13. WALI (FRIEND)
The word ‘wali’ derive from the root WLY. The simplest verb made from it is ‘wala’ and it means to approach and its noun is wali. A second verb is ‘waliya’ and this means “to take another’s affaris on oneself, to look after another’s interests. Put together the noun commonly derived from them, namely ‘wali’ must mean a close sincere friend who really cares for the one he is befriending. Incidentally, it should be plain to see that this word wali never means ‘saint’ as used in Western languages and in fact no concept of sainthood exists in Islam. ‘Saint’ is a corrupted spelling of the Latin word ‘sanctus’ (in the course of French language deriving from Latin, and English borrowed it from French). Its root verb is ‘sancire’ and it means ‘to hallow, to ascribe or impart holiness’. ‘Holy’ itself in its original derivation from Germanic languages means whole, unhurt, sound etc. and has been most eminently applied to God. With this in mind its ultimate spiritual meaning can be ‘perfect’. And perfect only God can be. But because in almost all pre-Islamic religions the division between man and god is not clear cut and this in fact has also spilled over into Islam in a rather covert and ambiguous way thanks to some Muslim mystics and Platonic philosophers’ efforts.
Although the Qur’an has verses like “He (Allah) is the First and the Last and the Outer and the Inner and He knows of everything” (57: 3) may insinuate such a possibility it should be interpreted NOT in isolation but in the light of all other verses which may have a bearing on it. The closest any religion came to identifying God and man is Christianity. Allah said “Those who say ‘indeed Allah is the Christ himself’ have blasphemed- shot out of true faith” (5: 17). So, despite the previous verse, no part of the outer in that verse should be taken to be God. More correct understanding of that verse should be:
“All realities from the oldest to the most distant in future, from the most tangible to the most intangible squarely boil down to Allah’s Reality. This is a WHOLESALE relation and cannot be retailed like when a particular creature is seen as God”. Unfortunately there have been our mystics who also fell into this Christian trap: One interprets the verse “Fallahu huwal waliyyu wa yuhyil mawta…” (Allah Himself is the Wali and He revives the dead…” as “The mystic ‘saint’ is none other than God Himself and this saint can raise the dead”- see verse 6 below)! As known so well, The Qur’an records that Jesus raised the dead with Allah’s permission but was not to be regarded Allah at all.
In fact this God-man virus runs through all too mystic and mythology choked relgions and sects and is responsible for infinite delusions and abuses throughout history. It creates in the claimant a sickly absolute self-confidence which leads him to inordinate words and acts of extreme excess and his admirers into almost mad adulation- the very chemistry which made religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity over-the-clouds impractical religions thriving on excesses and abuses.
It is a pity that the last and final and all-correcting Revelation of Allah which Islam brought by Muhammad the Messenger of Allah sws is could be similarly if only locally and non-fatally infected. But the Prophet sws has already predicted it: “You will so much imitate the Jews and the Christians that were they to enter a lizard hole you would also follow them into it”. In fact many Muslim groups degenerated into degenerate mystic forms which degeneration is responsible for the birth of sects like the Alawism, Ismailism, the Druze sect and many more. These shun all the obligations of Islam and find solace in the myth that their leaders are God-men and they themselves are gods or rather the only god is man and the God of religions is man’s own projection. Very clever, isn’t it? At best, such an opinion is shallow psychology, at worst a deliberate and cynical attempt, at least as far as the founders and leaders of these sects are concerned, at carving a lucrative business empire for themselves where worshipping customers pay them both fabulous homage and fabulous taxes. No wonder that all such sects are very well and dynastically organised and while the most of the subjects may be poor the sect’s temples and the lifestyle of its God-men are palatial. No amount of character scandals or actual abuses can diminish their God-men in their esteem but the worshipping and tax-paying go on undiminished. What a guidance!
1. Say: Have they adopted as wali other than Allah the Originator of the heavens and the earth Who feeds (everybody) but is not (in need of being) fed? Say “I am commanded to be the first of Muslims and never be one of the polytheists” (6: 14)
C. In a secular sense a person can always be the wali (friend, guardian) of any other person. But in a religious sense the only wali is Allah. His wilaya (caring friendship) He can direct more to some of his servants than others and as a result the fortunate former group are called Allah’s awliya. These awliya are also the awliya of fellow Muslims, therefore we may call our spiritually brighter brothers awliya of Allah and ours. We are also their awliya as we shall see later. With this cascading and horizontal relationships Allah’s Supreme
Wilaya remains as the only real one and the Unity of Allah is not offended.
Lastly awliya in the sense of being far close to Allah than the great majority of Muslims brings in the question of extraordinary spiritual powers. These DO EXIST and Allah is their dispenser among His awliya. They include foresight, premonition, some prophesying, clairvoyance and telepathy as well as impossible looking physical feats but these are almost routinely misunderstood by almost everybody except those in the know. The cause of these extraordinary feats is the man’s nearness to Allah and nothing else. Because Allah is running the whole existence with its past and future, its matter and spirit a man nearer Allah than another can benefit more from Allah’s gifts of empowerment and act as Allah’s instrument in the implementation of Allah’s Will. The angels are very far more in this state than men but men who are ‘angelised’ so-to-speak by the company and support of the angels may begin to benefit from angelic powers. These are halal gifts from Allah and must not be confused with stolen gifts jinni bring to bad but spiritually ambitious people.
2. Whoever adopts the Devil as wali instead of Allah has lost with a downright loss (4: 119)
C. Confirming above verse, we see that some resort to the Devil instead of Allah to get satisfaction from their lives. Initially the Devil seems to honour his promises and deliver some goods to his disciple but these are false jewelry or false currency and after a spending spree of sorts bankruptcy and despair arrive and hell beckons. What worshipping the Devil means is this: The person does not want to pay the decent price for satisfaction in life, which price is embracing the true faith and keeping the Commandments and ennobling his character and cleaning his act. He thinks he knows a cheaper and faster way to satisfaction just like a thief or conman thinks that he can eke out a comfortable and exciting life not by working honestly but committing clever crimes. The Devil-serving person uses a language, projects an image, pretends things and dares every crime and indecency to rob and exploit others. All these may seem to work fabulously for a while but in the end the truth catches up with him and he begins to run about frantically to avoid his liabilities and sinks more and more at the same time. May Allah spare us from the allurements of the Devil.
3. Your wali is but Allah and then comes His Messenger sws and those who believe and who perform the salat and pay the zakat and bow (to Allah in obedience in general. Whoever adopts Allah and His Messenger sws and the believers as his awliya then only it is this party of Allah which is going to prosper (5:55- 56)
C. A believer should know that ‘like with like’ is the truest of principles. A believer is one who firmly and finally makes up his mind that the best way forward for him in life till his last breath is befriending the Greatest Friend in existence and that is Allah the Lord of All Existence! But he is not alone in recognising Allah as said. Higher than all is Allah’s Messenger sws and more or less equal to him are other fellow believers. All these make up one and only one party of salvation and prosperity and all have to remain best of friends at all times. To such a tightly-knit community neither Devil nor his human underlings can find a way to harm them except for occasional blips or slips which are easily overcome by them.
4. Men believers and women believers are awliya of each other. They enjoin each other what is reputable and warn off each other from what is disreputable; they perform the salat and pay the zakat and obey Allah and His Messenger sws. It is they whom Allah show mercy to. Indeed Allah is Dear Mighty and Wise (9:71)
C. So, every properly decent and faithfully practicing Muslim IS A WALI of all the rest. He or she will look after the welfare of the rest as much as possible and basically will at least have the best interests of his or her fellow Muslims at heart at all times. That is because each properly decent and faithfully practicing Muslim IS A WALI of Allah and no less and as he or she cares about all whom Allah cares about. Lastly, declaring male and female good Muslims the awliya of each other Allah is signalling that the two sexes must interact and even MIX within the bounds of decency and not shun each other like fox and rabbit as if one will instantly attack and devour the other. All records show that male and female sahaba mixed, talked to each other quite brotherly-sisterly almost on all subjects, prayed, ate, drank and carried out commercial transactions both indoors and outdoors. Only the Prophet’s sws wive’s were asked to be slightly less accessible to males outside the Prophet’s sws close male relatives like his uncle or nephews but after the Prophet’s death we find innumerable examples of sahaba and tabi’in visiting these mothers of the believers including the younger ones like Aisha RA and Hafsa RA for their advice. Our master Umar patrolled Medina day or night and would not hesitate to enter the houses of women in need of help, including young if often widowed women and investigate their grievances and deliver any help needed.
The marketplace of Medina teemed with women shoppers and quite a few women shopkeepers engaged in all the bustling of commerce. Extreme seclusion of women was ancient Persian and classical Greek practice and not Arab nor Islamic after Islam’s advent. As Islam absorbed many other cultures and expanded the social view and habits of the new entrants failed to be Islamised/Arabised and although Bedouin Arabia remained a sexually more tolerant area in terms of reasonable decent mixing of the sexes ex-Persian and ex-Greek/Roman annexations stuck to their excessive seclusive habits as they also stuck to their homosexual and semi-pagan beliefs and practices.
For example while there is no doubt that Allah and His Prophet sws looked down on astrology and magic with disdain and wrath later vast kingdoms and empires which non-Arab dynasties ran heartily continued to resort to magic and consult astrologers. In both the Persian and Ottoman palaces there were resident royal astrologers a la Persica, who in front of mighty muftis and grand muftis predicted the future for the kings and advised on cautions and risks. Numerology (Arabised and called ‘abjad’) also continued as good as in Pagan times while magic is resorted to this day among almost all Muslims although a bit clandestinely and disreputably. It must not be for nothing that Muslims’ qualities bear only a very modest degree of similarity to the sahaba and tabi’in generations and as we move farther away from those blessed times either successes become more secular in nature than Islamic or turn into failures increasingly. Muslim kings fought over totally worldly and wanton issues and at times treated the vanquished colleague as only savages could do, exacting blood-curdling revenge from them and often from their hapless subjects as well. Such are not awliya of each other as the above says, are they?
5. Are those who blaspheme calculating that they can adopt My servants their awliya despite Me? We have no doubt prepared the Hell for the wrongdoers as (their) residence (18:102)
C. Allah DOES have His awliya among men and women belivers but these can only be approached for spiritual benefits with Allah in mind as the Real Source of any blessings which these awliya can mediate. Awliya can pray for us, can give advice to us and can mentor us to become clean and noble souls like themselves- all with Allah’s permission and help. They may even render miraculous help at times. Yet, many before Islam failed to keep in mind the exclusiveness of Allah’s power in helping them and came to believe that the awliya they resorted to were independent power-holders which independence made them some sort of a god entitled to worship and invocation.
The greatest example of this deification of a wali of Allah has been Jesus Christ and not stopping there Christians, as almost identical inheritors of Romanised Greeks and Hellenised Romans kept churning out more and more petty gods from their brighter souls whom they called saints. For each built and ran shrines to which multitudes thronged in search of divine help for all kinds of real or imaginary ills afflicting them. These saint- and shrine-worshipping habits and traditions did not entirely disappear as Islam claimed these ex-Greco-Roman lands and as well as those remaining Christians some of those converted to Islam also continued to worship their saints and venerate their shrines. In fact crasser masses of every nation cannot be converted to any new faith and tradition but only modestly; they simply cannot let go their ancient culture entirely but mix the two in order to make the best cocktail as far as their tastes are concerned. Yet, such ignorant compromises with Islam deduct from their spiritual advancement and prosperity and if not corrected may land them in Fire, the least meaning of which is interminable worldly trouble thanks to misguided spiritual attitudes and practical blunders like resorting to quacks instead of to proper physicians for medical help.
6. Or have they adopted Awliya outside Allah? Allah it is who is the only Wali, He it is who revives the dead and He it is the One Able to do all things (42: 9)
C. Exceptionally good servants helped by Allah to help us in many matters, yes. Bright and
powerful looking persons seemingly or allegedly endowed with miraculous powers in their own right and capable of exercising those powers independently, no! Especially no when a person like this asks his believers to worship or at least pray to him as they would pray to Allah. Or when others ask to pray to such a person in absentia as if he, like Allah, will both hear and help. This is Devilic and any success in the results can only be istidraj. Christians pray to Jesus and Mary or their other saints, Hindus pray to their snake or elephant gods and Arab idolaters prayed to Hubal, Lat or Manat and sometimes it looks that it worked. Abu Sufyan had prayed to Hubal before starting out from Mecca to meet the Prophet sws at Uhud while the Prophet sws, as always, had prayed to Allah exclusively. Abu Sufyan WON the battle and glorified Hubal to the face of the Prophet sws and the Prophet sws glorified Allah despite the defeat. In fact the true winner was always the Prophet sws even when he looked the defeated party. Abu Sufyan’s Hubal-given looking success was an istidraj arranged by Muhamamad’s Lord Allah to prepare Muhammad’s eventual victory. So let the misguided souls not tell us that they prayed to awliya instead of Allah and it worked alright. They asked a heretic sufi pretender “Father, can one pray salat without wudu?”. He calmly and charmingly replied “I just prayed my salat without wudu; it was possible”.
7. The Day when He (Almighty) gathers them and all what they worshipped other than Allah and says “Were it you who sent astray these My servants or had themselves gone astray?”. They say “Hallowed be Thee, it did not behove us to adopt awliya other than Thee but Thou provided for them and their ancestors (all things they needed) until they forgot about the warnings (from Thee) and became a nation ruined (by Thy retribution) (25: 17-18)
C. The worshipped were clearly sentient beings whether alive or long dead, whether represented by idols or not. That must be why they are being questioned and their culpability in the polytheism of their worshippers probed. As we have already seen in other lessons and contexts both history and Hadith explain idol worship as hero worship, some national or tribal heroes of old being deified by their later compatriots and for greater effect on their imagination and enthusiasm statues and paintings of as well as shrines to these heroes are erected, visited and adulated. Allah calls all such subsequently deified heroes ‘awliya’ and these awliya, when questioned by Allah as above not only deny all knowledge of being deified and worshipped by later generations but protest their own personal monotheism with Allah and their exclusive adopting Him as their only wali!
This fits perfectly with the protestations of innocence and monotheism of Jesus in the Qur’an 5: 118. No doubt it will not be only Jesus who will be questioned about the conduct of his later followers as regards any polytheistic corruption of their teachings. It is impossible for Allah’s use of the terms ‘wali’ and ‘awliya’ and that not to anticipate the saint worship which later flourished among some Muslims as it had done among other nations pre-dating Islam, like Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity all of which retain some signs to the effect that originally they were monotheistic and earlier forms of Islam. Deification of mortals still continue among the Catholics in the form of Papacy declaring every now and then the sainthood of this or that exemplary Christian in its opinion. The very word canonisation was used by the pagan Romans to express their deification of their heroes and as all historians know the Catholic Church is more the descendant of Roman paganism than the Semitic teachings and practices of Jesus Christ and his early small community called the Jerusalem Church. Similar to the Roman practice the Catholic saints become immediately worshippable after their canonisation.
8. Know that for the awliya of Allah there is neither fear nor shall they ever grieve, those who believed and used to be pious. For them are great good-news in this world and the next. Allah’s Words admit no change; This, it is the Great Success (10: 62- 64)
C. In this Divine verse we have the definitive full and complete description of a wali. He or she is a believer who has been sure in faith and fully sincere and committed to Allah’s Pleasure in action. For them fear or grief are out of question either in here or in the hereafter although in here some fearful and saddening tests may be indicated as can be seen from many other verses. It may be that their worldly frights and sorrows cannot destroy them thanks to the generous coping ability Allah provides them with at every instant. In more general and sure terms Allah is promising them great good-news in this world and the next. In this world they are given exceptional understanding of and delight in spiritual matters and occasional miraculous help under all testing situations and even some subtle powers to discretely use and lastly the inspiration of prayers guaranteed of Divine acceptance. What is perhaps most important here is their inner essence of power and blessing; IT IS NOT YAQEEN, which is a direct witness of the Reality of Ultimates, as some mystics would claim for themselves, but IMAN which simply means CONVICTION without direct proof in the ordinary sense of the word proof.
That this is so for both prophets and awliya we can see from the Qur’an. Allah tells us the story of Abraham AS who asks Allah to show him how He Almighty revives the dead. Allah asks “Are you not believing?” “Not that, but just to get my heart settled” replies Abraham AS. Similarly the companions of Jesus ask him to ask Allah to send a spread laid with dishes of food from heaven and explain what looks like insolence as a wish “in order that we eat thereof, our hearts to settle and we know that thou told us the truth”. Which means human beings, prophet or not are always weak and remain weak and that is as it should be simply because Allah helps the weak and without weak servants Allah’s Mercy and Generosity cannot be put into use. Even in the highest heaven angels implore Allah and even in the highest Garden (jannat al a’la) servants shall be constantly praying to Allah. Our needs out of our weakness are our only capital and in the hypothetical case of someone having no needs that someone is the realest bankrupt.
We may perhaps understand what is meant by this by imagining a hypothetical situation. Suppose a man is suddenly transformed into a being (but looking like a man in form) who does not need any food, any shelter, any sex, any nothing. What this man has got to do with life at all? Because he is never hungry food means nothing to him. Because he has no sexual urge the most attractive members of the opposite sex mean nothing to him. Because he is never cold a warm and cosy bed means nothing to him- all in all nothing means anything to him and this includes having friends. This man is as good as non-existent, he does not even be called dead because the dead at least can be imagined to be resurrected and have something they would like. Our weakness is Allah’s Power and Grace, the two are the two faces of the same coin and inalienable from each other. Amen.
14. ZIKR (REMEMRANCE)
‘Dhakara’ means to remember and also to mention. Its noun is ‘dhikr’ which we render into ‘zikr’ for easier pronunciation. Why this verb means both remember and mention. Normally, when we remember something we don’t have to verbalise it as well. For verbalisation English has other words like ‘utter’, ‘pronounce’ and ‘mention’. The reason why Arabic does not distinguish between silent remembrance and voicing what is remembered may be the Arab’s predilection to talk and often talk too much. Originally being lonely wanderers in desolate deserts together with their main asset the grazing animals the Arab had to entertain himself with either talking to others or at least uttering as many things as possible, especially in the artistic forms of poetry which was sang and oratory which was preached. As a result these verbal arts had become Arabs’ greatest achievement and entertainment and Islam, coming first to Arabs, had to exploit these aptitudes and potentials. What is more, verbal arts are the most enduring and explicit ways of transmitting both wisdom and aesthetics; nothing can move man more than wise and beautifully expressed ideas and emotions.
Additionally remembering something and at the same time uttering it has a reinforcing effect on the believed value of the thing; it is one thing, for example, to only think about a beloved and quite another to utter the beloved’s name with which act the heart heaves more end the lips burn in yearning. It must not be an accident then that the Qur’an had to come in Arabic and therefore initially at least address the Arabs. Derivatives of ‘dhakara’, relating to our subject, are ‘the verbs dhakkara’ (to remind, to warn, to give advice) and ‘tadhakkara’ (to ponder, contemplate) the nouns respectively deriving from them are ‘dhikr’ or ‘dhikra’ (remembrance, reminder, mention), tadhkir (warning, reminding, adivice) and tadhakkur (pondering, contemplation). All occur in the following verses where we shall only use the noun dhikr in its simplified form ‘zikr’ and use mostly use the English equivalents for the rest.
1. Indeed whoever engages in self-purification and (relishingly) mentions his Lord’s Name and hurries to pray as a result, has attained salvation (87: 14-15)
C. Another epitome of verbal economy and precision with a fullness of explanation of that most important fruit of life- salvation! We are told that salvation boils down to nothing else but purification of the self, internal and external spontaneously. Yet we find only too many Muslims who does anything but purification. Many who do not even pray salat do not even do adequate bodily purification; in the worst cases some Muslims remain only nominally so, they will not wash their parts after using the toilet, or after their conjugal acts or even before or after a meal, let alone make ablutions to access their worshipping mode. As a result they invite infection and illness and stress and occasional blasphemy born of stress!
Secondly we are given a consideration of making zikr of Allah by both inner remembrance of Him and uttering his praises using His Holy Names with such heart-felt sincerity and ardour that we are motivated to hurry to acts of worship to Him in which we cease to pamper and spoil our egos but praise and emulate His Gracious Self.
2. Make zikr of Me and I make zikr of you; give thanks to Me and do not be ungrateful towards Me (2: 152)
C. Practice and live God-consciousness in your hearts and by the loving and reverent utterance of the Holy Divine Names. In return Allah will take you to heart and mention your names in the presence of His angels of loving mercy for them to contact and transmit you the loving mercy gifted to them by Allah. Furthermore, make sure that you always thank Allah for all His gifts big or small and never complain about your receipts or accuse Him with anything. These destroy faith and bring the whole wrath of the heavens and the earth on you. Then nothing goes right for you, nothing feels right for you and nothing satisfies you but makes you hungrier and more frustrated. And those are the pits of Hell.
3. Imploringly and awedly remember thy Lord in thy heart, without open word, morning and evening and do not become like the unmindful ignorants (7: 205)
C. Allah is ordering His Messenger sws and through him sws us how to keep ourselves always mindful of Him. It is by keeping Him in mind with an attitude of begging for His mercy while trembling in His awe. We should not unnecessarily advertise this our inner zikr by shouting or other ostentation and this our inner state of zikr should be round-the-clock. Otherwise we fall among the category of unmindful ignorants whose main obsession is ego satisfaction at the expense of others, for the ego is not really happy if its satisfactions does not wrest away or steal something from others. It thrives on robbery and thievery, inflicting harm and insult. Only constant anxious and reverent remembrance of Allah can rein the human ego in or else we get a world like todays where it is mostly the elevation of the most brutal and treacherous and where the weak and the decent succeed only accidentally.
4. What the Devil wants by means of wine and gambling is casting among you hostility and aggression and prevent you from Allah’s remembrance (5: 91)
C. Another nuclear concentration of wisdom where the expansion is no less an explosion than a nuclear bomb’s. Read or watch the news and what you see of all crimes committed about half have something to do these two evils: drink and gambling. Silly people bereft of all godliness, in their emptiness of any effective moral values and spiritual checks, must but resort to all sorts of silly habits to kill time and humanity in drink houses and gambling venues. The so-called public houses (pubs, saloons) are the busiest places at weekends where all kinds of people pack them and fumigate each other in dense cigarette smoke and drench each other in alcohol vapour on top of ingesting all such poisons in bulk. Any general foolish chemically-induced and therefore undeserved gaiety is frequently broken by matches of abuse and in the end acts of violence for the smallest and silliest of reasons or on slightest pretexts. Criminal damage, stabbings and other kinds of wounding and even murder may follow. Many drinkers also get behind the wheel and drive to cause anything from a harmless crash to a multiply fatal accident.
Thanks to the misguided Western laws the victims get nothing or almost nothing while the offenders often get away with a lot. In Islam every single damage inflicted on anybody by anybody is a matter of automatic hefty compensation even when entirely accidental while in secular law cutting a twig from a tree is punihed by a money fine but killing six people by mounting the kerb with one’s car is fined only in favour of the government and punished by a prison sentence at the expense of the taxpayer. Why?
Because most people in non-Islamic or secular cultures are subconsciously aware that given their bad habits like drink and gambling and their great lack of spiritual inner guidance (called godlessness) will very likely land them in the dock one day and under the law of the survival of the brutal fittest any victims lost should better be written off and the surviving offenders must be looked after even while punished one way or another. The resentment caused by such awry thinking justice poisons all souls but because these souls are also similarly godless they can do nothing about it but hope to be among the guilty survivors if it comes to that.
Gambling is another disaster: The gamblers are sickly ambitious, madly enterprising and foolishly wasteful. They are obsessed with cheating social justice and land with large sums of money by forcing the hand of their luck as if it can be done. What is worse, even when a gambler wins he is a loser, simply because he cannot help wasting his money on things he ultimately becomes disappointed with and is also hounded by his friends and relations for a share of the cake. They often don’t do even this lesser evil but denying his friends and relations any share they go on and quickly bury their newly acquired wealth into bad gambling or in a madly bad investment or on the charms of a whore or into the hands of a velvety- tongued conman. Every time such a parting with their ill-gains come in they fight and despair and can have a nervous breakdown and also create many enemies out of he blue on top of losing the faith of their near and dear ones. The latter in fact may throw in their own impieties and cheat or rob him of his ill-gains to make them their own unblessed ill-gains and career down the precipice the original winner would career down.
With such a hell of cursed gains and activities Allah is the last thing a drinker or gambler affords to remember and his lack of Allah in his heart only seals his fate for the worse.
5. Those who believe and have their hearts satisfied with Alah’s zikr- know that only with Allah’s zikr hearts are settled (13: 28)
C. True belief in Allah automatically causes a constant and heart-settling remembrance of Him All-Gracious. Which means those who remember Allah only rarely or occasionally are not full in their faith but weak and patchy and that is not good enough. Faith must invade a person’s whole being and must be stabilised by constant zikr of Allah. Zikr does not so much mean moving the lips in small whispers of Allah, Allah, Allah… although that has a part to play. More really it is a happy inability to forget Allah even when asleep and as a result and on the whole lead an exemplary life of piety, charity and gracefulness.
Life is a great and multifarious test and challenge for everybody and its ups and downs are fraught with many heart breaks and turmoils of soul. Only keeping the remembrance of Allah constant can a heart be steady and satisfied and any inescapable breaks and turmoils are surmounted and transcended with relatively little shake and jarring. I was once an accidental passenger in a Rolls Royce limousine on a familiar bumpy and potty road and I was jubilantly surprised how almost smooth the same road felt with this vehicle under me compared to how horrible it felt with my little old banger. Which means a rich and sumptuous faith acts like a great dampener and moderator of unpleasant life experiences. What is mental illness or nervous breakdown if not a broken down coping mechanism of our psyche thanks to the very thin and scarce cushioning stuff due to inadequate faith if not lack of it. True and real faith is the single greatest vehicle of both sanity and decency.
6. It is Us Who sent down the Zikra and We are its Guardians (15: 9)
C. Here ‘Zikra’ means the Qur’an because it is the vastest and sublimest compendium of zikrs of Allah, the most effective Book to teach us and enable us to make best zikr of Allah. Because it is so precious and indispensable and because so much treachery in the past have corrupted or lost so much zikras from Allah, He Almighty decided to give extra and infallible protection to His Qur’an for which our infinite thanks are due to Him.
So we can confidently comb the Qur’an from cover to cover digging and lifting up as many and varied gems and jewels of most effective zikrs none else can compose or formulate. I dare say that it would be a mistake if not a ignorant sin to compose any patches or tracts of zikr without basing them on the Qur’an. Like an only licensed pharmacopoeia under a good government all zikr medicines must be formulated from the Qur’an and then the Hadith which is totally inspired by the Qur’an, for genuine ahadith (hadiths) are genuine extensions of the Qur’an.
7. No new zikr from their Lord comes to them but they listen to it (mischievously) playfully (taking it for another joke) (21: 2)
C. Here ‘zikr’ means a reminder/warning and not remembrance. As the verses of the Qur’an kept coming down and read out to them, the unbelievers kept mocking the verses, mixing their frivolities with their lighting comments on any new verse or verses just sent down. This was obviously designed to demoralise the Prophet sws and his believers.
About such blasphemous buffoons Allah says “Therefore leave Me and the one who denies this news (hadith) alone. I will gradually bring him to ruin from a direction he is not aware of. We must note that not only here but at some other places in the Qur’an Allah calls the Qur’an ‘hadith’. In fact the Qur’an is the single by far the longest and most reliable hadith reported from the Prophet sws and many sahaba, reported by the Prophet sws from his Lord and by the sahaba from their Prophet sws. Its accuracy is such that if a hadith in Bukhari, for example, clashes with something in the Qur’an, the Qur’an must prevail.
8. Whoever turns away from the zikr of the All-Garcious (al Rahman) We then appoint to him a Devil who then becomes his constant companion. They (such devils) prevent them (such turners away) from the (true) Way while they (the turners away) think that they are kept on the right path (43: 36- 37)
C. When one turns away from Allah’s reminders, warnings and remembrance there is no way but he must fall into the lap of the Devil. As the saying goes ‘Nature abhors a vacuum’. Any vacuum will be filled. This is very eloquently and conclusively stated in modern times. Secular education in almost all countries ignores people’s natural need for high moral and spiritual values and habits and under such names of ‘freedom’ or ‘human’ rights abandon them to their own ego devices to hammer out a plan for their lives. Almost totally Godless and at the mercy of their hormone-controlled automated urges new generations cannot wait to go from one sensual fix to another to fill their leisure times while when busy with their social and economic obligations they want to get away with minimum sacrifice for maximum reward.
Some modern economic philosophers define employer-employee relations as cynically as follows: An employer wants to get from an employee as much as possible for as little as possible. An employee wants to get from his or her employer as much benefit as possible for as little productive work as possible. What is more, these philosophers salivate with pleasure when they declare such diagnoses. The actual facts are even worse. Each side also will not hesitate to cheat the other if it thinks it can get away with it. Once an insurance company had hired and trained some salesmen. To each salesman they gave a car to travel in for visiting their prospects or customers as necessary. About half of the new salesman used their company cars doing minicab jobs exploiting the grace period for bringing in new business. When criticised for not bringing in enough new business (often just nil, say in three months) they just resigned and handing back the company cars walked away thousands of pounds richer from their moon-lighting at the expense of the company.
Sadly from school children to adults in employer and employee roles and as tradesmen or merchants cheating whenever possible is becoming national culture. The stolen times and monies are then spent on drinks, drugs, gambling and sexual pursuits and worthless luxuries with a gusto rarely reported from older times. What keep modern rich societies together are less and less personal piety and more and more the brute force of the law. We are not saying that personal morality is rare. It isn’t, it still runs the lives of enough people to keep the immoral in some check. What we are saying is that the balance is slowly but surely shifting towards the unconscionable types who are perhaps now the majority.
Both classical Greece and Rome passed through this kind of degeneration and were overrun by others. Both the Medieval Christendom and Islamdom went through it and each paid the price. Christians first lost to Islam almost half of their possessions and souls over about a thousand years while at home they lost to their atheists and secularists. Muslims began losing from as early as their fifth century to the Crusaders and then the Mongols and lately to the rising economic and military power of the increasingly secularising West. Now the West may lose out to the Pacific nations who still retain something of their old virility and discipline and are already having a bigger and bigger share of the global economy. While the West is declining in morals and health in comparison to their high level of medical care Muslims are falling in from one mad folly into another thus increasing their vulnerability to Western punishment. The Devil surely could not have more lucrative times for its business of corruption of souls than ours. While so many people are deceived by their resident devils they keep believing that they could not live better lives as far as their pursuits and pleasures are concerned.
9. Whoever turns away from My zikr then for him is a tight and troubled livelihood and on the Day of Resurection We raise him as blind. He will say “My Lord, why didst Thou gathered me blind while I used to have a good sight? He replies “It is so! It is because Our signs and verses came to thee and thou forgot about them. Thus We forget about thee Today. So do we punish (beginning from this world) one who goes overboard and never believes in signs and verses of his Lord. The punishment of the Hereafter is even more violent and enduring (20: 124- 127)
C. So and so fabulously rich and luxuriously living celebrity commits suicide. Another so and so fabulously rich and luxuriously living celebrity is caught committing unspeakable indecencies. Why such supposedly most enviably successful persons are resorting to such tragic or shameful acts? Why, because they are not satisfied with their lives. What they used to firmly believe were the most desirable things in life disappointed and even nauseated them. They simply don’t have friends but oily sycophants, media constantly espy on them and competition from and occasional greater success of rivals torment them. They discover that they lost true love and instead bought supposedly fantastic but actually sordid and demeaning sex exploits, some of them being very criminal as well. Loveless, restless and always false and pretentious, all the drinks and drugs they take and all the fabulous travels and holidays they buy fail to patch up the ever-gaping holes of psychological pain. The pain only grows more. If this is not a very seriously troubled life what is?
But one needs not to be super-rich, super-famous to be condemned to such miserable existence. Not even one needs be irreligious. Even some religious people, simply because they cannot make a full commitment to the demands of God on them while they eye with envy all those pleasant-looking sinful acts or attractive-looking dubious ways of earning more wealth, feel cheated in life. Under the pressure of such unhealthy and impious desires they adulterate their lives with the fulfilment of at least some of them and that amounts to ‘turning away from their Lord’s signs and verses’ in that proportion. Then the promised tight and troubled way of life grips them and even unto death may not give any rest or respite to them. They die, as the saying goes, with their eyes open, still longing for the world’s false delights. Good life, real good life is only possible when one makes a full and irreversible commitment to honest and charitable pious living as Allah confirms “Whoever, male of female, does good works while at the same time being a (religious) believer, We will then definitely keep such (people) alive with a good life and will reward them on the basis of what were the best among what they were doing” (16: 97) Is more explanation necessary?
10. No doubt good works compensate for bad works. Let this be a zikra/advice to those who want to keep in mind (11: 114)
C. We are weak, we can not be perfect, however hard we try to avoid committing wrongs we sometimes commit them. But there is a repair kit at hand. The kit is like a toolbox with many diverse tools in it. One tool is asking pardon from Allah. A parallel tool is asking forgiveness from persons we offended. Without the second, provided it is possible, the first is not enough. Another tool is what Allah teaches above: Doing extra good works to counterbalance our bad works. Says sheikh ibn. Arabi rahmatullahi alalihi in his “Wasayat” (Advices)” If you commit a sin in a dress of yours, do not take that dress of until you also do some good work while still wearing it”. How aware! To be on the safe side that our good works exceed our bad works we should miss no opportunity for doing good, either in the form of more ibadat (worshipping) or and really better, doing charity to others.
Zikr, remembering Allah with belief and reverence is the single most effective way to curb our evil inclinations and to motivate us towards better alternatives. It must not be for nothing that all nations of all ages did have religious faith of one sort or another and that faith always included moral teachings and sanctions. Obviously religious faith and moral sense are genetically programmed in man although like in all genetically determined traits no two persons have equal measures of it. At times a minority or majority among a social group decided to discard and even discourage in others religious faith. In the worst case they chose not to have moral scruples at all but pretend some at times. Interestingly though and often unrealised by its upholders such non-religious teachings with or without moral demands are themselves religious in a subtle psychological sense since they also are based on unverifiable opinions and are often defended with the same fervour and even fanaticism as religions. We still have such seemingly non-religious faiths with us and they are called ideologies. Both Faschism and Marxism, although not as prevalent and virulent as before, are still with us moving persons and groups to as fanatical and unreasonable and even inhuman acts as religions sometimes do.
Perhaps the most recent as well as the worst example in history of such seemingly and confessedly ‘anti- religious’ movements was the Khmer Rouge with that most notorious psychopath Pol Pot as their prophet except in name. They, saturated to their marrows with the belief in and an eschatology of a society entirely made up of an anti-intellectual and anti-religious proletariat, these psychopaths put to death all they could lay their hands on from among the non-proletarians as they saw them. Under strict orders from their ‘prophet’ Khmer Rouge guerrillas mercilessly tortured, humiliated and massacred their perceived enemies in their millions, young, old, male, female and communist or not. Only most ignorant and crudest peasants and labourers deserved the citizenship of the Khmer Rouge utopia and conversion to their faith on the part of any more accomplished people was not accepted. Ironically, Pol Pot and a lot of his lieutenants and cronies were nobles and burgers but somehow that did not matter. Had they been sincere, after their revolution had succeeded they should have to commit suicide and let the really born (and not made) proletariat take over everything. They were such a religious movement (ontologically speaking) that they had their own idols regarded as God-perfect, their martyrs (killed in action) their emotional and dogmatic preachings, their devotions and liturgies and lastly their holy wars.
Which shows that men cannot do without dogmas, gods, rituals and utopias whether they realise or not that what they are preaching and practicing are beliefs and ideals which are essentially religious in psychological terms and nothing else. All today’s ideologies are in the same basket; from Feminism to Animal liberation and from Gay Rights to Green Peace angry dogmas and daring and often illegal action are inseparable features of all such ideologies. What is worse, both Christianity and Islam are sometimes hijacked by similarly fanatical, conspiratorial, vehement, murderous and suicidal groups who then cause a lot of trouble, bloodshed and destruction. From those hotheads who had converged on Medina to slaughter our master Uthman RA the third caliph to today’s self-styled jehad champions (equally at odds with each other as with others outside) what all fanatical group are practicing are new religions although they call their claims true Islam.
Ultimately the root cause under all these examples of misguided religious zeal boil down to not remembering Allah as He should be remembered or not remembering Him correctly. If totally innocent, uninvolved men, women and even children can be taken hostages- and some of them are believing Muslims- can be used as bargain chips and killed at the drop of a hat or blown to pieces at market places then the finger of accusation must be pointed to the Devil and not to God. Obviously the Devil is exploiting Islam with both its Qur’an and Hadith and misrepresenting them to his unaware devotees he the accursed is spurring them to blasphemous savagery and unleashing them on to most defenceless and in principle totally innocent persons and masses. If the murderers of Uthman were right so are today’s indiscriminate murderers; they were not right then and they are not right now. Allah first and foremost is about love and compassion and the tolerance and forgiveness love and compassion inspire and all angry and murderous movements among Muslims are misguided and if the aim is to defend Islam and Muslims and improve the Muslim’s lot far better alternatives exist in Islam. Peace even at the price of compromises and sacrifices is better than war and violence and our Muslims in general are of such poor quality that their improvement needs a very long time and megatonnes of patient and rightly-guided hard social and spiritual work. Muslims cannot complain of living in unsuitable or infertile parts of the world.
On the contrary they live on those very best parts where civilization emerged and rose earliest, places like India, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Anatolia. All these have excellent climates, fertile riversides and river deltas, occasionally torrents of most fertilising rains and most strategic positions and also most civilised and humane traditions (like almost unconditional hospitality and sharing of blessings) reaching back to several millennia. All major classical civilisations as well as all advanced religions originated from lands which Muslims are living today and there is no single objective reason why Muslims could not catch up with the Westerners in objective development within a few decades. Japan did it, Korea did it and now China is doing it. What saps the will and the strength of Muslims is their lack of stable good character consisting of love of truth, love of work for the truth and love of each other.
All truth is in Allah and all of it is revealed in the Qur’an in theory and in the Messenger of Allah sws in practice. The only trouble in this last respect is that almost nobody bothers to study the Qur’an and the Prophet sws deeply and persistently enough with enough sincerity in the sense that they are after acquiring the beatific traits the two parallel sources are exposing. Many love and keep to angry statements in the Qur’an and Hadith and to violent acts in isolation in the history of Islam and keep their eyes shut to those far more numerous compassionate statements and charitable acts. Many more do not bother to study the two sources and even listen to those who studied them. For them Islam is more dress and soulless ritual, murderous and misguided sexual jealousy and warring for personal ‘honour’ and cheating everything and everybody if opportunity arises. Corruption and abuses are rampant in all Muslim countries without exception as is emigration to non-Muslim rich countries for economic gain. Once there many emigrants will not hesitate to cheat or otherwise offend the system in the host country, explaining it as just revenge. While some Muslim ethnic minorities are running most of the drug trade in their new homes in the West others are fomenting trouble by showing their Islam in most unlovable and nerve-racking terms never thinking that they owe a debt of thanks to their tolerant and generous hosts.
All these and more boil down, as already said, to inadequate or misguided remembrance (zikr) of Allah and hence the interminable sufferings and scandalisation of Muslims both at home and abroad.