Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Religious Dimension of Art

The Qur’an, by comparison with the Jewish Book of the Law, has very little to say about images. The Torah makes numerous and quite explicit prohibitions against figurative imagery of any kind. By contrast, the few references to idolatry in the Qur’an are not directed to figuration as such. The Jewish horror of divine representation extends even to the accidental creation of images, and the inadvertent bowing before false gods. This extreme image-phobia led to a culture in which art had a greatly reduced role. This is very obviously not the case in Islam. Islamic concepts, whilst regarding pagan idolatry as an abomination, rarely expressed the same abhorrence of non-religious imagery.

The Qur’an constantly reiterates the transcendent and inaccessible nature of Allah, with the implication that the Divine Nature can only be experienced through the Divine Word. For this reason there is no equivalent in Mosques of the sort of iconography found in Christian Churches. But its place is often taken by quotations from the Qur’an, which can be quite extensive, and which gave rise to the rich traditions of Islamic calligraphy as an elevated form of architectural decoration.

Various other Qur’anic themes have contributed to Islamic artistic sensibilities, including the perfection of the Creation; ‘Thou seest not in the Creation of the All-Merciful any imperfection’ (Qur’an 67:3), the divine quality of light; ‘Allah is the light of heavens and the earth’ (Qur’an 35:24), and a pervasive sense of other-worldly esotericism ‘With Him are the keys of the secret things; none knoweth them but He’ (Qur’an 6:59). Each of these qualities contribute to the well-known Islamic preoccupation with the dissolution of matter, for the hints of infinity in the patterns of which it is so fond and for the sense of space that it so often seeks. The aim seems always to escape imprisonment within earthly forms. The unwillingness to accept the ‘counterfeits’ of representation also account for this cultures preferences for abstraction in its decorative schemes.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bodhisattva Ram Bahadur Bomjon

The teenage Bodhisattva, Ram Bahadur Bomjon, also known as Palden Dorje -- who has been meditating for years without taking food or water.

"Murder, violence, greed, anger, and temptation have made the human world a desperate place. A terrible storm has descended upon the human world. And this is carrying the world towards destruction. There is only one way to save the world and that is through Dharma (spiritual practice).
"When one does not walk the right path of practice, this desperate world will surely be destroyed. Therefore, follow the spiritual path and spread this message to others. Never put obstacles, anger, or doubt in the way of anyone's meditation mission.
"I am only showing the way; you must seek the path on your own. What I will be, what I will do -- that the coming days will reveal. Human liberation, the liberation of all living beings, and peace in the world are my goal and my path.
"Homage to the Buddha, homage to the Community of the Buddha's followers, homage to the Community (Namo Buddha sangaya, Namo Buddha sangaya, namo sangaya). I am contemplating the release of this chaotic world from the ocean of emotion, our detachment from anger and temptation, without straying from the path for even a moment. I am renouncing my own attachment to life and my home forever. I am working to save all living beings.
"But in this undisciplined world, my life's practice is reduced to mere entertainment.
"The practice and devotion of many buddhas is directed at the world's betterment and happiness. It is essential but very difficult to understand that practice and devotion. It is easy to lead an ignorant existence, because human beings do not understand that one day we must leave this uncertain world and go with the Lord of Death [Yama].
"Our long attachments with friends and family will dissolve into nothingness. We have to leave behind the wealth and property we have accumulated. What is the use of my happiness when those who have loved me from the beginning -- my mother, father, brothers, relatives -- are all unhappy?
"Therefore, to rescue all sentient beings, I have to be Buddha-mind, and emerge from my underground cave to do Vajra meditation. To do this I have to realize the right path and knowledge.
"So please do not disturb my practice.
"My practice detaches me from my physical body, my subtle body, and this existence.
"In this situation there will be 72 Kali deities. Different deities will be present, along with the sound of thunder and lightning, and all the male and female celestial deities (devas and devis) will be performing rituals (pujas).
"So until I have sent a message, do not come here.
"And please explain this to others. Spread spiritual knowledge, theDharma, throughout the world. Spread the message of world peace to all. Seek the right path and wisdom will be yours."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Remembrance of God!

Hazrat Muhammad Anees Barkat Ali (R.A.) in deep remembrance of God. Masha Allah!

Hikayat (Tale of Wisdom) Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiar Kaki (R.A.)

Teaching of the Awliya!
Hakim al-Umma Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (Allah have mercy on him) narrates the following incident in one of his discourses:
Khawaja Bakhtiyar Kaki quddus sirahu’s janazah was ready for the salah. The khadim-e-khas came forward and announced that according to the will of  Khawaja the funeral prayer (salat-ul-janazah) is to be led by the person who fulfills these 3 requirements:
1. He should have never laid eyes on any unrelated women (non-mehram) after reaching puberty.
2. He should have never missed the 4 rakat of sunnah-prayer (ghair-muakkidah) before asr salah.
3. Because of the fear and awe of Allah, he never looked upwards towards heavens.
The huge crowd stood still. All the awliya of Dehli and Shaykh’s senior khulafa were there. No one came forward. Khadim repeatedly announced the requirements. But there was no response. A sense of impatience was being felt.
Finally, Sultan Shamusddin Altamash (Allah have mercy on him) stepped forwards. He remarked, “No one knew my secret, the respected Khawaja  disclosed it. All praise is for Allah, I fullfil these criteria”. He then led the prayers.
Even after his demise Khawaja Bakhtiyar Kaki  (Allah have mercy on him) taught a tremendous message:
To his khulafa and mureedeen he taught the lesson of humility (tawadhu’) and saved them from self admiration (u’jub). He motivated them to perform and be consistent with the  supererogatory (mustehibat) acts of worship. Also, he taught them to never under estimate others and have a high opinion for them.
To the public who always complain that they are too busily involved in acquiring means for survival and can not spare time for essential worship lest for nawafil, he showed them the example of the king. Their ruler who had a huge responsibity, numerous tasks and varied commitments to attend to, but still he was steadfast even in praying the pre-asr ghair-muakkidah sunna. His modesty did not allow him to look at the unlawful. His fear of accountability to Allah was so pervasive that he did not dare look towards the heaven. Leaving us pondering:If a monarch can be like this why can not it be us?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How Sayyidina Imam 'Ali Spared the Life of an Enemy in Battle

At the Battle of the Ditch, the noble Imam 'Ali had knocked an enemy soldier to the ground and was raising his sword to kill him, when the unbeliever spat in the blessed face of the Valiant Lion, may Allah be pleased with him. Imam 'Ali at once stood still and refrained from killing his enemy. Hardly able to believe his own eyes, the unbeliever asked: "Why have you spared me, O gracious one?"
   To this, the noble 'Ali replied:
"Your property and your life have become sacrosanct to me. I am not authorized to slay you. I can receive permission to kill only in holy combat, in fighting commanded by Allah. Just a few moments ago, I had overcome you in battle, knocked you to the ground and was on the point of slaying you. But when you spat in my face, my selfish anger was aroused against you. If I had killed you, I would have slain you not for Allah's sake but for my own selfish reason; they would then have called me not a champion warrior, but a murderer. When you spat in my face, my selfish passion threatened to overwhelm me, so instead of striking you with the sword for my own sake I struck my passion for the sake of Allah, Exalted is He. There you have the reason for your escape."
   The unbeliever was left in awe and amazement. This event made him realize that he was a direct witness to the worth and value of being Muslim. As he felt the light of Islam descending into his heart, he was quite unconscious of the tears streaming down from his eyes. He could he be aware of them? ... In the space of a few seconds he was being saved from dying as an unbeliever -- saved from being an unbeliever at all -- and was becoming a Muslim. Moreover, the cause of his conversion, the person standing before him, was none other than the Noble Imam 'Ali (Radhi Allahu Ta'ala Anhu).   Indeed, friendship and affection, as well as enmity, should be in the manner determined by Allah. That is to say, the object to be ever kept in view is the good pleasure of the Exalted Lord.

The Modern World in the Light of Tradition

In Quest of The Sacred: The Modern World in the Light of Tradition. 
Edited by S.H.Nasr and K. O'Brien (Washington D.C., 1993)
Published by Suhail Academy

The first conference ever held in South America on traditional studies took place in Lima, Peru, in 1985, entitled 'Encuentro de Culturas' consisting of a week of lectures and discussions. The definitive text of all the English papers have been edited and are presented in this volume along with the message sent to the conference by Frithjof Schuon, the foremost authority on traditional metaphysics and the perennial philosophy today.

A total of ten papers are re-printed in this book including papers by Huston Smith, Rama Coomaraswamy, Syed Hossein Nasr and Martin Lings.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Life of Ibn Arabi (d.1240, Damascus)

Quest for Red Sulphur:The Life of Ibn Arabi by Claude Addas. 
Translation (and second edition) from the French 'Ibn Arabi ou La quete du Soufre Rouge' by Peter Kingsley.  
Published by Suhail Academy)

"In the drama of both his inner and outer life his companions and his contemporaries were far from being mere onlookers. His writings are inseperable from his life."

"This major study is based on a detailed analysis of the whole range of Ibn Arabi's own writings as well as a vast amount of secondary literature in both Arabic and Persian. The result is the first-ever attempt to reconstruct what proves to have been a double itinerary: on the other hand the journey that took Ibn Arabi from his native Andalusia to Damascus - and on the other, the 'Night Journey' which carried him along the paths of asceticism and prayer to the ultimate stage of revelation of his mystic quest."

The book has a total of 10 chapters including chapters on Vocation, Ibn Arabi and the Savants of Andalusia, The Great Pilgrimage and Damascus, 'Refuge of the Prophets'.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Which of you can by taking thought add a cubit to his stature?" ---Jesus Christ

I cannot deal with the History of Sufism, nor its place in Islam, nor the way you can seek a Sheikh for yourself in modern times, nor what to do with the claims of someone who claims to be a Pir, and cure many diseases…These questions are outside of our discussion today (sorry!) My topic is Diversity in Tariqat i.e. What resources do the inner path and its teachings have to offer to deal with “the other”. Or simply put: If Sufism is essential knowledge, why are there different silsilas? So let me briefly offer some definitions of the five major orders and then offer a way of looking at them as attempts to deal with the diversity.

The Major Sufi Orders
The Indo Pakistan Sub-Continent has had the presence of the four major brotherhoods: With a fifth also present here but its spread has been mainly in Africa. The Chishti, The Naqshbandi, The Suhrawardi and The Qadri.

The Qadriyya Order is connected to the great saint Hazrat Abdul Qadir Jilani (RA). Insisting on the Shari’a, it offers a most vigorous set of practices that truly involve the body, mind and soul.

The Suhrawardiyya trace their lineage to Shaykh Abu Najeeb Suhrawardi. Strong on the Shari’a they follow the illumination path and seek the lights whereby the fruits of their practices may be recognized.

The Naqshbandiyya may be called the intellectual path: they offer a set of practices that are later grasped intellectually. Hazrat Bahauddin Naqshband was an intellectual giant and his teachings have left a permanent imprint on the spirituality of Central Asian region and beyond.

The Chishtiyya are famous for the music, the qawwalis, the devotional songs that many see as “outside” the Shari’a…It must be recalled that Chishti Masters have said: “If lion flesh can be declared halal to cure a sick body, what must be done for a sick heart?”

These four you may be familiar with but the fifth major order is now vastly better known for its international fame: The Shazliyya after Shaykh Abul Hasan Shazli.

Abbas Husain

Diversity of Thought in Islamic Shariat, Tariqat & Culture
29th July 2007
Aiwan-e-Iqbal Complex

Religion: A Traditional Institution

Muslims' struggle for Islam is also Their Struggle to Preserve their Cultures
All religions are first and foremost traditions. There is nothing intrinsically modern about religion. Like the institution of family, religion is also a traditional institution. Out of all living religions, Muslims are still arguably closest to their religion and constitute the last remaining frontier that modernism vies to engulf and dissolve. The Muslims’ struggle for Islam is also their struggle to preserve their cultures as receptacles of Divine words. According to S. H. Nasr:
“Islamic culture displays an undeniable unity which is the result of the spirit and form of the Islamic revelation and ultimately of Divine Unity itself. In the same way that the whole created order is the theophanic reflection of the One in the mirror of multiplicity, so are the various ‘faces’ of Islamic culture so many human echoes of the one Message which is itself beyond the human and which alone bestows upon the activity of a human collectivity the purposes and values which make it worthy of being called a culture in conformity with the noble destiny of man”.[28]
Religion & Culture: Reflections
 Dr. Ejaz Akram

Religion & Culture: Contours of the Debate

6th Islam Seminar
The Religion & Culture Debate
Aiwan-e-Iqbal Complex, Lahore
15th August 2009

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Safar 2nd Islamic Month

Safar ul Muzafar:

The Holy Prophet Mohammed (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) said that “Safar is a month of Stresses”. At the bringing of this month Prophet Mohammed (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) bears testimony and at the finish of this month Prophet Mohammed (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) bears happiness. In this month one lack twenty thousand terrible (Evilness) disembark from the sky, but those people who offers daily prayers and spend some of their period in devotion specially during this month gets safe from the misfortunate.

Merciless in the month of Safer ul Muzafar:

Safer ul Muzafar is also one of the most precious month because of the following reasons:-
Hazrat Imam Hussin (r.a.u.) was martyred in the month of Safer ul Muzafar.
Hazrat Imam E Ahle Sunnat Hazrat Ahmed Raza Khan Baralvi veil from this materialistic world in the month of Safer.

Zikar (Apparent) in the month of Safer:

Some of the most momentous prayers for this pious month are as follows:
The Holy Quran must be recited daily. Mostly the Wirde (Errand) of Istagfar (Deprecation) must be done. Extra Nawafil must be prayed for the Raza (contented) of Allah Almighty. The recitation of Surrah Wakiah, Imran, Yunus and Nassar should be done. Usually, Daruud Sharif must be Wirde (continues recitation, Errand).
Superiority of this month is Allah Almighty avowal the Dua and prayers offered by a person whole heartedly by the Sadqua of Prophet Mohammed (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) and by His Holy Friends (Aulia, Sufi, Saints or Wali). 

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Waqf (Endowment) for Sustainable Development Initiative

Waqf (endowment) is an Islamic model by which one makes a voluntary, permanent and irrevocable dedication of a portion of one's wealth – in cash or kind, for a certain purpose for certain beneficiaries. Once assets are set aside for Waqf, they can never be gifted, inherited or sold. The idea is that the capital remains intact, and the yield of investment is used for the beneficiaries. Hence the concept of sustainability is ensured.
Sustainable funds available for long-term social and environmental conservation issues in the region are not growing in proportion to the growth in the scale nor the importance of the issues. Although there is considerable presence for international, assistance and cooperation organizations in the region, their main focus remains on social – economic development projects and direct charity work. Funds that are available for social development or environmental conservation are mostly for short-term projects that do not necessarily create marginal impact. Therefore major, durable and stable investments must be explored and applied to address these challenges.

The new initiative of IUCN ROWA (Regional Office for West Asia) for a regional Waqf Fund for Sustainable Development would both complement existing conventional development funds in the region and provide a more sustainable and innovative financing mechanism. The idea is that once the Waqf is created, the funds collected for the Waqf will be invested, and that the income generated from the investment is used for sustainable development. With time and the potential growth of the Waqf, more and more funds will be available for diverse regional development projects.

For more information please contact

Goshaenur Product: Ahkam-e-Waqf, Ghulam Abdul Haq Muhammad, Islamic Research Institute, Islamabad, 1999