Chapter 49: The Beginning of My Writing of Syarah Hikam

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“It may be just plain rice, a few dishes and salted egg, alhamdulillah. Everything is a blessing from Allah,” Zulkifli said to his students. That afternoon, they are all cooking their meal to eat together in trays. Zulkifli enjoys lightening the burden of his students’ financial situation. They also enjoyed eating together for they could save on lunch as well as strengthen the bonds amongst them.

Tonight, I’ll start teaching Hikam book at Port Dickson Mosque. If any of you are free, you can go with me in my car,” Zulkifli said to his male students.

Al-Hikam al-‘Ataiyyah is one of the most famous tasawwuf books that gained the attention of scholars. Al-Hikam means “words of wisdom” which gathered a total of 264 phrases of tauhid pearls of wisdom and has a great tasawwuf value. It can be considered as a compendium of the tasawwuf thought of its author Ibn ‘Ata’ illah al-Sakandari in the spiritual field. It is his first book and he wrote it when his teacher Syeikh Abu al-‘Abbas al-Mursi was still alive. He stated this himself in Lataif al-Minan.

Ibn ‘Ata’ illah al-Sakandari is a sufi scholar who lived at the end of the 7th century and the beginning of the 8th century or the end of the 11th and beginning of 12th AD. He started to incline to learn fiqh knowledge especially madhhab Maliki, however, his introduction with his teacher Syeikh Abu al-‘Abbas al-Mursi has made him fall in love with tasawwuf. He greatly contributed to the development of the knowledge of tasawwuf and tarekat Syaziliyyah, where his books then became the main source of reference in the tarekat. Al-Hikam al-‘Ataiyyah is his most popular book and is widely spread all over the world including in Malaysia.

Ibn ‘Ajibah stated there are four main axes of discussion in al-Hikam al-‘Ata’iyyah which are:

  1. Reminders and guidance (al-tazkir wa al-wa’z).
  2. Cleansing of worship, improvement of ahwal with good character and conduct and cleaning the heart from abhorrent attributes.
  3. Determining ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ahwal, maqamat (levels in tasawwuf) and the rulings of zauq for the people of salik (with a calm heart) at the beginning level.
  4. The knowledge of makrifat (about Allah SWT) and ladunni (divine inspiration). [1]

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After the Maghrib prayer, Zulkifli begins his lesson on the HIkam book. The translation of Hikam in a modern, simple and easy to understand language is limited or may be unavailable at the end of the 90s. Thus, Zulkifli decided to translate and discuss it with a simple and concise approach. Several days before his lesson, he’ll prepare notes for every wisdom complete with its discussion so that he can share them with the congregants of Port Dickson Mosque.

Zulkifli began to translate and explain for Hikam on several pages of paper before handing them to his student, Hasrul Nizam for it to be typed. For each hikmah, usually, it will be about 4-5 pages of paper. In explaining each hikmah (wisdom), Zulkifli will refer to various discussions to Al-Hikam al-‘Ataiyyah among them is by Syeikh Ahmad Zarruq, Ibn ‘Ajibah, Ibn ‘Abbad, Syeikh Abu Madyan, Syeikh Abd al-Majid al-Syarnubi, Syeikh Dr. Muhammad Sa’id Ramadhan al-Buti and others.

In our country the Tanah Melayu, there is a translation of HIkam book by Tokku Pulau Manis titled Hikam Jawi. Tokku Pulau manis referred to discussions of HIkam among them are Iqaz al-Himam written by Ibn ‘Ajibah and Ghaith al-Mawahib al-Saniyyah by Ibn ‘Abbad. For a simpler and modern approach, insyaAllah I’ll explain in our every lesson here from start to finish, insya-Allah,” Zulkifli informed in his lesson. Dato’ Abdullah Sijang who was in the front row of his class, nodded his head and jotted down something in his notebook.

Zulkifli’s simple, easy to understand and not too heavy with complex tasawwuf terminologies that he has simplified, attract the attention of the congregants who are present.

Ibn ‘Ajibah rahimahullah stated: ‘The relationship of the knowledge of tasawwuf among others results in the performance of sincere worship and pure matters. The wisdom is as follows:

مِنْ عَلاَ مَةِ اْلاِعْـتِــمَادِ عَلَى الْعَمَلِ، نُقْصَانُ الرَّجَاءِ عِنْدَ وُجُـودِ الزّ َلَلِ

“Among the signs of a person who only depend on his deeds are those who have less dependence towards Allah SWT when he fell into sin.”

The meaning of these words of wisdom is that the greater one’s dependence when he is well decorated with acts of obedience and can be saved from sins and transgression. Ibn ‘Abbad rahimahullah said: ‘Dependence towards Allah is one of the attributes of the people of the Arifin who believes, consequently, dependence on others is the attribute of the ignorant and distracted…’

After his class, the mosque’s committee and Nazir who is Dato’ Zainal and Dato’ Abdullah Sijnag who is the founder of Port Dickson Mosque will eat together with Zulkifli.

“Ustaz Zul, do you live near or far from here?” Dato’ Abdullah Sijang asked in a thick Negeri Sembilan accent.

Zulkifli places his coffee cup back and replied, “I live at Port Dickson Hospital’s quarters. Not far from here, Dato’.

Oh, that’s near here. Ustaz, I have a question I wanted to ask as we’re just having our drinks. Ustaz has been mentioning the word tasawwuf several times in your sermon, what exactly is tasawwuf?” Dato’ Abdullah Sijang asked Zulkifli.

Zul smiled and looked down. Dato’ Abdullah Sijang is a very humble man.

Dato’ knows better than I do, you’re the student of Syeikh Abdullah Fahim. You studied at Madrasah Saulatiyyah, Mecca. I’m abashed when you asked me. If I’m wrong, I hope you’ll correct me.” Zulkifli said before beginning his explanation.

If we want to know what is tasawwuf, there are more than 2 thousand definitions of tasawwuf stated by Syeikh Ahmad Zarruq. The reason is the roads to purify one’s heart to get closer to Allah SWT are numerous. The main essence of tasawwuf is as stated by the Prophet PBUH:

أَنْ تَعْبُدَ اللَّهَ كَأَنَّكَ تَرَاهُ، فَإِنْ لَمْ تَكُنْ تَرَاهُ فَإِنَّهُ يَرَاكَ

“To worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you do not achieve this state of devotion, then (take it for granted that) Allah sees you.”

“Either we call it tasawwuf, ihsan, fiqh al-batin or tazkiyyatunnafs, all of these give the same meaning which is the knowledge that connects to the purification of oneself to reach the highest level from the angle of ruhiyyah and attaining the redha (contentment) of Allah.” Zulkifli gave a brief definition of tasawwuf.

I heard we can’t learn tasawwuf without learning fiqh. Is this true?” Dato’ Zainal interjected after Zulkilfi’s explanation.

Zul nodded his head. He then explained, “Imam al-Ghazali said: ‘The ruling of learning the knowledge of tasawwuf is fardhu ‘ain because people can never escape indiscretions or illness except for the prophets. It is narrated that Imam Malik bin Anas once said: Whoever learns fiqh without tasawwuf, then he has committed fasiq (sinful). Whoever learns tasawwuf without fiqh then he can become zindiq (deviated). Whereas whoever learns both, then that is the best and perfection of the matter.” [2]

“The most important thing Dato’ Zainal, just as Syeikh Ahmad Zarruq has stated, there is no tasawwuf without fiqh, for only with the knowledge of fiqh the rulings of Allah SWT will become apparent and clear. Likewise, there is no fiqh without tasawwuf, for good deeds will only be rewarded with sincerity and true belief to Allah SWT. Thus, both tasawwuf and fiqh come together, just as soul and body. The comparison of the knowledge of tasawwuf and worship is the same as soul and body.” [3]

After everything’s finished, Zulifli returns home. On his way home, a thought crosses his mind, “I think it’s good if I start writing a discussion of Hikam. The community needs to learn tasawwuf properly. A lot of things can be resolved when we have a clean heart…

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[1] Iqaz al-Himam fi Sharh al-Hikam, p. 9.

[2] Hasyiyah al-‘Adawi ‘ala Syarh al-Zarqani 3/195, Mirqat al-Mafatih 1/478 dan Al-Futuhat al-Rahmaniyyah fi Halli Alfaz al-Hikam al-‘Atha’iyyah, pg. 42

[3] Qawa’id al-Tasawwuf, pg. 22

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