Saturday, September 16, 2006

Latest Pictures & Suhab of Shaykh Hisham in SEA

View the latest pictures of Shaykh Hisham Kabbani's visit to Indonesia in September 2006

Listen to the Suhab he gave in Singapore

Friday, September 15, 2006

Journey to Ihsan

“Ihsan is a long journey that no one can understand. But Allah has placed in us a chip in our brains, smaller than a lentil seed that contains all the softwares for us to understand Him”, said Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani at the “Journey to Ihsan: 2nd International Conference on Islamic Spirituality” held at the Sultan Mosque Auditorium in Singapore on Saturday and Sunday 2nd and 3rd September 2006..

The event, organised by Abdul Aleem Siddique Mosque attracted an almost capacity audience in the 400-seater auditorium. The Conference invited distinguished guests and speakers from America, England, Malaysia, and Singapore, namely Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, Chairman of Islamic Supreme Council of America, Sis Aisha Gray, Director of Fons Vitae publishing company, Professor Abd al-Haqq Alan Godlas of the University of Georgia, Professor Abu Mustafa Timothy Gianotti of the University of Virginia, Bro Aftab Ahmad Malik, a Visiting Fellow at the University of Birmingham, Ustadh (Dr.) Muhammad Uthman el-Muhammady, a Very Distinguished Fellow at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation (ISTAC) in Malaysia, Shaykh Mohd Ibrahim Mohd Kassim, a distinguished scholar and Sufi in Singapore, and Ustadh Mohamed bin Hj. Ali, Research Analyst at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (IDSS) at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore.

The message from the Conference is clear: Tasawwuf, Islamic Spirituality as an all-encompassing science of the heart has an important place in Islam. Muslims must strive to understand and practice its teachings in a constant and continuous manner to reach the station of Ihsan, of Ultimate Goodness and Perfection. The Journey to Ihsan is a long one that requires constancy and effort, and that “one cannot be called a Sufi if he does not practice the Pillar of Islam”, stressed Shaykh Hisham, adding that “Ihsan cannot be achieved without the Shari’ah”.

“Allah has honoured us by making us humans,” added Shaykh Hisham, “and gave us knowledge of Ma’rifah to understand Him and reach His Presence. The first honour of Man is also his creation–Man’s creation originating from three lights, light of Allah, light of the Prophet s.a.w., and light of Adam a.s.–when Archangel Jibril raised the clay from earth to the heavens during Allah’s creation of Adam a.s.” That became the beginning of an honoured existence for humans and they must strive to return to that heavenly station of perfection.

The importance of appreciating Tasawwuf as an active component of the Shari’ah was addressed in detail by Ustadh Mohamed. He explained the meaning and origin of Shari’ah and Tasawwuf, demonstrating the latter’s integral position in the Shari’ah. He also cautioned the neglect in understanding the relationship between the two sciences. “Some Muslims consider Tasawwuf as a non-integral component of the Shari’ah”, Ustadh Mohamed said, “while some Muslims also consider Shari’ah as an empty form and that Reality was only found within the Sufi path.” He said that Tasawwuf is long established and accepted by Islamic scholars and is the science that leads to Ihsan, quoting the Hadith of Jibril as authentic basis in the Islamic tradition. It forms an integral part of the Shari’ah, stating that according the Tafsir of Imam Qurtubi, “Shari’ah is the Deen of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.”

Adding that Tasawwuf is an “ancillary discipline to ‘Aqidah”, it emphasises the “systematic increase of a Muslim’s certainty or faith in his religion…via the virtues of both Mudhakarah, teaching the tenets of the faith, or through dhikr.”

He demonstrated this using the Tree of Islam, where the roots signify Belief, its soil and nutrition meaning Values, its trunk being the Rituals according to Shari’ah, and its crown the subtleties of Tasawwuf. Ustadh Mohamed felt the urgent need to revive Tasawwuf in our time, and that the system of Tariqah (Sufi Orders) is well-suited to address social ills of the Muslim community. “This is because,” he added, “all the social ills manifested in the society are rooted in the diseases of the heart. Hence, to counter the social ills, the diseases of the hearts have to be first eradicated before the hearts and subsequently, the individuals could be adorned with more honourable traits and qualities.”

Speaking on Taqwa, Professor Godlas asserts that Muslims must practice Mushahadah, self-accounting, which is one form of meditation in Islam that Sufis in particular enjoin in its practice in their “witnessing God in one’s heart, without being aware of other than God”. Hence Muslims must strive to witness God and surrender to Him as a realisation of Taqwa to ennoble themselves and be God-conscious. Citing Shaykh Ruzbihan al-Baqli, Professor Godlas states that “the noble person is one who knows God directly (through Ma’rifah), who stands in awe of God, and who humbly surrenders to God.

“Taqwa is,” he added, quoting Shaykh Abu Bakr al-Wasiti, “(following appropriate) manners with God. And that means that one does not see along with Allah other than Allah.” He added that despite one’s best efforts to witness God alone, there are “other competitors” for our attention besides God, namely, our sense perceptions, thoughts, emotions, and sense of self intrude.

To break away from them, he suggested four ways with which to witness God: the Jadhbah, or Allah’s attracting force, the presence of a Wali or saint and his transmission of guidance, self surrender to God, and contemplation of knowledge of self and God. In cultivating Ihsan, Muslims should also invoke Shukr, Gratitude to God in their journey to Ihsan as Allah links it with His Remembrance (Dhikr), where it becomes a form of worship to God. He said that “by not observing Shari’ah, not following the Sunnah, and not believing properly would be obstacles in cultivating Ihsan.” An essential factor in cultivating Ihsan is to invoke gratitude to the Prophet s.a.w., offering blessings to him, his family, and companions, as is the tradition of Muslim scholars. The Prophet s.a.w. not only conveyed the Divine Message and exemplify it, but his Nur, Light continues to shine guiding the way to Islam, Iman, and Ihsan, leading to Divine Blessings (Rahmah). To be grateful to God is not only in times of peace and health, but is needed in times of tribulations and sickness.

Sickness also brings hidden Rahmah, Divinely Blessings that should not be looked upon as an obstacle to reach Ihsan. Sis Aisha Gray shared how her one year in paralysis helped understand how she became a better person, and by showing Gratitute to God hastened the cure to her disease. She also demonstrated how Art and Architecture is inspired by Spirituality, explaining the details of an Islamic painting on the Conference’s banner, and how symbols and archetype, like colours, shapes, and patterns, formed reflections of Reality. Sis Aisha explained how the three forms of ornaments in Islamic Art–calligraphy, Arabesque, and geometry–embellish not only religious structures but also objects for secular use. A half hour video of Islamic architecture in Cairo produced by her further demonstrated the uniqueness of aesthetics and their relations to spirituality.

Bro Aftab Malik cited personal examples of his encounters and asserts the need to embrace the tradition of Islam, an example in this case, the Isnad system of knowledge transmission and authorisation, against modern academic structures that have no links to the Prophet s.a.w. “The tragedy of our age”, he asserts, “has been a severing of this tradition that has been established by the elect and most learned of this community and a dismissal of a well trodden path that has led generations of sages, mystics, scholars and the Muslim masses to their ultimate goal.” He noted that in our time when we have more access to religious information than in any period, Muslims need to be wary of young and instant “scholars” and “muftis” that emerged out of the Internet. He said that Islam has now been reduced into an “instant book”, drawing parallels with the instant food culture of our generation, where anyone may read anything and “authorise” themselves to give legal rulings without consideration to sacred knowledge and complex legal principles.

Bro Aftab also observed how Muslims have deserted Islamic art and relics of our civilisation by destroying them instead of preserving, with the only hope of their continued existence being appreciated by non-Muslims who truly understand the lights and spirituality that emanate from the vestiges of our faith. During the plenary session, he also brought to light how Muslims “needed” a conference simply to prove that Tasawwuf is an Islamic science, something unthinkable in any Muslim society where Tasawwuf has always been a part of their lives. He added in an earlier paper, “The Islamic tradition is rooted in knowledge which is carried and transmitted by inheritors of the Prophets who possess a light in their hearts which is passed onto others; illuminating and intoxicating all those who come into contact with it. Dhikr…is the cure for this disequilibrium of hearts…while…Prophets were sent to remind humankind of their divine spark.”

Ustadh (Dr) Uthman reminded the Conference of the unparalleled excellence of the prophecy of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. He quoted many Qur’anic verses with regards the excellence of the Prophet s.a.w., from his purpose as Mercy to all the Worlds, his exalted nature and personality, his love for all of creation, his unique position and majesty in the Divine Presence, his moral stature that stands out during the Jahiliyyah period, his just temperament, his ease of relations with others, and his promised Shafa’ah (Intercession) for his Ummah on the Day of Judgment. From numerous narrations, Ustadh Uthman pointed to the utmost clarity of the Prophet’s position in relation to God Himself as His “beloved one”, in relation to all Prophets as “their leader”, in relation to his believers as “his Ummah”, giving them, on the Last Day, his Intercession. “His cosmic grandeur,” Dr Uthman said, “will be clear in spite of his relatively ‘human’ image in earthly history. He has appeared, out of Divine Grace, as a Mercy to all, giving guidance for their ultimate and earthly salvation.” The perfection of the Prophet is his “contemplative intellect that works in harmony with the synergistic functions of the intellect.” This, Dr Uthman believes, ennobles the person of the Prophet s.a.w., enabling him to be capable of love, courage, patience, chivalry, compassion, and all other qualities that make him the most Perfect of all Creation, of his Ihsan. For this, he reiterates the need to pray for blessings, honour, and peace upon him and his family as well as his companions and those who follow him.

Professor Gianotti relates that Ihsan is “a journey to God as both a homecoming and a becoming”. “The journey to Allah”, he said, “is a circular one. We are going back from where we came.” This journey back must be manifested in our lives in relation to everything between the heavens and the earth. Allah has “hardwired” us for happiness. In reaching Ihsan, he encouraged the attainment of the level of Salih, to be whole, and of Falah, properity. This is because the soul needs to be radiant, happy, and satisfied with Allah, and this can be achieved when we know ourselves. When that has been achieved, then will we know ourselves by “unlocking the memory of the meeting with God” before time, when Allah asked all the souls “Am I not your Lord”, and we answered, “Verily, we attest to You and we bear Witness”. Professor Gianotti also claims that Ihsan is not about the past or future, “but it is about being in the moment, now”, he said. It is a journey that one needs to help another as to what we want to achieve; that is, the return to Allah. He added that in order to reach Ihsan, we must make Islam set the standards in every day life. This involves Muraqabah, constant vigilant observation of the heart in relation to all aspects of our lives. He cited examples of fasting not only in the physical aspects, but also the inner dimensions and that of the sense perceptions. He also says that Muslims only concern themselves with Halal food only when it is slaughtered, but gave little consideration to the well-being of the animals when they are alive. In Muslims’ attempts to set global standards in all aspects of life, we need such considerations in a wholesome journey to Ihsan.

Addressing the start of the second day of the Conference, Shaykh Mohd Ibrahim asserts that the world is in dire need of spirituality: the lack of spirituality gives Islam a bad name in our time. But the blame is also towards some Muslims who took Islam in their own hands and acted as they wished. It is those same people that are destroying Islam, acting in the name of Islam, but their actions were never based in Islam. Explaining the verse about the Prophet “is within you”, Shaykh Ibrahim posed the question about suicide bombers, “If Rasulullah s.a.w. is in oneself, can he destroy himself? Will he kill himself (thus destroying the light of the Prophet which is within him)?” The only way that will lead one to the right way and to Ihsan, is by Islamic Spirituality. At the heart of it is the Spiritual practices entrusted by a Master. To journey to Ihsan requires practice, not just words.

Perhaps no speaker is more celebrated than Shaykh Hisham Kabbani. In his second speech, he reflected how love is important in Muslims’ lives, and how God’s Love and the love of the Prophet s.a.w. is manifested in all of creation. He continuously engaged the audience to make a self-accounting every day and observe how we lead our lives in our ignorance and sins. He pointed out the importance of having a Shaykh in the Sufi way to guide us in our lives. To ignore it is to cut oneself off from the promise of Divine Love and endless Blessings of the Prophet s.a.w. “The Awliya’”, said the Shaykh, “love Allah and His Prophet s.a.w. So they become like spotlights through their love, that always give light that shines in all directions and guide people to the Truth.”

The Conference also celebrates the Islamic art of Qur’anic recitation and the singing of Qasidah in style. Malaysian Nashid outfit Nowseeheart, presented a youthful and contemporary rendering of popular traditional Qasidahs, or songs of praises upon the Prophet s.a.w., while renown Quadrovox, a four-man group from Indonesia, moved the audiences with their powerful vocals and harmonious recitation of the Qur’an, and brought the audience together in dhikr and singing praises upon the Prophet s.a.w. Renown scholar Shaykh Abdul Maqsud Faris of Egypt who is based in Singapore, gave a highly-charged poetry recital about dhikr and forgiveness on the last day. Ustadh Uthman also gave a powerful recital, “O Lord Teach Us Again”, at the end of his lecture.

In closing, the Guest of Honour, Mr Zainul Abidin Rasheed (Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs) enjoined the need to revive the science of spirituality. He hopes that the learning curve during the Conference should not be confined during the event only but must be practiced in our daily lives. Then only, shall Muslims realise the answers to their burning questions of their purpose in life that would help them in their own Journey to Ihsan.