Men, but not just any men!
If I had not actually seen them I would have said, it is mere fantasy, idle talk or imagination-a luminous shadow of the generation of the noble companions of the Prophet. Although it is understood of course, that the merit of the Companions cannot be surpassed, in these men were combined two of their great qualities-migration (hijra) and support (nusra). However, they were not divided into migrants and helpers but rather were migrants who help.
Migration to God and His Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace) are words often pronounced on tongues but rarely heeded by hearts. It is when a person leaves behind a life of comfort and rest, and the alluring bright lights of the city. He sets off journeying through the land to penetrate into foreign and remote territory. Carrying a lantern in his hand he searches out the needy throughout the land in order to nourish them with a sip of the nectar of life. On this path he has to endure self-sacrifice, self-annihilation and the abandonment of his worldly interests. That is a spiritual experience that nobody can truly comprehend except the one who has endured it. This is indeed an obstacle besides which are more obstacles, which count among the various degrees of striving.
Their sun rises in the land of Anatolia, and its rays effuse throughout the world in clear radiant beams. By this light old ties of kinship are bonded and the warmth of compassion is imparted to the wounded. They are migrants who left everything behind them and set forth like unsaddled, unshod horses. They open the doors and windows of the besieged in every land and teach them how to breathe again, breathe in the open air after having lost their ability to sense life centuries ago.
They are migrants (muhajirun) who have abandoned that before which dead-hearted people debase themselves: the pleasures of this life and its adornment, even though these flowed toward them in abundance from every direction. They set out towards God, distributing words of light, giving the world the good tidings of security and peace, and transmitting to the hearts of the poor great hope. Their legions are dispersed over deserts, mountains, jungles, and oceans. A horse may buckle here or there but the vanguard ever reaches its goal and raises its banner of light on the highest and loftiest peaks. True faith in God is elevated and honored through them.
A shadow of the generation of the Companions or a new copy, I know not. I have certainly seen them and my eyes did not deceive me. Among them are those who have passed on and among them are those who await their turn. They have not changed. It is for God to reward them! What men they are!
They are helpers (ansar) for they have supported the good, becoming thereby the helpers of the modern age. Each time they see the light of a candle faltering in a stormy wind, wherever it may be, they rush forth without a care for hardships and shield it with a niche of clear glass. Then it becomes like a shining star emanating beauty and splendor.
They went hungry so that others could eat, and they gave the clothes of their backs so that their poor could be clothed. They went short so that their needy could have possessions, and they wept so that their brothers could laugh. Truly, they preferred others over themselves even though they were themselves needy.
They are helpers who have acquired their state of support (nusra) by drawing from the light of Medina Al Munawwarra in the period just after the emigration of the Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace) there, when the joy of the people of Yathrib was still fresh and expressed in outbursts of song. It is from there that they have received the essence of their support, fresh and moist as a supple green branch sprinkling dew and bearing delicious fruit.
They migrated, and they gave their support. Furthermore, they have given themselves fully to the quest of migration and given themselves fully to the task of offering support. On this earth there remains nothing for them! However, in the world of the spirits they own everything through their dependence on God, the Rich beyond need, Owner of Praise.
They are crazy in their love of serving in foreign lands, from the cold of Siberia to the heat of South Africa. There is no island, cave, plain, or mountain, in all the continents of the world where they have not reached and there transmitted the rays of light effused by the approaching dawn. They smile in the face of painful afflictions, and they are happy to cross thorn-ridden fields which cause blood to flow from their feet and tears to flow from their eyes while their hearts rejoice in God!
They are truly men; men about whom if an ancient book had spoken, we would have called it an exaggeration like the exaggerations encountered in stories, histories and biographies. However, they are living now in the present and in the future. There they are, in front of you-living examples of burning longing and great dynamism. How commendable they are these youths and mature folk. They have revived in us hope in life, and given us certainty of a new dawn. They are a testimony to the verity of the prophetic words that God will make true faith in Him triumph universally such that there will not remain a house of wool or mud to which it will not have entered, bringing to it either humiliation or honor.
I have beheld the lights of the beautiful divine names reflected in their eyes. Those lights pour out before them and they follow their guidance, drawn by their force, to realize the will of God, the Tremendous, to revive the earth after its death, with prosperity, generosity and munificence. You would see one of them as a nation embodied in a man or a man as if he were a whole nation. If your eyes set upon one of them, they would be dazzled, and you would say, "Goodness! Surely, he can have no equal." But when you see another, his beauty would make you forget the magnificence of the first. They have united within themselves all the best qualities associated with goodness and virtue. One gaze upon them would rid you of the need to read any books on philosophy and morality, and imaginary ideas on the "city of virtue."
They do not speak about good character; rather they are in themselves the embodiment of good character walking on earth in an age when noble character is a neglected object consigned to the museum of history.
Would you like to be one of them? Think, and think again before saying yes, for it is just a word that you pronounce but a truly great proclamation that you make, before which lies the obstacle that you must overcome. But what will explain to you what that obstacle is? It is that you should sell your soul to God completely. There should not remain anything of yourself belonging to you; nothing whatsoever. Then you should submit to God’s will and accept whatever comes to you by His decree such that when your whole self is buried away in some corner of the world far, far away from your familiar home country, family folk or loved ones, your only provision and your sole source of nourishment will be the remembrance of God and dependence on His magnificent light.
To be one of them means that everyone will forget you and only God will remember you. It means leaving this world while you are still living, eating its food and walking its streets. You do not see anything in yourself or anything that is yours. You observe among the contemporaries with whom you are acquainted those who have a high opinion of themselves. The latter have not been able to free themselves from earthly yokes or escape from the snares of the realm of causes. They climb in the ranks of worldly delusion and look down on you from their high towers, proud of their posts and titles.
As for you, you walk on the earth barefoot, poor in everything except for the support of God Almighty.
But we have made some of you a means of testing others-will you stand fast? (Furqan 25:20)
Do you really want to be one of them?
"Yes." That is a word that is easy on the tongue, but it involves a bitter experience. Whoever says that fire does not have the quality of burning; let him test it with his hand. Are you prepared to be burned to the extent that your body becomes dust-dust which the wind then disperses throughout the continents of the world, scattering particles here and there? Whenever one of these particles falls on barren ground, it becomes verdant and sprouting...
These are the giants of our time, examples of the true human being whose appearance has been awaited by the world for a long time. Has not the time come to return to the earth the security that was established there by the liege of creation, Muhammad (upon him be blessings and peace)?!
They have surrounded the oppression of guns and defenses with institutes and schools and put out the fire of discord and wars with words and letters. Every school that they build, wherever it may be, becomes a green tree which continues to sprout palm shoots around it that grow and grow until the region becomes full of trees. Thus does a forest of goodness stifle the loathsome sound of bullets and rid it of the rotten stink of gunpowder.
They are teachers who have spread everywhere; teaching the children of the world the language of birds and the song of sparrows. They draw on their green boards in front of them dreams of a beautiful future and the outlines of the path leading to Paradise. The children who graduate leaving the custody of these teachers, throughout the continents of the earth, come out singing one hymn-giving tidings of goodness and peace to the world.
The angels of remembrance love them, for often do they listen to their heart rending songs. The angels of knowledge know them, for often do they carry their vanguard under their wings while it is journeying through the land towards the forests of Australia, the deserts of Asia, the jungles of Africa, or the foggy lands of the far west.
They shoot rays of light over skyscrapers. They are teachers, unarmed except with the weapons of education and edification. They are prepared to venture into dangerous situations wherever they may be. They advance bare-chested, smiling in the face of abysses of discomfort.
Extending before them, they have a far reaching vision which never strays from its goal. Behind them is solid instruction which provides them with guided inspirations received from God. The burning core of their teacher’s heart makes them steadfast through works of wisdom. These works are outpourings of light which gush forth via streams whose support could scarcely be cut off, God permitting!
O my beloveds! You are the true guardians of love, and upon you may God send His greetings of peace!
Farid al-Ansari is a professor of Philosophy of Islamic Law at Mawlay Ismail University, Morocco.