ALCHEMY OF HEART 2/5 HAMZA YUSUF
08 APRIL, 2005 BY BINUMER
GIVE UP YOUR DESIRES FOR HIS, EMPTIED OF DESIRE FOR WHAT HIS SERVANTS HAVE, HASTENING TO FULFILL HIS COMMANDS, FEARFUL OF THE SUBTLE FAULT OF BAD MANNERS.
Give up your desires for His, emptied of desire for what His servants have, hastening to fulfill His commands, fearful of the subtle fault of bad manners.
The Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam is reported to have said "none of you truly believes until his desires are in accordance with the very thing that I brought." Muru'ah (virtuous merit) is what the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam brought, and that is what Allah wants from us. Thus, the shaykh says that adab with Allah is to give up your designs for what Allah desires for you to be emptied of desire, having no tam'a. Tam'a is greed, avarice, desire, wanting something out of situations, and having ulterior motives behind your actions. Al-tama'a is one who desires to know what he may gain out of all situations, asking himself, "what's in it for me?" According to the shaykh, we must rid ourselves of this attitude. We should desire nothing from the servants of Allah; rather, all of our desires should be sought from Allah because He is the One who possesses everything.
Furthermore, the shaykh says that you should be quick to fulfill Allah's commands and constantly be aware of the hidden fault of having bad adab with Him. The subtlety of bad adab is illustrated by the hadith, "A man amongst you will say a word giving it no consideration at all, and it will drag him 70 seasons in the hell fire." Thus, as this hadith demonstrates, if you do not learn the commands of Allah, you will not know when you are breaking them. For example, if you do not know what is a stop sign, you just pass right through it, unaware of having done something wrong. The problem is that accidents tend to occur when people, whether knowingly or unknowingly, do not follow the rules. Similarly, when we breach adab with Allah, bad things happen: we bring harm upon ourselves, and this should be a serious fear of ours.
Once, a Mauritanian shaykh and I saw a mouse coming out of its hole, and we noticed that every time the mouse heard a sound, it would stop and shoot back into the hole. "That's taqwa," the shaykh explained. Taqwa is worrying about being eaten alive by your own mistakes. Having this kind of fear of Allah ultimately turns into love, and that is the highest maqam (spiritual station). We do not fear Allah because we think Allah is horrible-the contrary is true: Allah is the Merciful, the Compassionate, the Forgiving. However, at the same time, we wish not to incur the wrath of Allah because Allah does have wrath. Similarly, our parents will sometimes do painful things to us out of love, and often, we are not aware of the reason.
SERVITUDE TO ALLAH
If you realize your attributes of servitude, you are assisted with the attributes of the Independent One. Realize your abjectness and impoverishment, and you will gain dignity and wealth from the All-Powerful.
Shaykh Muhammad Maulud then explains that if you realize the qualities of haya (shame), dhul (humility), and faqar (poverty) in yourself and empty yourself of all of their opposites, such as shameless behavior and arrogance, then you will gain dignity and wealth from Allah. Thus, by realizing your 'ubudia (servitude) to Allah, you truly gain freedom.
Freedom is gained because in completing your servitude to Allah, you are no longer a slave to yourself, and such a person is in actuality the only free human being. If you cannot control yourself, you are a slave to yourself. Someone may claim to be free, but when the food shows up, he cannot resist and stop himself. Such behavior does not indicate freedom as far as Muslims are concerned. Another person may also claim freedom, but when an opportunity to have an illicit relation emerges, he cannot control himself, even if he is the president of the United States. One former president of the United States of America was a Rhodes scholar who went to Cambridge and received the highest level of education, yet he was a slave to the lowest aspects of himself. He is unable to control himself. Such a person is not free; he is 'abd al-hawa, a slave of his passions.
On the contrary, when such a situation arises for a person who is 'abd Allah, he has taqwa of Allah. Thus, even though the temptation might be there, as it is natural for human beings to have shahwa (desire), he can control it because he is not an Â‘abd (slave) to his desire; rather, he is a sayyid (master) of it. If one has desire for one's spouse, then the shahwa is mubah (permissible). However, if the desire is for someone with whom such a relationship would be illicit, then the 'abd Allah does not even consider it, and such a person is a truly free person. The same applies to any other shahwa because the 'abd Allah is not a slave to any of his desires. They serve him, and he does not serve them.
The stronger your taqwa is, the more control you have over your desires. According to Imam al-Ghazzali, the stomach and the genitals are the two most dominant desires, and if you can control these two, then the other ones become easy. In addition, the desire of using the tongue is something that also causes people trouble. There are people who cannot stop backbiting no matter how much they are admonished to stop. I have seen this occur a great deal. In fact, I once pointed out to a person that he was saying something wrong, and in less than three or four minutes, he began to say the same thing and was not even aware of what he was doing. This inability to control the tongue is a major problem for most of us. We speak badly about others, complain, and say other things that we should not be saying. Learning to control the tongue is an important matter.
Another problem with human beings is that we perceive these qualities that the shaykh mentions, of being impoverished and being humble, as abject qualities. We do not wish to be poor, yet the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam chose poverty over wealth. He had no money or jewelry in his house; he slept on the ground on a "bed" made of leather and palm fibers; he had only two pillows in his room for his guests to sit upon. He lived in total poverty. In this culture, if people lived like that, they would most likely be in a state of total humiliation and degradation, being concerned about what other people think, not about what is best for them. On the contrary, the shaykh says that if you realize your true state of 'ubudia to Allah, you will have dignity with Allah; that is, you will be mu'azaz with Allah no matter what your living conditions are in this world.
In Surat Yasin, we are told about the two people who came to warn the town's people of Allah's punishment, yet the town's people threatened them in return. Then Allah says, "'Azazna bithalithin: We gave them Â‘iza with a third." Allah gives 'iza to whomever He wants. He says, "Ya'izu man yasha'u wa yudhilu man yasha'u. Tu'izu man tasha'u wa tadhilu man tasha'u: You give iza to whomever You want, and You humble whomever You want." Amazingly, there are people in the world today who are out on the streets begging while their ancestors were people who used to rule the world. Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala can do so to any people He wants.
A secret of creation is that if you realize the true attribute in yourself before Allah, Allah gives you its opposite. For example, if you realize humility before Allah, Allah will make you 'aziz before other people, giving you dignity because of your realization of your true state of humility with Him. If you are arrogant with Allah, He may let it go for a while, but when He takes you to account, He completely humbles you before everyone. This is a big secret that the shaykh gives us in this poem.
THE OBLIGATION OF A PURE HEART
Knowledge of the heart's aliments, what causes all of them, and those things that remove them is an obligation incumbent upon every responsible individual.
Knowledge of the diseases of the heart, what causes them, and how to remove them is an obligation incumbent upon every human being: it is a binding obligation on every adult Muslim. According to the scholars of Islam, you must have some knowledge of the diseases in order to be able to free yourself from them. This ruling is based on the Quranic verse: "Qad aflaha man zakaha wa qad khaba man dasaha: the one who nurtures his soul is the one who has success, and the one who stunts its growth is destroyed"(91:9-10). Thus, the Quran is talking about tazkiya of the nafs. Allah also says, "Yawma la yanfa'u malun wa la banuna illa man ata Allaha bi qalban salim: on that day, neither wealth nor children will benefit, only the one who comes to Allah with a pure heart" (26:88-89). Thus, according to the Quran, the only people saved on the Day of Judgment are people with qulub salima (sound hearts). "Salim" (sound) is related to the word ! "aslama" because "Islam" is moving towards that state of soundness.
THE INHERENT NATURE OF MAN: GOOD OR EVIL?
This is the ruling of Imam al-Ghazzali. This ruling does not apply to one who was granted a sound heart according to scholars other than al-Ghazzali.
Al-Ghazzali reckoned the heart's illnesses inherently part of a human being. Other scholars deemed them predominant in man but not necessarily qualities inherent to his nature.
In agreement with Imam al-Ghazzali's ruling, the shaykh states that purification of the heart is an obligation upon every individual. Imam al-Ghazzali is really the master of this science, and this poem is an abridgement of al-Ghazzali's fourth volume of the Ihya, the section on munjiat wal muhlikat. Not only is al-Ghazzali radi Allahu 'anhu a master of this science, he is also the mujadid (reviver of Islam) of the fifth century according to the consensus of the Â‘ulama who came after him. Al-Ghazzali considers knowledge of the diseases of the heart fard 'ayn, incumbent upon every individual Muslim, because he considers the diseases of the heart to be instinctual, something that is inherent to the human condition and part of the Adamic nature (kharaiz). Some other scholars disagree: they maintain that while these diseases are predominant in man, nevertheless, there are some people who are born with a completely pur! e heart having none of the diseases, and therefore knowledge of this science is not obligatory upon those people.
For example, there are altruistic children who have no problem with sharing: they are not greedy about toys. Although this is not the norm, they do exist. Some hearts, for some reason and whatever secret, do not suffer from diseases of the heart, but most do. Children manifest diseases such as greed, avarice, and hatred. Little children will say, "I hate you." They have learned the concept of hate, and at that brief moment of uttering those words, hatred is what they feel. Thus, these diseases begin to show up even in children, and we believe that all children are born into fitra (a natural, inherent state). Hence, if these diseases are in fact inherent, do Muslims then believe in the Christian concept of original sin, that people are corrupt by nature?
The difference between the Muslims and Christians on this issue is that according to the Muslims, there is an inclination to these diseases that is instinctual. Muslims do not believe in any way that this inclination is a result of the wrong action of Adam 'alayhi salaam because we do not believe that Prophet Adam 'alayhis salaam did anything to bring the wrath of Allah upon himself; we do not believe that he fell from Grace. Such ideas are Christian. According to the Quran, Adam 'alayhis salaam is a prophet who made tawbah to Allah, and Allah accepted his tawbah, and therefore, he has no blemish. His offspring do not suffer because of anything he did.
What, then, do we mean by the fact that there is an instinctual inclination that manifests in the erring of human beings? This relates to the black area of the heart. The heart is a spiritual organ, and inside the heart, there is a black dot, a seed that has the potential of spreading like cancer and overwhelming the heart. For example, although most people are unaware of this, many people in the world have tuberculosis. They have a bacillus in their lungs, but it is dormant. If they were in a situation where they began to get ill or starve and their immune system shut down, then the tuberculosis would emerge. Similarly, there is a dormant element in the human heart that, if nurtured, will destroy the human being. For this reason, a hadith says that if the son of Adam does something wrong, a black spot appears on his heart. If a person makes tawbah, the black spot gets erased, but if he does not, the black spot continues to grow until the whole heart be! comes pitch black. This is when one loses his humanity. We often refer to this as hard-heartedness.
This idea of the heart's ability to become corrupt, lose its light, and turn black is found in many cultures. For example, a Hausa man in Africa once explained to me that Hausas refer to someone who has a really bad heart with a word which meant "black-hearted." Hausas are dark skinned people, and there is no racist connotation attached to this phrase. "Black" and "white" are used similarly in the Quran. Allah says, "Their faces become bright, and their faces become black." This "white" does not refer to white skin but refers to light. There is a light, and the absence of that light is darkness. For this reason, a black person can have light in his face while a white person can have a completely dark face and visa-versa. We are speaking here about spiritual entities and not about skin colors.
Understand that complete obliteration of these diseases until there is no trace is simply not in the capacity of human beings.
While knowledge of the diseases and their removal is obligatory, keep in mind that to remove these diseases until nothing is left is not in the human capacity. The Quran says, "Wa man yuka shuha nafsihi fa ulayka humulmuflihun: the one who has protection from the evil of his soul is from the people of success." Allah does not say "the one who removes that shuh (evil) or the one the shuh is removed from." Rather, Allah says, "the one who is protected from it." This is similar to that bacillus sitting in the lungs: if you are protected from it, it never becomes tuberculosis; it only remains dormant.
According to a hadith, every child is born on fitra. Many Muslims think this hadith means that every child is born a Muslim. However, the hadith does not say that. The Quran refers to Islam as "din al-fitra," so Islam is fitra, and this means that we are naturally inclined to Islam. "Fitra" is the inherent nature that human beings incline towards naturally, and what the human being is naturally inclined to is goodness. When human beings are raised and nurtured correctly, they usually incline towards the truth. However, they also have the susceptibility to go astray.
Obviously, there are various factors that affect the fitra state; one of them is legitimacy. According to the sharia', there is no fault on the child, but there is an effect that illegitimacy has in the unseen realm, and this is confirmed by several hadiths. Thus, it is important for people to choose righteous mates before having children. If there were no reality to the parents, there would be no meaning to choosing righteous people as mates.
When choosing a husband, a woman should look for his taqwa, and when choosing a wife, a man should look for her din. One of the salaf said, "Don't marry your daughter except to a taqy (a man of taqwa) because if he loves her, he will show her ihsan (goodness), and if he doesn't like her, he will not oppress her." When marrying, you should think of future generations and want your children to be raised properly. The parents are important, and the effects they have on a child are extraordinary, so you want parents who have taqwa and din.
Be as it may, here I am giving you what you need to know of their definitions, their etiology, and their cures.
The shaykh says he is going to give us the definitions of the diseases of the heart from their root, explaining how the diseases are caused and how to cure them. He begins with bukhl, not because it is the worst disease but because he is going in alphabetical order.