Thursday, February 28, 2008

Az-Zuhd: Islamic approach on Asceticism

Be in this world
as if you are a traveler,
A passerby, with your clothes
and shoes full of dust.
Sometimes you will sit
under the shade of a tree,
Sometimes you will walk in the desert.
Be a passerby always,
for this world is not your home.
- Prophet Muhammad

For the family of God, Az-Zuhd means to leave this world for the world-to-come, the hereafter (al-akhira), which is the true state of al-Islam; this Islam being the inner state of your life, rather than an outside one. It also means to leave this world and the hereafter for the King (al-Malik). Here you are in the station of surrender to God, which is the station (al-maqam) of Abraham, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, in which all your speaking, all your time, and everything that you have will be toward Allah and for Allah alone. By this, you will reach the station of belief (al-maqam al-iman), leaving the questions of “Why?” and “What?” and “Where?” and leaving the desire for either heaven or hell, and the state of your heart will be always saying, “I want only to see You, my Lord.”

When you have finished with the station of belief (al-iman), you are taken to the station of excellence (al-ihsan). In this station you stand at the beginning of asceticism and renunciation. Now you will be like a stranger in the world in which you are, yet, at the same time, you are not.

It is as though you were only passing through it. Here you carry the holy meaning inside your heart and your soul. For this reason it is said, “Be a stranger in this world. Love God and then He loves you. Look not with desire to what is in the hand of another, and he will love you. Look at his heart and not at his pocket.” Understand that this renunciation is the right way of Islam from the beginning, for the Prophet Muhammad, may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, said, “Renounce the world and Allah will love you, and renounce what people possess and people will love you.” Through this the light will enter your heart, illuminating for you the way to Allah.

When the renunciation is true it reveals itself in hayat – the qualities of modesty, awe, politeness, respect and love. This hayat is more than taqwa, which is the quality of devotion and reverence lying between the essence of fear and the essence of hope in the presence of the King. The person who has this hayat will show patience in the face of difficulties, thankfulness for everything that comes to him, whether it is ease or hardship, and deep surrender to the decrees (al-qadr) of Allah.

When he has reached the deep humility of hayat, having left behind all attachments to this world and to the world of the hereafter, there is no fear after that, only the deepest awe for Allah. And the mercy is such that as he stands alone without anything before Allah, he is as Moses, may peace and blessings be upon him, who could not look at Allah because he would have been burnt up.

It has been said that there are three kinds of asceticism. The first is that of the fearful, of those who give up this world in order to save themselves from the fire. The second is the asceticism of the merchants, those who give up this world because they want the good things which Allah has promised them in the garden. The third is the asceticism of the lovers of Allah, and this is the highest and the most graced.

The lovers give up this world for the love of Allah, and not for fear of the fire, nor because of desire for the garden. They do not turn to anything but to their King, and they do not desire anything but to look upon His compassionate face. They keep on climbing for this, from station to station, until they are killed by the sword of Allah; and so they become martyrs in His love, in the qibla of Allah. They are the holy sacrifices of their Lord because they have sold themselves to Him, and He has bought them with the price of Himself.

So they are in Him and He is in them, and this is what is meant by the saying, “If you give, He gives.” And Allah, the All-Knowing, the All-Seeing, says, “Allah has bought from the believers their selves and their possessions against the gift of paradise. They fight in the way of Allah. They kill and are killed. That is a promise binding on Allah in the Torah, the Gospel and the Qur’an; and who fulfills His covenant more truly than Allah? So rejoice in the bargain you have made with Him; that is the mighty triumph.” (9:111).

These are the beloveds of Allah. The surrender for them is that if He gives to them, they are thankful, and if He withholds from them, they are patient. This is the beginning of asceticism from which they will continue without stopping, from station to station, ascending by His grace and mercy. Their asceticism is such that if Allah gives them anything they do not keep it for themselves, even if they may need this thing, but they prefer to give to another. They think of others before themselves and because of this, they have been sent as the mercy to all people.

Finally, asceticism means that a person does not give of his blood, except for Allah, and to die spiritually in the garden of His knowing. Then Allah is well-pleased with him / her, and he / she is well-pleased with his Lord, and now he / she deserves to be a true slave of Allah. amin.

from The Teachings of Shadhuliyya Path
excerpts only, read full here

credit: Sidi Muhammad Press
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