riyada in arabic means "training" or "discipline". It was used by the arabs in relation to horse taming. Sufis refer to their discipline as "riyadat an-nafs": disciplining the soul / training the ego. Today, the word riyada has come to mean "sports". There is an Arabic proverb that says: "The purpose of sports (riyada) is not to win cups, but to discipline the soul". This blog is here to help me discipline my soul and train my body.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


This Saturday the 31st of March, it will be the 12th of Rabi' al-Awwal, the day that Muslims celebrate the birth of God's Messenger Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him as many times as people have celebrated his message! The celebration is called the Mewlid, from the arabic word for birth.

There are those who have no proper understanding of the Sunna that argue that celebrating the Prophet's birthday is an innovation. Is it wrong to celebrate the coming of the best of mankind, the bearer of God's Final Message to humanity? Are we not really celebrating the Message itself?

Anyway, these people read the Qur'an and read the Hadith but they don't understand it. If they truly understood it they would see that the Prophet (pbuh) celebrated his birthday every single week, let alone every year!

For we know that the Prophet (pbuh) enjoined Muslims to fast every Monday and Thursday. The sayyida Aisha said, "The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) used to observe fast on Mondays and Thursdays." [Reported by Tirmidhi]

When asked why he, peace be upon him, fasted and enjoined others to fast on Monday he said it is because that is the day he was born:

"The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) was asked about fasting on Mondays. He said, 'That is the day on which I was born and the day on which I received Revelation.' " [Reported in Sahih Muslim].

We are also told in Sahih Bukhari that when the Prophet was born (and it happened to be on a Monday) the Prophet's uncle Abu Lahab was so pleased at the birth of his nephew that he freed the slave-girl Thuwaiba when she brought him the news. Because of this, his punishment in the grave (for later becoming an enemy of the Prophet and of Islam) is reduced every Monday.

Based on this hadith in Bukhari, the scholar Shams al-Din al-Dimashqi wrote,

If an unbeliever, condemned by the Quran to eternal pain,
Can be relieved every Monday through his joy at Ahmad,
Then what must a true servant of God hope to gain,
When with the truth of Tawhid he felt joy at Ahmad?

Don't forget to do extra salawaat on the Prophet on that day! Happy Mewlid!

Sunday, March 18, 2007


I had earlier planned on writing one post called "From Fes to Medina: The Tariqa Muhammadiyya in the late 17th century " (also early 18th but no need to write that too). But then I decided to split them by writing about each on its own, and so I have just written about al-Qushashi (the Medina part) and will later write about al-Dabbagh (the Fes part), inshalla. But I decided to keep them both under the same name in the "Tariqa Muhammadiyya Series" links on the right, so if you click on the "Medina" part of the sentence you will get the latest post, and inshalla when I write the next one I will link it to it in the "Fes" word of the sentence.

I also wrote this last one at one in the morning because I wasnt able to sleep, so please forgive me if it is poorly written. Finally, I wanted to translate another paragraph of al-Ujaymi as quoted by Sanusi, to end the article with it, but it seems the words in it are so hard even my dictionary doesnt have them! So I'll try to do that later inshalla.

Safiyy al-Din al-Qushashi

We have been tracing the roots of the Tariqa Muhammadiyya movements of the 19th century in history, from the time of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), and have arrived at Abd al-Wahhab al-Sha'rani/al-Sha'rawi (d. 1565). As we said before, our next stop was Ahmad Muhammad al-Dajani, who had taken many Sufi paths through the line of Sha'rani, there being only two people between them. But since one of the main features of the Tariqa Muhammadiyya is waking vision of the Prophet (pbuh), we will start our story a little earlier.

At around the beginning of the 16th century, a Sufi shaykh by the name of Ahmad left the Jerusalem suburb of al-Dajaniya (later known al-Jaaniya) and moved to Jerusalem, after which he received the appelation al-Dajani, which would henceforth become the surname of his descendants. This Ahmad al-Dajani was considered to be the "Pole of the Gnostics" and the "Paragon of the Mystics" of his time, and was known as Shihabuddin. Shihabuddin Ahmad would receive instruction from the Circassian shaykh Muhammad Ibn Arraq of Damscus, as well as Ibn Arraq's own shaykh Ali ibn Maymun. These two were Hanbali sufis who revived and propogated the thought of Ibn Arabi in Syria and Turkey in the sixteenth century, and as the greatest defenders of Ibn Arabi in their time, we will see some parallels between them and between al-Qushashi and Ibn Idris. Furthermore, Ibn Maymun's tariqa, the Khawatiriyya (aka the Arraqiyya), would be one of the Sufi paths that al-Sanusi took and considered to be very important and discussed in his book al-Salsabeel al-Muin. Thus we see many connections already to the later Tariqa Muhammadiyya figures.

Now Shihabuddin Ahmad al-Dajani saw in a waking vision the spirit of God's Messenger David, who said to him, "Save me oh Ahmad, for my rescue will be at your hands." What God's Messenger, peace be upon him, meant by that is that his tomb at Mt. Zion was in the hand of Christian monks. So Ahmad al-Dajani worked hard toward getting control of David's Tomb[1]. As we know from Ottoman court records, the Ottoman sultan Sulayman the Magnificent expelled all the Christians from Mt Zion in the mid-16th century and gave Mt. Zion as a waqf (religious endownment) to shaykh Ahmad al-Dajani and his followers and descendants, and put the Tomb of David under his care[2].

Another important famous vision that happened to Shihabuddin was when he was in his khalwa and the Messenger of God, Muhammad (pbuh), appeared to him in the waking state and told him to learn Arabic grammar, giving him some basics. Later, Shihabuddin would become an expert in the subject.

Now one of Shihabuddin's many sons, Yunis, moved to Medina, where his grandson Ahmad was raised and grew up. Ahmad Muhammad Yunis al-Dajani (d. 1661) would grow up to become (arguably) the most famous and important scholar in the Hijaz at his time, and would be known as Safiyy al-Din al-Qushashi. He was mufti of both the Maliki and Shafi'i madhaahib in Medina, and the shaykh of the Naqshbandi Tariqa. As a Sufi, he and his student al-Kurani would become pivotal links between the Sufism of India, Southeast Asia, and Arabia. Furthermore, the two of them became the greatest authorities on, and defenders of, Ibn Arabi in their time. When controversies related to Ibn Arabi arose, whether in India or Morocco, a letter would be sent to them for clarification. This reminds us of Ali ibn Maymun, shaykh of Shihabuddin Ahmad al-Dajani's tariqa, and reminds us of Ahmad ibn Idris, who defended Ibn Arabi in open debate with the Wahhabi scholars of Asir. As for the khirqa, or Sufi cloak of initiation, in the path of Ibn Arabi, he inherited it from the line of al-Sha'rani, with two people in between.

We also see from al-Sanusi's writings that al-Qushashi was initiated into the Hatimiyya Tariqa (the way of Ibn Arabi) through a chain that goes back to his great grandfather Shihabuddin Ahmad. Al-Sanusi says,

And I relate this tariqa with the (same) chain to Abu al-Baqaa al-Makki who said, "And this tariqa came to our shaykh (Safiyy al-Qushashi) from his father shaykh Muhammad and to him from his father shaykh Yunus knows as Abdul Nabi, and to him from his father the shaykh of his time, my master the shaykh of noble lineage Ahmad ibn Ali al-Dajani and to him from his shaykh the shaykh Muhammad bin Arraq and to him from the great gnosic shaykh Abil Fadl Muhammad bin Muhammad known as al-Imam...[and it goes on until it reaches] Muhyiddin bin Ali bin al-Arabi al-Hatimi [and then it goes on to two more people above him]."[11]

But the one thing that al-Qushashi was most famous for, and the thing that is always written in all biographical mentions of him, is that he learned the entire Qur'an at the hands of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) both in sleep and while awake. Of course he had by then memorized the Qur'an, but "high" chains of Qur'anic recital are very highly prized, whether for their shortness (in the number of people in it going back to the Prophet), or for the fame of certain scholars in it. And so the Meccan scholar al-Ujaymi could write with pride that he was honored to have recited the Qur'an at the hands of al-Qushashi, who had recited the Qur'an at the hands of the Prophet. This, of course, reminds us of the founder of one of the Muhammadan Ways, Ahmad al-Tijani, who had also taken the Qur'an from the Prophet, and who had given it with this "high" chain to al-Sanusi.

This brings us to another thing shared between al-Qushashi and al-Tijani, and others in the history of the Tariqa Muhammadiyya. Al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi (d. 912) was probably the first to write about what he called the Seal, or Khatam, of the Awliya. In his writings, he spoke of a great Sufi who will come much later in time, and who will be the Seal of Wilaya. Yet, while definitly speaking of someone who will come later, al-Hakim seemed to be hinting that he himself had reached that level. So is he then speaking of a spiritual level, or of a person? It is likely that he meant both. Being a seal does not necessarily mean, as in the case of Prophethood, being the last. Instead the word "seal" means a different thing for wilaya, as Ibn Arabi explains:

The Seal is not called the Seal because of the moment in which he appears, but because he is the one who most completely realises the station of direct vision (maqaam al-'iyaan). [7]

Ibn Arabi claimed to be the Seal of Muhammadan Wilaya, the one fortold by al-Tirmidhi, and the Seal for all times. Yet Sitt Ajam, the woman who became his spiritual successor, and claimed to have understood him more than any of his direct, or living, students, also claimed to have been a khatm[8]. In her understanding then, being a khatm is probably a spiritual station. This is what al-Qushashi wrote on the margins of one of the books in his library: He said that the Khatmiyya is a spiritual station that has always existed and that there will always be one person who has reached this station in every age, until the end of times. He himself, says al-Qushashi, had reached this station and become the khatm.

Two other main figures in the Tariqa Muhammadiyya movements will claim this station: Ahmad al-Tijani and al-Mirghani. Both of them called themselves the Khatm, and al-Mirghani's tariqa became known as the Khatmiyya. And interestingly enough, while Ahmad ibn Idris never seems to have claimed such a thing for himself, his successor al-Sanusi referred to him in a letter to a disciple as "The last of the great gnostic poles" (khaatimat al-'aarifeen al-aqtaab al-idhaam)[3]. The word used in this instance, khaatima, is of the same arabic root for khatm and means "end", "final", "closing", "conclusion", or "finale". So perhaps al-Sanusi is saying that Ibn Idris would be the last gnostic pole of a certain caliber, and that there will be ones after him but not of the same caliber of greatness; and if this is what he meant then this is different than calling him a khatm.

Finally, al-Qushashi seems to have been the common "ancestor" of all the future Muhammadan Ways. For example, we see that Abd al-Karim al-Samman, founder of the first Tariqa Muhammadiyya (later known as the Sammaniyya), has chains that go back to al-Qushashi[4]. By default, this would be the same for Ahmad al-Tijani's Tariqa Muhammadiyya (later known as the Tijaniyya), because it branched off from the Sammaniyya. Al-Qushashi's successor Ibrahim al-Kurani wrote a book called Ithaaf al-Dhaki at the request of his Indonesian disciples, and this work was quoted in al-Hajj Umar's Rimaah, the most important book of the Tijaniyya order and one of the major Sufi texts of West Africa[5].

As for al-Qushashi's other main student, Abul Baqaa al-Ujaymi, he was the link to Ahmad ibn Idris and al-Sanusi, though al-Sanusi seems to have some chains that go back to al-Qushashi through al-Kurani as well. It seems that al-Ujaymi gave initiation to Ahmad ibn Idris' shaykh al-Tazi. And as for al-Sanusi, that was not the only chain of his that went back to al-Ujaymi: he had tens of them. Al-Sanusi has many chains going back to al-Qushashi, though many different people, which is no surprise considering the importance of al-Qushashi and his disciples. But most of his chains go back to al-Ujaymi in one way or another, and he even quotes him extensively, copying almost an entire book of his and placing it in his book Al-Salsabeel al-Mu'in! And he often quoted al-Ujaymi's definition of the Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya, which includes the following:

The Meccan scholar, Abu 'l-Baqa' al-Ujaymi said: The basis of this path [the tariqa Muhammadiyya] is that the inner being of the one who follows it is absorbed in the vision of [the Prophet's] dhat (his body, made up of light), peace be upon him, while he is zealously imitating the Prophet outwardly in word and deed, busying his tongue with the tasliya [invoking blessings upon him], and devoting himself to him at all times, whether in seclusion or in public, until honoring the Prophet comes to dominate his heart and to permeate his inner being to such an extent that he need only hear the Prophet's name and he starts trembling, his heart is overwhelmed beholding him and the visible appearances of the Prophet emerge before his inner sight. Then God will bestow upon him His clemency, outwardly and inwardly. Thereafter, he will see a vision of the Prophet in many of his dreams while asleep as a first step; secondly he will see him unexpectedly while dozing off. Finally, he will see him awake. [6]

Al-Sanusi even calls al-Ujaymi shaykh mashayikhna, or the shaykh of our shaykhs. When discussing the Tariqa Muhammadiyya and all his chains for that tariqa, he lists more than one going back to al-Ujaymi, including the following:

- Al-Sanusi took the Tariqa Muhammadiyya from al-Badr al-Mustaghanmi from al-Sindi[9] from Abd al-Qadir al-Siddiqi al-Makki from al-Ujaymi.

- Al-Sanusi from al-Jamal al-Ujaymi (al-Ujaymi's grandson) from al-Murtada al-Zabidi from Abi al-Tayyib al-Fasi al-Madani from al-Ujyami.

- Al-Sanusi from each of al-Jamal, al-Attar, and al-Jamal al-Ujaymi, from al-Fattani from al-Ujaymi from al-Qushashi from al-Shinnawi from Abd al-Wahhabi bin Abd al-Quddus from al-Khawwas.

- Al-Sanusi from each of al-Jamal, al-Attar, and al-Jamal al-Ujaymi, from al-Fattani from al-Ujaymi from al-Qushashi from al-Shinnawi from al-Shaarani from al-Khawwas from al-Matbooli.[10]

1. Al-Nabahani. Jaami' Karaamaat al-Awliyaa'. On Ahmad al-Dajani.
2. Layish, Aharon. " Waqfs' and Sufi Monasteries in the Ottoman Policy
of Colonization". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African
Studies, University of London, Vol. 50, No. 1. (1987), pp. 69.

And U. Heid, Ottoman Documents on Palestine, 1552-1615, Oxford 1960, 149,
no. 97.

3. Saleh al-Jaafari. A'taar Azhaar Aghsaan Hadheerat al-Taqdis. Cairo: Dar Jawami' al-Kalim, pg 107.

4. "Glimpses into Early Wahhabi Thought" (http://riyada.blogspot.com/2006/09/glimpses-into-early-wahhabi-thought.html).

5. Martin van Bruinessen. "Kurdish `Ulama and their Indonesian Disciples". (http://www.let.uu.nl/~martin.vanbruinessen/personal/publications/Kurdish_ulama_Indonesia.htm)

6. Combination of translations from Radtke, "Ibriziana: Themes and Sources of a Seminal Sufi Work", and R.S. O'Fahey, Enigmatic Saint: Ahmad ibn Idris and the Idrisi Tradition.

7. Stephen Hirtenstein, The Unlimited Mercifier: The spiritual life and thought of Ibn Arab, pg 139.

8. Based on the yet unpublished Master's thesis of Fatima al-Zahra' Langhi.

9. Muhammad Hayya al-Sindi, the main teacher of, and source of influence on, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. See http://riyada.blogspot.com/2006/09/glimpses-into-early-wahhabi-thought.html

10. Muhammad bin Ali al-Sanusi, al-Manhal al-Rawiyy al-Rai'q, al-Majmu'a al-Mukhtara, Manchester: 1990, pg 50.

11. Muhammad bin Ali al-Sanusi, Al-Salsabeel al-Muin, al-Majmu'a al-Mukhtara, Manchester: 1990, pg 46.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Theoretical Diet

Well, living in Egypt as a vegetarian, and having to eat lots of rice, made me fat. But lately ive been cutting back on rice and eating very little (not really my choice, but due to circumstances) and so I've been eating a small breakfast, if any, and then not eating anything until late at night. And what I noticed is that I have lost a lot of weight, am looking leaner, and there is no noticeable muscle loss. In fact, when you're thinner, your muscles look bigger because there is more definition, even though you just lost fat and even maybe some muscle. So, this got me thinking about the period when I did the Warrior Diet. But with that diet I got too thin and I couldn't put on any muscle. And I started looking a bit pale. So I decided to tinker around with it, and maybe create a similar diet that is based on the same principles but would allow for better health and easier muscle gain, while staying lean. I decided that I simply cannot eat too much or too many meals in hopes of getting bigger- it just doesn't feel "right" islamically speaking to stuff yourself with food.

And since Ori, the creator of the Warrior Diet, was inspired by warriors of the past like the Romans and the Arab bedouin, and since my genes go back to bedouin from the hijaz through my father, and to mountain warriors from the caucasus through my mother, I thought I'd make a diet that reflected the diets of my ancestors.

So this is very much a diet inspired by the Ramadan fast, however with more food for the sake of strength training and muscle building. But still very little food compared to normal bodybuilding diets because I'm trying to stay lean and with some muscle mass, not huge.

I could probably call it The Fast Diet because it relies on two periods of fasting (instead of one long period of fasting as in the Warrior Diet), and because I'm betting it would lead to fast weight loss.

Or I could call it The Arab Warrior Diet since its a modification of the Warrior Diet but inspired more by the Ramadan schedule and Bedouin foods (such as dairy and dates).

I'm only posting it here so that I can have it, and so that it would be easy to tinker around with it and change it as needed. But I'm not sure when I will start it and try it out (if ever).

5 am : Wake up for Fajr. Pray and recite Qur'an for a while.

6 or 7 : (Liquid) Breakfast:

choice a) One liter stirred yoghurt or kefir milk (aka Rayeb, Laban Makheed, Shaneenah) with some honey, 7 dates.

choice b) a protien powder made of both fast digesting (whey) and slow releasing (casein) proteins. Example: Milk Protein Isolate, or Whey + Micellar Casein Mix. 7 dates.

12 pm:

choice a) One ounce almonds (around 20 almonds)

choice b) 5-10 grams BCAA's

5 pm: Gym and Peri-Workout Liquid Meal (50/50 ratio of carbs to proteins). Only on workout days.

6 pm: First part of dinner: Quick-digesting protein:

Whey Protein: 20-40 grams

7 pm: Protein + Carb meal

example a) Fish, salad
example b) Hummus, falafel, brown bread
example c) Lentils

Best to stay away from rice and pasta as carb sources, as they were not part of the ancient arab diet and they're empty carbs in a sense.

9:30 pm (2.5 hrs after the main meal, and before sleep): Protein + Fat meal.

choice a) cottage cheese, olive oil, cucumbers, tomatoes
choice b) egg protein powder or milk protien isolate with olive oil.

This means there's two main fasting periods. One is during sleep, and the one during the day has some almonds or Branched Chain Amino Acids in the middle. There's one main 4-hr anabolic eating period like in the Warrior Diet, but there is also a liquid breakfast with lots of dairy as well as dates for energy and health.

Inshalla I will attempt this soon. But right now I have no whey protein, no BCAA's, no egg protein....nothing.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Be Like the Qur'an

There are many dimensions to understanding the hadith of al-sayyida Aisha (r.a.), that the Prophet's ethos was the Qur'an.

For example, when we think of that hadith we might think of how the Prophet's life is a representation of how to live according to the Qur'an, and that it teaches us the spirit of the Message.

But here is another aspect: the proportion and arrangment of themes. For example, out of more than 6,000 verses, there are only 80 purely legal injunctions. The vast majority, on the other hand, are matters relating to the Afterlife, God's Unity, sincerity, and how to be good in society, etc. This tells us that focusing on these matters is most important, and these are the things we need to be oriented towards the most.

There is also a very large portion dedicated to the stories of God's messengers and prophets. This is also something that has a (potentially) very large effect on our personality and manners, and on shaping our ethos. As Shams Tabrizi explains,

"Without doubt, whenever you sit with someone and are with him, you will take on his disposition. On whom have you been gazing that tightness should have come into you? If you look at green herbs and flowers, freshness will come. The sitting companion pulls you into his own world. That is why reciting the Koran purifies the heart, for you remember the prophets and their states. The form of the prophets comes together in your spirit and becomes its sitting companion."

Well, here is yet another way to understand the hadith: Think about the arrangement of the verses. Muslims have always realized the importance in the Qur'an of the placement of words within a verse. Thus when things are mentioned together, the arrangement usually has a significance and the things that come first are more important. Well here is something else that is important: the arrangement of the verses and their themes.

Let us look for example at Sura 2. The ayaat from 220 to 237 are roughly about marriage and things related to that. But before finishing the matters of marriage, the Qur'an jumps to speaking about Prayer and the remembrance of Allah at all times, even in times of fear and danger. And then, after that, it goes back to finishing the matter at hand related to marriage and different possible scenarios. For most people, this is a very odd placement of verses: There is a verse about prayer in the middle of a section about women and marriage. What is it doing there? Is it out of place? Well, think in terms of, "And his ethos was the Qur'an".

As shaykh Ahmad ibn Idris explains,

The intervening sentence among these verses, and it is His saying Most High: "Guard strictly (the observance of) your prayers, especially the Middle Prayer; and stand before Allah in a devout (frame of mind)" approaching God Most High with your entire being and with your hearts, not standing as spectres while your hearts are occupied with other than Him, "But if you go in fear (of danger), then (say your prayers) on foot or on horseback", meaning do not be unmindful of Allah Most High and do not occupy yourselves with other than Him even when you are in a state of fear: "and when you are secure again, then remember Allah, as He has taught you what you did not know" and it is what He taught you with His Book and the Sunna of His Messenger, naught else. Then He went back to the ruling on the wives that will become widows in His saying: "In the case of those of you who are about to die and leave behind them wives,". This was done for the sake of the wisdom in placing the sentence of prayer in the middle: meaning, do not be occupied with that which is other than Us and do not spend all your time on the injunctions relating to worldly affairs, but give them their necessary due then come back to Us, so that your character (sifa) will be like the character of the Qur'an's arrangement, for We did not finish the injunction regarding the widow until We first called you unto Us, and then went back to finish it. So look at the wisdom in the arrangement. Laa ilaaha illa Allah, how eloquent is His speech, and how Wise is He, Most High and Sublime!

So try to pay more attention to the arrangement of the Qur'an, and see what it is trying to tell you about your priorities in life, and that whatever you are doing, do not let it distract you from Allah. "Ta-Ha. We have not sent down the Qur'an to you to cause you distress. But only as a reminder to him who fears". Be like the Qur'an, and return to the remembrance of Allah at all times.