Title: The Exquisite Pearl
Author: ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di
There’s a hadith that leaves me in awe each time I read it, and is amongst the most important advice we can attain in life, where the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
”There are three things which if they are present in anyone, will cause him to taste the sweetness of faith: that Allah and His Messenger are more beloved to him than all else; that he loves others only for the sake of Allah; and that he should hate to revert to disbelief after Allah has saved him from it, just as he would hate to be cast into a blazing fire.” [Sahih Bukhari, Hadith #21]
The Exquisite Pearl highlights that as Muslims we can reach an elevated status as we travel to the Hereafter. In this short yet immensely powerful book, the Exquisite Pearl takes you as a ’suluk’ – wayfarer in this life, through a journey to Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala). What is profound is that the book is based on a short yet immensely insightful Arabic poem on the stations required to become closer to Allah.
Each station enables you to take productivity lessons to apply in your own life whilst every verse in the poem holds a deep meaning which compels you to read and reflect on your relationship with your Lord. It calls us to reach the station of sincerity, fear and hope, to eventually arrive at the final station in all our actions, of excellence (ihsan) and contentment (rida).
I love that each station creates a new emotion, and you as the reader feel like you are reaching another level through self inspection, on a journey towards Allah. As I read it in seclusion and with the footnotes (an invaluable added commentary – please don’t skip!) – it was clear that the true believer in this world is like the traveller passing through these stations. And a ProductiveMuslim is always working hard no matter what station Allah puts him in to reach the highest level of success – Jannah.
Outlined briefly below are some of the stations you may stop at as you go through this ‘exquisite pearl’; success lies in reaching these ‘stations’, to reach our ultimate destination – Jannah.
The Station of Sincerity
The two principles, sincerity (ikhlas) and conformity (mutaba’ah) are a prerequisite for every act of worship, inward or outward, to be valid. Manifest the motto ‘have sincere intentions and work hard!’ in all your work. Imaan and Ihsan go hand in hand.
The Station of Fear and Hope
..In their affairs, they attach themselves to fear (khawf) and hope (raja’), clinging to them. They do this by inspecting their own faults regarding the fulfilment of Allah’s rights, which induces fear in them, and by reflecting upon Allah’s bounties and kindness upon them, which instills hope in them. A key productivity lesson here – we should never be sad with whatever obstacles we face in life. Have hope instead that Allah will enable you to do what pleases Him.
The Station of Love
The station of love (mahabbah) – is the bedrock of all stations; from it springs every righteous actions, all beneficial deeds and all the lofty stations. When a Muslim loves Allah sincerely, this can only lead to the best of actions which earn us the best status.
The Station of Remembrance
This is a noble station which each person is in need of; it is a need which ranks above all other needs. The remembrance (dhikr) of Allah is the edifice of one’s time. By it grief, anxiety and distress can be dispelled. With it joy and happiness can be obtained. It cultivates barren hearts, makes healthy hearts resplendent, and it leads to the loftiest of stations. Meaning our heart’s tranquility lies in always remembering Allah through the journey that is life, so add that daily devotion to your timetable.
The Station of Contentment
The station of contentment (rida) is loftier than that of patience (sabr). Contentment melts away the opposing desire (still found in the station of patience), causes satisfaction with Allah and brings about tranquility. It may even cause delight to be experienced in times of hardships, just as others experience delight in times of ease.When the worshipper reaches this station, his life is remedied and his eye experiences coolness. This is why contentment is called: ‘a paradise of this world and a repose for the worshippers’. It’s undoubtedly the thing we all want- to be content, and here we find that Muslims, by virtue of their faith feel joyous in all situations. Times of ease or hardship can cause us to be more productive in our work.
Coming back to the hadith mentioned at the start, the author poignantly describes reaching this level as:
”the heart, when it is truly sincere in its servitude (ubudiyyah), to Allah, is given to taste such sweetness, and experience such delight, that nothing besides this servitude is held more beloved to it. For the spiritually sound heart finds nothing sweeter, more blissful, or gratifying to it than the sweetness of faith (iman), which is born out of its labours of its gnosis, love and servitude to Allah, Blessed and Exalted is He..”
These productivity lessons are in summary a guide to happiness. To reach contentment (rida) is the cherry on top, since we all seek tranquility and happiness in life, and we find that through Islam. As ProductiveMuslims, we can appreciate that these stations we stop at in life can only bring us closer to the Home of the Hereafter.