What is the adorning the heart?
“As Allah gives life to soil trough rain,
He gives life to the hearts through the light of wisdom.” (Haythami, I, 125)
Even though protecting our soul from spiritual diseases is necessary and should not be stopped during the spiritual training of our hearts, it is not enough. Spiritual training is not just an act of preventing one from distancing from one’s goal but also an act of getting closer to and achieving perfection. This is why all kinds of spiritual beauties, which may help to achieve the goal, should step (word unclear) in the training of the heart. Such beauties can be obtained by certain instruments. It is stated in a verse:
“O mankind there has come to you a direction from your Lord and a healing for the (diseases) in your hearts, and for those who believe Guidance and a mercy.
The “healing” character of the Qur’an is mentioned in several verses. (al-Isra 17; 82, Fussilat 41; 44) Therefore, the Word of Allah is the most trustworthy source for not just cleansing the heart from negative attributes but also adorning it with spiritual beauties.
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) states that his tradition is also among the contents of Islam, which needs to be followed and no concessions should be made in obedience to the Qur’an and the Prophetic Sunnah. This is expressed in the following saying of the Prophet (pbuh):
“The sources of lawfulness are two: the Qur’an and the Sunnah. The best speech is that embodied in the Book of Allâh , and the best guidance is the guidance given by Muhammad. The most evil affairs are their innovations; and every innovation is an error. Beware! Do not let your wishes and desires become too strong and make you forget your death. Otherwise your hearts will get hardened …” (Ibn Majah, Muqaddimah, 7)
One of the important reasons for the heart becoming hardened and inflicted with diseases like hypocrisy, heedlessness, grudges, and jealousy is to be deprived from necessary knowledge. However, it should not be forgotten that knowledge according to Islam should not be mere knowledge. On the contrary, it has to be a phenomenon changing and improving one’s life. This is why Allah the Almighty likens those who have knowledge but get no benefit from it to donkeys bearing books. (al-Jum’a 62; 5) The healing characteristic of the Qur’an and Sunnah can be attained if the requirements of their instructions are fulfilled. In other words, the gates of the soul have to be opened for Divine instructions. Then our spiritual life will be cleansed from spiritual diseases and at the same time will be adorned with good manners by turning these instructions into good deeds. It is certain that a heart with this characteristic will be raised to a position that is valued by Allah the Almighty, inspired to the angels and loved by everyone on earth and in the heavens.
However, not everybody has the means and time to learn and understand the instructions of the Qur’an and the Sunnah fully and then apply them in their lives. We believe that the best solution for such people is to join the ranks of pious and sincere scholars who have the necessary religious knowledge and follow their path because after the completion of the institution of the prophethood the task to convey the message of Allah has been given to the religious scholars. In fact, this is stated in a saying of the Prophet (pbuh) as: “the learned are the heirs of the Prophets.” (Abu Dawud, ‘Ilm, 1; Tirmidhi, ‘Ilm, 19) In this context, it was narrated by the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) that the prophet Luqman (A.S) gave the following advice to his son:
“O Son! Be with the learned men and try not to leave them. Listen to the words of the wise. As Allah gives life to soil trough rain, He gives life to the hearts through the light of wisdom.” (Haythami, I, 125)
After this brief introduction, we may now begin to discuss the main beauties emphasized by the Qur’an and the Sunnah for the spiritual training of the heart.
The term “iman” lexically means “to trust in,” “to make or be trustworthy,” and “to reach confidence and peace.” It also means “to confirm or verify something”; because one who confirms somebody shows his confidence in him. From this perspective true believers both experience the safety and peace of their faith and give trust to others.
Regarding its terminological meaning, Muslim scholars have been given various definitions. Some scholars have defined it as “to confirm by heart;” some others have said that it is “to confirm by the heart and profess by the tongue.” Some others considered the five basic principles of Islam in their definition. (Maturidi, p. 373 et seq.) “Confirming by heart” is the common point of these definitions. As expressed in the tradition of Gabriel, it is required to believe in Allah, in that there is no god but Him, in Muhammad is His servant and Messenger, in His angels, in His books, in the Last Day, in the Divine Decree and that good and evil is from Allah the Almighty. (Bukhari, Iman, 37; Muslim, Iman, 1)
The Holy Qur’an expresses the necessity of confirmation by the heart and the insufficiency of obedience in appearance as follows: “The desert Arabs say, “We believe.” Say, “You have no Faith; but you (only) say, ‘We have submitted our wills to Allah,’ for not yet has Faith entered your hearts…” (al-Hujurat 49; 14)
Faith is the state of heart that has reached complete trust. This is why there should be no doubt or supposition in the heart. Thus, real and doubt free trust in Allah and in that everything came from Him can only be achieved by fully believing in His signs. The following verse emphasizes that true faith means unshakable and doubtless confirmation:
“Only those are Believers who have believed in Allah and His Messenger, and have never since doubted, but have striven with their belongings and their persons for the Cause of Allah: such are the sincere ones.” (al-Hujurat 49; 15)
After true faith enters a heart, it is not something to be locked in. On the contrary, after it settles, it becomes a power that stimulates the heart and leads the actions and behavior. The following verse attracts our attention to this aspect of faith:
“They only are the (true) believers whose hearts feel fear when Allah is mentioned, and when the revelations of Allah are recited unto them they increase their faith, and who trust in their Lord.” (Al-Anfal; 2)
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) points to the sensitivity of the believers saying: “There would enter Paradise people whose hearts would be like those of the hearts of birds.” (Muslim, Jannah, 27)
On the other hand, in Islam the relationship of faith goes beyond the relationship of blood. Believers are ordered to befriend the unbelievers even if they are their relatives. (al-Tawba, 9; 23, al-Mujadalah 59; 22) Their legal responsibilities towards such people should be fulfilled but they cannot share the love of a believer’s heart. (al-Nisa 4; 135, al-Maidah 5; 8) Therefore, Islam proposes an association of consciousness rather than a relationship of blood based on the principle stated in the verse: “The Believers are but a single Brotherhood…” (al-Hujurat 49; 10) The order of Allah “And lower your wing (in kindness) unto those believers who follow you” (al-Shuara 26; 215) points out the closeness that should exist amongst believers.
This is why Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) dealt with believers sensitively. Everybody who declared his faith found himself under the Prophet’s safe shelter. He would avoid all negative behavior towards believers; he would not even allow any negative talk against his Companions. And he said in this regard:
“None of my Companions must tell me anything about anyone, for I like to deal with you with no ill-feelings.” (Abu Dawud, Adab, 28; Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 63)
Once the Prophet (pbuh) told a group of his Companions who were talking man named Malik b. Dukhshum:
“Does Malik b. Dukhshum not testify to the fact that there is no god but Allah and verily I am the messenger of Allah?” They replied:
“He makes a profession of it (no doubt) but he does not do it out of sincere heart.” He (the Holy Prophet) said:
“He who testifies that there is no god but Allah and that I am the messenger of Allah shall not enter Hell or its (flames) would not consume him.” (Muslim, Iman, 54) Thus, he warned his followers not to be biased and to have suspicions about those who declare their faith.
In another tradition, the Prophet (pbuh) gave good tidings that everybody who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of faith will be saved from the Hell and eventually enters Paradise. (Bukhari, Iman, 33; Tawhid, 19, 36; Muslim, Iman, 302, 316)
Uthama b. Zaid (r.a.) narrates an incident related to this matter.
“In a battle we followed an enemy and as soon as he realized that he was going to be caught he said La ilaha illallah or there is no god but Allah.” But we did not listen to him and killed him. We then informed the Prophet (pbuh) what had happened. Upon this Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that:
“Who is going to help you against La ilaha illallah on Judgment Day?”
“O Messenger of Allah! He had said that words for the fear of death.” He said:
“Did you cut his heart open and see what was inside? Who can help you against La ilaha illallah on Judgment Day?”
“Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) repeated these words so many times that I wished him to stop repeating it. And it wished that I had been converted to Islam after that incident.” (Abu Dawud, Jihad, 95)
We should not forget that faith is a kind of guidance blessed by Allah the Almighty. This is expressed in a verse as follows: “Therefore (for) whomsoever Allah intends that He would guide him, He expands his breast for Islam…” (al-An’am 6; 125) This is why believers know for certain that they cannot achieve any success withoutAllah’s help and mercy. They cannot even control their hearts, for “Verily, the hearts of all the sons of Adam are in the hand of the Compassionate Lord.” (Muslim, Qadr, 17) For this reason, wise servants pray to Allah for His guidance as follows:
“Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate now after You have guided us, but grant us mercy from Your own presence; for You are the grantor of bounties without measure.” (Al-i Imran 3; 8)
Some sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) emphasized that at the end of the world there will be no people left on earth with faith in their hearts. In others, the world will come to an end by the removal of the blessing of faith. (Muslim, Imarah, 176; Fitan, 116, 117) In order to maintain faith and to leave this world with its light, one must adorn his heart with spiritual beauties such as piety, god-fearingness, mercy, love, repentance, remembrance, and prayer. Now we can continue to examine such spiritual beauties.
“So fear Allah as much as ye can…”
al-Taghabun 64; 16
The term taqwa lexically means to abstain from something, to be strong, to protect the soul from frightening things.Terminologically, it means to follow strictly the religious commands, stay away from its prohibitions, and to protect the self from all kinds of sins and from the paths leading to them. In other words, taqwa means piety and to have the consciousness of responsibility about the orders and prohibitions of Allah the Almighty. Those who have such consciousness are called muttaqi (pious). Pious believers try to strengthen their piety by abstaining not just from the clear prohibitions of Allah but also from doubtful matters. The way for the perfection of piety is stated in a saying of the Prophet (pbuh) as follows:
“Both legal and illegal things are evident but in between them there are doubtful (dubious) things and most people have no knowledge about them. So whoever saves himself from these doutful things saves his religion and his honor. And whoever indulges in these doutful things is like a shepherd who grazes (his animals) near the Hima (private pasture) of someone else and at any moment he is liable to go into it. (O people!) Beware! Every king has a Hima and the Hima of Allah on the earth is His illegal (forbidden) things. Beware! There is a piece of flesh in the body if it becomes good (reformed) the whole body becomes good but if it gets spoilt the whole body gets spoilt and that is the heart.” (Bukhari, Iman, 39; Muslim, Musaqat, 107) The following statement is also along the lines of the above mentioned narration:
“Piety (taqwa) means to adorn one’s appearance for the people as well as to beautify his soul for Allah the Almighty.” (Razi, I, 20)
Asseen in these statements, piety is based upon the sensitivity of the heart. The general characteristics of the pious are expressed in the following verse:
“It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards East or West; but it is righteousness – to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of the truth, the God-fearing.” (al-Baqara 2; 177)
This verse, in a way, defines the outlines of piety. Muslim scholars have assessed piety in three stages. The first stage is to refrain from disbelief and associating partners to Allah for the fear of eternal Hell-fire. The second stage is to avoid great sins, not to persistently commit small sins, and to continue performing religious obligations. The third stage is to stay away from everything that distracts the soul apart from the Lord Almighty and to attach the heart to Him completely. This final stage has no limits. (Baidawi, I, 48, 49; Elmalılı, I, 169)
Neither drawing outlines nor determining the stages of piety seem possible; because knowledge, practice, and feelings, which improve piety, may manifest differences from one person to another. Therefore someone’s piety is in the extent of strength and consciousness of his servitude. Indeed the verse: “So fear Allah as much as ye can…” (al-Taghabun 64; 16) emphasizes the same point.
Those who would like to live a pious life should follow the pure life of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). By saying “I am the most righteous of you” (Bukhari, Iman, 13; Muslim, Siyam, 74) the Prophet (pbuh) reminded us that he manifested the best exemplary manners and that he should be followed in every aspect of life.
We see a very precise measure of piety in the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh). Allah’s Messenger (pbuh), who supplicated saying “O Allah, I beg of You the right guidance, safeguard against evils, chastity and freedom from want” (Muslim, Dhikr, 72), stated that:
“A servant cannot reach the state of the pious unless he abstains from some unobjectionable matters because of the fear of committing doubtful matters.” (Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 19; Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 24) In another prophetic saying, vice is defined as what rankles in the heart and what one disapproves of because of his worry that people should come to know of it. (Muslim, Birr, 14) Therefore a pious believer has to stay away from evil, and not just from actions but even from thoughts. Abdullah b. Umar (r. anhuma) said that:
“If a servant does not leave the things that disturb his heart, he cannot achieve a state of piety.” (Bukhari, Iman, 1) Harith al-Muhasibi states that the physical manifestation of piety is submission to the Divine commands and avoidance of the Divine prohibitions; and its spiritual reflection is the cognizance of Divine questioning in the Hereafter and performing the supererogatory acts of worship just for the sake of Allah. (Muhasibi, p. 40)
Moreover, “piety” is defined in the Qur’an and traditions of the Prophet (pbuh) as the only measure of superiority. On the one hand, the Qur’an says that:
“Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you…” (al-Hujurat 49; 13) On the other hand, it is stated that Allah loves (Al-i Imran 3; 76) and is always with those who restrain themselves (al-Nahl 16; 128). According to a narration of Abu Hurairah (r.a.) some people asked the Messenger of Allah (pbuh):
“O Allah’s Apostle! Who is the most honorable amongst the people (in Allah’s eyes)?” He said,
“The most righteous amongst them.” They said,
“O Messenger of Allah! That is not what we ask.” He said,
“Then the Prophet Joseph, who was the son of Allah’s Prophet (Jacob), the son of Allah’s Prophet (Isaac), the son of Allah’s Khalil (i.e. Abraham).” They said:
“O Messenger of Allah! That is not what we ask.” He said:
“Then you want to ask about the descendents of the Arabs. Those who were the best in the pre-Islamic period of ignorance will be the best in Islam provided that they comprehend religious knowledge well.” (Bukhari, Anbiya, 8, 14, 19; Muslim, Fadail, 168)
What concerns us in this tradition is the Prophet’s first response. Piety is defined as the only measure of superiority.
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) probably knew what the questioner was asking, but he gave various responses in order to teach his Companions about the most important issue. The question of who is the most superior person in “honor” may come to mind next. In response to this question, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) stated Joseph (r.a.) whose ancestors were all Prophets and whose parable is depicted in the Qur’an as the best of narratives.
When the questioners stated that what they asked did not refer to that, the Prophet (pbuh) replied that superiority had been related to lineage and ancestry in the age of ignorance, but, in Islam, it is evaluated based upon wisdom, knowledge, and religiosity. In order to mean something, someone’s ancestry must be supported by piety.
Each one of these three answers of the Prophet (pbuh) had restraint as its central point. The Prophet Joseph’s piety, especially in the incident of Zulaiha, is well-known. It is also obvious that those who know and comprehend Islam well are filled with fear of Allah. Therefore, piety is clearly stated as the only measure of value in the Prophet’s first answer and is likewise implied in the next two answers.
In other traditions of the Prophet (pbuh) it is informed that Allah the Almighty will forgive those who fear Him and who do not associate partners with Him (Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 35); that He loves His pious and righteous servants (Muslim, Zuhd, 11); and that a servant will not be able to reach piety until he calls himself to account. (Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 25)
The reason for attributing such significance to piety originates from the fact that calling oneself to account determines the level of a person’s success. This is stated in the following verse:
“Ye shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in your personal selves; and ye shall certainly hear much that will grieve you, from those who received the book before you and from those who worship many gods. But if ye persevere patiently, and guard against evil, then that will be a determining factor in all affairs.” (Al-i Imran 3; 186)
The heart is the place of questioning and is expressed in a verse as follows: “Surely those who lower their voices before Allah’s Messenger are they whose hearts Allah has proved for guarding (against evil)…” (al-Hujurat 49; 3) From time to time Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) pointed to his chest saying “piety is in here” (Muslim, Birr, 32) after which he gave advice to the believers; which clearly shows that the heart is the true place of piety. The level of piety in a person’s heart is known only by Allah the Almighty; for there is no way to see what is in the heart. (Muslim, Iman, 158) This why other people cannot know whether a person is pious or not. Therefore, only Allah the Almighty knows and rewards those who restrain themselves. (Al-i Imran 3; 115, al-Najm 53; 32)
The rewards which will be bestowed upon the pious servants can be categorized as follows:
1) A Criterion to distinguish between right and wrong and the forgiving of sins
The verse in this respect is as follows: “O you who believe if you fear Allah, he will grant you a Criterion (to judge between right and wrong), remove from you (all) evil (that may afflict) you, and forgive you: for Allah is the Lord of Grace unbounded.” (al-Anfal 8; 29) The Holy Qur’an describes itself as “guidance for those who fear Allah.” (al-Baqara 2; 2) Therefore, it is understood that one cannot benefit from the light of Divine revelation without the Criterion which is endowed as a result of piety.
2) An escape in times of hardship and blessings from an unexpected place
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) says:
“I know a verse that if people hold it as a principle, it would be sufficient for them.”
The Companions asked:
“O messenger of Allah! Which verse is that?”
He recited the following verse:
“…And for those who fear Allah, He (ever) prepares a way out” (al-Talaq 65; 2) (Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 24)
After this verse, the significance of which is pointed out by Allah’s Messenger (pbuh), Allah the Almighty says that “And He provides for him from (sources) he never could imagine…” (al-Talaq 65; 3) and expresses that not only spiritual hardships but also the material ones will be taken care of. Thus, piety is the solution to all kind of problems in this world.
3) Spiritual closeness to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh)
Muadh b. Jabal (r.a.) narrated:
“When Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) sent me as a governor to Yemen, he came with me to the outside of Medina to bid me farewell. I was on my mount, whereas he was walking. After he gave me some advice, he said:
“O Muadh! Maybe you will not see me after this year. Maybe you will visit my mosque and my grave.” As soon as I heard these words, I started to cry out of the deep sorrow at having to leave him. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) consoled me saying:
“O Muadh! Do not cry…” Then he turned his face to Medina and continued:
“Those who are closest to me among the people are the ones who fear Allah wherever they are.” (Ibn Hanbal, V, 235; Haythami, IX, 22)
4) Eternal Salvation
Paradise will be one of the rewards for those who fear Allah. This reward is stated in the Qur’an as follows: “And hasten to (ask) forgiveness from your Lord; and a Garden, the extensiveness of which is (as) the heavens and the earth…” (Al-i Imran 3; 133) A saying of the Prophet (pbuh) can be placed in the same context: “Fear Allah; perform your five daily prayers; observe your fast during the month of Ramadan; give alms out of your possessions; obey your governors; so you can enter the Paradise of your Lord.” (Tirmidhi, Jum’a, 80)
The solution to all our problems can be attained through piety, or a life governed by the awareness of responsibilities towards Allah. And the heart is the place for such awareness. Therefore, a peaceful life in this world and proper preparations for the Hereafter can only be realized by piety adorning our souls.
c. Fear from Allah
“But for him who fears the standing before his Lord there are two gardens.” al-Rahman 55; 46
In the sacred Qur’an the terms “hawf” and “khushyah” are used interchangeably in order to express the meaning “fear from Allah,” but they are not synonymous because they have some differences in meaning.
The term hawf expresses the tremble in the heart because of concern and fear of possible punishment which will be given due to mistakes committed. Even though the meaning of khashyah is similar to hawf, it denotes fear mixed with reverence.Since it is based on knowledge, it has a special meaning and this is why khashyah is considered to be the attribute of scholars.
Another term used in this respect is “wajal” which denotes the feeling of fear and terror when remembering or seeing someone violent, fearful, and harsh. The intensity of the feeling of fear is what makes wajal different from the other terms. According to these definitions, hawf is attributed to common people; khashyah is a characteristic of scholars; and wajal is an attribute of those who are close to Allah (muqarrabun). (Ibn Qayyim, Madarij, I, 549-550)
The Holy Qur’an indicates that the heart is the center of fear of Allah. Some noteworthy verses in this regard are as follows:
“For, Believers are those who, when Allah is mentioned, feel a tremor/tremble? in their hearts…” (al-Anfal 8; 2)
“…And give good tidings (O Muhammad) to the humble (To) those whose hearts tremble when Allah is mentioned…” (al-Hajj 22; 34-35)
As pointed out in these verses, believers who achieve the perfection in faith are the ones whose hearts tremble when Allah is mentioned, whereas believers who have not achieved this state are warned as follows:
“Has not the time arrived for the Believers that their hearts in all humility should engage in the remembrance of Allah and of the Truth which has been revealed (to them)…” (al-Hadid 57; 16)
Ibn Mas’ud (r.a.) said that:
“Since our acceptance of Islam and the revelation of this verse in which Allah is annoyed with us, there was a gap of four years.” (Muslim, Tafsir, 24) Therefore, Allah the Almighty asks from the believers to soften their hearts by His fear in order to attain a certain level of perfection in their faith.
On the other hand, those who own trembling hearts scrupulously fulfill orders (Nahl 16; 50), even beat because of the fear of their deeds being rejected. Aisha (r. anha) said:
“When the verse: “And those who give what they give while their hearts are full of fear that to their Lord they must return; it is these who hasten in every good work, and they are foremost in (attaining) them.” (al-Mu’minun 23; 60-61) was revealed. I asked the Messenger of Allah (pbuh):
“Who are the ones mentioned in this verse? Are they fornicators, thieves, and the drunk?”
He (pbuh) replied:
“No, they are not. O daughter of Siddiq! They are the ones who perform their prayers, fast, and give alms, but are worried about whether their deeds are accepted or not.” (Tirmidhi, Tafsir, 23; Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 20)
Allah the Almighty also gives the following glad tidings: “But for him who fears to stand before his Lord there are two gardens.” (al-Rahman 55; 46)
Even though fear seems to be conflicting with love for Allah, they are actually interrelated. Just as love is the fruit of knowing Allah, fear is also the result of properly knowing about Allah. The more someone knows and loves Allah, the more he/she fears Him. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) pointed out the close relationship between knowledge and fear saying: “By Allah, I have the best knowledge of Allah amongst you, and fear Him most amongst you.” (Bukhari, Adab, 72; Muslim, Fadail, 127) It is stated in the Qur’an that the true learned are the only people who think, understand, (al-Anqabut 29; 43) and truly fear Allah (al-Fatir 35; 28). According to Ibn Abbas (r. anhuma), the truely wise are the ones who know Allah is omnipotent, who do not associate any partners to Him, who accept the things declared lawful by Him as lawful and declared unlawful by Him as unlawful, who follow the orders and advices of Allah and believe with certainty that they will meet Allah and be questioned about their knowledge.” (Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, III, 561)
According to the statement of the Qur’an expressing that mercy and guidance are for those who fear Allah (al-Araf 7; 154), Allah is well pleased with them and they are well pleased with Him (al-Bayyinah 98; 8) When people fear something they run away from it, but those who fear Allah know tht taking shelter is Him as the only cure for their fear. (Ibn Qayyim, Madarij, I, 550)
The endless God-fearingness of the Prophet (pbuh) is the best reflection of the verses related to this context in his blessed life. Aisha (r. anha) told those who had asked her about the morality of the Prophet (pbuh) that: “His morals were the morals of the Qur’an.” (Muslim, Musafirun, 139) Allah’s Messenger (pbuh), who cried on occasion and had his Companions cry (Muslim, Janaiz, 12; Abu Dawud, Janaiz, 77), stated in one of his sayings that two drops are loved by Allah the Almighty: a tear drop shed because of the fear of Allah and a blood drop shed for the sake of Allah. (Tirmidhi, Jihad, 26) In another saying, he said that: “those who cry because of the fear of Allah will not enter Hell until the milk goes back to the udders.” Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 8)
We see that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) became concerned before some incidents of that nature. All his concern was in fact related to his fear of Allah. According to the report from Aisha (r. anha),
“On any day when there was storm or dark cloud, its effects could be read on the face of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), and he went in and out of his house and moved forward and backward in a state of anxiety. And when it rained, he became delighted and the state of restlessness would disappear. When he was asked the reason of this anxiety and he said: “I was afraid that it might be a calamity that might fall upon my Ummah just like the one fell upon the people of ‘Ad.” (Muslim, Istisqa, 14, 15, 16)
These statements should be considered as the signs of the Prophet’s careful attentionas a part of his efforts to teach this to his followers.
Modern psychology also points out that fear brings about caution. That is to say that fear is a factor which increases the resolution and exertion of a person and has him/her prepare for the future. (Arthur I. Gates, Educational Psychology, I, p. 103) Muslim scholars described fear as the whip of Allah the Almighty. Because of fear, people turn towards knowledge and good deeds. (Ibn al-Jawzi, Minhaj, p. 316)
When faith enters into a heart, fear of Allah is established in it. If it is a sinner believes in the power of Allah and that one day he will be held responsible for his actions, he will tremble in fear of the Divine punishment. If he is a learned and wise person, he will feel sorry for the deeds that they could not do properly. Therefore, all those who believe in Allah will tremble when hearing His name.
While even some rocks fall down for the fear of Allah, having an unemotional and senseless heart which is worse than rocks in hardness is a sign of the deprivation of Devine mercy. (al-Baqara 2; 74) This is why our beloved Prophet (pbuh) prayed to his Lord saying:
“O Allah, I seek refuge in You from the knowledge which is not benefitial, from the heart that does not entertain the fear (of Allah), from the soul that does not feel contented and the supplication that is not answered.” (Muslim, Dhikr, 73)
However, we can see that fear in the life of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was not the result of daily matters. He was matchless in brevity and fearlessness. We see in the sources that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) asked for protection from Allah the Almighty against cowardice. (Bukhari, Da’awat, 36) He was such a prophet that he could scare his enemies from a month long distance. (Bukhari, Jihad, 122) He said about himself to his Companions that: “you will never find me a miser or a liar or a coward.” (Bukhari, Jihad, 24; Nasai, Hiba, 1)
It is stated in a Qur’anic verse that Allah the Almighty will cast terror into the hearts of disbelievers in order to help the true believers. (Al-i Imran 3; 151) And in another verse, cowardice is described as an illness of disbelievers. (al-Anfal 8; 12) Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that enemies are not scared from the believers who love this world and feardeath. And he also stated that such believers will be defeated by their enemies. (Abu Dawud, Malahim, 5)
Therefore, fear from Allah and cowardice are two different matters. Fear from Allah is a praised and wanted characteristic, whereas cowardice is criticized and regarded as a bad attribute.
“On those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, will (Allah) Most Gracious bestow Love.” (Maryam 19; 96)
Love is the purest and sincerest state of friendship. Love, the essence of life, is the emotional state of a heart which is in a state excitement and hope to see its beloved. Love can be of divine origin or come from the inner self. All kinds of love for Allah and His contentment come from the Divine and all the others are considered selfish love.
The Holy Qur’an lays great emphasis on the necessity of reserving true love just for Allah the Almighty. In fact, it is expressed through the words of Abraham (A.S.) “…I love not those that set” (al-An’am 6; 76) that mortal beings are not truly worthy of being loved. Falsity of loving the creation just like loving Allah is stated as follows:
“Yet there are men who take (for worship) others besides Allah, as equal (with Allah): they love them as they should love Allah. But those of Faith are overflowing in their love for Allah…” (al-Baqara 2; 165)
We see the following verse emphasizing that heart is adorned by love and love is the basis of the blessing of faith:
“…but Allah has endeared the Faith to you, and has made it beautiful in your hearts, and He has made hateful to you unbelief, wickedness, and rebellion…” (al-Hujurat 49; 7)
Beauty and perfection in relation to the beloved and the lover is an important element for the formation of love in a heart. If a human being possesses an untainted nature, he would naturally love beauty and perfection. In other words, love will be love in places where beauty and perfection exist. Beauty is stated as the source of love in the following prophetic saying: “Allah is Graceful and He loves Grace.” (Muslim, Iman, 147) Allah, Who is the owner of all beauty, is also the real source of love; Because He is Wadud. (al-Buruj 85; 14) The name Wadud means not only someone who loves much but also someone who is much loved. (Razi, XXXI, 112)
It is stated in a prophetic saying how servants are made to love a servant loved by Allah:
“When Allah loves a servant, He calls Gabriel and says:
“Verily, I love so and so; you should also love him,”
And then Gabriel begins to love him. Then he makes an announcement in the heaven saying:
“Allah loves so and so and you also love him,”
And then the inhabitants of the Heaven (the Angels) also begin to love him and then honor is conferred upon him on the earth…” (Muslim, Birr, 157)
Because love is a feeling from the heart, it presents an abstract character, yet its manifestations can be tangible. Indeed, the claims of those who proclaim their love for Allah but do not obey His Messenger are not real. This reality is expressed in the Qur’an as follows:
“Say (O Muhammad, to mankind): If ye love Allah, follow me; Allah will love you and forgive you your sins…” (Al-i Imran 3; 31)
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) responded to the question of “what faith is” first as a proclamation of faith and then “to love Allah and His Messenger more than anything else.” (Ibn Hanbal, IV, 11) This response is significant for showing the boundaries of love. In another saying, it is expressed that “attaining the taste of faith can only be possible by such love.” (Bukhari, Iman, 9; Muslim, Iman, 67)
Anas b. Malik (r.a.) reported that
“A bedouin came to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and asked:
“When will the Last Hour be?” Thereupon, he (the Holy Prophet) said:
“What preparation have you made for the Last Hour?” He said:
“Love for Allah and His Messenger is my only preparation.”
Thereupon, he (the Holy Prophet) said:
“You will be together with the one whom you love.” The Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) became very happy at these words. Anas (r.a.) even said:
“Nothing pleased us more after accepting Islam than the words of Allah’s Apostle: You will be together with the one whom you love.” And Anas (r.a.) added:
“I love Allah and His Messenger and Abu Bakr and Umar, I hope that I will be with them although I have not acted like them.” (Muslim, Birr, 163)
Even though it is not required to be at the same level with the person one loves, one tries to follow the people he loves and respects. Thus, everybody shows their love through their deeds to the extent of their ability and strength. Otherwise love which does not go beyond a mere claim, cannot be the reason for one’s salvation. In another verse, true love is defined as having emerged from faith and its manifestations, or good deeds:
“On those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, will (Allah) the Most Gracious bestow love.” (Maryam 19; 96) Ibn Abbas (r.anhuma) interpreted the words: “will (Allah) the Most Gracious bestow Love” as “Allah will love them and make other people love them.” (Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, III, 14)
Not being able to attain true love is the result of not knowing Allah and His blessings. The Holy Qur’an expresses that such loveless masses will be destroyed and people whose hearts are filled with love replace them:
“O you who believe if any from among you turn back from his Faith, soon Allah will produce a people whom He will love as they will love Him…” (al-Maida 5; 54)
This verse clearly shows the necessity of establishing a relationship between Allah and His servant based on love. Religion is based on obedience and love is the essence of obedience. Therefore, it is a crucial part of servitude to supplicate for Allah’s love. The following supplication of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) points to this necessity:
“O Allah! I ask for Your love; I ask for the love of those who love You and the deed which will take [me] to Your love. Make Your love more loveable for me than my soul, my family, and cold water.” (Tirmidhi, Daawat, 72)
In order to feel love for Allah, which is gravely needed by His servants, one first needs to love His creation, especially other human beings. The Prophet’s saying: “You shall not enter Paradise so long as you do not affirm belief (in all those things which are the articles of faith) and you will not believe as long as you do not love one another…” (Muslim, Iman, 93) is also important for showing the dimensions of true faith and consequently the dimensions of love.
Such love, the source of which is Allah, becomes the provision of the soul and the light of the eye. Those deprived of the capital of love can be considered the living dead; those who lose the light of love will be bewildered in the sea of darkness; the hearts of those who lack the remedy to love will be susceptible to all kinds of spiritual diseases; those who are not able to love will spend their lives in sorrow and distress; love is the soul of deeds and faith; those who lack this feeling are like soulless bodies. (Ibn Qayyim, Madarij, III, 6, 7)
On the one hand, because intense love is a feeling, even an intuition, peculiar to the heart, it is reckless. It turns the principles of logic upside down. It declares its independence. One eats if it says “eat”, or sees if it says “see.” Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) emphasizes this side of the heart saying: “your heart makes you blind and deaf.” (Abu Dawud, Adab, 116). In another saying, he invites us, just like everything else, to be moderate in love: “Be moderate in your love for your friend, because one day he may turn into an enemy; and be moderate in your enmity, because one day your enemy may become your friend.” (Tirmidhi, Birr, 60)
On the other hand, it is natural to love other beings within the limits of the principles of Islam as long as one holds the love for Allah and His Messenger superior to them. In this context the following verse attracts our attention:
“Fair in the eyes of men is the love of things they covet: women and sons; heaped up hoards of gold and silver; horses branded (for blood and excellence); and (wealth of) cattle and well tilled land. Such are the possessions of this world’s life; but nearness to Allah is the best of the goals (to return to).” (Al-i Imran 3; 14)
Parents’ love, especially mothers’ love, for their children is the purest type of love felt in a heart. When they look into their children’s eyes, they feel the warmth of their children’s happiness in their hearts and suffer from the pain of longing if they are far. In one of the sayings of the Prophet, this is expressed through the addressing of Allah the Almighty to His angels about someone who had lost his child: “You took My servant’s child from him; you plucked off the fruit of his heart.” (Tirmidhi, Janaiz, 36)
In conclusion, love occupies a very important place in the relationship between Allah and the heart. It has a characteristic of easily influencing human emotions. If there is no love between Allah and His servant, there can be no meaning left in life, because servitude is the reason for creation and obedience is the essence of servitude, and love is the sole element which brings about obedience. The Holy Qur’an explains the matters in detail like how and for whom love should be. In this respect, it put great emphasis on achieving obedience. The only way to attain a pure heart, or a heart submitted to the name of Allah, is to fill it with love for Allah.
“If you show mercy to those who are on the earth,
Those in the heavens will show mercy to you.” (Abu Dawud, Adab, 58)
Marhama or rahma are the infinitive forms of the Arabic verb “rahima” meaning mercy, forgiveness, compassion, and tenderness.
Mercy is a divine behavior. It is the manifestation of Allah’s names: Rahman (Most Gracious) and Rahim (Most Merciful). The attribute of Rahman is the widest circle of Divine Mercy which comprises human beings, be they believers or disbelievers, and all other creation. Rahim, on the other hand, denotes Allah’s Mercy awaiting the believers on the Day of Judgment. (Raghib, p. 192) This is expressed in the following verse:
“…and My mercy embraces all things, therefore I shall ordain it for those who ward off (evil) and pay the poor-due, and those who believe Our revelations.” (al-A’raf 7; 156)
Allah reserving His Mercy for the believers on Judgment Day is the result of Divine Justice. It means to distinguish between right and wrong, light and darkness, Moses and Pharaoh. Otherwise “the Best of those who show mercy” (al-Mu’minun 23; 109) never oppresses His servants.
Allah the Almighty says in the Qur’an that He will manifest His Mercy while guiding those who go astray:
“Say: O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls. Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (al-Zumar 39; 53)
Here, remembrance of the Divine Mercy’s vastness is not for the purpose to encourage committing sins. On the contrary, it aims to make even the most vehement sinners repent as soon as possible. Even though the cause of the revelation of the above-mentioned verse was the desire to convert disbelievers to Islam, there is no doubt in that it comprises of the sinners’ repentance (Razi, XXVII, 5), because Allah the Almighty says that He can forgive everybody except those who die in polytheism and disbelief. (al-Nisa 4; 48)
The following narration of Umar b. Khattab (r.a.) is very remarkable in reminding about the vastness of the Divine Mercy. He reported that some prisoners were brought to Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) amongst whom there was also a woman, who was searching (for someone) and when she found a child amongst the prisoners, she took hold of it, pressed it against her chest and fed it. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said:
“Do you think this woman would be able to throw her child in the Fire?” We said: By Allah, so far as it lies in her power, she would never throw the child into Fire. Thereupon,Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said:
“Allah is more kind to His servants than this woman is to her child.” (Muslim, Tawbah, 22)
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) explains that the gem of mercy given to creation is very little compared to the Mercy of Allah the Almighty saying:
“Allah created mercy in one hundred parts and He retained with Him ninety-nine parts, and He has sent down upon the earth one part, and it is because of this one part that there is mutual love among the creation so much so that the animal lifts up its hoof from its young, one, fearing that it might harm it.” (Bukhari, Adab, 19; Muslim, Tawbah, 17)
Just likemercy is the most salient attribute of Allah, it is also the most prominent characteristic of the Messenger of Allah. He has indeed been sent to the worlds as a mercy. (al-Anbiya 21; 107) This is why Allah the Almighty called none of His prophets but the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) rauf (very compassionate) and rahim (very merciful). (Qurtubi, VII, 192) Otherwise it would not have been so easy to establish and spread Islam amongst people of the Age of Ignorance. Because compassion and mercy are attributes which soften the hearts, replace hate with love, and bring people closer to each other. All these facts are expressed through the following words of the Qur’an:
“It was by the mercy of Allah that you were lenient with them (O Muhammad), for if you had been stern and fierce of heart they would have dispersed from around you…” (Al-i Imran 3; 159)
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) asserted that feelings of mercy in particular should be established among the people. In this respect he said:
“You see that the believers in being merciful among themselves and showing love among themselves and being kind, resemble one body, so that, if any part of the body is not well then the whole body shares the sleeplessness (insomnia) and fever with it.” (Bukhari, Adab, 27; Muslim, Birr, 66)
In order to attain this attribute and become a merciful person, love needs to be rooted in the heart. We see in the following narration that mercy cannot exist in places where there is no love:
A bedouin saw the Prophet (pbuh) kissing some children and said amazed:
“You (people) kiss the children! We don’t kiss them.” The Prophet said,
“I cannot put mercy in your heart after Allah has taken it away from it.” (Bukhari, Adab, 18; Muslim, Fadail, 65)
Likewise, the Prophet (pbuh) could not stand the state of his daughter Zainab’s child taking his last breaths and shed some tears. Those who saw him crying asked him:
“O Allah’s Apostle! Are you, too, crying?” He replied:
“It is mercy which Allah has lodged in the hearts of His slaves, and Allah is merciful only to those of His slaves who are merciful (to others).” (Bukhari, Janaiz, 33; Muslim, Janaiz, 11)
Lack of mercy is the result of cold-heartedness. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) advised one of his Companions, who had been complaining about his cold-heartedness: “If you would like to soften your heart, rub the orphan’s head.” (Ibn Hanbal, II, 263, 387) Thus, he stressed spiritual sensitivity which can be increased by approaching the helpless and the needy with compassion.
Mercy taught by the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) to his followers embraces not only his relatives and believers but also the whole of humanity and even the entire creation. Some of the sayings of the Prophet reinforce this point:
“He who shows no mercy to the people, Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, does not show mercy to him.” (Muslim, Fadail, 66)
“The Compassionate One has mercy on those who are merciful. If you show mercy to those who are on the earth, those in the heavens will show mercy to you.” (Abu Dawud, Adab, 58; Tirmidhi, Birr, 16)
Another prophetic saying describes that a woman, who had fallen deep into sins and immorality, had been forgiven by Allah the Almighty for her mercy because she helped a weak dog. The incident occurred as follows: “On a very hot day, the adulteress was walking in a desert and got tired because of thirst. She found a well, went down and quenched her thirst. When she went up the well, she saw a very weak dog, which was about to die from thirst. Feeling sorry for it she went down the well and filled her shoe with water and then quenched the dog’s thirst. Allah the Almighty became very pleased with her merciful deed and forgave all her previous sins. (Muslim, Salam, 152-155)
Mercy is not just a feeling of sorrow for others like some people think. It is an all-encompassing feeling which develops with love and increases with help and altruism. If there is no mercy in a heart, it is a sick heart.
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh), who has been sent as a mercy to the worlds, became an exemplary personality not just by his actions but also by his words. Our ancestors have always carried the traces of this exemplary spiritual atmosphere. If we would like to save people from chaos and turn this world into a livable place, we need to establish mercy into our hearts. In fact, our ancestors who realized the significance of this method, began to conquer the hearts before conquering the lands when they took the light of Islam to the people in darkness.
f. Repentance and Remembrance
“And those who when they commit an indecency or do injustice to their souls remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their faults…” Al-i Imran 3; 135
Repentance means to ask for the forgiveness of sins and mistakes from Allah the Almighty. It has a great effect upon purifying our souls. Proper repentance cleans up the rust formed on the heart by sins. Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) says in this regard:
“When a believer sins, a black dot appears on his heart, and then if he repents and asks his forgiveness, his heart gets cleansed of the black spot. And when he goes back to the sin and commits it again, the spot enlarges, till it covers the entire heart. Hence, this is the stain that Allah the Almighty has mentioned in the Qur’an: [By no means! But on their hearts is the stain of the (ill) that they do!] (al-Mutaffifin 83;14)” (Tirmidhi, Tafsir, 83; Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 29)
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) states the connection between repenting several times in a day and spiritual life saying:
“There is (at times) some sort of shade upon my heart, and I seek forgiveness from Allah a hundred times a day.” (Muslim, Dhikr, 41)
Feeling a shade upon his heart is is reflective of his high state. He had an almost continuous spiritual connection with Allah the Almighty. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) points out that his worldly deeds, like eating, sleeping, and being together with his wives, somehow weaken this relationship. Even if we do not fully understand it, this was very important for a heart that was always with Allah the Almighty.
Through such traditions Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) teaches us how important repentance is in building our spiritual worlds.
When a repenting servant asks for forgiveness by his tongue, he should also keep his body and heart away from sins as much as possible and he should not insist on committing sins; because this is what servitude requires. This situation is expressed in the Qur’an by the following verses:
“And those who when they commit an indecency or do an injustice to their souls remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their faults– and who forgives the faults but Allah, and (who) do not knowingly persist in what they have done.” (Al-i Imran 3; 135)
“O you who believe! Turn to Allah with sincere repentance: in the hope that your Lord will remove from you your ills and admit you to Gardens beneath which Rivers flow…” (al-Tahrim 66; 8)
Continual repentance has many material and spiritual benefits. This is mentioned in a prophetic saying as follows:
“If anyone continually asks pardon, Allah will give him a way out of every distress, and a relief from every anxiety, and will provide for him from where he did not reckon.” (Abu Dawud, Witr, 26)
Hasan al-Basri (q.s.), one of the most prominent figures of the generation following the Companions, gave the same advice to many people who complained of famine, poverty, infertility, unproductiveness of his land, and asked his guidance: repentance. When people asked him why he had given the same advice even though the questions and questioners were different, he recited the following verses:
“… Seek pardon of your Lord. Lo! He was ever-Forgiving. He will send rain to you in abundance; Give you increase in wealth and sons; and bestow on you Gardens and bestow on you rivers (of flowing water).” (Nuh 71; 10-12) (Qurtubi, XVIII, 302)
There is very important information in the traditions of the Prophet (pbuh) in relation tohow proper repentance should be done. Thawban (r.a.) narrated:
“When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) finished his prayer, he begged forgiveness three times and said:
“Allahumma anta al-Salamu wa minka al-salamu, tabarakta ya zal jalali wa’l ikram – O Allah! You are Peace, and peace comes from You; Blessed are You, O Possessor of Glory and Honor!” Walid asked Awza’i, one of the sub-narrators of this tradition:
“How does one seek forgiveness?” He replied:
“You should say: astaghfirullah or I beg forgiveness from Allah, I beg forgiveness from Allah.” (Muslim, Masajid, 135)
Following the sunnah of our Prophet (pbuh) we say “Allahumma anta al-Salamu wa minka al-salamu…” after every prayer. However, another sunnah or saying trice: “astaghfirullah or I beg forgiveness from Allah” before saying “Allahumma anta al-Salamu…” tends to be forgotten by our people so we should revive this sunnah. By saying astaghfirullah, one who finishes his prayer and leaves the presence of his Lord means “O Lord! I have not fulfilled my servitude properly, please forgive me.”
According to the narration by Ibn Mas’ud (r.a.) Allah’s Messeger (pbuh) said that:
“If anyone says:
“I ask pardon of Allah other than Whom there is no deity, the Living, the eternal, and I turn to Him in repentance,” he will be pardoned, even if he has fled in times of battle.” (Abu Dawud, Witr, 26; Tirmidhi, Daawat, 118)
Aisha (r. anha) reported that:
“The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) recited often before his death: Subhanaka wa bi hamdika astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk – Hallowed be You, and with Your praise, I seek forgiveness from Thee and return to Thee.” (Muslim, Salat, 218)
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) also advised us to recite a certain supplication called “sayyid al-istighfar” which captivates our attention by its rich language and meaning.
The Prophet said “The most superior way of asking for forgiveness from Allah is to say:
“O Allah! You are my Lord; there is no god but You, You have created me, and I am Your servant and hold to Your covenant and promise as much as I can; I seek refuge in You from the evil of what I have done: I acknowledge Your favor to me, and I acknowledge my sin; pardon me, for none but Your pardons sins, and dies during the daytime or during the night.” he will go to Paradise.”
The Prophet added. “If somebody recites this supplication during the day with firm faith in it, and dies on the same day before the evening, he will be from the people of Paradise; and if somebody recites it at night with firm faith in it, and dies before the morning, he will be from the people of Paradise.” (Bukhari, Daawat, 2; Abu Dawud, Adab, 100-101)
Since this supplication reflects the sincerest form of a servant’s regret, it certainly has the beauty and perfection to be called “sayyidu’l istighfar – master of repentance.” The good news of Paradise at the end of this supplication is like a cool breeze for those who are crushed under the weight of their sins.
A believer can ask for forgiveness for his parents, relatives, and other believers just like asking forgiveness for himself. In this context, Prophet Abraham’s supplication mentioned in the Qur’an is a good example for us:
“O our Lord! Grant me protection and my parents and the believers on the day when the reckoning shall come to pass!” (Ibrahim 14; 41)
When Qur’an talks about the characteristics of the believers, it mentions their begging for forgiveness at dawn in particular. (al-Zariyat 51; 18) Therefore, we should not forget that times of dawn are the best times for the acceptance of our prayers.
In addition to asking for forgiveness, believers who wish to adorn their spiritual lives should not forget to remember Allah. Dhikr, which we can shortly define as remembering Allah with the heart and mentioning Him by the tongue, requires continual remembrance in the heart. The Sacred Qur’an asks from believers to remember Allah humbly in the morning and in the evening, with humility and reverence (al-A’raf 7; 205) and devote oneself to Him with complete devotion. (al-Muzzammil 73; 8) It states that the heedless ones who turn their face away from the remembrance of Allah will face all kinds of problems and worries and will be resurrected blind in the Hereafter. (Taha 20; 125)
Our Lord says in the Qur’an:
“Therefore remember Me, I will remember you…” (al-Baqarah 2; 152) thus He expresses that He ‘s in a dialog with His servant during remembrance. In other words, when a servant says “O Allah” or “Dear Lord,” Allah the Almighty says “My servant” and meets His servant’s requests.
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that:
“The example of the one who celebrates the Praises of his Lord (Allah) in comparison to the one who does not celebrate the Praises of his Lord, is like that of a living creature compared to a dead one.” (Bukhari, Daawat, 66) Thus, he points out that a heart can only be made to come alive through the remembrance of Allah.
The Prophet (pbuh) is our perfect exemplar in in this regard (Allah do not include) of which a detailed account has been given in the first volume of this book. Therefore, here it will be satisfactory to emphasize the principles established by the Prophet (pbuh) regarding the place of remembrance in disciplining the heart.
Every word of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) is characterized as a remembrance of Allah insofar as it aimed to encourage goodness or draw away harm. The things he (pbuh) ordered or prohibited, the principles he established, his sayings about the names and attributes of Allah, his rulings and actions are also considered remembrances. His praises of Allah his gratitude towards Allah, his prayers, his turning towards Allah, as well as his fear of Allah are all types of remembrance. Even his silence was a remembrance. He was always with Allah the Almighty and busy with His remembrance. (Ibn Qayyim, Zadu’l Ma’ad, II, 365) His heart was awake even when he was sleeping. (Bukhari, Wudu, 5) In short, he was in a state of continuous remembrance – dhikr daim. Moreover, Aisha (r.anha) stated that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was in a state of continuous remembrance. (Muslim, Hayd, 117)
Likewise the mother of the believers narrated the following:
“She was asked about which prayer the Apostle of Allah (pbuh) began with when he woke up at night.” She replied:
“You asked me about a thing which no one asked me before. When he woke up at night, he uttered: “Allahuakbar – Allah is Most Great” ten times, and uttered “Alhamdulillah – Praise be to Allah” ten times, and said “Subhanallahi wa-bi hamdihi – Glory be to Allah and I begin with His praise” ten times, and said: “Subhana’l maliki’l quddus – Glory be to the King, the Most Holy” ten times, and asked Allah’s pardon ten times, and said: “La ilaha illallah – There is no god but Allah” ten times, and then said:
“O Allah! I seek refuge in Thee from the strait of the Day of resurrection,” ten times. He then began the prayer. (Abu Dawud, Adab, 101)
In another saying the following supplication was advised: “(There are) two words which are dear to the Beneficent (Allah) and very light (easy) on the tongue (to say), but very heavy on in the scales. They are:
(Bukhari, Tawhid, 58)
When the Prophet’s sayings about remembrance are examined, we see many similar glad tidings. They are priceless advice with which to adorn the believers’ spiritual lives.
Abdullah b. Shaddad (r.a.) narrated:
“Three men from the Banu Uzra tribe came to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and converted to Islam. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) asked:
“Who will take the care of these people?” Talha (r.a.) replied:
“I will, O Messenger of Allah!”
When they were with Talha (r.a.), Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) sent an expedition. One of these three men joined the expedition and became a martyr. Later another expedition was sent. The second man joined it and became a martyr, and the third one passed away in his bed a while later.
Talha (r.a.) narrated the rest of the tradition as follows:
“I saw those three men in my dream in Paradise. The one who had passed away in his bed was in front of them and the one who had become martyr first was at the end. I was puzzled and found it difficult to understand. I went to the Messenger of Allah and told him about my dream. He said:
“There is nothing to be puzzled about. There is no one more virtuous than a believer who lives his life in accordance with Islam and remembers Allah by saying praises, glorifications, and takbirs.” (Ibn Hanbal, I, 163)
Moreover Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) encouraged his followers to perform acts of worship at night and did not approve of them spending the entire night sleeping. In order to fill the soul with peace and happiness he asked believers to pray right before dawn.
In addition to the above mentioned acts of worship like prayer, repentance and praises, recitation of the Holy Qur’an and contemplating about its verses is another type of remembrance. In fact, “the Reminder” mentioned in the verse of “We have, without doubt, sent down the Reminder; and we will assuredly guard it (from corruption)” (al-Hijr 15; 9) is the Holy Qur’an itself and the verse: “Do they not then earnestly seek to understand the Qur’an?” (Muhammad 47; 24) invites the believers to contemplate about the words of Allah. A believer’s active life should be shaped by the Qur’an, with the five senses and the heart, which is considered the sixth sense, included in this scope. In a saying of the Prophet (pbuh), it is said:
“One who has nothing from the Qur’an in his heart is like a ruined house.” (Tirmidhi, Fadail al-Qur’an, 18) This prophetic saying eloquently points out that a heart unaware of the Qur’an is far from real peace and tranquility just like a ruin deprived of happiness and joy.
Keeping the remembrance of Allah in the heart all the time is very important in order to discipline the heart. The following saying of the Prophet (pbuh) emphasizes this fact:
“Do not forget Allah by merging into deep and unnecessary speech; because long speech without remembering Allah hardens the heart. And the farthest from Allah the Almighty is the one whose heart is hardened.” (Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 62)
Through remembrances performed along with meditation one can avoid selfish desires and the soul can attain enlightenment. Distress and distraction get replaced by peace and focus. This state of confidence is described in the Qur’an as follows:
“Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah: for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction.” (al-Ra’d 13; 28)
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) advised the attendance of the congregation of remembrances for those who would like to breathe the air of Paradise in this world. One day he said to his Companions:
“When you go to the gardens of Paradise, get the most out of it.” The Companions asked:
“What do you mean by the gardens of Paradise?” Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) responded:
“The circles of remembrances.” (Tirmidhi, Daawat, 82)
Those who achieve perfection by remembering Allah will be saved from all kinds of worries of this world. They will face death and the thought of life after death smiling and saying:
“O (you) soul, in (complete) rest and satisfaction! Come back to your Lord, well pleased , and well pleasing unto Him! Enter you, then, among my Devotees! Enter My Heaven!” (al-Fajr 89; 27-30) They see death as the most desirable result of existence.
g. Supplication for the Betterment of the Heart
“Say (O Muhammad, unto the disbelievers): My Lord would not concern Himself with you but for your prayer…” al-Furqan 25; 77
Du’a or supplication, which means appealing, calling out, and asking for help, is a servant’s acknowledgement of his weakness before the Might of Allah and an appeal to His help in reverence and love. Prayer is the presentation of a servant’s situation to Allah and in a way it is a conversation between the servant and his Creator. In order to realize this, Allah the Almighty has first informed His servants about His existence and servants have accepted His existence and felt the need to get in touch with this Almighty Power. Thus, prayer is the result of such necessity and its aim is to find a way not just to relieve one’s needs and deficiencies but also to achieve perfection. There are many orders and advice in the verses of the Quran and in the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) confirming the purification of the soul through prayer.
Appealing to Allah for forgiveness or for one’s needs and to remember Him for His blessings brings about spiritual peace and tranquility. (al-Ra’d 13; 28, al-A’la 87; 14, 15) It also purifies and elevates a person morally, and plays a constructive role in developing a personality. Getting closer to Allah through acts of worship and supplication leads to Divine love; and a pure soul emerges as a consequence of Divine love. (Bukhari, Riqaq, 38) In the following tradition, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) attracts our attention to the significance of saying prayers:
“O Allah! Wash away my sins with the water of snow and hail, and cleanse my heart from all the sins as a white garment is cleansed from the filth, and let there be a long distance between me and my sins, as You made East and West far from each other.” (Bukhari, Daawat, 39; Muslim, Dhikr, 49) Allah is the desired one and the goal. One should stay away from every other interest. This is expressed in the Qur’an as “making the religion pure for Allah.” (al-Mu’min 40; 14, 65)
Ghazali gave the following answer to the question “if the Divine Will does not change, then what would be the benefit of saying prayers?” “You should know that prayers preventing trouble is a part of the Divine Will. Prayers are the reason for warding off troubles and attracting the Divine mercy… Just like an arrow bounces back when it meets a shield, a prayer pushes troubles away when they meet. This is also Allah’s rule and will… It is not appropriate to say that there is no need to water the seeds, since Allah is the One Who will let them grow or not grow. It is inevitable for us to resort to the cause because the One Who has created goodness has also connected it to certain causes, and the One Who has created problems has also created instruments to ward them off. Moreover, another benefit of prayer is that it keeps the heart always with Allah the Almighty, which is the highest state of worship.” (Ghazali, I, 434-435)
As it is expressed by al-Ghazali, prayer is part of the Divine Will. It is a factor leading faith to establish itself in the heart. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that “O Allah! Who changes the hearts from one state to another! Keep my heart steadfast upon Your religion.” (Tirmidhi, Qadar, 7; Ibn Majah, Du’a, 2) Allah the Almighty both warns and guides the believers in this respect, stating the prayers of those who are steadfast in their faith:
“Our Lord (they say), let not our hearts deviate now after You have guided us, but grant us mercy from Your own presence; for You are the grantor of bounties without measure.” (Al-i Imran 3; 8)
Prayer is in fact a way of realizing and admitting a servant’s weakness before Allah. As stated in the following verse, a servant will gain value through praying:
“Say (O Muhammad, unto the disbelievers): My Lord would not concern Himself with you but for your prayer…” (al-Furqan 25; 77)
Even though Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) was exceptionally close to Allah the Almighty, he still prayed Him and always kept the consciousness of his servitude fresh. He did what he was supposed to do as a servant and a prophet and then prayed saying: “O Allah! This is the best I can do. Please do not question me about things that are within Your power but beyond my ability.” (Abu Dawud, Nikah, 38) Stating that the hearts are in the hands of Allah the Almighty (Tirmidhi, Qadar, 7), Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) has become an excellent exemplar for us with his following supplications:
“O Allah! I ask from You a truthful tongue and a sound heart.” (Tirmidhi, Da’awat, 23; Nasai, Sahw, 61)
“O Allah, I seek refuge in You from the evil of what I hear, from the evil of what I see, from the evil of what I speak, from the evil of what I think, and from the evil of my semen (i.e. sexual passion).” (Abu Dawud, Witr, 32; Tirmidhi, Daawat, 28)
“O Allah! I ask from You a mercy by which You will guide my heart and protect me from all kinds of evil; and by which I will manage and improve my actions… O Master of all actions! O Curer of the hearts! Protect me from the torture of Hell like You keep the seas from mixing… Make my heart and grave lightened/illuminated???…” (Tirmidhi, Da’awat, 30)
“There is no god but You, glory be to You, O Allah, I ask Your pardon for my sin and I ask You for Your mercy. O Allah! Advance me in knowledge: do not cause my heart to deviate (from guidance) after You have guided me, and grant me mercy from yourself; verily You are the grantor.” (Abu Dawud, Adab, 99)
Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) also asked for help from Allah the Almighty for the guidance of those whom he wanted to be helped and guided. For the guidance of the people of Yemen, he prayed saying: “O Allah! Turn their hearts towards us.” (Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 71) Again he prayed placing his hand upon his cousin Ali’s chest, who was appointed to Yemen as a judge:
“O Allah! Bestow upon his heart guidance and keep his tongue true”
Ali (r.a.) said:
“After this prayer, I never hesitated when ruling between two people.” (Ibn Majah, Ahkam, 1)
All these narrations prove how important and effective a role prayer has in treating spiritual illnesses from aberration and hesitation.
 An Excellent Exemplar, “His remembrance of Allah and Meditation”, vol. 1, p.
 For more information about this issue see the section on the Prophet’s “Worship at Night and at Dawn” in the first volume of this book. An Excellent Exemplar, vol. 1, p.