Religious Traditions Teach Us That We Need To Do The Work Of Being Of Service To God’s Creation
1. It is wise to develop within our self an attitude of service that wells up from within.
2. In the process of doing good deeds, our “unique” mission emerges by itself and, by Grace of God, gets completed in good time.
Every religious tradition tells us that besides the work of transforming ourselves to become more developed human beings, we need to do the work of being of service to God’s creation.
If we look around, sadly, there is so much of cruelty, injustice, pain and suffering everywhere. Sometimes, we feel hopeless and helpless. Can one person do anything at all to make a difference?
In several traditions, there is a similar story about a pious person who travels the world and, in his exploration, he is filled with anguish. Everywhere he goes, he witnesses extensive poverty, injustice, cruelty, suffering, violence and bloodshed. The magnitude is overwhelming. Finally, when this person sees, late at night, a little orphan child, covered with sores, shivering in the cold and with no clothes on, he breaks down and cries out, “O God! O God! How can You allow this to happen? God, please do something!”
That night, a vision comes to this person, where God says, “Beloved one, I did do something. I created you, so that you could help this child.”
As this story illustrates, serving others is incumbent on us. It is part of our mission on Earth—to be of service to God’s creation, doing our part.
Every holy book has guidelines in this regard. The Quran asks us to give freely of what we love to those who ask and those who don’t or cannot ask. We are also asked to give quietly, if possible. This can atone for some of our wrongdoings. The Quran furthermore remind us of the critical need to make structural changes in society in our devotion to service. We are admonished not to avoid the “steep ascent” (Quran 90:12-17):
What will explain to you what the steep ascent is? It is the freeing of a slave; or the feeding in times of famine of an orphaned relative or some needy person in distress, and to be one of those who believe in and urge one another to steadfastness and compassion.
Notice that the first verse mentioned regarding the ‘steep ascent’ is about freeing a slave from bondage. From this, one can deduce that the work of creating systemic and structural changes in society is critical. To understand the significance of this verse, consider the following hadith: “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then let him change it with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart- and that is the weakest of faith.”
Does each of us have a specific major work of service to accomplish before we return to our Creator? The great traditions say that rather than worry about our ‘grand’ mission, it is wise to develop within our self an attitude of service that wells up from within. Do good deeds according to your capacity. God never gets tired of giving rewards for good deeds. The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said, “Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are small.” In the process of doing good deeds, amazingly, our “unique” mission emerges by itself and, by Grace of God, gets completed in good time.
May we be of service, and, may we realize that being of service fulfills something deep within us—it gives meaning to our life.
I love these lines of the famous Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore:
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold! Service was joy.”
Based in the USA, Jamal Rahman is a popular speaker and author on Islam, Sufi spirituality, and interfaith relations. Along with his Interfaith Amigos, he has been featured in The New York Times, CBS News, BBC, and various NPR programs. Jamal is co-founder and Muslim Sufi Imam at Interfaith Community Sanctuary and adjunct faculty at Seattle University. He travels nationally and internationally, presenting at retreats and workshops. Jamal’s passion lies in interfaith community building and activism.
Makhdoom Sharfuddin Ahmed bin Yahya Maneri, Popularly Known As Makhdoom-ul-Mulk Bihari and Makhdoom-e-Jahan Was A True Epitome Of Pluralism in Tasawwuf
1.Muslim Sufis of India are much revered all over the world for their teachings of humane traits.
2.Indian Muslim Sufis teachings and practices were directed to advocating a pluralistic approach towards society.
3.Indian social ethos is celebrated all over the world in the background of the works of Indian Sufis.
4.Indian social ethos of ‘unity in diversity is celebrated all over the world in the background of the works of Indian Sufis.
Muslim Sufis of India are much revered all over the world for their teachings of humane traits. People of conscience accept, study and practice their teachings in their work of advocating a pluralistic approach towards society. Indian social ethos of ‘unity in diversity is celebrated all over the world in the background of the works of Indian Sufis.
India is a country that boasts of Sufis and Rishi Muni in almost every of its state. Their centuries-old teachings of compassion, equality and brotherhood reverberate in nook and corner of the country in various national and regional languages.
Spiritual masters are devoted to love. Sufi masters are spiritual masters who devote their lives seeking the Creator’s compassion and forgiveness for the people and the nation as a whole. They dedicate their lives to the welfare of society. Many of them live such a penurious life that only people of vision understand what they are. Kings and warriors visit their Dargah and or earthen cabins (कुटिया کٹیا)whatever be the situation for their blessings and Ashirwad.
Dargah Hazrat Sharfuddin Ahmad Yahya Maneri(رحمة الله عليه )
Makhdoom Sharfuddin Ahmed Yahya Maneri (رحمة الله عليه ) was one of those revered Muslim Sufis who are followed by both Hindus and Muslims, alike. Hazrat Maneri (RA) was a scholarly Sufi. He knew Arabic, Persian, logic, philosophy and along with religion, he had mastered the soul of Tasawwuf (Sufism) through his self created seclusion from the world during his 30 years of meditation in the jungles of Bihar. To know his spiritual power, consider his following uplifting quotations:
1. Sin is the key to misery.
2. The existence of lover in the pavilion of the Beloved is a sin beyond comparison to any other.
3. O Brother! Sin for the servant is great calamity. May God protect us from such things! Sin in the beginning hardens the heart, which ultimately leads to unbelief and wretchedness. Don't forget the wiles of Satan and the fate of Balāam Bāōur.
4. Spiritual Guide should be perfect, well versed in the vicissitude of the mystic path, and firmly established in his high state. He should be a man who has experiences both the horror of God's Majesty and the delight of His beauty.
5. Mystic way is infested with one's ego, devils, men and Jinn, thus making it impossible to travel along it without and experienced, holy man as one's escort. Also there are many slippery places where it is easy to fall. And one can be plagued with misfortune and dangers from behind.
6. O Brother! There are thousands upon thousands who have been martyred and slain on the Divine way. Many other thousands are wounded and thrown prostrate. Those well known for their intellect have been perplexed in their search for Him and those famous for their religious knowledge are searching Him at the outskirts of His Glory and Tremulousness. Those, whose eyes and radiant and heart clairvoyant, are submerged in one drop of His ocean of His Majesty or singed like sparks from the fire of His Glory.
7. Bliss and misery are two treasures of the Lord. The key to the former is submission, while the key to the latter is sin. The one who is fortunate has been blessed from his mother's womb. Such a person is given the key to bliss. The one who is unfortunate has been born accursed. Sin is the key to misery.
8. O Dear! Live in this world broken-hearted and miserable. When Moses asked God: "O Lord where should I search You?" The answer came: "In the heart which is broken by the hand of destiny."
Courtesy: The Sayings and Teachings of the Great Mystics of Islam, Gujranwala, Pakistan, 2004) (By Muhammad Riaz Qadiri)
Hazrat Maneri (RA) has taught the world that Sufism is not a lesson to be learnt but practised with the knowledge that Allah is All-Knower and the only ultimate guide of the seekers of knowledge. It is ingrained in the soul and spirit of the individual that gets enriched in the company of noble souls and holy books. Sufism is a service, first to the spiritual teachers and then to the people. Sufis are holy souls that are close to Allah, the Creator of this universe. The closeness of Allah is subject to our service to His creation. Allah has ingrained compassion, love and brotherhood in His creation therefore those who abide by His commands are close to Him.
Yahya Maneri (RA)’s Childhood and Education
Makhdoom Sharfuddin Ahmed bin Yahya Maneri, popularly known as Makhdoom-ul-Mulk Bihari and Makhdoom-e-Jahan was born to an illustrious father Makhdoom Kamaluddin Yahya Maneri bin Israel bin Taj Faqeeh. His father was known as Sheikh Al-Hind. Yahya Maneri (RA)’s lineage goes back to a place called Al-Khaleel. Al-Khaleel is connected to Prophet Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) who is supposed to be resting there in his heavenly abode. Al-Khalil is in Syria about 24 Kilometres from Jerusalem.
Yahya Maneri (RA left his native place Maner near Patna in Bihar, India in search of traditional knowledge of Arabic, Persian, logic, philosophy and religion at the tender age of 12. He received his initial education at Narainganj, now in Dhaka, Bangladesh for twenty-four years. He was imparted knowledge by a famous scholar of his time, Ashraf-Uddin Abu Towama Bukhari.
After the completion of his education at Narainganj, Yahya Maneri (RA) left for Delhi in search of his spiritual education and training. At that time Delhi was known for the most revered of all the Sufis there, Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia (RA) along with many other Sufis.
Hazrat Maulana Syed Abul Hassan Ali Nadwi has dedicated on full chapter to Hazrat Yahya Maneri (RA) in his famous book ‘Tareekh Dawat o Azeemat ‘ Vol II (Saviours of Islamic Spirit Vol. II). Maulana Syed Abul Hassan Ali Nadwi writes about Hazrat Yahya Maneri (RA)’s journey to Delhi and his being a disciple of Hazrat Khwaja Najeebuddin Firdausi as under:
Ahmad Sharfuddin came back disheartened from Delhi and Panipat. His elder brother Shaikh Jalaluddin, however, suggested him to see Hazrat Khwaja Najeebuddin Firdausi and told him about the distinctive features of his order. Ahmad replied: ” The one who is the Pivot of spiritual perfection at Delhi ( meaning Hazrat Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya) sent me back with a tray of beetles. What shall I gain by meeting others ?” but, on the insistence of his brother, he made up his mind to betake himself to Delhi once more. As he related, later on, he found himself in a flutter, and profusely perspiring when he got near Hazrat Khwaja Najeebuddin Firdausi. He says that he had never had a similar experience earlier on meeting any other mystic.
As soon as Hazrat Khwaja Firdausi saw Ahmad, he said: ” Chewing beetles and carrying beetle leaves in your handkerchief you come to see me, and still, you presume yourself to be a spiritual guide! ” Ahmed emitted the beetle he was chewing and sat down bewildered as if suddenly awakened to an unthought-of truth. After a while, he requested Hazrat Khwaja Najeebuddin to accept him under his spiritual preceptorship. The Khwaja graciously agreed to his request but sent him back after taking the Ba’it from him.
Hazrat Maneri (RA)’s Spiritual Journey
Born in July 1263 A.D. (29 Sha'aban 661 A.H.) Sheikh Sharfuddin Ahmed bin Yahya Maneri (RA) spent thirty years in meditation in the forests of Bihiya, about 24 kilometres and Rajgir, about 120 Kilometres from Maner. During his stay in the jungle of Rajgir, he performed ascetic exercises in the hills that kept him aloof from society. There is a spring of hot water in Rajgir that is named after him as ‘Makhdoom Kund’. It is said that he used to pray at a nearby place close to that spring.
After spending 30 years of a secluded life away from the material comfort of the world in quest of closeness to His creator, Sheikh Sharfuddin Ahmed bin Yahya Maneri (RA) settled at Bihar Sharif, about 24 Kilometres west of Maner. At the Khanqah at Bihar Sharif, he preached compassion, love, humanity and brotherhood through his sermons and taught and trained his disciples in Sufism. His life after that was dedicated to teaching and writing.
The collections of the hundred letters he wrote to his disciple, Qazi Shamshuddin in 747 Hijra, Maktoobat e Sadi (Hundred Letters Of Century) and Maktoobat e Do Sadi (Two Hundred Letters Of Second Century) based on Islamic Theosophy are literary genii on spiritual writing. Original manuscripts of his books on Sufism, Rahat-ul-Qulub, Kanzul-Ma-Ani, Favaedat Rukni, Shara-e-Abadulراحت القلوب، کنزول ما عینی ، فوائدت رکن، شارع عبادل) are counted as remarkable works of Tasawwuf are available in the collection of Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Library at Patna, Bihar India.
He kept writing and delivering sermons for up to 52 years from his Khanqah at Bihar Sharif that was built by Sultan Muhammad Tughlaq, before he left for his heavenly abode in January 1381 A.D.(6 Shawwal 782 Hijri).
Makhdoom Sharfuddin Ahmed bin Yahya Maneri (RA), popularly known as Makhdoom-ul-Mulk Bihari and Makhdoom-e-Jahan was a true epitome of his name ‘Makhdoom’, means ‘one who serves. He served humanity with all his might and ability, both spiritual and physical. People over the world are still in contact with him through his writings that are taken as a guiding light in the world of Tasawwuf (Spiritualism).
Choti Dargah, Mausoleum of Makhdoom Shah Daulat, descendant of Makhdoom Yahya Maneri at Maner, 1780s painting
(Co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009)
Inserting Reconciliatory Verses Or Removing Others That On Face Value Promote Violence Or Malign Others Is Not Any New Issue
1.Qur’anic pronouncements serve as irrefutable proof of the integrity of its text.
2.Prophet’s immediate successors were as intense in their faith in the Qur’an as their predecessors during the Prophet’s lifetime.
3.Qur’an features scores of verses exhorting the followers of the Prophet to fight against their pagan attackers and violators of treaty and those who first attacked them and expelled them from their homelands.
This is to trash Syed Waseem Rizwi’s petition in India's Supreme Court to remove some 26 verses of the Qur’an.
Inserting reconciliatory verses or removing others that on face value promote violence or malign others is not any new issue. As the Qur’an testifies, even the Prophet Muhammad was under pressure from his Meccan foes to make some alterations in the Qur’an as it was under revelation. The Qur’an responded with the following declaration:
“If he (Muhammad) attributed to Us any false speech (69:44), We would seize him by the right hand (45), then We would sever his aorta (46) and none of you could prevent it (69:47).
As the Prophet’s followers held him in utmost veneration, the gravity of this warning, however symbolic it may be, heightened their spiritual consciousness to ensuring the integrity of the revealed passages as they memorized them.
These Qur’anic pronouncements serve as irrefutable proof of the integrity of its text. Had there been any alteration in the Qur’an, the Prophet’s enemies as well as the general Arab public would not have embraced Islam during his lifetime as they would have seen the Qur’an failing in its above claim that was repeated several time in general terms as listed / referenced below:
“The Words of your Lord will be fulfilled truthfully and justly: none can change His Words, for He is All-Knowing and Aware” (6:115);
“Surely We have sent down this Reminder, and surely. We will protect (preserve) it” (15:9)..[Also proclaimed with immaculate consistency in the verses 6:34, 18:27, 41:42]
“Nay! This is a Glorious Qur'an (85:21). (Inscribed) in a Tablet (well) guarded (lauh al-mahfuz) (against corruption)” (85:22)
Even if, for the sake of argument, the prevalent historical setting prevented the Arabs from dismissing the Qur’an if it were altered during the 23 year span of revelation, they would have definitely rejected it immediately after the Prophet’s death. However, this did not happen. The Prophet’s immediate successors were as intense in their faith in the Qur’an as their predecessors during the Prophet’s lifetime.
Thus there can be no iota of doubt that the Qur’an was handed down to the Prophet’s successors and through them to the posterity in its original form.
From a different perspective, the Qur’an puts an eternal seal of authenticity in its very opening declaration - Zalikal Kitabu La Raiba Fih [“this is an edict/book that is free from any doubts.”] Any doctoring of the Qur’an at any point in history will invalidate this opening claim and create doubts about its authenticity as word of God. Thus the Qur’an leaves no cards in the hands of its potential detractors of history to corrupt its text.
With This We Come To The Verses Of The Qur’an That Allegedly Promote Violence.
The Qur’an features scores of verses exhorting the followers of the Prophet to fight against their pagan attackers and violators of treaty alliances, and those who first attacked them and expelled them from their homelands. These verses were specific to the context of the revelation and do not form a part of its clearly stated tenets of guidance to humanity. They must, however, be retained in the Qur’an to attest to the defensive character of the Prophetic mission, the principles of justice and moderation in warfare (allowing severe action as an exception rather than rule) and the granting of security to fleeing civilians and non-combatants caught in the war . However, the Qur’an moderates its fighting verses with reconciliatory verses. Thus, a passage dating from the late Medinite period asks the Muslims to be just and virtuous to those who did not fight against them over religion, nor expelled them from their homelands (60:8), and reminds them that their enemies could eventually become their friends (60:7). The revelation also clarifies that it forbade the Muslims to befriend only those who fought against them over religion, and expelled them from their homelands and helped (others) in their expulsion (60:9).
God does not forbid you to be virtuous and just to those who did not fight you over religion, nor drove you from your homelands. Indeed, God loves the just (60:8). God only forbids you to befriend those who fought against you over religion, and expelled you from your homelands, and backed (others) in your expulsion; and whoever befriends them – it is they who are unjust” (60:9).
In light of foregoing, any suggestion to make any alteration to the Qur’an – let alone deleting some of its verses is simply childish if not malicious, politically motivated and the brainchild of one who has abjured reason and is mentioned in the Qur’an in these words:
“The worst kind of all living creatures in God’s sight are the deaf and dumb, who do not use reason” (8:22).
It is hoped that this clarification will assuage the anger of the Indian Muslims for one Waseem Rizvi or a thousands of them writing in unison cannot dismiss the Qur’an as an uncorrupted book. So they must take him as an amateur if not mentally demented as a Muslim (assuming he has read the Qur’an back to back) and pray that he realizes his colossal folly, seeks forgiveness of God and honorably withdraws his petition.
Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.