Do not be outstripped to a virtue when you find the way to it. Consider at this world with the look of someone who is traveling from it and at the goals you obtain from it. When you marry, have a wedding feast such as you can manage. When you sleep, enter your house, eat, drink or do some action, utter the Name of God before it and mention Him.
Undertake all things using your right hand—except that in which a prohibition is related by the Lawgiver or something which is like a prohibition, like cleaning oneself in the lavatory, wiping the penis with the right hand in urination, and blowing your nose. Use your left hand for all that.
When you sit with a group eating from the same food, then eat from what is in front of you. If the food is varied, then eat from wherever you like. Do not look a lot at those who are eating with you. Take small bites and chew well. Say the Name of God at the beginning of every morsel and praise God at the end of it when you swallow it. Thank God when you swallow it. Do not be very greedy in eating.
Make it a habit to walk to the mosques: the mosques in which the group prayers are held at the times of the prayers, especially night obligatory prayer and morning obligatory prayer without a lamp, and you will enjoy full light on the Day of Resurrection.
When you hear someone sneeze and praise God, then bless him. If he does not praise God, remind him by praising God. When he praises God, then bless him. When he sneezes more than three times, that is a cold, so pray to God to cure him.
Beware of betraying the one who betrays you. Do not transgress against the one who transgresses against you. That will be better for you with God. Excuse, but do not excuse yourself. Your apology demonstrates your bad opinion of the one to whom you apologize.
Begin your transactions with those people who are closest and then the next closest. When matters are the same, begin one of them by mentioning God. Begin with what God began, as the Messenger of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) performed his pilgrimage (hajj) when he wanted to run between Safa and Marwah: he stood on Safa and recited, “‘Safa and Marwah are among the landmarks of God’ (2:158). I begin with what God began.”
When you stand to worship God, then do so with energy. When you are lazy, stop. Do not be one of those “who when they get up to pray, get up lazily” (4:142). When you pray and someone looks at you, intend in that to make your prayer good to teach him and be sincere to God in your worship. God only commanded you to worship Him with sincerity. You must do what God has obliged you to do, whether you are lazy or energetic. I command you to stop the supererogatory prayers and not worship God when you feel sluggish, nor should you start other supererogatory acts. Do not make your prayer good in the assembly but not when you are alone. If someone does that, that action is his disdain by which his Lord will demean him. That is confirmed.
Even if you are one of those qualified to act as the imam, pray behind the imam. If the imam breaks ablution in the obligatory prayer, he can delegate you to replace him. If you are not one of its people, then pray to the right or left of the row.
Persevere in praying in the first row. When you see a gap in the row, fill it with yourself. There is no respect for the one who notices a gap and leaves it. Step over the necks of the people to reach it. Hasten to good actions. Be the first to them and complete for them before you are prevented from doing them.
Beware of lying down in people’s roads or in their shade, either under a fruit tree or in people’s meeting places. Do not urinate in a well, on stones nor in standing water and then perform ablution from it and wash in it.
Fear God regarding your wife, children, servants and all whom God has commanded you to deal with. Beware of the trial of this world, women, children, property and the company of the ruler. Fear God in how you treat of animals.
Perform the obligatory prayer in your house and single out a place in your house for your obligatory prayers in which you can perform supererogatory prayers. Pray your obligatory prayer in it when you need to do that. Recite the Qur’an a lot, reflecting on it if you have knowledge. It is the highest form of remembrance (dhikr). If you are in a gathering in which people are reciting the Qur’an, then recite with them what you agree on. If you differ, then leave them.
Persevere in reciting the to radiant ones of the Qur’an: Chapter 2 (al-Baqarah) and Chapter 3 (Ale Imran). When you begin to recite a chapter of the Qur’an, do not speak until you have finished it. That is the custom of righteous scholars. More than one person in Cordoba told me that the religious scholar, Ibn Zarb, a man of fine qualities, was reciting a chapter of the Qur’an from a copy of the Qur’an when the Commander of the Believers of the Umayyads passed by him. He was mentioned to the caliph and he stopped his horse, greeted him and asked him, but the shaykh did not speak to him until he had finished the chapter. Then he spoke to him. The caliph asked him about that and he said, “I would not leave off speaking with your Master. I am talking to you and you are His servant. This in not part of good manners.” Then he gave an example using his servants: “Do you think that if I was conversing with you and one of your servants spoke to me, would it be proper for me to stop talking to you, break off and speak to your servant?” “No,” he replied. He said, “You are the servant of God.” The caliph wept.
I met a group of shaykhs who did that, including Abu-l-Hajjaj al-Shurbuli in Seville. He used to often recite from a copy of the Qur’an when he was alone. When he went to a sick person or a corpse, he would recite Chapter YaSin with him. Something extraordinary happened to me with him. You must pray in sandals when there is no impurity in them and walk in them. Show concern for the seeker of knowledge good and for women. Be straight in your prostration when you prostrate in the prayer or during recitation. Do not stretch your forearms out in the prayer like a dog.
Do not oblige yourself to do what you cannot do when you know that if you continue on it.
When you are with a dying person, teach him: “There is no god but God”. Then do not have a bad opinion of him if he does not say that or says “No.”
I know person in North Africa to whom something like this happened. He was renowned for righteousness. When he recovered consciousness, he was asked about that. He said, “I was not with you. The satans came to me in the form of my ancestors and ranks of my fathers and brothers. They were telling me, ‘Beware of Islam. Die a Christian or a Jew.’ I was not saying ‘No’ to you when you heard me say ‘No.’ So God protected me from him.” If you have a friend, visit him if he is ill, pray over him if he dies, and attend his funeral if a funeral is held. If you are riding, walk. If you are walking, walk in front of him. When you have attended a Muslim’s burial, do not leave his grave immediately, but stand there for as long as it takes for him to be questioned. He will find companionship by your standing. If you carry a bier, go quickly with it. If he was good, you are hastening him to good. If he was bad, then you are removing him from your neck. Do not mention the evil qualities of the dead.
Cover the vessel from which you drink and put out the lamp when you go to sleep. Lock your door when you want to go to sleep. That satans do not open a locked door. Recite Ayat al-Kursi (2:255) when you go to sleep.
Be focused in matters and draw near God as much as you can. Do good and do not say, “God has written that I will wretched, so I am wretched,” or “He has written that I will fortunate and so I am fortunate,” and fail to act. Know that when you have success in performing a good action, that is good news from God that you are one of the fortunate. God “does not let the wage of good-doers go to waste” (18:30). God says, “As for him who gives out and has consciousness of god and confirms the Good, We will pave his way to Ease. But as for him who is stingy and self-satisfied, and denies the Good, We will pave his way to Difficulty” (92:5-10). The Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace) said, “Act and rely, and every one is eased to that he is eased to. Whoever is created for Hellfire will find the way to Difficulty easy.” Put every one in his proper position and you will be fair. Abandon your right in favor of your brother as much as you can.
Make light of the errors of the people of appearances and forms—except in carrying out the legal punishments if you are a judge charged with authority. If you are a person of wealth and fortune in this world, devote a horse or camel to the Way of God, and stroke their forelocks and withers. Garland them but do not garland them with an odd number or with bells. Strive with your property and your self against those who associate other gods with God. Intercede, except in the case of a violation of a divine ordinance when it has reached the judge.
Wear white garments. They are the best, purest and most wholesome of the believers’ clothes. Shroud the dead in white.
When someone comes to you to ask for knowledge or something else, do not chide him. Do not disappoint the one who comes to ask you for support from what God has preferred you.
Visit the graves often, but do not sit at them a lot. Do not nap at midday, but rather sit reflecting and remember the Next World. Do not harm the people of the graves by talking there about worldly matters. Convey from the Messenger of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) even one tradition or a single ayat. By doing that you will be gathered in the company of the scholars who convey.
The Mysteries of Bearing Witness, Shaykhu l-Akbar, ibn ‘Arabi.
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The Mysteries Of Bearing Witness
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