Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education

The Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education (NFIE) is a non-profit, tax exempt, religious and educational organization dedicated to serve Islam with a special focus on Tasawwuf(Sufism),

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Dr. Nūr al-Din ʿItr, Muḥaddith al-Shām ❧ (1937-2020) - Shaykh Jihad Hashim Brown

Dr. Nūr al-Din ʿItr, Muḥaddith al-Shām ❧ (1937-2020)

‎لِّتُؤْمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ. وَتُعَزِّرُوهُ وَتُوَقِّرُوهُ. وَتُسَبِّحُوهُ بُكْرَةً وَأَصِيلًا
That you believe in Allah and His Messenger. That you support his cause and respect his rank ﷺ. That you glorify Him ﷻ, by morning and evening.
[Q.48:09; al-Qurṭubī]
On Wednesday 23 September, 2020, we said farewell to another mountain. Al-Shaykh Nūr al-Dīn ʿItr (al-Ḥasanī al-Ḥusaynī) will be remembered as one of the foremost Ḥadīth scholars of our time. To his students he was “Doctor Nūr”. Majestic, courageous, and serious from a distance—stoicly kind and mild-mannered up close. An Aleppan scholar, cut from from the finest of classical cloth, he was the nephew and son-in-law of the pre-eminent muḥaddith, Abdullah Sirāj al-Dīn [d. 2002]. This makes his grandfather, al-Shaykh Muḥammad Najīb Sirāj al-Dīn [1857-1953], the senior scholar and close compatriot and lifelong friend of Muḥaddith al-Shām, Badr al-Dīn al-Ḥasanī [1850-1935].
Doctor Nūr would divide his time between Aleppo and Damascus where he maintained a home on the Qāsiyūn Mountain. We studied his course analysing the legal narrations supporting the Ḥanafī School of law in the MA program at the University of Damascus, where he was a long time professor in both the College of Sharīʿah and the Law School. On Friday nights we would read with him from his critical edition of the ʿIlal al-Tirmidhī, in the tiny Dhubyān Mosque near his home, high up on the mountain. Students would pack themselves in, some in the doorway, others on the steps and the narrow street outside. About his multi-volume work, Iʿlām al-Anām [A Commentary on the Bulūgh al-Marām, of Ibn Ḥajar], he would say, “I began this project as an alternative to the Subul al-Salām we had to suffer through at al-Azhar.” The text, by the modernist, al-Ṣanʿānī [d. 1768], had been popularised in the 1950s—it was deemed by many scholars to be less rigorous than might be preferred. A number of Dr. Nūr al-Dīn's works are now part of the required curriculum at Azhar and other universities. The author of more than fifty books, both academic and popular, the Shaykh was unimpressed with the management styles of the existing publishing houses. He published and distributed the greater portion of his catalogue himself. His 1972, Manhaj al-Naqd, is a detailed tour de force in advanced Narrative Criticism. His critical editions of Nuzhat al-Naẓar and Irshād Ṭullāb al-Ḥaqāʾiq remain the preferred choice of instructors and students alike.
The scion of two well-known pious houses in Aleppan society, the lay-people of his family were models of Islamic culture in their own right. He was a resolute champion of the Prophetic Sunnah, Ḥanafī Law, Arabic language, and classical learning, in his 60s he stood almost six feet, in his burgundy tarboosh, white cotton wrap, and Ottoman frock coat. Wherever he went, he was an inspiring vision to behold. Years later, my own family had the honour to host Doctor Nūr and his wife (the daughter of his mentor), at our home in the U.A.E. for a week. Ever the generous scholar, he was keen to return the favour during one of our Summers in al-Shām, the birthplace of my children. In the evenings, on his picturesque balcony overlooking the Old District of Ḥalab, my two eldest daughters would read Riyāḍ al-Sālihīn with our Shaykh, culminating with his granting them his ijāzah ʿāmmah. To his credit, he began regular private sessions for a group of advanced female students. They began by memorising Riyāḍ al-Ṣāliḥīn. So inspired by the opportunity, they went on to memorise the complete compendia of al-Bukhārī and Muslim under his tutelage. As far as I’m aware, they never stopped their progression through the remaining four works of the Critical Narrative Canon.
During his final years, Our Shaykh developed Parkinson’s which severely affected his ability to speak, though his mind remained nimble and quick as a whip. This did not stop the international demands for his expertise. Accompanied by a family member, his most intimate student, Dr. Maḥmūd Aḥmad al-Miṣrī (a student also of his illustrious uncle before him), would meet him at Azhar, Istanbul, Libya, or Beirut to “translate” his barely decipherable intonations. Much to the joy of students and professors abroad, they were abundantly aware of the novel opportunity to actively participate in the life and career of a scholar of this magnitude.
Born in 1937, Dr. Nūr al-Dīn ʿItr first graduated from the Khusrāwiyyah—in Ḥalab al-Shahbāʾ (1954). From there he would go directly to Azhār for his university and graduate studies. Before his final return to Syria, he spent the years between 1965-1967 as a professor in al-Madīnat al-Munawwara. Dr. Nūr al-Dīn was in the 82nd year of his affiliation with the Sunnah of Allah’s Beloved Messenger ﷺ when he passed this week. One of the diminutive booklets, highlighting the most accessible narratives of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ, that he published in his later years—and loved to liberally distribute by hand wherever he would go, was recently rendered into English as; Loving the Messenger of Allah [Heritage Press: London (2014)]. Two others being his, How to Perform Hajj and Umrah According to the Four Sunni Schools of Law (2013) and Muhammad ﷺ Messenger To Mankind (2019). Allah Bless his repose, give him comfort, accept his years of indefatigable service, and unite him with his Beloved ﷺ on the mountain tops of Your highest Farādīs.
‫ ‬
‫∴‬ ‫غَرَامِي (صَحِيحٌ) والرَّجا فِيكَ (مُعْضَلُ)‬ ‫✯ وَحُزْنِي وَدَمْعِي (مُرْسَلٌ) وَ(مُسَلْسَلُ)‬ ‫∴‬
“My love is sound (ṣaḥīḥ); but my hopes in you are obstructed (muʿḍal); ☆ my sadness and my tears, released (mursal) and continuous (musalsal);”
‫∴‬ ‫وَصَبْرِي عَنْكُمْ (يَشْهَدُ) الْعَقْلُ أَنَّهُ‬ ‫✯ (ضَعِيفٌ) وَ(مَتْرُوكٌ) وَذُلِّيَ أَجْمَلُ‬ ‫∴‬
“The slightest of intelligence would bear witness (shāhid), that my patience for our reunion; ☆ is weak (ḍaʿīf), abandoned (matrūk); and yet my humbled state is more elegant still.
‫∴‬ ‫وَلاَ (حَسَنٌ) إِلاَّ (سَمَاعُ) حَدِيثِكُمْ‬ ‫✯ (مُشَافَهَةً) (يُمْلَى) عَلَيَّ فَـ(أَنْقُلُ)‬ ‫∴‬
“Goodness (ḥasan) lies only in hearing (samāʿ) your narrative (ḥadīth); ☆ directly (mushāfaha) dictated (imlāʾ) to me, that I might convey it (manqūl);”
‫✽ ✽ ✽‬
‫ ‬
‫∴ رأيتُ ظبياً على كثيبٍ؛‬ ‫✯ شبيهُ بدرٍ، إذا تَلالا؛‬ ‫∴‬
“I saw a gazelle (dhabyan) upon the dunes; ☆ as if it were the full moon, when it glimmers;”
‫∴‬ ‫قلتُ ما اسْمُك قالتْ نورٌ؛‬ ‫✯‬ ‫قلتُ صِلْني؛ قالتْ تعالى؛‬ ‫∴‬
“I called out: ‘your name is what;’ she said: ‘light’ (nūrun); ☆ ‘take me,’ I cried; she said: ‘come;’”

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Shaykh Dr. Nur al-Din Itr of Aleppo, has passed away in Damascus today.-- Shaykh Dr. Muhammad Bin Yahya al-Ninowy

Inna lillah wa inna Ilayhi raji'oon.
With eyes filled with tears and sorrow hearts, we can confirm that our Shaykh and teacher; Shaykh Dr. Nur al-Din Itr of Aleppo, has passed away in Damascus today.
Shaykh Nur al-Din was considered the highest living scholarship in Hadith sciences in Syria, he is also an Ustadh Musharik in Ulum al-Tafsir. The Shaykh, may Allah Ta'ala forgive him, reward him, and grant him Jannah, was the nephew and son-in-law of our late Shaykh Sayyidi Abdullah Siraj al-Din al-Husayni who was the major influence in his academic and Tazkiyah growth.
ِAmong the most beautiful books Shaykh Nur al-Din authored are: Manhaj al-Naqd fi Ulum al-Hadith, and I'lam al-Anaam, among other innovative scholarly works. The Shaykh was Hanafi in Fiqh and Hasani in family origin, with a calmness and a smile that almost never leaves his face and a stunning humbleness. He kept giving lectures until recently when illness overwhelmed him. He never left Syria from 70's after he taught in al-Madina al-Munawarra, preferred to struggle to positively contribute to the situation in Syria instead (like his Shaykh and father-in-law), and moved from Aleppo to Damascus for the University department job which he held, visiting his home city regularly and giving lectures in its Masajid. His sessions were filled with Nur (his name), ilm, and humbleness.
The departure of scholars of such caliber is a sign to the Ummah to collect itself and work harder to try to catch up with the legacy of our Salaf, may Allah Ta'ala grant them all His mercies.
May Allah Ta'ala forgive our Shaykh Nur al-Din, grant him His Mercies, and assemble him with the Prophet sallallahu Ta'ala alayhi wa aalihi wa sallam in Jannah al-Firdaws with all of us, ya Rabb al-Alamin.

Description of Shaykh Nur al-Din Itr RA by Shaykh Muhammad Aslam :

Funeral of Shaykh Nur al-Din Itr 9/24/2020:

English Translation of Books by Shaykh Nur al Din Itr RA -About AuthorShaykh Nur al-Din Itr (born in 1934) is one of the leading contemporary scholars from Aleppo, Syria in Qur'anic and Hadith sciences. For many years he has served as the head of the Faculty for Qur'anic and Hadith Sciences and as a professor at the University of Damascus and other Islamic institutes.

Youtube Video - Shaykh Nur al-Din Itr -" The Sufism of Students of Knowledge" Arabic with English Subtitles Muhaddith Nur al-Din 'Itr al-Hanafi Advises Students of Knowledge to follow the Sufism of Imam al-Nawawi al-Shafi'i and to devote themselves to his books - especially, "The Gardens of the Righteous." and "The Book of Remembrances." - to take on 3 formulas:
- 'There is no deity except God' - 'لا إله إلا الله" - 'Repentance' - 'استغفر الله" - Salutations upon the Messenger of God (Peace and blessings be upon him) and to make knowledge your main spiritual litany.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Shaykh Muhammad Umar Mujaddidi Naqshbandi (1829-1880)

Shaykh Muhammad Umar Mujaddidi Naqshbandi (1829-1880)
Hazrat shaykh Muhammad ʻUmar Fārūqī Mujaddidī Naqshbandī was a renowned Sufi master of the Naqshbandī Order and a member of the Mujaddidī family of Sufi masters. He was the middle son and spiritual deputy of Shāh Ahmad Saʻīd Mujaddidī (d.1860).
Contents [hide]
1 Biography
2 Poetry
3 Deputies
4 References
He was born in Shawwāl 1244 AH (1829) at Khānqāh Mazhariyah, Delhi. His noble grandfather passed away when he was five years old.
He memorized the Holy Quran by heart and then learned Islamic sciences from Mawlānā Habīb-Allāh Multānī. He studied Hadith from his uncle Shāh ʻAbd al-Ghanī Mujaddidī, who was a renowned master of Hadith. He also studied many courses and books with his esteemed father, particularly books of Tasawwuf, and was initiated into the Naqshbandi Sufi Order by his father. After completing the Naqshbandi Sufi Path, he was authorized by his father as his deputy.
After the Indian rebellion of 1857, he migrated to the holy sanctuary Madīnah along with his noble father and family, where he settled until the death of his father in 1860. After that, he settled in Makkah where he established a hospice for his followers and trained them in the Naqshbandī Sufi Path. Since Makkah was a central place for Muslims of all areas, he initiated followers from many parts of the world. Thousands of people learned the spiritual path from him, and many were appointed deputies. His spiritual order reached as far away as Malaysia.
He traveled to India for the marriage of his son, and visited Rampur where the chief of Rampur Nawāb Kalb-ʻAlī Khān presented himself with humbleness and esteem. Few months later he died there, on 2 Muharram 1298 AH (December 1880). He was buried there in Rampur beside the tomb of Hāfiz Jamāl-Allāh Naqshbandī.
His son Shaykh Abul-Khayr ʻAbdullāh Mujaddidī was an esteemed master of the Naqshbandi Sufi Path in Delhi. He received back the charge of Khānqāh Mazhariyah in Delhi from Shaykh Muhammad ʻUsmān Naqshbandī of Mūsā-Zaī Sharīf, and settled there permanently.
Shaykh Muhammad ʻUmar wrote poetry in Urdu and Persian. One of his Urdu poems is given below:
خود جاؤں گا میں، نامہ رساں گر نہ ملے گا
بن جاؤں گا قاصد جو کبوتر نہ ملے گا
سفاکئ قاتل اگر ایسی ہی رہے گی
دنیا میں کسی کا بھی تن و سر نہ رہے گا
جس روز نکل آئے گا وہ پردہ سے باہر
ڈھونڈے سے بھی خورشید فلک پر نہ ملے گا
ہجراں میں غمِ وصل ہے، وصلت میں غمِ ہجر
آرام کسی طرح سے دم بھر نہ ملے گا
رکھوں گا زمیں پر نہ کبھی اپنی جبیں میں
جب تک تری دہلیز کا پتھر نہ ملے گا
مر جائے گا جوں ماہیِ بے آب تڑپ کر
بسمل کو جو آبِ دمِ خنجر نہ ملے گا
مت چھوڑ عمر ساتھ سعیدِ ازلی کا
پھر ایسا جہاں میں کوئی رہبر نہ ملے گا
The last verse translates to:
Don’t leave O Umar the company of eternally cheerful (Saʻīd, referring to his father),
You won’t ever find such a guide in the world.
Among his deputies are the following:
His son Shaykh Abul-Khayr ʻAbdullāh Mujaddidī Naqshbandī
Hājī Muhammad Bafavī (d.1898)
Zikr-us-Saʻīdain (Urdu), by Shāh Muhammad Maʻsūm Mujaddidī Rāmpurī
Tuhfa Sultāniya (Urdu), by Mawlānān Baqā Muhammad Quraishī. Biography of Khwāja Muhammad Sultān-ʻĀlam

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

In Memory of Shaykh Abdullah Nooruddin Durkee alayhi Rahmah - Lectures at NFIE Annual Mawlid un Nabi saws Conferences

"Reality of Prophet Muhammad saws " by Shaykh Nooruddin Durkee

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1-Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education (NFIE) organized an enlightening educational program on the occasion of the birthday anniversary of Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) on Saturday and Sunday, August 26 and 27, 1995 at University of Illinois. The theme of conference was --Spiritual Aspects of Islam--The Program included heart warming poetry in praise of Prophet (saws)

.Eminent Scholars and Sufis addressed the gathering. Among them were:
  • Shaykh Muhammad Masum Nashbandi (Naqshbandi Shaykh and Scholar from Kurdistan, Religious Advisor NFIE)
  •  Imam Senad Agic, Imam Islamic Cultural Center, Northbrook, Il.
  • Shaykh Muhammd Al-Jamal Ar-Rifai As-Shadhuli, Khateeb Al Aqsa Mosque, Deputy Mufti, Al - Quds (Jerusalem, Palestine),
  • Dr. Marcia Hermansen , Professor, Religious Studies, San Diego State University
  • Dr. Alan Abd-al Haqq Godlas  Professor, Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of Georgia,Athens,GA
  • Dr. Arther Beuhler, Professor Islam and Indo-Pakistan Culture, Colgate University,Hamilton, NY.
  • Bahauddin Baha .Supreme Court Judge, Afganistan (Bloomington, IL),
  • Abd-al Hayy Moore, American Muslim Poet (Philadelphia, PA),
  • Shaykh Ahmed Tijani  Ben Omar (Chicago, IL) ,
  • Shaykh Abdullah Nur-al Din Durkee (Green Mountain, VA),
  • Dr. Abdul Sattar Khan Naqshbandi,Former Head,Arabic Dept,Osmania University,Hyderabad,India
  • Maulana Sayyid Jafar Muhyiddin Al-Qadri Ph.D.College of Shariah,Al-Azhar University,President Al-Seerah Society,Chicago.
  • Al-Haj Khursheed Ahmad,Pride of Performance Award Recepient,Famous Na'at Khawan from Karachi,Pakistan recited Qasidas in his melodious voice in Urdu,Arabic and Persian.
  • The Program concluded with Salat-o-Salam, Dua by Shaykh Masum and Dinner

2- " Quranic Recitation as a Spiritual Practice" by Shaykh Nooruddin Durkee

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International Mawlid-un-Nabi Conference 2000 in Chicago was held at the University of Illinois. The speakers included:

  • Shaykh Muhammad Masum Nashbandi (Naqshbandi Shaykh and Scholar from Kurdistan, Religious Advisor NFIE),
  • Maulana Sayyid Jafar Muhyiddin Al-Qadri Ph.D.College of Shariah,Al-Azhar University,President Al-Seerah Society,Chicago.
  • Dr.Abdul Sattar Khan Naqshbandi, Former Head Dept of Arabic, Osmania University,Hyderabad,IndiaAbdus Sattar Khan Naqshbandi of India
  • Justice Bahauddin Baha Imam/Khateeb,Syed Jamaluddin Afgani Islamic Center,President Maulana Jalaluddin Balkhi Society,Laguna Beach,CA
  • Daniel Abdal Hayy moore. Americam Muslim Poet, Philadelphia
  • Mufti Hafeez-ur-Rahman, Chief Patron Al-Mustafa Islamic Education Center,Chicago.
  • Mohammad Mahmud Hussain Siddiqui, Chair,Professor and Research Director, Seerat-e- Tayyeba Chair, University of Karachi,Bar at Shariat,Pakistan Bar Academy.
  • Dr.Abdal Hakim Murad (T.J.Winter) Lecturer Islamic Studies, University of Cambridge ,England.
  • Shakyh Abdullah Nooruddeen Durkee ,Green mountain,Virginia
  • Dr. Arthur Buehler , Professor,Dept of  Religion Louisiana State University.
  • Maulana Syed Badaruddin Qadri,Hyderabad,India

A special  session for women was held. The speakers were Hajjah Noura Durkee of Virginia and Aisha Gray Henry Gouverneur ,Director of Fons Vitae. Qasidahs were recited by famous Umme Habiba of Pakistan. The program ended with a beautiful Dhikr performed by Jarrahi Sufi Order of America.

3-NFIE Mawlid-un-Nabi saws Conference, Chandler, Arizona

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Shaykh Abdullah Noorudeen Durkee Passed Away - Obituaries - Shaykh Muhammad Bin Yahya an Ninowy & Dr. Abdal Haqq Godlas

 Obituary by Shaykh Muhammad Bin Yahya an-Ninowy 

Inna Lillah wa Inna Ilayhi Raji'oon.
To Allah Ta'ala we all belong, and to Him we all shall return.
With a heart filled with sorrow, deep sadness, and grief, yet full in Iman in Allah's decree and its wisdom, we can confirm that our beloved, brother, friend, and teacher; Shaykh Abdullah Nooruddin Durkee has passed on returning to His Loving and Merciful Creator.
Words are disappearing and cannot be found, especially that Sidi Abdullah Nooruddin was so close to our heart and to that of many around the US and the world.
His Zawiyah in Charlottesville, Va was a place where the poor received help, the hungry got some food, the student learned, the orphans received love and care, the seekers got their answers, and people sought refuge in for hope, love, learning, good company, and smiles..
When i first met him he struck me as a giant in Tasawuff and with him meeting some of the recent giants such as Sidi Shaykh Abd al-Halim Mahmood, the Shadhili master and the Grand Shaykh of Al-Azhar, Sidi Shaykh Salamah al-Radi, Sidi Shaykh Salih al-Ja'fari, and many others, such as his Shaykh Ibrahim al-Battawi, I felt that I was in the right company, may Allah Ta'ala bless them all and grant them the company of the Prophets and pious.
Now, Sidi Nooruddin also joins that chain of scholars and servants insha'Allah.
The departure of his Shaykh, Shaykh Ibrahim al-Battawi has impacted him a lot, but he kept the mission and vision, and vowed to remain on the footsteps until his last breath.
Sidi Nooruddin was among the first to translate the whole Qur'an with transliteration, and produced many publications about the Shadhili school of Tasawuff, which will forever be a treasure to have, may Allah Ta'ala grant him the best of rewards for all his struggle, efforts and works.
It is personally very painful to hear of Sidi Nooruddin's departure, and one is truly lost for words. Because hehas been through a lot in life, his wisdom evolved and eventually made him like a star you look up every now and then for guidance when lost. And there are fewer and fewer stars in the vast dark skies....This is yet another tremendous loss for the US and West in general. Sidi Nooruddin is difficult to be replaced. The balance and beauty that he left will forever remain with us, and we will be forever grateful that Allah Ta'ala facilitated for us to spend years with his presence and wisdom.
Our heart felt condolences to his family; Hajjah Norah, and their children. To all his students, murids, lovers, and truly all the Muslim world and all humanity.
With the world losing many who have a track record in working grass roots, struggling, helping, guiding, learning, teaching, working hard (and thus making mistakes in the process) and providing hope, one can only be more concerned and pleading to Allah Almighty Loving Creator for help for all.
Sidi Abdullah Nooruddin Durkee motto he embraced from Mawlana Moinuddin Chisti; love for all and malice towards none, will always be the motto we share, endear, and uphold.
His last text message to me he said: " you pray for me, and I'll pray for you. That's what makes the world go round".
Please join me in making Du'a and giving Sadaqah (no matter how little) on behalf of this beautiful and illuminated soul..
Sidi Abdullah Nooruddin was sitting like a lion in the conference (pic below) in the UK, where we had the honor of being with him.
I will never forget his loving smile, warm welcomes, and gracious Nafs.
So long Ya Sidi, so long friend..., the mountain will always be green with you there, and the line of the school will never end, and the doors will never close. May we be forgiven for our shortcomings with you, and may He reunite you with all the Prophets and Saints you loved so much. May The All-Loving Creator of all forgive you, bless you for all the good service and sacrifices you made, and shower you with His Love and Mercies..

Obituary by Dr.Alan Abdal Haqq Godlas

Inna lillahi wa-inna ilayhi raji'un, Shaykh Nuruddin Durkee... In the coming days, no doubt, much will be said about Shaykh Nuruddin and the continual service that he did fi sabil Allah including, among many other things, the founding of Lama Foundation in Taos, NM, and then creating Dar al-Islam, in Abiqui, New Mexico, and the writing and production of his volumes of the School of the Shadhdhuliyyah and the Tajwidi Qur'an (which has helped countless non-Arabic speakers to recite the Qur'an in Arabic). I would, however, like to share how I first became aware of him.
It was Thanksgiving,1971, all the university students had gone home to their families, but I needed to get free of my ego and find God. So I was alone in my dorm room, wandering around the inner universe with not much of a clue, except for a few books on spirituality and meditation as my companions. One of them was titled "Be Here Now!" by Ram Dass, aka Richard Alpert (may he rest in peace), a former psychology professor at Harvard who had been kicked out because of his adventures in LSD, but who, not long after that, had even left drugs behind in search of enlightement.
While the first part of the book was a linear autobiography of Ram Dass' transition from straight-laced academic to acid evangelist to yogi, the second part was much more challenging for me. It was largely an eclectic mix of spiritual teachings from all over the world, together with graphic art, the meaning of which was often completely lost to me. Nevertheless, I did manage to comprehend one story that conveyed the importance of being in the present, harmonizing with the "vibrations" of the moment, what Sufis call becoming an Ibn al-Waqt (son/child of the moment), and entering into Jannah right now, at every moment. So, this is how I first became aware of Shaykh Nur al-Din, who was at the heart of the story, though at that time, he was known as Steve Durkee.
Later I would come to know that in fact he had published the book for Ram Dass, and, together with his wife Noura, had done all its artwork. A couple of years after its publication, he and Noura would embrace Islam. Eventually, the more I actually began to follow a spiritual path, I would come to understand and love that book, as did over two million other readers. I have included the story below. To read it, click on the inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un in blue kufic inlaid tile and just hit the arrow to the right of the picture, or start with the top right and then go down and read from left to right. Although I first met Shaykh Nur al-Din in person in1983-84 in Cairo and had the pleasure of being in his presence from time to time over the years, this story has a very special place in my heart. Ya Sidi Nur al-Din...thank you, jazakallahu khayran! Fi amanillah!

Sunday, September 6, 2020

The Art of Da'wah: Shaykh Musa'b Penfound

 Shaykh Musa'b Penfound: The Art of Da'wah

YouTube Video Talk Link :

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم 

الحمد لله رب العالمين

والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله

A Cognitive frame or a paradigm is the way you view the world and how it enters back to your lens. The same people can look at the same thing but the way they internalize it very differently.

Da’wah in its essence in the Arabic language means; To Invite, To Call, To Summon

They are different kind of invitation in the Arabic semantics/language construction. You can call somebody to task. That is more of a command. Or you can invite them to like how a child is asking his father for something like asking for permission, pleading etc.

Da’wah as a concept is very different, as least from the experience of having the opportunity to seeing masters of this tradition, passing down the Sanad (chain of knowledge) from mother to daughters or father to son, and then coming back to the western paradigm was kind of shocking.

In a sense that the word Da’wah, has been completely misunderstood. And I think one of the reason for why people in western society will tend to take on a different understanding is from those different type of worldviews that they come in, we revamp and synthesis that word (based on the worldviews) to some (version) Islamic terms. Thus changing the semantic fields and projecting the word now thinking this is what the word originally means in the Islamic tradition.

So to illustrate the true meaning. Da’wah in many ways it is a mode of being, rather than something that you do.

In its reality it is which every Muslim aspire to be, not aspire to do.

Now when you do a quick search on the internet one of the first few searches that comes out is “How to do Da’wah.” Which becomes sort of formulaic and very functional.

Da’wah as a relating or conveying of a truth, is not trying to convince the people.

So now the first paradigm shift is to be; in calling people to Islam and not about convincing people about Islam. (eg. to try explain Allah exists)

One of the principle of Da’wah is understanding that ultimately its not something that we have control over.

The Da’i (the one calling) is more like a vessel. So this Da’wah or this Prophetic Call is deeply related to your own personal spiritual well-being. That concept that if a person is rooted deeply to that which is Real by implication they will call to something that is Real.

One of the definition of Da’wah is; Connecting the Creation Back to the Creator.

Ultimately it’s the Creator that can initiate that Pull. Allah informs us in the Quran that the Prophet Saw as (being) the Caller to Allah by His Leave/Izin (Divine licence). And that the Prophet saw is described as this Mystical Radiant Light which Illuminates. (Sirojammuniirah)

So Da’wah is not about handing out a leaflet or even saying something. In its essence, its about having a Prophetic State of Being.

The way of that Being; is to be concern, to be connected and rooted. And to continue and deepening this process into calling people back to what is Real. (Bringing people back to Presence, relocate people back from this disharmony, dysfunctional integration of the mind, body, soul and spirit.) In their practice, in their dealings and in their worldview, back to Allah. Based on Knowledge/Insights. (Ala Basirah)

Now by implication we have to have an understanding of this Knowledge what kind of Prophetic Knowledge is being said here. Thus, as much as our following in this mode of being, in the Prophetic Way, in adopting the Prophetic world view, so to is our success in making Da’wah.

Now there are 3 components to Da’wah. 1) The Caller (Da’i). 2) The Called (Mad’u‘). 3) The Means (Wasilah).

Its amazing because as something that is incredibly mystical – its still so – it’s like a science, an art, that is codified and understood. But again, not to suffocate out the mystical part that is not meant to be grasp yet.

Eg. The prayer. There’s the Fiqh, how to bow and stand all these external actions, but is that the prayer? Is that the reality of the gift that was given directly, personally to the Prophet saw.

The closest translation to it (the prayer) is called the 5 daily connections. Like instead of saying I want to do Wudu’ for my prayer. I should say “I want to illuminate myself for my connection. “ (so in essence on one level, the Prayer is our personal relationship/connection/communion with the Creator)

The word Wudu’ is from Wada’a; Illumination. – “I’m going to illuminate myself by spiritual cleansing through water to enter into my connection and communion with Allah”.- See the paradigm shift, now how would a person with that paradigm shift going to enter into the prayer. (that’s the real reality of Wudu’ & Prayers at one level)

So that being said there are 3 core principle and this is in order to grasp some profound realities, which might be quite abstract.

1) Da’i – The One who’s calling. Is it me & you? This is another paradigm shift. In its absolute reality, it’s Allah who is calling. And that the greatest one who is invested and given this spiritual capacity to call back to Allah in everything that he did was the, Prophet Saw. And then in accordance to (his saying) ” I and who that follows me.. ” so in accordance to how we follow and emulate him in our character and mode of being, and ultimately in our Hamm (aspirations). So to is the success of being a vessel of the Light flow to people.

(Hamm is to be able to have this yearning of care, to really care for people. if you really don’t care for people it doesn’t matter what and how much you do. The core reality of calling to people is this Hamm, because that is the real sign of sincerity. The prophetic care. The Prophet Saw used to be up all night praying for people. If we can’t love and care for people, it will be ineffective. Allah is not going to call people through us.)

One of the most important thing to understand about Da’wah is that at best, it is an honour, and that we are merely a channel, a vessel, and we need to get ourselves out of the way (basically to remove our ego and Nafs as much as possible), in order for that Light to flow through. This is also an integral part of Da’wah. To know ourselves, to recognise the Ego. (eg. when is it me calling to Allah?)

Often when you hear about apostates or those disengage with the religion, its not about the principle or what it calls to. More often than not it’s because these people had a bad experience with the pseudo-representatives, even worse, as a capacity of a teacher. That is why ultimately it doesn’t call to Allah, because that is not following the way of the way of the Prophet Saw.  The gentlest of human being.

The more we understand about the Prophet Saw, that he came with Akhlak and he didn’t call to a particular, group, an order, a teacher or a sheikh, he calls to Allah. Because Islam is vast, not everything is everyone’s cup of tea.

Understand that as human beings we have our own taste. Know that Islam is vast and encompassing.  We must not be a blockage to someones path to God just because they are not following your channel, the way you understand Islam you are just calling to the way you found it, and that may not be that person’s cup of tea.

So you must have that prophetic expansiveness and magnanimity to know that you’re ultimately a vessel and in service to God to facilitate that journey for people in this Earth.

2) Then you have the Mad’u’ – the one is who being called. One of the first principle, and you need to understand this dynamic, and is that the Da’I – the one who is calling – has to believe that the person they are speaking to is better than them. If you don’t believe that, then give up. You are not going to have any effect. That is the exact reason why people feel preached to. Because it is coming from the place of high and mighty.

“ The real Servant of God (Rahman) are the ones that walk the earth delicately..” (with humility before God.)

3)Then you have the Wasilah – the means –  the connecting factor. That might be talking about the latest football match, a smile, a gift, holding the door open for someone, an act of kindness or even a restraint (of speech etc).

This is where people typically focus on the ‘Da’wah of 3 and a half minutes’. First and foremost you’re not doing the Da’wah and it is not something that you can maintain. Its not like well, I’ve given the gift, I’ve did the solid presentation or experiment about bringing to God but why hasn’t he repent or become Muslim? Because it wasn’t up to us anyway. (remember its only up to Allah, our duty is to be a means that’s all)

If anyone knew how to give Da’wah, it was the Prophet Saw. And know there were people that were close to him, Abbas ibn Mutallib RA, his uncle, and he only became Islam during the Fath Al Mekkah. (that was almost ending of the prophets life, after 20 plus years)

One of the most powerful reality of Da’wah is ultimately an act of being between you and Allah.

Its Allah showing you where you’re at and its also Allah testing you where you’re at with Him.

So Da’wah requires a huge amount of patience and care. Sacrificing one of the hardest thing to sacrifice, and money is the easiest part, but sacrificing yourself, your Ego. What you want to be doing at that time, the way you want it to be done, for the sake of someone else? That is not easy. But that is one of the most impactful things to do. Something that really speaks to people.

Now when people start to see that this person has no worldly agenda. There is no way that this people is gaining anything. The people of Da’wah has no need for our reward. That is not what they’re seeking. Ultimately they’re doing it for Allah, hoping the reward solely from Allah. Because they know it is from Him ultimately and it is an honor from them/us to be doing it for Him. And our expectation is not in the people we call, its in Allah. So we are always going to be here, till the last moment. The patience is with Allah.

So that Wasilah, if one thing doesn’t work, what it means typically, we are relying too much on that Wasilah. (means try another channel)

Da’wah is real~ in a way that you exert that Hamm, that concern & care, in a way that is mediated, in a way that is thoughtful and wise. With Hikmah. (Quranic & Prophetic Wisdom)

Most people that have come to Islam is not through an acceptance of philosophical or theological theory. Most people embrace Islam is through Love. What is mean by that is the People (Da’i) needs to be willing to embrace and change with love. And that is not an easy thing to do.

People have to like Islam before they accept it. If they see us miserable all the time, and people see us coming from a point of weakness. That is someone else projection upon us.

That marginalization towards us (Muslims) – the feeling and treating us as insignificant (from outsiders) – is not an accurate assessment of what is going on inside of us. How can someone be marginalized from strangers when the heart has in it, the reality of La Illah Ha IllaAllah. Where neither the Heavens and the Earth can contain? There is no room for people to view us insignificantly. But to allow that reality to spill and flow through our actions, the way of being, through our kindness, to be presence of that reality in us. This is something that every Muslim has to have an awareness of.

There are 2 categories/types of the Da’I. 1) The people of Knowledge. Their Da’wah in a sense that they will be relating things that requires learning. Not everybody can go and convey religious knowledge as such. But every Muslim, that understands the profundity of the Gift (of knowledge) that they have been given, knows the beauty of the Faith that they have, is an incumbency to share this in a way that is beautiful. And a failure or a weakness in recognizing this is ultimately a lack of appreciation. (the other type is not stated but i -the transcriber – believe it’s the general Muslims)

So the first person that we call to, the first Mad’u – the one that is being call – is our Ownself. You’re the first one you need to call, and if you’re not truly convinced (with this religion and its importance, beauty, necessity etc) then no one else can be convinced either.

We ask with this session that Allah make us more acquainted that with which Allah has communicated with us through His Prophet Saw and our responsibility of what this means and how we can practically flow in our daily lives, when we are with people or when we’re on our own. That we become people that are allowed to follow The Prophet Saw and mimic him in what the scholars say is the best way of resembling him, is that to resemble his Heart.

People used to past by the his (Prophet Saw) house at night and would describe his weeping making a sound like a whistling of a kettle, (like when you really cry). That is what he did for us Saw.. the real caller to Islam.

Part of appreciation of that is to carry on that reality and that concern and care for every single person. No matter how and what they call/look to you, because you’re not looking/judge at them the way they do to you. You’re looking at them with the eyes of Saiyiddina Mohamed Saw.

May Allah connect us to this reality.

And Allah knows best


Tuesday, September 1, 2020

What Islam Offers to Modern Self-Help: An Islamic Paradigm of Psychology - Dr. Abdallah Rothman

Islam offers not only a theological framework within which we can position ourselves in relation to God, but it also offers a holistic map for how to navigate the human experience on a path of development of the self, or soul. While we may understand and believe that the Qur’an and Sunnah provide all of the guidance we need in life, many do not realize just how much is contained within this deen. With all of the influence of global trends toward secularism and the predominantly secular societies we live in, it can be easy to be persuaded by the assumption of a binary between religion and science. The institution of academia has fought hard to convince the world that the social sciences are in fact sciences rather than philosophical paradigms rooted in epistemology. In turn, the Muslim ummah has collectively bought into this story and forgotten its rich tradition of ‘ilm an-nafs (knowledge of the soul).

When you read about personal and professional development from just about any perspective or approach, the concepts and ideas are rooted in psychology. Modern psychology and its offshoots of personal development and self-help trends offer a lot of pertinent ideas and resources that all people, including the Muslim community, need desperately as societies become increasingly globalized and disconnected from the ancient wisdom that was inherent in more traditional, local communities and holistic lifestyles. But what these strands of pop psychology also bring with them are foundational assumptions about human nature, some of which are not aligned with the values and principles of an Islamic paradigm, which are baked into the cake. Without realizing it and/or without being fully aware of the repercussions of such philosophical and paradigmatic differences we can open ourselves up to hidden, often unintentional misguidance that can lead to a spiritual crisis, or worse, distance from our inner connection to Allah SWT.

While this could be seen as a dilemma of whether to benefit from the good that these personal development resources have to offer and balance the potential pitfalls that they may present the Muslim trying to walk the path of Islam, fortunately, such a dilemma is unnecessary. There exists within the Islamic tradition an entire “science” of the soul or self which is completely aligned with and based upon the Qur’an and Sunnah and which offers practical solutions to everyday struggles faced by people in the modern world. In fact, this science of the soul is so advanced and comprehensive that it stands to offer entirely new insights to the popular field of self-improvement that even non-Muslims can benefit from. This is the legacy of the turath al Islam (path of Islam) as exemplified by our Beloved Prophet, peace be upon him, and is the birthright and heritage of every Muslim. Unfortunately, this knowledge has been all but lost and forgotten in the collective consciousness of today’s ummah. In this article, we want to share a glimpse of this turath and its impact on modern life and self-help.

The inherent psychology within Islam

Our perspective of Islam can often be one dimensional, especially if we have not done our own deep exploration of the teachings within the context of traditional Islamic spiritual education (tarbiyyah). As many followers of a religion, whether accepting that of their parents’ beliefs and rituals or individually choosing to follow the path set out by religious teachings, there is a tendency to see religion as a set of prescriptions that one must follow in order to be in God’s good graces. Religion has become institutionalized to the point that we make edifices out of the religion as a thing in and of itself, rather than understanding it as a path of guidance to follow in order to grow developmentally as a human being. What this can amount to is a relationship to the religion that is more transactional than it is transformational. We do what we have understood we are supposed to do with a belief that certain behaviors and actions or inactions will result in us being in God’s good grace, without necessarily transforming the state of our being or doing any work from the inside out. However, the Qur’an is replete with messages of the need for personal transformation and accountability within our innermost selves, as it says:

“[…] Allah does not change a people until they change what is in themselves” (Qur’an 13: 11)

What does it mean to change what is in oneself, what does that amount to, and how does one do this? These are all questions that could be assumed to be confined within the domain of the field of psychology, and yet the answers are all detailed within the Islamic tradition. What we have come to know as the academic discipline of psychology, a word which literally means the study of the soul, was not traditionally conceptualized as such in Islamic teachings because the study of the soul is embedded within the content of the entire Qur’an and Sunnah. The knowledge of the soul and its development is spread throughout the many branches of knowledge within the Islamic tradition, as there was previously no distinction or separation between the following of the religion and the individual effort to work on oneself in the process of inner transformation. We have become disconnected from the inherently holistic worldview which Islam posits and have adopted a disaggregated way of thinking about life and ourselves to the point that it is now necessary to present the Islamic knowledge of the soul in a condensed form that lends parity to that of modern psychology. Thus while our predecessors may not have needed to use terms such as “psychology” to distinguish such endeavors from other parts of the deen, it now becomes imperative for us to understand and define “Islamic psychology”.

An Islamic perspective of the self

Unlike popular conceptions within modern psychology and the dominant discourse of self-help and self-improvement which identifies the notion of the self as being centralized in the mind and in thought, an Islamic perspective of self includes multiple aspects of the whole being. Cartesian philosophy, which posits the notion of “I think therefore I am” has pervaded contemporary thought to the extent that most conceptions regarding the self within popular psychology are framed around the mind as the central location of human identity. We see this represented graphically in just about any poster or textbook that references psychology being accompanied by a picture of the brain, and by the name of the clinical field being termed “Mental Health”.

Often we see this brain or mind pictured in isolation, seemingly severed from the rest of its body, as similarly there is a tendency to see the body only as a housing for the mind as the core identity of the person. An Islamic perspective, conversely, necessarily posits that the human is a whole, integrated spiritual being which includes the body, mind, heart, and spirit.Based on the writings and teachings of our learned scholars who have maintained an unbroken chain of transmission in how to interpret the Qur’an and understand the Prophetic tradition, we learn that within the Islamic ontological paradigm the true identity of a person is their soul, which is one integrated spiritual being, including the body. Thus an important distinction in Islamic psychology is that the central identity of the person is the soul, rather than the more narrowly defined notion of the self which is primarily conceived of as the construction of identity-based on personality and memories, which are confined to the temporal world, or dunya. A fundamental aspect of the Islamic conception of the soul is that the starting point in the soul’s journey is not limited to the moment of birth, but includes pre-existence. This goes back to the point of origin of all of the souls when they were created and Allah asked them “Am I not your Lord?” (Qur’an 7: 172). As the Qur’an narrates every single soul that will ever be created was there in that moment and replied: “Indeed we witness” (Qur’an 7: 172).“And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them], “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Yes, we witness.” [This] – lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, “Indeed, we were of this unaware.” (Qur’an 7: 172)

This critical moment in the trajectory of every human soul distinguishes the human identity as a soul that is in a state of witnessing that Allah is One and that they (each human being) are servants of the Lord. In other words, it is within our true nature to be dependent on the One God for subsistence and to recognize that Allah SWT is in control of everything, a very different picture than the self that is in control of its own destiny as many popular narratives go in the self-help industry.

Fitrah: The soul’s true identity

The soul’s trajectory becomes a challenge or a test the minute they enter into the dunya in human form as that innate witnessing of their true nature becomes veiled to them, thus beginning the journey back to this witnessing. As Islam narrates, at the end of the temporary state of human life in the dunya all souls will again be made aware of Allah’s omnipotence as the veil is lifted from us, but what each soul has done in terms of their striving to uncover that witnessing in the time they had in the dunya will determine their relative state in the next life. Thus, an Islamic paradigm of psychology is not limited to this life, as contemporary psychology is, but rather includes both pre-natal and post mortem realities. The concept of fitrah, the innate natural disposition of the human being as this soul from its point of origin as a witness of tawhid (Oneness of God) is crucial to a conception of psychology from an Islamic worldview as it fundamentally defines both the picture of healthy functioning and a mechanism for understanding unhealthy functioning. Thus the definition of what we call mental health and wellbeing is connected to the spiritual state of the person, not just their relative level of comfort or happiness in the dunya.

The optimal state of the person then is to be in alignment with fitrah and to uncover that true nature of witnessing which is constantly being veiled and challenged by multiple factors within this life. When we are in a state of submission to the will of Allah SWT we are in our optimal state of functioning and aligned with our fitrah. However, this is a difficult state to maintain as we have several factors impacting our ability to be in the state of remembrance of that true nature which is necessary to maintain optimal functioning. In addition to the external factors in the dunya that distract us from the remembrance of Allah SWT, there is a constant struggle inside of us that we must engage in that amounts to a battleground in our soul. In order to be better equipped for the battle, it is important that we understand the terrain of the soul and how to navigate it.

The structure of the soul

The soul in its pure state, before being covered and veiled from Allah’s reality, has the spark of the Divine breath that was breathed into us, known as the ruh. The ruh, or spirit, is the pure aspect of the human soul that is always there and which cannot be corrupted or misaligned. It is this pure and good aspect of our soul that allows us to always come back to the witnessing of Allah SWT and provides the human being with a direct connection to Allah SWT. While the ruh cannot be corrupted it most certainly can get covered over to the point that we are unaware and disconnected from this part of our soul. When we came into this world our souls were manifested in a physical form, in our bodies, in which we have the nafs, or lower self- the part of us that is bound to our temporal existence here in the world. This is the same self that most of the contemporary psychology deals with exclusively and is what we tend to be most familiar with, as it is how we experience ourselves in the world. This is the part of our self that likes what it likes, has desires and sways us in one direction or another. While it is not bad in and of itself, it has a tendency to lead us away from our fitrah and into a state of ghafla, or forgetfulness of Allah SWT, because it is the part of ourselves that is oriented to the dunya and lives purely in this realm.

The ruh and the nafs can be conceived of as being two opposite poles of which we are constantly being pulled between in the battleground of our soul. We are spiritual beings having physical experiences here in this life and we are pulled between identifying and living in this seemingly separate reality where we are in control of our actions, through our free will, and our innate nature of knowing that we come from Allah SWT and are dependent on Him for everything. The struggle between these two poles is essentially the manifestation of the paradox of experiencing duality in the temporal world while possessing an innate sense of the reality of Oneness (tawhid). Our work here in this life, and therefore our work in our personal and professional development, is to stay engaged in this struggle to constantly strive toward the remembrance of our fitrah to unlock or uncover our true potential as servants of Allah SWT and the akhira as our end, rather than servants of our nafs and the dunya as our end. The central crux of where this battle takes place and what determines our relative outcome is located in the qalb, or heart, which, in an Islamic paradigm, is the center of the self/soul.

The word qalb in Arabic is a linguistic root that indicates turning one way or another. The word taqalab means “to turn”. So the function of the heart is that it can turn, either toward the ruh, or toward the nafs. The extent to which we are consciously able to turn our hearts toward the ruh and thus toward Allah SWT is determined by several factors that cloud, block or impede our ability to do so. When we have unresolved emotional trauma from our experiences in life, whether real or perceived, it can manifest as blocks in our heart that further veil us from being able to witness Allah SWT and turn to our higher nature. What we would normally conceive of as psychological imbalances are therefore not only cognitive but can be traced down deeper into our hearts, our qalb, where certain experiences have essential knocked us out of alignment with our fitrah and put our system out of balance. In addition to these internal manifestations of forces that pull us away from witnessing Allah SWT and submitting to His tawhid, we also have external factors that are inherent in the dunya reality which distract us and pull us toward our nafs, or lower self, when we are in a state of an-nafs al amarah, or the soul that incites to evil. But here the evil can simply be the evil of forgetting our true nature and being subsumed in the illusion of individuation or self-direction.

Self-development as the development of the soul

The work of self-improvement or personal development is the work of constantly staying engaged in the effort to uncover the blocks on the heart, essentially cleaning the heart, and striving and struggling to stay in remembrance of Allah SWT amidst the distractions and downward pulls of the dunya. One aspect of the structure of our souls that can help us in this struggle is the aql, which can be conceived of as the cognitive function, but which is a more Divinely connected kind of reasoning. In the Islamic model of the soul, the aql is not understood as the central driving aspect of the self but is actually better understood as a function of the qalb. In addition to the normal kind of logical reasoning that we attribute to the mind, the qalb has the ability to perceive and to see things as they are. The form of the word aql that is used in the Qur’an is an active verb y’aqiluna and it is used as a descriptor of a function of the qalb, so that the heart has the ability to perceive. It is in using this ability to perceive that the qalb possesses that we can effectively turn our hearts away from the veils of the dunya which result in a state of ghafla, and turn it toward Allah SWT and the akhira, accessing through the point of Divine connection within us, the ruh.

We experience different qualities or characteristics of our soul depending on our relative position in the battleground of our soul. When we are subsumed by the covering on our heart and are in a state of an-nafs al ammarah, we can manifest character qualities that are destructive, such as anger, jealousy, and envy; these are called the muhlikat, or destroyers. And when we are engaged in the struggle of the jihad an-nafs (struggle of the self), attempting to reign in our lower tendencies toward individuation and self-direction, we are in a state of an-nafs al lawwamah, or the self-reproaching soul, where we take ourselves to account and make an effort to doing the work of turning our hearts. This can involve a process of thadhib al akhlaq, or the refinement of character, where through self-awareness we consciously try to change the muhlikat and attempt to emulate good character traits such as courage and wisdom and justice, called munjiyat, or saviors and were exemplified in the perfected character of the Prophet SWT. These manifestations of muhlikat, or negative character, are signs of where we need to do the work on ourselves in our process of personal development with the goal of aligning with fitrah and evolving to our higher self, or the next best version of our self. When we have moments of success in this process we can experience the soul in a state of peace, which is the an-nafs al mutma’inah, or the soul at rest. While it is rare to fully achieve this state, we can get glimpses of it that keeps us motivated to do the work of striving toward that next best version, having more frequent experiences of the state of the soul in an-nafs al mutma’inah. This is the goal of personal development in an Islamic paradigm and there exists within the Islamic tradition a whole host of tools and guidance in the pursuit of the purification of the heart and soul.

An Islamic model of the soul

The Islamic model of the soul presented here was developed as a result of the input of 18 scholars with expertise in various branches of knowledge within the Islamic tradition, the details of which are reported in Rothman and Coyle’s (2018) report of the research findings. According to this model, the human soul has an innately pure and good nature, fitrah, that comes from and is connected to God but that becomes covered over and forgotten as a natural part of life in the dunya. Throughout its life in the dunya, within the soul, there exists a dynamic interplay of conflicting forces that affect the psychological state of the person and determine relative levels of alignment or misalignment with fitrah (this process is represented by the purple elements in the middle of the model).

The qalb, which is the spiritual center of the person, and where the faculty of intellect is located as the aql, has the potential to turn in either of two directions which shapes the relative, transient outcome of this conflict. It can turn toward the lower impulses of the nafs and become further misaligned with fitrah by the influences of the dunya and shaytan (satan), resulting in increased negative characteristics of the muhlikat and a state of ghafla, (this process is represented by the red elements toward the bottom half of the model). Or it can turn toward the higher, Godly nature of the ruh with the remembrance of Allah  and the akhirah (afterlife), resulting in increased positive characteristics of the munjiyat, and come more in alignment with the soul’s state of fitrah (this process is represented by the blue elements toward the top half of the model).

The relative state of the soul in relation to either of these two poles at any one time is articulated in three distinct stages of the soul’s development throughout life in the dunya, namely: an-nafs al ammarah bil su’, an-nafs al lawwama, and an-nafs al mutma’inah. The model posits that the soul has an inherent inclination toward growth and an upward trajectory in relation to this model, due to its primordial nature of knowing God, and that the Islamic tradition, as guided by the Qur’an and Sunnah, encourages and maps out a path for the human being to pursue this trajectory. This is demonstrated in the description of processes along the path that act as mechanisms for exerting effort in the dynamic interplay within the soul as it struggles between the two opposing forces, namely; jihad an-nafs, tahdhib al-akhlaq, and tazkiyat an-nafs.

Implications for Personal and Professional Development

If we locate our identity within our soul rather than just our self, or the persona that we project in our life, we have the opportunity to take personal transformation to a whole new level. Breaking through the barriers and limitations of our mind and mental worlds is often a critical and necessary step in unlocking our potential and getting to that next best version of our self. However, there are still limitations to our growth if we only conceive of and interact with the cognitive aspect. As the Islamic model posits, the cognitive aspect is one part of a whole, and by recognizing and opening to a more holistic vision of the self, that of the soul, we can access our deeper inner reality and grow in a more profound way.

By adopting an approach to personal development that is informed and guided by the Islamic model of the soul, we have an opportunity to unlock the secrets of the meaning of life and integrate our religious belief system and worldview with our daily life struggle. In fact, this is the necessary pathway to both deepening our understanding of and relationship to Islam and truly advancing our psychospiritual development. This involves not only reorienting our approach to the deen of Islam to be that of a path of self-development but reorienting our notion of self to be one that is centered in the heart.

The Prophet Muhammad saws said, “there is a piece of flesh in the body and when it is sound the whole body is sound and when it is corrupt the whole body is corrupt and indeed that is the heart”[Sahih Al-Bukhari]

While this certainly has implications for physical health and the physical organ of the heart, our learned scholars teach us that the main intention in this statement was in explaining the nature of our spiritual heart as the center of the human being. The Qur’an tells us that our hearts have the ability to reason and perceive and it is only when the heart is polished that a person can truly see things “as they are”. And yet we rarely operate from a place that is centered in the heart in our orientation to our life in the dunya. We suffer from the nature of the plight of the human being in this life which is that we perceive ourselves as self-directed, individual units who are in control of our own destiny.

How can we possibly work toward achievement and productivity in our lives if we believe that we are not in control? This is the fundamental dilemma that philosophers and critics of religion have debated, and is the same paradox that many Muslims often do not find satisfactory answers to. How do we balance our free will and self-determination with a belief in qadr (destiny)? Self-help guidance often says that we need to have an internal locus of control in order to master our self and take control of our personal development. And yet deeply embedded within the Islamic paradigm and the worldview of a Muslim is that we have an external locus of control, that Allah SWT is the One who is ultimately in control of our outcome. The secret to success in this endeavor of development as a Muslim is to embrace both of these realities, rather than choosing one, it is to embrace the paradox, by which we can witness tawhid (Oneness of Allah).

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