Company of the Holy Prophet-SAWS
Translated Speech of
His Eminence Ameer Muhammad Akram Awan
Shaikh Silsilah Naqshbandiah Owaisiah
Friday, 3rd January 2003
The Holy Prophet-saws has said, “Of all of the times that have passed or will come to pass, my time is the best, then of those who follow and then of those who follow.” The era of Companions is the time of the Holy Prophet-saws, followed by the Taba'in and the Taba' Taba'in. These three times are known as Khair ul-Quroon, i.e., the best of all times. This indicates that the golden era of the Holy Prophet-saws is the best period and after that is the time of the Taba'in, although many senior Companions were still alive during that period. They were exemplary human beings, exemplary Muslims of the Holy Quran and the lucky people, who absorbed the lights and blessing directly from the Companions. There is only one link -the Companions- between them and the Holy Prophet‑saws, still their era cannot compare with the Prophetic time. Similarly, many senior Taba'in are found during the period of Taba' Taba'in, the lucky group who had only two links between them and the Holy Prophet-saws, that of the Companions and the Taba'in, but the Holy Prophet‑saws has said that their time cannot compare with the time of the Taba'in. From here we derive a principle that, as time draws away from the Holy Prophet‑saws its blessings decrease correspondingly. If you count the first three eras as three centuries, the time has moved away further by twelve hundred years from that blessed period, because it is the fifteenth century now.
The golden era, the first three centuries, also known as Khair ul Quroon was indeed a very blessed period. The Companions needed no special effort for the attainment of Prophetic blessings. It required only one glance after accepting the Faith. Either he saw the Holy Prophet-saws once, or was seen once by the Holy Prophet-saws, the whole process was immediately completed and he instantly became a Companion. Now, someone other than a Companion may undertake constant worship and endeavour, die a million times in the Cause of Allah, meditate for a whole lifetime, still he won’t become a Companion. Only that person, who received a glance of grace and kindness, could become a Companion. There was no restriction during the Prophetic time that people of a particular gender, social status, affluence or age could become Companions. On the contrary, it was the result of only a single Prophetic glance. Anyone, male or female, rich or poor, young or old, scholar or illiterate, whosoever found that glance was blessed with the level of Companionship. During that period, this blessing was not just being distributed; it was an actual outpouring of blessings. Their lives were reformed because of the company of the Holy Prophet-saws. It is not correct that someone became noble first, then made an effort, worshipped, strove hard and finally became a Companion. On the contrary, he became a Companion first, and then his whole life changed. It was the question of just one Prophetic glance; it revived the spiritually dead, giving them a quality of life that started stimulating others. Those who were far astray themselves, became the guides of a whole world. The Companions absorbed so much of blessings from a single Prophetic glance that anybody who came to them, even for one moment, became a Taba’i. The word Taba'i also signifies a complete reformation of life. Western writers and Orientalists are amazed; after all, what did Prophet Muhammad-saws do to a nation whose every member believed in individual existence, whose profession, occupation and hobby comprised murder, plunder and arson, a nation that followed no law or rules? How did he mould them into a nation, whose every member was a symbol of sacrifice for others, who became the torchbearers of truth and righteousness, and a formidable force against oppression and evil in the whole world? The only thing the holy Prophet Muhammad‑saws did was to make them his Companions. Apparently they were the same people, but they had completely changed from within. Those who once mugged others, now derived pleasure in earning and giving to others generously. These blessings were transferred in their completeness to the next era. For that reason the Holy Prophet-saws included it in the best of times and graded it the best period after his own. Anyone who sat in the company of any Companion for a few moments became a Taba'i. He absorbed those feelings, blessings and lights in his heart that completely reformed his life. The Taba'in also distributed this beneficence with the same strength. Anyone finding their company even for a few moments became a Taba' Taba'i. He was similarly blessed with the lights and inner feelings of the heart, and each cell of his body started resonating with Allah’s Zikr. Each organ of his body including his flesh, skin, bones and blood started remembering Allah, his life changed and he became a lighthouse for others, like a star shining in the heavens of guidance. Therefore, all (or a majority of the Salasil of Tasawwuf) originate from Hadhrat Ali-rau. The reason being that during the golden period of Hadhrat Abu Bakr-rau every one was a Companion with an illuminated bosom. This situation persisted during the times of Hadhrat Umar Faruq-rau and Hadhrat Usman-rau, but after the time of Hadhrat Ali-rau, not everyone possessed this blessing. After the Taba' Taba'in, only some people received this blessing, because the era of its free distribution had ended. Now, everyone wasn’t as fortunate; only those who desired and strove for this blessing could acquire it, and subsequently, even fewer acquired it from them. That laid the foundations of the Salasil of Tasawwuf (The Sufi Orders). Prior to this, what was the need to establish these Orders, when everyone was a Zakir with illuminated bosom and thus a Sufi? These Orders were established after the time of the Taba' Taba'in, because there were only a few individuals, who longed to acquire these blessings and went over to the company of those who possessed it. But now, company alone couldn’t infuse these lights, they had to make an effort to cleanse and polish their hearts. And thus the tale progresses, replete with wondrous incidents depicting the changes in the lives of people.
Habib Ajmi-rua was a famous saint (Wali), whose name appears in almost every Silsilah after Khawajah Hassan Basri-rua, and people drew beneficence from him. If you read about his life, he lent money on interest. He was a very hard task master. Any needy soul, who borrowed a small sum from him even once, never got out of his clutches for the remainder of his life, because he would continue multiplying the amount by adding compound interest. His wife always forbade him, ‘Your cruelty would destroy us some day. Usury is prohibited in itself, but the oppression and wickedness with which you recover the money is an even greater cruelty. This attitude would surely summon disaster for us.’ Once he went to the house of one of his creditors where the husband had died and the poor widow was living with her small children. The family was without food for several days, and a butcher had given her a piece of meat to feed the children. She was beginning to cook when he arrived and harshly demanded the return of his interest. She told him, “Presently we have absolutely nothing in the house, but we would surely return your money when Allah gives us.” “What is hidden here?” he asked. “That’s a piece of meat someone has given us in the Name of Allah, because the children are hungry since the last two days.” “What a white lie!” he shouted, “You are poor enough to devour my money, while rich enough to eat meat!” With this, he snatched the meat and headed home, leaving the destitute family crying with helplessness and hunger. Reaching home, he gave it to his wife to cook, who said, “I’m sure you have again snatched it from someone today.” “That is none of your business! Just cook it!” he replied. She put it in the cooking pot, added spice and flavourings, and left it on the stove to brew. After a while, when she opened the lid, she found nothing but puss in the pot. She threw it before him and wailed, “This probably is the last warning from Allah! Initially, the meat in the pot has turned into puss, next is the turn of our own flesh. Even this is His Mercy that He is warning us.” That was that! The man melted from inside. Without a word he rose and went straight to Khawajah Hassan Basri. There, he started Allah’s Zikr and lost himself in Allah and His love.
Khawajah Hassan Basri once needed to go to a town across the river and arranged a boat for himself. Meanwhile, his student Habib Ajmi was also going in that direction but he was so absorbed within his Zikr that he walked across the water just as he was walking on land and crossed the river, even the sole of his shoes didn’t get wet! People said to Khawajah Hassan Basri, “You are his Shaikh! He didn’t need a boat, and the water held him.” He replied, “He is intoxicated by the love of Allah and is walking under its effect, senseless and totally absorbed. By Allah’s grace I have taken much more but I still have my senses. That is the real excellence, no Prophet ever lost his senses. So let him go, but arrange a boat for me.”
These were Prophetic lights and blessings that initiated real revolutions, wherever they reached. I forget the name of another Wali, who was the Shaikh of a Silsilah. He was a mugger and robber of such notoriety that his name frightened travelling caravans. Once while he was waiting in ambush, an elderly person was reciting the Quran in the approaching caravan. When the caravan grew near, he heard him recite, Has that time not come yet when the hearts of believers should humble towards Allah’s Zikr? That was the last moment of his last evil adventure! Leaving everything there, he set out in search of a Shaikh who could teach him Allah’s Zikr and ultimately became the Shaikh of a Silsilah. This sure prescription and perfect cure transformed the nomads of Arabia, through their perfect mentor-saws, into guides of the whole world. They started curing ailing hearts and reviving dying souls. This excellence persisted during the time of the Companions, the Taba'in, and the Taba' Taba'in. Even after them, there remained such great people in every era, who initiated revolutions and changed the course of time, but they were very few. The excellence to illuminate the heart of every visitor had ended with the Taba' Taba'in.
History bears witness that, in later times, no Shaikh has illuminated the hearts of all his visitors. It is possible that all of his five hundred thousand students were reformed, it is also believable that they acquired religious knowledge, learnt and practised oral Zikr and became noble. However, there may be only five who experienced spiritual feelings, illuminated Lata'if and acquired meditations. Gradually, the number of such fortunate people became even fewer. Scan the pages of history of the past fourteen hundred years! The Sufis agree that, Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani-rua is blessed with the highest spiritual status and stations, in the whole Ummah, after the Taba' Taba'in. But, how many of his students did he grant the Robe of Permission and how many people derived spiritual beneficence from him? It is correct that innumerable people benefited from him, reformed themselves, became righteous, acquired religious knowledge from him, but only a select few received the wealth of spiritual beneficence from him.
A vendor used to sell bread. He would preserve his daily leftover stock and sell it for double the price the next day. If he sold the fresh ones at fifty Paisa per bread, he sold the stale ones for a Rupee each. Someone asked him, “Are you crazy? Who would buy stale bread at double the price of fresh?” He replied, “This bread is not stale. It is nearer to the time of the holy Prophet-saws, by one full day, than the one you consider fresh. If you think it’s stale, don’t take it; I would eat it myself.” If you take three centuries of Khair ul‑Quroon out of fourteen centuries, it is after eleven centuries that this wondrous event has repeated itself. Owaisiah Mashaikh have come before also, I have mentioned a dozen; Shah Wali Ullah has mentioned many Salasil in his al-Intebah fi Salasil Aulia Allah. Even that is not complete, because they number in hundreds and cannot be counted. He writes about the Owaisiah Nisbat, “They are strange people. When they disappear, they completely vanish from the surface of the earth. It is as if a flowing river is absorbed by a desert and it just vanishes. But when it springs forth, it inundates the whole area, saturates everything and blossoms everywhere.”
It is strange that eleven centuries after Khair ul‑Quroon, Allah granted this blessing to Hadhrat-rua at the end of the fourteenth century. I have mentioned this fact many times. Some religious scholars have criticised me and have written to me that I aggrandize my Shaikh under the influence of my love and respect for him. I replied, ‘Please show me a single person of such eminence in history after the Taba Taba'in.’ - nobody responded!
It is an historic fact that, once again, Allah raised a servant of the Holy Prophet Muhammad-saws, who infused spiritual feelings into the hearts of everyone who visited him. He illuminated the heart of every male, female, young, old, educated, illiterate, wealthy and poor, who came to him. This Sunnah was prevalent during the Prophetic era, the time of the Companions and the Taba'in. The Taba' Taba'in similarly acquired this blessing, but the later generations were not so blessed. If the muggers and robbers of that age were reformed, we the muggers and robbers of this age have also been reformed. If the reformation of the Arabs of that time was a miracle, the reformation of people like me is also a great Karamah of the present time, - this is not a small event. Of course, the passage of time and distancing from the Prophetic era has its own effect, and this fact must be recognised. By Allah’s Grace I have spent fifty years of my life in this line, this is indeed a long way. I have observed during these fifty years the effects of time and the deterioration in the qualities of men. Some of those students with whom Hadhrat-rua had worked hard for years and had taken them to high spiritual stations also fell prey to the fallacy of their own greatness and were destroyed. Hadhrat-rua left this world in 1984 and that was twenty years ago. Leave aside the effect of time and the reduction in the capacity and resolve of men. I have been observing with surprise why some of our students with whom we have worked hard for decades suddenly slip back to zero. I have been trying to figure out the reason, there may be some fault in me; probably, this could be the effect when men like me occupy the seat of Mashaikh. Then I remembered that such accidents had happened during the time of Hadhrat-rua also.
I remembered a story that Hadhrat-rua used to narrate, some of the friends who are sitting here may have heard it too. There was a criminal who had devised a way to escape the law. After every crime, he would escape to the circle of a Sufi saint and stay there as a student. There, he learnt the names of the Lata'if and of the Maraqbat, obviously with no noble intent, only because he just happened to be there. His crimes continued to grow and he realised that his present hideout wasn’t safe anymore, so he fled to another state, where he disguised himself as a Sufi saint and setup a cottage in a jungle on the bank of a river. Gradually, people learnt that a man of God had come to their area, so some of them came to him. He knew the names of the Lata'if and of the Maraqbat up to Salik al‑Majzubi, so he put them to Allah’s Zikr. Some of his students were blessed with Salik al‑Majzubi and were also blessed with Kashf. They thought, ‘We have been blessed with such high stations, let’s try to see the spiritual status of our Shaikh, after all, he must be far ahead of us. Let’s see how Divine lights descend on his Qalb.’ They tried their best, with their maximum spiritual ability, but could observe nothing (because there was hardly anything to observe) and they felt disturbed. One day, they respectfully submitted to their Shaikh, ‘We have tried our best but we have not been able to identify your spiritual stations, may we request you to tell us yourself.’ Hearing this, he wept and replied, “I cannot understand the Favour of Allah and kindness of the Holy Prophet-saws. What to talk of spiritual stations, even my Lata'if are not illuminated, I am nothing but a runaway mugger and thief from the next state! I have only disguised myself as a Sufi and had thought that I shall thus keep you falsely occupied, but Prophetic blessings started reaching you directly through your sincere desire. I have no contribution in your excellence; here I am, as empty as I was, ever before!” Hadhrat-rua said, there and then did they all raise their hands and humbly supplicated, “O Allah! Please do not deprive the person who has brought us to You!” In an instant, Divine Grace pulled him up to the highest spiritual stations. Hadhrat-rua had narrated this incident many times. Then did I realise that this excellence is related to the desire of the longing heart. ‘I comfort the one who craves for Me. I Myself bring near a heart that beats with My sincere desire.’ How beautifully does this incident illustrate the interpretation of this Divine verse! It’s been a whole lifetime now. People of eminence, about whom we could never imagine, forgot Allah’s Greatness and fell prey to the fallacy of their own grandeur. If one can save only himself, even that is a supreme Divine favour. It is my responsibility to teach Allah’s Zikr to everyone who comes, but my trust has been breached so many times that I don’t feel like trusting anyone anymore.
Someone wrote to Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi, ‘I habitually commit a sin of backbiting people. I indulge into this nefarious practice wherever I sit, and feel totally helpless that I cannot get rid of it.’ He replied, ‘Start highlighting the disadvantages and evil effects of this sin before others and invite them to repentance. Nobody else may accept, but you would surely acquire the strength to leave this evil habit. It will go away.’ But now even this formula seems to have lost its effect. How many people go for Tableegh (preaching) for forty day, four months or even a year, but return unaffected! A person would neither refrain from telling lies nor from under tipping the scales. He returns with even less virtue than he had carried forth! Even this sure prescription of religious scholars, ‘repentance through preaching’, seems to be failing now. The Gracious Lord said, ‘Surely, Salah prohibits from lewdness and evil’, yet apparently, even the most adherent to prayers are sailing in the same boat with the evil doers. Mosques are overflowing at the times of Salah, but does anyone trust a storekeeper who offers prayers regularly? Does he speak the truth? No! Even Salah has not produced any change in him!
Allah has made Hajj an obligatory worship. The Holy Prophet-saws has said that the person who performs Hajj even once in his lifetime becomes like a newly born baby - absolved of all sins and evil. The meaning of this absolution is that now he starts treading the path of virtue. People go for Hajj and return as unaffected as if they had gone for a picnic. They go with pomp and show and return with greater pomp and show; they are garlanded, bands play welcome tunes and feasts are arranged as if they have returned after conquering some enemy fort. Exorbitant expenditure is incurred on departure and arrival ceremonies. Hajj has become more of a ritual than worship. Gratitude and humility give way to exhibitionism, and the person becomes even worse than before. Now, people die when they take a medicine once used to revive the dead. Remoteness from the time of the Holy Prophet-saws has ushered an era of strange deprivation. There was a time when Kufr, hiding in any corner of the world, trembled due to the greatness of Muslims. Now non-believers kill Muslims for game and sport, like hunting in the jungle; like farmers killing jackals. They drag Muslims out of their homes and just kill them. It is because the gallantry and valour of a Muslim depended on the strength of his relationship with his Holy Prophet Muhammad-saws. Our hearts have since broken this relationship, we are left with only rituals without reality, our hollow claims have brought us nothing but shame and disgrace.
If this be the condition of today’s people, whom we have tried to reform for twenty or thirty years, what would be the condition of those who have had no such exposure? One of our associates is a somewhat difficult person. He lived in the house of one of my friends who was a judge of the High Court. He neither paid the rent nor vacated the house. Once he shot the judge’s dog. The judge felt duly annoyed and came to me complaining, ‘He is your student, performs Allah’s Zikr and yet he has killed my precious dog!’ I told him, ‘You should thank Allah that he performs Zikr, else he would have shot you instead of the dog!’ But, if such is his condition with Zikr, what would it be without Zikr?’ If the disease of a sick person is increasing even when he is under medication, what would be his condition if he stops taking the medicine? However, those who are sincere in their desire, are reassured by the Divine promise, ‘I would certainly show My Ways to the heart that desires Me.’
My brother! Everybody condemns the world, yet covets it at the same time. Everyone, even the scholar and the spiritual leader, highlights its evils yet hankers after it. The disciple donates ten rupees to his Shaikh to buy his prayers to amass a million, while he also has the worldly benefit in his sight. Without exception, everyone decries it, but they are also dying for its attainment. The greed for worldly accomplishments has taken the place of Divine love. The obsession for worldly possessions has taken the place of love for the Holy Prophet-saws and the desire to acquire his blessings. While, in actual fact, each drop of water and every grain of food is divinely apportioned, and everybody most certainly gets his share under all circumstances. ‘No soul can leave this world before consuming the last drop and grain of its apportioned sustenance.’ Nobody consumes anyone else’s sustenance, nor can anyone leave his own behind. Yet, everyone is amassing wealth and possessions by every possible means, and is still out to snatch anything from each other. What would be the result? The politicians, military rulers and the scholars are looting, all alike. The teachers are receiving their salaries regularly, but don’t teach. The shopkeeper sells items of ten rupees worth for fifty rupees. When someone returns from Hajj, people don’t ask whether he performed the Hajj rites and rituals properly, they ask him how much gold and merchandise he has brought. All of this is going on Allah is so Gracious that He keeps the lamp of His guidance shining through the darkness of every age. During these days, He has re-ignited the lamp of the Owaisiah Connection. How much light can anyone draw, depends on his desire and kismet!
This is my request as well as my prayer that Allah grants you sincere desire. Try to make your desire pure. One may not be loyal to anyone in this world, but one should be loyal at least to Allah and his Holy Prophet-saws. To err is one thing, but to completely malign your intention is something else. To err is human: one should acknowledge one’s mistake, repent and seek Allah’s forgiveness. But it is totally unfair to use Allah’s name to extract money or to establish one’s own greatness or to govern others. It is Allah’s favour if someone is assigned a duty, he should realize that his responsibility has increased; he shouldn’t try to become a demigod himself. This time is far from the time of the Holy Prophet-saws, and there is deterioration in the behaviours of people. We are under a test; only those who trust Allah will succeed, while those who remain uncertain will be the losers, because no one can help in this trial except Allah. I request you to purify your desire, this is certainly within your control. Make your desire and quest pure, Allah will reward you abundantly. I pray that Allah grants pure and sincere desire to all and rewards everyone with His love and nearness to Him as well as the nearness to the Holy Prophet‑saws. Ameen.