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Polishing the Hearts

Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (RA)

Allaah - the Most High - said: "O you who believe! Remember Allaah and remember Him a lot." [33:4I].

"Those men and women who remember Allaah a lot." [33:35].

"So when you have finished the rights of your Pilgrimage, then remember Allaah as you remember your fore-father, or with more intense remembrance." [2:200].

These verses contain a command to remember Allaah intensely and abundantly, since the worshipper is in dire need of [remembering Allaah] and cannot do without it even for a twinkling of an eye. This is because every moment that a person does not spend in the dhikr (remembrance) of Allaah will not be of any benefit to him. Rather, the harm entailed in being neglectful of the dhikr of Allaah is far greater than any benefits that can be gained. One of the 'aarifeen (those who are knowledgeable about Allaah) said:"If a person were to spend such and such number of years engaged [in the dhikr of Allaah], then he turns away from it for just a moment, what he will lose is far greater than whatever he has already gained."

Al-Bayhaqee relates from 'Aaishah radiallaahu 'anhaa that the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said: "There is no time in which the son of Aadam does not remember AIIaah in it, except that it will be a source of regret for him on the Day of Judgement".

Mu'aadh ibn jabal radiallaahu 'anhu relates that the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said: "The people of Paradise will not have any regrets except for those moments in which they were not engaged in the dhikr (remembrance) of Allaah."

Mu'aadh ibn Jabal also relates that Allaah's Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam was asked: What action is the most beloved to Allaah? So he replied: "That you continue to keep your tongue moist with the dhikr of Allaah, until you die."

Polishing the heart

Abu Dardaa radiallaahu 'anhu said:"For everything there is a polish and the polish for the heart is the dhikr of Allaah".

Al-Bayhaqee relates from Ibn 'Umar radiallaahu 'anhu that AlIaah's Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said: "For everything there is a polish, and the polish for the hearts is the dhikr (remembrance) of Allaah. There is nothing more potent in saving a person from the punishment of Allaah than the dhikr of Allaah." It was said: Not even Jihaad in the path of Allaah. So he replied: "Not even if you were to continue striking with your sword until it breaks."

There is no doubt that hearts becomes rusty just as copper and silver coins become rusty. The polish for [this rust] is the dhikr of AIlaah. This is because [dhikr] is like a polish [which polishes the heart] like a shiny mirror. When dhikr is left, the rust returns. But when dhikr resumes, then the heart is [again] polished. And hearts become rusty due to two things:-

(i) neglecting remembering Allaah, and

(ii) committing sins.

The polish for these two things is:-

(i) seeking Allaah's forgiveness and

(ii) dhikr.

Confusing truth with falsehood

Whoever neglects [remembering Allaah] most of the time, then his heart will become rusty in accordance with how neglectful the person is. And when this [filthy] rust accumulates on the heart, then it no longer recognises things as they really are. Thus, it views falsehood as if it is the truth, and truth as if it is falsehood. This is because this rust darkens and confuses the heart's perception, and so it is unable to truly recognise things for what they really are. So as the rust accumulates, the heart gets blackened, and as this happens the heart becomes stained with this filthy rust, and when this occurs it corrupts the heart's perception and recognition of things. The heart [then] does not accept the truth nor does it reject falsehood, and this is the greatest calamity that can strike the heart. Being neglectful [of dhikr] and following of whims and desires is a direct consequence of such a heart, which [further] extinguish the heart's light and blinds its vision. Allaah - the Most High - said:

"And do not obey him whose heart We have made to be neglectful of Our remembrance, one who follows his own whims and desires and whose affairs are furat [have gone beyond bounds and whose deeds have been lost]." [18:28].

Qualities of guide

So when a worshipper desires to follow another person, then let him see: Is this person from the people of dhikr, or from the people who are negligent [about remembering Allaah]? Does this person judge in accordance with his whims and desires, or by the Revelation? So, if he judges by whims and desires then he is actually from those people who are negligent; those whose affairs have gone beyond bounds and whose deeds are lost.

The term furat [which occurs in the above verse] has been explained in many ways. It has been explained to mean:- (i) losing the rewards of that type of action which is essential to do, and in which lies success and happiness; (ii) exceeding the limits of something; (iii) being destroyed; and (iv) opposing the truth. Each of these sayings are very close in meaning to each other.

The point is that Allaah - the One free from all imperfections, the Most High - has prohibited following all those who possess such attributes. So it is absolutely essential that a person considers whether such attributes are found in his shaykh, or the person who's example he follows, or the person that he obeys. If they are, then he should distance himself from such a person. However, if it is found that the person is, in most cases, pre-occupied with the dhikr of Allaah and with following the Sunnah, and his affairs do not exceed the limits, but rather he is judicious and resolute in his affairs, then he should cling to him very firmly.

Indeed, there is no difference between the living and the dead, except with the dhikr of Allaah; since [the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam] said: "The example of one who remembers Allaah and someone who does not, is like the example between the living and the dead."

Six Etiquettes of Learning

Ibn al-Qayyim - rahimahullaah- said: "There are six stages to knowledge:

Firstly: Asking questions in a good manner.
Secondly: Remaining quiet and listening attentively.

Thirdly: Understanding well.

Fourthly: Memorizing.

Fifthly: Teaching.

Sixthly: and it is its fruit: Acting upon the knowledge and keeping to its limits."

Fruits of Humility

Ibn al-Qayyim - rahimahullaah - said

One of the Salaf (Pious Predecessors) said: "Indeed a servant commits a sin by which he enters Paradise; and another does a good deed by which he enters the Fire." It was asked: How is that? So he replied:

"The one who committed the sin, constantly thinks about it; which causes him to fear it, regret it, weep over it and feel ashamed in front of his Lord - the Most High - due to it. He stands before Allaah, broken-hearted and with his head lowered in humility. So this sin is more beneficial to him than doing many acts of obedience, since it caused him to have humility and humbleness - which leads to the servant's happiness and success - to the extent that this sin becomes the cause for him entering Paradise. As for the doer of good, then he does not consider this good a favor from his Lord Upon him. Rather, he becomes arrogant and amazed with himself, saying: I have achieved such and such, and such and such. So this further increases him in self adulation, pride and arrogance - such that this becomes the cause for his destruction."

Purifying the Heart

Ibn al-Qayyim - rahimahullaah- said:

"There is no doubt that the heart becomes covered with rust, just as metal dishes - silver, and their like - become rusty. So the rust of the heart is polished with dhikr (remembrance of Allaah), for dhikr polishes the heart until it becomes like a shiny mirror. However, when dhikr is abandoned, the rust returns; and when it commences then the heart again begins to be cleansed. Thus the heart becoming rusty is due to two matters: sins and ghaflah ( neglecting remembrance of Allaah ). Likewise, it is cleansed and polished by two things : istighfaar (seeking Allaah's forgiveness) and dhikr."

Jihaad Against the Self

"Jihaad (striving) against the soul has four stages:

Firstly: To strive in learning guidance and the religion of truth, without which there will be no success. Indeed, there can be neither true happiness, nor any delight in this world and in the Hereafter,
except through it.

Secondly: Striving to act upon what has been learnt, since knowledge without action will not benefit, rather it will cause harm.

Thirdly: Striving to invite others towards it and to teach those who do not know, otherwise he may be considered from those who hide what Allaah has revealed of guidance and clear explanation. Such knowledge will neither benefit, nor save a person from the punishment of Allaah.

Fourthly: Striving to be patient and persevering against those who oppose this da'wah (call) to Allaah and those who seek to cause harm - patiently bearing all these hardships for the sake of Allaah.

When these four stages are completed then such a person is considered to be amongst the Rabbaaniyyoon. The Salaf were agreed that a Scholar does not deserve the title of Rabbaanee until he recognizes and knows the truth, acts upon it, and teaches it to others. So whosoever has knowledge, acts upon it, and teaches this knowledge to others, is considered from the Rabbaaniyyoon."

Trials of the Heart

Ibn al-Qayyim said, whilst commenting upon the following hadeeth: "Trials and tribulations will be presented to hearts, as a reed mat is interwoven stick by stick. Any heart, which absorbs these trials, will have a black mark put in it. However, any heart that rejects them will have a white mark put in it. The result is that hearts will be of two kinds: one white like a white stone, which will not be harmed by trials as long as the heavens and earth endure; and the other dark and rusty, like an over-turned vessel; not able to recognise the good, nor reject evil, but rather being absorbed with its desires."

"The fitan (trials) which are presented to the hearts - and which are the cause of its weakness - are:

(i) the trials relating to shahwah (false desire) and

(ii) the trials relating to shubhah (doubt)... so the first causes intentions and desires to be corrupted, whilst the second causes knowledge and beliefs to be corrupted".

Speaking about such trials, he - rahimahullaah - said: "Hearts - when exposed to such fitan (trials) - are of two types:

The first type: a heart, which, when exposed to such trials, absorbs it like a sponge that soaks-up water, leaving in it a black stain. Such a heart continues to soak-up the various trials that are presented to it, until it becomes dark and corrupted - which is what is meant by "an over-turned vessel. "So when this occurs, two dangerous and deadly diseases take hold of it and plunge it into destruction:

Firstly: confusing good with evil, so it neither recognises the good, nor rejects the evil. This disease may take hold of it to such an extent that it believes good to be evil; and evil to be good, Sunnah to be bid'ah (innovation); and innovations to be the Sunnah. and the truth to be falsehood: and falsehood the truth.

Secondly: judging by its whims and desires, over and against what Allaah's Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam came with being enslaved by its whims and desires and being led by them also.

The second type: a white heart in which the light of eemaan is bright and its radiance is illuminating. So when trials are presented to such a heart, it rejects and turns away from them. This further increases its light and illumination and its strength."

Four Principles of Worship

"(TheAayah): "You alone do we worship." [Soorah al faatihah 1:5] is built upon four principles:- Ascertaining what Allaah and His Messenger love and are pleased with, from (i) the sayings of the heart and [ii] of the tongue; and (iii) the actions of the heart and [iv] of the limbs.

So al-'Uboodiyyah (servitude and slavery to Allaah) is a comprehensive term for all these four Stages. The one who actualises them has indeed actualised: "You alone do we worship."

The saying of the heart: It is i'tiqaad (belief) in what Allaah - the Most Perfect - informed about His Self; concerning His Names, His Attributes, His Actions, His Angels, and all that He sent upon the tongue of His Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam.

The saying of the tongue: It is to inform and convey (what Allaah has revealed), to call to it, defend it, to explain the false innovations which oppose it, to establish its remembrance and to convey what it orders.

The action of the heart: Such as love for Him, reliance upon Him, repenting to Him, having fear and hope in Him, making the Deen purely and sincerely for Him, having patience in what He orders and prohibits, having patience with what He decrees and being pleased with it, having allegiance and enmity for His sake, humbling oneself in front of Him and having humility in front of Him, becoming tranquil with Him and other than this from the actions of the heart which are actually connected to the action of the limbs ... and actions of the limbs without the action of the heart is of little benefit if any benefit at all.

The action of the limbs: Such as Prayer and Jihaad, attending the Jumu'ah and being with the Jamaa'ah, aiding those who are unable and displaying goodness and kindness to the creation, and other than this."

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قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنِّي رَسُولُ اللّهِ إِلَيْكُمْ جَمِيعًا الَّذِي لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ لا إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ يُحْيِـي وَيُمِيتُ فَآمِنُواْ بِاللّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ النَّبِيِّ الأُمِّيِّ الَّذِي يُؤْمِنُ بِاللّهِ وَكَلِمَاتِهِ وَاتَّبِعُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ
(7:158) [Say, O Muhammad]: 'O men! I am Allah's Messenger to you all - of Him to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. There is no god but He. He grants life and deals death. Have faith then, in Allah and in His Messenger, the ummi Prophet who believes in Allah and His words; and follow him so that you may be guided aright.'

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