Thursday, 11 October 2012

Counsel of Sidi Ahmad Zarruq P2

The counsel of sidi ahmad zarruq -Translator’s note by Hamza Yusuf

The counsel of sidi ahmad zarruq

[Translator’s note] Finally, we add an extraordinary counsel from Sidi Ahmad Zarruq, may Allah sanctify his secret, taken from his two books The Poor Man’s Book of Assistance (Kitab al-‘Iaana) and The Principles of Tasawwuf (Qawaa’id at-Tasawwuf). It is as follows:

Know – may Allah give you and us success, rectify our worldly and otherworldly lives, and grant us adherence to the way of the Truth in our journeys and our sojourns – that repentance (taubah) is a key, piety (taqwa) is vast, and uprightness is the source of rectification.

Furthermore, a servant is never free of blunders, shortcomings, or lassitude. Therefore, never be neglectful of repentance; never turn away from the act of returning to Allah; and never neglect acts that bring you closer to Allah. Indeed, any time you fail to do one of these three things, repent and return. Any time you make a mistake, listen and obey.

Anytime you display shortcomings or show lack of enthusiasm, don’t desist in your efforts. Let your main concern be to remove from your outward state anything displeasing, and then continue to work on your outward state through continuous counsel.

Continue doing this until you find that fleeing from anything outwardly displeasing is second nature to you and that your avoidance of the boundaries of prohibited things is as if it has resulted from a protective net that was placed before you. At this point, it is time to turn inward toward your heart’s presence and to its reality with both reflection and remembrance.

Don’t hasten the end result before you have completed the beginning, but, like wise, don’t begin without looking toward the end result. This is so because the one who seeks the outset at the end loses providential security, and the one who seeks the end at the outset loses providential guidance. Act in accordance with principles and the appropriate legal rulings and not in accordance with stories and fantasies.

Don’t even consider stories of how things went with others except as a tonic to strengthen your resolve, certainly not as a reference based upon their outward forms or what they seem to be revealing. In all of this, depend upon a clear path to which you can refer and a foundation

upon which you can rely no matter what your state. The best of these is the path of Ibn ‘Ata Illah because it gives clear direction to Allah. Do not take from others’ words unless it is in accordance with your own path, but submit to their implications if you desire realization.

Avoid all forms of vain and foul speech to your absolute utmost. Put aside anything if unable to discern its benefit immediately. Beware of being extremely hard on your selfish soul (nafs) before you have obtained a mastery over it, but also beware of being too lax with it regarding any of the sacred rulings. This is so because it is constantly fleeing from moderation in everything, and it inclines toward extremism in both matters of deviance and guidance!

Seek out a companion to help you out in your affair, and take his counsel concerning matters that occur from both your inward states and your outward affairs. If you do indeed take his companionship, then treat him in a manner commensurate with his state, and give him of yourself based upon his inabilities and abilities because the perfected companion can no longer be found.

indeed, in these times, even a suitable companion who is agreeable rarely lasts.

Furthermore, beware of the majority of people concerning both your religious and worldly affairs, unless you have ascertained they have a sound relationship with their Lord, rooted in knowledge which is free of caprice and love of leadership, and they are in possession of sound intellect, free of the pitfalls of hidden agendas. Do not be heedless of the machinations of others or their hidden states. Consider these two from both their origins and their actions.

People of high character and family distinction are almost always beneficial; on the other hand, excruciating circumstances compel a person of low character rand origin to forsake others in need. Be extremely vigilant of the dominant qualities of a given people in any given land,

And don’t be heedless of the Divine wisdom in the creation; notice gathering in separation. Some of this we have already covered in the book, al-Qawaa’id, so study the subject further there.

Organize your hours in a manner appropriate to each time’s specific needs, using a gentle and tolerant approach all the while being very wary of the extremes of rigidity and laxity. With laxity, this is especially necessary given that too much latitude in permitted matters sets the heart back on its journey to such a degree that even a man of resolve ends up looking like a foolish child.

Work for this world as if you will live forever, but work for your next life as if tomorrow you die.

In other words, do not neglect the externals of your worldly needs, all the while keeping In mind your end and final resting place. Be extremely vigilant about avoiding positions of leadership, but should you be tried with such matters, know your own limitations.

Be absolutely sincere to Allah with the sincerity of one who knows full well the One who is placing demands upon him. Surrender completely to His decree with the submission of one who knows he can never overcome Him. Have a firm foundation in all of your affairs, and you will be safe from their pitfalls.

Organize your devotional practices, and you will find your time is extended due to the grace that pervades it. Never be fanatical about anything, whether it is the truth or not, and your heart will remain in a state of soundness toward others.

Never claim anything to which you are entitled, not to mention that to which you are not entitled, and you will be safe from Connivance and treachery.

Indeed, anyone claiming a rank above his own will fall, scandalized and humiliated. Moreover, those who claim a rank they warrant will have it stripped from them.

Conversely, those who claim a lesser rank than their own will be elevated to an even higher one than they deserve.

Never reveal to your companion anything of your state other than what his own state war-rants.

The reason is that if you go down to his level, he’ll have contempt for you;

whereas if you attempt to raise him up to your level, he’ll forsake you.

Never demand a right from anyone, whether an intimate or a stranger.

The reason is simple: a stranger owes you nothing, and one close to you is too important to direct your blame toward. Never assume that anyone in this world can really understand your circumstances other than from the perspective of his own circumstances, because, in reality, people see things only in accordance with their frames of reference and their personal path.

However, when aims, purposes, and aspirations are similar, people tend to work together toward a common goal.

Never belittle any talk that concerns absent people even if there is no harm in it due to the likelihood of harm entering into it. Guard your secrets even if you feel safe with someone because the one to whom you divulge your secret is not a safer vessel than your own heart before you revealed it.

Never leave an atom’s weight of your regular devotional practice. Never be lenient with yourself in either relaxed times or those of high resolve. Indeed, should you miss some of your practice at a given time, redress it later.

If you are not able to do your usual practice, at least occupy yourself with some other similar practice. Never obey your selfish soul even for a moment nor believe any of its claims no matter what it says. To the utmost, guard your resolve in all affairs;

and should you resolve to do something, do it immediately before it abates or dissipates. Examine your soul constantly in matters you are obliged to do or those that you should do.

Leave off anything you don’t need to do, even the recommended

in short, do not involve yourself in anything other than the absolutely necessary or that in which a real discernible need exists.

Treat others just as you would want to be treated, and fulfill what is due.

All of this is epitomized in the words of the poet when he said,

If you desire to live such that your religion is safe
And your portion is full and your honor is sound

Guard your tongue; never mention another’s faults
For you too have faults and others too have tongues!

Take care the eye, when it reveals another’s faults
Saying, “O my eyes, remember the eyes of others!”

Live treating well all others and avoid aggression
And should they oppress, repel it but with kindness.

The source of these words is in fact the traditions of the Prophet, peace be upon him, when he said,

“Be vigilant of Allah wherever you are, and follow a misdeed with a good deed, and it will remove it; and treat others with the most excellence of character.”

In another, he, peace and blessings of Allah upon him, said, “Every child of Adam makes mistakes, and the best of those who make mistakes are those who seek to redress them.”

He also said, “The Holy Spirit inspired my heart’s core that no soul will die until it fulfills Its decreed portion of this world and its appointed time here, so be conscious of Allah, and make your requests with dignity.”

In summation, repentance, awareness of Allah, and uprightness are the foundations of all benefits. The truth is manifest, and its details are weighty and significant. The affair belongs to Allah.

Success is in His hands. Peace.

From al-qawaa’id Our Shaykh Abul ‘Abbaas al-Hadrami -
Translator’s note by Hamza Yusuf

From al-qawaa’id  Our Shaykh Abul ‘Abbaas al-Hadrami said:

Spiritual training was elevated [to a science] due to the development of a Technical vocabulary, but benefit from it is derived only as a result of aspiration and spiritual states, so adhere to the Book and the prophetic practice without omitting or adding anything.

This applies to all of your transactions with your Creator, the creation, and yourself.

As for what is between you and God, three matters are concerned:

fulfilling obligations, avoiding prohibitions, and submitting completely to His decrees.

As for dealing with the self, this also involves three necessities:

an unbiased approach to the truth;
abandoning defence mechanisms, such as self-justification;
and guarding against the dangers of the self in respect to its attractions and aversions, its acceptances and rejections, and its comings and goings.

As for dealing with people, this concerns three requirements also:

ensuring their rights are fulfilled;
virtuous lack of desire for their possessions;
and absolute avoidance of anything that adversely affects their hearts unless it concerns an obligation to the Truth that cannot be ignored.

Any aspirant of this path who inclines toward the following preoccupations will perish:

horseback riding;

general self-interests;

occupation with changing social wrongs or with fighting in military jihads while neglecting the acquisition of personal merit and virtue believing that he is in no need of rectifying his own soul or that he can obtain all of the virtues;

seeking out the faults of his brothers and others;

excusing himself by claiming abandonment of the world;

spending all of his time in religious devotion;

spending a good deal of time in public gatherings or seeking company, not for teaching or learning but simply for human companionship;

inclining toward the people of wealth, claiming he is doing so for religious reasons;

preoccupying himself with spiritual matters of the heart before learning the basis of sound transactions or the rectification of his faults;

thrusting himself forth as a spiritual teacher without being appointed by a true spiritual master, scholar, or Imam;

mindlessly following anyone who says, “follow me,” whether his words be true or false, without ascertaining the details of his state;

belittling someone who is among the people of Allah, even if he should deem that person insincere based upon some proof he has;

inclining toward dispensations and interpretations;

putting the inward before the outward;

being satisfied with the outward to the detriment of the inward;

extracting from one what contradicts the other;

being content with knowledge devoid of action or with action devoid of an inward state or knowledge;

believing that an inward state suffices without the other two;

or having no principle to which he has recourse in his actions, knowledge, states, or religious practices from the accepted principles in the books of the Imams, such as the books of Ibn ‘Ata Illah concerning inward matters, especially at-Tanwir, and, concerning outward manners, the book of Ibn al-Hajj, Madkhal, and those of his Shaykh, Ibn Abi Jamrah, as well as of others who follow the same path from among the realized masters; may Allah have mercy on all of them.

Any aspirant who is of the above mentioned types is in fact ruined and has no salvation on this path, but whoever holds to the Book and the prophetic practice will be safe and Godspeed arrive. Protection is from Him alone, and success is by Him.

The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, was once asked about Allah’s words, “Tend to your own souls.”

He replied, “If you see covetousness obeyed, passions and whims followed, and every opinionated person marvelling at his own opinions, then tend to your own soul.”

He, may Allah grant him peace and blessings, also said something to this effect:

In the Tablets of Abraham, upon him be peace, it is written, “An intelligent person should know the age in which he lives;

he should hold his tongue and mind his own business.

An intelligent person should have four portions of his day for the following: a portion to take his soul to account, a portion to converse with his Lord, a portion to spend time with his brothers –

meaning those who help him to see clearly his faults and direct him to his Lord –and a portion to indulge in his own personal recreation from the permissible appetites of man.”

May Allah provide us with that and help us to fulfill it. May He always maintain us in a State of grace, for we cannot survive without His bestowal of grace and prosperity. Allah is enough for us, and God is the best of protectors.

May prayers and peace be upon our master Muhammad and his family and his companions

Some principles in al-Qawa'id by Zarruq

The demands made on a person should be according to his rank and he should be addressed according to his background.
A common man is not expected to have more than taqwa.
A faqih is not expected to be anything other than correct.
The murid is expected to have sincerity as well as the first two qualities.
The gnostic is expected to have scrupulousness. A common man without taqwa is corrupt.
A faqih without correctness is incompetent.
A murid without truthfulness is a fraud who is amusing himself.
(This is one of the principles in al-Qawa'id by Zarruq


Something that is common practice among ordinary people can constitute a shortcoming in the elite. That is how things are.

The imperfection of the age, the imperfection of the people and the blameworthiness of the rulers, qadis, and false pretenders to piety does not mean that there has to be general corruption.

Among the community of Musa there was a group who were guided by the truth and judged by it.
This group continued to base themselves on the command of Allah and those who opposed them did not harm them until the command of Allah came.

There is a poem on this:
Except for a group of them with virtue and restraint. There is in respect to the common people, a people who are elite in the sight of Allah.This elite adorns the land as gems adorn the rings of kings.

"People are mines." In every land there are masters and in every region there are leaders.
An individual is measured by his character.
That is why it is said that people are the creatures of their character.
As a general rule, no one is blamed unless there is a reason for it. (This is from al-Qawa'id by Zarruq with some additions)


Things are judged according to what is intended by them. Anyone who learns knowledge for its own sake acts on it. Anyone who learns it for sane (i think that should say sake) other reason is only out to disparage others.

Referring to this, Ahmad Zarruq said in the 'Umda al-Murid as-Sadiq, "One instance of using a thing in the wrong way is when people use their knowledge to examine others, but do not use it to judge themselves.

What you find is that when one of these people hears about a harmful matter into which ordinary scholars, fuqara' and others have fallen, he says, 'This is the state of people today. This is the way they act.' But he does not look at the same thing in himself.

He is blind to his own faults, but sees the faults of his brother. That comes from him having a good opinion of himself and considering himself blameless.
The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, indicated this state when he said, 'There are those among you who see the speck in their brother's eye and do not see the tree trunk in their own eye.' (Hadith)"

The only thing that stops a scholar from acting by his knowledge is the fact that he learns it for the sake of other people.
The only thing that will give them true fame is learning it for their own betterment.
Anyone who learns knowledge for his own betterment is guided and given insight.
Anyone who learns knowledge for the sake of someone else rarely benefits by it.
If someone seeks this world by actions pertaining to the Next World, the punishment of his knowledge is the death of his heart, as traditions have indicated.
So learn knowledge in order to apply it.
Do not learn it for the sake of gain thereby making it an argument against yourselves rather than an argument for yourselves and against other people.

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