Notes from Seeker’s Retreat 2013 – Realizations, Purpose, Ethics by Imam Afroz Ali
Imam Afroz Ali laid some ground house-keeping rules, applicable to all seekers of knowledge regardless of where they may be when seeking knowledge. Imam reminded us to be in state of Wudhu’ at all times if possible, to maintain a state of spiritual protection and goodness, especially when listening to words of Allah from the Qur’an or the sayings and Hadeeth of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam.
His sessions were distributed into 3 components:
– Realizations of a merciful servant
– Purpose(s) of creation
– Ethics of living
– On Realizations of a merciful servant, Imam Afroz began by introducing a verse of which Allah Describes “Ibadur-Rahman”, or servant of the Most Merciful:
And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace,
– Surah Al-Furqān (The Criterian), [25:63]
Realizing what it takes to be a Merciful servant of Allah SWT is part of Taqwa – that is to understand that safety lies only with Allah. Imam Afroz included in his introduction a statement from the Salaf which says, “Actions are dead, only given life through intentions.” Imam also defines actions as means to bring upon ourselves the Rahmah of Allah SWT.
To take from this world what has been defined from us is to follow the Sunna of Allah SWT which has been explained to us by the Sunna of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam. The Sunna of the Prophet comprises 2 parts:
– To follow his Prophetic way (S)
– To imitate him (S)
In relevance to realize one’s self in being a servant who is merciful, Imam Afroz walks us through realities that are beyond man’s understanding. There are things within the Sanctuary of Allah that we do not need to understand.
“Understand it is not about understanding”, Imam Afroz said. However understanding is when we walk the path that is “wide”, in reference to the hadith when the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam said, “My Sunna is wide.”
4 Attributes of “Ibadur-Rahman”:
1) They perform Qiyam-ul-layl i.e worship at night
2) They spend wealth in the name of charity
3) They do not kill and indulge in lewdness
4) When they have shortcomings, they turn those shortcomings into good deeds
In our journey to increase consciousness in Allah, by removing these things which are not pleasing to Allah and only focusing on what is pleasing to Him, Imam Afroz gave these tips:
1) Perform all obligations
2) Remove all Haram in your life
3) Avoid all things which are disliked by Allah (i.e Makruh)
4) Perform the actions which are recommended
5) Avoiding what is permissible by performing only obligations and that which is recommended
In our realization of our purpose in this world, it is to also realize that it is not our job to change this world.
Our job is to do what is pleasing to Allah, which will in turn change the world. Have good intentions, use our skill-sets, our wealth to utilize the means Allah Has Given us to transform ourselves.
Imam Afroz concluded this component by mentioning that the foundation by which we should live in this world is based upon being in gratitude towards Allah SWT.
On the purpose of creation:
Our purpose in this Dunya – is what a servant of the Most Merciful is about. The purpose of a ‘sign’ – is the Qur’an. The purpose of creation – is to remind us of Allah SWT. Everything was created to serve Allah. This Dunya is pointing to us a sign – that is our destination, to return to our Lord. Our purpose is to identity which means to take and what to rely upon.
Imam Afroz used the analogy of eating an apple to explain this:
“Why do you eat an apple? It nourishes you. But it is not the apple ‘nourishing’ you, but rather the apple manifesting Allah’s Attribute as ‘The Nourisher’.”
Imam related this to ‘Aynal Yaqeen – that is to be certain of Truth derived from sight.
The purpose of creation is two:
1) Khidmah (Service)
2) Sadaqah (Charity)
We are distributing agents of Allah, manifesting His Rahmah.
“When you give money to a poor person, you’re making them realize it is Allah who is providing for them.”
We are actually created to serve the creation – of which we then get to know Allah as we get involved and interact with them. Giving sadaqah is a means to attaining the ma’rifah of Allah, which is the highest of knowledge; but the highest of acts is he who increases in knowledge of Allah. Any knowledge that does not lead to loving Allah SWT only increases in distance from Allah SWT.
“Sincerity itself is knowledge.”
Sincerity varies according to levels of consciousness – synonymous to different levels of knowledge. Imam Al-Ghazzali spent 10 years in his yearning for Allah and emerged as “Hujjat-ul Islam” or “Proof of Islam” during which he recorded his path of knowledge in the ‘Ihya – from attaining sensorial knowledge to the Grace of Allah SWT.
1) Sensorial knowledge: When the 5 senses come together; Cognitive + De-cognitive
2) Rational knowledge/logic: A sequence of brain functions; Deductive + Inductive
3) Revelation through the science of Allah SWT: Requires the previous 2 levels of knowledge + sincerity and the dedication to Truth, not just logic
4) The Grace of Allah SWT: The Truth of reality; when Allah removes the veil in your heart – Requires the Grace and Qadr of Allah SWT
On the ethics of living:
Imam Afroz unravelled the sciences behind gratitude in relation to previous points mentioned pertaining realizations of a merciful servant and the purpose of creation.
The secret of Khidmah is in gratitude.
Attitudes of gratitude include:
– Beneficial altruism; affirmation – collective virtue of what Allah SWT has given you
– Frugality; appropriation – being specific as to how you’re going to use something Allah Has Bestowed upon you
– Accountability; commendation – magnifying and glorifying Him
Based upon these 3 attitudes are also diseases that may occur when gratitude is not expressed accordingly
1) Love vs Exploitation
– For example: Asking Allah to become a doctor, and then exploiting the fruits of the profession as opposed to putting it to good use (Zulm)
2) Acknowledge vs Abuse
– Abusing the Gift Allah Has given you and becoming selfish (Batar)
3) Thankfulness vs Concealment
– Not verbalizing thankfulness (Kufr ni’mah)
4) Praise vs Heedlessness
– Not praising the Generosity of the Generous One out of consciousness (Ghaflah)
5) Humility vs Expectation
– Loving this world more than Allah, which may cause us to be displeased with Him because of our expectations (Hubbun dunya)
Gratefulness is to thank Allah for what He Has given. Praise is to be in a constant state of “Al-hamd”, regardless of what Allah gives. Praise is to know who He is. On this, Imam Afroz dissects the two and explains:
Shukr is transactional – One recognizes what Allah Has Given them & thanks Him for it.
Hamd is relational – It is when one loves the One he is thanking that he can praise Him.
Imam Afroz relates the “certitude” of gratitude to be the yaqeen of gratitude – which brings to us “’Ilmal Yaqeen”; a stage of being able to acknowledge Truth through knowledge.
The certitude of gratitude comprises of 3:
1) Righteous Action (Islam) – through Khidmah of which you’ll get the commitment to Allah & be connected to Islam;
The 3 points of Khidmah:
– Giving one’s time to others
– Beneficial knowledge
2) God’s Remembrance (Iman) – through actions that lead you to mindfulness of Allah, in relation to the hadeeth which makes this year’s retreat: “Being in this world but as a stranger.”
3) God’s Praise (Ihsan) – of which one sees nothing but Allah
It is when we attain the Mercy of Allah and have certainty, certitude that it IS Allah SWT – then this is called “Haqqal Yaqeen”, that is when Allah Has manifested Himself to you.
The nature of Islam is in one word – “Dhouk” ; that is to taste, or tasting the reality of Allah SWT.
Imam Afroz concludes his session at the retreat with the statement, “This Deen is a means to seek Allah SWT.”
Transform yourself, transform others – just as Imam would’ve mentioned numerous times throughout the session, “The secret of the religion is in service (Khidmah).”
These bits of notes certainly have not done justice to all the knowledge Imam Afroz Ali has put tremendous efforts in during the retreat. However may Allah Ease and Assist us in applying these concepts so that we may increase in His Love and Knowledge, and may He forgive me for all that is lacking.
A flawed servant with a voice to and for trust. Your sister in faith, your friend in deen and your Ummah in congregation.