Selected and Translated by Ikram Hawramani
Copyright © 2017 Ikram Hawramani
All Rights Reserved
A Brief Primer on Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah
Ibn al-Qayyim was born in Damascus on January 28th of the year 1292 CE, equivalent to the seventh of Safar of the year 691 AH. His full name is Abu Abdullah Shams Al-Deen Muhammad bin Abi Bakr bin Ayyub bin Sa`d bin Hareez bin Makki Al-Zura`i. His title of Al-Zura`I refers to the village of Zura`, a village close to Damascus, from where his family comes. He is known as Ibn al-Qayyim, which means “son of the principal”, referring to the fact that his father Abu Bakr was the principal of the al-Jawziyyah school in Damascus.
Due to the peculiarities of Arabic grammar, Ibn al-Qayyim’s name can either be written as Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (note the lack of “al” with the Qayyim part), or, if the last name is not mentioned, as Ibn al-Qayyim (note that the “al” is used here with the Qayyim part). This often causes confusion and erroneous corrections among people who do not speak Arabic. In short, Ibn al-Qayyim and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah are both correct, while Ibn Qayyim and Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah are both incorrect.
Ibn al-Qayyim was known for his kindness, humility, lack of judgmentalism and enmity, his courage and his patience upon suffering,. He was also a great lover of knowledge, as he is described by his student Ibn Rajab al-Hanabli.
Ibn al-Qayyim became a student, companion and friend of the great scholar Ibn Taymiyyah from the year 712 AH until Ibn Taymiyyah’s death in imprisonment in the year 728 AH (Ibn al-Qayyim was imprisoned with him at this time and was present at the time of Ibn Taymiyyah’s death).
Two sons of Ibn al-Qayyim are mentioned in the literature; Ibrahim [born 716 or 719 AH] and Abdullah [born 723 AH], both of which were respected Islamic scholars.
Ibn al-Katheer says about Ibn al-Qayyim: “I do not know in our time a person who spends more time in worship than he does”. Ibn al-Hajar al-`Asqalani says: “He used to sit after praying the fajr prayer until the sun rose high in the sky. He used to say ‘This is my breakfast. If I ignore it, I will lose my strength’. He also used to say ‘Only through patience and yaqeen [heartfelt faith] can one attain leadership in the deen [the creed or religion of God]’”.
Ibn al-Qayyim died in Damascus on September 15, 1350 CE, equivalent to the 13th of Rajab 751 AH. His funeral prayer was performed after the dhuhr prayer at the Umayyad Mosque, attended by a very large crowd of scholars, officials and laypeople.
It is easy to mistake Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah with Ibn al-Jawzi (full name Ibn Faraj al-Jawzi), due to the similarity in their names. But they are two different people.
Supplication (du`aa’) is one of the most powerful tools for countering misfortune and attaining what is sought, but its effects may be delayed, either because of a weakness in the supplicator’s soul, by it being a prayer that God does not love due to it containing malicious intentions, or due to the weakness of the heart and it being turned away from God, or due to not being fully focused on God during the time of the supplication, so that it is like a bow whose string is not taut, or due to the occurrence of that which prevents the answering of the supplication, such as the consumption of the unlawful and the soul being overrun by sins.
Of the most beneficial cures is relentlessness in supplication. Its opposite is for the servant to be hasty, so that when the answer is delayed his heart breaks and he gives up supplication.
We often find supplications that a people used and which were answered by God. Such supplications are either coupled with the desperate need of the supplicant and his focus on God, or a good deed he had done in the past and for whose reward God answered the supplication, or the supplication was done at a time of answering, so that his prayer was answered. But people mistakenly think that the secret is in the phrasing of the supplication; they adopt it without considering the other conditions that were necessary for it to be answered.
I heard the Shaikhul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah say: “Similarly to how the best of people are the prophets, the worst of them are those liars who appear like prophets, those who claim to be of the prophets without truly being so. The best of people after prophets are the scholars, the martyrs, the supporters of truth and the sincere ones, and the worst of people are those who appear like these without truly being of them”.
Nothing begets the blessings of God and counters His wrath like obedience toward Him, striving to become closer to Him and doing good deeds toward His creation.
The most arrogant of people is the one who lets himself be deceived by the worldly life and its immediate rewards, who prefers it to the Hereafter, and who has become content with it as a substitute for the Hereafter.
The servant continues to commit sins as long as they appear small in his eye and feel unimportant in his heart, and this is the sign of falling into disaster, for the smaller a sin is in the eyes of the servant the greater it is in the eyes of God.
God says: “Do not be of those who forgot God, so God made them forget themselves.” God informs us that among the punishments of the one who abandons taqwa is that He makes him forget himself. In other words, He makes him forget what is good for him, what can save him from pain and torment, and what can allow him to attain the eternal life and its bliss.
Do not consider God’s saying “the righteous will be in bliss, and the wicked will be in a fire” to only apply to the bliss and torment of the Hereafter.
And is bliss other than the bliss of the heart, and is torment other than the torment of the heart?
Whoever loves something other than God will be tormented by it three times in this world: He will be tormented by its lack before he acquires it, and once he acquires it he is tormented by the fear of losing it […] and when he loses it, his torment increases further.
The farther the heart is from God, the quicker it suffers affliction, and the closer the heart is to God, the farther affliction will be from it. Distance from God comes in grades, some of which are more severe than others. The heart is like a bird; the more it ascends, the more distant it will be from affliction, and the more it descends, the more it is attacked by affliction.
In God’s saying “And remember Our servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – possessors of aydee and absaar”, aydee means the strength to carry out justice and act according to the truth, and absaar means insight and understanding in religious matters. Thus God praised their sublime understanding of truth and their sublime acting according to it.
God did not make this enemy dominant over his faithful servant, who is among His most beloved creatures, except because of the fact that struggle in His cause is the most beloved thing in His eyes, and those who carry out this struggle have the highest ranks and regard in His eyes.
Nothing preserves the available blessings of God and begets the missing ones like obedience toward Him, for what is with God cannot be gained except through His obedience. God has created a means and an affliction for everything, so that the means for gaining His blessings is His obedience, and their affliction and that which blocks them is His disobedience.
The meaning of God forgetting his servant: It is for Him to neglect him and leave him alone on his own, so that disaster is closer to him than the distance of his hand to his mouth. As for Him making him forget himself: It means to make him forget what is good for him; those things that would bring him happiness, success, improvement and perfection, He makes him forget all of these. He also makes him forget his shortcomings and flaws, so that it doesn’t cross his mind to cure and fix them. He also makes him forget the diseases of his soul and heart and their pain. So what punishment is greater than the punishment of one neglecting and losing himself and forgetting his own welfare, afflictions and medicines?
The sound heart is the one that is safe from polytheism, malevolence, grudges, envy, greed and arrogance and the love of the worldly life and of mastery over others, so that it is safe from every affliction that can distance it from God, and from every form of confusion that would keep it from the knowledge of God, and from every desire that would go against his Lord’s commands. God praises His khaleel by the soundness of his heart when He says: “And among [Noah’s] kind was Abraham, When he came to his Lord with a sound heart”. God also mentions Ibrahim saying: “The Day when there will not benefit [anyone] wealth or children, except one who comes to God with a sound heart.”
One is not given anything better, after having faith, than gaining understanding of God and His Prophet, and this is God’s favor, He gives it to whom He wills.
Why does Iblees love false religious innovations more than sins? Because the sinner only harms himself, while the false innovator harms all people. The affliction of the innovator is in the foundations of religion, while the affliction of the sinner is in desire. The innovator sits in ambush on God’s Straight Path, blocking people from it, while the sinner does not do so. The innovator detracts from God’s attributes and His perfection, while the sinner does not do so. And the innovator contradicts the Prophet’s teachings, while the sinner does not do so.
If you want to receive a clue on what is in the hearts [of others], then you can receive the clue by the movements of the tongue, for it gives you information about the contents of the heart, whether its owner wishes it do so or otherwise. Yahya bin Mu`aadh says: “The hearts are like containers, they overflow with what they contain, and the tongues are the edges of the containers”. Therefore look at the person when he speaks and you will hear his tongue overflow with the contents of his heart, be they sweet or sour.
The one who is inside something does not see its shortcomings, and the one who is outside of it and who has never entered it also does not see its shortcomings. No one does except the one who has entered it and then exited it, and it is for this reason that the Companions [of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him] who entered Islam after having lived as pagans were better than those who were born into Islam. Umar [ibn al-Khattab] says: “The threads of Islam come apart thread by thread for the person who is born into Islam and who has not experienced jahiliyyah”
Thankfulness is built on three foundations: Acknowledgment of the blessing in one’s heart, acknowledgement of the blessing in public, and the use of the blessing in accordance with the wishes of the Giver of the blessing. If he does this, he has practiced thankfulness, even if his thankfulness has shortcomings.
Patience is to withhold the ego from vengeance when one has the ability to carry it out, to withhold the tongue from complaining, and to withhold the limbs from sinning.
The wisdom in God’s afflicting His servant with hardship is that He did not afflict him to destroy him, but to test his patience and obedience. Obedience is required from the servant to God, glory to Him, during times of hardship similarly to how it is required during times of ease, and obedience is required of him in that which he dislikes similarly to how it is required of him in that which he likes. The majority of people only carry out their duty of obedience only in things they like, even though the higher status belongs to carrying out the duty in things they dislike, since it is through these that the ranks of the servants are distinguished, and it is according to this that their degrees are decided in the eye of God.
If God wills good for His servant, He opens for him the doors of repentance, heartbreak, humbleness, poverty, the taking of refuge in Him, the desperate needfulness for Him, the continuation of humbling himself in front of Him, supplication, and the seeking of nearness to Him through whatever is possible of good deeds.
The heart is rectified by two things. The first of which is for a person to prefer the love of God to the love of all other things, so that when there is a conflict between his love for God and his love for something else, his love for God prevails. How easy it is to claim to do this, and how hard it is in practice! The second one is to give great importance to the enjoining of good and forbidding of evil, since this originates from the glorification of the One who enjoins and forbids.
God has made a judgment that cannot be undone or countered: That whoever loves anything other than Him will surely be tormented by it, and whoever fears other than Him will be subjected to that which he fears, and whoever busies himself with other than Him will be a cause of sadness and misfortune for him, and whoever prefers others to Him will see God’s blessings taken out of what he does.
The deeds are given status in God’s eyes by the status of what the hearts contain of faith, sincerity, love and other related factors.
Satan has two ways of corrupting whatever God has commanded: Either through causing negligence, or through causing excessiveness and immoderation. He does not care through which of these he prevails over the servant.
The heedlessness that is prohibited in formal prayer [salaah] is of two types: The first is the turning away of the heart from God to other than God, and the second is the turning away of the eyes [to look at something], both of which are prohibited. The likeness of the one who turns away in his prayer by his heart or his eyes is like a person who is called by the ruler to his presence to speak to him. When in the ruler’s presence, his eyes turn this way and that, away from the ruler, and his heart is distracted from listening to him, so that he does not understand what the ruler is saying to him since his heart is not present with him. What type of treatment can such a person expect from the ruler? Isn’t it the ruler’s right to remove him from his presence with anger and to lose his respect for him and turn him into an outcast?
The one who fasts is the one whose limbs are fasting from sinning, and his tongue from lying, cursing and idle talk, and his stomach from food and drink, and his private parts from sexual acts. This is the fasting that Islamic law requires, rather than merely avoiding food and drink.
Giving charity has a wonderful effect in removing various types of affliction, even if it comes from a great sinner or oppressor, and even if it comes from a disbeliever, for through it God removes many types of afflictions, and this is a matter well-known to people, the elite and the laypeople, and the people of the worldly life (irreligious people) all agree with it, since it fits their experience.
Generosity is two types. The superior type is your needlessness for what others have, and the second is to spend of what you have. A man can be among the most generous of people without giving them anything, by being needless toward what they have.
The heart acquires rust through heedlessness and sins, and it is polished by the seeking of forgiveness and the remembrance of God.
The tongue can only be busy with two things: Either the remembrance of God, or idle chatter. And the soul, if you do not keep it busy with truth, it will keep you busy with falsehoods. And the heart, if its peace doesn’t come from God, it will come from the creation.
I heard Shaikhul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah saying: “On earth there is a paradise, whoever does not enter it, he will not enter Paradise in the afterlife”. And he said to me: “What can my enemies do to me? I have my own paradise and orchard in my chest, if I leave this place, it stays with me and does not leave me. If they kill me, it will be martyrdom, and if they turn me out from my country, it will be tourism and sightseeing for me”. He used to say in his sujood [“prostration”] when he was imprisoned: “Oh God aid me in remembering You, thanking You and worshiping You in the best manner possible.” And he once told me: “the imprisoned one is the one whose heart is imprisoned from his Lord”.
The best remembrance is the one that is done simultaneously by the heart and the tongue. Remembrance by the heart alone is better than remembrance by the tongue alone, for the remembrance of the heart gives fruit to knowledge, polishes one’s love [for God], increases modesty, creates fear [of God], and calls toward mindfulness, and it prevents negligence in acts of worship and trivialization of sins and evil deeds. Remembrance by the tongue alone does not bear those fruits, and if it bears fruit at all it will be very little.
Remembrance of God is better than supplication, because remembrance is the praising of God by His Beautiful Attributes, His Signs and His Names, while supplication is the servant’s asking for his needs, so how can they be compared? The supplication that comes after remembrance and praise of God is better and more likely to be answered than a supplication by itself, and if the servant adds to his supplication a sincere description of his situation and acknowledgment of his desperate need for God, this would be better and it would increase his chance of having his prayer answered.
Is seeking God’s forgiveness sufficient for repentance from ghaibah [“backbiting”], or should the injured person be informed and forgiveness sought from him? There are two opinions among scholars on this matter, and the correct one is that there is no need to inform the person. It is sufficient to pray to God for the forgiveness of the person and to mention the person with good words in the place where he was backbitten before, and this is the choice if Shaikhul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah.
Know that the servant travels the road toward God with his heart and his determination, not his body, and taqwa [fear and mindfulness of God] is in truth the taqwa of the heart, not the taqwa of the limbs.
There is a proper limit to relaxation, and that is to collect one’s spirit and senses to prepare for worship and good deeds so that one is not beset with weakness and tiredness. When relaxation goes beyond this, it becomes laziness and waste and through it most of the servant’s interests are lost. And when relaxation is less than the proper amount, it harms and weakens one’s powers and may extinguish them like a traveler who drives his camel to death in a few days in his haste to finish a month-long journey and ends up stranded in the desert.
There is a proper limit to pleasure, and that is to give the heart and mind respite from the toil of worship and doing good deeds, to use it as a way of acquiring more of these. If it is more than this, it becomes gluttony and lust and its doer approaches the rank of animals. But if it is less than the proper amount, if there is no rest between the seeking of spiritual perfection and rank, it becomes weakness, deficiency and humiliation.
There is a proper limit to anger and that is the praiseworthy courage and self-respect that causes one to turn away from lowly acts and indignities, and this is its perfection. But if it exceeds its limit, its owner will exceed the bounds and will oppress others, and if it is less than this he will be cowardly and will not turn away from indignities.
Patience is easier toward temptation than toward the consequences of giving in to temptation, because giving in either brings pain and punishment, or it blocks a greater pleasure, or it causes one’s time to be wasted in a manner that brings sorrow and guilt.
When God says: “But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And God Knows, while you know not” [Quran 2:216], in this verse there are a number of secrets of wisdom and benefits for the servant. When the servant knows that what he hates may bring him what he loves, and what he loves may cause him what hates, he doesn’t take his own happiness for granted and does not become proud, knowing that what makes him happy now can bring him misery in the future, and he doesn’t despair when he is afflicted, knowing that since he doesn’t know the consequences of all things, the affliction may bring him happiness in the future.
Religion is based on two foundations: Remembrance, and thankfulness. God says: “Remember Me and I will remember you, and be thankful to Me and do not deny Me.” The Prophet, peace and blessings of God upon him, said to Mu`aadh [ibn Jabal]: “By God, I love you, so do not forget to say, at the end of every formal prayer: ‘O God, help me in remembering You, thanking You and worshipping You in the best way You can be worshipped.’ Remembrance here does not simply mean remembrance by the tongue, rather, it refers both to the remembrance of the heart and the tongue, and His remembrance includes remembrance of His Names, Attributes, commandments and remembrance of Him through His Words. This requires knowledge of Him and faith in Him and His Attributes of perfection and the characteristics of His might and majesty and praise of Him using all kinds of praise. And none of this can be done except through perfect believe in His Oneness [tawheed]. True remembrance of Him requires all of this and also requires the remembrance of His blessings, signs and bounties toward His creation.
An important bit of wisdom: Refusing to perform a commandment is a greater sin than doing what you have been commanded not to do. The sin of doing what you have been commanded not to do is often due desire and need, while the sin of refusing to perform a commandment [such as the formal prayer or fasting] often originates from arrogance and self-glorification.
Sahl bin Abdullah said: “Abandonment of carrying out commandments is greater in the eyes of God than committing prohibited acts, for Adam was prohibited from eating from the tree but he did so and God forgave him, while Iblees was commanded to prostrate to Adam and he refused to do so and God did not forgive him”.
The righteous way of dealing with God’s blessings is to first recognize and acknowledge them, and then to seek refuge in Him from attributing these blessings to other than Him even if there are material reasons for a blessing, because He is the ultimate initiator and maintainer of the blessing. All blessings originate from Him. The next step in dealing with God’s blessings is to praise Him and love Him for them and to show gratitude toward Him by using these blessings in His obedience.
The foundations of the happiness of the servant are three, and each one of them has an opposite, so that whoever loses the foundation acquires its opposite: Tawheed [“monotheism”] and its opposite is idolatry, the sunnah [“traditions of the Prophet ”] and its opposite is bid`ah [“false innovations”], and taa`ah [“obedience and worship”] and its opposite is sinning. All of these three also share an opposite, which is the emptiness of the heart from the desire for God and what is with Him and the fear of God and what can come from Him.
The best means of becoming closer to God is to steadfastly follow the sunnah in hidden and public deeds, to always be needful of God, and to solely desire Him and His approval through one’s words and actions. No one can reach God except through these three, and no one is blocked from God except by abandoning these or one of them.
A traveler reaches his destination through following the road and traveling through the night. If a traveler abandons the road or sleeps the whole time, how can he hope to reach his destination?
When God wants good for a servant, He causes him to acknowledge and confess his own sins and stops him from concerning himself with the sins and faults of others. He makes him generous of what he has, while making him ascetic toward what others have, and he makes him patient upon being hurt by others. While if He wants evil for a servant, He causes the opposite of these to him.
Contentment is the heart’s serenity toward the flow of the judgments [of God] [i.e. to accept what happens without anger or disappointment, another interpretation of this saying is: “Contentment is the heart’s serenity toward God’s commandments”, meaning to accept God’s commands with serenity rather than complaining and wishing them to be otherwise].
The greatest form of tawakkul [reliance upon God] is to rely on God for guidance, to realize true monotheism in the heart, to follow the Prophet and strive against the people of falsehood. This is the true reliance of the prophets and the elite among their followers.
The secret of true reliance upon God and its realization is for the heart to rely on God alone, so that it is not harmed by the use of material means, since the heart is free from reliance and dependence on material things. Conversely, the heart is not benefited by saying “tawakkaltu `alaAllah” [a mantra that means “I rely on God”] when it is reliant and dependent on other than God and its faith is in others. The tawakkul of the tongue is one thing, and the tawakkul of the heart is another. When the servant says “I have relied on God” while his heart is reliant on other than Him, it is like his saying “I repent to God” while he persists in the sin he has committed.
The most beneficial things to the nafs [the ego] are the things it dislikes, the same way that the most harmful and destructive things to it are the things it loves.
The judgments God makes about His servant [i.e. the blessings and calamities He sends] are always from [God’s] justice, bounty, wisdom, and mercy, and they are never from anything other than these.
The desire for the Hereafter is not perfected except by becoming ascetic toward the worldly life, and asceticism toward the worldly life is not perfected except through two correct observations. The first observation: Observing the worldly life and the speed of its demise, destruction and disappearance and its baseness and the pain of competition and desire for it, and the sorrows, disappointments and bitterness in all of this. The second observation: To observe the afterlife, its constant approaching and imminent arrival, its eternality and everlasting nature, and the honor included in its blessings, happiness, and the difference between what it is in it and what is in the present life.
Every person is programmed to not abandon an immediate benefit and pleasure for a future benefit and pleasure that is out of sight and has to be waited for, unless he clearly sees the superiority of the future benefit over the immediate one and his desire is strong for the higher and better thing. If he prefers the imperfect and ephemeral benefit, it is either because he does not clearly see that it is inferior to something else, or because he has no desire for the superior benefit, and either of these cases shows a weakness of faith, mind and insight.
A person who prefers the worldly life either does believe that there is something better and more lasting, or does not believe. If he does not believe that there is anything better, he is without faith in his heart, and if he believes that there is something better but does not prefer it over the worldly life, it is because his mind is corrupt and he chooses wrongly for himself.
The basis for all good is to know that what God wills is what will be, and what He wills not will not be, so that you know with certainty that good things are from His bounty, so that you can thank Him for them and humbly supplicate to Him for their continuation, and that bad things are His way of humiliating and punishing you so that you humble yourself before Him and entreat Him for His removal of your affliction and for His help in allowing you to not become jaded and tired of doing good and avoiding evil toward yourself.
A servant is not afflicted with a punishment more severe than the hardness of the heart and distance from God.
If the hearts become hard, the eyes become dry [they no longer shed tears out of love or fear of God]. The hardness of the heart is from four things, if they exceed what is needed: Eating, sleeping, talking and mixing with others. The same way that food and drink have no benefit if the body is sick, if the heart is sick with pleasures, good advice will not help it.
Hearts that are attached to pleasures are blocked from God by the amount of their attachment to pleasures. Hearts are God’s goblets on earth. The most beloved of them to Him are the most delicate, the firmest and the most transparent among them.
Whoever wants a pure heart, then let him prefer God to his desires.
The ruin of the heart comes from having a false sense of security and being oblivious and ignorant, and its renovation comes from fear of God, and His remembrance. The longing for God and for meeting Him is a breeze that blows across the heart, removing from it the glittering illusions of the worldly life.
Following one’s desires and putting one’s expectations in the worldly life are the substances of every form of corruption, for following one’s desires blinds one’s knowledge and aims from the truth, and putting one’s expectations in the worldly life causes one to forget the afterlife and prevents one from preparing for it.
Among the people of knowledge, whoever prefers the worldly life and loves it is bound to say other than the truth about God in his fataawa [“religious rulings”, plural of fatwa] and judgments because God’s rulings, glory to Him, often go against people’s selfish objectives, especially those of the ruling class, and those who follow their desires, for this reason their objectives cannot be met except by going against truth and justice.
The best thing that the souls can earn and the hearts can acquire and through which the servant can earn greatness in this world and the afterlife is knowledge, and faith, and it is for this reason that God compared between them in His saying: “And those who were given knowledge and faith will say: You remained the extent of God ‘s decree until the Day of Resurrection” [Quran 30:56] and His saying “God will raise those who have faith among you and those who were given knowledge, by degrees” [Quran 58:11]. Those are the chosen of the creation and its elite and are those who are eligible for the highest ranks.
A person who abandons what is familiar and habitual for him will find difficulty if he does it for other than God. However, as for one who leaves them truly and with sincerely for God, he will not find difficulty in it except at the very beginning, when he is tested as to whether he is sincere in his desire to abandon it or insincere. If he has a little bit of patience upon that initial difficulty, it will becomes sweetness. Ibn Sireen says: “I heard Shuraih swearing by God that whoever leaves something for God will find something else that he is missing”. And the saying is true that whoever leaves something for the sake of God, God will give him a better substitute for it. The substitutes given by God are various, and the best of the substitutes given by God are His love, serenity of the heart, strength, liveliness, happiness, and his contentment toward his Lord, glory to Him.
To waste the heart is to give preference to the worldly life over the Hereafter, and to waste time is to put one’s expectations in the worldly life. All corruption is concentrated in the following of one’s desires and putting one’s expectations in the worldly life, and all good is in following the guidance [of God] and preparing for the meeting [of God in the Hereafter].
Worshiping God through His blessings means for the smallest of His blessings to seem great in the eye of the servant, and for His great blessings to be equaled by his gratitude toward Him for them, and for him to know that the blessing reached him from his Master without any price that he paid for it and without any means that could guarantee his acquiring the blessing and without him deserving it, and in truth the blessing belongs to God, not to the servant, and through these realizations God’s blessings only increase the humility, meekness, self-abasement and love of the servant toward the Giver, and whenever a blessing is renewed for him [given to him again], it causes in him further obedience, love, humility and self-abasement toward God.
Whoever abandons [worrying about] choosing and planning for gain or out of fear of loss, or for health or out of fear of illness, and knows that God is All-Capable, that He alone has the true power of choice and planning, and that His planning for his servant is better than the servant’s own planning for himself, and that He knows what is in the servant’s interests better than the servant, and that He is more capable of securing those interests, and that He is a better guide to the servant than the servant, and that He is more merciful toward the servant than he is toward himself, and that He is more dutiful and loyal toward him than he is toward himself…once he throws himself into His arms like a weak servant in the hands of an All-Powerful King who can do anything He wills toward him, feeling utterly powerless and choiceless, his mind attains peace from worries, fears, melancholy and sorrows.
Do not let it appear overly difficult to go against society and join the side of God and His Prophet, even if you are alone by yourself, since you are under His gaze, His guardianship and protection, and He is only testing your faith and patience. Your best helpers in these after God is to be free from greed and fear. When you are free from them, it becomes trivially easy to stay with the side of God and His Prophet, and you will always be on the side where God and His Prophet are.
True asceticism is to abandon what has no benefit for the Hereafter, and true fear of God is to abandon what one fears will harm him in the Hereafter.
God says: “Indeed in that is a sign for every servant who habitually turns back [to God]” [Quran 34:9], He also says: “Indeed in that are signs for everyone patient and grateful” [Quran 14:5, 31:31, 34:19 and 42:33]. He informs us that only the people of patience and gratitude benefit from His visible, visual signs. He also informs us that His faith-based Quranic signs are of benefit only to the people of taqwa [fear and mindfulness of God], khashyah [fear of God], inaabah [always turning back to God] and those whose aim is to follow the path of His approval. The Quran is a remembrance for those who fear Him, glory to Him, as He says: “Taa haa. We have not sent down to you the Quran that you be distressed. But only as a reminder for those who fear [God]” [Quran 20:1-3], and He says about Judgment Day: “You are only a warner for those who fear it” [Quran 79:45]. As for those who do not believe in it, desire it nor fear it, the visual and Quranic signs are of no benefit to him. It is for this reason that when God mentions the punishments for the disbelieving people in Sura Hood [chapter 11 of the Quran] and what befell them of worldly humiliation, afterwards He says: “Indeed in that is a sign for those who fear the punishment of the Hereafter” [verse 103]. He informs us that there are lessons, for those who fear the punishment of the Hereafter, in His chastisements for the disbelieving nations.
When the servant believes in the Scripture and acquires guidance through the wholeness of it and wholeheartedly accepts its commandments and believes in the information contained therein, this becomes the cause of another state of guidance that he ultimately acquires. Guidance has no end regardless of how well-guided the servant is, for as he continues to fear his Lord, he is promoted to a higher rank. God says: “Indeed, those who have believed and done righteous deeds – their Lord will guide them because of [or through] their faith” [Quran 10:9], thus He first guided them to faith, then after they became faithful, He guided them to another state of faith, guidance after guidance. A similar saying is His saying: “God increases those who were guided, in guidance” [Quran 19:76] and “O you who have believed, if you fear God, He will grant you a criterion” [Quran 8:29]. The criterion includes the light that He gives them with which they can distinguish between truth and falsehood, and the help and might with which they can uphold truth and break falsehood.
Sincerity and the desire for praise and the desire for that which is with people cannot be united together in the same heart any more than water and fire can be united.
If your soul desires that you seek sincerity, then first start by attacking greed and slaying it with the knife of despair [reach a state of complete loss of desire for worldly things], and attack the love for praise by becoming an ascetic toward it the way that the lovers of the worldly life are ascetic toward the Hereafter. If you succeed in slaying greed and becoming ascetic toward praise, sincerity will become easy for you.
Among the signs of success and blessedness are that the servant, as his knowledge increases, with it his humility and mercy increase, and as his good deeds increase, his fear and caution [of the Hereafter] increases, and as his age increases, his desire for worldly things decreases, and as his wealth increases, his generosity and charity increase, and as his status and power increase, he becomes closer to the common people and taking care of their needs and acting humbly toward them.
Of the signs of accursedness are that the servant, as his knowledge increases, his arrogance and pride increase, and as his good deeds increase, his pride in himself and his opinion of himself increase and he looks down on others, and as his age increases, his greed increases, and as his wealth increases, he becomes stingier, and as his power and status increase, his arrogance and pride increase.
Kufr [to believe in God but refuse to submit to Him] is based on four things: Arrogance, envy, anger and desire. Arrogance prevents him from submitting, envy prevents him from listening to good advice and giving good advice to others, anger prevents him from acting justly, and desire prevents him from dedicating himself to worship. If the principle of envy is destroyed, it becomes easier for him to accept and to give good advice, and if the principle of anger is destroyed, justice and humility become easy for him, and if the principle of desire is destroyed, patience and worship become easy for him.
There are two types of knowing God: The first one is to acknowledge His existence, and this is the knowledge shared by the people, the pious, the wicked, the obedience and the sinners. And the second type of knowing God is the knowledge that creates modesty and love toward Him, attachment of the heart to Him, longing for meeting Him and fear of Him and constant return to Him and the acquiring of the peace of mind through Him and running away from society to Him.
There is nothing as harmful to the servant as his being bored with the blessings that God has bestowed over him, so that he no longer sees them as blessings, and he does not thank Him for them and is not pleased by them, but rather, he curses them and complains about them and considers them burdens and misfortunes.
Of the greatest oppression and ignorance is to seek glorification and honor from the people while your heart is empty of glorifying and honoring God.
Every person of sense knows that Satan has no way to attack him except three: The first is excess, profligacy and squandering, so that he goes over and beyond what is necessary, and this becomes excess, and this excess becomes the share of Satan and his entrance into his heart. The way to be rid of this is to be cautious not to give the ego everything it desires of food, sleep, pleasure or rest. As soon as you close this door, you become safe from being attacked through it. The second way is heedlessness, for the one who remembers God constantly is protected in the fortress of remembrance, and whenever he becomes heedless, the gate of the fortress opens and the enemy breaches inside and either hurts him or makes it difficult for him to get rid of him. The third door of Satan to the heart is to busy yourself with that which does not concern you, when it comes to any matter.
The servant stands between the hands of God twice: When he is performing salaah [the formal prayer], and when he stands before Him on the Day of Judgment. Whoever carries out the rights of the first standing properly, the second standing will be easy for him, and whoever does not take the first standing seriously and does not give it what is due to it, the second standing will be difficult for him.
God’s saying that “there is not a thing but that with Us are its treasuries [or stores, or depositories]” [Quran 15:21] contains a treasure of wisdom, which is that a thing is not sought except from the one who controls its supply and has the keys to the container that contains it. If the thing is sought from someone else, they will not have it and will not be able to procure it. [In other words, since God controls the treasuries of all things, all things should be sought from Him.]
If people feel rich and needless through the worldly life, feel rich and needless through God, and if people are happy and pleased with the worldly life, let your happiness and pleasure be through God, and if they find peace and comfort in their loved ones, find peace and comfort in God, and if they know their kings and rulers and approach them to acquire glory and greatness, know God and become closer to Him to acquire the height of glory and greatness.
The worldly life is a rotten corpse. Lions do not attack rotten corpses.
Whoever resides his heart with his Lord finds peace and relaxation, and whoever sends his heart out to be among the people finds worry and anxiety. The love of God does not enter a heart in which there is the love of the worldly life except the way that the camel enters the eye of a needle. If God loves a servant, He prepares him for Himself and adopts Him for His love and chooses Him to dedicate his energies to worshiping Him.
If the heart is fed by remembrance and watered by contemplation and is free from weeds and shrubs, it will find wonders and will be inspired with wisdom.
They busied their hearts with the worldly life. Had they busied them with God and the home of the Hereafter, their hearts would have journeyed through the meanings of His words and His signs and would have returned with wonders of wisdom and the best of benefits.
By the amount that one desires the worldly life and seeks its approval, one will be unwilling to obey God and seek the Hereafter.
The ignorant one complains about God to the people. This is the height of ignorance about the one complained about and the one complained to, because had he known his Lord, he wouldn’t have complained about Him, and had he known the people, he wouldn’t have complained to them. One of the pious predecessors saw a man complaining to another man about his poverty and needfulness and said: ‘O you, by God, what you have done is nothing more or less than complaining about one who has mercy and kindness for you to one who has none’.
About God’s saying: “and those who, when reminded of the verses of their Lord, do not fall upon them deaf and blind” [Quran 26:73], al-Muqatil says: ‘It means that when they are reminded through hearing the Quran, they do not act as if they have not heard it or have not seen [the truth of] it, rather, they hear, they see, and they believe it in their hearts’. Ibn Abbas says: ‘They do not act deaf and blind toward it, but rather they are mindful and fearful toward God [when they hear or read the Quran]’. Al-Kalbi says: ‘They throw themselves at it with their ears and eyes [they dedicate their full attention to it]’. Al-Faraa’ says: ‘When the Quran is recited upon them, they do not stay the same as their initial state as if they had not heard it [the recitation creates a change them, instead of being unmoved and unchanged by it]’.
The source of what is in the servant of good, evil, praiseworthy attributes and censure-worthy attributes are the attributes of the Giver and the Withholder, for He causes His servants to always go back and forth between the requisites of these two attributes. The share of the true servant of obedience according to these two attributes is gratitude toward God when given, and humility and self-abasement toward Him when withheld from. He, glory to Him, gives to him so that he may thank Him, and He withholds from him so that he may humble himself before Him, so that he always stays in a state of gratitude and humility.
Remembrance of the sweetness of reaching your destination makes your struggle to get there easier and more bearable.
When a person sees the road as too long, he weakens in his walk.
Stay cautious of two enemies by whom many of the creation have been ruined: A person who blocks the way of God through confusing others and through empty talk, and a person who has been possessed by the worldly life and his power and status in it.
Stay cautious of your nafs [ego, soul, or self]. No trial has afflicted you except through it. Do not make peace with it, for by God, no one can bring honor to it except one who has humiliated it, and no one can bring greatness to it except one who has made it insignificant and submissive, and no one can make it whole except one who has broken it, and no one can bring rest to it except one who has exhausted it, and no one can bring security to it except one who has frightened it, and no one can bring happiness to it except one who has brought sadness to it.
By God, no enemy can attack you except after your Protector has turned away from you. Do not think that Satan has won [when you feel weak in faith and overpowered], it is just that the Guardian has left [you]. [In other words, whether you win or lose, whether you are attacked or you stay safe, depends on your relationship with God, not on the strength of your enemies.]
There is no rest for the servant except under the tree of toobaa [the name of a tree in Paradise], and there is no serenity for the lover except on the Day of Increase [i.e. the Day of Judgment].
O one who spends the commodity of his lifetime in going against the wishes of his Beloved and distancing himself from Him, there is not among your enemies one who does more harm to you than yourself.
Looking at something imprints the image of that thing on the heart, and the heart is a Ka`bah; the worshiped One does not allow His holy place to be crowded with idols. [In other words, your heart is a holy place that should be filled with God’s remembrance. If you constantly give your attention to things other than Him, those things will fill the holy place that is your heart, similar to putting idols inside the Ka`bah.]
A person who repents from a sin is like a sick person who drinks medicine, and perhaps an illness will be the cause of health. [In other words, in some cases to have sinned and then repented would bring better fruits to the servant than not having sinned at all.]
The servant does not sin out of a desire to go against the wish of his Master or to dare to step on what his Master considers sacred. Rather, he does it due to being overcome by instinct, or due to the sin being beautified by the ego or Satan, and being overpowered by desire, and having confidence in being forgiven, and the wish for pardon. This is from the servant’s point of view. As for the Master’s point of view, the sin necessitates the carrying out of judgment, expression of His masterly might and the humble position and needfulness of the servant, and the manifestation of the Beautiful Attributes [of God], such as the Forgiver, the Pardoner, the Accepter of Repentance, and the Forbearing. This is for the servant that comes to Him with repentance and remorse. While for the one who insists on sinning and exceeding the bounds, this necessitates the manifestation of the Attributes of the Avenger, the Just, and the Severe in Punishment.
When the Master knows that the sin of His servant was not intended to rebel against Him nor to disrespect His wisdom, He teaches him how to seek repentance from Him: “Then Adam received from his Lord [some] words, and He accepted his repentance. ” [Quran 2:37]
Between the servant and God and Paradise is an arch that can be crossed by two steps: A step away from himself, and a step away from the people. He cancels out his ego and takes it out of the equation in his dealings between himself and the people, and cancels out the people and takes them out of the equation in his dealings with God, so that he does not concern himself with the people except those who can guide him to God and to the road that leads to Him.
Ibn `Awn advised a man, saying: “Have fear and mindfulness toward God, for the one who fears God has no other fears”. Zayd bin Aslam used to say: “Whoever fears God, the people will love them despite themselves”. Al-Thawri is recorded as saying to Abi Dhi’b: “If you fear God, God will make you needless of the people, and if you fear the people, they will be utterly incapable of reducing your need toward God”.
Chain your anger with forbearance, because anger is a dog that, when unleashed, can cause great damage.
The desires of the worldly life are like a play of the imagination. The ignorant person’s view is limited to what is apparent, while those blessed with intelligence see what is behind the screens. They glanced what they desired, but when they extended their hands toward it, the thread of the trap showed itself to their power of insight, so they flew away with wings of caution and set their sights toward leaving.
Yahya bin Mu`aadh says: “Whoever puts his whole heart into his supplication, it will not be rejected.” I say: If he puts his whole heart in it, his need and poverty is true, and his wish is strong for its fulfillment, then it is unlikely that it will be rejected.
When those blessed with insight see the small value of the worldly life, its shortness, and the smallness of the value of one’s status in it, they cause their desire for it to die out of their desire for the eternal life. When they wake up from the sleep of heedlessness, they work hard to recover what the enemy has robbed from them during their period of idleness, and when the road seems too long, they glance at the destination, so that it appears near to them, and whenever the worldly life commands them, they find sweetness in remembering “this is your Day which you have been promised” [Quran 21:103].
Whoever loses his peace among the people but finds it in solitude, he is true in faith, but weak. Whoever finds peace among the people but loses it in solitude, he has a sickness [of the heart]. And whoever has lost peace both when in solitude and when among the people, then he is dead and expelled. And whoever finds peace both when in solitude and when among the people, he is the true lover [of God], the one who is strong in his condition. Whoever finds increase in his spirituality when in solitude, he cannot increase it except in solitude, and whoever finds increase when among the people, his increase can only be by them through giving them guidance and good advice. Whoever finds increase in carrying out God’s desire regardless of where He puts him to use, he will find increase both in solitude and among the people, thus the highest status and the best condition is for you to not choose for yourself a condition except that which He chooses for you and puts you in; stay with what He desires for you to do, rather than with what you desire of Him to do for you.
It was said to a righteous person: “For how long will you tire your soul [in worship]?” He said: “I am seeking rest for my soul [through worship]”.
Sins are wounds, and some wounds can be at the right spot to kill. When your sense is freed from the tyranny of your desires, it regains its dominion. You have entered the home of desire, gambling with your life.
There is no wonder in a servant humbling himself before God, worshiping Him and not tiring of worshiping him, when he has such a strong need and poverty toward Him. What is wondrous is a Master who loves His servant with the range and variety of His blessings and shows tenderness toward him with various types of kindness toward him even though He is perfectly needless of him.
It is sufficient honor for you that you are His servant / And it is sufficient pride for you that He is your Lord
Return to God and seek Him with your eyes, your ears, your heart and your tongue, and do not let these four wander away from Him, for no one is able to return to Him except through these four, and no one has wandered away from Him except by misusing one of these.
The land of fitrah [instinct] is wide and capable of growing whatever is planted in it. If you plant the tree of faith and fear of God, you will inherit the sweetest fruit, while if you plant the tree of ignorance and lust, all the fruit will be bitter.
Whoever is prevented from sinning by feeling the greatness of God’s status in his heart, God increases his status in the hearts of the creation so that they do not belittle or dishonor him.
When Adam sought immortality in Paradise through the tree [rather than through God], he was punished by being cast out from it, and when Yusuf sought to get out of prison through the one who had seen the dream [rather than through God], he stayed in prison for a number of years.
The spiritual master leaves this world without having done his due share of two things: Crying about himself, and praising His master. [In other words, no one, no matter how righteous, can do enough of these.]
When you fear the creation, you become paranoid and run away from it. But when you fear the Lord Almighty, you find peace in Him and move closer to Him.
How can one be sensible who sells Paradise with all that it contains for the pleasure of an hour?
The worldly life from its beginning to its end is not worth an hour’s sorrow, let alone a lifetime’s.
Reflect upon the words of the Quran and you will see a King to Whom belongs all dominion and to Whom all praise is due. The reins of all matters and affairs are in His hands, they originate from Him and find their conclusion through Him. He is established upon the seat of His kingdom, nothing is hidden from Him in any region of His domain. He is All-Knowing about what is in the hearts of His servants, knowing their secrets and what they show publicly. He alone has the power to manage the affairs of the kingdom; He hears and He sees, He gives and He withholds, He rewards and He punishes, He honors and He humiliates, He creates, gives sustenance, causes death, causes life, grants and arranges. All matters come from Him, the smallest and the greatest, and all matters find their conclusion with Him; they do not move by the amount of an atom except by His permission, and no leaf falls except that He has knowledge of it.
Whoever truly actualizes the meaning of the Fatihah [the first chapter of the Quran] through knowledge, recognition, and action and through his condition, he has won the best share of its perfection, and his worship has become the worship of the chosen elite whose ranks are well above those of the ordinary worshipers.
Of the attributes of the people of Paradise: “and [he] came with a heart returning [to God in repentance]” [Quran 50:33]. Ibn Abbas said: “He returned from sinning against God to eager obedience”. True return is for the heart to work on God’s obedience, love, and eager striving toward Him. God then mentions the reward of those who had these attributes in His saying: “Enter it in peace, this is the day of immortality. For them is what they desire, and with us is ever more [to give to them]”. [Quran 50:34-35]
Of the attributes of the people of Paradise: “Who feared the Most Gracious unseen [i.e. without seeing God, or in solitude without being seen by others]” [Quran 50:33]. This attribute requires acknowledgement of His existence, His Mastery and His power, and His knowledge of the details of the servant’s condition. It also includes belief in His books, prophets and commandments, and His promises, threats and the meeting with Him. True fear of God cannot be experienced except after all of these exist in the servant.
Of the attributes of the people of Paradise: Awwaab [“one who always returns to God”] and Hafeedh [“one who protects himself against sins”], since the heart has two powers: The power of seeking, and the power of abstention. The returner uses his power of seeking to return to God, His pleasure and obedience, and the protector uses his power of abstention to abstain from disobedience and going against His commands. The protector is the one who abstains from what has been forbidden him, and the returner is the one who eagerly walks toward God through obeying Him.
Ubaid bin Umair says: “The returner is the one who remembers his sins then asks for forgiveness for them”. Mujahid says: “He is the one who, whenever one of his past sins occurs to him, he seeks forgiveness for it”. Sa`eed bin Musayyab says: “He is the one who sins, then repents, then sins, then repents” [i.e. who never stops repenting].
If you wish to benefit from the Quran, gather your whole heart when you recite it or listen to it, keep an attentive ear, and stay in its presence like the one to whom the speech was meant, for it is God’s words aimed at you through His messenger.
When God says: “Truly, in this there is a remembrance for the one who has a heart, or one who listens attentively, with presence” [Quran 50:37], His saying of “Truly, in this there is a remembrance” refers to what came before from the beginning of the Sura to this point, from which the effect on the heart comes. His saying: “for the one who has a heart” refers to the fact that the heart is the receptive organ for His words, it refers to a live heart that is receptive to God. His saying of “or one who listens attentively” means one who dedicates his whole hearing ability to what is being said to him, and this is the condition for being affected by what is said to you. And His saying of “with presence” means present of heart, not absentminded.
Of the barakah [blessedness] of the earth is that all living things, and their sustenance and food come out of it, and of its blessedness is that you plant a seed and it brings forth many times what you planted, and of its blessedness is that it carries loads upon its back, and from its belly comes out the best and most beneficial things. It hides all that is ugly, and brings forth all that is beautiful. Of its blessedness is that it hides the waste and excrement of the servant and integrates and synthesizes it, and produces his food and drink.
When the servant sees that his forelock and the forelocks of all other servants are in the hands of God, steering them where He wishes, he will stop fearing them, wishing things from them, or putting them on pedestals, but will see them as dominated and mastered servants. When he sees himself like this, his poverty and needfulness toward God become a required attribute of his existence, and when he sees people like this, he will stop feeling needful toward them and will not put his hope and expectations in them. In this way his monotheism, reliance and servitude become true and sincere.
The heart cannot be dedicated to the love of God unless it is emptied of the love of other than God. The heart’s receptive ability is like the ear’s; if it listens to other than the speech of God, it becomes incapable of receiving God’s words, and if it inclines toward the love of other than God, it will lose its inclination for the love of God.
To waste time is worse than death, for wasting time cuts you off from God and the home of the afterlife, while death only cuts you off from the worldly life and its inhabitants.
The greatest profit in the worldly life is to busy yourself at all times with what is best fitted and most beneficial to your afterlife.
If knowledge without deeds had benefit, God wouldn’t have condemned the clerics of the People of the Book, and if deeds without sincerity had benefit, God wouldn’t have condemned the hypocrites.
There are three ranks of taqwa: The first one is to abstain the heart and limbs from sins. The second one is to abstain them from what is disliked [makrooh, deeds that are not considered good, though not explicitly forbidden by scripture]. The third one is to abstain from intrusiveness and meddlesomeness in things that do not concern you. The first one gives the servant his modesty, the second benefits his health and strength, and the third one earns him his happiness, merriment and joy.
The servant does not take what is forbidden from him except due to two things: Either he thinks wrongly of his Lord–he thinks that if he obeys Him and gives preference to Him He will not give him a better non-prohibited thing. The second one is that he knows that if someone leaves something for the sake of God, God will give him something better in its place, but his patience is overcome by his lust and his desire has overrun his brain. The first one is due to the weakness of his knowledge, the second one due to the weakness of his sense and insight.
Deeds without sincerity and without following the example of other righteous people is like a traveler filling his waterskin with dirt, which burdens him without benefiting him.
Whoever, among the workers, wishes to know his status in the eye of the King, let him look at what jobs He gives him and with what He busies him.
There are two types of gathering with one’s brothers: The first one is to gather to find comfort in each other and to pass the time. This is more likely to have harm than benefit, the least of which is that it corrupts the heart and wastes time. The second one is to gather with them to help one another toward the means of success and to enjoin righteousness and patience on each other. This is among the greatest and most beneficial types of commodities, but it contains three blights: One is that they make each other appear in a better light [they overestimate one another’s goodness]. The second is to talk and mix more than is necessary. The third one is that it becomes a desire and habit that becomes detached from its original purpose.
The Prophet, peace and blessings of God upon him, combined between the fear of God and goodness of manners toward the creation in his saying: “Fear God and treat people with the best treatment”. This is because the fear of God improves what is between the servant and his Lord, and goodness of manners improves what is between him and His creation. Fear of God brings him God’s love, and goodness of manners invites the people toward loving him.
Whoever knows his nafs [ego, soul or self], he will be too busy working on fixing and improving it to concern himself with people’s faults.
People enter the hellfire through three doors: The door of shubhah [confusion and ambiguity], which caused in them doubt in the creed of God, and the door of lust and desire which caused them to prefer their desires over His obedience and pleasure, and the door of anger which caused them the enmity of others.
All sins are based on three things: Arrogance, which caused Satan to be the way he is; greed, which is what caused Adam to be cast out of Paradise, and envy, which is what pushed one of the sons of Adam to kill the other.
God joins guidance with struggle in His saying “as for those who strive in Our cause, We shall surely guide them to Our ways”. The most perfect among the people when it comes to guidance are those who struggle the most in His cause, and the most obligatory struggle is the struggle against the ego and against desires, and the struggle against Satan and against the worldly life.
If the servant awakens in the morning and goes to sleep at night with his entire concern being God’s pleasure, God will carry for him all his burdens and will carry out for him all his needs, and He will take away from him all that brings him worry and dedicate his heart to His love, his tongue to His remembrance, and his limbs to His obedience.
God likens the ones who do not respond to His messenger to the people of the graves. This is the best type of metaphor, for their bodies are the graves of their hearts; their hearts have died and have been buried in their bodies, so God says: “and you cannot make the inhabitants of the graves hear [you]” [Quran 35:22].
The meaning of His saying, glory to Him: “I call to witness [or swear by] Time [or the Age], truly man is in a state of loss, except those who have believed, do righteous deeds, and counsel each other toward the truth, and counsel each other to be steadfast” [Quran 103:1-3]: God, glory to Him, swears by time which is the age of deeds, both profitable and loss-making, that every person is in loss, except those who perfect their power of knowledge through faith in God, and their power of deeds through acting according to His obedience. This is a form of perfection in one’s own self. And then he perfects others through counseling them with the same, and directing them toward the same and toward the best of it, which is patience and steadfastness. In this way he perfects himself through beneficial knowledge and good deeds, and perfects others through teaching the same to them and counseling them toward patience and steadfastness.
Of the greatest torments in the worldly life is disunity and discord of the heart, and poverty being always in front of the eyes of the servant, never leaving him. If it wasn’t for the drunkenness of the lovers of the worldly life, they would have called out for help from this torment.
The lover of the worldly life is never freed from three things: A haunting sorrow, constant tiredness, and a regret that never ends, because its lover does not acquire any of it except that his ego desires something more, as in the saying of the Prophet: “If the child of Adam had two valleys filled with wealth, he would seek a third”. One of the pious predecessors is recorded as saying: “Whoever loves the worldly life, then let him accustom himself to bearing afflictions”.
The Quran is a cure for the diseases of lust and desire, with what it contains of wisdom and good advice through the use of incentives and disincentives, and [its teaching of] asceticism toward the worldly life and desire for the afterlife, along with examples and stories that contain various types of lessons and insights.
Who is the one who is afflicted with the love of images [i.e. love of the illusory things of the worldly life]? Only hearts that are empty of the love of God and sincerity toward Him are so afflicted, for the heart cannot help but become attached to something that it loves. Whoever does not make God alone his beloved, his Lord and his Worshiped, then his heart will inevitably become attached to something else.
The righteous heart prefers that which is beneficial and curative to that which is harmful. Of the signs of its righteousness is for it to leave the worldly life until he reaches the afterlife and stays in it as if he is already among its inhabitants. And of the signs of the righteousness of the heart is that it constantly pushes its owner to return to God’s obedience and dedicate himself to Him and to attach himself to Him the way a helpless lover attaches himself to his beloved. And of the signs of the righteousness of the heart is that it does not languish in remembrance of its Lord, and does not tire of serving Him and does not find peace except with Him and with those who guide it to Him and remind it of Him. And of the signs of its righteousness is that if it misses God’s remembrance [if it is prevented from it one way or another], it finds a greater pain in it than a greedy person does in losing money. And of the signs of its righteousness is that it should have only one concern, and that concern should be God. And of the signs of its righteousness is that when it enters prayer, all its worldly concerns and sorrows leave it. And of the signs of its righteousness is that it should be more aggressive to avoid wasting its time than the most greedy people are to avoid losing their money.
The most harmful thing to mankind is negligence, avoiding taking account of oneself, and taking comfort [in the worldly life], and trivializing matters and going along with them, for this devolves him into ruin, and this is the condition of the people of delusion: He closes his eyes to consequences, goes through life in a carefree manner and relies on God’s forgiveness, so that he neglects to take account of himself and to look into the consequences, and even if he does this, the consequences of his sins seem trivial in his eyes, he takes comfort in his sinful habits and finds it very difficult to give them up.
There are many benefits in taking account of oneself: One of them is to discover one’s own faults, and whoever does not discover his own faults cannot work on remedying them. And another benefit is that he comes to know God’s rights over him. Whoever does not know God’s rights over him, his worship of Him is of little benefit to him. Thus of the most beneficial things to the heart is to look into God’s rights over His servants.
Of the plots of Satan against humans are those mentioned in God’s saying, glory to Him: “Satan promises you poverty and commands you to do shameful deeds” [Quran 2:268]. It is said that “[Satan] promises you poverty” means he frightens you with it, telling humans that if they give in charity, they will become poor. As for “[he] commands you to do shameful deeds”, it has been said: It refers to stinginess in this particular verse. Muqatil and al-Kalbi are recorded as saying that ‘all mentions of “shameful deeds” in the Quran refer to adultery, except in this verse where by it stinginess is meant’. But the sensible interpretation is that the “shameful deeds” is used in this verse with the same meaning as in all other verses, and that it refers to all shameful acts.
Of the plots of Satan against the believers is that he frightens them with his soldiers and friends, so that the believers do not struggle against them, do not enjoin good upon them and do not discourage them from evil, and this is of his greatest schemes against the people of faith.
Of the plots of Satan: He commands you to meet the poor and the needy with a scowl and to not see them as humans.
The benefits of visiting graveyards are three: The first is that it reminds him of the afterlife, gaining lessons and sobriety through this. The second is that it enjoins good deeds toward the deceased by reminding him to pray for them. The third is that it causes the him to do a good deed toward himself by having followed the sunnah [of visiting graveyards].
It is of the perfection of God’s mercy that He causes various afflictions to seize the servant. His testing him, putting him through trials, and preventing him from many of his goals and desires are from His mercy toward him, but the servant, out of his ignorance and transgression, makes accusations against his Lord for His testing him. And of His mercy toward His servants: Testing them with His commandments, out of mercy and protection. He has no need for their obedience toward His commands, for He is the Needless, the Praiseworthy, and He has no stinginess toward them when He forbids them from what He has forbidden them, for He is the Most Giving, the Most Gracious. And of His mercy is that He reduces the worldly life for them and clouds it in their eyes so that they do not take comfort in it and do not put their trust in it, so that they put their desire in the eternal bliss in His home and by His side. And of His mercy is that He warns them about Himself, so that they do not become deceived about Him by treating Him in an unfitting manner [i.e. by assuming that He will love them regardless of what they do, so that sinning becomes easy and habitual for them].
Iblees refused to prostrate to Adam to escape from humbling himself before him, and in this way he sought to glorify himself, so God made him the lowest and basest of all. In the same way, the worshipers of statues arrogantly refused to follow a human messenger, and to worship One God, and were well pleased to worship gods made of stone. Whoever refuses to humble himself before God or to spend his money in the way of His pleasure or to tire his spirit and his body in His obedience, it is inevitable that he will be made humble to something else and he will spend his money toward it, and he will tire his spirit and body in its obedience as a punishment for him.
Patience is two types: Voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary patience is more perfect than the involuntary one, since involuntary patience is common to most people, including those who are incapable of voluntary patience. Thus the patience of Yusuf against obeying the chief’s wife and his patience upon its consequences of imprisonment and hardship was a greater deed than his patience upon what his brothers did to him when they throw him into the well and separated him from his father and caused him to be sold into slavery.
A group has said: To patiently restrain oneself from sinning is better [than doing good deeds], since it is more difficult. Good deeds are done by both righteous and wicked people, but only the sincere in faith abstain from sinning. They said: [Abstaining from sinning is better than doing good deeds because] abandoning what one’s ego loves is evidence that the person for which it was abandoned is more beloved that one’s own self and desires, as opposed to doing what someone loves, which does not necessarily mean that the person is more beloved to us than ourselves.
Whoever makes it a habit to perform deeds for the sake of God finds nothing harder than performing deeds for the sake of other than Him, and whoever makes it a habit to perform deeds for the sake of his desires and his own fortune finds nothing harder than performing deeds with sincerity and for the sake of God. This is true in all categories of deeds; a person who always spends in the way of God finds it difficult to spend in the way of other than Him, and vice versa.
Satan has a subtle trick that only the adept and skillful can avoid; he shows him a sliver of good within a web of evil and he calls him to acquire that good. When the person approaches it, he catches him in the web.
Proudly showing off one’s knowledge is worse in the eyes of God than showing off one’s wealth and lineage, for such a person would be using a means of the afterlife for a worldly purpose, while the possessor of wealth and lineage is only using worldly means for a worldly purpose.
One of the pious predecessors has been recorded as saying: “When Iblees and his soldiers gather, there is nothing that pleases them as much as three things: A believer killing another believer; a man dying in a state of disbelief; and a heart that fears poverty”.
The torment of being screened off from the Lord of the Worlds is one of the most severe types of torment that He uses on His enemies, as He says: “Therefore they will be screened off from their Lord that day.” [Quran 83:15]
Whoever loves something other than God for the sake of other than God, its harm will be greater than its benefit, and its torment will be greater than the pleasure it brings. Whenever the servant attaches his expectations to other than God and puts his reliance on it, he will find disappointment from that direction, and whoever seeks help from other than God will be let down.
All the names of the Lord, glory to Him, are beautiful names and there are no evil names among them, and all His attributes are attributes of perfection and there are no flawed attributes among them, and all His deeds are out of wisdom and there are no deeds among them that are empty of wisdom and benefit.
When God wants good for a servant, He removes his heart’s ability to see his own good deeds, and he removes the ability of his tongue to talk about them. He busies him with seeing his sins, so that they are always in front of his eyes until he enters Paradise.
How blessed is the one who is too concerned with his own faults to concern himself with the faults of others! And how accursed is the one who forgets his own faults and busies himself with faults of the people!
The servant, from the moment he puts foot in this world, is on a journey toward his Lord, and the duration of the journey is the duration of the lifetime given to him.
True asceticism is to abstain from that which does not benefit you [spiritually], and true fear of God is to stay away from that which may harm you [spiritually].
Asceticism is not to give up worldly things with your hands while it still occupies your heart. Asceticism is to give it up with your heart while it is still in your hands, and this was the state of the Rashidun caliphs and Umar bin Abdul Aziz, about whose asceticism stories are told, even though the treasuries of the kingdom were under his command, and the state of the best of mankind [the Prophet Muhammad peace and blessings of God upon him], for whom God opened of the worldly life what He opened, but it only increased him in asceticism.
Of the most harmful things to the servant are his idleness and leisure, for the ego is never idle, if you do not busy it with that which benefits it, you will inevitably busy it with that which harms it.
The special type of love that does not suit anyone but God, which if the servant has for anyone other than Him it will become polytheism that God does not forgive, is the love of servitude that causes self-abasement, submission and glorification of the beloved.
The road of truth is uphill and takes the traveler to that which is great and exalted, while the road to falsehood is downhill and throws the traveler into the lowest of the low.
Since the seeker of the Straight Path is seeking something that most people deviate from, seeking a path that has very few fellow travelers taking it, and since souls fear being alone, and since they love companionship, God informs us of the companions that one has on this road, who are: “those whom Allah has blessed: the Prophets and the true, the martyrs and the righteous” [Quran 4:69], so that the fear of loneliness and isolation from the people of his time and his generation and race leaves the seeker of guidance, so that deviation of the people from the path does not concern him, for they are the lowest in status, even if they are the greatest in numbers.
The heart becomes afflicted with two great sicknesses; if the servant does not rectify them, they will inevitably throw him into ruin. They are riyaa’ [doing good deeds to impress others, rather than for the sake of God] and kibr [“arrogance”, “self-glorification”]. The cure of riyaa’ is “You we worship” [Quran 1:5] and the cure for kibr is “from You we seek help” [Quran 1:5].
Isti`aanah [“taking refuge in God”] combines two principles: Trust in God and reliance upon Him. The more perfect a person’s submission is toward God, the more he takes refuge in Him.
The best that a servant can ask of the Lord, glory to Him, is His help toward doing what pleases Him. This is what the Prophet, peace and blessings of God, taught Mu`aadh bin Jabal when he said: “O Mu`aadh, by God I love you, so do not forget to say after every prayer: O Allah, help me in Your remembrance, gratitude toward You and worshiping You in the best manner possible”.
I reflected upon the most beneficial prayer, which is seeking God’s help toward doing what pleases Him, and I saw the same prayer in al-Fatihah [the first chapter of the Quran]: “You we worship and You we ask for help”. [Quran 1:5]
It is obligatory upon every person that when God gives to him a blessing he did not pray for, he should ask Him to make the blessing an aid for obeying Him, and a means of carrying out what pleases Him, rather than His making it something that blocks him from Him or takes him away from what pleases Him. Do not think that all blessings are given due to the honor of the servant in God’s eyes, nor think that when God withholds something it is because of the low status of the servant in His eyes; rather, both His generosity and His withholding are afflictions and tests with which He tests His servants.
There are two types of servitude [toward God]: The general servitude, and the special servitude. As for the general servitude, it is the servitude of all of the inhabitants of the heavens and the earth toward God, including the righteous, the wicked, the believers and the disbelievers. This is a servitude of domination and ownership, for God says: “There is no one in the heavens and earth who will not come to the All-Merciful as a servant.” [Quran 19:93], and He says, glory to Him: “Say: ‘O God, Originator of the heavens and the earth, Knower of the Unseen and the Visible, You will judge between Your servnts regarding what they differed about.’” [Quran 39:46]. He also says: “God does not want [to do] any injustice toward His servants.” [Quran 40:31]. The second type of servitude is the servitude of obedience and love. God says: “My servants, you will feel no fear today; you will know no sorrow.” [Quran 43:68] He also says: “The servants of the All-merciful are those who walk in the earth modestly and who, when the ignorant address them, say, ‘Peace’” [Quran 25:63].
Whoever turns his back on the truth and denies it, he falls into falsehood by the same amount that he turned his back on the truth and denied it, even in deeds: Whoever refuses to work for the sake of God alone, God afflicts him with having to work for the sake of the creation. The servant turns his back on working for the One in Whose hands is his harm, benefit, death, life and happiness, so he is afflicted with working for someone who has none of those powers toward him. In the same way, a person who refuses to spend in the way of God is afflicted with being forced to spend his money in the way of something else.
God says: “O believers, fear God. Let every soul consider what it has forwarded for tomorrow.” [Quran 59:18]. He, glory to Him, commands His servant to look into what he has prepared for tomorrow, and that includes taking account of himself. Are the things he has sent forth good enough to face God with, or not good enough? [In other words, is the balance of his good deeds versus his sins good enough for the afterlife?]
Whoever thinks well of himself is the most ignorant of people regarding himself, for thinking well of oneself prevents one from properly inspecting oneself; he becomes confused and sees his bad attributes as good ones and his flaws as perfections.
When a servant is pleased with his worship, it is a sign that he thinks well of himself, and that he is ignorant toward true servitude, and that he does not know what befits the Lord, glory to Him, and the proper way to treat Him.
The people of insight are most eager to seek forgiveness right after doing acts of worship, because of the shortcomings they see in their worship.
When a sin causes someone to feel glad, it is a sign of the strength of their desire for it, their ignorance of the status of the One they disobeyed, and their ignorance of its dangers and evil consequences.
A believer never attains perfect pleasure from a sin, and he cannot attain happiness through it. Sorrow will always be the constant companion of his heart whenever he tries to attain pleasure or happiness through a sin.
The truly enlightened one is the one whose good deeds appear small before his eyes, and his sins appear great to him. You increase in the eyes of God by the amount that your deeds appear small to you, and whenever you consider yourself great and high in status in your heart, you become small in the eyes of God.
The servant is always walking, never stopping; either upward, downward, forward or backward. Stopping does not exist in nature, nor in Islamic law. [Life] is entirely made up of stages that are passed at great speed, either toward Paradise or toward the hellfire. Some walk fast, others slowly, some are ahead and others lag behind. No one stands still on the road.
Immediate repentance of a sin is obligatory and it is not permitted to delay it, and whenever it is delayed, this delay is disobedience toward God.
True repentance requires one to flee from the sin, to feel remorse, and to resolve to not return to it.
A mystic once said: I tried to enter upon God from the doors of all the deeds of worship. I never tried a door except that I found a crowd there that prevented me from entering, until I reached the door of humility and needfulness, which I found it to be the closest and widest door to Him, without anyone or anything blocking it. As soon as I put my feet through it, He, glory to Him, took my hand and let me inside.
Remembrance and contemplation bring forth all kinds of fruits of insight and truths about faith and goodness.
The following of desires extinguishes the light of the mind and blinds the heart’s insight and blocks one from following the truth and causes one to lose the Straight Path, so that the insights from moral lessons would never reach them. If the servant follows his desire, his opinions and views become corrupted so that he sees goodness where there is ugliness and ugliness where there is goodness, so that he confuses the truth for falsehood.
It is enough for the reduction of one’s expectations in the worldly life [to read] these sayings of God: “Do you think, if We let them enjoy themselves for years, and then what they were promised comes to them, that what they enjoyed will be of any use to them?” [Quran 26:205-207], “On the day We gather them together – when it will seem if they had tarried no more than an hour of a single day being introduced to one another” [Quran 10:45], “On the Day they see it, it will be as if they had only lingered for the evening or the morning of a single day.” [Quran 79:46], “They will say, ‘We tarried there for a day or part of a day. Ask those able to count!’ He will say, ‘You only tarried there for a little while if you did but know!’” [Quran 23:113-114], “On the Day they see what they were promised, it will be as if they had only tarried for just one hour of a single day. It has been transmitted! Will any be destroyed except for deviant people?” [Quran 46:35], “they will whisper secretly to one another, ‘You only stayed [in the worldly life] for ten.’ We know best what they will say when the most correct of them will say, ‘You only stayed a day.’” [Quran 20:103-104]
Removing one’s expectations from the worldly life requires two things: To know in your heart the ephemeral nature of the worldly life and the coming separation from it, and to know in your heart the coming of the Hereafter and its everlasting and perpetual nature.
Whenever the servant thinks the best of God, sincerely puts his hope in God and relies on Him, then God will never let him down. God does not disappoint the hopes of anyone nor does He waste any person’s work [done for His sake].
No one becomes habituated to wealth and luxury except that it causes hypocrisy in his heart without him realizing it. If he truly understood the truth about hypocrisy and its extent, he would have observed it in his heart, because the love of wealth and the love of the Quran in the heart cannot co-exist–one of them will always push the other out.
The Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal says: “Asceticism has three ranks: The first is to abstain from what is forbidden, and this is the asceticism of the average believer. The second rank is to abstain from excess in what is permitted, and this is the asceticism of extraordinary believers. The third is to abstain from everything that distracts one from God, and this is the asceticism of the enlightened believers.”
Whoever does not seek God will seek other than Him, whoever does not dedicate his heart to worshiping Him will worship other than Him, and whoever does not do his deeds for the sake of God will inevitably have to do them for the sake of other than Him.
Iblees’s enmity against his Lord was rooted in his malcontent with His judgments and religious and universal rulings.
Heedlessness is to choose to neglect something, while forgetfulness is not a choice. It is for this reason that God says “do not be of the heedless” [Quran 7:205] rather than saying “do not be of the forgetful”, since forgetting does not fall under the category of takleef [things believers are responsible for], therefore God does not forbid it.
Imam Ahmad, may God have mercy on him, said: “People’s need for knowledge is greater than their need for food and drink, since a person needs food and drink a few times a day, while he needs knowledge with every breath he takes”.
Abu Uthman says: “The true sign of love [of God] is the love of death in times of relaxation, luxury and good health, as in Yusuf; when he was thrown into the well, he did not say “take my life”, and when he was thrown into prison, he did not say “take my life”, but when the business of his life was complete and he was safe and living in blessings, he prayed: “Take my life when I am in a state of belief” [Quran 12:101].
The true man is the one who fears the death of his heart, not the death of his body. Most people fear the death of their bodies and are not concerned with the death of their hearts. They do not know of life except the material part of it.
Of the signs of the [true] `aarif [“wise man”, “enlightened one”, “spiritual master”, “mystic”] are that he does not make demands, he does not quarrel, he does not reproach, and he does not consider himself above anyone else, and he does not think that he has any rights over anyone else. And of his other signs: He does not grieve over a good thing that he misses, and he does not celebrate an evil thing that misses him, because he looks at things from the point of view of passing away and evanescence, for in truth everything [in this worldly life] is like a shadow or an illusion.
He [God], glory to Him, informs us that al-Masjid al-Haram [the Grand Mosque in Mecca] is a “place of return for the people” [Quran 2:125], meaning that they return to it year after year from all over the world, and they do not give it up. Rather, the more they visit it, the more they long for it.
When God wants good for His servant, He purifies him from every base and evil ingredient before he dies. He purifies him through His enabling him to repent with sincere repentance, to do good deeds that wipe out his evil deeds and through hardships that do the same, until he is able to meet God without having any sins to burden him.
The difference between the names of Muhammad and Ahmad are that Muhammad is the one who has a great number of attributes that he is praised for, while Ahmad is the one who is praised more than others. Therefore Muhammad is about the greatness in quantity [of good attributes], while Ahmad is about the types of attributes and their qualities.
“To God we belong and to Him we return” [Quran 2:156] is one of the best cures for afflictions, both in the short term and the long term, for it contains two important principles that if the servant succeeds in recognizing, he attains rest and freedom from his affliction. The first one is that the servant, his family and his wealth are all in reality God’s property, lent to him by God, so that when He takes them, He is only taking back His property from the borrower. The second is that the fate and destiny of a person end up toward God, his true Master; he will inevitably leave the worldly life behind and come before his Lord alone, as He created him first, without family, wealth or tribe, but with his good and bad deeds. Thus if this is the servant’s beginning, present state and end, how can he be pleased with what he has, or grieve over what he has lost?
Reliance [on God] without the presence of the necessary [material] means is complete futility [in other words, we should not expect God to do miracles for us. Rather, we should expend our energies toward our objectives, then rely on God to take care of the things we cannot control and the flaws in our work that we cannot recognize or correct.]
What has passed cannot be changed by grief, but by contentment, praise [of God], patience, belief in God’s qadar [God’s judgments regarding a servant], and the servant’s saying: “God has decided, and what He wills He does”.
There are two types of love. One of them is a Paradise in this worldly life, a cause for the soul’s gladness, the heart’s pleasure and the bliss, nourishment and cure of the spirit, and its very livelihood and cause for joy, and that is the love of God alone in the heart. And there is a love that is torment for the soul, sorrow for the spirit, a prison for the heart, and a constriction of one’s breast, a cause for pain, toil and suffering, and that is the love of other than God, glory to Him.
Note: All of the mentions of “prayer” in this section refer to salah, the formal Islamic prayer that is performed five times a day.
Know with certainty that the prayer is the joy of the heart of the lovers [of God], and pleasure of their souls, and the garden of the worshipers and the pleasure of the spirits of the ones who fear God, the criterion for measuring the state of the sincere ones, the gauge for determining the state of the seekers, and God’s mercy that He has bestowed upon His believing servants.
Heedlessness is the [cause for the] barrenness and sterility of the heart. As long as the servant carries out the remembrance of God and strives toward Him, God’s mercy pours upon him like a torrential rain, but if he becomes heedless, he will suffer drought because of it, and if he is overcome by heedlessness and taken over by it, his land becomes a dead and ruined land, his year becomes a barren and dry year, and the fire of desires blows everywhere over it like simoom [hot, dry and dusty desert wind].
The prayer was established so that the servant uses all of his limbs in worship along with his heart.
The most disliked of the creation in the eye of God is the idle servant who neither works for the sake of this world nor for the sake of the Hereafter.
The secret of the prayer and its core is to strive with the heart toward God, and to be fully in His presence. If the servant does not strive toward Him and busies himself with other than Him and is entertained by the conversation of his ego [during the prayer], it would be like a person who seeks to go into the presence of a King to ask for forgiveness for his deeds and seeking His generosity and grace and mercy, and desiring that which will nourish his heart, so that he can better serve Him. But when he is in front of Him, and he only has to start speaking and supplicating, he looks this way and that away from the King, or turns his back on Him.
[When the servant says ‘God is great’ during prayer, it means that] God is greater in his heart than anything else. He makes this statement true in his heart by not having anything greater than God in his heart that would distract him from Him. If his heart contains something that distracts him from God, it is evidence that that thing is greater to him than God is. If he is distracted from God by something else, the thing that distracts him is more important to him than God, and his saying of allahu akbar [God is great] is only by the tongue, not the heart.
Ibn Taymiyyah, may God have mercy on him, said to me: “If a sheepdog tries to attack you, do not busy yourself with trying to fight it back. Rather, ask the shepherd for help and he will remove the dog. And when the servant seeks refuge in God from Satan, He will protect him from him.” [In other words, since Satan is an invisible and unfathomable enemy that cannot be attacked, but who is subservient to God, the best way to defeat him is to seek refuge in God.]
Whoever tastes the joy of true prayer knows that takbeer [the saying of allahu akbar] and the recitation of Sura al-Fatihah cannot be substituted by something else, and knows that nothing can substitute for carrying out qiyaam [standing in prayer], rukoo` [bowing in prayer] and sujood [prostrating in prayer], for each one of them contains a secret, an effect and a type of worship that other things do not contain, and every verse of al-Fatihah contains a type of worship and joy that is special to it and that cannot be found in anything else.
To truly enjoy the benefits of worshiping God through rukoo` [bowing down in prayer], the servant has to consider himself small and insignificant before his Lord, so that this feeling of insignificance removes from his heart any arrogance and self-glorification he has, or any glorification he has toward the rest of the creation, so that it is replaced by the glorification of God alone without partner. The servant praises God through this by lowering himself before Him, bowing his head, bending his back, and speaking words of praise and glorification about Him.
The Prophet said “give us rest through prayer” [spoken to one of his companions to initiate the prayer], rather than saying “give us rest from prayer”, the way the person who considers it a burden would say, who does not perform it except by going against his own will and forcing himself to do it, who feels tormented while doing it, and when he is done with it, he feels his heart and spirit freed. That is because his heart is filled with other than Him, and the prayer keeps him away from the worldly things he loves and is attached to, and thus the prayer feels like torment for him until it ends. This is apparent in the state of the one who hurries the prayer while his heart is facing away from his Lord, who has abandoned taking refuge in it and performing it with fear and trembling in his heart, so he performs it, knowing that there is no way of avoiding it, but in a very deficient way, saying with his tongue what is not in his heart, and with his heart saying “if only the prayer would be over so that I can get some rest from it”, rather than saying “so that I can get some rest [and peace of mind] through it”.
To follow God’s guidance is to believe in His words without a doubt that blocks belief, and to take up obedience of His commands without one’s desires blocking true obedience. Faith is based upon these two principles; belief in God’s words and obedience toward His commands. Two other matters come after them, which are to refute and deny false shubuhaat [doubts and contradictions] that block perfect belief and to not let them harm the nature of his belief, and the second is to block and counter all unrighteous desires that prevent perfect obedience to God’s commands. These, therefore, are four matters; the first is belief, the second is to strive against the shubuhaat that are inspired by the seen and unseen Satans, and the third is obedience of commands, and the fourth is to strive against the ego to counter the desires that block the servant from true worship and obedience.
God, glory to Him, wanted to take among the children of Adam prophets, messengers, friends and martyrs, loved by Him and loving toward Him. Therefore He withdrew Himself from them to let them deal with His enemies on their own, in this way testing them. When they preferred Him and strove with their souls and wealth in His way, they earned His love and approval and closeness to Him, which would have been impossible to earn without this process [of testing]. The ranks of messenger-hood, prophecy, martyrdom and love and dislike for His sake and showing friendship toward His friends and enmity toward His enemies are of the greatest ranks which could not have been earned except in the way that God had arranged through lowering [Adam] to the earth and making his livelihood and the livelihood of his offspring in it.
God, glory to Him, is the possessor of the Beautiful Names; of His names are the Forgiving, the Merciful, the Pardoning, the Abaser, the Exalter, the Giver of Honor, the Giver of Humiliation, the Enlivener, the Causer of Death, the Inheritor and the Patient. God wishes His attributes to become manifest, so in His wisdom He decided to send Adam and his offspring down to a home in which the effects of His Names become manifest to them. He forgives, shows mercy, exalts, gives greatness, lowers, abases and takes vengeance from whomever He wills, and He withholds and gives freely, and all the other ways in which His Names and Attributes become manifest.
God, glory to Him, sent [humanity] down to a home where their belief in God has to be without having seen Him. Faith without seeing is true faith. As for faith after seeing, everyone on the Day of Judgment will have it, but their faith will have no benefit except those who also had faith in the worldly life. Had they been created in the home of Bliss [Paradise], they wouldn’t have acquired the rank of faith without seeing. The pleasure and grace that is earned through this cannot be earned otherwise.
God, glory to Him, when He said to the angels: “‘I am putting a vicegerent [agent or deputy] on the earth,’ they said, ‘Why put on it one who will cause corruption on it and shed blood when we glorify You with praise and proclaim Your purity?’” [Quran 2:30] He replied by saying: “I know that which you do not know” [Quran 2:30]. He then showed His knowledge to His servants and angels of what He had caused to exist on earth of the attributes of His creation, His prophets, His friends and those who strive toward Him by doing what He loves and pleases while struggling against their own lusts and desires, leaving what they love to increase their closeness to Him.
God, glory to Him, loves the patient, the good-doers, those who fight in His way, those who repent, those who purify themselves, and those who show gratitude toward Him. […] In His wisdom, He decided to cause Adam and his offspring to take up residence in a home where they would have the opportunity to show these attributes through which they would acquire the highest ranks of His love, therefore His banishing them to earth was of His greatest blessings to them, “God selects for His mercy whomever He wills. God’s favor is truly vast.” [Quran 2:105]
God, glory to Him, created His creation to worship Him, and that is their purpose, as He says: “I have not created jinn and humans except to worship Me” [Quran 51:56]. It is clear that the perfect servitude and worship that is required of humans cannot be achieved in the Home of Bliss [Paradise], but can only be achieved in the home of affliction and trials.
True love [toward God] is that which is stable regardless of obstacles, opposing forces and causes for separation. As for the love that is conditional upon good health, bliss, pleasure and getting what one desires from the beloved, that is not a true love and has no constancy.
Abdullah ibn Abbas says: “God has made it obligatory upon Himself toward the person who reads the Quran and acts by it to never let him go astray in this world and to protect him from torment and ruin in the Hereafter.”
God, glory to Him, consoled His prophet by the fact that the people of knowledge believed in him. God commanded him not to trouble himself in anyway about the ignorant people, saying: “We have divided up the Quran, so you can recite it to mankind at intervals, and We have sent it down little by little. Say: ‘Have faith in it or do not have faith in it.’ Certainly, when it is recited to them, those who were given knowledge before it fall on their faces in prostration, saying, ‘Glory be to our Lord! The promise of our Lord is truly fulfilled!’ Weeping,” [Quran 17:106-108] This is a great honor for the people of knowledge.
God, glory to Him, commanded His Prophet to pray to Him for increase in knowledge, saying: “Exalted then be God, the true King; and do not try to anticipate the Quran before the completion of its revelation, but pray: ‘O Lord, give me greater knowledge.’”. This is enough honor for knowledge, that He commanded His Prophet to ask Him for more of it.
God, glory to Him, calls the people of knowledge and faith as witnesses on the Day of Judgment to invalidate the words of the disbelievers, saying: “On the Day the Last Hour arrives, the evildoers will swear they have not even tarried for an hour. That is the extent to which they are deceived. Those who have been given knowledge and faith will say, ‘You tarried in accordance with God’s Decree until the Day of Rising. And this is the Day of Rising, but you did not know it.’” [Quran 30:55-56]
God, glory to Him, informs us that they [the people of knowledge] are the ones who have true fear for Him, and He even differentiates them among the people for having this attribute, saying: “It is indeed the people of knowledge, among His servants, who fear God. God is truly Mighty, Forgiving.” [Quran 35:28] This verse makes it a unique attribute of the people of knowledge that they fear Him, and He says [in another place]: “Their reward from their Lord will be gardens of Eden through which rivers flow, to live in forever. God is pleased with them, and they feel pleased with Him. That is [reserved] for anyone who fears his Lord.” [Quran 98:8]. He informs us that those who fear Him are those who have knowledge, and in this verse He mentions the reward He has in keeping for those who fear Him, which by the previous verse means those who have knowledge.
Ibn Masud, may God be pleased with him, says: “Knowledge is sufficient to cause the fear of God, and ignorance is enough to be arrogantly deceived about God”.
God mentions [in the Quran] His blessings and bounty that He bestowed upon His messenger, and He mentions the fact that He gave him the Book and wisdom, and that He taught him that which he did not know, as among His greatest blessings toward him, saying: “God has revealed to you the Book and wisdom and has taught you that which you did not know, truly God’s favor upon you has been great” [Quran 4:113]
God, glory to Him, placed some of the attributes of perfection in Adam, which made him superior to other creatures. When God wanted to display Adam’s value and status to His angels, He showed them the best that was in Adam, and that was Adam’s knowledge, which is evidence that knowledge is the best and most honorable thing that is in the human, and that his superiority and status is by knowledge.
God, glory to Him, informs us that His punishment for His enemies is that He blocks them from the knowledge of His Book, from recognizing the truth in it and understanding it, saying: “Whenever you read the Quran, We place a hidden curtain between you and those who do not believe in the Hereafter. We place wrappers over their hearts lest they comprehend it, and dullness in their ears. When you mention your Lord Alone in the Quran they even turn their backs in disgust!” [Quran 17:45-46] He also commands His Prophet to avoid them, saying: “and avoid the ignorant” [Quran 7:199]. He also praises His servants for avoiding them and leaving them alone, as in His saying: “Whenever they hear any gossip, they shun it and say: ‘We hold to our actions while you have your actions. Peace be upon you! We do not hanker after ignorant people.’” [Quran 28:55] He also says, glory to Him: “And when the ignorant address them, they say: ‘Peace!’” [Quran 25:63] All of this is evidence of the ugliness of ignorance in the eyes of God and His dislike for it and those who belong to it, and it is the same way with people, for no one wants to admit to belong to the ignorant people, even if he does belong to them.
Knowledge is life and light, while ignorance is death and darkness.
God, glory to Him, calls the evidence of knowledge a sultan [power], for it gives its owner power and capability and gives him power over the ignorant. Indeed, the power of knowledge is greater than the power of force, and this is why people submit to clear evidence when they wouldn’t submit to force. Evidence makes the heart submit, while force only makes the body submit. Evidence affects the heart, steers it and humbles the opponent, even if he shows obstinacy and arrogance, for his heart submits to it and becomes humbled and overpowered.
Thinking of the Attributes of the Worshiped One [God], His deeds and His judgments enables the servant to distinguish between faith and disbelief, monotheism and polytheism, affirmation and obstruction, purification of one’s concept of God from all that does not befit Him, and representation of Him [in one’s mind] according to His true attributes of glory and grace.
It is narrated by Abi Jamrah that he said: “I told Ibn Abbas that I read the Quran fast and that I can finish the whole Quran in three days. He said: ‘If I were to read one chapter of the Quran throughout the whole night and reflect upon it, it would be more beloved to me than to read the whole Quran the way you read it’”.
God, glory to Him, says: “Remember the aalaa’ [blessings and favors] of God so that you may be successful” [Quran 7:69] Thus the remembrance of His favors and blessings upon His servants, glory to Him, are a cause for success and happiness since doing so increases one’s love, gratitude and obedience toward Him and enables him to see how much shortcoming there is in his performance of the deeds that He has made obligatory upon him.
Contemplate the wisdom of God in making the kings of his servants and their rulers of the same nature as themselves, and indeed their nature and deeds are apparent in the nature of their kings and rulers. If the servants are steadfast upon the Straight Path, so will their kings be. If they are just, the kings will be just toward them. If they transgress, their kings will transgress upon them. And if trickery and deceit is widespread among them, their rulers will use trickery and deceit toward them.
If repentance had not been one of the most beloved things to God, He wouldn’t have tested one of the most honored of His creations [humans] with sins. Repentance is the pinnacle of human perfection.
God shows His servant the extent of His forbearance and grace in the way He hides his faults and sins. Had He wished He would have quickened his punishment and would have dishonored him among His servants so that his life among them would have become bitter. But instead He honors him by covering his shortcomings. He covers him through His forbearance and provides for him protective measures even while he is sinning, to protect his dignity.
Below are a few words of advice that I hope will be benefit some readers. I’m writing these as a fellow student, not as a teacher.
Never make any book except the Quran your main guide, because books written by humans can only show you a few of the attributes of God. Ibn al-Qayyim focuses on God’s greatness and what He deserves from His creation, but spends less time on God’s patience and forgiveness. This can cause despair in the reader, making him or her think that there is no way they can ever please God. But if you make the Quran your focus, you will be surprised at how easy it is to please God and gain His favor, and how forgiving, gentle and kind He is toward His creation.
Religion is not applied in a vacuum, it cannot help but be affected by the material life. I was depressed for three months, unproductive and uninspired, until I found out I had high blood glucose (a precursor to diabetes). After solving this problem, I felt like my normal self again. If I had been purely focused on my psychology, I would have despaired due to how uninspired and unspiritual I felt during this period, thinking that there was something wrong with me, since no verse of the Quran seemed to inspire my heart. Thankfully, I was able to discover the root of my problem and through the right medications I was able to restore my general optimism and appreciation for the Quran.
On your journey toward God, do not expect every day to be a perfectly spiritual day. Your mental state is affected by your health, your financial condition and your relationship with others. Sometimes you will feel very close to God, other times, due to stress or tiredness, you may find it hard to focus on and appreciate God’s words. Don’t drive yourself to destruction by forcing yourself to always be at your best no matter what happens in your life.
Another matter worth mentioning is to not choose one teacher to follow and ignore all others. Ibn al-Qayyim learned from dozens of scholars of differing opinions in his lifetime, and this gave him the insight and knowledge necessary to make him who he was. Among his teachers are the following eighteen: his father Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Abd ad-Daa’im, Badr ad-Deen Ibn Jamaa`ah, Ahmad al-Nablusi, Ibn al-Shirazi, Majd al-Deen al-Harani, Ibn Maktoom, al-Kahhaal, al-Dhahabi, al-Haakim, Sharaf al-Deen Ibn Taymiyyah [brother of Ibn Taymiyyah], Bint al-Jawhar [a female scholar of hadith], Eesaa al-Mut`im, Ibn Abi al-Fath al-Ba`li, Majd al-Deen al-Tunsi, Safyi ad-Deen al-Hindi and Isma`eel al-Harani.
Do not limit yourself to one teacher, or to teachers from one school of thought. The founders of the four Islamic schools of jurisprudence, Abu Hanifah (died 767 CE), Malik bin Anas (died 796 CE), al-Shaafi`I (died 820 CE) and Ahmad bin Hanbal (died 855 CE), are all greatly respected and each one of them has his own unique insights and opinions that will enrich the student’s understanding of Islam. By learning the opinions of a wide variety of scholars, the way Ibn al-Qayyim did, you will be protected from prejudice and immoderation. Malik ibn Anas says that there is no need to say anything during rukoo` and sujood in prayer, while other scholars consider it obligatory to say something. If you did not know this, you may mistakenly look down on someone who doesn’t seem to say anything during rukoo` and sujood, only later to find out that one of the greatest figures of Islamic scholarship considers it a voluntary act rather than an obligatory one.
 At a time when God willed to answer prayers
 Taqiuddin Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah (1263 – 1328 CE), famous theologian and jurist. Friend and mentor of Ibn al-Qayyim.
 The Quran, verse 59:19.
 Fear and mindfulness of God.
 The Quran, verses 82:13-14.
 The Quran, verse 38:45.
 Probably referring to the Mongols.
 As mentioned in Quran 9:67, “The hypocrite men and hypocrite women are of one another. They advocate evil, and prohibit righteousness, and withhold their hands. They forgot God, so He forgot them. The hypocrites are the sinners.”
 As mentioned in Quran 59:19, “Do not be of those who forgot God, so God made them forget themselves.”
 “Close friend”, one of the words the Quran uses to refer to Prophet Ibrahim (Biblical Abraham).
 The Quran, verses 37:83-84.
 The Quran, verses 26:88-89.
 Famous 9th century CE ascetic of Persian origin.
 The pre-Islamic state of ignorance and wickedness.