- Created on Sunday, 12 May 2013 16:08
When completed, the form of the Prophet’s mosque in Madinah was extremely simple. It consisted of an unpaved enclosure with walls made of mud bricks and an arcade on the qiblah side (towards Makkah) made of palm-trunks used as columns to support a roof of palm-leaves and mud. There were initially three entrances which pierced the eastern, western and southern walls. The northern wall was the qiblah side facing al-Masjid al-Aqsa – which was the first qiblah for about one year and a few months. However, as the qiblah was changed to face south towards Makkah, the southern entrance was subsequently bricked up and a wall on the northern side was pierced. Before the qiblah change, there was, in all likelihood, no roofed area in the mosque (some still believe there was) but after the qiblah change, an arcade on the southern side facing Makkah was created. There was no decoration of any kind within or without the mosque.
- Created on Tuesday, 07 May 2013 16:15
The mosque of the Prophet (pbuh) played the role of the seat of the first Islamic government. In the mosque, the Prophet (pbuh) used to spend long hours on a daily basis discussing, deciding and executing many affairs related to administering the state. Jihad (striving in the way of Allah) and state defense strategies were also initiated and concluded in the realm of the mosque. When returning from a journey, the Prophet (pbuh) used to go to his mosque first. There he would perform a short prayer of two units (rak’ah). Then, he would sit in the mosque and attend to the people and their needs.
- Created on Friday, 26 April 2013 11:43
According to the Islamic worldview, this life is a brief journey necessary for arriving to the Hereafter. Death is seen as the gateway to the Hereafter. Death is by no means a negative thing. Believers are scared neither of death nor of the prospect of experiencing it themselves, as it brings them back to Allah, their Creator and Master. To believers, death is the gateway to everything they have patiently longed for in the earthly life. Thus, constantly reflecting on death and looking forward to facing it is considered a virtue; the opposite is viewed as a serious spiritual failing.
- Created on Friday, 26 April 2013 10:07
Life and Activities in Early Sufi Institutions
As seen earlier, Sufism as a complete and cohesive system of thought and Sufi institutions were developing almost simultaneously, the former being the cause and the latter the effect. Just as Sufism was evolving from the unique, and at times exaggerated, ways in which some people, later called wool-wearers, were perceiving and practicing asceticism, seclusion, poverty, devoutness and love of Allah and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Sufi institutions, too, were developing gradually from crude single room hermitages to sophisticated and multi functional Sufi complexes called ribats, khanqahs, zawiyahs and tekkes. The fact that this evolution took place over the course of approximately two, or two and a half, centuries indicates, firstly, how quickly Sufism spread and found its permanent footing on the Muslim religious, epistemological and even cultural scenes, as well as in people’s hearts and minds, and secondly, how swiftly Sufism as an inclusive body of knowledge, teaching and training codes and standards evolved and furthered its unique brand and identity. The evolution of Sufi establishments, by and large, went through two major phases which were marked by the formation of firstly individual and then elaborately institutional and collective retreats and sanctuaries. It also meant that those institutions went from private and semi-private initiatives to community benefactors and government owned and controlled enterprises. The following report somewhat typifies the mentioned Sufi institutions’ evolution, even though it denotes an isolated case which took place in Cairo and long after the emergence of Sufi institutions had come to pass. According to the report, a blind Sufi sheikh, Abu Zakariyya Yahya b. Ali al-Sanafiri (d. 773 AH/ 1371 CE) is said to have firstly resided in a domed shrine in the large cemetery of Cairo called Qarafah. Frequently visited by many people, he was forced to create a retreat for himself. When that was not enough to ensure his privacy, he started to deter visitors by pelting stones at them. But that did not work either. Ultimately, he left his shrine in Cairo and chose to settle in a place called Sanafir, whence his name. There a ruler built a zawiyah or a khanqah for him. When he died, over fifty thousand persons attended his funeral.
- Created on Friday, 19 April 2013 11:31
Coming back to our main discussion on the evolution of Sufi institutions, sometime after the establishment of ribats, the khanqah as a new and most recognizable Sufi religious and educational institution started to emerge. Although ribats and to a lesser extent duwayrahs were still there, the emergence of khanqahs eclipsed them all. This was so because the emergence of khanqahs both coincided and was spurred by a favorable socio-political climate -- as we will see later. This was so, furthermore, because the evolution of Sufi institutions from mosques and duwayrahs to ribats and khanqahs followed some logic and was rather spontaneous. Ribats and to a smaller degree duwayrahs were mere shelters for the Sufis where they resided and where some basic and perhaps ad hoc worship, ascetic and learning activities were conducted. As al-Maqrizi remarked: “Every community has its home (dwelling). The home (dwelling) of the Sufi community is the ribat.” The same idiom has been ascribed to Shihab al-Din Umar al-Suhrawardi as well. Khanqahs, on the other hand, signified Sufi complexes where the Sufis still resided but their worship, ascetic, socialization and learning activities became more sophisticated and elaborate. They were getting closer to grouping themselves into orders and fraternities (tariqah) and that necessitated some additional logistic, management, organizational and functional support and rethinking. Thus, in some places ribats simply merged with khanqahs, while in other places they both existed separately, often next to each other, serving in their different capacities the growing interests of Sufism and the Sufi fraternity. When existing together, it seems as though khanqahs functioned as worshipping, learning and socializing centers, whereas ribats functioned mainly as hostels. As an illustration, while describing the Khanqah of a Mamluki Sultan Ruknuddin Baybars al-Jashankir (d. 709 AH/ 1309 CE) in Cairo, which was the most splendid khanqah in Cairo, al-Maqrizi wrote that next to it, the Sultan built a massive ribat to which one could go from inside the khanqah. Ibn Jubayr also spoke of both ribats and khanqahs as separate institutions in Damascus. But at one point he commented that ribats were called khanqahs and were numerous in Damascus. Surely, those accounts only buttress our reflection that the two institutions sometimes merged and were called khanqahs, sometimes, rarely though, stood and operated separately, and yet at other times were integrated into a Sufi complex while retaining their respective identities. In the last scenario, ribats normally played a supplementary role to khanqahs.