Today's Friday's message was interesting partly as it touches on the miraculous event that happened in the life of Muhammad (saw) viz his ascension to Sidratul Muntaha - a point according to the Islamic tradition is a point beyond the 7th heaven. Tradition have provided plenty of description of this venue - commonly accepted as the venue of a lote tree and a place of the absolute knowledge.
In the context of Muhammad's (saw) ascension - known as al isra' wal mi'raj which literally means the night journey and the ascension (somebody correct me if i'm wrong on the technicalities) - this was to be the venue that the conversation between Allah (swt) and Muhammad (saw) took place.
Since, I'm not preparing a historical essay here - the point that I wish to share is the important fact in the choice of the term "abd" or which literally translate to servant in describing Muhammad (saw) in the first verse of Surah al Isra.
"Glorified be to He who took His servant for a journey by night from the masjid of Haram (Mecca) to the masjid of Aqsa (Jerusalem), the neighbourhood whereof We have blessed, in order that We might show him (Muhammad) of Our Signs. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer."(Qur'an 17:1)
According to the tafseer of Ibnu Kathir the term "abd" reflects of one with body and soul hence the journey that was taken was a physical one - since the physical body according to Islamic perspective refers to the body and soul.
But another interesting point I thought is in the very selection of the term "abd" itself - consider the multitude of terms that could be used to describe Muhammad (saw) - the term "abd" was chose - why? Sure, we can simply say: Allah knows best - but where would be the developmental learning in that?
Consider, that Allah (swt) could easily use the term: an-nabi (the prophet) or ar rajulun (the man) or ar rasul or to even use the namesake of Muhammad or other term that could be in similitudes in reference to Muhammad (saw) - yet the choice was "al abd".
I'd like to think that this is purely since the journey is a unique one - a journey that climax to a point of physical closeness and proximity to the Almighty that none other human has so far accomplished. The closest would probably by Musa (as) when he was at Mt Sinai in his first revelation through the burning bush. Hence, only Muhammad (saw) has been bestowed to reach the proximity of the Omnipotence. Thus, it is only apt that to reach that particular pasture of a degree viz the closeness to the Almighty himself! - the quality of an "al abd" is akin.
Perhaps, this is where the emphasis of the tasawuf scholars (i can see some of you turning off already) is relevant. And perhaps so the study on the development of an individual to reach (yes, reach - i'm afraid it's not a default as one would think) to the status of a servant is so crucial.
What is the qualities of this servant that we speak? In simple terms, without going into the tasawufic jargons - it is one who is filled with a sense of humility (despite his great deeds), one who has in his heart "at taqa" or taqwa - broadly a sense of fear of one unknowing transgression and of a high hope of salvation, recognition and mercy from the Beloved. It is to walk lightly and carefully as compared to storming loudly and crudely - that everyone may hear of ones presence. And especially one who constantly in his every deed, a sense of remembrance of the Beloved. One who runs to seek forgiveness after a transgression. One who instead of blowing loudly of a great achievement - but instead cowers away in hope of ambiguity amongst common men and , contrastingly, aims purely for the recognition of the Omnipotence. And while in seek of this particular form of recognition - thus (reiterating again) not for the recognition of mere flash and mortal - but however respecting and valuing the presence of others and performs service to better the life of others at all expense.
A tall order? Perhaps, but would you expect the highest maqam (or position) to be cheap?
In fact in a hadith related by Muslim it was stated (in it's nearest meaning) that one would never experience paradise if there is a speck (or atom) equivalent of pride or takabbur in his heart - consider that.
In all our works and efforts - for Ramadhan Rocks (for those of you) or in other activities or programs that we are conducting in any platform - let's remember to manifest in ourselves the quality of a servant.
I'm suddenly reminded of servant leadership - perhaps another time.