Book Review: Heavenly Guide to the Beacon of Pure Light

Title: Heavenly Guide to the Beacon of Pure Light – A Commentary on the Names of the Prophet Muhammad from Imam Al-Jazuli’s Dala’il al-Khayrat
Translated by: Shaykh Idris Watts
Publisher: Abu Zahra Foundation (2014)

This book is a commentary on the names of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. The names mentioned are from Imam Al-Jazuli’s book Dala’il al-Khayrat. The first section of the book consists of the Arabic recital, along with its transliteration and translation. The second section is a commentary on each of the 202 names. A compact disc of a recording of the rendition accompanies the book.

The following is Shaykh Idris Watts providing an introduction to the book:

Here are a few excerpts of the Imam Jazuli’s biography found in the book:

His full name was Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Sulayman al-Jazuli al-Simlali al-Hasani. His lineage goes back to Sulayman ibn Idris II ibn Idris I bin ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Hassan II ibn al-Hassan I ibn ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib.

The Imam was a Berber from the far south of Morocco; he came from a region called Tankarat. As a young man he moved to Fes to continue his studies, as did many religious students in his time.

Imam Ahmab al-Sawi relates a possible motivation of the Imam’s decision to compose a book of prayers on the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace):

“One day Jazuli went to perform his ablutions for the prescribed prayer from a nearby well, but could not find any means to draw water. While thus perplexed, he was seen by a young girl who called out from high above, ‘You’re the one people praise so much. Can’t you even figure out how to get water out of the well?’ She then came down and spat into the water, which welled up until it overflowed and spilled over the ground. Jazuli made his ablutions, and then turned to her and said, ‘I adjure you to tell me how you reached this rank.’ She said, ‘By saying the blessings upon him (Allah bless him and give him peace) whom beasts lovingly followed as he walked through the wild.’ Imam Jazuli thereupon vowed to compose the book of blessings on the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) which came to be known as his Dala’il al-khayrat or ‘Waymarks of Benefits’.

Imam Jazuli presented the final version of this work to his disciple Muhammad al-Sughayyir al-Sahli (d. 917/1511-12) in 862/1457-8. This is the so-called Sahli recension, the standard one upon which all other copies are based. It is more likely that the Imam began compiling the book upon his return to Morocco in 857/1453 and then revised it during the period in which he organised his Order.

Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Yahya Ibn Muhammad al-Husayni al-Ninowi writes in his foreword, regarding the Prophet ﷺ:

In his homeland in the Arabian Peninsula, he was known by numerous names even before he was sent to them as a Messenger. He was known amongst the tribes in Makkah for his lofty and noble qualities. They used to called him ‘the Trusty’  (al-Amin) and ‘the Truthful’ (al-Sadiq), on account of their interactions with him and their experience of his lofty character traits and absolute truthfulness and honesty.

And later in the foreword:

Since the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) reached the peak of human perfection, Allah chose for him many names and attributes, which bespeak his predominant features and unique qualities. These were granted to him alone, and Allah graced him with them in this life and the Hereafter. It has been established from both the Book and the Sunnah that no other Prophet had as many names our Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).

Shaykh Idris Watts writes in his Preface:

It gives me great pleasure to introduce this book and recording of the introduction to Imam Muhammad ibn Sulayman al-Jazuli’s Dala’il al-Khayrat and the names of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). The Dala’il has been a source of light for the Muslim community ever since its composition in the late 9th/15th century.

During the years I lived in Fes, Morrocco, I was touched by the rendition of the names of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), recited throughout the ancient city alongside the Dala’il itself in many mosques and zawiyas (Sufi meeting-places) directed by the local muqaddams of the Dala’il in each neighbourhood. Its simplicity and power captivated me, as did the voices of the men who had been singing it for the best part of their lives every week, and in some cases every day.

And later in the Preface:

When I returned to England, I found that there was a keen interest in the Dala’il, as a result of the new, definitive and beautiful edition published by Sheikh Nuh Keller. The evocative beauty of the names in the introduction inspired me to start teach the Fes style of recitation to a small group in or around 2008, in the terraced house in Bradford where I lived at the time. I would begin by reciting a line and they would repeat it to me, until after a few months of hard work they were able to recite it along with me. Our numbers increased and we were soon able to adopt the Fes style completely: we sat in two groups, each taking it in turn to read the next line.

About two years ago I decided to publish an edition of the introductory section of the Dala’il, adding a translation to aid readers’ understanding and appreciation of the meaning; and also with transliteration of the text to make it easier for converts and others who had difficulty in reading Arabic to follow and learn the correct pronunciation.

And later in the Preface:

The text of the introduction as translated here differs slightly from that found in the original manuscripts. There are a few additions at the beginning and the end; also, the title, ‘our Master’ (Sayyiduna) has been added before the name of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) throughout; Sheikh Nuh’s edition, on the other hand, is completely faithful to the original. I have made a deliberate effort to reproduce the text in the exact form in which it is recited in Fes today.

The following is an excerpt of one of the names of the Prophet ﷺ:

Ahmad (Greatest of Praisers)

This name means that he is the one who praises Allah the most and the one who himself is the most praised. He will carry the Banner of Praise (Liwa’ al-hamd) on the Day of Resurrection in order that his station of praise be completed. He will be well-known on that day for the praises he expresses before Allah. Also, his Lord shall raise him to a praiseworthy station as He has promised him, whereby the whole of creation shall extol his praise due to his intercession for them. He will be inspired with forms of praise such as no one before has ever known or uttered.

He is known in the heavens as Ahmad and on earth as Muhammad because he is the greatest of those who praise Allah and he is the greatest of those praised. He was known as Ahmad before he was known as Muhammad for he sang the praises of his Lord at the beginning of time before the people praised him on earth. That, according to Qadi Iyad, is why his name as conveyed in the previous scriptures as Ahmad and he is known in the Qur’an as Muhammad.

This is the name Jesus (upon whom be peace) mentions in the Qur’anic account:

And when Jesus son of Mary said, ‘Children of Israel, I am indeed the Messenger of Allah to you, confirming the Torah that came before me, and giving good tidings of a Messenger who shall come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad.’ But then when he brought them the clear signs they said, ‘This is manifest sorcery’ (Quran 61:6)

Ibn al-Qayyim states in Jala’ al-afham that this name has the same meaning as Muhammad, except that Muhammad is the one who is praised for the vast qualities he possess and Ahmad is the one who is not only praised but also deserving of praise more than anyone else.

May Allah give us all love for our Beloved Prophet ﷺ, and give us the propensity to internalize the names and their meanings, such that our behaviour, conduct, worship and state becomes Muhammadan in resemblance. May he ﷺ recognize us on the the Day of Judgement as members of his nation and give us a drink from his pool. Ameen.

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