Where is the Wisdom lost, a Believer’s lot?
As the Arab Prophet taught,
The Light filled with love, kindness and tears
Brought myself to naught.
Where are the likes of Jalaluddin Rumi or Fakhruddin Ar Razi?
Even Al Ghazali or At-Tabari?
Maybe Ibn Rushd or Ibn Ata’illah?
Saints, scholars and pious men
Are we not looking for all of them?
Maybe in this turbid times,
Mercy reveals itself as a pearl deep in the ocean,
A speck of snow in the sky innocent,
A grain of sand in suspended motion.
Embodiments of tranquility and serenity,
Effusing light through their hearts.
Illuminating the darkness within.
They live in obscurity, unknown by many;
Gentle voice, mellifluous speech, inspired soul
Rendering our beings awestruck in the sublime.
Tears fell as rain fell and one doesn’t even know why.
If Meaning is what we are searching for,
Then hasten to the Men of God for what lies in store
Of Wisdom, may never reach you again
An Arab poet once said, “This cosmos is nothing but meaning set up in images, those who discern them are people of sagacity.” Wisdom is embodied by the Sage, one whose life’s concern is the application of wisdom, Al-Hikmah, as known in Arabic. It is likened to a treasure upon which is bestowed the Mercy of God and renders the receiver one who has ‘attained much good’, as mentioned in the Qur’an. (The Qur’an, 2:269) The entirety of the world - its reality, subtleties, meanings both hidden or apparent, and its true purpose escapes the common knowledge of mankind. It is as if we are attempting to find the pearls in the sea by looking at the surface. Many have drowned in the sea of confusion, wrecked by the turbid waves of ideologies, arrogance and disputation. Few have managed to float but even fewer are able to dive deep to find the hidden treasures and lived to tell the tale. In this writing, we will attempt to impress upon the reader the works of two Sages, granted by God from His Heavenly Fountain of Wisdom in order to bring benefit to humankind. The two esteemed persons are Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas and Martin Lings or affectionately known as Abu Bakr Siraj al-Din.
Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas famously announced that the crisis in the world today is the “loss of Adab” in his book, “Islam and Secularism”. Being an erudite scholar and intellectual of Islam, he responds to the encroachment and perversion of western philosophy and ideology in the world by clarifying Islam’s position on the terms and definitions of values and ideas. In doing so, the degradative values and ideas that have penetrated Man’s psyche and worldview can be uprooted and replaced by seeds of an Islamic worldview that is based upon certainty (yaqin) and not conjecture or doubt. “Adab”, as defined by Al-Attas, is right action that springs from self-discipline founded upon knowledge whose source is wisdom. The Quranic wisdom of knowing the proper place of things and it’s harmonious order is lost. Therefore here we will enlighten the reader on the idea of Happiness as conceptualised within the Islamic worldview.
In his newly published book, “On Justice And The Nature of Man”, he defines Happiness as that which is “generally experienced in worldly life consisting of feelings and emotions that vary in degree from moment to moment; it is something psychological and mental that escapes the grasp of consciousness. But there is also, even in this worldly life, a happiness that abides in the grasp consciousness. Abiding happiness is not something that pertains to the physical entity in man; nor is it a state of mind, or feeling or emotion that undergoes terminal states. Abiding happiness has to do with certainty (yaqin) of the ultimate Truth based on Revelation and fulfillment of action in verification of that certainty. Certainty is a permanent state of consciousness natural to what is permanent in man, i.e. of the soul. It is an abiding act of the spiritual heart stabilized in tranquility which saturates the self with peace and security; it is illuminative knowledge, and this knowledge is true faith (iman). It is knowing God as He describes Himself in genuine Revelation; it is also knowing one’s proper place in the realm of Creation and one’s proper relationship with the Creator accompanied by the requisite action in conformity with that knowing.”
Syed Naquib Al-Attas is a living sage who enriches the world with new insights and wisdom of the religion. It would be a severe loss not to reap benefits from him or his books. This writer strongly recommends Syed Naquib Al-Attas’ books and if possible, for the reader to learn directly from him when he holds lectures at CASIS, UTM. It is best to grab every opportunity that Allah SWT has given us to obtain knowledge from scholars/the wise while they are still alive.
Martin Lings or Shaykh Abu Bakr Siraj al-Din is another sublime being whose presence the writer has been late to come to know of. This wise figure aptly returned to the spirit after putting the finishing touches to his book entitled “A Return to the Spirit: Questions and Answers”. The western world is indebted to him for introducing Sufism to the social consciousness through the seminal work of “A Sufi Saint of The Twentieth Century”, revealing Shakespeare’s deep metaphysical meanings, and many more. Recalling the identification of the crisis of loss of Adab, we will proceed with an extract from Martin Lings’ book that details a remedy by him to solve the crisis of the Islamic civilization today.
According to Martin Lings, in “A Return To The Spirit” the remedy to embracing Islam in one’s life goes like this: “By way of answering this question, let us recollect certain outer aspects of our civilization- I mean, the Islamic civilization- aspects whose function was, and can be again, to act as a protective shell for the kernel, that is , for the religion itself. The fabric of our civilization is woven out of the example set by our Prophet; and particularly significant in this connection is the fact that his house was a prolongation of his mosque. This for twelve hundred years- and more in Islamic countries- the houses of his people were prolongations of the mosque. The Muslim would take off his shoes when he entered his house just as he would take them off when he entered the mosque; he would sit in his house in the same manner as he sat in the mosque; he would put such ornaments on the walls of his house as he saw on the walls of the mosque; nor would he put in his house any ornaments that would not be suitable for the mosque.
Thus he was continually surrounded by reminders of the spiritual dignity and spiritual responsibilities of man, and he dressed himself according to the same principles. His clothes were in keeping with the dignity of man’s function as representative of God on earth, and at the same time they made it easy for him to perform the ablution, and they were in perfect conformity with the movements of the prayer. Moreover, they were an ornament to the prayer, unlike modern European clothes which rob the movements of the prayer of all their beauty and impede them, just as they act as a barrier between the body and the ablution.
All that I have mentioned is outward, but the outward acts upon the inward, and a man’s clothes and his home are the nearest of all things to his soul, and their influence on it is perpetual and therefore incalculably powerful. There can be no doubt that these outward things were one of the secrets of the depth of piety among Muslims, for twelve hundred years; and this brings us back to the saying that Islam embraces the whole of life. Thanks to the outer aspects of Islamic civilization, the whole of life was in fact penetrated by religion, and I see no other remedy for our present religious crisis, but a return to that noble civilization whose function is to create a worthy setting for the spirit of religion, a setting that makes relatively easy the fulfillment of our ritual obligations. Nor can the community dispense with the help of anything that makes this spiritual life easier, for man was created weak. But this return can be accomplished only by the widespread setting of examples.”
In conclusion, the wisdom, knowledge and legacy they have left for us is likened to a ship of salvation to steer our way through the rough seas of confusion in this age. Therefore we must first apply this Adab by making our outward state of our clothes and homes conducive for ease of worship, so that we are always in a state of dignity and remembrance of the sacred. With that, may we traverse the ocean safely to reach the shores of abiding happiness together with the guidance of these two shining beacons of humanity, and to recover the lost Meaning in all things that was in us, once more.