Home Faqihul Ummah Mawa`iz (Discourses) Discourse 1 - Purification of the Soul

Discourse 1 - Purification of the Soul

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نحمده و نصلي على رسوله الكريم

فأعوذ بالله من الشيطن الرجيم    بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن تَزَكَّى ﴿١٤﴾ وَذَكَرَ اسْمَ رَبِّهِ فَصَلَّى ﴿١٥﴾ بَلْ تُؤْثِرُونَ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا ﴿١٦﴾ وَالْآخِرَةُ خَيْرٌ وَأَبْقَى ﴿١٧﴾ إِنَّ هَـذَا لَفِي الصُّحُفِ الْأُولَى ﴿١٨﴾ صُحُفِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَمُوسَى ﴿١٩﴾

Allah Ta’ala has stated in the Qur’aan-e-Kareem:

“Successful indeed is he who has purified his inner-self.” (al-A’laa:14)

Whoever has corrected his inner-self is surely successful. People’s understanding of success differs.

An individual feels that by acquiring a palatial house, he is successful. Another person reasons that attaining wealth is the ultimate success. A third person concludes that if he marries into a wealthy and noble family, then he too will be successful. A fourth person decides that if he graduates from college and becomes a professional, he also will be successful.

Elections have arrived and the nominated candidate reasons that succeeding in the electoral process and becoming a member of parliament, will make him successful. Every individual’s view of success differs.

The correct view of success, however, is the one outlined by the Creator of these views. What Allah Ta’ala explains as success is true success. Everything else is not success but merely a deception, which is temporary and will swiftly perish. Success is something that is everlasting.

By purifying the soul, two things are achieved namely:

1) Excellent character

2) Righteous deeds.

These qualities will always assist man. It will assist him in this world and in the grave. At the time of resurrection, on the pul-siraat (bridge of siraat), at the time of weighing one’s action, etc. Undoubtedly, whoever can easily achieve these qualities is indeed successful.

A person has accumulated a great deal of money. He has gathered heaps upon heaps of notes. However, if one termite finds its way to that wealth and consumes it; will this money be regarded as success? Such a ‘success’ which one termite can easily destroy, Allah Ta’ala protect, is not true success. It is a deception and a means of our ruin.

An individual owns an airplane. The business generated through it is exceptional. But if, in mid-air, the plane experiences some technical difficulty and crashes every person aboard it will die. Is this success?

Another person owns an expensive sports car and he considers himself to be successful. Whilst driving he is involved in an accident, destroying the car and himself. Is this any type of success?

Another ‘successful’ person owns a train, which is involved in an accident resulting in the death of all the passengers. What success is this? In reality, success is not found in any of these objects.

Unreliable empire

We have witnessed an incident where an extremely affluent and arrogant person had his entire wealth snatched away from him in the flash of an eye. He was forced, at gunpoint, to sign a document declaring that he had sold his belongings and received the money for it. He signed the documents and was ‘chased away’ from his own premises. He left with not even a single cent on him to buy his supper!

None of these things are worthy of attaching your heart to. They are not worthy of being relied upon nor are they worthy of being desired for. They are nothing more than a ploy, which have no significance in the eyes of Allah Ta’ala.

Generosity at its best

True success is that, which Allah has declared,

“Indeed, successful is he who has purified his soul.” (al-A’laa:14)

For example, one has the trait of miserliness, which needs to be removed and replaced with generosity. How do we go about removing miserliness and replacing it with generosity? What is the definition of generosity? Is a generous person one who compiles a thesis about generosity, providing strong proofs and thereafter reads it out to someone? Or is a generous person one who writes a booklet about generosity and then publishes it? Or is a generous person one who shows others the avenues of generosity?

Incident of Bayazid Bustami رحمة الله عليه, the Hafiz and the barber

It is recorded in the works of Hadhrat Bayazid Bustami رحمة الله عليه that once he addressed his nafs and said, “You are stingy!”

“Why do you call me stingy? In fact, I am very generous,” his nafs protested.

“Very well,” commented Hadhrat Bayazid رحمة الله عليه. “We shall test your generosity. Tomorrow, we will hand over our entire wealth to the first poor person that we come across. If the wealth is given over with a happy heart, this will indicate that you are generous, otherwise not.”

The next morning Hadhrat Bayazid رحمة الله عليه set off to donate 50 ashrafis (gold coins), in charity. He came across a blind Hafiz Sahib, sitting in a barbershop. Observing his tattered and torn clothing he respectfully approached the Hafiz Sahib and said, “Hafiz Sahib, I wish to give these ashrafis as a gift to you.”

“I am glad that you have come along,” expressed with joy. “I do not have any money to pay this barber. Please hand it over to him.”

Hadhrat Bayazid رحمة الله عليه thought to himself that this Hafiz is blind. Hence, he does not realise the true value of these ashrafis. How can a haircut be worth 50 ashrafis?

“This is the reason why you are stingy. Hand it over to the barber!” the Hafiz Sahib ordered. He was referring to a very deep matter.

Hadhrat Bayazid رحمة الله عليه felt very ashamed and placed the ashrafis in front of the barber. The barber however, commented, “The moment I saw the torn and tattered clothing of this Hafiz Sahib, I made an intention to cut his hair solely for the pleasure of Allah Ta’ala. I am not going to spoil my intentions for this bauble heap.”

Hadhrat Bayazid رحمة الله عليه picked up the wealth, proceeded to the river and threw the entire amount in the river.

“May Allah Ta’ala ruin you. Whoever attaches his heart to you becomes disgraced in this manner.”   

More important than defining generosity, we need to inculcate it into our lives. One does not become generous by defining generosity, writing poetry or booklets about it. Allah Ta’ala made the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu anhum), who were trained and nurtured by Nabi (sallallahu alaihi wasallam), successful. Further, among the qualities of Nabi (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) is,

“The one who will purify their (the believer’s) inner-selves.” (Aal Imraan:164)

Read the biographies of the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu anhum) and see what great deeds of generosity were accomplished at their hands.

Abdullah bin Ja’far (radhiyallahu anhu), Qais and a blind person

Once, a few people had gathered for a certain event. Gradually, they began discussing amongst themselves who was the most generous person of that time. Three names were forwarded. Who were these three? One was Abdullah bin Ja’far (radhiyallahu anhu), the second was Qais and the third was a blind Hafiz Sahib. It was agreed that these three would be tested to see who amongst them was the most generous.

They sent an ‘inspector’ to Abdullah bin Ja’far (radhiyallahu anhu). At that time Abdullah bin Ja’far (radhiyallahu anhu) was preparing to go on a journey. He had loaded his camels with gold coins, food and drink so that if he wanted to entertain anyone en-route, he could do so. The conditions for travelling, in that era, were such that water was very scarce.

The designated person, came up to him and pleaded, “I am a traveller and I require a conveyance.”

Abdullah bin Ja’far (radhiyallahu anhu) was ready to go on a journey. The camels were loaded and the only thing remaining was to mount it. Now remember! Asking for a conveyance in that era is unlike the present situation. We can borrow someone’s car for an hour or two and thereafter return it, paying for the cost incurred for the petrol. Sometimes if one does not pay for the petrol, the owner of the car will even ask for it. No, when a conveyance was asked for, it was given. There was no question of returning it.

Here the camel of Abdullah bin Ja’far (radhiyallahu anhu) was ready and fully loaded with gold, food and drink and without any hesitation he readily handed over the camel. The ‘inspector’ returned to the board of examiners and gesturing to the camel said, “I have received this from Abdullah bin Ja’far (radhiyallahu anhu).”

Thereafter, he went to the home of Qais but discovered that he was not in. When the maid-slave asked if he had some work with him, he replied, “I have some work with Qais, not you.”

“Never mind about that”, interrupted the slave. “Inform me of the nature of your work.”

“You do not have the ability to fulfil it.”

“Never mind. Tell me; what is your problem?”

“I am a traveller and I require transport.”

“What is the need to personally request Qais for such assistance?” she snapped. “I have the permission to fulfil such a request.”

She went up to a herd of camels and .picked the choicest one and handed it over to him. He returned with the camel and said, “The maid-slave of Qais had given this camel to me. He was not there.”

Thereafter, he went to the third person who was blind, cripple and suffering from gout. At that very precise moment, he was going to the Musjid for salaah supporting himself on the shoulders of two slaves, whilst dragging his feet along the road. In this condition, the examiner approached him and said, “I am traveller and I need a conveyance.”

“Today I own nothing more than these two slaves,” the Hafiz Sahib disclosed. “I give you these two slaves. Take them, sell them and arrange for your transport with the money received from their sale.”

In uttering these words, he removed his hands from their shoulders because, when he said, “I have given them to you,” his ownership over these two slaves had expired. So how could he continue supporting himself on their shoulders? Due to suffering from gout, he could not stand and fell down injuring his knees in the process. He was blind as well as cripple.

“You are more in need of the slaves,” admitted the examiner. “Therefore, keep them and I will make some alternate arrangements for my transport.”

“Well, if you do not want them, then I free them because they have already come out of my ownership.”

The examiner returned and reported what had transpired. The aforementioned incidents are true examples of exemplary generosity.

Adee bin Haatim’s (radhiyallahu anhu) generosity

A person came to Adee bin Haatim (radhiyallahu anhu), the son of Haatim Tai (who is world renowned for his generosity) and said: “I am going to arrange a function at my place. Many affluent guests will be arriving and I need some utensils and pots for cooking.”

Hadhrat Adee (radhiyallahu anhu) inquired about the number of guests and the date of the function. “Very well, I will send the utensils.”

Now, this person was counting the number of days elapsing and the utensils are not arriving. There were 10 days left! 9 days, 8 days, 7 days, 6 days, 5 days, 4 days, 3 days, 2 days until 1 day remained and the utensils had still not arrived! He became very worried and this concern was amplified by the fact that the guests would reproach him for not arranging the food.

The date of the function arrived and the guests had also arrived. Adee (radhiyallahu anhu) sent the pots and utensils filled with exquisite dishes, prepared and ready to eat. This person became overjoyed that not only was his honour saved but he did not have to make any arrangements for the food as well.

“I had asked for empty utensils only,” he remarked. “I did not ask for the food.”

“An empty utensil has never left our house. Sending empty utensils is against our family tradition.”

These were generous people. The definition of generosity is one thing; to be imbued with this quality is something else.

Abdullah bin Ja’far (radhiyallahu anhu) and the orchard

The very same Abdullah bin Ja’far (radhiyallahu anhu), whose incident was mentioned earlier, was asked whether he knew anyone more generous then himself.

“La Houla …,” he gasped. “I am nothing and my generosity is nothing. Anyone is more generous then myself. On one occasion, I had seen a lush and opulent orchard, which was in the care of a slave. He was irrigating it and I sat watching him. I then asked him, ‘Which is the best fruit?’

‘I do not know. I am the guard, not the owner,’ he remarked.”

(Note: Despite being the guard of the orchard, he did not know which tree had the best fruit. We, the people of the madrasah, are also guards of the madrasah. Therefore, we should be cautious in our actions.)

“I thought to myself that this is a person with an excellent character. I inquired the whereabouts of his masters and he provided the relevant details. Meanwhile, somebody had brought two loaves of bread to him and on seeing the bread, a dog that was staying in the orchard, came up to him. This person ate a morsel of food and fed another morsel to the dog. The sizes of these morsels were the same.

“What wage does your master pay you?” enquired Hadhrat Abdullah bin Ja’far (radhiyallahu anhu).

“You had seen the two loaves of bread given to me.” His sentence was not tinged with any disdain.

“Why did you feed the dog one morsel with every morsel that you had eaten?” Hadhrat Abdullah (radhiyallahu anhu) asked, looking puzzled.

“This dog is my companion. I guard the orchard and so does he and when he assists me in guarding the orchard, then he is my equal partner in sharing whatever wage I receive.”

I considered this slave to be a personification of good character. I approached his owner and said,

“I had seen your garden and taken a liking for it. I wish to purchase it.”

He agreed. We fixed a price and I purchased the orchard. I then asked if he had any female slaves for sale. He replied in the affirmative and I requested him to bring the most attractive slave he had in his possession. He brought her and I purchased her as well.

“I now wish to purchase your slave who guards the orchard,” Hadhrat Abdullah (radhiyallahu anhu) disclosed.

“I do not want to sell him,” the owner quipped. “He has been with us since childhood and we have raised him. He has a special relationship with my entire family.”

“I have a great desire to purchase him,” Hadhrat Abdullah (radhiyallahu anhu) insisted.

“Very well,” he relented. “I will sell him to you because of the desire you have expressed.”

“I then bought the slave.”

I took the female slave and went to the orchard. I informed the slave that I had purchased the orchard. He replied, “Very well, May Allah Ta’ala bless you.”

He began leaving assuming that his work here was now over since the orchard no longer belonged to his master.

“Wait,” I protested. “I have purchased this female slave as well.”

“May Allah Ta’ala shower his blessings on her as well.”

I then informed him that I had purchased him as well. “This piece of news grieves me,” he admitted. “I have been raised by this family and I have a developed a special bond with them. Nevertheless, since you have purchased me, May Allah Ta’ala bless you in me.”

“I marry this slave girl off to you,” disclosed Hadhrat Abdullah (radhiyallahu anhu). 

“Very well, May Allah Ta’ala grant barkat in this also.”

I continued, “I set you both free and give this orchard to you as a gift.”

Initially that person stayed in the orchard as a guard and laboured therein. Now, he has become the owner of it. This was the level of generosity prevalent in these people.

The story of a generous man and his farm

An individual was passing by a farm when a youngster greeted him and said, “My father has passed away.”

“May Allah Ta’ala forgive him, grant you patience and ease,” he replied.

“Whilst going through his accounts,” the youngster added, “I discovered that you owed him several thousand rands.”

The traveller instructed his servant to give the said sum to the youngster whenever he came to collect it. He then continued on his way. After a few days had elapsed, he happened to pass that way again. The youngster again stood up, greeted him and remorsefully remarked:  “I had miscalculated. Actually my father owes you several thousand rands.”

“I then absolve you of the debt,” was the instantaneous reply from the traveller.

“I desire to pay you the amount.”

“As you wish.”

“I cannot pay the entire amount,” the youngster replied softly.

“Pay as much you can afford.”

“I do not have the cash but you can take this piece of land in lieu of the cash.”

The creditor accepted it, spread a musalla on the land, and performed two rakaats salaah. He thereafter made the land waqf and continued on his way.

This was the generosity of our pious predecessors. Generosity was not on their tongues, nor in their writings, rather it was their second nature. Miserliness could not come close to them.

“Successful indeed is he who has purified his inner-self.”

For example, the debasing quality of miserliness is replaced with generosity.

A kind man who did not mind being imprisoned

One person came up to a gentleman and said, “I am in distress. I am indebted to another person. He confronted me on the issue and I promised to pay him tomorrow. My problem is that I do not have any money to give him and I fear that he will disgrace me.”

“I do not have any wealth at present,” revealed this person. “However, I have the following plan. I promise to give you a certain sum of money. I now owe you this sum of money because a promise is a debt. Go to the court and lay a claim against me saying that I owe you this sum of money. I, in turn, will say that I do not have the money to settle my debt. You must then say that I am lying and I do have the money. The judge will have no other recourse but to imprison me and inform my relatives and friends to pay the debt in order to release me. You can then take the money and pay off your creditor.”

So it transpired that this person was imprisoned in order to save the honour of that debtor.

Hadhrat Abu Bakr’s (radhiyallahu anhu) kindness to children

Hadhrat Abu Bakr (radhiyallahu anhu) was the best of mankind after Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam). What a high-ranking individual he was! However, what was his general character? His character was such that whenever he returned from a journey and the children saw him, they would run towards him and cling on to his clothing. He would seat a child in front of him and a child behind him and the children, mind you, were not his children but rather the children of the locality.

This incident was repeated whenever he used to set off on a journey. The children would again cling on to him. While one child would hold on to his sleeve; another would hold his hand whilst another would cling on to the tail of his garment. This was the compassion he had.

Remember, this was the condition of the Ameer-ul-Mu’mineen. Despite having such a high rank, he did not consider himself to be such a great person.

The objective is removing the debasing quality of miserliness and replacing it with the quality of generosity. Generosity is a quality of the heart. The hands are the means and instruments of carrying it out.

Contentment and Reliance - The backbone of generosity

خير الغنى غنى القلب - The best type of affluence is the contentment of the heart. That person, who is contented, can render a great service to deen. Generally, people have this concern that if they spend a great sum of money, how will they recover it?

When we are contented and have placed our reliance on the King of kings, the One Who possesses the treasures to everything, (as He has mentioned): “Most certainly the treasures of everything is by Us,” this is the highest form of confidence.

The reason is that a miserly person is always plagued by irrational thoughts. “If I am to give my wealth to another person, I will have nothing left. This is my requirement. If I am in need, where will I get it? Even if I pursue a business venture, will I be able to acquire it or not? Will I be successful or not?”

All these absurd thoughts trouble the mind. However, if this person were to place his  total reliance on Allah Ta’ala, He being the one who had initially given it to him and He will give it to him again, then to part with this wealth will not be a problem. An individual will be at great ease irrespective of whether he has the wealth or not.

He will tell himself, “If it is not in my possession, it is certainly in Allah’s treasure. And He has promised to give it to me. If He is the giver, why should I be overcome with anxiety?”

Gone for baking

A person’s wife kneaded some dough, left it in the tray and went out to get some fire from the neighbourhood. In the meantime, a beggar came to the house and asked for some food. The husband could not find anything else. Thus, he picked up the tray of dough and gave it to the beggar.

“What has happened to the dough which I left in the tray?” his wife asked, upon her return.

“It is gone for baking,” he disclosed.

“Seriously, what happened to it? Do not fool around!”

“I am serious, I am not joking,” he assured her. “A beggar came to ask for some food. Since there was nothing else to give him, I gave him the dough. He will bake it for himself.”

“May Allah Ta’ala guide you! Now there is no food for the children,” she lamented.

“Whether there is food or not, that I do not know but for me to tell the beggar that there is nothing whilst the dough was in front of me was impossible.”

This was his level of reliance on Allah Ta’ala. He could not even entertain the thought that the One, Who had initially bestowed it upon him, will not give it to him again. He most certainly will give!

This level of reliance on Allah Ta’ala should be the foremost principle in our lives. Whoever achieves this degree of reliance will be the accepted servant of Allah Ta’ala.

Zikr in abundance

“Successful is he who purifies his inner-self and takes the name of his Sustainer (in abundance).” (al-A’laa:14/15)

Zikrullah has been greatly emphasized in the Qur’aan and hadeeth. Salaah is a fixed ‘ibaadat which is performed five times a day. Fasting is also a fixed ‘ibaadat. It is fardh to fast for one month in the year in Ramadhaan. Hajj is a fardh to be performed once in a lifetime. However regarding zikr, Allah Ta’ala says:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اذْكُرُوا اللَّـهَ ذِكْرًا كَثِيرًا ﴿٤١﴾ وَسَبِّحُوهُ بُكْرَةً وَأَصِيلًا

“O you who believe, remember Allah in abundance and glorify Him in the mornings and evenings.” (al-Ahzaab:41)

Hence, the basis for reciting tasbeeh in the morning and evening is derived from this verse. Reciting an abundance of zikr is also derived from this verse.

It is mentioned in a hadeeth:

اذكروا الله حتى يقال إنه لمجنون

Make zikrullah in such abundance that people begin to say that you are mad.

But do not make zikr in such a way that Allah declares you as mad. That will happen if one is making zikr in an incorrect manner or on incorrect occasions, causing distress to the creation, disturbing people’s sleep with loud zikr, etc. Continue making the zikr of Allah Ta’ala together with taking into consideration people’s rights.

وَذَكَرَ اسْمَ رَبِّهِ فَصَلَّى

“And he takes the name of his Sustainer.” (al-A’laa:15)

When does he take the name of his Sustainer? On all occasions: at the time of eating we say bismillah; at the time of sleeping we read bismillah; on awakening we read bismillah; when entering the market we read bismillah. On all occasions we should take the name of Allah Ta’ala.

Belief in the unseen

بَلْ تُؤْثِرُونَ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا

“Instead you prefer the worldly life.” (al-A’laa:16)

The general condition of the people is that they prefer the worldly life because it is something that can be witnessed, whereas we have not seen the life of the hereafter. It is the unseen that we are commanded to believe in!

Unfortunately, our confidence is placed on what we can see – the life of this world. We reason in this way, “If I give the money, to the poor, what will happen to me? How will I retrieve this money?”

Returning to the incident of the person who had given the dough to the beggar: Whilst the conversation was taking place between himself and his wife, a person presented freshly baked bread wrapped in a cloth, together with a platter of gravy, as a gift.

“He truly did go to bake the bread and it was done very quickly,” she acknowledged. “I could not have baked it so swiftly myself, and he brought gravy as well.”

This person’s dealing with the creation of Allah Ta’ala was that he gave the dough to the beggar and Allah Ta’ala’s dealing with him was that He blessed him with baked bread and gravy. In the manner that a servant deals with Allah Ta’ala, Allah Ta’ala will deal with him accordingly.

Trust in Allah Ta’ala

Considering oneself to be the lowest of mankind and totally dependent on Allah Ta’ala and to realise that everything is the control of Allah Ta’ala, is the fundamental principle of belief. Only with His permission will I acquire anything and without it, I cannot acquire anything.

If we have a piece of bread in the hand, we should not think that we will eat it. Rather one should have this thought in mind that, only if Allah Ta’ala permits us, will we eat this bread, otherwise not. How many a times has it not transpired that after putting a morsel of food in the mouth, it did not go down? It is essential to wholeheartedly accept that which Allah Ta’ala has destined. Although it cannot be witnessed nor easily comprehended, it will transpire.

Generally, we place our reliance on the material aspects of the world because we can see these, whereas the requirement is that we have reliance on the unseen, the divine decree of Allah Ta’ala. Only if Allah Ta’ala destines it, will I receive it, otherwise not.

“You prefer the worldly life whereas the hereafter is better and eternal.” (al-A’laa:16/17)

The beautiful companion

وَالْآخِرَةُ خَيْرٌ وَأَبْقَى

The worldly life and its possessions will perish. A person accumulates hordes of money. However, when he dies, will he take his wealth and treasures with him to the grave? No, he will not take anything. Everything will be left behind.

A person cultivates a beautiful orchard, constructs a magnificent building, buys a magnificent car, opens up businesses and factories, becomes a member of different parties, and accomplishes many feats. Which of these will accompany him to his grave? None of them! The only thing that will accompany him is excellent character and righteous deeds. May Allah Ta’ala enable us to practise accordingly. Aameen.

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