The write up Below is from this event: http://www.sunniforum.com/forum/show...-Path-To-Piety
Although not originally intended for SF I thought I'd adapt it and share it here.
I begin in the name of Allah, upon whom is due all praise. Blessing and salutations on Muhammad the last and final prophet, his family, his companions and on the believers at large.
I spent the long weekend at beginning of August, from Friday morning to Monday morning in Toronto (or should I say Toronto-e-Sharif). It was my first trip there after a very long time.
I was there on account of Path to Piety’s “Season of the Soul” Ramadan Retreat/I’tikaf program with Shaykh Hussain Abdul Sattar (Hafidhahullah). This was just one of the many excellent programs and conferences that Path to Piety has put on over the years.
I have decided to summarize the lessons imparted by Shaykh Hussain. This is by no means an exhaustive article. I elaborate on the details of some of the individual lectures but not on others. And I don’t want to spend all week on this either. It is Ramadan there is a lot more stuff that you and I could be doing then reading or writing this. And I also have 60 or so pages to read from a PhD proposal and must come up with an idea for my honour’s thesis (deadline is encroaching).
Inshallah, writing this will help me and the reader in a couple of ways. Firstly, it will help me reflect and really try to drive the lessons home, it will allow me to share the experience with those are curious and would like to know more about event or Shaykh Hussain and perhaps motivate others to spend some time from their busy schedules in the path of Allah.
Before we begin, who is Shaykh and why did he peak my interest enough for me to decide to travel to the other side of the country?
Shaykh Husain [may Allah preserve him] was born in Chicago (USA) in 1972. After completing his primary education at schools in his hometown near Chicago, he joined the University of Chicago where he studied Biology, Arabic and Islamic Civilization. It was during this period that he began his study of sacred knowledge, studying Arabic grammar (nahw), Hanafi Fiqh and Usul al-Fiqh under ulama (scholars) in Chicago. In 1994 Shaykh Husain also began training in Islamic spirituality under Shaykh Zulfiqar Ahmad, a leading shaykh in this field.
After obtaining his undergraduate degree, Shaykh Husain enrolled in the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago. Along with his medical studies, he continued his studies of sacred knowledge. In his final year he took leave from medical school to focus on his religious studies, traveling to Syria and then Pakistan, where he studied a traditional curriculum for a number of years under some of their greatest scholars.
Throughout his years of study, Shaykh Husain continued his training under Shaykh Zulfiqar Ahmad. He was blessed with the close company of his Shaykh, learning the science of the purification of the heart. The deep taqwa and firm adherence to the sunnah and Shariah that characterized his teacher were eventually transferred to the student and Shaykh Husain was formally authorized in this science by Shaykh Zulfiqar in July 2001.
Shaykh Husain has completed medical school and is currently an Assistant Professor of Pathology at University of Chicago's Prizker School of Medicine and also practices Surgical Pathology at the University of Chicago Medical Center. During his free time, he teaches and lectures across the United States on various subjects of Islamic knowledge, including purification of the soul.
Shaykh Husain is presently engaged in editing and publishing the translations of his teacher’s books into English. In addition, he is completing his own written works including the popular series, “Fundamentals of Classical Arabic” and a manual on Hanafi fiqh entitled, “The Stairs to Bliss.” [forthcoming]
(Bio taken from http://pathtopiety.com)
Okay now that we’re well acquainted with him, I first learned about him and started listening to his lectures a year ago. They can be found at his website (www.sacredlearning.org), and I have found them immensely beneficial. They’re not really fiqh or aqeedah lectures, they’re more concerned with the true essence of imaan and the subject of tasawwuf or “spiritual psychology” (if I may use the words of Mufti Abdurrahman Ibn Yusuf). They might be more akin to the lectures by Ustadh Noman Ali Khan or Shaykh Musleh Khan. They are very spiritually uplifting lectures and the majority of the lessons imparted at the event can be found in his lectures and one can refer to them for greater elaboration of the subject matter.
I was super interested in attending this ecent as soon as I found out about it, as well I had questions that were best suited for someone with Shaykh Hussain’s background, and when I explained the situation to Shaykh Fayaz he agreed that I should go and that there would be no issue at all in me taking a few days off of taraweeh duties at NW musalla. My parents also agreed, and even offered to pay for the flight, which I did not feel too comfortable with (since its not cheap getting tickets only one week in advance), luckily I had already paid and thus did not need to have a lengthy discussion with them on the topic.
On the morning of the blessed day of Friday, a day that held merit even before a very unfortunate aspiring singer exposed herself to ridicule and perhaps even the ire of much of the world, I took a flight down to Toronto-e-Sharif.
Shaykh Fayaz’s elder brother Feisal picked me up I spent much of the day with him, I enjoyed his company, conversation, hospitality, not to mention the miniature gujji samosas during iftar at his house. I also met Shaykh Fayaz’s father as well. My thanks to all of them and their families, may Allah repay them in kind.
The actual Itikaaf program, which began that same day, drew people from many different backgrounds. I spent quite a bit of time with Afghans, Syrians, and a Somali brother at the event.
A summary of some of the key lectures are posted below. The “BONUS SECTION” includes lecture summaries that I was debating whether or not to include on account of how long this document was getting. [so as not confuse my thoughts with Shaykh's discourse, my own commentary is presented in square brackets.]
After Asr on that day the event began at the very vibrant and active mosque, Masjid Darrussalam. Shaykh Hussain began with a discourse that explained the conditions and functions of itikaf. He spent some discussing the meaning and root of the word which was “to stick [to something]”, in this case the masjid. He mused at how his daughter would make I’tikaf of his leg and yell “Baba I want x,y,z…” whenever she wanted something him to buy her something. He reflected on the fact that our zeal to attain nearness with Allah should be no less and explained how we should devote ourselves completely to Allah in this gathering. Thus we should shut off our phones, leave them in the car. The whole purpose of itikaaf is to block one’s self off from the outside world, it’s not the time to study for your MCAT, check your e-mails or feed your FB or twitter addictions. Plug yourself completely into Allah, make dhikr, read quran, salah, or just sit facing qiblah in silence and you will surely benefit, he told us this from experience and observation. He mentioned the three stages of fasting (more on that here http://seekersguidance.org/blog/2009...id-al-ghazali/ ). The first stage is to abstain (or fast) from food, drink and sex. The second being to fast from everything that is impermissible. The third being to fast from everything worldly, or everything other than Allah. The purpose of I’tikaaf (when done correctly) is to realize the third stage of fasting.
Despite the fact that this talk was more of an intro lecture to the event, Shaykh’s down to earth way of speaking, his composure, and his enthusiasm really affected the crowd. I believe this was the only lecture during which Shaykh sat on a chair elevated above everyone else, during every other lecture he would sit on the ground surrounded by everyone else. Everyone had to struggle to be able to seem him during the talks, as the masjid (roughly the size of SW mosque in Calgary) was packed.
Search up his “introduction to itikaf” lecture if you’re interested in the subject.
“The Root of Sin”
I distinctly remember after the first lecture two individuals were talking to him. Their dress, skin color, and composure all taken together hinted at the fact that they were either non-muslim or new muslim (yes I know blatant over-generalization, but hey it’s human nature to come to conclusions based on appearances). Despite the fact that this particular talk was somewhat light and not too deep, both individuals were affected by it. They spoke about how impressed they were with how, he could communicate, when they asked him about his dunyawi ta’leem (qualifications) they were very impressed at how such an accomplished individual with such a busy schedule was so humble and so “down to earth” (their words). I remember thinking how could they make such profound statements based on a single lecture, not that I didn’t feel the same way, but then I had been listening to him for over a year.
One of the two individuals told Shaykh that he was either a student or teacher (I can’t remember) at a certain seminary school (Christian, I don’t know what denomination) near Chicago and expressed his desire to drop in and visit Shaykh at his masjid in Chicago (Islamic Center of Chicago). So I gathered that he was not a new Muslim by that point.
He asked Shaykh “what is the root of sin?” Shaykh replied that that the way it had been explained in the Islamic tradition and by his teachers was that a human is a vessel/boat that needs to get from point A to point B (afterlife, jannah inshallah), while traversing over the water (dunya) the key is to get make the journey without allowing water to seep in and thus sink along the way (drown in the dunya). He went further and said that when individuals allow themselves to become the slaves of their animalistic/wordly desires, then what are they but animals? Because what are animals concerned with? Food, sleep, appearance, and sex. In a very humble, non-accusatory, manner that really caused me to think he then said “it’s not hard to find people like that.” He also elaborated on the importance of fasting and Ramadan and its relation to this subject (i.e. overcoming base desires, nafs). [I just want to add that the root of sin, is not shaytaan, no it is one’s own self. What caused shaytaan to sin? oh, and note how i'm not doing him the privilege of capitalizing his name].
“Create space in your heart for Allah”
In another lecture he expounded on the fact that it is one of the fundamental qualities of the heart for it to love and become attached to things. The heart has a very strong propensity to grow attached to that which it is consistently exposed to. If one chooses to fill their heart with dunya, then they will begin to love the dunya and stray from the fitra state in which they came into the world (you can read up more on this in Mufti Abdurrahman Ibn Yusuf’s “Imam Abu Hanifa’s Fiqh Al’Akbar Explained”).
The heart is a vessel you choose to fill it with what you want either Allah, or something else. If you chose the latter you will not taste the sweetness of iman and you will not enjoy your ibadah. One should strive to cleanse their heart of dunya. By limiting the amount of exposure to the harms of the dunya, i.e. lowering gaze, avoiding (Riba) interest, avoiding the music of the dunya, the shariah aims to create space in the heart for Allah. We have been told to look at the creation to reflect on the creator, the only things we have been told to veil our gaze from is the harms of the dunya and ghayr mahram. We can listen to all beautiful songs of the dhikr of Allah generated by the wind, by leaves on the trees, by birds, by all the creations, by the qurra’, by the munshids, however we have been told to stay away from the music of the dunya (involving instruments) [search up “shaykh nuh keller” and “music” on youtube].
When dunya is observed and heard, one’s heart naturally becomes attached to it (filled by it), leaving no room for Allah. Follow the shariah, bring your heart back into its natural state and create room for the remembrance of Allah at all times. Shaykh Hussain expounded on the explanation presented by Shaykh Zulfiqar, that when empty space, or a vacuum is created in the heart by removing all the dunyawi filth, Allah is naturally drawn into heart of the servant.
“Avoid the Environment of Sin”
Another important lesson he imparted was the importance of avoiding all those circumstances situations which lead us to sin. There ahadith which elaborate on this point, specifically the people of taqwa sometimes avoid things which are not strictly speaking haram, to avoid those that are haram. He gave many examples of this. I think if one is serious about the deen and lowering the gaze they must really take this advice to heart. Obviously not all individuals are exactly the same and some, through practice, have a greater command over their gaze. thus not all individuals are guaranteed to fall into a certain sin when they encounter the same environment. So this is something the individual must seriously consider on a personal level.
Shaykh is vehemently against TV, as it of course will lead to staring at ghayr mahram [to paraphrase the late shaheed Maulana Aslam Sheikupuri (rah) “all those things that are haram to view in real life, are haram to view on TV”].
Shaykh gave some very serious advice, that the goal is not to stifle all social activity or fun, but to gain nearness to Allah and limit/eliminate all those activities which are a roadblock in that path (suluk). In this regard he talked about if an individual has trouble lowering their gaze at the mall, don’t go to the mall [or the Calgary Stampede, since it’s not a necessity]. Instead of going to the supermarket during busy hours during the day, when it’s sure to be difficult for your to lower your gaze, go at 9pm Sunday. He listed many other things to get people’s minds going. Point being if one is serious about the deen they can avoid sin by avoiding the environment that leads to it [could Allah have been so unjust to place upon us a burden we could not bear?]. In this regard Allah advised Adam and Hawa to not even go “near the tree” he didn’t say “climb it, do whatever you wish, just don’t eat from it.” [Allah (saws) said int he Qur'an “do not even go near zina”].
An individual convinces himself that he needs to go on CNN online for news, once there he reads a bit about Syria, then on the side he reads about some celeb who’s not altogether too happy about some photos that were taken of here at some beach X. he then says, you know what that’s not good why were they violating her rights? or were they actually violating her rights? what is she so unhappy about, lets see this article/picture and decide. He clicks the link. Next he’s like oh she was at beach X, I wonder what type of a beach that is, he searches it up (wastes a couple of minutes). Eventually he finds himself in situation that he didn’t foresee when he got on CNN. Of course shaytaan is laughing in the background and the individual is left to deal with his guilt. If your that individual there is no point in you going on CNN, remember avoiding sin is fardh, getting the news isn’t. period.
Remember shaytaan will always make the pursuit of a sin appealing only afterwards the individual realize what sort of disgusting deed he got himself involved in. That’s the type of enemy shaytaan is he props you up, then he drops you.
He talked some more about the fact that muslims who fulfill the faraidh, but haven’t taken the deen to the next level, generally aren’t lacking in deeds. The ajr of the faraidh acts are huge, however it’s the fact that they don’t leave their misdeeds behind, that drags them down. A far greater emphasis is placed in the shariah on avoidance of sin than pursuing nawafil acts. When one pursues good deeds but doesn’t work on his/her sins, what they’re doing is “filling the bath tub” but not accumulating anything because they haven’t “plugged the drain”.
[You’re the best judge, do you really need to be in a certain environment and what sins will it inevitably lead to? If Allah made us all so powerful that we jump right into the battleground and lower our gaze, or avoid backbiting or whatever sin was likely to occur in that particular environment why on earth would hijab/purdah be a fundamental institution of the deen? ]
[Why is it that we can put our minds to anything and create safer ways of doing things and avoid the pitfalls of a certain activity/task. Yet when it comes to the deen our minds switch off and we suddenly think we can take on the world and won’t fall into sin? I say sure I can enter the bar with my friends it won’t have an effect on me, I can withstand it… yeah right. Why do we think this way? Is it because it’s too difficult to go against the social trend? Obviously any time you challenge your nafs their will be a struggle, that’s how you know you’re headed in the right direction. But if one isn’t serious about developing their connection with Allah and there is no decency left in you then do as ye please! Full freedom, do what feels good.]
[Just as a side not the principle of avoiding the environment of a sin, and the principle of blocking the means by which a sin occurs are well known in the Shariah and the Hanafis pay special heed to them in their fiqhi rulings.]
“Edit Your Manuscripts!”
Unknown to many Muslims, but well known to Medical students in the US, Shaykh Hussain is quite the “superstar” (to quote Br. Hamza Jalal) in pathology, and his textbook “Fundamentals of Pathology” is read by 3/4 med students. Given that his competitors are Kaplan and others, where upwards of ten authors can be employed on a single book, that’s pretty BOSS.
Shaykh talked about how much time and months he had to devote to writing the book [keep in mind he’s a family man, is devoted to his students in university, is devoted to his students in taswuff, and regularly gives dars of tafseer and other lectures]. He talked about how much time went in to editing it. How he would write at night, go to sleep, then wake up and go over what he wrote up. He talked about how every chapter on a certain topic was given to the best expert in that area at his university to look over. He talked about the various editors he recruited look it over.
One week before he had to submit it to the publisher, he made a split second decision that the book needed to be read over some more and he contacted all of his mureeds (students in tasawuf) in the locality, who were also physicians, and asked them to come over to his house. He told them “we’re doing a khattam” (he chuckles). They were doing a khattam of his book and he had every student read one chapter, edit it, suggest changes etc.
Obviously with every new level of editing the mistakes that were pointed out decreased. But Shaykh was determined that his text be error free, both in terms of content and language and that it read well. He wanted it to be perfect. He said that’s how an author should be. During the stage before it’s sent to the printers one has to be meticulous and find every single mistake because once it’s in print the matter gets a lot more complicated. For this reason he was happy whenever a mistake was pointed out because it meant the text book just improved that much more.
“But all of you are authors” he told us, as all of us are writing a book. The book is currently in its manuscript stage but eventually it will be printed (hard copy) and placed in either our right or left hand. Now is the time to edit it, delete portions, add to it and improve it. That’s why every day we have to set some time aside and reflect on our book and what we’ve done that day. We should make 100 istighfar while reflecting.
The method of making istighfar is not “yep 10 down, 90 to go,…yay only 20 more to go…” More important than the actual number, is to reflect on your deeds as your doing it.
So how do you make istighfar while reflecting? “Astaghfirullah, when I woke rather than remember you I immediately ran to the computer. astaghfirullah on the bus I stared at what I shouldn’t have stared at. astaghfirullah I missed my fajr prayer. Astaghfirullah, astaghfirullah, astaghfirullah, today when Jehovah’s Witnesses came to the door I told my son to say that his parents weren’t home I was lying and commanding my son to lie…”
[only when you reflect on your deeds will ever be able to make a commitment to improve them, and to edit out those things which are not conducive to developing a connection with Allah, only then will you be able to actually quantify your misdeeds and see if you are actually improving]. Making istighfar allows you to delete [or “Backspace” if you’re a PC user] those unseemly sections of your book.
Before you submit your paper/assignment you look over it and often you have a friend (or friends) look over it. There is great importance in keeping good company as they can also edit your book for you and point out your errors. Rather than reacting with hostility we should be happy that the error in our book has been pointed out so that we can fix it.
When great and important books such as your magnus opus “book of deeds” are being published, they are first examined by expert editors who can catch what others miss and really give you expert suggestions. The mashayikh fulfill that role and so one should always endeavour to spend time with them to get a professional and thorough edit of their book.
Now is the time to change, delete, edit, and improve your book, BEFORE it’s printed.
“My Teacher is the Best Teacher …My Children are the Best Children”
One of the basic features of the submission we all claim to have made to God is accepting decree and being content with our circumstances. On this note he mentioned how once Shaykh Zulfiqar mentioned that his teacher Ghulam Habib (rah) was the best teacher that he could have ever had, and that despite the fact that there some very great mashayikh in history none of them could have benefitted him the way Ghulam Habib had.
It took Shaykh Hussain a while to fully realize the truth in this message, and he then went on to say that my shaykh is the best of shaykhs for me, because when I required a teacher Allah provided me THIS one. The only individual who had a better teacher was Abu Bakr (ra) who had Rasulullah (saws) as his shaykh. The fact is that until you realize just how blessed you are to have that teacher and devote yourself completely to the teacher you won`t be able to get maximum benefit from the teacher.
He then told a story from his days in a small madrassa in Pakistan. When the final year of hadith study came up (wherein the sihah sitta are studied) they had a new shaikhul hadith in the madrassa who had never previously taught the books. Consequently the majority of the students bailed and said we’ll go to x,y,z, institute where shaykh so and so has been teaching for 20 years and we’ll go study with Mufti Taqi Uthmani etc.. Basically they had no confidence in the teacher who was just starting it out and so they left. Shaykh Hussain stayed behind and adopted the attitude that Allah provided me with this teacher, so I will stay and try to benefit from him.
When classes began this teacher entered the classroom to find that there only 6 or so students, and despite the fact that there was hardly anyone in the lecture hall, he taught with such enthusiasm, preparation and energy as if the whole hall was full. The teacher (Mufti Muhammad Amin), was just happy to be given the opportunity by Allah to teach these books. Shaykh Hussain mentions that no other teacher of Bukhari in history could have ever taught him like Mufti Amin did, except for maybe Imam Bukhari himself. When he lectures in Harvard people ask him where did you learn how to teach with like that (with energy, enthusiasm, sincerity), he replies everything I learned (in regards to teaching style) I learned from a humble scholar who lived in hut (i.e. Mufti Amin). If you want to benefit from your teachers you must “plug-in to them completely” and stop comparing them to this or that person. When you required a teacher Allah gave you one, be thankful, and devote yourself completely and you will realize just how much you can actually benefit from them.
This principle is not limited to your teachers in the deen [or your teachers in secular studies]. It extends to your wife as well. When you desired to get married Allah provided you with a wife, be thankful and devote yourself completely to her. If your one of those who can’t keep his eyes off of ghayr-mahram, then your relationship with your wife will always fall short of what it could have been. Also stop complaining or comparing your wife to someone else.
“When I had no children and desired children Allah gave me children” he said. They were the best children he could have ever asked for. Parents need to stop comparing their children with other’s children, and realize that Allah already gave them the greatest children they could ever ask for. Children are by their very nature unique some are very intelligent, some like to read, some to play sports, some are more hyper, some take longer to learn certain lessons, and some are handicapped. Whatever the case Allah granted you what was best for you.
Then there are children who cannot appreciate their parents. They always compare their parents to x,y,z never able to devote themselves completely to their parents, and so they are never able to benefit from their parents. The truth is jannah lies under you mother’s feet as she is, not if she was like x,y,z jannah would lie under her feet. No, you have been blessed with the greatest woman to be your mother and you need to dig under HER feet.
There are some who say, “well I’m only going to serve my parents, if they show me the appreciation that’s due to me”. That statement is wrong on so many levels, let’s leave the obvious arrogance aside for a moment. Even if your parent is the worst person in the world and all he/she does is yell at you (and Shaykh makes it very clear that is most definitely not the case), since when was your service to your parents conditional to how they treated you? We serve our parents because Allah commanded us to serve them, not because we’re looking for appreciation in this life. [We serve and assist them because we would like Allah to assist us on the day of judgement.]
Shaykh extended this principle further and went so far as to say “I have the best boss in the world.” While others may complain and backbite about their bosses, Shaykh Hussain reconizes that Allah made him subordinate to this particular individual. One has to stop comparing their boss to x,y,z and realize that he is the best boss because Allah provided him, he’s not the “worst boss” or the “meanest boss.”
“You wanna know, how I am with my boss?” He asked. He said that when he left work he would go to his boss’s office and ask “is there anything I can do for you?”. “My boss knows that lecture on Islamic topics, my boss knows that go for itikaaf”. The point is he has won over his boss and thus never faces any problems when it coems to his devotions to the deen.
My Closing Remarks
The lessons Shaykh mentioned are not the most easy to implement. That’s why daily dhikr and istighfar are needed to soften one’s heart and make it more conducive to obeying the commands of Allah and developing taqwa. The purpose of this write up was not to make myself or anyone else feel like they’re level of connection to the deen was insignificant, just to make one think and reflect on a personal level how serious do they take the deen.
Ask yourself, is the struggle against your nafs limited to posting a few articles, attending or listening to a few speeches on Ghazzali or others that make them feel “spiritual?” Is it limited to a few FB posts? When it comes down to it are you really willing to lower our gaze with people we know, or will we be no better than animals? Along the path to attaining maiah or ma’rifah with Allah, as shaykh Hussain often says, “the ball is in YOUR court”. Are you on the fence about your deen or have you chosen what direction you want your life to take? Are you willing to make a sacrifice for that cause, not limited to an FB post or a post in some Islamic online forum, or will you actually take concrete steps and try to do something?
Remember YOU are the biggest obstacle to progress, there is no barrier to Allah’s love and mercy unless you make it your life’s goal to put one there.
Many more lessons could have been included but these will suffice. My thanks to Br. Feisal who provided me notebooks for the talks, without which would not have had such detailed lecture summaries.
Tasawuff Focus, Dhikr of the Tariqah, Shaykh Hussain’s Students
For those who are interested in Shaykh’s Tariqa. I’m Including this section. It’s not based on any talks just on what I already knew about him and learned at the event. There may be mistakes in this section, and I would ask you to forgive me if you encounter any and, of course, point them out. I thought it would be beneficial to include this section for obvious reasons.
Shaykh Hussain received Ijaza from Shaykh Zulfiqar Ahmed Naqshbandi (hafidhahullah). Their silsilah passes through Shaykh Ahmed Sirhindi (rah), whose contributions to the preservation of the deen any student of Islamic history in the Indian subcontinent can readily appreciate. [I don’t know of any good lectures about Shaykh Ahmed Sirhindi him on youtube, but Shaykh Muhammad Musa Al’Shareef briefly touches on him in his biography of Sultan Aurengzeb Alamgir (rah) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K37EL...ature=related].
The “dhikr” of the tariqah, that is to say the nawafil dhikr which is prescribed in this tariqah is muraqabah. The emphasis on muraqabah is of course one of the salient feature of the nasqhbandis. Muraqabah is the silent dhikr of the heart [refer to the lecture “understanding muraqabah”]. At least once a day after a specific discourse Shaykh would have everyone make muraqabah for a few minutes.
Other than that the students of Shaykh Hussain, read 100 istighfar (the details of which were mentioned previously) and 100 salawat, in the morning and evening. They also engage in daily tilawah (at least 10 minutes) and daily muraqabah. [These are details I gleaned from talking to his students, both those who were new and those who had spent some time under him.]
All of the students that I spoke to wore turbans and paid attention to the outward sunnah (i.e. white clothing). Furthermore, I think Shaykh has a way of drawing in physicians and med students (though to be fair I did meet a student who was neither and was studying at a madrassa). When I mentioned this point to one of his students (who was a physician), who he asked me what I background was when I answered that I was an undergrad majoring in biomedical sciences, he smiled.
“Benefitting from the Company of Pious/Kunu Ma’asadiqeen”
[There are many evidences that can presented on this subject from both the Quran and the hadith, however my intention here is to reflect not put forward arguments and evidences.]
Shaykh talked about how when in the presence of pious individuals it is one things to benefit from their words, advice/naseehat, but there is a perhaps even greater benefit that is derived simply from being in their presence. This is because obviously that which is good radiates goodness to all that which is around it. The barakah Allah bestows probably has a lot to do with this. Just think how many sahabah actually knew the languages of the people they encountered. Their dawa had little do with words. Rather their deeds, the barakah, and the sincerity of those individuals played a greater impact. [Would the sahabah buried in Kashmir or Afghanistan have known the language, what about the sahabi buried in eastern China did he?]. On one occasion the teacher of Shaykh Zulfiqar, Shaykh Ghulam Habib (rah), sat down in a gathering with his students and silently made some dhikr and then simply got up said salam and began to walk away from the crowd. Upon this his students were alarmed and said “Hazrat but you haven’t even advised us or imparted anything to us”. Upon this he replied “If you did not benefit from my silence how will you ever benefit from my words”.
We should strive to be in good company and particularly spend some time with the awliya and try to benefit from what the spiritual wealth, inheritance of the prophet which they possess. the sahabah became the sahabah simply on account of their “suhbah” (association/keeping company) with the prophet (saws) in a state of emaan. We should likewise do suhbah with the awliya, zuhad, ulema, mashayikh who are the inheritors of the prophet [for a detailed list of the inheritance of prophet and those things which it entails i.e. those tasks/qualitites of the prophet which the upright ulema/mashayikh have to adopt refer to ayah 139 Surah Baqarah or 164 Ale Imran].
Shaykh talked about the confusion in the deen caused by individuals who have had no study of the deen going around and issuing opinions on every Islamic subject.
This problem is a result of individuals pursuing secular qualifications but not complementing that with any Islamic study. When individuals purse advanced education and their understanding of the deen is meager at best, they eventually begin to substitute their secular studies for deen. Stated differently “because of their sincerity they begin to extrapolate physics and make it deen”. [Sure the an old farmer in the field did not have a deep understanding of fiqh, hadith etc. but this farmer hadn’t advanced very much in terms of his education intellectual development. This farmer was simply content to hear and obey.] When individual study advanced education that expands their mind then they must follow that up by sitting with scholars and attending their classes to better understand their deen [there are many masjids that have halaqahs, classes, and there are institutes that try to do this sort of thing].
The Ulema are not saying that you can’t have an opinion or take an intellectual interest in your deen. They are saying that the deen is serious, we’re talking about people’s akhirah here as well as your own. [You wouldn’t let an individual with an elementary understanding of biology perform open heart surgery. So why would you let a PhD student, well accomplished in terms of his profession, but with a lower than kindergarten understanding of the deen be allowed to give fatawa and mislead people? Is your spiritual well-being any less important than your physical well-being?]. Have opinions, but have some background in the deen first. [Do not denounce the opinions of the scholars or the schools of thought if you haven’t even thoroughly studied them.] This again underscores the importance of staying in the company of the righteous scholars of the deen.
Shaykh Hussain mentioned one of the events that possibly spurred him to study the deen further. When he was a Freshman he took a trip to Pakistan. Once there, he dropped by Darul Uloom Karachi where his father introduced him to Mufti Taqi Uthmani (hafidhahullah) and said “Maulana saheb, my son is a very intelligent boy. He was even part of the 10 sura club in Sunday school.” (Shaykh chuckles upon mentioning this). “He has questions, and you should really answer them, cause he’s a very smart boy”. Basically, what ended up happening is that for a month Shaykh would spend half an hour asking Mufti Taqi Uthmani questions every day. Looking back he realizes how foolish it was of him to intrude on one of the world’s leading Muftis for simple questions which his local Imam could have answered. One of the advices he Mufti Taqi Uthmani gave him was that the boy had pursued a degree of worldly qualifications and owed it to himself to study the deen as well and try to gain some understanding of it.
Basically, the more secular studies you pursue, the more deeni studies you must pursue. [Mufti Abdurrahman Ibn Yusuf also explained this principle in his intro to his Aqeedah Tahaweeyah course. Basically he said the majority of people don’t need such an in depth study of Aqeedah, but when you study the sciences, medicine, the social sciences, or philosophy, and lack a rigorous understanding of aqeedah, you will start to run into problems and come to your own conclusions on different issues of belief. This is really serious stuff folks that could risk you leaving the fold of ahlussunah wal jamah so pay heed.]
There are some things that are absolutely essential for every individual to learn and know, however depending on one’s circumstances a lot of other things might also become obligatory upon them to know. [i.e. A lawyer, dealing with estates, wills, inheritance, should be familiar with the Fiqh of inheritance and of course learn it from scholars.]