The Fragrant Scent: On the Knowledge of Motivating Thoughts and Other Such Gems

The Fragrant Scent: On the Knowledge of Motivating Thoughts and Other Such Gems


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The Fragrant Scent is the first English translation of the work of the great eighteenth-century scholar Sayyid Abu al-Marahim 'Abd al-Rahman b. Mustafa b. Shaykh al-'Aydarus. The book is a meditation on the fleeting thoughts that pass through the mind of the spiritual wayfarer, and the author's aim is to provide guidance for those on the spiritual path.

The author describes his treatise as a commentary on Suhrawardi's famous Sufi work, 'Awarif al-ma'arif, and he draws on a rich selection of authoritative sources to answer key questions about the wayfarer's experiences, including the Qur'an, the hadith, Ghazali, 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani and Abu Madyan. This concise, yet wide-ranging treatise covers topics such as the different types of passing thoughts and their causes, knowledge of the soul and finding the perfect spiritual guide, as well as the necessity of retreat and practicing one's knowledge.

Shaykh al-'Aydarus was a follower of the Ba 'Alawi tariqa, a famous Sufi order from Hadhramaut in southern Yemen, known for its piety and careful observance of the Sharia. The Fragrant Scent reflects the Ba 'Alawi order's emphasis on maintaining a balance between the inner and outer worlds, making the work an accessible entry point to understanding the profound spiritual insights and everyday practice of Ba 'Alawi Sufism.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781903682937
Publisher: Islamic Texts Society
Publication date: 01/01/2016
Edition description: None
Pages: 160
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Born in Tarim in southern Yemen, Abu al-Marahim was a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad through 'Ali and Husayn. He studied the traditional legal and religious sciences with renowned scholars in Yemen, the Hijaz, India and Egypt, where he died in 1192 AH/1778 AD. He attracted many students in the course of his travels, including 'Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti and al-Murtada al-Zabidi. He is the author of more than 60 works in Arabic, including the present treatise, al-'Arf al-'atir fi ma'rifat al-khawatir wa-ghayriha min al-jawahir.

Mokrane Guezzou is a Research Fellow at the Islamic Foundation, UK, and the author of Shaykh Muhammad al-Hashimi: His Life and Works and the translator of Wahidi’s Asbab al-Nuzul, Buzaydi’s The Adab of the True Seeker and the Tafsir Ibn ‘Abbas.

Read an Excerpt


Knowledge about motivating thoughts is one of the most important affairs of the servant because a motivating thought is the beginning of an action (al-khatir awwal al-fi'l) and its initiation (muftatahuhu). This is because actions stem from thoughts, whereas the servant is only created for worship, which consists of actions. These actions that emanate from thoughts become acts of worship in measure with the soundness of thoughts, and this cannot happen unless one is able to distinguish between them. Distinguishing these thoughts is therefore the first thing that is obligated for the servant after the obligation of knowing the Creator and prophethood. In fact, a scholar (may God have mercy upon him) maintained that the knowledge ('ilm) that is incumbent upon one to seek in compliance with the saying of the Messenger of God (may God bless him and grant him peace), 'Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim,' is the knowledge of motivating thoughts ('ilm al-khawatir). His reasoning was that motivating thoughts initiate action; meaning that the nullity of the former entails the nullity of the latter.
However, this position is untenable because the Messenger of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) made this [pursuit of knowledge] obligatory for every Muslim, and not all Muslims possess the innate nature (qariha) and gnosis (ma'rifa) that allows them to know thoughts. The obligation to know thoughts therefore applies to the elites (khawass) who possess sound and innate natures. The dependence of the soundness of actions on knowledge of thoughts should be understood in terms of fully discerning whether or not they are acceptable; not in terms of their legal capacity.
Once this is known, the student should know that motivating thoughts are like seeds; some of them grow into shoots of felicity (sa'ada) and others into shoots of damnation (shaqawa). Those that grow into shoots of felicity are motivating thoughts from the Abidingly Real (khatir al-Haqq)—except when one is angry—and [they are] also angelic thoughts (khatir al-malak). And those that grow into shoots of damnation are egotistic motivating thoughts (khatir al-nafs)—except when one is in a state of tranquillity—and [they are] also devilish thoughts (khatir al-shaytan)—except when Satan intends to deceive one by manifesting good thoughts until he draws the servant to an evil thought, or when he manifests a good thought in order to distract the servant from something that is more important than it.

Table of Contents

Foreword HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad vii

Editor's Introduction ix

The Fragrant Scent

Introduction 1

On Motivating Thoughts 6

On Spiritual Wayfarers and Spiritual Guides 53

On Remembrance 75

On Retreat 91

On the Manners of the Disciple 107

Bibliography 139

Index 143

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