In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate
The Tide and Times
A zawiya is a door to Allah, a means through which by the grace of the Divine one may win free of the self, world, Devil, and stubborn folly to know one's Maker. The point of a zawiya is tarbiya, the educative process of taking people as they are and raising them by successive degrees to the desired perfection. Sheikh Ahmad al-'Alawi, the great Algerian renewer of the Shadhili tariqa or way of Sufism in the last century, used the purificatory bath (ghusl) before the Friday prayer as a metaphor for this training when he wrote:
The meaning of "bathing" [for those setting out for Allah] is to relinquish one's knowledge and understanding—that is, even what one has understood from first embarking on the spiritual path, of the theophany of the divine Attributes, and the manifesting of the Names—for one is about to plunge into a sea without shore: and where is knowledge, and where are the Attributes, and where is the Name? No, by Allah: save for Allah, His very Entity (Dhat), which comprises within it every Divine manifestation. For with that, the knower of Allah reaches a rank that never crossed his mind or took form in his thoughts. Even if one had an understanding before, it is subsumed in what has come after, for one has won unto ultimate Reality itself, from which all realities derive; and one's own reality become one of its realities. Further, one is called on, for one's own part, when striving to attain it, to adorn oneself with noble traits and high character, and make oneself seemly to be taken by the hand of Divine Destiny ('inaya)—so it can conduct one unto it, and draw one to its own sphere, until one becomes as if one were part of it, for one is subsumed in what the Divine Entity entails, of being utterly used up, spent, and exhausted—the derivative being wholly enfolded in Origin (al-Minah al-Qudsiyya, 216).
This is the degree of certainty about which the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), when asked about the fullest spiritual excellence (Ihsan), answered, "It is to worship Allah as though you see Him" (Muslim, 1.37–38: 8. S). Tarbiya has been the means to this knowledge since earliest times. By the company of those who have it, internalizing their teaching, living by Allah's command, and especially through the transformative power of the dhikr or remembrance of Allah, Allah draws to Himself whom He chooses, in this world before the next. Allah says:
When the Inevitable befalls,
None may give lie to its befalling,
Abasing and exalting:
When the earth is dreadfully shaken,
And the mountains utterly pounded,
So they are dust cast on the air,
And you are three groups distinguished:
So those fortunate on the right;
What indeed are those fortunate on the right!
And those hapless on the left,
What indeed are those hapless on the left!
And the supremely foremost are the supremely foremost:
Those are the truly brought near,
In lush groves of pure bliss;
A great throng from among the earliest;
And few indeed from the latest (Koran 56.1–14).
The hope from Allah in having a sheikh and a path and tarbiya is to catch up with the "few indeed" described here. So the purpose of Sufi tarbiya is not "education" in the ordinary sense, but to bring one from depths of darkness into a world of light.
The darknesses of our times are the myths and symbols of a world conceived without Allah. When the darkness is total, it is kufr or unbelief, in many respects the default setting of the present world. It believes only that "things work," and that people are merely more complicated things, and that understanding the world is but to see the interrelation of such things. It is the worldview of "those hapless on the left."
When Allah puts Iman or faith in the heart, it is illumined to a degree that does not decrease past a certain point. If a believer does works of worship that Allah accepts and avoids what He rejects, this light increases. If the Devil, this world, stubborn desire, or the ego prevail upon one to sometimes forget Allah and explain what is happening to oneself or to others according to the myths and symbols of godlessness, the light of faith decreases through the ghafla or heedlessness one has chosen. This alteration between light and darkness, remembering and forgetting, obeying and disobeying—but nevertheless at bottom always believing in Allah and His messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace)—is the worldview of "those fortunate on the right."
When Allah in His mercy realizes a heart in the light of His own presence, this light come to purify the entire being of the individual, and he walks in it until he ends his life well, and meets Allah, entirely pleased and entirely pleasing to Him. This is the worldview of "the supremely foremost," and it forms the aspiration and endeavor of the tariqa. It is why those in the tariqa do some things differently to what is considered "normal" in other worldviews. Allah says, "Or is he who was dead, and We brought to life and made for him a tremendous light to walk with amongst men, like him whose remarkable likeness is as in myriad deepest darknesses, never to emerge?" (Koran 6:122).
The first step of tarbiya, where possible, is to take a heart blind with the values and interpretive categories of kufr, and raise it to Iman, which acknowledges the purpose of Allah in creating everything, and the truth of His Book and Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "The remarkable similitude of myself and mankind is but like someone who gathered a mighty fire, but when it brightly lit up everything around him, moths and creatures began casting themselves into it. So I am holding each of you fast by your belt, while you are casting yourselves into it one after another" (Ahmad, 2.244: 7321. S). Allah Most High says:
shield yourselves and your families from a horrific fire
whose fuel is men and stones,
overseen by terrible harsh, fierce angels,
who disobey Allah not what He has commanded them,
but instantly do whatever they are told (Koran 66:6).
Much of the path aims at this awareness, which is termed taqwa, literally meaning 'parrying,' or 'warding off' the wrath of Allah and the punishment of the hellfire. All sheikhs of the Sufi path taught their students taqwa, the way of taking greatest precaution against the haram by giving it a wide berth. The current form of kufr is our world's monoculture, which acknowledges little duty to anything but itself, and as long as this is observed, permits bodies to do almost anything minds can conceive. It is more pervasive than anything in the times of previous sheikhs. A zawiya hence takes on a special importance today to accomplish the end Allah has created us for, which is to please Him. Just as people today must spend more time and effort to protect themselves from toxic pollution, more taqwa is required today to save oneself from hell, let alone reach the highest spiritual destinies. It would be bad faith for a sheikh of our times not to spell out clear alternatives to existing norms and practices. The rules of the zawiya, set out below, serve four main ends:
- To make taqwa the environment in which we live.
- To enable those who have taken the way to be guided to Allah.
- To realize the baraka of the words of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) "The hand of Allah is with the group" (Tirmidhi, 4.241: 2306. S).
- And to "help each other in good deeds and godfearingness" (Koran 5:2).
Allah Most High says:
Like abundant wondrous water We send down, and the herbage of the earth
grows luxuriantly thick with it; Then is reduced to withered bits
scattered by the winds; And Allah has absolute power
to do anything.
Wealth and sons are but
the passing ornament of this world;
And imperishable deeds of righteousness
are better with your Lord in reward
and better to hope in (Koran 18:45–46).
Rules of the Zawiya
Over the years, with people coming to Jordan to learn from the sheikh, a community developed around the zawiya, of students who decided to settle. With different nationalities, cultural norms, degrees of Islamic knowledge, and personal commitment to both the shari'a and to the level of taqwa required by the tariqa and the sheikh, rules proved needed to enable people to travel the spiritual path. When everyone is working together to worship and please Allah, even a single person who is at odds with their purpose in his way of life or mentality can ruin or seriously damage the whole community. The rules below have been mainly adopted from the shari'a, emphasizing taqwa, with some measures specific to our situation. They apply to all people living in Hayy al-Kharabsheh (hereafter the Hayy, or 'neighborhood') under the auspices of the tariqa or benefitting from its social network and facilities. As for those outside of the Hayy, the rules are not binding upon them, though all are welcome to the zawiya, which is Allah's door, and open to all who seek Him, regardless of their backgrounds, lifestyles, and circumstances.
The rules promote the environment in which the tarbiya of the sheikh can take place. Whoever disregards them undermines his work. It is important for everyone to realize, regardless of how long they have been in the neighborhood, that they came as his guests, and were welcomed, accommodated and helped to settle at his behest. A sense of personal entitlement is out of place, for were it not for the sheikh and his effort of decades establishing the zawiya and community, they would not have come to Jordan and been able to live the life they do. Rather than undercut his labors, someone who finds the rules restrictive should simply move out of the perimeters of the Hayy, where he can pursue his own aims, yet still be free to come to the zawiya. The reason for this is that someone who lives too far to walk to the Hayy will not be in it everyday, so doesn't detract from the standard of taqwa or influence others through his independent lifestyle and choices. Also, he will not be visited as frequently, so things like television and video games will not be a source of attraction to the children being raised in the neighborhood who are protected from such things. In sum, our purpose for being here is to serve Allah as a community with a tariqa and a zawiya and a sheikh at the head of that community. We are not an Islamic polity run by votes in which a tariqa merely exists amongst other things. We would like everyone who comes to live here to understand and respect this.
Whom We Accommodate
Those we accommodate, who share their lives with us in the neighborhood, include both the students or murids of the sheikh who have come to learn from him, and people who are not in the tariqa but want to live amongst us and participate in the general dynamic of lessons in the zawiya, and social and religious events. The latter category are our guests. A guest is under no compulsion to take the tariqa, and as long as his presence is congenial and not disruptive, he may stay for as long as he likes.
It is important to note that while being a member of the tariqa is not a condition for being here, being involved with the overall tarbiya is. The reason for this is that the primary basis of why we are here is suluk or travelling the spiritual path. All those who attend the lessons in the zawiya hear the teachings of the science of purification of the soul and closeness to Allah Most High, then try to apply these lessons in their lives. Someone who never goes to the zawiya doesn't share in this process and is not a part of the overall development. Such people often end up being contrary to the flow because they neither benefit from the baraka of the gatherings of dhikr and instruction, nor from the introspection and improvement the teachings make possible. If one family member is connected to the zawiya and the other is not, the person who is participating in the collective development of the zawiya and taking it home suffices for the lack of the other's involvement, provided they are not opposed or disrespectful.
Over the years two other important aims of the zawiya have emerged besides spiritual training. One is to foster an environment in which to raise a new generation of Muslim children, in whom taqwa, adab, and love of Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) are the norm, rather than an anomaly. The second is to live Islam as it has been revealed by Allah. In an era of globalization and the Internet, there have been many attempts to alter Islamic practice to make it more palatable and acceptable to contemporary civilization. We believe the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) brought a religion with clear injunctions, which form the basis of the shari'a or Sacred Law. We aspire to fulfill the commands of Allah Most High "So fear Allah all you can" (Koran 64:16) and "Obey Allah and His messenger, and turn not away from him, whilst you hear" (8:20) by practicing Islam with as much taqwa as we are able. Watering down the din has been promoted by ulama in the last century as means to popularize the religion. The result has only been, as discerned by many Muslims, that the Prophetic medicines, with their taqwa removed, have little effect on the human heart. Revelation is a law unto itself, which admits of little substitution. In a well-known hadith related by Bukhari and Muslim, before the coming of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) a man had killed one hundred people, then asked a religious scholar if there was any chance of repentance for him. The scholar said yes, and that he should travel to a certain town. (Bukhari (00), 4.211–12: 3470. S). There he could find people who worshipped Allah Most High, from whom he might benefit and change. Our objective is to be like those people, worshipping Allah Most High with godfearingness despite the rest of the world. We have been accused of being insular because of this, but are convinced that Allah Mighty and Majestic is worthy of our devotion, and that in His religion taqwa is the point of human existence. We also believe that the reason for the baraka and tawfiq found in our lives is from the word of Allah "Whosoever has due fear of Allah, He makes him a lofty way out of every difficulty, and provides for him from whence he could not even suppose" (65:2–3). The Prophets (upon whom be peace) brought clear alternatives to the cultures and civilizations they were sent to guide, and following them has probably always met with objections of not fitting in with things.
Who Should Live Outside
People we do not accommodate in the Hayy are of two categories. The first category is those who are in Jordan to learn Arabic or the Islamic sciences and have no involvement with the zawiya. This category used to come to our community for the convenience of accommodation, to live in the general Islamic atmosphere and benefit from the amenities and social life that grew up with the development of the community. For a number of years we had an open door policy of welcoming such people on the basis of our overall brotherhood in Islam. As they were not murids or guests however, they often lacked the respect needed to submit to the rules and thus detracted from the overall level of taqwa, which is a primary basis for the tarbiya of the zawiya. Problems that don't usually happen with murids and guests appeared, like smoking, movies, inappropriate dress, and relaxed interaction between the sexes. As non murids, they would often take offense at being corrected and we found ourselves involved in needless discord. This led to the decision that students of Arabic or Islamic schools or those under other sheikhs are not accommodated in the Hayy except by special request and after an interview. We kindly request that such students live in other areas of Amman because their being in this location is not essential, may raise difficulties in the long run, and because they take up accommodations that could be used for murids and guests for whom being in the Hayy is essential. As mentioned above, all the lessons in the zawiya are open to the public, regardless of the person's background or circumstances; and any students living outside the Hayy may attend whatever lessons they wish at the zawiya.
The second category is of those whose hearts have changed towards the sheikh and zawiya, and who have left the tariqa. As with any people with a collective purpose, there will always be some who lose interest and leave. Sheikh al-Kurdi used to say, "O Allah, whomever You sever from us, do not sever from You." People even left the Prophet himself (Allah bless him and give him peace). Here, however, people who leave the tariqa are still our brothers in Islam and should be greeted and dealt with politely. Because the basis of being in the Hayy is traveling the spiritual path under the sheikh and the tariqa, someone who has left the tariqa has a hal or state of mind and heart that is opposed to the dynamic of everyone else. Also, leaving the tariqa usually occurs through a long negative thought process which affects others and sometimes derails them. The sheikh requests that such people move from the Hayy and not remain out of mere convenience.
Because of the problems that occur with people of these categories living in the neighborhood, home owners and people with rentals are asked to keep the larger benefit of the tarbiya of our community in mind and first consult with Sidi Ehab regarding tenants before renting out their facilities. The parameters of the Hayy are defined by the map below and constitute an approximate half-kilometer radius around the zawiya. We ask that all the people who share our aims and wish to live within the bounds of the Hayy observe the rules below that preserve those objectives. We hope they will appreciate that being able to live with other Muslims and practice the religion is a blessing; and that those ungrateful for their blessings often lose them. Anyone who finds the rules constrictive, is not of those we accommodate in the Hayy, or disagrees with our approach, is requested to live outside this small radius. Allah Most High has made the earth vast and spacious, and this is not too much to ask. As for those insisting on staying in this parameter for personal benefit, with no consideration for others, or their labor, this is a lack of adab towards themselves, let alone others.
After taqwa, gracious character (husn al-khuluq) is the most essential thing for success in life and relationships. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was asked about the main reasons for entering Paradise and he replied, "Taqwa of Allah and gracious character" (Tirmidhi (00), 4.103–104: 2122. H). Commentators remark that taqwa corrects what is between oneself and Allah Most High, while gracious character corrects what is between oneself and other people. When living with other Muslims, it is essential to have gracious character, and without it there is conflict and strife in relationships. The way of the Sufi is to "Be with Allah as if there were no others, and be with others as if there were no ego." We accomplish this by continuously applying the lessons of muraqaba or 'self-vigilance' of our tariqa. One first works through the seven lessons with some leniency towards oneself; then goes through them a second time with greater strictness. After this, one maintains Lessons One and Two for the rest of one's life, applying one's own additional muraqaba lessons to oneself as needed to eliminate particular faults and sins. Whoever leaves these lessons is not on the right path.
Gracious character includes giving others the benefit of the doubt, not thinking ill of them, finding excuses for them, overlooking faults, forgiving, forgetting, and abandoning grudges. It means wishing well for people, preferring others to oneself, being generous, cheerful, and positive in attitude. It means gratitude to Allah for His many blessings, thanking others, humility and kindness, good manners, respect for elders and teachers, consideration of others' needs, and accepting the larger benefit of the community over one's personal wishes. It means looking always to be a part of the solution rather than the problem, holding back anger, having patience, and all noble and praiseworthy qualities. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "The most perfect of you in faith is the most gracious of you in character" (Tirmidhi (00), 3.20: 1196. S). Without diligence in applying gracious character we will be unable to sustain living and worshipping together, and our benefit to each other will be lost. Only the Devil will be gratified thereby. Everyone is required to have introspection and muraqaba, and practice the lessons they attend in the zawiya to improve themselves.
Working for a Living
Everyone in the Hayy must provide for themselves financially. One may live on savings or investments, work at a job, conduct trade and business, or on other means that are halal. Someone unable to support themselves must consider moving to another country where they can make a living, for financial independence is a necessary condition to stay here.
Ones intention in coming to the Hayy should be to draw closer to Allah through the mudhakara or teaching provided by the Sheikh in the Zawiya and to benefit from the suhba or company of those traveling the spiritual path, the process of which is called suluk. It has been observed that people coming for other goals such as the education of their children in the schools, learning Arabic, living in a Muslim country, Islamic tourism and the like don't have as much baraka and tawfiq as those whose primary motivation is a desire for closeness to Allah, Mighty and Majestic, and His good pleasure.
The Zawiya Building
The zawiya is the focal point and heart of the Kharabsheh community and the basis for its unity. The zawiya complex consists of the men's zawiya, the women's zawiya, Bab al-Qurb, the kitchen, khalwa rooms, roof, and the bathrooms on the roof. All lessons and amenities in the zawiya are free, with the exception of martial arts and exercise classes. The following outlines the rules and adab or 'etiquette' of being part of the zawiya, and lists the services it provides.
The Men's Zawiya
The men's zawiya is the main hall filling the third and fourth floor of the zawiya building, where men attend most of the lessons. A full schedule of lessons available in the zawiya is posted here, periodically on Zawiya Notices and can be found on the Bulletin Boards in the staircases. Amendments to the schedule can be forwarded to Umm Hasan and someone in need of an updated copy may contact her. Entrance to the men's zawiya is from the main staircase leading from the road. Ladies are asked not to use this staircase unless there is an event for women only, and even then they should use the entrance from the women's staircase.
The hadra in the zawiya is a must for anyone desiring the fruits of the tariqa. Those attending it should not come late but be present when it first forms. Latecomers should join directly and not sit through the hadra. The hadra is not a spectator event, and everyone must either join or leave. Details about the hadra and its inner and outer adab are found in chapter ten of Sea Without Shore, the manual of our tariqa.
Mobile phones and all gadgets that make noises are strictly forbidden in all dhikrs and lessons in the zawiya because they are disrespectful to everyone in the majlis or 'session,' and the purpose for which they have come. One may not bring one's phone into the sheikh's lessons. Phones should be left at home, or if visitors have them, they should turn them off and hide them in their shoes on the rack outside. Whoever's phone rings during a lesson, whether on him or not, will be asked to leave and not return till the next day.
It is disrespectful for any grown man to leave the majlis from the time the dhikr begins until the lesson is finished, except for rare emergencies. During lessons, it is of the adab of attending a lesson that one sit facing the sheikh or teacher in a cross-legged position or with ones legs tucked under one. It is ill-mannered to stretch ones legs out towards the teacher, lie back, or lean against the walls, though those with leg or back problems are excused for sitting anyway that helps their debility. Chairs are available in the back room for those unable to sit on the floor.
In the zawiya men should wear a kufi or turban to cover their heads. Wearing a turban is for men who have not missed a single obligatory prayer for the last 120 days, as to be otherwise is "all dressed up, and no place to go." Those arriving with no head covering will find a cane basket at the back of the zawiya that contains kufis for the wearing. The clothing we come to the zawiya in is modest, simple, undistracting, and Islamic. Modest clothing does not tightly hug the body, whether a jallabiya, IndoPak shirt and pants, or baggy pants with a shirt, or similar. Everyone, Eastern or Western, is requested not to wear 'slogan-clothing' with pictures or things written on the front or back of it; and especially not to dress their children in it. Designer clothing and so forth with glitzy names like Gucci or Eddie Bauer should be given a complete miss; of one wears it, one should remove or obliterate the names first.
Men may bring their sons with them to the men's zawiya if they are able to sit quietly through the whole lesson and not disturb the majlis with fidgeting. Children do not sit in the front rows, but in the back with their fathers. They may not bring books or anything else to entertain themselves during the lessons but must sit as the men do. Boys who are unable to sit quietly like adults and need to be stimulated with some form of activity must be with their mothers to the mothers' room. Being in the men's zawiya usually means a boy is around seven years old, though younger than seven is permissible if the child is well trained and conforms to the behavior of men. Fathers are obliged to keep their sons next to them and are responsible for their conduct for the whole of the majlis. Fathers whose children run around the zawiya or make a disturbance will be asked to take their children out. Girls of all ages must attend in either the mothers' room or the women's zawiya. It is not recommended for the fathers to send their children home after the dhikr before the lesson starts; this involves either getting up and leaving while the Qur'an is being recited, or just when the sheikh is about to start his lesson, both of which are bad manners. Instead, the father should train his child to sit through the lesson patiently. The training done in the women's zawiya with the young children teaching them sit quietly through the lesson should be reinforced and continued by the father when the child is old enough to come to the men's zawiya.
The Women's Zawiya
The door leading to the women's zawiya is on the north side of the zawiya building, at the end of an outside walkway marked by a green sign in Arabic to the left of the staircase the men go up to the main doors. It leads to a staircase used by women only. Ladies are requested to keep their voices low as they proceed up the two flights of stairs to the women's zawiya, as the hollow staircase amplifies the sound and disturbs the women if the lesson has already started. It goes without saying that women should not be talking to each other inside the zawiya during lessons, even in whispers. Telephones should be turned off before entering.
Because there is not much space in the foyer where shoes are removed, all women must put up their shoes in the racks and not leave them on the ground to congest the entrance. Bags and coats should be hung up on the hooks provided.
The women are requested to lower their voices while inside the zawiya: loud voices and laughter can be heard by the men downstairs despite the windows and this is unbecoming of the decorum of a Muslim woman.
The windows that face down towards the men's zawiya are frosted over, except for small decorative areas. No women should be looking through these transparent pieces of glass to the men below, except out of necessity to see if the men have left, for example, if there is an event for the women occurring there once the men have departed. The women are in the zawiya to attend the dhikr or lessons, not to look at the men or what they may be doing. Anyone who does will be asked to sit down.
Because the women cannot be seen by the sheikh, it is acceptable for them to sit on the pallets provided around the walls. They should, however, avoid stretching their feet towards the qibla, which also corresponds to the direction the sheikh is sitting. They should also consider that it is not polite to have the soles of their feet facing the person opposite them, especially if they don't have any socks on. In the event of having to stretch out their legs because of the likes of knee problems, they should cover their feet with an item of clothing. A row of chairs is provided for older ladies and shouldn't be used during the lessons by the young and healthy.
Unlike the men, women who come late to the hadra may not join the circle, but sit down outside the circle to do their dhikr. This decision was taken by the women themselves as latecomers kept disturbing the dhikr. Umm al-Khayr is the naqib or superintendent of the women's hadra and all those participating must follow her directives.
Women may bring their children to the women's zawiya provided the child can remain seated and quiet for the duration of the whole majlis or session. The criterion is not age but training. So a two year old who can sit without requiring anything to stimulate him such as a book or pencil and paper and doesn't fidget may attend in the zawiya, while1 a seven year old who is unable to sit quietly like an adult may not. Such children may attend in the Mother's Room where the rules are more lenient. Disciplinary action is taken by Umm Sahl in the training of the children and may entail, after a clear warning, a swat by hand or rubber spatula. Such physical discipline of children and others has been used and taught by the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and the Sahaba, and explicitly confirmed by scholars of all four schools of Islamic law, including the great educator Imam Ghazali. It gets the message across, is firm but not harsh, is traditional Islamic childrearing, and works so well that it has almost never had to be used even once in the zawiya for most children. Visitors are impressed by the peace and serenity of even the youngest children who have undergone the zawiya training. It has proved a tremendous means for whole families to be able attend the activities in the zawiya and raise their children under its baraka. It is a benefit and not a harm. Parents who do not agree to the disciplinary measures to train the children may not bring their children to the zawiya.
The dress of women in the zawiya should conform to the criteria of the shari'a of being loose, undecorated and not transparent. If the woman is resident in the Hayy, it is incumbent upon her to wear a face veil (niqab) to the zawiya. If the woman is coming from outside the limits of the Hayy, then she is not required to wear a niqab to attend. Details of the dress code will be detailed below.
The Mothers' Rooms
The place allocated for mothers and their children during lessons and dhikrs is Bab al-Qurb, which is on the first floor of the Zawiya building and comprises two rooms, a corridor, and two bathrooms. Access for the women is the first door on the women's staircase. It is necessary for all mothers to fold up their strollers and put them to the side so that they don't block the entrance to the staircase. All shoes must be put in the shelves provided and no shoes at all may be left on the ground. Mothers are requested to enter and exit quietly if a dhikr or lesson is in progress, as sounds reverberate in the staircase.
The smaller room is only for babbling babies, meaning children under one year and ten months old who are unable to keep quiet because they cannot understand compound instructions such as "Sit down, keep quiet and don't move about." Mothers with children over this age who don't also have a babbling baby must take their children to the larger room. All children over this age are obliged to be quiet during the lessons and are subject to training by Umm Sahl if they don't know how to. Babies that are quiet must also attend in the larger room so that the child becomes accustomed to the atmosphere of quiet during the lessons. The mothers should not turn off the lights during the evening lessons as women passing through the smaller room will not be able to see, nor women having to go from the larger room to the smaller because their baby is making noise and they are unable to quieten him down. Also, mothers should be able to see what their children are doing. Being in the room for babbling babies doesn't mean that the mother is entitled to let the baby be free to make as much noise as he wants or to wander about as he pleases: the child should be calmed down and kept as quiet as is possible and sit in his mother's lap or just in front of her for as much as she is able to keep him still. A small amount of crawling around quietly is acceptable. In the larger room children should sit in front of their mothers who are responsible to ensure that they are not making noise, moving about, or fidgeting excessively. The children should not sit on the foam mats, but rather on the floor in front of their mothers in order to make room for the women. If the lesson is not well attended and there is room on the foam mats, the children may sit on them.
No food is to be brought to the Mothers' Rooms; all mothers should feed their children before coming to the lesson. No toys may be brought as this distracts the other children by drawing their interest. It also causes commotion. Only a maximum of two books may be brought, paper and pencil, or a coloring book with a maximum of six colored pens; large pencils cases filled with pens give the children too many options and causes commotion. Pencil sharpeners are not permitted.
Mothers should ensure when they leave that the place is tidy and clean.
All mothers with babies that may require a change of diapers are required to bring a plastic bag with them to dispose of the used diaper out of the zawiya. The reason for this is that the zawiya is not cleaned everyday and diapers sitting there for three or four days smell. Mothers should keep in mind that they are not the only ones using the premises and take care to not offend others who will be there after them.
Using Zawiya Rooms
Anyone wishing to use a room or facility in the zawiya for events or regular classes must first check for its availability with sister Najah, who manages the zawiya facilities. The event or class has to then be passed by Umm Sahl, who takes it to the sheikh for approval. Anyone using the facilities is expected to take care of the zawiya property and to leave the facility picked up and clean. It is unacceptable for the dividers and cushions used during a class not to be put away; or to leave on lights, fans, or heaters. The teacher of the class or the organizer of the event is responsible to ensure that everything is put away, the place left tidy, and that all electrical items and heating are turned off. For major zawiya events such as the Latifiyya or hadra, all present are responsible to care for the place and not simply leave the responsibility to others. The haris or caretaker Ahmad may be contacted to unlock or lock the doors.
Outside of the times that it is used for the mothers' rooms, Bab al-Qurb is where most less-attended lessons in the zawiya are held, as well as martial arts classes.
The roof is a clear open space and may be used for activities, especially for children.
The Khalwa Rooms
The two khalwa rooms are located on the ground floor of the east side of the zawiya at the very back of the building from the garage entrance. Permission to use them may be given to whoever wants to make dhikr or other worship when they are not being used by the sheikh to put people in the khalwa. As they are usually kept locked, one may contact sister Najah to see if they are available and to obtain the key.
The Zawiya Kitchen
The zawiya kitchen is for making food for community events. As many of its utensils have been lost in the past, the pots and other equipment in the kitchen are not available for borrowing. However, plates, teapots, etc are available from Dishtribution, a community service available for anyone organizing a social event who doesn't have enough cups, plates, teacups, or a tea pot large enough for the number of people invited. The service is run by Said Sheikh and his family. The sisters may contact his wife, Umm Muhammad. Persons using Dishtribution will be given a list of conditions of usage and the compensation required for broken or misplaced items.