Purifying our Hearts at U of T (Session 1 with Shaykh Faraz Rabbani)

Today was the first session of Shaykh Faraz’s Purification of the Heart class at the University of Toronto, and you could literally feel the excitement in the air before the class began. The turnout was great, the class was excellent, and everyone commented how lovely it is to have a class downtown in such an accessible space. (Though alhamidullah I’ve been in Toronto for more than a year now,  there are days where I can’t quite get over the blessings in this city, and today was definitely one of those days). I never imagined having such easy access to scholars during my undergraduate years in Vancouver. Many thanks to the MSA and Shaykh Faraz for creating such a lovely learning opportunity! For those not in town, parts of my notes are below.

  1. There are many definitions of spirituality (over 200!) and each definition highlights a different aspect of spirituality. The central concern of spirituality is purification of the heart.
  2. Important verse to remember often and even put on your wall to remind yourself is Surah 33, verse 21: “Truly you have in the Messenger of Allah the most beautiful of examples for whoever longs for Allah and the last day and makes much remembrance of Allah.
  3. This verse teaches us our goal (longing for Allah and the Last Day) and whatever we’re doing, whether smelling a rose, studying at uni, making coffee, whatever it is, we should seek Allah and the Last Day. The verse also teaches us the means to our goal is the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) and it teaches us that we are on a journey of making much remembrance of Allah. The point of the path is the destination, and each person will find what they seek.
  4. So spirituality has goals, means and methods. This is not simply an academic exercise, this is religious teaching. Purpose is not religious information, it is guidance meant to transform you.
  5. Imam Ahmad Zarruq, who is often called the Ghazali of North Africa, said that spirituality is “truly turning to Allah, as He has commanded, in ways that are most pleasing to Him.
  6. Imam Suyuti said spirituality is “turning one’s heart completely to Allah and deeming all else paltry in comparison”
  7. When the Angel Jibril asked: “So tell me about the spiritual excellence (ihsan). He (peace and blessings be upon him) replied: “Spiritual excellence is to submit to Allah as though you behold Him. And if you behold Him not, then to know that He beholds you.
  8. We cannot simply decide to reach these states though, these states are the fruits of spiritual striving. States are consequent upon striving in a particular way to a clear end. So hope for high state, and if fall short, be conscious that He beholds you.
  9. Ihsan is doing something with virtue, doing something with a beautiful manner.
  10. From the Hadith of Electhood, we learn that spirituality is fulfillment of obligations and striving in supererogatory works. If you think of the metaphor of a court, who is in greater danger, the one who makes claims of love and makes false claims, or the person who has not attempted to make claims of love? If make a claim, have to think about where is the proof. If can do path with resolve and determination, do so.
  11. Spirituality has three aspects, knowledge, action and states. Need all three, knowledge, outward action and inward states.
  12. There are two aspects: you turning to Allah with excellence, and Allah turning to you with His Favour.
  13. Difference between true spirituality and false spirituality. True spirituality is about Allah. False spirituality is about you, about self reform, about self improvement. Similiarly there is false love which is where one is either in love with love itself, or with themselves, and there is true love, where you are in love with beloved. Some people love but it is all about themselves.
  14. Should strive to have heart that is completely upright in love of God.
  15. Reflect on the hadith of intention. “Actions are by intentions. And each person shall have what they intended”. (Bukhari and Muslim)  The two most important words in the hadith are the words by and whatever. We see this in the second part of the hadith which is: “So whoever’s migration is to Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) their migration is indeed to Allah and His Messenger.” The important thing is that a physical migration from Makkah to Madinah is being described in the hadith as being to Allah and His Messenger due to intention.
  16. Remember: Actions are lifeless forms whose life-giving spirit is the secret of sincerity within them.
  17. Allah is telling us to aim high because a person will have whatever they intended. So in anything, seek Allah’s love, acceptance and pleasure. To praise Allah when drinking and eating is a beloved action. Everything we do and every aspect of our lives,  should do sincerely for sake of Allah. Should seek to have heart pure of the qualities that distance us from Allah.
  18.  Spirituality is concerned with perfection and excellence, fiqh is about validity
  19. Seeker needs four things: adherence to principles, true aspiration, longing, and leaving all that holds you back (habits that disadvantage you, sins that darken heart for example)
  20. Shaykh Faraz summary: This is a high way: following what is best, adhering to the true form and spirit of the sunnah, according to the way of the early Muslims; learning and living beneficial knowledge, in the best of ways; seeking Allah in all matters, His closeness and good pleasure.
  21. Best you can seek is what He seeks from you in the moment He has placed you in.

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