Lectures Text

Purification of the Heart

اَلْحَمْدُ ِﷲِ رَبِّ الْعٰلَمِیْنِ.اَلصَّلوٰۃُ وَ السَّلاَم ُ عَلیٰ خَاتَمَ النَّبِیینِ۔
اَمَّا بَعْدُ فَاَعُوذُ بِاﷲِ مِنَ الشَّیْطٰنِ الرَّجِیْمِ۔ بِسْمِ اﷲِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِیْمِ۔
وَنَفْسٍ وَّمَا سَوّٰھَا
(And by the soul, and the One who made it well,
Ash Shams – 7)
فَاَلْھَمَھَا فُجُوْرَھَا وَ تَقْوٰھَا
(Then inspired it with its (instincts of) evil and piety
Ash Shams -8)
قَدْ اَفْلَحَ مَنْ زَکّٰھَا
(Success is really attained by him who purifies it,
Ash Shams – 9)
وَقَدْ خَابَ مَنْ دَسّٰھَا
(And failure is really suffered by him who pollutes it.
Ash Shams -10) Respected Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today’s session is an important one because I shall be dwelling on some issues that are normally ignored. I shall focus on things that are generally not covered in my lectures. By and large these aspects have a significant impact on individuals and the society. These relate to purification or sanctification of the heart (qal’b). A lot of stress has been laid down by Allah Almighty on purification of the heart. Our holy Prophet (SAW) has also advocated it sufficiently. This most important facet of spiritual purification is ignored because of our week self (naf’s). Some people even misunderstand its essence and are resultantly denied the benevolence of Allah Almighty. Under the influence of the devil or their personal desires, a group of people have added some wrong notions tarnishing the image of the whole process of sanctification. Some altogether ignore it while others under its garb have added nefarious activities to suit their petty interests.
Today I want to cover various aspects of the process. The verses that were recited cover this important subject. Allah Almighty has sworn seven times in sura Ash Shams to teach us an important lesson. Although He is not constrained to swear but being our Lord and Creator and knowing our weaknesses He chose to do so. After swearing seven times He has divulged a great truth. The last one is about the self (naf’s). Allah Almighty says:-
فَاَلْھَمَھَا فُجُوْرَھَا وَ تَقْوٰھَا
Allah Almighty has bestowed the self both with good and bad. Virtue was ordained to be preserved. Bad desires and passions were also created. To some it may sound strange that Allah Almighty created bad desires. Remember this world is a testing place. We all are here for an examination. Failure shall result in failure in the life here after. Both dos and don’ts of the examination have been amply explained. To know and recognize wickedness and vices is important in order to avoid them. It is equally important to know the techniques of avoiding vices/sins. Allah Almighty has elucidated it further:-
قَدْ اَفْلَحَ مَنْ زَکّٰھَا وَقَدْ خَابَ مَنْ دَسّٰھَا
(Verily! Success is attained by one who purified his self. Anyone who shrugs the process of purification will fail.)
What is process of purification and what all does it encompass? I will briefly take them on. As I said, a human being is sent to this world for a test. So certain passions have been added into the human chemistry. These arousing desires are called the Self (naf’s). One such desire is to be rich and wealthy and feel happy about it. The other vice is taste and pleasure/delight or lust. The desires to eat well, wear good and expensive garments and possess a beautiful house etc are difficult to avoid. Those who succumb to these pleasures lose and those who can resist them are rewarded by Allah Almighty. Another trap in this world is fame. It is the urge to be known and recognized. A desire to be respected and admired. Love for authority and social status come in the same category.
To curb and control these three categories of desires i.e. love of wealth, seeking pleasures/lust and love for authority is called spiritual purification. Two types of instructions have been proclaimed. Those for the external manifestation include orders about praying, fasting, paying obligatory elms, pilgrimage and other day to day errands. Instructions about all these visible matters are covered in the Islamic law and jurisprudence. The details have written down in the form of books and papers.
There are then certain instructions about the internal matters which mainly are matters of the heart. These include an ideal heart, feelings and passions, control and inclinations of the heart and its characteristics etc. All attributes of the heart are an existential reality. Arrogance is a major failure but it cannot be determined on its face value. Only Allah Almighty knows it. The subtle difference between self esteem and arrogance can only be identified by a perfect saint or Allah Almighty Himself. A person with even a small grain of pride and arrogance shall not be permitted into the Paradise. Ailments and vices of the heart (qal’b) are more dangerous. It is therefore essential to know them and identify their impacts. Arrogance has to be replaced with humility and hypocrisy with sincerity/hospitality and submission so that all deeds are only directed to please Allah Almighty and not the human beings. Acts done only for people fall into the realm of polytheism (shir’k); this is bad and has to be avoided at all cost. Falsehood and hypocrisy has to be replaced with sincerity in order to develop trust in Allah Almighty. Gaining His love and love of the holy Prophet (SAW) developing passion and a firm belief in the dictates of Islam; all these embody beliefs of the heart (ema’n e qal’b). The system to learn and understand all matters related to this aspect of ‘Ema’n e Qal’b’ and to act on them is called ‘Tasawuf’ (mysticism). These actually are the manifestation of the latent states of the heart which not disclosed generally. Pseudo saints have misled the masses by adding their own concoctions into it which has led to it’s defamation of. There exist many references to tasawuf in the Quran and books of Hadith. Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi has written over a thousand books which include books on mysticism as well. He has said that Quran and books of Hadith are full of mentions to mysticism. It is strange that people can read instructions about prayers and elms etc but fail to see the verses like
ان اللہ مع الضابرین ، واللہ تحب الشاکرین.
These are very definite orders for us to understand the manifestations of tasawuf and how to practise them. Our gatherings are precisely for the purpose of learning and to safe guard against imitators. When we are knowledgeable we can challenge them and take them on squarely. This way we shall be able to avoid satanic ploys and only chose the true path of spiritualism.
I was telling you about the visible and latent actions. The desirable acts similarly have two categories. Those desired to be performed and also those required to be avoided. Let’s take the visible acts. There are some obligatory acts that have to be done otherwise their refusal will turn one into an infidel. On the other hand prohibitions (har’am) have to be avoided. Then there are the incumbent orders (waja’bat) versus the abominables (makru’hats). Similarly in the latent acts there are both desirables and undesirables. The desired ones include sincerity, contentment, submission, commitment and love of Allah Almighty. Those to be shunned include arrogance, pride, falsehood, dependence other than Allah Almighty and love of the worldly things. When we compile both the dos and don’ts the aim and objectives emerge out of it. So mysticism is meant to perform the invisible acts. The desirable acts have their pronounced effects of two types i.e. Allah Almighty is pleased and grants the recipient a status called ‘sunnat’. Some call it ‘wasool’. This terminology has been taken from the magazines publishing articles on mysticism which are popular amongst the youth these days. Terms are misused and convey wrong meanings. I feel it important to explain these terms in order to avoid being misled by impostors. Wasool means a belief where every thing is only sought from Allah Almighty.
ایاک نعبدو ایاک نستعین
. One has to become a true embodiment of this verse. At this stage one comes closer to Allah Almighty. He is elevated in spiritual status. In return is offered total submission and the seeker turns into a true slave of Allah Almighty. An ordinary slave may have some rights but this person shuns all rights and demands and becomes totally subservient to the will of Allah Almighty. He is always satisfied and contented obeying all commands happily. Total trust and faith is displayed irrespective of tone and tenor from the other side. He begets the ultimate level of satisfaction and peace. This is the ultimate station of submission. May Allah Almighty grant it to us. Amen. This is also the epitome of mysticism.
اشہدان لاالہ الااللہ واشدان محمد عبدہ ورسول
Here the word ‘abduho’ (the servant) precedes the word ‘rasool’ (the messenger). This proves that being a slave of Allah Almighty is that ultimate stage of submission. To reach here one has to achieve the objectives that I mentioned a short while ago. How can they be achieved? The objectives relating to the religious matters came through the Divine Revelations (va’hee) which have now been stopped. So these objectives remain and shall remain unchanged for ever.
﴿یوم اکمل تکم دین کم ﴾
Only the means to achieve them can keep changing. For example to gain knowledge is an objective. In the days of our holy Prophet (SAW) it was all acquired in his (SAW) company. There were no universities or religious schools. Whatever was gained by the Companions (RH) was in the company of the Prophet (SAW). This is no longer possible now. That Knowledge is now sought through a preceptor called a ‘Sheikh’. A contract called ‘bait’ is done which is basically a contract to train. The seeker commits to keep his preceptor informed, obeys him and act on his commands. Here the real thing is training and not the pledge (bai’t). Taking of an oath is a tradition of the holy Prophet (SAW) which though not compulsory is desirable. To consider it obligatory or to rule it out are both incorrect. Our holy Prophet (SAW) is known to have accepted the oath of both men and women. Anyone not taking an oath of allegiance to his preceptor (sheikh) is not wrong but the one who does so is benefitted and rewarded. However to seek the benevolence of a Sufi order (silsla) mere oath is not sufficient. Some people wrongly think that by just joining an order they can gain the benevolence by doing nothing. It can only be accrued through physical deeds and actions. You are hearing me through a loud speaker now. If the volume of sound is raised and I do not speak at all nothing will happen, you cannot hear me. Similarly the benevolence of an order can certainly amplify the rewards but one has to first act to gain that advantage. So after taking an oath, the seeker has to act himself and perform. His sheikh can only guide him. One has to remain in touch and keep his/her guide informed. Actually when you communicate your condition, the sheikh determines the grey areas and prescribes the remedy. Now the seeker act on it and keeps his sheikh informed about changes that are occurring. Accordingly the guide keeps changing the prescription till the desirable acts start getting performed, which is the sole aim of the whole exercise. This process has been mentioned in the Hadith e Ihsan also. It is said,” worship as if you are seeing Allah Almighty or else feel that you are being watched by Him”. One has to pass through the cycle to be benefitted. The seeker develops the confidence that his/her guide is most useful to him/her. He may not be the best because that rating is the prerogative of Allah Almighty. Being useful is sufficient for a disciple. This is called ‘inquiad’. So the whole cycle comprises of four essentials i.e. communication, obedience, faith and confidence and perception of usefulness. A poet has beautifully summarized them:-
چار حق مرشد کے ہیں رکھ ان کو یاد
اطلاع و اتبع و اعتقاد و انقیاد
(Remember the four rights of your guide, communicate, follow him with confidence and consider him to be the most useful.)
All these aspects have to be learnt first.
The first thing is the remembrance of Allah Almighty (zik’r). Both the words and their sequence are taught. Zik’r helps to soften up the heart, induces kindness and it conditions the heart to reform. An urge is developed to do the desirable acts. Company of pious saints then further boasts these impulses and the heart gets enlightened. The pious who know the right ways of zik’r ensure a systematic growth. After the zik’r meditation (muraqaba) is practiced. I will dwelve on the details some other time. It suffices to know for the present that all the methods have to be adopted in supervision of a learned teacher (sheikh e kamil). With consistent practice under the guidance of the sheikh certain conditions (ahwal) are created, some of which may be harmful. One starts to know and understand strange things which were earlier beyond his imagination. This is the stage of acceptance (muqam e raza). As I said earlier, some of these conditions also have harmful segments e.g. some seekers are endowed with metaphysics of ‘wahdat ul Wajood’ (there is a unity and oneness in all that exists) which has its own harms. So a sheikh protects his disciple from these harmful parts. Let’s take the example of a person travelling in a train from Lahore to Rawalpindi. During the journey many stations come one after another and then pass. Similarly these things keep appearing during the mystical journey. They cannot be avoided but they are certainly not the ultimate destination of your quest. What is important is to reach the final destination whether you notice these alluring distractions or skip them. During the journey from Lahore you have to ensure that your reach Rawalpindi. Enroute if you see Gujrat or miss it, this has no significance. So the revelations during the spiritual quest will keep ensuing. It is here that your spiritual guide comes in. He shall tell you what to focus on and what all to avoid. Experiencing similar distractions I informed my Sheikh about them. He told me to ignore them as they were unwanted and could lead me astray. Some seekers get spiritual insights (kash’f) which was not the objective. Some start to get good dreams. People get stuck here and their growth ends. If one is in contact with his sheikh who will advice him correctly and ensure that the pit falls are avoided or circumvented. He will teach them how to reap the benefits only.
Today I have briefly explained the essential points for purification of the heart. My lecture has been recorded in an audio cassette. Anyone finding it difficult to understand a point may listen to it repeatedly and then ponder upon it. Allah Almighty shall bless him/her with an insight and understanding.
To conclude, I will say that once the objectives have been achieved; they usher in blessings and benevolence of Allah Almighty. Till such time this stage is reached, it is important to keep progressing by acting on the instructions with confidence reposing complete trust in your sheikh, considering him to be most beneficial for you. And always stay in touch with him. As one moves on his/her heart is enlightened with the Divine grace. A linkage is established between Allah Almighty and the seeker. Then certain realities of this association start to dawn.This are called ‘Haqiqat’ (the truth). The effort put in to reach this stage is ‘tasawuf’ (mysticism) or ‘tariqat’ (the path). Haqiqat is the end product of mysticism (tasawuf). Then comes the ultimate stage called ‘ma’arfut’ (cognizance); which is an immediate spiritual intuition of truths and union of the soul with Allah Almighty. A person at this station is called ‘Arif Billah’.
May Allah Almighty grant us His cognizance. May He reveal to us the path to reach the truths. May He make us follow in the footsteps of our elders and their right practices. May He grant us the strength to achieve objectives set by them. May He be pleased with us and reward us with His benevolence .Amen
و آخر داعوانہ الحمداللہ رب العلمین ۔