The centre-piece of the Dowra is the Rawha. The word “rawha” linguistically is applied to an excursion at any time from midday until nightfall, as in the hadith narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim: “An excursion in the morning (ghadwa) or an excursion in the latter part of the day (rawha) in the path of Allah is better than this world and everything it contains.” The word also has a connection to the ruh, the spirit.
The scholars of Hadramawt traditionally used the name rowha for the lessons they would give after `Asr in which they would focus upon teaching the sciences of the heart and reading the books of the Imams of Tasawwuf. Imam al-Haddad says in his Adab Suluk al-Murid (translated as “Good Manners”): “the time following the `Asr prayer, if kept alive, has a powerful affect in attracting provision for the heart.”
In this year’s Dowra Habib `Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah preserve him) continues the commentary which he began two years ago on Qut al-Qulub, Imam Abu Talib al-Makki’s foundational work in the science of Tasawwuf. He will also comment on the poem of Imam `Abdullah ibn `Alawi al-Haddad, entitled “Nasim Hajir.” Using the book and the poem Habib `Umar lays out the foundations which every seeker needs on the path to Allah. He emphasises the importance of sincerity in seeking spiritual process during these lessons and often repeats that by reading the words of these great scholars we are in fact sitting in their presence.
The gathering is usually rounded off with the recitation of some of the poetry of the great Imams of the Path, and then with the poetic supplication mentioned in these pages. Those attending the session then shake hands with the Shaykh and with each other, physically reinforcing the bonds that have been established during the gathering.
What follows is a rough translation of Imam al-Haddad’s poem, along with the Arabic text, followed by a brief explanation. The explanation is mostly taken from Habib Ahmad bin Abu Bakr bin Sumayt’s commentary on the poem, al-Kawkab al-Zahir.
Imam al-Haddad needs little introduction. Born in 1044 Hijri, he was widely regarded as being the foremost scholar and spiritual guide of his time, and subsequently as the renewer of the 12th Islamic Century. His da`wah, his teachings in the form of poetry and prose, and his invocations spread far and wide during his lifetime and continue to spread to this day. He died in 1132 and was buried in the Zanbal Graveyard in Tarim. In this poem he expresses some of his love and longing for Allah and His Messenger (saw) and alludes to the stations of certainty that he has attained.
Imam al-Haddad (may Allah have mercy upon him) said:
- O breeze of Hajir, O breeze of Hajir, will you bring me news that heals my troubled soul?
News of those that live in proximity to him, for intense longing has overcome my heart
In the opening verses Imam al-Haddad addresses the breeze (nasim) which blows from Hajir, which is a place on the road to Mecca. In mentioning Hajir there is an indication that he is addressing the Messenger of Allah (saw). We see this at the beginning of poems such as the Burda of Imam al-Busayri, where the poet mentions places in the vicinity of Mecca and Medina that point to the Beloved (saw). The Imam addresses the breeze because when it blows it brings with it the scent of the beloved. We see this in the Qur’an when Sayyiduna Ya`qub says: I do indeed scent the presence of Yusuf.(as)
The commentators say the wind carried the scent of Yusuf to him from a great distance. The Imam asks if this breeze bears any news of those that live in the proximity of the Beloved because his longing has become so intense he is unable to conceal it.
- You came to my resting place, O breeze of the pre-dawn after all other things had slept
Perhaps, O breeze, you have news for me of the Beloved who left and emigrated.
The Imam once again addresses the breeze. The pre-dawn is significant because it is the time at which Allah manifests Himself to those seeking Him and answers their supplications. For most it is a time of deep sleep and heedlessness and it only the true seekers who are awake. The people of Allah use the word aghyar or “other things” to refer to veils in the heart that prevent the slave from witnessing his Lord and being present with Him. When these veils are absent the heart is ready to be illuminated. The Imam likens these other things to people with vigilant eyes trying to cut the slave off from his Lord. Thus when those eyes are closed there is no barrier between the slave and his Lord. The “Beloved” referred to in the next verse is the Prophet Muhammad (saw) who said: “Truly I am the Beloved of Allah, and this is not a boastful claim.” He is al-Muhajir, who emigrated from Mecca to Medina.
- The love of the Beloved is firmly planted in my heart Or rather it flows in my veins like blood
- Whenever lightning strikes in the valley (of the Beloved) it brings forth floods of tears from my eyes
The Imam describes the extent of his love for the Beloved which he says has become inseparable from his flesh and blood. In the Arabic the plural is used referring to the Beloved, which could used be out of veneration of the Prophet (saw), or it could imply his love for the Prophet (saw) and those beloved to him among his Companions and inheritors. Even the sight of lightning bolts striking in the valley of the Beloved causes him to remember him and he cannot restrain his tears. (See appendix on Allah’s love for His slave and the slave’s love for Allah)
- My time has passed and all I have experienced is harshness so I have been unable to remain patient and withhold my tears
- Being apart has constricted my chest what can I do and how long can I remain patient?
Here the Imam complains of the bitterness of not attaining what he wishes for from his Beloved. He is thus unable to restrain his tears, remain patient and prevent anxiety filling his heart.
- Perhaps, perhaps O inhabitants of Na`man the time of purity will return as it once was
- To remove the sadness and sorrow with a gift from Layla, a delight to the eyes
Here the Imam addresses the inhabitants of the Valley of Na`man, which is situated near the Valley of `Arafah. It was the valley in which Allah assembled the progeny of the Prophet Adam (as) in their spiritual state before those spirits were joined with their bodies. The inhabitants which he addresses are probably the pure spirits with he finds comfort and affinity. The Knowers of Allah use the name “Layla” to refer to their love for the Divine. In the famous Arab story it was the love of Layla that drove Majnun almost to insanity. The intense passion that he possessed was then used to measure the love of those that claim to love Allah, since his love was for a created being whereas the Creator is worthy of being shown much more intense love. Amongst the gifts referred to is for Allah to unveil realities to the slave and enable him to witness Him.
- I am overcome by my love for her saddened, forlorn, completely absorbed
- Do you think, my friend, she knows the love which is infused in my heart?
Here the Imam describes how his love for “Layla” has dominated his heart. He asks despondently whether she knows of his love in the knowledge that only the one experiencing these emotions truly knows them.
- O inhabitants of the canyon of my heart the valley of purity, the best of all valleys
- Where the caller hears the caller O people of insight, fix your gaze
The Imam likens those that he loves to inhabitants of a valley or canyon which is in his heart to convey how deeply rooted his love for them is. The valley referred to is either the valley in which Mecca lies or the valley in which Medina lies, or both, since both were ennobled by the presence of the Messenger of Allah (saw). The caller referred to is the one who calls people to Allah, the first of whom was the Messenger of Allah (saw), who is referred to in the verse: Our Lord, we have indeed heard the call of the one calling us to faith, saying: ‘Believe in your Lord’ and we believed. Then those that respond to the call become themselves callers. Another interpretation is that the caller is Allah, who calls out to His slaves in the pre-dawn, as in the hadith: “Is there anyone seeking forgiveness?” In that case the verse would read: “The one called upon hears the Caller.”
- The beauty of the Real has become manifest although it was not veiled before that, never!
- But when the heart of the slave is polished it witnesses – the veils were on the heart of the slave
The Imam indicates that Allah has manifested Himself to his heart and he has thus witnessed His greatness and His attributes of beauty. The Knower of Allah can be defined as the one Allah has permitted to witness His essence, attributes, actions and names. The fact that Allah has manifested Himself does not mean that He was veiled before that. Rather it is the heart of the slave which is veiled from witnessing him due to the attributes of the lower self. Ibn `Ata’illah says in the Hikam: “the Real is not veiled but you are the one who is veiled from seeing Him.” The unveiling of the heart occurs when it is purified of base attributes and then beautified with praiseworthy attributes. The slave is then able to perceive Allah with his inner sight and reaches the station of witnessing or ihsan. When the Imam refers to “the slave” here he is referring to himself, announcing the bounty which Allah has bestowed upon him and thanking him for it – as for the blessings of Your Lord – proclaim them!
- The mountain of manifestation is the heart of every knower the point on which secrets and subtleties descend
- The self, like Musa, witnesses realities when they become manifest.. but confirm the apparent meaning
The heart of the Knower of Allah is the place in which Allah manifests Himself. The meaning of manifestation is for the lights of the unseen to be unveiled to the heart. Here the Imam likens the heart of the Knower to a mountain upon which the secrets and subtleties of Allah descend. It was to the mountain that Allah manifested Himself at the request of Musa in the Qur’an so the heart is likened to a mountain and the self to Musa who witnessed that manifestation. Allah says: When his Lord manifested Himself to the mountain He turned it to dust and Musa fell down unconscious. Another interpretation is that the mountain referred to is Mount Sinai or Tur Sina’, the mountain upon which the Tawrah was revealed to Musa.
Then the Imam alerts the reader that he has used Musa and the mountain merely as a metaphor, whereas the manifestation of Allah to the mountain at the request of Musa in the Qur’an should be taken literally. This is why he says: “confirm the apparent meaning.” In other words, confirm the literal meaning as it has been revealed in the Qur’an and do not fall into the error of denying the literal meaning and replacing it with a figurative interpretation. The Batiniyya sect deviated in this respect which led them to deny many of the outward obligations of the religion. As for the Sufi interpretations of the Qur’an, they do not deny the apparent meaning of the text, but rather affirm it while pointing to other meanings to which the apparent meaning points. Habib `Ali bin Muhammad al-Habashi said:
Its meanings continue to be revealed to the scholars although its revelation has ended
- The self is the magnet which attracts inspiration while the spirit is the magnet which pulls the body
- This is only after absolute focus with both the inner and the outer
Here the Imam likens the self (nafs) to a magnet since it is pulled towards its inclination in the same way that iron is pulled towards a magnet. Allah says of the self: Then He inspired in it the ability to distinguish between corruption and piety.The self may either be animalistic, leaning towards bestial desires, or it may be angelic, leaning towards knowledge and lofty things.
In the second half of the verse the Imam likens the spirit (ruh) to a magnet since it has a magnetic pull over the body. This only occurs, however, after intense inward and outward struggle, which the Imam refers to in the second verse. Inwardly the seeker must attain abstinence (zuhd) and remove any attachment in his heart to material things. He must purify his heart of blameworthy traits and replace them with praiseworthy ones. Outwardly he must strive against the body’s physical desires, reducing his sleep, food and mixing with people and being in a constant state of remembrance of Allah (dhikr) and being consistent in regular acts of devotion (awrad). At this point his spirit becomes dominant over his body.
- Allah is most great! This is the reality which has shone forth from the spiritual path
So hold fast, my brother, to the most trusty handhold which is following the Master of all peoples
The “reality” referred to by the Imam is haqiqah, or witnessing the Devine essence, names and attributes in every created thing. This is knowledge which Allah gives directly to His slaves without any intermediary: attain taqwa of Allah and Allah will teach you.The haqiqah can only reached by means of the tariqah or the spiritual path which in turn can only be taken after first submitting to the dictates of the shari`ah or Sacred Law. For this reason the Imam says in the first verse that the reality “has shone forth from the spiritual path.”
Imam Malik said: “Whoever acts upon his knowledge Allah bestows upon him knowledge which he did not previously possess.” In this statement we find shari`ah, which is knowledge, tariqah, which is acting upon that knowledge and finally haqiqah, which is the bestowal of new knowledge. The Prophet (saw) is the one who reached the highest of spiritual stations and attained all aspects of human perfection and he is the medium in attaining all goodness in this life and the next. He is the only door through which one can enter the Devine presence. Thus in the second verse the Imam enjoins the seeker, if he wishes to attain the stations previously mentioned, to follow him. Allah says to His Messenger (saw): Say: if you love Allah then follow me, and Allah will love you. The love of Allah, which is the goal of every seeker, is attained by following the Beloved (saw) and it is thus “the most trusty handhold.” The one who holds fast to it attains the highest levels of felicity. Through it the path is illuminated and the way is open to reaching the haqiqah.
- Muhammad, the one sent with guidance, truth, clarification and high station
- The pupil of the eye of unveiling and divine care and the spirit of every created thing
The Messenger of Allah (saw) was sent with guidance, as Allah says: He is the One Who sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth. This guidance is of two types. The first is general guidance for the majority of people which is following the Sacred Law which the Prophet (saw) outwardly embodied. The second is special guidance for the elite which is travelling the spiritual path which the Prophet (saw) inwardly followed. The second cannot be attained without attaining the first. What is meant by “truth” is the Qur’an or literal truth, the opposite of falsehood. “Affirmation” or tahqiq is affirming facts and supplying evidence to support them. This was the role of the Prophet (saw) – affirming the realities of the existence of Allah and the resurrection which he did by reciting to them the Book of Allah: He is the One Who sent amongst the unlettered ones a Messenger from amongst them who recites to them His verses, purifies them and teaches them the Book and the Wisdom. “High station” refers to the special station of the Prophet (saw) in the sight of his Lord, which no other prophet, let alone ordinary human, can come close to. Then he approached and came closer, and was at a distance of two bow-lengths or closer. Then He revealed to His slave what He wished to reveal. In fact all the Prophets and saints receive their spiritual assistance and sustenance directly from the Prophet (saw).
Imam al-Busayri says in the Burda:
All of them are seeking from the Messenger of Allah
A handful from the ocean or a sip from the rain
In the second verse the Imam likens the Prophet (saw) to the pupil of the eye to which realities are unveiled. The use of the pupil is appropriate because it is the opening in the eye which allows light to enter. Just as physical things are perceived by the eye, likewise the Prophet (saw)witnessed unseen things: He alone knows the unseen and He does not make anyone acquainted with His secrets except a Messenger whom He has chosen.
Along with receiving the greatest portion of unveiling he(saw) also received the greatest portion of Divine care, manifested in the stations to which Allah raised him.
The second half of the verse points to the fact that the essence of the Prophet (saw) permeates all created things just like the spirit permeates the body. This can be understood from the hadith which `Abd al-Razzaq narrates on the authority of Jabir who asked the Prophet (saw) about the first thing that Allah created. He replied “O Jabir, truly Allah created before all other things the light of your Prophet from His light.” Allah then proceeded to create all things from that light. In this sense he is the “spirit of every created thing.”
May Allah send endless peace and blessings upon him and his family and Companions and all those that follow him until the Last Day. Give us the ability to hold fast to his handhold and enable us through him to attain the highest of stations. All praise is due to Allah Lord of the Worlds.
Allah’s Love for His Slave and the Slave’s Love for Allah
It is inconceivable that Allah’s love be in any way similar to human love, which may be defined as tenderness in the heart. Some scholars say Allah’s love is expressed in His actions such as showing His favour and bounty to His slave, or showing His slave special care by protecting him and drawing him close.
As for the slave’s love for Allah it is expressed initially in his submission to Him, in his seeking Allah’s pleasure and in avoiding all that displeases Him. At a higher stage it is a lofty station that words cannot express, the product of the purification of the soul from all worldly attachments. Someone who has reached this stage is unable to part with his Beloved and finds comfort in constant remembrance of Him.
The means of attaining this love are numerous. Here are some of them:
Reflecting upon Allah’s generosity in bestowing His blessings upon His slave, forgiving his wrongdoings and enabling him to do good works.
Not relying upon one’s actions and witnessing one’s shortcomings.
Striving to perform compulsory and supererogatory actions to the best of one’s ability in accordance with the Sunnah until one attains the proximity mentioned in the hadith qudsi – “My slave continues to draw close to Me by performing supererogatory actions until I love him.”
Remembering Allah and standing in prayer in the pre-dawn in a state of neediness, seeking the gifts that Allah bestows at such a time. The hadith tells us that Allah has “breezes” which He sends at blessed times and that we should expose ourselves to those breezes, at whatever time they may blow.
Making abundant supplication, manifesting one’s neediness, in obedience to Allah’s command: Call upon Me and I will surely answer you. As the hadith says: “Supplication (du`a) is the essence of worship,” since the person calling upon Allah has given up hope in all other than Him. He thus realises the oneness of Allah and attains true sincerity, which together are the greatest form of worship.
Allah is displeased if you do not ask Him
Whereas the small child of Adam becomes angry when you ask him
Attempting to imitate the lovers of Allah and their states by, amongst other things, reading their works.
Keeping a good opinion of Allah, which is a noble station and one of the stations of certainty (yaqin). The elect have a good opinion of Allah due to His possessing sublime attributes whereas the ordinary believers have a good opinion due to the blessings they receive from Him. If the believer is unable to reach the rank of the elect then he should witness the blessings that Allah bestows upon him, and trust that Allah will benefit him and deflect harm from him while being extremely hopeful that Allah will accept his actions and forgive his wrongdoings. The believer should have an especially good opinion of Allah at the time of death, since the Prophet said (saw): “Let none of you die except having the best opinion of Allah.” Allah says in the hadith qudsi: “I am as my slave believes Me to be, so let him believe what he wishes.”
Taking oneself to account and repenting from all wrongdoings since repentance (tawbah) is the first station of the path to Allah. The seeker should seek much forgiveness from Allah and weep over the time that he has wasted.
Being constantly aware of Allah in all states.
Habib Ahmad bin Abu Bakr bin Sumayt
Habib Ahmad bin Abu Bakr bin Sumayt , who wrote al-Kawkab al-Zahir, the commentary on Imam al-Haddad’s poem to which we are referring, was born in 1277 Hijri (1861 CE) in the Comoros Islands. The Bin Sumayt clan is one of the branches of the Ba `Alawi Sayyids, who trace their lineage back to `Alawi, the grandson of Imam al-Muhajir (died 345/956). Imam al-Muhajir was the first of the descendants of the Prophet (saw) to settle in Hadramawt, and his progeny then spread widely in Hadramawt, East Africa and South East Asia. Habib Ahmad received his early education from his father and then travelled to Hadramawt in search of knowledge in 1298. He lived in the city of Shibam and would make regular visits to Tarim and Seiyun and other parts of Hadramawt. He received inward and outward knowledge from masters such as Habib `Aydarus bin `Umar al-Habashi, Habib Ahmad bin Hasan al-`Attas, Habib `Abd al-Rahman bin Muhammad al-Mashhur, Habib `Ubaydullah bin Muhsin al-Saqqaf and Habib `Ali bin Muhammad al-Habashi, who was the shaykh from whom he received his opening. In 1300 he travelled to Zanzibar, where he was appointed Qadi by the Sultan.
However, he had a longing to travel the earth and in 1303 he left Zanzibar, going first to Istanbul, where he was graciously received by Sultan `Abd al-Hamid, and then to Egypt, the Hijaz, Java and India. In 1305 he returned to Zanzibar and was reinstated as Qadi. He once again visited Hadramawt in 1316 but lived out the rest of his days in Zanzibar, where he died in 1343 (1924). He authored a number of works, some of them commentaries on the works of Imam al-Haddad, and some of his fatwas were collected. His son Habib `Umar went on to become a great scholar and caller to Allah. May Allah benefit us by Habib Ahmad and his progeny.
Du`a at the end of the Rawha
This is the du`a which is read at the end of the Rawha, followed by its translation:
Our Lord benefit us by that which you have taught us
Our Lord teach us that which benefits us
Our Lord give us and our families and our relations
And the people of the region male and female
Understanding in our din
O Lord give us and them the tawfiq to do and say
What pleases You out of Your generosity
And give all of us lawful provision always
And give us God-fearing knowledgeable friends
Grace us with goodness and protect us from all evil
Our Lord rectify all our affairs
And grant us the joy of Your pleasure
And settle all our debts
Before the Angel of Death and his helpers come to us
And forgive and conceal our faults, O Most Generous of Concealers!
And may the blessings of Allah cover al-Mustafa
The one who called us to the truth and good faith
With a Book in which there is healing for people
And may His blessings cover his honoured and noble family
And the Companions, the shining torches
O Allah grant us Your guidance
And make us amongst those who hasten to seek Your pleasure
And do not entrust us to a guardian other than You
And do not make us amongst those who disobey Your commands.
Peace and blessings be upon our Master Muhammad and upon his family and Companions.
Allah praise is due to Allah Lord of the Worlds.
O Lord we admit that we have committed sins
And that we have exceeded the bounds
(Such that) we are on the brink of a blazing fire
So turn to us with a repentance
Which washes away every wrongdoing
And conceal our faults
And calm our fears
And forgive our parents and our children
And our family, our brothers and all our friends
And all those we love and our neighbours and companions
And all the Muslims
Amin! O Lord listen to us!
Out of Your grace, Your generosity and Your favour
Not because of our own actions
Through the Messenger al-Mustafa
Grace us with all we ask for
My Lord send peace and blessings upon him
The number of every grain
And his family and Companions
As much as rain falls from the clouds
And all thanks and praise be to Allah
In the beginning and the end.
translated by Ustadh Amin Buxton and courtesy of Sidi Suleiman Bobat
For arabic texts, visit: http://australianmuslim.blogspot.com/