ALCHEMY OF HEART 5/5 HAMZA YUSUF
09 APRIL, 2005 BY ADMIN
IF WE LOOK AT THE WORLD TODAY, THE TRIBULATIONS, THE TRIALS, AND EVERY WAR THAT WE HAVE, WE WILL SEE THAT EVERY BIT OF HUMAN SUFFERING IS ROOTED IN HUMAN HEARTS.
THE TEXT: MAT-HARTUL QULUB
In Arabic, "Mat-hara" is ism makaan (a noun of place), and it means "a tool of tahara (purification)," and that is what Mat-hartul Qulub is. This text is the alchemy of the heart: it explains how to transform the heart. Mat-hartul Qulub was written by a great scholar, Shaykh Muhammad Maulud al-Musawir al-Ya'qubi from Mauritania. He was a brilliant scholar of West Africa who mastered all of the Islamic sciences as well as the inward sciences of Islam. He wrote this didactic poem in order to teach people the means to purify their hearts because he looked around and realized that everybody he saw had a diseased heart. Though he recognized the benefit in learning the abstract sciences of Islam, such as grammar, rhetoric, and logic, he felt that people may not have a great deal of need for that knowledge given the fact that on the Day of Judgment, the heart is the only thing about which we will be asked. The state of our hearts is the only thing that may benefit us because "actions are by intentions" as the hadith states. Since all our actions are rooted in intentions, and the place of intention is the heart, every action we do is rooted in our hearts. Thus, in reality when we are asked about our actions, we are asked about the intentions behind the actions, and given the fact that intentions emanate from the heart, what we are actually being asked about is the human heart. When Shaykh Muhammad Maulud realized this, he said that suddenly Allah subhanahu wa t'ala inspired him to write this text, and he based it upon many of the previous texts that had gone before, such as the last book of the Ihya 'Ulumudin by Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali.
RECTIFICATION BEGINS WITH THE SELF
If we look at the world today, the tribulations, the trials, and every war that we have, we will see that every bit of human suffering is rooted in human hearts. The reason people are aggressive against other people is due to diseases of the heart: covetousness, the desire to conquer, the desire to exploit other people, and the desire to steal their natural resources are all from diseases of the heart. A sound heart cannot commit such acts. Every murderer, every rapist, every idolater, every fowl person, every person showing an act of cruelty has a diseased heart because these actions emanate from diseased hearts. If the hearts were sound, none of these actions would be a reality. Therefore, if we wish to change our world, we cannot go about it by attempting to rectify the outward; rather, we change the world by rectifying the inward because it is the inward that precedes the outward.
In reality, everything that we see outside of us comes from the unseen world. The phenomenal world emerges from the unseen world, and all actions emerge from the unseen realm of our hearts. Thus, if we want to rectify our actions, we must first rectify our hearts. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the famous American preacher and civil rights activist, said that in order for people to condemn injustice, they have to follow four stages: the first stage is that they must ascertain that injustices are indeed being perpetrated. People must point out the injustices, and in his case, it was injustices against the African-American people in the United States. The second stage is to negotiate: people must go to the oppressors and demand justice. If the oppressors refuse, then Dr. King said that the third stage is self-purification. He said that we must ask ourselves, are we ourselves wrongdoers? Are we ourselves oppressors? The final stage is to take action once we have looked into ourselves.
One of the things the Muslims of the modern world fail to recognize is that when we look at all of the terrible things that are happening to us, we often refuse to look at ourselves and ask ourselves, why are these things happening to us? If we ask that in all sincerity, the answer will come back in no uncertain terms that this is all from our own selves. We have brought all of the suffering upon ourselves. This is the only empowering position that we can take, and this is the Quranic position. Allah subhanahu wa t'ala says quite clearly that He places some of the oppressors over other oppressors because of what their hands were earning. According to Fakharudin ar-Razi's explanation, radi Allahu 'anhu, this verse means that whenever there is oppression in the earth, it is a result of other people's oppression. Thus, those people who are being aggressed upon are being oppressed because of their own oppression. However, this is obviously with the exception of tribulation. There are definitely times when the mu'minun are tried, but if they respond accordingly with patience and perseverance, Allah subhanahu wa t'ala always gives them victory.
THE IMPURE OPPRESS AND THE PURE ELEVATE
There is no doubt that the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam and the sahaba were being oppressed when they were in Makkah, but Allah subhanahu wa t'ala later gave them victory. Within 23 years, the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam was not only no longer oppressed, he had conquered the entire Arabian peninsula, and all of the people who had previously oppressed him were begging him for mercy. Even though they deserved to be recompensed with punishment, the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam forgave them, and this is the difference between somebody whose heart is pure and somebody whose heart is impure. The impure people oppress, and the pure people not only forgive their oppressors, they actually conquer them by the power of Allah subhanahu wa t'ala, and then they elevate them. This is what Muslims must recognize: the only solution to all of our problems is that we have to purify ourselves, and this is what Mat-hartul Qulub is about; it is a book of self-purification. If we take this book seriously, work on our hearts, and actually implement what we learn from it, we will begin to see changes in our lives, around us, and within our own family dynamics. It is a blessing that we have this book and that this teaching still exists in our community. All that is left is for us to take this teaching upon ourselves and to take it seriously.
MEDICINE FOR THE DISEASED HEART
If you use the techniques that are given by the imams, you will see results. However, it is just as the prescription that the doctor gives you: the doctor can only write the prescription; he can give you the medicine, but he cannot force you to take the medicine. It is left for us to take the medicine. The imams have given us the medicine: our teaching is there; it is clear; it does work; and we can change ourselves with it. If we do, Allah subhanahu wa t'ala has promised that we will be rewarded in this world and in the next. Thus, all that is left for us to do now is to go through these diseases and then set out to implement their cures in sha Allah.