'In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful'
Assalaamu 'Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuhu
The Importance of Correcting the Heart and Ones Inner-Self
Allah the Exalted, has stated in the Holy Qur'an, "He who has purified, has gained success". In one Hadeeth Nu'man bin Basheer (radiAllah 'anhu) has mentioned, "I heard the Prophet (sallallahu'alaihi wasallam) say: 'Indeed in the body there is one piece of flesh. When that piece of flesh is sound and healthy the entire body is sound and healthy, and if it is corrupt the entire body becomes corrupt. That piece of flesh is the heart."
In this Hadeeth, the heart has been referred to as a piece of flesh. This is so that it becomes clear that even though the heart is so small in comparison to the rest of the body but due to the correctness or in contrast, the corruption of the body is dependant on the state of the heart. It is because the heart is the king of the body. When the king is correct and good, the subjects will also be correct and good. When the heart becomes enlightened through the light of Imaan, and the light of the recognition of Allah, then from every parts of the body A'amaal-e-Saalihah (righteous deeds) and praise worthy characteristics eminate by way of one's behaviour. And, when the heart becomes corrupt by way of darkness - doubt, disbelief, jealousy, arrogance, etc. take place.
Therefore, it is incumbent on every person that one guards his heart. The Ulema (scholars) have a consensus that the above mentioned Hadeeth is of great importance which has a tremendous place in the Sacred Law, and much benefit is to be gained from it. This Hadeeth is one of the three Ahadeeth upon which Islam is based. One group of Ulema (scholars) is of the opinion that it is
"Thuloothul Islam" meaning - one third of Islaam is covered in this Hadeeth.
It is therefore obligatory upon every Muslim to rectify his beliefs (Aqeeda) and external deeds and then reform his internal deeds.
Numerous Qur'anic Ayats and innumerable Ahadeeth narrations explicitly indicate to its being Fardh (obligatory), though most people who are subservient to their nafs i.e. lowly desires, are not familiar with this. Almost every Muslim is aware that the Qur'an
and Ahadeeth are explicit regarding the significance of piety, contentment, humility, sincerity, patience, gratitude, love of Allah Ta'ala, and of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wasallam), etc., while at the same time they emphasise the acquisition of these noble
traits. And, who is not aware that the Qur'an and Ahadeeth condemn the opposites of these noble qualities, which is the love of the world, greediness, pride, show, lust, anger, jealousy, etc., and has warned against them? There is no doubt in the fact that the noble
qualities have been commanded in the Holy Qur'an and the lowly traits have been prohibited. This is the actual meaning of
reforming the internal deeds and this is the nature and purpose of Tareeqat. It is undoubtedly an established fact as being Fardh (obligatory), and it is nothing independant from the Shariat, rather it strictly adheres to the Holy Law and the Sunnah.
The fountain of all Islamic teachings is the Qur'an and the Sunnah. The inception of this teaching was in the gatherings of the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu 'alaihi wasallam), and was laid at the initial stage of Islam and existed at its main centre. It had a confined number of adherents; hence, all branches of Islamic instructions -Tafseer (Qur'anic exegesis), Hadeeth, Fiqh (jurisprudence) and Tasawwuf - were all imparted at one venue, the Madrasa (school) of Rasoolullah (sallaahu 'alaihi wasallam). Separate departments did not exist and were not distinguished. Later, when Islam acquired a universal status, the Ulema (Scholars of the
religion) for the benefit of the Ummah, divided the sciences of Islam into seperate departments. Those who rendered service to the knowledge of Hadeeth were called Muhadditheen (Hadeeth scholars), those who undertook the responsibility of Tafseer (Qur'anic exegesis) were called the Mufassireen; those who specialized in Fiqh (the science of jurisprudence) were called the Fuqaha, while those who took custody of the departmet of Islah-e-Baatin (purification of the heart) became known as the Mashaaikh (Shaikhs of Tasawwuf). Hence, not single one among the great authorities of former times ever divorced the Shariat from Tareeqat. On the contrary they also held Tareeqat in subservience to the Shariat.
The whole combination of the teachings imposed by Islam is known as the Shariat. Both sets of acts, i.e. A'maale Zahiri (external deeds) and A'maale Baatini (internal deeds) are included. In the terminology of the earlier authorities of the Shariat the term Fiqh was synonymous with the word Shariat. Thus, the great Imam, Abu Hanifa (rahmatullahi 'alaihi) defined Fiqh as:
"The recognition of that which is beneficial and harmful to the nafs."
Later, in the terminology of the later authorities (of the Shariat) the word Fiqh was used for that branch of Islam which related to 'Amaale Zahiri while the branch which dealt with 'Amaale Baatini' became known as Tasawwuf. The ways or methods of acquiring 'Amaale Baatin' are called Tareeqat.
The reformation of the 'Amaale Baatin' brings about spiritual lustre and radiance in the heart to which is revealed, in consequence, certain realities (Haqa-iq-e-Kauniyah) pertaining to tangible and intangible occurances, especially virtue and vice; as well as certain realities (Haqa-iq-e-Ilahiyyah) pertaining to Divine Attributes and Acts especially related to the affairs between Allah (Subhanahu wa ta'ala) and His servants. These unveilings (Makshufat) are known as Haqeeqat. The process of these revelations (Inkishaf) is
called Ma'arifat (recognition, gnosis).
All the aforementioned relates to the Shariat. The notion that the Shariat and Tareeqat are entities apart - this notion has gained prominence among the public and is totally false and baseless. Imam Qushairi (rahmatullahi'alaihi) in his treatise 'Qushairiya', Hadhrat Suharwardy (rahmatullhi'alaihi) in his 'Awariful Ma'arif', Imam Ghazzali (rahmatullahi 'alaihi) in his 'Ihya Uloom-id-Deen' and many eminent Scholars have in their respective writings, dicussed the importance of internal deeds and their reformation at length.
The notion that Tasawwuf is not in the Qur'an is erroneous. Errant Sufis as well as the superficial Ulema, although on the opposite ends of the spectrum, are together in holding this mistaken notion. Consequently the first group has shunned the Qur'an and Hadeeth while the second group has shunned tasawwuf. These Ulama claim that Tasawwuf is baseless since they believe that the Qur'an and Hadeeth are devoid of it while the errant and transgressing sufis assert that in the Qur'an and Hadeeth are only the exoteric (Zahiri) laws. In short, both groups consider the Qur'an and Hadeeth to be devoid of Tasawwuf. The department of the Shariat relating to external deeds like Salaat and Zakat is known as Fiqh while the one dealing with the internal feelings and states of the heart is called Tasawwuf. And as mentioned earlier, both are commanded in the Qur'an. Thus, while commanding Salaat and Zakat i.e. the external deeds, the Qur'an also commands gratefulness and love of Allah and condemns the evil of pride, arrogance,
and vanity. Similarly, in the books of Hadeeth, along with the chapters on Ibaadat, trade and commerce, marriage and divorce, are to be found in the chapters on riya (show off), takabbur (pride), akhlaq (manners), etc. These commands are as much a mandatory requirement as the ones dealing with external deeds.
On reflection it will be realized that all the external deeds are designed for the reformation of the heart. That is the basis of success in the Hereafter while its despoiling is the cause of total destruction. This is precisely what is known technically as Tasawwuf. Its focus is Tahzeeb-e-akhlaq or the adornment of character; its motive is the attainment of Divine pleasure; its method is total obedience to the commands of the Shariat.
Tasawwuf is the soul of Islam
Imam Ghazzali (rahmatullahi'alaihi) has clarified the knowledge of Tasawwuf in great depth from which Allama Shaami (rahmatullahi 'alaihi) has pointed out the main objects, that tasawwuf is that knowledge from which one can derive many forms of praiseworthy characteristics and from which one can learn to distinguish the blameworthy characterisics. Its function is to purify the heart from the lowly bestial attributes of lust, calamities of the tongue, anger, malice, jealousy, love of the world, love of fame, niggardliness, greed, ostentation, vanity, deception, etc. At the same time it aims at the adornment of the heart with the lofty attributes of repentance, perseverance, gratefulness, fear of Allah, hope, abstention, Tawheed, trust, love, sincerity, truthfulness, contemplation, etc. The actual reality of Tasawwuf is to make connection with Allah (Subhanahu wa ta'ala).
The need of a Spiritual Mentor/Kaamil Shaikh to reform one's inner state
It has always been the Divine Scheme of things that perfection cannot be attained without an expert instructor. Thus, when one is endowed with the guidance to enter into the road of Tareeqat, one should search for a Master of Tareeqat i.e. a Shaikh-e-Kaamil, so that one may reach the true goal, through the medium of his graceful instruction and auspicious companionship. In general, it is not possible to reform one's inner state unless one commits oneself to such a Shaikh who is fully able to distinguish between virtues and vices, who fully understands the inticracies of the human soul, i.e. that of the nafs. A Shaikh is one who has full knowledge and experience of spiritual ailments, attributes of vice and virtue (Akhlaq-e-Razeelah and Akhlaq-e-Hameedah), their characteristics and their effects. He should further be able to distiguish between their similarities, and he must have perfect ability in devising plans and prescriptions, for the acquisition of the attributes of virtue, and the elimination of the attributes of vice. He must be well versed in the hazards and the cunningness of the nafs and shaitaan, the intuitive senses and feelings pertaining to the angels and the Divine Being. He must be able to distinguish these various intuitive and extra-sensory feelings and perceptions.
It is therefore imperative that the Shaikh of Tareeqat be one who is qualified in this knowledge, be a Mujtahid in this field and possesses ability and inherent propensity (inclination). If he has acquired the Tareeq by merely studying books on Tasawwuf or by listening from others, he will destroy the saalik (student) whom he is attending, because he will not be in position to correctly diagnose the various states of the saalik.
The Shaikh should possess the necessary knowledge of Islam, which he must have acquired by either academic pursuit of such knowledge or from companionship with the Ulama-e-Muhaqqiqeen. He should be devoid of the love of wealth. He should be one who acquired Tareeqat from such Mashaaikh-e-Rabbaniyyeen whose authentic Silsilah (Chain linking one Shaikh with another) reaches the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu'alaihi wasallam) without any intervening break. He should have achieved accomplishment in Riyaadhat (spiritual excercises) and Mujaahadah (striving against the nafs) according to the instructions of his Shaikh.
It is incumbent that the Shaikh be well versed with the ways of treatment for the spiritual maladies and the methods of Mujaahadah and Riyaadhat for the saalikeen of Tareeqat so that he may treat and instruct every person according to his ability. The Shaikh should possess the knowledge, expertise and deep spiritual insight (Ma'arif) of those matters, which are necessary for the mureeds (desciples) following the path of Tareeqat. He must be aware of the reality of the Maqaamat (ranks), Manaazil (stages), Taweenat, tamkeenat (these are the stages of constancy) as the benefits and harms of the path.
He should be one who has already traversed the stages of Mukaashafat, Mua'inat, Mushaahadat (these are the stages of vivid spiritual vision and perception of reality), and be absorbed in the ocean of Fanaa-ul-Fana and Baqa-ul-Baqa (these are extraodinary lofty states of self-annihilation and absorption in divine cognition).
The noble qualities, e.g. sabr (patience), shukr (gratitude), tawakkul (trust in Allah), yaqeen (resolute faith), sakhaawat (generosity), qanaa’at (contentment), amaanat (trustworthiness), sidq (honesty), burdbaari (perseverance), tawaadhu (humility), sukoon (peace), ikhlaas (sincerity), hayaa (modesty), waqaar (dignity), thinking before acting, contentment with the Akhirah, renunciation of love of wealth and fame, etc. must have become his nature and character.
He has to be one who has inculcated in him the Torch of Nubuwwat and in the light of this torch he has obliterated all the evil qualities such as takabbur (pride), ujub (vanity), bukhl (stinginess), hasad (jealousy), keenah (malice), hirs (greed), amal (vain and distant hopes), and despicable acts (not befitting the dignity of Imaan).
In general, it is not possible to reform one's inner state unless one commits oneself to such a Shaikh, as described above; who himself strives to avoid all kinds of spiritual vices and who also guides others in this regard. Then one must fully accept the assessment made by one's Shaikh leaving aside one's own theories and ideas, and one must act according to his instructions, just like a patient who consults a physician regarding any ailment of his. A patient too, accepts the diagnosis and strictly follows the physicians instructions concerning medication and diet. Even a doctor or hakeem, when sick, leave aside their own diagnosis and rather follow the course prescribed by their physician. Matters concerning the soundness and corruption of outward deeds can be enquired from a scholar, or one can oneself acquire such knowledge by studying relevant books. But in case of matters pertaining to reformation of one's inner state it does not suffice to read any book, even though one may have fully understood its contents, because usually it is not possible to reform oneself without following an accomplished spiritual mentor or Shaikh.
'' Oh ALLAH, I ask YOU for YOUR love,
and the love of those who love YOU,
and the love of every action that
bring me closer to YOUR love!"
This site was last updated January 2016