Saturday, February 15, 2014

Book Release - The Qur'an and the Prophet in the Writings of Shaykh Ahmad al-Alawi

New release by the Islamic Texts Society: The Qur'an and the Prophet in the Writings of Shaykh Ahmad al-Alawi, a translation of several of the Shaykh's commentaries on passages of the Qur'an and invocations of blessing on the Prophet (God bless him and give him peace). Preface by Seyyed Hossein Nasr.

ITS link:

Amazon UK link:

(Out now in UK, US release upcoming.)

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Shaykh Ahmad al-Alawi on the Spiritual Significance of Fasting, Part 1

Linguistically, to fast means to abstain from something. In the language of the Sufis, it means to abstain from everything but their Beloved. This station has its own obligations, conditions, nullifiers and recommendations, as the author [Ibn Ashir] will detail. He begins:
Fasting is obligatory in the month of Ramadan,
And recommended in the months of Rajab and Sha'ban,
The nine days of Dhul-Hijjah, especially the last,
The month of Muharram, especially the tenth.
We have already seen what the Sufis mean by fasting; the author of the 'Ayniyya [al-Jili], may God be pleased with him, said about it:
Fasting is to abstain from seeing all that is other;
And my breaking of fast will come when I meet You!
Someone else said:
In fasting from every other, my soul was truly rarefied;
In what poured over me and flowed on to others, my Zakat was truly purified.
But the abstinence of the gnostics from all that is besides God takes place in a particular Presence, namely the Presence of the Essence [hadrat al-dhat], or they might call it the Presence of the Domination [hadrat al-jabarut]. As for the Presence of the Names and Qualities, or of the Acts, it is not obligatory to look upon the Essence in such a domain because of how difficult it is to see It when it is portrayed on the canvasses of the Names and Qualities; hence in those two Presences, abstinence is only recommended. It is usually impossible for the one in this station to combine it with the other because of the turbulent waves of the Names and Qualities, all of which disturb abstinence. The same is not true of the Presence of Oneness, for it cannot be disturbed by anything; even if the one in this station tried to see something else, he would be unable to do so, because by definition it does not allow it. Were something other than God to come to his heart, he would immediately come out of the station and his fast would be broken. The Sultan of the Lovers [Ibn al-Farid] said about this:
If a desire for anyone but You were to come to me,
Even accidentally, I would call myself apostate.
Thus it is for the person in this Presence. As for the other Presences, the person in them is veiled by the appearance of the Names and Qualities, and so looking upon the Essence is only recommended for him, if he is able. Hence the author says, 'And recommended in the months of Rajab and Sha'ban.'

From Holy Gifts of Grace [al-Minah al-Quddusiyya].


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Fariduddin Attar on the Human Condition

A man is walking through a luscious garden filled with all the bounties of nature, when all of a sudden the ground beneath his feet gives way and he plummets into a hole. Grasping out blindly, he feels his hands close around the roots of a tree. Terrified, he looks below him and sees a monstrous dragon at the bottom of the pit, waiting for him to fall. He begins to pull himself up by the fortunately-placed tree roots, when his eyes happen upon a beehive lodged in the side of the hole. He lets go of the roots with one hand, and plunges his free hand into the beehive, never minding the stings of the protective bees. He draws out his hand, dripping now with honey, and licks his fingers clean of it. "Ah," he says, "what a joyous thing life is!"

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Muhammad, the Perfect Man

Announcing the release of a translation of the great scholar of Mecca, Sayyid Muhammad ibn 'Alawi al-Maliki al-Hasani's book Muhammad (God bless him and give him peace), the Perfect Man. It is a work in the Shama'il tradition, being a comprehensive summary of the attributes of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) focused especially on his perfections in all aspects of life: His gifts and attributes, his divine protection from error, his ethics and manners, his virtues and merits, his political and military leadership, his interaction with the Muslim community and education of them, and his Law.

It may be considered as a companion to works like the Shifa of Qadi Iyad, the Shama'il of Imam Tirmidhi, the Shama'il of Imam Abdullah Sirajuddin, and so on. Shaykh Muhammad ibn Alawi had great insight and baraka in his approach, and produced a beautiful and moving portrait of the Chosen One (peace and blessings be upon him) which would have become a classic of Islamic literature in any age it might have been written.This is the first English translation of the work.

Available from the publishers at:

Also on Amazon, etc.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Two Illuminations

Ibn Ata' Illah: There are illuminations that are allowed to arrive; and then there are illuminations that are allowed to enter.

Shurnubi: This means that the illuminations that come to the heart from the treasures of the unseen, i.e. divine secrets and lordly mysteries, are divided into two types: (1) illuminations that are allowed to reach the outside of the heart only, so that one sees alongside them one's soul, one's Lord, one's worldly life and one's hereafter; and (2) illuminations that are allowed to enter into the heart's core, so that the servant loves nothing else in that moment but his Master, and does nothing but what his Lord loves and approves.

Ibn Ata' Illah: It may be that illuminations come to you and find your heart enveloped in the images of created things, so that they turn back and return whence they came.

Shurnubi: That is: O murid, it may be that divine illuminations come to you, but find your heart enveloped in the images of things of this world like possessions, children and so on. So the illuminations go back to where they came from, because they are too holy to enter a heart that is sullied with other things. The author then explains that the heart must be emptied, saying:

Ibn Ata' Illah: Empty your heart of other things, and it will be filled with mystical knowledge and secrets.

Shurnubi: That is: O murid, if you wish for illuminations to enter your heart, and for mysteries and secrets to be revealed to you from your Lord, then empty your heart of the images of other things, and it will be filled with mystical knowledge and secrets.