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April 26, 2005

Reflections on Spring, Part II

Look then at the signs of Allah’s mercy, how He gives life to the earth after its death, most surely He will raise the dead to life; and He has power over all things (Surah al-Rum, Verse 50… like I said, it’s got more than the marriage ayahs in there…)

Part I dealt with two aspects that springtime always reminds me of: the wondrous power of Allah over His Creation and the significance of trees as examples for human beings.

This last part deals with the essence of the rebirth of nature–most assuredly, it is magnificent, but perhaps even more mind-boggling is how quickly it seems to happen. The same tree that was lifeless a few days ago is bursting with the signs of life, displaying its young leaves for the rest of creation to witness at and marvel. Stagnant air around the tree is replaced by fragrant breezes filled with newly-formed flowers that are both visually and aromatically pleasing to the beholder. The harsh ugliness that surrounded the tree during the long dead months of winter is now replaced by a dazzling display of beauty as a celebration of life.

Similarly, when Allah gives an opening to a human being who has been spiritually dead for the winter of a lifetime, that rebirth may come overnight, immediately blossoming that person into a spiritual giant in the eyes of God. When one considers the stories of certain Companions, such as Abu Dharr al-Ghifari (who was a thug… literally) and `Umar b. al-Khattab (radiallahu `anhuma), one can see how quickly they were transformed from desert rogues into… well.. Companions of the Messenger of God (salallahu `alayhi wa sallam). Certainly, the Companionship with the Prophet played a role in their reformation… but the swiftness by which they became such great men is also a testimony to the greatness of Allah. Just as He swiftly brings back dead broken trees to life, He can and does bring back dormant souls to life, infusing them with Divine Mercy such that they are vesicles of that mercy to the rest of creation.

This has personal significance as well. Oftentimes, people feel that their spiritual decline is imminent and there’s nothing they can do about it; they feel as if they’re in a winter-state, and their personal springtimes will never come. They feel that their sins have become so much that Allah will never accept their repentance; their favorite line is, “I’m going to hell anyway, why bother trying?” Therein lies one of Shaytan’s favorite tactics–to make a believer despair of the mercy of God. One of my personal all-time bestest (I know that’s not a word…) ayahs is from Surah Yusuf, when Prophet Ya`qub says an amazing statement; considering the context–i.e., that he has lost his two sons, his people are suffering through famine, he loses his eyesight, etc., the statement becomes that much more awesome: “O my sons, go forth and seek out Yusuf and his brother and do not ever despair of the Mercy of God; Indeed, none despair of the Mercy of God except the unbelievers.” In other words, by default, if a person believes in Allah, he’s not allowed to despair. This is further reinforced: “Say: O my servants! who have acted extravagantly against their own souls, do not despair of the mercy of Allah; surely Allah forgives the faults altogether; surely He is the Forgiving, the Merciful (39:53)“. All of us go through our own spiritual winters–this isn’t so tragic. What is tragic is to think that spring won’t ever come and thus not prepare for such a day.

Worse yet is to think that such an opening may not come to other people. Oftentimes we see the sins and debauchery of people around us (both Muslim and non-Muslim) and it’s quite easy to hate the sinner as well as his sin. Yet, the fact remains that today’s sinners may very well become tomorrow’s saints. We do not know who among the people today that are in their personal spiritual winters will emerge forth tomorrow if God so chooses to bring them into spring. It is said that `Umar was beloved to Allah even in Jahiliyyah. When one reads the story of Malcolm X’s past before Islam, one would be somewhat justified in assuming that this man would forever remain in his personal winter; yet Allah chose to give Malcolm his opening at his specified time, and he became… well, he became al-Hajj Malik el-Shabaz (rahmatullahi `alayh).

Finally, a word about spiritual decay: we often feel “Iman-highs” and “Iman-lows”; the former especially during the month of Ramadan. The Iman-high is an indescribable feeling of spiritual contentment wherein one feels ecstatic to be alive; the Iman-low is its antithesis. Certainly, we hate to experience Iman-lows, but I would offer that Iman-lows have their own unique purposes:

1. For one thing, they help keep us honest, desirous, and humble in our quest to return to the Iman-high; if one were to be perpetually in an Iman-high state, it very well might lead to a state of self-satisfaction–or worse. As Imam al-Ghazali (a sufi…) writes: “People count with self satisfaction the number of times they have recited the name of God on their prayer beads, but they keep no beads for reckoning the idle words they speak.” Therefore, perpetual Iman-highs may actually be detrimental to a believer since they may cause him to forget and pass over smaller matters.

2. Iman-lows help one to appreciate the Iman-high as well. Again, al-Ghazali wrote that “Things are understood by understanding their opposites.” If one did not know what darkness was, then one would have no understanding and appreciation for light. Sugar tastes much sweeter after one has eaten something bitter or sour, as compared to simply tasting sugar. Perhaps this is why the shift of nature from spring to summer isn’t so dramatic: the leaves are already there, they’re just getting somewhat bigger. Yet the complete rebirth that happens from winter to spring is more profound, and especially when one compares it to the winter, more appreciable. Iman-lows perhaps are not necessarily burdens, but can be forms of mercy from Allah if they’re used by a believer to get back to a state of an Iman-high. For example, rather than wallowing in self-pity over one’s Iman-low, if one were to use that bitterness as a greater motivation to taste the sweetness of the Iman-high, then isn’t that Iman-low a mercy? Coolio once said (wow, did I just quote Ghazali and Coolio in the same paragraph), “In order to know the light, you must first understand the darkness.” Perhaps when God puts us in states of Iman-lows, it’s merely a time for us to understand such a state by pausing in a spiritual winter such that we can prepare ourselves to know and welcome the springtime of the souls.

I think a story will bring together the above point:

In classical Iraq, there lived a man by the name of Hasan b. Omar, the son of a rich merchant, who came into wealth after his father’s demise and immediately involved himself in all sorts of debauchery, eventually spending away all his wealth. One day, he was seen outside the walls of Basra, prostrating on the ground, tearing his hair, reproaching Allah, blaspheming the Prophet, charging his friends and relations with ingratitude and calling upon the Angel of Death to release him from his misery. As he was bewailing his lot, a voice reached his ears:

“Listen, Hasan b. Omar, Allah intends you good.”

Hasan sat up and saw before him a venerable saint who was regarding him with looks of compassion. “Begone old man, unless you can work a miracle for me.” “A miracle indeed shall I work,” said the saint, “What do you really want?” Hasan said, “Give me my possessions back–my vineyards, my fields, my gold.

The saint said, “Is that all you want? That is not a difficult thing to do. But I shall give you this kingdom only on these conditions: govern your passions, moderate your desires, hate the wine-cup, work for your bread, eat only when you are hungry, and sleep only when you are weary.” So saying this, the saint went away, leaving Hasan to ponder what he said.

Hasan decided to carry out the directions of the saint. He joined a caravan of merchants and set out on a long journey. He began to rise early and worked hard all day long. Plain water and dates formed his simple meals, and at night he lay down on the ground and enjoyed a repose he had never known before.

A year passed and Hasan returned to Basra. He went once again outside the walls of the city, prostrated himself on the earth, and prayed, “Now Allah, give me the kingdom promised to me by Your servant (the saint).” He heard a gentle voice–the voice of the saint from nearby:

“Hasan, thy kingdom is thyself; Allah has taught you to rule it.”

Hasan started up and said, “Yes, my kingdom is myself and I have finally discovered it.”

Hmm, maybe this shoulda been split into 3 parts… oh well.

Currently Watching:
The NBA Finals 1991 – 1993 ESPN Special
Chicago Bulls vs. Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trailblazers, and Phoenix Suns
Note: That was such an amazing team. Every time I watch them, I realize how spoiled we were as Chicago residents in the 90’s. Perhaps this year’s Bulls is a sign of the “spring” to come from the 7-year “winter” we’ve experienced…?

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16 Comments
  1. Anonymous permalink

    post is too long…but i’m sure its mash’Allah…i saw some things about Allah…so it has to be mash’Allah…
    next time dont write so much…
    nigger-ul-haq

  2. To Alti: Nice looking out on Kamran’s infamous length, but he did say: Hmm, maybe this shoulda been split into 3 parts… oh well.
    To Kamran: …a sign of the “spring” to come from the 7-year “winter” we’ve experienced. Very interesting Spring Reflection. Also, remember what I told you about Xangazon (Currently Whatever…). Try and link it to purchasable products. For your Bulls Finals viewing, put in the Bulls Dynasty DVD set and then in the Note you can mention that you were watching 1991 thru 1993 on ESPN.

  3. >>>Yet, the fact remains that today’s sinners may very well become tomorrow’s saints.Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future.Nice post.

  4. Stagnant air around the tree is replaced by fragrant breezes filled with newly-formed flowers that are both visually and aromatically pleasing to the beholder.
    For someone with allergies that sentence sounds horrific.
    But, spring is beautiful, nontheless.  Nice post. 

  5. Spring…one of the greatest metaphors for life; life, death, despair, hope, beauty…
    Well said, KR, well said…

  6. Assalamu Alaikum
    Masha’Allah great post Kamran. I was really moved by your post and I sincerely appreciate the amount of time you must have put into making it. I loved the Ghazzali quotes and still was able to quickly lower my gaze when you started to quote Coolio (just kidding :)) I really love the picture you paint of winter to spring and comparing that to states of iman and the states of one’s nearness to God. I think the picture you painted is one of hope and strength and the story at the end was also very moving. Thank you for the post and don’t let the people who criticize you for writing long posts change your style or limit your creativity. I would surely be content knowing that one individual grasped a vision in my mind with clarity and understanding than to know that many casually entertained a mere shadow of it.Humbled,-Mohd

  7. The Prophet (S) used to make dua about the Noble Quran:
    Allahuma ij’al alQuranal Atheema rabee’a qulubeena
    Oh Allah make the Great Quran the spring of our hearts
    Subhanallah – the Quran does just that… brings our hearts back to life

  8. Mohd, I’m humbled by your words of praise. Jazakallah khayr for that. Sometimes I wonder if writing long posts are worth it since I seem to hear criticism from the peanut gallery, but it’s refreshing to know that people do read and benefit from it… and inshallah benefitting me in the process as well =).

  9. aweomse post mashallah
    Say: O my servants! who have acted extravagantly against their own souls, do not despair of the mercy of Allah; surely Allah forgives the faults altogether; surely He is the Forgiving, the Merciful (39:53)“.
    One awesome thing about this verse is in which Imam Suhaib compared it to the other verses in which Allah (swt) makes things Haraam with the LA – DO NOT…(place thing not to do here).
    Just as he has forbidden wine, just as he has forbidden fornication, just as he has forbidden murder, he has also forbidden despairing of his mercy…..
    thats hot….
    jazakullah khair for post
    believer2

  10. MashAllah KR, another inspiring post
    I like how you mix up post themes. It makes these types of posts extra special.
    JazakAllah Khair.

  11. Anonymous permalink

    may Allah bless you KR for putting up stuff like this

  12. Anonymous permalink

    I”ll read this later. Heres a downpayment on the eprops. I’m sure the entry is worthy of eprops. I mean abdul has already commented. i trust his judgement

  13. Anonymous permalink

    From you comes eprops, and to you eprops will return.

  14. Good Post KR. Abdul’s point is completely awesome. Never despair of the Mercy of Your Lord.I wrote a post about a man named Tulaiha Al Azdi. Completely unreal how paradoxical of a life this guy lived and eventually died. Subhan’Allah.

  15. may Allah make us among those who govern our own kingdoms.

  16. On Iman highs and Iman lows – i’m no tassawuf scholar but i’ve got it explained like this.If we were to follow the Shari’ah perfectly we would all reach the level of ma’arifah (Knowledge of Allah) except our nafs makes us have many defects which blemish our worship. We go through “hals” or temporary spiritual states. There is something called a maqam which is a permanent spiritual station. Now even bad things have hals, such as jealousy or other spiritual diseases which are at temporary high points. Hals (good and bad) are caused by many different things – being wronged by someone may keep you with some pent up anger which will deteriorate your self spiritually for a short period, or tawba may give you a new spiritual vigor which will keep you going for 10 days of the great hals of Shukr and Tawakkul. Now the thing is we must thank Allah and keep going, avoiding the major sins, and doing continual tawba (saying tubtu ilayk constantly) and doing Salawat on Prophet (SAW). As Habib Ali Jifri explained – spiritual pleasure is a means to an ends (making it easier on us to please Allah) and not the end itself. Therefore we should treat everything we can (spiritual pleasure, money, bad things happening to us, etc.) as a MEANS to getting closer to Allah (SWT) at this very moment.Remember he creates your actions, so if he has created you praying to him at this very moment, it is a blessing for you to be thankful for. And if he has created your thanks for that blessing, one should even be thanks for the thanks. Never be proud of your blessings – for if your nafs starts telling you that Allah (SWT) may test you with something you can’t handle. One day’s criminal is another day’s saint. La Hawla wa la Quwattah illa billah.

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