Nazara ya Um-Hashim … madad ya Sayedena Al-Husayn

Sawt Al-Umma, Issue No. 106
9th December 2002

Our life, no matter how long it may last, is no longer than an exciting movie. No sooner have you seen the opening scene than you find yourself close to the last. So don’t neglect your spiritual ‘fitness’ before you are surprised with the word ‘the end’..before you find yourself travelling, flabby with no merit, to the tent of judgment. Don’t think about eternity in terms of a wax museum for only Allah is eternal. All the kings, stars, emperors, and rulers returned to dust…those that remained were the awliya, the chosen ones, Allah’s people…those who walked in Allah’s way.

The Arabic word tarieq whose root taraqa means among other things ‘to knock’ – especially to knock insistently and relentlessly on a door – may be defined as:”calling people to Allah, to revive the teachings and example (Ar: sunna ) of the prophet and to put an end to innovation (Ar: bida’a) with wisdom and friendly persuasion”.

Every tariqa has a sheikh, his followers (Ar: murideen) and litanies (Ar: awrad) These are what make up tariqa. The sheikh should be well versed in the Quran and sunna. The mureed should have a genuine desire to follow the sheikh and ask to accompany him. The sheikh should make the mureed fully aware of the pitfalls and obstacles of the journey but leave him free to choose whether or not to continue. If the mureed still wants to accompany the sheikh and the sheikh accepts him then obedience to the sheikh becomes obligatory on the mureed. That obedience is like the obedience of the one at prayer to the person appointed to lead the prayer (Ar: imam). It is absolute. In tariqa it is the obedience of one who doesn’t know to the one who knows. In reality it is obedience to Allah. Worship is refined and beautified by obedience to the imam, its rewards multiplied and the chances it will be accepted by Allah are increased. Sayedna Abu Huraira (r.a.) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (s.a.a.w.s) said: ‘the imam is a guarantor and he who calls to prayer is a trustee. May Allah guide the imams and forgive those who call to prayer’ (Abu Daoud, Part 1, pp. 198, No 517)

The Arabic word awrad is the plural form of wird which is anything, be it worship or habit, said or done regularly. If you are in the habit of drinking coffee every morning when you wake up this is a wird. If you clean your teeth every night before going to bed this is also wird. If you recite the opening chapter of the Quran (Ar: al-fatiha ) as soon as you open your eyes in the morning, or you pray the ritual prayers every day at dawn, midday, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall, or you fast every year during the month of Ramadan, or you say a particular prayer after reciting the Quran, all these are awrad. Everything you say or do regularly and systematically at specific times is a wird. In the context of tariqa a wird is a prayer or litany the sheikh gives to the mureed who will reap its benefits if he does it according to the sheikh’s instructions regarding the correct reading of the words, their correct order, the time at which they should be recited, and the number of times they should be recited. In this sense, awrad are like the medicine prescribed by a doctor to treat his patient. It’s not the patient’s prerogative to object to the medicine, the dosage or when and how often it should be taken. The patient’s obedience to his doctor is to his benefit just as the obedience of the mureed to his sheikh is to the benefit of the mureed not the sheikh.. The obedience of the mureed to his sheikh ensures the greatest benefit to the mureed because Allah rewards him for his awrad while the sheikh is rewarded for guiding the mureed.

Since everything in religion should be firmly grounded in its source who is the prophet (s.a.a.w.s) why, then, are there so many diverse turuq ? One answer is that the sheikhs are the ‘people of the look’ (Ar: ahl al-nazra) a term derived from the Quran in which Allah says to the prophet (s.a.a.w.s) “And withhold yourself with those who call on their Lord morning and evening desiring His Face, and let not your eyes overlook them.” (Al Kahf: 28). These last words – ‘let not your eyes overlook them’ – which are directed to the prophet (s.a.a.w.s) allude to nazra which the sheikh receives from the prophet and which the mureed receives from his sheikh. After nazra there is madad which means ‘more of the same’

A person who claims to be a mureed but who does not have a sheikh and who does not follow a tariqa is not a mureed. A tariqa is built around its sheikh, its murideen and its awrad. Every tariqa has its source and origin in the prophet (s.a.a.w.s) who distributes madad to them all. Why then, we again ask, are there so many turuq and so many sheikhs? Another way of answering this is to draw an analogy with a river. If the river is too small or shallow, it won’t have many branches and we will not be able to construct channels or tributaries. There will not be enough water to feed them. There will be no madad. The existence of many branches, channels and tributaries speaks of the abundance of the river just as the number of doors speaks of the size of the place to which they lead. In the same way, the number of turuq and sheikhs speaks of the abundance of madad which Allah gives to the sheikhs through His prophet. Who in his right mind would deny the water that runs from a tap is water from the river?

In all the turuq we hear the words nazra and madad. We have mentioned already that nazra precedes madad. Nazra means ‘to taste’ while madad means ‘to want to taste more. ’Around their shrines, we hear people calling out ‘nazra ya Sayeda Zaynab’ or ‘madad ya Sayedena Al-Hussein!’ And therein is to be found another question.

Is it reasonable that a person should ask for such things from another person, be they living or dead? If we genuinely believe Allah does everything, then everything we say and do should reflect that conviction. However, Allah looks at our hearts before He listens to what we say. In what language should we pray? It doesn’t have to be Arabic. We can pray in Latin, Chinese or Hindi. Allah doesn’t dismiss our prayer if we are not proficient in Arabic. It is His prerogative to overlook our mistakes whether it be in our pronunciation or even our choice of words. How does a dumb person pray when he can’t utter a single word?

Anas Ibn Malik (r.a.a.) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (s.a.a.w.s) said: ‘Allah is most happy with the repentance of his slave when the slave repents. One of you was on his camel in the desert and it escaped from him with his food and drink until he despaired and came to a tree where he fell asleep. When he woke he saw his camel in front of him  He took the camel’s rope and cried out in joy ‘Allah you are my slave and I am your Lord’ He made a mistake out of extreme joy (Bukhari Volume pp 2104 2105 Number 7-2747.  About this the prophet said: ‘Allah is happier with the repentance of one of you than the man whose joy made him lose control over what he was saying.’ The meaning of this is that Allah holds us to account for what is in our hearts

The Quran says:’On a day when the hypocrites, men and women, will say to the believers: Look upon us so we may have some of your light (transmitted to us)! It will be said to them: Go back and look for light! Separating them (the believers and the hypocrites) will be a wall in which there will be a gateway. On the inside (of the wall) there will be mercy. On the outside there will be torment. They (the hypocrites) will call out to them (the believers): Were we not with you? They (the believers) will say: No. You deluded yourselves. You took up positions, organized and tried to mislead the believers until Allah’s order came to pass and you tried to deceive Allah. This day, no sacrifice will be accepted from you or the non-believers. Your destination is the fire. It is your destination and a terrible ending’ (Al-Hadid:13-15) This passage from the Quran tells us that on the Day of Judgment the hypocrites will ask the believers to ‘look upon’ them – anzuruna – nazara – so they can have some of their light transmitted to them. But by then it will be too late. The time for that will have passed.

They should have asked the believers for light in their earthly life instead of deluding themselves and making fun of them. The Quran says: “The wrongdoers laughed at the believers. When they (the believers) passed by they (the wrongdoers) belittled them. When they (the wrongdoers) returned to their families they joked and jested. When they (the wrongdoers) saw them (the believers) they called them lost and asked them why no-one protected them. But this day the believers will laugh at the non-believers  On high couches, gazing. Surely the disbelievers are rewarded for what they did.”(Al-Mutaffifin:29-36). This is nazra. Its importance is evidenced by the hypocrites’ need of it on the Day of Judgment, a day of reward without work.

If we desire something that will be of benefit to us in the next world, then we should take it from this world, like a coat on a warm day which we remember to carry with us to cover us when it gets cold. What happens when a believer goes to the awliya and says ‘Look upon us so that we may have some of your light’ in this world at the appropriate time before ‘the day when a person will run away from his brother his mother his father his wife and his children’ (A’basa:34-36)?  He who seeks nazra has protected himself and prepared for that difficult day. He who seeks it finds its effect as light in his heart and when the heart finds the sweetness of the light it receives from nazra then it will ask for more of the same which is madad. Instead of running away from his brother, his mother, his father his condition changes. Allah says ‘ on that day close friends will be enemies to each other except for those who fear to displease Allah.’ (Al-Zukhruf:67)

We need to correct people’s understanding of madad. They should know that nazra comes first. If we find the sweetness of nazra in our heart and tranquility in our soul and place our hope in the unseen and in Allah’s mercy then we can ask for more so that we can be among those who call unto their Lord in fear (which is nazra) and anticipation (which is madad) and spend on what has been given to them in the way of sustenance.