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Discourse 3 - Contemptibility of Pride

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Pride - Challenging the power of Allah Ta’ala

نحمده و نصلي على رسوله الكريم ، أما بعد :

Allah Ta’ala states in a Hadeeth-e-Qudsi:

الكبرياء ردائي و العظمة إزاري فمن نازعني واحدا منهما أدخلته النار و في رواية قذفته في النار (مشكاة ، ص 433)

“Majesty is My upper-garment and greatness is My lower-garment. Whoever attempts to snatch any of the two away from Me, I will enter him into the fire of hell.”

Hadeeth-e-Qudsi is an explanation, by Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam), of a statement made by Allah Ta’ala. He attributes it to Allah Ta’ala but it is not part of the Qur’aan Shareef. In this hadeeth-e-qudsi, Allah Ta’ala states:

الكبرياء ردائي

“Majesty is My upper garment.”

What will we think of a person who tries to snatch away the garment of someone else? We will say that he is a very immoral and wicked person. Thus that person who wants to establish his greatness, who wants to show his superiority over others, he displays his arrogance towards others, he is in fact trying to snatch the upper-garment of Allah Ta’ala. Do we realise the consequence of a person who tries to snatch away the garment of Allah Ta’ala?

If someone tries to snatch away your garment, you can challenge him, even if he is two or three times more powerful than you are. You can challenge him by using an instrument or object as an aid but the greatness and power of Allah Ta’ala has no limits. It is unparalleled:

وَهُوَ الْقَاهِرُ فَوْقَ عِبَادِهِ

“And He is the One who has complete power over His slaves.” (al-An`aam:61)

هُوَ الْقَادِرُ عَلَى أَن يَبْعَثَ عَلَيْكُمْ عَذَابًا مِّن فَوْقِكُمْ أَوْ مِن تَحْتِ أَرْجُلِكُمْ أَوْ يَلْبِسَكُمْ شِيَعًا وَيُذِيقَ بَعْضَكُم بَأْسَ بَعْضٍ

“He is all able to punish you from above or under your feet or put you into conflicting factions and make you taste the vengeance of one another.” (al-An’aam:65)

Allah Ta’ala has complete and absolute power. The entire universe is the creation of Allah Ta’ala. The snake and the scorpion are the creation of Allah Ta’ala. The lion and the wolf are the creation of Allah Ta’ala. Allah Ta’ala has the power to punish any criminal using any of his creation. Sicknesses that affect man are the enemies of man. Natural disasters are also hidden enemies. A person is diagnosed with a tumour, another with TB. Cholera breaks out.

All these and many other sicknesses are the ‘creation’ of Allah Ta’ala as well. Allah Ta’ala can punish any sinner using whichever ‘creation’ He desires. And Allah Ta’ala can also punish one, who tries to snatch away His garments, by using any of His ‘creations’ as well.

From where to where

Therefore, we should not allow greatness to become embedded within the heart. Man should ponder over his mode of creation. He was created from impure sperm, from a detestable liquid, from clay and from decomposed mud. He was created in such a way that when his father and mother indulged in intimate relations, they had to do so in privacy. They desired that no one must be able to see them. And the end result of this intimacy was that they were declared impure by the shari’ah, not worthy of even touching the Qur’aan. In this way, man was transferred from the back of his father to the womb of his mother.

Reflect and ponder

It is mentioned in the hadeeth that when the sperm is transferred to the womb, an angel who is appointed to oversee it says:

يا ربّ نطفة

“O my Sustainer! What is your command regarding this sperm? Should it be aborted or allowed to live?”

If it is allowed to live, it is transformed into a clot of blood over a period of forty days. Thereafter, the angel asks:

يا ربّ علقة

“O my Sustainer! What is your command regarding this clot of blood?”

If it is allowed to live, it is transformed into a piece of flesh over a further period of forty days. Thereafter the angel asks:

يا ربّ مضغة

“O my Sustainer! What is your command regarding this piece of flesh?”

If it is allowed to live, the limbs begin to form and then life is transferred into this body.

The menstrual blood that a woman discharges every month terminates when she falls pregnant. This blood is now required for the development of the child’s body. After the child is given life, that blood becomes his nourishment and, when the child is born, Allah Ta’ala changes its nourishment from blood to milk. The child’s condition is such that it cannot discern anything. It possesses no knowledge, and it does not have any strength. It cannot turn on to its sides, and it cannot sit, speak or explain its discomforts. If any part of its body aches, it cries endlessly to such an extent that, on trying to comfort and relieve him, we become exhausted. If it gets soiled in impurity, it remains in that state unaware of its condition. It begins to lick its hand even though it is covered with impurity. It does this unknowingly. This is how man is born.

Thereafter he progresses slowly. His condition and senses begin to improve. He learns to eat different types of food, speak and understand different concepts. The point is that how can a person, whose beginning is so primitive, become so proud and arrogant? He should ponder about himself, as the Qur’aan commands:

 وَفِي أَنفُسِكُمْ أَفَلَا تُبْصِرُونَ

“Do you not ponder about yourself?” (az-Zaariyaat:21)

We should contemplate over the way that we were created and the changing conditions and phases of life through which we pass. Childhood terminates with the arrival of youth. Youth is a stage of madness. A famous saying is,

الشباب شعبة من الجنون

“Youth is a branch of madness.”

In youth one has more strength but, at the same time, it is a stage filled with calamities. On a daily basis how much does a youth not urinate? How much does he not defecate? If one eats an apple or a guava, in what form does it become apparent three hours later? We do not want to take its name nor do we want to see it nor do we want to smell it or even touch it! This is how food is transformed after its association with man. Delicious food, expertly prepared, enters the stomach resulting in its colour, taste, and smell being completely altered. Every unique quality of it is ruined and in this condition it emerges from the body.

Man is extremely weak. Whilst sleeping, if a snake falls from the roof onto his bed, and bites him, what can he do? If a thief enters his house and strangles him, what can he do? If a scorpion stings him, what can he do? If an earthquake occurs and the earth swallows him, what can he do? He can do nothing. None of these events are within his volition and control.

An episode

A person from Saharanpur extended his house by building a new room. It was the monsoon season and it began to rain heavily during the night while he was relaxing in the old room. He thought to himself that I should rather go to the new section as this old room may collapse. So he took his wife and children to seek refuge in the new room. But upon entering it, the roof collapsed and everything was destroyed. The purpose of the room was to protect himself and his family but it got destroyed. Allah Ta’ala alone is the Protector!

Man is surrounded by many enemies, who are both external and internal. He is engulfed by impurities and filth. What pride can he then possess? How can he dare display arrogance and pride? If he rationalises to himself that I am a wrestler, I am very strong, then, no doubt, wrestlers have great strength; but if he becomes paralysed, he will not be able to even chase a fly away! He will not be able to move at all.

If he reasons in this way, “I have an abundance of wealth in cash.” He then strikes a single match to his notes and the entire wealth will be destroyed. The following episode transpired this year.

From crops to ashes

In Sha’baan I had travelled to Hathora, which is one of the districts of Banda. When the crops were harvested and the corn was gathered, an electrical cord snapped and fell onto the entire crop setting it ablaze. Whatever grain was gathered, all was burnt to ashes. What plans the farmer may have had, that his daughter is to get married and that he can sell the grain and arrange for her bridal garments. Also, his son is to marry hence he will be able to afford a walimah. Also, he will be able to build a house, pay his debts and go for Hajj. The fire broke out and all his plans were destroyed. The sole protector is Allah Ta’ala, no one else.

Therefore, on what basis can man, who is needy and surrounded by necessities and enemies, be proud and arrogant?

Knowledge – A light of the heart

Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) has mentioned in a hadeeth that whoever has an atom’s bit of pride in his heart cannot enter Jannah until he is burnt in the fire of Jahannum and this pride is removed. He will not enter Jannah before that.

So, that quality which Allah Ta’ala has kept exclusive for himself, does it make sense for anyone, and especially such a person who has acquired deeni knowledge, to try and snatch it away? If a person gains even a little knowledge, he becomes so intoxicated that – Allah Ta’ala forbid – such intoxication cannot be found even in alcohol. He considers himself to be superior to everyone else. Whereas knowledge is a quality belonging to Allah Ta’ala, the reflection of which is manifested on the heart.

Imaam Maalik رحمة الله عليه has mentioned,

ليس العلم عن كثرة الرواية إنما هو نور يضعه الله في القلب

“Knowledge is not an abundance of narrations. It is a light which Allah Ta’ala places in the heart.”

When this light is embedded in the heart, the first thing to become manifest is the condition of the heart itself. Take for example a dark basement. You will not know what is hidden inside until you light up a gas lamp or a bulb. Now, you can see that in one corner there is a snake and in the other corner there is a scorpion and you will be able to protect yourself from them. So with this light (of knowledge) one is supposed to be able to see the condition of the heart.

“Within my heart is jealousy, miserliness, ostentation, the desire to steal and cause harm to others, etc.” The first thing one should realise through the light of knowledge is how ignorant one is. This is the correct benefit of knowledge, acknowledging one’s ignorance.

Hadhrat Thanwi رحمة الله عليه has narrated that Shaikh-ul-Hind رحمة الله عليه used to say:

“After acquiring ‘ilm, we realised how ignorant we really are.”

Moulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri رحمة الله عليه used to address the students as jaahileen (ignorant ones) and after the completion of Bukhaari Shareef as juhhaaleen (very ignorant). What benefit is that knowledge, which does not show a person his faults? The greatest benefit of knowledge is that it aids in acquainting oneself to one’s personal flaws and sins. It opens one’s eyes to one’s weaknesses, which are the means of Allah’s displeasure. However, if knowledge becomes a means of searching for the faults of others and criticising them, making us oblivious to our own faults and reformation, it will become a means of destruction for the Ahl-e-‘ilm.

I once asked my father about a certain person, from the Ahl-e-bid’at, whether he was an Aalim or not. He replied, “Can a person who cannot distinguish between bid’at and sunnat ever be an Aalim?”

Hadhrat Sayyid Abdul Qadir Jilaani رحمة الله عليه and the golden goblet

Hadhrat Sayyid Abdul Qadir Jilaani رحمة الله عليه, who is called Ghaus-e-A’zam, is from amongst the special friends of Allah Ta’ala. It is recorded in his biography that once he perceived a very close proximity to Allah Ta’ala and experienced a shower of His special blessings. Many supernatural events were becoming manifest to him and in the midst of this condition he felt thirsty. Immediately a hand appeared from the unseen with a golden goblet filled to the brim with cool crystal clear water.

Now due to this incident and the fact that many miracles occurred at his hands, people’s beliefs regarding him have become corrupt. People have misconstrued this event and feel that distribution of sustenance was made over to him. Hence, they ask for sustenance directly from him and not from Allah Ta’ala. This is shirk.

Anyway, when the water was presented to him he intended to drink from it. Then the thought struck him that usage of gold utensils is haraam, so he hesitated. This thought was followed by some type of inspiration which said:

“Who are the ones who declare things to be haraam? We made it haraam and now we make it halaal for you. Drink! Otherwise you will be expressing ingratitude for our bounty for which you will be taken to task.”

After this inspiration he decided to drink from the golden goblet but he again thought to himself that this seems like the trickery and deception of Shaitaan because there is no abrogation in the shari’ah of Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam). The laws of Islam will remain until Qiyaamah and utilising golden utensils will not become permissible no matter who says so.

He recited, ‘La Howla wa la Quwwata’ and immediately the hand, the golden goblet, the light and blessings all disappeared. Shaitaan had prepared such a trap in order to lead astray a great wali of the time.

When Hadhrat Abdul Qadir Jilaani رحمة الله عليه recited ‘La Howla’ Shaitaan fled, declaring remorsefully: “Your knowledge has saved you. At this juncture, I have caused many Auliya to be sent to the fire of hell.”

 Hadhrat Sayyid Abdul Qadir رحمة الله عليه thought to himself that Shaitaan could never say anything good and beneficial to mankind. Hence, this must be a trap as well.

إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ لِلْإِنسَانِ عَدُوٌّ مُّبِينٌ

“Indeed Shaitaan is an open enemy of mankind.” (Yusuf:5)

“My knowledge has not saved me,” Hadhrat Sayyid Abdul Qadir رحمة الله عليه exclaimed. “It was the grace of Allah Ta’ala that has saved me. If the grace of Allah Ta’ala was not directed towards me, what benefit could knowledge have? It would be of no benefit.”

Imaam Raazi’s رحمة الله عليه debate with Shaitaan

It is recorded in the biography of Imaam Raazi رحمة الله عليه that whilst travelling, he met Shaitaan and they began to debate. At a distance, they saw a farmer approaching who was carrying a ploughshare on his shoulder.

Imaam Raazi asked him, “Is my Imaan stronger or the Imaan of the peasant?”

“I can get rid of your Imaan in no time,” Shaitaan assured him. “The Imaan of that farmer is stronger.”

“My Imaan is based on proofs and research whereas his Imaan is based on emulation. How can you destroy something based on proofs?” They began debating on this point when the farmer drew nearer.

“Brother how many gods are there?” asked Shaitaan.

“One,” replied the farmer defiantly.

“What if I establish the existence of two gods with proofs?”

The farmer picked up his plough and said belligerently; “I will tear open your stomach with this ploughshare.”

“What answer do I give for such a proof?” Shaitaan sighed.

Hadhrat Sahl bin Abdullah Tastari رحمة الله عليه and Shaitaan

Shaikh Muhyiddeen Ibn Arabi رحمة الله عليه has recorded the following incident in Futuhaat-e-Makkiyyah, which is also narrated by Shaikh Sha’raani رحمة الله عليه. Hadhrat Sahl رحمة الله عليه was a very high-ranking friend of Allah Ta’ala. He once met Shaitaan on the way to the musjid. He had recognized Shaitaan and Shaitaan also realised that Hadhrat Sahl رحمة الله عليه had identified him.

“O Sahl, you say that I will not be forgiven and mercy will not be shown to me,” Shaitaan asked cynically, “Whereas Allah states in the Qur’aan:

وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ

“Indeed My mercy encompasses everything.” (al-A’raaf:156)

This verse is inclusive of everything. Am I not a thing? Am I non-existent? To say that I am non-existent is impossible since I am standing in front of you.”

Hadhrat Sahl رحمة الله عليه described his condition upon hearing this objection, “I was stunned and remained silent for a few moments. My condition deteriorated to such an extent that I could not breathe properly and my mouth became dry. This was a very strong objection.

“I read ‘La Howla’ in my heart and replied: ‘For whom is this mercy ordained? فَسَأَكْتُبُهَا لِلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ  It is for those who establish salaah, give zakaat and do other righteous deeds. You do not fulfil these; hence you are deprived of this mercy.’”

“It would have been better for you to have remained silent,” bellowed Shaitaan. “O Sahl, limitation and restriction are your qualities. Allah’s qualities and powers are unlimited. You have restricted His mercy. Comparing something visible with something invisible is incorrect. Similarly drawing an analogy between a being who is eternal (Allah Ta’ala) with one who is perishable (yourself) is incorrect.”

Shaitaan then departed having mocked Hadhrat Sahl رحمة الله عليه in this way. Hadhrat Sahl رحمة الله عليه stated that he had no answer to this remark.

Shaitaan confuses us in this manner. He presents such proofs that leave us dumbfounded. Moulana Anwar Shah Sahib رحمة الله عليه has also narrated this incident in Faidh-ul-Baari.

“It is a shame,” comments Hadhrat (Anwar Shah Sahib) رحمة الله عليه. “I do not understand the reason for Hadhrat Sahl’s رحمة الله عليه silence. Shaitaan is no match for the knowledge of the Ahl-e-‘ilm. If he had debated with me, I would have presented the appropriate answer.”

He then gave the answer that the verse of the Qur’aan means that everything can be encompassed in the mercy of Allah Ta’ala. To understand this, let us consider the following example: If a person says: “This room has the capacity to take 50 people.”

So even though at this moment no one is in the room, if people wish to enter, 50 can be accommodated. Hence, the mercy of Allah Ta’ala has the capacity to encompass everything and whoever wants to enter into the mercy of Allah Ta’ala, may do so. Now, if someone does not want to, then can we force him to do something that he despises? أَنُلْزِمُكُمُوهَا وَأَنتُمْ لَهَا كَارِهُونَ. What fault is there in the mercy of Allah Ta’ala if Shaitaan himself refuses to enter into it?

The point being emphasised here is that Shaitaan creates confusion in those who have acquired some knowledge. The most important thing to understand is that knowledge is given to a person to realise and rectify his own faults. Shaitaan uses the knowledge against an Aalim in such a manner that the Aalim begins to pick out the faults of others and thus becomes oblivious to his own faults. Pride eventually becomes embedded in his heart. This is an extremely dangerous scenario.

Also, in such knowledge, there are no blessings and benefits. What good can there be in the knowledge of a person who is puffed up with pride and disdains others? It is imperative, especially for the Ahl-e-‘ilm to save themselves from the malady of pride. Otherwise, all the effort put in learning and teaching others will be in vain. The condition of those whom Allah Ta’ala had blessed with knowledge, together with his grace, is different.

Scattered pearls

Someone had seen Imaam Muhammad رحمة الله عليه in a dream after his demise.

“How did it fare with you?” Imaam Sahib رحمة الله عليه was asked.

“A hand was placed on my shoulder and it was told softly in my ear, ‘O Muhammad, if we wanted to punish you, we would not have protected our knowledge in your bosom.’ That was all. I was not questioned or taken to task.”

He was then asked: “In what condition did you die?” He replied: “What can I say? I was pondering over a mas’alah regarding a mukaatab slave and the next thing I knew, I was dead.”

Someone had seen Imaam Shaafi’ee رحمة الله عليه in a dream and asked: “How did it fare with you?”

“I was seated on a throne of gold, on the right side of the ‘Arsh, and pearls were raining down on me,” replied Imaam Shaafi’ee.

Imaam Muhammad رحمة الله عليه was asked:

“What is the rank of Imaam Abu Yusuf رحمة الله عليه?”

He said that the rank of Imaam Yusuf رحمة الله عليه was above his, and when the person enquired about Imaam Abu Hanifah رحمة الله عليه, he replied that Imaam Sahib had been granted a very lofty status in Jannah.

What can be said about the lives of those whom Allah Ta’ala has blessed, not only with knowledge but also with His grace, which encompassed everything, thus saving them from the interference of Shaitaan. Wherever the grace of Allah Ta’ala is not found, distress and difficulties are prevalent. Allah Ta’ala bestows His grace on whomsoever He wishes. One will only receive the grace of Allah Ta’ala when he considers himself to be insignificant and thinks nothing of himself, which can be attained by pondering over the following points:

What am I created from? How much filth is within me? How many corrupt deeds and actions am I not involved in? I will become sick and after my death I will be consumed by the insects of the grave. My body will decay, blood and pus will pour out of my body, my limbs will decompose. What will happen to this beautiful face of mine? What will happen to my strength etc.?

If a person ponders over all these matters, he will be saved from the malady of pride, and the grace of Allah Ta’ala will always be with him. He will acquire the correct understanding and there will be such blessing in his knowledge that a single person will be a guide for thousands of people.

May Allah Ta’ala bless us with taufeeq. Aameen.

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