أَلآ إِنَّ أَوْلِيَاءَ اللهِ لاَ خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَ لاَ هُمْ يَحْزَنُوْنَ الَّذِيْنَ ءَامَنُوا وَ كَانُوا يَتَّقُوْنَ لَهُمُ الْبُشْرٰى فِى الْحَيٰوةِ الدُّنْيَا وَ فِى الآخِرَةِ
Behold! Verily on the Friends of Allah there is no fear, nor shall they grieve; those who believe and have fear. For them are good news in this life and in the Hereafter (x: 62-64).
This is very well known. In this house I hear it quite often. I hear it quite often in the mosques. Many people say this. I don’t always know whether we realize the full implication of these words. Allah Almighty in these verses speaks about a certain very special group of people whom He calls Awliya’. And He says that there is no fear on them nor need they grieve in this world and in the Hereafter. There is for them bushra (good news) in this life here on earth and also in the other life. Bushra! Good dreams. Good news. One day somebody asked Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ) what bushra is and he said that bushra is good dreams, which you have about yourself or which other people have about you. That’s bushra! He said that revelation had come to an end but bushra has remained.
Who are these people that some people today scorn so much? They say that when we respect and honour the Awliya’ we are worshipping them. They call it “saint worship!” But one gets ignorance in all fields of life, in all disciplines! Whatever the discipline might be, one gets ignorance. Why is it that Allah Almighty should mention this group in the Qur’an? What does it mean when He says the words as in the verses above? What does that mean when He says that these people, all of them at any one stage on earth, have been granted His Love and His Friendship? We must take note of this. Allah has honoured these people intensely. I want to explain the honour that He grants these people, whom He calls His Awliya’. He grants them Friendship, Divine Friendship.
One explanation is that all the pious people on earth at all the different levels of piety, from the Messengers (a.s.) down, have received Friendship from Allah. But for each level the Friendship is different, and the Friendship is different for each one at each level. To some it’s a very-very-very special kind of Friendship, a very-very special kind of Love, like to the Messengers. To the others it is less, and less and less and less and less till we come to those pious people right at the bottom. Why does Allah Almighty honour them like that? What did they do that is so different from what we do? Why is it that in today’s world the Awliya’ are unknown? People don’t even know who they are. One of the explanations that is given, is that the world is so corrupt that Allah has withdrawn them from others, so that people don’t know who they are. They are Awliya’ but they’re unknown and under His dome. They’re under His protection. Very few people know who they are.
Let me tell you what happened. I told you this before, but this is in another context. Let us take the example of an individual who spends a large part of his time profitably, striving very hard to be a good pious Muslim, obeying very carefully the rules and regulations of Islam, the Divine Laws, and who places himself under somebody that can help him on the road that he wants to walk. He places himself under the guidance of somebody who has already walked this road. One does not go to learn carpentry from an electrician, or dentistry from a psychologist. If you want to learn dentistry you go to a dentistry school. In the same way, this individual places himself under somebody who has already obtained Friendship from Allah Almighty. There are so many examples but I shall come to that later. And under that man’s guidance, he walks a very careful road, a very careful road, obeying the Divine Law while keeping that man’s hand. Now, I did something similar at the university. Any student who wanted to do very special studies would come to me and I would be appointed as his supervisor. And I would take him by the hand and I would lead him through his studies, and at the end of his studies the university would say: “You are now a Master of Arts or a Doctor of Philosophy,” whatever the case might be. I used to do this. Of course, today you get people who pretend they can attain Friendship from Allah on their own. No problem! Bring me the people who have attained it on their own. Bring them! Bring me the people who have attained this without going through the protocol of pledging themselves to a shaykh, and placing themselves under his guidance.
What does the Qur’an and the Sunnah say? Allah says:
وَ اصْبِرْ نَفْسَكَ مَعَ الَّذِيْنَ يَدْعُوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ بِالْغَدٰوةِ وَ الْعَشِىِّ يُرِيْدُوْنَ وَجْهَهُ وَ لاَ تَعْدُ عَيْنَاكَ عَنْهُمْ
And keep your soul content with those who call on their Lord morning and evening, seeking His Face, and let not your eyes pass beyond them (xviii: 28).
There were certain historical reasons for the revelation of these Words but what do they mean to us today? Surely, and it does not matter how one argues, these Words are telling us to be, and to stay, with those who are seeking Divine Satisfaction through different forms of ibadat, that is, to attach ourselves to intensely pious people. What else can these Words mean? What else does it mean to keep one’s eyes on them? And what conclusions can one draw if one combines these Words with the following?
يَأَيُّهَا الَّذَيْنَ ءَامَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللهَ وَ كُونُوا مَعَ الصَّادِقِيْنَ
O you who believe! Fear Allah and be with those who are truthful (ix:119).
To “… be with” means to associate with, to be in the company of. And, in any case, who are the “truthful” people but those who adhere without flinching to the Divine Words and the Divine Law? The importance of associating with certain people, of course for spiritual guidance (for what else then?), is outlined in the following hadith:
It is reported from Ibn Abbas (r.a.) who said: Somebody asked: “O Messenger of Allah! Who are the best that we should sit with?” He replied, “The one who when you see him reminds you of Allah, who increases you in knowledge of the affairs of the religion, and his deeds remind you of the Hereafter” (Al-Mundhiri, vol. 1, p, 112).
In another narration, the Prophet (ﷺ) referred to those who “when you see them, they remind you of Allah” as being the Awliya’.
Further on this matter, Abdullah ibn Umar related that Maymun al-Awdi said: “Mu’adh ibn Jabal, the messenger of the Apostle of Allah (ﷺ), came to us in Yemen. I heard his Takbir (the words Allahu Akbar, Allah is the Greatest) in the Dawn Prayer. He was a man with a loud voice. I began to love him. I did not depart from him until I buried him in Syria. Then I searched for a person who had a deep understanding of Islam amongst the people after him. So I came to Ibn Mas’ud and remained in his company until his death” (Abu Dawud).
Those persons who place themselves under the guidance of Awliya’, obeys, obeys and obeys and obeys! The Awliya’ guide them to make their main concern Allah. If we have dhikrs like these, they open their hearts to the praises of Allah all the time. Their hearts work like that. Only Allah is mainly in their hearts. Allah! That is their prime concern in life. It doesn’t matter what they do, their concern becomes Allah until eventually they reach a stage in their development as outlined in the following hadith:
Abu Hurayrah reported: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: When the Lord loves a person, He calls out to Jibril and says, “O Jibril, verily I have made so and so My friend. You must also befriend him”, and Jibril loves him. Jibril then calls all the dwellers of the heavens and says to them: ‘Verily Allah loves so and so. You must also love him,’ and the dwellers of the heavens love him. Then the love for that person descends to the earth, and the pious and righteous of the world come to know about it and also love him (Malik).
Allah honours that lady or that man. We hear in the community: “Why do you worry about these saints? Why do you worship these saints?” They say that to us. Allah honours. They say: “Don’t honour.” Allah has declared that person a Wali, has declared His Love and Friendship for that person but they say: “This is not part of Islam.” How much respect and regard must we not have for the Awliya’? Allah writes their names in “gold” in the heavens, places on their heads crowns of “gold”, dresses them in “gold”. They are so special to Him. On the Day of Judgement Allah will have rows and rows upon rows of pulpits of light. And they will be sitting there. The Prophets (a.s.) and the martyrs will come and ask: “Who are these people?” Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ) said in a hadith: “These people are those who love each other in Allah, not because they are related.” And then he quoted the verse on the Awliya’. They are so special by Allah that He has prepared special accommodation for them on the Day of Judgement.
In the community we are told that we are “saint worshippers” because we love those who Allah loves. Such deep ignorance flourishes amongst us. Has anybody ever seen me making ruku’ or sujud at some saint’s grave? Ignorance and lies feed on each other in the same personality. Be careful! Don’t dishonour those who Allah has honoured. Don’t show disrespect to those people to whom Allah shows respect. Don’t show disregard to those people to whom Allah shows regard. Be careful of that. We have a large number of people who have attained special status by Allah. They have come down in our history as Awliya’. We are told not to go to their graves but when the critics go to Medina they go to graves. Please, I am appealing to you. Please listen to what I am telling you about these things. Let people talk. Let people say things. But in our own hearts we must always say: “O Allah, make us love those who love Thee. We want to love Thee! We want to love Thy Messenger (ﷺ). We also want to love those who love Thee. Grant that to us.” We ask Allah for that through the blessings of Suratul-Fatihah …
And Allah knows best, and I ask forgiveness for any mistakes or distortions in what I have said, Amin.
Selected Talks by Yusuf da Costa [Published 2008]