Afternoon tea with Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad
Quite a day. Woke up early for once, rushed to the better-late-than-never Eid Party rehearsals, then rushed to meet a friend to make it to someone’s house to spend an afternoon listening to Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad talk about the journey of the soul.
What a journey…the road was uphill…and the house was at the top! Alhumdulillah : ). We got there, (slightly out of breath), fearing that it had already started but Shaykh Abdul Hakim hadn’t arrived yet-phew. It was not long before he arrived with some other guests, sat in the middle of the sofa so everyone could see him and he began.
Bismillah-The Journey Of the Soul (the following are some notes I took-I have a feeling this will be long one)
Shaykh Abdul Hakim began by speaking about the year coming to its end, with the Hajj having just taken place and reminding us that all ibadaat are forms of dhikr; our days are punctuated with the five daily prayers, we have Jummah once a week, Ramadhan once every year and Hajj once in our lifetime. He mentioned how Hajj is the last pillar of Islam and how this practice is symbolic of the returning journey of the soul from whence it came. (It wasn’t until the end of his talk that I understood and appreciated the link between Hajj and the title of the talk).
We begin from the beginning, from even before we were manifest in our mother’s wombs; before we were given our bodily forms comprised of flesh and bones:
‘When your Lord brought forth from the Children of Adam , from their reins, their seed, and made them testify of themselves, He said: ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They said, ‘Yea! We testify!’ That was lest you should say on the Day of Arising: ‘Of this we were unaware.’’ (7:171)
The Great Covenant-All souls affirmed this, even the most firm of disbelievers.
The Hajj is focused on a symbolic object-the Ka’bah and the Tawaf begins with the Black Stone (Hajre Aswad). The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to kiss the black stone alot; Umar(ra) said that “had I not seen the Prophet(peace and blessings be upon him) kissing this stone, I would not have kissed it”.
Ali ibn Abi Talib(ra) narrated that when God took the Covenant, He recorded it in writing and fed it to the Black Stone-so this mysterious Black stone is related to our very beginning.The Shahadah of “la illaha ilallah” is bearing witness to the original covenant.
The realtionship of ‘abd (servant) and Rabb (Lord) cannot be changed and Hajj is a journey back to the realisation that we are nothing but ‘abds. The first words of Isa (alayhisalam) were “ana abdallah“, “I am Allah’s servant”.
One of the greatest names of Allah is Ar Rahman, it is the second most mentioned name in the Qur’an and is the second name of Allah: Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Raheem.
Allah has prescribed Mercy upon Himself, He has not said this about any of His other qualities.
“And the servants of the All-Merciful are they who walk upon earth gently,and when the ignorant ones address them, they say, “Peace!” (Qur’an: 25:63)
The ‘Ignorant ones’ refers to those who have forgotten about the Great Covenant to which they were witnesses to.
A shaikh was once asked by a man “how did you become a shaikh without a teacher?!” to which he replied “I observed the ignorance of others and I avoided it”.
Shaykh Abdal Hakim then opened a green book of Rumi’s Ghazals and read a few in Persian, explaining the metaphors and lessons as he went along.
Every soul is yearning for the point of its origin; where we were before the wombs, when we were with the Angels.
He commented that the purpose of religion is two fold: 1) to wake us up so that we take this nostalgia and yearning seriously and 2) it gives us ways to live in the world joyfully as the Journey is through the world.
Everything in the world is a sign, even ignorance, if understood correctly.
Another ghazal of Rumi:
“In every breath we take, the voice of Ishq (Love) comes from left and right. We are going to the heavens, so what is the point of sight seeing”.
Also: “From where does the world of dust come from (dunya) and from where does the world of jewels come from (heaven)? Although we have come down, lets go back quickly” .
How do we get back to this realm that we came from? Rumi answers:
“Young fortune is our Friend,
Giving up oursleves is our Pursuit,
and our caravan leader is the Pride of creation, Al Mustafa”
Shaykh Abdal Hakim explained this by saying that if we go out into this world without a leader; this nostalgia that everyone has tasted means nothing, you can’t do anything with it unless you can read the signs and know how to intepret them. For example, you are lost in the desert, you see a signpost to an oasis, but what help is the sign if you cannot read?
This merciful Journey of return needs a teacher i.e the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessigns be upon him). The Prophet was sent to make things easy for people and to teach us how to engage with others in this Journey; how the elders and the young, men and women etc should act with each other-this is the broad picture of the Sunnah. However information alone is not enough to remove ignorance as it can be misused. For example, a person could learn medicine but he may use it to hurt people.
As well as information (books of fiqh, shariah) we have to have something else, Rumi says this it is the voice of Ishq;
“While the intellect is still sadelling the camel, the love has already circled the Ka’bah” .
The very beauty of this world tells us to leave it behind. The wise one reflects at these signs and moves on accordingly, whereas the fool keeps staring at the signs and does nothing (sightseeing) .
Like the leader of a caravan pack wakes his group of travellers and says “I’m sorry to wake you up, but there’s a journey we have to take”.
This path has obstacles and we may become dismayed and feel caged; like a caged bird who freed itself:
“You shook you’re wings and you’re feathers and you broke the cage, you took to the air and went towards the world of souls”
This describes a rather violent action, how else can a caged bird try to free itslef? It requires struggle and perseverance.
“You were a royal falcon in the grip of an old woman but when the falconer’s drum was heard, you went to the place that is of no place”
The ‘old woman’ referring to the dunya and the ‘falconer’s drum’ referring to call of our Lord.
Shaykh Abdal Hakim explained the usage of certain words and ideas in poetry, for example when ‘wind’ or ‘breeze’ is used, it refers to dhikr. This breeze agitgates and stirs up the heart and brings recollection. The use of “wine” and being “intoxicated” may seem strange and even innovative, as Muslims are prohibited from drinking alcohol in this world, but it is a way of expressing emotions.(Perhaps someone more versed in poetry could explain this.)
He also spoke about the role of intercession of the Prophet(peace and blessings be upon him) on the Day of Judgment, how he will intercede for people of the past Ummahs too as he was “sent as a mercy to worlds”; the closeness in meaning of “mahabba” and “rahma”, he spoke about anger being a principal quality of Hell and that Hell can be solitary whereas Paradise cannot.
He also touched upon how we can misunderstand these ’signs’ that we see around us due to our ignorance and anger and become formalists; preoccupied with symbols and outward practices which just become ‘adaat (habits); “don’t just look at the surface of the Ocean, but dive in”, turn yourselves into gardens that will bring others along with you on this Journey.
Finally, places where these gardens are cultivated may seem like downtrodden buildings to the outside world, miles apart from the beautiful mosques that we have,but we should not look to the outward appearances of things, but rather we should be concerned with what they contain-the Prophet(peace and blessings be upon him) asked to be raised with the poor, “poverty is my pride”.
This is what I was able to understand, and I’m sure there’s alot that I didn’t quite grasp but I was just happy to be sitting infront of T.J Winters!
It was a very nice, casual and informal atmosphere, with oppurtunity to talk to him and ask questions after we had prayed Maghrib (although we couldn’t stay for the questions).
As for the tea, I was a little shy so didn’t have any-”What? Usma not have her tea?!” I hear you cry…I had some apple pie instead : ).
Overall, it was a jolly good sunday afternoon!
God Bless and dua’s