MAWLANA'S OPEN DOOR IN JOHORE AND SINGAPORE
by Sh. G. F. Haddad - Rabīʿ al-Awwal 1424 - May 2003

topics:
from life of famous saint Nūh
awliyā's fame of generosity
precious advice
duʿā for market with explanation
Al-Subkī's Prayer of Tawassul
From Diwan Sidi ʿAbd Al-Musawwir
On The Awliya'
On Ahl Al-Bayt Ulema
On Mawlid
On The Sufi science (tasawwuf)
Six precious texts
Singapore's usury (ribā)
Tudung in Islām
good progress of Muslim community

{Unto Allāh belong the East and the West,
and whithersoever ye turn, there is Allāh's countenance.
Lo! Allāh is All-Embracing, All-Knowing.}
(2:115)

Glory and thanks to You, our Lord, for Your mercy and favors which cannot be encompassed. Greatest of those is our having our Prophet Muhammad MHMD, the Paragon of creation and its beauty and perfection, as our guiding light in this stormy world. Our greatest thanks to You, therefore, for lighting our way to his inheritors, our teachers Upon him, his Family and Companions, and upon them and us Your blessings and peace forever, to the dear Day You take us back to You!

This is the brief testimonial of one of those Divine favors lavished on an undeserving servant standing at the door of the mercies of His Lord. This record of a seven-day journey to Singapore and Johore, Malaysia, in the last week of the blessed Mawlid month of Rabīʿ al-Awwal of 1424 (last week of May 2003) was intended, first, to fix in writing the meanings of those mercies as a personal provision of thanks and praise in times of drought; second, as a glimpse of the lights of the people of mercy that one finds wherever one turns, East and West, even in the darkness that seemingly covers us {And whithersoever you turn, there is the countenance of Allāh} (2:115)!

The first thing that the apple of our eyes, Mawlānā al-Shaykh Nāzim said when I asked him permission to travel and he gave it, was to "Visit the Maqām of Nūh." The thirteenth issue of Inabah magazine - published by the historical Khadijah Mosque of Singapore - states (p. 109-110):

Not much is known about the early life of this famous 19th century saint except that he came from the Northern Malaysian state of Kedah and lived for a while in Penang, an island off the coast of Kedah. He was a direct descendant of our Holy Prophet Muhammad ﷺ - sallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa-Alihi wa-Sallam, an Arab from Hadramaut, the area of southern Arabia that is now known as Yemen. He made his appearance in Singapore after the island became a British colony in 1819. He came into prominence because, being a majdhūb, he did things that are out of the ordinary. He loved children who liked to accompany him everywhere he went. He would enter a shop, take out all the money from the cash drawer and throw it to the waiting children. Those shopkeepers who were aware of his holy state did not make any attempt to stop him and were rewarded by Allah with prosperity in their business thereafter. Such activities, however, were frowned upon by the British colonial masters who tried to put him in jail a number of times. However, after doing this many times, they finally gave up and left him alone. The reason? Each time he was arrested and put in jail, he mysteriously disappeared from his cell and was seen outside walking free. This is one of the signs of awliya, their service to God has set them free from man.... Stories on Habīb Noh often revolve around his miracles - especially his incredible ability to appear in a number of places at the same time.... [He] was also known for his gift of knowing about events to come and his state of unveiling (kashf).... Habib Noh died peacefully on Friday 14 Rabiʿul Awal 1283 (1866 CE) and was buried on the hill at his own prior request.

Upon arrival, we dutifully headed to the Maqām of al-Habīb Nūh al-Habshī. We climbed the high steps and entered to greet him then greeted his brother ʿAbd al-Rahmān at his Maqām outside. SALAMUN ʿALAYKUM our Masters, our Honorable Guides, our Living Wellsprings bringing us quenching waters from the heavenly world, O Shining Lights for heavy, untrained eyes, showering tender mercies on hard hearts! Can you not open up our understandings, inspire us with healing gratitude, remodel us into obedient servants of our Lord?

* * *

The Awliyā' are famed for munificence and generosity because they are the Friends of the All-Giving. Their giving never stops because His giving never stops. They open the gates of permission in every quarter to every humble visitor that stands at the gate. After permission comes ease; and ease is the mark of permission, as we saw from the beginning to the end of this blessed trip. It had long become evident that the blessed day in the life of a student was the day he or she had obtained the baraka and madad of a pious person, a holy place, a blessed event, far above completing a book or receiving the certification of a teacher and prestigious chains of transmission.

With this visit to the living, the first day and those that followed brought many meetings with the people of mercy. More refreshing than air to the surfacing diver or water to a desert traveller are the blessed sights that bring light. These wirds - recurrent sources - are the preys and prizes of every wise mu'min in the dunyā and the incomprehensible folly that eludes those dunyā has veiled. {If they had only remained on the right path We would certainly have given them to drink of water in abundance} (72:16)!

When I saw the worldly beauty of Singapore, that pearl of the Orient, that meeting of the sophistications of East and West, which heightens its lure by reining in, through remnants of old-world frugality, the gaudy permissiveness that ruined the face of the West, only to better compete for the wealth of this world, its streets an orderly, proud, young urban architecture of cellphone-absorbed, fashion-refined, self-policed, polyglot-jaded male and female cadres of dunyā dressed and bared in the latest fashions...

... I remembered the sight of decorum, true power and wealth, a few months back, of the Yemeni grandson of the Prophet, upon him and his House blessings and peace, al-Habīb ʿAlī al-Jafrī, as he walked into a packed auditorium at Dār al-Fatwā in Beirut, white jubba and turban over white robe, his gait vigorous but not rushed, his eyes fixed on the same invisible love as his heart, impervious and serene to seeing or being seen as if he were completely alone, yet smiling and present to those around him with the highest courtesy, and the words that followed: "Let not the would-be summoner to Allāh and His Prophet turn to everything he sees or hears lest his water become colored; then he will become affected by everything and everyone, but affect nothing and no-one!"

May Allāh reward you, yā Habīb, what precious advice you gave to every wary student! Indeed, Islām in Singapore, vibrant with futuwwa and tasawwuf, is no more nor less oriented by the wisdoms of the Sufi Masters of Hadramawt than its soul-brothers in the rest of South-East Asia. To those Habā'ib saints goes the palm of bringing the seal of the Divine dispensations to the shores of Indonesia and the rest of Borneo and Java. No wonder does the visitor to Singapore's Arab Street find, even in a humble perfume shop, a Scholar from the Prophetic tree. May the heirs not squander the hard-earned gains reaped by the forerunners!

* * *

No monastic ivory tower for you, then, O Muslim traveller in this world, and even less heed paid to the endless chatter of the media. Rather, focus and discipline in remembering your Return, and to Whom! as our Naqshbandi Liege-Lords said - "seclusion in the crowd" (khalwah fil-jalwah).

The Seal of Prophets and Paragon of perfection, our Master Muhammad ﷺ, upon him and his House blessings and peace, said:

"Whoever enters the market then says 'There is no divinity but Allāh, alone, without partner! His alone is the Kingdom, and to Him alone is due all praise! He causes death and brings to life, in His power is all goodness, and He is able over all things!' Allāh will write one million good deeds for him, erase one million sins, and raise him one million levels!" (Al-Tirmidhī, Ibn Mājah, Ahmad, al-Dārimī)

* * *

Muhammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh al-Khānī in the introduction to his epitome of Tarīqa ethics titled al-Bahjat al-Saniyya ("The Superb Splendor") quoted Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī al-Hanafī's explanation of this magnificent hadīth - Allāh have mercy on both of them:

"Perhaps this merit is specific to the market because it is the scene of heedlessness. The one that remembers Allāh among them is similar to the Mujāhid in an army of mere conquerors. This forms evidence for what the Naqshbandī Masters - great Sufis - have preferred when they said, 'isolation [with Allāh]' (khalwah) is during 'exposure [to people]' (jalwah), and solitude is in mingling. Thus the Sufi 'exists but is remote, a stranger but near, relating both to the Throne and to the ground' among similar expressions of theirs - Allāh nurture us with their blessings!"

I bear witness that among those barakāt is the fact that every outward and inward baraka is through the blessing of our Shaykh, Mawlānā al-Shaykh Nāzim, himself through the blessing of our Prophet, upon him, his House - including our Shaykh - and his Companions blessings and peace, just as the Mujaddid, Shaykh al-Islām al-Subkī said in his Fatāwā (I have replaced two mentions of the Prophet ﷺ - Allāh bless and greet him - with that of Mawlānā for context):

Al-Subkī's Prayer of Tawassul

To Allāh belongs all praise, Who has blessed us,
in the person of Mawlānā, with an endless felicity.
I bear witness that there is no deity except Allāh alone
without partner, the protecting Friend, the Glorious
I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger,
the guide to every upright matter.
May Allāh send blessings and peace upon him in a manner befitting His majesty, with a blessing rising ever higher and increasing,
And a superabundant greeting of peace until the Day of the Increase!
To begin: Verily Allāh knows that every goodness in my life which He has bestowed upon me is on account of Mawlānā
and that my recourse is to him, and my reliance upon him
in seeking a means to Allāh in every matter of mine.
Verily he is my means to Allāh in this world and the next
And the gifts of Allāh I owe to him are too many to count,
both the hidden and the visible!

Among those gifts is the following meeting. This bankrupt-souled, weak slave sat outside a conference room in Singapore, confessing with a weeping heart to his helplessness in any such daʿwah as that for which his unsuspecting hosts supposed him qualified Staring at the floor I told my Lord of my longing to see one of His elect servants so that I may cheat nafs with madad and turn schooling into inspiration. Lo and behold, as I looked up, there was, standing over me in the garb of Egyptian Shaykhs, head inclined with a slight smile and child-like eyes, a man introduced as Shaykh ʿAbd al-Maqsūd "As-Salāmu ʿalaykum - Wa-ʿalaykum as-Salām, Marhaban!" When I heard "Marhaban" I jumped some more: "Are you, Yā Sīdī, from Morocco?" He replied that he was an Idrīsī who had lived in Egypt Also known as ʿAbd al-Musawwir, Shaykh ʿAbd al-Maqsūd - Allāh bless and save him! - represents Azhar University in Singapore. That day he had come to read some instructional poems which I volunteered to translate on the spot, a work for which I am thankful and some of which follows:

FROM DIWAN SIDI ʿABD AL-MUSAWWIR
I.e. Shaykh ʿAbd al-Maqsūd Fāris al-Idrīsī al-Misrī al-Singāpūrī

1. LAYSA SU'LI MIN AL-JINANI NAʿIMA (SUPPLICATION)

My longing for Paradise is not for its pleasures
but I love them because then I will see You.
O life of all souls You are my healing
So heal me and treat me with Your cure!
I do not have, my Lord, a door other than Your door.
Then open the door that I may receive Your good pleasure.
My God, my Master, my Owner!
I do not hope from this existence other than You.
Therefore, expand my breast, my God, be bountiful to me
With Your special munificence: You can well do so!
I am, of all creatures, weak and oppressed;
Strengthen my body and save me from Your trials
My God! I am the poor dependent in my true poverty;
I have nothing except Your acceptance, so open up Your guidance
And heal my heart, and cure me, O my God!
You are my Lord and You are fit to do so!
Save my spouse and my children,
Cure my son, and heal them with Your medicine!
Grant victory to the Religion, my God, and strengthen
The Community of Truth and Right, destroy Your enemies!
Answer us, our Lord, in what we have just begged
I hope nothing from Your slaves - only You.

2. LI SADATUN MIN ʿIZZIHIM (THE AWLIYA')

I have masters whose glorious rank stand them on every front
If I am not of them yet in them I possess glory and fame.
They prostrate to their Lord and to no creature ever - only Him.
None but they taught this world love. Their love has His good pleasure.
Do you know them, dear student? They are the high leaders, the lords
They are the Family of the Chosen One, the Pure, those of the Mantle.
Allāh has purified them of the stains of this life,
Calling His servants to love them - and this love holds His guidance.
Whoever comes seeking their love is blessed with The God's gifts
Therefore, tread their path and reap from our Lord glory and fame.
Stand on their doorsteps, ask! Then truly receive His good pleasure,
The honor of Godwariness, of sufficiency from all creatures - only Him.
In their path is guidance, in their garb Godwariness
They watched the nights, bowing, asking for naught save His guidance.
Their limbs prostrate to Him, for Him prostrate their fronts
They cast themselves down, fearing for lives spent in the world
By day you see them, knights riding to every field,
Hoisting the flags of His good-pleasure, thanking my Lord on high
Our Lord! Join us with them! Please, hide what You see in us
Forgive us what we've done, our Lord, truly we are sinners!
Relent toward us, a relentence uprooting us from sins
Mend with Your favor our ruin, take us on the paths of salvation.
Bless, Lord, the Prophet and his House as long as fronts prostrate.

3. YA SAFWAT AL-KHALQ (AHL AL-BAYT ULEMA)

O chosen people, you are the masters of human beings
Allāh has purified you, He has ennobled you since before the beginning.
You are the safety of creation against every peril
And you are a light for Arabs and non-Arabs
You have pointed us to the all-Merciful, our Creator,
And you are, for creation, a light shining on high
O people of Ta Ha! In the hearts you hold a most special place.
Therefore, deflect our hardship, O most elect of nations!
May the Lord of the Throne send His blessings upon you
As long as the sun rises and darkness is removed
The Elect One is your grandfather; he instructed us to love you
- He never asked for any reward except love and generosity.
Therefore, love of the Prophet's Family is honor and great mercy.
True goodness lies in love of the knowers of the licit and the prohibited
Our Lord! Through al-Mustafā bless and honor our beloved ones
And forgive us what has befallen since before the beginning.
Bless al-Mustafā and his Family - all of them,
And all that keep to the guidance of the Prophet and his Al.

4. ATALLAT BI-MALA'I AL-DUNYA BAHAHA
(THE MAWLID)

The beauty of the world has dawned and creation exults in love.
New light bathes the universe, spring love embraces its bright boughs
Flowers sway, converse in confidence, a tongue known to their Creator.
Their fragrant scent suffuses the universes, all life fragrant with it
All creation is in joy and elation including the angels in high heaven.
The Throne of the Merciful beams for a newborn of unmatched honor
- Muhammad my liege-lord Ta Ha! Welcome, guidance and light!
Blessed is he who has the highest station, rank and glory unsurpassed!
Whoever has the Prophet for leader will dwell in high-ground Paradise
And in Firdaws is his house, by my Lord, high fruit-bearing gardens!
Before his birth appeared signs warning the witnesses
The Persians' fire went out one night after having blazed a millenium.
Sāwa's lake dried up and turned into a desert in the morning.
Light in every corner lit up with the light of the Elect reaching it
The nation of the desert rose, built the edifice of glory, raised its flags
The Book of Allāh was their leader and they trod Ahmad's Sunna,
Love of Muhammad and his House in them their very life-blood
For the love of the Al on the earth is safety, they are its sign-posts
Here they are, light, guidance, bearing honor and glory unsurpassed!
Seek refuge in them, get near, and dwell in sweet-boughed Paradise!
They summon to my most Merciful Lord, that is their very life-blood
At night you see them monks, and knights when daylight follows
Greetings, birth of our guide! For we reel in a world overwhelmed
There is Jerusalem weeping day after day; there, our Iraq faces evil.
The hosts of unbelief have come and schemed Rise, sons of Ta Ha!
In Somalia they died of hunger and people scarcely believed their eyes
In Chechnya, slaughters and destruction; woe and strife in Kashmere.
Our Lord! Rescue us with kindness for the sake of Ta Ha's House!
By the Elect one forgive our sins and be the honor-fortress of Muslims
Bless those present and their dependents Give souls their hopes
Bless, Allāh, our Lord, every instant, the Elect one as long as we live
With the most noble Al and Companions, the guardians of Religion.

5. ʿILMU AL-TASAWWUFI NURUN
(THE SUFI SCIENCE)

The Sufi science is a light unreachable
By book-knowers or pen-holders
Truly, Tasawwuf is the light of al-Haqq which He does cast
Into the heart of a slave weeping in painful fear,
Taking account of himself at all times,
Hoping for salvation and hoping for munificence.
Do not pursue it with books written among the people
But ask for it with a Master famed among them.
Allāh is his desire, Allāh his fervent request
At night you see his ankles have swollen.
My people! Work hard and march behind our lords
In truth, and be - my brethren - their devoted servants
Let not one deluded seduce you with his sophistry.
...........................................................................
Truly, the Lord of the Throne has descended Tasawwuf
Upon the Prophet ﷺ, thus have the Ulema defined it
Therefore, whoever wants guidance, let him approach its court
And keep the highest opinion, and do weep with remorse.

Our hosts then took us to visit the living Baraka of Borneo and the reason, no doubt, of mercy and light in their parts, the Beloved Bā ʿAlawī Habīb, the octogenarian Friend of Allāh in Johore, Malaysia, al-Habīb ʿAlī ibn Jaʿfar ibn ʿAbd Allāh al-ʿAydarūs He received us standing in his house, wearing clothes that, according to Shaykh Hasan al-ʿAttās the Imām of the Bā ʿAlawī mosque in Singapore, had not changed since the 1940s Indeed the house seemed completely bare and the Habīb apologized saying that since the death of his last female relative "the house has turned into a mosque." This was the first of a series of teachings on his part which lifted us on the wings of humility.

The Habīb looked and spoke to each of us with kindness and cheer. His gaze seemed the reflection of a blue sky in a clear sea breezed with quick mirth and uninsistent appraisal for the hāl and mind of each interlocutor. He exemplified the allegory of the Prophet ﷺ, upon him and his House blessings and peace, that speaks of "the shy virgin in her chamber" except for his joy at receiving us He said the entire world poured into his house to visit him and he was glad to hear their news and turn their sights into drinking-stations from their spiritual wellsprings Shaykh Abū Bakr ibn Muhsin al-ʿAttās once indicated that this perpetual istimdād from the Umma is a BāʿAlawī trait Mawlānā encapsulates it in his saying that our reply that "This is from your lights" to dazzled questioners about the Naqshbandiyya is literal. Hence Mawlānā turned us, also, into bees in search of blessings and into censors replying to those that bemoan the dearth of Awliyā on top of God's earth: Rise, blind sloth, and quit clinging to the dust with avarice and defeat!

"HOW FORTUNATE WE ARE, HOSTS OF ISLAM! FOR WE HAVE
OF DIVINE CARE A PILLAR INDESTRUCTIBLE." (Al-Burda)

But for his thin frame the Habīb looked like Mawlānā in all things and even seemed to mimick him when he said to pardon his broken Arabic. To our begging his duʿā for our injured lands and people he replied, "The Umma is protected and in good hands and you have in Shaykh Nāzim al-Kifāya." He gave us spiritual and material food and drink and invited us back for another feast We prayed, supplicated, and Our Lord took us back to Singapore in the same way He had brought us, vibrant with dhikr and shukr.

The dew-beads of our life's source reached the grove of desires
Blessed then be Allāh Who gave all beings their blessings!
After I saw their completion then began their chronicle,
Whatever I thirsted for has poured out from their dew.

(Al-Safī, Dew-Beads from the Source of Life:
from his association with Khwājā ʿUbayd Allāh al-Ahrār.)

By the Divine favor this was the first living ʿAydarūs the writer was graced to meet in person. The other two are Shaykh Wajīh al-Dīn ʿAbd al-Rahmān ibn Mustafā (d 1192) the author of al-Nafhat al-ʿAydarūsiyya fīl-Tarīqat al-Naqshbandiyya ("The ʿAydarūs Breath Concerning the Naqshbandī Sūfī Path") [Its manuscript is in the ex-Zāhiriyya Tasawwuf collection (ms 11353 now Maktabat al-Asad) cf. Riyād Mālih's catalogue (3:73 �2111) and Kahhāla, Muʿjam al-Mu'allifīn (5:195)], and Shaykh Muhyī al-Dīn ʿAbd al-Qādir ibn Shaykh ibn ʿAbd Allāh the author of Taʿrīf al-Ahyā' bi-Fadā'il al-Ihyā' ("Acquainting the Living with the Merits of ʿThe Reviving'") which begins:

Glory, praise, and thanks to Allāh Who has granted the proclamation of all kinds of goodness and enfolded them in the book of a servant which he made the apple of the eyes of His beloved ones and a provision for the Day of the Return! Blessings and greetings upon our liege-lord Muhammad Who has revived, through the reviving of his Law and his Path, the hearts of those with understanding, and upon his excellent, pure Family and all his Companions, for as long as the sun of the Ihyā' [ʿUlūm al-Dīn] rises over the hearts and the high energy of its Divinely-gifted author's spirit turns to rescue in their quest those who are constant in reading it and its lovers...

The author was also honored to meet the noble Habīb and director of the historical Bā ʿAlawī mosque in Singapore, Sayyid Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn Sālim al-ʿAttās - Allāh save him and have mercy on his foreparents! - who graced me with his hospitality and gifts from the Sunni heritage, among them the following books:

1. The large masterpiece by al-Habīb ʿAlawī ibn Ahmad ibn al-Hasan ibn al-Qutb ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAlawī al-Haddad titled Sharh Rātib al-Haddād, a 525-page lexical, juridical, and sufi commentary in twenty-seven chapters of the short supplication of Imām ʿAbd Allāh al-Haddād which is read in Yemen and through the Borneo peninsula. The introduction of al-Habīb ʿAlawī ibn Ahmad al-Haddād's to his 1216 (1801 CE) refutation of the Wahhābi sect titled Misbāh al-Anām wa-Jalā' al-Zalām fī Raddi Shubah al-Bidʿī al-Najdī al-Latī Adalla bihā al-ʿAwāmm ("The Light of Mankind in Refuting the Falsehoods of the Innovator from Najd by Which He Has Misguided the General Public") has been published in English translation by the writer of these lines joined with the recent epistle (translated in full) of al-Sayyid Yūsuf ibn Hāshim al-Rifāʿī titled Nasīha li-Ikhwāninā ʿUlamā' Najd ("Advice to our Brethren the Ulema of Najd").

2. Three most precious compilations on the merits of invoking blessings on the Paragon of creation, upon him blessings and peace:

- Fadl al-Salāt ʿalāl-Nabī ﷺ by Qādī Ismāʿīl al-Mālikī (d 272);
- Anwār al-Athār al-Mukhtassatu bi-Fadā'il al-Salāt ʿalā al-Nabī al-Mukhtār ﷺ by Abū al-ʿAbbās al-Iqlīshī (d 550); and
- Al-Durr al-Mandūd fīl-Salāti wal-Salām ʿalā Sāhib al-Maqām al-Mahmūd ﷺ by Imām Ibn Hajar al-Haytamī (d 973).

3. Al-Rihlatu al-Mihdāriyya ilāl-Najafi wal-Kūfati wal-Bilād al-Karbalā'iyya by Sayyid Jaʿfar ibn ʿAlawī ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Mihdār of Java. This 1972-1976CE travelogue is rich in instructive anecdotes on contemporary Muslim culture and Ahl al-Bayt history by a traditional educator of the first rank. Mihdār means "perpresent" after al-Sayyid Ahmad al-Mihdār' constant presence (hudūr) with the Prophet ﷺ, upon him and his House blessings and peace.

4. The precious epistle by Imām al-Suyūtī - Allāh have mercy on him - al-Bāhir fī Hukm al-Nabiyyi SallAllāhu ʿalayh wa-Alih wa-Sallam bil-Bātini wal-Zāhir on the proofs that the Prophet ﷺ ﷺ passed rulings not only on the basis of outward knowledge but also of internal knowledge, reuniting the criteria of al-Khidir with those of all the other Prophets

5. ʿUqūd al-Almās ("The Diamond Necklaces"), a biography of the Qutb al-Habīb Ahmad ibn Hasan ibn ʿAbd Allāh al-ʿAttās by Shaykh ʿAlawī ibn Tāhir ibn ʿAbd Allāh al-Haddād - Allāh be well-pleased with both of them! This 300-page book ends with an history of Islām in Java, Sumatra, and the Borneo peninsula dating the coming of the first ʿAlawī masters to those parts as far back as the fifth century.

6. Rashafāt Ahl al-Kamāl wa-Nasamāt Ahl al-Wisāl ("The Sips of the People of Perfection and the Breezes of the People of Connection"), a precious dīwān of spiritual poetry by Sayyid ʿAbd al-Rahmān ibn ʿAbd Allāh BalFaqīh who says - Allāh be well-pleased with him:

The servant will not be delivered from every lowly trait
except when he truthfully makes al-Haqq his guidance.
Then he shall be granted every victory and right guidance
through munificence right here and in the hereafter.
But he has no avenue whatsoever available
to guidance and to a lofty rank
Except to follow the Religion and the Sacred Law
aiming at the countenance of Allāh the Most Gracious.

Among the thorny issues in Singapore is usury (ribā). It is an issue of the highest gravity. As Dr. Muhammad Saʿīd al-Būtī said - echoing the masses of the prominent Ulema - in his condemnations without appeal of al-Tantāwī's "American" fatwās legalizing usury, "Allāh Most High declared war against one thing in His Book and that is ribā." {O ye who believe! Observe your duty to Allāh, and give up what remains from usury, if ye are (in truth) believers And if ye do not, then be warned of war (against you) from Allāh and His messenger. And if ye repent, then ye have your principal (without interest). Wrong not, and ye shall not be wronged} (2:278-279).

Yet the Prophet ﷺ upon him peace, warned that it would become impossible for the scrupulous Believer to avoid it completely: "There shall come a time upon the people when they will take usury, those who do not take it will be affected by the dust of it." It was narrated from Abū Hurayra - Allāh be well-pleased with him - by al-Nasā'ī, Abū Dāwūd, Ibn Mājah, and Ahmad.

Thus, it was left to the conscionable latter-day Muslims to keep the specter of ribā at bay as far as humanly possible and not throw up their arms in defeat even if the entire world revels in a ribā-based economy. Hudhayfa - Allāh be well-pleased with him - narrated that the Prophet ﷺ upon him peace - said: "Do not be conformers who say: 'If people do good we shall do good, and if they do wrong we shall do wrong.' Rather, gear yourselves to do good if people do good, and, if they do wrong, not to do wrong." Al-Tirmidhī narrated it and declared it hasan, while al-Bukhārī in al-Tārikh al-Kabīr narrates it as, "Do not be conformers turning with every wind."

Many Singaporean Muslims partake in transactions Islām sees as usurious (ribawī) such as interest-laden housing loans, leases, insurance (other than obligatory car insurance in some views), transactions in capital such as shares and stock market, interest banking... Any money accrued from the latter, for example, must be gotten rid of but can never be considered sadaqa nor used to pay government taxes nor anything else, contrary to the statement to that effect in The Muslim Reader magazine (Vol. 20 No. 3 page 8), because it is illicit property in the first place. If placed unsolicited into one's possession, one gets rid of it as fast as possible without the least expectation of reward. This ruling has often been clarified by our teachers, Shaykh Adīb Kallās al-Hanafī and Dr. Wahba al-Zuhaylī al-Shāfiʿī.

One solution is the promotion of takāful or cooperative insurance which provides permitted insurance. Another view is so-called Islamic banking. Solutions, whatever they are, are more urgent yet than the building of mosques and madrasahs But unless Islamic financial institutions also make their products appealing and affordable instead of aiming to do "business as usual," those in need will continue to turn to usurious providers {And whosoever keeps his duty to Allāh, Allāh will appoint a way out for him, and will provide for him from a quarter whence he has no expectation. Whosoever puts his trust in Allāh, He will suffice him. Lo! Allāh brings His command to pass Allāh has set a measure for all things} (65:2-3).

Another thorny issue in Singapore is the tudung, the Malay word for the head, neck, and throat veil of the Muslima known in Arabic as the hijāb. It has been the wont of the enemies of good since the beginning to persuade the paragons of creation - human beings since our first father and mother - to doff the garments of chastity, decency, modesty, and nobility so as to expose them and bring them nearer to the animal. {Children of Adam! Let not Satan seduce you as he caused your (first) parents to go forth from the Garden and tore off from them their robe (of innocence) that he might manifest their shame to them. Lo! he sees you, he and his tribe, from whence you see him not Lo! We have made the devils protecting friends for those who believe not} (7:27).

* * *

Tudung in Islām in not so much a symbol of religion as it is one of civilization and culture of the highest order. It is the remnant of the standard of feminine privacy and dignity known to all the other civilizations and cultures on earth It is ironic that it should be kept out of the educational public space. It is an endangered species as the human race's garment of modesty par excellence. Forbidding it in the name of secularism only hastens the march of materialism and impoverishes the human heritage. It is also a violation of protocol injuring an entire community which considers its women princesses and queens Worse, it transforms a native flower into an extremized hybrid - an import - unable to integrate into the larger social mosaic but instead absorbed with holier-than-thou purism and inviting polemics A perfect recipe for division and prejudice!

With the help of Allāh wisdom shall prevail. The authorities will perceive that if hearts are sincere in their adherence to Religion - not religious politics - and Muslimah citizens are allowed full expression of their identity and self-esteem in the public space, the only way society will go by permitting tudung in public schools is up.

A foremost government official said, "The good progress of the Muslim community is the result of hard work, determination, and the community working as one with other Singaporeans" However, the Muslims are more than just dependable. They are the conscience of the world They serve a higher ideal than work ethics and state-building even if these are natural side-results of their character. It is therefore the task of their conscionable representatives everywhere to set the tone and high moral standards for the societies and the very institutions and governments that manage them. This can only be achieved by clinging to the saving path and persevering in seeking Divine good-pleasure according to the rule that {Allāh changes not the condition of a folk until they first change that which is in themselves} (13:11).

Allāh bless and greet our liege-lord Muhammad and his Family and all his Companions. Praise be to Allāh the Lord of the worlds.

GF Haddad ©
[18 Jun 2003]





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