|Being: The Works of the Heart|
Works of the heart are in a sense the fruits of the works of knowing and doing described above, and have been treated last because they furnish the inward measure of the path, that one be something. Abu Bakr al-Kattani has said, “Sufism is character: whoever is ahead of you in character is ahead of you in Sufism.” These works include:
Love of Allah
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), said, “Whoever possesses three characteristics will taste the sweetness of true faith: love of Allah and His messenger above anything else, love of someone for the sake of nothing besides Allah, and to hate to return to unbelief as he would hate to be thrown into the fire” (Bukhari, 1.10–11: 16. S).
Love and Hate for the Sake of Allah
A believer does not love or hate individual people because of who they are, but only loves or hates their good or bad traits and actions, those which the Sacred Law praises or blames.
One thing plain from this is that ethnic origin cannot be a basis for positive or negative attitudes towards oneself or others. When one of the Meccan Emigrants struck a Medinan Helper and each group rallied their fellows with cries of solidarity against the other, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “What is this rallying of each other from the Period of Ignorance?—Leave it, for it makes putrid” (Bukhari, 6.191–92: 4905. S). Allah Most High says, “Of His signs are the creation of the heavens and earth, and the difference in your tongues and hues; verily in that there are signs for those who know” (Koran 30:22), that is, signs for wonder and admiration that Allah has brought forth these differences from a single father, Adam (upon whom be blessings and peace). The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) told his Companions:
“Allah Mighty and Majestic has rid you of the arrogance of the Period of Ignorance and its pride in forefathers. Godfearing believer or luckless sinner: people are the sons of Adam, and Adam was of dust. Let peoples cease priding themselves in men, or they will matter less to Allah than the scarab beetle that pushes filth about with its nose” (Ahmad, 2.361. H).
A human being cannot choose his parents, and there are no racial laws in Islam: when love and hate are for the sake of Allah, the only importance that attaches to pride is that it is a step backwards.
Love of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)
It means that one’s affection for the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) is pure and real, such that he is more beloved to one than one’s self, mother, father, and all other people. It means exalting his station, serving his Umma, following his sunna, and adhering with complete respect and manners (adab) in one’s word and state to the overwhelming majority of the early Muslims, of the prophetic descendants, Companions, the Imams of the scholars of his Umma, and the friends (awliya') and knowers of Allah—all out of love for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).
Love includes saying the blessings upon him (Allah bless him and give him peace), when he is mentioned and at other times, with presence of heart or even without. At the tomb in Egypt of two of the sheikhs of our spiritual line, Muhammad Wafa and his son ‘Ali, there is hand-lettered sign upon one of the walls that reads:
The Pole of the Gnostics Imam al-Sha‘rani (Allah be well pleased with him) relates that the Possessor of the Supreme Purity my master Muhammad Wafa al-Shadhili (Allah be well pleased with him) said: “I saw the Liegelord of Worlds (Allah bless him and give him peace) and I asked him, ‘O Messenger of Allah, Allah’s tenfold blessing upon him who says the blessings upon you once, is that for him who is present in heart?’ He said, ‘No, it is for anyone who blesses me absentmindedly; Allah bestows upon him the like of mountains of angels, who pray for him and ask forgiveness for him. As for if he is present in heart therein, no one but Allah Most High knows the reward of that.’ ”
Love for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) also means emulating his refined and modest character. Jabir relates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:
“Truly, among those of you I love best and who shall be seated closest to me on Resurrection Day shall be the finest of you in character. And truly, those of you I detest most and who shall be seated farthest from me on Resurrection Day shall be praters who talk too much, and those who overpronounce the letters of their words for effect, and windbags who affect stentorian tones.” They said, “Praters and overpronouncers we know, but what are windbags?” He said, “The arrogant” (Tirmidhi, 4.370: 2018. Hg).
Sincerity (Ikhlas) in One’s Works and States
Sincerity includes leaving pretension, leaving showing off in spiritual works (riya'), leaving the mention of one’s works to gain others’ esteem (sum‘a), and leaving all hypocrisy. Sheikh al-Kurdi notes:
Levels of sincerity (ikhlas) [in spiritual works] are three: high, medium, and low. High is for a servant to do works for Allah alone, out of obedience to His command and in fulfillment of the rights of his own slavehood. Medium is to do works seeking Allah’s reward or to avoid His punishment. Low is for a servant to do works so that Allah may honor him in this world or protect him from its perils [n: e.g. praying (du‘a') for such a purpose, though if it is a means to achieve something at either of the previous two levels, it takes their ruling—while all are considered sincerity (ikhlas)]. Anything besides these three is showing off (riya') (Risala al-tawhid, 6).
Our sheikh mentions that repentance is of three levels: tawba, from sins; awba, from bad character traits; and inaba, from everything besides Allah.
Fear of Allah (Khawf)
This, our sheikh notes, is not fear of His person (for He is the object of our love), but fear of His rank over us (maqam), that is, of the justice we deserve for our sins and shortcomings: Allah says in Surat al-Nazi‘at,
Hope in Allah
One should always think the best of Allah, no matter what the circumstances, for the outcome of the play of forces is unknown to us, and despair is itself a sin. Scholars note, however, that hope should only predominate at death, while fear should predominate in one’s lifetime, as that is safer.
Thankfulness to Allah
More enduring than either hope or fear, whose scope ends at death, gratitude to Allah is a beatitude that lasts in paradise for eternity. It is the motive for all acts of worship in the Shadhili tariqa, which is known among Sufis as ‘The Way of Thanks’ (Tariq al-Shukr), not only to distinguish it from paths in which spiritual exertions are done to bring about a spiritual breakthrough, termed ‘The Way of Illumination’ (Tariq al-Ishraq); but also because thankfulness is for many of us a more exacting criterion for spiritual sincerity than, for example, love (which may be admixed with self), or fear (which may content itself with a salvific minimum).
One must be true-hearted and loyal to Allah and His messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace), to one’s din, to one’s sheikh, to one’s brethren in the path, to one’s word, and to all Muslims.
Patience is a mirror of certainty, and needed to attain every high aim. Our sheikh distinguishes three types, saying: “The masters have conveyed to us that three hundred spiritual degrees may be reached by patience in performing acts of obedience, six hundred degrees by patience in refraining from disobedience, and nine hundred degrees by patience with others.” It transmutes the imperfection of the circumstances one is patient with into the perfection of being with Allah, who says in Surat al-Baqara, “Verily Allah is with the patient” (Koran 2:152).
Having done everything in one’s power, one leaves the rest to Allah; past, present, and future.
Reliance on Allah (Tawakkul)
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “If you ask, then ask Allah,” meaning not that it is wrong to ask anything of others, but rather that one should first ask Allah in supplication before asking them, and rely on Him for the results.
Outwardly, it consists in following the sunna in matters such as eating as a slave, sitting as a slave, speaking as a slave, not complaining, and showing humility to all believers for Allah’s sake. It also entails special respect towards those older than one, to scholars of the din, to leaders (amirs) of Muslims, to one’s parents, to one’s husband; and that one serve one’s peers as a brother; and that one show kindness to those under one’s care.
Inwardly, humility means freeing oneself of its opposite, which is arrogance (kibr). The way to this, in our tariqa, is by realizing the radical finitude of self before the limitless majesty of God. Sheikh Muhammad al-Buzaydi has said: “Whomever Allah loves, He inspires with humility. Whomever Allah hates, He inspires with arrogance.” This is necessarily known as part of the religion, for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) has said,
The first point of this definition of arrogance is the crucial test of humility: that when one learns of the truth—in a matter of faith, attitude, or works; especially when attested to by the ulama of Sacred Law—one drops one’s usual habit, personal opinion, or private understanding and follows it. Without this, there can be no humility at all. At its heart lies the exaltation of the Divine Command, as also with freeing oneself from the second point, “considering people beneath one”: we show humility not because we are greater than others or less than others, but because Allah has commanded us to be humble, in view of which the humility we have been ordered to show is above any human being. Thus Ibn ‘Ata' Illah says, “The humble person is not he who when he acts humbly, sees himself as above what he has done; but rather he who when he acts humbly, sees himself as below what he has done” (al-Hikam, 64: 239).
Abandoning Envy (Hasad)
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Beware of envy, for envy consumes good works as fire consumes firewood” (Abu Dawud, 4.276: 4903. D). Scholars mention that envy is of three types:
All are unlawful, and all object to Allah’s dividing His favor among His servants as He wills, which is ignorance. Allah Most High says in Surat al-Zukhruf;
Despite this, some egos are so possessed by envy that even hearing another praised weighs upon them. One must watch one’s heart and reactions carefully, for envy lies at ambush on any path, even spiritual, that involves both a social collectivity and striving in excellence. A Muslim must love for his brother what he loves for himself.
This refers to hatred of people because of who they are, rather than hatred of the blameworthy traits or actions in them for the sake of Allah Most High, mentioned above. In general, the greater the knowledge of Allah, the less there is to take personally besides Him in the play of events within and without.
What is meant, similarly, is anger not because Allah has been disobeyed, but rather for one’s own ego. A man came to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) seeking a single comprehensive piece of advice that would join between much of the good, saying,
Some ulama of Sacred Law interpret this figuratively, as prohibiting the bad consequences of anger, saying that one cannot be held legally responsible to cease being angry whenever aroused, but rather that the hadith forbids doing or saying what anger brings to mind. Other ulama (among them our sheikhs) take the prohibition literally, pointing out that the basis of personal anger is haughtiness (kibr), a quality in itself unlawful.
Teaching the hand to be generous is of central importance to the Sufi work of sublimating the ego not only because of the self’s strong attachment to money, but because it is a tendency that increases rather than decreases with age. The opposite of generosity, stinginess (bukhl) or avarice (shuhh), is considered by masters of the path to be the most odious quality a spiritual traveller can possess. Ibn ‘Ajiba says, “The ugliest of the ugly is the stingy Sufi.” Other masters have simply said, “The opposite of Sufism is miserliness.”
A delegation came to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), and he asked,
a hadith that is well authenticated (hasan) in view of multiple means of transmission, showing that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) actually removed a tribe’s leader for cheapness, and that a stingy person is not religiously fit to lead. If all of this is fairly well understood by ethnic Muslims in touch with their traditional values, Western converts often find “being economical” towards others culturally acceptable at some level, and all of us are obliged to study ourselves, our reactions, and our attachments, and to use a generous hand (especially in little things) to produce a generous heart.
(Selection from The Shadhili Tariqa) MCMXCIX © N. Keller