Commentary on the Holy Quran
Recognising Sufis and the Friends of Allah
Mufti Muhammad Qasim Attari
Allah Almighty says:
وَ اصْبِرْ نَفْسَكَ مَعَ الَّذِیْنَ یَدْعُوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ بِالْغَدٰوةِ وَ الْعَشِیِّ یُرِیْدُوْنَ وَجْهَهٗ
And keep your soul familiar to those who call upon their Lord in the morning and evening, seeking His pleasure.
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 15, Surah Al- Kahf, Verse 28)
This verse was revealed when a group of people informed the Beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم that they felt ashamed when sitting amongst the poor people. They requested that whenever they came to the Beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, he should make the poor people leave so that they can then listen to him. As a result, this verse was revealed, and the Beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم was informed to attach himself to those who express servitude to their Lord day and night in an attempt to please Him. (Qurtubi, vol. 10, p. 339) These poor companions were sincere believers who praised Allah Almighty, showed patience, contentment, and gratitude, and were beloved to Allah Almighty. For the Noble Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم to give them preference, show affection towards them, make them happy, engage himself in educating and nurturing them and prioritise their spiritual refinement and purification is congruent with what Allah Almighty wants and what is beloved to Him.
The aforementioned verse of the Quran is a clear indication of Allah’s عَزَّوَجَلَّ mercy, the Noble Prophet’s صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم nurturing and the greatness of the companions. It also contains many pearls of knowledge. It is evident from the verse that the Lord of the Universe عَزَّوَجَلَّ Himself instructs the Beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, as an incident occurred and Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ Himself instructed His beloved صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم regarding it. The second thing that is learnt from this verse is that the remembrance of Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ in the specific time of the morning and evening is a highly virtuous deed. The third thing that we come to know is that loving pious people and remaining in their company are significant acts. And we also come to know that remembering Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ in the morning and evening is a sign of the pious and that they seek His pleasure through every action.
Several individuals from amongst the poor companions referred to in the verse are those who are known as the Ashaab-us-Suffah. They are a mountain of steadfastness in their belief and certainty [of Islam] and they are the prestige and symbol of Islam. They epitomised the meaning of putting something into action and they strived to please Allah Almighty. They had a disinclination towards this world and an inclination towards the Hereafter. They had turned away from the world and creation and devoted all their time towards the Hereafter and the Creator. These people are the very individuals who form the pillars of Islamic mysticism (Tasawwuf) and are the guides of Sufis.
Note that Islamic mysticism (Tasawwuf), which is also known as self-purification (Tazkiyah) and spiritual excellence (Ihsan), is not a matter of names and titles; it is a matter of action. It has a greater link to one’s state and action than mere speech, and it is more closely connected to the inner state than it is to the outer state. It is also associated with the heart more than it is with one’s physical body. This is alluded to in the verse of the Quran where the following words have been used:
seeking His pleasure.
The refinement and purification of the heart have been explained quite brilliantly in a Hadees as the basis for our actions and the foundation for goodness and virtue. The Hadees states:
الا وان فی الجسد مضغة اذا صلحت صلح الجسد كله، واذا فسدت فسد الجسد كله، الا وهی القلب
‘Take heed! Indeed, in the body there is a piece of flesh; when it is sound, the whole body is sound, and when it is corrupt, the whole body is corrupt; take note, it is the heart.’ (Bukhari, vol. 1, p. 13)
It is the essence of Tasawwuf for one to love the Benevolent Lord. It is to incline towards Him, to yearn being present in His court, to be absorbed in the thoughts of His greatness, to have awe in the heart because of His majesty, to be content with His decree, to trust Him, to turn to Him, to plea before Him, to look at His grace, to seek His bounty, to be hopeful in His mercy, to yearn to behold Him, to endeavour to please Him, to fear His displeasure, to immerse yourself in the thought of Him and to continue in His remembrance. The subsequent verses of the Holy Quran make reference to these very meanings and concepts:
عَلَیْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَ اِلَیْهِ اُنِیْبُ(۸۸)
I rely upon Him only and towards Him only do I turn.’
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 12, Surah Hood, Verse 88)
فَفِرُّوْۤا اِلَى اللّٰهِؕ-
‘So run towards Allah;
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 27, Surah Al- Zaariyaat, Verse 50)
وَ اذْكُرِ اسْمَ رَبِّكَ وَ تَبَتَّلْ اِلَیْهِ تَبْتِیْلًاؕ(۸)
And remember the Name of your Lord, and separating from everyone else, devote yourself solely to Him.
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 29, Surah Al Muzzammil, Verse 8)
فَلَا تَخْشَوْهُمْ وَ اخْشَوْنِیْۗ-
do not fear them, and fear Me,
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 2, Surah Al-Baqarah, Verse 150)
وَّ اِیَّایَ فَاتَّقُوْنِ(۴۱)
and fear only Me.
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 1, Surah Al-Baqarah, Verse 41)
so, fear only Me.
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 14, Surah An-Nahl, Verse 51)
مَا شَآءَ اللّٰهُۙ-لَا قُوَّةَ اِلَّا بِاللّٰهِۚ-
‘Whatever Allah wills, we do not have any strength except by the help of Allah,
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 15, Surah Al-Kahf, Verse 39)
If the biographies of the Sufis and saints are read after reflecting over these verses, one will ascertain that their lives epitomise these actions, states, and positions.
In order to understand the meaning of Sufi, it can be said that a Sufi is the one who has attained purification of the heart, as described in the Holy Quran where it states:
یَوْمَ لَا یَنْفَعُ مَالٌ وَّ لَا بَنُوْنَۙ(۸۸) اِلَّا مَنْ اَتَى اللّٰهَ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِیْمٍؕ(۸۹)
‘The Day when neither wealth will benefit nor sons. ‘Except the one who wholeheartedly presented himself with a pure heart in the Majestic Court of Allah.’
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 19, Surah Al-Shu’araa, Verse 88-89)
A Sufi is he who does not want worldly return in exchange for a good action, rather he is entirely focussed on the love and pleasure of Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ, as mentioned in the Quranic verse:
وَ یُطْعِمُوْنَ الطَّعَامَ عَلٰى حُبِّهٖ مِسْكِیْنًا وَّ یَتِیْمًا وَّ اَسِیْرًا(۸) اِنَّمَا نُطْعِمُكُمْ لِوَجْهِ اللّٰهِ لَا نُرِیْدُ مِنْكُمْ جَزَآءً وَّ لَا شُكُوْرًا(۹)
And out of His love, they feed the needy, the orphan and the prisoner. They (the righteous) say to them, ‘We give you food, merely for the sake of Allah; we do not seek any reward or gratitude from you.’
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 29, Surah Al Dahr, Verses 8-9)
A Sufi is also the one in whose heart there is not the love of this world, unlike the Bani Isra`eel who are described in the Quran in the following way:
وَ اُشْرِبُوْا فِیْ قُلُوْبِهِمُ الْعِجْلَ
and the calf was deep-rooted in their hearts
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 1, Surah Al-Baqarah, Verse 93)
Conversely, the heart of a Sufi is filled with love for Allah Almighty. In the depths of the heart, this love disseminates its scent and perfumes the soul, as described in the Quran:
وَ الَّذِیْنَ اٰمَنُوْۤا اَشَدُّ حُبًّا لِّلّٰهِؕ-
And for the believers, no one’s love is equal to the love of Allah,
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 2, Surah Al-Baqarah, Verse 165)
This state of the heart also sets into motion the tongue in engaging in the remembrance of Allah Almighty. It is stated in the Quran:
فَاذْكُرُوا اللّٰهَ كَذِكْرِكُمْ اٰبَآءَكُمْ اَوْ اَشَدَّ ذِكْرًاؕ-
therefore, remember Allah just like you used to remember your forefathers; rather, more than that
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 2, Surah Al-Baqarah, Verse 200)
Moreover, a Hadees mentions:
اَكْثِرُوْا ذِكْرَ اللهِ تَعَالى حَتَّى يَقُولُوا مَجْنُونٌ
Translation: ‘Make remembrance of Allah Almighty so much to the extent that people call you mad.’ (Ahmad Bin Hanbal, vol. 3, p. 68, Hadees: 11671) The Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم was asked about the friends of Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ, and he صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم replied:
‘اَلَّذِيْنَ اِذَا رُؤُوْا ذُكِرَ اللهُ ’
Translation: ‘The friends of Allah are those who, when you see them, Allah Almighty is remembered.’ (Sunan Kubra lil Nasai, vol. 10, p. 124, Hadees: 11171)
In another narration, the Messenger of Allah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said: ‘Shall I inform you of the best people amongst you?’ The companions replied, ‘Please do.’ The Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم stated: ‘The best people amongst you are those who when you see them, Allah is remembered.’ (Ibn-e-Majah)
For the sake of His Beloved صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, May Allah Almighty grant us the love of the honourable Sufis and the Taufeeq to emulate them and adopt their characteristics.
اٰمِیْن بِجَاہِ النَّبِیِّ الْاَمِیْن صلَّی اللہ علیہ واٰلہٖ وسلَّم