The 40

It’s late, but it’s still August 7th, and as promised, here are you notes from the Rihla. Since we last spoke, I was only able to watch one class, but inshAllah these notes are of benefit. The notes are from Imam Zaid Shakir’s class on Imam Al Ghazali’s text, Forty Foundations of the Religion. But first I will begin with a few notes from Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s Jewels and Pearls of the Qur’an class which I find relevant to Imam Zaid Shakir’s class. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf spoke about how the number 40 is important in Islam. Muhammad (saws) received revelation at the age of 40. And it is said that if you are with a people for 40 days, then you are of them. Numbers are sacred and are a sign of Allah, so there must be something to the number 40 because so many scholars have texts called the Arba’een

But back to the 40 that we are going to cover today. Al Ghazali’s Kitabul Arba’een Usul id-Deen are forty foundational concepts on the religion. They are an abridgement of his Ihya. But we didn’t really get into the actual 40 points today–we had an overview of the text. And in no way have I posted everything covered in this one class, but here are some of Imam Zaid Shakir’s wonderful thoughts that I just had to share (please excuse their roughness–time is of the essence!)…:

  • Though we may be in a common group of salikeen (travelers to Allah), there will never be another you, and your journey to Allah is unique. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to anything, no generic answer to everything except The Goal: Allah. This is why the Prophet Muhammad (saws) gave so many different answers to the same question asked by different people. The answer differs based on the condition of the person. And we are all at different stations. But we must not get caught up in the station–whether it’s thankfulness, patience, dhikr, etc. These are beautiful and blissful, yes, but they aren’t the goal. The goal is Allah, and His Beautific Vision. Dhikr, Shukr, and Sabr are just fuel to get us where we are trying to go.
  • That being said, we must ask ourselves whether we are in search for a feeling or the Actual Goal. Feeling bliss at different stations is great, but the overall struggle in itself is what is really rewarding. We are in a struggle to earn Allah. It’s all about Allah, not about you.
  • We must beautify our existence in the dunya by serving Allah. We must become ibadu’Rahman, ibadu’Rahim, ibadu’Majid…servants of the Beautiful Attributes of Allah to become beautiful. And Allah is Beautiful and loves beauty.
  • Islam is work. We shouldn’t deceive ourselves. It takes strength to make it on this path–it’s steep and upward, not downhill. We have to guard against not only shaytan, but our nafs and hawa, by seeking out things that benefit us. Seek good in every moment you are on earth and expose yourself to the gentle breezes of Allah’s Mercy.
  • Everyone has a beginning, a start…everything starts with difficulty, then it becomes easier, then blissful. We all started stuttering with Qur’an; we weren’t just hafiz that fell from the sky. Remember this when you feel like it’s too hard to get that engine running…
  • We need physical, mental, and spiritual strength. In the beginning of the journey, it’s mostly about the physical actions, but as we progress, we need to realize that we need to be strong holistically.
  • The scholars have said that people are ruined by three things: 1) too much eating, 2) too much talking, and 3) too much sleeping. And now we are in the blessed time of Ramadan and have a chance to take advantage of the absence of these distractions if we really focus on the important things…

And finally, Imam Zaid Shakir left us with a mathematical equation to ponder. I’m still thinking about it…

Inner Struggle + Ease in the Religion = Bliss

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