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What Matters at Heart

IMG_4337‘A servant is not afflicted with any chastisement greater than a hard heart and of being remote from God.

‘Hardness of the heart comes about by four things, when the level of need is exceeded: eating, sleeping, speaking and socialising.

‘Hearts that are attached to carnal passions are veiled from God to the extent of these attachments.

‘Hearts are God’s vessels upon His earth. Those most beloved to Him are the ones that are the softest, purest and most affable.

‘Their hearts are immersed in the world. If they were occupied with God and with the Afterlife, then they would contemplate over the meaning of His words and creational signs, and would have returned with the profoundest wisdoms and most astonishing benefits.

‘If the heart is nourished upon God’s remembrance (dhikr), quenched with meditation (tafakkur) and cleansed of blemishes, it will witness great wonders and be infused with deep wisdom.

‘Love of God shall not enter a heart in which there is love of this world, save as a camel passes through the eye of a needle.

‘The heart falls ill as the body does; its cure is in repentance and a spiritual regimen. It gets tarnished as a mirror does; its polish is dhikr. It feels exposed as the body does: its robe is piety (taqwa). It hungers and thirsts like the body does: its sustenance is gnosis, love, repentance and divine service.

‘The heart has six places in which it roams – there being no seventh. Three of these are lowly and three lofty. The lowly are: a world that entices it, an ego that nags at it; and a Foe who seductively whispers to it. These are the places where lowly spirits constantly roam. The three lofty things are: knowledge by which it gains clarity; an intellect with which it is guided; and a deity [God] to which it is devoted in worship. So these are the places wherein hearts wander.’1

‘Seek your heart in three places: where the Qur’an is recited; in the gathering of dhikr; and in times of seclusion. If you don’t find it in these places, then ask God to bless you with a heart. For you have no heart!’2

1. Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Fawa’id (Makkah: Dar ‘Alam al-Fawa’id, 2009), 142-4.

2. ibid., 218.

Ten Ways to Nurture Love of God

90105_prayer2In his usual characteristic flare, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (d.751H/1350CE) discusses ten ways in which the seeker may cultivate a deep and abiding love of God.

Rooted in Scripture, the journey starts with love as an expression of divine obedience which, as it steadily becomes internalised, culminates in being “lost” in the love of the One being loved.

Elsewhere he says about the degrees or stages of divine love that: initially the heart shows an interest in the Beloved; it is then followed by an attachment, which steadily develops into an ardent longing. This lover’s yearning is followed by an infatuation. Finally comes tatayyum – “thraldom” or “enslavement”: this is where the Beloved now becomes the possessor of the lover, who finds no other in his heart. It all commences, though, with kindling an interest; igniting the initial spark. As for how to kindle such sparks, Ibn al-Qayyim writes:

‘The causes which give rise to love for God, and which necessitate it, are ten:

Firstly, reciting the Qur’an with reflection (tadabbur), so as to understand its meanings and its intent. Just as a person would ponder over a text he has committed to memory and now wishes to explain, so that the author’s intent is duly understood.

Secondly, drawing nearer to God by doing optional acts of devotion (nawafil), after the obligatory ones. This leads to the degree of being loved by God (mahbubiyyah), after having love for God (mahabbah).

Thirdly, constantly remembering God under all situations; with the tongue, the heart, one’s deeds and spiritual states. His share of God’s love will be commensurate with his remembrance of Him.

Fourthly, preferring God’s love over your own love when desire (hawa) overcomes you; climbing to reach His love even if the ascent is difficult.

Fifthly, the heart examining God’s Names and Attributes; so as to witness them, know them experientially, and immerse itself in the gardens of such gnosis (ma’rifah). Those who know God by His Names, Attributes and Acts will surely love Him …

Sixthly, seeing His goodness, kindness, bounties and blessings; material and spiritual. This beckons to loving Him.

Seventhly – which is the most wondrous of them: to stand before God with an utterly broken heart (incisor al-qalb bi’l-kuliyyah). There’s simply no other expression or word that can fully describe its meaning.

Eighthly, being alone with Him at the time of the Divine Descent (al-nuzul al-ilahi)1 so as to converse with Him intimately, recite His Words, be devoted to Him, and display the courtesies of servitude before Him; sealing this with seeking His forgiveness and repenting to Him.

Ninthly, sitting in the gatherings of God’s true lovers, in order to gain the best fruits of their speech – as one is want to pick choice fruits – and not to speak unless there is an overriding benefit in doing so, or if you know it will increase your spiritual state or be of benefit to others.

Tenthly, keeping at bay every means that may alienate the heart from its Lord; Mighty and Majestic is He.

With these ten causes, the lovers will arrive at the stations of love and enter upon the Beloved. The crux of all this lies in two matters: preparing the soul for this affair, and opening up the eye of spiritual insight (‘ayn al-basirah). And from God is the enabling grace.’2

1. Referring to the hadith: ‘Our Lord, blessed and exalted is He, descends every night to the lowest heaven when only the last third of the night remains, and says: Who is invoking Me that I may respond to him? Who is petitioning Me that I may grant him? And who is seeking forgiveness of Me that I may forgive Him? Thus He continues till the arrival of dawn.’ [Al-Bukhari, no.1145; Muslim, no.758].

2. Madarij al-Salikin (Riyadh: Dar Taybah, 2008), 3:449-50.

Have You Parted Company With the Qur’an?

Tilawah-of-the-Qur_an-Meaning-and-BlessingsThe Prophet ﷺ said: ‘The best of you are those who learn the Qur’an and teach it to others.’1 And then there is this hadith: ‘Verily God elevates a people by this Book and debases others by it.’2

These hadiths probably go some way in explaining why Muslims – and what some still call the Muslim world – are in the plight and predicament they are in. In his work on miscellaneous spiritual benefits entitled, al-Fawa’id, Ibn al-Qayyim describes five ways in which the Qur’an can be ignored, neglected or even deserted! It is only by being aware of these ways can we offer a candid response to: Have we parted company with the Qur’an? So if not the fear of God, then curiosity alone should make this essential reading.

هَجَرُ الْقُرْآنُ أَنْوَاعٌ: 

أَحَدُهَا هَجْرُ سَمَاعُهُ وَالْإِيمَانُ بِهِ وَالْإِصْغَاءُ إِلَيْهِ.

وَالثَّانِي هَجْرُ الْعَمَلُ بِهِ وَالْوُقُوفُ عِنْدَ حَلَالِهِ وَحَرَامِهِ وَإِنْ قَرَأَهُ وَآمَنَ بِهِ.

 وَالثَّالِثُ هَجَرَ تَحْكِيمَهُ وَالتَّحَاكُمُ إِلَيْهِ فِي أُصُولِ الدّينِ وَفُرُوعِهِ وَاعْتِقَادُ أَنَّهُ لَا يُفِيدُ الْيَقِينَ وَأَنَّ أَدِلَّتَهُ لَفْظِيَّةٌ لَا تَحْصّلُ الْعِلْمَ.

وَالرَّابِعُ هَجْرُ تَدَبّرْهُ وَتَفَهّمُهُ وَمَعْرِفَةُ مَا أَرَادَ الْمُتَكَلّمُ بِهِ مِنْهُ.

وَالْخَامِسُ هَجْرُ الِاسْتِشْفَاءَ وَالتَّدَاوِي بِهِ فِي جَمِيعِ أَمْرَاضِ الْقَلْبِ وَأَدْوَائِهَا فَيُطْلَبُ شِفَاءُ دَائِهِ مِنْ غَيْرِهِ وَيَهْجُرُ التَّدَاوِي بِهِ.

وَكُلُّ هَذَا دَاخِلٌ فِي قَوْلِهِ {وَقَالَ الرَّسُولُ يَا رَبِّ إِنَّ قَوْمِي اتَّخَذُوا هَذَا الْقُرْآنَ مَهْجُورًاً } وَإِنْ كَانَ بَعْضُ الْهَجْرِ أَهْوَنَ مِنْ بَعْضٍ.

‘Parting company with the Qur’an is of various types:

‘Firstly, refusing to listen to it and believe in it or to pay any heed to it.

‘Secondly, ceasing to act on it or abide by what it declares as lawful or unlawful, even if one reads it and believes in it.

‘Thirdly, to abandon judging by it or being judged by it, be it in the foundations of the faith or its branches; and to believe that it does not beget certainty or that its textual wordings do not beget sure knowledge.

‘Fourthly, neglecting to ponder over it or comprehend it; not seeking to uncover what the Speaker intended by it.

‘Fifthly, to abandon seeking cure or healing through it in respect to the diseases of the heart and its maladies, but rather to seek healing for such illnesses from other than it.

‘All this is included in God’s words: And the Messenger will say: “O my Lord! My people have abandoned this Qur’an!” [Q.25:30] This being the case, even though certain forms of abandonment are more detestable than others.’3

1. Al-Bukhari, no.5027.

2. Muslim, no.817.

3. Al-Fawa’id (Makkah: Dar ‘Alam al-Fawa’id, 2008), 118.

Isn’t Loving God Enough to Make One a Believer?

cycling_towards_the_morning_light_by_jchanders-d8e362vThe Qur’an states: There are among people those who set up equals besides God, and love them as [only] God should be loved. But those who believe are more ardent in their love of God. [2:165] One can often hear certain people puzzle over why Jews, Christians, Sikhs and others, are not considered believers – given that they all profess faith in One God and love of Him.

In his all important discussion, Ibn al-Qayyim (d.751H/1350CE) explains that faith, or iman, does not just entail belief in God and love of Him. It also necessitates loving for His sake, and loving what He loves. Anything else just isn’t faith! He wrote:

‘Here there are four types of love (mahabbah) that are crucial to differentiate between: those who strayed did so because they did not make the necessary distinctions.

Firstly, love of God (mahabatu’Llah); which by itself is not sufficient for salvation from the Fire or gaining success through His reward. For the idolators, Jews, Christians and others, all love God.

Secondly, Love of what God loves (mahabbah ma yuhibbu’Llah); this is what brings one into Islam and removes him from disbelief (kufr). Those most beloved to God are the ones firmest and most committed to such love.

Thirdly, love for God’s sake and in Him (al-hubbu li’Llah wa fihi); which is a necessary upshot of loving what God loves. Loving what God loves will not be sound unless one loves for His sake too.

Fourthly, love of a thing alongside God (al-mahabbah ma‘a’Llah); this is the idolatrous type of love. Whoever loves something on par with God – not in God, for God, nor for God’s sake – has set-up a rival with God. This is the love of the idolators.

There remains a fifth type, which isn’t part of what we have been discussing; and that is the natural type of love (al-mahabbah al-tabi‘iyyah). This is where a person inclines, by nature, to whatever he finds agreeable, such as quenching thirst with cool water or satisfying hunger with food; or love of sleep, or marriage, or children. Such things are not blameworthy in and of themselves, unless they distract you from remembrance of God, or deflect you from love of Him. God says: ‘O you who believe! Let not your wealth nor your children distract you from God’s remembrance.’ [63:9] Also: By men whom neither wealth nor trade distract from remembrance of God. [24:37]’1

1. Al-Da’ wa’l-Dawa (Riyadh: Dar Ibn al-Jawzi, 1998), 292-3.

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