Monday, January 17, 2005

letter to Abu Dharr al-Ghifari (RA)

"A man does not make a nation
But a nation at its birth can find its strength in a man

Thus proclaimed a great man
Who laid his life for his people
I put this pen to paper to pour out
My inner feelings about you
In whose simplicity
Men of humility find inspiration
You the epitome of the man of sincerity
Defined by The Maker in the book of guidance
“Among the believers are men who have been true to their covenant
Of them some have fulfilled their obligations
And some of them are still waiting
But they have never changed in the least"

Your simplicity and humility
Was a mark of the sincerity that moved the most sincere and trustworthy
To declare it to all and sundry:
“No one walking on the earth and under the sky
Is more truthful than Abu Dhar"

Born among a people
Perceiving might as wisdom
To whom humbleness was weakness
And the weak were meat
You saw the folly of might without right
Perceived the wisdom behind humility
Recognized the might
Accruing from the righteousness
Of the cause of the weak
You grew knowing the bravado
Of bossing the roads
Striking terror in men’s hearts
Taking over their caravans
Seizing their possessions
Taking over their lives
Till you reflected
On the deeper dimensions of life
Discovered your life is but a droplet
In the vast ocean of life
You inquired from your brother
About the message of the unlettered one
Who spoke of the life beyond the mundane
Taught that life from the cradle to the grave begins but a journey
Beyond the cosmic present to the reality that transcends past, present and future
That the ultimate reality super-precedes past, present and future
And goes beyond yesterday, today, tomorrow and the time beyond tomorrow.
The quest for truth steered you towards the prophet
You heard him recite
The most beautiful verses
Your heart was moved to tears
With the sincerity of intention
And the purest of motives
You declared the belief
In the oneness and unity
Of the creator and humankind
Pronounced it without fear
In the mist of the unbelievers
Their rage visited you
They crushed your body
Your spirit remained strong
Your soul soldiered on
Your mind stayed focus
Your intentions remained true
Your motives got purer
You faced the trials
You endured the tribulations
You dealt with the betrayals
You scoffed hypocrisy
You had no time for mediocrity and superficiality
You followed the prophet to exile
Laid your soul bare
And put your life on the altar
In sacrifice to the maker
You of the powerful Ghiffari clan
Saw no wisdom
In the power used to subjugate
And strove for the day
When power liberates
When the ruled shall rise
To unseat the power
For the just to be just
You saw the rich tear themselves
Tearfully requesting a million tongues
To chant melodies and sing glory
Fervent thikr and symphonic naats
Holy melodies to the ultimate reality
Romantic salutations to the prophet
You saw the tattered ones in tears
Hopelessly raising their hands
Taking a hopeful look
For the humane face
Only to give in to fatalism
And take the street as the home
The clouds the ceiling of hope
Your human self cried out
Freed the pure soul
To speak naked truth
And unclothe the hypocrites
They asked you to cool off
Say it a little softer
Your heart failed to be softened
By the protestations
Of those who prostrate in prayer
But cannot hearken
To the cry of the have-nots
Today they build monuments
Build avenues and label streets
In your humble name
And say nothing
About the homeless
Who face arrests
For defiling tourists attraction centers
By sleeping on the pavements
Asking not for a slice
But crumbles from the table
Tears rain on my face
As I recall you walking the streets
Preaching the simplicity gospel
Demanding not a slice
A half or a loaf of bread
But the bakery and the whole land
For the poor who till the land
And the workers’ who make the bread
Somebody evoked your name
And said he is a Socialist Muslim
Some say yours was a workerist Islam
Others say you were the first Muslim Socialist
I call your egalitarian Islam an Islamic Islam
An Islam of complete surrender
To Allah and His messenger
You chose words instead of the sword
To fight the corruption and opulence
Of the rich and the mighty
Though you would prefer the sword
For your knowledge of the arrogance
Of those with power and boastful show
You submitted to the advice of the messenger
For you to be patient
Until you meet him in the other world
Yet you never ceased to speak out
Till the Caliph waged a righteous war
Against those who mistook wealth for everything
And heeded not to the commands of the book
Later they regrouped
To complain to the Caliph
That your tongue lashed too hard
On their opulence and greed
To Damascus you were deployed
Where they soon felt
The lash of your tongue
And raised a hue cry of protest
Until you were recalled to Madina
The Caliph invited you
To live with him
You chose the Mosque as your abode
You knew that too much comfort
Makes a man heartless
And too much eating
Throttle the truthful tongue
Ultimately you opted for self-exile
To live in loneliness
Yet at peace with the self
That is at peaceful submission
To the will of Allah
Till you bid farewell
To the world that you refused
To believe is all it could be
Alone in the desert at Rabaza
You took the final step
To the ultimate meeting with the maker
And the messenger who requested your patience
Till you are re-united in the other world
Where your reward awaits you
And punishment and retribution awaits your detractors
A group of believer came to do their fard kifaya
And fulfill the prophecy:
" One of you will one day die lonely in the desert
But will be buried by a group of believers"
As I seat here and pen this letter to you
I ponder over the words of the prophet:
“May Allah have mercy on Abu Dhar
He marches alone, dies alone, and resurrect alone"
I have known the loneliness of an isolation cell
The hurt of being ridiculed for dreaming
The possibility of a world
Other than the one in which
Material has taken over the soul
Including of those who prostrate in prayer
I know of parents whose kids never returned from exile
They do not know whether they are living or not
Maybe they have been swallowed by the hole that never gets full
Maybe I will die among my people
But who are my people?
The unbelievers who offer me a slice of bread
For me to break the fast I make
To The God they don’t believe in
Or the believers who repel me with indignation
When I knock at their doors smiling “Salaam"
These thoughts come to my mind
As I recall you finding no horse
To be part of the action
Thus deciding to foot-march you way
Up the hill to join the fight in the path of Allah
They thought the enemy was pursuing them
The prophet knew better:
“Be Abu Dhar"
One day when God bless me with a son
I will ask him to be Abu Dhar
Every time I tell my children about
Abu Bakr Asvat and Che Guevara
People’s doctors who exiled themselves away from luxury and opulence
To live and die for the people
I will say they were
Like Abu Dhar
Any day when people ask me
What is to be a good Human being
I will tell them
It is to be like Abu Dhar
Every moment I remember Imam Essa
Who spoke his mind even on his deathbed
And left his people with no inheritance
Safe the legacy of self-annihilation
I will say he was
Abu Dhar of Azania
Anytime when they ask me
What is Ubuntu
I tell them
It is to be like Abu Dhar
Every time I ask Allah
To make me a better person
I request him to make me Abu Dhar
Maybe when my parents called me Mphutlane-
The one who is all by himself in the world
They wanted to say
Abu Dhar, Umuntu wa Bantu – The people’s person
Had the prophet not cautioned you to use words
Would you not consider the sword
In the face of the world
That has taken to the worship of wealth
And Muslims who speak Islam
But live the worship of riches
This question comes to my mind
As I see former guerrillas
Become gorillas
Feeding on the poor
Instead of feeding the poor
And observe yesterday’s ascetics
Who scoffed politics
And withdrew to the Mosques
Hotting seats in parliament
Sleeping through the speeches
No longer concerned about
Brushing shoulders with "atheists"
Or getting embroiled in " Kufr politics"
As I see them out-smarting each other
For a superb command
Of the language of the masses and the best ways to toi-toing
I recall they called it thikrul kafirun
Way back 1989 @ the--Islamic Institute
When they send my colleagues and me
Back to the township
For messing the minds of good Muslim boys
Now I understand
You chose to march alone
Die and resurrect a soloist
Without a chorus to mess the tune
The conductor to contain the message
The fundi to change the chords
And the crowd to swallow your voice
As I think of the stand you took
I listen attentively
To the message of the pavement conference
Hoisted alongside the World Conference on Racism Charade
& The peoples social movement Indaba
Gathered on the occasion of the WSSD Circus:
"Nothing for us by others
Nothing about us without us
For Us By Us to us is the way "
I other stand clearly
The Big Noise of the parasites:
" Differing with the people’s government is anti-patriotism
Patriots must chorus like parrots
Ultra-leftists must not deceive the people
The propertied have to be ultra-rich
They have ultra-responsibilities"
Dissent becomes criminalized
The poor are objectified
The victims are vilified
The parrots are eulogized
Mimicry is awarded
I ask myself the million-dollar question
Were wealth is might and might is right
Does the pen remain
Mightier than the sword
Would the prophet still prescribe the word
Where the spoken word is silenced
The written word is doctored
Doctors of philosophies are courtier clowns
Activists are bought over & the strong are sophistically eliminated
Would the prophet discourage the sword
Where words have lost their meaning
And the response to human suffering is
"What is so special about aids? "
Would the prophet confine us to the word?
Where houses are razed to dust
And Palestinian blood has become ice cream and jelly
Would your speech be soft
Where George in the Bush
Smells oil in the gulf
Decides it is thicker than blood & more sacred than life
And the world has to be with him
Or face the hell-fire
As I ponder these questions
I recall the prophet asking you
What would you do if they dismiss you
Out of the Mosque in Medina
" I will go to the Mosque in Damascus "

"What if they dismiss you there?"
The prophet asked
"I will come back to this Mosque"
You replied and the prophet asked
"What if they dismiss you out of it again?"
You declared as in oath
" I will fight them till I die."
Every time they ask me who is my hero
I will unflinchingly pronounce
Abu Dhar Al Ghiffari
Every time they ask me
Who I would have loved to be
I will shout with certainty
Abu Dhar
One day when God bless me with a son
I will ask him to be Abu Dhar
Every time I tell my children about
Holding firm to your beliefs
I will tell them the story of
The young Azanian man who wrote what he liked
Spoke his mind in the torturers face
Till they took him on a 1000 kilometers journey to martyrdom
At the back of the landrover, chained, naked and battered
To a lonely cell where he was found
Lying bare on a cold, concrete slab
Cold, dead, naked and chained
In cold, naked and dead chains

I think I will tell them
He was the friend of the poor
Just like Abu Dhar
One day when I tell my children
About selflessness, sacrifice, struggle and perseverance
I will tell them the story of Karballa
One man giving himself and entire family
For the cause he believed to be righteous
I know I won’t shut mouth
Before I tell them
The story of Rabaza
A man dying all by himself but a faithful wife
Assuring her not to worry about the burial
For his unwavering belief in the prophecy of the messenger
Any day when people ask me
How to be a good Human being
I will tell them
Be Abu Dhar
Anytime when they ask me
What is Ubuntu
I tell them
It is to be like Abu Dhar
Every time I ask Allah
To make me a better person
I request him to make me Abu Dhar
Maybe when my parents called me Mphutlane-
The one who is all by himself in the world
They wanted to say
Abu Dhar, Motho Wa Batho – The people’s person

Those who claim to be in the know
Advance all sorts of arguments
On the stance you took
To live out of the crowd
Speak against the tide
Live out of the comfort zones
And frown worldly treasures
Was it not a monkish approach to life?
One of the scoffers posed a question
I fervently remembered
Your response to your detractors
I have a goat to milk, a wife and companion, and
What more do I need?
From you answer
I learned to live within my needs and means
To be content with what Allah has provided me
And to take heed of the caution
From the book of guidance:
"The mutual rivalry for the piling
Of the goods of this world
Diverts humanity from more serious things "
The most important thing I learned from you
Is not to be swallowed by the environment
And still remain conscious of the world around me
I really ask you
To allow me
To march with you
As you remake the world

* This poem first appeared in "The Journey Within: Reflection in Ramadaan" published by Yaseen Islamic Publishers -International

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