An Eid-ul-Adha lecture delivered by SHAIKH SERAJ HENDRICKS seven years. It was transcribed by SHAIKH ALLIE KHALFE who added some additional notes on Covid and Ramadan. *
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Covid, Ramadaan and Eid-ul-Fitr
The past Ramadaan and Eid-ul-Fitr were unique experiences for Muslims around the world. Customs and rituals long adopted were set aside for new norms such as reduced mixing with people and seclusion. These have been the immediate solutions prescribed by governments across the globe.
It was a Ramadaan and Eid-ul-Fitr the world will forever remember. It was one that taught us about how quickly things can change and about the sanctity and value of the simplest of things. It was a month in which families bonded in a way that recent history has not witnessed. It was a month of double gratitude (shukrān); gratitude for life itself as well as gratitude for the time of breaking fast (iftār). It is also a month of double patience (sabrān); patience for doing without our normal routine within the ambit of fasting (siyām) and patience for doing without our normal routine outside the ambit of siyām. We were taught lessons that could very well not be taught to us outside the institution of Fasting and Ramadaan.
Soon we celebrate the joyous occasion of Eid-ul-Adha. It will no doubt be a unique experience for the majority of Muslims, as once again, customs like hand shaking, hugging, kissing and all these simple acts of mercy will not be permitted.
But Eid, which comes from the word, ‘āda, meaning, to return, will come again and again as a reminder that when moments seem so bleak, divine dhikr echoes optimism:
fa inna ma’al ‘usri yusrā, inna ma’al ‘usri yusrā
“Verily, after difficulty comes ease (and again) after difficulty comes ease.” Quran, 94:6-7.
Eid-ul-Adha, love and sacrifice
Eid-ul-Adha teaches us many lessons and one that stands out is the idea of Love (Mahabbah). This love was most beautifully expressed by one of the greatest human beings to walk the earth, Prophet Ebrahim, ‘alayhi salam. We are well familiar with his tremendous sacrifice, which centred on the love of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
One thing that is completely agreed upon is the idea of mahabbah for Allah and His messenger, peace be upon him, being obligatory (fard) on each and every Muslim. We often think of things being obligatory in terms of Prayer (Salah), Alms (Zakāh), Fasting (Siyām) and Pilgrimage (Hajj) but little do we think of what is internally obligatory. We are often obsessed with the compulsory acts (farā-id) of the externals but what we need is to look at those factors that will enable us to realise, not only the centrality but also the importance of Love. There is agreement amongst the scholars (ijmā al‘ulama) that Love for Allah and His messenger, peace be upon him, is an individual obligation (fard ‘ayn). This particular love is one of the ultimate purposes, objectives and stations (maqamat) that the spiritual traveller in the path of Allah wants to attain. This kind of love, if embraced as it was by so many of the greatest of thinkers, sages and saints over the past 1400 years can have so many positive implications for the individual as well as the entire community. If we can connect with it then we will see actual internal transformation, which will flow over and spill into societies resulting in human change, where humanity becomes better and attains progress. These are basic core values, which we have forgotten or at least are negligent of. Allah, Most Merciful, speaks about these values continuously in the Quran and so does the Prophet, peace be upon him, in the noble traditions (ahādith al-sharifah).
Allah says in the Quran:
Yuhibbuhum wa yuhibbunahu
“Allah loves them and they love Him.” Quran 5:54
What is important in this verse is the second part “and they love Him” referring to those who return love. One cannot lavish love and mercy upon people who refuse to receive it, let alone those who cannot return it. This kind of love is something mutual, acting as the thread that twines through our communities and connects the hearts and souls of individuals, men and woman.
wal ladhīna āmanu ashaddu hubban lillah
“those of true faith have the most intense love for Allah”. Quran 2:165
Here we notice the connection between Faith (Imān) and Love (Mahabbah). The vast majority of scholars defined Imān as:
1) that you speak about it (qawl bil lisān),
2) that it manifests itself in your behaviour (‘amal bil jawārih) and
3) that you you’ve accepted it in your heart (tasdīq bil qalb).
These facets of faith cannot be realised if we have not connected with the idea of Love of Allah and His Messenger, peace be upon him.
Allah says in Sūrah al-Taubah:
“Say: if it be that your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives and spouses, your kindred; the wealth that you have gained; the commerce in which you fear the decline; or the dwellings in which you delight, are dearer to you than Allah, his Messenger and the striving in His cause, then wait until Allah brings about His decision. And Allah guides not the rebellious and wicked”. Quran, Taubah 9:24
Islam is referred to as Al-Din Al-Haqiqi or Al-Din Al-Waqi’, meaning, a Religion dealing with the realities of things and one that is pragmatic and not one abstract from society. It is a religion (dīn) that is manifest in society and a nexus in which everything ought to revolve around. We should revolve around it and not alienate it so that it revolves around our whims (hawā). We should not be dressing up the dīn but rather be dressed up by it. We should be clothed by the dīn and not clothe it.
This is not an imaginary dīn or the product of our whims and one of its ultimate functions is to create unity and love within our lives, families and communities. Why is love mentioned with such intensity? It is mentioned because to love and to be loved is in the natural constitution of people (jibillah baī Adam). Without love we would not have proper faith (īmān). If one does not feel this natural flow of love toward our fellow human being then one is in fact deficient in one’s belief (nāqis al-īmān).
One of the companions approached the messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, and asked regarding the last hour. We would normally respond in a philosophical manner and mention the greater and lesser signs of the hour. The Prophet, peace be upon him, asked his companion, “what have prepared for it?” This is the more useful and more beneficial of the two replies. The companion informed the Prophet that he has prepared nothing for the last hour“except that I love Allah and His Messenger”. The Prophet, peace be upon him, then said, “anta ma’a man ahbabta – you will be with those whom you love”.
The narrator, Anas bin Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, said,“ mā farihnā bi-shay’in farihnā bi-qawli sallallu ‘alayhi wa sallam – when we heard (the words of the Prophet) we rejoiced in a sense of joy, which we have never experienced before”. Anas then said, “fa ana uhibbu n-nabi sallallahu ‘alayi wa salllam wa Abā Bakr wa ‘Umar wa arjū an ankūna ma’ahum bi-hubbi iyyāhum wa in lam ‘a’mal ‘a’mālahum – and I love the Prophet, peace be upon him, Abu Bakr and ‘Umar and it is my deepest wish to be with them even if I am incapable of performing the deeds that they do, purely through my love for them.”
Of what relevance is this mahabbah that we are speaking about? The relevance is that this kind of love is in fact our īmān and the scholars refer to it as the reality of faith (haqīqat al-īmān). Love for Allah and His messenger constitute the reality and very core of īmān. For this reason we refer to īmān as not only an utterance on the tongue but also a realisation and acceptance in the heart (tasdīq bil qalb). Imān can either be limited to the tongue or it can have the added facets and depth of an intense love.
Imam Ghazali, May Allah’s Mercy be on him, speaks about the seven circumambulations around the ka’bah and advises that we not focus too much on the technicalities of why we do it seven times. He mentions a man’s love for his wife and children and how he will do irrational things for them purely through his love for them. He then asks the question, “Why then can you not walk seven times around the ka’bah, since He commanded you to do it, purely for the Love of Allah instead of looking for a technical and logical reason?” This intense focus on the external (dhahir) comes with the consequence of missing the spirit of the act, which is love for Allah.
Love is a condition (hāl) and a station (maqām) that elevates its possessor to the highest of levels (darajāt) of sublimity (sumuw), perfection (kamāl) and elevation (tanazzuh). These are some of the consequences and results of deep and profound love, which is one of the most natural instincts in the human being. It is love that causes elevation and unity in a community, while one bereft of love is full of schisms and splits. No community endowed with a deep and profound understanding of love is one that can be torn apart.
Know that this kind of love is one above pure discursive knowledge (ma’rifah). Knowledge allows us to be objective and there are immense benefits in pursuing it including giving the mind its right (al-haqq). Love is far more a part of the reality of our being and our existence that makes us human. It is what makes us want to cry and laugh, that elevates us, effects and moves us. Why is there this difference between ma’rifah and mahabbah? The reason is because mahabbah is more deeply enshrined in the human being than pure discursive knowledge. A person lacking knowledge does not necessarily lack love while a person with love does necessarily lack this discursive knowledge. The reality of this kind of love is that it leaves no open spaces or emptiness in the heart and it is a condition that invariably focuses on the Beloved (Allah). In other words it infuses all the folds of the heart.
True īmān has therefore intense love at its core and not pure discursive knowledge. It is also not only the submission of the ego (nafs) to Allah. One cannot just say that he or she has submitted to Allah because genuine and true love is one that has been conditioned and influenced by the love of Allah. It is influenced by our understanding of Allah as The Most Compassion (Rahmān), The Most Merciful (Rahīm) and an understanding of the perfection of His Attributes (Sifāt). By contemplating and meditating on His beautiful Names (Asmā al-Husnā), we come to Love Him as the only true Entity who is closer to us than our jugular vein. This consciousness of Allah enables and allows us to interact with Him in a manner, which this kind of love demands.
Regarding loving the Prophet, peace be upon him, do we know our Prophet? Do we know this amazing human being? Have we examined his life, peace be upon him? He is referred to in the Quran as Ra’ūf and Rahīm, meaning one of intense Empathy and Mercy. Have we thought about this and attempted to cultivate these noble qualities within ourselves? Do we know the kind of role he played within that society that made him change the most barbarous society on earth into a force that allowed Islam to be a flourishing civilization for almost 1000 years?
If we know and love Allah and His messenger, peace be upon him, and we interact with human beings on the bases of love for Allah and His messenger, peace be upon him, and not just with our emotions, then there will be no belligerence and the result is confidence. This is because we would be acting in the name of Entities, which we consider far superior to ourselves. We would then act purely for the sake of Allah (li wajhillahi).
As for Imān, which the ‘ulama refer as (al-Jāf al-Samīt) then this is a dry, morbid and miserably silent one that does not go beyond a confession of submission to Allah on the tongue or a confession merely saying that my heart has embraced the verities of Faith. One of the scholars of sufism (ahli sufiyyah) said regarding this type of faith, “it does not manifest itself in any way and in any image in positive actions and deeds within ones personality. It does not flow out and embrace people with love.” Iman al-Jāf is a dry kind of faith, cracking up and bereft of love. It is likened to a barren land, the product of drought and not one which is a product of the abundance of rain and grace. This type of faith is not visible in the individual, community and society. The scholars also refer to this type of faith as one that is mostly negative (īmān al-salbi), meaning one that is counterproductive. This is not the kind of faith Allah, Most Merciful, desires from His servants.
If you have true īmān then you are referred to as a mu’min, one who has in fact attained and recognised both the Beauty and Majesty of Allah (adraka Jamal-Allahi wa Jalālihi) and one who pays respect to both aspects. This human being is one infused with the Love of Allah, one who has connected with the Subtlety (Lutf) of Allah, one who has connected with the Grace of Allah and with the inimitable and ineffable Excellence (Ihsān) of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
This person will know with certain knowledge (‘ilm al-yaqīn) that Allah alone is the One who bestows Grace upon us and of whom we are the beneficiaries. There is no true grace and blessedness (in’ām) except that it is from Allah. There is in fact nothing without Allah and it is that knowledge that impacts on our characters, which the Quran sets out to build, and this depends on our understanding and internalization of Love (Mahabbah). The result of this kind of Love is a positive human being with a heart occupied and aware of His blessedness and grace. When we become aware of these then we experience the pleasure, beauty and comfort of obedience (tā’ah) and not the difficulty of it. Who better to be obedient to than this Mighty Allah who is Most Gracious, Most Merciful and The One who Loves (Al-Wadūd)?
This understanding is a call for celebration on this day of Eid, regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in because that Mercy (Rahmah) was present with the Prophet Ebrahim, upon him be peace, when he was about to slaughter his son Ismā-il, upon him be peace. So it is through this connection of Faith and Love that in every step we take, that we find inner tranquillity and peace (salām). When we experience Allah in this way then we witness the pure grace of Allah and how it has been made available to us. This we see this with our hearts.
In this state of illumination we become grateful (shākirīn) for the blessings of Allah and this gratitude resonates in our hearts (qulūb) and in our actions (af’āl). This brings about forbearance (sabr) in times of adversity and we then find ourselves between patience and gratitude (sabr and shukr). This is for those who have genuinely connected with the Love of Allah. This human being sees his life here on earth as an opportunity, not to show people, but rather to come to know Allah. This is the evolution of the spirit and of the soul. This evolution can only take place if we see ourselves as spirit (rūh) first, possessing a body (jasad) and not a body possessing a ruh.
Eid Mubarak to all
Shaikh Allie Khalfe is the head of IslamicText Institute, Cape Town, South Africa. Visit: https://islamictextinstitute.co.za/profile/ for more information.
He spent over a decade under Shaikh Seraj and his brother, Shaikh Ahmad Hendricks, learning various traditional texts.
Featured image: Shaikh Allie Khalfe (left), with his teacher, the late Shaikh Seraj Hendricks, in the library of the IslamicText Institute. (Photo supplied)
This article has been updated to correct an error in the caption to the featured image.
* The introduction to the article has been amended to reflect that it is a transcription of a lecture by Shaikh Seraj Hendricks.