Monday, November 10, 2008

In Quest Of Knowledge (PART 4&5)

Special Heavenly Beneficence

We talked of different matters for some time, and then he said, with great emotion:

“My son, Allah has listened to your prayer, and your wishes have been granted. Look at that fine sturdy camel! Anon you will mount it, and set upon your journey o holy Madinah. Since you have left your home with the object of acquiring knowledge of the Hadith of the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, you are actually his guest. We shall look after you throughout the journey, and shall feel special pleasure in providing for all your comforts. And we shall ourselves take you to Imam Malik”. And I could see that the old gentleman’s face was really lit with the spiritual pleasure he was inwardly feeling at the thought of being of help to me.

Then all the camels were lined up, and the old gentleman himself made me mount the particular camel, showing all respect and reverence for me as if I were an elder and already a scholar and, then invoking Allah’s blessings, the caravan set out.

Recitation of the Holy Quran on the Journey

No sooner did the caravan start than I began reciting the Holy Quran, and I kept this on day and night. How blessed was the journey to holy Madinah in which I finished one complete recitation of the Quran during the day and another during the night, and so by the time I reached Madinah I had completed sixteen recitation in all, and may Allah be praised, for all praises are due to Him alone.

In Quest Of Knowledge (PART 3)

A Kind Host

My first halt after leaving Makkah was at a place called Zu Tuwa where I came upon an encamped caravan. I greeted the entire company and, while going round, saw an elderly gentleman with a noble mien who took most kindly to me and began to insist that I join him and those with him in their meal. Being thus urged, I sat down, and began to eat without standing on any ceremony. I noticed that they were eating with all their five fingers, while I had been used to eating with three fingers only. However, in order not to embarrass them on finding themselves doing differently from their guest, I too began quietly to eat with my five fingers. After I had finished, took some water, and uttered the usual after-meals prayer:

“All praise is due to Allah (alone), He Who provided us with food and drink, and thanks also be to Him for having made us of those who submit to Him (and are therefore Muslims)”

And then, turning to my host, uttered some appropriate words of thanks. When everybody had finished, and general conversation ensued, the old gentleman said to me:
“Son, you are from Makkah aren’t you?”
“Yes”, I replied, adding, “Makkah is my home indeed”.
“And you are of the Quraish?”
“Yes, I am that too, but how did you know that I come from Makkah and am from the Quraish?”
“That was not so hard to guess, son. After all, I have spent a lifetime roving around. From your dress I concluded that you were a town-dweller while from the way readily closed in with our invitation to eat with us I concluded that you were from the Quraish. Those who so freely share the meals of others are also generous I sharing their own with others, and that is a special noble trait of the Quraish.”
“May I ask, sir”, I then asked, “where you hail from?”
“My home, son, is the holy city of Allah’s Prophet, Madinah al-Munawwarah”.
“Then, can you tell me, sir, who is the most learned person there?”
“The most learned person there is the chief of the Bani Aslah, Malik ibn Anas, may Allah heap more honour on him”.

I said ‘Ameen’ to hat prayer and, uttering a sigh, added, “I cannot tell you, sir, how eager I am to get to him. It is Allah alone who could fulfil my desire.”
“That too I could guess from your talk, and I could tell from your refined manners that it is the desire to acquire knowledge which alone has made you leave your home”.
The old gentleman spoke very tenderly, and his words were full of affection. He again said to me, most sweetly, “My son, yours is a sacred purpose, and so Allah will not let you go unfriended”.

And while he was saying this, I could see that he was experiencing great spiritual happiness at the thought that Allah had given him an opportunity of playing host, and of being help, to one bound on a mission to acquire knowledge of Hadith.

In Quest Of Knowledge (PART 2)

PART 2: A Tearful Goodbye

My mother’s heart melted, and tears began to flow from her eyes, and she replied, in great emotion, “No, my child, that is not the case. What you ask for is, actually the very answer to my fondest dreams and prayers about you. Little do you know how often I have kept awake nights, beseeching Allah Almighty to bestow on my beloved son the richest of learning about His noble Prophet, on whom be peace. I have prayed to Him again and again, lifting up the tattered forepart of my shirt in humble supplication, to grant you that learning of light of which may illumine the path of His creatures for so long as the world endures. If I have looked worried, my darling son, it is not for what appears to you to be the reason. It is because I have nothing at all to give you for your expenses. There aren’t even any food grains in the house for preparing something for you to eat on the way, nor any money with which to meet your needs”. And so saying, she broke down utterly and shed profuse tears.

However, with all this display of emotion, she was made of sterner stuff and had great inner strength, and was a person who could be both soft or determined and cheerfully make any sacrifices for the Faith. She soon collected herself, and went on to add:

“Very well, my son. Have no fears. He in Whose Path you are venturing forth will Himself make due provision for you and look to all your needs. It is He Who, in His inscrutable ways, fulfils the needs of His faithful servants in manners we humans cannot even think of ”.

Then she handed to me two Yemeni sheets, and said,
“Go now, my son. I consign you to the care of Him Who has given you to me as a trust from Him. I feel sure that He will not let you go waste”. Then she again patted me on the head, embraced me and, after wiping off her tears, raised both her hands heavenward, and prayed as follows:

“Dear Almighty God, I am sending out my only son, my own flesh and blood, in Your Path, to acquire learning about Your beloved Prophet (p.b.u.h). Dear God, just as You have granted my humble prayers in bestowing on him a yearning for knowledge, in the same way be his Protector and Provider and Guardian. Hold him by Your unseen Hand, and hasten the day when my fondest hopes and aspirations about him shall have borne fruit and when my heart will be filled with joy on seeing him return laden with the wealth of knowledge”.

Then with another kindly pat on my back she bade me farewell, praying once again that I might, by the Grace of God, shine like a sun on the horizon of knowledge, and recited the following Quranic verse:

‘Allah is the best Protector and He is (at the same time) the most Merciful of all mercy-givers’ [xii:64]

And then she bade me final goodbye and thus, with my mother’s prayers as my only stock of capital and my hands empty of any worldly pelf, I set forth, trusting solely in God.

In Quest Of Knowledge (PART 1)

In Quest of Knowledge: Imam Syafi'e (Abu Asad)

PART 1: Thirst For Knowledge

It was from my very childhood that I had had a longing for acquiring religious knowledge. It had not taken me long to learn much. I had learnt the Holy Quran by heart, as also many hadiths of the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h). my eagerness for more knowledge only increased with the passing of time, and whenever I heard of any scholar I became impatient to hasten to learn what I could from him.

Then, hardly beard on my chin, that I began to beg my aged mother to let me venture forth in quest of more learning. She was a widow, and there were just the two of us in the house, with me as her soul, rather tender support. She would listen to my entreaties, and keep quite.

I persisted, and my eagerness at last seemed to be winning her over. But I noticed that she had lost air as if something was weighing on her mind, and so one day I caught hold of one of her hands in mine and, placing my own head on one of her shoulders, said, “Mother, dearest, if the prospect of my going away worries you so much, I shall give up the idea, and be content with whatever knowledge it may please God to enable me to pick up locally, staying on just to be by your side and serving you as best I can”