Lecture delivered by Brother Bashier Rahim on the occasion of Miladun Nabi (sawa) on 11 December 2016 at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town
From the 9th Rabi-ul Awwal to the 17th Rabi-ul Awwal we celebrate Unity Week, which is a term coined by the late Imam Khomeini (r.a) to jointly celebrate the birth of Prophet Muhammad (sawa). This is due to the main reported dates from the perspective of the two major Schools of thought in Islam, being Sunni and Shia is that the birth of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) into his material world occurred during this time.
Certain narrations indicate that it occurred on the 9th, while most Sunni narrations and some Shia narrations indicate that it occurred on the 12th (which would thus coincide with a night like tonight), while most Shia narrations indicate that it occurred on the 17th.
And in keeping with this recommendation of Imam Khomeini (r.a), who was the one who lead a revolution that injected life into this Ummah after being in a state of slumber which is an achievement that is only denied by extremists – in keeping with his recommendation we have an established tradition at our centre of celebrating Miladun Nabi (sawa) at the very least on these two dates of the 12th and 17th (though many cultures in fact celebrate Miladun Nabi (sawa) virtually all year round).
WHY DO WE UPHOLD THIS TRADITION OF UNITY WEEK?
There are various possible answers, but in my view one of the answers is that when we reflect upon the reason of this very event of Miladun Nabi (sawa), then it is filled with an inherent call to reach out and be all-inclusive.
In the famous Hadith Qudsi of the Hidden Treasure, Almighty Allah is reported to say:
“I was a Hidden Treasure, so I loved to be known, so I created creatures so that I may be known.”
Though scholars of Hadith have reservations about the authenticity of this Hadith from the perspective of how its narrated due to its chain apparently being uncertain, it is however a Hadith which is held in very high regard by those who have a mystical approach to Islam due to the sound contents of this Hadith. And thus you find this Hadith is quoted frequently in those circles.
Allah is a Hidden Treasure and loved for others to have access to this Hidden Treasure.
It is Allah’s love which caused the process of creation to occur, so that all of creation would become familiar with that Hidden Treasure…and THAT is the goal of creation.
And from among all creation whom Allah loves should know Him, the human being ranks the highest. Almighty Allah loves that all human beings should know Him and access His Hidden Treasure.
These Ahadith then narrate in other places that the first thing that Almighty Allah created – which would thus be to fulfil His love to be known – was creation of the Nur (or Light) of Muhammad (sawa). And through this Nur, everything else was created.
This Nur was revealed to this material world during these days for all humanity – irrespective of sect or inclination – for all humanity to be given an opportunity to access the Hidden Treasure of Almighty Allah.
And so we join others in our unified celebration of Miladun Nabi (sawa) as everything that exists owe their existence to Prophet Muhammad (sawa).
And given the state of the Ummah internationally and locally, there is no more important time to have this United celebration than now.
ALMIGHTY ALLAH LOVES HIMSELF
So the hadith of Hidden Treasure says:
“I was a Hidden Treasure, so I loved to be known”…
My emphasis tonight is on this bit “I loved to be known”.
What exactly is love??
You have previously heard that “love” is nothing but the attraction of a lover to the “beauty” and “perfection” of his beloved.
In the romantic novels that are often quoted, the lover sees beauty in their beloved, often which others simply can’t see, and is intensely attracted to their beloved due to this beauty that they see!
But as madly in love as they may be, whether you reading the story of “Laila and Majnoon”, which we so often quote, or the Persian love story of “Shireen and Khusrow” – because all of this love is for a contingent being, the love is not eternal as the beloved is limited and not perfect.
So while “Majnoon” never wakes up to see that imperfection in his beloved, but most of us do wake up and that “supposed” love diminishes unless our beloved improves. If our beloved stagnates, then our attraction and love also stagnates.
This is how people sometimes or should I say often outgrow each other and in fact grow apart. One person is continuously developing them self and the other is the exact same person 25 years later with the same frivolous interests – that relationship ends up in strain as the perfection of the one spouse has stagnated – there is little or no more attraction to that person. And it takes hard work to keep this love alive.
Now Mulla Sadra, the great philosopher and mystic who lived 400 years ago says something very beautiful in relation to love when he says:
“What causes love is what is received or will be received from the beloved. The higher goodness and more intensive existence the more deserving for being loved and the greater love for goodness. Now the being, which is free from potentiality and contingency, due to its ultimate goodness, has the ultimate level of being loved and the ultimate level of loving. Therefore, His love for Himself is the most perfect love and the most loyal one.”
In other words Allah loves Himself the most as He sees in Himself the most perfect being and sees no such perfection in other than Himself.
And the result of this love for His perfect Self comes His love for others.
Think about it. It’s the quality of perfection that you aspire to that impacts on the love you are able to offer to others. The more perfect the love you aspire to, the more perfect the love that you are capable of offering!!
Now this love of our Lord for Himself has within it the love for Him to be known…and thus he created His creation.
After loving Himself as the Most Perfect Being, then His Love extends to the next level based on its level of perfection.
Now out of this love of Allah which includes the love to be known, He created the Nur of Muhammad (sawa) which is so perfect such that various Ahadith quotes Almighty Allah saying to Prophet Muhammad (sawa):
“If it were not for you (O Muhammad!), I would not have created creation.”
In other words after loving Himself, Almighty Allah loves Prophet Muhammad (sawa) the most – due to his perfection and then created all the rest of creation due to the existence of the Nur of Muhammad (sawa).
EVERYTHING THAT EXISTS HAS WITHIN IT A HIDDEN TREASURE
This relationship of Love of Almighty Allah for Prophet Muhammad (sawa) and the reciprocation of love from Prophet Muhammad (sawa) for Almighty Allah is the model that should be aspired to by all creation in their love for their Creator.
But before we aspire to this model of loving Allah and in return being recipients of further love from our Creator, we should at least appreciate that we have the ability to love.
Many times when we look at the world around us, including the lives of supposed religious people, then it appears that we have the innate ability to hate instead of the innate ability to love.
The other night I heard a Mufti on the radio emphasize that the slogan “love for all, hatred for none” is a satanic slogan. He then claims that Muslims must “hate” too.
But hate what?
He then goes on a rant expressing his hate by calling some of our leaders whom we hold sacred – like Imam Khomeini – to be “kaafir” and our entire School of Thought “out from Islam” and thinks he is brave enough to say so and calls upon the whole of Cape Town to be unapologetic in behaving like this.
So when we look at the world around us it often seems that we have the innate ability to hate instead of the innate ability to love.
But our nature is not like that.
We all have within us as human beings the desire for achieving perfection. We always want to improve our condition which includes things like automating everything and we are never feel contented with any limitation we are faced with.
We never like to hear the words “something can’t be done”. We always want to become better than we currently are.
This inner desire for continuous perfection is due to the existence of real perfection itself which is Almighty Allah. But our consciousness of this reality of our inner desire for perfection is sometimes dormant and asleep and needs to be ignited.
We don’t realize that everything that exists (which includes us too – we exist) have hard coded within it the ability to reach perfection and by implication the ability to display real love.
وَإِن مّـِن شَيْءٍ إِلاَّ عِنْدَنَا خَزَآئِنُهُ وَمَا نُنَزِّلُهُ إِلاَّ بِقَدَرٍ مَعْلُومٍ
“And there is not a thing but with Us are its treasures”
“and We do not send it down save in appointed measure.” (Surah Hijr Verse 21)
Whatever exists – which we see or don’t see – whatever exists is connected and linked to its Treasures which is with Almighty Allah. Then whatever we see in this world is merely a limited form of that Treasure which is with Almighty Allah.
This is something to really ponder upon – we are all linked to the Hidden Treasure of Almighty Allah. and if we are connected to that Hidden Treasure, then THAT CONNECTION will give us the ability to display love for others.
Imam Saadiq (a.s) says in relation to the verse:
وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلاّ لِيَعْبُدُونِ
“I have not created Jinn and Mankind except to worship me” is to “worship me to know me.” (Surah Ath-thariyat Verse 56).
Worship of Almighty Allah is the key to opening the door to knowing the Hidden Treasure. Is there anyone who worshiped Allah better than Prophet Muhammad (sawa)?!
And if he is the best worshiper and thus have the best access to the Hidden Treasure of Allah, how was his worshiping reflected in this worldly life?
There is one aspect of his personality and practical lifestyle that I would like to reflect on for the remainder of my discussion.
EFFECTIVE LISTENING AS A DOOR TO THE HIDDEN TREASURE
Almighty Allah has granted us as human beings faculties at our disposal that we are meant to use to acquire knowledge to undertake our journey towards perfection and unlocking the door to the Hidden Treasure which Allah loves us to access.
One of those faculties at our disposal is the faculty of hearing.
Almighty Allah says:
قُلْ هُوَ الَّذِي أَنشَأَكُمْ وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ ۖ قَلِيلًا مَّا تَشْكُرُونَ
“Say: It is He who has created you (and made you grow), and made for you the faculties of hearing, seeing, and understanding. Little thanks it is that you give.” [Surah al-Mulk Verse 23]
One of the first faculties to function when a baby is still unborn is the faculty of hearing and one of the last faculties to function when you laying on your death bed is the same faculty of hearing.
In the Quran, when Almighty Allah reminds us of these faculties at our disposal, it often refers to the faculty of hearing first. And then in reference to the questioning on the Day of Judgment, on how we used these faculties, the Quran refers to them in the same sequence.
إِنَّ الْسَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ كُلُّ أُوْلَئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْؤُولا
“Surely the hearing and the sight and the heart, all of these, shall be questioned about that.” [Surah al-Israa Verse 36]
We will be questioned about what? About what path in life we followed after having acquired knowledge.
So in our learning process in our journey to perfection, the correct use of our hearing faculties is critical. When someone once came to Imam Ali (a.s) seeking advise on a certain matter, Imam Ali (a.s) said:
“O questioner! Listen first, and then understand. Then believe and put what you have learned into practice.”
When comparing our ability to hear vs our ability to see, it is argued that our hearing is more powerful than our sight.
Our eyes see in three dimension…and we only see what is in front of us.
But our ears can hear right around us to a much finer degree and even hears sound from behind us.
The faculty of hearing and consequently listening is a critical and powerful faculty in our spiritual development.
One of the early spiritual practices which is advised to those who are interested in pursuing a spiritual path is to speak less…as this gives you the ability to listen more.
When Qari Abdul Basit went to Moscow which was officially a Communist state at the time (USSR) and he recited the Quran in front of all types of people including atheists, by listening to the Quran they were reduced to tears and some of these atheists became Muslim…they did not even understand what he was reciting.
Or as our guest speaker Sheikh Nadir Jaffer narrated to us a few weeks ago that when he read portions of Dua Arafah to a group of Atheists from Czech Republic, after mere listening to this Dua and not knowing where it comes from, the listener was reduced to tears and said “this is what we believe in”.
وَإِذَا سَمِعُواْ مَا أُنزِلَ إِلَى الرَّسُولِ تَرَى أَعْيُنَهُمْ تَفِيضُ مِنَ الدَّمْعِ مِمَّا عَرَفُواْ مِنَ الْحَقِّ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا آمَنَّا فَاكْتُبْنَا مَعَ الشَّاهِدِينَ
“And when they hear what has been revealed to the Messenger, you see their eyes overflowing with tears because of what they have recognized of the truth. They say” Our lord we have believed so register us among the witnesses.’ (Surah Ma-ida Verse 83)
This faculty of hearing and consequently listening is very powerful.
When a woman is pregnant and during this time she listens to loud music and everything that is frivolous, it has an impact on the psyche of the baby – as the baby can hear even though it is not yet in this physical world.
And if she listens to good things like recitation of Quran or Duas or salawaat and so on, it has an impact on the psyche of the baby too.
When you listen to the story many years ago of the boy in Iran who was Hafith of Quran at the age of 4 or 5 years old, it was his mother reciting Quran for him while she was pregnant that had this amazing impact as he was listening to the recitation of Quran from conception already.
And there are endless more examples of the impact of listening.
But why is it that we observe the exact opposite as well?
Someone traveled to Iran, listened to how they recite Quran, listened to how they read Duas, listened to how they read athaan, listened to how they roar in salawaat when the name of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) is mentioned, but comes back to announce that these same people have nothing to do with Islam? And be proud of it? And some innocent unassuming people who listened to him saying this still proclaim “Allah is the Greatest”…as if this person had just said something so profound?!
This person goes to the shrine of Imam Khomeini and when he sees all the donations which is thrown through the window next to the grave of Imam Khomeini, he is overcome by shock and envy – it seems like a phenomenon that he did not see anywhere else. Then he asks the taxi driver “What do they do with all this money?”….and the taxi driver jokes by saying “I think they take it for themselves when everyone is gone”…but after listening to this nonsense he proclaims to the taxi driver “this is the first time I heard someone speak the truth!”
How does listening result in being a spiritual boost for some and result in making others “deaf” as in the Quranic phrase “deaf, dumb and blind, they will never understand”…
In other words they are so deaf, they will never have knowledge…
They are so deaf – they will never have access to the Hidden Treasure.
Some people just don’t love listening to what might be a version of the truth which is very different to what they used to.
Quran speaks about those people who used to place their fingers in their ears when Prophet Nuh (a.s) would invite them to Allah.
وَإِنِّي كُلَّمَا دَعَوْتُهُمْ لِتَغْفِرَ لَهُمْ جَعَلُوا أَصَابِعَهُمْ فِي آذَانِهِمْ
“And every time I called unto them to believe in You that You might forgive them, they thrust their fingers into their ears” (Surah Nuh Verse 7)
Or the Quran speaks about those who try to prevent others from listening to the message of the Prophet Muhammad (sawa).
وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لا تَسْمَعُوا لِهَذَا الْقُرْآنِ وَالْغَوْا فِيهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَغْلِبُونَ
“And those who disbelieve say: “Listen not to this Qur’an, and make noise in the midst of its [recitation] that you may overcome.” (Surah Fussilat Verse 26)
If you try to speak to such people, they don’t listen and they try to scare others from listening – because they know that this message is so powerful that if you DO listen, there is a great chance that you would be taken in by it and attracted to its beauty and perfection.
- So they prejudge you instead of listening to you.
- They prepare an answer for you while you speaking instead of listening to what you have to say.
They can’t wait to respond to you and latch onto a little obscurity that might apparently appear in your speech that they did not understand in the first case and then turn it into the main theme.
- When they don’t understand something, they don’t ask for clarification but draw their own conclusion.
They treat people with utter contempt. Anyone who differs with them, no matter who they are, are subjected to this contempt.
So if an independent journalist who has built his credibility over decades writes against their views, they try to shut him up by saying is a journalist now suddenly a Mufti?
Or if a Sheikh within their very same broader school of thought challenges their attitude of “my way or the highway” then they try to shut him up by demanding an apology for challenging their leaders and condescendingly and with utter contempt saying “we will give you a chance to apologize – do the right thing”.
Apologize for what?
Or if another Sheikh who is well known to be a critical thinker challenges them by delivering a full jumuah khutbah outright condemning their views, they proclaim with contempt “Who gave the khutbah – a man or a woman?” – all to try to question the credibility of ANYONE who challenges them.
Now can you imagine if a lay person tries to question them, what reaction they must be willing to deal with? Have you studied for 30 years and gone through each and every book and analysed each and every technical aspect of these 2 Schools of Thought to be able to make an informed answer? Most people’s answer would be “no”.
Well then shut up! Your opinion doesn’t count!
But is that the burden that Almighty Allah places on every individual to go through to reach certainty about the fundamentals of belief?
The answer is absolutely NOT. Because if that were the case then 99.9% of humanity is doomed to hell.
The extreme love and commitment of such people to this approach of communicating with contempt to others who disagree with them is an indication of their level of perfection (or should I say imperfection) that they have achieved and consequently their developed ability to only show hatred for others which is nothing but the absence of love.
Almighty Allah who loves Himself the most due to His perfection is willing to listen to the illogical explanation of Satan regarding why he displayed arrogance.
And Almighty Allah instructs us to have the same approach in our daily lives when we deal with others:
الَّذِينَ يَسْتَمِعُونَ الْقَوْلَ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ أَحْسَنَهُ
“Those who listen to the Word and follow the best thereof”.
This verse says that the pious slaves of Allah listen to all the different views and then they follow what they find to be the best.
This verse promotes free thinking – listen to the diversity of understandings – don’t prevent people from listening, don’t shout at them for listening – rather encourage them to listen and then follow the best of what they found – not what you found for them!!
EFFECTIVE LISTENING HAS A PRE-REQUISITE
Why is it that Quran promotes this free thinking and listening to all?
Did we not demonstrate that for some people, listening has the most amazing spiritual impact and opens the doors to the Hidden Treasures of Allah to them, while for others listening simply leaves them deaf?
So what is it that separates the effective listener from the deaf one that causes the Quran to promote free thinking?
As important a faculty as listening is, for it to be effective, there is a pre-requisite.
إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَذِكْرَی لِمَن كَانَ لَهُ قَلْبٌ أوْ ألْقَی السَّمْعَ وَهُوَ شَهِيد
“Indeed, therein [historical developments and destruction of the disobedient] is truly a reminder for him who has an [awakened] heart or gives ear [to the words of Truth] while he is heedful.” (Surah Qaf Verse 37)
This verse follows a verse wherein Almighty Allah narrates how previous generations were destroyed.
But Almighty Allah says that this reminder is only effective to the one who first has an awakened heart – then when he listens to the story, it will make him heedful.
Otherwise listening by itself, as important and powerful it is to our spiritual journey to unlocking the Hidden Treasures of Allah – that listening by itself is not enough.
And thus Quran promotes free thinking and listening to all…as listening by itself only prepares the ground for what you will actually believe… what you believe combines your listening with the condition of one’s heart.
PROPHET MUHAMMAD (SAWA) WAS THE PERFECT LISTENER
During these nights we celebrate the birth in this material world of the one whom Allah loved the most.
And in relation to our discussion, Allah boasts about a quality of His Beloved’s ability to listen.
Prophet Muhammad (sawa) was known to mix with everybody and every class of society – in fact he destroyed the concept of class. This practice of his to mix with everyone included listening to everyone. He is reported to have had such a refined way of listening to you such that we can learn something on this very night about this practice and implement it.
When someone spoke to him he was not playing with his cell phone, or looking on his computer and half listening to you, or had the TV or radio playing while you were speaking – of course I am using these modern day examples to refer to how we listen…these things did not exist at the time.
When Prophet (sawa) would listen to you, you had his full attention.
He would turn his body towards you and look directly at you and his body language and facial expressions would make a connection with you while you speak. He would not butt in while you speaking. He would rather give you a chance to finish before he replied to you.
This was something that the elite could not handle….he gave everyone a chance to speak to him and express their views.
So they started to taunt the Prophet (sawa) and called him names for having this quality.
Almighty Allah responded in Surah Taubah Verse 61 as follows:
وَمِنْهُمُ الَّذِينَ يُؤْذُونَ النَّبِيَّ وَيَقُولُونَ هُوَ اُذُنٌ
“And there are among them those who hurt the Prophet and say: ‘He is an ear!’
They were so envious of this attribute of the Prophet (sawa) that they tried to speak to him in contempt by calling him an “ear” itself…which actually reflected what a great listener he is. And then Almighty Allah simply says to them:
قُلْ اُذُنُ خَيْرٍ لَكُمْ
Say: ‘An ear that is good for you”
He is not just any ear or any listener, he is an ear or listener that is good for you.
When he listens so attentively to what you say, it’s because he has the most genuine intention in his heart for your best interest.
He is not listening to you to show you up in public, to expose you, to ridicule you now that he knows your secrets, to cause people to stay away from you.
He listens so attentively as he seeks to build affection, to build unity, to build a strong inclusive following.
Building love and harmony in our community requires for us to start listening attentively to the other… not to try to shut them up and not to try to scare others to not listen to them.
During these days of celebrating the birth of the “Mercy unto all mankind”, let us pray for all his followers from all different understandings and persuasions for Almighty Allah to awaken within them the Divine Attribute as well as the Prophetic attribute to listen.
And let us pray to Almighty Allah to alleviate the plight of this Ummah.
From Nigeria and the leadership of its Islamic Movement,
To Kashmir where the world is silent on its suffering,
To Yemen which is treated like a place that does not exist,
To the genocide in Burma in the East,
To the Middle East which is the birth place of Islam including Iraq and Syria and Turkey and other places,
And everywhere in the world,
For the sake of the Nur of Muhammad (sawa), O Allah alleviate their plight.
I extend my congratulations to Imam Mahdi (a.s) on this auspicious occasion, to all the Ulama and Maraji and all of you lovers of Prophet Muhammad (sawa).