Keeping the company of the Auliya-Allah

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“0h you who believe, Become God-conscious and be with those that are the Sadiqin (those truthful ones).” [9:119]

Spending time in the company of the pious people of Allah- those that are on the Straight path- plays a vital role in the spiritual development of any individual. Islam has placed great emphasis such companionship. If we look at the Arabs prior to the advent of Islam, and what they became afterwards, the main factor that transformed them was that they spent time in the companionship of Allah's blessed Messenger Muhammad (the Salutations and Peace of Allah be upon him).

Allah speaks about His blessed Prophet Muhammad (the Salutations and Peace of Allah be upon him) as follows: "It is He who sent among the unlettered people a Messenger from among themselves, who recites to them his signs and purifies them and bestows them the knowledge of the book of Wisdom, although they had been necessarily in Manifest error before that!" [62:2]

Allah's blessed Messenger (the Salutations and Peace of Allah be upon him) was the one that took these people out of the ignorance (Jahiliyyah) that they were drenched in, and made them into stars of guidance. The Prophet (the Salutations and Peace of Allah be upon him) says in a hadith: “My companions are like stars: whichever one of them you follow, you will be rightly guided."

It was none other than the blessed company and madrasah of the Prophet (the Salutations and Peace of Allah be upon him) himself that made them into stars. So spiritual companionship is not a concept

initiated by the Awliya-Allah [Friends of Allah] but is inherited directly from the Prophets of Allah.

Companionship plays a very important role in the life of a Muslim.
Allah's Messenger (the Salutations and Peace of Allah be upon him) says: "Man is on the Religion of his friends, so let each of you look at who he chooses to befriend!”

In Arabian literature it is stated that you can tell the character of a person by looking at the company he keeps. A poet aptly says: "If you are accompanying a group of people, then choose the best from amongst them to keep company with. Do not accompany the dirt of their society or you may be mistaken for dirt. For when people look, they do not look at individuals, but they look at those he accompanies. For every person follows the group he accompanies."
Every person has physical and spiritual ailments that surface from time to time. The physical ailments are relatively simple to see. The spiritual ailments like hypocrisy, pride, envy, jealousy and selfishness are the ones that are difficult to notice. No man can see his own faults, not because he does not want to, but because he does not examine himself deeply enough. Allah speaks about this category of people in the Holy Quran:, "Say Muhammad : Shall we inform them of the one whose actions are the worst, those whose struggles were lost in the life of the world, while they thought they were doing wonderful deeds!' [18:103-104]

That is why we as Muslims are encouraged to seek good, pious company who will examine and correct us when we err. Allah's Messenger (the Salutations and Peace of Allah be upon him) says, "The Believer is a mirror of another believer.” [Abu Dawud]

The word “mirror” chosen by the blessed Prophet can be taken in its literal sense, or we can look for deeper meanings. We know that mirrors come in all sizes and shapes, some are clear and reflect a true image, whilst other provide a distorted one; some make things look bigger while others make things seem smaller.  Companionship is similar to a mirror: some never let you see your true self and encourage you in your evil and wicked ways. Others may belittle you, while others again may give you undeserved praise. A true friend is he who shows you who you really are and guides you to the straight path- such are the Awliya.

Allah's Messenger (the Salutations and Peace of Allah be upon him) has said: "Indeed the difference between two gatherings! The [difference between] a gathering that encourages piety and good, and one that promotes wickedness is like [the difference between] one who works with musk and one who works with burning coal. The bearer of the perfume might just give you the perfume or sell it to you, or at the least you will get to enjoy that sweet scent from him. The one working with coal will either burn your clothing, or leave you with an ugly stench!"  Similarly, if you stay in the company of the Awliya then you may be given guidance, or shown where to attain guidance. At the very least you will be able to leave them knowing that you have enjoyed their company and thus earned reward from Allah.

Sayyidina Umar Ibn Khattab (RA), the second Caliph of Islam, relates that he heard Allah's Messenger, the Salutations and Peace of Allah be upon him, saying, "Indeed from the servants of Allah, there is a group that are neither Prophets nor Martyrs, but even the Prophets and the Martyrs are envious of them, their position on the day of Qiyamah and their nearness to Allah. The Companions asked: Who are they, Messenger of Allah?  He replied: “They are a group of servants that loved Allah, without any benefit [that they wished for thereby] nor for any wealth they could attain because of it. I swear by Allah that indeed their faces are filled with Nur, and indeed everything about them is Nur. They do not fear when people fear, nor do they grieve when people grieve. The Messenger of Allah (the Salutations and Peace of Allah be upon him) then recited the verse, "Beware, indeed the Awliya-Allah do not fear, nor do they grieve!” [Abu Dawud].

So it is this blessed category of Awliya-Allah that Allah's Messenger himself has praised, and it is this category of Awliya that are the Inheritors of Muhammad (the Salutations and Peace of Allah be upon him), and his blessed companions. The blessed Messenger of Allah (the Salutations and Peace of Allah be upon him) has also made reference to this group in another hadith where it is said: "There will always be a group of my Ummah on the path of Haqq and truth. They cannot be harmed by anybody and they will remain on this path until the Day of Qiyamah.” [Sahih Muslim].

We as individual are always in need of those that can guide us. The sahaba spent their time with Muhammad (the Salutations and Peace of Allah be upon him) and he guided them in every aspect of their life. Thus it is following the Sunnah of the Companions to sit with those can guide us and show us the truth. The Awliya are those that have been chosen by Allah to guide us, and show us the way to Him.

Spiritual guidance is not something that evaporates in time. The spiritual guidance the Sahaba received, even for a short duration, was sufficient to carry them through their entire lives. Similarly, we continue to reap the spiritual benefits from the friends of Allah even after they have passed on. It is stated in Shawahidul Haqq that when a wali of Allah passes on, then his attention is even more focused on his murids and those that need spiritual guidance. When he was in the physical realm he had to complete his obligations to Allah, as well as further his spiritual enlightenment. But after he has passed on there remains no obligation to Allah nor is there the need to further his own spiritual development and thus his complete focus is turned to those that he can assist and guide and who need his attention.

The Friends of Allah achieved their great status, not just because Allah chose them, but also because of the manner they strived in Allah's path. They followed strict codes and practices and imbued themselves with the Sunnah of Muhammad (the Salutations and Peace of Allah be upon him). It is stated by Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi R.A in his Mathnavi that a piece of iron does not become a sword until it is sent to a blacksmith, beaten and put through fire. Similarly a Friend of Allah does not become a Wali until he strives and has been guided by another friend of Allah.

In conclusion, Allah’s beloved Messenger Muhammad (the Salutations and Peace of Allah be upon him) says, "Fear the foresight of a Believer, for indeed when he looks, he sees with the Nur of Allah." These Awliya-Allah do not look at our physical appearances but they look at our hearts. They change our hearts and fill it with the love of Allah and His beloved Messenger (the Salutations and Peace of Allah be upon him). May Allah guide us to benefit from this group of deeply  spiritual personalities and allow us to follow their great examples. Amin.

Moulana Goolam Muhammad Soofie, Soofie Darbaar, Riverside, Durban


The Holy Circle

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In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Goodness

In 1934, K.M. Jeffreys, the editor of The Cape Naturalist, a local magazine, wrote an article in the magazine called The Malay Tombs of the Holy Circle. He wrote that there are a number of:
“old Malay tombs that make up the Holy Circle which stretches from Robben Island to the Kramat of Sheikh Joseph on the Macassar Downs...


Starting at the old cemetery on the slopes of Signal Hill, just above the quarry in Strand Street, where two saintly men were buried many years ago, the circle continues to two graves on the top of Signal Hill ... Hence it goes to a grave, much revered situated above Oude Kraal beyond Camps Bay, and sweeps around the mountain to a Kramat at Constantia, on the Tokai Road. From there (the circle continues to) the Kramat of Sheikh Joseph of Faure, on the farm Zandvliet. The circle is completed by an old tomb on Robben Island.”

It appears that the term Holy Circle was formulated by Jeffreys, and that the term did not have local Muslim origins. There are a number of graves of Awliya-Allah within the "circle" and also a number outside the "circle". In fact, it is very difficult to refer to the geographical arrangement of these graves as being circular in any sense of the term. What has, however, happened over the years is that the Holy Circle has been given certain very special spiritual and other qualities by members of the local Muslim community. It is said, for example, that no natural disasters occur within the “circle”. This is not true. During my own lifetime, I have experienced major storms, fires, an earthquake and a tornado that had occurred within the "circle". It is said that the "circle" protects the Cape Peninsula but nobody ever says from what. It cannot be from social disasters because the Cape Peninsula has experienced major social misfortunes over the years. Perhaps we should leave the myths and unfounded claims alone and come to the historical and spiritual significance of the large number of Awliya-Allah who lies buried in the Western Cape.

With the exception of the shrines and graves in the cemetery in Observatory and the Habibia complex in Athlone, all the others are to be found on the lower slopes of mountains, especially near to streams and isolated areas, and, in the case of one, on Robben Island. There are a number of reasons for this geographical distribution of the
graves of these saintly people, and I do not think that this arrangement has anything to do with a "circle":

(a)    The first was the banishment by the Dutch of political prisoners from its Asian colonies to isolated parts of the Cape Colony during its occupation of the Cape (1652-1795). In 1667, for example, the first political prisoners arrived at the Cape. Their fate is outlined on a plaque in one corner of the shrine of Tuan Mahmud in Constantia:    "On the 24 January 1667 the ship, Polsbroek, left Batavia and arrived here 13 May following with three political prisoners in chains; Malays from the west coast of Sumatra who were banished to the Cape until further orders, on the understanding that they would eventually be released. They were rulers, 'Orang Cayer', men of wealth and influence. Great care had to be taken that they were not left at large as they were likely to do injury to the Company. Two were sent to the Company's forests and one to Robben Island." The two who were sent to the Company's forests were Tuans Abdurahman and Mahmud. The other one, Tuan Matarin, was sent to the Island. It appears that all three held prominent positions in the Qadiriyyah Sufi Order.

The most well known political exile was Shaykh Yusuf. He arrived at the Cape in 1694 on the Voetboeg, and was banished to the farm Zandvliet at Faure where his shrine is to be found. Although Tuan Yusuf belonged to a number of orders, his spiritual practices came mainly from the Khalwatiyyah Order. The 7, 40 and 100 nights that are held after a person's death, come from this order, and are still practiced at the Cape today.

In 1774 Tuan Sayyid Alawi arrived. He had been sentenced to life-imprisonment. His shrine is in the Tana Baru. Tuan Sayyid, of course, was of the Alawiyyah Sufi Order, as his name indicates. Close to his shrine is that of another "criminal", Tuan Guru (Imam Abdullah ibn Qadi Abdus Salam) who belonged to the Shatiriyyah Sufi Order. Both tuans had spent long periods on the Island.

(b)    Then also the slaves were not allowed to bury their dead in the normal burial grounds. This, together with the fact that the first grants of land for cemeteries were only made in 1796 and 1805, compelled these people to bury their dead away from the urbanized areas on the isolated parts of the lower slopes of the mountains in their immediate vicinity.

(c)    In addition, the Public Health Act No 4 was passed in 1883 closing all cemeteries in the municipal area of Cape Town consequent to the smallpox epidemics, which broke out in 1858 and 1882. The Muslim community rejected the stipulation of this Act, and also refused to bury at Maitland. The result was the 1886 Cemetery Riot against the Act. Oral tradition has it that many burials then took place surreptitiously on the lower slopes of the immediate mountain ranges.

(d)    There was also the practice of members of sufi orders to go into “retreat” periodically in order to indulge in spiritual exercises in isolation. Thus both Shaykh Muhammad Hasan who is buried on Signal Hill and Shaykh Abdul Qadir who is buried in Deer Park have the words “al-Qadiri” inscribed after their names. This means that they were most probably shaykhs of the Qadiriyyah Sufi Order. On the mountainside of Oudekraal are the graves of Tuans Ja' far and Nurul Mubin, and on Signal Hill the grave of Tuan Hasan.

Almost without exception, these individuals have come down in our history as being Awliya of Allah (persons to whom Allah Almighty has granted friendship). Many of them, such as Tuans Yusuf and Guru, were scholars of Islam, and all of them, it appears, were in one or other sufi order. Possibly the main question that arises is:
What was the contribution to Islam at the Cape of the Awliya who lie buried all over the Western Cape and not only in the Cape Peninsula? To understand their contribution, one has to understand that the "hearts" of these individuals, here and in the rest of the world, are the major, if not the sole, "custodians" of the resources of the remembrance of Allah; and they safeguard such remembrance for distribution to the "hearts" of others. In this way Allah is remembered. And they strive in their approach to Him with acts of remembrance until He loves them, is satisfied with them, and remembers them. And it is through His remembrance of them, that they are remembered by others. In a Holy Tradition, the following words were spoken about such people by Allah to His Messenger (s.a.w.s.):

Truly My Awliya of my obedient servants, and those whom I love of My creation; they are remembered by My remembrance and I am remembered by their remembrance.
[Narrated by Al-Hakim and Abu Na’im on the authority of Amir ibn aI-Mamu'.]

It is perhaps this reason that caused Islam to survive at the Cape while it died at about the same time amongst the millions of Muslims that were shipped to the America during the Atlantic slave trade. These Awliya had made use of those teachings in Islam to transform personalities, and to develop spirituality to a level at which they fell into one of the categories mentioned in the tradition. Islam has within it a massive reservoir of religious energy in the form of a vast array of practices from
which one can draw for personal transformation. They came to teach, through the sufi orders they belonged to, means of accessing those practices, and use them as means of approach to Allah Subhanah. And so, because of their work at the level of "hearts", Islam survived. What were some of the more tangible contributions that they had made in this regard?

(a)    Many of these Awliya were involved in the establishment of religious structures at the Cape, and within these structures Muslims came together to conduct their religious and social affairs.  These structures include the organizational structures of the sufi orders within which Muslims placed themselves under the spiritual guidance of the Awliya in charge of these orders, and they also received basic teachings of Islam. These orders were important vehicles for the preservation of religious teachings and social cohesion. (Mawlana Abdul-Latif of the College, for example, established the Chisti Order in Athlone, which became an important social magnet for the people living in the immediate environment). In the same way the Awliya were instrumental in the establishment of house mosques (called langars) and madrassahs. Later special mosques and public madrassahs were built. The Awwal Mosque, for example, in Dorp Street and its madrassah were built under the guidance of Tuan Guru.

(b)    Some of the Awliya wrote the Qur'an from memory (such as Tuan Guru) and others started to provide the literature for educational purposes at the Cape. Again we have to mention Tuan Guru, Tuan Yusuf and Mawlana Abul-Latif of the College. The writings of many of these luminaries provided important educational tools for Islamic education.

(c)    By their personal conduct especially with regard to their religious behaviour, these Awliya provided important models for others to imitate, and so they exhibited in a smaller way the model set by Nabi Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) in Makkah and Madina. These Awliya have come down in our history as deeply religious individuals to whom God and God's Work came first. It is this attitude that encouraged other Muslims to attach themselves with greater degree to their religion.  Of course, the mureeds wanted to be like their shaykhs.

(d)    Within the religious space provided by the sufi orders and congregational religious services in mosques and madrassahs, the slaves, in a sense, had their
own individual personal privacy. The slave owners could not enter that space. The space was a religious one possessed by the slaves in his communion with God. And so in a sense when they participated in their dhikrs and prayers they were “free”. This “freedom” provided for these people a hope in God that they might not have had before. As a consequence, there must have developed in the community at this time a greater attachment to God through activities within their private religious spaces. Once outside this space, they were again under the hegemony of the slave owners.

The Awliyah at the Cape left us with a major heritage, an Islam operating within religious structures, which added immeasurably to the survival of the religion. It is doubtful whether Islam would have survived were these structures not in place. This is their great miracle. They were largely instrumental in the preservation of the religion. They need no other stories or myths. What they had done was of such major importance that today we can practice our religion, in a sense, freely. Perhaps now we can understand the Prophetic Tradition quoted earlier.

And Allah knows best!

Professor Yusuf Da Costa

The blessed lives of Imam Al-Bukhari RA and Imam Muslim RA

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Imam Al-Bukhari RA

Imam Al-Haafidh Muhammad Ibn Isma`il Al-Bukhari RA ranks as one of those pious Muslims that conferred endless bliss on the Ummah of Sayyidunaa Rasoolullah SAW, after the Noble Sahaabah RA. Imam Al-Bukhari RA was born on the 13th Shawwaal 194 AH, in the city of Bukhara, in present day Uzbekistan. His father, Imam Isma`il Ibn Ibrahim Ibn Mughirah Al-Ja`fi RA was a great scholar of hadeeth and an ascetic, from whom he inherited his characteristics of literary zeal and excellence. During his infancy, his father passed away and his mother took up the responsibility of nurturing him.

Imam Al-Bukhari RA became blind at a young age, and none of the skilled doctors at that time could render him any treatment. His mother was a very pious woman and she implored Allah SWT to restore his eyesight. Allah SWT accepted her invocations and soon afterwards, he was fully cured.


When Imam Al-Bukhari RA had reached the age of ten, and after receiving his elementary education, Allah SWT instilled into his heart the affection to learn hadeeth. He was admitted into the hadeeth class in Bukhara and obtained his education after vigorous study. A year later, he had acquired excellent retentions in the chains of transmission and texts of hadeeth, so that sometimes teachers would be corrected by him. At the age of sixteen, he had learnt by heart the books of Imam `Abdullah Ibn Al-Mubarak RA, Imam Al-Wakee` RA and other blessed companions of Imam Abu Hanifah RA.

When he was eighteen, he visited Makkah Al-Mukarramah with his mother and elder brother, Ahmad Ibn Isma`il. After completing the pilgrimage, he remained there to further his education. It was there that he wrote “Qadaayah As-Sahaabah RA Wat Tabi`een RA”, (the religious matters of the Noble Companions RA and those who followed them). After this, he went to Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah, where he compiled his famous book “Asmaa Ar-Rijaal”, (names of narrators of hadeeth), called “At-Tareekh Al-Kabeer”, (the major history), while sitting at the blessed tomb of Sayyidunaa Rasoolullah SAW.

Imam Al-Bukhari RA travelled to cities far and wide for the sake of seeking knowledge and the transmission of hadeeth. In these various areas, he gained immense knowledge while sitting far away from his own home for several years. He himself stated: “To seek knowledge, I travelled to Egypt and Syria twice, Basra four times, spent six years at Al-Hijaaz and left for Kufa and Baghdad on so many occasions accompanied by scholars of hadeeth.”

Imam Al-Bukhari RA had a very strong memory, so much so, that if he glanced through a book, he would memorise it instantly. In his early years of study, he memorised 70 000 hadeeth, and later on this number increased to 300 000. Along with this, Allah SWT also gifted him with an exceptional sharp intellect.

Some of his exemplary qualities were that he was self sufficient; he did not depend on anyone but Allah SWT. He was a simple and hard working person, and he would fulfil his needs by himself. Muhammad Ibn Haatim Al-Warraaq, who was one of his main disciples, states: “Imam Al-Bukhari RA was establishing an inn near the city of Bukhara and was placing the bricks with his own hands. I came forward and said 'Leave the laying of the bricks for this building to me.' But he replied, 'On the day of judgement, this act will be of benefit to me.” He was a man of overwhelming generosity, abstention from this world and the fear of Allah SWT.

Imam Al-Bukhari RA passed away at the age of 62, on the first night of Shawwaal (the night of `Idul Fitr), in the year 256 AH. May Allah SWT reward him abundantly for his sterling and unmatched work for Islam.

Imam Muslim RA

Imam Abul Husain Asaakirud Deen Muslim Ibn Al-Hajjaaj Al-Qushayri An-Naysaaboori RA was from the Qushayr tribe of the Arabs. He was born in the year 206 AH in Naysaaboor. His parents were pious and religious, and as such, he was brought up in an Islamic atmosphere. This left such a lasting impression on his mind that he spent the whole of his life as a God-fearing person and always adhered to the path of Truth. His excellent moral character and etiquette can be well judged from the simple fact that he never indulged in backbiting, a very common human flaw.

Imam Muslim RA travelled widely to collect traditions in Hijaaz, Egypt, Syria and Iraq; where he attended the lectures of some of the prominent scholars of hadeeth of his time, including Imam Ishaaq Ibn Rahawiyyah RA, Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal RA and Imam Qutaybah Ibn Sa`eed RA. After completing his studies, he settled at Naysaaboor. There he came into contact of Imam Al-Bukhari RA. He became a true disciple of Imam Al-Bukhari RA and remained attached to him until the end of his blessed life.

Imam Muslim devoted his life to studying hadeeth, and he collected 300 000, and then after thoroughly examining them, he chose 4000 for his Saheeh.

He wrote many books and treatises on Hadeeth, but his most famous is his “Saheeh”. His books include: “Kitab Al-Musnad Al-Kabeer Alaa Ar-Rijaal”, (the book of major chain of transmission regarding narrators) and “Kitab Al-Asmaa Wal Kuna, (the book of names and titles of narrators).

Imam Muslim RA had a wide circle of students who learnt at his hands. They include Imam Abu Haatim Razi RA and Imam Abu `Isa At-Tirmithi RA.

Imam Muslim spent most of his life in learning hadeeth, teaching it, in its transmission and compilation. He passed away in the year 261 AH and is buried in Naysaaboor.

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