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Purifying the Soul (2)

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

(Friday speech delivered by Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, NC on November 10, 2000)

The Practical Means for Tazkyiah (Soul Purification):

Useful Knowledge:

The most important task for man after knowing Allah (S.W.T.) is Tazkiyah or (soul purification). Man's success or failure in this life and in the Hereafter depends on whether man purifies his soul or not. Islam prescribed to us means that help purify the souls. It is a must that we use these means when we are in the process of Tazkiyah or (soul purification). We can not use any means that are not prescribed by Islam.

The process of soul purification is an on-going process as long as man is alive. It is implied by the sincere submission to Allah (S.W.T.) who created man and Jinn for no purpose other than the sincere submission to Him alone. Allah (S.W.T) says the Noble Qur'an in surat Ath-Tharyat, (Verse 56), what can be translated as, "I did not create the Jinn and the humans but to ya'bodoon (submit to me)." "The "ibadah" is a collective noun that includes every thing that Allah (S.W.T.) loves and accepts from sayings and the physical acts; the hidden (acts by heart) and the openly (acts by limbs). The acts by limbs are many, which we start with the useful knowledge:

The useful knowledge is the first means to purify the soul. This is every knowledge that brings man closer to Allah (S.W.T.), increases man's fear of Allah (S.W.T.) and guides man to do good deed. This knowledge includes the knowledge of Islamic rules that apply to Aqheeda, acts of worship, dealings. This knowledge also includes other types of knowledge that guide man to contemplate about Allah's creation, His great power and perfection.

Knowledge is the foundation of deeds and its guide. It is as useless to do something without knowledge as having knowledge without a deed. Allah (S.W.T.) ordered us to have knowledge before the deed: Allah (S.W.T.) says the Noble Qur'an in surat Muhammad, (Verse 19), what can be translated as, "(O Muhammad) Have knowledge that there is no god except Allah and seek forgiveness for your sin and for the believers males and females." So, Allah (S.W.T.) commanded the messenger Muhammad (S.A.W.) that he has to have knowledge of the Oneness of Allah first followed by asking for forgiveness which is an action. Imam Al-Bukhari in his authentic book cited this verse to show the importance of knowledge and that it should precede the deed.

The useful knowledge based on the Oneness of Allah (S.W.T.) is the fundamental and first practical means to purify the soul and bring it closer to Allah (S.W.T.). It is also the means to increase the fear of Allah (S.W.T.) and corrects the path and increases belief. For this reason, seeking knowledge is one of the greatest acts of worship. There are many verses and Ahadiths that show the importance of knowledge, its status in the sight of Allah (S.W.T.), and the position of those who have knowledge.

For knowledge to have an effect in the process of Tazkiyah of the soul, two conditions must be met:

  • Good deeds must follow knowledge with sincerity for the sake of Allah (S.W.T.), performed according to their rules upheld equally by the scholar and the student.
  • The person who has knowledge must avoid the arguments that lead to animosity and evil soul.

The first condition includes:

Acting according to the knowledge. Allah (S.W.T.) warned us from knowledge that is not followed with action and from a saying that is not followed with action. The prophet (S.A.W.) also clarified to us that the scholar would be asked on the Day of Judgment about his knowledge and what he did with it. Did he seek it and teach it for the sake of Allah (S.W.T.) alone.

The prophet (S.A.W.) also used to ask Allah (S.W.T.) the useful knowledge and seek His refuge from the knowledge that is useless. So, the prophet (S.A.W.) used to say: "Oh Allah, I seek your refuge from a knowledge that is not useful, from a heart that does not humble, and from a soul that is not satisfied and from a supplication that is not granted."

Imam Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali said: "If someone does not acquire this useful knowledge, he will fall into the four things that the prophet (S.A.W.) used to seek Allah's refuge from. His knowledge will be against him. So, he will not benefit from it because his heart does not humble before Allah (S.W.T.) and his soul is not satisfied with this world. Rather he is holding tight to this world and always seeking it. His supplication will not be heard because he does not obey Allah's orders and does not refrain from anything that displeases Allah." Imam Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali also said: "A sign of the people of knowledge is that they are humble, they hate reverence and people's high remarks of them, they do not look down on people, they are always seeking the Hereafter taking from this world only what they need, they are constantly worshipping Allah (S.W.T.). The more knowledge they have, the more fearful of, the more humble, and the more submissive to Allah (S.W.T.) they become."

The second condition is:

Avoiding arguments because this will lead to evil soul, and the animosity towards others. In an authentic Hadith the prophet (S.A.W.) said: "No people got misguided after they were guided, but they were plagued with argument." Then, the prophet (S.A.W.) recited what Allah (S.W.T) says the Noble Qur'an in surat Az-Zukhrf, (Verse 58), what can be translated as, "…They quoted it for you not except for argument. Nay! But they are a quarrelsome people."{Reported by Imams At-Trmthi, Ahmad and Abn Majah}

A scholar from the Salaf generation said: "If Allah (S.W.T.) loves a man, He will provide to him the opportunity to do good deeds and keep off the argument. And if Allah (S.W.T.) wants harm for a man, He will keep off the good deed and will plague him with argument."

Imam Malik said: " Argument concerning knowledge turn off the light of knowledge and stiffen the heart."

Imam Al-Hasan Al-Bassri heard a folk arguing. So, he said: "These people are bored with worship, they find it easy to talk in vain, and their righteousness is diminished so they vainly talked."

Some of the effects of the useful knowledge on purifying the soul:

  • The Muslim would know the correct Aqheedah, strengthen his belief and keep away from false beliefs.
  • The Muslim would know the rules of Halal and Haram and all that he needs from the rules of worship and dealings.
  • The Muslim would know the due right of every act of worship. This way he is not busy doing a recommended deed and forgetting an obligatory deed.
  • The knowledge would protect the Muslim from everything that would destroy him, like the whims and desires and Satan’s traps.
  • The knowledge helps the Muslim fear Allah (S.W.T.), love Him, and get closer to Him.
  • The knowledge helps the Muslim become more humble with others.
  • The knowledge helps wipe out the sins because knowledge is from the greatest good deeds. Allah (S.W.T) says the Noble Qur'an in surat Huod, (Verse 114), what can be translated as, "…Verily, the good deeds remove the evil deeds…" and the prophet (S.A.W.) says: "Follow the bad deed with a good one that will wipe it off." Omar (R.A.) used to say: "A man walks out with sins like the mountains of Tehamah (to a circle of knowledge). If he hears some knowledge, he fears Allah, reassesses himself and repents. So, he leaves the circle of knowledge with no sin. So, do not leave the circles of knowledge."
  • The knowledge helps Muslim long for the Hereafter and takes only what he needs from this worldly life. So, he is not busy going after things that will vanish in this life instead of being busy running after the everlasting life in the Hereafter.
So, we should all help one another to acquire the correct knowledge through learning it and teaching it. This must include all; man, women, children, young and old with no exception. We must also know that we can not achieve knowledge unless we are patient, perseverant, and persistent and struggling with our own self and benefiting from our time instead of wasting it. Also, everyone who learns something useful should teach it to others. This way, Tazkiyah or soul purification is collective and continuous until we meet Allah (S.W.T.).

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