MFAS: A Cautious Welcome

بسم اللَّه الرحمن الرحيم وصلى الله على سيدنا محمد وعلى ءاله وصحبه أجمعين وسلّم

Title: MFAS – A Cautious Welcome

Author: Uthman Ibrahim-Morrison,Warden

Publication date: 2/5/2015

Assalamu alaykum. Welcome to the Civilisation and Society Programme of the MFAS. This is the first of 12 lectures which make up the Question Concerning Education module. The lecture will last approximately 40 minutes during which time you should make a written note of any questions that may occur to you for clarification after the lecture. 

A Cautious Welcome to MFAS


The  ancient roots of the august and venerable University of Cambridge, as is well known, lie in the English religious establishment, dedicated to the service of the Divine and the study of the Divinities. This is so clearly the case that historically, the university suffered an enormously negative impact from the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII and related political implications, which go some way to explaining the reorientation from its 'pre' - or early Renaissance character to its more recognisable post-Renaissance or Enlightenment emphasis on achieving excellence and prestige in utilitarian, scientific endeavours, humanistic intellectual studies and study of the liberal arts. I am surely not alone in my suspicion that the university's subsequent achievements would hardly have been possible without the original religious foundations which provided this proud institution with the ethical and disciplinary standards, practices and scholarly traditions in which its great reputation is rooted. Only time will tell what longer term costs and consequences will result from the all too precipitate and comprehensive abandonment of these auspicious underpinnings, in exchange for calculated returns from serving the secular-utilitarian, scientific and ‘technique-driven’ requirements and priorities of the industrial-enterprise nexus. Whatever the future outcome, I cannot help thinking that it will end up an unhappy bargain, and whether or not it will ever be possible to trace the chains of causation back to their roots in an empirically convincing manner will, no doubt, depend upon where questions regarding the evaluation of the matter will register on the scale of managerial and budgetary priorities - not very highly, I suspect. However, in the unlikely event that an explanatory correlation is ever identified or even investigated, between traditional religiosity and a positive conduciveness of the scholastic environment towards intellectual excellence and high achievement, whether institutional or individual, such as to indicate the advisability of a return to earlier traditions, one would hope that the generous presence of Muslim teachers and students would instantly be recognised as an obvious means of retracing the route back, or at least, as an important reservoir of the long neglected, underestimated and increasingly scarce commodity I am calling ‘traditional religiosity’. To my dismay, what we find instead on university campuses, predictably enough, is Muslim teaching and studentship being overshadowed by distracting controversies concerning radicalisation and separate seating arrangements for males and females. Is this to be the lasting contribution with which Muslims will be permanently identified? Is this to be the primary component of Muslim student identity in the British higher educational environment? If so, it does not leave us with much to look forward to when our account with history is being settled, let alone on that Day when Allāh Ta’ālā inspects our books! (May He show us mercy!). Of course, we will not be questioned on that momentous Day about what others did in their time and situations, but it is well for us to bear in mind today the behaviour of the leading lights of the revolutionary Sokoto Jihād in West Africa1 who, when faced with similar issues that threatened to derail the entire movement, in the form of the loud and intractable opposition from hypocritical and corrupted ‘ulamā who, out of self-interest, wished to preserve the status quo ante on behalf of their increasingly jittery local rulers and paymasters, to the mixed assemblies that the jihad movement’s leaders had deemed appropriate in order for women to have direct access to necessary and obligatory knowledge, they ceded neither the moral, nor the intellectual, nor the political high ground to their opponents, neither did they allow themselves to be dictated to by the ignorant or differ amongst themselves in their responses, which were therefore, issued with unambiguous confidence, clarity, sincerity and unerring effectiveness. Their high training in adab also ensured that they were more than sufficiently well equipped to hold their own in the intellectual confrontations that were frequently conducted through the exchange of arguments composed and delivered in verse, either in Arabic or in the local Hausa and Fulfulde  languages of the Fulani peoples, using a succinct and compressed metrical style and phrasing, known to be effective in penetrating hearts and minds:

“The open debate on women was sparked off in Daura in 1201/1786-7 by a scholar named Mustafa Goni. It was he who, according to ‘Abdullahi in Tazyīn2, first openly challenged the Shehu on his allowing women to attend his public lectures. In a message to the Shehu, Mustafa Goni said:

‘O son of Fudi, rise to warn the ignorant,
That perchance they may understand both religion,
and the things of this world.
Forbid women to visit your preaching,
For the mixing of men and women is a sufficient disgrace.
Do not do anything that contributes towards disgrace,
For Allāh has not ordered vice which could cause us harm.’
The Shehu’s immediate reaction was to ask ‘Abdullahi to write Mustafa Goni a reply on his behalf:
‘O you who have come to guide us aright
We have heard what you have said.
Listen to what we say.
You gave advice to the best of your ability,
But would that you had freed us from blame…
We found the people of this country drowning in ignorance,
Shall we prevent them from understanding religion?
It has been said, “Judgment shall be carried out
on a people according to the evil they create.”
Take this as a measure.’

“The central point in ‘Abdullahi’s reply is that, even if women’s attendance of the Shehu’s lectures were a disgrace, their being abandoned to ignorance was a greater disgrace. In the words of ‘Abdullahi: ‘The evil of leaving women in ignorance, not knowing what is incumbent upon them, nay, not knowing Islam at all, is greater than the evil of their mixing with men, for the first evil [ignorance] relates back to religion, which is Īmān, Islam and good works (Iḥsān), and the second evil [mixing] relates back to genealogy.”3

Professor Sulaiman Ibraheem in The African Caliphate4 goes on to discuss the Shehu’s own thinking as preserved in his own contemporary writings:

“Women’s attendance of open-air lectures, he seemed to say in the Tanbīh,5 was not his own innovation. Other great scholars, who faced similar circumstances of prevailing ignorance, had either allowed it or expressly recommended it. Among them, he said, were the shaykh, the imam, the learned scholar Sidi Aḥmad ibn Sulayman who was “a great saint” and regarded as a “Junayd”6 of his generation. And no less an authority than al-Ghazālī7 recommended the same. Even those such as Ibn Arafa, who were of the opinion that women should not go to lectures if it involved mixing with men, were referring to lectures dealing with knowledge that is not obligatory. In any case by “mixing” they meant actual direct contact between men and women and not occasions when they sit separately or when women sit in a separate compartment. 

It is obligatory on a woman, he said in Tanbīh and Irshād,8 to acquire a full knowledge of her religious obligations such as prayer, fasting, zakāt, Ḥajj, as well as the more mundane matters such as trade and transactions. If her husband is not able to supply this knowledge, she is under an Islamic obligation to go out in search of it. ‘If he refuses her the permission,’ the Shehu stated categorically in Irshād, ‘she should go out without his permission, and no blame is attached to her nor does she incur any sin by doing that.’

  A ruler should compel husbands to make sure that their wives are educated in the same way that he should compel them to give the wives adequate maintenance. ‘Indeed,’ said the Shehu, ‘knowledge is superior (to maintenance).’”

“He [the Shehu] lamented in Irshād the failure of women to demand their right to education in the same way that they would demand their right to maintenance and other basic needs. Women, like men, have been created for the sole purpose of serving Allāh, which is not properly attainable without true education.”

Introducing MFAS

Our Motto:  لا يَدْخُلُ فِينَا إِلَّا مَنِ اهْتَمَّ بِالْأَدَبِ وَالسِّيَرِ وَطَلَبَ عِلْماً نَافِعاً 

"Let none come among us except those who are concerned with adab and siyar and who seek beneficial knowledge."

Our motto is based on that which Plato is said to have had appended above the entrance to the Academy in Athens:

γεωμέτρητος μηδες εσίτω

Ageōmétrētos mēdeìs eisítō.

"Let no one untrained in geometry enter."

Whose translation in Arabic is:

لا يدخل هذا المكان من لا يتقن الهندسة

We are, therefore, satisfied that like Plato’s motto, our own serves the same dual purpose; being at once a welcome of admission to MFAS for those to whom it is suited; and a warning of exclusion for those to whom it is not suited. We are equally mindful of and satisfied with the resonances it bears with the profound and insightful observation of the notable political theorist Carl Schmitt9:

“Der Nihilismus ist die Trennung von Ordnung und Ortung  
“Nihilism is the separation of order and location”

Adab, Siyar and Beneficial Knowledge

There is little disagreement that the world is in a period of unprecedentedly rapid transition. It has been heralded as a brave new age of information. However, there is ample reason to regard these developments with deep pessimism and foreboding as the inexorable rise of information and technology proceeds at the expense of an authentic epistemology. The recovery of a correct hierarchy of knowledges and their application to the transactions of civilised living is urgently needed in order to discriminate between two ways of being in the world: the one essentially nihilistic and the other one life affirming.

The dynamic juxtaposition of the respective clusters of meaning contained in the Arabic words adab and siyar reveal what we consider to be the essential touchstones that will guide our determination as a fellowship of scholars, academics, researchers and students to recover the vital connection between learning and behaviour and to create the opportunities for autonomy of thought and action that will be indispensable if the people of knowledge and understanding are to fulfil the responsibilities that await them in our time. 

Adab contains the meanings of 'courtesy', 'discipline' and 'literature'. Courtesy is certainly one of the foremost requirements of the student and teacher in their meeting together, but it is equally a vital feature of any civilised society at all levels, whether it be at home in the family or out in the marketplace. It is nevertheless one of the first casualties of the modern age, or more accurately, the 'technique age', in which we live. When the barrier of courtesy is destroyed, then the road lies open to the inhumane barbarities to which we have become increasingly inured.

Discipline is an essential ingredient in any endeavour, not least in the fields of teaching, training and learning which are of primary concern to us.

Literature is of paramount importance on a number of levels. Firstly, it cultivates and transmits the relationship to language without which all knowledge and science are reduced to technical applications and exercises in pragmatism; a road leading to destinations which include 'total war', 'collateral damage' and genocidal 'final solutions' the abhorrent instances of which we see being carried out with greater and greater efficiency almost daily. Secondly, it is through literature that great authors and poets have transmitted their deep insights into the inner drives, actions and emotions of the human being, and have recognised the workings of history and new directions whose stirrings we must also assist, through literature and poetry, amid the otherwise dismal landscape of world politics.

Siyar contains meanings which encompass 'biographies', 'military campaigns' and 'histories'. These are the elements that will prevent any tendency in the study of adab towards becoming an arena of pure erudition limited to elevating but ineffectual 'arts and humanities', rather than being a source of real and effective insight into the dynamic forces that move and shape history; namely, an understanding of the individual with his knowledge and his 'training' confronted by his destiny and his responsibility.

The use of the term 'beneficial knowledge' is a necessary counter to the concept of academic studies for their own sake, since we have seen the transformation of the academic arena into a handmaiden of the powerful hegemonic political and economic forces of our age, whilst yet maintaining the myth of scientific objectivity and academic detachment. In truth, we do not deny that the discipline of scientific method has a place but neither will we deny its limitations or the limitations of the dialectical method, critical deconstruction and gratuitous polemic as a reliable means of epistemological advancement. 

The Muslim Faculty from its base in Norwich will nurture a determination on the part of teachers and students to actively engage in the vital issues of the age and to inspire a new generation to assume the mantle of responsibility for indicating and ushering in the necessary revaluations and transformations whose historical immanence we can sense, but whose emergence is neither guaranteed nor inevitable without intentional participation.

The Muslim Faculty is not simply an academic organisation or institution in the form one automatically imagines such things to take nowadays; rather, it is the natural, spontaneous and organic response to an urgent need on the part of a pioneering people (Muslims) in historically uncharted and demonstrably problematic territories (the modern, secular nation states of Europe and N. America). Therefore, we are pleased to declare our ‘vision’, our ‘intention’ and the ‘holistic’ ethos which informs our approach to education and the acquisition and conscientious implementation of knowledge. However, as confident and satisfied as we may be with the good fortune and fruitful yield that the Faculty seems to hold in store for us, in the light of the knowledge indicated to us, once again, in Suratul Kahf, the result is that, contrary to what has become standard organisational practice, we are not so willing to enter into the declaration of a ‘mission’, bearing in mind the core Qur’ānic teaching contained within the formula;  Mā shā’ Allāhu lā quwwata ilā billāh.”:

“Why, when you entered your garden, did you not say, ‘It is as Allāh wills, there is no strength but in Allāh?’”10

For the sake of clarity, we can declare without compunction, our ‘vision’, our ‘intention’ and our ‘ethical position’, but we hesitate at the declaration of a ‘mission’, not only because of this word’s inherent presumption of autonomous ‘power’ but also because of the negative connotations that relate it to the infamous methodology and the political consequences of organised Christian proselytisation throughout the world, not least of all, the Muslim world. In addition to this we are ever mindful of the well-known report from the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him!), which warns us in no uncertain terms to be on guard against the inevitable dangers that await us in the form of the misguided precedents that are bound to influence our choices:

The Prophet Muḥammad (saws) said: 

“You will surely follow the traits of those before you, handspan by handspan, cubit by cubit, to such extent that if they entered the burrow of a lizard, you would follow them (into it).” Someone asked, “Messenger of Allah, (are they) the Jews and the Christians?” He replied, “Who else!”11

Our Vision 

The establishment of a community of learning whose participants are engaged in the advancement of Muslim scholarship, teaching and enquiry into the branches of knowledge and practice essential to the attainment of civic recovery and renewal within the lifetime of its founder members.

Our Intention

To assume the leadership of a self-governing association of independent scholars, researchers, academics and students drawn primarily from the World Muslim community and fully maintained by revenues from charitable endowments, subscriptions and voluntary donations; to develop facilities for the delivery of tuition via traditional and on-line platforms and a capacity for the publication and distribution of related publications; to function as a professional body, a think-tank and a leading voice of the Muslim intelligentsia; to develop specialist research facilities and a range of professional, financial and other benefits specific to the interests of our members.

Our Inspiration and Our Educational Ethos

With respect to our determination, as stated previously; “to inspire a new generation to assume the mantle of responsibility for indicating and ushering in the necessary revaluations and transformations", the Noble Book of Allāh Ta'ālā has provided us with a most inspiring indication from Sūratul Kahf in the description of the young men, to whose uprightness of character and nobility of aspiration He responds. He responds directly to their sincere reliance upon Him with a gift of mercy; having provided them with a miraculous form of refuge in a cave, He assures them of guidance and success in response to a prayer which, in its transcendent reality contains the secret immensity of Allāh’s gift; an instruction directly from Him to them, to ask of Him directly that which He, in His timeless knowledge and omnipotence, had already preordained for them, and consequently, for us also, since the inspiration for this prayer has also reached us in our current predicament, hence:

“When the young men took refuge in the cave and said, ‘Our Lord, give us mercy directly from you and open the way for us to right guidance in our situation.’12

Allāh Ta'ālā continues:

"We will relate their story to you with truth, they were young men (fitya) who had īmān in their Lord and We increased them in guidance, We fortified their hearts when they stood up and said, 'Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth and we will not call on any god apart from Him. We would in that case have uttered an abomination. These people of ours have taken gods apart from Him. Why do they not produce a clear authority concerning them? Who could do greater wrong than someone who invents a lie against Allah? When you have separated yourselves from them and everything they worship except Allah, take refuge in the cave and your Lord will unfold His mercy to you and open the way to the best for you in your situation."13

We also have the example of the young prophet Ibrahim e:

"They said, 'We heard a young man (fata) mentioning [our idols]. They call him Ibrahim.'"14

The new generation we aim to inspire are the young men and women who aspire to, or already share, the characteristics, attitude and consternation of these Qur'ānic exemplars. The necessary foil of environmental hostility against which their exceptional qualities are expected to stand out and to which they must respond surrounds them today in the actuality of the nihilistic secularism that characterises our current, predominantly technique-driven society. It is morphologically and semantically evident that the education and training of the 'fata' is what is indicated in the word 'futuwwah', that is, the transmission of nobility of character and excellent personal qualities, such as courage, sincerity, generosity and service, along with intelligence, īmān and upright behaviour, as evidenced in the words and conduct of the young men in the cave and the young Ibrahim e. The quintessential expression of this education can be found in Imam al-Ghazālī's15 deservedly admired and highly instructive letter, 'Ayyuhal Walad' (O Son!) written in response to a request received in writing from an excellent young student and assistant who had sought advice and guidance regarding his own future direction in life. We include it here in its entirety as rendered in the fine translation of David C. Reisman16 because, as an example of adab it is superior to anything we could have contrived to produce in our own words and it conveys with exemplary clarity and literary elegance a comprehensive summation of the Faculty’s educational ethos, purpose and manner of approach to the many beleaguered and noble minded young seekers who may wish to avail themselves of the rare opportunity the Faculty represents, to apply their intellectual talents in a manner and a setting that is entirely harmonious with their inward and outward aspirations as young Muslims preparing for confrontation with the vital issues of an age that has enthroned information and technique at the expense of beneficial knowledge and the cultivated good conduct they will have been taught to emulate since childhood; a confrontation bearing its own particular challenges and dangers, as indicated once more in the illuminating ayats of Suratul Kahf:

"Send one of your number into the city with this silver you have, so he can see which food is purest and bring you some of it to eat. But he should go about with caution so that no one is aware of you, for if they find out about you they will stone you or make you revert to their religion and then you will never have success."17

Ayyuhal Walad (O Son!) by al-Ghazālī18

(may Allāh provide us benefit through it!)

In the name of Allāh, the Merciful and Compassionate

(1) Praise be to Allāh, Lord of the Worlds, the Final Reward of the godfearing! And blessings and peace be upon His Prophet Muḥammad and all his family!

(2) Know that a student in search of [spiritual] profit was regularly in the service of the Master and Imam, Ornament of the community and religion, the Proof of Islam, Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Ghazālī (may Allāh have mercy on him!), and devoted himself to verifying and reading [the books of] knowledge to [his master], until he had gathered together the particular details of the sciences and perfected the virtues of his soul.

  (3) Then one day he was reflecting on his condition and he thought to himself: “I have read the various types of sciences and spent the prime of my life learning and harmonising them. Now I need to know which of them will benefit me in the future, bringing me solace in the tomb, and which will not, so that I might turn my back on it – as the Prophet said: ‘Lord I seek protection in You against any useless knowledge.’” This thought stayed with him until he wrote to the honourable Master, the Proof of Islam, Muḥammad al-Ghazālī (may Allāh have mercy on him!) in search of a formal opinion, asking him with certain questions and calling upon him for advice and for a prayer of supplication.

  (4) He said [in his letter]: “Even though the books of the Master, such as the Revival [of the Religious Sciences] and others, may contain the answer to my questions, my hope is that the Master will write out my request on pages that I might keep with me throughout my life and that would survive my death, while I put into action what they contain in the course of my life, Allāh willing.”

  (5) So the Master wrote this treatise as his response:

In the name of Allāh, the Merciful and Compassionate

(6) O Son and dear friend! May Allāh lengthen your days of continued obedience to Him and guide you to the path of those He loves. Know that the advice commonly available is written down from the Source of Prophecy (peace be upon him!). If any advice has reached you from him, then what need could you have for mine? And if it has not, then tell me, what have you achieved in these past years?

  (7) O Son! The advice which the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace upon him!) gave his community includes his statement: 

“One sign that Allāh has turned away from His servant is [the servant’s] preoccupation with anything that does not concern him. For any man who has spent so much as an hour of his life in anything unsuited to him deserves to long regret it, and anyone who has passed the age of forty and whose good works do not outweigh his bad, let him prepare for the fire.”


This is advice enough for the knowledgeable.

  (8) O Son! Giving advice is easy; the problem lies in taking it, because it can taste bitter to those who follow their passions, since illicit things are in their hearts. This is especially true of anyone who pursues theoretical knowledge while being preoccupied with the soul’s incitement and to worldly values, for he assumes that pure knowledge is a tool of his salvation and deliverance, and that he need not put it into practice. This is the opinion of the philosophers. Praise be to Allāh, the Almighty! A fool such as this does not know that when he acquires knowledge but does not put it into practice, the judgment against him is all the stronger–as the Prophet (blessings and peace upon him!) said: “The one who will suffer most on the Day of Resurrection is the one who has knowledge which Allāh renders useless to him.”

  (9) It was reported that Junayd19 (may Allāh sanctify his dear soul!) appeared in a dream after his death, and [the one dreaming] asked him: “What news Abū l-Qāsim?”

  (10) [Junayd responded]: “Explanations miss the mark and pointers come to nought. Nothing is of use to us [in the afterlife] but the prostrations we performed in the dead of night.”

  (11) O Son! Do not be bankrupt in actions, nor empty-handed in the states [of your soul]. You may be certain that theoretical knowledge will not stand you in good stead. For example, if a man in the wilderness had ten swords of Indian steel and yet more weapons, and he was a man of courage, experienced in battle, and if a ferocious lion leapt upon him, what say you? Would the weapons repel the menace from him without his using them and striking with them? It is common sense that they would not without his moving and striking with them. Likewise, if a man were to read a hundred thousand topics of science that he learned and studied and did not put into practice, they would be of no use to him except through action. For example, if a man had a fever or cholera, the cure for which is oxymel and barley water, recovery would not happen without using them.

  (12) A poem:

Even if you pour out two thousand raṭls of wine,

If you do not drink it, you are not drunk

  (13) Even if you had read in the sciences for a hundred years and summarised a thousand books, you would not have prepared for the mercy [of Allāh] but through action. As Allāh said: “[In the judgment of Allāh] there is nought for man but his labours,”20 and “whosoever hopes to meet Allāh, let him do good works,”21 and the “[the houris of Paradise] will be recompense for what they have done,”22 and “those that believe and do good deeds shall have the gardens of Paradise as their abode,”23 and “those that repent and believe and do what is right [shall be admitted to Paradise].”24 

  (14) And what do you say to this report from the Prophet: “Islam is built upon five [principles]: the testimony that there is no god but Allāh and that Muḥammad is His prophet, the performance of the prayer, the giving of zakāt, the fast of Ramaḍān, and the pilgrimage to the House for those who are able.”

  (15) Faith is a spoken declaration, affirmation in the heart, performance of the basic requirements [of Islam], and proof of innumerable deeds. If the servant reaches Paradise through the bounty and munificence of Allāh, that nonetheless comes only after he prepares himself through his obedience and worship, because “the mercy of Allāh is within reach of the ones who do good deeds.”25 If someone were to say that [the believer] will reach Paradise through faith alone, we would say: “Yes, but when? How many precipitous paths await him before he arrives? The first of these is faith. Will he avoid being plundered and thus arriving empty-handed and destitute?”

  (16) Al-Ḥasan [al-Bāṣrī]26 said: 

“On the Day of Resurrection Allāh will say to His servants: ‘enter the Garden by My mercy and divide it among yourselves according to your deeds.’”

  (17) O Son! So long as you do not act, you will not be rewarded. It is told that a man of the Israelites worshipped Allāh for seventy years, and then Allāh designed to display him to the angels. So He sent to him an angel to tell him that despite his worship he remained unworthy [of Paradise]. When he heard this the servant said: “We were created to worship Allāh, so we should [continue to] worship Him.” When the angel returned, he said, “Oh, Allāh, You know better what he said.” And Allāh said, “Since he did not abandon worshipping Us, We in Our beneficence will not abandon him. Bear witness, O angels, that I have pardoned his sins.”

  (18) The Prophet (blessings and peace upon him!) said: 

“Judge yourselves before you are judged; take measure of yourselves before you are measured.”

  (19) ‘Alī [ibn Abī Ṭālib] said: 

“The one who assumed he fell short in his efforts will reach [the afterlife] and be granted mercy, but the one who assumed he expended every effort will arrive and find himself challenged.”

  (20) Al-Ḥasan al-Bāṣrī (Allāh have mercy on him!) said: 

“Expecting Paradise without having worked [for it] is one of the sins.”

  (21) And he said: 

“To know the true sense [of worship] is to stop thinking about the deed, but not to stop doing it.”

  (22) The Prophet (blessings and peace upon him!) said: “The wise man constrains himself and works towards the afterlife; the fool indulges his appetites and pursues his desires in spite of Allāh.

  (23) O Son! How many nights have you spent drilling yourself in knowledge and poring over books and denying yourself sleep? I do not know what is the motivation. If it is to gain worldly goods, to attract worldly ephemera, to acquire worldly appointments and compete with your peers and colleagues, then woe on you, and your judgement [in the hereafter]: woe on you! But if your aim in this is to reinvigorate the Prophet’s law (blessings and peace upon him!), to rectify your moral principles, and to break the domination of your soul, then blessings upon you, and [in the hereafter]: blessings upon you! He spoke truly, the one who said:

Sleepless attention [to meet] another’s standard makes for a wretch,

Crying over another’s loss makes a hypocrite

  (24) O Son! Live your life as you see fit, for you will surely die. Desire what you want for you will surely depart. Do what you want, for you will surely pay for it. Gather up what you want, for you will surely leave it behind.

  (25) O Son! What have you gained from studying theology, legal disputation, medicine, quotation books,27 poetry, astrology, prosody, grammar and morphology but a waste of your life? By Allāh the Glorious! I have seen in the Gospel of Jesus (peace upon him!) that he said: 

“From the time that the deceased is readied for his funeral until he is placed at the lip of his grave, Allāh, in His glory asks him forty questions. In the first He says: ‘My servant you have appeared pure to your fellowman for years, but not to me for a single hour. Every day I look into your heart and say: ’Do you not work for everyone but Me, though you be surrounded by My bounty?! Are you not deaf? Do you not hear?’”

  (26) O Son! Knowledge without action is sheer folly, but there is no action without knowledge. Know that any type of learning that does not distance you from sins and bring you back to obedience today will never remove you from the fire of hell tomorrow. When you do not act today, nor right your actions of past days, you will say tomorrow, on the Day of Resurrection: “Send us back to do good deeds!” and you will be told: “Oh, fool! You come now from there!”

  (27) O Son! Put fervour in your spirit, resolution in your soul, and [the thought of] death in your body because your final resting place will be the cemetery, and those in their graves await you with every passing moment. Take care! Oh, take care not to arrive without provisions! Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq (Allāh be satisfied with him!) said: 

“These bodies are a cage for birds or a stable for beasts of burden. Consider, which are you? If you are a high-flying bird, then when you hear the roll of drums, return, flying up until you come to rest on the highest tower of Paradise, as [the Prophet] (peace upon him!) said: ‘The throne of the Merciful rocked back and for the upon the death of Sa’d ibn Mu’ādh.’28 But Allāh protect you if you are a beast of burden! As [Allāh] said: ‘Those are like cattle–indeed even more misguided; those are the careless.’29 So do not feel so certain that you will not go from the asylum of Heaven to the abyss of Hell!”

  (28) It is reported that al-Ḥasan al-Bāṣrī (Allāh be satisfied with him!) was offered a drink of cool water, and when he took the cup he swooned and it fell from his hand. When he regained consciousness, he was asked: “What ails you, Abū Sa’īd?” He responded: “I thought of the yearning of those in Hell when they ask those in Paradise to ‘send down some water or anything else that Allāh has provided you.’ and are told that Allāh has forbidden both to those who disbelieved.”

  (29) O Son! If theoretical knowledge is enough for you and you have no need for action in addition, then would not [Allāh’s] summons, “Is there someone who asks? Is there someone seeking forgiveness? I forgive him. Is there someone repenting? I excuse him,” be pointless and without benefit? It is reported that a group of Companions (Allāh be satisfied with them all!) mentioned ‘Abdullāh ibn ’Umar in the presence of the Prophet (blessings and peace upon him!), who then said:


“What an excellent man he would be if only he would pray at night!” 

And [the Prophet] (peace upon him!) said to one of his companions:


“Oh, you! Do not sleep overmuch at night; for too much sleep at night makes one a pauper on the Day of Resurrection!”

  (30) O Son! “And pray during the night”30 is a command. And “[the righteous] pray at dawn for Allāh’s forgiveness”31 is a thanksgiving. And “those who ask Allāh’s forgiveness at dawn”32 is a remembrance. He {peace be upon him!) said:


“There are three voices that Allāh loves: the voice of the rooster, the voice of the Qur’ān reciter, and the voices of those who seek Allāh’s forgiveness at dawn.”

  (31) Sufyān al-Thawrī33 (may Allāh be satisfied with him!) said: 

“God causes the dawn wind to blow, carrying pious remembrances and appeals for forgiveness to Him, the King, the Almighty.’ He also said: ‘When someone calls out at the beginning of the night from under the throne [of Allāh], ‘Will not the believers arise?’ they rise up and pray as long as Allāh wills. Then [when he] calls out in the middle of the night, ‘Will not the pious arise?’ they rise up and pray until dawn. When he calls out at dawn, ‘Will not the repentant arise?’ they rise up, seeking forgiveness. And when he calls out at daybreak ‘Will not the negligent arise?’ they rise up from their beds like the dead scattering from their graves.”

  (32) O Son! It is reported in the counsels of Luqmān34 the Wise to his son that he said: “”O my son! Do not let the rooster be more clever than yourself by crowing at dawn while you sleep on!” He certainly spoke well, the one who said:

Surely the pigeon in the tree had cooed

In the thick of night, while I slumbered on.

I lied [when I swore], ‘By Allāh’s house! If I really love [Him]

The pigeons will not cry before me!’

I maintain that I am mad in love, possessed of passion for my Lord

But I do not cry when the beasts do!

  (33) O Son! The sum total of learning is to know the meaning of obedience and service [to Allāh].

  (34) Know that to obey and serve is to follow in word and deed the commands and prohibitions of the Law-Giver. This means that everything you say and do and forswear in word and deed is guided by the Law, just as though were you to fast on the ‘Īd al-Aḍḥā and the last three days of the Ḥajj (the ayyām al-tashrīq) you would be disobedient, or were you to pray in a stolen robe, albeit the outward form [of your prayers] would be worship, you would nonetheless have sinned.

  (35) O Son! Your words and actions should be in accordance with the Law, since knowing and acting without observing the Law is to go astray and become lost. You should not let yourself be dazzled by the ecstatic locutions and outcries of the Sufis, because following this path [that I outline here] requires you to strive, to cut short the passions of the soul and to slay its whims with the sword of discipline; [it is not earned] with pointless outcries and vain statements. Know that the unrestrained tongue and the heart engulfed and filled with negligence and desire are marks of misery, so much so that unless you kill your soul by means of earnest endeavour, you will never revive your heart through the light of knowledge.

  (36) Know that some of the questions which you asked me cannot be given a proper response in writing or speech. In fact, if you have already reached that state, then you know well what it is. Otherwise it cannot be understood; for it is a question of experience, and no experience can be adequately described in words. The sweetness or bitterness of something cannot be known but through the experience of taste. [This is like] the story of the impotent man who wrote to a friend: “Tell me about the pleasure of sex.” And the friend wrote in response: “Oh, you! I thought you were merely impotent; now I know that you are also a fool! This pleasure is a question of experience. If you get it, you know; if not, it cannot be described by speaking or writing [about it].”

  (37) O Son! Some of your questions are like this. Others can be given a proper response. In fact, we have discussed [these issues] in The Revival of the Religious Sciences and elsewhere, but we will recount here some selections, directing attention to them by saying: First of all, a sound belief contains no innovation. Second, you do not slip up after sincerely repenting. Third, [you should] seek reconciliation with your opponents so that none any longer has just cause against you. Fourth, [you should] acquire knowledge of the Divine Law in such a measure that you will be led to the commandments of Allāh. Then [you should be acquiring] any other knowledge that [may provide you] with redemption. 

  (38) It is recounted that after al-Shiblī35 (may Allāh be pleased with him!) had served four hundred masters, he said: “I read four thousand reports of the Prophet, then selected one to put into practice and let the others go, because once I had reflected on it, I found that it contained my ultimate goal and salvation and that arrayed in it was the knowledge of all the early and later [believers], so it was sufficient for me. It is this: The Prophet (peace upon him!) said to one of his companions:


‘Do as much in your world as befits your station in it; do as much for your afterlife as befits the time you [hope to] remain there; do as much for Allāh as befits your need for Him; and do as much for the fire of Hell as befits your ability to endure it.’”


  (39) O Son! Once you act upon this report from the Prophet a, you will no longer have need for so much learning. Consider another story, Ḥātim al-Asamm was a friend of Shaqīq al-Balkhī.36 [Shaqīq] asked him one day: “You have kept me company for thirty years; what have you acquired in that time?” [Ḥātim] said: “I have acquired eight lessons in knowledge, and they are enough for me, because with them I look forward to my ultimate goal and salvation.” Shaqīq said: “What are they?” And Ḥātim al-Asamm responded: “The first lesson is that I observed mankind and saw that every person has a beloved whom he loves and desires. Some of those beloved ones accompany him to the final illness, and some to the lip of the grave, but then all return and leave him alone; none enter with him into his grave. So I thought to myself and said: ‘The best beloved of man is whatever will join him in his grave and give him comfort there.’ And I found that [that] is good deeds alone, so I took them into my house as my beloved so that they might be a light in my grave, keeping me comfort, not leaving me alone.

  (40) “The second lesson is that I saw that people worship their caprices and leap up to serve their soul’s desires. So I reflected on Allāh’s word: ‘He who fears to stand before his Lord and who denies his soul its whims shall have his refuge in Paradise,’37 and I became convinced that the Qur’ān is true and sincere. I would regularly leap up to oppose my soul and hasten to fight it and refuse to cede to its whims until it had been curbed and trained to obey Allāh. 

  (41) “The third lesson is that I saw everyone trying to gather up their ephemeral gains and then hold them back in tight fists. So I reflected on Allāh’s word: ‘What you have will dwindle away, while what Allāh has will last forever,’38 and then I gave away my earnings and distributed it to the poor so that it might be stored up for me with Allāh.

  (42) “The fourth lesson is that I saw that some people believe that their prestige and eminence lie in the large number of their relatives and kin, and they let themselves be dazzled by that, while others put stock in their great amount of wealth and children, and boast about that. According to some, eminence and prestige lie in extorting, oppressing, and slaughtering people, while another group believes that [eminence and prestige] lie in merging, dispersing, and distributing wealth. So I reflected on Allāh’s word, ‘The noblest of you in Allāh’s judgement is the most devout,’39 and I chose piety and determined that the Qur’ān is true and correct and all their convictions and beliefs utterly false.

  (43) “The fifth lesson is that I saw people slandering and maligning one another, and I found the root of that to be envy over money, rank and knowledge. So I reflected on Allāh’s word, ‘It is We who portion out to them their livelihood in this world,’40 and I knew that this apportionment was the pre-eternal determination of Allāh. So I did not envy anyone, satisfied as I was with Allāh’s distribution.

  (44) “The sixth lesson is that I saw people feuding with one another for one reason or another. So I reflected on Allāh’s word, ‘Satan is your enemy, so treat him as an enemy,’41 and I knew that fighting with anyone but Satan was unacceptable.’

  (45) “The seventh lesson is that I saw everyone striving assiduously and struggling excessively in pursuit of sustenance and livelihood, so much so that they would err and transgress [against the Law], debase themselves, and demean their worth. So I reflected on Allāh’s word, ‘Allāh provides for every single creature on earth,’42 and I knew that Allāh had vouchsafed for me my sustenance. Then I turned my attention to worshipping [Him] and stopped depending on anyone else.

  (46) “The eighth lesson is that I saw everyone relying on something created, whether it be money, or possessions and property, or vocations and skills, or some such created thing. So I reflected on Allāh’s word, ‘The one who relies on God completely knows that Allāh attains His purpose; Allāh has measured out the worth of everything,’43 and I put all of my trust in Allāh. He is sufficient for me – what an excellent trustee!’

  (47) Shaqīq said: 

“Allāh grant you success! I have pored over the Torah, the Gospel, the Psalms, and the Qur’ān and found that all four books revolve around these eight lessons. Whoever puts into practice these lessons puts into practice these books.”

  (48) O Son! You have learned from these two narratives that you do not need to increase your knowledge. Now I will explain to you what is required of the traveller in search of truth.

  (49) Know that the traveller must have a master, a guide, a teacher to drive out his evil dispositions and replace them with good. Educating is akin to what the farmer does when he uproots the thorn bushes, and weeds out the course plants from around the crops to ensure that they will grow well and reach their fruition. The traveller must have a master to educate him and guide him to the path of Allāh. A prerequisite of the master who is worthy to serve as the Prophet’s proxy is that he be learned; but not just any learned person is worthy. Let me explain to you in a summary fashion some of [such a teacher’s] characteristics, lest just anyone persuade [you] that he is a guide.

  (50) Anyone who relinquishes love of this world and worldly status, having followed a wise master whose spiritual descent stretches back unbroken to the most eminent of creation, the Prophet (peace be upon him!), and who has trained his soul well through little food, speech, and sleep, and much prayer, almsgiving, and fasting, and who then, by following that wise master, has fashioned from his refined virtues a particular path of patience, thanksgiving, trust in Allāh, conviction, generosity, contentment, serenity, astuteness, modesty, learning, honesty, reserve, fidelity, sobriety, sedateness, deliberation and other such qualities, then he is one of the Prophet’s lights and worthy of emulation. However, such a one is rare, and more magnificent than gold. The one whose good fortune leads him to find and accept the master we describe should accord him due honour outwardly and inwardly. 

  (51) To honour him outwardly means to neither contest him nor distract him by arguing with him over any issue, even if [you] know he is wrong. It [means] not putting his prayer rug before him except at the call to prayer, and when he is finished, removing it. [It means] not overdoing the supererogatory prayers in his presence. [It means] doing what he orders competently and obediently. To honour him inwardly means that everything [you] hear and accept from him externally [you] do not question inwardly, whether in deed or word, lest [you] be branded a hypocrite. If [you] cannot do this, leave his company, lest what [you] think comes to conform with what [you] do. [It means] guarding against the company of the wicked in order to drain the power of satanic jinn and men from the bowl of [your] heart, that it may be washed of malevolent pollution. [It means] that in every instance poverty is to be preferred over wealth.

  (52) Next, know that being a Sufi requires two characteristics: rectitude and forbearance with people. The one who seeks to be upright and virtuous with people and treats them with equanimity is a Sufi. Being upright is to sacrifice one’s portion for someone else. Being virtuous with people [means] not imposing your wants upon others but rather imposing their wants upon yourself–as long as they do not contradict the Law. 

   (53) Then you asked me about how to serve Allāh. There are three things. The first is to uphold the Law. The second is to be satisfied with the divine foreordination, decree and apportionment. The third is to trust in Allāh completely, which means that your belief in what Allāh has promised is firmly grounded; in other words, you believe that what He has foreordained for you will assuredly come to you, even if anyone in the world were to try to divert it from you, and that whatever was not decreed for you, you will never obtain, even if the whole world were to aid you. 

  (54) You also asked me about sincere devotion to Allāh. It is that all of your deeds are done for Allāh and that your heart is not satisfied with what people deem praiseworthy or reprehensible. Know that hypocrisy is born of glorifying people and the cure for it is to see them as laughably incapable, to judge them to be like inanimate objects in their lack of ability to attain to either contentment or misery, so that you may rid yourself of their hypocrisies. If you judge them to be possessed of power and will, hypocrisy will never be far from you.

  (55) O Son! Some of your remaining questions are treated in my writings, so look [for the answers] there. Others it is unlawful to write. Do what you know so that what you do not know may become clear to you.

  (56) O Son! In the future, do not ask me about what is obscure to you but through your heart, because Allāh says: 

“If they had waited until you went out to them, it would have been better for them.”44 

  (57) Take the advice of Khiḍr45 (peace upon him!): “Do not ask me about anything until I myself mention it to you.”46 Do not be impatient for [your questions] to be answered. Have you not seen [Allāh’s word]: “You will soon see My signs, so be not impatient.”?47 Do not ask before the appropriate time, and be certain that it is by the right paths that you arrive, for Allāh said: 

“Did [the prophets] not travel the land and see the end of those who came before them?”48 

  (58) O Son! By Allāh, if you journey, you will see the wonders at every station. Expend your spirit; for the beginning [of this journey] is the surrender of the spirit, as Dhū al-Nūn al-Misrī49 (Allāh have mercy on him!) said to one of his students:


“If you are able to surrender your spirit, then off we go! Otherwise do not bother yourself with the barren deserts of the Sūfis!”

  (59) O Son! I will advise you of eight things. Accept them lest your deeds turn against you on the Day of Resurrection. Four you must do and four avoid.

  (60) Among those to avoid, the first is that you do not dispute with anyone on just any issue you are able, because there is much harm and a greater sin than benefit in that, since it is the source of all reprehensible qualities such as hypocrisy, envy, haughtiness, resentment, enmity, pride, and so on. In fact, if a question came up between you and an individual or group and you wanted the truth to be set forth and not missed, then discussion would be permissible, but two conditions are required: first, that it makes no difference whether the truth be explained by you or someone else; and second, that private discussion be more preferable to you than public discussion.

  (61) Listen, and I will give you a useful pointer here. Know that asking about intricate problems evinces a sickness in the heart to the doctor, and the response is to try to remedy the illness. Know that the ignorant are the ones sick at heart and the learned are the doctors. The scholar lacking in knowledge does not administer cures well, and the consummate scholar does not cure just every sick person; rather he cures only someone whom he hopes will be receptive to the cure and remedy. When the root cause is chronic or fatal, the cure will be ineffectual, so the acumen of he doctor then lies in saying that this is unresponsive to the remedy, so there is no point to administering medicines because that would be a waste of [the patient’s remaining] life.

  (62) Next, know that there are four types of illness due to ignorance, one alone is receptive to cure, the remainder incurable. The first incurable illness [is that of] someone whose questioning and challenging comes from his envy and hatred. The better, more clear, and more understandable the response he is given, the more enraged and resentful he becomes. The solution, then, is not to bother to respond, [as in the line of] poetry:

You may hope to dispel all enmity

Excepting that of the one who hates you out of envy.

You should turn away and leave him with his disease. Allāh says: 

“Pay no heed to someone who ignores what We say and who wants only the like of this world.”50 

The one who is envious in all he says and does kindles a fire in the field of his deeds, as the Prophet (peace be upon him!) said: 

“Envy devours the good the way fire eats through wood.”

  (63) The second [type of illness due to ignorance] has its root cause in stupidity, and it also cannot be treated, as ‘Īsā (peace upon him!) said: 

“Even though I managed to raise the dead, I have never been able to cure an idiot!”

  (64) [The idiot] is someone who devotes himself to learning for a brief time and studies a little of the rational and religious sciences and then questions and contends, not knowing anything but what is difficult for him is also difficult for the great scholar. Whenever he does not take the time to reflect in this way, his questioning and challenging being the result of idiocy, one should not bother responding to him.

(65) The third [type of illness due to ignorance is that of] someone seeking guidance who, whenever he does not understand the words of the great leaders, lays the blame on his inability to understand. Although he asks in search of aid, he is too stupid to grasp the truths. One should not bother responding to him either, as the Prophet (peace be upon him!) said:

 “We, the companies of Prophets, are commanded to address people according to their level of understanding.”

  (66) As for the patient [sick with ignorance] who is receptive to cure, he is the one seeking guidance who is intelligent, who is not overcome with envy, anger, or the love of his desires and rank and money. He is searching for the righteous path, and his questioning and contention is not out of envy, or to annoy and try one. This one is receptive to cure, so you may take the time to respond to his question – in fact, you must.

  (67) The second thing you should avoid: Guard against being a preacher and semonizer, because there is much harm in that unless you first do what you say, and only then preach it to people. Reflect on what was said to ‘Īsā’bnu Maryam (peace upon him!): 

“Admonish yourself, and if you take the warning, then admonish the people; otherwise, be shamed before your Lord!”

  (68) If you have been put to the test in this work, then guard against two typical characteristics [of preaching]. The first is thoughtlessly repeating moral lessons, admonitions, Qur’ānic verses and stanzas of poetry, because Allāh loathes blind followers. The blind follower is the one who disregards the limit, signalling [his] interior barrenness and the negligence of [his] heart. The intention of recollecting is that the believer recall to himself the fire of the hereafter, constrain himself to the service of the Creator, reflect on his past life which consumed him with irrelevant things, reflect on the obstacles to the safety of faith that are before him at the end, and how he will be in the grasp of the King of death – will he be able to answer Munkar and Nakīr?51 – and concern himself with his condition on the Day of Resurrection and its stages – will he cross the bridge safely or will he plunge into the abyss?52 – and constantly recall these things in his heart so that it rouses him from his complacency. Fanning these flames and bewailing these calamities is called reminding and informing and telling people about these things and alerting them to their shortcomings and excesses and making them see their sins so that the assembly of people may sense the burning heat of these flames and grow anxious at those calamities and so that they may remind one another of their past deeds as best they can and become distressed at [the thought of] spending [their] remaining days disobeying Allāh.

  (69) This is the summary account of the path called preaching. It is as though you saw that a flood had swept down upon a house with the inhabitants inside and you [wanted] to say: “Beware! Beware! Flee from the path of the flood!” Would you in such circumstances really want to tell the owner of the house your news in hackneyed clichés, tired apothegms, and quick tips? No, you would not! That is the condition of the preacher. He should avoid it.

  (70) The second characteristic [of preaching to guard against] is that it not be the goal of your sermon that the congregation bellow back their responses, exhibit excessive emotions, and rend their clothing in hysteria simply in order that it be said: “What a great assembly that was!” All of this leads to hypocrisy, born as it is of carelessness. Rather, your intention and aim should be to call people’s attention away from this world to the next, from rebelliousness to compliance, from over-indulgence to temperance, from stinginess to charity, from vanity to godliness. [Your intention should be] to extol the benefits that will accrue to them in the next world, to decry this world, and to teach them how to be worshipful and abstemious, because the dominating desire in their natures is to depart from the sure path of the Law, randomly to pursue things that displease Allāh, and to divert themselves immorally. So strike terror into their hearts, startle them, and warn them against the horrors they otherwise might face in the next world. And maybe their inner traits will change, their outward treatment of one another will alter, and the desire and wish to be obedient and give up rebelliousness will manifest itself.

  (71) This is the way to preach and give advice. Any form of preaching that is not like this is a curse on the speaker and the listener. In fact, it is said to be a ghoul and a satan which leads people off the road and then destroys them. They must flee from it because not even Satan could do the damage to their piety that such a one [who preaches like this] would do. Anyone with the strength and will must drag [such a preacher] down from the minbars of the believers and prevent him from his pursuit, for [such an act] is part of commanding the right and forbidding the wrong.

  (72) The third thing you should avoid: Neither associate with princes and kings nor even express an opinion about them, for thinking about them, attending their courts, and associating with them is very dangerous. If you have been tempted [to do this], immediately stop both censuring and praising them, because Allāh grows angry when one praises the sinner and tyrant. Anyone who has prayed for the long life [of a ruler] has clearly deemed it acceptable to rebel against Allāh in His world.

  (73) The fourth thing to avoid: Do not accept presents and gifts from rulers, even if you know [that the gifts] are legally permissible, because to covet [anything] from them is to debase religion, since it leads one to sycophancy, compliance and collusion in their acts of oppression. All of this is a corruptive force to religion. The least harmful element of this is that when you accept their gifts and benefit from their worldly possessions, you begin to love them. Now to love someone is necessarily to wish them long life both in this world and the next, but wishing for the continued existence of the tyrant is to seek the oppression of those who worship Allāh and the ruination of the world. What could be more harmful to one’s piety and final judgement than this! Beware of letting yourself be deceived by the wiles of Satan or by those who say to you that it is preferable and more appropriate to start taking money from out of the hands of the poor and indigent; for [the rulers] squander it in sin and sedition whereas your distribution of it to the poor would be better. For the Cursed One [i.e., Satan] has cut many a throat with such malicious susurration. The damage he causes is pervasive, as we recounted in Revival of the Religious Sciences. Look [for the discussion] there.

  (74) As for the four things that you should do, the first is that you make your conduct with Allāh such that were your servant to deal with you in that manner, you would be pleased with him and not annoyed or angry with him, and anything that you do not find satisfactory about this theoretical servant of yours Allāh as your true master would also not find satisfactory [about you].

  (75) The second is that whatever you do to people should be what you would want done to you, because the faith of a believer is incomplete unless he wants for other people what he would want for himself.

  (76) The third is that whenever you read and look into a field of learning, it should be something that improves your heart and cleanses your soul, as though you had learned that you had but one week to live–you certainly would not concern yourself with law, and legal disputation and theory, theology, and such things, because you would know that these sciences will not enrich you. Rather, you would pay attention to your heart, learn the characteristics of your soul, relinquish your ties to the world, purify your soul of its reprehensible traits, turn your attention to the love of Allāh, to worshipping Him, and acquiring good traits. Not a day and night passes but that a man might not die in it.

  (77) O Son! Hear another narrative from me and think about it until you arrive at a conclusion. If you were told that the Sultan was coming to visit you in a week, know that in the intervening time you would focus your attention on nothing but improving anything that you knew the Sultan’s gaze would fall upon, such as your clothes, your body, the house and furniture, and so on. Now, reflect on the allusion, for you are intelligent and a single word suffices the wise. The Prophet (peace and blessing upon him!) said: “Allāh looks at neither your manners nor your actions; He examines your hearts and intentions.” If you want to know the states of the heart, look in the Revival and my other books. Such learning is an individual duty while others are collective. Excepting the measure of what the duties to Allāh produce, may Allāh grant you success in obtaining it!

  (78) The fourth thing is that you do not accrue of worldly things more than is sufficient for a year, just as the Prophet (peace and blessing upon him!) would lay in provisions for one of the chambers [of his house] and say: 

“Oh, Allāh, make the provisions of Muḥammad’s family just enough!”


He would not store up provisions in all of the chambers, but only for [whichever of his wives] he knew to be weak in faith. For any [whose faith] was certain, he would provide no more provisions than she needed for a day and a half.

  (79) O Son! I have responded to your requests in this quire, so you should put them into practice. Do not forget me in your pious supplication. As for the supplication you requested from me,53 look for it among the pious supplications [below]. Read this supplication in your times of prayer, especially in the remaining moments.

  (80) O Allāh! I ask of you perfect grace, abiding protection, encompassing mercy, and good health, the most bountiful means of subsistence, the happiest of lives, the most righteous behaviour, the most comprehensive favours, the most pleasant bounty, and the most effective benevolence.

  (81) O Allāh! Be with us and not against us!

  (82) O Allāh! Seal the hour of departure with happiness; fulfil our hopes in abundance; bind together our coming and going with forgiveness; make Your mercy our destination and return; pour out the bucket of Your absolution into the containers of our sins; bless us by rectifying our failings; make piety our provision – in Your religion lies effort and upon You lies our dependence and support. Set us firmly on the path of righteousness and protect us in this world from any cause for regret on the Day of Resurrection; lighten the load of our accountability, bless us with the life of the righteous, and save and steer us from the iniquity of the evil. Hold back our necks and the necks of our ancestors from the hellfire through Your mercy, O Mighty, Forgiving, Generous, Concealing, Benevolent, Omnipotent Allāh!

  (83) O Allāh! O Allāh! By Your mercy! O Most Merciful! First of firsts and lasts! O Most Powerful! O You who bestow mercy on the weak! O Most Merciful! There is no god but You! Praise unto You, that I not be a wrongdoer! Praise unto Allāh, the Lord of the Worlds!

That brings us to the end of today’s lecture… [recommend further reading etc., if any]. The subject of our next lecture is… [title]… [recommend preparatory reading, etc., if any]. Thank you for your attention. Assalamu alaykum.


1. By the time the khilāfah was fully established (1808-9), three leading figures had clearly distinguished themselves as the historical pillars of the new order. Firstly, Shehu Usman dan Fodio himself, regarded as the mujaddid in person; secondly, his brother, ‘Abdullāhi dan Fodio, the finest and most complete scholar the movement produced, he was also its philosopher, political and military strategist, and conscience; and thirdly, Muḥammad Bello, the Shehu’s son, the energetic, trustworthy leader, destined to serve as the real architect and consolidator of the new political reality.

2Tazyīn al-Waraqāt is an important contemporary chronicle written in Arabic by Shaykh ‘Abdullāhi describing both jihād and pre-jihād events, people and circumstances of the time.

3. Reproduced in Sulaiman, Ibraheem, ‘The African Caliphate: The Life, Works and Teaching of Shaykh Usman Dan Fodio (1754-1817) pp. 145-6. Diwan Press Ltd., 2009 Norwich,

4. op. cit. pp. 147-9 see fn. 3

5Tanbīh al-Ikhwān, an instructional text written by the Shehu during the Jihād period.

6. See fn. 14.

7. See fn. 11.

8. For Tanbīh see fn. 5. Irshād al Ikhwān ilā Aḥkām Khurūj al-Niswān an instructional text written by the Shehu during the Jihād period providing guidance on the legal position regarding women’s out-of-door activities.

9. source????

10. Qur’ān 18[Al-Kahf]:38

11. Al-Bukhārī, al-Jāmī‘ aṣ-Ṣaḥīḥ, Kitāb al-I‘tiṣām bi’l-Kitāb wa’s-Sunnah, chapter 14, ḥadīth 7320; Also Kitāb Aḥādīth al-Anbiyā’, chapter 52, ḥadīth 3456; Muslim, al-Musnad aṣ-Ṣaḥīḥ, Kitāb al-‘Ilm, chapter Ittibā‘ Sunan al-Yahūd wa’n-Naṣārā, ḥadīth 6781; Also at-Tibrīzī, Mishkāt al-Maṣābīḥ, Kitāb ar-Riqāq, chapter Taghayyur an-Nās, section 1, ḥadīth 5361. Also reported by al-Ḥākim in his al-Mustadrak ‘ala’ṣ-Ṣaḥīḥayn on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbās k; as-Suyūṭī, Jam‘ al-Jawāmi‘, Vol.6, p.19, ref. 16950

12. Qur’ān 18[Al-Kahf]:10]

13. Qur’ān 18[Al-Kahf]: 13-16

14. Qur’ān 21[Al-Anbiyā’]: 60 

15. Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Ghazālī (1058/450-1111/505) Renowned faqīh, philosopher and Sūfi. Known as the ‘Proof of Islam’. Author of the magisterial and highly influential Iḥyā’ ‘ulūm al-dīn (Revival of the Religious Sciences).

16. Classical Foundations of Islamic Educational Thought edited by Cook, Bradley J. and Malkawi, Fathi H., Brigham Young University Press, Provo Utah, 2010 pp.88 -107 

17. Check tafsīr! - Qur’ān [Al-Kahf]:19-20

18. See footnote 11.

19. Abū l-Qāsim Junayd (d. 298/910) was the master of the Sufis in Baghdad in the 3rd/9th century.

20. Qur’ān 53[An-Najm]:38

21. Qur’ān 18[Al-Kahf]:105 

22. Qur’ān 56[Al-Wāqi’a]:25

23. Qur’ān 18[Al-Kahf]:102

24. Qur’ān 19[Maryam]:60

25. Qur’ān 7[Al-A’rāf]:55

26. Ḥasan al-Bāṣrī (d. 110/728) is one of those pivotal figures in early Islam to whom is traced so many of the later intellectual and spiritual currents.

27Dīwān in the sense of a collection of of religious and historical reports, philological explanations of the Qur’ān, and sundry other material.

28. The chief of one of the most important tribal clans in Madinah and a supporter of the Prophet, he died shortly after the siege of Madinah in 5/627.

29. Qur’ān 7[Al-A’rāf]:179

30. Qur’ān 17[Al-Isrā’]:79

31. Qur’ān 51[Adh-Dhāriyāt]:18

32. Qur’ān 3[Āl ‘Imrān]:17

33. This is the Kūfan expert in Qur’ān and hadīth who died in 611/778.

34. The figure of the sage in Islamic tradition.

35. This is Abū Bakr Dulaf ibn Jahdar (d. 334/945), the “sober” mystic who rebuked Junayd for the excesses of his Sufism and who denounced the mystic Hallāj during the latter’s heresy trial.

36. Abū ‘Alī Shaqīq ibn Ibrāhīm al-Azdī (d.193/809) was a Khurasanian mystic recognised by the later Sufi tradition as an early expert on tawakkul (complete dependence on Allāh). Ḥātim al-Asamm was his foremost disciple.

37. Qur’ān 79[An-Nāzi’āt]:39-40

38. Qur’ān 16[An-Nahl]:96

39. Qur’ān 49[Al-Hujurāt]:13

40. Qur’ān 43[Az-Zukhruf]:31

41. Qur’ān 35[Al-Fāṭir]:6

42. Qur’ān 11[Hūd]:6

43. Qur’ān 65[At-Ṭalāq]:3

44. Qur’ān 49[Al-Hujurāt]:5

45. In the Sufi tradition the Qur’anic figure of Khiḍr or Khaḍir represents the spiritual guide par excellence.

46. Qur’ān 18[Al-Kahf]:69

47. Qur’ān 21[Al-Anbiyā]:37

48. Qur’ān 12[Yūsuf]:109

49. Abū al-Fayḍ Thawbān ibn Ibrāhīm, known as Dhū al-Nūn al-Misrī, was an early Egyptian Sūfi whose name is associated with alchemy and the supernatural.

50. Qur’ān 53[An-Najm]:28

51. The two angels who interrogate the dead in their graves.

52. Believers must pass over a bridge between heaven and hell; those whose faith is sound will pass safely; unbelievers will plunge into hell.

53. See above, paragraph 3.