THE HEART AND ITS PURIFICATION

The heart is like lucid water. But once muddied with evil deeds and sins it becomes murky. It then becomes necessary to distill it, for it to show the pearls of spirituality and the lights of truth in its bedrock.

1. THE NATURE OF THE HEART

The aim of Islam is to raise human beings of elegance and maturity, conscious of being the servants of Allah, glory unto Him. Realizing this aim entirely depends on becoming conscious of what it is to be a servant of the Almighty, in the truest sense of the word. Reaching the heights of spirituality through maturation is possible only to the degree of sublime excitement, divine fear and stirrings felt deep in the heart.

The heart is our physical and spiritual hub. It plays a vital role in sustaining our physical existence. Over four seconds of delay in pumping the required amount of fresh blood to a cell spells an end to its life; and the same goes for the billions of other cells that abide in our bodies.

Playing so important a role in our physical existence, the hearts is also a spiritual gem, the focal point of the power and ability for spiritual sensing. In this sense, the heart is virtually the king of the realm that is the body, both physically and spiritually, such that even the brain, a center of thought, produces ideas only in the shade of the emotions that emanate from the heart. This means that through the ability for spiritual sensing it possesses, the heart dominates the entire organs, including the mind. Upon a rush of panic attack, the hands begin to shake and heartbeats increase. Just how externally motivated feelings of compassion, anger or love singlehandedly influence the willpower, thoughts and consequently behavior, is vividly observable in every mode of human behavior.

In terms of its spiritual dimension, the heart is like a compass for the real and the truth. This is a function it has been given by the Almighty. Yet, once detached from this dispositional function and steered towards a direction contrary to its reason of existence, it cannot avoid being dragged to the negative. Then, instead of saving the person in both Here and the Hereafter, it works towards his destruction. Subjecting the heart to influences that will guide it to its reason for existence, nurturing and developing the inherent capabilities it has for attaining Divine pleasure, therefore forms a vital side of human education.

In the Quran, Allah, glory unto Him, sends out a warning to us, His servants, not to allow the heart to deprive us of eternal happiness by being duped by the passing pleasures of the world: “O mankind! Surely the promise of Allah is true, therefore let not the life of the world deceive you, and let not the arch-deceiver deceive you respecting Allah.” (Fatir, 5)

Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- expresses the need for man to tighten the reins on his egoistic desires, not to stray from his essential purpose:

Do not look to overfeed your body and ripen it, for in the end it is but a sacrifice for earth. Look to feed your heart! That is the one to fly to soaring heights and receive honor.

Feed your body only little of greasy and sugary stuff. As those who feed the body in excess, fall in the pit of their desires and perish in disgrace.

Feed your spirit with foods spiritual. Serve it mature thought, a refined understanding and provisions of the spirit so that it can go to where it is bound to go, full of health and vigor.”

Luqman (a.s) similarly advises his son against heedlessness: “The world, my dear, is a bottomless sea that has drowned many an unwise scholar, and other alike, in its torrent. Let the frame of your ship be a contented faith in Allah, glory unto Him. Let your equipment be piety and worship. Let the sails of your ship, which will allow you to ride its waves, be trust in the Divine. Only by this means, I hope, you may attain salvation.” (Bayhaki, Kitab’uz-Zuhd, p. 73)

Being the center of the body as well as the center of spirituality, the heart holds an equal importance for both. Yet, since it is not so much the external appearance as it is the spirit that makes human beings who they are, the spiritual role exercised by the heart is greater than its physical role, in all its aspects. Owing to this spiritual characteristic, not to mention the subtle secrets and wisdoms it contains, the heart is the exclusive cause that enables the human being to attain to the meaning and virtue of ‘humanness’. This is the underlying wisdom behind the fact that faith (iman) is established through the affirmation of the heart, well before the confirmation of the tongue. Noteworthy is that, here, an affirmation of the heart is considered sufficient, rather than an acceptance by thought.

Just as man, considered as the essence of the universe, carries the joint tendencies and abilities towards good and evil, the sublime and the lowly owing to his natural disposition, the heart, which is the essence of man, endures these opposite tendencies and abilities. As open as he is to angelic influences, man is also at the disposal devilish interventions. It could be said that the heart is the battlefield of good and evil, piety and impiety, forces both angelic and devilish. Hearts tremble to the sound of angelic and devilish influences until man breathes his last.

As for the heart being at the disposal of angelic and devilish influences: Angelic influences impart onto the heart spiritual impressions like faith, pleasant traits, righteous deeds, compassion and a quality of worship. As for devilish influences, they inject into it bad conditions like blasphemy (kufr), doubt, immorality, lust and desire. Only through worshipping and the remembrance of the Divine (dhikrullah) may Shaytan be expelled from the heart. Through the remembrance of the Almighty, hearts find their peaceful ground; and having found that peace through dhikr, faith becomes deeply entrenched in it, elevating the heart to the most sublime level of contentedness. And there comes a moment when the heart opens up from within, just like a drape, and the mysteries of the realms of the conceivable (nasut) and the inconceivable (lahut) lay bare and exposed. The universe, with all its mysteries, turn into a book waiting to be read.

Being the battlefield of angelic and devilish tendencies, the heart has an active and impulsive structure, ever-ready to join the ranks of the victor and embody its characteristics. The heart is different from the other organs in terms of submitting and surrendering to the will. Its natural predisposal towards both good and evil is activated not so much by internal influences as by external influences. In other words, emotions come to life not through ideas that spontaneously appear in the heart (which are called sunuhat) but through external factors. In this sense, the heart is like water that assumes the shape and color of its container. People of spirit, however, opt for the positive tendencies within the heart, whereby they are delivered to the land of peace.

It is stated in the Quran:

“O you who believe! Fear Allah and be with those who are true (in word and deed).” (at-Tawba, 119)

“And when thou seest those who meddle with Our revelations, withdraw from them until they meddle with another topic. And if the devil cause thee to forget, sit not, after the remembrance, with the congregation of wrong-doers” (al-Anam, 68)

“And indeed He has revealed to you in the Book that when you hear Allah’s communications disbelieved in and mocked at do not sit with them until they enter into some other discourse; surely then you would be like them; surely Allah will gather together the hypocrites and the unbelievers all in hell.” (an-Nisa, 140)

The will comes into play right at the beginning, to determine and choose between positive and negative influences that will have a bearing on the heart. Shaped according to the influences it is exposed to, the heart in this sense is like a weather vane placed on rooftops. Literally, qalb does mean to turn something into its opposite and to change in shape and color, which only reinforces this said characteristic of the heart, man’s most central organ.  So reveals a hadith: “The heart is like a feather on an empty plane, swung about hither and thither by the blowing winds.” (Ibn Majah, Muqaddimah, 10; Ahmed ibn Hanbal, Musnad, IV, 408)

The below incident clearly points to the “changing” nature of the heart:

Abu Bakr -Allah be well-pleased with him- one day came across Hanzala -Allah be well-pleased with him- and asked him how he was. Hanzala replied, in a fretful tone, “Hanzala has become a hypocrite!”

“Subhanallah”, replied Abu Bakr –-Allah be well-pleased with him–. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“When we are in the company of the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace-”, explained Hanzala -Allah be well-pleased with him-, “he reminds us of Heaven and Hell and we become so deeply affected that we virtually see Heaven and Hell before our very own eyes. But once we return to our families and become carried away in earning our living, we neglect most of what we hear.”

“Truly, I sometimes feel the same”, confessed Abu Bakr -Allah be well-pleased with him-. They thereupon went to the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- and informed him of their anxiety. The Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- said:

“By Allah, in whose Hand of Might my life lies, if you were able to maintain the state of mind you have whilst in my company and be in a constant state of dhikr, angels would have held you by the hands, while asleep and when walking about.” He then added, three times:

“Sometimes it is like this, Hanzala, and sometimes like that!” (Muslim, Tawbah, 12) 

The continuation of life demands that servanthood, filled with and motivated by the truths and mysteries of the Hereafter, and the pursuits of life, go hand in hand.

Such is how the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- sheds light on the heart’s talwin, its quality of fluctuating from one state to another. One of the main objectives of tasawwuf is to transform this talwin to tamkin, or stability, as much as possible through the refreshment provided by sohbah (Islamic conversation) and dhikr; to turn the heart towards the Divine direction and stabilize it thereon. Among the Companions, Abu Bakr -Allah be well-pleased with him- provides the best example of this state of mind. His unshakable conviction of heart in affirming the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- with regard to the Miraj, without the least hesitation, can only be explained with the stability his heart had acquired by then.

The idolaters had erupted in a storm of denial concerning the Miraj. They wanted to sow the seeds of doubt in Muslim hearts and thereby turn them away from their faith. So, just as they went to numerous Companions to tell them what they thought of the Miraj, they also went to Abu Bakr -Allah be well-pleased with him-: “Have you heard the latest? Your friend says he rose to the skies”, they said mockingly. “What do say about that?”

A man with an ecstatic level of iman, Abu Bakr -Allah be well-pleased with him- then uttered the magnificent words of loyalty; words the idolaters could never imagine hearing. They only added misery to their hopeless condition: “Whatever he says is true for he never speaks a lie. Whatever it is that he says I believe him instantly!” (Ibn Hisham, as-Sirah, II, 31)

Angels are only disposed towards the good; that is how they were created. Devils work only for evil, towards deviating. Human beings are positioned right between these two beings. Safeguarding their hearts from immoderation, human beings must avoid lowering themselves into a devilish state. This does not mean they should try to overdo themselves beyond human capability in hope of attaining an angelic status. Moderation is what natural predisposition demands.

The inevitable death and the eternal beyond should be humankind’s greatest concern and the objects of their greatest endeavors. Only by knowing the reality of the heart, protecting it from evil and subjecting it to spiritual influences is this possible. Balance and peace on Earth and happiness and salvation in the Hereafter depends on having a refined heart (al-qalbu’s-salim), a heart that is on the purifying path of Islam, having retained its pure traits that come from natural disposition (fitrah). As indicated by the words of the Beloved Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-: “Every child is born upon the fitrah (of Islam). His parents then turn the child into a Christian, a Jew or a Magean…” (Muslim, Qadar, 22), the dispositional and natural structure of the heart is upon Islam right from the beginning. It is when the heart is exposed to negative influences that destroy its natural structure that the possibility of its deviation arises.

In contrast, hearts filled with spiritual manifestations through the waft of the inspiring air of spirituality develop good morals, righteous deeds and spiritual states. Only in this way does one gain insight into the mystery of ‘ahsan-i taqwim[1] inherent in his disposition, which is when his perception of beings and surrounding events gains depth and prudence. And this means that the curtains are lifted from his ‘heart’s eye’, alluded to by the Quran[2], allowing it to gaze beyond. Undoubtedly, this vision pertains to realities beyond the field of physical vision.

Those whose heart’s eyes have a potential of becoming opened, eagerly desire spiritual training and enlightening and exert a serious effort to advance in the way of the Real. But those who have no genuine desire, those oblivious from the desire to attain to spiritual certainty, turn a blind eye on the advices of prophets and saints. With a stubborn arrogance, they become more wicked, as they sink more and more in their dark swamps of ignorance. They pity the blind who cannot find their own way except through the help of another, yet they have absolutely no idea of their own spiritual blindness.

With a tendency towards both the positive and the negative, man is endowed with a will and power to choose in this world of trial in which he is subject to Divine commands and prohibitions. It is the lines of direction (istiqamah), be it positive or negative, embedded in the heart, that determine how the will and power to choose is to become manifest. On the other hand, the incontestable fact stands that the heart, weighed down by many external influences and egoistic tendencies, does distance itself, time and again, from its reason of existence, jeopardizing one’s eternal future.

Hearts dominated by their accompanying egos are filled with unbelief, immorality, lustful desires and provoking whispers (waswasah). Such hearts have turned against their reason of existence. Blinded towards the sublime, they have an insatiable appetite towards the lowly. More bewildered than beasts[3] in the words of the Quran, they squander their lives in their illusions of ignorance. Hearts of this kind are diseased, in desperate need of treatment.

Our behavior reflects the mood of our hearts. We behave according to its ebbs and flows.

 

2. THE TYPES OF HEARTS

In the most general sense, hearts can be classified under three types:

a- Hearts that maintain their purpose and dignity of creation.

b- Sealed and dead hearts

c- Diseased and unmindful hearts.

a- Hearts that Maintain Their Purpose and Dignity of Creation

These are hearts that have awoken from ignorance through dhikr. Here, the spirit reigns supreme over the ego and the heart is inundated with the light of faith. Persons blessed with hearts of the kind have been effective in fulfilling what they have been called upon in the below ayah:

“O ye who believe! Remember Allah with much remembrance.” (al-Ahzab, 41)

“And remember the name of your Lord and devote yourself to Him with (exclusive) devotion.” (al-Muzzammil, 8)

“Men whom neither merchandise nor selling diverts from the remembrance of Allah and the keeping up of prayer and the giving of poor-rate; they fear a day in which the hearts and eyes shall turn about;” (an-Nur, 37)

In hearts that have acquired such a blend, the manifestation of the Divine names of beauty (jamal) overpowers those of wrath (jalal). People with hearts of this kind attain maturity through embodying the morals of Allah, glory unto Him, the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- and the Holy Quran. These are hearts that have shed their egoistic tendencies through the grace of the love felt for Allah and His Messenger, hearts for which nothing else matters. Such hearts are referred to in the Quran as a flawless heart (qalb salim), a penitent heart (qalb munib) and a contended heart (qalb mutmain). Accepted in the sight of the Divine, these hearts may be explained as follows:

A flawless heart (qalb salim) is a heart protected or purged from the assaults of the ego. It is the heart given to man, by the Lord, accompanied by a clean predisposition, on the condition that both are protected. The heart may reach this state of refinement only through the Sufi methods known as the purification of the soul and the purification of the heart. The servant is thereby freed from the crass and heavy domination of sins and is ushered to the lightness of spirituality. Just as a myriad of beams that shine onto a lens condense themselves in a single spot to start a fire on the other side, a condensed spirituality in a heart immersed in Divine lights, burns all sins and desires of the ego to ashes. This is a sign of the attainment of a flawless heart, the very heart that will be accepted in the presence of the Real. About this the Quran states: “The day on which property will not avail, nor son. Except him who comes to Allah with a heart free (from evil).” (as-Shuara, 88-89)

Poet Ruhi of Baghdad echoes this in the below couplet:

Think not, merchant, you will be asked for gold or silver for bail,
Only a flawless heart, on a Day when nothing else shall avail…

A penitent heart (qalb munib) is a heart that is constantly turned to the Lord. Liberated from the captivity of mortal interests, it luxuriates in the zests of the eternal land, lovingly and enthusiastically. This heart shivers in the excitement of experiencing the Divine flows of power. The ayah declares: “This is what you were promised, (it is) for everyone who turns frequently (to Allah), keeps (His limits); who fears the Beneficent Allah in secret and comes with a penitent heart” (Qaf, 32-33)

A contented heart (qalb-i mutmain) is a heart that has covered distance towards the perfecting of good morals, under the peaceful shade of iman. Deeds of worship are no longer imitative (taqlidi); they have become comprehended at their core (tahqiqi) and executed in like manner. The heart is illumined through dhikr and the ego has laid down its guns to spirituality. The gem of iman is irremovably entrenched in the heart, the center of spiritual sensing. With a comprehended faith (iman-i tahqiqi) and contentedness, the heart has found peace and stability. The state referred to in the Quran:

اَلاَ بِذِكْرِ اللّٰهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ

“…Now surely by Allah’s remembrance are the hearts set at rest.” (ar-Rad, 28) is now fully realized. The implicit meaning of this ayah is that hearts distant from the remembrance of Allah, glory unto Him, will forever suffer the pain of their discontent and remain distant from attaining the true peace of mind.

The marks of those who carry one of the three types of hearts mentioned are that they are delicate, compassionate towards creation, content with the given circumstances and provide service in the way of the Truth and the good. Filled with the zest of Divine Love, they flee evil and run to the guidance of others, to the point of shedding tears on their behalf.

The asset needed to ensure that the heart attains to this blend, is genuine prayer and repentance and care to consume only the halal, the permissible. Protecting this asset, on the other hand, is possible only with righteous deeds. Being the human beings we are, it is impossible to steer entirely clear from sins. Yet, since sins reduce the sensitivity of the heart, rendering it spiritually blind and deaf towards the Truth, it is necessary to hold fast to sincere prayer and repentance for the heart to become the focal point of positive manifestations. Not for no reason do lessons of tasawwuf begin with repentance. As stated in the famous Majalla principle: “Repelling mischief is preferable to acquiring benefit.” That is to say, repelling evil has greater priority over obtaining the good.

As regards eating only the halal, Sufis have said: “Allah enlightens the heart of him, who eats only what is halal, and flows the springs of wisdom onto his heart.” Righteous deeds, on the other hand, ensure that the heart keeps possession of the level acquired. The special compliments that come from the Lord are relevant only for those in possession of hearts of this kind, and above these are the lively hearts, endowed with the light of the Lord, which belong to prophets and great saints. As their hearts are revived by Divine Love, they do not look at either this world or the Hereafter, desirously, not even with the corner of their eyes. Allah, glory unto Him, has made prophets and their heirs, scholars and saints, inviters of humankind to darussalam[4] through reviving and helping them lift the veils covering their hearts, encouraging them with moral conduct and sincere deeds of worship and guiding them, thereby, to unite with their Lord (wasl ila-Allah).

The level desired from the salik, the aspirer, at the end this training of the heart, is for his heart to attain to ihsan, which is the consciousness of being with the Lord at all times, and in so doing, earn for himself an ‘alive heart.’

b- Sealed and Dead Hearts

These are the total opposite of hearts revived through the remembrance of the Lord. The gates of faith are slammed shut for these hearts; they are sealed and dead. They are no different than some graves described as pits from Hellfire. Such hearts are the stark contrast of the hearts of prophets, saints and the righteous. Owners of these hearts, desiring nothing other than pleasures egoistic, see no other purpose in life than to eat, drink and waste their years chasing short-lived ambitions. In terms of their purpose, they are no better off than animals; some are even worse. Allah, glory unto Him, declares:

“Surely Allah will make those who believe and do good enter gardens beneath which rivers flow; and those who disbelieve enjoy themselves and eat as the beasts eat, and the fire is their abode.” (Muhammad, 12)

And in another ayah:

“Or do you think that most of them do hear or understand? They are nothing but as cattle; nay, they are straying farther off from the path.” (al-Furqan, 44)

Reserved only for egoistic ambitions and desires, the lives of such people pass amid an eternal torment. Awaiting them in the Hereafter, on the other hand, is an inexpressible disaster, set to continue until eternity. Such people are oblivious to the mysteries of life, man, and the meaningful patterns embroidered in the universe. Not only are they deviated themselves, they also deviate others over whom they exert influence. Despite living on the property of the Almighty and amid His blessings, they revel in the ungratefulness of denying His existence and violate His commands and prohibitions. Regarding people of the kind, Allah, glory unto Him, states:

“Does not man see that We have created him from the small seed? Then lo! he is an open disputant. ” (Yasin, 77)

“Deaf, dumb (and) blind, so they will not turn back.” (al-Baqara, 18)

“Surely you do not make the dead to hear, and you do not make the deaf to hear the call when they go back retreating. Nor can you be a guide to the blind out of their error; you cannot make to bear (any one) except those who believe in Our communications, so they submit.” (an-Naml, 80-81)

That the hearts of such persons are sealed and locked is a fact established by the Quran:

خَتَمَ اللّٰهُ عَلٰى قُلُوبِهِمْ وَ عَلٰى سَمْعِهِمْ وَ عَلٰى اَبْصَارِهِمْ غِشَاوَةٌ

وَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ

“Allah has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing and there is a covering over their eyes, and there is a great punishment for them.” (al-Baqara, 7)

This is a Divine mystery and wisdom profound enough to leave entire humankind in tremor. As the human being has a share of the Divine names Hadi, the Guider, and Mudill, the Disgracer, it is unthinkable for someone’s heart to be sealed by Divine Will in the absolute sense and have the gates of guidance shut on him while still alive. For these gates were not shut even on Omar -Allah be well-pleased with him-, who had set out with the callous intent of murdering the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- or Wahshi, the murderer of Hamza -Allah be well-pleased with him- or even Hind who viciously mutilated his corpse and sunk her teeth into his liver.

Although the Quran makes mention of people whose hearts have been sealed, it is impossible to identify them, one-by-one, in everyday life, as the condition in which people will die remains a mystery. Like the Pharaoh’s magicians, there are some who lead a deviated life only to find guidance in their final years, just as there are some who lead a guided life yet end up among the deviated, as were the cases of Qarun and Balaam ibn Baura.

The point that requires attention here is that the persons mentioned by the Quran as having sealed hearts are mostly among those who engage in sins like oppression (zulm), disbelief (kufr) and perversity (fisq). The Quran states on twenty-six occasions that “Allah will never lead to guidance”, those who possess these characteristics. Twelve of these are in reference to oppressors, eight to disbelievers, and six to the perverse. The door of guidance, however, is still open to those who abandon these sins and turn to the Lord with a genuine heart.

As for those who adamantly continue their wicked ways; they are the most miserable of all, sentenced to the greatest punishment on Earth by having their hearts sealed while still alive and breathing. Although the fact that the Quran mentions these three sins in tandem with being deprived from guidance does provide us with a clue as to the secret behind the sealing of hearts, it is best to leave the truth of it to the Almighty. However, we can infer from here the need to show greater care in avoiding these three sins. We avoid plunging deeper into the issue here, as the mystery of fate, owing to many underlying wisdoms, has been kept secret and probing it has therefore not been recommended.

Whatever the underlying wisdom of it may be, an incontestable truth still stands: hearts that have been sealed and locked are closed to the Truth and the good, and belong to those who have severed all ties with humaneness and spirituality. The only Power that could lift the seal and break the lock of their hearts is the Lord, whom they have long forgotten. Warning us, His servants, against falling into such irreparable neglect, Allah, glory unto Him, reminds: “And be ye not like those who forgot Allah; and He made them forget their own souls! Such are the rebellious transgressors!” (al-Hashr, 19) Underlined here is the fact that those who have forgotten the Lord lack the force to be conscious of even their own selves.

Because of their bestial and egoistic desires, hearts which are blinded to the truth either reject offhand the recipes of salvation and flames of guidance extended to them by prophets and saints or turn a cold shoulder to them. They deceptively console themselves by visualizing a make-believe world where there is no death and the Hereafter and try to find comfort therein. Just as bats naturally enjoy the dark, these kinds of people take misery for happiness, dominated by the negativities inherent in their characters. Their bodies are a burden on them, reminiscent of a couplet of poet Mehmed Akif:

Faith is that gem…and Lord, what great weight it is,
A rusted heart devoid of faith, a burden on the chest it is

Those who are bogged in the swamp of the ego will surely be awaken to the realm of reality with the tremendous quakes of the final moment of life and the fiery blows of the angel of death. Yet, it will serve them no benefit, as the period given the son of Adam to awake ceases the moment he sees the angel of death right before him. With that moment, the opportunity is forever lost. Remorse at that moment is too little too late, just like the belated acceptance of the Pharaoh and his subsequent prostration whilst in the throes of death. The doom awaiting such people thereafter is the lap of the raging flames of Hellfire, whose appetite for destruction only increases the more it is fed.

c. Diseased and Unmindful Hearts

They stand at the middle point between hearts that are alive and hearts that are dead. Their conditions resemble the painful lives of those suffering from illness. Neither do they have harmony in life nor inner peace. Their inner instability reflects negatively onto their outer existence and the disharmony of their outer existence takes its toll on their inner stability. The disorder in their minds reflects onto their behavior and actions. Such diseased hearts, which stagger amid the whirlpools of doubt, indecision and inconsistency, are always under the threat of falling into immorality, owing to their ignorance, lust and nagging desires. About them, the Almighty states: “In their hearts is a disease; and Allah has increased their disease: And grievous is the penalty they incur, because they are false to themselves.” (al-Baqara, 10)

Stemming from an inability to land on the branch of truth, doubt is the disease that deprives one from a spiritual life and smites the heart with pangs of death. Again, lack of a consistency of faith that would bring the heart satisfaction afflicts them with the constant illness of unrest.

Ignorance is an utter blindness and a painful, dark road that does not allow one even to realize the pain of being deprived from the Truth. This disease spreads to their entire existence, steering them to walk a path that ends in absolute defeat and disaster.

Lust and desire is the disease of insatiability that seizes total control of the heart, as a result of it losing its refined nature and becoming unresponsive. It is a delirious obsession that will come to rest only under the dark soil of the grave, beneath the dense cypress shade.

Immorality is the spiritual cancer of the heart. If treated in time, Allah willing, it can be cured.

Hardness is another terrifying disease of the heart:  the indifference to humane emotions and the delicate touches of spiritual reflections. These hearts know nothing of obeying; they play deaf to the sounds of guidance and have no notion of mercy and compassion. Even stones are softer, warmer and lovelier than these hearts, as stated by the Almighty in the Quran: “Then your hearts hardened after that, so that they were like rocks, rather worse in hardness; and surely there are some rocks from which streams burst forth, and surely there are some of them which split asunder so water issues out of them, and surely there are some of them which fall down for fear of Allah, and Allah is not at all heedless of what you do.” (al-Baqara, 74)

As can be gathered from the ayah, hardheartedness is a natural outcome of forgetting the Lord and falling distant, for too long, from Divine truths. The Almighty says, in another ayah: “What! Is he whose heart Allah has opened for Islam so that he is in a light from his Lord (like the hard-hearted)? Nay, woe to those whose hearts are hard against the remembrance of Allah; those are in clear error.” (az-Zumar, 22)

Deeds offered with diseased and unmindful hearts lose their value in the sight of the Lord. Without the light of the Truth, hearts become blind, unresponsive. They can no longer recognize the innumerable patterns and signs of the universe that reveal Divine mysteries. Allah, glory unto Him, declares: “Have they not travelled in the land so that they should have hearts with which to understand, or ears with which to hear? For surely it is not the eyes that are blind, but blind are the hearts which are in the breasts.” (al-Hajj, 46) An insightful gaze thus stimulates the heart. The window of the eye is of no benefit unless it looks with the light of the heart, as it is impossible to behold a clear vision behind a foggy window.

Even the small diseases of the heart, often overlooked, can cause the heart irreparable damage and even its death. Therefore, it is necessary to safeguard hearts with a diligent faith and submit it to the Will of the Lord. No-one other than the Lord will guide and steer a person who has fully submitted to the Creator. The below hadith beautifully expresses the necessity of protecting the heart:

أَلاَوَإِنَّفِىالْجَسَدِمُضْغَةًإِذَاصَلَحَتْصَلَحَالْجَسَدُكُلُّهُ

وَإِذَا فَسَدَتْ فَسَدَ الْجَسَدُ كُلُّهُ أَلاَ وَهِىَ الْقَلْبُ

“Be aware that there is a piece of flesh inside the body; if good so is the entire body and if corrupted, so is the entire body. And that is the heart!” (Bukhari, Iman, 39)

The world is the Lord’s valley of trial and error. There blow on it various winds of trial, dragging the heart from one place to another.

Protecting the heart is necessary to prevent the heart from being swept away, like a dry leaf, before the assorted winds of events, which naturally blow as a result of the world being a land of trial. What is required is to submit the heart to the sweet zephyrs that breeze from the way of the Lord’s Divine aid and support; and this is possible only by seeking refuge in Him, obeying and submitting to His commands and prohibitions.

The heart is like lucid water. But once muddied with evil deeds and sins it becomes murky. It then becomes necessary to distill it, for it to show the pearls of spirituality and the lights of truth in its bedrock.

 

3. THE PURIFICATION OF THE HEART

The main conditions of maintaining the characteristics of a flawless, penitent and contented heart, curing diseased hearts and avoiding the doom of sealed hearts, are:

a. Halal food.

b. Repentance and prayer.

c. Reading the Quran and obeying its commands.

d. Worshipping with utmost concentration (khushuu).

e. Reviving the nights through worship.

f. An unrelenting love of the Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- and expressing that love constantly through salawat.

h. Contemplating death.

i. Being in the company of the pious and the righteous.

j. Embodying good morals.

k. Gazing at the Universe through a Purified Heart

To begin with, it is vital to come to a correct understanding of the nature and importance of these conditions, whose genuine and eager practice is essential.

a. Halal Food

“Brothers…Don’t you be thinking you will obtain a speck of wisdom so long as you eat what is haram.”
Ibrahim Dasuki -may Allah sanctify his secret-

As much as they depend on spiritual foods that nourish the spirit, deeds of worship also depend on the strength and vivacity obtained from physical foods. While halal foods inject the body with spirituality and inspiration, haram and doubtful foods, their direct opposites, reflect onto it gloom, density and neglect. There is a strong connection between halal foods and righteous deeds. The consumption of halal foods play a great role in the acceptance of prayers, as is expressed by the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-: “People…Allah the Almighty is undoubtedly Pure and Clean. He therefore accepts nothing but what is pure and clean. He has enjoined the believers what He has enjoined the prophets:

“O messengers! Eat of the good things and do good; surely I know what you do” (al-Muminun, 51)

“O you who believe! Eat of the good things that We have provided you with, and give thanks to Allah if Him it is that you serve.” (al-Baqara, 172)

After quoting these ayat, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- spoke about a man with unkempt hair and dusted all over from the strain of a long journey, who lifts his hands aloft and prays, ‘My Lord…My Lord’, and added: “How will his prayers be responded to, when what he eats, drinks and clothes himself with is haram?” (Muslim, Zakat, 65)

For the spiritual progress of their hearts, Sufis are extremely careful with regard to two things, as is conveyed in the saying: “Beware of what goes inside your mouth when you eat and what comes out of it when you speak!”

The below hadith succinctly yet beautifully reminds us of the level of precaution we need to take in regard to the halal and the haram.

“Doubtless, the halal has been made clear and so has the haram. But between the two, there are certain doubtful things, unknown to most. Whosoever avoids the doubtful will have protected his religion and integrity. And whosoever does not refrain from the doubtful will in time fall into haram. Just like a shepherd grazing his herd around somebody else’s grove…there is always the danger that the herd will trespass. Beware that every king has a grove whose entrance is forbidden. The forbidden grove of Allah is what is haram.” (Bukhari, Iman, 39)

Hearts that willingly submit to and obey the Lord’s command become riverbeds of wisdom and spiritual enlightenment. In contrast, hearts unprotected from the haram and the doubtful turn into shelters of evil and immorality, through and through. The following examples provide enormous lessons on the importance of sensitive conduct concerning this issue:

Abu Bakr -Allah be well-pleased with him- had a slave. The slave would hand Abu Bakr -Allah be well-pleased with him- a certain amount of what he would earn for him to put to personal use. One day the slave, again, brought some food to Abu Bakr -Allah be well-pleased with him-, who began to eat them. That was when the slave abruptly asked, “Do you know what it is that you are eating?”

“No, I don’t. Why don’t you tell me?” responded he.

“Though I know nothing of soothsaying”, the slave began to explain, “I had once soothsaid and conned this man during my Jahiliya days. I bumped into him today and he just happened to pay me with what you are eating right now!”

Immediately upon hearing this, Abu Bakr -Allah be well-pleased with him- poked his throat with his finger, and despite all the discomfort, vomited what he had eaten. (Bukhari, Manaqibu’l-Ansar, 26)

According to another report, the slave thereupon remarked, “Was this worth the trouble over just one single morsel?” Abu Bakr -Allah be well-pleased with him- replied, “Even if I had known I would die in the process, I still would have taken that morsel out.” (Ahmad ibn Abdullah at-Tabari, ar-Riyadu’n-Nadra, II, 140-141)

Also meaningful is the conversation that took place between Khidr (a.s) and Abdulkhaliq Gujdawani -may Allah sanctify his secret-, during the former’s visit to the latter.  Khidr (a.s) does not touch the foods served to him by Abdulkhaliq Gujdawani (k.s) and draws back from the table.

“These are halal. Why are you not eating?” the astonished Gujdawani (k.s) asks him.

“True, they are halal”, replies Khidr (a.s). “But whoever prepared them has done so with anger and ignorance.”

Judging from these examples, over and above the question of whether what is eaten is halal or haram, the state-of-mind in which the food is prepared also has a bearing on a person’s psyche, behavior and the quality of his deeds of worship. This only serves to further underline the importance of the delicate approach that needs to be taken towards food.

Their sensitivity towards food led the righteous to cover the edibles they bought from the market or elsewhere, while carrying them home. This is to prevent hankering eyes ‘from hanging upon the food’ and the yearnings of the poor and the craving stares of the underprivileged from having a negative impact on the energy and strength hoped to be acquired from the food.

As well as staying away from the haram and the doubtful, a believer must also maintain the balance and avoid waste whilst consuming the halal. The ayah commands: “And give to the near of kin his due and (to) the needy and the wayfarer, and do not squander wastefully. Surely the squanderers are the fellows of the Shaitans and the Shaitan is ever ungrateful to his Lord.” (al-Isra, 26-27)

 Using his metaphorical tone, Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret-, in his Mathnawi, gives voice to the effects of halal food on the spirit and the body:

“Our spiritual enlightenment came in a different form last night, as a few morsels of doubtful food that found their way in the stomach, blocked the way of spiritual enlightenment.

Doubtful foods, which the ego desires, are like spikes in your foot that prevent you from the path of the Real. That is why those who took no notice of what they ate soon joined the rebellious.

O body! You have such a beautiful rose in you that if you protect it, countless rose gardens of wisdom and marifa will form around, just from the fragrances it emits.”

Below are similar words from Abdulqadir Jilani -may Allah sanctify his secret-, in emphasis of the importance of halal food in purifying the heart:

“Listen, my child! Haram food kills the heart. There are morsels that light up your heart and there are morsels that suffocate it in darkness. Again, there morsels that will keep you occupied with the world and there are others that will keep you occupied with the Hereafter. There are morsels that will turn you into a devotee of both worlds; there are morsels that will direct you to the Creator of both worlds. Eating what is haram will keep you busy with the world and make yours sins appear acceptable to you. Eating what is mubah (licit) will keep you busy with the Hereafter and endear worshipping to you. Eating halal on the other hand will draw you closer to the Lord. Only with marifatullah (knowledge of Allah) may one know the nature and influence of foods. And marifatullah is written only in the heart, not in the pages of books. Marifatullah is injected into the heart by the Creator, not the created. And this happens only after affirming the Unity of Allah and putting to practice the Divine commands.”

Ibrahim Dasuki -may Allah sanctify his secret- speaks in a similar tone: “Brothers…Don’t you be thinking you will obtain a speck of wisdom, so long as you eat what is haram.”

Also noteworthy is the below words Sayyid Qasim Tabrizi -may Allah sanctify his secret- on eating what is halal, recounted by Ubaydullah Ahrar -may Allah sanctify his secret-:

“Sayyid Qasim one day said to me, ‘Do you know why wisdom and truth displays itself only rarely these days? It is because there are just a handful of people who have purified their inner worlds. Perfection lies in the purification of the inner. And that is possible only by eating halal. Halal food is very scarce these days and there is almost nobody who has achieved inner purification. What else! How do you expect Divine mysteries to transpire in them?’” 

b. Repentance and Prayer

“Say: My Lord would not care for you were it not for your prayer…” (al-Furqan, 77)

The entirety of saints, the pious and the righteous, and above all prophets, have always sought refuge in Allah, glory onto Him, and prayed to Him, in good times and bad. Since even prophets have minor slipups (dhalla)[5], it is unthinkable for anyone to remain in no need of repentance and prayer. As repentance and prayer mean a remorse and supplication of the profoundest kind, it is the most influential means of drawing closer to the Lord. Indeed, one of the underlying wisdoms of the fact that the five daily prayers are referred to with the term salat, meaning ‘prayer’ in Arabic, is due to it being the most comprehensive form of prayer and supplication.

Prayer is preceded by repentance; seeking forgiveness from the Lord. If, of the required nature, that is, if the repentance over the sin committed comes with a sincere remorse and a stern resolution of never again recommitting it, it does away with the dirt and rust that blinds the heart and turns it into a crystal clear mirror reflecting the truth. Only in this manner does the heart become receptive to spiritual enlightenment.

An expression of how the heart, darkened from sins, is lit up through repentance is the meaningful hadith of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- below: “When a servant commits a sin, a black dot is struck onto his heart. If he abandons that sin and turns to repentance, his heart is polished. But if he does not do so and returns to committing the sin, the black dots grow and eventually cover the entire heart. This is exactly what Allah the Almighty refers to when He says:

كَلاَّ بَلْ ۔ رَانَ عَلٰى قُلُوبِهِمْ مَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ

‘Nay! Rather, what they used to do has become like rust upon their hearts.’ (al-Mutaffifin, 14) (Tirmidhi, Tafsir, 83)

On observing the world with the eye of the heart, we find that all creatures are in a state of admitting to their helplessness, before giving thanks to what the Lord provides them in their own peculiar ways. For the son of Adam, who cannot exercise his willpower without somehow falling into error, repentance is the first step of taqarrub, drawing closer to the Lord.

With a nature to attract Divine Mercy, prayer is enormously influential in protecting a person from likely tribulations. As aforementioned, it is for that reason that, in all Sufi orders, the spiritual lesson begins with repentance. On the importance of prayer, the Quran states:

قُلْ مَا يَعْبَؤُا بِكُمْ رَبِّى لَوْلاَ دُعَاؤُكُمْ

“Say: My Lord would not care for you were it not for your prayer…” (al-Furqan, 77)

“And when My servants ask you concerning Me, then surely I am very near; I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he calls on Me, so they should answer My call and believe in Me that they may walk in the right way. ” (al-Baqara, 186)

“Call on your Lord humbly and secretly; surely He does not love those who exceed the limits.” (al-Araf, 55)

The Beloved Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- says in the following ahadith: “There can be nothing more valuable in the sight of Allah than praying to him. Prayer is the essence of servanthood.” (Tirmidhi, Daawat, 1)

“Whosoever wants his prayers accepted during times of trouble should make lots of prayers during times of ease and comfort.” (Tirmidhi, Daawat, 9)

“Pray to Allah with the belief in its acceptance. Know that Allah the Almighty does not accept a prayer made with an unmindful heart.” (Tirmidhi, Daawat, 65)

Thus, supposing the acceptance of prayers made with an unmindful heart and in a sloppy manner is nothing but a deception of Shaytan. Imam Rabbani -may Allah sanctify his secret- says: “A war is won with the joint forces of two armies. One is the army of soldiers the other is the army of prayers.” Confirming this is how the Companions would ask for the prayers of the Students of the Suffa to complement their own, right before setting out for battle. The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- has stated: “There is no prayer more quickly accepted than the prayer a Muslim makes for another Muslim in his absence.” (Tirmidhi, Birr, 50)

People seek the prayers of those whom they believe will have their prayers accepted. Yet, the main factor in ensuring the acceptance of a prayer is not so much the standing of the person in Divine sight than it is the sincerity of the prayer itself. This means that a genuine prayer made by someone sinful on behalf of another Muslim is better than the reluctant prayer made by another, even if he be of a way higher standing in Divine Sight. Just because a man is sinful does not mean that the Lord has abandoned him; and God forbid us ever thinking that. Had that been the case, speaking about the sins of a sinful person would not have been considered backbiting (ghiybah), one of the great sins. Here, the value lies in winning the heart of a person, whoever he may be, and receiving his genuine, heartfelt prayers.

“What is the most accepted prayer?” the Companions once asked the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-. “The prayer made during the final hours of night and after each obligatory (fard) salat”, he replied. (Tirmidhi, Daawat, 78)

For the prayer to be accepted, it is not enough to simply pronounce it through words. The heart must shiver through thinking of the meanings ascribed to the word chose for the prayer; and if the prayer seeks forgiveness for a sin, it should be accompanied by a stern resolution not to make the same mistake again. In addition, uprightness (istiqamah) and righteous deeds are crucial for the prayers to find their way to Divine presence. Hence, the ayah: “Whoever desires honor, then to Allah belongs the honor wholly. To Him do ascend the good words; and the good deeds, lift them up, and (as for) those who plan evil deeds, they shall have a severe chastisement; and (as for) their plan, it shall perish.” (Fatir, 10)

It is necessary to, at least, try to pray in a state that is between fear (khawf) and hope (rajaa). Prayer and repentance delivers both individuals and society and prevents future disasters. For the prayer to be accepted and the heart to be cured from its diseases in the process, Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- recommends the following: “Pray and repent with a heart burning in the flame of remorse and with moist eyes; for flowers bloom in places sunny and moist!”

Repentance first began with the first prophet Adam (a.s), who prayed:

رَبَّنَاظَلَمْنَااَنْفُسَنَاوَاِنْلَمْتَغْفِرْلَنَا وَ تَرْحَمْنَا

لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ

“Our Lord! We have been unjust to ourselves, and if Thou forgive us not, and have (not) mercy on us, we shall certainly be of the losers.” (al-Araf, 23)  This prayer has set an example of repentance for his offspring to come until the Final Hour.

To awaken sleeping hearts and to provide them with a cure for their spiritual diseases, Allah, glory unto Him, invites His servants to repent, proclaiming: “O you who believe! turn to Allah a sincere turning; maybe your Lord will remove from you your evil and cause you to enter gardens beneath which rivers flow…” (at-Tahrim, 8)

Prayer and repentance are vital catalysts in making one turn to the Lord and elevating his heart to a grand level. Since the heart is vulnerable and exposed to numerous influences which may cause a ‘change of heart’, man has no other option than to hold fast to prayer, to ensure his heart remains firm on the path of guidance. Allah, glory unto Him, thus teaches us to repeat the below prayer:

رَبَّنَا لاَ تُزِغْ قُلُوبَنَا بَعْدَ اِذْ هَدَيْتَنَا وَ هَبْ لَنَا مِنْ لَدُنْكَ رَحْمَةً

اِنَّكَ اَنْتَ الْوَهَّابُ

“Our Lord! Make not our hearts to deviate after You have guided us aright, and grant us from Your mercy; surely You are the most liberal Giver…” (Al-i Imran, 8)

Repeating the gist of this Divine instruction throughout his life, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- would frequently pray:

يَا مُقَلِّبَ الْقُلُوبِ  ثَبِّتْ قَلْبِى عَلٰى دِينِكَ

“O He who transforms hearts! Stabilize my heart upon Your religion.” (Tirmidhi, Qadar, 7)

Prayer is one of the most important means of purifying the heart of its spiritual dirt. The below ayah reveals this beautifully: “And those who come after them say: Our Lord! forgive us and those of our brethren who had precedence of us in faith, and do not allow any spite to remain in our hearts towards those who believe, our Lord! Surely You are Kind, Merciful.” (al-Hashr, 10)

It is thus necessary first to clean the heart from all that is negative, which act as obstacles on its path of reaching the ultimate aim, and make the heart’s surface suitable for the ultimate goal to which it aspires. The following prayers of the Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- are splendid examples for the need to cleanse the heart of indifference and negative emotions:

“My Allah! I seek refuge in You from the knowledge that does not benefit, the heart that does not shiver, the soul never satisfied and the prayer never accepted!” (Muslim, Dhikr, 73)

“My Allah! Just as you cleanse white clothes from dirt, cleanse my heart from sins and make it pure!” (Bukhari, Daawat, 39)

Obtaining a flawless heart is possible only with the blessing of the Lord. In fact, Ibrahim (a.s), who was able to present to his Lord a flawless heart, had made the following prayer, in order not to be embarrassed on the Day of Resurrection: “And disgrace me not on the day when they are raised.The day on which property will not avail, nor sons…” (as-Shuara, 87-89)

In the footsteps of his great grandfather, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, too, made a similar prayer: “My Allah! I ask from you a tongue that speaks the truth and a flawless heart!” (Tirmidhi, Daawat, 23)

Equally important in prayer is repetition and persistence. It has become a method to repeat the prayer at least three times to show persistence. If sincere, the prayer is never  refused. Yet, some pleas, although sincere, are at times incompatible with the Divine Will over proceedings. Still, one ought to persist with the prayer free of weariness (futur), as the prayers unaccepted on Earth are sure to be compensated in the Hereafter.

c- Reading the Quran and Obeying Its Commands

Filling the heart with the Quran inspired wisdom depends on the spiritual level of our heart whilst reciting it.

Subjecting him to the Quran is undoubtedly one of the greatest blessings the Lord has bestowed upon man. The perfect measures for the true peace and stability of both the spirit and the body is found in the inspiring content of the Quran. Man’s happiness and salvation is possible to the extent of the share he embodies of these perfect measures. A person, who loses his inner balance by turning his back on the spirituality of the Quran instead of seeking refuge in it, has effectively laid waste on his human integrity. Responding to the greatest of all blessings with ungratefulness, he has brought about his own self-destruction in the maze of his desires and ambitions.

The Quran is a font of Divine wisdom that hands out cures and comfort to bleeding hearts and tired spirits. It is a generous Divine gift, holding the keys to welcoming the dreadful yet inevitable moment of death as a pathway, a wedding night (shab-i arus), for a believer to reach his Lord. The Glorious Lord presents His Divine Word to entire humankind in the following:

يَآاَيُّهَاالنَّاسُقَدْجَاءَتْكُمْمَوْعِظَةٌمِنْرَبِّكُمْ

وَشِفَاءٌ لِمَا فِى الصُّدُورِ وَ هُدًى وَ رَحْمَةٌ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ

“O men! There has come to you indeed an admonition from your Lord and a healing for what is in the breasts and a guidance and a mercy for the believers.” (Yunus, 57)

The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- says, in a hadith:

“Each feast holder desires people to attend his feast and is delighted by it. The Quran is the feast of Allah. Do not remain distant from it.” (Darimi, Fadailu’l-Quran, 1)

“Read the Quran…for Allah will not punish a heart which has the Quran in it.” (Darimi, Fadailu’l-Quran, 1)

“The true people of the Quran are the people of Allah…and they are His true servants.” (Hakim, Mustadrak, I, 743)[6]

Hearts distant from the remembrance of the Lord and from reading the Quran become hardened and depressed, as we can gather from the words of Abu Musa al-Ashari -Allah be well-pleased with him- to those who had come to visit him: “Continue reading the Quran! Do not, ever, leave it unread for a long period of time…otherwise your hearts will become hardened like those before you!” (Muslim, Zakat, 119)

The following incident goes to show how the Quran has an effect even on animals and angels:

“I was reading Surah Baqara one night. My horse was next to me, tied. But at one stage the horse began to rear up. I stopped reading and the horse calmed down. Then, I resumed reading but again the horse began to rear up once again as I read. Fearing he might be trampled under the horse’s hooves, I was forced to bring my little son Yahya closer to me. But then I looked up to the sky and saw spots that looked like lamps, which after a while, rose further up into the sky and disappeared from sight. In the morning, I told the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- of my experience.

‘Read Usayd, read,’ he said to me before asking, ‘do you know, Usayd, what those things were that you saw?’

‘No’, I replied.

‘They were angels who had come to listen to your recital of the Quran. Had you continued reading, they would have listened to you until daybreak. They would not have remained secret to other people either, they would have seen them clearly like you did.’” (Bukhari, Fadail’ul-Quran, 15)

The Quran was revealed to man; for to a man of heart it is a deep treasure of contemplation. Aloofness to the spirituality of the Quran means a sheer and absolute destruction. To those oblivious to the ocean of wisdom and mysteries that is the Quran, the Almighty states:

اَفَلاَيَتَدَبَّرُونَالْقُرْاٰنَاَمْ عَلٰى قُلُوبٍ اَقْفَالُهَا

“Will they then not meditate on the Qur’an, or are there locks on the hearts?” (Muhammad, 24)

The Quran is the manifestation of the names of Allah, glory unto Him, reflected onto our understanding in the form of speech. The Almighty expresses the Quran’s infinite majesty of meaning in the following ayah: “And were every tree that is in the earth (made into) pens and the sea (to supply it with ink), with seven more seas to increase it, the words of Allah would not come to an end; surely Allah is Mighty, Wise.” (Luqman, 27)

Filling our hearts with the Quran inspired wisdom depends on the spiritual level of the heart whilst reciting it. To attain to the truth of the Quran, it is therefore vital to raise the heart to the desired level, as the Quran has a nature that can both guide or divert a person, depending on the intention and spiritual level of the reader. Nonetheless, if recited in the appropriate manner, the ayat of the Quran produce a gush of spiritual excitement in believers’ hearts. So states the Almighty:

 “Allah has revealed the best announcement, a book conformable in its various parts, repeating, whereat do shudder the skins of those who fear their Lord, then their skins and their hearts become pliant to the remembrance of Allah; this is Allah’s guidance, He guides with it whom He pleases; and (as for) him whom Allah makes err, there is no guide for him.” (az-Zumar, 23)

“Those only are believers whose hearts become full of fear when Allah is mentioned, and when His communications are recited to them they increase them in faith, and in their Lord do they trust.” (al-Anfal, 2)

The first condition of properly benefiting from the Quran is to approach it with respect; a kind of respect that shows the importance attached to the Word of Allah, glory unto Him. Comprising the entirety of truths and insights into all mysteries to serve the needs of humankind until the Final Hour, the Quran is undoubtedly a magnificent guide. This characteristic of the Quran is highlighted by the Almighty Himself: “Surely this Quran guides to that which is most upright and gives good news to the believers who do good that they shall have a great reward.” (al-Isra, 9)

As the Quran is a Divine Book whose role as a guide is set to continue until the Final Hour, all Muslims under its guiding light are obliged to lead a Quranic way of life until death comes knocking to lead them to the life of eternity. Attaining spiritual happiness and salvation here and the pleasure of the Lord and His blessings in the Hereafter, is possible only in this manner.

Properly benefiting from the Quran is possible only to the extent that it is read with the heart. This is wonderfully expressed in the following reply of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, upon being asked about the preferred voice and manner of reciting the Quran to look out for when listening to it: “The recitation of the who, when reads, evokes in you the feeling that he fears Allah.” (Darimi, Fadailu’l-Quran, 34)  Indeed, it was the wonderful recitation of the Quran at the home of his sister Fatima -Allah be well-pleased with him-a that stirred up feelings of awe in Omar -Allah be well-pleased with him- and guided him to the Truth.

The below ayat shed light on the proper manner of reading the Quran:

“A Book We have revealed to you abounding in good that they may ponder over its verses, and that those endowed with understanding may be mindful.” (Sad, 29)

“…and recite the Qur’an in slow, measured rhythmic tones.” (al-Muzzammil, 4)

Reportedly, Omar -Allah be well-pleased with him- completed reading surah Baqara in exactly twelve years and sacrificed a camel in thanksgiving after he did. (Qurtubi, al-Jami, I, 40) It similarly took Abdullah ibn Omar -Allah be well-pleased with him- eight years to complete reading the same surah. (Muwattaa, Quran, 11)

Upon learning ten ayat from the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, the Companions would never proceed onto the next ten before thoroughly understanding and putting to practice the wisdoms and commands contained therein. In doing so, they embodied the knowledge of the Quran and gradually perfected themselves with its wisdom. (Ahmed, V, 410)

What these examples make clear is that whilst reading the Quran, one must not just pronounce the words but rather seek to acquire a share of its inner wisdoms, which allows one to devotedly obey its commands and embody its morals.

It should be borne in mind that the Ottomans, who, after the Age of Bliss, typify the most outstanding level of Islam, owe this honor to the blessings of an exceptional conduct of respect towards the Quran. It is common knowledge in history that Osman Ghazi, the founder of the State, spent a night at the house of Sheikh Edebali sleepless, supposing it would have been disrespectful to lie down in a room with a Quran hanging on the wall. In addition, the ban of touching the Quran without ablution alludes to the necessity and importance of respectful conduct towards it. Also known is the significance in Islamic etiquette (adab) of not holding the Quran below the waist. Conversely, let alone reading the Quran, even simply gazing at its letters is encouraged and considered reward reaping, as it engenders affinity with the Quran. One must therefore avoid disrespect towards the Quran and make a habit of reading it, even if it be a little amount each time. It must also be kept close in mind that the very first command of the Quran is to ‘Read!’ (اِقْرَأْ al-Alaq, 1). The import of the command to read is also underlined by the fact that reading at least a portion of the Quran is an integral part of a proper salat.

The first public speech given by Sulayman ibn Abdulmalik, after being assigned as the new Caliph of the Umayyad State was: “Servants of Allah…Take the Book of Allah as guide. Accept its rulings and practice it, for without a doubt, the Quran scatters the traps and plots of Shaytan as the morning light scatters the dark of night!” (Bayhaki, Kitabu’z-Zuhd, p. 61)

All things considered, it becomes clear that establishing a tight bond with the Quran is an essential aspect of life. We therefore must ask our Lord to flood our hearts with the sublime joy of the Divine Word. To be sure, one of the prayers of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- was:

“My Lord…For the sake of each of Your Beautiful Names, which You may have taught one of Your servants, revealed in Your Book or kept hidden with You, I beg You to make the Quran the spring of my heart, the light of my chest and the cure for my sorrow and anguish!” (Ahmed ibn Hanbal, Musnad, I, 391)

d- Worshipping with Utmost Concentration (khushuu)

“Worship Allah as if you see Him. As even though you may not see Him, He surely sees you!” (Bukhari, Iman, 37)

Deeds of worship are the testimony of loyalty to the primordial pact made by the servant with his Lord.  Worshipping marks the times in which the servant is the closest with his Lord, as much as is allowed by the bounds of servanthood. It is a special realm. Clearing his mind of all problems worldly, the servant relaxes and strengthens his spirit in the peaceful thought of knowing that this is one thing he is doing for his Maker. The takbir made at the very beginning of salat represents just that: by lifting his hands, the servant puts everything behind him and turns to Allah, glory unto Him, only.

Worshipping provides the most effective cure and comfort for the distressing fear of death and beyond. It is a spiritual garden, through which runs the only pathway to eternal happiness; an inspiring spring that sprouts forth spiritual peace and harmony whose appreciation must never be neglected.

Offering deeds of worship with khushuu, or utmost concentration, is a prerequisite of obtaining the desired results. Khushuu is to be able to stand in Divine presence with a peaceful and serene heart, overcome with feelings of love and fear. In awe of the Almighty in whose presence one stands, it is to be able to cut all ties with everything else and be with Him alone, with the consciousness that only to worship Him was he created.

The most magnificent and comprehensive deed of worship is salat (prayer). Salat is one of the greatest gifts of the Almighty to humankind. The hadith states: “Paradise is written (wajib) for a believer who takes a thorough ablution and offers two rakat of salat with his entire heart and soul, in complete peace and concentration.” (Muslim, Taharah, 17)  Salat is second to none in terms of the spiritual qualities it imparts to a human being. A salat of this nature would require the thought of every single entity, even one’s own self, apart from the Real, to lose its value in sight and be swept aside from the heart.

Sulayman Darani -may Allah sanctify his secret- says: “If I were left to choose between two rakat of salat and the Paradise of Firdaws, I would choose the former. Entering Paradise would be something my ego would surely love. Yet if I offer salat, I will be in the company of my Lord.”

Once the salat is underway, one cannot be occupied with anything else. Salat will keep all other thoughts at bay. During a salat offered in the truest sense, the hearts is stripped off of its veils, allowing the lights of truth to shine through. It is an inexplicable moment of intimacy with the Lord. This luxury belongs to salat only and is never replicated in any other deed of worship. A person fasting, for instance, can at the same time buy or sell at the market and see to his daily chores. The same goes for a pilgrim. But a person offering salat can neither buy nor sell. All he does is offer salat. He must be in Divine presence, both in matter and form.

A proper salat inspires and spiritualizes a believer, saving him from falling into the pits of desires egoistic, injecting in him the consciousness that the Almighty is watching him at every given moment. Highlighting this are the subsequent words of the Blessed Prophet:

“Worship Allah as if you see Him; as even though you may not see Him He surely sees you!” (Bukhari, Iman, 37)

“Remember death during your salat, for if a person offers salat with death on his mind, his salat will be of beauty and perfection. Offer your salat like the person who thinks it will be his last. Avoid everything that will later cause you regret.” (Darimi, Musnad, I, 431)

A proper salat is described by the Quran below: “Recite that which has been revealed to you of the Book and keep up prayer; surely prayer keeps (one) away from indecency and evil, and certainly the remembrance of Allah is the greatest, and Allah knows what you do.” (al-Ankabut, 45)

Salat provides protection from evil only if the peace and concentration acquired during salat is maintained after the salat as well. One who does not maintain this state of mind is not offering true salat. The Divine warning leveled at persons of the kind is severe: “So woe to the praying ones, who are unmindful of their prayers, who do (good) to be seen. And withhold the necessaries of life.” (al-Maun, 4-7) Therefore, one who offers salat without doing justice to its each motion (tadilu’l-arkan), who is oblivious to the fact of being in Divine presence and whose mind is busy with his own petty affairs, should not expect his salat to produce the inspiration expected of it. A salat of the kind is just like paying off a debt, under duress, just because one has to. The following is how the Almighty defines a true and ideal salat: “Successful indeed are the believers, who are humble in their prayers…” (al-Muminun, 1-2)

Companion Abdullah ibn Shihhir -Allah be well-pleased with him- recounts the state of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- whilst offering salat: “I saw the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- in salat. A sound, much like that of a boiling pot, was coming from his chest from crying.” (Abu Dawud, Salat, 156-157; Ahmed ibn Hanbal, Musnad, IV, 25) When offering salat, Ali -Allah be well-pleased with him- would grow pale and cast aside everything, even his own flesh. For an arrow to be removed from his foot during one battle, he began to offer salat, knowing that only in this manner would he not feel the agonizing pain of its removal. Yet, how many have the ability to offer a salat that is so utterly detached from the world?

With that said those who cannot offer their salat with such perfection should not despair and abandon it altogether. Every person who persists in offering even a formal salat, with which he will have at least redeemed an obligatory debt, will more or less attain a kind of perfection.

The five daily salats, offered at specific times of the day, subjects one’s daily schedule to a program, by which it grants one disciplined way of life with a feeling of responsibility. There can be no talk of inner balance, peace and stability for a person whose life lacks harmony and consistency. In addition, salat provides strong protection for faith, gives depth to contemplation, comfort in times of fear and zest in times of joy. It is an inspiring and fruitful form of worship that reinforces the spirit, gives the heart joy and lightness and increases intimacy with the Divine.

Another form of worship that perfects moral conduct by reinforcing patience, willpower and resistance to the desires of the ego, characteristics that are imperative in the course of life, is fasting (sawm).

In terms of its essential purpose, to fast is to combat the obstacle that is the ego with the awareness of being in a state of worship and to bridle it, reducing its influence to a bare minimum. By imparting moral virtues like patience, endurance, contentedness with the circumstances and endurance against hardships, fasting, at the same time, through deprivation and hunger, reminds one of the seldom remembered value of the Divine blessing that is food. Giving a taste of hunger to both the rich and the poor, it puts them all on level par.  It helps develop feelings of compassion in the rich, by reminding them of the plight of the poor and underprivileged. It reinforces feelings of mutual gratitude.

Fasting revives feelings of piety (taqwa), increasing the purity of the heart. The ayah declares: “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard against evil.” (al-Baqara, 183)

In training the will, there is no method more effective than fasting. The will is one of the primary means, in man, of warding off the extremities and transgressions that come from the nature of his ego. With regard to eating little to attain to the eternal treats of the eternal life, Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- says: “Man’s real food is love and wisdom. That is why it is not proper to feed his flesh with more food than required.”

Man is in distress because he is forgotten his spiritual food and worries over food for his flesh. He is insatiable. He has grown pale from greed, his feet shake and his hearts beats with anxiety. Yet what is the food of earth compared to the food of eternity? About martyrs, Allah has said, ‘They are being fed next to their Lord’.[7] Neither is there a mouth for that spiritual food, nor a body.”

To attain to the truth of fasting and fully benefit from it spiritually, it is necessary that one desists from neglectful behavior detrimental to it. It is stated in the hadith: “Fasting is not just about abandoning eating or drinking. A perfect and rewarding fast is only through abandoning vain talk and action, and foul words. Should someone swear at or act crudely towards you, then say to him, ‘I am fasting.’” (Hakim, Mustadrak, I, 595)

Also declared obligatory in addition to fasting, which trains the willpower by curbing the desires of the ego, is almsgiving (zakat). The underlying purpose of almsgiving is to stem likely transgressions that come with the obsession of hoarding wealth, to purge feelings of envy and jealousy the poor may nurture towards the rich and thereby sustain social life through bonding its members with love. In the Islamic social order, almsgiving and charity (infaq) are therefore crucial means of engendering love between the rich and the poor and eliminating malicious feelings between the two. The rich will be summoned by the Almighty, interrogated as to through which means they made their money and to where they spent it and whether or not they provided its alms and charity. Responsible with sparing a certain amount of their wealth for the poor, the rich therefore stand under a grueling financial test. Yet, passing this test, along with fulfilling the other responsibilities of servanthood yields the blessings of the Lord and entrance into Paradise.

The importance of almsgiving, mentioned numerous times throughout the Quran, is underlined by the fact that on 27 occasions it is mentioned alongside salat, the pillar of religion. Alms is the debt owed by the rich to the underprivileged. The Quran states: “And in their wealth and possessions (was remembered) the right of the (needy,) him who asked, and him who (for some reason) was prevented (from asking).” (ad-Dhariyat, 19) Thus almsgiving is the practice of setting aside a certain portion of wealth that passes the minimum threshold (nisab), as Divine tax, rendering the remainder of the wealth halal. The portion that is set aside is thereby transferred to the underprivileged members of society. In this way, not only is the wealth of the rich cleansed from impurity, a social balance, justice and harmony are also established. Glancing at the following ayah suffices to come to terms with this matter of fact: “He indeed shall be successful who purifies (tazakkaa) himself…” (al-Ala, 14) Literally, zakat does after all mean tazkiya, in other words, to purify.

 Almsgiving is a minimum debt the Almighty has obliged on the wealthy. In contrast, there is not a limit imposed on charity, and like fasting, the rewards awaiting those who provide voluntary charity has been kept hidden to encourage the wealthy in this regard. Different to previous nations, the Lord awards the ummah of Muhammad -upon him blessings and peace- one penalty for each sin committed, while ten rewards in return for each righteous deed. Additionally, there are deeds rewarded seven hundred times, even more. But the rewards of fasting and charity are concealed. About this, Allah, glory unto Him, states: “Take alms out of their property, you would cleanse them and purify them thereby, and pray for them; surely your prayer is a relief to them; and Allah is Hearing, Knowing,” (at-Tawbah, 103)

It is clear from the ayah that almsgiving and charity purify both the wealth and the heart. The Almighty also levels a warning at those who abstain from charitable deeds, despite having the means to do so:

“O you who believe! Surely, many of the rabbis and monks devour the wealth of mankind wantonly and debar men from the way of Allah. They who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah, unto them give tidings of a painful doom. On the day when it will (all) be heated in the fire of hell, and their foreheads and their flanks and their backs will be branded therewith (and it will be said unto them): Here is that which ye hoarded for yourselves. Now taste of what ye used to hoard.” (at-Tawba, 34-35)

With the love of wealth setting foot deep in the heart, the wealth is held back from charity and in so doing the rights of the poor are usurped. And this incurs a pitiful end as made definite by the above ayah.

Only two kinds of blessings, children and wealth, have been labeled as fitnah, or means of tribulation. Their excessive love may permeate the heart and dominate it, a danger reminded by the Almighty as: “Your possessions and your children are only a trial, and Allah it is with Whom is a great reward.” (at-Taghabun, 15)

By stopping the growth of their excessive love and keeping them outside the heart may one prevent the love of children and wealth from becoming fitnah. Fulfilling the Divine requirements of almsgiving and charity can only take place by depriving the love of wealth of the opportunity of setting foot inside the heart, with the awareness that wealth is simply something entrusted until a predestined time. One must therefore thoroughly reflect on the Divine warnings partly given above and seek to offer supplementary charity that will allow him to pass beyond the minimum threshold of alms. Allah, glory unto Him, declares:

وَ يَسْئَلُونَكَ مَاذَا يُنْفِقُونَ قُلِ الْعَفْوَ

“And they ask you as to what they should spend. Say: What you can spare…” (al-Baqara, 219)

The rich who are generous and thanksgiving, and the poor who are patient and dignified, partake in both human honor and Divine pleasure. In contrast, the rich who are conceited and parsimonious and the poor who are impatient and consequently always rebelling have been reproved.

Almsgiving is an expression of gratitude by those in possession of wealth. And it is a Divine promise that gratitude only increases blessings. So states the Almighty:

لَئِنْشَكَرْتُمْالَاَ   زِيدَنَّكُمْ

“If you are grateful, I would certainly give to you more…” (Ibrahim, 7)

Giving charity was in fact something dearly loved and strongly encouraged by the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-. He says: “Son of man…Give charity so that you are treated charitably…” (Bukhari, Nafaqat, 1)

The Beloved Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- desired for generosity to become part of the essential nature of a Muslim. “Only two persons are to be envied”, he says. “One is he who has been given wealth by Allah and the power over it to spend it in His way; and the other is he who has been given knowledge that he practices and teaches it to others (he who provides charity from his knowledge).” (Bukhari, Ilm, 15)

In short, man is naturally disposed towards the world. The ego finds the wealth of the world dazzling. Those deceived by it can never get enough of it. The more wealth there is the greater the ambition and greed becomes. Compassion and mercy vanish when mesmerized by a hunger for wealth. Giving charity then becomes the most painstaking of tasks. Such a person is constantly vulnerable to the deceiving whispers of his ego, urging him to “make more money, become richer. You will give charity in the future!” However much he may be enjoying the comfort of the flesh, a person of the kind is spiritually ill. “Those who adjourn have perished”, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- has said. Zakat is thus a definite cure for greed for the world, a malicious disease of the heart.

It is described in the Quran that at the moment of death, a person will come to his senses, as if awoken from a dream, and plead, with an eternal remorse:

رَبِّلَوْلاَاَخَّرْتَنِىاِلٰىاَجَلٍقَرِيبٍ فَاَصَّدَّقَ وَ اَكُنْ مِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ

“My Lord! Why did You not respite me to a near term, so that I should have given alms and been of the doers of good deeds?” (al-Munafiqun, 10)

Furthermore, etiquette (adab) is central when giving alms or charity. The provider, especially, must be overcome with feelings of gratitude towards the receiver, for giving him the opportunity to reimburse a compulsory debt. At the same time, a charity given is protection for the provider against illnesses and misfortunes. In emphasis of providing for the poor with a sensitive heart, the ayat state:

“Do they not know that Allah accepts repentance from His servants and takes the alms, and that Allah is the Oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful?” (at-Tawba, 104)

 “O you who believe! Do not make your charity worthless by reproach and injury, like him who spends his property to be seen by men and does not believe in Allah and the last day. So his parable is as the parable of a smooth rock with earth upon it, then a heavy rain falls upon it, so it leaves it bare; they shall not be able to gain anything of what they have earned. And Allah does not guide the unbelieving people.” (al-Baqara, 264)

All beings live and are survived on the dominion of the Almighty. Through a continuous transformation (istihalah) of the comparably meager amount of soil on Earth, the Almighty turns it into a storehouse feeding a countless amount of creatures. Do not human beings, unique among entire creation in being endowed with reason and judgment, ever see and acknowledge the fact that the Almighty feeds all beings indiscriminately, regardless of whether they are believers or nonbelievers, strong or weak, and think just whose property they are depriving others of?

Allah, glory unto Him, has created the entire universe out of love, a love for the sake of which He has bestowed countless blessings of grace. Sacrifice is a natural outcome of love. A lover perceives his sacrifice for the beloved as a pleasant duty, willingly giving up even his own life if he must. In doing so, not even for a split second does he look upon it as a great feat of sacrifice. It could be said that for the Almighty, charitableness towards His creation is the most beautiful manifestation of what the Lover does for the beloved.

Together with these financial deeds of worship, there is also pilgrimage (hajj), a deed that is both physical and financial. It is a sublime act which, through reviving the poignant memories from the first prophet Adam (a.s) to the Prophet of the Final Hour -upon him blessings and peace-, not only ushers hearts to perfection, but by virtue of enacting the scene of the ultimate Resurrection, hands devotees the keys to the mystery that is: “Die before you die!”

Hajj is underlain with numerous wisdoms, pertaining both to Here and the Hereafter. A true pilgrimage is a magnificent act of worship, where Muslims, forgiven through the manifestation of the eternal mercy of the Lord, come together with an ecstatic enthusiasm of a profound faith and love. Hajj is to shed the clothes of existence and seek a way out from the thunderstorms of the ego, by delving into the depths of spirit. Hajj is a deed of worship that abounds in spiritual manifestations, where man retrieves the harmony and color of his spirit, his true habitat, and where he recovers his essential identity and looks on, as his heart is cleansed with the downpour of spiritual enlightenment.

The Kaaba, which is the qibla, that is the direction of worship for believers, is the focal point of salat, whose offering has been commanded by the Almighty as: “Prostrate and draw near!” (al-Alaq, 19) It is the very direction to which entire Muslims turn, where the heart of the Muslim world beats. In human beings, it is the heart where the Divine Sight manifests itself, while in the universe it is the Kaaba. Thus in a sense, the Kaaba is for the universe what the heart is for man. Pilgrimage is therefore a deed of worship that calls for a sensitive heart and precision, with an appreciation of the Kaaba’s splendor whilst performing it. Permeated with manifestations of love and compassion, the entire schedule of hajj directs the heart to sensitivity, which is exemplified by keeping away from hurting the creation of Allah, glory unto Him.

Clothed in a milky white ihram, hajj is the attempt to acquire a share of the finesse of angels, as if to emulate them. While in ihram, one must not hunt or pull out shrubs and weed, or even intentionally remove a strand of hair. No rafath there, no fisq, no jidal[8] Only compassion towards creation, mercy and courtesy, for the sake of the Creator.

It must not be forgotten that death is the inevitable end for all beings. Its time has been predetermined, up to the exact amount minutes to pass and breaths to be taken until its arrival. Incontestable is the fact that postponing death or bringing it forward is impossible; neither has there been news of certain man able to make a successful getaway from the hands of death. So those with the means to perform pilgrimage must thoroughly think this fact over and strictly refrain from a careless and sloppy attitude in regard. Otherwise, they would directly come under the stern warning of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- below:

“There is nothing preventing a person who recoils from hajj despite having the finances to cover the cost of food and travel, from dying as a Jew or a Christian.” (Tirmidhi, Hajj, 3)

This Prophetic caution stresses that those who neglect offering pilgrimage, not because a lack of financial means but from sheer carelessness, are in a grave loss and are destined for Divine punishment, unless they mend their ways. It is indeed negligence beyond description that Muslims should remain oblivious to hajj, an unrivaled opportunity to purify their hearts and erase their sins.

The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- says: “Whosoever visits the Great Kaaba with the intention of hajj and completes it without engaging in fisq or rafath, will return home pure as the day he was born.” (Muslim, Hajj, 438)

e- Reviving the Nights

Top it up with that wine, refill it; pour it out once more,
Let the night stop, stop it my friend, for this I implore!
Enchain my sleep, shackle it; let not the moments pass
Sleepers never appreciate the night, the night they never grasp.

Introspection and shrugging off the spiritual and physical weight of the day is possible by enshrouding oneself in the peaceful silence of the night. Days are unable to give the spiritual and physical rest which nights provide so generously. Those who do not appreciate the night can never know the value of day. Entering the Divine and spiritual scenery of night calls for its purposeful revival.

For the wise people of heart, there is never a time more inspiring than the serenity of night. Spending a certain portion of the night awake is hence essential, to make the most of its abundant inspiration. The ayah in regard says:

تَتَجَافٰىجُنُوبُهُمْعَنِالْمَضَاجِعِيَدْعُونَرَبَّهُمْ خَوْفًا وَ طَمَعًا

وَ مِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنْفِقُونَ

“They forsake their beds, they call upon their Lord in fear and in hope, and they spend (benevolently) out of what We have given them…” (as-Sajda, 16)

“And glorify the name of your Lord morning and evening. And during part of the night worship Him, and give glory to Him a long part of the night.” (al-Insan, 25-26)

Immeasurable is the value the Almighty has ascribed to the time of night and countless are the mysteries He has implanted therein. The mysteries that lie behind His avowal on night, like “And the night and that which it drives on…” (al-Inshiqaq, 17), “And the night when it covers with darkness…” (ad-Duha, 2) and “And the night when it departs, and the morning when it brightens…” (at-Takwir, 17-18) are like Divine windows opened to our hearts and understanding, for us to appreciate many a reality.

Mature believers look upon the time of night as an exceptional treasure, owing to the serenity and spiritual enlightenment concealed in its chest. Those who can properly appreciate the value of this treasure find, especially after midnight, the most inspiring ground for turning to the Lord with heartfelt prayers and sincere deeds of worship, at a time when most have resigned to rest.

In his Divan-i Kabir, Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- poeticizes the love and ecstasy he experiences at night:

Fill the goblet, cupbearer, with the love Divine
Mention nothing of bread to the reveler of the wine
Offer the kawthar and let all thirsty hearts quench
In what else but water would a fish want to be drenched?
Top it up with that wine, refill it; pour it out once more,
Let the night stop, stop it my friend, for this I implore!
Enchain my sleep, shackle it; let not the moments pass
Sleepers never appreciate the night, the night they never grasp…[9]

Regarding His fortunate servants who are bound to be treated with Divine blessings in the Hereafter for having feared Him by remaining awake at night and daybreak, the Almighty reveals:

كَانُواقَلِيلاًمِنَالَّيْلِمَايَهْجَعُونَ وَ بِاْلاَسْحَارِ هُمْ يَسْتَغْفِرُونَ

“They used to sleep but little in the night. And in the morning they asked forgiveness.” (ad-Dhariyat, 17-18)

“And they who pass the night prostrating themselves before their Lord and standing” (al-Furqan, 64)

And in another ayah, the Almighty informs:

“…Who sees you when you stand up and your turning over and over among those who prostrate themselves before Allah.” (as-Shuara, 218-219)

Qadi Baydawi offers the following with regard to the above ayah: “Once the five daily salats became obligatory and the night salat voluntary (sunnah), the Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- set out from his chamber at night to inspect the Companions. He found out that their houses were humming like beehives with the sounds of the Quran, dhikr and tasbih.” (Anwaru’t-Tanzil, IV, 111)

Compared to other times, Allah, glory unto Him, attaches greater value to the dhikr offered at dawn, as it is more difficult to occupy oneself in dhikr and worship at dawn compared to all times else. It is for that reason that reviving the time of dawn is a mark of one’s sincere love and reverence of the Almighty. The stronger the Divine love is in the heart, the greater the desire will be in waking up for salat and tasbih at night. Therefore, awaking for salat and tasbih at night is virtually like meeting up with the beloved. To be awake when everyone else is in deep sleep, is to be among the privileged servants of Allah, glory unto Him, admitted into the courtroom of His mercy, love and knowledge.

For a believer, using the night purposefully and properly deriving the spiritual benefit of the dhikr of dawn means that his nights will be spiritually more light and valuable than his days. But a night spent without purpose, imprisoned to sleep alone, is a loss almost irrecoverable, like raindrops that fall on rocks, the sea and the desert and perish at the instant. If we allow the spirituality of tawhid that begins at dawn to encompass our hours and our hearts, the moment where we bid farewell to every single thing on Earth and breathe for one last time, will –insha-Allah– become a shab-i arus[10].

Abdullah ibn Amr ibn As -Allah be well-pleased with him- recalls how the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- cautioned him: “Do not become like so and so, Abdullah, who used to wake up for worship at night but no longer does.” (Bukhari, Tahajjud, 19; Muslim, Siyam, 185)

The Beloved Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- is also reported to have said to his Companions: “Be attentive to worshipping at night, for it is the custom of the righteous before you. Waking up to worship at night is no doubt a means to get closer to Allah. It protects one from sins, atones for mistakes and rids the body of distress.” (Tirmidhi, Daawat, 101)  Also, the health benefits of not sleeping all the night through but rather waking up from time to time, is something medically proven. After a long, uninterrupted night’s sleep one usually wakes up with a headache. This is caused by the fact that the brain is not nourished with enough oxygen during sleep, as a result of slower breathing. Dividing sleep therefore helps return the breathing speed to normal; and those who do so, wake up livelier in the morning, despite having actually slept less.

It is also to be noted that death usually comes during the very early hours of morning. This is especially the case with the elderly. Some doctors have therefore labeled dawn ‘the hour of death’ because that is when the sleep is at its deepest, and the heartbeat at its lowest. Awaking at that hour, coupled with a cold ablution, returns all the bodily functions to normal.

Although the commands of Islam are first and foremost underlain by the purpose of realizing servanthood to Allah, glory unto Him, each of them do come with physical benefits. The same applies for salat, fasting and the other deeds of worship, all imbued with countless wisdoms and benefits. But naturally, these benefits are not the reason for the existence of these deeds, but rather their byproducts.

f- Dhikrullah and Muraqaba

‘…Now surely by Allah’s remembrance are the hearts set at rest.’ (ar-Rad, 28)

It is said that insan, the Arabic word for ‘man’, has as its origin the word nisyan, forgetfulness. Nisyan is the stark opposite of dhikr, or remembrance; and signifies one of the greatest weaknesses of man. This has colloquially been expressed with the expression “Man’s memory is afflicted with forgetfulness” (Hâfıza-yı beşer nisyân ile mâlüldür). The most effectual way of reducing forgetfulness to a minimum is to ‘remember’ through dhikr.

To live in line with its reason of creation, the spirit must remain loyal to the promise made to the Lord at the Bazm-i Alast[11], and never leave the thought of its Creator out of its heart and mind. Consequently, making amends for the damages wrought by forgetfulness, a defect naturally present in human disposition, calls for a dhikr that keeps the awareness of ‘Allah’ and ‘servanthood’ ever alive; for each act of remembering only strengthens the thought and consciousness of that which is remembered. Certainly, it is not one’s appearance that Allah, glory onto Him, looks at, as it is one’s heart. A believer must therefore consider it a duty to protect his heart, the focal point of the Divine Gaze, from negligence and keep it occupied with Divine remembrance.

Owing to its particular importance within the duties of servanthood, the word dhikr is cited in over 250 places in the Quran. Proper servanthood to the Almighty and reaching, thereby, marifatullah, depends on the place of dhikr in the heart and the depth with which it is felt. It is for that reason that marifatullah that is, gaining acquaintance with the reality of the Lord through the heart, has been considered the noblest of all types of knowledge. After all, it is ‘that’ knowledge that human beings essentially need. To deter His servants from a failing to benefit from the spirituality of dhikr, in some of the ayah quoted below, the Almighty states:

اَلَمْيَأْنِلِلَّذِينَاٰمَنُوااَنْتَخْشَعَقُلُوبُهُمْلِذِكْرِ اللّٰهِ

وَ مَا نَزَلَ مِنَ الْحَقِّ

“Has not the time yet come for those who believe that their hearts should be humble for the remembrance of Allah and what has come down of the truth?” (al-Hadid, 16)

“…and certainly the remembrance of Allah is the greatest.” (al-Ankabut, 45)

“Therefore remember Me, I will remember you, and be thankful to Me, and do not be ungrateful to Me.” (al-Baqara, 152)

Even upon sending Musa (a.s) and Harun (a.s) to communicate the truth to the Pharaoh, the Almighty urged them not to neglect His remembrance: “Go you and your brother with My communications and be not remiss in remembering Me” (Taha, 42)

Remembering and mentioning Allah, glory unto Him, is not simply to repeat His name verbally. Much rather, it is for Divine remembrance to become embedded in the heart, the hub of spiritual sensing. The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- says:

“The difference between one who remembers Allah and another who does not is like the difference between the living and the dead.” (Bukhari, Daawat, 66)

“The mark of loving Allah is the love of dhikr.” (Suyuti, al-Jamiu’s-Saghir, II, 52)

Those detached from Divine remembrance are subjected to the threat of the Almighty, since by doing so they are equally detached from the love of the Lord. The Quran declares: “Woe to those whose hearts are hard against the remembrance of Allah!” (az-Zumar, 22)

The necessity of being in a continuous state of Divine remembrance, which provides safety from the outcome of this threat, is revealed below: “And remember your Lord within yourself humbly and fearing and in a voice not loud in the morning and the evening and be not of the heedless ones.” (al-Araf, 205)

Allah, glory unto Him, again warns against the dangers of becoming detached from dhikr:

“And whoever turns himself away from the remembrance of the Beneficent Allah, We appoint for him a Shaytan, so he becomes his associate. And most surely they turn them away from the path, and they think that they are guided aright. Until when he comes to Us, he says: O would that between me and you there were the distance of the East and the West; so evil is the associate!” (az-Zukhruf, 36-38)

“And whoever turns away from My reminder, his shall be a straitened life, and We will raise him on the day of resurrection, blind. He shall say: My Lord! Why have You raised me blind and I was a seeing one indeed? He will say: Even so, Our communications came to you but you neglected them; even thus shall you be forsaken this day.” (Taha, 124-126)

Good morals and fine characteristics are exclusive only to those who fear the Lord, who dearly love and remember Him. The Almighty proclaims: “The seven heavens declare His glory and the earth (too), and those who are in them; and there is not a single thing but glorifies Him with His praise, but you do not understand their glorification; surely He is Forbearing, Forgiving.” (al-Isra, 44)

In a hadith al-qudsi on the value of gathering for dhikr, the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- says:

“Allah the Almighty states: I treat My servant according to what he thinks of Me. When he remembers me, I am with him. If he remembers me in silence I, too, remember him. If he mentions me in public I, too, mention him among a group better than his.” (Bukhari, Tawhid, 15)

One day, as he was addressing his Companions, the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- asked: “Shall I inform you of the cleanest of your deeds next to Allah, the highest of your ranks, something better than charity given from gold and silver, superior to clashing with the enemy and slaying them or them slaying you?” “Please do, Messenger of Allah”, they replied, whereupon the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- said:

“It is the remembrance of Allah”. (Tirmidhi, Daawat, 6)

Dhikrullah, or the remembrance of Allah, glory unto Him, can be done individually, as well as in a group.

Muawiya -Allah be well-pleased with him- then began to explain. “There is not a single person like me who was so close to the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- yet narrated so little from him. But once, the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- approached a group of his Companions sitting in a circle and asked:

‘Why are you sitting here?’

‘We are sitting to thank and praise Allah for having blessed us with the great blessing that is Islam’, they replied.

‘For the name of Allah, speak the truth. Have you really sat here solely for the purpose of remembering Allah?’ the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- then asked.

‘Yes. By Allah, that is the only reason’, they replied, on which the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- said:

‘It was not because I mistrusted you that I repeated my question. But Jibril came to me and informed me that Allah boasts of you next to His angels. That is why I spoke that way.’” (Muslim, Dhikr, 40)

The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- used to instruct his Companions with different forms of dhikr depending on their capabilities. A wonderful example of this is his advice to his cousin Umm Hani -Allah be well-pleased with him-a, the daughter of Abu Talib.

“I have become old and weak, Messenger of Allah”, she said. “Can you recommend me a deed of worship I can do as I sit?” The Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- then said:

“Say Subhanallah a hundred times, Alhamdulillah a hundred times and La ilaha ill-Allah a hundred times.” (Ibn Maja, Adab, 56; Ahmed ibn Hanbal, Musnad, VI, 344)

Among all kinds of dhikr, saying La ilaha ill-Allah (kalima-i tawhid) in an assembly holds a distinctive place, as indicated by the below hadith narrated by Shaddad ibn Aws -Allah be well-pleased with him-:

“Once, whilst with the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace-, he asked us, ‘Is there a foreigner amongst us?’ By foreigner, he meant a person of the Book (a Christian or a Jew).

‘No, there isn’t, Messenger of Allah’, we responded.

He then commanded all doors be closed. Afterward, he told us to, ‘Raise your hands and say La ilaha ill-Allah’.

We raised our hands aloft and for a while, repeated La ilaha ill-Allah. The Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- subsequently dropped his hands and prayed:

‘My Allah…Thanks be to You! You have sent me with this ‘sentence’ and commanded me with it (to say it and comply with it). And in return, You have promised me Paradise…and You never fall back from Your promise!’

      After that, he turned to us and said, ‘Glad tidings to you all! Allah has surely forgiven you!’” (Ahmed ibn Hanbal, Musnad, IV, 124)

The Blessed Prophet states in another hadith: “La ilaha ill-Allah is a word whose place and value next to Allah is enormous. Whosoever says it with full sincerity and loyalty, Allah shall place him in Paradise. And whosoever says it only with his tongue without believing it, he will have only protected his life and possessions. But tomorrow, when meets Allah, he shall be dealt with.” (Haythami, Majmau’z-Zawaid, I, 26)

 No less significant is the following hadith, emphasizing the need to be engrossed in a constant awareness of dhikr and muraqaba: “Do not forget Allah and get carried away in vain conversation. For many a conversation had whilst forgetting Allah hardens the heart. And the person most distant from Allah is the hardhearted.” (Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 62)

As is evident, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- personally taught and encouraged the practice of dhikrullah on more than one occasion. As enormous a loss it is to be distant from the inspiring potential of a deed so fervently encouraged, it is also a tragic deprivation, considering the awaiting rewards in the Hereafter, in return, if carried out in perfection. The more often and the deeper we remember Allah, glory unto Him, here in this world; the closer will be our reunion with Him in the Hereafter.

A lover feels the need to remember, reminisce whom he loves, proportionate to intensity of the love he feels. In tandem, each moment of remembering only serves to intensify the love felt. Those who have had a little taste of the sweetness of iman grow in enthusiasm for the Lord and increase their remembrances, the more distance they cover on the spiritual path. In terms of their power to satisfy, there is a difference between the desires of the ego and the desires of the spirit. While the appetite of the ego is appeased after eating, drinking and so forth, and desires them no more, the desires of the spirit only increase the more they are given. It is like drinking saltwater to quench the thirst. Each sip only aggravates the desire for more water. Persons of such ilk are in a continual state of dhikr, reflecting on the subtle wisdoms inherent in the creation of earth and the skies, remarking and praying:

 “Our Lord! You have not created this in vain! Glory be to You; save us then from the chastisement of the fire.” (Al-i Imran, 191)

The road to a life of faith and satisfaction, of reaching the joys of the Divine and ultimately meeting the Almighty with a perfected faith, runs through a continual state of dhikr. In whichever condition a person dies, that is how he will be resurrected, as made known by the following ahadith:

“Human beings are to be resurrected in the Hereafter upon the state in which they died.” (Muslim, Jannah, 83)

“A person dies the way he lived and is resurrected the way he died.” (Munawi, Fayzu’l-Qadir, V, 663)

In satisfying man’s instinctive eagerness towards spiritual contemplation and sensing, nothing can ever come close to an appreciative understanding of the existence of the Wajibu’l-Wujud, the Hakim, the Most Wise, and Nazim, the Orderer, of the Universe, and love for Him. So reveals the ayah:

اَلاَبِذِكْرِاللّٰهِتَطْمَئِنُّالقُلُوبُ

“Now surely by Allah’s remembrance are the hearts set at rest.” (ar-Rad, 28)

g-    Love of the Blessed Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- and Salawat-u Sharifa.

“Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet: O Believers! Send your blessings on him and salute him with all respect!” (al-Ahzab, 56)

It is impossible for us to fully comprehend the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, a masterpiece of creation, within our capacities and power as human beings. The impressions we receive from the world would prove deficient in both understanding and explaining him. Just as it is impossible to pour the entire ocean inside a cup, it is impossible to properly understand the Muhammedan Light. Accentuating this is the following ayah:

اِنَّ اللّٰهَ وَ مَل_ئِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِىِّ

يَآ اَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ اٰمَنُوا صَلُّوا عَلَيْهِ وَ سَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا

“Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet: O Believers! Send your blessings on him and salute him with all respect!” (al-Ahzab, 56)

Compliant with the Divine edict commanded through the above ayah, we are required to utter salawat-u sharifa, with sending our blessings to and saluting that Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, with whom the universe boasts. This is part of the conduct the Almighty commands the entire ummah to uphold and practice with respect to the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-. It is a necessity of iman to draw closer to the grace and perfection of that great Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, saluted and blessed by Allah, glory unto Him and His countless angels. For the Almighty states:

“Say (O Messenger): If you love Allah, then follow me, Allah will love you and forgive you your faults, and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful…” (Al-i Imran, 31)

The moment a believer begins to tremble before the spiritual presence of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- sense inexpressibly beautiful feelings budding in his heart and empties his spirit of all the appearances and shadows of the ego, he is surely on the way of acquiring a share of his love and exemplary character. To this day, the heroes of the heart from among the ummah, who have been able to acquire a share of his sacred character to the point of becoming one with it, have beautifully shown their love for the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-.

Muslims continue to cherish those who reach the source of love, the Lord and His Messenger, until the Final Hour, lovingly remembering them with warm prayers even after they pass away. Of countless such devotees of the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- privileged with this rank, the experiences of two such figures are ever etched in memory.

During his time, the Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- used to send teachers to neighboring tribes, to communicate and teach the religion of truth. Some of these teachers, however, had fallen victim to sinister plots, one of which took place in the tragedy known as Raji.

The tribes of Adal and Qari had asked for teachers from the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- to educate them in Islam. In response, the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- sent an envoy of ten Companions. But when the envoy arrived near Raji, they were ambushed. Eight were martyred, while the remaining two were surrendered to the idolaters of Mecca.

The two Companions who had fallen captive were Zayd and Hubayb -Allah be well-pleased with them-. The bloodthirsty idolaters eventually martyred both. Moments before his execution, Zayd -Allah be well-pleased with him- was asked by Abu Sufyan:

“Would you have wished for your Prophet to be in your place right now if you knew you would be spared?”

Zayd -Allah be well-pleased with him- looked at Abu Sufyan with pity and replied “Never…!  I could not even bare the thought of him being spiked by a thorn in his foot in Medina, let alone hoping him to be in my place right now!”

Stunned by the response, Abu Sufyan could not help but confess, “I swear, I have never seen anyone loved more by his friends than Muhammad!”

Afterward, they went next to Hubayb -Allah be well-pleased with him-, assuring him that he would be released provided he renounced his faith.

“Not even if you were to give me the world entire”, he responded. The idolaters then repeated to him the question they had moments before asked Zayd -Allah be well-pleased with him-. They received a similar response.

Hubayb -Allah be well-pleased with him- only had one last wish before he was martyred: to send a loving greeting to the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace-!

Yet, with whom could he send his message? There was not a single Muslim near him. Almost despondent, he turned his gaze towards the skies and pleaded:

“My Lord! There is nobody around to deliver my greetings to the Messenger of Allah. You deliver my greetings of peace to Him!”

Sitting with his Companions in Medina at the time, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, out of nowhere said, in an audible tone, ‘ وَعَلَيْهِالسَّلاَمُ’, ‘Peace be upon him, too!’

“Whose greetings did you just respond to, Messenger of Allah?” the Companions wondered.

“That of your brother Hubayb”, said the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-.

Eventually, the idolaters viciously tortured both Companions to martyrdom. The final words of Hubayb -Allah be well-pleased with him- are momentous:

“Dying in this way or that is of no concern, if death comes while a Muslim!”[12]

There…the love and courage of the Companions! They felt little fear at the face of a terrifying scene enough to leave anyone in dread. Their entire concern was to capture the attention of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-. And in the end, their sincere and heartfelt greetings were delivered to their destination, escorted by the Lord Himself. Below is another wonderful example exposing the love and yearning of the Companions for the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace-.

Abdullah ibn Zayd al-Ansari once came next to the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- and bemoaned:

“You to me, Messenger of Allah, are dearer than everything I own, my children, my family and even myself. Had there not been the fortune of being able to see you, I would have wished to have been dead!” He was then reduced to tears.

“Why are you crying?” asked the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-.

“I am crying” replied Zayd -Allah be well-pleased with him- “thinking that you, too, will one day pass away and join the high rank with all the other prophets, while I, even if I were to enter Paradise, will be somewhere lower and hence not be able to see you anymore!”

The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, that ocean of compassion, chose to remain silent awhile. There arrived, in the meantime, the following revelation:

“And whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger, these are with those upon whom Allah has bestowed favors from among the prophets and the truthful and the martyrs and the good, and goodly company are they!” (an-Nisa, 69)

Years later, as Abdullah ibn Zayd al-Ansari -Allah be well-pleased with him- was working away in his garden one day, his son came running and gasping for breath, informed him of the passing away of the Grand Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, mournfully. Traumatized, Zayd -Allah be well-pleased with him- made the following wish:

“My Allah…Take my sight away, here and now, so that from here on, I do not see anyone else other than my one and only beloved, the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace-”

His prayer was immediately accepted. He lost his sight there and then.[13]

Love and affection is a like line of electricity that runs between two hearts. Lovers never leave the thought of their beloved out of their hearts and their reminiscence distant from their tongues. Up until the moment of death, they live their lives with a peace of mind brought by the level of sacrifice they have shown, with the calming satisfaction of knowing they have disposed of their wealth and entire existence in the way of the beloved. The ayah declares: “And keep up salat, pay the alms and obey the Messenger, so that mercy may be shown to you.” (an-Nur, 56)

It is imperative to adhere to the Beloved Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, the quintessential example, through and through; in line with the principle “A lover is infatuated with everything that the beloved is fond of”.  Loving and adhering to him is the backbone of Divine Love.

Directly followingلاَاِلهَاِلاَّالله  (There is no God but Allah) in the Word of Tawhid, in the profession of faith, are the words مُحَمَّدٌرَسُولُالله, (Muhammad is His Messenger). Each Word of tawhid, every salawat is an investment towards acquiring the love of and nearness to the Real. It is this investment that yields the greatest joy both Here and in the Hereafter, that opens the door to all spiritual conquests. The universe is a manifestation of Divine Love. The core essence of this manifestation is the Light of Muhammad, the love of whom is the only road to the Essence of the Divine.

The spirituality of worship, the elegance that pervades behavior, the courtesy that governs morals, the delicacy of the heart, the beauty shone upon appearance, the exquisite charm of languages, the grace that permeates feelings, the profundity of gazes, and in short, all beauties are but sparkles of the love of that Light of Being -upon him blessings and peace- mirrored unto hearts.

Mawlana Rumi beautifully echoes this: “Come, o heart, to the real festival that is union with Muhammad…for the light you see in the universe is but a glow from the face of that Sacred Being.”

Repeating salawat-u sharifa, at all times and places but in particular at dawn, is of immense importance in allowing the grace of Divine inspiration to leave its impression on the heart, to reinforce the bond with the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- and allow one to imitate him spiritually.

The righteous, revived by the reality of the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, have enumerated the benefits of saluting the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- and thereby gaining closeness to Allah, glory unto Him, as follows:

1. A person will have complied with the Divine Command and at the same time complemented the salawat of the angels. The ayah declares: “Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet: O Believers! Send your blessings on him and salute him with all respect!” (al-Ahzab, 56)

It goes without saying that there is a difference of meaning between the Almighty’s salutation of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- and the angels’ salutation of him, as well as ours. The salawat of the Almighty is for Him to show mercy to His Messenger and elevate him. The salawat of the angels is for them to pray for his forgiveness. Our salawat, the salawat of his ummah, in contrast, is to pray for the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-.

2. It is a means of being forgiven for sins.

The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- avows: “Whosoever salutes me once, Allah salutes him ten times, erases ten of his sins and elevates him ten degrees.” (Nasai, Sahw, 55)

3. It is a means for drawing closer to the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- on the Day of Judgment.

“The closest to me on the Day of Judgment”, says the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, “are those bless and salute me the most.” (Tirmidhi, Witr, 21)

4. The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- personally responds to a person who sends him salawat. He has said:

“Allah restores me with my spirit to allow me to reply to the salawat one sends to me.” (Abu Dawud, Manasiq, 96)

5. The name of each person who sends a salawat is presented to the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-.

“Allah has angels, who journey Earth. They deliver to me the greetings from my ummah at the instant.” (Nasai, Sahw, 55)

6. Since a person who sends salawat has effectively preferred the love of the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- over any love else, he takes a great step towards embodying his conduct and eventually attains to virtue by shedding his bad habits.

7. Not only does the Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- love for such a person increase, his love for the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- is also preserved and continues to grow.

8. In spite of the incalculable blessings Allah, glory unto Him, has bestowed upon us through the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- and the impossibility for us of ever repaying that, through salawat-u sharifa, we will have at least showed our appreciation and taken a humble step towards giving thanks.

9. It is a means for the arrival, upon us, of the mercy of Allah, glory unto Him. The Beloved Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- states:

“Whosoever salutes me once, Allah will show mercy on him ten times the amount.” (Muslim, Salat, 70)

10. It is a cause to recollect what is forgotten.

11. It is a means for the acceptance of prayers.

The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- once saw a man who, after offering salat, began praying without thanking Allah, glory unto Him, and saluting His Messenger.

“The man was too hasty”, he remarked, before calling the man next to him and saying, “Should one of you intend on making a prayer, let him begin with thanking and glorifying Allah and then proceed by blessing and saluting me. He can then pray in whichever manner he pleases.’ (Tirmidhi, Daawat, 64)

And in another hadith: “A prayer does not reach its destination until the person making the prayer sends a salawat to the Prophet.” (Munziri, at-Targhib wa’t-Tarhib, III, 165)

12. It protects one from Divine reproach.

“Let the nose of he, who does not send me a salawat despite my name being mentioned next to him, be smothered in dirt.” (Tirmidhi, Daawat, 100)

13. The Almighty will suffice for a person who has made a habit of saluting and sending blessings to the Beloved Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- in all his affairs, and will disperse his sorrow both Here and in the Hereafter.

Ubay ibn Qab -Allah be well-pleased with him- recounts:

‘I send you lots of salawat’u-sharifah, Messenger of Allah. How often should I do it?’ I one day asked.

‘As much as you wish’ he replied.

‘Would it be right if I spared a quarter of my prayer for it?’ I again inquired.

‘Spare as much from it as you wish’, he advised. ‘But it will be better for you if you spared more.’

‘Then I will spare half’, I proposed.

‘As you wish…But better if you spared more’, said he.

‘How about I spared two-thirds then?’

‘As you wish… But better if you spared more’.

‘How would it be then if I send salawat’us-sharifah in the entire time I spare for prayer?’ I then asked.

‘If you do’, the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- replied, ‘then Allah will rid you of all your troubles and forgive your sins.’” (Tirmidhi, Qiyamat, 23/2457)

Salawat-u sharifa enables contact with the spirituality of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- and an opportunity to become illumined with his light. The reward of each salawat, on the other hand, is proportionate with one’s sincerity and love for the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-.

O Prophet, O Messenger…An eternity of salawat and salam to You!

Dahilak ya Rasulallah…![14]

h. Contemplating Death

Neither is there a space and time, on Earth, to seek refuge from death, nor an opportunity to return from the grave, nor a safe haven from the tremor of the Day of Judgment…

In life, man finds himself constantly trembling between two stark opposites, the joy of life and the dread of death. Without comprehending the true meaning of the ever-flowing life and death, it is not possible to grasp the mystery and wisdom of creation and the true nature of man. Death, the inevitable that will seize each wayfarer on Earth, is an inescapable riddle all beings with the power of understanding are called upon to solve.

It is declared in the second ayah of al-Mulk:

اَلَّذِىخَلَقَالْمَوْتَوَالْحَيٰوةَلِيَبْلُوَكُمْ اَيُّكُمْ اَحْسَنُ عَمَلاً

“He Who created death and life that He may try which of you is best in deeds…”

Similarly, in the thirty-fifth ayah of al-Anbiya, Allah declares: “Every soul must taste of death and We try you by evil and good by way of probation; and to Us you shall be brought back.”

If Earth is a Divine school for testing iman, death is a necessary law of transition. For this reason Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- says: “Die for revive!”

The revival of the heart is possible only through abandoning the egoistic. The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- urges: “Frequently remember death, which destroys all pleasures from their root.” (Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 26) Contemplating death is to reflect on death before it arrives and thereby consciously prepare to meet the Lord by abandoning all that is egoistic. This is a contemplation and consciousness anchored in iman. Man’s insatiable, never-ending worldly ambitions, passing hopes and comforts are like autumn leaves that drop on the grave by the second.

Graveyards are home to parents who have exhausted their time on Earth, to children, friends and relatives and loved ones. The grave is the final stop of all the meandering roads of life, whether it is spent on a haystack or in a palace. There is neither a dimension of time to escape it nor space. The Quran accentuates this: “Say: (As for) the death from which you flee, that will surely overtake you, then you shall be sent back to the Knower of the unseen and the seen, and He will inform you of that which you did.” (al-Juma, 8)

 In a sense, the reason behind the traditional set up of graveyards inside towns, by the side of roads or in the courtyards of mosques, has been to keep the contemplation of death alive and to regulate the affairs of the world accordingly. Solemnly enshrouded in the silence of death, each gravestone is a fiery preacher through its presence alone. The weight of death is too intense for the weak shoulders of words to bear, a terrifying event before which all powers and sovereignties melt away.

The world is a deceitful reverie, the Hereafter a reality without death. More often than most, man is a slave to the lies that reflect from the mirror of life in its thousands of alluring images. What then is life, which continues spinning its web of lies and disloyalty, but a place of deceit?

Does not man take a lesson from the fact that the mill of time relentlessly grinds the youth and vivacity of all beings mortal? How great a deception it is to lead a life that is oblivious to the reality of the Hereafter, allured by ego provoking glitters of the world, carried away childishly playing with toys without reality! Playing during childhood, lust during youth, carelessness during maturity and hankering, with a deep set remorse, after things gone by at old age, is all to which a neglectful life amounts.

Death is one’s personal Day of Judgment. We must wake up before our Day of Judgment lest we become one of those who are filled with remorse. That each mortal being will encounter the Angel of Death, at place and time unknown, is inevitable. There is no place to flee from death. Without wasting the least amount of time, man must therefore “Run to Allah…” (ad-Dhariyat, 50) and acknowledge that the one and only refuge is the mercy of the Lord.

The clearest motive for the contemplation of death is enclosed within that permanent silence, between sealed and purple lips of the dead. The only response the world can offer to the eloquent warning of death, are tears and dry sobs.

How strange it is that man is so prone to fooling himself on Earth, on which he remains only for a handful of days, as a guest. In spite of witnessing funerals almost every day, he thinks he is a far remove from death. He lulls himself in supposing to be the owner of what he possesses, things he could easily lose at any second. But man is destined for death as early as the moment his spirit is clad in flesh and ushered through a door to enter life on Earth. Although the door leads to a training road for the ultimate path, more often than not, he remains ignorant of it. Then a day comes when his spirit is stripped of the flesh and he is given a farewell to the grave, the door of the Hereafter, the journey with no return.

Each moment that ticks by takes us closer to the dawn of truth, as eloquently expressed in the ayah: “He whom we bring unto old age, We reverse him in creation (making him go back to weakness after strength). Have ye then no sense?” (Yasin, 68)

The ayah advises man in the most beautiful manner imaginable. The most discernible feature of the world is that it is disloyal. It hastily takes back what it reluctantly gives. It raises a person one day, only to throw him in a pit the next. It is like a shade that flees each time one tries to catch it. Yet, the more one runs away from it, the more it pursues him. Carried away in thinking that it is only a matter of time before one grabs hold of what he had been pursuing all along, he is suddenly interrupted by the irreversible call of death. Fall in love with the world it becomes a shrewd hag, capriciously slapping one across the face at will, whose nagging and complaining is almost ceaseless. It quickly sells out those who are attached to it.

It ought to be borne in mind that there is neither a space nor time on Earth to seek refuge from death, nor an opportunity to return from the grave, nor a safe haven from the tremor of the Day of Judgment. “Who is the most intelligent Muslim?” a Companion once asked the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-. “It is he who frequently remembers death and prepares in the best way for the Hereafter. Those are the truly intelligent”, replied he. (Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 31)

The Beloved Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- has again said, “Remember death and how flesh and bones decay after death. Whosoever desires the Hereafter should abandon the dazzle of the life on Earth.” (Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 24) “Death suffices as advice”, says Fudayl ibn Iyad.

A Companion had passed away. Others spoke of him with praise, fondly reminiscing the great amount of deeds he used to offer when alive. The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- was meanwhile listening to them, in silence. Once they finished talking, he asked them:

“Did the person, of whom you speak, frequently remember death?”

“No”, they replied.

“In that case, was he mostly able to abandon the unnecessary and excessive desires of his ego?”

Once again, the Companions responded in the negative. The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- thereupon said:

“Then it seems your friend was not what you think him to be.” (Haythami, Majmau’z-Zawaid, X, 308-9)

Abdullah ibn Omar -Allah be well-pleased with him- recounts how the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- held him by the arm one day and advised: “Behave like a stranger, a wayfarer even, on Earth! Count yourself among the dead, the dwellers of the grave.”

Mujahid ibn Jabr r.alayh, a prominent scholar of the Tabiun generation, says, “Once Ibn Omar -Allah be well-pleased with him- completed narrating this hadith, he advised me with the following:

‘Do not think of night, Mujahid, once you reach morning! And do not think of morning once you reach night! Make the most of your health before illness and life before death! For you, servant of Allah, do not know which condition (dead or alive) you will be the next day!’” (Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 25)

Anas ibn Malik -Allah be well-pleased with him- explains: “The earth exclaims ten advises to man, each day:

 Son of Adam!

1. You walk on me, yet your return is to me.

2. You commit all kinds of sins on me, yet you will be punished in me.

3. You laugh and have fun on me, yet you will cry in me.

4. You take pleasure on me, yet you will grieve in me.

5. You hoard wealth on me yet will remorse in me.

6. You feed on haram on me, yet maggots will feed on you in me.

7. You act arrogantly on me, yet will be lowered and despised in me.

8. You joyously walk on me, yet you will be immersed in sorrow in me.

9. You walk under daylight on me yet will be left in the dark in me.

10. You walk among crowds on me, yet will enter me all alone.” (Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Munabbihat, 37)

Speaking of Quss ibn Saida, a man of wisdom and eloquence, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- one day said: “One time at the Uqaz Fair, I heard Quss ibn Saida addressing people on camelback, where he said:

‘People! Come, listen, learn and take a lesson! Whoever lives dies, whoever dies perishes and whatever is bound to happen happens. Rain falls, grass grows and children are born to take over the place of their parents. Then they all depart. Occurrences are ceaseless; they all follow up on one another. The skies are filled with news, the ground with lessons to be taken. The earth is a mattress stretched out and the skies a lofty ceiling. The stars will expire and the seas will come to a rest. Whoever comes does not stay and whoever leaves does not return. Who knows? Is it that they are so comfortable where they are that they remain there or are they withheld and put to sleep?

People of Iyad! Where are your fathers and forefathers? Where are the people of Ad and Thamud who built exquisite mansions and abodes of stone? Where are the Nimrod and the Pharaoh, who beside himself in worldly riches said to his people ‘Am I not your greatest lord?

The Earth ended up grinding them all in its mill. Even their bones have now rotten away, scattered. Their abodes stand deserted, now inhabited by dogs. Do not ever become heedless like them! Do not tread their path! Everything is mortal, only the Almighty is not.

There is many a passage to enter the river of death, but alas, no way out!’”[15]

Death, the final curtain of the play of life, is like a mirror that shall reveal each person’s own destiny. For a person who lives under the domination of his ego, with the world his only purpose, the grave appears as a dark labyrinth. Even the remembrance of death afflicts him with a pain incomparable to anything else. However, if man is able surmount the obstacle that is the ego and through the contemplation of death, covers the distance towards attaining an angelic nature, a capability hidden in his spirit, death then becomes a necessary stage of reaching Allah, glory unto Him, the Almighty and the Unimaginable. And death, which often sends cold shivers down the spines of ordinary human beings, thereby instantly turns to an excitement of reuniting with the beloved. In the words of the Sufi great Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret-; a death of the kind is a shab-i arus, a groom’s night. This is a path that beautifies even the most dreadful thing man can experience, death. To beautify death, it is necessary to attain to a spiritual perfection through repentance, piety, and trust in the Lord, contentedness, Divine remembrance and patience.

      In terms of the influence it wields in purifying the heart, the contemplation of death is second to none. Rabi ibn Husayn says, in this regard: “I fear my heart would become corrupted should it abandon the remembrance of death. I would have sat in the graveyard until my very last breath, had I been certain that I would not have defied the practices of my predecessors by doing so.” (Bayhaki, Kitabu’z-Zuhd, p. 212)

The heart quivers amid the convulsions of the spirit and the ego until death. Death is a necessary prelude to the journey of the afterlife. Before setting out on this journey, preparing the heart for death through marifatullah, imparting unto it a spiritual health and serenity that would secure it from the anxiety and fear of death, are tasks one cannot afford to neglect. If successful, the underlying mystery to ‘die before death’ becomes unraveled, whereby man replaces the forlorn dominance of his ego with the love of and abidance by Allah, glory unto Him, in the most perfect sense of the term.

i. Being in the Company of the Pious and the Righteous

“O you who believe! Be careful of your duty to Allah and be with the righteous.” (at-Tawba, 119)

Guarding the heart from masiwa or anything other than the Lord, and rendering it receivable only to the good, requires one to accompany the pious and the righteous, from who one can receive spiritual benefit. Unlike the other parts of the body which come under the direct command of willpower, the heart recognizes no such authority and has an undying tendency to be swayed by surrounding influences.

The heart assumes the shape, color and rhythm of the environment it is in. But this is only the beginning of certain influences taking root and settling inside the heart. The influences that arise thereafter to take the heart in their command may turn out to be either positive or negative, depending on their resemblance to the tendencies that have already taken root inside the heart. So the heart is exposed to a grave danger, unless it is subjected to influences of a good nature and given thereby a certain blend. Being exposed to external influences, the heart is either swayed by them to the degree of its love for them or repels them to the degree of its hatred against them. The correct use of love and hate is therefore vital in spiritually raising or lowering a human being. Meting out love and hate to their right places does indeed play an important hand in reviving one spiritually. In contrast, showing love to those who are not worthy of it or hating those who do not deserve it in the least, renders one miserable, in proportion with the intensity of love or hate felt.

By keeping these considerations in mind, the need to, and the importance of, accompanying the righteous servants of Allah, glory unto Him, and entering their circle of influence, as demanded by spiritual perfection, becomes all the more glaring. But here, too, the benefit to be received is only proportionate to the love felt for the righteous. A dull and uninspired accompaniment barren of spiritual depth does not bring about the required end, bar some minimal benefits. Illustrative of this is the below account featuring Bayazid Bistami -may Allah sanctify his secret-:

One of his disciples one day asked Bayazid, “Would you be so kind as to give me a piece of your fur coat so I could carry it with me for spiritual benefit (tabarruk)?

“Son”, replied Bayazid, “not even skinning Bayazid and entering inside him will be of any benefit if you are not upright, let alone possessing a piece of his coat!”

The entire universe displays a tendency towards unification. This stems from the fact that the essence of being is one and the same. This tendency towards unification, of becoming one with another and seeking identity thereof, is valid in both physicality and spirituality. For example, if a bottle filled with a liquid of a sharp odor is spilled in one corner of a room, the emanating smell passes through from one particle of air that has fully absorbed it to another, until it becomes equal in all parts of the air inside the room. This is a law of physics, equally valid for all opposite qualities, like hot and cold, or what have you. But for this law of identity to manifest itself in human life, a medium to enable this unification is needed. And that is love. Colloquially, this has been made famous by the saying, “There runs a path from one heart to another”.

Forceful and energetic characters have generally been sources of inspiration for the weaker. The urge to imitate is in fact a tendency inherent in human disposition. A child regulates his entire actions and behavior with imitation. This tendency continues to exist in varying degrees even after childhood. Thus, the degree of concentration the pious and the righteous execute in their deeds of worship, their supreme levels of moral conduct, their spiritual eloquence and depth, rouses feelings of imitation and abidance in those around. It was through none other than this urge to imitate the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, the quintessential exemplar that enabled the Companions, nearly all of whom had notorious pasts, to become peaks of virtue.

We are aware from experience that by endearing himself to students, a teacher makes the subject taught both easy and enjoyable for the student. Love plays somewhat a magical role in converting difficulties to ease. If there is love, any given task is fulfilled with ease, however burdensome it may be. On the other hand, the burden of a task that is loathed feels much heavier than what it really is. Love makes a twenty rakah salat of tarawih feel like a breeze, while lack of love turns the four rakah salat of fajr into a burden. Sloppiness and laziness, here, is just an outcome of a lack of love. When all these are considered, allowing oneself to be charged with love by virtue of accompanying the pious and righteous, is sure to serve like a magic wand that turns many an imposing slope on the spiritual path into a flat, submissive plane.

On another note, to maintain the heart’s peace, one must stay away from becoming intimate with the ignorant and the perverse (fasiq). After all, a wind that blows through carrion or a cesspool absorbs its filthy odor and spreads it around, stifling breaths and disturbing spirits.

Sheikh Ubaydullah Ahrar -may Allah sanctify his secret- gave this advice to his friends: “Being in the company of the heedless and the unmindful weakens the heart, leaves the spirit disorganized and the heart in a state of disarray.”

Bayazid Bistami -may Allah sanctify his secret- once did feel such disarray and restlessness come over him. No matter what he did, he could not overcome it. Turning to those around him, he finally asked, “Check around to see if there is a stranger among us.”  Though they looked around, they did not come across a stranger. But Bayazid was adamant. “Look properly…especially where the staffs are”, he insisted. So they did. And resting against the other staffs, they found a staff belonging to an unmindful man, which they quickly took outside. Only then could Bayazid recover his peace of mind.

Likewise, Ubaydullah Ahrar -may Allah sanctify his secret- once said to a friend who at the time was paying him a visit, “You smell of a stranger”, adding, after a brief pause, “It could be that you have worn the clothes of a strange person.” “That is quite true”, the man replied, astonished, as he quickly went out and returned after changing his clothes.

The ability of the transmission that is characteristic of negative qualities is valid also for positive qualities. The best example of this is the case of Yaqub (a.s) and Yusuf (a.s). Seeing his own image and characteristics in Yusuf (a.s), Yaqub (a.s) grew fonder of him compared to his other children. His identification with Yusuf (a.s) was to such an immense degree that later, as Yusuf’s (a.s) shirt was being delivered to him from Egypt, he was able to smell it despite being a great distance away in Canaan. No other person, even Judah, the deliverer of the shirt, could sense the mystery of that fragrance. Only when the shirt was rubbed on Yaqub’s (a.s) eyes was he able to regain his sight. And this is a manifestation of the spiritual bond that has infiltrated even the seemingly lifeless matter. A simple reflection on how spirituality infuses even matter bears out the need to diligently protect the heart, doubtless more sensitive than matter.

Sufi greats say:

“Even lifeless objects receive a reflection of people’s deeds and morals. There is therefore a great difference of value between a deed of worship offered in a place where sins of all kind run rife and a place that has become home to deeds of righteousness. It for this reason that a salat offered in the vicinity of the Kaaba is far more superior to that offered elsewhere.”

In sharp contrast to places of such inspiring spirituality, there are others that only give off heaviness and gloom. On the return from the troublesome Campaign of Tabuk, the Companions reached the Valley of Hijr, where they entered the rock-cut former dwellings of the Thamud Tribe. The Blessed Prophet (s.a) thereupon warned them:

“This is the location where Allah the Almighty destroyed Thamud”, he said. “So do not take any water from here lest you receive a share of wrath.”

“We have filled our water bottles, Messenger of Allah. And what’s more, we have even prepared some dough using this water”, said the Companions.

“Empty out the water and feed the dough to the camels”, commanded he. (Bukhari, Anbiya, 17)

Such ahadith are living examples of how the spiritual state of a given location spreads and reflects even onto lifeless beings.

To develop and flourish the spiritual characteristics of the heart, one must strive to receive spiritual enlightenment and energy from the conduct of the pious and the righteous. The occasion most favorable to receiving this spiritual reflection is a sohbah, a spiritual talk or speech. This is verified by Luqman’s (a.s) advice to his son:

“Remain by the side of the knowledgeable and try not to detach yourself from sohbah; for Allah revives the heart with the light of wisdom, just like He revives the parched earth with rain.” (Ahmed ibn Hanbal, Kitabu’z-Zuhd, no: 551)

The following hadith superbly expresses the importance of sohbah and its awaiting benefits for a believer: “Should a group of people gather in a house among the houses of Allah to read the Book of Allah and discuss it amongst themselves, sakina (spiritual serenity) will surely come over them; they will be encompassed by Divine mercy and surrounded by angels. And Allah will mention them in His own presence.” (Abu Dawud, Witr, 14; Ibn Maja, Muqaddima, 17)

Abu Idris al-Hawlani recounts:

“I had entered the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. Inside was an amiable young man, with pearly teeth. Men had gathered around him, speaking to each other about certain things. Whenever they would fall into dispute, they would ask the young man and accept his adjudication. I soon found out that the young man was none other than Muadh ibn Jabal -Allah be well-pleased with him-.

In the early hours of the next day, I again went to the mosque. He was already there before me, offering salat when I happened to step inside. I waited for him to finish. Then I went next to him and after giving him my greetings, said:

‘I assure you that I love you for the sake of Allah!’

‘Is it really for the sake of Allah?’ asked Muadh -Allah be well-pleased with him-. ‘Yes’, I replied. He repeated the question three times and each time I replied with the same word.

Then grabbing hold of my shirt, he pulled me closer and said, ‘Glad tidings to you, then…for I heard the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- narrate these words from his Lord:

‘My love is obliged to those who love each other, remain together and visit each other for the sake of I and who have devoted themselves to My pleasure.’” (Imam Malik, Muwattaa, Shaar, 5)

The Almighty states:

يَآ اَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ اٰمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللّٰهَ وَ كُونُوا مَعَ الصَّادِقِينَ

“O you who believe! Be careful of your duty to Allah and be with the righteous.” (at-Tawba, 119)

As aforementioned, a spiritual mindset (hal) is transmitted in proportion with existing feelings of love and affinity. In order to perfect iman, it is essential to establish affinity with the pious and the righteous, to love them and be close to them as possible and allow this tendency to grow stronger to ultimately obtain the desired result.

The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- wonderfully articulates the importance of accompanying the righteous in the following words: “The likeness of a good friend and a bad friend is like a musk-carrier and a blacksmith. The musk-carrier either offers you some of his fragrance or you buy some from him. As for the blacksmith, he either burns your clothes or spreads to you the smell of soot.” (Bukhari, Buyuu, 38)

Besides the importance of being with the righteous in life, the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- also underlines the importance of neighboring them in the grave: “Bury your dead next to the righteous.” (Darimi, Musnad, I, 102)

Even obtaining one’s needs through the righteous has been made mention. Ibnu’l-Firasi narrates that his father had once asked the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- whether he should ask others for what his needs.

“No, do not!” replied he, adding, “But should you fall in a situation where you must, at least ask the righteous.” (Abu Dawud, Zakat, 28; Nasai, Zakat, 84)

The Beloved Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- has likewise stated: “There are men who are the keys to dhikrullah. Seeing them, people instantly remember Allah.” (Haythami, X, 78)

Qadi Shurayh had written a letter to Omar -Allah be well-pleased with him-, asking how he, as judge, should adjudicate between people. Omar -Allah be well-pleased with him- replied in the following:

“Adjudicate between them with what is revealed in the Book of Allah. If you cannot derive a ruling from there then resort to the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace-. If you cannot derive a ruling in either, then make use of the judgments of the righteous. Given you cannot find a ruling there either, then it is up to you whether you go ahead and adjudicate or step back. I am of the opinion that stepping back will be better for you.” (Nasai, Qudat, 11/3)

A dervish once appealed to Bayazid Bistami -may Allah sanctify his secret- to recommend to him a deed that would bring him closer to Allah, glory unto Him.

“Love the righteous servants of Allah! Love them so that they return your love. Try and find a way inside their heart, for Allah, gazes at the heart of the wise three-hundred-and-sixty times a day. Let Him locate you there during those gazes!”

It is for no other reason that Sufi training demands a continuous practice of rabitah[16], to ensure that the murid, or the disciple, keeps his love for the righteous, with whom he is affined, ever alive.

It should be remembered that one, gripped by sin and wickedness, could prevent incurring many more spiritual losses to come, simply by virtue of this spiritual connection. And furthermore, through this spiritual connection, he could even obtain for himself many more spiritual benefits to come.

Proportionate with the intensity of love, rabitah establishes a spiritual power line, highly charged with spiritual sensing and feeling. A spiritual transaction thereupon begins between the two persons on the opposite ends of this line, conducive to unification. While the person who is the recipient in this transaction proceeds spiritually, the righteous or the pious, who is the transmitter, may suffer to a certain degree. This process is where the righteous, the source of spiritual inspiration, cleanses those who come to him, tainted with scores of spiritual dirt, a procedure comparable to washing dirty overalls. Such righteous people, who are licensed to guide (irshad), purify and get rid of the dirt and rust of those they are obliged to train, in the vast ocean that is their inner, spiritual world. People of this ilk play the role of purifiers in society, like plants that transform certain elements, rotten and decomposed, to colorful flowers and delicious fruits.

With that said, in the life of every righteous and pious person with the license to guide, there is a phase of seclusion, be it short or long. Not only is this from the desire to get closer to the Lord, it is also from the need to distance oneself from the ugly aspects of life, for a certain amount of time.

A love reinforced with intimacy ultimately allows the lover to become annihilated in the existence of the beloved. Only at the end of love does this come about, as elegantly expressed by Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret-:“A river that reaches the sea is a river no more; it becomes a part of the sea it enters. A morsel of bread we eat dissolves in our body and becomes a part of us. Just the same the existence of the lover dissolves in that of the beloved, depending on the intensity of his love.’

Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- continues to elaborate the condition of the spirit undergoing the experience of unification and annihilation: “Love came and like blood, filled my veins and skin. It took me away from me, filling my existence with the Beloved. The Beloved has covered the entire particles of my body. What is left to me is just a name. The rest is all Him…”

These are exactly what are referred to in tasawwuf as fanafillah and bakabillah[17]. But to proceed on this path that leads to the love of the Lord, it is vital for the heart to acquire a character that is both worthy of and adequate to this task. And this is acquired through exercises of humanly love.

Since it serves as a means to prepare the heart for true love, provided of course it does not transgress the legitimate bounds, love between human beings is tolerated and referred to as metaphorical love (ashk-i majazi); just like the love one feels for the members of his family. Yet in defining love and determining its level, one must stay true to a certain guideline, for which again the words of Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- provide a superb blueprint:

“Have mercy…love is a good thing. What damages it are only your evil habits. You call lust by the name of love. Alas…if only you knew how great the distance is that separates love from lust!

Divine love and ecstasy keeps a believer awake. Worldly and licentious lusts turn man into a fool and leave him stupefied. Love is the burning and the fluttering of man who is created of water and earth. The flow of blood through the veins is unimportant…the burning of the lungs with love is.”

At the peak of mortal love, the lover becomes one with the beloved, to the extent of the love felt. In tasawwuf, the furthermost point the disciple reaches in his love for his master and -virtually- becomes annihilated in the master’s existence is called fana fi’s-sheikh.

Abu Bakr -Allah be well-pleased with him- would undergo distinct feelings of ecstasy and rapture each time he met and conversed with the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-. Even being in the Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- presence would, far from appeasing them, only aggravate his love and yearning for him.

One time, the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- remarked, “I have never benefited from anyone’s wealth as much as I have benefited from Abu Bakr’s”. Upon hearing these compliments, Abu Bakr -Allah be well-pleased with him- could not help but feel he was being considered as someone ‘other’. Since it was he who was the person addressed and insofar as ‘being addressed’ implied an otherness, he felt left out of the Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- intimacy. He erupted with a scorching feeling of agony deep inside, an agony of separation. Fretful that he might be considered as someone ‘other’, he exclaimed: “Are not my wealth and I for you alone, Messenger of Allah?” (Ibn Majah, Muqaddima, 11)

To depict this profound state of mind in the wonderful words of Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret-:

“What is love, what is one’s own life…what are pearls and corals so long as they are not spent, sacrificed for the beloved?”

Similarly, at another time, Abu Bakr -Allah be well-pleased with him- had become bedridden from grief simply upon hearing that the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- had fallen ill. It was owing to this identification that spawned the following words of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, which illustrates the union of spirit and the flow that occurs between one heart and the other:

“Abu Bakr is of me, I am of him. He is my brother here and in the Hereafter.” (Daylami, Musnad, I, 437)

Illustrating no less the flow from one heart to another are the words the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- uttered while on his deathbed:

“Close all the doors apart from Abu Bakr’s.” (Bukhari, Ashabu’n-Nabi, 3)

Sheikh Sadi Shirazi explains the transmission of hal, the spiritual mindset, in the following: “It was because it remained steadfast by the side of the righteous that the dog of the Sleepers of the Cave earned a lofty honor by being mentioned in the Quran. Lut’s (a.s) wife, on the other hand, brought shame upon herself by remaining by the side of the perverse.”

The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- warns against the damages incurred on the heart through befriending the ignorant: “There will come a time when a certain faction from among my ummah, claiming to be knowledgeable in religion, will read the Quran and say, ‘We will go to the governors, benefit from their worldly possessions and keep their noses out of religion’. But this will not be the case. Just like one may only collect prickles from a thorn, they will only collect what is harmful from them.’ (Ibn Majah, Muqaddima, 23)

In his Gulistan, Sheikh Sadi uses a parable to explain the transmission of the spiritual mindset that takes place through befriending the pious and the righteous and the consequent ‘identification’:

“A man goes to the baths. There, one of his friends hands him a beautifully scented earthen to clean himself with. The earthen gives off an exquisite scent that enchants his soul. The man asks the earthen:

‘You delightful thing…I am enchanted by your wonderful scent. So tell me, are you of musk or amber?’

‘I am of neither musk nor amber’, replies the earthen. ‘I am simply of ordinary soil, as you know it. Yet, I was standing under the sapling of a rose, moistened every day from the dews that would drop onto me from the rosebud. The scent you smell belongs to no other than that rose.’”

As hinted at by the inner meaning of the parable, those who open their hearts to the righteous with sincerity, submission and humbleness, gradually begin to reflect the beauty they are striving to attain. Just like the side of the moon that reflects the rays of light that radiate from the sun, thereby becoming a part of the sun itself despite having no light of its own, people of such caliber virtually act like candles, lighting up the pitch dark nights of humankind, blackened from the dust of oppression.

j. Embodying Good Morals

“There will be nothing weighing heavier on the scales of a Muslim in the Hereafter than good morals. Allah the Almighty hates those who act and speak ill.” (Tirmidhi, Birr, 62)

Allah, glory unto Him, has endowed human beings with an aptitude for elegance, grace and spiritual depth. The value of a human being is only to the extent he allows these attributes to flourish on the soil of his heart. Becoming a human being, not only physically but also and more importantly spiritually, makes it necessary to embody good morals and render bad habits ineffective.

Hearts replete with spirituality act as agents manifesting good morals, righteous conduct and a spiritual state of mind. It is in this manner that a servant may live up to the fact of being created in the best fashion.

In contrast, in hearts that have been vanquished by the ego, kufr, shirk, wicked habits, lustfulness and delusive whispers (waswasah) run rife. And eventually, the heart forgets its Lord and becomes blinded, going in the complete opposite direction of its reason of existence. Worse still, it can even become baser than witless creatures.

The Creator of the Universe addresses man with a stern warning, calling him to come to his senses and not debase himself:

يَآاَيُّهَااْلاِنْسَانُمَاغَرَّكَبِرَبِّكَالْكَرِيمِالَّذِىخَلَقَكَ

فَسَوّٰيكَ فَعَدَلَكَ فِى اَيِّ صُورَةٍ مَا شَآءَ رَكَّبَكَ

“O man! What has made you careless concerning your Lord, the Bountiful, Who created you, then fashioned, then proportioned you? Into whatsoever form He will, He casted you.” (al-Infitar, 6-8)

The Almighty also declares, in the Quran:

وَ اللّٰهُ يَدْعُوٓا اِلٰىدَارِ السَّلاَمِ

“Allah invites to the Daru’s-Salam.” (Yunus, 25)

Yet, every invitation comes with its conditions. Not everyone is ever invited to a certain place. There are always conditions of acceptability. Only with a qalbu’s-salim, a refined or peaceful heart, may one attend the Divine invitation to the Daru’s-Salam, The Abode of Peace.

The sole condition for living morally, in a manner befitting of human existence, is to get hold of the sublime objectives laid down by religion. The perfection of human existence and the peak of good morals, likewise, is the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-. Both confirming and affirming this, are the words of the Almighty:

“And you stand on an exalted standard of character.” (al-Qalam, 4)

The Beloved Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- states in a number of ahadith:

“My Lord has trained me and how beautifully has he trained me.” (Suyuti, al-Jamiu’s-Saghir, I, 12)

“There will be nothing weighing heavier on the scales of a Muslim in the Hereafter than good morals. Allah the Almighty hates those who act and speak ill.” (Tirmidhi, Birr, 62)

“I have been sent to perfect good morals.’ (Imam Malik, Muwattaa, Husnu’l-Khulq, 8)

Prophet Muhammad Mustafa -upon him blessings and peace- is not just the only prophet, but also the only person in history to have every single, intricate detail of his life documented. His every word, action and expressed feeling was recorded and bequeathed to entire human kind as an emblem of honor. His uswatu’l-hasanah; that is his quintessential example; has provided a blueprint for entire humanity, declared by the Almighty in the Quran as: “Certainly you have in the Messenger of Allah an excellent exemplar for him who hopes in Allah and the latter day and remembers Allah much.” (al-Ahzab, 21)

While it is imperative to seek a share of the Blessed Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- heart-world and his impeccable morals, this may take place only to the degree of love felt for him and the extent in which one enshrouds himself in his spirituality. Through the reflection of and spiritual coloring (insibagh) received therefrom, a Muslim acquires a zest for character traits like compassion, mercy, benevolence, forgiveness and sharing what he has with his brothers and sisters of religion. Of this, the Companions, saints, the righteous and the pious provide consummate examples.

By drawing nearer to the reality of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- and virtually becoming moths around the flame of his spirituality, these believers of elegance have always considered annihilation in the Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- spirituality as the greatest blessing one may receive in the entire world. Muslims, throughout history, who have been able to acquire a share of the quintessential example of the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, have thereby allowed the growth of their iman to its furthermost extent and by maturing the joy for the Divine embedded in their natural disposition, have acted as a torch for humankind. In loving him lies the most effective cure for ill and unmindful hearts.

Below are just some examples typical of his towering moral character and conduct:

The Blessed Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- countenance was the most sparkling and attractive of all countenances. Immediately after the Hijra, Abdullah ibn Salam, then a Jewish scholar, had inquisitively asked around to catch a glimpse of him and remarked, upon finally seeing him:

“Such a face can never lie”. These were his final words as a Jew, as he embraced Islam at the instant. (Tirmidhi, Qiyama, 42/2485; Ahmed ibn Hanbal, Musnad, V, 451)

Endowed with an immense degree of beauty, awe inspiring majesty and a dazzling elegance, he really needed neither an extra proof, nor a miracle to prove the fact that he was the Messenger of the Lord. Whenever the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- would become pleased or displeased, one could immediately see it in his expression. His pure body had embodied an intense vigor, a strong sense of haya and a rigorous determination. He was more decent than a maiden enshrouded in her covering. As for the depth of the sensitivity of his heart, it is impossible to articulate.

Never uttering a word in vain, his every word conveyed wisdom and advice. There was not the least place for backbiting and futile talk in his vocabulary. He would talk to people according to their capacities. He was kind and modest. Though he would never express his joy through excessive laughter, his face always put a warm smile on view. Suddenly seeing him would overwhelm one in awe; though a brief conversation was enough to implant feelings of deep love and affection towards him.

He would treat the righteous with respect, according to their ranks of piety. His relatives were treated by him with honor and respect. It was habitual for him to extend the tenderness he nurtured for his family and friends to the rest of society, saying: “You will not have become a matured Muslim until you wish for your brothers what you wish upon yourselves.” (Bukhari, Iman, 7; Muslim, Iman, 71-72)  He would treat his servants inexpressibly well, clothing and feeding them with whatever he clothed and fed himself. Generous and compassionate, the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- had struck a perfect balance between courage and kindness, compliant with the given circumstance.

The Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- was a man of his word, always true to his promise. Superior to all in terms of virtue, intelligence and acuteness of mind, his physical and spiritual uniqueness could not possibly be overstressed.

He had a constant look of sorrow about him. Withdrawn into an uninterrupted state of contemplation, he only spoke when necessary. His spell of silence was lengthy. With that said, he would complete every sentence he begun, collecting layers of meaning in just a few words. He would utter his words piece by piece. With a gentle predisposition, his stature was nevertheless majestically imposing.

He would never get up from his seat when angry. And never would he become angry, unless there was an infringement of right. Given there was an infringement of right gone unnoticed, his anger would never subside until the right was restored. And afterward, he would once again resign to his usual composure. Getting angry on his own behalf was not his nature; he would never develop a vendetta and become quarrelsome in a personal matter.

He would never enter the household of anyone without permission. Once he returned home, he would divide the time he would spend there into three parts: the first for Allah, glory unto Him, the second for his family and the third for himself, though only by name, as in effect he would spare that time for all kinds of people, common and elite, depriving not a single person of his precious time, leaving not a single heart unconquered.

The Blessed Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- each state and behavior was an expression of dhikrullah.

At mosques, he would assume different places for seating, to prevent others from making a habit of sitting in a particular place, wary of the consecration of certain places and cites. He disliked the adoption of conceited behavior in public. Upon entering an assembly, he would take whatever seat available, insisting others do the same.

Whenever a person wanted something from him in sorting out a particular problem, irrespective of the importance of the favor, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- would never feel at ease until that need was aptly taken care of. Given the impossibility of sorting the problem out, then the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- would at least comfort the person with some soothing and heartening words. He was a confidant for all. No matter what their social classes were, whether rich or poor, wise or ignorant, people would receive even treatment next to him, solely from the vantage of being a human being. All his gatherings were environments teeming with kindness, wisdom, manners, patience and trust, first and foremost in Allah, glory unto Him, then in each other.

Never would he publicly condemn a person for his shortcomings. When the need would appear to warn a particular person, the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- would do as little to subtly yet elegantly hint at it, without breaking the person’s heart. He would say: “Do not rejoice over a disaster that befalls your brother…for Allah may relieve him through His mercy and test you with the same disaster.” (Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 54)

Not only was he never preoccupied with prying the concealed flaws of others, he was stern in prohibiting others from getting busy with such ignobility. Prying and suspicion of others was, after all, banned by the Almighty.

The Light of Being -upon him blessings and peace- would not speak, unless with an aim for Divine pleasure. His conversations would emit spiritual ecstasy. So attentively would the Companions listen to him as he spoke and so captivated they would be that in the words of Omar -Allah be well-pleased with him-, if a bird were to come and perch on their heads, it could have been able to remain there undisturbed for hours on end. (Abu Dawud, Sunnah, 23-24/4753) The manners and haya that had reflected onto his Companions were of such intensity that, more often than not, even asking him questions was deemed as impudent. They would hence wait for a Bedouin to perhaps arrive from the desert and inadvertently drop in to ask the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- questions and spark a conversation, from whose spirituality they hoped to benefit. (See, Ibn Saad, I, 422-425; Haythami, IX, 13)

Abu Hurayra -Allah be well-pleased with him- describes the depth of his compassion:

“During the heated moment of a battle, we insisted the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- to curse the idolaters to perish. But he said, ‘I have not been sent to curse but as mercy.’” (Muslim, Birr, 87)

About the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, Allah, glory unto Him, states in the Quran:

وَمَااَرْسَلْنَاكَاِلاَّ رَحْمَةً لِلْعَالَمِينَ

“And We have not sent you but as a mercy for the worlds.” (al-Anbiya, 107)

Ahmed ar-Rifai -may Allah sanctify his secret-, the great man of spirit, offers the below advice to his spiritual children:

“Expend, seeker of wisdom, all your existence in the way of the Real. Abide by the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace-. Spend your day and night within the ambiance of worship and rightful conduct. Only in this way may you attain marifah. There is otherwise no share of it for you. Unable to become one with his hal, you will end up a defective servant.”

The utterly magnificent character of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- which we have here attempted to summarize so far within the limited opportunity provided by words, are like mere drops trickling onto our understanding from that Great Ocean. The secret behind wasl ila’Allah, or reaching Allah, glory unto Him, lies in becoming intimate with the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Prophet, with a genuine heart, and in loving those whom Allah and His Messenger loves and detesting whom they detest.

F or the wise, the universe is a magnificent parade of Divine manifestation and art offered up to human gaze, while for the fool, it is simply a podium of consumption and lust.

4. GAZING AT THE UNIVERSE WITH A PURIFIED HEART

By becoming increasingly purified and with the grace of Allah, glory unto Him, supplementary to the spiritual exercises of tasawwuf, the heart acquires such a nature at the end of the road that its possessor becomes angelic in spirit, despite continuing his physical existence. Some, who are of this acquired nature, are anonymous both to themselves and to others, much like a star among millions of others that are hidden to human gaze despite occupying space. Such persons are unidentifiable.

With that said, owing to the social responsibilities they have been entrusted with to carry out, certain other persons of the same kind are, to a certain degree, known. They thereby act as guiding lights not only during their lifetimes but also afterwards, even once they cease to exist physically, privileged with a share of the secret of eternity. They comprehend the final cause that is the will of the Lord, concealed beneath the causal chain of natural events. They thus life within the peaceful presence and serenity of having tapped into wisdom and are protected from defects like haste and anxiety, that plague human beings.

For them, nothing is absurd. Proceeding on the path of spiritual progress from the principle to ‘tolerate the created for the sake of the Creator’, they begin to gaze at the entire universe with a sagacious eye, to take a lesson, with love and awe.

They look upon the rising sun and the colorful portrait drawn by the rays of light at sunset with an awe-inspired gaze. They even look upon a snake with this perception; thus the fear experienced by ordinary human beings at the sudden sight of a slithering snake is replaced with an infatuation with the wonderful moirés on its skin and enchantment with its speed and agility of movement despite having no feet.

Since they gaze at creation with wisdom and love, these saintly figures are safe even from the attacks of feral animals; for love indeed acts like a radiating force in making the other succumb.

They have nothing of the general tendency of other human beings to view the wonders of the universe as ordinary. An ordinary man, who looks on impressed at manmade paintings, which after all are merely based on an imitation of nature, cannot feel the same way when gazing at the universe in connection with its Creator. Things that should evoke awe are, for him, just ordinary happenings.

The pious whose hearts are purified, on the other hand, have no business in acclaiming paintings made by artists with an interest of acquiring fame, and instead, they turn their interest and acclaim to the Real Artist and His masterpiece. They enjoy the zest of beholding the Divine art embedded in the innumerable wonders of nature. They gaze at the multicolored flowers and leaves of plants, the inexhaustible difference of color, smell and shape each tree has, the unique taste of each fruit, even though they all spring from the very same soil, and look on admiringly at the wonderful patterns on the wings of a butterfly and appreciate the incredibility of human creation. They lend an ear to the mysterious words expressed through the silent language (lisan’ul-hal) of countless Divine wonders like eyesight and understanding, seen by many as simply ordinary happenings.

For such people, the entire universe is like a book waiting to be read. Having surpassed knowledge of the written, they eye the knowledge of the heart; just like Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- who, as a scholar buried in his books and minding his own business in the Saljuk Madrasa, was suddenly ignited by the enlightening call of an enamored, mystic dervish named Shams, and soon found himself ablaze in the fire of love. Reborn in the atmosphere of love, it was the same Mawlana in whose sight the value of written books dropped to where they truly belong, as he began reading the mysterious patterns of the universe with his very own eye of the heart. It was only after this stage that the masterpiece that is the Mathnawi, a cry exposing the mysteries of the Quran, universe and man, came to be.

Internalizing this state of mind is possible only if a believer discovers the potential power and love embedded in his heart.

Becoming focal points to the Divine Gaze, hearts of the kind reach their zenith. Perhaps because there is an element of human will involved in its coming to be that Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- pays tribute to the value of this purified heart:

By Khalil Ibrahim, the son of Azer, was Kaaba raised
But the heart is the focal point of the Almighty’s Gaze…

Frequent is the likening of the heart to Kaaba in Sufi hagiographic (manaqib) works. This stems from their conspicuous resemblance: the heart occupies a similar place in man, the essence of the universe (zubda-i kainat), to that of Kaaba with respect to the universe. Both occupy a central place in being focal points of the Divine Gaze. They are where the Gaze becomes centralized. The style of these hagiographic accounts, which tend to give the heart preeminence over the Kaaba, is partly from an amorous manner of expression. But more importantly, it is with the aim to encourage people by virtue of articulating the importance of uplifting the heart to this desired level, where it becomes a focal point just like the Kaaba.

On the subject of the heart becoming a focal point of the Divine Gaze, the words Ibn Omar -Allah be well-pleased with him- pronounced while looking at the Kaaba are significant to say the least:

“How great you are, Kaaba! How mighty is your name! But the honor a true believer has in the Sight of Allah is even greater!” (Tirmidhi, Birr, 85)

The heart is the precinct of iman. That the heart of a mature believer is superior even to the Kaaba are made clear by the words of Ibn Omar -Allah be well-pleased with him-. In virtual confirmation of this fact, Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- says:

“If you have a glimmer of prudence, circumambulate the Kaaba that is the heart! It is the heart that holds the true meaning of the Kaaba which you think is just made of earth.

The Lord has obliged you to circumambulate the Kaaba, just so you acquire a heart cleansed of masiwa, a purified Kaaba of the heart.

Know very well that if you break a heart, the focal point of the Divine Gaze, even the rewards of walking to Kaaba on foot will not compensate for the sin you will have reaped.”

The condition of obtaining a heart of such caliber is abbreviated by Abdulqadir Jilani -may Allah sanctify his secret-:“Only the heart of he who seeks marifatullah, a heart that is cleansed of masiwa, becomes a Kaaba.”

Ismail Hakkı Bursawi offers similar words: “He who finds a way inside a heart is superior to he who finds a way inside Kaaba. It is for that reason that it is common to ask the righteous and the pious to ‘keep us in your heart’ and plea for spiritual enlightenment (istimdad-i fayz) and attention (talab-i himma).”[18]

Imam Rabbani -may Allah sanctify his secret- expresses the fact that man is a minor universe in the following manner: “Man is a condensed summary of the universe. Whatever there is found in the universe, he thus carries a small specimen.”

As has been mentioned on numerous occasions thus far, this equally underlines the bipolarity of man, of the fact of his exposure to both good and evil. The underlying purpose of religious commands and the supplementary exercises advised by tasawwuf, is to render good triumphant by dispossessing the tendency for evil as much as possible. In accomplishing this feat, it is vital for every organ of the human body to tow the line of Divine commands. With that said, the commands and exercises that pertain to the heart are of much greater importance, as being the hub of feelings, the heart gives direction to contemplation, which in turn regulates willpower. What this effectively means is that the primary cause of all willful conduct is the heart. Feelings indwell and take root inside the heart, allowing the heart to stand as an independent power against the will. Not only is it therefore more important to position the heart within the framework of Divine commands, it is also more difficult. Sufficient proof of this is what we have already mentioned above in relation to the difficulties that come with curing diseased hearts. Yet, since the value of each result is proportionate with the hardships endured on the way of acquiring it, disciplining the heart carries a massive value in Divine Sight. And in this sheer difficulty lies the reason as to why the Lord blesses those who are triumphant in this painstaking task, with angelic attributes and sometimes even more.

It is because of the crucial role it plays in ensuring man’s happiness and salvation that all Sufis have regarded breaking the heart as a grave sin. This is echoed by the caution Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- levels at heartbreakers:

“A broken heart which you value no more than a piece of straw is superior to the Throne… The Tablet and the Pen, just the same! Do not despise a heart, even it if be despicable! Even with its despicableness, it is supreme to all else. A broken heart is a being at which the Lord gazes. How sacred is he who mends it! Mending a heart shattered into two-hundred pieces is preferable in Divine Sight to many deeds of goodness! Be quiet! Even if each strand of your hair was to have two-hundred tongues, the heart would still remain indescribable!”

The heart has been designated as the subject of Divine manifestations and the precinct of their reflection, owing to its royal place within the human body. Indeed, as we have mentioned elsewhere, the profession of faith requires the ‘affirmation of the heart’. As the subject of Divine revelation, the Quran refers not to reason, a center of contemplation, but to the heart, the hub of spiritual sensing:

نَزَلَبِهِالرُّوحُاْلاَمِينُعَلٰىقَلْبِكَلِتَكُونَمِنَ الْمُنْذِرِينَ

بِلِسَانٍ عَرَبِىٍّ مُبِينٍ

“The Faithful Spirit has descended with it. Upon your heart that you may be of the warners. In plain Arabic language.” (as-Shuara, 193-195)

As is the case with all other activities, advancing in spiritual training is possible only through Allah, glory unto Him, complementing human endeavor with His aid, grace and benevolence. Although all human efforts and righteous deeds provide a spiritual base from which to embark, they are but means to attaining Divine grace and aid. Therefore, one who has entered this path must essentially rely on the benevolence and grace of Allah, glory unto Him. Since that ‘aid’ is bound to deliver the person somewhere better than where he presently is, at any rate, an improvement is certain. One must, however, strive to exert an effort that the Lord expects of him in return for the grace he anticipates.

There is an old saying: ‘One must not entirely forsake that which he cannot acquire completely’ (مَالاَ يُدْرَكُ كُلُّهُ لاَ يُتْرَكُ كُلُّهُ). This is also the recommended approach to take on board in spiritual training; one ought not to neglect acquiring at least that which is in his power.

There is also a widely known parable in tasawwuf. A young man, aspiring to be a disciple, asks a sheikh, ‘Himma father’ and the sheikh replies, ‘Ghayra (show effort) son!’ A person anticipating the spiritual attention of his master must be ready to exert some effort. What the Lord expects from a servant in spiritual training is for him to realize his helplessness and nothingness before Divine splendor and make some genuine effort towards tapping into the secret expressed in the principle ‘he who knows his self knows his Lord’. On the road towards vanquishing the ego, effort comes from the servant, while success from the Lord. And undoubtedly, the Almighty will hold a servant responsible only in proportion with the Divine blessings he had been granted in life. The important thing is for a person to align himself to the Truth, to the degree the blessings he has been endowed with allows him.

Lord…Light up the sparkles of  Truth in the mirror that is our hearts to allow us to behold the keys to the mysteries and wisdoms of both worlds; and no less our hearts and eyes so that we are honored with Your Jamal in the Hereafter!

Amin…

[1]        Ahsan-i Taqwim: Having been created in the best possible measure; the Quran’s reference to the creation of man.

[2]        See, al-Hajj, 46.

[3]        See, al-Furqan, 44.

[4]        Darussalam: Paradise.

[5]        A dhalla is an involuntary error.

[6]        The ‘people of Allah’, who have not only memorized the Quran but have also obeyed its commands and embodied its morals, are provided with numerous blessings by Allah, glory unto Him. It has even been reported that the corpses of some huffaz remain in tact, without the least sign of decay, after their death. The beloved Mahmud Sami Ramazanoğlu -may Allah sanctify his secret- personally testified to seeing the corpse of a hafiz in Adana, unearthed thirty years after his death due to necessary circumstances. Not only had his corpse remained in tact, even his shroud had remained undamaged.

[7]        Al-i Imran, 169.

[8]        See, al-Baqara, 197. Rafath: To have intercourse, to speak about intercourse or any kind of foul words. Fisq: All kinds of sinful conduct. Jidal: To engage in vain arguments.

[9]        Rendered from the Turkish translation of Divan-i Kabir by Assoc. Prof. Emin Işık, Marmara University, Faculty of Divinity.

[10]      Shab-i arus: Literally the wedding night but implies, here, a Divine reunion.

[11]      Bazm-i Alast, or the meeting of spirits in a time immemorial, is when the entirety of spirits affirmed the Lordship of the Almighty, by answering the Almighty’s question, “Am I not your Lord?” with “Certainly. You are our Lord!” See, al-Araf, 172.

[12]      See, Bukhari, Maghazi, 10; Waqidi, Maghazi, p. 280-281.

[13]      See, Qurtubi, al-Jami li-Ahkami’l-Quran, V, 271.

[14]      “I am in need for your intercession and mercy, Messenger of Allah!”

[15]      See, Bayhaqi, Kitabu’z-Zuhd, II, 264; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya, II, 234-241; Haythami, Majmau’z-Zawaid, IX, 418.

[16]      For more information, see pages 249-257.

[17]      Sufi sources offer various definitions for these concepts. Just to quote one such definition:

         Fanafillah is to become annihilated in Allah; that is to shed from the heart all interests that pertain to the world and to become purified from the attributes of the ego. Bakabillah is for the servant, who has purged his spirit of all attributes of the ego, to embody the morals of the Lord, which is realized only by enshrouding oneself in the morals and spirituality of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- and the Holy Quran.

[18]      Istimdad-i fayz is to aspire for spiritual enlightenment. Talab-i himma is to seek the attention of the Sufi master.