A City founded by a saint – The picture of the city

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In the middle of the city, around the great mosques, lie the bazaars (aswāq, plural of sūq) where the narrow alleyways are covered with bamboo sunshields and sometimes with vines, so that one moves around as if inside one single building. It is here that are located the market for all artisanal products: textiles, copper vessels and pans, as well as the markets for spices, fruits and fowls. And nearby are narrow streets, where shoemakers, tailors, saddlers, and other craftsmen apply their skill in their little open workshops, apart from those, whom for one reason or another, have settled far from town centre, such as the potters, whose dome-shaped kilns lie along the eastern city wall, and the tanners, who have their pits on the lower reaches of the river. Fez is famous for the production of beautifully coloured leather and all kinds of leather goods such as bags, saddles, shoes and book-bindings. The coppersmiths also have their own district, where they make chiselled trays, jugs and lamps, and here a hundred hammers incessantly ring out like bells.

The residential districts surround the city centre. One can hardly register their extent, for the lanes and alleys that lead from the arterial routes to the individual houses are no more than narrows passages, flanked by high walls, that twist and turn within the honeycomb of buildings; but they suffice, for the houses ‘breathe’ not via the streets, but via their inner courtyards, that open up to the skies.
As an enclosed cell, the Moorish house bears witness to the fact that the unity indwelling in the Islamic community is completely present in each of its individual parts. Every married believer is prayer-leader (imām) for his own family, and in this function he is independent of the community. Every adult Muslim, who knows the Qur’ānic prescriptions and the custom of the Prophet –the Sunna –, can be the officiant at prayer for a smaller or larger community.

A City founded by a saint – The foundation of Fez

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We had now arrived within a stone’s throw distance of the ancient city. Idrīs II, the Arab Chroniclers write,

sketched the ground plan of the city of Fez on a Thursday morning at the beginning of the month of Rabī al-awwāl of the year of the Hijra 192 (808 A.D.). When has was about to begin construction, he lifted up his hands and prayed for it and its inhabitants in the following words:

‘Almighty God, make of it a house of knowledge and of legal science, so that in it Thy Book may always be read and Thy laws observed. Let is inhabitants hold fast to the Book and Sunna, as long as thou shalt preserve it’. And so this city never ceased to be a centre of science and of law… Many and varied are the benefits, blessings and graces that Fez received thanks to the prayer which its founder offered on its behalf, thus echoing the Prophet’s intercession for Medina and Abraham’s intercession for Mecca…

According to tradition, the Kaaba in Mecca was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael, at the very spot where Hagar, wandering in the desert with her infant son, found a spring by divine inspiration. Abraham’s prayer for the inhabitants of the holy city of Mecca is mentioned in the Qur’ān. In the eyes of its inhabitants, Fez, through its foundation, is something of a holy city, and a reflection of the first two cities of Islam, mentioned in the revelation. ‘Apart from Fez,’ writes al-Kattānī, ‘I know of no other Islamic city that is so ancient and so filled with religion and science, that was founded by a true descendant of the family of the Prophet; and the resulting blessing from this has never failed…’ (Salwāt al-Anfās)

An unknown Arab poet has written of it:

The dove gave the town its ring,
The peacock gave it its royal fan,
Its rivers are of purest wine,
And the courtyard of each house is a wine-glass.

(Zahrat al-Ās)

Keep Going!

Life As A Muslim University Student

In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful

I want to begin by directly asking you a few questions. The first question I want to ask is if you saw an old lady crossing the road that needed help, would you choose to help her or would you leave her be? Secondly what do you think of a person who shouts at a baby for not being able to run?

Of course these questions may seem really weird for the moment but hang on in there and let me try to explain my point. Many people have a mentality that if I am committing a lot of sin, what is the point of me praying namaaz (5 daily prayers) or following any other of Allah’s commands for that matter. Well let’s look at the first question I posed at the start. If you answered yes then why…

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“Should I not be a thankful servant?”

“Should I not be a thankful servant?”

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Last night, we discussed the following tradition. I have translated it into English although it can only truly be appreciated in Arabic. There is so much we can glean from this tradition that I felt compelled to share it with some thoughts. You really have to absorb it while you are reading it.

‘Aṭā’ visited Ā’isha (May God be pleased with her) and said, ‘Tell us the most wonderful thing that you saw of the Messenger of God.’ She wept and replied, ‘And which matter was not a wonder? He once came to me at night and entered into bed with me, (or ‘under my blanket so that my skin touched his skin’) and said, “O daughter of Abū Bakr, give me leave that I may pray to my Lord.” I said, “I love to be near you, but I prefer that you have what you wish.” So I gave him leave, and he arose to get a vessel of water. Then he performed his ablutions, not pouring out much water. Thereupon he stood in prayer and wept until his tears flowed down his chest. Then he knelt in prayer and wept, and then he raised his head, still weeping. He continued to weep in this manner until Bilāl came and made the call to prayer. I said, “O Messenger of God, what makes you weep when God has forgiven you what has passed of your sin and what will come to pass?” He replied, “Should I not be a thankful servant? And how can I not be when God has revealed to me, In the creation of the heavens and the earth…”

(Ibn Hibbān and Muslim)

Let us look at this tradition in little more detail:

“And which matter was not a wonder?”

The entire life of The Messenger of God (May Peace and blessings be upon Him) was a wonder to behold. Ā’isha (May God be pleased with her) knew the Messenger of God more intimately than most people, yet she maintains that even his conduct at home was a wonder. It is easy for us to show our chivalry in public for fear of being embarrassed but do we maintain the same level of consistency in our domestic affairs?
If we learnt and adopted his practices at home, our homes would be places of bliss.

He once came to me at night and entered into bed with me, (or ‘under my blanket so that my skin touched his skin’)

Ā’isha (May God be pleased with her) is relating an intimate moment that she shared with The Messenger of God until she continues to mention that they both made real physical contact with each other. In our ever-busy lives, it is vital that we make time to share intimate moments with our spouse in a real, emotional and physical way.

Put your phone away and take some time away from the Internet to spend quality and undivided time with your family.

“O daughter of Abū Bakr, give me leave that I may pray to my Lord.”

This is amazing. The Messenger of God asks permission from his wife to be with his Lord. He understood that people have rights and always fulfilled them. The tone of his language is to behold too, The Messenger of God makes a request in the most gentle of manner knowing full well that his wife loves him dearly and wants to be with him.

Often we walk into our homes making demands on the outset whilst failing to observe due etiquette. The Messenger of God gently enters in bed with Ā’isha (May God be pleased with her) and then politely asks for permission. We can extend this our social lives: how often do we greet people, smile, and ask them how they are before proceeding to make our requests?

Remember, we often demand rights but how about fulfilling rights of others too?

“I love to be near you, but I prefer that you have what you wish.”

This is real love. With gentleness Ā’isha (May God be pleased with her) mentions her ceaseless love for The Messenger of God. Then she proceeds to say what would make every marriage on this earth bliss: “but I prefer that you have what you wish”. In other words, I love what you love; whatever makes you happy gives me joy. Just wow.

This is a state of the heart. Putting what you want to one side and letting other people have what they want whilst also being pleased with what they desire. Selflessness.

I shall let you digest the rest.

I pray that God increases us in our love for The Messenger of God.

The Revival of the Religious Sciences (Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn)

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The Revival of the Religious Sciences (Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn) is widely regarded as the greatest work of Muslim spirituality, and is perhaps the most read work in the Muslim world, after the Qurʾān.
 This books assists us in tackling some real Issues that we face during the course of everyday Life. The masterpiece is of Imām al-Ghazāli, unquestionably one of the greatest thinkers and theologians of Islām.

The Revival of the Religious Sciences is divided into four parts, each containing ten chapters. Part one deals with knowledge and the requirements of faith—ritual purity, prayer, charity, fasting, pilgrimage, recitation of the Qurʾān, and so forth; part two concentrates on people and society—the manners related to eating, marriage, earning a living, and friendship; parts three and four are dedicated to the inner life of the soul and discuss first the vices that people must overcome in themselves and then the virtues that they must strive to achieve.

We hope to continue reading and benefitting from this great work.

The Caliphate and the Prophetic legacy

 

 

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The origin and prototype of the Moroccan state is the caliphate that was founded by Idrīs ibn ‘Abdallāh al-Kāmil towards the end of the eight century. Idrīs was the grandson of Hasan, one of the two sons of Alī, the fourth Caliph, and Fāṭima, the daughter of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him). Fleeing from the Abbasid caliph, who had put him into flight as a potential rival, he reached the Far West in 172 A.H. (788 A.D.) and found refuge in the erstwhile Roman city of Volubilis (Ulili) on Mount Zerhūn, which was inhabited by the Berber Awrabā tribe. It was a very surreal and sombre place on our arrival.

 Al Kattāni writes that Idrīs:

Was the first man of the family of the Prophet known to have reached the Maghrib …   At that time Ishāq Ibn ‘Abdallāh, a mu’tazilite, was prince of the Awrabā. He received Mulay Idrīs warmly, and persuaded the surrounding Berber tribes to enter into alliance with him… (Salwāt al-Anfās)

 During his five-year reign Idrīs I extended his theocratic kingdom over almost the whole of Northern Morocco. When in 792 or 793, he was poisoned by a secret emissary of the Abbasid Caliph, his son Idrīs II was not yet born. The latter was destined to extend his father’s empire even further, and to found the city of Fez.

 The Arab chroniclers attribute to both Idrīs I and Idrīs II all the natural and spiritual virtues that should adorn a true descendent of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him).

 In everything he did, writes al-Kattānī of Idrīs II, he always held fast to the Truth. His judgements were always in accord with the sacred law. He never deviated from the law or custom of the Prophet. Thus each year he receives a tithe, without making the slightest change in the prescribed measure, and distributed this to whom it was due, namely the weak, the poor and the orphans. When booty was brought to him following a military expedition, he returned four-fifths to the combatants and retained only one-fifth for his own purposes…

(Salwāt al-Anfās)

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The Moroccans regard his tomb as their greatest sanctuary. The mosque containing his tomb is in the middle of a small white town which lies on a rock spur of Mount Zerhūn, a little above the hill on which are the ruins of the ancient city of Volubilis. In this holy town, which is called Mulay Idrīs one finds the sepulchral mosque, surrounded by closely packed houses, consists of several buildings, rather like a far-eastern temple precinct; a covered alleyway leads into the first courtyard with a second; here alms are distributed daily to the poor and sick, and on one side of this courtyard is a Qur’ān School. Finally, through yet another doorway, one reaches the innermost courtyard, surrounded by rows of pillars, in the middle of which a large fountain plays. Only from here can you gain access to the high, square hall, surmounted by a honeycomb dome of cedarwood, which houses the tome of the holy prince.

 That the caliphate can never again attain perfection that it possessed at its origin is accepted by Moroccans – as by all Muslims – as an inevitable consequence of the declining times. They also know that a reciprocal relationship exists between people and king.‘The corruption of the people’, said the Maghribi saint Abū Madyan, ‘gives rise to tyrants, and the corruption of the great gives rise to revolts and heresies.’

 Hāroon Ebrāhīm Sīdāt

The Prophet and the lessons in the desert

The Prophet and the lessons in the desert

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We began encroaching upon the Sahara Desert. It makes up nearly 10% of the African continent and is often cited as the world’s largest desert. It is believed that people have inhabited the Sahara Desert since 6000 BCE and earlier. Since then, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks and Europeans have been among the peoples in the area. Today the Sahara’s population is around 4 million with the majority of the people living in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania and Western Sahara.

 As we made our way across, our minds went to another time and place in history; The Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) was then still a child, his mother Aminah and grandfather, Abd al-Muttalib entrusted Him to Halimah. It was customary to entrust infants to wet nurses belonging to the nomadic Bedouin tribes living in the desert. Because he was fatherless, one nurse after another refused to take the child into care, fearing that his ambiguous status would bring them no profit.

 Eventually, for four years, Halimah looked after the orphan and lived with the Banu Sad Bedouins in the Arabian Desert. This was all divinely ordained: he shared in the nomad’s life in the most barren and difficult environment, surrounded, as far as the eye could see, with horizons bringing to mind fragility of the human being and spurring contemplation and solitude. Although he did not yet know it, Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was going through the first trials ordained by The One, Who had chosen him as a Messenger and was, for the time being, his Educator, his Rabb.

 There is much to be gauged from this particular situation as an orphan as well the spiritual teachings associated with the experience of life in the desert.

 The Qur’an later recalls:

 Did He not find you an orphan and give you shelter?

And He found you wandering and guided you.

And He found you in need and made you self-sufficient.

So as for the orphan, do not treat him with harshness,

Nor chide him who asks.

But as for the favor of your Lord, Proclaim!

 (Qur’an 9: 6 -11)

There are several teachings here: being an orphan and poor was actually an initiatory state for the future Messenger of God, for at least two reasons. The first teaching is obviously the vulnerability and humility he must naturally have felt from his earliest childhood. This state was intensified when his mother, Aminah died when he was six. This left him utterly dependent on God, but also close to the most destitute among people. The Qur’an reminds him that he must never forget this throughout his life and particularly during his prophetic mission. He was orphaned and poor, and for that reason he is reminded and ordered never to forsake the underprivileged and needy.

 Considering the exemplary nature of the prophetic experience, the second spiritual teaching emanating from these verses is valid for each human being: never to forget one’s past, one’s trials, one’s environment and origin, and to turn one’s experience into a positive teaching for oneself and for others.

 Muhammad’s (Peace Be Upon Him) past, The One reminds him, is a school from which he must draw useful, practical, and concrete knowledge to benefit those whose lives and hardships he has shared, since he knows from his own experience, better than anyone else, what they feel and endure.

 We ask that just like Our Messenger (Peace Be Upon Him), that God make us from them who serve the underprivileged and needy in our society.

Haroon.