Reflections Until Fajr (1)
That our souls may be pure
Sometimes in 2013 or 2014, a brother on the path, Luqman Abdurraheem, who was pursuing his doctoral programme in a UK university, made an illuminating presentation on the Nature of Human Souls and Need for Purification at an Usrah circle in London. His references were drawn basically from the following books which he recommended as a must-have to all who were at the forum and those he emailed the presentation
- Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din (The Revival of the Religious Sciences by Iman Abu Hamid al-Ghazali.
- Mukhtasar-minhaj-al-qasidin (Towards The Hereafter) by Ibn Qudamah al Maqdisi.
- Al- Mathurat – Shahid Hassan al Banna.
- Amrad ul Qulub wa Shifaa uha (Diseases of the Hearts and their Cures by Shaykh ul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah
- Kitab Az-Zuhd (Book on Asceticism) by Al-Bayhaqi
His treatment of the subject matter was very encompassing. Today, I reflect on the presentation as each of us is journeying to a definite end and we must prepare well.
The Human person he explained is composed of two parts – BODY& SOUL. Soul is a part of the body that is invisible. It connects us to Allah or Shaytan by choice. Body does fall sick: Doctor, Physician, Surgeon are knowledgeable about diseases of the body so are consultants for its remedies. Soul does fall sick: ‘Alim Rabbaniy (Pious Scholar), Mutasawif (Mystic/Ascetic) are its consultants for cure .
Imam Abu Hamid al Ghazali said: “Never have I dealt with anything more difficult than my own soul, which sometimes helps me and sometimes opposes me”. Man ‘arafa nafsahu faqad ‘arafa Rabbbahu (One who realizes one’s own self, realizes his Lord) –
Jabir (RA) reported: Some people returned from a battle. Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: قَدِمْتُمْ خَيْرَ مَقْدَمٍ مِنَ الْجِهَادِ الأَصْغَرِ إِلَى الْجِهَادِ الأَكْبَرِ
You have returned with a good return, from the lesser jihad unto the greater jihad.
They ask, “What is the greater jihad?” The Prophet said:
- مُجَاهَدَةُ الْعَبْدِ هَوَاهُ
It is the servant’s struggle against his desires. (Kitab Az-Zuhd Al-Bayhaqi 383, Grade: Da’eef)
Delving into the Qur’an, he cites where Allah explains the nature of the soul and for man to make a choice of his. He declares:
- وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا- فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا- قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن زَكَّـهَا- وَقَدْ خَابَ مَن دَسَّـهَا-﴾
By soul and He Who perfected it in proportion, then He showed it what is wrong for it (Fujur) and what is right for it (Taqwa). Indeed he prospers who purifies it, and he fails who corrupts it (Dassaha). Q91:7-10.
Hence, we are made to understand three stations of the soul of man as mentioned in the Qur’an. The first is Nafs al ammārah`(Unruly Animalistic Soul). It is the resting place of SHAYTAN and the source of blameworthy sinful morals. Prophet Yusuf (AS) says:
وَمَآ أُبَرِّىءُ نَفْسِى إِنَّ النَّفْسَ لأَمَّارَةٌ بِالسُّوءِ إِلاَّ مَا رَحِمَ رَبِّى إِنَّ رَبِّى غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
“Yet I claim not that my soul was innocent: Verily the Nafs of man incites to evil.“ Q12:53
The second station is Nafs al lawwama (Self reproaching Soul). This is a soul struggling to uphold high morals. accuses itself for heeding to Evils, Instinct, Ego and Shaytan.
Allah praises this efforts. He says:
لاَ أُقْسِمُ بِيَوْمِ الْقِيَـمَةِ – وَلاَ أُقْسِمُ بِالنَّفْسِ اللَّوَّامَةِ
Nay! I swear by the Day of Resurrection. And nay! I swear by An-Nafs Al Lawwamah. Q75:1-2
The third station of the soul is Nafs al Mutma’inna (Soul of Tranquility). This soul is satisfied with Allah’s Wills, Decisions and Mandates on all matters. Allah says:
- يأَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ – ارْجِعِى إِلَى رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً مَّرْضِيَّةً – فَادْخُلِى فِى عِبَادِى – وَادْخُلِى جَنَّتِى ﴾
“O tranquil soul! Come back to your Lord, — well-pleased and well-pleasing! Enter then among My servants. And enter My Paradise!’‘ Q89:27-30
From this spiritually illuminating presentation where he quoted Shaykh Bn Taymiyyah and Imam al-Ghazali extensively, the following were identified as diseases of the soul:
- Al-Kufr – Disbelief
- Ash-Shirk – Polytheism
- Az-Zulm – Hypocrisy
- Al-Hasad – Envy/Jealousy
- Al-Ghadab – Anger
- Al-Hiqd – Malice or having ill-will toward others.
- Al-‘Ujb (Swollen pride because of possession/quality
- Al- Bukhl Stinginess or Niggardly
- Al- Jubn – Cowardice
- Al-Riya’ – Ostentation or showing off
- Al-‘Azamah – Superiority or claiming greatness
- Al-Kasal – Heedlessness and laziness
- Al-Hirş -Attachment to the world
- Al-Hami – Anxiety/Sorrow
- Al-Hazan – Sadness/Sadism
- Al-Ghaflah – Forgetfulness of reality and Allah
- Al-Kibr – Arrogance
- Al-Hubb ud-dunya – Love of the material world
- Al-Namimah – Carry tales, Rumour mongering
- Al-Ghibah -Slandering
Of course for every disease, there is a cure only if can endure the unsavory taste of some of them. The bottom line of curing any ailment is strong resolution to abide by the regimen of the therapy. For the diseases of the soul, eight (8) cures or paths are recommended.
- Repentance (Tawbah). Its elements are: Self-examination (Muhasabah), Struggling against sins (Mujahadah) and Meditation about Allah (Muraqabah).
- Abstention (Wara). Pious self-restraint and selectiveness.
- Asceticism (Zuhd).Living an ascetic life.
- Poverty (Faqr). This means denial of the Nafs demands for pleasure and enjoyment at times..
- Patience (Sabr). Patience on righteous deed and abstaining from certain deed).
- Reliance/Confidence in Allan (Tawwakul).
- Contentment (Riḍā’). Submission to Allah’s decree
- Remembrance (Dhikr). Morning & Evening – Al-Mathurat
The ultimate reward consequently for anyone who is able to discipline his soul is paradise as explained in the following verse
: عُلُوًّا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فَسَادًا وَالْعَاقِبَةُ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ
That home of the Hereafter We assign to those who do not desire exaltedness upon the earth or corruption. And the best outcome is for the righteous [Surah Al-Qasas 28:83]
I took so many things from this soul-searching presentation of Luqman Abdulraheem. One thing it assisted me to do was the clarification of two topics that I had always wanted to write upon for more than seven years: Shades of Darkness and Grades of Light. By implication, each of the disease mentioned in the presentation represents a shade of darkness that envelops the heart or the soul of of the negligent man. They are dirt or cobwebs or rust that diminishes the worth or value of the soul. Ultimately, they deaden or harden the soul. But dead souls need not give up hope on redemption or revitalization.
Today therefore, I take my reflection from two exhortations from Allah concerning sin and repentanc : Embark on repentance unto Allah with Sincere repentance (Tuubuu ilallah taubatan nasuuhan) . The second exhortation: O ye who have exceeded bounds (sin), do not despair of the mercy of Allah, for Allah forgives sin. He is the oft-forgiving and most merciful.
What these mean therefore is the journey to saving the soul or purifying the soul is one of strong resolution, constant struggle and living hope in Allah. My prayers is that we return to Allah with a qalb saleem, a pure heart. I recommend the prayers below to my brothers and sisters in our collective struggle to purify our souls.
Allahumma inni `authubika min an nshrika bika shai’an na’lamuh, wa nastaghfiruka lima la na’ lamuh.
O Allah! I seek refuge in You from associating anything other with you while we know it, and we seek repentance for associating something other with you while we don’t know it.
Allahumma inni a’uthubika min al-hammi wal-hazan, wa a’uthu bika min al-`ajz wal kasal, wa a’ uthubika min al-jubni wal-bukhl, wa a’uthu bika min ghalabati-ddayni wa qahri rrijal.
O Allah! I seek refuge in You from sorrow and sadness, and I seek refuge in You from feebleness and laziness, and I seek refuge in You from cowardliness and miserliness, and I seek refuge in You from the harshness of debt and the overpower of men.