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Friday, June 20, 2003  

An Exposition of Evidence handed down from Men of Spiritual Insight and Provided in the Law to the effect that the Way to cure the Diseases of the Heart is by Renouncing one's Desires, and that the Stuff of such Diseases is Following Desires Know that should you contemplate what we have said above with an eye ready to draw lessons, your inner sight will be opened, and the diseases and remedies of hearts will be unveiled to you through the light of knowledge and certitude. If, however, you are not capable of this, you should nevertheless not fail to believe and have faith, through learning and the imitation of those who deserve to be imitated. For faith and knowledge are two degrees, and the latter occurs after the advent of faith, and comes subsequently to it. God (Exalted is He!) has said, God exalts those among you that have faith, and those that have knowledge, to high ranks (Qur'an, 58:11). Thus whosoever believes that the path to God (Great and Glorious is He!) lies in resisting his desires, but has not grasped the cause and secret of this, is among those that have faith; while he who learns the profundities and secrets of these desires becomes one of those that have knowledge. And God has promised the best to both (Qur'an, 4:95). The texts of the Qur'an, the Sunna and the statements of the scholars which demand that one credit this thing are innumerable. God (Exalted is He!) has spoken of he who restrains his soul from its whims; for him Heaven is the place of resort (Qur'an, 79:40,41). And He has said (Exalted is He!), They are those whose hearts God hath proven unto piety (Qur'an, 49:3), [the meaning of which] is said to be: 'He divested them of love for their desires'. The Emissary of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) said, 'The believer is beset with five afflictions: a believer who envies him, a hypocrite who hates him, an unbeliever who makes war on him, a devil who misguides him, and a soul which struggles against him'. He thus explained that the soul is an enemy which struggles with one, and which must be fought. It is said that God (Exalted is He!) revealed to David: 'O David! Warn and caution your companions about indulging in desires, for hearts which are attached to worldly desires are veiled from Me'. And Jesus (upon whom be peace) said, 'Blessed is he who renounces a present desire for the sake of something promised which he has not beheld'. And our Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace) said to some people who had just returned from the Jihad: 'Welcome! You have come from the lesser to the greater Jihad'. 'O Emissary of God!' he was asked. 'And what is the greater Jihad?' 'The jihad against the soul,' he replied. And he said (may God bless him and grant him peace), 'Refrain from harming your own soul, and follow not its whims into the disobedience of God, lest it dispute with you on the Day of Arising so that one part of you curses another, unless God (Exalted is He!) grant you His forgiveness and protection'. Said Sufyan al-Thawri, 'Never have I dealt with anything more difficult than my soul, which sometimes helps me, and sometimes opposes me'. Abu'l-'Abbas al-Mawsili used to say to his soul, 'O soul! Neither do you revel in the world with the sons of kings, nor do you struggle for the Afterlife with the ascetics. It is as though you had imprisoned me between Heaven and Hell. O soul! Are you not ashamed?'. Al-Hasan said, 'An unruly riding-beast is in no greater need of a strong bridle than is your soul'. Said Yahya ibn Mu'adh al-Razi, 'Fight your soul with the swords of self-discipline. These are four: eating little, sleeping briefly, speaking only when necessary, and tolerating all the wrongs done to you by men. For eating little slays desire, sleeping briefly purifies your aspirations, speaking little saves you from afflictions, and tolerating wrongs will bring you to the goal - for the hardest things for a man is to be mild when snubbed and to tolerate the wrongs which are done against him. And when the wish to indulge your desires and sin stirs in your soul, and the delight of superfluous discourse is aroused, you should draw the sword of eating little from the scabbard of the midnight prayer and sleeping briefly, and smite them with the fists of obscurity and silence until they cease to oppress you and avenge themselves upon you, and you become safe from their vicissitudes to the end of your days, having cleansed them of the darkness of the soul's desires so that you escape from their hazardous afflictions. At this you will become a subtle spiritual body, and a radiance without weight, and shall roam in the field of goodness, travelling the paths of obedience to God like a swift horse in the field, and a king taking his recreation in a garden'. He also said, 'Man has three enemies: the world, the devil, and the soul. Be on your guard against the world through renunciation, against the devil by disobeying him, and against the soul by abandoning desire'. A sage once said, 'The man who is ruled by his soul is a prisoner-of-war in the well of his desires, and is incarcerated to the gaol of his whims, which govern and lead him wherever they wish by means of a halter which lies in their hand, so that his heart is denied all benefit'. Said Ja'far ibn Muhammad, 'The scholars and the sages all concur that pleasure cannot be gained save through the renunciation of pleasure'. Said Abu Yahya al-Warraq, 'Whosoever gratifies his members by indulging in desire has planted the tree of regret in his heart'. Said Wahb, 'Everything more than bread is desire'. Said Wuhayb ibn al-Ward, 'Whosoever inclines toward the desires of this world should prepare himself for humiliation'. It is related that after Joseph (upon whom be peace) had been set in charge of the storehouses of the land, and during a state procession in which he rode with some twelve thousand of the nobles of his kingdom, Potiphar's wife, who was seated on a nearby eminence, said, 'Glory be to Him Who enslaves kings who disobey Him, and makes slaves into kings when they obey Him! O Joseph! It is greed and desire which make slaves from kings, which is the reward of the iniquitous, while steadfastness and piety bring kings forth from slaves'. And Joseph replied, as God (Exalted is He!) has said, 'Whosoever has piety and steadfastness; God shall not cause the reward of those who do good to be lost'. Said al-Junayd, 'Last night, finding myself unable to sleep, I arose and began my litany [wird]. However, I failed to find therein the sweetness to which I had been accustomed. I wanted to sleep, but could not; I sat, but I could not abide this, so I went outside. And there I saw a man lying in the roadway, wrapped in a cloak. When he perceived me he said, "O Abu'l-Qasim! Why so long in coming?" "O sir!" said I. "Without a time fixed beforehand?" "A time was fixed," he replied. "I asked God, Who moves all hearts, to move your heart towards me." "Thus did He do," I said, "so what would you have of me?" He asked, "When does the heart's ailments become its cure?" "When the soul is contradicted by its own whims," I replied. And, addressing his soul, he said, "Listen! Seven times have I given you this answer, yet you refused to hear it from anyone except al-Junayd! Now you have done so!" At this, being still unknown to me, he went his way'. Yazid al-Ruqashi said, 'Keep cold water away from me in this world, that perhaps I may not be denied it in the next!'. A man once enquired of 'Umar ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz, 'When should I speak?' And he replied, 'Whenever you wish to remain silent'. 'And when should I be silent?' the man asked, and 'Umar replied, 'Whenever you wish to speak'. Said 'Ali (may God ennoble his face), 'Whosoever desires Heaven will forget the desires of this world'. Malik ibn Dinar used to roam the marketplace, and, whenever he saw something that he desired, would say to this soul, 'Be patient, for I swear by God that I only deny it you because of the esteem in which I hold you'. Since the scholars and sages are thus agreed that there is no path to felicity in the Afterlife except the denial of the soul's whims and desires, to believe in this thing is therefore an obligation. The details concerning which desires should be renounced can be discerned from what we have set out above. The essence and secret of self-discipline is this: that the soul should not take pleasure in anything which will not be present in the grave - apart from that quantity which cannot be dispensed with. In matters of food, marriage, clothing, accommodation, and every other thing which one needs, one should restrict oneself to what is necessary and indispensable, for should the soul take pleasure in any of these things it will grow familiar with it, and, upon death, will wish to return to the world on its account; and no-one wishes to return to this world save him who has no share in the next. The only road to salvation in this regard is for the heart to be occupied with the knowledge, love, meditation upon and devotion to God, the strength for which can be derived from Him alone, and for one to restrict oneself to such worldly things as will set aside the obstacles to remembrance and meditation. The man who is unable to do this rightly should come as close to it as he can. There are four classes of people in this regard. Firstly, there is the man whose heart is so engrossed in the remembrance of God that he pays no heed to the world, apart from the bare necessities of life: he is one of the Truthful Saints [siddiqun]. It is only by dint of long discipline and patient abstinence from one's desires that one can attain to this rank. Secondly, there is the man whose heart is engrossed in the world, and who remembers God only mechanically, doing so with his tongue rather than his heart: such a man will be destroyed. Thirdly, it may be that a man is occupied with both religion and with the things of this world, with the former being predominant over his heart. This man, while he must necessarily come to Hell, shall be delivered from it rapidly, in proportion to the preponderance of God's remembrance in his heart. Fourthly, there is the man whose heart, although occupied with both, is nevertheless dominated by the world. He will remain in Hell for a long period, but must, however, ultimately emerge from it because of the power of the remembrance of God which, despite the preponderance of worldly concerns, had established itself in his innermost heart. O Lord God! We seek refuge in Thee from disgrace, for truly Thou art the place of refuge! The following objection may be raised: since the enjoyment of permitted things is itself permitted, these cannot be a cause of remoteness from God. This, however, is a feeble notion, for 'the love of this world is the source of every sin' and invalidates every good deed. For a permitted thing which is in excess of what one needs is also a thing of this world and a source of remoteness from God, as will be discussed later in the Book of the Condemnation of the World. Ibrahim al-Khawwas said, 'When I was once on Mount al-Likan, I beheld a pomegranate tree, and conceived a desire to eat from it. I took one pomegranate and split it open, but found it sour, so I left it and continued on my way. In due course I saw a man lying on the ground with hornets swarming over him. "Peace be upon you!" I said, and he replied, "And upon you be peace, Ibrahim!" "How did you know my name?" I demanded, and he said, "He who knows God knows all things". "I see that He has granted you a spiritual state", said I; "why then do you not ask Him to protect you from those hornets?" But he replied, "I see that you too have a state in God's sight. Why then do you not ask Him to protect you from your desire for pomegranates? For the sting of pomegranates is felt in the Afterlife, while that of hornets is felt in this world alone". At this, I left him, and went on my way.' Said al-Sari, 'For forty years my soul has been asking me to dip my bread into some treacle, yet I have not done so'. Thus it is that one can never reform the heart so that it follows the path of the Afterlife until one has prevented the soul from taking pleasure in what is permitted. For the soul, if allowed some permitted things, will then desire others which are forbidden, In this way the man who wishes to keep his tongue free from backbiting and chatter should remain silent in all things save the remembrance of God and the duties of religion, until such time as his desire for speech dies, for then he will speak only in ways that are proper, so that both his silence and his speaking become forms of worship. Similarly, for as long as the eye is accustomed to looking at all that is beautiful it will not restrain itself from looking upon that which is forbidden to it. And so it is with the other desires, since the faculty with which one desires the permissible is the same as that which one desires the prohibited; desire is one thing, and the bondsman of God is required to restrain it from forbidden things. If the soul is not accustomed to being confined to the essentials, its desires will gain control. This constitutes one of the hazards which inhere in licit things. Behind them lies a greater hazard, which is that the soul might take pleasure in its enjoyment of this world, and incline towards it and find contentment therein because of its exuberance and vanity, until it becomes intoxicated after the fashion of a drunkard who never wakes from his inebriation. This rejoicing in the world is a deadly poison which runs in a man's veins, driving from the heart all fear and sadness, and all remembrance of death and of the terrors of the Day of Arising. Thus does it constitute the death of the heart. God (Exalted is He!) has said, They desire the life of the world, and feel secure therein; (Qur'an, 10:7) And they rejoice in the life of the world, whereas the life of the world is but a [brief] comfort as compared with the Afterlife (Qur'an, 13:26). And He has said, Know that the life of the world is but play and idle talk, pageantry, and boasting among you, and rivalry in wealth and children [to the end of] the verse (Qur'an, 57:20) . All of this constitutes a condemnation of the world; and we ask God for his safekeeping. The resolute Sufis have tested their hearts during states of rejoicing in the world, and have found them to be hard, wanton, and slow to be affected by the remembrance of God and the Last Day; they have also tested them in the state of sadness, and found them to be soft, delicate, pure, and receptive to the effects of His remembrance. In this way have they learnt that salvation lies in constant sadness, and in distance from the sources of arrogance and joy. Then they weaned their souls from the things they found delightful, and habituated them resolutely to the renunciation of their desires, whether for permitted or forbidden things, knowing that they would be called to account for the former, punished for the latter, and reproached for that which was ambiguous (reproach being itself a form of punishment, for whosoever is questioned during the Reckoning on the plains of the Arising has been punished). In this way they saved their souls from their torment, and, being delivered from the imprisonment and slavery of their desires, and having acquired intimate familiarity with the remembrance of God and obedience to Him, gained freedom and abiding power in this world and the next. They had treated their souls as though they were falcons to be trained and transformed from a state of savagery and wildness to one of obedience and discipline. For a falcon should first be shut up and hooded in a dark chamber until it forgets its freely-roving nature and how it used to fly in the air hither and yon, and then should be tamed by being offered meat until it becomes familiar with its owner, and so docile that wherever it may be when it hears his voice, it returns to him when called. The soul is similar: it does not become tame before its Lord or enjoy His remembrance until it is weaned from its habits, firstly through enduring isolation and retreat, in order to keep the hearing and the sight from familiar things, and, secondly, through acquiring the habit of praise, remembrance and prayer while still in a state of retreat, until it becomes dominated by familiarity with God's remembrance rather than with the world and its desires. This is a heavy burden for the aspirant at the outset, but ultimately becomes a source of pleasure, in the manner of a small boy who finds being weaned from the breast a hardship, and cries bitterly and with anguish, and is repelled by the food which is set before him as a substitute for his milk. However, if he is denied any milk at all, he finds his abstinence from food extremely exhausting, and, when hunger overmasters him, he eats. Although this is an effort at first, in due course it becomes second nature to him, so that were he to be returned to the breast he would leave it alone and dislike its milk, having acquired a familiarity with food. Similarly, a riding-beast initially shies away from saddle and bridle, and will not be ridden, and has to be forced to endure these things, and must be restrained with chains and ropes from the roaming at will which had been its custom. Later it becomes so familiar with these things that when it is left untethered it stands quite still. The discipling of the soul is similar to that of birds and riding-beasts. It is first denied exuberance, arrogance and taking pleasure in the delights of the world and in everything which it must leave at the time of death, having been told, 'Love whatsoever you will, for you shall surely leave it', so that when it realises that the man who loves a thing which he must lose will certainly suffer, it occupies itself with the love of that which it shall never lose, which is the remembrance of God, which shall accompany him into his grave and never depart from him. All of this is achieved by means of endurance, which lasts but a few days, since this life is short in comparison with the length of the life to come, and there is not a single intelligent man who is not happy to endure the hardships of travel and of learning a trade, and so forth, for one month, in order to enjoy himself for a year, or for the rest of his life. When compared with eternity, it is as though all of one's lifetime is less than one month of one's life; thus one must struggle and endure. For 'in the morning people praise the one who travelled by night, when the blindnesses of slumber depart from them', as 'Ali (may God be pleased with him) said. The method of discipline and struggle varies from one person to the next, in accordance with their circumstances. The basic principle, however, is that all should renounce those things of the world which are found to be pleasurable. The man who rejoices in wealth or fame, or an audience receptive to his sermons, or in a high position in the judiciary or the government, or in the great number of his pupils, should firstly renounce this thing in which he takes pleasure and delight. For if, when he is denied any of these things and is told that his reward in the Afterlife is undiminished by this denial, he dislikes this and finds it painful, then he is one of those who desire the life of the world and feel secure therein (Qur'an, 10:7), and this will be a cause of his destruction. Then, when he has renounced these sources of joy, let him remove himself from the company of others and remain by himself, and keep watch over his heart until it occupies itself with nothing but the remembrance of God and meditation upon Him. Let him lie in wait for any desire or insinuation which might appear in his soul until he extirpates the stuff of which these are made; for every insinuation has a cause, and will not depart until that cause is destroyed. Let him persevere in this for the remainder of his life, for the Jihad can only end at death. -Hujjatul Islam, Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, The Revival of the Religious Sciences (Ihya' 'Ulum ad-Din) Translated by Shaykh 'Abdul Hakim Murad (may Allah reward him for his effort and initiative)

posted by SuFiSTiC | 6/20/2003 09:05:00 AM |
As for him who fears to stand before his Lord and restrains the ego its desires, the Garden is shelter.
(The Snatchers:40)
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "The Fire is surrounded by all kinds of desires and passions, while Paradise is surrounded by all kinds of disliked, undesirable things."
Whoever does good at night is rewarded during the day and whoever does good during the day is rewarded at night. Whoever is sincere in abandoning a desire is saved from catering to it. God is too noble to punish a heart that has abandoned a desire for His sake.
(Abu Sulayman ad-Darani)
Beware of your ego, and trust not its mischief;
The ego is worse than seventy devils.
(Arabic Poem)
Abu Bakar Balkhi
Md Mubaraq
Md Firdaus

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I seek God's forgiveness, and do not claim that my intention in producing this Blog is confined to good religious purposes; how may I do so when I am aware of the hidden desires, egotistic passions, and worldly wishes that I harbour? I do not claim innocence for myself; the ego is indeed an inciter to evil, save when my Lord shows mercy; my Lord is indeed Forgiving, Merciful. O God! I seek Your protection against my committing idolatry [shirk] knowingly, and Your forgiveness for that of which I am not aware! I ask God to make me and all other believers benefit from this Blog and to render my production of it purely for the sake of His Noble Countenance.

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