Thursday, May 24, 2012

What are the virtues of the month of Rajab? By Shaykh Ilyas Patel

It has been mentioned by Abu Nu’aim in Hilya from Anas Ibn Malik (Allah be pleased with him) he said, that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to make the following dua, when the month of Rajab came in: “Allahuma Barik lana fi Rajaba wa Sha’bana wa ballighna Ramadhan” It has been mentioned by Abul Fath ibn Abil-Fawaris in his Amali (dictations and transmissions) and Allama Suyuti has also mentioned in his Jami Saghir from Hasan Basri that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Rajab is the month of Allah. Shaban is my month. Ramadhan is the month of my ummah (followers)”. From the above hadith, it shows that it is preferable to make dua, to remain in the coming and following months, in order to perform good actions in them, because a true believer increases in his age with goodness. The best of people is the one who lives long and performs good actions. The pious predecessors used to prefer dying after performing good actions, like the fast of Ramadhan or returning from Haj. And it was said by them, “whoever dies in this way, is forgiven.” There is no doubt that the month of Rajab is the key to the opening of the months of goodness and blessing. Abu Bakr Warraq (May Allah be pleased with him) said, “Rajab is a month of cultivation, Shaban is month of irrigating the fields, and the month of Ramadhan is a month of reaping and harvesting.” The summary is, that the month of Rajab is a sacred month and the first, virtuous and noble of them all. So it is appropriate to celebrate it ENTIRELY and to give attention to it by performing good acts, and refraining oneself from sins and offensive things, because it is the month of Allah. It has been mentioned that Allah said, “Fasting is for me and I will recompense one for it.” Fasting in the month of Rajab prevents one from sins, let alone refraining one from killing and having enmity towards the enemy (which this month was made sacred for), like it was practiced by the people in the ignorant (jahili) period. (Imam Abdul Gani al-Nablusi, Fadhail al-Shuhur wal-Ayyam (Virtues of Months and Days) pg 27, 32)

Sidi Mohammed b. Sulayman al-Jazouli al-Hassani (d. 869/1454)

Imam al-Jazouli's present-day reputation is based primarily on a work that was written more than two hundred years after his death: Mumti'u‘ al-asma'a fi dhikr al-Jazouli wa at-Tabba'a wa ma lahuma mina al atba‘ (The Delight of the Hearing in the Recollection of al-Jazouli, at-Tabba'a, and Their Followers), by the Shadhili master Sidi Mohammed al-Mahdi al-Fasi (d. 1109/1694). Although the date of Imam al-Jazouli's birth is not known, enough information exists to provide a rough outline of his origins and background. His nisba (attributional name) tells us the he came from the Simlala tribe, one of the most important Sanhaja Berber groups in Jazula. The turbulent political environment of Simlala in the fifteenth century forced the Shaykh to leave his homeland because its culture of violence made serious scholarship impossible. As it turned out, the young sharif had to travel all the way to Fez to get an education, since the insufficient intellectual resources of Marrakech, the usual destination for students from central and southern-Saharan Morocco, made study in that city impossible as well. While in Fez, al-Jazouli lived at Madrasat al-Halfawiyyin (the present Madrasat as-Saffarin), the oldest of the Marinid madaris, whose rooms were reserved for students from the Sus. While there, he studied the Mukhtasar of Ibn al-Hajib, the standard introductory work on usul al-fiqh. He also studied Al-Mudawwana al-kubra, Sahnoun's ("Abdessalam ibn Said Tanukhi Qayrawani," d. 240/854) ninth-century compendium of Maliki law. Although al-Jazouli must eventually have attended lessons at the Qarawiyin and Andalus mosques where many of the greatest 'ulama' of Morocco gave their lectures, he lodged and studied, like most students not native to the city, in a madrasa. In his case he attended the Saffarin madrasa which still stands across from the Qarawiyyine, separated from the great mosque by a narrow street named Bu Twil. Of all the madrasas of Fez, the Saffarin was the madrasa most closely associated with the Qarawiyin, so much so that a door to the latrines in the Saffarin is directly across from one of the doors of the Qarawiyin (Bab al-Saffarin), thus enabling students to perform their ablutions in the madrasa before crossing right over to pray in the mosque.  The Saffarin has 117 rooms with 23 on the ground floor and the remainder in the upper two stories. The largest of the Marinid madrasas in Fez, it tended, with some variation, to follow the standard pattern for Maghribi madrasas in its layout. Thus, it was built around a courtyard with a central pool and fountain. On one side there is an open hall or oratory with a high ceiling for prayer and instruction while the opposite side has an entrance vestibule. Some of the chambers for students are located on the other two sides of the ground floor, hidden from view by ornate lattice-work mashrabiya screens placed between the arcades of the courtyard. Some of the larger madrasas had a second floor for both additional student chambers and additional oratories. The Saffarin was unusual in that it had not only two, but three floors with an oratory and prayer hall on the first floor.  That al-Jazouli should go to this particular madrasa is to be expected. Like all of the madrasas of Fez, it was expressly intended to house students from outside of the city, and in the 15th century, students from Jazoula and other areas of southern Morocco tended to go to the Saffarin. After he was admitted to the Saffarin, he would have been given a room by the overseer (nazir) of the madrasa who made his assignments based upon the needs and seniority of the students. Older students received rooms closer to the center, copyists received more well lighted rooms, and so forth. All students in the madrasa were bachelors, since women were not allowed to enter, and as soon as a student married, he was obliged to find other lodging. Once Ali obtained a room, it would have been neither comfortable nor spacious since the madrasas of Fez were designed to accommodate as many students as possible in the cramped space at hand. Consequently, there were not even any beds that might take up valuable living space. Instead most students slept on mats on the floor covered by a blanket or on projecting shelves below the ceiling that could serve as bunk beds. During the day the blankets and mats could be stowed away and the space used for other purposes. Some of the cells - probably intended for only one student - measured a mere 1.5x2 meters. Most rooms had a small table. Next to the door of each room there was a narrow slot into which the daily ration of fiat bread could be deposited once a day. The bread was provided by the original pious endowment (waqf) for the madrasa which stipulated, in the case of the Saffarin, that one hundred loaves be distributed every day, or about one loaf per person. In addition to this daily ration, the students probably cooked over charcoal braziers in their rooms, preparing a vegetable stew or whatever else they could manage to scrape together. None of the madrasas of Fez has a kitchen. Finally, a student could possibly have supplemented his meagre rations at times by receiving food from a local merchant or other resident of Fez who fed students as an act of charity. Al-Jazouli's room in this madrasa  is till known, and can be shown to the visitor by the madrasa's caretaker. A widely repeated account of al-Jazouli's student days conveys an image of extreme introspection. During his sojourn at Madrasat al-Halfawiyyin he would spend long periods alone in his room, leaving it only to attend class. While in his room, he would lock the door and allow no one to enter. Because of this antisocial behaviour word began to spread that al-Jazouli was concealing money. When news of these suspicions reached his father at Jazula , the latter hurried to Fez to see what was happening. Upon arriving at the madrasa, Sidi Abderrahman al-Jazouli demanded to enter his son's room. When he opened the door, he saw the word "death" (al-mawt) written over and over again on the walls. Understanding that his sons was in a deep state of spiritual contraction (qabd), he remarked to the madrasa's caretaker, "Do you see where this one is and where we are?" Tracing Imam al-Jazouli's career after the completion of his studies is problematised by spares and conflicting information. Most sources claim that he composed Dalail al-Khayrat (popular with the name of 'ad-Dalil' in Moroccan Arabic), his books of prayers on behalf of the Prophet Sidna Mohammed (peace and blessing upon him), in Fez, replying on manuscripts that were available in the library of the Al Qarawiyyine University. His biographers disagree, however, about the exact stage of his life in which this occurred. It is unlikely that al-Jazouli could have written his world-famous collection of devotions as a marginally educated faqih. Instead, this more probably occurred only after he gained a reputation for piety and erudition. Assuming this hypothesis to be correct, and given the dates of other, better known-periods of the Shaykh's life, it is most likely that al-Jazouli wrote Dalail al-Khayrat sometimes after his participation in the defence of Tangier in 841/1437. This latter conclusion is supported by a tradition recorded by the Jazulite Sufi Sidi Ahmed ibn Abil Qacem as-Suma'i (d. 1013-1604-5), who claims that al-Jazouli was told to return to Fez by a female saliha whom he encountered in Tangier. Sidi Mohammed al-Jazouli spent the years between 843/1428 and 850/1435 between Fez and Ribat Tit al-Firt while been a disciple of the venerated master Sidi Abu Abdellah Mohammed as-Saghir (d. 850/1435), master of Tariqa Sanhajiya Amghariya. al-Jazouli may have met his Shaykh and spiritual guide while a student in Fez, for the latter—whose tomb is still found in Fez—was making unstopped journeys between the cities of Morocco. This peripatetic (sai'h) Sufi, who recruited also warriors for the anti-Portuguese jihad, initiated Sidi al-Jazouli into a rural variant of Shadhiliya order which he took from Sidi Abu Uthman Said al-Hintati al-Hartanani, who succeeded his master Sidi Abderrahman ibn Ilyas Ragragi, as head of Ribat Shakir after his death. Although most sources agree with Mira't al-Mahasin (The Mirror of exemplary qualities), a hagiographical monograph written two generations after prior to Mumti'u al-asma'a by al-Fasi's great uncle Sidi Mohammed ibn Yusuf al-Fasi (d. 1052/1637) who was master of the Shadhiliya in Fez, that al-Jazouli was initiated into the Amghari-Shadhiliya only after he had completed Dalail al-Khayrat, the spiritual maturity of this latter work, as well as the well known doctrinal orientation of Ribat Tit al-Firt and Ribat Shakir, cast doubt upon this assertion. The Sufis from these ribats practiced spiritual methods that stressed, like al-Jazouli's, the veneration of Prophet Sidna Mohammed (peace and blessing be upon him). Further evidence of a "Mohammedian" perspective at Ribat Tit and Shakir can be found in reports that in the later Marinid period the leading families of these institutions recognised the doctrinal supremacy of the Majiriya Sufi order at Ribat Asafi. The Shaykhs of the Majiriya, who maintained links with the Qadiriya Sufi tradition in the Mashriq, required aspiring disciples to pass extended periods of time at the Prophet's mosques in Medina. al-Jazouli himself held Ribat Asafi in such high esteem that he built his own zawiya on its ruins and appropriated Sidi Abu Mohammed Salih Majiri's (d. 631/1216) rules of Sufi practice for his Sufi order.