Many people easily get into the trap of saying “there’s no good men/women out there”, but we should avoid falling into that mode of thinking, because often we attract the type of people that we are ourselves, or think of, like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The “Subtle Blessings” is a book that reminds readers of the blessings that God has bestowed upon humanity by the continued prevalence of excellent people on this Earth, who though rare, nevertheless exist and serve to guide people towards their higher potentials, and in achieving tranquillity in Allah Most High. This is in contrast to most celebrities these days who pull people to their lower selves.
The Prophet described 3 integral parts of Islam, the legal side, the intellectual side, and the spiritual side. The book focuses primarily on the latter (without diminishing the other aspects), since it improves people and makes a person’s Iman (religious conviction) and its sweetness grow. It contains the teachings of two spiritual masters called “Abul Hasan ash-Shadhili” and “Abul Abbas al-Mursi”. Both strove to embody the outward and inward character traits and practices of the Prophet Muhammed (Peace of Allah be upon him), practically reforming the lives of many. It explains how they went about it in their own lives, and in the lives of others, and how people can adopt such characteristics in their daily lives and make the world a much better place through humility, preference for others, honesty etc.
The book is split to an introduction to the spiritual and intellectual side of Islam, and then the teachings of the shaykhs based upon the Qur’an, Hadiths, sayings, poetry, and explanations of spiritual and religious matters, thus catering to all types of Muslims.
The author, Ibn Ata, a leading legal scholar of his age, at the start had a strongly negative view of them, but when he actually met them, he was blown away, and started keeping their company. Abbas was instrumental in removing the doubts of Ibn Ata, and helped to increase his certainty in the Divine. With wisdom in relation to solving peoples’ problems, giving sincere advice, giving profound commentaries on the Qur’an, Hadiths (Prophetic sayings) and poetry, the two shaykhs gained large followings amongst both the higher and lower echelons of society. It goes to show that if one sincerely searches for great people, he will find them to exceed expectations.
Their influence was also extended by the numerous miracles that the author witnessed through those scholars, such as the ability to see into the hearts of people and cure them. These show the benefits of achieving closeness to Allah Most High, the paltriness of attaching ourselves to the lower world, and the need to avoid modern ideologies of scientism and materialism.
Abbas’ teachings are summarised by his saying: “When I was a young boy, there was a shadow play being put on beside our house, so I went to see it. When I went the next morning to see the teacher at the Qur’anic school, who was a friend of Allah, he uttered the following lines of poetry when he saw me:
“You who behold shadow images in wonderment,
You yourself are the shadow if only you could perceive it!”
If you put that story in modern terms, where people watch movies and theatres, it gives us the lesson "why are you watching all that, when what is more amazing is the real movie that you are in, where Allah swt is controlling and directing everything, and everything, including you are "actors" and are playing the intended script. Look around and learn from the movie you are in, and change things, don't just waste away in front of the tv."
At the end of the day, it is to Allah that we turn; so do aim to be of the best people. If we have sincere intentions and take the proper procedures, the experiences and wisdom discussed in this book are not beyond our reach.