Purifying our Hearts at U of T (Jan 10th 2012)

The new semester at the University of Toronto has begun, and with that, our lessons with Shaykh Faraz studying Imam Haddad’s spiritual counsel have started once again. Today’s lesson was specifically about vices of the heart. My notes (though incomplete because I realised today that I’m not very good at listening and writing at the same time) are below.

Why are we studying this? Because “whoever fears the station of their Lord, and rids their soul of its caprice, then Paradise is their abode. This is a conditional statement.

Nothing removes desire from oneself except for fear that makes one uneasy or longing that is painful. (Ibn Ata’illah). Some people say that they prefer love than fear. But the way of love is more difficult than fear. Because one who fears is making an admission of shortcoming whereas love is a claim.

Important to guard the heart. The chest (sadr) is what surrounds the heart.  The fortress of the heart is the chest. This is why Allah says about the Messenger; did we not expand your chest? (94:1) Have to guard thoughts and impulses that come to you because these threaten the soundness of your heart.

Deceit, cheating, all these things go against the way you’re fundamentally supposed to be. All these qualities arise from lacking the basic impulse/attitude believer is supposed to have toward others. Impulse/attitude supposed to have is nasiha: seeking good in relation to others.

Introductory remarks about the vices:

Envy (hasad). Definition:  Wishing for the blessings that another possesses to leave them. For another to lose a blessing they have. Either explicitly wishing it, or implicitly by being upset by their success, or wishing you had the blessing instead.

Pride: look down on others and reject truth. Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said whoever has even a mustard seed of pride will not enter Paradise. Someone who dresses well or enjoys luxuries of life, has more than others. Companions asked Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) about this, and he (peace and blessings be upon him) said: Allah loves to see the traces of His blessings on his servants. 
Rather pride is looking down on others.

Conceit (‘ujb): Seeing oneself and being content with states as if from yourself. One definition: To remember good deeds and forget your faults. To see success and do not see that it’s from Allah, and neglect to take yourself to account. Another definition:  To see good deeds as a lot and to claim ability  (goes back to tawhid principle of laa hawla wa laa quwwatta illa billah, no ability or power except through Allah) Conceit is for the heart to be veiled from seeing Lord.

Why poets caution from saying I: I is a barrier between you and Allah. If want to check good calligraphy is to check alif. If not straight, doesn’t matter how pretty it appears to you, not good calligraphy.

These four vices are mentioned because these are the greatest of harms.

Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was asked, who are the best of people? Response: One with guarded heart. Guarded heart is a pious, pure heart, that does not have deceit or rebellious (toward Allah) nor rancor or envy toward people.

How to attain such a heart?

Ibn Ata’: that the soundness of one’s breast is attained by standing firm on the realization of certitude (the realities of the Qur’an). So through the realization of certitude the heart attains this quality of soundness.

Further details on envy:

Envy eats good deeds like fire consumes wood. Deeds are in accordance to benefit and harm and nothing harms human relations like envy. Deen is nasiha.  The Prophet (peace and blessings told us that truly religion is sincere concern. Truly religion is sincere concern. Truly religion is sincere concern.

All the things that cause envy are blameworthy. Caused by enmity or thinking yourself better than others, or conceit, or because you have a desire for leadership and standing and when see others gaining facilitation to standing and recognition, you are troubled. Or out of fear of missing what is beloved to one because others got them. All go against basic realizations of tawhid, that Allah is the Giver, Allah is Generous, that Allah answers. Instead of envy, right adab is to pray that Allah bless others in something, and then to also ask for the same. Also, when one is praying for others, better to begin by praying for someone’s worldly benefits (health, family etc) before religious benefits, because to start with duas for religious life (ex: Oh Allah, make so and so sincere, guide so and so) can seem like you are putting the other person down. Prophet would always make dua for people’s worldly good and religious good. Like Sayyidna Anas (Allah be pleased with him), Prophet prayed for his long life, his wealth, children. And Sayyidna Anas (Allah be pleased with him) had much wealth, had so many children that lost count, and lived past hundred.

Be o servants of God: brethren. The mu’min is the brother of another. Brother is one who cares for you, who stands up for you.

People only turn away from religion because of how little they see their own people benefiting from it.

Spread the salaams. Not just incidental salaams, but anyone that you had negative relationship with or had something, keep sending salaams.
Call them up, send text message. Don’t just say words, intend the messages.

Arrogance (kibr)  Pride is an inward state. Conceit arises from it. Prevents from paradise.

Hadith Qudsi: Haughtiness is My cloak, and tremendousness is My garment. And whoever vies with me for it, I destroy them.

Meant as a metaphor. Pride which comes down to the self affirmation of greatness, is Allah’s alone. Allahu Akbar. Having pride is the first slip of creation. Iblis. Tremendousness belongs to Allah, but Allah affirms it for those who turn to him. Have to be aware of signs of kibr in conduct.

Implicit signs: what you expect from other people. Ex: what we expect from parents. Ex: what did you cook, why didn’t you do that? Because you think you have some standing that should be considered. One of the central causes of anger is arrogance. Because expect things to be a particular way for you. Sign that anger for sake of Allah is that it is expressed in ways pleasing to Allah. One channels it in the right way.

Humility.

Be content with humility as your distinguishing trait for it is the trait of the foremost. Definition: Being humble is to lower oneself from its standing and abase it by forcing it to surrender and obey the truth. This is the conventional usage but deficient. Not reality of humility. Humility is accepting the truth with good character.

Follow the righteous.  The Prophet would praise past people for their virtues. (ex: Hilful Fudul) One looks up to virtues. Wish the good for people, but also see the good in them. (Think of Surah Fatiha and its dua to be guided as the people who Allah is pleased with were guided)  In the Qur’an it is mentioned: O you who believe. Have taqwa and be with those rightly guided.

Keys to acquiring good character:

Part of acquiring good character is keeping good company and having exemplars and also looking at the good of others in relationships. It is also important to benefit from all kinds of company. One way you benefit on errors of others is by reflecting on them. See someone praying hastily, and think I sometimes do that.

Sayyida Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) was really cool. She had an attitude of good and scholars have written books on Sayyida’s Aisha’s objections. Sayyida Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) said:  You are heedless of the best of worship in this life; humility. Best of worship because humility was the 
distinguishing quality of Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).

Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would carry his own meat. (quite a task, wasn’t in plastic bags) He (peace and blessings be upon him) would go around in market and buy things. And market was a messy place. He would at home express that humility.
 The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was in the need of his family. He used to help them with his chores, he would tie down the animals, he would clean the house, he would milk the sheep, he would repair  his sandals, he would eat with his servants, he would shake hands with both poor and wealthy, (And remember the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was from the Quraysh, who were aristocrats), and he would be with the poor and children. His was a humility with honour and strength.

Note: Sunnah for a servant to be treated like anyone else in family. Disliked for them to eat away from everyone.

Reminder: too many people focused on Islam, the primacy should be on Allah. Islam is a means. The analogy is being obsessed with one’s cutlery and not paying attention to the meal. So much of dawah falls short because of this. Unless centre it on Allah, can be difficult to understand the tenets of Islam (fasting, zakat, praying five times a day, pilgrimage to Makkah etc)

Satisfaction:

For many of people have been held back and they have not sought the acquisition of high virtue, and sufficed themselves with my family used to..” (lines of the poem)

True satisfaction: when one finds the good, ascribes it to Allah and praises Allah. Recognizing the good as being from Allah gives you a responsibility to direct that blessing to what is facilitated

Book references: The Graves of Tarim (University Berkeley Press)

Oppose the self and feel its enmity. Refuse your caprice and what it chooses, turn away from. (lines of the poem)

Nafs is the sum of one’s desires. 
Base impulse of self is harmful. Self is ever commanding to wrong (Surah Yusuf: verse 53)

Book reference: Degrees of the Soul: al-Shabrawi.

You: A Guide

1)   Nafs (lower self): That’s not you.
2)   Hawa (caprice)
3)   Aql (intellect) : discerns
4)   Qalb (heart)
5)   Ruh (soul)

Refinement:
1)   Seek Allah: Have a goal in life. Guide us to the straight path, which has a destination
2)   Nurturing Faith (iman)
3)   Rooting piety (taqwa)
4)   Seeking beneficial knowledge
5)   Spiritual routines that seek to do with excellence
6)   Good company
7) Service. Nothing tests your sincerity like service. If try and serve, will realize most people are not thankful. If respond in the right way, will polish you. Also, should always have some service between you and Allah that nobody else finds out about. Underlying concern should be of benefit.

Note: Comfort conjoined with thankfulness is better than toil accompanied with self consequence.

The Spiritual Path.

Al-Junayd: True spirituality is not by saying and quoting, rather it is hungering (fasting), and leaving worldliness and one’s habits and likes for that which is pleasing to Allah.

Al-Hiyari: whowever establishes the sunna on themselves in words and actions will speak with wisdom. Opposite is true as well.

Amr ibn Uthman: “Knowledge is a guide. And fear leads one forward and self is rebellious between these two. Shepherd yourself with diplomacy. Giving it all it wants is harmful but keeping all it wants from it isn’t helpful either.

Can’t win war on self. Any war needs a battle plan Do things gradually. Have a routine. Every day do three things, four, five, things to oppose one’s desires.

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