The London retreat is always, in my mind, a special kind of retreat. Instead of leaving our busy lives and retiring from the world for a few days as we do on the residential retreats, we are called to make space in the midst of our busyness. Great light pours into our everyday lives if we do so, and London, of all places, harbours a sanctuary. Our Shaykh Hazrat Hamid spends the week with us, meditating, leading the prayers and meeting all who need to see him for advice.
The effect of the retreat builds over the week as the blessings accumulate. There is a quality of ebb and flow, as the serenity of the day-time prayers and practices deepens to the powerful quality of the evening meditation and prayers. The retreat is open every day throughout the day, and every evening, giving great opportunity to all students to deepen their practices and refine their adab (spiritual courtesy).
The other joy of the retreat is catching up with each other, our fellow travellers from across the country – as many students from other parts of the UK travel down to meet with the Shaykh. There is a festive feeling in the social spaces, open smiling faces.
This year I was only able to attend for a few days, and every hour felt precious. The contrast with everyday life can be stark at times – particularly if you are working. It can be hard to leave and return to daily responsibilities – but the light returns with us, illuminating our way and granting fresh strength to persevere with our practices.
This February retreat was held at Sukaina’s house and went smoothly thanks to the tireless generosity of Sukaina and everyone who helped with organisation, donations, cooking food and housekeeping.
who comes into this world
brings a reason for living with them.
Those who strive not
with deeds towards it
are among the living dead.
Drench this universe
with the rain of your actions.
Only those who sow the seeds
reap the fruit of bliss.
The destination is reached only
after suffering the hardships
of the journey.
Those who know the reality
of suffering are the ones
who will know joy.
carries a message of joy,
just like winter
holds out the promise of spring. He who flows on
like a river
is oblivious to the plains and mountains.
There is a treasure
that is distributed with abandon, in
the late hours of each night.
He who is awake, receives it
and he who sleeps,
loses it. ”
[from Hazrat Azad Rasool, The search for truth (2010) p xx.]
One of our students, Nasser Gazi, has launched a website offering services as a London Wedding Photographer. If you have any requirements for wedding photography, please do get in touch with him.
I remember the trees of my childhood,
Elm trees that are no longer there –
I remember how they made me feel good
When now I fall into despair.
I remember my school and its teachers
As a place that was happy and kind –
I remember the summer sun breezes
In a world that now seems to go blind.
I remember the fields and the hillsides,
The butterflies bright patterned wings –
I remember the wind on the bike rides
And how I would play on the swings.
If you wish your path to be shortened in order to attain realisation swiftly, hold fast to what is ordained (in the Qur’an) and to what is particularly recommended concerning voluntary observances [that is, rites and other observances which are not legally obligatory but which the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) strongly recommended]; learn outer knowledge as is indispensable for worshipping God, but do not linger on it, since you are not required to study this deeply; a deepening of inner knowledge is what you need; and fight against covetousness; then you will see marvels. “Noble character” is nothing else but the tasawwuf of the Sufis, just as it is the religion of religious men. […] Continue reading
Dhikrullah (remembrance of Allah) is of many types and forms including Qur’anic recitation, prayer (salat), supplication (dua), studying Islamic knowledge, meditation (muraqaba), sending salutations (durud sharif) on the Prophet (s.a.w.s.).
The importance, loftiness and benefits of dhikr are stressed repeatedly in both the Majestic Qur’an and hadith sharif. Allah (exalted is He) stresses that we should remember him often and in all circumstances:
O you who believe! Remember Allah with much remembrance; and glorify Him morning and evening. (Qur’an 33: 35, 41-42)
Lo! In the creation of the Heavens and the earth and in the night and day are tokens (of His sovereignty) for men of understanding, such as remember Allah, in standing, sitting, and reclining. (Qur’an 3:190-191)
Then do ye remember Me I will remember you. (Qur’an 2:152) Continue reading
Those treading the Path should strive to follow the method of the Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.) in everything. Following the Sunna creates much light in the heart. Have patience when anyone says something that displeases you. Do not say anything in haste, especially in anger. Be very careful in the state of anger. Never consider yourself to be perfect or one who possess excellence. Think before speaking.
When you are convinced that in what you intend to say there is no harm, and in it is some benefit or need regarding the world or religion, then only proclaim it. Never speak ill even of an evil person. Do not listen to evil. Do not criticise a dervish who may be overwhelmed by some ecstatic condition and may be saying something that, in your opinion, seems to be in conflict with the religion. Never despise any Muslim even if he happens to be a sinner. Never yearn nor have greed for wealth and honour. As much as is possible remain in the company of those who engage in remembrance. Such association creates light, courage, and love in the heart.
Do not expend much effort in worldly affairs. Do not meet people unnecessarily. When necessity compels you to meet others, meet them kindly and display good manners. As soon as the need has been fulfilled withdraw from company. Remain aloof especially from acquaintances. Search for the companionship of the people of Allah (the pious and saintly ones) or meet with such persons who are not well known to you. Harm from such people is slight. If some spiritual condition occurs in your heart or some amazing knowledge enters the heart, inform your shaykh. Do not request your shaykh for some special devotional practice. Do not inform anyone besides your shaykh of the effect remembrance produces in you. Do not deceive nor beat about the bush when you have realised your error. Confess immediately. In all circumstances have trust in Allah and present your needs only to Him. Request Allah to grant you steadfastness in the religion.
From The Path to Perfection: an edited anthology of the spiritual teachings of Hakim Al-Umma Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanawi (California: White Thread Press, 2005), pp. 121-122.
May God grant you the grace of good company! A very important need of the disciple is to associate with these people. Such association makes a deep impression. It is a total attack on a person’s temperament and habits, to such an extent that a falcon, by associating with men, becomes wise, and a parrot learns to speak, while a horse, because it associates with men in its training, loses its animal traits and takes on those of men! […] Association overcomes not only innate habits but also one’s created temperament. […] Continue reading