As the new year, and new goals roll in, so does our need for self-reflection and motivation! This list of three top reads is hopefully the beginning of a more prosperous and fulfilling year, a year of finding pleasure in our purpose and strength in our spirituality insha’Allah…
- Reassurance for the Seeker – Salih al-Ja’fari (translated by Samer Dajani):
Following two years of uncertainty, loss, heightened anxieties and isolation, this piece serves as a much needed beacon of light and friendly companion through these unprecedented times. Through the voice of the Shaykh, we not only benefit from a glimpse of his knowledge and wisdom, but also witness the continuation of his guidance through the comfort of his words.
Shaykh Salih was oftentimes ‘compared to the Salaf, as if he were not of the twentieth century’, this gift of a book allows us to delve deeper into who he was, why he held such a lofty status and why he is famously known as ‘the Light of the Azhar’, may Allah ﷻ be pleased with him.
Samer Dajani’s biography of the esteemed Shaykh and translation of his commentary on forty ahadith is one that I find myself coming back to again and again. Throughout life’s tests, tribulations and moments of desperation to find Allah ﷻ, I yearn for the Shaykh’s voice of reason, comfort and truly, reassurance. There is no doubt that his ability to ground one’s thoughts, ease the fluttering of the soul and confusion of the heart shines throughout this work. We are often taught by our teachers that faith can tend to ebb and flow, this text serves as a wake up call when needed and a means to realign our intentions and goals to prosper in this life, and the next.
Reading through Shaykh Salih’s meticulously selected ahadtih, we are taken on a journey that reveals a different secret to each heart that reads it. The message that resonated with me most was that of ‘uns’ and ‘wahsha’, the latter referring to being alone and feeling of loneliness. Whereas, its opposite, uns, refers to something or someone making you feel content, and taking away the feelings of loneliness. Shaykh Salih illustrates the beauty and perfection in finding uns with Allah ﷻ. During a time in which we may be struggling to transition from isolation to a busy social reality, this reminder really does hit home. Whether it be loss of a loved one, or simply our state and character evolving, to be able to find true uns in Allah ﷻ is and will always be our ultimate goal.
Whether this will be a short, or long and tumultuous journey, Shaykh Salih describes countless methods through which we can begin and continue to fulfil our longing to achieve uns with Allah ﷻ.
- A Portrait of the Prophet, Ash-shama’il al-Muhammadiyya – Imam at-Tirmidhi (translated by Muhtar Holland)
A question that many believers find themselves contemplated during their spiritual journeys is how to increase one’s love of the beloved of Allah, ﷺ? The Prophet ﷺ forms an integral part of our faith and our spirituality, so how do we sincerely grow and nurture our love for him ﷺ, without ever physically meeting him in this world?
Oftentimes we see scholars, friends and family speak about the Prophet ﷺ with such a deep love, yearning and reverence that we crave that connection and understanding. This love for centuries has transcended generation upon generation, so how do we attain the secret to its sweetness now?
A much preferred way of increasing our love is through knowledge – learning about the one we love, being able to emulate their ways, longing for their company and remembering them during our highs and lows. This all traces back to our familiarity with their nature and character, which can only be achieved through attaining knowledge of them.
The scholars of our past have done much to preserve the sanctity of the sunnah of the beloved, ﷺ. This shama’il is a classical example of, by being the text that inspired all other shama’ils. Through this, and many others, not only does our knowledge of the Prophet ﷺ increase, but a treasure trove of love can also be found!
This particular translation begins with a heart touching foreword and introduction by Sidi Muhtar Holland. In it, we learn of Sidi’s beautiful union with the Prophet ﷺ, in which he found himself in a dream-like state witnessing the Prophet ﷺ amongst his companions, mounted on a horse on top of a hill and proceeding to march towards him. He describes this blessed experience as being the catalyst to his conversion to Islam, confimring his own intimate and lofty connection with the beloved of Allah, ﷺ. There is no doubt that this prepares the reader for what is to come, and the depth of love that pours out from this text and its carefully structured translation.
I can truly attest to the fact that this read has been one that has shaken my spirituality to the core. Imam at-Tirmidhi compiles a series of carefully selected ahadith, describing the sanctified outward nature and appearance of the Prophet ﷺ, how he carried out his daily activities and how his blessed passing occured . Through the descriptions provided by the companions (may Allah ﷻ be pleased with them), the reader undoubtedly feels as if they mourn the his (ﷺ) passing from the physical realm, alongside his blessed companions. As they grieve, we grieve. From this, one can truly relate to why Sidi Muhtar mentions that many scholars carry this text with them daily, for genuine fear of separation from their beloved, ﷺ. May we attain such an attachment to the beloved, ﷺ!
Whilst we find ourselves confused amongst the many tons of literature available to us today, a safe place to start is always the seerah. There is never enough that we can learn about the beloved ﷺ, and never enough reminders of the beauty of his character and essence of his being, ﷺ!
I pray that this book allows you to be truly encompassed by his presence, in good times and bad. I pray it allows you to comprehend his stature, his eloquence and his unconditional love for you, for he is always with us, ﷺ.
- Man and Allah’s Justice on Earth – Imam Sa’id Ramadan al-Buti (translated by Mahdi Lock)
The problem of evil is an age old issue that we find scholars and philosophers from all traditions and religions trying to answer. It is very rarely the case that one comes across a work dedicated to putting the believer’s mind at ease on this matter, in such simple terms.
We may have on one or multiple occasions questioned the idea of where Allah’s ﷻ justice lies in this world, and why the disobedient seem to prosper while trials and tribulations afflict those who try to tread the straight path. Imam al-Buti experienced students and believers asking him these questions on such a large number of occasions, that he created this vital work to present us with various scientific answers necessary to set our hearts and minds at ease.
Often when we experience or see such horrific instances of suffering we begin to have concerns around receiving Allah’s ﷻ Mercy, why we may feel as if we may not be entitled to or excluded from it, or why others benefit, whilst we seem to fall further and further into despair. However, as society becomes more judgemental, these doubts and questions are left to fester in our minds without ever being addressed. This can have detrimental effects on our inner state and our belief in Allah ﷻ. Imam al-Buti makes clear that these questions are not unusual, he elaborates on the various stages and states the questioner may be in and the need to identify the underlying cause of the doubts to be able to answer them adequately.
This essential work goes on to touch on the value of tests and trials in our life, what purpose they serve and why every believer must endure to be able to see any real benefits or rewards. In times of heightened confusion and scepticism, we are presented with factual and evidence based arguments, in a clear and simple way. The language and context of arguments allows for all to benefit and be reminded of the reality of this life, our purpose in serving Allah ﷻ and the true nature of slavehood. Imam al-Buti reminds the reader that everything belongs to Allah ﷻ, we come into the world with nothing and similarly leave with nothing.
Whilst straight to point and direct, Imam al-Buti’s approach to his arguments are filled with reassurance and hope. Following his explanations to our questions, he fills the reader with the ultimate hope of attaining the sweetest and most sacred bond of love with Allah ﷻ. The one who is tested so ardently, has something others do not – the opportunity to grow closer to our creator. The lover of Allah ﷻ does not experience a test without increasing in his love or yearning for Allah ﷻ. Imam al-Buti reminds us of the beauty which we cannot always see, but can always aim to achieve when we are feeling at our lowest. This work is the medicine needed to uplift the soul, to motivate it to continue to strive in His way and for His sake – because the reward will come, we must have faith in Allah ﷻ , His promise to us and the reality of the final day.
All three reads provide us with the tools necessary to strive for better in our knowledge, our understanding and our love for this beautiful religion. Whether feeling lost or in need of some motivation, these words are means for us to rediscover our light and realise the potential each of us have in the role that Allah ﷻ has bestowed upon us! Happy reading!
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