Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pushing the Ulama in the Philippines further

A step towards the migration of intellect towards higher understanding.

It is a grim realization that the ulama in the Philippines as a whole has not yet matured and reached its full potential. The label “Warasatul al-Anbiya” cannot be still appended to them.

One may see that even in the worldview that as a general concept, a lot of them hasn't come up to their counterpart from the other parts of world. At present, when one looks at the curriculum being used to train Ulama in the country we see a wide disparity. Indeed from how we look at it since the collective culture of the Muslims in this country hasn't evolved or matured, as a result even the religious institutions did not progress a bit further, with a few exceptions of certain Muslim intellectual and religious personalities; but as a whole the Philippine Muslim religious institutions need more than a face lift but an overhaul.

One may like to look at the curricular content in the educational institutions used to train Imam's and the religious. A simple survey would show that when we would try to match the curricular standard with he modern educational institutions training their Christian counterparts in the Philippines, they would lag really fa r behind. One couldn't even find equivalency between the madrasah's and the regular public educational system.

This is quite alarming, add to this, Filipino scholars sent abroad to study Islamic studies come hope ill-equipped and ill trained, due to several circumstances. Most of the Filipino Muslim's best minds have taken the path of secular knowledge like engineering, medicine and other fields, and normally those who have lesser educational opportunities due to various circumstances like not being able to pass the collegiate entrance exam, dismal academic ratings in public school system, financial incapacity to pursue further studies, one or several of these and other factors push these students to “study in Madrassah” not as an option but the only choice to gain an education and gain social acceptability in their conmmunities. Others who may be able to go abroad to continue their Religious studies abroad come home ill-prepared due to the fact that they were not fully trained in Arabic before leaving and specializing only in Arabic language and not in other fields only delimits them the capacity of becoming translators. And being unprepared intellectually to read the Islamic classics in Fiqh, Shari'ah and other Islamic fields also leads them further to translate and teach concepts even not within their reach or breadth of understanding. This has far-reaching consequences. Add t this the literalist-narrow-mindedness of Salafi ideology has led other Filipino Muslims to the Pitfalls of Radicalist fundamentalism.

With these things in mind, one may be induced to think, “could there be a probable solution, comprehensive so that to otherwise mitigate if not eradicate the problem?”.

Although indeed due to the perceived Government bias against Muslims due to the Mindanao conflict reservations of government intervention would be highly doubted and the fear of politicized intervention thus losing track of the original objective; still it is the best objective although to be done in another manner.

One of the things we have done was comparative analysis of the curricular content of Southeast Asian, Egyptian, Syrian Iranian and Western Islamic religious educational models and try adapting selective characteristics of these systems. When we were given an opportunity to design the Commission on Higher Education's BS Islamic Studies curriculum, we included these important facets thus , ensuring that even following the minimum standards set by CHED in BS Islamic Studies education, we can at least raise the quality of Islamic scholarship in the country.
In the case of Malaysia and Singapore, both countries allowed the profligation of Sufi-oriented Islam in their countries as well as allowing the proliferation of the Islamic classics and Islamic Philosophy. Even though the government takes an indirect hand in this matter, but allowing Sufi Islam to profligate is a good idea.

I would like to emphasize on record that despite the comments on the evolution of the Amercican Muslim movement, I personally believe that even their experiences are worth studying and emulating (except of course the theological evolution before the Honorable Late Warith Deen Muhammad took over the American Muslim religious institutions).

Perhaps by trying to do this, we can push the Ulama a step further in professionalizing themselves as we face more challenges.
More to come later.

Reflections of Peace making and the prevention of War:

(A post Waging Peace Philippines conference reflection)

One always would think that Peace is the absence of War, perhaps that is what others may say... from a perspective that has not seen perhaps the harsh realities of the world. However, when one goes around in Manila, far-fetched from the dismal and grave realizations of war, wounded, dying and mournful suffering of the orphans, widows, the dying and the mourning... one may see that perhaps this is a skewed perspective. For even in the midst of the urban jungles of imperial Manila, one sees the gory images and thoughts of violence, though not like images of war in Mindanao, Afghanistan or Iraq... and yet the thoughts and images would also prove alarming.

After several wars and Peace conferences, I was pondering.. where does this all lead us into... is this but another endless road and Quixotic crusade against imagined dragons and devils... of undefeatable crusades and quests... as one searches for the indomitable Holy Grail of peace.....

I normally don't watch the news on TV unless I see a compelling reason to do so.... PR releases of Kapuso AABC Scholarship Initiative grantees to raise the morale of School faculty staff and students by recording them, Storms monitor so that I can determine even without the declaration of CHED of suspension I can declare a school holiday; Public events that may require a suspension of classes like SONA, or monitoring financial status of the world so that I may be able to forecast what could happen in the country. But when I watched the Anti-Chacha rally recently, I was petrified to see conflicting images.... people wanting change but people who personally needed to change themselves but challenge people to change themselves. Ironic isnt it?

Then it suddenly came into my mind... how could one wage peace when all people wage war? However in my mind I see there lies a contradiction, war only happens when conflict escalates, and as the brilliant War strategist Von Klauswitz would say; “War is the continuation of Political policy in another way”, thus I was enamored to ponder more as to how to go around exactly the opposite of this argument.

I remember that one of my Guru's has said, that in this world, battles are fought and though these battles are fought fiercely, they may not appear to be physical at times... but the effects are disastrous. Yes, battles are not merely fought on the fields..but most importantly I the mind of men. What Von klauswitz may have tried to say or couldn't say, is ... being a man of war..... he envisioned war as an extension of the politics of a person or society forcibly imposed on another.

But if these battles were fought in the mids of men, then it is clear... that when the war of ideals are lost in the mids of men, then its continuation ensues in the battlefield of men. Thus one of the greatest battles to be fought by those waging Peace against those waging war is not merely the battle to convince people that War is not the solution... but that to end war the battle to ned conflicts must also begin in the minds of men.

I do hope that the next time Peacemakers meet and talk about waging Peace.. this would also be considered in their strategies.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Eid al Adha the common ground for Abrahamic Religions

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

The Common Ground of the Religions

The world today is a world of differences and conflicts between the humans. Therefore, we should find the universal common grounds, and lessen the tensions by concentrating on them.

One of the most important things in common for many of humans is their religion. Today, most of the human populations are followers of Divine religions. Among the Divine religions, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are Abrahamic religions, and the reflections of the high monotheistic position of Prophet Ibrahim/Abraham (AS) are easily detectable in the Holy Quran and even in Torah and Bible in many instances. Therefore we can acknowledge Prophet Ibrahim (AS) as the father held in common, and the manifestation of the Divine religion, and the mean to understanding and agreement among followers of different religions.

For example, the Holy Quran states about Prophet Ibrahim (AS),

“When his Lord tested Ibrahim by His words and he satisfied the test, He
said, ‘I appointed you as the Imam (Leader) of mankind ...” (1)

Also in Torah it is mentioned, “As for me, behold, my covenant is with you,
and you shall be a father of many nations.” (2), (3)

Furthermore, in the Bible addressing his people, Jesus Christ (AS) says,
“…Your father, Ibrahim rejoiced to see my day…” (4)

Therefore if we, the followers of the Divine religions, can bring about understanding on the basis of the Divine religion introduced by Prophet Ibrahim (AS) which is compliant with the nature of mankind, we would be able to reach consensus and peaceful coexistence among us.

As a practical example for establishing a common ground and peaceful coexistence, the Holy Quran says about Prophet Ibrahim (AS), “Verily, he was a man of truth, a Prophet.” (5) By this illustration, we can acknowledge, as a point held in common religious basis, that we should all be honest and

But what had Ibrahim Khalil Allah (friend of God) done that made him achieve such a position in the history of humanity? Again, with reference to the divine Books and history, we realize that he had been put into several divine tests in his life, all of which he passed successfully. One of the great tests that Ibrahim Khalil al-Rahman could pass successfully, resulting in accomplishing the position of Imamate, was the beheading of his dear son Isma’il/Ishmael (AS). The birth and granting of Isma’il (AS) to his father, in old age, had been another divine test. In spite of his excessive affection to his son Isma’il (AS), Ibrahim (AS) did not hesitate a moment in obeying the divine command. But the divine destiny was set differently, and the knife did not cut Isma’il’s throat.

Yes, from that occurrence, this day was announced by the creator as a festival for all. Eid al-Adha (the festival of sacrifice) is the festival of complete submission of the servant to his Lord, therefore it is not exclusively for us Muslims. Because we are all servants to Him, and He is the lord of us all, and Prophet Ibrahim (AS) is, by His order, the father held in common for us all. Therefore the entire world should consider this day as Festival.

(Taken from the book, “The Endeavour of Ideas (volume 1)” by Late ‘Allamah Muhammad Taqi Ja’fari (with summarization and addition))

The Roshd Website congratulates all the followers of divine religions, especially you dear friend, upon the great Eid for owners of pure and aware consciences, Eid al-Adha.


1. The Holy Quran, (2:124)

2. This means Prophethood and Leadership.

3. Torah, the book of Genesis 17:4

4. Bible of John, 8:56

5. The Holy Quran, (19:41)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Faiths in climate change summit

A Muslim man praying
Muslims, Jews and Christians are among the attendants

In an action that seemed quite odd to the nature of the gathering,hundreds of representatives of the world's leading religions are in Sweden for a summit on climate change - said to be the first of its kind.

The two-day conference involves Christians, Muslims, Jews, Chinese Daoists and a native American representative, among others.

Their aim is to set a manifesto to encourage far-reaching policy goals from the United Nations and to push the body to adopt serious actions on the matter.

They also want to encourage personal commitments from people of faith.

The lack of enthusiasm for action on climate change in some religious quarters is being tackled head on by the meeting.

The Anglican Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, says the religious community must speak out.

"Here is a major, human emergency."

"Many of our constituencies regard this still as a peripheral second-order issue - it's got to be moved up the agenda."

As it is well known that major religious traditions have in one way or another theological concepts relating to trusteeship (Khilafah) of the earth and that each religious tradition has its own way of believeing how divine rules decree them on taking care of the environment. The gathering indeed is set on converging the major religious traditions and setting a systematic program on how to involve the "faithful"
in taking care of the environment.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A reflection on the Article “Childrens Environmental Rights” from an Islamic persepective

(The reaction is written in response to the conference paper presented by Atty Ronaldo Guttierez during the UNESCO World Philosophy day Conference “Power and Rights” held last 20 November at the Institute of Social Order Ateneo De Manila University.the article can be accessed at: )

The Holy Qur'an declares that man is the Vicegerent of God on Earth (khilafatul Ard) and that this trusteeship is divine in nature (amanah Ilahiyah). It is then in this context that this trusteeship is taken into the context of taking care of this divine piece of property so that the later generations (ummah) may benefit from it.

Sources from both the Qur'an and the Hadith express the divine injunctions of preserving the environment as part of a religious duty in the sense that if one does not take care of the environment, it appears that he has violated the divine injunctions for being God's trustee here on earth.

The context of protecting the environment in ensuring that future generations may enjoys it is of outmost importance that in the Islamic Rules on warfare written both in the Qur'an and the Traditions strictly prohibit any attacks made on the environment in the sense that the concept of warfare is directed at the opposing forces and that any other initiatives towards subjugation of the opposing force must be dealt with in a manner that may ensure that future generations may enjoy the fruits of a safe environment.

The fourth Caliph, Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (karamallahu wajhah) has said in one of his letters to his commander Malik Al-Ashtar, that; “in wars, we must ensure that it is only combatants we fight and no harm must be done to trees, to bodies of water or any physical resource that is of collective use of humanity. Since this collective resource is the property of the future suceeding generations.”

The Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu Alayhi wa alihi wa salam) even said, “The Physical resources we now have at our disposal is actually a loan from Allah (God) to be returned later for use of the later generations.”

Islam goes a level further, claiming that man in his original state exists in a way that adapts to nature and the nature of creation, meaning by nature Man should also follow self sustainability. However, due to his excessive greed he goes to the point of extracting much and forgettingthe later generations.

In a nutshell, the point from an islamic persepective on environmental rights can be summed up in a simple concise statement,

“We borrow the physical resources at our disposal from our later generations,we must then take care and utilize carefully so that they may use it for many generations.”

This is the context of Divine stewardship of the earth. KHILAFATUL ARD

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Reflections : Attending the UNESCO Conference on Power and Rights

I had recently attended a conference sponsored by by the UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines Social and Human Sciences Commitee in cooperation with Ateneo Human Rights Center and Ateneo De Manila Philosophy Department. The Theme for the Conference was "Power and Rights." and Since it was World Philosophy Day I tried to seriously relish the conference , nibbling its details and contents as if it was a course of delectable dishes.

And It was held only recently (today actually), I wasnt able to make commentaries on the articles presented there for this blog. But I would eventually do later after ding my other work here at the school.

In a way I found it intellectually awakening, hearing people qoute the same authors Ive read in College like Habermas, Foccault, or Maciavelli. It also was enlightening to hear what our intellectual philosophical giants had to say about the current issues of the day and how it would relate to your regular Fish monger,street sweeper or College student.

I was struck in a way that there indeed is a need to philosophize about things and that Philosophy is indeed an intellectual need for a nation to continue in its development.

I remember in Islamic History that when in the times when Islamic Philosophy flourished, Islamic Civilization was also at its peak and finest. Thus, as a progenitor of creative intellectual development, I believe that indeed for the Muslim Ummah to develop again, it mus rekindle Islamic Philosophy.

I only wished that in the next conference hosted by UNESCO, Prof Ibana would include speakers on Islamic Philosophy.

It would also be wonderful to think that had we decided to rekindle Philosophy in this country (the Philippines) perhaps we could see a reflourishing of intellectual advances in the country and perhaps a moral revolution in the country. Remember that the Prophet Muhammad (Salu Allahu Alayhi wa alihi wa salam) has said , "The Learned (scholars) are the heirs of the Prophets."

I also had a realization that has been rationalizing in my mind since attending the Interfaith Conference in DLSU, We have been always using western models and conceptual frameworks in our works, although the East has a living intellectual tradition worthy of emulation, we still take note and use western models for our discourses. Perhaps its about time to adapt a moratorium on using these models and instead adapt eastern models and conceptual frameworks and eventually creating our own indigenous and even unique conceptual models and frameworks when discussing concepts in Social Sciences.

More to follow after I do my commentaries on the articles in the conference.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tariq ramadhan Comments on Meeting the Pope

Professor of Islamic studies and senior research fellow at St. Antony’s College at Oxford University and at Lokahi Foundation, Tariq Ramadan looks back at Pope Benedict XVI’s comments at Regensburg in September 2006, which were widely as being divisive between Muslims and Christians, and argues for a positive partnership between adherents of both faiths.

Why I went to meet the Pope
Tariq Ramadan

London - Now that the shock waves touched off by Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks at Regensburg on 12 September 2006 have subsided, the overall consequences have proven more positive than negative. Above and beyond polemics, the Pope’s lecture has heightened general awareness of their respective responsibilities among Christians and Muslims in the West.

It matters little whether the Pope had simply misspoken or, as the highest-ranking authority of the Catholic Church, was enunciating church policy. Now the issue is one of identifying those areas in which a full-fledged debate between Catholicism and Islam must take place. Papal references to “jihad” and “Islamic violence” came as a shock to Muslims, even though they were drawn from a quotation attributed to Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaiologos.

It is clear that the time has come to open debate on the common theological underpinnings and the shared foundations of the two religions. The appeal by Muslim religious leaders, “A Common Word”, had precisely this intention: our traditions have the same source, the same single God who calls upon us to respect human dignity and liberty.

These same traditions raise identical questions concerning the ultimate purpose of human activity, and respect for ethical principles.

In a world that is experiencing an unprecedented global crisis, a world in which politics, finance and relations between humans and the environment suffer from a cruel lack of conscience and ethical integrity, it is a matter of greatest urgency that Christian-Muslim dialogue turn its attention to both theological issues and to those of values and ultimate aims.

Our task is not to create a new religious alliance against the “secularised” and “immoral” world order, but to make a constructive contribution to the debate, to prevent the logic of economics and war from destroying what remains of our common humanity.

Our constructive dialogue on shared values and ultimate goals is far more vital and imperative than our rivalries over the number of believers, our contradictory claims about proselytism and sterile competition over exclusive possession of the truth.

Those dogma-ridden individuals who, in both religions, claim truth for themselves are, in fact, working against their respective beliefs.

Whoever claims that he/she alone possesses the truth, that “falsehood belongs to everybody else…” has already fallen into error. Our dialogue must resist the temptation of dogmatism by drawing upon a comprehensive, critical and constantly respectful confrontation of ideas.

Ours must be a dialogue whose seriousness requires of us, above all else, humility.

We must delve deep into history the better to engage a true dialogue of civilisations. Fear of the present can impose upon the past its own biased vision. Surprisingly, the Pope asserted that Europe’s roots were Greek and Christian, as if responding to the perceived threat of the Muslim presence in Europe.

His reading, as I noted after the lecture at Regensburg, is a reductive one.

We must return to the factual reality of the past, to the history of ideas. When we do so, it quickly becomes clear that the so-called opposition between the West and the Muslim world is pure projection, an ideological instrument if you will, designed to construct entities that can be opposed or invited to dialogue, depending on circumstances.

But the West has been shaped by Muslims, just as the Muslim world has been shaped by the West; it is imperative that a critical internal process of reflection begin: that the West and Europe initiate an internal debate, exactly as must Islam and the Muslims, with a view to reconciling themselves with the diversity and the plurality of their respective pasts.

The debate between faith and reason, and over the virtues of rationalism, is a constant in both civilisations, and is, as such, far from exclusive to the Greek or Christian heritage. Neither is it the sole prerogative of the Enlightenment.

The Pope’s remarks at Regensburg have opened up new areas of inquiry that must be explored and exploited in a positive way, with a view to building bridges and, working hand-in-hand, to seek a common response to the social, cultural and economic challenges of our day.

It is in this spirit that I participated on 4-6 November in Rome, and in a meeting with the Pope on 6 November. Our task was to assume our respective and shared responsibilities, and to commit ourselves to working for a more just world, in full respect of beliefs and liberties.

It is essential, then, to speak of freedom of conscience, of places of worship, of the “argument of reciprocity”; all questions are possible in an atmosphere of mutual confidence and respect.

Still, it is essential that each of us sit down at the table with the humility that consists of not assuming that we alone possess the truth; with the respect that requires that we listen to our neighbours and recognise their differences; and, finally, the coherence that summons each of us to maintain a critical outlook in accepting the contradictions that may exist between the message and the practice of believers.

These are the essential elements to be respected if we are to succeed.


* Tariq Ramadan is a professor of Islamic studies and senior research fellow at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University and at Lokahi Foundation in London. He is also president of the European think tank, the European Muslim Network (EMN), in Brussels.

For more information about “A Common Word” please visit This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) with permission from the author.

Source:, 4 November 2008,
Copyright permission is granted for publication.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sufism: An insight into the spiritual essence of Islam

A Presentation Paper prepared by Yusuf Morales
For the I-Faith Forum on Mysticism In Islam and Christianity

Bismillah Hirahman Niraheem

Alhamdullilahi Ladhi Alamal Bil Qalam

Allamal Insana ma lam Ya'lam

(In the Name of God Most Merciful and Compassionate

Praise be to Him who has created Qalam (speech/pen/Knowledge)

And created Man And what he does not know)

Wa salatu wa salamau alal Khatamul anbiya wal Mursalin, Sayidna Habibina wa Mawlatina Muhammad, Salla Allahu alayhi wa alihi, wa Ahlil Bayt Tahirin (alahyimus Salam), wa Ashabi Muntajirin (Radialahhu anhum)

My friends, allow me to greet you the universal Islamic Greeting of Peace:

Assalamu alaikum

The Slides I have prepared, actually does not coincide with my paper,as its aim is to provide a simplified presentation accordingly to western persepective. It was taken from a presentation prepared by one of my elders, Dr. Mirza Ahmad of the Naqshabandiya foundation.

However, I believe that it would prove to be helpful in the event of the open forum in the aim of simplifying answers.

This talk is dedicated to the Spiritual chains of our tradition both in the Ikhwanu-Safa and the Sadiliah Branch of Naqhabandiyah Order.

Indeed it is said that in every object, there lies its essence, its heart, its embodiment. And like the great Sage Hermes known as the prophet Khaidr has said, the essence lies in the heart of an object.

Sufism, as the masters say is the heart and essence of Islam. It is the crystalization of all known knowledge; as Imam Ali, karamallahu wajhah said, it is the key to knowing oneself, and knowing God.

Basically, what do we refer as Tasawuff?

As a practitioner of this discipline, it is not that easy to elaborate on this vast expanse of knowledge. But I will try in my own humble way to crystalize what I have received from My Masters and share with you what little I know of Sufism.

Sufism stands for the mystical Islamic science and practice in which the faithful seeks to find the truth of divine love and knowledge through direct personal experience of God.

It consists of a variety of mystical paths that are designed to ascertain the nature of man and God and to facilitate the experience of the presence of divine love and wisdom in the world.

Islamic mysticism is called tasawwuf (literally, “to dress in wool”) in Arabic, but it has been called Sufism in Western languages since the early 19th century. An abstract word, Sufism derives from the Arabic term for a mystic, Sufi, which is in turn derived from suf, “wool,” plausibly a reference to the woollen garment of early Islamic ascetics. The Sufis are also generally known as “the poor,” fuqara', plural of the Arabic faqir, in Persian darvish, whence the English words fakir and dervish.

By educating the masses and deepening the spiritual concerns of the Muslims, Sufism has played an important role in the formation of Muslim society. Opposed to the dry casuistry of the lawyer-divines, the mystics nevertheless scrupulously observed the commands of the divine law (Shari'a). The Sufis have been further responsible for a large-scale proliferation activity (nashr) all over the world, which still continues. Sufis have elaborated the image of the prophet Sidna Mohammed (peace and blessing be upon him) and have thus largely influenced Muslim piety by their Mohammedian mysticism.

Without the Sufi vocabulary, Arabic, Persian and other literatures related to it, such as Turkish would lack their special charms. Through the poetry of these literatures mystical ideas spread widely among the Muslims.

Sufism had several stages of growth, including (1) the appearance of early asceticism (zuhd), (2) the development of a classical mysticism of divine love (mahabba laduniya), and (3) the rise and proliferation of fraternal orders of mystics (turuq). Despite these general stages, however, the history of Sufism is largely a history of individual mystic experience. The first stage of Sufism appeared in pious circles as a reaction against the worldliness of the early Umayyad period (76-661/164-749). From their practice of constantly meditating on the Quranic words about Doomsday, the ascetics became known as “those who always weep” and those who considered this world “a hut of sorrows.” They were distinguished by their scrupulous fulfilment of the injunctions of the Quran and tradition, by many acts of piety, and especially by a predilection for night prayers.

The introduction of the element of love, which changed asceticism into mysticism, is ascribed to Sayyida Rabi'a al-'Adawiya (d. 216/801), a woman from Basra who first formulated the Sufi ideal of a love of God that was disinterested, without hope for paradise and without fear of hell. In the decades after Sayyida Rabi'a, mystical trends grew everywhere in the Islamic world. A number of mystics in the early generations had concentrated their efforts upon tawakkul, absolute trust in God, which became a central concept of Sufism. An Iraqi school of mysticism became noted for its strict self-control and esoteric insight. The Iraqi school was initiated by Sidi al-Harith ibn Asad al-Muhasibi's (d. 243/828), who believed that purging the soul in preparation for companionship with God was the only value of asceticism. His teachings of classical sobriety and wisdom were perfected by Sidi Abul Qacem al-Junaid of Baghdad (d. 297/882), to whom all later chains of the transmission of doctrine and legitimacy go back.

In an Egyptian school of Sufism, the mystic Sidi Dhu an-Nun (d. 274/859) reputedly introduced the technical term ma'rifa (gnosis), as contrasted to learnedness; in his hymnical prayers he joined all nature in the praise of God. In the Iranian school, Sidi Abu Yazid Bastami (d. 261/846) is usually considered to have been representative of the important doctrine of annihilation of the self, fana' (extinction); the symbolism of his sayings prefigures part of the terminology of later mystical poets. At the same time the concept of divine love became more central, especially among the Iraqi Sufis. Its main representative is Sidi Abul Hassan an-Nuri (d. 295/880), who offered his life for his brothers.

The first of the theosophical speculations based on mystical insights about the nature of man and the essence of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) were produced by Sidi Sahl Tustari (d. 311/896) and Sidi al-Hakim at-Tirmidhi (d. 313 898). Sidi Sahl Tustari was the master of Sidi Hussein ibn Mansur al-Hallaj (d. 309/894), who has become famous for his phrase ana al-haqq, “I am the Creative Truth” (often rendered “I am God”), which was later interpreted in a pantheistic sense but is, in fact, only a condensation of his theory of huwa huwa (“He He”): God loved himself in his essence, and created Adam “in his image.” Sidi Hallaj was executed in 407/922 in Baghdad as a result of his teachings; he is, for later mystics and poets, the “martyr of Love” par excellence, the enthusiast killed by the theologians. His few poems are of exquisite beauty; his prose, which contains an outspoken Mohammedian mysticism is as beautiful.

Sufi doctrine was in these early centuries transmitted in small circles. Some of the Shaykhs, Sufi mystical leaders or guides of such circles, were also artisans. In the fourth/tenth century, it was deemed necessary to write handbooks about the tenets of Sufism in order to ease the growing suspicions of the orthodox; the compendiums composed in Arabic by Sidi Abu Talib al-Makki (d. 386/971), Sidi Sarraj, and Sidi Kalabadhi in the late fourth/tenth century, and by Sidi Abul Qacem al-Qushayri (d. 467/1052) and, in Persian, by Sidi Hujviri in the fifth/eleventh century reveal how these authors tried to defend Sufism and to prove its orthodox character. It should be noted that the mystics belonged to all schools of Islamic law and theology of the times.

The last great figure in the line of classical Sufism is Sidi Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 526/1111), who wrote, among numerous other works, the Ihya' 'ulum ad-din (“The Revival of the Religious Sciences”), a comprehensive work that established moderate mysticism against the growing theosophical trends and thus shaped the thought of millions of Muslims. His younger brother, Ahmad al-Ghazali, wrote one of the subtlest treatises (Sawanih; “Occurrences” [i.e. stray thoughts]) on mystical love, a subject that then became the main subject of Persian poetry.

Slightly later, turuq, mystical orders (fraternal groups centring around the teachings of a shaykh-founder) began to crystallize. The seventh/thirteenth century, though politically overshadowed by the invasion of the Mongols into the Eastern lands of Islam and the end of the 'Abbasid caliphate, was also the golden age of Sufism: the Andalusian Sidi Muhyiddin ibn Arabi ("Shaykh al-Akbar," d. 636/1221) created a comprehensive theosophical system (concerning the relation of God and the world) that was to become the cornerstone for a doctrine of “Unity of Being.” According to this doctrine all existence is one, a manifestation of the underlying divine reality. His Egyptian contemporary Sidi Ibn al-Farid (d. 650/1235) wrote the finest mystical poems in Arabic. Two other important mystics, who died 635/1220, were a Persian poet, Sidi Farid ad-Din 'Attar, one of the most fertile writers on mystical topics, and a Central Asian master, Sidi Najmuddin Kubra, who presented elaborate discussions of the psychological experiences through which the mystic adept has to pass.

The greatest mystical poet in the Persian language, Sidi Jalaluddin ar-Rumi (d. 688/1273), was moved by mystical love to compose his lyrical poetry that he attributed to his mystical beloved, Shamsuddin of Tabriz, as a symbol of their union. Sidi Jalaluddin ar-Rumi's didactic poem Mathnawi in about 26,000 couplets—a work that is for the Persian-reading mystics second in importance only to the Quran—is an encyclopaedia of mystical thought in which everyone can find his own spiritual meaning. Sidi Jalaluddin ar-Rumi inspired the organization of the whirling dervishes—who sought ecstasy through an elaborate dancing ritual, accompanied by superb music. His younger contemporary Sidi Yunus Emre inaugurated Turkish mystical poetry with his charming verses that were transmitted by the Bektashiya order of dervishes and are still admired in modern Turkey.

At that time, the basic ideals of Sufism permeated the whole world of Islam; and at its borders as, for example, in India, Sufis largely contributed to shaping Islamic society. Later some of the Sufis in India were brought closer to other models of mysticism by an overemphasis on the idea of divine unity which became almost monism—a religio-philosophic perspective according to which there is only one basic reality, and the distinction between God and the world (and man) tends to disappear. The syncretistic attempts of the Mughal emperor Akbar (d. 1020/1605) to combine different forms of belief and practice, and the religious discussions of the crown prince Dara Shukoh (executed for heresy, 1074/1659) were objectionable to the orthodox (Ahl Sunna).

Typically, the countermovement was again undertaken by a mystical order, the Naqshbandiya, a Central Asian fraternity founded in the eight/fourteenth century. Contrary to the creed of the school of wahdat al-wujud (“existential unity of being”), the later Naqshbandiya defended the wahdat ash-shuhud (“unity of vision”), a subjective experience of unity, occurring only in the mind of the believer, and not as an objective experience. Sidi Ahmed Sirhindi (d. 1039/1624) was the major character of this order in India. His stands of sanctity were surprisingly daring: he considered himself the divinely invested master of the universe. His refusal to concede the possibility of union between man and God (characterized as “servant” and “Lord”) and his sober law-bound attitude gained him and his followers many disciples, even at the Mughal court and as far away as Turkey. In the eleventh/eighteenth century, Shah Sidi Wali'Allah of Delhi was connected with an attempt to reach a compromise between the two inimical schools of mysticism; he was also politically active and translated the Quran into Persian, the official language of Mughal India. Other Indian mystics of the same century, such as Sidi Mir Dard, played a decisive role in forming the newly developing Urdu poetry.

In This context, the idea of Mystical Islam can be best described by words, fast keywords that may immediately describe Ideas, concepts and realizations. Let us then define sufism accordingly to these words:

  • Islamic Spirituality”
  • Islamic Mysticism”
  • Esotericism”

  • Tazkiyatun Nafs wa Qalb (Purification of the heart)
  • Ihsan (sincerity)
  • Thrust towards Perfection and excellence
  • Sufism aims in effect to bring man to Yaqeen or what laymen say as the point of Certainty which is divided into several levels:

  • Ilm-al-Yaqin (Knowledge of Certainty)

  • Ain-al-Yaqin (Vision of Certainty)

  • Haqq-al-Yaqin (Essence of Certainty)

To a sufi, to be able to cross the path, he must pass through four portals of disciplines which we may call

  • Shari'ah which is understanding the basic and basis of Islamic law so he may be guided instrinsically by what is legally acceptable and what is not legally acceptable. Allow me to share what Sheik Ahmad Sirhindi has said about this:

Shariah consists of 3 parts, a.Knowledge(ilm),b. Deeds(amal)& c.Sincerity(ikhlas)Until all 3 are realized,Shariah cannot be fulflled. When Shariah is fulfilled,the pleasure of God Almighty results&this is superior to all forms of happiness.The Shariah is gaurantor of all happiness both in this world&hereafter.Tariqah is servant of Shariah&perfects the Sincereity(Ikhlas). Ahmad Sirhindi (d.1624)‏

  • Tariqah , Initiation into the way (tariq) into which a journeyer is led into the unveiling of himself so that he may prepare himself into the experience of understanding and knowing himself

  • Maarifah, this is the stage where on already discovers and knows(ma'araf) himself, the stage which prepares himself for Yaqeen

  • Haqiqah, this is the stage where in the language of other Masters, one attains fana (elimnation) when he reaches the point of discovering truth (al-Haqq)

In the eyes of a sufi, Sharia'h is his Qawli, Tariqat is his Fi'li and Haqiqat Ahwali (interior garment)

Indeed as one may say Sufism is the path to discovering Spiritual life through the path of elimination (haya min tarikhul fana), and as such, they say those who has reached the level of haqiqah is said to have died in the embrace of Wisdom.

Most Sufi poets declare this as the embrace of truth.

Why do Sufi's go all the way just to attain these things?

The simple answer is that Sufis aim to :

  • Acquire attributes of God” (Takhhaluque bi akhlaquillah)

  • Die before your death” (Mootoo qabla unta Mootoo)

  • The faithful is the mirror of the faithful” (Al-mumin mirat al-mumin)

  • To acquire nearness of God (Qurb)

  • Practice Ihsan

  • To achieve contented self (Nafs-ul-Mutmainna)‏

  • To cultivate God awareness (Taqwa)‏

  • To transform self (Tazkiya-e-Nafs )‏

  • Removing the bad habits and acquiring the good manners

Of course many people have a hundred and one ways of defining Sufism. The previous definitions were culled from my own personal intellectual and spiritual experiences.

This is the tradition of sufism; engaging the traveller to a personal experience in knowing oneself as it leads one to knowing God.

It is also important that there are five other things that define a Sufi:

  1. he loves all creation, being one in creation

  2. he respects all men since all men descended from banu Adam

  3. He respects all religion because they all originated from one source

  4. he views all in the light of Allah's Pleasure

  5. Truth and light does not contradict, as light is a manifestation of truth

And this sums up my simple talk on Sufism.

Wa ma tawfiq illa bi Allah

Wa salatu wa salamu alal Sayiddna Muhammad,wa alal alihi tahirin wa ashabi muntajirin, wa ummati wasiyin

Wa salamun alal Mursalin wal hamdullillah Hirabbil alamin

Quezon City Philippines

7 October 2008

Dedicated to My Sufi Guide (Hafidhu Allah) and the Shuyukh of His Chain

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Qur'an cannot be usurped: an interview with Amina Wadud Martina Sabra

The Qur'an cannot be usurped: an interview with Amina Wadud
Martina Sabra
Bonn, Germany - Islam, gender equality and human rights are compatible – this is a basic conviction of Amina Wadud, author of several books about Islam and women. Martina Sabra interviewed the Islamic feminist at a recent conference about Women's power in Islam in Germany.

Until the age of 20, you were a Christian. Your father was a Methodist minister. Today you are one of the best-known Muslim reform thinkers worldwide. Why did you become a Muslim?

Wadud: I was always interested in theological ideas. As you're saying, my father was a Methodist minister. I was raised as a Christian and very, very interested in ideas about God, about morality, about human nature and about spirituality. So before converting to Islam I was a Buddhist and lived in an Ashram and practiced meditation, which I still practice today.

When I was 20, I stepped into a mosque not far from where I lived. I wanted to know about Islam. I am very interested in the relationship between the profane and the sacred.

For me, Islam gave me a language, and actually Arabic was an important part of it – it gave me the language of tawhid, the language of God's intimate relationship with the creation, but also the power to bring harmony to things which are disparate. That for me is the epitome of surrender. Islam helped me to understand my experience with Christianity and Buddhism. It is a reasoned revelation. This is maybe not for everyone; some people have a more simplistic understanding of Islam. But this is how I lived it.

When I was given the opportunity to study a little bit about Islam, I was very impressed, especially with the Qur'an. For me, the Qur'an opened up a relationship between my logic, my reasoning, my understanding of the world, my love and desire for nature, and for the world beyond the world, for the unseen. And so I have developed my work specifically with the area of Qur'an and gender, and that is the area that I think it is sort of a gift to me because it is something that I love doing.

As a child, you witnessed the civil rights movement in the United States. As an adolescent, you say that you were very conscious about personal freedom and intellectual independence. Wasn't that in strong contradiction with the conservative mainstream Islam of the 1970s?

Certainly, I faced many contradictions. The struggle to be Muslim was easiest at the beginning, when I made the transformation from my post-Christian, post-Buddhist state into being a Muslim. Then, knowledge was the main impetus. Now it is more difficult, there is more that I understand and therefore more responsibility. My perspective is part of a reform and that makes it sometimes difficult because it is not mainstream.

When I first began to work on things that I considered to be gender mainstream, or gender-inclusive, the notion of Islamic Feminism had not been discussed. I wrote Qur'an and Woman in the end of the 1980s. In fact, many see the book as the beginning of female-centred exegesis of the Qur'an, which is an important part of what we now recognise analytically as Islamic feminism. Muslim women are not all interested in Islamic Feminism. Some of them are not even interested in being Muslim. For me, I have not had a problem with Islam so much as I had a problem with the way in which Islam is practiced. And that this kind of Islam can sometimes be aggressive against women's full rights.

In your writings, you often refer to Christian and Jewish religious thinkers, among others Paul Tillich and Martin Buber. In your books Qur'an and Woman and Inside the Gender Jihad you defend pluralism, the freedom of opinion and the right to be different from an Islamic perspective. According to your writings, the Qur'an should be re-read from a gender perspective and in the light of its historical context. Yet, the Qur'an is considered to be eternal and unchangeable. How does that match?

I think that unless you have had a real connection with the Qur'an, you will not understand how it is a force in history as well as in spirit. You will not be able to understand that there is cooperation between the reader and the text. You will say that there is some flaw with methodology. But you have to understand that the readers can use the text for whatever they want, because there is a dynamic relationship between the text and the interpretation. The text is both created in time but also evolves beyond time.

Could you give an example of how that works in practice?

We are now participating in a global reform movement for a Muslim personal status law, and the very fundamental basis for that yields back to the egalitarian trajectory of the Qur'an. The Qur'an did not complete that in the context of the prophet's lifetime. But the Qur'an is not usurped by even its own historical context. But some people have grown up in a culture where the Qur'an is used for a narrow and restrictive interpretation so they consider that interpretation the only interpretation. And that's problematic from my perspective. My work has shown that the interpretation is never complete. Meaning is never fixed.


* Martina Sabra is a freelance writer based in Germany. This abridged article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews). The full text can be found at

Source:, 29 August 2008,
Copyright permission is granted for publication.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Peace and Islam are not strangers


One of the key problems in discussions of Islam and peace is exceptionalism: the belief that Islam is profoundly different from other religions, and stands outside the Judeo-Christian heritage. Here in the West, we have constructed a notion of Islam as the “other” – as a reality that exists in contrast to and against Western values. We need to challenge this notion of exceptionalism, without denying the particularity and specificity of the Islamic experience.

Islam shares a great deal in common with its sister Abrahamic faiths, Judaism and Christianity and Western civilisation, to which it has made vital historical contributions. Like Christianity, Judaism, and the religions of the East, Islam is rich with precepts and traditions that support peacemaking. And like the followers of other religions, Muslims have often failed to live up to these precepts and traditions.

Peace and Islam have a long history together.

In its purest form, Islam is a fatwa (command) of peace. The Qur’an mandates “peace is a word from a merciful God”. For a devout Muslim, Islam is peace. Though this perception contrasts sharply with commonplace non-Muslim impressions, it is rooted in Islamic theology. In the Qur’an, Al-Salam, which means peace, is one of the most beautiful names of Allah, the Arabic word for God. Allah is also used by Christian Arabs in their prayer. It is the same God.

The yearning for peace derives from the innermost nature of humankind. The Qur’an affirms a positive view of human nature.

This characterisation of Islamic values is likely to appear unfamiliar to many non-Muslims, who are much more familiar with militant calls for jihad, a word that has frequently been (mis)translated as “holy war”. Jihad is much more than armed struggle against an enemy from the outside. The more important jihad is the struggle within the soul of Muslims for spiritual purification.

Abuses notwithstanding, there is a clearly articulated preference in Islamic social ethics for non-violence over violence, and for forgiveness over retribution. The Qur’an discourages unnecessary conflict, and condemns bringing about destruction, oppression and violence.

In traditional Muslim societies, the ideal of a harmonious social order was closely associated with the prescriptions of shari’a, (laws based on Islamic principles of jurisprudence). The objectives of shari’a are closely related to those of religious law in the Biblical tradition: the maintenance of proper, just relationships between the individual and God, within the family and community, among Muslims, between religious groups and ultimately between humanity and other created things.

Dear friends, together we can make peace.

Leaders on both sides of the Muslim-Western divide have much to gain from moving beyond preoccupation with symbols, toward genuine openness to a new experience of the “other”. Only active engagement through sustained dialogue can help us to transcend the fear and anger that produces conflict escalation, and discover the common humanity that these emotions conceal. And we are only likely to commit ourselves to such dialogue if we can begin to narrate a new story, a story about complementarity instead of the dominant story about confrontation.

Active engagement permits us to understand and recognise the authentic expressions of human religiosity, and protects us from the politics of manipulated symbolism. Active engagement is needed to move beyond negative reactions to discover human commonality, shared experiences and compatible aspirations.

Muslims and Westerners need to experience themselves “in relationship” rather than “out of relationship”. They have an opportunity to find meaning in the common tragedy of their estrangement as well as in the possibility of reconciliation.

Establishing peace in the present climate of mutual recrimination will not be easy. Peacemaking, in contrast to war-making, is proactive and requires deliberate efforts to move: from the superficial to the essential, from morbidity to creativity, from defensiveness to openness, and from the politics of fear and projection to a politics of hope.

The fact that the “war on terror” framework for responding to our present insecurity has increasingly become the subject of constant debate suggests a need for a new strategic doctrine. Using the “war on terror” concept to justify actual wars has undermined genuine efforts to promote international security. By avoiding pessimistic oversimplifications and slogans (for example, a “long war against Islamofascism”), leaders in the West as well as in the Muslim world can set the stage for effective responses to current insecurities.

Friends, it’s true, the new story of complementarity exists only in the form of a working outline, and can begin with the simplest of acknowledgements: Islam and the West are “stuck” with each other, and have no choice but to learn to co-exist. Both are here to stay, prosper and learn from one another. The dignity and security of one is connected to the dignity and security of the other. We can become co-authors of this new story.

We are all heirs of the story of confrontation. When we leave aside symbols and seek to know one another, we can become architects of a humane global order based on solidarity. It involves the head and the heart.

Let us spread peace. The whole world needs the whole world.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Eid Message


A Commitment To Reform And Rectitude

O’ You who believe! If you develop Allah consciousness, He (Allah) will (in return) grant you the furqaan, expiate your sins and forgive you…"

Praise be to Allah Ta’ala, Who had granted us the opportunity to complete the month of Ramadhaan in pursuit of His pleasure and obedience. Fasting moulds and purifies the believer, in the same way that the furnace moulds and purifies metal. The furnace churns out blazing flames, unbearable heat, and molten lead, yet the intensity of the heat simply serves to purify the metal. In the like manner, fasting entails thirst, hunger, sleeplessness, fatigue, and tiredness. Yet, it is a cleansing process, a system that purifies, moulds and develops the spiritual worth of the believer. Eid is a day, wherein the devout believer reaps the fruits for his labour and toil. It is a day of thanks giving, forgiveness, and joy. Joy at the accomplishment of a vigorous month of striving and self surrender.
Eid also signifies the rebirth of a vibrant, purged and spiritually enlightened believer. Allah Ta’ala has promised three favours to a person who has developed taqwa through his fasting.
"He will grant you the Furqaan"
Furqaan has two meanings:
1.. The mental foresight to differentiate between that which is harmful and that which is beneficial, together with the propensity to shun vice and adopt virtue. It is effulgence that radiates the intellectual and emotional discernment of a believer.
A clear illustration of the lack of furqaan among the kufaar, is their inability to effectively deal with the scourge of Aids. Everyone knows that it is a killer disease, yet no one has the morality to speak out against the vice that causes Aids.
2.. The battle of Badr is also called, "The day of Furqaan." In terms of human resources, armaments, etc. the Muslims were hopelessly equipped. Purely from a material view, they were doomed to destruction. Yet Allah Ta’ala, against all human odds sent down his unseen help in the form of Angels who physically took part in the
battle. In the like manner when all doors seem closed, when life seems humanely impossible, Allah Ta’ala will send down His unseen help, from avenues beyond our imagination.
"He will expiate your sins"
Allah Ta’ala will subject you to minor difficulties through which your sins will be commuted. Nabi (sallahu alayhi wa sallam) has said that even a thorn that pricks a believer will serve to expiate his sins. So, by virtue of fear, pain, anxiety, hunger etc. Allah will cleanse the believer of his shortcomings and sins.
Nabi (sallahu alayhi wa sallam) has said:
"A Muslim is never afflicted with any trouble, pain, anxiety, sorrow, harm, grief, upto the extent of a thorn that pricks him, except that Allah expiates his sins thereby."
"He will forgive you"
In the hereafter will He admit you to paradise, without calling you to account for your deeds, nor will He expose your vices before humanity on that Day.
Ramadhaan was therefore a month of immense spiritual significance of the believer. A month that has cleansed the believer of sin, moulded his character and blessed him with an intellectual awareness of right from wrong. A month that has drawn him closer to Jannat and a month that has increased his awareness of Allah. Eid is therefore a day that marks a believer’s commitment to reform and recititude for the rest of the year. We need to ensure that we do not forget the lessons of Ramadhaan.
May Allah Ta’ala grant us the taufeeq to translate the spirit of Ramadhaan into our daily lives.


Free Domains