THE SHIP OF RESCUE
Facilitating understanding of the Wazīfah Zarrūqiyyah
In our introductory part of this series of contributions dedicated to Shaykh’s Zarrūq’s Ship of Rescue Wazīfah, we tossed around a number of questions, on the benefits of this blessed wazīfah, on its universality, and on its ultimate source.
We posed the last-mentioned question thus:
The final version of the wazīfah was gathered at the Prophetic rawdah in al-Madīnah: Are the accounts that Shaykh Zarrūq was instructed on the wazīfah by the Prophet himself, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, accurate?
Shaykh Zarrūq himself had this to say about the Ship of Rescue:
“It is the wazīfah of salvation and happiness, the wazīfah which opens up guidance and facilitation of matters; nay, it is the wazīfah of success and successful rescue, the constant litany of active goodness, blessings and following the Sunnah in morning and evening recitation of formulas of remembrance.
The one who recites this wazīfah should have presence of heart and should carefully reflect on the Qur’ānic signs and Prophetic formulas of remembrance set out in it: any expression of your tongue or your limbs the meaning of which you lack knowledge of is incomplete. Words are like a tree, while meanings are like the fruit on that tree. There is but scanty benefit in a fruitless tree.”
We can therefore safely gather from it that:
- This is not just any wazīfah
- Several high-value jewels are embedded in it
- The practice of so many Muslims nowadays who recite Allah’s Speech or formulas of remembrance without bothering to understand their meanings is an unfortunate practice and a barren one, too. Benefit can still be reaped from it, but it is very limited and partial.
It has been soundly related from Shaykh Zarrūq (as reported by al-‘Ayyāshī in his fine commentary on the wazīfah) that he said:
‘Whoever memorizes my wazīfah and persistently recites it will enjoy the same inviolability as ours, and will be duty-bound to display the same extent of mercy as we do’: No mean incentive indeed!
Shaykh al-Hattāb said:
“The wazīfah was conveyed to Zarrūq by the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam – at a time when Zarrūq was busy with the hajj – while he was in a state of wakefulness and not in a dream. The purpose of the wazīfah is to dispel any heavy contingencies which might befall a person in succession [= any hardship, crisis, problem etc which a human being faces in life, one after the other].
Whoever zealously guards it and perseveres in reciting it shall attain salvation and shall actualize the object of his desire by the testimony of the Messenger of Allah, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam. The Messenger of Allah, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, chose on Zarrūq’s behalf the name “The Ship of rescue for whoever in Allah seeks refuge.”
It has also been narrated that Shaykh Zarrūq said about this precious wazīfah: “Whoever holds onto it indefatigably while carefully guarding performance of the five obligatory prayers in congregation shall attain the status I have attained.’ Shaykh Zarrūq himself is said to have performed all the five obligatory prayers in congregation for forty years in a row.
What we have quoted above is not the only occasion on which al-Hattāb mentioned the Prophetic stamp of direct endorsement of the wazīfah.
He wrote the following in a separate passage:
“A person I trust informed me that when Shaykh Zarrūq visited him, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, he said to his two travel companions, Yahyā al-Bijā’ī and [Tāhir] az-Zawāwī [each one of them a walī in his own right]: ‘If I stay long in the company of the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, and he [Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam] causes a high spiritual state to descend upon me, move away from me.
When Shaykh Ahmad Zarrūq reached the noble burial area, may the choicest prayer of blessing and the purest greeting of peace be upon the one resting there, the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, said: ‘Peace upon you, too, Ahmad. Draw closer and recite to me your wazīfah.’ Shaykh Zarrūq commented: ‘Messenger of Allah, there are several wazā’if of mine’, whereupon the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, clarified: ‘The one which begins with «wa-Ilāhukum Ilāhun Wāhid (and Your God is one God)» [Sūrah al-Baqarah: 162].’
At that stage, the wazīfah was longer than its current final verson, as it contained additional Qur’ānic āyāt and Prophetic ahādīth. When, therefore, Shaykh Zarrūq recited it, he, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, said, ‘Remove this and keep that’, until it was reduced to its present size.
When that was done, he, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, said to Zarrūq: ‘This is your wazīfah. Do not add to it or subtract from it anything.’
One of the students of Shaykh Ahmad Zarrūq, Sidi Barakāt al-Hattāb al-Makkī, mentioned “that Shaykh Zarrūq stood by the Ottoman mihrāb [of the Prophetic Mosque in al-Madīnah], whereupon the Messenger, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, addressed him verbally with the words, ‘How did you name it?’. Shaykh Zarrūq replied, ‘I have yet to give it a name’, so the Messenger of Allah, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, instructed him, ‘Name it The Ship of rescue for whomever in Allah desires refuge.’
Finally, Abū Hāmid Muhammad al-‘Arabī b. Yūsuf al-Fāsī al-Fihrī, in his lovely work Mir’ātu’l-Mahāsin min-Akhbār ash-Shaykh Abi’l-Mahāsin, stated that the wazīfah of Shaykh Abu’l-‘Abbās Zarrūq was well-known, and that he had written it in the definitive variant by which people recited it after it was submitted to the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, and he, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, conferred on it the imprimatur of his approval.
Some brief remarks are required:
- Al-Hattāb, born and bred in Makkah, his place of burial, is one of the luminaries of this ummah, and among the most reliable scholars from the broad Islamic West. He is universally acknowledged to be an Imām, and to be very accurate in his verification of truths. He has written a number of valuable works on many sciences, and his commentary on Khalīl’s Abridgment is the best classical explanation of that seminal text [The finest edition is the one produced in Mauritania in recent times, based on comparison between multiple manuscript copies. A lot of laudable effort was put into it. The problem is: It is difficult to access and highly priced, since Mauritania’s distribution network of Islamic literature is weak. We devotees of classical Ahl as-Sunnah Islam should take steps to help develop such a network between the lands of the Rūm and the traditional Muslim regions].
- A person of al-Hattāb’s calibre would neither suck things out of his thumb nor be prone to fanciful exaggeration. Moreover, he reiterated the same point more than once, with different words and from different visual angles.
- He stressed that he was taking the second report he quoted from a dependable source, one his heart was at peace with.
- There is absolutely nothing in the two narrations which strikes us as odd or inflated. They are actually very sober, to the point, adequately detailed and credible.
- That the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, is seen by friends of Allah both awake and asleep is a truth endorsed by all the great Sufis. Treatises or passages in Islamic writings have been devoted to such a theme by the likes of as-Suyūtī, Mullā ‘Alī al-Qārī and Mawlāy ad-Darqāwī, among countless other giants. One of the best works dealing exhaustively with this aspect of the Prophetic reality was authored by Ibn Mughayzil ash-Shādhilī, a Shāfi`ī master from Cairo who died in 865 AH (during Shaykh Zarrūq’s own lifetime), which bears the self-explanatory title Al-Kawākib az-Zāhirah fī Ijtimā` al-Awliyā’ Yaqzatan bi-Sayyid ad-Dunyā wa al-Ākhirah (“The Resplendent celestial bodies on the friends of Allah gathering with the Master of this world and the Next in a state of wakefulness”).
- Lastly, Mir’ātu’l-Mahāsin min-Akhbār ash-Shaykh Abi’l-Mahāsin, which reinforced what has been recounted by such as al-Hattāb, is a celebrated masterpiece of Sufism, etiquette and many other things, by a similarly celebrated author [I owned a downloadable version of its Moroccan edition. When visiting Fez last year, I purchased the Lebanese edition published by Dār Ibn Hazm in a bookshop stocked with school and university textbooks and supplying educational institutions on a wholesale basis. Though not open to the public, Allah willed me inside to browse around and have my attention caught by two rarities, Mir’ātu’l-Mahāsin aside: A well-researched treatise on slavery in Islamic Spain and Morocco, a mine of fascinating information as if a photographic cross-section of life-in-action from our noble past; and a work on a wide array of savants from the Marinid era, on both sides of the Mediterranean, who made important contributions to disparate disciplines: from travel diaries to mathematics and astronomy via prosody and the subtlety of Qur’ānic script).
- Although we favour the view of a Prophetic distillation and endorsement of Shaykh Zarrūq’s perfumed wazīfah, it is ultimately a lofty and highly recommended achievement independently of that fact and regardless of the stance we adopt vis-à-vis the relevant narrations about Prophetic intervention.
From next instalment, Allah willing, we will complete our questions around the wazīfah, and we will then examine it sentence by sentence, with translation, referencing and brief explanation.