Imam Shafi`i on his death-bed was asked by Al Muzni “What is your condition?”
Then Imam Shafi’ (رحمه الله) replied, “I am journeying from this world, and departing from my brothers, drinking from the cup of death, and upon Allah, Exalted is His remembrance, arriving. And no! By Allah, I do not know if my soul is travelling towards Paradise or the Fire!”
Imam Shafi’ (رحمه الله) then began to cry profusely and recited the following;
(Click here to download audio) إلَيكَ إلـهُ الخَلْـق أرْفَــعُ رَغبَتِي *** و‘نْ كُنتُ يَا ذا المَنّ والجُودِ مُجْرِما ‘To You, the Creator, I raise my longing, And even if I am, O possessor of kindness and generosity, an evildoer, a criminal
ولمَّا قَسَـا قلبي وضَـاقت مَذاهِبي *** جَعَلتُ الرَجـا مِني لِعَفوكَ سَلِمــا When my heart became constricted and my paths became narrow, I took my hope in Your pardon and forgiveness as an opening and an escape
تعَاظَمَنـي ذنبـي فلمَّـا قرِنتـُـهُ *** بعَفوكَ ربِّي كَانَ عَـفْوكَ أعْظَمــا My sins seemed very great to me but when I compared them to Your forgiveness, I found Your forgiveness to be much greater
فمَا زِلتَ ذا عفو عَن الذنْبِ لَمْ تَزُلْ *** تَـجُـود وتعـفو منةً وتَكَرُّمـــا You are and still remain the only One who can forgive sins, You grant and forgive out of Your benevolence and generosity
فلولاكَ لَـمْ يَصْمُـدْ لإبلـيسِ عَابدٌ *** فكَيفَ وقدْ أغْوَى صَفْيَك آدِمـــا Were it not for You, then a servant could never defy Iblis And how can that be when he mislead Your friend Adam
فيَاليْتَ شَعْــرِي هَل أصَيرُ لِجنة *** أهنـــا؟ وأمَّـا للسَّعِير فأنْدَمــا If only I knew! Will I arrive at Paradise that I may take delight Or at Hellfire, that I may regret?
فللّهِ دَر العَـــارِفُ الـنـدبُ إنَّه *** تَفيض لفرْطِ الوَجْد أجفانُه دَمَّـــا How capable is Allah! For the one acquainted with lament, blood almost flows from his eyelids due to the excess of his emotions (lament)
يَقيـمُ إذا مَـا الليلُ مَدَّ ظَلامَــه *** على نَفسِهِ مِن شدَّةِ الخَوفِ مَأتمـا He stands when the night extends out its darkness Stands against himself out of extreme fear, sinful
فصِيحاً إذا ما كـانَ في ذكْـرِ رَبِّه *** وفيما سِوَاهُ في الوَرى كان أعْجَمـا Eloquent when he makes mention of his Lord And in the mention of others than Him, he is speechless
ويَذكُرُ أيَّامـاً مَضَـتْ مِن شَبَابـه *** وما كان فيها بالجَهَـالة أجْرَمـــا He remembers days gone by of his youth And what was in it of ignorance, he was a criminal
فصَارَ قَرينُ الهمِّ طُولَ نهَـــارِه *** أخا السَّهدِ والنجوى إذا الليل أظلمـا And so for the whole of his day, the companion of grief has become the brother of sleeplessness and secret conversation when the night darkens
يقول: حَبيبي أنـتَ سُؤلِي وبَغيتي *** كفى بكَ للرَّاجـيـنَ سُؤلاً ومغنمـا He says, ‘My beloved, You are what I request and desire You are enough of a longing and benefit for those who have hope
ألـسْتَ الذي غذيْتني وهَــدَيْتني *** ولا زلتَ مَنـَّانـا عليّ ومُنعِـمــا Are You not the One who has provided for me and guided me And You have not ceased being gracious to me and full of favours
عسَى مَنْ لَـهُ الإحْسَانَ يَغفِرُ زَلتِي *** ويَسْترُ أوْزارِي ومـا قـدْ تقدَّمــا Perhaps the Beneficent One will forgive my mistakes And cover up my crime and what has gone forth
تعاظمَني ذنبـي فأقبلتُ خاشِعــاً *** وَلوْلا الرِّضَـا ما كنتُ يَاربِّ مُنعَمـا My sins seemed very great to me, so I turned (to You) in humility Were it not for my contentment in you, I wouldn’t, O my Lord, have seen any comfort at all
فإنْ تعْفُ عَني تعْفُ عَـنْ مُتمَرِّد *** ظلوم غشــوم لا يَـزايَـلَ مأتمـا So if You forgive me, You would have forgiven a sinner, A rebellious, oppressive tyrant still sinning
فإن تنتـقـِمْ مِني فلستُ بآيـسٍ *** ولو أدخلوا نفسي بجـُـرْم جَهَنَّمـا So if You were to seek revenge from me, I would not despair Even if they entered my soul into Jahannum, due to the sins
فجُرْمِي عَظيم مِن قديم وحـَـادِث *** وعفوكَ يَأتي العَبْـدَ أعْلى وأجْسَمــا For my crimes are great, past and present But Your forgiveness comes to the servant, more exalted and more great
حوالي َّ فضلُ الله مِن كلِّ جَانِـب *** ونورٌ مِن الرَّحمـَن يُفترش السَّمــا The bounty of Allaah surrounds me from all sides And Light from the Most Merciful has spread in the sky
وفي القلبِ إشراقُ المحب بوَصْلِه *** إذا قارب البُـشرَى وجَازَ إلى الحمى And in the heart is the radiance of the beloved when he is reunited And when glad tidings draw close, it becomes feverish
حوالي إينــاس مِن الله وَحْـدَه *** يُطالعَني فِي ظلـمـةِ القبرأنجَمــا Exhilaration surrounds me, only for Allaah It overlooks me in the darkness of the grave, apparent and clear
أصُونُ وَدادي أن يُدنّسـه الهَوَى *** وأحفظُ عـَهْدِ الـحُبِّ أن يَتثلمــا I protect my love, lest my desires should pollute it And I preserve the contract of love, lest it be defiled
ففي يَقظتِي شَوْقٌ وفي غَفوَتِي منى *** تلاحـِقُ خُـطوَى نـشوَةً وترنمـا In my wakefulness is yearning and in my slumber is destiny That’s pursuing my footsteps in ecstasy
ومَن يَعْتصِمْ بالله يُسَلم مِن الوَرَى *** ومَن يَرْجه هَـيْهَاتُ أنْ يَتندُمـــا Whoever holds fast to Allaah, he is protected from men And whoever hopes for Him, then never will he regret..
Poem: Let days go forth.. This poem, 'Let Days go forth' contains many lessons and wisdom which are inspiring. One of the main points of the poem is the fact that we should not expect all the days to treat us well. The nature of the days and life is such that they are there to test us and will always fluctuate between good and bad. When we accept this, and accept the decree of Allah, our souls will become at ease. Some lessons to be derived from this poem include:
Kindness covers all faults,
Patience not haste,
No happiness nor sadness lasts, don't let hardships change you,
If you are content, you are rich,
Let days betray you, death will come.
دع الأيام تفعل ما تشاء *** وطب نفسا إذا حكم القضاء ولا تجزع لحادثة الليالي *** فما لحوادث الدنيا بقاء وكن رجلا على الأهوال جلدا *** وشيمتك السماحة والوفاء وإن كثرت عيوبك في البرايا *** وسرك أن يكون لها غطاء يغطى بالسماحة كل عيب *** وكم عيب يغطيه السخاء ولا حزن يدوم ولا سرور *** ولا بؤس عليك ولا رخاء ولا ترج السماحة من بخيل *** فما في النار للظمآن ماء ورزقك ليس ينقصه التأني *** وليس يزيد في الرزق العناء إذا ما كنت ذا قلب قنوع *** فأنت ومالك الدنيا سواء ومن نزلت بساحته المنايا *** فلا أرض تقيه ولا سماء وأرض الله واسعة ولكن *** إذا نزل القضا ضاق الفضاء دع الأيام تغدر كل حين *** ولا يغني عن الموت الدواء
Let days go forth and do as they please And remain firm when settled is the Decree Don’t be afraid of what happens by night For the affairs of this world are not to last And be a man, strong in the face of calamities And let your nature be that of kindness and honesty If your faults become too much in front of the people And you wish that they were to be concealed, Then know that kindness covers all faults And how many faults are kept hidden by kindness! No sadness lasts forever, nor any happiness And you shall not remain in poverty, or any luxury Generosity cannot be hoped from the miserly For no water exists in the Fire for the thirsty Your provision will not be decreased due to life’s delays And it cannot be increased due to your haste If, in your heart, you possess contentment Then you and those who possess the world are equal And for him upon whose horizon death descends, No earth can offer him protection, nor any sky Indeed, the earth of Allah is certainly vast But if decree descends, then the world constricts Let days be the ones that betray you at all times For no cure can avail a person of death
There is one line of poetry that students of Islam around the world hear over and over again. Sometimes it’s attributed to Imam al-Shafi’i and sometimes to others. This line summarizes six points for the serious learner to take into consideration.
A Quick Mind: Some people are a little quicker than others in the way they understand things and how long it takes for them to do so. This requirement does not necessarily mean that just because someone is not the quickest student they cannot learn. It does mean, however, that the student should always be trying to make their mind sharper. This is usually a natural consequence of the other requirements and we are always in a state of improving.
Zeal: Our American culture related to learning is often one that makes learning uncool and people are not encouraged to be passionate about learning. This requirement is about the opposite of that. Learning should be a real commitment for those who are seeking it. They should dedicate time and pursue it with the zeal and rigor of any thing else that they deem important in life. Once we are passionate about something learning becomes easy. Bringing that zeal to our studies is, therefore, of primary importance.
Poverty/Humility: This word can be understood in two different ways with the latter more probable. If understood as poverty the idea would be that a person who is too overcome with material objects and concerns does not have the focus to concentrate on their studies. If understood as humility then it would refer to the need that the student feels in regards to the learning process. A student who feels that they are in need of learning more and seeking help, support, and guidance is capable of so much, but the student who is arrogant and thinks they are self-sufficient will likely not accomplish much in the long run.
A Foreign Land: The meaning behind this requirement is for the student to be away from their day to day distractions. When someone tries to dedicate their self to learning but is still surrounded by old friends, family, acquaintances and all kinds of other distractions then they will not be able to fully immerse themselves in the learning experience.
A Teacher: The tradition of Islamic Studies, as well as all areas of serious study, is that the student does not go on their journey all alone. This does not mean that they necessarily have to learn through an institution, but it does mean that they must have more experienced teachers who can guide them along the path. The student who does not have a teacher wastes large amounts of time and also risks making major mistakes in their understanding.
A Long Life: Learning is a process that starts at an early age and continues until we are elderly. Those who are seriously dedicated to learning and understanding know that this is the case and know that they will not attain to high levels of scholarship in only a few years. It is not a race. It is a journey. Over the course of time the student gains higher and higher levels of knowledge and the information and experience accumulate until mastery is attained. That requires a long life.
So these are six requirements for any student of any subject who is hoping to attain mastery in their field. If followed they can have great results.
Poem by Imam Ash-Shafi’e: “It is upon you to have Taqwa of Allah when you are forgetful …”
Imam Shafii's poem displayed at a bookshop in Makkah (2011)
”It is upon you to have Taqwa of Allah when you are forgetful, sustenance will come to you from where you dont know. How are do you fear poverty when Allah is the provider, indeed he provided for the birds and the whales in the sea. And whoever thought that sustenance comes with power, when the bird ate something with the eagles. This world goes by you and you do not know, if the night covers will you live until Fajr? Who many healthy died without a reason, and how many weak live forever? How many youth go to sleep and wake up laughing, and we buried him at sunset and he didn’t even know? So whoever lives a thousand then a thousand years after that, no doubt there will come a day when you will to the grave!”
ADVICE TO THE BEGINNERS BY IMAM SHAFI'I
Let time pass by, and do as it wishes; Be strong when the decreed is delivered to you. Wail not for your afflictions in the night For, worldly miseries are not everlasting When calamity strikes, face up like a man And let your traits be that of forgiveness and fidelity If your flaws are plenty and are manifest And your wish is that they be concealed Know, that Forgiveness hides every fault And how many flaws are veiled by generosity! Neither does agony abide, nor happiness And neither bad-times nor times of joy and comfort Never should you seek to humiliate your enemies Because the desire to disgrace them is in itself a malady Do not expect forgiveness from a miser, The parched do not quench their thirst from fire Your sustenance will not diminish by neglect, And it will not increase by exertion or by more toil When you have a heart that is satisfied, content - You will be like the one who owns the whole world And those who have entered the sphere of death The earth cannot hide them nor heavens Surely, the land of Allāh is vast, but - When misfortune strikes, the air becomes stifling Let the world betray and deceive every moment - No matter what; there is no escape from death.
Some translated excerpts from the Diwan of Imam al-Shafi’i (from Fajr-Literary)
يا سميع الدعاء كن عند ظني *** واكفني مَن كفيتهُ الشَّر منّي وأعنّي على رضاك وخِرْ لي *** في أموري وعافني واعفُ عني O Hearer of supplications, fulfil my expectations, And protect me from the evil of he whom You have power over. And aid me in attaining Your Pleasure, and choose for me In all my affairs, and grant me well-being, and forgive me.
يا من تعزز بالدنيا وزينتها *** الدهر يأتي على المبني والباني ومن يكن عزه الدنيا وزينتها *** فعزه عن قليل زائل فاني واعلم بأن كنوز الأرض من ذهب *** فاجعل كنوزك من بر وإيمان O you who seeks glory and strength in this world and its glitter, Know that time comes over every building and builder. And whoever’s glory comes from this world and its glitter, Then soon his glory will fade and will be no longer. Know that the treasures of the earth lie in riches and gold, So make your treasure lie in piety and faith.
لا تأس في الدنيا على فائت *** وعندك الإسلام والعافية إن فات أمر كنت تسعى له *** ففيهما من فائت كافيه Never be saddened by what you lose in this world, When you have Islam and good health with you. If you lose something that you were rushing towards, Then the fact that you lost it is sufficient (as a lesson).
فيا عجبي كيف يعصى الإله *** أم كيف يجحـده الجاحـد وللـه في كــل تحريكةٍ *** وتسكــينة أبــداً شاهد وفي كـل شيء لـه آيـة *** تـدل على أنـه واحــد How surprising that God can be disobeyed! Or that the unbeliever can deny Him so When there is a witness for God in every single thing That moves about or is rested at peace. And in everything there is truly a Sign That shows He is indeed One (God).
إني صحبت أناسا ما لهم عدد *** وكنت أحسب أني قد ملأت يدي لما بلوت أخلائي وجدتهم *** كالدهر في الغدر لم يبقوا علي أحد إن غبت عنهم فشر الناس يشتمني *** وإن مرضت فخير الناس لم يعد وإن رأوني بخير ساءهم فرحي *** وإن رأوني بشر سرهم نكدي I have accompanied a countless number of people, And I thought I had more than my share (of them), But when I tested my friends I found that, They were treacherous like Time which spares no-one. If I were absent from them, the worst of them would insult me, And if I fell ill, the best of them would not visit me. And if they saw me in a good state, my delight hurt them, And if they saw me in a bad state, my hardship delighted them.
قالوا يزورك أحمد وتزوره *** قلت الفصائل لا تفارق منزله إن زارني فبفضله أو زرته *** فلفضله فالفضل في الحالين له They said, ‘Ahmad (ibn Hanbal) visits you and you visit him!’ I said, ‘Virtue cannot be separated from his home! If he visits me, then it’s because of his virtue, and if I visit him Then it’s due to his virtue, so in both cases virtue belongs to him.’
It will come and go
“People will live amongst people, for as long as they live, For without doubt, fortune and goodness will come and go. The best of people amongst others is a man who, Upon his hands the needs of others are settled. Never withhold your assistance from anyone, As long as you are capable, for fortune tends to come and go. And give thanks for the bounties of Allah, If you are the one to settle the needs of others. Indeed, people have died, and their virtues died too And some have lived, but they are truly dead among the people.” – Imam al-Shafi’i
Concealing a secret (Translation and Explanation by Ibrahim Khan) ولام عليه غـيـره فهو أحمــق إذا المرء أفشى سره بلسانـه فصدْرُ الذي يستودع السر أضيق إذا ضاق المرء عن سر نفسه
Translation: If a man spreads his secret by his own tongue, And blames another then he is a fool. If a man’s chest is straitened by his own secret, Then the chest of the entrusted will be even narrower.
Explanation: If a man has a secret and discloses it to those he has no need to disclose it to, and who then spread the entrusted information, then it is the mans own fault that the secret got out and he should not blame anyone else for it. The reason for this is because if the man himself, the person who most wants to keep the secret concealed, could not prevent himself from disclosing his secret due to the burden of it on his chest, then surely he should not expect someone else, who does not have any interest in keeping the secret concealed, to desist from disclosing it too. Imam Shafi’i is advising one to keep his own counsel in matters that directly relate to him. Of course this doesn’t mean forgoing from advice from relevant people, but it means that one must not tell people more than they need to know. This is a principle taught again and again by the Qur’an and the Seerah (biography) of the Prophet (PBUH). In the Qur’an Allah (swt) says: “And we said “Oh Adam, live you and your wife in Paradise and eat from it comfortably whatever you please; and do not approach this tree lest you become from the wrongdoers.”” (2:35) Allah (swt) specifically doesn’t mention the type of tree that Adam was forbidden from eating from as it is of no relevance to the point he is trying to make. This information falls into the category of “ilm la yanfa’”, or “knowledge that doesn’t benefit“. An example of this from the life of the Prophet is the famous hadith of Muadh, where the Prophet disclosed to Muadh that anyone who says the testimony of faith will go to paradise. However the Prophet insisted that Muadh keep the information secret lest the people become complacent. But conversely, the Prophet openly gave glad tidings of Paradise to ten of the Companions as he knew that these ten would not become complacent and that the Muslims would need a pecking order once he left, as well as know who to trust. It is also an established point of fiqh that concealment of ones sins is obligatory on every Muslim. This is firstly so that the sin does not spread throughout society, secondly, so that the person’s reputation and integrity remains intact, and thirdly, so that the person’s sense of doing wrong remains alive and so that he is ashamed of the sin and strives to leave it. These verses do not mean that the one who spreads the secrets entrusted to him is blameless, for that is clearly not the case, rather, the advice is aimed at the person who has a secret. We should try and make ourselves from amongst those who do not speak more than is necessary about ourselves, and stay away from sins that force us to have more secrets and guilt in our heart than we can bear.
End Notes:  Muadh revealed this hadith on his deathbed, citing that the Prophet had also forbidden the concealment of knowledge and that he did not want to fall into that sin. (Bukhari book 3 hadith 130)  These were: Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali bin Abi talib, Abdur Rahman ibn Awf, Saeed ibn Zaid, Sa’d ibn muadh, Muadh bin Jabl, Talha, and Zubair bin awam  There is a beautiful example in the form of Umar, when, despite knowing he was amongst the ten chosen ones, he still asked Hudaifah bin al Yaman (the one entrusted with the secret list of all the hypocrites by the Prophet before his death) whether or not he was in that list. A man such as that could never become complacent.  Clearly there are exceptions to this, for example in a legal situation, or if one is going to seek medical or psychological help to cure oneself from the sin, in which situations he will have to admit to his sin if it is relevant.
Knowledge is Light Cairo is a place where history has left its mark everywhere one looks. It was home to many of the notable righteous people, distinguished worshipers and scholars of Islamic history. It is an entirely different experience to read or hear about a person of the past and their incredible knowledge or devotion, and to stand at the foot of their grave in this city. The first is cerebral; the second, a visceral, personal experience that forges a connection that is difficult to express. In some ways it brings life to a tradition that may seem static, and make real and tangible what seems abstract and elusive. It is also sobering to consider what great heights such people reached and how far we may have left to climb.
A few steps down from the masjid of Imam Shafi`i in Old Cairo lies the grave of one of his teachers, Waki` ibn Jarrah. His name is familiar to many of us through the famous lines of Imam Shafi`i:
The maqam (grave) of Waki` ibn al-Jarrah
شكوت الى وكيع سوء حفظي فارشدني عن ترك المعاصي واخبرني بان العلم نور ونور الله لا يعطى العاصشكوت الى وكيع سوء حفظي فارشدني عن ترك المعاصي واخبرني بان العلم نور ونور الله لا يعطى العاص
Transliteration: shakautu ila Waki` su’a hifdhi wa arshada-ni an tark al-ma`asi wa akhbara-ni bi anna ilman nur wa nur Allah la yu`ta al-`as
Translation: The great Imam ash-Shafi R.A’, he went to his teacher Waki` Complaining about the weakness of his memory. He told him, ‘abandon rebellion, for knowledge is a light And the light of Allah is not bestowed upon a rebel.’
Explanation: It is said that Imam Shafi`i was walking in the street one day when an inadvertent glance caused him to glimpse a woman’s shin, exposed by the wind as she was passing by. This momentary, seemingly negligible glance had its effect on his mind and heart, which led him to seek guidance from his teacher and resulted in these lines of poetry and profound wisdom. Such a story seems almost incredulous in our times, when our senses are overwhelmed by a seemingly never-ending array of spiritually harmful things, often indulged in consciously. In the Qasidat al-Burda Imam al-Busiri counsels, واستفرغ الدمع من عين قد امتلأت من المحارم والزم حمية الندم Pour out tears from those eyes that have become filled With forbidden sights, and hold fast to remorse as a guard (against returning to sin).
There is a noteworthy and beautiful imagery of the language in this couplet, with a contrast of emptiness and fullness, the words chosen likening our eyes to actual physical containers or vessels. In these lines Imam Busiri counsels us to empty and pour out, by way of tears of regret and repentance, these vessels we have filled up with the forbidden, just as if they were physical vessels that we have consciously filled with impurity, that need to be emptied and cleansed. We must ask ourselves, what have we filled our eyes with? And how can Divine light settle in a place that is filled to the brim with other things? May Allah help us to heed Waki`’s advice to his student, honor us with light, and keep our spiritual gazes fixed on Him. Ameen.
We fault our time
We fault our time when the fault is in us And what fault does our time have besides us? We scold what's in our time though it has done no wrong And had time been able to talk it would have scolded us.