Wednesday, March 6, 2013

ESSENCE OF KNOWLEDGE (OR REMINDERS)



Assalaam alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuhu :)

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

Where are we going? I really don’t know. Many times I try to put my words on paper but my head just keeps on getting blank. I thought of all those great inspiring Islamic reminders that I’ve read in the past. They always made me feel so good. There is this amazing pleasure one feels when we read something captivating and inspiring. It seems soothing to the heart and pleasant to the ears. But that’s usually the end of it. Then I wonder: why do we read? You’d see a whole bunch of eeman-boosting materials but really, how many of them gets stuck in our heads? How many of them do we actually heed to?

The Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhi wa sallam) said: “The two feet of the son of Adam will not move from near his Lord on the Day of Resurrection until he is asked about five (matters):- about his life and how he spent it; about his youth – how he took care of it; about his wealth – how he earned it; and where he spent it; and about which he acted upon from the knowledge that he acquired.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

Subhan’Allah! I’d love to place emphasis on the last part “…..and about which he acted upon from the knowledge that he acquired”. For this reason, know that you are accountable before Allah for every knowledge that you sought – everything that you knew.

In the process of trying to gain knowledge, sometimes we keep reading books, lectures, articles, and lots & lots of reminders that trembles our hearts with inspiration. It’s like having the taste of something pleasant or intoxicating. It soothes. And we want more. But do we really want more? Why do we even want to read/hear more? Because it stirs within us a certain emotion! Like getting high! Many of us are just after that emotion – the high. It’s not really the knowledge or desire to change that we seek. It’s the soul’s way of responding to pleasant things. MORE!!!

But how about something called “STOP & PONDER & REFLECT & CHANGE”? This is the actual essence of knowledge - the actual essence of all these daily reminders. We’d be surprised to read one article/book, and then another one, and another one, but in the end, we’d realize that we seem to have forgotten the exact messages of each one we read. But no action! All we’d remember is the pleasant emotions we felt while reading them – the amazing eeman-boosting we felt at that particular point in time. But the moment the reminder is completed and gone, we just simply forget the message. Why? It’s because we were reading for pleasure and not to actually gain real practical knowledge in order to be better. Many of us do this. But little do we notice.
We read so many inspiring texts that we decide: “Oh I’m gonna be better after this.” But do we really get better? Here is the point: All of those reminders are just a bunch of words, if we do not put them into action. The real effect of that reminder is not how it strikes you when reading or listening. The real effect of that reminder is what it leaves in your heart long after you’ve encountered it. The words echo in your head. You realize how far you lag behind in taqwa. The value of that reminder is how it drives you to CHANGE. If you do not change that particular attitude afterwards, then have you really gained knowledge?
But there is something inevitable about reminders though, they instill in us piety and total consciousness of Allah at that moment (which is good). But the actual test is what happens after reading those bunches of materials. Do we really take heed?

Of course we take heed when it comes to the apparent acts of worship such as: Dhikr, tilawatul Qur’an, Salaat and Nawafil, fasting, hijaab, etc.

But what about our internal!

Piety is not just about the apparent acts of worship and mundane religious rituals. Piety is something really deep. It comes from the deepest core of the inside. That love, that fear, that veneration for the Almighty, that strong recognition of your flaws and your utmost effort to improve yourself no matter what. That’s piety! It is deep-rooted. Piety is continuous striving. Are we really striving? Are we really heeding all those beautiful inspiring reminders? Are we?

Evils of the Nafs

“The day whereon neither wealth nor sons will avail, except him who comes to Allah with a clean heart” (Q26: 88-9)

The soul (nafs) is corrupt. Extremely corrupt! In the soul, all kinds of evils on earth reside. Evils which can only be washed away by actual striving – real action! Do you want to know how evil your soul is? Here is what Ibn al-Qayyim (Rahmatullah alayhi) said:

The soul has:
Ø The pride of Satan
Ø The envy of Cain
Ø The insolence and impiety of Ad
Ø The tyranny of Thamud
Ø The boldness of Nimrod
Ø The tendency to attack violently like Fir’aon
Ø The injustice of Qarun
Ø The meanness of Haman
Ø The fancy of Bilam
Ø The trickery of the people of the Sabbath-Breakers
Ø The mutiny of Al-Walid
Ø The ignorance of Abu Jahl.

We’d notice that each of these evils led to the destruction of these people. They were known particularly for it. Yet we cannot deny that as humans, each of these evils reside in each of us. It’s the weakness of our nature. But hey sister! If you possess any of these evil traits, then know that if it could destroy those people, what makes you secured that it cannot destroy YOU too? The best of humans is he who fights against his own self. Now that’s piety!

The soul of man, according to the same Ibn al-Qayyim (rahmatullah alayhi), also took some of the characteristics of the animals.
Ø The greediness of the crow
Ø The gluttony of the dog
Ø The folly of the peacock
Ø The lowliness of the scarab
Ø The disobedience of the lizard
Ø The spite of the camel
Ø The impulsive jumping of the cheetah
Ø The power of the lion
Ø The debauchery of the mouse
Ø The desire to collect and store like ants
Ø The malice of a snake
Ø The frivolity of a monkey
Ø The cunning of a fox
Ø The lightness of a butterfly
Ø The laziness of the hyena.

But through taming and fighting the soul, all these traits will be removed. But whosoever submits to these follies will become their servant and his good self will not be bought by Allah, as Allah says:

“Verily Allah has purchased of the believers their lives.” (At-Tawbah 9:111)

In other words, we’d realize that we have a whole lot of work to do on ourselves, given the number of evils that reside in our souls. So our essence of reading reminders should be to identify what Allah expects of us, recognize our shortcomings, obtain ways of improving, and then ultimately acing upon it. This should be our purpose for seeking knowledge or so to speak “reading”.
Intentions

Although reminders are unavoidably important in the actual sense, but we have to constantly keep in check our intentions. Many times we intend to do something for the sake of Allah, but then, we often don’t realize when that noble intention slips in value to become a habit or a show. A habit which you gain temporary pleasure from, but once it’s out of sight, it’s completely forgotten, or a show to prove ourselves to others while secretly yearning for their admiration or praises.
Reminders help one to re-connect with Allah, to re-establish your taqwa, and to understand better your religion. But be careful in reading just for the sake of a habitual pleasure. Reminders would be just a bunch of words if we honestly don’t put them into action.

Battling your soul is the essence of knowledge
The soul loves to indulge. We love indulgence and pleasure. We all know the good from the bad (or sometimes we don’t). Yet that knowledge would be nothing if not put into action. Imagine all those evils of the nafs listed above all bottled up inside you, if they are not battled against with utter taqwa, then they would eventually lead to one’s destruction, either in this life or Hereafter.

Eventually, no matter how many good religious actions we do, we can NEVER reach the Pleasure of our Lord, until we battle against our nafs. This should be our reason for seeking knowledge and indulging in reminders: To battle the nafs.
Some wise men said: “How strange it is that when a servant of Allah has a problem, he seeks the help of Allah, but he never asks Allah to cure his heart before it dies of ignorance, neglect, fulfilling one’s desires, and being involved in innovations. Indeed when the heart dies, he will never feel the significance or impacts of his sins”. (Extract from Al-Fawaid)

According to the above quotation, it is observed that what actually kills the heart no matter how many reminders we update ourselves with to enjoy or religious rituals that we do, we would never attain the state of Ihsaan as long as we keep on with ignorance; neglect; desires; and innovations.
These four are really dangerous to the soul and are among the greatest eeman-destroyers. They increase the depth and layers of the darkness within us because we have become lost in them. Among them all, I’d love to discuss about IGNORANCE.

IGNORANCE
Many times we do things while we actually think we are being good. We do so many things wrong in our own ignorance, yet we go ahead feeling so proud that yes we are good. Allah says: “This Day, none will be wronged in anything nor will you be requited in anything except that which you used to do.: (Q36:54). A terrible loss it would be, when we die and actually realize that all we’d expected to meet was never even there at all. We’d realize in utter shame that the good deeds we’d thought we were doing were only a mirage or illusion (Na’udhubillah – may Allah save us from that). Unfortunately some people like that have gone but cannot come back. But we are still here, alive and bubbly healthy. So this is why we need knowledge. Of course constant reminders boost knowledge fast, but of what use is the reminder if it cannot help us against our nafs, in getting closer to Allah?

Knowledge is not complete until it is put into action. Although no one is perfect, but we cannot keep hiding under vain hopes. Vain hope is to repent with your tongue expecting Allah’s Mercy when your soul is still contaminated with all the evils in it, without any struggle on your part to fight against them for Allah’s Pleasure. Allah has already said that:

“And We do not change the condition of a people, until they change what is in themselves”…….Q   )

What are your shortcomings?
Search yourself! You know your secrets, and only Allah is a Witness over you. Start identifying your flaws or defects. You know them. Your flaws are the inherent evils of your nafs that’s depriving you from the total worship of Allah. You know them. But beware! Among those shortcomings are some which you are not even aware of. You do not know them, and you are not sure which one of your actions fall into that category. By Allah, this itself is a BIG DISEASE on its own – ignorance to your own defects. That’s the biggest kind of ignorance and you should be worried.

This is why we cannot be proud. This is why we cannot even feel pleased by our deeds. This is why even our heart must not try to praise us when we seem to be doing good deeds. Because we do not know which one of them have been rejected by Allah, or which one of them were actually sins while we thought they were good. So we cannot be proud.  Because the sin (as a result of the ignorance) has been recorded, yet the person remains oblivious and continues to exalt himself and degrade others. Isn’t that an apparent fool? May Allah save us from our own foolishness. Ameen!

So in order to cure this terrible disease called Ignorance, it is imperative to constantly repent to Allah, for both our apparent and hidden sins. Not just repent, but also ask Him for a better future where we can obey Him better. And also pray to alert you to your own ignorance when you err so as to reform yourself. And most importantly: Strive towards the purification of your soul!

Seek knowledge, but not as a habit or a thing of pleasure. Knowledge should be gained to increase your awareness of all it requires to meet your Creator. It should be able to improve you towards excellence, in order to impress your Creator.

Always remember your flaws!
Let not a day pass by without identifying some defects or flaws or diseases in you. When you identify these ailments of your nafs, humility will rush through you, and you’ll see yourself as the most contemptible of all human beings.  You will no longer be able to praise or please yourself, because you have realized the ugliness within you (beneath that beauty that everybody sees). And in remembering this defect in you, and the Greatness of Allah over you, His Punishment for that flaw, you will most certainly submit or turn to Allah in humility, and as well deal with His creations in humility too.
Always walk with the conscious awareness of your flaws in your head – those evils of your nafs that just seem to totally overwhelm, control and dominate you. As you think of them, seek knowledge on how to work on them, and ACT (strive with all might to fight them). In shaa Allah, He will reward you and make it easier for you.


RECAP IN SUMMARY
Do not read just because you are idle. Do not read just because a writer/write –up is highly inspirational and gives you a high emotion as it touches your soul. Read because you want to get closer to Allah. You want to be purified in the Sight of Allah. You want to seek knowledge for His Sake so that you may be better and to improve yourself. Read because you want to know more about those things you do that takes you away from Allah, and the remedies on how to get back to Allah in knowledge and action.

You wonder why some people do dhikr and other apparently religious practices, but yet they enter Hell-Fire due to Allah’s Displeasure towards them. Its because they do not check their hearts. They do not strive against their vain desires. They do not look out for their own flaws and the terrible disease that’s eating their hearts up. In the end, no matter how much outward good deeds they did, their hearts increased in more corruption due to the evils within them which they had not tended to. Eventually, it destroys them.

No matter how much inspiring reminders we read, they would mean nothing if we choose to ignore their messages. Knowledge isn’t for pleasure of the nafs. Knowledge is meant for the reformation and purification of the nafs from its evils. Knowledge isn’t for bragging or boasting. It is for implementation. Thus knowledge shouldn’t be just a habit. No! Anything that is a habit is no longer for the sake of Allah, but rather it has become for the sake of pleasing the nafs.

In other words, ACT! Action is what matters. Be truthful with yourself. One sentence of knowledge implemented is better than a series of bookish knowledge without implementation. So many people have been destroyed despite their apparent religious devotions, simply because they failed to tend to the evil diseases eating them up. Shaitan and many other people whom Allah destroyed are living examples. In other words, be truthful with yourself. You have many flaws each of which keeps manifesting in your life day after day, hour after hour, and moment after moments. Ignorance and pride is what makes one ignore concern for one’s heart. It is better to struggle against your soul’s ailments, striving for Allah’s Sake, than to keep doing many outward good deeds, while the soul is decaying and dying everyday due to the diseases eating it up. So we should be very careful!

So hasten towards doing whatever you are able to do of good. Struggle against your vain desires and the evils of your nafs. There is no time so do not delay. For in the path of struggling towards the purification of your soul, you would find yourself drawing closer to Allah to the point where it just pushes you towards voluntary and apparent acts of worship just in order to be near Him. So if you want to be close to Allah, start from within you.

Make no excuses for yourself today, as “(It would be said in the Hereafter): O you disbelievers! Make no excuses for yourself this Day! You are being requited only for what you used to do” (Q66:7). So make no excuses for yourself today (by being stern with yourself in serious discipline), so that you won’t try to make up any excuses on that Great Day. Take notes when you read in order not to forget. And keep tending to the diseases of your soul, with the Word of Allah. May Allah make it easy for us, and count us among the nafs-mutmainah in His Sight. Ameen!

This reminder is to myself first and foremost, as I am the first to be reproached concerning it. I seek forgiveness from Allah for whatever I may have said that is wrong or untrue or misleading. By Allah, anything good I have said is from Allah, and anything otherwise is from the ignorance of my own self. This is just a humble naseehah (advice) to whoever reads (myself first). And I am not pushing or enforcing my ideas or thoughts on anyone. Many of us may already even know this, so it’s not a new message at all. But the point is we know! Of course we know! But do we take heed? I bet only few of us do that. I am not a scholar or even much of a student of fiqh. So this piece may not be like an ideal dawah material. It is just a piece of advice from my heart. May Allah guide us all to His Pleasure. Ihdinaa siraatal mustaqeem! Assalaamu alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh!

Whoever wants to know what Allah has prepared for him, then, he should look at what he has prepared for Allah”.

1 comment:

  1. Wa Alikum Asalam

    Ma Shaa Allah excellent post and a great reminder and in doing so may we change what is around is in order to achieve the best blessing their is and that is to be closer to allah

    ReplyDelete