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June 15, 2005

(kr edit: Thursday, 8:30 AM. Thanks to afqar_alfuqaraa for referring me to this trailer. I watched this yesterday and I can’t stop thinking about how awesome this is going to be, Inshallah. I’m more hyped for this than I was for Episode III. For those of you who have faster connections, please use the link to right-click/save to conserve bandwidth.)

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Al-Ghazali: The Alchemist of Happiness Trailer
A film by Ovidio Salazar
14.0 MB | 2:42 minutes
QuickTime format
More info at the Matmedia Site

The film features commentary by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Dr. TJ Winter (Abd al-Hakim Murad).

If you’re too lazy to do that, then here, go ahead and use up the bandwidth, but watch the trailer anyway:


 


“Al-Ghazali: The Alchemist of Happiness Trailer”
 
Sigh, WHEN IS THIS COMING OUT???

Seeing God and Goodness in All Things, Part II

The second point is to see the goodness that is latent in all human beings. This is somewhat more difficult than the first, for quite often, human beings are the complete antithesis of goodness. Yet, the Prophetic model is sufficient as it shows how to see this goodness in all human beings and to facilitate the development of that potential. This was the greatness of the Prophetic suhbah (companionship): he was able to bring out all the beautiful aspects of character, intelligence, and spirituality that was present in his Companions–but these aspects needed only to be honed and removed out, just as a diamond is carefully polished until it shines. Certainly, the blessings of his presence played a role in this, but an undeniable factor is also how he (salallahu `alahi wa sallam) was so successful in creating an atmosphere where people felt like they were human beings and could therefore grow. This theme is emphasized in the famous hadith–“Indeed I was sent to do nothing more than to complete and perfect the noble qualities of character”–as if saying that all the noble qualities of the Companions were already present, but he facilitated their manifestation.

When one considers the development of Abu Dharr al-Ghifari (may God be pleased with him) for example, one can see how the Prophet (salallahu `alayhi wa sallam) was filled with a desire to ennoble and dignify the people around him. Abu Dharr was from the tribe of Bani Ghifar, a tribe whose hereditary role for generations was to waylay and attack caravans on the trading routes (the modern day equivalent of thugs and gangsters), and thus they were despised and hated by the rest of the Arabs. Considering then that the Prophet was not only from the aristocratic tribe of Quraysh, but even from amongst them, he was from the noble clan of Bani Hashim, the natural response from such nobility towards a Ghifari would have been one of contempt. Yet when Abu Dharr comes to the Prophet, he embraces the former and treats him with dignity such that Abu Dharr the Gangster goes on to become Abu Dharr al-Ghifari, one of the greatest Companions of the Prophet.

The same can be said for `Umar b. al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him): a man who buried his daughter alive in the days of Ignorance goes onto become such a Companion that it is said that nine-tenths of all knowledge died when `Umar died. The scholars comment on this by saying that this specifically refers to the knowledge of Allah, since he successfully closed the doors of argumentation of theology when people started to distinguish “contradictory” theological verses. Certainly, this elevation applies to the rest of the Companions as well, but the underlying theme is the same: that goodness and success that each of them was able to accomplish was already present in them and it was the Prophet’s (may God’s prayer and peace be on Him) uncanny ability to see this in them and allow each of them to develop the outward reality of that goodness.

Hand in hand with seeing this goodness is to also recognize that there is evil in the speech and action of human beings. However, to let this interfere with one’s treatment of the other is completely antithetical to the Prophetic tradition (sunnah). It is narrated that once a man of evil repute came to seek an audience with the Prophet. When he came, he sat with a lack of courtesy, yet the Prophet spoke to him with dignity. When the man had left, his wife `A’ishah said to him, “You did not consider the man to be honest and pious; how is it then that you talked to him with so much courtesy, softness and affection?” He (salallahu `alayhi wa sallam) replied, “He is a worse man in this world who gives up courtesy with another because he considers the latter to be a bad man.” Thus one ought to be aware of the evil present in human beings and guard himself from it, but to remove one’s self or to treat such people with contempt is a far worse thing to do.

It is perhaps the wisdom of the Proof of Islam, Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (may God have mercy on him) that he writes, “To know and truly love God means to have an infinite capacity to endure the wickedness of men.” Thus it seems that it is not simply enough to see goodness when it is present in others and facilitate its development; the corollary–tolerating their evil–is part and parcel of that spirit. This can be further seen in the hadith of the Prophet, wherein he said, “One who endures the evil of others and stays with them is better than he who renounces the people to remove himself from their evil.” The act of renunciation is one wherein the great Prophet Yunus was admonished against; the act of enduring others’ evil and continuing one’s attempts to bring out their hidden goodness is that of the Messenger of God. This is because one does not know which sinners of today shall turn to God on the morrow. People like Abu Sufyan went to war against the Prophet for over 20 years; yet he continued to see goodness in them until they were ready to manifest that inner goodness.

The early communities had this spirit as well. It is narrated that the great scholar and saint, Bayazid al-Bistami (may God have mercy on him), was once walking home at night and came upon a great commotion in the street. It turned out that his neighbor, due to his state of drunkenness, was abusing and haranguing anyone who happened to pass by. Someone asked the Shaykh to go and talk to the man and try to calm him down. So Shaykh al-Bistami agreed, and he approached the drunk man and tried to reason with him to quit this verbal abuse of others and to go inside his house. The man, who was completely inebriated, responded by increasing his abuse and began to direct it to Bayazid himself. Yet, the Shaykh continued to reason with the man, but now driven to a state of complete rage, the drunk man took his lute (a musical instrument) and smashed it on the head of the Bayazid al-Bistami until his head begins to flow with blood. Now, consider what the response of the average person would have been: one is going to help another human being who is clearly incapable of a rational thought or saying and receives such a reward. Perhaps our reaction would have been profanity and violence of our own. Yet, the Shaykh responds by saying nothing and goes home. The next morning, Bayazid calls his servant and gives him a basket of sweetmeats and puts some money in the basket as well. He tells his servant, “Go to the man that we met last night and tell him this: ‘Dear brother, last night I found your breath to be quite sour. I hope these sweetmeats will sweeten your tongue. Dear brother, last night my head was the cause for your lute breaking. Please accept this money as compensation for your loss.” When the servant when to the man’s house (and by now he was back to a state of sanity) and the man received the basket and heard the servant’s words… he was completely shattered internally. He thought to himself, This is how I behaved to this scholar and man of God last night, and this is how he is responding to my behavior? Immediately, he makes repentance to Allah, gives up his drinking, and becomes a righteous man until the end of his days.

The common theme in all of this is how the righteous are able to see goodness in others and tolerate their evil. Seeing the hidden goodness in others, they help the development and perfection of those characteristics. Seeing the evil of others, they endure and respond with acts of kindess. This is because they know that Allah talks about certain people as, “… and We have made some of you as a trial (fitnah) for others; will you not have patience? And your Lord is Ever-Seeing (over all things).” When one considers the present Muslim community, it’s quite easy to adopt a pessimistic mentality and become oblivious to this hidden goodness. Yet, this mentality was never a trait of any Prophet; their worldview, instead, was one that God and goodness permeated all things. In our days as well, we have many Malcolms who are still Malcolm Littles–it’s vital that they be provided with an environment to become the Malik al-Shabbazzes that this community sorely needs.

To conclude (this is why this post was split into two), the wisdom of Imam al-Ghazali once again captures and elucidates these characteristics. In the introduction to Book 20 titled Kitâb Adâb al-Ma`îshah wa Akhlâq al-Nubuwwah (The Book on the Rules of Living and the Character of the Prophet) of the Ihyâ `Ulûm al-Dîn (The Revivication of the Religious Sciences), he writes: “I had resolved to end the “Quarter of the Customs” of this Book with a comprehensive book dealing with the manners of living, in order that their deduction from entirety of this book should not be difficult for the student… So I then saw that I could shorten this book by doing nothing more than mentioning the manner and character of the Messenger of Allah.” In other words, to develop the ability to see God and goodness in all things requires the simple yet profound task of familiarizing one’s self with the life of the Prophet and then manifesting that same Prophetic character.

In the end then, these two qualities go back to that verse from Surah al-Nahl. If one wishes to embody taqwa (God-consciousness and awareness), then this requires a development of this inner eye of goodness in all things–and then relating that inner understanding through outward speech and actions. For such people, indeed, they shall receive perks and benefits in this world.

But the abode of the Hereafter is even better. And how excellent is the abode of the righteous.

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16 Comments
  1. I’m sure this is an amazing example of brilliance, wit, and insight.  KamKam, you are a special little squirrel with ears as pointy as Spock.  I’ll read this later…keep this little squirrel in your duas. 

  2. barakAllahu feek. (check out my xanga, updates on the Ghazali documentary)

  3. Anonymous permalink

    Where do you get your examples in your khutbahs from (such as Bayazid Al-Bistami)? They fit very well into your khutbahs (retired or not) .

  4. blah blah blah ::regurgitation::…hehe. Yup, revenge.

  5. Anonymous permalink

    Wow you are amazingly good looking.

  6. Anonymous permalink

    this post is too long…but i saw that its about God…God is great…
    props
    nigger-ul-haq

  7. KR,I can honestly say that I was impressed with this post. I wasn’t too fond of part 1, but this one was amazing. There’s a lot to think about after one reads something like this. I for one am debating the idea of leaving the community and spending some time by myself in a virtual isolation, but now I gotta consider the points which you’ve mentioned above.I gotta start reading again.

  8. MashAllah, good stuff. Keep em comin

  9. to urrooj: inshallah you rock those MCATs
    to afqar al fuqaraa: that trailer was hype. im more excited for the release of the ghazali movie than i was for episode 3 of star wars.
    to elektron9, almusafir: thank you for the kind comments. this particular story is from “Anecdotes from Islam” by M. Ebrahim Khan
    to saud: uskut.
    to alti: idiot… you have the attention span of a goldfish
    to the godfather kazim: i am honored and humbled by your words kaz. your approval means more than any other xangite.

  10. if only we woke up to wake up calls like the story here… we’ve been hitting the snooze button for far too long

  11. Simply Beautiful, mashaAllah.

  12. Well said. Right on the money.

  13. Masha’allah. Its one thing to write an inspirational posts, but to impart such a variety of knowledge while doing so is quite another. Certainly helps us sinners feel as if we really can improve ourselves. Jazakullah Khair.But why do guys insist on war-mongering? tsk tsk. I supposed a retaliation is in line, but be mindful that it was you boys who provoked it. Just as guys always do. But I too must give credit where its due…SOD = awesome

  14. good post, food for thought

  15. Anonymous permalink

    Now you guys understand why everyone complains after youre jummuah that theyre late for class. lol
    I remeber Eid Salah Arlington Hts, the ISNS management was going crazy cuz youre khutbah was soo long!

  16. The story about the scholar sending sweetmeats to the guy kicks squirrel tail…

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