Prof. Dr. Mahmud Es'ad COSAN

AKRA FM Friday Discourse

July 14, 2000

CHARACTERISTICS OF A ZÂHID

As-salaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh!

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

May Allah's peace, mercy and abundance be with you. May He elevate your rank and give you happiness in this world and in the hereafter.

a. One Who Works for His Parents and Family

[We continue our Friday Discourses with ahadith from the book titled Ramûz al Ahadith which was compiled by the great Sufi Master and Professor Ahmad Ziyaeddin Gumush-khanawi (1813-1893).] The first hadith of today's discourse was narrated by Anas RA:

RA. 212/5 (As-sâì alâ wâlidayhi liyakuffahamâ aw yughniyahumâ anin-nâsi fî sebîlillâh, wa man seà alâ zawjin aw waladin liyakuffehum wa yughniyehum anin-nâsi fî sabîlillâh, Was-sâì alâ nafsihî liyughniyahâ wa yakuffahâ anin-nâsi fî sabîlillâh, was-sâì mukâyadatan fî sabîlish-sheytàn) Sadaqa rasûlullah, fî mâ qàl, aw kamâ kàl.

As-sâî, means one who makes sa'y. Making sa'y means to try hard, to run after something. (As-sâì alâ wâlidayhi) "One who tries to meet the needs of his parents (liyakuffahamâ aw yughniyahumâ anin-nâsi) so that they do not need or seek other people's help or support (fî sabîlillâh) will be on the path of Allah, doing something that pleases Allah." The expression fî sebîlillâh is a very important expression for a Muslim. It means "on the path of Allah, for the sake of Allah." You may see people giving away water for people to drink. They keep saying "Sabîl, sabîl!" which means they do not want any money for it. It is for the sake of Allah. It means they expect the rewards from Allah. There is also jihad fi sabîlillâh which means fighting to defend the nation, state, Islam and belief for the sake of Allah.

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Meeting the needs of the parents is as important as jihad for the sake of Allah; it is an act to please Almighty Allah.

(Wa man seà alâ zawjin aw waladin liyakuffehum wa yughniyehum anin-nâsi fî sabîlillâh) "One who tries to meet the needs of his wife and children so that they do not need other people's support is also on the path of Allah." This means a lawful occupation, be it be trading, handcrafts, labor, farming, or engineering, to make a living, to meet the needs of family members is favored by Allah. It would be in compliance with the orders of Allah.

Isn't it great? Isn't Islam so nice? A person who works for a living is praised and honored. Allah rewards a person who takes care of his parents, his wife and children.

(Was-sâì alâ nafsihî liyughniyahâ wa yakuffahâ anin-nâsi fî sabîlillâh) "One who works to meet his own needs so that he does not need the support of other people is on the path of Allah." A person may work to support his parents, his family or himself. It is possible that a person may not have living parents or a family. He may live by himself. Then, if he works to earn a living, he will be doing something that is pleasing to Allah.

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The last part of the hadith is a warning: (was-sâì mukâyadatan fî sabîlish-sheytàn) "One who fools around, cheats or deceives people is on the path of Satan." It is a wrong path leading to the spiritual destruction and ruins in the hereafter.

When we look around we see that everybody is doing some work, running after something. However, not all of the work is the same. Some work is noble, honorable and spiritually fruitful. Yet some of the work is based on deception, fraud, and evil activities. The latter kind of the work or activities harm the individuals and the society. To attract a person to such activities, he has to be misled or tricked. That is why the word "mukâyadah" is used in the hadith. If a person earns a living by deceiving people, he is following Satan.

The deception may be in different forms. For instance, if a milkman adds water to the milk, the customer may not know it. It may be unnoticed. This is a deception, a trick. Another form of the deception may be in written agreements or papers. One of our neighbors in Ankara was a victim of such a deception. A man came to his furniture shop and ordered five sets of living-room furniture. He gave a check and his address. He looked like a wealthy businessman.

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Before delivering the furniture, my neighbor inquired about the customer. He found out that the customer owned a large furniture store on Baghdad Avenue in Ankara. He delivered the furniture. Yet when he wanted to cash the check, he found out that there was no money in the account. He immediately went to Baghdad Avenue. He found the furniture store empty. The owner had loaded all of the furniture to large trucks and left. This is an even greater deception which cannot be compared to adding some water to milk. Still yet, there could be some deception in interactions totaling to billions of dollars.

Everybody makes a living through good, wholesome means or through deceptions, tricks or unlawful means. In any case, the Creator of the earth and heavens and everything in them, the One Who makes the vegetation grow, the rain fall, the Sustainer of life in the universe, the Lord of Universe is aware of all of these. A believer knows that life in this world is a test, and he avoids all kinds of deception. On the other hand, one who lacks belief does not acknowledge the power of Allah and disregards the life in the hereafter. He only avoids the law enforcement agents or the police forces. He continues deceiving people and cheating. He does not remember that Allah is the Best of the Judges:

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(A laysallàhu biahkamil-hâkimîn) "Is Allah not the Wisest and Justest of those who judge?" Allah can punish a person in this world as well as in the hereafter. The Pharaoh and the Namrud are two examples from the history. You can also see examples in your own neighborhood. A truthful and honest person receives the benefits of his honesty. Lawful means to earn a living lead to a happy, clean and noble life in this world. A person may not accumulate wealth in this world, but with honesty he will be successful in the test of this life.

Some people live like a storm in excessive luxury, comfort, and show-off. This may be quite attractive for one who lacks belief. Yet for the believer, this is nothing compared to the blessings and rewards in the hereafter. This world is a place for difficulties and hardship. A person may be poor. Some prophets and beloved servants of Allah, too, had similar difficulties. The main purpose in this life should be to earn the pleasure and the approval of Allah, hence, to earn a pleasant life for the hereafter which is endless. When one fails to earn a good life for the hereafter, he will be in hell-fire forever. If it were possible to show everybody the Day of Judgement and the hereafter, they would realize their mistakes.

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b. One Who Helps Widows and Poor

The next hadith can be found in the collections of Bukhàrî, Muslim, Nasaî, Tirmidhî, Ibn-i Mâjah, Ibn-i Hibban, and Ahmad ibn-i Hanbal. May Allah be pleased with them and have mercy on them all. The hadith is narrated by Abu Hurayrah. The Prophet SAS said:

RA. 212/4 (As-sâî alal-armalati wal-miskîn, kal-mujâhidi fî sabîlillâh, awil-qàimil-layli as-sàimun-nahâr.)

Armila means a woman whose husband had died, i.e., a widow. Without a main supporter and protector, a widow may have children. She may be in need of support. Miskin means an extremely poor person who is unable to work to make a living. (As-sâî alal-armalati wal-miskîn) "A person who looks after and supports the widows and the poor (kal-mujâhidi fî sabîlillâh) is like a mujahid, a soldier who fights for the sake of Allah." How great it is! Jihad fi Sabilillah is a great, high state. Trying to meet the needs of the poor and needy is such an important deed.

Our beloved Prophet provided another similarity: (awil-qàimil-layli as-sàimun-nahâr) "or like a person who spends the nights in prayers and days in fasting."

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Fasting is also very important and rewarding deed. It is stated in the Qur'an:

(Innamâ yuwaffas-sâbirûna ajrahum bighayri hisab) [Surely the patient will be paid their wages without any reckoning.] Fasting is a worship in which patience and perseverance are practiced. It has benefits not only for the body but also for the mind, heart and spirit. I wish my brothers and sisters practice fasting on Mondays and Thursdays as well as on other days as recommended by our beloved Prophet. Of course, the fasting is for healthy Muslims; those who have some ailments have their excuses. Fasting is such a valuable deed.

Praying at night is also an important deed. There is great reward for those who get up at night and offer tahajjud prayers. Our beloved Prophet said:

(Rak'atâni minal-layli khayrun minad-dunyâ wa mâ fîhâ) "Two units of night prayer is better than this world and everything in it." It is a very precious worship because it is free from show-off. Nobody will see a person getting up and praying. It is between Allah and the person. There is sincerity in the person, and there is serenity of the night. One could look at the depths of the sky, the stars and realize the how giant the universe is. One can realize the meaning of Allah-u akbar, i.e., "Allah is great!"

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Once I was invited for an archaeological expedition in Ahlat, Turkey. Faculty members from Ankara University had undertaken the expedition and they needed somebody to read the scriptures on the items they unearthed. They asked me to help them read the scriptures. They also invited some people from the Middle East Technical University.

They had worries that I, as a "religious" person, could not get along well with the people from the Middle East Technical University who had a different view of the life. We spent a month there. Even the skin on our ears peeled off. Yet the nights were so nice and pleasing that we had nice conversations and discussions under the stars. It was a memorable event for all without exception. All attenders were pleased including the director of the expedition. Contrary to the expectations, the people from the Middle East Technical University were quite respectful towards us.

This could be due to two things: First, the truth has an effect. Then, the night has a mystic atmosphere. The verses and the ahadith, their explanations had tremendous effect in the atmosphere of the night.

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A person could get up at night silently, make wudu, and offer prayers. Then he can offer words of repentance and shed tears. He turns to Allah and asks what he wants for himself, for his family for his neighbors for the entire mankind. May Allah give the opportunity for all to enjoy such pleasures. These are the practices of close friends of Allah, the prophets and the righteous servants of Allah.

Going back to the hadith, one who takes care of the needs of the widows and the poor will receive rewards as though he spent the nights in prayers and days in fasting.

Dear brothers and sisters, unfortunately man is egoist. Most people always think about themselves first. Islam has trained man not to be egoist. Every Muslim is required to look after other people, and observe their rights. We are a nation of generous and giving people. we treat everybody nicely. Allah will reward all these deeds with His mercy.

For the reasons explained above, let us work for the benefit of all mankind, for the man is the most honorable of the creatures. Our responsibility towards Muslims is multi-fold. We belong to one brotherhood. We have a leadership position in the Muslim world. That is the expectations of Muslims throughout the world. We must help the nations that have been wronged, poor, oppressed, exploited, or cheated. We have to start from our own nation. As Allah ordered our beloved Prophet:

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(Wa anzir ashîratakal-aqrabîn) "Convey the message of Islam beginning from your relatives and tribe." Also, in giving zakah, the nearest kinfolk comes first. So, one has to start from the nearest circles. That is why serving a nation is important.

Unfortunately, the members of our ummah has been separated with artificial borders. If we extend our hand, we can reach our Muslim brothers in Western Thrace. If we had better means we could reach other brothers in Balkans, Caucasus and Crimea who are under oppression and subject to mass genocide. There are also nations, such as the Turkic Republics in Middle Asia, that we should help them get developed. There are also many people in other parts of the world who need help. In short, it is very important to reach other nations, feel their suffering, give them a helping hand, feed the hungry, clothe the destitute, and guide them to the straight path.

Some western governments and United Nations are carrying out similar activities. We observe that they often use these aids as means of some other purposes. We must try to provide better services just for the sake of Allah.

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c. What is Zuhd?

The third hadith is narrated by Abu Hurayrah. It is from the collections of Daylamî--it must be from his book Musnadul Firdaws. Our beloved Prophet said:

RA. 212/3 (Az-zuhdu an tuhibba mâ yuhibbu khàliquka, wa an tubghida mâ yubghidu khàliquka. Wa an tataharraja min halâlid-dunyâ kamâ tataharraju min haramihâ, fe-inne halâlehâ hisàbun wa harâmuhâ adhâbun. Wa an tarhama jamî'al-muslimîna kamâ tarhamu linafsika. Wa an tataharraja 'anil-kalâmi fîmâ lâya'nîka kamâ tataharraju minal-harâm. Wa an tataharraja min kathratil-ekli kamâ tataharraju minal-maytatillatî qadishtadda natnuhâ. Wa an tataharraja min khutàmid-dunyâ wa zînatihâ kamâ tataharraju minan-nâr. Wa an taqsura amalaka fid-dunyâ, fahâdhâ huwaz-zuhd.)

This is a very important hadith emphasizing important points that would lead to paradise. I wish all brothers and sisters memorize it and practice it. The Prophet SAS described az-zuhd in this hadith. Briefly it means "preferring the hereafter over this world." Zuhd is very valuable and recommended in Islam. The middle name of our late teacher, Muhammad Zahid Kotku was Zahid. Zahid means one who upholds the zuhd, one who does not care about this world, but seeks the benefits for the hereafter.

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Our beloved Prophet stated these words to describe the zuhd. As I explain their meanings, you should take notes.

1. The first sentence: (an tuhibba mâ yuhibbu khàliquka, wa an tubghida mâ yubghidu khàliquka.) "It is for you to love what your Creator loves and dislike what your Creator dislikes." Zuhd is the preference of the hereafter over this world, but it requires loving what Allah loves and disliking what He dislikes. Allah loves mercy and being merciful. Allah does not like cheating. Allah likes helping people and dislikes stinginess. Allah loves believers and dislikes the infidel. He loves the truthful and dislikes the liar. He loves the oppressed and dislikes the oppressor. We can find countless examples on this. So, zuhd is loving what Allah loves and disliking what He dislikes.

2. (Wa an tataharraja min halâlid-dunyâ kamâ tataharraju min haramihâ, fe-inne halâlehâ hisàbun wa harâmuhâ adhâbun.) "It is avoiding or staying away from the halal, i.e., lawful, things of this world as one would avoid the haram,i.e., unlawful, things of this world, for there is the interrogation on halal and torment on haram in the hereafter." It will not be easy to be interrogated before Allah on the day of judgement. May Allah place us into His paradise without any interrogation. Those who commit haram acts will taste the torment in the hell-fire.

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A zâhid avoids the halal things of this world because there will be an interrogation: "How did you get this? Did you pay zakah on it? Did you spend on Jihad? Did you spend it on proper places or on show-off?" By avoiding the halal things, a zâhid avoids the interrogation on the Day of Judgement.

3. (Wa an tarhama jamî'al-muslimîna kamâ tarhamu linafsika.) "It is for you to have mercy on all Muslims as you have mercy on yourself." Our forefathers said, "Prick yourself with a needle before you stick a darning needle into others." One must think about others as he thinks about himself. If you do not want to be treated bad, then do not treat anybody bad. This is a fundamental rule in ethics.

4. (Wa an tataharraja 'anil-kalâmi fîmâ lâya'nîka kamâ tataharraju minal-harâm.) "Stay away from the idle and useless talk as you stay away from the haram talk." This is also part of zuhd. A Muslim should prefer silence every now and then, for the silence itself is a form of worship. The useless talk is abhorred. So, a zâhid avoids the useless and purposeless idle talk as he would haram talk.

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5. (Wa an tataharraja min kathratil-ekli kamâ tataharraju minal-maytatillatî qadishtadda natnuhâ.) "It is avoiding eating too much as you would stay away from a dead animal that started to disintegrate and emit strong unbearable odors." This is also very hard for many people. People have means to afford delicious food in plenty. The refrigerators are full of food; the table is prepared attractively with various kinds of dishes. It will be hard for people to avoid too much food.

The sustenance is in plenty in our countries in our time. It is not well praised for the blessings and sustenance Allah has provided us with. The food is consumed in great amounts. The nafs gets stronger, yet the duties are not carried out as they should be. In our time there are also people who are dying of hunger. In Africa, Middle Asia, India, Pakistan, and in other parts of the world people suffer.

6. (Wa an tataharraja min khutàmid-dunyâ wa zînatihâ kamâ tataharraju minan-nâr.) "It is staying away from the wealth and ornaments of this world as one would stay away from fire." This is also part of being a zâhid.

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7. (Wa an taqsura amalaka fid-dunyâ) "It is to keep your worldly ambitions short. (Fahâdhâ huwaz-zuhd.) This is the zuhd."

Many people have a hard time understanding the meaning of "keeping the worldly ambitions short" or "low." This is what it means: Amal is desires, hopes and plans of a person. Tûl-i amal is having worldly ambitions as though a person will live for long years. Question yourselves: "How many people are there who thinks that he may die tomorrow?" Without having any terminal illness, how many people do you think would have the thought of leaving this world tomorrow? Also, ask your friends and colleagues about their plans for future. You will get responses such as "Well, I have a son who is in the military now. I will have him wed, open a store for him. In fifteen years, I will retire then I will do ..." People make plans for the years ahead.

A person who is thirty-years old thinks that he still have over forty years to live. He never thinks that he may die before. He acts as if he will live to be seventy. Who knows may be he has a year or six month to live. May Allah give him a long and fruitful life. May his life end in the most beautiful and desirable way. Tûl-i amal is for the person to think that he will live a very long life. This is not desirable because a person will neglect the repentance and working for the hereafter with the thoughts of living very long. On the contrary, if a person has a terminal illness and has been told that he has few months to live, he repents, avoids the wrong deeds, pays his debts, and prepares himself for the hereafter.

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The tûl-i amal prevents the person from preparation for the hereafter. It prevents the person from coming to the straight path, becoming a righteous servant, doing deeds that are pleasing to Allah. It will make the person think, "I am still young. I can do my worship when I get old. Some day I will repent and Allah will forgive me. Then perhaps I can go for the Pilgrimage." The person will be full of hopes of living long; he will feel comfortable and negligent about his religious duties.

Amal means hopes; tûl-i amal means the extension of hopes into the far future. It is not right to have such feelings. We must keep our hopes not to extend into far future, but prepare as though we would leave this world soon. That is being a zâhid. One who thinks he will live many more years can not be a zâhid.

To conclude our discourse, May Allah give us the opportunity to love what Allah loves and dislike what Allah dislikes. May he grant us the mentality to comply with His pleasure. May he give us the halal thing is this world and also the consciousness while benefiting from the halal things. May he make us merciful towards all Muslims as we are merciful to ourselves. May He save us from idle and useless talk. May he give us opportunities to increase our dhikr and meditation. May he also save us from overeating, for it is the cause of all illnesses. May He save us from the wealth, the allure and the glamour of this temporary world. Everything we own here will stay here. While the heirs enjoy the inheritance, the person will be interrogated on the Day of Judgement.

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Limit your ambitions and hopes about future. One has to be ready for death since he cannot know when he will die. May Allah grant us that awareness. May He make us among the righteous and zâhid servants.

I sincerely wish that you live very long years. I hope this is not tûl-i amal. I ask Allah to give you long lives because it is not easy to raise a Muslim. When a Muslim dies, "a hole appears on the walls of Islam." The death of a Muslim scholar is a great loss on the account of the Muslim Society. May the educated, well-mannered, merciful, knowledgeable, perfect Muslims live very long lives.

If Yunus Emre were alive, he would have been very useful for the society. If Mawlana Jalaladdin Rumi of Konya were alive, he would have given great advices to the administrators as well as to common people. May your long life be filled with great deeds. May Allah reward all of us with His Beauty in His Paradise.

As-salaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh!

July 14, 2000 -- Australia

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