Q - We might begin by asking: Do people have to live socially and start families at all? Can’t they just as well live alone?
Being alone is only truly appropriate for Allah the Almighty. The Creator has reserved oneness for Himself alone, while He has created all of existence in pairs. Thus all creatures are in need of each other and at the same time, since they are created, they have intrinsic deficiency and weakness in their nature. Ma siwa Allah, “the other-than-Allah” - all beings except Allah the Almighty - are continuously in need of both each other and Allah the Almighty.
Out of all creation, human beings need each other the most. People have so many needs and requests, compared to other beings! Because people always want to live in material and spiritual comfort, their needs constantly increase and never come to an end. Problems, privation, pains, sufferings and disasters all present us with difficulties. In times of trouble, we look for a soul to take shelter with and a hand to hold.
Thus the descendant of Adam is indicated in Arabic by the word insan, which is derived from the word uns or unsiyya, meaning intimacy. Even philology demonstrates our need to be close to our fellows! This need is our first quality and humans are distinguished by this quality.
The clearest manifestation of intimacy is the togetherness that joins a man and a woman. This matter is necessary, even obligatory, for the continuance of human generations.
The necessity of togetherness manifests itself in living beings through the existence of males and females and in inanimate beings though the existence of positive and negative poles. This situation is stated in the Qur’an in many verses:
“And of everything We have created pairs: that ye may receive instruction.” (51: 49)
“Glory to Allah, Who created in pairs all things that the earth produces, as well as their own (human) kind and (other) things of which they have no knowledge.” (36:36)
“And (have We not) created you in pairs?” (78: 8)
To possess the nature of being created in pairs means to be created as man and woman, complementary, not in twos of the same kind. In such a case, the creation of one of the two would be redundant and redundancy cannot be attributed to Allah the Almighty. Therefore Allah created the creation in gendered couples. Yet each individual created is unique in itself. Allah does not create duplicate beings, exactly the same. Even identical twins have many physical and spiritual differences.
So Allah the Almighty created all beings in complementary pairs and simultaneously placed His divine law of attraction between them in order to make them come closer to each other. For He has assigned the spiritual and material development of all these pairs to the unification possible between them.
Although the need and attraction a man feels toward a woman and a woman toward a man essentially serve the continuance of progeny, this is not their only purpose. One of their most significant functions is to form the basis for stable families, which create an environment that allows individuals to achieve spiritual and social peace and balance. This goal can be achieved only through mahabbat Allah, the inclination of the heart to Allah the Almighty with love.
At times the love for God can be attained through earthly love: the lover ascends from Laila (the archetypal human beloved) to Mawla (the Lord – the divine beloved). But for this journey to be possible, there has to be a Leila in the first place! Then love between a man and a woman may constitute the first step in coming closer to Allah. Even if attraction begins with the arousal of selfish desires, it cannot turn into true human love until it is freed from the selfishness of those desires. When the mutual beholding of divine attributes is manifested in the lovers, only then do we call attraction, love.
The heart, which is the subtle center of attraction, is exercised and strengthened through couples’ affection for each other and thus gains capacity for the love of Allah. The ability to sustain Divine love is further developed through love for one’s children, the natural fruit of a family.
In order to be encompassed by love for Allah, a marriage must be founded upon divine principles. A marriage undertaken purely for the sake of carnal desires and inclinations usually does not create love. The spiritual development and training of the heart through love that may be expected from an Islamic marriage cannot be realized in families established on lust alone, because in such marriages couples become slaves. Forget spiritual progress: such couples may even lose the spiritual levels they had enjoyed while single.
A desirable marriage is one which matures us and helps us to spiritually improve. A marital relationship that functions in such a way manifests an ideal perfection. It is this kind of marriage that is called, in the traditions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), “half of religion.” Attaining half of something does not mean we give up seeking the other half! We should do everything we can to realize the ideal attributes of a marriage. Only then can we achieve the maturity, peace and tranquility we aim for.
Although intimate relationship between a man and a woman is one way to achieve the capacity for Divine love, it is not the only way. Single people can and do make spiritual progress. There are many pious single people mentioned in the Qur’an, starting with Mary and Jesus (may Allah be pleased with them). This fact confirms that not everybody is created with the same natural abilities. Environment, too, has differing effects on people. In some people’s destiny the paths to marriage are closed; obstacles preventing marriage may constitute a divine test for them. For others, marriage can be a source of suffering and disappointment. Allah the Almighty bestows certain special capabilities upon those servants who endure such tests and through these capabilities they can obtain the spiritual benefits to be expected from a normal marriage. Some single servants of Allah made great spiritual progress through their mercy and compassion to animals and plants. Others ascended the steps of spirituality by bearing with the tests of their marriages. The Companions of the Bench, who comprised Companions of the Prophet who were too poor to get married, reached the peaks of spirituality through knowledge and learning. It should not be forgotten, however, that these are exceptional and special cases. The general rule is that human beings should get married and start a happy family.
It is a fact that a heart without love and affection is like an unplanted field, left idle for a long time. The relationship between man and woman will cultivate this land. Of course, to be successful, such a relationship cannot be based on selfish desires. Success can be achieved only by getting rid of selfish motives. As we have said, an intimate natural relationship must turn its direction to divine love, because only when the connection between man and woman attains this divine quality do souls ascend in the love for Allah. To have children in this state constitutes the second level in reaching the love for Allah. Next comes love for relatives, friends, teachers and others. So the heart matures, step by step drawing closer to its highest goal, divine love. After becoming one with divine love, a servant joins the friends of Allah the Almighty. This is the purpose of the creation of humanity.
In short, our need for family and for togetherness between man and woman is a reality embedded in our natures by our Creator in order to realize a lofty goal. The more we realize this goal, the more the tree of family branches out, bearing sweet fruits of social peace, tranquility and balance.
Therefore the establishment of a peaceful family environment comes at the head of the list of the most important endeavors for raising society to a civilized level. Man and woman make their pledges to each other in the name of Allah the Almighty because that promise marks their intention to make love a reality in accordance with of the purpose of their creation. Of course mutual respect, trust and sincerity must nurture their efforts!
Q - What do the traditions of Islam say about family?
Because of the aforementioned reasons, the thinkers of Islam have attributed great significance to family. Families are like the seeds of a society. As a matter of historical fact, families built on strong bases protect and embellish the structure of their society, while families established by spiritually unequal partners, destroy it.
The principles and measures of Islam work to establish a happy and balanced family. One might say that Islam aims at peace and tranquility through family. That is why it is said that “home is the Paradise of the living.” As a matter of fact, a home set up according to divine rules is like Paradise on earth.
Because such a noble ideal and institution can only be achieved through exalted measures and lawful foundations based on love, Islam begins this spiritual journey with mutual vows. Islamic law requires both parties to give certain promises to each other in the name of Allah the Almighty.
The old saying “marriage works miracles” points out the significance and benefits of the marriage agreement in establishing a peaceful family. The value of our acts depends on our intentions. The outcome of living as partners without being married, without an explicit exchange of vows expressing our intentions, is disappointment and collapse not only on the personal level but also at the level of society as a whole. That is why cohabitation without a marriage agreement is prohibited by Islam and accepted as one of the grave sins. There will be harsh divine punishment for such practices in the Hereafter.
Q – Since marriage is so significant, could you please elaborate the issue a little more?
Marriage is the way of the prophets, the custom of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon them), the dignity of man and woman and the privilege of human beings over other creatures.
It is necessary to have two male witnesses to a marriage agreement in order to announce it to society. The togetherness of man and woman is the basic element of socialization and so the onset of this togetherness should be made known to the public. Demonstrating our intentions does not always require having witnesses; however, witnesses are required for a marriage agreement in order to make the union an accepted fact throughout the community. A single man or woman may always receive proposals. But when a couple announces their marriage, proposals stop and the spouses commence to belong to each other. This is the foundation of a healthy family and a healthy society. That is why there is a usually a wedding feast: it makes the whole community witness to the marriage, even though two formal witnesses are sufficient for the contract to be valid. Marriage ceremonies are celebrated not just to share the joy of the marrying couple, but also to declare their status to the community. So we see that the marriage agreement, with all its features, is a divine command intended to protect human dignity.
According to Islam, marriage is the indispensible foundation of a family. It furthers the raising of progeny, their formation and discipline, as well as the conservation of the values and dignity of humanity. Islam gives such great importance to this foundation that it refuses all miserable and contemptible relations attacking it. In this respect Islam prohibits adultery, which is the worst of all out-of-wedlock relations, because adultery is an attack on the refinement, beauty and legality of the marriage agreement, as well as being a cruel crime, which destroys progeny. There cannot be a more foolish and ignorant act than preferring the indecency of adultery over the peaceful and tranquil world of marriage. Hence, the streets of a country should not be polluted with scenes of immorality glorifying this disaster.
It should not be forgotten that the basis upon which a nation stands or falls is the strength of its moral and ethical structure. The marriage agreement is the most effective method of protecting this structure. For this reason, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) warned Muslims not to make marriage difficult, saying: “The best marriages are those which are most simple.” (Abu Dawud, Nikah, 32) Therefore all customary expenses which load an additional burden on a marriage agreement are completely null and void; they are the remnants of the age of ignorance before Islam.
Allah the Almighty wants His servants to live in chastity and tranquility. The most effective way to protect chastity is marriage. Those who have enough means to marry should marry and the Muslim community has the responsibility to help those who do not have the means to get married. This is stated in the following verse:
“And marry those among you who are single and those who are fit among your male slaves and your female slaves; if they are needy, Allah will make them free from want out of His grace; and Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing.” (24:32)
In the Ottoman Empire, special religious foundations were established for this purpose. Their founders were well aware that the morality and order of a society depend on chaste and peaceful individuals.
Muhyiddin ibn ‘Arabi (may Allah bless his soul) says about the merits of assisting people to get married: “The best continuous charity is to help people to get married; because for those who help, there will be a share in the rewards of the good deeds of the progeny of the couples they helped to get married.”
The family life which began with Adam and Eve (peace and blessings be upon them) in Paradise has been transferred to the children of Adam through the divine laws of marriage and Islam has made this explicit. As a matter of fact Islam set some specific principles for family life and thus brought the peace of Paradise into its families. In order to attain such happiness, we should abide by the rules of Allah the Almighty and live our family life like Adam and Eve. We should embrace each other with love and be of one soul and one heart, as our father Adam and mother Eve were.
Though we often treat it lightly, there are deep wisdoms in the amazing union that takes place between two strangers through the act of marriage. Two young souls leave their parents’ house and grow attached to each other with a love and affection set by Allah in their hearts. What a lofty divine manifestation it is, to see such an incredible closeness develop between two strangers! The mystery of it is indeed a sacred lesson, deserving of contemplation.
Allah the Almighty has made marriage a gate of blessings for the Muslim community and He makes each marriage established according to Qur’an and Sunna a paradise of happiness on earth.
Islam, which aims to create a dignified life for humanity, gives the highest importance to women and points out the possible problems if they are neglected. Women are like crystal chandeliers. When their marriage experience is full of blessings and light, they illuminate society. They protect the dignity and chastity of family. They stand like lighthouses against the whirlpools of sin. When things are otherwise, whole generations are lost. Losing generations breaks the bonds of interpersonal relations and the transmission of wisdom; the process ends in the destruction of a society. Mischief becomes common; sensitive and humane feelings cease to exist. Troubles and scandals rise up. These are all signs of a community in collapse.
Women’s happiness is made possible when marriage is gentle. When it is not, a woman sometimes looks elsewhere. If a woman directs herself away from her principal object, her unhappiness will destroy peaceful family life. A woman’s participation in the employment world follows necessity; if she works, she needs to work at a job that suits her nature. The degree of necessity should be judged objectively, with the needs of the whole community taken into consideration. Employment must be within reasonable and lawful limits. Anything else is self-deception, which ends in disappointment and frustration. Many Muslim girls have been lost to the whirlpools of heedlessness. Many eyes, deceived by illusory worldviews, have been blinded to divine truth and destroyed their own possibilities for happiness.
The religious thinkers of Islam have tied women’s moral and social identity and glory to their marital welfare. Woman enters into a whole new world through marriage. Maybe she begins to live with a complete stranger, maybe with his relatives. However, with the special blessing bestowed upon marriage by Allah, these two stranger souls become so attached to each other that they become the closest people in the world. In fact it is stated in the following verse that:
“And one of His signs is that He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest in them and He put between you love and compassion; most surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect.” (30:21)
Therefore, the most important factor for happiness in a family is the love, sincerity and mercy that exist between husband and wife.
Q- It is not always possible to attain such happiness in all families. It is a sign of great blessing to reach this happiness and tranquility. Yet if we hope to reach this level of happiness, what should we be careful about?
The first condition is to follow Islamic guidelines for selecting a suitable spouse. The essence of these guidelines is that believers should not select their spouses based on the temporary beauties of this world, like physical appearance and wealth. Instead, their selection must be based on spiritual qualities such as faith and morality. In this respect, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) says:
“A woman is married for four things: her wealth, her family status, her beauty and her religion. Try to marry the one who is religious; may your hand be scented with goodness!” (Bukhari, Nikah, VI, 123; Muslim, Rada, 53)
Even though this tradition is about the qualities of an ideal wife, it is also applicable for choosing an ideal husband, because to have a righteous spouse is the second most valuable thing for every Muslim to have, after piety. A righteous husband is the unshakable pillar of the family palace and a righteous wife is the most valuable adornment of that palace. This is expressed in the following saying of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him):
“People’s rank is hidden in their religion; their dignity is hidden in their reason; and the beauty of their progeny is hidden in the goodness of their morality [protected by marriage].”
The second important thing is to be careful about is equivalence between the spouses. Equality must be assessed according to qualities such as wealth, manners and cultural levels. The steps after these two depend on maturity and willpower. Maturity develops through seeking perfection in faith and practice; willpower can be achieved through embracing the Divine Law’s orders and prohibitions.
A peaceful family, in which the commands and prohibitions of Allah are observed, is the foundation of felicity in this world and one of the greatest blessings of our Lord. Continuation of this felicity and blessing is contingent upon togetherness of the spouses in a spiritual atmosphere, which relies on mutual understanding and willing sacrifices.
In the present day, the most significant source of erosion of the traditional family is women who try to resemble men and men who try to resemble women. Allah the Almighty has bestowed different qualities upon men and women. These qualities are shaped in order to give all the ability to do their best in society. The natural qualities of the sexes, from their physical appearances to their spiritual features, are formed according to the responsibilities assigned to them by Allah the Almighty.
Men require spiritual and physical strength in order to provide for the family and to lead it. Women are not held responsible for the provision of livelihood. If they are forced to provide, it is oppression and hardship, because women are not created to earn a family’s sustenance, but rather to raise and protect its children. However if the environment and conditions are suitable, then women can work in positions that are favorable to their natures, such as being a teacher at Qur’anic schools for girls, or a gynecologist .
It is their natural abilities that make men and women different but complementary to each other. When spouses transgress the limits of these characteristics, the family’s felicity suffers.
We should also mention that male authority in the family does not give any man the right to use brute force and that female obedience should not be tantamount to slavery. If both man and woman pursue their traditional roles in accordance with the principles of Islam, there will be neither an oppressor nor an oppressed in the family.
A woman’s defiance of her husband by violating the principles of chastity and obedience and a man’s abuse of his authority for his selfish desires, can each destroy a family. A man may sometimes experience stressful circumstances during the day at work. When he does, it is not just his need but also his right to find an understanding and consoling wife at home. On the other hand, it is both the need and the right of a wife who waits for her husband at home all day long to find sympathy and warmth in him when he arrives. Each person in a family must know his or her rights and responsibilities in the presence of Allah the Almighty. The only principle that can maintain felicity and joy in a family is mutual love and respect.
We should not forget the saying of our ancestors, “The female bird builds the nest.” Women do have a more effective role in protecting a family. That is why women’s intuition, understanding and efforts in this regard carry more significance than men’s. Allah has bestowed greater emotional wisdom and capability upon mothers than upon fathers.
İsmail Hakkı Bursevî says about the interpretation of the term “al-tara’ib” from Sura 86 of the Quran, “When a child falls into a stream, its mother jumps into the stream, no matter how dangerous it is and does everything she can to save her baby. The child’s father, on the other hand, does not act like this. If there is no hope from the baby, its father just sits on the shore and weeps.”
Of course, such heroism shows itself in mothers who have not lost their spiritual qualities. It is not seen in those heartless women who abandon their children in front of mosques or at the edges of cemeteries. They are like ruined souls who have destroyed all the good qualities of their creation.
The compassion of motherhood is visible even in the animal kingdom, sometimes remarkably so. It was recorded that a mother lion and a baby deer grew amazingly close to each other in Kenya’s Samburu National Park between December 21, 2001 and January 2, 2002. Their relation was like that of a mother and child. The fawn’s umbilical cord was still attached to it when its existence was first captured by cameras. Did the mother lion feel sorry for the lost baby deer? In any case, she adopted it. The fawn, too, behaved as if the lioness were its real mother. Because the fawn could not nurse on lion’s milk, the mother lion was feeding it with green leaves, not meat – as if she recognized that it was not a lion cub.
Then the mother deer appeared, looking for her baby. When she saw her baby with a lion, she became confused, but she did not run. She started to make noises as if she were communicating with her baby. The baby deer came to her real mother and they grazed together. However, the mother lion did not allow them to go far away. If the deer started to move away, the lioness would intervene. Did the mother lion love the baby deer so much that she could not let it go with its real mother? She licked the fawn and played with it as if it were her own offspring. However after awhile, for some reason – maybe because she recognized that the baby deer needed its real mother – she let it go with the mother deer. Unfortunately it didn’t take long for a male lion to notice the weak and unprotected fawn and kill it. The mother lion appeared to mourn by the place that the fawn was killed.
What an amazing scene this was! It was a great manifestation of the divine gift of motherhood overcoming even the natural enmity between predator and prey. This is one of the signs of Allah the Almighty, for motherhood is the manifestation of a divine miracle.
There are many lessons for us in this incident. A mother is a truly a mother not because of her physical qualities, but because of her spiritual qualities. If a woman gives up these spiritual qualities, then she is no longer a mother and a monument of mercy. Instead she becomes a hunter – and she destroys many young souls. Therefore women should value and protect the blessing of motherhood as more than simple animal reproduction. For other creatures there will be no questioning about their offspring in the Hereafter. But for humans, there will be.
Our children will count either for us or against us in the on the Day of Reckoning. They should be raised carefully, for they are means of entering Paradise. A good religious education, good manners, morality and consciousness of divine service come at the head of the things which should be taught to children.
Q - In our society, young people who plan to get married first spend time being engaged.. They face several problems during this period. What do the parties need to be careful about during their engagement?
The central issue, as we have been trying to explain, is the necessity of building a family upon a strong and healthy foundation. This principle must be kept in mind not just during the engagement period, but in every phase of the establishment of the family. Divine rules and measure must be observed at every stage. Unfortunately, in our time some couples see the engagement as permission to act as if they were already married. This leads to a number of irreparable mistakes and to broken hearts.
We do need to remember that the engagement stage is just the period of agreement to marriage. It is not marriage itself and during the engagement period parties are still unlawful to each other. Therefore they must be careful about the divine limits. In short, engaged couples should not meet privately in secluded places and talk more than they are supposed to before the marriage! Today we witness the devastation caused by this type of carrying on.
In this regard I would like to remind you of the following narration of Ibn `Abbas:
Allah the Almighty created Eve from a rib from the left side of Adam. During her creation Adam (peace and blessings be upon him) was asleep. When he woke up and saw Eve next to him, he fell in love with her and wanted to hold her. Angels said, “O Adam! Do not touch her. You have not been married yet.” Then they got married and for her marriage portion they agreed upon uttering three praises for the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
This was the beginning of the marriage agreement before Allah. Thus with the praise of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), the marriage agreement gains a sublime meaning and teems with blessings and manifestations of mercy.
Q – Would you share your observations about the marriage ceremony?
The marriage ceremony is a means to share the happiness of a marriage with friends and relatives. It also serves as a way to carry out the requirement of publicizing a marriage. In addition, it is also a fine thing to turn such an important institution into an opportunity for joy and entertainment, which are part of our nature.
However, we should remember that ceremonies that are too extravagant, which reach the point of financially devastating the families involved, are never approved by Islam. Islam is a religion that urges moderation even in taking water from a river when performing ablution. It encourages its followers to be frugal. Therefore even if the parties are rich, they should act in consideration of the poor and needy of their community. Turning marriage ceremonies into theatres of ostentation, like many of today’s rich families do, is a manifestation of madness and a proof that Islam is not properly internalized.
Marriage ceremonies should properly be performed with Islamic grace and refinement. They should stay away from every kind of lavishness. People should have modest ceremonies appropriate to their financial situations. But using the event as an opportunity to show off one’s financial status contradicts the object and the spirit of a marriage ceremony.
In particular, to launch such a blessed institution with unlawful acts and customs, such as drinking alcohol, leads people to error and ignorance. Only those marriage gatherings which observe the laws of Allah and His Messenger are blessed places where prayers are accepted. Some types of entertainment are harmless, so long as the men and the women are not mixed. Women can entertain each other and men can do the same among themselves without committing any forbidden act.
Another significant issue is the importance of inviting poor, needy and homeless people to the walima, the marriage feast. This is expressed in the following hadith:
“The worst food is that of a wedding banquet to which only the rich are invited while the poor are not invited. And he who refuses an invitation (to a banquet) disobeys Allah and His Apostle.” (Bukhari, Nikah, 72; Muslim, Nikah, 107. See also Ibn Maja, Nikah, 25)
It should be remembered that the Muslim community receives divine assistance because of the prayers of the weak. Therefore destitute and needy people particularly need to be invited to the walima. On one occasion Moses (peace and blessings be upon him) prayed to Allah the Almighty and asked, “Dear Lord! Where should I look for You?”
Allah the Almighty responded, “Look for Me by the broken hearts.” (Abu Nu`aym, Hilya, II, 364)
The prayers of those who are destitute and have broken hearts are acceptable in the presence of Allah. This is why all Muslims should take care to merit their prayers, especially during those times when we begin an important undertaking like marriage. Neither should we neglect to ask for the supporting prayers of the devout.
Q - To what issues should young Muslim men and women pay particular attention in order to safeguard the soundness of their family?
We should know that a society rises on the shoulders of its male members, but that its female members also produce its ascension. Without the help of men and women alike, no development or ascent can be achieved. A man who is unhappy at home cannot be successful at work. Consequently we can say that a nation develops through the maturity and experience of its women. The opposite of this is also correct: a nation loses its power and value through the degradation of its female members. History teems with examples. That is why every community needs healthy families.
Although human beings are created with the most perfect of natures, the manifestation of our perfection in a developed personality can be achieved only in a healthy family environment. The family is the primary place where the human personality is educated. Only with a proper education can souls reach lofty spiritual states and stations. We can take lessons from the lives of the prophets and from the lives of the saints.
Felicity and joy in a family depend on mutual respect and understanding between the parties and on the observation of each other’s rights. It is also very important to comprehend the meaning of the verse ittaqu Allah – “be mindful of Allah!” – if happiness in the family is to be achieved.
Our world can become a paradise if the rights of women are observed; and it can also turn into a hell as a result of the violation of their rights. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) expressed the significance of women’s rights in his farewell sermon:
“O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.” (Bukhari, Mukhtasar, X, 398)
Preventing women from raising righteous generations by forcing them into unsuitable occupations is a great mistake. Happiness in a family can be achieved only by employing and protecting both men’s and women’s abilities in the occupations that best fulfill their natures.
Islam affirms the importance of marriages undertaken for the sake of lofty ideals. Marriage has two dimensions, worldly and spiritual. We must be serious and careful in order to make our families functional in both dimensions. It is all too easy for marriage to become one-dimensional. Unfortunately, this kind of marriage often ends up in an unhappy divorce, or continues as a chain of agony until the end of life. Naturally these are not the results we desire when getting married!
Divorce is depicted in one of the sayings of the Prophet as an incident which shakes Allah’s throne:
“Marry and do not divorce, for verily divorce causes the throne of Allah to shake…” (`Ali al-Muttaqi, IX, 1161/27874)
For a man to divorce a woman merely for his own convenience and pleasure is oppression and great sin, which is certainly prohibited in Islam. It is violating another servant’s right, which will lead to eternal disappointment and destruction.
Divorce often follows from arbitrarily and carelessly performed marriages and it has countless pitiful results. The worst and the severest of these results befall the children. Children who see no warmth in their families and are exposed to frequent abuses from their parents, who are supposed to be their role models, live at the mercy of the streets. Sometimes they run away from their homes and start living in the streets; they shortly fall into the web of alcohol, narcotics, prostitution and crime. This prepares the ground for social destruction.
Of course, there are times when divorce is the only reasonable option. Catholic marriages can never be annulled and must be continued no matter how miserable the parties are. Islamic marriages, by contrast, are contracts and there are legal provisions for terminating contracts when necessary. Every agreement can be superseded by another agreement. If there were no way out of a failed marriage, the couple’s life would be torture. Family unity would be no better than slavery.
Spouses who cannot find solutions to their problems become desperate and may not see situations clearly. This is why Islam allows divorce, but in principle assigns the right of divorce to men, on the theory that they are likely to act more resolutely than women. However, if it has been previously stipulated in the marriage contract, there is no obstacle to giving the right of divorce to women as well. This is known in Islamic law as tafwid al-talaq. Even if the right of divorce has not been given to the wife in the marriage contract, under some circumstances she can still appeal to a court for divorce.
In order to avoid unnecessary divorce, men and women should appreciate each other’s significance and respect each other. Memories, happy moments, welfare, tranquility and all the pleasurable things in life can be achieved under the shadow of divine wisdom. Success will manifest itself through mutual fidelity and sincerity. It is stated in the sayings of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him):
“When a man wakes up at night, wakens his wife and they pray two cycles of formal prayer together, they are recorded among the men and women who make much mention of Allah.” (Abu Dawud, Tatawwu`, 18; Witr, 13)
“May Allah show mercy to a man who gets up during the night and prays, who wakens his wife and she prays; if she refuses, he sprinkles water on her face. May Allah show mercy to a woman who gets up during the night and prays, who wakens her husband and he prays; if he refuses she sprinkles water on his face.” (Abu Dawud, Tatawwu`, 17; Witr, 12)
According to the aforementioned Prophetic sayings we can conclude that happiness in a family depends on two great principles:
1. Sincerity of the both parties
2. Mutual encouragement to piety.
Q - Considering all the things you have stated so far, is there any ideal, exemplary family you might point out to us?
Of the many examples that might be given, undoubtedly the family of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) stands at the forefront. As was true in every other aspect of life, the Prophet displayed the finest behavior in family life. He was the perfect husband and the best father. His blessed wife, our mother Khadija, was the most excellent example of a wife and mother. His other wives were good examples, too. No negative incidents can be found in his family life, although there were some small quarrels between his wives. Even those small incidents were solved and ended up well, thanks to the exemplary character of the Prophet and they set an example for the whole Muslim community.
Just as the personality of the Prophet was the best of personalities, his home was also the most ideal and exemplary home. His home was such a peaceful and tranquil place that even though his household might have no hot meal on the table for days, every visitor could feel its happiness. There was no trace of luxury: none of his wives had more than a modest room. Yet the most delicious meal for them all was contentedness, patience and submission. The method of discipline which the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) applied in his home filled the hearts of his household with endless love and loyalty. No woman can love her husband as much as the Prophet’s wives loved him; no husband can love his wife as much as the Prophet loved his wives. No child can love its father as much as Fatima loved her father; and no father can love his children as much as the Prophet loved his.
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) paid utmost attention to doing justice to all his wives. Even though he did his best in this regard, because of the difficulty of ensuring absolute justice, he prayed to Allah:
“Dear Lord! Unwittingly I may love one of them more than the others and that is inequity. Lord! I take refuge in Your mercy concerning this matter that I am incapable of preventing.”
Dear Lord! Bestow upon us and upon our families a pious life with which You are content. Make our homes a Paradise of felicity and blessings. Protect our homes from being a scene from Hell.
Muhammad ibn Kab al-Qurazi recounts:
“I had once met Omar ibn Abdulaziz in Medina. Back then he was a young man, quite handsome and wealthy, too. Years later when he became Caliph, I went to see him. After getting permission to go in next to him, I made my way through. Seeing him, however, I was stunned and I could not help but stare at him, astounded.
‘Why are you looking at me like that, Muhammad?’ he asked.
‘You have gone pale, your body looks worn out, you have lost most of your hair and what remains of it is gray’, I responded. ‘Seeing you in this condition, Caliph, I could little hide my surprise.’
‘Who knows then how great your surprise would be Muhammad, if you were to see me three days after I was placed in my grave’ said he. ‘Ants will have taken my eyes out of their sockets and they will have dribbled onto my cheeks; and my nose and mouth will have been filled with pus. It is really then that you will not recognize me and express a surprise greater than you can imagine!’” (Hakim, IV, 300/7706)
Above anything else, each person must contemplate his end: how is he to breathe his last, what will he encounter in the grave and what will his rank be in the Hereafter? These are the greatest mysteries lying in front of human beings; grasping the secret to the journey from the crib to the coffin and the wisdom underlying existence in this world and subsequent passage to the Hereafter. Each of us must make every effort in life to solve this riddle and thereby achieve eternal bliss.
One must first of all contemplate mortality, for it is an indisputable fact that:
“All that is on earth will perish.” (ar-Rahman, 26)
There will come a day with no tomorrow; a day unknown to all of us. Allah, glory unto Him, states:
“And the agony of death will come in truth; that is what you were trying to escape. And the trumpet shall be blown; that is the day of the threatening.” (Qaf, 19-20)
Everyone enters this life through one door, the mother’s womb, and lives out this life, a steeplechase that is run in a flurry of either spiritual or egoistical feelings. After passing through this narrow corridor, through the gate of the grave, each person finally makes their passage to the life of eternity.
The world, like a house with two doors, has been filled with and emptied of countless human beings, from the time of Adem –upon him peace- until today. Where are they now? Where will we be a short while later? Unknown…But one thing is for certain. Death has knocked on the doors of both the oppressors and the oppressed, sinners and saints; and now they stand waiting for the beginning of eternal life, Judgment Day.
Just to think that the ground which we walk on is filled with the bodies of billions of deceased human beings to have lived until now; bodies now completely turned to dust, like billions of shadows piled upon one another…Tomorrow, we too are bound to glide into this dense shadow. From there, an eternal life will begin; a journey to the never-ending. In that case, let us each stop awhile and think: What person in their right mind would trade a moment for eternity?
In the Quran, the Almighty declares:
“On the day that they see it, it will be as though they had not tarried but the latter part of a day or the early part of it,” (an-Naziat, 46), informing us just how short this life is compared to the life of everlasting.
Echoing this truth is the following couplet, abbreviating the essence of worldly life:
Delicate is life, rapid, like the blink of an eye,
A bird taking flight, we heard not, yet it went by…
Could there be anything more incredibly foolish than ruinously laying waste to the treasure of this earthly life like it is forever?
The Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- used to command a frequent remembrance of death, discouraging us against being lost in worldly affairs. He would say, “A cause for wonder is he who only strives for the deceitful life of the world, despite having belief in the life of eternity.” (Qudai, Shihab’ul-Akhbar, n. 383)
The thought of the impending time of complete separation from the world, after which one will be left face to face with what he or she had done in life, good and bad, and receive her or his rewards or punishment in full, distances one from sin and temptation, and brings one closer to deeds of goodness. Contemplating ones death, in other words, is a means to gaining greater conscience, straightening up one’s life and working towards bettering one’s condition in the life of eternity. The Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- says:
“Remember death frequently; for remembrance of death purifies one from sins and renders him indifferent to the world. If you think of death while rich, it will protect you from the disasters of wealth. If you think of it when poor, it will enable you to become satisfied with your life.” (Suyuti, Jami’us-Saghir, I, 47)
Again, encouraging the remembrance of death, the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- said:
“I had forbidden you from visiting graves. But now you may, for visiting graves will remind you of the Hereafter.” (Tirmidhi, Janaiz, 60; Muslim, Janaiz, 106)
“Remember death and the decaying of bodies and bones after death. He who desires the Hereafter deserts the dazzle of the world.” (Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 24)
“Allah loves he who often remembers death.” (Haythami, X, 325)
“Who is the cleverest Believer?” a Companion once asked the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-, who replied:
“He who frequently remembers death and prepares for what’s to come in the best possible way...It is they who are truly clever.” (Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 31)
The Companions’ Contemplation of Death
Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him- once said during a sermon:
“Where are the handsome, the beautiful, who were once admired by everyone? Where are the young, gallant men of self-importance? Where are those kings who surrounded the grandiose towns they set up with high walls? Where are the invincible heroes of the battlefields? Time has eaten them away and made them level with earth. They have all been buried in the darkness of their graves. Hasten to come to your senses before it is too late and start preparing for beyond death! Save yourselves, save yourselves!” (Ibn’ul-Jawzi, Zamm’ul-Hawa, p. 668; Nadrat’un-Naim, III, 960)
Aisha –Allah be well-pleased with her- explains:
“I once thought of hellfire and began to cry. Seeing me in tears, the Messenger of Allah –blessings and peace upon him- asked, ‘What is wrong, Aisha?’
‘I was reminded of hellfire, so I cried’, I replied. ‘Will you prophets remember your family members on the Day of Judgment?’ I then asked.
‘There are three places where nobody will remember anyone. Before finding out whether the scale of deeds (mizan) will weigh in heavy or light; before knowing from which way the book of deeds will come, from the left, right or from behind, up until saying, ‘Here; read my book’ (al-Haqqa, 19); and when the Bridge of Sirat is set up, suspended above Hellfire. On both sides of the bridge, there are many hooks and hard thorns. With them, Allah catches whom He wills from among creation and throws them into Hellfire. A person cannot think of anyone else until he finds out whether he will be spared from these hooks or not.” (Hakim, IV, 622/8722)
Usayd ibn Khudayr –Allah be well-pleased with him-, of the most virtuous Companions, used to repeatedly say:
‘Had I been able to always sustain the state of mind that overtook me in either one of these three moments, I surely would have been Paradise bound: While reading the Quran or listening to someone read it, listening to the talks of the Messenger of Allah –upon him blessings and peace- and upon seeing a funeral. Yes indeed…whenever I see a funeral, I feel like it is me experiencing the things the deceased is going through, taken to where the deceased is being taken.” (Hakim, III, 326/5260)
The Benefits of Reflecting on Death
As stated in the hadith “Death is sufficient advice”, there are many lessons awaiting the thinking mind in the phenomenon of death.
Excess love of the passing pleasures of the world, and desire for fame and fortune are symptoms of spiritual disease. Envy, conceit, hypocrisy and lust are nothing but products of the love of the world. One of the most decisive remedies in protecting oneself from such malicious habits and spiritual shortcomings lies in the contemplation of death, the grave and events of the Afterlife.
Defeating the ego, becoming free of its damaging dominance and thereby purging the love of the world from the heart is the main objective of tasawwuf. Contemplation of death has therefore been an implemented method in many a tariqah, where the disciple spares five to ten minutes during his daily wird to reflect on death.
The Ottoman tendency to establish graveyards in town centers, by roads and in the courtyards of mosques, was only to provide an incentive for contemplating death. A Western traveler who picked up on this could not help but say, “Turks live with their dead.”
Preparing for the Hereafter by frequently remembering death and brushing aside the desires of the ego will help one avoid the agonizing remorse that may come with the final breath. The Almighty informs that a person, who during the throes of death suddenly comes to his senses as if waking up from a dream, is bound to plea, in deep remorse:
“My Lord! Why did You not respite me to a near term, so that I should have given alms and been among the doers of good deeds?” (al-Munafiqun, 10)
To avoid going through this tragic ordeal of remorse, we therefore need to open our eyes while we still have the time and begin to prepare for the impending life of eternity before the opportunity is forever lost.
Hasan Basri –Allah have mercy on his soul- had attended a funeral. Following the burial, he asked the man next to him:
“Do you think this person is right now wishing to return to the world to increase his good deeds, prayers and repentance over his sins?”
“Of course he is” assuredly replied the man.
“Then what is stopping us from thinking like him?” responded Hasan Basri. (Ibn’ul-Jawzi, al-Hasan’ul-Basri)
Preparing for the Tremor of Death
Hasan Basri –Allah have mercy on him- says:
“There are two nights and two days, the likes of which have never before been seen or heard. The first of these nights is the first night you spend in the grave with the dead. You had never before stayed with them. The second of these nights is the night whose morning breaks with the Hereafter. A day without a night is then to begin. As for the days, the first is when an emissary of Allah comes and tells you whether He is pleased with you or not, whether you are destined for Paradise or for Hell. The second day is when you shall receive your book of deeds, from your right or left, and then be taken to the presence of Allah.” (See, Ibn’ul-Jawzi, az-Zahr’ul-Fatih, p. 25; Abu’l-Faraj Abdurrahman, Ahwal’ul-Qubur, p. 154)
Death is the greatest tribulation for man, the most terrible trial; but even worse than death is to live oblivious to death, to put it completely out of the mind and to fail to offer appropriate deeds for its preparation. Intelligent is the one who prepares for death before it comes knocking and cleans his or her soul of immorality.
Sheik Sadi says:
“You will become earth in the end, brother; so before you do, seek to become humble like earth.”
Omar –Allah be well-pleased with him- has said:
“Call yourselves to account before you are called to account. Adorn yourselves with righteous deeds before the greatest tribunal! The tribunal in the Hereafter of one who used to call himself to account during life, will surely be comfortable.” (Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 25/2459)
As our mortal bodies are placed in the grave, our children and wealth will remain behind. Only our deeds will accompany us as we lay buried in the depth of earth. There, our bodies will turn to soil, together with our shrouds, leaving nothing behind but our good deeds.
Imam Ghazzali –Allah have mercy on his soul- says:
“Only three things remain with a person at the moment of death.
1) Purity of the heart, that is a heart purified of the dirt of the world. Allah states:
قَدْ اَفْلَحَ مَنْ زَكّٰيهَا
‘He will indeed be successful who purifies it…’ (as-Shams, 9)
2) Familiarity with the remembrance of Allah, glory unto Him, who says:
اَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللّٰهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ
‘…Now surely by Allah's remembrance are the hearts set at rest.’ (ar-Rad, 28)
3) Love of Allah, glory unto Him. Again, He declares:
قُلْ اِنْ كُنْتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ اللّٰهَ فَاتَّبِعُون۪ي يُحْبِبْكُمُ اللّٰهُ
وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْۜ وَاللّٰهُ غَفُورٌ رَح۪يمٌ
‘Say: If you love Allah, then follow me; Allah will then love you and forgive your faults. And Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.’ (Al-i Imran, 31)
Purifying the heart is possible only through marifah, knowing Allah, glory unto Him, in the heart. Marifah, in turn, is acquired through being constantly occupied in dhikr and contemplation. These three qualities are thus saviors.” (Ruh’ul-Bayan, XI, 274)
If a person is able to make adequate preparation for ‘tomorrow’, death starts to assume a beautiful shape; he soon finds himself no longer afraid of it.
Bishr ibn Harith –Allah have mercy on him- in fact asserts, “What a wonderful station the grave is for he who obeys Allah.”
Similar words of wisdom come from Mawlana Rumi -Allah have mercy on him:
“The color of death, son, is in the eye of the beholder. To those who hate death without sparing a thought that it is death that unites one with the Lord and are hostile to it, death appears as a terrifying enemy. To the friends of death, death comes as a friend.
O the soul who flees in dread from death! If you want to hear the truth of the matter, you are not really afraid of death; you are but afraid of yourself.
For it is not the face of death that you behold in the mirror in horror; it is your own ugly face. Your spirit is like a tree. Death is a leaf on that tree. And every leaf belongs to the species of the tree it stems from…”
In short, our death and experiences of the grave, set to continue until Resurrection, will take shape according to the way we lived and the deeds we offered. It is for that reason that Allah, glory unto Him, explains to us the gist of both the life of the world and that of eternity on numerous occasions in the Holy Quran. Encouraging us to consider how the world will ultimately come to an end in due course, He urges us to remain aloof from its dazzle and deceit. He wants us to consciously turn instead to the life eternal, a life approaching by the minute that shall never cease.
It is therefore necessary for a person to sincerely repent from all of ones sins before death and make amends for his or her shortcomings in complying with the commands and prohibitions of the Almighty. Again, he must restore the rights to all those whose rights he may have infringed on; that is, before breathing his last, he must seek the pardon of people he may have verbally or physically assaulted, slandered, backbitten or acted with malicious intent, and be cleared of all personal debts, be they physical or spiritual.
An ignorant person may rejoice over having infringed on the rights of others; he may misread his corruption for joy. But there is simply no telling how bottomless his remorse will be on the day when the scales of justice are set and it is said to him, “You are a helpless, low and deprived man in ruin. Here, you may no longer restore any rights or seek the forgiveness of anyone.”
As his death approached, Abdulmalik ibn Marwan, the Umayyad Caliph, saw a launderer in the outskirts of Damascus wrapping the clothes around his hand and thrashing them against a washing rock. Heaving an agonizing sigh upon suddenly remembering the terrifying tribunal of the Hereafter, the Caliph lamented:
“If only I too was a launderer! If only I earned my daily feed with my hands and did not have any say in worldly affairs!” (Ghazzali, Ihya, VI, 114)
Together with preparing for the tremor of death, it is also essential not to lose hope in the mercy of Allah, glory unto Him.
Uqba al-Bazzar recounts:
“Viewing a funeral procession, a Bedouin standing next to me, who was looking on at the coffin, commented, ‘Congratulations…you have all the joy in the world!’
‘Why are you congratulating him?’ I asked.
‘How can I not congratulate a person being taken into custody by an Eternally Generous Custodian, whose treatment of His guests is splendid and mercy boundless!’
It was as if I had never before heard words so beautiful.” (Abu’l-Faraj, Abdurrahman, Ahwal’ul-Qubur, p. 155)
A matchless ‘Sultan of Spirituality’ who gave up all his wealth and worldly positions in order to enter the spiritual life and who guided the sultans of this world
Osman Nuri Topbaş
He was one of the prominent walis (friends of Allah) of Istanbul in the Ottoman period. His real name was Mahmud. The name “Hüdayi” and attribute “Aziz” were given to him later in his life. He was from the lineage of Junaid al-Baghdadi and was one of the descendants of the Prophet (pbuh).
He was born in the town Koçhisar and was raised up in Sivrihisar.
He was a sultan of the hearts who lived along life which almost lasted a century and his life spanned through the reigns of eight Ottoman sultans. In his time, he became the source of spiritual power for the Muslims by means of his books, sermons, preachings, and admonitions.
Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi, who had a glorious recognition in the fields of Islamic sciences, Sufism, and literature has an extraordinary place among the guides of spirituality. He was one of the rare personalities who was able to carry out the valuable activities of spiritual guidance and services with the same love, enthusiasm, and excitement that Sheikh Edebali had demonstrated in the early days of the Ottoman Empire. Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi who acted with sincerity, cordiality and perseverance for the sake of Allah became a friend of the Truth, loved both by the sultans and the public because of his external and internal capabilities.
In a period that the Ottoman Empire started to slowly go into a stagnation from their earlier rise towards progress, Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi, on the one hand, spent great effort to help the sultans to be just, zealous, and spiritually vigorous, and on the other hand like a gentle doctor, tried to heal the spiritual wounds of both statesmen and common people who felt suffocated from the disorder. This is why almost everybody tried to attend his many activities such as his preachings, sermons, guidance, and services; his lodge became a place of bliss and spirituality.
His period really coincides with a time of suffering whereby happiness and sadness followed each other. This was because the gradually increasing turmoil that deeply shook the political and social structure started to take effect in this period.
Hüdayi who invited people to the truth and to the call of the Truth through the consoling breath of Sufism in such a turbulent period, turned his lodge into a different form compared to the other lodges. So much so that, his lodge became the only place of refuge for the statesmen who were deposed from their seats and for the people who escaped from the anarchy emerging in society. In this respect, Sheikh Hüdayi’s lodge, in a way, turned into a safe and an immune place where harm could not reach. It can be said that no dervish lodge in the Ottoman land was as respected and esteemed as that of Hüdayi’s.
We should also deal with what the state of Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi was and pay special attention to how he achieved his unique abilities and qualifications. This is because the method that perfected him is an exceptional example for those who walk on the same path.
* * *
Sheikh Hüdayi not only received a serious scholarly education but also molded his spiritual world by adhering to Sufi training. Due to his efforts and diligence, he became an assistant to his teacher Nazirzade who paid special attention to him in the madrasa. In the following years, he worked together with his teacher Nazirzade as a judge (qādi) in various offices. Eventually they were appointed to the office of qadi in the city of Bursa. His teacher became the head qādi and he became a teacher in the madrasa of Ferhadiye, in addition to his position as the assistant qādi at the Court of Atik Mosque.
His complete adherence to Sufism and attainment of the knowledge of Allah (ma‘rifatullah) coincide with those days. This took place as follows,
Despite all kinds of scholarly competence and worldly position, qadi Hüdayi at the time was just a regular qādi among many qādis. One day, a different case that he had never seen until that day was brought to his court. A woman whose eyes were overflowing with tears came to his court to file a complaint about her husband. She told Qādi Mahmud,
“- O Qādi! Every year my husband intends to go to pilgrimage, but cannot go because of poverty. This year, he again wants to go to pilgrimage. He even said, “If I cannot go to pilgrimage this year, I will divorce you.” Then, he disappeared towards the feast of sacrifice. Five or six days later, he appeared and started to claim that he had gone and performed pilgrimage. How can this be possible? O qādi! I want to be divorced from this liar!...”
In order to investigate the woman’s claims, Qādi Mahmud brought the man to the court and asked him whether or not his wife’s claims were true. The man responded saying,
“- O qādi! Everything my wife says is true, but everything I say is true as well. You should know that I went and performed pilgrimage. I even met with some pilgrims from Bursa in those sacred lands and entrusted them some gifts to bring here.”
Qādi Mahmud was baffled and so he asked,
“- How can this be possible?”
The poor man started to tell him what had happened,
“- Sir, when I understood that I will not be able to perform pilgrimage this year the same way that I was not able to do it in the previous years, I went to Eskici Mehmet Dede in a sad state. He held my hand and told me to close my eyes. When I opened my eyes, I was in the Ka’bah.”
Saying that it was impossible, the qādi who never heard such an incident in his life did not accept the man’ statement. Upon this, the poor man who was still under the influence of the spiritual sacred places naively but meaningfully responded,
“O qādi! The devil who is the enemy of Allah, the Almighty, can travel around the world in a moment, why is it not possible for a friend of Allah to go to the Ka’bah in a moment?”
Qādi Mahmud found this response very meaningful and decided to postpone his verdict till the return of the pilgrims of Bursa. When the pilgrims of Bursa returned, he learned what had really happened due to his investigation and was forced to dismiss the case in great surprise and astonishment. However, he started to feel puzzled and confused. His soul and will were flowing into a kind of spiritual drunkenness. When he was thinking about what he could do about this, his heart got an inspiration and he immediately went to Eskici Mehmet Dede. He wanted to adhere to his Sufi path in order to dive into the sea of the truths and secrets. However, Eskici Dede said,
“- O qādi! You share is not here with us, it is with Sheikh Üftade, the perfect Sufi Master of this time.” Then, Judge Mahmud went to Sheikh Üftada’s lodge with the same intention. However, when he got close to the lodge, the feet of his horse got stuck between some rocks. He got down from his horse and went to the lodge on foot. He asked the Sheikh to let him to be his disciple.
When Sheikh Üftade saw Mahmud the famous qādi of Bursa in splendid robes, he did not accept his request at once and wanted to test his sincerity and intentions. So he said,
“- O qādi, leave! You lead a pompous life in wealth and fame, whereas this gate is the gate of poverty. Wasn’t the feet of your horse stuck between the rocks because it did not want to come here?” Then, he walked towards the gate of the lodge.
Qādi Mahmud, who was wandering in the valley of bewilderment, on the one hand, because of the sheikh’s statement and on the other hand, because of the clear wonders he saw, realized the truth. His decision was certain. This was because adhering to such a gate (the Sheikh) was necessary for him to reach Allah by overcoming the obstacle of the inner self. Due to this he immediately ran after the sheikh, caught up with him and bowed his head down, and said,
“- O master! I am in a bewilderment, as if I am falling into a bottomless pit. Please help me. Honor this poor man by allowing him to be your disciple.”
Upon this Sheikh Uftada smiled and laid down three conditions whereby he would accept him to his Sufi training; to quit his positions as qādi and college instructor, to distribute all his wealth and property to the needy, and to discipline himself by going through strict ascetic austerities. All of this was necessary for him to know and discipline his soul. When Qādi Mahmud sincerely submitted himself to the commands of the Sheikh, Sheikh Uftada accepted him among his disciples.
After that, he was commanded to put on his robe and sell liver on the streets of Bursa in order to cleanse the density in his heart, in other words, in order to destroy Qādi Mahmud’s pride, conceit, and self-admiration, which existed in his heart. He was also given the task to clean the restrooms of the lodge.
Qādi Mahmud who came to the presence of Sheikh Uftada in full submission and sincerity obeyed the commands of his master. He gave up all worldly relations feeding his inner self. By sincerely submitting himself to the commands of his master, he made great achievements in a very short time. So much so that he did not even care when people saw him selling liver in his qādi robe and said,
“- Perhaps our Qādi lost his mind,” or
“- Poor man! It seems that he was able to give up the post of qadi, but could not give up the robe.” However, he did his best to fulfill the orders of his master.
In this way, he started to improve very fast towards spiritual maturity. He gradually gained a very valuable place in the heart of his master.
The story of erasing the last traces of existence in his inner self is very famous:
One day when Qādi Mahmud was busy with cleaning the restrooms, he heard the voice of a town crier coming from outside,
“- O people! Hear me! Hear me! A new judge is coming to our city.”
Just then, his inner self created a big wave of misgivings and he said to himself:
“- Well, a new judge is coming to my place! O poor Mahmud! You have given up such an honorable profession and started to clean up toilets. Tell us! What have you gained for so many years?”
In the face of dangerous disobedience of his soul, Qādi Mahmud quickly pulled himself together and remembered his master. Since he had promised his master that he would fulfill the orders required from him. he immediately gave up his misgivings and responded to the very dangerous misgivings of his soul,
“- O Mahmud! Haven’t you promised your master that you would surrender your inner self? Did you forget your promise? Look at yourself!”
However, Qādi Mahmud became extremely sad because of what had happened to him that responding to the deceptions of his inner self by just reprimanding it did not calm down the regret and sadness in his heart. He immediately threw the broom he was holding and decided to clean the toilets by his beard as a punishment to his inner self. Just then, his master Uftada appeared at the door. He smiled at Qādi Mahmud and talked to him kindly,
“- My Son Mahmud! You know that the beard is a blessed tradition of our Prophet (pbuh)” and prevented him to clean the floor by his beard. Then he said,
“- My dear son Mahmud! The purpose of the services that I gave on your special Sufi training (sayru suluk) was to help you pass onto this spiritual state. Praise be to Allah who succeeded you on this path. From now on, your task is to prepare and pour my ablution water.”
Qādi Mahmud also worked very hard to fulfill this duty. Every morning without a slack, he prepared his master’s ablution water and helped him perform ablution.
Sheikh Hüdayi even minimized benefiting from the lawful on his path to discipline his inner self by practicing strict ascetic austerities and thus succeeded to strengthen his soul by submitting his heart completely to Allah.
* * *
One-day Sheikh Uftada went with his disciples for a conversation in the prairie. Upon his request, all the dervishes walked around the best places of the prairie and brought a bouquet of flowers for their master. However, qadi Mahmud had in his hand only one dead flower with a broken stem. After other disciples happily offered their master the flowers they collected, Qādi Mahmud bowed his head down and offered Sheikh Uftada the dead and broken flower he had.
Under the curious looks of other disciples, Uftada asked him,
“- My dear son Mahmud! Everyone brought bouquets of flowers. Why did you bring one dead flower with broken stem?”
Qādi Mahmud lowered his head in a well-mannered behavior and replied,
“- Master! It is not enough, no matter how much I offer you. However, to whichever flower I extended my hand to pick up, I heard it remembering the Lord saying “Allah, Allah.” I could not find it in my heart to stop their remembrances of Allah. I did not have a choice but to bring this dead flower which could not continue its remembrance.”
Being very happy with this beautiful and meaningful response, Sheikh Ufdata said,
“- Hüdayi! Hüdayi! My dear son! From now on, let your name be Hüdayi! O Hüdayi! It seems that only you have benefited from this prairie trip.”
Thus, qādi Mahmud became Hüdayi because he became acquainted with the divine secrets in the universe. It was as if the universe was turned into a book opening its secret to him.
Qādi Mahmud who was called Hüdayi from that time onwards also started to be known as Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi, adding the attribute “Aziz” to his name as a respect of his high spiritual state.
* * *
Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi became the head disciple of Skeikh Uftada within three years which was a very short period of time. After a while, Sheikh Uftada sent him to the town of Sivrihisar as his successor (khalifa). Sheikh Hüdayi who served there for a while returned to Bursa as a result of getting a spiritual sign. He heartily served his master Uftada who was breathing his last breaths of his life. One day Sheikh Uftada who was very pleased by Hüdayi’s services prayed saying,
“- My dear son! May Sultans walk on your path.”
After the death of his master Uftada, Sheikh Hüdayi moved to Istanbul due to the mediation of the Sheikhulislam Hoca Sadeddin Efendi.
In a short time, the lodge he founded in the district of Üsküdar turned into a school of spirituality and wisdom addressing people from all layers of society. He attracted the favors and attention of the sultans. He had the sultans join among his dervishes. Especially Murad Han III, Ahmed Han I, Osman Han II and Murad Han IV were honored to be in his close teaching circles. Sheikh Hüdayi attended the Murad Han IV’s ceremony of the girding sword and, as it was the tradition, personally girded Umar (r.a.)’s sword to the new sultan in the tomb of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari.
* * *
In the years when Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi moved to Istanbul, Murad Han III was reigning the Ottoman sultanate. This sultan at that time was easily influenced by those around him due to his extensive trust in them and due to the comfort afforded to him and was thus deceived both by the greatness and magnificence of the Ottoman state as well as by his youth and strength. This was why some deficiencies were naturally experienced by him. Sheikh Hüdayi who recognized this weakness assumed the task, which no one could even dare to do, i.e. the task of guiding the Sultan. He wrote letters guiding Sultan Murad Han III to the Truth and reality. The fact that his letters sometimes had a soft and sometimes harsh language is very remarkable to show how qualified, influential, and skilled he was in the task of guidance. Because it was impossible for the people who did not have high spiritual state to carry on this task and make such warnings due to Murad III’s intrepidity.
The incident of interpreting a dream which constituted the first ring of the chain of relationship between Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi and Sultan Ahmed I is well known. Sultan Ahmed I whose respect and ties with Sheikh Hüdayi increased with this interpretation of dream was attached to him so much that he wrote poems resembling the poems of Hüdayi.
The guidance of Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi who had a great share from the knowledge of the Prophet Joseph’s knowledge of interpretation of dreams to the sultans by using this skill and the accuracy of his interpretations are the manifestations of his qualification and capacity in this respect.
One day Sultan Ahmed Han sent a valuable gift to his master Hüdayi whom he loved very much. However, Sheikh Hüdayi did not accept the gift. Upon this, because the gift had already been taken out of his charge, Sultan Ahmed sent the gift to another Sufi master of the time, Abdulmecit Sivasi. In a visit made on the occasion of Abdulmecit Sivasi’s acceptance of Sultan’s gift, the Sultan said,
“- Dear Master! I sent this gift to Sheikh Hüdayi before. He did not accept it, but you did.” Sheikh Sivasi who understood the subtlety hidden in this statement said to him,
“- My sultan! Sheikh Hüdayi is the phoenix who does not debase himself by tending to carrion.”
The Sultan, who was pleased with this answer, visited Sheikh Hüdayi a couple of days later and told him,
“- My dear master! Sheikh Abdulmecid Efendi accepted the gift that you have not accepted.” Sheikh Hüdayi smiled and said,
“- My dear sultan! Sheikh Abdulmecid Efendi is an ocean. Dropping a single drop of filth of masiwa (everything other than Allah) into an ocean would not blemish its purity.”
This incident shows the love and respect of the two great friends of Allah to each other and especially Sheikh Hüdayi’s perfection. Sheikh Hüdayi who was close to the sultans because of his task to provide them spiritual guidance was extremely contended in his material relationships. This was because the material gifts which had the danger to harm his spirituality by increasing his inclination and love for the world could become an obstacle before his activities of spiritual guidance. Even though he sometimes observed the tradition that accepting the sultans’ gifts was also regarded a gift, he used those gifts in building his lodge, providing services to the dervishes, and the services of the endowment he founded. In some other times, he sent back the gifts offered to him.
* * *
Sheikh Hüdayi who maintained his ties with Sultan Genç Osman II after Sultan Ahmed Han I also strived hard to guide this young and excited sultan to the right direction. Sultan Genç Osman was an idealistic sultan who realized that the Ottoman state entered a period of stagnation and planned new moves to stop the dire situation of the state. Then he decided to perform pilgrimage. None of the sultans until then had personally performed this act of worship, but rather sent a substitute on their behalf. Because the journey to go and come back from pilgrimage used to take about a year and the skeikhulislams did not permit the sultans to disrupt the order of the state for such a long time.
Sheikh Hüdayi who knew the wisdom behind this matter very well did not approve of Sultan Genç Osman changing the long established tradition by deciding to go to pilgrimage, so he warned him and tried to dissuade him. However, because of his youth and inexperience, the Sultan did not give up his desire and took action to realize his intention despite all the warnings of Sheikh Hüdayi and by this manifesting weakness in his submission. In conclusion, his attempt caused serious disturbance among the janissary corps. With the provocations of some mischief makers, the Sultan’s pilgrimage visit was perceived as that sultan’s aim was to gather an army in the Hejaz and abolish the janissary corps with this army. The chief rebels who wanted to prevent the Sultan’s move provoked their followers and committed the heinous crime infamously known in history as “haila or the tragedy.”
This incident sorrowfully manifested the significance of Sheikh Hüdayi’s insistent spiritual warning filled with secrets.
* * *
Because Sultan Murad Han IV, who ascended the throne upon Sultan Genç Osman’s martyrdom, was very young when he became a sultan, he was under the control of his mother and some statesmen. Due to this situation, Sultan Murad Han would sometimes feel suffocated, visit Sheikh Hüdayi’s lodge to freshen up his soul and get ready for the following days. One day Sultan Murad Han who made these visits in accordance with the measures of sincere dervishes took his tutor (lala) with him. When they arrived at the door of the lodge, they softly knocked on it. When a dervish asked from inside,
“- Who is it?” Sultan’s tutor immediately responded,
“- The sultan of seven climates, the sultan, son of the sultan Murad Han the forth is presently honored.” Immediately inform your sheikh.”
The dervish replied,
“- This is not the gate of sultanate” and did not open the door. Sultan Murad Han smiled at his tutor’s situation and said,
“- My dear tutor! This gate is the gate of servanthood and heart” and knocked at the door again. To the question that was directed from inside, he replied with good manners,
“- Tell the master, his servant Murad is here.”
Upon this the door was opened and they were invited inside.
Sheik Hüdayi, who was in his old age at the time, paid unique attention to Sultan Murad Han in order to help him reach perfection by all kinds of qualifications.
As a result of this special treatment and various guidance, Sultan Murad Han everyday materially and spiritually improved, gained experience, and spiritual stages. He reached to a level that he could shoulder great cases. By the measure he took when it was necessary, he achieved order in the army and among public and saved the state which faced collapse from great calamities.
* * *
One of the famous extraordinary states of Sheik Hüdayi was his trip from Uskudar to the European side of Istanbul by getting on his boat together with a couple of his disciples in a very stormy weather when the fishers did not dare to sail. The path Sheikh Hüdayi sailed between Uskudar and Sarayburnu is known even today as “Hüdayi Yolu (The Path of Hüdayi).” Fishers who know this path follow it in strong storms. This is one of Sheik Hüdayi’s extraordinary manifestation, which has survived until this day. In fact, it is remarkable that the public boat services in the windy weathers of southwester could only be provided between Uskudar and Eminonu districts.
* * *
Even though Sheik Hüdayi said,
“You have given up the offices of judge and mudarris for the Divine’ sake
Save us from the torments of existence by granting us Your meeting.”
After adhering to the Sufi path, he continued his job of preaching in accordance with his master’s order. Moreover, just like all the other great Sufis before him, he continued to give hadith and tafsir classes. All this because at the beginning he had been willing to give it all up and disciplined his inner self instead.
* * *
Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi who continued his spiritual teachings and guidance by his poems left works of poetry enlightening and influencing the souls after him. He has several poems which are composed and sung with pleasure even today.
In one of those poems, Sheikh Hüdayi expresses the matter of removing everything other than Allah and leaving only Allah in the heart as follows,
Why should I deal with this world,
I only need Allah
I need nothing else,
I only need Allah
Man of the world (are in pursuit of) this world
Man of the next world (are in pursuit of) the next world
Each one of them (are in pursuit of) a separate love
I only need Allah,
Sheikh Hüdayi follows the path of Yunus Emre in his poems and molds the hearts by spirituality. He warns the servants of Allah about the deceptiveness and mortality of this world.
As seen above, Sheikh Hüdayi who spread his services over a wide area and successfully carried them out happily passed on in 1628 by impressing an inerasable seal to his and following ages and by leaving many works, followers, and foundation.
May Allah show His mercy upon him.
* * *
Some of Sheikh Hüdayi’s practices are still valid today and there are many examples for this. Let us give an instance which can provide both a lesson and information:
It was 1975. It was about the time of noon prayer. A heavyset and bright faced young man came to the tomb of Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi. He incidentally met Muharrem Efendi, the imam of the mosque and asked,
“- Sir! I came to see Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi. How can I see him? Is he here right now?” the imam who was surprised by this question said,
“- My dear son! Yes, Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi is here.” The young man who heard that the Sheikh was there happily said,
“- Please help me to meet him.”
The Imam who could not understand what the young man meant repeated that the tomb was right there,
“- My son! Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi is right there.”
The young man too repeated his request,
“- Then, help me to meet him. I want to meet with him.”
Muharrem Efendi who still could not understand the young man’s request, he asked to solve the matter,
“- My dear son! Do you know Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi?”
The young man whose heart was as pure as his face was surprised why this man was beating around the bush and did not want him to meet with Mahmud Hüdayi and said,
“I know Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi very well. He invited me here. We have made an appointment to meet here. He knows that I will be here.”
Upon this, Muharrem Efendi finally understood that there was a different and secret aspect of the matter and asked in wonder,
“- My dear son! How did you make an appointment?”
The young man started to tell,
“- Sir! I was in the special forces who parachuted to Cyprus during the 1974 Cyprus Military Operation. We parachuted at a time when our land forces attacked from the sea and the Greek from the side of Beşparmak Mountains. However, it was windy day and every one of us dispersed around. I landed among the enemy forces. I was in a wooded area and under fire from both sides like hell. Just at a time when I was in confusion and did not know what to do, a tall old man with bright face appeared. He looked at me smiling and said,
“- My dear son! This is enemy lines. What are you doing here? Why did you come here alone?” I told him,
“- O old man! I did not come here willingly. The wind blew me here.” Bright faced old man moved his head slowly and said,
“- I also came here to fight. I was sent here before you. I know this place very well. From which unit are you? Let me take you to them.” Together we set out to my unit under heavy artillery shots. That blessed man was so relaxed that as if he was walking on the road. All of his states made me more confused. He asked me several questions like what my name was, where I was from, etc. After I gave answers to his questions, I asked him with surprise,
“- O old man! Who are you?”
“- My son! People call me Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi.” I then said,
“- O old man! You made me a great favor. If I can return my homeland safe and sound, I would like to visit you in return of your favor. Would you give me your address?”
This nice faced old man told me as an address only,
“- My son! When you come Uskudar, ask anybody you meet. They will show me where I am.”
Meanwhile we came to my unit. I kissed the old man’s hand with the feeling of gratitude and respect. We said goodbye to each other and then I went to my commander.
When my commander saw me safe and sound in front of him, he was very surprised. He amazingly asked how I could save myself from the fire zone and said,
“How did you come here?” I told him,
“- I was brought by an old and kind man.”
After the war was over, I returned to my hometown. However, I have never forgotten the goodness of Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi so I finally got ready and came to Uskudar to visit him and pay my gratitude. People to who I asked directed me to this place saying,
“He is a blessed man.”
Meanwhile the young man took a deep breath and repeated his request to Muharrem Efendi,
“- Sir! This was how I met Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi. Now please let me to meet him!”
Muharrem Efendi who learned the details of the matter was very influenced from this spiritual scene he witnessed. For a while, he could not say anything to the young man who was looking at him with begging eyes. He then pulled himself together and stutteringly only said,
“- My son! Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi is not a person who is alive today. He was a friend of Allah who lived between the years of 1543 and 1628. It seems he invited you here to recite a Fatiha. Here is his tomb.”
When the believing and loyal young man heard these words, he was very touched by the facts he learned. In the place that he came with the hope to see the man to whom he owed his life, he could only find the tomb of this friend of Allah. He was just beginning to understand the spiritual experience he had lived in the turmoil of the war and his eyes overflowed with tears. He closed his face with his hands and cried for a while.
The imam of the Hüdayi Mosque was also crying.
How nicely this incident manifests the spiritual disposal that Allah bestows upon the servants He loves. This is an example for the spiritual aid of Allah to His friends who has lived since the time of our beloved Prophet (pbuh).
It should not be forgotten that the absolute doer of such acts is Allah the Almighty. His help to His servants has taken place until today both by means of His angels and through His righteous servants.
* * *
How beautiful and meaningful is the following prayer of Sheikh Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi made upon the request of Sultan Ahmed I,s ,
“Dear Lord! Those who are on our path until the Judgment Day, those who love us, and those who visit us when we are alive, and those who visit our grave after our death and read Fatiha when passing by our tomb are ours… May those who are with us not drown at sea, may they not suffer poverty in their old age, may they not pass away without saving their faith, may they know when they will die and may they be informed about it and may their death not be as that of drowning at sea.”
All scholars and friends of Allah tell us that this prayer has been accepted by Allah and those who follow Hüdayi’s path did not die by drowning at sea and were able to tell people about the time of their death towards the end of their lives.