Excellence is all about “Self-Puri...

Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta

Excellence is all about “Self-Purification”

 Excellence is all about “Self-Purification”


Allah (SWT) created man from three elements: mind, body and spirit. The most noble of these three elements is the spirit which is a hidden secret from Allah, “They question you about the Spirit. Say, 'The Spirit is at my Lord's command, and you have been granted but little knowledge.'" (TMQ, 17:85). Allah gave us a religion fit for all these three elements; Islam for the body, faith for the mind and excellence for the spirit. Hence, a full integration is essential between these three elements so as to have an “aligned” human being and this alignment can never be achieved except through achieving balance between all three elements. This alignment and balance is the only way to help us walk in a straight line (which is the shortest distance between two points) and with this humanity can be set straight. If we become inclined to one element more than the others we instantly become unaligned and we fall out of balance.

Most important element of all these three and the most crucial is the element of excellence without which a Muslim can never be complete. Excellence is all about self-purification which is the subject of this article.

The human being is born and grows up with wild lusts (and maybe immoral ones) and some of these lusts find their way to us only through the traditions and habits of the people around us. No faith can be straight while these ‘impurities’ lurk in the dark corners of the human soul; that’s why self-purification is a prerequisite.

In three, out of the four, instances we find ‘excellence’ mentioned in the Qur’an before ‘knowledge’ as a clear sign indicating the importance of self-purification in building the Muslim personality. Knowledge without self-purification or education is detrimental and it drives the person to conceit and arrogance which might drive him widely to seek the world in a devastating and corrupting way.

The concept of self-purification:
Linguistically: The word ‘tazkeya’ in Arabic comes from cleansing and purifying. Allah says, “He who purifies it will indeed be successful," (TMQ, 91:9). Ali Ibn Abu Talib said, “Knowledge is purified by spending in charity.” Here “purified” means increases. So in language it means; increase, growth, blessed, purified, educated and refined… etc. Sheikh Al-Ghazali said, “Self-purification is education and any nation that is not ‘educated’ has no good in it.”

In language it has two meanings; first, purification and second increase or growth. Idiomatically it can be summarized just the way Imam Al-Ghazali put it, “Complementing the human self through suppressing its baser instincts and releasing its higher characteristics.”

IbnKathir said in explaining the above verse, “He who purifies his soul through obeying Allah and who purifies it from the sins and immoral manners. Self-purification is about clearing out all the sordid tarnishing of the baser self with all its ugliness and evil and adding in all the good morals and noblest manners.”

Self-purification includes two things:
1. Out with the bad. Everything bad and evil.[1]
2.In with the good. Everything noble and high.

From the light of the above meanings we can understand these verses from the Qur’an:
• He has certainly succeeded who purifies himself and mentions the name of his Lord and prays. (TMQ, 87:14-15).
• By the soul and how He formed it, then inspired it to understand what was right and wrong for it. He who purifies it will indeed be successful, and he who corrupts it is sure to fail. (TMQ, 91:7-10).

As for the self it was defined in the Qur’an as having three qualities; reassured, self-reproaching and evil-enticer. People differed if these were three different types of selves or if they are three different definitions for the same self in different phases. The majority of scholars went to the first interpretation and the majority of Sufi scholars went to the latter one saying that it is only one self but that it has three characteristics; reassured by being close to its Creator and obeying Him. So it is reassured with the fate of Allah and with the fact it can never survive even a blink of an eye without Him. The self-reproaching is the one that keeps reproaching its owner and blaming him for any evils committed. And the evil-enticer is the one that entices its owner to do evil and to follow his whims; if he obeys it, it will take him to obscenity and evil. It acts that way because it was originally ignorant and evil whereas justice (or knowledge) where only inspired to it by its Creator.

Allah says, “…And if not for the favor of Allah upon you and His mercy, not one of you would have been pure, ever, but Allah purifies whom He wills, and Allah is Hearing and Knowing." (TMQ, 24:21). [2]

The concept of the self (ego): We have two types
The major self: This is the full human self made of body and soul. Allah says, “And when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My soul, then fall down to him in prostration."" (TMQ, 15:29).

The minor self: This is something inside the human entity combining all the human qualities and characteristics that have apparent effects on the human behavior. Al-Ghazali says about this, “The meaning that combines the power of anger and lust inside the human being. It is the original combining meaning for all the abhorred qualities in man because they say ‘thriving against one’s self and compelling it…’” [3] We have many verses in the Qur’an depicting this meaning like, “We created man-We know the promptings of his soul, and are closer to him than his jugular vein-" (TMQ, 50:16). The Prophet (SAWS) also brought up the same meaning when he said, “Righteousness is to have good manners and sin is what concocts inside your chest and you hate to disclose to the people.”

The question now is: Which of the two meanings do we have in mind when we talk about self-purification?

The answer is “both”; the human self in its general meaning or the self that is inside us in its particular meaning. Both of them need to be purified, need to be elevated, need to be educated, reformed, purged and refined.

Sections of self-purification:
From the above we can say that self-purification is about expelling and adorning. Expelling all the sins, evils and vices, and then adorning the self by developing it, refining it and reforming it with the noble manners. Out with the bad and in with the good! We keep doing this until we reach the utmost degrees of human sublimity and by this we transform our evil-enticing self into a self-reproaching self then into an assured self.

Why do we need self-purification?
Looking quickly at the condition of the Muslims today we realize how badly they need self-purification and self-building so we could rear ourselves on fearing Allah. Our need for this is ever more pressing than our need for food, drink and dress for so many reasons:

First: We are fraught with tests and temptations from every direction. So our need for self-building and purification is more pressing than the need of the past Muslims because the corruption in our time is much stronger and tougher than theirs. Also because we have much less support and help from others!

Second: Because we have so many incidents of relapses and recidivism even among those working for Islam. So we must all be careful not to fall into the same fate.

Third: Because responsibility is subjective and liability is individual. Each one will be held accountable for what he/she did so we must be ready for this day, “On the Day when every soul will come disputing for itself…”

Fourth: We never know what is coming next? Tribulation or empowerment! In both cases we need to build and purify ourselves so that we could stay steadfast.

Fifth: Because we need to help others build themselves and those who cannot build themselves will not be able to help others build themselves.

The ruling for self-purification:
In his book “Ihya’Ulum Al-Din” Imam Al-Ghazali tells us that self-purification is an individual duty for each and every Muslim even if he/she did not have any bad manners. So everyone must learn about the ailments of the heart and how to purify them.

The majority of scholars advise that it is not an individual duty unless someone doubts the existence of an ailment and so he/she must seek to cure it. But learning about the ailments of the hearts is a collective duty and not an individual on though. Al-Ghazali drove his supposition from the fact that the original format of man is to have heart ailments and not to be free from them. He backed his claim with the fact that the Prophet (SAWS) who is the bestexample for all mankind had his chest opened twice to remove a ‘black notch’ which is the embodiment of all the heart ailments in man. So if the Prophet (SAWS) needed to undergo this procedure then all of mankind is surely in need for self-purification because this ‘inclination to evil’ must be an innate nature in all mankind. Allah says, “…that nature in which He has created mankind…” (TMQ, 30:30).

Sheikh Muhammad Al-Hassan, may Allah protect him, interpreted Al-Ghazali’s opinion that all the sons of Adam “tend” to have these ailment rather than having them as an absolute fact. So the procedure which the Prophet (SAWS) went through was only to prevent this tendency from him not to cure him; this procedure was only to assert hisinfallibility that will fend off any of these ailments from him.

If we combine both opinions and claim that the original format in all human beings is to be free from ailments yet they “tend” to lusts and desires, side from obedience and incline towards negligence; we will realize that the Muslim is asked to be on a constant quest of self-purification and self-purgation.

If we look closely at the causes of self-purification and self-education we will realize how badly we need both as confirmed by all the scholars. Ibnul-Qayem says in “Saidul-Khater”, “A rational believer can never leave his soul unbridled and he can never ignore its steering wheel. He can go easy as long as it is driving in the right direction but he must never make things more difficult than they are. But if he finds it losing direction he must return it to the right path gently and if it refuses only he then he must be tough on it.” Abu-Yazid says, “I kept steering my soul to Allah while it cried rivers, until I was able to steer it while it laughed.”

Happiness is in self-purification:
One of the greatest benefits of self-purification is that it gives the ones who practice it happiness in this life before the afterlife. Ibnul-Jawzei says, “He who seeks to purify his conditions must seek to purify his deeds.” Allah says, “If they had followed the right path, We would have provided them with abundant rain (provision)." (TMQ, 72:16). Ahmad and Al-Hakim narrated in the Divine Hadith, “Had my servants obeyed me I would have provided them with provision at night and sun at day and would not have let them hear the sound of thunder.”

Al-Darani said, “He who is pure finds purity and he who is muddled finds muddle. He who does well at night is rewarded in the morning and he who does well in the morning is rewarded at night.”

Our forefathers used to go around the gatherings saying, “He who seeks to have a lasting health let him fear God.” Allah also says, “He who purifies it will indeed be successful, and he who corrupts it is sure to fail." (TMQ, 91:9-10).

The importance of self-purification for man:
1) Allah swears by self-purification in His Book eleven times and He swears that those who miss it will be the losers. He says, “By the sun and its rising brightness" (TMQ, 91:1).

2) Your “soul” is your worst enemy because it always keeps tempting you to oppress, to love life and to add on all the ailments of the heart. That’s why the Prophet (SAWS) would always seek refuge in Allah from the evils of the soul (4) like in the narration of Abu Hurayra who said that Abu Hatem heard the Prophet reading, “And inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness,” (TMQ, 91:8)”. Then he said, “Oh Allah, inspire my soul with its righteousness and purify it. You are the best to purify it! You its guardian and its master.”Ibnul-Qayem, may Allah have mercy on him, said, “The scholars, as different in their methods as they were, have all agreed that the soul can stand between the heart and reaching Allah, and that no one will reach Allah unless he vanquishes his soul and wins it over.” [5]

3) Self-purification is the pathway to paradise. Allah says, “but one who fears to stand before his Lord and restrained himself from base desires, shall dwell in Paradise." (TMQ, 79:40-41).

4) The human being is always seeking perfection and so he must seek to purify and educate himself. These “souls” get sick with the very same ailments our bodies get sick with. They need constant nourishment and care, they need constant follow-up and they always need goodness just the same ways our bodies keep packing on energies and knowledge. That’s why we always need to keep an eye on ourselves because they are the “pots” of our faith and the most valuable item we have is faith; our lives are useless without it. So we have to keep developing our faith and growing it through self-purification.

The writer of the “Dhilal” says, “This human being has a dual nature, dual tendencies, and dual orientations! He is naturally made from the mud of the earth along with a breath from Allah, so he tends to both good and bad, righteousness and misguidance. He is capable of making out the difference between good and bad and is capable of directing himself to whichever he chooses of them. This ability is latent within him and the Qur’an depicts this in saying, “And inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness…”, and in, “and shown him the two paths?" (TMQ, 90:10). These latent and innate dispositions are associated with an underlying conscious strength that directs him and is the very cause of entrusting him with the responsibility. Those who use this strength in purifying themselves and developing them (to overcome their latent evils) will win but those who stifle this strength and weaken it will surely lose, “He who purifies it will indeed be successful, and he who corrupts it is sure to fail." (TMQ, 91:9-10). [6]

Texts from the Qur’an and Sunnah come to show us the importance of self-purification and its high status in Islam:
- By the sun and its rising brightness and by the moon as it follows it, and by the day as it reveals its glory and by the night when it draws a veil over it, by the sky and how He built it and by the earth and how He spread it, by the soul and how He formed it, then inspired it to understand what was right and wrong for it. He who purifies it will indeed be successful, and he who corrupts it is sure to fail." (TMQ, 91:1-10).
- Just ponder the verses and see how Allah swears eleven times that self-reformation and success can only be achieved through self-purification. Allah says, “He who purifies himself, who remembers the name of his Lord and prays, shall indeed be successful." (TMQ, 87:14-15).
- But he who comes to Him as a believer, having done good deeds, shall be exalted to the highest ranks; he will abide forever in the Gardens of eternity, through which rivers flow. That is the recompense for those who purify themselves." (TMQ, 20:75-76).
- The Qur’an tells us that the mission of all the Prophets and Messengers was mainly about inviting people to purify themselves. Allah says (to Moses), “…and say, "Will you reform yourself? Do you want me to guide you to your Lord, so that you should fear Him?"'" (TMQ, 79:18-19). Allah also says (aboutMuhammad), “It is He who has raised among the unlettered people a messenger from among themselves who recites His revelations to them, and purifies them, and teaches them the Book and wisdom, for they had formerly been clearly misguided-" (TMQ, 62:2).

Sections of self-purification:
As we said before self-purification consists of two processes; expelling and adorning.

We expel the ailments of our soul and its immoral manner, and we adorn them with the noble manners after we takethe immoral ones out.

Immoral manners are like; polytheism, hypocrisy, conceit, arrogance, hate, envy, stinginess, anger, being keen on life and loving it for what it is more than caring for our afterlife, prying on others and not taking life seriously.

Noble manners are like; monotheism, patience, relying on Allah, repentance, gratitude, fear, having constant hope in Allah, courtesy to people, having mercy on others, enjoining others to goodness and forbidding them from evil, being beneficial to people… etc.

So each and every one of us must realize first their bad qualities and the causes for these bad qualities and then we must strive to get rid of them. If we never realize our bad qualities we will never be able to cure them. After that we must put together a plan of action made out of three phases:

1. Not being too easy on ourselves. The Prophet (SAWS) who was infallible never took himself too easy.

2. Not waiting for others to rectify us. We must do this process ourselves because our souls are ignorant. Allah says, “whoever is patient and forgiving, acts with great courage and resolution." (TMQ, 42:43), and, “Repel evil with what is best… (TMQ, 23:96).

3. Blaming it the whole time. If we don’t blame it, it will tempt us and lead us to perdition. We have the choice to direct our “souls” wherever we want to, so if we let our souls take the lead and we walk behind we will be driven to the lowest of the low, but if we take the lead and drive our souls we will can take them to the highest status ever. Our souls are like the babies like Al-Buseirisays, “The soul is like the baby, if you keep him suckling he will never get over it and if you wean him he will be weaned.”

So if we lead our souls we will have the upper hand and we will be able to direct our souls towards goodness, if we call them to worship they will surrender to worship and they will never obey us to evil even if we invite them.

As for those who do not tend to their souls and do not exert the effort needed in bending their souls away from what they crave for; if they call their souls to worship their souls recoil and if they find them going for an act of obedience they stray like a camel. We all know that a camel is either obedient or willful and obstinate. Same for the soul; if we accustom our souls on rejecting bad manners they become like the obedient and subservient camel and if we loosen the bridle they just stray and become obstinate till it becomes impossible to control them. Once they feel any loads on their backs they buck so we must always keep watching them to see how willing they are to follow our orders. Those who hear the call to prayer saying, “Hasten to worship, hasten to success!” and they just feel sleepy are the ones who have souls that need to be cured. As for those who wake up in the middle of night and are not able to fight their own demons to get up and pray, they too are also suffering from heart ailments that need to be cured. Those who cannot bring themselves to fast (voluntary fasting) or to spend money in charity are also suffering from illnesses that need to be cured before it’s too late. We must always keep our souls at check otherwise they will lead us astray to perdition.

How to perform self-purification:
Before going into the details of how to perform self-purification we must know that it can never be attained except through the methods explained by the Prophets of Allah. Allah tells us, “It is He who has raised among the unlettered people a messenger from among themselves who recites His revelations to them, and purifies them, and teaches them the Book and wisdom, for they had formerly been clearly misguided-" (TMQ, 62:2).

Ibnul-Qayem tells us, “Self-purification can only be attained through the methods of the Prophets. Allah sent them for the very purpose of self-purification and He entrusted them to this mission so they can invite people to it, teach it, explain it and show us how to do it. They have been sent to cure the souls of the nations because purifying the souls is much more difficult than curing the bodies. So those who tend to cure themselves through sports, and seclusion are only like the patients who cure themselves depending on their own views; and where will those views stand from the professional opinions of doctors? The Prophets are the doctors of the hearts and there is no way to cure those hearts except through them, at their hands and through submitting to them. May Allah aid us all.” [7]

Self-purification can be achieved through many things and most important of which are:
1) Monotheism: Allah calls it in His Book, “And woe to those who associate others with Allah - Those who do not give zakat, and in the Hereafter they are disbelievers." (TMQ, 41:6-7). The word ‘zakat’ here is interpreted by Al-Bahr Ibn Abbas as meaning, “They do not testify that there is no God but Allah.” [8]Ibnul-Qayemsaid, “This verse is about monotheism ‘testifying that there is no God but Allah and believing in Allah’ with this the hearts are purified because they deny the presence of any other deity but Allah; this is indeed the essence of ‘zakat’ and growth if nothing else… The original thing that purifies the hearts and souls is monotheism.” [9] Allah describes polytheism as being an abomination and impurity in saying, “Then shun the abomination of the deities and shun all falsehood." (TMQ, 22:30), and, “Believers, know that the polytheists are impure..." (TMQ, 9:28). Both verses explicitly mean that purity and cleanliness can only be achieved through monotheism and that’s why Moses said to the Pharaoh, “…and say, "Will you reform yourself? Do you want me to guide you to your Lord, so that you should fear Him?"'" (TMQ, 79:18-19).

2) Praying: One of the best acts of worship that help with self-purification. Allah says, “He who purifies himself, who remembers the name of his Lord and prays, shall indeed be successful." (TMQ, 87:14-15). The Prophet (SAWS) told us that purifying our souls through prayer is just like purifying our bodies with water. Abu-Hurayra narrated that the Prophet said, “Imagine that there was a river at your doorstep and that you bathed in it five times a day, would that leave any dirt in your body?” They answered, “No, nothing at all!” So he said, “This is exactly like the prayers you perform five times a day. They wash out your sins the very same way.” [10] JabirIbn Abdullah narrated that the Prophet (SAWS) said, “The five prayers are like a river running at your doorstep and in this river you wash yourself five times daily.” [11]

3) Charity: Allah says, “Take alms out of their wealth to cleanse them and purify them, and pray for them; your prayer will be a comfort to them…" (TMQ, 9:103) Sheikh Al-Saadysaid, “This means that no one can be purified until he pays the zakat that purifies him and nothing else but the zakat can accomplish this part because the purification that comes by the zakat can never be accomplished unless we pay it. [12]

4) Abandoning sins and forbidden acts: Allah says, “He who purifies it will indeed be successful," (TMQ, 91:9), and, “and he who corrupts it is sure to fail." (TMQ, 91:10).Sheikhul-Islam says, “Same goes for the soul and the actions; they are not purified till whatever contradicts with them is removed. No man will be purified except if he abandons evil because it corrupts his soul.” [13] Ibnul-Qayem also said, “So the cleansing of hearts hinges on their purity just the same way the cleansing of bodies hinges on expelling everything corrupted and bad.” Allah says, “…But for the grace of Allah and His mercy upon you, not one of you would ever be purified; but Allah purifies whom He pleases. Allah is all hearing and all knowing." (TMQ, 24:21). This verse was mentioned just after Allah forbid fornication, defamation of married women and marrying the fornicators. This means that self-purification can be achieved by forbidding all this.” [14]

5) Holding ones’ self accountable. Ibnul-Qayemsaid, “Purifying the soul and cleansing it hinges on holding it accountable and this is the only way to do it… By holding it accountable we can realize its shortcomings and we can hence seek to fix them.” [15]

6) Calling Allah. We must call Allah and implore Him to help us purify ourselves. The Prophet (SAWS) used to pray, “O Allah! Grant me the sense of piety and purify my soul as You are the Best to purify it. You are its Guardian and its Protecting Friend.” [16]

We have general and detailed methods to achieve self-purification. As for the general ones:
1) Cleansing our souls from the immoral manners we mentioned earlier like; hypocrisy, conceit, stinginess, avarice, greed and feeling secure against Allah’s planning.

2) Adorning our souls with the noble manners, after we take the bad ones out, such as; sincerity, turning to Allah, fearing Allah, being grateful to Allah and being humble.

3) Maintaining the acts of worship because they are the best conduit to Allah.

4) Doing as many voluntary acts of worship as we can. Allah says in the Divine Narration, “…and my servant will keep trying to get closer to me till I love him…”

5) Pondering the Qur’an because the Qur’an cleanses the hearts. The Prophet says, “The hearts get rusty just like metal and this rust can never go out except by reading the Qur’an and by remembering death.” Allah says, “This is a blessed Book which We sent down to you [Muhammad], for people to ponder over its messages, and for those with understanding to take heed." (TMQ, 38:29), and, “Do they not ponder on the Quran?" (TMQ, 4:82).

The detailed methods:
1) Repentance! This is the first step in getting close to Allah and with it we get the first taste of moving from the stage of “expelling” into the stage of “adorning” Allah says, “And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, O believers, that you might succeed." (TMQ, 24:31), and, “Believers, turn to Allah in sincere repentance. Your Lord may well forgive your bad deeds and admit you into gardens watered by running streams...'" (TMQ, 66:8).

2) Remembering Allah and asking His forgiveness the whole time. Allah says, “As for one who turns away from the remembrance of the Gracious Allah, We appoint for him a devil, who will become his intimate companion." (TMQ, 43:36), and, “Yet anyone who does evil or wrongs his own soul and then asks Allah for forgiveness will find Allah forgiving and merciful." (TMQ, 4:110). Allah says, “…and those who seek forgiveness before dawn." (TMQ, 3:17), and, “Then I said, 'Ask forgiveness of your Lord. Surely He is the most forgiving." (TMQ, 71:10).

3) Going in the opposite direction of your whims and desires since they seek nothing but to make us sin or lazy. Al-Ghazali says, “Learn that yourmost mortal enemy is your soul that lies in your chest. It was created evil-enticing, evil-loving and tending to escape from all goodness. You are ordered to purify it and drive it with shackles of steel to worship its Lord and Creator and to prevent it from its yearning to sin. If you ever become lax it will go wild and you will never be able to bridle it again.” [17]Ibnul-Qayem says, “One thing that can help you watch your soul, is to realize that the more you get busy breaking it in and taming it today, the more you will be able to enjoy your tomorrow. The more you ignore it today, the more you will suffer from it tomorrow. Another thing that can help you is to realize that if you win this battle you will be among the dwellers of paradise and you will be able to look at the Face of your Lord. But if you lose it you will be among the dwellers of hell and you will be blocked from your Lord. So the true believer must never be heedless from bridling his soul in every moment, and in every step of the road. Every breath you let out is a jewel that you have wasted if you don’t use all these breaths to buy yourself an everlasting bliss in paradise. Wastingthese breaths in buying things that will bring nothing but perdition is a great loss that can never be attained except by the ignorant and the most foolish; and this ignorance and foolishness will never be realized except on Judgment Day when each soul will find all its deeds standing right before it.” [18].

4) Berating and rebuking yourself for the sake of obedience: Al-Ghazali says, “If you keep rebuking, berating and blaming yourself the whole time you will be able to turn yourself into the “self-reproaching” type which Allah swore by and you will be targeting yourself to become the “reassured” type which will be the “well-pleased and well-pleasing” soul. Do not be abated from reminding and berating it the whole time. Do not get busy lecturing others while you are more worthy of the lecturing than anyone. Allah inspired Jesus the son of Mary, “Exhort yourself and when you follow your own lectures only then you can exhort others. Otherwise, have some shame from me.” [19]

5) Lecturing yourself the whole time: Remind it about death and the afterlife the whole time. Talk to yourself the way Al-Ghazali used to do, “Woe unto you myself! Do not be deceived by this life and do not let the deceiver deceive you about Allah. Look at yourself because your issues are not important to anyone but you! Do not waste your time because our breaths are so limited. If a breath goes away, then a part of you has gone away with it. So make use of your health before sickness. Make use of your free time before you get swamped with duties. Make use of your wealth before you become poor. Make use of your youth before you grow old. Make use of life before death strikes. Get ready for your afterlife with as much as your stay there. Don’t you get ready for the winter with as much it is expected to last? You gather strength, clothing, firewood and all other stuff that you’ll need! Do not rely lazily on the generosity of Allah thinking that being lazy will push away the cold without a cloak or firewood! Allah is capable of doing it, no doubt, but do you think that the bitterness and severity of hell will be less or shorter than the severity and bitterness of the winter? Or do you ever think that the former will be less easy than the latter? Do you think that you will escape from this punishment without striving? No way! The same way you can’t drive away the coldness of the winter except by getting ready for it, you will not be able to drive away the heat of hell or its frost except by seeking the shelter of monotheism and the sanctuary of obedience… Ifyou don’t want to denounce this life out of your desire to win the afterlife because you’re too blind then why don’t you denounce it because of its poor partners, or to purify yourself from its suffering or to protect yourself from perishing? Why don’t you just denounce its little things when much of its things have denounced you? Why are you so happy with a life that even though it helps you yet a group of vile Jews and Magi are ahead of you and have been rewarded by this life with more bliss and adornment? Woe unto a life where these lowlifes can go past you! You are but ignorant and with a low determination if you side from the entourage of those who are close to the Prophets, the companions and in the presence of the Lord of the Worlds to be instead in the entourage of a pack of ignorant fools for just a few days! Woe unto you if you lose your life and faith, if you come close to your end, if death comes at your door. Woe unto you because all you have to trade is but a few days out of which you’ve wasted the most already. Don’t you know that death is your destiny, that the grave is your home, that dust is your bed and that the worms are your companions? Don’t you know that the greatest fear is right ahead of you? Don’t have any shame when you adorn your outside looks for the people and defy Allah in secret? Are you ashamed of the people and not ashamed of your Creator? Why is your Creator suddenly the least important of your viewers? Do you enjoin people to do good while you tarnish yourself with sins? You get invited to come closer to Allah and you flee? You get reminded and you forget? Don’t you know that sin is stinkier than dung and that dung can never be used to purify anything? So why are you so keen on purifying others while youneed to be purified? Woe unto you, had you known yourself as you really are you will realize that people are only afflicted because of your evil. [20]

6) Ill-thinking of yourself: Stand between yourself and between being conceited because thinking good of yourself will not help you in correcting its faults. Ibnul-Qayem says, “Those who seek the path of Allah must never be satisfied with their acts of obedience by thinking good of themselves. Being satisfied with yourself because of an act of obedience is foolishness and a proof of ignorance of what you should do in obedience to your Creator as He deserves. Being satisfied with yourself makes you conceited and fills you with many heart ailments, even more than any sins like fornication and drinking can do. It is better in this case to stop trying to change your faulty brothers because being sorry for yourself is more worthy of your actions. Maybe taunting your brother is a bigger sin than his because by doing so you are thinking that you’re better than him! Maybe his sense of his sins, his humbleness and his submission are more worthy of ridding him from his conceit as he stands humbled facing his Lord, with a downcast head, and is more useful to him than all your actsof obedience and your good thinking! A sin that humbles you is more beloved than an obedience that makes you conceited. Maybe Allah gave him with this sin a medication that extracted from him a deadly ailment that you’re living with without feeling! The moaning of the sinners is more beloved to Allah than the deception of the glorifiers. That you spend your night sleeping and admitting to your faults is better than spending it in prayers and ending in conceit. [21]

7) Purifying our deeds from any signs of hypocrisy: According to IbnTaymeyyah this is the essence of sincerity. Any deed must be purified from any whims or any desires to beautify our image in the eyes of the people or to seek their praise or even to avoid their dispraise, or to seek any service or love from them. All of these things tarnish our actions which must be sincerely for Allah without seeking any other thing. We must always search for the impurities and glorify the share of Allah in action above the share of our desires. Many souls are inflicted with ailments that stand between their actions and reaching Allah. This cannot be singled out except by the expert eyes of those who know about the hearts, their cures and their ailments. Between the action and the heart is always a distance and in this distance can stand some objects that prevent this action from reaching the heart. So you find yourself doing the action and nothing of it reaches your heart; no love, no fear, no hope, no denunciation for this life, no wish in the afterlife, no light to differentiate between the patrons of Allah and His enemies or to differentiate between right and wrong. But when the effect of the action reachesthe heart you will be enlightened, you will know right from wrong and you will know the patrons of Allah from His enemies. [22]

8) Holding yourself accountable: Allah says, “Believers! Fear Allah, and let every soul look to what it lays up for the future. Fear Allah: Allah is aware of what you do." (TMQ, 59:18). The Prophet also says, “The witty person is theone who holds himself accountable and works for what comes after his death and the incapacitated is the one who follows his whims and thinks that his wishes will be granted by Allah.” [23] Imam Ahmad narrated that Omar Ibnul-Khattab said, “Hold yourself accountable before you are held accountable and weigh your deeds before they are weighed for you on Judgment Day.” Al-Hassan Al-Basri says, “A believer is fine as long as he keeps preaching himself and as long as he exerts an effort in holding himself accountable.” MaymunIbnMahran also says, “A believer is not God-fearing until he holds himself accountable more than the partner does to his partner.” Al-Hassan says, “A believer is the keeper of himself and he holds it accountable. The punishment of Judgment Day will be made much lighter for those who hold themselves accountable in this life and it will be made much heavier for those who never hold themselves accountable.” Omar Ibnul-Khattab wrote to one of his workers, “Hold yourself accountable in prosperity before austerity. Those who hold themselves accountable in prosperity before austerity will regress to gratitude and felicity whereas those who are distracted by their lives and whims will regress to lament and loss.” Al-AhnafIbn-Qays used to hold the lamp and put his finger in the fire saying, “Feel it! Feel it and think what you’ve done that day when you sinned.” Imam Ahmad tells us that Wahb said, “It is written among the wisdoms of Dawood: A shrewd person must never miss four hours; an hour in which he supplicates silently to Allah, an hour in which he hold himself accountable, an hour in which he sits with his brothers who tell him about his flaws honestly, and an hour with himself to sort things out and this hour will help him a lot with the previous three hours.” [24] IbnulQayem affirms the necessity of constantly following and checking on our souls to check for the acts of obedience in quality rather than quantity. He says, “Some of the worshipers have accustomed their determinations to keep doing many acts of obedience without caring to check their souls from time to time for any vileness and without holding themselves accountable and without purifying themselves from the tarnishing of conceit. For this reason watching oneself is the noblest mission for any worshiper and the best way to clear it from the impurities and the thorns of hypocrisy. This way his deeds will be as heavy as the mountains and so small in his eyes. If you want to comprehend this meaning properly then ponder the time that you assign for reading the Qur’an, see if you’re trying to ignore the duty of understanding and contemplating each verse to see where you’re standing from it, see if you’re applying it on the ailments of your heart, see how you’re stopping at each and every verse to ponder. If you accustom yourself to pondering each verse, applying it on yourself, worshiping Allah with it, using it as a medication for your heart you will find it very difficult leaving one verse and moving on to the other. Same thing if you combine your heart for just two rakaas; giving them all your presence and watching yourself in every move and word. You will hardly be able to pray above these two except with great difficulty. But if your heart goes void from all this you will able to make countless numbers of rakaas because too much obedience with very little contemplation is lack of understanding. But it is better to do more acts of obedience while watching yourself. Allah says, “sleeping little in the night-time," (TMQ, 51:17), and in the Divine Narration, “My servant kept getting closer to Me through the voluntary acts of worship so I would love him.” If magnifying your act of obedience is a sin then belittling your sin is a far bigger sin. The learned ones are those who see their good deeds small and their sins large. The more your good deeds get smaller in your eyes the bigger they get in Allah’s Eyes, and the bigger they are in your eyes the smaller they become in Allah’s Eyes.” [25]

9) Sleeping, eating and talking less: One of the things that help a lot with self-purification is cutting down on all these three. Too much talk without remembering Allah hardens the heart and the farthest from Allah are those who have hard hearts. Too much eating increases the lusts and gives more channels for Satan to infiltrate our souls. Last but not least too much eating leads to too much sleeping and this latter makes us lazy and wastes our age. It was said, “He who eats much drinks much water and sleeps much; so he wastes a lot of time.”

10) Being patient and having conviction in Allah: Patience defeats lust and steps between us and our sins. It also keeps us steadfast on acts of obedience so self-purification (expelling and adorning) cannot be attained except by patience. Allah says, “Truly, those who persevere patiently will be requited without measure.'" (TMQ, 39:10). Having conviction in Allah keeps us steadfast in the face of our demons and with both these two qualities we can acquire the Imamate (leadership) in religion. Allah says, “We appointed leaders from among them, guiding by Our command when they were steadfast and when they had firm faith in Our signs." (TMQ, 32:24).
11) Supplications: The weapon of the believer and the sanctuary of the human being to his Lord. It keeps us safe from all evils and it helps us to obey Allah. The Prophet (SAWS) used to pray, “O Allah, guide me to the best of manners, for none guides to them except You. Protect me from bad manners, for none can protect me except You.”

1. Al-Dhilal, part 2, page 3893.
2. Ighathat Al-Lahfan, Ibnul-Qayem, part 1, page 75 to 78.
3. Ihya’Ulum Al-Din, part 3, page 4.
4. Abu-Dawood and Al-Tirmidhi.
5. Ighathat Al-Lahfan, part 2, page 75.
6. Al-Dhilal, part 6, page 3893.
7. Madarij Al-Salikin, 2/356.
8. Al-Majmu’, Sheikhul-Islam, 10/ 633.
9. Ighathat Al-Lahfan, part 2/ 49.
10. Al-Bukhari, 538. Muslim, 283.
11. Muslim, 284.
12. Tafsir Al-Saadi, 3/293.
13. Al-Majmu’, 10/269.
14. Ighathat Al-Lahfan, part 1/49.
15. Madarij Al-Salikin, 2/576.
16. Muslim, 2722.
17. Ihya’Ulum Al-Din, part 4, page 382.
18. Ighathat Al-Lahfan, part 1, page 80.
19. Ihya’Ulum Al-Din, part 4, page 382.
20. Ihya’Ulum Al-Din, part 4, page 386.
21. TahdibMadarij Al-Salikin.
22. TahdibMadarij Al-Salikin.
23. Ahmad and others.
24. Ighathat Al-Lahfan, Ibnul-Qayem, part 1, page 78-79.
25. TahdibMadarij Al-Salikin, Ibnul-Qayem.


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