Book Review: ‘The Journey to Allah’
No one needs an introduction to the great imam of Ahlus Sunnah, Imam Ibn Rajab Al Hanbali. With this in mind i will get straight to the point. He mentions in his book: ‘The journey to Allah‘ that moderation is the key and the vital organ which leads a salique (seeker) to the pleasure of Allah. That is, moderation in worship, moderation in eating, sleeping, working and in every other activity a person does. This is the great principle which all the sulook (paths) to Allah are grounded on. It is this ingredient which helps a person to do deeds persistently. Deeds which are done consistently and on a regular basis even if they are small and little are more beloved by Allah than deeds which are done rarely. Or, deeds which are done after which the servant leaves never return to it. Of the almost countless hadiths and illustrious examples he uses in the must-have-book, the following one stands apart from the rest. (For me that is)
1) Al – Bazzar records the Hadith on the authority of hudhayfah (ra) that the prophet (saw) said; “Excellent indeed is moderation in poverty, excellent indeed is moderation in affluence. Excellent indeed is moderation in worship”. This beautifully envelopes how moderation is the pinnacle of advance and spiritual and physical development.
2) Another one is, on the authority of Abdullah ibn Amr (ra) the messenger of Allah (saw) said: “this religion is powerful so walk in it with gentleness, and do not let the worship of Allah become burdensome for you, for the one who falters and is unable to continue has neither shortened the journey nor preserved his mount”.
3) Abu Ubaydah (ra) said: ‘Excessiveness in worship is evil, deficiency is evil, and moderation is praiseworthy’.
This is because a strenuous journey in which one strives greatly is prone to end suddenly without completion; a moderate journey however, is more likely to reach its goal.
Over the years I have seen many brothers who make a change in their lives. Turning from evil to good. This change often times brings in with it a mixed application and understanding of what is required. They go to great lengths to do extra optional deeds and successfully manage to keep it up for several months. Only to slip back into slackness and the former life they swore to leave behind. This comes about because of a goalless objective. No idea of where they want to reach, what they want to achieve and how to be a practical Muslim.
‘The journey to Allah’ is an essential hand guide, a book to have for the salique seeking Allah’s pleasure. It helps irradiate our own ideas and cooked up notions of what is piety, what it means to be a Muslim and how the pious led their lives. Those on the outside, including non-practicing muslim brethren look towards the practicing Muslims as those ‘who bury their heads in the sand’. The people who spend all their lives in mosques and in solitude. Monks who have no life but that of the servitude of the mosque! With this in mind, those of us who come into practicing Islam do so with this preconceived idea already planted in us/them. This book shatters this idea and brings a completely new notion to the plate. An idea which says ‘enjoy the halal things of life. Love life and live life, don’t shun life’.
Last year during the denmark dawah trip, one of the brothers mentioned to me how he had lost interest in sports. He used to be very active in playing football, mixed martial arts, and tennis. When he became practicing, he left all that. Now, this idea and notion of piety is completely wrong!!
The shaykh ends his excellent book, with a note of courteous warning. In that, whatever deeds the Salique does, will not guarantee him a place in paradise. That our sole entry is dependant on Allah. We also are taught how not to think, if we have started on righteousness we will die in piety.
He lists seven unexpected situations that a person can fall into. In all situations the Salique thinks he has done good but realises on the day of judgement all his good deeds have been scattered like dust!
‘A man may do the works of paradise, whereby there is only a handspan for him to enter paradise. But, does a deed just before his death which causes him to enter hell. Whereas a man may do the works of hell, whereby there is only a handspan left for him to enter hell. But does a deed just before his death which causes him to enter paradise’.
Having mentioned all this, it begs the question;
How do I know when to be moderate in my worship and in general, life?
This can only be fully achieved when an individual is on a path to Allah. In which his teacher will be the medium that will guide and instruct him on matters relating to dheen and life. If the shaykh is a true shaykh, who himself has travelled life and more importantly, the path to Allah. He will point out when you are going too far to the right or to the left. Bringing you back on the path of moderation. This is why it is imperative that a person finds a true friend of Allah to guide him. Otherwise a person who tries to be moderate on his own will never be fully aware of when he is going extreme in worship or life. He will endlessly go through phases of extreme piety and periods of rebeliousness. Do keep in mind however, just as the imam of Ahlus Sunnah mentions. Moderation here does not mean you reduce the five prayers to 2 or 3. Or, that instead of fasting the month of Ramadan you only fast 10/11 days. Or that you reduce 20 rakahs of taraweeh to 4 or 5.
What is ment is that, in all your optional worship, the nawafils, the non-compulsory Sunnahs’ etc, you should be moderate. The obligatory worship is out of the question here. So, instead of worshipping all night, sleep a part of the night. Instead of fasting all the time, fast the middle three days of every month. Instead of being celibate, get married and enjoy married life. One may ask at this point, ‘well, in all the books of tassauwff, we read people removing themselves from the world and living a life in solitude away from people. Imam Ghazali, Syyiduna Abdul Qadir Jilani for example’. This is correct. But know that they did this temporarily. For their own purfication needs. In that it was not definate, once their purification of the heart was complete they came back into the world and led normal albeit pious life.
Occasionally the awliyah remove themselves from the world to reticfy the condition of their spiritual heart and to spend some time alone. Then they come back into the world fully engaged and fully active, but this time with a different goal. Which is taking people to Allah.