The fruits of seclusion (khalwa) are wondrous and strange! At the beginning of the path I had a 1000-count masbaha, and stayed inside my khalwa (seclusion room) for ten days, but nothing happened, and reverent stillness (qunut) did not enter my heart. But on the tenth day, I saw wonders and marvels- that lasted for a minute! Then I knew (my Lord).
After that my father gave me up for the sake of religious scholarship, and I came here (from Sudan to the Azhar). The best thing is Ilm (religious knowledge). The Prophetic gathering is the gathering of Ilm. The ant asks Allah’s forgiveness for the scholar, and the fish asks forgiveness for the scholar. The best thing on the face of the Earth is the teaching of Ilm. I chose it for myself, and Allah chose it for me.
If you become a Friend of God (wali), that is for your own benefit; if you pray, that is for your own benefit, and if you give Zakat, it is for your own benefit. If you are in seclusion, that is for your own benefit. The one who enters into seclusion is like one who brings a roasted sheep and enters his room to feast on it. Such is the seclusion, and both are for your own benefit: seclusion and remembrance of God. As for Ilm, it is for the creation of Allah most high, and out of love for the sake of Allah, and good doing for the sake of Allah.
On the authority of Abdullah ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) who said: A man came to the Messenger of Allah (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) and said: O Messenger of Allah, which of the people is most beloved to Allah?
He (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said: ‘The most beloved of people to Allah is the one who is of most benefit to the people.’
Ilm feeds the souls, just like food nourishes the bodies. It is said that one of the Sufis entered the seclusion room for remembrance, but heard a voice say to him: ‘This is not what I created you for! Go out and benefit the people by your knowledge!’
When the Prophet (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) would come to his family, he would sit with them and teach them the Qur’an and teach them Ilm. His gathering – salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam – was a gathering of Ilm, and that is the best of gatherings.
When the Prophet (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) is present, he passes by the Mosque of al-Husayn, and passes by al-Azhar, and passes by the gatherings of Ilm, and some of the people of unveiling have seen him doing so.
– Shaykh Salih al-Ja’fari, The Friday Lessons, v. 9.
This picture of Shaykh Salih al-Ja’fari teaching in the noble al-Azhar Mosque was
taken by a German orientalist in the 1970’s and published in a German article on al-Azhar.