In the middle of the gathering, after listening to wonderful spiritual odes, Sayyidi Shaykh Abdullah al-Haddad commented on the beautiful spiritual breeze that filled the atmosphere in the Zawiya: “Is there any state that we can enjoy that is more meritorious than that which we are in?”
He waited for an answer, and then answered: “The only state that can be more meritorious than this state, is being constant in it, and holding fast to such gatherings. One can benefit from gatherings of dhikr [remembrance of God] occasionally, but it is far more beneficial and rewarding to always remain steadfast in attending such gatherings.”
Introduction by Sidi Hamdi
I would like to tell you a little about something that happened on our journey to Morocco, where we visited Sayyidi Shaykh Abdallah. Upon arriving in Morocco, we were first in the city of Ribaat. A friend took us to visit a brother, a man called Sidi Mustafa an-Najjar, who sends you all salam [greetings of peace]. Sidi Mustafa is very sick; he spends his time in bedrest, and undergoes dialysis on a weekly basis. In spite of his condition, Sidi Mustafa insisted that he actually sit up with us, saying, “let me sit among the people of dhikr,” and insisting on literally following the Hadith: “They are sitting and the one sitting with them will not be disappointed.”
This sick man went into a state of ecstasy in the dhikr (remembrance of God) we did, and he even sang qasa’id [spiritual odes]and gave mudhākara[a talk that reminds about God]. In this amazing manner, Sidi Mustafa an-Najjar insisted on spending from his money, time, energy, and spiritual state [hal] on his brothers following the precepts of Sidi Abu Madyan ash-Shuayb: “Out of chivalry, towards the brethren, be generous always / of heart and hand and avert your glance if one of them slips.”
After we visited Sidi Mustafa an-Najjar, we visited Sayyidi Shaykh Abdullah al-Haddad in Fes. And he gave us yet another example of how the People of God, despite tiredness and sickness, hold themselves patiently to sitting amongst people and giving to them. Everyday, Sayyidi Shaykh took care of the Zawiya and the people in it, coming to check on us. On the day of the weekly dhikr [remembrance of God] gathering, he himself went out with a few of the fuqara [seekers of God] to go shopping in the busy market, under the hot sun, carrying back heavy bags of ingredients for the food that would feed all the attendees at the gathering. Sayyidi Shaykh even took care of being involved in laying out the rugs for the women’s seating area. There was neither no task nor person considered of less value than him. He took time to ask about each of the newly met fuqara. And even in the marketplace, Sayyidi Shaykh warmly greeted many of the grocers and shop-owners. Sayyidi Shaykh spoke to one man about his father on how he used to attend gatherings of dhikr, and then gently invited the man to come sometime and do the same.
Since our arrival today here in Montreal,I invited Sayyidi Shaykh many times to have some rest, myself feeling the tiring effects of our long and strenuous journey (the seating was cramped, the plane full, and Sayyidi Shaykh was not able to get up and stretch his legs). But he would reply,”my only rest is with the brothers, in dhikr and mudhākira,” following the precepts of Sidi Ahmad al-Alawi: “We do not find rest and refreshment except amongst companions / The Garden of Bliss is in their presence.”
Reminder of Sayyidi Shaykh Abdallah el-Haddad
All praise be to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon our Master Muḥammad ﷺ. The force that brought me to this gathering is stronger than my sickness, tiredness, or anything.
It is Murad Allah: the Will of God. We are all here because of the Will of God, and we must thank Allah that His Will for us is this, because I heard a Hadith [narration from the Prophet peace be upon him] from my teachers that I really love and that I always repeat: the Hadith of Zayd al-Khayr.
A man named Zayd al-Khayl met the Messenger of Allah ﷺ once in his life. He travelled from his home, coming to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ to say: “O Messenger of Allah. The distance between you and me was 10 days’ journey, but I covered it in six. I travelled all night, and all day; and I exhausted my camel. I came to ask you about two things that robbed me of my sleep: I came to ask you about the sign of a person who is wanted by God; and the sign of a person who God does not want.”
The Messenger of Allah ﷺsmiled at him and said, “What is your name?”
He said, “Zayd al Khayl.”
Messenger of Allah ﷺsaid, “You are Zayd al Khayr.”
[Al-khayl means: the horses; al-khayr means the good. This was a Prophetic blessing, a gift from the Messenger of Allah ﷺ of good news. He ﷺ made him related to goodness rather than to horses.]
Then the Messenger of Allah ﷺasked him: “In what state do you find yourself today?”
Zayd al-Khayr said: “I find myself in a state of loving that which is good, the People of good, and the people who are doing good. And if I do good, I am certain I am going to be rewarded for it. And that good which I am unable to accomplish, I regret and long for.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ then replied, “Congratulations, this is exactly the sign – the answer to your first question.This is the sign of a person who is wanted by Allah. And if He wanted you to be of the other group[those He does not want], He would have prepared you for that and then not cared what became of you and how you perished.”
Praise be to Allah that Allah’s Will for us is goodness, that He brought us to this gathering. God has mentioned the greatness of such a gathering in His Book, and it is mentioned in Hadith.
[Sayyidi Shaykh mentioned, but not in full, the following Hadith:
Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, said, “Allah Almighty has Angels who travel the highways and by-ways, seeking out the people of dhikr. When they find people remembering Allah, the Mighty and Majestic, they call out to one another, ‘Come to what you hunger for!’ And then the Angels enfold these people with their wings, stretching up to the closest heaven. Their Lord – Who knows best – asks them, ‘What are My slaves saying?’ They say, ‘They are glorifying You, proclaiming Your greatness, praising You and magnifying You.’ He says, ‘Have they seen Me?’ They say, ‘No, by Allah, they have not seen You.’ He says, ‘How would it be if they were to see Me?’ They say, ‘If they were to see You, they would worship You even more intensely and magnify You even more intensely and glorify You even more intensely.’ Allah says, ‘What are they asking for?’ The Angels say, ‘They are asking You for Paradise.’ He says, ‘Have they seen it?’ They say, ‘No, by Allah, O Lord, they have not seen it.’ He says, ‘How would it be if they were to see it?’ They say, ‘If they were to see it, they would yearn for it even more strongly and seek it even more assiduously and would have an even greater desire for it.’ He says, ‘What are they seeking refuge from?’ ‘They are seeking refuge from the Fire.’ He says, ‘Have they seen it?’ The Angels say: ‘No, our Lord, they have not seen it.’ Allah says, ‘How would it be if they were to see it?’ The Angels say, ‘If they were to see it, they would flee from it even harder and have an even greater fear of it.’ He says, ‘I testify to you that I have forgiven them.’ One of angels says, ‘Among them is so-and-so who is not one of them. He came to get something he needed.’ Allah says, ‘They are the people who, whoever sits with them will never be deprived or disappointed.’”]
And whoever doesn’t find in himself wajd [the passion of connection during the gathering of dhikr], should act as if he has found it, and display that in himself[doing this is called tawājud]. Likewise, whoever doesn’t find patience, should make himself display patience: “Restrain yourself patiently…” (Qurʾān, Chaper 18: Verse 28) and whoever doesn’t find himself crying while reading Qurʾān, should force himself to cry. Sidi Aḥmad al-ʿAlawi said: ‘O you do who not feel ecstasy, strive to achieve it / all with the purpose of fitting the description / of one who receives the Grace of God.‘
Praise be to Allah, there is no one here who is not affected by the gathering of dhikr. I see on the faces that some people are crying, I see the traces of your being affected by the dhikr. All of you here are of one of two types: the masrūq [stolen] and the maḥrūq [burnt].
[Sayyidi Shaykh was referring to these meanings, commonly mentioned by the Ṣalihīn:
Maḥrūq means to be burnt up/consumed by the fire of love, longing, and desire for God and His the Messenger ﷺ. It also means: fanaʾ – the state of having vanished into the Presence of the Divine as Sidi Aḥmad al-ʿAlawi said: ‘O you who have disappeared in the Presence of God / Like snow that has melted!’
Masrūq means stolen away from one’s ego; In that moment, in that gathering, with the beauty of the recitation and the presence of dhikr, the power of the gathering was able to steal many a one from the hold of his ego: its worries, its thoughts of dunya[this material world], and its oblivion.
So the people of finding (wajd) are burnt, and the people of forcing themselves to find (tawājud), are stolen.
Some of the Pious have said, with these same meanings, “We never entered a house without burning it or stealing from it.” How beautiful is the gathering of dhikr, that it can steal us away from our anxieties and preoccupation with dunya. If it weren’t for this gathering, they might have gone to another place, not as good as this one; so those stolen are also stolen in the sense that they are stolen away from a way of spending their time that has less value. This reminds us of the Hadīth we mentioned above: “One of angels says, ‘Among them is so-and-so who is not one of them. He came to get something he needed.’ Allah says, ‘They are the people who, whoever sits with them will never be deprived or disappointed.'” ]
The Importance of Good Companionship and Brotherhood
Look for the people of wajd [finding good states with God] and be with them. Look for the people of ṣidq [sincerity] and be with them. Because whoever sits with the people of loss will end up in loss, and whoever sits among the people of finding connection, will find and be connected.
The Prophet ﷺ said: “A good friend and a bad friend are like a perfume-seller and a blacksmith: The perfume-seller might give you some perfume as a gift, or you might buy some from him, or at least you might smell its fragrance. As for the blacksmith, he might singe your clothes, and at the very least you will breathe in the fumes of the furnace.”
A life of knowledge is to be lived with the knowledgeable; a life of Qurʾān is to be lived with those who are busy with Qurʾān; a life of dhikr is to be lived with those who remember God. The life of good character is to be lived with those who have good character.
So, you are brothers. Be brothers. “And don’t split up, falling then into exhaustion and defeat, so that your perfume [power to affect others] dissipates and is lost.” (Qurʾān Chapter 8: Verse 46).
I am reminding myself and you that all servants of God (humans) are brothers. We must be Muḥammadiyyīn [effusing the perfume of our Master Muḥammad ﷺ], living the Prophetic Character, and having mercy in all our actions towards Allah’s creation. We must learn to never judge others in our daʿwah[inviting them to the Message] and remember that all of humanity, including non-Muslims, are members of Ummah [the community] ofour Master Muḥammad ﷺ. Those who have answered the call are Ummat al-ijāba and those who have yet to answer it are Ummat ad-Daʿwah. So, we need to pray for those who have yet to answer – pray for their tawbah (repentence) and for Allah to send His Mercy upon them because we love them and they are our brothers. Even from a purely intellectual perspective: we don’t have any interest in people warring against Islam. We don’t benefit from their enmity and their loss. So we want these people to change their ways and come to the Truth and make peace with the Truth. Every believer benefits others spiritually.
So be Muḥammadiyyīn. Find in his Sīrah (biography) how the Prophet ﷺ would make peace treaties with the polytheists, in spite his suffering caused by their enmity, their depriving the Muslims, their killing his Companions, and their seizing his property.
After all this, when the Messenger of Allah ﷺ gained power over them, he ﷺ said:“I say to you what Yusuf, upon him be peace, said to his brothers: Today, there is no reproach against you. Go, for you are free!” Heﷺ did not imprison them, take an oath from them, limit their freedom, or take away from them their arms, [conditions that are givens in the ‘peace’ treaties made by nation states of today]; rather, he sal Allahu alayhi wasalam said: “Go, for you are free.” All of this was out of ﷺ relentlessness in seeking their repentance and guidance.
Praise be to Allah, in addition to the brotherhood of humanity which unites you, there is a greater brotherhood that also unites you – that of imān[faith] and of striving on the Path to God.
Your coming together gives you a power, it gives you a magnetism. This magnetism is the light of dhikr. The purpose of this magnetism is to attract the one who doesn’t have magnetism, and to illuminate the one who doesn’t have light.
When a magnet is rubbed on a piece of metal, not only is the piece of metal attracted to the magnet, but that piece of metal itself turns into a magnet. Thus magnetized, what was once a piece of metal is now able to attract other metals to it.
In your particular context, living in a non-Muslim country, unity and togetherness are of utmost importance. When you come together, you increase the power of the magnetism and make it more attractive to others. You must come together to be able to help others. Your getting together allows you to be a magnet.
So let the heart of each one of us be prepared for friendliness, patience, and pardoning.
The only thing that distinguishes one person from another in the Sight of Allah is their level of God-fearingness and integrity [taqwā]. We should thus always remember that no group or tariqa [spiritual order]is superior to another, and we should always strive to enjoy the company of the Pious wherever they may be. The different Shuyukh of the different tariqas are of different stations[maqamat] depending on their actions and areas of Islamic proficiency. And each is in the state and station of Murad Allah – that which Allah willed for him.
We should have humility in our hearts and avoid the clique-mentality of feeling superior to other Muslims. One shouldn’t claim his group is better than another group:“O humanity, We have created you male and female and made you different peoples and tribes, for you to get to know one another and treat one another with goodness [ma’aroof]. And the most honorable among you in the Sight of God is the most Godfearing of you. God is All-knowing, All-aware.” (Qurʾān Chapter 49: Verse 13)
Following the Mudhakira, Sidi Shaykh Abdallah spoke of his warm relations with Habib ʿUmar, the founder and spiritual leader of Dar al Muhajir [where the Mudhakira was being given] and how he met and hosted Habib ʿUmar at his home in Fez on more than one occasion.