Monday, January 22, 2007


MY picture for this blog profile is my walking stick.
Let me explain this.
In the Sufi tradition, there a few stages in the life of a person.
First is infancy, where a person is not responsible in the Syariah for what is done.
In this phase the person is essentially a learner, a follower.
The emphasis is physical development.
Then comes puberty which starts the phase of adulthood.
In this phase a person applies what is learnt, to earn a livelihood, to have a family, to mature.
The emphasis is on intellectual development.
This leads to the next phase, or maturity.
This is when the person has crossed the age of 40 years.
In this stage, the person has mastered the skills needed to survive or prosper in the world, and starts thinking about whether there is more to life.
If this spirit of inquiry and search is not given proper spiritual guidance, it ends up being channelled to other pursuits, and this is referred to as a midlife crisis by those who do not believe in spirituality.
In Sufism, this stage of searching and re-assessment markes the age where the person is actually spiritually mature.
The emphasis in this phase is spiritual development. Our Master the Prophet s.a.w. did state that the age of his ummah is 40 years, and anything more is a blessing.
Our Master the Prophet (s.a.w.) received his revelation, and thus his apostleship, at age 40.
God spoke to Moses (a.s.) on the mountain at the same age.
Now, in the Sufi tradition, upon reaching 40, certain sunnahs apply to a person which did not apply before.
One of them is the use of a walking stick.
Our Master the Prophet (s.a.w.) was known to have a stick with him on various occassions, based on the hadith descriptions of when he gave a Friday sermon and when he touched the Black Stone of the Kaabah with his stick instead of kissing it.
The Prophet Moses (a.s.) had a stick with him when he spoke to God on the mountain, and God told him to cast the stick on the ground, whereupon it became a serpent.
Imam as-Shafie always carried a walking stick. When asked why, he replied because it reminded him that he was a traveller in the world. This is a clear reference to the hadith of our Master that he is a traveller resting for a while in the shade of a tree, and he will soon move on.
The great Malay 'ulama HAMKA always carried a stick too.
Presently in Singapore, Ustaz Hasbi and Ustaz Zakaria Bagarib use walking sticks.

Now, Mrs Mudpie suggested that I follow this sunnah.
The idea struck me as strange. I procrastinated, and she bought me one.
I was taken by surprise, and, having no excuse left, I started to carry the stick with me.
It felt good. I felt that I was doing something that was in honour of the Prophet (s.a.w.).

The reactions I received were interesting.
Non-Muslims thought I had an injury or something, and they wished me a quick recovery.
This I could deal with, it is never my practice to declare the reasons behind the practices of my faith to others anyway.
Muslims who were not aware of the sunnah - when told it was a sunnah - usually reacted with scepticism, and viewed me suspiciously as if I was suddenly ascribing to some kind of strange cult. This I could deal with, I have always done things that were strange to others, as there are always people who do not understand.
Muslims who were aware of the sunnah - were encouraging and wished me well and left it at it, whereas some said it is not a relevant thing today and looked at me strangely.
This was a little more tricky.
On one hand it is good to receive positive feedback, but it can also lead to feelings of pride and arrogance, which would defeat the purpose of any act of worship.
In particular, I bumped into an imam of a mosque on 2 separate occassions by coincidence, and I had my stick with me. He didnt say anything, but later expressed wonder - about how "excellent" a person I was, to a friend of mine.
My friend relayed this to me, and I instinctively felt pride.
Then I just felt ashamed. Then I was befuddled. Was I making Islam more eccentric than necessary? What sort of da'wah was I doing? Is this sunnah something relevant in my context, not being a member of the asatizah community?
I didnt know what to do, so I stopped using the stick for a while.
I pondered whether I could still observe the sunnah in some other, possibly symbolic manner, for example. That led nowhere.

I re-analysed my use of the stick, and after consulting people who know better, I came to the following policy:
1. I shall carry the walking stick whenever I am at a place where I will be performing ibadah, such as the mosque, or majlis, or religious classes.
2. I shall carry a long umbrella in place of the stick on all other occassions.
3. I shall carry the walking stick when I dress "formally", that is, whenever I wear my turban or songkok. This is to complete the sunnah of the Prophet's s.a.w. dress code.
Okay, the whole thing sounds like much ado about nothing, but I believe that as far as possible, I would like to honour the Prophet s.a.w. in whatever best way that I can, and if by doing something that he practised I can in any way be like him, or at least be reminded of him, I would like to do it.
This sunnah of the stick is interesting, because unlike the other sunnahs, there is no fiqh attached to it, so there is no right or wrong about it.

There is no obvious purpose to this sunnah, and nothing else is connected to it.
So you end up with your own reasons and intentions for doing it.
Maybe that is intentionally so.
Maybe that is why this sunnah is reserved for those who have reached maturity.

Has the stick made a difference?

A definite yes. It reminds me that I am on my way.


nor said...

masya allah! this is so enlightening. I didnt know that walking stick is a sunnah etc...

thanks for sharing.

ihsan said...

Salaam. An interesting post...I don't know where to begin commenting.

Nice walking stick btw.

Let me tell you smtg I noticed recently abt two tariqah teachers who were sitting in a public gathering. One, when he drank a glass of water, he took three sips, as per sunnah. The other took one sip. Does this mean the other is not aware of it? I don't think so. I'm sure he has personal reasons.

As for the umbrella, good thinking, unless it happens to be a really hot sister got so carried away using the umbrella as a walking stick that we ended up walking in the rain! So, don't get carried away, an umbrella can be a walking stick but don't end up walking in the rain like us. You can actually forget it's an umbrella, if you use it as a walking stick.

MudPie said...

Yes, it is not a well-known sunnah. Thanks for dropping by.

MudPie said...

ihsan, thanks for the contribution. May God bless you and the Prophet love you for it.

ihsan said...

How about keeping your hair long (shoulder-length)...I heard that was the last sunnah Imam Al-Haddad kept to before he passed on (if I'm not mistaken), and after that he has completed following Rasulullah (saw).

Yes, the walking stick (or umbrella) reminds you that you are on your way...

May Allah bless you for your intentions.