al Faqr | Holy Poverty, Spirit of Poverty in Islam

"Faqr Fakhri", Poverty is my pride
- Prophet Muhammad, upon him be holy benediction

. Not desiring the adornment of the life of this world in exchange of Divine Countenance

O Prophet! Lo! We have sent thee as a witness and a bearer of glad tidings and a warner. And a summoner unto Allah by His permission, and as a luminous lamp. - The Quran 33:45-46

Since in Islam Prophet Muhammad is the Model par excellence or Archetypal Spiritual Guide and Master, focusing on his life illuminates for us the original principles of Islam and its teachings. Unlike other messengers, the Seal of Prophet, Muhammad lived a complete and full life and was made to observe every possible major human roles such as being a father, husband, family man, administrator, spiritual counselor, moral teacher, businessman, politician, social reformer, community organizer, sacred activist, warrior, personal friend and mystic. This enabled to leave a model for the rest of humanity as a guide and as Quran says, as 'luminous lamp' to give light on every possible aspect of human dimension.

One of the role Prophet Muhammad embodied as the role of being an ascetic. This was not an asceticism in the sense of neglecting the world - which is negative asceticism, but his was noble and positive asceticism - the practice of 'leaving all that is not necessary' for the Real. This is reflected in one of his teaching that a believer who practice ihsan (excellence) is one who leaves that does not concern him or her.

The Prophet himself is commanded in the Quran by God and by extension its a commandment to all of mankind to make oneself content with the people of holy poverty by being content with such beings who consecrate themselves entirely to God.

Keep thyself content with those who invoke their Lord morning and evening, in desire of His Countenance; and let not thine eyes turn away from them, desiring the adornment of the life of this world; and obey not him whose heart We have made neglectful of Our remembrance, who followeth his own passion and who hath transgressed all limits. - The Quran 18:28

In this verse - 'not desiring the adornment of the life of this world in exchange of Divine Countenance' is the secret doorway for embodying Holy Poverty.

"Nas alukal faqra mimma siwak, wal ghinna bika hatta la nash hada illa iyaka."

"We seek from You, poverty from other than You and richness with You, until we see not anything but You."

"Ya Ghani! Man lil faqiri siwaka!
Ya Qawwi! Man lid dhoi'fi siwaka!
Ya Qadir! Man lil a'jizi siwaka!
Ya 'Aziz! Man lidz zaleeli siwaka!"

O Eternal Source of All Enrichment! Who else does this needy one hope for but You!
O Eternal Source of All Strength! Who else does this deprived one hope for but You!
O Eternal Source of Power! Who else does this weak one hope for but You!
O Eternal Source of Majestic Might! Who else does this worthless one hope for but You!

- Blessed supplication of Shaykh Abul Hassan as-Shadhili, may Allah sanctify his Sirr

. Holy Asceticism of the Final Prophet

The ethical teachings of Islam are rooted in the Qur'an, but the model of perfect ethical character, which is called Muhammadan character by Muslims, has always been that of the Prophet. The virtues that characterize him are humility and poverty, magnanimity and nobility, and sincerity and truthfulness. Like Jesus Christ, Muhammad loved spiritual poverty and was also close to the economically poor, living very simply even after he had become “the ruler of a whole world.”
- from
Encycolopedia of Britannica

The positive asceticism of the Prophet was lived and embodied which being a full functional member of the community and the society. Its not asceticism to run away from people but to practice the solitude in the crowd by keeping the heart with God alone even while being in the super market.

A prominent characteristic of the Model Par Excellence, Prophet Muhammad was his uncompromising asceticism towards the worldly life. He turned his back to this life's pleasures and lived away from its desires. He lived the life of the poor and the needy. The following are some examples on his asceticism:

Aishah, the wife of the Messenger, narrated, "Rasool Allah's stomach was never filled with food at all. He did not complain to anyone. Poverty was more beloved to him than wealth. Even if he remained hungry suffering from hunger all his night, that did not prevent him from fasting his next day; though, if he wished, he would ask his Lord to endow him with all treasures of the earth, its fruits, and the easiness of its living. I was pitiful to him for what I saw in him. I patted with my hand on his abdomen for the hunger I saw in him, and I said: may my soul be sacrificed for you! Would that you enjoy from this life what might sustain you!

He said, 'O Aishah, what do I have to do with this life? My brothers the Arch-Prophets tolerated what was bitterer than this and they passed away and came to their Lord Who honored their coming and rewarded them abundantly, and so I feel shy that if I live at ease, that tomorrow I may miss many things. There is nothing is more beloved to me than to join my brothers and friends."

One day, some man came to the Messenger of God and saw him sitting on a mat, which affected his body and a pillow which affected his cheek. The man said painfully, "Neither Khosrow nor Caesar (the wealthy rulers of that age) are satisfied with this! They sleep on silk and brocade while you sleep on this mat!" The Messenger said to him, "I am better than them both. What do I have to do with this life? The example of this life is like a rider who passed by a tree that had a shadow. He sat under it. When the shadow turned away, he went and left the tree."

Aishah narrated, "As long as he lived the Prophet did never become satiated with bread for three successive days."

Ibn Abbas narrated, "Rasool Allah and his wives spent successive nights hungrily finding nothing for dinner."

Aishah narrated, "The bed that Rasool Allah slept on was from animal skin with palm-tree fibers. He (Allah's blessing be on him) died while his armor was mortgaged to a Jewish man in return for the spending of his family. He often prayed, "O Allah, make the livelihood of Muhammad's family (as enough as) sustenance."

Here is an example from his utterly simple life of poverty. Some man from the Ansar offered to the Messenger ripe date fruits. The Prophet asked someone that brought the dates to go in to see whether there was a plate in the house to put the dates in. The person could not find any. Then, the Prophet swept a place with his dress and said, "Put them (the dates) on this ground!" Then he said, "By Him in Whose hand my soul is, if this world equaled to God worthy of a mosquito's wing, He would not give anything from it to the deniers of truth and the hypocrites." (credit)

. Holy Poverty, Spiritual Poverty

In order to unveil a certain state (hal) in the self and in our spiritual journey, the spirit of poverty (faqr) is essential, which is a sense of detachment or realizing interior emptiness in order to make it full with the Divine consciousness.

Poverty includes both aspect of it, the contentment with the least materials which are unreal, as well as feeling the utter need of the Real. From the teachings of Nimatullahi Sufi Order we find that Spiritual Poverty in Positive sense "is both the feeling of being imperfect and needy, and the desire for perfection. The Prophet, Muhammad has said in this regard, "My honor is from spiritual poverty. I have been honored over and above all prophets by being graced with spiritual poverty." And God revealed to the Prophet, "Say, God increase my true knowledge of You." As this saying indicates, even though Muhammad was given the honor of Prophethood, it was still necessary that he feel his poverty and desire to be nearer to the essence of God."

. Faqir, the One in Need

On describing the state of the Faqir or one who is needy, contemporary Islamic Scholar Shaykh Ninowy said, "Faqir means poor or better means needy. We are all needy. The richest person is needy. Everybody is needy. "Ya aiyuhannas antumul fuqara u ilallah.' 'You are the needy to Allah.' If you are not needy, please leave independently of air for a couple of hours, show me, that simple stuff. Therefore, in Islam, the more you have the more needy you are. I'm trying to say, the more you have the more you should feel needy. Why? Because while he's giving you every single day, you are still taking. And you have more reasons to be needy because he keeps giving you. But you say, 'I don’t have money.' But He gives you wealth, health. He renewed His endowment of vision upon you. By Allah if that’s shaky, you will spend billions of money to get it back. That intellectual and cognitive process that’s intact that Allah give you, that’s worth billions of dollars. The most important ones Allah give is basirah, the vision of the heart. For if Allah gives you, you have vision. If Allah didn’t give you the vision of the heart, even if you have 60 eyes, you are still blind." - from the talk given by Shaykh Ninowy via al Hikam event @ Green Mountain School

. Prayer of Holy Poverty

The Prophet used to pray, "O God, grant me life as a poor, cause me to die as a poor and resurrect me in the company of the poor .."

His wife asked him why he said that, and he replied: Because the poor will enter the Kingdom of God before the rich.

Do not turn away a poor man, even if all you can give is half a date fruit. If you love the poor and bring them near you, God will bring you near Him on the Day of Great Resurrection. - Recorded in Al-Tirmidhi book of Prophetic tradition

. A Secret Recipe

A man came to the Prophet and said : O Messenger of God, direct me to an act which, if I do it, [will cause] God to love me and the people to love me. So the friend of faithful advised:

"Renounce the world and God will love you, and renounce what the people possess and the people will love you."

. Old Sweet Beggar, Hafiz

Path to God
Made me such an old sweet beggar.

I was starving until one night
My love tricked God Himself
To fall into my bowl.

Now Hafiz is infinitely rich,
But all I ever want to do
Is keep emptying out
My emerald filled pockets
Upon this tear stained World.

- from
The Subject Tonight is Love: 60 Wild and Sweet Poems of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky.

# Related Posts:
. Poverty of Prophet
. Holy Poverty of St. Francis of Assisi and the Sufis
. Az-Zuhd: Islamic approach on Asceticism

# Book & Teachings:
. Spiritual Poverty in Sufism (Faqr & Faqir) by Javad Nurbakhsh
. Voices of Islam by Vincent J. Cornell
. Station of Az Zuhd
. The Reality of Asceticism

# Speaking of Faith: Audio
Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett has coincidentally this week (May 14) has chosen the subject: Repossessing Virtue: Living differently beyond Economic Crisis which has some interesting co-relation with this post. > Listen to this program.



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Technology of the Heart: al Faqr | Holy Poverty, Spirit of Poverty in Islam
al Faqr | Holy Poverty, Spirit of Poverty in Islam
Technology of the Heart
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