Fayd al-Litāf ‘ala Jawhara al-Tawhīd – A concise commentary on The Jawhara al-Tawhid

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Snippets of the text

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Partial introduction 

In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. All Praise be to Allāh, Who made manifest the radiant light of His beloved messenger in the month of Rabi’ al-awwal. Salutations upon the best of creation, the purest of souls, the most elevated in status, the seal of Prophethood, Muhammad (peace be upon him). The first verse revealed to the heart of the blessed Prophet was ‘Read in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher [Rabb] Who created’, indicating the path, which is that of knowledge and education. In worldly letters he was unversed, but with spiritual knowledge his mind and soul were filled. The word Rabb in this verse establishes a direct nexus between the source of the message and the one addressed (peace be upon him). Indeed, he would represent the entire humanity as a luminous light permeating all the land. Education according to the Qurān is rooted within the Divine, as indicated in this verse, and is considered sacred, enshrined at its very core, a vibrant spirituality that is multi-dimensional, rather than purely linear. A Muslim does not experience education as the nourishment of the mind alone, but rather as the nourishment of the body and soul as well. The meaning of education in its totality in the context of Islam, according to Sayyid Naquib al-‘Attas is inherent in the connotations of the terms nourishment, education and the refinement of character. What each of these terms conveys concerning man, his society and environment in relation to God is related to the others, and together they represent the scope of education in Islam, both ‘formal’ and ‘non-formal’.

The pursuit of knowledge is a spiritual journey, directed at the heart, with the purpose of transformation. One of the objectives of seeking sacred knowledge, as well as the sending of the messengers is to refine the moral character [akhlaq] of the human being. It is interesting to note that the heart is located to left of the chest, while the Arabic language has a natural flow from right to left i.e. toward the heart. Scholars agree that one of the treasures of revelation [wahi] is that it has the potential to purify the human being in a holistic sense. The legal rulings concerning Islamic jurisprudence [fiqh] is aimed at the purification of the body, the spiritual teachings [tasawwuf] at the purification of the heart, and the laws concerning beliefs [tawhid] at the purification of the intellect. This particular work, on the subject of beliefs, does not ignore the remaining two facets of the religion [al-din], as will be made clear once the reader engages the text.

Chapter 4:

Imām Bājūri’s introduction to the Jawhara

All Praise be to Allāh, the Unique [al-munfarid], who brings about both non-existence [1] [al-i’dām] and existence [al-ijād]. Free is He from the imperfection of having any deficiency and its opposites[2]. I bare witness that there is no Deity worthy of worship beside Allāh who is free from partners, Eternal without Beginning [al-Qadim], dissimilar to created beings, Everlasting without Endīng [al-Baqi] and it is He alone, who brings everything created to an end [Wa hāliku kulli min ‘adāhu min al-makhlūqāt].

I bare witness that our master and Prophet Muhammad is the truthful and upright [al-amin][3] slave and messenger of Allāh. He conveyed everything that he was commanded to convey from the Lord and Cherisher [Rabb] of the created order. May the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him, his family, and companions, who are the pearls of the Gnostics and the flowers of the gardens of eloquence and insight.

And to proceed, says the one who is most in need of his Lord, Ebrahīm[4] the son of Muhammad al-Bājūri[5]the possessor of deficiencies:[6] When the author of the poem, the scholar of vast knowledge in the scared sciences, the ocean of insight and immense understanding [habr al-bahr al-fahhama], the one from whom knowledge flows, al-Shaykh Ebrahīm al-Laqqāni presented this text, the people named it ‘The pearl of Divine Oneness’ [Jawahara al-Tawhīd ]. In it the author systemized all the unique and critical issues of this craft [fann]. It contains the most lustrous of pearls [nafa’is al-durar], it is radiant in beauty and will astonish those of keen intellect and bring forth that which will intrigue and astound (the reader)[7]. Through it, many are eager to enter the garden of its benefits [fi riyad fawa’ida] and to experience from the fruits of its table. Some of my brothers have asked me to write a commentary [hashiya] on the poem. One that will unpack [tusfiru] its symbols [rumuz] and secrets [asrar] and lift the veil of what is hidden within it.

My breast was expanded so that I could respond to their request and it is Allāh alone who knows what is hidden within it[8].  I have thus moved with my reins [zimām] toward its garden and immersed my thoughts in it. It has become easy for me to do this [wa qad tayassara li idh dhaka] as some of the commentaries of those with high aspiration has reached me, including that of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Salām[9], which was of the first I benefitted from beside many additional commentaries from the most elite of scholars.

I have extracted from it, its precious pearls and noble excellences and composed it upon a pattern embellished and well arranged. I have prepared some footnotes upon this honourable text and have named it: Tuhfatu l-Murīd ‘ala Jawhara al-Tawhīd.

 May Allāh (The Most High) grant us sincerity (in treading this path) seeking only His Honourable Countenance. May all sound hearts benefit from it. It is my hope that the reader of this text look upon it with the eye of pardon[10] and covers the faults which I have made within it. Covering the fault of another is of the most honourable traits [min shaymi l-kirām] while the exposing of what one has kept hidden is the habit [da’b] of the wretched. It is Allāh (The Most High) whom I ask, and through His Prophet do I seek the means[11] [wa bi-nabiyyihi atawassal] that this work gain a place of acceptance. Indeed Allāh (The Most High) is the best in whom one can hope [khayru ma-mūl] and the most Generous of those one may ask [wa akramu mas’ūl].

[1] He alone removes from existence that which He brings into existence. The Imām follows the approach of the Qurān here mentioning nonexistence before existence as Allāh mentions death before life, ‘Alladhi khalaqa l-mawta wa l-hayat…- He who created death and life …’ (67:2). We often think in terms of life and death or body and spirit while the Qurān speaks to us in terms of death and life or spirit and body so that we may come to see ourselves as a spirit possessing a body and not merely a body possessing a spirit.

[2] Opposites: meaning that Allāh is free from the opposite of Perfection i.e. imperfection.

[3] Al-Amin: One who is upright, truthful and honest. In the craft of Tawhid , al-Amana, as we shall see, means to be sinless [ma’sum] both inwardly and outwardly.

[4] He did not give himself the title of Shaykh or Imām, indicating his intense humility.  The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, None humbles himself before Allāh, except that Allāh elevates him – ma tawada’a ahadu –llahi ‘azza wa jalla illa rafa’ahu –llahu ta’ala.”

[5] Bajur is a town in Egypt, sometimes referred to as Bayjur.

[6] This is similar to what Imām al-Shafi’i said regarding his kitab al-Umm in that no work is perfect save the word of Allāh (al-Qurān). The Imām’s humility before his Lord and Cherisher [Rabb] flows throughout his commentary on the Jawhara.

[7] The Imām decorates his words in a sublime way, bringing forth an appetite or desire to plunge the depths of Tawhid. It is as if he is preparing a table of delicacies and inviting one and all to taste of its fruits.

[8] Breast here means the inner most recesses within the heart. The Imām alludes to the fact that Allāh alone knows whether one is sincere or not.

[9] He is the son of Imām Ebrahīm Laqqāni and is among those who wrote one of the earliest commentaries on the text. 

[10]The Imām once again brings to the forefront his connection with his Creator. He reminds himself and the reader that we are human beings who err and requests from the reader to overlook what faults may fall on the reader’s eye. The Arabic word for mankind is insan, which is derived from the root nasiya, meaning to forget or err. As human beings, we have interwoven within our very being the potential to err and forget. How then do we respond to the next human being who might err? Do we respond with belligerence and anger? Or do we respond with the eye of forgiveness? These are pertinent questions, which we need to reflect upon as they are key to the betterment of any society.

[11] Tawassul through the Prophet (peace be upon him) is a request in acknowledgement of his standing as the chief intercessor for the Community before Allāh, and it is a request for Allāh’s blessing as affected by Allāh in the person of His Prophet and His saints. The Imām makes his position clear in his introduction regarding the question of tawassul.

The Basmalah

Imām al-Bājūri said: It is the sacred formula, whose Author is Allāh, based firstly on the supreme name Allāh, then on the two names al-Rahmān and al-Rahīm, both derived from mercy [rahmah], a word which encompasses love, kindness, and compassion.

 

Section: On the reason for commencing with the basmalah

Scholars open their works with Bismillāhi Rahmāni Rahīm indicating their intention [niyyah], which is to commence with the Supreme Name Allāh, as well as their dependence on Him (The Most High).

Imām al-Bājūri said: The author [nādhim] opens his work with the Basmalah followed by the Hamdalah[1] which is in accordance with the Noble Qurān in the way it starts and the order in which it has been placed [al-tartīb al-tawqīfi], not necessarily in the order of its revelation [2].  Sahīh Bukhāri [3] and other major Hadīth collections indicate that the first verse revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was Iqra [4] and not the Basmalah.

It is reported from Abu Bakr al-Tūnusī[5] that the consensus of all the scholars is that Allāh opened all His Books[6] with the basmalah. The second reason for the author opening his work with the basmalah is because this is commensurate with acting upon the Hadīth of Prophet (peace be upon him) in which he said,

“every matter that is not started with the basmalah [kullu amrin dhi balin la yubda’u fihi bi Bismillahi Rahmāni Rahīm] is in itself deficient or cut off from blessings [fahuwa abtar / ajdham / aqta].”[7]

This is the case even though the act may seem physically correct [hissan]; it will not be complete in meaning [ma’na]. In a similar hadīth the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

every matter that is not started with the hamdalah [kullu amrin dhi balin la yubda’u fīhi bi l-hamdu lillāhi ] is in itself deficient or cut off from blessings [fahuwa abtar].”

 The intended meaning behind ‘the act being deficient or cut off from blessings’ is in fact a command [wa l-muradu bi l-amr] i.e. to precede any act of goodness with the basmalah.

Section: On the usage of the basmalah

Imām al-Bājūri said: The meaning of [dhi balin] in the Hadīth refers to any act, be it speech or other, which has been declared as lawful [halal] by the sacred law [shar’an]. The basmalah is not necessary in smaller matters including the putting on of one’s slippers [libs al-na’l] spitting [albusaq] or (scratching the arm or leg to relieve one from an itch)[8].  Nor is it allowed prior to an act deemed forbidden in its essence [muharraman li-dhātihi] such as illicit sexual relations [zina], nor before something that is detested or disliked in its essence [makrūhan li-dhātihi] like looking at the spouses private parts without necessity,[9] nor before a pure dhikr[10] [dhikran mahdan] nor before an act, which the sacred law indicates should be started with other than the basmalah like the five daily prayers [salawat al-khamsa]. In the case of the salawat al-khamsa, it begins with the words ‘Allāhu Akbar’ and not with the basmalah.It is therefore forbidden to use the basmalah before an act like zina and disliked before looking at the private parts of one’s spouse[11].

It is also forbidden to use the basmalah before an act deemed as haram due to an external cause [al-muharram li’ārid] like performing ablution [wudhū] using stolen water[12]. It is disliked to use the basmalah before an act deemed makruh due to an external cause [al-makrūhi li’ārid] like the eating of onions and garlic[13].

The basmalah is also omitted from the dhikr almahd like la ilaha illa l-Allāh as mentioned earlier since it is not a Prophetic practice [sunnah] to mention the basmalah in this case. It is a Sunnah to mention the basmalah before reading the Qurān as this is not considered al-dhikr al-mahd due it containing additional news about past nations, the life to come, contracts, threats, promises and so forth.

Some might object and find a contradiction between the two hadīths mentioned[14] due to the fact that one cannot act upon both simultaneously i.e. to say the basmlah and the hamdalah before the act.

Many answers were provided to this particular question, the most well-known of them goes as follows:

Starting an act is of two types, haqīqi and idāfi. As for the first [hāqīqi], this is the actual start before the intended act [amāma l-maqsūd] without anything preceding the act. As for the idafi, this is a starting point before the intended act, even though something might have preceded it (like the basmalah). There is a general aspect [al-‘umūm] as well as an absolute yet specific aspect [khusūs al-mutlaq] between the two hadīths. The hadīth, which includes the basmalah is of the first type i.e. haqiqi, while the second hadīth, which mentions the hamdalah is of the adafi type[15]. We have not mentioned it the other way around [ya’kisu] as this would oppose the methodology of the Qurān as well as the consensus of the scholars [ijmā].

Section: On using the basmalah in poetry

Imām al-Bājūri said: And you should not say that this text [mu’allaf][16] is not included among the various styles of poetry. If it is accepted as a form of poetry then is it permissible to start and associate the basmalah with poetry? Some scholars said that poetry should not start with the basmalah. We say that the poetry that should not start with the basmalah is the forbidden kind, which includes insults or the defaming of one’s character [hija] for example. The basmalah should also not precede poetry that is considered detested like a man longing and yearning for a woman who might not be lawful for him [taghazzul].

As for poetry that is directly linked to the various sciences of Islām, like this particular one, to start it with the basmalah is a praiseworthy act as was the preferred way of Imām al-Shatibi[17] when he said,

I begin this text firstly, In the Name of Allāh

Bada’tu bi-bismillahi fi n-nadhmi awwala[18]

Imām Laqqāni did not open the Jawhara with the basmalah, including it in the poem as did Imām al-Shatibi. The reason is because this goes against the preferred method [khilaf al-awla], which is to exclude the basmalah from any form of poetry[19].

Section: On the letter [] in the basmalah

  Imām al-Bājūri said: Know that the letter [] in the basmalah indicates one of two meanings. The first: ‘by or with’ [ma’a] desiring the grace and blessings of Allāh [lil-musāhabāti‘ala wajhi t-tabarruk], meaning ‘By or with the Grace and Blessings of the name of Allāh’. The second: Seeking the aid of Allāh [li l-isti’āna], meaning, ‘I seek assistance in the name of Allāh’. The used in this manner is usually associated with an assistant, meaning that one needs something to assist him in completing a particular act. There is no fault is seeking assistance through the name of Allāh[20] and likewise, there is no fault it seeking assistance through His Essence [bidhātihi]. The best (according to Imām al-Bājuri) is to use the basmalah as indicated in the first meaning ‘by or with the Grace and Blessings of Allāh’.

Section: On some of the subtleties regarding the letter

  Imām al-Bājūri said: And the deeper meaning of the ba [Wa ma’nāha l-ishāri] is that everything that was, was only by and through Allāh [bi kāna ma kāna] and everything that is, is only by and through Allāh [bi yakūnu ma yakūnu]. In this letter [] there is a subtle indication of it encompassing the entire system of beliefs [jami’il ‘aqā’id]. Furthermore, it is as if Allāh is saying: Whatever existed existed only through Me [bi wujīda mā wujīda] and whatever exists, exists only through Me [bi yujādu ma yujādu].

No being is like that save one described with the attributes of perfection [bi sifati l-kamāl] and one free from the attributes of deficiency [wa tanazzahu ‘an sifati n-naqsān], as mentioned by some of the Imāms of Qurānic exegeses [tafsīr]. BĀJŪRI

Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrāhi al-Khalwati said: The secret meaning of the essential verse of the Holy Qurān Bismillahi Rahmāni Rahīm – is hidden within the first letter of the phrase, within the point under the Arabic letter ba. All Divine secrets are contained within this dot. Some of the companions asked Sayyidina ‘Ali (may Allāh ennoble his face), “O ‘Ali, the messenger of Allāh (peace be upon him) said about you, ‘I am the city of knowledge and ‘Ali is its gate.’ What did he mean by that?” He answered, “All Divine knowledge is with the books sent to the 124000 Prophets since Adam (upon him be peace). Know that all of Allāh’s secrets are in the heavenly books, and all of the secrets of the heavenly books are in the Qurān. And all of which is in the Qurān is in al-Fātiḥah, and all of which is in al-Fātiḥah is in the basmalah, and all of which is in the basmalah is in the bā’ of basmalah, and all of which is in the bā’ in the basmalah is the dot [nuqah] which is under the bā’. Sayyidina ‘Ali said: “I am the dot which is under the bā.’” The companions asked, “O intimate of Allāh, how could that fit into a door?” Sayyidina ‘Ali replied, “Knowledge is but a point [al-’ilmu nuqtah]. It is the ignorant who increased it.”

So when the pen touches the paper, before it moves and writes a book, it first produces a dot. That point is the beginning and the essence of all the letters and words within the book. In contains them all. [21]

Section: On the word ism in the basmalah

 According to the grammarians of Basra the word ism is derived from the word sumu, meaning to be elevated [‘uluw] since a name brings about highness or elevation to the named.   As for the grammarians of Kufa, they prefer the root of wasama[22] meaning to symbolize. In this case it is any symbol that indicates the named. What is known or confirmed is that the name [ism] is other than the named.[23]

 Section: On the name Allāh

The word Allāh is a proper noun [‘alam] indicating the essence (of Allāh) as the necessary existence [al-wajib al-wujūd][24] and He is the only One Who truly deserves all praise. When we say that Allāh is al-wajib al-wujūd then we are alludīng to what lies beyond the Name [ta’yin li l-musamma]. We do not intend by al-wajib al-wujūd an attribute which is a part of Allāh as this would mean that He (The Most High) be made up of parts.[25] (The name Allāh) is then a distinctive and personal proper name [‘alamun shakhsiyyun] with a meaning indicating that which we see established (all around us).[26] The intended meaning is not that Allāh be described with features like whiteness [al-bayad] and length [al-tūl] and so forth as this is impossible for Him (The Most High). It is also not permissible to speak regarding these fine points except in the appropriate sittings of knowledge [fi maqāmi ta’līm][27] as it in lie doubt, speculation and delusions for the one unskilled in this science, regarding Allāh (The Most High). What has been discussed here should clarify that the word Allāh is not a proper noun, which was derived from any other word as is often the case [bi l-ghalaba] like ilah meaning Lord[28]. There are however scholars who hold the opposite view[29].

Section: On the Greatest Name [al-ismu l-‘adham]

 The name Allāh is the greatest and most comprehensive Name[30] according to the majority [jamhūr]. Imām al-Nawawi[31] holds a different opinion and prefers Al-Hayyu l-Qayyūm meaning the Living the Self Subsisting. The main reason for a prayer [du’ā] not being answered at times (using the greatest name) is due to the preconditions of the prayer not being adhered to, the greatest of which includes the eating of lawful food.

Imām Ghazāli said: As for His saying “Allāh”, it is a name for the true existent, and the one who unites the attributes of divinity… For no existent thing other than He may claim to exist in itself, but rather it gains existence from Him…You should know that this name is the greatest of the 99 names of God (The Most High) as it refers to the essence, uniting all the attributes of divinity, so that none of them are left out, whereas each of the remaining names only refer to a single attribute…It is also the most specific of the names, since no one uses it for anyone other than Him, neither literally nor metaphorically, whereas the rest of the names may name things other than He, as in ‘the Powerful’, ‘the Knowing’, ‘the Merciful’, and so forth. In these two respects it seems that this name is the greatest name [ismu l-‘adham]…Mans council in this name should be for him to become god-like [ta’alluh], by which I mean that his heart and his aspirations be taken up with God (The Most High), that he not look toward anything other than Him nor pay attention to what is not He, that he neither implore or fear anyone Him. How could it be otherwise? He is the true actual Existent, while everything other than He is ephemeral, perishing and worthless except in relation to Him. The servant sees himself first of all as the first of the perishing and worthless, as did the messenger of Allāh (peace be upon him) when he said, ‘the verse of truth was uttered by the Arab, Labid, when he said: surely everything except God is vain, and every happiness is ephemeral.’[32]

Shaykh Mustafā al-’Alawi said: It is mentioned in the sharh al-Mubahath al-Asliyyah of ibn ‘Ajība (May Allāh’s Mercy be upon him), that Imām Ghazāli (May Allāh’s Mercy be upon him) said, ‘Initially, I intended to traverse the path with several litanies, fasting and prayers. Allāh knew the sincerity in my intention and sent to me one of His saints [awliya] who said to me, ‘O my son, detach your heart from every relationship except that with Allāh alone, and go into solitude to gather your yearning [himmah] and say, Allāh, Allāh, Allāh.’  Imām Ghazāli also said in the Mishkāt al-Anwār, ‘As long as you are soiled with other than Allāh then you have no alternative but the negation – there is no deity [la ilah], but when you withdraw from all things, witnessing the Owner of all things, you can find rest from negation and reach affirmation [illa l-Allāh].’’[33]

Ibn Atā’illāh al-Iskanadari said: This Name, This Unique, Glorious, Precedential, Singular Name, Allāh, is the Name of the Supreme Essence, which is endowed with the attributes of Divinity, Lordship, Oneness, Uniqueness and Plenitude, transcendentally removed from modality and comparability, and too holy to be encompassed in knowledge by the human mind. Allāh: it is the Name of God, the One, the Eternal, the Living, the Sustaining, the Sublime, the Infinite, the Permanent, the Timeless, the Great, the Transcendent, the Absolute, the Beyond-Time who remains ever First and Last, Outwardly Manifest and Inwardly Hidden, the Sole Possessor of True Being, the Necessary Being. Every other being draws its existence from Him, so that it is non-existent in its own right, and existent only by Him who gives it existence. It is the greatest of all the Names, because it refers to the Supreme Essence, in which is synthesised all the perfection of the Divine Qualities. The perfection of the Essence is the perfection of Being and Its timeless and eternal presence, without beginning or end. He can never cease to be; His Being is necessary, as is His Eternality.[34]

Ibn ‘Arabi[35] said: I paid a visit to my Shaykh Abu l-‘Abbas al-Uraibi with one of the inhabitants of Ulya who was a devout worshipper, drowned in the remembrance [dhikr] of the name Allāh, without adding anything to it. I said to him, “Sayyidi, why do you not add to it La ilaha illa l-Allāh?’ He replied, ‘My son, the breaths are in the hand of Allāh, not in my hand. I fear that He may take my soul while I am saying ‘there is no [la]’ or ‘there is no God [ilaha]’ so as to be taken whilst in the abode of negation.” [36]

Section: On the Names Al-Rahmān and Al-Rahīm

 These two attributes [sifatān] are derived from Mercy [al-Rahma] and carries the meaning of Excellence [al-Ihsan] or Allāh’s Will for Excellence [Iradātu l-Ihsān]. Rahma as an attribute of the divine does not carry its lexical meaning, which reads, “kindness or gentleness in the heart, measured out in terms of grace and excellence toward another[37]”. This is impossible for Allāh (The Most High) since Mercy and Compassion as divine attributes means Excellence or the Will for Excellence (for His creation) and not a feeling in the heart as experienced by the human being, which may be spontaneous or other. As for Rahmān, it means ‘the Doer of Excellence through Grandeur and Magnificence’ meaning the immense grace and favor poured forth over the entire created order. As for Rahīm, its meaning is the ‘The Doer of Excellence in the minute graces and favors, which we may see as small or insignificant’. There is often times an increase in the meaning of the word [ziyādah al-ma’nā] when there is an increase its structure [ziyādah al-mabni][38].

Allāh connected the two (Rahmān and Rahīm) as an indication of the necessity in seeking from Him (The Most High) the smaller favors [al-ni’am al-haqirah] as well the necessity in seeking from Him (The Most High) the greater favors [al-ni’am al-’Adhīma] because everything ultimately comes from One (The Most High). That which is attached and associated with the basmala is enumerable and will prolong us should we mention all of them[39].

Indeed the essence of belief is love and mercy as Allāh says in the Holy Qurān, ‘…He hath prescribed for Himself mercy – kataba ‘ala nafsihi r-Rahma’. [6:12] and ‘My Mercy embraces all things – wa rahmati wasi’at kulla shay’… [7:156]. Mercy is rooted within the divine and expressed in the Prophet (peace be upon him) as two of the most central virtues, which embraces everything.

Section: on the secrets, virtues and blessings of the basmalah

In the first Sura of the Qurān Allāh begins by saying, “In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful, Praise be to Allāh, the Lord of the worlds, Most Gracious, Most Merciful”. Commenting on this verse Ibn ʿArabī affirms that since Allāh mentioned His two names the all-Merciful and the ever-Merciful [Al-Rahmān, Al-Rahīm] before and after mentioning the worlds [‘ālamin], this certainly implies that the worlds, or the creation, emanated from His Mercy and will also conclude with His Mercy. And elsewhere in the Qurān, Allāh says, ‘My Mercy has indeed covered everything [wa rahmati wasi’at kulla shay]‘ [7:156], just as He says in the hadīth qudsī: ‘My Mercy prevails over My Anger’.[40]

Furthermore, on one occasion when the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions were out walking, they saw a woman feeding her infant; the Prophet asked them: ‘Do you think this woman would ever throw her child in the fire?’ They replied, ‘No.’ He then said: ‘Allāh is even more merciful to His servants than this woman is to her child!’ [41]

Sa’id ibn Abi Sakina said that he heard that ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib looked at a man who had penned, ‘In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful, and said to him, ‘Do it with excellence. If a man does it with excellence, he will find forgiveness.’ He also said, ‘I heard that a man looked at a parchment on which was written ‘In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful,’ and kissed it then placed it on his eyes and was forgiven on account of that.’[42]

‘Ali bin al-Muwaffaq said, “One day I was thinking about my family and the poverty that they were suffering. Then I saw in a dream a sheet of paper. Written on it was ‘In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful’.  I was told, ‘O Ibn al-Muwaffaq, how can you be afraid of poverty, when I am your Lord?’ At the end of the night, a man brought me a purse which contained five thousand dīnars and told me, ‘Take them, you of weak certitude!’ ” [43]

It is narrated that Bishr al-Harith once found on the road a piece of paper upon which was written the In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Upon seeing the trampled upon sheet, he picked it up, purchased a dirham’s worth of perfume, sprinkled the sheet with it and put it on his mantle.  That night he was told in his dream, ‘O Bishr, you perfumed My name and I will perfume yours in this world and the next one!’[44]

Shaykh Abdu l-Qādir al-Jaylāni said: In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful is a treasure for those who remember; a mighty resource for the strong, a protective talisman for the weak, a radiant light for lovers, and a joyful delight for those who are filled with yearning.

 In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful is the consolation of our spiritual natures [arwah]. In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful is the salvation of our bodily forms [ashbah]. In the Name of Allāh is the light that illuminates our breasts [sudūr]. In the Name of Allāh is the organizing principle that regulates our affairs [umūr]. In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful is the crown of the truly confident.

In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful is the lamp of those who reach their destination [sirāj al-wāsilin]. In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful is that which satisfies the needs of ardent lovers [mughni’l-‘āshiqīn]. In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful is the Name of the One who honors certain servants and humiliates certain servants.

It is the Name of the One who brings good cheer to those who practice solitary retreats [khalawat]. It is the Name of the One who brings a sense of completeness to those who perform the ritual prayers [salawat]. It is the Name of the One who inspires us to improve our minds by thinking better thoughts [Dunun]. It is the Name of the One for whose sake we spend the night with sleepless eyes [‘uyun]. It is the Name of the One who has only to say to something, ‘Be!’ and there it is [yakun]. It is the Name of the One who is far beyond description in terms of physical touch [misas]. It is the Name of the One who can dispense entirely with human beings [unas]. It is the Name of the One who raises majestically above all comparison [qiyās]. Say, In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful letter by letter [harfan harfa], for then you will receive the recompense in multiples of a thousand [alfan alfa], and the burdens of sin will be scooped away from you by the shovelful [jarfan jarfa]. If someone says it with his tongue, that person will witness all that is offered by this world [dunyā]. If someone says it with his heart, that person will witness all that is offered by the world hereafter [‘uqba]. And if someone says it with his innermost being, that person will actually witness the Master.

In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful is a phrase that brings a pleasant sensation to the mouth [fam]. In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful is a phrase with which no feeling of unhappiness [ghamm] can coexist. It is a phrase that brings about the perfection of good fortune [ni’ma]. It is a phrase that brings about the abolition of misfortune [niqma]. It is a phrase that accounts for the special privileges enjoyed by this [the Islāmic] Community [Umma].

To utter the whole phrase, In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful is to pronounce a simultaneous invocation of Divine Majesty [Jalal] and Divine Beauty [Jamal], for In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful is an invocation of Divine Majesty within an expression of majesty [Jalal fi jalal], while In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful is an invocation of Divine Beauty within an expression of beauty [Jamal fi jamal].”[45]

Section: On some further notes on the basmalah

According to one of the interpretations, the letter ba stands for the Maker of all creatures [Bari’ al-baraya], while the letter sin stands for the One who veils faults [Sattar al-khataya], and the letter mim stands for the Bestower of gifts [al-Mannan bi’l-‘ataya].

According to another interpretation, the significance of these three letters in reverse order is expressed by the following commands of the Lord: Offer food to your fellow creatures, for I am the One who provides you with food [Mut’imukum]. Offer them water to drink, for I am the One who quenches your thirst [Saqikum]. Pay attention to Me, for I am your Eternal Lord [Baqikum].

Others maintain that the letter ba stands for the weeping of those who repent [buka’ at-ta’ibin], while the letter sin stands for the act of prostration of the worshippers [sujud al-‘abidīn], and the letter mimstands for the pardoning of sinners [ma’dhirat al-mudhnibin].[46]

[1]The Basmalah is a condensed form of saying Bismillah i-Rahman i-Rahim, while the Hamdalah is a condensed form of saying Al-Hamdu lillah. This is referred to as Naht in the Arabic language. Naht is a word-formation process using the initial letters or syllables of a string of words in a formula to create a quadrilateral noun. Example include Hawqala, which is the condensed form for La hawla wala quwwata illa billah and Hay’ala, which is the condensed form for Hayya ‘ala s-Salah.

[2] Although the Basmalah appears at the beginning of each chapter in the Qurān, it was not revealed in this particular order nor was it the first verse revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him). It is therefore in harmony with the sequence and style of the Qurān but not necessarily in the sequence of revelation.

[3] Sahih Bukhari is one of the six major hadith collections. The Prophetic traditions included in it were collected by Imām al-Bukhari. It is considered as one of the three most trusted collections of hadith along with Sahih Muslim and the Muwatta of Imām Mālik. The Arabic word sahih translates as authentic or correct.

[4] Quran 30:96

[5] He is Majd al-dīn Abu Bakr bin Muhammad bin Qasim al-Mursi. He was a linguist of note and adhered to the school of al-Shafi’i.

[6]The revealed books include:

–       The Tawrah, revealed to the Prophet Musa (upon him be peace),

–       The Zabur, revealed to the Prophet Dawud (upon him be peace),

–       The Injil, revealed to the Prophet ‘Isa (upon him be peace),

–       The Qurān, revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

[7]Sunan Abū Dawūd, hadith no. 4840. Imām Bājūri analyzes this hadith in the next few lines.

[8] There is no harm in mentioning the basmalah before these minor acts.

[9] This is considered disliked in the school of al-Shafi’i as recorded in the work Mughni al-muhtaj according a narration of Ai’sha (may Allāh be pleased with her)

[10] A pure dhikr is any form of remembrance, which the Prophet (peace be upon him) taught his companions and which they in turn passed on. These include Hasbuna –Allāh wa ni’ma l-wakil or Subhana Allāhi wa l-Hamdu lillahi, La ila ha illallāh, la hawla wala quwwata illa billah and the likes. The basmalah need not be mentioned before these pure adhkar (s.dhikr)

[11] The law of the basmalah will follow the law of the act. If the act is forbidden then the basmalah is forbidden and if it is disliked then the basmalah is disliked.

[12] Although the wudhu is a lawful and praiseworthy act, stealing water is in itself forbidden. This is what Imām Bājūri means by muharram li-‘arid. For this reason it becomes forbidden to use the basmalah before stealing the water but lawful before performing the ablution.

[13] The basmalah is permissible and recommended here due to the onion being permissible to eat. It becomes disliked, for example, if one is about to go to the mosque and pray, according a Prophetic narration. It is related that ‘Abdu l-‘Aziz said, “Anas was asked, ‘What did you hear the Prophet (peace be upon him), say about garlic?’ He answered, ‘Whoever eats it should not come near out mosque.'” It becomes disliked in this situation and the basmalah takes the same ruling of the act as explained earlier. In the case of the makruhi li’arid it is still recommended to mention the basmalah.

[14] “Every matter that is not started with the basmalah is in itself deficient or cut off from blessings” and “Every matter that is not started with the hamdalah is in itself deficient or cut off from blessings”.

[15]There is absolutely no contradiction here as the basmalah is the true beginning [ibtida al-haqiqi] while the hamdalah is the beginning connected to [ibtida idafi] and preceded by the basmalah. In this way the hamdalah remains a starting point.

[16]The Jawhara.

[17] A classical poem in the science of the seven readings of the Qurān entitled Hirz al-Amani wa wajh al-tahani, composed by Imām Abu l-Qasim al-Shatibi the blind [al-darir], also known as the Shatibiyya.

[18]Imām al-Shatibi includes the basmalah in the opening verse as part of his poem. It is a 1444 line poem, each verse endīng with the letter ‘lam’.

[19]Bay Bayhaqi relates in al-Madkhal and Zarkashi in the “Tadhkira” that Layth ibn Sa`d said on the authority of Yahya ibn Sa`id, “The people of knowledge are the people of flexibility [tawsi`a]. Those who give fatwas never cease to differ, and so this one permits something while that one forbids it, without one finding fault with the other when he knows of his position.” Bayhaqi and Zarkashi also said: Qutada said: “Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz used to say: ‘It would not please me more if the Companions of Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not differ among them, because had they not differed there would be no leeway (for us).’”

[20]Seeking a means through one of the divine names is referred to as tawassul, as mentioned earlier.

[21]Inspirations on the path of blame, Shaykh Badruddin of Simawna. Section: The Divine Verse.

[22]Wasama being a past tense verb [fi’il madi]

[23] The name is a word which indicates, whereas the named is the thing indicated. The name could be Arab, Persian or Turkish, whereas the thing named may not be of that sort. See the work entitled al-Maqsid al-Asna fi sharh asma Allāh al-husna of Imām Abu Hamid al-Ghazali for a lengthy and beneficial discussion on the name, the named and the naming.

[24] Existence is of the necessary attributes of Allāh. All else is dependent on Allāh for existence while Allāh does not depend on anything. This will be discussed in greater detail later on, Allāh Willing.

[25] This was the view of the Mujassima, a sect who staunchly believed that Allāh is made up of parts i.e. a hand, eyes and so forth.

[26]The entire created order is an indication of a Wise and All-Powerful Creator (The Most High).

[27]The vast majority of scholastic theologians [mutakallimin] including Imām Bājūri, Imām Ghazali, Al-Suyuti and the likes deem it impermissible [la yajuz] to discuss the intricacies and subtleties of theology [kalam] before the one unskilled in the craft.

[28] The name Allāh is not derived from another word according to the preferred view of Imām Bājūri. Grammarians though differ on its origin and etymology.

[29] Sibuway (known as the father of Arabic grammar) reported that its root is ilah, on the scale of fi’al. The alif and lam take the place of the hamza. Sibuway said that it is like mankind [al-nas], which is derived from the root anas. It is said that its root is lah and that the alif and lam are added to exalt it. This is what Sibuwayh preferred.

[30]Abu Yazid al-Bistami, the saint [wali] and preserver of the Sunnah was asked, ‘O Abu Yazid, share with us the greatest name of Allāh’, to which he replied, If you show me His weakest Name then I will show you His Greatest Name!’Shaykh ‘Abdu l-Hakim Murad, commenting on words of Abu Yazid, said, ‘There is something just as effective as the Greatest Name, and that is truthfulness. Any Name pronounced with truthfulness is like the Greatest Name.’

[31] Imām Abū Zakariyyā Muḥyī al-Dīn Yaḥyā ibn Sharaf al-Nawawī (631-676/1233-1277, born and died in Nawā, southern Syria, after spending most of his life in Damascus), is the muʿtamad source of the Shāfiʿī school.

[32] Al-Maqsid al-asna fi sharh asma Allah al-husna, ITS edition.

[33] The Invocation of the Divine Name;Shaykh Ahmad ibn Mustafa al-Alawi.

[34] Al-Qasd al-mujarrad fi ma`rifat al-ism al-mufrad, pg. 24; trans. Khalid Williams.

[35]Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn Muhammad ibn al-‘Arabi, Abu Bakr Muhyi al-Din al-Hatimi al-Ta’i al-Andalusi al-Mursi al-Dimashqi, known as Ibn ‘Arabi to differentiate him from Abu Bakr Ibn al-‘Arabi the Maliki jurist.His greatest and best-known work is his last, al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya (“The Meccan Conquests”) which begins with a statement of doctrine – translated in the present volume – about which al-Safadi said: “I saw that from beginning to end it consists in the doctrine of Abu al-Hasan al-Ash‘ari without any difference whatso­ever.”

[36]Futuhat Makkiyah, ibn ‘Arabi 67: The All-inclusive name.

[37]This is how the idea of mercy is understood in relation to the creation and not according to the Creator.

[38]The words Rahman and Rahim are in the intensified form indicating its vastness, expansive nature and radiance. In a well-known hadith recorded by Imām Ahmad, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Allāh (The Most High) has one-hundred mercies. With one of them, the creation shows mercy to each other; even the beasts show kindness to their offspring. He has kept ninety-nine mercies with Him for the Day of Resurrection

 

[40] Al-Muttaqī al-Hindī, Kanz al-ʿUmmāl (‘The Treasure of the Workers’) (Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Risāla, 1989), no. 10386.

[41] Kanz al-ʿUmmāl, no. 10401.

[42] See Tafsir al-Qurtubi: section on the Basmalah.

[43]The Risalah of Imām Abu l-Qasim al-Qushayri, section: The vision of the Sufis [ru’yah al-qaum]

[44]The Risalah of Imām Abu l-Qasim al-Qushayri, section: Bishr bin al-Harith al-Hafi.

[45]Al-Ghunya li-Talibi t-Tariq al-Haqq of Shaykh ‘Abdu l-Qadir al-Jaylani.

[46]Al-Ghunya li-Talibi t-Tariq al-Haqq of Shaykh ‘Abdu l-Qadir al-Jaylani.

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