Sunday, 30 November 2008

Allah is the First and the Last

Why is Allah not the goal?

It's been three months since I packed up and left the UK, and I can't say that I miss it. On the other hand, I can't categorically say that being here is better because only Allah knows what tomorrow will bring. 'Be in the dunya as if you are a stranger, or someone crossing a road'. [Narrated by Imam Al-Bukhari]. Not having a place to call home can be disheartening to some, but it's a beautiful reminder that this is not home. "O my people! This worldly life is but a brief enjoyment, whereas, behold, the life to come is the home abiding." [40:39]

When things don't go according to plan, or they go horribly wrong, this is how Allah reminds us that where we are now is not ultimately where we belong. We need to be yearning for Allah, missing Him, and asking Him not to make the ephemeral things of our existence here more beloved to us than Him, and our inevitable meeting with Him.

'Allah! I miss you! You've placed me here with all these distractions and diversions, but one day I will be back. You are going to call me back. Please allow me to be ready, willing.'

I wish I could say this and think this more often!

In my relatively short time as a Muslim I have noticed a consistent fault that seems to be running through our organisations, whether they be da'wa organisation, tariqas, madhabs, or simple community initiatives. I don't want to say this because I desire to gainsay or disparage a lot of good work that has been done, but I'm going to say what I have to say because I believe things would be very different if this simple point was kept in mind.

Every Muslim organisation must have Allah as its number one objective. The goal and the return is to Him. The most an organisation can be is a means to Allah. A cursory look at some of the words used makes this clear, such as madhab (a road entered upon) or tariqa (a path, or road). But a road to what? A road must have a destination. You wouldn't be on a road if it didn't have a destination. When travelling along a road do you think about where you're going or do you marvel at the tarmac and gravel underneath your feet?

Any Orthodox Muslim organisation is and will be successful as long as it sees itself as a means to Allah, and a means amongst many other means. For example, if an organisation has the objective of getting believers back in the masjid to pray their five daily prayers, every day, then this is indeed noble and full of blessings. As soon as the organisation, at any level, makes its objective the recruitment of believers to the organisation itself, therby making the organisation the end as opposed to the means, things go horribly wrong.

Nowadays many Muslims marvel at the road beneath their feet. 'What madhab do you follow, brother?' We have been commanded to follow the first three generations, and the madhabs are our only link to that blessed age, i.e. it is through the madhabs that Allah has preserved the deen and allowed it to reach us. But does that mean one should exalt in the fact that they are a Maliki and not a Hanafi? No. Should one be alarmed if someone else decides that they would rather be a Hanbali than a Hanafi, or a Shafi'i? No. Does it matter? No. To follow one of the four is what is important. What 'one' that is is not important.

The same thing can be said of people who follow Sufi tariqas nowadays. Many of them love to ask the question: 'Brother, are you on the [enter name here] tariqa?' or 'What tariqa are you on?' or 'Do you have a shaykh? I'm a [enter name of tariqa here] and we're all murids of Shaykh [enter name here].' As soon as someone asks me this question I realise that they've missed the point completely. 'How are you?' is a much better question. We could expand it and say: 'How is your journey back to Allah going?' Alhamdulilah, I do know brothers and sisters who actually mean that when they ask 'how are you?'

What bothers me is that their discussion seems to centre more on the tariqa and the 'shaykh' then it does on Allah. The 'shaykh' did this. The 'shaykh' said this. The 'shaykh' is this and this and this and this etc. On a side note, have these people studied their creed and made sure it is sound and valid? Have they studied their fiqh and have they made sure they are following the mu'tamad positions of their school? This is what the great Imam, Shaikh al-Islam, Abdul-Qadir Al-Jilani stipulated in his book Al-Ghunya. Furthermore, Imam Ash-Shafi'i said:

Faqih and Sufi, don't be just one
For indeed, by the Truth of Allah, I am advising you

That one [the Faqih] is harsh. His heart has not tasted taqwa
This one [the Sufi] is ignorant. How can an ignorant person attain to righteousness?

There are some people who actively promote their respective tariqa and talk endlessly about the massive blessing of being on such and such tariqa. Imagine that you are travelling with some people down the M1 to London because you are going to meet someone. Would you and your friends spend your time talking about how amazing the M1 is: 'Wow! Sometimes there are three lanes going either way and sometimes there are only two!'? Or, would you actually talk about where you're going, realising that the road you are taking is not as important as what the road leads to.

Furthermore, if you tell these people that you are not on their tariqa [there are other motorways that lead to London!] they seem disturbed. Something must be wrong with you. Insha'Allah, you'll 'come round' in time. Maybe you're not one of the 'chosen and blessed few'. These attempts to promote a specific tariqa are in fact a declaration that the specific tariqa has been transformed from a means to an end in and of itself, and it's all downhill from there. They are in awe of the arrow on the signpost and completely oblivious of where it is pointing. It reminds me of the thousands (maybe millions?) of people who are fascinated by people like Malcolm X, claim they have read his autobiograhphy numerous times, but they are yet to say the shahada of salvation and enter into a direct relationship with their Lord. SubhanAllah! What's going on?

We have been created to worship Allah [see 51:56]. We need to be glorifying Him and praising Him with every movement and with every breath. This is the basis of everything, and with Allah alone is every success!