‘New Year message’ from Ibn Al-Qayyim
In the name of the Almighty, the Gracious the Merciful
“Verily, the number of months with the Almighty is twelve months (in a year)… (Q:36)
There was certainly in their stories a lesson for those of understanding. Never was the Qur’an a narration invented, but a confirmation of what was before it and a detailed explanation of all things and guidance and mercy for a people who believe. (Quran 12: 111)
What a contradiction, you might say. Yes. It might appear contradictory for us to suggest that the medieval scholar, polymath and author of many compendia on Arab-Islamic culture, Ibn al-Qayyim al—Jawziyyah’ would have thought and written about what has become known in the contemporary period as the New Year. Yes. What we refer to as the beginning of New Year in the Gregorian Calendar, i.e January the 1st, was named after Pope Gregory XIII. The calendar became effective in the year 1582. Before then, and in large parts of the Muslim world, the Gregorian calendar had been unknown. Muslims have always made use of the event of the departure of the Prophet of Islam from Makkah to Madinah in 622 AD to date the datable in their reality and history. Thus Ibn Qayyim would have pooh-poohed the existence of a calendar other than that of the Hijrah had such become known to him long before he bade this world bye in September 15, 1350 AD.
But I chose to seize upon the insightful advice deposited by Ibn al-Qayyim in human memory and history simply because some of them are extremely pertinent to the world we have found ourselves today. Our world, remember, can be divided into two: the world that we met at birth and the world that has caught up with us today.
Ibn Qayyim was born on the 7th of Safar in the year 691H (1292CE), and was raised in a house of knowledge and excellence. This offered him the chance to take knowledge from the senior scholars of his time, at a time when the various sciences of knowledge flourished. He studied under al-Nabilusi, al-Qadi Taqiyy -Din Sulayman, ‘Isa al-Mut’im, Fatimah bint Jawhar, among many others.
Many scholars have testified to his prodigious knowledge and piety. In one of his many writings he says: “A friend will not (literally) share your struggles, and a loved one cannot physically take away your pain, and a close one will not stay up the night on your behalf, so look after yourself, protect it, nurture it and do not give life’s events more than what they are really worth. Be certain that when you break no one will heal you except you, and when you are defeated no one will give you victory except your determination. Your ability to stand up again and carry on is your responsibility”.
He says further: “Do not look for your self-worth in the eyes of people; look for your worth from within your sub-conscious. If your subconscious is at peace then you will ascend high, and if you truly know yourself then what is said about you should not and would not harm you. Do not carry the worries of this life on your head because this is for the Almighty not you; …do not carry the anxiety of today over to tomorrow because that is in the Hands of the Almighty. Be concerned only with one thing: How to Please your Creator; because if you please Him, He would be pleased with you; He would fulfill your desires and enrich you.
Ibn Qayyim says again: “Sadness departs with a sajdah (placing of the forelock on the ground in prayers); happiness comes with a sincere du’a (supplication). The Almighty does not forget the good you do…nor does He Forget the good you did to others and the pain you relieved them from. Nor will He forget the heart which was in grief but which you turned to happiness. Live your life with this principle: Be good even if you do not receive goodness not because of other’s sake but because He loves the good doers”.
Brethren, while making sense of the above, my attention was drawn to another intervention offered by Shaykh Khalid Yasin. He says as follows: “Let not the people come to know of your happiness, and let them not see except your smile. If life becomes constricted upon you, then within the Qur’an is your orchard. If you feel curtailed and restricted, then to the heavens raise your call. And if they ask you of your affairs, then praise the Almighty and smile.
“If you see an ant on the path, then do not crush it, and seek the Face of Almighty thereby, so that He will have mercy on you like you had mercy on it, and remember that the ant also glorifies the Almighty. So do not halt its glorification by killing it. And if you pass by a bird drinking from the blessing of water, then do not pass close to it in case you startle it. Rather, seek the pleasure of the Almighty thereby, so that He grants you safety on the day when hearts shall reach the throat in pain. And if you come across a cat in the middle of the road, then avoid hitting it, and seek the pleasure of the Almighty thereby, so that He could, by that singular action, avert for you death in the most painful and violent way. And if you want to throw out food, then make it your intention that animals can eat from it and seek the pleasure of the Almighty thereby, so that He may continue to provide for you from where you do not expect. Do good, no matter how small it seems to you, because you do not know which good deed will make you enter into Paradise.
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