Sufi Teachings & Anecdotes


VICES AND METHODS OF CLEANSING ONE’S SELF FROM THEM

Things that harm men in this world and in the next are due to vices. The essence of man’s spiritual loss is his having vices. Man’s avoidance of vices is called taqwâ. Taqwâ is the most precious of all worships. Decorating something requires that the thing first should be cleansed from all dirt and stain. Similarly, neither any reward (thawâb) will be given nor any benefit will occur for the worships unless the man who does those worships cleanses himself from the sin. The worst of all vices is disbelief (kufr). The good deeds of a person who does not have belief will not bear any fruit for him in the Hereafter. [A disbeliever who is killed unjustly does not become a martyr and will not go to Paradise.] The foundation of all virtues is taqwâ. One should try hard to obtain taqwâ and advise others to do the same. Living in this world peacefully with others and obtaining the best of eternal blessings could only be accomplished by having taqwâ.

Vices cause disease in the heart or soul. Any increase in this disease will cause the death of the soul, i.e. it will cause kufr. Disbelief (shirk), which is the worst of all vices, is a fatal poison of the soul. Some people who do not have belief claim: “My heart (spiritual) is clean. You should look at my heart.” Their claim is no more than empty words. A dead heart cannot be clean.There are many types of disbelief. The worst of all is polytheism. Any variety of a certain vice is mostly specified with its most outstanding characteristic. For that matter, the word shirk used in âyat-i-kerîmas [1] and in (our blessed Prophet’s utterances termed) hadîth-i-sherîfs represents all sorts of kufr (disbelief). Allâhu ta’âlâ, in the 48th and 116th âyats of the Sûra Nisâ of the Qur’ân states that He will never forgive the polytheists (mushriks). These verses point out that disbelievers will burn forever in the Hell fire.

[“Shirk” means to attribute partners to Allâhu ta’âlâ. A person who does the attributing is called a polytheist and the thing which is attributed is called partner (sharîk). To believe that someone possesses one of the attributes of Divinity means to make him a partner (sharîk). The attributes possessed exclusively by Allâhu ta’âlâ are called “Attributes of Divinity.”Some Divine Attributes are the following: Existing eternally, creating, all knowing, and healing the sick. To believe that a human being or the sun or a cow or any other creature possesses a divine attribute, and thus to respect or beg that being or creature, is called to worship them. Those things become an idol. To say words that mean deification of such people or to speak respectfully before statues, pictures or graves of disbelievers assumed to be possessing divine attributes means to worship them and therefore it is polytheism. If one believes that a person does not possess a divine attribute but instead he is a person loved by Allâhu ta’âlâ or alternately if one believes that that person has served his nation much and therefore deserves respect, paying respect to his statues or pictures is not disbelief or polytheism.Nevertheless, since paying respect to any person’s picture is forbidden (harâm), anyone doing so becomes a sinner (fâsiq). If he slights the fact that it is forbidden, he will become an apostate (murtad), and so will those who flout a prohibited action (harâm). Since those Jews and Christians who are not “mushriks” do not believe in the prophethood of Muhammad ‘alaihis-salam’, they are disbelievers. They are called “Disbelievers with a heavenly book.” Presently, most Christians are polytheists because they attribute divinity to prophet “Îsâ”, that is, Jesus ‘alaihis-salam’. Christians belonging  to the sects of Barnabas and Arius (Arians) were among the People of the Book. However, they have not survived to the present time.

The second worst disease of the soul after shirk is to hold and practise (heretical beliefs which are called) bid’at, which is followed by looseness in abstaining from sins, in the order of evil. A person who dies without making tawba [1] for venial or grave sins other than disbelief may be forgiven by Allâhu ta’âlâ either through intercession (shafâ’at) or directly by His Mercy. If a venial sin is not forgiven then there will be punishment in Hell.

Sins that involve violating rights of other human beings will not be forgiven easily. Most likely, people who commit them will be punished more severely. For example, not giving wife’s due money (mahr) regarding the marriage contract or prohibiting human beings from learning their correct religion, which is their right (haqq), is the gravest gross violation of human rights. 

Rasûlullah ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sal-lam’ stated as follows: “A time will come when people will not care whether they earn the money by permissible (halâl) means or not,” and“A time will come when practicing Islam will be as difficult as holding a fire ball with bare hands.” Therefore, to avoid committing all prohibited actions (harâms) and those actions that are called makrûh tahrîmî (because they are quite close to harâms) is (taqwâ). Not to perform obligatory duties (fards)and strongly recommended actions (wâjibs)is forbidden (harâm). According to some information, not performing “muakkad Sunnats,” i.e., acts of worship which our blessed Prophet practised regularly, without an excuse, is strongly disliked (makrûh tahrîmî). People who do not carry out commandments of Islam with respect to belief (i’tiqâd), ethics (akhlâq), and deeds (’amal) will be punished. Logically, one must avoid doing things that will cause punishment. For example, not performing five daily “salâts” and women’s and girls’ not covering themselves is a grave sin. It would be a strong requirement for one to abstain from the grave sin by performing the five daily “salâts.” Nevertheless, in this book, we will not deal with the subject matter regarding the things that must not be omitted; instead, we will communicate  the things that should be avoided, i.e., prohibited actions and vices.

 

The things we should not do (prohibited actions) are committed either with a particular organ or with the entire body. The following eight organs are very well known for committing sins: spiritual heart, ears, eyes, tongue, hands, stomach, sexual organs, and feet. The spiritual heart (qalb) is a spiritual grace blown upon the material heart of human beings. It is incorporeal, not made of matter, like the soul. These organs themselves do not commit the sin. The sensing power of these organs commits the sin. Anyone who wants to attain happiness in this world and the next must prevent these organs from committing sins. The spiritual heart has to be developed into a state wherein not committing sins will be its natural habit (malaka). Anyone who can achieve this state is called Allah-fearing (muttaqî)or pious (sâlih) person. He has now attained Allâhu ta’âlâ’s love and approval and become Walî [2] to Him. It would also be piety [taqwâ] to avoid sins by exerting yourself without its becoming the heart’s natural habit. Yet being a Walî regulates its being a natural habit not to commit sins, which in turn requires purifying the heart. And to purify the heart requires obedience to the rules of Islam. Islam consists of three parts: knowledge (’ilm), practice (’amal), and sincerity (ikhlâs). (1) To learn the knowledge teaching the commandments, i.e., Fards, Wâjibs, Sunnats, and forbidden actions (harâms and makrûhs), (2) To practise them in accordance with this knowledge, and (3) To do them only for the sake of Allâhu ta’âlâ. The Qur’ân al-kerîm commands and praises all these three parts. In this book, we will only communicate those sins that are to be abstained from in order to cleanse the heart. They are called vices, unethical behavior, or immoral acts.

 

[1]  Verses of the Qur’ân al-kerîm

[2] Penitence; to make tawba means to repent for your sin(s), to beg Allâhu ta’âlâ for forgiveness, and to be resolved not to commit the same sin(s) again.

 

UNETHICAL BEHAVIOR OR IMMORALITY AND ITS REMEDY

A Muslim as a first priority should strive to cleanse his (spiritual) heart because heart is the leader of the body and all organs are under its command. Our Prophet Muhammad ‘sallAllâhu ’alaihi wa sal-lam’ once said: “There is a piece of flesh in the human body. If this is good, all the organs will be good. If this  is evil, all the organs will be evil. This piece of flesh is the heart.”

 

What is described in this hadîth is not the physical heart but the spiritual heart which is located in the physical heart. The goodness of the flesh, as explained above, means its being cleansed from vices and its assimilation of good morals (virtues). The physical appearance of a human being is called (khalq). The power or state that exists in the heart is called habits (khulq). Vices in the heart are called “maladies of the heart” or unacceptable morals (akhlâq al-zamîma). Their cure is a very difficult task. Correct treatment requires extremely sophisticated knowledge about the maladies and correct methodology to apply this knowledge. Habits are the faculties (malakas) or states or desires in the heart. It is this power in the spiritual heart which generates man’s belief, words, actions. His optional behaviour also is the work of (this power which is called his) khulq.

Changing or transforming the state of the heart from undesirable, unwanted, unacceptable morals or habits to
desirable, good habits is possible. Our Prophet ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sallam’ once said, “Improve your morals (habits or character).”Islam does not contain commandments that cannot be accomplished. Experiences also show that this is the case. [Experience is only one of the three true-knowledge acquirement methods. The other two true-knowledge acquirement-methods are understanding through calculation and information passed to us by our Prophet.] Human beings do not share equal abilities to correct their unacceptable, deficient morals. Origin or source or fountain of morals is three powers inherent in the human soul. The first one is the power of understanding (comprehension) of the soul. This is also called “nutq”or wisdom (’aql). The first and second powers of “nutq” are theoretical knowledge (hikmat al-nazarî) and practical knowledge (hikmat al-’amalî) respectively. Theoretical knowledge which exists in average proportions is called reason (hikmat). Reason is the power that differentiates between virtue and vice; right and wrong; and good and evil. A state of excess in this power is termed jarbaza(the state of being a wiseacre). A person who suffers from this excess tries to understand things beyond comprehension. For example, he tries to interpret verses of the Qur’ân with hidden or metaphorical meanings (mutashâbîh âyats) or talks about fate and destiny or occupies himself with futile pursuits such as deceit, trickery, and sorcery. Conversely, inadequacy of this power is termed idiocy (balâdat). A person suffering from this inadequacy cannot differentiate between vice and virtue. When the practical power of nutq (wisdom) exists in an average intensity, this state is called justice (’adâlat). There cannot be paucity or plentitude in justice.

The second power of the sources of morals is wrath (ghadab). It is the bestial aspect of the soul. Things which it dislikes and loathes stir its blood. When this force is subdued to a reasonable intensity by the human aspect of the soul, it develops into bravery (shajâ’at), which prompts man to practical and useful enterprises. Examples of this are Muslims’ fighting against disbelievers whose numbers are more than double theirs and their saving the oppressed from their oppressors. An excess in this force is tahawwur, which causes aggressiveness. A person with this temperament becomes angry fast. If this power exists in less than average proportions, it is called cowardice (jubn). A person having this character will not be able to attempt to do the necessary actions. The third power of the human soul is appetite (shahwat). It is the bestial soul’s desiring the things that it likes. The human aspect of the soul mollifies this desire into what we call chastity (iffat), or honor. A person who has chastity gratifies the needs of his nature in a manner prescribed by Islam and compatible with humanity. Excess in this is called greed or debauchery (sharah). A person having this character tries to obtain all his desires and wishes without regard to laws or others’ rights. When appetite is less than average proportions in one’s nature, it causes a lazy character (humûd). A person with this character will not even try to get things that are necessary for himself either because of his extreme sense of shame, fear or pride, or because of his (psychological) illness. The aforesaid four temperate forces, i.e. hikmat (reason), ’adâlat (justice), iffat (chastity), and shajâ’at (bravery), are the essence of all virtues. When a person adapts himself to hikmat, which is one of the three forces of the soul, he overcomes the other two forces of the bestial soul, i.e., ghadab and shahwat, and attains happiness by developing these two excesses into iffat (chastity) and shajâ’at (bravery). If the theoretical force of wisdom fails to abide by hikmat, which is its temperate degree, and overflows unto either one of the vicious extremities, vices will appear. All six extremities are always evil. In fact, even the four temperate forces are evil when they are employed for evil purposes. Examples of employing hikmat for evil purposes are: to go into a religious career for the purpose of an easy competence or a high position, and to perform (the daily prayers termed) namâz or (the struggle for the promulgation and propagation of Islam, which should be done only to please Allâhu ta’âlâ and which is termed) jihâd for ostentation. On the other hand, abstention from a certain kind of pleasure in order to gratify one’s desire to enjoy another kind of pleasure would be a good example of misusing iffat. Each of the four main virtues is recognized by their attributes. For example, wisdom has seven attributes. Bravery and chastity have eleven attributes each.

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REMEDY FOR THE VICES: A medicine that would be a common cure for all the vices is the recognition of the illness and things that are harmful to it, its cause, its opposite case, as well as effects of the medicine. The next step would be the diagnosis of the illness, which is done either by self-research or under the supervision of a guide, i.e. an ’âlim (a deeply learned Islamic scholar). A Believer is another Believer’s mirror. Self-diagnosis of one’s faults is a difficult task. A recommendable way of knowing your own faults, therefore, would be to consult with a dependable friend. A faithful friend is one who will protect you against dangers and fearful situations. Such a friend is hard to come by. It is to this effect that Imâm Shâfi’î ‘rahmatullâhi ’aleyh’ stated:

A staunch friend and true medicine, Are hard to find, waste not your time.

And Hadrat ’Umar ‘radiy-Allâhu ’anh’ stated:

My friend’s warned me about my fault, This is the true essence of brotherhood.

Since your adversaries will always be seeking ways for criticizing you, they will fling your shortcomings to your teeth once they find them. Such inimical comments therefore can be exploited as efficient references to learn about your faults. Good friends, by contrast, will mostly be inclined to overlook your faults. One day, someone begged Hadrat Ibrâhîm Ad-ham, (a great Islamic scholar and a Walî,) to tell him about his faults and shortcomings. “I have made a friend of you. So, all your manners and ways appear nice to me. Ask someone else about your faults,” was the great scholar’s reply. Another way of recognizing your shortcomings is to observe others’ faults. When you observe others’ faults, you should try and see if you have the same fault(s), and, if you see that you do, you should try to get rid of them. This way of identifying vices is another method for curing the vices and is the meaning of the following hadîth, “A Believer (Mu’min) is a mirror of another Believer.”In other words, you identify your own faults in others’ faults. When Jesus (Îsâ ‘alaihis-salâm’) was asked who he had learned his virtues from, he answered: “I did not learn them from anyone. I looked at others, observed the things I did not like and I avoided doing the same, copying and imitating the things I liked.” When the famous doctor Lokman was asked who he had learned manners from, he replied, “From people without manners!” Reading about the biographies and episodes of Islamic luminaries, such as the (blessed people called) Salaf as-sâlihîn, the Sahâba, and other Awliyâ ‘rahmatullâhi ’alaihim ajma’în’, is another way of forming good habits.

 

A person who has a vice should search for the reason (cause) of his contracting that vice. He should try to eliminating this cause and then try to get rid of it by doing its opposite. He should try very hard to do the opposite of the vice for getting rid of it. For, getting rid of a vice is very difficult. The nafs loves evil and ugly things. Another useful medicine for getting rid of vices is to establish a method of retribution. For example, when one commits a vice, immediately afterwards, one should do some action one’s nafs does not like. A good way of accomplishing this is to take an oath. Namely, one should take an oath to the effect that if one commits a vice, one will do extra goodness such as giving alms, fasting or performing salâts. Since one’s nafs never likes to do extra prayers, one will stop committing vices. Another useful medicine is reading or hearing from others about those vices which produce harmful results. Many hadîths inform us about the harms of vices. Some of them are:

1–“In the sight of Allâhu ta’âlâ, there is no sin graver than vices.”For, those who commit vices are not aware that they are  committing sins. Therefore, they do not repent for their sins so that their sins accumulate and increase many folds.

2– “The one sin which human beings commit without any hesitation or reservation is being a person with vices.”

3– “There is a repentance for every sort of sin but there is none for vices. Instead of repenting for a certain vice, the offender commits something worse.”

4– “As hot water melts an ice cube, likewise virtues melt mistakes and errors. As vinegar destroys honey, likewise vices destroy rewards (thawâbs) for good deeds.”

Justice (’adalat), chastity (iffat), bravery (shajâ’at) and wisdom (hikmat), when they are not used with evil intentions are the sources of all virtues. One should associate with pious (sâlih) and good-natured people in order to be a good-natured person or to protect one’s virtues. A person’s akhlâq will be like his companion’s habits. Akhlâq is contagious like a disease. One should not make friends with ill-humoured people. It is stated as follows in a hadîth-i-sherîf: “A person’s faith will be like his companion’s.” One should shun from useless occupations and games, harmful jokes, and quarrels. One should learn knowledge and do useful deeds. One should not read books that undermine one’s morals or which promotes sex and should not watch television programs or listen to radio programs destructive of moral values or which arouse sexual desires. One should constantly remind oneself of the benefits of virtues and harmful effects of Islam’s prohibitions and the punishment they will incur in Hell. None of the pursuers of wealth and position has attained his wish.However, those who have wanted rank and worldly possessions to do good deeds with them have lived comfortably and happily. Worldly ranks and possessions should not be one’s goals but instead they should be vehicles to do goodness to others.

Worldly ranks and possessions are like an ocean and many people are drowned in that ocean. Fear of Allâhu ta’âlâ is the ship which one needs to survive in that ocean. Our Prophet ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sallam’ once said, “One should live in the world not like a permanent resident but like a traveler, and should never forget that he will die!”Human beings will not live in this world forever. When one is absorbed in worldly pleasures, one’s troubles, worries and distress will increase. The following hadîths should never be forgotten:

1– “A slave of Allâhu ta’âlâ who has not performed many acts of worship will have high grades in the Hereafter if he has good morals.”

2– “The easiest and the most useful worship is to talk little and to be a good-natured person.”
3– “A slave of Allâhu ta’âlâ may have many worships but, his evil humour will deliver him into the depths of hell. It will sometimes lead him into disbelief.”
4– It is reported that once the Sahâba ‘radiy-Allâhu ’anhum’ told of a very devout worshipper to the Messenger of Allah ‘sallAllâhu ’alaihi wa sal-lam’. That person was spending his days fasting and his nights praying, yet he was bad tempered. Rasûlullah ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sal-lam’ answered, “It is not a good state. His destination will be Hell fire.”
5– “I was sent to complement the virtues and to help people so that they may assimilate these virtues.”The virtues also existed in the previously sent monotheistic religions. Islam was sent to complement those virtues. Since this religion exists with all the good commandments and habits, there is no need for another source to inform us regarding the virtues. Therefore, no other prophet will come after the Prophet Muhammad ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sallam’.
6– “A good-natured person will attain both worldly and next worldly happiness.” A person with virtues performs his obligations toward Allâhu ta’âlâ and His creatures.
7– “Hell fire will not burn a person who has a good nature and a beautiful physical appearance.”
8– “To be good-natured means to keep close to (and to be in good terms with)those who keep away from you, to forgive those who have hurt you, and to be generous to those who have been miserly toward you.”A good-natured person will do goodness to those who keep cross with him or he will forgive those who harm his honor or hurt him physically or materially.
9– “Allâhu ta’âlâ will fill the heart of a person with belief and trustworthiness if he treats others with soft manners angry as he may be.”He will have no fears or anxieties. The best of all virtues is to do goodness to people who treat you improperly. This behavior is a sign of maturity and it converts your enemies into friends. Imâm Ghazâlî ‘rahmatullâhi ’aleyh’ says that he has read the following statements in the Injîl(Bible), which was revealed to Îsâ (Jesus) ‘alaihis-salâm’: “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” “And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.” (Matt: 5-39,40) 

 

Books inform us about the cruelties, oppression and torture of Muslims and Jews by Christians in Spain during the Spanish inquisitions, in India, in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Jerusalem as well as against each other by the Inquisition courts. Their uncivilized behavior proves that they are not following the true teachings of the Injîl.
Every Muslim should get rid of vices residing in his heart and replace them with virtues. One cannot be a good-natured person by replacing a few vices with a few good ones. A Sufi order is the path which makes one attain maturity, i.e., perfection in all virtues. [A path that cannot provide this maturity cannot be called a Sufi path. As it often happens, there are sham practitioners in every field of endeavor. Likewise, there are some in the field of knowledge and Sufi Path (tarîqat)who represent themselves as shaikhs (spiritual guides). In reality, they know nothing about the real Islam and beautiful moral teachings of Islam. We should avoid these types and their traps.]

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