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Saturday, May 25, 2013

The importance of adab for the seeker of the divine

Adab can be translated several ways: deportment, manners and etiquette are some of the possible translations.

The word to begin بدأ  is the word adab backwards. So if you begin with adab you will reach your aim. But if you have no adab then you have not begun the path. How you start your journey will have a bearing on your final destination. Ibn Ata Allah Al-Askandari (may Allah show him mercy) said, “He who is illumined at the beginning; is illumined at the end.” That is why beginnings are so important.

Consider the English saying, ‘Start as you mean to go on.’ Someone who proceeds correctly will succeed correctly. 

Elsewhere Ibn Ata Allah Al-Askandari (may Allah show him mercy) described Adab as, “Correct behavior means that you are occupied with commendable things.” Use your time as a means to benefit your afterlife. Someone asked him what he meant. He said, “This means you observe correct behavior with Allah both inwardly and outwardly. If you conduct yourself in this way, you will have correct behavior, even if your speech is not of an Arab.”

Yahya Ibn Muadh (may Allah show him mercy) said, “One who is well versed in correct behavior toward Allah (the Exalted) will become one of those who he loves.” 

Adab means to put something in its proper place and the opposite is oppression. There is adab in everything we do and the manner in which it is carried out. If an action is carried out without adab of the Sheikh then we need to accuse ourselves of failure. Essentially Adab is understanding of the manner of the implementation of the Sunnah and that can only be taken from a Sheikh.

The taking of the oath/Bayah from a spiritual master of our Sheikh is adherence to the spiritual way of Imam Abu Hassan Al-Shadhali (may Allah show him mercy). It is not mere lip service. It is a serious commitment to follow this way and forsake what we knew before.

We try to emulate him because he is our exemplar in his role of spiritual inheritor of the Prophetic legacy, “The scholars are inheritors of the Prophets.” (Muslim).
The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) is described as Aswatu Hassan/The greatest example in the Quran but for who? For he who want to meet his Lord. 

Bad adab can be in the manner in which the seeker reacts towards his Sheikh, his brethren and worse of all Allah (the Exalted). This can be manifest when the seeker dislikes or even questions the decree of Allah (the Exalted). Allah has been looking after you all your life, so why do you question him now when things do go to your plan? Everything is going according to His plan so relax!

Dhu Al-Noon Al-Misri (may Allah show him mercy) said, “If the beginner, on the Sufi path, turns away from correct behavior; he is sent back to where hence he came.”

We need to vigilant not to commit sins and get sent back to square one. If we do then we repent and renew our commitment to obedience.

We miss basics when we cheat, lie and steal. All of which belie the one we claim to follow (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him).

Adab can be defined as excellent conduct and the only place you can find that is the Sunnah. Have the best adab with your Sheikh, your brothers and sisters on this path, your family, your colleagues, and the people you meet and in dhikr gatherings. One of the adabs that is missing is in dhikr gatherings. When people are easily distracted by text messages and phones.

If you face someone and turn away then it is bad adab. When you are in dhikr gatherings you do not turn away but focus on the meaning of the words that you are saying. Adab with the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) is following in his footsteps in all matters. This is all easy to say but hard to do.

Sheikh Muhammad said in his directions for seekers, “Do not be distracted by others on board.” This could be people on the same path or other people who harm you.
The hadith that would solve ninety percent of our problems if it was adhered to is, “From the perfection of one Islam is to leave that which does not concern you.” Avoid debates, arguements and focus on seeking knowledge.  Know what to do if you make a mistake in the prayer.

Imam As-Shafi (may Allah be pleased with him) was asked how he attained such good character. He said that he took his critics seriously. 

Many of us think we are good but we have to honest with ourselves and look deeply – ask yourself painful questions.

“Be in the world as you are a stranger or a wayfarer.”  (Bukhari) This is the hadith that a seeker needs to adhere to. He knows that he is a passing by this world, stopping for a while and moving on. 

We are all travelling this path and we are all journeying. The seeker on the spiritual path begins right so he can end right.

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