Tag Archives: books

SELECTIVE READING & THINKING… and why wisdom is not something trapped in books.

IMG_20160128_070805_resized_1The Importance of Books
We are surrounded by books,
But we should not be bound to them,
For they are not intended to be walls or fences,
But a door, a gateway to wisdom,
A path to God.
……..

IMG_20160128_070729_resized_1Reading but Not Actually – I was reading up a Sufi book of devotional practices when I noticed something new. Interspaced between texts which were familiar to me are some sentences and words apparently new. But of course, it cannot be so. After all, the pages are dog-eared and it is the same old copy that I have been reading intermittently. I am sure no elf sneaked into my shelves in the middle of the night to mischievously alter the pages.

It may not be elves but I think I have a clue. I was merely using the natural approach towards the practice of any new thing. I essentially wanted to know the basics – Ergo , what I needed to recite, how many times and in what sequence. In doing so I guess I kinda skimmed over the substantive explanations. Silly billy me.

Selective Reading – And of course, what we understand a book to mean will also depend on our own preconception and misconception of whatever topic the book may be about. Often we read books not to actually seek new knowledge, but merely to affirm or validate things we already believe in. Whether we like it or not, we either consciously or subconsciously drift to authors and publications that we anticipate agreement with. So already we are rigging our ‘quest’ to only ‘discover’ knowledge which naturally fits with our own pre-conceived notions of truths and moral rights and wrongs.

IMG_20160128_071021_resized_1Thus, perhaps we have a lot to be thankful for – That wisdom and beneficial knowledge does not come from our choice of books. Because were it so, our ‘wisdom’ would be skewered in the direction of our own bias and secret prejudices. And as history has shown, this is a trend that we should avoid at all cost.

Alhamdulillah (Praise unto God) we are at this orderly juncture. Because I was a little nervous about the apparent contradiction between the Sufic view that wisdom does not originate from books, while at the same time espousing love and devotion to books. Sometimes we just need to delve a little deeper, I guess… To swim a little further and to contemplate little more longer. To find the unity of purpose and divine beauty hidden in the apparent contradictions that spice our life and thoughts. Our eternal gratitude to God Almighty and His Habibullah (saws) for seeding our path with these little questions, that we may learn to find the right answers.

Do you not agree, sunshine?

 

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

THE FIFTEEEN LETTERS of Shaykh Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani

IMG_20150827_122517_resized_1A couple of months back, I found this little book at a bookshop. I must admit that this little gem was unfamiliar to me. As the title succinctly says, this book contains a collection of fifteen letters written by the great shaykh to…, you know I am not sure to who originally! But as this story winds to an end, we may find a surprising answer.

It appears the letters were originally written in Persian by the great shaykh. Thus far, four manuscripts have been found, one in Berlin, another in King Saud University, the third in Oxford University and the fourth in Michigan University. The translator and commentator of the book is Louay Fatoohi, who gained access to 3 of the manuscripts, save for the Berlin copy. May Allah (swt) be pleased with his efforts.

I don’t know about you guys, but I have a history with the great shaykh’s books, a part of which I have shared in a 2011 article entitled The Servant & the Master in my earlier blog, the Sinners’ Almanac, which you can jump to by clicking here.

The letters are written in a unique way, mixing short sentences of the great shaykh with Quranic scripture. The words of the great shaykh himself are cast in mystical language. There is really no other way for me to describe to you, so perhaps an extract from the Third Letter (of which I am fond of) will educate us a little. The words in italics are the Quranic verses: -

At times you will be drowned in the seas of independence of:

Allah is rich enough to be independent of all creatures, (29:6)

-at other times you will be bewildered in the entanglements of sandstorms of the majesty of:

Do they feel secure from Allah’s devising? (7:99)

-and at other times, influenced by longing, you will chant like a nightingale in the orchard when the breeze of gentleness of:

And do not despair of Allah’s mercy (12:87)

-blows

………………………………………………………..

Slide1Perhaps you may gain a little from this. Certainly, it makes you question your own contemplation. The juxtaposition of the words of the great shaykh with the Holy Quran leaves me breathless at times, wondering just where he is leading me.

Well, today, on this holy day of Friday, I am pleased that it has led me here at least. To share this oh-so brief snippet of the Fifteen Letters with you – with the sincere hope that a copy of the book may find its way into your hands, and into your heart.

For I, I am not worthy, and I understand that this book is meant for more discerning hearts. Perhaps like the one beating in yours?

Of course, I am right, sunshine. Ask for the book. Godwilling, you will receive it. For I really do believe now that the Fifteen Letters are meant for you, though written many centuries before your birth. And I am actually not much surprised. For this is how Love plans His way. Subtly and over eons.

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way