This website has been up and running for just over a year now and when I launched the new website., it was with the view to creating a blog. And Alhumdulillah, 14 months later here it is!
I have dedicated my first blog to discuss something that is all too familiar for the practitioners of Traditional Islamic Arts; especially Calligraphers, and that is Rabbi Yassir:
رَبِّ يَسِّرْ وَلَا تُعسِّرْ رَبِّ تَمِّمْ بِالْخَيْرِ
“My Lord, grant me ease (in my endeavors), and do not give me such hardship (that would become an obstacle in my path), and allow me to complete it with goodness (to the best of my capability)“
This short and beautiful supplication lays the foundation, not only on a practical but also a spiritual level, for the journey of a lifetime. And Calligraphy is a journey of a lifetime – quite literally. Once embarked upon, you never stop learning which means you never stop practicing. It becomes a core part of your essence and transforms your nature. Striving for perfection but also being humbled by the fact that it can never be attained.
But this supplication is not only synonymous with Arabic Calligraphy, no. Many of you don’t know this but my background, prior to Arabic Calligraphy, was in Islamic Theology. I spent many years studying a range of different subjects and books (which I won’t get too much into). The only thing I would like to mention from this time is, it was very common practice, when we started a new kitab (regardless of what subject it focused on), the first thing our teacher would make us do was to recite this supplication. The syllabus I studied originated from the Indian Subcontinent.
And similarly, when a student found a teacher for Arabic Calligraphy, they would first cut his / her Qalam (pen) and then ask them to practice this supplication. Yes you read that right, even if that student has no previous experience in writing Arabic, or even holding a Qalam, this would be the first line they practice. This is mainly found in Thuluth and Naksh scripts from the Ottoman tradition of learning Calligraphy. However it is very rarely seen within the Persian tradition of calligraphy.
As daunting as this might seem, it is symbolically quite amazing that the first strokes you would write with the Qalam that has been specially made for you by your teacher, would be to humble yourself in front of the Creator and ask Him to grant you ease. Completely submitted yourself to the One and proclaiming, through your actions, that nothing can be achieved without His aid.
Rabbi Yassir in Calligraphy tradition:
Rabbi Yassir in Academic tradition:
Rabbi Yassir in oral tradition:
As mentioned previously, from my personal experience there is also a strong oral tradition for Rabbi Yassir; where the teacher would recite it to his students.
I have always been intrigued by the origin of this supplication as it is very commonly accepted to come from a hadith. After months of research into this I have found no source in any books of Ahadith, Tafseer, Fiqh, Usool or Shuroohat where this supplication is written and attributed to a Sahaba. Also, another indication to support my view is the amount of variations found within the wording. If we take the above supplication as a base, there are many instances where the 2nd part of the supplication is replaced with “wa” and “walaa tu’assir” has been omitted. There are also a lot of different additions added to the ending: “wa bika nasta’een”, “wa bihi nasta’een”, “ya mu’een”, “ya fattaah” to name a few. Whereas if it did have some source in a hadith then the wording would have been quite definitive and strict as we can see with many other supplications found in Ahadith.
Having said this, it doesn’t reduce the value of the supplication in any way because the meaning itself is quite magnificent and there is absolutely no harm in supplicating using wordings which are not found in hadith. Plus, the concept of Yusr and ‘Usr are present in Qur’an and Ahadith. But we should be very wary of attributing something to someone wrongfully or without enough evidence, even more so when it comes to Ahadith.
Yusr and ‘Usr in Qur’an and Ahadith
These two concepts are often mentioned together, the most common examples being the verses from Surah Inshirah (verse 5-6) “Verily with every hardship there is ease” and also in Surah Baqarah (verse 185) “Allah intends for you ease, and does not intend for you hardship”. And it is recorded in Sahih Al Bukhari under Kitab-ul-‘Ilm (Hadith number 69) under the authority of Anas ibn Maalik (ra) that the Prophet (SAW) said: “Make things easy and do not make them difficult….”. I feel it’s my responsibility to also mention here that the meaning behind this Hadith should be kept within the parameters of Islamic teachings and not to be misused or misinterpreted. My reason for mentioning the Hadith here is purely because of the wording that was used; ‘yassiru walaa tu’assiru’, the roots of these words being Yusr and ‘Usr. So, as these concepts are apparent in Qur’an and Hadith it does bring the possibility of Rabbi Yassir being derived from Qur’an and Hadith.
A scholarly view
Similarly, there are several examples where scholars have only used the concept of ‘Yusr’ and not ‘Usr. An example for this can also be found in the Qur’an when Musa (as) supplicated to Allah and asked “And ease for me, my task” (Surah Taha verse 26). There is no mention of ‘Usr here.
Many of you may be wanting to read about the practice of Rabbi Yassir in calligraphy but as this topic is very in-depth, I have decided to discuss this in a separate blog post InshaAllah.
I would like to conclude by saying my research has brought me to the understanding that Rabbi Yassir, although has parallels in Quran and Hadith, is in fact not from Hadith. However, as mentioned above, it holds a very strong place within the Islamic tradition and for this reason I most certainly don’t under value it. We should try and integrate this supplication in all aspects of our lives.
I hope you all enjoyed reading this and I will try and keep this blog regular inshaAllah. If you have any questions or comments please add them below and don’t forget to share.