Back again with the Islamic bookclub! I’ll post a summary of each chapter of an Islamic book I’m reading, so you get the rundown without ever picking it up!
This is all about Spiritual Refinement…
Being Muslim: A Practical Guide by Asad Tarsin
God ﷺ gave mankind the ability to oppose to evil and corruption by giving them primary nature (fitrah).
This makes mankind go toward all things good, beautiful, and pure. It makes us feel guilt when we do something we know is wrong.
“In the Islamic view, therefore, our essential nature is good, and much of the process of cultivation involves removing the obstacles between us and our primary good nature. We are neither responsible for what others did before us, nor are we born in a state of sin; on the contrary, we are born with a subconscious recollection of our relationship with God ﷺ and an inclination towards Him and towards all that is pure and gold [pg. 97].”
This is the opposite of fitrah.
“It seeks the self-serving pursuits of pleasure, wealth, fame, and power. The most basic forms of pleasure that preoccupy it are eating, drinking, resting, leisurely pursuits, and sex. It also dominates by the base characteristics, such as anger, jealousy, and arrogance. The ego (nafs) and its desires are part of human nature and cannot be eliminated completely–rather, they are to be tamed [pg. 97-98].”
A gift from God ﷺ in the form of consciousness.
“It is the ‘executive function’ of the mind, which can sort through decisions and possibilities and subject the other components of consciousness to its decisions. …the soul is controlled by its base desires, steering itself towards immorality. While the faculty of reason has the ability to make wise decisions, many a person has turned decision-making over to the whims of the ego [pg. 98].”
The heart (qalb) is the focal point for consciousness.
“The spiritual heart is the center of the soul (ruh), just as the physical heart is the center of the body. For this reason, the two terms ‘heart’ and ‘soul’ can be used interchangeably to refer to the center of our consciousness and spiritual being. The heart is the means by which we interact and connect to revelation and the Divine, and the portal through which we achieve piety in devotion [pg. 98].”
Most attributes are neither totally good or totally bad. To know the perfect balance, we must study the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, (Qur’an 68:4).
“Anger is a character trait most of us have in excess of the perfect imbalance exemplified by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ , and so most of us must work to reduce the impact of this characteristic in our hearts. The two extremes for presence and absence of anger could be called rage and spiritlessness, respectively. If one were spiritless and therefore had no ability to be angered, one could not come to the aid of a defenseless person being attacked by a criminal. A proper degree of anger, in the appropriate situation, is what compels one to do what is best, whatever the difficulties may be [pg. 99].”
As you know, in Islam, sins taint the heart and devotions refine it.
“Islamic scholars have identified seven inroads to the heart: the tongue, eyes, ears, hands, feet, stomach and genitals. For each of these, certain actions directly cause spiritual harm and are forbidden by shari’ah. For example, using the hand to steal taints the spiritual state. Avoiding these actions enhances one’s spiritual purity, and when combined with consistent dhikr, it awakens the heart and sharpens one’s spiritual vision.
The inseparable marriage between the revelations of old. It is the moderating completion between the rich legal tradition of Judaism and the vitalizing spirituality brought by the Prophet Jesus (‘Isa) ﷺ [pg. 100].”
“All religions speak by way of metaphors and parables precisely for this this reason: A perceptive and reflective person can derive spiritual lessons from the physical world.
Whether we look at the principles of physics, biology, mathematics, or economics, in each field we find reflections of spiritual principles. We all have spirituals inertia, predispositions, growth-curves, and we all have basic spiritual needs that must be met before we can seek to go further. These reflections allow us to continue to draw spiritual reminders from our world, no matter how void of the spirit it may seem.
We are encouraged by God ﷺ in the Quran to reflect on His creation because it will both engender awe of God and provide us lessons which we can apply to our own lives, further enriching our piety [pg. 101].”
“…those who bring God an unblemished heart.” –Qur’an 26:89
“The process of refining the heart to soundness involves the acquisition of virtues and purification from vices. This dual task reminds us that we all have inherent deficiencies and lack much-needed virtues.
This is why the great theologian, jurist, and sage Imam al-Ghazzali divided his masterpiece on spirituality into two branches, which he called “the saving virtues” and “the destructive vices”: because of the ability of virtues to save us from perdition and the ability of vices to spiritually destroy us [pg. 101].”
“Appropriate anger is what compels people to courageous acts, giving them the strength to oppose tyranny and injustice despite the difficulty inherent in doing so [pg. 103].”
“To desire that another person lose a blessing and you be given it is to question God’s allotment of blessings on Earth. It implies that God ﷺ did not know best where to place His blessings, and stems from a feeling that we deserve something that God has withheld [pg. 103].”
“To draw negative conclusions regarding what others do is both divisive to social harmony and a testament to one’s own inner shortcomings. When other’s act, we have no ability to know their true intentions, nor can we judge their outward actions without at least a degree of investigation. In these situations, our spiritual challenge and obligation is to find the best possible interpretation of the appearance of things [pg. 103].”
“The wise believer, on the other hand, knows that piety is truly known only to God ﷺ . The humble believer is also preoccupied with his or her own shortcomings and defects [pg.104].”
“The opposite of this, riya, id doing something for the purpose of gaining the admiration of other people. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ called it the minor form of shirk. The desire to show off stems from an inappropriate love of praise and status, exceeding the appropriate degree. This does not mean that we should seek to have no status in the eyes of others: That too would be an extreme, and it would make us subject to self-humiliation and indignity–the antithesis of the ennoblement Islam provides us [pg. 105].”
“We are in a world where change is the only constant, and we are constantly being given new ways to distract ourselves from the bigger questions in life. Heedlessness causes us to be spiritually out of touch with reality, living in an illusion of fleeting pleasures. Heedlessness leads to a downward spiral that exacerbates all the other destructive vices. To counter this tendency, we must struggle against the spiritual gravity that draws us to this world, and awaken our hearts to our divine purpose and our accountability before God ﷺ [pg. 105-106].”
“Contrary to this philosophy, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ encouraged his followers to remember their own mortality often, for in it lies the greatest clarifier of perspective. In essence, remembering death corrects one’s loss of perspective, and, with that, the loss of one’s sense of appropriate priorities in life [pg. 106].”
Imam Abu ‘Abbas al-Mursul summarizes ll life’s possibilities in four scenarios:
“Each of these situations are from God ﷺ , and each necessitates an appropriate response–not of the body, but of the heart [pg. 107].”
The appropriate spiritual virtues are:
We should always be aware of the states we are in to reflect on ourselves.
“When reflection and introspection, we will be more able to engender the appropriate virtuous response of the heart [pg. 107].”
“There is no need to sacrifice animals, confess in clergy, or be punished in this life in order to be pardoned from punishment in the next life. Prophet Muhammad said, ‘One who repents from sin is like one who has never sinned.’ All that matters is the state of your heart at the moment you repent. If you are sincere in remorse and resolution, God ﷺ promises to accept your repentance. It does not matter whether or not you manage to keep true to your promises afterwards: that is, we cab end up returning to the same sin one thousand times, as long as each time we repent sincerely, remorsefully, and resolutely
“When the heart is attached to possessions and material items, its spiritual yearning is suppressed [pg. 109].”
“We should reflect on our sins, shortcomings, and debt to God, and feel grief and shame before Him. At the same time, we should remind ourselves of His divine mercy and throw ourselves at the gate of His forgiveness. Motivated by both fear of punishment and hope of forgiveness and reward, we can spiritually propel ourselves toward increased conscientiousness (taqwa) [pg. 109-110].”
“God says in the Quran, ‘And whoever trusts in God, God suffices him’ (65:3). If you rely on God while working to accomplish something, God will aid you in your efforts.”
“A man came and asked Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, ‘Should I rely upon God and leave my camel… or should I tie my camel and then rely upon God?’ Prophet Muhammad ﷺ replied, ‘Tie the camel, and rely upon God.’ This teaches us that tawakkul does not entail inaction. It is action along with the proper placement of hope–in God, not in the rope. It is not the rope that binds the camel, but God through the rope.”
“If you are thankful, I will give you more and more.” — Quran 14:7
“…in Islam as a way to obtain more shukr and rida: ‘In matters of this world, look to those who have less than you. In your faith, look to those greater than you.’ [pg. 111].”
“I was sent forth (by God) only to perfect noble character.” — Prophet Muhammad ﷺ
“Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said, ‘My Lord has taught me manners, and thus gave me the best of manners.’ A litmus test of successfully refining the soul is the attainment of beautiful character, which culminates in what some refer to as adab [pg. 112].”
“None of you [fully] believes until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself.” — Prophet Muhammad ﷺ
“those…who have no desire in their hearts for what has been given [to others], preferring them to themselves, even if it means hardship for them.” — Quran 59:9
“Whoever believes in God and the Last Day, he should say something good, or remain silent.” — Prophet Muhammad ﷺ
God has promised those with sabr that he will give them strength to endure and relief of the burden:
“God does not burden any soul with more that it can bear.” — Quran 2:286
“So truly where there is hardship there is also ease; truly where there is hardship there is also ease.” — Quran 94:5-6
“Honesty is valued not just as the accurate conveyance of information, but as integrity in all that we say and do. It means that we are who we show ourselves to be. Sincerity, which is a kind of honesty in dealing with God, is to think and act for God alone, without concern for others or your own self-gratification. It is to act of the pure intention of worshipping God [pg. 115].”
To have trustworthiness, one must honor their agreements, appointments, and implicit understanding
Being able to forgive and forget, as well as, being kind to those who are harmful to you
“A hadith from Prophet Muhammad ﷺ states that generosity is a tree from paradise which reaches down to the world, and whoever grabs onto a branch has a means to attaining paradise. At its most basic level, being generous means abandoning pettiness and miserliness and learning to give freely [pg. 116].”
One must pursue justice for yourself and others
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