Allah to be close to you but you ought to be good not because you are worthy, but because you are seeking Allah pleasure. You should do the absolute good because you want to be close to Muhammad. (Say) 'I do not ask anything in return and I will keep giving.' And don’t depend on your work or for who you are. You are to do the best work you can as a student, you are doing all these to be close to Allah. Your role is much bigger than executing. There’s so much potential, don’t limit yourself, don’t blind yourself. Purify the external and detach. You are not powerful, your job that you have today may be changed tomorrow. (You have) power because you are close to Allah. In Islam we believe on the power of love and not in the love of power. It's not naïve. Biggest example is all the prophets. Did any of the prophets come with nuclear weapons? What happen to most of the prophet? Tortured. Still despite all that Allah give them the power of love.

So for the external, abandon what you think you are this you are that, detach from dunya. Secondly, breaking the habits. There are so many habits we like to do. If you don’t break the habits you’ll be enslaved. Mind over body, you have to break the habit so you are in control of the self and not the self in control of you. Practise breaking the habit, take your heart, keep your heart with Allah...

I seek refuge in Allah for any unintentional mistakes. This transcript is not verbatim. I only wish to inspire you to listen to the actual audio tapes at May Allah increase us in knowledge, grant us wisdom and take us to His Nur. Ameen.