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Al-Ghazali - Purification of Soul

Al-Ghazali - Purification of Soul

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Published by: Adam Ibn Bob on Dec 16, 2012
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 A similar influence of philosophy is also apparent in al-Ghazali’s view of human beings.Human beings consist of soul and body, but their essence is the soul. The human soul isa spiritual substance totally different from the body. It is something divine (
amr ilahi 
), which makes possible human knowledge of God. If the soul according to al-Ghazali is anincorporeal substance occupying no space (as Ibn Sina implies, though he carefully avoids making a direct statement to that effect), then al-Ghazali’s concept of the soul isquite different from the soul as 'a subtle body' as conceived by theologians at large. According to al-Ghazali, the body is a vehicle or an instrument of the soul on the way tothe hereafter and has various faculties to maintain the bodily activities. When the mainfaculties of appetite, anger and intellect are moderate, harmonious and well-balanced,then we find the virtues of temperance, courage, wisdom and justice. In reality,however, there is excess or deficiency in each faculty, and so we find various viciouscharacteristics. The fundamental cause for all this is love of the world (see SOUL INISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY).
The most amazing organ in the human body is the heart. It not only functions physically but alsospiritually and morally in human life. The importance of the heart is stated in the Qur’an by usingthe words al-qalb and fou'ad. Qalb occurs in the Qur’an 132 times in both its physical and spiritualsenses, while fou'ad occurs 16 times in the spiritual sense. Both terms, however allude to thesame thing – the heart. The heart is the seat of awareness, consciousness, feelings, and thoughts.It could be good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. In the Hadith it is mentioned that “Surely in thebreasts of man is a lump of flesh, if sound then the whole body is sound, and if corrupt then thewhole body is corrupt. Is it not the heart?”There are diverse meanings of heart which include “fluctuation,” “turning around” and“reversing.” As Allah said in His Revelation: “Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate (from the truth)after You have guided us, and grant us mercy from You. Truly, You are the Bestower” (Ali `Imran3:8). Abu Hamed Mohammad ibn Mohammad al-Ghazali, the author of Ihya' 'Ulum al-Din (TheRevival of Religious Sciences) pointed out that the heart denotes two things, the physical heartand the ‘divine entity.’ He mentions that the ‘spiritual’ heart is the essence of man. It isincumbent that this ‘divine entity’ or the potential seat of God’s illuminations and serenity is keptsound and healthy for the physical body to operate optimally.In his exposition of the heart, Al-Ghazali emphasized its purification. The term purification inArabic is tazkiyyah and is described as a disciplined process that gives birth to the seed of awareness in the heart. This enlightenment, a moment of unique divine intervention or the firstray of divine light that expands the heart is the beginning of a personal transformation. Thepurification of the heart is related closely to the function of the heart itself, which is to know theCreator, to love Him, and to seek closeness to Him. If the heart fails in this function, then it isconsidered sick.Al-Ghazali’s tazkiyat al-nafs is closely related to morality. Morality according to him wasconscientious action in accordance with the moral law (akhlaq). But conscientious action is not
 
possible without the possession of purity of motive by the moral agent, which in turn, necessitatesa continuous psychological effort, named in tasawuf terminology as tazkiyyah. On this, Al-Ghazalirefers to the Qur’anic verse: “By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And itsenlightenment as to its wrong and its right; Truly he succeeds that purifies it, And he fails thatcorrupts it” (al-Qur’an, 91: 7-10).Al-Ghazali who was known as Hujjatul Islam classified the heart into three categories, as did twoother Islamic scholars, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali and Ibn Al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya . To them, the heartcan be spoken of in terms of its condition, namely, healthy, dead or sick. This classification isimportant so that the appropriate remedy can be prescribed. Allah, in the Qur’an, said that onlythose that come to Him with a healthy heart will be saved on the Day of Resurrection: “The dayon which neither wealth nor sons will be of any use, except for whoever brings to Allah a soundheart” (26: 88-89).The healthy heart can be defined as a heart cleansed from any passion that challenges what Allahcommands, or disputes what He forbids. It is free from any impulses which contradict His good.This kind of heart is exclusively reserved for Allah, willingly and lovingly, with total reliance,relating all matters to Him, in fear, hope and sincere dedication.The sign of the healthy heart can be seen in its single dedication to Allah’s orders and avoid Hisprohibitions. It loves Allah more than others and will go to great lengths to please Him. Forinstance, if this heart misses any acts of worship, then its owner suffers more distress than acautious man who suffers because of the loss of money or a missed opportunity to make it. Yahyaibn Mu'adh said: "Whoever is pleased with serving Allah, everything will be pleased to serve him;and whoever finds pleasure in contemplating Allah, all the people will find pleasure incontemplating him."The antonym of the healthy heart is the dead heart. This kind of heart will not be saved on theDay of Resurrection as the healthy heart. It is called to Allah from a distance but does not respondto advice, and instead follows the wrong path with the enemy of God. In a simple explanation, thedead heart does not know its Lord and does not worship Him as He commands but worships thingsother than Him. It leads to the displeasure and wrath of Allah when this heart follows too much itslusts and desires, makes ignorance as its leader, and concerns with worldly objectives. It isadvised not to associate and keep company with the owner of such a heart because living with himis like taking poison, and befriending him means utter destruction.Another type of heart is the sick heart which is midway between the healthy heart and the deadheart. This kind of heart worships Allah, has faith in Him, and relies on Him, and these are whatgive it life. It also has a craving for lust and pleasure, and prefers them and strives to experiencethem. It is full of self-admiration, which can lead to its own destruction. The danger to this typeof heart is when it listens to two callers: one calling it to Allah, His Prophet and the Hereafter;and the other calling it to the pleasures of this world. It responds to whichever one of the twothat happens to have the most influence over it at the time.The symptoms of the death and the sickness of the heart are shown when the owner is not awareof the harm that results from the damage caused by wrong actions, and is unperturbed by his
 
ignorance of the truth or by his false beliefs. The heart's sickness become worst if the owner of such a heart turns away from good actions to bad ones, from healthy foods to harmful ones, fromgood remedies to shameful sickness and he cannot realize anymore what brings him to the deadheart. The healthy heart prefers what is beneficial and healing to what is harmful and damaging;the sick heart prefers the opposite. The most beneficial sustenance for the heart is faith and thebest medicine is the Qur'an.The types of heart discussed above are related to their awareness and consciousness. In thisrespect, the Prophet is reported to have said, "There are four types of hearts: a pure heart thatshines like a lamp, the covered up and closed heart, the upside down heart and the mixed upheart. The pure heart is that of the believer. The covered up heart is that of the non-believer.The upside down heart is that of the hypocrite who knows and then denies. The mixed up heart isthat in which there is both faith and hypocrisy. The example of faith in it is like a small plant thatgrows with good water and the example of hypocrisy in it is like a wound that grows with pus andblood. So whichever grows bigger takes over the heart." (Riwayat Ahmad)Al-Ghazali also discussed the four poisons of the heart. All acts of disobedience are considered aspoison to the heart and cause its sickness and ruin. Ibn al-Mubarak said: ''I have seen wrong actionskilling hearts, And their degradation may lead to their becoming addicted to them. Turning awayfrom wrong actions gives life to the hearts, and opposing your self is best for it.'' The poison itself is something bad that can affect health and life not only physically but spiritually when it appliesto the heart. The four poisons of the heart are unnecessary talking, unrestrained glances, toomuch food, and keeping bad company.Each of these poisons should be avoided in order to purify the heart. Talking can either be good orbad, in which case it is considered haram. It is reported on the authority of Anas that theRasulullah (saw) said: "The faith of a servant is not put right until his heart is put right, and hisheart is not put right until his tongue is put right." This shows that the Prophet Muhammad hasmade the purification of faith conditional on the purification of the heart, and the purification of the heart conditional on the purification of the tongue.At-Tirmidhi relates in a hadith on the authority of Ibn Umar: "Do not talk excessively withoutremembering Allah, because such excessive talk without the mention of Allah causes the heart toharden, and the person furthest from Allah is a person with a hard heart." Unnecessary talking notonly poisons the heart but it is also one of the major reasons why people are sent to the Hellfire.As narrated by Abu Hurairah, the Prophet said, "What mostly cause people to be sent to the Fireare the two openings: the mouth and the private parts."The second poison is unrestrained glance which results in the one who looks becoming attractedby what he sees, and in the imprinting of the image of what he sees in his heart. The glance wasdescribed by the Prophet Muhammad: "The glance is a poisoned arrow of shaytan. Whoever lowershis gaze for Allah, He will bestow upon him a refreshing sweetness which he will find in his hearton the day when he meets Him." Shaytan, as the enemy of Islam, will resort to any devices todisturb the sons of Adam including by entering through the glance, for he travels with it fasterthan the wind blowing through an empty place.

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