In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate
All praise to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. And salutations and greetings upon our Master Muhammad and upon his family and companions.
I intend to study and teach, take and give a reminder, take and give benefit, take and give advantage, to encourage the holding fast to the book of Allah and the way of his messenger, and calling to guidance and directing towards good hoping for the countenance of Allah and His pleasure, proximity and reward, transcendent is He.
You reach a point where you do something enough and you get used to it and the feelings you used to have at the beginning when you do that particular thing aren’t really there. For some reason, right now, my heart is pumping in a way which usually doesn’t happen when you get used to public speaking. I think that everything that has been said that needs to have been said has already been said. This was an incredibly beautiful night that Allah blessed us with.
In reality, these people that are here, to repeat and reiterate everything that has been said that I believe they are all very special people in general and in particular because of the relationships that I have with all of them. We could go one after the other and one after the other. Shaykh Ibrahim is a teacher of mine and it is not even befitting that I speak after him. He is someone that I consider my superior and look up to. He is an Imam that I follow. He is literally my teacher. When we were in a small place in Muhajireen, Syria, he taught me the Ajrumiyya and I continue to learn from him time and time again throughout the years. Shaykh AbdulKarim, I feel the same way, he is my senior and my superior who I learn from and who was the first person to greet me when I went to Hadramawt. Mustafa Davis, my long-term friend, no matter what I could possibly do to attain wisdom Allah has endowed him with wisdom naturally. I feel that any endeavour that I do without seeking his advice, my endeavour will somehow be deficient or through my own corrupted nature I will miss the mark. Amir Sulaiman, I haven’t known him long but there is an in-depth heart and deep-felt connection that there are very few people in the world that open up certain sides of you. Imam Khalid, goes without saying, he is an aashiq of Rasulillah (prayers and peace be upon him). For everyone, you all know this, Imam Khalid had a heart attack three weeks ago and he is sitting here with us and has been sitting here since 7pm and it is 10pm now. For three hours plus and the man had a heart attack three weeks ago. We all just want to stop and make a special dua for him. Allah gives him complete and total afiya. Allah gives him complete and total health by the baraka of our Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him). May Allah restore him completely and give him a long, long life in His love and may Allah long to meet him and the Prophet long to meet him. Allahumma Amin.
I will try to attempt and say a few words and hopefully my dirty, soiled and sinful self won’t pollute this beautiful night and stand in the way of the light and mercy that is pouring upon a gathering the greatness of which is determined by that which is mentioned in that gathering. And in this gathering we have mentioned our Lord and our Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) and the line of poetry that Shaykh Ibrahim quoted earlier of the great Imam al-Busiri. Someone that loved the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) so much so that he died out of love of him (prayers and peace be upon him). The great Imam al-Busiri who himself was paralysed from the waist down and he decided after he spent a very long life in a career of praising rulers and princes. He decided that it was time to send a poem to the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) in hope that he would receive a cure. And from the blessing of writing in the praise of the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) is that he saw a dream and in that dream the Prophet made dua for him and he woke up and the paralysis was gone. This is why this line that we say that Imam al-Busiri reached a point where he wrote the first part of the line and then he stopped. He didn’t know how to finish the line and then he saw the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) complete it in a dream. “The extent of knowledge that he is a man.” The Prophet completed that line in a dream, “Indeed but he is the best of all creation.” Then the line one of the first times that we heard this line was from our Shaykh who is the door for all this good, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. He used to hear Murabit al-Hajj recite it over and over again, “Glad tidings O people of Islam. Indeed that we have a pillar of concern that will never be destroyed. When Allah called our caller to His obedience and said that He was the Best of Messengers. Indeed through that we became the best of all communities and best of all nations.”
Everything that we heard tonight, we swear an oath, knowing that Allah sees this that I believe these meanings that we have heard tonight are the essence of the sunnah of the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him). It is the very essence of everything that the Companions learned from our Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him). The essence of what was transferred from the noble chest of our Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) to the noble chest of those great men and women of the Sahaba. This is the amanah (a trust) that was passed down. Generation after Generation. Generation after Generation. Generation after Generation. We know every single one of our teachers back to the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) and all of the other great chains back to the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him). This has been transmitted until it is still here today. It is fresh as if it was just revealed today. This is one of the greatest blessings of all that every other ideology, religion, philosophy, anything else on the face of the earth, is that Muslims can rightfully boast with the only direct connection back to the founder of the religion. We have a connection back to the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him). What we used to learn from our teachers is that it is like a subha (rosary beads), that if you hold a subha and move one bead at the bottom it moves the entire line of beads back to the top. At the top of our lineage is the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him). Of our spiritual lineage. Of our religious lineage. It all goes back to him (prayers and peace be upon him). These meanings that we are being exposed to, I take an oath by Allah, that they are the essence of the sunnah of the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him).
And I take an oath by Allah, that this ‘La ila ha il-Allah” is from the very, very, very depths of my heart, that if this religion can be brought to someone like myself; John Franklin Rhodus Jr born in Kansas City, Missouri, in the middle of the mid-West of the United States of America. I could tell you story after story after story about what I used to do before I entered into Islam on September 13th 1996 in the MCA Mosque and Sidi Mustafa Shaheed was there present. It was what made Brian Davis now become Mustafa Davis. It was what made Michael Coleman now become Shaykh AbdulKarim Yahya. And on and on and on and all of our other friends. The likes of Whitney Canon becoming Usama Canon and all of these other people that we see become the people who they are today. If this deen can reach me, someone that when I became Muslim there was someone in Middle School named AbdulKarim and he had a sister as well. When I went to Rolling Hills Middle School in Campbell, California. When he saw me in my second year of college at De Anza College in Cupertino, California, that I was a Muslim and I was hugging a Muslim. He walked over and he was just looking at us. He just said, “John Rhodus.” He couldn’t believe that was me standing there right next to that person. He couldn’t believe that it was me. But this is something that is reality. This what we are witnessing is the unfolding of Prophecy and I believe this from the very depth of my heart that we are living in a time that, by the permission of Allah, the meanings that we are being exposed to even if they seem out of reach. Even if they seem lofty. Even if they seem that we can’t make them a reality in our lives just yet. If they start to become a reality in the lives of one or two or three or four or a group of people or a small group of people let alone a large group, I take an oath by Allah, these places that we are living in will be fragranced and they are going to be honoured and they are going to be decorated with the love of the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) and entrance to the deen. This is the reality.
We heard the beautiful narration of Shaykh AbdulKarim Yahya of Sayyidina Thumama bin Uthal sitting in the Prophet’s masjid. This is something that I have absolute certainty of that if our people and any people of the world but I am speaking in our context because we have to see the people that are before us as our people. If our people are exposed to these irresistible meanings of our Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) they will come to this religion in hoards. I fully believe this but it takes time to unfold.
One of the stories that came to the faqir’s heart is that when Abu Sufyan after he became Muslim and the Prophet was marching with his army 10,000 deep and they are going into Makkah tul-Mukarramah after all of these years in the 8th year of the Hijrah. 13 plus 8 equals 21 years. 21 years after he received Prophecy. Abu Sufyan sees that all these people walking by (are) fearful, quiet, tranquillity upon them, in a state of khushoo. Their limbs are still. They are making the dhikr of Allah. Completely transformed. These people who were barbarians and they are completely transformed. They are walking in silence and with etiquette in order to make their blessed pilgrimage for the sake of Allah. When he sees them he turns towards the uncle of the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) and says a statement, “Indeed that the dominion (something that kings have) has become great O Abbas.” Abbas looks at Abu Sufyan and says, “Indeed this is Prophecy.” This isn’t dominion, this is Prophecy unfolding. And this is the reality of Islam. There is something about Islam that it is real. It is real. It something which transcends all these imaginations that people have that prevent them from entering into the truth. It transcends all of that. There is something about the reality of Islam that has been manifested by al-Haqq (The Truth). Such that if Allah opens that up to someone’s heart and they experience the reality of this deen, it will enter into that deen and it is very difficult to lodge out. Once the reality of Islam gets down under in the skin and in the essence of your heart, it is very, very difficult to be taken out. This is why Abu Sufyan was asked by the Eastern Byzantine King; one of the questions was that after they become Muslim do they leave? He said, “No because there is something about this faith that once it gets lodged in the heart, there is nothing greater than it.”
This is why Sayyidina Ali ibn Abi Talib was asked, “Describe to me the Ulema al-amineen.” What was his description? What did he say? “They are a people that knowledge has literally rushed them into the reality of faith. Then they experience (with their skin) certainty.” They were experiencing the secret of certainty. What is the result of that? What other people find difficult, they find easy. What other people that are opulent and basking in, they were able to renounce it. There are people that even though they took the world as a companion with their physical body, their hearts were attached to the celestial realm. These are people that were walking on the face of this earth but their hearts were aligned with these very meanings that all of us are hearing here tonight. I take an oath by Allah, that this is the essence of the sunnah of the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him). If Allah allows us to live long enough and we are blessed to be able to experience the realities of these meanings and we are able to overcome the various obstacles and preventatives that are preventing us from reaching the higher levels of this certainty that Allah granted to the noble Companions and all of the generations after them, we are going to see wonders from the mercy of Allah. This is the essence of the teaching because when it is all said and done these are teachings of mercy. When people open up their hearts and they experience mercy there is nothing greater than experiencing that mercy. This is the way our Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) dealt with people. He dealt with them with mercy.
Mercy once it comes to the heart, it makes the heart expand. This is why if you look at the verses in Surah Qalam that describe the Prophet’s character (prayers and peace be upon him). How does Allah begin? Nun which is a letter. One of the letters of the 28 letters of the Arabic language. “By the Pen” He swears. The scholars differ is it the pen that we all use or is it the pen that wrote in the Preserved Tablet. There is a difference of opinion among the scholars. If we say it is by the pen that writes in the Preserved Tablet then the angels write otherwise it is us. Allah taught through the pen all the great books. Look at all the different ways that people learn through the blessing of a pen. If you look at the Arabic word hibr which is ink. Any way that you take these three letters, they all indicate expansiveness. This is from the miracles of the Arabic Language. If we look at this, Allah swears by the pen. “You are not through the grace of your Lord a madman.” Because this is what he was called, some people said that he (prayers and peace be upon him) was a madman. Allah is going to defend His Prophet. Another interpretation of this verse is that Jannah is to cover. Allah speaks about the covering of the night in the Qur’an. Majnun is also a covering so this verse can also be translated as “You are immersed in the blessing of your Lord. And Indeed you will have a reward that will never cease.” Your reward will never cease for the way that you respond to these people. “And Indeed you are upon a great character.” Your character is great.
If the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) was to have an abata which is what someone writes on someone’s grave to celebrate him. What is the abata that Shaykh AbdulHakim Murad mentioned in his translation of the book Disciplining the Soul, Book 23 of the Ihya. He says that the abata of the Prophet are the lines of the poetry of Imam al-Haddad. One of the greatest of the inheritors of the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) in the history of this ummah who lived 88 years and said, “There was no sunnah from the sunnah of the Prophet except that I hoped to have acted upon it.” They say that towards the end of his life he grew his hair a bit long so that he could be able to follow that sunnah. There is a line of his poetry still to this day, if you go to Madinah al-Munawwara and you face the hujrah sharifah of the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) and you will see three different verses of the Qur’an. One on the right side of the hujrah, one in the middle and one to the left. Sometimes you can even see this on the posters that people have in their homes. On the right side above the verse to this day it is still written: “The Prophet the character of whom that the All-Merciful has magnified in the Master of all Books.” This is our Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him). That of all the things that could have been said about him, this is what was said about him. About his character being adheem (great). We could talk about all of the different ways that our Lord expressed this about Sayyidina Muhammad (prayers and peace be upon him).
One of the commentators said that what is it that allowed the Prophet to have the character that he did? It was in reference to the words of Allah, “Have we not expanded your breast?” It was from the blessing of that expansion. What is the expansion of the breast with? Light. The breast will expand if you have light and when the light entered into the heart of the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) it expanded. This is why he was the ocean of purity (prayers and peace be upon him). Taking it back to Imam al-Haddad, whenever he used to go through a hard time they used to recite this poem and he wrote this poem for this. “O Messenger of Allah. O Person of Fulfilment. O Great in Character. You are the Ocean of Purity.”
Oceans are pure substances. No matter what you throw in them they are not going to become impure. This was the nature of the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) that because of this light in his chest he was able to expand and he was able to embrace and he was able to encompass.
So taking it back, we have had a long and beautiful night. The thing that we want to leave you with are these meanings of character. These meanings of rahma (mercy). These meanings of understanding our Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) that when you send salawat upon him and when you start to open your heart to the light that comes to your heart from the salawat, light is what fuels the inner dimension of this religion. The light is what allows you to move up through the various degrees of certainty. The light is what allows you to be someone who while other people are going through all the troubles and toils and anxieties, you are perfectly fine.
I swear by Allah, I have never in my life ever seen someone who sends a lot of salawat upon the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) except that they are always happy. Ever! I challenge anyone in the world to show me one person that sends salawat upon the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) often and is not a happy person. This is enough. They should close down the shrinks offices and just give people salawat.
My own mother, I’m serious, when she went through a bout with breast cancer. And Allah helped her and He allowed the operation to be successful and she went on to do radiation and she didn’t have to do chemo. I gave her a salawat that one of the great Habaib who passed away recently, Habib Muhammad bin Ali al-Junayd (may Allah have mercy upon him), someone that had a close connection to the people of the barzakh. He was a very special person. He gave me a prayer upon the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) for anyone that is ill and my own mother says this. I translated it for her and until this day she has a rosary bead that Hababa Nur, Habib Umar’s wife gave her and she sends salawat upon the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him). This is a non-Muslim sending salawat upon the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) believing in the therapeutic value and the medicinal value of these salawat. This is very real.
We have to enter into this life and we have to be able to at least believe that what is beyond the horizons of those who came before us is that we at least believe in it. This is why the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) told us, “Learn Certainty.” Imam al-Ghazali said in other words, “Sit with the people of certainty. Listen to the discourse of certainty. So that we can in of ourselves become people of certainty.”
The promise of our Lord to the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) is true. Everything that I heard time and time and time and time again from my teachers is “glad-tidings” despite all of the problems, despite everything that is happening to the ummah of the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) right now. We should think about it, we should be pained by it and we should do everything that we can inwardly and outwardly to help the condition the ummah of the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) as well as humanity. At the same time, we should recognise that this is the deen of Allah. The promise of Allah is true. There is coming a time and whether we live to that time or if it is much after our time, Allah is going to manifest this religion whether it is with Yahya Rhodus or Ibrahim Osi-Efa or AbdulKarim Yahya or Fulan or Fultan or whoever it might be. This is Allah’s deen. This is not my deen. Allah is going to honour His Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) by bringing people to it because He says in the Qur’an, “He is the One who sent His Prophet guidance in the religion of truth in order that He may manifest it over all other religions.” If we look at what the commentators say that this happened but the most perfect manifestation will be towards the end of time. Even though things look dim and things look grim, behind all of this is a lutf. There is a Divine Mercy and a Divine Gentleness that is behind all of it. If we maintain the character that our Prophet taught us and we maintain and persevere then hopefully we will be able to live to that time and experience that reality just as Abu Sufyan experienced it. Just as Khalid ibn Waleed experienced it. Just as Amr ibn al’Aas and all of these other great Companions. Many of which became Muslim at later times.
May Allah bless us and give us tawfiq. May Allah bless this community and raise you and give you the best. May Allah preserve your great people. May Allah gather us together and allow us to remember these times that we spent together in the highest levels of Paradise.
Allahumma Amin. Allahumma Amin. Allahumma Amin.
Any mistakes, errors or misinterpretations of words are from me. Please correct me when you spot any mistakes.